Nel's New Day

July 14, 2017

That Russia ‘Thing’

The drip-drip of information about collusion between Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and Russia has developed into a steady flow as the dam against information starts to break down. Last week saw the publicity about a meeting between DDT associates at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, with Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya because she promised that she could provide them damaging information about Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Early information showed that those attending included DDT’s son Donald Trump, Jr., DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who helps run both DDT and the family business, and one-time DDT campaign manager Paul Manafort, who has a history of business ties with Russian and pro-Russia Ukrainian kleptocrats. Now it appears that more people were present, including Russian businessman and former counterintelligence officer Rinat Akhmetshin.

The story put Jr. on the cover of Time. It began with Jr. claiming that he didn’t meet and then moved on to his claim that it was just about foster children, followed by admission that she Veselnitskaya offered information but didn’t provide any useful information against Clinton. Paul Manafort told his investigators about the meeting and that Jr. had set it up.

Jr. blatantly released emails proving he knew the offer to the meeting came directly from the Russian government and that possible information about be “very high level and sensitive.” The emails explicitly refer to “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” as well as Jr. agreeing to a meeting with a “Russian government attorney” to obtain documents from the Russian government. Jr.’s response to the emails is that “I love it especially later in the summer,” the time when the hacked emails from the DNC were released to the public.

The shifting story about DDT’s involvement with Russia to meddle in the presidential election: no, we didn’t talk to anybody; yes, we talked to somebody but it wasn’t about the election; yes, we talked about the election but didn’t get any useful information. The question is what’s next. That’s why all these people need lawyers. This fascinating view of who hired whom is missing the latest hire, Alan Futerfas. The lawyer for organized crime mobs including the Gambino, Genovese, and Colombo families is representing Jr.

Jr.’s emails support the chain of people from the Kremlin to DDT. The timeline of 20 denials about Russian collusion in the past year is accompanied by six more lies about Jr.’s meeting.

DDT claimed he knew nothing about the meeting, but a trail exists. Four hours after Jr. confirmed his meeting with Veselnitskaya on June 7, DDT promised a speech “discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons.” He said that it would be “very, very informative.” Two days later, DDT lacked the information and talked about national security. A few hours after the meeting,  DDT asked Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s so-called “deleted” 33,000 emails.

DDT’s spin on the meeting is blaming former AG Loretta Lynch for allowing the lawyer into the country. Veselnitskaya came to the U.S. with the claim that she was an attorney for Prevezon Holdings, a Russian company accused of money-laundering for the mob by buying expensive real estate. Prevezon’s actions are related to DDT’s firing Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District, while he was overseeing a money laundering case against Russian mobsters who allegedly hid $230 million in NYC real estate, some of it belong to DDT. The Russian lawyer who revealed the fraud met a suspicious death. Veselnitskaya called the DOJ settlement of $5.9 million in lieu of $230 million “almost an apology from the [U.S.] government.”

Richard Painter, George H.W. Bush’s ethics counsel, described Jr.’s actions as “treason.” As to the question of collusion, the term is defined as “secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy, especially in order to cheat or deceive others.” Ryan Goodman, former Defense Department special counsel, declared that the meeting was prohibited by federal criminal law.

“The law states that no person shall knowingly solicit or accept from a foreign national any contribution to a campaign of an item of value. There is now a clear case that Donald Trump Jr. has met all the elements of the law, which is a criminally enforced federal statute.”

The statute governing foreign contributions to U.S. campaigns, 52 USC 30121, 36 USC 510, has two key passages. The first:

“A foreign national shall not, directly or indirectly, make a contribution or a donation of money or other thing of value, or expressly or impliedly promise to make a contribution or a donation, in connection with any Federal, State, or local election.”

The second:

“No person shall knowingly solicit, accept, or receive from a foreign national any contribution or donation prohibited by [this law].”

The term “solicit” has a specific meaning in this context:

“A solicitation is an oral or written communication that, construed as reasonably understood in the context in which it is made, contains a clear message asking, requesting, or recommending that another person make a contribution, donation, transfer of funds, or otherwise provide anything of value.”

The Committee of the Federal Register defines “solicitation”:

“To ask, request, or recommend, explicitly or implicitly, that another person make a contribution, donation, transfer of funds, or otherwise provide anything of value.”

Jr. knew that he was soliciting information from a foreign source and that damaging information in “political opposition research” would cost a great deal of money. The illegal part was trying to get the information, not Jr.’s success. Everyone at the meeting was trying to solicit information from a foreign government, i.e., the Russians. Jr. may have solicited other times because he told Sean Hannity on Fox that he “probably met with other people from Russia” during the campaign.

