Donald Trump of Mar-a-Lago

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From the moment in 1985 when Donald Trump decided to make Mar-a-Lago his personal castle, he has shattered the Palm Beach, Florida old-money conventions with the same thin-skinned, sue-you-in-a-heartbeat, self-congratulatory ethos which has made him such a mesmerizing character akin to a derailed train you want to ignore but can’t look away. As we’ve learned since 2015, you can’t write too much about Trump since he’s a narcissistic sociopath with no moral scruples and way more scandals than Henry VIII. Whether you like him or hate him, you can’t write too much about Trump since he’s an inexhaustible source of good stories.

The last of Palm Beach’s estates to stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Intracoastal Waterway, Mar-a-Lago was a single-family of grand design. This Mediterranean-Revival style mansion had 118 rooms, including 58 bedrooms, 33 bathrooms, 35 dining rooms, a ballroom, a theater, a 6 car garage, a 9-hole golf course, 3 bomb shelters, and a 75ft tower you could see for miles. Built in 1927 for cereal heiress and richest woman in America at the time, Marjorie Merriwether Post, she willed it to the federal government for use as a winter White House for American presidents after her death in 1973. Though the home became a National Historic Landmark, presidents didn’t use it while the federal government became sick of paying $1 million a year to maintain it. So the federal government gave the estate back to the Post Foundation who put up for sale for $20 million.

At the time, Donald Trump was a hotshot 39-year-old real estate developer who had opened his 58-story signature Trump Tower skyscraper in Manhattan. Eager to get the Florida mansion off their hands, the Post Foundation agreed to a bargain $10 million sale- $7 million for the property and $3 million for the furnishings and in a contract requiring Trump to only put down $2,812 of his own money. A Palm Beach County property appraiser later wrote in a court brief that anyone buying a “rabbit warren condo” in a lower-middle class neighborhood would’ve had to put more money down than Trump did. Nonetheless, Trump listed his purchase of Mar-a-Lago as an example of his deal-making prowess writing in The Art of the Deal, “I’ve been told the furnishings in Mar-a-Lago alone are worth more than I paid for the house.” Mar-a-Lago was “as close to paradise as I’m going to get.” Palm Beach County agreed by assessing Mar-a-Lago’s property at $11.5 million, which was 64% than he paid for it. This left Trump in a tough position of politically bragging about getting his spare mansion in Palm Beach for a bargain, while privately arguing in court filings he should get a tax deduction. He testified, “I paid the highest price for a piece of land that’s costing $2 or $2 ½ million a year to maintain. Maybe the tax assessment will force us to develop the land, which I’m sure won’t make the town very happy.” Except he didn’t. Furthermore, a 1988 Associated Press article depicts how Trump fought against a $200,000 property tax bill, which he claimed should’ve been half. Nonetheless, back in the 1980s, this was the kind of brash talk Palm Beach’s old-money aristocrats feared from Trump. Since he wasn’t the sort of genteel patrician Palm Beach’s Social-Index Directory favored. In fact, some regarded him as a gated community barbarian as well as a hustler too eager to impress. While his threat of chopping up Mar-a-Lago was an open of some rough relations on the horizon.

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While Donald Trump was trying to acquire Mar-a-Lago, he launched another real estate venture called Trump Plaza of the Palm Beaches. However, he ended up selling about 100 out of 221 condo units as well as borrowed $60 million which he couldn’t pay back. In the end, Trump lost his financial stake in the project and the bank took over.

While his Mar-a-Lago investment was in doubt, Donald Trump launched another local real estate venture across the Intracoastal Waterway in West Palm Beach. The property was an ailing 33-story, twin tower complex that a Palm Beach developer had lost in foreclosure. In 1986, Trump bought it for $40 million cash which was $3.2 million less than what the Bank of New York paid to reclaim the property at a public foreclosure auction. And like Mar-a-Lago, it was becoming a deal he couldn’t afford. Trump then renamed the West Palm Beach condo project after himself while spending millions to spruce up the Trump of the Palm Beaches’ public areas and advertise the sale of its luxury condos in Northeastern newspapers. Trump said at the time, “This is not a very large deal for me, but it’s a quality deal. We expect a lot of people in Palm Beach to be buying apartments for family, et cetera.” But after 4 years of heavy promoting, he only managed to sell 100 of the 221 units, which was less than half. In addition, Trump borrowed $60 million from the Marine Midland Bank of New York to pay for the project, which he couldn’t pay back. In 1991, 2 months before filing for corporate bankruptcy on his Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, Trump turned over the Trump Plaza of the Palm Beaches to Marine Midland Bank of New York for his $14 million personal guarantee on the loan. The bank unloaded the unsold units in a fire-sale auction accepting bids of $75,000 for units previously priced as high as $470,000. Yet, because he can’t admit to personal failure, Trump took a victory lap saying, “It’s great for me because I get off a guarantee. Only because of the success of the development could I have done that.”

However, Donald Trump was still trying to find a way to salvage his Mar-a-Lago deal. So he didn’t want to give his Palm Beach neighbors the notion he was really drowning in debt. So after the bank sold off units from Trump Plaza of the Palm Beaches, Trump took out a full-page ad in The Palm Beach Daily News, which read: “This is an advertisement to explain the great success of a development, Trump Plaza of the Palm Beaches, which many people, until recently, had not been fully aware. When I look at Trump Plaza from Mar-a-Lago, I am proud that even in the horrendous real estate market of the early 1990s, I was able to rescue this previously troubled and unsold development, add management, construction expertise and the name Trump … and make it into one of Florida’s greatest success stories.” It didn’t mention that he completely lost his financial stake in the condos or how the project actually achieved full occupancy. So basically, Trump took an ad bragging about his “success” of his Palm Beach condo project, which was actually a total failure that he lost to the bank. Nor did that “success” change the fact that Trump still couldn’t afford Mar-a-Lago as a single-family home. And nobody was coming along to relieve him from the deal on “paradise” he had made.

Donald Trump’s proposed solution was to chop his National Historic Landmark into something he called the Mansions of Mar-a-Lago. This was a development that would put a public road running through the middle of the estate, leading to the 10 mini-mansions he’d build on the property, including one on the front lawn. But the Palm Beach Town Council shot down all of Trump’s proposed changes to the property, even when he reduced his mini-mansion plans from 10 to 7. Instead, they encouraged Trump to find a buyer if he couldn’t afford to keep the estate intact. After all, New York packaging magnate, Nelson Peltz had spent $21 million to buy Palm Beach oceanfront estate Montsorrel, 2 years after Trump bought Mar-a-Lago. So the town council advised Trump to just buy another Nelson Peltz to take the estate off his hands. However, as we all know, Donald Trump didn’t act on the Palm Beach council’s advice. In fact, when the town government refused to bend to his demands, he sued. The lawsuit against the Town of Palm Beach would eventually cause his neighbors to lawyer up against him. One of these lawyers told The Palm Beach Post at the time, “There are rules around here, and those rules apply to everyone, whether or not you have a famous name.”

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When Donald Trump’s Mansions of Mar-a-Lago plan fell through, he decided to turn it into a private club it is today. Naturally, the Palm Beach Town Council took him on it since it was an all around win-win situation.

After Palm Beach rejected his Mansions of Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump found another way to salvage his stake in his property. He offered to drop his lawsuit if council members allowed him to convert his estate into a new private club on the island. Since so much of Palm Beach social life was dictated by club memberships, this was a tempting offer. This was especially since there hadn’t been a new club on the island for a quarter century. In the deal, the town would get to have Mar-a-Lago remain in appearance it was in the Merriwether Post days. While Trump could unburden himself of its expenses by selling off memberships while maintaining his property ownership. Membership would be capped at 500, not including spouses and children. The initiation fee would be $50,000 with $3,000 annual dues (fee is now $200,000 with $14,000 in annual dues and charges $2,000 for meals). Members would get to dine, swim in the pool, and attend private parties and special events with world-class singers, lecturers, and entertainers. The town eventually approved the club.

But many Palm Beachers were still reluctant to trust Donald Trump. Socialite Tamara Newell said at the time, “A lot of people like to think Palm Beach is a little more genteel and old money. This is a new-money idea at an old-money location.” And approval of the club only gave them more reasons to peck at him. Now a lot of these disputes in the 2016 Politico article I read about his war with Palm Beach consist of a lot stupid shit like wedding fireworks, attendance limits to an Elton John AIDS concert, or changing the coat of arms to put Trump as an advertising ploy. While Trump is known for being notoriously petty, Palm Beach is filled with petty rich people and a town government that once banned shirtless joggers for tackiness and scented its sewer water with lilac and honeysuckle fragrances. Such petty disputes between Trump and the rich set of Palm Beach don’t seem to interest me much. Mostly because I care more about Trump deliberately screwing people out of their money or using intimidation tactics to get his way.

Yet, there is a telling incident in the 2016 Politico article on Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago that’s very telling, especially on his insatiable appetite for self-promotion and the media’s role should be. In the first January after his divorce from his first wife Ivana was final, Trump’s publicist called all the local TV news and newspaper outlets in Palm Beach County to say that Trump was about to hold the party of all parties for that Winter’s Palm Beach social season. The publicist explained that one reporter from each news outlet would be allowed to attend this party-of-the-year to mingle with a guest list of invited celebrities such as Tom Selleck, Slyvester Stallone, and football star Herschel Walker. Frank Cerabino was on the guest list to cover the event for the Palm Beach Post. But it turned out his role at the party was far more complex than he imagined. Writing for Political in 2016, he recalled, “As the real guests arrived, which included busloads of fashion models from Miami, I was part of a local media contingent who wasn’t allowed to actually come into the party, but instead would form a visual tableau of over-eager reporters playing the role of gate crashers to those who would see us as their cars drove up to the portico of the mansion.” He continued, “Trump left us standing in his driveway in a little cluster. We were unaware, at first, of our role. But he couldn’t help coming over to wring out every last drop of publicity for the night.” In other words, Cerabino and the local reporters were at Mar-a-Lago to make him and his party look good as props. Going out of his way to show that he was winning divorce (like you can even do that), Trump invited a national TV reporter Judd Rose and his crew from ABC’s Prime Time Live show, into his home as guests for the weekend. Rose and his crew eventually filmed the money shot of the invitees, but shunned the local reporters yelling across the driveway to Trump to let them in. While Trump made a shooting gesture as if to wave them off and later described the reporters in the driveway as those who invited themselves to the party. Over the years, Cerabino has learned that Trump admires or despises journalists based on how useful they are to him while his sense of humor doesn’t include anything directed to him.

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One of the biggest Donald Trump disputes of legend at Mar-a-Lago was when he put up an oversized American flag on a tall pole at the resort. This incident would later be lampooned on The Colbert Report.

