Nel's New Day

March 5, 2017

Trump: ‘Deflector in Chief’

“The time for trivial fights is past.” – Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) during his first address to Congress last Tuesday evening.

donald-trumpDDT’s semi-presidential appearance didn’t last long. Left without his keepers at Mar-a-Lago this weekend, DDT worked to deflect all his bad press resulting from this week’s scandals about Russia about that country’s participation in the presidential election with angry, libelous tweets. Between his rants about firing Arnold Schwarzenegger were accusations about President Obama tapping his phones at the Trump Tower. The adolescent sending the tweets couldn’t even spell “tapp” correctly: he gave the word an extra p. The excuse his handlers gave DDT was a vague statement in fake Breitbart news about Barack Obama’s “police state” tactics. With no evidence, could be sued for libel, disseminating damaging false information.

Rep. Ted Lieu’s (D-CA) summary of DDT’s problems:

“Either @realDonaldTrump is paranoid like Nixon, or judge found probable cause of crime for #wiretap. Either way our President is in trouble.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said:

“It’s beneath the dignity of the presidency. It is something that really hurts people’s view of government.”

Growing concern has developed because DDT will be hosting Angela Merkel next week after accusing her of “ruining Germany.” Schumer echoed Lieu’s conclusion about the allegations either being false or providing probable cause to search for broken laws.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) described DDT as “deflector in chief.” She said about DDT’s accusations:

“It’s called a wrap-up smear. You make up something. Then you have the press write about it. And then you say, everybody is writing about this charge. It’s a tool of an authoritarian.”

Two issues about Russia that DDT wants to conceal are the way that his new AG, Jeff Sessions, committed perjury in saying that he had no communication with the Russians and the question of whether a special prosecutor should be assigned to address DDT’s campaign involvement with Russia instead of letting the partisan Congress investigate the matter.

Concerns about Russian involvement in the campaign has been released in dribbles and drabs for almost a year as DDT continued to express his unadulterated admiration for Vladimir Putin as a leader. The most recent activity before DDT’s tweet was when Sessions tried to jump out of the frying pan by finally recusing himself from any investigations into the FBI and hoping to save himself from resignation. He’s in a risky situation because Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) wants Sessions to go back to the Senate to explain his statements made earlier under oath.

sessions-putinSessions’ problems began when he answered a question that no one asked him. Franken asked Sessions what he would do as AG if the connections between DDT and Russia were true. Sessions didn’t answer that question, but he said that he had “been called a surrogate” in the campaign and that “I did not have communications with the Russians.” By now the media has made clear that his answer was not true (aka a lie) because he met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice while the White House was working on sanctions against Russia. When these meetings were publicly revealed, Sessions said he couldn’t remember if he talked politics with the ambassador. Russia is now in control of Sessions’ future because the ambassador can blackmail him. Saturday Night Live opened with a spoof about Sessions, played by Kate McKinnon.

Franken sent a letter to Sessions telling him that his not mentioning Russian involvement in the election “strains credulity.” The letter asked why Sessions had failed to mention the communication and what all his and his staff members’ communications with “Russian officials and their associates during the presidential campaign of 2016” are. As Franken wrote:

“If it is determined that you lied to the [Judiciary] Committee and the American people under oath during your confirmation hearing, it is incumbent upon you to resign from your position as attorney general.”

DDT’s response to Sessions’ recusal was a “ballistic” rant in which he used “a lot of expletives” and “nobody has seen him that upset.” That may be the reason that Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus didn’t go to Florida with DDT—thus the tweets. And DDT’s demand for a special prosecutor into the non-existent wiretaps. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who has consistently maintained that there’s no need for an investigation into Russia’s involvement in DDT’s campaign, said that the Intelligence Committee “will make inquiries” as per DDT’s demand. On the other hand, FBI Director James Comey asked the Justice Department to publicly reject DDT’s claims about the former president’s wiretaps of Trump Tower.

Democrats—including seven of the nine on the Senate Judicial Committee—are calling for a special prosecutor into Russian interference while Republicans continue to squirm about its possibility. Doing so would allow a nonpartisan person instead of an acting deputy attorney general to leads an investigation. DDT’s nominee for that position, Rod Rosenstein, could be asked about a commitment to naming a special prosecutor before his final vote. The historical precedent for an appointment is during the Watergate scandal in 1973 when the Judiciary Committee demanded that Nixon’s nominee name the prosecutor before the vote as well as asking questions about the prosecutor’s level of independence. Other special prosecutors occurred for investigation into Bill Clinton’s Whitewater affair and George W. Bush’s Valerie Plame affair.

