Nel's New Day

October 10, 2019

Corruption Begins at Home

With his current obsession in investigating corruption, which he claimed after the extortion call to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) needs to look closer to home.

Today, two men who worked with DDT’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested as they tried to board a plane to Vienna at Dulles airport near Washington, DC on charges of conspiring to skirt federal laws that prohibit foreign nationals from contributing to US campaigns. They allegedly laundered foreign money with corporate identities and “straw donors” in “secret agreements” to hide the plan from candidates and federal regulators. Parnas and Fruman had one-way tickets, and Giuliani had planned to fly there last night. He refused to comment other than he didn’t plan to meet with them there. DDT said, “I don’t know those gentlemen.” Parnas had posted photos of his dinner with DDT at the White House on May 1, 2018 that have since been pulled. [From left: Vice President Mike Pence, Igor Fruman, Lev Parnas, President Donald Trump, and Trump Lawyer Rudy Giuliani – Miami Herald]

Two other defendants, Andrey Kukushkin and Parnas’ longtime partner David Correia, a longtime business partner of Parnas, were also indicted on the same charges while allegedly working with Parnas and Fruman. Kukushkin was arrested last night in San Francisco. Bill Sweeney, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said that “this investigation is about corrupt behavior, deliberate lawbreaking.” Paul Manafort’s lawyers are representing Parnas and Fruman.

House Democrats had subpoenaed Parnas and Fruman for documents and testimony after they refused to voluntarily appear before House committees.  Both men are immigrants, Parnas from Ukraine and Fruman from Belarus. Parnas also worked with Guiliani to push falsehoods that Ukraine tried to interfere in the 2016 election on the part of Hillary Clinton.

Parnas’ involvement in the Ukraine scandal seems to go back to the beginning with his job as Giuliani’s fixer, the man who connected Giuliani to Ukrainian prosecutors willing to do bogus investigations on Joe and Hunter Biden. Former Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), who lost his district in 2018, is also involved with Parnas. Sessions received money from Parnas for his campaign and wrote Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ask that Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch be recalled to Washington, DC because she wouldn’t pressure Ukrainians for the investigations. Parnas also donated to campaigns for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), and Florida GOP governor Ron Desantis. Sessions had been considering a run for a district 100 miles away from his old one.

Parnas’ company is called Fraud Guarantee.

Another Ukrainian player is Rick Perry, who urged Ukraine to fire the board of state-owned gas company Naftagaz and replace them with big U.S. donors to GOP campaigns. Parnas and Fruman, in partnership with oil magnate Harry Sargeant III, wanted to import natural gas to Ukraine. Sargeant told a senior executive at the gas company that he “regularly meets with Trump at Mar-a-Lago and that the gas-sales plan had the president’s full support.” The executive “perceived it to be a shakedown.” Parnas said that Yovanovitch would be removed, and Giuliani told reporters, “I did play a role in that.” Perry, who plans to resign soon, has been subpoenaed about his involvement in the Ukrainian scandal.

DDT said that if Zelensky wanted to meet with him, they should circumvent official diplomatic channels and go strictly through Giuliani, who created a more direct role than earlier known. Monday, Fiona Hill, DDT’s former Senior Director for European and Russian affairs, plans to testify that Giuliani and EU ambassador Gordon Sondland circumvented the NSC and normal White House process to run a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine. DDT had appointed Sonderland to perform ambassador responsibilities in Ukraine although the nation is not in the European Union and then blocked him from testifying before the House. He tried to do the same for Parnas and Fruman and lied about their working for the White House before he denied knowing them.

Other Corruption Tidbits:

DDT’s former national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said it was “absolutely not” appropriate for Mr. Trump to seek help from foreign powers for an election.

The eight-page letter written to House Democrats in an attempt to stop impeachment includes more quid pro quo in DDT’s “art of the deal.” Pat Cipollene wrote that if House Democrats “return to the regular order of oversight requests, we stand ready to engage in that process,” and ends by asking House Democrats to “abandon the current invalid efforts to pursue an impeachment inquiry and join the President in focusing on the many important goals that matter to the American people.” Earlier, DDT threatened Congress to shut down legislation, forgetting that if he refuses to either sign or veto a bill, it goes into law.

DDT is finally taking an interest in congressional affairs, calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) three times a day in an attempt to lock down GOP loyalty in case of impeachment.  

