Following the news feels like falling into a bottomless pit…. (More)
Okay, maybe the pit isn’t bottomless. But we haven’t reached the bottom yet, and no one knows how deep this pit will be.
For example, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 54% of Americans are uncertain, worried, and/or pessimistic about how the God-King-elect will govern. That’s much worse than Americans’ reactions to President Obama or even President George W. Bush.
And for good reason.
For the past two years, [soon-to-be Secretary of Commerce Wilber] Ross has been a business partner with [Russian oligarch and Putin ally Viktor] Vekselberg in a major financial project involving the Bank of Cyprus, the country’s largest and most significant financial institution. A financial crisis in 2013 led to the bank’s collapse and eventual bailout. The bank had held billions in deposits from wealthy Russians – some of it presumably dirty money or funds deposited there to escape Russian taxation – and during its restructuring, a large amount of these deposits were converted into shares, giving Russian plutocrats a majority ownership (on paper) of the bank. The idea of Russians gaining control of a European bank unnerved European financial powers. But in the summer of 2014, Ross led a 1 billion euro takeover of the troubled bank in a deal that offered Russian shareholders a buyout. (Ross had previously bought a stake in the Bank of Ireland during an earlier European debt crisis—a move that turned out to be profitable.) Still, the Bank of Cyprus would not be freed of Russian influence. Shortly after Ross’ deal, the bank announced that Vekselbergs’ conglomerate, the Renova Group, had become the bank’s second-largest shareholder.
A new Texas nonprofit led by Donald Trump’s grown sons is offering access to the freshly-minted president during inauguration weekend – all in exchange for million-dollar donations to unnamed “conservation” charities, according to interviews and documents reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity.
And the donors’ identities may never be known.
Prospective million-dollar donors to the “Opening Day 2017” event – slated for Jan. 21, the day after inauguration, at Washington, D.C.’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center – receive a “private reception and photo opportunity for 16 guests with President Donald J. Trump,” a “multi-day hunting and/or fishing excursion for 4 guests with Donald Trump, Jr. and/or Eric Trump, and team,” as well as tickets to other events and “autographed guitars by an Opening Day 2017 performer.”
Expect those “conservation” charities to be … the Trump Foundation. Just sayin’.
This is, after all, the same Kleptocrat-elect who leveraged his pending reign to force the Kuwaiti government to use his hotels:
The Embassy of Kuwait allegedly cancelled a contract with a Washington, D.C. hotel days after the presidential election, citing political pressure to hold its National Day celebration at the Trump International Hotel instead.
A source tells ThinkProgress that the Kuwaiti embassy, which has regularly held the event at the Four Seasons in Georgetown, abruptly canceled its reservation after members of the Trump Organization pressured the ambassador to hold the event at the hotel owned by the president-elect. The source, who has direct knowledge of the arrangements between the hotels and the embassy, spoke to ThinkProgress on the condition of anonymity because the individual was not authorized to speak publicly. ThinkProgress was also able to review documentary evidence confirming the source’s account.
Newt Gingrich has a take on how Donald Trump can keep from running afoul of U.S. ethics laws: Change the ethics laws.
Trump is currently grappling with how to sufficiently disentangle himself from his multibillion-dollar business to avoid conflicts of interest with his incoming administration, and the president-elect has already pushed back a promised announcement of an ethics firewall.
Gingrich, the former speaker of the House and one-time potential running mate for Trump, says Trump should push Congress for legislation that accounts for a billionaire businessman in the White House.
“We’ve never seen this kind of wealth in the White House, and so traditional rules don’t work,” Gingrich said Monday during an appearance on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show about the president-elect’s business interests. “We’re going to have to think up a whole new approach.”
Get that? The Kleptocrat-elect is too rich for “traditional rules.” We need special, easier rules for billionaires. Hear that, Bernie Bros who howled for months about Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street speeches?
There are saner voices than Gingrich’s:
“Speaker Gingrich’s statement that wealth trumps the rule of law, basically that’s what he was saying, is jaw-dropping,” added American University government professor James Thurber. “I can’t believe it. He’s a historian. He should also know that we did not want to have a king. A king in this case is somebody with a lot of money who cannot abide by the rule of law.”
Richard Painter, a former George W. Bush White House ethics lawyer, said Gingrich was off on his reading of the Constitution. “If the pardon power allows that, the pardon power allows the president to become a dictator, and even Richard Nixon had the decency to wait for his successor to hand out the pardon that he received for his illegal conduct,” Painter said. “We’re going down a very, very treacherous path if we go with what Speaker Gingrich is saying, what he is suggesting.”
That bit about “the pardon power” refers to another Gingrich brainstorm:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested that Donald Trump could pardon members of his administration who break the law.
Referring to a law that could prevent Trump from hiring his daughter and son-in-law to serve in his administration, Gingrich said on The Diane Rehm Show Monday morning: “In the case of the president, he has a broad ability to organize the White House the way he wants to. He also has, frankly, the power of the pardon.”
“It is a totally open power, and he could simply say, ‘Look, I want them to be my advisers. I pardon them if anyone finds them to have behaved against the rules. Period.’ Technically, under the Constitution, he has that level of authority,” he said.
The Bush-Cheney White House and the media went nuts after 9/11 and then deviously used the event to further long-standing geopolitical goals. Now we would have Trump, Flynn, Bannon, Sessions, Kobach and all manner of authoritarian, extremist imbeciles running around doing God knows what. That combination is even more lethal than Cheney and his band of neoconservative wetdreamers. And the neoconservative wetdreamers were very, very lethal.