Almost two decades ago, then-Sen. Jeff Sessions defined the standard for assigning a special prosecutor. The issue was whether Gore lied during an investigation into the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign’s fundraising. Sessions said that an independent investigator should be appointed any time that an AG is asked to investigate the president because of the president’s power over the AG. Now Sessions may face criminal charges for perjury and leads the same agency, the Department of Justice, that would ordinarily investigate alleged violations of federal law. For all the time before he finally recused himself, he was in the same power that the AG faced in the case where he set up the standard.

In its continued support for DDT, the FBI may be concealing information from Congressional committees attempting to investigate communication between DDT’s people and the Russian officials. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) said that the intelligence community has not been forthcoming, and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said, ‘‘We know less than a fraction of what the FBI knows.” Asked about transcripts that the FBI refused to share with Democrats, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) tried to “deflect” the issue by refusing to discuss them, indicating that they do exist. The issue of transcripts is interesting because U.S. citizens, including Michael Flynn, can be taped without FISA warrants. Transcripts of Flynn–or anyone else–would  indicate evidence of wrongdoing.

After DDT’s accusations about President Obama’s wiretapping one of his homes, he moved on to tweets stating that the former president had Russian ties and that Democrats didn’t want to help the FBI investigate the Russian cyberattacks.

DDT’s “relationship” with Russia seems to be cooling in the light of continued criticism from people in the U.S.—something that DDT cannot handle. One indication is that his pick for top Russia adviser is Fiona Hill whose book Mr. Putin, Operative in the Kremlin alludes to Vladimir Putin’s history as a KGB operative. There are also rumors that Putin didn’t want DDT to win; he just wanted to create chaos in the United States. On MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, New Yorker editor David Remnick said:

“Everybody expected Hillary Clinton to win. You expected her to win. The polls expected her to win. So they succeeded, in some sense, beyond their wildest dreams, and now they’re freaked,” Remnick added ominously. “If you talk to people in Moscow now, there’s a lot of buyer’s remorse. There was an order sent down to Russian television, ‘enough with the celebrating about Trump!’”

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said that the Kremlin is waiting for “some kind of actions” to understand what the future holds because “we have heard different statements from President Trump.” Even Russia understands that DDT’s volatility is untrustworthy.

The weekend is almost over, and DDT will get his keepers back when he returns to the White House. His handlers there may temper his tweets.

Should we be obsessed with the Russia story? Of course! This is bigger than Watergate, and it sets the direction for the United States for decades to come. An additional issue surrounding the White House is that eight Russian operatives connected to DDT have already been found dead. We need to overcome the “deflector in chief.”

February 16, 2017

Trump Surrounds Himself with White Supremacists

It’s the 21st century, and white supremacists are controlling the White House. After World War II, the nation was “great” because the United States had defeated Nazism during World War II. Less than a century ago, neo-Nazis are a key component in leading the country.

steve-bannonSteve Bannon, de facto president, has received a great deal of press, including posts in this blog. Readers of Breitbart.com learned about the high “black crime” and the “Muslim hordes” beating down the gates of “Western civilization.” Readers also learned that women who use contraceptives are ugly, but that’s another story.

stephen-millerSenior advisor Stephen Miller made a huge name for himself on last Sunday’s talk shows by explaining that the supreme power of and last word in U.S. government is DDT—a position of czar. College roommate of Richard Spencer, a major white supremacist leader, Miller fiercely advocates for “ethno-nationalism,” a way of claiming the superiority of whites and the belief that U.S. culture needs to force out anyone not believing in the nation’s “Judeo-Christian values.” Miller communicated this on the talk shows in his falsehood that “millions” of “illegal aliens” voted against DDT. [Above photo by Jabin Botsford]

Miller was behind DDT’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, probably writing DDT’s speech that “complained darkly that Muslim communities within the United States were sheltering terrorists.” He wrote other strident speeches, including DDT’s declaration that “nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” In Miller’s view, immigration is one of the greatest “existential issues” in the nation, according to a former Miller colleague. Mostly behind the scenes until last Sunday, Miller is equally instrumental as Steve Bannon to DDT’s agenda of exclusion and white hegemony.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 09:  U.S. President Donald Trump (C) put his hand on the shoulder of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) after introducing him before Sessions's swearing in ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House February 9, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump also signed three executive orders immediately after the swearing in ceremony. Also pictured is U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L).  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

 (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Well-known racist, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions the Third has just been anointed Attorney General after Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his minions blocked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) from reading a Coretta Scott King letter about Sessions’ racist behavior. As DDT’s lap dog, he will protect all the president’s illegal actions. Sessions is now the leading law enforcement official of the entire nation, charged with protecting civil rights for racial minorities and other vulnerable populations. We can look forward to Sessions’ protecting the Ku Klux Klan and other white populations.