In 2006, without getting a permit and variance, Donald Trump put up an 80ft tall flag pole with a 15 x 25ft flag flying from it on his Mar-a-Lago resort. Since Palm Beach restricts residents flying flags no bigger than 4 x 6ft and on pole no higher than 42ft, he knew he was plainly inviting a lawsuit by out-flagging his neighbors. Taking the bait, the town council cited the oversized pole and flag as town code violations and fined Trump $250 for every day the display remained on his estate. In retaliation, Trump responded, “The town council of Palm Beach should be ashamed of itself. He went on Nancy Grace’s TV show to complain about Palm Beach’s lack of patriotism. Then, ignoring the town’s violations, which grew into a $120,000 fine and counting as of 2016, he filed a lawsuit against Palm Beach for $25 million in damages to what he called an abridgement to his constitutional right of free speech. Trump eventually dropped his flag lawsuit white town waived its fines. As terms of a court-ordered mediation, he’d file a permit and be allowed to keep an oversized pole on Mar-a-Lago that was 10ft shorter and on a different lawn spot. He was also called to donate $100,000 to veterans’ charities.

Tucked into Donald Trump’s patriotic posturing was a completely unrelated legal but more important matter: a complaint about the town code requiring large commercial enterprises to be “town serving.” Under this ordinance, Palm Beach requires proof from local businesses that local residents contribute at least 50% of their business to them. For instance, when Neiman Marcus opened in Palm Beach, the town allowed it as long as it only advertised in the local newspaper, and not in publications to shoppers not living on the island. For Trump, eliminating the “town serving” requirement would mean he could offer more memberships to his Mar-a-Lago social club to people with no Palm Beach connections, making it easier for him to keep his club full. Creating a distraction on the flag issue to pursue some other angle is a classic Trump move. Though he has yet to get this particular exemption waived, Palm Beach knows that Trump’s lawsuits never get settled, they just become dormant. While one of his Palm Beach lawyers told Politico in 2016, that the “town serving” issue is still unresolved and ripe for more litigation.

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Also in West Palm Beach is the Trump International Golf Club. Donald Trump got this made out of a dispute with the county airport. Though he wanted the jail moved, which he obviously didn’t get.

While playing defense against Palm Beach’s constant attempts to rein him in, Donald Trump went on the attack against the county and its airport. Airlines routinely used a flight path in and out of Palm Beach International Airport in nearby West Palm Beach that brought the planes directly over Mar-a-Lago. This didn’t sit well with Trump, arguing that the noise and fumes were ruining his investment, and that the decent thing for the county to do was to move the airport farther west. Actually Trump had been arguing that for years, to no avail. Acting like a spoiled brat not getting his own way, he called airport director, Bruce Pelly, among other things, a “moron” and “the worst airport director in the country.” It turned out to be a useful gripe for Trump, which he could turn into a new business opportunity. For just south of the airport was a 214 acres of vacant scrub land owned by Palm Beach County, which he wanted. So like any rich spoiled adult, he sued the county for over $75 million over the airport noise. Only to negotiate to drop that lawsuit in exchange for the county giving him a 75-year lease on the nearby property for $438,000 a year. That land became the Trump International Golf Club, a $40 million, 18-hole, Jim Fazio-designed course that imported nearly 2 million cubic yards of dirt to transform the flat scrub into hilly terrain with waterfalls, rock formations, a clubhouse 4 stories above sea level. While planning to open the course with initiation fees starting at $100,000, Trump wanted the county to do one more thing for him: move the jail. Because no matter how much landscaping he brought to the course, there was no way disguising the 12-story Palm Beach County Jail towering over the course’s north side and was visible from some of the holes. So as he had done with the airport, Trump asked the county to move the jail. Naturally, they refused, while the sheriff found the idea amusing.

Yet, Donald Trump’s war with the Palm Beach International Airport hasn’t quelled. When the airport considered expanding by adding another runway, Trump threatened another lawsuit. Though the expansion never came, Trump sued the airport again in 2016 for $100 million from county taxpayers for the sooty residue left by planes flying over Mar-a-Lago. Still, perhaps his actions aren’t about the airport, which he’s using for leverage to get what he wants but can’t have at the moment. Because Trump is always at war and woe to those who stand in his way.

Over the years, Palm Beach has gradually come to accept Donald Trump’s outsized personality along with his private club as more of an asset than a potential source of trouble. Mar-a-Lago has hosted many glittering social events, charity balls, and political fundraisers. As a concert hall, it has housed Palm Beach Opera shows and performances from top-notch entertainers like Celine Dion and Tony Bennett. As town officials moved on, their successors gradually loosened their tight reins on the club, easing the restriction on the numbers of outdoor beach barbecues it would allow, permitting the construction of an outdoor pavilion, and allowing the club to build a 14,000 sq. ft. kitchen on the grounds so waiters don’t have to use golf carts for hauling food inside and outside the mansion. Trump has also figured how to pay less taxes on Mar-a-Lago. By giving up development rights on the land to the National Historic Trust for Historic Preservation, it eliminated the county property appraiser’s ability to tax the place on the “highest and best use” standard that contemplated the estate can be still chopped up into lots and sold off. Yet, while Trump has become a Palm Beach fixture, it would be wrong to say he’s mellowed for he never does.

But that doesn’t mean Donald Trump’s presence hasn’t disrupted Palm Beach life in recent years. In fact, since his election to the presidency, his stays at Mar-a-Lago have raised issues not seen since he was a private citizen. Since they involve security and the impact his visits have on people and businesses in Palm Beach. Nowadays, whenever Trump resides in the Palm Beach region, the area becomes a zone of temporary flight restrictions affecting flights and other air operations within a 30 nautical mile radius. Coast Guard and Secret Service secure the 2 waterway approaches, ocean and lake. While the Secret Service cordons off streets to Mar-a-Lago. At Latana’s Palm Beach County Park Airport, the situation is dire. Whenever Trump is at Mar-a-Lago, Federal Aviation Administration restrictions ban all flights out of that airport, which is one of the busiest of its size in the country. It doesn’t help that the airport receives most of its business on weekends and holidays, particularly during the winter at peak snowbird season, when Trump would most likely be there. For instance, by the third weekend of February 2017, the Palm Beach County Park Airport had been shut down for 3 consecutive weekends, accumulating significant financial losses for multiple businesses. So to put it this way, as president, Trump’s visits to Mar-a-Lago during the winter have basically costs Palm Beach County millions of dollars in lost revenue from tourism. The county is also worried about the police overtime it’s racking up, which could be $60,000 a day.

While Donald Trump may give plenty of things for Palm Beach locals to talk about, there are other aspects we should discuss. First, since Trump became president, his visits have cost taxpayers millions of dollars for federal security detail, which has gone to the Trump Organization’s coffers. But it’s very clear that he’s making money off his presidency. Nonetheless, Mar-a-Lago club members enjoy the fact having Trump president gives them personal access to political power during his visits. In fact, since his inauguration, guests have been flocking to Mar-a-Lago to catch a glimpse of him. But the fact access to a president can be bought for thousands of dollars at his private club should worry every American. And it should make it alarmingly clear that Trump is a man of and for the 1%. Already, ProPublica claimed that a trio of ultrawealthy Mar-a-Lago members are effectively running the Department of Veterans Affairs in influencing policy and making personnel decisions. In fact, a veterans’ group has sued the VA over it.

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Here is Donald Trump with Melania and Barron posed with Mar-a-Lago’s employees. Most of them have HB-1 visas despite that Palm Beach locals were perfectly willing to do those jobs.

Second, despite Donald Trump’s self-promotion as a “champion” for US workers (which he isn’t), Mar-a-Lago has consistently hired a predominantly foreign workforce. He claims the local workforce is unwilling to do the work and that his foreign employees are best suited for the jobs. Except that’s not true. In 2016, The New York Times reported that over 200 locals had applied to work as cooks, waiters, and housekeepers since 2010. Only 17 of them were ever hired. Also, as with many Trump enterprises, there are plenty of wage theft complaints from contractors and employees. Given that foreign workers are easier to exploit since they can be threatened with deportation if they don’t toe the line, perhaps that’s why Trump prefers to employ them over locals.

Furthermore, The Palm Beach Post reported that Trump scored visas to hire 70 foreign workers at Mar-a-Lago for the 2017-18 tourist season. Third, in January 2017, Mar-a-Lago’s kitchens were hit with 13 health and safety violations, including 3 that were called “high priority.” Inspectors claimed that meat wasn’t properly refrigerated and could be unsafe for consumption, undercooked or raw fish that hadn’t undergone proper parasite destruction, and not maintaining coolers in proper working order. Another inspection in November resulted in 15 more health citations, according to the Miami Herald. In January 2018, Mar-a-Lago was cited for maintenance violations which could’ve posed a threat to public health, safety, and welfare like broken staircases, improper food storage, and inadequate smoke detectors.

Then there’s Mar-a-Lago’s security and cybersecurity woes. In recent years, Gizmodo reported that hackers found 3 of its networks as so weak that they could’ve breached the systems within 5 minutes. The 3 hackers behind the article claim they made the discovery using a 2ft wireless antenna from on board a 17ft motor boat parked offshore. Though Donald Trump’s company has expressed confidence in its cybersecurity as spokeswoman Amanda Miller told Gizmodo, “Our teams work diligently to deploy best in class firewall and anti-vulnerability platforms with constant 24/7 monitoring.”

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In April 2017, we have Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe receiving news of North Korea launching a nuclear missile in Japan’s direction. Note the classified information being shown in the cell phone screen.

Speaking of security breaches, Donald Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago afford an unprecedented opportunity for eavesdropping and building dossiers on his routines and habits along with those in his inner circle around him. Add that with each repeated visit, the security risk escalates. As former Obama official David Kris told TIME, “The president is the biggest, richest intelligence target in the world, and there is almost no limit to the energy and money an adversary will spend to get at him.” According to former Secret Service agents, the security setup at Mar-a-Lago and Trump’s other private clubs presents challenges to the agency wasn’t built to deal with. Since the Secret Service’s main job is to protect the president from physical threats and monitoring for wiretaps and other listening devices. Not from the kinds of counterespionage challenges presented by the president’s choice to eat, sleep, and work at a club accessible to anyone who can get a member to invite them in. White House visitors must go through a rigorous background screening before they’re let in the door. Agents scan every visitor’s full name, birth date, Social Security number, city of residence, and country of birth. Gaining entry at Mar-a-Lago doesn’t require that degree of disclosure. Sure guests entering the club have to pass multiple security checkpoints staffed by Secret Service agents looking for weapons or other immediate threats. But there’s only one requirement to produce a photo ID, while the club doesn’t ask guests to provide their names or other information as they enter through the main wrought-iron gated door. At public events, attendees are only asked to provide their name. Since has Trump has become president, the lax security measures can make Mar-a-Lago a free-for-all for spies.

Hell, spies don’t even need to go to Mar-a-Lago to do their work. In early 2017, lists of the club’s nearly 500 exclusive dues-paying members were leaked to the news media, giving foreign intelligence names of potential targets for surveillance, bribes, or blackmail that could help them get closer to Donald Trump. In addition, a page on Mar-a-Lago’s website (which is accessible to the public with just a little search engine sleuthing), reveals the names, work email addresses, and phone numbers for more than a dozen critical club employees, including the managing director, the housekeeping director, the official in charge of food and beverage services, and the chief of security. All would be obvious targets for operatives trying to get information on Trump or others in his entourage.

