A Fine Crop of Golf

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

I’m fried. I’m mentally and emotionally burnt right out, which is probably the aim of Agent Orange Chaos — to grind us all down until we roll over and allow this country to be a haven of corruption.

Imagine everything you need becoming even more transactional than it is now — systematically corrupt. Need a new cable TV line installed? Pay a bribe for access. Need to move to a different apartment? Pay a bribe to access a better list of buildings. Need a specialty item for your health, something that can’t be obtained through Amazon? Pay a bribe.

Sure, we’re used to paying fees for access in many different ways. But Americans are not used to the kind of petty and persistent corruption which is endemic in other parts of the world. Instead we pay taxes to support a legal system which is supposed to ensure fair dealing. Imagine paying these taxes and not having any expectation of justice AND paying bribes or extortion all along the way.

We’re so unused to and under-educated about the idea of corruption touching everything we do that I think we suffer from cognitive dissonance. It’s right there in front of us and yet we fail to recognize for what it is and for the slide in our ethical standards it represents.

One example niggling at me is Trump and his goddamned golf. You’ve probably read some of my posts about golf before in which I spell out the possibilities for corruption if one owned a golf course and how normative the golf life is to a class of people.

Our country is drowning right now, staring at multiple crop failures across a huge expanse of farm land, and our fearless leader is surely off golfing on our dime instead of looking into how to help farmers weather both the affects of the deepening climate emergency and the fallout from fearless leader’s hacktastic tariffs.

Corruption. Skimming money off us while farms and farm land drowns.

And too many farmers who will receive federal aid are not universally single family owned farms but mega corporate oligarchs — like the crooked Brazilian meat packing billionaires who will receive $62 million in aid for distribution to the farms supplying them meat.

But you know in your gut this won’t happen. And it’s corruption.

Journalists have covered the Brazilians raking in cash from our tax dollars, fortunately. They saw the problem and reported on it. But the public hasn’t mustered adequate outrage because this hasn’t yet hurt them in the wallet.

Wait until winter when holiday baking begins.

I don’t need to wait that long to feel it. I’m plenty pissed off because it’s another Saturday, another day at the golf course, and we’ve completely lost count of that orange mooch’s sponging. Which of his courses is he at, with our Secret Service personnel renting more golf carts to follow him around while he plays another round cheating both at the game and at life?

Ah, and there it is, he’s leeching us dry yet again with each crappy swing of his club:

As of the end of the day he’s been in office 876 days — which means he has spent 29.7% of his total time at one of his properties, 22.2% of his time in office play golf at one of his clubs.

Corruption. Just makes me want to puke.

We’re just supposed roll over and let them grab our taxpaying pussy while they tee off on our dime. They’ll argue our legitimately-elected representatives don’t have the right to oversight when he’s manipulating our tax system for his own personal gain to our collective detriment.

Like the New York park land he donated after he was refused permits to develop a couple million dollars of property into golf courses — Trump org declared them worth $26 million to write off the capital loss and reduce the taxes paid.

What really pisses me off is the story no reporter has yet covered as far as I can tell: if Trump’s Bedminster NJ golf course is classified as farm land for tax purposes so he can avoid paying tens of thousands of dollars in property taxes, is Trump org going to claim federal relief for this farm, too?

It’s right there under our noses. So corrupt and he and his oligarchic sponsors want this to become the norm.

Fuck that. If this guy was your direct employee you’d have fired his ass  already.

This is an open thread.

Trump’s Greenlight: Asking for Foreign Aid and Assistance via Prime Time TV

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

The balls on this guy. It’s no wonder Trump walks like he does, having to drag around abnormal fleshbags of unmitigated gall and corruption everywhere he goes.

By now most of our regular readers have seen Trump interviewed by ABC News’ George Stephanopolous. In case you haven’t:

This is still stunning for its in-your-face indifference to campaign finance law:

Asked by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in the Oval Office on Wednesday whether his campaign would accept such information from foreigners — such as China or Russia — or hand it over the FBI, Trump said, “I think maybe you do both.”

“I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Trump continued. “If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

“It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it,” Trump said. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘oh let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressman, they all do it, they always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.” …

There’s a lot packed into this exchange with Stephanopolous, the most obvious being Trump’s blow off of Title 52 USC 30121 which prohibits candidates and campaigns from receiving anything of value from a foreign national. Specifically:

52 U.S. Code § 30121 – Contributions and donations by foreign nationals

(a) Prohibition It shall be unlawful for—
· ·  (1) a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make—
· · · · (A) a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election;
· · · · (B) a contribution or donation to a committee of a political party; or
· · · · (C) an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication (within the meaning of section 30104(f)(3) of this title); or
· · · · (2) a person to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1) from a foreign national.

(b) “Foreign national” defined As used in this section, the term “foreign national” means—
· ·  (1) a foreign principal, as such term is defined by section 611(b) of title 22, except that the term “foreign national” shall not include any individual who is a citizen of the United States; or
· ·  (2) an individual who is not a citizen of the United States or a national of the United States (as defined in section 1101(a)(22) of title 8) and who is not lawfully admitted for permanent residence, as defined by section 1101(a)(20) of title 8.

Emphasis mine.

“Directly or indirectly” may include the kinds of contributions the National Rifle Association made to candidates’ campaigns with Russian money, especially after guidance from Maria Butina and/or her boss Aleksandr Torshin, and/or her American handler, Paul Erickson.

“Other thing of value” may include polling data or stolen emails or manipulation of the media since any of these items might otherwise require a candidate’s campaign to buy these items. We don’t yet know exactly what Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik exchanged on August 2 — including 75 pages of “gibberish” polling data and likely high-level analysis and specific post-meeting performance — 2016 but if it was important enough to warrant sustained prevarication, it was something valuable.

Trump can no longer claim stupidity and ignorance after the Special Counsel’s Office investigation into Trump-Russia. His blow-off reveals a deliberate mindset, an intent to violate the law if the opportunity presents itself.

Even merely listening to an offer of aid or assistance directly or indirectly from a foreign national is problematic because the offer itself may be valuable.

“There isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Trump said, which is what his son, son-in-law, and campaign manager did in June 2016 during the Trump Tower meeting. Their presence merely to listen was a greenlight advising foreign nationals that Trump’s campaign was willing and approved help from outside the U.S. to influence the U.S. elections.

And that’s what Trump did during his interview with Stephanopolous: he greenlighted more foreign aid and assistance to help his campaign.

He did it from behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. He never once slowed Stephanopolous to tell him “I can’t talk about campaign efforts while being interviewed as president in the office of the presidency.”

Was he soliciting for his campaign while on camera? For all the hullabaloo today about Kelly Anne Conway’s egregious and repeated Hatch Act violations, Trump’s likely violation campaigning while on our dime got lost.[1]

Not only did he express a willingness to violate campaign finance law and allow himself to be influenced in the process, not only did he commit a Hatch Act violation, fail to separate his work as president from work for his personal re-election campaign,[1]  but he pissed on Republican candidates known and as-yet unknown who may choose to primary him.

He didn’t differentiate for which opposition he was open to receiving an opposition research pitch from foreign entities. He did not say he was interested in hearing solely about Democratic candidates.

Nor did he entertain listening solely for his presidential race. Opponents aren’t just those running against you in a campaign. One could argue that Trump has the entire U.S. intelligence apparatus at his disposal but he can’t be sure they would provide campaign data or offer to perform dirty tricks on behalf of the POTUS. A foreign entity, especially a hostile one? Sure.

Which is exactly what the Russian Internet Research Agency did in 2016 targeting Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz during the Republican primary.

In spite of the 2016 attacks and Trump’s express willingness to entertain foreign assistance, the Republicans have just plain rolled over for Trump. You think the House Democratic leadership is feckless? Bah. Republicans are utter dupes.

Trump telegraphs the defense he’ll use — and the attack he attends to take — when he calls the material he’s soliciting “oppo research.” The aid Trump’s campaign received in 2016 wasn’t opposition research on Hillary Clinton; it was stolen emails leaked to generate negative sentiment about Clinton. It was micro-targeted negative messaging aimed at vulnerable populations to persuade leaners and suppress tentative voters, and a bunch of unauthorized but welcomed advertisements. It was likely more in the form of attempts on voting infrastructure, whether merely to collect data or to manipulate the system.

