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REVENGE OF THE “RATS”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 4, 2018 at 12:06 am

Donald Trump resembles his fellow New Yorker, Mafia “Boss of all Bosses” John Gotti, in more ways than he would like to admit. Among these:

  • He craves publicity like a drug.
  • His egomania long ago reached psychotic heights: In a 1990 interview with Playboy magazine, he offered his worldview: “The show is Trump, and it is sold-out performances everywhere.” 
  • He impulsively and brutally badmouths virtually everyone—in press conferences and on Twitter. 
  • He brags constantly—about his wealth, his intelligence, his sexual prowess, his achievements: “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”  
  • He has bought his way out of legal trouble: Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from him while her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates. After Bondi dropped the case against Trump, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. 

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 Donald Trump

  • He repeatedly threatens violence against his opponents: On March 16, 2016, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, “I think you’d have riots….I think bad things would happen.” 
  • Although not a member of the Mafia, he has often been linked—directly or indirectly—to men who are, such as “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano.
  • He prizes being seen as a tough guy: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” At a Las Vegas rally in 2016, he said about a protester: “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
  • He has no loyalty to anyone. He has badmouthed—and fired—such ardent supporters as his ex-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions

It is this last characteristic—his complete lack of loyalty—that may well undo him.

Consider his treatment of Michael Cohen, his personal attorney for more than 10 years.  

On April 9, 2018, the FBI, executing a federal search warrant, raided Cohen’s office at the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs, as well as his home and his hotel room in the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City. 

And Trump’s response: “Michael Cohen only handled a tiny, tiny fraction of my legal work. 

“Michael is in business—he is really a businessman, a fairly big business, as I understand it. I don’t know his business, but [the investigation] doesn’t have to do with me.” 

Thus Trump undermined the argument of Cohen’s lawyers that he was the President’s personal attorney—and therefore everything Cohen did was protected by attorney-client privilege.

Michael Cohen headshot.jpg

Michael Cohen

IowaPolitics.com [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

An April 19, 2018 headline in Esquire magazine warned: “If the Water is Rising, Donald Trump Will Throw You Overboard.” 

The article read in part:

“No matter how long or how intimately you’ve known Donald Trump, you’re one news cycle away from being tossed overboard….

“An old friend becomes a needy acquaintance; a campaign chairman becomes someone you got from the temp agency; a national security adviser becomes a ‘volunteer.'” 

But Michael Cohen wasn’t just Trump’s lawyer. He was his fixer, a man who made problems “go away” with threats and bribes. He knows many—if not most—of Trump’s darkest secrets.

And he has since made it clear he is willing to reveal them.

In an off-camera interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Cohen warned: “I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy” if Trump or his attorneys try to discredit him.

And unlike Trump—who has repeatedly asserted that Russia didn’t interfere with the 2016 Presidential election—Cohen said he believed it did.

Moreover, on November 29, Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to lying to Congress about the Russia investigation. It’s part of a new deal reached with Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.  

Cohen admitted that he lied about the “Moscow Project”—the Trump Organization’s efforts to “pursue a branded property in Moscow.”

He did so in an August 2017 letter to the House and Senate intelligence committees, which were investigating alleged collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian Intelligence agents to subvert the 2016 Presidential election. 

Now Cohen has revealed why, throughout the campaign, Trump hid his business dealings with Russia—while Moscow intervened to elect him.

Cohen has spent more than 70 hours in interviews with Mueller’s team. There is no telling how many of Trump’s secrets he has revealed.

Mueller—unlike Trump—doesn’t vent his temper in semi-literate tweets. In a rarity for Washington institutions, there have been almost no leaks from the Office of the Special Counsel since Mueller was empowered on May 17, 2017.

Mueller has also spoken with other federal prosecutors and the New York State Attorney General’s Office. 

Shortly after news broke that Cohen had pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, Trump attacked his onetime fixer: “He’s a liar. He’s a weak person and what he’s trying to do is get a reduced sentence.” 

But shortly after news broke that Cohen had revealed Trump’s business dealings with Russia, the President canceled his scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the December 1 G20 summit in Buenos Aires.

