Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Joe Biden: 5 Questions for Donald Trump at Coronavirus Pandemic Briefing

Vice President Joe Biden offers stark difference to Donald Trump in focus and approach to addressing coronavirus pandemic poses five questions to Trump that should be asked at the daily briefing (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The coronavirus pandemic has completely derailed the 2020 presidential campaigns. While Trump has a bully pulpit and turns daily briefings into political rallies, challengers including Vice President Joe Biden cannot compete for visibility or reach. We will do our part, as much as possible, to broadcast their messages so that voters may discern for themselves who should be elected to lead this country. This is from the Joe Biden campaign, which came before Trump, switching focus from the 10 minutes he spent concerned about the spread of the disease and having an adequate health care system, turned again to prioritize the economy, saying he would look to end measures in a matter of weeks (not months) designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 in order to goose the economy. Trump said that the economic impact could become worse than COVID-19 itself. “We cannot let cure be worse than the problem,” causing the medical community to scratch heads.  The desire to prioritize economic health over people is echoed by other Republicans and rightwingers. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said lots of grandparents would be willing to die in order to save the economy for their grandchildren. This is from the Biden campaign, in advance of Trump’s March 23 briefing–Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features.

Five Questions for Donald Trump at Today’s Briefing

As Trump Attempts to Spin Away His Historic Failure to Combat the Coronavirus, Here Are Five Questions He Needs to Answer at Today’s Press Conference

1.  Why do you continue to support efforts to roll back the Affordable Care Act and kick tens of millions of Americans off their insurance in the middle of a global pandemic?
 
Ten years ago today, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, expanding access to quality, affordable health care for millions of Americans. But, even in the midst of a global pandemic, Donald Trump continues to lead fellow Republicans in efforts to do away with the law and the critical protections it put in place.
 
Over 20 million Americans have received health insurance through the ACA, and it’s given better care and peace of mind to countless others — that’s why Vice President Biden sent a letter today to President Trump and Republican leaders demanding that they drop their efforts to jeopardize Americans’ health care.
 
 
2.  Why did you put the profits of big corporations ahead of desperately needed medical supplies for health care workers, first responders, and coronavirus victims?
 
New reporting today from CNN shows that Trump abruptly reversed himself on using the Defense Production Act to speed up the manufacture of critical medical equipment because big businesses aggressively lobbied the White House out of fear of “profit loss.”
 
Trump is continuing to put the bottom lines of his corporate cronies ahead of the safety of first responders and coronavirus victims — even as a bipartisan group of governors and mayors has demanded that he finally use the DPA to help secure life-saving gear.
 
 
3.  Why did you ignore the repeated warnings of your own intelligence officials in January and February about the impending risk of the coronavirus and decide to downplay the threat instead of preparing a response?
 
The Washington Post reported that Trump ignored repeated warnings from top intelligence officials in January and February that the coronavirus was spreading globally and that it posed a dire threat to the safety of the United States, with one official telling the Post that “the system was blinking red.”
 
Instead of preparing for the imminent spread of coronavirus in America, Trump repeatedly ignored experts and downplayed its significance, claiming, “it’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” The result: a “chaotic” response as basic needs for tests and life-saving equipment go unmet, and as Administration officials scramble to cover up for Trump’s lies about the response.
 
While Trump was ignoring the experts and downplayed the threat of the coronavirus, Vice President Biden laid out a clear-eyed vision in January for how we could come together as a country to stop the emerging pandemic and has built on that with a comprehensive plan to combat the coronavirus.
 
 
4.  Why did you take China’s word and praise Xi’s response for weeks as the coronavirus continued to spread, ignoring Vice President Biden’s warning about their misleading statements?
 
Trump wasted critical weeks praising President Xi and China’s response to the coronavirus epidemic — even as Trump’s own intelligence officials warned that the Chinese were providing faulty information. Vice President Biden, on the other hand, clearly warned Trump against trusting information from Xi at face value, insisting instead that America push to get experts on the ground in China.
 
Now Trump has laughably pivoted to criticizing China, attempting to rewrite history and brush aside countless examples of him heaping praise on Xi and the Chinese government. Moreover, is Trump saying that he wasn’t supposed to take steps to protect the American people simply because this virus emerged in another country?
 
 
5.  Why are you supporting a $500 billion slush fund for corporations with no strings attached and no protections for workers?
 
With America’s economy teetering, and with countless families facing financial ruin, Trump continues to back a massive corporate bailout package with almost no conditions, and no restraints on corporations using taxpayer dollars for executive bonuses and stock buybacks.
 
That’s why Vice President Biden has called for workers and families to be put first in any stimulus package — with no blank checks for big corporations — so Americans will have the financial support they need to weather this storm.

In Oval Office Speech, Trump Fails to Offer Solutions to Stem Healthcare Crisis Looming With Coronavirus Pandemic or Calm Economic Fears

Trump offers his “historic actions” to address the coronavirus pandemic: payroll tax cut, tax deferral, travel ban from Europe (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.
Trump, in an address to the nation from the  Oval Office, tried to calm fears and most importantly (for him) calm the financial markets after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic and chided nations for underplaying the crisis. Trump spent most of the time self-congratulating himself, calling the crisis “unprecedented” (it’s not), and his actions “historic” (hardly). Trump said nothing about making the health care infrastructure work to save Americans from suffering and needless dying, or for bolstering finances for people who have lost their means of earning money, paying bills, caring for children. His solution, to unilaterally ban travel from Europe (not UK) is absurd. Still no idea how many Americans harbor the infection. He used words like “unprecedented” when this is hardly unprecedented (Spanish flu, Swine flu, Ebola, and months of seeing what happened in China, South Korea, Italy). He kept saying that America will get by because we are the strongest, smartest, best nation that ever existed. Trump’s solution is medieval: pull up the drawbridge, build a wall against foreign invasion. Balderdash. And by the way, YOU DIDN’T BUILD THAT: the strong economy was bequeathed by Obama and other predecessors that Trump is frittering away with $1 trillion budget deficits despite (as Trump constantly claims) a historic, strong economy. And what does strong military have to do with coronavirus pandemic? The amount of back-slapping Trump does to himself (“unprecedented steps” which are hardly unprecedented or even dramatic or adequate or on target for the health crisis at hand), and his sychophants, even the “experts” have had to lather praise is disgusting. As for abandoning the partisanship, he means “adore me, go along with whatever I say.” Immediately after, he attacked Nancy Pelosi and Democrats. Here s the speech annotated – Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT TRUMP
IN ADDRESS TO THE NATION
 
Oval Office
   
9:02 P.M. EDT
 
THE PRESIDENT:  My fellow Americans: Tonight, I want to speak with you about our nation’s unprecedented response to the coronavirus outbreak that started in China and is now spreading throughout the world.
 
Today, the World Health Organization officially announced that this is a global pandemic.

We have been in frequent contact with our allies, and we are marshalling the full power of the federal government and the private sector to protect the American people.

[And yet the European Union was blindsided by Trump’s sudden ban on travel from Europe but not the UK].
 
This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history.  I am confident that by counting and continuing to take these tough measures, we will significantly reduce the threat to our citizens, and we will ultimately and expeditiously defeat this virus.
 
From the beginning of time, nations and people have faced unforeseen challenges, including large-scale and very dangerous health threats.  This is the way it always was and always will be.  It only matters how you respond, and we are responding with great speed and professionalism.

[Hardly ‘unforeseen’ when the outbreak began in December in China and his first response came in March after pooh-poohing.]

Our team is the best anywhere in the world.  At the very start of the outbreak, we instituted sweeping travel restrictions on China and put in place the first federally mandated quarantine in over 50 years.  We declared a public health emergency and issued the highest level of travel warning on other countries as the virus spread its horrible infection. 
 
And taking early intense action, we have seen dramatically fewer cases of the virus in the United States than are now present in Europe. 

