Comparing Kushner and Clinton’s Use Of Private Email

Following the news reports that  Jared Kushner used a private email account for government business, Congressional Democrats have announced plans to launch an investigation. There are additional reports of Ivanka Trump and other White House advisers using personal email. The comparisons to Hillary Clinton are obvious, but based upon the reports from Politico it is not clear that Jared Kushner actually did violate the law as Hillary Clinton did.

During the email scandal I found that many supported or opposed Clinton based upon partisan affiliation with no real understanding of the issue. It is worth looking at the specific violations committed by Hillary Clinton and to compare this with what we do know so far about Kushner’s use of private email. The problem is not simply that Hillary Clinton used private email, but that she used private email exclusively and through a personal server. The law does allow the use of some communication by private email, but requires that this be turned over to the government for archiving.

Hillary Clinton not only failed to turn over her email until forced to long after leaving her position as Secretary of State, but she destroyed over half of the email. Clinton claimed that this was personal email, but some of the destroyed email was uncovered showing that she was lying. Email she destroyed did directly involve government business. Clinton had also denied that any classified information was sent over her private server, but this was also later found to be untrue.

Politico reports the following about Jared Kushner:

“Mr. Kushner uses his White House email address to conduct White House business,” Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Kushner, said in a statement Sunday.

“Fewer than 100 emails from January through August were either sent to or returned by Mr. Kushner to colleagues in the White House from his personal email account. These usually forwarded news articles or political commentary and most often occurred when someone initiated the exchange by sending an email to his personal rather than his White House address.”

If this is all true, then Kushner very well could have been acting within the law. Politico also reports that, “There is no indication that Kushner has shared any sensitive or classified material on his private account, or that he relies on his private email account more than his official White House account to conduct government business.”

Of course Kushner’s innocence is dependent upon statements from his attorney being true, and obviously his attorney would not be making statements to incriminate him. A key factor in Clinton’s case was that she repeatedly lied about the matter, despite being repeatedly corrected by media fact checkers, as well as the report of the State Department’s Inspector General. Clinton even lied about the Inspector General’s report in her book What Happened.

In other words, matters would be far worse for Kushner if it turns out that he failed to turn the email over, had destroyed email, was using private email exclusively, or had sent any classified information over private email–all things which Clinton had done in violations of the law.

Another question would be whether there was any attempt to cover up illegal activities. Kushner has been suspected of both financial crimes and possibly colluding with Russia to affect the election results (with the evidence for the former being far more significant than the later). Uncovering evidence of discussing such matters by private email would be of greater significance. Hillary Clinton violated the ethics agreements she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State and there have been questions as to whether there is evidence of influence peddling in the email she destroyed. We will probably never have an answer regarding this.

From a political perspective, it would be quite hypocritical for anyone in the Trump administration to violate the law as Clinton did after all their cries to “lock her up.” It would also be quite foolish considering the political price paid by Clinton. However, politicians do tend to be quite hypocritical. Hillary Clinton had accused those in the Bush administration who used private email of shredding the Constitution, despite more lax rules being in place under Bush than in 2009.

Update:

Jared Kushner Failed To Disclose Private Email Account To Senate Intelligence Committee

Today’s Good News–Graham-Cassidy Will Not Become Law And The World Is Not Going To End

A week ago we were faced with predictions both that the Republicans might be able to repeal the Affordable Care Act with their new plan and that the world was going to come to an end. Today it is looking like neither will occur.

It does not look like the Republicans have the votes to pass Graham-Cassidy. Rand Paul quickly announced he will vote against it because it does not go far enough in taking away everyone’s health care coverage. Hopefully he remains as forceful in standing up to Donald Trump on issues where he has more sensible positions such as non-interventionism and civil liberties.

The real killer was when John McCain announced he would vote against this bill for the same reasons he voted against the previous Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare While his opposition is appreciated, before he is made out to be too much of a hero we must not forget that in 2008 he ran on a terrible health care plan which would have led to millions who had health care even before Obamacare losing their coverage.

Graham-Cassidy would lead to such terrible outcomes that other Republicans also remain undecided, making it very unlikely to pass. It becomes more difficult for Republicans to repeal Obamacare after the end of September, leading to pressure from conservative donors to make one more attempt.

