Thursday, May 24, 2018

President Trump's Efforts to Obstruct Mueller Investigation Continues With "Spygate" Nonsense

President Trump recently took a new angle in his push back against the Muller investigation, namely a claim that the the FBI surreptitiously placed a "spy" in his campaign to gather information on the contacts various Trump campaign officials were having with Russian officials.  According to Trump, "Spygate" was part of the bureau's political agenda to gather information to try to prevent the election of Donald Trump and help Hillary Clinton.

Of course, the truth is something else entirely.

During the campaign, Donald Trump made extensive use of the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton
for her handling of emails and her private server, conduct which could have led to the hacking of classified information.   (An ironic side note:  Trump has refused to take security measures to ensure the cell phone he uses for government business is not subject to hacking.  Hypocrisy?)  Opinion polls show a definite drop in support for Hillary Clinton after the FBI reopened that email investigation just days before the election.  Indeed, outside of the candidates themselves, no person in America is more responsible for Hillary Clinton losing and Trump being elected President than FBI Director James Comey. 

So when voters went to the polls, they knew all about the FBI's investigation involving Hillary Clinton. What was not made public by the FBI was that the agency was also conducting a counter intelligence investigation involving Russian interference into the election that had ensnared Trump campaign officials.

To recap, the Trump "Spygate" claim is that the FBI, at the behest of the Obama administration, embeded a "spy" in the Trump campaign to gather information to launch an investigation into Trump campaign involvement with Russian officials.  This, according to the theory, was done for political purposes, namely. to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump.  It does not.   But if Comey and the FBI were conducting this investigation to politically harm the Trump campaign, why was the fact of that investigation kept a secret until after the election?  

One thing though you quickly learn about Trump and his Kool-Aid drinking enablers is that facts simply do not matter when pursuing an agenda.   Indeed when asked about a sit-down Trump interview with Muller, Trump's TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani, said that might not be a good idea because truth is "relative" concept and that Trump's "truth" about what happened might not match up with Muller's.

Of course, the FBI did not embed a "spy" in the Trump campaign  Instead the FBI used a confidential informant to follow up on information it had learned regarding Russian officials contacting members of the Trump campaign team.  Confidential informants are used all the time during investigations and are an essential part of the activities of law enforcement.

Months before the election, both campaigns were specifically warned that the Russian government might try to interfere in the 2016 elections and to let the bureau know if they were contacted as part of this effort.  The Trump campaign then went on to have numerous contacts with Russian officials, including the notorious Trump Tower meeting hosted by the President's son, and said absolutely nothing to the FBI.   The Trump campaign was more than willing to accept help from Russia and other foreign countries to win the election.  Despite the claims of TV lawyer Giuliani, it is most certainly against the law for a candidate in a federal election to accept assistance from a foreign government or even a foreign national not associated with a government.

It looks more and more like Trump campaign officials, if not Trump himself, were involved in substantial criminal activity in an effort to win 2016 campaign.  Trump's "Spygate" nonsense is nothing more than a continued effort on his part to obstruct justice and undermine the legal institutions that would be handing down that justice.  Patriotic Americans who care about the rule of law and its democratic institutions cannot let that happen.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Fake Endorsements By the Marion County (Indianapolis) Republican Party

A Republican mailing recently set off one of my pet peeves.  On an oversized post card, Brian Durham, a candidate for Marion County Sheriff. claimed that he had been "endorsed by the Marion County Republican Party."

No, Brian, you were not endorsed by the Marion County Republican Party  You were endorsed by the
Marion County Republican Organization.  Even that claim is doubtful.  About 90% of the people voting at political party slating (endorsement) are not elected representatives of the party, but rather appointees of the county chairman.   And what's more, the people who vote for county chairman are almost all appointees of the county chairman.  

The notion that party endorsement process in Marion County represents the will of Republicans who live in Marion County.  

For the record, Brian, the Marion County Republican Party consists of those voters who show up at today's primary and select a GOP ballot. 

