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Trump Enraged By Supreme Court Refusal To Shield His Taxes From Prosecutors

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Donald Trump came into office having just paid a $20 million fine for duping Americans out of their savings. He was forced to close the Trump Foundation after it became clear that Trump had used the "charity" to buy portraits of himself, renovate a hotel fountain, and pay off a $1 million golf bet. Among other things. And all of that followed Trump's casino paying a record fine after being cited 106 times for money laundering.

Considering how much of the last four years was dedicated to the daily concern that Donald Trump might decide that launching a war on Canada would be good for his ratings on Fox, or that he might just press the wrong big red button when he was thirsty, the most basic thing about Trump became rather easy to overlook. He's a crook. There is no situation in which Trump hasn't been willing to dupe, cheat, and extort his way to another dollar.

So when Donald Trump was gifted, through the sad actions of nature and the even sadder actions of Mitch McConnell, with the opportunity to name three new justices to the Supreme Court, he must have felt an enormous sense of relief. Finally, he must have thought, he would have a buffer between his unending need to lie, cheat, and steal, and the petty concerns of mortals with their laws.

As it turns out … nope.

As CNN reports, Trump's attempts to keep his past tax documents secret foundered on the rocks of the Supreme Court for a second time on Monday when an unsigned decision refused to block access from New York state investigators. Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance is now expected to take delivery of Trump's giant heap of tax records "within the next few days."

It's taken over a year to get to this point, as Trump's endless string of appeals have taken the case up to the Supreme Court twice. There's no doubt Trump will launch still more appeals, suing to stop access on some other ground. Because that—an endless attempt to gum up the process by using his money to gum up the legal system—is how Trump always works. But at this stage finding a judge willing to go along with Trump's request for another stay may be difficult. Not only have three Trump-appointed members of the Supreme Court spiked this ball back on two occasions, the efforts have also failed at the district and appeals levels. Unless Trump can think of some reason why New York taxes and the Manhattan DA need to fight this case out in Texas, it's likely those boxes will start arriving on Vance's desk Real Soon Now.

According to The Hill, Trump is none too happy that his slate of justices didn't have an understanding of the pro quo in the quid he delivered to them. On Monday, Trump issued a statement saying that the Supreme Court should have blocked Manhattan because, "it is all Democrat-inspired in a totally Democrat location, New York City and State, completely controlled and dominated by a heavily reported enemy of mine, Governor Andrew Cuomo." Honestly, Cuomo probably has other things on his mind at this point, but seeing Trump lose this one might have given the governor a momentary feeling of warmth.

Proving that while he may have endless schemes to rob people blind, his vocabulary consists of just a handful of phrases, Trump described the investigation into his finances as "the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of our Country." He then followed up by using yet more text taken by using scissors and tape, serial killer style, to every speech he's made since November. "I will fight on," said Trump, "just as I have, for the last five years (even before I was successfully elected), despite all of the election crimes that were committed against me. We will win!"

There's every reason to expect that Trump's taxes are composed entirely of crime. Trump is, after all, the sole owner of roughly 500 companies, many of which exist for the purpose of simply "lending" equipment or funds to other Trump companies. Many of them, like the multiple layers of corporate ownership around his planes, appear to suggest that Trump is taking tax breaks both for owning and leasing the same objects. That's not even getting into schemes like the one in which Trump duped investors into putting him in charge of an effort to buy a bankrupt casino, promptly bankrupted the investment group, bought it all back for pennies on the dollar, then declared bankruptcy. Again. Or when he bought a $28 million yacht, then billed it all to a failing casino. Before declaring bankruptcy.

Trump has used these companies to put layer on layer of corporate insulation between himself and consequences. He gets other people to back his projects, spends lavishly on the gold-plated opulence, then always seems to be on hand to pick up sole ownership when the overly costly project buckles under its own weight. He punishes investors for their faith in him, and lives in the ruins of their dreams. So … yeah, all this might seem worth investigating.

In particular, Vance is looking into the payments Trump made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to cover up their affairs and convince the two women to sign statements that would keep their stories from emerging in advance of the 2016 election. Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen was convicted of tax fraud, bank fraud, and campaign finance violations in counts were Trump was clearly an unindicted co-conspirator. Also, Cohen's testimony repeatedly indicated that there were other issues worth investigating. Several other issues.

