Nel's New Day

March 15, 2018

Russian Interference in U.S. to Expand Chaos

No matter how bad the Russia collusion and hacking have gotten, the Republicans have seemed rather blasé about this involvement, even supporting Russia over the people in the United States. Will these Republicans change their position if they lose their electric power? Russian hackers have been attacking the U.S. infrastructure, including electricity, water, and transportation as well as nuclear and manufacturing sectors, and the federal government is getting worried. Last summer, the news that Russia had gotten into over a dozen power plants in seven states didn’t get much attention in the first year of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in the Oval Office. Now Russians have moved into dozens of states with their attacks on the infrastructure. Eric Chien, a security technology director at the digital security firm Symantec, said:

“We now have evidence they’re sitting on the machines, connected to industrial control infrastructure, that allow them to effectively turn the power off or affect sabotage…. They have the ability to shut the power off.”

Today’s public alert from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI warned that these hackers have been targeting U.S. infrastructure for the past two years. They started by staging malware and spear phishing at small commercial networks before obtaining remote access in energy sector networks which allowed them to collect information connected with Industrial Control Systems. At least three simultaneous Russian cyber hacking attacks are going into infrastructure controls, stealing documents and using a “troll farm” called the Internet Research Agency to spread misinformation on social media for chaos and discord, and focusing on disrupting the infrastructure of U.S. and European countries.

Last summer, Congress passed a law mandating that DDT place sanctions on Russia, but he  ignored the law.  A letter from 140 House Democrats asked DDT to impose these sanctions on Russia, an action that the Treasury Department took after the chemical attack on a Russian double agent in Britain followed by the death of a Russian exile. Even these sanctions are weak, because they are only on the entities and people indicted by Robert Mueller. The State Department also released a condemnation of Russia’s “campaign of coercion and violence” in the Russian annexation of Crimea four years ago this week, but no sanctions.

A serious problem for Republicans this week comes from the House Intelligence Committee GOP announcement that it closed down its investigation into the Russian scandal before finishing its job. The committee issued a brief summary with a 150-page report supposedly to follow, explaining the GOP position that intelligence agencies were wrong in its evidence of how Russia supported DDT in the presidential election. DDT saw the GOP whitewash as a vindication.

Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA), forced from leadership of the committee after he briefed White House officials on committee information, has always protected DDT, even leaking information, and announced last June that they wouldn’t find any collusion. GOP members limited topics under discussion and witnesses’ questions while following White House restrictions and refusing to investigate phone and bank records corroborating witness claims. Nunes consistently undermined Robert Mueller’s investigation with false information. The person ostensibly in charge of the House Intelligence Committee investigation claimed ignorance of George Nadar, a key witness about secret meetings in the Seychelles.

The report was so biased that hard-right GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who led the Benghazi/private email server email against Hillary Clinton said that the GOP evidence was “motivated in whole or in part by a desire to harm [Clinton’s] candidacy or undermine her Presidency had she prevailed.” Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Monday that “there is evidence” showing the Russians attempted to help President Trump during the 2016 presidential election, contradicting a draft report from the panel. Rooney also warned that the government needs to act to prevent foreign interference in the upcoming midterm elections.

The GOP spin from other committee members, however, is that the intelligence community is wrong about Russian interference just as they were about Iraq weapons—ignoring the fact that the intelligence community denied “specific information” about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction before George W. Bush invaded Iraq. Then, as now with the GOP members of the “no Russian interference” group, the politicians were wrong in their perspective about the documents given them.

Deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah made an awkward statement by saying that DDT would have been aware of any such collusion if it did occur. In Shah’s words, proof of collusion would also be proof of DDT’s knowledge about it. Luckily for him, it appears to be an opinion.

Democrats on the committee had not seen the report when it was released and were not told about the conclusion before it was made public. Following the release of the GOP summary, the minority members of the House intelligence Committee released a 21-page “Status of the Russia Investigation.” The majority of the document is composed of four appendices, beginning in Appendix A with the outstanding lines of inquiry which have been partially or not at all addressed:

  • Hacking and dissemination of campaign emails by Russia to determine the specific of this cyber operation.
  • DDT’s campaign knowledge of the email hacks.
  • Elections security—or lack thereof.
  • Russian social media campaign.
  • Financial leverage in DDT’s business deals, perhaps for Russian money laundering and DDT’s actively negotiating a business deal in Moscow with a sanctioned Russian bank during the election, despite his assertion that he had no business dealings with Russia.
  • Money-laundering and foreign payments, already somewhat revealed by Robert Mueller’s special investigation which includes charges against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.
  • Post-election effects and obstruction of justice, including intervention from and lies by Michael Flynn in U.S. affairs with Russia, DDT attempts to block James Comey to investigate Flynn, and DDT’s writing a memo to cover the June 2016 meeting in which his son Donald Trump Jr. and two other senior campaign advisers intended to get damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

