The Trump Connections

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Fall of the Berlin Wall

I have previously blogged about Trump’s relationship to organized crime.  See Donald Trump and Organized Crime.  Other blogs focused on aspects of Trump’s worldwide threads of shady projects and ties.  See, for example, Evidence Trump Violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and Andras Gollner Exposes Trump.  But as with many aspects of the Trump story, Trump’s tangled web of contacts is so extensive and complicated that it defies summary.  The devil, and Trump, are in the details.

Consider this article by James S. Henry in The American Interest, “The Curious World of Donald Trump’s Private Russian Connections.”  Henry gives a good history of the world of oligarchs and crime following the fall of the Soviet Union and traces multiple threads subject to the Trump touch.  Here’s Henry’s lead-in:

“A few of Donald Trump’s connections to oligarchs and assorted thugs have already received sporadic press attention—for example, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s reported relationship with exiled Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash. But no one has pulled the connections together, used them to identify still more relationships, and developed an image of the overall patterns.

Nor has anyone related these cases to one of the most central facts about modern Russia: its emergence since the 1990s as a world-class kleptocracy, second only to China as a source of illicit capital and criminal loot, with more than $1.3 trillion of net offshore ‘flight wealth’ as of 2016.1″

At the heart of the matter is this:

“But for many banks, private bankers, hedge funds, law firms, and accounting firms, for leading oil companies like ExxonMobil and BP, as well as for needy borrowers like the Trump Organization, the opportunity to feed on post-Soviet spoils was a godsend. This was vulture capitalism at its worst.

The nine-lived Trump, in particular, had just suffered a string of six successive bankruptcies. So the massive illicit outflows from Russia and oil-rich FSU members like Kazahkstan and Azerbaijan from the mid-1990s provided precisely the kind of undiscriminating investors that he needed. These outflows arrived at just the right time to fund several of Trump’s post-2000 high-risk real estate and casino ventures—most of which failed. As Donald Trump, Jr., executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization, told the ‘Bridging U.S. and Emerging Markets Real Estate’ conference in Manhattan in September 2008 (on the basis, he said, of his own ‘half dozen trips to Russia in 18 months’):

‘[I]n terms of high-end product influx into the United States, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.'”

Henry goes on, in detail, to give us a guided tour of the many known connections; Bayrock Group LLC, Iceland’s FL Group, Trump’s Toronto Tower, Felix Sater, Alex Shnaider, Paul Manafort, the Panama Papers, and much more.  As my blogs noted above discussing Trump connections in Hungary and Azerbaijan, even this extensive article appears to be feeling but the trunk of an elephant.  Grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and peruse Mr. Henry’s most interesting revelations.

Eric Alterman on Roger Ailes’ destruction of the news media

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Voltaire

I blogged recently concerning the attack from the Right on the media.  See Freedom of the Press, where I wrote:

“Mainstream media is also under attack… from a coordinated campaign financed by right-wing moguls such as Rupert Murdoch, funding media news centers to disseminate disinformation.  Fox News, Breitbart, and right-wing radio talk shows, among others, have created and disseminated ‘news’ from an alternate reality – one divorced from science, or responsible reporting, where concocted conspiracies concerning Obama’s birth certificate, and treasonous wrongdoing  at Benghazi,  and undocumented felonies relating to emails of  a Democratic candidate for President dominate the agenda….  Obviously wide-spread disinformation – slanted for political purposes – undermines the goal of an intelligent and informed electorate every bit as much as does direct information suppression.”

Now Eric Alterman, in an opinion piece in June 19/26, The Nation, “The Witch is Dead“, reviews that attack from a different perspective, reviewing the impact of Roger Ailes, the recently deceased “media mastermind” at Fox News.  Alterman’s piece is important because the devil, in this case Ailes, is in the details and because policy and context cannot be divorced from those involved.

Here’s Alterman:  “By creating a propaganda channel under the guise of ‘fair and balanced’ news, and then using it to undermine the very idea of truth—all in the service of racism and sexism—Ailes, with Rupert Murdoch’s backing, paved a path for a whole host of faux ‘journalists’ and right-wing demagogues to do the same. Inside the headquarters of Fox News, he fostered a culture of sexual intimidation and racial animosity, one that was reflected on the air as well. Had Ailes not spent two decades tearing down the journalistic safeguards that were supposed to defend our country against just such demagoguery, it is impossible to imagine that a pathologically dishonest, egomaniacal, racist, sexually predatory huckster like Donald Trump could ever have been elected president of the United States.”

