Nel's New Day

February 28, 2021

DDT Can’t Escape His History

Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) has left the White House and denied access to his favorite communication device, Twitter, but investigations into events during his term in the White House continues to be exposed.  

A recently released report explains how Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was involved in how Jamal Khashoggi, U.S. resident and journalist, was coerced into the Saudi embassy in Turkey for the purpose of torturing him before his murder and dismemberment. DDT consistently covered up MBS’s involvement in the crime for a number of personal reasons. MBS was also a personal friend of DDT’s his son-in-law Jared Kushner. The released intelligence report now fully proves DDT knew about MBS’ involvement in the killing since its occurrence in October 2018 despite his repeated denials.

DDT had been enamored with Saudi Arabia and MBS since his inauguration. His journey to the country was his first foreign trip after he moved into the White House. The media fully covered the visit where he tried to participate in the sword dance and touched  the glowing “orb” along with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and Saudi King Salman. According to MBS, a new book by New York Times reporter Ben Hubbard, DDT was given the orb, but people were afraid the photos people took with it would cause a scandal. Hubbard wrote, “The orb was hidden away in embassy storage.”

DDT’s not-so-secret weapon to derail mail-in voting, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, has reappeared in a congressional hearing. In DeJoy’s first few weeks last June, he cut back workers, overtime, and equipment to drastically slow down first-class mail delivery so much that Congress tried to block him. Despite lost equipment from his beginning, most of the ballots managed to get delivered on time, thanks to the efforts of Democratic legislators. DeJoy has remained in his position because the DDT-appointed board for the postal service is leaving him there. During his hearing last Wednesday, DeJoy showed a high degree of arrogance. When Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) asked him how long he planned to remain as postmaster general, he responded, “Long time. Get used to me.”

In the hearing, DeJoy also promised greater delays in service along with higher prices, including no longer having two-day delivery for first-class mail and limit air transport for it. DeJoy said, “Does it make a difference if it’s an extra day to get a letter?” He didn’t address the fact that some first-class mail isn’t delivered for weeks. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “The Postal Service needs leadership that can and will do a better job.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) joined other Republicans in accusing Democrats of conspiracy theories to create “chaos and confusion” in the information about delayed mail delivery. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) answered Jordan:

“I didn’t vote to overturn an election. And I will not be lectured by people who did.”

During the hearing, President Joe Biden announced his decision to fill the three vacancies on the nine-member USPS board with these nominees: Anton Hajjar, former general counsel for the American Postal Workers Union; Amber McReynolds, chief executive officer of Vote at Homes supporting mail-voting in the 2020 election; and Ron Stroman, a former deputy postmaster general on Biden’s transition team. Stroman quit last year because of DeJoy’s position on delaying the mail. Two of the appointments are Democrats; McReynolds is unaffiliated. She was Denver’s director of elections from 2011 to 2018 where she implemented a complete vote-by-mail elections system for the city. Appointments include two men of color and a woman.

The current DDT-appointed chair, DDT-supporter Ron Bloom, can also be replaced because he took the place of another board member whose term ended in December 2020. All the Republican members on the board are friends of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and, like DeJoy, have donated large sums to both the GOP and DDT. The entire board is composed of wealthy white men with limited postal service

Last week’s hearings included an investigation into the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by the House Appropriations Committee. Key moments:

Intelligence reported to the U.S. Capitol Police headquarters about an attack on January 5, but the department’s leadership wasn’t notified, according to former Chief Steven Sund, who resigned after the insurrection. The FBI sent an email the night before the attack about an eminent attack, but Washington’s acting Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department Robert Contee said a late-night evening email was not sufficient to highlight the threat.

The insurrection was coordinated, with prepared people bringing equipment such as climbing gear, explosives, chemical spray, etc. They used hand signals and radio communications when they breached the building. Some rioters claimed they were caught up in the spirit of the event, but members of far-right extremist groups planned the attack for weeks and months, judging by the criminal charges against them. Even DDT’s lawyers claimed the attack was pre-planned during the impeachment trial.

Pentagon officials were either unable or unwilling to rapidly sent National Guard troops, as evidenced by their delay after desperate pleas for help.

Sund said he asked the two former congressional sergeants of arms for an emergency declaration to call in the National Guard, but neither one recalled the request. According to Sund, Paul Irving said he “was concerned about the ‘optics’ and didn’t feel the intelligence supported it.” Irving denied saying that and couldn’t remember talking to Sund although Sund said he made the request at 1:09 pm on January 6.

Phone records prove Irving ignored Sund’s pleas for help, according to Yogananda Pittman, acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, who said Sund called Irving at 12:58 pm to request the National Guard as rioters breached the building. Lawmakers were forced into hiding. Sund called Irving another four times until 1:45 pm.

