Of Russia, Panama and Moore

Well after a fairly quiet week as he was in Asia, Trump was back in full force.

Sen. John McCain slammed Donald Trump for saying he believes Russian President Vladimir Poutine over senior US intelligence officials when he says his country didn’t interfere in the 2016 election. “There’s nothing ‘America First’ about taking the word of a KGB colonel over that of the American intelligence community,” said McCain.

“He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. “I think he is very insulted by it,” Trump added. Do Americans care that Poutine is?

A new report shows that for 10 years, a Trump property in Panama City collected millions of dollars from the Russian mafia and Colombian drug cartels. An investigation from Global Witness, an international NGO that probes corruption and money laundering, reveals how the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower turned a blind eye to crime lords looking for a safe haven to stash their blood money.

The property, with lead broker Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, listed units for three times the going rate in Panama City, thanks to the Trump name. Nogueira worked closely with the Trump family; he claims he attended at least 10 meetings with Ivanka Trump, who challenged him to sell 100 units in the building.

Nogueira later fled Panama after he was arrested for unrelated charges of real estate fraud. From his European asylum, he told NBC that at least half of his Trump Ocean Club customers were Russians, including some with “questionable backgrounds.” Only later did he learn of their ties to Russian organized crime circles.

Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore reiterated his denials against what he said were allegations of sexual misconduct, adding that “revelations” regarding the charges will surface over the coming days. Will he follow Trump’s lead by not actually announcing those “revelations”? He added that the alleged incidents happened nearly 40 years ago. Does that make a difference?

A former co-worker of Moore says it was ‘common knowledge’ that Moore dated high school girls.

Counselor to Trump, Kellyanne Conway, says that actions allegedly committed by Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore “should disqualify anyone”.

“I’ve been investigated more than anyone in this country,” claims Moore. Very Trump sounding. He is complaining that it is the Democrats who are after him and yet even Republicans [other than the hard conservatives] are against him now.

Keurig pulled its advertising from Sean Hannity’s Fox News show after his interview with Moore. In protest, some Twitter users posted videos of themselves destroying their Keurig coffee makers. Critics of the interview said Hannity went too easy on Moore. By Saturday, other companies including 23andMe and E-Trade all announced they would also pull their ads.

House Speaker Paul Ryan called allegations leveled against Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore about pursuing relationships with teenage girls and committing sexual assault “credible” and that he should step aside.

The Republican National Committee has withdrawn from a joint fundraising agreement with Moore, according to a Federal Election Commission filing, as the GOP establishment continues to break ties with the Alabama Senate candidate.

A man who worked at the local mall in Moore’s hometown of Gadsden says Moore was on a mall watch list because he was “bothering girls in the mall.”

While Trump has stayed quiet on the Moore matter, Conway addressed the situation briefly on Fox and Friends by saying “The president will make a statement when he wants to make a statement.” Which is code word/phrase for never.

Moore allies will wonder if Trump dumped him because of the allegations. It’s not the first time he turned his back on fellow Republicans. The state’s party are still supporting him. Fearing a lawsuit and backlash, they are keeping him on the ballot. The governor’s office and entire state Legislature will be up for grabs in a year.

Moore’s attorney is trying to cast doubt at one of Moore’s accusers claiming a signature is fake in a high school yearbook. But what about the other 5 [so far]. Gloria Allred, the accuser’s attorney, later said her client would allow the yearbook to be examined only if Moore is questioned under oath by a Senate committee. So far, Moore’s side hasn’t agreed.

It’s too late to remove Moore’s name from the ballot, so fielding a Republican write-in at this point would almost certainly hand the election to the Democrats unless he should withdraw and persuade his supporters to vote for that substitute.

Trump, who has stayed quiet on the allegations of sexual abuse against Moore, blasted Democratic Sen. Al Franken after a woman said he groped and kissed her without her consent. The accuser accepted Franken’s apology. Franken said he would welcome an ethics probe into his conduct.

