The Mueller Investigation: Why Trump’s Finances and Beauty Pageants are 100% Relevant to Russia

The Mueller Investigation: Why Trump’s Finances and Beauty Pageants are 100% Relevant to Russia

The Mueller Investigation:
Why Trump’s Finances and Beauty Pageants are 100% Relevant to Russia


News outlets like the Washington Post and New York Times have reported that Trump’s legal advisors are looking for ways to disqualify Robert Mueller, the Special Prosecutor investigating possible Trump Campaign collusion with Russia. One way in which Team Trump hopes to do this is by claiming that Mueller is overstepping the scope of his investigation by looking into things like Trump’s personal finances. While such areas of inquiry might on the surface seem unrelated to electoral meddling by Russia, Trump’s taxes, financial dealings and other areas are in fact very legitimate and essential aspects to explore.

When Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller as Special Prosecutor, he defined the scope of Mueller’s investigation as “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated” with Trump’s campaign, “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation,” and “any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a)” such as obstruction of justice, destroying evidence, and intimidating witnesses.

In looking at whether or not the Trump Campaign colluded with Russia – or if Trump or his Administration are currently colluding with Russia – Mueller needs to look at why Trump and Putin would possibly want to cooperate.

There are a number of possible explanations for such cooperation. One is “kompromat” – potentially compromising evidence of something embarrassing or illegal – that Putin might be using to blackmail Trump, as alleged in the dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele (Buzzfeed – 1/10/17). Another explanation is major financial debts which Putin may in some way be helping Trump get rid of, or which Trump owes to Russia. And another explanation is the possibility of a financial crime yet to be committed against the United States, in which Putin or other Russians and Trump are currently coordinating.

Here is how some of Mueller’s possible avenues of investigation can help show whether there is anything of substance to any of those explanations.

Tax Returns

Donald Trump has been evasive about his tax returns ever since he was first asked about them. During his campaign, unlike previous Presidential candidates, he said that he would only disclose his tax returns if elected, citing the feeble and long debunked excuse that he was under a “routine audit” by the IRS. Once elected, Trump continued to refuse to make his tax returns public, claiming falsely that only the media care about them (The Hill – 1/11/17), when in fact even a majority of Republicans want him to release them (The Hill – 4/13/17).

Trump’s tax returns are relevant to the Russia investigation because they can show debts that he owes and business relationships that he has. Knowing to whom Trump owes money, and how much, can help Mueller connect the dots, if there are any, between those debts and Russia. Understanding Trump’s business relationships can also be a starting point toward uncovering closer connections with Putin than the President has admitted.

Bank Loans

As a real estate mogul, Donald Trump has taken out loans from financial institutions around the world in order to purchase real estate, build on or improve properties, and other legal real estate activities. If Trump has had difficulty repaying some of those loans, someone offering to help take care of them could be appealing to the President. If that person is Vladimir Putin or an associate of Putin’s, that is highly relevant information for Mueller’s investigation. The first step toward exploring this angle is to look at Trump’s bank debts.

The relevance of bank loans in the Russia scandal becomes even more acute if some of the banks are actually Russian banks, especially Russian state banks. As Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6 (British intelligence agency) said in April, “What lingers for Trump may be what deals — on what terms — he did after the financial crisis of 2008 to borrow Russian money when others in the west apparently would not lend to him.” (The Sun UK – 4/13/17)

Real Estate Deals

Exploring Trump’s real estate deals can provide not only a starting point to learning more about Trump’s debts, but also about illegal activity that he may have been involved in during his civilian life or which he may currently be involved in – knowledge of which, if known by Putin or associates of Putin, could be used to blackmail the President.

In particular, learning more about Trump’s real estate deals can yield clues about money laundering. Money laundering is the act of putting illegally obtained money through a process that can give that money the appearance of legitimacy. Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort is currently under investigation for money laundering for some New York condos that he purchased with all cash (The Atlantic – 3/29/17).

Trump himself has had numerous questionable real estate transactions, including the 2006 purchase of a Palm Beach mansion, which stayed vacant until he sold it a year later to a wealthy Russian oligarch named Dmitry Rybolovlev – for nearly twice the amount that he had purchased it for (MSNBC – 3/27/17). Rybolovlev reportedly never even visited the home.

Wilbur Ross

Rybolovlev was introduced to the President by an old friend named Wilbur Ross (MSNBC – 3/27/17). Ross was appointed by Trump and confirmed as the US Secretary of Commerce in February. Prior to that, Ross was one of two Vice Chairmen of the Bank of Cyprus. Cyprus is an island off the coast of Turkey whose banks are often used by wealthy Russian oligarchs to launder money. The other Vice Chairman of the Bank of Cyprus is Viktor Vekselberg, the second wealthiest man in Russia and a close personal friend of Vladimir Putin.

In 2014, Ross and Vekselberg appointed Josef Ackerman to be President of the Bank of Cyprus (The Irish Times – 11/1/14). From 2002-2012, Ackerman had been CEO of Deutsche Bank, one of the largest banks in the world. Deutsche Bank had also been engaged in laundering approximately $10 billion for wealthy Russians in a stock fraud scheme (Vanity Fair – 7/20/17) – a crime discovered in 2013, and for which the United States fined the bank $630 million. Trump owed Deutsche Bank millions of dollars at the time that Wilbur Ross connected him with Dmitry Rybolovlev for the seemingly overpriced purchase of the Palm Beach mansion.

Untangling this mess, figuring out who knows what about it, looking at how Russia and Deutsche Bank and the Bank of Cyprus factor in, as well as understanding the role of Wilbur Ross, may help Mueller better decipher how Donald Trump may be compromised by Russia and why he may be unduly interested in cooperating with them.

Beauty Pageants

In 2013, Donald Trump brought his Miss Universe beauty pageant to Russia (New York Times – 7/11/17). The recently disclosed June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and a Russian lawyer was arranged by Rob Goldstone, a marketing executive who has worked for the Miss Universe pageants. Aras Agalarov, the person whom Goldstone cited as the connection to the Russian lawyer, had paid almost $20 million to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Russia.

While these connections are important for Mueller to investigate, the Miss Universe pageant is also relevant because the Christopher Steele dossier (Buzzfeed – 1/10/17) alleges that Trump participated in a potentially embarrassing private event in 2013 in a room at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Moscow – an event which Vladimir Putin may possess video footage of. Such footage could be used to blackmail President Trump. In order to determine whether Trump is compromised as the Steele dossier alleges, Mueller needs to develop a timeline of Trump’s activities during any 2013 visits to Russia.

Donald Trump has proven to be a brilliant artist when it comes to smearing those he dislikes and branding them in a negative way. We should be conscious that news outlets are currently reporting possible plans by Trump’s associates to discredit and remove Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. Mueller’s reputation as an ethical and dedicated law enforcement professional is impeccable. And the areas now believed to be coming under the scrutiny of his investigation are all absolutely relevant and necessary to get a full picture of any potential collusion between Donald Trump/his campaign/his Administration and Russia. We should also remain acutely aware that Vladimir Putin does not have the best interests of the United States at heart.

– rob rünt

What You Don’t Need to Know: Understanding Intelligence and Law Enforcement Regarding Trump

What You Don’t Need to Know: Understanding Intelligence and Law Enforcement Regarding Trump

What You Don’t Need to Know: Understanding Intelligence and Law Enforcement Regarding Trump


We are likely to hear plenty of testimony before Congress from law enforcement and intelligence officials in the coming months. People who see Donald Trump as corrupt or worse may find themselves frustrated by what appears to be an attempt by these officials to hide key information from Congress and from the public. Some Americans may even begin developing conspiracy theories about these officials’ silence or apparent evasiveness under oath.

It is possible that some individuals in the FBI, Secret Service, NSA, CIA, etc. may be inappropriately trying to conceal incriminating information about the President. However, when law enforcement or intelligence people conceal such information from Congress in open testimony, it is almost certainly not an attempt to protect the President. Rather, it is an attempt to protect the investigations into his campaign and administration from becoming compromised, because they want to ensure that any wrongdoing can be prosecuted with the best evidence possible when and if arrests are made.

Law enforcement and intelligence have obligations that at times can be hard to balance. They are supposed to serve the American public, which in the minds of many means that the public has a right to know everything that is going on in an investigation, what evidence has been compiled so far, how it was discovered, and all other important information. Americans want to quickly and definitively know, in the words of Richard Nixon, “if their President is a crook,” and they certainly don’t want a crook to stay in office if law enforcement have strong reason to believe that the person is corrupt in some way.

But law enforcement and intelligence personnel are also supposed to serve the American public by doing their job, by “getting the bad guys,” by performing as thorough an investigation as they can, by ensuring that their evidence is as airtight as it can be, by preventing crimes, sabotage, and foreign intelligence operations from being successful in the future. That means that not everything that they know can or should always be disclosed to the public all the time.

The audience for public statements from law enforcement and intelligence is not only the American public. Criminals being investigated are paying attention as well. People considering committing future crimes are paying attention. In the Russia investigation, the Russians are paying attention. Other hostile countries are paying attention. It is important not to give them useful information.