  [Except you really don’t know how many Americans are harboring the coronavirus because there hasn’t been adequate testing. And back in January, when Seattle doctor suspected coronavirus, federal agencies refused allowing testing, continued to reject the test kits from W.H.O. and relied on faulty, inadequate tests of its own.]

The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hotspots.  As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe. 

[That is one of Trump’s ‘blame others’ ‘blame them’ ‘blame Europe’ out of his ass comments. He doesn’t know how the infection came here or where it came from. Those cruise goers didn’t come from Europe.]
 
After consulting with our top government health professionals, I have decided to take several strong but necessary actions to protect the health and wellbeing of all Americans.
 
To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.  The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight.  These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground.
 
There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval.  Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing.  These restrictions will also not apply to the United Kingdom.
 
At the same time, we are monitoring the situation in China and in South Korea.  And, as their situation improves, we will reevaluate the restrictions and warnings that are currently in place for a possible early opening.

  [There is no travel ban on South Korea.]

Earlier this week, I met with the leaders of health insurance industry who have agreed to waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments, extend insurance coverage to these treatments, and to prevent surprise medical billing. 
 
We are cutting massive amounts of red tape to make antiviral therapies available in record time.  These treatments will significantly reduce the impact and reach of the virus.

[Treatment still not likely to be available for a year.]
 
Additionally, last week, I signed into law an $8.3 billion funding bill to help CDC and other government agencies fight the virus and support vaccines, treatments, and distribution of medical supplies.  Testing and testing capabilities are expanding rapidly, day by day.  We are moving very quickly.

[Who will get that money and supplies?  Will Trump steer to “loyal” states and communities like Texas and Florida, and away from places like New York, California, Massachusetts, just as he did with Ukraine’s military aid, George w. Bush did with anti-terror funding after 9/11 and Chris Christie did by shutting down the George Washington bridge to punish Democratic mayors who refused to endorse him?]
 
The vast majority of Americans: The risk is very, very low.  Young and healthy people can expect to recover fully and quickly if they should get the virus.  The highest risk is for elderly population with underlying health conditions.  The elderly population must be very, very careful.

[The problem here is that the ‘young, healthy’ people can transmit the infection to others who are vulnerable.]
 
In particular, we are strongly advising that nursing homes for the elderly suspend all medically unnecessary visits.  In general, older Americans should also avoid nonessential travel in crowded areas. 
 
My administration is coordinating directly with communities with the largest outbreaks, and we have issued guidance on school closures, social distancing, and reducing large gatherings.
 
Smart action today will prevent the spread of the virus tomorrow.
 
Every community faces different risks and it is critical for you to follow the guidelines of your local officials who are working closely with our federal health experts — and they are the best. 

[Here is the key piece: the federal government is failing and useless and has no clue what to do, so Trump needs to rely – and probably blame – state and local officials who are doing their best to keep up with the needs. But key policies need to be made at the federal level. See Nicholas Kristof, “12 Steps to Tackle the Coronavirus” in New York Times of what Trump should have said and done.]
 
For all Americans, it is essential that everyone take extra precautions and practice good hygiene.  Each of us has a role to play in defeating this virus.  Wash your hands, clean often-used surfaces, cover your face and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and most of all, if you are sick or not feeling well, stay home.
 
To ensure that working Americans impacted by the virus can stay home without fear of financial hardship, I will soon be taking emergency action, which is unprecedented, to provide financial relief.  This will be targeted for workers who are ill, quarantined, or caring for others due to coronavirus.
 
I will be asking Congress to take legislative action to extend this relief.
 
Because of the economic policies that we have put into place over the last three years, we have the greatest economy anywhere in the world, by far. 

  [To the extent the US has in fact has greatest economy in the world, it is largely because of his abuse of tariff wars, sanctions, ending aid to undermine other economies.]

Our banks and financial institutions are fully capitalized and incredibly strong. 

[Thanks Obama! And Dodd Frank.]

Our unemployment is at a historic low.  This vast economic prosperity gives us flexibility, reserves, and resources to handle any threat that comes our way.
 
[He neglects to mention the $1 trillion budget deficits he has run despite his ‘historic’ strong economy, low unemployment. The fact that 40% of all Americans don’t have $400 available to cover an emergency.]

This is not a financial crisis, this is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation and as a world.  

[The next morning, the Dow plummeted another 2000 points, more than 7%, down to 21,400 from a high of 29,000 just a couple of weeks earlier. Trump was reported to have leveled a tirade at Federal Reserve Chair Powell for failing to cut interest rates even further than the half-point “emergency” cut a week ago.]

However, to provide extra support for American workers, families, and businesses, tonight I am announcing the following additional actions:  I am instructing the Small Business Administration to exercise available authority to provide capital and liquidity to firms affected by the coronavirus. 
 
Effective immediately, the SBA will begin providing economic loans in affected states and territories. These low-interest loans will help small businesses overcome temporary economic disruptions caused by the virus.  To this end, I am asking Congress to increase funding for this program by an additional $50 billion. 
 
Using emergency authority, I will be instructing the Treasury Department to defer tax payments, without interest or penalties, for certain individuals and businesses negatively impacted.  This action will provide more than $200 billion of additional liquidity to the economy.

  [How are the individuals and businesses chosen? What will this do to the Treasury’s ability to pay bills? How does starving the federal government of resources help the situation]

Finally, I am calling on Congress to provide Americans with immediate payroll tax relief.  Hopefully they will consider this very strongly.

[Payroll tax only helps people who are earning wages, not the people who are laid off or lose their jobs. The amount of money is so miniscule, people don’t even realize. And how does starving Medicare and Social Security of funding help? Instead, should be requiring paid sick leave, unemployment benefits expanded to people with fewer hours and contract workers. See Nicholas Kristof.]
 
We are at a critical time in the fight against the virus.  We made a life-saving move with early action on China.  Now we must take the same action with Europe.  We will not delay.  I will never hesitate to take any necessary steps to protect the lives, health, and safety of the American people.  I will always put the wellbeing of America first.

[Yet another undeserved pat on the back, and misguided focus on putting up walls instead of gearing up for the spreading epidemic in the country. Some 100 million are projected to get the illness; more than 1 million expected to die. Millions will jam emergency rooms and ICUs. There are only 1 million hospital beds and 700,000 of these are already occupied. People will die of heart attacks and other ailments because they cannot be accommodated. Doctors and nurses and health care workers will get sick or become so overworked they can’t function. Who is available to replace? What is Trump doing about that? Is he setting up mobile clinics, like MASH units? Sending out mobile testing vehicles. Doing drive-by testing as in South Korea which is handling 20,000 tests a day?]  

If we are vigilant — and we can reduce the chance of infection, which we will — we will significantly impede the transmission of the virus.  The virus will not have a chance against us. 
 
No nation is more prepared or more resilient than the United States.  We have the best economy, the most advanced healthcare, and the most talented doctors, scientists, and researchers anywhere in the world.

[More jingoism, American Exceptionalism. America First. Balderdash. Basically his argument is, ‘We will defeat this epidemic because we are The Greatest.’ And by the way, YOU DIDN’T BUILD THAT! Obama and predecessors handed Trump a strong economy, rescued from the depths of the Great Recession. Obama created the Affordable Care Act which covered 30 million more people than before, controlled health care costs, enabled more people to become doctors, nurses, health care workers.]
 
We are all in this together.  We must put politics aside, stop the partisanship, and unify together as one nation and one family. 

 [Biggest joke-on-America ever, since Trump, who wears a MAGA hat on CDC tour, and tells Pence not to praise Washington Governor Jay Inslee (“a snake”, and accuses Democrats and Nancy Pelosi of perpetrating a hoax in raising alarm about coronavirus in order to undermine him. As for abandoning the partisanship, what he really means, as Moscow Mitch always means when he uses the term “compromise” is “Do what we say, don’t criticize or point out why we are inept, corrupt, and out only for ourselves.”]


[Trump assailed Democrats hours after he implored lawmakers to “stop the partisanship.” Then the markets cratered, unassuaged by his economic proposals, New York Times reported.]  

