The Trump Scandal B-List

Having trouble keeping track of the various Trump scandals and their potential implications? That just means you’re paying attention.

This was meant to be a comprehensive summary of Trump’s legal troubles, stretching back to the 70’s. A few minutes of Googling made clear that there isn’t enough space on my web server to tackle a fraction of that project. A fallback would be a summary of the investigations spidering out from the Special Counsel’s work, but again the strands are seemingly endless. With plea deals and indictments expanding on an almost weekly basis, each new revelation seems only to expand the scope of that story rather than pointing to a resolution.

There is a good, running list of the Special Counsel’s indictments available at Vox. However, with new developments almost daily, there’s no place I’ve found that can keep a running tab of the unfolding story. Plus, the Mueller investigation is merely one of many criminal and civil actions in flight over the Trump’s family’s activities. What follows is comprehensive summary of the B-List, the second-tier of still-interesting Trump scandals that have mostly avoided headlines.

The Khrapunov Embezzlement Scheme

Victor Khrapunov is the former mayor of Almaty, Kazakhstan, who stands accused of embezzling almost $6bn during his time in office. He laundered a portion of that money through purchases at Trump Tower and investments with Bayrock. He also enlisted Giuliani’s firm for help setting up a shell company in the Netherlands. A criminal case against Khrapunov is playing out in the UK, with the Kazakh government winning a major asset seizure in August against Khrapunov’s son. It’s unclear whether the Khrapunov case is being investigated in the US for its ties to Trump and his associates.

Trump’s Sexual Assault of Summer Zervos

Though technically this is a defamation case filed by Summer Zervos against Trump, the substance is Trump’s sexual assault of Zervos. This case has developed into a test of Trump’s efforts to use the Supremacy Clause to shut down lawsuits and investigations. As such, it has been a complete failure. Trump will be forced to testify and the case could go to trial as early as next year.

Payments to Kushner from the Saudis

Since the election, the Saudis have focused their US lobbying attention on Jared Kushner. How do you lobby the Trump Family? With cash, of course. Intelligence reports have made clear that the Gulf States have focused on Kushner because of “his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience.” Since the family’s financial dealings are secret, we still don’t know what the Saudis have paid Kushner. However, with Democrats in control of Congress it won’t be hard to find out.

Trump Tax Fraud (exposed in New York Times investigation)

New York’s tax agency is investigating the decades of tax fraud exposed by a New York Times story.

Embezzling Funds from the Trump Inaugural

The Trump Inaugural fund has been a swamp of corruption from the beginning. One of the First Lady’s friends got a completely unexplained $26m in a single direct payment. The investigation into the Inauguration has already produced one guilty plea, Sam Patten. This week it became clear that Ivanka Trump was directly involved in steering Inaugural fund money into the Trump businesses. The US AG in Manhattan is investigating the fraud, in a matter separate from the Special Counsel’s investigation.

Stealing Money Donated to Kids’ Cancer and Veterans’ Charities

The Trumps still face a civil suit from the NY AG over their theft of money from children’s and veterans’ charities. Their charity was a slush fund, used to pay their private golf expenses, decorations, and even to pay campaign expenses. This one has flown under the radar, but it is arguably the most disgusting, stomach-churching set of allegations the Trumps face. Read this filing by the NY AG and try not to puke. A NY Judge refused the Trump Family’s plea to have the case dismissed. The matter has also been referred to the IRS, though under Trump’s control, and gutted by more than a decade of assaults, the agency is unlikely to act.

Kushner’s Blackmail Scheme Against MSNBC Hosts

After the election, Kushner was Trump’s conduit to indicted National Enquirer editor, David Pecker. Trump had made extensive use of the Enquirer both to generate and squash potential stories. In 2017, the family leveraged Pecker again, this time to bribe the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe to change the tone of their coverage. According to Pecker and Cohen, Kushner was handling the family’s business with the Enquirer at this time. Kushner was both managing the blackmail operation, and “counseling” host Joe Scarborough during the incident.

The Invisible $400m in Scottish Golf Course Funding

Beginning about a decade ago, Trump starting buying up and developing properties in Scotland using cash, a marked departure from the family business model. To date, they have invested upward of $400m, all in a series of horrifyingly unprofitable ventures, with no official explanation of the funding source. There is, of course, an unofficial source. The family’s dumbest son spouted off about the Russian funding for the company’s Scotland properties, but still no details have come to light.

