Monday, September 10, 2018

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

Once again, there's three aspects to the Trump/Russia story: 2016 election influencing, money laundering, and the cover-up of the first two.  NY Times columnist David Leonhardt reminds us that the money laundering aspect of the Trump mess is where the wide-scale criminality is going on, and there's a lot of evidence to support that Trump and the GOP are specifically targeting and purging the DoJ of expert investigators on the subject, and have been for some time now.

The latest reason to be suspicious is Trump’s attacks on a formerly obscure Justice Department official named Bruce Ohr. Trump has repeatedly criticized Ohr and called for him to be fired. Ohr’s sin is that he appears to have been marginally involved in inquiries into Trump’s Russian links. But Ohr fits a larger pattern. In his highly respected three-decade career in law enforcement, he has specialized in going after Russian organized crime.

It just so happens that most of the once-obscure bureaucrats whom Trump has tried to discredit also are experts in some combination of Russia, organized crime and money laundering.

It’s true of Andrew McCabe (the former deputy F.B.I. director whose firing Trump successfully lobbied for), Andrew Weissmann (the only official working for Robert Mueller whom Trump singles out publicly) and others. They are all Trump bogeymen — and all among “the Kremlin’s biggest adversaries in the U.S. government,” as Natasha Bertrand wrote in The Atlantic. Trump, she explained, seems to be trying to rid the government of experts in Russian organized crime.

I realize that this evidence is only circumstantial and well short of proof. But it’s one of many suspicious patterns about Trump and Russia. When you look at them together, it’s hard to come away thinking that the most likely explanation is coincidence.

Consider: The financially rickety Trump Organization, shunned by most mainstream banks, long relied on less scrupulous Russian investors. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Donald Trump Jr. said a decade ago. “We have all the funding we need out of Russia,” Eric Trump reportedly said in 2013. And what was the rare major bank to work with Trump? Deutsche Bank, which has a history of illegal Russian money laundering.

Trump also had a habit of selling real estate to Russians in all-cash deals. Money launderers like such deals, because they can turn illegally earned cash into a legitimate asset, usually at an inflated price that rewards the seller for the risk. One especially dubious deal was Trump’s $95 million sale of a Palm Beach house to a Russian magnate in 2008 — during the housing bust, only four years after Trump had bought the house for $41 million.

Then there is Trump’s paranoia about scrutiny of his businesses. He has refused to release his tax returns. He said that Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line by looking into his finances. When word leaked (incorrectly) that Mueller had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank’s records on Trump, he moved to fire Mueller (only to be dissuaded by aides). Trump is certainly acting as if his business history contains damaging information.

All of this taken together shows a definite pattern.  There is an obvious solution however, and it's House Democratic subpoena power with a Democratic House majority.

For months, Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has been trying to get Congress to pay attention to the possibility of money laundering. He points out that Mueller’s mandate does not necessarily include a full investigation of Trump’s businesses. But those businesses could still have behaved in ways that give Putin, a hostile foreign leader, leverage over the president of the United States.

“We need to find out whether that is the case and say so. Or we need to find out that is not the case and say so,” Schiff told me. “But to leave it as an unanswered question, I just think would be negligent to our national security.” So far, congressional Republicans have chosen negligence.

Which means that the November elections may determine whether we ever get answers. If Democrats win House control, Schiff will gain subpoena power. If Republicans keep control, just imagine how emboldened Trump will feel. He could mount a full-on assault on the rule of law by shutting down Mueller’s investigation and any other official scrutiny of the Trump Organization.

And without that oversight, it will absolutely happen.  November is of dire importance, and with 60 days to go, it's time to check your registration, get your family and friends registered, and get them to turn out.

If we lose here, the country is done.

Something Rotten In The State Of...Sweden

As expected, Swedish elections on Sunday have resulted in 40% of the seats going to the current Social Democrats coalition, 40% going to the opposition center-right alliance, and nearly 18% of seats going to the flat-out neo-Nazi Sweden Democrats, who now may very well get to decide who runs the country, and how.

With almost all districts having reported, the ruling center-left Social Democrats and Greens and their Left Party parliamentary allies had 40.6 percent of the vote, while the opposition center-right Alliance was at 40.3 percent.

That gave the center-left 144 seats in the 349-seat parliament against 142 for the Alliance, suggesting weeks of uncertainty before a workable government can be formed.

The Sweden Democrats, a party with roots in the white supremacist fringe, won 17.6 percent and 63 seats, up from 12.9 percent and 49 seats in the last election four years ago, the biggest gain by any party in Sweden’s parliament, the Riksdag.

