Archive for the ‘politics’ Category
News of US politics
I don’t think Trump can even figure out how to get to the White House without whining about something or other. Meanwhile, one of the nation’s best political orators is leaving office after eight years, and the majority of the nation is mourning already.
Obama’s farewell address from Chicago last week was one of the very best speeches of his Presidency. He had one overriding message: that American democracy is threatened—by economic inequality, by racial division, and, above all, by the erosion of democratic habits and institutions. Its urgency gave the speech an unusual rhetorical punch: “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life”; “If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves”; “We sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.” Lines like these might not prove deathless, but because of their bluntness, and because the times are desperate, they hit hard.
Politicians are always letting the public off the hook—it might be the most unforgivably dishonest thing they do. Obama was more candid than most, reminding Americans that the quality of our democracy depends on us—on our capacity to reason and to empathize, our attachment to facts, our willingness to get our hands dirty even when the political game seems sordid or futile. The key word of the speech was “citizen,” which Obama called “the most important office in a democracy,” one that he’ll embrace in his post-Presidency. His exhortations and implications of blame were nonpartisan: conservatives might have heard their denial of science called out, while liberals might have been stung by the allusion to fair-weather activism. Whites and non-whites alike were urged to imagine inhabiting a different person’s skin.
Most Presidential farewell addresses are quickly forgotten. Hardly anyone knows that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both gave one, as did Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Those which endure are memorable for their warnings. When the new republic was still taking shape, in 1796, George Washington cautioned against domestic factionalism and foreign entanglements. At the height of the Cold War, in 1961, Dwight Eisenhower described a new “military-industrial complex” and a “scientific-technological élite” that were taking over public policy. Obama’s warning in Chicago—owing to its context, ten days before the Inauguration of President Donald Trump—felt even more dire. He quoted from Washington’s address, but not its most obviously relevant passage, on the danger of partisan demagoguery: “It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.”
(click here to continue reading President Obama’s Memorable Parting Words – The New Yorker.)
I wonder if Trump’s people will figure out who gave Fusion GPS money to create this dossier? Jeb Bush would be the most obvious – his dad was head of CIA, and even a President, but it could have been Ted Cruz, could have been the Koch brothers, or someone else entirely, one of the Never Trump team. When Trump’s minions get wind of this story, will they even tell Trump? Or just ignore it and hope it doesn’t ever get discussed on cable news?
The Failing New York Times reports:
Seven months ago, a respected former British spy named Christopher Steele won a contract to build a file on Donald J. Trump’s ties to Russia. Last week, the explosive details — unsubstantiated accounts of frolics with prostitutes, real estate deals that were intended as bribes and coordination with Russian intelligence of the hacking of Democrats — were summarized for Mr. Trump in an appendix to a top-secret intelligence report.
The consequences have been incalculable and will play out long past Inauguration Day. Word of the summary, which was also given to President Obama and congressional leaders, leaked to CNN Tuesday, and the rest of the media followed with sensational reports.
The story began in September 2015, when a wealthy Republican donor who strongly opposed Mr. Trump put up the money to hire a Washington research firm run by former journalists, Fusion GPS, to compile a dossier about the real estate magnate’s past scandals and weaknesses, according to a person familiar with the effort. The person described the opposition research work on condition of anonymity, citing the volatile nature of the story and the likelihood of future legal disputes. The identity of the donor is unclear.
Fusion GPS, headed by a former Wall Street Journal journalist known for his dogged reporting, Glenn Simpson, most often works for business clients. But in presidential elections, the firm is sometimes hired by candidates, party organizations or donors to do political “oppo” work — shorthand for opposition research — on the side.
The former journalist and the former spy, according to people who know them, had similarly dark views of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, a former K.G.B. officer, and the varied tactics he and his intelligence operatives used to smear, blackmail or bribe their targets.
As a former spy who had carried out espionage inside Russia, Mr. Steele was in no position to travel to Moscow to study Mr. Trump’s connections there. Instead, he hired native Russian speakers to call informants inside Russia and made surreptitious contact with his own connections in the country as well.
Mr. Steele wrote up his findings in a series of memos, each a few pages long, that he began to deliver to Fusion GPS in June and continued at least until December. By then, the election was over, and neither Mr. Steele nor Mr. Simpson was being paid by a client, but they did not stop what they believed to be very important work. (Mr. Simpson declined to comment for this article, and Mr. Steele did not immediately reply to a request for comment.)
(click here to continue reading How a Sensational, Unverified Dossier Became a Crisis for Donald Trump – The New York Times.)
Well, that little trip down Unethical Lanewas sidetracked quickly…
House Republicans, facing a storm of bipartisan criticism, including from President-elect Donald J. Trump, moved early Tuesday afternoon to reverse their plan to kill the Office of Congressional Ethics. It was an embarrassing turnabout on the first day of business for the new Congress, a day when party leaders were hoping for a show of force to reverse policies of the Obama administration.
The reversal came less than 24 hours after House Republicans, meeting in a secret session, voted, over the objections of Speaker Paul D. Ryan, to eliminate the independent ethics office. It was created in 2008 in the aftermath of a series of scandals involving House lawmakers, including three who were sent to jail.
Mr. Trump criticized House Republicans on Tuesday for their move to gut the office, saying they should focus instead on domestic policy priorities such as health care and a tax overhaul.
(click here to continue reading House Republicans Back Down on Bid to Gut Ethics Office – The New York Times.)
Tabled for now, but I expect we’ll hear more about the Office of Congressional Ethics soon…
And so it begins – the very first vote the newly installed House Republicans take is a vote to encourage the next generation of Jack Abramoffs. Amazingly brazen, why else conduct this vote in secret, on a national holiday no less? Symbolic, and telegraphing where the GOP wants to focus their energy – on looting the public trough, without consequence…
House Republicans have gutted an independent ethics watchdog, putting it under their own control, in a secret ballot hours before the new Congress convened for the first time.
The unheralded vote severely weakens the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which was set up after a lobbying scandal in 2008 to investigate corruption allegations against members of Congress. The move, led by the head of the House judiciary committee, defied the Republican congressional leadership and was reportedly supported by several legislators currently under OCE scrutiny.