As history has proven time and time again, Americans always rise to the challenge and overcome adversity. 
 
Our future remains brighter than anyone can imagine.  Acting with compassion and love, we will heal the sick, care for those in need, help our fellow citizens, and emerge from this challenge stronger and more unified than ever before.

[Such pablum. Trump reads the teleprompter in a monotone, the sentences running one into another. He has no idea what he just said.]
 
God bless you, and God bless America.  Thank you.
 
                         END                 9:12 P.M. EDT

See also:

Cuomo Pleads with CDC to Allow Coronavirus Testing in Private Labs to Better Monitor, Contain Spread

Coronavirus Epidemic: Warren Outlines Decisive Plan to Keep American Families Healthy & Stabilize Economy

Sanders to Trump: Stop Playing Politics with our Health and National Security  

Democratic Race for 2020: Warren Plan to Restore Integrity and Competence to Government After Donald Trump

Senator Elizabeth Warren, running for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, released her plan to “Restore Integrity and Competence to Government After Donald Trump” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to “Restore Integrity and Competence to Government After Donald Trump”

Donald Trump’s presidency has been a dark period in American history. That period won’t end just because Donald Trump has left office. If we want to write a new chapter in the American story — one in which the government and economy actually work for the people — we will have to cleanse the corruption from our government and urgently act to appoint officials who will bring integrity to public service,” Warren states.

This is from the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – In one year, the next president will start her first full day of work. Donald Trump will be leaving behind a disaster: agencies gutted, others run by lobbyists and rife with corruption and policies that have thrown our country into crisis. The next president will need to have the energy, expertise, and vision to safeguard our country, rebuild the government swiftly, and make fundamental changes so that it works for the American people. 
 
Elizabeth has a plan to restore integrity and competence to government after Donald Trump. She will:
 
Address the corruption and incompetence of the Trump Administration by: 

Asking for the resignations of all political appointees, including U.S. Attorneys, with an exception only for those positions necessary to preserve continuity and protect national security during the transition period.

Establishing an independent Justice Department Task Force to investigate violations by Trump administration officials of federal bribery laws, insider trading laws, and other anti-corruption and public integrity laws, and give that task force independent authority to pursue any substantiated criminal and civil violations.

Reviewing the performance of independent agencies and removing leading officials for cause where there is justification to do so. 

Identifying federal contracting arrangements that arose as a result of corruption in the Trump administration – and ending them. 

 Swiftly appoint new personnel:

Elizabeth will announce her choices for the Cabinet by December 1, 2020, other top nominations by December 15, 2020, and fully staff all senior and mid-level White House positions by Inauguration Day.

She will not hire any current lobbyists. If someone has served as a corporate lobbyist in the past, they will have a six year cooling off period and there will be no waivers or exceptions. Non-corporate lobbyists will have a two year cooling off period, and any waivers will be made public.

She will also institute a number of rules to make sure that executive branch officials are working on behalf of the people – not themselves or their former employers.

She will use a number of existing tools to swiftly fill government vacancies. 

Build a government that reflects the energy and diversity of America:

The Cabinet and senior leadership team will reflect the full diversity of America, including having at least 50% of Cabinet positions filled by women and non binary people.

LGBTQ+ people will be represented across all levels of government, including in leadership roles.

She will diversify recruitment to direct real resources toward attracting entry-level applicants for public service from HBCUs, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and other minority-serving institutions, and reform high-level recruiting processes to attract diverse experienced hires into senior management positions.

She will create new paid fellowship programs for federal jobs for people from marginalized communities and low-income applicants, including formerly incarcerated individuals.

She will open up promotion pathways by requiring every federal agency to incorporate diversity as part of their core strategic plan and creating support networks through a government-wide mentorship program that centers Black and Brown employees. 

And she will recommit to President Obama’s efforts to raise the level of people with disabilities in federal service. 

Read more about her plan here and below:
 
One year from today, the next president will begin her first full day of work. She will be inheriting a government in crisis: from children in cages at detention facilities near the border to a reckless foreign policy that endangers our country and a bigoted ban on travelers from Muslim-majority countries, our country will be in desperate need of immediate course correction. Further, Donald Trump will leave behind a government that has been infected by corruption and incompetence, and his vindictive actions as president suggest that he is likely to do everything he can to undermine the next president. We cannot assume that everything will be fine once Donald Trump leaves office. The next president will need to have the energy, expertise, and vision to safeguard our country, rebuild the government swiftly, and make fundamental changes so that it works for the American people. 
 
I know how to get the government working for the people because I’ve done it before. Back in 2010, President Obama picked me to get the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) up and running. We recruited a mission-driven staff and set up the organization, and it took swift action to protect Americans from financial predators and make financial products safer. From defending people with crushing levels of student debt to fighting for servicemembers and their families who were targeted by financial vultures, the agency used every tool in its toolbox to stand up for ordinary Americans. And that agency has now returned more than $12 billion directly to people who were cheated. 
 
I have also spent the last seven years in the Senate studying the intimate details of how our government works, finding the levers that can bring about big structural change, and identifying the key positions that are responsible for making these changes. And I have learned from a diverse community of experts who share my vision for progressive, structural change and who know the executive branch inside and out.
 
My agenda would make our government and our economy work for everyone. It starts with anti-corruption reforms, democracy reforms, campaign finance reforms — reforms that will break the stranglehold that corporate interests have on Washington and get our government working for the people. We’ll also make our economy work for everyone — from cancelling student loan debt to providing universal child care for every kid age 0 to 5 to investing in green manufacturing. But achieving this agenda while also addressing the crises that Donald Trump has created will require an energetic president with expertise on how the executive branch works, a real commitment to making the executive branch free from corruption, and the courage to use every tool available to deliver for working families. 
 
Donald Trump has done serious damage to our government. Of over 700 key government posts requiring Senate confirmation, the Trump administration has failed to confirm nearly a third. At both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, less than half of all key positions have been filled. The Trump administration has had 28 acting cabinet secretaries over three years – more than the total number of acting secretaries in either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama’s eight years in office. Senior career civil servants have been leaving the Trump administration at a record pace. Approximately 1 in 5 members of the Senior Executive Service left the administration in 2017 – a far greater share than during previous transitions, draining the agencies of long-held expertise and institutional knowledge. 
 
Of the positions he has filled, Donald Trump has been stacking the government with lobbyists, campaign donors, and cronies. Halfway through his first term, he had already hired 281 lobbyists into political appointments. Shortly after being elected, thirty-eight percent of those he picked for high-level government jobs were donors and during his first two years, 40% of his ambassadors came from outside the foreign service. The mix of industry insiders and donors has both created turmoil and opened up an opportunity for big businesses to tilt the rules in their favor. This government run by and for lobbyists has dismantled workplace safety and environmental rules, health care protections, and dozens of other programs and regulations that benefit working people. 
 
Rebuilding our government to work for the people won’t just happen. It’s going to require painstaking work, extraordinary drive and urgency, and a serious plan to root out the corruption and incompetence that Trump will leave behind. That means cleaning out the corruption that has infected the government, and it means moving immediately to fill key jobs and set up agencies with capable officials committed to putting the public interest first. 
 
Addressing the Corruption and Incompetence of the Trump Administration
 
On day one of my presidency, I will take aggressive steps to root out the corruption and incompetence of the Trump administration and to hold that administration accountable. I will:  

Remove all political appointees. Rooting out the corruption in our government starts with wiping the slate clean on political appointments. Donald Trump gave influential, high-ranking positions to his donors, friends, and political allies. I will ask for the resignations of all political appointees, including U.S. Attorneys, save only those positions necessary to preserve continuity and protect national security during the transition period. 
 

Prevent political appointees from burrowing into career positions. The law outlines clear rules that help prevent political appointees from circumventing standard hiring practices and “burrowing” into the government by converting from a political appointment into a career position. I will strengthen enforcement of rules around conversion from appointed positions to career civil service to root out officials who attempt to burrow into agencies.
 