Emolument Clause Suit

Another little-noticed legal matter has been advancing in recent months. A suit filed by several state AG’s accuses Trump of violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. A judge recently denied the president’s plea to dismiss the case and allowed discovery to proceed. Subpoenas are fanning out right now. This may be the best early opportunity for a glimpse into the family’s secret finances.

Kushner Associate Sued for Visa Fraud

Perhaps you recall footage of Jared Kushner’s sister hawking an investment-for-visas scam in China a few years ago. Those chickens are coming home to roost. Earlier this year the SEC announced an investigation into Kushner’s scam. The US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn issued subpoenas to Kushner on the matter last year. More importantly, though, investors just sued a Kushner associate over a similar scam in Florida seeking almost $100m in damages. Their discovery process should be very interesting.

57 Comments

  1. So…Mattis could not explain to the madman the intricacies of Middle East politics and power plays, and he is walking out the door. First there was Syria, and CNN reported 10 minutes ago the military is to also draw up plans on removing half the troops in Afghanistan asap. (will still take months).

    Now, every nation that has tried to intervene in Afghanistan has failed since Alexander the Great, but walking out of Syria and Afghanistan like this will most certainly lead to more terrorist attacks on the U.S. as the Taliban and ISIS gain more power.

    And I have not even got into Global Warming.

    But hey, the country and the planet can wait at least two more years, right?

    1. But T must satisfy his base and his base feels that the US should not be the World’s policeman. Furthermore keeping his base happy is extremely important now with the legal beagles closing in. In regards to Syria, FAUX News and the Republican messaging machine got the base all excited about ISIS by portraying it as a serious threat to the U.S. Now that someone has told the “very stable genius” that ISIS is defeated and that Obama is no longer President, he must get out to keep that base happy. Furthermore, the base believes that with the oceans, combined with walls on the borders and the very strong military we can pursue an “America First” policy, allowing the U.S. to be isolated from the world. This ties in nicely with the white supremacist orientation of the base. Additionally, T is in full campaign mode now for 2020.

      None of this may be logical, make geostrategic sense or enhance America’s security, but that makes no difference, when Trump is threatened.

    2. So I’m going to take the counteropinion on this Dins. Yes, Trump’s decisionmaking process is piss-poor, and downright dangerous in foreign affairs. But even a stopped clock is right twice a day. And he’s right on Syria.

      IMHO, we never had a good reason to intervene in Syria, it has been a disaster that has increased instability in the region and made us *more* likely to come under terrorist attacks. Doubling down by continuing to do what we’ve done for years is not really a great policy. Withdrawing might actually be better. So what if Syria comes under Iranian and Russian influence? It’s been their ally for decades and that didn’t lead to a wellspring of jihadists. Indeed, the biggest source of terrorist attacks around the world are our two allies, Saudia Arabia and Pakistan. With friends like that, I don’t worry about enemies like Syria.

      Sometimes the answer to unwinding a Gordian knot is to just slice it in half. That’s what Trump’s done here. Unless we have an actual policy that has some semblance of resolving longstanding sectarian conflicts in a region we barely understand, merely putting US boots on the ground to get blown up by IEDs while doing little else is not just wasteful but a real disservice to our troops.

      We never should have intervened in Syria, our intervention made the situation worse, not better, and continuing to stay without a better plan is worse than declaring victory and cutting and running.

      1. I will never forget the scenes of Assad bombing and poisoning his own countrymen , including the children. Those images were compelling then on humanitarian basis even if we Americans were safe and sound far far away. True, atrocities happen all over the world and America can’t fight all battleship human atrocities are launched all over the globe. And, I agree there was much to criticize of America’s engagement and failure to respond after the proverbial red line was crossed. But, my present objection at is the failure of the trump administration to preempt the pentagon, his secretary of Defense, and allies in a hasty decision that lacked any semblance of serious consideration for the complexity of the situation. If I don’t trust trump to make good decisions in the homeland, why would I or any other thinking person trust him with a decision of such consequence? The answer? I can’t and I don’t.

      2. WX, leaving both those countries will be a disaster.

        Should the U.S. EVER have walked into Afghanistan? Of course not. But Cheney and his pet monkey were never ever going to go after Saudi Arabia, the true villain, in 2002. 200 dollars for a barrel of oil plus all those U.S. oil companies losing money…can’t have that.

        But in for a penny, in for a pound. Walking out of Afghanistan now will leave a massive power vacuum that the Taliban, yes, many biding their time in Pakistan, will fill within months, rolling over the parts of the country they don’t control now.

