Monday Fresh Hell ReadsPosted: June 10, 2019
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
This weekend celebrated Pride! Please enjoy these pictures from the New Orleans celebration!
If you ever had any serious doubt about the entire Republican Party having topped its performance during the Tea Pot Dome scandal or Watergate, look no further than today’s headlines. I’m not sure how we’re going to stop this when there’s basically half of each of the three branches actively working against the country’s interests and solely for their own.
From John Swaine writing for The Guardian: “Company part-owned by Jared Kushner got $90m from unknown offshore investors since 2017. Overseas investment flowed to Cadre while Trump’s son-in-law works as US envoy, raising conflict of interest questions.” So, first we’ll start with the Trump Family Crime Syndicate then move to Mitch McConnell.
A real estate company part-owned by Jared Kushner has received $90m in foreign funding from an opaque offshore vehicle since he entered the White House as a senior adviser to his father-in-law Donald Trump.
Investment has flowed from overseas to the company, Cadre, while Kushner works as an international envoy for the US, according to corporate filings and interviews. The money came through a vehicle run by Goldman Sachs in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven that guarantees corporate secrecy.
Kushner, who is married to Trump’s elder daughter Ivanka, kept a stake in Cadre after joining the administration, while selling other assets. His holding is now valued at up to $50m, according to his financial disclosure documents.
Cadre’s foreign funding could create hidden conflicts of interest for Kushner as he performs his work for the US government, according to some ethics experts, who raised concerns over the lack of transparency around the investments.
“It will cause people to wonder whether he is being improperly influenced,” said Jessica Tillipman, a lecturer at George Washington University law school, who teaches government ethics and anti-corruption laws.
Kushner resigned from Cadre’s board and reduced his ownership stake to less than 25% after he joined the White House, according to his attorneys. He failed to list Cadre on his first ethics disclosure, later adding the company and saying the omission was inadvertent. Cadre says he is not actively involved in the company’s operations.
The names of the foreigners investing in Cadre via Goldman Sachs are not disclosed by the companies, which are not required to make the information public. Two sources familiar with the firm said much of the money came to the Cayman Islands vehicle from a second offshore tax haven, while some came from Saudi Arabia.
Jared Kushner appears destined for jail like his father. From WAPO: “New revelations show the Trump administration is making the swamp even swampier.” This is an op ed by Paul Waldman about Elaine Cho, Secretary of Transportation who is the beard wife of Mitch McConnell the Demon Majority Senate Head of K Street.
But the corruption of the Trump administration is so comprehensive and wide-ranging that it contains important — and depressing — lessons about how corruption works and why it is so difficult to eradicate.
Some facets of Trump corruption are new and unique. For instance, for two centuries nobody thought much about how the emoluments clause of the Constitution should be understood, because the idea that any president would use his office for personal financial gain was absurd. But then there are Trump administration scandals that sound extremely familiar:
The Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao designated a special liaison to help with grant applications and other priorities from her husband Mitch McConnell’s state of Kentucky, paving the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for favored projects as McConnell prepared to campaign for reelection.
Chao’s aide Todd Inman, who stated in an email to McConnell’s Senate office that Chao had personally asked him to serve as an intermediary, helped advise the senator and local Kentucky officials on grants with special significance for McConnell — including a highway-improvement project in a McConnell political stronghold that had been twice rejected for previous grant applications.
This comes on the heels of news that Chao tried to include members of her family, which owns a large shipping firm that does extensive business in China, in official meetings with the Chinese government. If there’s anything unusual about these stories it’s that Chao was one of the few people in Trump’s cabinet who actually knew their way around government; among other things she was secretary of labor under George W. Bush. As someone who had been a member of the Washington elite before Trump arrived and will remain so after he departs, she might have been a less likely suspect for corruption.
According to Politico, Chao has been earning her keep. “Chao created special path for McConnell’s favored projects. A top Transportation official helped coordinate grant applications by McConnell’s political allies.”