Mar-a-Lago may be a winter White House for Donald Trump. But since his inauguration, it has become another political arena where one with wads of cash can have access to political power. Indeed, plenty of these guests are rich people from old money. Though others can be politicians, foreign dignitaries, and corporate heads wanting something in exchange for their service. This can be donations, but it can also be policy that could affect our lives and not for the better. Yet, it’s another arena that can be prone to spy infiltration from eavesdroppers listening into conversations which can compromise our national security. Since it’s already happened in 2017. Nonetheless, we must be wary when Trump goes there since his visits are marketing events and he’s used his trips to make money off the presidency, which is a very clear conflict of interest.

 

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Tragedy at Tree of Life

At 10:00 am on Saturday, October 27, 2018, a gunman opened fire during a shabbat service at Squirrel Hill’s Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After several people barricaded inside the building and called the authorities, the shooter fired at police officers upon their arrival after he was detained in 2 confrontations. 11 people are now dead while 6 others were injured, including 4 police officers. Identified as 46-year-old Robert Bowers who carried an assault rifle and 3 semi-automatic handguns, he is now in custody and could be charged with a hate crime as soon as possible. Pittsburgh’s top FBI official said, “this is the most horrific crime scene I’ve seen in 22 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” So far, the authorities haven’t yet confirmed any information on the perpetrator’s motive. Since initial eyewitness accounts can turn out to be wrong as the investigation unfolds. Though KDKA has reported that eyewitnesses heard the shooter shout, “All Jews must die” before firing during the morning shabbat service. Still, the shooting may have been the deadliest attack on Jewish people on American soil.

According to preliminary reports, Robert Bowers was an avowed anti-Semite with a number of posts on the far-right social networking site Gab. There, he blamed Jews for among other things, mass migration and climate change. Posts that appeared authored by Bowers include one written about an hour before the shooting stating, “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I’m going in.”

The Tree of Life shooting comes amid a steady increase in anti-Semitic incidents and hate crimes since the 2016 campaign and Donald Trump’s inauguration. And it represents a further intensification of the resurgence of toxic and at times, violent Anti-Semitism during this time. According to the FBI, in 2016, hate crimes had increased 5% since 2015, and 10% since 2014. And out of the 1,273 hate crimes for which FBI found religious hatred as a motivation which is 20% of the total, half were against Jews. In the last year for which complete data was available, the Anti-Defamation League found there have been 1,986 reported incidents in the United States that year, including acts of vandalism and physical violence. That figure was a 57% increase from 2016, which itself has seen a 35% uptick from 2015. The 2016-17 surge was the highest increase on-record since the ADL began reporting on them in 1979. As the 2016 presidential campaign reached fever pitch, over 800 journalists received a staggering 19,000 anti-Semitic messages on Twitter. During events like the 2017 Unite the Right in Charlottesville, Virginia, right-wing extremists openly recited Nazi slogans and carried Nazi paraphernalia.

Incendiary rhetoric has remained intense throughout 2018. Verbal attacks against liberal Jewish philanthropist George Soros whose political activities have become subject to far-right conspiracy theories, have reached fever pitch. In fact, just this month Donald Trump publicly blamed Soros for funding the activist opposition to now-Supreme Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination who’s been accused of multiple sexual assault allegations. More recently, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and Campbell’s Soup executive vice president Kelly Johnson blamed Soros for financially supporting the Honduran migrant caravan making its way to the US border, accusing him of being in control of migrants and refugees. Soros was among the recipients of a series of mailed pipe bombs sent to prominent left-wing media outlets and politicians, including the Clintons and the Obamas.

Now I don’t know much about George Soros except he’s a rich old Jewish liberal with lots of money. However, tune into Fox News, and you’ll find plenty of right-wing conspiracy theorists claim that he’s the devil incarnate or the head of the Illuminati or New World Order. Yet, despite that I know full well he can’t be as nearly as terrible as conservative nutjobs make him out to be, rhetoric against Soros reflects a wider trend in anti-Semitic discourse: a conspiracy theory of imagined “globalists” secretly pulling the puppet-strings of the capitalist world order that’s been a populist rhetorical mainstay since at least the European not-so-Enlightenment in the 18th century. According to the Washington Post, Soros’ “name has become a synonym for a well-worn anti-Semitic canard: the idea that Jews are malevolent fomenters of social dissent, agitators slyly funding and masterminding protest, seeking to undermine a white, Christian social order.” Should the Tree of Life’s shooter’s anti-Semitic motivations be confirmed, it would be the culmination of a week of extraordinary right-wing violence.

Tree of Life’s neighborhood of Squirrel Hill is usually considered Pittsburgh’s de facto Jewish community center. While the Tree of Life synagogue represents a powerful symbol of Jewish life. And the recent shooting reflects another disturbing trend such as the degree to which places of worship have been targets for acts of possible domestic terrorism. From synagogues to Christian churches and Sikh temples, these places have increasingly become targets for extremist violence within the last decade. Many of these have been explicitly white supremacist or right-wing in nature, targeting perceived liberals, ethnic minorities, or women. In each case, these attacks have been designed to maximize emotional effect. Since they’re community hubs designed for children, adults, and the elderly. By targeting a house of worship, the attacker commits a powerful symbolic transgression of profaning a sacred and communal space. Attacking a place of worship isn’t just an attack on worshippers but attack on the community itself. Examples include:

2008: Jim David Adkisson opened fire at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee during a community theater production of Annie. He killed 2 and wounded 7 others. Citing Unitarian progressive policies, Adkisson later told police he did so because he believed the Democrats were “ruining” the United States and that all liberals should be killed. He pled guilty and is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

2012: An avowed white supremacists and Army veteran Wade Michael Page attack a gurdwaras or Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. He killed 6 people and wounded 4 more before killing himself. A longtime member of the white power music scene, Page had been on federal investigators’ radar for years before committing this deadly act.

2015: White supremacist Dylann Roof murdered 9 members of the congregation along with the senior pastor at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof had written frequently and publicly about his desire to kill non-whites as he wrote in his prison journal, “I would like to make it crystal clear, I do not regret what I did. I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed.” Since his 2017 conviction, Roof is currently on death row.

2017: Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire at First Baptist Church at Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 in the deadliest church shooting in American history. Unlike the other perpetrators, Kelley didn’t have clearly defined political views or a specific agenda. But he did have a history of domestic violence which included fracturing his infant stepson’s skull in 2012. While the shooting precipitated by conflict with his mother-in-law who attended First Baptist. Kelley was killed during the attack.

Anyway, the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue is another indication that we must acknowledge that homegrown, right-wing, domestic terrorism is huge problem in the United States. While the 2008 election of Barack Obama as well as 2007 and 2008 economic collapses have created fertile ground for hateful, right-wing extremism. Despite the outrage of the conservative news crowd over the prophetic 2009 Department of Homeland Security report, we’ve had extremists occupy federal land in Oregon, pipe bombs mailed to Democratic Party leaders, and commit mass shootings targeting minority groups. Sure Fox News will coddle their old white conservative viewers by assuring that they’re okay and that everything is fine with white conservative America as long as certain outgroups don’t get their way. Despite that the Republican Party has sold their souls to Donald Trump. While Trump continues to pander to right-wing extremists and white supremacists as well as inspire and incite violence at his rallies and tweets. And yet, when it comes to properly labeling domestic terrorism as terrorism, the right-wing conspiracy theory mad cable news network is hardly outside the mainstream. Since all 24-hour news are reluctant rattle the status quo cages too much. Since a cable news network needs you to keep watching and will make sure to keep you glued to your TV by not suggesting that the US is rife with right-wing extremist terror. Despite the fact it totally is. Why? For one, they don’t want to alienate conservative viewers who might meet such notions with an all-consuming outrage. At the same time, they don’t want to stir liberal viewers in to activism that goes far beyond watching TV. And in our current American landscape, TV news is king. There are certainly good-faith arguments against label this kind of violence terrorism which mostly have to do with waiting for the FBI to issue that label, or the fact that terrorism definitions usually involve some organized, radicalized sect than lone wolf operators inspired by YouTube, Fox News, or Trump.

However, homegrown, right-wing domestic terrorism isn’t going away any time soon. Donald Trump keeps using incendiary rhetoric encouraging violence against vulnerable people. Though he’d strongly condemn the Pittsburgh attack and anti-Semitism, Trump has failed to do so at other key points in his presidency, particularly the racist violence in Charlottesville last year. Besides, for week, Trump has been stocking fears about the migrant caravan, because his appeal to his supporters is based on fear of immigrants and racial minorities. And because he doesn’t take responsibility for anything, Trump blames the media for fueling political divisions and hate in America and for unfairly casting him as a contributor to the current situation. Despite that Trump has made extremist right-wing views more acceptable in the Republican Party. As long as Republicans keep backing Trump up and refuse to acknowledge the clear and present danger of right-wing extremism within the US, domestic terror incidents will only increase and intensify, especially since they won’t support gun control.

Which brings me to another point. If we want to prevent mass shootings and acts of terror in the United States, then we need to enact strict gun restrictions. Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf has enacted a measure to keep firearms out of the hands of known domestic abusers. After all, mass shooters usually had a history of domestic abuse so it’s a step in the right direction. But state and local gun restrictions can only go so far. After all, while Chicago may have strict gun laws, its rate of gun violence is high. Mostly because many of the guns used to commit crimes are coming from outside its borders. So federal action is sorely needed. For if we don’t enact sensible gun laws to keep firearms out of criminals’ hands, we will see more mass shootings in the future.

Born in a Golden Cradle

We all know full well how Donald Trump repeatedly paints his start in business as an up-by-the bootstraps, riches-to-slightly-more-riches tale. He’s cast himself as a New York real estate Oliver Twist with only his name and a $1 million loan from his dear old dad to keep him company. Only to become a self-made billionaire real estate mogul. Trump not only used this description to promote his image as a skilled businessman, but also portray himself as a “self-made man” during his presidential candidacy.

Despite the image Donald Trump projects to his base at his ego boosting rallies, he has actually spent 5 decades pretending not only that his father never rescued him from financial dire straits, but played a minimal role in his business success. When he said that Fred only gave him a $1 million loan, Trump glossed over how central his dad was to his career. When Trump entered the Manhattan real estate business in the mid-1970s, Fred cosigned bank loans for tens of millions of dollars. These loans made it possible for Trump to develop early projects like the Grand Hyatt hotel. When he targeted Atlantic City’s casino market, Fred loaned him about $7.5 million to get started. When he floundered there during the 1990s, Fred sent a lawyer to a Trump casino to buy $3.5 million in chips so his son can use the funds for a bond payment and avoid filing for corporate bankruptcy. In other words, Trump’s wealth has always been “deeply intertwined with, and dependent on” on his father’s wealth.

On Tuesday, October 2, 2018, the New York Times published investigation results into Donald Trump’s wealth and tax practices. They revealed a pattern of tax evasion and business practices that allowed him to receive at least $413 million in today’s dollars from his father. According to the report, Trump and his siblings got hundreds of millions of dollars in today’s money from their dad’s real estate empire, starting from their childhoods. As they write:

“Much of this money came to Mr. Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes. He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents, records and interviews show. Records indicate that Mr. Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more. He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings.”