Appendix B lists over 30 key witnesses which had not been interviewed with brief descriptions of their potential involvement which needs further inquiry. Appendix C gives over 20 entities, including Deutsche Bank, which should be sent “indispensable” documents that directly connect to Russian election interference.  Fifteen other people and entities that should appear and/or present documents are in Appendix D. This list includes DDT, Jared Kushner, Hope Hicks, Erik Prince, and the White House. A key line in the most recent report from this committee:

The Minority has a good faith reason to believe that the White House does in fact possess such documentation memorializing President Trump’s conversations with Director Comey.  Subsequent press reporting revealed the existence of a memorandum reportedly composed by President Trump and Stephen Miller that referenced President Trump’s communications with Director Comey.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May says that it is “highly likely” former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned in Salisbury, England by Russia. DDT refuses to mention the word “Russia” in connection with the poisoning although Secretary of State Secretary Rex Tillerson said that the attack “clearly came from Russia.”

Today, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster used strong language to decry Russia’s actions and blamed the Kremlin for “the abhorrent nerve agent attack” in England. It may be his last speech because rumors from the White House indicate he is to be fired by the end of the month, despite the press secretary’s denial. DDT has told Chief of Staff John Kelly that McMaster is too rigid and his briefings are too long.

Earlier, Nunes tried to protect DDT with a GOP committee memo about the Russian investigation that DDT erroneously used to proclaim exoneration for himself. It was followed by a heavily redacted response from the Democrats showing the GOP’s “distortions and misrepresentations.” Complaints that Christopher Steele’s dossier on DDT were responsible for a warrant to surveil DDT’s associate and suspected foreign agent Carter Page where shown to be totally bogus.

Meanwhile Robert Mueller is continuing his investigation, this week with subpoenas to the Trump Organization for documents, some related to Russia, in its first approach to DDT’s business affairs. Despite DDT’s denial that it has no holdings in Russia, witnesses have been asked about DDT’s business plans to build in Moscow. DDT has talked to Emmet Flood, the lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment, about hiring him. Lawyers have advised DDT not to talk with Mueller, but he may be considering an interview if Mueller restricts the scope of questioning and concludes the DDT-involved part of the investigation within 60 days of the interview. Good luck!

Meanwhile Conor Lamb defeated Vladimir Putin in a U.S. House race last Tuesday in the far southwest Pennsylvania district with an almost 96 percent white population and so badly gerrymandered that no Democrat ran against the Republican in the past two elections. DDT won that district by 20 points in the presidential election. The former representative resigned after the publicity that the anti-abortion Republican encouraged his lover to have an abortion. This news was followed by multiple stories of his inappropriate action from his staff. Murphy is a developmental psychologist with a wife and adult daughter.

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February 2, 2018

Memo Day Arrives

Filed under: Russia — trp2011 @ 10:40 PM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Memo is out! For weeks, Fox’s Sean Hannity has been calling on Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to release a document that would destroy the Robert Mueller investigation into the Russia’s collusion to win the presidential election for DDT. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who got his spin for the memo from the White House, pushed the release of misleading, inaccurate information to protect DDT with the vote of his GOP members of the Intelligence Committee, who also unanimously denied the Democrats to release any information. After the memo was approved, Nunes changed the memo because he gave it to DDT, and the White House could then make more changes, also not approved by the committee, before permitting its release.

Both DDT’s FBI director, Christopher Wray, and National Intelligence director, Dan Coats, warned DDT that the memo’s information was inaccurate and compromised classified information. DDT didn’t even read the document before he agreed to its release.

The memo accuses the FBI and DOJ of abusing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act when he it obtained a warrant to surveil an adviser for DDT’s campaign because the reason was misleading. The FBI and DOJ first applied for a warrant on October 21, 2016 to surveil Carter Page. A renewal was required every 90 days. Three signers of a warrant—James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and Sally Yates—have been fired; two, Dana Boente and Rod Rosenstein, remain in the government. Rod Rosenstein may be fired because he might not be willing to fire Robert Mueller.

Nunes claimed that Christopher Steele, paid to prepare a dossier on DDT, told a senior DOJ official that he wanted to be sure that DDT didn’t get elected with no evidence of any bias against Page, the subject of the warrant. The memo also claims that no warrant would have been obtained without the Steele dossier, but there is no evidence about this except private testimony that others claim has been “mischaracterized.” The FBI had considered Page might be a target of Russian intelligence long before he became involved with DDT after Page met a Russian spy in 2013.

The document’s conclusion concentrates on the text messages between two FBI employees that, according to the memo, illustrated “a clear bias against Trump and in favor of [Hillary] Clinton, whom Strzok had also investigated.” Yet other Peter Strzok text messages are equally critical of Clinton, and he co-drafted the letter about publicizing the text messages related to Clinton 11 days before the election, an action that may have elected DDT. With no evidence, Nunes’ memo blames the employees for leaking information to the media.

The released document had only one surprise, that George Papadopoulos was responsible for initiating the FBI investigation after he bragged to an Australian diplomat over drinks in London that the Russians have dirt on Hillary Clinton before the hack on the DNC emails became public. Concerned about the Russian involvement, the diplomat warned the FBI. Papadopoulos is testifying to Robert Mueller.

