SPECIAL COUNSEL MUELLER IS CONSIDERING WHETHER TO INDICT TRUMP FOR OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE, AND HE SHOULD DO SO

SPECIAL COUNSEL MUELLER IS CONSIDERING WHETHER TO INDICT TRUMP FOR OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE, AND HE SHOULD DO SO

As the Special Counsel’s investigation picks up steam, with the indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates already filed and the guilty pleas with now cooperating witnesses Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulis publicly disclosed, Mueller’s team has amassed a wealth of information regarding President’s heavy-handed attempts to obstruct justice.

The avalanche of damning evidence of Trump’s obstruction of justice started with the firing of FBI Director James Comey on May 9, 2017 after direct attempts by Trump failed to extract from Comey a pledge of loyalty and a commitment to drop the FBI’s investigation of his former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. There is also evidence that Trump pressured Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to urge Comey to end his investigation into Flynn and his Russian connections, which was eerily reminiscent of former President Nixon’s attempt to use the CIA to derail the FBI investigation into Watergate and which ended up being included as part of the Articles of Impeachment against Nixon.

Despite the White House’s initial disinformation campaign to persuade the public that Comey was fired for other legitimate concerns, Trump could not resist telling NBC’s Lester Holt during a live interview on May 11, 2017 — two days after the firing — that Comey’s firing was due to “the Russia thing.”

If there was any doubt whatsoever that Trump fired Comey in order to try to quash the FBI’s and the Justice Department’s investigation of possible collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russian intelligence operatives to interfere with the 2016 election and to swing it in Trump’s direction, those doubts were dispelled when Trump told Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, in the Oval Office on May 10, 2017,  the day after the firing of the FBI Director, that he had discharged “Nut Job” Comey in order to take “pressure” off the Russian investigation. Only Trump, the two Russian officials, and a Russian news representative were permitted to be in the Oval Office during this critical discussion, which also involved the disclosure of highly sensitive and classified information that the U.S. had obtained from Israeli intelligence about the Islamic State.

Two months before he fired Comey, Trump ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to stop Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia investigation, saying that he needed Sessions to provide active oversight over the Russia investigation in order to “protect him” and “safeguard” him. Mueller can persuasively argue that the only possible reason why Trump would be so desperate for Sessions to “protect” him was that Trump had something to hide from the federal prosecutors, and that he was desperately afraid that the investigation would lead into troubling areas regarding the underlying “collusion” investigation, or into collateral areas such as the Trump Organization’s heavy reliance on Russian money of suspicious origin in possible violation of U.S. money laundering laws.

After Comey was fired and replaced by Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who corroborated Comey’s testimony regarding Trump’s repeated requests for a “loyalty oath” from Comey, Trump pressured FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire McCabe, causing Wray to threaten to resign, according to news reports. Trump continued to berate McCabe in a barrage of twitter rants, until McCabe finally capitulated and announced his abrupt and early retirement from the FBI.

Trump is also reported to have ordered White House Counsel McGahn to fire Special Counsel Mueller, only to back down – at least for the time being- when McGahn threatened to resign.

The question being pondered by the Special Counsel’s office is what to do with all of this evidence of criminal obstruction of justice by Trump himself. Although the Justice Department issued two legal opinions in 1973 and 2000 during the investigations of Presidents Nixon and Clinton, concluding that a sitting President could not be indicted, there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution itself that explicitly says that. All that the Constitution says about the prosecution of the President is that, in Article I, Section 3, he (or she) is subject to prosecution after being impeached by the House of Representatives, and then convicted and removed from office by a two-thirds vote of the Senate.[1] It is silent on the issue of whether a President can be indicted before being impeached, or whether the two proceedings can take place simultaneously.

Legal memos prepared in 1973 for the Watergate Special Prosecutor and for Kenneth W. Starr, the Independent Counsel investigating allegations against President Clinton, reached the conclusion that a sitting President could be indicted if the evidence warranted it, which put both of these special federal prosecutors at odds with official Department of Justice policy.

Special Counsel Mueller, in consultation with Deputy Attorney Rosenstein, may well decide that the evidence of President Trump’s violations of the criminal obstruction of justice statutes is so compelling that the Grand Jury should be asked to return an indictment against him. President Trump’s lawyers will make an inevitable motion to dismiss the indictment on constitutional grounds, and that question will then finally have to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the alternative, if the Special Counsel merely ask the Grand Jury to issue a Report laying out the evidence against President Trump, or name President Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator in an Obstruction of Justice indictment, then they will be violating the sacred principle that “No man is above the law,” even a sitting President. Passing the buck to Congress to consider impeachment of the president is not a good option, since impeachment is, at its core, a political decision as to whether a sitting president who has demonstrated that he is unfit to fulfill the duties of the office should be allowed to complete his term or not. That decision (whether to impeach or not) may have little or nothing to do with the issue of whether a president has violated the criminal laws, and whether he should be prosecuted for violations of those laws “without fear or favor,” just like every other citizen.

[1] Article 1, Section 3 states: “Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States; but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law.”

TRUMP’S LAST-DITCH TO OBSTRUCT JUSTICE IS ALREADY IN MOTION: THE FIRING OF JEFF SESSIONS AND ROBERT MUELLER

The nation seems transfixed by the recent revelations in the book Fire and Fury about President Trump’s lack of mental competence and fitness to serve as President, but other than a few juicy tidbits – such as the fact that Trump likes to dine at MacDonalds because the food is pre-prepared and therefore less likely to be poisoned – there is really nothing new here. The fact that Trump is monumentally unfit and unprepared to carry out the duties of the Presidency has been plainly apparent to even the most casual of observers since Inauguration Day, when he gave his bizarre “American Carnage” speech and declared that the crowd size was “the largest ever.”

This is all very entertaining, but not terribly newsworthy. What does qualify as news, however, is the fact that amid this “witches brew” of chaos and controversy, the embattled White House appears to be starting a roll-out of its “nuclear option,” which is to try to stop the Special Counsel’s Russia investigation in its tracks by firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein, and then Special Counsel Robert Mueller himself.

Trump may be crazy like a fox. Realizing that Muller has him in his cross-hairs, with Flynn and Papadopoulos cooperating with him, and Muller now having conclusive evidence that Trump himself drafted the fake story while returning from Europe on Air Force 1 about Don Jr.’s meeting with the Russians in Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, The Trump Team must be now painfully aware that the jig is up. Mueller now has enough evidence to make an Obstruction of Justice case against Trump, and probably also has enough to establish that senior members of the Trump team –if not Trump himself – colluded with the Russians to successfully interfere with the 2016 presidential election. We know this because there is now sufficient public evidence of this in press reports, and it can be safely assumed that about 70% of what Mueller knows about Trump’s collusion and obstruction efforts has not yet been made public.

The only way to stop the Mueller investigation and the additional indictments and plea agreements that are expected to be rolled out over the next couple of months is for Trump to try to blow up the entire process, just as embattled President Nixon tried to do with the October 1973 “Saturday Night Massacre” firing of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox and the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus.

To be sure, Trump and his remaining close advisors must realize that this is a longshot “Hail Mary” pass, which marked the beginning of the end for the Nixon Presidency, but he is rapidly running out of options. We know by now that he is temperamentally and emotionally incapable of just patiently waiting for the next shoe to drop from Mueller’s office, which could be an indictment of Jared Kushner, Don Jr. or other senior staff members or close family members, or he could just decide to roll the dice and either stop the Russia investigation in its tracks or go up in flames trying.