        And Syria, well, that is Obama’s fault for not doing what should have been done for humanitarian reasons alone, which is obliterate the Syrian armed forces and its government. And tell the Russians, “you get in the way, you will lose.” Obama feared, quite rightly, that on a political level, the U.S. electorate could not stand the idea of U.S, jets engaging russian jets. The U.S. can handle troops killed by “evil terrorists”, but not the idea of losing ships and planes in conventional warfare to the russians.

        So when the U.S.. pulls out of Syria, the power vacuum there will be filled instantly by Russia and ISIS. ISIS will gear up in no time at all when the U.S. bails out. The atrocities committed by ISIS, Syria, and Russia on the Syrian people will be 10 times worse than they are today.

        It comes down to this. There are three totalitarian regimes that want to sit astride the planet. Two of them have the economy to finance the conventional military needed for those aspirations. Russia does not. Russia has to pick and choose their spots and engage in asymmetric warfare, like they have done so successfully in the past 30 months with U.S. elections and installing their puppet, Brexit, plus of course Ukraine.

        So does the U.S. want to maintain its hegemony over the planet, or let China and to a lesser extent Russia fill the void when the U.S. pulls out of all these spots? I am no fan of the U.S. believing the whole planet is its toy, but I prefer that to the other two regimes.

        The main factor in this is of course the puppet tyrant. He is taking his orders from two places: Fox and Friends and the Kremlin. If he and his cadre are removed, things change, and fast. But no one wants to talk about what must be done.

        Look at the carnage done in two years. Imagine what will happen in the next two, with an increasingly unhinged tyrant in power, backed by the DOJ, Senate, and SCOTUS. You seriously believe that the country and planet can survive that?

      3. Basically I concur with both WX and Dins in this case.

        First let me state that I strongly believe in liberal, multilateralism. But this is not an ideal world, so we must make the best of things, while striving for the ideal.

        At this time, I feel the U.S. is seriously overextended and we must back off. Accordingly, getting out of both Iraq and Syria is to be desired. But the way Trump is doing it is stupid. It will create a vacuum that Russia will fill in the Middle East and China in Afghanistan.

        In the Middle East, Turkey and iran are both moving into Russia’s sphere of influence. In both cases, Russia is their main historical adversary. Russia has been seeking unfettered access to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean for centuries. Trump is handing that to Russia on a silver platter. Russia is attempting to establish the third Russian Empire, and giving them the easy access to warm waters is a gift much to be desired. Their next target will be the Baltic States. That might very well prompt general European War. The U.S. cannot avoid getting involved in a general European War. That has been true since prior to the Revolution. NATO was set up to keep the Russians out and the US in.

        In Afghanistan, if the US withdraws, Pakistan and India will end up in a conflict for influence. That will prompt China to rush in, since China needs to secure its land borders so it can concentrate on building its naval power. Turmoil in this area is something China cannot tolerate. Accordingly, China is attempting to establish a sphere of influence in that area. That might seem beneficial to the U.S., but it could lead to instability in China. When combined with the U.S. retrenchment in the Western Pacific, China could be tempted to strike out against other nations in East Asia, such as Japan, Taiwan and Indochina. Does the U.S. really want that; I think not.

        In general, I believe that a tri-polar era is emerging in global affairs. The U.S. and China being the larger, with Russia attempting to reestablish its Eurasian empire. To handle the associated challenges, the U.S. must engage in the world, function as a stabilizer, but at the same time be careful about our foreign commitments. For too long the attitude with primarily the Republican Party, but also both parties, has been to use to military option rather, than exploring diplomatic and other options. That must change, since the U.S. must reestablish our domestic strengths, i.e. education, good infrastructure, giving all our peoples equal opportunity, etc.

        Certainly, Trump’s policy of America First, withdrawing from multilateralism, building walls, general disengagement, and using an extremely strong military to fend off potential threats will not work. That has never worked historically. That has been the main historical weakness for China throughout its history, was a major weakness of Rome, and more recently was France’s big mistake during the interwar years. It was also America’s mistake during those same years.

  2. Is the ridiculous gap between the elections and the new person taking office baked into your constitution?

    If not then that NEEDS to be eliminated

    In the UK we get most of the results by about 3am after voting closes and by lunchtime there will be a removal van outside 10 Downing St

    Having months of people who know they have lost still in power is a STUPID idea

    1. Like many ideas, “it sounded good at the time” :-). The idea was that a) that gave time for any questions about election results to be sorted out and b) it enabled a transition time in which the outgoing people can bring the new people up to speed before handing over the reins.

      In a gentler political time, that was what the period was used for. Now, it’s just used as a 3 month period for vindictiveness and revenge for ballot box failures.