Indiana Senate Race Leaves True Conservatives with No GOP Option

Congressman Todd Rokita
Silly me.  As a Republican, I want to vote for candidates who believe in limited government, lower deficits, and is against wasteful spending measures.  I want to vote for people who will respect the rule of law and who run for office believing their job is not to act as a rubber stamp of other GOP officeholders, but to act with independence and integrity.   This morning, when I go in to vote in my Republican Primary, I want to vote for real Republicans, not Democrats who switch to the GOP to pursue a political opportunity.

Needless to say, I'm left with no choices in the Indiana Republican Senate Primary.

Todd Rokita.  Earlier in his political career, I liked Todd.  Although he was a conservative, he had a reform edge.  I had no problem with him using the bully pulpit of the Secretary of State's Office to push for gerrymandering reform.  But Rokita has proven this election cycle more than willing to give up his political soul and integrity to try to win an election.   He should get an award for working his way the furthest up President Trump's butt in an soul-less attempt to win the election.  It is not like he did not have stiff competition on that front.  In that endeavor, Rokita did not let hypocrisy get in his way.  He chided businessman Mike Braun for being a Democrat until 2012, while enthusiastically supporting another Democrat until 2012, President Donald Trump.

(Former) State Representative Mike Braun
Mike Braun:  I certainly don't have a problem with people making legitimate transitions from the Democrat to the Republican Party.  Indeed one of my favorite presidents, Ronald Reagan, had a well-documented, more than a decade long transition from being a Democrat to a conservative Republican.  But Braun's excuse for his Democratic-party voting history is nonsensical.  He says he voted Democrat
because that gave the most opportunity to influence local races in then Democratic-leaning Dubois County, is nonsense.  (Please don't for a second I assume that would be a legitimate excuse even if true.  Bottom line, if you are a dedicated Republican or Democrat, you pull that party's ballot in the primary. Period.)  There were plenty of competitive general election races on the ballot before 2012 and Jasper residence Braun always chose a Democratic ballot.   Braun had zero history of Republican activity until one day when he woke up and decided to run, successfully, for state representative.  And, Mike, knock it off about you not being a politician.   You served four years in our state legislature as a pretend Republican.

Congressman Luke Messer
Luke Messer:  Messer came across as the most thoughtful and reasonable of the candidates.  Note the past tense - that was before the election.  During the campaign, Messer has decided to jump in the fray, shredding any pretense of independence by fully embracing Trumpism.  Messer, who actually backed Florida Senator Mario Rubio for President, actually had the temerity to criticize Rokita for during the 2016 campaign for describing Trump as "vulgar, if not profane."  To which Rokita responded saying that was before he got to know Trump.  How intellectually dishonest of both of them.  Even Trump supporters admit the President is "vulgar, if not profane" and to get to know Trump simply confirms that fact.  As to Messer, he like Rokita, has little real life experience, working as a lobbyist before being elected to the state legislature.  And, I know you're not supposed to condemn someone for the activities of their spouse, but I can't get past the $240,000 attorney contract Messer's wife, Jennifer has with Fishers, a 26.5 hour a week job she supposedly does remotely while living in suburban Washington, D.C.  As an attorney who have watched many of my attorney friends struggle to make ends meet while working 60 hours a week, I find the claim that Jennifer Messer's part-time work is worth $240,000 is absurd.   Fishers could easily get a local and equally qualified local attorney to work part-time for a fraction of $240,000.  Jennifer Messer has her contract because of who she is married to, and anyone who says otherwise is not being honest.

Rokita, Braun and Messer have all indicated in their commercials that they support this administration's massive increase in debt and plans to waste more taxpayer money on such ridiculous expenditures such as "The Wall."  Neither Rokita, Braun or Messer have earned my vote in this morning's primary.  I can't see myself voting for any of the three in the Fall either.

