Trump Administration Trying To Find Identity Of Anonymous Anti-Trump Account

Earlier in the week I had a post about the Authoritarianism of Donald Trump. We are seeing another example of the Trump administration’s lack of respect for First Amendment rights in an attempt to seek the identity of an anonymous Twitter account which has been critical of Trump’s immigration policy. As Gizmodo notes, “Obviously, an attempt by the Trump administration to obtain information associated with an anonymous Twitter account critical of the government is a frightening and startling precedent.”

Twitter has filed suit, with the support of the ACLU. The Intercept reports on Twitter’s suit.

Twitter is now asking the court to declare that “the CBP Summons is unlawful and unenforceable because it violates the First Amendment rights of both Twitter and its users by seeking to unmask the identity of one or more anonymous Twitter users voicing criticism of the government on matters of public concern.” Esha Bhandari of the ACLU told The Intercept that the group is personally defending the Twitter account owner, and will be filing “in court shortly to defend the user’s rights, focusing on the user’s First Amendment right to speak anonymously.” Although Bhandari would not comment on whether the account is actually run by a federal employee or employees, she noted that “on the face of the summons the government has offered no reason for seeking this information.”

My earlier post on The Authoritarianism of Donald Trump was based upon a series of editorials in The Los Angeles Times this week on Donald Trump. This was followed yesterday with a post on Donald Trump’s War on Journalism. Today The Los Angeles Times wrote about The Conspiracy Theorist In Chief.

The Authoritarianism Of Donald Trump

The Los Angeles Times has posted the third in a four part series criticizing Donald Trump. (Update: It now appears to be a six part series.) Yesterday I pointed out the first two parts on Our Dishonest President and Why Trump Lies. Part three is on Trump’s Authoritarian Vision. They started with the authoritarian mindset behind Trump’s campaign promises to unilaterally fix everything:

To Trump’s faithful, those words were a rallying cry. But his critics heard something far more menacing in them: a dangerously authoritarian vision of the presidency — one that would crop up time and again as he talked about overruling generals, disregarding international law, ordering soldiers to commit war crimes, jailing his opponent.

Trump has no experience in politics; he’s never previously run for office or held a government position. So perhaps he was unaware that one of the hallmarks of the American system of government is that the president’s power to “fix” things unilaterally is constrained by an array of strong institutions — including the courts, the media, the permanent federal bureaucracy and Congress. Combined, they provide an essential defense against an imperial presidency.

Yet in his first weeks at the White House, President Trump has already sought to undermine many of those institutions. Those that have displayed the temerity to throw some hurdle in the way of a Trump objective have quickly felt the heat.

Consider Trump’s feud with the courts.

He has repeatedly questioned the impartiality and the motives of judges. For example, he attacked the jurists who ruled against his order excluding travelers from seven majority Muslim nations, calling one a “so-called judge” and later tweeting: “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”

It’s nothing new for presidents to disagree with court decisions. But Trump’s direct, personal attacks on judges’ integrity and on the legitimacy of the judicial system itself — and his irresponsible suggestion that the judiciary should be blamed for future terrorist attacks — go farther. They aim to undermine public faith in the third branch of government.

The courts are the last line of defense for the Constitution and the rule of law; that’s what makes them such a powerful buffer against an authoritarian leader. The president of the United States should understand that and respect it.

The article went on to discuss other institutions under attack by Trump:

  • The electoral process
  • The intelligence community
  • The media
  • Federal agencies

They concluded with a look at the checks on presidential power, wondering if they will be enough:

Trump betrays no sense for the president’s place among the myriad of institutions in the continuum of governance. He seems willing to violate long-established political norms without a second thought, and he cavalierly rejects the civility and deference that allow the system to run smoothly. He sees himself as not merely a force for change, but as a wrecking ball.

Will Congress act as a check on Trump’s worst impulses as he moves forward? One test is the House and Senate intelligence committees’ investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election; lawmakers need to muster the courage to follow the trail wherever it leads. Can the courts stand up to Trump? Already, several federal judges have issued rulings against the president’s travel ban. And although Trump has railed against the decisions, he has obeyed them.

None of these institutions are eager to cede authority to the White House and they won’t do so without a fight. It would be unrealistic to suggest that America’s most basic democratic institutions are in imminent jeopardy.

But we should not view them as invulnerable either. Remember that Trump’s verbal assaults are directed at the public, and are designed to chip away at people’s confidence in these institutions and deprive them of their validity. When a dispute arises, whose actions are you going to consider legitimate? Whom are you going to trust? That’s why the public has to be wary of Trump’s attacks on the courts, the “deep state,” the “swamp.” We can’t afford to be talked into losing our faith in the forces that protect us from an imperial presidency.

