Thursday, December 24, 2020

Thick As Thieves

No one was surprised by this, were they?

Trump on Wednesday granted pardons or other clemency to another 29 people, including real estate developer Charles Kushner, his son-in-law’s father, and two former advisers who were convicted as part of the FBI’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election — once again using his executive power to benefit his allies and undermine an investigation that dogged his presidency.

With his time in office nearing its end, Trump pardoned former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted in 2018 of committing financial fraud and conspiring to obstruct the investigation of his crimes, and he upgraded to a full pardon the sentence commutation he provided earlier to longtime friend Roger Stone.

Trump also pardoned Kushner, the father of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who pleaded guilty in 2004 to having made false statements to the Federal Election Commission, and he subsequently pleaded guilty to witness tampering, and tax evasion stemming from $6 million in political contributions and gifts mischaracterized as business expenses.

The move came just a day after Trump granted commutations or pardons to 20 people, including three former Republican members of Congress and two others who were convicted of crimes as part of the investigation into Russia’s activities four years ago. The president also pardoned military contractors involved in the killing of unarmed civilians during the Iraq War. Routinely, Trump has avoided the normal Justice Department process for pardons, instead granting clemency to political allies and the well-connected.

Despite all this protests and railing to the contrary, this whole clustasrophe is an rather open admission on the part of Trump that he lost the election. He’s making his payoffs for silence and loyalty to his minions and co-conspirators before he gets hustled out of the White House on January 20. To wit, Charlie Pierce:

The pardons to people who worked for him, probably doled out to keep himself out of jail, don’t shock me. After all, this is the second Republican administration in which Bill Barr worked as attorney general that ended with pardons in order to protect the president*’s hindquarters. We all knew these were coming, just as we know a boatload of others are coming as well. But the Blackwater pardons are a different shade of equine. I am not afflicted with paranoid fantasies about militias coming to the president*’s defense as he chains himself to the Resolute desk, but doing business with Erik Prince is bad news, and currying favor with him by pardoning his war criminal employees is doing serious business with him.

Happy holidays, bitches.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Beg Pardon

Well, of course.

Trump has discussed with advisers whether to grant pre-emptive pardons to his children, to his son-in-law and to his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, and talked with Mr. Giuliani about pardoning him as recently as last week, according to two people briefed on the matter.

Mr. Trump has told others that he is concerned that a Biden Justice Department might seek retribution against the president by targeting the oldest three of his five children — Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump — as well as Ms. Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser.

Donald Trump Jr. had been under investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, for contacts that the younger Mr. Trump had had with Russians offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign, but he was never charged. Mr. Kushner provided false information to federal authorities about his contacts with foreigners for his security clearance, but was given one anyway by the president.

The nature of Mr. Trump’s concern about any potential criminal exposure of Eric Trump or Ivanka Trump is unclear, although an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney into the Trump Organization has expanded to include tax write-offs on millions of dollars in consulting fees by the company, some of which appear to have gone to Ms. Trump.

Presidential pardons, however, do not provide protection against state or local crimes.

Mr. Giuliani’s potential criminal exposure is also unclear, although he was under investigation as recently as this summer by federal prosecutors in Manhattan for his business dealings in Ukraine and his role in ousting the American ambassador there. The plot was at the heart of the impeachment of Mr. Trump.

In the real world, a pardon is granted if the person receiving it has been indicted or convicted of a crime. Preemptively pardoning your cohorts, abetters, and minions would be an admission of guilt. And as the article notes, a presidential pardon doesn’t shield them from state prosecution.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Law Unto Himself

Oh, come on; you knew this would happen.

Trump on Tuesday used his sweeping presidential pardon powers to forgive the crimes of a list of boldface names, including disgraced politician Rod R. Blagojevich, convicted junk bond king Michael Milken and former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik.

Trump pardoned or commuted the sentences of seven convicted white-collar criminals at the center of federal anti-corruption and tax fraud cases spanning decades, alongside four women whose cases were not as well known.

The action frees Blagojevich, the former Democratic governor of Illinois, from the federal correctional facility in Colorado where he was serving out his 14-year sentence. He was convicted on corruption charges in 2011 for trying in 2008 to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat.

“He’ll be able to go back home with his family after serving eight years in jail,” Trump told reporters. “That was a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence in my opinion and in the opinion of many others.”

[…]

The executive actions announced Tuesday fit a pattern of highly personal presidential justice that largely bypasses the traditional pardon process administered by the Justice Department. Most of the people who have received clemency under Trump have been well-connected offenders who had a line into the White House or currency with his political base.

The justice system isn’t supposed to work based on “my opinion and in the opinion of many others.”  It’s supposed to work based on the laws and the rules passed by Congress and the legislatures.  And it’s not supposed to work based on who paid the most money to your friends and contributors or as a neener-neener to your predecessor.

Charles P. Pierce:

The banana republic is a republic gone bananas.

Trump has also declared himself to be the “chief law enforcement officer of the country.”

Trump’s constant commentary and increasing willingness to flout traditional legal processes signal that the president feels emboldened and unrestrained after Republicans voted almost unanimously to acquit him on impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, said Chris Whipple, author of “The Gatekeepers,” a history of White House chiefs of staff.

“It shows that Susan Collins was right — Trump has learned a lesson,” Whipple said, referring to a prediction by the Republican senator from Maine that Trump would be more cautious after impeachment. “The lesson he learned is that he’s unaccountable. He can do whatever he wants now with impunity.”

He’s also projecting what kind of treatment he’s hoping to get from the next Republican president when he’s rotting in jail in 2028.

It’s still not too late to impeach and convict the motherfucker.  And this time, do it right.

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Fix Will Be In

Miami billionaire Jeffrey Epstein is back in the news.

