Nel's New Day

May 17, 2020

DDT: Week 173 – The Friday Night Dump—and More

In the past, the notorious news release on late Friday night has been with the hope that it will fade by Monday when people pay attention. That theory has disappeared with the prevalence of internet users and the growing fixation of media watching. Yet Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) continues his purge on Friday, last night the retaliatory firing of State Department inspector general Steve Linick, the third Friday move in three weeks to dump people who alienated DDT. Linick’s sins:

  • July 1, 2019: Investigating the use of tax-payer Diplomatic Security agents to run personal errands such as picking up takeout food by State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo and his wife. (Agents called themselves “UberEats with guns.”
  • August 2019: Issued a report alleging State Department leaders mistreated and harassed staffers, accusing them of disloyalty to DDT.
  • October 2, 2019: Gave documents about Ukraine disinformation to the House’s impeachment inquiry into DDT that personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani gave the State Department
  • November 14, 2019: Released a finding that DDT’s high-ranking political appointees retaliated against  career civil servant while Rex Tillerson was Secretary of State. 

DDT’s real reason, however, may have come after House COVID-19 legislation provides the inspector general would have oversight for funding in the bill passed yesterday. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) tweeted how the firing was shameful:

“Another late Friday night attack on independence, accountability, and career officials. At this point, the President’s paralyzing fear of any oversight is undeniable.”

DDT’s replacement, director of the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions Steve Akard, withdrew his nomination in 2017 to become director general of the Foreign Service because of opposition. Akard, a former Mike Pence underling in Indiana when the VP was governor, was rejected because of lack of experience and a political appointee. The appointment of Akard bypasses Linick’s deputy, Diana Shaw. 

On Friday, May 1, Acting HHS IG Christi Grimm was fired after 8:00 pm; on Friday, April 3, Intelligence IG Michael Atkinson was fired at 10:00 pm. Acting Defense Department IG Glenn Fine went on April 7. The person in that position oversees DDT’s handling of $2.3 trillion in the “stimulus package.”

In a problem for DDT, Michael Pack, nominee to lead the Agency for Global Media overseeing the Voice of America and other news outlets, is being investigated for unlawful use of $1.6 million from his nonprofit, Public Media Lab, that were sent to his independent production company, Manifold Productions. Pack refused to send requested documents to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for almost eight months, and his vote before a panel for his confirmation last Thursday was postponed. The D.C. attorney general’s office has been asked to look into the allegation. DDT has threatened to adjourn Congress so that he can make any appointments he wants without confirmation. He also accused the Voice of America of promoting Chinese propaganda for its independent reporting. VP Mike Pence also threatened a Voice of America reporter with retaliation for disclosing that Pence was told his needed to wear a mask to visit the Mayo Clinic last month. The truth was especially embarrassing for Pence because his wife, Karen Pence, claimed that her husband didn’t know about the mask policy what was posted on the walls.

DDT can fire anyone he wants in the executive branch, but he doesn’t have the same rights in Congress. To purge someone, therefore, he needs to run a smear campaign against him—like he did against Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) with the help of his fixit AG Bill Barr. Thanks to the DOJ, the FBI raided Burr’s house and took his cell phone in an insider trading case. Burr has been removed from his chairmanship of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence which just happens to be investigating the connection between the Russian influence on the 2016 election and DDT. The committee has one more segment of their report to release.

Burr’s sell-off of his stock may be hinky, but he isn’t alone in the behavior. Other senators—Diane Feinstein (D-CA), James Inhofe (R-OK), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA)—took the same action. Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), brother of DDT’s Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, made millions by selling stock options just before the market crash this spring and then buying them back. After Perdue received classified information about COVID-19, he sold his casino shares before the market crash and bought Pfizer (drugs) and DuPont (medical supplies). Burr is just alone in being investigated.

Before Burr stepped down, he asked DDT to quickly declassify the last of five parts of their Russian investigation, a bipartisan effort. The executive branch determines what is declassified, and the finale to the committee’s work may never see the light of day. With the top Democratic senator on the Intelligence committee, Virginia’s Mark Warner, Burr issued a statement that they would release an unclassified version on the Senate floor even if there is no declassification. Lawmakers cannot be prosecuted for what they say as part of the legislative process. An Alaska senator entered 4,000 pages of the classified Pentagon Papers into the Congressional record. The first four parts of Burr’s committee were on U.S. election security, Russia’s use of social media, the Obama administration response to the interference, and the January 2017 Intelligence Committee Assessment validating the intelligence analysis describing Russia interference include efforts to help DDT win the election as accurate, thorough, and untainted by political bias.   

White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow wants to cut in half the taxes for corporations, already slashed by 40 percent to only 21 percent, if they bring their operations back to the U.S. Other perks would be liability protection and a payroll tax cut for returning businesses, taking money from Social Security and Medicare.

The Federal Reserve chair, Jerome Powell, warned of an “extended period” of weak economic growth, promised to use the U.S. central bank’s power, and asked for more spending to help the economy. Interest rates were almost zero before the virus epidemic because of DDT’s insistence, and the lending to companies and first-ever corporate bond purchases have set precedents. At this time, Powell promised the interest rates wouldn’t go into the negative zone below zero.

DDT keeps trying to persuade investors that the downturn in the stock market will shoot up any day now and makes other promises such as a vaccine by the end of the year. Small investors may not worry about the market’s volatility despite its falling three days during the past week, but they should. Those who think that the markets will follow a “V” shape, bounding right back, should note that stock prices starting to fall in September 2007 during the Great Recession didn’t bottom out for 17 months and the fall during the Great Depression from October 1929 until the middle of 1932 dropped the market 80 percent. Stocks didn’t come back until the mid-1950s. The market would give a bounce and then drop again.

