Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

Category: Government (Page 2 of 10)

Ding Dong, the Witch Hunt is Dead!


Future Ex-President Donald J. Trump reeled from a double blow yesterday. Paul Manafort, his bargain-basement campaign manager, was convicted of eight counts of fraud. At almost the same time, Michael Cohen, his fixer, pled guilty to tax fraud and making illegal campaign contributions — to Stormy Daniels, a five-tool player in the porn industry, and Kathy McDougal, a Playboy veteran. Both women were paid by Cohen not to reveal their hook-ups with FEPOTUS.  Even worse, Cohen testified that a candidate for federal office had directed him to do it.

Trump was livid. Now he’d never get his cut of Manafort’s loan proceeds or the lobbying money collected by Cohen. Nothing makes him madder than his Capos making money without paying him his cut. He spent the flight time on Air Force drafting a doctor’s note for DonaldJr and plotting his revenge.

Consigliere Rudy Giuliani explained again that he couldn’t grant a pardon conditioned on Manafort or Cohen paying him. FEPOTUS thought the payments could be treated as contributions to the 2020 re-election campaign.  A bead of sweat ran along the Consigliere’s temple and down along his jaw line. He was planning to discuss 2020 another day.

“Yes, Mr. President, campaign contributions.” But his client was no longer listening. He was on the phone with Sean Hannity.  Giuliani backed out of the cabin.

“Not my emails, Sean! Hillary’s e-mails. Why are they ignoring them? That’s where the crime is. Sean, say it again and again. Keep saying it till everyone believes you.  And no collusion! This has nothing to do with Russia,” he said and dropped the call.

He mashed the IM to his private secretary.  “Get Melania back from whatever shithole country she’s in. I need her here to step up her cyber-bullying (sic) campaign.”

The phones were quiet now. An uneaten taco bowl and Diet Coke lay on the table. Don’t believe anything from the fake news, he thought, prepping for the West Virginia rally soon to start. Good chance they didn’t know about the verdict or the plea. No reason to tell them.

There was a knock on the cabin door. “Daddy?” Ivanka opened it and stepped in. “I have today’s report. Is this a good time?” He motioned her to take a seat.

“We’ve had a few cancellations at the DC hotel. The Saudis asked for a rain check on the State Visit,” FEPOTUS nodded, “and the foreign minister said that you could drop the interest payment off next week. He knows you’re busy.”

Ivanka continued.  “Miss Slovenia and her freeloader parents won’t be back for at least a week.”  CNN just aired that she would be gone for an indefinite period of time.  Trump, watery-eyed, looked up. “She didn’t book a return flight,” said Ivanka.

“There’s a great turn-out expected tonight,” she continued. “CBS Charleston is running a segment about the EPA being disbanded.”

“How’d you make out on moving the Ivanka inventory?” he asked.

“Indonesia didn’t want it, even below cost.  I have a call in to Big Lots.” FEPOTUS nodded, lost in thought.

Ivanka lingered, staring awkwardly at her father. He hadn’t touched his dinner and wasn’t watching Fox News, which always relaxed him. He’d even canceled his tanning session. She noticed that grey roots were poking through his orange bouffant.

“Daddy, if it’s ok with you, Jared and I are taking the kids to Six Flags on Friday. We won’t be in Bedminster this weekend.”  He shrugged, his big suit bobbing up and down.

“I thought you had my back,” he said to Ivanka, who avoided eye contact.

“You do, Daddy. It’s just that Jared’s been waiting to hear back from Six Flags, and it looks like they may have something for him in sales.”

“So, it’s not for the kids,” he said.

“Not entirely,” she admitted.  The intercom beeped.

“Senior adviser for you, Mr. President.”  Ivanka leaned over and kissed her father on his mottled cheek, then left the room.

“Hello, Mr. President,” said the adviser.

“Hello, Mr. President,” Trump said.  “I know it’s been a tough day.”  There was a long silence. “Isn’t it sad what they did to Paulie?”

“Manafort was stupid,” said Putin.  “He was desperate and did not eliminate  his weaknesses.”

