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Why Won't Mueller Make a Deal with Michael Cohen?

August 23, 2018 in Blogs

By Mark Sumner, Daily Kos

The special counsel has good reason to avoid it.


Immediately after his home and office were raided, Michael Cohen began sending an SOS to Donald Trump so clear that it was visible from lunar orbit. But since Trump hasn’t yet determined how to pre-pardon anyone, there wasn’t much that Trump could do for his onetime attorney except throw hundreds of thousands into Cohen’s defense fund, start moaning that “Attorney Client privilege is now a thing of the past,” and continually attacking the validity of the investigation into Cohen’s actions.

But since it became clear that there was no help coming from that quarter, Cohen has been sounding whistles of increasingly ridiculous size that he’s willing, no eager, no happy! to cooperate with the special counsel. Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis couldn’t have been more clear on this point if he had worn a sandwich board to court. And it seems that Cohen does have something to sell. After all, his long history with Trump shows that he doesn’t just know where the skeletons are buried, he manned the shovel. 

So why not? The Tuesday deal that saw Cohen pleading guilty on eight counts was very notably not a cooperation agreement. There’s been some speculation that the cooperation by Cohen is being kept secret, but if that’s true, why would Cohen so obviously still be begging for Robert Mueller to please, just please, ask him a question? There would seem to be two possibilities.

First, any deal with Cohen would be to collect information on Trump, and Trump, because of the paper-thin shield of DOJ policy, can’t be indicted. So the value of what Cohen could provide the investigation is limited to just lengthening the list of would-be charges attached to the final report that Mueller will eventually send to Congress. With all the information that’s already on that list, including information gleaned from Cohen’s own files, it simply may not be worth it.

The other big possibility is that Cohen doesn’t get a deal … because Cohen doesn’t deserve a deal. Because what Cohen may have done is so big that offering him a deal would …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump's Lawyers Told Him to Hold Off on Pardoning Paul Manafort Until After Mueller Probe Wraps Up: Report

August 23, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

This could be seen as a clear signal to Manafort to wait out his trials for a pardon from Trump.


President Donald Trump has been considering giving Paul Manafort, his former campaign chair, a pardon for the criminal charges he faces from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, but his lawyers have convinced him to hold off until after the investigation concludes, according to the Washington Post.

One of Trump's lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, spoke with the paper about the matter.

“We told him he should wait until all the investigations are over,” Giuliani said, according to the report. “This [special counsel] case is a strange case. It won’t be decided by a jury. It will [be] decided by the Justice Department and Congress and ultimately the American people. You have to be sensitive to public optics.”

Many observers pointed out that just by floating the idea of a pardon after the investigation closes, the president is signaling to Manafort that he should let the situation play itself out. In effect, he's offering a strong incentive for Manafort not to cooperate with prosecutors, which could potentially mean sharing damaging or incriminating evidence about the president.

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Source: ALTERNET

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Here Are 5 Things That Could Motivate Pro-Trump Voters in the November Midterms

August 23, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

The president's supporters live in an alternate universe surrounded by “alternative facts.”


The events of Tuesday, August 21 are being met with very different responses from critics and supporters of President Donald Trump. On August 21, two of the president’s closest associates—former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his former personal attorney Michael Cohen—were either convicted of or pled guilty to eight federal criminal charges each. With Manafort, the charges he was convicted of included bank fraud and income tax evasion, and Cohen admitted to income tax evasion as well felony campaign finance violations. And while Trump’s critics see these convictions or guilty pleas—a total of 16 altogether on the same day, between Manafort and Cohen—as evidence of the corruption surrounding Trump and his associates, Trump’s diehard supporters have a totally different view. To Trumpistas, the legal problems of Manafort and Cohen and the Russia-related investigation headed by the U.S. Justice Department’s special counsel, Robert Mueller, are evidence of an anti-Trump witch hunt.

Trumpistas live in an alternate universe surrounded by “alternative facts,” to borrow an Orwellian phrase used by Trump’s advisor, Kellyanne Conway. While recent events with Manafort and Cohen could inspire Trump’s critics to vote Republicans out of office in the 2018 midterms, they could also inspire his hardcore supporters to go out and support the president by voting solid Republican in November. And pro-Trump voters will be motivated by other things as well, from abortion to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here are five things that could motivate delusional Trumpistas to vote for pro-Trump Republicans in the midterms.

