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Tag: trump scandals

Trump Kids, Mnuchin Cost Taxpayers $1.7M For Secret Service Protection In 2021

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Former President Donald Trump's executive order requiring the U.S. Secret Service to continue guarding his children and key members within his administration comes with a hefty price tag: $1.7 million, according to the Washington Post.

Post-presidential Secret Service protection is typically reserved for former presidents, first ladies, and their children up to the age of 16. However, Trump has gone a step further expanding that privilege to his adult children, their spouses, and some former members of his administration including former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former national security adviser Robert O'Brien. Their Secret Service detail was set to last for the entire first six months out of office.

The publication reports that Secret Service accumulated the seven-figure bill tailing the former president's ultra-wealthy adult children. Agents accompanied them to "ski vacations, weekend houses, a resort in Cabo San Lucas, and business trips abroad," the Post noted.

"Who wouldn't enjoy continuing their free limo service and easy access to restaurant tables?" asked Jim Helminski, a former Secret Service executive. "Even if there was a credible risk to family and associates of Trump, these people are now private citizens who can afford to hire ... private security firms for their personal protection," he told the Post.

Out of all the expenses, it is being reported that Mnuchin racked up the most. Citing government spending records, the Post reported the highest expenses came from Mnuchin's trips to Israel and Los Angeles. A total of $52,000 was spent to trail Mnuchin to Israel while another six figure bill was accumulated when he traveled to Los Angeles.

The publication reports: "Mnuchin's total Secret Service tab hit $479,000, and included $114,000 for rooms at a W Hotel in Los Angeles."

Although Mnuchin claims he never asked for protection, he also had the option to turn the Service down; something he did not do.

Why The Press Urged Cuomo To Resign — But Not Trump

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Rushing in to inform readers that in the wake of damning investigation into his history of sexual harassment, New York's Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is no longer suited for office, the New York Times editorial page waited barely 24 hours to reach its sweeping conclusion — "Governor Cuomo, You Should Resign." [EDITOR'S NOTE: Cuomo offered his resignation on August 10.]

"Regardless of what may happen in a court of law, the governor has only one conscionable option left: He should resign," the Times announced. "If Mr. Cuomo cares for the well-being of the state and its citizens as much as he has said he does over the years, he needs to do the right thing and step down."

The Times was unequivocal. What made the clarion call so jarring was it came from the same editorial page that refused for four years to demand Trump resign from office — to conclude, as they did regarding Cuomo, that stepping down remained Trump's "only conscionable option left," and urging him to do the "right thing."

Trump ran a criminal enterprise out of the White House, which everyone at the Times understood, and still the paper could not summon the courage to call for his resignation. Yet the Times sprinted into action in order to insist a Democrat step down? The contrast is stunning even if you agree, as so many Democrats did, that Cuomo had to leave office.

What explains the radically different standards the Times uses for announcing sitting Republican and Democratic office holders are no longer fit to serve? How does the Times, after refusing to weigh in on Trump's fitness for office for four years, announce Cuomo must resign less than a day after the results of the New York investigation was announced?

Here's the larger context: The media love to call for the resignation of Democrats. Republicans though, not so much.

In the 1990's, dozens of major newspapers loudly demanded a Democratic president step down for the good of the country. That president's sin? He lied about an extramarital affair.

"He should resign because he has resolutely failed — and continues to fail — the most fundamental test of any president: to put his nation's interests first," USA Today announced unequivocally of Bill Clinton in September 1998. "Bill Clinton should resign,'" echoed the Philadelphia Inquirer. "He should resign because his repeated, reckless deceits have dishonored his presidency beyond repair."

When Republicans tried to drive a Democratic president from office for lying about his personal life, media elites couldn't wait to tell Clinton to get lost. (None of those same papers told Trump to do the same thing.)

To be clear, the Times was not one of the dailies that demanded Clinton resign, so they managed to avoid that glaring hypocrisy. Still, we see a clear pattern in terms of media resignation calls made for Clinton and Cuomo, and crickets for Trump.