Earlier in the week I posted two monologues from Jimmy Kimmel which did an excellent job in describing the failings of the Republican plan, including failure to guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions and allowing insurance companies to reinstate lifetime caps. The Daily Beast has described how Kimmel did his homework. Faced with Republican attacks, Kimmel returned to healthcare a third night on Thursday. Video of round three below:

Comments from Kimmel included:

For Donald Trump, this isn’t about the Graham-Cassidy bill. It’s about Obamacare, which he hates, because Obama’s name is on it. He likes to have his name on things: buildings, vodka, you name it. At this point he would sign anything if it meant getting rid of Obamacare. He’d sign copies of the Quran at the Barnes and Noble in Fallujah if it meant he could get rid of Obamacare…I guarantee he doesn’t know anything about this Graham-Cassidy bill. He doesn’t know the difference between Medicare and Medicaid; he barely knows the difference between Melania and Ivanka.

As for the other prediction, David Meade has backed away from his earlier prediction and says that the world will not come to an end today:

David Meade, who claimed the world is ending Saturday when a mysterious planet collides with Earth, is now backtracking on the calamitous claim.

Meade said the world won’t end on Sept. 23 after all, but instead Saturday will only mark the beginning of a series of catastrophic events to occur over several weeks.

 “The world is not ending, but the world as we know it is ending,” he told the Washington Post. “A major part of the world will not be the same the beginning of October.”

Meade said his prediction is based on verses and numerical codes found in the Bible, specifically in the apocalyptic Book of Revelation. He said recent events, such as the solar eclipse and Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, are omens of the approaching apocalypse.

The significant number is 33, according to Meade.

Others made similar predictions about the beginning of a series of catastrophic events before November 8 and January 20, saying the significant number is 45.

Gift Shop At Trump Towers Has KKK White Hoods And Russian Flags For Sale

Many people visiting Trump Tower would be interested in buying souvenirs related to the 45th (and all time worst) president. Of course the official merchandise might not be what they are looking for, so some pranksters slipped in additional products which will give tourists a better idea of what Trump is about. Gothamist reports:

On Monday afternoon, two NYC-based artists secretly slipped some items inside the merchandising outpost of the Trump Tower’s lower lobby. Among them: A Trump-emblazoned KKK hood “for fine people,” sealed packages of pee-proof rubber sheets, and a Russian flag. In the front of the store, a postcard display featured the 45th President of the United States, Vladimir Putin, along with cards paying tribute to First Lady Ivanka Trump, and the flap of flesh near the president’s throat area, known as a Wattle.

“We thought the tourists coming in to buy some stuff, especially people from other countries, should get the whole story of who the president is, because the items in the Trump store don’t accurately reflect the person,” one of the two artists, who asked that we not reveal his name, told Gothamist…

Asked if he was concerned that the current administration might be too absurd to satirize, our underground source admitted that was a possibility. “My partner was in the back putting in some of the items and he said to someone, ‘Oh did you see this?’ and they didn’t even bat an eye.”

Neither did the people who work in the store, at least for a little while. As of Tuesday morning, the Putin/Ivanka/Wattle postcards were still on display—though the shopkeeper did notice when we attempted to buy one of the cards, and quickly ordered us out of the store while calling security. Upon returning an hour later, all of the items appeared to be gone.

Pictures of additional items can be seen at the link above.

In related but disappointing news, Reuters reports that sales of Confederate flags have surged since the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

Donald Trump Looked Up At The Eclipse, Apparently Denying Science And “Fake News”

If you paid even the slightest attention to the news, the most important thing discussed about the eclipse was to not look up at the sun. It would take someone who thinks that almost all the news is fake (with even Mitch McConnell publicly disagreeing with him), and doesn’t believe in science, to ignore these warning. Apparently Donald Trump thought that the stories about effects of the eclipse on vision were a hoax, like climate change and the earth being round. Despite a warning from a nearby aide, Donald Trump actually did look up at the solar eclipse.

What makes this even stranger is that Trump actually had protective glasses, which he put on later.

Now it will be interesting to see if Donald Trump starts bumping into walls, has difficulty reading teleprompters, or stops talking about how beautiful he thinks Ivanka is.

Regardless of whether he develops visual problems, this is yet another example of bizarre behavior on his part. There is a reason that some psychiatrists are publicly questioning his sanity. There is also a reason for the 25th Amendment.

