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


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.