Stone’s arrest and the electronic trail

I figured this one out soon after Roger Stone was arrested.  Stone’s value to the Mueller investigation was what was on his cellphones, computers, tablets, etc. That’s why 29 FBI agents stormed his house.  They didn’t want him, they wanted his electronic gear.  They didn’t want a single thumb drive or hard disk to get destroyed.   Roger Stone says he would have turned himself if asked, but not before scrubbing clean his residences.

Being 100% clean is tough for Roger Stone, given his long history of deceit and trickery.    Mueller will likely have a treasure trove of bits and pieces.  Big question is how does this all fit into the investigation.

When cellphones first came out, criminals had the upper hand.  No one could tap a cellphone like a landline phone.  But things really have changed,  as the hard drive within a cellphone is loaded with potential incriminating information.  It will take time for FBI digital forensic experts to know exactly what the search warrant of electronic gear will yield.   Julian Sanchez nailed it on this one.   Stone can’t flip on Trump because he’s got zero credibility.

Mueller is going after the Russian hack,  Wikileaks and Republican campaign officials connections.    I don’t know if Mueller will be able to connect all the dots, but I suspect both Trump and Steve Bannon are feeling the heat turned up.   I don’t believe anyone  directly involved in  Trump’s 2016 campaign has been charged with conspiracy with Russian agents,   Well not yet.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Julian Sanchez Opinion as published in the New York Times, Jan 26, 2019.

Mueller’s Real Target in the Roger Stone Indictment

 

 

 

 

The wall

With so much out there,  I’m not too interested to add commentary,   Same goes for the government shutdown, now into the fifth week.   But, I’d like to add a few facts and one comment at the end.   A lot of  shutdowns were solved, at least temporally by the passing of “continuing resolutions” which basically says take last approved budget and just extend it out for as long as possible.    It’s a “kick the can down the road” approach.    Obama had to beg Congress for a clean CR,  as Republicans sought to defund  the ACA (aka Obamacare) through dirty CR’s. or budget proposals.

Now the wall.   The border with Mexico is 1954 miles long.    Ask any member of Congress if they support border security, and you will be sure they will all say yes.   It’s better not to use the W word (wall) or the F word (no not that F word, I mean fences),  but  use the generic “border barriers.”  There is 1.375 billion dollars for new and replacement barriers already in the approved US budget, which has only partially been spent.

The 5.7 billion dollars is slated for 234 miles of border barriers.   As CNN reported, this will cover 100 miles of new barriers, and 134 miles of improved replacements.

Now my comment.   I live in Miami, which has a huge number of illegal immigrants.   I believe most immigrants make the trip, to help their families, and are good people.   Fewer will make the trip, because the coyotes will be charging a lot more, in excess of 10,000 USD, given the added security provisions.    There are some who have returned to their country which Trump never talks about.

Stay tuned,

Dave

CNN link

Trump’s Approval Rating

There a lot of nonsense out there.   Here’s the honest truth – Trump’s approval ratings have hardly changed since about six months after he became president.   His approval rating based on Gallup polling is 40% for the last week in December.   The wall, the shutdown, Secretary Mattis resignation,  the sudden pull out from Syria, more Mueller news and a dozen other stories did not make a dent in Trump’s approval rating.  The fluctuations are small and just polling errors as would be expected.

In another words – there is no trend.  It has  been flat for the last 18 months.  The American people have spoken with a yawn.

You will hear from commentators how the country is deeply divided.  This is true.  Republicans will tell you that Trump is doing his level best to deliver on his promises to the electorate, and he understands the country much better than the Democrats (aka,  liberal fanatics).   They listen to Fox News.   Democrats will tell you that Trump is out of control.  They listen to MSNBC.

Finally, there is a third group, which is completely turned off by government and politics.    Remember only 43% of eligible voters actually voted in the last election.  The overload of news programs mixed with commentaries doesn’t help much.   In light of constant “breaking news”  this group just turns to the latest offerings from Netflix.

Another site I like is “538”  which puts Trump’s approval rating at 41.2%.   They aggregate various polls to provide a weighted average.

This is in sharp contrast to other presidents who had much more fluctuations in their polling numbers.  It looks like what really gets the apathetic group to turn off Netflix and other distractions is a major war – like the Korean war or Vietnam.  George H.W. Bush had one of the highest ratings when he defended Kuwait against the Iraqi invasions.   Truman has a record low rating (22%) when the Korean war dragged on.

For Trump,  polls consistently show very high approval ratings from Republicans and low ones from Democrats.  So, are Americans outraged by Trump’s shutdown the government or  the Democrats refusal to provide funds for the wall.   Likely it’s both plus a lot of who cares.  I am much more concerned with the “who cares” group, as democracies need an informed populace.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Supreme Court ruling on Asylum

Trump and the DOJ decided it could make it much harder for immigrants to apply for asylum,  by refusing to approve applications by illegal immigrants from within the country.   I’ve commented on this before.  The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals barred the Trump administration from enforcing the policy.   Trump attacked the court as biased against the Trump administration.  Those opposed to this policy seemed to be on pretty solid ground, as the applicable immigration law stated that both immigrants within the country illegally and those outside the country have the right to apply for asylum.

