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Barbara McQuade: Can Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance Flip Manafort After Mueller Failed?


Can Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance Flip Manafort After Mueller Failed?
If Trump’s former campaign chairman was counting on a pardon from the man who lauded his refusal to ‘break,’ the NYC prosecutor may have just thrown a wrench into the plan.
Barbara McQuade
03.14.19 12:57 AM ET


But just when Manafort’s cases were over, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance charged Manafort in state court in New York. The timing could not have been a coincidence. What to make of these new charges against Manafort?

One obvious point of speculation is that these new charges were filed to prevent Manafort from escaping accountability for his crimes through a pardon. Other former Trump associates, such as former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, former deputy campaign chair Rick Gates and former attorney Michael Cohen, have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the special counsel. Manafort, in contrast, has not. Manafort’s plea agreement in the District of Columbia included a cooperation provision that gave him an opportunity to earn a reduction in his sentence by providing substantial assistance in the investigation of others, but prosecutors discovered that while feigning cooperation, Manafort lied to investigators, and his deal was rescinded, causing some to speculate that Manafort is angling for a pardon from President Trump.

President Trump has remained supportive of Manafort throughout his prosecution, tweeting about his respect for such a “brave man,” who refused to “break.” Trump has used his pardon power in the past to absolve Sheriff Joe Arpaio of contempt of court and political commentator Dinesh D’Souza for campaign finance crimes, among others, showing that he is not afraid to use the power for what some may see as political causes. The president has a virtually unfettered power to pardon individuals who are convicted of crimes as a show of mercy. The one limitation on his pardon power is that while he may use it for people who have been convicted of federal crimes, he has no such power over state crimes.

That’s where state charges against Manafort can work as a backstop. The Manhattan DA’s indictment charges 16 counts, alleging mortgage fraud, falsifying business records and a scheme to defraud. While New York’s protective double jeopardy rules may create some litigation risk for the fraud charges, the counts for falsifying business records are unique to state law and seem unlikely to pose the same challenge.

Is Vance’s goal simply to ensure that Manafort is held accountable by facing prison time for his crimes? That alone would be a worthy goal for a defendant whose crimes were as pervasive and sophisticated as Manafort’s. Or is Vance instead thinking that by applying more pressure on Manafort, he can do what Mueller could not—convince him to cooperate by neutralizing President Trump’s pardon power.

Posted by babylonsister | Thu Mar 14, 2019, 02:17 PM (7 replies)

Trump wants to close international immigration offices. The ramifications are huge.


Trump wants to close international immigration offices. The ramifications are huge.
Sacrificing human rights for the sake of "efficiency."
Rebekah Entralgo
Mar 13, 2019, 1:46 pm

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced Tuesday that it plans to shutter all of its 23 field offices across 20 countries in an effort to save money and resources. The administration’s goal of cost-cutting, however, could have real life ramifications for refugee processing and foreign nationals in urgent need of humanitarian parole.

Overseas USCIS field offices play a crucial role in refugee applications, family reunification visas and foreign adoptions, in addition to other responsibilities like processing naturalization documents for military members who marry foreign nationals. Under this potential change, the work of international USCIS field offices would be divvied up among the State Department, embassies and consulates, and the agency’s domestic offices.


Until the shift in responsibilities is formally implemented, families and individuals who rely on the international offices will likely face significant delays in requests. Families adopting from overseas may have to wait longer to bring their child home, as would someone who needs to urgently enter the United States on the basis of a humanitarian crisis. According to a 2008 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, humanitarian parole cases are used when a foreign national is unable to obtain a visa for whatever reason, and are rarely granted except in the case of an absolute emergency or urgent family reunification. One example of humanitarian parole that is granted is for foreign nationals who could serve as the donor of a family member dying in the United States.

Currently, there is no detailed plan on how this policy change would be implemented. It isn’t known, for example, if it is even legal for the State Department to assume some of the responsibilities of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees USCIS. It also isn’t known how much this move would cost.

