Sunday, December 16, 2018

What Trump got, and gets, wrong heralds the beginning of the end ...

… the end, that is, of the Trump presidency,

Jennifer Rubin listed All the things Trump didn’t count on in her report in the Washington Post.

President Trump’s inability to respond to one charge emanating from one witness, a charge not even within the purview of the special counsel, suggests he will be entirely overwhelmed when the closet full of shoes starts dropping. He never knew about the payments, or he did, or it was Michael Cohen’s fault, or it wasn’t a crime, or if it was a crime it was no big deal. This might be the most inept response to allegations of presidential wrongdoing ever.

… consider all the other investigations out there — on collusion, the Trump Foundation and obstruction of justice. Each of those investigations represents a bevy of possible criminal charges. …

Remember that Trump never thought he’d really get elected — and then all this would come out. And once he got elected, he failed entirely to appreciate that he could not control investigators, witnesses, the press and even former associates. Cohen is right when he says that “the pressure of the job is much more than what he thought it was going to be. It’s not like the Trump Organization where he would bark out orders and people would blindly follow what he wanted done.”

Trump seems to have gotten a bunch of things wrong:

  • He thought former attorney general Jeff Sessions would shut down the Russia probe;
  • He thought the bullying and lies and congressional allies would impede investigators;
  • He thought Cohen would never flip and would never have tapes and other evidence;
  • He never thought Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg or American Media executives or David Pecker would cooperate with authorities;
  • He never thought his tweets and public outbursts were helping to incriminate him;
  • He never thought the shady operation of his foundation would draw the attention of the press, and in turn of New York state authorities;
  • He never thought his pardon power would be so useless (If he pardons associates, the dam may break in Congress; if he tries to pardon himself it likely would be ineffective);
  • He never thought he’d have to answer prosecutors’ questions, or that his written answers may have locked him into answers that could be disputed by multiple witnesses;
  • He never thought he’d face Democrats in Congress with subpoena power; and
  • He never thought his media circus would be entirely ineffective in stopping skilled prosecutors.

I’m going to probe three of the things Trump got wrong. He underestimated the man who is likely to emerge as the most influential investigator of all - Congressman Adam Schiff; Dems now control the House and its investigatory committees. Second, Trump thought that he could bully and threaten his way to keeping his finances secret; investigators are now following the money. Third, he counted on the loyalty of his buddies to protect him; now they are flipping like cards in a game of Texas hold ’em.

The power of congressional oversight

Jeffrey Toobin in the New Yorker reports on Adam Schiff’s Plans to Obliterate Trump’s Red Line. With the Democrats controlling the House, Schiff’s congressional investigation will follow the money.

I’ll have more on following the money below. My interest here is to expose how Trump and his supporters have underestimated the power of congressional oversight as manifested by Adam Schiff.

… recalling third grade, Schiff told me, “That was the last time that someone called me Adam Shit. I think the kid’s mother actually washed his mouth out with soap.”

He was referring to an incident last month, when the President tweeted, “So funny to see little Adam Schitt (D-CA) talking about the fact that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was not approved by the Senate, but not mentioning the fact that Bob Mueller (who is highly conflicted) was not approved by the Senate!” (In fact, there is no requirement for Mueller, who was named to his post by Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, to be confirmed by the Senate.) Schiff has been a frequent target of Trump, who has called him “sleazy,” a “leaker,” and “little.” …

The thing is, with Congressional Dems ascending, Trump is about to find out how big “little” Adam Schiff really is.

President Trump said some time ago that he believes his personal finances should be off limits to investigators. In an interview with the Times in July, 2017, he asserted that if Robert Mueller, the special counsel, sought to investigate the Trump family’s business dealings he would be crossing a “red line.” When, later that year, several news reports suggested that Mueller had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for records relating to Trump’s businesses, the President reportedly told members of his staff that he wanted to fire Mueller in response. It was never confirmed whether Mueller had actually subpoenaed Deutsche Bank, but the President’s aversion to the scrutiny of his business interests caught the attention of Representative Adam Schiff, who will become the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence next year. On a recent weekend, at a busy restaurant in downtown Burbank, in the heart of his congressional district, Schiff talked about his plans for conducting an investigation that will be parallel to Mueller’s, probing Trump’s connections to Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other places around the world. As Schiff described his approach, it became clear that he wasn’t just planning to cross Trump’s red line—he intended to obliterate it.