“You know, he has another trial coming up,” offered Trump.

“I’ve been in touch with my liaison to the prosecutor.  They are going to try to make a deal now.  The point has been made.”

“How did you hear that before me?”

“I have a friend at Justice,” responded Putin.  “Donald, the reason I called is that I think we need to make a change.”

“You’re firing me?”

“No, but I believe it is better for you to resign and leave the party apparatchiks in place.  It is getting so bad that they may have to impeach you to save themselves.”

“This is some covfefe,” said Trump.

“That’s not a word!” said Putin.

“But you used it.”

“No, Donald.  I said kerfuffle.  But back to square one.  We will need to call in the loans because it does not appear that you will fulfill your term.”

“Vlad, you know I can’t pay it.  Revenues are down in all of our locations.  Today, the Saudis canceled a huge booking at the DC Hotel.  I need time.”

“You don’t have time, Donald.  We have to exercise the Helsinki Accord.”

That’s impossible right now. I don’t have Congress behind me.  It won’t go through.”

We will take care of Congress.  Just sign over Alaska and Hawaii, and we’ll call it even.”

“Molokai.”

“I never said Hawaii.  I can’t throw in Hawaii.  That’s our Pacific command.  Even you can’t get the caucus behind it.  Besides, I’ve optioned some property in that old leper colony – which island is that?”

“Molokai…funny, I mix it up with Guam.  What I can do, instead of Hawaii, I can release Puerto Rico.  You’ll have to bid with the Chinese over it, but think of what wonderful dachas you could build there.  It’s a perfect escape from the Russian winters.”  Trump paused.  “Puerto Rico is the hidden jewel in the crown.  Fantastic beaches.  A great rain forest for secret ops training.  The people are terrific. They love me. ”

“Puerto Rico is too messy, too much to do.  How about Oregon?”

“I told you the lower forty-eight were off limits. Besides, the West Coast is too socialist for Russian tastes.”

“Alright, Donald.  We will accept Alaska and Puerto Rico.  We will need to close the deal quickly.”

“I’ll get Miller started on the papers.”



Disgrace Under Pressure

We had another scintillating week in the American Swamp. Here’s how it unfolded.

Monday – Packing

Future Ex-President Trump (FEPOTUS) announced that DC Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh was his nominee to the Supreme Court seat, abandoned by Anthony Kennedy. In his remarks, Kavanaugh emphasized the sacrosanct relationship with his daughters. He also mentioned that more than half of his court clerks have been female. When he later limits women’s reproductive rights, he can say that he is doing it out of love.

In advance of the NATO summit, Ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchinson went on record in support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, in contrast to FEPOTUS’s characterization of NATO as obsolete.  FEPOTUS is expected to shove the NATO members out of the way, perhaps not physically as he had done to Prime Minister of Montenegro last year.

Before leaving on his flight, FEPOTUS had a conversation with his nemesis, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. More about that later.

Tuesday – Unpacking

The nomination carnival began, with Brett Kavanaugh glad-handing his way around the Senate precincts. Majority Leader McConnell commended him after last week warning that Kavanaugh would have a rough confirmation process, owing to unresolved issues from his confirmation to the Circuit Court. McConnell did it to cover his ass if the nomination founders, which it might. Kavanaugh went on record in favor of nearly absolute presidential power, including the right to dismiss a special prosecutor without cause.   At the moment, a statement like that is not hypothetical.

Elsewhere: the executive branch failed to meet its deadline to reunite children with their migrant parents. No excuse offered, no explanation given.

FEPOTUS, unaffected, was winging his way to Brussels for the NATO summit. FEFLOTUS Melania Trump spent most of the flight writing and rewriting the back of her wardrobe. Trump chose to wear his persecution complex on board. He previewed his villainization of the allies for not paying their fair share of defense costs (untrue). It is widely understood that the most immediate threats to the West arrive via computer. Yet, he made no remarks of prior or future Russian cyber-bellicosity. Oh right, he is going to visit Professor Putin after he schools NATO. He and Vladimir will meet behind closed doors and without a record being made.