In the past, Nunes demonstrated strong support for greater surveillance, voting for the expansion of the National Security Agency’s warrantless program and helping block others who wanted to restrict the agency from spying on U.S. citizens. He also rejected a suggestion to release the FBI/DOJ request for the warrant, redacted for classified information and privacy, to show what information was used in the court affidavit.

From his ranch in Arizona, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) issued a statement about Nunes’ release of the memo:

“In 2016, the Russian government engaged in an elaborate plot to interfere in an American election and undermine our democracy. Russia employed the same tactics it has used to influence elections around the world, from France and Germany to Ukraine, Montenegro and beyond. The latest attacks against the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests ― no party’s, no President’s, only Putin’s. The American people deserve to know all the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the lens of politics and manufacturing political sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

Nunes apparently jobbed out the writing of his memo. His aides wrote the document, and he didn’t even see the warrant. Only one Democrat and one Republican, plus staff, are permitted to see these warrants. Nunes assigned the task to Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC). Therefore, Nunes cannot know whether his own document is accurate. The day after Nunes announced the release of the memo, Gowdy abruptly announced that he would not be running for re-election. Swept in with the 2010 Tea Party epidemic, Gowdy became famous with his incessant grilling of Hillary Clinton over four deaths at a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi (Libya) in 2012.  One of the almost dozen “interviews” lasted about eleven hours and revealed no new information. By 2016, Gowdy admitted that Clinton was not responsible. Gowdy’s other persecution of Clinton was her private email server although he himself used private email instead of a government server. He said he wants to return to the justice system, and the 4th Circuit Court has a vacancy. may have his eye on an appointment for the 4th Circuit Court. Over 40 House GOP members of the 115th Congress are already not running in this year’s election.

Nunes has used his power to cover for DDT by refusing to investigate Russian interference. He is controlling the Republicans in the House: even House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) won’t disagree with his unethical actions and claims “malfeasance” in the FBI. Nunes also announced his release of the memo when DDT said that he would not follow a law by Congress requiring new sanctions on Russia when DDT’s CIA director, Mike Pompeo, has “every expectation that they will continue” trying to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections.

The GOP promised that Nunes’ memo would be “worse than Watergate.” Watchers of Sean Hannity and Fox will have an entirely different perspective of the memo than the rest of the world. And DDT will be delighted because he gets all his advice from Fox. He told friends that the release of the memo would allow him to argue FBI prejudice against him. Most people, however, as saying, “That’s it?” The memo.

Russia This Week:

DDT backed off on his guarantee because lawyers are afraid that he’ll lie to them. Seventy-one percent of people in the U.S. agree that he should agree to an interview with Mueller, and 82 percent of them want it under oath—93 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of Republicans.

Mark Corallo, DDT’s legal team spokesman who resigned last summer from concern that he might be exposed to obstruction, agreed to meet with Robert Mueller. His testimony involves Hope Hicks, communications director, who loves DDT “like a father,” who said in front of DDT with no lawyer present that the emails written by Donald Trump Jr. leading up to the Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer “will never get out.” Corallo notified the legal team about the conversation and took notes as well as sharing his concerns with Steve Bannon. DDT had insisted that the statement maintain that Jr.’s meeting was about Russian adoptions. Jr. insisted on the addition of the word “primarily” about the meeting subject.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein asked DDT for help before his testimony at the House Judiciary Committee to keep Rep. Devin Nunes from getting “sensitive documents.” In this December visit, DDT asked about the direction of the investigation and whether Rosenstein was “on my team,” similar to questions he posed to James Comey before he fired him and then Andrew McCabe who is also gone. DDT also proposed questions to the committee for Rod Rosenstein, including whether Rosenstein picked Mueller as investigator because Mueller wasn’t chosen for FBI director.

No Sanctions against Russia:

  • July 2017: Congress imposed new sanctions on Russia for election meddling with a deadline. Senate passed the bill by 98-2. DDT signed the bill with a note of protest and an angry tweet. He then missed all the deadlines.
  • October 2017: DDT disbanded the sanctions office.
  • January 29, 2018: Deadline for sanctions. Otherwise, DDT will flout Congress and violate the law. DDT announced he won’t be following the law.  At the same time, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats met with two top Russian spy chiefs. Reuters found out by reading Russian media.

Andrew McCabe was “removed” from the FBI.

This week DDT gave his State of the Union speech, Nunes released his memo, Nunes’ opponent for the House raised $100,000 in one day, and the Dow Jones dropped over 1,000 points.

