Nel's New Day

December 6, 2019

DDT: Week 150 – U.S.-Caused Volatility Here, In the World

AG Bill Barr, fixer for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), is struggling to fix DDT’s problems. First, Barr’s own inspector general, DOJ IG Michael Horowitz, disagrees with Barr’s coverup for the FBI investigation into Russian election interference, and Barr can’t change the report. Barr claims that U.S. intelligence agents were “spies,” but Horowitz’s probe shows no political animus in their investigation. Barr’s handpicked investigator, Connecticut’s U.S. Attorney John Durham, can’t find any evidence to back up conspiracy theories that the initiation of  the intelligence probe into Russian election tampering was just a set-up.

Barr has avoided any probe into DDT’s “persuasion” of Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to re-examine Hunter Biden’s involvement in Ukraine, likely because he’s afraid that he will find bribery on the part of DDT. For that reason, the House Intelligence Committee did the investigation that should have been the DOJ’s job.

Barr also wants to use DDT’s quid pro quo style—blackmail—by threatening “communities” with loss of police enforcement if they don’t show “respect” to law enforcement. This speech in which he announced this philosophy followed ones that blamed U.S. problems on secularists and accused “the left” of “undermining the rule of law.” Barr has already attacked DAs pushing for police accountability and wants “zero tolerance for resisting police.” Journalist Adam Serwer tweeted that the AG seemed to say that “the attorney general of the united states believes police are not sworn officers of the law, civil servants bound by an oath, but a gang running a protection racket.”  

Seeing trouble ahead after the Ukraine debacle, DDT quietly released $105 million in military assistance for Lebanon after he froze the funds for month. The aid had congressional approval and overwhelming support from the Pentagon, State Department, and National Security Council. DDT failed to explain why he was withholding funding since September that would help counter Iran’s influence in Lebanon.  

A court has forced the release of a few more formerly-redacted snippets from Robert Mueller’s report with these revelations:

DDT’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen said that DDT’s family lawyers told him not to tell FBI agents about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, leading to some of Cohen’s lies to Congress. Lawyers from the Joint Defense Agreement representing DDT’s family, Cohen, and Jared Kushner told him to omit his statement about contact with Russian officials.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein assumed that either he or then-AG Jeff Sessions would be responsible for firing former FBI director James Comey and called him into the office, only to discover that DDT had fired Comey via email. When the media reported that firing Comey was his idea, Rosenstein said he was “angry, ashamed, horrified, and embarrassed.” He also refused to participate in a press conference about the firing because the DOJ “cannot participate in putting out a false story.”

For those who slept through the last three years, Washington Post has published The Mueller Report Illustrated in a book and six-part digital series.  

The stock market went crazy against this week after DDT said he plans to put tariffs on steel and aluminum for Brazil and Argentina to expand his trade war and destroy agreements with the countries. He claims that reinstating tariffs will benefit U.S. farmers, but he had not imposed them in the first place. Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, called the “Trump of South America,” thought he had a close relationship with DDT, but DDT turned on him after China began buying pork, soybeans, and other agricultural goods from Brazil because DDT attacked China with tariffs. DDT is also threatening other parts of the world with tariffs including Mexico, Europe, and Vietnam. The only way that DDT can place tariffs is through threatened national security, and several countries are suing the U.S. in the World Trade Organization. Recently, a federal court, the U.S. Court of International Trade, ruled that DDT couldn’t raise tariffs on steel exports from Turkey because the 180-day deadline for the decision had expired. DDT’s tariffs have upset U.S. manufacturers of cars, machinery, food packaging, and other products because of increased prices for metal.

DDT’s threatened France with up to 100 percent tariffs on about $2.4 billion in French products such as sparkling wine, cheeses, handbags, and makeup—all in the name of national security and all items that DDT doesn’t buy. The tariffs are in retaliation to French taxes on 30 companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon with at last $830 million in global revenue and digital sales of $26 million in France. France said that the average tax rate for digital companies in EU is 9.5 percent, compared with 23.2 percent for other companies.

Another reason for the craziness of the stock market came from DDT’s conflicting tweets about his trade war with China. The Dow dropped when he said that he’d wait to settle the tariff problem until after the 2020 election and then rose the next day after he said he changed his mind. In addition to ire about the tariff situation, China reacted negatively to the congressional resolution supporting Hong Kong’s democracy that passed with only one no vote in the 535- member Congress and reluctantly signed by DDT. China retaliated by suspending visits by U.S. military vessels to Hong Kong and sanctioning U.S. nongovernmental organizations accused of encouraging violence in Hong Kong. The passage of a proposed bill calling for tougher reaction to China’s treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority, China warned, could damage a trade deal to soften the trade war. The bill, passed in the House with only one no vote, condemns the human rights violations and calls for “an end to arbitrary detention, torture, and harassment of these communities inside and outside China.” With excellent prospects in the Senate, the proposed law could put sanctions on China for violations.  

