Nel's New Day

May 18, 2017

DDT: Ten Days in May

Sally Yates’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 8 about Russian interference in the election should have been the high point of last week. Many people were riveted to the screen as the former acting AG calmly parried the hostile questions from GOP members who asked why she didn’t do everything that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) requested. But between new events and revelations, this day was only the first of ten explosive days for the United States and its attempts to retain democracy. [Time magazine has detailed articles about the Russian connection.]

May 8, 2017 – Senate Hearing: Yates explained that she notified the White House about Michael Flynn’s lies regarding his Russian communications because they left him open to blackmail. She did that a full 18 days before he was fired—ostensibly for lying to VP Mike Pence. Yet when she told DDT’s top lawyer, Don McGahn, about Flynn, he asked her why it mattered if one White House official lies to another. Throughout the hearing, Republicans cared only about how the media discovered Flynn’s discussions with the Russian ambassador. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asked Yates if she had leaked that information because DDT had told senators to ask her that. She said no. Then they suggested that President Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, had provided the leak, but there is no evidence that this happened. Although the hearing was about Michael Flynn, Republicans persistently asked Yates about her not defending DDT’s travel ban, the reason he gave for firing her. Yates held her ground when Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) criticized her judgment and reminded him that she had promised him in her confirmation hearings that she would act independently of the president, then Barack Obama.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also testified, at one point stating that he knew nothing about any collusion between DDT and the Russians during his campaign. DDT tried to use his statement to say that Clapper testified that there was no collusion, but Clapper said that was not true. Sen. John Cassidy (R-LA) awkwardly demanded to know if Clapper had ever leaked unclassified information.

May 9, 2017 – Comey Firing: All the buzz about the Senate hearing disappeared the following day when DDT fired FBI Director James Comey. Over the weekend, DDT had become increasingly angry about Comey’s congressional appearance discussing the FBI’s investigation into DDT’s campaign ties with Russia, and he gathered a small group, including VP Mike Pence and McGahn, to prepare talking points. Comey discovered he was fired while glancing at a television screen in Los Angeles. Initially, DDT said that he fired Comey for the way he had treated Hillary Clinton and done it on the advice of DOJ AG Jeff Sessions and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, but throughout the week that story unraveled. By Thursday he told journalist Lester Holt that he decided to do it on his own because of that “Russian thing.” In his firing letter to Comey, DDT claimed that the FBI director had told him that DDT wasn’t under investigation, another piece that was a lie as was the false statement about Rosenstein making the recommendation to fire Comey.

Comey’s firing covered up news about the subpoenas issued by a federal grand jury in Alexandria (VA) to Flynn’s associates. More widely spread through the media was Press Secretary Sean Spicer shouting “turn the lights off” to journalists as he stood amid the White House bushes.

May 10, 2017 – The Russians in the White House: A meeting between DDT and  with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov [left] and Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak was chronicled only by a photographer from a Russian state-owned news agency. U.S. journalists were banned. DDT said that he met with them because Putin had asked him and he didn’t know how to say no. He also said that he didn’t know the photographer was from the Russian agency. It was five days later that the media discovered DDT gave highly classified information about ISIS threats in Iraq and Syria to the Russians that had obtained from another country. The reason may have been pure bragging. He prefaced it by saying, “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day.”

May 11, 2017 – Changes in DDT’s stories: Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testified that, unlike DDT’s claims, Comey had “broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.” DDT had claimed that a reason for firing Comey was the lack of trust among FBI agents. On the same day as DDT’s interview with Lester Holt, the New York Times reported on DDT asking for a personal loyalty pledge from Comey at a dinner on January 27 that the FBI director refused to give. The Senate Intelligence Committee also subpoenaed documents from Flynn because he wouldn’t give them voluntarily.

May 12, 2017 – Threats and financial issues: DDT sent a (slightly) veiled threat about Comey and “tapes,” unleashing a media storm regarding the possibility that DDT has taped conversations. Again Spicer cannot answer any of these questions. A letter from DDT’s outside lawyers states that “with a few exceptions” totaling about $100 million, Trump’s tax returns from 2005 “do not reflect” any “income from Russian sources,” “debt owed by you or [The Trump Organization] to Russian lenders,” “equity investments by Russian persons or entities,” or “equity or debt investments by you or [The Trump Organization] in Russian entities.” This is after DDT’s statement that he has no financial connections to Russia. The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which specializes in combating money-laundering, will share financial records with the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Trump’s ties to Russia.