August 2, 2017

Congress, DDT Leaving D.C. with Little to Show

The House left Washington, D.C. last week for an extended vacation, but not after they did a bit of harm. In an article for Nation, “Paul Ryan Hands Donald Trump a Blank Check for Endless War,” John Nichols refers to the House Speaker’s stripping an amendment from the defense budget that unanimously passed in committee. He did it after midnight and with no debate, floor vote, or consultation with anyone except the GOP House leadership. The U.S. Constitution does not give the president power to wage war, but Congress passed a 60-word bill allowing the president to send military forces against groups linked to the 9/11 attacks. DDT no longer restricts his hostile actions against countries throughout the world to fighting ISIS. The amendment would have required Congress to following the constitution by reverting to congressional approval for military action. It even has support from within the Pentagon. Even General Joseph Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wants the 2001 law revoked.

The title of the article, however, could have been far more general: it could have been just “Paul Ryan Hands Donald Trump.” Republicans in the House have been largely mum after DDT’s egregious actions and proposals. Even when DDT suggested that he could pardon his family, his associates, and himself, few GOP representatives objected. To accept pardons from the president, people had to admit that they committed the crimes for which they are pardoned. Thus DDT is considering the admission that he committed crimes, but little word from Republicans in the House.

When Democrats requested documents in the House Judiciary Committee about the firing of former FBI director James Comey, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) flipped the proposal into an amendment to ask the Justice Department for documents related to Comey’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email service. The witch hunt is back on to divert attention away from DDT’s Russia collusion. In the new administration, only GOP congressional members are permitted to asked for any documents; no Democrats need apply. The committee passed Gaetz’s amendment on a partisan vote of 16-13.

A failure in the House is the D.C. Circuit Court’s ruling that state attorneys general can defend subsidy payments to the insurance industry for certain health care consumers. The GOP House sued in 2014 to stop these payments because Congress had not approved a specific appropriation, and DDT threatens to block the funding because Trumpcare failed. The insurance industry warned that instability could cause a 20-percent increase in premiums for 2018.

The House did buck DDT’s wishes when it passed—by 419-3!—increased sanctions on Russia and decreased presidential authority to change these sanctions. The Senate had already passed the bill by 98-2. The bill also includes sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Ukraine. Furious about the bill, DDT waited a week to sign the bill into law with no ceremony but declared has “clearly unconstitutional provisions.” This from the man who has violated the constitution in so many ways. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the bill will not “be helpful to our efforts.” Russian president Vladimir Putin is so angry that he reduced the U.S. diplomatic staff by 755 people, matching the number of diplomatic Russians in the U.S., and seized two properties used by U.S. diplomats.

Another irritant for DDT may be the Senate bill to protect special investigator, Robert Mueller. Any firing of a special counsel would demand judicial review if the bill passes by a veto-proof margin.

On the other side of Congress, senators have decided to go home tomorrow, or Friday at the latest, after Trumpcare went down in flames. (For a bit of satire regarding the upshot of the Senate Trumpcare vote, check out Andy Borowitz’s column about DDT supporters’ fury for still having healthcare.) In the midst of Trumpcare trauma, they planned to stay into their typical August recess until August 11th. The House is gone, however, and DDT plans to head out tomorrow if the flight restrictions around Bedminster (NJ) from August 3-20 are correct.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has already handed over another blank check from the Judiciary Committee to DDT by not requiring DDT associates—eldest son, Don Jr; son-in-law Jared Kushner; and former campaign manager Paul Manafort—to testify. They just “talked” and gave the committee some documents. One topic from the disappeared subpoenas was the once-secret meeting with a growing number of Russians when Jr, Kushner, and Manafort hoped to get dirt on Clinton. Grassley is also trying to prove that the former intelligence officer who prepared the dossier on Russian meddling really works for Russia, once again in a struggle to protect DDT.

The failure of Trumpcare in the Senate—thanks to “no” votes against it from GOP Sens. Susan Collins (ME), John McCain (AZ), and Lisa Murkowski (AK)—was followed by a failure for AG Jeff Sessions. The Appropriations Committee blocked the DOJ spending anything to undermine state medical marijuana laws. When Sessions isn’t trying to collect and keep money from innocent people picked up by the police, he has been salivating about destroying state laws regarding cannabis. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has proposed a bill to legalize cannabis because of its ability to solve the opioid abuse and relieve one racist approach toward imprisonment. GOP control of Congress will block Booker’s bill at this time, but approval of cannabis use is growing across the nation. Its use should be legal, according to 61 percent of people in the U.S., and 88 percent favor medical marijuana use. Another 71 percent oppose efforts to stop sales and use in states where it is legal, and 65 percent think that marijuana is less dangerous than most other drugs. In short, the vast majority of people disagree with Sessions.

The GOP senators have hit rock bottom after the failure of Trumpcare: they are offering to work with Democrats. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Senate Health Committee chair, will hold bipartisan hearings when Congress comes back in September to develop a short-term proposal to strengthen individual markets for the Affordable Care Act by mid-September. Female, Democrat Patty Murray (WA) will have a place at the negotiating table for the first time with Alexander’s decision. A bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, consisting of 43 senators from both parties, praised Alexander for his initiative. Insurers are required to sign contracts by the end of September to sell plans on the exchanges.