While Republicans demonize China to distract people from DDT’s COVID-19 failure, Cabinet members, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, are making money off their relationships with the country. Others with personal business interests are Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) wife, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue (brother of Georgia’s senator discussed above).

According to a newly released transcript, DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner “misled” Congress about his friend who provided a backchannel to Russia. The House hearing in 2017, run by Republicans, failed to elicit the information that Rick Gerson acted as a Kushner operative who also worked for the UAE and secretly met with a Russian hedge fund manager in the Seychelles.

DDT is desperately looking for photo ops and campaign rallies outside the White House, but a Pennsylvania factory manufacturing PPE canceled “a presidential visit” because of health reasons. Masks are a big issue with DDT who never wears one, and Pence rarely does. On a visit to an Alexandria nursing home, he stood closely to staff with no protective gear, accompanied by his press secretary Katie Miller who tested positive for COVID-19 the next day. She also didn’t wear a mask. DDT found another PPE factory in Pennsylvania to visit—still no mask

Almost a week ago, the public learned that three White House aides—one each for DDT, Pence, and Ivanka Trump—tested positive for COVID-19 as well as 11 Secret Service agents. Since then there have been no new reports of confirmed cases, but DDT was so furious at the earlier revelations that staff may be hiding any new cases.

At the unveiling of his new space force flag, DDT, looking happier than he has for months, bragged about the military developing a new “super duper” missile traveling 17 times faster than anything the U.S. has. Either the Pentagon doesn’t know anything about the missile, or it doesn’t want to talk about it. Defense Secretary Mark Esper didn’t elaborate when asked for specifics.

While DDT ignores COVID-19, the number of confirmed cases went above 1.5 million and the deaths are over 90,000—headed for over 100,000 by the end of the month.

February 29, 2020

Covid-19 Not a ‘Hoax’

The spread of the coronavirus covid-19 around the globe overshadowed other major events such as primaries in 14 states on Tuesday—including California and Texas—and signing of a peace agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban. Earlier this week, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) spent days in India schmoozing with autocratic leader Prime Minister Narendra Modi while violent protests against restrictions on Muslim citizenship in the country killed people and the stock markets began serious declines, the worst week since the recession in 2008.

DDT found himself caught in the middle of the covid-19 crisis with his attempts to minimize its spread in the U.S. while the experts explain how easily it is spread and the possibility of death. His followers claim the virus is a “hoax” to bring down DDT was followed by  acting chief-in-staff Mick Mulvaney telling the lie to his conservative CPAC audience. Last night at his campaign rally, DDT repeated the falsehood that “the Democrats are politicizing” the virus, which is “their new hoax,” but today he had to face questions about his statements during a press conference. His political solution for problems with the virus is to instigate more tax cuts and against lower the interest rate

[Left: DDT’s vision of covid-19.] The first death from covid-19 in King County (WA) was close to the northern border with Canada, and DDT’s solution is to close the southern border to Mexico. Canada has five times the number of virus cases as Mexico. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to answer questions about minimizing the danger when he testified before the House Foreign Relations Committee for a brief two hours before he ran off to attend the CPAC. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) upgraded covid-19’s global risk to the top level of “very high.” Over 60 countries have reported cases, and people in Iran’s healthcare system reported that statistics for illnesses and deaths are much higher than the government indicates—thousands of people attacked by covid-19. At least 86,000 people in the world have been infected, and about 3,000 have died.

Surprising HHS Secretary Alex Azar, DDT made VP Mike Pence the point person for the health crisis. DDT said that an outbreak was not inevitable although the CDC’s director of immunization and respiratory diseases stated that “it’s not a question of if, but rather a question of when and how many people in this country will have severe illness.” During Pence’s first day solving the covid-19 crisis he attended the CPAC, met with Fox’s Sean Hannity and farther-right Sinclair’s Eric Bolling, and put DDT’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow on his “team.” This week, Kudlow claimed that covid-19 was already contained in the U.S.; back in 2007/08, he said that there was no chance of a recession, a message that he’s again repeating. Pence fundraised in Florida the next day.

Pence did take time to meet with his task force to tell them that all statements and public appearances about the virus will go through him. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had said “we are dealing with a serious virus” which may have a higher mortality rate than influenza and “has adapted extremely well to human species.” He said he was told not to say anything else without clearance bu today claimed that he had not been “muzzled.” Pence also appointed Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the director of the United States effort to combat H.I.V. and AIDS, as the coronavirus response coordinator, but DDT said, “Mike will report back to me.” In a confusion of leadership, Azar claimed to be the chairman of the task force, making him the third leader. DDT failed to follow the “clearance” policy by announcing false statistics, reassurances, and accusations at his campaign rally.

The Food and Drug Administration took action in speeding up hospitals’ abilities to test for covid-19 by allowing labs to develop and use coronavirus diagnostic tests before the agency reviews them. The lack of testing in the U.S. has been a disaster: fewer than 500 people were tested at the same time that China tested 320,000 people. The shortage of tests was so severe that a woman in California waited for five days to get CDC permission for testing because she didn’t fit restrictive federal criteria such as travel to China.

The DOD canceled a military exercise with South Korea, restricted access to Army public areas in Italy, ordered ships visiting Pacific region countries to stay at sea for 14 days, and stopped all non-essential travel in the Persian Gulf region.  

Today, DDT bragged about the quick response and preparedness to stop covid-19 from spreading in the U.S. Yet a whistleblower faces retaliation for reporting how the government didn’t provide proper training and protective gear for people required to work with quarantined people. Employees for HHS Administration for Children and Families were ordered to help quarantined people flown in from overseas, some of them having contracted the virus. DDT had already overridden CDC’s recommendation to not return them back to the U.S.

