Nel's New Day

January 24, 2019

Shutdown Bills Fail; House Investigates Kushner

Day 34 of government shutdown: Both of today’s Senate bills designed to reopen the government failed when neither one met the 60 votes necessary. In a 51-47 vote, Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Tom Cotton (R-AL) voted against their party in opposing the measure proposed by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to get his $5.7 billion for 200 miles of wall, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-VA) supported DDT’s bill with the wall. The second bill from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to open the government with a continuing resolution until February 8 had one more supporting vote, 52-44, with GOP Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Murkowski (AK), Cory Gardner (CO), Lamar Alexander (TN), Johnny Isakson (GA) and Mitt Romney (UT) joining Democrats.

Billionaire Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that he doesn’t understand why federal employees without paychecks don’t get loans instead of using food banks. He claimed that financial institutions just give them loans against “the 30 days of pay that people will be out.” Ross added that even if these 800,000 people never got their pay, they’re “about a third of a percent on our GDP. So it’s not like it’s a gigantic number overall.”

DDT, another billionaire, had a peculiar reaction to Ross. He thought that Ross was accurate in his assertion that federal employees, either furloughed or working without pay, don’t need to get emergency help from homeless shelters and food pantries because—drum roll!—grocery stores will give these paycheck-less people food without paying for it. He said:

“Local people know who they are. Where they go for groceries and everything else. If you have mortgages, mortgagees, the folks collecting the interest and all of those things, they work along. That’s what happens in times like these. They know the people. They’ve been dealing with them for years, and they work along.”

Two months ago, DDT was telling people that they needed IDs to buy a box of cereal.

Republicans are getting so desperate that they are yelling at VP Mike Pence. In a private meeting two days ago, several senators harangued Pence, who said that the White House was working on a strategy to reopen the government and that they should not vote for the Democrat-offered bill that got six GOP votes today.  Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said they gave Pence an “earful” because “we’re all hearing from our constituents who are working for no pay.” Other members criticizing Pence included GOP Sens. Mitch McConnell (KY), Lisa Murkowski (AK), John Boozman (AR), Johnny Isakson (GA), and Jerry Moran (KS). Two of them voted for the Democratic-supported bill.

Fly at your own risk during the shutdown is the message from representatives of air traffic controllers, pilots, and flight attendants. Making things worse, they report that the FAA “has frozen hiring and shuttered its training academy, so there is no plan in effect to fill the FAA’s critical staffing need.” Certification requires two to four years, and the U.S. has the fewest number of air traffic controllers in 30 years.

According to CEOs, DDT is hurting business with the shutdown and low immigration with lack of investment in research and development, education, and entrepreneurship. The National Science Foundation has not issued any grants for over a month, and government researchers in agencies such as NOAA, the EPA, and the U.S. Geological Survey don’t get paychecks. Hundreds of postdoctoral fellows don’t get their stipends. Loss of immigration is destroying U.S. innovation.

In a “what if” piece, Rachel Maddow suggests a “Worst Case Scenario” in which Russia’s Vladimir Putin is behind the government shutdown. At one time, this idea would be too far-fetched, but Robert Mueller’s investigation has found hundreds of links with DDT’s campaign; ties with Russia and national security adviser John Bolton, Maria Butina, the NRA; threats against Michael Cohen’s family to keep him from testifying; and Oleg Deripaska’s Belarusian escort, who claimed to have information about DDT, was returned to Russia and may be in early states of poisoning. Putin wanted interference in the presidential election to cause chaos within the United States.

Now federal agency employees who were called back to work without pay—TSA agents, meat inspectors, prison guards, IRS workers, etc.—are starting to walk off their jobs, adding to the impact of jobs not being done by furloughed employees. Imagine if people can no longer trust safety in flying, food, and water and from crime while not receiving their tax refunds in addition to millions losing income from the missing paychecks for 800,000 federal employees. DDT is behind the shutdown and shows little urgency in reopening the government. He is also the focus of the biggest criminal and counter-intelligence investigation of any sitting U.S. president.

DailyKos has ideas for what a U.S. leader following Putin’s strategy could do to weaken the United States:

  • Relax sanctions on Putin and his oligarchs to give them more money.
  • Antagonize U.S. allies.
  • Polarize the U.S. with ugly divisive rhetoric.
  • Attack U.S. institutions, especially the judiciary, and replace the leadership with his cronies.
  • Pull the U.S. out of multinational trade and security alliances.
  • Excessively praise Putin.
  • Implement irrational economic trade sanctions to weaken U.S. economy.
  • Use excessive measures to conceal communications with Putin.
  • Consistently repeat Putin’s propaganda talking points.
  • Shut down the U.S. government for a ridiculous rationale and continue to cripple the U.S. with huge political, security, social, and financial damage.

Two years ago, this scenario would have seemed impossible. Now some might like to think it’s improbable, but every DDT action makes the proposition appear more likely.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), new chair of the Judiciary Committee, has an answer for the crisis facing many people in the U.S. during the shutdown: investigate Hillary Clinton’s email server, specifically the FBI’s handling of the situation and the FISA warrant application targeting DDT’s campaign adviser Carter Page. The FBI investigated Page after the possibility that he conspired with Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. Graham believes that the FBI was “in the tank” for her campaign and accused them of a double standard in the agency’s handling of the two presidential campaigns. In actuality, he’s right: the FBI helped swing the election to DDT by publicizing non-existent problems with Clinton and hiding real investigations into DDT.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) laughed at Graham’s plans and compared them to the ”thrilling days of yesteryear.” Durham said:

“This is going to be like the History Channel, it turns out. Instead of taking a look at the current issues, Lindsey Graham wants to go back and answer important questions about the Bermuda Triangle and Hillary Clinton.”

Durbin added that Graham may want to investigate Jimmy Carter next. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a judiciary committee member, joked that Graham might want to “investigate Benghazi some more.”

The House Oversight Committee plans an investigation into “grave breaches of national security at the highest levels of the Trump Administration” with the focus on White House handling of classified information, including DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Over 130 political appointees in DDT’s office lack permanent security clearances as of 2017, include Kushner and DDT’s daughter Ivanka.

The House committee has even more grist for its mill since the revelation that Kushner’s application for a top secret clearance was rejected by two career White House security specialists because of FBI concerns about possible foreign influence on him. Overruling this decision from an investigation, the specialists’ supervisor, Carl Kline, approved the clearance. In unprecedented behavior, Kline, a DDT appointee, repeated this overruling 30 times despite unfavorable information on each of the applicants. Sources indicated that “the Trump White House attracted many people with untraditional backgrounds who had complicated financial and personal histories, some of which raised red flags.”

Kushner, who had to redo and correct his application clearance 40 times, received questions about foreign contacts, travel, and meetings as well as his family’s business. After Kline gave Kushner secret and top secret clearances, Kushner went to the CIA seeking a higher that allows him to access “sensitive compartmented information” that includes transcripts of intercepted foreign communications and CIA source reporting. Kline even stopped credit checks on security clearance applicants.

The CIA reviewed Kushner’s materials and questioned even the “top secret” clearance giving Kushner access to material that would cause “exceptionally grave damage” to national security if disclosed to adversaries. Officials are questioning whether the White House overruled the CIA refusal for the SCI clearance. A year ago, WaPo reported that officials in at least four countries—United Arab Emirates, China, Israel, and Mexico—talked about how they could manipulate Kushner though his lack of policy experience, financial difficulties, and business arrangements.

The House needs to work fast!

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