Christopher Wray—DDT’s pick for FBI director—has been confirmed, but five senators voted against him. Two of them are from Oregon, making me very proud. After the illegal closing of the George Washington Bridge, Wray defended New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Wray hid Christie’s cellphone, and Christie escaped a guilty verdict. Wray’s law firm represents Russia-owned energy companies, and Wray deleted his representation of an energy company executive in a criminal investigation by Russian authorities from his biography. His career has been spent in defending criminals, not pursuing them, i.e., a major Swiss bank accused of laundering money for terrorists. In the history of confirming FBI directors, only one other senator has ever voted against a director. Rand Paul (R-KY) voted against James Comey because of surveillance issues.

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) should be praised for introducing the Dream Act of 2017 granting legal status and a path to citizenship for DREAMers. Eight out of ten voters, including more than 7 in 10 Republicans, believe DREAMers should be allowed to remain in the US legally. Ending DACA would result in a loss of $460.3 billion from the national GDP over the next 10 years, and remove an estimated 685,000 workers from the nation’s economy.

The question now is what will happen on October 1 if the House doesn’t get around to passing the budget and increasing the debt ceiling. The Senate and House have 12 joint working days before Sept. 29. A shutdown means a stock market crash, surging interest rates, disruption to the world’s financial system, and a recession. Twelve days.

 

June 27, 2017

DDT: Week Twenty-Two – Russia, Other Bizarre Happenings

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) seemed tamer earlier last week, but he always winds up before his weekend vacations when he can ditch his keepers. Maybe his daily 6:30 am calls to his legal time have given him food for thought. He has far too many lawyers for a man who has nothing to hide. Some of his own lawyers are even hiring their own lawyers.

DDT’s biggest loss to Russia could be the Senate vote of 98-2 that limits DDT’s power to remove sanctions from Russia. The U.S. shooting down a Syrian Air Force fighter didn’t make this nation popular with Russia, a Syrian supporter. In retaliation, Russia declared any U.S.-led coalition craft west of the Euphrates river as a possible target and ended the Syrian air safety agreement with the U.S. to avoid aircraft collisions. DDT had already turned all military decisions to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, thereby losing all control and possibly forecasting war. The result was 4,000 more troops sent to Afghanistan and a massive increase in U.S.-caused civilian casualties in Syria and Iraq, more than 35 percent more in five months since DDT’s inauguration than in all of 2016. May saw a record number of women and children killed. It was only two months ago that DDT said that “we’re not going into Syria.”

Each week gives greater information about Russian hacking into the U.S. election, including attempts to delete or change voter data. A DHS official testified that 21 states were target although a total of 39 states is possible.

Russian revelations keep surfacing. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn missed reporting a 2015 trip to Saudi Arabia lobbying a U.S./Russia business plan to build nuclear reactors. The legality of foreign payments to Michael Flynn’s business partner Bijan Kianthe is also being investigated.  Another casualty could be CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who kept briefing Flynn on highly classified secrets after he knew Flynn was subject to Russian blackmail. The Justice Department has one month to make public part of AG Jeff Sessions’ clearance form that was supposed to disclose Russian official contact, according to a U.S. District Court judge. Sessions has hired his own lawyer. The judge gave the same time limit to search Chief of Staff Reince Priebus’ communication with the FBI to repudiate links between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Much of the media was taken up last week with the announcement of the senate health care bill, prepared in secret by GOP leader’s staffers, according to Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). The sole purpose of the bill is tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, indicating that the name might be better Trumpcut than Trumpcare.

In his continuation of hosting foreign leaders—perhaps hoping that they will want his golf courses and resorts—DDT praised the U.S. for doing “a good job building [the Panama Canal].” Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela responded, “Yeah, about 100 years ago.”

The Supreme Court decided to hear a gerrymandering case from Wisconsin that could—or might not—reduce voter suppression throughout the United States. The fourth solid red district stayed red after reelections for DDT’s nominations. All of them, however, are turning purple as the most recent one in Georgia where Dem Jon Osoff lost by under two points after GOP Tom Price won it by 23 percent just six months ago. Democrats overperformed in the other elections too, despite the Republians’ lies.

The circus of White House press conferences continued with refusals to even tape the event before Spicer backed down. Despite rumors of Sean Spicer’s departure—and his requirement to interview for his replacement—the press secretary is still there and repeating his line about not speaking to DDT about the subject of the question, any question.

After weeks of teasing his audience about possible tapes of himself and former FBI director James Comey, DDT has announced that he lied, that there are no tapes. His claim about taping could be defined as an attempt to intimidate a witness. DDT could still be lying about the existence of tapes if he thinks that they don’t support his version of conversations with Comey. According to former employees, DDT taped conversations at Trump Tower in New York City and recorded his guests’ telephone calls at Mar-a-Lago. To cover himself, DDT said that he didn’t rule out the possibility that “electronic surveillance” had picked up their talks.

DDT sent a statement with “warm greetings” to Muslims celebrating Ramadan but eliminated the two-decade tradition of an Iftar dinner representing the end of the Islamic holy month of fasting.

