The Trump Crime Family Strikes Again

 

New reporting from the New York Times tonight:

 

Trump Ordered Officials to Give Jared Kushner a Security Clearance

 
 
 
Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, received a top-secret security clearance despite concerns from intelligence officials.

 

WASHINGTON — President Trump ordered his chief of staff to grant his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, a top-secret security clearance last year, overruling concerns flagged by intelligence officials and the White House’s top lawyer, four people briefed on the matter said.

Mr. Trump’s decision in May so troubled senior administration officials that at least one, the White House chief of staff at the time, John F. Kelly, wrote a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been “ordered” to give Mr. Kushner the top-secret clearance.

The White House counsel at the time, Donald F. McGahn II, also wrote an internal memo outlining the concerns that had been raised about Mr. Kushner — including by the C.I.A. — and how Mr. McGahn had recommended that he not be given a top-secret clearance.

The disclosure of the memos contradicts statements made by the president, who told The New York Times in January in an Oval Office interview that he had no role in his son-in-law receiving his clearance.

Mr. Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe D. Lowell, also said that at the time the clearance was granted last year that his client went through a standard process. Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter and Mr. Kushner’s wife, said the same thing three weeks ago.

Asked on Thursday about the memos contradicting the president’s account, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said, “We don’t comment on security clearances.”

Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Mr. Lowell, said on Thursday: “In 2018, White House and security clearance officials affirmed that Mr. Kushner’s security clearance was handled in the regular process with no pressure from anyone. That was conveyed to the media at the time, and new stories, if accurate, do not change what was affirmed at the time.”

The decision last year to grant Mr. Kushner a top-secret clearance upgraded him from earlier temporary and interim status. He never received a higher-level designation that would have given him access to need-to-know intelligence known as sensitive compartmented information.

It is not known precisely what factors led to the problems with Mr. Kushner’s security clearance. Officials had raised questions about his own and his family’s real estate business’s ties to foreign governments and investors, and about initially unreported contacts he had with foreigners. The issue also generated criticism of Mr. Trump for having two family members serve in official capacities in the West Wing.

Mr. Kushner has spent this week abroad working on a Middle East peace plan. Among his meetings was one with Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

While the president has the legal authority to grant a clearance, in most cases, the White House’s personnel security office makes a determination about whether to grant one after the F.B.I. has conducted a background check. If there is a dispute in the personnel security office about how to move forward — a rare occurrence — the White House counsel makes the decision. In highly unusual cases, the president weighs in and grants one himself.

In Mr. Kushner’s case, personnel division officials were divided about whether to grant him a top-secret clearance.

In May 2018, the White House Counsel’s Office, which at the time was led by Mr. McGahn, recommended to Mr. Trump that Mr. Kushner not be given a clearance at that level. But the next day, Mr. Trump ordered Mr. Kelly to grant it to Mr. Kushner anyway, the people familiar with the events said.

The question of Mr. Kushner’s access to intelligence was a flash point almost from the beginning of the administration. The initial background check into Mr. Kushner dragged on for more than a year, creating a distraction for the White House, which struggled to explain why one of the people closest to the president had yet to be given the proper approval to be trusted with the country’s most sensitive information.

 
John F. Kelly, while he was White House chief of staff, kept contemporaneous documentation about Mr. Trump’s handling of Mr. Kushner’s security clearance, people briefed on the matter said.

The full scope of intelligence officials’ concerns about Mr. Kushner is not known. But the clearance had been held up in part over questions from the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. about his foreign and business contacts, including those related to Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, according to multiple people familiar with the events.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Kushner was part of a group that met with a Russian lawyer who went to Trump Tower claiming to have political “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. And during the presidential transition, Mr. Kushner had a meeting with the Russian ambassador at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak, and the head of a Russian state-owned bank. When he applied for a security clearance, he did not reveal those meetings.

He later made several amendments to that section of his application, known as an SF86. His aides at the time insisted he had omitted those meetings inadvertently.

Mr. Kushner initially operated with a provisional clearance as his background check proceeded.

In an entry to Mr. Kushner’s personnel file on Sept. 15, 2017, the head of the personnel security division, Carl Kline, wrote, “Per conversation with WH Counsel the clearance was changed to interim Top Secret until we can confirm that the DOJ or someone else actually granted a final clearance. This action is out of an abundance of caution because the background investigation has not been completed.”

In a statement to The Times when Mr. Kushner received the clearance last year, Mr. Lowell said that “his application was properly submitted, reviewed by numerous career officials and underwent the normal process.”

During a review of security clearances in February 2018 that was prompted by the controversy surrounding Rob Porter, then the White House staff secretary, who had been accused of domestic abuse, Mr. Kushner’s clearance was downgraded from interim top secret to secret, limiting his access to classified information. At the time, Mr. Kelly wrote a five-page memo, revoking temporary clearances that had been in place since June 1, 2017.

That affected both Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump, who told friends and advisers that they believed that Mr. Kelly and Mr. McGahn were targeting them for petty reasons instead of legitimate concerns flagged by officials.

Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump both complained to the president about the situation, current and former administration officials said. In Mr. Kushner’s case, Mr. Trump would often turn to other aides and say in frustration, “Why isn’t this getting done?” according to a former administration official. On at least one occasion, the president asked another senior official if the person could sort out the issue. That official said no, according to this account.

Mr. Kelly did not believe it was appropriate to overrule the security clearance process and had brushed aside or avoided dealing with Mr. Kushner’s requests, a former administration official said. Mr. Kelly did not respond to a request for comment.

House Democrats are in the early stages of an investigation into how several Trump administration officials obtained clearances, including Mr. Kushner.

Mr. Trump’s precise language to Mr. Kelly about Mr. Kushner’s clearance in their direct conversation remains unclear. Two of the people familiar with Mr. Trump’s discussions with Mr. Kelly said that there might be different interpretations of what the president said. But Mr. Kelly believed it was an order, according to two people familiar with his thinking.

And Mr. Trump was definitive in his statements to The Times in the January interview.

“I was never involved with the security” clearances for Mr. Kushner, the president said. “I know that there was issues back and forth about security for numerous people, actually. But I don’t want to get involved in that stuff.”

A recent report by NBC revealed that Mr. Kline had overruled two career security specialists who had rejected Mr. Kushner’s application based on the F.B.I.’s concerns. A senior administration official confirmed the details laid out in the NBC report.

Mr. Kline was acting on the directive sent down by the president, one of the people familiar with the matter said.

The day that Mr. Lowell described Mr. Kushner’s process as having gone through normal routes, aides to Mr. Kushner had asked White House officials to deliver a statement from Mr. Kelly supporting what Mr. Lowell had said. But Mr. Kelly refused to do so, according to a person with knowledge of the events

Lindsey Graham Unmasked

If you didn’t already hate Lindsey Graham, you will now:

Monday, February 25, 2019

by Heather Digby Parton

This profile of Lindsay Graham in the New York Times Magazine doesn’t fully answer all the questions people have about why he’s decided to ecstatically lick Trump’s boots and attack Democrats like a feral dog but it does exlpain some of it. It starts off with a political appearance in South Carolina where he gives Trump a run for his money in sheer, right wing viciousness. Then it wonders how he got there:

What did happen to Lindsey Graham? I raised the question directly to him the following afternoon in his Senate office in Washington. Graham was collapsed behind a cluttered desk, sipping a Coke Zero and complaining of exhaustion.

“Well, O.K., from my point of view, if you know anything about me, it’d be odd not to do this,” he said.

I asked what “this” was. “ ‘This,’ ” Graham said, “is to try to be relevant.” Politics, he explained, was the art of what works and what brings desired outcomes. “I’ve got an opportunity up here working with the president to get some really good outcomes for the country,” he told me.

An outcome of particular interest to Graham, at the moment, is getting re-elected to a fourth Senate term in South Carolina, where Trump owns commanding approval numbers, especially among the hard-core Republicans who in the past questioned Graham’s devotion to their conservative cause. Sure, Graham allowed, you might emphasize some things more than others when you’re trying to appeal to the party base. “You just showcase your issues, right?” he said. During his last re-election campaign, in 2014, Graham asserted his base bona fides by railing against President Barack Obama’s White House “scumbags” and warning that “the world is literally about to blow up.” He has always been conservative, he emphasized. “But in our business, you’re not defined by the 80 percent agreement. You’re defined by the 20 percent” that the base might object to. (His relatively liberal position on immigration once led Rush Limbaugh to dub him “Lindsey Grahamnesty.”)

Graham reminded me that when McCain was facing re-election in 2010, he turned himself into “the most conservative member of the U.S. Senate.” That was the race in which McCain claimed that he never embraced the “maverick” label, and people were asking, “What happened to John McCain?” Graham chuckled at the memory.

In acknowledging this, Graham was speaking to me as a fellow creature of Washington, fully versed in the election-year “showcasing” he is now engaged in — one of the “people who are so smart” that he derided the day before. “If you don’t want to get re-elected, you’re in the wrong business,” he said.

Graham would shortly head over to the Capitol for Trump’s State of the Union address, about which the president called him a few hours earlier, seeking input. “Should I go conciliatory or to-hell-with-it?” Trump asked him, according to Graham. “What kind of tone should I take?” In recounting this latest exchange, Graham shook his head and half shrugged. “I have never been called this much by a president in my life,” he told me. His tone reflected a mixture of amazement and amusement, with perhaps a dash of awe. “It’s weird, and it’s flattering, and it creates some opportunity. It also creates some pressure.”
[…]
The price of relevance, for Graham, has been a willingness to defend the president on television and speak out on issues that he knows might be of minor consequence in the scheme of things but clearly animate Trump. In recent weeks, for instance, Graham — in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — has demanded a briefing on such Fox News snack food as whether the F.B.I. acted with too heavy a hand in its arrest of the longtime Trump political adviser Roger Stone. Graham also vowed to investigate a claim made by Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director of the F.B.I., that top Department of Justice officials had discussed circumstances in which Trump could be removed from office via the 25th Amendment. “An administrative coup,” Graham said ominously on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

When I asked Graham whether he ever worried about being seen as a toady to Trump, his voice assumed a slightly clipped edge. “No, here’s what I worry about,” he told me. “That we’re going to get it wrong in Syria and Afghanistan. I worry more about the policy stuff. And I have more influence than I’ve ever had.”

Graham credits his relationship with Trump with the president’s slowing down his decision to withdraw from Syria. He noted that Trump asked him whether the United States should use force in Venezuela. Graham said that he preached caution and that Trump became exasperated, or pretended to be. “He said to me, ‘You want to invade everywhere except where I want to invade,’ ” Graham said, laughing. And Trump, he insisted, knew where he stood on the special counsel’s Russia investigation. “I told the president that if you colluded with the Russians, if your campaign sat down and worked with foreign intelligence operatives to manipulate the results of the election, that’d be the end of us, ” Graham said.


Notice that his criteria is extremely narrow — they had to sit down and work with foreign intelligence operatives to manipulate the results of the election. I’m guess that’s unlikely so Lindsay won’t be out there condemning the president for what he knows very well that he did.

But it’s worth it because Trump likes to call him:

Graham says he has achieved graduating levels of relevance with Trump. “I went from, ‘O.K., he’s president’ to ‘How can I get to be in his orbit?’ ”— “orbit” is another favorite Graham word — “to ‘How can I have a say in what’s going to happen today, tomorrow and next week?’ ” he told me.

I asked Graham if he considered himself part of the wider Trump orbit or the more select one. “Well, I’m getting into the smaller orbit now,” he said. I asked him who else was in that precinct of the Trump solar system. He mentioned Melania, Ivanka, Jared. “He’s got a bunch of old friends that still have a say, New York types,” Graham said. “But the circle is small.”

