Democrats Must Proclaim Trump Presidency Illegitimate

Spy Museum, future home of Trump Campaign.

As seen on Crooks & Liars on 3/23/17: http://crooksandliars.com/2017/03/democrats-must-proclaim-trump-presidency

Now that Comey has finally come clean and admitted that Trump was and still is under FBI investigation for colluding with Russia during the election, it’s time for Democrats to start obstructing. There’s no reason to debate or even vote. Anything and everything coming from this administration is spurious at best and downright treasonous at worst.

Playing by their rules:

Democrats would only be following Republican rules should they do so. Trump, Cruz, Rubio…they all sang the chorus of how Hillary could not run for president if she was under FBI investigation for her private email server fiasco. She would be illegitimate they said. They would obstruct her in every way possible claiming the moral high ground. Chaffetz even claimed to have two years worth of investigations should she win. That alone is cause enough for Chaffetz to be investigated himself; there either is a crime or there isn’t. You don’t get to choose to investigate should someone from the other side of the aisle win.

Then there’s the whole Supreme Court nominee threat. Republicans actually threatened to never allow a Hillary Clinton Supreme Court nominee even reach the senate floor. Without even mentioning a nominee’s name, Republicans declared that SCOTUS could function with eight members. Ted Cruz stated there was no law dictating that there had to be nine members.

I don’t like playing their game. I don’t believe in tit for tat, and I firmly believe the obstruction of Obama’s appointee, Merrick Garland, was unconscionable. That being said, this is not the same.

Trump investigation is not the same as Clinton’s:

Hillary Clinton was cleared by Director Comey before the election. Regardless of Chaffetz’ and Gowdy’s desires to hold endless hearings, she was cleared. Trump and his campaign are being investigated for colluding with Russia. To be polite, Russia is considered an adversary to the U.S. We know for a fact that Russia hacked the DNC and RNC. Apparently, now they’ve even hacked the CIA, if we are to believe WikiLeaks. We also know for a fact that many members of his campaign had and continue to have Russian ties, and we know that the FBI, CIA and NSA are investigating these crimes.

This means that anything coming from Trump and his administration are illegitimate until cleared. It’s not as if he became president and then colluded with them. His campaign did so in order to gain the upper hand and win the presidency. To be clear, the investigation is considering whether or not the Russian government assisted the Trump campaign in winning the presidency. That is treason! Should this be true, we cannot simply get rid of Trump and let Pence take over. The entire election would be invalid.

What to do:

Therefore, until this investigation is concluded, Democrats must not work with Republicans on any bills, referendums, nominees…on anything.

If the Trump campaign is guilty, how do we know that his cabinet appointees are not colluding with Russia? Rex Tillerson and Michael Flynn come immediately to mind when considering this. How do we know that Trump is not signing executive orders that were actually written with the Russian government’s wishes in mind? After all, Trump is not even aware of what they say or do. The executive order placing Steve Bannon as head of national security is a great example of this. Trump is currently dismantling our systems of government. Does this not sound like an objective that would benefit the Russians? How do we know that any bills being brought forward by the Republican Party members are not influenced by Russian interests? Paul Ryan did say that Trump helped them write their Trumpcare bill. They keep saying that Trump’s Russian collusion is fine by them, and that they are more interested in investigating the media and who leaked the Russian ties than who actually committed the treason.

How do we know if Trump’s SCOTUS nominee is not a pro-Russian nominee? We don’t! 

This is why Democrats must do everything they can to stop this administration. They need to filibuster Gorsuch; no negotiations. I realize the Republicans will likely just change the rules and kill filibustering. This will leave the Democrats fighting future battles that would only require a simple majority vote, but Republicans will do that no matter what Democrats use the filibuster for. If they are saving it for Trumpcare, that is a mistake. The SCOTUS seat will have the most enduring affect on our democracy. Healthcare will not.

No Democrat should vote for any nominee or legislation until this investigation is complete. There can be no middle ground, no wiggle room in this. At each and every vote, Democrats must go on record as a “No because this administration is under investigation for colluding with Russia.” 

While Comey Hearing Zapped Roger Stone, Don’t Forget Giuliani

By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America – Rudy Giuliani

As published on Crooks & Liars on 3/20/2017.

 

This morning’s hearings with James Comey should give Roger Stone lots of worries. But let’s not forget about Rudy Giuliani, Trump Campaign adviser and now cybersecurity liaison for the Trump Administration. (Really.) Rudy has his own history with the Russians and Ukrainians. Yet compared to the numerous other Trump campaign and administration officials, Giuliani has received little attention. At most, he was mentioned briefly when rumors were swirling that he might be Trump’s pick for secretary of state. Since that appointment fizzled, Giuliani seems to have slipped under the Russian-probe radar.