When Trump called it “oppo research,” he was establishing what he believed was a parallel — what the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) acquired through its law firm, Perkins Coie, which in turn purchased opposition research from Fusion GPS. Fusion GPS obtained the services of former MI6 officer Christopher Steele to continue a dossier originally started on behalf of Washington Free Beacon in late 2015. Trump and other campaign minions like Carter Page have frequently claimed the opposition research dossier was “dodgy” and illegitimate, and yet Trump feels entitled to opposition research without restrictions, as if Clinton and the DNC had not followed campaign finance laws.

Whatever the quality of its contents, the Steele dossier was a campaign expenditure, a compilation of information ultimately paid for by the campaign and the DNC — wholly legal — and the material was contracted by an American entity from another American entity.

What Trump’s campaign received in 2016 — goods and services were given to the campaign directly and indirectly by foreign entities like the Internet Research Agency — were NOT legal.

Trump will do whatever he can to muddy the distinction between wholly legal campaign expenses and contributions or things of value received from foreign nationals in order to protect his chances at re-election and lay the ground work to attack his last campaign opponent.

There’s one more disturbing nit about Trump’s solicitation. What Trump has done in his greenlighting on camera is solicit foreign assistance. This does not rule out solicitation of foreign direction.

At what point is the Department of Justice’s National Security Division engaged when the president greenlights or solicits foreign assistance and direction?

Should the presidential campaign be under counterintelligence investigation right now and forward?

Not that there aren’t already ample reasons for the Trump 2020 campaign to be scrutinized given the number of Chinese nationals hanging out at Mar-a-Lago, with at least one allegedly bundling donations for Trump’s re-election.

Might make one wonder if Trump’s greenlight on ABC is after the fact — and not after the fact about the 2016 election.

______

[1] Edited to reflect the Hatch Act does not apply to the president — however, this is problematic as Trump has shown repeatedly, including in this interview. At what point is he talking about accepting ‘foreign assistance and direction’ from foreign nationals or other nation-states for the purposes of his personal re-election campaign and accepting the same for U.S. interests? His personal interests are not one-for-one the same as the nation’s interests, unless of course he’d like to deed over all his businesses.

I’d also like to point out the phrase ‘foreign assistance and direction’ is the distinction the DOJ uses to differentiate non-domestic from domestic terrorism. That the president was entertaining the idea of using ‘foreign assistance and direction’ to aid his campaign whether spelled out in those specific terms or not surely worries U.S. intelligence community members who recognize the inherent risks.

The Hatch Act should be revisited with Trump and the office of the presidency in mind not only because of his greenlighting foreign pitches of assistance to his campaign. Throughout the last two years Trump has spoken at rallies which have occurred in tandem with special and mid-term elections in order to sway locals to vote for the GOP candidate. His arrival and support at each of these venues comes at the expense of public funds — local, state, federal  — and not the GOP or Trump’s campaign committee. He has also stiffed at least ten cities for additional expenses related to his attendance at rallies, a form of additional tax the citizens didn’t approve in advance. But they’re forced to produce additional security because he’s the president even though he’s there to campaign.

The job of the presidency must be separated from campaigning, and no campaigning should happen without the campaign absorbing the expense. Add this to the Hatch Act: the president should NOT be immune.

Thread: House Judiciary Committee Hearing with John Dean

Here’s a post dedicated to the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing today at 2:00 p.m. EDT. I will add content as we go along.

Former White House counsel John Dean will testify today. You’ll recall he served under Richard M. Nixon’s administration. The right-wing media sphere has already been making noise about the HJC taking testimony from a convicted felon.

Except he’s *their* convict, a Republican who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for his role in covering up Nixon’s Watergate scandal. I’m sure he’ll have plenty to say about criminality in the White House and subsequent cover-ups.

More here later — bring related chatter here.

UPDATE — 2:30 p.m. —

Via CNN: Justice Department strikes deal with House Democrats over Mueller report evidence, Nadler says

Yeesh. This is like Watergate all over again. Back then Nixon had agreed to accommodate the HJC with access to some of the Oval Office tapes, but the person who would screen them was Senator Stennis who had a hearing disability. We won’t know if Barr truly fulfills the spirit of this agreement with Nadler or pulls a Nixonian Stennis compromise. The HJC took Nixon to court.

Minority Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-GA) attacked Dean as expected and attacked the hearing saying the committee’s priorities are upside down. If the country had been attacked as Nadler said then committee should be focused on that.

Which we all know is bullshit since the House has already passed legislation  — the very first bill of the 116th Congress, H.R. 1 For The People Act 2019 — intended to secure elections from attack by foreign influence which paid legislators to skew districts via gerrymandering, manipulated races by way of dark money donations to legislators, and hid additional financial influence through undisclosed financial statements including tax returns.  That bill is sitting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk, buried under ~150 other bills he’s bottlenecked. If Collins has a problem with priorities he should have a chat with McConnell and ask why McConnell is uninterested in protecting this country’s elections.

UPDATE — 2:35 p.m. —

Following John Dean’s opening statement, former U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance is up. Nice to see a familiar face which will be helpful in news coverage. She’s definitely read the Special Counsel report, and she’s able to explain what she’s seen in it as a former prosecutor which would spur her to indict.

UPDATE — 2:40 p.m. —

Heritage Foundation’s John G. Malcolm, vice president of the Institute for Constitutional Government. “Less enthusiastic” about Mueller because he didn’t make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” for Barr, blah-blah. Followed by apologia for Trump who must surely be innocent because he was so cooperative providing “over a million pages of documents, allowed key members of his staff to be interviewed, and submitted written answers to questions.” Sure, sure, right.

You know this is what Collins will tee off, the beat down on Mueller’s job performance while disregarding SCO report Volume II, pages 1-2 in which Mueller explains why he can’t make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment.”

UPDATE — 2:45 p.m. —

Another familiar face, former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, has also read the SCO report. She’s explaining the obstruction of justice charges she read in the report.

I’m sure the GOP will come out swinging but it’s really tough to get around this wham-wham-wham beat down ticking off the obstruction.

____

I’ll add the panelists’ statements here after the hearing. ~Rayne

History’s Rhyme, Part 4: Contempt Then, Contempt Now

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

I’ve previously looked at example Articles of Impeachment against Trump in this series of posts:

History’s Rhyme: Nixon’s Articles of Impeachment — focus on Obstruction of Justice

History’s Rhyme, Part 2a: ‘Abuse of Power’ Sounds So Familiar — Abuse of Power (may include Public Corruption)

History’s Rhyme, Part 3: How Nixon’s Impeachment Unfolded — Watergate and Nixon’s near-impeachment timeline

I still plan to return to do Part 2b to address more abuses of power in the near future. He’s racking them up faster than I can record and draft the rest of Article 2.

I’m still working on Article 4 and more related to violations of treaties and foreign policy failures, as well as human rights violations.

Let me note at this point the curious coincidence that The New York Times’ editor has published an article today with spiffy graphics comparing Nixon and Clinton Articles of Impeachment to articles Trump might face. What a topic; what amazing timing, six weeks after I began this series…

~ ~ ~

As noted before, the 93rd Congress’ House Judiciary Committee drafted five Articles of Impeachment against Richard M. Nixon in 1974. Only three of the five were passed by the committee; the first two were related to Obstruction of Justice and Abuses of Power. The misuse of government resources to spy on individuals and political opponents combined with Nixon’s efforts to thwart subsequent investigations into these abuses were impeachable on their own.

Nixon, however, doubled down and tried to withhold materials responsive to the Senate Watergate Committee’s, the special prosecutor’s, or the House investigation into the abuses of power which were revealed by the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate break-in.

How very familiar this feels, given how utterly uncooperative Trump and his administration have been in response to House Committee requests and subpoenas.

In July 1973 the Senate Watergate Committee and special prosecutor Archibald Cox both requested tapes recorded in the Oval Office; Nixon refused to comply.

On October 19, Nixon instead offered a compromise: Senator John C. Stennis would listen to the tapes for the special prosecutor’s office. Stennis had a hearing disability making this compromise untenable; Cox refused the offer.

Nixon ordered the Attorney General Eliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. They chose to resign instead. Next at bat was the Solicitor General Robert Bork who fired Cox on October 20, 1973. The resignations and Cox’s firing became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre.”