Trump is an entertainer and an agitator, which Graham says he can relate to, in a way. “The point with Trump is, he’s in on the joke,” Graham said. I asked Graham if he is in on the joke, too. “Oh, 100 percent, 100 percent.” He laughed. “Oh, people have no idea.” I asked him to explain the joke to me. “If you could go to dinner with us. … ” he said, shaking his head.

At the end of our second interview, in mid-February, I asked Graham if he trusted Trump. Graham’s eyes seemed to bulge for a split second. He sat back in his chair and paused. “That’s a good question,” he told me.

He paused some more. “Do I trust him?” he said at last. “I trust the president to want to be successful,” he said. The president’s mercurialness, he acknowledged, could be a problem. “He will change his mind in a New York minute,” Graham said. “You never know where he’ll be. I mean, I woke up one day, and we’re pulling out of Syria.”

But to this point, he and Trump have been able to work together. “He’s asked me to do some things, and I’ve asked him to do some things in return,” Graham said. Then, as if looking wistfully over his shoulder at his old maverick-sidekick days, he offered, “There’s sort of a Don Quixote aspect to this.” It was an odd thing for a man who was espousing the median Republican-circa-2019 position to say.

“At the intersection of all this theater is that he wants to be a successful president,” Graham said of Trump, “and I want him to be successful under terms that I think are good for the country.” Understood, but unspoken, was that these terms would also be good for Lindsey Graham.


Well, yeah. But the truth is that it’s only the latter. Nothing Trump does is good for the country on anyone’s terms and Graham knows it.

This is about Huckleberry being a star. But if he thinks Trump actually cares about what he thinks, he’s barking up the wrong tree.

I would just note this little “joke”

He noted that Trump asked him whether the United States should use force in Venezuela. Graham said that he preached caution and that Trump became exasperated, or pretended to be. “He said to me, ‘You want to invade everywhere except where I want to invade,’ ” Graham said, laughing.


Awww. They are both inveterate warmongers but they just want to kill different people. How nice.

A Warning From Sen. Chris Murphy

  Things seem to be taking a turn for the worse in Venezuela.   Venezuelan opposition lawmaker ‘POISONED’ at Colombian border – ‘It’s a GRAVE situation’   According to BNO news, Freddy Superlano was poisoned at a restaurant in Cucuta, a city near the country’s border with Venezuela. His party, which is led by Juan…

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Marcy Wheeler Thinks it’s True

She has been right on just about everything regarding Trump/Russia/Muller. One of the few experts on this topic. She doesn’t post clickbait and doesn’t make gutsy predictions. Wheeler is calm, measured, knowledgeable. Her record on all-things-Muller has been impeccable.

We almost certainly are NOT getting The Mueller Report next week. But we are likely to get a pretty damning report about “collusion” this week.

A report talking about “collusion” is coming this week

But maybe NBC’s sources are speaking metaphorically, and mean something else that isn’t the conclusory report but that will more closely resemble what everyone thinks of when they talk about The Report.

That’s likely to happen, but if it does, it’ll just be a partial report.

That’s because both Mueller and the defense have to submit a sentencing memo in Paul Manafort’s DC case Friday. As I noted back in November when Mueller’s prosecutors declared Manafort to have breached his plea agreement, this sentencing memo presents an opportunity for Mueller to “report” what they’ve found — at least with respect to all the criminal actions they know Manafort committed, including those he lied about while he was supposed to be cooperating — without anyone at DOJ or the White House suppressing the most damning bits. DOJ won’t be able to weigh in because a sentencing memo is not a major action requiring an urgent memo to the Attorney General. And the White House will get no advance warning because Big Dick Toilet Salesman Matt Whitaker is no longer in the reporting chain.

So, as noted, Mueller will have an opportunity to lay out:

  1. The details of Manafort’s sleazy influence peddling, including his modus operandi of projecting his own client’s corruption onto his opponents
  2. The fact that Manafort already pled guilty to conspiring with a suspected Russian intelligence asset
  3. The details about how Manafort — ostensibly working for “free” — got paid in 2016, in part via kickbacks from a Super PAC that violated campaign finance law, possibly in part by Tom Barrack who was using Manafort and Trump as a loss-leader to Middle Eastern graft, and in part by deferred payments or debt relief from Russian-backed oligarchs
  4. Manafort’s role and understanding of the June 9 meeting, which is a prelude of sorts to the August 2 one
  5. The dates and substance of Manafort’s ongoing communications with suspected Russian intelligence asset Konstantin Kilimnik, including the reasons why Manafort shared highly detailed polling data on August 2, 2016 that he knew would be passed on to his paymasters who just happened to be (in the case of Oleg Deripaska) a central player in the election year operation
  6. The ongoing efforts to win Russia relief from the American Ukrainian-related sanctions by pushing a “peace” plan that would effectively give Russia everything it wants
  7. Manafort’s ongoing discussions with Trump and the Administration, up to and including discussions laying out how if Manafort remains silent about items two through six, Trump will pardon him

Because those items are all within the substance of the crimes Manafort pled guilty to or lied about during his failed cooperation, they’re all squarely within the legitimate content of a sentencing memo. And we should expect the sentencing memo in DC to be at least as detailed as the EDVA one; I expect it, like the EDVA one and like Manafort’s plea deal, will be accompanied by exhibits such as the EDVA one showing that Manafort had bank accounts to the tune of $25,704,669.72 for which suspected Russian intelligence asset Konstantin Kilimnik was listed as a beneficial owner in 2012. Heck, we might even get to see the polling data Manafort shared, knowing it was going to Russia, which was an exhibit to Manafort’s breach determination.

The only thing limiting how much detail we’ll get about these things (as well as about how Manafort served as a secret agent of Russian backed Ukrainian oligarchs for years) is the ongoing sensitivities of the material, whether because it’s grand jury testimony, SIGINT collection, or a secret Mueller intends to spring on other defendants down the road.

It’s the latter point that will be most telling. As I noted, thus far, the silences about Manafort’s cooperation are — amazingly — even more provocative than the snippets we learned via the breach determination. We’ll likely get a read on Friday whether Mueller has ongoing equities that would lead him to want to keep these details secret. And the only thing that would lead Mueller to keep details of the conspiracy secret is if he plans to charge it in an overarching conspiracy indictment.

We may also get information, however, that will make it far more difficult for Trump to pardon Manafort.

So, yeah, there’s a report coming out this week. But it’s not The Report.

Any overarching conspiracy indictment will not be coming this week

It’s possible Mueller is close to charging an overarching conspiracy indictment, laying out how Trump and his spawn entered into a quid quo pro with various representatives of the Russian government, getting dirt on Hillary and either a Trump Tower or maybe a bailout for the very same building in which Manafort met with Konstantin Kilimnik on August 2, 2016. In exchange for all that, Trump agreed to — and took steps to deliver on, with some success in the case of election plot participant Deripaska — reversing the sanctions that were such a headache to Russia’s oligarchs.

Such an indictment, if Mueller ever charges it, will look like what Trump opponents would like The Report to look like. In addition to naming Don Jr and Jared Kushner and Trump Organization and a bunch of other sleazeballs, it would also describe the actions of Individual-1 in adequate detail to launch an impeachment proceeding.

But that indictment, if Mueller ever charges it, won’t be coming on Friday or Monday, as Williams predicts, because it likely requires whatever it is Mueller is trying to parallel construct from that foreign-owned company. And even if SCOTUS denies its appeal today, it’s unlikely that evidence will be in hand in time for a Friday indictment.

Mueller could ensure a report gets delivered to Jerry Nadler next week … but that’s unlikely

There’s one other possibility that would make Williams’ prediction true: if Mueller deliberately triggered the one other way to deliver a report, by asking to take an action William Barr is unlikely to approve, and if Mueller was willing to close up shop as a result, then a report would go to Congress and — if Barr thought it in the public interest — to the public.

Upon conclusion of the Special Counsels investigation, including, to the extent consistent with applicable law, a description and explanation of instances (if any) in which the Attorney General concluded that a proposed action by a Special Counsel was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices that it should not be pursued.

[snip]

The Attorney General may determine that public release of these reports would be in the public interest, to the extent that release would comply with applicable legal restrictions.

The only thing that Mueller might try to do that Barr would not approve (though who knows? maybe what Mueller has is so egregious Barr will surprise us?) is to indict the President.

I think this is unlikely, for all the reasons the first possibility laid out here is unlikely: that is, Mueller is still waiting on two details he has been chasing for quite some time, and I doubt he’d be willing to forgo that evidence just to trigger a report. It’s also unlikely because Mueller is a DOJ guy, and he’s unlikely to ask to do what he knows OLC says he should not do.

Still, it’s hypothetically possible that Mueller believes Trump is such an egregious criminal and national security risk he needs to try to accelerate the process of holding him accountable by stopping his investigation early (perhaps having the DC AUSAs named on the Miller and Mystery Appellant challenges take over those pursuits) and asking to indict the President.

But if that’s what Williams is reporting, he sure as hell better get more clarity about that fact, because, boy would it be news.

All of which is the lesson of this post: If you’re being told — or telling others — that Mueller’s report is imminent, then you’re either being told very very big news, or bullshit. Do yourself and us a favor of learning the base level regulations to understand which it is.

She went on to write a follow-up:

The Significance of the Rod Rosenstein / William Barr Window

As I noted here, CNN has a report that not only backs NBC’s report, but provides flesh to the logic that Mueller is providing his report to DOJ next week. That would mean several things I said in this report are incorrect — mostly that Mueller would wait until the Andrew Miller and Mystery Appellant challenges are resolved (remember, as I noted, he knows what both of those challenges will get him).

I don’t know what to expect next week. I have suspicions but won’t share them because I don’t want people to treat my suspicions with any more weight than suspicions deserve, which is not much.

I do, however, want to talk about the timing.

This is happening in the window of time when Rod Rosenstein is still around and — because William Barr has presumably not been through an ethics review on the investigation — presumably back in charge of sole day-to-day supervision of the investigation. But it is happening after Barr has been confirmed, and so any problems with the investigation that might stem from having an inferior officer (an unconfirmed hack like the Big Dick Toilet Salesman) supervising Mueller are gone.

I’m fairly certain the concerns about Barr coming in and forcing Mueller to finish this are misplaced. I say that, in part, because Mueller seemed to be preparing for this timing. I say it, too, because Barr is too close to Mueller to do that to him.

That says that Mueller is choosing this timing (and choosing not to wait for the appeals to be done). Whatever reason dictates this timing, by doing it in this window, Mueller can ensure the legitimacy of what happens, both legally (because Barr will be in place) and politically (because it will be clear Rosenstein presided over it).

So whatever comes next week, people on both sides should accept that it is the outcome of the investigation that Mueller deemed appropriate.

Rectal Bern

 

May 26, 2016: Donald Trump wins the support of 1,238 delegates – one more than he needs to clinch the Republican nomination.

June 6, 2016: Hillary Clinton wins the support of 2,383 delegates – one more than necessary to clinch the Democratic nomination.

June 6, 2016: Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs blames the media’s “rush to judgement” for reporting that Hillary cleared the threshold.

“Secretary Clinton does not have and will not have the requisite number of pledged delegates to secure the nomination. She will be dependent on superdelegates who do not vote until July 25 and who can change their minds between now and then,” he wrote.

“Our job from now until the convention is to convince those superdelegates that Bernie is by far the strongest candidate against Donald Trump,” he added.

July 12, 2016: Bernie Sanders endorses Hillary Clinton.

Finally.

