Thursday Reads: The “President” is Corrupt, Unethical, and Amoral.

Édouard Vuillard Woman Reading on a Bench, 1898

Good Morning!!

In 2016, Trump openly called for Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton’s emails. After he was elected with Russia’s help, we learned that Donald Trump Jr. organized a meeting on June 9, 2016 with a Russian lawyer who offered “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. The meeting included Paul Manafort and Jered Kushner. When the news of the meeting became public, Trump dictated a false statement about the meeting for his son. He clearly knew there was something wrong with the meeting, or he would not have felt he needed to lie about it.

Fast forward to yesterday: Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that if foreigners offer him opposition research on an opponent again, he would happily accept the help; and he wouldn’t inform the FBI about it.

Morris Kantor, Woman Reading in Bed, 1930

To be clear, if a candidate solicits or accepts foreign help for his campaign he has committed a crime under the Federal Election Campaign Act. From the FEC website:

The Act and Commission regulations include a broad prohibition on foreign national activity in connection with elections in the United States. 52 U.S.C. § 30121 and generally, 11 CFR 110.20. In general, foreign nationals are prohibited from the following activities:

  • Making any contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or making any expenditureindependent expenditure, or disbursement in connection with any federal, state or local election in the United States;
  • Making any contribution or donation to any committee or organization of any national, state, district, or local political party (including donations to a party nonfederal account or office building account);
  • Making any disbursement for an electioneering communication;
  • Making any donation to a presidential inaugural committee.

Persons who knowingly and willfully engage in these activities may be subject to an FEC enforcement action, criminal prosecution, or both.

ABC News: ‘I think I’d take it’: In exclusive interview, Trump says he would listen if foreigners offered dirt on opponents.

Asked by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in the Oval Office on Wednesday whether his campaign would accept such information from foreigners — such as China or Russia — or hand it over the FBI, Trump said, “I think maybe you do both.”

Green Pajamas – Leopold Seyffert

“I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Trump continued. “If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it.” [….]

Trump disputed the idea that if a foreign government provided information on a political opponent, it would be considered interference in our election process.

“It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it,” Trump said. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘oh let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressman, they all do it, they always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”

President Trump lamented the attention on his son, Donald Trump Jr., for his role in the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016. Stephanopoulos asked whether Trump Jr. should have taken the Russians’ offer for “dirt” on then-candidate Hillary Clinton to the FBI.

“Somebody comes up and says, ‘hey, I have information on your opponent,’ do you call the FBI?” Trump responded.

“I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don’t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do,” Trump continued. “Oh, give me a break – life doesn’t work that way.”

By David Hettinger

Trump also said that his own hand-picked FBI director Chris Wray “is wrong” when he says campaigns should report any approaches from foreign nationals to authorities.

If anyone had any doubts that Trump is utterly corrupt, unethical, and amoral, yesterday should have ended those doubts. This man is a crook, plain and simple. He has–with help from Mitch McConnell prevented his administration from doing anything to protect our future elections, and now he has invited foreign adversaries to help him get reelected in 2020. The real question is whether Trump has already been approached and offered more help from Russia, China, North Korea, or another country ruled by a despot.

Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: Trump just mused openly about committing what might well be a crime.

Trump said he would likely entertain the information and then tell the FBI if he felt something was amiss.

“I think you might want to listen; there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Trump said. “If somebody called from a country — Norway — [and said,] ‘We have information on your opponent?’ Oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

The comparison was startling even for Mr. Trump. Having tea with the queen of England is hardly the same as taking clandestine help from agents of President Vladimir V. Putin as part of a concerted campaign by Russian intelligence to tilt an American presidential election.

American law makes it a crime for a candidate to accept money or anything of value from foreign governments or citizens for purposes of winning an election. Many lawyers argued about whether incriminating information, as Mr. Trump’s campaign in 2016 agreed to take from the Russian government, would qualify as a thing of value.

By Darren Thompson, 2015

It was not clear what Trump thought might be “wrong” with such information. And Trump offered two reasons for why he might not go to the FBI — because it supposedly “doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it” and that if, “you go and talk, honestly, to congressmen, they all do it.”

