Thursday, May 23, 2019

What Can Be Done About A Criminal Presidency? Just Grin And Bear It? Pelosi Still Refuses To Protect The Country And The Constitution


Remember when fact-checking Trump and reporting how many lies he had told was a national sport? [Update, according to PolitiFact, 84% of the Trump statements they've checked have been false or partially false. Biden, who lies just 61% of the time, almost seems like a paragon of virtue compared to Trump.] But now Jonathan Chait is starting a new game. How many impeachable acts has Trump committed today?

Yesterday, he wrote that Trump had committed 5 more just this week. I know; it's not funny and it's not a game. But with Pelosi's partisan calculations making it impossible for Democrats to even begin the process of holding him accountable, what can we do other than look on in horror? Chait wrote that at his MAGA rally in an airplane hanger in tiny Montoursville, Pennsylvania this week, "Trump’s characteristic threats of vengeance against his enemies took an especially chilling turn. 'There was treason!' he announced, summarizing the investigation into the Mueller probe. The crowd began chanting, 'Lock them up! Lock them up!'"
Trump initially returned to his prepared text, itself a creepily ethno-nationalist paean to his narrow Electoral College win. “You reclaimed your destiny, you defended your dignity, and you took back your country,” he read, in a passage that probably sounded better in the original German. But the “Lock them up!” chants persisted, and, with his showman’s gift for timing, Trump turned back to his audience and paused as the chants increased, then theatrically relented to the demands of the crowd that he had stoked. “We have a great new attorney general who will give it a very fair look, very fair look,” he promised... As Trump said “very fair,” he wore an arch expression. Trump of course does not use “fair” in anything like the dictionary definition of the term. Trump’s notion of “fairness” is purely positional, revolving entirely around his own self-interest. With his expression, Trump-- unusual for him-- brought the crowd in on the joke. “Very fair” was a punch line.

Trump’s notion of a “fair” attorney general, as he has stated many times, is one who loyally protects the president’s political interests. His frequent expressions of confidence in William Barr are therefore an important indicator. Barr conspicuously refused to answer a question about whether he had been ordered to investigate anybody, then announced a new, third, investigation into the origins of the Russia probe. Barr has also repeatedly prejudged the outcome of that probe in public. Trump “has told close confidants that he ‘finally’ had ‘my attorney general,’ according to two Republicans close to the White House,” reports the Associated Press. Every indicator suggests Trump believes, correctly or otherwise, that his attorney general shares his peculiar, mob-family sense of fairness.

In a pre-Trumpian world, this sequence of events would set off a political crisis. In the surreal landscape we inhabit, it barely registers. But it is worth noting that Trump continues to commit impeachable offenses at an unprecedented pace. Last night’s threats to make good on his “lock them up” promises are merely one more in another recent flurry. The space between Trump’s long-standing authoritarian rhetoric and the deployment of his powers of office is slowly collapsing on several fronts.

Consider some of the events of recent days. Sunday, the New York Times revealed that Deutsche Bank’s internal investigators raised concerns that the portfolios of Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner involved money laundering. Trump is suing Deutsche Bank to block it from complying with congressional investigators. The notion that the president is entitled to engage in red-flagged dealings with money launderers, and conceal it from Congress and the public, is a wild transgression of transparency norms.

The same day, the Times reported Trump is preparing pardons for several American war criminals. Trump has long fantasized about war crimes and human-rights violations as part of his idealized military, from repeating a fantasized historical account of General Pershing shooting Muslims with bullets dipped in pig’s blood to proposing that the United States seize Iraqi oil as spoils of war. His prospective pardoning of war criminals are steps toward institutionalizing this vision as de facto law.

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that Michael Cohen told a closed House panel that Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, encouraged him to lie to Congress in 2017. Cohen’s lie concerned his handling of a deal to build a Trump-branded tower in Moscow. The subject of the lie is itself a massive scandal: Vladimir Putin, who habitually corrupts foreign politicians with bribes disguised as lucrative deals, was dangling a contract worth several hundred million dollars, with no financial risk or downside to Trump.

