Can you feel it? The pace of things in Washington DC is picking up. Just as the President was packing up for the G20 conference in Argentina, Special Counsel Robert Mueller let fly with his latest bombshell.
Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen’s guilty plea for lying to Congress about an unsuccessful plan to build a luxury tower in Moscow is having a ripple effect, as additional details –like the offer of a $50 million penthouse to Vladimir Putin– trickle out.
Cohen’s latest confession claims discussions with at least one Russian government official and others in Moscow continued through June 2016, well into Trump’s presidential campaign. The President has denounced his former personal lawyer as a “liar” in remarks to reporters .
Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani said the facts in the court documents revealed on Thursday came from the Trump Organization itself — prove it has nothing to hide.
Meanwhile in Argentina:
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe congratulates President Trump on his “historic victory in the midterm elections.” World leaders all have figured out the Trump flattery game, even when it’s not true.
— Willie Geist (@WillieGeist) November 30, 2018
In Frankfurt Germany, Deutsche Bank, which agreed to loan Trump as much as $640 million for the renovation of Chicago Trump Tower, was raided on Thursday.
While the public reason for the search is for materials related to crimes revealed in the Panama Papers, the existance of the Chicago loan, which came at a time when most U.S. banks refused to loan money to Trump due to his string of bankruptcies has fueled speculation about additional revelations.
An FBI raid on the he law offices of Edward Burke, a Chicago alderman and former Trump tax attorney, may add yet another piece to the puzzle. Burke’s law firm represented Trump’s businesses — including the same Chicago Trump Tower that secured funding from Deutsche Bank.
On the other hand, this raid took place in Chicago, where corruption is a way of life.
Roger Stone confidant Jerome Corsi has refused a plea deal and faces perjury charges. A draft of the rejected agreement includes information about an email to the former Trump campaign adviser indicating advance knowledge of the WikiLeaks-released emails stolen from the Clinton campaign.
“Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps,” Corsi wrote on Aug. 2, 2016, referring to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, according to the draft court papers. “One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.”
Lawyers for Accused Russian spy and gun rights activist Maria Butina and the Justice Department told a court they “remain optimistic” about negotiations for resolving her case without a trial through a plea deal.
The National Rifle Association, already reeling from declines in membership contributions, stands to be the big loser if her confession includes details about the group funneling money from Russia into advertising supporting Trump in 2016.
Perhaps the most telling thing about President Trump’s situation is coming from the man himself. An unending stream of Tweets and remarks to the press proclaiming his innocence and attacking the investigation has a distinctly desperate sound to it.
From Rolling Stone:
Feeling the heat, President Trump is trying to tweet through it. He’s posted about the “Witch Hunt” 12 times since Monday, repeatedly accusing Mueller of bias and accusing his “angry” team of “shattering innocent lives” and trying to force people like Corsi and Manafort to lie. Fox News has followed the president’s lead in painting Corsi and Manafort, who has been convicted of several crimes as a result of the investigation, as victims. On Wednesday night, Tucker Carlson argued that the special counsel’s office is ageist for picking on two AARP-eligible men.
Birds of a feather…
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman shake hands and laugh at the G-20 summit. pic.twitter.com/tKUDKsCzv2
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) November 30, 2018
And a House Democrats New Year… Quite the Contrast
Congressional Democrats unveiled their first legislation (HR 1) for 2019 at a press conference on Capitol Hill this morning.
A summary of the bill released Friday includes broad changes to federal campaign and ethics laws. It would create national automatic voter registration, call to “end partisan gerrymandering,” require “all political organizations” to disclose donors and overhaul the Federal Election Commission. It would also revamp federal ethics laws, including mandating the disclosure of the president’s tax returns, which President Donald Trump has so far refused to do. Full details of the bill were not immediately available Friday morning.
House Democrats are making reform a priority for the new Congress, but they are expected to have trouble passing the package in the Republican-controlled Senate. Some advocates hope that, after the House passes the bill, pieces of it could be broken off and negotiated with the Senate or included as policy riders in government spending bills or other large pieces of legislation.
Vox gave more specifics about HR 1 (emphases added):
There are three main planks the bill covers: campaign finance reform, strengthening the government’s ethics laws, and expanding voting rights.
- Public financing of campaigns, powered by small donations. Under Sarbanes’s vision, the federal government would provide a voluntary 6-1 match for candidates for president and Congress, which means for every dollar a candidate raises from small donations, the federal government would match it six times over. “If you give $100 to a candidate that’s meeting those requirements, then that candidate would get another $600 coming in behind them,” Sarbanes told Vox this summer. “The evidence and the modeling is that most candidates can do as well or better in terms of the dollars they raise if they step into this new system.”
- Passing the DISCLOSE Act, pushed by Rep. David Cicilline (RI) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), both Democrats from Rhode Island. This would require Super PACs and “dark money” political organizations to make their donors public.
- Passing the Honest Ads Act, championed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Mark Warner (VA), which would require Facebook and Twitter to disclose the source of money of political ads on their platforms, and share how much money was spent.
- Requiring the president to disclose his or her tax returns.
- Stopping members of Congress from using taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment cases or buy first-class plane tickets.
- Giving the Office of Government Ethics the power to do more oversight and enforcement and put in stricter lobbying registration requirements.
- Create a new ethical code for the US Supreme Court, ensuring all branches of government are impacted by the new law.
- Creating new national automatic voter registration that asks voters to opt out, rather than opt in, ensuring more people will be signed up to vote. Early voting and online voting would also be promoted.
- Restoring the Voting Rights Act, part of which was dismantled by a US Supreme Court decision in 2013. Ending partisan gerrymandering in federal elections and prohibiting voter roll purging.
- Beefing up elections security, including requiring the Director of National Intelligence to do regular checks on foreign threats.
In other news, outgoing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has been whining in public about the fact that California takes great care in counting votes and ensuring integrity of elections.
Boo Hoo. This is what Democracy looks like.
Countdown to The End. Friday, December 14, will mark the end of this version of the San Diego Free Press, along with this column.
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