Nel's New Day

August 29, 2018

White House Counsel Latest, But Not Only, to ‘Resign’

As Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) continues to threaten his AG Jeff Sessions with firing, journalists have watched for a shakeup in the Department of Justice or even the firing of special investigator Robert Mueller. Yet the “resignation” of Don McGahn, the White House counsel, has resulted in dismay.

It’s true that McGahn has been making noises about leaving the White House and that DDT was caught off-guard when he learned about McGahn’s 30 hours of testimony with Mueller President Trump’s advisers. But McGahn himself was surprised when DDT tweeted this morning that he was leaving; McGahn had hoped that he would stay to shepherd Supreme Court justice nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, through the confirmation process.

And it’s not as if DDT has lots of legal help if Democrats take over the House and subpoena all the people who the GOP had been sheltering. Or even worse for DDT, if Democrats started impeachment proceedings. With Democratic control, House committees could hold hearings about policies such as DDT’s travel ban, his “zero tolerance” answer to immigration separating children and families, and various ethical misconduct through DDT, his administration, and his family’s private businesses.

Having lost ten lawyers, the White House has about 25. Three of McGahn’s deputies already left, and a fourth goes Friday, leaving only one deputy counsel, the ethics czar who handles national security.

WaPo interviewed 26 White House officials, presidential advisers, and lawyers and strategists close to the administration to investigate this situation. McGahn understood the danger of impeachment: he and other aides tried to persuade DDT to not behave in any way that could lead to being impeached. DDT obviously has not tried this tack, and he also has no action plan if impeachment comes into play. Speaking on the record, DDT’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said that he had talked to DDT about impeachment but “they can’t [criminally] charge him.” Giuliani’s advice has not been very useful to DDT.

A source of anxiety among DDT’s allies is that he and White House officials aren’t worried about Democratic control. DDT thinks that he can get enough Republicans elected to Congress to save him, and he sometimes becomes angry with advisers who raise “the i-word,” his term for impeachment. An ally said:

“Winter is coming. Assuming Democrats win the House, which we all believe is a very strong likelihood, the White House will be under siege. But it’s like tumbleweeds rolling down the halls over there. Nobody’s prepared for war.”

Allies are also concerned that the White House, which has not attracted top-notch talent, may have more problems if Democrats take the House. Aides may leave the sinking ship, fearing legal limbo and hefty lawyer fees just because of their positions near DDT. At this time, the White House can hardly handle crisis communications in distributing strong talking points, and potential battles will cause more difficulties. Because DDT sees only himself as the focus, he cannot grasp the size of an infrastructure necessary to protect the presidency such as Clinton had with scores of lawyers, communications staffers, and other strategists during his impeachment. White House counsel at that time said that his office had as many as 60 lawyers during key times.

DDT found himself in enough trouble during his first 18 months, but McGahn kept him from worse times. He refused to fire Mueller a year ago after DDT gave him the order. When Sessions considered resigning early in his term because of DDT’s vicious statements, McGahn persuaded him to stay. And McGahn knows where the bodies are buried and may tell Mueller about their locations. DDT ordered McGahn to tell Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russian investigation and heard from then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates that DDT’s national security adviser Michael Flynn was lying about the nature of his contact with Russian officials.

The relationship between DDT and McGahn has become so strained that they “kind of avoided each other,” according to a former administration official. DDT was upset because McGahn didn’t “kowtow to him,” and DDT’s tweet guaranteed that McGahn would have to go—and soon. He was also furious because McGahn would not deny the story of DDT’s wanting to fire Mueller and tried to persuade his disgraced former staff secretary, Rob Porter, to warn McGahn that he would fire him then. McGahn also opposed DDT’s pardoning Paul Manafort, which may have driven DDT over the edge.

DDT envies the skilled lawyers for aides such as Abbe Lowell, representing Kushner, and William A. Burck, representing McGahn, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon, and considers adding Lowell to his very small legal team. DDT is also considering replacing McGahn with Emmet Flood, his White House strategist with the Mueller probe.

DDT may be losing another lawyer. DOJ is investigating a team of lawyers which includes trial lawyer Bobby Burchfield, independent ethics adviser for the DDT’s family business interests, for accepting tens of millions of dollars in laundered funds. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and DDT’s longtime lawyer Marc Kasowitz are also part of the legal team in trouble. Jho Low, a fugitive Malaysian businessman with assets in the U.S., allegedly paid the lawyers from $4.5 billion embezzled from a Malaysian fund.

On her show, Rachel Maddow mocked DDT’s reason for hiring Burchfield to avoid setting up a trust for his business after he was inaugurated:

“Don’t worry, we’re hiring an outside ethics adviser to make sure everything is squeaky clean for me to be the first president in modern history to retain his business interests while still serving as president. We have an outside adviser. Rest assured, there will be no funny money sliding through anywhere, nothing the least bit smelly in this unclean office fridge, everything will be fine.’”