Republicans’ plan to erase Obama legacy starts with chipping away at Obamacare Read more The amendment was voted through by the House Republican conference over the New Year’s holiday with no prior notice or debate and inserted in a broad rules package the House will vote for on Tuesday. It turns the formerly independent OCE into the Office of Congressional Complaint Review, a subordinate body to the House Ethics Committee, which is currently run by the Republican majority and has a long history of overlooking charges of malfeasance by lawmakers.
The new body will not be able to receive anonymous tips from members of Congress or make its findings public.
The vote comes at a time when the Republicans control all three branches of government and are seeking to remove some of the residual constraints on their powers.
(click here to continue reading Outcry after Republicans vote to dismantle independent ethics body | US news | The Guardian.)
What reason do they have to hide their actions? Draining the swamp in the dark I guess
But the House Ethics Committee, even if it dismisses the potential ethics violation as unfounded, is required to release the Office of Congressional Ethics report detailing the alleged wrongdoing, creating a deterrent to such questionable behavior by lawmakers.
Under the new arrangement, the Office of Congressional Complaint Review could not take anonymous complaints, and all of its investigations would be overseen by the House Ethics Committee itself, which is made up of lawmakers who answer to their own party.
The Office of Congressional Complaint Review would also have special rules to “better safeguard the exercise of due process rights of both subject and witness,” Mr. Goodlatte said. The provision most likely reflects complaints by certain lawmakers that the ethics office’s staff investigations were at times too aggressive, an allegation that watchdog groups dismissed as evidence that lawmakers were just trying to protect themselves.
“O.C.E. is one of the outstanding ethics accomplishments of the House of Representatives, and it has played a critical role in seeing that the congressional ethics process is no longer viewed as merely a means to sweep problems under the rug,” said a statement from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, an ethics watchdog group that has filed many complaints with the Office of Congressional Ethics
(click here to continue reading With No Warning, House Republicans Vote to Gut Independent Ethics Office – The New York Times.)
Talking Points Memo is trying to figure out how the little creeps actually voted:
As I noted last night, the House GOP caucus just voted to kill the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (it loses its independence and now needs Congress’s permission to investigate anyone or report anything it finds). But the vote is secret. But you can find out! Yes, you can! If you live in a district represented by a Republican member of Congress you can call their office and ask how they voted on the Goodlatte proposal. Here are the details of what happened. And here’s an example of how we did this back the last time something like this happened back in 2004.
Call your Republican Rep. and ask how the member voted on the Goodlatte proposal. Remember, always be polite and courtesy. You’re not speaking to the member. You’re more than likely speaking to a junior staffer who is just their to do their job. Being polite but firm is not only more effective it’s just the right thing to do.
Remember Trump’s on-board with Ryan on this (even though Ryan nominally warned against the decision). Kellyanne Conway said this morning on GMA that ditching oversight was necessary because “There’s been an overzealousness in some of the processes over the years.”
As I wrote last night, the last time the GOP achieved unified Republican control in Washington, their first move was to loosen ethics oversight. First they pushed through the “DeLay Rule”, which allowed House leaders to stay1 in their leadership roles while under indictment. A couple months later, when putting through the rules for the new Congress (the same step that happened last night), they created another new rule which held that any question that deadlocked the Ethics Committee was automatically dismissed. In other words, unless a member of the party of the person being investigated was willing to support the investigation, it was automatically dismissed.
(click here to continue reading Help Us Count the Vote!.)
I think we should start referring to our nation as America-stan…
and a bit of history from Josh Marshall:
Before we get to what happened this evening, a bit more background. When the Democrats took back control of the House in the 2006 wave election, they did so with the rampant corruption of the congressional GOP as one of their major campaign themes. So in the Spring of 2008 they created Office of Congressional Ethics, a congressional oversight office which was independent of the members themselves. The House Ethics Committee is supposed to handle ethics questions. But it’s run by members and was generally as good at sweeping ethics issues under the rug as addressing them. More generously, in an era of intense partisanship, it was often simply un-runnable. In any case, the OCE was able to do a lot of things the Ethics Committee could not. It could look into anything it wanted to. It could issue recommendations to the Ethics Committee.
This may all seem a bit like inside baseball. But in the world of oversight, it was actually a pretty big step in having someone with some actual power keeping an eye on members.
…in a sort of kick off to the Trump Era, the House GOP Caucus voted to put the OCE back under the authority of the Ethics Committee, which of course has a GOP Chair. Basically that means abolishing the OCE since the whole point of the OCE is that it’s independent of the Committee. One of the sales’ points for this new set up is that it “provide[s] protection [for Members of Congress] against disclosures to the public or other government entities” of the results of any investigations. In other words, if wrongdoing is found the newly-neutered OCE can’t tell anyone. Awesome. They can’t have a press person, issue reports, do anything without the say of the Ethics Committee. In other words, the whole thing is a joke, both the new version of the OCE (now the ““Office of Congressional Complaint Review”) and this whole move. But it’s the Trump Era. Members want to get down to business, get their piece of the action and not have anyone giving them any crap. Just like the big cheese down Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s the Trump Era.
Now, here’s the good part, as it was with the DeLay Rule, the vote is secret. Why? Because this is a caucus vote, i.e., not an actual congressional vote. Let me digress for a moment and explain just one more bit of detail. With each new Congress the majority puts together a bundle of rules that will govern how the House works during that Congress. Mostly this just puts the old rules back in place. But there are always a few changes. All those rules get bundled into one bill and it’s the first thing or one of the first to get voted on. That bill gets approved on a party line vote, just like the Speaker gets elected. If the caucus votes for it, it’s a sure thing. So even though this was just a secret caucus vote, in effect it is binding as law since all Republicans will vote for it in the official vote.
(click here to continue reading Back to The Auction House.)Footnotes:
- corrected typo [↩]
Pigs must be flying, as I have substantive agreement with reliably tone-deaf conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin, specifically about the Emoluments Clause as it applies to the short-fingered vulgarian.
