Nel's New Day

May 19, 2018

DDT: Week 69 – Killings, ‘Pay to Play’

Killings on two sides of the world marked the past week. One was the 16th school shooting in the United States in the first four and a half months of the year that killed ten people, eight of them students, and wounded another 14 in the small town of Santa Fe (TX) with a population under 13,000. The 17-year-old shooter admitted that he deliberately aimed at people he wanted to kill; the first girl he killed had turned down his persistent advances over four months. The shooter used guns that belonged to his father. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott claimed that there were no “red flags,” but the teenager’s Facebook page and computer journals identify his plans.

Guns don’t kill people; doors do. This claim by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick follows the latest NRA excuse for the growing number of mass shootings. He recommends just one entrance for all 1,400 people in a school like the one in Santa Fe (TX). Former government ethics director Walter Shaub examined the state requirements for doors and tweeted that “Texas has stricter regulations for doors than it does for guns.”

Last week’s Palestinian bloodbath from the Israelis came at the same time that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) proudly opened his embassy in Jerusalem on the 70th anniversary of Nakba (Catastrophe) when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled by the 1948 creation of Israel. That country’s military claimed that they attacked members of Hamas; Palestinians said that the “terrible massacre” was against unarmed demonstrators. DDT called the time “a great day for Israel” that will create peace between Palestine and Israel, something he has always said would be “easy.” He invited fundamentalist Christian pastors to open the embassy are anti-Semitic. Robert Jeffress has preached that everyone except Christians are going to hell and that Jews will be saved at the second coming of Christ because they will accept Him. DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who once led a group illegally funding West Bank settlements, was supposed to create this “easy” peace but blamed the Palestinians for their deaths.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayip Erdogan, led the diplomatic protests from several Arab and Middle East countries against DDT’s action, calling the U.S. “part of the problem, not the solution.” The UK prime minister, Theresa May, was more restrained in her criticism, but Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, called the embassy move from Tel-Aviv a violation of International law and UN Security Council resolutions.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, left an emergency Security Council meeting discussing the killings in Gaza when the Palestinian envoy began to speak. Earlier she had praised the “restraint” by Israel when they killed at least 62 people and wounded another 3,100 Palestinian protesters on the day when the embassy opened on land recognized by many world leaders as the capital of a future Palestinian state. A vote of 29-2 with 14 abstentions by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate Israel’s massacre as war crimes followed a speech by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN human rights chief, condemning the “horrific” attacks on peaceful demonstrators and calling for “the occupation” to end. About the Palestinians, Zeid said:

“All of the 1.9 million people who live in Gaza have been penned in behind fences and have suffered progressively more restrictions and greater poverty. After 11 years of blockade by Israel they have little hope of employment, and their infrastructure is crumbling, with an electricity crisis, inadequate health services and a decaying sewage system that constitutes a threat to health.”

DDT claimed Jerusalem the capital of Israel in opposition to State of Palestine claims that the embassy is on its capital. A 1949 international treaty recognizes half the city, including the embassy area, under Jordanian control. DDT’s decision to move the embassy led to a UN revolution, approved 128-9, requesting him to withdraw his declaration that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Those nine members supporting DDT are the U.S., Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and Togo. Another 35 nations abstained, and 21 countries were not present for the vote. DDT said that he made the decision for “peace” in the region.

In his attempts for a Nobel Peace Prize, DDT has decided to “Make China Great Again,” tweeting that “Too many jobs in China lost.” His new-found concern for jobs in China happened at the same time that the Chinese government loaned DDT $500 million for his billion-dollar resort project in Indonesia.

Just 72 hours after the loan deal was made, DDT ordered a bailout for the Chinese-government-owned cellphone maker ZTE. The U.S. military and intelligence community has declared the phones a security risk, and they are banned on military bases out of concern they can track service members. Last year, the company was fined $1.2 billion for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea. The U.S. government had banned the company from buying U.S. components for seven years because ZTE officials lied about their actions. Stocks may go up for U.S. optical component companies because they can resume exporting their product to China. U.S. intelligence officials believe that China may use ZTE products for foreign espionage and cyber attacks.

DDT’s Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah described the deal with China as “give and take,” and it’s the farmers in the U.S. that are forced into the “give” while China can “take.” After Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) threatened tariffs on soybeans, China almost tripled its purchases from Russia and canceled U.S. shipments. DDT had promised to protect farmers.

While national security adviser John Bolton is threatening sanctions on European allies if they dare deal with Iran, China has a new freight train connection that saves 20 days in carrying supplies to the capital of Iran over cargo ships and allows greater trade relations between the two countries. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that they would “maintain normal economic ties and trade.” China can also again create separate funds and banks from the U.S. market that the United States cannot punish. Chinese entities can also act as intermediaries for European countries to keep trading with Iran with no fear of violating U.S. sanctions, for example oil sales from Iran through China or Russia. Iran sells more to China than any other country with a 25 percent increase in exports last year. Chinese exports to Iran increased over 20 percent. Iranian exports to the EU increased by 375 percent from 2015 to 2016.

DDT is bragging that he will shrink the trade deficit with China because it may buy an additional $200 billion in U.S. goods, up from purchases last year of $130 billion. Some sales may be to ZTE. Economists think the plan won’t succeed, however, because the U.S. may just buy more goods from China. At the same time, DDT is not trying to keep China from taking U.S. intellectual property.

DDT’s foreign policy is also bailing out his son-in-law from his financial problems. The U.S. position on the tiny country of Qatar seems to parallel whether the wealthy oil nation will lend money to bail out Jared Kushner’s disastrous deal with a 41-story building at 666 Fifth Avenue Manhattan. Over a year ago, DDT supported Qatar when Kushner thought it would lend his family business money. As soon as Qatar withdrew the offer, DDT supported the eight-country blockade of Qatar despite the 10,000 service members at the base on Qatar. Now, Qatar is considering a loan of hundreds of millions to dollars to the Kushner family to pay off the original loan and renovate the building at the same time that DDT met with Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani. Jared Kushner resigned as his company’s chief executive but kept most of his business with it.

Qatar may have a good reason for thinking that DDT will take bribes. Businessman Jeff Kwatinetz turned down an offer from Ahmed al-Ramaihi, head of the Qatar sovereign wealth fund, to exchange a meeting with DDT and his officials for an investment. Kwatinetz said, “Al-Rumaihi laughed and then stated to me that I shouldn’t be naive, that so many Washington politicians take our money, and stated ‘do you think Flynn turned down our money?’” The pattern for these bribes may have started immediately after the 2016 election.

DDT is already conceding to North Korea by agreeing not to fly two nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over the Korean Peninsula because North Korea’s president, Kim Jong-Un, canceled talks with South Korea. National security adviser John Bolton may be blocking the U.S./North Korea summit by repeated claims that the U.S. will use the “Libya model” in its settlement with North Korea and getting DDT to back out of the Iranian deal. Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi ended up dismembered, and DDT’s position on Iran proves that no agreement would be lasting.

The GOP isn’t even worried about a war with North Korea. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that “all the damage … would be worth it in terms of long-term stability and national security.” The beginning of this war 65 years ago killed 3.5 million people (36,516 of them from the U.S.) and 2.5 million civilians while costing almost $700 billion plus hundreds of billions of dollars more to put military on the border because North and South Korea for 65 years. The U.S. has spent more to cover other Pacific Rim nations. That was before North Korea had nuclear weapons which might reach the U.S.

As a real estate developer, DDT was always willing to walk away from negotiations, the way he promised to negotiate with Kim Jong-Un. His craving for the Nobel Prize may cause him to give up anything to North Korea. His attitude mirrors what he accuses President Obama of doing in Iran.

And then there’s Russia and much more.

 

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May 8, 2018

DDT Drops Iran Denuclearization, Cohen Sells White House Access

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 9:54 PM
Tags: , , , ,

The U.S. has withdrawn from the six-country deal to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons is dead, according to Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). He has no reason to take this action. Although DDT has claimed that the deal with Iran was “horrible,” Iran has reduced its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent to only 300 pounds, far less than needed for even one bomb. Iran also removed about 13,000 of its centrifuges, leaving just over 5,000 of its oldest-model machines in place. It ceased all enrichment at its underground facility at Fordow, one of the nuclear sites which are continually monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which repeatedly states that Iran is complying with the agreement’s restriction.

Last week, the White House released a statement that falsely declared Iran “has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program.” A backlash led to the change of one letter—“has” to “had”—that totally revised the false report. The White House excuse was a “typo,” but journalist Brian Beutler pointed out that the “original statement uses the word ‘has’ twice, strongly suggesting an intent to mislead the global public into believing Iran had covertly reactivated its nuclear weapons program in direct defiance of the agreement.”

The White House admitted in its correction that Iran no longer “has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program,” but DDT ignored all the evidence showing Iran is following its part of the bargain and made up lies about Iran not pursuing its nuclear program. This comment adds to the 3,000+ lies that he has told since he was inaugurated. DDT also ignored the 63 percent people in the U.S. who want the U.S. to stay in the Iran denuclearization agreement.

Last week, Netanyahu threw fuel on the conflagration by releasing Iranian documents showing that Iranians worked a decade ago to design a nuclear warhead. In more work to rationalize his decision to inflame Iran, DDT hired Black Cube, an Israeli-based private intelligence agency, to falsely smear U.S. negotiators of the agreement, including Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl. The foreign spies also targeted Rhodes’ and Kahl’s spouses.