These criticisms of Donald Trump are very similar to those I quoted a few weeks ago from Brian Klaas, a fellow in comparative politics at the London School of Economics, and author of The Despot’s Accomplice: How the West is Aiding and Abetting the Decline of Democracy. I have also discussed the increased interest in dystopian novels about falling into authoritarianism, including warnings from Philip Roth.

While Trump is not the only threat to liberty on the political scene, at least Trump is blatant in his attacks, and there is wide-spread understanding of the threat he presents. This has helped to mobilize opposition to him very early in his term.

Donald Trump Again Acts Like Hillary Clinton In New Year’s Message

While there is no question there are also major differences between the two, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton also have far more similarities than supporters of either are likely to admit. They both have problems with financial ties including a Foundation and involving family. Trump has acted like Clinton in avoiding press conferences. Policy wise, both will continue the warfare/surveillance state, both have a similar disdain for freedom of speech, and both were seen as a threat to freedom of the press.

Trump also reminded me of Clinton when he released this Tweet: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”

I have often noted similarities between Hillary Clinton and Richard Nixon. There is something rather Nixonian to this Tweet (along with Trump’s earlier talk of being the law-and-order candidate, a phrase also used by Bill Clinton). Trump referring to his “enemies” reminded me of Clinton dismissing half of Trump voters as “irredeemable” and fitting into a “basket of deplorables.” Clinton’s statement was foolish for alienating a large segment of the country when trying to attract voters, just as Trump’s tweet is foolish for alienating those who voted against him at a time when he should be seeking to unite the country around him as he prepares to take office.

It is debatable as to how accurate Clinton’s statement was about Trump supporters, while Trump’s statement is clearly wrong on the facts. He did win, but it was a narrow win. Perhaps trying to distract from his loss in the  popular vote, Trump has been falsely attributing it to illegal voters, and exaggerating the degree of his victory in the electoral college. Fact checkers including Factcheck.org and PolitiFact have debunked him on these claims.

He is also wrong in saying that those who fought him “just don’t know what to do.” There has been a tremendous increase in donations to progressive organizations, and organization to prepare to oppose Trump’s agenda. The good that could come from a Trump presidency as it stimulates progressive action:

Trump’s ascendancy is already calling forth social and political initiatives aimed at defending the achievements of the Obama years (particularly Obamacare), protecting the environment, standing up for immigrants and minorities, preserving civil liberties, civil rights and voting rights, and highlighting how Trump’s policies contradict his promises to working-class voters. Here is a bet that the mobilization against Trump will rival in size and influence the tea party uprising against Obama.

Another positive for the future: Trump’s campaign forced elites and the media to pay attention to the parts of the country that have been falling behind economically and to the despair that afflicts so many, particularly in rural and small-town America.

It should not have taken Trump (or Bernie Sanders) to bring their problems to the fore. If the powers that be had been paying more attention, the resentments and dissatisfactions that Trump exploited might not have been there for him to stoke.

Of course we would be in a completely different situation if the Democrats had listened to their base and nominated Sanders instead of Clinton.

While Dionne probably would not agree, I would extend his argument to pointing out that, rather than leading to such mobilization of progressives, a Clinton victory would have its dark consequences. Democrats would be split in pushing more liberal goals versus rationalizing and justifying Clinton’s conservative positions, as many did during the campaign, and as they ignore the negative aspects of Bill Clinton’s presidency.

The Democrats Screwed Up In Nominating Clinton, But Now Have An Opportunity To Rebuild

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The loss of an election thought to be a sure bet for the Democrats has inevitably led to questions as to the future direction and leadership of the party. The loss by Clinton provides the opportunity for the party to finally break free of the strangling influence of the Clintons. The system which was designed to move the party to the center may have helped Bill Clinton win in 1992, but left the party with a candidate too out of touch to win in the 21st century. The Clintons kept the party in the past ideologically, and the corruption of Bill and Hillary, who used their influence to build their own personal fortunes, made it suicidal for the party to nominate her against a candidate who, although himself very highly flawed, was running against the corrupt system.

It is far too early to predict who will lead the party in 2020, but Juan Williams has quoted the conventional wisdom at The Hill:

Democrats need a revived party with a strong leader, as well as a clear message that allows them to stand as the loyal opposition to Trump Republicans.

One way to find the leader is to consider the best Democrat to run against Trump in 2020. International Business Times last week listed six names for the job: Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio); Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo; Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.)…

In a Facebook post last Wednesday, liberal filmmaker Michael Moore urged activists to “take over the Democratic Party and return it to the people,” because “they have failed us miserably.”