At least four national security officials raised concerns about DDT’s call with Zelensky that pressured Ukraine in exchange for DDT’s “favors.” Their worries began with Yovanovitch’s recall from Ukraine and continued with Giuliani’s promotion of Ukrainian conspiracies and DDT’s statements in White House meetings that he wanted damaging information on Biden. People who listened to the July 25 telephone call between DDT and Zelensky said that “alarm bells were kind of ringing.”

Former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), released from Fox network for his plans to join DDT’s legal impeachment team, won’t be part of the group until January—if ever. DDT said that lobby rules prevent Gowdy from joining until next year. NYT Maggie Haberman questions the reason. She tweeted:

 “Someone in West Wing badly wanted a win internally and put out Gowdy before it was a done deal. So it was quickly done yesterday and then had to be undone.”

DDT assigned his politically appointed official Michael Duffey the authority to withhold $391 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine because career staff questioned the legality of delaying funds.

In an interview with Bob Schieffer, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talked about how DDT tried to break the law. In one of the times, DDT pushed Tillerson to persuade DOJ to drop a criminal case against an Iranian-Turkish gold trader, Giuliani’s client for money laundering. Tillerson refused to interfere in the ongoing investigation of Reza Zarrab and reported his objections to then-chief of Staff John Kelly. When asked if he talked to DDT about Zarrab, Giuliani said “So what [if I did].” Asked if he had talked to Tillerson, Giuliani said, “You have no right to know that.”

Zarrab was arrested in 2016 for evading U.S. sanctions against Iran. Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who DDT fired, wrote that Zarrab had “facilitated millions of dollars-worth of transactions on behalf of Iran . . . through a global network of companies located in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.” Bharara added that Zarrab was “engaged in a massive bribery scheme . . . paying cabinet-level [Turkish] governmental officials and high-level bank officers tens of millions of Euro and U.S. dollars” to facilitate his transactions. DDT’s interest in Zarrab ties into his facilitation of the Turkish invasion of the Kurds: the attempt at Zarrab’s release was another way that DDT could do a favor for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Republican lawmakers make themselves complicit by their silence, denial, of arguments that DDT’s behavior is wrong but not impeachable. The laws that DDT have broken could put anyone else in prison. For a start:

18 U.S. Code § 872, “Extortion by officers or employees of the United States”: “Whoever, being an officer, or employee of the United States or any department or agency thereof, or representing himself to be or assuming to act as such, under color or pretense of office or employment commits or attempts an act of extortion, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

2 U.S. Code § 192, “Refusal of witness to testify or produce papers”:  punishable by a year in prison.

In a bizarre twist to Turkey news, two Russian pranksters pretending to be Turkey’s minister of defense Hulusi Akar called Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Graham said that DDT would try to be helpful “within the limits of his power” to Erdogan on the case. Now criticizing DDT for abandoning “our Kurdish allies,” Graham also told the pranksters that Turkey’s “Kurdish problem is a big problem.” He continued by saying that Turkey needs to be “protected from this threat in Syria” and that both he and DDT are “sympathetic” to the problem. It is a big different from Graham’s criticism of DDT’s pulling the troops as “shortsighted and irresponsible.”

It’s a deep swamp, with many more stories to be uncovered. Republicans need to start their investigations at home.

July 1, 2017

DDT: Week Twenty-Three – Misogyny, Health Bill, Russia + Falling Numbers

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 10:08 PM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Much of the media this past week about Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) focused on his misogyny and his attempts to pass a health bill that he himself called “mean.” But he managed to continue offending world leaders. During a visit from South Korean President Moon Jae-In,  DDT lambasted the newly-elected official for the U.S. trade deficit. One year ago, South Koreans had 88 percent confidence in President Obama to do the right thing. This year, that number as dropped to 17 percent confidence in DDT.  In whining about the current U.S./Korea Free Trade Agreement, DDT blamed President Obama, but George W. Bush signed the document in 2007. DDT also failed to realize that he was off on his reference to “you know who wanted it,” most congressional Republicans wanted it.

DDT also implied that a trade deficit with a country has to be a bad deal that he will fix. He said, “I actually said to my people, find a country where we actually do well. So far, we haven’t found that country. It’s just losses with everybody and we’re going to turn that around.” His “people” didn’t look very hard; the U.S. has a trade surplus with over 100 nations. DDT also asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel about negotiating a trade deal eleven times. It wasn’t until her eleventh repetition that the U.S. negotiates with the European Union, not Germany, that he stopped asking.

