Six days after Donald Trump won the presidential election, the federal government finalized a key step toward a tax subsidy worth as much as $32 million for a company that is owned by Trump, his daughter Ivanka, and two of his sons.
That company owns Trump’s luxury Washington, DC, hotel, located in a taxpayer-owned historic landmark known as the Old Post Office Building, which Trump leases from the federal government. The hotel has become emblematic of Trump’s many potential conflicts of interest, because when he becomes president he will effectively be both landlord and tenant.
The latest step toward the massive tax credit, which has not been previously reported, puts that conflict in sharp relief.
On Nov. 14, the National Park Service, which oversees “Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits” with the IRS, finalized the second phase of a three-step process.
Technically, it approved an amendment to Trump’s previous plans for the rehabilitation of the building. With that done, the Trump family company that leases the hotel, the Trump Old Post Office LLC, has to go through just one more phase to get the tax credit worth 20% of the rehabilitation project.
“This is a classic or textbook example of a conflict of interest,” said Steven Schooner, a professor of government procurement law at George Washington University School of Law. “The decision-maker here, the National Park Service, works for the party that stands to benefit from a favorable decision.”
The right wingers are all saying this doesn't mean anything because he's a businesman. They seem to think that makes sense.
Ross and Ricketts are both right wing billionaire plutocrats. Mnuchin is a right wing multi-millionaire plutocrat from Goldman Sachs.
Trump "saved" a thousand jobs. These guys will all make sure all workers don't get too uppity --- and the profits will flow up, not down.
SWuckers born every minute digby 11/30/2016 03:30:00 PM
Remedial presidenting for dummies
This is hard to believe. But I do believe it:
When he met with Trump last week, Gingrich says, "He commented, 'This is really a bigger job than I thought.' Which is good. He should think that." As president, Gingrich went on, "you have war and peace, you have enormous powers ... and it all comes down to the Oval Office and it all comes down to you."
I sure am glad he has a lot of experienced hands around him guiding him through this. Like ... Reince Preibus, Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn. Well, he does have Tom DeLay's ethics lawyer so there's that.
Even George W. Bush knew how big a job it was. He'd spent his life around politics. And he was a callow fool nonetheless. This is something else again.
Surprise! The Republicans no longer care about conflict of interest
I wrote about their strangely passive approach to the dumpster fire that is Donald Trump's business dealings for Salon today:
When last we heard from Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the House of Representatives’ own Samuel Sewell (Salem’s famous witch hunter), he was declaring that just because Hillary Clinton had lost the election, her troubles were not over as far as he was concerned. He was undoubtedly disappointed that he was unable to pursue the impeachment hearings he’d been planning for several months. But Chaffetz gamely carried on and announced that he had every intention of continuing his investigation into her allegedly nefarious emails and conflicts of interest when she was secretary of state. On the day after the election, the Utah congressman told the press.
It would be totally remiss of us to dismiss [the email investigation] because she’s not going to be president. I still have a duty and obligation to get to the truth about one of the largest breaches of security at the State Department. Tens of thousands of documents still have not been turned over to Congress.
He complained about the current State Department being unwilling to cooperate and said that he believed the “Trump administration would be cooperative in getting these floodgates to open as they should.”
These investigations were to happen concurrently with the special prosecutor Trump had promised, and at the time Chaffetz had every reason to believe that Trump would follow through. Since then the president-elect has told the New York Times that Clinton had suffered enough and he didn’t want to “hurt her,” but without closing the door on further action should it become necessary.
Trump’s informal adviser Newt Gingrich has apparently told him that a president should not foreclose his Department of Justice from pursuing crimes as it sees fit, and Fox News’ Greg Jarrett has wondered why Clinton had squandered her “get out of jail free card” by allowing her lawyers to observe the Wisconsin recount process (which Trump’s lawyers are doing as well.) He wrote:
Clinton’s decision to embrace a challenge to Trump’s election is both confounding and inexplicable. Why would she chance angering the very individual who holds her fate in his hands? It’s like an inmate taunting a jailer. You’d have to be obtuse to do it.
Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway also hinted broadly that Trump’s “magnanimous” attitude is contingent on Clinton not saying anything that might anger him.
But this is the president-elect’s position right now and I would say he has been incredibly gracious and magnanimous to Secretary Clinton at a time when for whatever reason her folks are saying they will join in a recount to try to somehow undo the 70-plus electoral votes that he beat her by.
It looks as though this threat will hang over Clinton’s head for a long time to come.
This all seems rather strange, doesn’t it? There are much bigger fish to fry these days. Indeed, there is a Great White Whale out there by the name of Donald Trump, a man with so many conflicts of interest and potential national security transgressions it would be a full-time job for any congressional oversight committee just to find out what and where they all are.
The Huffington Post’s Michael McAuliff asked House majority leader Kevin McCarthy about the growing clamor for congressional oversight of incoming Trump administration. McCarthy seemed to have heard very little about Trump’s issues and had no grasp of the details. But he seems to have had an epiphany about using investigations for political purposes. He told McAuliff:
I think for too long, some of these rules have been used that way, and I think it’s been a bad thing, and it’s harmed the ability for people all to work together.
You’ll recall that McCarthy lost his bid for the speakership when he went on TV and said:
When you look at poll numbers of Hillary Clinton, they have dropped. Unfavorables pretty high, because people say they don’t trust her. They don’t trust her because of what they found out about the server and everything else. Would you ever have found that out had you not gathered the information from the Benghazi Select Committee?
But what about Chaffetz, the man whose supposed commitment to the principle of congressional oversight led him to declare that he would chase Hillary Clinton to the ends of the earth? Surely a man of such integrity would never let partisanship interfere with his sacred duty to hold the powerful to account?