Although Republicans claim that Democrats are doing nothing during the impeachment inquiry, the House passed a measuring backing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by 226 to 188. Five Republicans voted in favor of the measure, and four Democrats opposed it. The legislature stated that the solution is vital to “both ensure the state of Israel’s survival as a Jewish and democratic state and fulfill the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.” The House also voted, 228 to 187, to restore voting protection rights after the Supreme Court removed them in 2013. Only one Republican voted in favor of the bill, a vast difference from the 2006 vote of 390-33 to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already announced his opposition to voting rights.

DDT is considering doubling the number of the military in the Middle East by sending another 14,000 service members along with dozens of ships, according to the Wall Street Journal. Department of Defense Press Secretary Alyssa Farah said the report was “wrong” before Defense Secretary Mark Esper admitted that the deployment was under consideration.

While DDT rails against ISIS and terrorists, a Saudi Arabian Air Force pilot who was training in the U.S. killed three people at Pensacola Naval Air Station and wounded more before being killed himself. People also forget that 15 of the 19 terrorists in the 9/11 attack were Saudis, and George W. Bush slipped wealthy Saudis out of the U.S. during a freeze on air travel. DDT himself ignored the Saudi crown prince’s torturing and dismembering a U.S. journalist.

More grist for impeachment came from somewhere in Ukraine where DDT’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani connected DDT’s bogus investigation into the Bidens to the July 25 telephone call between DDT and Zelensky. With no evidence, Giuliani tweeted that “no military aid [was] withheld,” although it was frozen for months until Zelensky caved, and that “the conversation about corruption in Ukraine was based on compelling evidence of criminal conduct by then VP Biden, in 2016.”  

Tomorrow is the deadline for open 2020 Medicare enrollment, and its new website may lead users to spend more money for prescriptions by hiding out-of-pocket costs. With the lowest premium at the top, the “helper” doesn’t include expenses such as copays that could cost thousands of dollars more. In one case, paying a premium of $25.80, almost twice the monthly cost of the cheapest premium, could save $5,800 a year. 

People who want to check out the costs should go to the initial search results and then look for the drop-down menu on the right of the screen. Select the feature allowing you to re-sort plans by “lowest drug + premium cost.”

That’s the tip of the news iceberg. More catch-up tomorrow!

 

April 20, 2019

DDT: Week 117 – Brief Euphoria Leads to Fury

AG Bill Barr’s release of the Mueller Report—at least pieces of it—consumed the news last week with Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) going from euphoria when he thought he was exonerated to fear and anger after the public and Congress saw a partial report. Despite Barr’s desperate lies and omissions to convince people that DDT was off the hook, questions about his conflicts of interest also damage his spin on DDT’s “innocence.” In the past, Barr worked for a law firm representing Russia’s Alfa Bank and for a company with long-time business connections with Russia. He also received dividends from Vector Group with deep financial ties to Russia that brought DDT to Moscow to discuss investments there. Deutsche Bank, the only one recently willing to lend money to DDT and implicated in money-laundering schemes, holds up to $250,000 of Barr’s assets. These facts were largely overlooked in the Senate confirmation hearings, but the House is guaranteed to dig deeper into Barr’s Russian relationships—likely finding a web of people involved in both the scandal and attempts to bury it in addition to Barr’s past history of lying.

Noted journalist Jane Mayer also wrote an article of how Eric Prince, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ brother and Blackwater founder, funded an attempt to determine “the authenticity of [Clinton’s] emails” that DDT requested from Russia. Michael Flynn told Mueller that DDT repeatedly asked to get the emails, and Flynn asked many people who might be able to get them, including Peter Smith who helped finance investigations into Bill Clinton’s sexual relationships in Arkansas. Smith wrote emails explaining that his work on Clinton’s emails was “in coordination with” DDT’s campaign, and Prince helped fund the operation. Smith’s death in May 2017 was ruled a suicide. Barr stated that disseminating stolen information was not a crime unless the person initially stole the information. Another “Trump Defense” that adds to nothing criminal for people who are angry and  fail.

