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What Really Underlies the Impeachment Decision to Acquit Donald J. Trump?

[The Republican Party in Congress and Their Ties to Russian Money and Foreign National Donations]

“I’m going to try and make people realize that in order to live the life they are living, they need to have democracy, and it’s being threatened.”

Elijah Cummings

The Republican Party in the United States Senate has just taken a dump on the American people (and that includes craping on that part of the electorate that voted Trump into office in the first place). In addition, the United States Constitution has just been shredded while the Republican Party has thumbed their noses at all of us with glee.

Along with our democratic principles, and our moral convictions of what is right and wrong, the country has just been unceremoniously screwed by the Republican Party. People are outraged throughout the country, and do you want to know why The Republican Party voted as they did?

Answer

The pro-Kremlin elitists in the United States Senate (like Moscow Mitch and Leningrad Lindsay) have both taken large donations of money from Russian Oligarchs in the past, and have now created the conditions that ultimately threaten the national security of the United States. Said simply, they have been bought by the Kremlin. Because of the insidious penetration of Russians and Russian influence in our elections, impacting policy as well as votes, our country is now in great danger.

They pushed their Russian-inspired agenda and they let all of us be damned in the process. These pompous ass cowardly senators will never be forgiven and should be brought up on charges of treason. We’ve experienced many dark times in our history and survived. However, this betrayal of the country by the U.S. Senate makes Benedict Arnold look like a choir boy. It makes every senator who voted to acquit Donald J. Trump an idiot whose malfeasance will go down in history. They sold all of us out for Russian money.

Vladimir Putin, and his ring of thugs, is now doing cartwheels over the Senate’s verdict to acquit the most degenerate misfit miscreant to ever hold the Country’s highest office. On February 5, 2020 Republican senators voted to acquit President Donald J. Trump of the impeachment charges of Abuse of Power (The vote was 52 to 48) and Abuse of Congress (The vote was 53 to 47.)

This reminds me of the statement made by President Roosevelt on December 7, 1941 in which he said “a day which will live in Infamy.” February 5, 2020 will now be famous for its infamy just like the attack on Pearl Harbor, or the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 or the infamous September 11, 2001 date when our country was suddenly and viciously attacked by radical terrorists from the Middle East.

The vote to acquit Donald J. Trump was a deviant act of social and legal irresponsibility. As most sociologists know, deviance legally defined is as much a product of the “rule makers” as it is the “rule-breakers.” In this case, Senator Mitch McConnell was the “rule-maker” and Donald J. Trump was the “rule-breaker.”

This bizarre and unholy alliance between the rule-maker and rule-breaker reminds me of a bad cop taking bribes from a drug dealer by making an alliance with the devil and accepting bribes.

Motivation

The corrupt decision of the United States Senate was motivated primarily by greed and monetary gains, personal self-serving motives (like ambition and hoping for increasing the probability of re-election). Another motive of the turncoats had was fear and cowardice before the dictator in the White House. Republican Senators manifested a cowardly fear of Donald J. Trump. Other alternatives rather than appeasing a dictator in the White House were never calculated or considered. Donald J. Trump has lost support in every state he won since 2016. Lack of thinking outside the box by Republican Senators will, in the long run, be detrimental to their goal of getting re-elected. Right now they are living in a fantasy world. However, reality will eventually kick them in the teeth and face.

Now that they have acquitted Donald J. Trump in front of the whole country, they will be, for seventy-five percent on the voting population, on their “shit list.”

This acquittal was done despite the case put on by the House managers that was extremely compelling, intelligent, complete, intellectually thorough, and at times spell binding and elegant particularly in the case of presentations by Adam Schiff. It was a superior piece of work showing great craftsmanship in the final product and procedures (i.e., the way they carried themselves in their duties, and produced viable legally relevant charges).

The White House council team by comparison relied on an abbreviated presentation devoid of substance, facts, document or witness testimony and used tired and old Ad Hominin arguments (character assassination) of no relevance to the job at hand. Distractions and asides were their strategy. Nevertheless, they failed despite being good lawyers of some reputation for good work elsewhere.

Why did they really fail? Trump often had conflicts with his own lawyers. But look at what they had to work with: An arrogant guilty President who possesses a narcissistic personality, a God complex, interwoven with an additional inferiority complex (thanks to his dad Fred Trump and Donald’s mother during bygone years).

In addition, his utter lack of knowledge and personal flaws make him mentally crippled to serve anyone except himself. Yet, his social perception of others left him with the erroneous belief that only he could run his own defense better than the lawyers. Remember when he said, “he knew more than the generals.” As they say, “a person, who wants to defend himself in court, as we all know, has a “fool for a client.” I don’t know exactly what went on between Trump and his lawyers, but rest assured the puppet master in the White House had his lawyers dangling on a string every step of his defense.

As mentioned above, tied in with the actual self-serving motivation of Republican Senators, was their underlying yet overarching motive for monetary rewards. The Republican led Senate just deep-sixed the principles of democracy, decency, and notions of right and wrong. Why? Because money rules people in Congress—make no naïve assumptions about that! Senate Republicans will throw anyone under the bus for a dollar.

Time does not permit me to fully discuss in detail types of direct evidence or circumstantial evidence, and how inferences are used or not used with either type of evidence. I’ll give you one hint. Lawyers know they can convince a jury when they have a lot of corroborating evidence, physical evidence or testimony and/or documents. There was a lot of corroborating evidence presented in the trial of Donald J. Trump. In fact it’s true. The evidence was really overwhelming, particularly witness testimony. Before John Bolton came forward the White House council said that the House’s witnesses didn’t have firsthand knowledge. Yet, when the chance arose to have at least four direct eyewitnesses, they then said no further witnesses or documents were needed. What a hypocritical argument that was.

Its counter intuitive I know, but “truth” is not what lawyers look for in criminal cases. One unethical technique they use quite often is to make a witness appear to be lying even though the lawyer knows the witness is actually telling the truth. It’s very similar to use of character assassination (attacking the witnesses) that was used in the impeachment trial by the White House defense team. This is because it is the jury’s responsibility to be triers of fact, not the lawyers. Why not the lawyers? Because winning cases is more important to them than “truth.” It is true (contrary to popular belief) that “truth is what we agree it is, nothing more and nothing less. But, one way to achieve agreement in a trial is to present the best evidence one can. Evidence of many kinds is used to get at the truth.

This is why the Republican Senators didn’t want any evidence at all. Evidence (particularly, witness testimony and documents) might lead to removal of their client, the President of the United States. That’s why the Impeachment Trial of Donald J. Trump was a fraud, cover-up or a judicial farce.

The jurors in the Impeachment Trial of Donald J. Trump were supposed to be triers of fact. Unfortunately, unlike jurors in a real criminal case, they just didn’t give a damn about the facts, the evidence or the truth. Personal desires for monetary and other political rewards resulted in the whole process being tainted from the very beginning. And one must remember, even before the trial began, Senate Republican Moscow Mitch declared he was working together with the defendant in this case. That’s like a jury foreman getting together with a criminal defendant and helping him or her to get away with the crime. If the public found out about the jury foreman’s behavior they certainly would make sure he too would go to jail. Evidently, senators play by a different set of rules.

Follow the Money

I mentioned in my last Blog that it is important to convict criminal offenders and many white collar offenders by following the money. I will share with my readers the laws of campaign financing. It appears that since Donald J. Trump took office there has been an easing of restrictions of campaign finance laws, making it easier to get foreign money for campaigning and personal slush funds.

Foreigners or foreign governments now influence whoever the hell they want. Russians can now buy politicians anywhere in the world, including the United States of America. What you’ll see below is the ways campaign financing laws were originally written. This will be followed by three articles.

The first article will be on foreign money in American politics by Brian Padden in U.S. Politics dated November 5, 2019. The title of the article is “Foreign Money Flows into U.S. Politics.” This will be followed by two articles by Ruth May for the Dallas Morning News. The first is dated August 3, 2017. The title of the article was, “GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia.” The second article by Ruth May was dated on May 8, 2018. The title of the article was “How Putin’s oligarchs funneled millions into GOP campaigns.

 

Overview—U.S. Campaign Finance Laws

“Campaigns are prohibited from accepting contributions from certain types of organizations and individuals. These prohibited sources are:

  • Corporations, including nonprofit corporations (although funds from a corporate separate segregated fund are permissible)
  • Labor organizations (although funds from a separate segregated fund are permissible)
  • Federal government contractors
  • Foreign nationals
  • Contributions in the name of another

 

Under the category of foreign nationals we find several important restrictions dealing with Campaign Financing:

Foreign Nationals—Restrictions

Campaigns may not solicit or accept contributions from foreign nationals. Federal law prohibits contributions, donations, expenditures and disbursements solicited, directed, received or made directly or indirectly by or from foreign nationals in connection with any election— federal, state or local.

This prohibition includes contributions or donations made to political committees and building funds and to make electioneering communications. Furthermore, it is a violation of federal law to knowingly provide substantial assistance in the making, acceptance or receipt of contributions or donations in connection with federal and nonfederal elections to a political committee, or for the purchase or construction of an office building.

This prohibition includes, but is not limited to, acting as a conduit or intermediary for foreign national contributions and donations.

 

A person acts knowingly for the purposes of this section when he or she has:

  • Actual knowledge that the funds have come from a foreign national;
  • Awareness of certain facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that there is a substantial probability that the money is from a foreign national; or
  • Awareness of facts that should have prompted a reasonable inquiry into whether the source of funds is a foreign national.

 

Pertinent facts that satisfy the “knowing” requirement include knowledge of:

  • Use of a foreign passport or passport number;
  • Use of a foreign address;
  • A check or other written instrument drawn on an account or wire transfer from a foreign bank; or
  • Contributor or donor living abroad.

 

Definition of foreign national

 

A foreign national is:

  • An individual who is not a citizen of the United States, and not lawfully admitted for permanent residence (as defined in 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a) (20)); or
  • A foreign principal, as defined in 22 U.S.C. § 611(b). Section 611 defines a foreign principal as a group organized under the laws of a foreign country or having its principal place of business in a foreign country. The statute specifically mentions foreign governments, political parties, partnerships, associations and corporations.”

 

US Politics

Foreign Money Flows into US Politics

By Brian Padden

November 05, 2019 07:16 PM

WASHINGTON – Untold amounts of foreign donations are flowing into America’s political system, with little accountability or limits.

Although election experts say it’s impossible to accurately estimate the extent of foreign financial influence over U.S. elections, many agree it has increased substantially since a landmark Supreme Court ruling nearly a decade ago opened the flood gates.

President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani speaks to reporter’s on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, May 30, 2018.

Recent headlines have highlighted ways in which foreign donations can enter America’s political bloodstream, including the revelation that business associates of presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani were indicted for pumping foreign money into federal and state campaigns and political action committees.

But experts say that stopping the flow of foreign money into U.S. elections is hampered by legal loopholes, illicit financial maneuvers and ultimately a lack of political resolve.

 

WATCH: Foreign money plays a huge part in US elections

Ideological Divide Persists Over Impact of Foreign Money in U.S. Elections

Republicans and Democrats vociferously oppose foreign interference in U.S. elections, noting it is prohibited under federal campaign law and undermines the democratic process. But both parties reportedly have received foreign donations, either legally through American corporate subsidiaries, or illicitly through shell companies and political action committees (PACs).

