Monday, April 15, 2019

Last Call For Trump Cards, Con't

The Trump regime is so corrupt that new Interior Secretary David Bernhardt  (and former oil lobbyist, because of course) is already being investigated for ethics complaints after being confirmed just last week by Senate Republicans.

The Interior Department’s internal watchdog has opened an investigation into ethics complaints against the agency’s newly installed secretary, David Bernhardt.

Mr. Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for the oil and agribusiness industries, was confirmed by the Senate last week to head the agency, which oversees the nation’s 500 million acres of public land and vast coastal waters. He has played a central role in writing policies designed to advance President Trump’s policy of “energy dominance” and expanding fossil fuel exploration. He has been dogged by allegations of ethics violations since joining the Trump administration as the Interior Department’s deputy secretary in 2017.

Eight senators, all Democrats, and four government ethics watchdog groups have requested that the Interior Department’s inspector general open formal investigations into various aspects of Mr. Bernhardt’s conduct. Among the chief complaints have been allegations, revealed by three separate New York Times investigations, that Mr. Bernhardt used his position to advance a policy pushed by his former lobbying client; that he continued working as a lobbyist after filing legal paperwork declaring that he had ceased lobbying; and that he intervened to block the release of a scientific report showing the harmful effects of a chemical pesticide on certain endangered species.
In a letter sent Monday to the senators who filed the ethics complaints, Mary L. Kendall, the deputy inspector general of the Interior Department, wrote that she had received seven complaints from “a wide assortment of complainants alleging various conflicts of interest and other violations” by Mr. Bernhardt, adding that she had “opened an investigation to address them.”

Mr. Bernhardt has maintained that he did not commit any ethical violations and, in fact, has worked to strengthen the culture of ethical compliance at the Interior Department, in part by hiring dozens of new ethics specialists.

Mr. Bernhardt’s spokeswoman, Faith Vander Voort, wrote in a statement, “Secretary Bernhardt is in complete compliance with his ethics agreement and all applicable laws, rules, and regulations.” She added, “It is important to note that the Department Ethics Office has already conducted a review of many of these accusations at Mr. Bernhardt’s request and determined that Secretary Bernhardt is in complete compliance.”

A spokesman for the White House declined to comment.

Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who has formally requested investigations into Mr. Bernhardt’s conduct, and who pushed for the delay of his Senate confirmation, wrote in a statement: “This is exactly why I wanted a delay in Bernhardt’s consideration. We now have an Interior Secretary who has been on the job for one full business day and is already under investigation.”

The corruption is baked in, guys.  It's nothing but open grifting and theft and will be long after Trump is gone, because this is what America is now.  They can do whatever they want because we won't stop them.

Nobody will.

A Taxing Explanation, Con't

Mouth of Sauron Sarah Sanders says nobody in Congress is smart enough to parse Trump's tax returns anyway, so why bother?  Apparently she missed the fact that three House Democrats (and several Republicans) are CPAs.

In attacking the fight to obtain Trump's tax returns, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders argued that members of Congress aren't smart enough to understand them anyway. 
But three Democratic members of Congress are trained as certified public accountants -- professionals licensed by their states to do just that. 
The Congressional Research Service said there are 10 accountants in this Congress, including two senators and eight House members.
As certified public accountants, they had to pass an exam and meet their states' work and education requirements. 
Rep. Brad Sherman of California is a tax law specialist and a CPA, and he was an instructor at Harvard Law School's International Tax Program, according to his biography. He sits on the House Committee on Financial Services. 
Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, who was first elected in 1991, was a CPA and small business owner in Detroit Lakes before joining Congress. 
And Rep. Tom Suozzi of New York is trained as an attorney and a CPA and previously worked as an auditor for Arthur Andersen & Co. He is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee -- the committee that writes many of the country's tax laws, and the committee requesting Trump's tax returns.

Suozzi especially may have a big role to play here, being on Ways & Means and having been a professional tax auditor, exactly the kind of smarts needed to understand Trump's tax games.

Meanwhile, Trump is outright threatening legal action against any accounting firms that cooperate with the Democratic subpoena.

President Donald Trump’s attorneys are warning of potential legal action if an accounting firm turns over a decade of the president’s financial records to the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Trump attorneys William S. Consovoy and Stefan Passantino are urging Mazars USA not to comply with a subpoena that Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) plans to issue on Monday for Trump’s financial documents, calling it a politically motivated scheme to take down the president.

“It is no secret that the Democrat Party has decided to use its new House majority to launch a flood of investigations into the president’s personal affairs in hopes of using anything they can find to damage him politically,” Consovoy and Passantino wrote to Jerry D. Bernstein, Mazars’ outside counsel.

