Friday, March 24, 2017

WHAT'S SCARING DEVIN NUNES? And Does He Have a Russian Connection?

That Devin Nunes is one worried-looking dude! And he keeps trying to cover for Trump and the Russians. 

Does he have a Russian connection too? Is he terrified of being exposed along with the rest of Trump's crowd? He too worked on the Trump campaign.

He reports raising about $2.5 million for his own 2016 campaign for his Congressional seat in California's 22nd District, spending about $1.3 million on the 2016 campaign, and in December 2016 having $3.5 milllion on hand. His Democratic opponent raised no money and spent nothing. 

Why all that campaign funding for Nunes? He had no actual opposition in the general election.

Where did the extra $2 million come from?  Maybe this apparently unexplained $2 million was left over from prior years? Hmmm....Let's give him the benefit of the doubt?

It likely didn't come out of Nunes' own pocket. He claims to have a personal net worth of only about $83,000, one of the lowest in Congress. 

But his private holdings, small as they are, are interesting.

According to his federal disclosure forms, almost all his net worth is his share in ownership of a wine company, Alpha-Omega Wine LCC, that sells in Russia through a Russian distributor who is reputedly a friend of Putin.

 Was Alpha Omega the beginning of a Russian dirty money journey into a pipeline to cleanliness in an American wine company account? (I couldn't resist showing off my bit of Greek re Alpha and Omega, i.e.the beginning and the end.)

The Russian billionaire-politicos have a big problem getting their money washed of criminality and moving it out of Russia, often resorting to a Cyprian bank now that the Caribbean has been exposed as a flow-way for dirty money. A computer in the Trump Tower campaign HQ was connected last year to a Russian bank, leading the FBI to suspect something criminal or disloyal was afoot. The FBI therefore trotted off to court, showed probable cause for the agency's suspicions, and was able to get a warrant to conduct surveillance of the Trump-Russian connection.

This court-licensed surveillance was based on a showing of probable cause, meaning the FBI had some goods on Trump & Co. From the moment in January when we learned Flynn had been caught lying about phone calls with the Russians, those who know some law realized the FBI had been surveilling Trump & Co. with a court order. In January the NY Times ran a story about this, though not explaining about probable cause and court-issued warrants. Trump saw at least the headline, and in his unfathonable ignorance of the law, he thought Obama must have ordered the surveillance.

Not so, Mr Trump! Only a court can green-light government surveillance. 

Not until Monday did the pieces fall into place for Nunes. What FBI Director James Comey disclosed at the Congressional hearing opened Nunes' eyes. He ran post-haste to the White House, apparently to warn the Trump team that "We are all in the deep poo-poo." (As if they didn't know.......?)

In typical Trump fashion, Mr. Trump tried to twist the truth to his advantage, announcing that this Nunes' disclosure actually proved he was right about Obama spying on him.

Nonsense, Mr. Trump! Once again: the president CAN'T order surveillance. No one would accept that order. If an intelligence agent did so, that agent would be open to criminal prosecution. Mr. Trump, Nunes and Comey are saying that there was probable cause for a search warrant, probable cause to believe you and the Russians were up to no good. There can be no "spying", as you call it, without a warrant! No warrant without some evidence of something!

We are, in fact, a nation of laws, Mr. Trump. Get that through your strangey-colored head!

And now you and your cohorts — including maybe Devin Nunes — are going to run straight into the withering light of the law. 

When things are rotten, they smell. You can hide the rotten under a basket, but the smell will out. Read "Hamlet", for heaven's sake, Mr. Trump, the all-time political story of usurpation of power!

"You shall nose him out as you go up the stair."

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

In Defense of FBI Director Comey

Lots of people I know are angry at FBI Director James Comey. People are bitterly resentful of him not discussing the Trump investigation yesterday as openly as he discussed the Clinton one last fall.

So I posted this on Facebook and share it with you here. For what it's worth, I feel pretty good about the job Director Comey will oversee. And please remember, he's not the one doing the FBI investigating.  Dozens of staff people are. You can't muzzle dozens of people. Please remember that "Deep Throat" was #2 man at the FBI.

Here's my take on Comey:

I'm getting lots of comments of loathing toward FBI Director Comey. As an attorney, a politico and someone who worked in government, I see things a bit differently. He talked to Congress about the Clinton investigation in the latter weeks of the campaign because he had previously told Congress he would keep them updated. Now he was reopening the investigation on her, and he had to tell them. The ruling protocol is that departments must keep their commitments to Congress because, on OUR BEHALF, the Congress is their BOSS. We have a complicated system of government.

 In the hearings on Monday he refused to comment on individuals in Trump's bunch because THEY ARE UNDER INVESTIGATION. That tells us exactly what we want to know. The more mum he was, the greater the possibility of their guilt. He had made no prior commitment to Congress to reveal names, etc. nor could he. But he HAD to tell Congress he was reopening the investigation on Clinton. Those are two very different things in a criminal proceeding. 

Also he was protecting the FBI when he disclosed the FBI was reopening the Clinton matter. If he, and thus the FBI, had sat on that information and she'd been elected and the new evidence then turned out to be seriously incriminating, he and the FBI would be in a hell of a mess. 

Yes, he was also protecting himself — sort of. Notice though that the anger about his choosing to tell Congress has fallen all on him, not on the FBI. Notice also that his choice made sure this country would not face a terrible crisis if the newly-elected Clinton had to be prosecuted because the Weiner computer evidence was so damning of her. 

Don't we all wish Anthony could have kept his pants on!

Jail Trump to Celebrate Anniversary of 1917 Espionage Act?

