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Josh Feldman, MEDIAUTE|CNN national security analyst Sam Vinograd said one part of President Donald Trump‘s CPAC speech made her feel “sick” and even said it sounded like Hitler.
During his speech today, Trump said, “The men and women here today are on the front lines of protecting America’s interests, defending America’s values, and reclaiming our nation’s priceless heritage. With your help, we are reversing decades of blunders and betrayals. These are serious, serious betrayals to our nation and to everything we stand for. It’s been done by the failed ruling class that enriched foreign countries at our expense. It wasn’t America first, in many cases it was America last. Those days are over, long over.”
Vinograd said on CNN this afternoon, “His statement makes me sick, on a personal level, preserving your heritage, reclaiming our heritage, that sounds a lot like a certain leader that killed members of my family and about six million other Jews in the 1940s.”
As for the rest of the speech, she argued it reflected a lot of “Putin’s to-do list”:
“By the way, this whole CPAC speech, how many pieces, parts of President Putin’s to-do list was President Trump trying to accomplish today? He denigrated our institutions, the Department of Justice and U.S. Congress, he spread misinformation and conspiracy theories, he undermined the credibility of several of our institutions, he sewed divisions, he sewed confusion, he was speaking to his base but he was also saying things that really looked like Vladimir Putin scripted his speech. So it helped him perhaps with his base, and politically, while at the same time, making Russia’s job a lot easier.”
“The question of the Russian interference and the possibility of collusion by the president and his people has twisted our politics into something unrecognizable for the last two years, including behaviour on the part of the president, attacking the FBI, attacking Bob Mueller,” Himes said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.“ “You know, everything about this has become political. The way to end that, of course, is for the truth to be out there.” – AIWAI! NO!
As special counsel Robert Mueller prepares his final report and Congress ramps up its own investigations, we soon will have answers to questions over collusion, obstruction, and Russian influence. Yet, President Trumpmay answer one of the most intriguing questions of all: Is it better to fight one horse-sized duck or a hundred duck-sized horses? New developments make it likely that Trump will fight a hundred duck-sized horses, in the form of alleged collateral crimes rather than collusion. None appears life threatening in their own right, so the real question here is what they will represent collectively during the next two years of this administration.
When Mueller was appointed, Trump faced a horse-sized duck in the form of Russian collusion allegations. That duck has yet to materialize over the course of dozens of “speaking” indictments and filings. One indictment stated that any contact between Trump officials and Russians was done “unwittingly,” and not one filing or witness has established a link between either Trump or his campaign and Russian hacking of Democratic emails. At most, there is evidence that Trump associates like Roger Stone, as well as Trump himself, wanted to see that material. But many journalists and political operatives were trying to obtain the same material, which had already been teased as forthcoming by WikiLeaks. That itself not a crime.
Trump also faced a horse-sized duck with the obstruction allegations. The problem is that there is still no clear obstruction by Trump despite a litany of inappropriate comments. He did not fire Mueller. He did not order the end of the special counsel investigation. He also has not been accused of destroying evidence. He has tweeted aplenty but that is more obnoxious than obstructive. None of that changed with the testimony of Michael Cohen, who expressly said he has no evidence of collusion. He offered little more on obstruction beyond saying that he believed Trump wanted him to lie about Trump Tower in Moscow, without Trump ordering him to lie. There is still far more duck than the horse in obstruction theories.
Instead, Cohen in his testimony became a virtual wrangler of duck-sized horses, including portraits bought with charity funds, insurance claims with inflated damages, a bid for a National Football League team with inflated assets, hush money for mistresses, even false medical claims to avoid the draft. Many of these little equines are coming from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, rather than the special counsel in Washington. Yet, these pint-sized horses would make a poor case for impeachment even in the aggregate. Many occurred before Trump became president, and most would fall short of the constitutional standard. Even as criminal matters, presumably in prosecutions after Trump leaves office, this herd is even less threatening than it appears.