REVENGE OF THE “RATS”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 3, 2018 at 12:23 am

President Donald Trump shares many similarities with John Gotti, who, for five years, ruled as the boss of the most powerful Mafia family in the United States: The Gambino Family. 

Among those similarities: A complete lack of loyalty to anyone. 

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John Gotti

On December 12, 1989, Gotti became a victim of his own disloyalty.

Unknowingly speaking into an FBI electronic bug, Gotti charged that Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, his underboss, or second-in command, was too greedy. He also blamed him for the murders of three Mafiosi whom Gotti had ordered hit: Robert “Deebee” DiBernardo, Louis Milito and Louis DiBono.  

“Deebee, did he ever talk subversive to you?” asked Gotti.

“Never,” replied his Consigliere, or adviser, Frankie Locascio. 

“Never talked it to Angelo, never talked it to [Joseph Armone] either,” said Gotti. “I took Sammy’s word that he talked about me behind my back….I was in jail when I whacked him. I knew why it was being done. I done it anyway. I allowed it to be done anyway.” 

Gotti was determined to blame Gravano for the murders of Milito and DiBono. He claimed that both men had been killed because Gravano had asked for permission to remove his business partners.

In fact, Milito had been “whacked” for questioning Gotti’s judgment. And DiBono had been hit because he refused to answer a Gotti summons

And there was more: Gotti accused Gravano of excessive greed—and hoarding money for himself at the expense of the Family:

“That’s Sammy….Every fucking time I turn around there’s a new company poppin’ up. Building. Consulting. Concrete.  Where the hell did all these new companies come from?  Where did five new companies come from? 

“Paul [Castellano, the Gambino Family’s previous boss] sold the Family out for a fucking construction company. And that’s what Sammy’s doing now. Three, four guys will wind up with every fuckin’ thing. And the rest of the Family looks like waste.” 

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Sammy “The Bull” Gravano

He accused Gravano of creating “a fuckin’ army inside an army,” adding: “You know what I’m saying, Frankie? I saw that shit and I don’t need that shit.” 

Gotti’s effort to rewrite history soon came back to haunt him.

At a 1991 pretrial hearing following the arrests of Gotti, Gravano and Locascio, prosecutors played the FBI’s tapes of Gotti’s unintended confessions—including his badmouthing of Gravano. 

Gravano suddenly realized that his future in the Mafia was nil. 

Gravano, Gotti and Locascio were all facing life imprisonment as targets of RICO—the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

And if the Feds didn’t send him to prison, mob gunmen—sent by Gotti—would eventually get him. Gotti clearly planned to make him the fall guy—in court or in a coffin—for murders that Gotti himself had ordered

Only John Gotti was shocked when Gravano agreed to testify against him—and other Mafiosi—in exchange for a five-year prison sentence.

Gravano, as Gotti’s second-in-command, had literally been at the seat of power for five years. He knew the secrets of the Gambino Family—and the other four Mafia families who ruled New York.

On April 2, 1992, a jury convicted Gotti of five murders, conspiracy to murder, loansharking, illegal gambling, obstruction of justice, bribery and tax evasion. He drew a life sentence, without possibility of parole.

Gotti was incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, in virtual solitary confinement. He died of throat cancer on June 10, 2002, at the age of 61.    

And just as Gotti’s disloyalty ultimately destroyed him, the same may yet prove true for Donald Trump.

Consider the case of attorney Michael Cohen.

  • An executive of the Trump Organization, Cohen acted as “Trump’s pit bull.” “If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like,” he told ABC News in 2011, “I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit.”
  • In 2015, a reporter for The Daily Beast asked Cohen about Ivana Trump’s charge (later recanted) that Trump had raped her while they were married. Cohen: “I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting.”
  • In 2016, while Trump was running for President, Cohen acted as the go-between for a $130,000 hush-money payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels. The reason: To prevent her from revealing a 2006 tryst she had had with Trump.  

In April 2018, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York began investigating Cohen. Charges reportedly included bank fraud, wire fraud and violations of campaign finance law.

Trump executive Michael Cohen 012 (5506031001) (cropped).jpg

Michael Cohen

By IowaPolitics.com (Trump executive Michael Cohen 012) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

On April 9, 2018, the FBI, executing a federal search warrant, raided Cohen’s office at the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs, as well as his home and his hotel room in the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City. Agents seized emails, tax and business records and recordings of phone conversations that Cohen had made.