Joint Chiefs Ignoring Trump Transgender Ban As Twitter Not Part Of Chain Of Command

Why are Republicans so obsessed with other people’s genitals, who they have sex with, and which bathroom they use? The latest example was Donald Trump’s proclamation via Twitter that transgender individuals will not be allowed to serve in the military. Of course the Constitution does not provide for changes in policy via Tweets, and neither Congress nor the Joint Chiefs of Staff were prepared for this. Not surprisingly, they are insisting upon following the conventional change of command before making such changes. CNN reports:

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, including chairman General Joseph Dunford, were not aware President Donald Trump planned to tweet a ban on transgender service members, three US defense officials told CNN — the latest indication that top military leaders across all four service branches were blindsided by the President’s announcement.

For now, Dunford has informed service members that there will be “no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidelines.”

“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect,” Dunford wrote in a memo to the military that was obtained by CNN. “As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions.”

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said Thursday that, to date, he has not received “directives on implementation” for a ban and learned about the President’s decision through the media.

We will work through the implementation guidance when we get it and then we’ll move from there,” he added while speaking at the National Press Club.

Maybe next Donald Trump will Tweet that Obamacare has been repealed and leave it at that, satisfying himself with no actual changes affecting anyone else.

Trump Tweeted that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” Conservatives have complained about the cost of surgery for transgender members of the military, although not all even undergo surgery. Military Times reports that the “Defense Department spends 10 times as much money on Viagra and other erectile dysfunction medications than it spends on healthcare services for transgender troops.”

USA Today also noted this, along with comparisons of the cost of transgender surgery to the cost of Donald Trump’s trips to Mar-A-Lago:

A report for the Pentagon last year found that transition-related care would cost between about $2.4 and $8.4 million per year — less than 0.14% of the military’s medical budget.

That’s roughly the cost of four of Trump’s trips to Mar-A-Lago, GQ noted, even using a conservative estimate of $2 million per trip. And it’s way less than the $84 million spent on Viagra and similar meds by the Department of Defense in 2014, as others also said.

With cost not providing a good justification for this policy change, late night comic James Cordin had another explanation:

At this point, it just seems like Trump wants to do the opposite of everything Obama did. He is like, “Oh, Obama pardoned a turkey on Thanksgiving? Well I’m going to slaughter a turkey with a chainsaw on the front lawn.”

Vogue noted the lack of Ivanka Trump’s influence on Donald Trump in an article entitled, Look, It’s Time to Collectively and Officially Give Up on Ivanka Trump. They think that there are people who still think that Ivanka Trump is of any value in stopping her father? Really?

James Corden and Jimmy Kimmel On Ivanka Trump Getting White House Office

Ivanka Trump is getting an office in the West Wing despite previously stating she would not take a formal role in her father’s administration. The administration has said Ivanka is going to act as her father’s “eyes and ears,” which basically means she’s going to be walking around the White House saying, “I’m telling Dad!”

I’m glad Ivanka is going to be her father’s “eyes and ears.” Now all we need is for her to take over his mouth, and his tweeting thumb.–James Corden

***

Ivanka Trump is getting an office at the White House and she’s getting top-level security clearance. She will take a position in the White House where she’ll draw upon her 20 years of foreign and domestic policy experience that she gained selling sandals to Nordstrom.

Her role is that she will serve as her father’s “eyes and ears” at the White House. He doesn’t need that. He needs somebody to be his thumbs so he can stop tweeting.

Her office is on the second floor of the West Wing, not far from the Oval Office. I suspect they put her there so somebody can run and grab her in case her father decides to nuke anything. She might be the only one he’ll listen to.

Meanwhile, poor Tiffany Trump can’t even get the White House Wi-Fi password. –Jimmy Kimmel

Oscars Feature Anti-Trump Jokes And Epic Mistake

The Oscars had many political jokes at the expense of Donald Trump, but will be most remembered for an epic mistake in announcing the wrong winner for Best Picture. The accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers has taken the blame for handing out a duplicate envelope with Emma Stone’s award for Best Actress, leading to La La Land being announced as the winner instead of Moonlight.  Donald Trump has blamed Hollywood’s obsessive focus on politics for the mistake.

Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue mocked Trump’s attacks on Meryl Streep following the Golden Globe Awards, with Kimmel jokingly referring to “her many uninspiring and overrated performances.” After also jokingly calling her “highly overrated,” he commented on her dress: “Nice dress, by the way. Is that an Ivanka?”

