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Posts Tagged ‘OBSTRUCTION OF CONGRESS’

TWO DANGERS FACING AMERICA: TRUMP—AND THE CORONAVIRUS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 9, 2020 at 12:07 am

On August 23, 2018, President Donald Trump offered an unprecedented reason why he shouldn’t be impeached. 

Appearing on “Fox and Friends,” he said:

  • “I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who’s done a great job.”
  • “I tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor.”
  • Pointing to his head, he said: “Because without this thinking, you would see numbers that you wouldn’t believe in reverse.” 

He didn’t say: “I shouldn’t be impeached because I’m innocent. I didn’t collude with Russian Intelligence to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.” 

Instead, he appealed to the greed and fear of his voting base—and no doubt hoped to reach beyond it: “Keep me in power or you’ll all suffer for it.”

Donald Trump

On February 5, the Republican-dominated Senate acquitted him of the two charges brought by the Democratic House of Representatives on December 18, 2019: 

Article 1: Abuse of Power: For pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by damaging former Vice President Joseph Biden, his possible 2020 Democratic rival; and

Article 2: Obstruction of Congress: For obstructing Congress by blocking testimony of subpoenaed witnesses and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry. 

So Trump escaped impeachment—and the country is now suffering for it. 

On February 27, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had its single worst one-day drop in history—falling 1,191 points.

The reason can be summed up in one word: Coronavirus. Simply put, investors hate uncertainty, because it makes it hard to plan. And nothing makes uncertainty like a new and frightening virus that’s easily passed and for which there is no vaccine or cure.

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Coronavirus

And that causes millions of people to change their everyday behavior in unprecedented ways–such as not attending basketball games, eating in restaurants, flying on airplanes, going on cruises—and simply going to work.

Of course, Trump didn’t create the Coronavirus. But he has made it even more of a threat to Americans than it had to be.

In 2017, nearly 700 positions remained vacant at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because Trump imposed a hiring freeze. This affected programs supporting local and state public health emergency readiness, infectious disease control and chronic disease prevention.

Making the situation worse: The CDC’s director, Tom Friedman, stepped down in January, 2017, and it wasn’t until July that the agency got another one: Brenda Fitzgerald. But she served only until January, 2018. She was succeeded—two months later—by Robert Ray Redfield, Jr. He has been the director since then.

The post of director of the CDC is considered one of the most crucial public health positions in the government. The CDC is charged with tracking and preventing infectious disease outbreaks  in the United States and worldwide.

CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia

Another way Trump has sabotaged America’s ability to respond to the Coronavirus outbreak: Gutting the permanent epidemic monitoring and command groups set up inside the White House: The National Security Council (NSC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The reason for this: Trump’s pathological jealousy of and hatred for former President Barack Obama.

Since taking office, Trump has made an all-out effort to destroy every vestige of Obama’s legacy as the first black President of the United States. And these disease-monitoring groups were set up by Obama following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.

In the spring of 2018, Trump pushed Congress to cut $15 billion from national health spending—and cutting the global disease-fighting budgets of the CDC, National Security Council, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Federal $30 million fund for Complex Crises was eliminated as well.

In April, 2018, National Security Adviser John Bolton forced Tom Bossert, director of the infectious disease unit at DHS, to resign—along with his entire team. In May, 2018, Trump ordered the NSC’s global health security unit shut down.

Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, who headed the unit, was reassigned.

Neither the NSC nor the DHS epidemic team has been replaced.

The global health section of the CDC was decimated, and had to reduce the number of countries it was monitoring from 49 to 10.

It’s popular to assume that Trump did all of this out of mere ignorance—and there’s plenty of proof of his ignorance in many areas (such as attributing windmills to causing cancer). But far more is at work here.

The vast majority of those who voted for Trump believe that the Federal Government is evil and its agencies that regulate business should be eliminated.

An example of this constituency is Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, which opposes all tax increases and has forced most Republicans to publicly pledge they will as well, under any circumstances.