DDT’s actions are unifying much of the world by destroying the country’s international standing. A recent Pew Research Center survey in 37 nations shows that the median in confidence has dropped to 22 percent, less than one-third of the 64 percent median of President Obama’s ability to direct the U.S. role in the world. Only two countries—Russia and Israel—express more confidence in DDT than the former president. Part of the lack of confidence comes from his policies. Over three-fourths oppose his wall along the U.S./Mexico border, and 71 percent are against his withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. Over half disagree with his travel ban, his withdrawal from free trade agreements, and his negative approach to the Iran nuclear deal.

One issue decreasing credibility in DDT came from last Monday’s White House announcement from sometimes Press Secretary Sean Spicer:

“The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children. The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack. As we have previously stated, the United States is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

With a “normal” president, the public might assume that they are being warned because intelligence identified a chemical-weapons attack. BuzzFeed, however, reported that the Pentagon didn’t know anything about Spicer’s statement. NBC reported that defense, military, and intelligence officials were “caught off guard by the White House statement.” Another “normal” action would be a press briefing. There was none. DDT’s ensuing tweets only promoted Fox network and then attacked Morning Joe hosts. Defense Secretary James Mattis tried to cover two days after Spicer’s statement by saying “he believes Syria has backed down.”

DDT’s foreign policy according to Kevin Drum:

“Trump has been suckered by China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. He has pissed off Mexico, Canada, Germany, France, Britain, Australia, and most of our other traditional allies. Nobody knows what his policy toward Israel is. Or his policy in Afghanistan. Or his policy in Syria. Or his trade policy toward anyone. Or whether he ever bothers talking with his Secretary of State.”

And that was before he DDT talked to South Korea.

Polls also show that DDT’s approval rating also continues to drop.  CBS News shows him at 36 percent, DDT’s lowest approval for that source since he was inaugurated; 57 percent disapprove. The loss comes from Republicans: the 72 percent GOP approval is eleven points down since April. Other presidents have seen approval ratings from their own parties this low but not five months into their first terms.

Russia continues to dominate the news:

At least 10 White House officials and former Trump associates have retained private counsel, including VP Mike Pence, DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and former campaign advisers Michael Caputo, Boris Epshteyn, and Roger Stone.

Marc Kasowitz, one of DDT’s personal lawyers, may have a conflict of interest with his client because of his firm’s involvement in a real estate sale for Kushner. The property’s loan with Deutsche Bank, part of a Russian money laundering scandal, might be part of Robert Mueller’s investigation in things related to Russia and DDT. Kasowitz is already involved with Russia because of his client OJSC Sberbank, Russia’s biggest bank.

Former GOP operative Peter W. Smith asked hackers to get him Hillary Clinton campaign emails before the election and said he had talked about the situation with Michael Flynn, than DDT’s adviser. The conservative Wall Street Journal said that Smith viewed Flynn and his consulting company as “allies in their quest.” Smith died in mid-May, and Flynn isn’t talking—yet. But U.S. intelligence agents have corroborated some of this information. Smith also was connected with Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George, in the Paula Jones case that led to the impeachment of President Clinton.

DDT’s former campaign consultant Paul Manafort has filed as a foreign agent three years after he was paid $17.1 million by the political party for Ukraine’s leader, who fled to Russia in 2014. Manafort is being investigated by the government for the alleged misuse of Ukrainian government funds. He has a history of working for strong-arm leaders throughout the world.  http://www.newsweek.com/russia-investigation-paul-manafort-michael-flynn-foreign-agents-629609

National Security Agency (NSA) Director Mike Rogers expressed frustration during a closed-session briefing on Capital Hill about DDT’s failure to be convinced that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Rogers also said that DDT lacks focus about Russia’s cyber attempts.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions may be the next person on the hot seat about Russia. Despite his recusal from all things Russian, he had an eight-minute interview about the subject on Fox and Friends. Some of his statements may be taken as an attempt to undermine special investigator Robert Mueller. In March, Sessions’ chief of staff, Jody Hunt, said that the recusal included any media inquiries about Russia.  The comments were curious because a March 2 memo from Sessions’ chief of staff. Fortunately, Sessions has a personal lawyer.