"Our role is not the same as Bob Mueller’s,” Schiff told me … The job of prosecutors like Mueller is to identify and prosecute crimes, not necessarily to inform and educate the public. Congressional committees, like the one Schiff will soon lead, are supposed to monitor the executive branch and expose wrongdoing. Mueller is supposed to file a report on his findings, but, in keeping with the regulations for the office of the special counsel, it will be up to his supervisor in the Justice Department, who is now Matthew Whitaker, the acting Attorney General, to determine whether Mueller’s report is made public. Schiff has his own agenda for areas to investigate. “The one that has always concerned me is the financial issues, which obviously have come much to the fore this week,” he said. …

Following the money

And that brings us to the probes into Trump’s finances. Toobin continues.

Schiff went on, “At the end of the day, what should concern us most is anything that can have a continuing impact on the foreign policy and national-security policy of the United States, and, if the Russians were laundering money for the Trump Organization, that would be totally compromising.” Schiff hypothesizes that Trump went beyond using his campaign and the Presidency as a vehicle for advancing his business interests, speculating that he may have shaped policy with an eye to expanding his fortune. “There’s a whole constellation of issues where that is essentially the center of gravity,” Schiff said. “Obviously, that issue is implicated in efforts to build Trump Tower in Moscow. It’s implicated in the money that Trump is bragging he was getting from the Saudis. And why shouldn’t he love the Saudis? He said he was making so much money from them.” As the Washington Post has reported, Trump has sold a superyacht and a hotel to a Saudi prince, a $4.5-million apartment near the United Nations to the Saudi government, and many other apartments to Saudi nationals, and, since Trump became President, his hotels in New York and Chicago have seen significant increases in bookings from Saudi visitors. …

… The American people have a right to know that their President is working on their behalf, not his family’s financial interests,” Schiff said. “Right now, I don’t think any of us can have the confidence that that’s the case.” All of these subjects, Schiff averred, were fair game for investigation by the committee that he will soon chair.

CNN, among others, reports that Trump inaugural committee under criminal investigation, sources say.

President Donald Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee is currently being investigated by federal prosecutors in New York for possible financial abuses related to the more than $100 million in donations raised for his inauguration, according to sources familiar with the matter.

One source familiar with the matter says the investigation is in the early stages and investigators are generally focused on whether any inauguration money was misspent.

The investigation was first reported by The Wall Street Journal Thursday afternoon.

Citing conversations with people familiar with the investigation, which is being handled by the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan, the Journal reported that prosecutors are also looking into whether the committee accepted donations from individuals looking to gain influence in or access to the new administration.

Reporters are even tracing the Trump family’s rental business that is claimed to have inflated rents and to have passed along such revenue from Trump Sr. to his children. The NY Times reports As the Trumps Dodged Taxes, Their Tenants Paid a Price.

Betrayal by buddies

Trump’s ex-attorney Michael Cohen is a prime example. Jennifer Rubin observes:

Michael Cohen’s interview with ABC News underscores a critical point: His own credibility has been enhanced because prosecutors have so much information tying Trump to illegal payments and suggesting he knowingly made the payments in a way to avoid detection or harm to his campaign. (“There’s a substantial amount of information that they possess that corroborates the fact that I am telling the truth,” he said.)

David Packer, head of AMI, flipped and is cooperating with the Southern District of New York. John Cassidy writes about this one in the New Yorker, Donald Trump’s Tabloid Reckoning.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York published details of a coöperation agreement it reached in September with American Media, Inc., the parent company of numerous supermarket tabloids, including the National Enquirer, Globe, and Star magazine. In a “Statement of Admitted Facts” appended to the agreement, the following paragraph appears:

In or about August 2015, David Pecker, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AMI, met with Michael Cohen, an attorney for a presidential candidate, and at least one other member of the campaign. At the meeting, Pecker helped offer to deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate’s relationship with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided. Pecker agreed to keep Cohen apprised of any such negative stories.