Cohen has testified that Trump encouraged him to lie by repeating, in his characteristic mobster code-- “There’s no Russia”-- a cover story both men knew to be false. (Trump of course signed the letter of intent for the Moscow Project.) The new report shows that Sekulow was involved in crafting his false testimony, and that, far from the president’s lawyer freelance ordering perjury, Cohen understood Trump to be working through Sekulow.

The new disclosure fleshes out more evidence that the president suborned perjury to conceal evidence that he was deeply compromised by Russia during the campaign.

Also yesterday, former White House Counsel Don McGahn refused to appear at a House hearing to testify to yet another serious presidential crime. According to the Mueller report, Trump ordered McGahn to tell Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller, an order McGahn refused. Trump later told McGahn to falsely deny Trump had ever told him this.

Trump has publicly insisted none of this has happened, a denial that makes McGahn’s testimony highly pertinent. There is no basis for refusing to let McGahn testify. It’s not executive privilege, a right McGahn already waived by discussing it with Mueller. Instead, the White House is advancing the novel and extreme argument that Congress can never compel testimony from a senior White House official. That precedent, if accepted, would negate vast swathes of Congress’s long-standing investigative powers.

What’s more, Trump is backstopping his demand with financial blackmail. The AP reports that “Trump has mused about instructing Republicans to cease dealing with the firm” currently employing McGahn, which relies on Republican connections for its business. So Trump, in short, is using financial blackmail in support of a fallacious legal argument in order to cover up a clear instance of obstruction of justice-- a seamless garment of corruption.

What cynics had waved off as Trump’s cartoonish musings is slowly seeping its way into sanctioned government policy. The question of whether or not to impeach Trump has attached itself to the discrete drama of the Mueller report, which contains a large cache of Trumpian misconduct. But the misconduct is also an ongoing process with no clear endpoint. The impeachable offenses just keep coming.
Reporting from Pam and Russ Martens on Monday is even more of a deep drive into the criminal conspiracy that has taken grip of the executive branch of the U.S. government. Foreign money flows is their topic. Trump tweeting that the NY Times bombshell about Deutsche Bank employees having flagged suspicious activity in Trump's and Kushner-in-law's bank accounts involving those aforementioned foreign money flows was par for the course, but... turned out to be not quite enough to gaslight the country with. Their Deutsche Bank superiors stopped them from reporting the suspicious activities to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). But what Trump claimed in his tweets was that the employees being anonymous sources that were fabricated and didn't exist. That was odd since the source wasn't anonymous, but a legitimate whistleblower, Tammy McFadden, one of the five sources for their story. She is described as "a longtime anti-money laundering specialist in Deutsche Bank’s Jacksonville office," who "found that money had moved from Kushner Companies to Russian individuals," and "concluded that the transactions should be reported to the government-- in part because federal regulators had ordered Deutsche Bank, which had been caught laundering billions of dollars for Russians, to toughen its scrutiny of potentially illegal transactions"-- clearly money laundering. When McFadden wrote up a suspicious Activity Report it was blocked from being sent to FinCEN by Deutsche Bank's Private Bank and McFadden was fired.
Deutsche Bank settled with U.S. and U.K. authorities over a $10 billion Russian money laundering scheme in 2017, paying a combined fine of $630 million.  Deutsche Bank’s offices in Frankfurt, Germany were raided in November of last year by 170 law enforcement officials. The probe involved potential money laundering. The draft report released by Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 13 of last year contained this paragraph:
“Donald Trump’s finances historically have been opaque, but there have long been credible allegations as to the use of Trump properties to launder money by Russian oligarchs, criminals, and regime cronies. There also remain critical unanswered questions about the source of President Trump’s personal and corporate financing. For example, Deutsche Bank, which was fined $630 million in 2017 over its involvement in a $10 billion Russian money-laundering scheme, consistently has been the source of financing for President Trump, his businesses, and his family. We have only begun to explore the relationship between President Trump and Deutsche Bank, and between the bank and Russia.”
Over the years, Deutsche Bank has loaned Trump “a total of well over $2 billion,” according to an earlier report in the New York Times. A significant part of that money was loaned when other major banks would not loan to Trump due to his defaults and business bankruptcies.