  3. I turned off the news this morning. I just couldn’t take it anymore. Add to your already damning list (which applies only to democrats, you know):

    DOJ ethics committee rules Whitakar does not have to recuse from directing the Mueller investigation.

    Bi-partisan budget agreement that removed horrible work requirements to SNAP recipients will not be honored by trump who will attempt through Ex Order to impose them, regardless of Congressional decision.

    Asylum process not being honored at points of entry. Constitution being ignored.

    Senate Intelligence Committee not even consulted on troop withdrawal from Syria.

    I.just.can’t.

    Merry f**king Christmas to all trump supporters and staff.

    1. I too share your sentiments, Mary. I try to keep busy with other things and I am preparing to escape this BS for 24 days on January 9 by heading to Vietnam for a lot of birding. Start in Hanoi and work our way to Ho Chi Minh City. 916 identified species in the country, most of which will be new. I’m sure the Trump front will deteriorate while I’m gone – he is getting desperate. As I posted earlier today on KOS, he is deep in 2020 campaign mode, and is solely trying to please his base. I wanted to use the word “governing”, but that he is not doing.

      I’ll probably post again before I leave, but HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND MAY THE NEW YEAR BRING AN END TO THIS NIGHTMARE.

    1. Recall that during the campaign he bragged that he would probably be the only President ever to become wealthier during his campaign or something to that order. I can’t recall the exact phraseology at this time. It is becoming very obvious now, how he was going to do it. To some of us who paid attention, the corruption was expected.

      1. Given that Trump has never faced appropriate consequences for all the shitty, greedy, dishonest things that he’s done for decades, I really can’t be surprised he’s acting this way. White collar crime has been given too much of a pass for a long time.

      2. You’re right, Fly.
        In anticipation of a kitchen remodel, I recently applied to my credit union for a higher limit on a credit card. We had quite the discussion — expansive, really — over a few thousands dollars..
        How the f*ck did Manafort scam banks of millions of dollars? How did the Trump Foundation continue its disgusting ways for so many years? Is any regulator paying attention?
        I guess not.
        But that doesn’t prevent me from wishing you and everybody here very happy holidays. And if you have to avoid newscasts to accomplish that, I say soldier on!

    2. I would grade it as B or even C list. Call me a cynic, but Trump’s only crime here is that he and his merry band of idiots were too stupid / inexperienced in DC ways to cover their tracks better.

      This whole notion of “independent groups” is BS. Everyone knows that coordination happens all the time. The press even refers to supposedly independent groups as “Candidate XXX’s superPAC”. Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart even did some great parodies about the farce:

      http://www.cc.com/video-clips/av6bvx/the-colbert-report-colbert-super-pac—coordination-resolution-with-jon-stewart

      http://www.cc.com/video-clips/3pwzi5/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-colbert-super-pac—not-coordinating-with-stephen-colbert

  4. Interesting “what if” an American president (aka “trump”) were to misuse the extraordinary powers available to him should he declare an “emergency”. Atlantic points out that over 100 powers would be his to direct. The article also points out that these powers were provided with the assumption that they would only and always be utilized carefully and for the good of the country. What if there were an angry, vindictive man (or woman) occupying the oval office?

    The trump presidency has clearly spelled out the danger of the power vested in the executive division of government.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/01/presidential-emergency-powers/576418/?utm_source=promotional-email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=masthead-actives&utm_content=20181218&utm-term=janfeb-19

  5. So now Donny2Scoops is dissolving his “charity”. That’s one less avenue for grift, and the case still continues in court, so good news.

    And going back to the top of the A-list and Judge Sullivan’s scorching of Gen. Flynn, DAY-YAM!!!!! That’ll set the conspiracy crowd back a bit.

    1. Judge Sullivan is not a fan of the tactics being utilized by DJTrump and his political henchmen/women. Although I was surprised at the vehemence Sullivan voiced in court as he interviewed Flynn, I can only surmise he felt the public record needed to reflect the true record of Flynn’s choices. It appears his disgust for the trump policy era goes beyond national security. Interesting man…

      https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/federal-judge-strikes-down-trump-asylum-rules-domestic-gang-violence-n949936?

      1. I saw the breakdown last night on Rachel Maddow’s show as well Mary and couldn’t help but wonder what he saw in the unredacted documents. This was the most senior National Security Advisor who had sworn an oath of office, a senior public servant….the judge could see all the crimes he wasn’t charged with and the sweetheart deal he was getting and second guessed Mueller. I bet Flynn and his lawyers are trying real hard right now to figure out how else they can help with any aspect of the Special Counsel’s investigation. The crimes and what was being covered up made that Reagan appointed Judge very angry. His comments left no room to imagine a sentence that didn’t include jail time.

