Nel's New Day

January 5, 2019

DDT: Week 102 – Shutdown Stalemates, Idiocy Continues

Day 15 of government shutdown: Not much progress was made in shutdown talks between White House officials and congressional aides today although acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney suggested that Democrats would not view a steel wall as a wall. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the House will start with bills to open departments, beginning with the Treasury so that people can get IRS tax refunds. A meeting is scheduled for tomorrow.

Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, gone this week in a cloud of ethics investigations, transferred public records to a political appointee who had advised the Koch brothers and proposed limiting new Freedom of Information requests by refusing these if they are “burdensome.” He also shortened the public opinion to 30 days, in spite of the shutdown. In that way, no one can determine damage caused by the government shutdown and uncover Zinke’s ethics violations. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation agrees that Zinke’s proposal violates the FOIA because it says nothing about the “vast quantity of material” requested. DOJ is also investigating whether Zinke committed the criminal offence of lying to the Inspector General.

Despite the shutdown, Robert Mueller’s investigation is still funded, and the federal grand jury has been extended for another six months.

Almost 400,000 federal workers are “furloughed” because they aren’t “essential,” and some of them won’t get paychecks when they go back to work because they are employed by a private contractor. Zach Fuentes, one of the lucky ones who keeps getting paid, needs six more months of work to qualify for a Coast Guard early retirement program that expired at the end of 2018. DHS pushed to have the program renewed, but reporters’ questions led legislation for the program to be removed from the House appropriations bill. John Kelly saved the 36-year-old with under 15 years of service by making him his deputy chief of staff. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney wanted another deputy but said that Fuentes will stick around. Mulvaney said, “Zach’s a good man; we’ll find something for him to do productive.” His new title is assistant to the president and senior adviser to the chief of staff. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chair of the committee with oversight over the White House, has promised an investigation into the Fuentes affair.

The stock of Goldman Sachs, former employer of several DDT appointments, went down 35 percent because Malaysian filed criminal charges against Goldman after country’s Prime Minster Najib Razak, DDT’s friend, took huge amounts of cash from a state investment fund. Malaysia has filed criminal charges against Goldman Sachs, demanding $7.5 billion in reparations, and at least ten countries have probes into Goldman Sachs’ business. Before the 2008 recession, Goldman profited in the collapse in subprime mortgage bonds by short-selling subprime mortgage-backed securities. DDT’s White House is known for having employed a large number of Goldman Sachs alumni.

DDT’s rambling comments in a press conference yesterday followed his disastrous 90-minute meeting Wednesday when he offended India by accusing them of only building a small library in Afghanistan. India, which didn’t attack and destroy Afghanistan as the U.S. did, gave $3 billion to Afghanistan which included building the Parliament. DDT also parroted Vladimir Putin’s propaganda in his revisionist history that the USSR collapsed after declaring bankruptcy fighting in Afghanistan in retaliation for its terrorists going into Russia. The statement that “Russia used to be the Soviet Union” ignored the 14 other republics in the USSR, and DDT’s statement that the USSR was “right to be there” conflicted with U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. opposed the USSR in that conflict, the USSR went into Afghanistan to keep communism in the country, the Soviet economy didn’t go bankrupt, and its financial problems came from declining oil prices. DDT’s comments come directly from Vladimir Putin, and he went farther than Putin when he excused Russian aggression.

National Security adviser John Bolton assured Israel that DDT had no timeline for a military pullout from Syria two weeks after DDT declared it eminent. Mulvaney had said that DDT wouldn’t change his mind about the immediate pullout, but Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is taking credit for talking DDT into a “pause situation.” DDT decided to slow down the withdrawal of troops in Syria after tweeting that retired U.S. commander in Afghanistan, retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has “big, dumb mouth” in accord with Fox’s Laura Ingraham’s criticism of McChrystal caution against the pullout.

After George W. Bush’s judge’s ruling that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional because the Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, the media addressed the possibility of “Medicare for All” (aka universal health care like every other industrialized nation). The judge has now decided that the ACA would stay in effect until the issue moves through the courts because “many everyday Americans would… face great uncertainty during the pendency of appeal”—an obvious conclusion from his first ruling. A coalition of 17 states has appealed the decision, and the House plans to direct its Office of General Counsel to represent lawmakers in any litigation involving the act and authorize hiring of outside counsel.