Trump’s response: “Michael Cohen only handled a tiny, tiny fraction of my legal work.”  

Thus Trump undermined the argument of Cohen’s lawyers that he was the President’s personal attorney—and therefore everything Cohen did was protected by attorney-client privilege.

THE MOST DANGEROUS MOMENT: PART TWO (END)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on November 7, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Oligarchy: a government in which a small group exercises control, especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.

The returns are in.

And Barack Obama has been re-elected to another four years as President of the United States.

For his supporters, it is a time to celebrate.

For his enemies–and that is exactly how they consider themselves–in the Republican party, it is a time to mourn.  And to re-group to take vengeance in the coming months and years.

For the United States Secret Service, it should be a time for the most heightened security.

Make no mistake: Republicans were counting on Mitt Romney to return their party to the heights of absolute power:

  • Commanding the White House and the House of Representatives, they would have dictated American foreign and domestic policy for at least the next four years–and more likely, the next eight.
  • And even though Democrats were expected to retain control of the Senate, there would have been enough Republicans in it to thwart any legislative efforts proposed by Democrats.
  • Romney would have been able to appoint Justices to the Supreme Court–which, by itself, would have influenced American legal and social life for up to 30 years.

And Republicans were counting on more than simply access to unlimited money to defeat Obama.  A major part of their electoral strategy called for suppressing the rights of minorities to vote.

Mike Turzai, Majority Leader of Pennsylvania’s state House of Representatives, admitted this when he outlined a list of accomplishments made by the GOP-run legislature: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

So there will definitely be recriminations.

Many–perhaps most–Republicans will blame Romney for not having been “severely conservative” enough.

They’ll demand that their next Presidential nominee be even more right-wing in his stands on issues.

How right-wing?  Right-wing enough to win the endorsement of classic Fascist leaders like Benito Mussolini and Francisco Franco.

A minority will argue–probably in vain–that the party must reach out to youth, blacks, moderate women and–most especially–Latinos.

They will warn: “The days of depending on a whites-only electorate have passed.  And if we don’t own up to this, we, as a party, will also become history.”

For the moment, however, the smart money will be on those hard-core Rightists who control the levers of power within the party.

They will bitterly resist making such “radical” changes.  Partly because they are driven by fascistic ideology.  And partly because they know the activist base of the party is equally driven by the same ideology.

So, for the foreseeable future, they will aim the majority of their anger and disappointment at President Obama.  And so will their “billionaire boys club” financial backers.

Thus, the second threat facing President Obama could be an attempted assassination.

Think of it:

  • Right-wing billionaires were thrilled with the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which ended limits on campaign donations.
  • During the primary season, at least 32 billionaires lavished a minimum of $52 million to Restore Our Future, a super PAC supporting Mitt Romney.
  • To those losses must now be added the huge returns they expected to make on their investment–in tax breaks for their corporations and tax cuts for themselves.
  • Coal and oil companies were salivating over the coming dismantling of the Environmental Protection Agency.  Federally protected areas–such as the Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska–would become prime drilling spots.
  • To greed-obsessed Rightists, the words of Niccolo Machiavelli apply with a vengeance: “Men forget more easily the death of their father than the loss of their inheritance.”
  • A number of wealthy right-wingers head private military companies employing former members of such elite military units as Navy SEALS and Army Green Berets.  Many of these companies received millions of dollars in government contracts to supply “hired guns” in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Such CEOs command both the financial and personnel resources to carry out a Presidential assassination
  • “Money buys power,” warns Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist.  “And the increasing wealth of a tiny minority has effectively bought the allegiance of one of our two major political parties.”
  • Access to such unlimited money–and the ideological conviction that they are doing God’s work–might convince some of these oligarchs that they could mount a Presidential assassination–and then buy the legal and/or political protection necessary to get away with it.

Organized crime expert G. Robert Blakey–the former Justice Department official who created the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act–believes that just this happened almost 50 years ago.

President John F. Kennedy had given his brother, Robert, full power as Attorney General to destroy the Mafia.

But the Mafia, Blakey believes, used its own access to unlimited money and assassins to destroy the President.  And then the mobsters used that same unlimited money to buy legal and political influence to escape prosecution.

