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George Conway Tweets Trump’s Funniest Geography Blunders

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump’s circle is up in arms over a late-night CNN segment on Monday in which analysts joked that Trump — and his fanbase — are probably not smart enough to locate Ukraine on a map.

But on Tuesday, conservative lawyer and Trump critic George Conway pointed out that the president has indeed never shown any aptitude for geography — and listed some of his most well-known and mocked blunders:

Barr Hiding Full Mueller Report As Democrats Fight For Disclosure

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Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Attorney General William Barr’s four-page summary of the 300+-page report by special counsel Robert Mueller on Russian election interference is clearly not going to satisfy anyone. The summary — stating that Mueller did not “establish” conspiracy between President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, and that he neither confirmed nor exonerated the president on obstruction of justice, demands greater detail. A new poll shows 75 percent of the public want the full report released.

Unfortunately, Trump’s Justice Department is unlikely to make the full report available voluntarily — not even to Congress.

Barr has told House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) that he has no plans to release the report immediately, and that he will still be redacting large portions of it, including grand jury proceedings.

While this is allowed under special counsel regulations, and is in fact typical DOJ policy in most cases to protect the reputation of people who are not being charged with crimes, this is not an ordinary case — and the DOJ has historically been far more transparent about cases involving national political controversy.

For this reason, Natasha Bertrand writes in The Atlantic, House Democrats are planning to go much further and demand the report with no redactions — setting up a clash with the DOJ, and possibly a court fight:

The House Democrats’ position now is that “there is nothing stopping Barr from giving us the grand-jury material” that informed Mueller’s findings, according to another Democratic staffer who spoke with reporters on Thursday on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. “If he doesn’t, then that amounts to a cover-up.” Another Democratic staffer said that, in a call with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler on Wednesday night, Barr “would not commit to releasing the full report” — including grand-jury material — to the House. A spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy did not return a request for comment about the House Republicans’ position on seeing the full report. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally, indicated on Wednesday that he will accept whatever redactions Barr makes, including of grand-jury material.

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Between the withholding of grand-jury and privileged material and the redaction of classified information, the public could be left with a shell of the original report.

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Democrats have specifically demanded that Barr transmit the full report by April 2 — a deadline that now appears all but assured he will not meet.

Former Solicitor General Neal Katyal, who wrote the special counsel law, has argued that Democrats would likely win a subpoena fight — but that the administration would assert executive privilege over some portions of the report, and that courts may urge Congress and the DOJ to negotiate rather than rule for one of them.

Whatever happens over the next few days, it is clear that the battle to reveal what Mueller found is just getting started.

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Whatever Report Says, Looming Investigations Still Threaten Trump

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and President Donald Trump’s potential involvement in it, has reached its conclusion. While there are a few loose ends to tie up, including the sentencing of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the trial of former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, Mueller is finished issuing indictments, and his report has been delivered to Attorney General William Barr, who will soon be briefing Congress on the key findings.

While no one yet knows exactly what the report contains, the mere fact that Trump was never indicted is being sung from on high by the president’s supporters as proof that he has been exonerated. But that isn’t the case  there was never that big a chance Trump himself was going to be slapped in cuffs and hauled before a judge, and the finer points of the investigation could be damning for him politically even if Mueller lacked the authority or standard of evidence to prosecute him.

But just as important: Trump’s problems do not end with Mueller’s investigation. There are a number of other legal dangers for the president, in the form of federal, state, and congressional investigations that have not yet concluded  many of which have potential to criminally implicate the president, financially harm him, or imperil his re-election prospects.

Here are the biggest ones:

  1. The Michael Cohen investigation

In some ways, prosecutors with the Southern District of New York were always a bigger threat to the president than Mueller. The special counsel was limited byecutorial actions, whereas the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office has no such constraints. subject matter, and had to request permission from the Justice Department to take certain pros

Federal prosecutors have been investigating Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen’s hush payments to women the president allegedly slept with ever since Mueller referred the matter to them over a year ago  which has led to Cohen pleading guilty to fraud, tax evasion, and campaign finance violations. Cohen has asserted he committed these crimes at the president’s direction, and has suggested that Trump encouraged him to lie about a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow, an issue about which Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress. If any of this can be proven by prosecutors, it could put the president in legal jeopardy.