It's not like the Times didn't have endless, obvious opportunities to demand that Trump step down. Most recently, it would have been for the blood-thirsty mob he incited on January 6 after trying to use all levers of the government to overthrow a free and fair election last November. For trying to engineer a coup, plain and simple.

Or last year, when Trump refused to protect America from the Covid-19 virus invasion, and then made America's pandemic response worse every day by constantly lying to the public about science.

"Any CEO who was deemed responsible for allowing a massive tragedy to unfold would be immediately called upon to resign or be fired, even if he or she were six months from retirement," noted former Clinton White House spokesman Joe Lockhart in a CNN column last summer, shaming newspapers for remaining silent regarding Trump's much-needed departure.

Or in 2019, when Trump openly colluded with a foreign government to dig up dirt on his political opponent, while offering up the assistance of the Department of Justice. He hid transcripts of presidential calls on secret servers in hopes of covering up the collusion, and publicly threatened to expose the crucial whistleblower, insinuating that he or she should be executed. He's also urged that a Democratic member of Congress be arrested for treason.

Or the Times should have insisted Trump leave office based on his chronically deranged behavior, which made him categorically unfit to serve, such as being a habitual liar who shredded our public discourse. Trump also lined his pockets while serving. He coddled murderous dictators. Spent his day wallowing in racist attacks, lobbed vicious, personal attacks against the press, and regularly inspired white nationalist gunmen to unleash murderous attacks.

By not taking a public stand, newspaper leaders like those at the Times sent a loud, collective message that what Trump was doing to America did not represent a looming crisis; that the country could easily weather the storm and no drastic action was needed. Note that in 2019, New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet said he didn't really view Trump as being an unprecedented figure in American history, and likened him to Edwin Edwards, a controversial Louisiana Democratic governor from the 1970s and 1980s. (The two men have almost nothing in common.)

It's true that calls for resignation certainly would not have forced Trump from office. They would however, have helped change the national debate and more accurately reflected the crisis our country faced with a tyrannical liar at the helm. And quite simply, the calls would been the right thing to do.

The Times was right in urging Cuomo to resign. Too bad the paper of record failed to make that same obvious demand while Trump was shaming the Oval Office.

New Report Explores Details Of Giuliani Criminal Probe

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani was once a federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York; now, he is facing a criminal investigation from the Southern District. And journalists Asawin Suebsaeng and William Bredderman, in an article published by the Daily Beast, note that federal investigators have "examined documents related to" his consulting firm Giuliani Security & Safety.

"Their interest comes at a time when the feds have ramped up their scrutiny of Giuliani's work, including his Ukraine-related efforts, to determine whether or not the former New York City mayor engaged in unregistered and illegal lobbying on behalf of foreign figures," Suebsaeng and Bredderman explain. "Giuliani has repeatedly denied engaging in any unregistered lobbying or committing any FARA violations, and so far, no charges have been brought against him in this matter."

According to Suebsaeng and Bredderman, it remains unclear "exactly why federal investigators have been taking a look at Giuliani's security and consulting business."

However, the Beast reporters note that during former President Donald Trump's first year in office, Giuliani Security and Safety "was hired by the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv."

"The deal was reportedly the result of the local influence of the Ukrainian-Russian real estate developer Pavel Fuks, an ally of the town's Moscow-friendly mayor," Suebsaeng and Bredderman note. "Fuks was previously engaged in negotiations to construct the never-realized Trump Tower Moscow."

The 77-year-old Giuliani has maintained that none of his Ukraine-related activities fit the definition of foreign lobbying.

"Giuliani has insisted that the work in Ukraine was all done on behalf of his client, then-President Donald Trump, and therefore, could not have been part of a foreign lobbying effort," Suebsaeng and Bredderman observe. "The extension of the federal investigation into Giuliani Security & Safety, with its numerous foreign clients, could complicate that assertion."

Giuliani launched Giuliani Partners in January 2002 not long after his second term as mayor of New York City had ended and Michael Bloomberg, elected in 2001, had taken over the position. And ten months later, Giuliani Security and Safety was launched as a Giuliani Partners subsidiary.