The current New York Times article has this to say about bank accounts directly involving Donald Trump:
“After Mr. Trump became president, transactions involving him and his companies were reviewed by an anti-financial crime team at the bank called the Special Investigations Unit. That team, based in Jacksonville, produced multiple suspicious activity reports involving different entities that Mr. Trump owned or controlled, according to three former Deutsche Bank employees who saw the reports in an internal computer system.

“Some of those reports involved Mr. Trump’s limited liability companies. At least one was related to transactions involving the Donald J. Trump Foundation, two employees said.

“Deutsche Bank ultimately chose not to file those suspicious activity reports with the Treasury Department, either, according to three former employees. They said it was unusual for the bank to reject a series of reports involving the same high-profile client.”
Historically, the Justice Department has avoided jailing, or even prosecuting, banksters. Really? Oh yes In 1999 the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations exposed the international money dealings at Citigroup’s commercial bank, Citibank. In his opening remarks, Senator Carl Levin explained how the bank operated:
Today we are looking at the private bank of Citibank. It is the largest bank in the United States, and it has one of the largest private bank operations. It has the most extensive global presence of all U.S. banks, and it had a rogues’ gallery of private bank clients. Citibank has been private banker to:
Raul Salinas, brother to the former President of Mexico; now in prison in Mexico for murder and under investigation in Mexico for illicit enrichment; [Salinas had his murder conviction overturned on appeal and was released from prison in 2005.]
Asif Ali Zardari, husband to the former Prime Minister of Pakistan; now in prison in Pakistan for kickbacks and under indictment in Switzerland for money laundering;
Omar Bongo, President of Gabon; subject of a French criminal investigation into bribery;
sons of the General Sani Abacha, former military leader of Nigeria; one of whom is now in prison in Nigeria on charges of murder and under investigation in Switzerland and Nigeria for money laundering;
Jaime Lusinchi, former President of Venezuela; charged with misappropriation of government funds;
two daughters of Radon Suharto, former President of Indonesia, who has been alleged to have looted billions of dollars from Indonesia…
General Albert Stroessner, former President of Paraguay and notorious for decades for a dictatorship based on terror and profiteering.

During the hearing the subcommittee's counsel, Robert Roach, explained the services that Citibank had provided to then Mexican President Carlos Salinas' brother Raul:
“The private bank…established a shell company for Mr. Salinas with layers of disguised ownership. It permitted a third party using an alias to deposit funds into the accounts, and it moved the funds out of Mexico through a Citibank concentration account that aided in the obfuscation of the audit trail. Cititrust in the Cayman Islands activated a Cayman Island shell corporation called a PIC, or private investment corporation, called Trocca, Ltd., to serve as the owner of record for the Salinas private bank accounts…

“Cititrust used three Panamanian shell companies to function as Trocca’s Board of Directors. Cititrust also used three Cayman Island shell companies to serve as Trocca’s officers and principal shareholders. Cititrust controls all six of these shell companies and routinely uses them to function as directors and officers of PICs that it makes available to private clients. Later, Citibank established a trust, identified only by a number, to serve as the owner of Trocca, Ltd. Raul Salinas was the secret beneficiary of the trust.