gorkaSebastian Gorka, DDT’s deputy assistant and former “national security” editor for Breitbart.com, is rabidly Islamophobic and a promoter—perhaps creator—of the term “fake news” for anyone who criticizes DDT. He also strongly supported the omission of any reference to Jews in the Holocaust remembrance statement, possibly because he’s also anti-Semitic.

medalA medal he sports in photographs, the Order of Vitéz, belongs to a Hungarian group identified in the State Department as collaborator with the Nazis during World War II. [visual] The medal of the “vitézi rend,” established by virulently anti-Semitic Miklós Horthy in 1920, was used to “knight” military members and could be inherited. The medal could be inherited, in Gorka’s case most likely from his grandfather. As a Nazi Germany ally, Hungary passed anti-Semitic legislation in 1938 and sent 100,000 Jewish men to forced labor in 1941.

In 1944, Hungary first put 440,000 Jews into ghettos and then deported 425,000 of them to Auschwitz-Birkenau where three-fourths of them were gassed on arrival. The others died from disease, starvation, and other brutal treatment. By the end of the Holocaust, 75 percent of Hungarian Jews were dead. The “knightly order” was banned after the war, but right-wing émigrés kept the organization alive. Anti-Semites again brag about predecessors being a “vitéz.”

michael-antonDDT has added another white supremacist to his team on the National Security Council. Michael Anton, aka Publius Decius Mus, wrote “The Flight 93 Election” for racist Trump supporters, comparing Trump’s campaign to the hijacked plane on 9/11 that passengers took back by force. As a communications aide for the National Security Council in 2001, he participated in preparing the case for invading Iraq that included the myth that Saddam Hussein wanted uranium from Africa. Like DDT, Anton has later disavowed that he supported the Iraq War. [Photo: AP/Carolyn Kaster]

Anton’s essay “Toward a Sensible, Coherent Trumpism” defended pre-world War II anti-Semitism:

“Diversity” is not ‘our strength’; it’s a source of weakness, tension and disunion. America is not a ‘nation of immigrants’; we are originally a nation of settlers, who later chose to admit immigrants, and later still not to, and who may justly open or close our doors solely at our own discretion, without deference to forced pieties.”

Even neoconservative Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, is critical, comparing Anton to the Nazi political theorist Carl Schmitt. Kristol wrote:

“The Bannon-Anton wing of the Trump White House has a penchant for semi-conspiratorial analyses and semi-kooky prescriptions. And for them, being responsible isn’t a virtue. Which is worrisome.”

As Heather Digby Parton wrote for Salon, DDT found his supporters among those who “see the Obama years as a conscious destruction of civil society through politically correct racial McCarthyism, confiscatory taxes, overbearing regulation, religious oppression, rampant crime and disarmament of the populace” that they learned “on Fox News, heard about from Rush Limbaugh and read about on Breitbart News for nearly a decade.”

DDT’s minions reported what was being pushed on these sources of lies, that Common Core is a disaster, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl “traitorous,”  DDT looks down from his plan and sees the nation as a “war zone” with high crime where all blacks live in violent, squalid ghettos. DDT pictures the U.S. on the edge of social and economic collapse. And these falsehoods are pushed by the white supremacists who DDT has selected to surround him.

“White nationalism” means hostility to Muslims, racial stereotypes of Hispanics, and contempt for blacks. Bannon recently wrote, “In America and Europe, working people are reasserting their right to control their own destinies.” “Working” is dogwhistle for “white” in the same way that Bannon meant Jews and other minorities when he denigrated “cosmopolitan elites.”

Neither Miller nor Bannon supported Andrew Puzder, accusing him of not being strong enough on anti-immigration. After wife-abusing Steve Bannon got rid of wife-abusing Puzder, who withdrew his nomination for Labor Department secretary, conservative Alex Acosta has appeared as a nominee for that position. Acosta’s resume includes clerking for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, confirmation to the National Labor Board, and top federal prosecutor in Miami.

acostaIt was his position on the DOJ Civil Rights Division during George W. Bush’s first term that led to his problems. Acosta’s oversaw the official with hiring authority who allowed employment of only conservative lawyers opposed to civil rights, including police abuse and voting rights violations. A report found that “Acosta took no action to alert those in his chain of command.” As a DOJ official, Acosta participated in Bush’s efforts to win Ohio by telling a judge to side with GOP attorneys when Democrats tried to reinstate the purged names of 23,000 voters. Acosta’s action caused him to lose out in his application to be the law school head at the University of Florida. A question is how Bannon and Miller will cope with Acosta’s pro-Muslim testimony in a congressional hearing.