For this reason, there are things that law enforcement officials may be reluctant to disclose publicly, particularly in the middle of an active investigation, including:

  • Who is under surveillance
  • What facts, testimonies and evidence have been gathered so far
  • Who are the witnesses, informants or undercover agents
  • What don’t law enforcement currently know
  • What evidence don’t they have
  • How is information being collected/what techniques are being used
  • What is their strategy for getting the needed evidence or making an arrest
  • Any sensitive/classified/secret information
  • Conclusions that law enforcement have reached so far

Prematurely disclosing such information can damage an active investigation in many possible ways. It can enable a criminal to better know how to cover their tracks, who to stop trusting, who to kill to prevent testimony in court, what not to lie about under oath, or any number of other issues that can complicate or even completely ruin an investigation. That information is appropriate to reveal in court after the arrests, and much may be appropriate to reveal publicly as well at that time, but not during the investigation.

Similarly, there are things that intelligence officials may be reluctant to disclose publicly, especially in the middle of their operations or investigations, including:

  • Who or what their sources of information are (or things that could enable someone to figure that out)
  • What they know about other foreign powers (or how they know it)
  • What they don’t know about other foreign powers (or why they don’t know it)
  • What tactics and techniques they use
  • Where they are focusing their attention

Gathering intelligence, setting up an effective surveillance operation, and gaining access to key information is very difficult. It can require extensive resources, money, talent, and in some cases years of cultivating trustworthy relationships. Once that information is revealed publicly (and therefore to the people about whom it has been gathered), it becomes far less valuable, or sometimes completely useless. For that reason, intelligence officials are very careful about what they say about their work.

Publicly disclosing information about an intelligence operation or its results – or revealing that information to the wrong person – can have severe consequences beyond merely rendering years of hard work useless. Those consequences include:

  • Agents or informants being killed
  • Hostile countries learning of previously unknown vulnerabilities of the US, American allies, or themselves
  • Hostile countries being able to more effectively conduct intelligence or military operations to harm the US or its allies
  • Military operations of the US or Americas allies becoming compromised, resulting in American troops or those of our allies being needlessly killed
  • Hostile countries taking military actions elsewhere in the world which they otherwise might not have
  • Terrorists knowing how to better avoid detection of their plans and activities

That is why Israel was so outraged – and other nations so deeply concerned – when President Trump boastfully blabbed classified information to Russian officials in the Oval Office: he had recklessy damaged an intelligence operation of an important ally, rendered the information less useful, made that ally’s future intelligence operations more difficult, and potentially put the lives of that ally’s informants or spies at risk – and for what?

Additionally, law enforcement see their own investigations in ways that may not always make immediate sense, especially during testimony or public comments.

Law enforcement treat investigations that are in progress differently from those that have been completed. An ongoing investigation requires some degree of secrecy, for reasons described above. Law enforcement consider an investigation complete when they have gathered what they believe to be all of the evidence, spoken to what they believe to be all of the relevant people involved, and come to a conclusion that the evidence collected is sufficient (or not) for a court of law to potentially determine the guilt or innocence of one or more persons. At that point, if that evidence points sufficiently to guilt, arrests are made, after which law enforcement officials feel more free to publicly discuss some of the details of the case.

An example of this would be former FBI Director James Comey’s controversial handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation. The FBI had been investigating Hillary Clinton and those around her for evidence of conscious wrongdoing in their use of a private e-mail server (potentially more open to being hacked) to transmit classified government information.

The FBI considered that investigation to have been completed in July of 2016: they believed that they had reviewed all of the evidence, and because Clinton was a candidate for President, they took the step of publicly announcing that their investigation was complete. It should be noted that the closing of that investigation did not mean that Hillary had done nothing wrong, but merely that the FBI did not have sufficient evidence to prove in a court of law that she had knowingly and intentionally done something illegal.

In October of 2016, in a separate investigation into illegal online sexual activity by former Senator Anthony Weiner (D-NY), a large number of Clinton-related e-mails from Weiner’s wife, Clinton aid Huma Abedin, were discovered on Weiner’s computer. The FBI could not be instantly certain that all of these e-mails had already been reviewed during the Clinton e-mail investigation. In other words, it was possible that the FBI had been mistaken and premature in concluding in July that they had reviewed all of the evidence.

Because a public announcement had already been made that the Clinton e-mail investigation had been closed, because it now needed to be reopened, and because it was important for the public to know that the investigation’s status had changed, James Comey took the unusual – and to many, outrageous – step of notifying Congress shortly before the election that the FBI was reopening their investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail activity. Through the allocation of extra staff, time and resources, the FBI was able to quickly process the potentially new e-mails and announce before the election that they were once again closing that investigation.

It is almost certain that Comey’s decision impacted the results of the election in favor of Donald Trump, and one can question Comey’s judgment in how he handled things, but looking at it from his perspective, the outcome of the Clinton investigation had become once again not known. Had Hillary become President, and then the e-mails on Weiner’s computer had revealed that she was guilty of provably, knowingly, and intentionally committing a crime, Americans would have been demanding why Comey had concealed from them the fact that the investigation had been reopened. The outrage currently felt by many Democrats about Comey’s last-minute Hillary revelation would have been felt even more strongly by Trump supporters, who would likely have made accusations and developed conspiracy theories about how the FBI had covered for Hillary Clinton to get a Washington insider unjustly elected to protect the status quo. In other words, it was a no-win for Comey, and he made the best decision that he could in a situation where there were no good decisions.

One could ask why Comey did not give what would seem to many people to be equal treatment to the Trump investigation, which was by then underway. Why did he choose not to notify Congress, at the same time as his announcement of reopening the Hillary investigation, that the Trump campaign was also under investigation for activity related to Russia? This again was a judgment call in a situation where there were no good decisions.

At the time, the Trump Campaign did not know that the FBI was actively investigating them. Notifying Congress of that fact while the investigation was ongoing – and in truth just starting – would have damaged the investigation, potentially causing people in the Trump Campaign or the Russians to be more cautious, cover their tracks more thoroughly, stop talking to certain people, etc., all of which would have made gathering sufficient evidence for an eventual prosecution much more difficult or even impossible. The efforts by Russia were huge and sophisticated: it was absolutely in America’s best interest to conduct a thorough and effective investigation of it to prevent such activity in the future. That meant that the FBI did not want to take action that could jeopardize the investigation.

On the other hand, not telling Congress about the Trump-Russia investigation could result in America having a President whose campaign – or who himself – was influenced by or compromised by a hostile foreign power. Comey apparently believed that this was at least something that could be managed through continued monitoring of the situation by the FBI and other law enforcement. This does not mean that he made the right decision, or that he did not. It merely explains the difficult decision that he made.

Finally, when law enforcement and intelligence officials are questioned publicly before Congress, they may say things like “I don’t think that’s appropriate to discuss here” or “I can’t talk about that in open session,” they are not being underhanded. We are used to assuming a greater likelihood of guilt or shiftiness when people “plea the Fifth” under oath, but that is not what is happening here.

Some Congressional hearings are held in “open session,” meaning that the public can potentially watch, listen to, or be made aware of what is said there. Other Congressional hearings are held in “closed session.” Statements and information revealed in closed hearings may not be disclosed publicly, and may only be attended by Senators or Representatives who have been properly “cleared” (formally assessed to be capable of keeping their mouths shut).

The reason for a closed hearing is usually so that Congress (in the form of the handful of “cleared” legislators) can be notified of information that cannot be revealed publicly. In the various Trump-, Russia-, and election-related investigations, referring some subjects to a closed session is likely because disclosing such information in a public setting could jeopardize an investigation or an intelligence operation in some way.

We live in a time when trust in government is low and our suspicions high. It is natural for us to question when someone testifying before Congress appears to be concealing the truth. Understanding the perspectives and priorities of law enforcement and intelligence officials can help us better assess what we are seeing and hearing – and not seeing and hearing – from them.

– rob rünt

It’s Time for an Intervention in Washington DC (Part 3 of 3)

It’s Time for an Intervention in Washington DC (Part 3 of 3)

Photo by Michael Vadon (Own work)
Usage via Wikimedia Commons

It’s Time for an Intervention in Washington DC (Part 3 of 3)


There is no question that Season 2 of the Trump Presidency is shaping up to be far more exciting than Season 1. In this past week’s episode alone, the President said “you’re fired” to the very same FBI Director investigating him over Russia ties, met the next day in the Oval Office with two Russian officials (allowing  only one reporter to be present – from Russian state news), there was riveting testimony before Congress from former acting Attorney General Sally Yates (“you’re fired”), and poor Press Secretary Sean Spicer hid in the bushes from reporters.

But really, for the good of the nation, the show needs to be cancelled – ideally before Season 2 is over. It is not healthy for Americans to wake up wondering if, while they were asleep, their President might have tweeted out the start of World War III, launched nuclear weapons, or haplessly brought on a major economic collapse.

Below are seven ways that the show can be brought to an early close and we can get on with our lives.


Ending #1

Trump’s profits as President are found to violate the STOCK Act.

Likelihood:

Somewhat Likely

Background:

The STOCK Act was written to prevent Congress from profiting from their legislative decisions. Frustrated that this restriction did not also apply to then-President Obama, legislators added the provision that “no executive branch employee may use nonpublic information derived from [or acquired through] their position as an executive branch employee as a means for making a private profit.”