Of the various legal horses, the most formidable is the allegation that Trump knowingly participated in a violation of campaign finance laws. Cohen produced checks signed by Trump after he became president that were reimbursement for hush money paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. Federal prosecutors had treated the payments as a criminal matter when charging Cohen for his role in this violation. Under the same theory, Trump was also a party to the crime.
Justice Department policy, wrongly in my view, maintains that a sitting president should not be indicted. Prosecutors could pursue a charge on the payments against Trump after he leaves office but this is no easy case to make. The Justice Department failed in such a prosecution against former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. The signing of these checks and the alleged directions given to Cohen make the case stronger, but Cohen may have weakened the chances for the prosecution. The most obvious defense for Trump is that he was motivated in making the payments not by the campaign but by his marriage and reputation.
Cohen gave Trump a major lift in that defense in two respects. First, he testified that Trump never thought he was going to win the 2016 election. Many others did not either, and even Trump himself said he continued to pursue business deals in anticipation that he might lose. Second, Cohen recounted how Trump had him speak to the first lady about the payments, to assure her that the stories of affairs were untrue. That would support a defense that Trump was worried about his wife finding out and may have been protecting his marriage and his reputation. This all comes down to motivation, and Cohen supplied Trump with a much stronger defense.
Cohen has been charged with bank fraud, as has former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Cohen implicated Trump in both insurance fraud and bank fraud in the inflation of damages and assets. Those, too, could be charged as crimes. In business, however, assets often are exaggerated. For example, Trump reportedly gave Deutsche Bank figures on his worth that jumped in one year by $4 billion. Yet, the list of liabilities and assets on the “summary of net worth” seems like a fairly preliminary document.
It might not constitute the type of accounting data that would trigger a fraud claim. The $4 billion is also explained as “brand value.” That might be dismissed as a tangible value for accounting purposes, but Trump clearly indicated the source of this claimed value. Inflated insurance claims can be a cut and dried criminal case if they are outside the range of valuation. However, that is a big “if” as businesses often claim the highest potential value or damage when they seek insurance coverage.
The best example of the scourge of tiny horses is the controversy over a portrait of Trump. Most of us were transfixed by the notion that Trump would rig an auction with a straw buyer to make sure that his portrait was the most expensive purchase. That is not a crime but he allegedly used money from his charity to buy the portrait, then hung the painting in one of his properties. In July 2013, Trump tweeted about his portrait being the most valuable item. The date is important, since most forms of fraud have a statute of limitations lasting five years. The statute on fraud involving financial institutions can be as long as 10 years. However, these violations are rarely prosecuted criminally anyway. In the worst cases, the charity is disbanded, which is precisely what happened to the Trump Foundation.
These are all examples of why fighting a hundred duck-sized horses is easier but can take more time. Trump will be answering questions and subpoenas on these allegations for the next two years. It is unlikely to be lethal, absent false statements or obstructions, but it is likely to exhaust him and his presidency. His mounting troubles are likely to rekindle his anger at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who will leave the Justice Department in coming weeks. It was Rosenstein who ordered the referral of the Cohen criminal case to the Southern District of New York.
At the time, I wrote that the move made more strategic than legal sense. It made little sense for Mueller to pursue Manafort on unrelated fraud and other crimes but then to send similar claims against Cohen to New York. If anything, Cohen is linked more closely to Trump, as recently shown. Yet, in doing so, Rosenstein has insured that any forced closure of the special counsel investigation would not end all investigations. In other words, if the horse-sized duck toppled in Washington, a stampede of duck-sized horses was coming from New York. Now we will see which one is worse.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.
Republican lawmakers came out swinging Tuesday in the face of damaging testimony by President Donald Trump‘s former “fixer” and former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, depicting the hearing as a circus orchestrated by Hillary Clinton’s allies and angrily accusing Democrats of withholding evidence until the last minute.
GOP leaders circulated talking points ahead of the hearing that documented in detail every time Cohen had been caught in a lie and noted that even prosecutors had at one point noted “his instinct to blame others is strong.”