In his move toward regime change in Iran, DDT alienated major European and Asian countries but continued to forge a relationship with Saudi Arabia. His supporters include new lawyer Rudy Giuliani and new national security adviser, John Bolton; both are pushing toward the steps leading to more U.S. conflict in the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also pushed DDT to leave the Iran agreement although Netanyahu’s military and intelligence advisers assert that their country is safer with blocking nuclear bombs in Iran.

Lies led to the U.S. 2003 invasion of Iraq with serious fiscal and cultural repercussions fifteen years later, and comparisons are being made between those falsehoods and DDT’s current ones about Iran. John Bolton wants to bomb Iran—just as the George W. Bush era started an ongoing preemptive war against Iraq that has spread across the Middle East. Leaders of France, Germany, and the UK pointed out that a UN Security Council resolution supporting the Iran agreement “remains the binding international legal framework for the resolution of the dispute about the Iranian nuclear program.” Thus the U.S. has been the first country to violate the agreement.

Paul Waldman summarized DDT’s withdrawal:

“This decision is deeply uninformed, utterly illogical, inimical to the interests of the United States, taken for the pettiest of personal reasons and done with absolutely no plan for what to do next. In other words, it’s pure Trump.”

After his announcement, DDT signed an executive memorandum for the 180-day withdrawal process to impose all sanctions on Iran relaxed under the agreement. On the 90-day mark of August 6, these sanctions will be reinstated:

  • Iran buying or acquiring U.S. dollars
  • Iran trading gold and other precious metals
  • Iran’s sale, supply or trade of metals such as aluminum and steel, as well as graphite, coal and certain software for “integrating industrial processes”
  • “Significant” sales or purchases of Iranian rials, or the maintenance of significant funds or accounts outside the country using Iranian rials
  • Issuing Iranian debt
  • Auto sanctions

The U.S. will also halt Iran’s ability to export its carpets and foods into the U.S. and end certain licensing-related transactions.

  • Further sanctions imposed after 180 days on November 4:
  • Iran’s ports, as well as the country’s shipping and shipping sectors
  • Buying petroleum and petrochemical products with a number of Iranian oil companies
  • Foreign financial institutions transacting with the Central Bank of Iran and other Iranian financial institutions
  • Certain financial messaging services to Iran’s central bank and other Iranian financial institutions
  • Provision of underwriting services, insurance, or reinsurance
  • Iran’s energy sector

On Nov. 5, the U.S. will prevent U.S.-owned foreign entities from being allowed to engage in certain transactions with Iran and reimpose certain Iranian individuals.

DDT’s speech about the evil in Iran overlooks the way that the U.S. has violated its own denuclearization agreements. While DDT is demanding that North Korea comply with the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the U.S. violates the NPT, and Israel refuses to sign the treaty because it maintains a massive hidden nuclear arsenal obtained through deceit. The U.S. also consistently attempts to change regimes in violation of international law and the UN charter, most recently in Iraq and Libya which had complied with U.S. demands to close their nuclear programs.

What happens now that DDT has refused to recertify the deal? Uri Friedman presented three possibilities over six months ago:

Congress Ends the Iran Deal: Congress has 60 days to introduce legislation that imposes nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, including those against the banking system and oil exports. Doing so would breach the Iran deal, possibly unraveling the agreement depending on whether other countries in the agreement join or resist the sanctions. Sanctions would most likely cause Iran to no longer comply with the deal and return to their nuclear program. At that point, the U.S. could either bomb Iran or do nothing. Bolton would certainly not accept doing nothing. The withdrawal from an agreement with Iran negatively impacts any denuclearization agreement with North Korea, disturbed about DDT’s decision because they may not be able to trust the United States’ agreements. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani plans to negotiate with the deal’s three European countries, Russia, and China—once more leaving the United States out in the cold. If negotiations don’t work, Iran is ready to start unlimited uranium enrichment in a few weeks, and the U.S. could be fighting both Iran and North Korea.

Congress Seeks to Improve the Iran Deal: Congress could decide not to reimpose sanctions on Iran at this time. Last October, Republicans—including Sens. Rand Paul (KY), Susan Collins (ME), and Bob Corker (TN)—are in a quandary about quitting the deal, but none of them is particularly reliable in sticking to their positions.

Congress Does Nothing: The agreement can die from inaction—a death “by a thousand cuts.” Because Congress can’t agree on anything, this scenario is most likely.

DDT’s withdrawal from the Iran deal puts the rest of the world in control. Iran can build nuclear weapons if the other four five countries cannot persuade the nation to do otherwise. No nation will trust the United States in any of DDT’s promises, and all nations will understand that DDT is incapable of planning. DDT’s actions may even isolate Israel with the Israelis being blamed for outbreaks of hostilities. And DDT owns responsibility for any issues that come from his withdrawal.

Oil prices rose today after DDT’s announcement with the possibility of future spikes, and lack of Iranian oil can lead to inflation and slower economic growth in the U.S. Gas prices typically rise in the summer, and DDT’s withdrawal can make the problem even worse for consumers. As they pay more for gas, they are able to pay less for other purchases. Gas costs re made even worse from all the gas-guzzling cars consumers purchased after the gas prices dropped by over one-third in the past six years.

DDT managed to avoid some of the media attention from the actions of his personal attorney Michael Cohen, who may have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by both corporate clients and the Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg through the New York investment firm Columbus Nova. The Russian oligarch may also have provided the payoff in hush money for Stormy Daniels, according to her lawyer Michael Avenatti in documents supported by the media. The drug company Novartis and Korea Aerospace Industries, both with U.S. business relationships, also paid Cohen. Soon after the last Novartis payment, DDT met with the company’s incoming CEO; Korea Aerospace, which had no comment, is in competition for a multibillion-dollar joint contract to product U.S. Air Force jet trainers.

These episodes of The Apprentice in the White House may lead to more legal charges and World War III.

 

April 27, 2018

DDT: Week Sixty-six – Worsening Quicksand

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 9:27 PM
Tags: , , , ,

A U.S.-supported Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed at least 20 people at a wedding—most of them women and children—in northern Yemen this week. One of the dead is the bride. The groom was one of 45 wounded taken to a local hospital. Ambulances could not get to the bombing site because jets kept flying overhead. The airstrike was the third in the past few days, including a family of five killed in their home and at least 20 civilian commuters killed in a bus in western Yemen. The UN has accused the coalition of war crimes as their airstrikes his weddings, busy markets, hospitals, and schools. DDT’s distress at killing children in Syria stops when he helps the murders.

A strike against low-income people in the U.S. comes from HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s suggestion that rents be tripled for people receiving housing subsidies and that these people be required to work. Deductions in determining a tenant’s rent would also eliminate medical and child-care costs. At least the change would require congressional approval. When people asked where they would go, Carson responded, “This is a perfect example of what happens when the swamp gets ahold of people.” Nowhere in the country can a person working a full-time minimum wage job afford a two-bedroom apartment, and over half the people in the nation spend over 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities.

EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt’s science cred keeps shrinking. He told forest industry leaders in Georgia that burning biomass such as trees—in EPA policy—is carbon neutral when “used for energy production at stationary sources.” The next day he announced a new EPA rule preventing EPA policymakers from using scientific studies unless all the raw data is made public before posing with Marc Morano in a photo op for his new climate-denying book. This week, Pruitt also gave testimony before two congressional hearings, mostly about his ethics—or lack therof. Pruitt admitted that he knew about the huge salary increases to two staffers after lying about not knowing about it last month. Getting rid of him, however, might not do any good for the environment: his replacement would likely be his deputy climate-denier coal-lobbyist Andrew Wheeler.

DDT and Emmanuel Macron, president of France, shared many touchy-feely times during Macron’s visit this week, despite the refusal of DDT’s wife, Melania, to kiss him or even hold his hand. The “closeness” didn’t stop Macron from warning about the politics of “fear and anger” in his speech to a joint session of Congress. Macron said that the fear policy divides people and “only freezes and weakens us.” The speech also opposed DDT’s tariffs that “will destroy jobs, increase prices and the middle class will have to pay for it.” Macron’s “intimacy” may have come from his desire to persuade DDT not to dump the Iran nuclear treaty, an action that would cause Iran to start developing nuclear weapons. The deadline for DDT’s decision is May 12. DDT’s first state dinner was unique—no Democrats, no media, and only four GOP lawmakers.

North Korea generated news this week after Kim Jong-Un met with South Korea’s Moon Jae-in to talk about ending the Korean War, which has had a 65-year hiatus with an armistice. Kim’s goals are to keep his nuclear arsenal while stopping sanctions against his country and gain global significance. Leaders of North and South Korea signed peace documents in both 2000 and 2007, but neither one endured. In 2012, North Korea called its test missile, banned by the agreement, a “satellite” launch. Kim demands that the U.S. end an alliance with South Korea, where 30,000 U.S. military members are posted, and is highly unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons. Three U.S. citizens imprisoned in North Korea have not received any mention in discussions to talks, and DDT has yet to show any of the negotiation skills that he bragged about during his campaign. New Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has yet to demonstrate any diplomatic ability or attitudes.

DDT’s telephone call into Fox & Friends yesterday was called “another gift from heaven” by Stormy Daniels’ lawyer. Among other issues, DDT admitted that Cohen was representing him in the Daniels’ situation, something that he has previously denied and admitted that he had stayed in Moscow at least overnight, something else he had denied. Filled with craziness, DDT’s monologue included his claim that he was too busy to get his wife, Melania, a birthday gift so he went on Fox & Friends as a present for her. Here’s the interview. If DDT wasn’t so destructive to the nation, I might even feel sorry for him after hearing his pathetic monologue.