How much, to weed out foreign contributions are ideologically-fraught questions. Advocates for transparency in government, for example, want to end privacy restrictions that allow anonymous donations to political action committees, known as PACs — non-profit organizations that advocate for political causes but do not work directly for a party or campaign. The shielding of donors makes it harder to detect foreign financial contributions.

“The more this information that’s sort of hidden behind closed doors, the less accountability we’re going to have in U.S. politics and the greater the opportunities become for foreign money and foreign influence to sneak in and affect U.S. elections,” said Ben Freeman, the director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy in Washington.

But privacy advocates say forcing the disclosing of the identity of donors to political advocacy groups would do more harm than good. “We have documented evidence of people [whose donations become public] being fired from their jobs or companies not really wanting to fire them but feeling they had to because they were being boycotted or harassed. We have evidence of people being in some cases physically attacked,” said Brad Smith, the chairman of the Institute for Free Speech.

 

Trump focus 

President Donald Trump and some of his top advisers have been the focus of increasing scrutiny by Democrats and the Justice Department for purported ties to foreign money and influence.

Businessmen connected to Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani were recently indicted for funneling foreign money to federal and state campaigns and PACs that included the pro-Trump America First Action, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and a campaign committee for Pete Sessions, a former Republican congressman from Texas.

Prosecutors said two men, Ukrainian-born Lev Parnas and Belarus-born Igor Fruman, who helped Giuliani investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, conspired to pass along $1 million from an unidentified Russian businessman to various U.S. candidates.

These criminal charges from the Justice Department arose amid a congressional impeachment inquiry of Trump for prodding Ukraine to investigate Biden, a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

The president denied knowing the Giuliani associates, even though a photograph has surfaced, posted last year, that showed Trump posing with one of the men at the White House.

Earlier this year, the Special Counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election found extensive “sweeping and systematic” interference that “violated U.S. criminal law”, but stopped short of accusing the Trump campaign of coordinating with the Russian government.

Bipartisan problem

Democrats have also come under investigation for foreign entanglements.

This month, American entrepreneur Imaad Zuberi plead guilty to making thousands of dollars of illegal donations in 2012 on behalf of  Saudi tycoon Sheikh Mohammed Al Rahbani to President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign.

Zuberi has raised millions of dollars for both Democrats and Republicans, and prosecutors said he has worked on behalf of several foreigners.

Gregory Craig, a former White House counsel for President Obama, was recently found not guilty after being charged with lying to the Justice Department about his work for the Ukrainian government. Craig maintained that his legal work in Ukraine never “crossed the line” into advocacy or lobbying that would require him to register as a foreign agent.

Shell game

A landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Citizens United, has made it more difficult to track foreign backing for U.S. political activity. The 2010 decision barred the government from limiting political spending and fundraising by nonprofit organizations, including PACs. The result, say critics, has been a flood of “dark money” that is difficult to track in American politics.

“The American political system is at a historical high point in its vulnerability to foreign influence. There are just so many avenues for foreign money to have an impact on U.S. elections,” said Freeman.

Beyond financial contributions, the rising role of social media in U.S. campaigns also gives foreign powers new means to meddle in elections by funding and amplifying extreme or disruptive political elements.

Privacy advocates argue that the impact of foreign interference is being exaggerated by mostly-liberal groups seeking to limit the ability of conservatives to operate freely in the political realm.

“It appears that Russians spent a couple hundred thousand on Facebook ads [during the 2016 U.S. presidential election]. And this has triggered this massive effort to find out the source and to start proposing all kinds of new legislation that imposes significant burdens on American citizens,” said Smith.

Both sides of the political aisle agree more could be done to crack down on foreign nationals using American shell companies, which have no real business operations, to process illicit campaign donations.

Complex regulations can obscure the legal line between foreign and domestic donations. For example, American subsidiaries of foreign owned companies can donate to American campaigns. And American lobbyists can raise foreign funds while making U.S. campaign contributions, but are supposed to keep the two activities separate.

Experts say the ability of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to enforce campaign finance laws has also been undermined by gridlock and dysfunction in Washington. Trump has been slow to nominate, and the Republican-led Senate equally slow to confirm, replacements for vacancies at the commission, which currently lacks the quorum needed to make new rules and levy any fines.”

 

Dallas Morning News Article

GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia

Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.

Party loyalty is often cited as the reason that GOP leaders have not been more outspoken in their criticism of President Donald Trump and his refusal to condemn Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Yet there may be another reason that top Republicans have not been more vocal in their condemnation. Perhaps it’s because they have their own links to the Russian oligarchy that they would prefer go unnoticed.

Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.

During the 2015-2016 election seasons, Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonard “Len” Blavatnik contributed $6.35 million to leading Republican candidates and incumbent senators. Mitch McConnell was the top recipient of Blavatnik’s donations, collecting $2.5 million for his GOP Senate Leadership Fund under the names of two of Blavatnik’s holding companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings, according to Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets.org.

Marco Rubio’s Conservative Solutions PAC and his Florida First Project received $1.5 million through Blavatnik’s two holding companies. Other high dollar recipients of funding from Blavatnik were PACS representing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at $1.1 million, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham at $800,000, Ohio Governor John Kasich at $250,000 and Arizona Senator John McCain at $200,000.

In January, Quartz reported that Blavatnik donated another $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee. Ironically, the shared address of Blavatnik’s companies is directly across the street from Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in New York.

Len Blavatnik, considered to be one of the richest men in Great Britain, holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and the U.K. He is known for his business savvy and generous philanthropy, but not without controversy.

In 2010, Oxford University drew intense criticism for accepting a donation of 75 million pounds from Blavatnik for a new school of government bearing his name. Faculty, alumni and international human rights activists claimed the university was selling its reputation and prestige to Putin’s associates.

Blavatnik’s relationships with Russian oligarchs close to Putin, particularly Oleg Deripaska, should be worrisome for Trump and the six GOP leaders who took Blavatnik’s money during the 2016 presidential campaign. Lucky for them no one has noticed. Yet.

Oleg Deripaska is the founder and majority owner of RUSAL, the world’s second largest aluminum company, based in Russia. Len Blavatnik owns a significant stake in RUSAL and served on its Board until November 10, 2016, two days after Donald Trump was elected.

Deripaska controls RUSAL with a 48 percent majority stake through his holding company, EN+ Group, and the Russian government owns 4.35 percent stake of EN+ Group through its second-largest state owned bank, VTB. VTB was exposed in the Panama papers in 2016 for facilitating the flow of billions of dollars to offshore companies linked to Vladimir Putin and is under sanctions by the U.S. government.

Deripaska has been closely connected to the Kremlin since he married into Boris Yeltsin’s family in 2001, which literally includes him in the Russian clan known as “The Family.” According to the Associated Press, starting in 2006, Deripaska made annual payments of $10 million to Paul Manafort through the Bank of Cyprus to advance Putin’s global agenda.

Len Blavatnik’s co-owner in RUSAL is his long-time business partner, Viktor Vekselberg, another Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin. Blavatnik and Vekselberg hold their 15.8 percent joint stake in RUSAL in the name of Sual Partners, their offshore company in the Bahamas. Vekselberg also happens to be the largest shareholder in the Bank of Cyprus.

Another oligarch with close ties to Putin, Dmitry Rybolovlev, owns a 3.3 percent stake in the Bank of Cyprus. Rybolovlev is known as “Russia’s Fertilizer King” and has been in the spotlight for several months as the purchaser of Trump’s 60,000 square-foot mansion in Palm Beach. Rybolovlev bought the estate for $54 million more than Trump paid for the property at the bottom of the crash in the U.S. real estate market.

The convoluted web that links Putin’s oligarchs to Trump’s political associates and top Republicans is difficult to take in.

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Trump and Putin have a common approach to governance. They rely heavily on long-term relationships and family ties. While there have been tensions between Putin and Deripaska over the years, the Kremlin came to Deripaska’s rescue in 2009 when he was on the verge of bankruptcy by providing a $4.5 billion emergency loan through state-owned Vnesheconombank (VEB), where Putin is chair of the advisory board.

VEB, known as President Putin’s “pet bank,” is now in crisis after sanctions applied by Europe and U.S. in 2014 have isolated it from the international banks that were the sources of its nearly $4 billion in hard currency loans that, according to Bloomberg, mature this year and in 2018.

Russia’s international currency reserves are near a 10-year low, which has put further pressure on the president of VEB, Sergey Gorkov, to find sources of international rescue capital. Notably, it was Gorkov who met secretly with Jared Kushner in December at Trump Tower. Kushner’s failure to report the meeting with Gorkov has drawn the attention of the Senate intelligence committee that now wants to question Kushner about the meeting.

Ruth May is a business professor at the University of Dallas and an expert on the economies of Russia and Ukraine. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News. Twitter: @ruthcmay

CORRECTION, 12:11 p.m., August 7: The headline on an earlier version of this column incorrectly said Blavatnik is Russian. He was born in Ukraine during the Soviet era.

An earlier version of this column used the name Leonid “Len” Blavatnik. He changed his first name to Leonard.

The column has also been updated to remove language describing the online presentation of a press release about Blavatnik resigning from the RUSAL board because it lacked context.”

Ruth May wrote an update article for the Dallas Morning News that is worth reading because it gives a lot of information. It was written on May 8, 2018. The title of the article was “How Putin’s oligarchs funneled millions into GOP campaigns.

How Putin’s Oligarchs Funneled Millions into GOP Campaigns

“Campaign finance reports show troubling connections between a group of wealthy donors with ties to Russia and their political contributions to Trump and top Republican leaders.

Editor’s note May 8, 2018: This column originally published December 15, 2017. New allegations about $500k in payments from a Russian oligarch made to Trump attorney Michael Cohen have placed it back in the news.

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team probes deeper into potential collusion between Trump officials and representatives of the Russian government, investigators are taking a closer look at political contributions made by U.S. citizens with close ties to Russia.

Buried in the campaign finance reports available to the public are some troubling connections between a group of wealthy donors with ties to Russia and their political contributions to President Donald Trump and a number of top Republican leaders. And thanks to changes in campaign finance laws, the political contributions are legal. We have allowed our campaign finance laws to become a strategic threat to our country.

An example is Len Blavatnik, a dual U.S.-U.K. citizen and one of the largest donors to GOP political action committees in the 2015-16 election cycles. Blavatnik’s family emigrated to the U.S. in the late ’70s from the U.S.S.R. and he returned to Russia when the Soviet Union began to collapse in the late ’80s.

Data from the Federal Election Commission show that Blavatnik’s campaign contributions dating back to 2009-10 were fairly balanced across party lines and relatively modest for a billionaire. During that season he contributed $53,400. His contributions increased to $135,552 in 2011-12 and to $273,600 in 2013-14, still bipartisan.

In 2015-16, everything changed. Blavatnik’s political contributions soared and made a hard right turn as he pumped $6.35 million into GOP political action committees, with millions of dollars going to top Republican leaders including Sens. Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham.

In 2017, donations continued, with $41,000 going to both Republican and Democrat candidates, along with $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.

So is this legal?

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democratic leader on the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC News in September: “Unless the contributions were directed by a foreigner, they would be legal, but could still be of interest to investigators examining allegations of Russian influence on the 2016 campaign. Obviously, if there were those that had associations with the Kremlin that were contributing, that would be of keen concern.”

Under federal law, foreigner nationals are barred from contributing directly or indirectly to political campaigns in local, state and federal elections.