They also invoked Clinton’s presence: Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, is closely tied to the former Democratic presidential candidate.
“Cohen is going to prison for lying under oath to Congress and no one should believe a word he says in his testimony this week,” according to “messaging” provided Republican members on Tuesday. “Democrats have scheduled this week’s meetings as a way to distract Americans from the historic achievements happening in this Administration.”
Trump himself helped to set the tone ahead of the hearing, noting in a tweet that Cohen was “using Crooked’s lawyer!” – an apparent reference to his nickname for Clinton during the campaign.
The tactics were aimed at blunting the impact of Cohen’s testimony, which could be deeply damaging to the president’s brand.
Cohen, who has been disbarred as a lawyer, described with remorse the threatening letters he wrote on Trump’s behalf and the bidding he did for a man he called “a racist,” “a conman,” and “a cheat.”
One Republican, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., pressed Cohen on the allegation that Trump is “racist.”
“Hey @MichaelCohen212 – Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot…” tweeted Gaetz.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows stuck to the GOP talking points focused on Cohen’s “pattern of deception.” Jordan, R-Ohio, a Trump loyalist and founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, said it was unimaginable that Democratic chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland would rely on Cohen’s testimony.
“It’s certainly is the first time a convicted perjurer has been brought back to be a star witness in a hearing,” Jordan said.
“We are supposed to pursue the truth,” he later added. “But you have stacked the deck against the truth.”
At one point, an exchange between Jordan between the Republican and Cohen grew heated, with Cohen interrupting to say Jordan misstated the facts.
“Shame on you Mr. Jordan,” Cohen said.
Another interesting tactic by Republicans was the invitation of Lynne Patton, an official at the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs, to sit behind Meadows, R-N.C., at the hearing to push back against Cohen’s allegations that Trump was racist. Patton, an early supporter of Trump’s candidacy, is known for her attention-grabbing tweets and publicity stunts, including a recent stay at federal housing in New York City to draw attention to the poor conditions there.
“I am here in support of @POTUS and in support of the truth, as Michael Cohen (knows that I know) it to be,” she tweeted at the start of the hearing, along with an old picture of her sitting with Cohen. “And the truth is that it doesn’t take you 15 years to call someone a racist. Unless they’re not one.”
She did not speak at the hearing.
Meadows also opened the hearing by demanding that any testimony is postponed until Republicans had an opportunity to review evidence he said wasn’t provided to Republicans until the last minute.
“Leadership in the absence of people who are with you is not leadership,” Biden said
MUNICH — Vice President Mike Pence and his immediate predecessor, Joe Biden, on Saturday offered competing visions of American leadership abroad, presaging major divides and campaign cudgels heading into the 2020 presidential race.
“When you hear President Trump ask our NATO allies to live up to the commitments they’ve made to our common defense, that’s what we call being leader of the free world,” Pence told the Munich Security Conference.
“Leadership in the absence of people who are with you is not leadership,” Biden said a few hours later.
Pence urged Europeans to act as a bulwark against Russia and China and warned of the espionage threat from Chinese telecom companies. Europe should scrap the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline and cease buying blacklisted Russian weapons, he said.
“We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies are dependent on the East,” Pence said.
Biden savaged the administration on its domestic policies. The separation migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border attested to a “struggle for America’s soul,” he said. And drawing a stark contrast abroad with the Trump administration, Biden praised NATO and the European Union.
“You’re never allowed to disagree with your brothers and sisters in public,” Biden said. “Today, because of, I think, a lack of leadership coming from the other side of the Atlantic, we find ourselves in a different place and it’s uncomfortable.”
Trump has frustrated European allies throughout his presidency with his hostility to a 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which they credit with defusing a regional nuclear crisis. More recently, Trump irritated European colleagues with an abrupt reversal of his administration’s Syria strategy, announcing without warning that the United States would withdraw from Syria.
