Nel's New Day

June 17, 2017

DDT: Week Twenty-One, Any Success Elusive

Two years ago yesterday, a New York businessman rode down an escalator to become the president of the United States who is under investigation for criminal charges. Supporters didn’t believe an article about investigating Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) for obstruction of justice, but he angrily tweeted that he is being investigated. Much has been said about DDT invoking executive privilege, but the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Nixon from using the privilege to withhold evidence in a criminal investigation in 1974. The investigation is also looking into money laundering by DDT associates and the business affairs of DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Russian hackers breached voting systems in 39 different states, according to a new report. This number is almost twice what was previously reported. Russians tried to delete or alter voter data, accessed software for poll worker use on Election Day, and breached a campaign finance database.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and NSA director Adm. Michael Rogers refused to talk about DDT’s involvement with Russia in  a hearing, but Coats told his colleagues in March that DDT asked both him and Rogers to stop former FBI director James Comey in a probe into Michael Flynn. DDT asked Coats in front of CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

DDT’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, has clients with Russian connections include Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to President Vladimir Putin and Sberbank, Russia’s largest state-owned bank. Kasowitz also represented one of Deripaska’s companies for years in a civil lawsuit in New York and was scheduled to argue on the company’s behalf May 25, two days after news broke that Trump had hired him.

Jay Sekulow, with a specialty in “religious liberty” case, is now the television face of DDT’s legal team. Sekulow claims that the president is a “unitary executive” with unlimited national security powers. Former VP Dick Cheney expanded this theory when George W. Bush’s White House Counsel John Yoo justified using torture. The U.S. Constitution does not provide unchecked power for any of the three branches of government.

A Few DDT Failures:

A federal judge has ruled that DDT failed to conduct an adequate environmental review of the Dakota Access pipeline. Judge James Boasberg requested further briefings to see if the pipeline should be shut down until a full review of impacts of potential oil spills.

The Senate voted 97-to-2 to stop DDT’s power to unilaterally scale back sanctions on Russia.  Mike Lee and Rand Paul didn’t like the idea, and Secretary of State is not happy about tying “the administration’s hands.”

The ethics office refused a “retroactive” waiver to exempt white supremacist Steve Bannon for all of his infractions since he came to the White House. The “waiver” to nullify ethics claims was neither signed nor dated, raising the question of whether DDT knew anything about it.

The three-judge unanimous panel ruling against DDT’s travel ban in the 9th Circuit Court decided that he didn’t comply with federal immigration law. DDT failed to offer justification to stop the entry of over 180 million people into the U.S. basing its ban on nationality. Judges cited DDT’s tweets as an “authority.” In a case about the ban before the 4th Circuit Court, lawyers want judges to ignore DDT’s statements as president and rule only on the executive order and DDT’s official actions. If the Supreme Court hears the case, it will have to address both this questions and early constitutional issues from the 4th Circuit ruling.

Comey might have been fired earlier if he had refused to meet with DDT. Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara  said he was fired the day after he refused a call from DDT because he saw direct contact between the president and a law-enforcement official. He reported the call to AG Jeff Sessions on March 9 and was fired “twenty-two hours later.”

Congress is putting the heat on DDT about releasing tapes of his conversations with Comey after DDT accused him of lying under oath.

DDT’s Attempts at Foreign Policy:

In the week since eight Middle East countries have blockaded Qatar, a country that DDT had supported only days before, the U.S. has crossed from one side to another. DDT called the country extremist, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for diplomacy, and the United States completed a sale of 36 fighter jets for $12 billion that President Obama had initiated. Iran, Kuwait, and Turkey have declared themselves on the side of Qatar, and the blockading countries have broken up families. U.S. incompetence can put either Russia or Turkey as broker in the Middle East crisis, and Turkey is already deploying troops to help Qatar

The Philippines military has confirmed that the U.S. will provide “technical support” to fight ISIS in that country, but President Rodrigo Duterte says he doesn’t want the help. If that’s true, it means that the military may have gone rogue, and the U.S. could be in the middle of the mess.

After dumping 194 countries by rejecting the Paris climate agreement, DDT made the United States into a footnote with the G7 group of industrialized nations. The other six reconfirmed a commitment to reducing carbon emissions in a statement after its environment meeting that EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt left early. “G6” countries are already meeting with California in a beginning to work with some states in slowing down climate change. A German fact check of DDT’s speech about saving $3 trillion shows he didn’t account for massive savings in fiscal benefits of avoiding massive climate changes.

DDT is afraid to go to Britain if there are large-scale protests. He told current prime minister Theresa May that he’ll wait until the British public supports a visit. UK will save lot of money in not having to break out the gold coach for him.

