Joint Chiefs Denounce Extremism, Racism Following Charlottesville

While Donald Trump was trying to figure out the “facts” of the violent melees leading to death and injuries in Charlottesville, his Joint Chiefs of Staff quickly assessed the events and determined that racism was the root cause of the violence. It’s unknown whether Trump consulted with his military leaders. The answer is probably a negative. Perhaps this is one reason they individually denounced those fringe elements and the hatred they evoke.

Adm. John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations

The Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson was the first to raise his voice, just hours after the vehicular murder of Heather Heyer, a counter protestor.

Richardson posted a full statement on Facebook and followed that with a tweet.

 

Richardson’s post was followed by the head of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, who echoed the intolerance for extremism.

Marine Corps General Robert Neller

Neller’s statement arrived after the Trump press conference and the revelation that the head of Vanguard America (VA) was a former Marine.

Vanguard America, an anti-Semitic white supremacist group participating in the violence at Charlottesville, is led by a fellow named Dillon Irizarry (aka Dillon Ulysses Hopper), who is a former recruiter for the Marine Corps.

Videos from Charlottesville show VA members as they chanted “Blood and Soil,” a Nazi slogan from WWII. The alleged killer of Heather Heyer is also seen associating with VA members and in their uniform.

 

Gen. Mark Milley, US Army

On Wednesday, the head of the Army, Gen. Mark Milley, tweeted a zero tolerance statement condemning “racism, extremism or hatred” among soldiers. His comments came after Trump’s Tuesday press conference during which the president blurred the responsibility and the morality of the KKK, Neo-nazis and white supremacists with those protesting these groups.

Milley’s remarks are especially pointed since the alleged killer of Heyer, James Fields, served in the Army briefly before failing basic training.

 

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein joined his fellow military leaders with a cheer for inclusivity among the Airmen, and interestingly chose Hillary Clinton’s “stronger together” meme to propel his message.

 

The chief of the National Guard, Gen. Joseph Lengyel, was the fifth and final member of the Joint Chiefs to reiterate the military’s intolerance for extremist bigotry.

 

The collective statements by the leaders of the American military is in stark contrast to the waffling by the president, who described neo-Nazis and other extremists as “very fine” people and then doubled down with a series of tweets decrying the removal of Confederate statues.

They should also signal a coordinated effort to weed out extremists among those who serve. That effort may have started with “Jack” Posobiec, a fervent Trump supporter and Navy reservist who has proliferated right wing conspiracy theories. Posobiec gained recent attention when Trump retweeted him. One report today claims that Posobiec’s security clearance has been suspended.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have brought a clear, disciplined and united front in decrying extremism, a clarity that is lacking from the president. Americans ought to be grateful for their principled presence and voice. On the other hand, we should be horrified that they are required to step into the political void vacated by the commander-in-chief and his GOP Congress.

The Russian-Trump Laundromat

Video excerpt of Brian Williams’ interview with Craig Unger, from his article in the New Republic, “Trump’s Russian Laundromat,” published 13 July 2017.

Unger’s research revealed Russian oligarchs and mafia clamoring to buy Trump properties in New York and Florida with many under FBI investigation for illegal gambling rings, prostitution and money laundering.

The “tower full of oligarchs,” as Bloomberg called it, became a model for Trump’s projects going forward. All he needed to do, it seemed, was slap the Trump name on a big building, and high-dollar customers from Russia and the former Soviet republics were guaranteed to come rushing in. Dolly Lenz, a New York real estate broker, told USA Today that she sold some 65 units in Trump World Tower to Russians.

The impetus to buy anything with the Trump name on it dates back three decades, says Unger. Dirty cash from Russian crime syndicates along with the largesse of Russian real estate developers brought Trump out of financial ruin to host The Apprentice, gain traction as a business success and launch his presidential bid.

Whether Trump knew it or not, Russian mobsters and corrupt oligarchs used his properties not only to launder vast sums of money from extortion, drugs, gambling, and racketeering, but even as a base of operations for their criminal activities. In the process, they propped up Trump’s business and enabled him to reinvent his image. Without the Russian mafia, it is fair to say, Donald Trump would not be president of the United States.

