Nel's New Day

January 22, 2020

Dems Begin Impeachment Case

Filed under: Immigration,Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:56 PM
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As the impeachment trial started yesterday with an exhausting 13-hour session, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) crowed about the way that his Senate minions also obstructed justice. His most revealing statement—thus far—was when he bragged:

“Honestly, we have all the material. They don’t have the material.”

DDT couldn’t have been talking about the “material” that his legal team had because they had no defense to the evidence presented by the House managers as they passed motions, including requests for “first-hand” documents and witnesses. All ten motions were tabled, nine of them by 53 votes, the number of GOP senators. One motion, the one to have live testimony instead of videotaped depositions, received one GOP vote, that from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), but was still tabled.

The lack of materials on DDT’s legal team table [top center] compared to the piles of papers in front of House managers [center] indicates the lack of evidence. These are some of the lies told by Pat Cipollone, Jay Sekolow, and minor DDT team members:

False Claim: Republicans didn’t have access to key information during House impeachment inquiry because they weren’t allowed into the secure facility where congressional member review classified information about the impeachment inquiry. Fact: GOP House members not only had access to the area, but many of them also used it. The dozens of House Republicans who stormed the area were among 48 members of one of the three committees taking part in the process of inquiry. 

False Claim: Rep. Adam Schiff “manufactured” DDT’s comments during the July 25 call to Zelensky. Fact: For dramatic effect, Schiff was clearly paraphrasing the call transcript that had already been made public and said that his summary was “shorn of its rambling character and in not so many words.”

False Claim: House Democrats delayed the delivery of articles of impeachment longer than they did. Fact: McConnell postponed the trial until January.

False Claim: DDT “was denied the right to cross-examine witnesses” during the House inquiry. Fact: DDT was invited to himself or assign lawyers question witnesses during the open hearing of the impeachment inquiry. The person who made this false claim was invited to question House witnesses.

False Claim: DDT denied all subpoenas because of executive privilege, his right that he can keep his sensitive conversations with staff secret. Fact: DDT has never invoked executive privilege. 

False Claim: The transcript for DDT’s phone call to Zelensky was released. Fact: DDT’s version of the transcript was released; the real transcript is hidden in a highly secure computer server.

False Claim: Security assistance funds were not mentioned in the July 25 call between DDT and President Zelensky. Fact: Zelensky thanked DDT for the Javelin antitank weapons and wants to order more. DDT responded, “I have a favor to ask, though.”

False Claim: House Democrats have done nothing but attack DDT. Fact: The House has sent over 400 bills, 275 of them bipartisan, to the Senate, bills that Majority Leader McConnell refused to forward to the floor of the Senate. It has also passed a budget and a trade deal with Mexico and Canada.

False Claim: House Democrats started trying to impeach DDT from the day that they came to Congress in 2018. Fact: A few Democrats talked about impeachment last year, but the impeachment inquiry did not start until a whistleblower reported that people reported DDT was trying to extort Ukraine for his personal election gain.

False Claim: Other presidents have withheld aid for foreign countries just as DDT did. Fact: DDT withheld aid for his personal political benefit not for the good of the country.

As Schiff pointed out, DDT’s legal team has no argument on the merits so they “attack the House managers” for distraction. Regarding the GOP vote against demanding that DDT comply with subpoenas, Schiff pointed out that a vote for DDT means that Congress can never again demand subpoenas from any president for any issue.

Even the lawyer called by Republicans to defend their case in the House Judiciary Committee won’t support DDT’s current legal team’s statements. Jonathan Turley refused to swallow the myth that “abuse of power” is not actually an impeachable offense. He said that DDT and his defenders are making a “mistake by reducing the definition of impeachable conduct to the criminal code. It is an argument that is as politically unwise as it is constitutionally shortsighted.”

Despite her accusation that impeachment is a conflict of interest for senators running for president, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) illegally left the Senate trial to appear on the Fox network. One of the rules, set by Republicans, is that “Senators should plan to be in attendance at all times during the proceedings.” Breaking the rules is “punishable by imprisonment.” Blackburn said that the House should have heard from more witnesses in its proceedings if they wanted, ignoring the fact that DDT blocked their appearances even when some of them were subpoenaed.

