Public outcry may help save African Elephants, if not the political ones…. (More)

“Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts”

House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) issued a blunt statement about the God-King’s proposed repeal of an Obama-era ban on importing elephant hunt trophies:

When carefully regulated, conservation hunts can benefit habitats and wildlife populations. That said, this is the wrong move at the wrong time.

Today Zimbabwe is in economic and political crisis. American citizens in the country are advised to go outdoors only when necessary. In this moment of turmoil, I have zero confidence that the regime – which for years has promoted corruption at the highest levels – is properly managing and regulating conservation programs. Furthermore, I am not convinced that elephant populations in the area warrant overconcentration measures.

The administration should withdraw this decision until Zimbabwe stabilizes. Elephants and other big game in Africa are blood currency for terrorist organizations, and they are being killed at an alarming rate. Stopping poaching isn’t just about saving the world’s most majestic animals for the future – it’s about our national security.

And the God-King said he’ll delay that repeal:

President Trump abruptly reversed his administration’s Thursday decision to allow elephants shot for sport in Zimbabwe and Zambia to be imported back to the United States as trophies, saying in a tweet Friday night that he was putting the decision “on hold” until further review.

“Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!”

Trump’s sudden tweet halted a decision by his own administration, announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday, to end a 2014 government ban on big-game trophy hunting in Zimbabwe and Zambia, saying it would help the conservation of the species. Under U.S. law the remains of African elephants, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, can only be imported if federal officials have determined that hunting them benefits the species more broadly.

But the Fish and Wildlife decision almost immediately was met with a fierce backlash and outcry from animal rights activists and environmentalists – as well as prominent conservatives, and a key House committee chairman.

Of course it was done with the usual all-on-the-same-page-ness we expect from the Outhouse:

The president’s decision Friday evening did not seem well-coordinated with his West Wing communications team. Just hours earlier at the daily press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had defended the decision, saying it was the result of a review by “career officials” that began in 2014 under President Barack Obama.

“This review established that both Zambia and Zimbabwe had met new standards, strict international conservation standards that allowed Americans to resume hunting in those countries,” Sanders said.

Squirrels like grooming so I’ll pick a nit or three.

First, the God-King didn’t actually “reverse” the decision. He put it “on hold.”

Second, it’s on hold for his usual narcissistic reason: “until such time as I review all conservation facts.” As if he’s even remotely qualified to do that, as exemplified by:

Third, he said the facts about elephant hunting have been “Under study for years.” Well yeah, and not a single peer-reviewed study promotes hunting-based conservation. In fact, a 2017 study expressly disproved the myth that elephant hunting is needed to preserve trees for other species. And against that science, the God-King will weigh … what? Please from hunting safari promoters? Claims by the corrupt Zimbabwean government?

I’d like to think this delay will be permanent. But I suspect that, a few months from now, as surreptitiously as possible, the Obama-era rule will be repealed and the African Elephant trophy import will resume.

As for the political elephants….

“Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite”

The New York Times reports that, in May 2016, a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin and organized crime tried to set up a meeting with the God-King’s campaign:

A senior Russian official who claimed to be acting at the behest of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia tried in May 2016 to arrange a meeting between Mr. Putin and Donald J. Trump, according to several people familiar with the matter.

The news of this reached the Trump campaign in a very circuitous way. An advocate for Christian causes emailed campaign aides saying that Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian central bank who has been linked both to Russia’s security services and organized crime, had proposed a meeting between Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump. The subject line of the email, turned over to Senate investigators, read, “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite,” according to one person who has seen the message.

The proposal made its way to the senior levels of the Trump campaign before Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a top campaign aide, sent a message to top campaign officials rejecting it, according to two people who have seen Mr. Kushner’s message.

Umm … “an advocate for Christian causes?” Ohh:

The West Virginia man, Rick Clay, told CNN Friday that he called one of then-candidate Donald Trump’s top aides, Rick Dearborn, to pass along a request from a friend who wanted to set up a meeting with Russians and the Trump campaign.

Clay, 54, said his friend was a devout Christian who had come in contact with Russians through their work in Christian organizations. Clay could not recall the names of the Russians, and he did not disclose the name of his friend who sought the meeting, only saying he lives part of the year in Alaska and part of the year in Pennsylvania.