        Now, I feel a little better after complaining about there being no public service oriented careerists left. This judge did his j-o-b to protect and defend.

  6. An interesting development in the war on Obamacare:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/14/health/obamacare-unconstitutional-texas-judge.html

    The Texas judge ruling on the lawsuit brought by Republican states to throw out the ACA has agreed and ruled it unconstitutional.

    His reasoning is actually not that wacky: the Supreme Court found the ACA constitutional by finding that the penalty for not having coverage (part of the individual mandate) constituted a tax, which meant the whole law falls within Congressional powers to levy taxes. But Trump’s latest budget eliminated the penalty, while maintaining the individual mandate (which is de facto toothless without a penalty). Which means the fig leaf consideration of the individual mandate as a tax can no longer be maintained.

    FWIW, as much as I support the individual mandate as good policy, I actually agree with the judge on the legal matter. The individual mandate *is* unconstitutional. Mandatory auto insurance is only a condition to obtaining a driver’s license, so it isn’t strictly mandatory. You’re welcome to never use a public road if you don’t want to buy auto insurance. You can even build your own roads on your own property if you wish. But there is no additional privilege / right that you’re getting in exchange for buying health insurance. You’re not buying anything. The individual mandate is truly a mandate to buy something against your will, or worse a true shakedown in exchange for nothing. The only shakedown that the government can force on you is to pay your taxes. Even Medicare isn’t mandatory: you can opt out of it when you turn 65 and then you don’t have to pay Medicare premiums.

    It was a stupid move by Obama, a supposedly smart constitutional scholar, to rest the entire law on a mandate that’s illegal, hoping no one would call him on his bluff. And quite frankly, for a conservative bench that professes to stick to “originalism”, it was a supremely political copout by Roberts to accept the argument that the individual mandate penalty constitutes a tax. That the copout went towards a political goal I support doesn’t compensate for the fact that he opened a Pandora’s Box of government mandates that could now be attempted by either side (pay for a private christian education for your children, or else pay a “penalty” if you opt out?).

    I don’t know if this was 11-dimensional chess by Trump’s team (hah!) or just a happy consequence of their actions, but I think the ACA is in real legal trouble. Chris, as a lawyer, what do you think?

    (NB: Yes I realize this strengthens the case for medicare-for-all, paid for with a simple tax, which may end up being the only plan that legally forces the insurer to provide universal coverage *and* forces every beneficiary to pay for it. Which is why this will very likely backfire for the Republicans. But I think even just the strictly legal implications are an interesting discussion)

    1. FWIW, Obamacare was and is an attempt to increase the numbers of Americans with a system of adequate medical coverage, to which the insurance companies would not have extremely serious objections. To do this it was based on the Massachusetts plan and in a larger sense the Bismarckian approach which is widely used in Europe. The approach was adopted to prevent the insurance companies from killing it politically as was the case with the Clinton approach in 1993 & 94. Of course the Republicans objected to Obamacare because it necessitated increased taxation on the higher income people. So they have used every interpretation of the Constitution that they could to kill it. In my opinion, the legal arguments are just so much legal stuff to accomplish the basic objective of killing Obamacare.

      As you mention, killing the ACA approach to the health care crisis will likely ultimately result in a medicare-for-all approach, which is really the single-payer approach used in Canada, but does give the insurance companies a role. But that will also require increased adoption of higher taxes. Most likely it will be a tax similar to the Medicare tax. Furthermore, the tax will most likely apply to all income whether earned or not. That is the only way that universal health care can be achieved.

      Politically, the Republicans will fight that by any means possible. But unless they are able to impose their preferred approach to governance, which is oligopoly, eventually the healthcare crisis will force the implementation of universal healthcare.

      Twice before the U.S. has essentially had an oligopoly. The first time was the antebellum era and the second was the gilded era. In both cases, the oligopoly failed and was replaced with a more equitable system, but existential crises were required, the Civil War and the Great Depression, respectively. With the American governance system, I suspect an existential crisis will be required again.

      1. I mentioned this in my reply to Mary below, but I guess I should emphasize that my beef with Obama is about the legal / legislative strategy they used. I do have a lot of problems with the ACA from a policy perspective, being one of those liberals espousing Medicare-for-all that Obama’s team derided as loonies and nutjobs, but they couldn’t even structure their plan correctly from a legal perspective. That’s why we’re in this pickle right now.