1. A Belief That Mueller Is Conducting a Mean-Spirited Witch Hunt Against Trump and His Associates

Trump has often used the term “witch hunt” to attack Mueller’s Russia-related investigation, and many of his supporters agree. To many Trumpistas, Mueller is a rabid Democratic Party partisan determined to unseat a democratically elected president—never mind the fact that Mueller is a conservative Republican who was appointed director of the FBI by President George W. Bush in 2001. And this mentality is evident in a commentary that Trump …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Democratic Senator Files Emergency Bill to Block DeVos Plan to Use Federal Funds to Put Guns in Schools

August 23, 2018 in Blogs

By David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement

DeVos' plan would take the money from an Obama-era grant program.


U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, is filing an emergency bill to block Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' plan to allow federal funds to be used to put guns in classrooms.

“More kids will be killed in schools if this policy is put in place—plain and simple. That’s why Congress must block its implementation,” Murphy said in a statement, just hours after a New York Times article revealed DeVos' scheme. “My lord – we can’t let this happen,” he added on Twitter.

“The Secretary of Education cares more about the firearms industry’s bottom line than the safety of our kids, and that should scare parents to death. I have two elementary school age boys, and so I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that Secretary [Betsy] DeVos’s plan to arm our schools is stopped in its tracks,” Murphy's statement adds, as The Hill reports.

DeVos' plan would take money from an Obama-era grant program that was designed to end unfunded mandates and to help local school districts apply federal funds where they were needed most. But the purpose of the grants is clear: “provide all students with access to a well-rounded education,” as the Education Dept.'s own website makes clear.

“Congress doesn’t think this is a good idea. Parents don’t think this is a good idea. Teachers don’t think this is a good idea,” Murphy continued. “Only Betsy DeVos and the gun industry want this.

Here's Murphy in February speaking about schools shootings, as he frequently does, on the House floor. This particular day was Feb. 14, and he was speaking during the horrific Parkland School massacre.

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Source: ALTERNET

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Here's the Biggest Political Difference Between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren

August 23, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Both senators are seen as top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.


Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are two of the most prominent lawmakers seen as likely contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. They are also both regarded as representing the left flank of the Democratic Party.

But as Warren makes clear in a new BuzzFeed profile, the Massachusetts senator sees some clear differences between herself and Sanders.

“He’s a socialist,” she says, “and I believe in markets.”

This distinction, however, is too strong. As Sanders has said on countless occasions, he is a “democratic socialist” — drawing a distinction with the pure label “socialist.” While the meanings of both terms continue to be debated, Sanders has been remarkably clear on what he means. He believes democratic socialists advocate for policies like those carried out in Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries.

And Denmark continues to have a market-based economy. It simply has a robust welfare state, providing generous child care benefits, health care coverage, access to higher education, unemployment protections and other programs of the type Sanders advocates — as well as substantially higher taxes.

While Sanders' political vision often involves the creation or expansion of these kinds of benefits grounded in the government, Warren tends to focus on market reforms aimed to benefit average Americans. For instance, her latest proposal for reforming American corporate governance doesn't directly provide substantial benefits for people in the way expansion of Medicaid would. But by giving workers greater control within large corporations, it would — if it worked as intended — increase the wellbeing of millions by fostering a more generous and accommodating atmosphere for employees.

One of Warren's most notable accomplishments — the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — is supposed to function similarly. The agency itself doesn't provide direct benefits to consumers, but by punishing firms that take advantage of people, it ideally incentivizes others to treat people fairly and allows the benefits of capitalism to be enjoyed by a wider swath of the population.

Warren's implication that Sanders doesn't believe in markets seems to be erroneous, given …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Madness of Military Intervention in Venezuela

August 23, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

War is the ultimate human calamity. Despite the fevered hopes
and utopian promises of its advocates, loosing the dogs of war
almost always results in abundant death and destruction, and
sometimes unimaginable slaughter, devastation, and horror.
America’s last four wars, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and
Yemen, should serve as sufficient proof of this fact.

At least would-be humanitarian warriors make serious moral
claims, even if they usually end up killing many of those whom they
promise to help. Worse are the war advocates seeking geopolitical
advantage, upset that this or that government churlishly refuses to
follow Washington’s dictates.

The very worst, however, are the arguments based on cash. In the
bad old days, warmongers spoke of plunder. Over time they grew more
genteel, instead citing trade and commercial opportunities. Now
they point to increases in GDP. Bomb, invade, occupy a country, and
watch it flourish!