And a Few Other Pieces:

D.C. and Maryland are suing DDT because of the millions in payments he is receiving in his Washington hotel that violate the Emoluments Clause of the constitution. Government lawyers content that this prohibition doesn’t count for DDT. If a federal court decides whether the case can continue, the plaintiffs will request that DDT’s personal tax returns be publicly revealed. Another 196 congressional Democrats are suing DDT for the same reason.

DDT is blocking more people from his Twitter account, including VoteVets.org, a group representing over 500,000 veterans, family members, and civilian supporters. A record of his more notable blocks, including famous novelist Stephen King, is available here.

DDT’s climate quote of the week: “You’ve got one heck of an island there. Your island has been there for hundreds of years, and I believe your island will be there for hundreds more.” The statement was made to Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge of Tangier (VA) on an island that has about 25 years left before sea-level rise from climate change puts it under the water. Of the 450 population in the town first settled in the 17th century, about 87 percent voted for DDT in the place that is sinking 15 feet each year.

DDT’s wife Melania has reported that she officially moved into the White House with their son Barron.

Anyone watching comedy shows or news have seen clips of DDT’s Cabinet meeting where members and attendees were forced to suck up to the fragile DDT. Former CIA member Ned Price compared the fawning to what could be seen around North Korea’s Kim Jung-Un. Best headline: “Roomful of Pussies Purrs Its Praise At Feral Orange Tomcat.” Only Defense Secretary James Mattis didn’t play the game, instead praising the members of the military. Lesser noticed, however, is the parody that came from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Well worth watching! The article is also a detailed debunking of DDT’s claims. If you really want to read the comments ….

Being president makes a lot of money for DDT, and not just from his salary. His recent financial disclosure shows tens of millions of dollars in income from his “Trump” golf courses and resorts that get the biggest boosts from places he personally visits. One of these is Mar-a-Lago that doubled its 2016 incoe to $29 million. DDT visited at least one of his own properties in one-third of his first 108 days in office, 36 times. Details here.

Republican approval of how things are going in the U.S. dropped 17 points from 58 percent last month to 41 percent.

For the first time in his 22 weekends, DDT is not spending time at one of his golf courses or resorts. Instead, he has gone to the presidents’ retreat of Camp David. It may not be a common practice. DDT called Camp David “rustic” and said, “You know how long you’d like it? For about 30 minutes.” This facility does not require millions of dollars per visit like DDT’s time at his personal business places such as Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster (NJ). DDT should be okay: he’s only going overnight.

December 4, 2016

Victory at Standing Rock

CANNON BALL, ND - DECEMBER 04: Fireworks fill the night sky above Oceti Sakowin Camp as activists celebrate after learning an easement had been denied for the Dakota Access Pipeline near the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 4, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The US Army Corps of Engineers announced today that it will not grant an easement to the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under a lake on the Sioux Tribes Standing Rock reservation, ending a months-long standoff. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

CANNON BALL, ND – DECEMBER 04: Fireworks fill the night sky above Oceti Sakowin Camp as activists celebrate after learning an easement had been denied for the Dakota Access Pipeline near the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 4, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Protesters across the United States celebrated today after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would “explore alternate routes” for the Dakota Access Pipeline instead of granting an easement for the pipeline. Over 2,000 U.S. military veterans had joined the thousands of protesters at the site to protect them from the authorities, and federal officials had given them until tomorrow to leave the site.

Native American tribes began last April to block the part of the current 1,172-mile-long pipeline’s $3.8 billion project designed to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota at the confluence of the Missouri and the Cannonball rivers because it threatened the water supply, damaged sacred sites, and violated federal law and tribal treaties with the U.S. “Oahe” means “a place to stand on” in the Dakota language. Pipeline opponents argued in court that the pipeline “crosses areas of great historical and cultural significance” and “crosses waters of utmost cultural, spiritual, ecological, and economic significance.” Sally Jewell, Secretary for the Interior, said that the government will conduct “an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts” and “underscore that tribal rights reserved in treaties and federal law, as well as Nation-to-Nation consultation with tribal leaders, are essential components of the analysis to be undertaken in the environmental impact statement going forward.”

dakota-pipeline-map

The small protest that started eight months ago developed into a standoff after the Standing Rock Tribe was supported with hundreds of tribes and joined by thousands of celebrities and activists from around the country throughout the sweltering summer into the freezing winter weather. Police departments from 24 counties and 16 cities—as far away as 1,500—have sent law enforcement officers to Standing Rock, using the 1996 Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) as an excuse that it fits the category of “community disorders, insurgency, or enemy attack.” North Dakota taxpayers will be required to pay for all these out-of-state officers, including their wages, overtime costs, meals, lodging, and mileage reimbursement. The state already has a $1 billion revenue shortfall for the current year, and law enforcement costs were up to $10.9 million as of November 22. Morton County had spent another $8 million, and local courts and jails were on the hook for 575 arrests.