Fox thought they had a coup with the call from DDT, but hosts Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade and Ainsley Earhardt looked genuinely appalled by the end of his rambling, almost incoherent statements. Kilmeade even had to convince him to hang up by telling DDT that he had work to do. Charlie Pierce asked, “Has a president ever been cut off of an interview before?” Anderson Cooper said that DDT sounded like “a crazy person on a park bench with an onion tied to his belt, just mumbling incoherently.”  Heather Digby Parton has a summary of DDT’s rant if you can’t bear to listen to 31 minutes of his “manic and disjointed” commentary.

Federal prosecutors went into court immediately after the Fox program, and an hour later, a federal judge ruled that the documents seized from Cohen should be turned over to an independent “special master,” a reviewer to evaluate them for violation of attorney-client confidentiality rules before prosecutors or Cohen’s lawyers can see them. Federal prosecutors argued that DDT’s comments about Cohen enhance their claim that Cohen’s documents won’t be protected by attorney-client privilege and made the same argument about Sean Hannity who separated himself from Cohen.

A federal judge also rejected Paul Manafort’s lawsuit against Robert Mueller’s power in the Russian investigation.

Even Republicans know how dangerous DDT is. Five Republicans joined the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of a bill to protect Robert Mueller from being fired without good cause.

In other parts of the country:

Black humor in the new DDT normal: Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), facing felony counts from blackmailing a former mistress and misusing his veterans’ charity for his political interests, is keynote speaker at a St. Louis area police chiefs’ association prayer breakfast. Like DDT, Greitens blames the media.

In last week’s special election, a Republican won in a heavily GOP district by only five points where DDT had come in 21 points ahead less than two years ago. Republicans poured almost $1 million into the campaign, but the Republican might have been helped because Maricopa County failed to send out 140,000 ID cards for voters. Adrian Fontes, the county recorder who oversees elections in Maricopa County, called the issue a “little hiccup in printing.”

Teacher strikes are moving across the country’s red states with Arizona and Colorado the most recent entries. The first winner in increasing wages, West Virginia, brought out Gov. Matt Bevin’s hostile remark that the strike was causing sexual attacks against children left alone at home. Most of the states lack taxes to pay a decent wage at the low end because of drastically cut taxes and refusals to tax the fossil fuel industry. Paul Krugman has provided an overview of the funding crisis that pushed teachers into poverty.

DDT’s new minimal coverage in short-term health plans doesn’t include maternity care from two large private insurance companies in 45 states and Washington, D.C. Another 43 percent fail to cover mental health services; 62 percent don’t cover substance use disorder treatment; and 71 percent don’t cover outpatient prescription drugs. Republicans are right about these plans being cheaper: they lack even basic coverage in some areas.

DDT may not vet nominees, but he has a questionnaire for candidates before he will support them in the primaries. Loyalty evidently means ending foreign aid to Pakistan, supporting his Muslim ban and tariffs, repeal the healthcare individual mandate, and, of course, building DDT’s wall. Questions are here. Not all candidates are getting the questions although they are also sent to influential Republicans such as state-level committee members.

A white man kills four people of color in a Tennessee waffle house, and a black man saves lives of many people by single-handedly disarming the white man without a gun. DDT says nothing. As they say in golf, par for the course.

A study on DDT’s voters showed that their support for him came from a fear of losing their dominance in the United States, not threats to economic well-being. According to the researcher, DDT supporters see that society should come from hierarchy with themselves at the top.

Reporters without Borders has dropped the United States to 45th among 180 nations for press freedom, down two from U.S. ranking last year. DDT’s mentor, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, caused that nation to drop to 133rd. North Korea with a leader who DDT called “very honorable” is in last place.

April 23, 2018

DDT: Week Sixty-six – Legal Problems Add Those with Lawyer Cohen

The Cohen Crisis continues in the White House as Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) claims that his former personal lawyer won’t “flip” on him, meaning that DDT knows he’s not innocent. At the same time, Republican congressional members not only have concerns about Michael Cohen cooperating with investigator Robert Mueller but also plan to get rid of Mueller.

DDT has also become increasingly rabid about James Comey, especially because his memos, given to the House Judiciary Committee, were immediately leaked following the release of Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, earlier this week. Both the memos and the book were equally uncomplimentary about DDT. Instead of wiping out Comey’s credibility, as House members hoped, the memos seem to support Comey’s plausibility. DDT denied that he fired Comey because of the investigation into DDT’s ties with Russia, but his video with Lester Holt shows him saying that he considered “this Russia thing” in his decision to boot the FBI head. He also told two Russian diplomats in the Oval Office that firing “nut job” Comey took “great pressure” off of him.

Sanctions on Russia were another concern throughout the past week. Nikki Haley, UN ambassador and apologist for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), announced two days after DDT’s and John Bolton’s airstrikes on Syria that the U.S. is increasing economic sanctions against Russia. DDT overturned her statement the next day, and her declaration were described as a misstatement and privately as “an error that needs to be mopped up.” New DDT economic adviser Larry Kudlow called Haley’s comments due to “momentary confusion.” “With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” Haley said, and Kudlow apologized, saying that he was wrong. Within a week, DDT eased earlier sanctions on oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who has a connection with the 2016 election. Comey said in his interview with George Stephanopoulos that Russia may have something on DDT to blackmail him.

The memory of DDT’s airstrikes on Syria has faded, and no proof yet exists that gas was responsible for deaths or that Syria was responsible. Initially, popular conservative pundits such as Fox’s Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham criticized DDT’s airstrikes while Michael Savage and Ann Coulter condemned DDT’s actions. Mike Cernovich tweeted that the chemical attacks in Syria were staged and wrote, “At least I won’t feel bad when he gets impeached.”

CIA Director Mike Pompeo, moving toward nomination for Secretary of State in a reluctant Senate, went to North Korea on Easter Sunday (also April Fools Day) to begin talks with Kim Jong-Un, and DDT is already trying to figure out how to make the non-talks with North Korea’s leader successful if DDT decides to bail on them. Hawk and new national security adviser John Bolton told DDT to feel free to leave the meeting at any time if he doesn’t get what he wants but that the meeting could be considered a success even if doesn’t last for an hour. DDT assured Bolton that he could sway Kim when he sees him in person.

DDT bragged about North Korea’s “denuclearization,” but Kim Jong-Un plans to keep his nuclear arsenal. DDT’s aides privately believe that Kim’s closing one nuclear facility is not a pledge to move toward nuclear disarmament. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who met with DDT last week, tried to tell him that past U.S. talks with North Korea have failed and questioned why Japan was the only U.S. ally that was not exempted from tariffs on aluminum.

A prime reason for Kim’s negotiation is to end the Korean War, suspended for the past 65 years but not formally ended. The U.S. could have a problem with the 28,000 military members stationed on the Korean peninsula.

The search warrants for DDT’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen may be a bigger problem for DDT than Robert Mueller investigation. Last Monday, Cohen tried to freeze the inspection of his materials and had to reveal that Sean Hannity was one of his clients along with protecting DDT and Elliott Broidy from sex scandals. Hannity vigorously denied any professional involvement with Cohen which may have lost him any attorney-client confidentiality. A judge has not yet ruled about the confidentiality of Cohen’s materials regarding DDT but doesn’t seem inclined to keep Cohen’s papers from litigation.

Since warrants were served on his property, Cohen has withdrawn two libel suits against BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS, that produced the infamous Christopher Steele dossier about ties between DDT and Russia. Cohen can now avoid questioning from Fusion or turning over evidence related to the case.

Problems of Cohen, aka “The Fixer”:

  • Ties to Russian kleptocrats.
  • Close working relationship with convicted felon Felix Sater, Russian-financed real estate developer and former Trump Organization employee.
  • Shift from low-rate personal injury lawyer to mogul as he purchased a dozen luxury units in DDT properties.
  • 2016 meeting with Putin associates in Prague.
  • Partnership with a Ukrainian immigrant to purchase the biggest collection of expensive NYC taxi medallions.

Over 20 percent of donations to DDT’s 2020 campaign–$3.9 million—have gone for legal bills with almost $1 million during the current year. At least $66,000 of legal fees for DDT’s longtime bodyguard Keith Schiller have been paid by DDT’s campaign donations, perhaps illegally. Schiller was questioned about events as far back as 2013, long before the campaign. The campaign has also paid almost $288,000 for Donald Trump Jr.’s legal concerns.

The conservative Wall Street Journal wrote that Cohen stopped a Us Weekly story in 2013 about Donald Trump Jr.’s affair with Celebrity Apprentice contestant Aubrey O’Day between 2011 and 2012. The same article tracked Cohen’s payments to Stormy Daniels to kill her story about an affair with DDT and to a pregnant Playboy Playmate to conceal information about her affair with Elliott Broidy.

DDT’s long-time denial about his interaction with prostitutes in Russia (aka “pee tapes”) was that he’s a germophobe. His latest reason is that it couldn’t have happened because he didn’t stay overnight in Moscow during that time period in 2013. In the past, social media posts indicated that he was in the city for several days, his faithful bodyguard Keith Schiller related a different story to congressional investigators, and recent revelation of flight records shows that DDT was in Moscow from Friday, 11/8/13, through early Sunday morning (11/10/13).