The document goes on to detail the story of how, in the summer of 2016, Pecker and A.M.I., at Cohen’s request, paid a hundred and fifty thousand dollars to “a model and actress attempting to sell her story of her alleged extra-marital affair with the aforementioned presidential candidate.” (The woman was Karen McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate of the Year.) The statement went on, “At no time during the negotiation for or acquisition of model’s story did AMI intend to publish the story or disseminate information about it publicly.”

Consider, for a moment, what these passages mean. For the past nineteen months, investigators working for the special counsel, Robert Mueller, have been delving into the Trump campaign’s possible involvement in a criminal conspiracy with Russians to affect the outcome of the 2016 election. Mueller has already released some damning information, but we are still waiting for the full findings of his investigation. Meanwhile, however, the prosecutors at the Southern District have already confirmed the existence of a conspiracy that had nothing to do with Russia, but which was explicitly designed to influence the outcome of the election.

Trump denies this, of course. The other day, he said in a tweet that the payments made to McDougal and Stormy Daniels were “a simple private transaction.” But that appears to be contradicted by the revelation that “at least one other member of the campaign” attended the August, 2015, meeting with Packer and Cohen. Who was this person (or persons)? Was it Trump himself, perhaps? The New York prosecutors haven’t let the answer slip yet, but on Thursday NBC News reported that it had confirmed through “a person familiar with the matter” that Trump was indeed the other person present. If that is true, he has a lot of explaining to do, and that’s putting it lightly.

It is likely, Jennifer Rubin reports, somewhere, sometime soon, that we will see an avalanche of betrayals by his other supporters. Senators are starting to cave.

For Trump, it is becoming hard to imagine how he survives politically or legally. Even if he avoids impeachment or avoids removal, only about a third of the country (with a smidgen of the total universe of evidence available to them) thinks he’s innocent. When charge after charge piles up, each backed up by multiple pieces of evidence, it’s not impossible to imagine that elected Republicans will turn on him — or that Republican voters, who see his presidency at a standstill, will begin to look for alternatives for 2020.

John Cassidy reports on the “elected Republicans”.

… With talk of impeachment spreading like a virus, his survival, more than ever, depends on the support of Republicans on Capitol Hill, particularly G.O.P. senators. And although in recent days the majority of these senators have kept silent or expressed support for the President, one or two have expressed dissident thoughts. “If someone has violated the law, the application of the law should be applied to them like it would to any other citizen in this country, and obviously if you’re in a position of great authority like the Presidency that would be the case,” Senator Marco Rubio, of Florida, said on Sunday. Then, on Tuesday, Senator Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana, said, “Am I concerned that the President might be involved in a crime? Of course. The only question is, then, whether or not this so-called hush money is a crime.”

Jennifer Rubin gets the conclusion:

Trump’s presidency, his financial empire and even his freedom are at risk. (Presidents can be indicted after leaving office and cannot pass out pardons for state offenses.) He can be angry at Sessions or Cohen, but he is solely responsible for his own fate, which right now looks awfully bleak.

Finchem to Teachers: "I'll get you my pretty"

Voter suppression is alive and well in America and Arizona is no exception. Yes, some strides were made by county recorders to ensure more people had the opportunity to cast their ballots and have them counted, but the work to disenfranchise voters and strip away their voice, continues.
I’ve personally experienced a little bit of this, because as the President of the Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA), I had to be mindful of even giving an appearance the Association was attempting to influence the outcome of any election. Given my natural tendency to speak my mind, I found it frustrating to be silent while unethical candidates peddled their spin and thousands of grassroots volunteers labored across the state to get pro-public education initiatives passed. And although too many of the former won reelection, at least the full expansion of vouchers was killed. Other good news (at least for me) is that since I passed the President's gavel this week, I am now once again free to comment away. It has been an incredible honor to serve as President of this awesome organization, but I am happy to be unmuzzled.

I just read Arizona Capitol Times reporting that AZ Representative Mark Finchem isn’t waiting for the start of the legislative session to exact retribution on educators who stood up for themselves and their students this year. To the teachers in his district (LD 11) who marched on the Capitol this year and saw him in action, this will not come as a surprise. After all, one teacher who visited him during the #RedForEd walkout told me that when they went to see him, he told them to “get their asses back to work”. I cannot verify this charge, but in my experience with Finchem, can say that I have found him to: 1) say what he thinks, 2) not be subtle and 3) not be supportive of public education.

