Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Last Call For Buy Buy Buyback

Corporations continue to reap record profits thanks to the Trump tax scam and Apple is no different, announcing a massive $100 billion in stock buybacks thanks to Uncle Sam's deep pockets.

Apple just announced a stock buyback equal to the size of Ecuador’s GDP, thanks to the Republican tax cut bill
In a quarterly earnings announcement on Tuesday, the Cupertino, California-based company said it would put in place a new $100 billion share buyback program and increase its quarterly dividend by 16 percent. It’s no coincidence that Apple is a major beneficiary of the GOP tax cuts — its effective tax rate (the amount it actually pays) has dropped by about 10 percent between this year and last, and it’s saving an estimated $47 billion on taxes on profits earned overseas as well. 
Of the multiple major buyback announcements companies have made since the tax bill was passed in December, Apple’s is by far the biggest. But there have been others as well:The tech conglomerate Cisco in February said it would put an additional $25 billion toward a stock buyback. Troubled megabank Wells Fargo in January announced about $22 billionin buybacks. Pepsi announced a $15 billion buyback, Amgen and AbbVie $10 billion, and Google’s parent company Alphabet $8.6 billion. 
Stock buybacks occur when companies repurchase shares of their own stock. That leaves remaining shareholders with a bigger chunk of the company and increases the earnings they reap per share. Buybacks have become increasingly popular in recent years and have boomed in the wake of the tax bill
By June, Apple will have delivered $210 billion in buybacks to its shareholders since 2012, and it is now earmarking an additional $100 billion. It’s also upping its dividend to 73 cents per share from 63 cents. 
Apple is returning more cash to shareholders than any company ever, the Financial Times’s Robin Wigglesworth wrote on Tuesday. By the summer, it will have given back more than the market value of all but 20 of the biggest publicly traded companies in the United States — bigger than Verizon, Mastercard, Coca-Cola, and Disney.

Not an owner of a thousand shares of Apple stock?  Oh well.

Just remember that when Republicans tell you that we can't afford roads, bridges, schools, clean water, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and health care, just remember they had no problem giving Apple $47 billion a year to buy their own stock.

Trump Gets His Chicken Kiev

Ukraine wants US missiles, so naturally the government is making things as pleasant as possible for the Trump regime by basically losing all the paperwork on any outstanding charges against Paul Manafort.

In the United States, Paul J. Manafort is facing prosecution on charges of money laundering and financial fraud stemming from his decade of work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. 
But in Ukraine, where officials are wary of offending President Trump, four meandering cases that involve Mr. Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, have been effectively frozen by Ukraine’s chief prosecutor. 
The cases are just too sensitive for a government deeply reliant on United States financial and military aid, and keenly aware of Mr. Trump’s distaste for the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into possible collusion between Russia and his campaign, some lawmakers say. 
The decision to halt the investigations by an anticorruption prosecutor was handed down at a delicate moment for Ukraine, as the Trump administration was finalizing plans to sell the country sophisticated anti-tank missiles, called Javelins
The State Department issued an export license for the missiles on Dec. 22, and on March 2 the Pentagon announced final approval for the sale of 210 Javelins and 35 launching units. The order to halt investigations into Mr. Manafort came in early April. 
Volodymyr Ariev, a member of Parliament who is an ally of President Petro O. Poroshenko, readily acknowledged that the intention in Kiev was to put investigations into Mr. Manafort’s activities “in the long-term box.” 
“In every possible way, we will avoid irritating the top American officials,” Mr. Ariev said in an interview. “We shouldn’t spoil relations with the administration.”

Manafort? Never heard of the guy.  Who's he?  Robert Mueller?  Cooperate on what? Surely you're mistaken, my friend.

The Ukrainian investigators had been tracing money paid to Mr. Manafort and a New York law firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, by figures in the political party of Viktor F. Yanukovych, the Russian-leaning Ukrainian president who was ousted by street protesters and fled the country in 2014. Mr. Manafort was a longtime adviser to Mr. Yanukovych, working with him to revamp his public image and acquire a pro-Western patina that helped him win the presidency in 2010.

And now, they are not tracing the money.  But they are getting anti-tank missiles, so everything is OK.

This is how America's foreign policy works now.  Everything is done to appease Dear Leader, because we shouldn't spoil relations with this administration.  Kiev is all but admitting that somebody from the Trump regime let them know that dropping the Manafort investigation would be viewed as a personal favor. 