In sum, Donald Trump’s parents transferred more than $1 billion to their children and paid about $52.2 million in taxes. Given the relevant tax rates on gifts and inheritances, they should’ve paid $550 million, which is 10 times more. The IRS didn’t really notice it. While the Times didn’t see Trump’s own tax returns, their reporting was based on documents, records, and interviews pertaining to Fred Trump’s financial empire. These included, “tens of thousands of pages of confidential records — bank statements, financial audits, accounting ledgers, cash disbursement reports, invoices and canceled checks” along with more than 200 tax returns from Fred and various companies and trusts he set up. Even though he can’t be prosecuted for them due to statute of limitations expiration, evidence suggests that Donald’s actions on paying taxes weren’t always above the fray.

When Donald Trump’s finances were “crumbling” during the 1980s and 1990s, Fred Trump’s companies increased distributions to him and his siblings. From 1989-1992, Fred created 4 entities paying Donald $8.3 million in today’s money. When Donald’s finances were at their worst in 1990, Fred’s income shot up $49,638,928 and earned him a $12.2 million tax bill. According to the New York Times report, there are indications Fred, “wanted plenty of cash on hand to bail out his son if need be.” A former Trump Organization told Tim O’Brien in 2005, “We would have literally closed down. The key would have been in the door and there would have been no more Donald Trump. The family saved him.” Of course, it wasn’t really Trump’s family who saved him from personal bankruptcy, it was his dad. On another occasion, Trump allegedly gave his dad a $15.5 million share of the Trump Palace condo skyscraper in New York to square off some debts with his loans. But Fred then sold the shares back to his son for $10,000, making the whole exchange of $15.49 a taxable gift. Fred never declared it as such.
But it wasn’t always rich dad bailing out his son. Fred and Donald Trump worked together. As the elder man aged, his kids had to continue the tax schemes their parents put in place. In 1997, Donald and his siblings gained control of most of their dad’s empire. They significantly undervalued the properties, claiming they were worth $41.4 million and selling them off for 16 times the amount.

Nonetheless, the wealth transfer between Fred Trump and Donald Trump (along with his siblings) was a lifetime affair. As the New York Times notes:

“By age 3, Mr. Trump was earning $200,000 a year in today’s dollars from his father’s empire. He was a millionaire by age 8. By the time he was 17, his father had given him part ownership of a 52-unit apartment building. Soon after Mr. Trump graduated from college, he was receiving the equivalent of $1 million a year from his father. The money increased with the years, to more than $5 million annually in his 40s and 50s.”

As the Times writes, there’s a fine line between tax evasion and tax avoidance. Rich people employ all kinds of tricks to lower their taxes all the time. But since Donald Trump has refused to release his tax returns, these journalistic investigations raise questions of what he’s hiding in his finances. For what the publication doesn’t have is what the American people have become accustomed to getting from their presidents like recent tax returns. Instead, the Times gave close scrutiny Fred Trump’s businesses which reveal the range of apparent illegal activity. Yet, everything the Times has is fairly old since Fred passed nearly 20 years ago while his years in business ended before that. So they no longer reflect the current state of Trump’s financial affairs. Furthermore, any illegal activity the Times sources revealed in this article can’t be prosecuted due to statute of limitations expiration.

The New York Times’ investigation is exhaustive and, to some extent, defies summary. But it’s worth recounting the most egregious thing they found as an illustrative example of the scope of crimes that serious forensic accounting can reveal. Basically, this was a 2-scams-for-the-price-of-one-caper, in which Fred Trump formed a shell company his children secretly owned. The company pretended to perform useful services for rent-stabilized buildings Fred owned, allowing to gift money to his children without paying a gift tax. Then, its bogus accounting was used to justify rent increases to regulators. As the Times wrote:

“The most overt fraud was All County Building Supply & Maintenance, a company formed by the Trump family in 1992. All County’s ostensible purpose was to be the purchasing agent for Fred Trump’s buildings, buying everything from boilers to cleaning supplies. It did no such thing, records and interviews show. Instead All County siphoned millions of dollars from Fred Trump’s empire by simply marking up purchases already made by his employees. Those millions, effectively untaxed gifts, then flowed to All County’s owners — Donald Trump, his siblings and a cousin. Fred Trump then used the padded All County receipts to justify bigger rent increases for thousands of tenants.”
This is a particularly shocking crime because of the way it was used to defraud thousands of tenants as well as tax authorities. But this wasn’t the only time Fred cheated the public. After all, he got his start in profiteering in millions from programs to help returning GIs receive housing, prompting President Dwight D. Eisenhower to throw a fit. In 1954, he was called before the Senate to testify about how he overcharged the federal government by inflating costs associated with a taxpayer-subsidized housing development in Brooklyn. As a result, Fred was banned from bidding on federal housing contracts. So he focused on state-subsidized projects. However, in 1966, Fred was called before a state investigations board to sit through embarrassing public hearings exploring how he overbilled New York State for equipment and other costs. These hearings essentially marked the end of Fred’s career as a major developer in public subsidized housing. Donald Trump would say that the government essentially reached in and took his dad’s business away from him. But this explanation ignores the fact that Fred’s business wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without government subsidies in the first place.

However, in terms of Donald Trump cheating on his taxes, it’s far from unique. In 1983, he’s admitted to sales tax fraud. He’s lost 2 income tax civil fraud trials. Hell, his own tax lawyer testified that Trump’s 1984 tax return was fraudulent. More strikingly, even before the Times’ investigation, we had numerous examples of Trump operating as a habitual criminal. While Trump would like to American people to forget about this, he got his start as a celebrity after the New York Times published an article detailing federal housing discrimination charges brought against him and his father. Ultimately, the charges were settled without admission of fault, which would be a pattern for Trump over the years. Even so, the fact his first foray into the real estate business involved criminal acts didn’t stop him from continuing in that business. When Trump branched out into casinos, he got caught accepting an illegal loan from his dad to stay afloat and got off with a slap on the wrist. He was even allowed to continue with the business as well.

From empty-box tax scam to money laundering at his casinos, racial discrimination in his apartments, Federal Trade Commission violations for his stock purchases, and Securities and Exchange Commission violations for his financial reporting, Donald Trump has spent his entire career breaking various laws, getting caught, and then essentially plowing ahead unharmed. Caught engaging in illegal racial discrimination to please a mob boss? Paid a fine. There was no sense this was a repeated pattern of violating racial discrimination law (despite being caught before in a housing discrimination case by the federal government). Nor there was certainly any desire to take a closer look at Trump’s various personal and professional connections to the Mafia. In New York, Trump Tower’s construction employed hundreds of undocumented Polish immigrants, paid them laughably low wages, and worked them beyond legal limits. Though Trump denied knowledge of the situation, a judge said his testimony wasn’t credible. Court records show that Trump and his children misled investors in failed condo projects in Baja California and Florida. Even as late as the post-election transition, Trump was allowed to settle a lawsuit about defrauding customers at his fake university for $25 million rather than truly face the music like a potential prison term. But he still insisted he did nothing wrong despite evidence to the contrary.

One of Donald Trump’s real insights in life was to see a bug in the system. When it comes to these white-collar crimes, it’s typically the government officials’ interest to agree to a settlement giving them positive headlines, raise some cash, and move on to the next investigation. But while these decisions can make sense individually, they let serial offenders repeat their crimes over and over again. After all, you wouldn’t want police to solve other crimes this way. Meanwhile, throughout the decades of Trump’s rise, the legal climate has only gotten more permissive.

The fact that Donald Trump appears to have been involved in serious financial crimes in the past is the most likely reason for his unprecedented lack of transparency. He didn’t magically stop committing them in the mid-1990s. Rather he’s just been getting away with it in an era of reduced law enforcement and fears his documents wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny. As a candidate, Trump promised to release his tax returns. Now that he’s in office, he has refused to do so. In response to the Times’ investigation, the White House released a statement full of bluster about the “wonderful” things Trump has achieved as president. But it didn’t deny any of the alleged facts. Instead, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders merely observed that “many decades ago the IRS reviewed and signed off on these transactions.”

It’s not entirely clear if the IRS reviewed all of these transactions. But it’s unquestionably true that Donald Trump got away with it. Because lots of people get away with a lot of crimes and that doesn’t make it okay. The IRS is no more perfect in its work than any other law enforcement agency. To make matters worse, the IRS has been starved of resources, making it even harder to catch rich tax cheats. To be clear, this wasn’t caused by austerity by budgetary necessity. Based on macroeconomic estimates, the IRS believes that business owners like Donald Trump underpay their taxes by $125 million a year. Investing more in catching these tax cheats would pay off easily. But congressional Republicans haven’t wanted to do it because they think it’s good that rich business owners can get away with cheating on their taxes. Yet, this also gives tax-cheating businesses a very good reason to fear transparency and disclosure. While the IRS is relatively unlikely to get a hard, rigorous look at any particularly rich person’s complicated tax submissions. But since Trump is president, he’d find Congress and the press heavily scrutinizing his finances. Trump got away with tax evasion during an era of generally more rigorous enforcement. It’s very unlikely that he simply stopped doing it during the more recent years when enforcement got laxer. If he disclosed his tax returns, we’d find out about the scams he’s running. Because that’s why Trump doesn’t want us to see them. And why we absolutely need to. We won’t really know why Donald Trump hides his tax returns until he stops concealing them. But the New York Times’ investigation sends a clear message that he’s got a track record of doing illegal stuff with his taxes.

However, though Donald Trump won’t release his tax returns as president, Congress can make him. But congressional Republicans have steadfastly refused to do so. Nonetheless, the American people have a right to know whether or not the man in the White House is a crook. Though the case for oversight became stronger once Trump became president, Republicans who once distanced themselves from him became uniformly devoted to covering up for him. In addition, Republicans have totally resisted Democratic efforts to force disclosure.

While congressional Republicans may tell themselves these returns are no big deal, they have no idea how serious the crimes are they’re helping Donald Trump hide. Mostly because Republicans decided it’s good when rich people cheat on their taxes despite that it’s not. In fact, cheating on taxes contributes to inequality, higher interest rates, weaker public services, and a range of social news. And despite the Republicans’ best efforts, it’s still illegal. Though the tax code currently has minimal taxes on inheritances and gifts as well as large loopholes for the wealthiest of the wealthy. The New York Times investigation into the Trump family’s wealth demonstrates how wealthy families wiggle out of taxes through licit and illicit means. Thus, starving the government of tax revenue, making the tax code less progressive than it’s designed to be, and effectively increasing the tax burden on low-income families and their businesses. The richer the family, the more likely they engage in tax evasion. In fact, one study shows that the richest .01% were shown to evade 25% of taxes, several times the rate seen among the general public. Because Trump is president, we need to know if he’s been breaking the law. All we need to do is have a congressional committee vote. But to get it, we need a new Congress.