The Russian scandal will get a great deal more media air time since DDT hired limelight-loving Rudy Giuliani, former New York mayor, for his legal team. One reason for hiring Giuliani may be that he can get information out of the FBI. Before Comey was fired, he had begun an investigation about Giuliani’s possibly knowing about the email leaks during Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for president before they were announced. Giuliani’s law firm advised Cambridge Analytics, under fire for using private data and providing foreign labor for GOP campaigns, and tried to resolve the case of Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold dealer accused of violating U.S. law by helping Iran avoid economic sanctions. In 1988 Giuliani stopped FBI Agent Tony Lombardi from continuing the investigation into DDT’s money laundering just a few weeks before DDT raised $2 million for Giuliani’s mayoral campaign. Wayne Barrett, formerly of The Village Voice, also wrote about Giuliani’s key part in using New York City taxpayer money to support DDT’s buildings.

The team also has taken on former federal prosecutors Jane Serene Raskin and Marty Raskin, a couple who manage a Florida-based law firm that specializes in responding to search warrants, who are willing to risk their reputation by working for DDT. None of DDT’s lawyers has much experience as defense attorneys.

DDT decided not to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership after he thought he would after he said he wouldn’t.

DDT is attacking two populations in the U.S. in its plans to allow health care officials and insurers to discriminate against transgender people and include indigenous people in a Medicaid work requirement. The latter comes from DDT’s position that Native Americans are “the tribes are a race rather than separate governments” which overlooks the history of treaties between the U.S. government and administrations from George Washington to Barack Obama.

A side effect of DDT’s tariffs is an increased cost in false teeth (aka Implants, crowns and bridges); 45 percent of these are imported from China and Mexico. About 30 percent of U.S. medical devices including hips and heart valves are imported. DDT’s economy is becoming composed of trickle down costs for most of the U.S. population.

The popularity of the tax cuts for large corporations and the wealthiest in the nation got a brief bump earlier this year but no more: only 27 percent respondents now call them a good idea. Thirty-six percent of people call them a bad idea in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, and 53 percent predict a negative result to the new law. Political strategists consider the tax cuts a political loser, and the GOP has no other accomplishment during its first 15 months.

Appointments/lawsuits later this week!

April 10, 2018

Syria’s Past, Scary Possibilities

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 11:10 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Fifteen years ago, George W. Bush followed the advice of his war hawks VP Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to attack Iraq on false pretenses. (I’m sure that the oil in the country had nothing to do with the preemptive war.) Since then, the thoughtless action of the Bush II administration has cost the U.S. people trillions of dollars and the Middle East hundreds of thousands of deaths and tens of millions of refugees. The United States will always suffer from the tragedies of veterans who managed to survive the physical and mental injuries that will always affect them and their descendants.

Syria is again the focus of attention in the Middle East after a disastrous chemical attack against Syrian civilians last Saturday and the possibility that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) would attack Syria in a diversion from his personal problems. Saturday’s attack killed at least 80 people, and an attack on a Syrian air base killed another 14. Syria first blamed the U.S. for the air base attack but then accused Israel. After the chemical attack, the rebels surrendered Douma. Yet any action looks like a lose-lose situation. “Syria is the most complex, complicated issue I have ever had to deal with,” then-CIA Director John Brennan said in 2016.

The current problem in Syria began during the Arab Spring of 2011 when protesters tries to take Middle Eastern countries from dictators. In Syria, Assad used the military to slaughter the protesters. When they fought back, Assad had his war against the Free Syrian Army, a militia formed to protect protesters.

The U.S. was concerned because of Iran’s alliance with Syria to move weapons and other resources to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. The Shiite theocracy of Iran sent Hezbollah to fight for Assad in a threat to Sunni Arab states on the Persian Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia, that then sent arms to the Syrian rebels. Qatar alone gave $3 billion to the rebels in 2013, and Saudi Arabia sent a shipment of 500 TOW anti-tank missiles to the rebel in 2015. Thus the Syrian civil war became a fight between two Middle Eastern factions.

At the same time, Russia supported Assad and the Syrian military in a continuation of its half-century policy; Russia sells weapons, air defense systems, and MI-25 attack helicopters to Assad, partly to protect its naval base at Tartus on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. In 2011, Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution to condemn Assad’s attacks on protesters. Yesterday in the UN, Russia refused to cooperate with Western countries to investigate Syrian chemical attacks. Russian special forces are embedded with Syrian troops, their warplanes and helicopters conduct air attacks on the rebels, and their artillery bombards Assad’s enemies.

Seeing the civil war as a source of recruits and a safe haven, al-Qaeda started sending forces into Syria since 2011. Qatar paid Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda leader, to destroy Assad.

President Obama refused to take out Assad despite advice from military and intelligence leaders such as David Petraeus who wanted to provide advanced weapons to the rebels. Even the killing of up to 1,423 people, mostly civilians, in Assad’s attack with sarin gas in 2013 didn’t push President Obama farther than a plan for airstrikes that Congress rejected. Russia made a deal with Assad to give up his chemical weapons in exchange for international inspections and no U.S. attacks. President Obama took the deal, and some people blamed him for Russia’s escalation in 2015. At the end of 2016, the civil war had killed at least 470,000 Syrian killed.

While actors in the Middle East used Syria in a tug of war, ISIS swept over northern Iraq in June 2014 and controlled land the size of Great Britain in Syria and Iraq. President Obama used airstrikes to support forces fighting ISIS. Busy fighting Assad, rebels could not fight ISIS; Assad had a ceasefire with ISIS so he fought the rebel as a larger threat to him. The U.S. picked Kurdish fighters in northern Syria near Turkey as their allies. The Kurds wanted their own state instead of overturning Assad and were intent on protecting their city Kobane from ISIS. The U.S. intended to cut ISIS’s supply lines between Syria and Iraq while backing Kurdish forces in their fight. The mission was a success by breaking the siege of Kobane and moving to take over ISIS’s capital, Raqqa. Yet Turkey, threatened by armed Kurdish fighters, threatened to increase military action against the Kurds who were fighting ISIS, and DDT stopped arming them.

Yet the U.S. would not support the rebels in fighting Assad. The U.S. agreement to not conflict with Russian flight to bomb Syrian civilians in 2015 led to atrocities such as chemical attacks. DDT campaigned with his past belief that the U.S. should support Assad and not attack Syria, but a chemical attack in spring 2017 killing over 80 people caused him to reverse his position because Assad had used chemical weapons. He ordered an attack on the airfield in Syria where the chemical attack was launched, possibly based on false information and after warning senior officials from foreign governments before the attack so that they could leave. Most chemical attacks in Syria are largely ignored by both DDT and the media, and DDT has don’t nothing about most of them. The map shows 11 attacks since DDT’s inauguration. [Thanks to Zack Beauchamp for the history of Syria’s civil war and involvement of other countries.]

After the chemical attack last Saturday, DDT’s air strike threats could be far more dangerous for the U.S. than his strike a year ago. Russia is already jamming U.S. drones over Syria and threatening disaster, possibly for a U.S. plane or ship, if DDT dares retaliate for the chemical attack. After protecting Putin for over a year, DDT is already in trouble for the sanctions against wealthy Russians that took billions of dollars from the Russian stock market this week. Now Russia claims that Assad did not use chemicals and blames the U.S. for a fake chemical attack in Syria as a pretext to strike Assad.

DDT cried crocodile tears at the deaths of children in chemical attacks but refuses to take Syrian refugees. In 2016, the Syrian atrocities led President Obama to increase the U.S. refugee resettlement cap from 70,000 to 110,000. DDT has capped the number at 45,000, and the U.S. has resettled 10,876 refugees this year, 44 of them Syrian. At this time last year, 5,935 Syrian had been resettled in the United States.

Ken Isaacs, DDT’s nominee to head the UN international migration assistance efforts believes that permitting Syrian refugees into the U.S. President Donald Trump’s new pick to lead the United Nation’s international migration assistance efforts is “foolish and delusional” because they are Muslims. He is the vice president of evangelist Rev. Franklin Graham’s Christian relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse. Isaacs also tweeted, “Austria and Switzerland should consider building a wall in the Alps to keep refugees out.”

This is Syria today:

  • Over half of Syria’s 20 million, pre-war population has been displaced.
  • 5.5 million Syrians have fled abroad with 95% of them in these five countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt.
  • 400,000 civilians are trapped in opposition-held suburbs of Syria’s capital Damascus where Assad is relentlessly bombing.
  • Of Syria’s estimated 10 million children, 8.6 million are in dire need of assistance. Nearly 6 million children are displaced or living as refugees, and about 2.5 million are out of school.
  • About one-third of Syria’s housing and half of its educational and medical facilities have been destroyed, causing catastrophic public health crises.

The biggest question now is what DDT will do about Syria. Before the FBI used a search warrant to take records, a computer, and a phone from the office, home, and hotel room of Michael Cohen, DDT’s lawyer, DDT promised to be “very tough” because “everybody’s going to pay a price.” By the time that he met with his military people, however, he was raging about seizing the documents as “a disgraceful situation” and “an attack on our country.” His venom turned to the FBI and top DOJ officials in raids where agents “broke into” Cohen’s office. After cancelling a trip to the Summit of the Americas in Lima (Peru), DDT will be alone for the entire weekend to watch Fox, sent furious tweets, and possibly starting a war. He’s at a “high level of freak out,” according to one source, and another one said, “I am worried about his response.”

As should everyone in the United States.

