Nel's New Day

June 13, 2019

DDT: Week 125, Part I – Total Disregard for the Law

A major piece of news that may go unnoticed this week is that White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is quitting at the end of the month and going home to Arkansas, according to a tweet from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). The public goes months without seeing her as DDT prefers to babble in his yard in lieu of press secretary briefings. Yesterday’s “babble” created a great deal of media when he claimed he’s fine with a little collusion between himself and a foreign government about his campaign opponents. Asked what he would do if a foreign government offered him clandestine information, he said:

“There’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called, from a country—Norway—we have information on your opponent. Oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

DDT continued:

“It’s not an interference, they have information. When somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘oh let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressman, they all do it, they always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research…. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI.”

In congressional testimony, Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers, “the FBI would want to know about” any foreign election meddling. DDT said, “The FBI director is wrong.”

Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein wrote:

“He’s the country’s commander in chief and top diplomat, and as such responsible for making clear to all foreign nations and other groups that messing with the internal affairs of the United States will have serious consequences. Instead, he’s basically inviting everyone in.”

DDT sycophant Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and a few other Republicans expressed dismay about DDT’s assessment that he didn’t need to notify the FBI.  Most congressional Republicans, however, pointed fingers at Democrats with false accusations and avoiding any mention of their president.

Despite some GOP senators claiming that candidates should report offers of foreign assistance to the FBI, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) led the charge to block any bill making this requirement. Knowingly accepting help from a foreign entity or power for electoral campaigns is already illegal, but a proposed bill would mandate the reporting of offering foreign assistance. Once again, Republicans cover for DDT’s illegal positions. The Republicans will not support this bill.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) responded:

“When the president talks like this, it’s no wonder [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] is blocking bipartisan efforts to secure our elections from foreign interference.”

McConnell’s blockade includes funding for state and governments to tighten security, a national strategy against cyberattacks, and the requirement that federal funds be spent only on federally certified “election infrastructure vendors.” In other proposals, internet companies such as Facebook must disclose political advertising purchasers, and federal incentives would be provided for states to adopt paper ballots. McConnell has now blocked over 100 pieces of legislation sent him from the House, including providing election security for 2020. Two days ago, he announced an election security briefing, but nothing has been heard about it since then. McConnell wouldn’t say whether the Senate will take up any legislation in connection to election security, and GOP Senate leaders knew nothing about a briefing. He blamed the media for ignoring stories about the lack of interference in the 2018 election and said that DDT “did a much, much better job” regarding the absence of problems. (That may be the briefing.)

Existing law legalizes interference from foreign government in some cases: foreign-owned companies incorporated in the U.S. can make unlimited donations to U.S. candidates, and foreigners, including those masquerading as news outlets, can legally pay for adds to attack or promote candidates on Facebook, Google, or YouTube. Because of the conservative Supreme Court, campaign finance is completely opaque and contains many loopholes and back doors for donors.

Beyond interference comes just plain sloppy, careless election security such as North Carolina has demonstrated. Just before the 2018 election, a cybersecurity analyst found a file of unencrypted administrative passwords in a cloud storage directory available to anyone on the internet to access. Recent revelations about Republicans using gerrymandering to preserve white GOP control has also led to a case in North Carolina that accuses the current legislature of being illegitimate. Files from the now deceased Thomas Hofeller, gerrymandering expert, show that the state’s Republicans lied to a federal court with their claim that they didn’t use racial data for new electoral maps and that they lacked time to draw new maps for a special election. Common Cause of North Carolina accuses the state’s legislative maps of violating the state’s constitution.

The day after the interview, DDT tried to cover up his remarks by falsely equating getting dirt on campaign opponents to diplomatic discussions with allies and then accused Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) of inappropriate contacts with Russian nationals. Last year, Warner attempt to contact the British author of material originally commissioned by the conservative Free Beacon, and Russian pranksters contacted Schiff in 2017 about having salacious photos of DDT. Schiff had immediately told law enforcement about the contact, and GOP Sen. John McCain (AZ) had already turned over the dossier to the FBI. 

DDT’s aide Kellyanne Conway said she doesn’t care about violating the law, but DDT’s Office of Special Counsel, headed by former employee of a right—leaning watchdog group and DDT’s appointee Henry Kerner, reported that she should be removed from her job because she egregiously and repeatedly violated the Hatch Act. DDT is upset. Deputy White House Press Secretary Steven Groves’s statement declared that the office has “unclear and unevenly applied rules which have a chilling effect on free speech for all federal employees.” White House Counsel Pat Cipollone demanded that the office withdraw its report. Kerner disagreed:

“In interview after interview, she uses her official capacity to disparage announced candidates, which is not allowed. What kind of example does that send to the federal workforce? If you’re high enough up in the White House, you break the law, but if you’re a postal carrier or a regular federal worker, you lose your job?”

Conway was reprimanded for telling Fox watchers to buy from Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, but most of her Hatch Act violations advocate for and against specific electoral candidates. Only the president and vice-president may openly campaign for political candidates.