Two organizations are suing DDT for illegally destroying communications that federal law demands be preserved. Messages sent from the White House supposedly use an “auto-delete” app to erase messages after they are read. Jordan Libowitz, CREW spokesman, said that the purpose is to “keep them secret from the American people,” as part of a “larger, troubling pattern” of information suppression in the Trump administration, which also includes deletion of the president’s tweets.” DDT continually slammed Hillary Clinton for not saving her emails, asking Russia to find them.

Ivanka Trump is also involved in a lawsuit. She has been ordered to testify in a lawsuit from an Italian shoemaker who is accusing her of copying one of his designs.

DDT has gone back to finding ambassadors. He picked two owners of sports franchises, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson to go to the UK and former LA Dodgers baseball team owner Jamie McCourt for Belgium. Top donor and fundraiser Kelly Knight Craft may be headed to Canada. She and her husband Joe Craft, president of a coal company Alliance Resource Partners, gave $1.3 million to GOP candidates and SuperPACs last year. Fourteen of his 19 ambassador picks are campaign donors.

In another choice, DDT nominated Christopher Wray to replace James Comey as head of the FBI. In early January 2017, Wray deleted a line from his law firm bio referencing a 2006 case in which he represented a U.S. energy executive being investigated by the Russian government. As Chris Christie’s personal lawyer, Wray got the New Jersey governor off from a charge of the George Washington Bridge closing. Wray had a phone with text messages and a former staffer during legislative testimony that Christie claimed he gave to the Department of Justice, but a judge refused to subpoena the phone in evidence against Christie. Wray’s firm also worked on DDT’s “blind trust.” Several candidates for the FBI position had already withdrawn from consideration.

A Washington Post analysis found that DDT’s Mar-a-Lago club is booking fewer charity banquets and events since his campaign than in the previous seven years. These banquets account for almost half the annual revenue. DDT’s  real estate business is also struggling with a decline in condo and land sales. Listing prices for several high-end NYC condos are being drastically cut while the city’s condo market is booming. DDT did manage to sell a penthouse to a Chinese American tied to high-ranking Chinese government officials and organizations linked to Chinese military intelligence groups. The large revenue on DDT’s financial disclosure forms show gross and not net revenue.

DDT tried to rally his troops in a speech in Iowa ten days ago. It was his first west of the Mississippi, and he told at least 18 lies according to fact checkers. One was his promise to pass “new immigration rules which say that those seeking admission into our country must be able to support themselves financially and should not use welfare for a period of at least five years.”  DDT’s mandate has been law for 20 years. He also bragged about bringing back coal jobs while delivering multiple lies about the Paris Agreement. Iowa not only has no coal jobs but also gets one-third of its electricity from wind. DDT ridiculed the state for its wind energy, indicating that people will have no electricity when the wind doesn’t blow and complaining about wind turbines “killing all the birds.” Cell phone towers killed 6.8 million birds a year, and glass buildings do away with one billion. Climate change can finish off the rest of them.

Last fall DDT proudly announced that he had saved jobs because Ford wouldn’t be expanding its production in Mexico. The corporation is centralizing its small-car production in China. Ford has said it will cut as many as 1,400 jobs in less than a year. General Motors has cut production at four U.S. assembly lines, costing 4,400 workers their jobs. Fiat Chrysler laid off another 1,300 workers at their assembly line in Detroit. The 600 Carrier jobs that DDT bragged about saving last year are going to Mexico, and Boeing is pink-slipping an unknown number of employees.

As Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said,  American leadership was better under President Obama than under DDT.

[Note: My apologies for being late with the 22nd week. Look for the 23rd week in a few days. DDT keeps making news!]

July 16, 2015

Congress to Decide between Iranian War, Peace

Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) has declared that his first priority is to represent Jesus. He could start by supporting the Iran deal to bring peace and persuade his Christian GOP colleagues to do the same. But that’s not going to happen. The instant that a deal was announced, Republican presidential candidates led the charge against peace in a deal among six countries that would curb Iran’s nuclear program and significantly limit the country’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon for over ten years. (Details here.)

walker

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (above), who declared his presidential candidacy on the day that the deal was announced, said, “President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran will be remembered as one of America’s worst diplomatic failures.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) doesn’t expect Congress to approve the deal. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called the agreement appeasement. Rick Santorum called the deal a “catastrophic capitulation.”

Kerry and Zarif, photo Thomas Imo

The deal took 19 days and four missed deadlines before Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, appeared at Secretary of State John Kerry’s working quarters at midnight Monday. Kerry flew 400,000 miles to prevent the tenth country from getting the bomb in the first successful dealings with Iran since its 1979 revolution. In addition to containing the country’s ability to produce a bomb for at least a decade, it provides for permanent, broader U.N. inspections to monitor Iran’s declared and suspected nuclear facilities, even after the deal expires. The combination of restrictions and time frames from ten to twenty-five years gives the international community more insight into Iran’s program and capabilities.