His most famous quote: “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” 

Under Trump, the epidemic-fighting arm of the Federal Government has become so shrunk that America itself may be the one to drown—in an epidemic of Coronavirus. 

TRUMP: “MY CRIMES ARE NOW YOUR CRIMES”—AGAIN

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 3, 2020 at 12:06 am

On October 4, 1943, SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler addressed SS officers stationed in Posen, Poland, about the ongoing campaign to exterminate the Jews of Europe.

He gave a similar speech two days later to an audience of Reichsleiters (national leaders) and Gauleiters (governors), as well as other government representatives. 

Himmler intended to alert Reich officials of the extermination campaign the Schutzstaffel (“Protective Squads”)—otherwise known as the SS—and Wehrmacht (German army) had been waging since June, 1941.

The purpose: To make his listeners accessories to his monumental crimes—and to warn them there was no turning back.

Heinrich Himmler 

Either Nazi Germany won the war that its Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, had unintentionally unleashed on September 1, 1939—or its topmost officials would themselves face extinction as war criminals.

Said Himmler:

“I want to also mention a very difficult subject before you, with complete candor. It should be discussed amongst us, yet nevertheless, we will never speak about it in public. I am talking about the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish people. 

“It is one of those things that is easily said: ‘The Jewish people is being exterminated.’…Most of you will know what it means when 100 bodies lie together, when 500 are there or when there are 1000. And to have seen this through and—with the exception of human weakness—to have remained decent, has made us hard and is a page of glory never mentioned and never to be mentioned…. 

“But altogether we can say: We have carried out this most difficult task for the love of our people. And we have suffered no defect within us, in our soul, in our character.” 

Fast forward 76 years—to January, 2020. 

On December 18, 2019, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives approved two Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump:

Article 1: Abuse of Power: For pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by damaging former Vice President Joseph Biden, his possible 2020 Democratic rival; and

Article 2: Obstruction of Congress: For obstructing Congress by blocking testimony of subpoenaed witnesses and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry. 

Donald Trump

Trump’s defense in the House had consisted of:

  1. Refusing to testify himself;
  2. Refusing to produce witnesses on his behalf;
  3. Refusing to turn over requested documents;
  4. Claiming that Democrats were preventing him from testifying or producing witnesses;
  5. Ordering administration officials to not testify before the six House impeachment committees investigating his behavior.

Those government employees who testified did so voluntarily—and at risk of retaliation. Among these were:

  1. Ukraine ambassador Bill Taylor;
  2. Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official overseeing Ukraine-related U.S. policy;
  3. Former White House official Fiona Hill; and
  4. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

They offered damning testimony against Trump. 

When the trial began in the United States Senate on January 16, 2020, Trump’s legal team:

  1. Did not call any witnesses;
  2. Did not deny that Trump had sought to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into interfering with the 2020 election;
  3. Attacked Joseph and Hunter Biden as if they were on trial;
  4. Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul submitted a written question to presiding Chief Justice John Roberts that included the name of the alleged whistleblower to Trump’s coercion. Roberts refused to read it aloud;
  5. Paul raced outside the Senate and gave a press conference, where he named the alleged whistleblower—whose identity is protected by law.

Perhaps even more frightening: One of Trump’s attorneys, Alan Dershowitz, offered Trump—and all future Presidents–a blanket of immunity worthy of a king: 

“If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment. Every public official that I know believes that his election is of the public interest.” 

Responding to that argument, House Manager Adam Schiff (D-CA) said: “It’s been a remarkable evolution of the presidential defense. It began with, ‘none of that stuff happened here.’ It began with ‘nothing to see here.’ It migrated to, ‘OK, they did seek investigations of the president’s political rival.’ And then it became OK.” 

Meanwhile, the Senate majority of 53 Republicans vigorously supported Trump’s demand that no witnesses to his crimes be allowed to testify.

Among these: Former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

On December 29, 2019, The New York Times broke a sensational story:

In a forthcoming book, Bolton had written that Trump had told him, in August 2019, that he wanted to continue freezing aid to Ukraine until its officials began investigating the Bidens.