The continued presence of law enforcement and a fence remains, according to Pittman because militia groups announced their intention to “blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible” when Biden addresses the Congress.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), responsible in the past for putting Russian disinformation into the Senate record, read  a statement from an observer standing out by the fence that the violence came only after police provoked the protesters and “fake Trump protesters” were at fault. Before the hearing he had said there was no armed insurrection on January 6.

DDT’s financial records including his tax returns for eight years—reportedly millions of pages—are now with Cy Vance, Manhattan’s district attorney, for review after the U.S. Supreme Court refused DDT’s appeal to block the subpoena. The question now is whether DDT can slow the process long enough to get past the statute of limitations, six years in New York. State law, however, now excludes the time when a person charged with a state crime while acting as president, but the question is whether this exclusion is also for criminal conduct predating the law’s passage. If the law holds up, the time for limitations begins on January 20, 2021. Vance also has only ten months left in his current term and doesn’t plan to run for re-election.

Meanwhile, Vance has enlisted outside experts, including a forensic consulting firm, to examine the documents. The accounting records can determine fraud by showing how tax figures were calculated as were done in the Paul Manafort investigation. Manafort was sentenced to over seven years in prison before DDT pardoned him in December. Tax returns can also determine whether other financial records are false.

Despite DDT’s pardon for Steve Bannon, DDT’s former main strategist, DOJ prosecutors won’t dismiss the indictment against him as a matter of record. Bannon allegedly siphoned off over $1 million from GoFundMe donations for building part of DDT’s southern wall. According to Nixon v. United State, a pardon does not erase the grand jury finding probable cause for Bannon’s committing the indictment’s offenses. The prosecutors’ letter explained:

“Were the Court to dismiss the Indictment against Bannon, it could have a broader effect than the pardon itself, among other things potentially relieving Bannon of certain consequences not covered by the pardon.”

Vance’s office has subpoenaed Wells Fargo and GoFundMe for financial records tied to Bannon’s crowd-funding effort. Bannon may face state criminal charges which cannot be pardoned by a president.

DDT may have a parallel with the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City (NJ) which was leveled by an implosion on February 17, 2021. People paid $10 for watching it in person, and a front-row seat cost $575. The building was the first of DDT’s casinos going bankrupt with unpaid contractors and suppliers. During his campaign he bragged about how much money he made in Atlantic City where he put personal debts on the casinos, leaving debts to investors. The eyesore was destroyed as an “imminent hazard” because of falling debris and metal.

June 3, 2015

Will Hastert Have to Follow His Principles?

Moral values have always been a strong platform of the Republican party, but they consistently betray their own conservative positions. The latest example is 73-year-old Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the U.S. House, bribing someone to conceal an “unidentified event” long ago while Hastert taught in Yorkville (IL). Promising to pay an unnamed person $3.5 million, Hastert has been indicted for withdrawing $1.7 million of money in sums under $10,000 to avoid IRS detection and then lying to the FBI about the money. It appears that he molested at least two underage males while he was coaching wrestling.

Barney Frank pointed out on All In with Chris Hayes:

“There is a hypocrisy issue. Dennis Hastert was a member of the House who voted for the Defense of Marriage act. He subsequently as Speaker twice put before the House of Representatives the constitutional amendment that would have cancelled retroactively all the same sex marriages that had taken place legally. … The rank hypocrisy of this man using his power to persecute other people for doing what he was doing.”

Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA) was forced to resign from the Speaker position in 1998 because he was having an affair with an employee of the House Agriculture Committee while he was still married. (Later he divorced his wife, and married the woman.)  His replacement, Rep. Robert Livingston (R-LA), resigned because he was having an affair with a lobbyist who was lobbying him. (His replacement was David Vitter, a right-wing family-values conservative who was then caught having adulterous affairs with prostitutes.) Livingston then formed a lobbying group, blocking a Senate bill to call on one of his clients, Egypt, to curtail the country’s human rights abuses.

Hastert took over as Speaker just 18 days after the beginning of impeachment proceedings against President Clinton. Frank concluded, “I think that it now looks like if you take Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Dennis Hastert, and Robert Livingston the Republican Speakers or would be speakers, Clinton is a choir boy.”

Orin Kerr summarized the situation in the Washington Post:

“If I understand the history correctly, in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair, who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair, which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy.”

One of the impeachment “managers” who made the case to the Senate was Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), who had had an adulterous affair. It was called a “youthful indiscretion,” but it happened when Hyde was 41. He is known for the Hyde Amendment barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortions that has annually appeared as riders on appropriation bills for the past 30 years.