For good measure, he pardoned Dwight and Steven Hammond, ranchers convicted of arson, whose anti-government actions sparked the Western militia pile-up and seizure of federal lands.  Trump continues tearing down the rule of law.

I have a good mind to jaywalk.

Wednesday – Keep Your Enemies Closer

FEPOTUS wasted no time attacking the NATO allies. He accused them of taking advantage of the U.S. He went hard at Angela Merkel, who is in the middle of an electoral challenge from the far right. He targeted her for allowing Germany to be “completely controlled” by Russia through its Nord-2 gas line. FEPOTUS hit Germany in its soft underbelly. The gas line is controversial in Europe.  His complaint is that the U.S. is taking a double hit: paying for NATO while the Russian Federation profits from the pipeline. But wait, didn’t he want us to be Russia’s friend? FEPOTUS wants to be Russia’s exclusive Sugar Daddy.

Thursday – Omission Accomplished

The NATO summit ended with FEPOTUS declaring victory, pyrrhic like the one over North Korea, which recently called his administration gangsters. He announced that the NATO allies would increase spending. Like all of his “deals,” this one is short on details. There was no agreement as to what, when and how much the allies would spend. He also proclaimed his belief in the alliance, which only last week was “obsolete.” He was disturbingly silent on the issue of cyber-warfare, a global concern and concurrently the subject of Congressional hearings. Not that there is any action plan of course.

Friday – Strzoking Out

Like any good novel, this week’s loose threads pulled together in the last chapter. The leading event of the day was the appearance of Peter Strzok, the disgraced FBI deputy chief, before a joint meeting of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees. Strzok opened with a statement attacking the GOP for taking his text messages out of context and for demonizing him and pouring abuse on the FBI.

Strzok mentioned candidate Trump’s vilification of the gold-star parents of a Muslim officer killed in defense of the country as being the impetus for the exchange of remarks with Lisa Page, a colleague and paramour.  He recalled that the event was appalling to many Americans and was expected to torpedo the Trump candidacy.

The texting occurred at a time when people still thought that Trump would and could blow himself up.  Even if Strzok wanted to put his thumb on the scale, he said, FBI checks above and below him would have prevented his doing so. Like many other public officials, he had a strong negative reaction to candidate Trump over several of his abhorrent remarks. Many others made public remarks, which were put into the record by one of the Democratic members of Congress.

“My presumption [was] based on that horrible, disgusting behavior that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States,” Strzok said.

Many of the GOP members of Congress, who had been kicked upstairs into the House  after mediocre careers as prosecutors, used the hearing to flash their cross-examining skills on Strzok. Things got ugly early. Retiring Rep. Trey Gowdy, in full dudgeon from the start, made his disdain clear, saying that he did not give a damn what the witness appreciated. Representative Louis Gohmert from Tyler, Texas, brought on the hearing’s lowest moment, in accusing Strzok of perjury.

“When I see you looking with a little smirk, I wonder how many times did you look so innocently into your wife’s eyes and lie to her about Lisa Page,” Gohmert said.  The room exploded in denunciation.  One member of Congress declared Gohmert fit for an insane asylum, and another said that Gohmert needed medication.

On the other side of the pond, FEPOTUS was ripping embattled Prime Minister May for screwing up Brexit.  She did not take his advice, he puffed. London protests were so large and impassioned that the meeting was moved to Blenheim Palace, in the Oxfordshire countryside.  The Queen agreed to meet with FEPOTUS, but not before a robust discussion with her personal secretary. It was agreed that one of Her Majesty’s Corgis having a kidney stone attack was not a “proper excuse.”  After his unwelcome reception in England, formerly known as England, FEPOTUS jetted off to one of his UK properties, the Turnberry golf course, to spend a weekend among Scots, who loathe him. This gave him a weekend to practice squats for his supplication to Putin in Helsinki.