No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.
(click here to continue reading Title of Nobility Clause – Wikipedia.)
As things stand now, President-elect Donald Trump has suggested he will not divest himself of a myriad of businesses around the globe that pose serious conflicts of interest, nor will he liquidate even foreign holdings, the proceeds of which would put him in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.
In an academically sound and federal court brief quality paper, Norman Eisen, Richard Painter and Laurence Tribe conclude:
Careful review of the Emoluments Clause shows that the Clause unquestionably applies to the President of the United States; that it covers an exceptionally broad and diverse range of remunerative relationships (including fair market value transactions that confer profit on a federal officeholder); and that it reaches payments and emoluments from foreign states (including state-owned and state-controlled corporations).
In the context of Trump, they cite multiple sources of foreign revenue that on their face would, the moment Trump is inaugurated, put him in violation of the Constitution. They enumerate multiple instances in which he already improperly blurred private and public conduct. (For example: “Most troubling, Ivanka has participated in several meetings between Mr. Trump and foreign heads of state, including those from Turkey, Argentina, and Japan. Ivanka’s presence at Mr. Trump’s meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan is especially striking, since Ivanka is currently in talks with Sanei International (whose largest shareholder is wholly owned by the Japanese government) to close a major and highly lucrative licensing deal.”) They then list multiple holdings that would provide prohibited revenue. (For example: “Trump International Hotel, a major new project in Washington, D.C. and a new hot spot for foreign diplomats”; “the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China—owned by the People’s Republic of China—is the single largest tenant in Trump Tower”; “even as debates rage over American/Russian relations and Russian cyberattacks on U.S. interests and even on the recent presidential election, it has been reported that Russian financiers play a significant (albeit concealed) role in Mr. Trump’s organization.”)
These examples are but the tip of an iceberg of unknowable dimension. They suggest the remarkably wide range of situations in which a foreign power could seek to confer a benefit on Mr. Trump through his private interests. Wholly apart from any actual quid pro quo arrangements or demonstrable bribes or payoffs, the Emoluments Clause will be violated whenever a foreign diplomat stays in a Trump hotel or hosts a reception in one; whenever foreign-owned banks offer loans to Mr. Trump’s businesses or pay rent for office space in his buildings; whenever projects are jump-started or expedited or licensed or otherwise advantaged because Mr. Trump is associated with them; whenever foreign prosecutors and regulators treat a Trump entity favorably; and whenever the Trump Organization makes a profit on a business transaction with any foreign state or foreign owned entity.
(click here to continue reading Trump is on target to violate the Constitution the moment he takes the oath of office – The Washington Post.)
Lawrence Tribe writes about the walking unconstitutionality of Trump’s pending regime in the Guardian U.K.
Known as the emoluments clause, this provision was designed on the theory that a federal officeholder who receives something of value from a foreign power can be tempted to compromise what the constitution insists be his exclusive loyalty: the best interest of the United States. The clause applies to the president and covers even ordinary, fair market value transactions with foreign states and their agents that result in any profit or benefit. That a hostile government has gotten its money’s worth from our president is obviously no defense to a charge that he has abused his office.
Trump’s continued interest in the Trump Organization and his steady stream of monetary and other benefits from foreign powers put him on a collision course with the emoluments clause. Disentangling every improper influence resulting from special treatment of Trump’s business holdings by foreign states would be impossible. The American people would be condemned to uncertainty, leaving our political discourse rife with accusations of corruption. These problems are exacerbated by the fact that Trump has regularly declined to make his business dealings or tax returns transparent.
Thus a specter of skewed incentives will haunt a Donald Trump presidency.
While much has changed since the constitution was written, certain premises of politics and human nature have held steady. Among them is that private financial interests can subtly sway even the most virtuous leaders. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 22: “One of the weak sides of republics, among their numerous advantages, is that they afford too easy an inlet to foreign corruption.” The framers sought to avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings, writing a broad ban on potentially corrupting foreign influence into article I of our nation’s charter.
By imposing clear limitations, the clause avoids situations in which the American people must search for hints of improperly motivated presidential favoritism toward selected foreign powers, or of foreign attempts to seduce the American president into compromising our national interest for his private profit.
With Trump, this search has already begun. His global business empire creates ideal conditions for ongoing violations of the emoluments clause. Mere weeks before Trump spoke by phone with the president of Taiwan – a dramatic departure from America’s “one China” policy – a businesswoman associated with his conglomerate reportedly arrived in Taiwan to inquire about major new investments in luxury hotels. Trump’s businesses owe hundreds of millions to Deutsche Bank, which is currently negotiating a multibillion-dollar settlement with the US Department of Justice – a settlement that will now be overseen by an attorney general selected by and serving at the pleasure of Trump.
(click here to continue reading Donald Trump will violate the US constitution on inauguration day | Laurence H Tribe | Opinion | The Guardian.)
more on this topic from John F. Kowal:
On Friday, the Brookings Institution issued an analysis of an obscure constitutional provision that should concern every American. The paper, by Norman Eisen, Richard Painter and Laurence Tribe, demonstrates persuasively that when the 538 presidential electors meet on Monday to cast their votes for president, electing Donald Trump as almost everyone expects, they will be electing a president whose tangled and mysterious web of business dealings “violate both the spirit and the letter of [a] critical piece of the U.S. Constitution.”
The concern, specifically, arises out of Trump’s many entanglements with foreign governments and leaders. While we don’t know the full extent of these ties, thanks to Trump’s refusal to make his business records (including tax returns) public, what we do know raises grave concerns. As the clock ticks down to Monday’s Electoral College vote, which will actually be 51 separate votes in each state capital plus the District of Columbia, it is still not too late for electors to hold the President-Elect accountable.
The constitutional provision in question is the Emoluments Clause, found in Article I, Section 9. Before its current moment in the spotlight, even most lawyers would be hard pressed to explain its purpose in our constitutional framework. Simply put, the clause prohibits any “Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust” under the United States government from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign state.” Only explicit consent from Congress can make such actions legal.
