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President Trump Can't Be Indicted? Michael Avenatti Wants to Test that Theory

September 13, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

“It is time to clarify the issue.”


Can President Donald Trump — or any president, really — be indicted? We know, for a fact, that he could be — but the real question is whether that indictment would hold up to constitutional scrutiny.

In a new op-ed for the New York Times, Michael Avenatti argued persuasively Thursday that we should test the proposition that presidents are immune to prosecution. And Trump himself may be giving us the opportunity to do just that.

“Provided there is sufficient evidence to support an indictment of President Trump — and there are many indications that there is — the special counsel, Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 election, and prosecutors from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, who are investigating payments to my client, Stormy Daniels, and Karen McDougal, should present their evidence to grand juries,” Avenatti wrote.

The members of the grand jury would decide whether or not to indict. If Trump were indicted, then the real fun would begin.

Trump, like any other defendant, would then have the opportunity to use any resources available to fight back against the charges, Avenatti argued. And that would almost certainly mean, in Trump's case, challenging the validity of a presidential indictment. 

Avenatti also argued that on these grounds, Trump should fail. The most common argument against the idea of indicting presidents is that it would be too much of a distraction for the commander-in-chief. But, according to Avenatti, civil suits and impeachment hearings likewise impose burdens on the president, but this doesn't mean they're unconstitutional. Criminal indictments should thus be permitted.

He also noted that, while the principle of a president's susceptibility to civil suits was affirmed under President Bill Clinton, many of the allegations against Trump are in some ways more serious.

He wrote:

[If] the facts and evidence are adequate for indictment, then prosecutors must be blind to the officeholder’s position — especially so in this case because, unlike in President Clinton’s case, the investigations relate to how Mr. Trump won the election. Ultimately, the question would almost …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Two Congressmen Who Say They Inadvertently Hung Out With Holocaust Denier Get Caught With Him Again

September 13, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Reps. Dana Rohrabacher and Matt Gaetz have faced scrutiny for meeting with Holocaust denying Internet troll Chuck C. Johnson. They met with him again.


Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) previously drew scrutiny for hanging out with Chuck C. Johnson, a far-right Internet troll and Holocaust denier, and both have tried to explain away the occurence.

But according to Mother Jones, both congressmen somehow ended up fraternizing with him a second time this summer. Specifically, Johnson was on board a yacht fundraiser in Newport Beach, California, on behalf of Gaetz's re-election campaign, at which Rohrabacher gave a speech in support of his colleague. The fundraiser was hosted by public relations executives Alfred Balitzer and Rod Wilson, the former of whom Johnson has referred to as a “mentor.”

In January, Gaetz, one of President Donald Trump's closest kindred spirits in Congress, faced controversy and a letter of condemnation from the Anti-Defamation League for providing Johnson a ticket to attend Trump's State of the Union Address as his guest. Gaetz argued that Johnson had simply “showed up at my office” and the invite was not an endorsement of his views, but bizarrely, added in an interview on Fox Business that Johnson is “not a Holocaust denier, he’s not a white supremacist.”

Rohrabacher, another Trump ally and Congress' most notorious apologist for Russian President Vladimir Putin, allowed Johnson to sit in on a meeting between himself and Sen. Rand Paul, after Johnson had helped him secure a meeting with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in August and donated $5,400 in Bitcoin to his campaign. Rohrabacher maintains that Johnson was not invited to the meeting with Paul, but admits that he was not asked to leave it either.

Johnson, a former Breitbart reporter who has spent years promoting fake news through his GotNews web site, and who was banned for life from Twitter for inviting people to raise money to help him “take out” Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson, came out as a Holocaust denier in early 2017.

“I do not and never have believed the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump's Ex-Campaign Chair Paul Manafort Reaches 'Tentative' Plea Deal with Mueller's Team: Report

September 13, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Multiple reports have suggested Manafort was in talks with prosecutors for weeks now.


Paul Manafort, the former campaign chair for President Donald Trump, reached a “tentative” agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to charges that were set to be taken to trial this month, according to a new report from ABC News.

The report said it is not yet clear whether the plea deal will include cooperation with the special counsel Robert Mueller's team, which brought the charges that relate to Manafort's work as an agent for foreign governments.

Manafort has already been found guilty on eight charges of bank and tax fraud in a separate trial.

ABC News reports:

Manafort and his most senior defense attorneys spent more than four hours Thursday in discussions with a team of special prosecutors who are involved in the ongoing investigation into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

ABC News spotted the team arriving in a dark SUV Thursday morning, pulling into a secret entrance out of public view at the building where Special Counsel Robert Mueller is based.

Word of the agreement comes as Manafort's second trial was slated to begin later this month in federal court in Washington, D.C.

