Friday, March 2, 2018

Last Call For It's Mueller Time, Con't

Well, Jared Kushner is now in a gigantic world of trouble, folks.  Remember yesterday's story on Jared Kushner magically getting millions in business loans from companies after inviting them to the White House?  It turns out that the criminality in that little arrangement was so obvious that even the Securities and Exchange Commission reared its head like a Brontosaurus out of the swamp to take a look, but it turns out that probe mysteriously was dropped after a month.

The Securities and Exchange Commission late last year dropped its inquiry into a financial company that a month earlier had given White House adviser Jared Kushner’s family real estate firm a $180 million loan. 
While there’s no evidence that Kushner or any other Trump administration official had a role in the agency’s decision to drop the inquiry into Apollo Global Management, the timing has once again raised potential conflict-of-interest questions about Kushner’s family business and his role as an adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump. 
The SEC detail comes a day after The New York Times reported that Apollo’s loan to the Kushner Cos. followed several meetings at the White House with Kushner. 
“I suppose the best case for Kushner is that this looks absolutely terrible,” said Rob Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Without presuming that there is any kind of quid pro quo ... there are a lot of ways that the fact of Apollo’s engagement with Kushner and the Kushner businesses in a public and private context might cast a shadow over what the SEC is doing and influence consciously or unconsciously how the agency acted.” 
Apollo said in its 2018 annual report that the SEC had halted its inquiry into how the firm reported the financial results of its private equity funds and other costs and personnel changes. Apollo had previously reported that the Obama administration SEC had subpoenaed it for information related to the issue. 
The SEC, which often makes such inquiries of financial firms, declined Friday to comment on the probe or its decision to halt it.

I don't know guys, it's a complete and total mystery as to how an investigation into Donald Trump's son-in-law  magically vanished within a month.  If only there was some sort of government oversight committee that could look into this or something maybe?

I dunno.  I guess we'll never know if Jared Kushner's businesses played a role in US foreign policy decisions or not.

Jared Kushner’s father met with Qatar’s minister of finance last April, to solicit an investment in the family’s distressed asset at 666 Fifth Avenue
, according to a new report from the Intercept. 
The Qataris shot him down. 
Weeks later, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates organized a blockade of Qatar. The Gulf monarchies claimed that this act of aggression was a response to Donald Trump’s call for the Arab world to crack down on terrorists — after taking in the president’s majestic sermon in Riyadh, the Saudis simply couldn’t live with themselves if they didn’t take action to thwart Qatar’s covert financing of Islamist extremism. 
In reality, the Saudis’ primary aim was to punish Doha for asserting its independence from Riyadh by, among other things, engaging with Iran and abetting Al Jazeera’s journalism. This was obvious to anyone familiar with the Saudis’ own affinity for (shamelessly) exporting jihadism — which is to say, anyone with a rudimentary understanding of Middle East politics. 
And it was equally obvious that the United States had nothing to gain from a conflict between its Gulf allies. Qatar hosts one of America’s largest and most strategically important air bases in the Middle East. Any development that pushes Doha away from Riyadh pulls it toward Tehran. Thus, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — and virtually every other arm of the U.S. government — scrambled to nip the blockade in the bud. 
But Jared Kushner was (reportedly) an exception. Donald Trump was more than happy to endorse the idea that his speech had moved mountains, and commended the Saudis for punishing Qatar — first on Twitter, and then during a press conference in the Rose Garden. According to contemporary reports, his son-in-law was one of the only White House advisers to approve of this stance.

As J.M. Ashby reminds us over at Bob Cesca's place, the Kushner/Qatar story was known about in back in July when it happened.   Like all the obvious criminality going on from the outset of this regime, it's so brazen and so common that it disappears down the memory hole into the chaos Trump creates.

I wonder if Robert Mueller is looking into all this?  Certainly he's the type of guy to ask questions about such a blatant quid pro quo arrangement.

Federal investigators are scrutinizing whether any of Jared Kushner's business discussions with foreigners during the presidential transition later shaped White House policies in ways designed to either benefit or retaliate against those he spoke with, according to witnesses and other people familiar with the investigation. 
Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has asked witnesses about Kushner's efforts to secure financing for his family's real estate properties, focusing specifically on his discussions during the transition with individuals from Qatar and Turkey, as well as Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates, according to witnesses who have been interviewed as part of the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to sway the 2016 election. 
As part of the scrutiny of Kushner's discussions with Turks, federal investigators have reached out to Turkish nationals for information on Kushner through the FBI's legal attache office in Ankara, according to two people familiar with the matter. Separately, Qatari government officials visiting the U.S. in late January and early February considered turning over to Mueller what they believe is evidence of efforts by their country's Persian Gulf neighbors in coordination with Kushner to hurt their country, four people familiar with the matter said. The Qatari officials decided against cooperating with Mueller for now out of fear it would further strain the country's relations with the White House, these people said.

Boy I mean given the fact that Kushner was involved in real estate deals all over the globe, the potential for money laundering and influence peddling would be titanic.

It might just be the kind of thing that could bring down the Trump regime.

The GOP Shootout In Ohio

Outgoing Ohio GOP Gov. John Kasich suddenly wants several new gun safety provisions in state laws after signing into law a 2011 bill that allowed concealed carry in bars and a 2017 bill that expanded concealed carry to workplace parking lots.  Kasich now wants major new safety laws for firearms, saying it's a "different day" in Ohio.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich is backing six gun control measures that he believes have a support from both sides of the debate and that hopes will help end the horror of American mass shootings.

