Nel's New Day

May 20, 2019

Watch DDT’s Stonewalling Crumble

 

Personal issues have kept me from writing the past week, but today’s news is so outstanding that I couldn’t resist writing about it. (Within the next few days, I’ll catch up on last week’s news.)

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), who is frantically trying to hide all his personal affairs from the public, lost big in court for a beginning fight with Congress. A federal judge upheld a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee for eight years of DDT’s tax returns from his accounting firm, Mazars USA, and rejected arguments from DDT’s lawyers that Congress has no power to obtain the files. These records could show financial misconduct by DDT and his associates.

The judge’s ruling is in accord with opinion from the Supreme Court that Congress has the power to collect “needed information” as a fundamental “attribute of the power to legislate” for the constitutional authority to Congress for all “legislative Powers.” The Constitution also bans courts from interfering with congressional subpoenas issued for legitimate legislative purpose. Courts cannot search for some covert illicit motive from Congress. The judge stated that the House Oversight Committee met this low hurdle.

The Oversight Committee listed four reasons to investigate DDT’s finances:

Accurate finance reporting to the Office of Goverment Ethics to help Congress determine “whether reforms are necessary to address deficiencies with current laws, rules, and regulations.” That goal clearly “falls within the legislative sphere.”

Complying with the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause that bars a president from accepting gifts from foreign governments without congressional consent.

Failing to disclose “conflicts of interest that may impair his ability to make impartial policy decisions” regarding legislation about ethics of government officials.

Engaging “in illegal conduct before and during his tenure in office.”

The judge noted that the Watergate scandal led to new legislation, including laws on transparency and oversight. DDT’s argument, he wrote, “flies in the face of decades of legislation covering the President.”

In his 41-page ruling, the judge wrote:

“It is simply not fathomable that a Constitution that grants Congress the power to remove a President for reasons including criminal behavior would deny Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct—past or present—even without formally opening an impeachment inquiry.”

In opposition to the argument from DDT’s lawyers that Congress was usurping the DOJ’s powers to investigate “dubious and partisan” allegations of private conduct, the judge said that a congressional investigation into illegal conduct before and during a president’s time in office fits “comfortably” with Congress’s broad investigative powers, which include an “informing function,” or the power to expose corruption.

The judge also wrote that the House Oversight Committee had “facially valid legislative purposes” for its subpoena:

“It is not for the court to question whether the Committee’s actions are truly motivated by political considerations.”

The judge refused a stay until DDT’s lawyers can appeal his finding. He gave them seven days for an appeal, and Mazars has seven days to turn over DDT’s tax returns. The judge wrote:

“The court is well aware that this case involves records concerning the private and business affairs of the President of the United States. But on the question of whether to grant a stay pending appeal, the President is subject to the same legal standard as any other litigant that does not prevail.”

DDT keeps complaining about how no other president has ever faced this situation, but DDT is unique in never having disclosed his tax returns, declining to divest from his extensive business dealings including those with foreigners abroad, and refusing to put his assets in a blind trust. His former lawyer Michael Cohen has testified under oath about DDT’s fraudulently inflating and deflating the same assets’ value to benefit his business transactions.

The judge opened by comparing DDT’s lawsuit to President James Buchanan’s similar effort to block an investigation into his affairs and noted that DDT has “taken up [Buchanan’s] fight.” The judge reported that he declined to put his ruling on hold while DDT appeals because the president failed to raise a “serious legal question going to the merits.” James Buchanan, one of the country’s worst leaders who blamed for failing to prevent the Civil War, also whined about about “harassing” congressional inquiries. The judge also pointed out that Congress began its investigation into Bill Clinton before he entered the White House and noted:

“Congress plainly views itself as having sweeping authority to investigate illegal conduct of a President, before and after taking office. This court is not prepared to roll back the tide of history.”

In another attempt to hide from House investigation, DDT ordered former White House counsel Don McGahn to ignore a subpoena to appear before the House tomorrow to testify about his interviews with Robert Mueller for his investigation. No longer employed by the government, McGahn is the second after Mazars to test DDT’s success in his demand to resist “all” subpoenas by House members. Earlier, McGahn followed White House directions when he defied a subpoena by refusing to provide documents shared with Mueller relevant to the House inquiry into potential abuses of power.

The DOJ has provided a 15-page opinion stating that McGahn cannot be forced to testify, but it uses no case law to support the opinion. Instead, it is based on past DOJ legal memos. DDT is claiming “executive privilege” to keep the House from obtaining any information, but this privilege can’t be used to hide potential evidence of a crime.If the House holds McGahn in contempt of Congress for not appearing before the House Judiciary Committee, as Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has threatened, McGahn could face disbarment.