While lying about the Mueller report, Barr issued a ruling that asylum seekers won’t be eligible for bond even they face credible fear in their countries of origin. Instead they’ll be held indefinitely, sometimes years, while immigration courts determine their fate. The ruling means taxpayers pay hundreds of millions of dollars to private companies that house people who could find productive work and pay taxes. Last year’s charge was at least $730 million. Barr justified his authority by stating that he can do this because federal circuit courts have this right—although the DOJ has nothing to do with the judicial system. compared his authority to that of a federal court:

One of Barr’s goals may be to get rid of DDT’s former undocumented housekeeper at DDT’s golf resort in Bedminster (NJ), Victorina Morales, who blew the whistle on DDT’s employees’ penchant for hiring undocumented migrants and then blackmailing them with their status. Morales brought her son to Guatemala after they witnessed a group of men slashing her father-in-law with a machete in an attempt to extort him for money. The AG can refer any cases he wishes to her purview as a political tool to control the immigration system. In greater politicization, Barr is considering an expansion of his power to refer cases to himself that are being considered in addition to those determined by immigration judges.

An DHS advisory group wants Congress to pass “emergency legislation” to detain more children at the southern border. The goal is to block asylum seekers.

DDT, who tried to strongarm the Japanese president into nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize, vetoed the non-binding resolution to leave the war in Yemen causing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Bombing is leaving 14 million Yemenis at risk of famine. One year ago, DDT claimed peace with North Korea. This week, its president, Kim Jong-Un, announced a test-firing of “tactical guided weapon,” showing the world that his nation is moving forward with weapons development. His media also said that North Korean officials won’t accept Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s participation in nuclear talks, requesting someone “more careful and mature in communicating.” Pompeo declared that he’s staying on, that its “my team,” illustrating that North Korea might be right. And once again, a Republican in the Oval Office has failed after triumphantly crying “Mission accomplished.”

Although DDT ignored the three black churches burned down in Louisiana in the past few weeks, he had enough time to give advice to firefighters battling the inferno at Paris’ Cathedral of Notre-Dame—use “flying water tankers.” His suggestion was ignored to preserve the structural integrity of the 850-year-old building. DDT’s pattern of ignoring the plight of non-white people in the U.S. continues his failure to follow through to get clean drinking water in Flint (MI), taken by Republicans in 2014, and provide disaster relief to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria over 18 months ago. Cages for migrant children at the southern border were built with fund designated for Head Start, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, and the National Cancer Institute.

A directive from the New York State Office of Court Administration prevents ICE from arresting people inside courthouses without judicial warrants or orders. With 178 of these arrests in New York state courthouses last year, over 100 times as many as the 11 in 2016, immigrants are increasingly fearful of going to courts. ICE uses administrative warrants, signed by ICE agents instead of judges, to pick up immigrants.

The SEC is requiring ExxonMobil to permit a shareholder vote on a resolution that would require the corporation disclose its political spending, including “dark money” to advocacy and trade organizations. Another vote mandated by the SEC is on a shareholder-proposed resolution to create a committee that reviews and oversees Exxon’s climate change strategy. The votes will be taken at the May 29 annual meeting.

Soon after his inauguration, DDT proudly ordered a new Office within the VA Department to protect whistleblowers from reprisal. The VA is now investigating the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection for assisting in retaliation against whistleblowers. For example, an engineer who reported contracting violations to supervisors and OAWP was stripped of responsibilities and assigned to an office without heat or air conditioning. Others described OAWP’s inactivity and betrayal.

A president cannot put tariffs on items unless the purpose is for national security, but DDT has threatened to put these fees on French wine and cheese after putting high tariffs on soybeans. Now DDT is trying to figure out whether uranium is connected to U.S. security. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) thinks that Congress needs to take back its constitutional power to be in control of tariffs. Maybe the farmers who lost big time on soybeans have some influence on their senator.

In his first campaign, DDT ran on the economy, saying that he would bring back the $2 trillion that wealthy people and corporations have stashed overseas and raise the GDP growth to four percent or over. He’s failed to bring back the money but added his $1.5 trillion tax cut to give money to the rich beneficiaries. At the same time, he’s driving away the immigrants who support his economy and work force.

DDT also runs his trade war in an attempt to help the economy. Exports did slightly climb 1.1% to a four-month high of $209.7 billion, inflated by a 60 percent surge in commercial aircraft to $5.8 billion, but a repeat performance is unlikely after the Boeing 757 MAX planes were grounded. Last year, the trade deficit was the highest in ten years and the second highest in history. Slower growth in imports doesn’t spell victory if people worried about the economy are cutting back on spending. Last year’s trade deficit was over $72 billion more than President Obama’s highest trade deficit in 2013 but $120 billion lower than George H. Bush’s highest deficit in 2006.