Against this backdrop, Special Prosecutor Mueller filed an indictment, this time against twelve Russian members of the GRU (KGB) for their roles in hacking 2016‘s election.  The indictment was packed with detail.  In fact, it was the subject of Monday’s chat between FEPOTUS and Rosenberg. In view of these new charges, the conventional wisdom was that FEPOTUS should scrap the meeting with Putin, which advice he ignored.

The latest indictment pleaded that one congressional candidate knew about the hacking during the 2016 campaign and asked to be let in on the dirt. If one congressperson knew, it is possible that many did.   One cannot help but consider if the Republican outrage shown at the hearing going on up the Hill had something to do with their complicity in Russian meddling. Several senior congressional representatives, Gowdy among them, have decided not to run again. There may be a blue wave coming but there will be some red rollers mixed in with it.

This revelation may also explain why Devon Nunes, FEPOTUS marionette, subverted his committee’s investigation, and he continues trying to throw sand in the gears.

Paragraph 44 has received the most fevered attention. It says:

Certain ORGANIZATION-produced materials about the 2016 U.S. presidential election used election-related hashtags, including: “#Trump2016,” “#TrumpTrain,” “#MAGA,” “#IWontProtectHillary,” and “#Hillary4Prison.” Defendants and their co-conspirators also established additional online social media accounts dedicated to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, including the Twitter account “March for Trump” and Facebook accounts “Clinton FRAUDation” and “Trumpsters United.”

Speculation is that “co-conspirators” refers to Roger Stone, one of FEPOTUS’S closest allies. He came up through the ranks with Roger Ailes, the late and unlamented creator of Fox News, and old Russia hand, Paul Manafort.

Kennedy: Did He Jump or Was He Pushed

We are a nation of Kennedys  too soon gone. Anthony, thirty-two years a Supreme Court Justice, retired last week under peculiar circumstances. He disclosed no illness or flagging mental powers. He had hired clerks for the October term. He had been an active participant in his final term, not an old man limping across the finish line. 

The Janus decision, undercutting the power of public employment unions on first amendment grounds, was followed directly by Kennedy’s terse statement, which offered no explanation for his abrupt leave-taking. 

Snipers have focused immediately on the relationship of the Trumps and Justin Kennedy, former head of private banking at Deutsche Bank. Recently, Deutsche had been punished heavily for money-laundering. Furthermore, it had loaned Trump a billion dollars to finish construction on buildings that were tapped out. Trump had to pledge other assets to collateralize the loan. 

There is no proof so far that Justin Kennedy was driving the financing. He may even had left the bank by then. The optics are bad but was there a problem?

Once a Supreme Court Judge has to explain – “I know how it looks” -it’s too late.  It could’ve been nothing more than 45’s passing comment to Kennedy about Justin at the State of the Union-“He’s a nice boy”- to start the poor bastard rolling and tumbling. Kennedy quit long enough before the Midterms that his successor could be seated before the polls opened: a done deal. 

Trump might’ve turned the screws . Kennedy had no other reason to go. It’s somebody else’s court but he was the judge most courted. As the swing vote, his support was pivotal to most of the decisions that electrified America in the last fifteen years.    

Down he went, leaving 45 with daylight ahead.  Kennedy left his legacy in unreliable hands for no apparent reason. 

So, did he jump or was he pushed?  

Here’s How Totalitarianism Works!

 

The President with no love of the media directs Congress to pass a law, stripping libel of its first amendment protections and presuming it to be character assassination. The law punishes publishers who have  published not only false facts, but also false opinions.  The law drops the requirement that the plaintiff has to prove malice. The law sets  a minimum for statutory damages of $100,000.00 per libel by a multistate  wide or internet publisher. 

Furthermore, the loser must pay the winner’s legal fees. The clergy (except those barred for national security reasons) and public officials are immune from being sued.  Congress, which this President’s party controls, quickly passes the bill  over vigorous protest by the remaining opposition. 

A major internet publisher had previously published an opinion critical of the President’s statements after the Charlottesville demonstrations. As soon as the President signs the bill into law, he sues the publisher, hiring high-priced lawyers. Because of the legal fees provision, the lawyers aren’t worried about getting stiffed by the President. 