Should Blavatnik’s contributions concern Mueller’s team of investigators? Take a look at his long-time business associates in Russia.

The Oligarchs

Oleg Deripaska is said to be one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs, and he is founder and majority shareholder of Russia’s Rusal, the second-largest aluminum company in the world. Blavatnik holds a stake in Rusal with a business partner.

Further, nearly 4 percent of Deripaska’s stake in Rusal is owned by Putin’s state-controlled bank, VTB, which is currently under U.S. sanctions. VTB was exposed in the Panama Papers in 2016 for facilitating the flow of billions of dollars to offshore companies linked to Putin.

Earlier this year, The Associated Press reported that Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, began collecting $10 million a year in 2006 from Deripaska to advance Putin’s interests with Western governments. Deripaska’s name turned up again in an email handed over to Mueller’s team by Manafort’s attorneys. According to The Washington Post, in the email dated July 7, 2016, just two weeks before Trump accepted the Republican nomination for president, Manafort asked an overseas intermediary to pass a message on to Deripaska: “If he [Deripaska] needs private briefings, tell him we can accommodate.”

Viktor Vekselberg is one of the 10 richest men in Russia. He and long-time business partner Blavatnik hold a 20.5 percent stake in Rusal. (They met while attending university in Russia.)

In 1990, Blavatnik and Vekselberg co-founded the Renova Group for large-scale investments in energy, infrastructure, aluminum and other metals. One of their earliest investments was in Tyumen Oil Co. (TNK), founded in 1995. TNK is best known for its contentious partnership with British Petroleum after the two entities formed a joint venture in 2003. That rocky relationship ended 10 years later when they sold out to the state-controlled energy giant, Rosneft, under pressure from the Russian government.

As for BP, that pressure took the form of growing harassment and intimidation from Russian authorities who at one point, according to Forbes, refused to renew visas for BP employees, forcing BP’s joint venture chief Robert Dudley (who is now chief executive of BP) to flee Russia and manage TNK-BP from a foreign outpost in a secret location.

Vekselberg has connections to at least two Americans who made significant GOP campaign contributions during the last cycle. They are among several Americans who also merit Mueller’s scrutiny.

The Americans

Andrew Intrater, according to Mother Jones, is Vekselberg’s cousin. He is also chief executive of Columbus Nova, Renova’s U.S. investment arm located in New York. (FEC records list his employer as Renova US Management LLC.)

Intrater had no significant history of political contributions prior to the 2016 elections. But in January 2017 he contributed $250,000 to Trump’s Inaugural Committee. His six-figure gift bought him special access to a dinner billed as “an intimate policy discussion with select cabinet appointees,” according to a brochure obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.

Alexander Shustorovich, chief executive of IMG Artists, attempted to give the Republican Party $250,000 in 2000 to support the George W. Bush presidential campaign, but his money was rejected because of his ties to the Russian government, according to Quartz. So why didn’t the Trump team reject Shustorovich’s $1 million check to Trump’s Inaugural Committee?

Simon Kukes is an oil magnate who has something in common with Intrater. From 1998 to 2003, he worked for Vekselberg and Blavatnik as chief executive of TNK. Redacted CIA documents released in 2003 under the Freedom of Information Act said “TNK president Kukes said that he bribed local officials.” The CIA confirmed the authenticity of the reports to The Guardian newspaper but would not comment further. In 2016, Kukes contributed a total of $283,000, much of it to the Trump Victory Fund. He had no significant donor history before last year’s election.

There is no doubt that Kukes has close ties to the Putin government. When he left his job as CEO of TNK in June 2003, he joined the board of Yukos Oil, which at the time was the largest oil company in Russia owned by the richest man in Russia, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Four months after Kukes joined the board, authorities arrested Khodorkovsky at gunpoint on his private plane in Siberia on trumped up charges of tax evasion and tapped Kukes to be CEO. This decision could only have been made at the highest levels in the Kremlin. The arrest of Khodorkovsky rattled the nerves of international investors and was the first tangible sign that Putin was not going to be the kind of leader that global executives and Western governments had expected him to be when he first took office in 2000.

Khodorkovksy was given a 13-year sentence in a Siberian prison and served 10 years before being released by Putin in December 2013, a month before the start of the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi, as a sign of goodwill. As for the fate of Khodorkovksy’s company, its largest oil subsidiary was sold in a sealed bid auction to Baikal Financial Group, a shell company with an unpublished list of officers. Baikal was registered at an address that turned out to be a mobile phone store in Tver, Russia. Three days after the auction, all of Baikal’s assets were acquired for an undisclosed sum by Rosneft, the Russian oil giant that went on to buy TNK-BP in 2013.

In total, Blavatnik, Intrater, Shustorovich and Kukes made $10.4 million in political contributions from the start of the 2015-16 election cycles through September 2017, and 99 percent of their contributions went to Republicans. With the exception of Shustorovich, the common denominator that connects the men is their association with Vekselberg. Experts who follow the activities of Russian oligarchs told ABC News that they believe the contributions from Blavatnik, Intrater and Kukes warrant intense scrutiny because they have worked closely with Vekselberg.

Even if the donations by the four men associated with Russia ultimately pass muster with Mueller, one still has to wonder: Why did GOP PACs and other Trump-controlled funds take their money? Why didn’t the PACs say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” like the Republicans said to Shustorovich in 2000? Yes, it was legal to accept their donations, but it was incredibly poor judgment.

McConnell surely knew as a participant in high level intelligence briefings in 2016 that our electoral process was under attack by the Russians. Two weeks after the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement in October 2016 that the Russian government had directed the effort to interfere in our electoral process; McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik’s AI-Altep Holdings. The PAC took another $1 million from Blavatnik’s AI-Altep Holdings on March 30, 2017, just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey publicly testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s interference in the election.

And consider Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s campaign finance chairman. Could he have known that the Trump Victory Fund, jointly managed by the Republican National Committee and Trump’s campaign, took contributions from Intrater and Kukes? Mnuchin owned Hollywood financing company RatPac-Dune with Blavatnik until he sold his stake to accept Trump’s appointment as the Treasury secretary.

Which PAC officials are making the decisions to accept these donations?

 

The Supreme Court

The contributions are legal because the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling, Citizens United, and several subsequent decisions, allowed American corporations and citizens to give unlimited amounts of money to PACs and non-profit 501c4 organizations, regardless of how they make their money, where they make their money, or with whom they make their money. The only caveat is that PACs and non-profits cannot coordinate their activities with the political candidates they support.

The man who led the winning fight for Citizens United was David Bossie, president of the conservative non-profit since 2001. In 1996, Bossie was hired by Republican Rep. Dan Burton to lead an investigation into President Bill Clinton’s campaign fundraising. Burton fired him 18 months later for manipulating recordings of conversations among law officials and Webb Hubbell, a Clinton confidant who resigned as associate attorney general and pleaded guilty to tax fraud during the Whitewater investigation. CNN reported at the time that Newt Gingrich, who was speaker of the House, called Bossie’s tampering with the Hubbell recordings an embarrassment to the Republicans. Bossie served as Trump’s deputy campaign chairman.

The Super PAC, Make America Number 1, is primarily funded by Trump’s largest donor, Robert Mercer. His Renaissance Technologies hedge fund donated $15.5 million to the PAC. Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, assumed control of Make America Number 1 in September 2016 and is now tainted by her role in the communications between Wikileaks and Cambridge Analytica, the firm that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, hired for $5.9 million to handle the digital portion of the Trump campaign.

Robert and Rebekah Mercer are major investors in Cambridge Analytica. According to The Wall Street Journal, Rebekah Mercer asked Cambridge chief executive Alexander Nix if the firm could compile stolen emails related to Hillary Clinton so that they could be more easily searched. (This suggestion came from someone she met at an event supporting Sen. Ted Cruz, according to The Hill. Cambridge Analytica had worked on digital marketing for Cruz before he dropped out of the Republican primary.)

Nix confirmed that he had asked Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to forward the Clinton-related emails. Assange said he declined the request.

Rebekah Mercer also heads the non-profit Making America Great, formed in March 2017. The non-profit ran a seven-figure ad campaign highlighting Trump’s achievements. Bossie is the group’s chief strategist.

Erik Prince, brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, contributed $150,000 to Mercer’s Make America Number 1 PAC and another $100,000 to the Trump Victory Fund. Prince has recently testified to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence about his trip to the remote Seychelles for a secret meeting in December 2016 with a close ally of Putin, Kirill Dmitriev, and head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund. The purpose of the meeting was allegedly to setup a back channel of communication between then president-elect Donald Trump and the Russians, though Prince has denied this allegation. Before the 2015-16 elections, Prince’s political contributions totaled a mere $31,800 as far back as 2007, according to FEC records.

The hybrid super-PAC, The Committee to Defend the President, was formed in 2013 under the name Stop Hillary PAC. It is managed by Dan Backer, the lead attorney who won the McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission case in 2014. The Supreme Court decision eliminated the cap on how many wealthy individuals can donate to federal candidates, parties and PACs in a single, two-year election cycle.

Like Bossie, Dan Backer helped to open the floodgates to millions of dollars of influence brought to bear on incumbents and their political challengers who are now pressured to kowtow to their donors with the biggest bank accounts, even if their billions are earned in Russian rubles.

Backer was born in Russia and emigrated with his family to the U.S. in 1978.

The changes to our campaign finance laws created an avenue for Russia to try to influence our elections. There are holes in our firewall and they aren’t on the internet.

Ruth May is a business professor at the University of Dallas and an expert on the economies of Russia and Ukraine. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News. Twitter: @ruthcmaygraphics by Michael Hogue/Staff Artist

Final Comments

     It is astonishing to know our Republican United States senators sold us out for personal self-aggrandizing motives centered on money, getting re-elected and power. They didn’t give a rat’s ass about your safety or your concerns of any kind. As they say, it’s true; ‘we have the best politicians money can buy.’ Senate Republicans and near-do-wells like House Republicans are the most despicable politicians on the face of the earth. I don’t say this lightly; the Republican Party prior to 1994 used to be worthy and was honorable.

The current Senate Republican “pack of wolves” has dishonored their country and their reputations forever; they have a perverted sense of values that are truly un-American. The hypocrisy and phoniness of Republicans, including the White House Defense Team, reeks of shame in their attempt to shield the paper tiger in the White House.

During the trial the White House defense team said how important it was to protect the voter’s 2016 decision to vote for the President. Impeaching Donald J. Trump somehow violated the sanctity of their right to vote. Since the Republican Party routinely cheats the American voter through voter suppression sponsored programs, and the gerrymandering process, those topics never came up in the discussions during the trial—now did they?

More than Donald J. Trump was on trial during his impeachment hearing in the United States Senate. Truth and character were also on trial. Consequently, because of their decision, democracy is now dead in the United States. The Constitutional Republic is no more.

To all the Republicans in the land and especially conservative Republicans I want to say two things from the bottom of my heart: Fuc# Yo# and May God have mercy on your soul if you have one!!!

Republicans may fear the wrath of Donald J. Trump. But what they really should fear is the wrath of the American people. If he gets to November 2020 he’s going down.

In the meantime more impeachment charges should be leveled against Donald J. Trump, particularly from the Mueller Report. And newspapers like the Washington post should publish all secret interviews, but from reliable sources, like insiders currently in the Trump Administration. Other newspapers like The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and many others should hover over Trump from now on “like a fly on do-do.”