…there is no evidence that “all” members of Congress accept opposition research from foreigners, or even that many do.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

This morning, Trump childishly responded on Twitter to the outrage that followed release of portions of the ABC News interview.

The New York Times: Trump Equates Taking Dirt From Russia With Presidential Diplomacy.

President Trump on Thursday defended his willingness to accept campaign help from Russia or other foreign governments by equating it to the sort of diplomatic meetings he holds with world leaders as the nation’s chief executive.

In an interview broadcast on Wednesday night, Mr. Trump had rejected his own F.B.I. director’s recommendation that candidates call the authorities if foreign governments seek to influence American elections, saying he would gladly take incriminating information about a campaign opponent from adversaries like Russia.

“I meet and talk to ‘foreign governments’ every day,” he wrote Thursday on Twitter. “I just met with the Queen of England (U.K.), the Prince of Whales, the P.M. of the United Kingdom, the P.M. of Ireland, the President of France and the President of Poland. We talked about ‘Everything!’” he added, misspelling the title of Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, before fixing and reposting it.

“Should I immediately call the FBI about these calls and meetings?” he continued. “How ridiculous! I would never be trusted again. With that being said, my full answer is rarely played by the Fake News Media. They purposely leave out the part that matters.”

Young woman reading (1902). Samuel Melton Fisher

The comparison was startling even for Mr. Trump. Having tea with the queen of England is hardly the same as taking clandestine help from agents of President Vladimir V. Putin as part of a concerted campaign by Russian intelligence to tilt an American presidential election.

American law makes it a crime for a candidate to accept money or anything of value from foreign governments or citizens for purposes of winning an election. Many lawyers argued about whether incriminating information, as Mr. Trump’s campaign in 2016 agreed to take from the Russian government, would qualify as a thing of value.

And for Republicans accusing Hillary Clinton of accepting foreign help, she didn’t use anything form the so-called Steele dossier; and in fact, she and her top campaign staff had no idea a DNC lawyer was paying from some of Christopher Steele’s research.

Kellyanne Conway’s husband George Conway called for Trump’s impeachment in an op-ed he coauthored with Neal Kaytal: Trump just invited Congress to begin impeachment proceedings.

On Tuesday, Trump gave us direct evidence of his contempt toward the most foundational precept of our democracy — that no person, not even the president, is above the law. He filed a brief in the nation’s second-most-important court that takes the position that Congress cannot investigate the president, except possibly in impeachment proceedings. It’s a spectacularly anti-constitutional brief, and anyone who harbors such attitudes toward our Constitution’s architecture is not fit for office. Trump’s brief is nothing if not an invitation to commencing impeachment proceedings that, for reasons set out in the Mueller report, should have already commenced.

Woman reading by Lex Veen, 2013

The case involves a House committee’s efforts to follow up on the testimony of Trump’s now-incarcerated former attorney, Michael Cohen, that Trump had allegedly committed financial and tax fraud, and allegedly paid off paramours in violation of campaign finance laws. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform subpoenaedTrump’s accountants in mid-April for relevant documents, and Trump tried to block the move, only to be sternly rebuked in mid-May by a federal judge in Washington.

The appeals brief filed Monday by Trump attacks that decision. But to describe Trump’s brief is to refute it. He argues that Congress is “trying to prove that the President broke the law” and that that’s something Congress can’t do, because it’s “an exercise of law enforcement authority that the Constitution reserves to the executive branch.”

But in fact, Congress investigates lawbreaking, and potential lawbreaking, all the time. Mobsters, fraudsters, government employees, small companies, big companies — like it or not, all types of people and businesses get subpoenaed from time to time so that Congress can figure out whether current laws are effective, whether new laws are needed, whether sufficient governmental resources are being devoted to the task, whether more disclosure to the government or the public is required, or greater penalties, and so on.

To this, Trump’s brief complains that “Congress could always make this (non-falsifiable) argument” to justify any investigation. But that’s simply the result of the fact that, as the district court explained, Congress’s “power to investigate is deeply rooted in the nation’s history.” Congress, relying on English parliamentary tradition, has performed this function since the founding.