DDT sometimes “jokes” to send up trial balloons about the success of his statements. This time, he said he could be in the White House for another ten or 14 years because Chinese President Xi Jinping for doing away with term limits.

The White House was finally a happy place—before the pieces of the Mueller Report were released.  DDT’s aides were sure that he would be re-elected to keep from being indicted, and the statute of limitations would run out before DDT’s second term. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said that immigrations controversies are “really smart” controversies, and DDT planned to get a special investigator for Clinton’s emails and other manufactured scandals. Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law, is running the White House, the RNC, and DDT’s campaign. Whatever DDT doesn’t tell Kushner to do, he offers to his daughter and Kushner’s wife Ivanka, known as “Baby” in meetings. Because DDT considers her qualified to do anything, he suggested she could be UN ambassador and then director of the World Bank. “She’s very good with numbers,” he said.

The smart ones around DDT, however, figured that the euphoria would vanish when the report came out—and it did. By yesterday, his rants were even more profane than usually, calling the Mueller report “bullshit” and retweeting a message from sports fantasy Scott Atkins about the DNC “circle jerk.” Maybe he learned something—like his approval rating going down three points in one day after the Mueller report release. The 37 percent approval is his lowest this year and down six points from when Barr released his lying letter about the report less than a month ago.

April 16, 2019

Bill Barr’s History May Show Future Position

On the day of the 1989 “Black Friday” market crash, almost exactly 30 years ago, a legal memo by then head of DOJ’s office of Legal Counsel Bill Barr was leaked to the media. Issued in “unusual secrecy,” the missive determined that the FBI could forcibly abduct people in other countries with no consent from those countries. A newspaper headline indicated that Barr could use his personal decision to abduct Panama’s leader, Gen. Manuel Noriega. When Congress requested the full legal opinion, Barr refused. He promised to provide them a statement that “summarizes the principal conclusions,” the same term he used for the Mueller report.

Barr’s action began 20 years earlier, in 1979, when the U.S. signed a treaty to turn over control of the Panama Canal zone to Panama. In 1989, the U.S. government wanted to get rid of Panama’s leader, Noriega. As DOJ’s head legal counsel, Barr was told to find a legal way to go into a sovereign country, dispose its leader, kidnap him, and bring him to the U.S. to stand trial. Barr followed orders and then tried to hide how he had accomplished the task by claiming that it was based on the entire DOJ legal opinion from the department’s study.

Because his “legal opinion” was so flimsy, Barr couldn’t release his opinion’s principal conclusions. Instead, he gave Congress 13 pages of written testimony with quotes from court cases, legal citations, and language excerpted from the full opinion. The memo, however, left out substantial and provocative conclusions from the full opinion with no justifiable reason for blocking the information from Congress.

Initially, Barr refused to discuss the opinion’s content that reversed a previous opinion from his office that had been released four years earlier. A reporter asked President George H.W. Bush, “The FBI can go into Panama now?” H.W. said he was “embarrassed” about his not knowing about Barr’s memo and promised to get back to the reporter. Secretary of State James Baker soon tried to cover for H.W. by a false claim:

“This is a very narrow legal opinion based on consideration only of domestic United States law. It did not take into account international law, nor did it weigh the President’s constitutional responsibility to carry out the foreign policy of the United States.”

An assistant AG told Rep. Don Edwards, chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on civil and constitutional rights, that “current legal advice by the Office of Legal Counsel is confidential.” With her response, however, she reversed her statement by noting that the DOJ had released the 1980 opinion to the public in 1985. Later Barr himself testified to Congress that the DOJ has no prohibition on the release of his memo.

Barr’s response to the congressional request for his 1989 memo, was like his treatment of the Mueller report thus far. He first falsely avowed the history of Internal Justice Department rules as a basis for his refusal. Edwards pointed out the 1980 memo precedent so Barr shifted his position from his testimony and letter sent to Edwards, claiming that “it has been the long established policy of OLC that except in very exceptional circumstances, the opinions must remain confidential.” Historical examination shows that Barr was mistaken—or lied. When Barr referred to his misleading 13-page written testimony, Edwards told him that he had violated House rules by submitting the document only the morning of the hearing instead of the required advance of 48 hours.

The written testimony asserted that domestic law allows a president to authorize FBI actions in foreign countries that violate international law. Yale law school professor Harold Koh explained that, without the full opinion, Congress could not determine whether Barr’s assertion was based on fact, what parts of the earlier opinion were overturned, and whether his full opinion contained nuances, subtleties, or exceptions that Barr’s testimony didn’t include. Barr’s testimony did indeed skip parts of his opinion, that Ryan Goodman described, “would have earned the Justice Department scorn from the halls of Congress, legal experts, and the public.”