To show how warped Blackburn’s reasoning is, DDT refuses to release 20 emails between Mick Mulvaney’s top aide Robert Blair and member of the OMB Michael Duffey about the freeze on the Ukrainian military aid package despite a court order that he do so. Blair and Duffey are two key witnesses with first-hand knowledge of the extortion along with chief-of-staff Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.

Today, even more GOP Senators broke McConnell’s rules: about 21, one-third of the total, wandered in and out walked out of the chamber during Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) presented arguments, and others chatted during Rep. Jason Crow’s (D-CO) arguments. Some GOP senators, all jurors, said they left because they were bored. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) disagreed with how much his colleague know, saying that they are “hearing the prosecution’s case for the first time.” Not only can they not “do impartial justice,” they can’t even be courteous enough to stay to hear the information. Meanwhile 11 million people in the U.S. are watching the trial. 

Adding to the GOP arguments against impeachment such as “no crime,” so what, and “things happen,” law professors Richard W. Painter and Bandy X. Lee listed a fourth reason in an op-ed for Law & Crime:

“We believe that Donald John Trump should not, and cannot, be tried for impeachable offenses, as set forth by the House of Representatives, because of his apparent mental incapacities.” 

Lee is a Yale University professor in law and forensic psychiatry; Painter, who teaches law at the University of Minnesota, was the chief White House ethics counsel for George W. Bush. They cited DDT’s saying he didn’t know Lev Parnas when “mountains of evidence” show that he does and “Sharpiegate,” in which invented erroneous information on the path of Hurricane Dorian instead of admitting he made a mistake.

According to the authors, DDT’s “Twitter storms” demonstrate a “serious level of dysfunction.” The data shows that DDT’s state of mind makes it “unfathomably dangerous” for him to be “authorized to order the use of nuclear weapons.” In that mental state, he should be “temporarily removed from office under the 25th Amendment”—not subjected to an impeachment trial, “unless he is found to be mentally competent to stand trial under the principles of justice well established in the United States…. Until there is an evaluation, the determination that he is competent to stand trial cannot be made nor assumed.”

A CNN survey shows that 69 percent of respondents want witnesses who did not testify before the House impeachment inquiry in the Senate trial. A plurality of Republicans, 48 percent, agree. Seventy percent think that DDT acted unethically, and 63 percent believe he probably broke the law. Of voters, 58 percent say DDT abused the powers of his office to benefit himself politically, and 57 percent say he obstructed the House impeachment inquiry. And 22 GOP senators are up for re-election this year.

DDT’s anxiety ratcheted up as he left the cocoon at Davos (Switzerland) and returned to non-stop media attention on his impeachment trial. His reason for preventing John Bolton from testifying is fear. Before he flew home, DDT said, “You don’t like people testifying when they didn’t leave on good terms.” Trump said at a news conference before departing from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “And that was due to me, not him.” DDT’s 140 tweets today was a record for one day. The Republicans will acquit the man who Schiff compared to a “despot,” meaning the mentally-imbalanced George III, but the impeachment process has already damaged DDT’s legacy.

February 5, 2018

Dueling Memos Accompanied by Dropping Stock Markets

Remember when Congress passed the last stall to the spending bill on January 22, 2018? That was the one they passed because they couldn’t meet the December 21, 2017 deadline when they couldn’t meet the October 1, 2017 deadline. No problem! They claimed they could get a spending bill in three weeks. Everyone knew they couldn’t. The House passed an unconstitutional anti-abortion bill that lost in the Senate, and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) deliver the dud memo that DDT thought would save him from an investigation. It did garner Nunes’ opponent, Democrat Andrew Janz, $300,000 for his campaign in 72 hours. And Congressional members also wandered off to West Virginia for most of a working week while hitting a garbage truck on the way.

The next deadline is this Thursday, and nothing has been done to move forward on it. Republicans promised to deal with the immigration issue but only holds the DACA Dreamers hostage. The next spending bill delay piles the bill on top of a DACA immigration deadline on March 5 and the debt ceiling, a month closer to early March because the Treasury is giving handouts to the wealthy and big corporations.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is already taking extraordinary actions to pay the nation’s bills by suspending payments into federal employee retiree, health and disability funds. This time of the year is harder on the treasury because of income tax returns. Last year’s budget deficit was $666 billion, the largest since the recession recovery in 2013.

