Category Archives: Party Politics

Special Counsel files new indictments against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates (Updated)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has filed a new 32-count indictment Read the Special Counsel’s indictment (.pdf) against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates. The Washington Post reports, Special counsel Mueller files new charges in Manafort, Gates case:

The indictment ratchets up pressure on Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates, who were already preparing for a trial that could come later this year on fraud and money laundering charges.

The additional charges had been expected in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s prosecution of Manafort and Gates. Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016, and served as the campaign chairman from June to August of that year. Gates also served as a top official on Trump’s campaign [and the transition].

Mueller accused the men of lying on their income tax returns and conspiring to commit bank fraud to get loans. The indictment was filed in federal court in Virginia — a technical requirement because that was where the suspects filed their tax returns.

A court filing indicates that prosecutors initially sought to combine the new charges with the preexisting indictment in federal court in Washington, but Manafort declined to agree, leading to the possibility of two separate trials in two neighboring jurisdictions.

The new indictment offers a more detailed portrait of what prosecutors say was a multi-year scheme by Manafort and Gates to use their income from working for a Ukrainian political party to buy properties, evade taxes and support a lavish lifestyle even after their business connections in Kiev evaporated.

“Manafort and Gates generated tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of their Ukraine work. From approximately 2006 through the present, Manafort and Gates engaged in a scheme to hide income from United States authorities, while enjoying the use of the money,” the indictment charges.

From 2006 to 2015, Manafort, with help from Gates, allegedly failed to pay taxes on this money by disguising it as loans from offshore corporate entities, and by using foreign bank accounts to make payments to businesses in the United States on Manafort’s behalf.

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Trump’s damn fool idea to arm teachers is no solution

On Wednesday, President Trump hosted a listening session with school shooting survivors and families of victims at the White House. Rather than announce his support for legislative solutions already pending before Congress for quick action, the answer to unprecedented gun violence in our schools that he has settled upon is, you guessed it, the NRA’s position – even more guns in our schools!— let’s arm 20 percent of our teachers and make them part-time police officers authorized to use deadly force, an extra job that no one has suggested they be paid for!

Today, Trump doubled down on arming some teachers, defends NRA:

President Trump on Thursday doubled down on his idea of arming some teachers as a deterrent for school shootings and praised the top leadership of the National Rifle Association as “Great American Patriots.”

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This is a damn fool idea. The best explanation I have seen, so far, as to why this is so obviously a damn fool idea is from Lawrence O’Donnell in this segment of his The Last Word program on Wednesday evening. Lawrence: Why arming teachers is a fantasy war game (you may have to click on the video’s sound bar to get audio). UPDATE: Trump vowed during the 2016 campaign to end “gun free zones” at schools.

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I cannot explain it any more clearly and succinctly than Lawrence O’Donnell does. Why can’t we have this kind of sound, informed, reasoned and rational analysis from our elected leaders? Instead of ridiculous bumper sticker slogans like “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun“? Because they are beholden to special interests like the gun lobby for their campaign financing.

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CD 8 Special Election GOP clown car primary (Updated)

The GOP primary in CD 8 has exposed what a sorry lot of candidates from which Republicans have to choose.

Former state Senator Steve Montenegro, “a true conservative Christian minister running for Congress” (per his website), suddenly has a scandal: Flirtatious texts, topless photo roil Steve Montenegro’s campaign; he blasts ‘false tabloid trash’:

Days before Steve Montenegro decided to run for Congress, a state Senate staffer was trading flirtatious text messages with a cellphone number associated with Montenegro, according to a record of the messages viewed by The Arizona Republic.

During one exchange in November, while Montenegro was on a work trip in Tennessee, the messages discuss how the staffer could have attended the conference as well. The staffer later sent a topless photo of herself to the number.

The response, according to the messages: “You should have come.”

The texts suggest a close, consensual relationship, albeit between an ambitious elected official and someone in an entry-level legislative job.

Montenegro’s campaign has declined since last week to comment in response to Republic inquiries about the messages. He has skipped campaign events in recent days.

