Nel's New Day

December 18, 2016

Electoral College Votes Tomorrow

Religious faith is turning electoral voters against Donald Trump (DT) after 80 percent of the evangelical world supported him before the election. One so-called “faithless elector” in the Electoral College, Christopher Suprun, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which he said that he would vote for someone else than DT. Texas state law permits him to do so. The Republican called DT unfit for office:

 “Given [Trump’s] own public statements, it isn’t clear how the Electoral College can ignore these issues, and so it should reject him.”

Suprun detailed his concerns about DT such as his promotion of violence against Trump-protesters, his choice of advisers he writes. Asked if his faith influenced his decision to vote against Trump, the Roman Catholic paramedic and former firefighter said, “Of course.” He added that he learned from his faith that “it is allowable to choose the lesser of two evils.”

A former Texas electoral voter, Art Sisernos, stepped down from the Electoral College because supporting Trump would “bring dishonor to God,” but he couldn’t break his pledge to the Texas GOP to vote for the Republican candidate. A number of electoral voters struggling between their political requirements and their faith are Mormons who see DT as an opponent of the U.S. Constitution.

The members of the Electoral College lobbying for casting ballots for a moderate GOP instead of DT call themselves “Hamilton Electors,” referring to the constitutional process of voting for the president. In a Federalist Paper, Alexander Hamilton wrote that the Electoral College should be an “intermediate body” that’s less exposed to the people’s “heats and ferments.”

Hamilton Electors argue that DT is a threat to U.S democracy because of his unfit temperament as a tyrant and demagogue, his threat to world peace and closeness to Russia, and his corruption with his personal dealings. Another argument is that the Founding Fathers envisioned the electors preventing “an irresponsible demagogue from taking office,” according to Atlantic’s Peter Beinart.

In the Electoral College, the 538 people selecting the President of the United States (two senators plus the number of representatives from each state plus another three from Washington, D.C.) cast ballots tomorrow.  Twenty-nine states require these “electoral voters” to select the person who the state chose in its popular vote. Maine and Nebraska are the only states to not vote in a block for the popular vote; they divide the vote based on the percentage of the votes for president in the state. The votes are read in a special joint session of Congress on January 6 when the official winner is declared.

Seuss satires took over Twitter in October. Here is a recent one from John Pavlovitz, a pastor in Raleigh.

trump-seuss

HOW THE TRUMP STOLE AMERICA

john-pavlovitzIn a land where the states are united, they claim,

in a sky-scraping tower adorned with his name,

lived a terrible, horrible, devious chump,

the bright orange miscreant known as the Trump.

 

This Trump he was mean, such a mean little man,

with the tiniest heart and two tinier hands,

and a thin set of lips etched in permanent curl,

and a sneer and a scowl and contempt for the world.

 

He looked down from his perch and he grinned ear to ear,

and he thought, “I could steal the election this year!

It’d be rather simple, it’s so easily won,

I’ll just make them believe that their best days are done!

Yes, I’ll make them believe that it’s all gone to Hell,

and I’ll be Jerk Messiah and their souls they will sell.

 

And I’ll use lots of words disconnected from truth,

but I’ll say them with style so they won’t ask for proof.

I’ll toss out random platitudes, phrases, and such,

They’re so raised on fake news that it won’t matter much!

They won’t question the how to, the what, why, or when,

I will make their America great once again!”

 

The Trump told them to fear, they should fear he would say,

“They’ve all come for your jobs, they’ll all take them away.

You should fear every Muslim and Mexican too,

every brown, black, and tan one, everyone who votes blue.”

 

And he fooled all the Christians, he fooled them indeed,

He just trotted out Jesus, that’s all Jesus folk need.

And celebrity preachers they all crowned him as king,

Tripping over themselves just to kiss the Trump’s ring.

 

And he spoke only lies just as if they were true,

Until they believed all of those lies were true too.

He repeated and Tweeted and he blustered and spit,

And he mislead and fibbed—and he just made up sh*t.

 

And the media laughed but they printed each line,

thinking “He’ll never will win, in the end we’ll be fine.”

So they chased every headline, bold typed every claim,

‘Till the fake news and real news they looked just the same.

 

And the scared folk who listened, they devoured each word,

Yes, they ate it all up every word that they heard,

petrified that their freedom was under attack,

trusting Trump he would take their America back.

From the gays and from ISIS, he’d take it all back,

Take it back from the Democrats, fat cats, and blacks.

And so hook, line, and sinker they all took the bait,

all his lies about making America great.

 

Now the Pant-suited One she was smart and prepared,

she was brilliant and steady but none of them cared,

no they cared not to see all the work that she’d done,

or the fact they the Trump had not yet done thing one.

They could only shout “Emails!”, yes “Emails!” they’d shout,

because Fox News had told them—and Fox News had clout.

And the Pant-suited One she was slandered no end,

and a lie became truth she could never defend.

And the Trump watched it all go according to plan—

a strong woman eclipsed by an insecure man.

 

And November the 8th arrived, finally it came,

like a slow-moving storm but it came just the same.