April 7, 2018

DDT: Week Sixty-three – Besieged on All Fronts

The possibly precarious mental state of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has become more and more normalized. The media largely ignored the fact that DDT doesn’t know he lives in the White House. He began his speech to children at the 140th Easter Egg Roll by saying by referring to the White House as “this house or building or whatever you want to call it because there is no name for it.” His claim that the unnamed place being in “tippy-top shape” was a segue to telling the children about the great economy of the United States and how the military would be “at a level it’s never been before” with the “$700 billion” funding.

DDT is also trying hard to keep the unethical EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt, still suggesting last week that he might make him the DOJ Attorney General despite new scandals. Yet Pruitt’s unethical scandals keep pouring out with Scott Pruitt continues to have ethical problems. Added to scandals after my blog post earlier this week are his lies that his lobbyist renters didn’t have any business before the EPA (they did), the armored car that he wants taxpayers to give him, his failure to pay his pittance of rent without being hassled for it, the citation for his renters because they lacked a license to rent digs to Pruitt and his daughter, and the emerging scandal of former employee Samantha Dravis who unexpectedly resigned this week.

Pruitt called Dravis his “best friend,” and they had dinner together several times a week, and she carried out much of Pruitt’s anti-regulation agenda. She was among the staffers he took to Morocco to get business for his lobbyist renter although the trip had nothing to do with “environmental protection.” A Paris stop for the taxpayer-paid trip led to an extra day for them in “the city of lights” because they missed their first flight home. Dravis also got paid for three months when she didn’t show up at work. She was also the live-in girlfriend of Rob Porter, DDT’s helper who was fired for domestic violence, and reported him for abuse to WH counsel Don McGahn after she saw Porter with Hope Hicks. The information about Pruitt may have come from Porter as retribution for Dravis’ reaction to his dumping her for Hicks.

As Vanity Fair asked, “Can Scott Pruitt poison the environment enough to save his job?”

In the Russian investigation,

DDT waxed enthusiastic about being just a “subject” (not enough evidence to charge) instead of a “target” (lots of evidence), but investigator Robert Mueller moves forward like a bulldozer. DDT’s legal “team” can’t find replacements, and Mueller is amassing a report of DDT’s actions in office and pushing for interviews with DDT. The result could be an obstruction of justice. Politico has tracked DDT’s connections to Russia in these seven charts. According to DOJ documents, collusion is a crime, no matter what DDT claims.

The collusion information between DDT’s campaign and Russia was partially initiated by his adviser George Papadopouos getting drunk at a London bar two years ago and bragging to an Australian diplomat. Last week, he got tipsy—again—in a Chicago bar and told a new acquaintance, computer engineer Jason Wilson, that AG Jeff Sessions knew about the connections between Papadopoulos and Joseph Mifsud, an academic from Malta who told him about the Russian “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in “thousands of emails.” Papadopoulos told Wilson that “Sessions encouraged me” to find out everything about the hacked Clinton emails.

Alex van der Zwaan pled guilty to lying to Robert Mueller’s investigation in the hopes that he would be out of prison before his wife gave birth in August. Apparently the tactic worked because he got a short 30-day sentence, probably by spilling lots of beans to Mueller.

A judge seemed to reject demands from Paul Manafort’ lawyer, Kevin Downing, to stop continued indictments from investigator Robert Mueller. Downing also argued that Mueller’s investigation exceeded the scope delineated by DOJ’s Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein but withdrew part of the civil suit dealing with this issue.

After missing deadlines for a congressional law, the Treasury Department issued sanctions on seven Russian oligarchs, 12 companies associated with them, a “state-owned weapons trading company,” and 17 government officials. Much of the vast profits made by these people and groups are stashed in the U.S. and UK.

Mueller has proof that Erik Prince, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and founder of Blackwater, lied about his meeting with a Russian banker in Seychelles to “establish a [back channel] line of communication between the Russian government and the incoming Trump administration.”

The investigation has gone into the involvement of DDT’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to examine DDT’s business dealings, including those in Russia. DDT denies he has had any involvement, but former partner Felix Sater has talked about their pursuit of a hotel in Moscow with financing from the Russian bank VTB that is sanctioned by the U.S. government. DDT sought deals to put his name on a huge hotel in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, and taken out copyrights on a large variety of products in across the former USSR and Iran.  Partners of the Trump Tower Baku in Azerbaijan are relatives to a wealthy government minister with connections to the Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s infamous military unit.

Joseph Schmitz, a DDT foreign policy adviser, pushed U.S. intelligence agencies to find Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails from the dark web.

Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee want information about DDT’s “Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust” from the Office of Government Ethics. The purpose is to pay legal expenses for DDT’s campaign aides caught up in the Russian investigation, and the reason may be to obtain more favorable testimony for DDT. The Fund allows secret, perhaps prohibited, donations, but public documents don’t explain how it will vet donors.

On Easter, DDT tweeted that there will be no deal to help DACA youth, called on tough punitive immigration legislation, and threatened to close down NAFTA. Then he went to church to celebrate the resurrected person of color honored on that day. After eliminating the DACA program himself, DDT turned down 13 bipartisan agreements for saving DACA, some of them even his own suggestions.

DDT decided to withdraw troops from Syria because he thought we had defeated ISIS before he decided to leave the troops there. In the meantime, he’s sending the National Guard from consenting states to the Mexico border as leverage to get his wall although the military cannot enforce any laws without their being federalized by Congress because of an 1878 law. DDT’s idea was inspired by Fox’s segment called “Caravan of Illegal Immigrants Headed to U.S.,” an annual migration of over 1,000 migrants to protest U.S. immigration policy. Most won’t try to cross the border. Fox’s Tucker Carlson described Mexico as a “hostile foreign power.” Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who continues to say that Mexico is not paying for DDT’s wall, cancelled his plan to visit DDT.

Texas is sending 250 National Guard members to the border, but lawmakers there are unhappy. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX) explained why this action is unnecessary, using a town in his district as an example:

“McAllen is at a 32-year low in crime. We’re at a 46-year low in illegal entries. It’s the wildest thing in the world for us to hear that they want to bring National Guard troops to the border region.”

Arizona is sending another 150 members of the National Guard. George W. Bush sent 6,000 National Guard soldiers to the border in 2006 because of border agent shortage, and President Obama sent 1,200 in 2010. Ann Coulter wants the military to “shoot the illegals” coming across the border because “just standing there doesn’t do a thing.” Ted Nugent wants all Democrats shot and killed like “rabid coyotes.” DDT has already said that drug dealers should all be killed, and on a Christian political show, Idaho state Sen. Bob Nonini called for the death penalty for women having an abortion. Caught in a backlash, Nonini said that he “NEVER said or agreed the death penalty should be considered,” but his words are on tape.

Congress returns this coming week, and conservatives are pushing to remove spending increases from their recent budget law for $1.3 billion spending. A 1974 law allows these revocations. Several Republicans, however, aren’t excited about the plan and say that they’ll wait to hear from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who hasn’t even declared himself for re-election yet. Concerns about reversing the law include tough votes from the Democrats and negotiation in future spending deals which must be bipartisan.

HHS Office on Women’s Health has removed a website on breast cancer and other reproductive health information, including insurance information for low-income people such as no-cost breast cancer screenings. Much of the information has also been removed on a page dedicated to mammograms. The same agency has also removed LGBTQ health resources from its website.

Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards’ new book, Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead, tells how Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner offered her more funding for PP if she stopped abortion services.

The latest polling of DDT’s approval rating from the ultra-conservative Rasmussen survey came in at 47 percent, but DDT, never concerned about accuracy, claimed it was 51 percent—and then told people to add seven or eight percent to the poll. DDT’s average among polls is currently at 40 percent.

March 23, 2018

What’s in the Omnibus Spending Bill?

Filed under: Budget,Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:49 PM
Tags:

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) cried crocodile tears about the poor Dreamers and blasted Congress for passing the 2,233-page spending bill that they hadn’t read as if he didn’t cause the DACA disaster and ever read any of the bills he signed. DDT ended DACA nearly 7 months ago and continually sabotaged solutions by rejecting multiple popular bipartisan solutions. He’s demanding line-item veto power for spending bills that SCOTUS ruled unconstitutional 20 years ago and the end to the Senate filibuster rule, but he kept the United States from the shutdown that he earlier said he wanted. DDT also bragged about the $1.6 billion for his “wall”—although he had demanded $25 billion—but that money doesn’t build his “big beautiful wall.” Funding goes to levees, existing fencing repair, and double fencing for existing barriers. Not one additional foot of the wall because the law prevents DDT from making any of the wall prototypes he has admired.

DDT had said he would sign the bill but then threatened to change his mind after watching Pete Hegseth denouncing it on Fox & Friends. (Hegseth may have even more control over DDT if he becomes Veterans Affairs Secretary.)  Several congressional members have already left town for their two-week vacation as the drama unrolled. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was already back in Wisconsin when he made the call to DDT about signing the bill.

The House passed the bill 256-167, with 145 Republicans and 111 Democrats voting yes, and 90 Republicans and 77 Democrats voting no.  The Senate passed the 2,232-page spending bill 65-32 with 23 Republicans, eight Democrats, and one Independent voting against the bill. The $1.3 trillion spending law puts $700 billion into the military, a ten percent increase from last year, and $591 to the people in the U.S. in another ten percent raise. Republicans don’t expect to pass any other major legislation before the midterm elections, but this law expires in six months.

On the GOP side, conservative are furious about the deficit despite promoting it with their tax cut for the wealthy and corporations, hawks are pleased with the biggest increase in defense in 15 years, and moderates are accepting. Democrat leaders are happy about the domestic funding, moderates believe in compromise, and all of the Dems are disappointment about missing major movement in guns and immigration issues.