The expression “going nuclear” may not be a euphemism, now that Trump is in a name-calling contest with the equally unstable leader of North Korea over who has the biggest nuclear button. There has always been a persistent “Wag the Dog” theory that when the going gets tough for a President, then the best option is to start a war to distract the public’s attention from other issues, such as scandal at the White House. However, never before has anyone hinted or even considered that a President would literally use the nuclear option to get himself out of a jam. With Trump, however, everything has changed. Who can say with confidence that Trump will never push the “nuclear button” just to create a distraction from the Mueller investigation? No one, you say? I thought so.

 

But first the “political nuclear option.” On Thursday, two top House conservatives —  Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee – called for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign. The Republican drumbeat for Sessions to step aside will undoubtedly intensify over the next several days, with the White House no doubt issuing statements to the effect that Sessions should never have accepted the job in the first place if he knew that he would have to recuse himself from supervision over the Russia investigation. Fox News and Devin Nunes, or some other White House loyalist, can also be counted on to make seemingly high-minded statements about the Justice Department being in “chaos” and that there is an urgent need for change in leadership so that an new Attorney General can “take back control” of the Department and make sure that the Special Counsel’s investigation does not “go off the rails” by investigating matters that were never intended to be investigated (such as the Trump Organization’s finances and massive Russian funding).

Even though watching the Trump White House’s attempt to undermine and then terminate Mueller’s Russia investigation will be much like watching a massive car wreck unfold in slow motion, the country must prepare itself as best as possible, just as we would if a huge tsunami were approaching. To paraphrase a recent statement by Rep. Elijah Cummings, this is truly a battle for the soul of our democracy. When the dust settles, there will be no innocent bystanders. Every citizen must now choose a side, and your children and grandchildren will be asking: “Which side were you on?”

REFLECTIONS OF A MARINE DAD

Since my son is about to start basic training with the Marines, I have been spending a great deal of time lately thinking about honor, courage and commitment, the core values of the Marines. Citizen soldiers have fought for the ideals of freedom and democracy since April 1775, when the local Massachusetts militias first confronted the most feared army of its day at Lexington and Concord. Few could have imagined that a rag-tag army of irregulars and citizen soldiers could bring the British Empire to its knees and win independence for this fledgling democracy. Even more astonishing is the fact that 242 years later, the Republic has not only survived, but it has become the greatest and most powerful nation on earth.

Like several generations of his forefathers who have served their country before him, my son will soon raise his right hand along with many other patriotic young men and women, and solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same. They will come from all backgrounds, races, colors, and creeds, but the one thing they have in common is a devotion to their country and a willingness to fight and – if necessary – die for it.

Unfortunately, the spirit of public service and self-sacrifice appears to be on the wane. Few of my son’s classmates seem to be attracted to government service, such as the Peace Corp or VISTA, and almost none are signing up for military service.

I am saddened, but not surprised. How can we expect our younger generation to follow the call of honor, duty, and dedication to the common good when they can plainly see that our country’s elected leaders are driven more by craven self-interest and egotism?

Our young men and women must be deeply concerned about the direction in which our country is going. Is it still worth fighting and dying for? They must have some doubts. The gulf between the very rich and the rest of us in America has widened over the past several decades. More and more Americans are struggling to make ends meet, and as they see the American dream rapidly fading, they are increasingly turning in despair and desperation to alcohol and opiates. No longer is a good education and hard work a sure ticket to participate in the American dream. The only guarantee now is that you will be paying off your student loans for the rest of your working life. Small wonder, then, that most Americans are all consumed with the burdens of day-to-day survival, and have stopped looking beyond the frantic scramble to exist to ask what they can do to serve their country and their fellow citizens.

The first cabinet meeting of the new Administration on Monday, June 12, 2017, demonstrated how far the standards for our civilian leadership have fallen. The current Commander-In-Chief began the proceedings by praising himself as history’s most successful president, “with few exceptions.” Really? What of the truly great Presidents who have come before him? What of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan?

Greatness must be earned; it is not pre-ordained or self-proclaimed. It is the judgment of history about us, not our own judgment as to what place we think we deserve in history.  Uncritical self-praise and self-congratulation is a prescription for disaster, not a success. Pride cometh before the fall.

Fortunately, the one Cabinet member charged with responsibility for our armed forces had a different perspective than those of his colleagues, who were falling over each other to see who could praise the President the most. Retired General James Mattis of the U.S. Marine Corps, now serving as Secretary of Defense, firmly stated that his “praise” was reserved for the members of the armed services. “It’s an honor to represent the men and women of the Department of Defense,” he said. “And we are grateful for the sacrifices our people are making.”

Has the quality of our civilian leadership fallen so low that we must rely upon a retired general to remind us that the role of our government officials is to protect and serve the people of this great country, not just the current occupant of the White House? This is not the first time in American history that our military leaders have had to also provide the country with moral leadership as well as security. Nor, I suspect, will it be the last.

Fear seems to be the great motivator of our times, with the courage to face our deepest fears in precious short supply. The Marine Corps defines courage as “having the mental, moral and physical strength to do what is right in the face of fear.” The lesson ingrained in every Marine recruit is a simple one: You can never escape fear, it will follow you everywhere. The key is to embrace that fear, then turn it inside out and transform it into a mental, moral and physical positive field of energy that will make you and your unit invincible.

Where are the true leaders, the patriots of this generation who are willing to put country ahead of partisanship, community before tribalism? No doubt there are many young people out there who would be willing to make the necessary sacrifices that prior generations have made for their country. But will they dare to step forward when they see leaders who are less interested in making sacrifices for their fellow citizens than tweeting about petty grievances?

As much as I strongly believe in civilian control of our military, I am hugely relieved that the current President has seen fit to delegate most of the awesome responsibilities for military action to our current and former military commanders, such as General Mattis, who at least have a basic grasp of what America’s role is in the world, and that our key allies should be supported, not criticized. Our young men and women in uniform deserve wise and thoughtful leadership, and I am confident at least that our military leaders are up to the task.

Godspeed, my son. May God look after and protect you and your fellow Marines.

TRUMP’S NOMINEE FOR FBI DIRECTOR WORKS FOR A LAW FIRM REPRESENTING ONE OF RUSSIA’S LARGEST NATIONAL OIL COMPANIES: CAN HE REALLY BE COUNTED ON TO OVERSEE A VIGOROUS INVESTIGATION OF POSSIBLE COLLUSION BETWEEN RUSSIA AND THE TRUMP TEAM?

On paper, Christopher A. Wray appears to be an excellent choice to serve as the next FBI Director. As a Yale Law School graduate and executive editor of the law review, as well as a law clerk to a federal judge, Wray seems to have the impeccable academic credentials to oversee the country’s chief law enforcement and investigative organization.

Wray also has had a long and distinguished career as a federal prosecutor and high-level official of the U.S. Department of Justice under President George W. Bush, where he led the successful federal investigation of Enron Corp. The FBI has referred to the work of the Enron Task Force as the “largest and most complex white-collar investigation” in the agency’s history.

After 9/11, while serving as Assistant Attorney General, the Department of Justice came under criticism for its attempts to legally justify the use of enhanced interrogation techniques such as “waterboarding,” which many experts viewed as the equivalent of torture. No doubt the Senate Committee reviewing Wray’s credentials will properly delve into Wray’s views on this subject and possible participation in the decision-making process at the Justice Department that led to the “sign off” on the use of such techniques.