The case is tried before a jury, which finds for the publisher.  However, the judge, who was  appointed by the President, sets aside the jury verdict as not following the law and directs entry of a $20 million judgment against the publisher, with $2 million in legal fees. 

The defendants take their case to the  circuit court of appeals and draw a panel of three judges, two of whom were appointed by the prior president. The appeals court reverses the trial judge, reinstating the jury verdict and declaring the libel law unconstitutional as violating the first amendment. 

The President appeals to the Supreme Court.  The Court announces its decision, by a vote of 6 to 3, that the new law is constitutional. It also finds that the law is meant to occupy the entire field of libel, so a state can’t make a law that conflicts with federal libel law. 

The President still has several similar cases ready to be filed against the same publisher.  This effectively will put the publisher out of business. The publisher settles by turning over its stock to the President. The business side of the publisher keeps its jobs. The editorial staff is replaced. In exchange for releases to the individuals, they are allowed to keep their money, less a few million dollars pledged to one of the President’s re-election Super-PACs . 

One last item : the settlement was not confidential. The President stages several rallies at which he proclaims winning the fake-news publishers over to his side. The publishers were unable to refute the President’s false statements, at the peril of subjecting themselves to new libel claims.

That’s how totalitarianism works!

Cannabis Nation — Vapor for Vipers

As a relic of the 1960s, I take more than a passing interest in the progression of marijuana in the lives of Americans.  Thus, a wedding trip to Colorado starts with a visit to the local dispensary. It turns out that some of my fellow relic  attendees began their sojourn with a stop at a Mary Jane shop.  Even though a few bought for medicinal purposes, marijuana is big business in Colorado, so much so that it is consumed primarily for recreational use. Or is it?

There’s a New Sheriff in Town

Pondering this question, I thought about the fact that major cigarette producers are poised to sweep into the weed trade just as soon as the federal government gives the country the Green light.  Hundreds of thousands of acres have been acquired in anticipation of nationwide legalization.  

In 1970, a Philip Morris employee issued an internal memo, which offered the company’s mission:

We are in the business of relaxing people who are tense and providing a pick up for people who are bored or depressed. The human needs that our product fills will not go away. Thus, the only real threat to our business is that society will find other means of satisfying those needs. We are in the business of relaxing people who are tense and providing a pick up for people who are bored or depressed. The human needs that our product fills will not go away. Thus, the only real threat to our business is that society will find other means of satisfying those needs….”

There He Goes Again

Fast forward through the cigarette commercials.  It is now 2018. Philip Morris has filed for patents on Pakalolo. developing a pot inhaler. Vaping is overtaking smoking as a delivery system for nicotine, THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis plants, and  CBD, (cannabidiol), a second organic compound that delivers non psychoactive effects. It’s the CBD that delivers the mellow, sleep-inducing and pain-reducing qualities.  

 

There is yet another big player in the Bhang business, and that is the liquor industry. Like cigarette and prescription drug manufacturers, alcohol producers have a beat-them-or-join-them relationship with reefer.  The beer industry ran a study that concluded that there was a 15% loss of sales in states where recreational use was legalized. They also see the Sticky Wicky as a rival for their market. 

Blame Canada

Constellation Brands, makers of Corona Beer and Svedka Vodka, bought a 10% stake in Canopy, another producer working the Canadian market.  They are in the midst of trying to develop a marijuana beverage. Canopy trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Its ticker is WEED. Several makers have held the line against legalizing marijuana use, but it’s more likely that one day you’ll see weed beers in supermarkets.

The first step in bringing pot to market was its legalization for the treatment of certain conditions, such as glaucoma, and as an anti-nausea drug, helpful for patients receiving chemotherapy.  Dispensaries popped up in states legalizing medical use.  The early versions were affiliated with medical professionals who met with a patient, rendered a diagnosis and wrote up a scrip for some ganja relief. The business tie of the doctor to the stoner created some creative and funny marketing ideas.  