The government’s case seems to hing on the right to apply does not mean the government must approve applications.   But this seems absurd, as who would ever apply, knowing the application would go straight into the garbage without any consideration.  The applicant likely would face deportation.    It is also contended that the government needed a tougher policy, as there was a crisis at the border with the terribly exaggerated  caravan story.

The circuit court barred the asylum policy to be implemented and the Trump administration appealed, asking the Supreme Court to lift the bar, so they could continue the new policy as the case was being appealed.    They lost in a 5 to 4 ruling, where all liberal judges (Brennan, Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayor) were joined by Chief Justice Roberts in denying the government’s motion.  The case will be heard next year in the Supreme Court.  By the time this gets to the Supreme Court, the caravan invasion saga will be history, weakening the argument that Trump needs extraordinary powers to protect our country.   I predict Trump will lose on the principle that the Executive branch can’t overrule Congress.

Justice Ginsburg cast her vote with the majority, then went to the hospital to remove two cancerous growths in her lungs.  By all reports, the operation went successfully.  The recent fall in her office, resulting in fracture ribs, prove to be a very fortuitous event as follows (CNN reporting):

If the justice hadn’t fractured her ribs, Liu said, it’s possible that doctors wouldn’t have found the nodules and that they might have gotten larger. It is unclear from the court’s statement how long the nodules were there or how quickly they had grown.

The court is adjourned for the rest of the year, and I wish Justice Ginsburg a speedy recovery.   She is incredibly resilient!

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links

http://www.scotusblog.com/2018/12/justices-rebuff-government-on-asylum-ban/#more-278070

http://www.scotusblog.com/2018/12/ginsburg-has-cancerous-growths-removed-from-lung/

 

Mueller’s final report

Boy, there has been a ton of speculation.  Trump foes would like to see Mueller show how all these indictments and guilty pleas are connected into one grand conspiracy, making impeachment inevitable.   Trump supports are looking for exoneration of Trump.   I have opined that it seems unlikely that the investigation will end anytime soon.   I particularly like the view presented by Renato Mariotti,  a former federal prosecutor and the host of On Topic podcast, as published in Time Magazine this week (Dec 17 issue):

“As America anxiously awaits special counsel Robert Mueller’s so-called final report and proof of “collusion”, it should be very wary of two truths: Mueller may never write a full “final report”, and any bombshells he reveals are unlikely to outline  a grand conspiracy.  This will not be a failure of the investigation but rather of our own expectations.” 

He goes on to state that federal prosecutors aren’t historians or journalists.   He also points out there can not be a charge of “collusion” with Russian agents by the Trump campaign, because the word has no legal meaning.  He also states, “it is hard to imagine any federal prosecutor would ever charge the extensive conspiracy imagined by Trump’s critics.”   Mariotti’s view is Mueller’s team has already been successful, with a careful, targeted approach.  The American electorate has become become either apathetic or numb (neither words used by Mariotti) as he writes:

At any other time in American history, the President’s lawyer telling a federal judge under oath that the President directed him to commit a crime might have ended that presidency.  Yet that detail has been forgotten amid the daily avalanche of Trump-related news. 

The overload of news, mixed with commentary and outright misinformation, principally from Trump and his legal team,  is the way it will be until the end.   It is getting hard to swallow the idea that Cohen, Manafort, Flynn and now Maria Butina are all lying to get lighter sentences.

The more Trump lashes out at the Mueller investigation, the more certain  there were serious crimes committed by Russian agents, campaign officials,  and others, which may include the Trump Foundation and Trump’s Inaugural Committee.  Most knowledgeable attorneys, like Mariotti,  state that under Department of Justice written opinion, a sitting President can not be charged with crimes.   So, any final report would not contain crimes that Trump could be charged with.

The essay by Mariotti ends with a warning similar to his opening statement:  “… if Mueller finds evidence of narrower crimes and is considered a failure, the failure won’t be on him.  It will be on us, for our own outsize expectations, which just might save Trump’s presidency.”

I believe the report will be simply a summary of concluded successful prosecutions.   It is not coming anytime soon.   If it doesn’t make a strong case for obstruction of justice by Trump, then it would be best for Democrats not to waste their time on this.

In this case,  Trump’s way out of the White House would be through the same way he came in, through the election process.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Wanzhou Meng’s Arrest

Wanzhou Meng is the Chief Financial Officer of Huawei Technologies, Inc, a rapidly growing technology company in China.  (See links)  She has been arrested in Canada and is awaiting deportation to the US.  I believe the Canadian court will rule in favor of deportation.

How big an impact can the arrest of one person have a major impact on trade relations and the world economy?   It can be huge.  I believe there is an analogous situation.  The small country of Tunisia likely understands why her arrest is such a big deal.