Back in October 2016, Trump said all the accusations against him from the 12 accusers were false and he would take them all to court after the election. Guess how many he took to court 13 months later? None.

A group of Alabama women in Montgomery were backing Moore saying the [at least] six accuses are liars and are in just for the money and fame. You don’t get fame for accusing someone and none asked for money or launched a lawsuit.

Trump’s repeated public comments attacking the Justice Department have not influenced the department or ongoing investigations, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said during a contentious House judiciary committee hearing. “To announce recusal from any investigation would confirm the existence of that investigation, and top officials have advised me I should not do so,” Sessions said.

Sessions said although his Justice Department will consider investigations into Hillary Clinton, he could not say whether he would recuse himself from the matter, contradicting his previous statements on the matter. News broke that Sessions has asked senior federal prosecutors to “evaluate certain issues” presented by House Republicans, including alleged ties between the Clinton Foundation and the sale of Uranium One.

Senate judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking member Dianne Feinstein sent a letter requesting more information on Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner related to his security clearance and questions over whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 election.

The two senators specifically requested “transcripts from other committee interviews, additional documents from previous requests, communications with (former national security adviser) Michael Flynn and documents related to his security clearance,” according to their statement.

Kushner told congressional Russia investigators that he did not communicate with WikiLeaks and did not recall anyone on the Trump campaign who had. But Kushner did receive and forward an email from Donald Trump Jr. about contact Trump Jr. had with WikiLeaks, according to a new report this week and a letter from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte “briefly” discussed human rights and the Philippine’s bloody war on drugs during their closed-door conversation, the White House said. But a spokesman for the Philippine President told reporters that “human rights did not arise” during the meeting.

While Trump did nothing about the human rights abuses in the Philippines with Duterte, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directly raised human-rights concerns with Duterte — including extrajudicial killings carried out by security forces in his country — in a confrontation that the Philippine president later derided as a “personal and official insult.” Duterte also seemed to have a different recollection regarding the conversation. Who would you believe…. [Trudeau was the only leader to talk with Duterte about the issue.]

Before the vote, House GOP thinks it has the votes for tax overhaul. You would figure with an easy majority this would be a no brainer in any normal presidency.

The House of Representatives passed major tax reform legislation along party lines, advancing a key agenda item for President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans. The vote was 227-205, with no Democrats backing the bill. But expect an uphill battle in the Senate.

Senate Republicans plan to include a repeal of the individual mandate — a key piece of the Affordable Care Act — in their tax reform efforts. The mandate requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty. But getting rid of it has a cost.

Roughly 4 million fewer people would be covered in the first year the repeal would take effect, the Congressional Budget Office said last week, rising to 13 million by 2027, as compared to current law. Premiums would also rise by about 10% in most years of the decade, “Republicans just can’t help themselves,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “They’re so determined to provide tax giveaways to the rich that they’re willing to raise premiums on millions of middle-class Americans and kick 13 million people off their health care.”

Already the America’s Health Insurance Plans, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, and the Federation of American Hospitals are against the plan.

The House leadership is now pressing those same suburban representatives [that did badly in last week’s elections] to back a tax reform bill that independent analysts say will raise taxes on many of their constituents, particularly in Democratic-leaning states and around the major metropolitan areas with the highest real estate values.

Already GOP Sen. Ron Johnson has come out against the current version of the bill. If two more GOP senators go against the bill [assuming all Democrats vote against the bill and that’s very likely], this bill will be dead in the water.

In the Senate tax plan, senate Republicans are proposing significant excise tax reductions for wine, liquor and beer — including one that slashes in half the rate for craft brewers. But the party could be short lived. Even if it passes, the proposed tax reductions are set to expire after two years. Coincidently the first day is New Year’s Eve 2017 and the last day is Year’s Eve 2019 [so it goes through 3 “Eves”].