More recently, Giuliani has been a staunch ally of Trump. After Trump lost the 2020 election to now-President Joe Biden by more than seven million votes, Giuliani promoted Trump's false and debunked claim that he was the real winner of the election. But the widespread voter fraud that Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and other Trump attorneys alleged did not occur.

In late April, federal investigators raided Giuliani's home and office, seizing an abundance of electronic devices as part of their investigation.

Trump's Commerce Chief Oversaw Security Unit That Spied On Census Critics

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

During Donald Trump's four years as president, his administration was a revolving door. But one person who was part of the Trump Administration throughout most of his presidency was former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who started in February 2017 and stayed until February 2021. The Department of Commerce, as journalist Shawn Boburg reports in an article published by the Washington Post on May 24, has had an "obscure security unit" that was "tasked with protecting" its "officials and facilities" — and during its Trump/Ross era, according to Boburg, it "evolved into something more akin to a counterintelligence operation that collected information on hundreds of people inside and outside the Department."

According to Boburg, "The Investigations and Threat Management Service (ITMS) covertly searched employees' offices at night, ran broad keyword searches of their e-mails trying to surface signs of foreign influence and scoured Americans' social media for critical comments about the (2020 U.S.) Census, according to documents and interviews with five former investigators. In one instance, the unit opened a case on a 68-year-old retiree in Florida who tweeted that the Census, which is run by the Commerce Department, would be manipulated 'to benefit the Trump Party,' records show."

Boburg adds, "In another example, the unit searched Commerce servers for particular Chinese words, documents show. The search resulted in the monitoring of many Asian-American employees over benign correspondence, according to two former investigators."

John Costello, who formerly served as deputy assistant secretary of intelligence and security for the Commerce Department under the Trump Administration, is highly critical of ITMS — telling the Post that ITMS "has been allowed to operate far outside the bounds of federal law enforcement norms and has created an environment of paranoia and retaliation at the Department."

Bruce Ridlen, a former supervisor, told the Post that the ITMS' tactics make it look as though "someone watched too many 'Mission Impossible' movies."

Ridlen, who left ITMS in October 2020, told the Post, "I chose to resign from my position with ITMS after it became clear there was no authority to perform law enforcement functions. There were no policies in place to outline standards of conduct or to establish parameters for investigative activities, which led to investigative inquiries of U.S. persons over protected free speech found on several social media platforms."

Former Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo was sworn in as commerce secretary under President Joe Biden in early March.

Boburg explains, "(ITMS) has managed to keep a low public profile until now, while pursuing investigations into 'counterintelligence, transnational crime and counterterrorism,' as it described its activities in a 2018 budget document submitted to Congress. Incoming Commerce leaders from the Biden Administration ordered ITMS to pause all criminal investigations on March 10, and on May 13, ordered the suspension of all activities after preliminary results of an ongoing review, according to a statement issued by Department spokeswoman Brittany Caplin. The suspension came two days after the Post presented its findings about the unit to the department and sought interviews."

The statement read, "The current Commerce Department leadership team takes this issue seriously. The Department expects that at the end of the review, it can and will implement a comprehensive solution to the issues raised."

Trump’s Scandal-Plagued Interior Chief Running For Congress

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Less than three years after resigning from Donald Trump's Cabinet in the face of ethics investigations, Ryan Zinke is seeking a comeback, filing on Thursday with the Federal Election Commission to run for Montana's newly created 2nd Congressional District.

Zinke represented Montana's sole at-large House district from 2015 until 2017. A few weeks into his second term, he resigned to become Donald Trump's first secretary of the interior.

On Monday, the Census Bureau announced that due to population changes over the last decade, Montana will have a second Congressional seat on the ballot in next year's midterm elections. Although the state has not yet drawn district maps, Zinke's FEC filing specifies "State is Montana in District: 02."

Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale currently represents all of Montana.

Prior to his current job running a cryptocurrency company, Zinke oversaw the federal agency tasked with protecting and managing the United States' natural resources and cultural heritage.

His term as interior secretary came to an abrupt halt in December 2019, when, according to the Washington Post, he resigned his post days before Trump was set to fire him.