Almost exactly eight years ago, one simple street peddler named Mohamed Bouazizi  provided the spark to ignite Arab Spring.  After being shaken down for a bribe by local police, and having his cart confiscated, he returned to the plaza and lit himself on fire.   In 2012, the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen were all forced out through civil war.  Civil uprisings occurred in Bahrain and Syria.   Other protests occurred through the Arab world, including Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, and Sudan.  The rebellion in Tunisia lit the way, showing that repressive regimes could be overthrown.  What happened in Tunisia was aired throughout the Arab world in real time.

Wanzhou Meng is the new Mohamed Bouazizi.  She is a symbol to both Xi  government and his vision of China’s role in technology.  She is a symbol also to the  people of China and the idea that Donald Trump (and the US) are bullies, getting their way through threats.  This creates a new unity within China against any trade agreement.   It isn’t something our Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer is prepared to deal.  That said, I don’t really know how one deals with the psychological impact of Meng’s arrest.

From his biographical statement, it seems the last time he was a trade representative of the US was in 1983-1985.   He knows the legal aspects of trade and commerce, and that China frequently violates international agreements.  Wikipedia stated his background as follows:

In 1983, during the administration of President Ronald Reagan, Lighthizer was nominated and confirmed to serve as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative under William Brock.  During his tenure, Lighthizer negotiated over two dozen bilateral international agreements, including agreements on steel, automobiles, and agricultural products.  As Deputy USTR, Lighthizer also served as Vice Chairman of the Board of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.  In 1985, Lighthizer joined the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP (Skadden) as a partner.[6] He practiced international trade law at Skadden for over 30 years, representing American workers and businesses ranging from manufacturing to financial services, agriculture, and technology. While at Skadden, Lighthizer worked to expand markets to U.S. exports and defended U.S. industries from unfair trading practices.

He has correctly stated that the extradition and prosecution of Wanzou Meng are a matter for the Department of Justice, separate from the US Trade Administration.

When tensions run high, as they are now,  the best thing to do is to lay low.  Lighthizer  seemed to go on the attack.  His public statement that Meng’s arrest and trade negotiations are two completely separated, while true, will never be accepted by the Chinese.   He also stated that the deadline of March 1, 2019 is a hard deadline for tariffs to go to 25%.  It’s obvious that China will retaliate in kind.

It just seemed he was more ready to prepare for battle than the bargaining table.  I suspect it’s the way Trump likes it.   The hawks on trade policy are Peter Navarro and John Bolton.  For every Make American Great Again hawk, there is an equal Make China Great Again hawk on the other side fighting against US aggressive tactics.   Tariffs wars are like military arms race,  Only the sides can retaliate extremely rapidly.

Details of the charges against Meng have recently been revealed.  The US claims that a spinoff company, Skycom, was used to sell electronic products to Iran in violation of the Iran trade embargo, as established by the Obama administration and their allies, including Russia and China.   Huawei misrepresented the relationship between Skycom and Huawei as two separate companies.   International law apparently allows the Department of Justice to issue warrants of arrest against Corporate officers if they have proof of their involvement in fraud resulting in harm to US companies.   In Meng’s case,  DOJ’s  proof is likely her signature on financial documents.

This story is just beginning.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Note:   Meng Wanzhou also goes by Sabrina Meng or Cathy Meng.   Her last name is Meng.  Her father  Ren Zhengfei is the founder and president of Huawei.  It is a real rags to riches story.  Meng is the surname of  Wanzhou mother.

US Trade rep warns 90 day pause in US-China trade war is a ‘hard deadline’

South China Post:  Huawei and trade negotiations are completely separate

Office of Trade Representative and Robert Lighthizer

Wikipedia Arab Spring

Bloomberg:  Wanzou Meng arrest

Huawei (Wikipedia)

Ren Zhengfei

2018 myth of the year

Politifact selects a lie of the year.    They don’t have a similar award for myths.  They should.

A political myth is perpetrated usually with great concoction of bits of truths mixed in with a lot of lies or exaggerations.  John Kennedy got it right in 1962 when he said:

“The greatest enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.  Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears.  We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations.  We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

I am concerned with the mix of news and opinions presented primarily on cable news.  Fox News is a clear example of this.

“You’re entitled to your own opinions. You’re not entitled to your own facts.”

Let’s consider a few examples:   Trump sent the military to halt the impending invasion of a caravan of immigrants, filled with would be criminals.

Basically,  this was just a mid-term election stunt.   Unfortunately, a very unnecessary one.  But it was done to because immigration was a hot button issue, and Trump wanted to stand out, as the toughest guy on halting illegal immigration.

