Wednesday, April 26, 2017

More bad news for Trump administration, but good news for democracy

The bad news continues for President Trump and his administration.   Breaking stories on Tuesday alone:

1.  After a classified meeting, the top leaders of the House Intelligence Committee spoke to reporters to express their concern over what they had just learned from intelligence officials.   This concerns retired Gen. Mike Flynn, who was Trump's National Security Adviser for about 24 days until he had to be fired, which had to do with his lying about his communications with Russians.   The current news has to do with his having received payments from foreign governments, and having failed to disclose them in his forms he had to sign when he took the DSA job.

It is illegal for a former general to accept payments from a foreign government.  Flynn received $45,000 for a speech he gave in Russia to celebrate an anniversary of RT, the English language, Russian state-sponsored television network.   Some call it a propaganda outlet.   Flynn has also revealed that he was a lobbyist for the Turkish government, during the time he was closely involved with the Trump campaign as an adviser.  He has been paid over $600,000 by the Turkish government.  Both of these are illegal for him to accept, without having gotten prior permission.  It is also illegal for him to have failed to declare both of these in the forms he filled out for clearance to take the NSA job.

But here's what is new and of great concern.   The committee had asked the White House for its records pertaining to the vetting and then subsequent firing of Gen. Flynn.    They have written back and said that they have no records prior to January 19th (meaning no records were kept of any vetting at all, apparently -- or else they were destroyed), and that any records since January 20th (the inauguration) would "be irrelevant."

In other words, either there were no records, or they were destroyed, or they are stonewalling an official Congressional investigative committee.  Because he had not been on active duty for more than two years, Flynn would have to have applied and been investigated for a security clearance.   There must be records of that, at least.  This could blow up into a constitutional crisis of the separation of powers, if the White House continues to stonewall.

Think about all the times Trump ranted about "extreme vetting" he will require of refugees -- and realize that he appointed a man, who was on the payroll of a foreign country that was growing increasingly authoritative, without vetting him at all, apparently.  And then had him sitting in with him on intelligence briefings by the CIA during the transition period and in those few weeks as NSA.    The same man (Flynn) who led chants of "lock her up!" at the Republican National Convention.

This may ramp up the determination for an independent investigation, which is becoming increasingly necessary.   A new Deputy Attorney General has just been confirmed by the Senate last night and will now be overseeing the FBI investigation.  He could decide to appoint a special prosecutor.

2.  Over the weekend, the matter of records of donations to the Trump Inauguration Committee hit the news.   Reportedly $106,000,000 was donated.   But nobody has an accounting of how that money was spent.  Or who it came from.   What records they do have are a mess.   A big mess.   Repeatedly false donor names or missing or incorrect addresses are listed in the report forms.  Questions have been raised about the money, because they raised more than twice the amount as the Obama inauguration, but obviously didn't spend as much.  There were fewer balls, no big name talent performers, much smaller crowds, etc.   So where is the leftover money?   Reporting laws have been broken;  the question is:  Was it inept negligence or intentional misuse of funds?

3.  A federal judge in California has just ruled on Tuesday that President Trump's threat to cut off federal money to "sanctuary cities" is unconstitutional.   The decision, which will be appealed to higher courts, takes effect immediately and applies nationwide.   This involves the federal immigration service wanting local police to arrest and/or hold undocumented immigrants for them -- in other words, requiring cities to force their police departments to act as federal agents and to turn their jails into federal holding centers.

It also undermines the intent of those cities that have chosen to provide a safe haven rather than be part of the federal crackdown on undocumented immigrants.  That's what this judge says is unconstitutional:  the federal government cannot retaliate against local governments by withholding funding for unrelated programs in an effort to force cooperation with a completely different program, which the judge referred to as "coercive defunding."

These three news items are encouraging, because they show that our system of checks and balances is working.   Both the Congress and the Courts are reining in the Trump administration's tendency to edge toward a dictatorship.  That's the way it was meant to work.


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