There were multiple references to diversity and immigrants throughout the awards. He introduced Cheryl Boone Isaacs, President of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, by noting that she is a president who supports both the arts and sciences. Donald Trump’s use of Twitter was also the topic of jokes. Kimmel announced that, “Some of you will get to come up here on this stage tonight and give a speech that the president will tweet about in all caps during his 5 a.m. bowel movement tomorrow, and I think that’s pretty excellent if you ask me.” Later in the show, Kimmel tweeted Donald Trump.

The Academy Awards was also an easy target for those of us watching and tweeting from home. I posted a comment on Facebook prior to the announcement, with La La Land expected to be the winner: “If I were to decide to go into making movies, I would make movies about Hollywood. That way I would have a good shot at winning more awards than better movies.”


When La La Land was announced as the winner, I quickly posted: “Sure La La Land won more than it deserved. Wikileaks has revealed that they had Debbie Wasserman Schultz rig the Oscars.” I quickly had to respond on Facebook and Twitter when the correction was made. This included a correction that, “Apparently La La Land won the Alternative Oscar for Best Picture.”  I subsequently posted this explanation: “The explanation is that La La Land won the popular vote for Best Picture, but Moonlight won the official award in the Oscar Electoral College.”

By then the political comparisons were irresistible. I wrote, “Cast of La La Land is now blaming Vladimir Putin and James Comey for them not getting the Oscar.” Then I added that they also blamed Bernie supporters and Jill Stein voters, and that Jill Stein was raising money for a recount.

Bad Day For Trump’s Immigration Ban And Trump Conflicts Of Interest

There were two setbacks for the Trump administration today. The more significant was an appeals court ruling against Trump’s travel ban:

A three-judge federal appeals panel on Thursday unanimously refused to reinstate President Trump’s targeted travel ban, delivering the latest and most stinging judicial rebuke to his effort to make good on a campaign promise and tighten the standards for entry into the United States.

The ruling was the first from an appeals court on the travel ban, and it was focused on the narrow question of whether it should be blocked while courts consider its lawfulness. The decision is likely to be quickly appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

That court remains short-handed and could deadlock. A 4-to-4 tie in the Supreme Court would leave the appeals court’s ruling in place.

I’ve seen some Trump supporters write this off to a decision of a liberal court. Note that this three judge court ruled unanimously on the issue, including a judge appointed by George W. Bush. (The other two were appointed by Carter and Obama). This ruling was not partisan, considering how blatantly Trump’s Muslim ban violates the Constitution.

Also today, Kellyanne Conway was “counseled” after she broke ethics rules in promoting Ivanka Trump’s products while speaking at the White House.

The White House on Thursday said a top adviser to President Trump had been “counseled” after using a television appearance from the West Wing to promote the clothing and jewelry line sold under the brand of Trump’s daughter…

Experts quickly seized on Conway’s remarks as a direct violation of Office of Government Ethics rules. Don W. Fox, a former OGE general counsel and now the office’s acting director, said Conway’s statements were “jaw-dropping” and “a clear violation of rules prohibiting misuse of public office for anyone’s private gain.”

Peter Schweizer, who has worked closely with Trump chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and wrote a book, “Clinton Cash,” that was critical of donations to the Clinton Foundation, said, “They’ve crossed a very, very important, bright line, and it’s not good.”

“To encourage Americans to buy goods from companies owned by the first family is totally out of bounds and needs to stop,” Schweizer added. “Clearly, the Trumps feel some of this is related to politics. But whether that’s true or not, these marketing battles need to be fought by Ivanka and her company. They cannot and should not be fought by government employees and the White House.”

I imagine that being  Conway being “counseled” is comparable to when Hillary Clinton was told that she should be using a government server for her email when she was found to be ignoring this rule. Hopefully Conway pays more attention. More importantly, hopefully the entire Trump administration pays more attention–perhaps starting with Donald Trump releasing his income tax returns.

Realistically this is a relatively trivial incident. If anything, being promoted by Conway might even further reduce Ivanka’s sales, which have been suffering by the poor opinion about her father. What is more important are the vast conflicts of interest present in the financial interests of Trump’s family (along with the financial interests of some of his cabinet appointees).