But the myth of the year, I believe is Trump’s  simple statement:

“Trade wars are good, and easy to win”

Trade wars makes every economist who understands the mechanisms of capitalism cringe.   Tariffs imposed on China result almost immediately in China imposing tariffs on the US.   No one is ahead in negotiations.  The government gains because they receive the tariff income, but industries which import from China must pay higher costs.   Higher steel prices strongly impacts the oil industry and their capital investments.  I believe Trump has  killed any chance of the  Keystone XL pipeline, Phase 4 of every being constructed given the sharp drop in oil prices and the increase in steel prices.   Trump bragged at his ability to talk down oil prices, by getting Saudi Arabia to increase production.   The Saudi’s increase production as Trump pushed through new sanctions against Iran, and importers of Iranian oil.   Of course, Trump then reversed course and granted waivers to many countries, so Iranian oil could keep flowing to the world market, creating a temporary oil glut.

The Department of Energy will let oil companies drill almost anywhere they want, but the economics of many projects are gone.  This includes the decades of controversy of drilling in northern Alaska and extensive oil shale developments.

Mr. Tariff man, you’ve made a mess of things!

Stay tuned

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

Never let a good crisis go to waste

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. … This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not before.”

This quote comes from Mayor  Rahm Emmanuel.  It has been used completely out of context since he said it in an interview in 2008. What he meant was a crisis gets the public attention to a problem, and puts pressure on government to come up with solutions.

The raging forest fires in California should have been the crisis to tell us that the impacts of climate change are real and resulting in deaths around the world.    Trump’s comments on Californian’s forgot to rake their leaves was laughable.  It’s also sad, because human lives are at stake.  I am not saying that climate change caused the forest fires, but that global warming results in hotter and longer summers in California, resulting in very dry brush.  This makes many large and populated areas more vulnerable to rapidly spreading fires,

So let us add:  “Never let a crisis be pointed to you or your organization.”   With the second important proviso,   “Be creative.”    Trump meant to say that the state of California was responsible.   They didn’t maintain their forests well.   This became laughable again, when Trump insisted that Finland rakes their leaves.   The President of Finland was confused.    Learn to pivot and deflect, at the same time as appearing to answer questions.  Avoid like the plague the follow up question.  The buck stops somewhere else.

As news of Trump’s involvement in a potential Trump Tower in Moscow has leaked out,  an additional proviso comes to mind.  “If creativity fails, try lying.”     Trump claims that the Trump Tower project in Moscow was public knowledge in 2016, which I am hoping that this qualifies as the “Lie of the Year”  for Politifact annual contest.  Another tactic, is to change the subject to a completely different crisis that is not your fault.    Trump has tweeted that the FBI is wasting their time investigating the Russian interference (aka, “Witch hunt” and “hoax”)  when they should go after Hillary Clinton,  James Comey,  Loretta Lynch, Clinton Foundation,  Uranium One, etc,  or really anything connected to  Democratic campaign.      Like science fiction,  the public can never get enough of big  scandal stories, even the manufactured narratives.

So, while Emmanuel just wanted to say how a crisis helps in solving real problems,  he had not envision the new era of creating scandals out of  practically nothing, for purely political reasons.  The best defense is a good offense.   Be inventive and retaliate with another scandal, blown out of proportion.     Example: Hillary’s email scandal was real and 10X worse than the Russian collusion, which we know is a hoax.    Another example — the caravan story  and the imminent  invasion of half of Guatemala’s  criminal population,  along with Middle East terrorists.  This was only good up to the mid-term election.

Remember there is strength in numbers.  You can lie without statistics, but it just sounds more impressive with statistics.   Even false statistics.

So,  to re-iterate:

  1.  You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. … This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not before.
  2.  Never let a crisis be pointed to you or your organization.   Learn to deflect and pivot.  The buck stops somewhere else.
  3.  Be creative.  If creativity fails, try lying.
  4.  The best defense is a good offense.  Be inventive and retaliate with another scandal, blown out of proportion.
  5.  There is strength in numbers.  You can lie without statistics, but it just sounds more impressive with statistics.  Even false ones.

Poor Mayor Emmanuel who looked on the positive side of a crisis.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_best_defense_is_a_good_offense

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Rahm_Emanuel

 

 

Asylum case

I just wanted to add that this case is far from settled.   The Judge issued a temporary restraining order, and there will be more hearings to determine if a permanent restraining order should be issued.   There is a legal question of “standing” in which the ACLU and others representing the “immigrant organization groups” must defended their right to sue  based on damages done by the Proclamation   There really has been no real application of the Proclamation, so attorneys claim a potential  damage based on a decline in activity to the non-profit organizations seeking to assist immigrants with their asylum claims.

If the Ninth Circuit Court rules that the plaintiffs lack standing, then the merits of their case can not be adjudicated, and the temporary restraining order would be lifted.

The case East Bay Sanctuary v Trump, Case 18-cv-6810.