DDT claimed that he fired former FBI director James Comey because the agency was in “turmoil, but it was the firing that created chaos within the FBI. Both Comey’s and Andrew McCabe’s firings from DDT’s politicization have been responsible for the demoralized environment that has grown only worse from the smear memo from Nunes’ memo. about the surveillance warrant request for Carter Page. Even some Republicans are withdrawing from Nunes and his memo, rejecting the idea that the memo exonerates DDT.

If not outright “misrepresenting” facts, the memo omits information about the research and documents including the background going back at least three years before Page’s involvement with DDT. In August 2013, Page bragged about being an “informal advisor” to the Kremlin. In the memo, Nunes claimed that the FBI didn’t know anything about Page’s Russian connections until Christopher Steele’s dossier of summer 2016 that was paid for by Democrats after conservatives stopped paying for the investigation into DDT.

Discovering that people were not buying his take on the FISA warrant for Page, Nunes switched his focus to George Papadopoulos, asking why there was no warrant for him. Then Nunes left out information about Papadopoulos when he said he didn’t deserve a warrant, claiming that he only got drunk in London and criticized Hillary Clinton instead of the report that he told a diplomat about getting hacked emails with “dirt” on Clinton. He even claimed that DDT had never met Papadopoulos (center left), but a small meeting with the two of them in 2016 is documented in a photo from a campaign meeting.

In an effort to take attention away from his nothing-burger memo, Nunes told Sean Hannity that the real Russian collaborator is the Hillary Clinton that weaponized the FBI against DDT. Nunes claimed that the memo shows a “clear link” between Russia and the Clinton campaign, although the memo only mentions that the Clinton campaign paid for part of Steele’s dossier. Missing from the memo—and Nunes’ talking points—is that a conservative group initially commissioned the investigation on DDT because he was obviously the GOP presidential campaign.

Ellen Nakashima explained in the WaPo that another Nunes point in the memo was also wrong: the application for surveilling Page came from a political source, according to the request. Asked about this discrepancy on Fox & Friends, Nunes said the information was not good enough because it was in small print in a footnote:

“A footnote saying something may be political is a far cry from letting the American people know that the Democrats and the Hillary campaign paid for dirt that the FBI then used to get a warrant on an American citizen to spy on another campaign.”

Failing to successfully communicate his lie about the memo vindicating him, DDT grew more desperate last Monday morning with a smear tweet about the Democratic senator from California with fake stories about his leaking information, “Little Adam Schiff …. Must be stopped!” During his tweets last weekend, DDT clearly indicated he approved the memo in order to block the investigation into Russian meddling with the presidential election.

The popularity of #release the memo came from “bots,” computational propaganda capable of sending massive numbers of social media messages which led to bots claiming they weren’t bots. The “fake” news from bots is changing behavior as shown in this detailed explanation of how a bot “personalizes” with “fake” photos and disseminates fake information about progressive causes.

The House Intelligence Committee has unanimously voted to release the Democratic memo that refutes much of what Nunes wrote. Once again, the ball is in DDT’s court. He has five days to decide whether to release or block it—probably while spweeting (sputter-tweeting?) more about Schiff “leaking” information. The committee can vote to override DDT if he blocks the release, and it can be read into the House record.

DDT has called Nunes a “Great American Hero.” The committee chair said he is keeping secret his “Phase Two” of the GOP investigation to focus on the State Department’s role in the early states of Russian investigation. Almost a year ago, Nunes recused himself from any investigations related to Russia because of an ethics charge that he was giving information to the White House. Charges were dropped last December, but his behavior may call on more ethics charges. Republicans report that as many as five more memos may appear, sure to provide more cover for DDT and avoid the nasty problems of the spending bill and the debt ceiling.

While the media buzz was primarily about Nunes’ memo, DDT set another record: today’s Dow Jones fall of 1,179 was the biggest ever, not even close to the 777 points lost on September 29, 2008. On the same day, the S&P lost its entire January gain, and the Nasdaq was down for the seventh of the last nine days. The Dow loss is on top of over a 1,000+ drop last week; the value equals a loss of over $1 trillion in the first five days of February. Although some people blame the upcoming increase in interest rates by the Federal Reserve, others say the reason is the rising bond market as the U.S. Treasury is borrowing more money. It has to pay for all those tax cuts to the wealthy and big corporations.

