Political votes don’t exonerate criminal behaviour

Donald Trump’s PR claims that being voted president exonerates him of any responsibility for allegations of sexual impropriety.

Politico: Sanders says 2016 victory ‘answered’ allegations against Trump

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is doubling down on her argument that Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory “answered” groping allegations made during the campaign.

“The people of this country, at a decisive election, supported President Trump, and we feel like these allegations have been answered through that process,” Sanders told reporters Monday, hours after three of Trump’s accusers went on television to revive their claims.

“The American people knew this and voted for the president, and we feel like we’re ready to move forward in that process,” Sanders added.

They will obviously want to move on, but this is a nonsense claim from Sanders. People voted for Trump and didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton for a wide range of reasons.

And for a start, more people voted against Trump than for him, he trailed Clinton by nearly three million votes overall. He became president because more people voted for him than Clinton in a handful of key states.

If you wanted to be cynical you could say that his claims Clinton was a criminal and should be locked up won over a number of allegations against him – not just a case of the least worst won, but the perceived least criminal.

But that doesn’t make the allegations go away. Neither does it stop him from blatantly lying again.

Trump has a growing problem. He is trying to win his case in the court of public opinion, but legal processes don’t work that way.

And he seems to be losing on public opinion anyway – the gap between approval and disapproval of him as President is at a record high.

RCP President Trump Job Approval:

  • Approve 37.3%  (46.1% voted for him for president)
  • Disapprove 57.7%
  • Spread -20.4%

Trump is currently supporting Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, another person under a cloud of sexual misconduct allegations.

Reuters: Voters head to polls in Alabama race with high stakes for Trump

Voters in Alabama headed to the polls on Tuesday in a hard-fought U.S. Senate race with high stakes for President Donald Trump, who has endorsed fellow Republican Roy Moore in spite of allegations against him of sexual misconduct toward teenagers.

The race will test Trump’s political clout after nearly a year in office, with his approval ratings at historically low levels. A win by Moore would strengthen Trump’s grip on the Republican Party, some of whose leaders have not backed Moore.

A Jones victory would mean trouble for Trump and his populist political base. It also would narrow the Republicans’ already slim majority in the U.S. Senate, possibly making it harder for Trump to advance his policy agenda.

“Roy Moore will always vote with us. VOTE ROY MOORE!” Trump said in a Twitter post in which he criticized Jones as a potential “puppet” of the Democratic congressional leadership.

Typical irony from Trump, who is campaigning for his own puppet.

Moore told the rally on Monday: “I want to make America great again with President Trump. I want America great, but I want America good, and she can’t be good until we go back to God.”

Good grief.

A Fox News Poll conducted on Thursday and released on Monday put Jones ahead of Moore, with Jones potentially taking 50 percent of the vote and Moore 40 percent. Fox said 8 percent of voters were undecided and 2 percent supported another candidate.

An average of recent polls by the RealClearPolitics website showed Moore ahead by a slight margin of 2.2 percentage points.

No Democrat has held a U.S. Senate seat from Alabama in more than 20 years. In 2016, Trump won the state by 28 percentage points over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

That result should be known later today.

A win to Moore won’t necessarily be a good thing for the Republicans or Trump.

And like Trump, a win for Moore won’t exonerate him from legal claims of sexual misconduct against him.

US ambassador to the UN says women accusers should be heard

Nikki Haley has said that women who have accused President Trump and others of sexual misconduct “should be heard”.

This is surprising. She is a Trump administration spokesperson as the US ambassador to the United Nations, but domestic accusations of sexual misconduct are outside her responsibilities.

NY Times: Nikki Haley Says Women Who Accuse Trump of Misconduct ‘Should Be Heard’

Nikki R. Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said on Sunday that women who have accused President Trump of sexual misconduct “should be heard,” a surprising break from the administration’s longstanding assertion that the allegations are false and that voters rightly dismissed them when they elected Mr. Trump.

Ms. Haley, a former governor and one of the highest-ranking women in Mr. Trump’s administration, refocused attention on the allegations against the president by insisting that his accusers should be treated no differently than the scores of women who have come forward in recent weeks with stories of sexual harassment and misconduct against other men.

“They should be heard, and they should be dealt with,” Ms. Haley said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.”

Her remarks are the latest indication that the president’s behavior toward women — more than a dozen have accused him of unwanted touching, forcible kissing or groping — may not escape renewed scrutiny.

Democrats have appeared determined to grab the moral and political high ground, largely forcing their accused party members to resign.