“The thought was if there was an opportunity there to get two sides together to talk about Christian values, then that’s important,” Clay said of a Russian meeting with senior-level Trump officials. “That was the gist of it, and it didn’t go anywhere.”

The Times also reports an NRA angle:

The email said that the dinner would be a chance for Mr. Trump to meet Mr. Torshin, who is a life member of the National Rifle Association in the United States and a vocal advocate for gun rights in Russia, according to three people who have seen the email.

Well sure, because when someone says “Christian values,” you automatically think of Russian mobsters and guns. Right?

And of course Kushner mentioned that overture when asked about Russian meddling in the campaign … or not:

President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, failed to disclose what lawmakers called a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite” involving a banker who has been accused of links to Russian organized crime, three sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.
[…]
“Pass on this,” Kushner responded, according to a letter [that his lawyer Ashley] Lowell sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday evening. “A lot of people come claiming to carry messages. Very few we are able to verify. For now I think we decline such meetings.”

However, Torshin was seated with the candidate’s son, Donald Trump Jr., during a private dinner on the sidelines of a May 2016 NRA event during the convention in Louisville, according to an account Torshin gave to Bloomberg. Congressional investigators have no clear explanation for how that came to be, according to sources familiar with the matter.

You know what their defense will be. “We turned down the meeting, so there was nothing to disclose.” Never mind that the overture itself is evidence of Russian meddling. Just sayin’.

NBC also reports that the man who organized the God-Prince’s meeting with Russian officials will talk to special counsel Robert Mueller:

The British publicist who helped set up the fateful meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a group of Russians at Trump Tower in June 2016 is ready to meet with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, according to several people familiar with the matter.

Rob Goldstone has been living in Bangkok, Thailand, but has been communicating with Mueller’s office through his lawyer, said a source close to Goldstone.

Goldstone’s New York lawyer, G. Robert Gage, declined to comment other than to say, “nothing is presently scheduled.”

However, sources close to Goldstone and familiar with the investigation say they expect he will travel to the United States at some point “in the near future,” as one put it.

And Bloomberg reports that the GOP is no longer paying the God-King’s legal bills:

President Donald Trump has started paying his own legal bills related to the Russia probe, rather than charging them to his campaign or the Republican National Committee, and is finalizing a plan to use personal funds to help current and former White House staff with their legal costs.

The Office of Government Ethics and a tax firm are working on a mechanism for Trump to contribute to staffers’ legal bills that would meet regulatory and ethical standards, White House lawyer Ty Cobb said in an interview. The White House is hoping the issue will be resolved shortly, said Cobb, who declined to elaborate further on the details of the plan.

While there is no law barring a president from giving gifts to those who report to him, Trump’s case raises unique questions about whether his contributions could influence the testimony of staffers, said Walter Shaub, former head of the Office of Government Ethics who has criticized the president over other conflicts of interest.

Cobb said the White House is aware of the ethical questions and has been taking steps to address them in recent weeks.

“The president has assumed responsibility for his own legal fees and while he isn’t involved directly in the creation of a mechanism to take care of staffers, it is important to him that they be taken care of and whatever approach is agreed upon by OGE and relevant tax authorities be bulletproof,” said Cobb.

Okay, let’s be clear. I don’t see any ethical way for the God-King to pay the legal bills of people who may be witnesses against him and his campaign. In fact, merely offering to set up a legal fund for them reeks of witness tampering as defined by federal statute:

18 U.S. Code § 1512 – Tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant

(b) Whoever knowingly uses intimidation, threatens, or corruptly persuades another person, or attempts to do so, or engages in misleading conduct toward another person, with intent to—
(1) influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding;
(2) cause or induce any person to—
(A) withhold testimony, or withhold a record, document, or other object, from an official proceeding;

Yes, that statute includes a defense:

(e) In a prosecution for an offense under this section, it is an affirmative defense, as to which the defendant has the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence, that the conduct consisted solely of lawful conduct and that the defendant’s sole intention was to encourage, induce, or cause the other person to testify truthfully.

But that is an affirmative defense, which means the defendant bears the burden of proof.

All in all … not good news for political elephants….

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Photo Credit: World Wildlife Fund

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Good day and good nuts