The last two years have seen a rise in anti-Muslim hate groups in the United States with an almost three-fold increase just last year from 34 to 101. “As the radical right was energized by the candidacy of Donald Trump,” the overall number of domestic hate groups is now 917 in a “resurgence of white nationalism.” The report added that the new groups “were almost entirely focused on Trump and seemed to live off his candidacy.” The FBI reported a 67-percent surge of hate crimes against Muslims in 2015.

Today DDT again called himself  “the least racist [person you have seen in your entire life].” These are the people he chooses to “make America great again.”

January 31, 2017

Supreme Court Nominee, Lack of Independent Judiciary

Republicans said last year that no Democratic president would ever put a justice on the Supreme Court, starting with their refusal to vet President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, nominated almost one year before the end of the president’s term. Today Donald Trump (DT) drew attention away from his Muslim ban on entering the U.S. by his appointment for this position.Supreme Court nominees can be filibustered unless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) changes the rule to a simple majority.

DT’s nominee: Neil Gorsuch, 49, judge on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals covering six Western states; the son of perhaps the most corrupt head of the Environmental Protection Agency in its history; attends Episcopalian church; appointed by George W. Bush in 2006; would be the most conservative judge on the court except for Clarence Thomas; opposes assisted suicide, legal in six states, because “human life is intrinsically valuable”; sided with Hobby Lobby in viewing contraception as immoral and defunding Planned Parenthood; falsely described birth control drugs and devices as having the effect of “destroying a fertilized human egg”; believes that business owners have religious liberty claims over their employees’ statutory right to access preventive health care; favors Christian religious expression in public spaces; endorses lack of gun safety laws; opposes agency regulatory power to consolidate power within the judiciary; is originalist, interpreting the Constitution as it was understood at the time it was adopted; opposes using the court for social reform; endangers labor and environmental protections, immigrants, and criminal defendants; most likely supports “religious liberty” to escape anti-discrimination laws; co-founded the ultra-conservative publication The Federalist; wants police to be immune from lawsuit for official actions unless “clearly established” law is violated.

In short, Gorsuch as Supreme Court justice would reward corporations and the Koch brothers and penalize voters, workers, women, and the planet. The question is whether DT appointed Gorsuch because the Democrats will filibuster against him and then go with Thomas Hardiman. Another question is how this nomination connects with the Department of Justice.

In his campaigns, Donald Trump (DT) promised to protect the U.S. Constitution. On Day Seven of his presidency, he issued a Muslim ban that violates up to three constitutional amendments, and on Day Ten he fired Sally Yates a few hours after the Acting Attorney General upheld the Constitution. DT claimed that she “betrayed the Department of Justice” and made the country less safe.

The last president to fire an Attorney General was Richard Nixon when Richard Nixon, who fired his AG and Deputy AG in the “Saturday Night Massacre” because they denied his order to dismiss the Watergate Special Prosecutor. Yates replacement is Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, until Senate confirms a person for AG. He said that he would order the DOJ to defend DT’s Muslim ban. At this time, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is being reviewed by the complete U.S. Senate.

In a letter to Justice Department lawyers, Yates stated that the DOJ must take positions in court that “remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand up for what is right.” She also pointed out that the DOJ’s mission is to defend and uphold the Constitution based on established legal precedents. Almost a year ago, she wrote a memo to employees that they must “ensure that politics does not compromise the integrity of our work.”

Concluding that DT’s Muslim ban failed to meet basic constitutional and moral tests, she said she would not assign federal attorneys to show up in court to defend the policy in court. The New York judge granting a temporary restraining order stopping the ban declared that it was likely unconstitutional.

During her 27 years with the DOJ, Yates prosecuted “numerous white-collar fraud and political corruption matters.” She was confirmed as Deputy Attorney General with 85 votes in 2015. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said:

“I supported her nomination, both in Committee and today in the full Senate, and I hope that she will show independence as she provides leadership at the Department. As she told us during her hearing, she is aware that her client is, ‘The people of the United States… not the President… not the Congress, it’s the people of the United States.’”

Sessions, now an anti-Constitution nominee for AG, supported Yates positions:

“Well. you have to watch out, because people will be asking you to do things you just need to say ‘no’ about. Do you think the attorney general has a responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that’s improper? [„,] If the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no?”

Yates answered that the AG or Deputy AG had the responsibility to follow the law and the Constitution with “independent legal advice to the president.” Sessions followed up:

 “Like any CEO, with a law firm — sometimes the lawyers have to tell the CEO: ‘Mr. CEO, you can’t do that. Don’t do that. We’ll get us sued. It’s going to be in violation of the law. You’ll regret it, please.’ No matter how headstrong they might be. Do you feel like that’s the duty of the attorney general’s office?”