His new bill, H2002 (educators; ethics professional responsibility), would require the State Board of Education to adopt uniform rules for all certified teachers in “taxpayer supported schools” to bar them from political activities. Funny thing is, Arizona Revised Statue (ARS) 15.511already forbids the use of public school resources to influence elections and, levies a fine of $5,000 per violation. And, as Chris Kotterman, ASBA's legislative Liaison said, “everyone who works in public schools is keenly aware that they’re under a microscope in regard to political activity.”

True to form though, Finchem wants to not only drive the point home (just in case educators are too stupid to understand it), but also lock them in a box and throw away the key. According to AZ Capitol Times, he proposes a prohibition on “the endorsement or opposition of any candidate or elected or appointed official; any pending or enacted legislation, rule or regulation; pending, proposed or decided court case; or pending, proposed or executed executive action.”

As Kotterman observes, “Finchem’s bill does not appear to be a genuine effort to improve the teaching profession, but rather a list of grievances." Kotterman also said, "This just doesn’t feel serious to me. It feels 100 percent political. If you were serious about having a teacher code of ethics, it would cover more than just stuff that seems to have happened in the last 24 months.”

Finchem's past words and actions have made it clear that he is: disdainful of higher education that teaches critical thinking, not a fan of local control, and, that in favor of teaching revisionist history. Perhaps these are the some of the reasons he is also proposing a prohibition on “any controversial issue that is not germane to the topic of the course or academic subject,” where “controversial issue” is defined as “a point in a political party platform,” and on "partisan advocacy of a controversial issue.” He also wants banned, the “segregation of students according to race” and that teachers not be allowed to “single out one racial group of students as being responsible for the suffering or inequities experienced by another racial group of students. Of this, AZ Capitol Times reporter Katie Campbell writes, " That provision seems to hint at Tucson Unified School District’s former Mexican American Studies program, of which Finchem has been a frequent critic." Kotterman commented on that too, saying, “We have been down this road. We have a law on the books about this. It’s been litigated three times. Believe me when I say that school districts understand their responsibilities.”



Yes, districts and educators do understand and that's why, until this election cycle, they remained largely silent. It was just easier to stay silent than to risk an accidental infraction. But when they watch the #RedForEd wave work its way across our country, they realized if there was any possibility of driving real positive change for their students, they were going to have to be the ones to drive it. I suspect Finchem didn't like them "getting to big for their britches" (my words not his) and it doesn't surprise me he wants to put them back in their place. Legislation he sponsors and positions he espouses is routinely focused on showing who’s the boss and in his view…its not the people of Arizona. And, when the people forget the Legislature is “the Boss” he is good at whacking them on the proverbial knuckles – or at least trying to.

And yet, the voters of LD 11 returned him to the Legislature, rewarding him for his condescending, mean-spirited attitude. The good news is that some of his more egregious bills fail. The bad news is, many of them don't and now on his third term, he will be even more emboldened.
I don’t know about you, but I’d like to have elected officials that work to make our lives better, not worse. I’d like to have our elected officials focused on finding ways to “lift us up” versus “keep us down.” Unfortunately, at least in LD 11, that's just not reality. So, it requires us, his constituents, to stay informed and engaged, to remind Finchem that we ARE the boss of him and not the other way around.

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Trump caught in a 'tangled web' from his 'practice to deceive'

Quote of the Day: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!” – Sir Walter Scott, 1808. And our President Trump is now thoroughly entangled in a web of deceptions he has created for himself.

Weddings between members of opposing political camps are not unknown, but they are rare. For example, take James Carville and Mary Matalin, authors of Love and War, “an unprecedented relationship” Matalin calls it. Perhaps the marriage of the Conways, KelleyAnne and George, will survive their very divergent views ands public statements about President Trump. The divide there is seriously deep.

John Wagner (Washington Post) reports that George Conway calls Trump a liar on Twitter after Kellyanne Conway defends him on TV.

The sharply divergent views that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and her husband hold of President Trump played out in public again on Thursday night, with George Conway calling Trump a liar on Twitter after his wife defended him on television.