Biden received a warmer welcome from the audience. And the event produced other signs of European allies’ discomfort with the Trump foreign policy approach. German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen, for instance, declared that Berlin would not be “neutral” in the great power competition between the United States and China.
“NATO is more than just a military alliance,” she said Friday through a translator. “It is a political alliance. And as a political alliance, we are faced with what is a prominent feature of the new security feature, the return of great power competition. Our American friends recognized that early on and we too understand this now.”
AIWA! NO!| Rancor and recriminations were the order of the day with allies as well as adversaries turning on each other in one of the most important gatherings of the Munich Security Conference in recent years.
Efforts were supposed to be made, at least among western countries, to find common ground on a range of issues from the Middle East after the end of the Isis caliphate to cyber warfare, Brexit, extremism and climate change.
Instead the US vice president Mike Pence attacked European states for not joining Washington in pulling out of the nuclear deal with Iran and failing to fully follow the American line on the Venezuelan crisis.
Repeatedly praising Donald Trump for his allegedly “remarkable” and “extraordinary” qualities which have made “America stronger than ever before”, enabling it to “lead on the world stage again”, Mr Pence derided Nato allies.
His speech was greeted with muted cheering, with Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner clapping enthusiastically, but a significant number of those present staying silent and some of his remarks being greeted with whispered mockery.
The criticism was not just one way.
Angela Merkel warned of the dangers in American isolationism and staunchly defended multilateral institutions under threat from US policy.
The German chancellor defended the Iran deal, condemning Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw from it, and questioned his decision to pull troops out of Syria and Afghanistan. Ms Merkel also rebuffed US demands that her government scrap a gas deal with Moscow under which a new pipeline, Nord Stream 2, being built under the Baltic, will bring Russian gas directly to Germany.
She highlighted a statement by a US official that German cars were a security threat to America, to show the attitude to trade held by some in Washington. “We are proud of our cars and so we should be … If it is viewed as a security threat to the United States then we are shocked,” said Ms Merkel, adding that many were manufactured in the US and exported to countries like China.
Warning of attacks on international organisations of the type Mr Trump is in the habit of making, Ms Merkel commented: “We cannot just smash it, we need to cooperate … Now that we see pressure on the classic order we are used to, the question now is, ‘Do we fall apart into pieces of a puzzle and think everyone can solve the question best for himself alone?’”.
It would be wiser, she said, “to put yourself in the others’ shoes … and see whether we can get win-win solutions together”.
Germany is among international powers – along with Britain, France, Russia and China – which signed the nuclear agreement with Tehran. All these countries, as well as the UN Atomic Energy Authority, stress that the deal was working in preventing Iran developing a nuclear arsenal and that Tehran was abiding by its obligations.
European countries have organised a payment mechanism under which businesses and banks would, in theory, be able to trade with Iran without incurring American sanctions. Mike Pence said: “The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal and join with us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure. The time has come for our European partners to stop undermining US sanctions against this murderous revolutionary regime.”
When Mr Pence went on to accuse Iran of sponsoring terrorism there were some whispered comments among some in the room about Gulf states, which are major purchasers of American arms, funding extremist Islamist groups. There were also sotto voce comments about the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi for which officials close to Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, an American ally close to Mr Kushner, have been blamed.
Mr Pence is part of the largest American delegation ever sent to the Munich conference. It includes senior Democrats like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi who are vocal critics of Mr Trump. Mr Biden is expected to criticise current US policy in a number of fields, including foreign policy, when he speaks at a session.
It was not surprising, in this acrimonious atmosphere, to hear the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov round on the west for a catalogue of alleged wrongdoing past and present, from the “illegal bombing of Serbia” and “organising a coup in Kiev” to the “aggressive” stance being taken by western politicians.
British defence secretary Gavin Williamson, who had attacked Russia in a speech at the conference on Friday for its role in a number of conflicts, got a special mention. “If you listen to some people like the minister of war – sorry the minister of defence – of the United Kingdom then you might get an impression that nobody except Nato has the right to be anywhere,” said Mr Lavrov.