Defying Trump’s false dichotomy of ‘vengeance or vision’

Daily Brian / Flickr Donald Trump Hopeful to Achieve Peace...
Daily Brian / Flickr

There are times when the statements and claims made by Donald Trump and the GOP are so tremendously ridiculous they are unintentionally comical. Such was the case this week when Trump haughtily proclaimed that the newly Democratic-controlled Congress is faced with two false choices:  to either seek the “vengeance” of “ridiculous partisan investigations” of his campaign and administration, or else join with him in cooperation to enact a new, “miraculous” economic vision for American prosperity.

In response, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated that Trump “should not bring threats to the floor of the House.” House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff said, “I can understand why Trump is afraid of investigations,” and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump’s performance was like “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” as it whipsawed between aspirational platitudes and petulant whining.

What’s truly ridiculous was the complete lack of irony with which Trump made these proclamations, when everyone knows that the GOP-controlled Congress chased the white rabbit of Benghazi for more than two years—only to determine that Hillary Clinton did nothing wrong.

WASHINGTON — Ending one of the longest, costliest and most bitterly partisan congressional investigations in history, the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued its final report on Tuesday, finding no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in the 2012 attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead.

The 800-page report delivered a broad rebuke of the Defense Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department — and the officials who led them — for failing to grasp the acute security risks in Benghazi, and especially for maintaining outposts there that they could not protect.

But now Trump and the GOP are saying that investigations and obstruction like what they engaged in during the entirety of Barack Obama’s presidency are now suddenly a threat to the economy and the American people?

Despite Trump’s claims this type of “Presidential Harassment” has never happened before on top of Benghazi there was also the so-called “Fast and Furious” investigation which led to Congress trying to hold Attorney General Eric Holder contempt for refusing to revealing documents and information about ongoing DOJ investigations.  There was the “IRS Bias” scandal where Congress again tried to hold Lois Lerner in contempt which eventually led to her resignation.  There was also the Solyndra investigation, and of course Trump’s own repeated call for an investigation of Obama’s birth certificate years after he’d already released the long-form version, as well as his demands for Obama’s passport records, college transcripts and his claim that Bill Ayers was the secret Ghostwriter for Obama’s autobiography “Dreams from my Father.”

And this wasn’t everything.

We know that literally from the first day of Obama’s presidency, on the day that he was inaugurated, Republicans were plotting to block absolutely everything he was going to do simply out of partisan spite and “vengeance.” And when they took control of the House in 2010, they made it openly obvious that this was their agenda.

Here’s John Boehner, the likely speaker if Republicans take the House, offering his plans for Obama’s agenda: “We’re going to do everything — and I mean everything we can do — to kill it, stop it, slow it down, whatever we can.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell summed up his plan to National Journal: “The single most important thing we want to achieve, politically, is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

So when Obama suggested an American jobs bill to help dig us out of the hole that George W. Bush’s great recession had dumped us into, Republicans blocked it.

The method Republicans have used to block all jobs legislation in the past two years is the same. A jobs bill comes up, it is filled with positive things for the economy, Republicans filibuster debate, this shields them from having to make floor speeches on why they don’t want tax breaks for small businesses… etc.

Why? Well, if the economy recovers too strongly before an election, Republicans will lose power. If jobs numbers look too good, people will want to keep the same party. By Republicans blocking all jobs legislation and keeping jobs numbers from improving they believe this is their ticket to power.

In other words, if you and other Americans suffer just long enough it will pay off for Republicans.

When Democrats put forth a bill to help rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure: Republicans blocked it.

It was another clear reminder of just how far apart the two parties are on any number of issues – including how to finance infrastructure spending.

Senate Republicans defeated a Democratic amendment to the proposed 2016 budget on Tuesday. It was aimed at kick-starting negotiations between the White House and Congress over a new multi-year program for funding highway, bridge and other infrastructure projects.

The amendment, offered by Democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), called for $478 billion in new spending over six years but without increasing the deficit. The amendment went down 52 to 45 along party lines.

Sanders, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, had argued his plan was “deficit neutral.” Hundreds of billions in new spending would have been offset by closing a number of corporate tax breaks that allow some major companies to escape paying taxes or stash profits overseas. But Republicans objected and said a large tax increase on business was not the right economic plan. They want to create a new “deficit neutral reserve fund” to supplement federal infrastructure spending.

When Obama called for a “red line” on Syria and asked Congress to generate a fresh authorization to use military force to defend the populace who were under attack by Assad—that’s right, Republicans blocked it. Then they turned around and praised Trump for attacking without congressional authorization.

Many of the congressional Republicans who are praising President Donald Trump’s decision to strike a Syrian airfield were opposed to President Obama’s request to approve a similar action against Syria in 2013.

