Thursday, June 11, 2020

Last Call For Mnuchin's Lootin' And Scootin'

So where's the accountability on the two-thirds of a trillion dollars of Treasury Department CARES/PPP loans? We'll never have it, and you're an awful person for asking, because Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin says nobody in America needs to know who got what.

Federal officials responsible for spending $660 billion in taxpayer-backed small-business assistance said Wednesday that they will not disclose amounts or recipients of subsidized loans, backtracking on an earlier commitment to release individual loan data.

The Small Business Administration has previously released detailed loan information dating to 1991 for the federal 7(a) program, a long-standing small-business loan program on which the larger Paycheck Protection Program is based.

The SBA initially intended to publish similar information for the new coronavirus-related loans. An SBA spokesman told The Washington Post in an April 16 email that the agency “intend[s] to post individual loan data in accordance with the information presently on the website after the loan process has been completed,” and it made a similar commitment in response to an April 17 open records request.

But the administration appeared to change course at a hearing Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza declined to discuss specific borrowers.

“As it relates to the names and amounts of specific PPP loans, we believe that that’s proprietary information, and in many cases for sole proprietors and small businesses, it is confidential information,” Mnuchin said in the hearing. “The reason why we’re not disclosing the names and amounts, unlike in the 7(a) program, is because of that issue.”

The Post is among 11 news organizations suing the SBA for access to records on loan recipients, amounts of loans and other basic information the agency has previously released. In response to questions from The Post on Wednesday, a Treasury Department spokesman said that disclosing “loan-level data” would risk the confidential business information of loan recipients.

So this will be tied up in the courts for years most likely, and while there's a chance we may know, the Trump regime will simply run out the clock by running to SCOTUS.  The only way we'll ever find out is if Joe Biden wins in November.

Keep that in mind.  Otherwise, the Trumpies get away with literally stealing hundreds of billions of dollars.

Retribution Execution, Con't

The Trump regime continues to declare war on international bodies and Trump refuses to hold anyone accountable for international crimes in his regime, let alone allow international organizations to investigate.  Trump turned up the heat this week by authorizing sanctions and travel bans on International Criminal Court employees as the ICC keeps on attempting and failing to try to investigate the US over war crimes in Afghanistan.

President Donald Trump lobbed a broadside attack Thursday against the International Criminal Court by authorizing economic sanctions and travel restrictions against court workers involved in investigating American troops and intelligence officials and those of allied nations, including Israel, for possible war crimes in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Trump’s executive order marked his administration’s latest attack against international organizations, treaties and agreements that don’t hew to its policies. It would block the financial assets of court employees and bar those employees and their immediate relatives from entering the United States.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced The Hague-based tribunal as a “kangaroo court” that has been unsuccessful and inefficient in its mandate to prosecute war crimes. He said that the U.S. would punish the ICC employees for any investigation or prosecution of Americans in Afghanistan and added that they could also be banned for prosecuting Israelis for alleged abuses against Palestinians.

Pompeo’s comments were echoed by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Attorney General Wiliiam Barr and national security adviser Robert O’Brien, who spoke at a State Department announcement of the new measures. Barr also announced that the U.S. would investigate possible corruption within the ICC hierarchy that he said raised suspicions that Russia and other adversaries could be interfering in the investigatory process.

None of the four men took questions from reporters at the event.

The Hague-based court was created in 2002 to prosecute war crimes and crimes of humanity and genocide in areas where perpetrators might not otherwise face justice. It has 123 state parties that recognize its jurisdiction.

Human rights groups deplored the Trump administration’s move.

“The Trump administration’s latest action paves the way for imposing sanctions against ICC officials and demonstrates contempt for the global rule of law,” said Andrea Prasow, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch. “This assault on the ICC is an effort to block victims of serious crimes whether in Afghanistan, Israel or Palestine from seeing justice. Countries that support international justice should publicly oppose this blatant attempt at obstruction.”

The US has ignored the ICC since its creation, Bush and Obama refused to recognize any authority the ICC may have, but they didn't threaten employees. Trump on the other hand looks like he's making good on Pence's threat to expel ICC employees and basically destroy the organization's funding with economic sanctions.

The EU is concerned of course, but nothing will happen in the long run.  Even if Trump is defeated, I surely don't expect Biden to join the ICC and even if he tried, Senate Republicans would block any attempt to ratify joining.

Investigating the US for war crimes will never happen.  Not in my lifetime.

Lowering The Barr, Con't

The outside judge that Judge Emmet Sullivan asked to take a look at Justice Department's obviously corrupt request to drop all charges against Michael Flynn has come back with a blistering report that nails Flynn for perjury and all but concludes that Attorney General Bill Barr must resign.

Michael Flynn committed perjury, and his guilty plea of lying to the FBI should not be dismissed, a court-appointed adviser argued to a federal judge Wednesday, calling the Justice Department’s attempt to undo the conviction corrupt, politically motivated and “a gross abuse of prosecutorial power.”

In a formal briefing to the judge overseeing Flynn’s case, former New York federal judge John Gleeson said Flynn’s guilt “could hardly be more provable.” He issued a sharp rebuke of the Justice Department’s move to abandon the long-running case and called out President Trump for refusing to accept “settled foundational norms of prosecutorial independence.”

“The Government has engaged in highly irregular conduct to benefit a political ally of the President,” Gleeson wrote in an 82-page brief to U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan.

Gleeson argued that though Flynn committed perjury by first admitting under oath to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts and then seeking to rescind his guilty plea, Trump’s former national security adviser should not face a contempt hearing but instead be punished as part of his sentence.

“Flynn has indeed committed perjury in these proceedings, for which he deserves punishment, and the Court has the authority to initiate a prosecution for that crime,” Gleeson wrote. However, Gleeson said, moving Flynn’s case to sentencing “— rather than a separate prosecution for perjury or contempt — aligns with the Court’s intent to treat this case, and this Defendant, in the same way it would any other.”

Sullivan has paused Flynn’s case to hear from outside groups and appointed Gleeson to argue against the Justice Department’s May 7 motion to immediately drop its prosecution of the retired three-star general. Flynn was the highest-ranking Trump adviser convicted in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Sullivan has set a July 16 hearing to weigh the unusual request, which came after Attorney General William P. Barr ordered a review of Flynn’s case. In the Justice Department’s motion, which is supported by Flynn and prompted a career department prosecutor to quit the case, the agency said it concluded that Flynn’s January 2017 FBI interview was unjustified. The Justice Department also said the interview was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis,” so any lies Flynn told about his contacts with Russia and other foreign governments were immaterial to any crime.

The department cited newly uncovered FBI records showing the bureau had decided to close a counterintelligence investigation of Flynn before learning of his calls with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The Justice Department said FBI officials also knew that the calls probably did not give rise to a crime by themselves and differed over how to handle or interpret his actions.

 It won't matter much in the end, either way, Flynn will be pardoned if Sullivan refuses to drop the charges. But it does matter that we still have a judicial interested in preserving the rule of law, if only to serve as an example as to what is at stake in November.


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