Donald Trump’s chief strategist and chief brownshirt, Steve Bannon, hates the media. Really, really, hates the media. Enough that earlier in the week, he suggested that the media ought to “keep its mouth shut.” That is, of course, unless the media is willing to help peddle the lying and dissembling–er, “alternative facts”–that is now SOP for this administration.
Bannon says that the media needs to zip its lips until it understands why Trump won the election in the first place. Well, it turns out there may be another reason. Apparently Bannon doesn’t want you to know that most of the executive orders Trump has churned out have been written by him. Bannon also doesn’t want you to know that Trump doesn’t even bother to read those orders before signing him. Bannon also doesn’t want you to know that he doesn’t trouble himself to consult those who would actually carry out those orders–particularly to clear up any potential legal issues.
Several White House staffers told Politico that Bannon and White House senior adviser Stephen Miller are responsible for drafting the bulk of the executive orders Trump has issued in his first week in office. They relied mostly on ideas from transition officials and “landing teams” who helped handle the transition. However, they never bothered to talk with anyone among the agencies or lawmakers who will carry them out.
Take Trump’s order to revive the Keystone XL pipeline, for instance. For those who don’t know, that project required State Department consultation. The Canadian company building the pipeline, TransCanada, sued the United States for $15 billion after Obama rejected the pipeline in November 2015. It may take awhile to revive the project, and it’s not clear how Trump’s order would affect TransCanada’s lawsuit.
Trump would have known this had anyone on his team discussed the proposal to revive the pipeline with State Department officials. But Bannon and Miller didn’t do so. Former State Department lawyer Keith Benes, who worked on the Keystone project, was being very kind when he called Trump’s approach to the pipeline “reckless.”
Similarly, White House sources say that both the Pentagon and the CIA were “blindsided” by a draft Trump order that could require agencies to reconsider the use of waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation (read: torture) techniques.” Apparently some of Trump’s own aides didn’t know about it either; press secretary Sean Spicer claims that order didn’t come from the White House.
The draft order on torture fulfills a Trump campaign promise to bring back those methods. But it directly runs counter to a 2015 law that bans these practices, as well as the Geneva Conventions. Apparently neither Bannon nor Miller were listening when John McCain vowed that he and a number of other Senators were prepared to take Trump to court if he went that route.
As much as the Republicans are chomping at the bit to repeal Obamacare, a number of Republican lawmakers said they didn’t know about a Trump order that started the process of repealing it. This is no small oversight; those lawmakers didn’t know whether it would conflict with existing laws–a concern they have raised about a number of Trump’s other executive orders. In the case of the Obamacare order, only a few people at the Department of Health and Human Services knew about it–and even they didn’t know until two hours after it was released.
A number of Trump’s executive orders may not be legal. For instance, an order requiring companies to only use domestic materials when building pipelines might fall afoul of treaty obligations even if there are any domestic materials available. And it’s not clear whether Trump can legally claw back federal money from cities that don’t cooperate with federal immigration enforcement actions.
Trump has tried to project the image of a president who got to work from the moment he took the oath. That’s good and well, but former Federal Trade Commission official David Vladeck thinks the way he’s going about it is a recipe for disaster. Vladeck said that when a president’s team doesn’t run ideas for executive orders by the agencies that will actually carry them out, “you’re going to get something wrong.”
On the face of it, this merely appears to explain how Trump ended up in bankruptcy six times. After all, if he can’t be bothered to ensure that his underlings actually make sure his initiatives are workable and legal, it’s no wonder he’s such a failure as a businessman.
But there’s more to it than that. He’s letting a guy write executive orders who has made it known that he wants to burn everything down. Well, apparently Bannon is hard at work doing just that. After all, a guy who wants to leave the system a smoldering rubble can’t be bothered with such things as whether a policy is workable or legal. No wonder he doesn’t want the media saying anything about it.
(featured image: screenshot courtesy YouTube)