Nel's New Day

June 13, 2019

DDT: Week 125, Part I – Total Disregard for the Law

A major piece of news that may go unnoticed this week is that White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is quitting at the end of the month and going home to Arkansas, according to a tweet from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). The public goes months without seeing her as DDT prefers to babble in his yard in lieu of press secretary briefings. Yesterday’s “babble” created a great deal of media when he claimed he’s fine with a little collusion between himself and a foreign government about his campaign opponents. Asked what he would do if a foreign government offered him clandestine information, he said:

“There’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called, from a country—Norway—we have information on your opponent. Oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

DDT continued:

“It’s not an interference, they have information. When somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘oh let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressman, they all do it, they always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research…. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI.”

In congressional testimony, Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers, “the FBI would want to know about” any foreign election meddling. DDT said, “The FBI director is wrong.”

Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein wrote:

“He’s the country’s commander in chief and top diplomat, and as such responsible for making clear to all foreign nations and other groups that messing with the internal affairs of the United States will have serious consequences. Instead, he’s basically inviting everyone in.”

DDT sycophant Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and a few other Republicans expressed dismay about DDT’s assessment that he didn’t need to notify the FBI.  Most congressional Republicans, however, pointed fingers at Democrats with false accusations and avoiding any mention of their president.

Despite some GOP senators claiming that candidates should report offers of foreign assistance to the FBI, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) led the charge to block any bill making this requirement. Knowingly accepting help from a foreign entity or power for electoral campaigns is already illegal, but a proposed bill would mandate the reporting of offering foreign assistance. Once again, Republicans cover for DDT’s illegal positions. The Republicans will not support this bill.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) responded:

“When the president talks like this, it’s no wonder [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] is blocking bipartisan efforts to secure our elections from foreign interference.”

McConnell’s blockade includes funding for state and governments to tighten security, a national strategy against cyberattacks, and the requirement that federal funds be spent only on federally certified “election infrastructure vendors.” In other proposals, internet companies such as Facebook must disclose political advertising purchasers, and federal incentives would be provided for states to adopt paper ballots. McConnell has now blocked over 100 pieces of legislation sent him from the House, including providing election security for 2020. Two days ago, he announced an election security briefing, but nothing has been heard about it since then. McConnell wouldn’t say whether the Senate will take up any legislation in connection to election security, and GOP Senate leaders knew nothing about a briefing. He blamed the media for ignoring stories about the lack of interference in the 2018 election and said that DDT “did a much, much better job” regarding the absence of problems. (That may be the briefing.)

Existing law legalizes interference from foreign government in some cases: foreign-owned companies incorporated in the U.S. can make unlimited donations to U.S. candidates, and foreigners, including those masquerading as news outlets, can legally pay for adds to attack or promote candidates on Facebook, Google, or YouTube. Because of the conservative Supreme Court, campaign finance is completely opaque and contains many loopholes and back doors for donors.

Beyond interference comes just plain sloppy, careless election security such as North Carolina has demonstrated. Just before the 2018 election, a cybersecurity analyst found a file of unencrypted administrative passwords in a cloud storage directory available to anyone on the internet to access. Recent revelations about Republicans using gerrymandering to preserve white GOP control has also led to a case in North Carolina that accuses the current legislature of being illegitimate. Files from the now deceased Thomas Hofeller, gerrymandering expert, show that the state’s Republicans lied to a federal court with their claim that they didn’t use racial data for new electoral maps and that they lacked time to draw new maps for a special election. Common Cause of North Carolina accuses the state’s legislative maps of violating the state’s constitution.

The day after the interview, DDT tried to cover up his remarks by falsely equating getting dirt on campaign opponents to diplomatic discussions with allies and then accused Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) of inappropriate contacts with Russian nationals. Last year, Warner attempt to contact the British author of material originally commissioned by the conservative Free Beacon, and Russian pranksters contacted Schiff in 2017 about having salacious photos of DDT. Schiff had immediately told law enforcement about the contact, and GOP Sen. John McCain (AZ) had already turned over the dossier to the FBI. 

DDT’s aide Kellyanne Conway said she doesn’t care about violating the law, but DDT’s Office of Special Counsel, headed by former employee of a right—leaning watchdog group and DDT’s appointee Henry Kerner, reported that she should be removed from her job because she egregiously and repeatedly violated the Hatch Act. DDT is upset. Deputy White House Press Secretary Steven Groves’s statement declared that the office has “unclear and unevenly applied rules which have a chilling effect on free speech for all federal employees.” White House Counsel Pat Cipollone demanded that the office withdraw its report. Kerner disagreed:

“In interview after interview, she uses her official capacity to disparage announced candidates, which is not allowed. What kind of example does that send to the federal workforce? If you’re high enough up in the White House, you break the law, but if you’re a postal carrier or a regular federal worker, you lose your job?”

Conway was reprimanded for telling Fox watchers to buy from Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, but most of her Hatch Act violations advocate for and against specific electoral candidates. Only the president and vice-president may openly campaign for political candidates.

John Dean, Richard Nixon’s former White House counsel, testified this week about comparisons between the Mueller Report and Watergate investigations. The testimony got little press because of a fatal helicopter crash in New York, but Robert Reich listed Dean’s report of six similarities between DDT and Nixon:

1) Tried to shut down the investigations completely.

2) Fired key investigators in an attempt to stop the investigation.

3) Tried to cover up their efforts to stop the investigation.

4) Sought to control investigators by ordering aides to interfere in their work.

5) Dangled presidential pardons to influence key witnesses.

6) Limited the release of key evidence to Congress and the public.

Despite his promise to disinvest himself from his businesses, DDT still makes money around the world with over $130 million in foreign assets and positions, assets, trademarks and other business interests in more than 30 countries. Information about this may be minimal because he provides only an annual disclosure form for last year with wide ranges for transactions, income, and property values. After a promise that he would pursue “no new deals” after his inauguration, DDT garnered new income by opening new properties since 2017. He also promised to donate all profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury, but there is no indication that he has done so. The Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution prevents government members from receiving gifts and other benefits from foreign states or leaders without congressional approval—which DDT doesn’t have. This source gives detailed descriptions of business affairs in 25 countries, an interactive map, and amounts that foreign influence spending from ten countries. DDT owes a lot of world leaders a lot of favors.  

DDT just scored $5 million above the assessment of a Beverly Hills mansion to Indonesian billionaire and vice presidential candidate Hary Tanoesoedibjo at a tidy 93 percent profit over the purchase price in 2007.

With no evidence, State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo blames Iran for attacks on two tankers, one owned by Japan and the other by Norway. He also has no proof that Iran perpetrated other recent attacks. These incidents occur while DDT tries to keep control over declaring war from Congress. Before Pompeo’s claim, war hawk Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) used the tanker episodes as justification to sell U.S. arms to Saudi Arabia without congressional approval. DDT has announced that now is not the time for any diplomacy with Iran.

Iran just hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and relationships between the two countries have been friendly for decades. With unproved assertions by the U.S. federal leadership, it’s 2003 all over.

 

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