Arrested demonstrators, called “water protectors,” report having been strip searched and detained in dog kennels. Police set dogs on the protesters. Last week local law enforcement announced fines of up to $1,000 to vehicles delivering supplies to the Standing Rock encampments.

Police commonly use water cannons, rubber bullets, and pepper spray. By mid-November, their treatment of the protesters so accelerated that the police are now being sued by protesters. Police shot streams of icy water in the freezing temperatures and fired tear gas and rubber bullets against the demonstrators for six hours. Water froze to people’s bodies, and 300 people were treated for injuries. Twenty-six of them were taken to hospitals.

Police took this action after pipeline opponents tried to remove two burned military vehicles from a bridge so that they could get supplies and emergency medical services from Bismarck. Law enforcement denied that they had water cannons, claiming that they used a “fire hose” to spray “more as a mist” but not “directly on them” in order “to help keep everybody safe.” A medic saw the police “hosing people down with their water cannon that continued for the entirety of the four hours I was out there watching.” He added that they flushed the eyes of people sprayed with tear gas with water and milk of magnesia that turned to black ice on the ground. Medics also reported that the demonstrators were unarmed and largely nonviolent.

Rubber bullets fired at demonstrators caused one elder to lose consciousness, another man to experience a seizure, and a woman to have her eye injured. Sophia Wilansky, 21, underwent surgery after her arm was severely injured by a concussion grenade. Her father said that she will need multiple surgeries to regain use of her arm and hand because “all of the muscle and soft tissue between her elbow and wrist were blown away,” he said. “She will be, every day for the foreseeable future, fearful of losing her arm and hand.”

The police denied using grenades and accused the protesters of having explosives. Eyewitnesses including medics, however, “watched police intentionally throw concussion grenades at unarmed people” and said that evidence of these grenades was “the lack of charring of flesh at the wound site, and by the grenade pieces that have been removed from her arm in surgery and will be saved for legal proceedings.” Black Elk—resident of the reservation, an ethnobotanist, and instructor at the local college, said that police reactions to protest became “progressively more militant, more violent.”

Another method of intimidation against protesters has been to arrest them on bogus charges and then refuse them public defenders for “pretty mundane administrative mistakes,” according to a local attorney. For example, one man was rejected a public defender because he wrote “none” instead of “0” to a question regarding how many cars he owned. In October, a judge dismissed  riot charges against journalist Amy Goodman, who had filmed a confrontation between protesters and pipeline security officers. At least 130 demonstrators have had charges dropped due to lack of evidence, indicating that prosecutors are more interested in intimidating activists than securing convictions and signaling the “unprecedented” nature of Morton County pursuing baseless cases.

dakota-pipeline-oceti-sakowin-camp

The federal government has claimed ownership of the land where Oceti Sakowin camp (above) sits, but that land is within the area of the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty, which designated land for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. In 1889, Congress divided the Great Sioux Reservation into six separate, smaller reservations and forced the tribes onto smaller parcels of land. Yet terms of treaties are not removed until officially repealed by Congress, and the Supreme Court has ruled that subsequent treaties do not do away with an earlier treaty unless the new treaty specifically addresses and removes the terms of the older treaty.

Interactions between Native American tribes and police are too often violent throughout the rest of the nation. Although these tribes are sovereign nations, 70 percent of them are under the legal authority of police and sheriff’s departments from nearby non-tribal communities. Indians alternate with blacks to have the highest rates of deaths by law enforcement, and these deaths are undercounted for a variety of reasons.

The continued stoppage for the project is at risk because Donald Trump (DT), planning for his presidential inauguration on January 20, 2017, says he will support pipelines like this one. Kelcy Warren, the chief executive of the pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners, donated at least $103,000 to DT’s campaign. DT has said that he sold his shares worth $500,000 and $1 million in Energy Transfer Partners, but there has been no proof that he did this. He also owns $100,000 to $250,000 of stock in Phillips 66 that has a 25 percent stake in the Dakota Access project. Bruce Gali, a 67-year-old member of the Pitt River Tribe, said that it wasn’t the end until “all the razor wire comes down, until the helicopters stop flying overhead, the spotlights turn off, the drill pad is dismantled.”

Once again, the media showed its bias when it ignored the protests by the water protectors at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Despite it being “the longest-running protest in modern history” with “the largest, most diverse tribal action in at least a century, perhaps since Little Bighorn.” Despite the thousands of U.S. veterans who came to protect the water protectors. Despite the accelerating police militancy. From October 26 through November 3, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC combined spent less than an hour describing the demonstrations and violent law enforcement. In this time period, Fox network spent 4.5 minutes. Sunday “news” shows have ignored the events there since September. The few remaining progressive hosts on MSNBC did cover some of the events at Standing Rock, and Joy Reid invited a member of the tribe to be interviewed for her show—the first and only time that the “mainstream” media did this.

For the time being, however, there is victory at Standing Rock. We’ll see how the media treats this event.

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