Nel's New Day

May 20, 2019

Watch DDT’s Stonewalling Crumble

 

Personal issues have kept me from writing the past week, but today’s news is so outstanding that I couldn’t resist writing about it. (Within the next few days, I’ll catch up on last week’s news.)

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), who is frantically trying to hide all his personal affairs from the public, lost big in court for a beginning fight with Congress. A federal judge upheld a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee for eight years of DDT’s tax returns from his accounting firm, Mazars USA, and rejected arguments from DDT’s lawyers that Congress has no power to obtain the files. These records could show financial misconduct by DDT and his associates.

The judge’s ruling is in accord with opinion from the Supreme Court that Congress has the power to collect “needed information” as a fundamental “attribute of the power to legislate” for the constitutional authority to Congress for all “legislative Powers.” The Constitution also bans courts from interfering with congressional subpoenas issued for legitimate legislative purpose. Courts cannot search for some covert illicit motive from Congress. The judge stated that the House Oversight Committee met this low hurdle.

The Oversight Committee listed four reasons to investigate DDT’s finances:

Accurate finance reporting to the Office of Goverment Ethics to help Congress determine “whether reforms are necessary to address deficiencies with current laws, rules, and regulations.” That goal clearly “falls within the legislative sphere.”

Complying with the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause that bars a president from accepting gifts from foreign governments without congressional consent.

Failing to disclose “conflicts of interest that may impair his ability to make impartial policy decisions” regarding legislation about ethics of government officials.

Engaging “in illegal conduct before and during his tenure in office.”

The judge noted that the Watergate scandal led to new legislation, including laws on transparency and oversight. DDT’s argument, he wrote, “flies in the face of decades of legislation covering the President.”

In his 41-page ruling, the judge wrote:

“It is simply not fathomable that a Constitution that grants Congress the power to remove a President for reasons including criminal behavior would deny Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct—past or present—even without formally opening an impeachment inquiry.”

In opposition to the argument from DDT’s lawyers that Congress was usurping the DOJ’s powers to investigate “dubious and partisan” allegations of private conduct, the judge said that a congressional investigation into illegal conduct before and during a president’s time in office fits “comfortably” with Congress’s broad investigative powers, which include an “informing function,” or the power to expose corruption.

The judge also wrote that the House Oversight Committee had “facially valid legislative purposes” for its subpoena:

“It is not for the court to question whether the Committee’s actions are truly motivated by political considerations.”

The judge refused a stay until DDT’s lawyers can appeal his finding. He gave them seven days for an appeal, and Mazars has seven days to turn over DDT’s tax returns. The judge wrote:

“The court is well aware that this case involves records concerning the private and business affairs of the President of the United States. But on the question of whether to grant a stay pending appeal, the President is subject to the same legal standard as any other litigant that does not prevail.”

DDT keeps complaining about how no other president has ever faced this situation, but DDT is unique in never having disclosed his tax returns, declining to divest from his extensive business dealings including those with foreigners abroad, and refusing to put his assets in a blind trust. His former lawyer Michael Cohen has testified under oath about DDT’s fraudulently inflating and deflating the same assets’ value to benefit his business transactions.

The judge opened by comparing DDT’s lawsuit to President James Buchanan’s similar effort to block an investigation into his affairs and noted that DDT has “taken up [Buchanan’s] fight.” The judge reported that he declined to put his ruling on hold while DDT appeals because the president failed to raise a “serious legal question going to the merits.” James Buchanan, one of the country’s worst leaders who blamed for failing to prevent the Civil War, also whined about about “harassing” congressional inquiries. The judge also pointed out that Congress began its investigation into Bill Clinton before he entered the White House and noted:

“Congress plainly views itself as having sweeping authority to investigate illegal conduct of a President, before and after taking office. This court is not prepared to roll back the tide of history.”

In another attempt to hide from House investigation, DDT ordered former White House counsel Don McGahn to ignore a subpoena to appear before the House tomorrow to testify about his interviews with Robert Mueller for his investigation. No longer employed by the government, McGahn is the second after Mazars to test DDT’s success in his demand to resist “all” subpoenas by House members. Earlier, McGahn followed White House directions when he defied a subpoena by refusing to provide documents shared with Mueller relevant to the House inquiry into potential abuses of power.

The DOJ has provided a 15-page opinion stating that McGahn cannot be forced to testify, but it uses no case law to support the opinion. Instead, it is based on past DOJ legal memos. DDT is claiming “executive privilege” to keep the House from obtaining any information, but this privilege can’t be used to hide potential evidence of a crime.If the House holds McGahn in contempt of Congress for not appearing before the House Judiciary Committee, as Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has threatened, McGahn could face disbarment.

The claim from DDT’s lawyers that other administrations have given senior aides “absolute immunity” resulted in failure by other administrations. A judge appointed by George W. Bush ruled that W.’s former White House counsel, Harriet Miers, could not reject a subpoena, and W. didn’t appeal the ruling. One of President Obama’s appointed judges ruled against privilege for documents whose “sum and substance” were already revealed in a public inspector general report.