Losers:  

Lack of Affordable Care Act market stabilization: The GOP refusal to compromise on their anti-choice positions will bring large increases in health premiums.

Immigration: Nothing about DACA because the GOP won’t compromise.

Sen. James E. Risch (R-ID): He held up the bill for hours because he didn’t want a federal wilderness area named after a dead political rival, Cecil Andrus, a Democratic governor of Idaho and Secretary of the Interior under President Jimmy Carter.

DDT: No money for his wall and no attention to his personal budget while Congress increased spending for items that he had slashed, including seed cash for a New York-New Jersey tunnel project that he tried to kill.

Winners:

Immigration: The GOP didn’t get 1,000 more beds for immigrant deportees and an additional 500 ICE agents to 1,000 and border agents to an additional 500. They lost detention beds and got only 328 more border agents. And ICE can’t fill the current quota of border agents even with a $10,000 hiring bonus. So-called “sanctuary” cities and states didn’t lose funding.

Low-income housing: The Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) Program doubles the number of public housing units. Despite HUD Ben Carson’s inability to track financing for public housing repairs in 1.1 million units and enforce tenants’ rights, the law lifts the cap from 225,000 to 455,000.  Expansion of the tax credit to build more affordable housing came in exchange for fixing the “grain glitch” in the GOP tax cuts that gave more tax deductions to farm coops such as Ocean Spray Cranberries instead of privately-owned farms.

IRS: An extra $196 million to help with the new tax law.

Education: Education Secretary Betsy Devos didn’t get her $1 billion moved from public to private religious schools. The law also allocates an additional $8.5 million to the Office of Civil Rights, keeps before and after school programs, retains the grant program for school-based mental health services, and boosts education funding by $3.9 billion. Congress also kept the grant program for low-income students to attend college, slightly raised the ceiling for Pell Grant awards, and boosted the federal work-study program. DeVos’ hoped-of budget cuts turned into increases.

Government Data: The Census Bureau gets an additional $1.34 billion for its nationwide survey. It also requires the Congressional Research Service to post all its reports online. 

Gun Background Checks: The law increases enforcement of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), expands requirements for updating records, gives incentives for NICS reports, and penalizes agencies that don’t add records to NICS.

The National Institutes of Health: A $3 billion funding increase.

The Community Development Block Grant: The program nearly doubled from $2.8 billion to $5.2 billion after DDT tried to eliminate it to help fund projects such as Meals on Wheels.

TIGER: The grant program for transportation projects is tripled to $1.5 billion.

The STOP School Violence Act of 2018: Increased grants for security training, metal detectors, stronger locks, emergency notifications, and other efforts meant to improve school safety.

Gun Violence Research: The law lifts funding bans for research about firearms imposed with the 1996 Dickey Amendment. The sponsor of this law has since regretted his action.

Tipped Workers: Workers won’t have to give up their tips to their employers, as DDT wanted although employers can require them to share with other workers if they are paid the full minimum wage, $2.13 for tipped workers who would have lost $5.8 billion a year if DDT had succeeded. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) called Risch’s delaying tantrum “the most like a Saturday Night Live skit” she’s ever witnessed in her 12 years in the Senate.

Government Workers: The military gets a 2.4 percent pay raise, and civilian personnel get a 1.9 percent bump.

Funding for the EPA/Energy: The law kept the EPA’s $8.1 billion budget despite DDT’s desire to cut it by one-third. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, eliminated in DDT’s budget, got a $47 million increase to $353 million, and the DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office, on DDT’s chopping block, increased 15 percent to $2.3 billion. There were a few losses regarding energy: the declares biomass as a carbon-neutral energy source, still debated by scientists, and livestock are now unfettered because they are exempted from the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations.

Election Security Grants to States: Funded by $380 million.

Opioid Treatment/prevention: An increase of $3 billion.

Libraries: Restoration and increases of almost $400 million with another $700 million for Title IV education which could help school libraries.

Social Security Administrative Budget: A $480 increase for general operations.

Funding for public broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Art.

Mammograms: Women can continue this procedure with no insurance copay.

Title X: The federal family planning program that helps provide contraception, breast and cervical cancer screenings and STI and HIV testing to a diverse, low-income population continues, but DDT’s abstinence-only Title X chief, Valerie Huber, is in charge of the funds. The law does not end all federal funding for Planned Parenthood or ban life-saving research on fetal tissue donated from abortions and does not expand discriminatory abortion restrictions into the private insurance market.

Republicans complained about the process, but they were in charge. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) accused them of accelerating the process to leave town before the March for Our Lives about gun control in Washington tomorrow.

Buried deep in the 2,232 pages are stiff new sanctions against Russia, barring a number of federal agencies from dealing with Russia and sanctioning Russia for a large number of grievances. The law punishes Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea by barring funds from supporting all countries that back the annexation and directing Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to push Americans on certain financial boards to disallow funds from flowing to programs supportive of Russia’s annexation. It also blocks federal funds from “enter[ing] into new contracts with, or new agreements for Federal assistance to, the Russian Federation” and allocates $250 million to the Countering Russian Influence Fund—a 150 percent increase from last year. Nobody knows who put these sanctions into the bill, but they have wide bipartisan support.

Something else may crawl out of the law’s 2,232 pages, but right now I’m with the moderates. It could have been worse.

March 15, 2018

Russian Interference in U.S. to Expand Chaos

No matter how bad the Russia collusion and hacking have gotten, the Republicans have seemed rather blasé about this involvement, even supporting Russia over the people in the United States. Will these Republicans change their position if they lose their electric power? Russian hackers have been attacking the U.S. infrastructure, including electricity, water, and transportation as well as nuclear and manufacturing sectors, and the federal government is getting worried. Last summer, the news that Russia had gotten into over a dozen power plants in seven states didn’t get much attention in the first year of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in the Oval Office. Now Russians have moved into dozens of states with their attacks on the infrastructure. Eric Chien, a security technology director at the digital security firm Symantec, said:

“We now have evidence they’re sitting on the machines, connected to industrial control infrastructure, that allow them to effectively turn the power off or affect sabotage…. They have the ability to shut the power off.”

Today’s public alert from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI warned that these hackers have been targeting U.S. infrastructure for the past two years. They started by staging malware and spear phishing at small commercial networks before obtaining remote access in energy sector networks which allowed them to collect information connected with Industrial Control Systems. At least three simultaneous Russian cyber hacking attacks are going into infrastructure controls, stealing documents and using a “troll farm” called the Internet Research Agency to spread misinformation on social media for chaos and discord, and focusing on disrupting the infrastructure of U.S. and European countries.

Last summer, Congress passed a law mandating that DDT place sanctions on Russia, but he  ignored the law.  A letter from 140 House Democrats asked DDT to impose these sanctions on Russia, an action that the Treasury Department took after the chemical attack on a Russian double agent in Britain followed by the death of a Russian exile. Even these sanctions are weak, because they are only on the entities and people indicted by Robert Mueller. The State Department also released a condemnation of Russia’s “campaign of coercion and violence” in the Russian annexation of Crimea four years ago this week, but no sanctions.

A serious problem for Republicans this week comes from the House Intelligence Committee GOP announcement that it closed down its investigation into the Russian scandal before finishing its job. The committee issued a brief summary with a 150-page report supposedly to follow, explaining the GOP position that intelligence agencies were wrong in its evidence of how Russia supported DDT in the presidential election. DDT saw the GOP whitewash as a vindication.

Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA), forced from leadership of the committee after he briefed White House officials on committee information, has always protected DDT, even leaking information, and announced last June that they wouldn’t find any collusion. GOP members limited topics under discussion and witnesses’ questions while following White House restrictions and refusing to investigate phone and bank records corroborating witness claims. Nunes consistently undermined Robert Mueller’s investigation with false information. The person ostensibly in charge of the House Intelligence Committee investigation claimed ignorance of George Nadar, a key witness about secret meetings in the Seychelles.

The report was so biased that hard-right GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who led the Benghazi/private email server email against Hillary Clinton said that the GOP evidence was “motivated in whole or in part by a desire to harm [Clinton’s] candidacy or undermine her Presidency had she prevailed.” Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Monday that “there is evidence” showing the Russians attempted to help President Trump during the 2016 presidential election, contradicting a draft report from the panel. Rooney also warned that the government needs to act to prevent foreign interference in the upcoming midterm elections.

The GOP spin from other committee members, however, is that the intelligence community is wrong about Russian interference just as they were about Iraq weapons—ignoring the fact that the intelligence community denied “specific information” about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction before George W. Bush invaded Iraq. Then, as now with the GOP members of the “no Russian interference” group, the politicians were wrong in their perspective about the documents given them.

Deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah made an awkward statement by saying that DDT would have been aware of any such collusion if it did occur. In Shah’s words, proof of collusion would also be proof of DDT’s knowledge about it. Luckily for him, it appears to be an opinion.