Let’s review: Trump clinches the GOP nomination and there is only one other person who can prevent him from becoming the most powerful elected official in the world – Hillary Clinton.

Bernie Sanders, like everyone else, knows how much of a disaster for the country and the world Trump would be. Instead of coming out and endorsing the Democratic nominee, he waits over a month to join forces to defeat a know-nothing, cretin whose claim to fame is bankrupting casinos, giving interviews to Howard Stern, and being the center of a reality show that made him seem like a smart businessman.

We all know how that ended.

So here we are, in February of 2019 – two-plus years into a national nightmare – and Sanders has decided to run for the Democratic nomination AGAIN. The Democratic Party, which Sanders left AGAIN after the election, has moved considerably to the left. It has charismatic young stars like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Hakeem Jeffries, Ted Leiu, Joaquin Castro, Pete Buttigieg, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Stacey Abrams, and many more are pushing for progressive policies in every aspect of American life.

The Left is rising.

The Resistance is being led by women. Women rocked the midterms and helped to send more female representatives to the House than any time in American history. Speaking of American history, 2018 saw Democrats pick up more seats than any time since the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.

Liberals have the chance to choose from dynamic candidates such as Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Andrew Yang, and probably Beto O’Rourke.

Centrists can support Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, or possibly Joe Biden.

At least two of the aforementioned candidates have already been attacked by Bernie’s surrogates from the left: Harris for her time spent as a federal prosecutor.

Look no further than the Guardian’s Nathan Robinson writing a hit piece against Harris for criminally prosecuting parents for their children’s truancy. Imagine that! How dare someone hold parents accountable for not making their children go to school!

And here he is today claiming Sanders is the best choice for Dems in 2020.

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2019/02/there-is-still-only-one-clear-way-to-get-rid-of-trump

Sure, dude. Nominating a geriatric white guy who doesn’t appeal to women or minorities would be suicidal for Dems in 2020. He was the beneficiary of Putin’s army of trolls and bots in 2016 and nothing his votes on Russia-related issues have been downright puzzling since the election.

There’s a reason why Trump went back to his old playbook after Sanders announced his candidacy today: instead of blasting the 77 year-old socialist from lily-white Vermont, Trump reminded Bernie supporters that Sanders was treated “unfairly” by Hillary Clinton.

That entire argument is horse shit. Sanders couldn’t beat Hillary Clinton because he lost all three debates and Democrats – you know the people who make up the Democratic Party – found his policy details to be wanting.

The following is an interview he gave to the New York Daily News. I’ll put this as mildly as I can: his answers alternate between outright ignorance and empty platitudes.

The Daily News Editorial Board interviewed Sen. Bernie Sanders, Democratic candidate for President, on April 1 in the offices of the newspaper in downtown Manhattan.

Daily News: We are very well aware of the broad themes of your campaign by now. So we’d like to hone in on some of the more particular issues to get a sense of how your presidency might evolve.

You’ve said that the greed of Wall Street and corporate America is destroying the fabric of our nation. So if we can get particular: For example, in corporate America, Apple happens to be celebrating, today, its 40th birthday. It’s a company that grew from nothing to 115,000 permanent employees. And I’m wondering, is Apple destroying the fabric of America.

 

Bernie Sanders: No, Apple is not destroying the fabric of America. But I do wish they’d be manufacturing some of their devices, here, in the United States rather than in China. And I do wish that they would not be trying to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

Daily News: Okay. Well, would you name, say, three American corporate giants that are destroying the national fabric?

Sanders: JPMorgan Chase, and virtually every other major bank in this country. Let me be very clear, all right? I believe that we can and should move to what Pope Francis calls a moral economy. Right now, there are still millions of people in this country who are suffering the results of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street. And when you have companies like Goldman Sachs and many other major banks reaching settlements with the United States government, as you’re aware, for many billions of dollars, this is an implicit admission that they have engaged in illegal activity.

Daily News: I understand that. I wanted to draw a distinction, though. Because in your speech you mention the financial industry and you focused on corporate America, the greed of Wall Street and corporate America. So I wanted to get a sense of corporate America, as the agent of American destruction.

Sanders: General Electric, good example. General Electric was created in this country by American workers and American consumers. What we have seen over the many years is shutting down of many major plants in this country. Sending jobs to low-wage countries. And General Electric, doing a very good job avoiding the taxes. In fact, in a given year, they pay nothing in taxes. That’s greed. That is greed and that’s selfishness. That is lack of respect for the people of this country.

Daily News: And so how does that destroy the fabric of America?

Sanders: I’ll tell you how it does. If you are a corporation and the only damn thing you are concerned about is your profits. Let’s just give an example of a corporation that’s making money in America, today, but desiring to move to China or to Mexico to make even more money. That is destroying the moral fabric of this country. That is saying that I don’t care that the workers, here have worked for decades. It doesn’t matter to me. The only thing that matters is that I can make a little bit more money. That the dollar is all that is almighty. And I think that is the moral fabric. To me, what moral is, I’ve got to be concerned about you. You’ve got to be concerned about my wife. That’s moral to me. That’s what I believe in. And if the only thing that matters to you is making an extra buck, you don’t care about my family, I think that’s immoral. And I think what corporate America has shown us in the last number of years, what Wall Street has shown us, the only thing that matters is their profits and their money. And the hell with the rest of the people of this country.

Daily News: Okay. Do you weigh in the balance at all, the fact that a company that’s moving jobs overseas, that the competitive climate may be such that they feel that they must, to compete in the United States?

Sanders: No. I think, firstly, we have to appreciate these guys wrote the rules in the first place. So they wrote the trade agreements. And then, yes, I do understand you can make more profits by paying people in Mexico, or China, or Vietnam pennies an hour, I do understand that. But I believe that people have…and, by the way, I’m not anti-trade. We live in a global economy, we need trade. But the trade policies that we have allowed to occur, that were written by corporate America have been disastrous for American workers. So I think we need trade. But I think it should be based on fair trade policies. No, I don’t think it is appropriate for trade policies to say that you can move to a country where wages are abysmal, where there are no environmental regulations, where workers can’t form unions. That’s not the kind of trade agreement that I will support.

Daily News: So how would you stop that?

Sanders: I will stop it by renegotiating all of the trade agreements that we have. And by establishing principles that says that what fair trade is about is you are going to take into consideration the wages being paid to workers in other countries. And the environmental standards that exist.

Daily News: So you’re talking NAFTA. You’re talking the Pacific. You’re talking all of it.

Sanders: Yeah. Look, these trade agreements, let’s be frank. Now, people may disagree with me, all right. My understanding, talking to many economists is, NAFTA, PNTR with China, other trade agreements have cost this country millions of jobs. You go to Flint, Michigan, today. And everyone looks at Flint, Michigan today because they’re seeing children being poisoned by the water systems. What people forget is that in the 1960s, Flint, Michigan was one of the wealthiest cities in America. Very prosperous city, because you had GM manufacturing plants there. That city is a disaster right now. And that is not just Flint, Michigan. It is cities all over this country have lost their tax base. They’ve lost their decent-paying jobs because of disastrous trade policies.

Daily News: Another one of your potential opponents has a very similar sounding answer to, or solution to, the trade situation — and that’s Donald Trump. He also says that, although he speaks with much more blunt language and says, and with few specifics, “Bad deals. Terrible deals. I’ll make them good deals.”

So in that sense I hear whispers of that same sentiment. How is your take on that issue different than his?

Sanders: Well, if he thinks they’re bad trade deals, I agree with him. They are bad trade deals. But we have some specificity and it isn’t just us going around denouncing bad trade. In other words, I do believe in trade. But it has to be based on principles that are fair. So if you are in Vietnam, where the minimum wage is 65¢ an hour, or you’re in Malaysia, where many of the workers are indentured servants because their passports are taken away when they come into this country and are working in slave-like conditions, no, I’m not going to have American workers “competing” against you under those conditions. So you have to have standards. And what fair trade means to say that it is fair. It is roughly equivalent to the wages and environmental standards in the United States.

Daily News: At what point in history, in the recent history of the United States, do you think the balance began to tip against the American worker?

Sanders: In the early ’70s. I think it was in the late ’60s/early ’70s. I think Lyndon Johnson’s, maybe even earlier than that, the victory over Goldwater, in ’64 got the ruling class in this country very nervous. And I think there became a very organized effort, on the part of corporate America, and very powerful forces, to say, “Look, we are in trouble. And we’re going to have to fight back.” And I think what you have seen in a number of ways, trade being one way, attacks on trade unions being another way, to really reestablish and strengthen the power of the few against the many.

Daily News: And do you trace all of that, do you ascribe, are those the forces in your mind that have led to wage stagnation since then?

Sanders: I think there’s been a very concerted effort to take on trade unions. No question about that. You’re seeing that every day, or in the last few years, in Wisconsin, what the governor there, Scott Walker, is about. That is a perfect metaphor for what I think corporate America…much, I’m not going to say all of, but much of corporate America has wanted to privatize everything that can be privatized. To destroy trade unions. To make it harder for people to get health care. To give tax breaks to the very wealthiest people in this country. Yeah, I think that has been a very concerted effort.

Daily News: Now, switching to the financial sector, to Wall Street. Speaking broadly, you said that within the first 100 days of your administration you’d be drawing up…your Treasury Department would be drawing up a too-big-to-fail list. Would you expect that that’s essentially the list that already exists under Dodd-Frank? Under the Financial Stability Oversight Council?

Sanders: Yeah. I mean these are the largest financial institutions in the world….

Daily News: And then, you further said that you expect to break them up within the first year of your administration. What authority do you have to do that? And how would that work? How would you break up JPMorgan Chase?

Sanders: Well, by the way, the idea of breaking up these banks is not an original idea. It’s an idea that some conservatives have also agreed to.

You’ve got head of, I think it’s, the Kansas City Fed, some pretty conservative guys, who understands. Let’s talk about the merit of the issue, and then talk about how we get there.

Right now, what you have are two factors. We bailed out Wall Street because the banks are too big to fail, correct? It turns out, that three out of the four largest banks are bigger today than they were when we bailed them out, when they were too-big-to-fail. That’s number one.

Number two, if you look at the six largest financial institutions of this country, their assets somewhere around $10 trillion. That is equivalent to 58% of the GDP of America. They issue two-thirds of the credit cards in this country, and about one-third of the mortgages. That is a lot of power.

And I think that if somebody, like if Teddy Roosevelt were alive today, he would look at that. Forgetting even the risk element, the bailout element, and just look at the kind of financial power that these guys have, would say that is too much power.

Daily News: Okay. Well, let’s assume that you’re correct on that point. How do you go about doing it?

Sanders: How you go about doing it is having legislation passed, or giving the authority to the secretary of treasury to determine, under Dodd-Frank, that these banks are a danger to the economy over the problem of too-big-to-fail.

Daily News: But do you think that the Fed, now, has that authority?

Sanders: Well, I don’t know if the Fed has it. But I think the administration can have it.

Daily News: How? How does a President turn to JPMorgan Chase, or have the Treasury turn to any of those banks and say, “Now you must do X, Y and Z?”

Sanders: Well, you do have authority under the Dodd-Frank legislation to do that, make that determination.

Daily News: You do, just by Federal Reserve fiat, you do?

Sanders: Yeah. Well, I believe you do.

Daily News: So if you look forward, a year, maybe two years, right now you have…JPMorgan has 241,000 employees. About 20,000 of them in New York. $192 billion in net assets. What happens? What do you foresee? What is JPMorgan in year two of…

Sanders: What I foresee is a stronger national economy. And, in fact, a stronger economy in New York State, as well. What I foresee is a financial system which actually makes affordable loans to small and medium-size businesses. Does not live as an island onto themselves concerned about their own profits. And, in fact, creating incredibly complicated financial tools, which have led us into the worst economic recession in the modern history of the United States.