On Wednesday, the House Intelligence Committee will vote whether to enforce its subpoena for the release of still-redacted portions of Mueller’s report and certain underlying materials. That day, DDT, his three eldest children, and his company go to court in an attempt to block a subpoena from the House Financial Services Committee for DDT’s bank records from Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One as well as documents related to “possible money-laundering by people in Russia and Eastern Europe.”

New revelations show that DDT’s and Jared Kushner’s accounts at Deutsche Bank were flagged in summer 2016 for possible money laundering transactions but not turned over to authorities. After money in Kushner Companies was moved to Russians, “a suspicious activity report” and supporting documents were moved to Deutsche’s private-banking division in New York where managers have a relationship with Kushner. The same situation occurred with DDT’s transactions. No information was filed with the Treasury Department, as law requires. The person reporting the suspicious activity was first told to ignore it and was then fired after she pursued it.

In 2004, despite knowing that DDT inflated his net worth, Deutsche Bank lent DDT over $500 million to build a 92-story building in Chicago. The bank also were told DDT had “worked with people in the construction industry connected to organized crime.” Ten years later, the bank was willing to massively exaggerate its vouching that DDT’s net worth was $8.7 billion for him to buy the Buffalo Bills.

With a history of corruption, Deutsche Bank paid hundreds of millions in penalties and is now required to increase its efforts to prevent illicit activities.

The House Intelligence Committee released transcripts of Michael Cohen’s private interviews, including how DDT’s lawyers told him to lie to Congress in his testimony. A person with ties to DDT also suggested Cohen could be pardoned for his discreet testimony. Details here.

While DDT is trying to avoid subpoenas and transparency about his affairs, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) has infuriated Republicans by being the first GOP legislator to claim that DDT “engaged in impeachable conduct” based on the Mueller report. GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) then smeared and lied about Amash, who does ask questions in hearings. At least 68 percent of Amash’s votes are with DDT. Conservatives are now peddling the conspiracy theory that Amash plans to run against DDT for president in 2020.

Amash’s Twitter thread provides background for his position, including his claim that DDT’s fixer AG Bill Barr had “deliberately misrepresented” the findings. Amash pointed out that “few members of Congress even read Mueller’s report.” He tweeted:

“When loyalty to a political party or to an individual trumps loyalty to the Constitution, the Rule of Law—the foundation of liberty—crumbles.”

We hope that liberty will cause DDT’s stonewalling to crumble. [Thanks to Cynthia Cox Cottam for the above image.]

[Note: Those who wish to read more about the news above and/or factcheck the material may wish to use the links.]

February 9, 2019

Brexit, ‘Executive Time,’ More

The media has not released any jaw-dropping news about Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) today, so it’s time for catch-up with outrageous happenings during the past few weeks.

With the ongoing disasters in the United States, including a 35-day government shutdown, many people ignore events “across the pond.” In 47 days, the United Kingdom is scheduled to separate from the European Union, and, like in many U.S. debacles, the UK has no plan for the separation. In a world-wide promotion of chaos, Russia “encouraged” people to vote in favor of Brexit, a British exit from the EU, a few months before the U.S. chaos resulting from DDT’s election. The deadline for departure, with or without a plan, was scheduled for March 29, 2019—which seemed a long time away in summer of 2016. As the deadline arrives in less than seven weeks, UK has no agreed-upon plan.

The UK has been bleeding industries and jobs since the vote, and the momentum is building. Companies are making up backup plans as well as stockpiling products and looking for new shipping routes, and international banks have shifted thousands of jobs from Britain to the EU. Of 1,200 surveyed business leaders, 16 percent already have relocation plans, and another 13 percent are considering moves. That’s in addition to the ones which have already gone. The Netherlands reported that its government is talking to over 250 companies about moving their operations from the UK before Brexit. Forty-two companies or branch offices moved 1,923 jobs from the UK last year. Britain’s economy is 2.3 percent smaller than if voters had agreed to stay in the EU, and investment in the automobile sector plunged by almost 50 percent in 2018.

The World Travel and Tourism Council warned Britain that leaving the European Union without an agreement could cost 308,000 UK-based jobs and another 399,000 jobs in the EU from loss of tourism. An analysis from the International Monetary Fund also projects a 7.7 percent decline in economic activity with a total cost to Europe of over £40 billion.

Recently, the HM Revenue and Customs told 145,000 businesses that without a deal between UK and EU, it won’t check goods from the European Union. The average trailer has 400 consignments, each requiring ten minutes for the 40-answer declaration, requiring nine people eight hours to process just one trailer. Ferry operators and Eurotunnel were ordered be accept the word of “reasonable belief” customers. To avoid traffic jams at 20 of the busiest ports, haulers can declare the loads later, and companies can postpone paying import duties for up to a year.

Some people envision security problems from this decision. UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid refused to disagree with claims that a no-deal Brexit would make the country less safe. The head of criminals records office, Rob Price said that dangerous criminals might be free in Britain if law enforcement cannot access European conviction records.