And Alterman further on :  “But Ailes didn’t do it alone: He was empowered by everyone he worked with at Fox. Nobody who stayed there long enough to realize what was going on without quitting deserves to call himself or herself a ‘journalist.’ Ailes certainly received his share of criticism in the wake of his comeuppance and recent death. But what about all the people who made excuses for him before the wave of sexual-harassment lawsuits and reports of secret payoffs turned him radioactive? What about the Fox executives, past and present, who enabled his sexual terrorism? What about the liars who did his bidding on the air? What about the so-called ‘mainstream media’ members who adopted Ailes’s lies as truth and even defended Fox when others tried to expose it—and him?”

Clearly nothing is more toxic to real news than the ratings success enjoyed by Ailes and Fox,  success that totally undermined a straight media concerned about journalistic standards, ethics, and content.  Alterman again, “All the more alarming, then, that Ailes was the most powerful and influential person in American politics and media. Former NBC News president Neal Shapiro reflected after Ailes’s death that, whenever some piece of breaking news came up, ‘Other newsrooms always wondered: How will Fox play this?’ Sure, Fox’s ratings are in the toilet now, but the rest of cable news looks like an army of Ailes’s monsters. CNN is constantly imitating Fox, while MSNBC is hiring away its ‘talent.'”

Alterman does not address the problem of how to remedy the damages Ailes created.  I note in my blog. Freedom of the Press, that Ailes enabler Rupert Murdoch and the bent media were unleashed when the Federal Communications Commission eviscerated the Fairness Doctrine, and when rules restricting the consolidation of media ownership were removed.  Finding the right rules is a balancing act – protecting investigative journalism and public interest debate while skirting the ever-present danger of censorship or propaganda by the government and the media oligarchs.  What we do know, from recent events, is that the appropriate balance has been lost and that it is time for reform.

(Please note that the Alterman article is presented under a different title online.)

David Corn sets out the case against Trump – The Fat Lady Sings

fat-lady-sings-2With James Comey’s testimony that the President is a liar, Mr. Trump, this morning, lost the media deference that has protected Republican efforts to normalize.  Under that Republican view, there is no “there” there – no evidence of collusion or wrongdoing.  It’s all the usual politics.  Just stay calm, the investigations will show nothing.  Or as Paul Ryan indicated this morning, Trump is “new” at this, no real problem.

But it isn’t so.  The forest fire is raging and Republicans are saying “smoke? what smoke?”  I enjoyed David Corn’s article in Mother Jones, “We already know Trump betrayed America“, which summarizes much of the information in public view showing Trump’s enabling of the Russian cyber assault on the 2016 election.

As Corn notes: “Explicit collusion may yet be proved by the FBI investigation overseen by special counsel Robert Mueller or by other ongoing probes. But even if it is not, a harsh verdict can be pronounced: Trump actively and enthusiastically aided and abetted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plot against America. This is the scandal. It already exists—in plain sight.

As soon as the news broke a year ago that the Russians had penetrated the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems, Trump launched a campaign of denial and distraction. For months, he refused to acknowledge the Kremlin’s role. He questioned expert and government findings that pinned the blame on Moscow. He refused to condemn Putin. Far from treating these acts of information warfare seriously, he attempted to politicize and delegitimize the evidence. Meanwhile, he and his supporters encouraged more Russian hacking. All told, Trump provided cover for a foreign government’s attempt to undermine American democracy. Through a propaganda campaign of his own, he helped Russia get away with it. As James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, testified to Congress this spring, Trump ‘helps the Russians by obfuscating who was actually responsible’.”

Corn reviews Trump’s call out to the Russian’s to find the 30,000 emails and the numerous efforts to deflect, or deny, or to contradict intelligence findings of Russian culpability.   Corn again:

“Indeed, in August, during his first intelligence briefing as the Republican presidential nominee, Trump was reportedly told that there were direct links between the hacks and the Russian government.

Still, he didn’t change his tune. During a September 8 interview with RT, the Kremlin-controlled broadcaster that has been accused of disseminating fake news and propaganda, Trump discounted the Russian connection: ‘I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out. Who knows, but I think it’s pretty unlikely.’ (Yes, he did this on RT.) He repeated a similar line at the first presidential debate at the end of that month, with his famous reference to how the DNC hacker ‘could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay?’”

