Lazy Caturday Reads: Trump’s Corruption Is EverywherePosted: February 23, 2019
I’m in desperate need of cheering up this morning. Everything that is happening in the news is so depressing! I’m usually an optimist, but this morning everything feels hopeless. I do need to be concerned, because I have a lifelong history of severe depression. I’ll be trying to find ways back to equanimity this weekend.
Now here are some stories to check out today.
An opinion piece at The New York Times by Thomas T. Cullen, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia: The Grave Threats of White Supremacy and Far-Right Extremism.
Last week, federal agents in Maryland arrested a United States Coast Guard officer and said he was plotting to assassinate Democratic members of Congress, prominent television journalists and others. The officer, Lt. Christopher Hasson, apparently was inspired by a right-wing Norwegian terrorist who slaughtered 77 people in 2011, stockpiled firearms and ammunition and researched locations around Washington to launch his attacks, according to investigators. Fortunately, the F.B.I. arrested him before he could act.
This frightening case is just one of several recent reminders that white supremacy and far-right extremism are among the greatest domestic-security threats facing the United States.
Regrettably, over the past 25 years, law enforcement, at both the federal and state levels, has been slow to respond. This is in part because of the limited number of enforcement tools available to prosecutors. But there are steps that can be taken to help the police and prosecutors address this growing threat — including, on the federal level, a domestic terrorism law.
In 2017, hate crimes, generally defined as criminal acts motivated by the victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, or gender,
Killings committed by individuals and groups associated with far-right extremist groups have risen significantly. Seventy-one percent of the 387 “extremist related fatalities in the United States” from 2008 to 2017 were committed by members of far-right and white-supremacist groups, according the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. Islamic extremists were responsible for 26 percent.
Read the rest at the NYT. Anyone who doesn’t see that the rise of right wing hate is linked to Trump willfully blind.
Of course Trump has spent his life wallowing in racism, misogyny, and criminality, and his corruption is reflected in the people he surrounds himself with. The most recent shocking story is about Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.
Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie K. Brown laid bare the corrupt deal that Acosta cut with serial child sexual abuser and human trafficker Jeffrey Epstein: How a future Trump Cabinet member gave a serial sex abuser the deal of a lifetime.
On a muggy October morning in 2007, Miami’s top federal prosecutor, Alexander Acosta, had a breakfast appointment with a former colleague, Washington, D.C., attorney Jay Lefkowitz.
It was an unusual meeting for the then-38-year-old prosecutor, a rising Republican star who had served in several White House posts before being named U.S. attorney in Miami by President George W. Bush.
Instead of meeting at the prosecutor’s Miami headquarters, the two men — both with professional roots in the prestigious Washington law firm of Kirkland & Ellis — convened at the Marriott in West Palm Beach, about 70 miles away. For Lefkowitz, 44, a U.S. special envoy to North Korea and corporate lawyer, the meeting was critical.
His client, Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, 54, was accused of assembling a large, cult-like network of underage girls — with the help of young female recruiters — to coerce into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day, the Town of Palm Beach police found..Facing a 53-page federal indictment, Epstein could have ended up in federal prison for the rest of his life.
But on the morning of the breakfast meeting, a deal was struck — an extraordinary plea agreement that would conceal the full extent of Epstein’s crimes and the number of people involved.
Not only would Epstein serve just 13 months in the county jail, but the deal — called a non-prosecution agreement— essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein’s sex crimes, according to a Miami Herald examination of thousands of emails, court documents and FBI records.
Brown appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show Last Night. If you missed the interview, you can watch it here: Acosta deal for Epstein treated victims as ‘throw-away girls.’
This week a federal judge in Florida found that prosecutors in the Epstein case broke the law with the sweetheart deal. The New York Times: Prosecutors Broke Law in Agreement Not to Prosecute Jeffrey Epstein, Judge Rules.
Prosecutors led by Alexander R. Acosta, who is now the secretary of labor, violated federal law when they failed to tell victims about an agreement not to prosecute Jeffrey E. Epstein, a wealthy New York financier accused of molesting dozens of underage girls, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.
The agreement not to pursue federal sex trafficking charges, negotiated in secret while prosecutors told victims that a case against Mr. Epstein was still possible, violated the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act, ruled Judge Kenneth A. Marra of Federal District Court in West Palm Beach, Fla. He gave the government and the two victims who sued 15 days to discuss what remedy should apply in the case.
Federal prosecutors had initially drafted a 53-page indictment against Mr. Epstein, but under the deal negotiated in 2008, he pleaded guilty to lesser state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution and served 13 months at the Palm Beach County Stockade. While there, Mr. Epstein was allowed to leave custody and work out of his office six days a week.
The court’s ruling on Thursday could nullify the non-prosecution agreement and subject Mr. Epstein and any co-conspirators in the case to new federal charges, said Jack Scarola, a lawyer for the two victims who challenged the agreement.