“Any Democratic member of Congress who didn’t wake up this morning ready to fight, resist and obstruct in the way Republicans did against President Obama every day for eight full years must step out of the way and let those of us who know the score lead the way in stopping the meanness and the madness that’s about to begin,” Moore wrote.

The progressive populist wing of the Democratic Party, as currently led by Sanders and Warren, has a real opportunity in the coming months to execute a hostile takeover of the Democratic Party, just as Trump took over the Republicans last year.

Ben Kamisar has a longer list, with further information on some of the potential candidates for 2020. The more immediate question is over who will lead the Democratic National Committee. Keith Ellison has formally announced his candidacy, with support from Bernie Sanders as well as some party insiders including Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer.

It is essential for Democrats to understand how huge a blunder it was to nominate Hillary Clinton, rather than blaming others as Clinton is, in order to avoid making the mistake of running Republican-lite candidates. You can’t blame James Comey for Clinton’s loss without recognizing that this ultimately comes back to show how serious a mistake it was to nominate a candidate who was involved in such a serious scandal. It was like nominating Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal broke, but many Democrats continue to pretend she has not done anything wrong.

While many Democrats are in denial, some pundits are trying to open their eyes. Thomas Frank (who has previously written about the conservative policies under Bill Clinton), pointed out why the nomination of Clinton brought about the election of Donald Trump:

Why, oh why, did it have to be Hillary Clinton? Yes, she has an impressive resume; yes, she worked hard on the campaign trail. But she was exactly the wrong candidate for this angry, populist moment. An insider when the country was screaming for an outsider. A technocrat who offered fine-tuning when the country wanted to take a sledgehammer to the machine.

She was the Democratic candidate because it was her turn and because a Clinton victory would have moved every Democrat in Washington up a notch. Whether or not she would win was always a secondary matter, something that was taken for granted. Had winning been the party’s number one concern, several more suitable candidates were ready to go. There was Joe Biden, with his powerful plainspoken style, and there was Bernie Sanders, an inspiring and largely scandal-free figure. Each of them would probably have beaten Trump, but neither of them would really have served the interests of the party insiders.

And so Democratic leaders made Hillary their candidate even though they knew about her closeness to the banks, her fondness for war, and her unique vulnerability on the trade issue – each of which Trump exploited to the fullest. They chose Hillary even though they knew about her private email server. They chose her even though some of those who studied the Clinton Foundation suspected it was a sketchy proposition.

To try to put over such a nominee while screaming that the Republican is a rightwing monster is to court disbelief. If Trump is a fascist, as liberals often said, Democrats should have put in their strongest player to stop him, not a party hack they’d chosen because it was her turn. Choosing her indicated either that Democrats didn’t mean what they said about Trump’s riskiness, that their opportunism took precedence over the country’s well-being, or maybe both.

Frank Bruni also wrote that The Democrats Screwed Up:

Democrats need to understand that, and they need to move past a complacency for which the Clintons bear considerable blame.

It’s hard to overestimate the couple’s stranglehold on the party — its think tanks, its operatives, its donors — for the last two decades. Most top Democrats had vested interests in the Clintons, and energy that went into supporting and defending them didn’t go into fresh ideas and fresh faces, who were shut out as the party cleared the decks anew for Hillary in 2016.

In thrall to the Clintons, Democrats ignored the copious, glaring signs of an electorate hankering for something new and different and instead took a next-in-line approach that stopped working awhile back. Just ask Mitt Romney and John McCain and John Kerry and Al Gore and Bob Dole. They’re the five major-party nominees before her who lost, and each was someone who, like her, was more due than dazzling.

After Election Day, one Clinton-weary Democratic insider told me: “I’m obviously not happy and I hate to admit this, but a part of me feels liberated. If she’d won, we’d already be talking about Chelsea’s first campaign. Now we can do what we really need to and start over.”

While he is right that nominating Clinton was a mistake, he still failed to understand the mood of the electorate, seeing Joe Biden as opposed to Bernie Sanders, as the best choice for the Democrats. While Biden would also have done better than Clinton, he was still not the ideal candidate for a change election.

Clintons Destroy Democratic Party (Again) Leaving Opening For New Leadership

sanders-politico

Bill Clinton lost a long-standing Democratic majority in Congress when he was president, and now Hillary Clinton has destroyed the Democratic party once again. Fortunately this does provide an opportunity we would not have had if Clinton had won. Under Clinton, the Democratic Party would be Republican-lite and hard core Republican/Neocon in further growing the warfare/surveillance state. Democrats have seen their power in both Congress and state governments dwindle over the past eight years as voters saw no reason to vote for their Republican-lite candidates as opposed to the actual Republicans. Seeing the voters reject Hillary Clinton, a consequence of choosing the wrong candidate, is finally leading to progressive Democrats fighting for control of the party. The Hill reports:

The Republican civil war was supposed to start this week.