Establish a Justice Department Task Force to investigate corruption during the Trump administration and to hold government officials accountable for illegal activity. Donald Trump has run the most corrupt administration in history. He was impeached for withholding foreign aid in an effort to try to benefit his re-election campaign. He has enriched himself and his business through the power of his office. And there are public reports of potentially illegal corruption in every corner of his administration. If we are to move forward to restore public confidence in government and deter future wrongdoing, we cannot simply sweep this corruption under the rug in a new administration. That’s why I will direct the Justice Department to establish a task force to investigate violations by Trump administration officials of federal bribery laws, insider trading laws, and other anti-corruption and public integrity laws, and give that task force independent authority to pursue any substantiated criminal and civil violations. I have also committed to establishing a task force to investigate accusations of serious violations by immigration officials during the Trump era. 
 

Review the performance of independent agencies and remove leading officials for cause where there is justification to do so. For good reason, the heads of independent agencies can only be removed for cause — for example, if they neglect their duties or engage in malfeasance while in office. My administration will review these agencies and determine whether any of these agency heads warrant removal for cause — and I will not hesitate to use my for-cause removal authority if the facts justify it.
 

Identify federal contracting arrangements that arose as a result of corruption in the Trump administration – and end them. The corruption in the Trump administration extends beyond those who work for the government directly to those who have won contracts to execute government services. For example, Donald Trump repeatedly pushed the Army Corps of Engineers to award a border wall contract to a particular company; the company won the contract despite not meeting the standards for a bid. My administration will review major contracts executed under the Trump administration to identify conflicts of interest and other forms of corruption and take action to cancel any contracts procured as a result of corrupting influences.  

Swiftly Appoint New Personnel Who Will Undo the Trump Administration’s Disastrous Policies, Restore Integrity to Government, and Fight on Behalf of the American People
 
It would be foolish to assume that after Trump is gone, the government will start moving in the right direction all on its own. This will be no ordinary transition between administrations. One year from now, the next president will take charge in the middle of multiple crises – from the border, to our foreign policy, to the undermining of health, safety, and environmental rules, to the hollowing out and corruption of our public institutions.  
 
My transition will move faster than any transition in modern history to identify appointees and develop plans for making change starting on day one. Unlike previous transitions, we will not be able to assume good faith cooperation on the part of the outgoing administration, and we do not have an outgoing administration that shares even the most basic values. There will be no time to lose in putting teams in place to address the crises this administration has brought on our country – and to take action on the extraordinary challenges that the American people face. 
 
And that is why I am committing to announcing my choices for the Cabinet by December 1, 2020, other top nominations by December 15, 2020, and fully staff all senior and mid-level White House positions by Inauguration Day. Historically, the Obama administration was the most successful at sending nominations to the Senate, delivering 35 nominations for confirmation on his first day in office. As president, I will send the largest package of nominees to the Senate for confirmation on day one. In addition, I will have the senior and mid-level ranks of my White House fully staffed on day one, so that we can hit the ground running.
 

  Trump Obama GW Bush Clinton  GHW Bush
Day 1 28 35 13 25 18
Day 100 71 190 85 176 95
Day 200 277 433 414 345 315

 
Source: Partnership for Public Service, Center for Presidential Transition
 
have often said that personnel is policy. The choices of who to appoint are policy choices, because individuals make policy decisions. But personnel is also performance. If our government doesn’t have good people, it can’t perform for the American people. To meet this ambitious schedule while also ensuring that our government reflects the interests of all Americans, I will focus on three key areas: instituting hiring rules and practices that end the revolving door and prevent corruption; building an administration that reflects the experiences and diversity of our country; and using all available tools to swiftly fill vacancies.
 
Ending the Revolving Door and Preventing Corruption
We must ensure that the next administration isn’t afflicted by the corrupting influence of money that plagues Washington. I have introduced the biggest anti-corruption legislation since Watergate and my first priority as president is to pass my Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, so that we can clean up every aspect of Washington policymaking. 
 
But there are many actions a president can take all by herself, and my administration will adopt the strictest anti-corruption hiring rules of any administration in American history. And that starts by ending the revolving door between big corporations and their lobbyists and government jobs.

My administration will not hire any current lobbyists.  If someone has served as a corporate lobbyist in the past, my administration will require them to have a six year cooling off period before they are eligible for a government position, and there will be no waivers or exceptions. Non-corporate lobbyists will have a two year cooling off period, and any waivers will be made public. 

My administration will not hire employees of for-profit federal contractors, unless I personally review the situation and decide it is in the national interest. For-profit contractors and licensees do business with the government – they are often awarded huge contracts and licenses for important federal projects. Unless I make a specific exception, my administration will not hire employees of such firms into the agencies or departments that awarded contracts to their former employers for four years after their last contract or license was awarded.

My administration will not hire executives of companies that break federal law or are under investigation unless six years have passed since the conclusion of the investigation or enforcement action. People in the private sector can have valuable experience to bring to public service. But too often, government agencies hire senior executives at companies and banks that have broken federal law, are subject to enforcement actions, or are under investigation. Leaders of companies and banks that don’t follow the law should not be in a position of public trust developing and enforcing the law. These appointments stop in my administration. 

My administration will not hire any person who receives a “golden parachute” from their employer. “Golden parachutes” – payments, bonuses, salaries, or other forms of compensation contingent on accepting a position in the federal government – create the impression that the recipients will work in their former employers’ best interest – not the public’s. A Warren administration will not allow such arrangements. 

In addition to these hiring restrictions, my administration will institute rules to make sure that executive branch officials are working on behalf of the people – not themselves or their former employers: 

To prevent conflicts of interest, officials in my administration will have to divest from any individual stock, bond, or other investment that federal ethics officials determine may be directly influenced by the actions of the employee’s agency. 

Senior officials in my administration will be required to divest from all complex investments – including individual stocks and bonds, as well as commercial real estate and privately-owned or closely-held businesses. 

Senior officials must also commit to divesting any interests in family trusts if ethics officials determine that an asset belonging to the trust might pose a conflict of interest.  

Further, executive branch officials who have not been Senate confirmed must recuse themselves from matters affecting their former employer, direct competitor, client, or organization that an employee belonged to in the last four years.  Senior officials will be prohibited from being employed by or consulting for the private sector while simultaneously working in the federal government. And anyone who volunteers for the federal government, including White House staff and advisors, will have to agree to abide by all federal ethics rules too. 
 
The revolving door goes both ways, and too often, people in government depart and take jobs working at the very firms they had been regulating. At best, this creates the appearance of corruption. At worst, individuals who are thinking about their next job corrupt the policymaking process to favor potential employers. We will end this kind of revolving door corruption. 

Senior members of my administration will be required to pledge not to accept a lobbying appointment after finishing their official duties – for life. This will apply to all members of my Cabinet, heads of agencies, my Vice President – and me.  

All other members of my administration will have to commit to not lobby their former office or agency for two years after they leave the administration – and six years if they become corporate lobbyists – or until the administration ends, whichever is longer.  

Senior government officials in my administration will also have to pledge for a year not to work for or accept payment from any company that has lobbied their department or office within the past two years. 

Senior government officials in my administration will be asked to commit not to work for any giant bank or company worth more than $150 billion, any federal contractor receiving more than $5 billion in revenue from federal contracts, or any market-dominant company, as determined by the Attorney General, for four years after leaving their post. And anyone in my administration who participated in the process of granting a contract or license to a for-profit contractor will also be required to agree not to accept a job with that contractor for at least four years after leaving government service. 

Both President Obama and President Trump issued their own ethics pledges at the start of their administrations – and despite good intentions, both failed to curb the number of lobbyists and government officials that spin through the revolving door. That’s why the steps I have outlined here will eliminate the loopholes in previous ethics pledges, principally by expanding the definition of ‘lobbyist’ to include anyone who is hired to influence government, not just those who are required to register as a lobbyist under current law. Additionally, my plan requires every executive branch employee – not just political appointees – to abide by these rules as a condition of their government service and extends the cooling off periods for executive branch staff to prevent them from lobbying their former agency or office through the end of an administration. And it removes the president’s ability to waive these requirements for corporate lobbyists and executives of law-breaking companies.
 