  1. The inaugural committee investigation

Cohen is not all the Southern District is looking into. They are also leading a criminal investigation into the Trump inaugural committee, and last month subpoenaed documents concerning its finances. The probe is scrutinizing whether the committee accepted illegal donations, whether donors sought a quid pro quo in return for their contributions, and whether the committee was used to enrich the president’s personal businesses. The attorneys general for New Jersey and Washington, D.C. have also subpoenaed the committee.

This investigation could theoretically also implicate Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who according to a ProPublica investigation, approved contracts between the inaugural committee and the Trump organization that charged an exorbitant amount for food and event space  thus potentially funneling inaugural money into the family business.

  1. The Trump Victory Fund investigation

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is also investigating a $100,000 donation to the Trump Victory Fund came from Jho Low, a Malaysian businessman who is on the run in the wake of the 1MDB scandal, in which a state-run Malaysian investment fund was allegedly used to funnel money into the personal accounts of corrupt government officials.

The Trump Victory Fund is joint fundraising committee between the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, and while a 2014 Supreme Court decisionempowered these types of committees to take unlimited donations,

  1. The New York Attorney General investigations

At the state level, New York Attorney General Letitia James is also waging a multi-pronged investigation into the president’s side ventures. A lawsuit brought by New York against Trump’s charitable foundation, which will dissolve as part of an agreement reached last year, accuses the foundation of violating state nonprofit laws, using charitable donations to enrich Trump, settle legal disputes, and influence the 2016 election.

The attorney general has also issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank, as part of a civil investigation into four projects by the Trump Organization and Trump’s unsuccessful attempt to buy the Buffalo Bills football club in 2014.

  1. Congressional probes of Trump’s finances and business

While all of this is going on, House Democrats are gearing up to do what the president once promised he would do himself: release his tax returns. It is unclear what, exactly, is in Trump’s financial records, but whatever it is has made him desperate to keep them locked up. He is planning to do whatever he can to obstruct their release.

Additionally, Democrats plan a deep look into Trump’s business history, with an interview of Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg already planned. In a recent hearing with Michael Cohen, Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) zeroed in on financial questions about Trump, like allegations that he inflated his assets to insurance companies, that merit further investigation.

The emoluments lawsuit
One of the longest-running legal questions about Trump’s presidency is the extent to which he is using it for personal profit, and particularly whether he has leveraged it to accept gifts from foreign governments, which would be a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which is the focus of an ongoing lawsuit brought by the Attorneys General of Maryland and Washington, D.C.

The essential problem for Trump is that he has hosted foreign diplomats at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, a hotel which charges far more than comparable hotels in the area. That raises two immediate legal questions: whether diplomats were essentially paying for access to the president, and whether the excessive price they were willing to pay for the rooms could be construed as a gift. If the answer to either of these is yes, the president could be in big trouble.

Trump would like the American people to believe that his legal problems end at “Russian collusion.” But it is clear that that is only where they begin.

Acting Defense Chief Shanahan Probed For Enriching Former Employer Boeing

On Wednesday, POLITICO reported that Patrick Shanahan, President Donald Trump’s acting Secretary of Defense, is under investigation by the inspector general of the Pentagon for allegedly using his office to enrich aerospace giant Boeing, his former employer of 31 years:

“The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General has decided to investigate complaints we recently received that Acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan allegedly took actions to promote his former employer, Boeing, and disparage its competitors, allegedly in violation of ethics rules,” DoD IG spokesperson Dwrena Allen said.

“In his recent Senate Armed Services Committee testimony, Acting Secretary Shanahan stated that he supported an investigation into these allegations,” she said. “We have informed him that we have initiated this investigation.”