So, the Supreme Court allowing this to move forward does seem like the opening day of Justice Season. Only, before visions of Trump wearing clothing even more orange than his bronzer start dancing through anyone's head, there are a few things to remember.

Trump has already been "caught" over and over. See above where Trump was found to have swindled retired couples out of their last dimes, used money that was supposed to go to disabled vets to commission self-portraits, and was convicted of money laundering 106 times. Finding that Donald Trump has committed a crime is the legal equivalent of discovering that there is a "y" in the word "day."

It would be nice to think that Vance, or New York Attorney General Letitia James, were going to grab Trump by his ludicrous comb-over and drag him straight to a cell in some state prison that does not even have a putting green. But it's extremely unlikely. Because the laws really are set up so that Trump's 500 legal fictions provide a buffer between his actions and consequences. Should it turn out that Trump Airline's Moving and Storage Leasing Agency has stolen millions in taxpayer funds by claiming false deductions and purposefully misreporting values of everything from helicopters to helipad-topped skyscrapers, the likely outcome is that one of these fictional entities will pay a fine. Should Trump be charged in connection with the crimes committed by Cohen, expect the worst outcome to be a flood of fundraising emails. "Help me fight off my Democratic enemies in the greatest Political Witch Hunt Ever in the History of ..." Etc.

After all, it's not like he stole $9. He's a wealthy white guy who stole tens of millions, extorted women to hide his infidelities, and offered up the nation on a platter to win an election. That's so, so different.

Trump may have lost this round in the Supreme Court because the clear letter of the law made it difficult to ignore his efforts to cover up his crimes. Should it ever come to it, expect that same court to discover that the law protects Trump from the consequences.

Chaotic Trump White House ‘Lost’ Millions Of Vaccine Doses

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Joe Biden has been in office for ten days and, already, his administration has uncovered a number of chaotic issues inherited from the Trump administration.

According to Politico, Biden's team had a prioritized focus on combatting the raging coronavirus pandemic, but instead of completely focusing on their 200-page pandemic response plan, this week has been largely dedicated to "trying to wrap their hands around the mushrooming crisis — a process officials acknowledge has been humbling, and triggered a concerted effort to temper expectations about how quickly they might get the nation back to normal."

While the Biden administration's work should be well underway, they are still trying to locate more than 20 million doses of coronavirus vaccines that have already been shipped to states. According to Biden aides, they inherited a deeply flawed system for maintaining proper records and inventory of vaccine distribution.

Julie Morita, a member of Biden's transition team, explained how detrimental the flawed transfer of power was and how it, subsequently, hindered the progression of efforts to mitigate the virus and effectively carry out vaccine distribution.

"Nobody had a complete picture," said Morita. "The plans that were being made were being made with the assumption that more information would be available and be revealed once they got into the White House."

One individual described as a person "with knowledge of the vaccine effort who's not authorized to discuss the work" also weighed in with an analogy of the Biden administration's uphill battle despite having a solid plan to move forward.

"It's the Mike Tyson quote: 'Everybody's got a plan until they get punched in the mouth,'" that person said, adding, "They are planning. They are competent. It's just the weight of everything when you sit down in that chair. It's heavy."

The latest news comes as the Biden administration works to locate the 8,700 ventilators that Trump's White House donated to other nations. According to The Washington Post, a new report published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicates that there is very little information to explain the roll-out of ventilators. The United States reportedly spent more than $200 million on the distribution process.

"These ventilators were not in State or AID's strategic plan," said David Gootnick, GAO director of international affairs. "They could not articulate for us the criteria they used for what ventilators went to what countries."

But despite the hurdles the Biden administration is facing, political leaders and lawmakers have lauded the work they are doing to improve pandemic response. George Helmy, chief of staff for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy recently commended the new administration on its efforts to maintain transparency. "There is no doubt they are doing a better job," said Helmy. "We have a true partner who is being transparent and collaborative."

