The Appearance Of Impropriety

According to Wikipedia, the “Appearance of Impropriety is a phrase referring to a situation which to a layperson without knowledge of the specific circumstances might seem to raise ethics questions.” In other words, the average person on the outside would look at something and say it looks bad. Most companies try to avoid any appearance of impropriety for selfish reasons. They don’t want to alienate their customers, they want to appease shareholders or investors. It’s bad for business. Governments avoid impropriety because they want the public trust. This has typically meant that government officials that look guilty of something, have to go because integrity requires it.

The Trump Administration including Trump himself has made it a point to disregard how they appear to anyone except perhaps Trump’s ever narrowing base. He destroyed norms by not releasing his Tax Returns which every President since Nixon has done. Since the election he doesn’t even pretend they’ll ever come out. Kellyanne Conway said, “it’s been litigated extensively during the campaign and we won!”

Trump has surrounded himself with those who wear their White Nationalism like a badge of honor. Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Michael Anton, Sebastian Gorka and Jeff Sessions. Some like Sessions deny until the cock crows but his past comments and current actions demonstrate his alliances. He doesn’t care how it looks for these are his people.

The Trump family had ignored all previous protocols regarding conflict of interest. Trump divested himself of little, letting his son’s manage his vast enterprise while promising not to discuss with their father what he can read in the news. Ivanka deals with China and Saudi Arabia on the same day as meeting with the respective leaders. The countries Trump gets along with despite their totalitarian regimes seem to coincide with where Trump does business.

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When it came to the selection of his Cabinet. He sought not the experienced, knowledgeable and qualified. Instead Trump chose his cronies, the corrupt, and the hangers on. A man of few personal core values, his Cabinet collectively reflect his lack of empathy for any but the rich in their quest to reap more. His healthcare plan is about providing none to more and at a lower cost to those remaining. His tax plan is to reward the already rich by taking from the poor. His policies certainly look like he cared only for his family, friends and others in the upper brackets. He’s unconcerned about the whispers, even the howls of those who protest.

And now there’s national security. Many around him have had secret communications and meetings with Russian officials that they lied about. That enough would call for a reaction from any other President. Trump calls it “fake news.” Russians laundered money working from Trump Tower. Trump claims he didn’t know his tenant although pictured cavorting with him at the Miss Universe Pageant in Russia. He lies in every moment, unconcerned about any later “fact check” which he’ll simply dismiss. When the investigations began he tried to obstruct justice. He fired the man leading the FBI charge, blaming it first on others before confessing it was his own plan. He begged the heads of the Intelligence agencies to clear him and quash any investigation.

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All this cannot happen in a vacuum. It takes a co-conspirator or in this case a host of co-conspirators willing to look the way while he literally sells out the American people to financial interests foreign and domestic. It takes a Ryan and McConnell to provide cover and look the other way. A Tillerson, DeVos, Mnuchen,  and  Carson to pretend to perform traditional roles in Government while in fact doing little or nothing they’re responsible for. It takes a Sessions to appease the core of his constituents.

Donald Trump cares nothing for the appearance of impropriety. He seems to believe the swirl of controversy to be part of his charm. The point he misses is that not giving a damn about what people think doesn’t mean the people aren’t entitled to give a damn. Impropriety reeks throughout this administration. Flynn set records for lasting the shortest time as NSA Director (24 days). The Trump administration set records for the earliest a Special Counsel was appointed to investigate them (4 months). There’s one more record he can set… Impeachment or Resignation. Clock is ticking.

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It’s a Family Affair (Blood’s Thicker Than The Mud)

We may all find out soon if like the Sly Stone song, “Blood’s thicker than the mud?” The investigation into the ties between Russian intelligence and the Trump campaign has now focused on Jared Kushner, son-in-law and White House Advisor to Donald Trump. In this case, Kushner isn’t actual blood but a relation by marriage as Kushner is married to Trump’s favorite daughter Ivanka, also a White House employee.

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Photo: thedailybeast.com

We know that Kushner attended an undisclosed meeting alongside embattled former advisor Mike Flynn with the Russian Ambassador. Kushner also met with the head of a Russian state-owned bank, also undisclosed. Kushner is alleged to have urged the firing of James Comey. Perhaps his interest in seeing Comey gone had as much to do with his own legal peril as with Donald Trump? Weeks ago Steve Bannon told confidants that Jared’s contacts with Russians and his expected testimony before Congress on the subject will become, “a major distraction for the White House.”

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Photo: twitter.com

Sooner or later, Jared will have to decide whether his primary duty is to protect himself and his wife and children or to protect the interests of Donald Trump? If he chooses to save himself will his wife stand by his side or will she be shown to love Daddy best? The least likely scenario is that Donald will sacrifice himself to protect those he allegedly loves. Melania already refuses to hold his hand in public. If he loses Jared or Ivanka, Jared and Ivanka… who else does he have? Don Jr and Eric don’t seem much like foul weather friends or in this case relatives. Tiffany seems banned to the family outer limits already.