Kellyanne Conway sparred with host Chris Cuomo during an extended segment on CNN in which she steadfastly insisted that Trump had not directed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to break the law by buying the silence of two women who say they had sexual relationships with him.

In the segment, during which Cuomo and Conway repeatedly interrupted one another, Conway sought to downplay the significance of a tape recording that suggests Trump was aware of a payment being made to former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

She also sought to explain away Trump’s comment to reporters on Air Force One in April that he was unaware of a payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels.

George Conway apparently didn’t come away convinced of the president’s truthfulness.

“Given that Trump has repeatedly lied about the Daniels and McDougal payments—and given that he lies about virtually everything else, to the point that his own former personal lawyer described him as a “f****ing liar”— why should we take his word over that of federal prosecutors?” Conway, a lawyer, wrote on Twitter.

George Conway, who has become a regular critic of his wife’s boss, also weighed in with an op-ed in The Washington Post that was published online Friday morning. The headline: “Trump’s claim that he didn’t violate campaign finance law is weak — and dangerous.”

In that op-ed, three very serious legal scholars assert that Trump’s claim that he didn’t violate campaign finance law is weak — and dangerous. The authors, George T. Conway III , Trevor Potter and Neal Katyal, close by saying “The bad arguments being floated in Trump’s defense are emblematic of a deterioration in respect for the rule of law in this country. The three of us have deep political differences, but we are united in the view that our country comes first and our political parties second. And chief among the values of our country is its commitment to the rule of law. No one, whether a senator or a president, should pretend America is something less.” As I noted earlier, Conway is the husband of KelleyAnne Conway - one of the WH’s talking heads. Trevor Potter, you might recall, is a former FEC chair and lawyer hired by Stephen Colbert to help set up the Colbert super PAC.

George Conway was back on Twitter on Friday morning, reacting to an interview of Cohen on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

During the interview, Cohen told host George Stephanopoulos that his past loyalty to Trump had been a mistake.

“I gave loyalty to someone who, truthfully, does not deserve loyalty,” Cohen said.

“Truer words were never spoken,” George Conway said in response.

Cohen’s testimony is just one of Trump’s accumulating legal problems, problems of his own making because of his habitual, pathological lying. At the Washington Post, Phillip Rucker and John Wagner explain why Trump’s falsehoods on hush-money payments are ‘coming home to roost’.

For months, President Trump’s spokesmen, his lawyer and his lawyer’s lawyer denied that Trump knew about payments during his 2016 campaign to buy the silence of women who alleged sexual encounters with him. The president himself claimed the same.

But after mounting evidence and fresh courthouse revelations of wrongdoing this week exposed those denials as falsehoods, Trump is shifting his tune.

The president no longer disputes that he instructed his then-personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to make the payments to former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal and adult-film star Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels.

Instead, Trump sought to evade that question Thursday by saying he never told Cohen to break the law — making a narrow assertion that was itself an admission that his and his team’s earlier denials were false.

Trump is worried about the intensifying state of not only the hush-money investigation by the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, but also of the Russia probe by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, according to people with knowledge of the president’s private discussions. The Wall Street Journal also reported Thursday that federal prosecutors in Manhattan have opened another investigative front by probing whether Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee misspent some of the record $107 million it raised from donations.

Joyce White Vance, who was a U.S. attorney in the Obama administration, … said the federal prosecutors who implicated Trump in the illegal payments are likely to have relied on more evidence than just Cohen’s testimony. She noted that other witnesses have been cooperating with the investigation — including, for instance, Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s former longtime chief financial officer.

“Trump should be concerned,” Vance said. “It’s not just the government saying it. It’s not just a single witness saying it. Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, who are known for their rigor in making these assessments, have decided there’s evidence from a number of reliable sources and that they can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Trump’s credibility has been damaged by his and his team’s ever-evolving statements about the hush-money payments.

“He’s never been in a position where he can’t shuck and jive and work his way out of things,” said one Republican who works closely with the White House. “Well, it’s all coming home to roost.”

Friday, December 14, 2018

Trump improvises hush money defense. Giuliani improvises 'crime of interpretation'. Tearful Cohen blows whistle louder.

When it comes to the hush money payments, Trump and his team have more moves than Harry Potter on a broomstick in a game of Quidditch /ˈkwɪdɪtʃ/.