Trump ordered the launch of more than 50 tomahawk cruise missiles on Thursday in retaliation for Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad’s reported use of chemical weapons against his own people. In August of 2013, after Assad used chemical weapons in a similar scenario against people in the Syrian city of Ghouta, Obama requested congressional permission to launch air strikes against the Assad regime.
Many Republicans opposed his request. One of the most prominent was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who on Friday tweeted out his support for Trump’s strike, writing, “This was a clear signal from America that Bashar al Assad can no longer use chemical weapons against his own people with impunity.”
In a speech on the Senate floor in 2013, however, McConnell announced his opposition to Obama’s proposal, saying, “A vital national security risk is clearly not at play, there are just too many unanswered questions about our long-term strategy in Syria, including the fact that this proposal is utterly detached from a wider strategy to end the civil war there, and on the specific question of deterring the use of chemical weapons, the President’s proposal appears to be based on a contradiction. Either we will strike targets that threaten the stability of the regime — something the President says he does not intend to do — or we will execute a strike so narrow as to be a mere demonstration.”

When the Senate approved a bipartisan bill for comprehensive immigration reform that included billions for border barriers as will as a pathway to legalization for both DACA kids and the millions of law-abiding undocumented migrants in the country, Republicans blocked it.

President Obama officially announced on Monday immigration reform’s death. “I believe Speaker Boehner when he says he wants to pass an immigration bill,” Obama said from the White House. “But last week, he informed me that Republicans will continue to block a vote on immigration reform at least for the remainder of this year.” As a result, he added, the Obama administration will take executive action (wherever it can) on immigration policy. Boehner responded, “In our conversation last week, I told the president what I have been telling him for months: the American people and their elected officials don’t trust him to enforce the law as written. Until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue.” But this argument is tough to defend since if this were a sincere reason for the House GOP, they could simply write the law in such a way that it wouldn’t take effect until Jan. 20, 2017, right?

And even though they knew that it was essentially pointless as there was no chance for approval in the Senate, the GOP-controlled House voted more than 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

After a contentious debate Friday, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives canceled a vote on a Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act.

That came after the House voted to repeal or amend the Affordable Care Act more than 50 times since it was passed in October 2009.

According to a Washington Post analysis, by March 2014 they had already voted on it 54 times, including measures to undo, update to change it. Republicans took control of the House in 2011, and on January 19 of that year they voted on, and passed, a measure to repeal all of the Affordable Care Act. (It was never considered by the Senate).

But somehow, Democrats are the ones who are hopelessly partisan. Democrats are the ones willing to engage in ridiculous resistance and retaliation. Democrats are the “obstructionists” who are blocking Trump’s judicial and administration nominations. I have two words to say to that:

Merrick Garland.

And he was just the tip of the spear on this subject.

Donald Trump is set to inherit an uncommon number of vacancies in the federal courts in addition to the open Supreme Court seat, giving the president-elect a monumental opportunity to reshape the judiciary after taking office.

The estimated 103 judicial vacancies that President Barack Obama is expected to hand over to Trump in the Jan. 20 transition of power is nearly double the 54 openings Obama found eight years ago following George W. Bush‘s presidency.

Confirmation of Obama’s judicial nominees slowed to a crawl after Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015. Obama White House officials blame Senate Republicans for what they characterize as an unprecedented level of obstruction in blocking the Democratic president’s court picks.

Showing that empty threats are about as effective as a paper spatula, House Democrats took less than 24 hours to begin planning and implementing their investigations into Trump, starting with hop-scotching across the red line of his personal and business finances.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff announced Wednesday a broad investigation his committee would undertake “beyond Russia” into whether President Donald Trump’s financial interests are driving his actions.

Schiff said the investigation would “allow us to investigate any credible allegation that financial interests or other interests are driving decision-making of the President or anyone in the administration.”
“That pertains to any credible allegations of leverage by the Russians or the Saudis or anyone else,” Schiff told reporters after the House Intelligence Committee’s first meeting in the new Congress.

In response, Mr. Civility responded in just about the way you would expect from the so-called “leader” of the free world.

President Donald Trump took an usual tack Wednesday, claiming falsely that he has never heard of House Intel Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) before accusing him of “presidential harassment.”

“Never heard of him,” Trump said nonchalantly when asked about Schiff leading the House Democrats in investigations against him, per pool reports.

Trump seemed to quickly recover his memory though, asking on what grounds Schiff had the authority to investigate him.

“He’s just a political hack who’s trying to build a name for himself,” Trump continued. “It’s called presidential harassment.”

Trump has previously given Schiff the nickname “little Adam Schitt,” a sure sign that the President does, in fact, know the man who could significantly escalate the Russia investigation.