And Tuesday became Wednesday as those days will do,

And the night turned to morning and the nightmare came true,

With millions of non-voters still in their beds,

Yes, the Trump he had done it, just like he had said.

 

And the Trumpers they trumped, how they trumped when he won,

All the racists and bigots; deplorable ones,

they crawled out from the woodwork, came out to raise Hell,

they came out to be hateful and hurtful as well.

With slurs and with road signs, with spray paint and Tweets,

with death threats to neighbors and taunts on the street.

And the grossest of grossness they hurled on their peers,

while the Trump he said zilch—for the first time in years.

 

But he Tweeted at Hamilton, he Tweeted the Times,

And he trolled Alec Baldwin a few hundred times,

and he pouted a pout like a petulant kid,

thinking this is what Presidents actually did,

thinking he could still be a perpetual jerk,

terrified to learn he had to actually work,

work for every American, not just for a few,

not just for the white ones—there was much more to do.

He now worked for the Muslims and Mexicans too,

for the brown, black, and tan ones, and the ones who vote blue.

They were all now his bosses, now they all had a say,

and those nasty pant-suited ones were here to stay.

And the Trump he soon realized that he didn’t win,

He had gotten the thing—and the thing now had him.

 

And it turned out the Trump was a little too late,

for America was already more than quite great,

not because of the sameness, the opposite’s true,

It’s greatness far more than just red, white, and blue,

It’s straight, gay, and female—it’s Gentile and Jew,

It’s Transgender and Christian and Atheist too.

It’s Asians, Caucasians of every kind,

The disabled and abled, the deaf and the blind,

It’s immigrants, Muslims, and brave refugees,

It’s Liberals with bleeding hearts fixed to their sleeves.

And we are all staying, we’re staying right here,

and we’ll be the great bane of the Trump for four years.

And we’ll be twice as loud as the loudness of hate,

be the greatness that makes our America great.

And the Trump’s loudest boasts they won’t ever obscure,

over two million more of us—voted for her.

 

You can see Pavlovitz’s latest post about DT here and follow his blog, Stuff That Needs To Be Said.

November 27, 2016

Trump Makes Money from Presidency

In a letter to Eugene’s Register-Guard, self-identified “deplorable” further proved that Donald Trump (DT) supporters live in a fantasy land when she concluded by stating that “we can all agree that President-elect Trump is not in it for the money.” And she was being serious. A run-down of DT’s conflicts of interest show how wrong she is.

DT’s extensive global business dealings brings the total to 150 companies in at least 25 countries. The true extent is not known because of DT’s refusal to release his tax information. Richard Painter, Chief Ethics Counsel for George W. Bush, said:

“If we’ve got to talk to a foreign government about their behavior, or negotiate a treaty, or some country asks us to send our troops in to defend someone else, we’ve got to make a decision. And the question becomes: Are we going in out of our national interest, or because there’s a Trump casino around?”

Philippines: President Rodrigo Duterte has named Jose E.B. Antonio, DT’s partner in a $150 million tower in Manila, a special envoy to the U.S. Antonio met with DT’s children for a private meeting after the election, and his son, Robbie Antonio, said that his father and the Trumps plan other Trump-branded resorts in the country. Duterte wants U.S. troops out of his country; he has killed thousands of suspected criminals without trial.

South Korea: As partner in a South Korean company involved in nuclear energy, DT wants the country to take care of its own military defense rather than counting on the U.S.—including the development of nuclear weapons.

Brazil: The beachfront Trump Hotel Rio de Janeiro—financially branded but not owned by DT—is part of an investigation regarding illicit commissions and bribes resulted in favoritism by two pension funds invested in the project.

Argentina: DT reportedly asked President Mauricio Macri to approve long-delayed permits for the Buenos Aires Trump high rise. Although DT denied doing this, permits were granted the next day.

India: Builders on DT’s real estate ventures are tied to the country’s most important political party. With more projects underway than in any other location outside the U.S., DT can obtain special government favors, including reductions in loans from state-owned banks, as low as 8 percent from the typical 15 percent. A week after he was elected, DT and his children met with their Indian business partners who said that they discussed the expansion of their Trump dealings because he is the president-elect. An official said that meeting with the U.S. president’s son can be the same as a meeting with the president. One DT project is under investigation for fraudulent permits. Black money—money on which taxes have not been paid—is commonly invested in real estate, and special political favors leads to windfall profits. Bribes are so common that bureaucrats have rate sheets showing how much to each official.

trump-hindu-sena

[DT as member of “Hindu Sena,” or Hindu Army, a local organization. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)]

Ireland: DT wants a flood-prevention sea wall on the coast that would endanger an endangered snail’s habitat and sand dunes near the course, both protected by European Union rules.

Britain: DT has spoken with British politicians in opposition to wind farms that he believes will mar the view from his golf course in Scotland.