Conservative pundits must have decided that DDT was actually in collusion with the Russians because they now claim that collusion is not a crime. Greg Jarrett made the most blunt statement: “You can collude all you want with a foreign government in an election.” About collusion, Fox’s Bret Hume asked his audience, “Can anyone identify the crime?” Ten expert lawyers cited over a dozen federal statutes that can be used to charge collaborators with Russian intelligence to influence a U.S. election. Dan Friedman wrote:

“Laws against abetting or conspiring to commit computer fraud or identity theft and against soliciting campaign aid from foreign nationals offer two potential areas under which prosecutors could seek indictments, the lawyers say. Prosecutors also could use broader federal statutes related to honest services fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to bring charges against anyone who colluded, according to the attorneys.”

DDT may be personally involved in a crime because he called on Russia “to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” His supporters claim that this was a joke, but with DDT, one never knows. His statement could be construed as aiding and abetting computer fraud.

Some GOP legislators have joined DDT in using President Obama as a scapegoat for the entire Russian hacking problem. During a Senate hearing, Republicans said that the former president knew about the hacking and should have stopped it. Tom Cotton (AK) said, “[President Obama] stood idly by in the 2016 election.” The “idly by” came from Republicans. Two months before the election, the Obama White House briefed top congressional members about Russian activities and asked for bipartisan support so that he didn’t appear to be using the intelligence for electoral ends. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused. Republicans argued against making the information public with the position that releasing the information would help Russia in eliminating confidence in the system. McConnell also said that he didn’t’ believe the intelligence supporting the Russian involvement.

Meanwhile Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, central to many of the Russian meetings, will be hosted at his going-away party on July 11 on his way back to Russia after a decade in the U.S.

August 24, 2016

Men Who Sexually Assault Women Need Protection, Judge Asserts

Filed under: Sexism — trp2011 @ 7:53 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

david beckerAnother judge understands that poor athletes don’t deserve prison time for sexually assaulting unconscious women. David Becker, 18, was charged with two counts of rape and one count of indecent assault and battery at a party in Palmer (MA), but Palmer District Court Judge Thomas Estes ordered Becker’s case be continued for two years without a finding and sentenced him to two years of probation. The recent graduate of East Longmeadow High School was told to avoid drugs and alcohol, submit to an evaluation for sex offender treatment, and stay away from the two 18-year-old victims.

Becker has no jail time, won’t be required to register as a sex offender, and can have his record cleared if he successfully fulfills the requirements of his probation. He can also serve his probation wherever he decides to go to college, originally at the University of Dayton (OH) until the school reported that he will not be attending. Thomas Rooke, Becker’s attorney, is naturally delighted that he won’t be impeded “from graduating high school and to go onto the next step of his life, which is a college experience.”

Both victims woke up while Becker was sexually assaulting them. He denied assaulting one woman but apologized to the other in a text the next day. He had thought his behavior was acceptable because the unconscious women didn’t stop him. Becker evidently has a history of assaulting other girls because his nickname is “David the Rapist.” The lawyer said, “We all made mistakes when we were 17, 18, 19 years old…. Putting this kid in jail for two years would have destroyed this kid’s life.” The DA’s office concurred although prosecutors recommended two years in prison.

Estes’ ruling follows the exoneration of students Brock Turner, Stanford University, and Austin Wilkerson, University of Colorado, for similar offenses. Since Stanford became notorious for the judge’s permissive attitude toward sexual assault, the university has a new policy that may protect future rapists. The school’s solution is to ban large containers of hard alcohol from campus undergraduate events and tell women to be careful of how males “perceive” them if they drink. The new rule continues to put blame on the victim, as the sentencing for Brock Turner did. The policy is only for undergraduates; graduate students and staff have no guidelines.

An entire portion of Stanford’s policy is devoted to “Female Bodies and Alcohol” that begins, “A woman will get drunk faster than a man consuming the same amount of alcohol.” The policy follows with how women should “optimize the positive effects of alcohol and avoid negative consequences.” At least it eliminated the statement that “research tells us that women who are seen drinking alcohol are perceived to be more sexually available than they may actually be.”

In a survey this week, 56 percent of men think that sexism is a thing of the past.

Trump Watch:  Trump’s new “persuasive” argument to people of color is asking them what they have to lose by voting for him. Prominent Hispanic activist and conservative Ana Navarro answers Trump:

What we have to lose, is our dignity. Our sense of self-worth…. Our moral compass…. Our political leverage. We would lose any power. If we allow somebody who has been bashing us for over a year to win the presidency, it means the Hispanic vote does not matter. So, that’s my answer to Donald Trump. What do we have to lose by voting for you? Our dignity.”