I’ve seen Donald twice in real life, surrounded by an entourage but looking lonely and isolated none the same. It’s rumored he roams the White House at night, unable to sleep, now apparently unable to tweet as perhaps his outside lawyers have made themselves clear. During his almost completed foreign trip, Trump was able to limit exposure to the press with scripted appearances. On the flight home, Trump will realize it’s about to get real.

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Photo: twitter.com

Remembering back to the campaign. Kushner apparently had a long-standing grudge with Chris Christie who while US Attorney, prosecuted his father and sent him to jail. I wonder what he’s thinking as investigations threaten to bring down his father-in-law? And of course himself. Perhaps he longs for a return to a quieter life, he can go back to being a slum lord and suing tenants for their last dime inconspicuously. Instead he’s a subject of scrutiny of the FBI. Stay tuned!

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Donald Trump: Escape From Air Force One

Early this afternoon, Air Force One departed on Donald Trump’s first foreign trip taking with him most of his top officials. In an abbreviated list, accompanying him are:

  1. Melania Trump
  2. Reince Priebus
  3. Steven Miller
  4. Jared Kushner
  5. Steve Bannon
  6. Ivanka Trump
  7. R. McMaster
  8. Sean Spicer
  9. Sarah Huckabee Sanders
  10. Hope Hicks
  11. Dina Powell

Shortly after takeoff, the New York Times reported from the transcript of official White House records of the Oval Office meeting where Trump met with the Russian Ambassador and Foreign Minister. It revealed he said, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. Now that’s taken off.” The Times article was not denied by the White House.

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Literally two minutes after the New York Times story posted. The Washington Post reported, “The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government.” The story added, The senior White House Adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the President.” This story was later confirmed by NBC News.

On the same 14-hour first leg of the President’s trip stopping first in Saudi Arabia. Is a President whose own White House records could convict him of obstruction of justice. And likely another official in the crosshairs of law enforcement back home. In the front of Air Force One are the President, his aides and the accompanying White House officials. In the rear of the plane sit the press including representatives from the New York Times and Washington Post. All have access to the breaking news since their departure. I imagine one group is anxious to talk to the other while the other wants to say as little as possible.

The feeling of impending doom must be real with the yet to be identified White House official. It’s certainly worse with President Trump who several days earlier had told the Russians the pressure was off, “I’m not being investigated.” In the days since then a Special Counsel was appointed to investigate the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia and undoubtedly Trump himself. Every recent day had seen incriminating leaks and stories making Trump and those around him look guilty of at least covering something up. The increasing and wide ranging investigations will soon tell us the specific crimes.

The thought of not returning to America and the inevitable public outing, possible prosecution and perhaps jail must have occurred to the White House official. It may have occurred to Trump.

The official trip has stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy and Belgium. If you’re the official, you could likely slip away from any of those locations long enough to reach a safe haven if anyone wants you. Maybe you can get to a Russian Embassy or a place with no extradition to the United States. If you run will you be able to access your funds before they’re frozen? Will Interpol or some other organization stop you if you try to cross a border. If you try to reach out to friends are your communications already being monitored? If you’re the White House official, depending on your relationship with Russia or Turkey or to whom you already sold your soul. What will be their value to you once outed and of no further value?

If you’re Trump. You’re surrounded by Secret Service. While you can keep the press at bay, they are monitoring your every movement and escape is almost impossible. For all your alleged friends in high places around the world, who would protect you? Could you protect your assets. What about your brand. You ask yourself how bad things can get? You know what Flynn has on you and how bad it will make you look. That damn Comey said he’s going to testify publicly after Memorial Day. You wish you knew what he could say. You’ve learned he took notes and wrote memo’s after every meeting and phone call. Who does that?

If you’re Trump you probably decide that this trip is not the best place to sneak away. After great thought you decide you can probably make a deal. Nixon resigned and was pardoned by Ford. Nobody is going to want to go through the ordeal of Impeachment. You remind yourself of the good old days during the campaign. You call for one of your aides and tell them to set up a rally in a place where he can get, “the biggest crowds.” You think, “the people love me!” Memories of the cheers giving you comfort as you drift off to sleep on the long flight.

Trump Shot The Sheriff, But He Did Not Shoot The Deputy

Trump metaphorically shot the Sheriff (FBI Director James Comey) but he didn’t shoot the Deputy (Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein) who appointed Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to investigate Trump and all matters Russia. Ironically it was only weeks after he appointed Rosenstein Deputy AG, after firing Sally Yates for allegedly refusing to implement his unconstitutional Muslim Ban. More likely because she was pressuring the administration to do something about Mike Flynn who was literally selling out to Turkey and Russia while assuming the role of National Security Advisor.