What does the Trump administration have to say about Acosta? CBS News: Trump praises labor secretary accused of illegally concealing sex offender’s plea.
President Trump on Friday praised Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, whom a federal judge says broke the law when he concealed the plea agreement of a wealthy, well-connected sex offender during his days as a prosecutor….
“I really don’t know too much about it,” the president said. “I know he’s done a great job as labor secretary and that seems like a long time ago, but I know he’s been a fantastic labor secretary, but that’s all I can really tell you.”
I’ll bet that evil monster knows plenty about it.
Guess who else was on Epstein’s defense team? Ken Starr. Here’s Charles Pierce: Ken Starr Is Now the Biggest Fish in the Barrel of Mockery.
Somehow, in the ungodly mess that is the Jeffrey Epstein scandal—and I use ungodly in the fullest sense of the word—I somehow have missed one of the greatest proofs yet that the Deity has a whopping good sense of humor. And it’s right there in the latest filings, the one where the judge teed up the federal prosecutors for having broken the law in how they let this monster skate as smoothly as he did. And it’s not the fact that one of the law-breaking federal prosecutors is Alexander Acosta, the current Secretary of Labor and now perhaps moving up to being the fourth-worst cabinet official down at Camp Runamuck.
No, it’s not that. Seriously. From the Miami Herald:
Acosta, in 2011, would explain that he was unduly pressured by Epstein’s heavy-hitting lawyers—Lefkowitz, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, Jack Goldberger, Roy Black, former U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis, Gerald Lefcourt, and Kenneth Starr, the former Whitewater special prosecutor who investigated Bill Clinton’s sexual liaisons with Monica Lewinsky.
Is the cosmos jerking my chain? One of Jeffrey Epstein’s lawyers was Ken Fcking Starr? The sanctimonious sheet-sniffing yahoo who presented to the Congress a soft-core porn novel in the hopes it would be enough to defenestrate a sitting president, who then went on to a career turning a blind eye to sexual assaults at Baylor University, and who now apparently took up working for a serial sex-maniac predatory pedophile?
And Alan Dershowitz. Gee, I wonder why that slimeball keeps defending Trump? And check this out:
That’s right, newly confirmed Attorney General William Barr and his prospective deputy AG were Alex Acosta’s colleagues.
One more good article on the Epstein/Acosta scandal by Virginia Heffernan at the LA Times: Uncovering the deal Trump’s Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta gave to a Florida sex abuser. Heffernan talked to the women who are now speaking out about the abuse they experienced. Please go read it.
Acosta is only the most recent Trump cabinet member to be engulfed in scandal. More from the annals of Trump corruption:
The top federal ethics watchdog has rejected U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s 2017 financial disclosure form.
The Office of Government Ethics declined to certify Ross’s latest financial disclosure because after reporting that he had sold off his shares in BankUnited Inc. that year, he actually sold the stock in October 2018. According to a later filing, he said he mistakenly believed that the shares had been sold earlier.In a letter sent to the Commerce Department’s top ethics officer, OGE Director Emory Rounds wrote that Ross’s 2017 report,“inaccurately reported that he sold all of his stock when in fact he had not done so.” Rounds also said that Ross was not in compliance with his ethics agreement when he filed the annual report in 2018.
Prosecutors have begun presenting evidence to a grand jury in Washington in their probe of whether former interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lied to federal investigators, according to two individuals briefed on the matter.
The closed-door deliberations are focused on Zinke’s decision not to grant a petition by two Indian tribes to operate a commercial casino in Connecticut, according to these individuals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because grand jury proceedings are not public.
The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes’ push to run a gambling facility in East Windsor, Conn., had sparked a lobbying campaign by MGM Resorts International, a competitor that opposed the planned casino. The proposal was the subject of intense scrutiny at Interior and the White House during President Trump’s first months in office.
Investigators with the Interior Department’s inspector general’s office came to believe Zinke had lied to them in the course of that inquiry and referred the matter to the Justice Department late last year.
House and Senate Democrats say they have obtained evidence that a senior official at the Department of Education tried to oust the department’s independent watchdog after she pushed back on an attempt to interfere in an active investigation of Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Lawmakers from four House and Senate committees who oversee the department sent a letter to DeVos on Tuesday, suggesting that the effort to replace the department’s acting inspector general, Sandra Bruce, had been related to her duties in overseeing the probe of DeVos’ decision to reinstate ACICS, an accreditor that had been stripped of its certification by the Obama administration.
“We have now received correspondence between the Department and the (Office of Inspector General) that reveals troubling efforts by the Department to influence the ACICS investigation,” House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., wrote to DeVos.
Scott was joined by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee; Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who serves on the House Appropriations Committee; Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee; and Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the Senate committee handling education.