The standing question will likely rely on the applicability of “Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman, 455 U.S. 363 (1982).”   I will be following this case closely.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

The 10 day Asylum Proclamation

“… aliens who enter the United States unlawfully through the southern border in contravention of this proclamation will be ineligible to be granted asylum …”

This is an excerpt from a Proclamation declared on November 9, 2018 and enforcement halted by Judge Jon Tigar on November 19,  just 10 days later.  Trump lasted out at the judge calling him an “Obama judge”  and then attacked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as being biased against his administration.   When asked for his comment by the Associated Press,  Chief Justice Roberts responded:

“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

The Proclamation certainly  looked illegal because the law clearly stated that all aliens may apply, either when they are in the country or at a port of entry.    The ACLU and other organizations sued the Department of Justice on the same day of the Proclamation.   The core of the argument seems to be a word game between being able to apply and being eligible for asylum.  Nobody in their right mind would submit any application knowing there is an automatic rejection.   According to CNN, the judge ruled:

Judge Jon S. Tigar of the US District Court for the Northern District of California said that a policy announced November 9 barring asylum for immigrants who enter outside a legal check point ‘”irreconcilably conflicts” with immigration law and the “expressed intent of Congress.” “Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” Tigar wrote, adding that asylum seekers would be put at “increased risk of violence and other harms at the border” if the administration’s rule is allowed to go into effect.

I have included the entire restraining order (47 pages) in the links.  The “threshold issues” address whether it is appropriate for the immigration organizations to bring this case to the court.  On Page 17, line 25,  the Judge lays the rationale for the restraining order.  The temporary restraining order lasts until December 19, when a new hearing is scheduled.

Trump exaggerates  the dangers of illegal immigration from the southern borders all the time.  He can’t use this threat (real or imagined)  to extend his authority over the powers of the legislature and legal system.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links;

Trump’s Proclamation

Order-granting-temporary-restraining-order

CNN: Judge blocks Trump administration from denying asylum claims to immigrants who cross border illegally

 

 

Trump’s statement on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi (Corrected)

President Trump issued a statement on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi as provided at the end of this blog.   CNN had reported on the findings of the CIA as follows:

“The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, despite the Saudi government’s denials that the de facto ruler was involved, according to a senior US official and a source familiar with the matter.”

It was also stated that the CIA came to this conclusion after a review of tape recordings of conversations and phone calls within the Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Turkey.    It was also evident that the team Saudi Arabia sent after the crime, including a chemist, were there to remove evidence of the crime, rather than investigate it.

Truump’s statement is provided below.  The murder of Jamal Khashoggi is not addressed until the fourth paragraph.    I would suggest the first three paragraphs be skipped on first reading.   The fact that Khashoggi is a permanent resident of the US and a well respected journalist living in the US  is never noted.  Nor does it seem important to Donald Trump, the reason why Khashoggi went to the Saudi Arabian consulate in the first place.  He was about to be married for a second time, and needed documents showing he was divorced from his first wife.    The planned assassination included a Saudi dressed as Khashoggi leave the consulate, but this failed as his shoes did not match.

Gina Haspel is the Director of the CIA since May 21, 2018.    She should be congratulated for providing an assessment based on the evidence without a political bias.   I have included her biography in the links. She rose through the ranks of the CIA from 1985, and it really feels like she was very qualified for the position of CIA Director.

Now, let’s go back to the first 3 paragraphs,  all of which are totally off the subject of the planned assassination of Jamal  Khashoggi and mostly false as well.  Iranian Foreign Minister mocked the statement in a tweet:
Mr. Trump bizarrely devotes the FIRST paragraph of his shameful statement on Saudi atrocities to accuse IRAN of every sort of malfeasance he can think of,He also wrote:
Perhaps we’re also responsible for the California fires, because we didn’t help rake the forests,” 

Iran has openly  opposed terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as radical Sunni organizations.   Remember that Iran is a Shite country and  considers Hezbollah as a resistance group against aggressive  Israel military actions.  The US considers the entire Hezbollah organization as a terrorist organizations.  The European Union disagrees, and considers only the military wing of the organization to be involved in terrorist activities.    Hezbollah fought to defend the Hassad regime in Syria.

The civil war in Yemen is made worse by the involvement of all other countries, including Saudi Arabia and the US.   It is a huge humanitarian tragedy.   Iran denies involvement.  Certainly it is difficult to withdraw from Yemen, when they don’t have troops there.

Finally,  the 450 billion and 110 billion dollars of investment are a joke.  The 100 billion dollars are from memorandums of understanding or Intent, not actual orders.  Saudi Arabia has spent 4 billion dollars on US military equipment since 2017, and likely will continue to be a buyer, as their military needs to maintain their arsenal with US made parts.   These are not off the shelf items  they can quickly change vendors.  Their investment in US arms is very extensive.

This statement is rotten to the core.   Khashoggi was a journalist, reporting on the decline of basic freedoms throughout the Arab world. He could only do this outside of Saudi Arabia.   This is why he was an enemy of the Prince, but I think a hero to many within Saudi Arabia.  It also says that when critics of autocratic governments are murdered, we will look the other way, thinking more about financial benefits.

