Monday ReadsPosted: April 22, 2019
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
Well, we made it to another Monday and the Preziditz still considers himself above the law and totally exonerated of all his obvious wrong doing. The headline that I’m reading about is about the Trump Family Crime syndicate and a wild lawsuit trying to stop or delay the investigation of the House Oversight Committee into their Financial Reports. He doesn’t seem to understand that the scrutiny comes with job.
Meanwhile, enjoy the artwork of Helen Stickler (@HelenSticker) as we plow through the headlines today.
I made dozens of memes from repurposed soviet era Russian matchbook cover art, made into
#GOTV and #Democratic ‘propaganda.’ Here’s a collage of them all, and I’m posting them individually several times a day.
President Trump and his business sued House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) in a bid to block a congressional subpoena of his financial records on Monday.
The lawsuit seeks a court order to prevent Trump’s accounting firm from complying with what his lawyers say is an improper use of subpoena power by congressional Democrats.
“Democrats are using their new control of congressional committees to investigate every aspect of President Trump’s personal finances, businesses, and even his family,” the filing by Trump claims. “Instead of working with the President to pass bipartisan legislation that would actually benefit Americans, House Democrats are singularly obsessed with finding something they can use to damage the President politically.”
The filing, in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, further escalates a clash between the White House and the Democratic-controlled House over congressional oversight.
Last week, Cummings subpoenaed Mazars USA, an accounting firm long used by Trump.
For more than a decade, Mazars and a predecessor firm signed off on financial statements for Trump that he used when seeking loans. Some of the statements include frequent exaggerations or inaccuracies and were accompanied by a note from the firm saying it was not responsible for the accuracy of the information.
The Oversight Committee on March 20 asked the company for copies of “statements of financial condition” and audits prepared for Trump and several of his companies, including the one that owns the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington. The panel also requested supporting documents used to produce the reports and communications between the firm and Trump.
Politico explains the purpose of the information here. As usual, the White House has invented an imaginary term–presidential harassment–to try to smear legitimate checks on the executive branch by its coequal branch.
The committee is investigating allegations from Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen that the president at times artificially inflated and deflated his assets for his personal benefit. Cummings requestedsimilar documents last month from financial giant Capital One, which also asked for a friendly subpoena.
Republicans have contended that the investigation is intended to embarrass Trump, and they said the subpoena to Mazars — which Cummings formally issued last week — amounts to an abuse of power. The White House has refused to comply with various congressional demands for documents and witness testimony on a host of subjects including Trump’s tax returns and the White House security clearance process.
Trump’s filing on Monday morning in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia reams Democrats for their myriad investigations targeting Trump, his presidential campaign and his business empire. The filing comes a week after attorneys William Consovoy and Stefan Passantino threatened legal action against Mazars’ outside counsel if the company complied with the subpoena.
Cummings’ request came after estranged Trump lawyer Michael Cohen raised questions about whether his former boss used to inflate or deflate the true value of his financial assets to help him carry out his business dealings.
The chairman specifically requested documents related to Trump and the Trump Organization that were used in a failed attempt by the president to purchase the Buffalo Bills NFL franchise.
“Mr. Cohen produced to the committee financial statements from 2011, 2012, and 2013 that raise questions about the president’s representations of his financial affairs on these forms and on other disclosures, particularly relating to the president’s debts,” his letter to Mazars stated. “Several of these documents appear to have been signed by your firm.”
Cummings later explained: “We are following up on specific allegations regarding the president’s actions based on corroborating documents obtained by the committee, and we will continue our efforts to conduct credible, robust, and independent oversight.”
During his testimony before the Oversight Committee, Cohen said that between 2011 and 2013, he gave Trump’s financial statements to Deutsche Bank with the aim of getting a loan to purchase the Bills franchise.
According to Cohen, Trump increased his net worth from $4.56 billion in 2012 to $8.66 billion in 2013, much of it based on the addition of “brand value.” Cohen said Trump would inflate his total assets to get friendlier treatment from banks.