Republican Senators should be further investigated for taking any bribes, both foreign and domestic. As Donald J. Trump said recently in reference to U. S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, “She will be going through some things.” Senate Republicans can now count on one thing in the future: “They too will be going through some things.” And, they damn well deserve everything that will happen to them. What a God damn disgrace they are!!!

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Senate Trial of Donald J. Trump Could Embarrass the U.S. Supreme Court

Implications for the Role of Chief Justice John Roberts

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money. America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.

Alexis de Tocqueville, French Diplomat              

Introduction

The U. S. House of Representatives created two articles of impeachment based on 645 pages of solid evidence. Now because of this these articles were passed on December 18, 2019 against Donald J. Trump. A trial is planned to take place in January 2020 before the United States Senate as part of their Constitutional duties and requirement.

Moscow Mitch and Leningrad Lindsay have publicly declared that they are not unbiased and have already made up their mind to acquit the President of wrongdoing by declaring that impeachment is a political process, not a legal process.

It is true that impeachment is primarily a political process. But does that necessarily mean politics reigns supreme over any and all legal issues or concerns? I think not! Legal issues go way beyond the relative importance and whimsical or waggish nature of politics.

The public expects a real trial, not a kangaroo court or quasi- judicial farce. If a jury foreman or other juror in a real trial was to stand up and publicly announce his/her intention to acquit a defendant in advance, before even opening statements, the presiding judge would censor and remove that juror(s).

Politics after all is based, at its root or primary level, on value judgments. But underlying values or ideology is not the same thing as evaluating solid data, or evidence that might support, or not support, allegations made against a President.

Aside from the above statement the United States Constitution calls for the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court to preside over an impeachment trial. Why would the Founding Fathers think it important to have a Chief Justice present and oversee an impeachment trial, if they only considered impeachment to be solely a political process? In fact, why call in the Judicial Branch at all if it’s only a political process?

They did so because the Founding Fathers knew that a fledgling democracy could be contaminated and compromised by individuals in any of the branches of government. They knew it wasn’t a perfect system; but they believed that the best way to protect the government from a corrupt branch involve all three branches of government at the same time as a check on each other. This philosophical stance was the basic underlying idea behind wanting three branches of government in the first place. Impeachment was only one of their concerns. The overall operation of a democracy was at the forefront of their fears and concerns. Alexis de Tocqueville is important here to what I’m explaining, but is beyond the scope of this Blog.

The Republicans in the forthcoming trial of Donald J. Trump want to run roughshod over the proceedings and the nation. They want to negate and totally minimize evidence presentations (new or old evidence) and do everything in their power to prevent witnesses from testifying. The role of the Chief Justice in such a process would be reduced and would totally emasculate John Roberts, or at best, have the Chief Justice serve only in a manner that can only be described as “window-dressing.” This would be an embarrassment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But all of this runs counter to what the Founding Fathers really wanted—fair and impartial jurors and the presentation of real evidence. All of this puts the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in an embarrassing and untenable position. He’s damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t conduct the trial in a serious and legally well-reasoned manner.

Relevant Article

Recently, I found an article from TIME that describes the embarrassment issue and difficulty for John Roberts to serve in such an impeachment trial controlled by the Senate.

 

Why Impeachment Could Be a Nightmare for Chief Justice John Roberts

By Tessa Berenson, October 31, 2019

 

“The impeachment inquiry has so far unfolded largely as a fight between Congress and the White House, with federal courts weighing in occasionally. But if the House moves to impeach President Donald Trump, thus triggering a trial in the Senate, then the chief justice of the United States will be drawn in to oversee the proceedings. That would put John Roberts, a man known for his temperance and modest view of judicial power, in an uncomfortable place: at the direct center of a bitter political battle.

     It’s not a job the reserved judge will likely relish. For Roberts, who famously said Supreme Court justices should merely “call balls and strikes,” overseeing an impeachment trial would force him to engage very publicly in helping determine the fate of the president who has called him an “absolute disaster.” It will also put the Supreme Court’s fragile reputation of being above politics on the line—an issue that’s dear to Roberts and that could have ramifications for the high court for years to come as it fights to preserve public confidence in its work.

     “I can think of no task I think the Chief wants less than to have that thrust upon him,” Megan Brown, partner at Wiley Rein, said at a Federalist Society panel on Oct. 2.

There’s no way for Roberts to get out of it; his role in any impeachment trial is mandated by the Constitution. Article I Section 3 reads, in part: “When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside.” The framers named the chief justice to preside over an impeachment trial to highlight the gravity of the process, and the move had a practical component. The Vice President is the leader of the Senate, but in the case of an impeachment trial, he has an extraordinary conflict of interest: he would take over the presidency if the Senate trial results in a conviction. The appointment of the chief justice to oversee the trial eliminates that problem.

The last chief justice to oversee an impeachment trial encountered a stylistic clash between the Supreme Court and the Capitol across the street. Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, for whom Roberts once clerked, oversaw the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999. “I underwent the sort of culture shock that naturally occurs when one moves from the very structured environment of the Supreme Court to what I shall call, for want of a better phrase, the more freeform environment of the Senate,” he told senators at the time, according to CNN.

That contrast may be particularly pronounced in the case of Roberts, who has been outspoken about his belief that the judiciary should not wade into political matters. During his opening statement in his confirmation hearing in 2005, Roberts extolled the virtues of “humility” and “modesty” in judges. “Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules; they apply them,” he said. “The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire.”

But in an impeachment trial, Roberts would be required to weigh in on questions about evidence and administrative procedures in a process that is both highly broadcast and inherently political. “Roberts has told us that he doesn’t want the court involved in politics and that the court should stay away from divisive 5-4 decisions,” says Josh Blackman, associate law professor at South Texas College of Law Houston. But in an impeachment trial, he added, Roberts wouldn’t be able to make decisions alongside eight other justices: “It’s just him.”

While there are risks for the chief in assuming the central role in an impeachment fight, those who know him say there are opportunities, as well. “This will provide a setting in which the chief justice will be able to show the importance of neutrality and impartiality in our judicial system,” says one of Roberts’ former clerks. “Especially in a context in which there might be a lot of turbulence and a lot of politics involved, I suspect that he will present a picture of a judge in the middle of it all, trying to keep the process fair.”

If a House vote does indeed trigger a move to the Senate, Roberts will be presiding over the legislative branch’s trial during a fraught time for both Congress and the Supreme Court. In 2017, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell changed the rules on Supreme Court confirmations, requiring only a simple majority, rather than the traditional 60 votes, to confirm a justice. The move has had enormous political ramifications. In 2018, Justice Brett Kavanagh was confirmed with just 50 votes, along near party-lines, after he was accused of sexual assault. (Kavanagh denies the allegations.) Perhaps partly as a result of McConnell’s rule change and Kavanagh’s subsequent confirmation, Americans are now viewing the nation’s highest court through an increasingly partisan lens.

In August 2019, there was a 26 percentage point difference between how Republicans and Democrats viewed the court, among the widest it has been over the past two decades, according to Pew Research Center.

     Roberts has also tangled publicly with Trump. After Trump attacked what he called “an Obama judge” who ruled against his administration’s asylum policy in 2018, Roberts issued a rare statement. “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” he said. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

     Roberts also faces more mundane logistical challenges. If lawmakers follow the procedures from the last impeachment trial, it would run six days a week—during a time that the Supreme Court’s work may be continuing apace. The Supreme Court has plenty of its own work to do. This term, it agreed to hear its first major abortion case since Kavanagh took the bench, and it will hear arguments about Trump’s termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, among other high-profile cases. In Roberts’ absence, Justice Clarence Thomas, the most senior associate justice, would fill in for him in the top role at the Supreme Court. “You can imagine it could make Chief Justice Roberts’ life a little busy, if he’s got two full time jobs,” Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director at Judicial Crisis Network, said at the Oct. 2 Federalist Society event.

     Roberts has acknowledged the current pressures facing the court. “We don’t go about our work in a political manner,” Roberts said in New York City in September. “The point is when you live in a politically polarized environment, people tend to see everything in those terms,” Roberts continued. “That is not how we at the court function and the results of our cases do not suggest otherwise.”

     The challenge for Roberts will be to maintain that reputation amidst what promises to be a partisan melee. “We have a very political process that’s about to blow up in his face,” says Blackman, “whether he wants it or not.”

Final Comments

The point of this Blog is to bring attention to the fact that the fine reputation of the United States Supreme Court is at stake in a trial such as that of Donald J. Trump. This is a serious matter for the nation to consider. It may be that the potential squabbling between a democratic House of Representatives and a Republican Senate people will find entertaining. Entertainment may be a side effect, but the proper administration of justice is the real issue at hand. It would be wise for each citizen watching the trial unfold to understand the importance and seriousness of an impeachment trial.

The United States Supreme Court is a distinguished body of judges whose reputations for analyzing legal data with integrity are well known. It is not unprecedented for a judge in a normal everyday trial to vacate the verdict of a jury in the interests of justice if conditions warrant such an action.

In any event Chief Justice John Roberts needs to take command of the Trial. He needs to be in the driver’s seat, not Moscow Mitch.

We all have biases (including myself) based on the value judgments we all make. Value judgments are an almost inescapable aspect of life when one grows up in any culture. Breaking out of culture over time is most often done by progressives who have a vision of the future. Breaking out of culture norms goes by another name—social change.

Besides a future vision cultural dissatisfaction may play a role for progressives as well as conservatives. Historically conservatives almost always fight against change in all its forms. But it is a temporary fight because eventually yesterday soon becomes today and today soon becomes tomorrow. Said another way, change is inevitable.

It is ironic to notice that 90 years ago conservatives fought tooth and nail to prevent that crazy idea and belief that the country needed to protect the citizenry against calamities like the Great Depression of the 1930s. That crazy idea eventually became the Social Security Act of 1935. Conservatives lost that war with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In 2020, just try to rescind the Social Security Act of 1935. Socially conservative individuals would have a fit now if anyone tried to touch this long standing social program. Once it was a fear of social change; now Social Security has become the normative nature of “all things” today.

The truth is conservatives have, and always will be, on the short end of the stick where social change is concerned. They react; they are not proactive in their thinking. They are always behind the curve of social change.

It must be noted that social change by itself is neither good nor bad. It is simply change reinforced by changing values. How values change over time is complicated and deserves its own Blog to explain its complexity. Because human behavior is influenced by changing values and its complexity just consider for yourself one topical area for your mind to question or mull over. That question is—how has technology itself and social media impacted social behavior and changing social values? That ought to keep you thinking for a month as to how to answer it!

It will be entertaining to observe the trial of Donald J. Trump. The “Jim Jones, David Koresh, or Charles Manson” cult nature of the current Republican Party has caused a Constitutional crisis. The “Brown shirt” mentality of strict obedience to just one man by the Republican Party (like the Brown shirts and Adolf Hitler) gives the widespread impression that the goose-stepping Republican Party is very odd and very strange indeed, bordering on criminogenic behavior.

Is it possible the Donald J. Trump trial will be devoid of political histrionics? I’m generally an optimistic person by nature. But I think the televised trial is too great an opportunity for the Republican Party to miss creating (to be polite) much mischief as the cameras begin to roll.

The Republicans want to “Rubber Stamp” his innocence before the trial even begins. Party Republicans aren’t the only ones who want to rush to judgment in the trial. Trump supporters nationwide can also be branded as the contingency of voters that “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Speak No Evil” where Donald Trump is concerned (All Trump supporters share this characteristic).