Instead, a ferocious struggle has erupted on the left over the smoldering remains of the Democratic Party.

Liberals are seething over the election and talking about launching a Tea Party-style revolt. They say it’s the only way to keep Washington Democrats connected to the grassroots and to avoid a repeat of the 2016 electoral disaster, which blindsided party elites.

Progressives believe the Democratic establishment is responsible for inflicting Donald Trump upon the nation, blaming a staid corporate wing of the party for nominating Hillary Clinton and ignoring the Working Class voters that propelled Trump to victory.

Liberals interviewed by The Hill want to see establishment Democrats targeted in primaries, and the “Clinton-corporate wing” of the party rooted out for good.

The fight will begin over picking a new leader for the Democratic National Committee.

Progressives are itching to see the national apparatus reduced to rubble and rebuilt from scratch, with one of their own installed at the top.

Howard Dean is running for DNC Chair but anyone foolish enough to think that Hillary Clinton was an acceptable candidate for a major political party lacks the judgement for the position. Bernie Sanders is backing Keith Ellison. Many Clinton supporters are backing Jennifer Granholm. I might have accepted this in the past, but someone who has frequently defended Clinton’s unethical behavior would now be a poor choice.

Politico reports that the fight for control of the Democratic party extends to states with strong support for Bernie Sanders.

The revolution is back in business.

Supporters of Bernie Sanders’ failed presidential bid are seizing on Democratic disarray at the national level to launch a wave of challenges to Democratic Party leaders in the states.

The goal is to replace party officials in states where Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton during the acrimonious Democratic primary with more progressive leadership. But the challenges also represent a reckoning for state party leaders who, in many cases, tacitly supported Clinton’s bid.

“I think the Bernie people feel very strongly that they were abused, somehow neglected during the primary process and the conventions,” said Severin Beliveau, a former Maine Democratic Party chairman who supported Sanders in the primary. “In Maine, for instance, where Bernie got 70 percent of the caucus vote, they are emboldened and in effect want to try to replace [Maine Democratic Party chairman] Phil Bartlett, who supported Clinton.”

Bernie Sanders wrote of his plans to continue to fight in The New York Times:

I will keep an open mind to see what ideas Mr. Trump offers and when and how we can work together. Having lost the nationwide popular vote, however, he would do well to heed the views of progressives. If the president-elect is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families, I’m going to present some very real opportunities for him to earn my support.

Let’s rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and create millions of well-paying jobs. Let’s raise the minimum wage to a living wage, help students afford to go to college, provide paid family and medical leave and expand Social Security. Let’s reform an economic system that enables billionaires like Mr. Trump not to pay a nickel in federal income taxes. And most important, let’s end the ability of wealthy campaign contributors to buy elections.

In the coming days, I will also provide a series of reforms to reinvigorate the Democratic Party. I believe strongly that the party must break loose from its corporate establishment ties and, once again, become a grass-roots party of working people, the elderly and the poor. We must open the doors of the party to welcome in the idealism and energy of young people and all Americans who are fighting for economic, social, racial and environmental justice. We must have the courage to take on the greed and power of Wall Street, the drug companies, the insurance companies and the fossil fuel industry.

I hope Sanders also addresses issues such as opposing interventionism, scaling back mass surveillance, and defending civil liberties. These are issues where Bernie is on our side, but which he does not emphasize as much as economic issues. Yesterday I did look at some who are continuing to fight for civil liberties should Donald Trump infringe upon them.

A loss in a general election does not have to be devastating for a political party. Republicans returned to power quickly after Gerald Ford lost to Jimmy Carter. They also used their time in the wilderness after Barry Goldwater’s loss to build a new coalition based upon principles, although unfortunately the wrong principles. The Democratic Party now needs to do the same and rebuild as a party of principle to win back the presidency and state governments in 2020, in time for the next round of redistricting. The Democratic Party very well might become stronger, and at least more principled, in response to the defeat of Hillary Clinton.

Re Wikileaks and Clinton: If There Was Ever Any Doubt That Thomas Friedman Is Still A Wanker…

thomas-friedman

Thomas Friedman has long been considered a wanker by many of his left for his centrist views and support for the status quo, including his support for the Iraq war. In 1992 Duncan Black called him the “one true wanker of the decade.” Alternet followed up with a look at ten of his dumbest “big ideas.” He has shown that he is still a wanker in supporting Hillary Clinton based upon the revelations in the email released by Wikileaks.