It’s been a long time coming, but justice may finally find Jeffrey Epstein.

Billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein was arrested for allegedly sex trafficking dozens of minors in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005, and will appear in court in New York on Monday, according to three law enforcement sources. The arrest, by the FBI-NYPD Crimes Against Children Task Force, comes about 12 years after the 66-year-old financier essentially got a slap on the wrist for allegedly molesting dozens of underage girls in Florida.

These are federal charges, so Donald Trump does have the power to pardon Epstein, although he may want to keep clear of that for his evangelical base. Of course, Jerry Falwell Jr will probably have no problem finding a rationalization for why it’s perfectly Christian to forgive the rape and trafficking of minors as sex slaves.

[…]

This is not the first time Epstein has faced charges. He was convicted of sex trafficking in 2008, but a secret plea agreement with then US Attorney (now Trump Secretary of Labor) Alex Acosta basically gave him the cushiest of sentences and no notice to his more than 30 victims. Just this February, a federal judge found that Acosta acted improperly, but like so much of the Trump administration, there have been no consequences to Acosta.

It’s no news bulletin that rich white guys get the leniency while the poor minorities get the slammer or the needle; that’s the American way.  What’s notable about this story is that this is the second time around for Mr. Epstein and the likelihood that he’ll skate is more than just likely.

Oh, and one other thing that’s going to keep him from doing hard time: he was trafficking underage women.  If he was dealing out rent boys, he wouldn’t have a friend in the world.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Nothing To See Here

It turns out that the search warrant for Hillary Clinton’s e-mails was based on nothing.

The FBI told a federal judge that it needed to search a computer to resume its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server because agents had found correspondence on the device between Clinton and top aide Huma Abedin — though they did not have any inkling what was being discussed, according to newly unsealed court documents.

The documents, made public Tuesday after a Los Angeles lawyer sued for their release, reinforce the impression that when the bureau revealed less than two weeks before the election that agents were again investigating Clinton, they had no new evidence of actual wrongdoing. The FBI’s revelation upended the presidential campaign, and to this day, Clinton and her supporters say it is at least partly to blame for her surprising loss to Donald Trump.

[…]

David E. Kendall, Clinton’s lawyer, said in a statement the affidavit highlighted the “extraordinary impropriety” of Comey revealing that the investigation had resumed, which Kendall alleged “produced devastating but predictable damage politically and which was both legally unauthorized and factually unnecessary.”

“The affidavit concedes that the FBI had no basis to conclude whether these e-mails were even pertinent to that closed investigation, were significant, or whether they had, in fact, already been reviewed prior to the closing of the investigation,” Kendall said. “What does become unassailably clear, however, is that as the sole basis for this warrant, the FBI put forward the same evidence the Bureau concluded in July was not sufficient to bring a case — the affidavit offered no additional evidence to support any different conclusion.”

The Director of the FBI basically upended the election based on no evidence or probable cause.

So yes, the election was rigged stolen.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Short Takes

After decades of war, peace between Colombia and FARC.

Another mass shooting, this time in Houston.

A federal judge blocked attempts to approve proof-of-citizenship for voters.

The Justice Department is sending $20 million to police departments for body cameras.

Jury selection begins in the Dylan Roof trial in Charleston.

Tropical Update: Invest 97L could move toward the U.S.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Minimum Wage Benefits

The conservative mantra that raising the minimum wage is bad for business is being disproved.

According to a new report by Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, neither restaurants themselves nor their employees have suffered significant losses as a result of past wage hikes.

“There is no doubt that restaurateurs face higher expenses as a result of minimum wage increases, but if restaurants are raising prices to compensate, those increases do not appear to decrease demand or profitability enough to sizably or reliably decrease either the number of restaurants or the number of employees,” Michael Lynn, a co-author and professor of consumer behavior and marketing, said in a press release.

For the study, the researchers looked at wage increases in states between 1995 and 2014 to asses the impact on restaurants, finding that hikes have had “no reliable linear effect on the number of full-service restaurants or on full-service restaurant employment, even when looking at cumulative effects over three years.”

Not only that, raising the minimum wage could have an impact on crime.

Mass incarceration is failing to prevent crime, according to the Obama administration — so much so that the president’s staff is looking in a few unconventional places for new ideas on public safety.

For example, raising the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour could prevent as many as half a million crimes annually, according to a new report from the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, a group of economists and researchers charged with providing the president with analysis and advice on economic questions.

[…]

The authors consider a few ways of reducing crime. They forecast that hiking the federal minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $12 would reduce crime by 3 percent to 5 percent, as fewer people would be forced to turn to illegal activity to make ends meet. By contrast, spending an additional $10 billion on incarceration — a massive increase — would reduce crime by only 1 percent to 4 percent, according to the report.

It goes beyond economics: paying people a living wage is the right thing to do.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Friday, February 12, 2016

Monday, January 11, 2016

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Friday, July 31, 2015

Short Takes

Serial number confirms that the piece of the airliner found on Reunion is from Malaysia Airlines MG 370.

The University of Cincinnati policeman indicted for murder in the killing of an unarmed man had his bail set at $1 million.

A California wildfire near Napa Valley has forced 650 people from their homes.

Six people were stabbed by a lunatic in the Jerusalem gay pride parade.

Athletes will swim in filth at the Rio Olympics according to the AP.

The Tigers beat the Orioles 9-8.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Short Takes

Grecian Turn: Another attempt at getting out debt is proposed.

Six predominately black churches have burned in the last two weeks.

The government is investigating whether major airlines colluded on keeping prices high.

A federal judge in Alabama has ordered judges to issue marriage licenses to all comers.

R.I.P Nicholas Winton, 106, a Briton who saved nearly 700 children from the Nazis.

The Tigers lost 9-3 to the Pirates.