The Interior Department Office of Inspector General had opened multiple ethical probes into Zinke. Among those was an investigation of alleged conflict of interest arising from the involvement of a foundation set up by Zinke and run by his wife in the development of land in Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Montana, by a group funded by David Lesar.

Lesar is the chair of oil services giant Halliburton, which might have benefited from decisions on oil-drilling that would have been made by the Interior Department.

Zinke denied wrongdoing, but in October 2019, the Interior Department's acting inspector general referred the probe to the Justice Department to determine whether a criminal investigation was appropriate.

According to the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Zinke was the subject of 18 separate federal investigations during his first 17 months in Trump's Cabinet.

In his resignation letter, Zinke claimed to have been the victim of "vicious and politically motivated attacks."

He tweeted at the time, "I love working for the President and am incredibly proud of all the good work we've accomplished together. However, after 30 years of public service, I cannot justify spending thousands of dollars defending myself and my family against false allegations."

Zinke spent much of his time at the Department of the Interior pushing an anti-environmental agenda.

He rolled back Obama-era climate protections regulating fracking, limiting methane gas emissions, and ensuring environmental safety from offshore oil drilling. He massively expanded oil and gas leases on public lands. He called for massive budget cuts for his own agency. He pushed to shrink the size of America's national monuments.

In October 2017, the Washington Post reported that he had ordered that the flag of the secretary of the interior be flown over the department's headquarters whenever he was in the building and taken down when he wasn't, a practice with origins in the Navy that wasn't carried out by any other government officials.

A spokesperson for Zinke told the Post the flag-flying was "a major sign of transparency." Retired Army Col. Steven Warren, who had run the Pentagon's press operation, on the other hand, said, "Is he trying to send a message? Is he big on pomp and circumstance, or is this a case of 'Look at me?'"

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Fox News Hires Lara Trump Despite Dog Charity Scandal

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Fox News has hired yet another person extremely close to former President Donald Trump, Lara Trump, despite saying last week she "absolutely" is considering a U.S. Senate run that her father-in-law himself has been promoting.

The Fox & Friends crew welcomed Lara Trump to the "family" Monday morning as a new Fox News contributor, with two of the three co-hosts applauding her.

"I'm so excited to be joining the Fox family," Lara Trump told viewers. "I sort of feel like I've been an unofficial member of the team for so long."

Trump, a former TV producer, worked on both the Trump 2016 and 2020 campaigns in various roles including fundraising.

Trump is fresh off a public relations disaster after news broke she reportedly has been funneling nearly $2 million from a dog rescue non-profit into the Trump resorts, most recently via a fundraiser that may have been the catalyst for shutting parts of Mar-a-Lago down after a coronavirus outbreak.

News organizations and media outlets, even including Fox News, usually immediately part ways with employees who publicly acknowledge they are considering entering politics. It is a stark departure for Fox News to hire someone who just confirmed they are considering a run for the U.S. Senate.

Media Matters' Director of Media Intelligence, Lis Power, weighed in

Watch the announcement:

Nine Hidden Trump Administration Scandals Now Emerging Despite Obstruction

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

In at least nine instances, Donald Trump and his top White House officials aggressively combatted key oversight investigations that government watchdogs were attempting to conduct within the Trump administration, according to reporting by the Washington Post.

Just a couple months into a new administration, some results from those nine impeded probes are starting to come to light. Among the most high profile was the recent conclusion by the Department of Transportation inspector general that former agency head Elaine Chao abused her office for personal reasons, including to boost the prospects of a family business. Another revelation was the finding that former White House physician, retired Navy rear admiral Ronny Jackson, abused substances on the job and created a toxic work environment for his staff.

The main problem with these long-awaited findings is that, for the most part, the damage has already been done and without consequence for the perpetrators of the abuses. Chao resigned her Cabinet post following Trump's insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. Jackson made a successful bid for Congress last year and now represents Texas' 13th district.

While no leader or agency head is particularly excited about having an internal watchdog looking over their shoulder, investigators working within the Trump administration told the Post the obstacles they faced were particularly onerous. Administration attorneys insisted internal communications were confidential and off limits. They also demanded to be present at witness interviews. Information was either withheld entirely from investigators or released at a snail's pace. The result was an inability to assess and correct internal problems in real time, which is exactly the purpose an internal watchdog is intended to serve.