Building a Government that Reflects the Energy and Diversity of America
It is not enough, of course, to have people in government who don’t have conflicts of interest. We need people who are passionate about the mission of their agencies, deeply understand the needs and experiences of all Americans, and reflect the diversity of the American people. 
 
Under the Trump Administration, we have seen appointees who are actively hostile to the mission of their agencies. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos doesn’t believe in public education. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler doesn’t think climate change is a top priority. As President, I will appoint people who want to fulfill the purposes of our government, not undermine it — and that starts with some serious departures from the Trump Administration. For example, I will appoint: 

A Secretary of Education who has been a public school teacher.

A Secretary of Labor who has been a labor leader, and appointees to the National Labor Relations Board who have a record of fighting for workers.

A Secretary of Agriculture who has a demonstrated commitment to advocating for Black farmers.

A Secretary of Homeland Security who is committed to undoing the damage caused by the Trump administration and who believes that immigration makes our country stronger, not weaker.

Department of Justice officials who believe in voting rights and the rule of law – including for the president.

Antitrust officials who will aggressively scrutinize mergers, bring challenges to vertical and horizontal mergers, and are not afraid to take on big tech, big ag, big pharma, and other consolidated industries. 

A Securities and Exchange Commission chair who will require corporate political spending disclosure, strictly enforce our securities laws, and use all existing tools to require robust disclosure of climate-related risks.

A Federal Communications Commission chair who will restore the 2015 Net Neutrality rules, block monopolistic mergers by media and telecom corporations, and protect the Lifeline program that helps low-income Americans afford broadband Internet. 

An EPA head who believes in the urgency of addressing climate change and protecting our environment. 

Federal Reserve officials who believe in the agency’s full employment mandate, recognize that inflation fears have been overblown for years, and who are willing to let wages grow. 

Our government officials can best serve the American public when they reflect the diversity of the country itself. The federal government does a dismal job on diversity and inclusion. The share of Latinas in the federal workforce is about half that of the entire workforce. Even though Black women are disproportionately represented in the federal workforce, they are nearly absent from its leadership ranks. White workers make up nearly 80% of the senior civil service despite making up only 63% of the overall federal workforce. The Obama administration worked to raise the proportion of people with disabilities to more than 14% of the federal workforce, but that dropped to 9.2% under Trump. My administration will be committed to diversity and inclusion, starting on day one. I will: 

Build a Cabinet and senior leadership team that reflects the full diversity of America, including having at least 50% of Cabinet positions filled by women and non binary people.

Ensure representation of LGBTQ+ people across all levels of government, including in leadership roles.

Diversify recruitment to direct real resources toward attracting entry-level applicants for public service from HBCUs, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and other minority-serving institutions, and reform high-level recruiting processes to attract diverse experienced hires into senior management positions.

Create new paid fellowship programs for federal jobs for people from marginalized communities and low-income applicants, including formerly incarcerated individuals.

Open up promotion pathways by requiring every federal agency to incorporate diversity as part of their core strategic plan and creating support networks through a government-wide mentorship program that centers Black and Brown employees. 

Recommit to President Obama’s efforts to raise the level of people with disabilities in federal service — and I will include federal contractors and internship programs too.  

Using Existing Tools to Swiftly Fill Government Vacancies
To implement the kind of big, structural changes I have proposed, we will need to address the substantial vacancies in career civil service positions left behind by the Trump administration. For example, the State Department lost a significant percentage of its employees in the first year of the Trump Administration alone. The federal government has a number of tools to expedite hiring processes, and a Warren administration would use them to put well-qualified public servants to work as quickly as possible. For example:

My Office of Personnel and Management (OPM) will use its direct hire authority to identify areas of severe shortage and allow agencies to waive competitive hiring processes in these areas of critical need.

My administration will use its Veterans’ Recruitment Appointment authority to fill certain positions with veterans using expedited hiring processes. 

My administration will reinstate qualified government officials who left public service through a streamlined hiring process, and 

I’ll also ensure that federal agencies effectively use agency-specific hiring authorities to fill key positions. 

Finally, I will designate officials at OPM to work with agencies to ensure that they are using their hiring authorities as effectively as possible while also prioritizing diversity in hiring and following all relevant laws, regulations, and administration policies. 

Read Warren’s plan here

Thousands Turn Out on #ImpeachmentEve in NYC to Protest for Trump’s Impeachment and Removal

Impeach Trump protest, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Several thousand people turned out to Times Square in New York City on Tuesday, December 17, despite a cold rain to protest for the impeachment of Donald Trump. It was one of about 600 such protests and rallies organized by a coalition of more than 100 organizations  including Rise and Resist, Moveon.org, and Indivisible, held across the country, in all 50 states, on the eve of the House debate and vote to make Trump only the third president in history to be impeached.  Over 160,000 had responded their intention to participate in the historic mobilization.

This is what the #ImpeachmentEve #ImpeachandRemove protest and march looked like in New York City (for a national overview, see New York Times, Rallies Spread on Eve of House Impeachment Votes).

Impeach Trump protest, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Impeach Trump protest, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Impeach Trump protest, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Impeach Trump protest, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Impeach Trump protest, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Impeach Trump protest, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Impeach Trump protest, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Impeach Trump protest, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Impeach Trump protest, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Impeach Trump protest, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Impeach Trump protest, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Impeach Trump protest, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Impeach Trump protest, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

With Latest North Korean Missile Test, Biden Attacks Trump for Foreign Policy Failures

Former Vice President Joe Biden, in a hotly contested race for President, attacked Donald Trump for his failed foreign policy in the wake of yet another missile test by North Korea. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Former Vice President Joe Biden, in a hotly contested race for President, attacked Donald Trump for his failed foreign policy in the wake of yet another missile test by North Korea.  Foreign policy is Biden’s greatest strength among the Democratic rivals for 2020. Here is his statement:

This morning, North Korea fired two missiles in a deliberate attempt to provoke its neighbors and intimidate the United States — again. It was the 12th such test the regime has conducted since May in violation of UN resolutions, and which President Trump has down-played. After the latest round of denuclearization talks collapsed almost immediately in Stockholm earlier this month, these tests are a stark reminder that Donald Trump — a self-proclaimed deal maker — has achieved nothing but a string of spectacular diplomatic failures that are making the American people less safe.    

His “love letters” to murderous dictator Kim Jong Un have delivered little more than made-for-TV moments. North Korea today has more fissile material and more capability than when talks began, and Trump has given away our leverage — including suspending military exercises with our allies and granting Kim co-equal status at two summits with the president of the United States of America — for practically nothing in return. Now a more confident Kim is ticking up the pace of his violations because he believes he can pressure Trump to bend to his will. There is no deal, because there is no strategy and no patience for the kind of tough, hard diplomacy that actually produces results.

It’s a pattern we see over and over again. Donald Trump talks a big game, promises the greatest deal ever, then gives away America’s best negotiating tools in exchange for a photo op for himself. He only cares about his own self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. And every single time, it’s the American people who end up paying. 

He pulled us out of the successful Iran nuclear deal, promising he’d get a better one. He hasn’t. And now, Iran has taken its nuclear program out of the deep-freeze and ramped up its aggressive acts across the region — and Trump has no strategy to deal with these predictable responses.

He pulled us out of the Paris climate accord and dismisses climate change as a hoax. In less than a week, we will officially notify our departure from Paris, even as California is on fire and states throughout the Midwest are still recovering from record flooding over the summer.

He scuttled negotiations with the Taliban that might have opened the door to a peace settlement, reportedly because he didn’t get the Camp David moment of glory he wanted. Meanwhile he’s significantly weakened our negotiating position by imposing a possibly politically-motivated timeline for removing our troops from Afghanistan, without extracting any concessions from the Taliban in return.