To date, no evidence has surfaced tying Giuliani to the hacking of the 2016 election by the Russians. What does exist are nearly ten years worth of Giuliani’s law firms representing Russian and Ukrainian clients. One firm even maintained two offices in Kazakhstan, a former member of the U.S.S.R. In the U.S., he partnered with a firm that represented Russian and Ukrainian clients in a real estate venture. And in a strange twist of fate, Giuliani represented a Ukrainian politician that opposed another of Trump’s adviser’s client, Paul Manafort’s Victor Yanukovych.

Giuliani Partners LLC was established in 2002 as a management and security consulting firm. In 2008, they started to focus on oil and gas by partnering with Triglobal Strategic Ventures. In 2005, Giuliani joined Bracewell Giuliani, LLP of Houston, TX and worked at both firms. Bracewell opened offices in Kazakhstan in 1997 to meet their oil and gas clients’ demands, well before Giuliani became a partner in the firm. They represented many of the major American oil companies, and  Bracewell Giuliani eventually played a pivotal role in Kazakhstan’s economic growth by developing their stock exchange and banking system. Giuliani left Bracewell Giuliani in 2016.

Triglobal Strategic Ventures (TGSV)

Founded in 2003, TGSV is an international venture capital firm specializing in business consulting for firms in Russia and the Ukraine. Their offices are located in Moscow, Kiev, Zurich, London and New York City. Their Russian client list includes TransNeft, an oil transport company that maintains the  largest oil pipeline in the world, Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works (MMK), RosBusinessConsulting and private investor Sistenna. Adrey Dobyshev, a TGSV partner is listed as a board member of MMK. Additional clients include KAZ Energy, a Kazakhstan oil company that partners with foreign oil companies to include secretary of state Rex Tillerson’s Exxon Mobil, and SCM Holdings, a Ukrainian diversified business dealing in metals, mining, energy, fiance, media, real estate and anything else they can make money on.

According to TGSV’s website, the New York City office president Vitaly Pruss stated that,

“From 2008 to 2011, Mr. Pruss worked closely with Giuliani Partners, LLC-international consulting company of former NY Mayor.” 

In 2008, Giuliani Partners teamed up with TGSV managing partner, Jeffrey Berman, through his company Berman Enterprises to create Berman Enterprises Opportunity Fund. This fund assisted wealthy foreign clients in investing in American real estate, specifically in New York City and Miami, FL.

Giuliani meetings with Russian and Ukrainian clients

According to the TGSV website, Giuliani was present at the following venues:

  • 2004 – Giuliani met with Yuri Luzhkov, mayor of Moscow and Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister. Reportedly other Russian businessmen and politicians were present.
  • 2004 – visited Magnitogorsk, Russia and the MMK Iron and Steel plant represented by TGSV. There he met with MMK board chairman, Victor Rashnikov and other executives.
  • 2005 – executives of MMK visited New York and D.C. meeting with Giuliani and former president Bill Clinton. For photos click here.
  • 2006 – Giuliani attended the 10th annual International Russian Economic Forum hosted by Russian president Vladimir Putin at the Lenexpo Exhibition in St. Petersburg, Russia from July 13th to the 15th.
  • 2008 – visited Kiev, Ukraine to support Vitali Klitschko for mayor of Kiev. Giuliani visited the National Technical University Kiev Polytechnic Institute. For photos click here.
  • 2008 – Klitschko visited New York City and held a press conference with Giuliani at the television studios of NASDAQ. For photos click here and here.
  • 2015 – Giuliani met with Klitschko again in New York City. Klitschko was then mayor of Kiev and leader of the UDAR Party in Ukraine. The meeting took place at Bracewell Giuliani, LLP (another law firm). Reportedly, they “discussed the economic situation in Ukraine and Kiev in particular, focusing on anti-corruption measures.” For photos click here.

Vitali Klitschko

Klitschko is currently mayor of Kiev, Ukraine. He is also the leader of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance Reform Party (UDAR).  He led protests against Paul Manafort’s client, Victor

By European People’s Party – EPP Dublin Congress, 2014

Yanukovych and called for an end to his criminal reign. Klitschko is even in favor of Ukraine joining the European Union. He hired Giuliani to assist in reforming Ukraine’s corrupt political and business environment. Giuliani stated,

“My team and I will be advising Vital Klitschko and hist team on how to turn Kiev around by reforming government. He understands that reform and transparency are critical to attracting international business and sustainable economic development for his city.”