Despite the fevered hopes
and utopian promises of its advocates, loosing the dogs of war
almost always results in abundant death and destruction, and
sometimes unimaginable slaughter, devastation, and
horror.

Venezuelan expatriate Daniel Di Martino has made just such a
case.

Last year, President Donald Trump famously asked his aides
whether the U.S. should intervene militarily in Venezuela. They
argued against the idea. He then asked top Latin American leaders
for their opinion. They were strongly opposed.

However, wrote Di Martino, “While calls for the use of
military force were dismissed among diplomats, American
intervention could have economic benefits for both Venezuela and
the United States.” Waging war would lower Venezuela’s
“Misery Index,” unemployment rate, and poverty rate.
Indeed, “the economic miracle that would follow” the
country’s liberation “would be unprecedented,” Di
Martino claimed. Price and currency controls would end and
“oil production would surge.”

In contrast, he predicted that allowing the regime to stay in
power “will surely result in millions of deaths” while
the death toll from a U.S. assault would be low. He extrapolated
from America’s operation in Panama to estimate just 3,500
civilian casualties. By this calculus, “intervention would
bring enormous rewards for Americans and Venezuelans alike.”
The president, he said, should be strong and declare: damn the
advisors, full speed ahead.

It is a terrible argument.

There is no question that socialism has been a catastrophe for
Venezuelans, at least those who aren’t close to power.
Venezuela was once among Latin America’s wealthiest
countries. Today its people starve and flee.

Because of hyper-inflation, reported The Washington Post’sMatt
O’Brien
, some $333,000 worth of bolivars six-and-a-half
years ago would be worth just $1 today. Three weeks ago a cup of
coffee cost two million bolivars. The regime can barely afford the
hard currency necessary to pay foreigners to …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Myth of Trump's 'Soft' Russia Policy

August 23, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

There is little doubt that the Russian government tried to
influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election to boost
Donald Trump’s prospects. It was hardly surprising that Moscow
would pursue such an objective. During the campaign, Trump
repeatedly advocated
a more conciliatory U.S. policy toward
Russia, raising hopes in the Kremlin that the poisonous bilateral
relationship during the final years of Barack Obama’s
administration could be reversed. Hillary Clinton, on the other
hand,
favored a hardline policy
toward Russia and
openly compared
Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf
Hitler.

If Putin and his colleagues believed that with Trump’s election,
their exertions were rewarded, and that the new U.S. president
would adopt a much friendlier approach to Russia, they must be
extremely disappointed right now.

Washington’s policy
toward Russia remains as hardline and uncompromising as
ever.

Manifestations of a softer policy have been confined to
rhetoric. This verbal aspect was on display again at the July
Helsinki summit, where Trump was so effusive in his comments toward
his Russian counterpart that the president’s domestic critics
responded with
vitriolic accusations of treason
. In terms of actual policy,
though, the Trump administration is at least as uncompromising and
confrontational as its predecessor.

On two separate occasions, the president ordered large-scale
expulsions of Russian diplomats stationed in the United States. In
August 2017, the administration
closed three Russian diplomatic facilities
after Russia ousted
several hundred U.S. diplomats in response to Congress imposing new
economic sanctions. The following May, the White House
expelled 60 diplomats
and ordered the Seattle consulate closed
as punishment for the Kremlin’s alleged involvement in two
nerve-agent poisoning incidents in Britain.

Although the president expressed some criticism of the economic
sanctions, he has implemented them in spite of the grumbling.
Moreover, following the nerve agent accusations, the White House
slapped additional sanctions of its own on Moscow. Such actions are
hardly consistent with a soft or appeasement policy toward
Russia.

Trump’s behavior toward Moscow’s Syrian client, Bashar Assad,
also does not suggest excessive respect for Russia’s interests or
wishes. Not only has the White House twice ordered air and missile
strikes on Syrian government facilities for Assad’s alleged use of
chemical weapons, but the United States conducted air-support
operations to protect rebel forces seeking to overthrow the Syrian
government. At least one of those campaigns reportedly killed as
many as
200 Russian military personnel
.

The administration’s continuation of a less-than-friendly
approach is also evident in NATO policy. Trump did not scuttle the
membership invitation to Montenegro, even though Russia expressed
strong objections not only to the <a target=_blank …read more

Source: OP-EDS