Despite—or because of—this bombshell report, Senate Republicans absolutely refused to admit the testimony of witnesses. 

By following the same strategy as Heinrich Himmler, Trump has entangled Republicans in his own crimes.

His infamy is now theirs.

History has brutally condemned those Germans who, knowing the full extent of Adolf Hitler’s crimes, nevertheless signed on to perpetuate and conceal them. 

History will render the same damning verdict against Senate Republicans who have provided similar cover for Donald Trump.

FIVE TRUTHS REPUBLICAN SENATORS WON’T TELL YOU: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 21, 2020 at 12:12 am

On January 16, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered this oath to the 100 Senators who would render judgment on the conduct of the 45th President of the United States:

“Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, President of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?”

Truth #2: All 100 Senators pledged they would. But Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham had earlier made clear they had no such intention. 

“I’m not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There’s not anything judicial about it,” Mitch McConnell told reporters in December. “I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I’m not impartial about this at all.” 

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Mitch McConnell

And Lindsey Graham offered this during an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity: “The best thing for the American people is to end this crap as quickly as possible, to have a trial in the Senate, bipartisan acquittal of the President. And on Feb. 4, when the president comes into the House chamber to deliver the State of the Union, he will have been acquitted by the Senate.” 

If this were a criminal or civil trial, McConnell and Graham would automatically be ejected from jury service.    

Truth #3: Instead of acting as impartial witnesses, Republican Senators are conspiring to obstruct evidence through smears and intimidation. 

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has called for at least four witnesses to testify. These include: 

  • Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney;
  • Former national security adviser John Bolton;
  • Robert Blair, senior adviser to the acting White House chief;
  • Michael Duffey, an official with the Office of Management and Budget.

These are men who are in a position to testify about what they actually saw Trump do.

To prevent such testimony, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and other Right-wingers threaten that if Democrats subpoena Bolton, Republicans will subpoena Hunter Biden and the whistleblower at the center of the impeachment inquiry. 

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Rand Paul

Biden is the son of former Vice President Joseph Biden—and has nothing to contribute to knowledge of Trump’s attempted extortion of Ukraine. Subpoenaing him would simply be an act of gratuitous cruelty and sensationalism.

And forcing the still-unidentified whistleblower to testify would violate Justice Department protections for those who testify to government wrongdoing. 

Truth #4: Republican Senators’ willingness to support Trunmp’s crimes cannot be divorced from the evil of their constituents.  

On August 30, 2017, an article in Salon examined why Donald Trump’s base supports him so fanatically: “Most Americans Strongly Dislike Trump, But the Angry Minority That Adores Him Controls Our Politics.”

“These are older and more conservative white people, for the most part, who believe he should not listen to other Republicans and should follow his own instincts….

“They like Trump’s coarse personality, and approve of the fact that he treats women like his personal playthings. They enjoy it when he expresses sympathy for neo-Nazis and neo-Confederate white supremacists.

“They cheer when he declares his love for torture, tells the police to rough up suspects and vows to mandate the death penalty for certain crimes. (Which of course the president cannot do.)

“…This cohort of the Republican party didn’t vote for Trump because of his supposed policies on trade or his threat to withdraw from NATO. They voted for him because he said out loud what they were thinking. A petty, sophomoric, crude bully is apparently what they want as a leader.”

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Trump supporters giving the Nazi salute

Truth #5: Republicans love Trump—but love their careers more. 

According to an August 29, 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center, 65% of Republicans are revolted by Trump’s personality and behavior. But they are being advised by GOP political consultants to vigorously support him.

“Your heart tells you that he’s bad for the country,” one anonymous consultant told a Salon reporter. “Your head looks at polling data among Republican primary voters and sees how popular he is.” 

Thus, it is not Trump who commands their ultimate loyalty—and certainly not the United States Constitution—but their desire to remain in office for life.

By supporting Trump, they guarantee that he will not “primary” them in the upcoming 2020 elections—that is, run an even more Fascistic candidate against them.