As a litigation partner with the prestigious Atlanta and the Washington-based law firm of King & Spalding, Wray also caused more than a few eyebrows to be raised as a criminal defense lawyer for Governor Chris Christie during the “Bridgegate” investigation. When close associates of Christie were indicted for ordering the closing of some of the lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge in retaliation for perceived “failure” of the Mayor of Ft. Lee, New Jersey to support Christie in his last run for New Jersey Governor, the defense lawyers persistently demanded to see Governor Christie’s cell phone and phone records. Christie apparently used this cell phone to text with others during a key state hearing into Bridgegate, and the phone was even studied during a probe that Christie commissioned into the affair. However, this key phone went “missing” thereafter for an extended time period, until it mysteriously turned up in the possession of Christie’s lawyer – Christopher Wray. This is another subject that is likely to come up during Wray’s Senate confirmation hearing.

Even more troubling is the fact that Wray’s law firm – King & Spaulding – boasts on its website that it represents Rosneft, one of Russia’s largest state-controlled oil companies. http://www.kslaw.com/imageserver/KS.

Rosneft was prominently mentioned in the now infamous 35-page Dossier prepared by former British MI-6 agent Christopher Steele. The Dossier claims that the CEO of Rosneft, Igor Sechin, offered candidate Donald Trump, through Trump’s campaign manager Carter Page, a 19% stake in the company in exchange for lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia. The dossier claims that the offer was made in July while Page was in Moscow. Ironically, the Dossier goes on to allege that, by mid-October 2016, when Sechin and Rosneft came to the conclusion that Trump was unlikely to win the Presidential election, Sechin “put feelers out to other business and political contacts” to purchase a stake in Rosneft.

By strange (or not-so-strange) coincidence, Rosneft ended up selling a 19.5% stake in the company on December 7, 2016 — worth approximately $11 billion — to Qatar’s state-owned wealth fund, commodity trader Glencore Plc and an unidentified Cayman Islands firm, which the owners of are also unnamed.

In 2012, Rosneft and Exxon had arranged for a $500 billion oil drilling joint-venture, which was nixed by President Barack Obama when he imposed the 2014 sanctions that crippled Russia’s ability to do business with U.S. companies. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was the CEO of Exxon at the time. The lifting of sanctions by the Trump Administration would enable Exxon to renew its joint venture agreement with Rosneft, and presumably the law firm of King & Spalding would end up in the middle of the contract negotiations between those two companies, as well as Rosneft’s negotiations with other U.S. companies who would be joining the stampede to do business with the Kremlin and its many other state-owned enterprises.

If Wray was confirmed as the FBI Director, would he have to recuse himself with regard to the FBI’s critical role in the investigation currently being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller? The FBI is supplying most of the investigative resources that Mueller must rely upon to properly conduct his investigation. Without an FBI Director who is 100% behind Mueller’s investigation into meddling by Russia in the 2016 investigation and possible collusion with the Trump Team, as well as allegations that this collusion was covered up, the entire independent investigation could be placed in jeopardy. Similarly, if despite his law firm’s connections with a key Russian-owned company, Wray refused to recuse himself from the Russia-Trump investigation, a serious cloud could be cast over the FBI’s level of commitment to this critical matter.

One of several reasons why former Senator Joe Lieberman was generally considered to be unqualified for the FBI Director’s job was that his law firm – Kasowitz, Benson, Torres – has represented Trump for many years, including the handling of Trump’s lawsuit against journalist Tim O’Brian, author of “Trump Nation,” who had the audacity to write that Trump was only worth $250 million, not the billions he claimed. In other words, the nomination of Lieberman as FBI Director would have been perceived as the installation of a pro-Trump advocate in the middle of the Trump-Russia investigation, rather than the selection of a dispassionate objective leader to oversee the investigation.

Similarly, the nomination of Wray as FBI Director raises serious questions as to whether Wray – given his law firm’s affiliation with Rosneft – would be perceived as an attempt by Trump to install a “Russia-friendly” Director at the helm of the FBI.

THE KUSHNER-FLYNN “BACKCHANNEL” LINK TO PUTIN AND HIS RUSSIAN COHORTS WAS PART OF THE PLAN FROM THE BEGINNING, NOT THE PRODUCT OF SOME NAÏVE IMPULSE OR “CRAZY IDEA”

Some commentators have concluded that the extraordinary proposal by Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn to Russian Ambassador Kislyak made on December 1 or 2, 2016 at Trump Towers must have been either “naïve” or “just a crazy idea.” It was neither.

The proposal hatched by Kushner and Flynn – to establish a backchannel communications network with Moscow using the secure facilities at the Russian embassy or consulate — was part of a carefully thought out plan that Flynn had been working on for months, and with which Kushner was in full agreement.

Both Kushner and Flynn viewed the U.S. intelligence community – and indeed all U.S. law enforcement agencies and virtually the entire federal government – with deep suspicion, if not animosity. Conversely, they both viewed Russia as their friend and ally, not as a hostile foreign power. They each had their own different personal, ideological and business reasons that led them to this same startling conclusion, but they both ended up in the same place nonetheless: in a room with the Russian Ambassador discussing a scheme to deceive and circumvent the entire U.S. intelligence/law enforcement apparatus.

President Obama had fired Flynn as the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) after Flynn had shown an alarming degree of coziness with Russian intelligence services, particularly the FSB, for the ostensible reason of trying to enlist Russian cooperation in the fight against ISIS in Syria and elsewhere. Flynn spent a day at FSB headquarters in Moscow and otherwise started to act as if the Russians were our closest friends, not a hostile power on which we had imposed highly restrictive sanctions after carving off a large slice of Ukraine for itself and otherwise threatening the peace and tranquility of most of Eastern Europe. Flynn just didn’t get it, and so he had to be sacked.

Unrepentant, Flynn flouted the law by accepting a paid speaking engagement at a Russian dinner sponsored by RT (Russia Today), Russia’s primary state-sponsored propaganda outlet, and dining with Putin himself. He also accepted fees from at least one other Russian company within Putin’s inner orbit, without getting prior approval from the U.S. Defense Department, as was required for any retired U.S. military personnel.

But it wasn’t just about the money for Flynn, although the Russian cash was a nice supplement to his modest military pension. One way or the other, Flynn had come to the world view that Russia, as a primarily Christian nation, was America’s greatest potential ally in what he considered to be the developing apocalyptic battle with radical Islamic terrorism, and with Islam itself. When America finally woke up from its stupor and realized that its true enemy was Islam, not Russia, Flynn would be ready to help lead the country back to the true path – the protector of Western Civilization itself — and onward to its ultimate destiny.

Jared Kushner’s affinity for Russia, and suspicion of the FBI and federal law enforcement in general, was not ideologically based, but it was equally strong. As a young man of 23 he had suffered the indelible trauma of seeing his beloved father arrested, prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned on what he believed to be bogus charges. The conspiracy theory on which the federal prosecutors (under then U.S. Attorney Chris Christie’s leadership) convicted the senior Kushner involved lurid details of hired prostitutes and family intrigue that provided almost daily fodder for the New Jersey and national press.