Of course, since I’ve conducted extensive research on Donald Trump since he ran for president, the fact he’s not the self-made man he portrays himself to be doesn’t surprise me. I long knew that he never would’ve become what he is today if he hadn’t been born into wealth and privilege. And I knew about his dad vouching for him on his early projects and helping him out of his financial problems. Yet, millions of Americans still believe Trump as a modern Midas who’d lift them out of hard times as the super-rich flourish while everyone else’s incomes remain mostly flat. But the truth is that the man in the Oval Office isn’t the wealth-building entrepreneur he claims to be. In fact, he’s a financial vampire extracting cash from enterprises while leaving behind unpaid workers, vendors, and governments. And if you want to know what that will lead to, just take a visit to Atlantic City.

The Professor and the Judge

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There are plenty of reason not to want Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh confirmed. He’s a conservative ideologue masquerading as a judge. He’s a corporate whore who thinks net neutrality violates the cable companies’ freedom of speech. And he’s ruled in favor of corporate power over democracy and the public interest on almost every kind of dispute you can think of. He won’t release 100,000 pages of documents relating to his work for the Bush administration in the 2000s. He’s perfectly fine with disabled people getting elective surgery against their will. He likens contraceptives to abortion inducing drugs which they’re most certainly not. He’s lied under oath on multiple occasions. He has gambling problems as his $200,000 credit card for debt for “baseball tickets.” And he believes that a president shouldn’t be indicted while in office. In sum, he’s a horrible Supreme Court pick in every conceivable way and has absolutely no business in ruling in critical matters that will affect American lives for decades to come.

Now as a Catholic liberal, I may have political misgivings on why Judge Kavanaugh shouldn’t sit on the bench of the US Supreme Court. Yet, most importantly is Kavanaugh’s history with women and his sexual assault allegations. Kavanaugh’s nomination seemed like moving ahead. The New Yorker published an explosive report about a letter California US Senator Dianne Feinstein sent to the FBI but was reluctant to discuss in public. Since she was worried the letter could expose Ford to partisan attacks. Written by a California psychology professor Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, she said the announcement of Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court had spurred her recollection of a party encounter in high school where he held her down to a bed, ground against and groped her, attempted to remove her clothes, and tried to force himself on her, covering her mouth when she tried to scream. Finding it difficult to breathe, she thought Kavanaugh was accidentally going to kill her. Luckily, Ford escaped when Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge jumped on them and the all fell. She fled the room and locked herself in a bathroom until she heard the two boys go downstairs and their voices recede. Terrified she’d run into them and attack again, Ford ran out of the house. But the encounter was “a source of ongoing distress for her” as she remembered Kavanaugh and Judge laughing at her suffering. To put it in layman’s terms, Kavanaugh tried to rape her which has scarred her for life despite that she narrowly got away. This is a violent crime, not sexual misconduct. Though she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17 at the time in the 1980s, she doesn’t remember some key details such as the house they were in. She was on her way to the bathroom when Kavanaugh and Judge attacked and shoved her into a bedroom. Yet, she recalls that everyone had one beer while Kavanaugh and Judge had been drinking more heavily.

Christine Blasey Ford didn’t tell anyone about the allegations with anyone until 2012 during a couples therapy session with her husband. She first reached out to her representative, Rep. Anna Eshoo and directly contacted Feinstein’s office. After repeatedly discussing the matter with both offices, Ford decided not to go public.

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Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is certainly a hero in this case since her decision to go public with her sexual assault allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh led others to speak out. Here’s a tweet quoting Deborah Ramirez cheering her on.

On September 16, 2018, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward in a Washington Post story. To corroborate her account, Ford provided the Post with a polygraph and session notes from her therapists from 2012. Though the therapist’s notes don’t name Kavanaugh, they record Ford’s claim being attacked by students “from an elitist boys’ school” who went on to become “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.” Both her husband and a friend have confirmed her claims. He friend told the Los Angeles Times that he’s witnessed the lasting trauma affect her life and her struggle to come forward with him in early July. He claimed that Ford was averse to purchasing a master bedroom without a second exit. According to him, “Obviously, something happened that traumatized her so much that she’s afraid of being trapped.”

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford had nothing to gain from her testimony on Judge Brett Kavanaugh. For coming forward with sexual assault allegations against powerful men can lead result in losing career and reputation. Ford has received death threats. She’s had to take time off from her job. She and her family were forced out of her home. She’s had to shut down her social media. She’s had to fly all the way from her Bay area home to Washington, which terrified her. She’s had to use therapist notes and pass lie detector tests just to be believed. Not to mention, Republicans have refused to take her story seriously for craven selfish and partisan reasons. While many conservatives have attacked her as an anti-Trump activist whose motives and biases are as suspicious as her Northern California address. At her hearing, Ford had to recall as much as she could remember to come across as credible. As she had to retain her composure describing that painful memory she spent years trying to forget in front of white old men who don’t care what she has to say while feeling like she could fly into an unstoppable rage inside. Nonetheless, he gutting testimony was compelling as her expertise as in clinical psychology shone through her explanations on how trauma works.

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Here’s Brett Kavanaugh’s 1982 yearbook entry from Georgetown Prep. It goes far from the Boy Scout image he’s tried to present at his hearing. More like a partying frat boy you’d want to punch in the face.

Nor is Dr. Christine Blasey Ford the only woman accusing Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Shortly after she came forward, Deborah Ramirez told the New Yorker that in a drinking game during a 1983 dorm party at Yale, Kavanaugh exposed his genitals to her and shoved his penis to her face. All without Ramirez’s consent as she pushed him away. Not long after that, Michael Avenatti published an affidavit signed by Julie Swetnick who claimed attended a parties during high school where Kavanaugh plotted with friends to drug and “gang rape” girls. And that Kavanaugh was present she was gang raped at a party. Yet, she doesn’t explicitly say whether he participated. There are also plenty of witnesses who can corroborate on Ford and Ramirez. Two of Ramirez’s classmates can recall hearing about Kavanaugh’s indecent exposure, with one recalling several of the same details. His fraternity had a very shady reputation. In Ford’s case, aside from the therapist notes and polygraph tests, there’s even more evidence. Mark Judge’s memoir of his high school days at least recalls Kavanaugh’s underage drinking and partying. Kavanaugh’s high school calendar details numerous beach trips, parties with friends, and times he was “grounded.” In addition, his high school yearbook entry listed him as Keg City Club treasurer along with terms like “boof,” “devil’s triangle,” and “Renate Alumnius.”

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s decision to come forward was a civic duty for she really doesn’t want a man who put her through the worst time of her life sit on the highest court in the nation. Or at least an FBI investigation to clear her memory which she asked for repeatedly. And I think it’s a reason that should concern us all. After all, statistics show that most incidents of rape and sexual assault go unreported and ignored. And out all reported incidents, only 6% of rapist are subject to any meaningful consequences. Most victims of sexual assault don’t come forward because those who do, often face scrutiny by an unsympathetic crowd, especially if the perpetrator is a pillar in the community, partner, a boss, or family member. Should the assailant have any power, then expect people rallying to defend them. When a woman’s sexually assaulted, people often see her situation as her fault. They say that she’s a slut and shouldn’t be screwing multiple men. They say she shouldn’t have been around men or be so sexually aggressive. They say that she should’ve dressed more modestly or danced less provocatively. They talk about how she drank too much. They remark on how Johnny’s a good boy who’d never go to town on an unconscious woman near a dumpster. Or how Chrissy’s “false” rape accusation is laden with ulterior motives of revenge for not asking her out to the prom. So we can’t have her sexual assault allegation ruin Kevin’s chances of getting into a big name college on a football scholarship. Or how we don’t want
to ruin Damien’s future despite that he tried to force himself on Shelley who’s set for a lifetime of trauma.Many women have faced death threats coming forward. Some have lost their jobs. Some have even faced criminal charges in falsely reporting a crime. Some had family, friends, and community turn against them. Some have had their reputations ruined and received death threats. While others are often ignored by law enforcement as the perpetrator goes on with his life without repercussions. As society teaches girls and women that they’re responsible for preventing rape because boys and men can’t control themselves and that they should accept their egregious behavior as normal, which is utter bullshit and insulting on multiple levels. For if men were truly unable to control their sexual urges, then how could priests remain celibate and husbands be unfaithful to their wives? Thus, it’s glaringly apparent that when they say, “boys will be boys,” they’re telling girls, “don’t expect boys to be responsible for violating you, since they matter more than you. And if they do anything to you that leaves any lasting trauma and suffering that’s not a big deal, it’s your fault. So shut up.” Sexual assault and harassment may be common, but that doesn’t mean it’s normal. And it’s certainly not right.

I have never been sexually assaulted. Mostly because I didn’t go to a lot of parties during my high school and college years. But I’ve been bullied all through my school days. I’ve been sexually harassed on multiple occasions by many immature classmates in middle and high school. And I’ve endured humiliation while many of my fellow schoolmates laughed on. I was constantly told to ignore it despite that I found it impossible. I was often upset that these people didn’t care about my feelings. I was angry that they didn’t listen to me whenever I told them to cut it out or take my pleas seriously. And even if I did tell a teacher about it, I knew it would only be a matter of time they’d start again. To deal with it day after day is often exhausting and frustrating. Fortunately, I wasn’t too traumatized by the whole thing and was glad it all ended by the time I went to college. Yet, I’m sure I have some scars that I had to suffer in silence so as not to draw attention to myself.

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Here we have Brett Kavanaugh with his wife during a Fox News damage control interview. Even at this angle, he appears kind of creepy to me.

In addition, I become furious whenever I see a smart capable woman like Hillary Clinton and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford having to put up being bullied by privileged and terrible men who deserve no place in the halls of power. During the presidential debates between Clinton and Donald Trump, I often saw myself in Clinton trying to get her vision across to the American people. Only for Trump to blurt out stupid shit about her dirty laundry and getting all the attention. He clearly had no interest in government policy. He only wanted to take Clinton down in the most humiliating way possible while drowning out whatever she had to say in the media. To see Clinton having to deal with all this shit really makes my blood boil. When I saw Judge Brett Kavanaugh lash out over the sexual assault allegations against him as liberal part to take him down, I was reminded by how many guys have treated me the same way. Seeing the kind of hell Ford had to go through, I believe her. While I was lucky enough not to experience sexual assault, I know what it’s like having people laugh at you when you’re in a state of misery.

With a man like Judge Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, he can rule on cases relating to sexual assault and other misconduct for decades to come. The fact that he’s already a federal judge is extremely disturbing since he’s in a position of great power and influence. When it comes to sexual assault cases, judges have been especially lenient to white male perpetrators like Steubenville football players and Brock Turner. As a man born into wealth with an Ivy League pedigree and groomed to ascend to the highest court in the land as a conservative ideologue, Kavanaugh perpetuates and benefits from this kind of good-old-boy favoritism in the justice system on sexual assault cases. They may sympathize with these scions and prominent citizens. And thus, may be compelled to give these rich guys a more generous ruling than they deserve. All while having no concern for the women who’ve been harmed in the act and suffer in the legal proceedings with justice denied.