The investigation follows a complaint submitted last week by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), in response to a January POLITICO report revealing that Shanahan, when he was Deputy Defense Secretary, promoted Boeing in Pentagon meetings and criticized Lockheed Martin, the developer of the controversial F-35 military jet program and one of Boeing’s largest competitors in the defense sector. Shanahan, who worked as a civil aviation engineer at Boeing, had previously signed an ethics agreement to recuse himself from decisions involving the company.

Shanahan has broadly denied misconduct, with his spokesman, Lt. Col. Joseph Buccino, saying the acting Secretary “has at all times remained committed to upholding his ethics agreement filed with the DoD.”

Trump’s administration has been plagued with ethics scandals from day one, with various members of his Cabinet accused of excessively spending taxpayer money on themselvesretaliating against employeesenriching family memberslying about financial conflicts of interest, and even obstructing ethics investigations into themselves.

March has not been a good month for Boeing in general, which has seen its new fleet of 737 Max 8 planes grounded around the world amid investigations into a pair of deadly crashes.

Trump has lacked a permanent Defense Secretary since former General James Mattis stepped down in December, raking Trump over the coals as an irresponsible leader in his resignation letter. Shanahan, as Mattis’ deputy, has filled the role. Trump has so far not named any permanent replacement for Mattis, and it is possible  though unclear that he wants to just keep Shanahan on indefinitely.

Trump Keeps Insulting Deceased McCain — And Lies About Helping Veterans

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump continued his bizarre vendetta against Vietnam War hero and former Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), despite the fact that he has been dead for seven months. He even went so far as to complain that McCain  who, again, is deceased  did not thank him for helping him get a proper funeral.

But amazingly, complaining that a dead man didn’t thank him might be only Trump’s second most ridiculous attack on McCain this week. He also trashed McCain for supposedly failing to deliver for veterans in the Senate — as opposed to Trump, who boasted about his claim that he created the Veterans Choice Program, which allows veterans to use their health benefits at community providers rather than V.A. hospitals.

“McCain didn’t get the job done for our great vets and the V.A., and they know it,” saidTrump during a visit to an Army tank factory in Lima, Ohio. That’s why, when I had my dispute with him, I had such incredible support from the vets and from the military. The vets were on my side because I got the job done. I got Choice … for many decades, they couldn’t get it done. It was never done. I got it five months ago. I got it done  Choice. Instead of waiting in line  a vet fought for us, fought in these tanks, fought for us.”

This lie, which Trump has told repeatedly, is completely brazen for two reasons. First, Trump did not create the Veterans Choice Program  he just signed a law last year that would streamline the V.A.’s Community Care Program. The Veterans Choice Program itself was created in 2014 as part of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, and signed into law by President Barack Obama. And second, the chief Republican sponsor of that bill in the Senate was … John McCain!

So in other words, Trump is falsely taking credit for creating a veterans program that was actually created by John McCain — and then citing his nonexistent role in creating that program as evidence of how much better he is for veterans than John McCain.

Even Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star, who has perhaps covered Trump’s speeches and documented his falsehoods more than any other journalist, was gobsmacked at the audacity of Trump’s lie:

Trump and McCain feuded for many years, with Trump claiming that McCain wasn’t really a war hero just because he was captured in Vietnam, and McCain criticizing the president’s fitness for office and casting a deciding vote against Trump’s health care repeal agenda in the Senate.

But any reasonable person would have let these petty grudges go — especially after McCain’s passing. The fact that Trump cannot, and even now insists on telling vicious lies about McCain to anyone who will listen, is a national embarrassment.

Suspect In Mob Boss Murder Displays MAGA and QAnon Messages

On Monday, Anthony Comello, the man accused of fatally shooting Gambino crime family boss Francesco Cali in Staten Island, appeared in court for an extradition hearing in Toms River, NJ. And while his motivations for the killing are unclear, the whole saga became even stranger after he showed his hands.

According to images, the 24-year-old Comello had scrawled a number of right-wing iconography on his hand, including “MAGA forever,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s slogan, and the letter Q, an apparent reference to the QAnon conspiracy theory:

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According to NJ.com, Comello’s lead counsel Robert Gottlieb says he did not see anything written on his client’s hand.

