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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

People who lie a lot also tend to whine a lot, particularly when their prevarications are exposed. As a presidential candidate, Mitt Romney gives the impression of never having been in a fair fight. He’s remarkably thin-skinned for somebody in public life.

Everybody expects politicians to embellish the truth, but Romney’s epic misrepresentations continue to astonish. Yet he appears flabbergasted that anybody’s allowed to talk back. Why, my dear fellow, it simply isn’t done.

Maybe this works in the executive suites and country clubs where Romney’s spent his life. But it’s a dubious strategy in an American presidential campaign. Regarding his taxes, for example, Romney could easily quell suspicion that he’s hiding something politically disqualifying. Release five years’ worth of returns (half the number President Obama’s put on the record), and move on.

Instead, he essentially demands that voters take his gentleman’s word that he’s never paid less than (a meager) 13% in taxes. However, his recent statement didn’t specify “federal income taxes,” a significant omission for somebody who made his fortune manipulating the tax code. If Romney’s arrived at the 13% figure by combining state, local, sales, excise, as well as real estate taxes on his several mansions, voters deserve to know.

Reporters should also ask, straight up, if Romney took advantage of the IRS’s 2009 one-time amnesty for money hidden in foreign bank accounts.

Yes or no?

But Romney’s taxes are trivial compared to the ugly falsehoods his campaign’s spreading about Medicare—sowing fear and division among seniors in a transparent attempt to divert attention from his and Paul Ryan’s plan to “save” the program by turning it from a guaranteed insurance benefit to a privatized voucher system.

Here’s the script of a new TV ad the Romney campaign’s running:

“You paid in to Medicare for years. Every paycheck. Now, when you need it, Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare. Why? To pay for Obamacare. So now the money you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program that’s not for you.”

Got that? Your benefits, paid for by your Medicare taxes, are supposedly being taken away and given to others. In case that’s too subtle, Romney himself has said “there’s only one president that I know of in history that has robbed Medicare.” He told an audience in Ohio that Obama “has taken $716 billion out of the Medicare trust fund. He’s raided that trust fund.”

And do you know what he did with it? He used it to pay for Obamacare, a risky, unproven, federal takeover of health care.”

On “Meet the Press,” Republican National Committee chairman Rience Priebus declared that “This president stole…$700 billion from Medicare to fund Obamacare. If any person in this entire debate has blood on their hands in regard to Medicare, it’s Barack Obama.”

Robbed, stole, raided, blood on his hands.

Then who IS Obamacare for, if not for you and yours?

A recent letter to my local newspaper spelled out what Romney’s too tasteful to say: “obese, lay-about, cigarette-smoking, drug-taking, welfare-sucking, emergency-room-visiting no-accounts…[who] expect the government to provide them everything for free.”

That’s right, THEM.

THEY are getting YOUR benefits.

Of course Romney’s smart enough to understand what the letter writer clearly doesn’t, which is that YOU’VE ALWAYS PAID for others’ medical care in the most wasteful, inefficient way possible. No matter who’s elected, you’ll keep paying until Congress passes a law saying hospitals can refuse sick and injured patients who can’t pay. Which would not only be immoral, but a public health menace.

That’s why Massachusetts has “Romneycare,” the only worthwhile accomplishment of Mitt’s public career, which he now wants people to forget.

Romney’s also smart enough to know that not a single dime has been robbed, stolen or otherwise removed from the Medicare trust fund. Indeed, its life has been extended. Nobody’s benefits have been altered in any way.

That’s a lie so craven and demagogic you’d think even Mitt Romney would be embarrassed.

What the Affordable Care Act does do is something conservatives have long clamored for: It cuts, not benefits, but Medicare’s future costs by roughly 10% (or $700 billion) over a ten year period by A.) Reducing corporate subsidies to insurance companies administering Medicare Advantage plans, and B.) Slowing the rate of growth in payments to hospitals.

Furthermore, the health care industry agreed to these changes during negotiations over the new law: Insurance companies because they’re gaining millions of new customers; hospitals because Obamacare virtually eliminates their huge problem of non-paying patients.

Got that? Because almost everybody will have health insurance under Obamacare, hospitals, private insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid alike can quit robbing Peter to pay Paul, effecting significant savings.

These economies are in your interest whether you’re a Medicare beneficiary or not.

That is, if you’re clear-eyed enough to see through the Republican candidate’s shameless falsehoods.