He also stated that Schiff had “no reason” to implement these investigations—but that isn’t true, either.

There are clear indications that some of the $107 million that was raised for Trump’s inauguration were illegal donations from foreign sources, largely because former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort associate Sam Patten has already been prosecuted for exactly that by special counsel Robert Mueller.

An American political consultant who is cooperating with federal prosecutors admitted in court Friday that he steered $50,000 from a Ukrainian politician to Donald Trump’s inaugural committee — the first public confirmation that illegal foreign money was used to help fund the January 2017 event.

W. Samuel Patten, 47, pleaded guilty Friday to failing to register as a foreign lobbyist while working on behalf of a Ukrainian political party. He says he was helped by a Russian national who has been linked to Russian intelligence by U.S. prosecutors and who was also an associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

There’s also the fact that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen took $500,000 from Columbus Nova after meeting the cousin of their CEO Andrew Intratar, Russian oligarch Victor Vekselberg, at Trump’s inauguration.

A Russian oligarch with links to the Kremlin met Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen at Trump Tower in New York City less than two weeks before Trump’s inauguration as president, a source familiar with the meeting said on Friday.

During a discussion in Cohen’s office, located on the skyscraper’s 26th floor 11 days before the inauguration, Cohen and Russian businessman Viktor Vekselberg talked about improving relations between Moscow and Washington and arranged to meet again at the inauguration, the New York Times first reported. The paper quoted Andrew Intrater, an American who attended the meeting and manages investments for Vekselberg.

Intratar had paid $250,000 for himself and Vekselberg to attend the inauguration, which in all likelihood was yet another illegal straw payment.

Then there are the recent reports that Trump’s primary debt holder Deutsche Bank refused to extend a loan to him in 2016 because of his run for the White House.

Deutsche Bank AG denied a request for a loan by the Trump Organization in the midst of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, in part because the German lender was worried about potential reputational issues, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The request in early 2016 was escalated to several committees responsible for vetting credit applications and was ultimately rejected by the group reputational risk committee, which at the time included Christian Sewing, now Deutsche Bank’s chief executive officer. One concern was that it would be difficult to collect debt from Trump if he won the presidential election, the person said.

The Trump Organization was seeking to borrow against its Miami resort to pay for work on a golf property in Turnberry, Scotland, according to the New York Times, which reported on the request earlier. While the German lender’s investment banking arm had severed ties with Trump during the financial crisis, he was still doing business with Deutsche Bank’s private banking unit, through which the request in 2016 was made, the newspaper said.

Just for contrast, I have to point out that Deustche Bank was fined for laundering $10 billion in Russian cash, but they thought loaning to Trump during the election would cause a “reputation problem” for them.

And there’s also the fact that the General Accounting Office determined that the lease for Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel project should possibly have been canceled when he won the election since it likely violates the emoluments clause in the Constitution.

The inspector general for the General Services Administration says the agency improperly ignored the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments provision outlawing foreign gifts when it approved President Donald Trump’s management of his Washington hotel soon after his 2016 election.

The GSA’s inspector general said in a report released Wednesday that the “president’s business interest” in the Trump International Hotel site at the Old Post Office building in Washington raises emolument issues that “might cause a breach of lease.”

That’s on top of the fact that the Trump organization has a long history of being involved in money-laundering involving the Russian mob, particularly when it comes to his Taj Mahal casino.

The Trump Taj Mahal casino broke anti-money laundering rules 106 times in its first year and a half of operation in the early 1990s, according to the IRS in a 1998 settlement agreement.

It’s a bit of forgotten history that’s buried in federal records held by an investigative unit of the Treasury Department, records that congressional committees investigating Trump’s ties to Russia have obtained access to, CNN has learned.
The casino repeatedly failed to properly report gamblers who cashed out $10,000 or more in a single day, the government said.
Trump’s casino ended up paying the Treasury Department a $477,000 fine in 1998 without admitting any liability under the Bank Secrecy Act.
There’s plenty of reason to look at all of this because Trump has a long history of being associated personally and through business interests not only with mobsters, but also with drug dealers.

Trump presents himself as the most ardent law-and-order politician ever. Yet throughout his adult life Trump sought out—and worked closely with—more than a score of criminals, including Mafia associates, Russian mob associates, violent felons, con artists, swindlers, and most significant of all, the embezzler and mob associate Joseph Weichselbaum, a thrice-convicted felon.

Long ago, when Trump was the big man in Atlantic City, he got his helicopters to bring his high-rollers in and out of town through a company formed by Weichselbaum, to whom he also entrusted maintenance of the Ivana, Trump’s personal helicopter. Spy, a satirical magazine that often made fun of Trump, reported that Weichselbaum—at that point a twice-convicted felon—personally piloted the Trumps in that copter.

