Nel's New Day

March 16, 2020

Congress, Russia, Saudi, Corruption

Last Friday night, the House passed a covid-19 bill by a large bipartisan majority. Unfortunately, it needed a “technical fix,” which requires a unanimous vote if the House isn’t called back into session. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) delayed the vote because he didn’t want a “rushed process,” according to Bloomberg reporter Laura Litvan. He also said that he didn’t know if it can be solved soon. The fix addressed virus-related sick leave for small firms. Gohmert finally withdrew his opposition after Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin gave DDT’s stamp of approval. Because of virus concerns, the House has postponed a return to Washington for an indefinite time.

The Senate recessed for the weekend and is stalling before considering the emergency bill until after it considers the surveillance bill that the House passed last week. (That one’s a doozy: it includes the provision that AG Bill Barr must approve in writing any investigation of an elected official and/or a candidate.) Even after the Senate addresses the covid-19 bill, there will be vitriolic discussions. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) told Fox & Friends that the bill may not pass the Senate because senators don’t want sick leave for people home with the virus. He wants tax rebates which could take far more time to be reimbursed than paid sick leave.

The Senate couldn’t meet over the weekend because Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had to go home with Justice Brett Kavanaugh to celebrate the new 37-year-old federal judge, considered the most unqualified judge that McConnell has ever pushed through confirmation. It’s called campaigning for the fall election.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) [right] also complained about the paid sick leave because it might hurt businesses although the bill covers the cost with a tax credit. Without sick leave, most of these people with covid-19 will go to work and spread the disease. Johnson said it might be better for the Senate to “pass nothing at all.”

Last week, Johnson pulled a vote on a subpoena from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that he hoped would find damaging information about Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, in Ukraine. A bipartisan group persuaded him about the Ukrainian’s unreliability as a source for the committee’s investigation. The vote, however, is only postponed. Johnson said he will issue a subpoena to a lobbying firm for the Ukrainian energy company paying Hunter Biden as a board member. Committee staff members have worked on investigations helping DDT in his reelection campaign. U.S. intelligence agencies maintain that Andrii Telizhenko, Johnson’s source, has spread disinformation about Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 election to minimize actual Russian interference. Telizhenko, a friend of Rudy Giuliani, has appeared on the ultra-conservative One America News Network.

While DDT struggles with rapidly increasing numbers of covid-19 cases and deaths in the U.S., Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues his path to keep power in his country. He detained four senior princes, possible heirs to the throne, in Riyadh, including MBS’s uncle Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz and cousin Mohammed bin Nayef. They were charged with treason which carries the death penalty. MBS had replaced Nayef as crown prince in 2017 and has run the kingdom since then. Prince Ahmed returned to Saudi from Britain after assurances that he would be safe. MBS consolidated his power in 2017 by arresting hundreds of princes, government ministers, and business people and detaining them in Riyadh.

Saudi is struggling with dropping oil prices and MBS’ decision to block pilgrims from Mecca because of the virus outbreak. Aramco’s profits dropped 21 percent last year to $88.2 billion, and it is lowering capital spending for 2020. The world has also not forgotten MBS’ murder of U.S. resident and journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. MBS is now repeating his 2017 actions by arresting hundreds more government officials, including military and security officers, for bribery and exploiting public office. The purge also added 16 more princes, two members of the council which decides the throne’s succession, and two judges.

In late February, MSP Patrick Harvie of the Scottish Parliament asked his colleagues to investigate DDT’s deals in which he acquired his Scotland properties, including the two multi-million dollar golf courses. Harvie said that DDT or people he’s tied with could be connected to serious crime and is seeking an “unexplained wealth order” from a Scottish court. The order is for “suspected foreign officials who have potentially laundered stolen money through the UK.” If the subject “cannot show a legitimate source for their riches,” the government can seize properties.