Republican Legislators Rigging Electoral Votes To Insure GOP Wins White House

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

President Joe Biden won five swing states in the 2020 election that had voted for Donald Trump four years earlier. Republicans are now pushing to rig the system to make sure that no Democrat can repeat that feat in the future.

Biden's 306-to-232 Electoral College victory was earned by holding every state Hillary Clinton won in 2016 and also winning Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, while picking up one elector in Nebraska. Trump tried unsuccessfully to get Republican state legislatures in those states to illegally overrule the voters and declare him the winner.

Now, rather that focus on nominating a less unpopular party standard bearer next time around, Republicans are instead pushing to rig their states' electoral votes for future elections.

Arizona state Rep. Shawnna Bolick, the chair of the state House Ways and Means Committee, introduced a bill on Wednesday that would give the Republican-controlled state legislature the power to revoke the secretary of state's certification of individual electors "by majority vote at any time before the presidential inauguration." It would also entitle anyone contesting the results of an election to a binding jury trial to determine who won Arizona's 11 electoral votes.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) denounced Bolick's proposal as a "Democracy killing bill" and vowed to mount a referendum campaign to overturn it should it be enacted by the legislature.

Republicans in Michigan and Wisconsin are exploring another option: changing the way the states allocate their electors to mirror their gerrymandered congressional maps.

A bill filed by Wisconsin state Rep. Gary Tauchen earlier this month would change the allocation of the state's 10 electoral votes so that just two go to the statewide winner and the rest are awarded by the candidate who got the plurality of votes in each House district. Though Joe Biden won Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes in November, such a system would have given six of the state's electors to Trump and just four to Biden.

"Doing it by congressional district is actually a terrible idea, because what it will do is amp up the partisan efforts to draw those districts to favor one side or the other," University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of politics Barry Burden told the Wisconsin Examiner. "It's already an ugly process, but it will be on steroids if those districts affect not only control of Congress but also control the presidency."

In Michigan, Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga is pushing for state legislators to do the same thing. In a post to his campaign page on Facebook earlier this month, he noted, "If Michigan were to end the winner take all system of electoral college votes and instead break it up by congressional district, it would make campaigning in our state much more balanced. This would remove Detroit's outsized influence and encourage candidates to compete for votes in each congressional district across the entire state, not just the big cities."

Under such a scheme, Trump would have received eight of Michigan's 16 electors last year, despite losing the state to Biden by more than 154,000 votes.

Had the states changed their rules prior to the 2020 election, they could have cost Biden 25 electors, putting Trump just 13 votes shy of a second term.

Both Wisconsin and Michigan currently have Democratic governors who could veto any changes to the electoral system, but both are up for reelection in 2022.

Republicans in Georgia, which gave Biden 16 electoral votes, have so far been focused on another way of ensuring Democrats don't win statewide again: suppressing minority voter participation. They have introduced several bills that would make it harder to vote, especially for Democratic-leaning segments of the population.

Even without such voter-suppression efforts, Republicans already enjoy structural advantages that make it hard for Democrats to win the presidency.

Though Biden won the popular vote by more than 7 million in November, his narrow majorities in three swing states meant that a shift of just 44,000 votes could have cost him the Electoral College majority.

While Democrats have won the popular majority in seven of the last eight presidential elections, Republicans have won the White House three times — thanks to the Electoral College.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Bannon Says QAnon Is “FBI Psyop” After Embracing Cult In October 2020

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

After fully embracing QAnon, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is now denouncing the conspiracy theory.

QAnon claims that former President Trump was secretly working to take down a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who make up the "deep state" and Democratic Party. The conspiracy theory has been labeled as a domestic terror threat by the FBI and has been linked to multiple arrests of QAnon supporters connected to the January 6 Capitol insurrection.

Bannon embraced the conspiracy theory in late October while streaming his podcast War Room: Pandemic on YouTube. He went so far as to proclaim that QAnon "at least appears directionally to be correct" and suggested that the baseless theory is "real" and is "the elephant in the room."

Video fileVideo Player00:0000:48SHARE

From the October 21, 2020, edition of War Room: Pandemic

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From the October 21, 2020, edition of War Room: Pandemic

Ever the pro-Trump strategist, Bannon has turned on the conspiracy theory following increased scrutiny of the far right in the wake of the January 6 Capitol insurrection. On January 22, Bannon's newsletter, Populist Press, had its lead story read "'Q ANON' AN FBI PSYOP."