Relevant Facts:

  • When President Trump chooses to spend another weekend at his for-profit Mar-a-Lago resort (he has done this most weekends since his Inauguration), some of his security and staff must also stay there. If he or his family profit from that, it would be a violation of the STOCK Act. As a side note, after Trump was sworn into office, Mar-a-Lago resort doubled its membership fees.
  • The President has chosen to have his wife and son live at Trump Tower instead of the White House. An on-site Secret Service detail is required to provide security for them. If Trump or his family profit from that arrangement (rent, etc.), it would be a violation of the STOCK Act.
  • As a President with for-profit businesses, Trump has numerous conflicts of interest (see a partial list here). Many of these have potential to be seen as violations of the STOCK Act. When you hear the phrase “conflict of interest” on the news in regard to Trump, think “STOCK Act.”
  • Because the STOCK Act applies to “executive branch employees,” it may also apply to many of Jared Kushner’s and Ivanka Trump’s business activities, because  those businesses may now represent conflicts of interest.

Areas of Uncertainty:

Few

Potential Action:

  • Congress can commission an investigation into Trump’s business activities, and whether Trump is profiting from them.
  • The House and Senate Intelligence Committees should each be provided at least ten paid full-time staff with strong backgrounds in the law and finance to work solely on investigating the many questionable issues surrounding President Trump.
  • Congress can ensure that the FBI has adequate resources to investigate.
  • If Trump is profiting from any of his businesses in a way that is positively impacted by nonpublic knowledge that he has as President (including the decisions that he makes as President), he is in violation of the STOCK Act.

Implications of Inaction:

  • Donald Trump can use decisions that he makes as President to enrich himself and his family – sometimes with government (i.e. our tax) money.
  • Decisions made in President Trump’s best personal/financial interest may not always be in the best interest of the United States. That is why it is called a conflict of interest.
  • The legitimacy of Congress as a trusted check on the Executive Branch will be put into question.
  • Americans’ belief in the integrity of our democracy will be further eroded.

Ending #2

Trump’s Presidential profits from foreign entities are found to violate the “Emoluments Clause” of the Constitution.

Likelihood:

Slim

Background:

Written in the 1700s to prevent US ambassadors abroad from being influenced by wealthy Europeans, the Emoluments Clause in Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution forbids a President from taking gifts or payments from foreign leaders. Exact text: “No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” An emolument is defined as a salary, fee or profit.

Relevant Facts:

  • Foreign officials are believed to be paying to stay in Trump properties in order to curry favor with the President of the United States.
  • A New York hotel owner has joined a lawsuit alleging that the President owning nearby hotels is creating unfair competition for other hotels.
  • Trump rents his properties to foreign businesses and individuals as well, such as the Chinese government-controlled Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

Areas of Uncertainty:

  • Even among Constitutional scholars, there is disagreement about whether the wording of this clause definitely applies to Trump’s situation. Do the profits nonetheless smell of bribery at worst and disregard for ethics at best? Absolutely.

Potential Action:

  • Congress can commission an investigation into money paid by foreign governments to Trump’s businesses, and whether Trump or his family are profiting from those payments.
  • Congress can ensure that the FBI has adequate resources to investigate.
  • The House and Senate Intelligence Committees should each be provided at least ten paid full-time staff with strong backgrounds in the law and finance to work solely on investigating the many questionable issues surrounding President Trump.
  • If Trump and/or his family are making a profit from those payments, it is possible that a case could be made that the Emoluments Clause has been violated. That case would depend upon a specific interpretation of the law and would almost certainly end up in the Supreme Court, to be decided at their discretion.

Implications of Inaction:

  • Foreign governments and leaders may be able to influence the President in ways that are not in the best interests of America.
  • The legitimacy of Congress as a trusted check on the Executive Branch will be put into question.
  • Americans’ belief in the integrity of our democracy will be further eroded.

Ending #3

Trump is found to have colluded with Russia in their interference with the 2016 Presidential Election, or he is found to be currently under Russia’s influence.

Likelihood:

Somewhat Likely

Background:

Title 18 of the US Code, Section 1, Chapter 115,  § 2381 states “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

Relevant Facts:

  • Russia President Vladimir Putin is no friend of the United States. As a former officer in the KGB (the then-Soviet Union’s equivalent of the CIA), Putin considered it an affront to national pride when the Soviet Union collapsed – a situation for which he blamed the US. He has harbored a grudge ever since, and has dreamed of one day reuniting the Soviet Union and restoring what he considered its former glory – by force if necessary. That is why it was so worrisome when Putin annexed Crimea in the Ukraine on March 18, 2014: the act was likely one of many steps that Putin has in the works to reconstitute the old Soviet Union. In order to achieve his goals, Putin understands that he needs to weaken western countries (and their alliance, NATO) so that they cannot be a potent counterforce. So Russia has recently been trying to politically destabilize western countries like Germany, France, the UK, and the United States, in part through interfering in their elections.
  • Eric Trump allegedly boasted about his family getting enormous amounts of money in loans from Russia – a claim that he now denies.
  • Former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, while doing “opposition research” for one of Trump’s Republican political opponents and later for a Democratic client, claims to have discovered evidence that Russia could be blackmailing Trump. Disturbed that what he had found was of grave concern to both the wellbeing of the US and UK, Steele bypassed his client and presented this findings to the US intelligence community in a dossier before the 2016 election.
  • All of the evidence of collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia is currently circumstantial, but there is a lot of it (too much to list here). Here are a few links to sources that have compiled or are compiling the information:

Areas of Uncertainty:

  • Given the 2016 Trump Campaign’s many Russian connections, it seems quite possible that someone in the campaign may have coordinated in some way with Russia to help or encourage Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 US election. However, for Trump to be implicated in any way in the Russia scandal, there would need to be evidence – testimony, documents, e-mails, recordings, financial records – showing that Trump himself either actively participated in or at least knew about cooperation between his campaign and Russia. That may be a high bar to reach.
  • FBI Director James Comey, who appeared to be doggedly investigating these connections and was beginning to ramp up his efforts significantly, has been fired. It is currently uncertain whether the person appointed by Trump to investigate Trump will be as bright, diligent, nonpartisan or trustworthy.

Potential Action:

  • A special prosecutor and an independent committee, both agreed upon by a majority of both parties in Congress, should be appointed by Congress to investigate the possibility of collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia, as well as the possibility of any current influence that Russia may have on the President or his Administration.
  • The special prosecutor and independent committee should be given all the funding and resources that they need to conduct a thorough investigation.
  • The House and Senate Intelligence Committees should each be provided at least ten paid full-time staff with strong backgrounds in the law and finance to work solely on investigating the many questionable issues surrounding President Trump.
  • Congress can ensure that the FBI also has adequate resources to investigate.
  • If sufficient evidence is found that Trump collaborated with Russia in any way in their interference, was aware of collaboration in his campaign, or is currently being influenced by Russia, appropriate legal action (including removal from office) should happen immediately.

Implications of Inaction:

  • Putin may be able to overtly or covertly influence Trump to make decisions that are not in the best interest of the United States or its allies. Some of these decisions could have profound negative implications for the wellbeing and future of the United States. It would give Putin no greater satisfaction that to see the US fail, to become the object of international ridicule or hatred, and to become as relevant on the world stage as a third world banana republic.
  • Putin will likely become more aggressive toward countries of the former Soviet Union, testing western powers to see what we are willing to do to stop him.
  • If Trump is believed by our allies to be in collusion with Russia, our allies – relationships that the United States has cultivated over decades and even centuries – will begin to shift their alliances to more trustworthy partners than the United States, putting the US in danger of having less support in military conflicts, among other situations.
  • The legitimacy of Congress as a trusted check on the Executive Branch will be put into question.
  • Americans’ belief in the integrity of our democracy will be further eroded.

Ending #4

Trump is found to have been involved in criminal activity before his 2016 Presidential run.

Likelihood:

Somewhat Likely

Background:

  • Money laundering is the act of processing tainted money in a way that makes the money appear “legitimate” It is an illegal activity that is often associated with organized crime.

Relevant Facts:

  • According to Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist David Cay Johnston’s recent book “The Making of Donald Trump,” businessman Donald Trump occasionally worked with individuals involved in organized crime.
  • In 2006, former Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort paid an enormous amount in cash to buy a condo at Trump Tower in a transaction that had the appearance of money laundering.
  • In 2008, Trump sold a Palm Beach mansion to a Russian oligarch named Dmitry Rybolovlev – at a 150% profit from his purchase price two years prior – in a transaction that had the appearance of money laundering.
  • While money laundering would obviously not be reported as such in one’s taxes, Trump’s tax returns and those of his businesses could show other questionable transactions worthy of investigation. Trump has thus far refused to release his tax returns.

Areas of Uncertainty:

  • A pattern of activity as well as criminal intent would likely need to be established in order for this activity to be considered something worthy of impeachment.

Potential Action:

  • The Senate Intelligence Committee has recently requested documentation on Donald Trump from the US Treasury’s financial intel unit as part of its Trump-Russia probe. This is an excellent start toward getting at the truth of Trump’s financial dealings.
  • The House and Senate Intelligence Committees should subpoena Trump’s tax returns and those of all his businesses.
  • The House and Senate Intelligence Committees should each be provided at least ten paid full-time staff with strong backgrounds in the law and finance to work solely on investigating the many questionable issues surrounding President Trump.
  • Congress can ensure that the FBI has adequate resources to investigate as well.
  • If Trump is found to have knowingly been involved in criminal activity, appropriate legal action should be taken.