John Dean, Richard Nixon’s former White House counsel, testified this week about comparisons between the Mueller Report and Watergate investigations. The testimony got little press because of a fatal helicopter crash in New York, but Robert Reich listed Dean’s report of six similarities between DDT and Nixon:

1) Tried to shut down the investigations completely.

2) Fired key investigators in an attempt to stop the investigation.

3) Tried to cover up their efforts to stop the investigation.

4) Sought to control investigators by ordering aides to interfere in their work.

5) Dangled presidential pardons to influence key witnesses.

6) Limited the release of key evidence to Congress and the public.

Despite his promise to disinvest himself from his businesses, DDT still makes money around the world with over $130 million in foreign assets and positions, assets, trademarks and other business interests in more than 30 countries. Information about this may be minimal because he provides only an annual disclosure form for last year with wide ranges for transactions, income, and property values. After a promise that he would pursue “no new deals” after his inauguration, DDT garnered new income by opening new properties since 2017. He also promised to donate all profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury, but there is no indication that he has done so. The Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution prevents government members from receiving gifts and other benefits from foreign states or leaders without congressional approval—which DDT doesn’t have. This source gives detailed descriptions of business affairs in 25 countries, an interactive map, and amounts that foreign influence spending from ten countries. DDT owes a lot of world leaders a lot of favors.  

DDT just scored $5 million above the assessment of a Beverly Hills mansion to Indonesian billionaire and vice presidential candidate Hary Tanoesoedibjo at a tidy 93 percent profit over the purchase price in 2007.

With no evidence, State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo blames Iran for attacks on two tankers, one owned by Japan and the other by Norway. He also has no proof that Iran perpetrated other recent attacks. These incidents occur while DDT tries to keep control over declaring war from Congress. Before Pompeo’s claim, war hawk Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) used the tanker episodes as justification to sell U.S. arms to Saudi Arabia without congressional approval. DDT has announced that now is not the time for any diplomacy with Iran.

Iran just hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and relationships between the two countries have been friendly for decades. With unproved assertions by the U.S. federal leadership, it’s 2003 all over.

 

June 23, 2018

DDT: Week 74 – War instead of Nobel Prize

The one thing that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wanted more than to destroy everything that President Obama had accomplished was to get the Nobel Peace Prize because President Obama did. That chance may be gone after he decided to tear children from their parents. Following global outrage, Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary general of the Council of Europe, declared that DDT is “no longer the moral leader of his country or the world.” (I’m not sure when he was.)  The influential Jagland is one of five members on the committee selecting the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. DDT’s withdrawal from the UN Civil Rights Council was also not helpful to”peace.”

That might be why DDT released a warning about North Korea that could lead up to declaring war on NK. On his return from fawning all over Kim Jong-Un, DDT tweeted that “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” Yesterday he signed a declaration continuing a state of emergency with North Korea:

“The existence and risk of proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula and the actions and policies of the Government of North Korea continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. Therefore… I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency with respect to North Korea declared in Executive Order 13466.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis said that he knows nothing about any North Korean actions to dismantle its nuclear weapons, doesn’t expect to hear anything, and has no information about any future meetings. Yet the Pentagon has stopped planning the August military training exercises. Meanwhile, Kim Jong-Un met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to tell him that they are friends.

DDT’s threats of tariffs moving a world trade “skirmish” toward “war” includes an addition of tariffs on more solar products in the 25-percent category after adding ten percent to another $200 billion worth of goods. China called his threats “blackmail” and counter threatened tariffs on most imports, including smartphones, computers, toys, television, and household goods. Soybean futures for July delivery dropped over 7 percent to $8.415 a bushel, the lowest level since March 2009. A ten-percent tariff by China could make another 18 percent decrease; a 40-percent tariff could cause a fall of 40 percent. Over half of the U.S. soybeans are sold to China, the world’s largest consumer of the product.

China’s retaliatory tariffs could cost Iowa farmers $624 million, and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said that DDT’s trade policies are causing “market price declines” in “corn, wheat, beef, and pork.” Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said his state is “hit harder than any other state by the Canadian retaliatory tariffs,” and Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-PA) warned that Kraft-Heinz may move its ketchup production to Canada. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) worries about Coca-Cola’s increase in aluminum can costs, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) stated that his state’s steel fabricator has lost its contracts. DDT said that these people will deal with the “pain” because “they understand that they’re doing this for the country.” Many of the people with “pain” voted for DDT because he said he was a competent.