Yates agreed with the 2015 Sessions by saying, “I do believe that that’s the duty of the attorney general’s office, to fairly and impartially evaluate the law and to provide the president and the administration with impartial legal advice.” The year 2017 has a very different president, and Sessions, if confirmed for AG, plans to support the president who lacks respect for the document that Republicans promise to revere.

White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, defended the Muslim ban by citing the tragic attack on a Quebec mosque that killed six people and wounded another eight but made no reference that this was an attack on Muslims. The alleged attacker on the Muslims was Alexandre Bissonnette, a pro-Trump white French Canadian who was known for making anti-immigrant and misogynist remarks. Justin Trudeau accurately called it a terrorist attack on Muslims. Yet the Fox network and the Gab messaging service misinformation insisted on identifying a man of Moroccan descent as a suspect and not a witness.

Another DT defense of the Muslim ban is the attack in San Bernadino by Tashfeen Malick on a K1 visa. Malik was from a wealthy Pakistan family and later moved to Saudi Arabia; neither country is on DT’s list of banned countries. Her husband, who participated in the attack, was a U.S. citizen.

Asked about the five-year-old Iranian boy detained over the weekend in response to DT’s new Muslim ban, Spicer replied, “To assume that just because of someone’s age or gender or whatever that they don’t pose a threat would be wrong.” An 11-month-old baby, a U.S. citizen, was separated from the mother, a legal permanent resident who the Muslim ban tried to deport. The mother was kept from breastfeeding her child.

The press secretary also lied in his references to President Obama’s 2011 policy temporarily delaying visas for Iraqis. And Homeland Security and border patrol officials ignored court orders to release the detainees or even let lawyers see them.

DT also moved James Ragsdale, the Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to his former position with no explanation. He was replaced with Thomas Homan,  “deporter in chief” who deported at least 920,000 people and “spearheaded the management and reform of the largest civil detention system in the nation” by adding detention beds. An executive order signed by Mr. Trump last week calls for tripling the number of deportation agents. DT has now indicated that he intends to emphasize Homan’s harsh enforcement measures.

The possible confirmation of Jeff Sessions as AG is a continuing constitutional crisis exemplified by the firing of Sally Yates. White supremacist Steve Bannon said that he and Sessions are at the center of Trump’s “pro-America movement” and the global nationalist phenomenon. Bannon claims that the nation is “witnessing now is the birth of a new political order, and the more frantic a handful of media elites become, the more powerful that new political order becomes itself.” Sessions has refused to recuse himself from any investigations into DT, his family, his aides, his conflicts of interest—anything that would challenge DT. And he’ll have the support of the white supremacists.

DT’s firing Yates goes far beyond unconstitutionality of the Muslim ban to raise questions about his commitment to the Constitution and the law of the land. He has said that federal district judge, Gonzalo Curiel, could not properly adjudicate a fraud lawsuit against Trump University because his parents were born in Mexico. DT would “instruct the attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look” into Hillary Clinton if he got elected and suggested he would break the law by waterboarding terrorism suspects.

Firing Yates also raises questions about DT’s relationship with the judiciary, which is intended to be an independent government branch. Did DT require commitments from his new nominees, Sessions and Gorsuch? Would he directly contact them about personal complaints? Or push them toward decisions that he wants?

The United States may be in the midst of a coup, “a change in power from the top that merely results in the abrupt replacement of leading government personnel”–a massive power grab by people who hate the rule of law.

January 11, 2017

Nominee Hearings: Make America Corrupt Again

Filed under: Congress — trp2011 @ 9:50 PM
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Writing about the timing for Senate confirmation hearings—at least accurately!—has become almost impossible. A few days, I was bemoaning how Cabinet members are being rushed through without deliberation, but every hour seems to change the GOP game plan. Originally, six Cabinet-level confirmations were scheduled on the same day that the chamber works on the budget (that one that grows the deficit by $10 trillion in the next decade) and Donald Trump (DT) gives his first press conference in six months to divert attention from his nominees. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said, “There is a whole lot of: ‘Don’t watch what we’re doing here.” Watchers now, however, can see how the GOP is failing at its job.

The inability of Betsy DeVos (Department of Education) put off her hearing until next Tuesday in the hopes that she can finished her required ethics paperwork. Her investment in a for-profit charter school would be a conflict of interest in any other administration.  As more cabinet nominees are shown to have possible conflicts of interest, they have also been postponed without the necessary review of background checks and ethics review.

Andrew Puzder (Department of Labor) may not get a hearing until February. The postponement comes at the same time as a new survey finding that two-thirds of the women who work at his fast-food restaurants (Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s) reported sexual harassment in the workplace. That was followed by a spokesperson for Puzder who confirmed that his ex-wife appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to talk about his domestic violence against her in the 1980s.