Weichselbaum also had another business: importing drugs from Colombia and shipping them from

[…]

Instead of abandoning Weichselbaum, Trump did him the first of several favors.

Two months after the indictment, Trump rented apartment 32C in the Trump Plaza Apartments on E. 61st St. in Manhattan to the Weichselbaum brothers, according to New Jersey Casino Control Commission records. Trump personally owned the unit.

It was an odd arrangement. The brothers were to pay about half the rent in cash and the rest in unspecified helicopter services, which would be hard to establish without a thorough audit, according to those casino regulatory files.

And lastly, there’s the possibility that Trump real estate deals may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said early Thursday that she thinks President Trump‘s real estate dealings violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which governs U.S. businesses’ dealings with foreign investors.

“I have thought for a very long time that the president, as a real estate developer, had violated what’s called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” Speier said on CNN’s “New Day.”

“It is a requirement that anyone who is doing business with a foreign entity make sure that none of the money that comes in to a project has been laundered,” she added.

Speier pointed to three Trump Organization properties that went bankrupt at a time when other nearby hotels were prospering as examples of possible money laundering.

“I’ve focused in on three [projects]: the Toronto project, the SoHo project, and the Panama project,” she added. “All Trump hotels, all of which went belly up at a time, particularly in the Toronto project, when not one other high-rise property was bankrupted. But the Trump property was.”

The argument that this is a “threat” to Trump’s miracle economy is simply bunk, largely because as I’ve written recently, most of his claims of a great miracle economy are fool’s gold

And he’s making this [economic prosperity] claim largely because unemployment has gone from 4.7 % down to a “miraculous” 4.0% [because it’s been slowly rising again after hitting a low point of 3.7%] in the last two years while he’s been around.   He doesn’t mention that black unemployment is still about twice white unemployment, so when he’s proclaiming it’s the “lowest it’s ever been” even though that’s true, it’s still pretty shitty. He claims we have a “miracle economy” but GDP growth, the rate of job growth, and the shrinking of the unemployment rate were all greater during Obama’s last two years than they have been during Trump’s first two years. He doesn’t mention much that the DOW has basically stagnated over the last year.  He doesn’t mention that wage growth is only 3.9%, exactly where it was during November of 2016 after slumping since he was elected, or that the deficit has exploded back up to over $779 Billion per year and will likely rise to over $1 Trillion next year while US Soy Bean Farmers are in crisis and Harley Davidson and GM are closing U.S. plants because of his ridiculous trade wars with China and everyone else around the globe.

Things are not nearly as economically great as he claims they are, and even if they were that’s no reason to ignore all the corruption that TrumpCo has been linked to over the years.

Some of these issues might turn out to be a dry hole, just as Benghazi was, and that’s something that has to be admitted up front. But at the same time, some of them might not. All of it should be looked at, and much of it probably is being analyzed by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, even as Adam Schiff and other congressional chairmen begin to take a look at some of them.

Conducting these investigations is not merely an act of “vengeance.” It’s part of the oversight responsibilities of the U.S. Congress to examine potential questions of corruption. They can also, if they so choose, cooperate and compromise with the administration on major issues that impact the American people, all at the same time.

If there is a difference between Democrats and Republicans, that would be it: Republicans do everything—everything—for their own political gain and when push comes to shove, they’d stick grandma in a wheelbarrow and dump her off a cliff  if they thought it meant they’d win the next election. Frankly, they’ve literally done worse than that and openly admitted as much in public over the last decade, as described by some of my examples above.

But Democrats, while they’re gearing up to investigate this morass of corruption, appear to be successfully negotiating a border security deal that just might avert yet another government shutdown next week.

Congressional negotiators worked toward a deal Wednesday that could increase fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border without delivering President Trump the wall money he wants, as pressure built to reach agreement ahead of a government shutdown deadline next week.

A bipartisan committee of House and Senate lawmakers traded offers behind the scenes, with Democrats saying money for border barriers was on the table and Republicans acknowledging they won’t get Trump the $5.7 billion he has sought for his wall.

Lawmakers hope to have a tentative deal by Friday or soon thereafter, to allow time for the legislation to pass the House and Senate by Feb. 15. That’s when funding will run out for a large portion of the federal government, causing another partial shutdown, if Congress and Trump don’t act first.

It is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time. It is possible to do deep, penetrating investigations of Trump’s finances and his administration and at the same time work seriously to aid and support the needs of the American people.

That is, if you’re not a Republican like Trey Gowdy or Matt Gaetz.

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Lone Wolf
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Lone Wolf

If I was the jackass assclown in charge, (I’m a different kind of ass) and I was looking at 100 years in prison, I’d be lying my ass off too!