“I’m worried this just another example of the Trump administration making a decision first and then dealing with the consequences later,” Jaddou said. “The family separation policy was a huge policy change. We have government report after government report that shows there was no planning. The people who were supposed to implement it didn’t know about it until it went public. The consequences were detrimental.”

News of the impending USCIS closures comes the same week as the 2020 budget proposal, which included an “immigration services surcharge.” The fee increase would add an estimated 10 percent to immigration form filing fees. According to the budget, these fees are necessary to go towards “deficit reduction,” despite the fact that the fees would be just a drop in the bucket compared to the $31 trillion the budget estimates the deficit will reach within the next decade.
Posted by babylonsister | Wed Mar 13, 2019, 05:35 PM (3 replies)

WATCH: Ocasio-Cortez Grills Wells Fargo CEO Over Profiting From 'Caging of Children' and Pipeline Di

Published on Tuesday, March 12, 2019
by Common Dreams
WATCH: Ocasio-Cortez Grills Wells Fargo CEO Over Profiting From 'Caging of Children' and Pipeline Disasters

"Want to know why Ocasio-Cortez's popularity keeps climbing? Because she amplifies questions that movements of people, like the #NoDAPL movement, have been shouting to the powers that be for ages."
Julia Conley, staff writer

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Ocasio (D-NY) proved once again her verbal interrogation skills on Tuesday as she grilled Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan over the financial giant's dubious investments and won applause for holding his feet to the fire.

The freshman congresswoman questioned bank CEO Timothy Sloan about two issues for which corporations are rarely directly held accountable—the bank's financing of human rights abuses as well as environmental disasters.

On the issue of Wells Fargo's relationship with the private prison industry and the Trump administration's child detention policy, Ocasio-Cortez asked sharply: "Mr. Sloan, why was the bank involved in the caging of children?"

In his response, Sloan announced that the bank is in the process of cutting ties with one group and has already stopped financing another—information that wasn't publicly known before the hearing.


Posted by babylonsister | Tue Mar 12, 2019, 09:40 PM (1 replies)

Coast Guard officer described by prosecutors as 'domestic terrorist' not facing terrorism charges

Coast Guard officer described by prosecutors as ‘domestic terrorist’ not facing terrorism charges
Chris Hasson's case demonstrates the pitfalls prosecutors face when dealing with far-right extremists.
Luke Barnes
Mar 12, 2019, 4:26 pm

The Coast Guard lieutenant who allegedly plotted the murder of prominent Democrats and journalists is facing up to 31 years behind bars — but has not been charged with terrorism.

Christopher Hasson, 49, was arrested last month by federal agents on drugs and weapons charges. In the initial federal detention motion, prosecutors said the charges were the “proverbial tip of the iceberg” and described Hasson as a “domestic terrorist, bent on committing acts dangerous to human life that are intended to affect governmental conduct.”

The motion went on to describe the hallmarks of far-right extremism which Hasson had allegedly displayed. He was obsessed with Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian far-right terrorist who killed 77 people — mostly teenagers — during an attack in Norway in 2011. Hasson also allegedly made thousands of online searches for neo-fascist and neo-Nazi literature, compiled a hit list of prominent Democrats and journalists, and researched their locations and security arrangements.

Hasson also allegedly amassed an arsenal of rifles, handguns, bulletproof vests and over a thousand rounds of ammunition. He also allegedly acquired the opioid Tramadol and more than 30 bottles of Human Growth Hormone.


Posted by babylonsister | Tue Mar 12, 2019, 08:07 PM (2 replies)

Trump budget chief: Cutting veterans pay isn't a big deal


Trump budget chief: Cutting veterans pay isn't a big deal
By Oliver Willis -
March 12, 2019

Trump's budget director said it's fine to take from veterans benefits to balance the budget.

Trump's acting budget director said there's no downside to the administration's proposal to take money from veterans benefits.

Acting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Russell Vought testified before the House Budget Committee on Tuesday.

In his 2019 budget, Trump has proposed rounding down the cost-of-living adjustments given to veterans. Military Times notes that the idea "has been decried by veterans groups in the past as unfairly using their earned benefits to balance the budget."

But Vought said, "We don't think [the cuts] will have any adverse impact" when asked about the attack on veterans by Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA).