Well, it seems he isn’t up on the details of the current controversy either. When Chaffetz was asked about it by HuffPo’s Matt Fuller, he conflated the issue of the Secret Service paying to rent space in Trump Tower with the news that foreign dignitaries are already trying to curry favor with Trump by spending big money at his new D.C. hotel. He said he thought there was ample precedent for all this, which came as a surprise to the ranking Democrat on the committee, Elijah Cummings, who said, “He’s operating 111 companies in 18 countries. Come on!”
And that’s what we know about. His domestic conflicts, along with those of his children and his son-in-law are massive as well. Jason Chaffetz, relentless email stalker and enforcer of proper national security practices is remarkably relaxed about Donald Trump’s overwhelmingly complicated ethical problems. Why, if you didn’t know better you might think that all of his pretentious grandstanding over the years was nothing more than political posturing.
There has never been a President more in need of oversight than the one who will be inaugurated in January. This train-wreck of an administration could only be helped by adults in his own party taking their responsibilities seriously and trying to keep it from running off the rails. From the looks of it, they have all decided to play dumb and behave as if what Trump and his entourage are doing is no big deal. It’s a very big deal indeed. Congressional Republicans are doing their new president, and our country, no favors by concluding that they no longer have a job to do.
-- The emerging Republican stratagem is to create some “transition period,” as McCarthy calls it, setting a firm date on which the law would expire. That would then create a metaphorical cliff that the country would go over unless Congress acts. With the prospect of 20 million Americans losing health insurance coverage, the R’s bet that the D’s will cave and accept something they don’t like rather than nothing at all. As McCarthy put it, “Once it’s repealed, why wouldn’t they be willing to vote for a replacement? Right? You have no other options.”
-- This might be a brilliant stroke. Or, if history is a guide, it could fail spectacularly. Chuck Schumer, the incoming Senate Minority Leader, says his caucus won’t budge and pledges resistance. Democrats feel like Republicans never worked with them during the past eight years, and there is heavy pressure from the left flank of Schumer’s caucus to replicate Mitch McConnell’s strategy of obstruction now that they’re going into the wilderness. It’s a dangerous cycle that could set up an epic game of chicken.
-- Something to ponder: Which eight Democratic senators would actually vote for a replacement to Obamacare? McCarthy thinks incumbents up for reelection in 2018 in red states like Indiana, North Dakota, West Virginia and Missouri will play ball and push their colleagues to do the same. He also thinks Schumer will be temperamentally more willing to cut a deal than Harry Reid would have been, despite whatever he is saying in public.
-- Another wrinkle: There is not Republican consensus on what a full replacement package should look like. There was much discussion when it looked like the Supreme Court would undercut the foundation of Obamacare with the decision in King vs. Burwell about what fixes conservatives could get behind. But the justices sided with the government, so the issue never came to a head. “It’s not easy,” McCarthy acknowledged. “I’ve sat around the room trying to come up with the replacement plan.”
-- To be sure, Tom Price has introduced his own legislation to replace the ACA four times, and in 2015, the House Budget Committee chairman was the chief sponsor of the only ACA-repeal bill to ever reach the White House. The president vetoed it, of course. And it is important to note that the Price alternative is quite partisan and leave no real room for negotiation with Democrats. If Republicans use it as an opening bid, the best case scenario is that the other side reads it as an unserious joke. The worst case scenario is that they take it as an insulting slap and then refuse to even come to the table.
-- McCarthy believes there is close to universal support among Republican lawmakers for protecting people with pre-existing conditions and to let children stay on their parents’ plans until they are 26 (which does not actually cost insurers all that much). Trump endorsed both elements during the post-election “60 Minutes” sit-down.
-- Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, who has jurisdiction over federal health care programs, now says it will take up to three years to repeal the Affordable Care Act – a timeline that would guarantee the law is once again a marquee issue in the 2018 and 2020 elections. “We know that to correct it is going to take time,” the Utah senator told Kelsey Snell yesterday afternoon. “I don’t see any reason for anybody to be too upset about it.”
-- Wise Republicans are trying to get out front of what they see as inevitable voter backlash if they run roughshod with reconciliation, without trying to win Democratic buy-in (or at least making a show of trying to). “There will be a multiyear transition into the replacement,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in a separate conversation with Kelsey. “This is a failed piece of legislation and it is coming apart at the seams, but it is going to take us a while to make that transition from the repeal to actually replacing it.”
-- Wisconsin is a telling example because it is the home state of both the Speaker of the House and the incoming White House chief of staff. About a quarter of a million people there are enrolled in the Obamacare exchanges, and another 143,000 childless adults are enrolled in Medicaid because of the 2010 law. "We believe that the transition should be a reasonable time, whether it's a year, a year-and-a-half or two years," Scott Walker, the new chairman of the Republican Governors Association, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
What this article elides, of course, is that the Republicans have no alternative and if they simply repeal everything but the ban on pre-existing conditions and 26 year olds and add in some tax incentives, the whole market will fall apart and people will die.
Democrats should resist every step of the way. But they won't. It's not in their nature to fight back after a loss. They truly believe that the country is more conservative than it is because of the people with whom they associate.
Trump is dragging out the suspense on the secretary of state pick like a reality show. And I guess that's what his presidency really is. With nukes. And cops. Last night he had dinner with Mitt Romney and Reince at a very upscale eatery where they ate Pepe the Frog for appetizers. (I'm actually not kidding. They had frogs legs.)
Anyway, as we anxiously await the finale, here's a reminder of Romney's foreign trip in 2012. It didn't go well. But one wouldn't expect it to. After all, his main foreign policy experience was hosting the Olympics in Utah and doing Mormon missionary work in Paris during the Vietnam War.