After Navarro listened to GOP Hispanic Communications Director Helen Aguirre Ferré extol the virtues of the GOP candidate, the political analyst listed several Trump offenses against the Hispanic community before she said to Ferré:

“Listen, Helen, I let you speak and I’m old enough to remember when you used to Tweet against Donald Trump! I’m old enough to remember when you used to be as offended as I am by the things Donald Trump used to say! That was before he was the nominee. That was before you had an RNC job.”

At least seven of Trump’s paid campaign staffers agree with the candidate’s bigotry: their personal social media accounts declare that Muslims shouldn’t be U.S. citizens, Secretary of State John Kerry should be hanged, and the country should have a civil war. A graphic designer posted a racist video, and other staffers supported conspiracy theories. There may be many others, but several of Trump’s staffers have set their accounts to private. An examination of internal emails from Clinton’s or the DNC staffers did not find any racially or religiously inflammatory content.

Law enforcement officers, including a sniper perched atop an armored vehicle, watch as demonstrators protest the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo., Aug. 13, 2014. The police chief of this St. Louis suburb said Wednesday that Brown injured the officer who later fatally shot the unarmed 18 year old ? though witnesses dispute that such an altercation occurred. (Whitney Curtis/The New York Times)

Law enforcement officers in Ferguson (MO),  August. 13, 2014. (Whitney Curtis/The New York Times)

Eager to be known as the “law and order” candidate, Donald Trump wants to put war weapons back on the streets of the United States after President Obama banned sales of such surplus military equipment as grenade launchers to police departments. White House reforms require federal oversight and restrictions for police departments that are allowed other military equipment.

Part of Trump’s strategy to get elected is his lie that war zones in foreign countries are safer than U.S. cities. Yet fewer violent crimes were committed in 2014 than during any year in the past several decades. Crime rates stayed flat in the 30 largest cities during the first six months of 2015. A decade ago, during the reign of George W. Bush, crime rates were 30 percent higher than now. At the same time, Republicans have convinced two-thirds of the nation’s population that crime is vastly on the rise.

crime rate chart

In his business acumen, Trump has almost quintupled the monthly rent charged to the presidential campaign for its headquarters at Trump Tower–$169,758 in July alone. It was much cheaper in March–$35,458—before donors started paying for the rent. Donors to his campaign are also paying in Trump’s coffers through rents for many of his facilities. He has also been caught illegally using campaign funds to buy thousands of copies of his own book at retail cost, putting the money from donors into his own pocket and artificially boosting his sales figures. In the past the FEC has permitted candidates to buy copies of their own books from the publisher at a “discounted bulk rate”with no royalties going to the author.

Comedian Seth Meyers nailed the Trump’s pivot that even mainstream pundits are buying into these days:

“The 2016 campaign has settled into something of a pattern: Donald Trump spends weeks saying inflammatory things that drive his poll numbers down, then for a few days he acts relatively normal, and the media thinks he’s ready to get serious. Well, it’s happening again—even as Trump surrounds himself with people who feed his worst instincts.”

As Meyers said:

“That’s how low the bar is for Trump right now: Republicans are complimenting him for being ‘mature.’ They talk about their nominee the way people talk about a 5-year-old wearing a suit at a wedding.”

And it’s not just the GOP who think this way. As Adele Stan wrote:

“When Trump repudiates his racist followers and stops stoking their fears, we’ll know he’s serious about reaching out to non-whites.”

If Donald Trump loves black people as much as he claims, why doesn’t he meet with them? Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski explained that it’s too dangerous for Trump.

The man who tweeted this declaration wants to be the president of perhaps the most powerful nation in the world:

“I try to learn from the past, but I plan for the future by focusing exclusively on the present. That’s where the fun is!”

In another tweet, Trump told people not to purchase the newly released book about him, Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power, because it’s “boring. which went on sale Tuesday. The word “revealing” might be better used for this book that included 20 hours of interviews with Trump. According to the book, Trump wants a TV show if he loses the election, he’s never read a biography about a president, and he thinks that his wife’s breasts have to stay looking good from him to stay married to Melania. There’s also information about his involvement in “one of the most significant racial bias cases” of the 1970s when he and his father tried to keep blacks from living in one of their buildings.

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