The QAnon conspiracy theory, named after an anonymous message board poster styling himself “Q” after the Energy Department clearance level and purporting to be an inside government source, holds that Trump is working together with special counsel Robert Mueller to uncover a world-spanning murder and sex trafficking ring run by high-ranking Democrats and opponents of the president, and that martial law is imminent to round up and arrest all of the co-conspirators.

And that’s just the beginning of the narrative — believers in the conspiracy have claimed that Kim Jong Un was planted by the CIA, that Democrats ordered MS-13 to murder party staffer Seth Rich, and that the California wildfires were triggered by government lasers.

Despite the patently ridiculous and self-contradictory tangled logic of the conspiracy theory, it has found its way into the national spotlight. ABC sitcom star Roseanne Barr, who was fired after racist outbursts on Twitter, promoted it. And a S.W.A.T. officer from Broward County, Florida sported a QAnon patch on his uniform while posing with Vice President Mike Pence — after which he was demoted to another department.

Report: Real Estate Moguls Furious Over Trump’s Tax Bill

After the passage of the GOP’s “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” in December 2017, President Donald Trump boasted to a group of wealthy supporters at his Mar-a-Lago club that “You all just got a lot richer.”

And there can be no doubt that Trump had given a stupendous gift to the mega wealthy. The tax law, which slashed individual, inheritance, and corporate taxes, funneled 83 percent of its benefits to the top 1 percent of earners, and triggered such a huge explosion of stock buybacks that even some Republicans think it should be reined in.

But not every wealthy person is celebrating. In fact, according to Politico, the New York City real estate market is reeling from the tax law, triggering a decline in home prices, an exodus from the city, and even fears of a recession:

Under the new law, individuals can no longer deduct more than $10,000 in state and local taxes from their federal returns. The law also slashed the mortgage interest deduction from $1 million to $750,000.

Trump himself has gotten an earful from wealthy New York friends complaining about the impact of the changes on the high-end real estate market. “There are some people from New York who have been speaking to me about doing something about that, about changing things,” the president said at the White House last month. “I’d be open to talking about it.”

Politico notes that Republicans on Capitol Hill, for their part, have no interest in revisiting these provisions of the tax law.

More broadly, these provisions have been especially hard on Republicans in states where taxes are higher, and thus people stood to lose more from cuts to these deductions. Last year, the GOP lost key House races in places like California, New Jersey, and northern Virginia, where millions of affluent suburban voters claim the SALT deduction.

The irony is that, although the tax bill broadly was a massive gift to the wealthy and unpopular for it, the provisions limiting the deductibility of real-estate expenses are among the only part of the tax law that actually stand to increase taxes on wealthy people. And it is these provisions that have proven to be the biggest headache for Republicans.

New Photos Show North Korea Rebuilding Missile Test Site

On Tuesday, NBC News reported that researchers at Beyond Parallel have photos showing North Korea is pursuing the “rapid rebuilding” of a major rocket launch site, and evidence suggests they may be gearing up to resume missile testing:

Sohae Satellite Launching Station, North Korea’s only operational space launch facility, has been used in the past for satellite launches. These launches use similar technology to what is used for intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“This renewed activity, taken just two days after the inconclusive Hanoi Summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, may indicate North Korean plans to demonstrate resolve in the face of U.S. rejection of North Korea’s demands at the summit to lift five UN Security Council sanctions enacted in 2016-2017,” the analysts said. As NBC News reported, Beyond Parallel, a project sponsored by the defense think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), recently identified 20 undisclosed missile sites in North Korea.

The news is an extra humiliation for Trump, given that he failed to achieve anything at the summit, and given that he already decided to cancel annual military exercises with South Korea. He even excused Kim from any blame for the death of American student Otto Warmbier, who was tortured in a North Korean prison and never woke up from a coma after being returned to the U.S.

It is also a humiliation for Trump because, at last week’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), he boldly proclaimed that “the one thing we have … is we have no testing, no missiles going up, no rockets going up. No nuclear testing.” The work being done to reconstruct Sohae suggests that they may have plans for more missile tests shortly.