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Source: ALTERNET

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NRA May Have Illegally Coordinated With GOP Senate Candidate: Report

September 13, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

“I fully expect the NRA is going to come in … in August sometime.”


On Thursday, audio footage published by The Daily Beast appeared to show Montana's Republican Senate candidate, state auditor Matt Rosendale, in discussion with National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) strategist Chris Cox about campaign expenditures against incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester:

PAY DIRT exclusively obtained audio of Rosendale’s remarks, which good-government groups say raise serious questions of potentially illicit coordination between Rosendale and an independent political group supporting his campaign.

“I fully expect the NRA is going to come in… in August sometime,” Rosendale said in response to a question about independent political spenders in the race. “The Supreme Court confirmations are big. That’s what sent the NRA over the line. Because in ’12, with [Republican Senate nominee Denny Rehberg] they stayed out, they stayed out of Montana. But Chris Cox told me, he’s like, ‘We’re going to be in this race.’”

Rosendale was slightly off in terms of timing, but the NRA did come through as Cox apparently promised. Early this month, the group spent more than $400,000 on ads hitting Tester over the precise issue that Rosendale mentioned—the senator’s votes on Supreme Court nominations.

The Supreme Court's controversial 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission grants independent political groups the right to spend unlimited sums of money on campaigns. However, even that decision stipulates that the groups must truly be “independent,” not coordinating with candidates.

Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center states that if Cox and Rosendale had material discussions about a political ad campaign targeting his opponent, and Rosendale agreed to something Cox had requested of him, that could satisfy the “three-pronged” legal test of payment, content, and conduct, which is used to distinguish whether campaign coordination is unlawful.

As The Daily Beast notes, “An investigation into potential wrongdoing would likely hinge on the question of whether Rosendale encouraged or otherwise signed off on Cox’s pledge to get involved in the race. Rosendale did not recount his reply to Cox in response to the questioner, meaning he …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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When Dozens of Korean War GIs Claimed a UFO Made Them Sick

September 13, 2018 in History

By Natasha Frost

Theories range from high-tech Soviet death rays to extraterrestrials studying human combat to combat-stress-induced hallucinations.


During the Korean War, many UFO sightings were reported.

In May 1951, one year into the Korean War, PFC Francis P. Wall and his regiment found themselves stationed near Chorwon, about 60 miles north of Seoul. As they were preparing to bombard a nearby village with artillery, all of a sudden, the soldiers saw a strange sight up in the hills—like “a jack-o-lantern come wafting down across the mountain.”

What happened after—the pulsing, “attacking” light, the lingering debilitating symptoms—would mystify many for decades to come.

As the GIs watched, the craft made its way down into the village, where the artillery air bursts were starting to explode. “We further noticed that this object would get right into…the center of an airburst of artillery and yet remain unharmed,” Wall later told John P. Timmerman of the Center for UFO Studies in a 1987 . “Those early confirmations were just a product of a primitive radar system.” The flurry of UFO sightings Haines describes may have been the dual effect of these two threats: a potentially world-destroying war on the horizon, and the incredible pressure of being in the military.

Wall had experiences in those years in Korea that would scar him until his death in 1999. One night, Denny says, he managed to make his way through a pitch-dark minefield, praying for his life as he went. Others who made the same journey were not so fortunate. “When he went in [to the war],” she says, “he was happy-go-lucky, just a totally different person to when he came out.”

Whether the UFO sightings that Wall and so many other men reported were a product of this personality-altering trauma, or the effects of something requiring much greater investigation, remains a mystery.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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When Cigarette Companies Used Doctors to Push Smoking

September 13, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

Before studies showed that cigarettes caused cancer, tobacco companies recruited the medical community for their ads.


A close-up of a 1946 ad declaring that ‘More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigaret

What cigarette do doctors says causes less throat irritation? In the 1930s and 40s, tobacco companies would happily tell you it was theirs. Doctors hadn’t yet discovered a clear link between smoking and lung cancer, and a majority of them actually smoked cigarettes. So in cigarette ads, tobacco companies used doctors’ authority to make their claims about their cigarettes seem more legitimate.

To the modern-day reader, the pitching of cigarettes as healthy (even to youth and pregnant moms) and the use of doctors’ endorsements may appear horrifying. Yet before 1950, there wasn’t good evidence showing that cigarette smoking was bad for you.


A 1930 Lucky Strike advertisement.

“People started to get worried in the ‘40s because lung cancer was spiking; the lung cancer death rate was going through the roof,” says Martha Gardner, a history and social sciences professor at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “People noticed that and were worried about it, but that didn’t mean they knew it was cigarettes.”

Yes, cigarettes did cause coughing and throat irritation. But companies used this to their advantage to promote their product as better than the competition. It wasn’t all cigarettes that gave you problems—it was just those other ones.