Implications of Inaction:

  • If Trump has been knowingly involved in criminal activity, he could potentially be blackmailed by anyone who has proof, and could therefore be influenced to make decisions that are not in the interest of the American people.
  • If Trump has been knowingly involved in criminal activity, and is allowed to remain in the highest political office in the land, our children will learn a horrible message about crime and its consequences.
  • The legitimacy of Congress as a trusted check on the Executive Branch will be put into question.
  • Americans’ belief in the integrity of our democracy will be further eroded.

Ending #5

Trump is found to have interfered with a federal investigation.

Likelihood:

Very Likely

Background:

Relevant Facts:

  • In 1974, US President Richard Nixon was forced to resign not so much because of the crimes that he had committed, but because of his attempts to cover them up afterward, which was also a crime.
  • On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was in charge of investigating him.
  • Days earlier, Comey had asked for more resources to intensify the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia – an indication that evidence was increasing and was worth pursuing more vigorously.
  • Explanations coming from White House spokespeople for Comey’s firing lacked credibility, because they contradicted Trump’s past statements about Comey. Two days after the firing, however, in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Trump himself connected the firing with the Russia investigation, saying “But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.”
  • After the interview, upon hearing that Comey had described a January dinner conversation between Trump and Comey in a way that conflicted with Trump’s story of the event, Trump tweeted something that sounded like a threat:
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  • If President Trump is guilty of any kind of illegal behavior, what we have witnessed of his personality thus far indicates that he will attempt to cover it up, and his attempt will likely be quite clumsy, easily proven, and illegal in itself.

Areas of Uncertainty:

  • Specifically regarding Trump’s statement to Holt, while it sounds somewhat incriminating, it is still not a direct, unequivocal statement that “I fired Comey because I was concerned that his investigation of me would result in my impeachment and/or imprisonment.” With the evidence currently available to the public, Comey’s firing alone is unlikely to rise to the level of an impeachable act. It is very suspicious and raises a lot of questions, but it is also within the President’s legal authority.
  • The assessment that Trump’s impeachment for interfering with a federal investigation is “Very Likely” is based on an expectation of future actions by the President.

Potential Action:

  • As Trump is being investigated, Congress, journalists, law enforcement, federal employees, and the American people should be paying attention to any attempts by the President or his associates to destroy evidence, fire/reassign investigators, or otherwise interfere with the investigation.

Implications of Inaction:

  • America will be thrown into a Constitutional crisis.
  • The power of the Executive Branch will outweigh the other branches of government, with the potential for a shift in America’s form of government toward authoritarianism.
  • Americans’ belief in the integrity of our democracy will end.

Ending #6

Trump willingly resigns.

Likelihood:

Likely

Background:

  • The 25th Amendment of the US Constitution, Section 3, provides for the President of the United States to be able to resign. He must provide his written resignation to the Senate majority leader (in this case, Mitch McConnell) and the Speaker of the House (in this case, Paul Ryan). Exact text: “Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.”
  • Nixon resigned to avoid the embarrassment of an almost certain impeachment. As impeachment of the current President becomes increasingly likely,, Trump may choose the same path in order to save face.

Relevant Facts:

  • There are several investigations into Trump that are heating up and appear likely to bear fruit.
  • Trump would not want the embarrassment of impeachment. A way to avoid that is for him to resign.

Areas of Uncertainty:

  • Trump has a history of denying facts even when presented with irrefutable evidence. He may just hang in there no matter how bad things look for him.
  • It is unclear if the communication can be done via tweet. If that were possible, Trump could make history by being the first to do it. His tweet could be something along the lines of:

@SenateMajLdr @SpeakerRyan The #FBI and #fakenewsmedia are making it impossible for me to do my job. I hereby #resign. America’s loss. Sad.


Ending #7

Trump is found “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

Likelihood:

Somewhat Likely

Background:

  • The 25th Amendment of the US Constitution, Section 4, states that the President of the United States can be removed if he or she is deemed unable to do his or her job. Exact text: “Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

Relevant Facts:

  • Mental health professionals have broken with tradition and publicly expressed their conclusion by the tens of thousands that the President is mentally ill or mentally unstable, offering diagnoses that include everything from malignant narcissism to cocaine use to alzheimers. However, the idea that there must be a specific clinical diagnosis muddies the waters. The behaviors that lead to those diagnoses are what matters.
  • The President regularly makes statements that are easily proven false, indicating that he is either boldly and willfully lying or he is frighteningly disconnected from reality. Among his false statements are:
  • The President behaves with the impulsiveness of an eitght-year-old child. This is not a trait that we want in the person in command of our military and our nuclear arsenal.
  • The President is not competent to run the country. Evidence would include his chaotic White House, the hundred of key positions that he has not yet chosen to fill, and the slap-dash way that his first Muslim ban was rolled out, among many others.
  • The President is profoundly gullible. His claim about Obama wiretapping him, for example, was the result of a conspiracy theory that he heard expressed by a guest on Fox News. Trump immediately tweeted the conspiracy  theory rather than consulting the people who could actually tell him if it was true or not. What if Fox or Breitbart ran a story that North Korea had just launched missiles at us? What if he hears a rumor on Twitter that China is thinking of invading us?
  • The President is erratic in his policy positions. One minute NATO is outdated and needs to be disbanded, then it’s a vital international organization. One minute Mexico is paying for his wall, then we are. One minute China is a currency manipulator, then it’s not.

Areas of Uncertainty:

Few

Potential Action:

  • Vice President Pence and a majority of Trump’s Cabinet need to submit a written statement to the Senate majority leader (Mitch McConnell) and the House Speaker (Paul Ryan) that President Trump is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” or
  • Congress can appoint a nonpartisan group with relevant backgrounds to assess the President’s ability to serve effectively. If that group determines that Trump is unfit for the office of the Presidency, that group and Vice President Pence need to submit a written statement to McConnell and Ryan that the President “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

Implications of Inaction:

  • Allowing President Trump to continue in office while displaying the kind of impulsive, dishonest, disorganized and gullible behavior that he has shown so far puts America at risk. Among the risks to the nation:
    • He will not be believed by foreign leaders. Some degree of credibility and trust from other countries is essential to our international safety. If we are in a situation where we must legitimately go to war and we are asking our allies to commit the lives of their troops – their citizens – to help us, they need to believe in our President’s honesty and judgment 100%. That faith is currently shaky at best and getting worse by the day.
    • Trump’s erratic and impulsive nature and potential inability to distinguish reality from fantasy creates a risk that he might use nuclear weapons, an act which would certainly be reciprocated and which would usher in a worrisome international norm that we haven’t  had to live with for decades. As it is, he has put nuclear weapons back on the table in a way that many thought was a thing of the past.
    • A chaotic and understaffed Executive Branch makes us woefully unprepared to respond adequately in times of crisis.
    • It is questionable whether the President understands or has even read the Constitution that he swore to defend when he took the oath of office. A President who is ignorant of the US Constitution cannot defend it properly.
  • The legitimacy of Congress as a trusted check on the Executive Branch will be put into question.
  • Americans’ belief in the integrity of our democracy will be further eroded.

Necessary Conditions:

With the exception of Trump’s resignation, all of the above scenarios require a US House and Senate willing to seriously explore the possibility of the President being a risk to the country or having committed wrongdoing, and to pursue appropriate consequences based on the facts.

Given the highly partisan nature of the House and Senate, both of which are currently controlled by Republican majorities, action on their part will require massive and consistent public pressure.


Likely Negative Consequences of Removal from Office:

While one would hope that America could simply scrape Trump off the bottom of its shoe and walk away clean, removal of Trump from office will almost certainly have negative consequences.

First, Trump’s replacement would be Mike Pence, who may be even more disagreeable than Trump on some issues. However, Pence carries one powerful calling card that makes him a infinitely more desirable than President Trump: mental stability.

The more significant consequence of removing Trump from office is the response of his supporters, who have generally remained silent in recent months. While some might interpret that silence as shame or embarrassment, it is far more likely that they are simply tired of being called stupid and racist and having to justify their views to self-righteous hypocrites who don’t listen to them anyway. A recent poll by ABC News/Washington Post shows that 96% of Trump’s supporters have no regrets about their vote. Let that sink in.

The more that Trump’s removal from office is seen by them as unfair, unjust, partisan, or the work of the “establishment,” the more outraged his followers are likely to be. Under the wrong circumstances and if not addressed thoughtfully, removing Trump from the Presidency could make the current divisions in the nation look blissfully peaceful in comparison. Decades of silenced and sidelined bitterness that had been given voice via Trump and which was being channeled through the system will suddenly be left with no clear appropriate outlet.

Thus, anyone wishing to pursue the impeachment of Trump should devote equal energy to doing something that may be new to them: listening.

Trump voters are not going away. They are a part of America. They need to be heard respectfully and with humility, rather than being shut down before they have time to express a complete thought. Their statements need to be responded to with questions to gain deeper understanding rather than with judgment. Their viewpoints must be scanned meticulously for areas of common ground, places from which a unifying political agenda can be built, and places from which long-damaged personal relationships can be rebuilt. Their sources of ideas and information should be listened to on an ongoing basis in a mutual exchange of ideas. When facts are presented to counter fiction, it should be done so respectfully.