Such an outrage must not be allowed to happen now.

THE MOST DANGEROUS MOMENT: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on November 6, 2012 at 2:38 pm

If Barack Obama is re-elected President on November 6, the result will be “civil war” within the Republican Party.

That is the prediction of POLITICO and a number of other politics-following pundits, such as Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s “Hardball.”

But if he wins another four years in office, the President could face unprecedented threats to his authority–and safety.

Among the results of this Republican “civil war” predicted by POLITICO: A clash between

  • moderates and right-wingers
  • those who are concerned about fiscal issues and those concerned about social issues
  • anti-establishment Tea Party members and establishment-order Republicans
  • those favoring amnesty for illegal aliens to expand the party base and those demanding wholesale deportation of such aliens.

If Romney fails to win the White House, there will definitely be many Republicans who call for “death to moderates and moderation.”

Or, as another failed Republican Presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater, put it in 1964: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

But the unleashed passions of a Romney defeat could result in more than a Republican implosion.  They could also release the most dangerous types of explosion–aimed at President Obama.

The first of these threats could be an attempted impeachment. 

While this may sound beyond the realm of possibility, some Republicans have openly salivated over the prospect of railroading the President out of office.

On August 16, 2011, Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain said that impeaching Obama “would be a great thing to do.”

Asked on a conference call with bloggers why Republicans couldn’t just impeach Obama, Cain responded:

“That’s a great question and it is a great–it would be a great thing to do, but because the Senate is controlled by Democrats we would never be able to get the Senate first to take up that action, because they simply don’t care what the American public thinks.

“So the main stumbling block in terms of getting him impeached on a whole list of things such as trying to pass a health care mandate which is unconstitutional, ordering the Department of Justice to not enforce the Defense of Marriage Act–that’s an impeachable offense right there.

“There are a number of things where a case could be made in order to impeach him, but because Republicans do not control the United States Senate, they would never allow it to get off the ground.”

Not being able to impeach Obama, Republicans have settled for everything else short of that.

During the 2012 Presidential race, Republicans have accused Obama of a lack of “bipartisanship.”  Romney has repeatedly promised to “work across the aisle” with Democrats if elected.

Yet it was a high-ranking Republican who gave away the game.

In an interview with National Journal magazine published October 23, 2010, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Republicans have worked tirelessly to defeat Obama’s efforts to provide universal healthcare for those who can’t afford expensive medical insurance.

They spread the false report that the new healthcare law would come with “death panels” to direct Americans to euthanasia centers.

They also directed their followers to disrupt town hall meetings of Democratic Congressmen and Senators where the proposed law would be discussed.  Several such meetings had to be canceled due to verbal or even physical outbursts aimed at those presiding.

A number of Democratic Senators and Congressmen received violent threats and/or their offices or campaign headquarters were  vandalized.

President Obama himself came in for smears of the most scurrilous sort.  According to Republicans and their right-wing allies:

  • Obama was born in Kenya–despite a Hawaiian birth certificate proving his American citizenship.
  • He was a Nazi, and thus often depicted in posters wearing a Hitler mustache.
  • He was a Muslim–despite his having been a member of the United Church of Christ for 20 years.
  • He was collaborating with America’s Muslim enemies in Al Qaeda–despite his ordering the killing of Osama bin Laden and killing far more Al Qaeda leaders with pilotless drones than George W. Bush had.

Republicans refused to give Obama credit for anything.

  • When he ordered the successful Navy SEALS raid on bin Laden, rightists claimed: “The SEALS took out bin Laden, not Obama.”  True–except that the SEALS wouldn’t have made the raid had Obama not ordered it.
  • When the Bureau of Labor Statistics said that unemployment was high, Republicans blamed Obama’s “anti-business” policies.
  • When, later, many businesses started hiring, Republicans claimed this proved the free enterprise system could overcome any difficulties.
  • Republicans didn’t object to George W. Bush’s lying the United States into a needless war with Iraq by claiming that Saddam Hussein had been a party to 9/11–and was building a nuclear bomb.
  • When Obama began withdrawing troops from Iraq, Republicans attacked him for “losing Iraq,” as though that country was ours to lose.
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