I am used to Supreme Court picks being partisan bloodbaths. But once a nominee is accused of sexual assault and other egregious misbehavior, they are automatically disqualified no questions asked. After all, sexual assault allegations would get you disqualified from many low-income jobs for obvious reasons. The Supreme Court shouldn’t be any different. Obviously, 11 Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee didn’t see it that way and now Judge Brett Kavanaugh has moved to a full Senate confirmation once the FBI investigation is over. Yet, after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony and Kavanaugh’s explosive temper tantrum, it’s disturbingly clear that these old white men had already made up their minds. They don’t care about whether Kavanaugh has the character to be a fair and impartial judge. They know he’s a conservative hack job who’d give them and their corporate donors favorable rulings on every issue you can imagine. Yet, they can just as easily ask Kavanaugh to withdraw and have Donald Trump nominate another conservative judge who hasn’t sexually assaulted anyone. But no.

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The fact Donald Trump bragged about sexual assault and Republicans still elected him president gives you all you need to know about the GOP and sexual harassment and assault. At least when it happens to one of their own. I’m sure they view the sexual assault allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh the same way.

Nevertheless, the Republicans’ willingness to put Judge Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court shows how far they’ve fallen since they’ve embraced Donald Trump as their leader. At some level, Republicans may see sexual harassment and assault as morally wrong. But at another level, they don’t necessarily see it as a big enough deal or problem people should care about. When Trump was caught bragging about sexual assault on that Hollywood Access bus tape, a whole bunch of Republicans abandoned him fearing he was about to lead the party into an electoral disaster. Only to drop the matter entirely as soon as Trump proved his doubters wrong. Not a single Congressional Republican expressed the slightest interest in hearing from Trump’s accusers, looking into their accusations in any way, or otherwise seeking to find the truth of the matter. Republicans can appear appalled when it’s expedient to do so, particularly in regards Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs. But they’ll pretend the whole thing never happened when it serves their interests. And that’s a pattern. When a top Fox News executive was drummed out for covering up so many sexual harassment charges that his ongoing employment was a huge liability, the White House snatched him up. When White House Chief of Staff John Kelly heard that staff secretary Rob Porter abused 2 ex-wives and a former girlfriend, he tried keeping it quiet. When the Federalist Society asked a Republican PR firm to they contracted with to lend someone to Senator Chuck Grassley to run point communications for the Kavanaugh nomination, they sent a guy they knew was a sexual harasser who later quit when it came out. Sexual harassment and assault are things Republicans know they’re supposed to care about. But Republicans in the internal party structure don’t care about them. So they don’t do anything unless public opinion forces their hand. Unless it’s Arizona US Senator Jeff Flake being confronted by 2 sexual assault survivors, most Republicans don’t take sexual assault seriously when the accusations surround one of their own.

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Remember, kids, anything you do will be on your permanent record. Also, just because you’re born into wealth and privilege doesn’t mean you’re entitled to a Supreme Court seat. In addition, if you act like this at your job interview, no one’s going to hire you. Still, Judge Brett Kavanaugh burst into fury and viciously denied being the frat boy back in his high school and college days. While being a lying sack of shit who doesn’t take responsibility for his actions and shouldn’t get a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

Yet, what I find most unsettling with Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s character than the sexual assault allegations is how he reacted to them. Not only did he deny sexually assaulting Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, he claimed he didn’t know her. Despite that she testified that she went out with one of his close friend who’s mentioned in his now notorious calendar 13 times. Furthermore, he cast himself as the clean-cut choir boy he wasn’t. Sure he drank, but not to the point where it affected his memory (despite that multiple classmates said he was a heavy drinker and an aggressive drunk, including his former roommate at Yale). And that he could legally drink in Maryland was legal in 1982 (he couldn’t). He may have had inside jokes, but never demeaned women (despite his “Renate Alumnius” entry was a sexist smear on a teenage girl’s promiscuity). While he enjoyed a lively social life, church always came first (though we can’t prove this. Yet, I bet he showed up to Sunday Mass with a hangover). Oh, and he was a virgin in both high school and college (despite that he tried to get into a girl’s pants and may have participated in gang rapes). Now I don’t think heavy drinking and partying during one’s school days isn’t disqualifying for the Supreme Court or any other high office. But not being honest about one’s frat boy past is, given that Kavanaugh has repeatedly lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee as well.

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Seeing Judge Brett Kavanaugh being denied a Supreme Court seat will set a powerful example to young men that actions have real consequences. And that sexual conduct without consent is not okay. But seeing that Republicans want to confirm him regardless of whether the allegations are true, I have good reason to worry that won’t happen. Because when it comes to sexual harassment and assault allegations against fellow Republicans, Republicans don’t care.

But more disturbingly, Judge Brett Kavanaugh called the circus around his sexual assault allegations, “a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.” Obviously, he doesn’t acknowledge his drinking or the harm he might’ve inflicted on Ford’s life. He said these words with the entitled vicious rage of an alcoholic guy who’s used to getting his own way. And now he’s just learning like the rest of us did a long time ago that life isn’t fair and he can’t stand that. Furthermore, he’s a Trump-like partisan who feels entitled to say and do whatever he wants, uses emotional bullying and intimidation to get his way, and who doesn’t take responsibility for his actions. Whether Kavanaugh is confirmed or not, a large share of the American public will never trust him as impartial. While most will continue to see him as the privileged, arrogant, and self-righteous prick he’s revealed himself to be. The US Senate must not confirm this unrepentant asshole to our nation’s highest court. For like America Ferrera, I am sick of seeing capable, intelligent, and credible women come up against whiny, incompetent men-children and be suppressed. The matter of Kavanaugh’s confirmation isn’t just a vote. But rather a referendum of who we are as a nation. What are we willing to accept and where are we, really? And how much longer will women’s lives and dignity be secondary to the needs of powerful men? Confirming Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court will send the wrong message to women and girls that their concerns don’t matter. His nomination must not continue any further.

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Outcasts in Their Own Country

In the United States, it’s taken for granted that being born in this country automatically makes you a American citizen. After all, most Americans support the notion of birthright citizenship since it was established by a 1898 Supreme Court case brought on by a Chinese American man and by virtue of the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment. Most Americans assume there’s a clear-cut line between legal immigrants and undocumented immigrants, between citizens and noncitizens, and naturalized citizens and those native born.

On Wednesday, August 29, 2018, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration have told “hundreds, even thousands” of Latinos born near the US-Mexican border that their US birth certificates aren’t sufficient proof of US citizenship to get their passports approved or renewed. Making matters worse, they’re being subjected to ridiculous document requests like baptismal records and insulting questions like “Do you remember when you were born?” Some are having their passports revoked and being thrown into deportation proceedings, or even barred from reentering the United States when they tried returning to Mexico.

Nonwhite and immigrant Americans already know that the Trump administration lacks any respect for them as Americans or as human beings. In this context, denying passports to native-born citizens can seem like racism at best and state violence at worst. Generally, the Trump administration’s immigration actions aren’t shocking because they’re unprecedented power grabs. But rather efforts to aggressively use the executive branch’s existing powers which simply have been used with more restraint in the past. As an escalating effort started by past presidents, this story is no exception. Since the Trump administration has shown a knack and xenophobic zeal for finding parts of the immigration system giving the federal government the most power and bringing their full strength to bear on already vulnerable people like South Texan Chicanos.
The new wave of passport scrutiny is specifically targeted at South Texan Latinos born near the US-Mexican border in particular circumstances. According to the State Department, “the U.S.-Mexico border region happens to be an area of the country where there has been a significant incidence of citizenship fraud.” This sounds very racist, playing into suspicions that even Latinos who’d been living in Texas before it was America aren’t even American, along with conflations of Latinos as well as legal and undocumented immigrants.

But there’s a particular history behind it, though racism is certainly a part of such policy. In the latter half of the 20th century, the federal government cracked down on South Texas midwives for birth certificate fraud like signing a birth certificate attesting to delivering a baby on US soil, when the baby had actually been born across the border in Mexico. Between 1960 and 2008, at least 75 South Texas midwives were convicted of fraudulent activities.

Of course, the problem is that these midwives also signed a bunch of birth certificates for children actually born on US soil. In addition, there aren’t easy ways to distinguish real US births from false ones, especially when most families in infrastructure-poor and poverty-stricken South Texas couldn’t afford a hospital birth. Confusing matters even further, some families reportedly received birth certificates saying their US-born children had been born in Mexico, to allow them to attend public schools there. Since before the last 2 decades, it wasn’t uncommon for families to frequently travel between the US and Mexico, or even split time between the 2 on a weekly basis.

In 2007, the US changed the law: from 2009, it would require everyone coming into the US from anywhere in the Western Hemisphere to show a passport (including American citizens coming from Mexico). As that change approached, area Latinos began complaining about their passports being denied due to their birth certificates deemed as suspicious. This resulted in an ACLU filing a lawsuit in 2008. The next year, the two sides agreed to a process by which passport denials to midwife-born applicants would be reviewed. One of the settlement documents was a sample letter requesting more information from the applicant to supplement the record. Some of the listed items were faintly ridiculous like baptismal records or evidence of prenatal care. But others were straightforward, if often difficult like requests for school and employment records.
However, even after the 2009 settlement, rejections of midwife-issued birth certificates continued. In 2012, CNN wrote an article about the matter. In 2014, NPR’s Morning Edition ran a segment featuring accounts of people having their passports snatched while trying to enter the US, being harassed by Border Patrol agents, and being forced to agree to their own deportation.

What’s changed under Donald Trump mostly seems to be the scope of the denials. Not only has there been a “surge” in new denials, as well as of people actually put into deportation proceedings (which ICE officials can choose to do when a passport is denied for absence of evidence for US birth. But they don’t have to do it). In addition, the government appears to have expanded its “suspicions” not just to midwife-signed birth certificates, but also those signed by South Texas obstetrician Jorge Treviño who delivered thousands of babies, often in home births before his death in 2015. Since the government has an affidavit from an anonymous Mexican doctor alleging that Trevino falsified a birth certificate.

But perhaps most importantly, this is happening under Donald Trump who doesn’t have much goodwill toward immigrants, Latinos, or white liberals. Thus, the report has raised concerns not only of the harassment facing particular South Texan passport applicants, but how broadly the Trump administration could challenge citizenship and voting rights of other groups as well. When most Americans see clear cut lines pertaining to legal status and citizenship, the Trump administration often sparks outrage for doing things that appear to cross these lines. They’ve arrested undocumented immigrants at their green card interviews. They’ve begun an effort to comb old naturalization applicants for fraud, in an effort labeled a “denaturalization task force.” They’ve tried to end DACA, putting its 800,000 recipients’ legal status in a constant state of uncertainty. And now they’re questioning the citizenship of people who’ve lived in the US for decades as native-born US citizens.