The objective of Quidditch, as with most sports, is to be the team that has gained the most points by the end of the match. Matches are played between two opposing teams of seven players riding flying broomsticks; using four balls: a Quaffle, two Bludgers, and a Golden Snitch. Centred around the use of each ball, there are four positions: the Chasers and Keeper (who play with the Quaffle), the Beaters (who play with the Bludgers), and the Seekers (who play with the Golden Snitch). Each team has three Chasers, one Keeper, two Beaters, and one Seeker. Matches are played on a large oval pitch with three ring-shaped goals of different heights on each side. It is an extremely rough but very popular semi-contact sport, and has a fervent fan following in the Wizarding World.

Let’s assign some roles.

  • Chasers: Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York
  • Keeper: Rudi Giuliani - tries to block opponents goals
  • Seeker: Robert Mueller - aims to capture the Golden Snitch
  • Golden Snitch: Michael Cohen - flits about, tries to avoid capture
  • Bludger: Donald Trump - attacks players “indiscriminately”
  • extremely rough but very popular semi-contact sport: criminal prosecution and defense
  • fervent fan following: the media

Now on to the game.

Trump Improvises New Defense in Hush Money Payments.

President Trump said on Thursday that if there was anything illegal about the hush payments made to two women claiming to have had affairs with him, it was the fault of his former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, part of a newly improvised attempt to combat the legal exposure the president may now have because of the payments.

"I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law,” Mr. Trump said. “He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law.”

Mr. Trump asserted that his former lawyer had pleaded guilty to embarrass him and to receive a reduced prison term.

“Cohen was guilty on many charges unrelated to me,” Mr. Trump wrote. “But he plead to two campaign charges which were not criminal and of which he probably was not guilty even on a civil basis.”

Later, during an interview with Fox News, Mr. Trump said that Mr. Cohen had cut a deal to save his family and in exchange had agreed to “embarrass” the president. “That’s all it is,” the president said. “It’s a terrible system we have.”

Enter the Keeper - “a crime of interpretation”

In an interview, Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the president’s personal lawyers, elaborated on the points that Mr. Trump had made in his tweets, arguing that there was no evidence that Mr. Trump knew about the payments. And he said that even if investigators were able to prove that Mr. Trump had known about them, legal scholars were divided about whether the knowledge was in itself a crime.

“It’s a crime of interpretation,” Mr. Giuliani said. “Are you going to charge the president with a crime of interpretation?”

The Golden Snitch replies

Cohen Says ‘Of Course’ Trump Knew Hush Payments to Women Were Wrong.

President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael D. Cohen said he knew arranging payments during the campaign to quiet two women who claimed to have had affairs with the candidate was wrong. He said Mr. Trump knew it was wrong at the time, too.

“Of course,” Mr. Cohen said, when asked by the ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos whether the president was fully aware of what his lawyer was doing. The interview aired Friday morning [as I write].

Some of the information Mr. Cohen has provided to the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election has delivered blows to Mr. Trump’s legal strategy, including implicating Mr. Trump in campaign finance violations because he said Mr. Trump authorized the payments.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump and one of his personal attorneys, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said the president was not to be blamed for the campaign finance crimes, because he trusted his lawyer, Mr. Cohen, to know the law.

Mr. Trump has lashed out at Mr. Cohen since he entered his guilty pleas in August and disclosed that Mr. Trump had directed him to arrange the payments to the two women. On Thursday, Mr. Trump accused Mr. Cohen of trying to embarrass him.

“It is absolutely not true,” Mr. Cohen, his eyes purple and swollen, said in the ABC interview. “Under no circumstances do I want to embarrass the president of the United States of America. The truth is, I told the truth. I took responsibility for my actions.”

Since he took office, Mr. Trump has maintained that there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia. In the interview, Mr. Cohen was asked whether the president was telling the truth about “everything related to the investigation, everything related to Russia.”

“No,” Mr. Cohen said.

It’s never good to be on the wrong side of the president of the United States of America, but somehow or another this task has now fallen onto my shoulders,” he said, then added, “I will spend the rest of my life in order to fix the mistake that I made.”