May 13, 2017 – Humor: DDT gives the graduation address at conservative evangelical Liberty University, and Saturday Night Live skewers DDT.

May 14, 2017 – Mother’s Day: DDT plays golf four states away from his wife, Melania, and son Barron.

May 15, 2017 – The Russian connection: The news about DDT giving away classified information hits the media, and denials flow. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and the White House denied the entire story along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell. But on the day of the conversation,Thomas P. Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, called directors of the CIA and the NSA and requested that DDT’s comments to be deleted from internal memos. That night his communications people—Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Saunders, and Michale Dubke—were in such a loud screaming fit in the Cabinet that staffers turned up the television sets to keep journalists from hearing. Sen. James Risch (R-ID) epitomized much of the GOP supportive spin:

“The minute the President speaks about it to someone, he has the ability to declassify anything at any time without any process.”

May 16, 2017 – Changing stories, lies revealed: McMaster repeated that he was in the room with DDT and the Russians and reversed his story: yes, DDT did reveal the information, but it was “wholly appropriate.” In addition, DDT hadn’t been briefed and “wasn’t even aware where this information came from.” He had to admit it because DDT tweeted that he certainly did give Russia this information—and that he has every right to do this. McMaster said that the big problem was the leakers. Israel, the country that had provided the information to the U.S., didn’t concur. Worried since January that DDT would pass on their classified information, Israel feared that information leaked to Russia would move on to Iran. As always when DDT causes chaos for the nation, Russia is triumphant about the disaster.

Information emerges that Comey had left a paper trail of his conversations with DDT, including when DDT asked him to stop the investigation into Flynn. DDT also asked Comey to put journalists in prison for publishing classified information.

May 17, 2017 – New sheriff in town: Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference with the election. His action elicited another flurry of furious DDT tweets including more impugning of the Clintons. Sources are now saying that Flynn himself told DDT’s transition team, headed by Mike Pence, that Flynn was under investigation before DDT appointed him to be National Security Adviser.

May 18, 2017 – Today: At this time, Flynn has failed to comply with a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee for documents connected to its investigation regarding Russia’s interference in the presidential election. He may be following the request he got on April 25 from DDT to “stay strong.” Like DDT, Flynn is crying “unfair” about the investigation despite a new revelation that he and other DDT campaign advisers were in contact with Russian officials at least 18 times during the last seven months of the campaign. In another scandal, Flynn told Susan Rice, then National Security Adviser, in mid-January to call off plans to use Kurdish forces to retake Raqqa from ISIS. Flynn may have been acting without any involvement from the DDT transition team but pleased Turkey, his undisclosed client at the time. DDT approved the Raqqa plan later after Flynn was fired. Some congressional members have used the term “treason” to describe Flynn’s making a military decision for the U.S.  while acting in behalf of a foreign nation that was paying him.

Tomorrow, DDT heads off to the Middle East for a nine-day trip. What can go wrong?!

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February 1, 2017

Trump Keeps Campaign Promises, Alienates Growing Number of Countries

Have I demoted President Donald Trump (PDT) to just Donald Trump (DT) was a question sent me yesterday. The demotion was accurate because I cannot consider DT a president until he starts acting like one. His actions recently, however, provide a new descriptor for him—Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Over a half century ago, Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, describing the dire consequences of the pesticide DDT including cancer and other destructive effects on the planet. In 1972, the U.S. banned the use of DDT for agricultural use in the nation. Donald Trump may be even more toxic for the United States.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 28: Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates speaks during a press conference at the Department of Justice on June 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. Volkswagen has agreed to nearly $15 billion in a settlement over emissions cheating on its diesel vehicles. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

(Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

As a dictator, DDT has decided to ignore the U.S. Constitution. Conservative press claims that Sally Yates should have been fired from the Department of Justice because she was insubordinate—that she should do anything the president wants, including supporting his unconstitutional actions. The office of the president can legally fire the Attorney General, but DDT’s action in this case and his petty language smearing her demonstrates his failure to understand that the DOJ is an independent agency. The Attorney General swears an oath to the U.S. Constitution, not to the U.S. president, yet DDT looks at the AG as his personal lackey.

Independence of the DOJ is especially vital at this time when some of the president’s associates are being investigated for their communication with Russia regarding the election.  Republican lawmakers understood the mission of the Attorney General when they confirmed individuals under a Democratic president. As with all else in the GOP world, however, fealty to the president is now of paramount importance with a Republican in the office.