Wikileaks did reveal that Clinton is a centrist who is hostile to liberal and progressive viewpoints and a supporter of free trade, but that was no surprise. She has spent most of her career as a DLC Democrat and nonconservative working to undermine liberal goals, promote military interventionism, and move the country to the right.

From an ideological viewpoint alone, this might be understandable as Friedman prefers centrist, pragmatic politicians who will not upset the status quo, and who support globalization and free trade. If this is all that Wikileaks revealed, then I might understand his viewpoint, even if disagreeing on many policies.

While it is no surprise that Friedman is happy with this aspect of the Wikileaks releases, he shows no concern for the dishonesty demonstrated. It is one thing for a candidate to campaign as a centrist and promote their viewpoint. It is far more dishonest when the candidate campaigns as a progressive in response to a primary challenge from the left, when it is doubtful she has any intention of keeping her promises. The unethical behavior demonstrated, especially the exchange of “benefits in return for gifts” involving the Clinton Foundation, is even more unsavory. I would hope that journalists should be concerned about such dishonesty in a politician even when she shares their views. The same could be said about many Democrats who are willing to overlook anything Clinton does because she is their candidate.

Apparently this is all one more example of the cozy relationship between the Clinton campaign and the press, also exposed in in the leaked email. This is also seen in contributions from journalists to the Clinton campaign.We have seen how little attention the press has paid to Wikileaks releases on Clinton compared to Trump’s sexual scandals.

Can we count on these journalists to adequately question Clinton’s arguments over matters such as going to war? It is rather scary to have someone as corrupt and dishonest as Hillary Clinton likely to be elected president in a few weeks, while the news media shows such little interest in her actions.

The Awful Choice Of Trump Or Clinton Making Third Parties More Acceptable, Even To Establishment Newspapers

third-party

Both political major political parties nominated candidates who are unfit to be president, along with opposing many of the principles which supporters of each party had claimed to have supported. While many Democrats expressed objection to Clinton in the primaries, most appear to be falling in line, willing to ignore the fact that their nominee supports much of the agenda of George W. Bush which they had recently opposed. More Republicans are willing to stick up for principles in opposition to Donald Trump. Some, especially neoconservatives, are backing Clinton who, after all, is one of them. A growing number are showing a willingness to actually challenge the duopoly and back Gary Johnson.

Hillary Clinton has benefited from this in receiving the endorsements of multiple Republican as well as Democratic  newspapers. Once again, that it is no surprise that many Republicans have endorsed Clinton as she is essentially one of them in thought and behavior. A growing number of newspapers, realizing that neither Trump nor Clinton is ethically fit to be president, are endorsing Gary Johnson. Yesterday I mentioned The Detroit News, a newspaper so Republican that we called it The Nixon News in a previous era in the Detroit area. They wrote, “Donald Trump is unprincipled, unstable and quite possibly dangerous. He can not be president.” On Clinton they wrote, “character matters. Her career-long struggles with honesty and ethics and calculating, self-serving approach to politics trouble us deeply.” They defended supporting a third party candidate in writing, “We anticipate our decision not to support either of the major party candidates will bring charges that we are throwing away our endorsement. Our contention is that an endorsement based on conscience is never wasted.”

The Week also reported that Gary Johnson has received the endorsements of the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Winston-Salem Journal, and The Caledonian-Record along with an additional one today. While he received some endorsements in the primaries, they note that no newspapers have endorsed Trump for the general election.

The Chicago Tribune  described Donald Trump as, “a man not fit to be president of the United States. ” They also reject Clinton, partially out policy disagreements (seeing her as more liberal than she actually is based upon how she campaigned against Bernie Sanders), along with “serious questions about honesty and trust.” They also defended the choice of a third party candidate:

We reject the cliche that a citizen who chooses a principled third-party candidate is squandering his or her vote. Look at the number of fed-up Americans telling pollsters they clamor for alternatives to Trump and Clinton. What we’re recommending will appeal less to people who think tactically than to conscientious Americans so infuriated that they want to send a message about the failings of the major parties and their candidates. Put short:

We offer this endorsement to encourage voters who want to feel comfortable with their choice. Who want to vote for someone they can admire.

The same principle applies to those of us who plan to vote for Jill Stein as opposed to Trump or Clinton.

USA Today also had an editorial calling Donald Trump “unfit for the presidency.” It is a sign that they recognize that Clinton has flaws of her own that they could not actually take the step of endorsing her. While some on the editorial board were willing to support her, others felt differently, leaving open consideration of a third party candidate:

Other board members have serious reservations about Clinton’s sense of entitlement, her lack of candor and her extreme carelessness in handling classified information.

Where does that leave us? Our bottom-line advice for voters is this: Stay true to your convictions. That might mean a vote for Clinton, the most plausible alternative to keep Trump out of the White House. Or it might mean a third-party candidate. Or a write-in. Or a focus on down-ballot candidates who will serve the nation honestly, try to heal its divisions, and work to solve its problems.