On the surface, none of these business relations appear to involve any criminal actions. However, with the amount of Trump campaign and administrative officials having suspicious ties to Russians and Ukrainians and the Russian hacking with the intent to get Trump elected, we should better scrutinize Giuliani’s contacts as well. One of many searing questions is, did the 2008 Giuliani Partner’s merger with Berman Enterprises to assist wealthy foreign clients in buying real estate in New York City and Miami facilitated any Russian or Ukrainian oligarchs in buying Trump real estate?

 

Giuliani’s heavy-handed and racist law enforcement policies, his ties to the New York FBI offices (source of much anti-Clinton sentiment in the Bureau), and his links with ex-con Bernie Kurik prove Rudy was never a proponent of transparent and ethical government.

Giuliani and Trump are made for each other. The media should keep their eyes on the former mayor and follow the money, as it’s not clear the FBI, certainly in New York City, will.

DeVos Moves to Give Control of Education to Koch Brothers and Heritage Foundation

By U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 3rd Class Matthew R. Schwarz

Published on Crooks & Liars on 3/17/2017.

Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is wasting no time when it comes to destroying our children’s education on a federal level. During her confirmation hearing, she stressed that she would work in the best interests of students, teachers and education leaders, and that she supported public schools, wanting only the best for them. But for those who know DeVos’ history, this was not in tune with her previous statements and actions.

She has spent the last twenty plus years destroying the education system in her home state of Michigan. Through investing millions of her personal fortune into buying influence with Michigan politicians, she was able to get numerous bills passed that established charter schools and voucher programs. The DeVos family also helped create organizations that supported these bills, organizations that Betsy was a board member of. These organizations would then pressure and fund candidates who were under the impression this was a movement within education. Only it wasn’t. It was actually all coming from a small group of like minded people: The Heritage Foundation, the DeVos family and the Koch brothers to name a few.

Today, the system Betsy DeVos created in Michigan is falling apart. Schools are closing, and there is no fair play when it comes to the quality of education being offered. This is mainly due to DeVos funding opposition to state mandated accountability practices. Schools in Michigan report to no one, and literally anyone can open a school. Students are failing and unable to maintain scores similar to other states. Taxpayer money is being drained from public schools and given to charter schools, thus crippling the public system. Public schools were not failing until she got her grubby little hands on them.

Step one: cut accountability

Secretary DeVos began her assault on the Department of Education by gutting the very program she promised to uphold, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The ESSA is more or less the same set of standards and reporting practices that President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act and the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act before it. Each president has changed the name of the program while adding or subtracting a few programs here and there. It is a large set of regulations that require schools across the nation to meet state academic standards, conduct academic assessments, have statewide accountability systems and provide for school support.

While DeVos kept all the programs in ESSA, on March 13, 2017, she created what is referred to as the Consolidated ESSA Plan. It dropped all accountability measures. States will still have to submit their program plans to the Department of Education as this helps the federal government determine how much assistance/funding to give each state.  As DeVos stated:

Students have never been well-served by rules, regulations, and red tape that are not absolutely necessary and that hinder their teachers, local school districts, and state leaders.”

This statement makes is seem as if she only cut those rules and regulations that were not benefiting students and schools. However, this is not the case. To be clear, she cut all rules and regulations. States can now choose the programs they participate in as long as they do not violate disability and discrimination laws. How those states evaluate their schools and programs is up to them. Further, they do not need any approval as to how they spend any funds even if they are taxpayer funds.

Step two: break up teacher’s unions

States will no longer be required to report on teacher’s issues such as pay discrepancy. Schools will not have to provide students with access to school counselors, experienced teachers or certified teachers. In short, this allows schools to hire teachers with little to no experience or certification. A recent bill stating that teachers need not have a teaching degree but merely experience in a field in Wisconsin was killed due to voter outrage. Aside from making Joe Blow a teacher, this will reduce actual teachers’ pay and benefits.

DeVos’ goal is to take taxpayer money from the federal government and dole it out to states who in turn hire private management companies that maintain charter schools. By refusing to hold states accountable at the federal level, they no longer have to follow Constitutional requirements of separation of church and state. This will allow for religion to be brought into the classroom; of course they mean Christianity. Additionally, she will be creating a private market that is funded by taxpayer dollars.

Step three: bring in the vast network she created in Michigan

On Tuesday, March 14, 2017, Secretary DeVos met with the Center for Education Reform (CER). According to her schedule, this was “behind closed doors,” so we have no idea what was said. That’s convenient since the CER is part of the DeVos education network she created in Michigan. This network consists of many private, non-profit organizations that are funded by right-wing think tanks.