The first cigarette company to use physicians in their ads was American Tobacco, maker of Lucky Strikes. In 1930, it published an ad claiming “20,679 Physicians say ‘LUCKIES are less irritating’” to the throat. To get this number, the company’s ad agency had sent physicians cartons of Lucky Strike cigarettes and a letter asking if they thought Lucky Strikes were “less irritating to sensitive and tender throats than other cigarettes,” while noting “a good many people” had already said they were.


1937 Philip Morris advertisement claiming their brand cleared up irritation of the nose and throat.

Unsurprisingly, many doctors responded positively to this biased, leading question, and Lucky Strike ads used their answers to imply their cigarettes must be medically better for your throat. In 1937, the Philip Morris company took that one step forward with a Saturday Evening Post ad claiming doctors had conducted a study showing “when smokers changed to Philip Morris, every case of irritation cleared completely and definitely improved.” …read more

Source: HISTORY

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'I Came With Receipts': CNN's Ana Navarro Shuts David Urban Down with Facts as He Defends Trump's Weak Response to Puerto Rico

September 13, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

“It's a failure on multiple levels.”


After President Donald Trump on Thursday falsely attacked a recent study finding that nearly 3,000 people were killed by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, allies of the administration struggled to defend his baseless claims.

David Urban, a frequent defender of the president, tried to claim on CNN that the administration's response to the disaster was formidable even though Trump's claims about the study were wrong — but commentator Ana Navarro quickly demonstrated the weakness of his argument.

“The Puerto Rican electric authority was bankrupt,” Urban said. “They had lost 30 percent of the workforce from 2012 to 2015. They were down 30,000 employees. Seventy percent of Puerto Ricans didn't have clean drinking water, according to 1974 clean drinking water standards. The hurricane before this knocked out 80,000 households, didn't have electricity when Maria showed up, and when this hurricane came knocked down 80 percent of telephone polls and electricity was out — a catastrophic scale.”

In essence, he was arguing that because Puerto Rico faced so many struggles before the storm, it's unfair to blame the Trump administration for the massive loss of life.

But Navarro disagreed.

“David, precisely, because everything you just said is true, precisely why Puerto Rico was in such bad shape, infrastructure, electric grid-wise, it needed and required more preparation,” she said. “It required more help and that is where the federal government and the Puerto Rican government failed.”

“It's a failure on multiple levels,” Urban said — seeming to concede that the Trump administration's response was insufficient.

Navarro agreed: “The Puerto Rican people were failed by all levels of government. But you cannot compare — the facts are facts. When you take a look at the way the federal government, FEMA, reacted to Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida — and I was in Florida — and then you see within the same nine days, it is — it was millions and millions and millions more meals in the first nine days to Texas and Irma.”

“Not according to the GAO report,” Urban said, trying to deflect.

“Let me give you the numbers, but — I came with receipts today,” said Navarro. “After Harvey, 5.1 million meals. After Irma 10.9 million meals, after Maria, 1.6 million meals. … They were without electricity. They were without air conditioning. …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shot down over the Ukraine-Russia border

September 13, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

On July 17, halfway through a flight from Amsterdam to Malaysia, a passenger plane was shot down over the war-torn Ukraine-Russia Border. All 298 people on board, most of whom were citizens of the Netherlands, died in the explosion.

It was the second Malaysian Air flight to disappear in 2014, after flight 370 crashed over the Indian Ocean on March 8.

The plane took off from Amsterdam at 10:31 GMT. It was expected to fly over the Ukraine-Russia border which, due to a war between Ukrainian fighters and Pro-Russia separatists, had instituted a minimum-altitude restriction just three days earlier to keep planes from being caught in any potential crossfire. The plane made contact and flew into country lines in accordance with restrictions, but disappeared a few hours later, just 30 miles from the border. No distress signal was received.

Questions arose about the flight path. Was it safe? As it turned out, the path had been approved by the International Civil Aviation Organization, and by the countries that controlled the airspace through which the plane was set to travel.

While it wasn’t clear in the beginning, it was suspected the plane had been shot down by “ill-trained” Russian separatists. Four days later, after investigators were finally able to get their hands on the plane’s black box, these suspicions were confirmed. The explosion had definitely not come from within. The recorder revealed that, as the plane approached the border, a “high-energy object” exploded a yard from the cockpit, breaking it completely off from the rest of the plane. The pilots were killed instantly. The rest of the plane flew for more than five miles before finally breaking apart. The debris scattered over more than 20 square miles of field.

It took 15 months to figure out which side of the war the projectile had come from. In October, 2015, Dutch investigators were able to discern that the blast had been caused by a Russian-made missile. In June 2016, over two years after the plane was shot down, an international group of investigators published a photo of large part of a Russian-made Buk missile that was found at the crash site.