History will remember that Utah’s Mitt Romney was the only GOP senator who voted to impeach DDT. Payoffs for other GOP senators who claimed they voted against impeachment because DDT had “learned his lesson”:

  • Lamar Alexander (TN) – $9 million for high-speed broadband infrastructure projects;
  • Susan Collins (ME) – $9.5 million for affordable housing units;
  • Cory Gardner (CO) – $20 million for airport upgrades;
  • Lisa Murkowski (AK) – $20 million Port Infrastructure Development Program grant for Phase One costs at the Port of Alaska.

Collins, up for a difficult reelection this year, voted to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh despite his anti-abortion stand and for the tax cut benefiting the wealthy and big business even if she said she didn’t like it. She’s at the bottom of the Senate popularity contest and may lower her rating with the latest find. In 2009, she refused to include pandemic flu funding in an economic stimulus bill during the Great Recession. Democrats warned that the $870 million from the $787 billion would keep them from fighting an infectious disease outbreak, but she promised to withdraw her vote for the bill if that money was included. She said the funds “do not boost our economy” and persuaded two other Republicans to follow her example.

Eric Prince, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ brother and heir to $1 billion, advises DDT and almost persuaded him to let Prince set up a private military service for the U.S.. Congress accused Prince of lying under oath and referred criminal charges to the DOJ, a useless action since Bill Barr became AG. In the past, Prince moved to the UAE to keep from federal prosecution and claims that he is untouchable. Now the FBI is investigating Prince for trying to modify two U.S. crop-dusting planes into attack aircraft, a violation of arms trafficking regulations. He used the planes as part of the private services he suggested selling or using in Africa and Azerbaijan. The FBI investigation includes his lying to Congress and an armed aviation proposal to the UAE along with heightened scrutiny of Barr.

Prince has recruited U.S. and British spies to work with the right-wing group Project Veritas, known for doctored videos in false stings, to infiltrate at least one Democratic congressional campaign for Abigail Spanberger and organizations “considered hostile” to DDT. Ex MI6 officer Richard Seddon ran a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in an office of the teachers’ union AFT. In late 2015 or early 2016, Prince arranged for James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas to receive training in intelligence and elicitation techniques from a retired military intelligence operative named Euripides Rubio Jr. Rubio soon quit, saying that the Veritas group couldn’t learn.

DDT’s defense against Russian interference to elect him is to repeat that he’s tough on Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin. Here are some of DDT’s favors for Russia:

  • DDT appointed his own loyalists to head up the intelligence agencies who ordered employees not to release information and who say that there’s no evidence of Russian interference.
  • DDT sent anti-tank missiles to Ukraine under conditions that make them useless against Russia.
  • DDT spread a disinformation campaign that Ukraine was responsible for the election interference, not Russia.
  • DDT protected Russia by withholding aid to Ukraine until publicity made him uncomfortable.
  • DDT still refuses to invite Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House to help Zelensky negotiate with Putin.
  • DDT’s sanctions on Iran helps Russia by boosting the price of oil.
  • DDT strengthened Russia’s longtime ally, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and ended support for moderate Syrian rebels which Russia wants.
  • DDT removed U.S. forces out of northern Syria, abandoned the Kurdish U.S. allies, and allowed Russians to move into abandoned U.S. bases.
  • DDT helped Russia in Libya by giving Khalifa Hifter information for overthrowing a UN-backed government in Tripoli.
  • Sanctions on Russia were done over DDT’ objections, and DDT persuaded the GOP Senate to lift them on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
  • DDT weakened NATO through incessant criticism and portrayal of the members as deadbeats.
  • DDT always believes Putin and never criticizes him.
  • DDT’s biggest help for Russia is his spreading chaos in the U.S. and its government through polarization of the U.S. people and denigrating U.S. intelligence officers and diplomats.

As the commentator on a popular Russian TV show said:

“I look at Trump and think: ‘May God grant him good health — and another term.’ This is a great situation for Russia.”

And the Republican Party blindly backs DDT and pro-Russia policies against U.S. benefits.

