Russian oligarchs and now “Baby Doc” too

Trump’s vicious smear of Haiti is coming back to bite him. 

On Monday, Haiti’s high court held an emergency session to allow the unsealing after 35 years of the documents from the indictments of former dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier for money laundering. After three decades under wraps, the timing of their release to the public can hardly be an accident. The revelation that in 1983 Donald Trump signed the deed and accepted $446,875 in cash from the brutal and corrupt tyrant for an apartment in Trump Tower followed on the heels of Trump’s widely reported slur of the Caribbean island.

Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier in 2011
by Marcello Casal Jr

Paying cash is one indication of possible money laundering; selling to unidentified buyers or shell corporations is another.

Haiti’s president had no knowledge of the sealed documents— he learned of them through the reporting of Buzzfeed News on Trump’s likely facilitation of money laundering by Americans and wealthy foreigners through the sale of apartments in his luxury condominiums.

The report took months to prepare. BuzzFeed investigated every sale of the 22 Trump-branded condominium high rises in the United States since the 1980s. They identified more than 1,300 all-cash sales to shell companies— no mortgages, so that the buyers had no imperative to reveal their real identities or finances.

Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in 2017 warned that

real estate transactions involving luxury property purchased through shell companies—particularly when conducted with cash and no financing—can be an attractive avenue for criminals to launder illegal proceeds while masking their identities.

BuzzFeed calculated that Trump condo sales matching the Treasury’s characteristics of possible money laundering totaled $1.5 billion. They accounted for 21% of the 6,400 Trump condos sold in the US and include Trump-branded buildings that pay the president(!) licensing fees or a percentage of the sales. BuzzFeed found that between 2008 and 2010, 11 buildings licensed by Trump sold condos to hundreds of shell companies, all paying an average of $1.2 million cash. Trump revealed in 2015, reports BuzzFeed, that his “real estate licensing deals” and other brands were worth $3.3 billion. 

Steve Bannon thinks Russian collusion won’t be Trump’s main problem with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, according to “Fire and Fury” author Michael Wolff. “You realize where this is going,” Wolff says Bannon told Trump. “This is all about money laundering.”

Early on, Trump had warned Mueller not to cross the line by investigating his or his family’s finances. Bannon reportedly scoffed at the president, pointing out that by telling a prosecutor where not to go, you direct his investigation precisely there.

As it happens, Mueller has hired Andrew Weissman, a Washington attorney who used  to head the criminal fraud division of the Justice Department. He specializes in money laundering.

Steve Bannon will testify under subpoena before a grand jury tomorrow, and after losing his position in the Trump administration, his seat on the Breitbart board, his editorship of Breitbart News, his radio show, his financial backing from the billionaire Mercer family, not to mention his close friendship with Trump, what does he have left to lose?

Stay tuned.

Correction: It is not known when Bannon will before the Grand Jury.

Update

Bannon was subpoenaed by Mueller today to appear before a grand jury, a very unusual move. Normally, a conversation (not under oath) takes place first.

In an other very unusual move, The House Intel committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election issued a bipartisan subpoena to Bannon after he refused to answer most questions, invoking executive privilege. There has never been a bipartisan subpoena before.

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“Shithole countries”

When the U.S. president speaks, the world listens.

And reacts. North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, whom Trump calls “Little Rocket Man,” in return has denounced Trump as a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.” But the latest frenzy is another order of magnitude— not a pissing match between puerile grown men, but an odious smear of countries on two continents.

In a meeting yesterday Trump let loose when lawmakers were discussing protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal. “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” he asked. Instead, he said, we should have more people from Norway and countries like it, i.e., whose people are white, not black or brown. In short order, the president’s words were broadcast worldwide.

Angered by the insult and mincing no words, world leaders denounced Trump as a racist. Rupert Colville, UN human rights spokesman, began by saying

There is no other word one can use but racist. You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.

Vicente Fox, ex-president of Mexico said, Trump’s mouth was “the foulest shithole in the world.”

It’s incredible that Trump has been president for a year and he still hasn’t learned that everything he says is on the record. No remark or tweet goes unnoticed. We know he’s not “stable,” let alone a “genius”— not even “a very smart person,” as he tweeted:

Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star….

….to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!

— @realDonaldTrump

But how can he think that people will believe his denials of something he said in front of a bunch of witnesses? No one who knows anything about Trump is so credulous as to accept his word over that of Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, who was present. The Republican lawmakers who were there didn’t back Trump, but at least they didn’t support his denial either.

Since “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” was published last week, it seemed the media had nothing else to write or talk about. The portrait of the president limned by author Michael Wolff is of an incompetent braggart with no knowledge of policy or history or even the Constitution. His over-riding interests are golf and making money. He hardly ever reads but he does watch hours of television every day.

But we knew all this. What is new, at least for me, are the details. I didn’t know, for example, that when he wasn’t having his usual dinner at 6:30 with Steve Bannon, Trump often would get into bed with a cheeseburger, three television screens and his telephone.

What has really caught the most attention is Wolff’s assessment that Trump is not only incompetent and unsuited for the presidency, but that his mental abilities are deteriorating. Trump repeats himself all the time, telling the same story three times in one hour. His attention span, as we already knew, is very short, a question of a few minutes.