Cox’s successor Leon Jaworski subpoenaed the tapes on April 16, 1974. The White House offered only partial compliance by offering edited transcripts of the tapes on April 30.

Jaworski and the House Judiciary Committee insisted unedited actual tapes must be released in full; a deadline of May 31 was set for compliance.

Nixon’s special counsel James D. St. Clair went before Judge John Sirica of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to quash the subpoena. Nixon’s motion was denied. Sirica ordered Nixon to turn over the tapes by May 31, 1974.

Special prosecutor Jaworski and Nixon appealed directly to the Supreme Court in United States v. Nixon. The court began to hear arguments on July 8.

The court delivered a unanimous decision on July 24, affirming the D.C. District Court’s order that subpoenaed materials be transmitted to that court.

Three days after the legal battle over the tapes ends, the House Judiciary Committee drafted and began to pass three of five Articles of Impeachment.

Sixteen days after the United States v. Nixon decision, Nixon resigned rather than face a trial before the Senate.

~ ~ ~

The third Article of Impeachment against Nixon was the simplest of the three the House Judiciary Committee passed. In essence it said Nixon had

…  failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives on April 11, 1974, May 15, 1974, May 30, 1974, and June 24, 1974, and willfully disobeyed such subpoenas. …

This itemization was sandwiched an opening and a closing statement in total, Article 3 was a whopping 281 words long. Short and sweet, it only addressed contempt of Congress and not Nixon’s failure to comply with the special prosecutor’s requests or the Senate Watergate Committee’s requests.

Now compare that to a theoretical Article 3 against Trump:

Article 3 – Contempt of Congress

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, contrary to his oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce testimony, papers and things as directed by duly authorized requests and subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives.

On the matter of Security Clearance:

The House Oversight Committee, while investigating the White House and Transition Team disregard for established procedures for safeguarding classified information, requested voluntary testimony from U.S. Defense Department’s Carl Kline on four occasions – January 23, 2019, February 11, 2019, March 1, 2019, and March 18, 2019. Mr. Kline failed to respond to these requests, and the White House refused to make him available. After testimony from whistleblower Tricia Newbold on April 1, 2019, the Committee received last-minute letters from Mr. Kline’s lawyer and the White House saying he would voluntarily comply. However, they made clear that he would not answer questions about specific officials, specific security violations, or specific security clearance adjudications, but instead would speak only about general policies and procedures.

On the matter of 2020 Census:

During the House Oversight Committee’s investigation into the Trump Administration’s secret efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, Secretary Ross and other Department of Commerce (DOC) officials asserted multiple times before House Oversight Committee (May 8, 2018), House Committee on Appropriations (March 20, 2018), the House Committee on Ways and Means (March 22, 2018), the Senate Committee on Appropriations (May 10, 2018) that the decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census arose from a request from the Department of Justice in December 2017. Internal documents dated March 10, 2017; April 5, 2017; May 2, 2017; July 21, 2017; August 9, 2017; and September 16, 2017 made public show that Secretary Ross took steps to add the citizenship question to the 2020 Census months before the DOJ’s request. The House Oversight Committee identified priority documents, extended deadlines, and offered to review certain documents in camera. The White House continued to avoid compliance with requests for information necessary to determine the real reason Secretary Ross added the citizenship question, obliging the Committee to subpoena Secretary Ross for testimony and documents.

On the matter of Potential Foreign influence on the U.S. Political Process:

As part of their oversight authority and their subsequent investigation into allegations that Russia and other foreign entities influenced the U.S. political process during and since the 2016 U.S. election, both House Committees on Intelligence and on Ways and Means have sought Donald J. Trump’s financial records to determine whether U.S. financial system was used for illicit purposes including unlawful influence through foreign banks operating in the U.S. with longtime relationships with Trump and past ties to Russian money laundering. Subpoenas were served on Deutsche Bank and Capital One for records related to their business transactions with the Trump family and Trump Organization. On April 30, 2019, the Trump family and Trump Organization filed a lawsuit against these financial institutions to prevent them from complying with the Congressional subpoena, thereby obstructing the Committees’ investigation. The D.C. District Court ruled on May 22, 2019 against the Trump family and Trump Organization but they have since filed an appeal.

On the matter of the Special Counsel’s Investigation:

The House Judiciary Committee, while investigating the Trump administration for possible obstruction of the Special Counsel’s investigation into foreign interference with the 2016 election, has subpoenaed former White House counsel Don McGahn to appear before the committee to discuss Donald J. Trump’s attempt to remove Special Counsel Rober Mueller and possible subornation of perjury. Special Counsel had previously interviewed Mr. McGahn while Mr. McGahn was still employed as White House counsel. Mr. McGahn no longer works for the White House and was subpoenaed after his employment ended. Donald J. Trump has since said he does not want his aides to testify before Congress. He also said, “We’re fighting all the subpoenas.” Attempts to obstruct justice and suborn perjury are not reasons for compelling confidentiality.

— TO BE CONTINUED — ]

Donald J. Trump has willfully disobeyed, or directed, or authorized disobedience by executive branch officials of such requests and subpoenas. The requested and subpoenaed testimony, papers, and things were deemed necessary by the Committee in order to resolve by direct evidence fundamental, factual questions relating to Presidential acts, direction, knowledge or approval of actions demonstrated by other evidence to be substantial grounds for impeachment of the President.

In refusing to produce these testimony, papers, and things Donald J. Trump, substituting his judgment as to what materials were necessary for the inquiry, interposed the Article II powers of the Presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, thereby assuming to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the sole power of impeachment vested by Article I of the Constitution in the House of Representatives.

In all of this, Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore, Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Take careful note: this theoretical article of impeachment is not complete, both because I haven’t fully documented every occasion when Trump and his administration have failed to comply with Congress’s requests and subpoenas, and because noncompliance is ongoing. The itemization of acts of contempt of Congress could be at least twice as long.

What else should be added which would qualify as contempt of Congress by the Trump administration?

~ ~ ~

Now here’s where it gets sticky, before I even look at another theoretical Article of Impeachment as I intend to do. We are at the point right now in the timeline that the Senate Watergate Committee, Special Prosecutors Cox and Jaworski, and the House Judiciary Committee were at in between October 1973 and May 1974, before the House began an impeachment inquiry. Trump and his administration have already ignored or rejected requests for testimony, papers, and things issued by both the Special Counsel’s Office and by Congress.

What Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not do was fight all the way to the Supreme Court to revisit United States v. Nixon.

At this point I want to make very clear what follows is my personal speculation, along with a reminder that I am not a lawyer.

I believe Mueller did not want to take the demand for Trump’s testimony and other papers and things all the way to the Supreme Court because the court’s current composition and its decisions have not instilled confidence in its ability to recognize the United States v. Nixon decision as settled, let alone trust the court will recognize Congress’s Article I powers of oversight and its co-equal status.

I believe Mueller recognized that Trump has no respect for the law or norms; it would be a horrible sacrifice to disturb the court’s decision in United States v. Nixon only to have Trump refuse to recognize the authority of any decision the court made against him.

I believe Mueller may have made an impeachment referral for exactly this reason — the solution isn’t to take this matter to the Supreme Court which is what Trump wants, before a bench which was skewed in 2016 by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to allow former President Obama his nominated choice, Merrick Garland.

The solution is for the House to impeach Trump based on his ample failings to date as president.

Further, I believe it is up to the public to demand the Senate do its duty to try, convict, and remove Trump from office before he does any more damage to the nation including undermining Congress’s Article I powers. As long as Trump remains in office he poses a threat to the Constitutionally-described three co-equal branches of government which have served this nation since ratification of the Constitution 230 years ago.

Some will say that we can remove Trump ourselves as voters at the polls in 2020. Should we really wait that long when we have already made a choice at the polls to elect representatives who are enabled by the Constitution to rectify gross failings of civil officers who have committed High Crimes and Misdemeanors?

~ ~ ~

A republic, if you can keep it,” Ben Franklin explained when asked what form our government would take upon leaving the Constitution Convention.

What will you do to keep it? I’m looking at you, all 538 members of Congress elected to represent us, who swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.

I’m looking at you, the people referred to in the Constitution’s Preamble; will you call your representative and two senators and insist on impeachment and removal?