And this: “Trump’s response, at the second presidential debate: ‘I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say ‘the Russians.’ Well, [Hillary Clinton] doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking.’ The next day at a campaign rally, Trump, citing some of the Podesta emails, exclaimed, ‘I love WikiLeaks!’”

And, after the election: “[Trump] still showed no signs of confronting Putin. At the Russian leader’s request, he jovially hosted the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in the Oval Office—and then disclosed top-secret information to them. Moreover, he did this the day after brazenly ousting Comey, who was overseeing the bureau’s probe of Moscow’s meddling and links between Trump associates and Russia.”

By any objective standard, Trump’s violations – of the emoluments clause, of apparent money laundering, of attacks on the Judiciary, of unconstitutional bias against Muslims – far exceed those of any previous President.  The indications are overwhelming that he and his aides, Bannon, Kushner, Flynn, Manafort, and others, colluded with Russians to hack the election.  Laying out those cases against Trump properly requires further investigation.  But the case for Trump enabling the Russian hacking and cyber attacks is right out in public – the enabling comes right from Trump’s mouth.  And it’s not smoke, it’s fire.

Time for real gun control

maxresdefaultAs of today, June 8, 2017, less than half way through the year, 6,596 people in the US have been killed and 12,946 people have been injured from gun violence.  See Gun Violence Archive.  In Mexico in 2016, nearly 23.000 people were murdered.  See Mexico’s drug-war death toll in 2016 reportedly exceeded murder levels in many countries mired in war.

Each of these numbers is an order of magnitude larger than the norm in the developed world.  See the New York Times article  Compare These Gun Death Rates: The U.S. Is in a Different World in which Kevin Quealy and Margot Sanger-Katz observe that,   “This level of violence makes the United States an extreme outlier when measured against the experience of other advanced countries.  Around the world, those countries have substantially lower rates of deaths from gun homicide. In Germany, being murdered with a gun is as uncommon as being killed by a falling object in the United States. About two people out of every million are killed in a gun homicide. Gun homicides are just as rare in several other European countries, including the Netherlands and Austria. In the United States, two per million is roughly the death rate for hypothermia or plane crashes.”  At Sandy Hook Elementary School in my state of  Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, a twenty year old man strolled into a school and murdered twenty students and six teachers.  None of those students or teachers had woken up that morning expecting their lives to be randomly ended later in the day because someone with mental aberrations had access to lethal weapons.

The National Rifle Association is much to blame with their love affair with the Second Amendment – a provision in the Bill of Rights intended to allow citizens to raise local militias at a time when no standing army existed and local militias were needed to protect against potentially lethal neighbors.  But fault also can be laid at the feet of the gun and weapon manufacturers who benefit from the loop-holes in US gun laws that allow anyone, without a background check to purchase weapons at gun shows.  These loopholes drew media attention recently when ISIS recommended the US as a place where one could weapon up.  See Time,  ISIS Tells Followers It’s ‘Easy’ to Get Firearms From U.S. Gun Shows.

Research shows that the US is a major provider of the weapons used in the Mexico gun wars.

In a March 2, 2017 op-ed in The Los Angeles Times, We’re sending guns, crime to Mexico,  Sarah Kinosian and Eugenio Weigend, note that: “Most of the weapons used by criminal groups in Mexico originate in the United States. Each year, an average of 253,000 firearms cross the border, the overwhelming majority of which come from the Southwest states of California, Texas and Arizona.  From 2009 to 2014, more than 70% of firearms — nearly 74,000 — seized by Mexican authorities and then submitted for tracing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms came from the United States. Many of these guns were semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 and AK-47, cartel favorites that Mexican citizens cannot buy legally.”

As they further note: “The business of violence can be highly profitable, and the American gun industry is cashing in, with U.S. sellers and manufacturers arming both sides of Mexico’s conflict. Research from the University of San Diego has shown that half of U.S. gun dealers benefit financially from the U.S.-Mexico illegal gun trade, to the tune of $127.2 million in 2012.  Meanwhile, manufacturers also sell weapons and ammunition to Mexican security forces as they fight well-armed criminal organizations. Between 2015 and 2016, U.S.-based gun manufacturers signed nearly $276 million in commercial firearms deals with Mexico. Other U.S. defense companies signed agreements worth more than $560 million during that period in planes, helicopters and other equipment to outfit Mexico’s military and police.”