The word “emolument” is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “profit or gain from station, office, or employment; reward, remuneration, salary.” As the Brookings paper notes, the framers of our Constitution used the term as “a catch-all for many species of improper remuneration.”
The framers worried a great deal about foreign interference in the American political system. They saw first hand how the great European powers tried to manipulate American officials by giving them gifts and money. Indeed, as Professor Zephyr Teachout explains: “Several provisions of the Constitution were designed assuming that foreign powers would actively try to gain influence.” By strictly insulating our government officials from financial ties to foreign states and leaders, they sought to avoid insidious foreign influence and dual loyalties.
As the Brookings’ authors note: “The Emoluments Clause was forged of their hard-won wisdom. It is no relic of a bygone era, but rather an expression of insight into the nature of the human condition and the preconditions of self-governance.”
The concerns over foreign meddling, viewed through the prism of 1789, don’t seem so far fetched in 2016, despite our evolution from fledgling republic to pre-eminent global power. Indeed, as we continue to collectively process an election in which a rival nation, Russia, flagrantly meddled with the goal of affecting the result, the framers’ concern over foreign entanglements seems more vital than ever.
and more from Norman Eisen and Richard Painter of The Atlantic:
The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution stemmed from one of the Founders’ core concerns: foreign influence over our nation’s affairs. They worried that their new republic would, like the colonial governments the Americans had overthrown, once again come under the thumb of foreign rulers—if not by force of arms, by artifices of corruption. The term “emolument” comes from the Latin emolumentum, meaning profit or advantage, and emoliri, meaning to bring out by effort.
By 1789, the founders had seen enough of the way foreign rulers corrupted their own officials and those abroad. The British Crown plied elected members of Parliament with stipends and other emoluments intended to induce them to do the King’s bidding rather than serve the people who elected them, while the French King sent expensive gifts—including portraits framed with diamonds—to American officials to curry favor.
Hence the Emoluments Clause, which provides “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” It is the original financial conflict of interest law of the United States, and the only one embodied in the Constitution.
The Emoluments Clause applies to all persons holding an office of trust or profit with the United States government—no exceptions. It applies to the president, the vice president, and the members of Congress. No one is above the law. The founders could have exempted these elected officials in the plain language of the Emoluments Clause, but they did not, and for good reason. It makes little sense to prohibit foreign gifts from going to ambassadors and other officials if their elected bosses could simply accept the same gifts in their stead.
The Framers’ contemporary views illustrate that they clearly intended the clause to have the broadest possible scope. As Virginia debated the adoption of the Constitution, Governor Edmund Randolph made clear that the Emoluments Clause applied to the president when he said (in response to questions about whether term limits were needed for the president):
There is another provision against the danger mentioned by the honorable member, of the president receiving emoluments from foreign powers. If discovered he may be impeached. If he be not impeached he may be displaced at the end of the four years. … He is restrained from receiving any present or emoluments whatever. It is impossible to guard better against corruption.
The Emoluments Clause prohibits the president from accepting anything of value from a foreign government. The clause expressly prohibits both “presents [and] emoluments…of any kind whatever.”
(click here to continue reading Trump Could Be in Violation of the Constitution His First Day in Office – The Atlantic.)
There is more discussion of this topic, of course. But will a toothless, feckless Congress, and a complacent media insist that the Constitution be followed? Or is this the beginning of the end of our republic?
More details on Trump’s walking conflicts of interest from the failing NYT:
The Trump International operates out of the Old Post Office Building, which is owned by the federal government. That means Mr. Trump will be appointing the head of the General Services Administration, which manages the property, while his children will be running a hotel that has tens of millions of dollars in ties with the agency.
He also will oversee the National Labor Relations Board while it decides union disputes involving any of his hotels. A week before the election, the board ruled against Mr. Trump’s hotel in a case in Las Vegas.
The layers of potential conflicts he faces are in many ways as complex as his far-flung business empire, adding a heightened degree of difficulty for Mr. Trump — one of the wealthiest men to ever occupy the White House — in separating his official duties from his private business affairs.
Further complicating matters are Mr. Trump’s decision to name his children to his transition team, and what is likely to be their informal advisory role in his administration. His daughter Ivanka Trump joined an official transition meeting on Thursday, the day before Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey was removed from his post leading the effort.
Mr. Trump has said he will eliminate ethical concerns by turning the management of his company over to his children, an arrangement he has referred to as a blind trust. But ethics lawyers — both Republicans and Democrats — say it is far from blind because he would have knowledge of the assets in the trust and be in contact with the people running it, unlike a conventional blind trust controlled entirely by an independent party.
“To say that his children running his businesses is the equivalent of a blind trust — there is simply no credibility in that claim,” said Matthew T. Sanderson, a Washington lawyer and Republican who has worked on the presidential campaigns of John McCain, Rand Paul and Rick Perry. “Yes, the American public elected him knowing he has these assets, but unless he deals with this properly there will just be a steady trickle of these conflict-of-interest stories, and it could be a drag on his presidency.”
Perhaps most troubling for Mr. Trump, several ethics lawyers said, is a relatively obscure provision of the Constitution, called the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits any government official from taking payments or gifts from a foreign government, or even from sharing in profits in a company that has financial ties to a foreign government.
Mr. Trump has had business deals with foreign governments or individuals with apparent ties to foreign governments, including multimillion-dollar real estate arrangements in Azerbaijan and Uruguay. His children have frequently traveled abroad to promote the Trump brand, making trips to Canada, the United Arab Emirates and Scotland. Closer to home, the Bank of China is a tenant in Trump Tower and is a lender for another building in Midtown Manhattan where Mr. Trump has a significant partnership interest.
(click here to continue reading Donald Trump’s Far-Flung Holdings Raise Potential for Conflicts of Interest – The New York Times.)
plus there is this minor detail that the Trumpsters will have to ignore or overturn:
As president, Mr. Trump will be exempt from a federal ethics rule that prohibits government employees and members of Congress from taking actions that could benefit their financial interests.