Bottom line:  It is not America First, but Trump’s political agenda.  It is Trump’s political agenda first and foremost, and American values are out the window.

Stay tuned,
David Lord

Donald Trump’s statement: 

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!

Thee 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!

Links:

Wikipedia  Gina Haspel,  CIA Director

Saudi Arabia top US weapons buyer – but does it buy that much?

CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s death, sources say

CNN:  Trump’s statement

85,000 children have starved to death during the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, says new report

The deleted emails of Hillary Clinton – Same old BS

Ivanka Trump is now in hot water over using a personal cell phone to conduct government business.   Trump has claimed what Hillary Clinton did was far worse. Trump claimed that Hillary Clinton defied the Benghazi committee’s subpoena and deleted emails.  This  is untrue.   This has been investigated exhaustively by the Benghazi committee,

Here’s what happened (see Wikipedia link below):

In 2014, months prior to public knowledge of the server’s existence, Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills and two attorneys worked to identify work-related emails on the server to be archived and preserved for the State Department. Upon completion of this task in December 2014, Mills instructed Clinton’s computer services provider, Platte River Networks (PRN), to change the server’s retention period to 60 days, allowing 31,830 older personal emails to be automatically deleted from the server, as Clinton had decided she no longer needed them. However, the PRN technician assigned for this task failed to carry it out at that time.[98]

After the existence of the server became publicly known on March 2, 2015,[99] the Select Committee on Benghazi issued a subpoena for Benghazi-related emails two days later. Mills sent an email to PRN on March 9 mentioning the Committee’s retention request.[98] The PRN technician then had what he described to the FBI as an “oh shit moment,” realizing he had not set the personal emails to be deleted as instructed months earlier. The technician then erased the emails using a free utility, BleachBit, sometime between March 25 and March 31.[100]

Since this episode, Clinton critics have accused her or her aides of deleting emails that were under subpoena, alleging the server had been “bleached” or “acid-washed” by a “very expensive” process[101] in an effort to destroy evidence, with candidate Donald Trump stating the day before the 2016 election that “Hillary Clinton erased more than 30,000 emails as part of a cover-up.”[102] Trump continued with this narrative as late as August 2018, asking “Look at the crimes that Clinton did with the emails and she deletes 33,000 emails after she gets a subpoena from Congress, and this Justice Department does nothing about it?”[103]

Thus,  there was never an attempt by Hillary Clinton  to disobey the subpoena by deleting personal emails,  so Trump’s statements in 2016, 2017 and now in 2018 are all FALSE.

Trump yesterday, November 20, 2018, repeated the deletion allegations.   Factcheck.org  reviewed allegations made by both Trump and Pence, and found them to be False.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump falsely claimed Clinton “acid washed” 33,000 personal emails to delete them, calling it “an expensive process.” The FBI said Clinton’s tech team used BleachBit, which is a free software program. It does not use chemicals.

Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, falsely claimed the FBI found “more than 15,000 additional emails dealing with national security.” The FBI recovered about 14,900 emails, but not all of them are work-related and only three contained classified information.

End of story.   At least it should have been.  It was a lie in September 2016 that Clinton ordered deletion of emails.  It is still one today.   Trump is playing to his base, but are they that gullible?

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia – Deletion of Emails

https://www.factcheck.org/2016/09/trump-pence-acid-wash-facts/

https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/dec/05/donald-trump/donald-trump-falsely-claims-hillary-clinton-lied-f/

https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/oct/09/donald-trump/donald-trump-says-hillary-clinton-deleted-33000-em/

 

Rod Rosenstein’s Letter of May 9, 2017

I don’t always comment on the most current news.  Many thought Trump was going to fire Rod Rosenstein, because he was protecting the Mueller investigation.  Instead,  Trump fired Jeff Sessions.  Sessions did submit a resignation letter, but it was at the request of Trump.

On May 9, 2017 Rod Rosenstein prepared a memo, indicating that FBI administrator, James Comey, had committed three serious errors in his public disclosure of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.  Note that each of these errors concerned Comey overreaching his authority as FBI director or breaking with protocol on public disclosures.   There has been no accusation by the Department of Justice that Comey has ever acted in any partisan manner in the Clinton  email investigation or any other investigation.     Trump stated that Comey was a  “nut-job”,  “loose cannon” and a “showboat.”    Really, this describes better Donald Trump than James Comey.

The Rosenstein letter  was provided to Trump, because he wanted to base the  firing of James Comey on a DOJ recommendation.   This fabricated excuse failed when Trump explained on national television, in an interview with Lester Holt, that he was going to fire Comey anyway over his handling of the “Russian thing.”    So,  Trump blew his own pretext.

I think Trump knew the Rosenstein letter wasn’t going to fool anyone.    It would make no sense to go all the way back to events of July 5, 2016 in firing someone in May 2017.    It was quickly pointed out, that two of the three errors committed by Comey, as claimed by Rosenstein,  actually helped Trump get elected (Error #2, the “extremely careless” comment about Clinton, and Error #3, letter to Congress on the eve of the election, re-opening the email case).