History’s Rhyme, Part 3: How Nixon’s Impeachment Unfolded [UPDATE-2]

[NB: Check the byline, thanks!  UPDATES at bottom of post. /~Rayne]

I’ve previously looked at example Articles of Impeachment against Trump in these posts:

History’s Rhyme: Nixon’s Articles of Impeachment — focus on obstruction of justice

History’s Rhyme, Part 2: ‘Abuse of Power’ Sounds So Familiar

I’ll return to do Part 2a to address more abuses of power in the near future. I’m still working on Articles 3 and more related to violations of treaties and foreign policy failures, as well as human rights violations.

This post is one that I didn’t foresee needing. Where the previous posts in this series have direct parallels to the Articles of Impeachment against former president Richard Nixon, this post is about the sequence of events leading to Nixon’s eventual resignation in 1974.

What follows is an abbreviated timeline including what I think were the biggest benchmarks between the beginning of Nixon’s first term in office and his resignation. If I miss something you believe was instrumental in his exit, let me know in comments.

I wanted to look from a 50,000 foot level at the amount of time it took for Nixon to leave office from the beginning of investigations into the Watergate break-in, and particular actions on the part of investigators and Congress as well as Nixon and some of the co-conspirators. I’ll offer observations after the timeline.

Keep in mind as you read this that impeachment and removal are spelled out in the Constitution:

Article I, Section 2, subsection 5: 

The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Article I, Section 3, subsection 6: 

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Article I, Section 3, subsection 7:

Judgment in Cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Article I, Section 4:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Article III, Section 2, subsection 3: 

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.

~ ~ ~

Timeline of Richard M. Nixon’s terms in office including impeachment effort

20-JAN-1969 — Nixon inaugurated and installed in office.

18-MAR-1969 — Unauthorized by Congress, secret bombing of Cambodia under ‘Operation Menu‘ begins.

09-MAY-1969 — NYT revealed secret bombing based on information leaked by an administration source. Nixon demanded the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) find the source of the leak; then National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger‘s NSC aide Morton Halperin was illegally wiretapped for 21 months.

XX-OCT-1969Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo photocopy what would become known as the ‘Pentagon Papers‘ — compiled study of the Vietnam War commissioned in 1967 by then Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.

~ ~ ~

26-MAY-1970 — Secret bombing of Cambodia under Operation Menu ended.

~ ~ ~

XX-FEB-1971 — Ellberg discussed the Pentagon Papers with NYT reporter Neil Sheehan, turning over some of the materials to Sheehan.

XX-FEB-1971 — Illegal wiretap of NSC aide Halperin ended.

13-JUN-1971 — NYT began publishing portions of the Pentagon Papers

20-JUN-1971 — Senator Mike Gravel entered thousands of pages of the Pentagon Papers into Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds’ record to assure public debate.

~ ~ ~

17-JUN-1972 — Five “plumbers” were caught breaking into Democratic Party headquarters in Watergate; these burglars include a GOP security aide.

20-JUN-1972 — Based on a tip from anonymous source referred to as ‘Deep Throat,’ Washington Post reported that one of the burglars had Howard Hunt’s name in an address book as well as checks signed by Hunt in their possession. Deep Throat also said Hunt was affiliated with Charles Colson, Nixon’s Special Counsel.

20-JUN-1972 — Recordings made in the Oval Office this day eventually contain erasures including an 18-1/2 minute gap. Some of the material recorded included a conversation between Nixon and White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman.

23-JUN-1972 — Nearly a week after the burglary at DNC offices, Nixon and Haldeman were recorded discussing how to stop the investigation into the break-in. Nixon agreed upon Haldeman’s suggestion that Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Richard Helms and Deputy Director Vernon A. Walters should contact FBI’s Acting Director L. Patrick Gray and ask the FBI to stand down on the investigation, calling it a matter of “national security.” This conversation would become known as the “Smoking Gun” tape. [UPDATE-2]

01-AUG-1972 — Washington Post reported one of the Watergate burglars had a $25,000 cashier’s check in their bank account.

15-SEP-1972 — G. Gordon Liddy, Howard Hunt, and the five Watergate burglars — the first Watergate Seven — were indicted by a federal grand jury.

29-SEP-1972 — Washington Post reported that former Attorney General John Mitchell used a secret GOP slush fund to pay for opposition research including intelligence on the Democratic Party.

07-NOV-1972 — Nixon reelected in landslide. The race had been substantively shaped by dirty tricks conducted by Nixon’s aides.

~ ~ ~

08-JAN-1973 — The first Watergate Seven are tried by Judge John Sirica.

30-JAN-1973 — G. Gordon Liddy and James McCord, former Nixon staffers, were convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and wiretapping related to the break-in of DNC offices in Watergate.

07-FEB-1973 — Senate Watergate Committee formed by 93rd Congress under S.Res. 60, to investigate the break-in at DNC, “all other illegal, improper, or unethical conduct occurring during the presidential election of 1972, including political espionage and campaign finance practices,” and subsequent cover-up.

21-MAR-1973 — White House counsel John Dean, who’d been tasked with tracking and updating Nixon on the progress of the Watergate investigation, discussed the hush money payments to the team of burglars calling the mounting obstruction of justice a “cancer on the presidency.”

17-APR-1973 — Dean informs Nixon that he had been cooperating with the U.S. Attorneys investigating the Watergate break-in. Nixon is informed the same day by U.S. Attorneys that White House counsel Dean, Chief of Staff Haldeman, and aide Ehrlichman were involved in the cover-up.

30-APR-1973 — Nixon fires Dean; he had asked for the resignations of Haldeman and Ehrlichman as well as Attorney General Richard Kleindienst who had been friends with Haldeman and Ehrlichman.

17-MAY-1973Senate Watergate Committee hearings began.

19-MAY-1973 — Special prosecutor Archibald Cox appointed to begin investigation into presidential impropriety.

25-JUN-1973 — Dean testified before the Watergate Committee. He had been granted limited immunity and eventually pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, for which he eventually served several months in prison. [UPDATE-1]

13-JUL-1973 — White House aide Alexander Butterfield testified before Congress that Nixon secretly taped phone calls and conversations in Oval Office.

18-JUL-1973 — Nixon had recording system disconnected in White House.

23-JUL-1973 — Nixon refused to turn over presidential tapes to Senate Watergate Committee or to special prosecutor.

20-OCT-1973 — Nixon fired Special Counsel Archibald Cox and replaced him with Leon Jaworski (Saturday Night Massacre).

23-OCT-1973 — In the furor of the public’s displeasure about the firing of Cox, Nixon agrees to release some of the Oval Office tapes.

17-NOV-1973 — Nixon said during a Q&A on TV, “Well, I’m not a crook.

21-NOV-1973 — A number of erasures amounting to 18-1/2 minutes were discovered in released Oval Office tapes. Nixon’s personal secretary Rose Mary Woods claimed responsibility for the erasures, blaming the loss on accidentally depressing a pedal on a transcription device while answering the phone.

~ ~ ~

01-MAR-1974 — The second Watergate Seven, all advisors and aides to Nixon, were indicted by a grand jury; Nixon was named an unindicted co-conspirator.

18-APR-1974 — Special prosecutor Jaworski subpoenaed Nixon for his presidential tapes.

09-MAY-1974 — House Judiciary Committee launched impeachment hearings.

24-JUL-1974 — Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn tapes over to investigators.

27-JUL-1974 — Over the course of three days, the House Judiciary passed three of five articles of impeachment which include charges against Nixon of obstruction of justice and other unlawful acts, abuse of power, and failure to uphold his oath of office.

XX-AUG-1974 — A White House tape from 23-JUN-1972 was released; referred to as the “Smoking Gun” tape, Nixon and co-conspirator Haldeman are heard plotting obstruction of justice.

07-AUG-1974 — A few key GOP Senators told Nixon there are enough votes in the Senate to convict and remove him from office.

08-AUG-1974 — Nixon gave his resignation speech to the American public over national broadcast television.

09-AUG-1974 — Nixon resigned.

~ ~ ~

I was a tweenager at the time the Watergate Committee hearings commenced. I remember watching them on black-and-white television and thinking them the most boring events in the world at the time. There was nothing else on to watch; it didn’t help that it was during summer vacation in remote northern Michigan and there was only one television station.

But now I wish I’d paid attention to those suited old white dudes droning on in the Senate and in the House. I might have realized much sooner there is something very different about the way the Trump-Russia investigation has unfolded compared to the Watergate investigation.