It's a big country. Everybody wants a piece of it. Big pieces of legislation are like that. Everybody wants something. A lot of money rides on who gets what and who pays for it. Sam Stein, Ryan Grim, and Matt Fuller at Huffington Post offer an exhaustive (exhausting?) stroll through the machinations behind the 21st Century Cures Act. As with the Affordable Care Act, lawmakers have to buy off Big Pharma if they want to pass the parts that may actually help people. They write:
... It’s as if the fire department had to pay off the arsonist to get permission to put out a fire.
Lawmakers have been left with a Hobson’s choice: The bill would make billions of dollars available for medical research. It would fund lofty goals, such as precision medicine, a White House initiative to map the human brain and Vice President Joe Biden’s “Cancer Moonshot.” It would save lives. But it would also undermine regulations that patient advocacy groups say are essential for making sure medical and drug research is conducted ethically and safely — meaning it could cost lives, too.
Sausage-making at its finest. Funding VP Joe Biden's cancer moonshot is perhaps the biggest carrot, Stein et al. explain, but not the only one. There is the EUREKA Initiative [Exceptional Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration]. (Please shoot me now.) EUREKA "directs the NIH to establish a competition for innovative work to combat serious biomedical diseases." And there are other promising-sounding projects. Of course, there is a "but" coming:
But assembling a broad, bipartisan coalition often requires including ethically suspect giveaways. And this bill has those, too. The REGROW [Reliable and Effective Growth for Regenerative Health Options that Improve Wellness] Act, introduced by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and co-sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), is one of many stray pieces of legislation sewn into the 21st Century Cures Act to help it gain support.
The bill would speed up the delivery of adult stem cell therapies to patients. But it would do that by allowing those therapies to go to market before they’re definitively proved to be safe and effective.
No worries. However, Zoë Carpenter writing about the Cures Act at The Nation recalls a fast-tracked contraceptive device released in 2002 called Essure. Another of those troublesome buts:
But it turned out that the device was neither as safe nor as effective as expected: as many as one in 10 women who used Essure got pregnant, thousands reported injuries or other serious complications, and a few died.
So what if stem cell patients grow an ear on their foreheads before the recalls? Just so long as the stock goes up.
Including "lobbyist and donor-backed measures" like REGROW is how business gets done on Capitol Hill, HuffPost continues:
The bill’s supporters are making concessions to Republicans, too. Late Tuesday night, Republicans pulled a bipartisan provision ― authored by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) ― promoting evidence-based prevention services to help keep more children out of foster care after Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) demanded it be stripped out.
The bill had passed the House unanimously in June when it came up for a standalone vote, and it’s backed by more than 500 child welfare groups. But Republican leaders backed down Tuesday after Burr, along with Republican Sens. Thom Tillis (N.C.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Dan Coats (Ind.), pressed McConnell and Ryan to remove it from the larger Cures Act.
Your guess is as good as mine why they object to keeping children out of foster care. But follow the money.
Michael Flynn, Donald Trump's pick to be national security adviser, praised controversial alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos one week after the election as "phenomenal" and one of the bravest people he's met.
Yiannopoulos, Breitbart's tech editor, has developed a following by antagonizing progressives through his controversial statements and stunts. He set up a scholarship fund solely for white men, compared the Black Lives Matter movement to the Ku Klux Klan, and said that the United States has "a Muslim problem." He was permanently banned from Twitter earlier this year for inciting racist and sexist attacks on "Ghostbusters" actor Leslie Jones.
Speaking to a gathering of young conservatives at Trump's Washington hotel, Flynn said, "I was with Dinesh D'Souza last night, and the other, for the young audience here, for the young ones here, I mentioned it to a couple of you, I was also with Milo Yiannopoulos," Flynn said at the Young America's Foundation conference. "See, a lot of people in here won't know who he is. I tag him on Twitter, you know, because he's phenomenal individual, and I'm mentioning him tonight because he spoke alongside of me last night to another group of folks."
"He's definitely, he's one of the most different, one of the most brave people that I've ever met. We have different views on different things, but he is deeply, deeply conservative in his views about this country," the retired Army lieutenant general added. "So he is going around this country at the undergraduates, at our colleges and our universities and he fighting for you, for all of the people in here."
The Post Office Lease differs from many of Mr. Trump’s other business arrangements. That’s because, in writing the contract, the federal and D.C. governments determined, in advance, that elected officials could play no role in this lease arrangement. The contract language is clear: “No ... elected official of the Government of the United States ... shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom...”
The language could not be any more specific or clear. Donald Trump will breach the contract on Jan. 20, when, while continuing to benefit from the lease, he will become an “elected official of the Government of the United States.”
How much ya wanna bet Trump will take the time --- between tweets and Victory Tours --- to sign a quick quit-claim over to his offspring and we'll all pretend that means something?
I would think he'd "renegotiate" it but I don't think he has time to make one of those really great deals before he is in violation. So, just turn it over to Ivanka and the boys and we're all good.
Infowars.com, the website operated by conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones, lashed out at Erica Lafferty, the daughter of slain Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung, for calling on President-elect Donald Trump not to appear on Jones’ show because Jones has pushed conspiracy theories about the 2012 Sandy Hook tragedy.
Lafferty has been outspoken in calling for President-elect Trump not to appear on Jones’ radio program. Before he was elected, Trump praised Jones as having an “amazing” reputation, and Jones said that after Trump’s victory, he called Jones to promise to appear on his show in the near future.
In a November 16 open letter to Trump, Lafferty wrote, “radio host Alex Jones has fanned the flames of a hateful conspiracy theory claiming that the shooting that took my mother never happened. It’s unthinkable. It’s unacceptable. I’m asking you to denounce it immediately and cut ties with Alex Jones and anyone who subscribes to these dangerous ideas.”
Indeed, it is well documented that in the wake of the 2012 shooting, which left 20 children and six educators dead, Jones repeatedly suggested that the shooting was a “hoax” that never happened. Jones has reacted to Lafferty’s letter by lying about his past statements while simultaneously doubling down on his conspiratorial claims about the attack.