He said, He said

So who is telling the truth? Being a numbers guy, I prefer a statistical answer. To get it, I consulted the WaPo fact-checker database which informs us that “In 649 days, President Trump has made 6,420 false or misleading claims” (as of the October 30, 2018 update). That’s 9.89 per day! The trend shows it getting even worse. As of Trump’s first 100 days the daily rate was 4.9 per day. “He passed the 2,000 mark on Jan. 10 — eight months ago.” As of September 13th “Trump’s tsunami of untruths helped push the count in The Fact Checker’s database past 5,000 on the 601st day of his presidency. That’s an average of 8.3 Trumpian claims a day, but in the past nine days — since our last update — the president has averaged 32 claims a day.”

I do not know of such a database for Michael Cohen. (If any of my subscribers know of a database for Cohen’s lies, please let me know at wsmaki@gmail.com.) In the meantime check out the USA Today story that links to court documents, Michael Cohen, Donald Trump and Russia: Prosecutors document series of lies by president’s former fixer. It’s hard to imagine that Cohen’s daily rate of lies comes any where near Trump’s 9.89 per day.

Scriber concludes that, when it comes to telling the truth, the weight of the evidence favors Cohen over Trump.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Morning cartoon - Fitz on the border brawl

For those who do not subscribe to the Daily Star, here is Fitz’s cartoon this morning on the Trump/Pelosi/Schumer border discussion brawl.

Fox News vs. stubborn facts - what Cohen's sentencing means for the Trump clan

An h/t to AZBlueMeanie for noting that “Even FAUX News aka Trump TV was forced to confront this stark reality:” Fox News’ Judge Napolitano: We Now Know Trump ‘Committed a Felony’.

This is from the Daily Beast report. The judicial analyst pulled no punches in characterizing the president’s actions on Fox News.

If you were watching Fox News when the Michael Cohen sentence came down, you would be pretty sure this was bad news for Donald Trump’s former fixer. Less clear was what it meant for the president himself.

For clarity on that, you would have had to wait a couple of hours until anchor Shepard Smith invited the reliably frank Judge Andrew Napolitano on his afternoon news hour to explain just how bad the day’s news was for Trump.

“We’ve learned that federal prosecutors here in New York City, not Bob Mueller and his team in Washington, D.C., career prosecutors here in New York City, have evidence that the president of the United States committed a felony by ordering and paying Michael Cohen to break the law,” the judicial analyst said. “How do we know that? They told that to a federal judge.”

“Under the rules, they can’t tell that to a federal judge unless they actually have that hardcore evidence,” he continued. “Under the rules, they can’t tell that to a federal judge unless they intend to do something with that evidence.”

Now those same federal prosecutors have entered into an agreement with AMI, the National Enquirer’s parent company, “which ties a bow on all of this,” Napolitano added, “which connects the dots between the payments to the two women who claim they had intimate relationships with the president, and the line running through all of that is the president himself.”

"Prosecutors have told us through these filings that they have evidence that the president committed a felony?” Smith asked his guest.

“The felony is paying Michael Cohen to commit a felony,” Napolitano concluded. “It’s pretty basic.”

Following the money led Rachel Maddow last night to the Trump Organization and those within it who are authorized to sign checks. Cohen has flipped as, to some extent, so has CFO Allen Weisselberg. That leaves … well, play the clip from last night.

Judd Legum at popular.info weighs in by explaining How to indict Trump.

Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal attorney and “fixer,” was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday for tax evasion, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress. The federal judge, William Pauley, also imposed nearly $2 million in forfeitures, restitution, and fines.

Pauley said that Cohen’s crimes inflicted “insidious harm to our democratic institutions.”

It was a lousy day for Cohen. But things could get even worse for Trump.

Cohen pled guilty to campaign finance violations as a result of secretly funneling over $100,000 each to two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who say they had affairs with Trump. The purpose of these payments, Cohen admitted, was to protect Trump’s prospects in the 2016 election.

Pauley noted that Cohen committed these crimes in “coordination with and the direction of Individual–1,” who prosecutors have made clear is Trump.

In other words, Cohen was the puppet. Trump was the puppeteer.

So the central thing is the admission that the payments were made in order to influence the election. That also is at the heart of the prosecutors’ deal with AMI.