It is true that all Trump supporters are not alike. In this author’s opinion they tend to form two distinct groups: (1) those who are ideological in nature who identify with Trump personally. These people may be very similar to Trump in terms of personality traits like The Authoritarian Personality or have become “True Believers” who will follow him anywhere, even to the dark side, and (2) a more pragmatic group of Trump supporters who want something from Trump in return for their vote. These people tend to want Trump to improve the economy and jobs, the bread and butter issues.

Because of these self-interests, pragmatic Trump supporters are willing to overlook Trump inadequacies such as his overall lack of a moral compass, ambivalence towards deviant groups in society, his incessant tweets or vulgarity, his proclivity for lying, nepotism, unsavory friends (like Jeffery Epstein or Paul Manafort), and his philandering ways. Ironically, the Economy is great today because of Obama policies that were put into place to deal with the Financial Crisis of 2008 and 2009. Interest rates have been dropping ever since. The economy’s success today has nothing to do with Donald Trump whose trade policy wars are hurting America’s farmer’s all over the country.

If Donald J. Trump survives the Impeachment Trial in January 2020, I predict his political value as a leader of the Republican Party will continue to decline anyway. Not being thrown out of Office will hardly be viewed as a victory by his supporters. If the Democrats resurrect the Mueller Report with all the evidence already established (and any new impeachment charges) they will pass additional charges for impeachment right up to Election Day, 2020. Donald J. Trump faces criminal charges once he leaves the presidency. If he is not re-elected in November 2020, he will be indicted in New York the very next day.

There is a reason Donald J. Trump doesn’t want his tax returns released to the public. He declared bankruptcy 3 times and after that, no banks in the United States were willing to give him a loan. Do you know who did come around and finally fund Donald J. Trump? Can you guess? It was the Russian Oligarchs with Vladimir Putin’s support. Like the late conservative American radio broadcaster Paul Harvey used to say at the end of each broadcast news report, “And now you know— the rest of the story.”

 

 

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[The Republicans Need to Review the Statutes on Treason Right Now!]

 

Introduction

There is a growing body of evidence that certain high level Republican senators and congressmen have been taking vast substantial campaign donations from Russian operatives and Russian oligarchs.  If by chance you’re wondering why the Republican leadership, along with Donald Trump, are holding 850,000 federal workers hostage with the government shutdown just consider the following facts:

The Russian government conspired to interfere with democratic elections in 2016 in the United States. This was an act of war.

Our founding fathers had good reason to create an Emolument Clause in the United States Constitution because they wanted to remove a president or other members of the government such as senators or congressmen for corruption. Emolument traces back to the Latin word emolumentum, meaning “profit, gain,” which is believed to have referred to payments made to millers for grinding corn — emolere means “grind out.” Today, perhaps coincidentally, people refer to work as “the grind.”

The following is a report by the Brookings Institute, dated December 16, 2016. It is titled,“The Emoluments Clause: Its text, meaning, and application to Donald J. Trump. It was written by  Norman Eisen, Richard Painter and Laurance H. Tribe. They reported that:

“Foreign interference in the American political system was among the gravest dangers feared by the Founders of our nation and the framers of our Constitution.  The United States was a new government, and one that was vulnerable to manipulation by the great and wealthy world powers (which then, as now, included Russia).

One common tactic that foreign sovereigns, and their agents, used to influence our officials was to give them gifts, money, and other things of value.  In response to this practice, and the self-evident threat it represents, the framers included in the Constitution the Emoluments Clause of Article I, Section 9.  It prohibits any “Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States]” from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” Only explicit congressional consent validates such exchanges.

While much has changed since 1789, certain premises of politics and human nature have held steady. One of those truths is that private financial interests can subtly sway even the most virtuous leaders.  As careful students of history, the Framers were painfully aware that entanglements between American officials and foreign powers could pose a creeping, insidious risk to the Republic.  The Emoluments Clause was forged of their hard-won wisdom.  It is no relic of a bygone era, but rather an expression of insight into the nature of the human condition and the preconditions of self-governance.

Now in 2016, when there is overwhelming evidence that a foreign power has indeed meddled in our political system, adherence to the strict prohibition on foreign government presents and emoluments “of any kind whatever” is even more important for our national security and independence.

Never in American history has a president-elect presented more conflict of interest questions and foreign entanglements than Donald Trump. Given the vast and global scope of Trump’s business interests, many of which remain shrouded in secrecy, we cannot predict the full gamut of legal and constitutional challenges that lie ahead.  But one violation, of constitutional magnitude, will run from the instant that Mr. Trump swears he will “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” While holding office, Mr. Trump will receive—by virtue of his continued interest in the Trump Organization and his stake in hundreds of other entities—a steady stream of monetary and other benefits from foreign powers and their agents. In the attached brief, we examine the Emoluments Clause in detail and conclude that Donald Trump’s diverse dealings violate both the spirit and the letter of this critical piece of the U.S. Constitution.”

Norman L. Eisen, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, was the chief White House ethics lawyer from 2009 to 2011 and ambassador to the Czech Republic from 2011 to 2014. He is the chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Richard W. Painter, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, was the chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007. He is the vice chair of CREW. Laurence H. Tribe is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard University. 

 

Who are these Republicans?

The following is a column for the Dallas News by the Dallas Morning News in August, 2017.

“Party loyalty is often cited as the reason that GOP leaders have not been more outspoken in their criticism of President Donald Trump and his refusal to condemn Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Yet there may be another reason that top Republicans have not been more vocal in their condemnation. Perhaps it’s because they have their own links to the Russian oligarchy that they would prefer go unnoticed.

Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.

During the 2015-2016 election seasons, Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonard “Len” Blavatnik contributed $6.35 million to leading Republican candidates and incumbent senators. Mitch McConnell was the top recipient of Blavatnik’s donations, collecting $2.5 million for his GOP Senate Leadership Fund under the names of two of Blavatnik’s holding companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings, according to Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets.org.

Marco Rubio’s Conservative Solutions PAC and his Florida First Project received $1.5 million through Blavatnik’s two holding companies. Other high dollar recipients of funding from Blavatnik were PACS representing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at $1.1 million, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham at $800,000, Ohio Governor John Kasich at $250,000 and Arizona Senator John McCain at $200,000.

In January, Quartz reported that Blavatnik donated another $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee. Ironically, the shared address of Blavatnik’s companies is directly across the street from Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in New York.

Len Blavatnik, considered to be one of the richest men in Great Britain, holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and the U.K. He is known for his business savvy and generous philanthropy, but not without controversy.

In 2010, Oxford University drew intense criticism for accepting a donation of 75 million pounds from Blavatnik for a new school of government bearing his name. Faculty, alumni and international human rights activists claimed the university was selling its reputation and prestige to Putin’s associates.

Blavatnik’s relationships with Russian oligarchs close to Putin, particularly Oleg Deripaska, should be worrisome for Trump and the six GOP leaders who took Blavatnik’s money during the 2016 presidential campaign. Lucky for them no one has noticed. Yet.

Oleg Deripaska is the founder and majority owner of RUSAL, the world’s second largest aluminum company, based in Russia. Len Blavatnik owns a significant stake in RUSAL and served on its Board until November 10, 2016, two days after Donald Trump was elected.

Deripaska controls RUSAL with a 48 percent majority stake through his holding company, EN+ Group, and the Russian government owns 4.35 percent stake of EN+ Group through its second-largest state owned bank, VTB. VTB was exposed in the Panama papers in 2016 for facilitating the flow of billions of dollars to offshore companies linked to Vladimir Putin and is under sanctions by the U.S. government.

Deripaska has been closely connected to the Kremlin since he married into Boris Yeltsin’s family in 2001, which literally includes him in the Russian clan known as “The Family.” According to the Associated Press, starting in 2006, Deripaska made annual payments of $10 million to Paul Manafort through the Bank of Cyprus to advance Putin’s global agenda.

Len Blavatnik’s co-owner in RUSAL is his long-time business partner, Viktor Vekselberg, another Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin. Blavatnik and Vekselberg hold their 15.8 percent joint stake in RUSAL in the name of Sual Partners, their offshore company in the Bahamas. Vekselberg also happens to be the largest shareholder in the Bank of Cyprus.

Another oligarch with close ties to Putin, Dmitry Rybolovlev, owns a 3.3 percent stake in the Bank of Cyprus. Rybolovlev is known as “Russia’s Fertilizer King” and has been in the spotlight for several months as the purchaser of Trump’s 60,000 square-foot mansion in Palm Beach. Rybolovlev bought the estate for $54 million more than Trump paid for the property at the bottom of the crash in the U.S. real estate market.

The convoluted web that links Putin’s oligarchs to Trump’s political associates and top Republicans is difficult to take in.

Trump and Putin have a common approach to governance. They rely heavily on long-term relationships and family ties. While there have been tensions between Putin and Deripaska over the years, the Kremlin came to Deripaska’s rescue in 2009 when he was on the verge of bankruptcy by providing a $4.5 billion emergency loan through state-owned Vnesheconombank (VEB), where Putin is chair of the advisory board.

VEB, known as President Putin’s “pet bank,” is now in crisis after sanctions applied by Europe and U.S. in 2014 have isolated it from the international banks that were the sources of its nearly $4 billion in hard currency loans that, according to Bloomberg, mature this year and in 2018.

Russia’s international currency reserves are near a 10-year low, which has put further pressure on the president of VEB, Sergey Gorkov, to find sources of international rescue capital. Notably, it was Gorkov who met secretly with Jared Kushner in December at Trump Tower. Kushner’s failure to report the meeting with Gorkov has drawn the attention of the Senate intelligence committee that now wants to question Kushner about the meeting.

Ruth May is a business professor at the University of Dallas and an expert on the economies of Russia and Ukraine. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News. Twitter: @ruthcmay

CORRECTION, 12:11 p.m., August 7: The headline on an earlier version of this column incorrectly said Blavatnik is Russian. He was born in Urkraine during the Soviet era.

An earlier version of this column used the name Leonid “Len” Blavatnik. He changed his first name to Leonard.

The column has also been updated to remove language describing the online presentation of a press release about Blavatnik resigning from the RUSAL board because it lacked context.”

Since the original article more information has been revealed. The following is an update completed in May 2018.

Editor’s note May 8, 2018: This column originally published December 15, 2017. New allegations about $500k in payments from a Russian oligarch made to Trump attorney Michael Cohen have placed it back in the news.

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team probes deeper into potential collusion between Trump officials and representatives of the Russian government, investigators are taking a closer look at political contributions made by U.S. citizens with close ties to Russia.

Buried in the campaign finance reports available to the public are some troubling connections between a group of wealthy donors with ties to Russia and their political contributions to President Donald Trump and a number of top Republican leaders. And thanks to changes in campaign finance laws, the political contributions are legal. We have allowed our campaign finance laws to become a strategic threat to our country.

An example is Len Blavatnik, a dual U.S.-U.K. citizen and one of the largest donors to GOP political action committees in the 2015-16 election cycles. Blavatnik’s family emigrated to the U.S. in the late ’70s from the U.S.S.R. and he returned to Russia when the Soviet Union began to collapse in the late ’80s.