Shroyer addressed Lafferty directly in his video, which was posted to Alex Jones’ YouTube channel. He said, “I just have this message to you. Why wouldn't you want a good guy on the scene with a gun when a bad guy comes? I’m just missing this logic. Don't you understand that if your mother had a pistol or a firearm she could have prevented her death? A good person with a gun could have stopped a bad person with a gun and saved lives. Why does this logic escape you?”
Steve Bannon says he hates elites so, you know, he's cool. He wants to put some bad rich guys in jail even (although probably not all the ones that he and Trump are putting in the cabinet or the ones who donated or the ones who Jared Kushner is involved with or any of Trump's other business partners.) But the bad ones. You know. The ones they don't like.
Ms. Jones, the film colleague, said that in their years working together, Mr. Bannon occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners.
“I said, ‘That would exclude a lot of African-Americans,’” Ms. Jones recalled. “He said, ‘Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.’ I said, ‘But what about Wendy?’” referring to Mr. Bannon’s executive assistant. “He said, ‘She’s different. She’s family.’”
Here's another guy who has similar beliefs, at least about genetic superiority:
These guys really believe this stuff. It's not a pose. And their followers believe it too.
By the way, the great populist hero of the late 19th century, William Jennings Bryan, was a big eugenics fan too.
The news media finally seems to have caught up to the notion that Donald Trump’s international business dealings might just create a bit of a conflict of interest as president of the United States. The New York Times published an investigation over the Thanksgiving weekend into some of Trump’s business partners around the world and how they see his election as a “yuge” opportunity to make a lot of money by partnering with the president-elect’s “brand” — the profits from which his family will undoubtedly share. At this point, it appears Trump has no intention of doing anything more than superficially distancing himself from the business and pretending that’s a “blind trust.”
In his interview with the Times last week, Trump explained that he had thought he would have to “do something” and had since been told that “the president can’t have a conflict of interest,” immediately evoking memories of Richard Nixon’s famous quote: “If the president does it, it’s not illegal.” It’s a very similar notion. The idea is that the president’s job is so unique that normal rules and laws do not apply. The full quote is even more incoherent:
As far as the, you know, potential conflict of interests, though, I mean I know that from the standpoint, the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest. That’s been reported very widely. Despite that, I don’t want there to be a conflict of interest anyway. And the laws, the president can’t. And I understand why the president can’t have a conflict of interest now because everything a president does in some ways is like a conflict of interest, but I have, I’ve built a very great company and it’s a big company and it’s all over the world . . .
Now, according to the law, see, I figured there’s something where you put something in this massive trust and there’s also — nothing is written. In other words, in theory, I can be president of the United States and run my business 100 percent, sign checks on my business, which I am phasing out of very rapidly, you know, I sign checks, I’m the old-fashioned type . . . But in theory I could run my business perfectly, and then run the country perfectly. And there’s never been a case like this where somebody’s had, like, if you look at other people of wealth, they didn’t have this kind of asset and this kind of wealth, frankly. It’s just a different thing.
But there is no — I assumed that you’d have to set up some type of trust or whatever and, you know. And I was actually a little bit surprised to see it. So in theory I don’t have to do anything. But I would like to do something. I would like to try and formalize something, because I don’t care about my business.
Trump seems to have been told that the presidency is unique and therefore not subject to conflict-of-interest laws, and also that he is unique because he’s so vastly wealthy he is not subject to conflicts of interest. In any case, it’s worth reading the entire transcript to see just how much over his head he really is.
President Obama tried to warn Trump that he needed to find a White House counsel who would give him strong, unbiased advice and help him navigate these treacherous ethical waters. Trump clearly didn’t listen. In fact he went out of his way to name as his chief counsel one of the most notorious lawyers in Washington, Don McGahn, the man best known as the ethics lawyer to corrupt former House whip Tom “The Hammer” DeLay, a man who pretty much filled the swamp Trump promised to drain. As one of the architects of the “K Street Project,” which strong-armed lobbyists into only hiring Republicans if they wanted to do business with the government, DeLay and McGahn were instrumental in institutionalizing GOP self-dealing and corruption during the Bush years.
DeLay had Texas tear up its 2000 redistricting plan after Republicans won the majority in 2002, and McGahn defended him when DeLay was tried for illegally funneling campaign cash into a PAC to help Republicans win. (He lost the case, but it was reversed on appeal.) Of course, McGahn had also been the lawyer who advised him the scheme was legal in the first place.
The idea that this man is going to give Trump guidance on how to deal with conflicts of interest in an ethical manner is laughable. His career has been spent counseling his clients on how to do the opposite. Like Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn and Jeff Sessions, it’s yet another example of Trump hiring the worst person in America for the job. It’s almost as if he’s trolling America, just messing with our heads for the fun of it. And like nearly all forms of trolling it’s not funny at all.
You wonder why Donald Trump doesn't simply move on to the next lie. He has a boundless supply. But after being hammered for his tweets about the popular vote totals being compromised by millions of illegal votes, his team seems determined to dig in. Daily Beast reports:
President-elect Donald Trump doubled down on claims of voter fraud on Monday night, lashing out at journalists who dared to ask for some evidence. Addressing several journalists, Trump wrote, “There is NO QUESTION THAT voter fraud did take place, and in favor of Corrupt Hillary!” As for those who expressed doubt about Trump’s assertions, the president-elect told them to put up or shut up: “Pathetic - you have no sufficient evidence that Donald Trump did not suffer from voter fraud, shame! Bad reporter.”
That last one complaining the press has failed to prove a negative was Trump retweeting a 16 year-old from Beverly Hills. Actually, Trump didn't use the retweet function. He simply copied and pasted the kid's tweet.