Republicans have been more divided: Even as some accused members have stepped down, the party has largely stood by Mr. Trump. And it remains bitterly split over how to respond to the case of Roy S. Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama who has been accused of molesting an underage girl and attempting to date other teenagers when he was in his 30s.

Some of the women who first accused Mr. Trump during the campaign last year have expressed a renewed desire to press their case. Three of them will be interviewed by Megyn Kelly on NBC’s “Today” show on Monday.

So far, though, the upheaval in societal norms about sexual conduct in the workplace has swirled around the president but left him largely unscathed.

Undaunted, the president has used Twitter to mock other men who have been accused, including Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, who announced his plans to resign after several harassment allegations. Mr. Trump has defended and endorsed Mr. Moore, calling the claims against him “troubling” but insisting that he is needed in the Senate to advance the Republican agenda.

Through it all, the White House has repeatedly sought to deflect and discredit any attempt to revisit the “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Mr. Trump crudely bragged about kissing women and grabbing their private parts, or to examine again the allegations from the women who came forward weeks before the 2016 election to accuse Mr. Trump of crude sexual behavior.

In recent months, Mr. Trump has privately been casting doubt that the “Access Hollywood” tape is authentic, despite publicly acknowledging shortly after its release in October 2016 that “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.”

Trump’s past and his hypocrisy and his may yet prove to be too big to sweep under the White House carpet.

The tape suggests Trump crudely accosted women, and a number of women have accused him of unwelcome advances and actions. Actual criminal behaviour is not proven at this stage.

“Free from fear, innocent of hatred”

Trump: “We want our country to be a place where every child from every background can grow up free from fear, innocent of hatred, and surrounded by love, opportunity and hope.”

Wonderful words.

Or they could be if they were spoken by someone who didn’t divide and ostracise using fear tactics, and didn’t promote hatred of immigrants, minorities, media, and political opponents in his own as well as other parties.

And who didn’t provide opportunity and hope for big business at the expense of ordinary people and the health of the planet.

I wonder how the 800,000 young people at threat of deportation think of this speech?

Reuters: U.S. top court blocks release of Trump ‘Dreamer’ immigrant documents

Since its inception, the DACA program has provided protection from deportation and work permits to about 800,000 mostly Hispanic young adults brought into the United States illegally by their parents. At the time Trump announced the rescinding of the program, about 690,000 people were protected under DACA.

Trump scrapped the program as part of his hard-line immigration policies, calling DACA an unconstitutional overreach by Obama. Trump gave Congress until March to come up with new protections for the Dreamers.

Dreamers are a fraction of the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

Obama and his fellow Democrats have defended the program as one that protects young people who grew up and were educated in the United States and are Americans in every way but actual citizenship.

Are the ‘Dreamers’ free from fear? Surrounded by surrounded by love, opportunity and hope?

The Jerusalem announcement effect

President Donald Trump’s announcement that the US would recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy there was controversial, and has been deeply unpopular with Palestinians and throughout much of the Middle East. It may also be unpopular in the US.

The Guardian: Defiant Donald Trump confirms US will recognise Jerusalem as capital of Israel

Donald Trump has defied overwhelming global opposition by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but insisted that the highly controversial move would not derail his own administration’s bid to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a short speech delivered at the White House, Trump directed the state department to start making arrangements to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a process that officials say will take at least three years.

“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said. “While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.”

Trump said: “My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”

It is highly debatable whether this will help already difficult attempts at peace solutions, and may do the opposite.

The president’s announcement provoked condemnation from US allies, and a furious reaction from Palestinian leaders and the Muslim world.

Al Jazeera: Trump’s Jerusalem move roundly condemned at UN

During an emergency meeting, UN Security Council members widely condemned Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move that has led to deadly clashes across the occupied Palestinian territories.

Eight countries called for the emergency meeting at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday, as Palestinians protested across the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip against the US president’s decision throughout the day.

Several countries resoundingly condemned the unilateral move by the US to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, while Israel says Jerusalem, which is under Israeli occupation, cannot be divided.

The international community has never recognised Israel’s claim to the entire city.

Predictably it provoked protests and violence – Reuters: Israeli strikes kill two Gaza gunmen, anti-Trump protests less intense

Israeli air strikes in Gaza killed two Palestinian gunmen on Saturday after rockets were fired from the enclave, in violence that erupted over President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Trump’s reversal of decades of U.S. policy has infuriated the Arab world and upset Western allies, who say it is a blow to peace efforts and risks sparking more violence in the region.

