Posts Tagged ‘manafort’

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Above The Law

August 22, 2018

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You might remember a time when “Above The Law” was simply the title of a B-rated Steven Segal film. Unfortunately, today the phrase has returned to prominence in a broad sense to define the basis for a national crisis.  What is being discussed today in the media is whether in principle the President of the United States, or specifically in practice Donald Trump, is above the law and by association so are his underlings and compadres in crime, through his power of the pardon.

In principle, the law is the law.  As written it applies to everyone, but in practice it is subject to selective enforcement. When the people being investigated for crimes are the very same people who are conducting the investigation, then the system is failing us. When investigators have a personal interest in the outcome of the investigation and are aligned with the suspect in motive, then the system is failing us. When was the last time that you can remember a police officer being convicted and sentenced for excessive violence or for the killing of an unarmed suspect or a prisoner during arrest or transport? Probably never. Police are investigated by police and represented by police and put through a system that needs the support of the police to function.  As any fraternal order of police or police union will assert, there will be consequences, so the system succumbs to politics and circles the wagons in the interest of self-preservation.

In politics, anyone but the most naive schoolchild knows that legal consequences in the form of jail time never follow the criminal misdeeds of a United States President. As in the case of the police, a resignation is about all that will happen.  The former President will go on to a quiet life of retirement writing a book while waiting for the day when his misdeeds are all but forgotten and he can assume a revered position among those who supported his actions in their mutual cause.

Checks and balances have become a mere philosophic ideal, a fiction as practical as laws and law enforcement if the system is policing itself.  If the chief executive, the President, sits at the top of the investigative chain of justice, and has the power to hire and fire the very persons who are investigating him, and if discovered to be criminally liable can end an investigation or pardon convicted associates, then the system needs to undergo a major overhaul to reflect that no one is above the law. If the interests of congress are aligned with a criminal President for self-preservation, we need to change how the system must work to provide equal justice. Politics cannot be allowed to determine justice.

Now the GOP find themselves in a quagmire, a Sophie’s Choice, with no predictable outcome. Facing the midterm elections, they must decide whether they will sacrifice principle or practicality, all the while quite unsure which is which.  On the one hand, they can support Trump in the hopes of getting Trump’s voters while on the other hand they can deplore Trump’s undeniable criminal complicity and distance themselves from the corruption surrounding him and his team, and by osmosis his congressional supporters whether through past actions or inaction. Political expediency is their only guide as these congressional leaders cower in Trump’s shadow, looking for guidance from the constituency they supposedly lead.

Let’s agree that Trump is motivated exclusively by personal profit and congress is similarly motivated by economic prosperity or national profits. The historical record is very clear. The profit motive is their bond and their applied salve for the nation, and so the dilemma.  Is congress going to seek votes with the promise of economic prosperity by maintaining a Trump alignment or will they seek votes by distancing from Trump’s corruption and demonstrating some late semblance of civic integrity and moral certainty in the face of the inevitable descent of a failed President into the swamp of his own creation? When it is finally determined that Trump has been conspiring all along with the Russians against our democratic process, and to be certain the GOP knows in their heart of hearts that he has, who among the GOP can say that they were on the right side of history? Can they execute a reversal now and still remain in office or should they wait until after the midterm elections and if they still hold office after the smoke clears, try to put on a dignified face and demand his resignation?

 

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Who’s Running the Nuthouse?

April 14, 2018

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Yesterday I entered my local Chase Bank branch office to make a $20 cash deposit.  The teller asked for my ID.  He refused to take my $20 unless my driver’s license with a picture ID was removed from my wallet and given to him. He then proceeded to scan it, before taking my $20 and making the deposit.  Here it was that I am the owner of the account.  It has my name on it.  The record of the transaction should be enough to establish the validity of the deposit.  Who would put $20 cash in my account other than me?  When I asked the teller why I needed to show proof of my identity to make the deposit he said it was to prevent money laundering.  I laughingly declared, “This is crazy,” and was quickly joined by the others waiting in line behind me decrying the policy as stupid.  I looked back at the teller and said, “Who the hell launders money $20 at a time?” to which he replied, “It’s bank policy.”  To the chagrin of the stern branch manager, the entire room of customers broke out in hysterical laughter at their buffoonery.