Hastert voted “aye” on all four impeachment counts. During the impeachment proceedings, Princeton scholar Sean Wilentz told House Republicans that, in the future, they would be seen as “zealots and fanatics” and added, “History will hunt you down for your cravenness.”

In addition to consistently voting against marriage equality, Hastert voted no on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill to prohibit companies from discriminating against LGBT employees. He was also a strong supporter of funding for abstinence sex education because “more kids need to be taught to just say no, that doesn’t just apply to drugs, it also applies to sex before marriage.” Hastert resigned as Speaker after the discovery that he had protected former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) who had sexual  relationships with boys employed as pages at the U.S. Capitol.

In his autobiography over a decade old ago, Hastert wrote, “I was never a very good liar. Maybe I wasn’t smart enough. I could never get away with it, so I made up my mind as a kid to tell the truth and pay the consequences.”

Hastert codified a House doctrine, first used by Gingrich, that prevented any floor vote on a bill unless a “majority of the majority” party supports the bill. The policy, called “The Hastert Rule,” has resulted in a combination of massive gridlock and partisanship in the House. No bill can go to the floor unless the Speaker of the House gives permission. For example, a bill technically passes the House with 218 votes, but with the current number of Democrats in the House at 170, a bill must have at least 123 Republican votes—that’s a required 293 votes, almost 55 percent of the House members. Last year, the immigration bill passed with 68 votes in the Senate failed to even get an up-or-down vote in the House because too few GOP members supported it.

Known as a nice guy, Hastert hid scandals during his tenure as Speaker for people in his own party. He concealed Tom DeLay’s misconduct until they became obvious. When the ethics committee recommended a series of reprimands for DeLay in 2004, Hastert fired the committee chair, Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO) and two other GOP members of the committee, Kenny Hulshof (MO) and Steve LaTourette (OH) before leading rule changes to make it harder to admonish House members. After three DeLay associates were indicted, Hastert enacted a rule enabling DeLay to stay as majority leader if he were indicted.

Colleagues claimed that Hastert was squeaky clean, but he manipulated land transactions in his home state to increase his net worth by millions of dollars. He bought land at a low price while two cronies purchased adjacent land at a much higher price before merging the parcels in a trust that gave Hastert an inflated share. Using his clout as Speaker, he jammed through a transportation bill with an attached $207 million earmark to fund a highway interchange that neither the Illinois Department of Transportation nor residents adjacent to the land wanted. The Speaker got $3 million, a 500-percent profit, and the highway was never built.

Hastert also forced through the Medicare prescription-drug bill by presiding over the nearly three-hour vote in the dead of night that the rules limited to 15 minutes. The Rules Committee squashed amendments from both Democrats and Republicans with rare conferences late at night and closed to anyone except Hastert’s loyal followers. Provisions, neither in House or Senate bills, were added without notice to lawmakers.

Throughout all the chicanery, Hastert kept a quiet demeanor and stayed away from most Sunday talk shows. Reporters largely ignored his presence while he managed to guide the country into the disaster that exists today.

Where Hastert goes from here, no one knows. His arraignment on financial charges, originally scheduled for tomorrow, has been moved to next Tuesday, June 9. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin, who contributed $1,500 to Hastert’s campaign before taking the bench and is the brother of Illinois House GOP Leader Jim Durkin.

Haley Barbour, former RNC chairman, said about the indictment for paying hush money to the former Speaker of the House because he had sex with a teenager and then lied about it to the FBI:

“It doesn’t matter a bit politically. Democrats hope it does, but I don’t think so.”

The Wall Street Journal questioned the charges against Hastert from “busybody agencies” such as the FBI and IRS,” and NBC’s Pete Williams called the charges purely “technical.” This weekend, on the Sunday talk shows, moderators and reporters raked the prosecution over the coals. NBC News correspondent Pete Williams called the charges against Hastert purely “technical.” ABC’s Dan Abrams and Fox network’s Brit Hume think that “derivative crimes” are minor issues, similar to lying under oath—the charge that Hastert used to impeach President Clinton.

Seventeen years ago, Republicans said that derivative crimes were important, regardless of context, because no one was above the law. Hastert, House deputy majority whip, agreed, and voted to authorize the House Judiciary Committee to investigate Clinton. The committee must “uncover the truth” and “uphold the rule of law,” said Hastert. “Sweeping the matter under the rug just won’t work.” With his votes for impeachment, he declared that the president was not “above the law.” Sixteen years ago, when President Clinton was acquitted, Hastert said, “Republicans in the Congress can be proud that they stood by the principles that have made this nation strong.” The first principle he cited was “respect for the rule of law.”

Now the question is whether Hastert is above the law. Will he be able to conceal his own wrongdoings? I’m guessing yes, because conservatives are usually successful in this area.

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