Charles Krauthammer said:

 “If you get a call to go to a certain place in the middle of the night to pick up stolen goods, and it turns out stolen goods don’t show up but the cops show up, I think you’re going to have a weak story saying, ‘well, I got swindled here….’ It’s a hell of a defense to say your collusion wasn’t competent and it didn’t work out.”

DDT counsel Kellyanne Conway may be expecting more drips in her use of the word “yet”:

“‘Collusion’? No. We don’t have that yet.”

Most  congressional Republicans are trying to cover DDT’s illegal acts of Russian collusion. They ignore the questions, refuse to answer them, or obfuscate. Denials of DDT’s collusion have morphed into claims that collusion isn’t illegal. Jr.’s emails about collusion with Russia? No problem? Hillary Clinton’s private email service? Horrifying! Rep. Steve King (R-IA) threatens to investigate Anthony Weiner’s 650,000 emails if the Democrats won’t ignore Jr.’s emails. GOP senators such as Ted Cruz (TX), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Lindsey Graham (SC) used Senate hearing time to question witnesses about Clinton instead of Russian collusion. GOP leaders of the intelligence committees in the House and Senate have called the media to challenge stories about the collusion.

Early reporting from the Fox network omitted any reference to Russia in Jr.’s emails.

Most of the attention surrounding the meeting has been on Jr., but Kushner may be in trouble too. His security clearance is based on lies about his past meetings, and Democrats want Kushner’s access to classified information rescinded. Since his presence at the meeting was revealed, Kushner remembered over 100 foreign contacts that he had omitted from earlier high-security clearance applications.

VP Mike Pence might also be in hot water. On Fox, his press secretary Marc Lotter refused to respond to a question about whether Pence met with the Russians. Six months ago, Pence denied that anyone with DDT’s campaign had met with Russians trying to meddle in the election, but now the world knows differently.

Two Democratic donors and a DNC staffer are suing DDT and his longtime adviser Roger Stone for their public release of emails stolen from the DNC. Congressional committees are competing to be the first to question Jr.

For several days, this was DDT’s only response to Jr.’s scandal: “My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency.” He left for Paris and embarrassed the people of the United States there.

Last February, New York Times David Leonhardt wrote:

“This combination—an anti-democratic president and a quiescent Congress—is very dangerous. Even though many members of Congress think [Trump’s] approach is wrong, they have refused to confront him because he is a member of their party. He has the power to sign bills that Republican legislators have long favored, and their political fortunes are tied to his popularity.”

Most Republicans just want to keep DDT healthy enough to sign papers—and right now they’re in control. But the hacking continues.

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June 17, 2017

DDT: Week Twenty-One, Any Success Elusive

Two years ago yesterday, a New York businessman rode down an escalator to become the president of the United States who is under investigation for criminal charges. Supporters didn’t believe an article about investigating Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) for obstruction of justice, but he angrily tweeted that he is being investigated. Much has been said about DDT invoking executive privilege, but the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Nixon from using the privilege to withhold evidence in a criminal investigation in 1974. The investigation is also looking into money laundering by DDT associates and the business affairs of DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Russian hackers breached voting systems in 39 different states, according to a new report. This number is almost twice what was previously reported. Russians tried to delete or alter voter data, accessed software for poll worker use on Election Day, and breached a campaign finance database.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and NSA director Adm. Michael Rogers refused to talk about DDT’s involvement with Russia in  a hearing, but Coats told his colleagues in March that DDT asked both him and Rogers to stop former FBI director James Comey in a probe into Michael Flynn. DDT asked Coats in front of CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

DDT’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, has clients with Russian connections include Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to President Vladimir Putin and Sberbank, Russia’s largest state-owned bank. Kasowitz also represented one of Deripaska’s companies for years in a civil lawsuit in New York and was scheduled to argue on the company’s behalf May 25, two days after news broke that Trump had hired him.

Jay Sekulow, with a specialty in “religious liberty” case, is now the television face of DDT’s legal team. Sekulow claims that the president is a “unitary executive” with unlimited national security powers. Former VP Dick Cheney expanded this theory when George W. Bush’s White House Counsel John Yoo justified using torture. The U.S. Constitution does not provide unchecked power for any of the three branches of government.

A Few DDT Failures:

A federal judge has ruled that DDT failed to conduct an adequate environmental review of the Dakota Access pipeline. Judge James Boasberg requested further briefings to see if the pipeline should be shut down until a full review of impacts of potential oil spills.

The Senate voted 97-to-2 to stop DDT’s power to unilaterally scale back sanctions on Russia.  Mike Lee and Rand Paul didn’t like the idea, and Secretary of State is not happy about tying “the administration’s hands.”

The ethics office refused a “retroactive” waiver to exempt white supremacist Steve Bannon for all of his infractions since he came to the White House. The “waiver” to nullify ethics claims was neither signed nor dated, raising the question of whether DDT knew anything about it.