DDT has starting to chip away at Medicare Part D by cutting some medications provided by Part D of Medicare—specifically those for HIV, depression, schizophrenia, cancer, epilepsy, and immunosuppressant drugs to prevent rejection of organ transplants. Despite DDT’s bragging that he had lowered costs of drugs, pharmaceutical companies raised prices at the beginning of 2019 for hundreds of prescription medications this week. The increases, as high as 133.4 percent, averaged 6.3 percent and included drugs for high blood pressure, pain relievers, and anesthetics.

Facing at least seven major investigations—campaign, transition, inaugural committee, presidency, business, charity, emoluments, and personal finances—DDT is looking at an eighth one about the employment of undocumented immigrants at his Bedminster (NJ) golf resort in New Jersey. Federal and state investigators are looking into the employment records of immigrants after several undocumented immigrants said they were recruited to work at the facility. An employer told Victorina Morales, assured that her immigration status didn’t matter, that she couldn’t do anything about abuse at work because she wasn’t documented and worked for the president. Employers at the club deliberately removed names of undocumented workers so that the Secret Service would not vet them, but the undocumented immigrants kept working.

Video from a privatized government Southwest Key facility for migrant children shows the staff physically dragging, pulling, and slapping children in their care, but Arizona authorities have determined that this abuse is not criminal. Maricopa County closed three cases of child abuse without interviewing staff or minors involved. The place, along with another operated by Southwest Key, had its license canceled two months ago because of faulty employee background checks. Taxpayers gave the company, holding more migrant children than any other corporation, $1.7 billion in the last decade, $620 million just last year. Salary for the owner, Juan Sanchez, was $1.5 million last year.

The IRS has more serious problems than the inability to refund taxes as the GOP guarantees that it fails to collect revenue. Its 9,510 IRS auditors are one third fewer than 2010 and fewer than the 10,000 revenue agents in 1953 when the economy was one-seventh of the present day. Over one-third of IRS employees is eligible for retirement next year. Corporations and billionaires are the biggest beneficiaries of these cuts because their audits require specialized personnel. Instead, the IRS audits the working poor who receive the earned income tax credit the highest priority. GOP policies are losing the United States tens of billions of dollars. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, also acting chief of staff, failed to pay over $15,000 in taxes for his nanny from 2000 through 2004.

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis left his office on New Year’s Eve with his message for U.S. troops: “Hold Fast.”  With Mattis gone, US Strategic Command (StratCom) tweeted, “We are ready to drop something much, much bigger [than the ball in New York].” StratCom waited three hours to decide that a threat from the “guardians of several thousand nuclear missiles” about “raining death and destruction from above is some kind of joke,” as Derek Johnson, executive director of the anti-nuclear weapons group Global Zero, pointed out. Walter Schaub, former head of the Office of Government Ethics, asked, “What kind of maniacs are running this country?” We’ll learn in the coming months. [visual]

DDT’s ICE celebrated New Year’s Day by teargassing migrants on the Mexico side of the border. They were seeking asylum according to law, lifting toddlers over the fence, but ICE claimed that they were throwing rocks. AP reported that no one threw rocks until after they were teargassed, and Mexico is investigating.

Over two decades ago, then House Speaker Newt Gingrich took money from staff for committees and outsourced policy making to right-wing think tanks and lobbyists. Last summer, DDT believed in a “red wave” and budgeted $129 million for staff “handy for investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails.” On January 3, the new House Speaker, likely Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), took control over that $129 million to hire more personnel for investigations—maybe into DDT’s administration. Welcome to the U.S. House of 2019!

December 14, 2018

DDT: Week 99 – Advent Surprises

In Advent’s 22 to 28 days leading up to Christmas, one custom is the calendar which has pockets or drawers, each concealing a gift that delight children. This Advent is bringing political surprises for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), but the “gifts” won’t delight him.

Thinking that he could control the Democrats in the coming year, DDT met with Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (CA) last Tuesday. Pelosi and Schumer expected a closed meeting, but DDT invited the press so that they could hear him say that he would be “proud” to shut down the federal government if he didn’t get money for his “wall.” Later in a closed-door meeting, Pelosi told the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee that the wall is “like a manhood thing for him.” DDT said that the money for his new wall would come from his new NAFTA, which means he plans to use non-existent money gained from his new trade agreement for a $25 billion wall.

Some events from the past week that should terrify DDT:

Russian agent  Maria Butina is pleading guilty and giving testimony about her conspiracy to infiltrate the NRA to help Russia. Although Vladimir claims that he and his spies know nothing about her, Natasha Bertrand of The Atlantic tweeted:

“Is that why the Russian gov has conducted 6 consular visits to Butina, passed 4 diplomatic notes to State about her case, and had Lavrov personally speak to Pompeo twice about her prosecution? (The official Kremlin Twitter account changed its avatar to a picture of her, too.)”