Gaza militants launched at least three rockets toward Israeli towns from the Gaza Strip – which is controlled by the Islamist group Hamas – after dark on Friday. The day had been declared a “day of rage” by Palestinian factions protesting against Trump’s announcement on Wednesday.

Trump’s announcement has not been supported internationally, and has had limited support in the US.

Time: Rex Tillerson Is on a Lonely Mission to Defend Donald Trump’s Jerusalem Pronouncement

It’s a go-to catchphrase when U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is called on to explain his boss on the world stage: “America first is not America alone.” Yet as President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, Tillerson on Wednesday stood all by himself.

The onslaught came from all sides as Tillerson, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, got an earful from many a U.S. ally on Trump’s Jerusalem move. So far, not a single country — other than Israel, of course — has thrown its support behind the declaration. Even Tillerson’s own State Department has conceded the announcement could sow unrest throughout the Middle East.

Asked about Trump’s decision, Tillerson insisted the president “still is very committed to the peace process” — an assertion that U.S. allies said Trump had disproven by going ahead with the move despite near-universal protestations. And while the decision directly affects his department, Tillerson acknowledged his role was relatively minimal, focused on ensuring the State Department and Pentagon had enough time to boost precautions to keep U.S. personnel overseas safe amid the inevitable backlash.

Tillerson claims US support: On Jerusalem, Trump obeys will of US people: Tillerson

“The president is simply carrying out the will of the American people,” Tillerson said at a news conference with Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz.

“This has to do with the US law and a US decision and every country has a right to decide what it wants to decide as to its embassy in Israel.”

But apart from the protests Trump’s announcement won’t take immediate effect, other than give the appearance of fulfilling a campaign promise.

Fox News: Trump’s Jerusalem move: President’s patented strategy of taking a half-step

With his speech about moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, President Trump is following a familiar pattern.

He is taking a controversial step but not going all the way—taking a kind of halfway measure that fulfills a campaign promise but doesn’t necessarily have immediate consequences.

He has become the first president since Israel’s founding in 1948 to recognize Jerusalem as the capital, although other presidential candidates have talked about doing so. At the same time, he is signing a waiver to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv for another six months, and officials say it could take years to build an embassy in Jerusalem.

Indeed it could take years. Haaretz: Jerusalem Embassy Move Won’t Happen Next Year

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday that moving of the U.S. Embassy to Jeruaslem is likely to take at least two years due to logistical reasons. Tillerson stated that the move probably won’t happen “this year or next year.”

He added that Jerusalem’s “final status” will be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

So apart from provoking protests and claiming a promise has been kept, and making Middle East peace efforts harder, what has changed? Possible American approval of Trump. His approval rating had been slightly improved, until his Jerusalem announcement, after which it has dropped sharply to near lows again.

So what has been gained, apart from pleasing Israel, international condemnation, violent protests and pissing on the peace process?

Trump may have been delivering more for rich campaign supporters than for his voter support base.

 

#MeToo strikes in Washington

Apart from a certain president it seems that sexual harassment, assault and inappropriate behaviour has struck Washington, showing signs that it is now politically toxic.

CNN: The #metoo movement comes to Washington

Consider what has happened in the last week alone (in reverse chronological order):

Arizona Rep. Trent Franks (R) is resigning from Congress, as the House Ethics Committee announced tonight that it will investigate whether he engaged in “conduct that constitutes sexual harassment and/or retaliation for opposing sexual harassment.”

In a statement announcing his resignation, Franks acknowledged that he learned this week that the committee was looking into complaints from two female former staffers.”Due to my familiarity and experience with the process of surrogacy, I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others,” Franks said in the statement.

* Minnesota Sen. Al Franken (D) announced on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon that he plans to resign by the end of the year after a series of allegations that he groped and forcible kissed multiple women.

* Michigan Rep. John Conyers (D) resigned his seat on Tuesday following a series of allegations of sexual harassment from former staffers.

* Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold (R) was revealed by The New York Times last Friday to have used $84,000 in taxpayer dollars to settle a sexual harassment claim against him. The House Ethics Committee has established a subcommittee to investigate Farenthold’s alleged actions as well.

And that list doesn’t even take into account the allegations that continue to swirl around Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore as the December 12 special election to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions draws ever closer.

And that president has chosen to openly back Moore – Trump urges Alabama voters to back Roy Moore:

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday voiced support for Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican Senate candidate dogged by accusations of sexual misconduct, during a rally that foreshadowed themes for next year’s midterm elections.