Populist Press

CitationFrom the January 22 edition of Populist Press

The linked article suggested QAnon was a "psychological cyber operation" fabricated by the FBI to "discredit and ultimately derail the supporter base of US President Trump."

During the January 22 edition of War Room: Pandemic, Bannon and his co-host drilled down on their newfound disdain for the conspiracy, with Bannon calling one of the core QAnon claims that there would be mass arrests of prominent Democrats "nonsense." The co-host responded by labeling QAnon claims as "shortcuts to protecting your republic" and suggesting that QAnon followers are "in the way" of real political change with their "happy talk" and "fantasies."




From the January 21, 2021, edition of War Room: Pandemic

Bannon's embarrassing fall into the QAnon rabbit hole came and went as he watched Trump's loyal base of followers wreak havoc at the Capitol and fail to overturn the election results. His sudden turn to dismiss the conspiracy theory only further exposes the hollow political opportunism of his constant stream of misinformation and calls to violence as equally disingenuous and dangerous.

Was Kayleigh McEnany Auditioning For Fox All Along?

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany signed a contract for a paid role at Fox News in January, according to a disclosure report unearthed on Tuesday by the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group.

McEnany would be just the latest Donald Trump administration aide to join the right-wing cable network.

McEnany disclosed in the report that she had an "employment agreement" with the Fox Corporation, writing under that status and terms that it was with Fox News and that she would be "starting work in January."

A Fox News spokesperson told the New York Times reporter that McEnany is not "currently" employed by the network, though the spokesperson did not deny that the former press secretary had signed a contract with the company.

HuffPost and New York magazine contributor Yashar Ali also reported that "a source familiar with Kayleigh's discussions" had said "there was a deal being negotiated but was put on pause...but that Fox News may still hire her give that the network doesn't 'condone cancel culture.'"

McEnany spent the final months of her tenure ignoring her role of informing the public by holding press briefings at the White House. Instead, she spent the majority of her time pushing voter fraud lies in multiple appearances on Fox News, in her dual role as campaign adviser.

Those lies eventually helped incite an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, carried out by a pro-Trump mob that sought to kill lawmakers and Trump's own vice president, Mike Pence.

McEnany's role on the Trump campaign was itself questionable, given she was simultaneously drawing a taxpayer funded salary of $183,000 per year.

McEnany scoring a gig with Fox News would be fitting, as the network effectively serves as a messaging platform for Republicans, and includes a spate of "opinion" hosts in its prime-time lineup that overtly support Trump. The outlet has also been a revolving door for Trump administration staffers.

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed on with the network in September 2019, after her own stint at the podium. Her contributor gig with the network was terminated after she announced on Monday morning that she is running for governor of Arkansas.

Former White House communications director Hope Hicks also worked for Fox News after she left the administration the first time around. And Raj Shah, another former Trump administration spokesperson, joined Fox News after leaving as well.

Meanwhile, other Trump administration staffers have had a harder time finding employment since the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, which led to a stream of White House deserters.

Politico reported that corporate America has essentially frozen out those who worked in the Trump administration, adding that some former aides had their offers rescinded after the insurrection.

"They are really f---ed," an unnamed Republican strategist told Politico.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

White House Rescues Fox News After Shameful COVID-19 “Hoax” Coverage

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Fox News spent crucial weeks minimizing the danger posed by the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in order to protect President Donald Trump, and recent polls show that the network’s viewers are less likely to be concerned about it than other major media audiences. Top Trump administration officials are now praising the network for its coverage, even as Fox comes under fire from other outlets for endangering the public by actively spreading misinformation about the virus.

The Trump administration realizes that Fox’s propaganda is critically important in maintaining the support of the president’s base — 79 percent of weekday cable news appearances by its officials between January 23 and March 18* came on the network. While the network horrifically botched its coverage in the initial weeks of the pandemic, it did so in support of Trump’s own effort to downplay the impact of the virus

After Trump began publicly taking the coronavirus more seriously on Friday, Fox hosts seamlessly pivoted. After saying for weeks that the coronavirus was no big deal and that Democrats and the media were blowing it out of proportion to hurt Trump politically, the network’s hosts shifted to claiming that it posed so serious a crisis that criticism of the administration’s response should be off the table.