When the group was taken to two Air Force bases in California, staff members were not provided safety-protocol training until five days into their assignment. Exposed staff members went around and off the bases; at least one person stayed at a nearby hotel and left California on a commercial flight. When the whistleblower expressed concerns relayed to her from staff members, she was reassigned. None of the workers was monitored after they worked with the sick returnees. One of the bases, Travis Air Force Base, is ten miles away from Vacaville where a woman contracted covid-19 without travel or known contact with someone testing positive for covid-19.  

At today’s press conference, Pence tried to downplay his part in the Indiana healthcare crisis while he was governor. He cut public health spending and delayed needle exchanges because of his belief that it leads to drug abuse. It doesn’t. After the state’s worst outbreak of HIV, he had to back off and allow needle exchanges—for 30 days until Indiana changed the law. Pence also doesn’t believe in a connection between tobacco use and cancer; he wrote, “Smoking doesn’t kill.” He also said, “Condoms are a very, very poor protection against sexually transmitted diseases.” Pence’s decisions are based on his evangelical Christian beliefs.

Although DDT announced the first covid-19 death in the U.S. as a “wonderful woman,” the death was that of a man in his 50s. The other two new presumptive cases in the state, meaning not yet verified by testing, include a health care worker and a resident at a long-term care facility in Kirkland (WA). The facility now has 52 people suspected of covid-19, and Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency in Washington.

At least 28 million people in the U.S. are uninsured, and millions more are underinsured with high deductibles. Many employers don’t provide sick leave, and wages can be so low that people can’t stay home if they are sick. Children go to school because parents cannot afford child care. Some of DDT’s promised $2.5 billion for the healthcare crisis comes from other domestic funding, including that for low-income people such as the home-heating program, and $535 million from the program to avoid Ebola, an epidemic that can come to the U.S.

Development of a vaccine to block covid-19’s rapid spread could take a year or longer. While testifying before the House this week, Azar refused to guarantee that a vaccine or treatment developed with taxpayer money would be affordable. He told Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) that “we can’t control that price because we need the private sector to invest.” Schakowsky protested that “he’s giving Big Pharma a blank check to monopolize them instead.” While CEO of Elly Lilly, Azar doubled the price of insulin. Under the Affordable Care Act, however, the vaccine would be free for all insured people, like all federally-recommended vaccines. 

Polling among Democrats, independents, and undecideds shows them more anxious about paying for healthcare than for housing, food, and transportation. Two-thirds worry about paying unexpected medical bills, almost 50 percent are concerned about affording insurance deductibles, and 45 percent worried about paying for necessary prescription drugs. Another 40 percent worry about affording insurance premiums. The poll was taken from February 13-18, before anxiety was ramped up by the incidence of covid-19 in the U.S. and the administration’s mixed messages.

February 21, 2020

DDT: Week 161 – Russian Interference Denial, Bad Global Diplomacy

Russia is again preferring Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) elected as president in 2020, according to a classified hearing for the House Intelligence Committee about election security. The information is not a surprise, but the ramifications of the intelligence briefing are. DDT became furious after Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) told DDT that only Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who DDT perceives as his arch-nemesis, was told about the release of the information. Nunes has a years-old pattern of running to DDT with information and/or lies. Republicans are accusing the briefers from other agencies of trying to sabotage DDT’s reelection. DDT immediately fired Joe Maguire, acting Director of Intelligence, for telling House members about Russia’s preference. He said that Maguire should not have allowed the briefing and that he should be been told about it if it did happen. In addition, DDT said that Russia wasn’t interfering and called it “Hoax number 7.”  

DDT’s aides have been ordered to identity and remove government officials who don’t defend DDT’s interests so that he can replace them with loyalists. Johnny McEntee, DDT’s new personnel chief, told agencies to expect staffing changes (aka purges), starting with the State Department and the Department of Defense.

Russia should be delighted with DDT after he replaced Maguire with Richard Grenell, U.S. ambassador to Germany. Grenell fits DDT’s criteria: he supports white nationalists, defends DDT on the Fox network and Twitter, and doesn’t believe that Russia isn’t supporting DDT through disinformation and other election interference. Like DDT, the racist, anti-immigrant Grenell has a history of attacking women on Twitter.

Early in Grenell’s ambassadorship, German officials called for his expulsion. Grenell ordered Germany to stop trading with Iran and then said he would work on policy, not diplomacy, to help far-right nationalists take power in Europe. He said he planned to “empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders” and praised Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, connected to the Freedom Party created in the 1950s by a former Nazi officer. Grenell was described as “an extreme-right colonial officer,” a “total diplomatic failure” who was acting like a “brat.”

The German newspaper Der Spiegel‘s description of Grenell from interviews:

“Almost all of these [30] sources paint an unflattering portrait of the ambassador, one remarkably similar to Donald Trump, the man who sent him to Berlin. A majority of them describe Grenell as a vain, narcissistic person who dishes out aggressively, but can barely handle criticism. His brash demeanor, some claim, hides a deep insecurity, and they say he thirsts for the approval of others.” 

Called upon to explain why Grenell plans to “empower” Europe’s anti-immigrant conservatives at the time, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert forgot that German was not an ally during World War II:

“We have a very strong relationship with the government of Germany….  Tomorrow is the anniversary of the D-Day invasion [when the U.S. helped liberate France from Germany]. We obviously have a very long history with the government of Germany.”

