Saturday, January 30, 2021

Last Call For Orange Meltdown, Con't

The wheels of justice are grinding slowly, but grind on they are as Private Citizen Trump now faces a New York state judge's order to turn over documents to Attorney General Tish James's office.

A New York judge on Friday increased pressure on former President Donald J. Trump’s family business and several associates, ordering them to give state investigators documents in a civil inquiry into whether the company misstated assets to get bank loans and tax benefits.

It was the second blow that the judge, Arthur F. Engoron of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, had dealt to Mr. Trump’s company in recent weeks.

In December, he ordered the company, the Trump Organization, to produce records that its lawyers had tried to shield, including some related to a Westchester County, N.Y., property that is among those being scrutinized by the New York State attorney general, Letitia James.

On Friday, Justice Engoron went further, saying that even more documents, as well as communications with a law firm hired by the Trump Organization, had to be handed over to Ms. James’s office. In doing so, he rejected the lawyers’ claim that the documents at issue were covered by attorney-client privilege.

The ruling was a fresh reminder that Mr. Trump — who left office about a week ago under the cloud of impeachment and who is headed for a Senate trial on a charge of “incitement of insurrection” after his supporters stormed the Capitol in a violent rampage — faces significant legal jeopardy as a private citizen.

The most serious threats confronting the former president include a criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney and the civil inquiry by the attorney general into possible fraud in Mr. Trump’s business dealings before he was elected.

Ms. James’s investigation began in March 2019, after Michael D. Cohen, the former president’s onetime lawyer, told Congress that Mr. Trump had inflated his assets in financial statements to secure bank loans and understated them elsewhere to reduce his tax bill.

Investigators in Ms. James’s office have focused their attention on an array of transactions, including a financial restructuring of the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago in 2010 that resulted in the Fortress Credit Corporation forgiving debt worth more than $100 million.

Ms. James’s office has said in court documents that the Trump Organization — Mr. Trump’s main business vehicle — had thwarted efforts to determine how that money was reflected in its tax filings, and whether it was declared as income, as the law typically requires
I'm glad that Tish James isn't afraid of Trump or his army of cultists -- you don't rise to New York AG without being willing to take on massive white collar criminal enterprises like the Trump Organization -- but I do fear for her people and for James herself.
We already know Trump cultists are willing to kill for their leader. If Trump is ever actually indicted and perp-walked into a Manhattan precinct, it won't go well I'm thinking, and I have no idea how many nutjobs Trump has inside James's office or among the NYPD, but it's got to be a non-zero number. There are people who will be willing to go after James for him.

Still, the investigation moves on. If James is still getting documents, it may be some time before Trump is charged, and that may be the point.

Big Effin' Family Matters

Needing a scandal to pin on the Biden administration, Team WIN THE MORNING has now declared open season on Vice President Kamala Harris's niece, Meena Harris, all but accusing her of trading on the Harris name just like Trump's family did, daring the Biden administration to respond.

“The Vice President and her family will uphold the highest ethical standards and it’s the White House’s policy that the Vice President's name should not be used in connection with any commercial activities that could reasonably be understood to imply an endorsement or support,” SABRINA SINGH, a spokesperson for the vice president, said in a statement.

But the policy has been trickier to enforce with Meena than some other family members, given how much Kamala’s image is intertwined with her business projects.

After Biden was officially declared the winner last November, transition ethics lawyers informed Meena that she could sell the rest of her Kamala-themed apparel but could not restock the items. Phenomenal’s “Kamala Harris Swimsuit,” “phenomenal Kamala Tank,” and “Kamala T-shirt,” that appeared on the site last fall are no longer sold.

“Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea,” which was published in June 2020 before Biden picked Kamala as vice president, poses further ethical knots. White House officials say that Meena would be prohibited from publishing that book now because it uses Kamala’s name in the title and her likeness on the cover, which is a drawing of a younger Kamala with MAYA HARRIS, Meena’s mother.

The book doesn’t violate the White House’s policies because she published it before Kamala became vice president, they say. It’s not clear if Meena continuing to accept royalties on the book is permitted, however. Asked if she is still accepting royalties, Meena did not comment.

In a statement, she said that “throughout the primary campaign, general election, and thus far in the administration, I have gone above and beyond to uphold legal and ethical standards.”