Wilbur Ross (Department of Commerce), also  scheduled for today, has his hearing next Thursday, again because the committee has not received his ethics agreement. The hearings for CIA director nominee, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KA) for CIA Director was postponed until tomorrow. That makes hearings for four different cabinet members on one day.

Conservatives are blaming Walter M. Shaub Jr., the director of the ethics office, for the delay, but nominees have not submitted their information to him.

The schedule as of recently:

  • Attorney General: Jeff Sessions – Jan. 10-11
  • Homeland Security: John Kelly – Jan. 10-11
  • State: Rex Tillerson – Jan 11 (may go into Jan 12)
  • Transportation: Elaine Chao – Jan. 11
  • CIA: Mike Pompeo – Jan. 12
  • Labor: Andrew Puzder – February
  • Defense: James Mattis – Jan. 12
  • HUD: Ben Carson – Jan. 12

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) accused Democrats of trying to slow down the process in demanding the necessary paperwork, but he had been a stickler for this requirement when President Obama was elected. Now he calls them “little procedural complaints.” Necessary submissions require tax returns, FBI background checks, and Office of Government Ethics information.

Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (Department of Justice) had completed the FBI background check, but his original application skipped over years of experience. He withheld decades of records about his career—information about 1981-1993 as U.S. Attorney to the Southern District of Alabama, 1995-1997 as the state’s attorney general, and 1997-2002 as a first term U.S. senator. Also missing are the hearings after his nomination for federal judge in 1986 when he was determined to be too racist for the position and dozens of recent interviews when he made controversial statements. It all came out in the hearing anyway.

The Alabama Republican criticized Judge Sonia Sotomayor and Goodwin Liu for incomplete questionnaires, accusing the latter of his incompetence because of his “extraordinary disregard for the Committee’s constitutional role” or attempting “to hide his most controversial work from the Committee.” Sessions said that Liu might be committing a felony by omitting information from his questionnaire. After almost a year of the Senate ignoring the nominee, President Obama withdrew the nomination. Liu is now seated on California’s Supreme Court.

Sessions is perhaps the most controversial nominee, and McConnell had limited the number of witnesses called by Democrats to four in the two-day hearing, only half the length of four days for John Ashcroft, the last nominees for AG plucked from the Senate. Ashcroft’s hearings included 19 outside witnesses plus four senators. Committee Chair Chuck Grassley refused to push back the time of Sessions’ hearing because of his omissions on his applications. Two witnesses against Sessions were Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)—the first time a sitting senator has testified against a sitting senate nominee—and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). Sessions did not appear for today’s hearing–but that is another story for later.

Although Sessions’ racist record goes back many decades, his current record shows racist, homophobic,  and misogynist  attitudes. For example, he gave Trump a pass for his sexist comments and admissions to sexual assault because “everybody knows that Trump likes women” and “uses this kind of talk.” He praised the 2013 Supreme Court ruling that eliminated key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; he voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act; he voted for a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage; he opposed the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the hate crimes prevention act; and he voted to abolish a program that helps businesses owned by women and minorities compete for federally funded transportation projects. In 2015, he praised a 1924 immigration law to end “indiscriminate acceptance of all races.”

In addition to being racist, anti-immigrant, homophobic, and anti-woman, Sessions has connections to Southern Co., one of the nation’s biggest electric companies and his biggest corporate donor. Favors for the company could impact his legal work on the Clean Power Plan which regulates carbon emissions from electric utilities. A power plant that the company is building is also being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. ExxonMobil also gave to campaigns of Sessions who then vociferously objected to any investigations into the company concealing its knowledge of climate change from its shareholders and the public. This is the man who would be guiding the country in protecting the laws and civil rights.

Sessions has said that he will not recuse himself from voting on his own nomination as Hillary Clinton and John Kerry did.

Even the Republicans admit that they have different standards for DT’s nominees. Asked if past standards of disclosing foreign payments apply to DT’s Cabinet nominees, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said it should not. HuffPo repeated, “So it’s different now because it’s Trump?” Inhofe said twice that’s “just right” about different standards for DT. The question came from a GOP letter, also signed by Inhofe, demanding  “unprecedented disclosures” from former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) when he was President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense. At that time, Senate Republicans had a concern about “the potential for foreign conflicts of interest.” The same Republicans no longer have that concern.

The hearing for Elaine Chao (Department of Transportation) went quite well if you can stomach sexist comments such as “I regret that I have but one wife to give for my country’s infrastructure” (Mitch McConnell and “I keep thinking … how excited your daddy is right now … and that he is responsible for you and your performing” (Jim Inhofe).  Even the Democrats joined the nonsense.

