Thursday, March 22, 2018

Last Call For Handle The Scandal

Over at Think Progress, Judd Legum argues that while Stormy Daniels is making headlines with her powerful accusations against Donald Trump involving a long-term affair, the real legal and political problem for Trump could be the lawsuit filed by former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal.

In some respects, McDougal’s story is similar to Daniels’. Like Daniels, she met Trump at a 2006 golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. Trump later wined and dined both women at the Beverly Hills Hotel. He promised them both apartments. And then, as election day approached, both women were paid to keep quiet. They were both represented by the same lawyer, Keith Davidson. 
Now, Daniels and McDougal have sued, asking the court to formally invalidate their agreements and let them speak freely. 
But the nature of the agreements signed by Daniels and McDougal are quite different. From a legal perspective, the structure of McDougal’s contract appears to be worse for Trump and his associates. 
Daniels was paid by Trump’s lawyer, while McDougal was paid by a corporation
Daniels was paid $130,000 through a shell corporation set up by Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen. Cohen says he was not reimbursed by the campaign or the Trump Organization and it was something he decided to do on his own — and not to influence the election. Cohen’s story strains credulity, and he has not ruled out the possibility of being reimbursed by Trump personally. 
If it turns out Trump reimbursed Cohen for the payment in an effort to help his election campaign, it would violate election law because it was not reported. But the underlying contribution — $130,000 from Trump to his campaign — is not illegal. Trump is allowed to donate unlimited sums of money to his own campaign. In fact, Trump repeatedly promised to self-fund his entire campaign but ended up raising millions from other sources. 
Daniels argues, among other things, that the contract is invalid because Trump was named as a party and did not sign the agreement. 
McDougal, on the other hand, was paid by a corporation. She was paid $150,000 in August 2016 by American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer. Direct corporate donations to a campaign are illegal whether they are reported or not. McDougal argues that her contract was invaild for that reason — the purpose of the contract, a corporate donation to benefit the Trump campaign — was illegal.

Oh, but it gets worse for Trump besides the obvious campaign finance issues:

McDougal’s contract, however, was purportedly to give her a platform to speak. It grants the rights for her story about any affairs with married men to A.M.I. and contemplates a number of publicity opportunities for McDougal, including columns and magazine covers. Further, after the agreement was signed, a different attorney was able to negotiate an amendment to McDougal’s contract that allows her to respond to “legitimate press inquires regarding the facts of her relationship with Donald Trump.”

In other words, McDougal most likely can and probably will openly speak about what Donald Trump did to her, more than Daniels will be able to legally say.

If that happens, all bets are off.  Clinton got impeached over a blowjob for Christ's sake, and so help me God if there are pictures of Trump's penis out there that show up in the news, I think we'll get rid of him out of nausea.

Harvey's Revenge On Houston

The worst flooding disaster in modern US history last year when Hurricane Harvey deluged Houston last year also released millions upon millions of gallons of toxic chemicals into the city's water, land, and air.  It turns out the environmental disaster and the toxic health hazard to the people of Houston and the surrounding area is far, far worse than reported six months ago.

A toxic onslaught from the nation’s petrochemical hub was largely overshadowed by the record-shattering deluge of Hurricane Harvey as residents and first responders struggled to save lives and property.

More than a half-year after floodwaters swamped America’s fourth-largest city, the extent of this environmental assault is beginning to surface, while questions about the long-term consequences for human health remain unanswered.

County, state and federal records pieced together by The Associated Press and The Houston Chronicle reveal a far more widespread toxic impact than authorities publicly reported after the storm slammed into the Texas coast in late August and then stalled over the Houston area.

Some 500 chemical plants, 10 refineries and more than 6,670 miles of intertwined oil, gas and chemical pipelines line the nation’s largest energy corridor.

Nearly half a billion gallons of industrial wastewater mixed with storm water surged out of just one chemical plant in Baytown, east of Houston on the upper shores of Galveston Bay.

Benzene, vinyl chloride, butadiene and other known human carcinogens were among the dozens of tons of industrial toxins released into surrounding neighborhoods and waterways following Harvey’s torrential rains.

In all, reporters catalogued more than 100 Harvey-related toxic releases — on land, in water and in the air. Most were never publicized, and in the case of two of the biggest ones, the extent or potential toxicity of the releases was initially understated.

And if you think GOP Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Republicans are going to lift a finger to hold these companies liable for the toxic waste dump that America's fourth-largest city was turned into, you've not been paying attention.

Only a handful of the industrial spills have been investigated by Texas and federal regulators, reporters found.

Texas regulators say they have investigated 89 incidents, but have yet to announce any enforcement actions.

Testing by state and federal regulators of soil and water for contaminants was largely limited to Superfund toxic waste sites.

Based on widespread air monitoring, including flyovers, officials repeatedly assured the public that post-Harvey air pollution posed no health threat. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official in charge now says these general assessments did not necessarily reflect local “hotspots” with potential risk to people.

Regulators alerted the public to dangers from just two, well-publicized toxic disasters: the Arkema chemical plant northeast of Houston that exploded and burned for days, and a nearby dioxin-laden federal Superfund site whose protective cap was damaged by the raging San Jacinto River.

Samuel Coleman, who was the EPA’s acting regional administrator during Harvey, said the priority in the immediate aftermath was “addressing any environmental harms as quickly as possible as opposed to making announcements about what the problem was.”

In hindsight, he said, it might not have been a bad idea to inform the public about the worst of “dozens of spills.”

Of course the state GOP was sitting on this information so that when the cancer and birth defect numbers started to pour in over the next several years they would shrug and blame residents (and cut public health programs some more, probably). 

It'll take years to rebuild, but the environmental damage to Houston and Texas's Gulf Coast will last for decades.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

The good thing about all these Senate GOP retirements is that it opens up opportunities for the Democrats because right now Republicans are going to run the craziest sunzabitches they can find and Democrats can win with candidates like Doug Jones in southern states.  I know I've been down on the Dems' chances to take back the Senate, but that's because it's a long shot.

However, beating that long shot means Dems have to capitalize on golden opportunities like (of in all the places to find a competitive Senate contest) Tennessee.

Former Gov. Phil Bredesen has a slight edge over U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn in a new poll on the U.S. Senate race from a Democratic-leaning firm. 
The poll, conducted by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling, surveyed the views of Tennessee registered voters on the U.S. Senate race, approval of President Donald Trump and health care. 
Forty-six percent of the survey’s respondents said they would vote for Bredesen compared to 41 percent for Blackburn if the election were immediately held. 
Thirteen percent of respondents said they were not sure. 
The poll, which surveyed roughly 1,000 Tennesseans, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Look, I know Marsha Blackburn is a bad candidate, but the GOP is going to run her anyway.  It's Roy Moore all over again for these guys.  Bredesen was a moderately popular governor and most importantly he's not Marsha Blackburn.

If this seat really does open up, it could really help the Dems take back the Senate.  They need to defend everything, a tough road, and still find a way to pick up Arizona and Nevada.  If Tennessee is now in play with Bob Corker retiring, then that takes a lot of pressure off the Dems, they don't have to run the table in order to get to 51.

Besides, resources that the GOP has to spend to defend Tennessee are resources that they won't have to spend elsewhere.


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