Note very carefully when the first Congressional hearing was held in May of 1973.

It took roughly 15 months to remove the president from the beginning of these hearings until Nixon was persuaded to resign instead of being forced out by conviction and removal by the Senate.

The first hearing was convened by the Senate Watergate Committee — not the House Judiciary, and without the additional implicit constitutional power conferred upon a House impeachment inquiry.

Why is the Senate under Mitch McConnell’s leadership utterly supine in the face of attacks on our election infrastructure by a hostile nation-state?

Why has McConnell done absolutely nothing to further the investigation into the attacks nor into the possible obstruction of justice the Special Counsel’s report outlined, from which the Special Counsel could not exonerate Trump?

Why is McConnell doing nothing at all except waving through a train of poorly-qualified and often compromised presidential nominees for various posts including judgeships with lifetime appointments?

Why is McConnell proving the value of John Dingell’s recommendation that the Senate be abolished since McConnell has refused to submit at least a hundred of the House’s passed legislation for a Senate vote — including a bill which is intended to bolster election security?

By the time the House Judiciary Committee began its impeachment hearings almost exactly one year after the Senate Watergate Committee hearings had begun, the House did not have much to do. Only three months transpired between the launch of the House Judiciary Committee hearings and Nixon’s resignation.

Only a little over two months passed between the House Judiciary beginning impeachment proceedings and the passage of the three Articles of Impeachment which encouraged Nixon’s departure.

For all the complaining about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership with regard to investigations into Trump-Russia and subsequent impeachment, the press has not held McConnell to account for his failure of leadership.

Of course McConnell is a Republican and belongs to the same party as Trump; the Senate is led by the GOP now and both houses of Congress were majority Democratic Party in 1973-1974. But this is a nation of laws; a Republican-appointed, Republican-approved Special Counsel conducted an investigation which did not lead to the exoneration of the president. The GOP-majority Senate helmed by McConnell is just as capable of conducting an investigation into alleged White House misdeeds, could form a dedicated investigatory committee just as the 93rd Congress did back in 1973.

But no. Not Mitch McConnell, who has been compromised in several ways that we know of and has himself obstructed both the investigation into Trump-Russia and prevented the public from knowing they were under attack.

What else do you see in this timeline which is relevant to today’s investigations into Trump-Russia, Trump’s obstruction of justice, his abuses of power, and other failures to uphold the oath of office?

~ ~ ~

While House Committees have already begun hearings into Trump administration activities as part of their oversight responsibilities, formal impeachment proceedings have not yet begun. Following are the anticipated next steps which should happen sooner rather than later; compare them to the Nixon timeline:

  • One of two paths open the impeachment process: 1) A resolution to impeach a civil officer may be referred to the House Judiciary Committee, or 2) a resolution to authorize an investigation as to whether grounds exist for impeachment is referred to the House Committee on Rules; the resolution is then referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
  • The House Judiciary drafts and approves a bill for House consideration and approval outlining the authorization to investigate fully grounds for impeachment, the powers the investigative committee may use in the course of its investigation, and the budget for such an investigation.
  • As specified in the authorizing bill, the House Judiciary or other House committee, perhaps even select or special for the purpose of the investigation alone, conducts its investigation and reports as required by its authorization or House rules.
  • Assuming adequate grounds for impeachment have been found, the House Judiciary drafts and approves articles of impeachment outlining the “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” against the civil officer in question.
  • The entire House votes to impeach the civil officer based on the articles approved by the House Judiciary; it votes on a resolution to inform the Senate of the impeachment.
  • The Senate, being responsible for trial and possible conviction, should take up a trial at this point with the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice presiding. What’s not clear is if the Senate can refuse to begin a trial once the House has impeached; once the Senate begins, the steps it takes are governed by the Rules of Procedure and Practice in the Senate when Sitting on Impeachment Trials.

This last bullet point is no small hiccup.

You can learn more about Congress’s power to impeach and remove civil officers by reading these two Congressional Research Service papers:

Impeachment and Removal, R44260 (pdf)

Recall of Legislators and the Removal of Members of Congress from Office, RL30016 (pdf)

I note the first was prepared in 2005 during the Bush administration. I wonder who requested this paper; I also wonder who requested the second paper in early 2012.

That second paper might be a particularly worthwhile read if one were interested in how to go about removing an obstructive member of Congress or a cabinet member who has proven unsuited to their office. Imagine what could happen if enough Senators decided they needed to change things up on their side of the legislative branch.

UPDATE — 03-JUN-2019 — 

Timeline items (highlighted in yellow above) have been added related to Nixon’s White House counsel due to new developments reported today:

Former White House counsel John Dean will testify before the House Judiciary Committee on June 10, committee chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Monday. The hearing, titled “Lessons from the Mueller Report: Presidential Obstruction and Other Crimes,” will also feature former U.S. attorneys and legal experts. (via HuffPo)

John Dean will convey the import of the Special Counsel’s report since Trump’s White House counsel Don McGahn will not comply with the House Judiciary request for his appearance to testify.

UPDATE — 05-JUN-2019 — 

A reader pointed out the origin of the “Smoking Gun” tape, a conversation on June 23, 1972, was not included in my timeline and has now been added (highlighted in turquoise above). The tape captured Nixon’s direct involvement in obstruction of justice less than one week after the break-in at the Democratic Party HQ in the Watergate complex. We may not have anything quite as tidy as the “Smoking Gun” produced by the Special Counsel’s investigation, but repeated efforts by Trump to shut down the Trump-Russia investigation documented by witnesses are quite damning when combined with the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the harassment and termination of FBI employees Andrew McCabe and Peter Strozk.

Whip It, Whip It Good: Who’s Read the Report? [Updated]

[NB: Yeah. Not Marcy. Post has now been updated to reflect Special Counsel’s statement today. /~Rayne]

By now you know Robert Mueller gave a statement today in which he both resigned as Special Counsel and offered a summation of the Special Counsel’s report on the Trump-Russia investigation.

Marcy has a post up summarizing Mueller’s statement.

Bottom line: the evidence needed to launch an impeachment inquiry is in the Special Counsel’s report.

He further made a remark about Attorney General Bill Barr’s release of the report which should be scrutinized carefully.

Mueller’s statement makes yesterday’s piece on Rep. Justin Amash in the Washington Post more important. Amash published a Twitter thread yesterday criticizing Attorney General Bill Barr’s handling of the Special Counsel’s report:

Amash now has primary opponents including Michigan state representative Jim Lower. This bit is telling:

Two Republicans have filed to run against him in the primary; one of them, state Rep. Jim Lower, told The Washington Post that he raised $60,000 since Amash’s impeachment tweets. The wealthy DeVos family, a force in western Michigan and supporters of Amash’s previous campaigns, said through a spokesman last week that they would support another Republican for the 3rd Congressional District seat; Lower said he’d been in touch with the family.

In an interview, Lower said he had not read Mueller’s report but agreed with the assessment of most Republicans that it ended questions about Trump’s conduct. On Monday, as he greeted voters at a Memorial Day event, several Republicans told Lower they were ready to help him get Amash out of office, citing his criticism of the president.

“Those voters do not want the president to be impeached, and they disagree with the congressman’s conclusion,” Lower said. “Throughout this primary campaign, I will be the voice for those voters.”

Lower is yet another Republican legislator who has made a pro-Trump assessment without having read the Special Counsel’s Report on the Trump-Russia investigation.

He’s absolutely certain Trump didn’t do anything wrong but he couldn’t tell you what in the report exonerates Trump because he couldn’t be bothered with reading it.

Now Lower is a state level elected at the moment, running for the House in 2020 with the aim of replacing Amash. What of the other elected Republicans who are already in the House and the Senate who are pro-Trump? Have they read the report? Have their staff members read the report?

The report’s been out now for more than a month; if they read 5-10 pages a day they should have finished reading it by now so they don’t have a legitimate complaint that the report is too long.

And yet many GOP electeds may stick their neck on the line for Trump, going to stake their credibility on something they haven’t read.

Note Mitt Romney’s feedback about the Special Counsel’s report, keeping in mind Romney was once in the anti-Trump camp:

We should take Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) at his word when he says, as he did on CNN’s “State of the Union,” that he has read the entire Mueller report. He told the show’s host, Jake Tapper: “I just don’t think that there is the full element [of intent] that you need to prove an obstruction of justice case. I don’t think a prosecutor would actually look at this and say, okay, we have here all the elements that would get this to a conviction.”