The circumstances surrounding the Owensboro grant and another, more lucrative grant to Boone County, highlight the ethical conflicts in having a powerful Cabinet secretary married to the Senate’s leader and in a position to help him politically. McConnell has long touted his ability to bring federal resources to his state, which his wife is now in a position to assist.
Chao’s designation of Inman as a special intermediary for Kentucky — a privilege other states did not enjoy — gave a special advantage to projects favored by her husband, which could in turn benefit his political interests. In such situations, ethicists say, each member of a couple benefits personally from the success of the other.
“Where a Cabinet secretary is doing things that are going to help her husband get reelected, that starts to rise to the level of feeling more like corruption to the average American. … I do think there are people who will see that as sort of ‘swamp behavior,’” said John Hudak, a Brookings Institution scholar who has studied political influence in federal grant-making.
In fact, days after launching his 2020 reelection campaign McConnell asked Owensboro’s mayor to set up a luncheon with business and political leaders at which the senator claimed credit for delivering the grant.
“How about that $11 million BUILD grant?” McConnell asked the crowd rhetorically, according to the Owensboro Times. He then recalled his role in securing earlier grants to the city, adding, “It’s done a lot to transform Owensboro, and I was really happy to have played a role in that.”
McConnell’s role — along with Chao’s and Inman’s — was also celebrated by local officials when the $11.5 million grant was approved — to much local fanfare in December 2018.
Meanwhile, Trump is making pronouncements about things that only appear to exist in his fever dreams. Here’s just a few of them. From the NYT: “No Secret Immigration Deal Exists With U.S., Mexico’s Foreign Minister Says”.
The Mexican foreign minister said Monday that no secret immigration deal existed between his country and the United States, directly contradicting President Trump’s claim on Twitter that a “fully signed and documented” agreement would be revealed soon.
Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s top diplomat, said at a news conference in Mexico City that there was an understanding that both sides would evaluate the flow of migrants in the coming months. And if the number of migrants crossing the United States border was not significantly reduced, he said, both sides had agreed to renew discussions about more aggressive changes to regional asylum rules that could make a bigger impact.
“Let’s have a deadline to see if what we have works and if not, then we will sit down and look at the measures you propose and those that we propose,” Mr. Ebrard said, describing the understanding reached by negotiators last week.
Mr. Trump has insisted for several days that the agreement reached with Mexico Friday evening is a strong one, rejecting criticism that it largely called upon the Mexicans to take actions to reduce the flow of immigration that they had already agreed to months earlier.
Meanwhile, here is the new face of the US Immigration under Trumpism and White Christian Nationalists. From NYT “Migrants in Custody at Hospitals Are Treated Like Felons, Doctors Say.”
Rom Rahimian, a medical student working at Banner-University Medical Center Tucson, was trying to help a 20-year-old Guatemalan woman who had been found late last year in the desert — dehydrated, pregnant and already in labor months before her due date. But the Border Patrol agents lingering in the room were making him uncomfortable.
The agents remained in the obstetrics ward night and day as physicians worked to halt her labor. They were present during her medical examinations, listened in on conversations with doctors and watched her ultrasounds, Mr. Rahimian said. They kept the television on loud, interfering with her sleep. When agents began pressing the medical staff to discharge the woman to an immigration detention facility, the doctors took action.
“It was a race against the clock to see if we can get her into any other situation,” Mr. Rahimian said. He called a lawyer and asked, “What can we do? What are her rights?”
As apprehensions of migrants climb at the southwest border, and dozens a day are taken to community hospitals, medical providers are challenging practices — by both government agencies and their own hospitals — that they say are endangering patients and undermining recent pledges to improve health care for migrants.
There’s that “pro-life” attitude at it again!
Yes! Nadler is still on the attack!!!
Chairman Nadler made the following statement:
“I am pleased to announce that the Department of Justice has agreed to begin complying with our committee’s subpoena by opening Robert Mueller’s most important files to us, providing us with key evidence that the Special Counsel used to assess whether the President and others obstructed justice or were engaged in other misconduct. The Department will share the first of these documents with us later today. All members of the Judiciary Committee — Democrats and Republicans alike — will be able to view them. These documents will allow us to perform our constitutional duties and decide how to respond to the allegations laid out against the President by the Special Counsel.