As acting DNI heading up 17 intelligence agencies, Grenell would oversee the intelligence community’s efforts to combat election interference and disinformation, but he has been skeptical of Russia’s role in 2016. He also fails to meet the requirement of federal law that “any individual nominated for appointment as Director of National Intelligence shall have extensive national security expertise.” Before Grenell became ambassador to Germany, he was spokesperson for the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, run a public affairs consultancy, been a Fox News contributor, and, for a few days, was presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s national security spokesperson. Since becoming an ambassador, Grenell became special envoy for negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia.

Grenell, one of DDT’s “best people,” also worked for Moldovan oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, now a fugitive and barred from entering the U.S. because of corruption. Writing articles defending Plahotniuc in 2016, Grenell did not say he was being paid and did not register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Both Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, DDT’s former campaign manager and deputy campaign manager, were convicted of violating this law. Undisclosed work for a foreign politician could block someone from security clearance or a position in a U.S. intelligence agency. A lawyer specializing in security clearances said it’s unclear how Grenell received clearance to become an ambassador.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) gave a weak excuse for Grenell’s complete lack of experience for his new position: Grenell is gay. Gaetz evidently considered Grenell’s sexual orientation as the one requirement for heading up 17 intelligence agencies. Grenell, however, supports homophobia. About VP Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, Grenell said they are “great people, “godly people,” followers of Christ [who] don’t have hate in their heart for anyone.”

Kash Patel, former national security council director of counterterrorism, has become a top adviser in Grenell’s office. As Nunes’ staffer, Patel was a leader in discrediting the Russian interference into the U.S. election. In her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Fiona Hull expressed concern that Fiona Hill, the National Security Council’s former senior director for Eurasian and Russian affairs, said she believed that Patel was sending information to DDT after becoming improperly involved in Ukraine policy. DDT had identified Patel as the National Security Council’s “Ukraine director,” a position held by one of Hill’s deputies. Patel was lead author of a memo accusing the FBI and DOJ leaders of abusing their power in the Russia investigation.

While DDT was busy firing career government workers, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and some of his U.S. entourage were stunned at the European disapproval of the U.S., DDT, and his policies at the Munich Security Conference. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier opened by accusing the DDT administration of “rejecting the idea of the international community.” He summarized DDT’s policy:

“Every country should fend for itself and put its own interests over all others … ‘Great again’—even at the expense of neighbors and partners.”

Pompeo was unable to convince most countries that “the U.S. is out there fighting for sovereignty and our friends.” After his speech, German and French officials agreed that Pompeo was speaking only to DDT and not the Europeans in the room. Nicholas Burns, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, expressed concern about Macron’s overtures toward Russia in his speech. Many countries at the conference also failed to agree with the position of Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper who spoke about China being a reprehensible force.

Criticism directed toward China for expelling three Wall Street Journal reporters didn’t go well for Pompeo, especially because he told the country that “mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions.” Earlier, Pompeo had kicked an NPR reporter off his overseas trip in an unwarranted snit at another NPR reporter. Trips to Senegal, Angola and Ethiopia were not diplomatically successful; Africans still remember when DDT called them “sh*thole” countries. DDT also cut aid to Africa and expanded a travel ban affecting about one-fourth of its 1.2 million people.  

In South Africa, Pompeo criticized South African government’s plans to expropriate private land without compensation and said that economies need “respect for property rights.” Pompeo said, “Be wary of authoritarian regimes and their empty promises. They breed corruption, dependency and instability.” Because of the racist apartheid that lasted until 1994, South Africa is one of the world’s most unequal countries. At the present time, DDT is appropriating private land for his wall while desecrating sacred tribal land.  

Saudi Arabia was a more successful stop for Pompeo. He could ignore how they imprison U.S. citizens and kill a U.S. resident and journalist. (Importance of a “free press,” anyone?) After all, DDT makes money from the Saudis, and Jared Kushner is buddies with the Crown Prince.

Those surprised by the reaction to the U.S. at the conference might have benefited from reading the Pew Research results showing attitudes toward DDT and his policies. In 32 countries, 64 percent lack confidence that DDT will do the right thing in world affairs, and Western Europe has the most common anti-DDT sentiments. Overall, DDT has an average of 29 percent. In Mexico, 89 percent lack confidence in DDT. He gets the highest level of confidence from the most autocratic countries and Israel. These results are a year old; 2020 will probably be worse for DDT.

Having lost friendship with democracies, DDT is now being deserted by other autocrats. In the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte declared that “America is very rude” to Filipino friends and moved on to a relationship with China. DDT’s desertion of Venezuela’s president also lost that country for his ally.

Pompeo came home to a lawsuit about his communications with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) about Pompeo’s interest in being the senator from Kansas. American Oversight, a watchdog group, is suing the State Department for records about this relationship. Pompeo says he’s not going to run for the open seat after Pat Roberts retires but keeps meeting with Republicans.

February 15, 2020

DDT: Week 160 – What Corruption Looks Like

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is taking advantage of his removal from constitutional mandates with his usual MO—first deny he did something before saying he did it. DDT now says that he sent his private lawyer Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine to look for damaging information on political opponent Joe Biden after earlier claiming that he didn’t do it. DDT’s legal team even lied for him under oath during the impeachment trial in the Senate. Thus far, Giuliani hasn’t found any “dirt,” but he’s still trying. AG Bill Barr has announced that the DOJ is taking any information from Giuliani while a U.S. attorney in New York is investigating Giuliani’s alleged illegal and corrupt activities in Ukraine, including driving out the U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

DDT is also playing his Ukraine games with states, extorting them to do what he wants. His Wednesday tweet about meeting with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, threatened that the state:

“I’m seeing Governor Cuomo today at The White House. He must understand that National Security far exceeds politics. New York must stop all of its unnecessary lawsuits & harassment, start cleaning itself up, and lowering taxes. Build relationships, but don’t bring Fredo [DDT’s nickname for the governor’s brother Chris Cuomo, a CNN news host]!”