The 2012 Republican presidential nominee added, “I think, in part — one of the things that is difficult in order to make a case for obstruction of justice or impeachment is whether or not there was intent. And when there’s not an underlying crime, I think it’s difficult to put together an effective case to prosecute for those crimes.” So Romney is merely “troubled by it” and found it “very disappointing, for a number of reasons.”

Here’s Romney a month earlier:

Sen. Mitt Romney, Utah Republican, said Friday that he was “sickened” by President Trump’s behavior as detailed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s newly released report.

The former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee shared his reaction on social media after reviewing the sprawling report summarizing the special counsel’s investigation into the 2016 race and related matters.

“It is good news that there was insufficient evidence to charge the President of the United States with having conspired with a foreign adversary or with having obstructed justice. The alternative would have taken us through a wrenching process with the potential for constitutional crisis. The business of government can move on,” wrote Mr. Romney.

“Reviewing”??

Yet nearly a thousand prosecutors feel there was ample evidence in the report to conclude Trump obstructed justice. Did Romney really read the report? Is he going to stake his credibility and rally behind Trump based on a bad interpretation of what he may have read, which may or may not be the entire redacted report?

The Washington Post this past week surveyed members of Congress to learn who had and hadn’t read the report. It won’t surprise you that the number of Republicans who haven’t read it outnumber Democrats who haven’t read it.

But now they’ve had a long holiday weekend to read it. Have they? Are they still going to claim that the report exonerates Trump even after Robert Mueller clearly said today Trump isn’t out of the woods?

Are they still going to ignore the hundreds of federal prosecutors across the country who say the report reveals Trump obstructed justice?

Let’s find out. If you’re up to it let’s make phone calls to find out if the lawmakers have still not read the report.

Share your findings in comments and I will update this chart.

Let’s whip it good.

One last observation: Rep. Amash’s townhall last night in a staunchly GOP city, home of the DeVos family, drew a capacity audience and earned him a standing ovation.

Amash stressed how appalled he was at the conduct spelled out in Volume II of the Special Counsel’s report and that he felt those who read the report would likewise be offended.

Why aren’t more GOP members of Congress offended? Because they can’t be bothered to read it?

Whip it — Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

WaPo used these questions which are still a pretty good script for callers:

1. Did members of [lawmaker]’s senior staff read the executive summaries for both Volume I and II of the redacted Mueller report, or not?

2. Did members of [lawmaker]’s senior staff read the redacted Mueller report in its entirety, or not?

3. Did members of senior staff brief [lawmaker] on the contents of the redacted Mueller report, or not?

4. Did [lawmaker] read the executive summaries for both Volume I and II of the redacted Mueller report, or not?

5. Did [lawmaker] read the redacted Mueller report in its entirety, or not?

Make the calls. Whip it good.

Ted Stevens, The “Toobz”, And The Idiocy Of The Internet

Alright, this will be a fairly short post, but I would like to remind people of some things. Namely, regarding Ted Stevens. As background, Marcy wrote a serious, and important, post on the Trumps Organization’s curious, and semi-hilarious, use of Microsoft. And, yes, Marcy is right, it was amazingly stupid. From clackers whining that Hillary Clinton had insecure internet. If it was not so stupid, it would be extra laughable.

But I want to cut back to something different. In comments, Rayne Loled at Ted Stevens and, then, a relatively new commenter (like just today as far as I can tell), “CJ” chimed in with:

Bizarrely, it’s not an entirely bad metaphor, though that’s probably accidental on his part. See, e.g., Andrew Blum’s “Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet”.

This is bunk. Blum, and his book, tried to make hay off of Stevens, and at his expense, but without giving him much of his due, nor acknowledging how the “tubes” of the internet falsely allowed the demonization of Stevens and cheerleader his prosecution. A prosecution that turned out to be false and craven. In a review in the New York Times in 2012, Dwight Garner noted:

Reading this, you wish Mr. Stevens, who died in an airplane crash in 2010, were here to savor it. “Inside those tubes (by and large) are glass fibers,” the author continues. “Inside those fibers is light. Encoded in that light is, increasingly, us.”

That is exactly right, although Blum never really went deeper into the fraud by the Department of Justice that took Ted Stevens down before his untimely demise by plane crash.

So, as a bit of retrospective:

Say what you will about Ted Stevens, and much of that may be fair. But what was done to him at the end was wrong and a travesty. And the DOJ could not even deal with that then. Much less the pervasive and consuming wrong that is at hand today with Bill Barr and the DOJ he now administers.

For anybody that does not remember just how egregious and blatant the government/DOJ action against Ted Stevens was, here is one of my takes from 2008, and yet another in followup, from 2012.

You can joke about Toobz Stevens, and we have here before, but what happened to him was a complete travesty of justice. And there are serious lessons from that to keep in mind today. Without the “toobz” of the internet, I am not sure the reckless and false case against Stevens could have ever made it as far as it did. There is great irony in that, and it is a lesson that ought remain remembered, not just joked about.

That was a different, and in popular lore, more benevolent and honest era. So, what do you think are the odds for far worse from Trump and Barr? Somewhere, Ted Stevens has an idea.

History’s Rhyme, Part 2a: ‘Abuse of Power’ Sounds So Familiar

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

In a previous post I looked at the first of three Articles of Impeachment passed by Congress in 1974 against then-president Richard Nixon and suggested a parallel between Trump’s presidential acts and Nixon’s.

There had been five articles drafted; only the first three were approved by the 93rd Congress. Of them one article focused on Abuse of Power — acts which may be malfeasance and/or unlawful, as well as acts which may not have been strictly unlawful/illegal but were unethical and a breach of the trust the public places in the executive and a violation of the executive’s oath of office to take care the laws are faithfully executed.

You can read the second article at this link; now compare it to a theoretical article of impeachment which could be drafted against Trump today.

Article 2: Abuse of Power

Using the powers of the office of President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impeding the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposes of these agencies.

This conduct has included one or more of the following:

1. He has violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution which provides that “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.” Donald J. Trump, has a financial interest in vast business holdings around the world that engage in dealings with foreign governments and receive benefits from those governments. He has refused to divest himself of those interests and inherent conflicts of interest. He has accepted “Emolument[s]” from “foreign State[s]” while holding the office of President of the United States. He has accepted numerous benefits from foreign states without first seeking or obtaining congressional approval as specified by the Emoluments Clause, and further maintains that no Congressional approval is required. He has rejected Congress’s Article I authority by refusing to seek its consent.

2. He misused the Secret Service by interfering in their ability to perform their duties with regard to protecting the presidency, refusing them necessary access to public and private facilities where foreign nationals visit frequently. He has interfered with the Secret Service’s ability to operate, draining their budget by deploying them excessively at his private business facilities when not executing his presidential duties.

3. He has, acting personally and or through his subordinates and agents, in violation or disregard of the Presidential Records Act of 1978 (PRA), concealed or destroyed presidential records, or prevented presidential records from being made appropriate to the execution of his office. He has terminated the practice of publishing public summaries of presidential phone calls with world leaders thereby evading creation of presidential records. He has ignored warnings of the National Archives to comply with the PRA.

4. He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens and the human rights of visiting foreign nationals, unilaterally drafted, issued without adequate prior legal review, and permitted to be maintained Executive Orders 13769 and 13780, violating the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, the Fifth Amendment’s Equal Protection, Substantive Due Process, and Procedural Due Process clauses, the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and violating in both substance and procedure the Administrative Procedure Act in the process of discriminating against persons both citizens and foreign nationals on the basis of religion and national origin by illegal detention and refusal of their admittance to this country.

5. In disregard of the rule of law: he knowingly misused the executive power by interfering with agencies of the executive branch, including the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, in violation of his duty to take care that the laws by faithfully executed. He rejected the expert advice of then Deputy Attorney General as to the unlawfulness of his Executive Order 13769. He has authorized Department of Homeland Security personnel to commit illegal acts against asylum seekers and refugees. He interfered with the Department of Justice in its investigation into interference with the 2016 election by repeated disparagement.

6. He has retaliated against federal employees, including but not limited to the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Director of Secret Service, and National Archives personnel, disparaging, harassing, and or firing them without adequate legal cause for conducting their lawful duties. He has ordered other federal personnel to disparage and fire federal personnel without adequate legal cause for conducting their lawful duties. He has maliciously attempted to interfere with federal employees’ ability to draw their rightful benefits.