Daily News: I get that point. I’m just looking at the method because, actions have reactions, right? There are pluses and minuses. So, if you push here, you may get an unintended consequence that you don’t understand. So, what I’m asking is, how can we understand? If you look at JPMorgan just as an example, or you can do Citibank, or Bank of America. What would it be? What would that institution be? Would there be a consumer bank? Where would the investing go?

Sanders: I’m not running JPMorgan Chase or Citibank.

Daily News: No. But you’d be breaking it up.

Sanders: That’s right. And that is their decision as to what they want to do and how they want to reconfigure themselves. That’s not my decision. All I am saying is that I do not want to see this country be in a position where it was in 2008, where we have to bail them out. And, in addition, I oppose that kind of concentration of ownership entirely.

You’re asking a question, which is a fair question. But let me just take your question and take it to another issue. Alright? It would be fair for you to say, “Well, Bernie, you got on there that you are strongly concerned about climate change and that we have to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel. What happens to the people in the fossil fuel industry?”

That’s a fair question. But the other part of that is if we do not address that issue the planet we’re gonna leave your kids and your grandchildren may not be a particularly healthy or habitable one. So I can’t say, if you’re saying that we’re going to break up the banks, will it have a negative consequence on some people? I suspect that it will. Will it have a positive impact on the economy in general? Yes, I think it will.

Daily News: Well, it does depend on how you do it, I believe. And, I’m a little bit confused because just a few minutes ago you said the U.S. President would have authority to order…

Sanders: No, I did not say we would order. I did not say that we would order. The President is not a dictator.

Daily News: Okay. You would then leave it to JPMorgan Chase or the others to figure out how to break it, themselves up. I’m not quite…

Sanders: You would determine is that, if a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. And then you have the secretary of treasury and some people who know a lot about this, making that determination. If the determination is that Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan Chase is too big to fail, yes, they will be broken up.

Daily News: Okay. You saw, I guess, what happened with Metropolitan Life. There was an attempt to bring them under the financial regulatory scheme, and the court said no. And what does that presage for your program?

Sanders: It’s something I have not studied, honestly, the legal implications of that.

Daily News: Okay. Staying with Wall Street, you’ve pointed out, that “not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for causing the near collapse of our entire economy.” Why was that? Why did that happen? Why was there no prosecution?

Sanders: I would suspect that the answer that some would give you is that while what they did was horrific, and greedy and had a huge impact on our economy, that some suggest that…that those activities were not illegal. I disagree. And I think an aggressive attorney general would have found illegal activity.

Daily News: So do you think that President Obama’s Justice Department essentially was either in the tank or not as…

Sanders: No, I wouldn’t say they were in the tank. I’m saying, a Sanders administration would have a much more aggressive attorney general looking at all of the legal implications. All I can tell you is that if you have Goldman Sachs paying a settlement fee of $5 billion, other banks paying a larger fee, I think most Americans think, “Well, why do they pay $5 billion?” Not because they’re heck of a nice guys who want to pay $5 billion. Something was wrong there. And if something was wrong, I think they were illegal activities.

Daily News: Okay. But do you have a sense that there is a particular statute or statutes that a prosecutor could have or should have invoked to bring indictments?

Sanders: I suspect that there are. Yes.

Daily News: You believe that? But do you know?

Sanders: I believe that that is the case. Do I have them in front of me, now, legal statutes? No, I don’t. But if I would…yeah, that’s what I believe, yes. When a company pays a $5 billion fine for doing something that’s illegal, yeah, I think we can bring charges against the executives.

Daily News: I’m only pressing because you’ve made it such a central part of your campaign. And I wanted to know what the mechanism would be to accomplish it.

Sanders: Let me be very clear about this. Alright? Let me repeat what I have said. Maybe you’ve got a quote there. I do believe that, to a significant degree, the business model of Wall Street is fraud.

And you asked me, you started this discussion off appropriately enough about when I talk about morality. When I talk about it, that’s what I think. I think when you have the most powerful financial institutions in this country, whose assets are equivalent to 58% of the GDP of this country, who day after day engage in fraudulent activity, that sets a tone.

That sets a tone for some 10-year-old kid in this country who says, “Look, these people are getting away from it. They’re lying. They’re cheating. Why can’t I do that?”

Daily News: What kind of fraudulent activity are you referring to when you say that?

Sanders: What kind of fraudulent activity? Fraudulent activity that brought this country into the worst economic decline in its history by selling packages of fraudulent, fraudulent, worthless subprime mortgages. How’s that for a start?

Selling products to people who you knew could not repay them. Lying to people without allowing them to know that in a year, their interest rates would be off the charts. They would not repay that. Bundling these things. Putting them into packages with good mortgages. That’s fraudulent activity.

Daily News: All right. You say also that the big financial institutions and the wealthy have rigged the game against regular Americans. And you’ve also criticized Hillary Clinton for saying, “We just need to impose a few more fees and regulations on the finance industry.”

Sanders: Yep.

Daily News: You’ve also pointed out her financial ties, if you will, to Wall Street. So given all of that, is Secretary Clinton trustworthy on this issue?

Sanders: Let me get back to your first point, about a rigged economy, which is absolutely what I have said. Thank you. You got my quotes right.

A rigged economy is about an economy, for example, where the wealthiest family in this country, the Walton family of Walmart, pays its workers wages that are so low that the middle class has to pay more in taxes to provide food stamps and Medicaid for Walmart employees.

A rigged economy is when you have corporations making billions of dollars a year in taxes, billions of dollars a year in profit, and not paying a nickel in taxes. A rigged economy is where you have companies able to shut down as a result of trade agreements that they have written, and move abroad and pay people pennies an hour. That is a rigged economy. A rigged economy is when, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, the top one-tenth of 1% now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%. If that’s not a rigged economy, I don’t know what a rigged economy is.

Now, Hillary Clinton, I’ll let the American…I’ve tried to run a campaign, which is an issue oriented campaign. Where I have expressed my strong disagreement with Secretary Clinton on trade issues. She has supported virtually all of these trade agreements. On how we raise money. I don’t have a super PAC. She has several super PACs, which have raised a lot of money. She has given speeches to Wall Street.

I have not attacked her personally. I will let the American people make a determination about her trustworthiness. That is not an area that I’m comfortable…

Daily News: Okay. Let’s take it out of the character question then. If you look at the facts, a rigged economy, Hillary Clinton saying that she would impose some fees and extra costs, and you finding that insufficient. And you’re also saying that she has been taking money, including personal funds, from financial industry interests. Were she to be elected, do you think that the American people could have the expectation or the trust that she would be aggressive enough against the banks and financial institutions?

Sanders: That’s a very fair question and I think the answer is they will probably have the expectation she would not be aggressive enough. Look, I will not shock anybody in this room in suggesting what everybody in America knows, that Hillary Clinton is the candidate of the Democratic establishment. Alright, you don’t get $15 million from Wall Street by accident. She is an establishment candidate. To my point of view, the terms of her issues and views are far, far preferable to any of the Republican candidates. But I think what she has basically said is, not to expect bold change from her. She talks about incremental change. I think that’s a fair statement, is it not?

Alright, I believe that in the midst of the kinds of crises that we face with a disappearing middle class and massive levels of income and wealth inequality, the only major country on earth not guarantee to healthcare to all people, only major country not to provide paid family and medical leave, it is time to get beyond establishment politics. So to put your question in maybe a simpler way, is she a candidate of the establishment? The answer is, of course she is. That does not make her an evil person. I’m not judging her character…

Daily News: I wasn’t suggesting that.

Sanders: I know that. But that’s all.

Daily News: With a couple of those points in mind, there’s a lot of speculation that if she were to win the nomination, would your followers and your supporters vote for her? Or would their absence in the voting in November help whomever the Republican nominee is? Whether it’s Trump or Cruz.

With that in mind, and this might be putting the cart ahead of the horse a little bit, would you ever consider running as her vice-president?

Sanders: Well, I think you have put the cart ahead of the horse on that one. We’re in this race to win. We think we’ve got a shot to win. And that’s what we’re focusing on right now.

There are millions of people. I am very grateful millions of people are supporting me. How they will vote, I don’t know.

Daily News: But are you concerned? Not to interrupt you, about the specter of there not being enough support rallying around her from your camp?

Sanders: What I am concerned about, what I think would be a disaster for the United States of America, is to see a Donald Trump or some right wing Republican become President of the United States. I will do everything I can to prevent that from happening.

Daily News: Senator, I wanted to ask you. Because you’ve got this enormous support from young people, as President Obama did in 2008 and 2012. And you’re promising a political revolution. But, if nothing changes in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, how are you going to be able to get anything done? I mean the real issue to me seems to be, what happens in the Senate? And what happens in the House of Representatives?

Sanders: Two things. We are talking about a political revolution and we are already delivering on a political revolution well before Election Day. What do I mean by that? What I mean is this country, and what I say in every speech that I give, no President, not me or anybody else, can do it alone. We need to revitalize American democracy, get people engaged in the political process, in a way that we have not seen for a very, very, very long time.

And the reason I say that, getting back to the questions right here, is, in my view, the powers that be in this country — Wall Street, large campaign contributors, corporate America — are so powerful, no President alone could do it.

So what we are seeing already, in this campaign, is, we have received over six million individual campaign contributions. That’s a political revolution, you know that? That’s unprecedented, I believe, at this point in the campaign, in history. We are seeing…and when you talk about young people, please do not think that these are 23-year-olds or younger. In virtually every primary and caucus process, we have won the votes of people 45 years of age or younger. They’re not just kids. And we’re seeing, I think, a revitalization of American democracy.

I never believed that we could have voter turnouts higher than Obama did in 2008. Because I thought his 2008 campaign was one of the great campaigns in American history. And, yet, in at least five states, the voter turnout in this campaign so far has been higher. So we are striking a nerve. People want to get involved in the political process and I’m very proud of that.

Now, to answer your question. You can’t look at politics as a zero-sum game, and say, “Okay…” First of all, if I win, it will almost by definition mean that there will be a very large voter turnout. That’s what I believe. If there is a very large voter turnout, I think the odds are pretty strong Democrats will regain control of the Senate, do better in the House. Can they win the House? I don’t know. But they will do better.

But more importantly, if I win, it will mean that millions of people now want to be involved in the political process in a way that has not previously existed. Every item that I am talking about on my agenda is, I believe, supported by the majority of the people in this country. My major job is to mobilize the American people to demand that Congress listen to them and their needs rather than just the big money interests. That’s how you make change take place. For example, as you know, I’ve talked about the need to make public colleges and universities tuition-free. Do I believe we can deliver on that? Absolutely, because I believe that millions of young people and their parents understand that that’s what we should be doing right now. And I think if Republicans or some Democrats want to vote against it, they will pay a very heavy political price.

Daily News: I want to follow up on something you’ve just said. I have heard very, very little in this campaign, about education. What do you think about that, considering what’s going on in this country? But also very specifically there is a trend in this country of wealthy suburbs being better funded in education than urban districts. In this state, there’s even a lawsuit where the plaintiffs prevailed but nothing changed. What would a Sanders administration…

Sanders: That was the same thing with South Carolina, by the way.

Daily News: Yeah, I know. There’s a few of them, but what would or could a Sanders administration do about this?

Sanders: We could do a lot. Number one, your point is absolutely right and I think there has not been enough discussion. I’ve kind of focused on, at the university level, public colleges, universities being tuition-free only, student debt. But your point is a very important point. There is a major effort for a start to privatize public education in America, which I think is a disastrous idea. I think we have got to adequately fund education. I think in the broader sense what we have got to do is make the American people understand how important education is to our quality of life and to our economy.