Whatever you do, however, resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue. By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump.

Voting for a major party candidate this year means either an unacceptable choice such as Trump or returning to the horrors of the Bush years. While some newspapers find that an acceptable alternative, I do not. Fifteen years after the 9/11 attack we are in a state of never-ending war, with growth of the surveillance state and lack of respect for civil liberties and privacy. Hillary Clinton would institutionalize the horrors of the Bush years, probably with the support of many Democrats who show a lack of concern for liberal principles, leaving few of us to protest. It is totally unpredictable as to what Donald Trump would do, but it seems as foolhardy to trust him with the powers of the presidency as it would be to trust Clinton based on her record. This leaves voting for a third party as the only ethical choice. Both Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are preferable to Trump and Clinton regarding the warfare/surveillance state, with Stein being preferable to those on the left when comparisons are made on additional issues.

Donald Trump Too Dishonest To Take Down Crooked Hillary

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This year’s election probably has the two most dishonest and corrupt major party nominees in recent history. It now seems like it is becoming a regular event for Newsweek to expose more dishonesty on Trump’s part. This week’s issue reports on Trump violating the embargo against Cuba:

 A company controlled by Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, secretly conducted business in Communist Cuba during Fidel Castro’s presidency despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal, according to interviews with former Trump executives, internal company records and court filings.

Documents show that the Trump company spent a minimum of $68,000 for its 1998 foray into Cuba at a time when the corporate expenditure of even a penny in the Caribbean country was prohibited without U.S. government approval. But the company did not spend the money directly. Instead, with Trump’s knowledge, executives funneled the cash for the Cuba trip through an American consulting firm called Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp. Once the business consultants traveled to the island and incurred the expenses for the venture, Seven Arrows instructed senior officers with Trump’s company—then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts—how to make it appear legal by linking it after the fact to a charitable effort.

It is questionable if this will hurt Trump among his supporters, but it could have an impact in Florida. Those supporting both Trump and Clinton no longer seem to care about the dishonesty of their candidate. However, with Clinton moving back into a small lead over Trump after this week’s debate, this does make it harder for Trump to get away with regaining momentum with his planned attacks on Clinton for her corruption. Jonathan Chait writes:

Donald Trump’s campaign is signaling that its new, post-first-debate message will be an attack on Hillary Clinton’s finances, under the catchphrase “Follow the money.” This is probably Trump’s most fruitful avenue of attack. The Clinton Foundation has created appearances of a conflict of interest, and the Clintons’ policy of accepting speaking fees from any source as long as the check would clear the bank has tarnished her image, and months of bashing at the hands of Bernie Sanders left her branded in the mind of many young liberals as a handmaiden of Wall Street.

And yet the notion that a voter ought to support Trump over Clinton on grounds of financial ethics or transparency is insane. Trump is corrupt on a world-historic scale. Andrew Prokop’s summary merely skims the surface of a career that has left hardly any rule or norm of business conduct un-violated. It is not only Trump’s history of misconduct, or even his ongoing abuse of his foundation for personal gain, but his astonishing promise, if elected, to continue to abuse his power to enrich himself by having his children manage his branded business that he will enhance via public office.

Even if none of that were true, it remains the case that Trump has shattered modern precedent by refusing to disclose his tax returns. How on Earth can a candidate run on the slogan “Follow the money” while stonewalling any questions about his own money? The only possible context in which this makes sense is a myopic, context-free focus on Clinton’s ethical shortcomings, combined with the assumption that Trump’s dangerous lunacy amounts to some kind of independence from big moneyed interests.

This does downplay the magnitude of Clinton’s corruption, but the key point here is that Trump is far too dishonest himself to successfully run against Clinton based upon ethics. This is rather fortunate for Clinton, and is one of the reasons why she is able to remain ahead of Trump, but would probably be trailing any other Republican candidate.

In some ways Clinton’s corruption is worse than Trump’s. I would rank her abuse of a cabinet position to make money to be more of an issue than Trump’s dishonest business practices. A politician who enters into ethics agreements made due to concerns about corruption, and then violates them as Clinton did, should not be considered for any further government positions, especially president. The bottom line is that both Clinton and Trump are too dishonest and corrupt to be fit to be president.

For for first time ever I agree, to a certain degree, with The Detroit News on its assessment of presidential candidates. Their editorial says, “Donald Trump is unprincipled, unstable and quite possibly dangerous. He can not be president.” On Clinton they write, “character matters. Her career-long struggles with honesty and ethics and calculating, self-serving approach to politics trouble us deeply.”