DDT is now behaving as the Democratic prosecution for the impeachment trial predicted if he were acquitted.

As DOJ prosecutors won’t protect DDT allies from their crimes, AG Bill Barr uses outside prosecutors in attempts to exonerate Michael Flynn and other politically sensitive national-security cases (aka whatever DDT wants). For two weeks—since Barr hired his friend Tim Shea to replace an honest prosecutor—these outside prosecutors are interrogating DOJ prosecutors about investigative steps, prosecutorial actions, and their reasons in both public and not-public cases, about either DDT’s friends and allies or DDT’s critics and adversaries. Barr said that DDT’s tweets made it impossible for him to do his job; it’s obvious that DDT’s bragging is blocking Barr for swinging court decisions for DDT’s side.

Claiming to have “integrity,” Barr lost some credibility after former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was told that he won’t face criminal charges hanging over his head for 18 months because the DOJ couldn’t find any evidence against him. Barr’s problem is not so much that the case was dropped but that the federal judge’s statements were made public. He called McCabe’s case a “banana republic” prosecution. The judge explained:

“I don’t think people like the fact that you got somebody at the top basically trying to dictate whether somebody should be prosecuted ….  I think there are a lot of people on the outside who perceive that there is undue inappropriate pressure being brought to bear. It’s very disturbing that we’re in the mess that we’re in in that regard. Because I think having been a part of the prosecution for a long time and respecting the role that prosecutors play in the system. I just think the integrity of the process is being unduly undermined by inappropriate comments and actions on the part of people at the top of our government. I think it’s very unfortunate. And I think as a government and as a society, we’re going to pay a price at some point for this.”

Last August, McCabe sued the DOJ for being fired because of “Trump’s unconstitutional plan and scheme to discredit and remove DOJ and FBI employees who were deemed to be his partisan opponents because they were not politically loyal to him.”

The Army isn’t in DDT’s pocket—yet. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy announced that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman would not be “investigated.” He could, however, be denied a promotion. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, Vindman’s former employer at the NSC, said that the Purple-Heart winner was marched out of the White House because DDT is “entitled to a staff that he has confidence in and that he believes will execute his policy.”

O’Brien claimed that the removal of the Vindman brothers wasn’t retaliation, but DDT called Alexander Vindman a “never-Trumper” and “very insubordinate” for legally responding to a congressional subpoena. He also said that Vindman “reported a false call” without any explanation and that Vindman had been sent “to a much different location” where “the military can handle him any way they want.”

DDT’s former chief of staff John Kelly may be on the chopping block after Kelly defended Vindman’s testimony about DDT’s phone call with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky, criticized DDT’s pardoning Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher for his war crimes, and supported immigrants wanting to come to the U.S. Kelly also had a few choice words about the Fox network, DDT’s almost exclusive source of information:

“If you only watch Fox News because it’s reinforcing what you believe, you are not an informed citizen.”

In another form of retaliation, DDT is sending 100 CBP members, mostly from the SWAT-like Border Patrol Tactical Unit, to nine “sanctuary” cities during the next five months to search out undocumented immigrants instead the troops doing their job, finding drug traffickers on the southern border. These troops have training in sniper certification and advanced weapons. The targeted cities have no greater rates of violent crime, rape, and property crime, but militarization will make them more dangerous. In another study, the almost 2,500 counties that follow federal law but don’t detain unauthorized immigrants for ICE have lower crime rates than the other ones, an average of 35.5 fewer crimes per 10,000, because of better crime reporting and cooperation with law enforcement.

DDT’s cruel “public charge” order has returned, forcing legal immigrants who use public benefits or 12 months within a 36-month period from their paths to citizenship and out of the United States. A judge had declared an injunction against the order until it was heard on appeal because it had no rational basis and “has never been the rule.” The judge wrote that “the rule is simply a new agency policy of exclusion in search of a justification. It is repugnant to the American dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upward mobility.” DDT’s order would immediately cause “significant hardship” to “hundreds of thousands of individuals who were previously eligible for admission and permanent residence in the United States.” The 2nd Circuit Court put the appeal on a fast tract, but that wasn’t good enough for our “cruelty-in-chief” leader. He went to his conservative lackeys on the Supreme Court who lifted the injunction until the case might appealed to a future Supreme Court, an indeterminate time in the future. 

Reagan-appointee Judge David Sentelle, considered one of the most conservative judges in the nation and protégé of Sen. Jesse Helm (R-NC), agreed with two other judges on a panel that DDT’s stripping health coverage from Arkansas’ Medicaid beneficiaries is illegal. The ruling was against Arkansas’ new work requirement that lost Medicaid coverage for over 18,000 people in five months and changed congressional objectives for Medicaid. According to the ruling, the law does not allow DDT to use their own opinions on how to improve the health of low-income people, the excuse used for the work requirement. Sentelle wrote that “the principal objective of Medicaid is providing health care coverage,” not to make people find jobs. The unanimous ruling from the D.C. Circuit Court affirms a lower court decision, in which a judge found HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s approval of Arkansas’ work requirements “arbitrary and capricious.” The case may go to the Supreme Court; SCOTUS Justice Neil Gorsuch clerked for Sentelle and considered him a mentor. 