In a statement released by his campaign after a story about the text messages aired Tuesday on 12 News, Montenegro dismissed the matter as “false tabloid trash” but didn’t address the content of the text conversations.

His campaign didn’t respond when asked to specify what he deemed to be false or distorted.

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Authoritarian Tea-Publicans are plotting to impeach the Pa. Supreme Court over new congressional map

Last month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the GOP-gerrymandered congressional districts as violative of the Pennsylvania state constitution, and ordered all 18 districts redistricted.

The court gave Democratic Governor Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled General Assembly about three weeks to approve a fast-tracked plan in its Jan. 22 order.

Neither side was able to take advantage of that window, which set up the next step in the court’s order: Its own imposition of new district lines by Feb. 19.

House and Senate Republicans made one last pitch to try to forestall the state court takeover of Pennsylvania’s Congressional maps, but were rebuffed by Gov. Wolf. Pa. redistricting is in the court’s hands now, after Gov. Wolf rebuffs last pitch for delay.

On Monday, State Supreme Court released a new congressional map for 2018 elections:

Under the court’s redrawn map, districts more closely align with county lines, and only 13 counties are split among two or three districts. By contrast, under the last map, enacted by the legislature in 2011, more than twice as many counties were split among multiple districts.

In striking down that map last month as unconstitutional, the justices said the new districts should be as compact and contiguous as possible. Their new map, they wrote in an order, is “superior or comparable” to proposals submitted by the participants and interested groups during the legal challenge that led to the historic ruling.

Pa-map

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Gov. Ducey and GOP legislature fail to protect our children with reasonable gun safety regulation (Updated)

First, a preface.

The NRA’s largest 2016 outlay was the $30.3 million it spent in support of Donald Trump. “[T]he NRA’s investment, which was more than any other outside group, paid for a slew of ads that directly targeted the same voters who propelled Trump to victory.”

Now the FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency. FBI investigating whether Russian money went to NRA to help Trump:

FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.

It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.

It’s unclear how long the Torshin inquiry has been ongoing, but the news comes as Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sweeping investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including whether the Kremlin colluded with Trump’s campaign, has been heating up.

Disclosure of the Torshin investigation signals a new dimension in the 18-month-old FBI probe of Russia’s interference.

* * *

Investigators for three congressional committees probing Russia’s 2016 operations also have shown interest in Torshin, a lifetime NRA member who has attended several of its annual conventions. At the group’s meeting in Kentucky in May 2016, Torshin spoke to Donald Trump Jr. during a gala event at the group’s national gathering in Kentucky in May 2016, when his father won an earlier-than-usual NRA presidential endorsement.

So there’s this aside.

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Code Red: dereliction of duty by a ‘criminally incompetent’ commander-in-chief

After a weekend of our always insecure egomaniacal man-child Twitter-troll-in-chief Trump lashing out over Russia probe in an angry and error-laden tweetstorm, a remarkable series of opinions appeared in newspapers on Monday.

Max Boot wrote at the Washington Post, Trump is ignoring the worst attack on America since 9/11:

Imagine if, after 9/11, the president had said that the World Trade Center and Pentagon could have been attacked by “China” or “lots of other people.” Imagine if he had dismissed claims of al-Qaeda’s responsibility as a “hoax” and said that he “really” believed Osama bin Laden’s denials. Imagine if he saw the attack primarily as a political embarrassment to be minimized rather than as a national security threat to be combated. Imagine if he threatened to fire the investigators trying to find out what happened.

Or if you would prefer, imagine if this was the response to the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, as cartoonist Steve Benson does.

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That’s roughly where we stand after the second-worst foreign attack on America in the past two decades. The Russian subversion of the 2016 election did not, to be sure, kill nearly 3,000 people. But its longer-term impact may be even more corrosive by undermining faith in our democracy.

The evidence of Russian meddling became “incontrovertible,” in the word of national security adviser H.R. McMaster, after special counsel Robert S. Mueller III indicted 13 Russians and three Russian organizations on Friday for taking part in this operation. “Defendants’ operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump (‘Trump Campaign’) and disparaging Hillary Clinton,” the indictment charges.

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