While it would be unrealistic to expect a newspaper as conservative as The Detroit News to endorse Jill Stein, I give them credit for endorsing a third party candidate such as Gary Johnson. Their defense of endorsing a minor party candidate can apply to either:

We anticipate our decision not to support either of the major party candidates will bring charges that we are throwing away our endorsement. Our contention is that an endorsement based on conscience is never wasted.

Democrats Should Have Paid Attention To Warnings About Clinton Before Handing Her The Nomination

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I had been arguing for many months before the Democratic nomination that it was very risky for the Democrats to nominate Hillary Clinton. In addition to her many other faults, I argued that the email and Foundation scandals would greatly impair the ability of the Democrats to win the presidency, and would also likely also greatly decrease their chances of winning control of the Senate. Clinton apologists both denied the significance of the scandals, and denied that it would have any bearing on the election. For a while it appeared that it didn’t matter. While Clinton would probably be well behind any other Republican, she had been able to lead Trump (and as of now I think she will still pull it off). However, while Clinton doesn’t understand why she isn’t far ahead, her lead is now precariously small. A single gaffe, an unexpectedly decent performance by Trump in the debates, another revelation from Wikileaks, or any number of other items could now shift the election to Trump. Plus the Democrats’ chances of taking control of the Senate have dropped tremendously.

There are multiple reasons for this, but an op-ed by Thomas Patterson in the The Los Angeles Times provides further evidence  that I was right with my warnings in largely blaming the email scandal should Clinton lose:

If Hillary Clinton loses the presidential election in November, we will know the reason. The email controversy did her candidacy in. But it needed a helping hand — and the news media readily supplied that.

My analysis of media coverage in the four weeks surrounding both parties’ national conventions found that her use of a private email server while secretary of State and other alleged scandal references accounted for 11% of Clinton’s news coverage in the top five television networks and six major newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. Excluding neutral reports, 91% of the email-related news reports were negative in tone. Then, there were the references to her character and personal life, which accounted for 4% of the coverage; that was 92% negative.

The author underestimates the importance of the email and other scandals, and gives Clinton far too much credit for her record considering that she has been wrong on virtually every major decision of her career,only to admit she made a mistake years later. Between the email and Foundation scandals, Hillary Clinton has been found to have violated policy with regards to using a home server rather than a government email system, failed to turn over email for archiving which was sent over personal email, destroyed over half the email falsely claiming it was personal, and failed to disclose all donors to the Clinton Foundation as she agreed to prior to her confirmation.

The State Department Inspector General report showed that Clinton not only violated the rules in effect, but that she failed to cooperate with the investigation and tried to cover up her actions.  FBI Director James Comey further showed how she acted irresponsibly, and how many of the statements she has made in public and Congressional testimony over the past year have been false. Clinton unethically made rulings on multiple occasions regarding parties which contributed to the Foundation and/or made unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton. I’ve previously discussed the Clinton Foundation scandals in greater detail, including here and here. I’ve recently noted how both fact checkers and ethicists viewed the scandals and Clinton’s violations of the ethics agreements which she entered into before becoming Secretary of State, while Common Cause called for an independent audit of the Clinton Foundation well before her nomination.

There was good reason for the media to cover this story. Clinton predictably made it worse for herself as she tried to coverup information, resulting in facts slowly coming out from news cycle to news cycle. She further made matters worse by lying about the matter, and then repeating the same lies when confronted by the fact checkers. This is what caused the story to remain dominant in the news. Plus, regardless of whether it is a good thing, we knew before Clinton was nominated that the media prefers to cover scandals as opposed to complicated matters of policy. As Patterson also wrote:

In today’s hypercompetitive media environment, journalists find it difficult to resist controversies. Political scientist W. Lance Bennett explored this phenomenon around Trump’s 2011 allegation that President Obama was not a native-born American. Trump’s “birther” statements were seized upon by cable outlets and stayed in the headlines and on newscasts for days. Veteran CNN correspondent Candy Crowley even interviewed Trump, who was then not a political figure at all. She justified it by saying on air: “There comes a point where you can’t ignore something, not because it’s entertaining …. The question was, ‘Is he driving the conversation?’ And he was.” In truth, the news media were driving the conversation, as they have with Clinton’s emails.

Nominating Hillary Clinton with all her baggage would be like the Republicans nominating Richard Nixon after  knowing about his role in Watergate. It was a remarkably foolish thing to do, and the Democrats now risk paying the price. In contrast, Bernie Sanders polled far better than Clinton did against Donald Trump and other potential Republican candidates. He very likely would also have won the Democratic nomination if not for a system heavily tilted towards helping Clinton and stopping insurgent candidates. Plus if Sanders were the nominee, there would be no scandals to dominate the campaign, and we would definitely be talking about issues.