@realDonaldTrump Good evening! Have been looking for examples of voter fraud. Please send our way. Full-time journalist here still working.
The New York Times editorial board figured, like many of us, that should Trump lose on Nov. 8 he would try to delegitimize the election by floating conspiracy theories from "right-wing propaganda sites like InfoWars." Instead he's trying to delegitimize his own victory. The Times writes:
In addition to insulting law-abiding voters everywhere, these lies about fraud threaten the foundations of American democracy. They have provided the justification for state voter-suppression laws around the country, and they could give the Trump administration a pretext to roll back voting rights on a national scale.
And why is Mr. Trump so hung up on the popular vote in the first place? After all, he won where it counts — in the Electoral College. And yet, in the three weeks since his victory, Mr. Trump has already admitted at least twice that he would prefer the presidency be determined by the popular vote, and not by 538 electors. It’s clear he feels threatened by Mrs. Clinton’s popular-vote lead — now more than 2.3 million and expected to exceed 2.5 million; as a percentage of the electorate, that is a wider margin than five presidents enjoyed. With support for third-party candidates added in, 54 percent of voters rejected Mr. Trump.
The right has been flogging the tiresome fraud meme for decades, insisting they are deeply concerned with election integrity when evidence exists that's not their real motivation and evidence for massive fraud is absent.
Can we get back to something that's a real threat to the country (in addition to Trump's immaturity)? Say, how his business dealings worldwide leave him compromised as president when dealing with foreign powers? The Atlantic has a handy crib sheet on Trump's global conflicts of interest:
The unprecedented nature of Trump’s business interests, coupled with the many precedents that Trump broke throughout his campaign—not releasing his tax returns, for example, which severely limits attempts to understand his financial situation—has provoked speculation that his presidency maybringaboutequallyunprecedentedopportunitiesforconflictsofinterest. Trump’s response—provided on Twitter—only reinforces concerns that he will make little effort to avoid entangling his business and personal interests, and will instead attack those who point that out.
Prior to the election it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world.Only the crooked media makes this a big deal!
The short-fingered vulgarian is insecure about the size of his win, the size of his, uh, hands, and the size of his net worth. "Use your leverage," Trump advises in "The Art of the Deal." Foreign powers? You bet they will.
FAA Restricts Drones Flying Over Pipeline Protests
From the Drone Law Journal November 27, 2016
The FAA has imposed a 4-nautical mile Temporary Flight Restriction, (“TFR”), in airspace up to 3500 feet above sea level, over the Standing Rock Protest in North Dakota. The land in that area sits approximately 1600 feet above sea level, meaning about 1900 feet of the sky above the protest is off limits to any aircraft other than those permitted to fly — namely, aircraft in support of the law enforcement activities.
Neither the mainstream media, nor citizen journalists, nor activist hobbyists may fly in that area to document what law enforcement is doing.
This action will prevent the media or activists from showing shocking footage of water cannons used to spray protesters.
Forbes contributor John Goglia has pointed out that "keeping the media from documenting law enforcement actions is not part of the FAA’s mission. Nor is it a legal basis for issuing flight restrictions." Yet that is exactly what they did in Ferguson and it appears they are doing the same here.
I reached out to the FAA for more specific information on why the TFR was issued, including whether it was issued because of the reports of drones being shot down. I also requested information on whether drone journalists could get permission to fly through the TFR and, if so, how. Lastly, I asked what the FAA was doing to investigate and prosecute the 8 or more instances of drones being shot down as the agency confirmed to me several months ago that shooting down drones was a felony.
Here was their response to the first two questions:
The Federal Aviation Administration carefully considers requests from law enforcement and other entities before establishing Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) in U.S. airspace. The TFR currently over the pipeline protest was approved to ensure the safety of aircraft in support of law enforcement and the safety of people on the ground.
The TFR includes provisions for media to operate aircraft – both traditional and unmanned – inside the TFR, provided that operators comply with the language of the Notice to Airmen. In the case of unmanned aircraft, operators must also comply with the requirements of Part 107 and coordinate beforehand with the FAA. We’ve had no requests from media who meet those requirements.
The first answer doesn't really address the question. The FAA is saying "We were told it was unsafe by law enforcement and other entities, we believed them."
Law enforcement has learned from the Ferguson flight restrictions to not say their intentions out loud. Now when they want to block the media drones they say it's about safety, not limiting access, "We are worried all those drones will fall out of the sky and hurt the people on the ground. Drones might fly up and hit the law enforcement aircraft that are in the restricted zone."
The second answer is very important. It's saying the media CAN operate in the restricted flight zone, but they have to show they have certified training (Part 107) and they have to coordinate with the FAA.
What is Part 107? It's a long list of requirements a remote operator must have. It's fairly new (August 29, 2016) and it was put into place partly because of jackholes who were flying their drones around during emergencies getting in the way of fire fighters.
I don't know how hard it is to get this certificate or if any of the media in place have them. But because the FAA says that no one has asked yet, that means ALL DRONES flying during the TFR are flying illegally.
If someone is not certified, but they operate anyway, they would be subject to "all applicable federal criminal and civil penalties." BTW, it's $1,100 for each incident.
Here's the deal, law enforcement can't arrest people for taking a photo, but they can arrest them for taking the photo from a drone in the TFR.
Law enforcement now has a new federal law to use to arrest people who break it.
Here is the FAA's answer to drones being shot down:
Although the FAA is aware of anecdotal reports of drones being shot down, the agency has received only one official report. On Oct. 23, a drone was shot down with bean bags after allegedly being flown in a threatening manner near a law enforcement helicopter. That incident is still under investigation.
The agency also is investigating several incidents in which protestors have allegedly flown their drones in violation of the provisions of the TFR.