But the president still must comply with a law that requires annual financial disclosures of his assets. The first will not be due until May 2018, although President Obama filed one voluntarily during his first year in office.
Experts said that even if Mr. Trump was exempt from some federal ethics rules, the public will expect him to not use his office to benefit his personal finances.
(click here to continue reading Donald Trump’s Far-Flung Holdings Raise Potential for Conflicts of Interest – The New York Times.)
Of course, we must remember that Ms. Clinton used a private email server.
There were a plethora of reasons to oppose Donald Trump, his massive international businesses is a rather large and important one.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) requested a formal congressional investigation into Donald Trump’s “financial arrangements” Monday, urging a key congressional committee to examine the president-elect’s sprawling business empire for any conflicts of interests.
“I am writing to request that the Oversight Committee immediately begin conducting a review of President-elect Donald Trump’s financial arrangements to ensure that he does not have any actual or perceived conflicts of interest, and that he and his advisors comply with all legal and regulatory ethical requirements when he assumes the presidency,” Cummings wrote in a Nov. 14 letter to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, wrote that the United States has “never had a president like Mr. Trump in terms of his vast financial entanglements and his widespread business interests around the globe.” Given Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, Cummings added, it’s impossible to know how the real estate mogul’s many businesses will affect his future decision-making.
(click here to continue reading Trump Has a Serious Conflict-of-Interest Problem. Maybe Congress Will Investigate Him. | Mother Jones.)
If there is a business that has dealings with the US government, how are we to know if those businesses are going to make a big cash donation to Trump’s “not-blind trust”? We won’t see this cash on his tax returns, that’s for sure.
Some backstory from before the rigged election:
In his most recent financial disclosure statement, Donald Trump notes he has billions of dollars in assets. But the presumptive GOP nominee also has a tremendous load of debt that includes five loans each over $50 million. (The disclosure form, which presidential candidates must submit, does not compel candidates to reveal the specific amount of any loans that exceed $50 million, and Trump has chosen not to provide details.) Two of those megaloans are held by Deutsche Bank, which is based in Germany but has US subsidiaries. And this prompts a question that no other major American presidential candidate has had to face: What are the implications of the chief executive of the US government being in hock for $100 million (or more) to a foreign entity that has tried to evade laws aimed at curtailing risky financial shenanigans, that was recently caught manipulating markets around the world, and that attempts to influence the US government?
Trump’s disclosure form lists 16 loans from 11 different lenders, totaling at least $335 million, and the aggregate amount is likely much more. Deutsche Bank is clearly his favorite lender, and Trump’s financial empire has become largely dependent on his relationship with this major player on Wall Street and the global markets. The German bank has lent him at least $295 million for two of his signature projects. In 2012, Deutsche provided Trump with $125 million to help him buy Trump National Doral golf course. Last year, it handed Trump a $170 million line of credit for his new hotel project on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC.
Should Trump move into the White House, four blocks away from his under-construction hotel, he would be its first inhabitant to owe so much to any bank. And in recent years, Deutsche Bank has repeatedly clashed with US regulators. So might it be awkward—if not pose a conflict of interest—for Trump to have to deal with policy matters that could affect this financial behemoth?
Richard Painter, an attorney who teaches at the University of Minnesota and who was the chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007, says a situation in which a sitting president owes hundreds of millions of dollars to any entity, especially a bank that jousts with regulators, is disturbing. There have been wealthy presidents and vice presidents, Painter notes, pointing to John Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, and Nelson Rockefeller, but none were as heavily leveraged as Trump. “They had large assets and usually diversified assets. They weren’t in a situation where someone could put pressure on them to do what they want,” Painter remarks. “Whereas having a president who owes a lot of money to banks, particularly when it’s on negotiable terms—it puts them at the mercy of the banks and the banks are at the mercy of regulators.” Painter adds: “In real estate, the prevailing business model is to own a lot but also owe a lot, and that is a potentially very troublesome business model for someone in public office.”
(click here to continue reading Trump Has a Conflict-of-Interest Problem No Other White House Candidate Ever Had | Mother Jones.)
and from the failing NYT:
For example, an office building on Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan, of which Mr. Trump is part owner, carries a $950 million loan. Among the lenders: the Bank of China, one of the largest banks in a country that Mr. Trump has railed against as an economic foe of the United States, and Goldman Sachs, a financial institution he has said controls Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, after it paid her $675,000 in speaking fees.
Real estate projects often involve complex ownership and mortgage structures. And given Mr. Trump’s long real estate career in the United States and abroad, as well as his claim that his personal wealth exceeds $10 billion, it is safe to say that no previous major party presidential nominee has had finances nearly as complicated.
As president, Mr. Trump would have substantial sway over monetary and tax policy, as well as the power to make appointments that would directly affect his own financial empire. He would also wield influence over legislative issues that could have a significant impact on his net worth, and would have official dealings with countries in which he has business interests.
Yet The Times’s examination underscored how much of Mr. Trump’s business remains shrouded in mystery. He has declined to disclose his tax returns or allow an independent valuation of his assets.
Mr. Trump’s opaque portfolio of business ties makes him potentially vulnerable to the demands of banks, and to business people in the United States and abroad, said Professor Painter, the former chief White House ethics lawyer.
“The success of his empire depends on an ability to get credit, to get loans extended to his business entities,” he said. “And we simply don’t know a lot about his financial dealings, here or around the world.”
(click here to continue reading Trump’s Empire: A Maze of Debts and Opaque Ties – The New York Times.)
Sounds just about right, if Trump ends up being the last president of the American experiment in democracy. Well, 240 years, we’ve had a good run.
Speaking of Shock and Awe, I wonder if the Tea Party types realize that by voting for Trump and his GOP buddies, they are about to get their wish fulfilled, and get government hands off of their Medicare. Because Medicare will cease to exist as soon as Trump takes office. Oopsie…
BRET BAIER: Your solution has always been to put things together including entitlement reform. That is Paul Ryan’s plan. That’s not Donald Trump’s plan.