During a Senate hearing, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell rejected an idea suggested by Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-LA) that “the richness of our social programs” makes people less inclined to look for work because they can get a government check for not working. Agreeing with most economists, DDT’s GOP appointee testified that the ability of getting benefits has “actually declined, during this period of declining labor force participation” with mandates of having jobs to receive them since the 1990s. According to Powell, the “declining labor force participation” in the U.S., compared to other industrialized nations, come from lower levels of educational attainment. Powell also warned that $1 trillion budget deficits, as recommended by DDT’s newest budget, are unsustainable.   

In another lie at DDT’s SOTU speech, Tony Rankins didn’t see his life as a homeless, drug-addicted Army veteran turned around because of DDT’s “Opportunity Zone” tax breaks supposedly targeting poor neighborhoods. Rankins did get a job, but he started four months before the publication of the list in a site that wasn’t included. DDT also praised Rankins’ employer, R Investments, but the company has only a storage warehouse in one of the zones. No employees. The “Opportunity Zone” program was supposedly to help struggling neighborhoods, but the ones with the tax breaks had already moved toward gentrification and away from support for poor, black communities.

DDT also used his SOTU speech to demonstrate that the CIA, as well as the DOJ works for him. Director Gina Haspel, who had no reason to attend the speech, especially in a seat of honor, and certainly no right to stand, clapping, when DDT called on Congress to sue sanctuary cities for offenses committed by undocumented immigrants. A former CIA officer pointed out that Joint Chiefs don’t applaud. The Supreme Court justices don’t applaud. The CIA director shouldn’t, either.”

But DDT is the new normal—the time of corruption.

January 8, 2020

Iran – The Bully Backs Down

Within the last few days, Iraqi strikes killed one U.S. military contractor, the U.S. killed 24 Iraqis and injured another 50, the Iraqis fired in protest at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) assassinated the Iranian leader Qassem Soleimani at the Baghdad airport. DDT warned Iran not to retaliate before Iranians launched over a dozen ballistic missiles at two U.S. air bases housing U.S. military members in Iraq, an act that Iran called “hard revenge” for Soleimani’s death. Iran stated that they would not fire again if DDT didn’t retaliate. Most countries, including Israel, won’t support DDT, and DDT caved—after people held their breath to see if he would move toward World War III. Last night, DDT tweeted, “All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq.” 

Today DDT gave a brief speech filled with lies, mispronunciations, snuffling, repetitions, incompetent spins, blame for President Obama. DDT equated backing down with proof that Iran’s “campaign of terror, murder, mayhem will not be tolerated any longer.” He miserably failed to make Iran less aggressive with “maximum pressure” by withdrawing from a successful deal controlling Iran’s nuclear program and issuing failing sanctions.

Iran threatened strikes against Dubai and Haifa, but DDT claimed that Iran was “standing down.”

DDT said he would “never let” Iran acquire a nuclear weapon with no strategy or leverage to block Iran’s nuclearization, just as he failed in North Korea.

DDT said the U.S. was “ready to embrace peace” and then promised to intensify the massive sanctions on Iran.

DDT took credit for “destroying 100% of ISIS” although ISIS hasn’t been destroyed.

DDT claimed, “We are now the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world,” a status achieved under President Obama in 2012. which is true, though it’s a status the United States reached in 2012.

DDT wants to involve NATO in the Middle East after putting down the organization’s value; NATO is pulling its military after Soleimani’s killing.

DDT’s lied that President Obama’s administration paid for the Iranian missiles and that the Iran agreement “expires shortly.” The referenced funding was either money owed Iran through a court decision or their own money. 

DDT falsely said, “Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013.” The deal was signed in 2015, and hostilities with Iran increased after DDT voided the agreement despite Iran’s complying with the terms.

DDT claimed Iran is “the leading sponsor of terrorism,” but in 2011, he said Saudi Arabia was “the world’s biggest funder of terrorism. Saudi Arabia funnels our petrodollars, our very own money, to fund the terrorists that seek to destroy our people.” In the 9/11 attack, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, and the 9/11 Commission found that al-Qaeda raised money for terrorism in Saudi Arabia.

The Pentagon spent less than $500,000 million on military equipment since DDT was inaugurated, less than 25 percent of DDT’s claim.

DDT bragged about how “our missiles are big, powerful, accurate, lethal, and fast.”

Andrea Mitchell, a political correspondent for over 50 years, called DDT’s national security team the “worst” that she’s ever seen—“least experienced, the least effective, and the smallest” in recent memory. The “team” doesn’t even have a Senate-confirmed director of National Intelligence or a deputy director of National Intelligence. DHS lacks a Senate-confirmed Homeland Security secretary and deputy secretary, and there is no Senate-confirmed undersecretary for arms control and international security affairs or assistant secretary for arms control, verification, and compliance. The Pentagon has seen the resignation of six top officials in less than six weeks.

On the conservative website The Bulwark, Shay Khatiri wrote:

“President Trump didn’t hire the “A Team,” or even the “B Team,” of experienced Republican former national security officials. He skipped past them because most of them had, during the 2016 campaign, signed public letters and statements denouncing him. So the Trump administration began with the C Team. And as time passed and the members of the C Team resigned or were fired, the administration moved on to D and E.

  • DDT: a reality-show personality who never had a government position before election, knows nothing about international affairs, doesn’t listen to intelligence briefings, and is ignorant about current events..
  • VP Mike Pence: former state governor and U.S. representative.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: former Army captain, U.S. representative, and warhawk.
  • Robert O’Brien (national security advisor): held low-level positions in George W. Bush’s administration.
  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper: lobbyist who rose to this position from six levels down.
  • Secretary of Army Ryan McCarthy: crisis-management experience, former Army Ranger, and Afghanistan war veteran.
  • Secretary of Air Force Barbara Barrett: former non-Foreign Service Officer ambassador with no experience in national security crisis management.
  • Secretary of Navy: none.