"No adverse impact? No adverse impact to decreased cost of living adjustments?" Moulton asked incredulously.

"That's correct," Vought replied.

"I think you should speak to some veterans, Mr. Vought," the congressman replied, ending the exchange.

The cold dismissal of veterans' concerns is the latest in a long line of slights and attacks on the military from Trump. He largely views the armed services as a useful backdrop for his presidency, via venues like parades, rather than as an institution to be supported and respected.

Trump also loves to hide behind the military's large public support to prop up his unpopular presidency.

In the same budget document, Trump fraudulently takes credit for the "largest" increase in military pay in a decade, but the military received larger increases twice under Obama.

Trump is again planning to hurt veterans, but instead of expressing some shame or regret for him doing so, his budget director is attempting to say hurting them is in their best interests.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

Posted by babylonsister | Tue Mar 12, 2019, 07:34 PM (3 replies)

Report: Jared And Ivanka Think of Air Force One As Their Own Private Ride


Report: Jared And Ivanka Think of Air Force One As Their Own Private Ride
The First Daughter and Son-in-Law are even more power-hungry than previously thought.
by Bess Levin
March 12, 2019 4:33 pm

When Donald Trump named his daughter and son-in-law senior advisers to the president, the term “moderating influence” was frequently tossed around, as in, “Even though Real Estate Barbie and Bizarro Ken have no business whatsoever working in the White House, perhaps they’ll serve as a moderating influence that will save us from their father‘s worst impulses.” Obviously, that never happened because 1) Trump answers to no one except foreign dictators, and 2) Ivanka and Jared are power-hungry opportunists whose only priorities involve enriching themselves. We already knew that the pair flouted rules they didn’t think applied to them, maintained business ties that may have put national security at risk, and only received top-secret clearance by whining and stomping their feet until President Daddy gave it to them. And now, thanks to a new report, we’ve learned that Javanka reportedly believe all the powers of the presidency apply to them.

Kushner, Inc., out next week from journalist Vicky Ward, tells the story of “two children . . . who have climbed to positions of power by disregarding protocol and skirting the rules when they can.” Among the anecdotes Ward gleaned from interviewing 220 people are that “Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner wanted to control who could travel on trips funded by the State Department,” and that the couple, who apparently view Air Force One as their own personal plane, had a handy work-around in place for when they didn’t get their way:

Ms. Trump . . . often requested to travel on Air Force planes when it was not appropriate. When Rex W. Tillerson, the former secretary of state, would deny the requests, the couple would invite along a Cabinet secretary, often Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, to get access to a plane.

Hey, it’s not like Mnuchin had anything better to do! Elsewhere in Kushner, Inc., Ward reports that Ivanka suffers from the same condition as her father wherein they both believe they can convince people a thing that was said on tape and captured by numerous news outlets never actually happened:

When Gary D. Cohn was considering resigning as the top White House economic adviser after President Trump blamed “both sides” in a deadly white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, Va., his first stop was a meeting with Mr. Trump’s children.

In a conversation in August 2017 with Ivanka Trump . . . Mr. Cohn was shocked by her reaction to his concerns, according to a new book about Ms. Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner. “My dad’s not a racist; he didn’t mean any of it,” Ms. Trump said of the president’s refusal to condemn white nationalists outright. Appearing to channel her father, she added, “That’s not what he said.”

The book does attempt to explain that the only reason Ivanka and Jared are like this is because they had super-tough childhoods, though, somehow, we’re not sure the anecdotes about Ivanka having to tour an elite boarding school on her own (after arriving in a stretch limo) and Jared’s parents asking a business associate to occasionally take him out to dinner while he was at Harvard “to make sure he was not dating non-Jews or doing drugs” will elicit much sympathy.