According to Bloomberg News, DDT is considering hiring Burchfield as White House counsel or to replace Jeff Sessions as AG.

Another fired White House staff member, after a failure of DDT’s promise for “extreme vetting,” is policy aide and speechwriter Darren Beattie, who spoke at the 2016 H.L. Mencken Club Conference. Named for the early 20th century, journalist, satirist, and racist, the group caters to white nationalists such as Richard Spencer. Peter Brimelow, John Derbyshire, and Robert Weissberg, the latter two fired by the conservative magazine National Review for racist views, presented at the conference. Other speakers at the conference regularly contribute to the white nationalist website VDare. Beattie tried to stay at the White House with the claim that he presented uncontroversial academic information before he was fired. White House departures—it’s the new normal.

Larry Kudlow, DDT’s top economic adviser, hosted Peter Brimelow, the publisher of a website that serves as a platform for white nationalism, in his home. The birthday gathering for Kudlow was the day after Beattie spoke on a panel with Brimelow. Kudlow said he had no idea that Brimelow promoted white supremacists on Vdare.com and claimed to be a civil rights Republican. (The extent of ignorance in the White House is amazing!)

A true—and sad—resignation came from Seth Frotman, formerly the top U.S. official overseeing the $1.5 trillion student loan market at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. As part of his goal to destroy the agency, acting director and DDT’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, downgraded the student loan office mission, putting it under consumer education instead of enforcement. Before that happened, the office had protected student borrowers and returned $750 million to students who were unfairly treated. Frotman said he resigned because of the White House’s open hostility toward protecting the borrowers. His letter to Mulvaney stated:

“Unfortunately, under your leadership, the Bureau has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting. Instead, you have used the Bureau to serve the wishes of the most powerful financial companies in America….

“Sadly, the damage you have done to the Bureau betrays these families and sacrifices the financial futures of millions of Americans in communities across the country.”

The Bureau will soon have a new director, Kathy Kraninger, who looked to Mulvaney as her mentor. The Banking Committee approved her nomination by a party line of 13-12 on its way to a full Senate vote. Kraninger, who admitted that she is unqualified for her new position, avoided answering questions about any accomplishments at her job at OMB and doesn’t know what she would do when confirmed. She was also instrumental in DDT’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy but refused to answer any questions about her involvement, including with the private prison company with facilities that participated in abuse, sexual violence, neglect, and mismanagement.

DDT’s swinging door spins.

March 17, 2018

Inside DDT’s TV Echo Chamber

Andrew McCabe was fired yesterday, an action that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) sees as a vindication against the man he insulted since the firing of former FBI director James Comey. Legal recourse may not obtain McCabe’s pension which would have started tomorrow on his 50th birthday. Yet McCabe may have a case if he didn’t get due process, and any lawsuit against the firing would show the long trail of DDT’s vicious statements about McCabe, including his description about McCabe’s firing as “a great day for democracy.” Soon after his firing yesterday, McCabe released this statement, including his assertion that he was fired to hide DDT’s obstruction of justice.

The firing took place on Friday night, a time used to hide news, but the tactic failed. A tweet from DDT claimed that the firing was about the FBI, but McCabe wrote that it concerned DDT’s “ongoing war on … the efforts of the special counsel investigation, which continue to this day.” DDT’s lawyer John Dowd proved DDT’s intention when he followed up the firing with demands that DOJ close down Mueller’s investigation into the Russian scandal. Dowd first told The Daily Beast that he was speaking for DDT but later backed down on that claim.

Mueller supposedly gave questions for DDT to his lawyers as a start to an interview with DDT.

Two sources report that McCabe kept extensive memos about his interactions with DDT that special investigator Robert Mueller may find useful in pursuing obstruction of justice in DDT’s interactions with top law enforcement officials. Mueller has already interviewed McCabe and is reviewing Comey’s memos. Comey also warned DDT of a public relations nightmare when Comey’s book comes out later this month.

One way for McCabe to get his full retirement is to work for another 26 hours. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) offered McCabe a job to work on election security, and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) is considering asking McCabe to work for him.

Before McCabe’s firing, the media was talking about how long H.R. McMaster would last as national security adviser. DDT says he’s keeping McMaster, but he said the same thing about former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who was fired by tweet earlier this week. Fox network contributor John Bolton has been mentioned as McMaster’s replacement. Johns Hopkins senior fellow David Rothkopf wrote that Bolton’s mustache is more qualified for the position than he is. The former U.S. ambassador to the UN is known as the hawk behind the Iraq War, an enemy of the UN, and a hawkish foe of the Iran nuclear deal and North Korea. Richard Painter, George W. Bush’s ethics lawyer, called Bolton “the most dangerous man we had in the entire eight years of the Bush administration” and “an invitation to war, perhaps nuclear war.” DDT likes his men clean-shaven: Bolton could lose either the facial hair or the job.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is on the way out, and Pete Hegseth, co-host of Fox and Friends Weekendmay be the replacement. His positions include replacing the health-care system with much greater “private care,” and his past includes directing the Koch brothers’ Vets for Freedom and Concerned Veterans for America. Even congressional Republicans worry about his extreme views on “reforming” the VA, and Hegseth has alienated some GOP senators he needs for confirmation, calling Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair Johnny Isakson (R-GA) a “swamp creature ‘Republican.’”