So what does that mean? It means that we have to start off with the lowest link. Right now, every psychologist in the world will tell you that zero through four are the most important years of a human being’s life, alright? No debate, really. Our childcare pre-K system is dysfunctional. You’ve got teachers out there or instructors or somebody, I don’t know what their title is, who make less than McDonald’s workers. They have no benefits, they’re making $10 an hour. These are the people we are trusting with the youngest kids in America. That’s insane.

Daily News: Okay, I’d like to switch topics here to…

Sanders: No, let me just say that I think education is an enormously important topic.

Daily News: No question.

Daily News: Can I ask one question?

Daily News: Yes, you may. Of course.

Daily News: Having lived in Vermont quite long myself and a fellow Vermonter.

Sanders: Where’d you live?

Daily News: Well, I have a place in Morristown.

Sanders: Yeah, sure.

Daily News: But when you were mayor of Vermont…

Sanders: Burlington.

Daily News: Mayor of Burlington, I’m sorry. I guess you’re mayor of Vermont too. When you were mayor of Burlington and you revitalized the city to what it is today and you had a lot of opposition when you became mayor. One of the ways you were able to succeed in making all the changes in a very pragmatic way is that you had a lot of grassroots organizations…

Sanders: That’s right.

Daily News: …that were able to put a lot of influence with local government.

Sanders: Yes.

Daily News: Is that possible to be able to do that at the federal level?

Sanders: Absolutely. And that’s something I was just talking in response to your question. Okay. People say to me, “Well, Bernie, how are you going to bring about change?” You’ve got Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan or whatever it is. Are they going to do the things you want? And the answer is no. But the way change happened in Burlington is we had tremendous opposition. By the way, I ran as an independent…it was mostly Democrats who opposed me at that point. We rallied the people in the city, the grassroots organizations. A year later, we won more seats on the city council to give us veto power. And mostly the Democrats understood that the sentiments were changing. They started working with me. That’s what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is millions of people.

For example, let me give you just a concrete example of that, two examples. Right now, I gather yesterday it was, correct me if I’m wrong, the governor and legislature reached an agreement here for $15 an hour minimum wage. Correct?

Daily News: Correct.

Sanders: Okay. Now if you and I were sitting here five years ago and I said, “You know, I think in 2016, there’ll be a $15-an-hour agreement,” you would have said I was crazy, correct?

Daily News: I’m not sure.

Sanders: Many people would have. But what happened? What happened is a grassroots movement developed. Remember, the national minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, it’s a big jump.

Daily News: Yeah, right, it is.

Sanders: Okay. It happened because people stood up and fought back, alright? In the Congress right now, massive effort on the part of Republicans to cut Social Security, and some Democrats. I formed a caucus called the Defending Social Security Caucus. They haven’t cut Social Security. We rallied senior citizens. So to answer your question, that is exactly the model I am talking about.

Daily News: Okay, well, now let me…

Jane Sanders: We doubled voter turnout. I think it’s important to…

Sanders: That’s my spokesman.

Daily News: Good, thank you. So I want to focus you on some international issues, starting with Israel. While speaking forcefully of Israel’s need for security, you said that peace will require an end to attacks of all kinds and recognition of Israel’s right to exist. Just to be clear, does that mean recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state?

Sanders: Of course…that’s the status quo.

Daily News: Okay. You’ve called not just for a halting construction of so-called settlements on the West Bank, but you’ve also called for pulling back settlements, just as Israel did in Gaza. Describe the pullback that you have in mind.

Sanders: Well, that’s the Israeli government’s plan, but I think that right now…I’m not going to run the Israeli government. I’ve got enough problems trying to be a United States senator or maybe President of the United States.

Daily News: No, but if you are President, you will, I assume, become deeply enmeshed in attempting the peace process.

Sanders: I assume that’s something…

Daily News: And where you start on the negotiations is important.

Sanders: Here’s the main point that I want to make. I lived in Israel. I have family in Israel. I believe 100% not only in Israel’s right to exist, a right to exist in peace and security without having to face terrorist attacks. But from the United States’ point of view, I think, long-term, we cannot ignore the reality that you have large numbers of Palestinians who are suffering now, poverty rate off the charts, unemployment off the charts, Gaza remaining a destroyed area. And I think that for long-term peace in that region, and God knows nobody has been successful in that for 60 years, but there are good people on both sides, and Israel is not, cannot, just simply expand when it wants to expand with new settlements. So I think the United States has got to help work with the Palestinian people as well. I think that is the path toward peace.

Daily News: I was talking about something different, though. Expanding settlements is one thing; coming into office as a President who said as a baseline that you want Israel to pull back settlements, that changes the dynamic in the negotiations, and I’m wondering how far and what you want Israel to do in terms of pulling back.

Sanders: Well, again, you’re asking me a very fair question, and if I had some paper in front of me, I would give you a better answer. But I think if the expansion was illegal, moving into territory that was not their territory, I think withdrawal from those territories is appropriate.

Daily News: And who makes the call about illegality, in your mind?

Sanders: Well, I think that’s based on previous treaties and ideas. I happen to think that those expansions were illegal.

Daily News: Okay, so if we were to find Israeli settlements, so-called settlements, in places that has been designated to be illegal, you would expect Israel to be pulling them back?

Sanders: Israel will make their own decisions. They are a government, an independent nation. But to the degree that they want us to have a positive relationship, I think they’re going to have to improve their relationship with the Palestinians.

Daily News: Okay, but I’m just talking about, you’d be getting involved in the negotiations, and this would be setting a benchmark for the negotiations that you would enter the talks, if you do, having conveyed to both parties, including the Palestinians, that there’s a condition here that you want Israel to remove what you described as “illegal settlements.” That’s going to be the baseline. Now, if you’re really…

Sanders: Well, there’s going to be a lot of things on the baselines. There are going to be demands being made of the Palestinian folks as well. When you sit down and negotiate, obviously…

Daily News: And what are those demands?

Sanders: Well, for a start, the absolute condemnation of all terrorist attacks. The idea that in Gaza there were buildings being used to construct missiles and bombs and tunnels, that is not where foreign aid should go. Foreign aid should go to housing and schools, not the development of bombs and missiles.

Daily News: Okay. Now, you have obviously condemned Hamas for indiscriminate rocket attacks and the construction of the military tunnels. But you’ve also criticized Israel for what you described as a disproportionate response.

Sanders: Yep.

Daily News: And I’m going to look at 2014, which was the latest conflict. What should Israel have done instead?

Sanders: You’re asking me now to make not only decisions for the Israeli government but for the Israeli military, and I don’t quite think I’m qualified to make decisions. But I think it is fair to say that the level of attacks against civilian areas…and I do know that the Palestinians, some of them, were using civilian areas to launch missiles. Makes it very difficult. But I think most international observers would say that the attacks against Gaza were indiscriminate and that a lot of innocent people were killed who should not have been killed. Look, we are living, for better or worse, in a world of high technology, whether it’s drones out there that could, you know, take your nose off, and Israel has that technology. And I think there is a general belief that, with that technology, they could have been more discriminate in terms of taking out weapons that were threatening them.

Daily News: Do you support the Palestinian leadership’s attempt to use the International Criminal Court to litigate some of these issues to establish that, in their view, Israel had committed essentially war crimes?

Sanders: No.

Daily News: Why not?

Sanders: Why not?

Daily News: Why not, why it…

Sanders: Look, why don’t I support a million things in the world? I’m just telling you that I happen to believe…anybody help me out here, because I don’t remember the figures, but my recollection is over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza. Does that sound right?

Daily News: I think it’s probably high, but we can look at that.

Sanders: I don’t have it in my number…but I think it’s over 10,000. My understanding is that a whole lot of apartment houses were leveled. Hospitals, I think, were bombed. So yeah, I do believe and I don’t think I’m alone in believing that Israel’s force was more indiscriminate than it should have been.

Daily News: Okay. We will check the facts. I don’t want to venture a number that I’m not sure on, but we will check those facts. Now, talk about Hamas. What is it? Is it a terrorist organization?

Sanders: Yes.

Daily News: Okay. Hezbollah too?

Sanders: Yes.

Daily News: Okay. Now switching more broadly to the Middle East and some of the other troubled areas, with ISIS. The Obama administration has been using this drone program, right? What are your thoughts on that, their use of…

Sanders: Well, first off, let me just talk about the Middle East. I talked about one of the differences that exists between Secretary Clinton and myself. I think we can argue reasonably that the most important and significant and far-reaching debate that we’ve had on foreign policy in this country in recent years was on the war in Iraq. Not only did I vote against the war in Iraq, not only did I lead the opposition to the war, helped lead the opposition to the war in Iraq, if you look at the statements that I made on the floor of the House in 2002, sadly to say, much of what I feared would happen actually has happened. Hillary Clinton’s views were very different. She supported the war in Iraq.

Now, in terms of ISIS, this is a barbaric organization that obviously has got to be destroyed. But it must and can be destroyed without the United States getting involved in perpetual warfare in the Middle East, something that I fear very, very much.

So my view is that, very similar to what King Abdullah of Jordan said, that essentially the war against ISIS is a war over the soul of Islam. And the war must be won by Muslim troops on the ground with the support of the United States and other major powers. That is what I believe. And I think President Obama, who has been criticized roundly by Republicans and others for being “too soft,” “too weak,” whatever. In fact, that strategy is, under very difficult circumstances, actually beginning to prove to be a success. ISIS has lost about 40% of the territory it controlled in Iraq. We’ve seen the Iraqi army maybe, maybe God willing [knocks on wood], show some fighting spirit, being able to take back Ramadi. And so, we’ve seen some success.

Daily News: Okay, while we were sitting here, I double-checked the facts. It’s the miracle of the iPhone. My recollection was correct. It was about 2,300, I believe, killed, and 10,000 wounded. President Obama has taken the authority for drone attacks away from the CIA and given it to the U.S. military. Some say that that has caused difficulties in zeroing in on terrorists, their ISIS leaders. Do you believe that he’s got the right policy there?

Sanders: I don’t know the answer to that. What I do know is that drones are a modern weapon. When used effectively, when taking out ISIS or terrorist leaders, that’s pretty impressive. When bombing wedding parties of innocent people and killing dozens of them, that is, needless to say, not effective and enormously counterproductive. So whatever the mechanism, whoever is in control of that policy, it has to be refined so that we are killing the people we want to kill and not innocent collateral damage.

Daily News: Okay. American Special Forces recently killed a top ISIS commander, after they’d hoped to capture him. They felt, from what the news reports were, that they had no choice at that. What would you do with a captured ISIS commander?

Sanders: Imprison him.

Daily News: Where?

Sanders: And try to get as much information out of him. If the question leads us to Guantanamo…

Daily News: Well, no, separate and apart from Guantanamo, it could be there, it could be anywhere. Where would a President Sanders imprison, interrogate? What would you do?

Sanders: Actually I haven’t thought about it a whole lot. I suppose, somewhere near the locale where that person was captured. The best location where that individual would be safely secured in a way that we can get information out of him.

Daily News: Would it be in the United States?

Sanders: Would it be in the United States? It could be, yeah.

Daily News: Yeah. I mean, some of these places are lawless lands. You’ve got Libya, you’ve got Yemen. If Special Forces…

Sanders: If the question is do I believe that terrorists could be safely imprisoned in the United States, the answer is yes.

Daily News: Yeah. Okay.

Daily News: I have just a couple New York, quick questions. Will there be a New York debate?