The claim from DDT’s lawyers that other administrations have given senior aides “absolute immunity” resulted in failure by other administrations. A judge appointed by George W. Bush ruled that W.’s former White House counsel, Harriet Miers, could not reject a subpoena, and W. didn’t appeal the ruling. One of President Obama’s appointed judges ruled against privilege for documents whose “sum and substance” were already revealed in a public inspector general report.

On Wednesday, the House Intelligence Committee will vote whether to enforce its subpoena for the release of still-redacted portions of Mueller’s report and certain underlying materials. That day, DDT, his three eldest children, and his company go to court in an attempt to block a subpoena from the House Financial Services Committee for DDT’s bank records from Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One as well as documents related to “possible money-laundering by people in Russia and Eastern Europe.”

New revelations show that DDT’s and Jared Kushner’s accounts at Deutsche Bank were flagged in summer 2016 for possible money laundering transactions but not turned over to authorities. After money in Kushner Companies was moved to Russians, “a suspicious activity report” and supporting documents were moved to Deutsche’s private-banking division in New York where managers have a relationship with Kushner. The same situation occurred with DDT’s transactions. No information was filed with the Treasury Department, as law requires. The person reporting the suspicious activity was first told to ignore it and was then fired after she pursued it.

In 2004, despite knowing that DDT inflated his net worth, Deutsche Bank lent DDT over $500 million to build a 92-story building in Chicago. The bank also were told DDT had “worked with people in the construction industry connected to organized crime.” Ten years later, the bank was willing to massively exaggerate its vouching that DDT’s net worth was $8.7 billion for him to buy the Buffalo Bills.

With a history of corruption, Deutsche Bank paid hundreds of millions in penalties and is now required to increase its efforts to prevent illicit activities.

The House Intelligence Committee released transcripts of Michael Cohen’s private interviews, including how DDT’s lawyers told him to lie to Congress in his testimony. A person with ties to DDT also suggested Cohen could be pardoned for his discreet testimony. Details here.

While DDT is trying to avoid subpoenas and transparency about his affairs, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) has infuriated Republicans by being the first GOP legislator to claim that DDT “engaged in impeachable conduct” based on the Mueller report. GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) then smeared and lied about Amash, who does ask questions in hearings. At least 68 percent of Amash’s votes are with DDT. Conservatives are now peddling the conspiracy theory that Amash plans to run against DDT for president in 2020.

Amash’s Twitter thread provides background for his position, including his claim that DDT’s fixer AG Bill Barr had “deliberately misrepresented” the findings. Amash pointed out that “few members of Congress even read Mueller’s report.” He tweeted:

“When loyalty to a political party or to an individual trumps loyalty to the Constitution, the Rule of Law—the foundation of liberty—crumbles.”

We hope that liberty will cause DDT’s stonewalling to crumble. [Thanks to Cynthia Cox Cottam for the above image.]

[Note: Those who wish to read more about the news above and/or factcheck the material may wish to use the links.]

January 10, 2017

Trump: ‘You’re Fired’—Except for Putin

“You’re fired.” Donald Trump’s (DT) favorite sentence on The Apprentice has circled the world. In a break with decades of precedent, he has ordered all politically appointed ambassadors, 39 in all, to return to the United States by Inauguration Day. The order was given two days before Christmas, about the time that DT was offering ambassadorships to booking agents who could find performers for his inauguration. New ambassadors to all these countries have to be individually confirmed by the Senate. Forget any continuity; DT is king.

DT’s ten-year-old son gets to stay in his New York school after his inauguration, but ambassadors’ children will be left in limbo. For example, Stafford Fitzgerald Haney, U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, has four school age children, and his wife is fighting breast cancer. A question for DT’s Secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson, is whether he thinks that diplomats should be treated in this manner.

“You’re fired” is also what DT said to the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and his deputy. This $12 billion-a-year agency “maintains and enhances the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.” That includes responding to nuclear emergencies throughout the world, keeping the Navy in its guarding against terrorists acquiring nuclear material, and caring for the nation’s 7,000 weapons. For the first time since its creation in 2000 that the agency has no one in charge of this responsibility or its 2,300 employees. Never fear, however, because one of these days Rick Perry may be in charge as Secretary of Energy.

There are denials that the people in the top two NNSA positions were “fired,” but Gizmodo reported that “the Trump transition team has not asked the top two NNSA officials to stay on until they can be replaced.” Still sounds like being fired on the first day. And no replacements have been named.