In possible illegal “coordination” (maybe collusion?), DDT’s presidential campaign and the NRA used the same people and parent company in strategically making ad buys. The law permits the NRA to spend as much money for advertising, but any expenditures sharing information with a campaign is limited to $5,000 as in-kind donations. The NRA spent $30 million.

DDT’s former fixer Michael Cohen received a sentence of three years for failure to report his multimillion-dollar payoff for orchestrating secret hush payments to women who claim affairs with DDT and an additional concurrent two months sentence and $50,000 fine for lying to Congress about his dealings with a Trump Tower in Moscow. DDT has thus far failed in his attempts to distance himself from his former fixer, the man who DDT called “my attorney. The slightest chink in the GOP indifference to DDT’s criminal activity came from Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) when he expressed “concern” about the possibility that DDT might have implicated himself in a crime, if, according to Cassidy, “this so-called hush money is a crime.”

After almost a day of silence, DDT insisted that the hush-money payoffs were “not campaign finance” despite the admission of the National Enquirer’s owner AMI that it paid off one of the women “in concert with” DDT’s campaign to “suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.” DDT also claimed that, although Cohen pled guilty to these violations of campaign-finance law, they “are not a crime.”

After DDT’s election, he appointed Kushner to replace Cohen as his contact with David Pecker, National Enquirer publisher and chief executive of AMI. Kushner and Pecker talked frequently after DDT’s inauguration on a variety of subjects from relationships with Saudis to dirt on Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. Pecker’s pro-DDT coverage drastically diminished after the raids on Cohen’s office, leading to Pecker becoming an unindicted co-conspirator. AMI’s admission that its pre-election hush-money scheme was specifically connected to DDT’s campaign.

DDT claimed that he would pick only the “best people.” One of them was Michael Flynn, DDT’s former national security adviser who is now waiting his sentence for lying to the FBI. Flynn’s defense is that nobody told him the consequences of lying to the FBI. Special investigator Robert Mueller responded to this feeble excuse: Flynn lied multiple times before, during, and after the FBI interview—sticking to his lies even when given a chance to tell the truth—and he was told about the interview topic.

The Mueller team wrote:

“A sitting National Security Advisor, former head of an intelligence agency, retired Lieutenant General, and 33-year veteran of the armed forces knows he should not lie to federal agents. He does not need to be warned it is a crime to lie to federal agents to know the importance of telling them the truth. The defendant undoubtedly was aware, in light of his ‘many years’ working with the FBI, that lying to the FBI carries serious consequences.”

Soon after DDT’s inauguration, DDT’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort urged him to vigorously attack the FBI. Communications regarding Manafort’s lying showed that DDT’s undermining the FBI would damage its investigation into the Russian election collusion, as shown in some communications that are the subject of Manafort’s lying. Manafort specifically identified former FBI Director James Comey for damage to the FBI credibility and advised a senior administration official to attack DOJ, the FBI, and Obama officials for seeking FISA warrants to eavesdrop on himself and Carter Page, again to delay the investigation. A hearing on allegations about Manafort’s lying is on January 25.

Beyond investigations into DDT’s campaign, transition team operations, business, and foundation operations, prosecutors are delving into expenditures of his inaugural committee and his super PAC. Foreigners—primarily from Middle Eastern nations—likely contributed donations to both these funds in exchange for influence on U.S. policy, a violation of U.S. law The probe into inaugural donations involves federal prosecutors in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Despite the claim that donors to the inaugural committee were “fully vetted and disclosed” to the FEC, the audit has not been made public, and a GOP lobbyist pleaded guilty to arranging for foreigners to pay $50,000 for inaugural tickets through a U.S. purchaser.

Ivanka Trump has been found to funnel huge sums from the inaugural donations into the Trump Organization while she was executive vice president. Internal emails and receipts show that she negotiated hotel prices for venue rentals. Overcharging for event spaces violates tax law, and the IRS can issue steep fines if a person with “substantial influence” over a nonprofit group overcharges for their outside business. Rick Gates, then deputy to the inaugural chair who is guilty of lying to the FBI and conspiracy against the U.S., asked vendors to take payments directly from vendors and sign confidentiality agreements about their payments. With a third of the staff, a quarter of the events, and revenue of twice as much as George W. Bush’s second inauguration, the records for DDT’s inauguration show at least $40 million missing from the funds.

Mueller’s investigation continues with revelations about work by DDT’s officials in the Middle East to influence politics in the United States.