In some ways, the world breathed a sigh of relief when Trump backed off from mocking Kim as “little Rocket Man” and threatening to meet North Korea with “fire and fury.” But his new approach of total acquiescence seems to be going just as poorly.

IMAGE: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends meeting in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang December 29, 2015. KCNA/ via REUTERS/ File Photo

Christie: ‘No Way To Defend’ Trumps On Kushner Security Scandal

Former Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), a former ally of Trump, did not hold back on criticizing the president for overruling protocol for his own family in a discussion with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, saying, “There’s no way to defend, and I’m not going to, the New York Times story” and that it “should be very disturbing to people.”

“This is the biggest problem with having family in official positions in the White House. Because it’s much harder to be objective,” Christie said. He noted that it looked particularly bad that then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and then-White House Counsel Dohn McGahn both wrote memos criticizing the president’s decision. “I could tell you something. As having been a governor, I never had a staff member write a contemporaneous memo about one of my decisions.”

“They don’t do that on a whim?” Cuomo pressed him.

“They just don’t,” said Christie.

“They do it to cover themselves in a situation that they’re worried about exposure on,” Cuomo agreed.

Another hugely problematic aspect, Christie added, was that Trump’s daughter Ivanka apparently lied to cover for it. “Ivanka went on ABC and said, directly, that her father had nothing to do with her clearance or her husband’s clearance,” he said.

Christie and Kushner have had bad blood for years. As a federal prosecutor, Christie brought criminal charges against Kushner’s father. Kushner returned the favor by personally making sure Christie never got a job in the Trump administration.

Watch below:

IMAGE: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks in a press conference at the State House in Trenton, New Jersey, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter

 

Senator Alexander Warns ‘National Emergency’ Could Spark GOP Revolt

On Thursday, POLITICO reported that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) delivered a message on the Senate floor on behalf of some of his colleagues, warning that if President Donald Trump tries to implement his plan to build a border wall under the guise of a national emergency, he could face defections within his party:

In a much-anticipated floor speech, the retiring senator declined to state whether he will become the deciding vote to block the president’s maneuver. But he signaled broad opposition to the emergency declaration and sought to convince Trump that he has other ways to collect $5.7 billion for the border wall — the precise amount of money he demanded during the government shutdown fight.

“He’s got sufficient funding without a national emergency, he can build a wall and avoid a dangerous precedent,” Alexander told reporters afterward, referring to billions from a drug forfeiture fund and anti-drug smuggling money at the Defense Department. “That would change the voting situation if he we were to agree to do that.”

Trump does already plan to use money from drug programs at the Treasury and the Defense Department to fund the construction of his wall. But his emergency proposal would also divert funding from military projects, which even some Republicans senators have registered discomfort with.

This week, the House passed a resolution 245-182 to cancel Trump’s emergency declaration under the National Emergencies Act, with thirteen Republicans breaking ranks to join the Democrats. Under the rules, the Senate is now required to take up the resolution within 18 days of the House vote.

Three Republicans have so far stated they will vote in favor of the resolution: Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Thom Tillis (R-NC). Only one more Republican vote would be necessary to pass it.

More Than A Third Of Trump’s ‘Emergency’ Funding Is Already Spent

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

President Donald Trump now plans to build his border wall under the guise of a “national emergency.” The declaration, announced last Friday, will theoretically empower the president to divert $3.6 billion from military construction projects, $2.5 billion from federal counternarcotics programs, and $600 billion from the Treasury Department’s asset forfeiture fund to start constructing a barrier at the southern border, on top of the $1.35 billion that was allocated for border construction in the compromise bill passed by Congress to avert another shutdown.

There’s a problem, though: Trump probably can’t spend all that money. That’s because, according to Congressional Quarterly writer John Donnelly, more than a third of that money has already been spent.