Sanders: Well, that’s a good question. If I have anything to say about it, there would. It’s hard for me to imagine that somebody who was a United States senator here for eight years would not be willing to debate issues of importance to New York and issues of importance to the United States of America. So the answer is, we have asked for that debate. I think the staffs are talking. My understanding is that the Clinton people are kind of dragging their feet. So the answer is I would love to see a debate, yes.

Daily News: I know you’ve got to go in a second. When was the last time you rode the subway? Are you gonna a campaign in the subway?

Sanders: Actually we rode the subway, Mike, when we were here? About a year ago? But I know how to ride the subways. I’ve been on them once or twice.

Daily News: Do you really? Do you really? How do you ride the subway today?

Sanders: What do you mean, “How do you ride the subway?”

Daily News: How do you get on the subway today?

Sanders: You get a token and you get in.

Daily News: Wrong.

Sanders: You jump over the turnstile.

Daily News: We would like our photographer to be there when you jump over the turnstile.

Sanders: I’m like anybody when I….

Daily News: Returning to another New York issue. We’re just a few blocks away from the World Trade Center.

Sanders: Yup.

Daily News: Down in Guantanamo, there’s Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect. I believe you’re against the death penalty. Are you against the death penalty for him?

Sanders: Yup.

Daily News: You are. Why is that?

Sanders: Because I think the death penalty does not prove to be effective in stopping the crimes that we want to see stopping. And second of all, at a time when virtually every major country on Earth has eliminated the death penalty, for right reasons. In a world of as much violence as currently exists, I don’t believe government, our government, should be involved in killing.

Daily News: But you place Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, if you do, I’m asking, in the same moral basket as the street criminals under that…

Sanders: No. I place him as a murderous disgusting terrorist, and we have seen in this country terrible crimes have been…I don’t need to explain to anybody in this room people coming out with automatic weapons and killing children in Sandy Hook. Disgusting crimes. I happen to believe that, in the long run, from a moral perspective, and from an effectiveness perspective, the death penalty does not work.

Daily News: But you would have no hesitation about killing him if a drone found him on a battlefield?

Sanders: Well, unfortunately we live in a…that’s right. There is a difference. If I have you captured and I kill you, it’s different than killing you on the battlefield. I think that is a very different moral…but if you’re asking me am a pacifist, don’t believe in killing people in war, that’s not my position.

Daily News: So speaking of New York and issues important to New York and speaking of death. Last year, after the Oregon Community College shootings, you promised a comprehensive gun control agenda. When are we going to see that and what can you tell us…

Sanders: Well, I’ve talked about it, you have seen it. What the agenda is is very similar to where to where President Obama is. President Obama said at that Oregon speech…… with a great deal of emotion. That he thought this was an issue that’s never going to be permanently solved. Nobody can guarantee that some lunatic is not going to pick up a gun today and kill people. But we have to do the best that we can to prevent those type of killings. And what we do, in my view, is significantly strengthen and expand the instant background check. What we do is do away with the gun show loophole, where people now are buying guns from unlicensed dealers. What we do is do away with the straw man provision, where you can buy a gun legally and then sell it to somebody who’s a criminal. I think what we also is significantly expand mental health capabilities to try to address the fact that we have thousands of people walking in this country today who are suicidal and homicidal. So I support pretty much the President’s agenda.

Daily News: Just to be clear, the press release your campaign put out the day of that announcement of the forthcoming comprehensive plan, you made that announcement, those were the four points you made then. Have you moved any further beyond that?

Sanders: Well, I don’t know that anyone has moved…I think that’s the President’s vision, that’s my position.

Daily News: There’s a case currently waiting to be ruled on in Connecticut. The victims of the Sandy Hook massacre are looking to have the right to sue for damages the manufacturers of the weapons. Do you think that that is something that should be expanded?

Sanders: Do I think the victims of a crime with a gun should be able to sue the manufacturer, is that your question?

Daily News: Correct.

Sanders: No, I don’t.

Daily News: Let me ask you. I know we’re short on time. Two quick questions. Your website talks about…

Sanders: No, let me just…I’m sorry. In the same sense that if you’re a gun dealer and you sell me a gun and I go out and I kill him [gestures to someone in room]…. Do I think that that gun dealer should be sued for selling me a legal product that he misused? [Shakes head no.] But I do believe that gun manufacturers and gun dealers should be able to be sued when they should know that guns are going into the hands of wrong people. So if somebody walks in and says, “I’d like 10,000 rounds of ammunition,” you know, well, you might be suspicious about that. So I think there are grounds for those suits, but not if you sell me a legal product. But you’re really saying…

Daily News: Do you think that the discussion and debate about what defines a legal product, what should be a legal product, hence AR-15s, these automatic military-style weapons…which is the grounds of this suit at the moment is that this should have never been in the hands of the public.

Sanders: Well, you’re looking at a guy…let’s talk about guns for one second. Let’s set the record straight because of…unnamed candidates who have misrepresented my views. You’re looking at a guy who has a D, what was it, D minus voting record from the NRA? Not exactly a lobbyist for the NRA, not exactly supporting them.

But it’s interesting that you raised that question. If you’ll remember this, if you were in Vermont in 1988 [gestures to Vermonter in the room], three people were running for the United States Congress. We have one seat, Vermont. Two of them supported assault weapons. One candidate, Bernie Sanders, said, in 1988, “No, I do not support the sale and distribution of assault weapons in this country.” I lost that election by three points. Came in second. And that may have been the reason, that I was opposed by all of the gun people, okay? So to answer your question, I do not believe, I didn’t believe then and I don’t believe now that those guns should be sold in America. They’re designed for killing people.

Daily News: So do you think then, with that in mind, that the merits of the current case are baseless?

Sanders: It’s not baseless. I wouldn’t use that word. But it’s a backdoor way. If you’re questioning me, will I vote to ban assault weapons in the United States, yeah, I will.

Daily News: Two quick questions. One is your website talks about physical violence perpetrated by the state against African Americans.

Sanders: Yeah.

Daily News: It also says, “We need new rules on the allowable use of force.” Such as?

Sanders: Such as do what many other countries are doing. Look, you’ve got somebody who’s clearly mentally ill outside, right? Ranting and raving, and maybe they have a knife in their hands. Are there ways to deal with that issue other than shooting that person? We have seen instances in my own state, all over this country, where the way that was dealt with by killing that person. There are ways to deal with that. So I think what I am suggesting here very forcefully is that we have got to train police offices to use lethal force as a last resort, not a first resort.

Daily News: Okay. Last question. If you are elected, alums of James Madison High School will be atop all three branches of the United States government, Congress, the Senate, the presidency, and the Supreme Court.

Sanders: Well, not quite the Supreme…

Daily News: Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Sanders: Well, she is there, but she’s not…she’s like a…yeah.

Daily News: Yeah, no. So what happened? What has happened to education in America that James Madison High School is not that type of production line anymore?

Sanders: That’s a good question. And with all due respect, you went to Midwood…

Daily News: No, I live in Midwood.

Sanders: Oh, you live in…

Daily News: Yeah.

Sanders: All right, all right. Midwood was a pretty good school as well.

Daily News: My daughter is in Bronx Science.

Sanders: Okay. First off, we still have some great schools. Let’s not dismiss that. On the other hand, we have schools that everybody knows are drop-out factories, that are terrible. The answer to the question, I think, has to do with devaluing the role of education in our society. I was in Wisconsin just the other day, talking to teachers, and they said, if you can believe this, that young people do not want to become teachers anymore. Because especially in that state, teachers in public education have been so vilified.

Can you imagine bright young people not wanting to do the enormously important job of teaching? So we’ve got to change that culture. Teaching, education, is of the highest importance in this country. Teachers deserve to be well-paid, well-respected. When I grew up in that community, this was a community of immigrants, largely immigrants who understood the power of education. We had great teachers and we had great schools. I think we can do that again.

Daily News: Okay. Thank you very much.

Sanders: Thank you.


This was the interview that turned me against him. A guy whose spent his entire life in government didn’t do very well articulating his policies. Nothing he has done since has changed my mind. Sanders stayed in the 2016 race out of pure ego. He’s getting ready to split the party again.

He needs to be put out to pasture. And his cult-like followers need to be ignored if they start playing the purity card with actual Democrats who want to change the party from the inside – instead of hijacking it when it suits them.

Sorry, but I’m still not “feeling the bern.”

If you’re still “feeling the bern,” it might be time to start thinking about what’s best for the country: defeating Donald fucking Trump in 2020.

 

Good Anne Applebaum Piece

 

Apologies for the light blogging this week. I started a new job and am working crazy hours until the end of this week. I’m currently working on the second part of my Watergate series during the little time I have to myself.

In the meantime, I’m posting a piece from the foreign-policy-centric Anne Applebaum of WaPo. In case you missed it, Pence had quite the awkward time this weekend in Munich. Here he is telling the audience he brings greeting from Donald Trump.

*crickets*

An off-key Pence sings from the Trump hymnal to a stony European reception

 
February 17

MUNICH — Even inside a hotel so secure that it has body scanners at the entrance and snipers on the roof, Vice President Pence travels with a vast security detail. Its main function, it seems, is to elbow people out of the way so that the vice president and his unsmiling wife can walk through a lobby, crowded with European officials and military brass, and speak to no one. Which is perhaps unsurprising, for Pence was heading to the main forum of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday — an annual event whose origins lie deep in the Cold War — to make statements so tone-deaf and, frankly, peculiar that their intended audience could not have been the one in the room.

Part of his problem is the new context. Two years ago, when Pence spoke at the same forum, many in Europe were still hoping to work with the Trump administration. His speech was banal and uninspiring — it was “an entirely conventional restatement of American commitment to Europe,” I wrote at the time — but Europeans were so relieved to hear it that they decided, on balance, to believe him. Now they don’t. At a side event honoring the late senator John McCain, who had been the moving spirit of the Munich conference for decades, Pence announced that “I bring greetings from the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.” He then waited for applause. None came.

But Pence’s keynote speech was more than merely embarrassing. It was awkwardly worded and stiffly delivered. It was sycophantic: Over and over again, he repeated the words “under President Trump’s leadership,” referring to the president as “a champion of freedom” and the “leader of the free world.” It was hypocritical: Pence’s voice seemed to crack when he spoke of the suffering of Venezuelan refugees — “We hugged their children. We heard of their hardship and their plight” — as if his administration hadn’t inflicted plenty of hardship on migrant children wrenched from their parents at the U.S. border with Mexico.

Pence’s speech was also ahistoric, even nonsensical. In one hard-to-follow chain of connections, he bundled together Auschwitz and Iran, somehow implying that Europeans who still back a deal designed to deprive Iran of nuclear weapons were supporting anti-Semitism. In a room full of people working for the European Union and NATO, institutions that were explicitly created, decades ago, to prevent another Auschwitz, this would have been offensive if anybody had actually understood what Pence was trying to say.

That, plus the undertone of maudlin religiosity — “I also have that faith, in those ancient words, that where the spirit of the Lord is, there’s liberty” — made it clear that this speech was not, as I say, directed at the Europeans in the room. It was made for the benefit of Trump, or maybe Pence’s evangelical friends and supporters back home.

And that isn’t surprising, for this administration’s foreign policy has long ceased to have much to do with people who are actually in the room. Just before Pence visited Munich, he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended a surreal Middle East conference in Warsaw whose main purpose, as far as anyone could tell, was to boost Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection campaign ahead of an April 9 vote. White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is allegedly hard at work on an equally surreal Middle East “peace plan,” which the president’s son-in-law is devising in secret and apparently without Palestinian input.