This is the ol' "It was coming right at me!" trick used to justify shootings. Now, because there are no certified remote media drone operators, all drones seen are violating the FAA flight restrictions. This language will also be used to justify police shooting down drones.
I've included a video above of one of the drones being shot at. This happened in October, before the TFR, but after the August 2016 rules were passed. I don't know the background of the operator they might have a certificate. In which case they should file a complaint with the FAA about the police shooting at the drone.
The FAA mentions they have only seen one official report. Who filed it?
When the FAA says, "official reports" that usually means from law enforcement, and we know who usually wins in these cases. The good news is that at least in the case of the drone video, there is proof of the incident.
Passing laws that limit the media or just a media tool?
If we step back from this FAA announcement, I can see ways around it using a different tool, "Want a shot from a height? Put a GoPro on a helium balloon. It's not an aircraft. Don't have any helium? Attach a camera to a kite. No wind? Get a really long selfie stick." But that's my inner MacGyver talking
This is an important issue because of its use of the government, the FAA, to restrict the media's use of a new tool. They are doing it using an accepted method to make it stick--safety.
When officials lie about what is "safe" when using drones in order to restrict the media, they need to be called on it. We know from the Ferguson transcript officials asked for the TFR just to block the media, they didn't care about safety.
The other issue to bring up is the use of a certification and permission. One of the ways that the media is contained by government is the issue of credentials, or "press passes." Making sure the media has drone certification allows the government to keep an eye on them. It's not embedding, but it does allows the government some control over those given special access.
With all this talk about drones and regulations I don't want to miss the point of WHY it is so important for people to see what is happening. If the media can't do it, then we need to. The idea is that when people see what is happening they will be outraged and demand it stop.
While reading about the Birmingham campaign I was curious about who issued the orders to turn the hoses on children and bystanders. I was also wondered who had the authority to tell them to stop.
Obama is still the President. He has the video of what is happening. He has the authority to tell the locals to stop turning high-pressure water hoses on people. Why hasn't he?
No, No think of it, you know, it's Russia after all. Somebody said "are you at all offended that he said nice thins about you?" I said, "No, No." And they said "Oh Trump should have been much nastier. That's terrible." And then they said, "You know he's killed reporters," and I don't like that. I'm totally against that.
By the way I hate some of these people, but I would never kill them. I hate them. No I think these people, honestly. I'll be honest. I would never kill them. I would never do that.
Ah let's see...
Nah. I would never kill them. But I do hate them. Some of them are such lying, disgusting people. It's true, it's true.
I would never kill then and anybody that does I think would be despicable. But you know nobody nobody said, they say he killed reporters. I said, "really?" He says he didn't. Other people say he didn't. Who did he kill. Well, we don't know but we hear that. I said, "Tell me, who did he kill?"
Following Trump’s first on-the-record meeting with journalists after the election, The New York Times editorial board was most struck by “how thinly thought through many of the president-elect’s stances actually are.” Times columnist Thomas Friedman suggested that this lack of expertise creates an opportunity for good people with knowledge to influence Trump: “They need to dive in now and try to pull him toward the center.” Fellow columnist Frank Bruni went so far as to suggest a radical sort of cooperation based on Trump’s apparently bottomless need for adoration: “Is our best hope for the best Trump to be so fantastically adulatory when he’s reasonable that he’s motivated to stay on that course, lest the adulation wane?”
Friedman I wrote off years ago but I honestly cannot believe that anyone could write what Frank Bruni did. He is actually suggesting that maybe if we just constantly debase ourselves, that if we praise Donald Trump effusively and continuously, then we just might have a chance. Call it the Fellatio Principle of strategic influence.
Gessen knows better:
We cannot know what political strategy, if any, can be effective in containing, rather than abetting, the threat that a Trump administration now poses to some of our most fundamental democratic principles. But we can know what is right [emphasis added]. What separates Americans in 2016 from Europeans in the 1940s and 1950s is a little bit of historical time but a whole lot of historical knowledge. We know what my great-grandfather did not know: that the people who wanted to keep the people fed ended up compiling lists of their neighbors to be killed. That they had a rationale for doing so. And also, that one of the greatest thinkers of their age judged their actions as harshly as they could be judged.
Armed with that knowledge, or burdened with that legacy, we have a slight chance of making better choices. As Trump torpedoes into the presidency, we need to shift from realist to moral reasoning. That would mean, at minimum, thinking about the right thing to do, now and in the imaginable future. It is also a good idea to have a trusted friend capable of reminding you when you are about to lose your sense of right and wrong.
In short, you can try to appease an authoritarian, and it might work (but it might not). Or you can act morally, and that might not work (but it might). Gessen is saying that there is no way of knowing what will be more effective, but that it is quite clear which is the more moral choice. Go with that.
No, not Ivanka. And yes, Trump does have three sons of his own. But it's his son-in-law who's the fair-haired boy:
Before Kushner joined Trump’s family, he learned the role of loyalty from his own.
Kushner’s father, Charles, is the son of Holocaust survivors and the architect of a real estate empire in New Jersey. He donated generously to schools, charities and Democratic politicians, but his finances caught the attention of federal authorities, led by the then-U.S. Atty. Chris Christie, who investigated him for tax evasion and improper campaign contributions.
The investigation took an ugly turn as the elder Kushner’s brother and sister cooperated with authorities, and he sought revenge in a sordid sting operation. He hired a prostitute to seduce his sister’s husband, videotaped the sexual encounter in a motel room, and mailed the recording to his sister.
The scheme backfired, becoming one more piece of the federal case against him. He eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison.
The case tore apart the family but did not shake Jared Kushner’s devotion to his father.
“I felt what happened was obviously unjust in terms of the way [prosecutors] pursued him,” he told the Real Deal, a real estate website, in 2014.