Last year, investors ignored the possibilities of a trade war with China, a nuclear war with North Korea, and other fear that might have been discouraging to the stock market. The removal of regulations, especially for Wall Street, encouraged them to buy, buy, buy—driving the Dow Jones index up 10,000 points in the ninth year of its boom. Now the cheap money from global central banks may disappear with rising interest rates.

GOP said that the tax cut would cause big corporations to invest in businesses and hire more workers. Instead, corporations are sheltering more and more of their money or buying back ownership in their companies, an action that briefly drove up stocks. Rising wages and interest rates are a sign of inflation which the Fed will try to ward off by raising the interest rates again. Janet Yellen, who kept rates low, is no longer the Federal Reserve chair, and investors don’t know what the new chair, Jerome H. Powell, will do.

Energy corporations lack high earnings, resulting in the biggest drops in stock value, and health stocks were badly hurt by three large companies creating their own health care company for their employees. Tech stocks went down, and the new Apple I 8 and X phone suffered a downturn in sales. Oil prices went down. There’s not a crash, but the market may be “correcting,” a euphemism for going down.

Kellyanne Conway celebrated her one-year anniversary after inventing the term “alternative facts” by doubling down on the appropriateness of the GOP fictional perspective. In a radio interview, she decried the practice of fact-checking by saying that “Americans are their own fact-checkers” and they “have their own facts.” She added that “the stock market is something [Americans] know about because they’re part of the investor class,” forgetting that fewer than half of those “Americans” have any involvement in the stock market and pretending that the stock market equals the economy. (Maybe her next statement could be “ignorance is knowledge”?) All these people who Conway referenced will now know that the stock market dropped eight percent in as many days.


October 17, 2017

DDT’s Expensive Swamp

Cutting the waste in government was a frequent claim of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) while on the campaign trail and the subject of an early executive order. DDT said that his executive order on March 13, 2017, would require a “thorough examination of every executive department and agency” to find out “where money is being wasted [and] how services can be improved.” His proposed budget slashes funds for the social network.

DDT should look to himself for waste in government. Although he has spent one night at New York’s Trump Tower since he was inaugurated, the apartment costs millions of dollars. He overcharged the facilities for the Secret Service there, requiring the command post to move to a trailer on the sidewalk in July. Expenditures for DDT’s golf trips are over $72 million, according to Trump Golf Count. At that rate, he’ll spend almost $400 million during his term.

DDT’s current campaigning for 2020 is on the taxpayer tab as well. When he went to Phoenix (AZ) to tout his “wall,” his campaign funds may have paid for the convention center and indoor security, but taxpayers were out almost $500,000 for his campaign event. Just employee overtime expenses for the Phoenix Police Department cost $336,887.

The costs of DDT’s family trips are astronomical. Just one ski vacation for Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, their spouses, their kids and their dogs cost taxpayers $330,000. The State Department paid the cost of $117,489.44 for the car rental charge when Tiffany Trump and her mother vacationed for two weeks in Italy. That was considerably cheaper than the $2 million that DDT cost the State Department during a 48-hour trip to Italy in May.

Secret Service is running out of money to protect DDT and his family of 18. Without congressional approval to increase the budget, 1,100 agents, one-third of them, will have to work overtime without pay. The current expenditure of $30 million is 250 percent more than the past annual cost of $12 million for President Obama and his family. The Secret Service protected 42 people around the clock until Donald Trump, Jr. refused his guard. After he said he wanted privacy, he was found killing moose in Alaska. Kellyanne Conway was also removed from the list.

Sen. Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced an amendment the 2018 appropriations bill to prevent Secret Service payment to any businesses owned or operated by DDT:

“None of the funds made available by this Act to the United States Secret Service may be used to purchase, rent, or otherwise acquire goods or services, including hotel rooms, office space, or golf carts, from entities that are owned or operated by the President or the immediate family of the President.”

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) expanded Schiff’s plan to prohibit federal spending across the government at all “Trump-owned hotels, resorts, and other Trump-owned businesses.” The bills went nowhere but may have been educational.