When we find out soon that of course the White House set this up, nobody will care, because this is how Trump does business, so this is how America does business too.  We're a third-world banana republic, and we're all adjusting to the new reality.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

In a spate of either tightly-controlled Mueller team defensive leaks (or wildly self-damaging Trump regime leaks about Mueller's team) we've learned quite a bit about where the Mueller probe is going this week, and what Republicans are in turn up to.  

First, House Republicans are making it very clear that they will not only refuse to endorse the ongoing Mueller probe, and not only do they plan to fully back Trump when he tries to fire Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, but that they're willing to impeach Rosenstein in Congress to protect Dear Leader.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Tuesday lashed out at Republican allies of President Donald Trump who have drafted articles of impeachment against him, saying the Justice Department won’t be extorted or give in to threats.

Rosenstein, speaking at a question-and-answer session at the Newseum, chided the lawmakers who have prepared the document by saying that “they can’t even resist leaking their own drafts” and that they lack “the courage to put their name on it.”

“I can tell you there have been people who have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time, and I think they should understand by now, the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted,” Rosenstein said, in response to a question about news reports on the articles of impeachment.

“We’re going to do what’s required by the rule of law,” he added. “And any kind of threats that anybody makes are not going to affect the way we do our job.”

He did not elaborate on what he meant by threats, but some congressional Republicans have excoriated him for his oversight role of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Now the House Freedom Caucus is calling for Rosenstein to resign, and while there's zero chance of Rosenstein being removed by a two-thirds Senate vote, the point is to feed the perpetual outrage machine in an effort to try to keep Republican voters interested in the GOP's exploits. 

Back here in reality, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has apparently raised the possibility of subpoenaing Trump if he won't submit to those interview questions, and that has been the source of the White House's last two months of inchoate rage.

In a tense meeting in early March with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, President Trump’s lawyers insisted he had no obligation to talk with federal investigators probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

But Mueller responded that he had another option if Trump declined: He could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury, according to four people familiar with the encounter.

Mueller’s warning — the first time he is known to have mentioned a possible subpoena to Trump’s legal team — spurred a sharp retort from John Dowd, then the president’s lead lawyer.

“This isn’t some game,” Dowd said, according to two people with knowledge of his comments. “You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States.”

The flare-up set in motion weeks of turmoil among Trump’s attorneys as they debated how to deal with the special counsel’s request for an interview, a dispute that ultimately led to Dowd’s resignation.
In the wake of the testy March 5 meeting, Mueller’s team agreed to provide the president’s lawyers with more specific information about the subjects that prosecutors wished to discuss with the president. With those details in hand, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow compiled a list of 49 questions that the team believed the president would be asked, according to three of the four people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly. The New York Times first reported the existence of the list.

And that kind of kills my theory that Mueller provided the questions, it's Trump's lawyers who did, and either they're the worst lawyers in human history, or they know their client is toast (or both). Hell, they don't even have the security clearances needed to defend Trump now that John Dowd is gone.

However, a subpoena fight could go all the way to SCOTUS, and there's always the chance that Trump could win.

Many legal observers believe that if Mueller issues a grand jury subpoena for Trump's testimony, the courts will order the President to comply, because the Supreme Court has repeatedly ordered presidents to comply with subpoenas. 
During independent counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation of President Bill Clinton related to Monica Lewinsky, prosecutors eventually subpoenaed the president for grand jury testimony. Clinton's lawyers attempted to delay Clinton from speaking to prosecutors for months and told a federal judge they would avoid arguing the issue in court. They ultimately agreed to let Clinton appear before the grand jury without the weight of a subpoena. 
In 1974, in United States v. Nixon, the Justices unanimously directed President Richard Nixon to comply with a criminal trial subpoena for the White House tapes. And in 1997, in Clinton v. Jones, the Court directed Clinton to comply with a subpoena for his deposition in Paula Jones' civil sexual harassment lawsuit against him. 
Yet if Mueller attempts to force Trump to testify under subpoena -- as many legal analysts suspect could happen -- the sources familiar with the thinking of Trump's legal team say they believe Trump could successfully challenge the subpoena all the way to the Supreme Court. 
One of the sources says the legal team views a subpoena for a presidential interview as "precipitating a constitutional crisis." 

You read that right, the Trumpies believe a months-long subpoena fight would turn the country against Mueller and the Democrats, greatly boost GOP enthusiasm among outraged midterm voters, and ultimately result in a SCOTUS win that would cripple the Mueller probe, if not provide the legal context and political cover to end it by firing everyone in sight.

Also, I'm actually a world-class hot-air balloon racer and former British secret service agent.

Stay tuned.


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