Trump is facing challenges to his very existence as President. Despite Republican control of both Houses of Congress and a reluctance of either leader (Ryan or McConnell) to perform their Constitutional role of being a check and balance to the President. The pressure to investigate Trump is picking up steam and the media is battering him with new reports of potentially criminal behavior on a daily basis.

The alternate title to this story is, “I Fought the Law and the Law Won!” Trump made enemies of the intelligence community and they’re kicking his ass. He attacked judges and they’re stopping his agenda. He and Jeff Sessions have reminded African-Americans what the hell they have to lose. Hispanics have learned they’re all being considered “bad hombres” as they see raids and checkpoints throughout their communities, affecting everyone brown without regard to legal status. Log Cabin Republicans have realized that Trump’s promises were no different than Republican leaders who came before. Women have risen up in numbers never before seen. Their march exceeded the size of the inauguration itself. In a way, Trump has become the great uniter he promised during the campaign because increasingly everyone is coming to hate him.

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Photo: mdzol.com

Trump’s response to being investigated has become increasingly, “Woe is me!” After a whole day of radio silence he tweeted, “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” At a commencement address at the Coast Guard academy. He said, “No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.” He should be sure to bring that up to Lincoln or Kennedy the next time they play golf together with Frederick Douglass.

There’s probably something inherently wrong with enjoying the elongated suffering of the President of the United States. Watching him lie and squirm as literally the whole world turns against him. Except apparently Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate who could actually remove him. Leaked conversations show some actually believe Trump is being paid by Putin and still they back him. One Republican possibly hoping Trump be removed is Mike Pence who’s started gathering money to fund Republican candidates which is literally trying to buy favor.

Who knows what’s next on the roller coaster of events that is the Trump Presidency. It’s rumored that Sean Spicer will be removed from his role of communicating for the White House on camera because he isn’t properly getting across the President’s message. I hate to tell him but the messenger is the least of his concerns. Spicer, Bannon and Huckabee-Sanders were overheard screaming at each other in the White House. Trump is turning on son-in-law Jared Kushner. No doubt Flynn, Manafort and others are cutting deals with the Feds as we speak to get lighter sentences for rolling on Trump.

This would all be fascinating and better than any movie, were Trump and his lackeys not implementing changes to policy including increasing sentencing for drug offences (reigniting mass incarceration) making drastic cuts to social programs and robbing from the poor to give to the rich. Knowing it’s wrong of me to desire his slow and painful removal. I say let’s do the damn thing right now. His pain will be from forever being known as America’s biggest loser. #YouAreFired

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Trump’s Week In Review: The Worst Week of His Entire Life 5/17/2017

In the four months he’s been President, Donald Trump has had some pretty bad days and weeks. During the campaign when the Access Hollywood tape leaked where he described himself sexually assaulting women and “grabbing ’em by the pussy.” That was a bad week. In his business career, he’s experienced business failings and bankruptcies and for a man with his ego that was bad. Failed marriages, bad hair, the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner where he was mocked by President Obama… all bad. This week however, has already been the worst of his life. And it’s still early.

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Photo: tmz.com

  1. An audio tape of House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority leader Kevin McCarthy was leaked to The Washington Post showing them discussing their belief that Donald Trump and California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher were paid by Putin. When confronted by a reporter Ryan first denied the comment was ever made. When told “there is a transcript” a Ryan spokesman said, “this never happened.” When told there was audio of the tape, they said it was “just a bad joke.” This statement was made about a month before the Republican nomination. At the time McCarthy made the statement. Ryan said, “No leaks! This is how we know we’re family!”
  2. The New York Times revealed that Mike Flynn told the Trump transition team (including Mike Pence) that he was under Federal investigation and they appointed him as National Security Advisor anyway showing utter disdain for his transgressions.
  3. The Department of Justice named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to investigate the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia and possible collusion during the campaign. Mueller has a broad mandate to investigate “all things Russia” including Trump’s business relationships, loans and transactions.
  4. After firing FBI Director James Comey, Trump apparently worried about what Comey might have to say. He tweeted, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.” Trump in one tweet reminded people of Richard Nixon who was ultimately forced to resign and pissed off James Comey. Comey associates told the press that Comey had made a contemporaneous memo which he sent to friends detailing Trump inquiring whether he could make the investigation of Mike Flynn “go away” which would be Obstruction of Justice. Trump hasn’t tweeted since.
  5. White House staffers had to turn the volume up on TV’s so that reporters couldn’t hear screaming and yelling coming from a meeting where Steve Bannon, Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders were trying to figure out how to respond to all the bad news and leaks.
  6. It was revealed that Trump himself gave highly classified information from a third party to Russian officials while boasting about “all the great intelligence” he gets. Spokesmen including Sean Spicer and Gen McMaster ran to the cameras swearing it never happened until Trump himself in an interview with Lester Holt admitted he did. It turned out it was Israel that provided the US the information who had to be called and told their source could be in danger as a result. Allies around the world are reconsidering whether to pass along information to the US because of Trump’s possibly being compromised by Russia or just his loose lips.
What Trump Does In The Dark
What Trump Does In The Dark