As Meena tries to follow the letter of the law, some Biden officials have long been worried about her following the spirit of the rules.
It's not just Harris's family getting these warnings, it's coming directly from President Biden for his own family as well.
In the midst of his campaign for president, Joe Biden took his younger brother, Frank, aside to issue a warning.

“For Christ’s sake, watch yourself,” Biden said of his brother’s potential business dealings, according to a person with knowledge of the conversation. “Don’t get sucked into something that would, first of all, hurt you.”

Biden, whose tone was both “jocular and serious,” according to the person, seemed to know then what is becoming plainly obvious now: His family’s business ties threatened to undermine an administration whose messaging is centered on restoring integrity in the White House.

Relatives’ money-making ventures, most prominently his son Hunter’s overseas dealings, have long dogged Biden. But it's taking on a new dimension now that he's in the White House.

Only a week into his presidency, Biden already has had to answer for matters related to his family. A law firm ad promoting Frank Biden’s relationship with the president caused a stir when it ran on Inauguration Day. A federal investigation into Biden’s son, Hunter, has invited scrutiny of just how strict a firewall he’ll keep between the White House and the Justice Department. And another of the president’s brothers, James, has previously come under fire for his business dealings.


Unfair as this all is, expect a lot more of this in the weeks and months ahead. And should Republicans win the House or Senate back in 2022, absolutely expect Hunter Biden and Meena Harris to be dragged up in front of angry GOP congressional grilling for hours, if not days.

Cuomo's COVID Conundrum

The mark of a fair, impartial, and solid Attorney General is a willingness to investigate without bias or favor, and while New York AG Tish James is definitely looking into DOnald Trump and the corrupt Trump Organization, she's also looking into Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's possible coverup of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.

The New York Department of Health underreported Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%, according to a new report published Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The 76-page report comes after a months-long investigation by the attorney general’s office into allegations that nursing homes failed to follow coronavirus safety protocols. Her office was also investigating discrepancies between the number of nursing home deaths reported by the state’s department of health and the number of deaths reported by the facilities themselves.

The investigation found that the number of Covid deaths among nursing home residents in some facilities rose by more than 50% when residents who died in the hospital are counted. The state’s official Covid-19 death toll in nursing homes, which stands at more than 8,700, excludes patients who died after being transported to a hospital.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has faced criticism for failing to disclose the total number of nursing-home residents who have died of Covid-19. In her sweeping report, James, also a Democrat, found that “many nursing home residents died from Covid-19 in hospitals after being transferred from their nursing homes, which is not reflected in D.O.H.’s published total nursing home death data.”

Representatives for Cuomo did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the findings.

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement Thursday evening that the state’s department of health has clearly and separately reported Covid-19 fatalities that occurred in nursing homes and in hospitals.

“DOH has consistently made clear that our numbers are reported based on the place of death,” he said in a statement. “DOH does not disagree that the number of people transferred from a nursing home to a hospital is an important data point, and is in the midst of auditing this data from nursing homes.”

He added that the audit of the available data is still ongoing, but preliminary findings show that at least 9,700 skilled nursing facility residents have died of Covid-19 in New York, including more than 3,800 deaths inside hospitals.

He added that the confusion over how to record Covid-19 deaths was caused by the Trump administration, which he said failed to provide adequate guidance to states.

The attorney general’s findings put her directly at odds with the governor, who has often boasted about the state’s response to the coronavirus. Cuomo has also brushed off criticism of a health department policy that directed nursing homes to accept residents who had tested positive for the coronavirus. The governor has repeatedly defended his administration’s response to the pandemic, saying that the state was poorly supported by an inept federal government caught off guard by the import of the virus
It's important to note that the AG's report doesn't openly accuse Cuomo's office of wrongdoing, but it does accuse of him of misrepresenting the numbers, and that's something Cuomo must be made to answer for. If the answer is "Because the Trump regime's reporting requirements were batshit crazy" that's one thing, but if it's not, then we have a serious problem on our hands.
We'll see where this goes, but it's important to remember Cuomo's now on his third term as Governor and he has no small amount of power. He won't have to face voters until 2023 should he decide to run for a fourth, as New York famously doesn't have term limits for Governor.

The Fast Train To Fascism

Vox's Sean Illing talks with Yale Professor Jason Stanley, author of How Fascism Works, about what constitutes fascism and why the Trump regime has shown all the signs of a proto-fascism movement that will be with us for a very long time.