One worrying sign for Trump: Michael Cohen’s prosecution has ended, but prosecutors from the Southern District of New York continue to build their case. Today, prosecutors announced they had formalized a deal with AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer, which was used by Cohen and Trump to pay off Karen McDougal.

Under the deal, AMI will not be prosecuted in return for its cooperation.

The Office also announced today that it has previously reached a non-prosecution agreement with AMI, in connection with AMI’s role in making the above-described $150,000 payment before the 2016 presidential election. As part of the agreement, AMI admitted that it made the $150,000 payment in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election. AMI further admitted that its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.

The last part of the statement is critical.

… Cohen said as part of his guilty plea that the purpose of the payments was to influence the election. Now, prosecutors have AMI, which also played a key role, admitting that influencing the 2016 election was the primary purpose of the payment, which was made “in concert” with Trump’s campaign. That makes Trump’s ability to defend himself against potential charges much more difficult.

David Pecker, the CEO of AMI and a close friend of Trump’s, also has an immunity deal with federal prosecutors. Another person with potentially relevant information, former Trump Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisenberg (sic), has a cooperation agreement as well.

Not so for Trump and his progeny. That lays open to investigation the Trump Organization and its officers.

What we all knew to be true - fictional tax cuts and real job cuts

Quote of the Day: “the middle-class tax cut has disappeared from the political discussion.” - Judd Legum at popular.info.

Of course, the minute Trump announced this piece of fiction, we all knew that it was going nowhere. And that is exactly where it went. Here are snippets from his post on the fictional tax cuts and real job cuts.

Verizon uses tax cut to pay for job cuts

Trump promised his big corporate tax cut, which passed in December 2017, would create a jobs boom. Corporate tax cuts will be “a job creator like we haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan,” Trump said.

That’s not how it worked out at Verizon.

On Tuesday, the company announced that 10,400 employees had “accepted voluntary buyouts,” reducing its workforce by 6.8%. How did Verizon pay for the buyouts? Trump’s tax cut.

Verizon said the buyouts “will result in a charge of as much as $2.1 billion, which will be offset by a $2.1 billion tax benefit in the fourth quarter.” Overall, Verizon will get a $4 billion tax cut in 2018.

Trump promised that, as a result of the tax cut, companies would bring jobs back from overseas. Verizon plans to replace some of its U.S. workers with 2500 to 5000 people working in India.

There is no evidence that the corporate tax cuts have accelerated job growth overall. In the 11 months since the corporate tax cuts became law, the economy has created 2.26 million jobs. That’s a slower pace than the last 11 months of Obama’s presidency, when 2.5 million jobs were created.

Trump’s vanishing $4,000 wage increase

The Trump administration also promised the corporate tax cut would immediately boost wages for workers. “I would expect to see an immediate jump in wage growth,” Kevin Hasslet, head of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, said in October 2017. Hasslet said the average household would see its wages increase by “$4,000 to $9,000 a year.”

But for nearly all workers, the wage hike never materialized. A study by Americans for Tax Fairness found that just 4.4% of workers got a wage increase or one-time bonus in the months after the corporate tax cut became law.

Overall, since the passage of the corporate tax cuts, real wages have been flat. For non-supervisory workers, wages have decreased slightly.

Trump’s vanishing middle-class tax cut

In the days leading up to the 2018 election, Trump promised a new tax cut aimed squarely at workers.

We’re going to be putting in a 10 percent tax cut for middle-income families. It’s going to be put in next week, 10 percent tax cut. Kevin Brady is working on it. We’ve been working on it for a few months, a 10 percent brand-new — and that is in addition to the big tax cuts that you’ve already gotten… This is for middle-income people, all middle-income people, a big tax, 10 percent. We’ll be putting it in next week.

Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, was not working on it. Even before election day, Brady admitted a middle-class tax cut wasn’t going to happen in 2018.

A few days after the election, Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow effectively declared the idea dead. He admitted the administration hadn’t even constructed a plan and said it was unlikely to materialize.

“We’ve been noodling more on this middle-class tax cut, how to structure it, and even pay for it. I don’t think the chances of that are very high, because the Democrats are going to go after the corporate tax and all that stuff,” Kudlow told Politico.

Since then, the middle-class tax cut has disappeared from the political discussion.