As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote:

“Donald Trump fired the acting Attorney General, Sally Q. Yates, after learning that she had downloaded a copy of the United States Constitution to her computer, Trump told reporters on Monday night. According to the Trump Administration’s code of ethics, established by Steve Bannon, a counselor to the President, ‘possessing, reading, or referring to the United States Constitution’ is a violation that is punishable by termination.

“Suspecting that Yates was in breach of that rule, Bannon seized Yates’s computer at the Justice Department and discovered that she had secretly downloaded a complete copy of the 1789 document. ‘Sally Yates was hatching a covert plot to require my actions to be in accordance with the Constitution,’ Trump said. ‘We caught her red-handed.’

“Trump said he hoped Yates’s firing would send Justice Department staffers the message that ‘if you are caught flagrantly obeying the Constitution, you will be out of here. The American people deserve an Attorney General who will come to work every day ready to flout the Constitution, and in Jeff Sessions, they will have one,’ he said.”

With DDT and the current GOP crop, satire has come close to fact.

In DDT’s exuberance to capture terrorists coming in the country, his Muslim ban led to handcuffing a five-year-old boy and holding him in custody, separated from his parents for at least five hours, because he may have been “a threat to America,” according to Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) revealed that the child is a U.S. citizen who lives in Maryland and described the incident as “outrageous.” The boy was detained despite authorities having prior knowledge of his arrival. When Van Hollen tried to see if the child had been released, he was refused information by airport authorities.

With his new presidential powers, DDT is carrying out his campaign promises, one of them targeting the families of terror suspects. Although Press Secretary Sean Spicer indicated he was not aware of this DDT position, DDT said this on the campaign trail:

“[Y]ou have to take out their families. When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. But they say they don’t care about their lives. You have to take out their families.”

DDT’s first military raid, carried out last Sunday, killed two U.S. citizens, a member of SEAL Team 6 and the eight-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, an al Qaeda leader born in New Mexico and killed in a U.S. strike five years ago. The purpose of the raid in southern Yemen was to gather intelligence, and an official said about the raid, “Almost everything went wrong.” Several other SEALs were injured, some seriously, and the child’s death has been useful for al Qaeda recruitment. Terrorist groups are circulating photographs of children who have been killed by the United States.

DDT attacked its (former?) ally in a telephone call last Saturday to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in that country’s attempt to confirm that the U.S. would honor its pledge to take 1,250 refugees. Before the call, DDT accused Australia of trying to export the “next Boston bombers.” A senior administration official stated that the call to Turnbull was “hostile and charged,” according to the Washington Post. Turnbull had assured that acceptance of the refugees was contingent on vetting, but DDT Trump said that he didn’t see how the U.S. would gain anything by honoring its promise. Although Turnbull tried to move on to discuss Syria’s conflict and other important foreign issues, DDT abruptly ended the call and said it was the “worst call by far.”

DDT’s call with the Mexican president seems even worse. Relationships between DDT and Enrique Peña Nieto have been strained since DDT told the Mexican president that he didn’t need to come to a meeting with him if Mexico wouldn’t pay for DDT’s wall between the countries. In this call, DDT threatened to send U.S. troops to stop “bad hombres down there.” Nieto denied that DDT had made this threat, but the Mexican press reported DDT’s statements:

“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there. You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”

White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn announced that the U.S. has put Iran “on notice” for carrying out a medium-range ballistic missile test and attacks by proxy forces on a Saudi frigate:

“The Trump administration condemns such actions by Iran that undermine security, prosperity, and stability throughout and beyond the Middle East and place American lives at risk.”

The missile exploded when its reentry vehicle failed. Flynn declared that the launch violated a UN resolution, but Iran maintains that it has the right to missile development for protection from Israeli attack.  The UN has not made a decision about whether the launch violated its resolution.

Alienating countries in three continents, DDT has ignored Russia’s aggressive actions in escalating its illegal war in Ukraine.

Last week, DDT directed his irritation toward Theresa May, the UK prime minister who visited the U.S. During a joint press conference, May permitted a British reporter to ask this question:

“Mr. President, you’ve said before that torture works; you’ve praised Russia; you’ve said you want to ban some Muslims from coming to America; you’ve suggested there should be punishment for abortion. For many people in Britain, those sound like alarming beliefs. What do you say to our viewers at home who are worried about some of your views and worried about you becoming the leader of the free world?”

