Monday, April 29, 2019

Trump's demagogic and hypocritical approach to women's health:

As southern states pass legislation to ban abortions or restrict them so severely abortions are virtually banned, they are hoping to cash in on Donald Trump's two anti-choice appointments to the Supreme Court.  Roe v Wade will now be put to the supreme test. Recently the cry was ban late-term abortions. Now it is banning all of them virtually or absolutely and punish those who assist or have them..

We will soon see if Donald Trump has swung to court so far to the right, a women's right to choose will be rolled back to the dark ages. One thing is certain. If Donald Trump is re-elected, he will have four more years and the opportunity to change the makeup of the court so that there is no doubt what the outcome will be.  

Donald Trump is no devout Christian. He is using the religious right for political gain. It is a demagogic and hypocritical approach to women's health.  In the meantime, Democrats who have both those who support a woman's right to choose and those who are far more conservative on the issue are struggling to craft a response, other than scaring suburban women. My suggestion is respect of those with differing beliefs, but do not make government the instrument of carrying out a religious belief not shared by 70% of the voters. We should care as much about the living as the unborn and as the South votes to ban abortions, Donald Trump's proposed budget slashes funds for Medicare, Medicaid and child nutrition programs.

Donald Trump at a Wisconsin rally this weekend: "The baby is born," Trump said. "The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully, and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby. I don't think so."

This is my very personal view about choice. Having been married to a doctor, an OB-GYN, for over 50 years who practiced in both Catholic and secular hospitals, before he passed away he told me that he had never seen or heard of anyone performing, late-term abortions. No wonder. They are very rare.
Per the Center for Disease Control, abortions after the first 21 weeks of pregnancy constitute less than 1% of all abortions.

 That may be way beyond demagogue Trump's ability to understand or want to understand women's health care issues because he loves to rile up his core supporters. What Dr. Mike did know was that his patients before Obamacare did not always have the money to get prenatal care. He was old fashioned: he still served patients who could not afford services. He also was the first physician to attend a low-income health center in Denver's Five Points and in publicly funded Maternal and Infant care health centers in Denver's Hispanic west side. Donald Trump's budget proposes to cut funds for such health centers. Early health pregnancy health care and birth control, and most importantly, the health of his patients were his top priorities. Particularly at risk are minority women. African-American, , native Americans, and Alaskan natives have three times a rate of maternal deaths than do white women. .  If Trump wants to care for women and their unborn's health, he should stop fighting affordable health care for all.   

What about Roe v Wade? Trump's appeal to his Evangelical base that opposes any right of a woman to choose and has made it the litmus test for Supreme Court appointees, wants the government to ban abortions in any trimester. Currently, thanks to Roe v Wade, abortions are legal in the first trimester. or until viable.  I respect if I do not agree, for the right of those to hold religious views that oppose abortions period, and even those who believe birth control is murder.  I do not agree that the government should enforce their religious-based views on their behalf, nor do 71% of voters.

 The choice of whether or not to have an abortion is a painful one and one-third of women in the US face that choice. Though abortion rates are declining, at least one-fourth of women will have an abortion.

.  I honor those who choose to go through with an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy and opt to be a single parent. Being an "unwed mother" used to be a scarlet letter of social shame. It is no longer. It is, however, an economic burden that we should make it easier for them to bear with food assistance and affordable access to health care, minimum wage, and affordable daycare.   In my earlier life, I have also taken into our homes "unwed" mothers to be or had opted to be single moms.  I know the pain of giving up their baby for adoption because they could not face the shame back home and I know the financial pain they faced as single moms. I challenge the religious who oppose abortion to do likewise.  Those who believe such women deserve support should be the very ones who should be supporting maternal and infant care, nutrition programs, access to health care, and affordable childcare even if it is supported by government assistance. However, the very same who beat the drum for banning all abortions or access to birth control are often the same who oppose government support of those who choose not to have an abortion.  I fail to understand why those who profess to be so religious do not care about the living and health of women as much as they care for the unborn.    
President's Budget Proposes Cuts to Public Health Programs, Health Research, Medicare, and Medicaid
President's Budget Proposes Cuts to Public Health Programs, Health…

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Trump goes coup coup

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi Daily News May 1, 2019

After shouting to the world that the Mueller report exonerated  (cleared) him of both conspiracy with the Russians to tilt the 2016 election his way and of obstruction of justice, Donald Trump must have had a sobering moment when he realized that Mueller had not cleared him of obstruction of justice laid out at least ten instances of obstruction of justice committed by Donald Trump and his associates. Mueller then suggested  in  a footnote the remedy was either impeachment by Congress or indictment after he left office.