His vaunted Middle East peace deal has yet to emerge. He gave away our strongest asset to take on ISIS by precipitously withdrawing our troops from Northeast Syria. He promised to get tough with China, saying trade wars were “good and easy to win.” But at more than a year in, what do we have to show for it? Nothing but pain for American farming and manufacturing, and vague promises that would only restore trade levels with China back to where they were before Trump’s irresponsible trade war.

The American people can’t afford four more years of Donald Trump’s art of no deals.

Biden: Baghdadi Was Win for National Security Professionals But Trump’s Reckless Foreign Policy Makes Nation Vulnerable to Terrorism

Vice President Joe Biden on the assassination of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, praised the skill and commitment of our military, intelligence, and national security professionals “beyond compare,” but criticized Donald Trump saying, “He has no strategy for securing our nation against terrorist threats. He has no strategy for anything. Every day that Donald Trump directs American national security is a dangerous day for the United States.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the 2020 candidate for President, issued a statement criticizing Trump’s “lack of strategy to secure our nation against terrorist threats.”

The successful operation to take Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi off the battlefield was a win for American national security. And it’s an important reminder of the skill and commitment of our military, intelligence, and national security professionals. They are beyond compare. 
 
I’m glad President Trump ordered the mission. But as more details of the raid emerge, it’s clear that this victory was not due to Donald Trump’s leadership. It happened despite his ineptitude as Commander-in-Chief. 

It’s been reported that Trump’s reckless decision to withdraw our troops from northern Syria forced the planning for the mission to be accelerated and the timeline compressed. His erratic behavior made it harder and more dangerous for the special forces carrying it out. And they had to fly through territory that is now hostile to the U.S., taking fire along the way—including territory we controlled just weeks ago. 

Trump has also made it less likely we will be able to successfully replicate a mission like this in the future. The operation leveraged a limited presence of U.S. counterterrorism capabilities in the region, which he keeps trying to dismantle. It was made possible by the work of intelligence professionals, who he has relentlessly attacked. It relied on allies he has belittled, undermined, and in some cases betrayed and abandoned.  

Trump’s total disregard for our alliances and partnerships endanger any future intelligence sharing or cooperation. In fact, the first people he saw fit to thank after our brave troops were the Russians and the Iranian-backed Syrian government. All this makes us less safe and less prepared for whatever terrorist leader emerges next.
 
And make no mistake, the threat is not gone. One man does not constitute an organization, and Trump has opened a path for ISIS to reconstitute itself under new leadership by withdrawing troops from the region. In doing so, he has given up our best asset to keep the pressure on ISIS during a dangerous period of organizational chaos. His fixation on keeping troops in the region to defend the oil fields betrays his true priorities—profit seeking—and will surely serve as a tool for future terrorist recruitment. And with his decision to slash humanitarian assistance to the region, it’s more likely that ISIS will be able to insinuate itself back into areas where we had successfully rooted it out. 

There is a difference between deploying hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops to the Middle East indefinitely, and keeping small numbers of special operations and intelligence assets in place to maintain local partnerships and keep pressure on terrorists. That’s the smart, strong, and sustainable strategy we pioneered during the Obama-Biden Administration. That’s the effective policy we put in place, which laid the groundwork to end ISIS’s territorial caliphate. That’s the way we built the very relationships that ultimately delivered this victory.
 
Now, Trump wants to tear it all down and walk away.
 
He has no strategy for securing our nation against terrorist threats. He has no strategy for anything. Every day that Donald Trump directs American national security is a dangerous day for the United States. 

Biden attacks Trump as G7 Opens: ‘Trump has continued his irrational and self-defeating campaign to make America less secure’

Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, stated Trump’s “incompetence threatens to permanently reduce America’s standing and, consequently, our capacity to bring together nations to address shared challenges. This will change when I am president.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

As Donald Trump departed the White House to attend the G7 after a day in which he attacked Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell as a “worse enemy” than China’s Chairman Xi and ordered US companies to leave China, a day in which the Dow plummeted 600 points, a day after he referred to himself as the “Chosen One” as he looked to the heavens and demanded that Russia be invited back into the G8, Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, issued this statement:

“This week, in the lead-up to the G7 in France, President Trump has continued his irrational and self-defeating campaign to make America less secure and less respected in the world.  He has insulted our closest partners and denigrated one of our most capable allies, Denmark—a country that has repeatedly fought and sacrificed alongside our troops. He issued yet another attack on NATO, reiterating his belief that NATO is an American-run protection racket where our allies better pay up, or else. And he advocated for Russia’s return to the G7, despite Vladimir Putin’s long and growing record of aggressive behavior and provocations against the United States and our allies in Europe. 

“Trump’s actions and words are not just embarrassing—they are making the American people less safe. Every incident further isolates us on the global stage, reinforcing that his version of “America First” means America alone. For the first time in its history, the G7 will not even issue a joint communique, because President Trump refuses to cooperate with our partners on the pressing issues of our time, including climate change, China’s predatory trade practices, Russian attacks on western democracies, and nuclear proliferation. No country, even one as powerful as ours, can go it alone against 21st century challenges that respect no borders and cannot be contained by walls.

“NATO, the most powerful alliance in history, is the bulwark of America’s national security and the free world’s first line of defense. It’s how we amplify our own strength, maintain our presence around the globe, and magnify our impact – while sharing the burden among willing partners. NATO is an alliance built first and foremost on shared democratic values, which makes it more durable and more reliable than partnerships built on coercion or cash. But it is not indestructible, and Trump has taken a battering ram to our most important strategic alliance.

“More than two-and-a-half years into his presidency, the pattern of Trump’s conduct and character is clear. He never misses a chance to lavish praise on dictators like Putin and Kim Jong Un, and takes every opportunity to bash our closest democratic allies. Instead of leading alongside fellow democracies, he seems to be on the other team. His incompetence threatens to permanently reduce America’s standing and, consequently, our capacity to bring together nations to address shared challenges. This will change when I am president. We will restore the soul of this nation. And we will once again lead the international community in a way that is consistent with our most cherished values, standing with—not against—the rest of the free world.”

When Evidence is Firmly Established, Democrats Must Move Forward to Impeach Trump

 

Thousands protest in New York City to defend Democracy and let Mueller complete his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

So now that Democrats have taken back control of the House, there is the internal (eternal) argument between the progressives and what I would call the pragmatists as to whether to act immediately to impeach Trump or use their powers for good and solve the ailing problems of the nation (health care, immigration reform, infrastructure, criminal justice reform, voting rights). As if that were even possible, given Mitch McConnell’s death grip over the Senate, and Trump’s likely veto.

But Democrats can do both – develop, debate and pass necessary legislation on health care, drug prices, protecting DACA recipients, rational immigration reform, gun violence prevention, campaign finance – and still hold the hearings and fulfill their Constitutional obligation for oversight and checks-and-balance on government.

Trump must be impeached. And it doesn’t matter if impeachment is likely to fail in the Senate where it is unlikely to get 67 votes. In the best of all worlds, the evidence would be so compelling, so damning, that even Republicans will go to Trump (as they did to Nixon), and say: resign or else (the “else” would be prosecution of Trump for high-crimes, along with his children; threats to prosecute his close associates would likely not bother Trump at all.) That is, if Republicans retain even a scintilla of actual patriotism and concern for the national good rather than retaining power, no matter how unscrupulously.

Certainly, Democrats should wait until the Mueller investigation is concluded – or re-start the hearings that should have taken place in Congress until sabotaged by the likes of Devin Nunes and others more loyal to Trump than to their oath of office. (Nunes, don’t forget, was on the transition team that brought Michael Flynn in as National Security Adviser.) Those hearings need to be held because the Republicans did a superb job of protecting and insulating Trump and preventing any real understanding or defense against what Russia did and how they did it, opening the way for others – be it China, Israel or North Korea, or a billionaire with a mission like Sheldon Adelson or the Kochs – to replicate the process with even greater sophistication and efficiency in the future.