War hawks in the U.S. will complain that Iran can still enrich uranium, yet it’s at a minimum level, with the number of centrifuges cut by two-thirds. Some Congressional members, accompanied by Israel and the Gulf sheikhdoms, insist on zero facilities instead of one. The Iran deal will not diffuse deep sectarian and political rivalries in the Middle East with Sunni concern about Iran become a player instead of a pariah, but that was not the goal. Under the deal, Iran can reclaim between $100 billion to $150 billion of its oil revenues from foreign banks. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, denounced the deal before the details were released.

Yet U.S. involvement in the Middle East is already overwhelming—air wars in Iraq, Syria, and Libya as well as selling arms to Saudi Arabia to wage its war in Yemen. The deal creates no renewal of U.S. diplomatic relations with Iran. Lifting sanctions on Iran will open international markets to Iran’s population that has more than doubled since 1979, but U.S. businesses will be limited in trading with Iran because of sanctions tied to human-rights practices and support for terrorism. If Iran breaks the deal, the U.S. still has a military option.

Congress has 60 days to review the deal with Iran. It can vote for a resolution of disapproval that President Obama has promised to veto. An override of his veto requires two-thirds vote in each chamber. GOP legislators have reasons to vote against the deal, oil prices being one of them. Prices in the United States began to fall in June as the deal came closer to fruition, shrinking to $54 a barrel this past week, and more oil availability from the Middle East forcing down the oil market may bring the price of gas down to below $2 a gallon by the end of the year. The International Energy Agency estimates that Iran could add 800,000 barrels a day to the global market within months of the lifting of sanctions, but immediate relief could come from the 30 million barrels of Iranian crude in storage and ready for sale. A general rule is the two-thirds of the cost of gas comes from the crude oil cost and the remaining one-third comes from taxes, refining, distribution, and marketing. Republicans like to claim, however, that the president is completely responsible for higher costs of gas. They won’t want to see the price go down in the Obama administration.

Any deal from the president is described as a “bad deal” to Republicans. Presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that the deal is “a possible death sentence for Israel,” but he hasn’t read it. He added that reading it didn’t’ matter because visits to the Mideast made him know that he didn’t like the details. The GOP belief that any international interaction is a “bad deal” goes back to the opposition to the Hot Line Agreement, in which Moscow and Washington could communicate directly during emergencies such as the Cuban missile crisis. The right opposed then-President Nixon going to China and called it “appeasement,” just as they are describing the deal with Iran.

The biggest influence on conservative members of Congress is Netanyahu. Some congressional leaders put Israel’s prime minister above the President of the United States in their loyalties. Last year, presidential candidate Graham told Netanyahu that Congress would “follow his lead” in reinforcing sanctions on Iran despite President Obama’s refusal to do so. Last March, Netanyahu spoke to both chambers of Congress after House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) invited him without notifying the president, a breach of protocol. His speech was intended to persuade congressional members and the people of the United States against Iranian negotiations. At this time, President Obama is offering additional military aid to Israel beyond billions of dollars to help build Israel’s Iron Dome and provide ammunition that killed the people in Gaza last summer. Netanyahu may be willing to sell out his principles for more billions of dollars from the United States.

Soon after Netanyahu’s speech, 47 U.S. senators, led by Tom Cotton (R-AR) sent a letter to Iran, explaining that they might as well not make the deal because any future president could negate it. The letter also claimed—erroneously—that there could be no agreement unless Congress passed it by a two-thirds vote. To this next breach of protocol—and possibly a treasonous act—Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif wrote that Cotton’s letter was a “propaganda ploy” meant to undermine Obama. Yesterday the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Wednesday told Congress to reject the nuclear deal with Iran.

The Republicans have a history of sabotaging U.S. welfare to elect their candidates. When President Jimmy Carter thought he had a deal with the new Iranian president to release 52 hostages in 1979, the Reagan campaign went behind Carter’s back arranging with the Iranian radical faction to keep the hostages in captivity until after the Reagan v. Carter presidential election in 1980. Iranian extremists released the hostages on January 20, 1981, the moment that Reagan was inaugurated, and pointed out that Reagan must keep his agreement to ship weapons to the radical forces. The result was deaths of thousands of people throughout the world, especially in Central America where Reagan took money from the Iranians to destabilize Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador. Those areas have still not gained stability after Reagan’s actions. Carter’s loss in the election led to the appointment of Justice Antonin Scalia and the elevation of William Rehnquist to Chief Justice. One reason for the GOP to keep Iran closed to the U.S. is to cover Reagan’s actions.

Although Netanyahu has expressed strong opposition to the Iran deal, not everyone in Israel supports his position. Israel is also a dangerous country with undeclared chemical warfare capabilities and between 75 and 400 nuclear weapons. It is also one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the others being India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Because Israel never signed the NPT, the country does not have to submit to inspections. Israel’s attack on Gaza last summer and its takeover of the Palestinian West Bank shows that the country will use any means to defeat other countries, whether warranted or not.