PAUL RYAN: Well, you have to remember, when Obamacare became Obamacare, Obamacare rewrote medicare, rewrote medicaid. If you are going to repeal and replace Obamacare, you have to address those issues as well. What a lot of folks don’t realize is this 21-person board called the ipap is about to kick in with price controls on Medicare. What people don’t realize is because of Obamacare, medicare is going broke, medicare is going to have price controls because of Obamacare, medicaid is in fiscal straits. You have to deal with those issues if you are going to repeal and replace obamacare. Medicare has serious problems [because of] Obamacare. Those are part of our plan.
First, Ryan claims that Obamacare has put Medicare under deeper financial stress. Precisely the opposite is true. And it’s so straightforward Ryan unquestionably knows this. The Affordable Care Act actually extended Medicare’s solvency by more than a decade. Ryan’s claim is flat out false.
Second, I’ve heard a few people say that it’s not 100% clear here that Ryan is calling for Medicare Phase Out. It is 100% clear. Ryan has a standard, openly enunciated position in favor of Medicare Phase Out. It’s on his website. It’s explained explicitly right there.
Ryan says current beneficiaries will be allowed to keep their Medicare. Says. But after the cord is cut between current and future beneficiaries, everything is fair game. For those entering the system, Ryan proposes phasing out Medicare and replacing it private insurance with subsidies to help seniors afford the private insurance. That is unquestionably what it means because that is what Ryan says. So if you’re nearing retirement and looking forward to going on Medicare, good luck. You’re going to get private insurance but you’ll get some subsidies from the government to pay the bill.
(click here to continue reading Ryan Plans to Phase Out Medicare in 2017.)
Nah, probably not. Many don’t seem to be particularly well-informed.
Almost as if the President-elect is woefully unprepared…
Another contributing factor: Mr. Trump’s victory surprised even his own top advisers, who, before Tuesday, were unable to focus the superstitious New York businessman on the 73 days between the election and inauguration, a senior aide said.
During their private White House meeting on Thursday, Mr. Obama walked his successor through the duties of running the country, and Mr. Trump seemed surprised by the scope, said people familiar with the meeting. Trump aides were described by those people as unaware that the entire presidential staff working in the West Wing had to be replaced at the end of Mr. Obama’s term.
Jason Miller, communications director for the Trump transition, declined to comment.
After meeting with Mr. Trump, the only person to be elected president without having held a government or military position, Mr. Obama realized the Republican needs more guidance. He plans to spend more time with his successor than presidents typically do, people familiar with the matter said.
(click here to continue reading RNC Chair Priebus Is Named Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff – WSJ.)
Good thing President Obama is willing to put country before party, and personal animosity. If I was in Obama’s place, I’d be sorely tempted to say, “laters dude”, and let Trump fall on his ass. But no, Obama is too nice…
Truth be told, I am a bit nervous about the upcoming presidential election. I may be cracking jokes about the possibility of Trump winning the election, but I am nervous about it. There are a lot of low-informatation voters in the US. Long-time readers of this space realize I am no fan of Ms. Clinton’s politics, but the choice is nonetheless clear: a vote for her is a vote against the Crotch-fondling slab of rancid meatloaf, and of course I’d suggest you vote for Hillary Clinton, even if you don’t subscribe to her particular brand of consensus-building centrisism.
Otherwise, there will be dire consequences.
What an asinine criticism of the President. There are plenty of valid criticisms of Obama, from both right and left wing perspective, such as drone strike killings without due process, the fact of marijuana still being a Schedule 1 Narcotic, etc., but not doing “more for the arts”? What is he, a Medici?
The Obama image turned out to be misleading. All evidence points to the president being indeed thoughtful, even perhaps too thoughtful, if one believes critics who say he intellectualizes problems that demand more visceral responses. But there is little indication that Obama regularly indulges the particular relationship to art that this photograph implied: solitary contemplation of the inherited canon of paintings, sculpture, music, dance or theater. He is interested in culture, to be sure, but it is the living culture of our time, often the celebrity culture of popular music and commercial theater, but rarely the stuff people used to call “high” culture. Or that, at least, is the image his handlers have crafted.
So Obama didn’t visit the National Gallery of Art during his presidency (at least so far), and first lady Michelle Obama has been only once, and that late in the last term. The Kennedy Center reports that the first family hasn’t taken much advantage of the presidential box, and the president’s visits have been mostly limited to the annual Kennedy Center Honors. The president has also begged off attending an annual gala at Ford’s Theatre that has been a standard for his predecessors. If one adds to this the long periods that he left the chairmanships of both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities empty, his desultory picks for other important cultural positions, his choice of a librarian of Congress who doesn’t come from the tradition of the belles-lettres or serious scholarship, his record on culture is dispiriting at best.
That has caused some significant cognitive dissonance among people in the arts world who are otherwise full-throated champions of the president. Indeed, the arts offer some of the friendliest territory for the current administration, full of mainly left-wing coastal types who cherish values they believe the president embodies: intelligence, education, tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and a welcome embrace of ambiguity and complexity when parsing political and social problems. The dinner party consensus is thus: He is one of us, so why hasn’t he done more for the arts?
(click here to continue reading The arts community embraced Obama — but he never truly embraced the arts – The Washington Post.)
The dinner party consensus? Really, I guess the dinner parties I’ve gone to in the last eight years must have been filled with rubes and philistines, as I’ve never once heard anyone sob tearfully in their hors d’oeuvres that “Obama needs to do more for the Arts”. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, remember him? Big arts guy, right? Bush always listened to Stravinsky and John Cage at high volume while watching football games with the commentary turned off, went to the opera every Wednesday with his daughters, even dabbles in painting himself. And if the universe hates us and Donald Trump becomes the 45th president, the arts will flourish like never before.
Just as a placeholder, in case I need to quickly refer to the litany of corruption, fraud, and general sleaziness of Trump…
Paul Waldman has a few links for you to read
But the truth is that you’d have to work incredibly hard to find a politician who has the kind of history of corruption, double-dealing, and fraud that Donald Trump has. The number of stories which could potentially deserve hundreds and hundreds of articles is absolutely staggering. Here’s a partial list:
- Trump’s casino bankruptcies, which left investors holding the bag while he skedaddled with their money
- Trump’s habit of refusing to pay contractors who had done work for him, many of whom are struggling small businesses
- Trump University, which includes not only the people who got scammed and the Florida investigation, but also a similar story from Texas where the investigation into Trump U was quashed.
