Monday, May 15, 2017

A Whiff Of Fascism? Dan Rather: "Someone In There Is Not Thinking Very Well And It All Begins With The President"


Chris Wallace is a Fox guy, so how good could he be, right? Still, hold off comparing him to Chris Hayes and try comparing him to the fascist automatons on Fox & Friends instead. Take a look at the clip directly under this paragraph. The Fox & Friends clowns are just such horrifying jokes posing as "journalists!" And it's more than just "a very selective view of history." I don't think Wallace will be able to teach any of these proudly ignorant, over-paid propagandists anything about what journalism is. Notice how the bimbo in the middle (Abby, I think I heard someone call her?) starts giggling gleefully and rubbing her legs together with excitement when Wallace says he doesn't think Dan Rather is worth paying any attention to?

Chris Wallace and the Fox clowns may refuse to pay any attention to Dan Rather, but it isn't just Rachel Maddow who does. A lot of buzz over the interview Don Lemon did with him over the weekend at CNN. Rather makes clear what Fox is trying to keep from its dull-minded viewers, namely that the firing of Jim Comey was "clearly about the Russian investigation. This has echoes of the Nixon administration. There's a Nixonian tone increasingly enveloping this." He reminds CNN's viewers that what brought Nixon down-- and what is likely to bring Señor Trumpanzee down-- was and is the cover-up... obstruction of Justice. On his Facebook page, Rather wrote "I have lived through nearly 4,500 weeks in my life, and I have never seen a week like the one we just had. I have seen weeks of far greater darkness, of war, and death, and economic despair. I have seen weeks of more confusion and uncertainty. But I have never seen a week where a president of our nation has behaved with such a cavalier disregard for the norms and institutions of our democracy. And it now seems like the investigation is expanding into Trump's business dealings. The comparisons with Richard Nixon are plentiful these days, but even he did not seem so untethered from our basic governance. And I have never seen so many members of a political party rally around incompetence, intemperance, and inanity. The threats, the lies, the willful disregard for the rule of law should be limited to the world of Hollywood caricature. To see this played out each night on the news, to read about ramblings and inconsistencies in justifications for actions that should never have been taken, is to see a moment of great peril for our nation. I remain, however, an optimist. I see the swellings of civic engagement and action. I hear the voices of those who demand that this subversion of our national ideals shall not stand. I have covered social movement of the past, and never have seen one where so much power and numbers lie on the side of the opposition. This is a clash for the values of our nation. Our destiny is in our hands."

And now even the Republican-controlled Senate is being inexorably drawn into what can only end in Trump's impeachment-- next up: looking into how his corrupt business practices intersects with Putinism. Adam Davidson reported for the New Yorker that Trump's lack of any kind of serious attention span his greed and his attraction to quick, "shiny" payoffs makes it less likely that he personally conspired with the Russians. Does that make you feel better? It shouldn't.

Trump’s businesses-- maybe because of his fondness for shiny deals-- have been the subject of investigations over the years but have not been discussed much in the context of the Trump campaign’s relationship to Russia. But that seems to be shifting. Senator Lindsey Graham, whose committee is heading one of the investigations, raised the question at a hearing on Monday, and apparently asked the White House for information about ties between the President and Russia. In response, lawyers for Trump released a letter to the Associated Press on Friday, saying they had reviewed ten years of Trump’s taxes and didn’t find “any income of any type from Russian sources,” except for a property sold to a Russian billionaire and proceeds from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, held in Moscow. Trump’s actual tax returns weren’t released, so the information could not be confirmed. More significant for the long term, perhaps, was another request made by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which is known as FinCEN, to turn over documents related to Trump and his campaign officials as part of what Senator Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the committee, told CNN is “our effort to try to follow the intel no matter where it leads.”

The FinCEN request is particularly interesting because the unit enforces money-laundering laws and is familiar with Donald Trump’s holdings, specifically the Taj Mahal casino, in Atlantic City. Trump opened the Taj Mahal in 1990. He sold half of his shares in 2004, as part of a bankruptcy settlement, but remained a minority owner. In 2015, the Taj Mahal admitted to “willfully” violating the law by letting many suspicious transactions go unreported to the authorities, and agreed to pay a ten-million-dollar fine-- one of the largest ever for a casino. While the fine came at a time when Trump was no longer a majority owner, FinCEN made clear in its public statement that the casino had violations dating back to 2003, when Trump was majority owner, and had faced another fine in 1998. The casino closed late last year.

Casinos can make it remarkably easy to allow people, such as drug dealers or corrupt oligarchs, to use funds they obtained illegally. One method is to walk into a casino in a jurisdiction with light regulation-- Macau is a favorite-- hand several million dollars to a cashier, and ask for a “marker,” or a slip of paper promising repayment. That marker can be transferred to another casino in a different country, where the original depositor or an associate can pick up the millions, play some games, lose some money, and then turn in the remaining chips for cash. With a compliant or unobservant casino, that money can be reported as gambling winnings to the I.R.S. and deposited into a U.S. bank with minimal questioning. A similar trick can be pulled off without having to change jurisdictions, or even casinos. A money launderer can hand a stack of bills to a casino cashier and receive chips for betting on games. The chips can be returned for cash that will be reported as winnings to the I.R.S. Casinos can make a fair bit of money this way. Money launderers will, typically, aim to gamble with-- and, inevitably, lose-- some of their money to disguise their activity.