DOUBLE WHAMMY: Mueller’s Grand Jury Coincides With Senate Requests for Info

The Special Counsel’s grand jury matches the timing of requests from two Senate committees, making this a double whammy for the beleaguered Trump administration.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller convened a grand jury in Washington D.C. recently. The Wall Street Journal broke the revelation on 3 August, quickly followed with more details from the NY Times and  The Washington Post. The actual date of the grand jury is not specific other than a reference to “a few weeks ago.”

Lost in the newest headlines is a similar probe by two US Senate committees sent on 19 July, which would coincide with the time frame of Robert Mueller’s grand jury.

The Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees requested detailed material from Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner in pursuit of their investigation into alleged Russian interference and possible collusion by the Trump campaign. The correspondence to the trio asks for “all communications to, from or copied” from dozens of names.

Judging from the listed names, many Russian, the Senate investigation is focused on the June 2016 meeting with the Trump trio, a Russian lawyer and at least four others.

The Times noted that Mueller was “investigating a June 9, 2016, meeting set up by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, based on the expectation of getting damaging information about Hillary Clinton from a Russian lawyer.”

The timing of the Senate’s requests and Mueller’s grand jury appear to be reinforcing measures. The grand jury has issued subpoenas, which are legally binding requests for information. The Senate’s parallel actions are “requests” and are not binding. However, according to all reports, the substance of both inquiries at the very least includes the 16 June meeting.

The Trump team now faces a two-pronged assault from two different sources: the US Senate and the Special Counsel.

You can almost hear the screws tightening.


The Trump-GOP Divorce Is Nearly Final

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Mitch McConnell choked back tears after his last ACA repeal failed. It’s hard to know whether he mourned the defeat of his effort to delete Obama’s legacy or if he foresaw the coming divorce between his GOP and the White House.

Trump shrugged away the loss and replaced it with a crass announcement. After unleashing Scaramucci the Vulgar on the White House chief of staff with a debasing show of public humiliation, Trump tossed the remains of Reince Priebus to the street and replaced him with a general, who in turn dumped the Mooch.

The swift change of guard all but completes the expulsion of Republican Party agents from the current administration. HHS Secretary Tom Price, formerly a legislator from Georgia and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former GOP senator, are the only holdouts.

Thus far, Sessions has spurned the barrage of Trump invective, aided by party allies like Lindsey Graham, who promised “holy hell” if Trump dare to fire Sessions.

Graham’s warning is coupled with others who predict dire consequences should Trump fire the AG and tick off the conservative wing of the party.

T Price
HHS Secretary Tom Price

Meanwhile, Price may come under the president’s crosshairs for his flaccid defense of Trump and his threats to let the ACA “implode.” When pressed a day ago, Price refused to say his agency would remove cost-sharing payments to insurance companies. He also would not directly say if he’d get rid of the individual mandate or subsidies. He talked fast and invoked the President and his “passions” repeatedly. But when the interview concluded, he had not made a commitment to abide by any of Trump’s pledges to destroy the ACA.

If Price and Sessions get the boot, then the divorce will be final. Call it incompatibility. Cite the abusive nature of the union, the failure to compromise. One thing’s for sure – the political fallout from such a separation will be incalculable. Tearing the GOP label from his coattails will leave Trump without a legislative alliance. Upcoming legislation will no longer be fashioned to meet the president’s agenda. And that’s just the beginning of the shock wave.

Here’s the rub: the guy in the White House doesn’t seem to care. In fact, Trump is surrounding himself with non-governmental sycophants, questionable characters, media hucksters and family – people whose allegiances are not to party or principle but to one person: Donald Trump.

As this divorce is in process, a couple of things need to be kept in mind.

  1. Cutting the Republican cord could encourage bipartisan work among legislators, now released from the obligation to honor “their” president’s wishes. A bipartisan effort to mend the ACA is already in the works.  The next budget might actually be good for America, and not a slush fund for that “beautiful wall.”
  2. Republican resistance to investigations of the president would likely disappear. There may be a perfunctory shout-out now and then. But when the chief executive abandons his party, then the GOP would be emboldened to return the favor. And this leads to my next point.
  3. Reince Priebus is Paul Ryan’s buddy. As I noted back in March, as House Speaker, Ryan wields some scary power over a chief executive. He appoints the chair of the Judiciary committee from which emanate articles of impeachment. Republicans may realize that removing Trump is the only way to save their party.

All in all, a divorce would be a very bad move for Trump. But he doesn’t have the politically savvy, GOP-faithful advisors to tell him this – and he wouldn’t listen anyway.