- The Trump Institute, another get-rich-quick scheme in which Trump allowed a couple of grifters to use his name to bilk people out of their money
- The Trump Network, a multi-level marketing venture (a.k.a. pyramid scheme) that involved customers mailing in a urine sample which would be analyzed to produce for them a specially formulated package of multivitamins
- Trump Model Management, which reportedly had foreign models lie to customs officials and work in the U.S. illegally, and kept them in squalid conditions while they earned almost nothing for the work they did
- Trump’s employment of foreign guest workers at his resorts, which involves a claim that he can’t find Americans to do the work
- Trump’s use of hundreds of undocumented workers from Poland in the 1980s, who were paid a pittance for their illegal work
- Trump’s history of being charged with housing discrimination
- Trump’s connections to mafia figures involved in New York construction
- The time Trump paid the Federal Trade Commission $750,000 over charges that he violated anti-trust laws when trying to take over a rival casino company
- The fact that Trump is now being advised by Roger Ailes, who was forced out as Fox News chief when dozens of women came forward to charge him with sexual harassment. According to the allegations, Ailes’s behavior was positively monstrous; as just one indicator, his abusive and predatory actions toward women were so well-known and so loathsome that in 1968 the morally upstanding folks in the Nixon administration refused to allow him to work there despite his key role in getting Nixon elected.
And that last one is happening right now. To repeat, the point is not that these stories have never been covered, because they have. The point is that they get covered briefly, then everyone in the media moves on. If any of these kinds of stories involved Clinton, news organizations would rush to assign multiple reporters to them, those reporters would start asking questions, and we’d learn more about all of them.
(click here to continue reading Trump’s history of corruption is mind-boggling. So why is Clinton supposedly the corrupt one? – The Washington Post.)
Also, wouldn’t it be fun if the corporate media spent the amount of resources to cover all these stories with the tenacity they’ve devoted to Benghazi and Ms. Clinton’s pantsuits? I know, I know, I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.
By Gustav Klimt – 1. The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. 2. Neue Galerie New York, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=153485
I watched the film version of this book, and I should probably read the book one of these days, such a fascinating story.
“The Lady in Gold” is a fascinating work, ambitious, exhaustively researched and profligately detailed. Anne-Marie O’Connor traces the convoluted history of Gustav Klimt’s dazzling gold-leaf portrait of the Jewish society beauty Adele Bloch-Bauer from its commissioning in 1903 to its sale to cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder in 2006. But the book’s title does not do justice to O’Connor’s scope, which includes the Viennese Belle Epoque, the Anschluss, the diaspora of Viennese Jews, the looting of their artwork and legal battles over its restitution, and thorny questions facing the heirs of reclaimed art.
Roughly a third of the book deals with Klimt’s “Austrian Mona Lisa,” its Nazi-era theft and its eventual return to the Bloch-Bauer heirs. The rest provides context and a milieu dense with particulars. The work teems with historical personages who lived in, visited or plundered Vienna during the tumultuous first half of the 20th century. Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, Mark Twain, Joseph Goebbels and scores of others, both integral and incidental to the story of Klimt’s golden portrait of Adele, appear in O’Connor’s populous and several-branched narrative.
The film was good, not great. Helen Mirren is always spot-on, but her “kid lawyer” Ryan Reynolds (playing Maria Altmann’s young lawyer, Randy Schoenberg) didn’t quite fit in the role, plus there were superfluous scenes with Katie Holmes pretending to be maternal. Still, worth watching if you haven’t seen it.
The back-story of Austrian Jews suddenly, nearly overnight, becoming part of the Third Reich is illustrative. They lost their homes, their businesses, their prized personal possessions, their lives, their freedoms. Donald Trump, and others in the Republican party, like Ted Cruz, others, want to round up and deport all the poorly documented immigrants if gods forbid, a Republican wins the Oval Office. Trump claims there are 11,000,000 people who don’t have permission to be in the US, and on January 21st, 2017, he is going to find them all and send them somewhere else, outside of the US borders, or maybe in camps like the Japanese-Americans during WW2.
Is 11,000,000 an accurate number? Are there more? Less? Probably more, and not all these folks are dishwashers, roofers and field hands. Some are middle class people, or even wealthy, there are multi-generational families involved, and many have been here for decades. In Trump’s vision, a bunch of gold-booted thugs with golden “T” armbands are going to kick in doors, smash storefront windows, and arrest all the undocumented people, without incident, without protest as Americans cheer and jeer in the streets. Will petty jealousy and unscrupulous neighbors make false claims against personal enemies? Does Trump even know what due process is?
Trump is not a policy person, he is extremely slippery in his positions, when he even understands them, but one theme has been nearly constant: immigrants are the enemy of Trump’s Fourth Reich.
More importantly, would America (and the world) really allow this to happen in the 21st Century?
I Am Going To Eat You – Paul Noth – The New Yorker
There’s a reason Donald Trump swept the primaries, and Ted Cruz came in second: their beliefs are what the Republican base also believes. All the GOP establishment hand-wringing about tone and blah-blah-blah does not change the basic fact that the majority of the Republican voters believe Obama is a secret Muslim, born in Kenya, and that Hillary Clinton killed Vince Foster to cover up her lesbian affairs, and so forth.
The rot runs much deeper than most Republicans are willing to admit.In the spirit of always fighting the last war, Republicans are kicking around the idea of imposing strict barriers to entry into the Republican presidential primary field four years from now. “Let’s make running for the Republican nomination a truly conservative affair,” writes John Noonan, former adviser to Jeb Bush. “You want it? Earn it. Raise $5 million for the RNC in the years before the nomination and only then do you qualify to run.”