DDT avoided answering the question and then said to May, “This was your choice of a question? There goes that relationship!” It may become further strained with May’s opposition to DDT’s positions. She warned DDT and the Republicans to “beware” of Vladimir Putin and keep the sanctions, cautioned him that the West should stop trying to “remake the world in our own image,” backed the Iranian nuclear deal that DDT threatened to tear up, argued for all “diplomatic means at our disposal” to defeat ISIS, and strongly supported NAFTA.

In the first 24 hours after DDT announced his Muslim ban, over 1.5 million people in the UK, that has a population of 64.5 million, signed a petition opposing DDT’s state visit to their country. The petition reads:

“Donald Trump should be allowed to enter the UK in his capacity as head of the US Government, but he should not be invited to make an official state visit because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen.”

In addition, the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion condemning the “discriminatory, divisive and counterproductive” travel ban. On February 20, Parliament will debate whether to rescind DDT’s visit. DDT seems intent on alienating every country except Russia.

trumps-visit

January 31, 2017

Supreme Court Nominee, Lack of Independent Judiciary

Republicans said last year that no Democratic president would ever put a justice on the Supreme Court, starting with their refusal to vet President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, nominated almost one year before the end of the president’s term. Today Donald Trump (DT) drew attention away from his Muslim ban on entering the U.S. by his appointment for this position.Supreme Court nominees can be filibustered unless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) changes the rule to a simple majority.

DT’s nominee: Neil Gorsuch, 49, judge on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals covering six Western states; the son of perhaps the most corrupt head of the Environmental Protection Agency in its history; attends Episcopalian church; appointed by George W. Bush in 2006; would be the most conservative judge on the court except for Clarence Thomas; opposes assisted suicide, legal in six states, because “human life is intrinsically valuable”; sided with Hobby Lobby in viewing contraception as immoral and defunding Planned Parenthood; falsely described birth control drugs and devices as having the effect of “destroying a fertilized human egg”; believes that business owners have religious liberty claims over their employees’ statutory right to access preventive health care; favors Christian religious expression in public spaces; endorses lack of gun safety laws; opposes agency regulatory power to consolidate power within the judiciary; is originalist, interpreting the Constitution as it was understood at the time it was adopted; opposes using the court for social reform; endangers labor and environmental protections, immigrants, and criminal defendants; most likely supports “religious liberty” to escape anti-discrimination laws; co-founded the ultra-conservative publication The Federalist; wants police to be immune from lawsuit for official actions unless “clearly established” law is violated.

In short, Gorsuch as Supreme Court justice would reward corporations and the Koch brothers and penalize voters, workers, women, and the planet. The question is whether DT appointed Gorsuch because the Democrats will filibuster against him and then go with Thomas Hardiman. Another question is how this nomination connects with the Department of Justice.

In his campaigns, Donald Trump (DT) promised to protect the U.S. Constitution. On Day Seven of his presidency, he issued a Muslim ban that violates up to three constitutional amendments, and on Day Ten he fired Sally Yates a few hours after the Acting Attorney General upheld the Constitution. DT claimed that she “betrayed the Department of Justice” and made the country less safe.

The last president to fire an Attorney General was Richard Nixon when Richard Nixon, who fired his AG and Deputy AG in the “Saturday Night Massacre” because they denied his order to dismiss the Watergate Special Prosecutor. Yates replacement is Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, until Senate confirms a person for AG. He said that he would order the DOJ to defend DT’s Muslim ban. At this time, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is being reviewed by the complete U.S. Senate.

In a letter to Justice Department lawyers, Yates stated that the DOJ must take positions in court that “remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand up for what is right.” She also pointed out that the DOJ’s mission is to defend and uphold the Constitution based on established legal precedents. Almost a year ago, she wrote a memo to employees that they must “ensure that politics does not compromise the integrity of our work.”

Concluding that DT’s Muslim ban failed to meet basic constitutional and moral tests, she said she would not assign federal attorneys to show up in court to defend the policy in court. The New York judge granting a temporary restraining order stopping the ban declared that it was likely unconstitutional.