Most of the examples will probably turn out to be more mundane actions in which government actions might benefit Trump’s business holdings. One of the more interesting examples was repeated in the same article linked above:

The Conway episode followed other instances in which Trump’s political rise and his presidency have provided a promotional platform for the family businesses.

On Monday, first lady Melania Trump filed a lawsuit accusing a British news company of publishing an inaccurate story that hurt her ability to take advantage of a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to build her brand of jewelry and accessories. The lawsuit said that the August 2016 article, which falsely suggested Melania Trump had once worked for an escort service, damaged her ability to build “multimillion dollar business relationships for a multi-year term” and damaged her brand during a time when Trump “is one of the most photographed women in the world.”

Bad Day For Ivanka Brands; Good Day For Alternative Massacres And Guns

It is not a good day for Ivanka Trump’s businesses as efforts to stop sales of Ivanka Trump’s products in protest against her father appear to be successful. First Nordstrom announced they were dropping her shoes due to decreased sales in response to the #GrabYourWallet boycott. Next Neiman-Marcus announced they were dropping her jewelry line.

It is, however, a good day for fake massacres:

Senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway made a statement during a TV interview Thursday that pricked the ears of fact-checkers everywhere.

She told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews:

“I bet it’s brand new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. It didn’t get covered.”

First of all, Obama didn’t ban the Iraqi refugee program.

Second, there’s no such thing as the Bowling Green massacre.

Another example of alternative facts from Kellyanne Conway. I’m looking forward to seeing The Little Golden Book Of Alternate Massacres. Then we can study the alternative holocaust in Donald Trump’s mind which didn’t involve Jews.

It is also a bad day for Israeli settlements, but more significantly a bad day for consistency in foreign policy, but a good day for people with severe mental illnesses who desire to buy guns. 

Plus, like every day under Donald Trump, I bet it will be a great day for the late night comics.

Right Wing Media Distorts Isolated, And Inappropriate, Attack On Ivanka Trump

While Donald Trump was tweeting about expanding the nuclear arsenal yesterday, another controversy arose when Ivanka Trump was harassed by another passenger on an airplane flight. The right wing media quickly took advantage of this launch an overall attack on the left. With all the sensationalist reports in the media, fortunately there is a more reliable account from another passenger who posted about it on his Facebook page.

The passenger who confronted Ivanka Trump was removed from the flight. From the account of the witness in the Facebook post it does sound like it was a reasonable decision. The other passenger’s case is also not supported in light of this tweet prior to the episode: “Ivanka and Jared at JFK T5, flying commercial. My husband chasing them down to harass them.”

It has become conventional to give the children of a president a certain amount of privacy. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are in a different situation than recent presidential children such as Obama’s daughters because of their actual involvement in Donald Trump’s transition, which is expected to continue after he takes office. That still does not justify intentional harassment of them. The fact that they were traveling with their children is further reason to give them a little privacy.

This was one person acting badly. It hardly justifies sensationalism such as the cover of The New York Post, which declares: Heir Strike–Now Dems are attacking Trump’s kids. An opinion piece by Karol Markowicz also takes advantage of this to attack the left in general, ending with this unsupported conclusion: “The left is trying to turn the whole country into a liberal safe space — safe for them, dangerous for anyone who disagrees with them. They’ve lost their minds.”

Donald Trump’s election has raised a lot of emotions in response to the xenophobia, racism, and misogyny raised during his campaign. In this case, the reaction was excessive and inappropriate, but it hardly reflects on all liberals. Having followed many heated elections, I have found that Clinton supporters have often been the most intolerant of those holding different viewpoints that I have seen. This, of course, does not apply to all Clinton supporters, and many of us on the left saw both major party candidates as being near equally repulsive.

Despite the erroneous argument in using this incident to attack the left in general, I do agree with Markowicz on one point. Ivanka Trump is hardly the person in the incoming Trump administration for the left to concentrating our opposition on. She gave a rather liberal speech at the Republican Convention and, as I pointed out earlier in the month, has been advocating for action on climate change. It would make more sense to encourage her to try to influence her father in a more liberal and tolerant direction, as opposed to attacking her.

It is no surprise that an isolated individual acted badly, or that the right wing media would take advantage of the episode. It is also no surprise that social media provided valuable information beyond what was reported by the news media. What I did find a little surprising in all of this is that Ivanka and Jared are flying coach, which is uncomfortable even when you don’t have someone harassing you.