“The result of this elaborate structure was that the Salinas name did not appear anywhere on Trocca’s incorporation papers. The Trocca, Ltd. accounts were established in London and Switzerland…

“To accommodate Mr. Salinas’ desire to conceal the fact that he was moving money out of Mexico, Ms. [Amy] Elliott [a Relationship Manager at Citibank] introduced Mr. Salinas’ then-fiancee Paulina Castanon as Patricia Rios to a service officer at the Mexico City branch of Citibank. Operating under that alias, Ms. Castanon would deliver cashiers checks to the branch where they would be converted into dollars and wired into a concentration account in New York. The concentration account is a business account established by Citibank to hold funds from various destinations prior to depositing them into the proper accounts. Transferring funds through this account enables a client’s name and account number to be removed from the transaction, thereby clouding the audit trail. From there, the money would be transferred to the Trocca, Ltd. accounts in London and Switzerland…

“Between October 1992 and October 1994, more than $67 million was moved from Mexico to New York and then on to London and Switzerland by way of this system…Yet no one questioned Mr. Salinas about the origin of these funds. Far from inquiring about the sources of the funds, Ms. Elliott wrote to her colleagues in June 1993 that the Salinas account ‘is turning into an exciting, profitable one for us all. Many thanks for making me look good.'"

Roach further expounded on how the Relationship Manager’s need to “please the client” trumped their responsibilities under the law, stating that “After Mr. Salinas was arrested, Hubertus Rukavina, the head of Citibank Private Bank at the time, suggested that the Salinas accounts in London be transferred back to Switzerland because they would be afforded more secrecy there.”

Amy Elliott, according to Roach, even advised Mrs. Salinas “that it might be wise to move the Trocca, Ltd. account out of Citibank because it might be more difficult for Mexican authorities to obtain account information from a non-U.S. bank.”

At one point during the hearing, Senator Levin questioned Amy Elliott on the transcript of a phone conversation she had with a colleague:

Senator Levin: “On another matter, the day after Mr. Salinas was arrested, you said the following: ‘Everybody was on board on this.’ Later, in the same conversation, you said, ‘I mean, this goes in the very, very top of the corporation this was known, Okay? On the very top.’ Then you said, ‘We are little pawns in this whole thing, Okay?’ Who were you referring to when you said ‘this goes in the very top of the corporation this was known’? Who are you referring to at the very top of the corporation?”

Amy Elliott: “Bill Rhodes…I am sitting four or five down from the chairman, and Bill Rhodes was and is the vice chairman of the bank. To me, that’s pretty top.”
The Martens made it clear to their readers what I hope you have already figured out on your own: "It should be crystal clear that the U.S. Department of Justice can’t be in charge of this new investigation if America expects to ever extricate itself from this unprecedented era of corruption." A new poll released by Monmouth today found the highest percentage yet of registered voters saying they do not think Trump deserves a second term-- 60%. Just 37% say he should be reelected in 2020.

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At 5:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The rule of law died during the Reagan years. Elections were essentially negated by the Supremecist Court in Bush v Gore. The Constitution has been just a piece of paper since after 9/11. HAVA ensured that the "proper" outcomes of votes would reflect the desired result. And obamanation essentially ended any semblance of a second party in governance.

So why the hell should we care that Nancy Pelosi only plays the game to build her hidden stash to buy power and control over her alleged Party? No one is going to do anything about the kkkleptokkkratikkk kkkakkkistokkkracy that now control the most bloated atomic-armed military in the world.

The Epitaph of Humanity: We Didn't Like It Here.

At 6:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

fine comment 5:35.

I'd only add that if Pelosi relents now and a comprehensive airing of trump's crimes is given, it would only serve to prove what a total waste of carbon Pelosi is and has always been.

the minute after trump's first presidential lie (swearing to uphold the constitution), he should have been impeached for emoluments and Russia. there was plenty of proof right then.
since Pelosi didn't get the gavel until '18, he should have been impeached just as soon as the gavel was passed. there was multiples of the '17 proof by then, most of it gushing out of trump's own mouth.

if Pelosi allows impeachment now, she only indicts herself. not that anyone would notice.


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