The awfulness and nonstop crisis presented by Trump’s Presidency has been an understandable but potentially disastrous distraction from the Democratic Party’s ability to engage in any genuine introspection to discover and meaningfully address their own blind spots. If Democrats come through this experience without learning to listen, look at themselves, and stop judging people, they will have failed as much as the Republicans, and, worse yet, will leave the door open for another Trump-like monstrosity to take office in the future.



You Get to Choose How the Show Ends!

Trump’s Presidency will no doubt have an exciting conclusion with lots of drama – we would expect nothing less from our President – but it’s absolutely time for an intervention in Washington DC. Here’s what you can do:

  • Contact your US Senators and US Representative, especially if they are Republican, and tell them why you believe that Trump should be removed from office. You can get their contact info here and find dates and locations of town halls here. Constant pressure on them is important.
  • If you don’t see your legislators taking the action that you want, get involved in political campaigns in 2018 to get Democrats elected to the US House and US Senate.
  • Reconnect with Trump supporters that you stopped talking to or unfriended on Facebook. Tell them that you’d like to start over and to hear them out. Start slow. Listen. Suspend judgment. Don’t bail. When you want to express an opinion, ask an open-ended question instead to better understand their views and the reasons behind them. Keep asking questions. Whenever you want to judge, remind yourself that your best political instincts and your best thinking about how to handle people with different ideas has resulted in the situation we’re in now. Look for opportunities to feel empathy and compassion, to see a human being, and to find common ground. Has the person experiencing real pain, injustice, hardship or loss, and has merely misidentified the cause? Take the time to really listen to that pain until you can feel it as if it were your own. Hold firm to your values but trust that instantly squashing ideas with which you disagree is not the only way to change them.
  • Start paying attention regularly to sources of news and opinion that you would ordinarily reject. Listening does not mean that you support or agree with what is being said. It merely means that you are trying to get a better grasp of what is influencing people that you don’t understand.
  • Share this article on social media or via e-mail.

– rob rünt

April 24 – 30, 2017

April 24 – 30, 2017

 


Articles & Editorials:


Main Stories


Russia


Senate Trump-Russia Probe Has No Full-Time Staff, No Key Witnesses
(The Daily Beast – 4/23/17) 

Guess Who Came to Dinner With Flynn and Putin
(NBC News – 4/29/17)

UK was Given Details of Alleged Contacts Between Trump Campaign and Moscow
(The Guardian UK – 4/28/17)


North Korea


Senate Staff Perplexed by Unusual White House Private Briefing on North Korea
(Washington Post – 4/24/17)

North Korea Threatens Australia With Nuclear Strike Over ‘Toeing The Line’ With U.S.
(NBC News – 4/23/17)

Trump: ‘We’ll See’ if a North Korean Nuclear Test Would Trigger U.S. Response (Los Angeles Times – 4/30/17)


Mental Illness


Transcript of AP Interview with Trump
(CBS News – 4/24/17)

“It had 9.2 million people. It’s the highest they’ve ever had. On any, on air, [CBS ‘Face the Nation’ host John] Dickerson had 5.2 million people. It’s the highest for ‘Face the Nation’ or as I call it, ‘Deface the Nation.’ It’s the highest for ‘Deface the Nation’ since the World Trade Center. Since the World Trade Center came down. It’s a tremendous advantage.”

– President Donald Trump
   (Telling Associated Press about the ratings that he brings
    to the news media)

Fact-Checking President Trump’s Pinocchio-Laden Associated Press Interview
(Washington Post – 4/25/17)

Trump Proclaims May 1 as ‘Loyalty Day’
(Fox News – 4/29/17)

“I truly believe that the first 100 days of my administration has been just about the most successful in our country’s history.”

– President Donald Trump
  (Weekly radio address)

 


Trump Tax Plan


White House Unveils Dramatic Plan to Overhaul Tax Code in Major Test for Trump
(Washington Post – 4/26/17)

What’s in the Trump Tax Plan that Promises ‘Massive’ Cuts
(ABC News – 4/26/17)


Other Stories That You Should Know About:


Conflicts of Interest


Dow Chemical Donates $1 Million to Trump, Asks Administration to Ignore Pesticide Study
(Vanity Fair – 4/20/17)

State Department Website Removes Article Touting History of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Estate
(Washington Post – 4/24/17)

“It’s like we’re watching somebody reading a Dictatorship for Dummies book.”

– Christian Bale
(Actor: “The Dark Knight”) on Donald Trump
(Mashable – 4/24/17)

 

 Mar-a-Lago Ad Belongs in Impeachment File
(Bloomberg – 4/25/17)


Meanwhile, in the Democratic Party …


Poll: Trump, Democrats and GOP All Unpopular
(CNN – 4/24/17)

100 Days of Democratic Rage: Trump has Enabled the Democratic Party to Overlook its Serious Problems
(Politico – 4/25/17)

Warren, Sanders Unhappy by Wall Street-Paid Obama Speech
(Washington Post – 4/28/17)


Environment


Trump Orders Easing Safety Rules Implemented After Gulf Oil Spill
(New York Times –4/27/17)

Climate March: Tens of Thousands Protest Trump Climate Policies, Demand Environmental Action
(Fox News – 4/29/17)

 EPA Website Removes Climate Science Site from Public View After Two Decades
(Washington Post – 4/29/17)


In Over His Head


Trump Now Agrees With the Majority of Americans: He Wasn’t Ready to be President
(Washington Post – 4/28/17)

“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

– President Donald Trump
   (Interview with Reuters)

Exclusive: Trump Says He Thought Being President Would Be Easier Than His Old Life
(Reuters – 4/28/17)


 Keeping Track of the Basics:


Editorials


I was the Target of a Neo-Nazi ‘Troll Storm’
(The Guardian – 4/20/17)

There are at Least Four Grounds to Impeach Trump
(Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton: Salon – 4/7/17)

Trump’s First 100 Days Destroyed the Myth That Government Should be Run Like a Business
(Vox – 4/28/17)

How Western Civilization Could Collapse
(BBC – 4/18/17)


Alternative Facts from an Alternative Universe

Self-selecting our news sources, a reluctance to hear opposing ideas, and the choice by many of us to surround ourselves only with like-minded individuals has resulted in many Americans becoming oblivious to the beliefs of those with whom they disagree. This bubble helped create the world of “alternative facts” in which Donald Trump could become President.

To counter this, each week I will present a little of what Trump’s supporters are thinking. Their reality may be very different from yours. Please listen/read to the end, and consider what respectful questions you could ask to better understand and have a conversation, rather than seeking to prove them wrong as quickly as possible and shut them down. We can’t change minds if we can’t talk to each other.

Trump Voters Split on Unkept Promises (Part 1 of 3)
(CNN – 4/24/17)

Trump Voters Split on Unkept Promises (Part 2 of 3)
(CNN – 4/24/17)

Trump Voters Split on Unkept Promises (Part 3 of 3)
(CNN – 4/25/17)


Cartoons, Images & Videos


Posted on Facebook by The Simpsons:

Hasan Minhaj Full Speech at 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner
(C-SPAN – 4/29/17)

John Oliver – Last Week Tonight:

Posted to Facebook by The Other 98%:

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Cartoon by Pjil Hands for Wisconsin State Journal:

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Source: New Century Times:

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Events & Actions


Resources & Organizations


April 17 – 23, 2017

April 17 – 23, 2017

 


Articles & Editorials:


Main Stories


Russia


Exclusive: Putin-Linked Think Tank Drew Up Plan to Sway 2016 U.S. Election
(Reuters – 4/20/17)

Top National Security Official Leaving Justice Department in Middle of Trump-Russia Investigation
(NBC News – 4/20/17)

US Prepares Charges to Seek Arrest of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange
(CNN – 4/20/17)


North Korea


Trump’s Missing ‘Armada’ Finally Heading to Korea — and May Stay a While
(Washington Post – 4/19/17)

U.S. May Not Be Able to Shoot Down North Korean Missiles, Say Experts
(NBC News – 4/19/17)


Mental Illness


Donald Trump Insists on Golden Carriage Procession During Visit to UK
(Evening Standard – UK – 4/15/17)

An Ethical Dilemma: Donald Trump’s Presidency has Some in the Mental Health Community Re-evaluating Their Role
(US News & World Report – 4/21/17)

At Yale, Psychiatrists Cite Their ‘Duty to Warn’ About an Unfit President
(New York Magazine – 4/22/17)

Psychiatrists Claim President Trump has a ‘Dangerous Mental Illness’
(Yahoo News – 4/22/17)

Mental Health Professionals Call for Trump to be Removed from Office
(WTNH – Connecticut Affiliate of ABC News – 4/20/17)


Other Stories That You Should Know About:


March for Science


Historians Say the March for Science is ‘Pretty Unprecedented’
(Washington Post – 4/21/1/7)

The March for Science from Around the World
(CNN – 4/22/17)


Trump and the Press and the Polls


Public Gives Trump Low Marks for First 100 Days: NBC News/WSJ Poll
(NBC News – 4/23/17)

Trump at 100 Days: 96% of His Voters Say They’d Do it Again
(ABC News – 4/23/17)

Trump to Hold 100th-Day Rally on Same Night as White House Correspondents’ Dinner
(Washington Post – 4/23/17)

“In Watergate, in the two years of stories we did at the Washington Post and also at the New York Times, there was not a single quoted source. It was all reporting based on anonymous sources.”