Despite the fact impeachment would likely fail to get the 67 votes needed in the Senate, if Trump is not prosecuted for the slew of “high crimes and misdemeanors” already committed (violation of Emoluments Clause, repeated obstruction of justice, abuse of power, likely violations of Federal campaign laws and tax evasion, not to mention the likely conspiracy or collusion with Russia and other felons who hacked into the DNC), that sets a new standard for what a candidate and a president can do.

Either you have an Emoluments Clause or you don’t. Either you impeach for “high crimes and misdemeanors” or you say that actual “high crimes and misdemeanors” has nothing to do with it, impeachment is “political” with a political standard of criminality so that unless you lie about committing adultery when your opponents control Congress, nothing you do is illegal. You can violate Federal Elections law, hack voting machines, steal absentee ballots, but if you win and become president through such criminality, well then, tough luck for the rest of the world that has to abide by laws.  If impeachment is only based on who has the majority, then there is no real Rule of Law, and no bedrock principle that “no man is above the law.” This would incentivize the next billionaire Mafioso who can offer $1 million and a pardon to a henchman to flip votes or hack or undertake a propaganda campaign (and shouldn’t there be some sort of “Truth in Advertising” standard for political messaging?).

If Donald Trump is not impeached and his campaign’s criminal activity that amounted to stealing an election are not held to account, what will stop the next celebrity billionaire from buying his way onto the ticket, paying for a propaganda campaign, buying off hackers to switch just enough votes with the promise of a hefty cash reward and likely pardon, or collaborating with a foreign power to use the full force of its intelligence/cyber apparatus? © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In all of American history, there has never been a person endowed with the powers of the presidency who has been this blatantly corrupt and the very epitome of the monarch wannabe the Founders feared and thought they had inoculated the country against. It’s as if Trump things if he commits crimes openly, the outrageousness of it inoculates him. The Founders may have had their bouts with fake news but could not have anticipated data mining and Facebook and gerrymandering with the precision of knowing how to cut through a single block to produce an edge. They couldn’t have predicted black-box voting, the ability to hack into election rolls, to purge voter lists based on their propensity to vote for the other party, the mathematical calculations that go into shutting down polling places and devices.

The Justice Department has a “policy” against indicting a sitting president? Well, it’s just a policy. The Constitution actually requires the Senate to “advise and consent” on Supreme Court nominees, but that didn’t stop Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from doing the unprecedented thing of blocking Obama’s nominee for a year to save the seat for a radically right wing “justice.” The Justice Department has never been faced with a sitting president who has been named as Individual #1 in multiple felonies.

“Policy” didn’t stop the Supreme Court from ruling that a civil suit against President Bill Clinton having nothing to do with his presidency or crimes against the state, should go forward, or requiring him to give testimony under oath, or for that matter the Republican Congress from impeaching him, rather than censuring him, for lying about a consensual adulterous affair.

So far, Trump, who reacted to the sentencing memos against his  consigliere Michael Cohen, and his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, both of whom had pleaded guilty, that included him as “Individual #1” as if he had somehow been absolved because he wasn’t actually named, and instead of the word “collusion,” Mueller used a synonym, “synergy.” Trump may also be thinking that because Russia had worked with his flunkies, even for their own reasons (Manafort  to pay off his debt?) or to enrich the Trump Organization rather than win, not realizing that Putin was out to win the presidency, that therefore he will be absolved of actual “collusion” or “conspiracy.”

Totally clears the President. Thank you!” Trump tweeted, very possibly because he didn’t actually read the sentencing memos or doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “synergy.”

But if Trump is not impeached and his campaign’s criminal activity that amounted to stealing an election are not held to account, what will stop the next celebrity billionaire from buying his way onto the ticket, paying for a propaganda campaign, possibly paying off hackers to switch just enough votes with the promise of a hefty cash reward and likely pardon, or collaborating with a foreign power to use the full force of its intelligence/cyber apparatus? (Answer: Nothing. It will become the new modus operandi, and you don’t even need a foreign power to collude.)

The argument that Democrats need to be focused on “solving the problems” of the nation is sweet and sentimental, but the reality is anything that comes out of the Democratic-controlled House will be stopped in the Republican-controlled Senate, or by Trump veto. And when progressives realize that Democrats were ineffectual, instead of rallying in 2020, they will punish Democrats, as they did in 2010 (recall Sanders led that charge, then too, and got progressives to “protest” by staying home) and 2014 (when I bet Hispanics punished Obama for failing to get Comprehensive Immigration Reform through) despite McConnell having said right after Obama’s election that his priority was to make him one-term president. You can see it already in the way the progressive wing is determined to destroy any ability of Democrats to be successful by attacking Nancy Pelosi instead of advancing one of the young bucks into a different leadership position so they can be groomed when she does in fact step aside.

But if Trump is not impeached for high-crimes and misdemeanors, for obstruction of justice (firing Comey, Sessions, to list just two); abuse of power (sending US military to the border for a political purpose); campaign finance violations; violations of the Emoluments Clause and using foreign policy for personal enrichment (Russia, Qatar, UAE, China, India), tax fraud, money laundering,  then what would be impeachable? Lying about adultery?  (Oh, he did that too).

Simply put: if the gloves fit, you must convict.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

 

Malcolm Nance: Installing Trump as President is Part of Putin’s Plot to Destroy Democracy

Malcolm Nance, counterterrorism and intelligence consultant and frequent MSNBC commentator, sheds light on “The Plot to Destroy Democracy” at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Malcolm Nance, the counterterrorism and intelligence expert seen frequently on MSNBC, was watching the early Midterm Election returns on November 6, 2018, and was frantic. “We are ‘x’ number of days from the end of American democracy,” he thought. “If we lose and Republicans keep control, Trump will be like Saddam Hussein” believing he could wield unbridled power.

“We saved democracy – put collective values together and decided not to let government go unchecked. Before, we were rather reserved about how bad things were – seeing our constitutional republic collapsing before our eyes,” he said, in a return visit to Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island, December 7.

“The shock to our belief system came from Russia, but not the Russians alone. It had to include others,” said the author of “The Plot to Destroy Democracy.”

His book documents how Putin needed to make Russia – essentially a third world country with atomic bombs – great again by destroying, degrading the  #1 country at top, the US. Russia, he noted, is a very poor nation, with a Gross National Product equal to Italy. “The US does more trade with Chile than Russia. Russia is a trailer park with atomic bombs – all they sell is weapons, oil, natural gas.”

Russia is led by Putin, an ex-KGB officer, who, when he left Russian intel service, was collapsing. “Putin became the controller, the enforcer of the Russian Mafia in St. Petersburg.

“What happened to Russia after Communism was unbridled, unabashed, crazy Mafia-like capitalism, out of control for 10 years. Russia sold off tanks, airports, took the money and put it into Western real estate – some to New York City – to launder money.

Putin became a billionaire, but something was missing. When Soviet Russia collapsed, what was the philosophy to replace Communism?  Putin realized something fundamental – Russians are extremely conservative – religious – they don’t believe in the family values of the West.

The Russian society had to be built anew and Putin knew to steer it more deeply to the Russian Orthodox Church. As the first director of Russian intel, he rebuilt a church next to KGB headquarters (it had been torture center under Stalin) because he realized if he controlled the Russian Orthodox Church, he could bring the population in line. He started funding rebuilding of Russian orthodox churches. Russians are extremely [socially] conservative, so he introduced policies to cater to homophobes and racists [just as Trump is catering to anti-immigrant fervor].

So in 2010, American Conservatives started saying out loud that Russia was a better example of Christian Conservatism than the West. The National Organization of Families – an extremist group – started holding “Persecution of Christians” conferences in Moscow. “Aggrieved Americans who hated Muslims, would fly to Moscow, meet with people from the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian government, and talk about the persecution of Christians around the world.” By 2015, Franklin Graham, son of Christian evangelist Billy Graham, was flying to Moscow and meeting with Putin.