However, more disturbingly, in all these cases, the Trump administration isn’t crossing an unprecedented line. It’s just merely exploiting places where the category boundaries are murkier and often by building on what past administrations have already done. Generally, these boundary areas are where immigration officials show the most caution. They have the discretion in who they pursue and who they don’t. At the margins, they’re more likely to use discretion to show sympathy to people who’ve been living in the US and have roots here. Even if they could be more aggressive in trying to push them out. It’s possible that the government has changed its policy across the board on birth certificates issued by midwives or other “suspicious” practitioners or more broadly even people born in the US to noncitizen parents, though there’s no evidence of that. It’s also possible the government hasn’t changed its policies as the government claims, just fighting more of the individual cases falling under the process the 2009 settlement set.
But what makes Trump officials’ immigration policy different isn’t necessarily what they’re doing, but how aggressively they’re doing it. The Trump administration doesn’t have to deny every or even any application from anyone whose birth certificate was signed by a “suspicious” practitioner. Yet, it’s using the power’s full extent given by law. So it’s easier to put pressure on groups that already have been targeted because they’ve already been targeted.

Nonetheless, targeting South Texan passport applicants isn’t necessarily a test run for an inevitable expansion to widespread revocation of citizenship or nonwhite Americans writ large. Since denaturalization efforts don’t automatically call all naturalized Americans’ citizenship into question. This remains crucially true because targeted people have recourse to the legal system. And even South Texans whose citizenship is challenged usually win their cases though they have to appeal to federal courts to do it which usually costs thousands of dollars and time. However, that’s the other thing about pushing on those already marginalized. They’re the ones least likely to have the resources to overcome harassment or the support to call an end to the practice.

However, make no mistake that Donald Trump understands his base. Sure many working class Trump supporters have real concerns since real wages haven’t increased and those manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back. Not to mention, they know full well that their lives seem harder than their parents. But they also angry and want someone to blame. And it can’t be people who look like them since they see these money-grubbing robber barons as beacons of hope that their lives may improve, instead of the corporate con artists preying on their misery. In Hispanic immigrants and their children, Trump has a perfect scapegoat. Steve Bannon remarked in an interview that Trump won on “Pure anger. Anger and fear is what gets people to the polls.” It’s no coincidence that Trump once whips up fears by trying to strip vulnerable people of their citizenship and imply to his base these people shouldn’t be here and are right to be concerned about immigration fraud. We should also note how Trump got into politics by promoting birtherism and called President Barack Obama’s birth certificate a fraud after he showed it. Revoking passports may not be illegal, but they’re nonetheless dehumanizing, especially when the individual is a South Texas Latino who’s lived in the US their whole life.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Rod Rosenstein Has Left the Building (Okay, He Hasn’t, Yet)

On Friday, September 20, 2018, the New York Times reported that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said he wanted to record conversations with Donald Trump in 2017. He also discussed using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. He also talked about wearing a wire to catch him on tape. Though Rosenstein denied the report, one source told the Times he was being sarcastic. Eventually neither was carried out. The Times report was primarily based on anonymous source accounts and contemporaneous Andrew McCabe memo descriptions.

On Monday, September 24, 2018, news came that Rod Rosenstein’s position as deputy attorney general is now facing an uncertain future. Initial reports said he resigned or got fired, which was later debunked. As of now, it’s expected that Rosenstein will meet with Donald Trump to discuss his future with the Department of Justice. But the deputy attorney general expects to be fired. At any rate, the deputy attorney general’s possible departure is significant. Due to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from the Russia probe over lying to Congress about his Russian contacts, Rosenstein was responsible for overseeing Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

  • According to court testimony, Mueller’s team has admitted to informing Rosenstein of all major decisions in advance, and that he’d have authority to overrule them.
  • Rosenstein approved Mueller’s assembly of an all-star team that totaled 17 prosecutors at its height.
  • In August 2017, Rosenstein wrote a memo to Mueller listing many people and topics he was authorized to investigate. The publicly released version is heavily redacted.
  • Rosenstein held press conferences announcing Mueller’s 2 major indictments of Russians for election interference like the February social media indictment and the July email hacking indictment.
  • Rosenstein was also reportedly involved in Mueller’s decision to refer an investigation into Michael Cohen to federal prosecutors in Manhattan, resulting in Cohen’s guilty plea to tax, bank fraud, and campaign finance violations in August.

Furthermore, Rosenstein has helped to preemptively protect Mueller from firing by testifying that regulation under which he appointed the special counsel gives him to send him on his way. So it’s clear that a Trump order to fire Mueller would be legally dubious.
For over a year, Rod Rosenstein has had to walk a delicate tightrope. On one hand, he was committed to protecting the investigation from conservatives inside and outside Congress who believed it biased against Donald Trump and urged him to fire the special counsel. Yet, Rosenstein couldn’t champion the investigation too much or else he’d draw Trump’s ire. In other words, he had to keep both sides happy as they constantly went at each other’s throats. During a House Judiciary Committee hearing in December 2017 over the Strzok-Page exchanges, Rosenstein defended the texts’ release to satisfy the anti-Mueller Republicans, saying “We consulted with the inspector general to determine that he had no objection to releasing the material. If he had, we would not have released it.” Yet, Rosenstein also defended Mueller when asked whether he’d fire him. He replied, “If there were good cause, I would act. If there were no good cause, I would not. It would’ve been difficult to find anyone more qualified for this job.” Yet, keeping both sides happy allowed Rosenstein to claim support for his staff while also backing Donald Trump. It’s not a glamorous job but if he’s gone many fear Rosenstein might be replaced with a Trump crony who’d rein in the probe or even shut it down completely.

The current deputy attorney general’s potential departure strikes at the Trump-Russia investigation’s heart. Because Mueller had to run major investigative decisions past him. Rosenstein’s temporary replacement, Solicitor General Noel Francisco, could simply refuse to approve Mueller’s requests, effectively slowing the investigation to a crawl. Or he could fire Mueller outright if he felt there was a reason to do so. Rod Rosenstein refused to do that. Instead, he allowed Mueller’s probe to proceed unimpeded while Mueller indicted top Trump campaign officials. The Mueller probe’s future and perhaps even that of Trump’s presidency once depended on how well Rosenstein performed this delicate balancing act.

Those who worked for him have long characterized Rod Rosenstein as an apolitical straight shooter who doesn’t put up with bullshit and always tries to be fair. Appointed as a US attorney for Maryland by President George W. Bush in 2005 and kept on by President Barack Obama, he joined the Trump administration with broad bipartisan support at his confirmation. Sure, he and Jeff Sessions wrote a letter calling of the firing of FBI Director James Comey for his actions against Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election. However, it turns out that Rosenstein isn’t a man without bias. Since his bias tends to be for the rule of law and country over party or anyone in the White House. But he made up for it by hiring Robert Mueller as special counsel, and authorizing him to look into possible Trump-Russia ties as well as “any matters that arose or may arise from the investigation.” He didn’t stop Mueller from pursuing the investigation the way he saw fit. And he made every indication that he intended to keep letting Mueller proceed with his probe.

Nonetheless, Donald Trump has publicly and privately raged about the Russia probe and his Justice Department for months. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein have been his ire’s frequent targets. Trump has repeatedly complained that the Russia investigation is a “witch hunt,” that “flipping” witnesses (like Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, and Paul Manafort) should be illegal, and that the Justice Department isn’t doing enough to investigate Democrats like Hillary Clinton and isn’t personally loyal to him. As a result, Trump’s staunchest allies in Congress and in conservative media have joined him in this effort as well, training criticism on Sessions and Rosenstein. Hardline House conservatives have even threatened to force a vote on Rosenstein’s impeachment based on paper thin pretexts before eventually backing down. So the fear of Trump firing Rosenstein and replacing him with a kiss-ass crony that could either slow down the Mueller probe or shut it down entirely is well-justified.

But if Rod Rosenstein is fired or resigns, Solicitor General Noel Francisco can change all that, especially if Donald Trump throws enough Twitter tantrums to give significant pressure. Firing Robert Mueller may not completely undermine the investigation. Since 5 Trump associates have pleaded guilty and prosecutors are likely to follow leads from the investigation’s beginning in June 2016. The future is still unclear. But if Francisco doesn’t do Trump’s bidding, Trump could fire him, which can be more detrimental to Mueller’s probe and be in the making of a Saturday night massacre. A new deputy attorney general could effectively cripple the Mueller probe by rejecting his requests to investigate more people, get new evidence, or pursue more charges against more people of interests. In effect, Rosenstein’s potential ouster puts Mueller’s investigation in its most precarious position to date, possibly allowing Donald Trump, his family, and associates to escape further scrutiny. And considering the horrible stuff Trump and his swamp cronies have done, our country can’t face this.

Fun with Protest Signs

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Given that we in the United States live at the time of the Trump administration which threaten many Americans’ fundamental rights, values, and prestige around the world, there have been more mass protests than ever before. There’s the Women’s March, the March for Science, the March for Our Lives, and many more. Sometimes they may happen spontaneously or wherever Donald Trump may be like that mass demonstration in the UK during the summer. At any rate, you’ll find plenty of signs with clever sayings on them just to get to the point. A lot of these were made on cardboard with markers in block letters. Many of these have been featured on various sites like Buzzfeed or Pinterest. So for your reading pleasure, I give you a treasury of protest signs to entertain you on these dark days of Trump. Some of these may not be safe for work, by the way.

  1. At least IKEA cabinets are much more useful.
Well, I could definitely say the same about the Trump cabinet. Though you have to assemble the IKEA cabinets yourself.

2. This woman gives no apologies.

Because she’s a woman who stands up for herself. From the Women’s March, by the way.

3. Some people don’t always know what they’re protesting about.

Yes, yes, “Down with this sort of thing.” From a protest in Britain, I think.

4. Well, I hope Donald Trump did Nazi this sign coming.

Sure, Donald Trump isn’t Hitler. But he doesn’t see anything wrong with hiring white nationalists at the White House.

5. Seems like these protestors don’t get on.

Either that, or they’re having too much fun with each other. Still, the signs are funny.

6. Apparently, she thinks pot solves everything.

You have to wonder whether she’s totally high right now. Cause I don’t think legalized marijuana will solve all our problems.

7. Someone wants to feed Donald Trump to the dogs.

Yes, feed Trump to the corgies. Since Queen Elizabeth II famously owns them.

8. Gandalf gives the Picard facepalm.

I’m sure Sir Patrick Stewart would get a kick out of this. Since they’re friends and have been on X-Men together.

9. On any cardboard sign, you can only write so much.

Yes, there’s so much to be upset about. And so little space to adress your grievances.

10. Apparently, you don’t see these signs every day.

One wasn’t busy. One has a sign from the times. And one is mad as hell but is taking a deep breath and counting to 10.

11. Kids should be more worried about grades in school.

This is from the March for Our Lives protest. This arose after the Parkland shooting in February.

12. Donald Trump is an American Psycho.

Well, that’s quite appropriate. For Donald Trump is a sociopath who abuses his power to enrich himself.

13. This boy laid off the video games for this.

Apparently, he likes playing dystopian video games like Fortnite. Guess this is from the March for Our Lives.

14. So George Soros did pay protestors to be there.

Actually, I think this is a joke. Since George Soros has been a major focus of right-wing conspiracy theories, particularly on Fox News and InfoWars.

15. Bombing for peace solves nothing.

Yes, it’s basically like that. Mostly since violence only breeds more violence.