While Republicans were reluctant to criticize DDT’s legal problems, a bipartisan vote in the Senate of 59-41 called for an end to military assistance to Saudi Arabia in connection with its war in Yemen that has killed 50,000 people and starved another 12 million. The Congress can order DDT to remove U.S. military members from “hostilities abroad” without the existence of a declaration of war or authorization of the use of force. Last month, the Senate passed a resolution by 58 to 41 removing the U.S. military’s refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft. House Speaker quashed a similar measure by putting an amendment in the farm bill that just passed, but the House changes party majority at the end of the year. The Senate is also considering a bill suspending weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and imposing sanctions on officials blocking humanitarian access in Yemen or who were involved in the torture and dismemberment of U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The “rule of law” has moved 180 degrees in the past two decades. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, the GOP investigated Whitewater, a land deal in which the Clintons lost $45,000 several years before Clinton went to the White House. He was impeached for a lie about Monica Lewinsky. In the 1990s, Republicans believed that the rule of law had no exceptions, that a serving president is subject to a civil lawsuit, required to answer a subpoena and testify before a grand jury. One telephone call from the White House to the Treasury Department was classified as obstruction of justice. The current occupant of the Oval Office can threaten and dismiss law enforcement officials for investigating him, intimidate prosecutors, repeatedly defame legal opponents, offer pardons for witnesses against him, lie about multimillion-dollar deals with a country that has leverage against him, and offer a bribe to the president of said country with a $50 million penthouse. Republicans respond by promising more investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

No one knows if a sitting president can be indicted, but a memo from Ken Starr, hidden in the National Archives for almost 20 years, says “yes.” According to Starr, “in this country, no one, even President Clinton, is above the law.” Maybe Republican presidents are exempt, however, since the Supreme Court became an arm of the executive branch.

June 8, 2018

DDT: Week 72 – The Dictator

Some people have taken offence at my use of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) , but the term now appears more frequently. From South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel editorial board:

“A dictator occupies the White House. That word should not be uttered lightly, but it defines with precision any head of state who, like Donald Trump, declares himself to be above the law.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer alluded to the “dictator” in DDT:

“[Trump] said he had the absolute power to pardon himself, and then a few minutes later he said that the special counsel is unconstitutional. He’s 0 for 2 on the Constitution. We do not have a dictatorship; the Founding Fathers did not want a king.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono (R-HA) said that DDT “thinks he is a dictator and king” and “afraid” of the Mueller investigation results.

DDT has proved his dictatorship by tweeting:

“I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?”

And “… the appointment of the Special Councel [sic] is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!” [Congress passed a law allowing this ?

Sunday DDT’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said that DDT could shoot former FBI director James B. Comey in the Oval Office and not be indicted for any crime because he is the president. “In no case can [DDT] be subpoenaed or indicted.” In 1998, when Bill Clinton was president, Giuliani said that if the president is subpoenaed to testify, “he’s gotta do it. He has no choice.” The 1998 Giuliani also said:

“Under the criminal law, everyone should be treated the same. And I know there are some people that say the president should be treated stricter. … as far as the criminal law is concerned, the president is a citizen.”

About Giuliani’s comment that DDT can pardon himself, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said:

“If I were president of the United States and I had a lawyer that said I could pardon myself, I think I would hire a new lawyer.

Giuliani also trashed Stormy Daniels because she is a porn queen and sells her body. Megyn Kelly answered:

“Melania Trump is classy and gorgeous and I really admire her. But she has posed nude for GQ magazine back in 2000. And so to suggest that Trump would never respect, and that Giuliani wouldn’t respect, anybody who’s ever sold her body for sexual exploitation—I’m not comparing the two, posing nude is not the same as being a porn star. But, come on! Being an adult film star does not make you a liar.”

Not an elegant statement, but clear. And it’s not an attack on DDT’s wife; she did sell her body. DDT asked for the photographs, and the shoot was listed on his first White House website as one of her greatest achievements.

On Tuesday, DDT repeated his attacks on AG Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from any Russian issues and dumped on the DOJ Inspector General:

“What is taking so long with the Inspector General’s Report on Crooked Hillary and Slippery James Comey….”

DDT is pressuring Michael Horowitz to release negative information, but early reports about the investigation indicate no pattern of deception or intent to make personal use of classified information. Horowitz also concluded Comey should not have publicly re-opened the investigation into Clinton’s emails just ten days before the election. The report makes Rod Rosenstein’s cover story more accurate, but DDT has already negated that excuse for firing Comey by claiming that it was because of Russia. Thus the report provides more support for the belief that DDT’s election is illegitimate.