Jared had suffered the embarrassment and disgrace of seeing his father sentenced to federal prison in Alabama, young Jared was forced to take over the reins of his family’s real estate empire, while dutifully flying down to Alabama each weekend to visit with his father. Even after his father’s release from prison, Jared continued to bear the emotional and psychological scars, viewing the U.S. government as basically a hostile adversary to be kept at arms-length whenever possible, especially when it came to family matters. With his marriage to Ivanka, the Kushner and the Trump organizations came together very neatly, much as if two Mafia families had forged an alliance through marriage.

Jared’s affinity for all things Russian was for commercial reasons, not psychological. He had seen that Russian money had come “pouring in” (in the words of Donald Trump, Jr.) to the Trump Organization just when it was in danger of collapsing after four successive casino bankruptcies in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The major banks financing the Trump casinos had taken a major financial bath as a result and had lost their appetite for further financing of Trump’s ill-conceived ventures.

Fortunately for Trump and his organization, Russian, Ukrainian and Central Asian oligarchs had billions of dollars looking for safe havens in the West to park their money, and Russian organized crime was always looking for friendly real estate developers to help them launder their ill-gotten gains. The Trump Organization was more than willing to accommodate them. Many of the original purchasers of condos in Trump Tower and other Trump projects hailed from Russia and other former Soviet countries, and Trump entered into a close working relationship with Tevfik Arif and his Bayrock organization, which had direct ties to Putin’s inner circle and Russian organized crime, which by that time had largely merged into one large state-sponsored criminal political organization.

For Trump and his son-in-law Jared, therefore, Russia was actually the savior of their real estate empire, and Russian money was the lifeblood that kept their luxury real estate projects going, one after the other. The model was simple: build a luxury condominium complex in New York or South Florida and they will come, with their hundreds of millions. When Trump built his Sunny Isles Florida towers just north of Miami, the business plan was to market the condos directly in Moscow, St. Petersburg, the French Riviera and other locales where the Russian super-rich congregated. A virtually impenetrable labyrinth of LLCs and shell companies was formed to disguise the identities of the true owners, who could then purchase the units with millions of dollars in cash of unknown or questionable origin – no questions asked.

The effusive warmth that Trump showered on Putin and all things Russian during the campaign may have been surprising to many, but not to Kushner, Flynn and those who knew that the financial fate of the Trump Organization was largely in the hands of the Russians, and that if Putin directed that Russian financing be pulled out, the Trump ship would quickly founder and then sink, virtually without a trace. Trump’s destiny was inextricably linked with that of Putin, and Trump was intent from the beginning that Putin know that he would be a loyal and faithful ally of Russia in the unlikely event that he was to be elected as President, and that the crippling sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its Western European allies would quickly be lifted.

At first, Flynn and Manafort were the primary conduits between Russians and the Trump Campaign, and they delivered a tangible reassurance to the Russians by ensuring that the plank in the Republican National Platform be watered down, so that it omitted any reference to a U.S. intention to provide defensive military equipment to Ukraine, which had suffered the annexation of Crimea and was being pressed by pro-Russian separatist and Russian special forces in eastern Ukraine and desperately needed military equipment and spare parts from the U.S.

Then came the tightening of U.S. sanctions by the Obama Administration, at least in part due to the growing conviction by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia was actively trying to interfere with the 2016 Presidential elections through a sophisticated propaganda and data analytics campaign, which flooded Facebook and other social media platforms with disinformation and fake news stories that were both directed at undercutting the Clinton campaign and promoting Candidate Trump. This effort was closely coordinated with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, which by then was little more than an arm of the Russian intelligence services for the purpose of the strategic release of tens of thousands of pages of documents hacked from the DNC, the Clinton Campaign, and other sources designed to inflict the maximum damage on Clinton and the Democrats.

Flynn was quickly dispatched by the Trump Campaign to assure Kislyak and the Russians that the anti-Russian tide would shift if Trump were to be elected, and that sanctions would be quickly lifted. In response, Putin and the Russians showed remarkable restraint in response to the expulsion of 35 of their spies operating in the U.S. under diplomatic cover and the further tightening of U.S. sanctions. They uncharacteristically announced that they would wait until after the election before deciding on a response. In other words, if Putin’s nemesis Hillary Clinton were to be elected as President, then Russian would retaliate in kind. If Donald Trump were to be elected, they would wait and see if he made good on his promises –conveyed through Flynn, Manafort (and to a lesser extent by Carter Page) – that U.S. would be lifted.

Jared Kushner also played a key – but heretofore lesser known role – in the successful Russian/Trump collaboration that essentially turned over the keys to the White House to a hostile power for the first time in American history.

Jared had dabbled in data analytics and “micro-targeting” efforts in the marketing of his family’s luxury condominiums, and he became the point man in the Trump Campaign for merging the campaign’s relatively anemic outreach efforts on social media with the sophisticated data analytic techniques of Cambridge Analytica (CA). CA, a Robert Mercer-owned company that originally worked for the Presidential campaign of Senator Ted Cruz until Mercer moved his considerable hedge fund resources in favor of Trump, had developed an approach that succeeded in “weaponizing” social media political efforts with the use of individually-based psychological profiling of voters that made the pro-Trump or anti-Hillary messaging virtually irresistible. Cambridge Anaytica’s parent company in the U.K. – Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL) — had helped engineer the upset vote in favor of Brexit that led the UK out of the European Union.

Under the watchful eye of Jared Kushner, and with the assistance of Steve Bannon, who moved over to the Trump Campaign from Breitbart News, another Mercer-owned entity, Cambridge Analytica developed a sophisticated marketing strategy that closely paralleled – and indeed mimicked – the already established efforts of hundreds of Russian-financed “trolls” (computer operators) who were flooding American social media platforms with fake sites posing as “grassroots organizations” spewing Russian disinformation and fake new stories plucked from Breitbart News, Alex Jones’ Infowars or other alt-right media outlets. Both the Russian-backed operators and their parallel U.S.-based allies within the Trump Organization and its data analytical contractors –such as CA – were able to micro-target voters in key voting precincts in key battleground states (e.g. Michigan) with laser precision because they had available to them huge databases of publicly available information on virtually every man, woman and child in the U.S., as well as critical voter rolls that had been hacked by the Russians and – possibly – shared with the Trump Campaign to help them micro-target their efforts to reach voters in key precincts that would prove to provide the decisive edge on election day.

When the Washington Post and other news organizations recently reported that Jared Kushner was a “person of interest” with regard to the FBI’s investigation of possible collusion between the Trump Team and the Russians, most of the focus was on the aborted plan to open a back channel line of communication with the Russians. However, the much more significant activities that Kushner engaged in had to do with the significant – and possibly decisive – coordination between the Trump Campaign’s social media campaign and that of their Russian counterparts. Of particular interest to the FBI is the uncanny speed with which the Trump Campaign was able to capitalize on the WikiLeaks data dumps of thousands of pages of DNC/Clinton Campaign documents, raising the suspicion – if not probability – that the Trump Campaign had been given advance copies of the key documents or their metadata, so that these purloined documents could be utilized almost instantaneously once the Russians/WikiLeaks publicly released them. Indeed, some of the “chatter” that the FBI is undoubtedly looking into is that one of the biggest fears that the Trump Campaign had was that someone would “jump the gun,” and that information from the WikiLeaks documents would be used by campaign operatives before the official release date by WikiLeaks.