Democrats on the committee had not seen the report when it was released and were not told about the conclusion before it was made public. Following the release of the GOP summary, the minority members of the House intelligence Committee released a 21-page “Status of the Russia Investigation.” The majority of the document is composed of four appendices, beginning in Appendix A with the outstanding lines of inquiry which have been partially or not at all addressed:

  • Hacking and dissemination of campaign emails by Russia to determine the specific of this cyber operation.
  • DDT’s campaign knowledge of the email hacks.
  • Elections security—or lack thereof.
  • Russian social media campaign.
  • Financial leverage in DDT’s business deals, perhaps for Russian money laundering and DDT’s actively negotiating a business deal in Moscow with a sanctioned Russian bank during the election, despite his assertion that he had no business dealings with Russia.
  • Money-laundering and foreign payments, already somewhat revealed by Robert Mueller’s special investigation which includes charges against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.
  • Post-election effects and obstruction of justice, including intervention from and lies by Michael Flynn in U.S. affairs with Russia, DDT attempts to block James Comey to investigate Flynn, and DDT’s writing a memo to cover the June 2016 meeting in which his son Donald Trump Jr. and two other senior campaign advisers intended to get damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

Appendix B lists over 30 key witnesses which had not been interviewed with brief descriptions of their potential involvement which needs further inquiry. Appendix C gives over 20 entities, including Deutsche Bank, which should be sent “indispensable” documents that directly connect to Russian election interference.  Fifteen other people and entities that should appear and/or present documents are in Appendix D. This list includes DDT, Jared Kushner, Hope Hicks, Erik Prince, and the White House. A key line in the most recent report from this committee:

The Minority has a good faith reason to believe that the White House does in fact possess such documentation memorializing President Trump’s conversations with Director Comey.  Subsequent press reporting revealed the existence of a memorandum reportedly composed by President Trump and Stephen Miller that referenced President Trump’s communications with Director Comey.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May says that it is “highly likely” former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned in Salisbury, England by Russia. DDT refuses to mention the word “Russia” in connection with the poisoning although Secretary of State Secretary Rex Tillerson said that the attack “clearly came from Russia.”

Today, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster used strong language to decry Russia’s actions and blamed the Kremlin for “the abhorrent nerve agent attack” in England. It may be his last speech because rumors from the White House indicate he is to be fired by the end of the month, despite the press secretary’s denial. DDT has told Chief of Staff John Kelly that McMaster is too rigid and his briefings are too long.

Earlier, Nunes tried to protect DDT with a GOP committee memo about the Russian investigation that DDT erroneously used to proclaim exoneration for himself. It was followed by a heavily redacted response from the Democrats showing the GOP’s “distortions and misrepresentations.” Complaints that Christopher Steele’s dossier on DDT were responsible for a warrant to surveil DDT’s associate and suspected foreign agent Carter Page where shown to be totally bogus.

Meanwhile Robert Mueller is continuing his investigation, this week with subpoenas to the Trump Organization for documents, some related to Russia, in its first approach to DDT’s business affairs. Despite DDT’s denial that it has no holdings in Russia, witnesses have been asked about DDT’s business plans to build in Moscow. DDT has talked to Emmet Flood, the lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment, about hiring him. Lawyers have advised DDT not to talk with Mueller, but he may be considering an interview if Mueller restricts the scope of questioning and concludes the DDT-involved part of the investigation within 60 days of the interview. Good luck!

Meanwhile Conor Lamb defeated Vladimir Putin in a U.S. House race last Tuesday in the far southwest Pennsylvania district with an almost 96 percent white population and so badly gerrymandered that no Democrat ran against the Republican in the past two elections. DDT won that district by 20 points in the presidential election. The former representative resigned after the publicity that the anti-abortion Republican encouraged his lover to have an abortion. This news was followed by multiple stories of his inappropriate action from his staff. Murphy is a developmental psychologist with a wife and adult daughter.

March 9, 2018

DDT: Week Fifty-nine – Rampant Corruption

The media went crazy over the ballistic behavior of former campaign adviser Sam Nunberg after Robert Mueller subpoenaed his testimony and documents about major players in the Russia scandal.  Nunberg first declared that he would refuse to comply with the subpoena, especially because Roger Stone is so special to him, before he made the round of news shows and backed down after continually asking if he could be put in jail with his refusal. Tuesday ended with a delicious segment on Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show. Nunberg showed up before the grand jury on Friday and testified. Grim-faced, he refused to comment afterward. While complaining on TV, he said that DDT knew about the June 2016 meeting between the Russian lawyer and his son and son-in-law a week before it occurred.

George Nadar, adviser to the United States Arab Emirates (UAE), also testified before a grand jury and is cooperating with Mueller. Nadar represented UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan at a meeting in Seychelles meeting in January 2017 with a Russian investor, a friend of Vladimir Putin. ant Erik Prince, DDT’s adviser who founded Blackwater and Betsy DeVos’ brother. Prince had wanted to set up a private military army for DDT in Afghanistan. Mueller is collecting evidence that the Seychelles meeting was to create a back-channel communication system between DDT and Vladimir Putin and foreign money for DDT’s campaign as well as Nadar’s meetings with Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon. Nadar’s testimony contradicted Erik Prince’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee about his encounter with the Russian oligarch in the Seychelles.

After the story about George Nadar broke, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) said, “I don’t have any clue who George Nader is.” Conaway is helping lead the House Intelligence Committee in the DDT-Russia scandal. In addition to his involvement with Russia, Nadar, DDT’s friend, was arrested for child pornography in 1985, including his having received a package with a film of young boys engaged in sexual acts and photos of nude boys. Reasons for the dismissal of the case are not clear.

Paul Manafort pled not guilty to all the charges against him in Virginia, but he is now wearing a second ankle tracking device, the other for Washington, because the two jurisdictions have different systems. The Virginia trial begins in July 10, followed by a September date in Washington.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is leading an inquiry into the $509 million loans Kushner obtained after meeting with the lenders in the White House.

DDT may have obstructed justice or tampered with witnesses by asking at least two of them—White House counsel Don McGahn and former chief of staff Reince Priebus—about their interviews with Mueller.

After head of the National Security Agency, Mike Rogers, testified that the president had not directed him to prevent Russia’s targeting U.S. elections, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to cover for DDT’s inaction, but thus far the State Department has spent $0 of the $120 million allocated to fight foreign cyberattacks on elections. Not one of the 23 analysts working in the Global Engagement Center speaks Russian, and the department has a hiring freeze. DDT is still delaying any sanctions ordered by law and denied that Russian meddling had anything to do with “our votes” in 2016. He promises a “very, very deep study” and “strong suggestions” before the 2018 midterms.

In a New Yorker story, Jane Mayer wrote that Russia blocked DDT from appointing Mitt Romney as Secretary of State, according to researcher Christopher Steele.

DDT keeps pushing the media to investigate the Russia collusion in the time of President Obama, and they have—with all roads ending at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refusing to release any information about Russian election meddling before DDT was elected. McConnell says that he’s “perfectly comfortable” with that decision to conceal the Russian election manipulation from the public.

Nastya Rybka (real name Anastasiz Vashukevich), an escort in Thailand, claims to have 16 hours of audio proof connecting the Russian campaign to DDT that she will release if the U.S. gets her out of prison.

Title X, the only federal grant program dedicated to comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services, will now favor programs with a focus on abstinence-only sex education and “natural” family planning methods. The over 4 million people who use this program for health department and other nonprofit community health centers, in place for almost a half century, may have more difficulty obtaining birth control or getting access to cancer and STD screenings with the new guidelines. Title X funded clinics helped people prevent 822,300 unintended pregnancies, averting 387,200 unplanned births and 277,800 abortions in just 2015.

Jeff Sessions is suing California to overturn state immigrations laws, including the program that inspects federal immigration detention centers for its rampant mistreatment and abuse by private companies. DOJ is also threatening any other states that pursue similar laws. State and local officials have complained about DDT’s ICE activities because they undermine local economies and make communities more dangerous.

DDT has decided to remove new tee markers with the presidential seal from his golf courses.  [Markers at Eagle Sign, New Albany (IN) and Louisville (KY)]  Manufacture or use of the seal, its likeness, “or any facsimile thereof” for other than government business is punishable by up to six months in prison. Earlier, DDT used the “family crest” that he took without permission from the family owning Mar-a-Lago.

After DDT said he talked to North Korea on the phone when he actually spoke to South Korean Moon Jae-in, he announced a meeting with North Korea in late May without any State Department or other diplomatic input, probably to draw attention from Russia or Stormy Daniels. Hours before DDT announced the talks, State Department Secretary Rex Tillerson said that talks would not be “realistic” or prudent yet. DDT put Kim Jong-un in control by elevating a rogue state to an equal to the United States—without any rewards for the U.S. The day after DDT’s announcement, the press secretary said that conditions need to be met before the meeting. Look for far more media about the meeting that may never happen.

Jared Kushner also ignored diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, when he met with the Mexican president.

At the Gridiron Dinner, a gathering of 65 journalists with a self-deprecating roast-like speech by the current president, DDT made all his jokes at the expense of his family, colleagues, and enemies. Before the speech, he said, “My staff was concerned that I couldn’t do self-deprecating humor.” He can’t.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA accused Stephen Colbert of being a “danger” to the nation after a segment in which Colbert showed a memo stating “Devin Nunes is a [redacted]” with the question about what the redacted word is. After trying to shut down the probe into the DDT-Russian collusion, Nunes added that Colbert, like others on the left, “attack people who are trying to get to the truth.” Colbert answered Nunes complaint by showing another segment in which he was unable to meet with the representative.

DDT’s tariffs on steel and aluminum will cost the nation at least 146,000 jobs. The steel manufacturing industry employs 140,000 people; manufacturing with steel provides 6.3 million jobs. The Constitution gives Congress the power to stop DDT, but the unhappy Republicans won’t cross him.