The administration appreciates their work.

“Let me just begin by saying thank you on the radio and airwaves all across America and on television,” Vice President Mike Pence told Fox host Sean Hannity during a Wednesday interview on Hannity’s radio show. “What you’ve been doing to broaden public understanding of the coronavirus, spreading the word, especially on the president’s coronavirus guidelines Fifteen Days to Slow the Spread.”

“We’re very very grateful that you’re bringing this important, timely information to the American people,” Pence added. 

Hannity, who has the most-watched show in cable news and advises the president, spent the early weeks of the pandemic decrying the “Coronavirus Hysteria!” and lashing out at people who he claimed were trying to “bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.” He and his guests repeatedly compared coronavirus to the flu, even though it is reportedly much more deadly and contagious. Hannity also invoked “violence in Chicago” to minimize coronavirus concerns. “So far in the United States, there’s been around 30 deaths, most of which came from one nursing home in the state of Washington,” he argued at one point. “Healthy people, generally, 99 percent recover very fast, even if they contract it.”

On his radio show, Hannity said he wasn’t that concerned with coronavirus because “we’re all dying,” told listeners to be skeptical of coronavirus warnings from news outlets and Democrats because “everything now has to be viewed through the prism of, oh, this is about the election,” and claimed that Trump’s opponents are “hoping Americans die and get sick and that we all lose a fortune in the stock market” in order to defeat his reelection campaign.

But on Friday, after Trump declared coronavirus a national emergency, Hannity said the virus was a “crisis” and called on the nation to unite behind the president. “Tonight, we are witnessing what will be a massive paradigm shift in the future of disease control and prevention,” he said. “A bold, new precedent is being set, the world will once again benefit greatly from America’s leadership. … The federal government, state governments, private businesses, top hospitals all coming together, under the president’s leadership, to stem the tide of the coronavirus.”

Hannity subsequently attacked “the media mob” for criticizing Fox’s coronavirus coverage, arguing that they are “doing the bidding of China” and threatening to hire lawyers to sue them for “slander, besmirchment, [and] character assassination.” 

Hannity is not the only Fox host to draw praise from the Trump administration. At the conclusion of a Wednesday night interview on her Fox show, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar told host Laura Ingraham, “Thanks for all you do also to keep us all informed.”

What Ingraham had done “to keep us all informed” in February and early March included lashing out at the coronavirus “panic pushers” and saying, “The facts are actually pretty reassuring, but you’d never know it watching all this stuff.” She claimed that it “seemed like some of the Trump haters” in media “were actually relishing in this moment,” because they view coronavirus as “a new pathway for hitting President Trump,” and she attacked Democrats who expressed concerns about the nation’s state of readiness as the “Pandemic Party.” 

Like Hannity, Ingraham shifted her tone last week, acknowledging the virus was a crisis but arguing that Trump had it well in hand. “In times of crisis, it helps to have a president who makes his own decisions, who marshals the right resources, and surrounds himself with the most competent people to do the job,” she said at one point. “He has a take-charge, hands-on approach to the coronavirus and every other problem he faces. He’ll work with Democrats on a legislative package to help working families. He’ll do for our emergency response system what he’s done for our economy, make it stronger and better, day by day.”

Fox’s terrible early coverage of coronavirus appears to have had a significant impact on its viewers, who polls show are much less likely to take the virus seriously than are people who get their news from more credible sources. But the Trump administration is still happy with the network’s spin, because they share the same top priority: Preserving the president’s political standing.

*This article has been updated with additional information. Data from Media Matters database for weekday cable news programs airing between 6 a.m. and midnight.

Nation Troubled By Incoherent White House Response To Coronavirus

The Trump administration has offered myriad responses in the face of a growing global virus outbreak that has left thousands dead and at least 80,000 infected worldwide, even as health experts warn the United States may be in danger.

Donald Trump claimed on Wednesday that the country was in “great shape” just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned COVID-19, the disease caused by a strain coronavirus that officials say originated in China, could spread across the nation.