Jared Kushner should thus be questioned under oath by the Senate Intelligence Committee and by the FBI on a wide range of subjects, not just his inexplicable omission of reference to his Kislyak meetings on his security clearance forms. During the Transition, Kushner also apparently had undisclosed meetings with Putin-crony Sergey Gorkov, the head of the Russian state-owned Vnesheconombank  (VEB) and former deputy chairman of Sberbank, Russia’s largest state-controlled bank.

Since Kushner (like Flynn) was still a private citizen during the transition period, he is subject to criminal prosecution under the Logan Act (1 Stat. 613, 18 U.S.C. § 953), which prohibits an unauthorized United States citizen from negotiating with foreign governments having a dispute with the United States.  He may be also liable under the Espionage Act, which the Obama Administration aggressively used – to the general applause of Republicans – for the leaking of national security secrets by Chelsea/Bradley Manning, NSA operative Eric Snowden and others.

Kushner must also account for his role as the chief coordinator of the Trump Campaign’s data analytics and social media campaign, and how it came about that it so closely mimicked and paralleled the Russian-backed political efforts that were virtually choreographed with the WikiLeaks disclosures of illegally-hacked documents.

In the meantime, Kushner’s top-secret security clearance should be suspended pending further investigation. Many U.S. intelligence operatives and officials have had their clearances suspended for completely inadvertent omissions from their security clearance forms of meetings that they had with government officials from friendly and even allied foreign governments or the omission of personal financial information.

In Kushner’s case (as well as that of Flynn), the failure to make the necessary disclosures was far more serious – and indeed sinister – since it is impossible to believe that such omissions were “inadvertent.” It is unreasonable to believe that Kushner somehow “forgot” to disclose highly sensitive meetings with the Russian Ambassador or a chief Russian banker about highly significant matters, whether it be about the lifting of sanctions, possible Russian loans to the Kushner/Trump real estate empire, the establishment of an unprecedented backchannel communications line with the Kremlin, or other matters. No matter what was discussed, such contacts with Russian officials should have been disclosed, and the failure to do so is strong evidence of an intent to deceive U.S. law enforcement/intelligence officials, and evidence of a guilty mind.

The smell of Treason is truly in the air, and all appropriate steps must be quickly taken to deprive Kushner of any further access to America’s secrets pending further investigation and to ensure that the wheels of justice swiftly turn. Never before in American history has the White House been potentially infested by collaborators with a hostile foreign power, and never since General Benedict Arnold secretly swore allegiance to the Crown and became a British spy has the Republic been so threatened.

THE END OF AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM?

In his inauguration speech, Donald J. Trump basically announced the end of American Exceptionalism — the concept that the United States has a special mission and place in history.
The enduring concept of American Exceptionalism dates back to French writer Alexis de Tocqueville’s reflections on America in his 1835/1840 work, Democracy in America, where he concluded: “The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one.”
Abraham Lincoln echoed this theme of American uniqueness when he noted in his Gettysburg address in 1863 that one of the things that sets us apart from all other countries in history was the sacred duty of the United States to ensure that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Since the end of the Civil War, and up until January 20, 2017, the idea of American Exceptionalism has infused the rhetoric of virtually every modern President and political leader. In April 1917, near the end of the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson exhorted Americans to fulfill the country’s destiny to make the world “Safe for Democracy.”
In his State of the Union address in January 1941, when the future of liberal democracies in their world war against fascism hung in the balance, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent a message to its besieged democratic allies around the globe, reassuring them that “We Americans are vitally concerned in your defense of freedom. We are putting forth our energies, our resources and our organizing powers to give you the strength to regain and maintain a free world … This is our purpose and our pledge.”
Fifty six years ago, in his Inaugural speech in January 1961, President John F. Kennedy’s reminded Americans that it was our country’s fundamental duty to protect human rights “at home and around the world.” He pledged that America would “bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Ronald Reagan inspired us with his soaring rhetoric about America being a “Shining City on the Hill,” a beacon of freedom, hope and liberty that was – and always be — the model and example for all the world.
President Obama, in April 2009, publicly acknowledged Americas “extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity,” while cautioning that such a lofty goal could only be achieved through effective partnerships with other countries. He also often remined us that America is, at its core, a good and caring nation that must work tirelessly in the cause of democracy and human rights around the world.
With Trump, this powerful concept of American Exceptionalism, which has been enshrined in our nation’s psyche for almost two hundred years, is dead. Or so Donald Trump would like us to believe.
In the immortal words of Stephen Colbert, Trump basically compared America to a “dumpster fire.” America’s longstanding mission to preserve and protect the causes of democracy, freedom and human rights around the world has, according to the Trump gospel, virtually devastated the country. In Trump’s view, American internationalism and free trade policies, fueled in large measure by a belief in America’s special place in the world, has reduced America to a virtual wasteland. Trump painted a dark “Mad Max” picture of a country with “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation.” and rampant “American Carnage” in our inner cities.
Of course, Trump’s vision of America is a totally false one, or at least grossly misleading, and he knows it. But this kind of dark rhetoric that he honed on the campaign trail seemed to work, and now that he is President, he seems incapable of letting his distorted vision of America evolve into something that more closely resembles reality.
In the dark parallel universe painted by Trump in his inauguration speech, there was not even one acknowledgment that any of the former Presidents sitting behind him had done anything other than to let America go to hell in a handbasket. Since, according to the Trump Doctrine, only he and he alone can save the country from catastrophe, he could not possibly bring himself to thank the outgoing President – Barrack Obama — for literally saving the country’s economy from the virtual freefall that it was in when he took office in January 2009. He could not acknowledge that, under President Obama’s stewardship, the unemployment has dropped from a high of 10% in January 2009 down to under 5%, that poverty and welfare dependency fell sharply fallen throughout the country, and that 20 million more Americans enjoy health insurance coverage, or at least until the Republican leadership guts the Affordable Care Act.
Questioning the value of America’s international alliances such as NATO, which have kept the peace in Europe for at least the past five decades, Trump has latched onto the slogan of “American First,” which was used by fascist sympathizers and isolationists such as Charles Lindberg during the late 1930s to try to keep America from coming to the aid of the Western European democracies that were being threatened, reasoning that Hitler’s plan to exterminate all European Jews and minority groups was none of America’s business.
Trump did make a passing reference to seeking “friendship and good will with the nations of the world,” but that our interaction with other nations would be solely motivated by a new commitment to serve America’s interests first, which presumably no longer include an interest in promoting freedom and human rights in other parts of the world, or combatting Climate Change, unless – in the unlikely event – that there was some economic or strategic advantage to the United States in promoting such causes.
However, despite President Trump’s best efforts to drive a stake through the heart of American Exceptionalism, I strongly believe that it will not die. Indeed, I think it likely that Trump’s attack on American core values will serve to energize and invigorate the American Resistance Movement. Today, as hundreds of thousands of Americans participate in the Women’s March on Washington, our faith in American Exceptionalism is renewed, and will emerge from the scourge of Trumpism more powerful than ever. American has been a beacon of liberty and protector of human rights throughout the world for generations now, and this shining torch will not – and cannot – ever be extinguished.
As Woodrow Wilson proclaimed over one hundred years ago, “The history of liberty is a history of resistance.” Long live the Resistance!