When marijuana’s use to treat muscle spasm and generalized pain was officially recognized, the game was afoot.  Prescriptions came flying out of medical offices.  Naturally, many patients were gaming the system, like the woman who tried tobring a service peacock on a United Airlines flight. 

Approval of reefer for recreational use more or less ended the need for a subterfuge to buy it openly.  A handful of states has approved the sale for recreational use, dear Colorado and Washington, being the first, in 2012.

When the Colorado visitors met at the Boulder wedding party, several exchanged their stories. One had gotten some baked goods for fun, but said it also reduced her anxiety level. Another guest coming off serious surgery supplemented her prescribed pain killers with a gummy bear. Yet another bought some herb for fun– and back pain.  Yet another partied hardy on chocolate bars, which also relieved eye pressure.

The most common over the counter use is for relaxation and anxiety relief. People now taking anti-anxiety medicines claim to achieve good results without losing the ability to function.  There are preparations available especially for use at work. Mondo sells marijuana in powdered form, especially to take to the office. When’s the next coffee break?

With alcohol, Pharma and the tobacco industry converging on the marijuana market, how could our pro-business President resist approval of national legalization — especially if they’ve generously donated to one of his Super-Pacs?  

Looking for One Honest Mandamus

Last Wednesday, a federal judge hinted that he might have to toss out a case against future ex-President over the Constitution’s emolument clause.  The clause prevents him from accepting money or property from a foreign government.  Two Democratic politic action groups, which brought the case, would be out of court. 

Yet,  there may be hope. First, the judge mentioned that only Congress can prohibit the  Opportunist-in-Chief from accepting foreign funds, quipped the judge, recognizing the irony in his pronouncement. This GOP Congress hasn’t  demonstrated a lick of courage to stand up to the president, especially on issues many of the members know they should be addressing.

I don’t know if any private citizens have challenged Congress on its failure to act when the failure is on an issue as obvious as this. The Trump entities are raking it in.  He’s still an owner.  Unlike other presidents, he refused to give up his holdings or put them in a blind trust.  He’s benefiting; he’s made no effort to hide it.

  It should be a burning Congressional issue, but it’s not even being discussed.  Committees should have been convened, hearings held.   If the Republicans in Congress can’t get excited about Russia, they should wake up about actions that are clearly against the Constitution.  Instead,  the GOP House is fleeing, many  retiring and not take a drubbing in November and be left in campaign debt.  

There may never have been a cabinet member deserving of censure, if not impeachment, more than Scott Pruitt. He has abused his office, drawing favors from lobbyists, spending a sick amount on luxury items. His $40,000.00 phone booth smacks of Maxwell Smart.  He’s given extravagant raises to his aides.  Clearly, he has abused his office and violated the public trust. 

For that reason, Congress should vote to impeach Pruitt, because he won’t quit and his boss won’t cut him loose.  What if the plaintiffs sue to force Congress to impeach Pruitt and take action against Trump for rampant violations of the clause?

It would be a bold stroke for any judge to order Congress to act.  Unprecedented, in fact.  However, it would bite Democrats as well as Republicans.   And with a Chief Executive who refuses to execute the laws and a Congress that violates its oath to protect the Constitution, only the courts remain to enforce the law of the land.   Unfortunately with for years between presidential campaigns, four years is an eternity, and the damage done may be irreversible.  A court can’t act on its own initiative.  It needs a case in front of it.

My suggestion  is that the plaintiffs amend their lawsuit to seek a writ of mandamus (an order to compel) the Congress to take action to enforce the emoluments clause and to impeach. Secretary Pruitt.

Congress will push back, claiming that it is a political question, and the courts have no business entering into it. Nevertheless it’s time to call the question. We have a cowardly Congress, a corrupt EPA Secretary and a President smiling like a Cheshire Cat.   Four years is too long to wait to throw the rascals out.

The Schneiderman Vigil, Day 2

 

 

 

 

  

Manning the Perp Watch

 

My Dachshund and I were cruising up West End Avenue yesterday when we spotted a crowd on the next block. People were clogging the sidewalk, and trucks equipped with satellite gear were lining the streets. I wondered what a media circus was doing in the neighborhood. 