Congress received the 1989 Barr opinion 21 months later after waiting a year and a half to issue a subpoena. But that was after the U.S. had invaded Panama, captured Noriega, and brought him back to the U.S. for a trial.

Award-winning investigative journalist Michael Isikoff gave this analysis of Barr’s full opinion:

Omission 1: President’s authority to violate the UN Charter

Barr’s opinion stated that a president could violate the United Nations Charter because such actions are “fundamentally political questions.” Barr was wrong. He ignored a president’s constitutional duty to “take care” that U.S. laws, including ratified treaties, be faithfully executed. He also combined this political question issue—whether courts can review an action taken by the executive branch—and the question of whether this action is legal or authorized. Professor Jeanne Woods wrote: “Barr’s congressional testimony attempted to gloss over the broad legal and policy changes that his written opinion advocated.… A careful analysis of the published opinion, and the reasoning underlying it, however, reveals the depth of its deviation from accepted norms.”

Omission 2: Presumption that acts of Congress comply with international law

Woods wrote that Barr failed to correctly apply the so-called “Charming Betsy” method when interpreting statutes. In the 1804 decision, Murray v. The Schooner Charming Betsy, the Supreme Court ruled that “an act of Congress ought never to be construed to violate the law of nations if any other possible construction remains.” Even more, in a “reverse Charming Betsy” Barr asserted that “in the absence of an explicit restriction” concerning international law, the congressional statute must be interpreted as authorizing the executive branch to violate international law. He wrote that Congress has to grant the right to a president to break international law “because, as part of his law enforcement powers, the President has the inherent authority to override customary international law.” It’s a false analogy based on a false assertion.

Omission 3: International law on abductions in foreign countries

Barr’s testimony about his opinion didn’t even mention international law. He claimed that the full memo “is strictly a legal analysis of the FBI’s authority, as a matter of domestic law, to conduct extraterritorial arrests of individuals for violations of U.S. law.” His State Department legal adviser sidekick reinforced Barr’s testimony by claiming:

“Mr. Barr has summarized its conclusions for you. As Mr. Barr has indicated, that opinion addressed a narrow question-the domestic legal authority to make such arrests…. My role today is to address issues not discussed in the OLC opinion — the international law and foreign policy implications of a nonconsensual arrest in a foreign country.”

The full memo, however, included international law and the way that the UN Charter—a specific treaty—could apply. The 1980 memo, which Barr reversed, opposed abductions in other countries without their consent. It quoted a condemnation of Israel’s abduction of Adolf Eichmann in Argentina as an example of prohibition by Article 2(4) of the UN Charter. Barr said the opposite of the 1980 DOJ memo. Barr also used personal “logic” in the memo instead of legality:

“Because sovereignty over territory derives not from the possession of legal title, but from the reality of effective control, logic would suggest there would be no violation of international law in exercising law enforcement activity in foreign territory over which no state exercises effective control.”

These pieces are a few of those uncovered in Congress after it subpoenaed the full opinion. By that time, however, Barr had become deputy AG on his way to being peacefully confirmed for AG. He said that the constitution didn’t permit abortion, that Roe v. Wade was wrong decided, and then Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), now considering a run for president, praised his honesty. At about the same time, Biden helped put Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court for perpetuity. Not long after becoming AG, Barr helped H.W. pardon indicted and convicted officials from the Iran-Contra Affair to protect H.W. from being investigated about his own illegal conduct.

Almost 30 years later, Barr told Congress that he would “summarize the principal conclusions” of the Robert Mueller’s report for the public. He can obfuscate and hide information in Muller’s report. If that doesn’t work, Barr can help with more pardons to hide illegal actions by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). And as a bonus, Barr can authorize the FBI to arrest the head of any country DDT wishes—like Venezuela maybe? It’s a pattern for Barr.

The vote to confirm followed party lines except for one Republican, Sen. Rand Paul (KY), who voted against confirmation and three Democrats—Doug Jones (AL), Joe Manchin (WY), and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) voting for confirmation. Barr violated the Posse Comitatus Act that requires congressional approval for using military for law enforcement. Thanks to his confirmation, the nation may be subjected to his approach of doing whatever he wants and then claiming that what’s done is done. [In the above photo, Bill Barr may be demonstrating how much he will let the public see of Mueller’s report.]

With the release of the heavily-redacted Mueller report less than two days away, White House staffers are suffering a “breakdown-level anxiety” among cooperating staff who fear “the wrath” of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and his allies. Look for a whole new level of fury in DDT’s tweets.

 

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