7. He misused the Department of Justice, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens, by tacitly directing or implicitly authorizing the Attorney General to conduct or continue investigations for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office. He has expressed repeatedly his intent to use the Department of Justice and U.S. intelligence agencies for the purposes of punishing political opponents. He has failed to take care that the laws were faithfully executed by failing to act when he knew or had reason to know that his close subordinates endeavored to investigate political opponents.

8. He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of press under the First Amendment and of citizens under the Fifth Amendment, authorized and permitted the indefinite revocation of White House press credentials for arbitrary and non-compelling reasons, including punishment for and suppression of perceived criticism. He has frequently undermined the First Amendment rights of the press by calling them “the enemy of the people.

9. He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, in violation or disregard of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), allowed the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (PACEI) to meet without public notice; without making PACEI meetings open to the public; and without timely notice in the Federal Register. He has failed to ensure PACEI operated so that any of its “records, reports, transcripts, minutes, appendixes, working papers, drafts, studies, agenda, or other documents which were made available to or prepared for or by” the PACEI were “available for public inspection.” He has further failed to ensure that the PACEI was fairly balanced and free of inappropriate influence as required under the FACA to ensure public accountability.  Based on spurious claims of voter fraud and without adequate data security in place, he has ordered the PACEI to obtain private voter data from the fifty states for the purposes of a voter roll purge using questionable and opaque methods.

[ — TO BE CONTINUED — ]

In all of this, Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Article 2 against Nixon only contained five subjects. How quaint; it’s like Tricky Dick wasn’t even trying.

In contrast Trump might have racked up a new subject every other month in office to add to this list. I have at least six more subjects to add in a followup post.

After I finish the Abuses of Power I plan to look at Article 3: Contempt of Congress — which is very nearly writing itself — and an Article 4: Violation of Treaties including those covering refugees and international human rights. There could be an Article 5 covering action in Yemen and other foreign policy and military failures.

I still don’t know if this shouldn’t include his ridiculously expensive golf. Assuming he’s not removed by the time his term is up in early January 2021, and assuming he continues his current rate of play, Trump will have burned through nearly $200,000,000 taxpayer dollars, a considerable chunk of which will go into his pocket for golf cart fees alone. What a parasite; imagine how many teachers could have received pay increases with that, or how many Pell Grant scholarships that could have funded.

Or how much of his ‘fucken wall‘ that could have bought.

This is an open thread. Be sure to let me know what other topics you think should be added under this Article 2: Abuse of Power.

NC Election Investigations and the Yard Sale at the 18th Hole

[NB: Not Marcy if you check the byline. /~Rayne]

Earlier this week a friend pointed me to an article in a local Raleigh, North Carolina news site. I knew there had been an investigation into the 9th Congressional district because of election fraud; absentee ballots had been picked up, altered, and changed for the benefit of a Republican candidate.

But I didn’t realize there was federal investigation in the same state looking into fraud related to the 2016 election and earlier. The shared article noted the State Board of Elections had instructed 32 county elections boards to voting histories, signed poll books and redacted ballots. The scope of the investigation covers multiple election cycles. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina (EDNC) subpoenaed elections records in August 2018.

Apparently the EDNC initially requested a much broader range of voting records for the same period from these counties. Since August the state attorney general has pushed back against the EDNC on behalf of the State Board of Elections. The May 3 request represented a substantially pared down number of records — under 900 records across 32 counties.

The counties involved in this request include Wake County in which capital city Raleigh is located.

U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon, a Trump appointee, appears to be focused on votes by non-citizens.

Of course — let’s indulge white nationalist dark urges and chase rare voter fraud while real fraud at much larger scale nearly seated a Republican in the House.

~ ~ ~
The EDNC’s investigation isn’t related to one in the 9th Congressional District along North Carolina’s southern border. A Republican political operative, hired in 2016 by then-candidate Mark Harris, committed election fraud by collecting, altering, or destroying absentee ballots. After investigation by the State Board of Elections, operative Leslie McCrae Dowless was indicted by the state for obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, and possession of absentee ballots.

The State Board of Elections refused to certify the election’s outcome and has now rescheduled a primary election for next Tuesday, May 14. Depending on the outcome of the primary race, the final election may be September 5.

Mark Harris said he will not be a candidate.

Rather amusing now because Harris thought there was voter fraud on the Democrats’ part, according to emails produced during the investigation.

~ ~ ~
When I went poking around to compare the two investigations, another interesting investigation popped up in my search results for “wral federal investigation raleigh.”

Not a lot was published about the case of Leonid Teyf, arrested last year in a murder-for-hire case. This is odd given the fact Teyf is Russian and a business crony of Yevgeny Prigozhin. You’ll recall Prigozhin, often referred to as ‘Putin’s chef’, was indicted along with the Internet Research Agency for their role in interfering with the 2016 general election.

North Carolina’s local news, The Daily Beast, and Maddow, and the Wall Street Journal covered this case in December last year and January this year after the feds conducted a raid on one of the most expensive residential addresses in North Carolina.

Do read the Daily Beast piece — it’s the most detailed. Maddow outlines how Teyf’s case was used as a means to collect information on the federal investigative process and the Special Counsel’s Office. Based on a protective order issued this week, it looks like the court is concerned that information is still being passed on.

You can find the court filings at Courtlistener under United States v. Teyf (5:18-cr-00452).

What interested me — besides the fact Teyf bought a MASSIVE home on the 18th hole of the North Ridge Country Club in Raleigh — is the timing of events here in the U.S.

2010 — Teyf came to the U.S., moving his family to North Carolina. He continued to work in Russia and traveled back and forth between the two countries through 2013.

2011 — Teyf and associates began activities chargeable under 18 USC 1957 – Engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity

2012 — 16,865 square foot 8-bedroom French Country mansion built for Dean and Wendy Painter in 2000 was listed in April at $4,850,000; it sold for $4.2 million in September. The Painter family said the buyers were Russian though the paperwork showed the buyer was New Market LLC.

2014 — Residence was listed for sale at $7.8 million, a price well above original purchase price. The owner was still listed as New Market LLC; the realty firm representing the seller posted a listing on a website in Russian and Arabic.

201X — A quit claim deed was executed transferring ownership of the residence to Leonid and Tatyana Teyf.

2018 — Seal indictment was filed November 8 against Leonid and Tatyana Teyf and Aleksander Timofeev.

2018 — Residence was raided by FBI on December 5.

2018 — Indictment was unsealed on December 12.

If you read The Daily Beast’s article, you’ll note that the kickbacks skimmed off Russian Federation contracts to military vendors didn’t result in prosecution by Russia.

One can only infer that Teyf came here with the implicit blessing of Russian leadership.

And he came here the same year that the Illegals Program spies were booted out of the country.

Teyf’s been here with Prigozhin’s implicit blessing, too.

He bought a huge house with a bullet- and fireproof safe room, bought several millions in art, cars, furnishings — all of this from $150 million obtained through kickbacks.

Mind you, the feds must have been watching him since it was federal personnel he tried to pay to kill the Russian housekeeper’s son who he believed was having an affair with his wife Tatyana.

But how closely were the feds watching what Teyf was doing if he was able to open 70 banking accounts with millions of dollars over the course of a couple years’ time?

What might Teyf have been doing for Prigozhin in the U.S.? And why was he located in North Carolina?

And on a golf course of all places — in the biggest house on the 18th hole. Might even be visible from space.

~ ~ ~
It was kind of a long trip to get to this question: how many other Russians are there like Leonid Teyf in the U.S., going about their business in plain view of the American public?

One other thing bothers me about this situation. If you come across local TV news video or one of the local news outlet’s articles about the raid, you’ll see someone quoted who looks like the average Joe who lives in a nice neighborhood. This person makes remarks to the effect that the folks at 6510 New Market Way were down to earth, they were good folks, even went to their yard sale.

Leonid Teyf maintains he doesn’t speak English. It’s been a point of contention during the court case. How does average Joe know Teyf is down to earth and good folk?

Why does average Joe, in December 2018, not feel at all suspicious about a Russian who can’t speak any English living just down the street in one of the state’s most expensive houses?

 

This is an open thread.