The GOP refuses to admit that, like almost every problem in the U.S. during the 21st century, Iran’s expansion of its nuclear program can be traced back to the Bush/Cheney administration. With 164 centrifuges in 2003, Iran wanted to negotiate with the U.S. to remove the sanctions blocking the growth of the country’s middle class. Cheney said, “We don’t talk to evil,” and Iran built 5,000 centrifuges in the next two years. The country had 8,000 by the time that Bush/Cheney left. Now Cheney is lobbying to add another war to the ones they started during their administration instead of letting this generation try to achieve peace through diplomacy.

Polls, even one from the conservative Fox network, consistently show approval of the deal, but Republicans spreading lies that may reverse the surveys. Yet conservatives ignore their constituents and oppose the deal because they are convinced that the U.S. should rule the world and dictate the behavior of all countries. That’s what led us into the wars with Afghanistan and Iraq that almost wiped out the U.S. economy.

A comparison between Iran and the United States:

iran v. u.s. nuclear weapons

The only purpose of the Iran deal is to reduce the possibility of Iran getting a nuclear weapon. In opposing the Iran deal, Congress has three alternatives: kill the deal and do nothing else, leaving few restraints on the growth of Iran’s nuclear program; declare war and ignite a catastrophic regional conflict; and increase sanctions, which looks like the first option. Without a deal, Iran has a much better chance of building bombs. Increased sanctions are useless because U.S. business dealings with Iran are already limited and the rest of the world will leave the U.S. standing alone.

As conservatives continue to posture without reading the deal, Congress is in charge of deciding whether the United States will go to war with Iran. And the media focus on Iran will cause Scott Walker, the 15th presidential candidate, to stay in the shadows—at least for a while.

June 15, 2012

Republicans Try to Silence Women–Again

Republicans continue to show their disdain for women with the Michigan state House of Representatives providing the most recent prime example of males’ determination to silence women. The issue surrounded the most vicious attack on women’s reproductive rights to date that is contained in one bill:  HB 5711 bans abortions past 20 weeks with no exception for rape victims, the health of the pregnant woman, or fatal fetal anomalies.  It contains language regarding prohibitive insurance and licensing requirements for clinics performing abortions, requiring them to have surgery rooms even if they perform surgeries and requiring doctors to be present for medication abortions. Other provisions would screen women for “coercion” before an abortion, make it a crime to “coerce” a woman into having an abortion, create new guidelines on disposing fetal remains, and excessively regulate prescriptions of RU-486. The bill would also amend Michigan’s Public Health code to restrict and regulate abortion in the state.

During the bill’s debate, two Democrat representatives—both women—vigorously protested HB 5711. The House Speaker then told them they would not be recognized during debate the next day, which was the last day of the session before the summer recess. Michigan lawmakers have never before been formally barred from participating in floor debates.

Barb Byrum (D-Onondaga) was gaveled out of order after she protested when she wasn’t allowed to speak on her amendment, which would have required proof of a medical emergency or that a man’s life was in danger before a doctor could perform a vasectomy.

Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield) lost her speaking privileges because she said, “I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina,” she said, “but ‘no’ means ‘no.’”

“What she said was offensive,” said Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville). “It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.” Evidently men are willing to make laws about women’s vaginas, but not use the word.

Brown also argued that the abortion regulation bill would violate her Jewish faith. “I have not asked you to adopt and to adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours?” Brown asked. Her reference was to the Jewish tenet dating back to the biblical era that “abortions performed in order to preserve the life of the mother are not only permissible, but mandatory.”

Former legislator Bill Ballenger said he was surprised by comments during the debate, including a suggestion from Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) that women withhold sex from their partners until such abortion-limiting bills stopped being considered. Tlaib was not hushed. “Those comments were really over the top,” Ballenger said. “But the idea of muzzling an elected official is not only counterintuitive but outrageous.”

“There have been many occasions of inappropriate behavior by men on the floor, and they haven’t lost their voice,” Brown said. “I was speaking to the bill at hand, I didn’t use any curse words and I was using anatomically correct language.”

In a statement, Brown said, “I was either banned for being Jewish and rightfully pointing out that House Bill 5711 was forcing contradictory religious beliefs upon me and any other religion. Or it is because I said the word ‘vagina’ which is an anatomically, medically correct term. If they are going to legislate my anatomy, I see no reason why I cannot mention it.” Ari Adler, a spokesman for Republican Speaker Pro Tem John Walsh, said Brown was called out of order for saying “no means no,” suggesting that Brown compared the abortion legislation to rape.

Before the 60-page bill was approved in committee, almost 100 people showed up at a hearing to testify against it. Committee Chair Gail Haines (R-Waterford) ended the hearing and cut off all testimony after a Michigan Right to Life spokesperson and a few others in support of the bill testified. The bill passed the house 70-39; in September it goes to the senate which has a Republican majority of 64-46.

State Rep. Mike Shirkey (R-Clark Lake) told a local television station on Wednesday that he supports the bill and hopes it will end abortion in Michigan. That’s the goal of lawmakers. Abortion is legal, according to the Supreme Court; Republicans want to circumvent this law. They also want to silence all women who disagree with them.

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