John M. Donnelly

@johnmdonnelly

BREAKING: More than a third of the federal 💰@realDonaldTrump wants to redirect to build a is not available. It’s been spent. Congress—including Dems—would have to approve making new 💰 available. That’s not happening. Time for a Plan B.

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That means that, right from the start, Trump is working with billions fewer than he had planned for.

And that assumes he will be allowed to spend it at all. On Thursday, House Democrats released a resolution to block Trump’s declaration under the National Emergencies Act, and Senate Democrats have their own version in the works. If either of these passes, the other chamber is required to take it up, and it is not clear whether Republicans have yet whipped the votes necessary to affirm the president. Meanwhile, 16 states have banded together in a lawsuit to block the emergency declaration in federal court.

The upshot of this is that the only money Trump is absolutely guaranteed to have for construction at the border is the $1.35 billion he received from Congress, which theoretically would pay for just 55 miles of fencing. And even there, Democrats put heavy restrictions on how Trump can use that money: only existing designs, no construction in five sensitive areas including the National Butterfly Center, and the Department of Homeland Security must consult with local governments before any new barriers can be built.

All things considered, Trump’s hopes of using a national emergency as a shortcut are looking shakier by the day.

Former Clinton Aide Slams Times’ Stealth Correction On Uranium One

On Tuesday, tucked into a paragraph of an article on how President Donald Trump had battled investigations against him for the past two years, The New York Times made an astonishing, seemingly accidental confession about a massive failure in their coverage of the 2016 presidential election.

“Using Congress’s oversight powers, the Republican lawmakers succeeding in doing what Donald Trump could not realistically do on his own: forcing into the open some of the government’s most sensitive investigative files  including secret wiretaps and the existence of an F.B.I. informant  which were part of the Russia inquiry,” said the article. “House Republicans opened investigations into the F.B.I.’s handling of the Clinton email case and a debunked Obama-era uranium deal indirectly linked to Mrs. Clinton.”

It is remarkable that the Times casually mentioned the Uranium One deal as a “debunked” scandal, noted Nick Merrill, a former State Department official and adviser to Hillary Clinton, because it was the Times that promoted that story in the first place:

Nick Merrill@NickMerrill

For those who don’t recall or have appropriately suppressed all 2016 election memories, this story came in April of 2015, 12 days after HRC announced she was running for President.

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Nick Merrill@NickMerrill

Because the NYT ran it, it carried enormous weight despite it being the result of a deal struck between the NYT & a book project funded by Steve Bannon.

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Nick Merrill@NickMerrill

It was incredibly problematic for the campaign as the right pounced and we worked to debunk it. Only much later through a lot of hard work educating people on the facts was it more widely accepted that Uranium One was complete crap.

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One of the saddest parts of the story, notes Merrill, is that all of this drove donor funding away from the Clinton Foundation, as it tried to do life-saving work distributing medications and funding global development.

Nick Merrill@NickMerrill

Worst of all, it had lasting damage on the @ClintonFdn, diverting resources from programs that quite literally save lives across the globe.

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Nick Merrill@NickMerrill

As frustrating as all of this was, thankfully the Clinton Foundation & the incredible people there are committed & resilient, so they have continued to do remarkable work. Here’s a recent piece about CF’s comeback & it’s work in Puerto Rico.https://www.axios.com/clinton-foundation-bill-hillary-puerto-rico-hurricanes-2df82398-5a9e-4574-97e3-4a219257f112.html 

The Clintons’ “Comeback Foundation” aids hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico

It has expanded its work worldwide with fresh momentum and more support.

axios.com

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The New York Times has faced criticism for its coverage in the 2016 election. For example, a review of the paper’s coverage found that they “ran as many cover stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails as they did about all the policy issues combined in the 69 days leading up to the election.” The Clinton Cash saga is a major chapter in how the Times‘ editorial process fell short — and it arguably deserves more attention than a passing reference buried in an article on Trump.