        Heck, if Obama had just included a severability clause in the legislation (albeit, it would have had to be done over insurance company objections), then the only thing that would happen even if the lawsuit holds, is for the individual mandate to disappear. The rest of the ACA would stand, even the bans on pre-existing condition underwriting. Insurance companies would be pissed off, but passing a new individual mandate would be a much simpler effort than having to re-pass the entire ACA. Instead, the entire legislation is now under legal threat.

        A slight tangent, which kinda crystallizes why I hate the ACA so much: think about why insurance companies fought so much for the individual mandate. After all, they make tons of money off of Medicare, and Medicare has no such mandate, and also has the pre-existing conditions ban. The only reason they fight so hard to force people to buy ACA insurance policies is because even they know that ACA insurance policies are complete crap. No less than the NBER found that buying an ACA policy (without subsidies paying most of the cost) led to a net *increase* in your financial risk, the exact opposite of what insurance is supposed to do (their analysis factored in the penalties, which means ACA policies were actually less than worthless).

        In contrast, Medicare is good insurance. Which means every single senior, healthy or not, elects to buy it, even without a mandate. They don’t need to be forced. Forget about the public option: when your insurance product is so sh*tty that it can’t even compete with the “screw it, I’ll take the risk of utter and complete medical bankruptcy” option, that speaks volumes about the quality of the insurance that the ACA provides, and that *everyone knew* it would provide.

        If insurance companies genuinely believed that they were about to provide really good insurance, they wouldn’t have cared about the individual mandate. The insurance would be so compelling that people would naturally buy it. But even they knew that once people got experience with their insurance plans, they would rather choose the risk of medical bankruptcy over purchasing it. And instead of competing to provide better plans, they wanted the easy way out, by getting Daddy Government to force people to be their customers. Which means we’re shoveling massive amounts of subsidy dollars to insurance companies that in turn are providing such a lousy product that their “insured” patients are at *higher* risk of financial catastrophe than people who choose to remain uninsured.

    2. WX, I look at the issue of the individual mandate differently than you do. There are many cases in which people pay taxes for services and programs that don’t always directly benefit them personally but are important to help fund for the “common good”. Unlike car insurance which point was valid, consider police, fire, and public libraries to name a few. As someone who utilized public schools for my children, I paid taxes to help fund their operation. Now that I’m a senior, I have no children in public schools but still pay taxes for their operation. In all of these cases, I am happy to contribute because it makes my city, state and cook better place for me and others.
      I have long been a proponent for universal healthcare and understood the need for the mandate to spread costs so that more people could benefit. As for the assertion that people shouldn’t be made to subscribe or be financially penalized, respectfully, that was necessary in order to launch and sustain the ACA which serves people who cannot even get approved for healthcare given their pre-existing conditions.
      There are many legitimate criticisms of the ACA but I disagree that the mandate was unconstitutional. Of course I’m not an attorney (or even a physician) but we are on opposite sides of this issue.

      1. Mary-
        I apologize, but I think I was unclear in confusing two issues: the *policy* of having an individual mandate vs. the *legality* of the way it was structured under Obamacare.

        I fully agree with you that the only way to get insurance with coverage for pre-existing conditions is to have a policy that requires everyone to buy insurance. After all, fair is fair: if we ban insurance companies from denying you a policy based on pre-existing conditions, we should also ban healthy people from avoiding joining the insurance pool because they *lack* pre-existing conditions. Otherwise, you could avoid paying into the pool, until you get sick, and then buy insurance. So from a policy standpoint, an individual mandate is a good thing.

        The question then becomes, how to do so in a legally tenable way? This is where Obama and his pointy-headed legal experts came up wrong: it is unconstitutional to force people to pay a penalty for not buying a private good. The government charges us for lots of things, but strictly speaking, they’re not mandatory: you pay an entrance fee at national parks. If you don’t want to pay, don’t visit a national park. Heck, fines that judges levy are also not strictly mandatory: if you don’t want to pay the fine, don’t do the crime. There is no payment that the government forces you to make without exception, and without providing a benefit that you wish to obtain.