During her 27 years with the DOJ, Yates prosecuted “numerous white-collar fraud and political corruption matters.” She was confirmed as Deputy Attorney General with 85 votes in 2015. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said:

“I supported her nomination, both in Committee and today in the full Senate, and I hope that she will show independence as she provides leadership at the Department. As she told us during her hearing, she is aware that her client is, ‘The people of the United States… not the President… not the Congress, it’s the people of the United States.’”

Sessions, now an anti-Constitution nominee for AG, supported Yates positions:

“Well. you have to watch out, because people will be asking you to do things you just need to say ‘no’ about. Do you think the attorney general has a responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that’s improper? [„,] If the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no?”

Yates answered that the AG or Deputy AG had the responsibility to follow the law and the Constitution with “independent legal advice to the president.” Sessions followed up:

 “Like any CEO, with a law firm — sometimes the lawyers have to tell the CEO: ‘Mr. CEO, you can’t do that. Don’t do that. We’ll get us sued. It’s going to be in violation of the law. You’ll regret it, please.’ No matter how headstrong they might be. Do you feel like that’s the duty of the attorney general’s office?”

Yates agreed with the 2015 Sessions by saying, “I do believe that that’s the duty of the attorney general’s office, to fairly and impartially evaluate the law and to provide the president and the administration with impartial legal advice.” The year 2017 has a very different president, and Sessions, if confirmed for AG, plans to support the president who lacks respect for the document that Republicans promise to revere.

White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, defended the Muslim ban by citing the tragic attack on a Quebec mosque that killed six people and wounded another eight but made no reference that this was an attack on Muslims. The alleged attacker on the Muslims was Alexandre Bissonnette, a pro-Trump white French Canadian who was known for making anti-immigrant and misogynist remarks. Justin Trudeau accurately called it a terrorist attack on Muslims. Yet the Fox network and the Gab messaging service misinformation insisted on identifying a man of Moroccan descent as a suspect and not a witness.

Another DT defense of the Muslim ban is the attack in San Bernadino by Tashfeen Malick on a K1 visa. Malik was from a wealthy Pakistan family and later moved to Saudi Arabia; neither country is on DT’s list of banned countries. Her husband, who participated in the attack, was a U.S. citizen.

Asked about the five-year-old Iranian boy detained over the weekend in response to DT’s new Muslim ban, Spicer replied, “To assume that just because of someone’s age or gender or whatever that they don’t pose a threat would be wrong.” An 11-month-old baby, a U.S. citizen, was separated from the mother, a legal permanent resident who the Muslim ban tried to deport. The mother was kept from breastfeeding her child.

The press secretary also lied in his references to President Obama’s 2011 policy temporarily delaying visas for Iraqis. And Homeland Security and border patrol officials ignored court orders to release the detainees or even let lawyers see them.

DT also moved James Ragsdale, the Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to his former position with no explanation. He was replaced with Thomas Homan,  “deporter in chief” who deported at least 920,000 people and “spearheaded the management and reform of the largest civil detention system in the nation” by adding detention beds. An executive order signed by Mr. Trump last week calls for tripling the number of deportation agents. DT has now indicated that he intends to emphasize Homan’s harsh enforcement measures.

The possible confirmation of Jeff Sessions as AG is a continuing constitutional crisis exemplified by the firing of Sally Yates. White supremacist Steve Bannon said that he and Sessions are at the center of Trump’s “pro-America movement” and the global nationalist phenomenon. Bannon claims that the nation is “witnessing now is the birth of a new political order, and the more frantic a handful of media elites become, the more powerful that new political order becomes itself.” Sessions has refused to recuse himself from any investigations into DT, his family, his aides, his conflicts of interest—anything that would challenge DT. And he’ll have the support of the white supremacists.

DT’s firing Yates goes far beyond unconstitutionality of the Muslim ban to raise questions about his commitment to the Constitution and the law of the land. He has said that federal district judge, Gonzalo Curiel, could not properly adjudicate a fraud lawsuit against Trump University because his parents were born in Mexico. DT would “instruct the attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look” into Hillary Clinton if he got elected and suggested he would break the law by waterboarding terrorism suspects.

Firing Yates also raises questions about DT’s relationship with the judiciary, which is intended to be an independent government branch. Did DT require commitments from his new nominees, Sessions and Gorsuch? Would he directly contact them about personal complaints? Or push them toward decisions that he wants?

The United States may be in the midst of a coup, “a change in power from the top that merely results in the abrupt replacement of leading government personnel”–a massive power grab by people who hate the rule of law.

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