Unsurprisingly, the White House and the Kushner/Trump camp have tried to discredit Kushner, Inc., insisting, through a spokesman, that “Every point that Ms. Ward mentioned in what she called her ‘fact-checking’ stage was entirely false,” and that “It seems she has written a book of fiction rather than any serious attempt to get the facts. Correcting everything wrong would take too long and be pointless.”
Posted by babylonsister | Tue Mar 12, 2019, 06:32 PM (16 replies)

Trump's budget request slashes retirement benefits for 2 million federal workers

Trump’s budget request slashes retirement benefits for 2 million federal workers
Each federal worker would lose about $75,000 in retirement savings.
By Alexia Fernández Campbell@AlexiaCampbellalexia@vox.com Mar 12, 2019, 4:40pm EDT

President Donald Trump’s grand vision for America in 2020 can be summarized this way: spend billions more dollars on the US military and immigration enforcement; cut billions of dollars from the social safety net. And do nothing to close the $1 trillion deficit Republicans created with their 2017 corporate tax cuts.

The president’s 2020 budget proposal, which he released Monday, managed to anger everyone from retirees to childhood cancer researchers. It also angered millions of federal employees and retired government workers, who would see their pensions cut under the president’s budget request.

Randy Erwin, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees labor union (NFFE), blamed Trump for trying to make federal workers pay for the 2017 tax cuts, which disproportionately benefited the wealthiest Americans.

“President Trump again sacrifices the middle-class families on behalf of the wealthy through his proposed pay freeze and needless cuts to earned benefits for federal workers,” Erwin said in a statement released Monday. “We saw during the 35-day shutdown earlier this year that many federal workers live paycheck to paycheck.”

The proposal would cancel cost-of-living increases to pension income for retirees in one program, and would lower the annual adjustment to another pension program by 0.5 percent. The budget also scraps certain retirement benefits for employees who stop working before they are eligible for Social Security.

Current federal employees would also end up paying more for their retirement benefits, without getting anything in return.

All in all, the president wants to cut $148.9 billion from employee pensions in the next decade — roughly $75,000 per federal worker, according to NFFE. And it’s not a small workforce, either: The US government is the largest employer in the country, with 2.1 million civilian employees. The vast majority of them live outside the Washington, DC, area.


Posted by babylonsister | Tue Mar 12, 2019, 06:22 PM (1 replies)

Kevin McCarthy Is Lying About Ilhan Omar


Kevin McCarthy Is Lying About Ilhan Omar
He says she made derogatory comments about Jews. He’s really covering for his party.
By William Saletan
March 12, 2019
2:55 PM


When McCarthy said on Friday that Omar had “questioned the ability of an American to have allegiance to America if they were Jewish,” he was responding to a reporter’s query. The reporter had asked whether Republicans were hypocritical to accuse Omar of invoking anti-Semitic tropes, given that “those very same tropes were advanced by Republicans in attacking people like George Soros.” One of the guilty Republicans is McCarthy, who tweeted just before the November midterms, “We cannot allow Soros, [Tom] Steyer, and [Michael] Bloomberg to BUY this election!” Another is Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who accused a Jewish congressman last week of jumping “to Tom $teyer’s conclusion.” If Omar’s tweet about “the Benjamins” was anti-Semitic, so were Jordan’s and McCarthy’s.

McCarthy doesn’t want to admit that. So he pretends that Omar, unlike Jordan and himself, has explicitly targeted Jews.

Republicans aren’t just hypocritical about alluding to Jewish money. They’re also hypocritical about questioning people’s allegiance based on ethnicity.
In June 2016, Donald Trump, who was then a candidate for president, accused a Mexican-American judge of treating him unfairly because “We’re building a wall. He’s a Mexican.” A month later, McCarthy went to the Republican National Convention as a delegate for Trump. Alongside McCarthy in Trump’s California delegation was Rep. Duncan Hunter, who won re-election last fall by airing an ad that accused his “Palestinian Mexican” opponent of plotting to “infiltrate Congress.” Hunter also distributed a letter that suggested his opponent might “compromise U.S. operations” to protect his “family in the Middle East.” If McCarthy had any scruples about questioning the allegiance of Americans, he would have spoken up. He said nothing.

If you want to know what McCarthy really believes, don’t listen to what he says about Omar. Listen to what he says about himself. Last month on Fox News, he was asked to explain his tweet about Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg. McCarthy said he had only meant to point out that Bloomberg had spent a lot of money to help Democrats. “That had nothing to do about faith,” the congressman insisted.