April 20, 2019

DDT: Week 117 – Brief Euphoria Leads to Fury

AG Bill Barr’s release of the Mueller Report—at least pieces of it—consumed the news last week with Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) going from euphoria when he thought he was exonerated to fear and anger after the public and Congress saw a partial report. Despite Barr’s desperate lies and omissions to convince people that DDT was off the hook, questions about his conflicts of interest also damage his spin on DDT’s “innocence.” In the past, Barr worked for a law firm representing Russia’s Alfa Bank and for a company with long-time business connections with Russia. He also received dividends from Vector Group with deep financial ties to Russia that brought DDT to Moscow to discuss investments there. Deutsche Bank, the only one recently willing to lend money to DDT and implicated in money-laundering schemes, holds up to $250,000 of Barr’s assets. These facts were largely overlooked in the Senate confirmation hearings, but the House is guaranteed to dig deeper into Barr’s Russian relationships—likely finding a web of people involved in both the scandal and attempts to bury it in addition to Barr’s past history of lying.

Noted journalist Jane Mayer also wrote an article of how Eric Prince, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ brother and Blackwater founder, funded an attempt to determine “the authenticity of [Clinton’s] emails” that DDT requested from Russia. Michael Flynn told Mueller that DDT repeatedly asked to get the emails, and Flynn asked many people who might be able to get them, including Peter Smith who helped finance investigations into Bill Clinton’s sexual relationships in Arkansas. Smith wrote emails explaining that his work on Clinton’s emails was “in coordination with” DDT’s campaign, and Prince helped fund the operation. Smith’s death in May 2017 was ruled a suicide. Barr stated that disseminating stolen information was not a crime unless the person initially stole the information. Another “Trump Defense” that adds to nothing criminal for people who are angry and  fail.

While lying about the Mueller report, Barr issued a ruling that asylum seekers won’t be eligible for bond even they face credible fear in their countries of origin. Instead they’ll be held indefinitely, sometimes years, while immigration courts determine their fate. The ruling means taxpayers pay hundreds of millions of dollars to private companies that house people who could find productive work and pay taxes. Last year’s charge was at least $730 million. Barr justified his authority by stating that he can do this because federal circuit courts have this right—although the DOJ has nothing to do with the judicial system. compared his authority to that of a federal court:

One of Barr’s goals may be to get rid of DDT’s former undocumented housekeeper at DDT’s golf resort in Bedminster (NJ), Victorina Morales, who blew the whistle on DDT’s employees’ penchant for hiring undocumented migrants and then blackmailing them with their status. Morales brought her son to Guatemala after they witnessed a group of men slashing her father-in-law with a machete in an attempt to extort him for money. The AG can refer any cases he wishes to her purview as a political tool to control the immigration system. In greater politicization, Barr is considering an expansion of his power to refer cases to himself that are being considered in addition to those determined by immigration judges.

An DHS advisory group wants Congress to pass “emergency legislation” to detain more children at the southern border. The goal is to block asylum seekers.

DDT, who tried to strongarm the Japanese president into nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize, vetoed the non-binding resolution to leave the war in Yemen causing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Bombing is leaving 14 million Yemenis at risk of famine. One year ago, DDT claimed peace with North Korea. This week, its president, Kim Jong-Un, announced a test-firing of “tactical guided weapon,” showing the world that his nation is moving forward with weapons development. His media also said that North Korean officials won’t accept Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s participation in nuclear talks, requesting someone “more careful and mature in communicating.” Pompeo declared that he’s staying on, that its “my team,” illustrating that North Korea might be right. And once again, a Republican in the Oval Office has failed after triumphantly crying “Mission accomplished.”

