“I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.”


Staff & Wire Reports



In this Aug. 21, 2018, photo, Michael Cohen, center, leaves federal court in New York. President Donald Trump has long demanded loyalty from his friends and associates. But he has been learning the hard way that in politics those relationships come and go. A key defection came this week when Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, implicated the president in a stunning plea deal, followed by a longtime friend and media boss cooperating with prosecutors. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

In this Aug. 21, 2018, photo, Michael Cohen, center, leaves federal court in New York. President Donald Trump has long demanded loyalty from his friends and associates. But he has been learning the hard way that in politics those relationships come and go. A key defection came this week when Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, implicated the president in a stunning plea deal, followed by a longtime friend and media boss cooperating with prosecutors. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)


A president who demands loyalty finds it fleeting in DC

By KEN THOMAS and CATHERINE LUCEY

Associated Press

Friday, August 24

WASHINGTON (AP) — Et tu, Michael Cohen?

Loyalty has long been a core value for President Donald Trump. But he’s learning the hard way that in politics, it doesn’t always last.

Cohen, the president’s former personal attorney, this week implicated the president in a stunning plea deal. Days later, word surfaced that David Pecker, a longtime Trump friend and media boss, also was cooperating with prosecutors.

On Friday, media outlets reported that Trump Organization finance chief Allen Weisselberg, a longtime personal and professional ally, had been granted immunity in the Cohen probe. The Wall Street Journal and NBC News were first to report from anonymous sources that Weisselberg got immunity to talk to federal prosecutors.

Taking the Cohen news as a personal betrayal, Trump criticized his longtime fixer for “flipping,” saying on “Fox and Friends” that such double crossers “make up things” to get reduced prison time and become “a national hero.”

The defection of Cohen, who had once grandly declared he would “take a bullet” for the president, was deeply troubling to Trump. And the lawyer is just one in a series of former Trump loyalists who have dissociated themselves from the president, intent on saving themselves in a series of nasty legal and political battles. The growing list includes Pecker, former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Pecker, a Trump confidant and chief executive of the company that publishes the National Enquirer, was granted immunity by federal prosecutors in exchange for providing information in the criminal investigation into hush payments made by Cohen on Trump’s behalf before the 2016 election, media outlets reported Thursday.

Weisselberg, who started working for Trump’s family in the early 1970s, was given immunity to provide information in the same investigation, according to the media reports.

A senior White House official said Thursday that the president was undoubtedly frustrated and surprised by the latest developments, particularly campaign finance-related charges against Cohen, as evidenced by Trump’s tweets and public statements. But the official disputed the notion that the president was visibly upset over the news. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions, said Trump carried out his normal complement of meetings Thursday and bantered as usual with staff and lawmakers who were at the White House.

The official said Trump and his aides have grown accustomed to being smacked with bad news when they look up at the television — and their reactions are more muted than when Trump first took office.

But Manigault Newman, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” outraged the president last week with the release of a tell-all book and series of secretly recorded audiotapes, as she accused Trump of being racist and suffering from a mental decline.

Trump is still stung by the decision of Flynn, his first national security adviser, to plead guilty to lying to the FBI last year about his contacts with a Russian official in exchange for cooperating with authorities in the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

And he was irate when former strategist Steve Bannon was quoted in Michael Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury,” as saying it was “treasonous” for Donald Trump Jr. and others to meet during the 2016 campaign with a Russian attorney who claimed to have incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.

Yet no other administration figure has caused Trump more agitation than Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who infuriated the president by recusing himself from the Mueller investigation. Trump re-ignited his feud with the former Alabama senator Thursday by complaining in the Fox interview that Sessions “never took control of the Justice Department.”

“He took the job and then he said I’m going to recuse myself. I said, ‘What kind of a man is this?’ And by the way, he was on the campaign. You know the only reason I gave him the job because I felt loyalty, he was an original supporter,” Trump said.

Sessions responded that he and his department “will not be improperly influenced by political considerations,” adding to tension over his decision to recuse himself. People close to the president said they were not aware of any immediate plans to dismiss Sessions, at least before the midterm elections.

Throughout his time in office, Trump has demanded dramatic shows of fealty.

When then-FBI Director James Comey met with Trump early in the administration, he said the president asked him if he wanted to stay in his role and declared: “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.” Trump fired Comey months later.

During an early Cabinet meeting, Trump’s team appeared to compete to praise the president the most. Then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus stated, “We thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda.”

Before entering politics, Trump ran his business with a close circle of advisers, including his children, and during his campaign he leaned heavily on a handful of aides. He has long viewed loyalty as paramount.

Trump has openly mused about the need for another Roy Cohn, the larger-than-life New York attorney who guided the future president in New York’s media and real estate landscape during the 1970s. But for someone who insisted on ironclad loyalty, those types of friendships have only gone so far in Washington.

Trump has groused privately that his top attorney in the Mueller probe, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, was in Scotland for a golf vacation when the Cohen and Manafort news broke.

Trump told “Fox and Friends” that for “30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they — they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go.”

