Trump Puts his Rasputin Guy, Michael Caputo, at Department of Health and Human Services During a Pandemic

As Politico reported yesterday, in a bid to marginalize Alex Azar (who has been largely silenced in the middle of a pandemic since Rod Rosenstein’s sister Nancy Messonier told the truth in public), Trump has made Michael Caputo the spokesperson at Department of Health and Human Services.

The move is interesting for several reasons. It suggests the White House believes the way to control a Senate-confirmed cabinet member is to hire a spokesperson for that person, not to replace him or work out problems with him.

The move is designed to assert more White House control over Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, whom officials believe has been behind recent critical reports about President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to two officials with knowledge of the move.

That, in turn, suggests that in the middle of a pandemic, Trump’s White House is treating HHS as a PR shop, not a functional agency.

But the far more interesting aspect of this hire is that, as recently as February 3, Bill Barr’s DOJ claimed in FOIA exemptions on Caputo’s FBI interview report that it was conducting an ongoing investigation into something Caputo did during the 2016 election — possibly with Roger Stone — called Project Rasputin. What Project Rasputin was is redacted in the 302. But whatever it was is closely enough connected with his and Stone’s willingness to take a meeting with a Russian selling dirt on Hillary Clinton that Caputo told Mueller’s team that, “‘Project Rasputin’ was mutually exclusive from anything having to do with” the guy selling that dirt.

Of course, on precisely the same day that Bill Barr’s DOJ released materials indicating it was still investigating something called Project Rasputin that Caputo had been involved in, Barr replaced then DC US Attorney Jesse Liu, who had permitted the Roger Stone investigation and prosecution to proceed unmolested by the kind of unprecedented interference that Barr would engage in just days later. Which raises questions about whether Trump doesn’t care that his own DOJ was still investigating something Caputo did in 2016, or whether Barr saw to it that investigation ended, making Caputo hirable for the first time in Trump’s Administration.

When I asked Caputo what Project Rasputin was, he simply responded by tweeting a picture of the charlatan advisor to a czar, a picture he has since deleted (along with a bunch of other Tweets he purged before taking this position).

Ah well. I’m glad that Trump’s desperation to stop Azar from telling the truth about how the President ignored sound medical advice in favor of conspiracy theories will provide yet another pressing reason to ask Reggie Walton to fully declassify the 302s describing this project.

25 replies
    • ernesto1581 says:

      Yes, indeed. And that scabrous campaign he ran for Carl Palladino for governor of NY ten years ago is just the smllest speck of sugar on the strawberry on the whip cream of his amazing c.v.
      Think: G Gordon Liddy on a permanent acid drip.

  1. Savage Librarian says:

    Yeah, I almost gagged on my chewing gum when I heard about this. Thanks for reminding us about Reggie Walton! I’m placing my hopes right next to yours with respect to this.

  2. Peterr says:

    That, in turn, suggests that in the middle of a pandemic, Trump’s White House is treating HHS as a PR shop, not a functional agency.

    This is how Trump has approached his entire presidency from Jan 20, 2017 on. Sean Spicer’s rants about the size of the crowds at Trump’s inauguration were not a one-off. PR is not a part of his operating procedure; PR is the entire thing.

    From Trump’s life experiences in the real estate world, he learn one and only one lesson: PR is the key to real estate. If you own something you want to sell, you roll out the good PR: “This is a great location . . . I’m giving you a great deal . . .” If you want to buy something, you use PR to shape the negotiating space: “If you don’t accept this deal, I’ll walk away and trash your name – no one will build here for 20 years . . . You take this deal, and I’ll praise you to the heights . . .”

    PR is ALL he knows. And when you look at his record of corporate bankruptcies, you and I both know that he is not very good at it.

    • OldTulsaDude says:

      There is a reason Trump treats everyone and everything as part of his PR campaign: the show is all he has to offer.

      • Rayne says:

        No, it’s more that the show is the point. Marcy used the label “Potemkin” in her previous post because it’s an apt reference to a front rather than substance. See definition of “Potemkin village” — that’s what Trump’s entire presidency is.

        He constantly accuses media and others of being fake. As much as he projects, this is the clue that he knows he is a fake president. He’s a front for the right-wing voters providing cover as the kleptocracy hollows out the nation’s government and assets.

        I want to elaborate this here so we don’t fall into the trap of thinking he’s a hapless Truman Burbank, unaware he’s being used. What remains of Trump’s dementia-addled brain is fully aware of the role he plays and must maintain the kayfabe even as he disintegrates.

        • Tom says:

          I agree. Trump is not delusional. He knows when he’s lying and it’s become second nature for him to do so. He cuts off reporters and calls them “disgraceful” when their questions get too close to uncovering the truth of which he is fully aware. He knows he’s in way over his head as President, but then, I don’t think he ever expected or even wanted to be President.

