Friday, December 14, 2018

Last Call For A Distant Warning

We know that impeachment talk has gotten to Donald Trump, because he's actually talking about it with the press, a sure sign that he's obsessed with it.  But there's a larger issue.

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he was not concerned that he could be impeached and that hush payments made ahead of the 2016 election by his former personal attorney Michael Cohen to two women did not violate campaign finance laws.

“It’s hard to impeach somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong and who’s created the greatest economy in the history of our country,” Trump told Reuters in an Oval Office interview.

I’m not concerned, no. I think that the people would revolt if that happened,” he said.

Trump's delusions about the economy aside, the last part about the revolt?  Nearly assured.  I guarantee you there will be bloody violence if Trump is impeached, and it will grow exponentially worse if it becomes clear he will be removed from office.

The standing threat of violence from Trump's white supremacist militia supporters has always been the ugliest part of this regime, and I fully expect any efforts to remove him will be met with a flurry of attacks on targets these bastards have long wanted to take down.

It'll be open season, and a bloody one.  And Trump is counting on that fear to keep him and his family safe from the law.  Remember, impeachment is political in nature.  There are going to be a lot of politicians who will say "I don't want this violence to happen".  They know they will be targeted too.

The threat of violence is a real factor in the calculus of impeachment, guys.  That's something that has to be kept in mind.

Both Sides Do It, And That's The Point

For once, somebody found a use for Both Sides Do It that is both true and actually might help save the Republic, and of all places, it's Democratic party gerrymandering in New Jersey.

The Democratic lawmakers’ proposal would amend the New Jersey Constitution, and New Jersey voters would need to approve it through a ballot measure.

It overhauls the makeup of a redistricting committee to give more power to legislative leaders. It also establishes a “fairness test” requiring district maps to reflect how major political parties perform in statewide elections for governor, senator and president.

In New Jersey, which has not elected a Republican senator since 1972 and where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 1 million voters, that standard ensures that the redistricting process would begin on an uneven playing field. (New Jersey did elect a Republican governor in 2013, but the state has been trending Democratic.)

“It institutionally strips away the will of the voter,” said Tom Kean Jr., the Republican leader in the Senate. “The will of the Republicans and unaffiliated voters in New Jersey would be ignored to the benefit of incumbent majority party legislators forever more.”
Proponents of the plan, Stephen M. Sweeney, the Senate president, and Nicholas P. Scutari, a co-sponsor of the bill, argue that the redistricting process is too often conducted behind closed doors by unelected officials and where deals are hashed out without any voter input.

By putting their plan before the electorate, supporters argue, New Jersey Democrats are letting voters decide how redistricting should be done.

“There’s nothing gerrymandering about it,” Mr. Scutari said. “If we have a significant advantage in voters, then you’re going to have a significant difference in legislative districts. If you took this matrix of guidelines and put it in Texas, you’d probably get significantly more legislative districts that favored Republicans.’’

It is, quite frankly, the Democrats lowering themselves to the level of Republicans in refashioning a state to entrench a permanent majority.   And as Kevin Drum puts it, it's about goddamn time.

I am all for this. Is that because I’m a political hack who eagerly looks forward to giving Republicans a taste of their own medicine? Of course not. It’s more that … it would … oh hell. Yes, that’s part of it. The prospect of watching Republicans whine and moan about this is really pretty delightful.

But here’s the real reason: this is the only thing that will ever get the Supreme Court off its butt to do something about gerrymandering. I’m dead serious here. Conservatives on the Supreme Court aren’t likely to ever address gerrymandering until it’s crystal clear that Democrats can be every bit as ruthless and shady as Republicans. As long as red-state Republicans pass bill after bill screwing Democrats, while blue states like California and New Jersey and New York do nothing, there will always be a majority on the Supreme Court to shrug it off as a “political” question and do nothing.

The Supreme Court is likely to hear a gerrymandering case later this year that merges a suit over Democratic gerrymandering in Maryland with a suit over Republican gerrymandering in Wisconsin. That’s a good start to getting them to take gerrymandering seriously, and the New Jersey stunt might force a bit of rethinking too. I hate the fact that I believe this, but I do, in fact, believe pretty strongly that conservatives on the Supreme Court will never strike down even the most egregious gerrymanders unless Democrats prove that they can play the game too. So let’s play.

Nothing quite convinces Republicans to attack a practice than to see Democrat benefiting from it, (see everything Obama ever did with executive power as an example.)  Maybe it'll get SCOTUS to clear the decks.  We'll see.

But like Drum said, Republicans made this ballgame, so let's play.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

As if this week could actually get worse for the Trump regime, things did manage to get worse.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether President Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee misspent some of the record $107 million it raised from donations, people familiar with the matter said.

The criminal probe by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which is in its early stages, also is examining whether some of the committee’s top donors gave money in exchange for access to the incoming Trump administration, policy concessions or to influence official administration positions, some of the people said.

Giving money in exchange for political favors could run afoul of federal corruption laws. Diverting funds from the organization, which was registered as a nonprofit, could also violate federal law.

The investigation represents another potential legal threat to people who are or were in Mr. Trump’s orbit. Their business dealings and activities during and since the campaign have led to a number of indictments and guilty pleas. Many of the president’s biggest campaign backers were involved in the inaugural fund.

The investigation partly arises out of materials seized in the federal probe of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s business dealings, according to people familiar with the matter.

In April raids of Mr. Cohen’s home, office and hotel room, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents obtained a recorded conversation between Mr. Cohen and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to Melania Trump, who worked on the inaugural events. In the recording, Ms. Wolkoff expressed concern about how the inaugural committee was spending money, according to a person familiar with the Cohen investigation.

The Wall Street Journal couldn’t determine when the conversation between Mr. Cohen and Ms. Wolkoff took place, or why it was recorded. The recording is now in the hands of federal prosecutors in Manhattan, a person familiar with the matter said.

The inaugural committee hasn’t been asked for records or been contacted by prosecutors, according to a lawyer close to the matter, who said: “We are not aware of any evidence the investigation the Journal is reporting actually exists.”

The inaugural committee has publicly identified vendors accounting for $61 million of the $103 million it spent, and it hasn’t provided details on those expenses, according to tax filings. As a nonprofit organization, the fund is only required to make public its top five vendors.

This is just part of the gold mine Cohen uncovered for prosecutors, and we know now that the investigation is moving towards Trump's pay-to-play arrangements with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Israel as well as Russia, and let's remember Cohen was not just Trump's lawyer at the time, he was Deputy Finance Chair of the RNC. 

Eliott Broidy, Trump's top fundraiser and RNC Finance Chairman, was recently tagged with a massive pay-to-play campaign finance scandal from Malaysia too.  All of this goes back to the inauguration fund, which was a slush fund free-for-all and all kinds of foreign actors lined Trump's pockets.

Now in the last two weeks, we know that the feds are closing in on all three scams, the Malaysia kickback at Justice, the inauguration fund mess, and the Seychelles meeting brokered by Erik Prince and the UAE.  Any of the three could send Trump to prison.  He's guilty of all three.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.


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