Carl Bernstein, one of two reporters who broke the Watergate story


Conflicts of Interest


Trump’s Daughter Meets Chinese President, Receives Chinese Trademarks
(MSNBC – 4/18/17)


Taxpayer Money


Trump and His Aides Take Hard Line on Border Wall, as Threat of Government Shutdown Looms
(Washington Post – 4/23/1/7)

Sessions: We’ll Fund the Wall ‘One Way or the Other’
(CNN – 4/23/17)


 Keeping Track of the Basics:


Editorials


US Unlikely to Have been Behind Botched North Korean Missile Launch
(The Hill – 4/22/17)

If a Nuclear Bomb is Dropped on Your City, Here’s Where You Should Run and Hide
(Business Insider – 3/18/17)


Alternative Facts from an Alternative Universe

Self-selecting our news sources, a reluctance to hear opposing ideas, and the choice by many of us to surround ourselves only with like-minded individuals has resulted in many Americans becoming oblivious to the beliefs of those with whom they disagree. This bubble helped create the world of “alternative facts” in which Donald Trump could become President.

To counter this, each week I will present a little of what Trump’s supporters are thinking. Their reality may be very different from yours. Please listen/read to the end, and consider what respectful questions you could ask to better understand and have a conversation, rather than seeking to prove them wrong as quickly as possible and shut them down. We can’t change minds if we can’t talk to each other.

How Progressives Cherry-Pick Science They Like
(National Review – 4/21/17)


Cartoons, Images & Videos


Source: Unknown

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Science March at Harvard, source: Unknown

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Source: Unknown

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Posted to Twitter by Steve Hoffman:

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Science March in Berkeley, CA, banner artwork by Tina Banda:

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Science March in Amsterdam – source: Unknown

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Photo from Minnesota Public Radio of Science March in St. Paul, MN

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… and I found out where you can get one! You’re welcome!

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Posted to Twitter by Hend Amry:

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Photo of Ted Nugent, Kid Rock and Sarah Palin in the Oval Offfice
Source: Unknown

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From The Onion:

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Posted on Twitter by McSpocky:

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Source: Unknown

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Events & Actions


Resources & Organizations


April 10 – 16, 2017

April 10 – 16, 2017

 


Articles & Editorials:


Main Stories


Russia


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The Russia Story Just Keeps Getting Worse for President Trump
(CNN – 4/12/17)

How Russia Hacked Obama’s Legacy
(Buzzfeed – 4/13/17)

Classified Docs Contradict Nunes Surveillance Claims, GOP and Dem Sources Say
(CNN – 4/12/17)

FBI Obtained FISA Warrant to Monitor Trump Adviser Carter Page
(Washington Post – 4/11/17)

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“What lingers for Trump may be what deals — on what terms — he did after the financial crisis of 2008 to borrow Russian money when others in the west apparently would not lend to him.”

Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6 (British intelligence agency)
(The Sun UK, 4/13/17)

British Spies were First to Spot Trump Team’s Links with Russia
(The Guardian UK – 4/13/17)

“Concrete Evidence of Collusion Between Trump Team and Russia” Handed to Official Investigation
(The Independent UK – 4/14/17)

House’s Inquiry Into Russia Points a Congressman to Cyprus
(New York Times – 4/14/17)


North Korea


China’s Xi Calls Trump, Urges Peaceful Approach to North Korea
(Washington Post – 4/12/17)

US May Launch Strike if North Korea Moves to Test Nuclear Weapon: Report
(The Hill – 4/13/17)

China Warns of ‘Storm Clouds Gathering’ in U.S.-North Korea Standoff
(New York Times – 4/14/17)

 North Korean Official: Ready for War if Trump Wants it
(Associated Press – 4/14/17)

Ex-Acting CIA Chief: Trump is Making North Korea Situation Worse
(Politico – 4/14/17)

North Korea Appears to Jab at Trump with Missile Test
(Politico – 4/15/17)


China


Trump Faces Chinese Mockery Following Embarrassing Reversals
(MSNBC – 4/14/17)


Syria


Tillerson Meets With Putin Amid Deepening Tensions Over U.S. Missile Strikes in Syria
(Washington Post – 4/12/17)

U.S.-Led Coalition Accidentally Bombs Syrian Allies, Killing 18
(Washington Post – 4/13/17)


Afghanistan


US Drops Most Powerful Non-Nuclear Bomb in Afghanistan
(Military – 4/13/17)

‘It Felt Like the Heavens Were Falling’: Afghans Reel from MOAB Impact
(The Guardian – 4/14/17)


Other Stories That You Should Know About:


Trump and the Press


“That’s the Job. We Are Adversarial.”
(Politico – 4/10/17)


Draining the Swamp/Government Transparency


The White House Will Keep Its Visitor Logs Secret
(Time – 4/14/17)

With Trump Appointees, a Raft of Potential Conflicts and ‘No Transparency’
(New York Times – 4/15/17)

The Tax March: Protesters Around the Country Call on Trump to Release his Taxes
(Washington Post – 4/15/17)

Trump Blasts Tax Day Protests, Says ‘Election is Over!’
(Fox News – 4/16/17)


Relearning History


Spicer: Hitler ‘Didn’t Even Sink to Using Chemical Weapons,’ Although He Sent Jews to ‘the Holocaust Center’
(Washington Post – 4/11/17)

Posted on Facebook by George Takei:

Trump is Still Learning What Most People Already Know
(MSNBC – 4/13/17)

“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,”

President Donald Trump
Recalling his 4/12 phone conversation with Chinese Prime Minister Xi regarding Trump’s idea that China could simply make North Korea stop misbehaving


 Keeping Track of the Basics:


Editorials


The Unforgivable Mistake Sean Spicer Makes Every Day
(Washington Post – 4/12/17)


Alternative Facts from an Alternative Universe

Self-selecting our news sources, a reluctance to hear opposing ideas, and the choice by many of us to surround ourselves only with like-minded individuals has resulted in many Americans becoming oblivious to the beliefs of those with whom they disagree. This bubble helped create the world of “alternative facts” in which Donald Trump could become President.

To counter this, each week I will present a little of what Trump’s supporters are thinking. Their reality may be very different from yours. Please listen/read to the end, and consider what respectful questions you could ask to better understand and have a conversation, rather than seeking to prove them wrong as quickly as possible and shut them down. We can’t change minds if we can’t talk to each other.

I hope that as more Trump voters come to the conclusion that she has, that people on the left will respond with compassion, tolerance (yes, tolerance) and decency rather than ridicule and “I told you so”s. The power to bring some degree of unity back to our nation and move forward in a positive direction is largely going to be in the hands of Democrats and their individual decisions to gloat or be humble. Don’t blow it, lefties.


Cartoons, Images & Videos


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Cover of The Economist magazine:

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Source: Fox News:
Trump describes cake and his decision to launch missiles at someone.

Posted on Twitter by Jonathan Riley:

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Posted on Twitter by Aura Bogado:

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Posted on Twitter by McSpocky:

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Posted on Pinterest by mrhenry13.tumblr.com:

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Posted on Twitter by James Austin Johnson:

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Posted on Twitter by Jonathan Riley:

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Source: Unknown:

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Posted on Istagram by michaelbourret:

View this post on Instagram

#taxmarch #taxmarchla

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Posted on Facebook by The Other 98%:

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Events & Actions

Major nationwide protest coming up:

  • Saturday, April 22, 2017: Scientists and people who believe in and support science will be having marches nationwide to encourage the use of science and facts in creating government policy – find your nearest march here!

Resources & Organizations


Keep Your Eyes on the Money – YOUR Money

Keep Your Eyes on the Money – YOUR Money

Keep Your Eyes on the Money – YOUR Money

There is rightly a major focus right now – among the media, in the House and Senate, by the FBI and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and the American public – on President Trump’s possible connections to Russia. Meanwhile, however, a question that could be of equal importance may be getting overlooked: why did Donald Trump run for President in the first place?

The answer is likely many-fold, and can be explained by things that are easily knowable about the President, to the point where they almost define him. He likes to be the center of attention, and a Presidential run would feed that desire with months of ongoing coverage from the media and adoration from his supporters. He likes power, and the Presidency is arguably the most powerful position in the world. He has political views and policy ideas that he appears at times to feel strongly about; the Presidency would be a place where he could enact them.

But what else do we know about Donald Trump? What else defines him almost more than all of those things combined? He likes money. And in real estate, there is a term “OPM” that stands for “Other People’s Money.” When your career is buying real estate, OPM becomes an essential way to make yourself rich more quickly. You borrow – from banks, from wealthy friends, from relatives – to buy real estate that you believe will produce enough of a profit to enrich yourself and enable you to pay back your lenders (usually with interest). Of course, in the most ideal OPM situations, such as inheriting a fortune from your father, you don’t have to pay anyone back.

And what are a couple of other things that we have learned about Donald Trump since he came under closer scrutiny during the election and into the Presidency? He lies. Boldly. Bigly. He tells lies so big and so risky that most liars wouldn’t even consider telling them because of the lies’ audaciousness and the ease of proving them false (Obama is not an American citizen, the crowd at Trump’s inauguration was the biggest in decades, etc.).

