Thursday, November 21, 2019

Last Call For A Taxing Explanation, Con't

I expected California's tax return requirement law for presidential candidates not to stand up to any federal Constitutional tests, but the Trump regime won a unanimous victory in California's state Supreme Court today as the law was struck down.

President Donald Trump won’t have to release his tax returns to get on California’s 2020 primary ballot following a unanimous ruling from the state Supreme Court on Thursday that invalidated a new state law.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 27 into law in July to compel presidential and gubernatorial candidates to release five years of tax returns to get on California’s primary ballot. Jessica Patterson, chairwoman of the Republican Party then sued the state.

Under California’s constitution, the state must administer an “open presidential primary whereby the candidates on the ballot are those found by the secretary of state to be recognized candidates throughout the nation or throughout California.”

The court ruled the added requirement for tax returns “is in conflict with the (state) constitution’s specification of an inclusive open presidential primary ballot.”

Republicans arguing against California’s law claimed it would force “recognized candidates” off the ballot and discourage potential candidates from running for office, thus defying the constitution’s mandate for an “open” primary.

“Lawmakers didn’t even take into account the conflicts it may have with the state constitution,” Patterson said of the struck down law. “This is a pretty direct example that California Democrats here have been completely arrogant and their overreach knows no bounds. This was a solution in search of a problem.”

Patterson had worried fewer Republicans would show up for the primary if Trump weren’t at the top of the ticket, especially as Democrats appear fired up going into the 2020 primary, which the state had bumped up from June to March.

Under the state’s primary system, the two highest vote-getters could both be Democrats, which would prevent a Republican from advancing to the general election in down-ballot races.

“If we didn’t have our presumed nominee on the ballot in the 2020 primary, there would be Republicans that stayed home,” Patterson said.

The bill targeting Trump’s taxes came with a pressing deadline, and the Supreme Court’s decision provides clarity ahead of a key date. The law Newsom signed would have required those running for president to submit their tax returns to Secretary of State Alex Padilla by Nov. 26 in order to appear on the primary ballot.

I said this was a waste of time back in May and that it would never survive SCOTUS if it got there when Newsom signed it in July, but it ended up not even surviving state courts.

Other states have similar bills pending, but I would almost certainly expect them to be scrapped after this.  If it can't even pass California's courts, there's no possible fate for this but a 9-0 drubbing by the Roberts Court.

This was a stupid idea six months ago, it's a stupid idea now, and it's going to be even more stupid to appeal it.  Let it go, guys.  The Constitution is pretty clear about what the requirements for running for President are, and "your tax returns" isn't in there.

Besides, since the whole point was to expose Trump's tax returns (and let's not pretend that anything else was the motive) that's being fought in federal courts by House Democrats currently.  Let's stick to that and not open up the 55-gallon worm drum of red states being able to name their own requirements for who gets on the 2020 ballot, shall we?

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

Today's impeachment hearings continued to be abysmally bad for Donald Trump as White House Russia expert Dr. Fiona Hill and State Department aide David Holmes backed up the most disastrous testimony for Trump yesterday from EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

Fiona Hill and David Holmes testified today that they very easily realized that Trump’s allies were talking about an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden when they mentioned “Burisma,” a Ukrainian energy company.

Some context: Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, had a high-paid position on the board of Burisma. He took the job while his father was the point person for the Obama administration’s policy toward Ukraine, raising concerns about a conflict of interest.

Remember: Despite that potential ethical lapse by Hunter Biden, there’s no evidence of criminality or corruption by the Bidens in Ukraine. Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani have been spreading conspiracies about the Bidens all year.

Today, Democratic staff lawyer Daniel Goldman asked Hill, “Was it apparent to you that when President Trump, Rudy Giuliani or anyone else was pushing for an investigation into Burisma, that the reason why they wanted that investigation related to what President Trump said here, the Bidens?” 
“It was very apparent to me that that was what Rudy Giuliani intended, yes, intended to convey that Burisma was linked to the Bidens and he said this publicly repeatedly,” Hill said.