Don’t they know how money laundering is done?  First, you have to be a drug kingpin or a realty tycoon with multiple international holdings.  Local drug kingpins spend cash.  They roll up their “Benjamins” with rubber bands and disperse it like peds candy. They don’t need to launder it.  The really big guys take the money out of the country before they bring it back in “cleaned.”

But if you’re a millionaire or billionaire with extensive holdings, a team of thug lawyers, say like Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort, connections to Russian Oligarchs, Russian banking and a questionable relationship to Deutsche Bank you have the perfect opportunity to move large sums of cash around the globe without ever presenting your ID.  But here’s Chase Bank doing their part to be vigilant crime-stoppers by demanding my picture ID before allowing me to deposit $20 into my personal checking account. Everyone and their little sister knows it’s the big banks that do the money laundering.  Who are they kidding? Next thing you know, I’ll have to present a picture ID to buy milk in this country.

Whose running this nuthouse anyway?

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Jesus?  I hardly knew the man.

April 13, 2017

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Have Trump and his disciples finally found religion?  Have they been studying the words of Saint Peter, who the day before the crucifixion, to avoid a similar personal outcome, denied knowing Jesus?  With certainty, even Peter knew that guilt by association was powerfully incriminating.  So it is that Trump and his surrogates cannot run away fast enough from the substance of their associations with players like Carter Page and Paul Manafort.

Apparently they have all conspired to agree that these characters from the real “House of Cards” had minimal contact with Trump and little to no effect on campaign strategy, management or policy, before or after the election, yet Paul Manafort was Trump’s campaign manager and is reputed to have been the driving force behind softening the GOP campaign plank towards Russia. Carter Page, for his contribution, was the first person named by Trump to his foreign advisory team.

And now, the de-facto SNL Potus, Steve Bannon, has fallen from grace and no longer carries the weight of being Trump’s chief strategist, but is just “one of the guys.”  Truth is that Trump can’t fire him without losing the support of the radical right, the wave of votes Bannon rode in on, so he’ll be kept around, in the room, just not seated “at the table.” Expect the distance will be ever increasing.  Trump knows a liability when he sees one.  I’ll give him that.  It’s just a solution like bankruptcy.  End the bleeding and create a rebirth for the company.  Make the investors take the hit.  That is the one true Trump strategy.  His business record bears that out.

But in all this drama, there may actually be some degree of truth, a very real alternative fact not being discussed.  Think about this.  Trump never expected to win.  He has admitted this in several interviews since the election.  So working with that premise, let’s take an alternate look at the actions of Manafort and Page.  If Trump had not planned on winning, then Manafort, Page and anybody else for that matter could have been dispatched to Russia or involved with Russian proxies on what they all believed was simply “business.”  What business you say?  Doesn’t matter. It’s simply the business of making money in a developing market.  Until we see Trump’s taxes we shall never know, but we also need to know if Trump and Tillerson and Manafort are the holders of the shares of Rosneft stock that were purchased prior to the election.

Manafort is first in line to take the hit, regardless, because he actively campaigned to affect GOP policy towards Russia, but even this may not have been breaking any laws.  It may just be that the whole Trump candidacy was designed to affect his business objectives in Russia. These are some pretty blurry lines, but I can see how they might claim that they were not acting as foreign agents.  If Manafort regarded himself as simply a businessman doing business, then there would be no need to register, but now that Trump has won, he fully realizes that he should have registered. That he never did may have something to do with the fact that he didn’t see this possibility coming and therefore not a conflict in the making.  Only recently in the last few days did he register as a foreign agent. CYA, Paul Manafort, CYA.

As to Page, well it appears that Trump did not need a real foreign affairs advisor, just the appearance of having one, a requirement of a bonafide candidacy.  After all if you never expected to win, what did it matter?  So it’s possible that there may be a large element of truth in all that Page has to say about his role orbiting Trump.  Meanwhile Trump will continue to say, “Jesus, I hardly knew the man.”