Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Shouldn't Senators Who Took Big Contributions From Trump Nominees Recuse Themselves From Confirmation Hearings?


Oh, look who led us astray... again

California Senator Kamala Harris could set a good example for Republican senators-- maybe even shame them-- by recusing herself from voting on Trump's Treasury Secretary nominee, Steven Mnuchin. Mnuchin, who 2016 saw giving $10,000 pops to a very specific group of state Republican parties-- Mississippi, West Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina and Arkansas-- as well as over $300,000 to the RNC, only donated directly to one U.S, Senate candidate, corporate Democrat Kamala Harris ($2,000 on February 10, 2016). Many people feel certain Mnuchin contributed to the sleaze-tainted Harris to avoid prosecution in relation to shady foreclosures. Unless she recuses herself, Harris will have to vote for or against Mnuchin's nomination.

Similarly, Rex Tillerson singled out just one Republican Senate candidate this year for a big contribution-- Missouri Republican Roy Blunt, who took a $5,400 check from Tillerson on August 31. Chuck Grassely ought to recuse himself from consideration of the Betsy DeVos nomination for Education Secretary since she gave him $2,700 directly on June 6.

Wilbur Ross, whose confirmation hearings have been delayed by the Senate Commerce committee over ethical considerations, didn't give any direct money to any of the Senate candidates this cycle but whoever got Mnuchin to contribute to the state Replublic parties in Mississippi, West Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina and Arkansas seems to have persuaded Ross to make the exact same contributions-- none more, no less. That's no coincidence. Was that Mitch McConnell's office? Paul Ryan's? I wonder what that money was earmarked for.

In his Senate confirmation hearing today, Tillerson lied when he claimed Exxon didn't lobby against Russian post-Crimea sanctions. This report from Open Secrets shows that it absolutely did. This morning there was a report that FEC documents show that the Exxon-Mobil PAC controlled by Tillerson contributed $5,000 each to Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and John Barrasso (R-WY), who are both members of the Foreign Relations Committee. A member of Congress who asked to not be identified told me a few hours ago that both of these guys should immediately recuse themselves or face an ethics investigation.

Does Trump have to worry about ethical considerations at all. A new poll released by Quinnipiac seems to indicate his administration better start paying heed. The "honeymoon" ended even before the leaks about Trump and the golden shower prostitutes started leaking out. Americans seem to have had enough of Trump already! Most Americans now have an unfavorable view of him. His numbers are going in thew wrong direction. After the election 41% of Americans thought he'd be a better leader than Obama, but they number has now shrunk back down to 34%, basically the dumbbells who voted for him. In Quinnipiac's previous poll 40% of the respondents had persuaded themselves Trump's policies worked actually help make their personal; financial situation better. That didn't last long; it's now 27%. And when it comes to issues involved directly with his ethics... not good. 42% saw him as "honest" after the election. After his shenanigans of the last month,that number has sunk down to 39%. And overall, 28% said that watching Trump in action since the election have made them feel more uneasy how his coming presidency while only 23% said his actions have made them feel better.

Fewer people now think he's "level-headed," "strong, "intelligent," "empathetic" and has good leadership skills. As for the two parties, people have unfavorable views of both, more so of the Republicans. Overall, 33% of respondents have a favorable view of Republicans (55% unfavorable) and 37% have a favorable view of Democrats (52% unfavorable).

It now turns out two other Trump crooks nominated for cabinet positions, Betsy DeVos and Andrew Puzder, have had their confirmation hearings delayed for the same ethics questions as Ross. After Trump's press conference today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) Executive Director Noah Bookbinder released a statement on behalf of his organization:
The only way for Donald Trump to avoid massive conflicts of interest is to sell his business outside the family and place the assets in a true blind trust, where he will not have any way of knowing or influencing how the assets are allocated. By refusing to divest, Trump is breaking decades of precedent, just as he did with his refusal to release his tax returns. He has failed to live up to the ethical standard of past presidents including Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and all others of the past 40 years.