Finally, in May of 2018, after four years of gathering evidence, a release from the Netherlands and Australia said that it wasn’t just a Russian-made missile that had taken down Flight 17, …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Terrorist drives truck through a Bastille Day celebration

September 13, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

On July 14, 2016, thousands gathered along the seafront of Nice, France to celebrate Bastille Day—the country’s independence holiday. The mood turned from joy to horror, when a white truck barreled through a pedestrian-filled closed street. In the end, 86 were dead, including 10 children, and 304 spectators were left injured.

While fireworks shot into the sky for 30,000 spectators, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a 31-year-old Tunisian man who had been planning his attack for a year, drove past the festivities several times in a truck he’d rented just three days prior. Shortly after the show concluded, he put his plan into motion. He jumped the curb with the truck, zigzagging through the crowd at 60 miles per hour, deliberately running people over. Those who were celebrating just moments before began scrambling for safety, running into hotels and onto the beach.

The attacker, who was previously “totally unknown” to security services, tore through over a mile of the pedestrian-filled promenade before being stopped by police. He was armed with an automatic pistol, but also carried several replica assault weapons, and even a disarmed grenade, to escalate his threatening appearance. Using the pistol, he fired shots at police, who shot and killed him.

In the days after the attack, shrines to the victims were built around the metal barriers closing off the promenade. Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared three days of mourning, and all festivities were canceled, including a five-day jazz festival and a Rihanna concert. Valls also called for volunteers to help boost security. 12,000 people stepped up.

Two days later, the Islamic State took responsibility for the attack. On July 22, five of Lahouaiej-Bouhlel’s accomplices were charged in the attack.

Despite the relatively speedy resolution, citizens and officials alike were left wondering, how, after everything the country had been through less than a year earlier in Paris, an attack like this could have happened again.

“Questions are raised,” Christian Estrosi, the president of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France, which includes Nice, said in his address after the attack. “As I try to comfort the families, I also try to contain my anger; I can’t hide to you that I feel a deep anger. How is it possible in our country that, after everyone said there was a state of emergency, a state of war, we forgot it after Charlie Hebdo, and then there was …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Washington’s Influence in Syria Is Nowhere to Be Found

September 13, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Syria’s capital looks a bit like Washington, D.C.: imposing
government buildings, heavy traffic, busy streets, and imperious
officials. Public edifices are surrounded by concrete walls. The
main difference may be the ubiquitous regime propaganda: you can’t
miss images of President Bashar al-Assad and his father Hafez,
whereas President Trump’s visage is missing from Washington.

Also unusual are the ubiquitous checkpoints. They’re there to
prevent terrorism via car bombs. Although the threat of terrorism
scares most Americans, it actually offers a form of relief to
Damascus residents. Until recently insurgents controlled some
suburbs, from which they fired artillery and mortars into the city.
Today those neighborhoods, just a few minutes away, are wrecked and
empty. It may be the peace of the grave, but at least it is
peace.

On a recent trip to Syria, I found similar situations in Homs
and Aleppo. The damage was greater and more extensive —
entire neighborhoods in the latter are just rubble — but
other areas of the cities were recovering. The government rules
without an overwhelming public security presence. The war is over
and they have won.

The last area under insurgent control, surrounding Idlib, faces
an imminent offensive by the Syrian military backed by Russian
airstrikes. Washington has warned the Assad regime against using
chemical weapons but otherwise won’t intervene. The humanitarian
consequences could be severe, but Damascus is widely expected to
prevail.

Yet we’re still there,
threatening Assad as though we won the war.

Nor was ousting Assad likely to end the humanitarian crisis.
Overthrowing him would have merely led to the next conflict over
who would succeed him. In countries from Iran to Nicaragua, diverse
coalitions defenestrated long-ruling dictators only to see the most
vicious authoritarians among them take control. There is no reason
to believe Syria would have been any different. Alawites,
Christians, and other minorities saw Washington’s previous
production in Iraq and didn’t like the ending. For understandable
reasons these groups saw Assad as their best protection.

In any case, today Washington’s ability to influence events in
Syria is only a little above nil. U.S. forces occupy part of that
sovereign nation without the slightest legal authority. And the
Assad government is more secure today than at any point during the
last seven years. Why would it give way now? American policy
actually gives the regime a plausible excuse to its own people for
a slow recovery.

In fact, the administration said it will not support
reconstruction in government-controlled areas. The theory,
apparently, is that people will rise up and throw off their
Assad-imposed chains in disgust. That is unlikely, given the fact
that Damascus triumphed against a plethora of well-armed …read more

Source: OP-EDS