Turkey: Officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a religiously conservative Muslim, had demanded that DT’s name be removed from Trump Towers in Istanbul after he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. DT suggested that Erdogan can crack down harshly on dissidents after the recent, failed coup, and Erdogan’s calls for action against Trump Towers have stopped. In his offshore manufacturing, DT maintains his partnership in a company making luxury furniture and sold under the Trump Home Collection. DT has said that he has “a little conflict of interest [in Turkey].”

Saudi Arabia: During his campaign, DT started eight hotel projects in this oil-rich Arab kingdom that he said he “would want to protect.” Citing all the money that people from Saudi Arabia give him, DT said, “Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”

Russia: DT made millions with the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. In 2008, DT, Jr., said that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” adding that “we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

U.S.: DT is urging diplomats to stay at his new Washington, D.C. hotel when they are in town for official business. He owns a government lease for the hotel although the lease states that it cannot be held by a government official. His on-going labor disputes in Nevada may be solved by his appointments of all five members of the National Labor Relations Board. DT also owns stock in the company building the pipeline where protesters are trying to protect water and Native American sacred land in the Dakotas.

Other Global Issues: DT has a failed project in Toronto which was funded by Chinese investors and a dispute with Deutsche Bank, also owing them possibly billions of dollars. The bank is negotiating with the U.S. after lying to investors about its involvement in subprime mortgages during the housing crisis and ensuing global recession. The DOJ opened with $14 billion, but the deal could be sweetened in exchange for lessening DT’s loans, especially because the bank is being investigated for shady equity trades benefiting Russian clients.

Ivanka Trump plans to make money off DT’s election. After the family appeared on 60 Minutes, her business urged reporters to write about the $10,800 gold bangle bracelet she wore during the interview. She has also participated in conversations with at least three world leaders: Turkey, Argentina and Japan. DT was given a gold driver worth $4,000 at the meeting with Japanese officials.

Another issue is identifying responsibility for protecting Trump properties, possibly against terrorism, around the world. David J. Kramer, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor during the George W. Bush administration, said DT’s financial situation could stop the government from using the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, that attempts to prevent contractors from paying bribes to secure government work abroad.

Even without overt DT action, officials in foreign countries may feel pressured to support his businesses by moving forward building permits or pushing more business to DT’s hotels or golf courses. DT’s diplomats may also not wish to frustrate his business partners or political allies.

Republicans were virulently opposed to Hillary Clinton’s potential involvement in the Clinton Foundation, and at least one representative, Justin Amash from Michigan, is now calling on DT to be transparent. Amash tweeted, “If you have contracts w/foreign govts, it’s certainly a big deal, too. #DrainTheSwamp.” As DT rearranges the alligators in the deepening swamp, almost no Republicans are mentioning the murky morass. Instead they plan to investigate Hillary Clinton’s emails.

DT has already pointed out that there is no law against his conflict of interest. At this time, he is ignoring the Emoluments Clause (Article 1, Section 9) in the U.S. Constitution, “emolument” meaning compensation for labor or services. The clause states that “no person holding any office of profit or trust” shall “accept of any present, emolument, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state” unless Congress consents. This provision could go as far as preventing DT from renting space in his New York tower to the Bank of China or hosting foreign diplomats in one of his hotels.

When President Obama took office, David J. Barron, a Justice Department official who is now a federal appeals court judge in Boston, declared that the clause “surely” applies to the president and money can be barred if it comes from a foreign state. Barron added, “Corporations owned or controlled by a foreign government are presumptively foreign states under the Emoluments Clause.”

The Supreme Court has no rulings about this clause because no previous president has refused to give up his businesses when taking over the office. The question is who would have standing to challenge the President of the United States. Violations may require impeachment and not a lawsuit, something that a GOP-controlled House of Representatives is unlikely to do. Yet Virginia Gov. Edmund Jennings Randolph stated during a Constitutional debate in June 1788 that a violation of the provision by the President would be grounds for impeachment.

Legal scholars are calling on Electoral Voters to not make DT the next president unless he follows earlier presidents in selling his companies and putting the proceeds in a blind trust. Harvard Law Professor Larry Tribe, a preeminent constitutional scholar, said, “[T]o vote for Trump in the absence of such complete divestment… would represent an abdication of the solemn duties of the 538 Electors.” Painter and Norman Eisen, President Obama’s Chief Ethics Counsel, joined Tribe in this opinion. DT could agree to have his businesses audited and any payment from a foreign government turned over to the United States, Painter suggested, but Tribe does not think this action would actually cure the Constitutional violation. DT won’t do this anyway.

If DT makes no changes before he takes the Oath of Office, he would immediately violate his promise not to be “indebted to, or otherwise the recipient of financial remuneration from, any foreign power or entity answerable to such a power.” Taking the oath would qualify him for one of the “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” that would require him to be “removed from Office.” The only alternative is for Congress to “endorse Trump’s exploitation of public office for private gain and authorize his emoluments as the Constitution allows,” according to Eisen.

Eisen summarized the situation perfectly: Swearing in DT without his selling his properties would force the U.S. into a “wholesale oligarchic kleptocracy of a kind that we have never seen before in our history.” Without taking action, the GOP can find itself in the midst of a constitutional crisis.

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