Data from the Federal Election Commission show that Blavatnik’s campaign contributions dating back to 2009-10 were fairly balanced across party lines and relatively modest for a billionaire. During that season he contributed $53,400. His contributions increased to $135,552 in 2011-12 and to $273,600 in 2013-14, still bipartisan.

In 2015-16, everything changed. Blavatnik’s political contributions soared and made a hard right turn as he pumped $6.35 million into GOP political action committees, with millions of dollars going to top Republican leaders including Sens. Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham.

In 2017, donations continued, with $41,000 going to both Republican and Democrat candidates, along with $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.

So is this legal?

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democratic leader on the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC News in September: “Unless the contributions were directed by a foreigner, they would be legal, but could still be of interest to investigators examining allegations of Russian influence on the 2016 campaign. Obviously, if there were those that had associations with the Kremlin that were contributing, that would be of keen concern.”

Under federal law, foreigner nationals are barred from contributing directly or indirectly to political campaigns in local, state and federal elections.

Should Blavatnik’s contributions concern Mueller’s team of investigators? Take a look at his long-time business associates in Russia.

The Oligarchs

Oleg Deripaska is said to be one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs, and he is founder and majority shareholder of Russia’s Rusal, the second-largest aluminum company in the world. Blavatnik holds a stake in Rusal with a business partner.

Further, nearly 4 percent of Deripaska’s stake in Rusal is owned by Putin’s state-controlled bank, VTB, which is currently under U.S. sanctions. VTB was exposed in the Panama Papers in 2016 for facilitating the flow of billions of dollars to offshore companies linked to Putin.

Earlier this year, The Associated Press reported that Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, began collecting $10 million a year in 2006 from Deripaska to advance Putin’s interests with Western governments. Deripaska’s name turned up again in an email handed over to Mueller’s team by Manafort’s attorneys. According to The Washington Post, in the email dated July 7, 2016, just two weeks before Trump accepted the Republican nomination for president, Manafort asked an overseas intermediary to pass a message on to Deripaska: “If he [Deripaska] needs private briefings, tell him we can accommodate.”

Viktor Vekselberg is one of the 10 richest men in Russia. He and long-time business partner Blavatnik hold a 20.5 percent stake in Rusal. (They met while attending university in Russia.)

In 1990, Blavatnik and Vekselberg co-founded the Renova Group for large-scale investments in energy, infrastructure, aluminum and other metals. One of their earliest investments was in Tyumen Oil Co. (TNK), founded in 1995. TNK is best known for its contentious partnership with British Petroleum after the two entities formed a joint venture in 2003. That rocky relationship ended 10 years later when they sold out to the state-controlled energy giant, Rosneft, under pressure from the Russian government.

As for BP, that pressure took the form of growing harassment and intimidation from Russian authorities who at one point, according to Forbes, refused to renew visas for BP employees, forcing BP’s joint venture chief Robert Dudley (who is now chief executive of BP) to flee Russia and manage TNK-BP from a foreign outpost in a secret location.

Vekselberg has connections to at least two Americans who made significant GOP campaign contributions during the last cycle. They are among several Americans who also merit Mueller’s scrutiny.

The Americans

Andrew Intrater, according to Mother Jones, is Vekselberg’s cousin. He is also chief executive of Columbus Nova, Renova’s U.S. investment arm located in New York. (FEC records list his employer as Renova US Management LLC.)

Intrater had no significant history of political contributions prior to the 2016 elections. But in January 2017 he contributed $250,000 to Trump’s Inaugural Committee. His six-figure gift bought him special access to a dinner billed as “an intimate policy discussion with select cabinet appointees,” according to a brochure obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.

Alexander Shustorovich, chief executive of IMG Artists, attempted to give the Republican Party $250,000 in 2000 to support the George W. Bush presidential campaign, but his money was rejected because of his ties to the Russian government, according to Quartz. So why didn’t the Trump team reject Shustorovich’s $1 million check to Trump’s Inaugural Committee?

Simon Kukes is an oil magnate who has something in common with Intrater. From 1998 to 2003, he worked for Vekselberg and Blavatnik as chief executive of TNK. Redacted CIA documents released in 2003 under the Freedom of Information Act said “TNK president Kukes said that he bribed local officials.” The CIA confirmed the authenticity of the reports to The Guardian newspaper but would not comment further. In 2016, Kukes contributed a total of $283,000, much of it to the Trump Victory Fund. He had no significant donor history before last year’s election.

There is no doubt that Kukes has close ties to the Putin government. When he left his job as CEO of TNK in June 2003, he joined the board of Yukos Oil, which at the time was the largest oil company in Russia owned by the richest man in Russia, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Four months after Kukes joined the board, authorities arrested Khodorkovsky at gunpoint on his private plane in Siberia on trumped up charges of tax evasion and tapped Kukes to be CEO. This decision could only have been made at the highest levels in the Kremlin. The arrest of Khodorkovsky rattled the nerves of international investors and was the first tangible sign that Putin was not going to be the kind of leader that global executives and Western governments had expected him to be when he first took office in 2000.

Khodorkovksy was given a 13-year sentence in a Siberian prison and served 10 years before being released by Putin in December 2013, a month before the start of the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi, as a sign of goodwill. As for the fate of Khodorkovksy’s company, its largest oil subsidiary was sold in a sealed bid auction to Baikal Financial Group, a shell company with an unpublished list of officers. Baikal was registered at an address that turned out to be a mobile phone store in Tver, Russia. Three days after the auction, all of Baikal’s assets were acquired for an undisclosed sum by Rosneft, the Russian oil giant that went on to buy TNK-BP in 2013.

In total, Blavatnik, Intrater, Shustorovich and Kukes made $10.4 million in political contributions from the start of the 2015-16 election cycles through September 2017, and 99 percent of their contributions went to Republicans. With the exception of Shustorovich, the common denominator that connects the men is their association with Vekselberg. Experts who follow the activities of Russian oligarchs told ABC News that they believe the contributions from Blavatnik, Intrater and Kukes warrant intense scrutiny because they have worked closely with Vekselberg.

Even if the donations by the four men associated with Russia ultimately pass muster with Mueller, one still has to wonder: Why did GOP PACs and other Trump-controlled funds take their money? Why didn’t the PACs say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” like the Republicans said to Shustorovich in 2000? Yes, it was legal to accept their donations, but it was incredibly poor judgment.

McConnell surely knew as a participant in high level intelligence briefings in 2016 that our electoral process was under attack by the Russians. Two weeks after the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement in October 2016 that the Russian government had directed the effort to interfere in our electoral process; McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik’s AI-Altep Holdings. The PAC took another $1 million from Blavatnik’s AI-Altep Holdings on March 30, 2017, just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey publicly testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s interference in the election.

And consider Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s campaign finance chairman. Could he have known that the Trump Victory Fund, jointly managed by the Republican National Committee and Trump’s campaign, took contributions from Intrater and Kukes? Mnuchin owned Hollywood financing company RatPac-Dune with Blavatnik until he sold his stake to accept Trump’s appointment as the Treasury secretary.

Which PAC officials are making the decisions to accept these donations?

 

The Supreme Court

The contributions are legal because the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling, Citizens United, and several subsequent decisions, allowed American corporations and citizens to give unlimited amounts of money to PACs and non-profit 501c4 organizations, regardless of how they make their money, where they make their money, or with whom they make their money. The only caveat is that PACs and non-profits cannot coordinate their activities with the political candidates they support.

The man who led the winning fight for Citizens United was David Bossie, president of the conservative non-profit since 2001. In 1996, Bossie was hired by Republican Rep. Dan Burton to lead an investigation into President Bill Clinton’s campaign fundraising. Burton fired him 18 months later for manipulating recordings of conversations among law officials and Webb Hubbell, a Clinton confidant who resigned as associate attorney general and pleaded guilty to tax fraud during the Whitewater investigation. CNN reported at the time that Newt Gingrich, who was speaker of the House, called Bossie’s tampering with the Hubbell recordings an embarrassment to the Republicans.

Bossie served as Trump’s deputy campaign chairman.

The Super PAC, Make America Number 1, is primarily funded by Trump’s largest donor, Robert Mercer. His Renaissance Technologies hedge fund donated $15.5 million to the PAC.

Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, assumed control of Make America Number 1 in September 2016 and is now tainted by her role in the communications between Wikileaks and Cambridge Analytica, the firm that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, hired for $5.9 million to handle the digital portion of the Trump campaign.

Robert and Rebekah Mercer are major investors in Cambridge Analytica. According to The Wall Street Journal, Rebekah Mercer asked Cambridge chief executive Alexander Nix if the firm could compile stolen emails related to Hillary Clinton so that they could be more easily searched. (This suggestion came from someone she met at an event supporting Sen. Ted Cruz, according to The Hill. Cambridge Analytica had worked on digital marketing for Cruz before he dropped out of the Republican primary.)

Nix confirmed that he had asked Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to forward the Clinton-related emails. Assange said he declined the request.

Rebekah Mercer also heads the non-profit Making America Great, formed in March 2017. The non-profit ran a seven-figure ad campaign highlighting Trump’s achievements. Bossie is the group’s chief strategist.

Erik Prince, brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, contributed $150,000 to Mercer’s Make America Number 1 PAC and another $100,000 to the Trump Victory Fund. Prince has recently testified to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence about his trip to the remote Seychelles for a secret meeting in December 2016 with a close ally of Putin, Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund. The purpose of the meeting was allegedly to setup a back channel of communication between then president-elect Donald Trump and the Russians, though Prince has denied this allegation. Before the 2015-16 elections, Prince’s political contributions totaled a mere $31,800 as far back as 2007, according to FEC records.

The hybrid super-PAC, The Committee to Defend the President, was formed in 2013 under the name Stop Hillary PAC. It is managed by Dan Backer, the lead attorney who won the McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission case in 2014. The Supreme Court decision eliminated the cap on how much wealthy individuals can donate to federal candidates, parties and PACs in a single, two-year election cycle.

Like Bossie, Dan Backer helped to open the floodgates to millions of dollars of influence brought to bear on incumbents and their political challengers who are now pressured to kowtow to their donors with the biggest bank accounts, even if their billions are earned in Russian rubles.

Backer was born in Russia and emigrated with his family to the U.S. in 1978.

The changes to our campaign finance laws created an avenue for Russia to try to influence our elections. There are holes in our firewall and they aren’t on the internet.”

Post Script

There’s an old expression—“Follow the Money.” There is another old expression—“We have the best politicians money can buy.” It’s tempting to conclude that these are unrelated or at best some form of weird mixed-metaphors or non-sequiturs (like Nazi jackboots sing their swan song).

Instead, I’d like to suggest posing the hypothesis that where the current Republican Party is concerned, the two old expressions are very much related. It’s important to follow the money in the Mueller investigation of prominent Republicans. And, we await with great anticipation the results of the Mueller investigation for their data and their conclusions.

But, in the meantime, here’s something you can take to the bank for sure: If you’re still a Trump supporter (after all these last few years) you either have your head up your #$@& %*!( oh, excuse me!) or it’s buried in the sand on an unmovable permanent basis. Another possibility is that Trump’s hard-core supporters desperately need the services of a psychiatrist. These last two axioms are definitely related. Let’s make America great again folks by sending Donald Trump and his Republican lackeys to prison.

On a personal note, I’d like to see the F.B.I. to investigate the financial background of all 30 members of the Congressional Freedom Caucus, especially Jim Jordan of Ohio. In addition, all Supreme Court Justices need to be investigated by the F.B.I. for any hint of financial corruption. This more in-depth type of prosecutorial investigation would serve our nation very well during these times when there is such a lack of trust in our political and governmental institutions.