We advanced toward the mob, propelled by my curiosity and the dog’s inbred urge to chase down badgers.  I buttonholed a man cradling a video recorder. 

“What’s the fuss about?” I asked. 

“Schneiderman lives here,” he said. 

No other questions were necessary.  Every local news outlet had dispatched a crew for a perp watch outside the apartment house which Eric Schneiderman calls home. Schneiderman is the newly disgraced and resigned New York Attorney General, brought down Monday by four outspoken victims of his alleged domestic violence. 

Schneiderman had made a perfunctory denial of the charges, claiming that the sex, however twisted, was consensual.  His naturally bemused resting face underscored that he could not believe his own words. 

Within a few hours after his statement,  Schneiderman walked out of public service. The calculus was clear. There would be no redemption. His physical attacks were allegedly fueled by drunken rage and threats. It didn’t take much to make him walk the plank; it was consensual. 

All this had been decided before Tuesday morning. Nevertheless, tan army of professional voyeurs, equipped with cams, video cams and microphones, wirelessly connected to their 21st Century food trucks, was now camping out on an otherwise quiet street. 

“What’s the point? He’s already quit and is under investigation. There’s no story here.  ‘No comment’ is the most you’ll get,” I said. 

Nothing quickened the pulse of a local news director like cornering a wounded pol walking in and out of his home, and broadcasting it every twenty minutes. 

“Hey, it’s our job. They assigned us here,” said one guy. 

“Wouldn’t it be better to cover something that isn’t over yet?”

“They pay us. We need the money.”

The gang and gear and trucks were still there when we took our afternoon walk. 

“Did you get anything?” I asked.

“No, he hasn’t gone out,” said one crew member. 

“Or come in,” said another.  The impression being that they’d been on this stretch of pavement all day and had nothing to show for it. So much for the glamour of TV news. 

This grotesquerie drives ratings, which in turn drive sales and profit. The wall between news and entertainment is long collapsed, time out of mind. 

Lawyers Without Boundaries

#MeToo Schneiderman

Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer of the New Yorker quietly assembled unassailable facts, charging New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman with sexual violence based on corroborated statements of four victims.  The New Yorker published the story Monday evening. Before the clock struck midnight, Schneiderman resigned his post after Governor Andrew Cuomo demanded him to quit.

The Schneiderman takedown was remarkable for a number of reasons.

—His Office led the fight to bring Harvey Weinstein to justice and was a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement. He was investigating Manhattan D.A. Cyrus  Vance, Jr., for pulling his punches in his Weinstein investigation. Vance is returning the favor by opening a criminal investigation on Schneiderman.

—Along with other Blue State AGs, he was positioning his office to challenge the Trump regime by challenging action that disproportionately affected New York.

—He was a fierce critic of Trumpism and marshaled the resources of his Department against its agenda.

—His office went after Trump University, based on the complaints of former students, and settled the suit for $25 million.

—His office spearheaded challenges to federal environmental rollbacks by notorious Scott Pruitt.

What stands out most is that the movement to end sexual predation and violence against women is taking down its alleged male allies. Progressive politicians aligned with the movement squirmed when Al Franken’s number was pulled, albeit for violations less serious or well-supported than the brief against Schneiderman.

Democrats who agonized over Franken’s loss in the U.S. Senate did not skip a beat over Schneiderman’s fall.  Sure, the acts are lurid, and the charges look solid. Still, progressives must force resignations of their miscreants or face rancor within their own ranks. The swiftness of his ouster may have been accelerated by vote-counting in the New York legislature, where Democratic control likely will replace the outgoing AG with a like-minded successor.

The Pardoner’s Tale

Riding the Scooter

Scooter Libby, an adviser to former Co-President Dick Cheney, can rest easy now that Donald Trump has lifted his cloak of infamy. Libby is no longer a felon, convicted of lying to federal investigators about his outing of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative. President George Bush II commuted the sentence but refused to pardon him.   I disagreed with many of Bush’s values, but at least he had some. Disclosing the identify of an American spy is wrong.  Libby did it to protect his boss, for which he got a slap on the wrist. Bush would not remove the taint.