”Get out and vote for Roy Moore,” Trump said ahead of Tuesday’s election.

The race in the heavily Republican state heated up last month with accusations that Moore sexually assaulted or behaved inappropriately with several women when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.

Moore, a conservative Christian and former state judge, denies the allegations, and Trump formally endorsed him on Monday.

Trying to avoid losing an election is still a priority for trump, going against the growing wave of disapproval of sexual misconduct.

Trump throws Jerusalem bomb

I thought President Donald Trump had said he wants to help bring peace to the Middle East, and had his son-in-law Jared Kushner working on it.

But Trump has just thrown what could be an incendiary bomb into the Middle East.

This move may please some, but it is certain to annoy, anger and incite many. It is a very risky move – unless the aim is to deliberately provoke unrest.

Some wins for Trump

President Donald Trump is making progress on some of his core policies.

A tax bill has also passed a senate vote but still needs to be compromised further with wrangling with Congress. The US system of passing bills can be very messy, and too easily results in a mess.

Talking of messes, the Russian collusion probe:

Lawyer takes blame for trump tweet

It has often been claimed that Donald Trump tweets against the best advice of those who try to manage his presidency and his PR, so it is unusual to see his personal lawyer take responsibility for a tweet that some say could put Trump at legal risk.

The tweet:

Newshub in Trump denies pressuring FBI director Comey to end Flynn probe:

The tweet raised eyebrows, with some in the legal community saying if Mr Trump knew Flynn lied to the FBI and then pressured Mr Comey not to investigate him, that would be problematic.

Mr Trump’s tweet “absolutely bolsters an obstruction of justice charge”, said Jimmy Gurule, a former federal prosecutor and a law professor at Notre Dame University.

“It is evidence of the crucial question of whether Mr Trump acted with a corrupt intent.

In an unusual move:

Mr Trump’s personal lawyer has since taken responsibility for the tweet.

In an interview on Sunday with news site Axios, John Dowd said the tweet was “my mistake” and that he drafted the tweet that raised more questions about whether there had been attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation.

“I’m out of the tweeting business,” Mr Dowd told Axios. “I did not mean to break news.”

It is unusual that Trumps lawyer is taking responsibility for drafting the tweet, especially given the content of the tweet.

Trump has inevitably responded to the uproar his tweet created with another tweet:

I presume his lawyer did not draft that tweet.

This is a typical Trump denial, claiming anything he doesn’t like as fake news and lies.

He risks, amongst other things, becoming known as the Fake President.

The Flynn plea agreement

The Michael Flynn plea agreement promises full cooperation with Robert Mueller’s Special FBI Investigation. It requires extensive disclosure from Flynn. In return it promises no further criminal charges – but there’s a big out clause. If Flynn breaches the agreement in any way then the whole deal is off.

2. Factual Stipulations

Your client agrees that the attached Statement of the Offense fairly and accurately describes your client?s actions and involvement in the offense to which your client is pleading guilty. Please have your client sign and return the Statement of the Offense as a written proffer of evidence, along with this Agreement.

3. Additional Charges

In consideration of your client?s guilty plea to the above offense, your client will not be further prosecuted criminally by this Office for the conduct set forth in the attached Statement of the Offense.

The agreement gives sentence indications but doesn’t make any guarantees.

7. Court Not Bound by this Agreement or the Sentencing Guidelines

Your client understands that the sentence in this case will be imposed in accordance with 18 U.S.C. 3553(a), upon consideration of the Sentencing Guidelines. Your client further understands that the sentence to be imposed is a matter solely within the discretion of the Court.

The requirements for cooperation are extensive.

Rights are limited.

C. Trial Rights

Your client understands that by pleading guilty in this case your client agrees to waive certain rights afforded by the Constitution of the United States and/or by statute or rule. Your client agrees to forgo the right to any further discovery or disclosures of information not already provided at the time of the entry of your client’s guilty plea. Your client also agrees to waive, among other rights, the right to be indicted by a Grand Jury, the right to plead not guilty, and the right to a jury trial.

And if Flynn fails to fulfill completely ever obligation as stipulated by the agreement then the deal is off.

Even the ‘Government’s Obligations’ are stacked against Flynn.

12. Government’s Obligations

The Government will bring to the Court’s attention at the time of sentencing the nature and extent of your client’s cooperation or lack of cooperation. The Government will evaluate the full nature and extent of your client?s cooperation to determine whether your client has provided substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another person who has committed an offense.

