Nel's New Day

June 13, 2019

DDT: Week 125, Part I – Total Disregard for the Law

A major piece of news that may go unnoticed this week is that White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is quitting at the end of the month and going home to Arkansas, according to a tweet from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). The public goes months without seeing her as DDT prefers to babble in his yard in lieu of press secretary briefings. Yesterday’s “babble” created a great deal of media when he claimed he’s fine with a little collusion between himself and a foreign government about his campaign opponents. Asked what he would do if a foreign government offered him clandestine information, he said:

“There’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called, from a country—Norway—we have information on your opponent. Oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

DDT continued:

“It’s not an interference, they have information. When somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘oh let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressman, they all do it, they always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research…. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI.”

In congressional testimony, Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers, “the FBI would want to know about” any foreign election meddling. DDT said, “The FBI director is wrong.”

Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein wrote:

“He’s the country’s commander in chief and top diplomat, and as such responsible for making clear to all foreign nations and other groups that messing with the internal affairs of the United States will have serious consequences. Instead, he’s basically inviting everyone in.”

DDT sycophant Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and a few other Republicans expressed dismay about DDT’s assessment that he didn’t need to notify the FBI.  Most congressional Republicans, however, pointed fingers at Democrats with false accusations and avoiding any mention of their president.

Despite some GOP senators claiming that candidates should report offers of foreign assistance to the FBI, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) led the charge to block any bill making this requirement. Knowingly accepting help from a foreign entity or power for electoral campaigns is already illegal, but a proposed bill would mandate the reporting of offering foreign assistance. Once again, Republicans cover for DDT’s illegal positions. The Republicans will not support this bill.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) responded:

“When the president talks like this, it’s no wonder [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] is blocking bipartisan efforts to secure our elections from foreign interference.”

McConnell’s blockade includes funding for state and governments to tighten security, a national strategy against cyberattacks, and the requirement that federal funds be spent only on federally certified “election infrastructure vendors.” In other proposals, internet companies such as Facebook must disclose political advertising purchasers, and federal incentives would be provided for states to adopt paper ballots. McConnell has now blocked over 100 pieces of legislation sent him from the House, including providing election security for 2020. Two days ago, he announced an election security briefing, but nothing has been heard about it since then. McConnell wouldn’t say whether the Senate will take up any legislation in connection to election security, and GOP Senate leaders knew nothing about a briefing. He blamed the media for ignoring stories about the lack of interference in the 2018 election and said that DDT “did a much, much better job” regarding the absence of problems. (That may be the briefing.)

Existing law legalizes interference from foreign government in some cases: foreign-owned companies incorporated in the U.S. can make unlimited donations to U.S. candidates, and foreigners, including those masquerading as news outlets, can legally pay for adds to attack or promote candidates on Facebook, Google, or YouTube. Because of the conservative Supreme Court, campaign finance is completely opaque and contains many loopholes and back doors for donors.

Beyond interference comes just plain sloppy, careless election security such as North Carolina has demonstrated. Just before the 2018 election, a cybersecurity analyst found a file of unencrypted administrative passwords in a cloud storage directory available to anyone on the internet to access. Recent revelations about Republicans using gerrymandering to preserve white GOP control has also led to a case in North Carolina that accuses the current legislature of being illegitimate. Files from the now deceased Thomas Hofeller, gerrymandering expert, show that the state’s Republicans lied to a federal court with their claim that they didn’t use racial data for new electoral maps and that they lacked time to draw new maps for a special election. Common Cause of North Carolina accuses the state’s legislative maps of violating the state’s constitution.

The day after the interview, DDT tried to cover up his remarks by falsely equating getting dirt on campaign opponents to diplomatic discussions with allies and then accused Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) of inappropriate contacts with Russian nationals. Last year, Warner attempt to contact the British author of material originally commissioned by the conservative Free Beacon, and Russian pranksters contacted Schiff in 2017 about having salacious photos of DDT. Schiff had immediately told law enforcement about the contact, and GOP Sen. John McCain (AZ) had already turned over the dossier to the FBI. 

DDT’s aide Kellyanne Conway said she doesn’t care about violating the law, but DDT’s Office of Special Counsel, headed by former employee of a right—leaning watchdog group and DDT’s appointee Henry Kerner, reported that she should be removed from her job because she egregiously and repeatedly violated the Hatch Act. DDT is upset. Deputy White House Press Secretary Steven Groves’s statement declared that the office has “unclear and unevenly applied rules which have a chilling effect on free speech for all federal employees.” White House Counsel Pat Cipollone demanded that the office withdraw its report. Kerner disagreed:

“In interview after interview, she uses her official capacity to disparage announced candidates, which is not allowed. What kind of example does that send to the federal workforce? If you’re high enough up in the White House, you break the law, but if you’re a postal carrier or a regular federal worker, you lose your job?”

Conway was reprimanded for telling Fox watchers to buy from Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, but most of her Hatch Act violations advocate for and against specific electoral candidates. Only the president and vice-president may openly campaign for political candidates.

John Dean, Richard Nixon’s former White House counsel, testified this week about comparisons between the Mueller Report and Watergate investigations. The testimony got little press because of a fatal helicopter crash in New York, but Robert Reich listed Dean’s report of six similarities between DDT and Nixon:

1) Tried to shut down the investigations completely.

2) Fired key investigators in an attempt to stop the investigation.

3) Tried to cover up their efforts to stop the investigation.

4) Sought to control investigators by ordering aides to interfere in their work.

5) Dangled presidential pardons to influence key witnesses.

6) Limited the release of key evidence to Congress and the public.

Despite his promise to disinvest himself from his businesses, DDT still makes money around the world with over $130 million in foreign assets and positions, assets, trademarks and other business interests in more than 30 countries. Information about this may be minimal because he provides only an annual disclosure form for last year with wide ranges for transactions, income, and property values. After a promise that he would pursue “no new deals” after his inauguration, DDT garnered new income by opening new properties since 2017. He also promised to donate all profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury, but there is no indication that he has done so. The Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution prevents government members from receiving gifts and other benefits from foreign states or leaders without congressional approval—which DDT doesn’t have. This source gives detailed descriptions of business affairs in 25 countries, an interactive map, and amounts that foreign influence spending from ten countries. DDT owes a lot of world leaders a lot of favors.  

DDT just scored $5 million above the assessment of a Beverly Hills mansion to Indonesian billionaire and vice presidential candidate Hary Tanoesoedibjo at a tidy 93 percent profit over the purchase price in 2007.

With no evidence, State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo blames Iran for attacks on two tankers, one owned by Japan and the other by Norway. He also has no proof that Iran perpetrated other recent attacks. These incidents occur while DDT tries to keep control over declaring war from Congress. Before Pompeo’s claim, war hawk Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) used the tanker episodes as justification to sell U.S. arms to Saudi Arabia without congressional approval. DDT has announced that now is not the time for any diplomacy with Iran.

Iran just hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and relationships between the two countries have been friendly for decades. With unproved assertions by the U.S. federal leadership, it’s 2003 all over.

 

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.

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