Sean Illing

The conventional view of fascism is that it’s either an ideology or a type of government, but you see it a little differently, right? 
Jason Stanley

It’s not helpful to think of fascism as a regime type, and it’s not helpful to think of it as a set of coherent beliefs. Fascism is usually a cult of the leader who promises national restoration in the face of supposed humiliation by immigrants, minorities, and leftists. Fascism takes many different forms in different countries, however. The Ku Klux Klan in the United States has long been regarded as the first functionally fascist organization by scholars like Robert O. Paxton.

I prefer to talk about fascist forces following Toni Morrison in a speech she gave at Howard University called “Racism and Fascism” in 1995. And what she says is that the United States has often preferred fascist solutions to its political problems. Now, what does she mean by that? Well, in that speech, she’s discussing the incarceration system that the United States had developed post-Nixon, after the civil rights movement, essentially to disenfranchise Black citizens. And the “fascist forces” were basically a system that relied on a massive militarized police for enforcement. 
Sean Illing

She’s describing a “fascist system” that exists within a larger democratic system
Jason Stanley

You can have a regime that’s a democracy and economic system that’s capitalist, but if you have massive racial injustice and massive inequality, then you’re going to have fascist social and political forces. You’re going to need a militarized police force to deal with potential uprisings from its impoverished minority neighborhoods that protect its fancy neighborhoods.

So we need to think about fascist social and political movements and fascist tactics, and then all of the background conditions that make these tactics effective. And that’s when you have to worry about a fascist leader emerging who has a kind of relationship with his followers where he can tell them that the minorities are rising up against you, that the immigrants are flooding the gates, that the elites have failed you — and that’s how the leader creates a bond with his supporters.

When this dynamic emerges, that’s when you have to worry about the formation of an actual fascist regime. 
Sean Illing

The racism component is easy enough to understand, since fascism feeds on us-them tribalism, but why is nostalgia so central to every fascist movement
Jason Stanley

If you have a dominant group that feels it was robbed of a glorious past, that feels it has to be ashamed of its glorious past, that is often the source of the most committed fascist movements. Nostalgia is an emotion. If you’re feeling anxious and somebody can convince you that your anxiety and fear and instability is due to the fact that you’ve lost something, that something was taken from you, and that you once got respect for, say, just being a white guy or just being a Hindu man, that’s powerful.

During Black Reconstruction, the famous sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois called this the psychological wages of whiteness. He was describing this extra wage you got just for being white in America, the sense that you were special and legitimate, and that was tied to this belief that you were constantly surrounded by illegitimate citizens. That conjures up a sense of loss and anxiety and a belief in a prideful past that had disappeared. And the fascist leader promises to restore that past, to restore that pride. 
Sean Illing

That’s what makes Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan such a perfect distillation of the fascist pitch. Your colleague at Yale, Timothy Snyder, calls this “the politics of eternity,” and it’s worth describing because it captures the toxic power of nostalgia.

Politics is supposed to be about striving for better policies today so that our lives can be improved tomorrow, but Trump reverses this. He anchors his discourse to a mythological past, so that voters are thinking less about the future and more about what they think they lost. It wasn’t about passing legislation or improving lives. Instead, he defined problems in such a way that they could never be solved. We can’t go back in time. We can’t retrieve some lost golden age. So his voters were always condemned to live in disappointment, which keeps that wheel of resentment spinning.
Jason Stanley

Jonathan Metzl’s book Dying of Whiteness is really good on this idea that people crave to see their opponents punished in fascist politics. Timothy Snyder calls this sadopopulism. States like West Virginia or Kansas or Tennessee, to take just a few examples, reject billions of dollars from the federal government to expand Medicaid. They cut taxes for the wealthy to destroy their public schools. All of this harms the very white people who are voting. And they’re doing it, interview after interview shows, because they believe that Medicaid expansion would help Black people, or what they consider the undeserved.

So this kind of politics, that revenge and retribution for stealing your past, is far more important than material benefits to yourself. This is the heart of fascist politics. 
Sean Illing

It’s the ultimate fascist hoodwink, right? You inflame grievances while at the same time reinforcing the conditions that brought about those grievances in the first place. 
Jason Stanley

Once you realize that American fascism is inherently connected to race, creating a toxic nostalgia about an America where Black and brown folk are responsible for the country's problems, and that being white is the "best" possible outcome in American society and that status must be defended at all costs, then you understand what MAGA is, why it's so seductive, and why people are willing to fight, die, and kill for it.
The next fascist leader already has a train and tracks ready to go for the trip to hell. 

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