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Weak and Feckless:

The True Believer in American Society 

Their impact on Democratic Institutions

“It is above all in the present democratic age that the true friends of liberty and human grandeur must remain constantly vigilant and ready to prevent the social power from lightly sacrificing the particular rights of a few individuals to the general execution of its designs. In such times there is no citizen so obscure that it is not very dangerous to allow him to be oppressed, and there are no individual rights so unimportant that they can be sacrificed to arbitrariness with impunity.”

― Alexis de Tocqueville (Author, Democracy in America)

    

Introduction

One of the most important sociological facts in the study of society is the existence of “The True Believer.” Who is the true believer? According to the late Eric Hoffer, “He’s a guilt-ridden hitchhiker who thumbs a ride on every cause from Christianity to Communism. He’s a fanatic needing a Stalin (or a Christ) to worship or die for. He’s the mortal enemy of things-as-they-are, and he insists on sacrificing himself for a dream impossible to attain. He is today everywhere on the march.”

Although Eric Hoffer’s seminal sociological work was published in 1951, his book made a crucial impact on sociology and our understanding of fanaticism and deviant behavior. And that understanding applies historically to the most ancient of times as it does in the present day.

Fanaticism as the most ideological deviant of human behaviors continues to plague all of us in democratic societies worldwide. And what do we see today as we look out at the world?

We see ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the malevolent murderous dictators in Saudi Arabia. In addition to this, we have long witnessed entire countries run by dictators who violate human rights every day. This includes such dictators as Vladimir Putin of Russia, President Xi Jinping serving as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un who is a dictator of one of the ugliest regimes of all time.

     Unfortunately, America, a democratic country with democratic institutions, is not immune to fanaticism. And this fanaticism has come from both the left and the right.        

A Short History Lesson

Throughout history in our country the True Believer has existed. In the modern era two prime examples come to mind in the political arena where the True Believer is concerned:  The Era of Eugene Victor Debs and the era of Donald Trump, the former a Socialist and the later a White Nationalist. Let’s begin by exploring these two people.

The Father of American Socialism

One of the most influential people during the early years of the 20th Century was Eugene Victor Debs.  He was born in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1855 to a family of French Alsatian immigrants. Making his way in the railroad industry, Debs formed the American Railway Union in 1892.

Two years later he found himself leading one of the largest strikes in American history — the great Pullman strike. When its workers refused to accept a pay cut, The Pullman Car Company fired 5000 employees.

To show support, Debs called for the members of the American Railway Union to refrain from operating any trains that used Pullman cars. When the strike was declared illegal by a court injunction, chaos erupted.

President Cleveland ordered federal troops to quell the strikers and Debs was arrested. Soon order was restored and the strike failed. Eugene Debs was also one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies), and five times the candidate of the Socialist Party of America for President of the United States. Through his presidential candidacies, as well as his work with labor movements, Debs eventually became one of the best-known socialists living in the United States.

Debs was not originally a socialist, but his experience with the Pullman Strike and his subsequent six-month jail term led him to believe that drastic action was necessary. Debs chose to confine his activity to the political arena. In 1900 he ran for President of the United States as a socialist and garnered some 87,000 votes.

The following year, leading sympathizers joined with him to form the Socialist Party. At its height, the party numbered over 100,000 active members.

In the election of 1912 he received over 900,000 votes. After being arrested for antiwar activities during World War I, he ran for President from his jail cell and polled 919,000 votes. Debs died in 1926 having never won an election, but over one thousand Socialist Party members were elected to state and city governments.

Eugene Victor Debs left an indelible mark among candidates for President of the United States. Eugene Debs ran as a Socialist candidate for President of the United States five times, including 1900 (earning 0.6% of the popular vote), 1904 (3.0%), 1908 (2.8%), 1912 (6.0%), and 1920 (3.4%), the last time from a prison cell. He was also a candidate for United States Congress from his native state of Indiana in 1916.

Why Were Socialists beliefs popular?

Despite the success of the American Federation of Labor, American radicalism was not dead. The number of those who felt the American capitalist system was fundamentally flawed was in fact growing fast.

American socialists based their beliefs on the writings of Karl Marx, the German philosopher. Many asked why so many working Americans should have so little while a few owners grew incredibly wealthy. No wealth could exist without the sweat and blood of its workforce. They suggested that the government should own all industries and divide the profits among those who actually created the products. While the current management class would stand to lose, many more people would gain. These radicals grew in number as industries spread. But their enemies were legion.

While most Americans today would feel sympathy for Eugene Debs and his cause for fairness between management and labor in an era of crass capitalism gone amuck, it is still a fact that there were fanatics among many of his supporters.

There is an uncanny resemblance I can see between Eugene Deb’s fanatical supporters and Donald Trump’s core base of Republicans where violence several times has made its way to attacking reporters. In addition, his white racist lunatic supporters have even attacked Trump’s own African American supporters who show up at Donald Trump rallies. Oops! I digress for a moment. Back to Eugene Debs and the saga of the Wobblies.

The Wobblies

Even more radical than the Socialists were the members of the Industrial Workers of the World. This union believed that compromise with owners was no solution. Founded in 1905 and led by William “Big Bill” Haywood, the “Wobblies,” as they were called, encouraged their members to fight for justice directly against their employers.

Although small in number, they led hundreds of strikes across America, calling for the overthrow of the capitalist system. The I.W.W. won few battles, but their efforts sent a strong message across America that workers were being mistreated.

When the United States entered World War I, the “Wobblies” launched an active antiwar movement. Many were arrested or beaten. One unlucky member in Oregon was tied to the front end of an automobile with his knees touching the ground and driven until his flesh was torn to the bone.

Membership declined after the war, but for two decades the I.W.W. was the anchor of radical American activism. This minority of Wobblers were indeed “true believers” in their cause.

This leads to my example of fanaticism from the right in politics. What makes this relevant is that this new era of political fanaticism is occurring in the here and now.

The Trump Administration and the High Priest of Hate

Donald Trump was elected to the presidency of the United States in 2016. Based on a philosophy of white nationalism, similar in tone to the promoters of Aryan beliefs fostered during the reign of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Brown Shirts (Sturmabteilung a.k.a., Storm Troopers), Donald Trump is be-loved by the Aryans of today as reflected in the violent confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 as well as at his political rallies.

After the 2016 presidential election, it became crystal clear that the American voter had made an egregious mistake in judgment when picking a person to be the Commander in Chief and President of the United States. Immediately, women and independent voters who had got him elected pulled away their support when their error in judgment came home to roost.

Now following the 2016 election, research has shown that Trump voters were lacking education, lacking intelligent insight, devoid of basic humanitarian values, overly naïve in their beliefs, and simply lacked adroitness to the maximum degree. In my opinion all of these things may have been present in the Trump voter in 2016.

Russian collusion and interference, un-democratic gerrymandering, voter suppression and the unnecessary (and undemocratic) Electoral College system conspired to give the presidency to Donald Trump. Scandal after scandal has plagued his presidency both before and after his becoming president.

He has committed both impeachable offenses (including treason) as well as engaged in criminal behavior. Donald is an infantile mental case and has delusions of grandeur about his self-worth. He is a wanna-be mafia don. I can understand Donald Trump’s infatuation with the concept of “fake news.” After all, since January 20, 2017 the United States of America has had a fake president.

At no previous time in the history of the United States has a president or his administration brought such dishonor and disrespect. As a result the United States has lost status as a protector of human rights in the eyes of the world.

Given the bomb threats that have been made against liberal democratic politicians including the attempted murder of two prior American presidents, the FBI need to investigate these incredibly serious criminal acts leaving no stone unturned.

And, the racist connections to Donald Trump continue to shed a light and give direction to such an investigation. The motivation of the bomber(s) is very clear. Just how deep racism runs rampant through Donald Trump and his supporters is reflected in an article written back in 2016.

In May, 2016 Robert L. Tsai wrote an article for Slate Magazine, titled: “What Aryans See in Donald Trump—He is the Aryan warrior, come to save whiteness itself.

By Robert L. Tsai

May 26, 2016•3:49 PM

“In recent years, white supremacists have tended to avoid taking part in national politics in the belief that both parties have been conquered by nonwhites who pursue their own racial interests over others. This year represents a sea change. Rarely have so many open racists flocked to a presidential candidate’s banner as they have done for Donald Trump. They have shown up at rallies to do gleeful battle with Black Lives Matter protesters and jumped at the opportunity to serve as Trump delegates to the Republican National Convention.

The reasons for white nationalists’ renewed hope in mainstream politics are more complicated than the caricature of jackbooted youths saluting one of their own. Trump has disavowed the endorsement of overt racists such as David Duke, but somehow white nationalists have “never been more optimistic.” Despite Trump’s profession, “I don’t have a racist bone in my body,” his brand of race-fueled populism promises to reforge broken psychological ties among large swaths of demoralized white voters, whether or not they self-identify as white nationalists or belong to extremist organizations. Trump seeks to recreate a coalition that includes dislocated rural workers and dissatisfied denizens of urban democracy, the relatively prosperous and the hardly working, weary defenders of the Old South and armed isolationists in the Pacific Northwest. Through a mix of policy and symbolism, Trump unites them all with a sneering form of nationalism that, more than ever, helps rekindle the racial consciousness of mainstream white voters.

A key to Trump’s appeal is that his agenda to “Make America Great Again” revolves around an iron-fisted leadership style for which many disaffected white voters have been searching. The fractured elements of white nationalist America, meanwhile, perceive Trump to be the embodiment of the Aryan warrior, a mythic figure who will liberate white people from their current state of malaise, infighting, and almost certain extinction. White nationalists trace their lineage through Northern Europe (some claim to descend from the Lost Tribes of Israel) and find their role models in the various soldiers and statesmen who supposedly defended the purity of the white civilization. Today, any person of Western European stock can theoretically become an Aryan warrior by swearing to preserve the white race, but some white supremacist groups believe a single figure will be called from among the people to fulfill a more unifying role. Trump, who is of German and Scottish ancestry, fits the ethnic profile of this savior to a T. But it’s Trump’s political self-presentation that is truly arousing.

Unhappy white Americans are not monolithic; Trump’s appeal goes beyond his potential Aryan saviorhood. In a Republican Party that has tilted decidedly rightward, he outflanked Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz—figures who are more faithful conservatives than Trump—by shrewdly appealing to a complex belief system shared by many disgruntled white voters.

But for the most extreme of these resentment-oriented citizens, Trump’s appeal is manifold. These citizens believe that the founding generation established the United States as a republic for the pursuit of liberty and happiness as white people alone define those ideals. Members of this alt-community despise pluralism, bristling at any emphasis of race, sex, or gender differences.

Many distrust liberal education, which is blamed for fostering white guilt and destroying a sense of racial identity among whites. A number of them fear the global economy. Sensing their influence greatly diminished, such individuals have opted out of electoral politics. They have felt abandoned by the old Democratic Party after it became the party of black civil rights and betrayed by the modern Republican Party, which has cynically used dog-whistle politics to gain their votes without, in their view, doing enough to safeguard their interests. Some of the discontented have become radicalized, joining patriot groups, separatist strongholds, or white supremacist organizations.