These peculiar efforts by Kushner, Pompeo and Pence keep them inside the president’s inner circle, and perhaps they cheer up a few donors and boosters. Meanwhile, the U.S. embassy appeared set on preventing the congressional delegation from encountering too many Germans in Munich, canceling members’ attendance at annual meetings and dinners that they have traditionally attended. Conference attendees didn’t know whether to feel insulted or to just laugh.

Certainly they have stopped paying lip service to an administration that has showed it prefers its authoritarian friends to its oldest allies. There is no point in nice state visits or in trying to cultivate Ivanka Trump. It’s better to speak bluntly, and on Saturday morning, German Chancellor Angela Merkel certainly did. She mocked the idea that German cars made in South Carolina could be a “security threat” to the United States, as the tariff-minded Trump administration has suggested. She said the removal of U.S. troops from Syria will not spread freedom, but will “strengthen Russia and Iran’s hand.”

And, like other Europeans, she refused to heed Pence’s call to reimpose sanctions on Iran. European leaders have learned that there is no point in seeking agreement with Trump, for he doesn’t respect those who do. And this, in the end, is why Pence’s pseudo-patriotic speech sounded so off: America cannot be the champion of “liberty” or the “leader of the free world” if the free world — insulted by the U.S. president, snubbed by his surrogates — refuses to follow.

Elliott Abrams, parasite

Apologies for the lack of posts this week. I started a new job and have been working crazy hours. This week will be just as bad. Luckily, mi padre is going to write a few pieces to keep things moving. I’m working on part two of Watergate which I hope to have done soon.

In the meantime, I found a thread from historian and writer from the New Republic, Patrick Iber, concerning Iran-Contra and Elliott Abrams:

 

I don’t have time to do a proper Elliot Abrams thread but here is the issue as I see it: Abrams in the 1980s was not just an ordinary Reagan administration official, he was an especially hard-line Reagan administration official. We must remember that Reagan was facing an opposition Congress, which tried to cut off aid to forces that were using repression and murder as tools to achieve their political ends.

Abrams would say these were terrorist guerrilla forces. Alas, the peaceful, non-violent activists had mostly been killed by that point. Remember, in El Salvador they killed Oscar Romero, a mainstream social justice Catholic (not even a liberation theologian) while he said mass. When four U.S. churchwomen were murdered, Al Haig* tried to say there may have been an “exchange of gunfire.”

 

And all of this behavior, which brought so much suffering to El Salvador, to Guatemala, to Honduras, to Nicaragua, was seen by Abrams and his allies within the administration as the fault of international Communism. Now of course there was aid to guerrilla groups from Cuba and so on, nor were they perfect. But the truth commission reports put around 90% of the extrajudicial killings on government forces. And this was clear throughout the conflict.

And people who tried to make clear that the US-backed side of the conflict was committing serious human rights abuses and hold them accountable were seen by Abrams as doing the work of Communism. He saw advocates of dialogue as enemies. Here are a couple of paragraphs from William LeoGrande’s “Our Own Backyard,” the definitive book on U.S. politics in Central America in the 1980s. Abrams made targets of human rights advocates, not just guerrillas.


And, for example, he tried to use blackmail to make sure Costa Rica’s Oscar Arias (recently disgraced by allegations of sexual assault but a Nobel laureate for his role facilitating negotiations that led to peace) would cooperate with the illegal US war in Nicaragua.


Not to mention the lying to Congress, which, let’s remember, happened because the Reagan administration wanted to back an illegal war after having been specifically prohibited from doing so by law. Democracy promotion indeed! Look: I know the journalist who broke the El Mozote story, Alma Guillermoprieto. We’ve been friends for years. She is still traumatized by what she saw there. The US embassy officials in El Salvador, meanwhile, didn’t venture out. They didn’t want to see. They didn’t even want to understand what they were complicit in. To them it was just Commies and their allies over there and freedom-fighters on the other side.

Democracy promotion as Abrams understood it has a particular pedigree in Cold War anti-Communism. In my work I look at CIA democracy promotion through culture in the 50s/60s. After that got exposed in 1967, it was revived in the National Endowment for Democracy under Reagan. The longtime head of the NED, just like those Cold War anti-Communists, began as a socialist. The “State Department socialists” people sometimes call them, although Abrams is not that, he began his political life as a Scoop Jackson/Moynihan hawk.

And they’re both anti-dictatorship and anti-Communist. But when they’ve got a left-wing dictatorship on their hands, that’s when they really start salivating. And, like it or not, NED support has been there in Venezuela for the opposition for years. I’m not going to defend Maduro, and for someone on the left I have been publicly critical of not only Maduro but also of autocratic aspects of Chavismo over the years. Nor am I even going say that these connections to the US make Guaidó or his demands illegitimate.

But the very legitimate worry is that by having Abrams prominently involved in Venezuela will empower hard-liners in the opposition, who have their own problems with “democracy”. I’m not trying to make an equivalence here, but you can’t look at his record and think that this would be a person who will support a negotiation that could lead to a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Maduro has also an obstacle to that, no doubt.

But having Abrams involved sends the worst kind of signals about the intentions of the U.S., and about the frame of mind of those who are seeking to intervene. In my opinion Venezuela’s next leader should be elected in free and competitive elections, and be able to speak both to the legitimate concerns and needs of chavista voters as well as supporters of the opposition.

I don’t see why Abrams should have any role to play in this, and I don’t see why we should rehabilitate someone who, in my estimation, is guilty, has not paid for his crimes, and has not accepted that he is guilty.


*Al Haig served as Nixon’s Chief of Staff after H.R. Handleman was fired for the Watergate burglary. He also served as Reagan’s Secretary of State.

Watergate Was Worse Than You Realize

 

This is going to be another multi-part series. There’s too much to research, document, and verify to put it all in one place so I’ve decided to break it into sections. The reason I decided to write about Watergate is because Nixon was not an aberration; it’s how Republicans roll. Further proof that Trump didn’t come out of nowhere and when he’s finally gone people need to realize that Republicans will try to pull the same shit Nixon, Reagan, and every other Republican has again.

This is the first of what will be four parts:

  1. Daniel Ellsberg
  2. The Watergate Break-In
  3. The Precipice
  4. Unfinished Business

Part 1 – Daniel Ellsberg

 

The greatest scandal in American history took place almost a half century ago. I wasn’t around for it. Few who were of age could follow the twists and turns like we can today with 24/7 cable news and social media. If, like me, you’ve heard the phrase “worse than Watergate” tossed around, I’m here to tell you that that is a very high bar.

I spent a few days researching the entire saga and I was shocked at some of the lesser-known details. I didn’t truly understand the scope and magnitude of the 37th President’s lawlessness. Nixon pushed the United States to the precipice as the walls closed in. His last two years are the best template we have for when the Special Counsel releases its report, the House impeaches Trump, and the Senate does or does not convict.

First let me preface what I’m about to write with regard to Richard Milhouse Nixon by mentioning a critical component to his 1968 campaign: he ran as the “law and order” candidate. Yes, you read that right. Like any good Republican, he meant “law and order for thee, not for me.”

Rachel Maddow put together an excellent podcast called “Bagman” a few months ago. She goes into great detail about one of many constitutional crises brought on by the Nixon Administration – the resignation of Spiro Agnew. He resigned less than a year before Nixon did. It’s the most comprehensive work I’ve found on the disgraced Vice President.

As a matter of fact, there isn’t many documentaries on Agnew’s departure – a stunning scandal in its own right. I always found that to be odd. Well, now I understand why. Agnew’s boss was so dangerous, so corrupt, so out-of-control that his VP’s resignation amounted to little more than a footnote in the whole mess.

Nixon’s troubles began, in a sense, with a campaign promise he never planned on seeing through: ending the war in Vietnam. The president was too obtuse to recognize the mistake of expanding the war to Cambodia. A draft lottery – the first since WWII – had been instituted a year earlier.

It didn’t occur to Nixon how many students would have to fight for a cause they didn’t understand and wanted nothing to do with. I suppose this was because the so-called “Cold War” had little semblance to the Second World War. Whereas the United States reluctantly declared war on Hirohito and Hitler after multiple European capitals had been reduced to rubble, this conflict was a war of choice against a vague, nebulous enemy: communism.  Furthermore, the US had no business interfering in what was essentially a civil war.

Once twenty-eight national guardsmen killed four unarmed students and wounded nine others at Kent State University, American support for the war had fallen even further among the demographic that was needed to fight it. It’s about this time when Nixon became paranoid about the anti-war movement.

 

Nixon was so paranoid, in fact, that he thought somebody was “behind” the anti-war protests taking place across the country. The guy was a republican through and through – hopelessly out of touch with younger people and consumed by an insatiable appetite for power. You were either with him or against him. Much like the current occupant of the White House, Nixon detested our free press.

One of Tricky Dick’s first targets was Daniel Ellsberg (and his partner Anthony Russo).

Ellsberg was a former U.S. military analyst who made photocopies of a top-secret Pentagon study and sent copies to the New York Times. These came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. They showed that the last three administrations, dating back to John F. Kennedy, had hidden expansion of the war and misled Congress and the American people.

Nixon was irate. His administration tried to persuade the Times to stop publishing the leaks. He and Attorney General John N. Mitchell obtained a federal court injunction forcing The New York Times to cease publication after three stories. The injunction was appealed and eventually overturned by the Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision. By this time, Ellsberg had leaked more stories to the Washington Post. The stories would continue to be printed and there was nothing Nixon could do about it.

Or so it seemed.

It was around this time that Nixon had his subordinates put together a covert special investigations unit called “The Plumbers.” Think of it as the president’s secret police force – something we typically read about in authoritarian countries. They were to stop the leaks (hence the name).

The Plumbers first operation was to dig up embarrassing dirt on Ellsberg in order to discredit him, hoping to destroy his credibility. The first attempt involved breaking into his psychiatrist’s office in the dead of night.  This was approved by Nixon’s Chief domestic advisor, John Ehrlichman. They didn’t find information deemed embarrassing enough. But operations against Ellsberg didn’t end there.

Gordon Liddy, a former FBI agent who teamed up with a former CIA agent, Howard Hunt, had other ideas. Liddy bragged, in his 1980 autobiography, that there was an “Ellsberg neutralization proposal” which involved dissolving LSD in his soup during a fundraising dinner in Washington. The goal was to “have Ellsberg incoherent by the time he was to speak” and thus “make him appear a near burnt-out drug case” and “discredit him.”

The plot involved Cuban waiters. According to Liddy, when the plan was finally approved, “there was no longer enough lead time to get the Cuban waiters up from their Miami hotels and into place in the Washington Hotel where the dinner was to take place” and the plan was “put into abeyance pending another opportunity.”

This plan was approved by Nixon’s advisors! That is just astounding.

Ellsberg later claimed a Watergate prosecutor told him of a plot Liddy hatched to have 12 Cubans, who once worked for the CIA, “totally incapacitate” him when he appeared at a public rally. It’s unclear whether ‘totally incapacitate’ meant kill or drug.

Ellsberg also shared his documents with the Brookings Institute. Nixon said he didn’t care how they made it happen, he wanted the documents. Chuck Colson, Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon, came up with his own scheme to firebomb the Brookings Institute, and in the ensuing panic and confusion, someone would slip inside and take the documents. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? This plan was approved by Ehrlichman until John Dean, the guy who would eventually help bring the president down, talked him out of it.

Dean gets a lot of credit for flipping on Nixon. And rightly so. But it wasn’t until Dean believed Nixon would make him the fall guy that he turned on the president.

Nixon’s thugs – of which John Dean was one – were just getting warmed up.