          • Stephen Calhoun says:

            On the other hand, Trump by virtue of being delusional could totally identify with being the most powerful, winningnest, man on earth. This would be consistent with being disassociated with reality; he believes his own bullshit.

            • Tom says:

              But if Trump really and sincerely possessed such a grandiose view of himself, he wouldn’t be as craven and subservient as he is when around genuine strongmen like Putin, or be as defensive and bullying as he is when confronted by a woman in authority, or any woman who speaks up to him. The academic records he is so anxious to conceal probably show him to be anything but “a very stable genius”. I think Trump knows full well his various inadequacies, he just never thought he would ever be in the spotlight the way he has the last three years and more.

          • Rayne says:

            The only goddamned thing essential about WWE is the donation McMahon made. Trump never makes a judgment for the benefit of “making America great again,” only for his personal benefit.

            It must be utterly galling to the WWE employees who were laid off a day after their business was declared essential, and even more so today after a WWE wrestler died of COVID-19. They need to break kayfabe and dump to the media.

            • Savage Librarian says:

              IMHO, a revealing insight here from Snow (not his given name…maybe a nod to the term “snow job”?) His comments at the beginning about the media are particularly interesting.

              Al Snow Explains “Kayfabe”

        • ernesto1581 says:

          Pump and Dump, baby, Pump and Dump. It’s absolutely reflexive. Ever see a spider’s leg twitching, minutes after it had been severed? This bum will be running a con even as the undertaker revs up the trocar.

          • vicks says:

            Trump has survival skills “the likes of which this world has never seen”
            The man is absurd, and his followers adore it.
            He says something outrageous and they are laughing their asses off.
            Some may even be decent people but are having too much fun and are dazzled by the show.
            Trump’s “opposition” studiously fact checks, and points out exactly how whatever he has said or done violates the constitution, basic decency or gravity, and every fucking time they end up red faced and sputtering that this cant be happening.
            Meanwhile Trump has already waltzed on looking for his next thing.
            And here we are,
            but this time people are dying.
            because we still haven’t fucking learned.
            How to stay a step ahead
            of a rat fucker.

        • BobCon says:

          It’s not surprising that Trump would put a stooge with no meaningful background in place as a spokesperson at HHS at the same time he tries to justify shutting down Congress in retaliation for blocking his health nominees.

          Which is a lie, he just hasn’t nominated anyone.

          If he wanted to do anything besides rally sycophants like Ari Fleischer, he would put someone respected in Caputo’s place. But he doesn’t want to highlight anything truthful, he needs to push his loyalists into signing off on further fictions.

  3. Clifford Hughes says:

    Almost always seems like Trump is lying, but it can be difficult to tell if he is lying to us or lying to himself, and troubling to consider which would be worse.

    • Marinela says:

      When I watch him talk, he comes across as a person without conscience. So that when he lies he looks perfectly convincing like he really believes what he is saying. He actually sounds and looks more tortured when he speaks somewhat truthfully, like when he is forced to read prepared statements.

      This is why some of his supporters are believing him. A person with conscience will have hard time to level with being so convincing when lying. They are judging him thru the lenses of a person with conscience. For instance, they will be like, it was a perfect phone call, Ukraine President also said it was perfect. Or the other day when he was pushing the story about the women that took hydroxychloroquine, it must work, a democrat owns her life to President Trump, etc.

      For people that don’t support Trump, or cannot stand him, they don’t need to find excuses to continue liking him, so they can easily tell he is lying.

      • Yancy says:

        What about Ivanka? Does she have a special place in Daddy’s heart because she’s as unaffected by the truth, by the consequences of her/their actions, etc.?
        I can’t figure out her or their relationship, but I think she is his real apprentice, not Eric or DJ.

        Harvard Law alum are can be found under every rock in Trump World, especially the first campaign staff and early White House staff . Bannon, Conway, Delgado, Kushner, plenty more you can look up.
        Also an awful lot of Catholics in this administration. I have nothing against Catholics, but the numbers are striking.

  4. Mart says:

    I loved the linked article. Multiple references to Roger Stone. Bankruptcy. Daughter from first marriage is 32, current Russian? wife is 32. Ongoing and multiple past business links in Russia and Ukraine. Best quote for me, “I’m not proud of the work today,” he said. “But at the time, Putin wasn’t such a bad guy.” Just a few years later and he not only does not have to apologize for saying this, he gets a job with the big guy. Putin’s puppet.

  5. What Constitution? says:

    So, appointing this guy as “spokesperson” for HHS means there’s better than an 80% chance that we’ll hear “Benghazi” spoken from the podium in a HHS COVID-19 briefing within a week, right? Anything else?

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