Kasich brushed aside questions about hard line opposition to gun control. “It’s a different day,” he said.

The governor will ask the Ohio General Assembly to pass measures to take guns away from people at risk of hurting themselves or others, keep guns away from those convicted of domestic violence or subject to protection orders, close some gaps in the background check system, strengthen the law against “straw man” gun purchases, and ban bump stocks and armor-piercing ammunition.

“No one is interested in some slippery slope in trying to go and grab everyone’s guns,” he said.

The response from Ohio Republicans, who currently have a supermajority in both the state House and Senate, was both swift and utterly predictable.

The leader of Republicans in the Senate says he thinks a “stand your ground” bill that Gov. John Kasich said he wouldn’t sign will pass anyway.

The bill removes the requirement for a person to try to retreat before using lethal force in self-defense. Kasich said on NBC’s Meet the Press Daily last week that he wouldn’t sign it. For a while it’s appeared the bill was stalled. But Senate President Larry Obhof of Medina says he’s not sure about that. 
I think that would easily pass the Legislature. I don’t think there would be any problem with that, no. Now whether we choose to go that route or not remains to be seen.” 
The so-called Stand Your Ground bill is one of 23 pieces of gun-related legislation at the Statehouse – 14 of which would expand gun owners’ rights, including adding places where permit holders could carry concealed weapons.

We'll see what the General Assembly does, but my guess is that Obhof has the votes to override Kasich's veto, they've done it before.

Of course, how long Ohio has a GOP supermajority, I can't tell you.  Something tells me this fact will change abruptly in November.

Trading Blows WIth The World

It's hard to overstate just how pissed off Republicans are over being blindsided by Trump's trade war announcement yesterday.  Rust Belt and Farm Belt Republicans just saw their 2018 re-election hopes go up in flames and they're not taking it quietly.

GOP lawmakers from farming states sharply warned President Donald Trump Thursday that his decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports will cost Americans consumers — and could be devastating for him at the polls.

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, the Republican chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, struggled to find words to describe his emotions after being blindsided by Thursday's news that Trump would impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports that sent stocks spiraling downward amid fears of a trade war.

"These are the people who voted for the president," Roberts said. "These are his people. One county in Kansas even voted for him 90 percent and they're not going to be happy at all about this."

Roberts was joined in criticizing the proposal by U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from neighboring Nebraska. Together they said the effect on farm states would be costly if foreign governments retaliate with tariffs on imports of U.S. goods, such as agricultural products.

"Let's be clear: The president is proposing a massive tax increase on American families. Protectionism is weak, not strong. You'd expect a policy this bad from a leftist administration, not a supposedly Republican one," Sasse said.

The stern admonishing was reminiscent of the pushback Republicans and conservatives gave Trump on immigration following a meeting in January.

However, Trump said the tariffs would help right decades of unfair trade policies. Trump told the group of executives who gathered at the White House, including representatives from Nucor Corp., AK Steel Holding Corp. and U.S. Steel Corp., that "you will have protection for the first time in a long while."

Trump said the full plan will be announced next week. The White House would not provide any specific details, including whether some trade partners would be exempt.

But Roberts and other Republicans from the Senate Finance Committee described the penalties as a ultimately "consumer tax," that would boomerang badly on the very rural and middle-class voters who supported his election in 2016.

Roberts worried that imposing the steep tariff could also wipe out any benefits from tax reform if higher manufacturing costs are passed on to consumers. He fears that unilateral withdrawal from NAFTA could be next on Trump's chopping block.

If Trump blows up NAFTA like everyone expects on top of this, the global trade war will be fully on and it's going to wreck the US economy overnight.  Retaliation from the EU and Asia will be swift, but if the tarriffs don't exclude Mexico and especially Canada, the economic damage will be immense.

President Trump on Friday continued bucking his advisers and GOP leaders by acknowledging for the first time he could be triggering a global trade war by imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum. 
And a few hours later he said that this was just the beginning, promising “RECIPROCAL TAXES” against any country that has an import duty on U.S. goods or services. 
In a series of Twitter posts, the first of which was launched before 6 a.m., Trump argued that the United States was being ripped off by other countries because the U.S. imports more goods than it exports from many countries. 
Many economists and trade experts have said this is how free trade works, particularly because the United States is the world’s wealthiest nation and wants access to foreign markets. But Trump believes that this is a reflection that importers take advantage of weak U.S. trade policies.
When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy!

Yeah, Trump tweeted that little advice gem this morning. Now take this staggering igorance of world trade policy, factor in the end of NAFTA on top of the terrible GOP tax scam bill from December, and you guarantee another steep recession if not full-blown depression that will make 2008 look like a sunny day in Pago Pago.

The only bright spot is that I can't think of a better way to get Midwestern Trump voters to abandon the GOP in a more rapid and dramatic fashion in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania.  The GOP can count out Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa too if NAFTA goes, maybe even Texas and Oklahoma, maybe even long term.

For the rest of us though, dramatically higher prices on durable goods, construction materials and anything packaged in steel or aluminum cans are on the way.  You know, like pickup trucks, double wides and beer!

Enjoy, MAGA-land.  You're about to find out what happens to anyone who works with Trump and expects to win.


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