You'll notice that Chris Christie is no longer part of the transition and nobody's mentioned him for anything recently. It seems Kushner shares his father in law's thirst for revenge. (This profile in Esquire shows just how "populist" Trump and his entourage really are... Let's just say that Kushner's circle is a who's who of plutocrats.)
In any case, my point in bringing him up is to say that it's not going to be enough for Trump to pretend to "divest" or put his family's holdings in a phony blind trust. Kushner's conflicts are almost as disqualifying. And he's married to Ivanka, Trump's choice to run his own company.
This mess is just so complex. There is no fixing it. It was something the Republicans should have brought up way back in the beginning and pushed to keep him from running unless he liquidated. (The Democrats couldn't do it because it would have been "partisan" he said/ she said.) And the press should have pushed harder on this than the alleged Clinton conflicts which were completely transparent and open for audit. But they didn't.
Needless to say this is a lie and the fact that a president-elect would say such a thing is shocking. Setting aside the bizarre nature of his assertion and the fact that his spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway issued a thinly veiled threat on CNN that Clinton had better be careful about contesting the vote if she wants to avoid prosecution, it’s important to note that Trump’s erroneous “information” has been percolating in right-wing circles ever since the election.
This is just the latest story over the past couple of weeks involving the issue of “fake news” and its effect on this last election. It has been revealed that Facebook, one of the most important news purveyors in the world with 44 percent of Americans saying they get news from the site, was responsible for a vast number of false stories being pumped out to millions of people, most of them helpful to Trump.
Earlier this year Facebook had been hit with accusations of suppressing conservative stories, so the company eliminated human news curators and replaced them with a new algorithm that, well, ended up providing more conservative stories. Most of them were fake, many of them focused on lurid pseudo-scandals about Hillary Clinton.
On Reddit, a Clinton fake scandal called #Pizzagatecontinues to rage. It is entirely false, yet the site’s Trump-supporting users are up in arms over Reddit’s decision to ban the board that had fueled the conspiracy theory, involving accusations that Clinton had been running a pedophile ring out of the back of a pizza parlor. Reddit would not have banned it if its users hadn’t been publishing the private information of innocent people and accusing them of pedophilia.
The Intercept published a fascinating account of fake news being created by Floyd Brown (a famous associate of Trump intimates Kellyanne Conway and David Bossie and the founder of the right-wing “oppo” group Citizens United, which drove Whitewater coverage in the 1990s). It’s not surprising that the man who created the Willie Horton ad would be involved in an enterprise like this. The article also tracks fake news stories circulated by the site Lifezette of possible Trump administration hire Laura Ingraham and far right institutions like World Net Daily.
The upshot of all this is that regardless how this fake news is circulated, the right wing has a much greater appetite for it than the left. Donald Trump was the perfect candidate for a moment when lies are given huge circulation among people eager to hear them. He is an accomplished con artist, who knows how to tell people what they want to hear.
But let’s not pretend that this particular approach to politics was invented by Trump and some internet entrepreneurs in Macedonia. The Republican Party has been doing this on a smaller scale for nearly 50 years. In fact, it was perfected by minions of Donald Trump’s political inspiration, Richard Nixon, the originator of the phrase “silent majority” and “law-and-order president.” It started at the University of California during the late 1960s and it has a very evocative name: “ratfucking.” That phrase was coined by a man named Donald Segretti, who was hired to run an oppo operation for the Nixon campaign in 1972. (There’s a famous scene in “All the President’s Men” where Segretti’s character confesses what it was all about.)
Ratfucking is usually defined broadly as “dirty tricks” and it certainly is one. But it means something more specific. As Rick Perlstein wrote in Esquire last month, it’s a game in which false information is generated and circulated to the media and blamed on someone else. Perhaps the most famous example was the “Canuck letter,” whereby Segretti & Co. forged a letter to the editor of the Manchester Union Leader in New Hampshire, claiming that former senator Edmund Muskie, then the leading Democratic candidate for president, was bigoted against Americans of French-Canadian descent. Muskie was compelled to give a speech in the snow refuting the charge. Media outlets claimed the snow on his cheeks were tears and it effectively ended his campaign.
As it happens, a man who proudly wears a tattoo of Nixon on his back and who was among Nixon’s band of ratfuckers, was also involved in Trump’s campaign. That would be former campaign operative and full-time agitator Roger Stone. His involvement in the WikiLeaks hacks has been the subject of much speculation, and Stone has hinted broadly that he had a hand in that operation. It would be a break with the ratfucking tradition for him to admit it outright.
As for the fake news, we may never know if the popularity of fake news from overseas and nonpartisan actors was driven by a desire to see Trump elected president or by the simple fact that Trump’s supporters will believe anything. But an article by The Washington Post’s Philip Bump tracks Trump’s “millions of illegal votes” lie to its homegrown origins in the right-wing fever swamps, where it’s been circulated everywhere by way of Matt Drudge as well as Alex Jones, Roger Stone’s good friend and ally. And the president-elect is now directly helping circulate it via his Twitter feed to millions. Even Nixon didn’t get his hands dirty with tricks like these.
“I voted for Trump — so there,” the woman shouted. “You want to kick me out for that? And look who won.”
The angry shopper claimed she had been discriminated against because she was white and had voted for Trump in the lengthy rant recorded Wednesday at Michael’s in the city’s Lakeview neighborhood.
The woman, who has not been identified, noticed other customers had pulled out their phones to record her harangue, which witnesses said went on for more than a half hour, and she angrily confronted the woman whose video went viral.
“I don’t know what you think you’re videoing, lady,” the woman says. “I was just discriminated against by two black women, and you being a white woman, you’re literally thinking that that’s okay? You standing there with your baby thinking that’s okay.”
The angry shopper accuses the other woman’s 2-year-old child of stealing and then records video of the mother and child before turning her wrath back on the store’s employees.