Warnings For Democrats If Clinton Is Nominee

Sanders Clinton

Bernie Sanders has an op-ed in The New York Times warning that Democrats Need to Wake Up after the Brexit vote in Great Britain:

The notion that Donald Trump could benefit from the same forces that gave the Leave proponents a majority in Britain should sound an alarm for the Democratic Party in the United States. Millions of American voters, like the Leave supporters, are understandably angry and frustrated by the economic forces that are destroying the middle class.

In this pivotal moment, the Democratic Party and a new Democratic president need to make clear that we stand with those who are struggling and who have been left behind. We must create national and global economies that work for all, and not a handful of billionaires.

As an aside, if Sanders is going to lecture the Democrats on policiy, I’d also mention the argument in Truthout that “the Sanders “Revolution” Must Take on the Permanent War State.”

Of course Sanders prefers to deal with the economic issues and, despite the importance of responding the warfare state, economics and trade will probably have more of an impact in this year’s election, possibly hurting the Democrats. As Matthew Yglasias warns, “Clinton is personally and politically tied to Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s and to Barack Obama’s administration more recently, both of which sought to advance a free trade agenda.” He points out that one problem Clinton has is that nobody believes her:

Clinton’s problem: Does anyone believe this?

The problem with Clinton’s preferred line of attack is it fails to pass the basic “does anyone actually believe this?” test.

The stated reasons for Clinton’s opposition to the TPP didn’t make any sense and were immediately panned by observers such as Vox editor in chief Ezra Klein as smacking of opportunism. Having come out against it, Clinton will in all likelihood follow through and scuttle the agreement.

There’s no question that her position is based upon opportunism. It is far from certain that she will actually scuttle the agreement if elected.

While things can change between now and November, and neither major party nominee is yet official, Clinton has a considerable advantage over Trump. Trump already is far behind Clinton in organization, fund raising and, most importantly, public support. Plus Clinton starts out with the Democratic edge in the electoral college She will probably win if scandals and legal action don’t stop her. Democrats should be concerned.

With the most recent revelations (here and here), Chris Cillizza writes that, Hillary Clinton’s email story continues to get harder and harder to believe.

The latest batch of emails suggest that Clinton’s filter to decide between the personal and the professional was far from foolproof. That these emails never saw the light of day before Monday — or before a conservative legal advocacy group petitioned for their release — opens up the possibility that there are plenty more like them that Clinton chose to delete but shouldn’t have. And it provides more fodder for the Republican argument that Clinton appointing herself as judge, jury and executioner for her emails was, at best, a very, very bad decision and, at worst, something more nefarious than just bad judgment.

…this email to Abedin — which came at the start of her four-year term in office — suggests a bit more active agency than Clinton has previously let on. “I think we need to get on this asap to be sure we know and design the system we want,” doesn’t strike me as Clinton simply wanting convenience and following the instructions of her IT people on how to make that happen. It reads to me as though Clinton is both far more aware of the email setup and far more engaged in how it should look than she generally lets on publicly…

For a candidate already struggling to convince voters she is honest and trustworthy enough to be president, stories like this one are deeply problematic.

While I generally agree with his assessment, I would also point out in response to the title that Clinton’s story was already quite obviously a bunch of lies from the time of her first response to the scandal.

Even if Clinton can sustain her rather impressive lead over Trump, this does not mean everything is fine for he Democrats.  Taegan Goddard warns that Clinton Is a Drag on Congressional Candidates:

The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal confirms what we observed earlier this month: Despite the tremendous unpopularity of Donald Trump and of congressional Republicans, there doesn’t appear to be a wave forming which would give Democrats a chance to take control of the House.

The generic congressional ballot actually shows voters deadlocked over which party they would prefer to control Congress, 46% to 46%. The RealClearPolitics average shows Democrats ahead by just one point on the generic ballot.

This indicates the problem for Democrats goes beyond gerrymandered congressional districts and poor recruitment efforts. The problem is that Hillary Clinton is nearly as unpopular as Trump. While she may be favored in the presidential race, she’s also weighing down congressional candidates…

I wonder how many voters will split their ticket this year, having qualms about whichever candidate they vote for in the presidential race. Many might want to see the other party control Congress to place checks on the president. Far more might vote against this year’s winner in two years.

Bernie Sanders has continued his campaign based upon the argument that he does better than Clinton in the head to head polls against Trump. As Clinton has an excellent chance of winning despite her narrower margin, Sanders might have a stronger argument that having him head the ticket would be better for all the down ticket candidates. Sanders can expand the Democratic Party, while Clinton could do long term damage to it.