TRUMP AND HIS INVISIBLE SUPPORTERS

Most of the mainstream media put the attendance at Trump’s Inauguration at about 198,000, with the most generous estimates below 250,000. These included about 50,000 protesters (including three of my family members). Compared with the 1.8 million joyous Americans who turned out for the Inauguration of Barrack Obama on January 20, 2009, the turnout for Trump was decidedly subdued, but since we live in the age of electronic media, perhaps the Trump troops can be cut a little slack for not having many “boots on the ground” around the Capitol.
But Donald Trump is predictable, if nothing else. All you have to do is push his button, and he reacts. Not such a good trait to have in a poker player or a President, but there you have it. He is what he is, as the saying goes.
Several commentators (including Rachel Maddow of MSNBC) predicted (and took side bets) that Trump the Insecure would say that the size of the crowd was at least three times its actual size. They were not disappointed. On Saturday, when Trump went to the CIA headquarters in a “despicable display of self-aggrandizement” before the Wall of Honor (former CIA Director Brennan’s observation), he blasted the media for “lying” about the size of the crowd the day before. He said that it looked like a million people.
Given the extent of the lack of preparation by Trump and his transition team for actually taking over the executive administration of the country, you would think that the number of attendees at the inauguration ceremony would be the last of their concerns. There are literally thousands of senior level executive branch positions yet to be filled, and yet the Trump Team has not even named people to fill those positions, let alone actually filled them. The Trump team, in a panic last Thursday – the day before the inauguration – made a few desperate calls to senior Obama Administration officials, begging them to stay on for a while until Trump could get his act together and find a replacement for them. Some agreed, but others exercised their right to “Just say no.” Either they did not want to be associated in any way with the Trump Administration, or they had made other plans.
Trump’s insecurity and “thin skin” is legendary. However, what is becoming painfully apparent is that Trump suffers from a mental disease, known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), which raises serious questions as to whether he can actually fulfill the responsibilities of his office.
The Mayo Clinic’s definition of NPD is as follows:
A mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. Behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that is vulnerable to the slightest criticism. If you have NPD, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious, you often monopolize conversations, you may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior, and you may feel a sense of entitlement (when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry). At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior.

Psychologists and psychiatrists generally use the criteria set forth in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to give patients a diagnosis of NPD. These criteria include:
• Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance.

• Expecting to be recognized as superior.

• Exaggerating your achievements and talents.

• Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate.

• Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people.

• Requiring constant admiration.

• Having a sense of entitlement.

• Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations.

• Taking advantage of others to get what you want.

• Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others.

• Being envious of others and believing others envy you.

• Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner.
Clearly, Donald Trump suffers from NPD, and it doesn’t take a professional to make the diagnosis. His symptoms are so obvious and non-subtle. Just as you don’t need a weatherman to tell you that it is raining outside (just look out the window), it is not that difficult for a lay person to tell when someone displays the classic symptoms of NPD.
The problem is not just that Trump’s NPD is annoying; it is that it is also extremely dangerous. NPD can alter a person’s cognitive and behavioral to such a deviation from “normal” that it can affect that person’s competency as to their life and job functions. It can exhibit itself in the following ways:

(1) Cognition (i.e. perception, thinking, and interpretation of oneself, other people, and events);

(2) Affectivity (i.e. emotional responses);
(3) Interpersonal functions; and
(4) Impulsivity.
Does this description remind you of someone you have seen recently? I’ll give you only one hint: he was just sworn in as President of the United States.
Another characteristic of a Narcissist is that he/she will never admit to being distressed by their own behavior. Instead, they always blame other people for any problems.
In extreme cases – which is what we apparently are facing with Donald Trump – a Narcissist presents a danger to others because they are in complete denial of reality and lack empathy, which may manifest itself in, for example, ignoring requests to cease behavior (such as cheating and lying); name calling, criticizing, belittling, mean “jokes”, jabs and put downs (verbal abuse); arguments surrounding the same issues over and over; no “closure” – no apologies, no accountability, no consequences, no change.
Trump’s meltdown at the CIA on Saturday, January 21, 2017, one day after his inauguration, should be cause for alarm. His obsession with what he considers to be the undercounting by the mainstream media of his inauguration crowd, to the point where he ordered his press secretary to make an announcement of “alternative” head-count figures, shows that he has crossed the line from just neurotic to pathological.
And why is he bragging – as he did at CIA headquarters — that he has been on the cover of Time Magazine 15 times, while Tom Brady has only made it once? He is President of the United States, for G-d’s sake, and yet he is so insecure and self-obsessed that he has to publicly remind people that he is the most powerful and important person in the room. It just doesn’t compute, and is not normal. This is because he has serious mental problems.
Perhaps the reason why not many Trump voters took the trouble to travel to Washington to watch the induction ceremonies is that they have gotten that same sinking feeling in the pits of their collective stomachs as the rest of us about Trump’s mental instability and lack of basic competency to fulfill the requirements of the job. Trump and his team let the transition period slip, with day after day representing a missed opportunity to heal the country’s wounds, to bring us together, or at least lay the groundwork for a competent Trump Administration. It is more than “buyer’s remorse” that all of us are experiencing. Despite what they have said after the fact, few – including Trump himself – actually thought that he would be elected as President and have to actually serve in that position. He craved the attention of the campaign, and probably thought that if his long-shot bet actually paid off and he became the 45th President of the United States, that his insecurity and constant need of reassurance that he was “the Greatest” in every possible category would somehow dissipate and he would have the genuine confidence that he had always craved. However, now that he is President, and is unquestionably the Most Powerful Man On the Planet (yes, even more powerful than Vladimir Putin), he still has the same feelings of insecurity and lack of self-worth, and it having extreme difficulty coming to terms with the stark reality that he will always feel this way and there is nothing he can do about it to permanently ease the pain.
At this rate, if Trump psychological condition deteriorates any further, he will have to be declared to be incompetent to hold office.
Not that most of us would welcome a Pence Presidency. But it seems more and more likely that this is the direction in which we are headed.
There is only one reasonable response to a Trump Presidency, and that is to remember the immortal words of Woodrow Wilson over a century ago: “The history of liberty is the history of resistance.” Long live the Resistance!

THE RELEASE BY BUZZFEED NEWS OF THE “TRUMP RUSSIAN DOSSIER” HIGHLIGHTS THAT THE FBI HAS KNOWN ABOUT THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN’S TIES TO RUSSIA SINCE AT LEAST AUGUST 2016, BUT HAS CONDUCTED VIRTUALLY NO INVESTIGATION OF THESE ALLEGATIONS