This kind of thing may be necessary if the GOP is to avoid another Trumpening, but also woefully insufficient. Noonan’s specific idea would be difficult to implement for some of the reasons he lays out in the article. It also probably wouldn’t have stopped Trump from running this cycle, thanks in large part to the Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon two years ago, which made it much easier for rich people to raise money for official party committees.
But let’s imagine a rule that would’ve foreclosed a Trump candidacy altogether was in place as of 2015—for instance, one holding that to run, you must have won elected office as a Republican within the past 12 years.
Maybe Trump would’ve just sat the whole thing out. But he might’ve driven a near-majority of the GOP’s base into a third party. Or, he might’ve made the qualifying candidates compete for his endorsement by establishing politically toxic criterion: mass deportation, commitment to a border fence, other commitments that would’ve Trumpified the winning candidate.
Remember, it’s not like Trump barely edged out the establishment. The runner-up was Ted Cruz; basically everyone else got no traction at all. Absent Trump, Cruz would’ve consolidated the charlatan wing of the party, and the influencers now propping up Trump would be doing the same for Cruz, only with somewhat less establishment resistance.
(click here to continue reading The rot runs much deeper than most Republicans are willing to admit. | New Republic.)
Ted Cruz expected Donald Trump to drop out1 so that Cruz would be the default candidate, which is why Cruz is already gearing up his 2020 presidential bid. At least the Natural Born Citizenship question will get decided if Cruz ever wins the nomination…
Ted Cruz, it appears, has had a dismal time since the Republican National Convention, where his decision not to endorse Donald Trump drew vigorous boos. Cruz’s national favorability rating among Republicans has plummeted from fifty-nine per cent to forty-three per cent. Several Texas Republicans, including perhaps former Governor Rick Perry, are said to be weighing primary challenges when Cruz seeks reëlection to the Senate, in 2018. Cruz has devoted several weeks to travelling around his home state, apparently trying to mend fences and persuade the locals that he hadn’t forgotten them during his long race for the White House. Is Cruz doomed, locally as well as nationally?
Far from it. Cruz is merely taking the next step toward the Presidency in a manner that he previewed when I profiled him for the magazine, in 2014. Cruz may be wrong about Republican and Presidential politics, but he’s consistent, and his rejection of Trump, when every other putative successor as Republican nominee has endorsed him, fits into his master plan. In simple terms, Cruz thinks that conservative Republicans win Presidential elections: Ronald Reagan, in 1980 and 1984; George H. W. Bush, in 1988; George W. Bush, in 2000 and 2004. He thinks moderate Republicans lose: George H. W. Bush, who had agreed to raise taxes, in 1992; Bob Dole, in 1996; John McCain, in 2008; and Mitt Romney, in 2012. Cruz intends—someday—to be that conservative Republican nominee.
Cruz built his 2016 campaign on the principle that he had to be the most conservative candidate in the race. He embraced social issues (opposing abortion and proposing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage) in a way that Trump never did. Although Trump made opposition to illegal immigration the cornerstone of his candidacy, Cruz had the same hard-line approach to evicting people from the United States. On climate change, taxation, Obamacare, and every other issue, Cruz positioned himself at the far right of the Party. Of course, Cruz’s efforts fell short, and he did not become the nominee.
(click here to continue reading Ted Cruz Is Still Running for President – The New Yorker.)
Trump called himself “Mr. Brexit” yesterday. Funny, almost, in light of the reality of how removing E.U. immigrants is going to drastically change how Britain feeds itself. America too if the anti-immigrant brigade ever gets a modicum of power. Have you ever picked vegetables in the hot sun? It’s not work I’d do voluntarily, even if it paid above minimum wage. Trump’s anti-immigrant army will be spluttering in impotent rage if tomatoes were $50/lb, if lettuce was something you only could afford to eat over the holidays, if a hamburger cost $35 even to make it at home with store-bought ingredients.
But then Trump’s cult has never had the ability to comprehend facts.
Anyway, back to Britain, where Carla Power writes, in part:
“Brexit” has sown deep uncertainty in Britain’s food system, which for the last 43 years has been entwined with the rest of Europe’s, relying heavily on the EU for everything from pork to peaches to farm subsidies to the labor that picks its tomatoes. Now, the country is going to have to rethink how it feeds itself, from farm to fork.
“Food is the biggest sector of engagement with Europe,” said Timothy Lang, a professor at City University London’s Center for Food Policy. “It’s hundreds of thousands of contracts, all woven into long supply chains.”
Currently, European laws regulate nearly everything that ends up on British plates: how clean a chicken should be before slaughter, how cold to keep frozen cod, who gets to call their biscuits “gluten free.”
Now, Britain will have to decide all that for itself. Some groups already have begun lobbying Prime Minister Theresa May’s new government for regulations to improve animal welfare and protect soils.
But what Britain can’t do is feed itself. The country imports more than $50 billion a year in food, or nearly half of what it eats. That’s more than double what it exports. Most wine and beef come from mainland Europe, as do about 40% of fruit and vegetables.
The future of food in Britain will depend largely on what sort of trade deals the government can strike with the European alliance it is preparing to abandon.
Germany and other European powers have made it clear that they will not grant Britain the benefits of EU membership if it leaves and that the country probably will face tariffs on many of its imports.
New tariffs on food would drive up prices and potentially change the nation’s diet.
EU membership has brought them a flexible, energetic and mobile labor force of Romanians, Bulgarians and other Eastern Europeans. While EU-born workers from outside Britain make up 6% of the country’s workforce, they account for more than a quarter of employees in the food manufacturing industry — and 95% of crop pickers.
“Every strawberry eaten at Wimbledon was picked by an Eastern European,” said John Hardman of Hops Labour Solutions, an agricultural recruitment firm in Kenilworth. “Every Brussels sprout eaten at Christmas dinner was picked by an Eastern European.”
If Britain stops free movement of EU workers, farmers may struggle to find replacements. Britons themselves don’t seem keen on the low wages and long hours in the orchards and fields.
(click here to continue reading With nearly half its food imported, who will feed Britain after ‘Brexit’? – LA Times.)