Cory Booker is not a Good Candidate

 

Too many Democrats are running for the nomination to take on and defeat Spanky McDotard in 2020. While I have no choice but to vote for whichever candidate has the ‘D’ next to their name in the general election, I do have a choice as to who that candidate will be. As of right now, there are some good choices and some awful choices.

A candidate like Tulsi Gabbard showed such poor judgement in the past that she’s irredeemable today. For instance, in the early 2000s Gabbard worked with The Alliance for Traditional Marriage – a PAC run by her father – that opposed pro-LGBT lawmakers and laws, and promoted conversion therapy. I sympathize with candidates whose views have evolved on the gay marriage since my own views have over time.

However I never supported or would support gay conversion therapy. It is cruel and inhumane. While she recently apologized for supporting such a wicked and stupid program, it’s an absolute deal breaker for me.

Gabbard was one of the first Democrats to meet with Trump after the 2016 Election (supposedly to influence his foreign policy). She did the same thing with Bashar al-Assad, the guy who gassed his own people. She did not join the 169 congressional Democrats who signed a letter of opposition to Steve Bannon’s appointment as Trump’s chief strategist.

More deal-breakers.

Gabbard also weighed in during the negotiations to end Trump’s government shutdown, blaming Democrats and Republicans for refusing to sit down together or give ground on some of their priorities.

“Both sides have completely hardened their positions and are unwilling to come together and work out the differences, and that’s the problem here,” Gabbard said. “Our federal employees and contractors and their families have gone far too long suffering as a result of this intransigence.”

Ah yes, both sides! Imagine if Pelosi took her advice.

Gabbard was also the first congresswoman to endorse Bernie Sanders in 2016. My opinions on Bernie Sanders are well known. He wants to win over Trump supporters. Personally, I don’t want those people in our coalition nor do we need them to win a presidential election.

It’s true that anyone is better than Trump, but that doesn’t mean we should just settle for any democrat in the primary. The country has moved leftward over the last two years and the party is energized and radicalized for the first time in ages. Let’s make hay while the sun is shining.

This is the most right wing administration in American history. It no longer makes sense to nominate Clinton centrist-types as we have for decades. The days of picking a democrat based on who moderate republicans will vote for are over.

The problems we face – from climate change to the wealth gap to gun violence epidemic to systematic disenfranchisement of minorities – are grave. The next Democratic president can not make the mistake President Obama did during his first year and a half in office. There can be no compromise with the forces of fascism.

Cory Booker, who announced his candidacy last week, is dead set on finding common ground with the GOP. Some people like Booker’s loquacious style. Some still buy into the notion that if democrats just tried a little bit harder to find compromise, the ship will right itself.

This view should be rejected.

I watched Booker’s two debates with a legally blind, extremist Tea Party goofball from 2013. His name is Steve Lonegan. He was out of step with most voters in the blue state of New Jersey. And yet, he was a strong candidate in a different kind of way. He had command of the facts, unflinching in his beliefs. And he was authentic.

What should have been a cakewalk for Booker turned out to be a race. A good candidate would have crushed this guy. Lonegan could have won if New Jersey was a purple state. I think the reason Lonegan did so well is because he didn’t come off like a typical Washington politician. Booker sounded rehearsed and phony.

This is the final debate against Lonegan. Go to about the 34 minute mark.

Booker was ill-prepared for Lonegan’s attacks. You can hear the crowd getting behind Lonegan by the end of this performance.

And it showed on Election Day. Yes, Booker won. But he performed poorly in a race where a good candidate would have obliterated Lonegan. I mean by over 20 points. Trump is similar to Lonegan except he has name recognition, money, and the advantage of incumbency.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s how New Jersey voted in the last three presidential elections:

2008

Barack Obama/Joe Biden      57.14%

John McCain/ Sarah Palin      41.61%

 

2012

Barack Obama/Joe Biden        58.38%

Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan            40.59%

 

2016

Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine             55.45%

Donald Trump/Mike Pence        41.35%

 

This is how New Jersey voted in the special election (that took place in the during a government shutdown that Ted Cruz instigated.

2013

(D) Cory Booker             740,742 votes          54.92%

(R) Steve Lonegan       593,684 votes          44.02%

 

The special election for Frank Lautenberg’s senate seat only sent Booker to Washington for a year before he had to run for re-election in 2014. His next opponent was a former Reagan speechwriter named Jeff Bell. Bell was not a Tea party wacko but at times it seemed like he didn’t want to win. Bell hadn’t even lived in New Jersey for 30 years! He was rumored to be running his campaign out of a hotel lobby!  Booker’s numbers were better than in 2013, but still nothing to brag about.

2014

(D) Cory Booker          1,043,866 votes         55.84%

(R) Jeff Bell                     791,297 votes             42.33%

 

You can’t blame Booker’s under-performance on race. Obama won the state by an average of 16.66 points. Hillary won the state by over 14 points. The man Booker replaced, Frank Lautenberg, cruised to re-election in 2008 by 14 points.

Bob Menendez, who’s as crooked as they come, won his 2012 election by a whopping 19.5 points. Menendez hung on to win by 11.2 points last year after a mistrial had been declared in his corruption trial.

So why don’t people in Booker’s own state like him very much? And what damaging stuff could come out if he were to somehow win the nomination for the 2020 Election?

Here’s Olivia Nuzzi, who covered his campaign in 2014 for the Daily Beast:

All the while, from 2006 to 2011, Booker was still receiving annual payments, which totaled close to $700,000, from his former law firm – Trenk, DiPasquale, Webster – from which he had resigned once elected mayor to avoid “the appearance of impropriety.” Booker’s campaign spokeswoman, Silvia Alvarez, told me: “He was paid out by the firm as part of his separation agreement for work he performed before he became mayor.” OK, sure, but while Booker was profiting from the firm, they were profiting from Newark: over $2 million in work for Newark’s Housing Authority, the Watershed Conservation Development Corporation, and a wastewater agency.

And:

Meanwhile, it looked as though Booker’s record in Newark might be catching up with him. As mayor, he presided over and strengthened the Newark Watershed Conservation Development Corporation – a publicly funded entity that managed the city’s reservoirs and treated water for its residents. Pretty boring stuff. But a state audit by the comptroller’s office found that the agency’s director, Linda Watkins-Brashear, a donor and close ally of Booker’s, was using the Watershed like her own personal bank account – paying herself $1.98 million over seven years, when her salary came to just $1.16 million. She also doled out millions in no-bid contracts to her friends and husband. Further, Booker’s former law partner, Elnardo Webster, had been acting as the Watershed’s counsel – and his firm had profited $212,318. “He had nothing to do with the business the firm conducted with the Watershed,” Booker’s spokeswoman, Silvia Alvarez, told me.

Uh, okay. So Booker is either corrupt as hell or incompetent. Very inspiring stuff there, Cory.

When asked yesterday whether he thinks any liberal initiatives can become law with the filibuster in place, Booker said yes, he sees ways to keep the filibuster AND meet the 60-vote threshold.

What the hell is he talking about?

A democrat will never get liberal legislation through the senate with the filibuster in place. That’s why Obama was reduced to signing executive orders once he lost control of the House and Senate.

The filibuster is one of the least democratic tools in place. It keeps real change from ever happening, and while it has benefited democrats in the past, it has become. The ‘tell’ is how Mitch McConnell, who cares nothing about norms or ethics, refused to get rid of it when Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress.

I don’t know if Booker is delusional or just naive, but as far as I’m concerned, he’s an empty suit and a walking platitude. Progressives finally have decent candidates who understand what’s up. We have the opportunity to take a left turn and start getting this country back on track. It would be foolish to think that candidate is Cory Booker.

Between the skeletons in his closet from his time as mayor of Newark and his tone deaf calls for compromise in the Age of Trump, Cory Booker is the wrong person to lead the Democratic Party. There are better choices.

Pay no attention to the flowery rhetoric. Look at his record. Watch what he does. We don’t need to settle for less.

The Golden Era of Corruption

 

Yes, that is how historians will describe the Trump Years. It’s so bottomless that not even people who cover this stuff for a living can keep up with it.

Just as an example, here are the myriad stories that broke about – just about the Trump Organization – over a 24 HOUR PERIOD this week:

 

1)Trump’s nonprofit Inaugural committee paid the Trump Hotel DC $175,000 per day for event space – that could violate tax laws prohibiting self-dealing.

by Ilya Marritz of WNYC and Justin Elliott of ProPublica

 

https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/new-evidence-emerges-possible-wrongdoing-trump-inaugural-committee

 

2) Sixteen men and women from Costa Rica and other Latin American countries said they were employed at Trump Bedminster. All said they worked without legal status – and their managers knew.

by Joshua Partlow, Nick Miroff, and David Farenthold of WaPo

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/my-whole-town-practically-lived-there-from-costa-rica-to-new-jersey-a-pipeline-of-illegal-workers-for-trump-goes-back-years

 

3) Since he took office, Trump has appointed at least eight people who identified themselves as current or former members of Mar-a-Lago to senior posts in his administration.

by Brad Heath of USA Today

 

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/investigations/2019/02/08/donald-trump-picks-ambassadors-golf-club-mar-lago-members/2748260002/

 

4) Rep. Jackie Speier (D–CA) told CNN’s New Day she thinks President Trump’s real estate dealings violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which governs U.S. businesses’ dealings with foreign investors.

“I have thought for a very long time that the President, as a real estate developer, had violated what’s called the Foreign Corrupt Practices act.”

Speier says she’s focusing on three Trump hotel projects: Toronto, Soho and Panama.

5) Trump’s inauguration planner got a discount at the Trump Hotel DC, yet was told to submit her receipts to Reince Preibus (for reimbursement). Meaning the RNC is funneling money directly into Trump’s pocket!

by Emily Jane Fox of Vanity Fair

 

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/02/behind-the-scenes-of-trumps-107-million-inauguration

 

6) Citizens For Ethics (CREW) leaned that Ivanka Trump’s business picked up a new trademark in Canada.

So Ivanka now has trademarks for passport organizers in both Canada and Mexico even while her father tries to revise NAFTA.

 

 

7) The president’s businesses received nearly $3.8 million from political committees during the two-year 2018 campaign cycle, The top political customers: Trump’s re-election campaign and the Republican Party. 

 

by Megan R. Wilson of Bloomberg News

https://about.bgov.com/news/trump-businesses-get-a-boost-from-republican-party-patronage/

 

8) The RNC has paid a firm owned by former Trump Org employee, and Donald Trump’s body guard, Keith Schiller, $225,000.

by Christina Wilkie of CNBC

 

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/08/firm-owned-by-trumps-longtime-bodyguard-has-received-225000-from-rnc.html

 

9) A U.S. Army regiment held its annual ball last night at the Trump Hotel DC- so soldiers were potentially sending money up the chain of command. Pictures of them in uniform in front of the hotel’s logo made it to social media.

by Zack Everson of 1100 Penn

 

https://zacheverson.substack.com/p/old-guard-parties-commander-in-chief

 

10) Senator Warren wrote a letter to three Mar-a-Lago members who’ve been influential in V.A. decisions. She does not believe any of the three are V.A. employees or contractors. She doesn’t believe they ever received VA ethics training. And she wants to find out what companies they’ve invested in.

https://www.warren.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2019.02.6%20Letter%20to%20Mar-a-Lago%20Trio%20re%20Personally%20Profiting%20from%20VA%20Interference.pdf

 

11) The Trump campaign spent nearly $100K of donor money on the law firm representing Kushner.

by Soo Rin Kim, Katherine Faulders, and Matthew Mosk of ABC News

 

https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/429172-trump-campaign-spent-nearly-100k-of-donor-money-on-law-firm