        The *only* legal exception is income tax. You’re absolutely right: everyone pays taxes with no guarantee that the money paid will be spent on services we use or even want. I have no problem paying taxes for the things you mention. But only a tax based on income is allowed. This is such a big issue that even income taxes were initially unconstitutional (we went to war with Britain over unfair taxes, after all). It was only the 16th Amendment that allowed Congress to levy one. The text of the 16th Amendment is quite clear in narrowly allowing a power of taxation on income only:

        “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

        This means you can’t levy a broad tax on anything besides income, which is exactly what the individual mandate penalty is. It is not, for example, a sin tax e.g. a tax on cigarettes. Again, that’s not mandatory: if you don’t want to pay the tax, don’t buy cigarettes. What can a citizen do to avoid paying the government the individual mandate penalty, short of being forced to buy an insurance product he doesn’t want? Nothing. That’s why it’s unconstitutional.

        My main issue is that all these supposed constitutional law experts should have known that an individual mandate coupled with penalties for *non-purchase* (as opposed to say, payment for a service e.g. medicare premiums) has a high chance of being found unconstitutional, and is quite a stretch to be considered an income tax (the only type of tax that can truly be mandatory). Which left the ACA open to being struck down.

        To compound this legislative stupidity, the sellouts in Obama’s braintrust deliberately left out a joint-and-severability clause. This is boilerplate you’ll find on a lot of contracts that basically says that if one part of the contract is legally struck down, the rest of the contract is still in full force. This is because otherwise, the default in court rulings is that if any part of a contract is found in violation, the entire contract is struck down and the two parties are left to re-negotiate a new contract. Otherwise a judge would be left making decisions on what’s fair for both parties.

        The insurance companies pushed hard to make sure there was no severability clause. To some extent, that’s fair: what they didn’t want is for the underwriting (i.e. declining coverage based on pre-existing conditions) ban to be left in place, and some later administration removing the individual mandate. But that could have been encapsulated in a limited joint-and-severability clause. Instead, they pushed to have the *entire* ACA be considered joint, which means even things like the medicaid expansion, which was responsible for 70% of the increase in coverage under the ACA and has nothing to do with the insurance regulations part of the ACA, is held hostage to the individual mandate. And Obama’s brilliant team decided to acquiesce (licking insurance company boot was apparently acceptable; while listening to the liberals that put him in office re: the public option, was apparently not; can you tell I’m bitter? 🙂 ).

        I realize this is a lot of eye-glazing detail but it’s really important: if the ACA is found unconstitutional, it’s not because of dastardly Republicans. It’s because Obama and his team, for reasons unfathomable to me, decided to roll the dice on a very, very weak constitutional argument, *and then bet the entire legislation* on it (by deliberately leaving out a severability clause). The fact that the Republicans called them on it doesn’t make their bet any less stupid.

        And just to emphasize: I agree with the individual mandate from a policy perspective. But the legal / legislative strategy they used to implement it was wrong. And I agree with income taxes. But the individual mandate penalty is clearly not an income tax. Which means it’s likely unconstitutional (well, Roberts disagreed, but I bet even he can’t do the mental contortions required to find that a penalty that was repealed by Trump’s budget is still a “tax”). Ironically, perhaps the only constitutional way to ensure the individual mandate is to make it a true income-based tax, which gets you 90% to medicare-for-all…

  7. When you think the GOP can’t find another despicable low , they manage to. For me, what has been done post-election to limit the authority and ability of incoming, duly elected officials of the opposite party, is incredible. Beginning in NC, expanding to OH, MI and now FL. these actions are the height of arrogance and full out savaging of our democratic system. These people have so much to pay for. My hope is they will.

    https://www.dailykos.com/story/2018/12/13/1810606/-ACLU-threatens-lawsuit-after-Florida-GOP-tries-to-delay-implementing-voting-rights-ballot-initiative

    1. Mary, your “hope” is meaningless.

      Sorry, but it is true. These guys have a judiciary system and hugely gerrymandered legislatures backing their every move. Please, tell me, exactly what happens if by some miracle the dem’s win back the presidency and senate in 2020?

      Does that affect the state legislatures? Nope.
      Does it affect SCOTUS? Nope.
      Does it affect anything at all in Florida, Texas, Wisconsin, OH, NC, et al? Nope.

      And no, the dem’s will not win the senate in 2020 either. There are simply too many sheep / evil people in the country for it to happen.

      I will keep stating what no one else wants to say: ” Undemocratic measures are needed to save democracy.”

  8. There are several issues in the list that could meet the Constitutional standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors”. I only hope that the House will conduct thorough investigations that are relatively open and in the public domain. I would not be opposed to proceeding with Articles of Impeachment if some of these are judged to meet the Constitutional standard. But they do have to be SUFFICIENTLY BAD that the public is truly outraged. Impeachment should be based on the underlying action rather than some ancillary action such as it was with Clinton. However, I do seriously doubt that the Senate would convict and remove Trump from office. After all approximately 20 Republicans would have to vote against Trump and I do not see that as a realistic possibility. Nevertheless, that would reveal very clearly to the public even in the red states how corrupt the Republican Party is. It would make winning the majority in the Senate much, much easier in 2020.