Hayden, “Wanderer”, and the meaning of liberty – my Facebook post from June 1, 2016

sterlingI just read Sterling Hayden’s 1963 autobiography “Wanderer“. I had heard vaguely of Hayden as a yachtsman and actor and I remember reading his one novel “Voyage”, a book of the month selection in 1976. Still my interest was peaked by his bit part in a Robert Altman flic, “The Long Good Bye” (the movie as a whole is something of a mess) and Jackie picked up his autobiography for me. It’s a classic of the Great Depression – a kid hanging out on the New England waterfront (and hiding out in the public library reading sea stories), missing or expelled from school for years at a time while his mother and deadbeat stepfather dodge creditors. He escapes through jobs in the fishing fleet – as a crewman dory fishing in winter off the Grand Banks, later as crewman and mate on other ships and yachts. He is crew on the Thebaud in her match race against the Canadian Bluenose, he crews with Irving Johnson (featured in one of the Seaport films of square riggers rounding the Horn) on Yankee in a circumnavigation that stops in Tahiti. He lucks into a couple parts in Hollywood movies but with the coming of World War II he signs up under an alias – ultimately with “Wild Bill” Donovan’s covert operations, and smuggles guns to Tito and the Yugoslavian partisans to fight Hitler.

His experiences with the Depression and the War have left him embittered by social injustice and, impressed by the Yugoslav partisans, he joins and supports the American Communist Party. But, no fool and with a strong distaste for social controls – he already finds Hollywood phony and dehumanizing – he similarly rejects the Communists. That helps him not at all with the advent of the 50s and Joe McCarthy and he is called to testify before the House on UnAmerican Activities Commitee. To his lasting self-contempt, to save his career, he names “names”.

The Autobiography is framed by his effort to escape all this – and court orders on behalf of his ex-wife – by sailing an old schooner back to the South Pacific. Through it all, I think Hayden is brutally honest – to his own lights of course – about both the nature of life and his own sometimes less than admirable role. He’s also self aware and receptive to the romance. An excerpt, as Wanderer reaches Tahiti – “The pilot comes over the rail: “Bonjour, Capitaine… so thees is the Wandeureur.” “Bonjour, Pilote,” He looks like a clerk or chemist. “Capitaine,” glancing aloft in dismay, “you have the mo-teur, is it so?” “Oui, Pilote, nous avons la bonne machine.” “Then you weel, if you please, take down these sails right now.” “No Pilote, I am going to sail her in. All the way to the seawall I will sail her. Then, we turn on the mo-teur, and you back her into the quay.” She bores through the pass and the spume feels cool as she takes more wind. “Now strap her down!” and Spike and the gang lie back on the sheets, and the big blocks creak, and the ship bends down to her work, while the kids bounce up and down with laughter, pointing out each new sight.”

So not your same old read. Also to recommend – Adam Hochschild’s new book “Spain in our Heart” – his take on the Spanish Civil War. True, you can, and should, read Hemingway’s and George Orwell’s account. But Hochschild is the best historian out there. His “King Leopold’s Ghost” is both shocking and classic. He gets the balances right and he knows how to write.

And here’s something more no one told you – or at least told me. Before Ian Fleming, or Somerset Maugham, or John Buchan’s 39 Steps, came Erskine Childer’s The Riddle of the Sands, a prototypical spy novel (with yachts again in the North and Baltic Seas) warning of Great Britain’s vulnerability to invasion from Germany, written before the first world war. Childer’s was commended by no less than Churchill, served in British Intelligence and at Gallipoli in WWI, then was executed by the British for being too close to the Irish Nationalist movement. Doesn’t seem quite fair.

Tom Friedman and the United American Emirate

15702-10906So how should we characterize the Trump administration?  We have competing models: the fascist coup, the rule of oligarch criminals, the Putin puppet.  Each has its merits.  Here’s another one I like, set out by Tom Friedman in his New York Times op-ed: “Trump’s United American Emirate.”

Friedman:  “Merkel is just the first major leader to say out loud what every American ally is now realizing: America is under new management. ‘Who is America today?’ is the first question I’ve been asked on each stop through New Zealand, Australia and South Korea. My answer: We’re not the U.S.A. anymore. We’re the new U.A.E.: the United American Emirate.

We have an emir. His name is Donald. We have a crown prince. His name is Jared. We have a crown princess. Her name is Ivanka. We have a consultative council (Congress) that rubber-stamps whatever the emir wants. And like any good monarchy, our ruling family sees no conflict of interest between its personal businesses and those of the state.”

Further on:

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay no price, bear no burden, meet no hardship, support no friend, oppose no foe to assure the success of liberty — unless we’re paid in advance. And we take cash, checks, gold, Visa, American Express, Bitcoin and memberships in Mar-a-Lago.

 The Trump doctrine is very simple: There are just four threats in the world: terrorists who will kill us, immigrants who will rape us or take our jobs, importers and exporters who will take our industries — and North Korea. Threats to democracy, free trade, the environment and human rights are no longer on our menu. Therefore, no matter how unsavory you are as a foreign leader, you can be the United American Emirate’s best friend if you:

1.) Pay us by buying our weapons. I warn you, though, Saudi Arabia has set the bar very high, starting at $110 billion.

2.) Pay us in higher defense spending for NATO — not to deter Russia, which is using cyberwarfare to disrupt every democratic election it can, but to deter “terrorism,” something that tanks and planes are useless against.

 3.) Pay us in trade concessions. And it doesn’t matter how lame those concessions are. All that matters is that Emir Trump can claim “concessions.” See the recent “trade concessions” to Trump from China. (Pay no attention to that laughter from Beijing.)

4.) Pay us by freeing any U.S. citizen you arrested on trumped-up charges to annoy Barack Obama and to intimidate human rights activists. See Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s release of a U.S.-Egyptian charity worker, Aya Hijazi, who was working with homeless children.

5.) Pay us by grossly flattering our emir about how much of an improvement he is over Obama. See President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and Bibi Netanyahu of Israel.

6.) Be Russia, and you pay nothing.”

Yeah, Tom is getting a little snarky – how could you not – and I’m not even sure I got the best parts.  Read his whole op-ed.  Personally, I’m still wondering about that orb and the red flashes coming from the White House window.  Surely Trump found one of the palantirs and is even now enslaved by the Dark Lord.

Anthrax Anyone? Trump’s Proposal to Close the Biodefense Lab

 

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bacillus anthracis

 

Today, it was reported that Trump will withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement on climate change, just as he twittered the made-up word “covfefe” to keep the internet entertained.  As I’ve noted before, Trump conducts a full scale attack 24/7 on civility and common sense.  Inevitably, to focus on one horror is to neglect another.  This is as he intends and necessarily dilutes the opposition that confronts him.  Where indeed do we focus?  On the evidence being gathered by Mike Farb (see @mikefarb1 on twitter) that Russian and Right-Wing cyber attacks on voting machines flipped the electoral results in key states?  Or on Kushner’s secret communications with the Russians – espionage and treason by anyone’s reasoned standards?  On Trump’s effort to deprive millions of health care?  On the attack on public education and on the press?  All the while, in very concrete ways that do not get the attention of the national media – Trump and Bannon are carrying out a campaign to dismantle the federal infrastructure, a campaign that reaches down into our states and cities.

Here’s an example, from the Frederick News Post in Frederick, Maryland, editorializing in A travesty and a tragedy on the Trump budget proposal to close the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center that was created after the 9/11 anthrax attacks to allow rapid response to bio-chemical attacks.  From the editorial:

“Since 2010, Frederick has been home to the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) lab at Ft. Detrick. The lab has attracted some of the most brilliant scientists in the country and the world, who are all working every day to protect this country from all manner of biology-involved crime and from a bioterror attack.”

“…The federal government decided to build the lab after the anthrax attacks of 2001, when dozens of smaller labs around the country had to work for years to help investigate those crimes. Now, the Ft. Detrick lab can analyze such evidence in hours or days.

The scientists at the lab handle some of the world’s most dangerous agents, including Ebola and anthrax, and conduct research on pathogens for which no vaccine or treatment exists, according to its website. About 180 people work in the facility, with $21 million in annual salary and benefits and $4.5 million in annual subcontracting spending. The contract for the lab is estimated to be worth $480 million over 10 years.”

“…if this lab were to close and its staff to be dispersed — the nation would lose a scientific treasure that would be difficult if not impossible to replace. These scientists, the best and the brightest in their fields, are giving the nation hard facts about the dangers posed by biological threat agents and plausible terrorist attacks.”

The Trump proposal to close the Biodefense Lab is par for the course for the Trump administration with its war on science and education.  But as the anthrax scare showed, biological attacks are favored by the very terrorists from whom we have the most to fear and they can be carried out without conventional weapons or access to protected infrastructure.  I can’t think of a proposal that would set our population more at risk than to eliminate the biodefense programs that provide the necessary analysis and response.  Just when you think Trump can’t go lower, he lowers the bar and surprises us all.

 

Kurt Eichenwald’s pre-election Trump exposé in Newsweek

35An article by Kurt Eichenwald in Newsweek  “Donald Trump’s Companies Destroyed Emails in Defiance of Court Orders” from October 31, 2016  reveals Trump’s long history of contemptuous manipulation of the legal system.  Eichenwald focuses on a number of Trump cases to detail how, through a pattern of delay, diversion, lies, destruction of evidence, and out-right violation of court orders, Trump has frustrated parties suing him for grievances and government lawyers seeking to enforce regulations.

Here’s Eichenwald’s lead in:

“Over the course of decades, Donald Trump’s companies have systematically destroyed or hidden thousands of emails, digital records and paper documents demanded in official proceedings, often in defiance of court orders. These tactics—exposed by a Newsweek review of thousands of pages of court filings, judicial orders and affidavits from an array of court cases—have enraged judges, prosecutors, opposing lawyers and the many ordinary citizens entangled in litigation with Trump. In each instance, Trump and entities he controlled also erected numerous hurdles that made lawsuits drag on for years, forcing courtroom opponents to spend huge sums of money in legal fees as they struggled—sometimes in vain—to obtain records.”

Eichenwald discloses how as far back as 1973, Trump and his lawyers were deliberately abusing the legal system.  In 1973, Trump was sued for refusing to rent to Blacks.

Some excerpts from Eichenwald: “The Trump strategy was simple: deny, impede and delay, while destroying documents the court had ordered them to hand over.”

“The [Trump] family’s attempts to slow down the federal case were at times nonsensical. Trump submitted an affidavit contending that the government had engaged in some unspecified wrongdoing by releasing statements to the press on the day it brought the case without first having any ‘formal communications’ with him; he contended that he’d learned of the complaint only while listening to his car radio that morning. But Trump’s sworn statement was a lie. Court records show that the government had filed its complaint at 10 a.m. and phoned him  almost immediately afterward.”

“For months, the Trumps ignored the government’s discovery demands, even though court procedure in a civil or criminal case requires each side to produce relevant documents in a timely manner.”

“Yet when the government filed its standard discovery requests, the Trumps reacted as though seeking that information was outrageous. They argued in court that prosecutors had no case and wanted to riffle through corporate files on a fishing expedition. Once again, this led to more delays, more replies, more hearings…and another specious argument thrown out of court.

 Six months after the original filing, the case was nowhere because the Trumps had repeatedly ignored the deadlines to produce records and answers to questions, known as interrogatories. When a government attorney finally telephoned a Trump lawyer to find out why, he was told the Trumps had not even begun preparing their answers and had no plans to do so. The Trumps also postponed and blocked depositions, refused to provide a description of their records, as required, and would not turn over any documents.”

“…Finally, under subpoena, Trump appeared for a short deposition. When asked about the missing documents, he made a shocking admission: The Trumps had been destroying their corporate records for the previous six months and had no document-retention program. They had conducted no inspections to determine which files might have been sought in the discovery requests or might otherwise be related to the case. Instead, in order to ‘save space,’ Trump testified, officials with his company had been tossing documents into the shredder and garbage.”

“,,,The judge opted to allow the government access to the company offices so they could find the records themselves.

In three letters and three phone calls, the government notified the Trumps that this inspection would take place on June 12, 1974. When they arrived at the Trump offices, Trump was there, but he and everyone else were ‘surprised’ that prosecutors had come and refused to allow them access to documents without their defense lawyers present. A prosecutor called those lawyers, but they were not in their offices. The frustrated prosecutors then gave up and headed back to court.”

“…They were then hit with a new delaying tactic. The Trumps submitted a filing based on statements by Trump that radically misrepresented what had occurred that day. He claimed a prosecutor, Donna Goldstein, had arrived at the company without notifying the Trumps’ counsel, refused to telephone their lawyer and demanded access to Trump’s office. The prosecutor—accompanied, the Trumps claimed, by five ‘stormtroopers’—then banged on doors throughout the office, insisting she and her team be allowed to ‘swarm haphazardly through all the Trump files and to totally disrupt their daily business routine.’

At the same time, in a move that caused another huge delay, the Trumps claimed that Goldstein had been threatening Trump employees who were potential witnesses.”

“…These allegations of misconduct, which demanded sanctions against the government for abusing its power, required more hearings. Once again, the Trump claims went nowhere.

In June 1975, more than 18 months after the government filed the case and with the Trumps still withholding potentially relevant records, the two sides struck a settlement.”

Or, from another case:

“[Judge] Streitfeld ordered Trump executives to file sworn statements attesting to how their email systems had worked from 1996 onward. In response, Trump Hotels filed an affidavit from one of its information technology managers stating that it had had no servers prior to 2001.

That was false and by deposing numerous IT specialists with two Trump companies—the Trump Organization and Trump Hotels—lawyers for Power Plant gradually chipped away at it. Finally, during a deposition nine months after he had signed the deceptive affidavit, the same Trump executive admitted his assertions in it were untrue. In fact, an IBM Domino server for emails and other files had been installed in 1999, the same year witnesses for Power Plant contended that Trump had learned of the casino deal. Prior to that, as early as 1997, the Trump corporations used servers off-site operated by a company called Jersey Cape, according to sworn testimony by one of the Trump IT experts; the following year, the Trump Organization and Trump Hotels moved to another email provider, Technology 21.

These startling revelations changed nothing, however, because there was no trove of documents. The Trump records had been destroyed. Despite knowing back in 2001 that Trump might want to file a lawsuit, his companies had deleted emails and other records without checking if they might be evidence in his case. Beginning around 2003, the company wiped clear the data from everyone’s computers every year.”

Eichenwald’s review of cases goes on.  The fact is that the Trump pattern of obstruction is behavior Trump and his father were schooled in by Trump’s mentor, the mob lawyer Roy Cohn.  The court system does not, and cannot, provide a level playing field between rich and poor or properly martial the misconduct of a billionaire with a squadron of lawyers willing to lie, delay, and obstruct.  Trump knows that and has played that reality for all it is worth.

Trump’s abuse of the legal system, alone, should have disqualified him from his candidacy for the Presidency.  It should have led to sanctions for contempt of court.  It should have been widely disseminated by mainstream media.  And the public should have embraced that knowledge to soundly defeat Trump in the election.  Yet, while anyone with his ear to the ground would have known the general outline of Trump’s character, and while Eichenwald’s expose was released more than a week before the election, Trump, even to this day, enjoys the backing of his party, substantial mainstream acceptance, and a free rein to exercise his considerable “skills” on the world at large.  I say, “enough already.”

 

Eliot Cohen’s Review of Trump Abroad

https3a2f2fblueprint-api-production-s3-amazonaws-com2fuploads2fcard2fimage2f4841752f1c8fef89-5501-4c67-864f-9d25e9e16108Somehow it was a relief to have Trump abroad, thousands of miles away, even if he was still uncomfortably close to the nuclear football.  But because, with Trump, you learn more by what he does than what he says, there are lessons to be learned from his trip.  Eliot Cohen’s excellent review in The Atlantic What Did Trump Accomplish on His First Foreign Trip?”  adroitly exposes the foibles of Trump’s pretenses and the very real damage done by the bull in the china shop.

Here’s a sample: “It had ample farcical episodes: the Saudi king, the dictator of Egypt, and the president of the United States placing their hands on a glowing orb that evoked for some a lampoon of Lord of the Rings. The secretary of state assuring us that no one overseas was paying attention to Trump’s domestic troubles (palpably, indeed laughably, untrue) even as his spokesman excluded the American press from a briefing attended by the considerably more docile reporters of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The national-security adviser insisting, ‘The entire trip is about human rights, about all civilized people coming together to fight the hatred’—an odd remark to make in a country that lops the hands off thieves and the heads off apostates. The commerce secretary, in one of his more witlessly thuggish remarks, observing complacently about urban Riyadh: ‘There was not a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there.’ And then there were the video clips: Melania flicking away her husband’s groping hand and the Leader of the Free World giving the prime minister of little Montenegro a good hard shove.”

And:

“Instead, some tin-horn Talleyrand in the president’s entourage thought that this serial and unrepentant swindler, fornicator, and prevaricator was the man to bring together the three Abrahamic faiths by going to Riyadh, Jerusalem, and the Vatican. This conceit must strain Christian charity, let alone more austere Jewish and Muslim moralism.

It was foolish to begin the trip in Saudi Arabia, of all places. It is an ally, to be sure, but was also the home of roughly three-quarters of the 9/11 terrorists, and the source (from private funding) of terrorist financing, and far worse, of the teaching of Wahhabi doctrines inimical to the moderate forms of Islam that once prevailed around the world. Saudi and Gulf-funded religious schools, preachers, textbooks, and travel are a critical part of the story of the last several decades of violent jihad. The kingdom represses non-Muslim faiths and women, and it tolerates the barbarous treatment of foreign nationals. We forget those facts at our peril.”

Meanwhile, “at home the scandal news came not in drips but spattering gouts. We learn that a ‘person of interest’ close to the president is a focus of the Russia investigation, and that this is apparently is none other his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Making matters worse, Kushner was reported to have requested a communications channel directly through the Russian Embassy, to avoid U.S. government surveillance. We discover that the president had improperly asked the director of the National Security Agency and the director of National Intelligence to clear his late campaign of Russian connections. His former National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn decided to take the 5th, which from a judicial point of view means that one cannot infer his guilt, but from a common-sense point of view makes it look highly probable.”

Cohen has much more, all of it on point, if perhaps more charitable than Trump and his crime family deserve.  Give it a look and consider his conclusion as to “how little there is beneath the façade of this paper mâché presidency.”

As The Atlantic notes, “Eliot A. Cohen is the director of the Strategic Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.”  He brings uncommon expertise.  While you are at it, if you missed it, consider also the recent editorial in Der Spiegel, noted in my blog “Der Spiegel has seen enough.”

Der Spiegel has seen enough

gorham-antique-handheld-mirror-sterling-silver-23-1920s-vanity-401037045602-6Sometimes, it’s helpful to get a new perspective.  How does the rest of the world see Donald J. Trump?  What other country, for example, has experienced the reign of a mad autocrat, someone who pledged to make his country great again?  How about the Germans, those people Trump was reported to have called “evil, very evil” – or maybe it was “bad, very bad”?

 A May 19 editorial by Klaus Brinkbaumer in the German Der Spiegel says the Germans have seen more than enough of Mr. Trump.  If you are not familiar with Der Spiegel, here’s an introduction from Wikipedia:

“Der Spiegel (German pronunciation: [deːɐ ˈʃpiːɡəl], lit. “The Mirror”) is a German weekly news magazine published in Hamburg. It is one of Europe’s largest publications of its kind, with a weekly circulation of 840,000.[1][2][3]

It was founded in 1947[4] by John Seymour Chaloner (de), a British army officer, and Rudolf Augstein, a former Wehrmacht radio operator who was recognized in 2000 by the International Press Institute as one of the fifty World Press Freedom Heroes.[5]Spiegel Online, the online sibling of Der Spiegel, was launched in 1994 with an independent editorial staff. Typically, the magazine has a content to advertising ratio of 2:1.

Der Spiegel is known in German-speaking countries mostly for its investigative journalism. It has played a key role in uncovering many political scandals such as the Spiegel scandal in 1962 and the Flick affair in the 1980s. According to The Economist, Der Spiegel is one of continental Europe‘s most influential magazines.[6]

Brinkbaumer goes right for the jugular.  He titles his editorial:

A Danger to the World  It’s Time to Get Rid of Donald Trump   Donald Trump has transformed the United States into a laughing stock and he is a danger to the world. He must be removed from the White House before things get even worse.”

His lead in:

“Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it. He doesn’t read. He doesn’t bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees.

 He is a man free of morals. As has been demonstrated hundreds of times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat. I feel ashamed to use these words, as sharp and loud as they are. But if they apply to anyone, they apply to Trump. And one of the media’s tasks is to continue telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world.”

An excerpt further along:

“The U.S. elected a laughing stock to the presidency and has now made itself dependent on a joke of a man. The country is, as David Brooks wrote recently in the New York Times, dependent on a child. The Trump administration has no foreign policy because Trump has consistently promised American withdrawal while invoking America’s strength. He has promised both no wars and more wars. He makes decisions according to his mood, with no strategic coherence or tactical logic. Moscow and Beijing are laughing at America. Elsewhere, people are worried.”

And this:

“Who can be certain that Donald Trump won’t risk nuclear war simply to save his own skin? Efforts to stop climate change are in trouble and many expect the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because Trump is wary of legally binding measures. Crises, including those in Syria and Libya, are escalating, but no longer being discussed. And who should they be discussed with? Phone calls and emails to the U.S. State Department go unanswered. Nothing is regulated, nothing is stable and the trans-Atlantic relationship hardly exists anymore. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Norbert Röttgen fly back and forth, but Germany and the U.S. no longer understand each other. Hardly any real communication takes place, there are no joint foreign policy goals and there is no strategy.”

Brinkbaumer is not pulling his punches and he knows whereof he speaks.  The election of Trump was an international tragedy and a threat to Europeans, Asians, and the world at large.   It’s about time the American mainstream media got on the bandwagon and called him out.  No time like the present.