Money launderers can avail themselves of other methods, such as buying expensive real estate through shell companies or slipping their ill-gotten money into cash-heavy business, like laundromats or pizza shops, or large banks. But those retail methods work best for relatively small amounts of money, and in the past two decades, government regulators in the U.S. and elsewhere have moved to prevent money laundering through the banking system. So casinos have become increasingly popular for the large-scale money launderer.

Tom Bock, a money-laundering expert at K2, a global investigative firm, told me that money laundering has, historically, been a major source of revenue for many casinos. But more aggressive anti-money-laundering investigations have led many casino companies to do a better job at complying with the law. That means continuously monitoring activity and reporting any suspicious transactions to the government. They make sure that players have actually won their money at the gaming tables when they turn in chips for winnings.

This robust compliance was not happening at the Taj Mahal. The Treasury Department found that the casino didn’t monitor or report suspicious activity. About half the time that Treasury investigators identified suspect behavior, the Taj Mahal had not reported it to authorities. “Like all casinos in this country, Trump Taj Mahal has a duty to help protect our financial system from being exploited by criminals, terrorists, and other bad actors,” Jennifer Shasky Calvery, the FinCEN director, said in a statement at the time of the settlement. “Far from meeting these expectations, poor compliance practices, over many years, left the casino and our financial system unacceptably exposed.”

The Trump Organization is not known for its careful due diligence. As I wrote in the magazine earlier this year, Ivanka Trump oversaw a residence and hotel project in Azerbaijan. The project was run in partnership with the family of one of that country’s leading oligarchs, and while there is no proof that the Trumps were themselves involved in money laundering, the project had many of the hallmarks of such an operation. There was no public accounting of the hundreds of millions of dollars that flowed through the project to countries around the world, millions of dollars were paid in cash, and the Azerbaijani developers were believed to be partners, at the same time, with a company that appears to be a front for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which is known as one of the world’s leading practitioners of money laundering. Trump’s Azerbaijani partners are known to have close ties to Russia, as do his partners in other projects in Georgia, Canada, Panama, and other nations.

A former high-ranking official at the Treasury Department explained to me that FinCEN could have collected what are known as Suspicious Activity Reports from banks, casinos, and other places, about transactions involving any Trump projects. These reports could be used to create a detailed map of relationships and money flows involving the Trump Organization.

The Senate committee headed by Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, and Warner has been ratcheting up the pressure on Trump’s associates in the course of investigating Russian meddling in the Presidential campaign. On Thursday, the committee sent a subpoena to Michael Flynn, the short-lived national-security adviser, demanding documents that he didn’t turn over voluntarily. By asking the Treasury Department for more details about Trump and his associates, the Senate Intelligence Committee seems to be signalling a widening of its interest from the narrow question of collusion between Russia and members of Trump’s campaign staff. (My calls to Warner’s office about this weren’t answered.) If the committee does begin to seriously consider the Trump Organization’s business practices and any connections those show to figures in Russia and other sensitive countries, it would suggest what prosecutors call a “target rich” environment. Rather than focussing on a handful of recent arrivals to Trump’s inner circle-- Mike Flynn and Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser-- it could open up his core circle of children and longtime associates.

The same associate who told me that he doesn’t think Trump was likely involved in a long-term plan with Putin and Russia said he is certain that Trump has, many times, made very risky decisions in order to take advantage of a short-term opportunity. “If he sees something shiny,” he said, “he wants it.”

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At 7:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A whiff? There's been a foul stench since no later than 1982 when the DLC was formed with the directed purpose of selling democratic party policy to the big money, in order to better compete with the Rs who had been corrupted since shortly after Lincoln was killed.

When corporate donations and billionaires pay (bribes) and get total fidelity from government for it, that's fascism.

And it has been mushrooming -- increasing in scope and overtness ever since. Democraps still SAY they are with the poor, elderly, labor, the middle class, etc. But they never demonstrate their devotion when the rubber hits the road (Rs don't even bother to say then give a flying fuck).
But they've gone from ignorning Sherman to passing all forms of dereg and TBTF-enablement to being openly bribed by foreign money and banks (Clinton foundation...).

It stands to reason that someone as simple-minded and unfiltered as the orange-utang would dispense with all pretense... because he can. He's prez, so he can tell anyone anything that amuses him (and makes him think his dick is bigger than it is -- I'm thinking freckle-sized) AND, most important, the R party has both chambers and a lot of the judiciary, so he probably knows he'll never be impeached or even criticized in any meaningful way... And, of course, he has the democraps, the most hapless, feckless, corrupt and useless organization in the history of the planet.

At 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


It's my opinion that corrupt corporate money was behind Lincoln's Assassination to ensure that he didn't mess with the plundering of the South which history calls "Reconstruction".

Corporatism has had major control over the Federal Government since Reagan, and total control over it since last November. It worked hard since Reagan to take over states and many counties. Its minions dominate the courts. It doesn't matter which party an elected official belongs to since they are all owned by their "donors".

I see no hope through small-d democratic processes. I begin to fear that necessary changes will have to be imposed from without for them to change things. Either way, the nation I was raised to revere has died.

At 2:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It really makes you think about "line readers," with their derisive laughter and no facts, vs. real journalists, who put truth above appearance. Like GMO food: when you know the difference, the bad stuff seems disgusting.


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