If the Government determines that your client has provided such substantial assistance, this Office shall file a departure motion pursuant to Section 5K1.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines, which would afford your client an opportunity to persuade the Court that your client should be sentenced to a lesser period of incarceration and/or fine than indicated by the Sentencing Guidelines.

The determination of whether your client has provided substantial assistance warranting the filing of a motion pursuant to Section 5K1.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines is within the sole discretion of the Government and is not reviewable by the Court.

In the event your client should fail to perform specifically and fulfill completely each and every one of your client’s obligations under this Agreement, the Government will be free from its obligations under this Agreement, and will have no obligation to present your client’s case to the Departure Guideline Committee or file a departure motion pursuant to Section 5K1.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines.

If Flynn doesn’t deliver fully all his knowledge of the Trump campaign, all his financial information and any evidence of any crimes of which he is aware then the deal can be ditched.

If Flynn commits any crime or breaches any law prior to sentencing then the deal is off, and he cannot withdraw his guilty plea.

This proves nothing about Russian collusion, but if Flynn knows anything about any collusion then it’s going to be be revealed, or he risks some very severe legal repercussions.

Court filings: http://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/01/politics/michael-flynn-court-filing/index.html

Trump claims ‘no collusion’

Donald Trump has claimed there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians.

That is incorrect. No collusion has been shown or claimed in the FBI investigation – yet. But the investigation also hasn’t shown that no collusion occurred.

In his notice to the Court on the Michael Flynn charges deal Special Counsel Robert Mueller stated:

“These facts do not constitute all of the facts known to the parties concerning the charged offenses. They are being submitted to demonstrate that sufficient facts exist that the defendant committed the offense to which he is pleading guilty.”

So what the Special Investigation knows is not known to the public – nor to Trump. Mueller may or may not have evidence proving collusion or pointing to possible collusion.

An ABC News report that a Flynn confidant said he would testify that Trump directed him to contact the Russians during the campaign has been corrected, citing a clarification from the source.

The ABC report Flynn prepared to testify that Trump directed him to contact Russians about ISIS, confidant says now states:

Retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn has promised “full cooperation” in the special counsel’s Russia investigation and, according to a confidant, is prepared to testify that Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians, initially as a way to work together to fight ISIS in Syria.

The confidant provided ABC News with new details on Friday about Trump’s instructions to Flynn. During the campaign, Trump asked Flynn to be one of a small group of close advisors charged with improving relations in Russia and other hot spots. The source said Trump phoned Flynn shortly after the election to explicitly ask him to “serve as point person on Russia,” and to reach out personally to Russian officials to develop strategies to jointly combat ISIS.

The confidant told ABC News that Flynn felt abandoned by Trump in recent weeks, and told friends about the decision to make the plea deal within the last 24 hours as he grew increasingly concerned about crippling legal costs he would face if he continued to contest the charges.

“Flynn is very angry,” the confidant told ABC News Friday. “He will cooperate truthfully on any question they ask him.”

Of course the ‘confidant’ cant be sure what Flynn will testify.

Meanwhile Stuff reports: Kiwi spies knew of Donald Trump’s ‘collusion’ with Russia as it unfolded – book

New Zealand spies knew about Donald Trump colluding with Russia in the lead-up to the extraordinary 2016 US election, an investigative journalist says.

Luke Harding is a Guardian journalist and author of Collusion, a new book exploring the US president’s longstanding ties with Russia.

It was the evidence of European spy agencies and, according to one source, the Australians, that helped nudge an initially reticent FBI into investigating the Trump-Russia ties that continue to unfold.

Five Eyes intelligence partners, including the New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau, were monitoring the meetings between Trump associates and “known and suspected” Russian agents in the year preceding the US election, Harding says.

“This information would have been shared with New Zealand’s spooks, and they will have a clearer picture, privately, of what degree Trump colluded,” Harding says.

The book goes deep into the publication of the Steele dossier, Russian hacking of the Democrats email servers, failed bids to build a Trump Hotel in Moscow, and the dealings between Trump’s associates and Russians now subject to FBI scrutiny.

It’s more damning than Watergate, Harding says, but he doesn’t expect it to topple the White House.

His prediction: Trump will last the four-year term. “Impeachment is a political question. So, I think he’ll tough it out.”

That’s just guessing.

The investigation appears to be far from over and more is almost certain to come out. We will need to wait and see whether collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia can be proven or not.