[I wrote this back in the second week of January. But I didn't publish it then because I was afraid my instincts were running away with me. Guess I should have trusted my instincts! At age 80, why not? The NY Times story referred to is the one Trump saw that led him recently, though belatedly, to say Obama had wire-tapped him. In the most bizarre twist in a presidency ever, Trump's claim did two things to hurt him: (1) it meant a court had found probable cause to issue a warrant to put him under surveilllance, and (2) the screams from him and GOP Congressmen for the FBI to investigate the "tapping" pushed the Congressional investigation that yesterday hosted FBI Director James Comey announcing Trump and his cohort had indeed been under investigation all along for collusion with the Russians and that Obama had not done the wire-tapping. In seeking to distract from his Russian Connection with an accusation against Obama, Trump has shot himself in both feet! He's been now labeled a liar by the head of the FBI and he is identified as being under criminal investigation.  So, belatedly from mid-January, here it is at last, what I wrote then but withheld. Maybe we should call it "Trump the Traitor"?]

The New York Times' top story this morning [January 11]  uses the word "treasonous" in discussing newly-leaked intelligence reports that Trump colluded with the Russians in anti-American acts. Trump Briefed on Claim That Russia Had Secrets on Him. Treason, as you likely know, is a capital offense and the only crime defined in the Constitution.

The Times first refers to Russian-held video tape of Trump's sex with prostitutes and then says, "If some of the unproven claims in the memos are merely titillating, others would amount to extremely serious, potentially treasonous acts." [Emphasis added.] These acts would include colluding with the Russians in their hacking into an American election. 

To get to this point, the Times hurriedly brushes aside the sex to get to the  treason. The sex tapes (if they exist) were merely a tool in the treason, making it easier for the Russians to blackmail Trump into treasonous collusion and into the "friendship" he is indeed now extending Russia, including letting the Russians gobble Ukraine without protest and appointing as Secretary of State a pro-Russian oil man who wants to remove the sanctions the US has applied to Russia regarding its illegal oil dealings with Iran.

We especially care about treason nine days before the presidential inauguration of the alleged traitor! 

It's probably unrealistic to hope that this issue can be resolved before January 20. Nevertheless at least one Congressman has overnight demanded an investigation: "Democrats on Tuesday night pressed for a thorough investigation of the claims in the memos. Representative Eric Swalwell of California, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, called for law enforcement to find out whether the Russian government had had any contact with Mr. Trump or his campaign." donald-trump-russia-intelligence.html. From the report leaked by the CIA and the other intel agencies (see the foregoing cites), it appears that the agencies are in fact investigating just that.

And as for Trump "contact" with the Russians, he has himself boasted of such trips and contacts.

Were these contacts treasonous? Are you aware in all our history of a walk-up to the inauguration when the question is whether the president-to-be has committed treason? The fact that the New York Times uses the term is itself significant. The Times is the premier news outlet in the world. And the word "treason" carries a red-letter label in journalism: "Use only with extreme caution."

The legal community is also chary of the term. In fact, "treason" prosecutions under the Constitution are so difficult to win that prosecutors typically proceed under other broader laws, such as the Espionage Act of 1917.

Perhaps soon we will hear the law book pages turning throughout Washington D.C. and elsewhere as interested parties begin carefully reading the Espionage Act and its brethren.

You did notice, didn't you, that this is the centennial of the 1917 Act? 

Are we about to celebrate its enactment in a very vivid fashion?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Trump/Russian Collusion? Here We Go!

In case you hadn't heard....."The game is afoot, Watson!"

FBI Director Comey confirms probe of possible coordination ...  in The Washington Post today, March 20.

Comey Confirms Inquiry on Russia Election Role and Ties to Trump  New York Times today.

The Trump-Russia Hearings Begin

The Congressional hearings into the Trump-Russia connections begin today. This widely republished article and chart may be useful as you watch the hearings or the news about them.

Now, Congressional committees, do your job!     The web of relationships between Team Trump and Russia

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Trump's Tax Return, the Real Deal! (Short Break from My Break)

(Couldn't not comment on this! So I'm taking a break from my break.)

Everyone is speculatiing whether Trump snuck his own 2005 tax return out into public. The theory is that it shows that he does indeed pay federal income taxes. Thirty-eight million dollars actually in 2005.

But surprise!

Almost all of that sum is the Alternative Minimum Tax levied on higher income filers who would otherwise pay no taxes because of all the deductions and losses they claim. Remember that depreciation is like a loss. You take the income from a building and pretend the building is nevertheless worth less than last year. Trump has lots of buildings, lots of depreciation.

Of course his plans for tax reform include eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax. Of course.  Maybe that was his goal in becoming president? Nice way to pick up $38 million year after year.

Now, don't tell my eye doctor that I wrote this when I should be resting my eyes.

P.S. Can we depreciate our aging eyes on our tax returns?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Until Trump is Imprisoned or Impeached

And one or both will happen.

Meantime I'm giving my irritated eyes a rest, as I said yesterday. I'll use this rest period to recommend good reading from when I quickly scan the NY Times and the Washington Post and occasionally peek at the newest numbers from Nate Silver's site, plus Charlie Cook's and Pew Research.

Here's todays' recommendation. It's by economist and NY Times regular columist Paul Krugman. Says it all about the proposed Trumpcare, and says it well. I'm glad he mentions that this proposed law could cost the GOP all its power. Typical result! Whenever the GOP win they get greedy and overstep.

               Paul Krugman Trumpcare vs. Obamacare: Apocalypse Foretold