Senate Democrats reported that the administration’s briefing on Soleimani’s killing failed to show an “imminent threat” to U.S. troops and diplomats. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) commented on “the lack of information” and described the administration’s “strike of choice” as “one that likely would’ve required congressional authorization beforehand.” The 75-minute briefing left senators with “multiple questions unanswered,” and only 15 of 97 senators in attendance could ask questions. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said:

“We did not see a plan, a satisfying plan for the future. As the questions began to get tough, they walked out.”

Utah’s GOP senator Mike Lee was even more harsh in his response to the briefing, calling it “probably the worst briefing I’ve seen at least on a military issue in the nine years I’ve served in the United States Senate.” He described the message as telling lawmakers to be “good little boys and girls and run along and not debate this in public” and “insane.” The briefing, according to Lee, persuaded him to support Sen. Tim Kaine’s (D-VA) war powers resolution that reinforces resuming the constitutionally congressional power over the president for determining military actions. Fox network stopped Lee from talking about the briefing.

Congress abdicated its responsibilities after the 9/11 attacks with the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), which permitted the president to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against any countries whom he determined “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks or harbored involved persons or groups. During the past 18+ years, U.S. officials have used AUMF to justify actions 37 times in 14 countries. VP Mike Pence supports DDT in using the AUMF for attacks on Iran with his falsehood about Soleimani’s connection to 9/11.

Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Iranian attacks were meant to kill U.S. military members, but facts refute his statement. The U.S. knew about the attacks hours in advance, and base personnel went to the bunkers. The highly accurate missiles avoided killing and great destruction by hitting lesser targets. 

Saudi Arabia supports DDT because he sells them weapons and doesn’t make them responsible for the torture and dismemberment of U.S. journalist and citizen, Jamal Khashoggi. On Monday, DDT tried to hide his meeting with Saudi Vice Minister of Defense Khalid bin Salman, the younger brother of the murdering crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Vice Minister publicized the meeting, however, tweeting that it was to discuss cooperation for “regional challenges” (aka Iran).

During his campaign, DDT warned that voting for Hillary Clinton would mean going to war. In 2016, about 66 million people voted for Clinton, and the U.S. may go to war.

Even without airstrikes, Iran can retaliate against the U.S. Iraq is on the verge of eliminating U.S. military presence in the country, one of Soleimani’s goals. Iran controls the Persian Gulf oil shipping lanes, supplies weapons to Yemen’s Houthis, and supports Bashar Assad’s war on his Syrian people. Most dangerous for the United States is the possibility of cyberattacks. Revenge is a dish best served cold, according to a centuries-old proverb, and Iran may be preparing and cooling its vengeance for the future.   

Some Republicans, like Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), think that they can’t win without lying when he tweeted a faked photo of President Obama with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The photo was debunked over four years ago after it was used to promote incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson (WI) in his opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement. Rouhani was photoshopped over former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (left) in this 2011 photo, and the color of the flag was changed. President Obama never met Rouhani. 

In the global community, 64 percent believe that DDT cannot be trusted to do the “right thing” in world affairs. European allies such as Spain, France, and Germany are as low as 25 percent in confidence, and the percentage drops to 8 percent in Mexico.

January 21, 2014

Christie Going Nowhere on His Bridge

Almost ten years ago, Republicans in Congress got into trouble when Alaska’s s Rep. Don Young and Sen. Ted Stevens, tried to push through $320 million federal funding for a bridge from Ketchikan to Gravina Island, where the town’s airport is located. The bridge, almost as long as the Golden Gate Bridge and taller than the Brooklyn Bridge, would have saved people a 15-minute wait for a ferry to the mainland. Notoriety about the funding resulted in the appellation “Bridge to Nowhere,” which the ultraconservative Heritage Foundation described as “an embarrassment to the people of Alaska and the U.S. Congress.” The funding was removed for 2005 but kept reappearing in bills as late as 2011.

GW_BridgeLast fall, another “bridge to nowhere” reappeared. This time it was a bridge between New York and New Jersey which happens to be the busiest bridge in the world. With an annual load of 102 million vehicles, the George Washington Bridge connects to the Cross Bronx Expressway, ranked the worst roadway for congestion in 2012. Drivers waste more than six days in traffic every year.

Drivers spent a bit longer last year because the Port Authority closed two of the three access lanes from Fort Lee, on the New Jersey side, in September 9, 2011. Streets turned into parking lots for four days because no one would tell Mayor Mark Sokolich why this was being done. Not until a few weeks ago did the public learn that a top aide to Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) recommended the closing of the lanes through an email that read “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” The revelation of the email continued the number of officials abandoning the sinking ship of Christie’s bridge. Although Christie swears that he had nothing to do with the closures, he also swore that none of the people in his administration had anything to do with the closures–until it was revealed that they did.

Ordinarily this disaster would be concern only the people of New Jersey, who recently re-elected Christie to a second four-year term. The governor, however, was—until recently—considered a top possibility for the 2016 GOP presidential candidate, the only one who isn’t attached at the hip to the crazy Tea Partiers. He is so eager to stay in favor that he threw several of his friends under the bus of politics, declaring himself shocked, stunned, humiliated, etc. He repeatedly claimed that he fired these people because they lied to him, not because they did anything wrong.

A top consideration of Christie is the danger of closing the busiest bridge in the world on the 12th anniversary of two airplanes hitting the Twin Towers in New York City. School children sat on buses for hours. Problems in emergency included the search for a lost four-year-old and the delayed arrival of an ambulance for a 91-year-old woman in cardiac arrest. She later died.