No one knows how many more government officials will received the message of “You’re fired!” The executive branch has between 3,000 and 4,000 positions requiring a presidential appointment, and over 1,200 of these need to be confirmed by the Senate. In a recent petty DT act by DT,  he fired Charles Brotman, 89, by email and replaced him with a DT campaign volunteer. Brotman has served as official announcer for every inauguration parade since the second one for Dwight Eisenhower in 1957. That’s 11 inaugurations and 60 years.

DT will most likely not fire Vladimir Putin because of DT’s heavy financial involvement with Russia. Human rights lawyer Scott Horton has been investigating Financial Times studies that show how Russian crime lords bailed DT out of his seventh bankruptcy in the past decade and the cancellation of all his bank lines of credit.

 

One of DT’s many lies is that he’s a good businessman, but the above graph shows his failure during a decade from 1995 to 2005. That sham of a successful enterprise came from millions of dollars from Russian businesses fronting for mobsters and the GRU, the military intelligence service of the Russian Federation which was formerly the Red Army of the Soviet Union. One of the actors in DT’s pretend success is Sergei Millian, head of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce (RACC) in the U.S. when Donald Trump, Jr. explained the Trump solvency as coming from “money pouring in from Russia.”

Millian denied that the RACC has any relationship to the Russian government, but former Russian MP Konstantin Borovoi cited the chamber as a front for intelligence operations dating back to Soviet times. Millian called himself the Trump “exclusive broker,” and “in 2007-2008, dozens of Russians bought apartments in Trump properties in the US.” He told ABC television that the Trump Organization had received “hundreds of millions of dollars” through deals with Russian businessmen. DT denied any association with Millian despite documents and photos.

Another Financial Times article shows DT at the center of a money-laundering scheme when he used his real estate deals to hide both his infusion of Russian capital and launder hundreds of millions of dollars looted by Russian oligarchs through selling his apartments at highly inflated costs. The companies created for the laundering network were created in April 2013, a week before one LLC paid another LLC hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to buy apartments in Trump Soho—all transactions with companies having undisclosed ownership. DT’s only obligation was to ignore the background for the deal and deny any knowledge of ownership, as in the case of the Fort Lauderdale project, Bayrock.

Jody Kriss, a former Bayrock finance director, claimed the backers included “hidden interests in Russia and Kazakhstan.” Both Bayrock and DT were based in Trump Tower and collaborated in deals around the world. DT said that he had no idea who owned Bayrock, yet he was a partner who represented and took money from this corporation totaling hundreds of millions of dollars throughout the world.

DT’s involvement with Russian money came from his multiple corporate bankruptcies removing his ability to heavily borrow in the U.S. In the 2000s, he had become an entertainer who licensed his name to businesses wanting a brand. He was bankrupt but appeared to be a “successful businessman,” allowing him to carry out massive criminal activities. His only value was his image. DT still had some degree of ownership in apartments and buildings, and foreign crime bosses needs a place to hide their money.

Reports emerged today that both President Obama and DT have been briefed on compromising personal and financial information that Russian have about DT. The two-page synopsis was attached to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. It shows that Russia had material harmful to both political parties but chose to release only what damaged Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. The sources were credible enough to inform President Obama and DT.

The FBI was aware last August about the content of the memos that include contact between DT aides and Russian operatives as well as graphic sexual acts documented by the Russians. Whether this information is accurate has not been made public, but the United States has serious problems with just an indication that Russia can blackmail the president of the United States. Kellyanne Conway, DT’s counselor, said he is “not aware” about any briefing, but she also said that people shouldn’t believe anything he says.

Without DT’s tax returns, no one may never find out the extent of DT’s involvement  with the Russians. Yet he got money, oligarchs hid their money, and Russia got the U.S. president. And DT can’t afford to say to Russia, “You’re fired.” The real losers are the DT supporters who believed his lies about getting them jobs and a better future.

DT’s overriding motivation is revenge. His hatred for Barack Obama came with the president’s jokes at a White House Correspondent’s Dinner and throughout the years as he expressed his loathing for the “elites.” Right now he may be planning action against Meryl Streep and the Golden Globes because of Streep’s anti-bullying speech last Sunday. DT has evidenced no human decency, and now he’s in charge of millions of people who will be trampled by his fragile ego.

DT’s first press conference in six months is scheduled for tomorrow at 11:00 EST. The topic is supposedly how he plans to “divest” himself to avoid conflicts of interest. Will he show up? Will he spin? Will he lie? Last question is a no-brainer.

 

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