“Russians understood this was part of America they could work with – they could co-opt. There is a lot of reporting about how Russians and Christian evangelicals in the US have been working together for the last decade.”

Another group, the NRA, was also vulnerable. Enter Maria Butina, who, by all definitions is a spy – a “honeypot,” a trained agent who will have sex to get what they want. She cultivated NRA leaders. In July 2015, she appeared at a FreedomFest  Q&A session in Las Vegas featuring Trump and got to pose the first question, to describe his foreign policy and his views on “damaging” economic sanctions against Russia. “I know Putin and I’ll tell you what, we get along with Putin,” Trump said. “I don’t think you’d need the sanctions.”

“Out of nowhere, she asks the first question. I see an intel operation,” Nance said. “Two years ago, I was first on national TV to say the US was under attack with intel op. From Russians’ perspective, How do we co-opt the US? What resources do we put into place? (See: Maria Butina Loved Guns, Trump and Russia. It Was a Cover, Prosecutors Say.)

[The FBI and Mueller are investigating whether the $30 million the NRA spent to elect Trump actually came from Russia.]

“David Duke has an apartment in Moscow. All the senior Alt-Right leaders, who organized the Charlottesville riot, believe Russia is bastion of Christian conservativism, the pinnacle example of how we should behave [in the US].

“Most important; Russia already co-opted virtually ever conservative group in Europe. Because when the Soviet Union fell and rejected Communism and brought themselves into strongman autocratic leadership, European conservative groups – ex-Fascists – were looking for leadership and money.

“The government of Austria is controlled by a political party organized in 1952 by two Austrian SS officers who later rose up in power. They had no chance of ruling in government until last 10 years. The rise of right wing fascist political parties in Europe is part of this story that will scare you – because these are same political groups [as the Nazis].” A warning that resonated profoundly in this audience in the synagogue.

“In Germany, the AFD – Alternative for Deutschland – is anti immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic. They are unabashed in their open racism, in their belief that liberal democracy should be supplanted by conservative groups in the West who will create an axis of autocracies, and make laws so no one has to vote anymore.

“Remember that Hitler was elected with 37% of vote – before Nazi Germany, it was the Weimar Republic. He was elected in a fair and free election, but once in power, he changed the laws.”

That movie, “Judgment at Nuremberg,” Nance said, was about showing that people need to be held accountable. “When I saw the film later as an adult, I understood what the trial was – of the German Supreme Court justices who validated every law justifying rape, murder, sterilization. They justified execution through lethal injection of every mentally ill patient in the country. Then they authorized the mass murder of 6 million Jews, while Hitler’s wars around Europe killed 50 million more.

“The Supreme Court Justices of Nazi Germany were elected, the government was elected. People chose them. Then they changed laws to make everything they did legal in the Nazi German system.

“’Judgment at Nuremberg’ is about how it was amoral to human decency to do what they did. They needed to be held accountable. Even as a young guy, I understood it was wrong to hurt people using the legal system,” said Nance, who noted that he had grown up in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Philadelphia, and had his understanding of the Shoah profoundly changed after visiting Auschwitz.

[One should note at this point that the perversion of law is exactly what the Indian Removal Act, the Dred Scott Decision, and Jim Crow were about. And now, how Republicans in lameduck session, are stripping power from incoming duly-elected Democrats in Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina.]

“What kind of upside down world are we living in? We have to put the lines back in place. If we don’t – and maybe the win in Congress in 2018 is an aberration – if Trump doesn’t get impeached, or if he is impeached but survives and wins 4 more years – we will get a repeat of history.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Putin’s plan is simple: to get rid of democracy you don’t need to have a coup d’etat, you can do it through election that votes democracy out of existence.

Steve Bannon, former advisor to the president, is an adherent to the philosophy of Russian ultra-nationalist Alexander Dugin, dubbed “Putin’s Rasputin” by Breitbart News when it was run by Steve Bannon. Dugin advocates for neo-EuroAsianism, where the poles of power from Washington to the European capitals to the rest of world, should be eliminated, along with West. (See: The Russian ‘philosopher’ who links Putin, Bannon, Turkey: Alexander Dugin)

If figures in Putin’s efforts to shift Turkey’s alliance from NATO to Russia and to ally with Syria and Iran – moves that Michael Flynn, who was a paid lobbyist for Turkey’s Erdogan, was effecting.

“The election of Trump is the end state of what Russia doing in Europe- every major political party in Europe is owned by the United Russia Party that loaned money. The French candidate, Marine le Pen in France, got 50 million Euro loan from Putin. Her job was to break up NATO and the European Union on one day; she spoke about it openly and publicly.

Far right extremism was pushing across Europe. It was only the common sense of the French people in March 2017 [and reports of Russia hacking of social media, as in the 2016 election in the US] that saved European democracy from collapsing. The European Union would have broken up if France withdrew. It was a very near thing. But they got away with putting Trump into office.”

“It is very bad for the US if all our allies start collapsing one by one… If Britain doesn’t get its act together in next 90 days, they can face economic collapse.

“Brexit – the Leave group – are saying ‘Donald Trump will give us unilateral deal.’ The last time that happened was Lend Lease. The Atlantic was on fire, Europe fell under the Nazis. Who talks like that?

“Like Alexander Dugin, Trump uses ‘globalist’ as if a dirty word. We invented globalism when we started shipping all over world. We saved Britain, invaded France. Trump doesn’t understand any of that.

“How critical it is for you to watch what is happening in Europe – it is run by open fascists who come from ex Nazi party, who are close to Putin and also to Trump. This is why Steve Bannon went to Europe, where he said, ‘When they call you a racist, embrace it. Wear it as a badge of honor.’

“What kind of upside down world are we living in? We have to put the lines back in place. If we don’t – and maybe the win in Congress in 2018 is an aberration – if Trump doesn’t get impeached, or if he is impeached but survives and wins 4 more years – we will get a repeat of history.”

Nance, in response to a question, said that the Americans who were involved in the theft of the 2016 election committed treason.

As to whether Republicans would ever abandon Trump, he said that once the evidence is released, if it is so overwhelming, “this nation will end up in a Benedict Arnold moment. It will be so clear that Trump was to win at all cost, to make money and be master of the universe, and because he would control the government, he would be untouchable and still get the Ivanka Spa in the Trump Moscow Tower. It will be so clear, so overwhelming, this eclipses Benedict Arnold. We have a president under the control of a foreign power.”

But will he be impeached? Indicted? Or pardon himself and his entire family?

One possibility: at the point Republicans are convinced that Trump is damaging their brand, possibly even causing the party to disappear into a miasma of fascism, kleptocracy and bankruptcy, the leaders will come to Trump with an offer he can’t refuse: they will suspend prosecution of Don Jr., Ivanka and Jared Kushner, halt impeachment and promise not to prosecute him for the many felonies (campaign finance violations, tax fraud, money laundering, conspiracy with a foreign adversary) if he resigns. That would save the party for Mike Pence, who is in fact the president they wanted all along.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump Says is Standing with Saudi Arabia as Ally Which Promises to Spend $450 Billion in US: ‘America First!’

Citing Saudi Arabia’s promise to spend $450 billion in the US and its oil production and ability to raise or lower oil prices, Donald Trump says he will stand by his ally and ignore the allegations of culpability of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the savage murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. “Very simply it is called America First!” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Donald Trump issued a statement unequivocally standing with Saudi Arabia, declaring “America First!,” and stressing that Saudi Arabia “agreed” to spend a record $450 billion in the US, while throwing darts at Iran to defend Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen that have contributed to the most severe humanitarian crisis on the planet, and all but dismissing any accountability for the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. 

“Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an ‘enemy of the state’ and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump declared. 

“The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.” 

Here is his statement, highlighted —Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

 The world is a very dangerous place!

The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more. Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” Iran is considered “the world’s leading sponsor of terror.”

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism.

After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors. If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!

The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone. Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder. After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.

Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!

That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!

I understand there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction – and they are free to do so. I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America. After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels – so important for the world. As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!