Sunday, May 20, 2018

Trump and the GOP Congress are who Madison warned us about

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

What we are witnessing now is the very thing  founding father Madison warned our new country about.  The writers of our constitution divided the power centers of government into three, executive, legislative, and judicial, each with a check  on the other. Madison warned there was a way to undermine these checks and balances. What was not yet formed when he wrote this were political parties, but he described them as “accumulation of all powers in ...the same hands”, " of many or a few."  The "few" today is one party, the Republicans, in control of all three branches of government with members unwilling to check actions of the president. Worse, they have taken advantage of their party’s control  to protect the President , actively attacking  the credibility  of the investigators and their findings, and obstructing  the investigation into  Russian meddling. They are knocking the props out of our three legged  stool of checks and balances. 

Donald Trump's  defense is that the FBI is a deep state full of Obama people out to get him just as they were in the 2016 election. That is worthy of a belly laugh, since while the FBI was keeping secret their investigation into Trump during the campaign, Comey  twice announced to public they had Clinton and her emails under investigation , which played into her defeat, causing her  polls to crash each time. Furthermore,   every major player on the FBI, Mueller probe, and  judges approving surveillance warrants,  are also registered Republicans.  

The GOP dominated Congress is a profile in cowardice.  GOP congress members  fear that the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller would damage  their control of Congress and loss of the White House in 2020, or cause  early removal of the president.  Mueller is investigating whether the President or members of his close circle conspired or  wanted to coordinate activities with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election on Donald Trump’s behalf as well as whether he or his circle  obstructed justice, and/or  engaged in financial crimes.

The GOP Congress  has done more than just nothing. They have become  Trump's active partners in his attempt to cripple  Mueller's criminal  investigation of Trump, a subject of the investigation,  by demanding investigations of the investigators and  unmasking of FBI informants,  and  whether  Mueller and the FBI followed procedure when asking judges to approve search  warrants. Now  Mueller's boss, Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, is  under a threat of  firing, impeachment, or contempt of Congress.unless  evidence found to date be turned over to them to help with  Trump's defense., a violation of every principle and process of criminal investigation. This  adds fuel  to Trump's  vulnerability to impeachment articles for  obstruction of justice.

The  House Intelligence Committee headed by a GOP Trump loyalist, Rep. Devin Nunes, cut short their investigation, refused to call key witnesses, and announced there was no there, there. A Senate committee  showed more spunk, concluding  there was some “there there”, that Russians did interfere in the 2016 elections. Duh. Their findings were issued after the text of Mueller's  indictments of thirteen Russians provided the evidence and social media ads and bots  paid for by Russians were revealed to the public.

 In the meantime, the GOP  Senate is attempting to control  an independent judiciary for future years,  fast tracking approval of nominees to 140  lifetime positions as judges in federal courts who  pass GOP ideological public policy litmus tests instead of  showing a devotion to  rulings based on independent judgement and legal precedent.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Memorial Day is also a time to remember what those who died were defending

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News, May 21-23, 2018

On Memorial Day  May 28 we will specially honor and remember the nearly million and a half in the military who died in wars to keep us from foreign control and the liberty  to pursue life and happiness. At the same time we should be asking ourselves do enough of us even care about protecting our freedoms anymore?
Our founders  put protections of our civil and human rights and freedoms  in the amendments to the Constitution. Not all of those freedoms are absolute and their meanings and limits  have been shaped by an independent judiciary, but they are still fundamental to the freedoms we enjoy for which so many have died.
Nonetheless, the U.S. ranks 45  of 180 countries based on press freedom, survey conducted by the non profit Reporters Without Borders.“ A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters as ‘enemies of the people,’ ...has attempted to block White House access to multiple media outlets, routinely uses the term ‘fake news’in retaliation for critical reporting, and has called for revoking certain media outlets’ broadcasting licenses.”
We have had  our civil wars, our slavery, our abuses of rights, but we have  had made progress to improve the implementation of our ideals. No longer.   Human Rights Watch, a non profit watchdog group, has released their 2018 report: “Across a range of issues in 2017, the US moved backward on human rights. Trump has targeted refugees and immigrants, calling them criminals and security threats; emboldened racist politics by equivocating on white nationalism; and consistently championed anti-Muslim ideas and policies…. and (undermining) police accountability for abuse…..”
Voter laws are being passed locally that make it more difficult  for minorities to vote by restricting voting times and motor voter registration laws, and  requiring extra effort and expenses to obtain photo IDs. These suppression measures were implemented  deceptively to protect us from virtually non-existent fraud.
The GOP dominated  Senate is fast tracking the process  to fill federal judicial seat vacancies  with ideologues passing litmus tests preferred over nominees who support judicial precedent and who pass peer professionals’ standards .  This will impact the current interpretation of the meaning of freedom for years, from Roe v Wade to the right refuse to serve certain customers on religious grounds to shrinking governmental protections of the environment, worker safety, and health care.
One freedom that our forefathers treasured was protection  from foreign control . Our founders never imagined the reach to millions on social media by Russian bots and advertising  to help Donald Trump win, as the bi-partisan Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded and reported May 16.
Another fear founders had was that  foreigners would try to control the United States by bribery or personal gain by officials  so they put the emolument clause in the Constitution itself. There is a stench in the air that Trump has violated that clause. On May 16, we learned the Trump business organization from which Trump still benefits is  entangled in China financing a Trump Indonesian hotel just as US sanctions were lifted on a Chinese telecom already deemed a threat to US security. Another bombshell May 16 was learning Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer,  manages a consulting company account that appears to have millions coming into it, including foreign money. Suspicions are , that money could be seen as bribery to get access to the President on issues coming before the new administration, yet where finding the money went and who got it  is required to separate the crime from the slime.