16. She was angry so she did embroidery.

After all, doing embroidery whas her way to relieve stress. As she inscribed on her sampler.

17.  Go ahead, tell them how you really feel.

Well, of course we’re really not happy about this. Because Donald Trump is president and he’s a total disaster.

18. Don’t tell this woman to smile.

Because women are told to smile all the time. Even when we’re mad as hell and can’t take it anymore.

19. Everything is fine. Nothing to see here.

Yes, everything is okay. Despite that Donald Trump is in the White House and is destroying the United States from within.

20. British people always try to be polite.

Wish I could tell Donald Trump to fuck off. Since he’s a complete monster.

21. Someone is a Star Wars fan.

These people are public employees protesting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Becuase he tried to take away their collective bargaining rights.

22. Even Voldemort didn’t kill that many people all at once.

Guess this has to pertain to the Middle East. Does it concern Israel and Palestine? I’m not sure.

23. Seems like the Star Trek and Star Wars rivalry is quite fierce.

This is from a Trekkie. Still, most sci-fi fans usually like both. Since both Star Wars and Star Trek are good in their own way.

24. This guy hates crowds. But hates Trump more.

Yes, crowds are terrible since they’re so noisy. But having Trump as president is even worse.

25. There’s only one orange thing Scottish people are okay with.

Guess this is a beer in Scotland. Still, the Scots really hate his guts. Condolences for those who live near his Scottish golf course.

26. A Trump is better out than in.

Because a “trump” is British slang for fart, apparently. Still, this is hilarious.

27. Someone went out of their way to bash Donald Trump.

This Brit took off work and hired a babysitter. All to call Trump a “wanker.”

28. I’m sure that’s an understatement.

Indeed, Donald Trump likes going golfing on the weekends. Though I don’t think he’s any good either.

29. Dear Queen, don’t give him the good cookies.

They refer cookies as “biscuits” in Britain. not exactly sure why. Still, Trump treated the Queen like shit during his UK visit.

30. Melania, if you want us to save you, show us a sign.

However, I think that Melania is actually complicit in all this. Since she’s just Trump’s trophy wife.

31. This tennis fan is missing Wimbledon for this.

Though I do like how she called Trump a “tangerine wankmaggot.” Brits are so great with insults.

32. I’m sure protests can be civil affairs.

I think this is from The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear by Comedy Central in 2009. Nonetheless, this is hilarious.

33. There is only one baby who should be caged.

Well, I can agree with that. With all Trump has done, we should put his ass in prison.

34. Don’t worry, these guys are from the internet.

I think these guys are from Anonymous. Since they’re wearing Guy Fawkes masks from V for Vendetta.

35. Beware, alt-right, for the witches are coming.

This is from a counter protest in Boston after Charlottesville. The sheer crowd size scared the white supremacists away.

36. When you don’t have science, you have no Death Star.

Indeed, this Stormtrooper is right. But is that a point you want to make? I mean it can blow up a planet.

37. As we can see, Trump is a prick with no wall.

Because Trump’s wall at the US-Mexican boder is a phenomenonally stupid idea. Also, Trump’s a complete prick.

38. Donald Trump is not our Cheeto.

Considering how orange Trump is, this is appropriate. Because his stan is cheeto color.

39. It’s very bad when a librarian has to show up at a protest.

Since librarians don’t go out much. For they prefer books over people.

40. Barack Obama really doesn’t fit the holy description.

Well, that’s one way to piss off a conservative Christian. Indeed, a lot of them decried Obama a lot of things during his presidency. Miss the guy.

41. These women could’ve had brunch instead of turn out.

This is from the Women’s March. And yes, hell hath no fury like millions of women scorned.

42. We only have to fear fear and zombies.

Because the zombies will kill us all in the apocalypse. So it’s best we all stay out of cemeteries.

43. After all, Liza Minnelli married 2 gay men.

This is a pro-gay marriage sign. Yet, I’m sure Liza didn’t find out until after she married those guys.

44. This guy’s been gay for 82 years.

Because gay isn’t a choice or a phase. And yes, old gay people do exist.

45. Hurt education, kids won’t learn how to spell.

I guess this was for a teacher’s strike. And yes, teachers don’t get the respect they deserve in many states.

46. Didn’t know there were Smashing Pumpkins fans here.

Oh, it has Trump’s face on it. Okay, I get the joke.

47. Looks like Deadpool and Wolverine are having a feud.

Then again, Deadpool might just be trolling Wolverine. Still, the sign is funny.

48. For some people, everything always sounds sinister in Arabic.

Don’t worry, they’ve translated it to English so you wouldn’t get scared. Sad how Islamophobia infects the nation.

49. Guess this a sign of what’s to come.

Well, most of us knew that a Trump presidency was bad news. But this woman went with a reusable sign since she has a lot to protest about.

50. It’s always customary to have a sign at a protest.

Kind of a generic sign if you ask me. Not really original.

51. This guy must be a real Belieber.

Guess this was during a protest when Justin Bieber was popular. Apparently, he attracted a lot notoriety since.

52. Now’s not the time to be turned on right now.

Hope he wasn’t at a women’s march. Then again, better a women’s march than a Trump rally.

53. Get a load of this strong American bitch.

She does happen to be a dog. Though her bark is worse than her bite. Yet, she will bite that cheeto orange man in the White House.

54. These banksters on Wall Street need to go to jail.

I think this is from an Occupy protest. Nonetheless, the art is spot on.

55. Canadians will always support their American sisters.

I know those words aren’t appropriate in polite conversation. But it certainly fits in the protest context.

56. Very strong opinions can’t always be put into a sign.

This is from a Women’s March. But at least the sign gets straight to the point.

57.  Apparently, this guy doesn’t understand.

What does he mean by somewhat irritated? In Trump times, a lot of things can cause extreme outrage.

58. Protest signs accomplish nothing.

At least this person seems honest. Though this kind of cracks me up.

59. Someone seems rather scared.

This person is afraid of people with signs at rallies. Though the ones at Trump rallies are understandable.

60. She takes run like a girl to a whole new level.

That’s how you show them, kiddo. She’ll grow up to be a fine woman some day.

61. Don’t like gay marriage? Blame straight people.

Well, it has a valid point. It’s the straight people making gay babies. Since most gay people have straight parents.

62. Some guy’s keeping score in Trump’s golf game.

This is another British anti-Trump protestor. Though he decided to troll the Pussygrabber-in-chief in the most epic way possible.

63. Swamp creatures never drain the swamp.

I can agree with that. You should see the people in Trump’s cabinet.

64. Oh, God, Trump’s got the queen.

This is King Kong takeoff is brilliant. Though I’d exclude the cross of gold. I know the Religious Right backs him. But Trump never goes to church.

65. Not even Melania likes Trump, according to this sign.

Melania may not love Trump. But she loves his money. So she’s not going anywhere.

66. When talking about Donald Trump’s crimes, it’s difficult where to begin.

Yes, I get that feeling all the time. Since Donald Trump is an all-around wretched human being with practically no redeeming qualities. Other than not being a cannibal or murderer.

67. Just let that case do the talking.

Indeed, that describes Trump so perfectly. Got to love the Brits.

68. This woman has a public cervix announcement for Trump.

Indeed, we should all tell Trump to “fuck you.” Yet, Stormy Daniels doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

69. This light up sign has a very valid point.

Yeah, I think we took it too far with Trump. Since he’s totally not qualified for the job at all.

70. After all, there’s no marriage bans for assholes.

I mean Trump’s been married 3 times. So has Giuliani and Gingrich. So she has a valid point.

71. Seems to be a Daily Show fan to me.

Her comedy central is Fox News. Her news channel is Comedy Central.

72. Corporations are people when Texas executes one.

I can get behind this one. Since corporations aren’t people and shouldn’t have the same rights either.

73. Capitalism, you got serious problems.

After all, unrestricted capitalism is how many of us got in this financial mess. Yet, no Wall Street banker has been jailed for causing the 2008 recession.

74. Don’t believe in government? Don’t run for office.

Yet, libertarians and Republicans don’t seem to listen. And that’s why we have men like Trump in the White House.

75. Someone doesn’t seem to understand healthcare policy.

Uh, Medicare is socialized medicine. That’s why Democrats like me want Medicare for all.

76. There’s no excuse not to be civil at a protest.

Well, doesn’t hurt to disagree respectfully. Might be from Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

77.  Down with those rich corporate CEOs!

This is pretty clever if you ask me. Rich CEOs are a bunch of greedy bastards who want to hold onto their power.

78. You should always try to see others’ perspectives.

Well, it always help to understand different points of view. Though sometimes, it can prove difficult.

79. This gay guy just wants one marriage.

I mean Newt Gingrich treats women like some people treat cars. If something’s wrong with the one he has, he casts her aside for a newer model.

80. When Twitter’s down, one must use other ways of communication.

Not sure if signage is the way to go. There’s always blogging though.

81. Stop the tyrannical automatic renewals!

Guess people are upset with automatic renewals. Not sure why.

82. If there’s something conservatives should like about gay people…

You have to hand that to them. Since gay unions don’t result in unintended pregnancies.

83. We all know this is bound to happen.

Indeed, because Fox News is a conservative propaganda machine. Now it’s basically Trump TV.

84. Don’t think a protest is a place for a gang bang.

Yet, he holds such sign in colorful letters. Guy must be mad.

85. Some people are so angry they’d go do something about it.

Though not enough peope were angry enough to vote in 2016. And that’s why we got Lord Cheetohead in the White House.

86. These people don’t know what they’re protesting about.

They seem to be there for the beer. Though I don’t think there is any.

87. Indeed, our country has a grave case of electile dysfunction.

You got that right. Yet, that’s a close representation of the Capitol.

88. Islamophobes assume the worst with Arabic script.

Don’t worry, it just says, “McDonald’s.” Nothing to fret about.

89. Now here’s a cause we all can get behind.

Since some people start decorating for Christmas before it’s Halloween. Can’t they just wait until after Thanksgiving.

90. We all have our limits.

He’s using a straw to hold up his protest sign. Where he got it, I have no idea.

91. I believe someone must disagree.

Indeed, she begs to differ. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

92. Let this be clear: most Muslims aren’t terrorists. 

His wife may not be a terrorist. But he’s still scared of her anyway.

93. Best we be cool about everything here.

This one has the Dude from The Big Lebowski. Love this.

94. If God hates gays, why are they so cute?

Guess they’re making fun of Westboro Baptist Church. Still, it’s pretty funny.

95. How they protest in Canada.

She is a bit upset. That’s Canadian for “super pissed.”

96. We all may need Jesus during these dark times.

I’m sure anti-Trump Christians like me are all praying right now. Because we really can’t do much else.

97. Someone’s xenophobic.

Has a picture of Xenia, Warrior Princess. And I can see why this person might be afraid of her.

98. We should all pay our taxes.

Love the snake sign that says, “Slytherin.” Definitely says a lot about those who fly the “Don’t Tread on Me” flags.

99. We only get a certain amount of time.

Someone doesn’t have time for all this. Well, don’t we all?

100. Circus clown needs a job.

He wants to be in Congress where he belongs. Can’t really argue with that.