An indication of how frightening the Brexit may be for the UK comes from the report about plans for the emergency evacuation of Queen Elizabeth if rioting ensues. People in UK are already stockpiling groceries, medicines, and other supplies, and a possible lack of cash and imports could result in civil unrest. Compounding the problem is that Brexit disagreement is based on “identity politics” from white nationalism instead of economics.

Back in the U.S., DDT is in a rage about a recent White House leak. He raved about how much he liked “doing it” when asked if he would run for a second term, but  a White House leak shows that about 60 percent of DDT’s schedule since the midterm elections was “Executive Time,” even the month when he claimed he was working hard to reopen the government and facing crises in his cabinet and Syria. DDT’s first five hours in the day are “Executive Time” (aka down time) almost always in his residence “watching TV, reading newspapers and responding to what he sees and reads by phoning aides, members of Congress, friends, administration officials and informal advisers.” Salon’s Heather Digby Parton wrote, “Fox has become Trump’s de facto kitchen cabinet and unofficial communications office, creating a tight feedback loop between the far right and the White House.” Compared to this executive time, 77 hours of DDT’s time has been in meetings for policy planning, legislative strategy, and video showings.

Madeleine Westerhout, DDT’s personal secretary, tweeted about “the hundreds of calls and meetings @realDonaldTrump takes everyday [sic].” If she is right, why were all these omitted from an official schedule?

The DDT’s defense from Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

“[DDT] has a different leadership style than his predecessors, and the results speak for themselves.”

According to Sanders, DDT’s over 300 hours of unstructured time is “to allow for a more creative environment that has helped make him the most productive president in modern history.” Newt Gingrich went farther to defend DDT by comparing him to Winston Churchill.

Beyond the fact that DDT doesn’t work much—not a new revelation—is that a White House staffer is willing to release this information. DDT is frantically searching for the leaker. DDT’s schedules since the 2018 midterm elections have been published here.

DDT’s aides are also unhappy with their boss. A revolt against DDT’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Pascale, is imminent, especially after he misrepresented the DDT’s polling regarding the shutdown, representing them as a political winner for DDT. Corey Lewandowski, DDT’s first campaign manager in 2016, blames Pascale for the Democratic wins in the 2018 midterms.

Having destroyed two federal agencies and failing at his job as “acting” White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, unhappy with his current gig, wants to move on to ruin something else—either the Commerce Department, which already has a Secretary, or president of the University of South Carolina. Still the Office of Management and Budget director, Mulvaney briefly headed up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which may need to change its name to Corrupt Business Protection Bureau after a few months with Mulvaney. In a complete 180-turn from two years ago, Mulvaney said “nobody cares” about the deficit. Congress will be required to address raising the debt limit in March after over a $1 trillion deficit last year—at the latest in Summer 2019. Perhaps Mulvaney wants to be gone by then.

Deutsche Bank refused to loan money to DDT in 2016 when he was funding his presidential campaign and expanding his business at the same time, specifically asking for a loan against a Miami property to pay for work on the Turnberry golf course in Scotland. DDT still owes at least $130 million to Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, and bank officials are concerned about DDT defaulting on the loan if he is elected as president. The choice would be losing the money or seizing assets of the President of the United States.

The EU is investigating Deutsch Bank for possible money laundering by Danske Bank’s moving cash abroad. Democrats in the U.S. are carefully watching this investigation as they follow the “Trump money trail.” Deutsche Bank has been fined hundreds of millions of dollars for allowing Russian money laundering of massive sums. The bank also sold financial products to the Mercer family who bankrolled DDT’s campaign. The Mercers are now negotiating with the IRS because they used Deutsche Bank to dodge more than $6 billion in taxes to the United States.

Maryland prosecutors have subpoenaed financial documents about DDT’s golf courses in Scotland in their investigation a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution as DDT profits from his businesses. An investigation into expenditures by DDT’s inaugural committee may do the same with the revelation that it paid $700,000 to DDT’s Washington, D.C. hotel for events over four days when other venues donated their premises for the inauguration.

A Russian-born lobbyist at the investigated Trump Tower meeting with Don Trump Jr. and others in June 2016 received half a million dollars in payments before and after the meeting. The large cash deposits to Rinat Akhmetshin were deemed suspicious transactions by bank investigators.

In a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, Commander Jonathan White, in charge of overseeing migrant children shelters, said he was unaware of the “zero tolerance” policy causing separation of children and parents until he saw the news on television after being told that the policy didn’t exist. Government officials say that children are still being separated, with situations such as lying to an eight-year-old boy who was told he would see his father at a shelter over 2,000 miles away. ICE gave the wrong baby to a mother who had lost all four of her children.

DDT may think that the border needs another 3,700 soldiers to confine a caravan of about 2,000 at the southern border, but New Mexico’s governor Michelle Lujan ordered the withdrawal of most of the National Guard troops deployed on the border. She declared the “crisis” to be bogus because the state’s border towns are some of the safest in the country. Texas has also sent 500 state troopers to the border. New law enforcement outnumbers the immigrants 2 to 1.

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