The results were largely in line with the conventional opinion polls tracked by Reuters in the run-up to the election but well below some online surveys that had predicted the Sweden Democrats could become the largest party.

While the results also fell short of leader Jimmie Akesson’s predictions of 20 percent of the vote or more, he told a party rally it was nevertheless the winner of the election.

We will gain huge influence over what happens in Sweden during the coming weeks, months and years,” Akesson told party colleagues.

Akesson hopes his party, which wants Sweden to leave the European Union and freeze immigration, can play a decisive role in negotiations over forming a government.

He called on Ulf Kristersson, the center-right Alliance’s candidate for the premiership, to choose between seeking support from the Sweden Democrats for an Alliance government or to accept another four years of Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.

The problem is now that the neo-Nazis in Sweden have become too powerful to ignore politically.  Instead of dealing with them, they're now in a position to greatly influence Sweden's next government, and they are only growing more powerful.

I'd find fault with Sweden, except that here in the US, we have our own "center-right coalition with neo-Nazis for political expedience party" and they currently control the federal government and a nearly two-thirds majority of the states.

Sweden is just following our shameful example, after all.

Race To The Bottom, Con't

Like I keep telling people, Trump is not the cause of decades of GOP racism, Trump is the result. It is the Republican party itself that is hopelessly broken when somebody as racist as GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis gets a free pass on hanging out with white supremacists until he runs for Governor and somebody finally decides to ask questions.

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), a gubernatorial nominee who recently was accused of using racially tinged language, spoke four times at conferences organized by a conservative activist who has said that African Americans owe their freedom to white people and that the country’s “only serious race war” is against whites. 
DeSantis, elected to represent north-central Florida in 2012, appeared at the David Horowitz Freedom Center conferences in Palm Beach, Fla., and Charleston, S.C., in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, said Michael Finch, president of the organization. At the group’s annual Restoration Weekend conferences, hundreds of people gather to hear right-wing provocateurs such as Stephen K. Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos and Sebastian Gorka sound off on multiculturalism, radical Islam, free speech on college campuses and other issues. 
“I just want to say what an honor it’s been to be here to speak,” DeSantis said in a 27-minute speech at the 2015 event in Charleston, a video shows. “David has done such great work and I’ve been an admirer. I’ve been to these conferences in the past but I’ve been a big admirer of an organization that shoots straight, tells the American people the truth and is standing up for the right thing.” 
The Florida gubernatorial campaign is one of the marquee races of 2018, pitting DeSantis, a Trump acolyte and lawyer in the Navy Reserve, against Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, who would become the state’s first African American governor. President Trump has endorsed DeSantis, and Gillum is backed by progressive leader Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont. In less than two weeks since the primary, race has become a central issue in the nation’s largest battleground state.

Again, these are all appearances that DeSantis made while being a sitting Congressman for the last six years and apparently nobody bothered to check to see if there were things like "video of a 27-minute long speech that the guy gave at a white supremacists conference while being in Congress" until the Washington Post decided to look into it.


In his 2017 speech, DeSantis echoed many of Trump’s top grievances — blasting Washington as a “swamp,” criticizing the special counsel investigation into the 2016 election and defending the travel ban against several majority-Muslim countries. 
Members of Congress are required to file disclosures when outside groups pay for their travel. DeSantis filed one for only the 2017 trip, reporting that the Freedom Center paid $468 in meals for him and his wife and $750 for lodging at The Breakers in Palm Beach. 
A spokesman for DeSantis said the congressman or his campaign paid his expenses in 2015 and 2016, so no disclosure filing was required. His campaign produced receipts for only the 2015 trip. In 2013, DeSantis spoke at the conference, but did not stay, so there were no expenses, the spokesman said. 
Beyond the annual conferences, Horowitz has a record of inflammatory comments on social media. He was temporarily locked out of his Twitter account last month for a post involving Islam. “If you’re a Muslim, you might not want to be sworn in on a Judeo Christian bible, since Islam has conducted a 1500 year war against Christians and Jews, is calling for death to Israel and has slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Christians recently.” 
Twitter said the post violated rules against “hateful conduct.” Horowitz defended the tweet, telling The Post: “Most Muslims are law-abiding people who are trying to put food on the table for their kids but Islam is very problematic. . . . You show me the Islamic leaders who are not okay with the calls to exterminate Jews and Israel.”

Four times DeSantis showed up at this little cross-burning neo-Nazi shindig.  Four times in six years.

Wasn't news until today.  DeSantis resigned from the House to "focus on the governor's race" but it's clear just how much trouble he's in now.

He's the favorite to become the next governor of Florida still, however.


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