We also know that Trump sometimes stiffs those who help him, like the numerous contractors who provided goods and services for his real estate empire, only to find themselves faced with having to accept a major loss when he chose not to pay them. He has been referred to by some as a conman, boosting people’s hopes for his own financial gain.

It is quite plausible that Mr. Trump planned to make money from the process of campaigning for President. As far back as 2000, he told Fortune Magazine “It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.” According to Politico, by September 22 of last year, the 2016 Trump Campaign had paid Trump’s businesses $8.2 million.

And as some of us currently grit our teeth at the millions being needlessly spent each week by the American taxpayer for the excesses that accompany Mr. Trump’s Presidency – Melania living in Trump Tower instead of the White House, the President’s near-weekly trips to Mar-a-Lago and his golf courses, the Secret Service entourage to accompany the Trump kids on their frequent trips – we hardly notice that buried within those extravagances are arrangements from which the President or his family make a profit. As long as Melania lives at Trump Tower, the government (i.e., you and I) must pay rent to have a team of Secret Service living there. When the President visits Mar-a-Lago, he generates free publicity for his business – far better than any expensive commercial – at government cost, while dangling the exciting possibility that visitors might get to sit near the President of the United States at dinner or see him on his golf course. And who gets paid for the rooms that the President’s security and staff stay in at Trump’s posh Mar-a Lago hotel when Trump spends yet another weekend there?

And yes, it all reaks of conflict of interest and questionable ethics at best.

But – and I say the following as pure speculation that may well qualify me for a tin-foil hat – what if those millions being pocketed here and there are all just small change compared to a more expansive agenda? What if, as he began seeing the possibility of a win, his run for the Presidency evolved in part into the biggest lie ever, a con so big and so brazen and so thoroughly outlandish that Americans wouldn’t even think of it as a possibility until after it had already happened? You know, the way several months ago, we didn’t think that covert action by Russia could possibly play an influential – potentially even deciding – role in an American Presidential election? What if the bid for the Presidency actually evolved into a bid to siphon off one of the largest piles of OPM ever from the biggest mark possible – the federal government and, by extension, us, the American taxpayers? And what if  there were a way to move that money around silently behind the scenes – in order to pay off major debts, to stash vast amounts in anonymous overseas bank accounts, or to assist in some some other massively self-serving cause?

As Presidential Cabinet positions go, the Secretary of Commerce is not generally a glamorous or high-visibility position. If you asked even your most politically involved friends – friends who could quickly rattle off the names of every recent Secretary of State or Secretary of Energy – few could likely name even one recent Secretary of Commerce. The position just does not generate a lot of buzz: it works quietly behind the scenes, doing work related to the department’s mission “to foster, promote, and develop the foreign and domestic commerce.”

The person whom Donald Trump appointed to that role is a man named Wilbur Ross. On February 27, 2017, MSNBCs Rachel Maddow did a segment looking into the background of Mr. Ross. (New Commerce Secretary at Nexus of Lucrative Trump Russia Deal). While I highly recommend taking the 22 minutes to watch Maddow’s report, the Cliff’s Notes version is as follows:

  • In January 2017, Deutsche Bank was fined $630 million by the US Department of Justice for money laundering (i.e., processing tainted money in a way that makes the money appear “legitimate”). Deutsche Bank had moved approximately $10 billion out of Russia as part of a stock fraud scheme. Some of the people involved were close friends and relatives of Vladimir Putin (the Russian government also fined Deutsche Bank a whopping $5,000 for the incident).
  • When Deutsche Bank’s money laundering activities for this scam began in 2011, its CEO was Josef Ackerman. Ackerman left Deutsche Bank in 2012 after serving there for ten years. In 2013, deposits to Deutsche Bank began to be seized in the wake of questions arising over the $10 billion. In 2014, Ackerman was appointed Chairman of the Bank of Cyprus.
  • Cyprus is a Mediterranean island off the coast of Turkey, Lebanon and Syria. It is known to be a major hub where Russian oligarchs use the banking system to launder their money.
  • The Bank of Cyprus has two Vice Chairmen: one is Viktor Vekselberg (second wealthiest man in Russia and a close personal friend of Vladimir Putin) and the other is long-time Trump friend Wilbur Ross. Vekselberg and Ross are both the largest shareholders in the Bank of Cyprus. Vekselberg and Ross were the ones who brought in Ackerman as the new CEO of the Bank of Cyprus.
  • Another large shareholder in the Bank of Cyprus is a Russian oligarch named Dmitry Rybolovlev. Rybolovlev began a divorce from his wife in 2007 or 2008. The divorce was finalized in 2015. At some point, a judge awarded Rybolovlev’s wife $4.5 billion as part of the settlement. During the divorce proceedings, she accused Rybolovlev of “secreting and transferring assets in order to avoid his obligations.”
  • In 2006, Donald Trump bought a tacky Palm Beach mansion called la maison de l`amitie for $40 million. The property sat vacant for two years, In 2008, Trump sold it to Rybolovlev, who inexplicably paid $100 million for it, netting Trump a quick $60 million in profit. Rybolovlev reportedly never lived in the house.
  • At the time, Trump was having financial difficulties and was fighting to avoid paying off a large loan from Deutsche Bank.
  • Rybolovlev and Trump never met: they performed their entire multi-million dollar real estate transaction through intermediaries. The person who introduced Russian oligarch Rybolovlev and Trump was Wilbur Ross, one of the two Vice Chairmen of the Bank of Cyprus.
  • Trump nominated Wilbur Ross to be US Secretary of Commerce, and Ross was confirmed for that role in February, 2017.
  • Some intelligence officials believe that “one reason the Russians compiled information on Trump during his 2013 trip was that he was meeting with Russian oligarchs who may be stashing money abroad.”

Summary:

Wilbur Ross, the man whom Donald Trump has appointed to structure and oversee the moving around of large amounts of America’s money, is the largest investor in and has had a very recent (possibly still active) high-level controlling role in the Bank of Cyprus, a bank with deep ties to Russia, a bank which, according to Maddow, is known for laundering large amounts of money for wealthy Russians. The bank’s Chairman, appointed by Ross, previously headed Deutsche Bank during a time when Deutsche Bank began laundering $10 billion, including money from governments, for the benefit of wealthy individuals, notably wealthy Russians and friends of Vladimir Putin.

The President’s recently proposed budget made headlines for its staggering cuts to numerous government programs and agencies. Some programs were zeroed out, while others were cut by double-digit percentages. If even a fraction of that proposed budget is enacted by Congress, it will mean that enormous amounts of American taxpayer money will be in flux, and things are likely to get very hazy and disorienting for awhile.

As Mr. Trump does what he does best – saying and doing things that completely captivate the attention of the American media and American public – keep your eyes on your money … and keep your eyes on Wilbur Ross and the Department of Commerce.

– rob rünt


 

March 13 – 19, 2017

March 13 – 19, 2017

 


Articles & Editorials:


Main Stories


Russia


The Definitive Trump-Russia Timeline of Events
(Politico – 3/3/17 – updated as new information comes out)

Trump Reverses Pledge To Mandate U.S. Steel For Keystone Pipeline. A Direct Beneficiary Is A Russian Oligarch With Close Ties To Vladimir Putin
(Huffington Post – 3/6/17)

Russian Spy Ship Returns Off U.S. Coast, Near Sub Base
(CBS News – 3/15/17)

New Web Site Dedicated to Ongoing Tracking of Trump-Russia Connections
(US Representative Eric Swalwell)


Trump’s Budget


“America First” – Trump’s Proposed Budget
(The White House – 3/16/17)

What Trump Cut in His Budget
(Washington Post – 3/16/17)

If You’re a Poor Person in America, Trump’s Budget is Not for You
(Washington Post – 3/16/17)

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney justifies cuts to programs like “Meals on Wheels” and school lunch for low income kids because the programs are “just not showing any results.” Apparently feeding someone who can’t afford to
(CSPAN – 3/16/17)

Fact Check: Budget Director’s Claims That Programs Don’t Work
(New York Times – 3/17/17)

White House Cites Satire Column to Tout Budget
(The Hill – 3/17/17)


Mental Illness


In a Repudiation of Trump, a Senior House Leader Rejects Wiretap Claim
(New York Times – 3/15/17)

Trump Says Obama Wiretapping Accusations are Based on Some News Reports
(Washington Post – 3/16/17)

Spicer says Trump ‘stands by’ unproven allegation that Obama ordered wiretapping of Trump Tower
(Washington Post – 3/16/17)

British Complain After Trump Spokesman Cites Wiretapping Report
(Bloomberg – 3/16/17)

US Makes Formal Apology to Britain After White House Accuses GCHQ of Wiretapping Trump Tower
(Telegraph, UK – 3/17/17)

White House: No Apology to British Government Over Spying Claims
(CNN – 3/17/17)

Ahead Of House Hearing, Committee Head Says No Evidence Of Collusion Or Wiretapping
(National Public Radio – 3/19/17)

Trump Says Merkel Meeting was ‘Great,’ Then Blasts Germany for NATO Bills
(Los Angeles Times – 3/18/17)

German Defense Ministry Contradicts Trump, Says it Doesn’t Owe U.S. Money for NATO
(Washington Post – 3/19/17)

In One Rocky Week, Trump’s Self-Inflicted Chaos on Vivid Display
(New York Times – 3/18/17)


Other Stories That You Should Know About:


Conflicts of Interest


Kushners Set to Get $400 Million From Chinese Firm on Tower
(Bloomberg – 3/13/17)


Hate Crimes


Temple De Hirsch Sinai Vandalized With Anti-Semitic Graffiti
(KOMO News – 3/10/17)


Internal White House Dynamics


‘People are Scared’: Paranoia Seizes Trump’s White House
(Politico – 3/15/17)

“There was an article that week that talked about how you can surveil people through their phones, through their — certainly through their television sets, any number of different ways. And microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera. We know that is just a fact of modern life.”