Anxiety about biological and cultural extinction is pervasive among these disaffected whites. Before his downfall and death, Richard Girnt Butler gathered self-identified Aryans to his compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho. On social media today, racially conscious whites assemble around the hashtag #WhiteGenocide or lodge their grievances at Stormfront.org. (Trump once actually retweeted a user named “White Genocide.”) The late David Lane, an influential Aryan thinker and member of a violent organization called the Order, helped popularize the view that the white race was “now a small minority in the world,” beset by forced integration, intermarriage, and “inter-species compassion.” According to this worldview, only those who aspire to the ideal of the Aryan warrior can restore the civic republicanism of America’s forefathers and save the white race. Enter Trump.

The cultural image of the Aryan warrior combines romantic masculinity, chest-beating race pride, and a relish for legal violence. Lane’s writings put the Aryan warrior in explicitly political terms. His tract 88 Precepts prophesies the coming of the “strongman,” who will emerge in the late stages of a dying democracy. That figure will display a keen ability to see that “political, economic, and religious systems may be destroyed and resurrected” in ways to prevent the eternal destruction of the white race. Some will call the strongman “a dictator,” but Lane insists that a ruthless leadership style “is the only way to restore order out of the chaos caused by a democracy.”

Trump’s style of governance seems to fulfill this prophesy: His entire self-presentation is a rebuke to liberalism and gradual legal change. Instead, he promises political revolution through charismatic leadership. Trump’s vulgar, unvarnished manner of speaking and his penchant for favoring extreme measures—the very characteristics deemed un-presidential and dangerous by his critics—are seen as not only refreshing but also as essential for the rebirth of the Aryan nation-state.

When Trump calls Hispanic immigrants “criminals, drug dealers, rapists,” and vows to “take our country back” from those “taking our jobs” and “taking our money,” white nationalists hear Trump telling the same uncomfortable truths about the sorry state of white society they have voiced for decades. Every time he eggs followers on to forcefully confront detractors or swears to “take out the families” of terrorists, he projects a muscular approach to protecting the white republic.

His calling card is a plan to build a massive wall between the United States and Mexico to stem illegal immigration and somehow force Mexico to pay for it. Policy analysts have scoffed at this proposal, but its real power lies not in policy but in metaphor, one that taps into a hardened, survivalist mindset. It is an image that resonates with a community that already believes it is losing the war against nonwhite civilizations. When Trump ritually invokes the wall or recommends the creation of a national deportation force, he signals to this constituency that he agrees the future of the white race is at stake.

To Aryans, a resurgence of public masculinity is central to sovereignty. They believe that the power to command others, and then to spark a revolution, emanates from one’s power to control the traditional family. This is why Trump’s crude comments about female appearances and the proper role of women excite rather than repulse these core supporters. It is also why, in trading on fears of white male helplessness, his claims that “Mexico sends its people” to rape and pillage and that China is “raping our country” through unfair trade practices appeal so powerfully to the racist mind. For Trump, as for the white nationalist community, sovereignty and maleness are forever interlinked.

Additionally, the scorn heaped upon Trump simply confirms for these racially motivated white voters that they have discovered the right leader, one who might defeat the forces of liberalism and multiculturalism that have corrupted American law. Lane urged white people to select a strongman “wisely.” “Choose one who has sacrificed all in the face of tyranny; choose one who has endured and persevered,” he writes. “This is the only reliable evidence of his worthiness and motives.” On this front, Trump has more than proved his mettle by drawing the arrows of his enemies in the Republican primary and emerging more powerful for it, while the battlefield is littered with opponents who underestimated him.

How far can he go? Trump has actively courted fringe parts of the electorate by assenting to their racially inflected diagnosis of what ails America and has thrown his support behind whites-first prescriptions. From this point on, Trump’s ceiling as a vehicle for white nationalism will depend on the willingness of mainstream voters to take responsibility for his promise to restore white self-governance and his systematic scapegoating of nonwhites.

By casting himself as a virtuous guardian of white people’s welfare and claiming a “mandate” to be provocative, Trump has gotten further than any similar politician in recent years. Win or lose, as the presumptive Republican nominee for president, he is already more successful than Pat Buchanan or David Duke, which makes him the most prominent Aryan warrior of the modern age.”

The Commonality of Unifying Agents among Differing Fanatical Groups

According to Eric Hoffer true believers for any cause have certain things in common. They include: Hatred, Imitation, Persuasion and Coercion, Leadership, Action, Suspicion, and The Effects of Unification. Given the limitations of this Blog I will only discuss the unifying factor of hatred.

 Hatred

According to Eric Hoffer, “Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all unifying agents…Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.” He also reported that, “The theoreticians of the Kremlin hardly waited for the guns of Second World War to cool before they picked the democratic West, and particularly America, as the chosen enemy.”

For Donald Trump the devil is liberals, democrats, the free press and anyone else who criticizes him. By his stoking the fires of hatred, it has led to the discovery of several bombs reported on Wednesday, October 24th, 2018 whereby democrats, liberals and the free press were targeted for murder and assassination.

Donald Trump, as an advocate of violence at his rallies, no matter how surreptitiously displayed, bears great similarity to Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin. These latter historical figures of World War II along with Eugene Debs and the Wobblies share an important characteristic with the fatuous oaf in the White House—They were all ‘True Believers.’”

Final Comments

The evidence shows that fanaticism and the “true believer” has been around for thousands of years. As long as mankind exists and, in the absence of a world-wide nuclear catastrophe, people of extreme views and mindsets will likely continue to exist in the future.

Groups like the Ku Klux Klan, the American mafia, including different ethnic versions of it, were filled with members who might have manifested the characteristics of a “True Believer.” And, there may have been some who had additional motives like avarice and greed.

The real test of the degree of being a “True Believer” is whether or not (as Eric Hoffer pointed out) one is willing to sacrifice oneself for a dream impossible to attain. We know that some people cave-in to pressure while others do not. This applies to anyone in any group. Measuring this attribute of people in fanatical groups of “True Believers” is probably impossible to do.

I could have chosen to write about other groups as evidence of the “True Believer,” but I chose instead to write about Eugene Debs of the 20th Century and Donald Trump in the 21st Century. I think I have shown that “True Believers” runs the full political landscape or gamut from left to right, However, I want to zero-in now on Donald Trump.

I do this because the effects, and soon-to-be after effects, are happening now in this day and age. Critical to all of this is motivation of people, particularly those who supported and those who continue to support Donald Trump. And it pertains to comments made by author, Robert L Tsai.  I may too have some insight to contribute in this regard.

      In 1900 there was no television, cell phones or the Internet. In today’s world we get pummeled every day with a barrage of “breaking news” on a nearly 24 hour basis. In a few prior blogs I pointed out the sociological concept of “White Fright—White Flight.” This concept has generated intense psychological fear among a sizeable portion of white voters.

The underlying reason many whites are terrified is not economic; rather, it is an irrational fear of losing one’s social status in society. This is sad, but true. The insecurity of losing one’s status seems to reinforce the idea that constitutional principles of freedom and justice for all people under the United States Constitution, must somehow take a back seat to one’s loss of social status.

No one knows what American will be like in 30 years when there is no majority, only minorities of different population sizes. As a social scientist there is one question that begs to be answered. As a result of population changes favoring no one and favoring everyone at the time, will there be less stress and strife among groups in society as a result of this?

Intuitively, I think the United States Constitution will still be the law of the land. Hopefully people will strive for the good life as individuals no longer burdened by some arbitrarily defined social group label or status. If we see everyone as individuals, not members of some group, I think this would be a very good thing. However, I don’t know definitively if this will be the case. I can only speculate and say I am a very optimistic person and hope for the best all the time.

On the negative side today, I make this pronouncement:

If these attempted assassinations are connected to Trump himself or his voters and core supporters, drastic steps may need to be taken when the House and the Senate are changed by the mid-term elections.

It may very well be that such individuals responsible will need to be incarcerated for life if they are proven guilty of attempted murder and assassination.  Given the more civilized nature of the Democratic Party, I doubt children of the Trump supporter will be locked in cages, permanently separated from their parents or forcibly sent to Mexico or Guatemala.

If Donald Trump is behind the plot to assassinate two prior American presidents he will spend the rest of his life behind bars. In spirit his cell mate just might be Eugene Victor Debs or “Big Bill Haywood.” A more likely scenario is that Donald Trump will die in prison then spend eternity being guided by Virgil through Dante’s 9 circles of hell for Trump’s deadly sins of Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery.

Coming back to today’s reality Donald Trump is simply a racist, weak, feckless, and immoral human being. He is also the worst politician in American History.

 

 

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A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both—Dwight David Eisenhower

Some of the objectives I’m about to describe are my political hopes for 2018 are tongue-in-cheek. But some items I am deadly serious about. One hint: I really do want President Trump impeached early in 2018. Some of the other objectives follow from this. It’s up to you to decide whether the ideas and opinions expressed in this blog are something you’d like to see happen in 2018.
This holiday season each of us sees the future as we would personally like it to be. Here are my wishes and hopes for 2018:

Goal: A Better Country and World

Donald Trump is impeached in early 2018 for Obstruction of Justice and other crimes.

The Freedom Caucus is utterly destroyed in the November, 2018 mid-term elections
After November, 2018 Republicans will cease to exist as a viable political party in the United States.
There will be no war with North Korea.
Black Ops from the CIA will be put in charge to do diplomacy with North Korea: Like the Gambino crime family, Black Ops will make Kim Jong-Un “an offer he cannot refuse.”
The people of Russia will overthrow Vladimir Putin.
The people of Iran will overthrow its Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
The United Nations 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights will become World Law for all nations to adhere to.
The United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division will put forth the effort to investigate all police shootings in the United States.
Betsy (Elizabeth Dee DeVos), the educational Czar in the Trump Administration, will be fired.
Jim Jordan, the Republican Congressman from Ohio will be impeached along with his other Freedom Cauca’s cronies for Obstruction of Justice.
Core diehard Trump supporters will be deported from the United States for treasonous acts of disloyalty, lack of voter competence and outright un-American values that are anti-thetical to our country’s laws, the United States Constitution, and the principled institutions of our democracy.
The United States government in 2018 will no longer accept the now defunct “Trickle-Down-Economics Theory” of job creation. Instead its Guiding Principle will be [not promises of job creation] but stipulating and connecting tax breaks to actual jobs created. Otherwise, the tax cut money will be treated as a loan to be repaid to the United States government. Said another way No Business or Corporate welfare or gifts allowed. We want results not promises.

If all of these hopes and wishes were to come to fruition in 2018 it would indeed make America Great Again. Below is a little humor to entertain you as we enter 2018.

  • “So enjoy your victory, Trump voters! Because when you’re dying because you don’t have health insurance to treat the infection you got from a back alley abortion you had to get because of fetal lead poisoning, you can say to yourself, ‘At least I didn’t vote for someone with a private email server.'” –Bill Maher
  • “As you know, Trump is being accused of sexual misconduct by a slew of women. Of course, that is a case of ‘he said’ and ‘she said, she said, she said, she said, she said.'” –Jimmy Kimmel
  • “Trump denied the (groping) allegations, calling them ‘ludicrous’ at a rally today. But here’s the problem for Trump: There’s very good reason to believe he did what he’s accused of. Why? Because an irrefutable, inside source told us so: Donald Trump. Donald Trump is his own Deep Throat. He’s Creep Throat.” –Seth Meyers

Enjoy 2018 everyone!!!

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