The Orange Injector and the Troubling Tariffs

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

He did it again. I am so fed up with this nonsense. This:

is yet another perfect opportunity for someone to game the market and do so in a big way.

Just look at this drop:

One needed only to short the market before it opened on Monday make huge amounts of money with no effort. And this time even the entire American market could have jumped on this; no more advance notice required apart from Trump’s Sunday and Monday tweets.

Believe me, the opportunity tempted me. I could see it coming. I only needed to short the NYSE:DIA using my pre-open trading access and I’d have raked in cash.

But it’s unethical; I can’t make money off people on the wrong side of Trump’s ridiculous foreign policy. It’s more like gambling on a steroid-doped horse and not true investment.

Nothing about Trump’s trade policy makes any sense (not that anything he does makes sense to a rational, ethical, sentient human being). What is the fundamental problem he wants to solve?

…Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership without ever proposing a replacement, and he appeared ready to do the same with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He imposed stiff levies on imported steel and aluminum, leading Canada, China, Mexico, and the European Union to slap the United States with retaliatory tariffs. At the same time, however, his administration ultimately agreed to a renegotiated NAFTA without major changes to the original agreement. It did the same for the U.S. free trade agreement with South Korea. So what signs could reveal his true intentions in 2019?

(source: Understanding Trump’s Trade War by Doug Irwin via Foreign Policy Winter 2019)

This entire paragraph operates on the assumption Trump acted in good faith on NAFTA.

This is the biggest mistake anyone can make about Trump, however. He has never done anything altruistic in his life. Every he’s done has been transactional. His lack of empathy for others combined with his selfish transactional nature precludes any good faith.

One need only look at his marriages to see his true self. He didn’t make any concerted effort to keep his vows, and when he’d obtained all he wanted from those relationships, he ditched his wives.

Even his Access Hollywood “grab them by the pussy” video revealed this: he believes that if one is a celebrity, one can do anything to a woman. In other words, the woman is receiving the attention of a celebrity in exchange for access to her body.

A transaction. Presence and access is consent as far as he’s concerned.

He is incapable of seeing anything he does as president as action on behalf of the country. In his mind the country already got what it wanted — his attention of a celebrity and his commitment to live in our house.

Rather like a second or third wife, we’re supposed to have gone into this relationship with our eyes open and have already received the best that we’ll get out of this deal. Meanwhile, he’s using our house for his personal aims.

And he’s using our relationship with major trading partners to shake them down for something to his benefit.

Re-read that paragraph from Foreign Policy again, only this time recognize the shakedown, the grift in between the lines. He received something from rattling NAFTA partners even if in the end it looks like nothing changed.

The New York Times published another expose on Trump’s finances based on transcripts of his IRS filings from 1985 to 1994. In the wake of the article there’s been a lot of chatter about how deeply in debt he was during the period these filings covered. But debt is just a number; it’s all in the accounting. The average American under the age of 40 is also deeply in debt if they’re buying a home, a car or two, and/or paying off the last of their tuition debt. Some of these debtors may tell you they made money and put it in the bank last year, though.

Trump was doing the same thing but at a much larger scale, only without the same consequences upon failure the average American would face:

Mr. Trump was able to lose all that money without facing the usual consequences — such as a steep drop in his standard of living — in part because most of it belonged to others, to the banks and bond investors who had supplied the cash to fuel his acquisitions. And as The Times’s earlier investigation showed, Mr. Trump secretly leaned on his father’s wealth to continue living like a winner and to stage a comeback.

Here’s the bit that jumped out at me from the NYT’s piece:

As losses from his core enterprises mounted, Mr. Trump took on a new public role, trading on his business-titan brand to present himself as a corporate raider. He would acquire shares in a company with borrowed money, suggest publicly that he was contemplating buying enough to become a majority owner, then quietly sell on the resulting rise in the stock price.

The tactic worked for a brief period — earning Mr. Trump millions of dollars in gains — until investors realized that he would not follow through. That much has been known for years. But the tax information obtained by The Times shows that he ultimately lost the bulk of the gains from his four-year trading spree.

Now Trump — or any of his partners/associates/financiers — no longer has to buy stock in a specific company to make money. He can use our house to act like a corporate raider. He can threaten to make or break a deal using the good faith and credit of the United States (instead of his own bad faith) and mess with the entire market.

In addition to Trump’s Sunday tweets. I suspect participants in the US and overseas markets in Asia and Russia could also have traded on Trump’s early Monday morning tweet:

This tweet is pure bullshit. There is nothing factual about it; it displays a gross ignorance about the trade deficit.

Putting aside the rational explanations about the trade deficit, the U.S. must keep in mind that China has been carefully negotiating its recovery after Mao Tse-tung’s Great Leap Forward and a realignment of mixed capitalist-communist system. It would be all too easy for the balance to shift reactively toward a more militarized communist system if it had an insufficient demand for its capitalist output.

But understanding this requires a degree of nuance beyond the grasp of the malignant narcissist-in-chief. He can only manage to ponder what’s in it for him.

Trump’s early Monday morning tweet would have been seen at these local times:

4:06 am Washington DC
6:06 pm Sydney Australia
5:06 pm Tokyo Japan
5:06 pm Seoul South Korea
4:06 pm Beijing PRC
11:06 am Moscow Russia

Ample time to jump in between the Sunday tweets and this Monday tweet if one was already holding index shares.

Those of use who didn’t trade on this information, though, went for a roller coaster ride on our hard-earned retirement savings and college funds as they plummeted Monday morning.

And because Trump is using our good faith and credit for his own aims, we can’t be absolutely certain he isn’t running some opaque con for a personal gain we know nothing about. We’re trapped in this vehicle for as long as he wants to run this scam.

And like some of the investors who loaned him money or contractors who worked for him in good faith in the past, we’ll end up holding the bag.

Just stop this crazy thing.

~ ~ ~

Oh, two more things:

First, Steve Bannon needs to be de-platformed. He is deliberately sowing anarchy across the globe by promoting white nationalism. Populism, he calls it, but it’s racist appeals encouraging insurrection and sedition against liberal democracy.

When he encourages Trump’s stupidity toward China it’s not because it’s helpful to the common good. He may say that Trump’s tariff threats are a benefit to the working class but Bannon has no fucking clue how manufacturing actually works. It’s all an abstraction to him that capital might reshore from investment in China to investment here.

Reality looks more like Lordstown, Ohio where General Motors just shut down a plant. The economic changes that led to the closure have been years in the making. It takes years and hundreds of millions in capital investment to plan a new product line to respond to trends in consumers’ tastes including the manufacturing processes required. We’re also in the midst of a massive sea change in transportation, with competing countries shifting entirely to electric cars within the next two decades.

But Trump can tweet damaging nonsense in seconds, smashing those carefully laid-out product manufacturing plans to smithereens.

Which may be the point considering Trump and his minions and financial backers are no fans of organized labor in the U.S.

I’m sure Bannon will assure the workers of Lordstown jobs will be there for them at any moment once the impending trade war with China has settled.

[Note: While I was drafting this post Trump tweeted that GM was selling the Lordstown plant to electric truck manufacturer Workhorse. Now Trump will look like a winner for badgering GM’s CEO Mary Barra when this deal was likely in the offing for some time. Really stupid move on Barra’s part because now he’ll use this as leverage — her call gave him presence and access.]

 

Second, it may be valuable to note that key problem children who have supported anarchic white nationalism through Trumpism in the US and Brexit in the UK have something in common:

Steve Bannon = former investment banker

Robert Mercer = former co-CEO of hedge fund

Rebekah Mercer = former trader at daddy’s hedge fund

Nigel Farage = former commodities trader

Arron Banks = owner, insurance company

Wilbur Ross = investment banker

Steve Mnuchin = former mortgage securities and hedge fund executive

Imagine them realizing they could make a shit ton of money by injecting planned volatility into the market using Trump (or Brexit) as their injector.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire Trump administration was in on this scam. Here’s U.S. Trade Reprepresentative Robert Lighthizer about Trump’s latest tariffs on Chinese goods:

“This was Trump acting out on a rainy Sunday in Washington with nothing on the public schedule,” he added. “To paraphrase Lenin: there are decades where nothing happens and there are weeks when decades happen…and then there is a single week in the Trump Presidency. What a time to be alive.”

Head, meet desk.

This is an open thread.

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