By Thursday, DDT accused President Obama of illegally transferring money to Iran and demanded an investigation. A two-year investigation by the Republican staff of a Senate panel released a report the day before DDT’s demands. It found no illegal action in arranging for Iran to obtain its own money in part of the Iran agreement. WaPo provided extensive details about the arrangement and gave DDT four Pinocchios for lying.

DDT claimed that Robert Mueller’s investigation has cost $17 million (equivalent to five weekends for DDT to play golf at Mar-a-Lago). Yet an examination shows that the costs were much less. In reporting costs, Mueller included DOJ employee costs that existed without the investigation that brings actual expenditures down to $7.7 million—a little above two weekends for DDT—compared to the $110.4 million paid to investigate Bill Clinton. No other investigator has added in costs for salary and benefit costs that would be paid anyway. The costs of investigating Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton $100 million—each!—without consideration for inflation or inhouse costs, and Congress is still investigating Hillary Clinton. DDT’s accusations that Mueller’s investigation costs up to $20 million and are exorbitant win him two Pinocchios for lying.

Unhappy about going to the G-7 summit in Canada, DDT left late for the Friday meeting and will skip the Saturday sessions to head to Singapore for his meeting with Kim Jong-Un. He’s in the midst of a contentious situation after putting tariffs on most of the allies, especially those represented at the summit, and he gave a full-throated support for the reinstatement of Russia, the country that meddled in U.S. elections, to the G-7 before he left for the summit. Russia was expelled from the G-8 in 2014 after Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. At that time, the group became the G-7; DDT’s behavior may bring the group down to G-6. Putin is gloating about what he calls the U.S. “sanctions” on its allies, saying that it vastly decreases U.S. dominance in the world.

DDT has spent the week alienating allies, beginning with his response to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about how U.S. tariffs are for national security:

“Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?”

The British burned down the White House in 1812 when Canada wasn’t even a nation because the U.S. wanted tariff-free trade with Britain. Emmanuel Macron recommended a general rebuke at the summit to the U.S. and suggested that foreign leaders stop engaging with the U.S. until DDT is gone.

DDT’s trade wars have extended to North America, Europe, and large Asian countries. After Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross met with China’s top economic official, Vice premier Liu He, China announced that its nation won’t be expanding imports from the U.S. if DDT follows through on his threat to tax billions of dollars of Chinese goods. Meanwhile China is glorying in the possibility that it will assume the past dominance that the United States has experienced. The World Bank warns that DDT’s trade wars can cause a decline as bad as or worse than the 2008 financial crisis, and congressional members are proposing a bill to block DDT’s tariff power. In its cover, The Economist indicated its concern about DDT’s foreign policy.

In his first 500 days, DDT has made only five international trips, the most recent one almost six months ago for a day at the World Economic Forum. VP Mike Pence was sent to meet with Latin American leaders in April, but Pence’s going to Canada was not an option after DDT and the GOP started worrying about Pence having more power than he does.

A DDT excuse about not wanting to face the allies he alienated at G-7 is getting ready for meeting Kim Jong-Un in Singapore. Reasons that this excuse is bogus:

  • DDT has done nothing to get ready to the meeting except its spectacle.
  • DDT has not convened any Cabinet-level meeting about the summit has been convened, indicating his reliance on improvisation at the meeting.
  • DDT has not presided over national security council officials for discussions.
  • DDT thinks he doesn’t need to prepare. DDT said, “I don’t think I have to prepare very much…. It’s about attitude.”

The meetings with Kim may not last long: DDT keeps saying that he’ll leave if he doesn’t immediately get what he wants from North Korea.

Melania Trump reappeared after 25 days and sat quietly next to DDT during his 16-minute FEMA briefing speech regarding hurricane preparedness: topics included his prowess at negotiating airplane deals, his popularity, his effective political endorsements, the GOP’s fortunes, Defense Department purchasing guidelines, dislike of magnetized launch equipment on aircraft carriers, love of coal, success in meeting with Kim Jong-Un,  praise for EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt, and “the brand of the Coast Guard has been something incredible what’s happened.” About hurricanes, little, and deaths in Puerto Rico, nothing.

Democrats have the lead over Republicans in all demographic groups except white men who have not graduated from college (37 percent more supportive of the GOP than Democrats) and all whites (just three points separation). Republicans are losing among white college graduates by 24 points. In competitive House districts, almost entirely GOP held, voters will support a representative who promises to check DDT by 52 to 19 percent and one who opposed DDT more of the time by 55 to 28 percent. Voters have already flipped 42 GOP state seats to Democrats since DDT’s inauguration, including one in Missouri this past week. The GOP flipped seven seats from Democrats.

 

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