Although DDT ignored the three black churches burned down in Louisiana in the past few weeks, he had enough time to give advice to firefighters battling the inferno at Paris’ Cathedral of Notre-Dame—use “flying water tankers.” His suggestion was ignored to preserve the structural integrity of the 850-year-old building. DDT’s pattern of ignoring the plight of non-white people in the U.S. continues his failure to follow through to get clean drinking water in Flint (MI), taken by Republicans in 2014, and provide disaster relief to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria over 18 months ago. Cages for migrant children at the southern border were built with fund designated for Head Start, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, and the National Cancer Institute.

A directive from the New York State Office of Court Administration prevents ICE from arresting people inside courthouses without judicial warrants or orders. With 178 of these arrests in New York state courthouses last year, over 100 times as many as the 11 in 2016, immigrants are increasingly fearful of going to courts. ICE uses administrative warrants, signed by ICE agents instead of judges, to pick up immigrants.

The SEC is requiring ExxonMobil to permit a shareholder vote on a resolution that would require the corporation disclose its political spending, including “dark money” to advocacy and trade organizations. Another vote mandated by the SEC is on a shareholder-proposed resolution to create a committee that reviews and oversees Exxon’s climate change strategy. The votes will be taken at the May 29 annual meeting.

Soon after his inauguration, DDT proudly ordered a new Office within the VA Department to protect whistleblowers from reprisal. The VA is now investigating the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection for assisting in retaliation against whistleblowers. For example, an engineer who reported contracting violations to supervisors and OAWP was stripped of responsibilities and assigned to an office without heat or air conditioning. Others described OAWP’s inactivity and betrayal.

A president cannot put tariffs on items unless the purpose is for national security, but DDT has threatened to put these fees on French wine and cheese after putting high tariffs on soybeans. Now DDT is trying to figure out whether uranium is connected to U.S. security. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) thinks that Congress needs to take back its constitutional power to be in control of tariffs. Maybe the farmers who lost big time on soybeans have some influence on their senator.

In his first campaign, DDT ran on the economy, saying that he would bring back the $2 trillion that wealthy people and corporations have stashed overseas and raise the GDP growth to four percent or over. He’s failed to bring back the money but added his $1.5 trillion tax cut to give money to the rich beneficiaries. At the same time, he’s driving away the immigrants who support his economy and work force.

DDT also runs his trade war in an attempt to help the economy. Exports did slightly climb 1.1% to a four-month high of $209.7 billion, inflated by a 60 percent surge in commercial aircraft to $5.8 billion, but a repeat performance is unlikely after the Boeing 757 MAX planes were grounded. Last year, the trade deficit was the highest in ten years and the second highest in history. Slower growth in imports doesn’t spell victory if people worried about the economy are cutting back on spending. Last year’s trade deficit was over $72 billion more than President Obama’s highest trade deficit in 2013 but $120 billion lower than George H. Bush’s highest deficit in 2006.

DDT sometimes “jokes” to send up trial balloons about the success of his statements. This time, he said he could be in the White House for another ten or 14 years because Chinese President Xi Jinping for doing away with term limits.

The White House was finally a happy place—before the pieces of the Mueller Report were released.  DDT’s aides were sure that he would be re-elected to keep from being indicted, and the statute of limitations would run out before DDT’s second term. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said that immigrations controversies are “really smart” controversies, and DDT planned to get a special investigator for Clinton’s emails and other manufactured scandals. Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law, is running the White House, the RNC, and DDT’s campaign. Whatever DDT doesn’t tell Kushner to do, he offers to his daughter and Kushner’s wife Ivanka, known as “Baby” in meetings. Because DDT considers her qualified to do anything, he suggested she could be UN ambassador and then director of the World Bank. “She’s very good with numbers,” he said.

The smart ones around DDT, however, figured that the euphoria would vanish when the report came out—and it did. By yesterday, his rants were even more profane than usually, calling the Mueller report “bullshit” and retweeting a message from sports fantasy Scott Atkins about the DNC “circle jerk.” Maybe he learned something—like his approval rating going down three points in one day after the Mueller report release. The 37 percent approval is his lowest this year and down six points from when Barr released his lying letter about the report less than a month ago.

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