“Low Ratings Fake News MSDNC [sic] (Comcast) & @CNN are doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus [sic] look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible. Likewise their incompetent Do Nothing Democrat comrades are all talk, no action. USA in great shape!” he tweeted Wednesday morning.

Trump, who has asked for just $2.5 billion in emergency supplemental funds to address the threat, also said that he and CDC representatives would discuss the issue further in a news conference Wednesday evening.

Trump’s previous comments have similarly presented a message that everything is “totally under control.” He has also made scientifically dubious predictions that warmer spring weather would weaken the virus.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have criticized Trump’s response, with Democrats faulting the administration’s ‘lack of leadership’ and plan. Congressional Democrats have faulted the administration’s “lack of leadership” and “lack of plan.”

Even some Republican have pushed back on the confusing responses coming out of the administration, with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) accusing it of low balling the $2.5 billion emergency funding request and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) warning of a potential “pandemic.”

“The U.S. government has a responsibility to protect Americans, and it’s important the American people have clarity on how the United States and the aviation industry in particular is working to contain this disease,” Cruz wrote on Facebook Wednesday.

So far, however, the administration has not offered one cohesive plan of action to address the threat.

Here’s a look how different parts of the administration have responded to the threat so far.

CDC

On Tuesday, Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the agency expects “we will see community spread in this country” and warned that its “disruption to everyday life might be severe.”

National Economic Council

On Tuesday, the National Economic Council’s director, Larry Kudlow, said that novel coronavirus had been “contained,” claiming, “I won’t say [it’s] airtight, but it’s pretty close to airtight.”

Department of Homeland Security

Acting Homeland Security Sec. Chad Wolf told a Senate committee on Tuesday, “Today, the risks from coronavirus to Americans remains relatively low, and we will continue to implement measures designed to keep it that way.”

Pressed by Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), however, Wolf was unable to provide any estimates of how many Americans would likely contract the virus, but acknowledged, “We do anticipate the number will grow.”

His acting deputy, Ken Cuccinelli tweeted on Tuesday, “CDC putting prudent guidance out while we aggressively work to keep the virus contained. In the US, communities should prepare for the possibility the virus could break out in parts of the US.”

Department of Health and Human Services

On Wednesday morning, Heath and Human Services Sec. Alex Azar told Congress, “The risk right now is very low to Americans. As Larry Kudlow said, from a public health perspective, we technically are in a state of containment in the United States.”

Azar acknowledged though that “that could change rapidly” and warned “we fully expect we will see more cases here in the United States.”

White House

On Monday, White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley told Fox News, “We need some funding here to make sure that we protect all Americans.” He added that “we need to combat this, we need to make sure our people are safe and the president is always going to take action to do that.”

Elsewhere that same day Gidley told reporters that Trump’s “concerns are always the safety and security of the American people, and so in this instance, because he has taken such aggressive action, because he does continue to receive briefings on a daily basis, he just wants to ensure the spread of this virus does not move quickly in this country at all.”

On Wednesday, asked about the contradictory messages, White House spokesperson Judd Deere told the Washington Post that concerns about the outbreak were being fanned by Trump’s critics. “Unfortunately what we are seeing today is a political effort by the Left and some in the media to distract and disturb the American people with fearful rhetoric and palace intrigue,” he said.

He added, “The virus remains low risk domestically because of the containment actions taken by this Administration since the first of the year.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Giuliani Podcast Promotes His Debunked Ukraine Conspiracies

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

You almost have to feel sorry for Rudy Giuliani — almost.

As the personal attorney for President Donald Trump, he ran a shadow foreign policy campaign in Ukraine to smear Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, a front-runner to challenge Trump in the 2020 election. (And he couldn’t have done it without other associates, such as attorneys Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing, indicted henchmen Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and current Fox contributor John Solomon.)

But now, Giuliani has been left off the actual legal team for Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate. Instead, he’s presenting a virtual trial on his new podcast. And as we’ve already documented, his entire racket consists of telling people to tune in for his next appearance, during which he will show all this proof of Biden’s supposed wrongdoing — only to then ask people to tune in the next time after that, to see it then.