“You’re a liar, I don’t care, because I’m a consumer,” she shouts at an employee. “I’m a customer.”
She calls the African America store employee an animal.
“There hasn’t been a government on our side for 150 years,” Sam Dickson, an attorney who has represented the Ku Klux Klan, said in a 2011 speech to Spencer’s NPI. “The US government — the system in America — is the greatest enemy our race has for its survival.”
Undoing this means going further than shifting immigration policy, even dramatically. It means shifting the lens through which Americans see politics — ushering in a new, racially polarized discourse in which openly racist arguments once again become acceptable to make.
Trump, with his incendiary rhetoric about virtually every minority group — like calling Mexicans “rapists” and describing black communities as dystopian hellscapes — has helped push discourse in what alt-rightists see as the right direction. Because Trump has gotten away with saying offensive stuff, and seized the highest office in the land while doing it, they think they’ve made progress.
“What are we fighting for is a ‘new normal,’ a moral consensus we insist upon,” Spencer said in his recent NPI address (the “Hail Trump!” one). “Donald Trump is a step towards this new normal.”
Richard Painter, Chief Ethics Counsel for George W. Bush, and Norman Eisen, Chief Ethics Counsel for Barack Obama, believe that if Trump continues to retain ownership over his sprawling business interests by the time the electors meet on December 19, they should reject Trump.
In an email to ThinkProgress, Eisen explained that “the founders did not want any foreign payments to the president. Period.” This principle is enshrined in Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution, which bars office holders from accepting “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”
But don't you know who he is? He's Trump, dammit.
Violation of the emoluments clause was considered grounds for impeachment by founders debating the proposed constitution. Eisen continues:
Eisen said that Trump’s businesses, foreign and domestic, “are receiving a stream of such payments.” A prime example is Trump’s new hotel in Washington DC which, according to Eisen, is “actively seeking emoluments to Trump: payments from foreign governments for use of the hotel.”
“The notion that his (through his agents) solicitation of those payments, and the foreign governments making of those payments, is unrelated to his office is laughable,” Eisen added.
Not even inaugurated yet and Trump's already on the cusp of a constitutional crisis. Not that he'd know one if it bit him in the assets. Which is right where it should, actually.
He could, of course, sell off his companies to avoid violating the Constitution and/or impeachment. Or else get “Republicans in Congress [to] admit that they endorse Trump’s exploitation of public office for private gain and authorize his emoluments as the Constitution allows.” The ThinkProgress report considers the latter "unlikely." Why, I can't imagine.
Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe believes Trump would be in violation upon uttering the oath of office. But the Electoral College could justifiably deny him that chance:
“[T]o vote for Trump in the absence of such complete divestment… would represent an abdication of the solemn duties of the 538 Electors,” Tribe said.
Don't hold your breath. People of integrity stopping Trump in the Electoral College? That's just as unlikely.
What does kleptocrat look like translated into Russian and written in Cyrillic script? Anyone know?
Politics and Reality Radio: Is the Emerging Democratic Majority Still a Thing?
by Joshua Holland
In 2002, during the last period of unified Republican control of our government, John Judis and Ruy Teixeira wrote The Emerging Democratic Majority, a seminal book on the demographic shifts underway in the United States, and how they may reshape American politics. The book influenced a lot of people's thinking about the future of both the progressive and conservative coalitions.
After the 2014 midterms, Judis underwent a change of heart, writing that we were seeing the emergence of a new Republican advantage. Key to his argument was that Democrats were losing too many white voters, even as the "Obama coalition" of younger voters, people of color and unmarried women had won two decisive victories in the previous presidential elections.
Even after the election of Donald Trump, who was carried over the top by a massive advantage among less-educated white voters, Teixeira remains confident that progressive values are going to be ascendant in the coming years, largely as a result of a changing electorate.
This week, we're joined by Ruy Teixeira and John Judis to talk about what the future may hold.
Eddie and the Hotrods: "The Kids Are Alright"
Ingrid Michaelson: "The Way I am"
La Casa: "Mi Barrio"
As always, you can also subscribe to the show on iTunes or Podbean.
BASH: OK. Let's move on to something that you are well aware of as Donald Trump's campaign manager.
At pretty much every rally president-elect Trump was hearing from the crowds, lock her up. And he said on Tuesday to the "New York Times" that he is not looking to prosecute Hillary Clinton when he comes into office.
He said he won't rule it out but he really isn't looking to hurt the Clintons. Given the fact that the base was so energized by the prospect of going after Hillary Clinton legally, is this something that you agree with? Should he be moving on from this?
CONWAY: Well the full comment that he made was he's not focused on it and he said at the "New York Times" and elsewhere, I'm focused on health care and immigration. And then he went on the list all the issues that he's been talking about, trade, et cetera.
And so he said he wouldn't rule it out. He said it's just not his focus right now. I think he's being quite magnanimous and at the same time he's not undercutting at all the authority and the autonomy of the Department of Justice, of the FBI, of the House Committees, who knows where the evidence may lead if, in fact, it were -- if the investigation were re-opened somewhere.
But this is the president-elect's position right now and I would say he has been incredibly gracious and magnanimous to Secretary Clinton at a time when for whatever reason her folks are saying they will join in a recount to try to somehow undo the 70 plus electoral votes that he beat her by. I mean this -- you know, I was asked on CNN and elsewhere, goodness a thousand times, will Donald Trump accept the election results? And now you've got the Democrats and Jill Stein saying they do not accept the election results. She congratulated him and conceded to him on election night. I was right there. And the idea that we are going to drag this out now where the president-elect has been incredibly magnanimous to the Clintons and to the Obamas is incredible.
She directly ties his "magnanimous, gracious" decision not to prosecute her with this recount.
Here's Trump earlier today:
In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally