Monday, February 26, 2018

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

The response to the indictments last week unsealed against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and the plea deal by Manafort's business partner and former Trump aide Rick Gates, at least from congressional Republicans, is that despite the money laundering and tax fraud charges against the person who ran Trump's campaign, any investigation into Trump's finances will remain off limits for the congressional committees looking into Russia's interference in the 2016 elections.

Top Republicans on Capitol Hill have made a concerted decision in their Russia inquiries: They are staying away from digging into the finances of President Donald Trump and his family. 
Six Republican leaders of key committees told CNN they see little reason to pursue those lines of inquiry or made no commitments to do so -- even as Democrats say determining whether there was a financial link between Trump, his family, his business and Russians is essential to understanding whether there was any collusion in the 2016 elections. 
Republicans have resisted calls to issue subpoenas for bank records, seeking Trump's tax returns or sending letters to witnesses to determine whether there were any Trump financial links to Russian actors -- calling the push nothing more than a Democratic fishing expedition. 
While the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee has acknowledged that his panel lacks the resources of special counsel Robert Mueller to dig deeply into financial matters, several Democrats on committees with financial experts on their staff have sought such records. In the House Intelligence Committee, for instance, Democrats have asked for subpoenas to Deutsche Bank, the institution that has been a major lender to the Trump Organization as well as Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser. 
"I think the allegations on money laundering are credible enough that we ought to, in the exercise of due diligence, see if this was one of the other vectors of the Russian active measures campaign," California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence panel, said earlier this month. "To me, that is far more potentially compromising than any salacious video would be." 
Republicans have rebuffed them, arguing that falls outside the scope of the committee's probe. 
"I don't see the link at this stage," Rep. Mike Conaway, the Texas Republican leading the House Russia investigation, told CNN. "Deutsche Bank is a German bank -- I don't see the nexus." 
Asked about exploring Russian-Trump business transactions, Conaway was not moved. "I bet every big bank has a Russian customer somewhere," he said.

Not a Russian customer who happens to be the guy in the Oval Office though. Just saying.

Seriously, this is a marker from the GOP that they don't see Trump's finances as important, and this is vital because the next level above Manafort is going to be someone in Trump's family: either Jared Kushner or Trump himself.

Republicans are content to say that Manafort was a bad apple and that with his indictment, Gates cooperating, and Mueller's indictment two weeks ago of 13 Russians, and that this is as far as they're going to go on their own committees.

Should Mueller move up the ladder however, expect major pushback from the GOP to shut down to Mueller probe for "exceeding its mandate".

Either way, at this point you can consider the House and Senate investigations into the Russia matter effectively over, especially as campaign season approaches.

Trump's Plane Silly Idea

Donald Trump apparently wants to put his long-time personal pilot in charge of the FAA, because we don't even rate banana on the banana republic scale at this point, we're really more of a bunch of rotten plantains. Jon Swan:

The president’s personal pilot is on the administration's short list to head the Federal Aviation Administration. Trump has told a host of administration officials and associates that he wants John Dunkin — his longtime personal pilot, who flew him around the country on Trump Force One during the campaign — to helm the agency, which has a budget in the billions and which oversees all civil aviation in the United States. 
What I'm hearing: One industry insider equated this to the Seinfeld episode when Cosmo Kramer used his golf caddy as a jury consultant. A senior administration official told me that comparison is completely unfair. The source confirmed Trump recommended Dunkin and that he’s sat for an interview for the post. That source said he was impressive.

“He’s on the list because he's the president’s pilot, but if he gets the job it won't be because he's the president's pilot,” the source said. 
In response to my questions for this story, another administration source stressed that while no decision has been made, Dunkin has the appropriate experience to get the job. 
“John Dunkin isn’t just a pilot," the administration official told me. "He’s managed airline and corporate flight departments, certified airlines from start-up under FAA regulations, and oversaw the Trump presidential campaign’s air fleet, which included managing all aviation transportation for travel to 203 cities in 43 states over the course of 21 months.”

This is akin to putting your brother-in-law Randy in charge of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration because he's been a station dispatcher for FedEx for 12 years.  It isn't just ridiculous, as Steve M points out it's Trump killing expertise in the ballroom with the candlestick.

Trump loves this sort of thing. He thinks everything that's bad in America can be corrected by a really smart guy like him who sees (or is made aware of) a simple, obvious solution all the supposed "experts" miss. Solving problems doesn't require knowledge or hard work -- you just have to pick up on the one detail thagt the people who've been in charge for years haven't noticed, and then all difficulties will magically vanish.

It's not just Trump who believes this, we have an entire country that for decades has said "Well what do these idiots in charge know?  I'm smarter than they are!"

(Yes, I know that's the entire point of my blog for the last decade, but I'm not running for president either on grounds that I think I'm smarter than everyone else when I'm not.  Thanks.)

This is a sitcom plot, not a way to run a country, but what do you expect from a reality TV show host?

An ICE Storm In Oakland

The ongoing war between the Trump regime's immigration goons at ICE and California's state and local governments continues to escalate, with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaal warning the people of her city ahead of time of a planned major ICE raid over the weekend.

The relationship between U.S. immigration officials and California’s liberal leaders soured long ago, but Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s decision to warn potential targets of federal arrest that an immigration sweep could be imminent was an extraordinary escalation. 
Schaaf said she issued the alert Saturday night after receiving confidential tips from “credible sources” who revealed that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, was planning arrestsacross the Bay Area as soon as Sunday. 
She and Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick discussed the reports before Schaaf concluded that the information was solid enough to warrant going public, according to people familiar with her thinking. Schaaf said she also conferred with legal counsel to make sure she wasn’t opening herself up to federal prosecution.

The news release that resulted — which Schaaf said was intended “not to panic our residents but to protect them” — was among the most assertive maneuvers by a local politician to counter the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants. The message: Not only will Oakland and its police force not cooperate with ICE, but the city will actively seek to thwart efforts to detain and deport immigrants.
“I know that Oakland is a city of law-abiding immigrants and families who deserve to live free from the constant threat of arrest and deportation,” Schaaf said in her Saturday night statement. “I believe it is my duty and moral obligation as Mayor to give those families fair warning when that threat appears imminent.”

ICE did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Schaaf’s action. Officials provided a statement to KGO-TV saying, “There are ICE operations every day and it is unclear what the mayor is referring to.”

Trump has previously said that he's wanted to put California mayors and lawmakers in jail over defying ICE, so Mayor Schaal's actions are definitely going to come at a cost.  Over at Hot Air, Jazz Shaw calls Schaal's actions a felony, and says Trump should act ASAP.

Do we really need to say much more than this? The White House has shown no hesitation in pursuing a termination of federal funding for cities engaging in this behavior. The President seems to be a big fan of the idea of “lock them up” when it comes to such violations. Why is the Mayor of Oakland exempt from this law? 
Not to mention the fact that this isn’t some average citizen we’re talking about. This is the chief executive of a major city who was elected and took an oath to uphold the law. Rather than doing so, she is actively thwarting the efforts of federal law enforcement officials. Clearly, the legislators and the general populace of Oakland would have no interest in removing her from office, but she’s certainly not immune from federal prosecution. Nobody is. It’s simply insane that we’re now living in a society where such a thing has been normalized.

What happens from here I don't know.  But Trump has never shown restraint in the past when it comes to punishing those who have defied him in some way.  If Trump wants to make an example of someone, he's just been handed a potential target on a platter.


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