I believe Trump or someone within the White House did edits on Rosenstein’s initial draft.    A second author added that Comey had failed to repented for his sins.  I believe the second author came up with subject line: Restoring the Public Confidence in the FBI.     This sounds much more as a heavy handed political statement than a legal one, and I don’t think it came from Rosenstein.

It was a dumb argument, that Comey should have admitted his faults and kowtowed to either Trump or Obama, and immediately ask for forgiveness.   Admitting your wrong, is never an option in the Trump administration.   The proper thing, is to quietly resign, so you do not disgrace Trump.     It was so dumb, that it had to have come from the White House.

I believe three edits were made:  (1) the subject of the letter,  (2) the opening statement and (3) the final paragraph.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has long been regarded as our nation’s premier federal investigative agency. Over the past year, however, the FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage, and it has affected the entire Department of Justice. That is deeply troubling to many Department employees and veterans, legislators and citizens. 

Final paragraph:

Although the President has the power to remove an FBI director, the decision should not be taken lightly. I agree with the nearly unanimous opinions of former Department officials. The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong. As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.

Of course,  the extraordinary circumstances of the Clinton email scandal  –   unfounded claims by Trump at rallies and tweets,  together with highly partisan House and Senate oversight committees,  and political commentators on Fox News,  in a desperate attempt to diminish respect for the FBI and  influence the electorate – had zero chance of ever being repeated.  Rosenstein would not have written about the “necessary corrective steps”  –  far too vague.

If anyone had diminished confidence in the FBI,  it was Donald Trump.  And he’s still at it, but the scope has broaden to include the Department of Justice, the New York Times, the Washington Post and Amazon, which owns the Post.   Now, public enemy also includes CNN.

I begin with the part that came from Rosenstein.   His  memo claims Comey made two errors of judgement in his press conference of July 5, 2016, then a third error of judgement in his letter to Congress on October 28, 2016.   It is not cited that he broke any laws or rules, but went against tradition and policy norms.   Error #1 was to announce that the evidence against Hillary Clinton were not sufficient to warrant prosecution.   He had usurped the authority of the Attorney General.   This helped Hillary Clinton.   Then he said that Hillary Clinton was extremely sloppy in her handling of classified documents.  His hurt Hillary Clinton, but at least she could put the email scandal behind her in the critical last four months before the election.   Comey has defended his actions on July 5, 2016 saying that he took his unusual action, because of the extraordinary circumstances.

The extraordinary circumstances  were (1) The June 27, 2016 meeting between AG Lynch and Bill Clinton, at the Phoenix airport, for 20 minutes.  This meeting  has been portrayed repeatedly by Trump as backroom deal to get “Crooked Hillary” off the hook for a charge of criminal gross negligence and (2) Lynch had already stated that she would follow the recommendations of the FBI report on the email scandal.

Trump lost no time in the campaign to claim this meeting showed deep corruption in the FBI and the Department of Justice.    Trump tweeted immediately after the tarmac meeting:

Take a look at what happened w/ Bill Clinton. The system is totally rigged. Does anybody really believe that meeting was just a coincidence?

As Bernie Sanders said, Hillary Clinton has bad judgement. Bill’s meeting was probably initiated and demanded by Hillary!

So, the Trump absurd version of events, is that Hillary Clinton, although out of the Obama administration for 3 years, could still demand a meeting between Loretta Lynch and her husband.

Trump took the collusion/conspiracy theory one step further, claiming there was proof that the elite media was part of a broader cover up in Aug 2017:

E-mails show that the Amazon Washington Post and the Failing New York Times were reluctant to cover the Clinton/Lynch secret meeting in plane

The emails that Trump refers to,  are requests for information from the Washington Post and New York Times to the DOJ.   Of course, the DOJ doesn’t respond.   To get information, it’s important to downplay its importance, as “just want to clear up a few loose ends.”   These tricks, I don’t think work.

Error #3, the letter to Congress on October 28, 2016 certainly  helped Trump win the election.   Emails from Clinton’s private server were found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.   Now, for those that enjoy conspiracy theories (like Trump) this was solid gold.   From Wikipedia:

Law enforcement officials stated while investigating allegedly illicit text messages from Anthony Weiner husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin, to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina, they discovered emails related to Clinton’s private server on a laptop computer belonging to Weiner. On November 6, Comey notified Congress that the FBI had not changed its conclusion reached in July. The notification was later cited by Clinton as a factor in her loss in the 2016 presidential election.

Comey defended his actions, stating he had promised Congress that he would advise them if they found any new evidence, that warranted the re-opening of the case.

Rosenstein correctly states that other past Attorney Generals had similar criticisms of Comey, including Eric Holder, AG under Obama.   Holder begins his criticism with Error #3, and not to announce an investigation of a candidate to congress  just prior to an election.