Now comes before us Donald Trump, future ex-President of the United States. In his first year in office he pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the sadistic xenophobe who incarcerated and tortured undocumented immigrants. A federal court held him in criminal contempt for his miscarriages of justice. Enter Donald Trump. With a wave of the executive baton, he exonerated Sheriff Joe.  This pardon sent a message: Illegal measures taken to rid America of illegal immigrants are no crime.  They are acts of heroism.

Trump’s pardon of Libby last week sent another message:  I’ll scratch your back if  you scratch mine.  Trump loyalists facing charges or guilty pleas for lying to the FBI need not fear the power of the Deep State. The magic wand of the Shallow State will release them.

Comic Timing

The pardon was issued at a fortuitous time, as the Mueller investigation was sending its case against Michael Cohen, the President’s own Ray Donovan, to the US Southern District, James Comey’s old stomping grounds. Many of the career prosecutors in that office were outraged by the Comey firing. They signed a letter to the Deputy Attorney General, petitioning for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate Trump’s involvement. The NY attorneys and FBI agents have now been presented with the opportunity to vindicate Comey themselves. How’s that karma thing working for you, Mr. President?

Right out of the box, the government agents obtained a warrant to seize Michael Cohen’s belongings, which they did.  Cohen’s lawyers petitioned the court to restrain the government from reviewing the records. Judge Kimba Wood, an unsuccessful Clinton era nominee for Attorney General (see Nanny-Gate), turned down the request. The Cohen motion backfired, with Cohen’s lawyer coughing up the name of Sean Hannity as client no. 3 in Cohen’s portfolio. Hannity places third behind Trump and Eliott Broidy,  whom Cohen extracted from a sex scandal of his own.  He’s currently under investigation for a bundle of white collar crimes.

Pulling Hannity’s name out of this pie was a plum for the media, Fox excepted, and possibly for the government investigators as well.  Hannity has been something of an off-campus Chief of Staff for Trump and his loyalest media supporters.  Clearly, Hannity wouldn’t have gone to Cohen for a house closing or a new will.  Something sleazy that way lies.  We’ll know soon enough.

Coming Home to Roost

While all of this is bad news for the part-time occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, there is possibly worse news.  Now that Trump’s road show has gone on tour, it’s a new ballgame, especially in New York, where it can play in two locations.  There will be federal charges against Cohen for sure.  But there also may be state charges against Cohen and possibly Hannity.  Once the production opens in New York’s criminal courts, the rules change dramatically.

Manhattan D.A.  Cyrus Vance, Jr. didn’t have the grit to take on the Trump family when they and their Russian partners raked investors in the Trump Soho. He hasn’t’t shown the grit to bring many high profile cases.  He’s not the kind of tough-minded, big city prosecutor New Yorkers expect.  In fact, Vance accepted a $50,000 campaign contribution from a Trump lawyer after he dropped charges against Ivanka and Don Jr. for defrauding Trump Soho investors.  He’s timid, and he’s been bought.

Still, Vance won’t have to do much.  If the feds send over some state-based charges against Cohen, if may be enough to rattle Trump’s teapot. The Presidential pardon power does not reach state charges or state prosecutions. The smart money says that the Cohen files are full of material on state-based schemes to tie him and at least two of this three clients up.

A well-founded state claim against Cohen especially or a number of other acolytes is Kryptonite for the Trumps.  There are several contingencies in this scenario.  It’s not hard to see one of them falling into line.

Without the protection of a pardon, Cohen is as good as under the bus. If Cohen is forced to plead out his case and turn government witness, he will do it. By now, he has seen that in  Trumpland, loyalty is a one-way street. He’s not bailing Cohen out.  Let’s say, though, that Cohen fixed something for Jared and Ivanka.  Trump just might fall on his sword for Ivanka.

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