Omar has a lot to learn. She’s an ideologue, and like her counterparts on the right, she can be self-righteous and mean. She seems obtuse to the fears of American Jews, who worry that the Democratic Party, like Britain’s Labour Party, could become a forum for anti-Semites. But the points she’s raising about Israeli policies, pro-Israel donors, and unconditional American support for Israel are legitimate. She has condemned bigotry, and she has never disparaged Jews. Yes, she should have spoken more carefully. But if she deserves censure, so do her Republican colleagues.
Posted by babylonsister | Tue Mar 12, 2019, 06:04 PM (6 replies)

Trump's new budget abandons all pretense of being fiscally responsible

Trump’s new budget abandons all pretense of being fiscally responsible
It doesn't even call for a balanced budget in ten years.
Ryan Koronowski
Mar 11, 2019, 2:28 pm

President Donald Trump’s new budget proposal for the fiscal year 2020, which was released on Monday, breaks with his repeated campaign promises to rein in the debt and eliminate the deficit.

The newly released budget document — which has very little chance of being enacted wholesale, but nevertheless kicks off the annual federal budget process by articulating the administration’s priorities — calls for massive cuts in domestic programs, increases defense spending, and renews the president’s traditional call for billions of dollars to be allocated for the purpose of building a wall on the Mexican border. Trump has been continually rebuffed by Congress on that last request.

Nonetheless, the document’s intended message contends to be one of fiscal discipline.

“My 2020 Budget builds on the tremendous progress we have made and provides a clear roadmap for the Congress to bring Federal spending and debt under control. We must protect future generations from Washington’s habitual deficit spending,” Trump writes in the “budget message of the president” the precedes the budget document’s accounting.

However, increasing the larger defense budget while simultaneously cutting the relatively small domestic programs and maintaining lower corporate taxes is not a recipe for fiscal security, according to the numbers actually contained within the administration’s proposal.

The stark fiscal reality is not what candidate Trump promised before he was elected.


Posted by babylonsister | Tue Mar 12, 2019, 07:56 AM (0 replies)

Mueller May Drop Second Report That Can't Be Buried

Mueller May Drop Second Report That Can’t Be Buried
The special counsel isn’t only looking for crimes: he continues the counterintelligence investigation that started with suspicious Trump-Russia contacts in 2016.
Nelson W. Cunningham
03.12.19 4:11 AM ET

Breathless media alerts notwithstanding, there is reason to be skeptical that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report is imminent. There are just too many loose ends, including the just-begun Roger Stone prosecution and the not-yet-finished litigation over “Corporation A” and other grand jury witnesses, not to mention the glaring absence of any testimony yet from Donald Trump himself. There may certainly be signs the Mueller investigation is entering its final phases—just not this week.

Still, it’s clearly time to consider the shape of what Mueller will produce as he finishes. The reporting requirements of the special counsel regulations have been exhaustively picked over. What must Mueller report to the attorney general? What may the attorney general do with the report? Will Congress and the public ever see it? The ins and outs of the special counsel report regulations played a significant role in Attorney General William Barr’s January confirmation hearings.

But we may be focusing on the wrong report. There may in fact be two Mueller reports. This is because from the very beginning, Mueller has worn two hats and borne two missions relating to the Russia investigation.

The most public and familiar one is as a criminal investigator under the special counsel regulations. But Mueller has also carried a second charge, as a counterintelligence expert, with a much broader charge to determine and report the scope of any interference and any links to the Trump campaign—what Trump himself might refer to as “collusion.”

In March 2017, then-FBI Director James Comey testified that the Russia investigation was commenced “as part of our counterintelligence mission . . . also includ[ing] an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s May 17, 2017 order appointing Mueller special counsel specifically and carefully incorporated this announced scope and mission.

From the start, then, Mueller has been conducting a counterintelligence investigation, while “also” assessing whether any crimes were committed. Not the other way around.


Posted by babylonsister | Tue Mar 12, 2019, 06:09 AM (11 replies)
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