"IGs under Trump faced an angry, account-settling president who had no compunction about removing those who threatened to reveal bad things about him," said Gordon Heddell, a former inspector general at the Defense and Labor departments who served under Republican and Democratic presidents.

More delayed reports are expected to be released in the coming months, including one on whether the White House blocked delivery of post-Hurricane Maria financial aid to Puerto Rico and another on the Commerce Department's controversial addition of a citizenship question to the U.S. Census. The Pentagon is also conducting an inquiry into a $400 million border-wall contract that Trump repeatedly pushed to award to a North Dakota construction company even after he was told its bid was subpar. And the General Services Administration inspector general is conducting a sweeping review of how different federal agencies responded to the coronavirus.

While we await results from those inquiries, what is entirely clear already is that internal oversight met with unprecedented obstruction within the Trump administration—a hostile posture pushed by the White House—and that led to bad outcomes for U.S. government operations and taxpayers alike.

Intel Report Confirms MBS Ordered Khashoggi Assassination

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

After a last-minute delay, and something of a stutter step in which Friday's release appeared to be momentarily posted, then withdrawn, then posted again, the truth about the U.S. intelligence assessment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder is finally public. And that truth is evident on the very first line of the brief document's executive summary.

"We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul to capture or kill Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi."

Since that operation including sending someone with a bone saw, and a body double to wear Khashoggi's clothes around Istanbul after his death, there can be little doubt that the actual intention of the squad that bin Salman sent to Istanbul was to capture, followed by definitely kill.

Following this release, it's been announced that the Treasury Department will seek sanctions against the former head of Saudi intelligence, Gen. Ahmed al-Asiri, and against members of the Saudi Rapid Intervention Force (RIF) who were involved in the assassination. However, it also seems that if anything is going to happen to the man who instigated, ordered, and paid for this murder, it's not going to happen today. Because there are no plans to sanction bin Salman.

But that doesn't mean there will be no consequences.

While the date on the cover of the barely over two-page document may say 2021, there's little doubt that this report was prepared shortly after Khashoggi's murder. Meaning that all the time that Donald Trump and Jared Kushner were laughing it up with bin Salman, they knew he was a murderer.

Honestly, it's not as if there was any real doubt. As the report makes clear, at the time of Khashoggi's murder, bin Salman had consolidated his authority and had an absolute stranglehold over Saudi Arabia. The idea that a hit team was going to travel to another country and carry out a gruesome torture and execution without bin Salman's express orders was always ridiculous. But of course, not so ridiculous that bin Salman wasn't willing to execute some of his lieutenants to make a show of "investigating" the death, and not so ridiculous that Trump was willing to offend his most admired brutal dictator.

The failure to directly sanction bin Salman appears to be a recognition that this would essentially represent cutting off the U.S./Saudi relationship, because, for all intents and purposes, there is no Saudi government other than bin Salman. Generating such a deliberate schism could affect the security of other allied nations in the Middle East, including Qatar—which has already suffered from Donald Trump's endorsement of a Saudi-sponsored blockade around the location, that includes the largest U.S. military base in the region. It could also disrupt efforts to secure peace for Israel.

Following the release, Rep. Adam Schiff issued a statement saying that he was disappointed that the Biden administration hadn't found a way to sanction bin Salman personally without causing a break in the international relationship. But still: "This is an official U.S. government statement that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia has blood on his hands, and that blood belongs to an American resident and journalist. And I think that's very powerful."

Not surprisingly, the Saudi government has issued its own statement in response.

"The Ministry notes that the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia completely rejects the negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the Kingdom's leadership, and notes that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions."

The release of the report appears to be intended to set a new tone with bin Salman. Biden has made it clear that they're not "pals." He has no intention of building a hotel in Riyadh or developing a golf course in the desert. The United States recognizes the importance of Saudi Arabia in the region, but doesn't intend to give tacit approval to its brutal acts.

Don't expect this to be the last word on Khashoggi. Or on the U.S. response.