The publication last Tuesday by BuzzFeed of the 35-page document – referred to as a “Dossier” — prepared by a former British intelligence officer regarding the ties between President-elect Donald J. Trump and the Russian government has triggered a huge political stir in Congress and, of course, in the Office of the President-Elect, but contains little news that has not been widely known within the media, as well as in the law enforcement and intelligence communities.
Specifically, the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies have had information relating to the direct communications between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government since at least July/August 2016, when it was first alerted that Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, and Carter Page, Trump’s foreign policy advisor, as well as other intermediaries, were receiving information originating with the government that was extremely helpful to the Trump Campaign, and extremely damaging to Hillary Clinton.
As I reported in my law firm’s blog on October 31, 2016 (www.mccallionlaw.com.blog ), the FBI was “applying a double standard when it comes to publicly confirming whether the FBI has active investigations relating to the two major Presidential candidates.” As I pointed out, FBI Director Comey’s cryptic letter to Congress — eleven days before the November 8th election — announcing that the FBI was reviewing some new emails that may or may not be relevant to Hillary Clinton and her use a private email server, was grossly unfair to the Clinton Campaign and the American public, not only because it was inevitably designed to influence the outcome of the election, but because Comey was remaining silent as to the far more explosive investigation it had regarding to possible treason by high-ranking members of the Trump Campaign. Specifically, I sharply criticized Director Comey regarding his refusal to comment on “whether FBI agents had sought to speak with or had interviewed Trump former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, or his deputy, Rick Gates, even though it is widely known throughout the law enforcement and intelligence communities that there is an active FBI investigation of Manafort, Gates and others for money laundering and other illegal activities ever since documents surfaced in Kiev, Ukraine in August 2016 showing that Manafort had received over $12 million in cash from the pro-Russian former President of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovich.”
I was able to reliably report on these investigations since I had personally received reliable information regarding the money laundering operations by Manafort, Gates and others through various companies and bank accounts located in New York and elsewhere, and had brought a civil racketeering lawsuit on behalf of various clients against Manafort, Gates and a Ukrainian oligarch – Dimitri Firtash – who was supplying much of the illegal money that was then “laundered” through these U.S.- based accounts. We also named as a defendant Manafort’s former boss – Victor Yanukovich – – the pro-Russian former President of Ukraine, who was run out of Kiev during the so called “Maiden Revolution” in Ukraine in February/March 2014, and is now residing in Moscow under the protection of Vladimir Putin.
During our investigation, we also collected valuable information regarding the ties between Manafort/Gates and Russian oligarchs and organized crime leaders based in Moscow. All of this information was turned over to the FBI, and Firtash was later indicted by the U.S. Dept. of Justice on similar money laundering and corruption allegations.
The former MI-6 British intelligence officer also provided the FBI with specific information regarding the connections between Manafort/Gates and Russian operatives. For example, he reported in his “Dossier” that he learned “in late July 2016, Source E, an ethnic Russian close associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald TRUMP, admitted that there was a well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between them and the Russian leadership [and that] this was managed on the TRUMP side by the republican candidate’s campaign manager, Paul MANAFORT, who was using foreign policy advisor, Carter PAGE, and others as intermediaries.”
In fact, the former MI-6 agent believed this and other information urgently needed to get into the hands of the U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, that – without even the permission of his private clients who had commissioned his investigation – he turned the fruits of his investigation over to U.S. law enforcement and others. He specifically alerted the FBI not only to the possibly treasonous activities by Manafort and Gates themselves, but also – as I had done – the various “ethnic Russian” operatives both within and close to the Trump Campaign.
Yet the FBI did nothing, and kept the entire matter under wraps while, at the same time, the agency leaked like a sieve as to Hillary Clinton’s emails and the “dangers” that some of her emails might have been hacked by Russian operatives.
I also reported in my October 31, 2016 blog that the FBI investigation also covered the money laundering activities of the Trump Organization with regard to the huge influx of cash from that Company from Russian and Eastern European sources, including money provided by known international criminals and organized crime racketeers. For example, the Trump Soho project in lower Manhattan was largely financed by illegally-obtained cash from Russia and Eastern European sources, including money provided by known international financial criminals and organized crime racketeers. The Trump Soho project in lower Manhattan was largely financed by illegally-obtained cash from Russia and several former Soviet Republics, and Trump specifically marketed his Sunny Isles, Florida apartment units in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other venues designed to attract Russian organized crime money, Such as the French Riviera. So much tainted Russian money poured into Trump’s Sunny Isles project that the entire area came to be referred to as “Little Moscow,” complete with Russian shops, restaurants and even directional signs.
As I have previously reported, foreign condo owners in Trump’s Sunny Isles project include Peter Kiritchenko, a Ukrainian businessman arrested on fraud charges in San Francisco in 1999, who, with his partner — former Ukraine Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, laundered hundreds of millions of dollars through the U.S. and elsewhere. Kiritchenko avoided jail time in the U.S. by agreeing to testify against Lazarenko, who was convicted of money laundering and spent 13 years as a client of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Other proud owners of Trump condos at Sunny Isle include Anatoly Golubchik and Michael Sall, members of a Russian-American organized crime group who ran an illegal high-stakes sports betting ring catering almost exclusively to wealthy oligarchs from the former Soviet Union. The list goes on and on.
Based on the fact that Trump’s buildings in New York and Florida were filled with Russian/Ukrainian oligarchs and their families, the Trump Organization (and therefore the Trump Campaign) were in a unique position to collect detailed ongoing information regarding these Russian/Ukrainian expatriates, which was a very valuable bargaining chip with Putin and the Russian intelligence organizations, since Putin has always been paranoid about the ability or likelihood of various Russian oligarchs to undermine his iron grip on all things Russian, both domestically and internationally. So the Dossier (at page 11) has the ring of truth to it to the extent it further reports that a “Source close to TRUMP campaign …confirms regular exchange with Kremlin has existed for at least 8 years, including intelligence fed back to Russia on oligarchs’ activities in the US.”
It was not until the President-Elect strongly denied being briefed about the Dossier at his Thursday news conference – calling it “fake news” – that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and others felt compelled to correct the record by confirming that Trump had, in fact, been briefed on the Dossier, and that FBI Director Comey had specifically taken Trump aside during the recent intelligence briefing to advise him that this information was “out there.” In fact, it has now been disclosed that the Dossier had been widely circulated before the BuzzFeed publication and that it was the height of irresponsibility for the President-Elect to accuse the intelligence community for the “leak” of such a widely available document.
The former MI6 agent has disappeared “off the grid” and is unavailable for comment. Definitely a wise move. The stakes here are very high, and the Kremlin kleptocracy has shown no compunction about terminating with extreme prejudice even those on foreign soil whom they deem pose a threat to them. One of my sources regarding Trump’s Sunny Isles’ holdings recently died after falling (or being pushed) off an apartment balcony of a Sunny Isles apartment. Was his death related to our continued investigation of the ties between the Trump Organization and Russian/Ukrainian oligarchs and organized crime operatives with apartments in Sunny Isles, or was his death a coincidence and unrelated to this investigation? Strangely, his computer and phone went missing, so it is difficult – if not impossible – to fully investigate his contacts in the final days and hours before his fateful plunge. Very unsettling.
In any event, President Elect Trump’s baseless attacks on the press and intelligence communities should not detract from the most important “take away” from the release of the Dossier, and its importance has virtually nothing to do with alleged sex tapes from a Moscow hotel, or whether Trump is a “germaphobe” or not. Those are all sideshows and distractions from the real issue of paramount national importance: Did high-ranking members of the Trump Campaign, including several of those following him to the White House, commit high crimes and misdemeanors – basically treason – against the United States and, if so, what did the President Elect know about it and when did he know it. Question 2: Why did FBI Director fail to disclose its investigation of the Trump Organization’s Russian ties at the same time that he was making public statements about the Clinton email investigation. In other words, why was Director Comey focusing the public’s attention on the tail of the dog (the email investigation), without disclosing the much more important investigation of the dog itself.
The American people have a right to know. NOW!