John Kelly (Department of Homeland Security) said gave all the right answers to keep his hearing audience happy, but the questions were softballs.

Donald Trump’s press conference was also today. But that, too, is another story as is information from the hearing for Rex Tillerson (Secretary of State).

The lights have already gone out twice in a week at the Washington Monument. It could be an indication of the coming dark ages.

December 20, 2016

Trump’s Monsters for Cabinet Positions

Halloween came eight days late this year when Donald Trump (DT) was elected president of the United States on November 8. His selection began a parade of monsters, the like of which has not ever been seen in the Cabinet and other high federal government officials. It’s as if DT was thinking, “How much do I hate the people in the nation? Let me count the ways?” For the past month he has dribbled out names, each one more of a shock, as he uses the government as his personal toy. All his nominees for agency directors are diametrically opposed to the missions of the organizations that they would lead. As Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said, “Personnel is policy,” and evidenced by DT’s selections, he loves these policies:

Racism, Voter Oppression, Climate Denial—the List of Civil Wrongs Goes On and On:

jeff-sessionsSen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama is DT’s nominee for Attorney General, the person designated to protect legal rights for all the people of the United States through the Department of Justice. He may be the worst choice among all the DT nominees to be confirmed. (Michael Flynn doesn’t require confirmation for his position of Homeland Security Advisor.) It’s been 30 years since the Senate determined that Sessions was unfit to be a federal judge because of his outrageous racist comments, such as calling a black assistant U.S. attorney “boy” and the NAACP “communist inspired.” Yet his xenophobia continues into the 21st century as Sessions calls for mass deportations of undocumented immigrants and connects terror attacks against the U.S. to all Muslim immigrant families. He may also have been the architect of DT’s wall idea and thinks that people born in the United States of foreign parents should not be citizens.

Sessions also opposes voting and LGBTQ rights and is  virulently anti-marijuana—now legal at least for medical purposes in over half the states. Just two years ago, Sessions said, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Last year, he claimed that carbon dioxide is “plant food” and “not a pollutant” and accused White House  Science Advisor John Holdren of advancing a “political agenda” in explaining links between climate change and weather events such as droughts. His votes support pipelines, kill clean energy tax credits, and block the EPA. This is the man who would determine how the law of the country is interpreted and enforced.

Illness and Death:

tompriceTom Price, nominated for Secretary of Health and Human Services, wrote the bills to repeal the Affordable Care Act including the elimination of Medicaid, arguing that the health care “removes the very freedom and liberty that our founders fought for at its very core.” His plan is to privatize (aka get rid of) Medicare by this coming summer, reducing the “vouchers” to where insurance premiums will cost more than Social Security payments. Another Price goal is to decimate Medicaid by drastically cutting funding. Price also opposes paying doctors “based on quality and outcome.” He believes that the First Amendment lets employers refuse birth control to women and supports defunding Planned Parenthood and eliminating abortion. Sessions also sided with BP during its horrendous oil spill, helped create the congressional Tea Party Caucus, and is totally anti-LGBTQ.

Stupidity and Ignorance:

betsy-devosBetsy DeVos as Secretary of Education would wipe out public education through taxpayer vouchers to charter and private schools. Corporations will make a fortune in operating schools with no regulations, a curriculum that promotes religion, and minimum-wage teachers. DeVos, whose money comes from the Amway Ponzi scheme, joins Bill & Melinda Gates, Eli & Edythe Broad, and the Walton family of Wal-Mart fame to control educational policies in the nation. She is pro-creationism, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-science in her belief that global warming is a hoax.

Despite continued research showing charter school failures in many states, the DeVos “leadership” will continue the GOP dismantling of “government schools” to use taxpayer moneys for religious private schools. DeVos has compared her work in education reform to a biblical battleground where she wants to “advance God’s Kingdom.” Lamenting that public schools have “displaced” the church as the center of communities, she says that school choice leads to “greater Kingdom gain.” DeVos and her husband have put hundreds of millions of dollars toward that end.

DeVos’ brother, ex-Navy SEAL Erik Prince, founded the controversial private security contractor Blackwater (now known as Academi) and made considerable donations to first Ted Cruz and later DT. As a lobbyist with no educational experience except attending private schools, DeVos destroyed the schools in Michigan; now she has the same plan for the entire United States.