The Republicans have now completely abandoned all pretense of democratic norms. We know that Trump has no intention of avoiding conflict of interest . He’s going to run his company out of the White House and become the richest man in the world. Nobody will stop him – what’s good for Trump is good for the USA.
Of courses the founders probably assumed the Congress would impeach such a person but they didn’t anticipate the former constitution revering Republican party of 2016, did they? They assumed that there would always be people who put the country first and even if they didn’t, they’d put the prerogatives of their own branch of government ahead of loyalty to the president.
Oops, indeed. But hey, we can vote them out in 2018 and 2020, right? Well…:
The Republican Party in North Carolina is giving the rest of the country an object lesson in the difference between tyranny and democracy. Met with a close loss in the 2016 governor’s race, brought on by passing a ton of really unpopular legislation, the North Carolina GOP is now going down the old path of rigging the electoral machinery against the opposition party.
Democrat Roy Cooper won the governorship. But before he is sworn in, Republicans are using their control of the state legislature to strip away huge swaths of authority from the governor’s office. As Paul Blest explains, Republicans are making one legislative push to give themselves an iron grip over the state and county election boards, and curtail the power of the state Supreme Court (which just gained a Democratic majority); and another to sharply restrict the governor’s ability to appoint bureaucrats and influence the public education system. It is an attempt to overturn the election via legislative chicanery. Essentially, the Republican Party has “used the power of the state to protect itself from the voters of the state,” as Jamelle Bouie writes.
This should be viewed as a potential test run for the nation as a whole. Republicans have near-unprecedented dominance across all levels of governance in the United States. But their party and their president-elect are actually quite unpopular. The agenda taking shape for a Trump administration is even more so. Chances of an electoral backlash are very good. So to cling to power, Republicans will likely cheat.
That is The Week’s Ryan Cooper, who goes on to explain how tyranny works:
Let us recall some basic political principles. A democracy is a nation in which the government is chosen by a free vote of citizens. To ensure a free vote, democratic rights are protected – freedom of speech, assembly, and the press; freedom from unreasonable searches and police intimidation, a guarantee of fair trials, and so on. Without a real and freely made choice between competing candidates, there can be no true democracy.
A tyranny, by contrast, is a nation in which government is imposed on the citizens without choice, and dissent is repressed. But these two are often more of a spectrum than a binary distinction. About every modern dictatorship, for instance, has some form of pseudo-democratic legitimation, typically a one-candidate vote where a 99 percent approval rating extracted by threats of violence “proves” the dictator’s popular backing.
This sort of tyranny seems to be the Republican aim – and it’s important to realize that despite the traditional bleating American chauvinism about liberty, such a quasi-tyrannical system is not remotely at odds with our history. On the contrary, a South Africa-style partial tyranny is how North Carolina has been governed for most of its history. (It’s probably more accurate to call the apartheid system Jim Crow-style, since the American version was first.) Wilmington, North Carolina, rang in the worst phase of Jim Crow, when white supremacists executed a violent coup d’etat in 1898 against the duly elected local government – the product of a “fusionist” black-white populist alliance – killing dozens of people and torching many black homes and businesses. The first target and the spark for the coup was a black newspaper – freedom of the press often being the first thing to go when democracy is abrogated. After that, North Carolina (and most of the rest of the South) was a brutally repressive tyranny until 1965, when the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act were passed. Tyranny is not the exception in North Carolina. For much of America’s history, it was the rule.
Cooper predicts, as have I, that Republicans in North Carolina and elsewhere will push through yet another wave of voting restrictions aimed at people of color and other likely Democratic voters. The God-King-elect has already hinted that he wants to end early voting, and Cooper details a raft of other restrictions the GOP could add … with the tacit or explicit support of an Attorney General who has publicly opposed the Voting Rights Act.
Oh sure, lots of Americans will be upset, but the God-King-Elect can order his private security force to shut down protests, as he’s already done at rallies. And if his hired goons aren’t enough, he could appear in the Rose Garden with his personal military cabal and announce he’s sending in U.S. troops to put down “guerilla urban warfare.”
Lest you think the Posse Comitatus Act prevents that, recall that the Bush administration pushed through a 2006 amendment that allowed the president to use U.S. troops to “restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States” or to “suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy” that “opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.” And while newly-elected Democrats repealed that amendment in 2008, the now-GOP-dominated Congress could pass it again.
And lest you think “that could never happen here,” in fact it has happened repeatedly. Retired general George Washington ordered U.S. troops to put down Shays’ Rebellion, and then as president sent in U.S. troops to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. Then there was that whole Civil War thing. The Posse Comitatus Act was passed in 1878, but that didn’t stop President Grover Cleveland from using the army to break the Pullman Strike in 1894, and it didn’t stop President Franklin Roosevelt from sending in troops and tanks to destroy the Bonus Army camp in 1933.
The commanders of the troops and tanks that overran and burned the Bonus Army protesters’ camp included two of the God-King-elect’s favorites: Douglas MacArthur and George Patton. A young Dwight Eisenhower was MacArthur’s liaison officer, and in 1954 President Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division to enforce a school desegregation order in Little Rock.
We have a long and sometimes lauded history of presidents ordering military operations against civilians inside the U.S. It absolutely can “happen here.”
And don’t expect the Oath Keepers to protect the God-King-elect’s targets. They’ve said they’re really only worried about a Democrat sending the military after civilians and they showed up to ‘help’ police stop protests in Ferguson, although the Ferguson police wisely rejected the ‘help.’
How bad will the God-King-elect be? Nobody knows, and that’s why so many Americans are worried about the next four years.
Photo Credit: bort186 (imgur)
Good day and good nuts