House Democrats introduced articles of impeachment against Trump, though they acknowledged their efforts have no chance of success while Republicans control both houses of Congress. Democrat Rep. Steve Cohen introduced five articles of impeachment that include obstruction of justice for Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey, two emoluments clause violations, undermining the independence of the federal judiciary and undermining the freedom of the press.

Sanders responded in a statement, saying time spent calling for Trump’s impeachment “would be better spent focusing on tax relief for American families and businesses. It’s disappointing that extremists in Congress still refuse to accept the President’s decisive victory in last year’s election.” Seems only the Republicans think that the Democrats are disgruntled because they lost the election.

The Trump administration is lifting a federal ban imposed by the Obama administration on the importation of body parts from African elephants shot for sport. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a written notice saying that allowing elephants in Zimbabwe to be killed will enhance the survival of the threatened species by raising money for conservation programs from the wealthy trophy hunters who pay to shoot them.

In probably a rarity this year, Republican and Democratic senators have joined forces on legislation to strengthen the FBI database of prohibited gun buyers after the Air Force failed to report the criminal history of the gunman who slaughtered more than two dozen people at a Texas church. The bill would ensure that federal agencies, such as the Defense Department, and states accurately report relevant criminal information to the FBI. The bill faces an uncertain future in the GOP-run House.

North Korea has reacted angrily to Trump’s recent comments [“fat and short”] about Kim Jong-un, saying, “the worst crime for which he can never be pardoned is that he dared [to] malignantly hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership. He should know that he is just a hideous criminal sentenced to death by the Korean people.”

With just 46% approval by Rasmussen’s polling, Trump says of Rasmussen that it was “one of the most accurate polls last time around.” Rasmussen survey only likely voters – not all voters. Rasmussen tends to be give trump 10% more approval percentage over other polls. Even then, most Presidents wouldn’t be excited if under 50%. With Trump, he’ll take anything.

Then Trump’s tweet adds a very Trumpian comment: “Some people think numbers could be in the 50’s.” “Some people” or “many people” is Trump’s traditional way of saying “nobody, but wouldn’t it be nice if.”

Trump tweeted “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!” The three players are accused of shoplifting during a trip to China to play a game. Trump told the media that he spoke directly to Chinese President Xi Jinping about the case and were supposedly released right after. Demanding to be praised by three teenagers for what you did for them isn’t exactly presidential. [Do convicted shoplifters in China actually get 10 years?]

Trump has selected former pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar as his newest pick to lead the department of Health and Human Services. Trump tweeted while overseas of his intentions to tap Azar, writing that Azar “will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!” There’s another billionaire added to the cabinet.

With Trump threatening to tear up the NAFTA agreement, possibly preferring bilateral agreements, at the Asia-Pacific summit, the remaining countries in the currently failed Trans-Pacific Partnership [the US dropped out] are working on reviving it without Trump and the US. As Mexico is part of TPP, should Trump scrap NATFA, Canada and Mexico would still have agreements, leaving the US out.

400 wealthy Americans, which include doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and CEOs signed a letter, say the GOP is making a mistake by reducing taxes on the richest families at a time when the nation’s debt is high and inequality is back at the worst level since the 1920s and are urging Republican lawmakers not to cut their taxes. The legislation which would add $1.5 trillion to the debt to pay for widespread tax cuts for businesses and individuals.

“I don’t believe that we’ve set out to create a tax cut for the wealthy,” Gary Cohn, the head of Trump’s National Economic Council, said in an interview last week. “Everything in our tax system is meant to encourage investment.” At the moment only 5,000 families a year end up paying the estate tax. Under the Senate plan, that would drop to just 1,800 families.

The letter specifically criticizes Congress for attempting to repeal the estate tax, which is only paid on assets worth over $5.49 million ($11 million for couples) that are left to heirs. The House bill would eliminate the estate tax entirely. The Senate plan would double the threshold so people could inherit up to $11 million for individuals ($22 million for couples) tax free.

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About ebraiter
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