They also ensure a steady stream of “campaign contributions” (i.e., bribes) from Russian oligarchs—who, in turn, take their marching orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Finally: Republicans fear that if Trump is convicted and removed, they will lose their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House. If Trump is branded a loser, his supporters will also be branded the same.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Richard Nixon was forced to resign in disgrace on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House. 

If Republicans are conflicted about supporting Trump, their dilemma boils down to this:

  1. Can I hold onto my power—and all the privileges that go with it—by supporting Trump?  Or: 
  2. Can I hold onto my power—and privileges—by deserting him?

This is how Republicans define morality today.

FIVE TRUTHS REPUBLICAN SENATORS WON’T TELL YOU: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 20, 2020 at 12:05 am

On January 16, two Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump were submitted to the United States Senate.

Almost one month earlier—on December 18, 2019—the House of Representatives had approved those Articles for:  

Article 1: Abuse of Power: For pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by damaging former Vice President Joseph Biden, his possible Democratic rival. 

Article 2: Obstruction of Congress: For obstructing Congress by blocking testimony of subpoenaed witnesses and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry. 

One hundred Senators will now decide if Trump remains as the 45th President of the United States—or becomes the first President in history to be convicted and removed.

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The United States Senate

(The first President to be impeached, Andrew Johnson, survived in office by only one vote. The second, Richard Nixon, resigned rather than face almost certain conviction.)

Of those 100, 53 are Republicans—like Trump.

Democrats form a majority in the House—that was how they secured Trump’s impeachment. But with only 47 members in the Senate, they do not command a majority to secure conviction.

Their only hope is to convince enough Republicans to vote on the basis of the evidence—which is overwhelming. 

On September 9, 2019, the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight and Reform committees began investigating his attempted extortion of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

On July 25, 2019, Trump had “asked” Zelensky to do him a “favor”: Find embarrassing “dirt” on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter.

Hunter had had business dealings in Ukraine. And Joseph Biden might be Trump’s Democratic opponent for the White House in 2020.

To underline the seriousness of his “request,” earlier in July, Trump had told Mick Mulvaney, his White House chief of staff, to withhold $400 million in military aid Congress had approved for Ukraine, which is facing an increasingly aggressive Russia.

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Donald Trump

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. And ever since, the evidence linking Trump to impeachable offenses has mushroomed.

On January 16, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced that the Trump administration broke the law when it withheld security aid to Ukraine.

The GAO, a nonpartisan congressional watchdog, declared that the White House Budget Office violated the Impoundment Control Act, a 1974 law that limits the White House from withholding funds that Congress has appropriated.

“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the GAO auditors wrote. 

Still, no one actually expects Republican Senators to uphold their Constitutional duties. The smart money is on their giving Trump a free pass on his latest act of illegality. 

There are, however, truths that these Republican Senators will not dare mention publicly. This article will do its best to cast a spotlight on them.

Truth #1: The man presiding over the Senate—Kentucky United States Senator Mitch McConnell—has received monies from Russian oligarchs linked to Russian dictator and Donald Trump sponsor Vladimir Putin.

pacAnd so have other Republicans.

Len Blavatnik is a Russian oligarch with strong ties to Putin. In 2015-16, he contributed to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs) and top Republican leaders, including McConnell.

According to Federal Election Commission:

During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proved one of the largest donors to GOP PACs..

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. In 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs.

In 2017, he gave millions of dollars to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)

Specifically, Blavatnik contributed:

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio. 
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell. 
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich.
  • $800,000 went to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham.

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The Kremlin

Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributed $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee

A third oligarch, Andrew Intrater, contributed $250,000 to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.

And a fourth, Simon Kukes, contributed a total of $283,000, much of it to the Trump Victory Fund.

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Shustorovich, Intrater and Kukes––contributed $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans

Truth #2: At least two Republican Senators—McConnell and Graham—committed perjury when they took an oath to render impartial judgment on Trump.

All 100 Senators pledged they would “do impartial justice” in judging Trump’s actions as President.

But Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham had earlier made clear they had no such intention. 

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