The three-judge unanimous panel ruling against DDT’s travel ban in the 9th Circuit Court decided that he didn’t comply with federal immigration law. DDT failed to offer justification to stop the entry of over 180 million people into the U.S. basing its ban on nationality. Judges cited DDT’s tweets as an “authority.” In a case about the ban before the 4th Circuit Court, lawyers want judges to ignore DDT’s statements as president and rule only on the executive order and DDT’s official actions. If the Supreme Court hears the case, it will have to address both this questions and early constitutional issues from the 4th Circuit ruling.

Comey might have been fired earlier if he had refused to meet with DDT. Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara  said he was fired the day after he refused a call from DDT because he saw direct contact between the president and a law-enforcement official. He reported the call to AG Jeff Sessions on March 9 and was fired “twenty-two hours later.”

Congress is putting the heat on DDT about releasing tapes of his conversations with Comey after DDT accused him of lying under oath.

DDT’s Attempts at Foreign Policy:

In the week since eight Middle East countries have blockaded Qatar, a country that DDT had supported only days before, the U.S. has crossed from one side to another. DDT called the country extremist, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for diplomacy, and the United States completed a sale of 36 fighter jets for $12 billion that President Obama had initiated. Iran, Kuwait, and Turkey have declared themselves on the side of Qatar, and the blockading countries have broken up families. U.S. incompetence can put either Russia or Turkey as broker in the Middle East crisis, and Turkey is already deploying troops to help Qatar

The Philippines military has confirmed that the U.S. will provide “technical support” to fight ISIS in that country, but President Rodrigo Duterte says he doesn’t want the help. If that’s true, it means that the military may have gone rogue, and the U.S. could be in the middle of the mess.

After dumping 194 countries by rejecting the Paris climate agreement, DDT made the United States into a footnote with the G7 group of industrialized nations. The other six reconfirmed a commitment to reducing carbon emissions in a statement after its environment meeting that EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt left early. “G6” countries are already meeting with California in a beginning to work with some states in slowing down climate change. A German fact check of DDT’s speech about saving $3 trillion shows he didn’t account for massive savings in fiscal benefits of avoiding massive climate changes.

DDT is afraid to go to Britain if there are large-scale protests. He told current prime minister Theresa May that he’ll wait until the British public supports a visit. UK will save lot of money in not having to break out the gold coach for him.

And a Few Other Pieces:

D.C. and Maryland are suing DDT because of the millions in payments he is receiving in his Washington hotel that violate the Emoluments Clause of the constitution. Government lawyers content that this prohibition doesn’t count for DDT. If a federal court decides whether the case can continue, the plaintiffs will request that DDT’s personal tax returns be publicly revealed. Another 196 congressional Democrats are suing DDT for the same reason.

DDT is blocking more people from his Twitter account, including VoteVets.org, a group representing over 500,000 veterans, family members, and civilian supporters. A record of his more notable blocks, including famous novelist Stephen King, is available here.

DDT’s climate quote of the week: “You’ve got one heck of an island there. Your island has been there for hundreds of years, and I believe your island will be there for hundreds more.” The statement was made to Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge of Tangier (VA) on an island that has about 25 years left before sea-level rise from climate change puts it under the water. Of the 450 population in the town first settled in the 17th century, about 87 percent voted for DDT in the place that is sinking 15 feet each year.

DDT’s wife Melania has reported that she officially moved into the White House with their son Barron.

Anyone watching comedy shows or news have seen clips of DDT’s Cabinet meeting where members and attendees were forced to suck up to the fragile DDT. Former CIA member Ned Price compared the fawning to what could be seen around North Korea’s Kim Jung-Un. Best headline: “Roomful of Pussies Purrs Its Praise At Feral Orange Tomcat.” Only Defense Secretary James Mattis didn’t play the game, instead praising the members of the military. Lesser noticed, however, is the parody that came from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Well worth watching! The article is also a detailed debunking of DDT’s claims. If you really want to read the comments ….

Being president makes a lot of money for DDT, and not just from his salary. His recent financial disclosure shows tens of millions of dollars in income from his “Trump” golf courses and resorts that get the biggest boosts from places he personally visits. One of these is Mar-a-Lago that doubled its 2016 incoe to $29 million. DDT visited at least one of his own properties in one-third of his first 108 days in office, 36 times. Details here.

Republican approval of how things are going in the U.S. dropped 17 points from 58 percent last month to 41 percent.

For the first time in his 22 weekends, DDT is not spending time at one of his golf courses or resorts. Instead, he has gone to the presidents’ retreat of Camp David. It may not be a common practice. DDT called Camp David “rustic” and said, “You know how long you’d like it? For about 30 minutes.” This facility does not require millions of dollars per visit like DDT’s time at his personal business places such as Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster (NJ). DDT should be okay: he’s only going overnight.

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