Virginia Heffernan described Ivanka Trump’s growing problems with her connections with former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who lied to the FBI; developer Felix Sater, guilty of a $40-million stock fraud scheme with the Russian mobsters; and Tamir Sapir, tied to racketeering with the Gambino crime family before he died. Ivanka brought Flynn to DDT, toured Russia with Sater, and collaborated with Sapir. Heffernan also described Ivanka’s involvement in shady real-estate projects.

When DDT hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, Netanyahu said, “This will be remembered.” As the Mueller investigation gets closer to possible Russian collusion with DDT, Israeli police has recommended that Netanyahu be indicted on bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three corruption cases, the most recent one this week. Mueller is getting closer to DDT’s corruption. “This will be remembered.”

Fond of dictators in other countries, DDT wants to emulate China after President XI Jinping wants to do away with any term limits in the Constitution. DDT praised Xi’s efforts to become “president for life” and said, “Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.”

Afraid of firing people, DDT lets others discharge them or belittles them in the hopes that they will quit. Now that DDT is ready to dispense with John Kelly as Chief of Staff, he has sent Anthony Scaramucci on the talk show circuit to smear Kelly. At least that’s what the media from left to right is reporting, although Scaramucci says the story from White House insiders isn’t true.

This last week, DDT tweeted that he was asking China for ways that they could reduce their trade deficit with the United States by $1 billion. DDT’s administration figure is actually $100 billion; he was off by $99 billion. And why would China want to do this?

More on the week with appointments, resignations, and lawsuits later.

March 5, 2018

DDT: More Week 58: Who’s In, Who’s Out

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 9:24 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Appointments:

John Dunkin, former personal pilot for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), is under consideration for FAA administrator.  In charge of all U.S. civil aviation, the FAA chair oversees a $16 billion annual budget. While Dunkin supervised the DDT campaign air fleet, VP Mike Pence’s plane had several “hard” landings, including a plane ended up 300 feet from a major highway. Dunkin also hired a pilot wanted for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, running over a colleague with his car three times, and deliberately running into someone with a motorcycle. Other DDT hires include:

  • DDT’s golf caddie as the White House Director of Social Media.
  • DDT’s bodyguard as the Director of Oval Office operations.
  • Eric Trump’s wedding planner in charge of HUD for the northeastern United States.
  • The husband of a member of DDT’s household staff at Trump Tower who ran a home contracting company called “Steve’s Tools in Motion” in a job at EPA Region 2 headquarters in New York.
  • DDT’s bankruptcy lawyer as the ambassador to Israel.

And John Dunkin in charge of a life-and-death job.

Wendy Vitter, appointee for a federal judge and wife of GOP Louisiana senator reelected after he confessed to hiring prostitutes from the “D.C. Madam,” omitted her anti-abortion speeches, interview, and letter from a disclosure form for the Senate Judiciary Committee. She skipped information about moderating a panel on the false dangers of abortion that supported the myth about women taking oral contraception having a higher risk of dying violent deaths, cheating on their partners, having fertility problems and unhealthy children, and experiencing poor relationships with their partners.

Resignations:

Hope Hicks, White House communications director who is “like a daughter” to DDT, left after she testified to the House Intelligence Committee that she told “white lies” for DDT. A black lie from November 2016:

“There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”

There were contacts between DDT’s campaign and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, top advisers including family members met privately with the Russian emissary about “dirt” on Clinton, George Papadopoulos’ contacted with Russians, Carter Page traveled to Moscow and contacted with Russian officials, Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak’s met with a variety of DDT’s campaign surrogates and officials including Jeff Sessions, and Donald Trump Jr. privately communicated with WikiLeaks..

Josh Raffel, White House spokesman and “manager” for DDT’s children, White House officials, Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner, quit.

Joseph Yun, the top U.S. diplomat with the foreign service since 1985 who is overseeing North Korea policy, retired. Last year, Yun assisted the release of Otto Warmbier, U.S. citizen held prisoner by North Korea.

Roberta S. Jacobson, U.S. ambassador to Mexico and one of the most experienced Latin America experts in the State Department, left her position after the growing schism between the two countries and the diplomatic relations being assigned to Jared Kushner. Other major State Department resignations include Thomas A. Shannon Jr., the third-highest ranking official, and John Feeley, the ambassador to Panama.

Matthew Masterson, a GOP member of the Election Assistance Commission who won’t be reappointed by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), brings the four-member agency down to two members. Masterson was an expert in non-partisan approaches to help states fight cyber attacks and develop anti-hacking protocols.

H.R. McMaster may resign as National Security Council adviser, his departure facilitated by Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis. The replacement is reportedly Stephen Biegun, a bigwig at Ford Motor Company who was on the council for a couple of years with the George W. Bush when national security warnings were ignored. He also tried to advise Sarah Palin on foreign policy when she was a VP candidate.

Lawsuits:

The 4th Circuit Court ruled 10-4 that Maryland’s ban on 45 different “assault” weapons, such as the popular AR-15 in mass shootings, and its 10-round limit for magazines does not violate the U.S. Constitution. The court wrote:

“Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protections to weapons of war.”

Last year a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit sent a ruling upholding the ban back to U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake, ordering her to apply “strict scrutiny.” Maryland appealed to the full court which supported its decision. The fourth similar ruling in a decade, it follows the 2008 opinion from SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia in Columbia v. Heller that the right to bear arms “is not unlimited.” Other rulings permitting the ban came from the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the 7th Circuit, and the 2nd Circuit.

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear DDT’s appeal of a federal court ruling to continue DACA; DHS must accept renewal applications for 700,000 young Dreamers, making DDT’s arbitrary March 5 deadline moot. Two weeks ago, DDT turned down six bipartisan compromises, including one that funded his wall in exchange for extending DACA protections to Dreamers.

Two victories in LGBTQ rights: The 2nd Circuit Court banned discrimination against LGBTQ workers based on Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The DOJ had supported discrimination in the lawsuit in which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was fighting the discrimination. Last April the 7th Circuit Court was the first appeals court to ban this discrimination. The 11th Circuit Court ruled for discrimination in a split three-panel decision. The U.S. Supreme Court left in place the Arizona decision recognizing Suzan McLaughln as the legal parent of a child she and her female spouse, Kimberly McLaughlin, conceived through assisted reproduction.

The New York-based International Refugee Assistance Project has asked the Supreme Court to join Hawaii’s challenge to DDT’s travel ban, to be argued before SCOTUS in April. The 4th and 9th Circuit Courts have already ruled against the ban. Syrian filmmaker Kareem Abeed, nominated for an Oscar for Last Man in Aleppo with Feras Fayyad, could not attend the ceremony because of DDT’s travel ban. Also denied entry is Mahmoud Al-Hatter, featured in the movie as co-founder of the White Helmets, a humanitarian volunteer group in rebel-controlled Syria and Turkey that does search and rescue after bombing to evacuate civilians. Russian propaganda has pushed the misinformation from Syrian president Bashar al-Assad who accuses them of being a front for Al-Qaeda.

In the second recent lawsuit to reverse DDT’s deportations of people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), eight Haitian and Salvadoran recipients have sued with the argument that the decision was based on discrimination. Both suits use DDT’s “public hostility toward immigrants of color” as evidence. One of the Salvadoran plaintiffs began as a kitchen assistant and now has four Boston restaurants; he employs over 20 U.S. citizens.

A federal court ruled that South Dakota’s March 27 petition deadline is too early and that the 2.5 percent mandate of voters too high for a new political party in the state primary.

A federal judge stopped construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline in southern Louisiana, the southern extension of the Bakken Pipeline until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reconsider its environmental impacts.

Without permanent security clearance, Ivanka Trump explained the new U.S. economic sanctions against North Korea to South Korean President Moon Jae-in. An ambassador didn’t have this responsibility because DDT fired his nominee, Victor Cha, after Cha disagreed with DDT’s threats toward North Korea.

Net neutrality is dead, and AT&T is dancing on the body. After its claim that nothing will change, the company texted its customers to tell them that it’s expanding zero rating, content exempt from arbitrary usage caps, to “some” content meaning that which already belongs to AT&T and “sponsored” data—that is paying AT&T.

DDT hasn’t saved coal: the average for the closure of a plant every 16 days in 2017 matches the average for President Obama’s eight years.

DDT wants to emulate Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in killing drug dealers—over 12,000 in the past two years. “You know the Chinese and Filipinos don’t have a drug problem. They just kill them,’” DDT said.

The faculty at Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA), self-identified as “among the nation’s premier research universities,” voted to rescind an honorary degree given DDT in 1988. The decision is now with the Board of Trustees which took no action on a petition with 35,000 signatures.

DDT’s most bizarre tweet last week:

“I have decided that sections of the Wall that California wants built NOW will not be built until the whole Wall is approved. Big victory yesterday with ruling from the courts that allows us to proceed.”

California officials fought the project, and the administration has no change in policy, despite a judge’s ruling that the wall can be built with no attention to environmental and endangered species laws.

Melanie Trump stayed in the U.S. on a “genius” visa, the EB-1, for only the highest accomplished artists, doctors, academics, and engineers in 2001. Only 3,376 immigrants with “extraordinary ability” were granted of the one million visas that year.

DDT’s problems in the White House:

A new poll sponsored by a conservative group shows that 77 percent of millennial voters, ages 18 to 35, want action to oppose human-caused climate change, and only ten percent oppose any action. Even 57 percent of millennial Republicans want to stop or slow climate change. Over twice as many millennials think that the country is “on the wrong track” as those who see it in “the right direction.” Last week, DDT’s approval rating was 35 percent.

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