Trump puts political goals above facts in CDC and Flynn dramas


Both cases show how Trump despised government structures meant to distribute independent and fact-based politics, science and justice free of corrupt political influences.

The CDC Guide provided detailed advice on safe reopening for childcare programs, schools, religious communities, employers with vulnerable workers, restaurants, bars, and mass transit systems.

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But the White House dismissed it as too strict and too prescriptive, sources told CNN. The move was the latest case where Trump has ignored or belittled the advice of the CDC in its aggressive pressure to reopen the country, despite warnings from scientists that it could cost tens of thousands of lives. His parting with this guidance and the White House's attempt to lower the profile of the best medical advisors reinforces the impression that he has turned to a comprehensive response to the worst threat to public health in 100 years.

They also foster the vacuum of national leadership from a White House that has left the responsibility to fight the virus to states, is just focused on an economic recovery, and completely ignores its own guidelines for safe reopening of the state.

News of the rejected CDC council came the same day the US death toll from the pandemic passed a new milestone, with several infections reported, and days after Trump wavered over the future of his coronavirus working group. After first saying that he wound it up – which drew sharp criticism – the president said Wednesday that it would continue "indefinitely."

But the administration's sharpest focus appeared to be on Russia investigations and Trump's conspiracy theories that he is the victim of a "Deep State" theme to undermine his presidency.

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Flynn, whose situation has become a rallying issue for conservative media outlets, had twice pleaded guilty in court to lying to the FBI. He lied about his contacts with Russia and his business lobby for Turkey while working for Trump. He also lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the talks with the Russian ambassador.

However, Attorney General William Barr's recent controversial intervention to shield the president said he had concluded that his own case was "unbound to, and unjustified by, the FBI's intelligence service investigation" of Flynn.

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The amazing development of the Flynn case raises fresh concerns about the independence of a Justice Department that appears to act as a private adviser to Trump and his staff. It supports the principle that investigations by special advisers can ensure that sensitive investigations are not politically obsessed, and suggests broad political impunity for the president and affiliates.

And along with his stance on the CDC, there seems to be another case in which Trump is expanding his personal power by discrediting all opposing sources of authority that reveal his untruths, as he has previously done with the FBI, the judiciary, scientists in his own government, the media and US intelligence agencies.

CDC recommendations could reduce Trump's pressure to reopen the economy

Destructive unemployment data expected Friday will show why Trump is firmly in the argument that the economy cannot shut down much longer given the more than 30 million livelihoods that are destroyed in the shutdowns that were ordered to slow the spread of the virus.

But in its rush to convince states to return to normal, the president appears to be sounding warnings about increased death tolls and precautions that may allow an opening step by step, but the rapid economic boom is unlikely he seeks.

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The White House said the rejected CDC guidelines indicate that all states have the same threat level from the virus. However, this reasoning ignores the fact that one state may have more cases than another, but the virus works the same, whether in New York or Tennessee if people are not at a safe distance in a restaurant, for example.

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The sideline of the CDC guidelines effectively leaves states and businesses in deciding how to best protect workers and customers – and deprives them of the kind of expert medical advice needed in an epoch pandemic.

The move comes about a week in which Trump has been about to stress the medical challenge of the pandemic – which is still raging and getting worse in some states – and concentrating more on the need to reopen the economy as soon as possible.

Unlike in previous health crises, this White House has rarely used top CDC officials as a trusted scientifically rigorous voice. Trump, who prefers to keep the spotlight on himself, has shown his medical understanding as rudimentary while investigating unprovoked therapies and poor predictions about the pandemic.

Richard Besser, a former acting director of the CDC, told CNN's Kate Bolduan on Thursday that the agency's reopening guidance "makes a lot of sense" and that the states wanted it.

"During a public health crisis, one of the most critical success factors is trust. Do the audience trust the leaders that they are doing things to protect their health?" he asked.

"You gain that confidence by being transparent, by going public health science, by having your public health leaders out there answering tough questions from the media."

Flynn admitted to crimes that justice now says doesn't matter

After days of political drama dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the sudden outbreak of Russia-related investigations felt like going back in time – although the way it highlighted the Trump administration's disdain for normal presidential protests had much in common with the president's handling of the current emergency.

Flynn's defenders claim he was caught lying to the FBI by Justice Department officials appointed by the Obama administration. His case has been at the center of attempts by the president and the conservative media to divert from the multiple ties between Trump's campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election, where US intelligence agencies say Moscow intervened to help Trump.

Lawyers from Flynn seized a handwritten note from Bill Priestap, the then FBI counterintelligence director, who considered how agents should approach a critical interview with the then national security adviser in January 2017.

Flynn asked then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak not to retaliate against the Obama administration's sanctions and oppose the Obama administration in a forthcoming UN vote on Israel.

The Justice Department argued Friday that the investigation into Flynn's talks with Kislyak during the Trump transition should never have happened, but that there was no underlying crime in the case. Unusually, the filing department's filing was not signed by career attorneys, but by United States Attorney Timothy Shea, a politically appointed one considered an important Barr ally.

The situation is so irregular because Flynn had already pleaded guilty twice and had agreed to a generous prayer agreement to work with the Mueller team.

Flynn admitted that he "intentionally and knowingly made material false, fictitious and fraudulent statements and representations" to the FBI.

In December 2018 Judge Emmet Sullivan told Flynn he was disgusted by the actions of the retired lieutenant general.

You probably sold your land out, Sullivan said.

Former federal prosecutor Elie Honig told CNN Thursday that he had never seen such flagrant political action by the Justice Department.

"The solution is in," said Honig, a CNN legal analyst.

"This is an absolute injustice. Michael Flynn lied to the FBI, he pleaded guilty in federal court to doing so, he pleaded, and then what does Bill Barr do? He says about all the tens of thousands of cases he has been responsible for because in the Department of Justice, look at it.

"And now we see Bill Barr doing Donald Trump's dirty work."

The intervention raises serious concerns about the obligation to the right to equal justice under the law, since it constitutes special treatment for a presidential employee. It focuses new attention on Barr's behavior after he leaned on prosecutors to soften up a sentencing recommendation for another Trump crony, Roger Stone, and misrepresented special counsel Robert Mueller's report to cover for the president.

Barr, after igniting another heated controversy in Washington, however, accused others of politicizing the case, despite his own unparalleled move.

"I do the law bidding," Barr told CBS News in an interview Thursday night.

"I also think it's sad that today these party sentiments are so strong that people have lost some sense of justice," he added.

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