I have a lot of respect for legal professionals.  They usually craft their arguments well.  This is why I believe the letter was edited to support the case of firing Comey.

Comey likely made it easier for Trump to win.   Trump, not Comey,  is diminishing respect for the DOJ,  FBI and other institutions, such as the free press.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

The Atlantic:  Rosenstein’s Case Against Comey, Annotated

Newsweek: Trump’s comments on the tarmac meeting

TRUMP: Hillary ‘probably’ demanded controversial meeting between Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch

Wikipedia:  Hillary Clinton’s email scandal

 

Trump’s approval rating

I heard on MSNBC that Trump’s approval rating had slumped to 37% and that among Republicans, his approval rating was around 76%.   The problem with these numbers, is they come from a small sample, conducted by phone.  These values will randomly fluctuated due to the small sample and other problems inherent in statistical sampling.

I like the Gallup Presidential Approval Polls.   They’ve been in this business for decades.    They show a 38% approval rating as of November 11, 2018, while on Oct 21, 2018,  Trump was at 44%.   Is this significant?   I examined the charts from the first poll until now, and I don’t see any real trend, except a bit of drop off in his first few days in office.    I feel this is more random fluctuation, and I would just average them – resulting in about a 41% approval rating.

Looking just at the two major parties, our country evenly split 50/50.   Republicans gave him a 89% approval rating and Democrats only  7% approval rating.   On this basis, his rating should be around 48%.   I believe it’s the independents that bring his approval ratings down a bit, as their approval of Trump is only 34%.

What is remarkable about Trump’s approval ratings, is how little they have changed over time  in comparison to other presidents.   Every president in the last years has had more volatility in their approval ratings.    It usually takes a major conflict to push approval ratings below 30%.  Truman approval rating was 87% when he assumed office following the death of President Roosevelt but hit a low of 22% as the Korean war dragged on in 1952.    Even Democrats disapproved of Truman during the Korean war, with a lowest approval of 35% in April 1951.

I just want to clear the record on Trump’s approval ratings,   No plunges or soaring to new heights.   No clear trendline, up or down.   See links at bottom.

Can an unpopular president win an election?   Sure.  Only 43% of all eligible votes participated in the last election.   This makes a big difference.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Gallup poll on Trump

 

Trump’s disastrous trip to France

This is the Aisne-Marne Cemetery, which Trump did not visit on his trip to France due to rain.   John Kelly, Trump’s Chief of Staff, and  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joe Dunford attended in his place.

The cemetery lies 55 miles from Paris.   President Macron and Chancellor Merkel were there in the rain.   US forces suffered 9,700 casualties there in World War I.   The occasion was the 100th year anniversary of the end of World War I.   Neither Pence nor Trump visited Arlington Cemetery on  Veteran’s Day on November 11.   Other cabinet officials attended the ceremonies there.

In sum, a horrible Veteran’s day all around, for a President who talks like he is the greatest defender of our military forces.   The day following the cancelled cemetery visit,  Trump visited the American cemetery in Paris, but complained about the lack of reporting.   Wow!   What was he expecting?  A Trump rally in Paris.

Trump’s trips are becoming a national embarrassment.   The only times he seems to excel is at Trump rallies.  The  desk plaque with the words “just let it go”  or at least “back off” might be appropriate.   He seems rather to intensify and expand his attacks to include Macron’s approval rating and French wine.  It all seemed a familiar tactic to change the subject.

His tweet storm against Macron are quite silly and petty.   Macron was elected by 66% of the voters in France, while Trump lost the popular vote.  In September 2018, polls showed Macron’s popularity has plummeted, so Trump’s tweet is correct, with Macron’s popularity far below Trump’s, in the range of 19 to 25%.  However, approximately 20% were undecided.   A recently proposed  program to help the poor in France will likely help Macron’s popularity.

Well, Macron started it!

What set Trump off on his first attack Tweet, as an interview that Macron gave, when he tweeted:

Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the US, China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France?”

Nope.  Macron said that they have to defend themselves against cyber attacks,  from other countries.  However, in later speeches, Macron did discuss a  European military force,  an obvious push back to Trump’s threats to pull out of NATO, because the other countries are not paying their fair share.   Merkel has been supportive of a European military force.

Bottom line

This was supposed to be a commemoration of heroic events as lead by American forces making the ultimate sacrifice.  Trump complains about the reporting (television coverage) and cancels his cemetery visit.

I asked a close German friend if anyone in Germany likes Trump, and his response was a simple, “No.” Winston Churchill’s grandson, I think really nailed it, with one word, “pathetic.”

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia: The Battle for Belleau Woods

It takes enormous bravery to fight and die as these Americans did on French soil.

Trump Trip to Pay Tribute to U.S. Fallen Canceled in French Rain

The French Local: Trump trolls Macron over approval ratings, unemployment, the Nazi occupation and wine

Macron Fails to Convince Four-Fifths of French, Poll Shows (Sept 2018 poll)