  9. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is leaving at the end of the year. He was a grifter who did his best to enact policies that enriched loggers, oil companies, and trophy hunters at the expense of some of America’s most beautiful landscapes while trying to bury anything regarding climate change. His appointment and actions were also grave insults to scientists everywhere. Zinke will definitely not be missed.

  10. It will be interesting to see what “revelations” Maria Butina will produce along with her American consort/boyfriend. Interesting, the Russian banker who reputedly ran Butina, Torshin, has mysteriously suddenly disappeared.

    The election of a fiesty Democrat as NY AG who has publicly announced her intention to follow up on Trump’s NY transgressions, is worth noting. Even more so are the other cases that are already perculating.

    I have absolutely no doubt that every day we will learn more of this disgusting man’s sordid financial and personal dealings. I have never doubted his criminal background nor his links with those who share his track record. What I do wonder is whether any members of Congress or Trump’s inner circle will be charged for their roles in either direct deception, complicit behavior, and certainly a total lack of ethical responsibility.

    You didn’t mention the NRA, but their silence speaks volumes. I’m betting this arrogant group of people are in it up to their eyeballs. Let’s see how they like the other US Constititutional amendments.

    The Trump family including the deadly black widow Ivanka and the two sons, better be lawyering up. From what I have observed throughout Trump’s life, anyone who surrounds him is dirtied.

    What a sad, sad time in America. There is real damage being done by the juvenile Stephen Miller and others in the Trump inner circle who are working as fast as they can to destroy the finest of America’s democratic institutions. It will take a very long time to restore balance and accountability in our country. Let us hope science can find a miraculous new way to overcome the ticking clock that environmental abuse is doing to our atmosphere and our globe. Let us also hope that the people who rabidly support this man will be the first to suffer. I have no pity for them. Not anymore, not now. Anyone who is watching and still supports this president deserves to go down with him.

    1. My first question for Maria Butina would be “Who told you to ask that question?” And, “Where you told Trump would pick on you to ask a question?”

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGj3btgPZ3w

      I have watched presidents since i started voting, 52 years ago. I have disagreed with every president, some a little, some a lot. But there has never been a president in my memory that i thought basically didn’t have the best interests of our country, and the world for that matter, in mind!
      Until now! It is sad to say it, but all the Trump’s care about is making more money for the Trumps! Where the country will be, the environment, the debt, where the world will be decades from now, they do not care. Don’t give it a thought!

      It is truly incredible that we find ourselves in this situation! And even with the low opinion i have for the GOP, i am amazed at how they have given into Trump and his transparent pro Russian agenda.

      The only word that comes to mind is traitor! (There is another term that comes to mind, something Samual L Jackson and I both use frequently, but we are in mixed company:-))!)

      1. “Until now! It is sad to say it, but all the Trump’s care about is making more money for the Trumps! ”

        Let’s be fair here- Trump also cares about applause and being seen as a big, tough, dominant alpha make. He’s all too willing to flame the flames of the culture wars to get it.

  11. I agree that skimming $ of the cancer charity is the worst. A worked at MD Anderson Cancer Center for a long time. I did basic research, not patient care, but I walked the halls and saw the people who were facing the absolute worse thing in their lives. I also participated with other employees in legit charitable activities to help the patients. Cancer sucks and kids with cancer sucks most of all. I don’t begrudge the 2nd and 3rd generation of Trumps being born into wealth ( their tax scamming is another story). But I hate, hate, hate, despise, and loathe people who has more $ than they could ever spend, who will never want for any luxury, let alone any basic needs, who seek to grab more at the expenses of people who have little to nothing. They are lower than whale droppings.

  12. Speaking of grifting, I find it very interesting that Ayers is choosing to go work on the re-election campaign rather than be chief of staff. If you are a real true believer in Trump and Trumpism, CoS in the higher priority job, because Trump’s got some big problems heading his way. But the people who could do the job (Ayers, Christie, etc.) want nothing to do with it. The stated goal of the campaign (a 2nd term) is a moot point if the administration implodes in the near future. That these smart (but not all that ethical) people are going for the campaign jobs, it sure looks like it’s all about how much they can grift.

    I wonder if Mulvaney was late to a meeting, and thus got picked for the temp-CoS gig. Lucky him.

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