Holmes also said “yes,” he understood that Burisma was code for the Bidens.

Other players in the scandal have testified that they didn’t make the connection until many months later. This includes former US special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker and US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Both Volker and Sondland were handpicked by Trump to deal with Ukraine issues – not career foreign service officers.

Volker said that he if made the connection, he would have raised objections, but he thought the references to Burisma were part of a legitimate Ukrainian probe into the Ukrainian company. Sondland said he made the connection later in the summer, and didn’t see any of Giuliani’s many television interviews and social media posts about the Bidens.

Volker and Sondland are essentially saying they took Trump and Giuliani at face value – that they were deeply concerned about a random Ukrainian company – and didn't take any steps to figure out what they were talking about.

Another key witness, former National Security Council aide Tim Morrison, testified this week that when Hill first told him about Giuliani’s interest in a "Burisma" probe, he googled the company and figured out the Biden connection.

Sondland was a bombshell for sure, but a problematic one.  He spent quite a bit of time throwing multiple people -- VP Pence, SecState Pompeo, Energy Sec Perry, WH Chief of Staff Mulvaney, and Trump himself -- under the nearest bus.  But it was obvious he was trying to save himself in the process out of enlightened self-interest.  This is still a man who bought an ambassadorship for a million bucks in order to help out his hotel chain, something the Grifter-In-Chief appreciated on multiple levels.

But Dr. Hill and Mr. Holmes are career civil servants and foreign policy experts, Dr. Hill in particular served as a CIA analyst under both Bush 43 and Obama based on her years of experience and has written three books on the subject, including an Amazon best seller on Putin and his politics.  And she roasted the GOP today, attacking the ludicrous notion that Ukraine was somehow behind Russia's 2016 election interference as Kremlin misinformation and warning that these efforts are still going on right now, with the GOP-led Senate refusing to take action to strengthen our defenses.

The evidence at this point is so overwhelming that Democrats want to wrap this up and get to the impeachment votes already.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said today that Democrats would not fight in court to get acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — key administration figures implicated in public testimony so far — to testify. But some members of Congress think that the investigation has already gathered enough evidence without those witnesses.

Both Reps. Peter Welch and Jackie Speier said the case is overwhelming even without those firsthand witnesses and documents.

"I think we have been hampered in our ability because the White House, the State Department, the Department of Defense have all withheld documents from us, but even with our hands tied behind our backs, we've been able to present the American people a compelling argument for moving forward with a review of whether or not we should have articles of impeachment bought to the floor of the House," Speier said.

She continued: "The President helped us out immeasurably by releasing the summary of his telephone call" with Ukraine.

She said that the conversation "establishes the elements of bribery, where someone in office requests from someone else something of value, the investigation, and then withholds the White House meeting and the military aid. "

We spent three years on whether Donald Trump colluded with Russia to try to fix the 2016 campaign.

There's zero doubt that Donald Trump colluded with Ukraine in order to try to fix the 2020 election.

BREAKING: Netanyahu Indicted On Multiple Charges

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been indicted on multiple charges, including bribery and breach of trust, related to three cases of corruption and favor trading.

Israel’s attorney general on Thursday formally charged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a series of corruption cases, throwing the country’s paralyzed political system into further disarray and threatening the long-time leader’s grip on power.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit charged Netanyahu with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three different scandals. It is the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister has been charged with a crime. Mandelblit was set to issue a formal statement later Thursday.

Allegations against Netanyahu include suspicions he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of champagne and cigars from billionaire friends, offered to trade favors with a newspaper publisher and used his influence to help a wealthy telecom magnate in exchange for favorable coverage on a popular news site.

The indictment does not require Netanyahu to resign but is expected to raise pressure on him to step down.

I'd have to say he's done, especially due to his inability to form a government because of the pending charges.  Now that those pending charges are no longer pending, the calls for his resignation will hopefully be too much for him to survive politically.