Heather Nauert, another co-host of “Fox and Friends,” was promoted from spokesperson for the State Department to acting undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, replacing Steve Goldstein who DDT fired for telling the truth about how Tillerson learned about his firing from DDT’s tweet about his replacement. The new acting Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, got the job the day after he vigorously defended DDT on Sunday talk shows.

DDT has appointed CNBC analyst and former host Larry Kudlow to replace former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn as his chief economic adviser on Wednesday. Dana Milbank wrote that Kudlow may have been more “wrong about the economy than anyone alive.” At the end of 2007, Kudlow wrote for the National Review that “the resilient U.S. economy continues moving ahead” and “there’s no recession coming.” With no training in economics, Kudlow decided in early 2008 that the stock market might “have a mild correction. Maybe not.” He promised that it will rebound within a few months. As housing collapsed in summer of 2008, he said “an awful lot of very good new news.” That was just before stocks lost almost half their value, and the government had to bail out banks and businesses in a serious recession. Kudlow decried Bill Clinton’s tax increases that led to a booming economy, praised George W. Bush’s tax cuts that led to a massive deficit, and promised that Bush’s wars could be good for the economy. Now he predicts a five-percent annual growth from DDT’s tax “cuts.”

Kudlow matches DDT and his Cabinet members in being a climate change denier, another negative for an economic adviser.

DDT is moving from generals to media personalities. Stormy Daniels might replace Chief of Staff John Kelly.

In two legal decisions, DDT batted .500.

DDT can’t ignore pollution rules, according to a federal judge in northern California. Sixteen state attorneys general jointed a coalition of environmental groups to force EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt’s meeting the deadline for governing ozone from burning fossil fuels that damages lungs. Pruitt’s past inaction broke the law; he has until April 30 to comply. This decision makes the ninth legal victory for California’s AG Xavier Becerra against DDT.

The 5th Circuit Court ruled against retirees and for financial advisers when, by a vote of 2-1, vacated the fiduciary rule requiring broker dealers to consider the client’s best interests instead of personal commissions or fees in their advice. The ruling questioned the regulation’s validity because the 10th Circuit had already upheld the regulation. Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, encouraged a repeal and said that the ruling “threatens the Labor Department’s very ability to protect retirement investors now and in the future.”

The ACLU is suing the federal government for separating immigrant families seeking asylum. The case follows a “screaming and crying” seven-year-old girl who was taken from her Congolese mother and put into a Chicago facility. The woman was released in San Diego, but the girl is still 2,000 miles away. The class action lawsuit also concerns a Brazilian woman separated from her 14-year-old son as they sought asylum. The woman was put into a west Texas detention center, and the son was sent to a Chicago facility. The government said it deliberately separates parents and their children to keep them from coming to the U.S. Different government agencies detain adults and children.

The Senate has sent sent a bill to the House that will save the beleaguered banks—the ones that just got a 35-percent tax cut ($249 billion over the next ten years) after profits at record levels in 2016 and the third quarter of 2017. The bill, supported by some Democrats, would revise Dodd-Frank requirements by raising the size of banks subject to regulations from assets of $50 billion to $250 billion. It would also exempt “small” banks with assets of less than $100 billion from oversight requirements and exempt them from some requirements for loans, mortgages, and trading. Voters in favor of the bill ignored the financial crisis just ten years ago when banks such as Countrywide Financial, one of the biggest subprime mortgage lenders, failed. Its assets were about $210 billion.

Small banks are also exempt from the Volcker rule, allowing them to make the kinds of speculative investments that also led to the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing recession. Lenders can return to “nontraditional underwriting practices” that led to the disaster. The limit of mortgages before reporting, raised from 50 to 500, will greatly increase the problem of racial and gender bias in lending. The bill’s elimination of escrow requirements for banks under $10 billion, up from $2 billion, takes away vital borrower protection. A loophole in the bill gives foreign megabanks such as Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank the ability to shelter U.S. holdings in subsidiaries under $250 billion, but the GOP insisted on leaving it in.

Passing the bill means that 25 of the 38 biggest banks would be exempt from necessary rules to keep the banks solvent. They hold $3.5 trillion in assets, one-sixth of all the assets in the U.S. banking sector, and took $47 billion the bailout ten years ago.

Fortunately, a partisan power struggle may keep the bill from passing the House. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) threatened to freeze the bank bill unless senators make changes, and Senate Democrats refuse to amend it. They had already compromised, several of them because they are up for re-election in November in DDT-dominated states. The House wants the easing of requirements for mergers and acquisitions brokers and independent investors. Bless those intransigent Republican representatives!

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