Fewer Jobs, Lower wages and No Worker Protection:

Andrew Puzder, chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc., listens during a panel discussion at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., on Monday, April 30, 2012. The conference brings together hundreds of chief executive officers, senior government officials and leading figures in the global capital markets for discussions on social, political and economic challenges. Photographer: Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants that includes Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., has been nominated for Labor Secretary. He opposes raising the minimum wage and wants to automate service jobs to have fewer workers. (Note that Puzder is the choice of the candidate who swore he would give his voters more and better jobs.) Puzder also wants to cut assistance programs and use franchises to avoid paying benefits. His own employees get the lowest wages in the nation and are forced to use taxpayer money to survive. The fast food lobby is ecstatic: International Franchise Association President and CEO Robert Cresanti is looking forward to reducing the number of workers eligible for overtime pay and elimination of accountability for labor law violations at their franchises.

In 2004, Puzder settled three class-action lawsuits about overtime pay against his company for $9 million. A lawsuit against his company in 2013 for not paying managers overtime is still pending, and Puzder said in 2014 that his company had spent $20 million on labor lawsuits in the previous eight years. In another arena, Puzder was accused of domestic abuse by his first wife; police were called to their home at least twice.

Over 100 years ago, the Department of Labor was created “to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners of the United States, to improve their working conditions, and to advance their opportunities for profitable employment.” Now it will support the wealthy—and the robots.

Like DT, Puzder would suffer from massive conflict of interest because he would run the agency in charge of investigating employees—lime himself—for labor violations. The couple are also top-notch misogynists.  One of Puzder’s commercials is here.

puzder-philosophy

Lack of Transportation:

elaine-chaoElaine Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConell (R-KY) and former Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush, is DT’s nominee for the Department of Transportation. She has already shown her undying allegiance to business interests over enforcing laws to protect U.S. workers by mistreatment of workers in an epidemic of illegal salary underpayment as employers stole workers’ wages, identified by reports from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO). Chao also faked records to make her wage and hour office look better at resolving cases than it was in reality. She was also on the board of Wells Fargo when it scammed its customers for $2.4 million but stayed silent when former CEO John Stumpf quit after congressional hearings. If she is confirmed, Chao will oversee over three times the number of employees who report to the Labor Secretary and be responsible for the safety of roads, airplanes, and rails.

Rep. Bill Shuster, head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has said that DT likes the idea of privatizing air traffic control, a disaster ever since President Reagan eliminated its union and banned over 11,000 former employees from federal service for life early in his first term. Another possibility is privatizing airport security. (It might be noted that McConnell was adamant about not telling the people of the U.S. that Russia was exerting deliberate control over the 2016 presidential election. Chao’s nomination may be his reward.) Drone and driverless car industries would be delighted with Chao in this position because of her reputation for loose regulations.

The Disappearance of Small Businesses: 

linda-mcmahonLinda McMahon, the former World Wrestling Entertainment chief executive, has been nominated for Secretary of the Small Business Administration. With her reputation for crushing smaller competitors to achieve success, she’s another choice that opposes the agency mission. When she and her husband, Vince, took over WWE from Vince’s father, it was already a sizable business controlling wrestling in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast region. Showing little concern for a pact keeping independent wrestling businesses out of each other’s territories, WWE moved in, destroyed the competition, and established a monopoly. She declares wrestlers “independent contractors” and avoids such requirements as providing health insurance. The Small Business Administration acts as an advocate for small businesses by running a large loan guarantee program for them, helping with disaster relief, and advising on issues such as health care regulations. Small business owners are worried about McMahon controlling the agency.

And there are more!

December 3, 2012

GOP Accidentally Supports Environmentalists

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:52 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Sometimes the Republican insanity of not raising taxes provides some good. Such might be the case of the Sportsman Act of 2012, a collection of 17 bills sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT). The act expand public access for fishing and hunting while supporters claim that it will conserve valuable fish and wildlife habitat.

Environmental groups object because it contains an exemption allowing imports of threatened polar bear parts from Canada despite the Endangered Species Act’s prohibition against such trade, something that Sarah Palin desperately wants. The bill also prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating components “used in shot, bullets and other projectiles,” such as bullets and fishing tackle. Because it bars the the agency from outlawing lead, imperiled California condors, bald eagles, and and 130 other species of wildlife can be killed.

Humans also risk lead poisoning from accidentally eating lead fragments and residues in game shot with lead ammunition. Recent studies and scientific reports show elevated blood lead levels in hunters eating lead-infected meat, as well as dangerous lead contamination of venison donations to low-income food banks.

Killing things—that sounds like something that the GOP wants to do. The problem, however is that the measure raises the price of duck stamps, required for hunting licenses, up $10 from $15 to $25. The increase would buy wetlands used by waterfowl. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) complained that the expenditure violates the Budget Control Act of 2011 that caps congressional panels.

This bill even has the support of the National Rifle Association. The House has already passed a similar version of the bill which includes language blocking the president from declaring any new national monuments under the Antiquities Act.

These are the people who will eventually settle the fiscal “cliff”?

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