The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reported last month that in 2017, Mr. Trump ordered Gary Cohn, then the director of the National Economic Council, to persuade antitrust authorities to file against AT&T’s purchase of the cable television company, which includes CNN. “I’ve mentioned it 50 times. And nothing’s happened,” the president allegedly said to John Kelly, who was chief of staff at the time. “I want that deal blocked!” Mr. Cohn, Ms. Mayer writes, told Mr. Kelly not to comply — but the Justice Department did bring suit and eventually lost in court.
Lawmakers have rightly been seeking more information about Mr. Trump’s alleged attempted meddling in the Antitrust Division’s decision, whether it was to reward Fox News because the outlet has been favorable to him or to hurt CNN because it has not. If he did intercede, it was a grave offense to press freedom and the rule of law, and one the president ought to be held accountable for. Unfortunately, accountability is not this administration’s strong suit: This week, the White House rejected a House Judiciary Committee request for documents on related discussions with the Justice Department, claiming executive privilege. The Justice Department, similarly, has yet to respond to multiple requests.
Even the appearance of impropriety in antitrust enforcement is damaging to public trust. T-Mobile executives spent $195,000 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington after the carrier announced its plan to purchase competitor Sprint. Any decision the Justice Department makes on the merger will now be viewed through that lens: The company has at least given the appearance of believing it could exert influence over enforcers through the chief executive. Who could blame consumers for thinking the same thing?
The Justice Department might have made its decision on the merits, as antitrust chief Makan Delrahim has insisted. Or Mr. Trump might have managed to persuade an associate to strong-arm the department. Or he might otherwise have signaled to Mr. Delrahim — who was on the record saying he did not “see this [merger] as a major antitrust problem” before he became Mr. Trump’s pick — what position he was expected to take. Unless the White House changes course or the Justice Department decides to be much more forthcoming, Congress will have to do more than ask nicely to find answers.
Charles M Blow of the NYT discusses impeaching Trump which is something Peolosi and the House Dems will be discussing this week.
And finally, there was no President Trump in the 1990s producing a head-scratching number of headlines each day. Trump can’t ride a victory nor will he be crestfallen in defeat. There would likely be untold new outrages even after an impeachment.
As for me, I’m afraid of lawlessness and the horrible precedent it would set if Congress does nothing.
On Friday, Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote on Twitterthat “the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.”
In another tweet she explained:
“To ignore a President’s repeated efforts to obstruct an investigation into his own disloyal behavior would inflict great and lasting damage on this country, and it would suggest that both the current and future Presidents would be free to abuse their power in similar ways.”
I worry that inaction enshrines that idea that the American president is above America’s laws. I worry that silent acquiescence bends our democracy toward monarchy, or dictatorship.
As Thomas Paine wrote in 1776, “In America the law is king.” He continued: “For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.”
Who will we let be king in this country, the president or the law?
We’ve learned today that SCOTUS will take up a case involving LBGT discrimination. How will the Republican Tactics to stack the court with activist judges impact the current laws?]
The Supreme Court is taking on a major test of LGBT rights in cases that look at whether federal civil rights law bans job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The justices said Monday they will hear cases involving people who claim they were fired because of their sexual orientation and another that involves a funeral home employee who was fired after disclosing that she was transitioning from male to female and dressed as a woman.
The cases will be argued in the fall, with decisions likely by June 2020 in the middle of the presidential election campaign.
The issue is whether Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, protects LGBT people from job discrimination. Title VII does not specifically mention sexual orientation or transgender status, but federal appeals courts in Chicago and New York have ruled recently that gay and lesbian employees are entitled to protection from discrimination. The federal appeals court in Cincinnati has extended similar protections for transgender people.
In Altitude Express v. Zarda, the justices will decide whether federal laws banning employment discrimination protect gay and lesbian employees. The petition for review was filed by a New York skydiving company, now known as Altitude Express. After the company fired Donald Zarda, who worked as an instructor for the company, Zarda went to federal court, where he contended that he was terminated because he was gay – a violation of (among other things) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination “because of sex.”
The trial court threw out Zarda’s Title VII claim, reasoning that Title VII does not allow claims alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation. But the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit reversed that holding, concluding that Title VII does apply to discrimination based on sexual orientation because such discrimination “is a subset of sex discrimination.”