Photo: twitter.com

All this happened within the last week. I’m sure I’ve forgotten major things because Donald is so prolific in his horrible actions and total lack of control. With the appointment of the Special Counsel, scheduled testimony from Comey and others including a public hearing and the continuing releases about things Trump has done. He’s continuing what Republican Senator Bob Corker refers to as “a downward spiral.” Let’s hope he continues right down the drain!

Featured Photo: vanityfair.com

Donald Trump: When The Checks And Balances Do Neither

The United States has three co-equal branches of government. The Executive (Presidency), Legislative (Congress) and the Judicial. The rationale for three is so that no single branch would achieve too much power. The President can veto legislation. The Legislative branch can override a veto, The Court can determine constitutionality. The founders were prepared for an overreaching President. They depended on Congress and the Courts to keep him/her in check by performing their designated roles. I don’t think they imagined that those institutions would abdicate their responsibilities.

Taxes, Trump and Capone
Taxes, Trump and Capone

The current Congress operates out of fear instead of conviction and they won’t cross the President for fear of his base. Even the worst transgressions get a feeble response which they generally walk back at any sign of resistance. The Supreme Court (with the help of Mitch McConnell) is becoming closer to being stacked with partisans than it has in recent times and a sudden death or retirement could further shift them to the right. This Court has already given businesses the rights of persons. They’ve allowed the rich to exert greater influence on elections through anonymous donations of unlimited amounts. They’ve chosen the “religious freedoms” of business owners over those of their employees. Their interpretation of the Constitution seems to fall more in line with the interests of their wallets.

There are further potential checks and balances including Cabinet members who have sworn an oath to “protect the Constitution, against all enemies foreign and domestic.” The foreign enemy in the example of Trump giving out classified information would be Russia. The domestic would be Trump.” Instead of patriots serving their country, Trump is surrounded by the incompetent (e.g. Carson & DeVos), the misguided (Price, Mnuchin) and the lost (Perry, Tillerson, et. Al). Then we have the appointees including McMasters who we’ve been told was a brilliant choice for National Security Advisor. Instead he lies, “I was in the room… it didn’t happen.”

There is much speculation that the President has lost his mind. He allegedly walks around the White House at all hours. During the day he yells at televisions. During the nights and early mornings he tweets. I do not claim to know the status of his sanity. The checks and balances apparently don’t care.

Four months have shown us a trend. Republican Senator Bob Corker who Trump once considered for Vice-President says, “The White House is in a downward spiral.” The ever increasing pressure on Trump from the normal demands of the Presidency plus the mounting number of investigations from the FBI, House, Senate, and various others are taking their toll. The investigation seem to be focusing on his businesses and finances, areas where Trump has never been forthcoming. He’s cracking under pressure while Republicans in Congress pretend not to see.

At his present pace, Trump is unlikely to complete his first term in office. Whether it be impeachment, resignation or perhaps Mike Pence and half the Cabinet will use the 25th Amendment to usher him out the door. If it’s proven that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win. I don’t see how the election results can stand.

In the long run, assuming we aren’t involved in a nuclear confrontation with North Korea, or Russia, or “an island in the Pacific.” We will survive Trump. In the meantime, without the checks and balances performing their function. We’re watching Jeff Sessions reignite hyper mass incarceration, watching Trump try to inject religion into elections, watching Trump ignore citizens and remove Federal oversight of police departments. Watching a plethora of Executive Orders replace the legislative process. Watching!

The courts play their role in a reactive manner. Typically long after the fact. The Congress is the immediate response to the actions of the White House. Congress do your job!

Taxes, Trump and Capone

I for one don’t think that Trump’s taxes will show a direct link to Russian investments. Not because I think there is no financial relationship. I just have no reason to believe Trump will have provided a roadmap in his tax returns. I honestly don’t think Trump is truthful in anything and that would be my reason for wanting him to produce his returns.

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Photo: twitter.com

Chicago gangster Al Capone wasn’t undone by murder, bootlegging or racketeering. He was found guilty and sentenced to 11 years of prison for filing fraudulent tax returns. While I don’t think we’ll necessarily find Russia. I’m certain that Trump will be as dishonest in his taxes as in every other aspect of his life. We’ll see then who’s chanting about locking someone up?

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