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  • 1.Why did Trump choose to hide certain specific files and not others at Mar-a-Lago? What were the criteria that Trump used to keep some files concealed and not others? Who selected those files? Did Trump consult or direct anyone in his selection of secret files? Trump was notorious for being too impatient to read his briefing papers, even after they had been drastically shortened and simplified. Is there the slightest evidence that he spirited these papers away so that he could consult or study them? Who besides Trump knew of the presence of the files he had concealed at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 2. Mar-a-Lago has an infamous reputation for being open to penetration even by foreign spies. In 2019, the FBI arrested a Chinese woman who had entered the property with electronic devices. She was convicted of trespassing, lying to the Secret Service, and sentenced and served eight-months in a federal prison, before being deported to China. Have other individuals with possible links to foreign intelligence operations been present at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 3. Did members of Trump's Secret Service detail have knowledge of his secret storage of the files at Mar-a-Lago? What was the relationship of the Secret Service detail to the FBI? Did the Secret Service, or any agent, disclose information about the files to the FBI?
  • 4. Trump's designated representatives to the National Archives are Kash Patel and John Solomon, co-conspirators in the investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election of 2016, the Ukraine missiles-for-political dirt scandal that led to the first impeachment in 2019, and the coup of 2020. Neither has any professional background in handling archival materials. Patel, a die-hard Trump loyalist whose last job in the administration was as chief of staff to the Acting Secretary of Defense, was supposedly involved in Trump’s “declassification” of some files. Patel has stated, “Trump declassified whole sets of materials in anticipation of leaving government that he thought the American public should have the right to read themselves."
  • The White House counsel failed to generate the paperwork to change the classification markings, but that doesn’t mean the information wasn’t declassified.” If Pat Cipollone, the White House legal counsel, did not “generate the paperwork,” was he or anyone on his staff aware at all of the declassifications? The White House Staff Secretary Derek Lyons resigned his post in December 2020. Did his successor, who held the position for a month, while Trump was consumed with plotting his coup, ever review the material found in Trump’s concealed files for declassification? Or did Patel review the material? Can Patel name any individual who properly reviewed the supposed declassification?
  • 5. Why did Trump keep his pardon of Roger Stone among his secret files? Was it somehow to maintain leverage over Stone? What would that leverage be? Would it involve Stone's role as a conduit with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers during the coup? Or is there another pardon in Trump’s files for Stone, a secret pardon for his activities in the January 6th insurrection? Because of the sweeping nature of the pardon clause, pardons can remain undisclosed (until needed). Pardons are self-executing, require no justification and are not subject to court review beyond the fact of their timely execution. In other words, a court may verify the pardon was valid in time but has no power to review appropriateness. A pardon could even be oral but would need to be verifiable by a witness. Do the files contain secret pardons for Trump himself, members of his family, members of the Congress, and other co-conspirators?
  • 6.Was the FBI warrant obtained to block the imminent circulation or sale of information in the files to foreign powers? Does the affidavit of the informant at Mar-a-Lago, which has not been released, provide information about Trump’s monetization that required urgency in executing the warrant? Did Trump monetize information in any of the files? How? With whom? Any foreign power or entity? Was the Saudi payment from its sovereign wealth fund for the LIV Golf Tournament at Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club for a service that Trump rendered, an exchange of anything of value or information that was in the files? If it involved information in the files was it about nuclear programs? Was it about the nuclear program of Israel? How much exactly was the Saudi payment for the golf tournament? The Saudi sovereign wealth fund gave Jared Kushner and former Trump Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin $2 billion for their startup hedge fund, Affinity Partners. Do the Saudis regard that investment as partial payment for Trump’s transfer of nuclear information? Were Kushner or Mnuchin aware of the secret files at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 7.Did Trump destroy any of the files? If so, when? Did those files contain incriminating information? Did he destroy any files after he received the June subpoena?
  • 8.Were any of the secrets of our allies compromised? Has the U.S. government provided an inventory of breaches or potential breaches to our allies?
  • 9.Does the resort maintain a copying machine near the classified documents that Trump hid? Were any of the documents copied or scanned? Are Trump’s documents at Mar-a-Lago originals or copies? Were any copies shown or given to anyone?
  • 10.Trump’s lawyer Christina Bobb has revealed that a video surveillance system covers the places where Trump hid the files at Mar-a-Lago, and that the system is connected to a system at his other residences at the Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey and Trump Tower in New York City. According to Bobb, Trump and members of his family observed the FBI search and seizure of his files at Mar-a-Lago, “actually able to see the whole thing” through their surveillance system. Who has that surveillance system recorded entering the rooms where the files were kept?

Kevin Bacon, right, in "The Following"

The aftermath of the August 8, 2022 search of the Mar-a-Lago club, former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, isn’t the first showdown between the FBI and a cult leader.

The Following, a 2013 Fox Pictures series, played out in similar fashion. Three seasons was enough for the producers and it’s been nine years since our introduction to Joe Carroll, English professor-novelist-serial killer, so there’s a spoiler risk -- but not enough to prevent the comparison.

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