In his report, Mueller specifically wrote in plain English that Trump was not exonerated of obstruction of justice.  Trump must have hoped his followers had the same lack of reading comprehension skills he had, and they had not read the report themselves, either. In response, Trump played the victim card to explain to his core followers that the Mueller report and the FBI were engineering a coup d’état against him and now Congress wants to engineer another coup, too, by holding hearings that could lead to impeachment. For a prototype wannabe dictator that he is, a coup fits Trump’s view of government that exists for the purpose of putting him in power and keeping him there and a disdain for the rule of law, any investigations into his suspected wrongdoing, and the remedies holding him accountable that are written into our Constitution.  

The writers of our Constitution had a firm grasp of both English and world history and knew when tyranny reigned to the point of being unbearable or the king went off the rails into the land of incompetence, regime change was by a coup and sometimes a bloody one of palace intrigue and military force or civil war. The Game of Thrones is not all fiction.  Usually a coup d’état in modern times, especially in the recent past in South America, Turkey and Egypt, means the military steps in and ousts the person on the throne or presidential office. To avoid such bloody regime changes and to give the people’s representatives a voice in a democracy, our founders devised the impeachment process that is the law that rules.  The House would indict (impeach) and the Senate would convict. They laid out the rules and process, that would remove the president and others before the next election was held. Later the Constitution was amended to provide for removal with consent of cabinet members and much more. The FBI and the Office of Legal Counsel also had rules that prevented indicting a sitting president of a crime and Special Counsel Robert Mueller also followed that rule.  Trump’s appointed Attorney General Bill Barr was of a controversial and not widely accepted opinion that a president could not be convicted of obstructing justice since he was the head of justice and had the right to fire whomever he pleased. Those who disagree say a president could not get away with that that if he had a “corrupt” intent such as keeping himself in power.

To find evidence that could lead to prosecution or evidence of wrongdoing, a special prosecutor was appointed per federal statutes to conduct the investigation. Congress was also granted by the Constitution the power and duty to conduct their own investigations and issue subpoenas, just as they were empowered to impeach (indict) for “high crimes and misdemeanors” however they defined it and whatever the burden of proof they required.  The Supreme Court is cut out of the entire process except for chairing the Senate conviction proceedings.  Currently, Trump is stonewalling any subpoena and a Constitutional crisis is about to happen, with Trump claiming House hearings are conducting another coup attempt.  After the experience with the impeachment process of both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, changes were made to the process so that the special counsel had to report to the Attorney General. That process has been followed.  Trump loves to claim the whole investigation was illegal, but the letter of the federal law has been followed.

Donald Trump constantly claims even to today that the Russians did not help him get elected.  Mueller lays out in detail in over a hundred pages in his report and in earlier indictment court filings exactly how the Russians operated their propaganda targeting and methods of social media and spies on the US ground. It was not a matter of a few commercials, either. His conclusion: “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”      Last week, Maria Butina was sentenced to 18 months in prison for being a Russian spy who had made her way into the very top halls of the NRA to help with the Russian interference in the 2016 election.

  Whatever happened to the counterintelligence investigation? It was not included in the Mueller report. Also left out of the Mueller report because Mueller did not investigate it, was whether Donald Trump was beholden to the Russians because of financial entanglements or that there were tapes that would prove an embarrassment to him. It is still a mystery why Trump fawns over Russian president Putin prefers to take Putin’s word over our own intelligence services. Why does Trump  sync his foreign policy with Putin’s desire to make Russia great again, lifting sanctions against Russian incursions into Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and weakening NATO’s mutual defense agreement to stop those Russian  threatened  land grabs into NATO  member territory from Montenegro in the Balkans in the south to the Baltics in the north.