– Kellyanne Conway
    Counselor to the President
    3/12/2017


Keeping Track of the Basics:


Editorials


Trump’s Mental Health:“The Elephant in the Room”
(MSNBC, 2/23/17)

Ready or Not, Here Come Trump and North Korea
(Bloomberg – 3/19/17)

When the Fire Comes
(Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winning economist, New York Times – 2/10/17)


Alternative Facts from an Alternative Universe

Self-selecting our news sources, a reluctance to hear opposing ideas, and the choice by many of us to surround ourselves only with like-minded individuals has resulted in many Americans becoming oblivious to the beliefs of those with whom they disagree. This bubble helped create the world of “alternative facts” in which Donald Trump could become President.

To counter this, each week I will present a little of what Trump’s supporters are thinking. Their reality may be very different from yours. Please listen/read to the end, and consider what respectful questions you could ask to better understand and have a conversation, rather than seeking to prove them wrong as quickly as possible and shut them down. We can’t change minds if we can’t talk to each other.


Why the Poorest County in West Virginia has Faith in Trump (Video – 10:32)
(The Guardian – 10/13/16)


Cartoons, Images & Videos


Cartoon by Tom Toles, Washington Post:

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Posted by @vicsepulveda

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Posted by Occupy Democrats:

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Footage of Irish Prime Minister delivering St. Patrick’s Day address calling attention to Trump’s immigration policies as Trump stands feet away from him:


John Oliver of “This Week Tonight” describes the Republican replacement for ObamaCare
(Warning: some profanity)


Posted by US Senator Bernie Sanders:

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Events & Actions

Two major nationwide protests coming up:

  • Saturday, April 15, 2017: Trump Tax Day Marches nationwide to let President Trump know that it’s not just reporters who care about his undisclosed tax returns – find your nearest march here!
  • Saturday, April 22, 2017: Scientists and people who believe in and support science will be having marches nationwide to encourage the use of science and facts in creating government policy – find your nearest march here!

Resources & Organizations


March 6 – 12, 2017

March 6 – 12, 2017

 


Articles & Editorials:


Main Stories


Russia


Unexpected Deaths of Six Russian Diplomats in Four Months Triggers Conspiracy Theories
(The Independent – 2/27/17)

State Department Bars Release of Russian U.N. Ambassador’s Autopsy
(NBC News – 3/10/17)


Russia Investigation


US Spies Have ‘Considerable Intelligence’ on High-Level Trump-Russia Talks, Claims Ex-NSA Analyst
(The Independent – 3/6/17)

CIA Providing Raw Intelligence as Trump-Russia Probes Heat Up: Congress Has Entered a New Phase in its Investigation
(Politico – 3/7/17)


Trump’s Mental Health


White House Rejects FBI’s Denial of Trump’s Wiretapping Claims
(Huffington Post – 3/6/17)

McCain Calls on Trump to Clarify Wiretapping Claim
(CNN – 3/12/17)


Other Stories That You Should Know About:


Michael Flynn


Michael Flynn Was Paid to Represent Turkey’s Interests During Trump Campaign
(New York Times – 3/10/17)


Preet Bharara


U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara Says He Was Fired After Refusing to Quit
(New York Times – 3/11/17)

After Firing Preet Bharara, President Trump Beware
(CNN – 3/11/17)


Keeping Track of the Basics:


Editorials


Donald Trump’s Wiretap Tweets Raise His Risk of Impeachment
(Chicago Tribune – 3/6/17)

The Trump Experiment May Come to an Early Tipping Point
(E.J. Dionne Jr., New York Times – 3/5/17)

Hey, It’s a Problem the President Believes Things That Aren’t True
(Vice – 3/6/17)

Trump Knows the Feds are Closing in on Him
(Foreign Policy.com – 3/6/17)

How to Escape Your Political Bubble for a Clearer View
(New York Times – 3/3/17)

Believe it or Not, Science Deniers Aren’t Stupid
(Big Think – 1/3/17)

A Philosopher’s 350-Year-Old Trick to Get People to Change Their Minds is Now Backed up by Psychologists
(Quartz – 9/11/16)


Alternative Facts from an Alternative Universe


Self-selecting our news sources, a reluctance to hear opposing ideas, and the choice by many of us to surround ourselves only with like-minded individuals has resulted in many Americans becoming oblivious to the beliefs of those with whom they disagree. This bubble helped create the world of “alternative facts” in which Donald Trump could become President.

To counter this, each week I will present a little of what Trump’s supporters are thinking. Their reality may be very different from yours. Please listen/read to the end, and consider what respectful questions you could ask to better understand and have a conversation, rather than seeking to prove them wrong as quickly as possible and shut them down. We can’t change minds if we can’t talk to each other.


Listening to Trump Voters with ACA Coverage: What They Want in a Healthcare Plan
(Kaiser Family Foundation – 2/22/17)


Cartoons, Images & Videos


Chart on Trump’s Russia ties prepared by US Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA)

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Source: Unknown

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Events & Actions

Two major nationwide protests coming up:

  • Saturday, April 15, 2017: Trump Tax Day Marches nationwide to let President Trump know that it’s not just reporters who care about his undisclosed tax returns – find your nearest march here!
  • Saturday, April 22, 2017: Scientists and people who believe in and support science will be having marches nationwide to encourage the use of science and facts in creating government policy – find your nearest march here!

Resources & Organizations


Questions Raised by the Jeff Sessions Controversy

Questions Raised by the Jeff Sessions Controversy

 


Questions Raised by the Jeff Sessions Controversy

On January 10, 2017, US Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) answered questions from Congress to determine whether he should be confirmed as US Attorney General. During that confirmation hearing, US Senator Al Franken (D-MN) asked Sessions the following question:

“CNN just published a story alleging that the intelligence community provided documents to the President-Elect last week that included information that quote ‘Russian operatives claimed to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.’ These documents also allegedly say quote ‘there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government’ – again, I’m telling you this as it’s coming out so – you know, but if it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious, and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump Campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”

Sessions’ response was given under oath:

“Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”

As a result of that confirmation hearing, Jeff Sessions became the United States Attorney General. It was later determined that, while serving as the Trump Campaign’s top national security adviser, Sessions had actually met twice with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, considered by the US intelligence community to be a Russian spy and recruiter of spies, according to CNN. One of these meetings between Sessions and Kislyak was at the Republican National Convention where Trump was nominated as the Republican Party’s candidate for President.

The most benign, charitable interpretation of Sessions’ response to Franken was that he did not fully understand the question. A less kind interpretation is that he was intentionally lying, and there are multiple possibilities in between.

As Attorney General, Sessions should theoretically be in charge of the investigation into the Trump Campaign’s ties to Russia. Thankfully, Sessions was aware of the conflict that he had created with his nondisclosure and recused himself (removed himself) from being in charge of the investigation. Yet questions remain.

  1. Was this an honest misunderstanding of Senator Franken’s question, or did Senator Sessions knowingly lie under oath to Congress, which would be perjury – a felony?
  2. If this was truly an honest mistake, Sessions’ memory would surely have been jogged during the following weeks when President Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn made headlines as he resigned for not disclosing his own meetings with the same Russian diplomat. Why, during those subsequent weeks, did Sessions not correct the record? Why did he wait for Department of Justice officials to disclose their knowledge of the Sessions-Kislyak conversations?
  3. During his hearing to become US Attorney General (the US government’s chief law enforcement officer) if Sessions did knowingly lie to Congress, or knowingly continued to conceal the truth once he realized his omission, should he nonetheless continue on as Attorney General, or does his unethical and potentially criminal conduct warrant his resignation?
  4. What did Sessions and Kislyak discuss in their conversations? During the Republican National Convention, the Trump Campaign’s only contribution to the Republican Party Platform was a softening of US policy toward Russia over Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Did the Kislyak-Sessions discussion at the Convention touch on that topic at all? In what way? If they discussed that, or the Trump Campaign, or policy ideas for a Trump Presidency, that is worrisome and unethical at best and requires intense scrutiny. If they discussed anything related to Hillary Clinton’s e-mails or Russia’s desire/efforts to sabotage her Campaign, that could potentially call into question the legitimacy of the entire Trump Presidency, because it could possibly show coordination between Russia’s actions and the Trump Campaign. It would also warrant even closer scrutiny of contacts that others in Trump’s orbit had with Russians, and could lead to criminal charges.
  5. What safeguards will the Department of Justice have in place to ensure that the Trump Administration is not tipped off about what evidence has been compiled in the investigation into connections between the Trump Campaign and Russia or between the Trump Administration and Russia?

Sessions is scheduled to return to the Senate to testify further on Monday 3/6 in order to clarify his earlier answers. Hopefully questions similar to those above will be asked to shed more light on the situation.

– rob rünt