This last brouhaha perfectly illustrates Trump’s mental deficiencies. He said something outrageous in front of a group of people. He doesn’t consider or even imagine the implications of his words and their likely effects on both the domestic and international stages. Then, when he sees the adverse reactions at home and across the globe, he attempts to recover by admitting he used “tough” language, but denying that he said what everyone now knows he said. He constantly lies and contradicts himself. Something is missing. There is no way to negotiate or reason with such a person. It’s time for Trump to go.

Republicans, grow a spine. Don’t just withdraw from the arena, resist. Fight for the Constitution and the values you swore to safeguard.

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Mental Deviants & Gun Nuts

How many more times, indeed?

Ben East Books

A dozen years ago when I worked in Saudi Arabia, the government had a habit of referring to domestic terrorists as ‘deranged’ and calling them ‘mental deviants.’ We mocked the Saudis mercilessly for it.

The Royals were denying reality. They failed to acknowledge and confront the extremist forces at loose in the Kingdom, extremist views held by murderers with the will and the means to destroy human life in large-scale attacks. In other words: terrorism conducted by terrorists.

Of course, we understood where the denial stemmed from. Saudi governing legitimacy dated to a 19th-century deal with the adherents of an 18th Century vision of Islam. To call the terrorists what they were — terrorists — would have been to condemn and alienate the traditional Saudi power base.

So ‘deranged’ and ‘mental deviants’ it was.

In today’s America we are witnessing a similarly ludicrous pandering to extremist elements devoted to archaic notions…

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They still don’t get it

In these post-Harvey Weinstein days with the #MeToo backlash against the men who have sexually abused them, women are speaking out after decades of simmering anger, resigned silence, and injury that never completely heals.

Men who used their positions of power to rob a child of her innocence or ruin a young woman’s career or deprive her of her livelihood are now losing their own jobs and being stripped of the power they used to coerce those women to indulge their lechery. Celebrity no longer shields Hollywood’s power elite or media moguls. They are disgraced and unceremoniously kicked off their pedestals.

But there is one group of men that still insists on blaming the victim. Every male Republican officeholder who doesn’t plan to resign insists on qualifying his disapproval of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s abuse (“if true”) of an underage girl. (Moore has the dubious distinction of having been removed from the bench twice as Alabama Chief Justice for defying federal law and the Constitution.)

If true“? What kind of proof do they need? A stained dress hidden in a closet, uncleaned, for years? These men don’t understand that it’s not about proof. They don’t get that it’s about acknowledging women as full persons in their own right and according them even more respect than they’d give to a man, because women’s reputations are more easily sullied. It takes courage to reveal sexual violation.

Alabama Republicans rebut Moore’s accusers. A sampling: “Total contrived media garbage” (former chairman of the Mobile County Republican Party John Skipper); “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.” State Auditor Jim Ziegler— invoking the Bible in defense of a pedophile.

Some men are apologizing. Louis C.K. released a brutally honest statement in which he admits to everything his accusers describe and expresses what sounds like genuine remorse for taking advantage of his power and for the hurt he caused. Other men, like Roy Moore, who fondled, groped and leered at women, who taunted them with lascivious language or exposed themselves and coerced women to witness lewd acts, deny the charges. Some, like Donald Trump, minimize and dismiss them as “locker room talk.”

These men don’t understand that even if a woman has no tangible proof of abuse, her hurt and shame persist years later. They don’t understand that more enlightened men now accept that a woman is raped because of her attacker’s depravity, not the tightness of her dress or the length of leg showing beneath it.

Perhaps they will begin to see the light when they notice women like Democrat Laura Curran triumphing over the entrenched male Republican establishment. Curran and other Democrats swept into office last week in strongly Republican Nassau County, NY. In New Jersey, Republican John Carman’s dismissive tweet in which he wondered if the Women’s March would be “over in time for them to cook dinner” provoked so much anger in Ashley Bennett that she decided to run for office. In her first-ever electoral race, the Democrat wiped out the incumbent Republican Carman.

Wake up and smell the coffee, Republicans. Women are on the march and they are angry.

 

 

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Thomas L. Friedman: American democracy b

Thomas L. Friedman: American democracy built on truth in free press & trust in fair elections. Russians hack news; Pres lies. Terrible combination

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Clowns Winning!

The Finnish group “Loldiers of Odin” formed to protest the anti-immigrant Soldiers of Odin.

Humor and ridicule are potent weapons against fascism.

Using humor and irony to undermine white supremacy dates back to the days of the Third Reich, from jokes and cartoons employed by Norwegians against the Nazi occupation to “The Great Dictator” speech by Charlie Chaplin. In recent years, humor has continued to be used as a tactic to undermine Nazi ideology, particularly in the unlikely form of clowns — troupes of brightly-dressed activists who show up to neo-Nazi gatherings and make a public mockery of the messages these groups promote. It puts white supremacists in a dilemma in which their own use of violence will seem unwarranted, and their machismo image is tainted by the comedic performance by their opponent. Humor de-escalates their rallies, turning what could become a violent confrontation into a big joke.
In 1997, Italian humorist Roberto Benigni won multiple awards for his “Life Is Beautiful,” a film in which he ridiculed the Nazis and shielded his young son from realization of what the Nazis really were while both were interred in a Nazi concentration camp.

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Art of the Deal: Trump & Putin

Robert Reich makes a cogent and logical argument for Trump’s collusion with Russia to his and Putin’s mutual benefit by listing the events that have already occurred to the advantage of both.

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