In addition to DDT’s costs, taxpayers are paying for jetsetting Cabinet members:

  • (Former) Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price: Over $1 million in military and charter flights. When he resigned, Price said that he would reimburse the government $52,000. A millionaire who made stock trade in health-care companies while helping them with laws, Price has been a proponent of taking hundreds of billions of dollars from federal health programs. As HHS secretary, he backed a $6 billion cut to NIH and an overall 18 percent reduction to the HHS budget. His goal is to eliminate “waste.” He also cut 90 percent from the Affordable Care Act’s advertising budget from $100 million to $10 million and almost half of the budget for consumer “navigators.” Price’s excuse for chartering private planes is that he once missed a meeting because of a four-hour delay on a commercial flight. Storms had shut down all flights in Washington, not only Price’s scheduled flight but also private jets which he attempted to get. Price missed dinner on Thursday night but was still available to give his speech the next morning. His destination, a two-day industry conference at the luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel in Southern California, brings to question the excuse that he travels to be “connected with the real American people.” Another argument was how busy he was with the hurricanes; most of the chartered flights occurred before they hit the U.S.
  • EPA Director Scott Pruitt: Almost $60,000 for “non-commercial” flights. Pruitt spent 48 of 92 days traveling, most of the flights at least stopping in Oklahoma, possibly laying the groundwork for a senatorial campaign. One charter flight for $14,000 took Pruitt from Tulsa to Guymon (OK) to talk about closing the EPA’s ten regional offices by reassigning staff to state capitals—part of eliminating one-third of the EPA budget.
  • Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin: Over $800,000 in costs for flights, including a government jet to Kentucky (where he and his wife viewed the solar eclipse) plus his request to take a government jet on his honeymoon to Europe.
  • Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke: A number of flights on private and military aircraft, including between St. Croix to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as paying $12,000 to an oil-and-gas exploration firm for a charter flight instead of a commercial one because he was speaking to a political donor’s professional hockey team in Nevada. Zinke’s wife, manager of the campaign for Troy Downing who is a GOP candidate for a Montana senator, often travels with him as they stop at political fundraisers and donor events.
  • Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin: Payment for his wife’s costs to Europe where they spent half his time, four days, on vacation tours that included four palaces and the championship Wimbledon match. Just weeks earlier, Shulkin told staff to cut back on travel expenses.
  • Secretary of Energy Rick Perry: At least $58,000 for private flights.
  • Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao: Seven FAA jet flights, including to New York and Paris.

VP Mike Pence may have cost taxpayers approximately $250,000 last week to stage a PR stunt. He flew from Las Vegas to Indiana with a pool of reporters to follow DDT’s orders by walking out of the football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers after over 20 players knelt to protest police brutality. From there he flew to Los Angeles for a fundraiser. Worse than his staging this stunt was his statement that he saved people money because he would have flown to Washington, D.C. for the one night if he hadn’t gone to Indianapolis. Evidently no hotel openings in either Las Vegas or LA. Four Green Berets had been killed in Niger, but DDT ignored this tragedy to tweet against peaceful and legal protests by NFL athletes—29 times thus far.

DDT’s Cabinet runs high tabs in areas other than travel. Scott Pruitt’s protective 24/7 detail, triple that of his predecessors, costs $832,735.40 for his first three months, and the agency asked for an exception to DDT’s hiring freeze to hire an additional (number redacted on a memo) security members. In the past, Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security received this kind of protection, but DDT has extended it to such dangerous positions as the Secretary of Education and the EPA. Betsy DeVos costs almost $1 million a month for protection from U.S. marshals.

Pruitt also wants a sound-proof booth. He’s paying almost $25,000 for it on the floor where employees cannot take cellphones or take notes. EPA employees say that he already has one but wants it “updated.”

One of Zinke’s staff is paid to go up to the roof and hoist his secretarial flag when Zinke enters the building and reverse the process when he leaves. He is the first White House official to do that for almost a century. His deputy secretary has his own flag to fly when Zinke is gone. Another cost, the amount not identified, is Zinke’s commissioning commemorative coins with his name that he hands out to staff and visitors. Again, the use of personalized coins is unique.

Price had early on asked to reopen the executive dining room, complete with executive chef, but Price has been fired.

And DDT’s executive order attempting to destroy health care for millions will cost the country $20 billion this year.

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