Did Christie deliberately have the lanes cut down out of retribution for people who offended him? No one knows—yet. An early assumption was that Fort Lee’s Mayor Sokolich, a Democrat, refused to endorse the governor for his re-election. A later possibility came from a billion-dollar development project next to the lane closures. Shutting down the lanes would quash the development, a keystone of Mayor Sokolich’s tenure.

Or the closure could be part of feud over state Supreme Court nominees. Since Christie refused to re-appoint a Democrat justice, the Democrats have been at war with the governor. It came to a head when he also refused to re-appoint a friend of his as justice because he would not “let her loose to the animals [state Senate Democrats].” The email requesting “traffic problems in Fort Lee” came the day after Christie’s angry speech, and the leader of the Senate Democrats at the time was a senator from Fort Lee.

Many people find it difficult to believe that a governor would retaliate against people in such a way. But a pattern of Christie’s behavior indicates a vengeful person:

  • After former Gov. Richard Codey publicly disagreed with Christie, the current governor removed his state trooper protection, never before done.
  • The same day that Codey disagreed with Christie, a Codey cousin was fired from his position at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and a former Codey aide was removed from the New Jersey Office of Consumer Affairs.
  • After State Sen. Sean Kean (R) told a reporter that Christie had made a mistake in not declaring an emergency earlier during a 2010 blizzard, Kean was banned from the next news conference Christie held in Kean’s home district. A Christie aide told the newspaper that Kean “got what he deserved.”
  • After Rutgers Professor Alan Rosenthal backed a re-districting map more favorable to Democrats, his state funding was slashed.
  • After State Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R) voted against Christie’s public medical education system reorganization, the confirmation of a judicial candidate who Bateman recommended was stalled.
  • After Jersey City mayor Steve Fulop failed to endorse the governor, meetings with Christie and top commissioners were abruptly canceled.

In his press conference after the first torrent of emails were released, Christie claimed that he is definitely not a bully. Videos provide the background for these quotes from Christie:

1. [To a teacher:] “If what you want to do is put on a show and giggle every time I talk, well then I have no interest in answering your question.”

​2. [To a former Navy SEAL:] “Your rear end’s going to get thrown in jail, idiot.”

3. [To a reporter:] “You know Tom, you must be the thinnest-skinned guy in America…you should really see me when I’m pissed.”

​4. [To a constituent:] “Hey Gail, you know what, first off it’s none of your business.”

​5. [To a former White House doctor:] “This is just another hack who wants five minutes on TV…she should shut up.”

​6. [To an Occupy Wall Street protester:] “Something may be going down tonight, but it ain’t going to be jobs, sweetheart.”

7. [To a reporter:] “Are you stupid?…I’m sorry for the idiot over there.”

8. [To a person on the street:] “You’re a real big shot. You’re a real big shot. Just keep walking away. Keep walking.”

Christie’s bullying went as high up as the GOP presidential candidate in 2012. An excerpt from Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s Double Down: Game Change 2012 published last fall describes Christie’s ability as a “fundraising dynamo” with the caveat that he was a demanding person:

“Months earlier, Christie had banned Romney from raising money in New Jersey until Christie had given the O.K. to do so—a move Romney found galling, like something out of The Sopranos. Are you kidding me, Mitt thought. He’s going to do that?”

Mitt Romney had even vetted Christie for his vice-president. The only requirements were that the person be considered qualified to be Commander in Chief and that the person have no distractions in the background. The vetters used the nickname “Pufferfish” for Christie. Pufferfish didn’t make the cut.

Chris Hedges described Christie as “Wall Street’s anointed son for the presidency … backed by the most ruthless and corrupt figures in New Jersey politics, including the New Jersey multimillionaire and hard-line Democratic boss George Norcross III. Among his other supporters are many hedge fund managers and corporate executives and some of the nation’s most retrograde billionaires, including the Koch brothers.”

Hedges explained that the bridge closure “is a window into how federal agencies and the security and surveillance apparatus would be routinely employed in a Christie presidency to punish anyone who challenged this tiny cabal’s grip on power. Christie is the caricature of a Third World despot. He has a vicious temper, a propensity to bully and belittle those weaker than himself, an insatiable thirst for revenge against real or perceived enemies, and little respect for the law and, as recent events have made clear, for the truth. He is gripped by a bottomless hedonism that includes a demand for private jets, huge entourages, exclusive hotels and lavish meals.”

Part of Christie’s baggage comes from his wife, Mary Pat Christie, a bond trader currently managing director at Angelo Gordon, an investment firm in New York. Her resume includes JPMorgan Chase, Fleet Securities, and Cantor Fitzgerald.

The rest of Hedges’ comments are well-worth reading.

All these behaviors demonstrate a very bad choice for running the United States. Future blogs will focus on opinions—both right and left—about Christie, his possibly illegal activities, Christie’s current approach to the problems, and a glass-ball look into the future.

Today Chris Christie was inaugurated for his second term as governor. Mother Nature rewarded him with a snow storm that closed down parts of the Northeast.

Update: After I posted this, I received a correction about Don Young being Alaska’s representative. The person also sent the following reaction:

“Don’t get me started on Ketchikan’s Bridge to nowhere.  You haven’t arrived at Ketchikan Airport at midnight after overhearing Juneau because of weather.  The airport closes, you wait for the ferry, you pay $150.00 for a hotel… you arrive at 1 a.m., you have to be back at the airport at 4 a.m. to catch a 6 a.m. flight hopefully back to Juneau.  That means you have to get the ferry at some other ungodly hour.

“There was and is a good reason for the bridge which we aren’t going to discuss.  I’m on the side of Senator Stevens on this one. ”

 

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