The second episode of Giuliani’s podcast, while seeming to show documentary evidence supporting his case — in the form of various papers he holds up for viewers to see on camera — is really just more of the same lies, distortions, and empty promises he’s dealt in so far.

Now, let’s examine just a handful of bogus claims from Giuliani’s latest round of falsehoods.

Giuliani says Shokin’s reputation for corruption is another big conspiracy by “children of Soros”

In this video, Giuliani focuses on Viktor Shokin, the former prosecutor general of Ukraine who was fired in 2016 at the urging of then-Vice President Biden and the international community. That event has formed the nucleus of right-wing smears against Biden, which allege that he pushed for Shokin’s removal in order to shield his son Hunter, who had joined the board of a Ukrainian gas company, from investigation.

In reality, the push to get Shokin fired was part of a Ukrainian anti-corruption effort by advocates and international supporters of the country. It was well-established that the United States’ position was that ousting Shokin was a critical aspect of anti-corruption measures. At the time of his removal, The New York Times reported that the “United States and other Western nations had for months called for the ousting of Mr. Shokin” for “turning a blind eye to corrupt practices and for defending the interests of a venal and entrenched elite.”

But not according to Giuliani’s telling. In his words, Shokin was an honest and active prosecutor: “If he was corrupt, he sure wasn’t good at it. Because I’ve met him — he’s not a rich man.”

And furthermore, Giuliani asserts, all the aspersions on Shokin’s character were also “created” as part of that grand conspiracy — the whole thing driven, he later claims, by George Soros’ nongovernmental organizations such as the Anti-Corruption Action Center in Ukraine, which he says are the true epicenter of corruption. “Then you wonder why, when they fire Shokin, they can get people from Italy and England and Germany to all say that he’s corrupt,” Giuliani claims. “They’re all people from the NGOs that were being paid off.”

The freezing of Burisma’s assets — Giuliani rewrites history

In his podcast, Giuliani lays out the case of the corrupt Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky, founder of the Burisma energy company. Giuliani claims that after the 2014 revolution in Ukraine — which overthrew a corrupt, pro-Russian government in which Zlochevsky had been a cabinet minister and engaged in all sorts of self-dealing for his company — “he was very afraid that the new government, which was going to be supposedly a reform government, was going to take his business away from him.”

Giuliani then claims Ukrainian authorities like Shokin were right on Zlochevsky’s trail: “And they already began actions against him in the U.K., to take his money away from him.” Thus, Giuliani says that Zlochevsky hired Hunter Biden to protect him from these corruption-busting Ukrainian prosecutors.

But way back in December 2015 — long before this story was ever part of the current impeachment debate or the 2020 election — The New York Times ran a news article that cast a suspicious eye on Hunter Biden’s involvement with the company. And even that coverage made it clear that Ukrainian prosecutors under Shokin were part of the problem by refusing to cooperate in that very investigation over in Britain, leaving little reason for Zlochevsky to even need Biden’s supposed help:

But after Ukrainian prosecutors refused to provide documents needed in the investigation, a British court in January ordered the Serious Fraud Office to unfreeze the assets. The refusal by the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office to cooperate was the target of a stinging attack by the American ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, who called out Burisma’s owner by name in a speech in September.

“In the case of former Ecology Minister Mykola Zlochevsky, the U.K. authorities had seized $23 million in illicit assets that belonged to the Ukrainian people,” Mr. Pyatt said. Officials at the prosecutor general’s office, he added, were asked by the United Kingdom “to send documents supporting the seizure. Instead, they sent letters to Zlochevsky’s attorneys attesting that there was no case against him. As a result, the money was freed by the U.K. court, and shortly thereafter the money was moved to Cyprus.”

The Wall Street Journal has also documented that “Mr. Shokin had dragged his feet on those investigations, Western diplomats said, and effectively squashed one in London by failing to cooperate with U.K. authorities, who had frozen $23.5 million of Mr. Zlochevsky’s assets.”

There was no “raid” against Burisma in 2016

Giuliani also claims that under Shokin, the investigation against Burisma had been very much alive, and there was a “raid” of the company in February 2016 — around the same time as Joe Biden was demanding Shokin’s firing. (Giuliani’s phrasing that Shokin “arrested the Burisma company” seems a bit odd; how does one put an entire corporation in handcuffs?)