 To confuse his followers throughout the Mueller investigation, Trump had claimed there was no collusion, but Robert Mueller stated in his report that they never investigated whether there was collusion because that was not a term in the criminal statutes.  They investigated whether there was a conspiracy, a term in the criminal law meaning the participants got together and planned to commit a crime.  Mueller ruled no evidence of a conspiracy was found.  In a strange twist, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer in this matter in a public comment asked in so many words, so what is wrong with collusion, benefiting by evidence or measures, supplied by a foreign government and in a sense justifying the commission of collusion and tacit implying collusion happened.

So long as the law enforcers  were “on his side”, they were seen by Donald Trump as  loyal members of his team, but if they investigated and found some damning evidence, they were a deep state out to get him and conduct a coup to oust him from the White House.  The FBI inadvertently helped him get elected when their then director James Comey twice announced publicly in the late summer and  again Trump ten days before the election than Hillary Clinton was under criminal investigation for alleged misuse of emails and a server (and later said in both instances, there was no evidence found).  At the same time in July 2016 a counterintelligence investigation was underway by the FBI and other intelligence agencies motivated by suspicion that Donald Trump and his campaign associates and his pro-Putin foreign policy had many unexplained contacts with Russian operatives. The FBI kept that investigation secret.   The Mueller report owed the opening of the counterintelligence investigation to a Trump campaign associates’ drunken conversation with an Australian diplomat, who then tipped off the FBI. The  counterintelligence investigation was folded into the Mueller investigation.  In short, the deep state helped Trump win, cleared him of conspiracy with the Russians, and yet did not clear him of obstruction of the investigation into the Russian connection.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Mueller's report exposes Trump's team of liars

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News April 24, 2019

President Obama's administration was a team of rivals, but Donald Trump's was a team of liars.  Special Counsel Mueller's report was a treasure trove of information and evidence. It revealed the Trump administration associates and Donald Trump himself often trying to take the Special Counsel and Trump's loyal followers for fools with their lies. The game is not over in the matter of obstruction of justice. It is a may be game on. While Mueller did not find enough evidence to indict Trump and his associates with conspiring with the Russians to influence the 2016 election, he directly stated he did not clear (exonerate) Trump of obstruction of justice and lies were key in reaching that conclusion. 

The Mueller report contained a list of those who were Trump aides and associates indicted for lying: Mike Flynn, Michael Cohen, Alex van der Zwaan, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, and Paul Manafort.   The lies they told were either about contacts with Russians or obstruction of justice. 

How many times have we heard the President claim that Russian interference in the election was fake news or that the Mueller investigation was a witch hunt.? This was no BS, as Trump's most loyal supporters would like to believe.   Most of Volume One of the Mueller report is laying out the evidence of Russian interference. Mueller concluded, “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” 

One of the most frequent lines Donald Trump repeats is "There is no collusion" with the Russians to interfere in the 2016 campaign. If that was no outright lie, it was because he was committing deception by semantics.  Attorney General Bill Barr perpetuated this deception in his March 24   infamous exoneration letter and claimed numerous times  Mueller found Trump did not "collude" with the Russians.  Mueller went to pains in his report to point out that he did not even investigate "collusion" since that was not a legal term. Per Mueller: he investigated the "conspiracy", which has a standard of people plotting together. "In evaluating whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted
a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of "collusion." 

Rudy Giuliani, the President's lawyer and public advocate,  unintentionally agreed Donald Trump did collude. Guiliani just redefined "collusion" on MSNBC Monday as he tried to make a case that there was nothing wrong with taking information from the Russians to help Trump win. Come on, Guiliani, there is plenty wrong even with that when Trump's foreign policy was in synch with Russia's national interest, but not ours. Trump has been making Russia Great Again.  It may or may not be a tit for tat exchange of something of value, but Russia has gotten their payback in Trump's foreign policy goals, weakening NATO, recognizing Russia's takeover of Crimea, forgiving Russian incursions into eastern Ukraine, and lifting of sanctions against friends of Putin. The Russians did more than just exchange information. They also used that information to target their social media propaganda to shape gullible voter opinions in ways that helped Trump get elected. 