DDT tweeted that he would impose a 20-percent tariff on cars from Europe in response to its tariffs on goods worth $3.2 billion and the existing 10-percent tariff on European car imports from the U.S. Cars from Europe already have a 2.5-percent tariff coming into the U.S., and 25 percent on light-truck and van imports. According to the U.S. Constitution, Congress controls tariffs so DDT must use only the tactic of “national security” to declare them. His recent threats are ignoring that legal issue. People will pay far more from DDT’s tariffs and rising oil prices will cost consumers than the pittance that most of them receive from his tax cuts. DDT declares tariffs, exempts some countries, and then re-imposes them and others, all according to whim. Nomi Prins wrote, “If trust were a coveted commodity [in] the present White House, it would now be trading at zero.”

https://www.theverge.com/2018/6/18/17477170/zte-ban-senate-vote-reinstate   The Senate voted 85-10 to reinstate a ban on ZTE that prevents the Chinese telecom company from buying U.S. components and using U.S. software, citing ZTE as a national security risk, after DDT lifted the ban to “save jobs in China.” The new ban is an amendment to the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act, a must-pass piece of legislation that has passed the House, requiring reconciliation between the two chambers.

The executive order indefinitely imprisoning immigrant families wasn’t the only one that DDT signed this past week. He also repealed protections for oceans and Great Lakes to give priority to “ocean industry … particularly oil and natural gas drilling.” This order follows other destructive ones such as permitting coal mines to dump waste into streams and rivers, removing funding to protect the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, and boosting fossil fuels with taxpayer money.

The Senate voted 48-50 against DDT’s demand to “claw back” about $15 billion in spending that Congress approved earlier this year. GOP Sens. Richard Burr (NC) and Susan Collins (ME) joined 48 Democrats/Independents to sink the bill. White House Budget Chief Mick Mulvaney expressed disappointment that they couldn’t “recapture unnecessary funds” such as ones allotted for federal highway funding and $7 billion in health insurance for children in poverty.

To avoid the problem of violating the emolument clause of the U.S. Constitution, DDT promised that his company will donate all profits from foreign governments to the government. Now he won’t bother figuring out profits because it’s is too much trouble. Legally, DDT must submit a request to Congress to avoid his responsibilities, but I’m not holding my breath until he carries through. DDT’s lawyers are using the same argument against his not carrying through with his promise—he’s above the law.

DDT wants to merge the departments of Education and Labor into one agency to reduce education to vocational training. The plan also shrinks the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), responsible for vetting employees, retirement claims, benefits, and federal workforce policy, an agency that doesn’t seem to be doing any vetting. Other plans to combine assistance for the poor from several different agencies such as housing, food, and energy appear to provide less support for those in poverty.

At the same time, DDT wants to create a sixth military branch by adding the Space Force. None of these ideas can happen without congressional approval. [VP Mike Pence looks on as DDT signs the Space Policy Directive; Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation and wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), watches from the background.)

Doing away with the Department of Education might not be a problem because Secretary Betsy DeVos does more damage than good. Her push to change all schools in the United States to private charters with no oversight through the voucher program is designed to make all “public” schools religious, and she dropped 1,200 probes into public school policies of physical abuse, primarily against black students, as discipline for ditching classes, tardiness, dress code violations, and other similar misbehavior. These complaints as well as those of sexual violence in schools and colleges have been closed with no corrective action. The increased leniency of the department’s Office for Civil Rights regards less investigation into discrimination complaints about students with limited English, education needs for disabled students, and racial harassment. DeVos maintains that her agency has consistent legal standards but gave different regions the latitude to drop cases. The NAACP is suing the education department, accusing it of unlawfully dismissing complaints without a full investigation.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and seven members of her family were asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington (VA) after her support in separating migrant children and parents. When she reported what had happened on her official Twitter, Walter Schaub, former director of the United States Office of Government Ethics, pointed out that her use of her “official account for this is a clear violation of 5 CFR 2635.702(a).” The owner explains her reasoning for refusing service to Sanders and describes the occurrence.

Huckabee Sanders was more civil than her religious father, Mike Huckabee, who tweeted a photograph of MS-13 gang members with the message that they are part of Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) campaign committee.

The number of DDT’s lies is growing. In the first four days of the last week, he tweeted false information seven times about immigration and six times on the IG report about the FBI handling Hillary Clinton’s email server. The baker’s dozen doesn’t include his falsehoods on other issues in tweets and public remarks that reinforce his alternate reality about the G-7 summit, the North Korea situation, crime in Germany, and Democrats in general. Repeated lies become believable when people want these lies to be their personal truth. They even ignore the lies about Mexico paying the wall and his inability to stop separation of children and parents that his Wednesday executive order may have halted. Steve Bannon says that DDT doesn’t lie although an interviewer pointed out that DDT admitted he lied about the Trump Tower meeting. In response, Bannon said that he did not know whether Trump’s comments qualified as a lie.

DDT’s fear of the Russian investigation is accelerating. He tweeted “witch hunt” 72 times in the past year—20 uses in May after the FBI raided Michael Cohen’s offices and home with another 22 in the first three weeks of June. This morning, DDT tweeted that poll numbers have “plummeted” about the “witch hunt,” but Fox polls show that the percentage has increased ten percent to 44 percent who believe that DDT’s campaign colluded with the Russians from a year ago. Sixty percent think he should agree to be interviewed by Mueller. And that’s Fox!

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