Altitude Express took its case to the Supreme Court last year, asking the justices to weigh in. In 2017, the justices had denied review of a similar case, filed by a woman who alleged that she had been harassed and passed over for a promotion at her job as a hospital security officer in Georgia because she was a lesbian. However, that case came to the court in a somewhat unusual posture: Neither the hospital nor the individual employees named in the lawsuit had participated in the proceedings in the lower courts, and they had told the Supreme Court that they would continue to stay out of the case even if review were granted, which may have made the justices wary about reviewing the case on the merits.
Altitude Express’ case will be consolidated for one hour of oral argument with the second case involving the rights of gay and lesbian employees: Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. The petitioner in the case, Gerald Bostock, worked as a child-welfare-services coordinator in Clayton County, Georgia. Bostock argued that after the county learned that he was gay, it falsely accused him of mismanaging public money so that it could fire him – when it was in fact firing him because he was gay.
Bostock went to federal court, arguing that his firing violated Title VII. The county urged the court to dismiss the case, arguing that Title VII does not apply to discrimination based on sexual orientation. The district court agreed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld that ruling.
In the third case granted today, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, the justices will consider whether Title VII’s protections apply to transgender employees. The petition for review was filed by a small funeral home in Michigan, owned by Thomas Rost, who describes himself as a devout Christian. In 2007, the funeral home hired Aimee Stephens, whose employment records identified Stephens as a man. Six years later, Stephens told Rost that Stephens identified as a woman and wanted to wear women’s clothing to work. Rost fired Stephens, because Rost believed both that allowing Stephens to wear women’s clothes would violate the funeral home’s dress code and that he would be “violating God’s commands” by allowing Stephens to dress in women’s clothing.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit on Stephens’ behalf, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled for the EEOC and Stephens. The funeral home went to the Supreme Court last summer, asking it to review the lower court’s ruling. Today the justices granted the funeral home’s petition for review, agreeing to consider whether Title VII bars discrimination against transgender people based on either their status as transgender or sex stereotyping under the Supreme Court’s 1989 decision in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, which indicates that a company can’t discriminate based on stereotypes of how a man or woman should appear or behave. The funeral home’s case will be argued separately from Bostock and Altitude Express.
The other news is with the Tenacious E. Elizabeth Warren is calling for vast forgiveness of student loan debt. This women releases a policy a week, I swear!
We got into this crisis because state governments and the federal government decided that instead of treating higher education like our public school system — free and accessible to all Americans — they’d rather cut taxes for billionaires and giant corporations and offload the cost of higher education onto students and their families. The student debt crisis is the direct result of this failed experiment.
It’s time to end that experiment, to clean up the mess it’s caused, and to do better — better for people who want to go (or go back) to college, better for current students, better for graduates, better for their families, and better for our entire economy.
The first step in addressing this crisis is to deal head-on with the outstanding debt that is weighing down millions of families and should never have been required in the first place. That’s why I’m calling for something truly transformational — the cancellation of up to $50,000 in student loan debt for 42 million Americans.
My plan for broad student debt cancellation will:
Cancel debt for more than 95% of the nearly 45 million Americans with student loan debt;
Wipe out student loan debt entirely for more than 75% of the Americans with that debt;
Substantially increase wealth for Black and Latinx families and reduce both the Black-White and Latinx-White wealth gaps; and
Provide an enormous middle-class stimulus that will boost economic growth, increase home purchases, and fuel a new wave of small business formation.
Once we’ve cleared out the debt that’s holding down an entire generation of Americans, we must ensure that we never have another student debt crisis again. We can do that by recognizing that a public college education is like a public K-12 education — a basic public good that should be available to everyone with free tuition and zero debt at graduation. My plan for universal free college will:
Give every American the opportunity to attend a two-year or four-year public college without paying a dime in tuition or fees;
Make free college truly universal — not just in theory, but in practice — by making higher education of all kinds more inclusive and available to every single American, especially lower-income, Black, and Latinx students, without the need to take on debt to cover costs.
And, yet another white guy enters into the race. This time its MA Congressman Seth Moulton. Well, at least he is a registered Democrat and isn’t on Social Security and Medicare yet.
We need to keep the oxygen going for the alternatives!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?