Predictions?  I think Braun has a solid, albeit less than 50% win, with Rokita second and Messer a distant third.  I do not think any of the three beat Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly in the fall, however.  None of the GOP candidates ran with any plan of how to get back to sanity after the primary.  The key for GOP statewide success is doing well in the Indianapolis suburbs.  In the era of Trumpism, that's not good electoral footing for Republican candidates.  Trump's numbers in Hamilton County, the most populous Indianapolis-area county by far, were bad and they are unlikely any better now a year and a half later.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Trump Attorney Rudy Giuliani Opens Mouth, Sticks Foot in During Interview With Fox's Hannity

Donald Trump has always insisted that he's his best attorney.  With the dim-witted attorneys he hires, that might actually be true.  Michael Cohen, Ty Cobb, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow...have all managed to do incredibly dumb things as Trump's attorney.  Now add to that ignominious list of barristers the former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.  

In fairness, Giuliani, who in the 1980s was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, might
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani
have been off his legal game.  It has been decades since he has been in a courtroom, after all.  Perhaps his legal reasoning skills have grown dull.

During an "interview" with Sean Hannity, Fox News' fiercest Trump sycophant, Giuliani appeared to veer off script, breaking the news that Donald Trump knew all about the $130,000 payment by his "attorney" Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels, and that Trump, in fact, reimbursed Cohen for the payment.  (Trump had previously denied having sex with Stormy or knowing anything about the payoff.)   A giddy Giuliani, excited to break the news to the Fox audience, then declared to Hannity since campaign funds were not used for the payment, there was no campaign finance violation!

You could tell during the interview that even Hannity knew Giuliani had screwed up.  The Fox News host attempted to throw Giuliani a life line in the form of softball follow-up questions.  Giuliani, nonetheless, managed to swing and miss.  

Contrary to Giuliani's suggestion, nobody had ever suggested campaign funds were used for the Stormy Daniels' payment.  Ironically if campaign funds were used for such a purpose, assuming that was  properly reported, it would have likely been legal.  The problem is not that campaign funds were used for the Stormy payment, it is that campaign funds were not used.  

One would think Giuliani, who ran successfully for two terms as Mayor and ran, briefly, for President would know what an in kind political contribution is.  It was legal for Cohen to make the in-kind contribution as it far exceeded personal contribution limits in federal campaigns.   While it is legal for Trump to make a $130,000 contribution to his own campaign, that contribution still has to be reported.  And the fact Cohen fronted the money to be reimbursed later by Trump, also meant it was a loan that had to be reported.

During the Hannity interview, Giuliani brushed off any concerns about broken laws by saying they were just "FEC violations."  Yes, FEC violations which also happen to be crimes. 

Of course, one could argue that the Stormy Daniels' hush payment had nothing to do with the election.  The problem is that the Trump-Stormy hookup took place in 2006 and it wasn't until 2016, days before the election and just before the porn actress was set to go public with the story, that the hush payment was made.  As far as whether it was a campaign contribution, it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck.  

But the election violations may turn out to be the least of Cohen and Trump's legal problems, assuming, of course, Giuliani's assertion of what happened is accurate.  To move $130,000 through our post-9/11 banking system there have to be a number of representations made to banking officials regarding the source and purpose of such a large expenditure. Undoubtedly false representations would have been made along the way.  When the news broke of the payoff, Cohen said he took out a second mortgage to pay off Stormy Daniels.  In doing so, he likely would have had to make a representation to the bank regarding what the money will be used for, and if he lied on those bank forms that is likely a felony.  

But maybe Cohen didn't take out that second mortgage after all.  (It should be recorded and publicly available at the courthouse...not sure why no reporter has bothered to check.)  After all Cohen and his, undoubtedly now "former," client have a tendency to lie, a lot.

A new attorney, Emmett T. Flood, Clinton's impeachment attorney, has been added to the Trump legal team.  While he should raise the average IQ in the room when the Trump legal team gets together, it seems associating with the President causes people, both lawyers and non-lawyers, to do stupid things.