Lee Greenwood’s great lyric which  captures the meaning of Memorial Day the best:
“And I'm proud to be an American
Where at least I know I'm free
And I won't forget the ones who died who gave that right to me
And I'll gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today
Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land, God Bless the USA.”

Well done, Harry and Meghan

For the cynics and those who promote divisions, quiet. For a few hours there was a wedding that was more than between two people. It was a coming together of two nations, of two cultural traditions , and two races unified by love. May this not be just a moment that is a temporary break from a hateful and angry world that is fearful of change, but a rising up of our better angels.

The couple are declared husband and wife before the Queen and 600 guests at St George's Chapel.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Give me a break: one year is long enough for the Mueller investigation?

This falls into the give me a break category. The Trump White House is launching a "wrap it up" campaign; "one year of the Special Counsel  Mueller probe is enough, it has found nothing,  and he works for us" the line goes.The fat lady has not even begun to sing in the last act of  this historical opera and the White House  hopes to shut her up and give her a bad review before the end of the first act.  They must fear the rest of the performance will not be music to their ears. There is much of the performance  plot  they and  we the public do not know yet nor do we know  what other characters have already sung.

For the Trump White House to claim Mueller has no proof of collusion, (or obstruction, or financial crimes) is premature and empty propaganda coming  from the White House mouths, to say the least, since no one yet knows what closed lip Mueller knows and he has not made his reports

It took three years of Watergate  probes into Richard Nixon's cover up,  four years of Benghazi Congressional  hearings and FBI reports  to fail to pin it on Hillary Clinton,  and three years from Whitewater to Monica Lewinsky's blue dress for these investigations  to play out in the Bill Clinton scandal.. A year seems more than a bit short for these kinds of matters, doesn't it? 

  The Trump White House  mimics the same claim made by Richard Nixon in his State of the Union two years before he was impeached. A year is enough, Nixon  said about the special counsel investigation into Watergate, we turned over all documents, and they have found nothing. The break in occurred in 1971.and after special counsel and Congressional investigations,that  impeachment was begun and Nixon  resigned in 1974. Three years was way too long  for Nixon. 

 Benghazi happened in 2012 and the GOP House and Senate dominated hearings kept the issue alive to skewer Hillary Clinton and never could prove she  herself was at fault. The final report was issued in the summer of 2016. For the GOP then four years was just fine; it kept questions about her character alive.

 Aside from the irony of the Nixon propaganda parallel, the GOP House investigation run by a Trump loyalist, Rep. Devin Nunes,  into the Russian connection was a farce and did not call essential witnesses to testify, concluding there was no there there.

 However, the Senate investigation continues and has found there was there there. In their report May 16, they conclude Russians interfered in 2016 to help Trump's campaign, as the result of their findings into the key meeting in the Trump Tower in June 2016 between  Trump cohorts and a Russian agent regarding emails of Hillary Clinton. The suspicion is that the Trump minions hoped to get the dirt on Clinton in return for lifting sanctions imposed on the Russians for past bad behavior . The quid (offer to provide missing emails)  was there but the quo was not discussed.   Whether or not Trump himself was a part of this  is yet to be seen. He was in the building and may have been receiving  telephone calls.  Was the meeting truly a "nothing burger" or there were other events follow ups ,and  other meetings  that would be evidence of conspiracy? What Mueller knows about any of this we do not know ourselves yet, either.

 In  the  just released Senate hearing transcripts regarding the Trump Tower meeting. The angle still unknown is much like Watergate, what did the President know and when did he know about the Trump Tower meeting .We know the meeting  was not about Russian adoption as the Trumpsters claimed, but about  dirt on Clinton's emails.   Donald Trump Jr who organized the meeting  was in emails leading up to the meeting  eager to seek information from foreign governments that would help his father get elected. 

The investigation by Special Counsel Robert  Mueller is about  Trump cohorts, with Trump assured  by Mueller he is  a subject in  the investigation  but not currently  a target of a criminal investigation ,  but  it is Trump and his cohorts that say a year is enough. It  may be long enough for them but not for Mueller.. Since Trump or the associates  are either subjects or targets  being investigated,  if they are not already indicted, they are not the appropriate or wise ones to call those shotsThey may have the power to fire Mueller under ordinary circumstances, but For Trump to fire Mueller  would also be the ultimate evidence  of obstruction of justice seen as a way to stop the investigation about them  before it was finished. Unfolding now is  Act II,  the maneuvering around whether Donald Trump will ever testify to Mueller in any form about what he knew and when did he know it.


 We have deduced  something about what Mueller is finding  and investigating from all of the texts of the indictments and participants  turning states' witness pleading guilty for lying  about their Russian contacts. Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort  and his partner have been hit for money laundering and working for a foreign government. Thirteen Russians were indicted for active measures interfering in the 2016 campaign.   While none of the charges so far  yet confirm Trump and his cohorts "colluded" with the Russians, proof of  obstruction of justice and financial crimes are still charges that we know nothing  about what Mueller knows. That those  related areas of investigation are within the scope of Mueller's authority to investigate  were confirmed in  a judge's ruling concerning  Paul Manafort's indictment May 15 and the authorization for the probe by the Department of Justice in a document issued in 2017.