Alabama Newspaper Calls For Ku Klux Klan ‘To Night Ride Again’

On February 14, the Democrat-Reporter, a local newspaper in Linden, Alabama, ran a hideous editorial calling for the return of the KKK. On Monday, publisher Goodloe Sutton confirmed that he was the author of the racist screed, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

“Time for the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again,” wrote Sutton. “Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama … this socialist-communist idealogy [sic] sounds good to the ignorant, the uneducated, and the simple minded people.”

“Slaves, just freed after the civil war, were not stupid. At times, they borrowed their former masters’ robes and horses and rode through the night to frighten some evil doer. Sometimes they had to kill one or two of them, but so what,” continued Sutton. “Seems like the Klan would be welcome to raid the gated communities up there. They call them compounds now. Truly, they are the ruling class.”

When confronted by the Advertiser, Sutton was completely remorseless and actually doubled down, suggesting the KKK should start lynching people again.

“If we could get the Klan to go up there and clean out D.C., we’d all been better off,” said Sutton. “We’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them.” The population of Washington, D.C. is 48 percent African-American.

It’s not bad to lynch people in D.C., said Sutton, because “these are socialist-communists we’re talking about. Do you know what socialism and communism is?” The KKK, he added, “didn’t kill but a few people” and “wasn’t violent until they needed to be.”

Sutton depicts the Klan as if they were just a bunch of economic populists sticking it to the man, supported by former slaves. In fact, they were quite the opposite  a racial terrorist organization founded in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War to intimidate newly freed slaves trying to exercise their civil rights.

The KKK existed in three “phases”. The first KKK in the 1860s was a paramilitary group in the South that enforced white supremacy with murders and assaults; the second KKK in the 1920s was a political movement of millions across the whole country that rallied to oppose (and often turned violent against) anything that wasn’t traditional, white, Protestant dominance of American culture; and the third KKK in the 1960s arose to oppose the civil rights movement, and relied on firebombings of black churches and the homes of activists to spread fear. The KKK continues to this day, albeit as a few thousand scattered members of disjointed, often opposed groups.

American society had supposedly moved, if certainly not beyond racism itself, then at least beyond the expression of overt support for white supremacy. Unfortunately, as Sutton demonstrates, some people yearn for the days when racial terrorism was a constant and ever-present force.

Report: FBI Agents Planned To Foil Trump Obstruction Of Russia Probe

President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey in May 2017 sparked debates about whether he was obstructing the investigation into contacts between his presidential campaign and the Russian government.

According to a report from The Associated Press, the FBI also feared that possibility and scrambled to develop a contingency plan to protect evidence gathered in the Russia probe if Trump decided to clean house and install his own loyalists at the bureau:

The plan was crafted in the chaotic days after Comey was fired, when the FBI began investigating whether President Donald Trump had obstructed justice and whether he might be, wittingly or not, in league with the Russians. The goal was to ensure that the information collected under the investigations, which included probes of Trump associates and possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, would survive the firings or reassignments of top law enforcement officials. Those officials included special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed eight days after Trump fired Comey in May 2017.

Andrew McCabe, who became acting director after Comey was fired, asked investigators to develop a plan to ensure evidence would be protected, said the person, who was not authorized to talk about those discussions publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press. A plan was then created, according to the person, who would not provide specifics. A second person familiar with the talks, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, also said the FBI discussed preserving evidence so that it would outlast any firing or effort to stymie the investigation.

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who served as acting director in the aftermath of Comey’s dismissal and who himself was fired by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in early 2018, has recently opened up about his decision to order an investigation into the president directly, which he said put the Russia investigation on “solid ground.” At the time, Republican leaders did not object to the probe, but the public revelations about it have caused fresh howls of outrage from Trump supporters and the president himself.

Trump’s contempt for the independence of federal law enforcement was a grave threat to the rule of law. The fact that the FBI had to plan for an attack at the hands of their own president is a disgrace.

IMAGE: James Comey (R), a Republican who served in the Bush Justice Department, speaks alongside outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller after being nominated by President Barack Obama (not pictured) to replace Mueller, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, June 21, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed/File Photo

Watch Ivanka Trump’s Mortifying Moment During Merkel’s Speech In Munich

The Munich Security Conference on Saturday drew a lot of attention as Vice President Mike Pence’s fiery calls for Europe to stand with President Donald Trump was awkwardly met with zero applause whatsoever.