The Washington Post examined this claim back in December when House Republicans also attempted to advance the storyline that a “raid” had taken place against Burisma. But instead, they found that “nothing significant appears to have happened in February 2016 except primarily the reinstatement of a previous court order. Instead, Zlochevsky’s assets had been seized a year earlier and were only briefly not under a court order because of a prosecutorial error.”

Prosecutions against Burisma had been long dormant, as former Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaliy Kasko told Bloomberg this past May: “It was shelved by Ukrainian prosecutors in 2014 and through 2015.”

What is that document?

Giuliani also holds up what he says is a document from a prosecutorial office in Latvia, supposedly proving that prosecutors were on the trail of Hunter Biden in February 2016.

rudy-giuliani-podcast-holding-up-alleged-document-01-29-2020.jpg

But this isn’t new, either. Giuliani already showed this purported document during his recent series on the right-wing media outlet One America News Network.

The Washington Post reached out last month to the Latvian government to find out whether the document was authentic but did not hear back. The paper also pointed to some suspicious signs that it might have been tailor-made just to go after Hunter Biden:

So what does it show? It essentially shows that Burisma paid four people through these transfers. Who are these people? They are all people who were employed by Burisma at the time. Archer and Hunter Biden served on its board, while Apter joined as chairman around the same time. Hunter Biden said he was convinced to join the board by the fourth person, Kwasniewski, who is a former president of Poland.

Somebody in Latvia apparently regarded these money transfers as suspicious, but there isn’t much to go on here. And even if the money was laundered, does it implicate Hunter Biden in the laundering? (There have long been legitimate questions about potential corruption at Burisma.) The document for some reason names four people as receiving the funds but mentions Hunter Biden as being involved only “in corruption affair.” Why is that? You would think the document might explain, but OANN doesn’t appear to have probed that.

Money laundering experts said there doesn’t seem to be much there there.

(Emphasis in the original.)

Forbes magazine, hardly a left-wing outlet, also took a look at this supposed document and noted the weaknesses of whatever it was supposed to prove:

But the document only states that “according to publicly available information, Burisma Holding Limited and its director Hunter Biden are involved in corruption affair.” The document proceeds to list monetary transactions of Burisma outside of Ukraine, without any mention of investigations or other evidence of allegedly corrupt activities beyond the initial reference to publicly available information.

Giuliani’s most irresponsible claim yet

Giuliani goes on to tell viewers that soon after he spoke with Shokin in late 2019, the former prosecutor general was poisoned with mercury and almost died in an apparent assassination attempt, having to be transported to Austria for both medical treatment and his personal safety.

“So there was an attempt to kill Shokin, which gives you an idea of how serious what we’re dealing with is,” Giuliani says. “This is a very, very serious matter.”

It may well be that Shokin was poisoned by some unknown party. The physician in Austria whom Giuliani cites to say that Shokin was poisoned, Dr. Nikolai Korpan, is in fact a reputable medical practitioner with significant prior experience treating these sorts of cases. (Indeed, it seems to be a common practice for the Russian government to kill people by poisoning, using “mysterious chemical substances” like mercury or dioxins as the method of choice.)

But what Giuliani is clearly trying to imply here — without just coming out and saying it directly, of course — is that Joe Biden or people close to him arranged for this crime to occur. He clearly does not have any evidence to say that, and for charges of this magnitude, it is grossly irresponsible to even be implying it as he is.

Tune in next time — same Rudy channel

Of course, Giuliani closes out with an exhortation for his viewers to watch the next episode, promising that’s when he’ll really get to the bottom of the Bidens’ supposed misdeeds.

“This is a vast crime. This is probably, obviously, going to be the biggest scandal so far of this century — let’s hope there’s none greater,” he says. “It makes Teapot Dome look cheap, when we get finished with the amounts of money, and there’s a lot more to it.”

“And in the next episode, we’ll finish the outline. We’ve got most of it. And then we’ll get right to the testimony, and you’ll get to see some of these witnesses on camera, for yourself, to see that we have something called proof — which Democrats do not have against the president, and never had.”