The Coming War On Medicare and Medicaid

With the nomination of Tom Price as Secretary for Health and Human Resources (HHS), Trump has clearly signaled his support for an all-out Republican attack on Medicare and Medicare, two of the longstanding pillars of America’s health-care system.
Since 1966, when it was first established as a single payer, national social insurance program administered by the federal government, Medicare has grown to the point where it now provides health insurance for over 55 million Americans — 46 million people age 65 and older and nine million younger people with disabilities recognized by the Social Security Administration. The federal government contracts with about 30-50 private insurance companies across the U.S. to administer the program, and it is primarily funded by a Payroll Tax, premiums and surtaxes from beneficiaries, and general revenues to make up any shortfall. On average, Medicare covers about half of the health care charges for those enrolled. The enrollees must then cover their remaining costs either with supplemental insurance, separate insurance, or out-of-pocket. Out-of-pocket costs can vary depending on the amount of health care a Medicare enrollee needs, and uncovered services—such as for long-term, dental, hearing, and vision care—may be covered though supplemental insurance premiums.
Medicare, by contrast, is a needs-based health insurance program financed jointly by the federal government and the states, and administered by the states. It was first established as part of the 1965 Amendments to the Social Security Act. Beginning in the 1980s, many states received waivers from the federal government to create Medicaid managed care programs. Under managed care, Medicaid recipients are enrolled in a private health plan, which receives a fixed monthly premium from the state. The health plan is then responsible for providing for all or most of the recipient’s healthcare needs. Today, all but a few states use managed care to provide coverage to a significant proportion of Medicaid enrollees. As of 2014, 26 states had contracts with managed care organizations (MCOs) to deliver long-term care for the elderly and individuals with disabilities. Nationwide, roughly 80% of enrollees are enrolled in managed care plans.
Starting in 2014, the Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid coverage, providing health care coverage to millions of additional Americans who previously were not eligible for government-sponsored health insurance programs. Under the law as written, states that wished to participate in the Medicaid program would be required to allow people with income up to 133% of the poverty line to qualify for coverage, including adults without dependent children. The federal government would pay 100% of the cost of Medicaid eligibility expansion in 2014, 2015, and 2016; with some funding by the states thereafter.
However, the Supreme Court ruled in NFIB v. Sebelius that this provision of the ACA was coercive, and that the federal government must allow states to continue at pre-ACA levels of funding and eligibility if they chose. Several states then opted to reject the expanded Medicaid coverage provided for by the act, which impacted over half of the nation’s uninsured living in those states, which include Texas, Florida, Kansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. These states were followed by Alaska, Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Maine, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Oklahoma, which either decided to reject expanded coverage, or are likely to do so. Unsurprisingly, all or almost all of the states that have rejected expanded coverage through Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act are Red States that broke in favor of Trump in the 2016 Presidential election. This means that expanded Medicaid coverage under the ACA applies almost exclusively to poorer people in Blue States, which have the most to lose if the ACA and its expanded Medicaid coverage were to be repealed.
Republicans such as Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Tom Price have supported proposals to revamp the structure and to “privatize” Medicare by providing Medicare participants with vouchers that they can use to get health coverage with private insurance companies. If these proposals are pursued, they would severely hurt older and sicker Americans who rely upon Medicare for their basic medical coverage. Knowing that this attack on Medicare is coming, Democrats have already started mobilizing their efforts to resist these efforts as vigorously as necessary. Medicare is one of the basic compacts with American citizens, very similar to Social Security. In other words, if you have contributed with payments into the system through payroll tax deductions from your paycheck during you working years, then you are entitled to health coverage under Medicare when you reach age 65. Any Republican proposal to tinker with this basic compact should be met with a firestorm of protest across the country, and rightfully so.
The coming war to dismantle Medicaid will be much more troublesome, since the general public has less of an understanding of the Medicaid program than they do about Medicare, and since it is “needs based,” and is primarily designed to provide health benefits to those millions of children, seniors, working families and people with disabilities who are at the lower rungs of the economic ladder, the constituency of those supporting Medicaid is smaller and less well organized than for Medicare. Ironically, a substantial portion of those millions of Americans who voted for Donald Trump are receiving basic (but not necessarily expanded) Medicaid coverage in their respective states, and they would likely to be stripped of their health insurance coverage if the Medicaid system were to be dismantled.
The Republican effort to dismantle Medicaid is much more likely to be successful, if for no other reason than Medicaid recipients are generally poor, and this kind of “safety net” program and this demographic group has never been high on the list of those that the Republican Party and Mr. Trump have ever really cared about. Both Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Tom Price have made proposals to deeply cut Medicaid through arbitrary block grants or “per capita caps,” and during the campaign, Trump has also proposed block grants.
Trump will, no doubt, continue to make perfunctory reference to his commitment to the Forgotten Men and Women of America’s Heartland who voted overwhelmingly for him, but there can be no serious doubt now that his overall economic and fiscal strategy will be designed to benefit the mega-rich and well-to-do at the expense of the tens of millions of Americans who are living paycheck to paycheck, or who rely in government programs such as Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid to just scrape by.
Trump and HHS Secretary-designee Price will no doubt attack Medicare as a “bloated and wasteful system” that needs to be deeply pruned on fiscal responsibility grounds alone. Mr. Price’s own proposal, which he presented when he was the chairman of the House budget committee, would cut Medicaid by about $1 trillion over the next decade, and this cut would be on top of the reduction that would result from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which both Mr. Trump and Republican leaders are advocating. Together, full repeal and block granting would cut Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program funding by about $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years, amounting to a 40 percent cut. Even without counting the repeal of the A.C.A. coverage expansion, the Price plan would cut remaining federal Medicaid spending by one-third, or $169 billion, by the 10th year of his proposal, with the reductions growing more severe thereafter. In terms of the number of Americans who would be stripped of Medicaid coverage, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that a similar Medicaid block grant proposed by Mr. Ryan in 2012 would lead to 14 million to 21 million Americans losing their Medicaid coverage by the 10th year, and that is on top of the 13 million who would lose Medicaid or children’s insurance program coverage under an ACA repeal. A large percentage of those who would lose their Medicaid coverage would be Trump supporters in Red States. Are they in for a big surprise as to what the election of President Trump has wrought!
Fortunately, Democrats and others who plan to resist the Republican stampede to gut Medicaid have facts and history on their side (to the extent that those are of continue relevant in a Trump “post-fact” world. The overwhelming weight of the evidence showing that Medicaid’s actual spending per beneficiary has, on average, grown about 3 percentage points less each year than it has for those with private health insurance. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, this long-term trend that is projected to continue. Since Medicaid is being managed relatively efficiently, this means that the imposition of any arbitrary spending caps being proposed by Mr. Price and Mr. Ryan would leave no alternative for states other than to impose harsh cuts in benefits and coverage.
The emerging Republican plan to “repeal, delay and replace” the ACA would only delay the disastrous consequences. Current Republican plans to eliminate the marketplace subsidies and ACA Medicaid expansion starting in 2019 would create what has been called a “health care cliff” where the disappearance of all Medicaid funds and subsidies for ACA in 2019 would mean that about 30 million people would lose their health care coverage. Democrats and any sensible Republican allies now have two years (2017 and 2018) to prevent this looming disaster.
This doomsday scenario would not only impact low-income families, but it would also hurt tens of millions of middle-income families who have a family member with a disability, such as autism or Down syndrome, or are in need of nursing home care. About 60 percent of the costs of traditional Medicaid come from providing nursing home care and other types of care for the elderly and those with disabilities. Trump and the Republican leadership are giving every indication that they are prepared with the political consequences such a drastic cut in coverage.
The big question is whether they can be stopped. Now is the time for the Democratic Resistance to start organizing for this coming battle and, who knows, only three Republican Senators need to be convinced of the righteousness of this cause for the Republican juggernaut and war against Medicare and Medicaid to be stopped in its tracks.