The attorneys said they were formally putting Mazars ”on notice” — an implicit threat of legal action. They also urged Bernstein to hold off on providing the documents to Cummings until the subpoena can be litigated in court, suggesting that a protracted legal battle is likely to ensue.

“The Democrats’ fervor has only intensified after the special counsel squelched their ‘Russia collusion’ narrative,” the attorneys continued, outlining a series of legal precedents that they argue prevents Mazars from complying with Cummings’ subpoena.

Let the games then begin.  They will take years to play out, and there's a very good chance that Trump's tax returns will be a moot point by the time this is all settled.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Whether or not it's true, Donald Trump is surely acting like Bill Barr made the entire 22-month Mueller investigation go away in a matter of weeks, and as far as Trump is concerned, the country has moved on to his immigration war as the baseline fight for his 2020 reelection campaign.

Mr. Barr’s letter effectively emboldened Mr. Trump, aides said, even as they prepare for new details to emerge from a redacted version of the report — expected this week — that could renew questions about the president’s fitness for office, and even as some of them cringe at Mr. Trump’s choice of the word “exonerate.” (Privately, they admit, they would prefer he use the word “vindicate.”)

But Mr. Trump’s mood has been lighter since the report was filed, people close to him said, even though neither he nor his White House lawyers have seen the full document, or at this point plan to do so before it is released to Congress and to the public. People close to Mr. Trump said they have noticed an increase in his confidence after he spent months feeling weighed down by a loss of control.

“When they began to go after people he knew personally, who had worked for him for years, I think it gnawed at him, and I think he felt helpless,” said Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and a confidant of Mr. Trump’s.

But since Mr. Barr issued his letter, the president has felt liberated and has been testing his bounds. He has poked fun at Joseph R. Biden Jr., the former vice president considering a presidential run, for his handsy approach to politics, despite his own troubled history with women. He has floated the idea of a pardon for Kevin McAleenan, now his acting homeland security secretary, if he encountered any legal problems in shutting the southwestern border. And he has heightened his attacks on the press beyond his normal refrain of “fake news,” falsely claiming that journalists are “knowingly” bending the truth.

Now, as Mr. Barr prepares to submit a redacted version of the report, Mr. Trump’s plan of attack, aides said, is to act as if the report itself is extraneous to Mr. Barr’s brief letter.

“The bottom line: The result is no collusion, no obstruction, and that’s the way it is,” the president told reporters on Thursday. He said that Democrats “know it’s all a big scam, a big hoax” and that he believed what they were doing was “actually treason.” Days earlier, en route to Texas, Mr. Trump told reporters: “I don’t care about the Mueller report. I’ve been totally exonerated.”

The framing is simple: Trump beat Mueller, everything else is sour grapes and fake news.  The media has already done 90% of the work for Trump with the NO COLLUSION FOUND headlines from three weeks ago.  Nobody's going to listen to what they have to say.

Mr. Trump is purposefully escalating his language, people who know him said, expressly to enliven his base of supporters and to enrage his political rivals and the news media. He has revived an idea that his administration rejected — sending immigrant detainees to so-called sanctuary cities — in part, people close to him said, to distract from the report.

“The president clearly feels vindicated now that the Mueller report is completed,” said Eric Bolling, a former Fox News host, who recently taped a radio interview with Mr. Trump. “He will continue to remind the American people he was correct about there being no evidence of collusion with Russia.”

Other outside surrogates have been echoing Mr. Trump’s line — that the narrative has already been established and it is too late for new facts to change that — even though members of the special counsel’s team have expressed concern that Mr. Barr’s letter did not accurately portray the contents of the report.

“The facts are that there was no collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia, no obstruction of justice and President Trump has been fully vindicated,” said Boris Epshteyn, a former White House aide who now serves as the chief political commentator for Sinclair Broadcast Group. “No amount of spin by the opponents is going to change that.”

But critics said the strategy is classic Trump — effective with a narrow audience, but ultimately self-limiting. “He will probably have succeeded in setting the narrative for his core supporters and hardening their attitudes, but at the expense of anyone else believing him when the report comes out and inevitably undermines what he’s been claiming,” said Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman under former President Barack Obama. “The same things that solidify his base just prevent him from expanding beyond it at all.”

His base was enough to get him elected.  As long as he keeps it, and the Democrats don't expand their own base, Trump wins again.  Democrats have to get people to vote for them and not just against Trump.  I know voting against Trump should be enough, but it wasn't.  And given the massive GOP voter suppression guaranteed in 2020, Dems will have to work extra-hard in order to get the votes they need to win.


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