But another moment that was awkward for the president came when German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered a scorching condemnation of the U.S. trade war and Trump’s daughter Ivanka, sitting in the crowd, could only look on in stone-cold silence as the leader of one of America’s major allies ripped her father’s economic policy to pieces.

“Apparently, the American secretary of trade says German cars are a threat to America’s national security,” said Merkel. “We’re proud of our automotive industry, and, I think we can be, we’re proud of our cars. They are built in the United States of America. South Carolina is one of the largest  it’s actually the largest BMW plant. Not in Bavaria. South Carolina is supplying China.”

“So when these cars that, because they’re built in South Carolina, are not becoming less threatening, rather than the ones that are built in Bavaria, are supposed to be a threat to the national security of America, it’s a bit of a shock to us,” said Merkel, to thunderous applause  and silence from First Daughter Ivanka.

Watch:

Mueller: Manafort Should Serve 20 Years Plus In Prison

On Friday, CNN reported that special counsel Robert Mueller agrees with the Probation Department’s recommendation of a prison sentence of 19.5 to 24.5 years for President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort:

“In the end, Manafort acted for more than a decade as if he were above the law, and deprived the federal government and various financial institutions of millions of dollars,” prosecutors wrote. “The sentence here should reflect the seriousness of these crimes, and serve to both deter Manafort and others from engaging in such conduct.”
As Manafort is 69 years old, a prison sentence this long means he very likely will be locked up for the rest of his life. But, say Mueller’s prosecutors, his age “does not eliminate the risk of recidivism he poses — particularly given that his pattern of criminal activity has occurred over more than a decade.”

The ultimate sentence will be decided by Judge T. S. Ellis, who has overseen Manafort’s trial.

Manafort has spent decades involved in shady business with overseas dictators and strongmen, including Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. He enjoyed a “lavish lifestyle” thanks to his money laundering schemes, including multiple homes in New York and a ridiculously opulent collection of suits.

In the run-up to Manafort’s trial, his bail was revoked after he was caught tampering with witnesses. He was convicted on eight counts of bank fraud and tax evasion, and though he promptly entered into a plea agreement with Mueller to avoid a second trial, he consistently lied to investigators he was supposed to be cooperating with.

White-collar crime is a badly unenforced area of law, which likely is why Manafort believed he could do what he did. But because he attached himself to Trump, he will be made to answer for his crimes.

Report: Trump Organization Scraps Plan For Hotel Chains

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

According to a new report from The New York Times, the Trump Organization is scrapping plans to open a new line of hotels — and citing the hostile political climate as the reason:

Plans for the two hotel chains, Scion and American Idea, are to be shelved indefinitely, most likely for the remainder of the presidency. As a practical matter, that means calling off just one agreement, in Mississipppi, though two years ago the Trump Organization said it had as many as 30 potential deals in the pipeline.
The retrenchment comes as the company faces growing scrutiny from federal prosecutors and congressional investigators, and as a former employee, Michael D. Cohen, heads to prison for multiple crimes. With Democrats now in control of the House of Representatives, any new hotel deals could have provided investigative fodder for critics of the president.

These proposed hotel chains were notable in that they would not have carried the Trump name — potentially a sign that, even when the Trump Organization was planning to move forward, its executives recognized that slapping the president’s name on the properties could be harmful to business.

All of this is a dramatic departure from the beginning of Trump’s presidency, when the expectation was that Trump-owned businesses would be able to profit from their association with the leader of the free world. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, for example, doubled its membership fees to $200,000, in part because members were being given the right to potentially speak with the president on his numerous trips there. Meanwhile, foreign dignitaries have stayed at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. for exorbitant prices, which has raised questions about whether the arrangement violates the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

The fact that the Trump family clearly showed an interest in profiting from the president’s official position has long been worrisome. But the American people can take some degree of consolation in the fact that it doesn’t appear to be working.