“Given our conversations with the Department, I will hold the criminal contempt process in abeyance for now. We have agreed to allow the Department time to demonstrate compliance with this agreement. If the Department proceeds in good faith and we are able to obtain everything that we need, then there will be no need to take further steps. If important information is held back, then we will have no choice but to enforce our subpoena in court and consider other remedies. It is critical that Congress is able to obtain the information we need to do our jobs, ensuring no one is above the law and bringing the American public the transparency they deserve.”
Nadler doesn’t have an unruly temperament, but he is in many ways ideally suited to make a power play like this. He has served in the House for nearly 30 years, and is an accomplished, scholarly, respected legislator. The only political risk he faces as an elected representative is hypothetical: a surprise, AOC-like primary challenge from the left. And he has compelling interests in forging ahead over Pelosi’s objections.
Many of the House Democrats who have publicly called for an impeachment inquiry serve on his committee. Pelosi’s opposition to impeachment has placed Nadler in the difficult position of denying his committee members the inquiry he and they believe is necessary. But more importantly, it has damaged the committee as an institution. By forming House strategy based on the conclusion that impeachment shouldn’t happen, Democratic leaders have abandoned their chairmen to let Trump run roughshod over them. They have been inhibited from defending their prerogatives aggressively because confrontation with an increasingly lawless Trump might leave them no choice but to impeach him, and they have already foreclosed that option. Nadler has thus secured testimony from zero of the special counsel office’s witnesses, and zero of its prosecutors. He has been reduced to hosting a hearing with Richard Nixon’s former White House Counsel John Dean, and former federal prosecutors who had nothing to do with the Russia investigation. He surely does not want to wind down his career as the chairman who proved that the House Judiciary Committee could be contemptuously defied without consequences. But to vindicate his committee and the rule of law, he’d have to be willing to wield power aggressively.
The good news for him is he wouldn’t have to go rogue alone. Nadler could flip this switch today, all by himself, if he wanted to, but he could also make use of the fact that dozens of Democrats—more than enough to grind House business to a halt—would have his back. The mere threat of coordinated action would likely be enough to force House leaders to stop whipping against impeachment and start whipping for it. With their support, the House could pass a resolution in support of his inquiry, and neutralize Trump’s last defensive weapon against the impeachment inquiry he plainly fears.
I still am on the side of Nancy’s tactical approach but fast losing hope and faith that we’ll get rid of this dangerous POTUS and his krewe of grifters and religious nutters.
I could spend all day finding more examples popping up all over the place. All I really think is that whatever happens with Trump, the Dems must retake the Senate.
From The Hill: “Democrats hope some presidential candidates drop out — and run for Senate”.
Democrats facing a steep uphill climb to win back the Senate want Beto O’Rourke to reconsider his long-shot bid for president and take another look at running for the Senate in Texas, especially if his White House bid fails to pick up momentum.
Political experts give O’Rourke, Bullock and Hickenlooper little chance of winning the White House but say they could give GOP incumbents in their states a run for the money.
If they don’t run, Democrats will have a slimmer chance of winning in the states and taking back the Senate majority in either 2020 or 2022. And that would hamper a Democratic president — if the party can defeat President Trump.
Democratic senators won’t call out the low-polling presidential candidates by name in public, but they’re not shy about making the argument that some would do more for their party in Senate races than in the crowded presidential fight.
“The clock is running out for people who have not demonstrated any ability to mount a serious presidential bid to help make a real difference in their country by helping to turn the Senate,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), articulating a sentiment that other Senate Democrats expressed privately.
“It would be a shame if we elected a new president who faced the same enmity and obstruction in the Senate that Obama had to live through, all because a lot of candidates who had no shot wouldn’t run for winnable Senate seats,” he added.
So, that’s enough from me this afternoon! What’s on your reading and blogging list today?