 The first half of the game, whether Trump conspired with the Russians,  may be over,  but the second half is yet to be played. Much. of the second volume of Mueller's report presents evidence and examples of lies regarding the obstruction of justice issue.( Obstruction of justice is a legal term meaning obstruction of the investigation.)  Per Mueller Trump himself lied various times about his orders to fire Mueller and claimed falsely he did not demand loyalty from FBI director Comey. His spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders added her two bits claiming the FBI rank and file was OK with Comey's firing when she never even contacted them. Trump lied about the Trump Tower meeting and his role in shaping public characterization of the meeting. 

Mueller's report left much grist for the impeachment mill since at least ten instances of obstruction of justice were listed. Per Mueller, "Our investigation found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian-interference and obstruction investigations,” ... “The incidents were often carried out through one-on-one meetings in which the President sought to use his official power outside of usual channels. These actions ranged from efforts to remove the Special Counsel and to reverse the effect of the Attorney General’s recusal; to the attempted use of official power to limit the scope of the investigation; to direct and indirect contacts with witnesses with the potential to influence their testimony.”

 In a footnote on page ten, Mueller noted that due to a legal opinion by the Office of Legal Counsel and Department of Justice rules, though he could not indict a sitting president, Congress could still impeach the president or Trump could be prosecuted after he left office.  
 The use of those facts and evidence  regarding the obstruction issue will become the subject of House investigations conducted in public. Even more evidence could come to light if the redacted portions of the report or if the grand jury findings were published. Negotiations are now ongoing on the release of the full unredacted version to select members of Congress However grand jury findings may result in a long legal battle. 

Whether the impeachment process will begin will be more of a Democratic concern about strategy than a sense of duty to provide oversight or the facts presented by Mueller. The Senate in GOP hands will make removal of the president due to impeachment a nonstarter. At the least, expect the drama of the House committees to educate the public through public hearings and the witnesses they will call to testify.  As a burning campaign issue in 2020, the Mueller Report could have limited value.    There are many more issues of concern to voters than the Russian interference and Trump’s role in it.  Timing is also a factor. There are only 18 months until the 2020 election. 
What was of interest is that Mueller concluded the FBI had opened a counterintelligence investigation into Trump July 31, 2016, and kept that a secret, while blaring to the public their investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails once dismissed and again reopened ten days before the election. Explicitly in the Mueller report, the reason given for opening the counterintelligence investigation was Trump aide George Papadapolous ‘ drunken revelation to a foreign diplomat that the Russians had information damaging to Clinton and the release of the report by Wikileaks hacking of the Democratic National Committee. It was not the Steele dossier that triggered the investigation.  If the GOP Senate wants to bark up that tree, again, they may be wasting their time in conducting a vindictive, diversionary sideshow.

What was not in the Mueller report was the counter-intelligence findings part of the investigation. Was the President compromised by the Russians and did that cause the president to support policies that would make Russia great again? Why did he want to weaken NATO, lift Russian sanctions imposed by their takeover of Crimea and their stealth attack on Eastern Ukraine?  Did he owe friends of Putin,  money or did they have more dirt on his behavior, including financial hanky panky or something else? Mueller did not go there.  What we do know is that Trump pursued getting Russian approval to build his Trump tower Moscow well into his run for the GOP nomination. Or was Trump just Russia’s willing fellow traveler who was serving his own financial interests?