And let's keep in mind this is a straight-up bribery case: Netanyahu is being charged with personally taking goods and services of value in exchange for political favors.  If this sounds familiar, it's the flip side of what Donald Trump did with Ukrainian President Zelensky, Trump offered a bribe, whereas Netanyahu is the one on the receiving end here.

I'm sure since Republicans tell us Donald Trump is so interested in fighting corruption in other countries by crooked leaders, and that Trump has sole discretion to hold up foreign aid to countries who are not meeting high standards of conduct, that a Prime Minister indicted for bribery would be cause to freeze all foreign aid to Israel, right?


Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

As bad as yesterday's impeachment hearings were for Trump between EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland directly implicating him in bribing Ukrainian President Zelensky with military aid and Pentagon aide Laura Cooper and State Department aide David Hale saying Ukraine was aware of Trump holding back military assistance far earlier than previously known, it's about to get magnitudes worse for him as indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas is now fully ready to rat Trump out.  Well, ratting out Trump and House Intelligence GOP ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, too.

Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, helped arrange meetings and calls in Europe for Rep. Devin Nunes in 2018, Parnas’ lawyer Ed MacMahon told The Daily Beast.

Nunes aide Derek Harvey participated in the meetings, the lawyer said, which were arranged to help Nunes’ investigative work. MacMahon didn’t specify what those investigations entailed.

Nunes is the top Republican on the House committee handling the impeachment hearings—hearings where Parnas’s name has repeatedly come up.

Congressional records show Nunes traveled to Europe from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, 2018. Three of his aides—Harvey, Scott Glabe, and George Pappas—traveled with him, per the records. U.S. government funds paid for the group’s four-day trip, which cost just over $63,000.

The travel came as Nunes, in his role on the House Intelligence Committee, was working to investigate the origins of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election meddling.

Parnas’ assistance to Nunes’ team has not been previously reported. A spokesperson for Nunes did not respond to requests for comment.

I would pay to have Parnas just melt Nunes's face on national television.  And we may very well get the chance.

Nunes has been at the center of the broader story about foreign influence in President Donald Trump’s Washington. When Congressional investigators began probing Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, Nunes made a late-night visit to the White House and announced the next day he’d found evidence of egregious wrongdoing by Intelligence Community officials. The move appeared to be an effort to corroborate a presidential tweet claiming that Obama wiretapped Trump tower. Nunes then stepped back from the committee’s work scrutinizing Russian efforts. Instead, he ran a parallel probe looking at the origins of Mueller’s Russia probe. The undertaking made him a hero to the president and Sean Hannity, and a bĂȘte noire of Democrats and Intelligence Community officials. That work was still underway when he traveled to Europe in 2018.
Last month, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York charged Parnas and Fruman with illegally moving money from foreign donors to American political campaigns. Both men maintain their innocence.

“Contrary to many aspersions in the press to date, Lev Parnas is a proud United States citizen, who has lived here since he was four years old,” said Joseph Bondy, an attorney on his legal team.

“Raised in Brooklyn, and now living in Florida, Mr. Parnas is happily married with six children—five living at home—and a zeal for America and its democratic values. At all times throughout, he has believed that what he was doing was furtherance of the President’s and thus our national interests. President Trump’s recent and regrettable disavowal of Mr. Parnas has caused him to rethink his involvement and the true reasons for his having been recruited to participate in the President’s activities. Mr. Parnas is prepared to testify completely and accurately about his involvement in the President and Rudy Giuliani’s quid pro quo demands of Ukraine.”
When Nunes traveled to Europe in 2018, Giuliani—who is Trump’s personal attorney—was working to oust Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch from her post in Kyiv. The Justice Department indictment of Parnas and Fruman alleges they illegally moved money into American elections to “advance the political interests of... a Ukrainian government official who sought the dismissal of the U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine.”

Parnas, if he sings like I hope he will, is the person sending Trump to prison (even more than Sondland).  Nunes too.  Hell, a whole lot of Republicans.

If Trump had a bad morning with Sondland, the thought of Parnas dropping a dime on him should have him back at Walter Reed by this weekend.


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