He will continue to own his business, which will continue to have foreign interests. It is absurd to believe he will have no knowledge of his business, when he will continue to own it, and it will be run by his children. He claims that he will only know what he reads in newspapers, but newspapers report which foreign dignitaries are staying at his hotel. His businesses all have his name on them in giant gold letters. He will know what they are and what legislation, regulations, or actions will benefit or hurt them.

He’s not worried about conflicts of interest because the statutes don’t apply to the president. If that sounds familiar, it was the position Nixon took when he told David Frost ‘when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.’ Just because it’s not illegal, does not mean it is right or moral. Every decision he will make as president will be followed by the specter of doubt, and will be questioned as to whether his decision is in the best interest of the American people or the best interest of his bottom line. He will also face questions about whether he is violating the constitution by taking payments from foreign governments on a daily basis. Today was his first test as president. He failed.

After he was done speaking, Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) didn't seem impressed. "It is clear from President-Elect Trump’s statement and answers today that he will not fully separate himself from his business transactions and potential conflicts of interest. He also has no intention of disclosing his financial interests, as past presidents have done. His response to these legitimate questions was simply 'trust me.' Our democracy and the American people deserve better... The legislation I have cosponsored would apply the ethical standards, norms, and precedents that have been developed over decades to our incoming administration, which refuses to follow them.  I urge Speaker Ryan to put these measures to a vote and pass them with the urgency these critical issues demand."

H.R. 371, the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act, would require the President, Vice President, their spouses, and minor or dependent children to release their tax returns, divest from all assets that may generate conflicts of interest, and disclose all of their financial interests. It would also force the President-Elect to create a blind trust to manage, oversee, and process the sale and proceeds of his holdings. Currently, the President is exempt from conflicts of interest laws. H.R. 356, To establish the National Commission on Foreign Interference in the 2016 Election, would create a bipartisan commission to investigate and the Russian interference in the U.S. elections. It would aim to provide a full accounting of what happened, why, and how. And H.J.Res. 26 denies congressional consent for Trump to accept any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign state throughout the tenure of his Presidency. The idea of this resolution would is to grant Congress the power to deny transactions that violate the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.

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At 12:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) If, as stated in the article: "(c)urrently, the President is exempt from conflicts of interest laws ... " then it's (yet more) Dem magical thinking to act as if there were anything greater than a zero chance that proposed legislation to apply conflict laws to the president, will be considered, much less, pass the GOP-controlled congress. As has been noted previously, the Dems become (barely) adequately politically feisty only when there is no chance that whatever political farts they are omitting will persist, as now, when the category 10 fascist hurricane is making landfall in Wash DC.

2) The emolument clause refers, only, to "any King, Prince, or foreign state." These are sovereign entities. Is there any evidence that any detectable fraction of Herr Hair's business dealings are actually with such state entities, as opposed to individuals/companies based in foreign countries?

3) If Harris can be bought for a known $2000, from Mnuchin the ghoul, then either she's very cheap or there was/is a LOT more $$$'s passed/passing out of sight.

4) Am soo...oooo anticipating yet another National (political football) Commission as the Kennedy Assassination, 9/11 and,
don't forget, the abortive Cat Food Commissions. But see #1, above.

John Puma

At 5:54 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

What are the chances such a bill would pass ? Nil. Our government has become the most ethically challenged democracy on earth. It is now out there for all to see. Trump is sticking it to us, right in our faces, his usual style. "Fuck you, America, I will do what I want. I am king of this country and nothing I do is illegal." Who are all of his supporters, any way? What the hell is going on inside their heads, and hearts? And what about the Republicans? Will they actually put up with this astounding b.s.? Are they all so incredibly debased? I guess the answer is YES.

Mass demonstrations will be the last resort of the American people to get rid of this monster. I hope there's good weather for the Women's March on January 21.

At 8:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, they should.

No, they won't.


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