A very detailed analysis of Mueller's case for Trump's obstruction of justice.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Link to text of Mueller report

Saturday, April 13, 2019

If there was any spying in 2016, it was by Russians on American voters

A version of this was published on line in the Sky Hi News, April 17, 2019

Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr tossed a plum to the Trump media this past week, first charging Trump enemies with “spying” on the Trump campaign in 2016 and then, within the same Congressional hearing redefined spying as “unauthorized surveillance “.  If there was any spying in 2016, it was Russians on American voters to help elect Donald Trump. It was not the FBI spying on President Trump. We do not have to wait for the delivery to Congress Thursday of the Mueller report, redacted or not, to learn of  Russia's activities. It has been spelled out in indictments of Russian active measures conducted by the Russian military and others from and in  Russia. However, the Mueller report we see might reveal more than was in the text of the indictments. 

 Barr admitted he had no evidence that either unauthorized surveillance or spying had occurred.  Later Barr tried to claim that unauthorized surveillance and spying were the same things.  They are not. My first reaction to Barr’s use of the term” spying ” is  that the word refers to acts committed by some foreign hostile power. confirms the foreign power element defining “spying” as” a person employed by a government to obtain secret information or intelligence about another, usually hostile, country, especially regarding military or naval affairs “ 
Barr’s conflating the two terms ignited a semantics war that is dangerous because it feeds the paranoid fantasies and conspiracy theories promoted by the right wing that the “deep state” was out to get Donald Trump by spying on him and Trump at once opined  that he was indeed spied
 upon. He reiterated his claim again and again that the Mueller investigation was illegal and a witch hunt.  The Mueller Special Counsel investigation was authorized by Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein per federal statutes 28 U.S.C. §§ 509, 510, and 515, and the parameters were established in the appointing document.

Those conspiracies promoted by Donald Trump and his followers have an ironic twist.   The same” deep state” actors, the FBI specifically, were also the same outfit that most likely got Donald Trump elected with their disclosure ten days before the election that the FBI had reopened a criminal case against Hillary Clinton.   At the same time, the FBI kept it a secret that a counterintelligence investigation had been opened into Donald Trump and his campaign. The effect was that the FBI was protecting Trump while hurting the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. If the FBI was a deep state out to prove Trump did something illegal, it was at least bi-partisan.   Last week, a Democrat, Greg Craig, former Obama White House counsel, was indicted for lying about his lobbying efforts on behalf of Russian/Ukrainian interests. He has pleaded not guilty.  This is a case stemming from the Mueller investigation. It related to Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, a former political advisor to Russian/Ukrainian interests, who has begun a 47-month prison sentence for financial crimes he committed before joining the Trump campaign.

 The Russian hacks and thefts of  Democratic National Committee emails, receiving confidential polling data to help them target voters to swing the election to Trump, and having their spies on the US ground, are most definitely examples of spying on the United States.  The arrest of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in England week once again reminded us of how the Russian espionage to uncover the DNC hacked findings, were relayed and released to the public through Wikileaks to impact the 2016 election. 

 Russians did more than just collect information, per Mueller indictment. They also employed their intelligence gathering results to control the political outcome of the US with their use of social media and advertising, including using Wikileaks as a vehicle. We were played by Russian operatives. The shocker is that the GOP  and Trump are quite alright with that,  impugning the integrity of Mueller who they once praised,  calling the entire investigation as illegal, and demanding Congress investigate the investigators attributing the findings to ulterior motives. It is not alright with me since I think who leads this country should be decided by US voters without being manipulated by some foreign power to further their national interests and using social media as the weapon of their attack.

Is there anything called authorized surveillance? Think back to when the GOP controlled Congress got into the weeds with the FISA court issue. The FISA court is a revolving panel of judges (currently all Republicans) who approve surveillance of US persons, and the FBI must provide evidence to the FISA court that surveillance is justified. The FISA court approved and renewed surveillance several times in the course of the FBI and counterintelligence investigation into Russian election activities.  The House Intelligence Committee then chaired by Republican Devin Nunes attempted to show the FBI had relied on a dossier prepared by UK former spy chief to show justification for the wiretap and did not disclose that to the FISA judges. Indeed the Steele dossier was referenced in the FBI’s filing in footnotes with the comment the dossier was unverified. The burden on AG Barr is now to show how surveillance was conducted on US persons, including the President, that took place without FISA authorization.