Click the link to read the rest.

Conway’s wife Kellyanne is also in the news today. Politico: Federal agency recommends that Kellyanne Conway be removed from service over Hatch Act.

The government office that oversees compliance with the Hatch Act has recommended that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway be removed from federal service.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel sent a report to President Donald Trump on Thursday that said Conway violated the law numerous times by criticizing Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.

This is the first time this office has ever recommended that a White House official be fired.

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?


25 Comments on “Thursday Reads: The “President” is Corrupt, Unethical, and Amoral.”

  1. bostonboomer says:
    • NW Luna says:

      I’ve maxed out my free articles and cleared my cookies and cache but still can’t get thru to read this. What’s the synopsis?

      IIRC the Rs tapped Soc Sec funds for something (probably tax cuts for the rich) a couple of decades ago and never refunded. dakinikat will probably need to re-explain it to me.

      • dakinikat says:

        A slow-moving crisis is approaching for Social Security, threatening to undermine a central pillar in the retirement of tens of millions of Americans.

        Next year, for the first time since 1982, the program must start drawing down its assets in order to pay retirees all of the benefits they have been promised, according to the latest government projections.

        Unless a political solution is reached, Social Security’s so-called trust funds are expected to be depleted within about 15 years. Then, something that has been unimaginable for decades would be required under current law: Benefit checks for retirees would be cut by about 20 percent across the board.

        “Old people not getting the Social Security checks they have been promised? That has been unthinkable in America — and I don’t think it will really happen in the end this time, because it’s just too horrible,” said Alicia Munnell, the director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. “But action has to be taken to prevent it.”

        ADVERTISEMENT

        While the issue is certain to be politically contentious, it is barely being talked about in Washington and at 2020 campaign events. The last time Social Security faced a crisis of this kind, in the early 1980s, a high-level bipartisan effort was needed to keep retirees’ checks whole. Since that episode, the program has often been called “the third rail of American politics” — an entitlement too dangerous to touch — and it’s possible that another compromise could be reached in the current era.

        Benefit cuts would be devastating for about half of retired Americans, who rely on Social Security for most of their retirement income. A survey released in May by the Federal Reserve found that a quarter of working Americans had saved nothing for retirement.

        The shrinking of Social Security’s assets expected in 2020 would mark a significant change in the program’s cash flow, one that could complicate Americans’ retirement planning — even for the many relatively affluent citizens for whom Social Security is still a major source of income in old age.

        “Fifteen years is really just around the corner for people planning their retirements,” said John B. Shoven, a Stanford economist who is also affiliated with the Hoover Institution and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

        “The cuts that are being projected would be terrible for a lot of people,” he said. “This needn’t happen and it shouldn’t happen, but we’ve known about these problems for a long time and they haven’t been solved. They’re getting closer.”

      • Enheduanna says:

        Of course we’ve been robbed. Of course. And raise your hand if you think they’ll lift the cap on contributions.

        This is also another reason we need immigrants badly – we aren’t reproducing enough to maintain contributions to the fund.

        • NW Luna says:

          If they’d raise that iodiotic low cap on contributions we’d have no problem. There shouldn’t be a cap at all.

  2. bostonboomer says:

  3. bostonboomer says:

  4. dakinikat says:

    • NW Luna says:

      How stupendously corrupt does he have to get before he’s hauled off and charged? He’ll ask for the House of Representatives to be dissolved next.

  5. RonStill4Hills says:

    The Prince of Whales and the King of Dumbasses.

  6. dakinikat says:

    The Huckabeast :

  7. dakinikat says:

    • Enheduanna says:

      Heaven help us if they let him start a war with Iran.

      I hear they’re calling this the Gulf of Trumpkin. Nobody seems to believe the assessment it was Iran anyway.

      • quixote says:

        Who is “they”? Congress hasn’t played its part under the War Powers Act since forever. So perhaps the military? Refusing to follow a braindead order?

        Where is Daniel Ellsberg when we need him?

        Dumb question. We know where she is. She’s Reality Winner and she’s sitting in jail.