At the top of this network is The Heritage Foundation. Betsy DeVos’ father-in-law, Richard DeVos, helped create the foundation by initially funding it in the 1970’s. The Heritage Foundation is the go to organization for everything right-wing. They are the reason America is under Trump tyranny right now. They are behind the voter roll purges, voter ID laws and all the other Republican shenanigans. The Heritage Foundation maintains professional advisers on every subject from the environment to defense. They tell Republicans what to think and what to do, which explains how they are always lock, step and barrel on every issue.

The Heritage Foundation’s education department established mini-Heritage Foundations in every state called the State Policy Network (SPN). The SPN in turn funds the multitude of charitable, pro-charter school, pro-voucher organizations that have been established by the DeVos, the Koch brothers and a handful of other mega-wealthy parasites that feed at the government trough. The CERS is one of these groups. They in turn donate to each other’s organizations and to both the SPN and The Heritage Foundation. They are all supporting each other in gaining access to state legislatures and local school boards to make each system into a private education enterprise run off of taxpayer dollars.

In order to streamline this concept, The Heritage Foundation, SPN and all these charitable organizations joined the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is responsible for bringing together corporate interests and legislation. It maintains departments in all subject matters like The Heritage Foundation, but ALEC focuses on writing legislation only. They claim to be non-partisan but only have one Democrat on their roles. Your state representatives meet with corporate representatives and vote on what should be included in bills. ALEC then writes the legislation and makes it available to all legislative bodies. Representatives merely have to copy and paste their names to the bills and pretend they wrote them.

ALEC maintains education bills concerning legalizing charter schools, resolutions supporting homeschooling, school tax credit programs, online school charter acts and many more. As reported by an investigation by The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), they have been pushing for privatization in schools since 1985 when they wrote Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program. Today Georgia, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida and Indiana have all passed charter school legislation using ALEC bills. It has been estimated that half of all legislation in the states was written not by your representatives that you voted for, but by ALEC.

In addition to funding The Heritage Foundation, SPN and ALEC, the Koch brothers also funnel money into education through various non-profit groups. Millions have been pushed toward privatizing schools via their Claude R. Lambe Foundation, Donors Trust, Donors Capital Fund, Americans for Prosperity and the Knowledge and Progress Fund. Likewise, the DeVos family funneled their money through the American Enterprise Institute, FreedomWorks, The Federalist Society, The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, The Great Lakes Education Program and many other groups.

Step four: convince Americans on privatizing education

ALEC is a pro at using terms to fool the public. CMD’s investigation also found that ALEC purposefully labeled their arguments for privatizing schools as “school choice” and “opportunities for low-income families.” Many of these organizations show minority children on their websites in an effort to make it seem as though school choice, charters and vouchers are to benefit the minority and poor communities. They also offer scholarship programs that appeal to parents like the Special Needs Scholarship, Foster Child Scholarship and Opportunity Scholarship Programs. The term ‘vouchers” will be replaced by “The Education Savings Account Act.” You can expect to hear Secretary DeVos make that change in terminology soon.

As usual with these privatizing anti-government types, these programs are in reality a way to benefit rich, white families. According to the CMD report, the wealthy in Wisconsin can now take tax money and pay for private tuition even though most (upwards of 75%) were in those private, religious schools already. In Georgia, ALEC sold a voucher program to parents by claiming it was intended to assist minority families, yet most scholarships were given to white, wealthy families.

ALEC’s latest scam is to write bills allowing for corporations to deduct 100% of their donations to educational organizations. Past laws only allowed 50%. This bill is referred to as “the Great Schools Tax Credit Act” and was introduced in seventeen state legislatures during 2015. It’s expected to be introduced federally as well.

Game, set, match

DeVos began immediately by soliciting contracts for studies on how to fund private, religious schools with tax payer funds. This week she completely scrapped all of the state education requirements for accountability, all data reporting on teachers and how schools use their taxpayer funds. Meetings with her labyrinth of charter school organizations have also begun as evidenced by her off the record meeting with the CER.

This is nothing more than a DeVos style scheme to get tax money into private hands and Christianity into schools. Instead of tax dollars going to public schools, they will go to private management companies that will then give 10-15% to your kid’s school. The professional teacher will all but disappear. In return, The Heritage Foundation, the DeVos and the Kochs will have generations of uneducated, religious zealots to vote for their right-wing causes. This is corporate welfare at its worst.

Only the loud voices of educators and parents can stop this. Start organizing and making your protests heard in hopes that it’s not too late.