The president said the decision by those under legal scrutiny to cooperate with prosecutors “almost ought to be illegal.”

“They go from 10 years to they’re a national hero,” he said. “They have a statue erected in their honor. It’s not a fair thing.”

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

Opinion: MAGAnomics, a 600-Day Appraisal

By Thomas A. Firey

InsideSources.com

President Trump is nearing his 600th day in office, which is ample time for him to develop, refine and pursue his economic policies to “Make America Great Again.” What better time is there to appraise his “MAGAnomics.”

Right now, those policies appear to be successful. The unemployment rate hovers around record-low levels, gross domestic product topped 4 percent in the last quarter and consumer confidence is as high as it’s been since the late-1990s technology boom. Yet economic policy isn’t just about the present but also the long-term. So how is MAGAnomics doing in that regard?

Trump’s biggest policy triumph so far is the fall 2017 tax legislation. The law’s lower business tax rate and the capped tax deductions are praiseworthy achievements. The former reduces the deadweight loss on business activity and brings the U.S. rate in line with the rest of the developed world. The latter reduces the regressiveness of some parts of the tax code. Encouragingly, future Congresses are unlikely to reverse these tax changes because they won’t want to restore a disadvantage on U.S. employers or reinstitute a tax break for the rich.

However, the overall reduction in Americans’ taxes will almost certainly not endure, because federal spending wasn’t cut. Trump and Congress will close the budget gap with more federal borrowing, returning America to trillion-dollar deficits.

Unless some future Congress undertakes serious budget-cutting, federal taxes will have to rise to pay those debts. Because of that, the 2017 tax changes are “fake” tax cuts.

Among the Trump administration’s top policy priorities are managing the nation’s international trade and reducing both legal and illegal immigration. On trade, Trump has backed out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and is threatening to abandon similar pacts with Europe and the rest of North America. He is now taxing imported steel and aluminum, washing machines and solar panels, and has threatened tariffs on foreign automobiles.

Protectionism mainly harms the protectionist countries’ own citizens by raising their taxes. Trump says this is OK because his tariffs will force other countries to open their markets, claiming that “every country is calling every day” to make new agreements. But he’s yet to announce any new deals, and no serious negotiations are occurring. His actions have also led China, Canada and the European Union to raise tariffs on U.S. goods.

On immigration, Trump claims that inflows of both legal and illegal immigrants threaten national security and public safety. But both legal and illegal immigrants are less likely to commit violent and property crimes than native citizens, and the nation’s immigration vetting procedures — tightened heavily after 9/11 — have proven highly effective at screening out dangerous people.

These policies deprive America of both goods and workers. On immigration and trade, MAGAnomics is a failure.

In contrast, regulatory policy appears to be a MAGAnomics success. Following Trump’s taking office, the Republican-led Congress repealed more than a dozen regulations the Obama administration implemented in its last months in office. Trump appointees also put the brakes on current rulemaking in the federal agencies, smothering a slew of Obama initiatives in the pipeline. This has yielded a historic freeze in the growth of federal regulation and a slight decline in the cost of regulation.

But America needs more than a halt to new regulations; it needs a rollback and simplification of whole regulatory regimes that are inefficient, ineffective and harm general welfare. This happened in the great deregulatory wave of the 1970s–1990s, yielding large public benefits. Unfortunately, the Trump administration isn’t laying the policy groundwork and building the political coalitions necessary for another wave. As a result, MAGAnomics will likely have no long-term regulatory effects and its short-term achievements will be reversed the next time the Democrats have control of the White House and Congress.

With the federal debt in excess of $21 trillion and Social Security and Medicare in need of an additional $13.2 trillion and $37.2 trillion, respectively above their currently expected tax income in order to keep paying their current benefits in the decades to come, the president has two major action items to deal with. Yet Trump has repeatedly vowed to make no changes to Social Security or Medicare and plans to run up more government debt. This saddles the U.S. economy with uncertainty and threatens American workers’ retirement. Another MAGAnomics failure.

MAGAnomics is a slogan, not a serious plan to strengthen the nation’s economy. Because of that, Trump’s first 600 days of economic policy have been a dud.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Thomas A. Firey is a Cato Institute senior fellow and managing editor of Regulation. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

Lock him up! Lock him up! The Flipper regime

by Tom H. Hastings

His karma is headed over the cliff.

They are finding the witches, eh? Michael Cohen, his fixer lawyer, pleads out, flipping off Trump. His Campaign Chair, Paul Manafort, is convicted on a cluster of eight fiscal felonies and was in bed with Putin for years, mostly in his capacity as highly paid consultant to Putin’s man in Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, a kleptocrat ruling impoverished subjects. His erstwhile National Security Advisor and bona fide traitor, Michael Flynn, is awaiting sentencing, which probably won’t be much, since he flipped. One of his campaign officials, Rick Gates, also flipped him off. George Papadopoluos, another campaign aide, lied repeatedly to the FBI about his campaign activities, which included many contacts with Russians, and he’ll be sentenced soon. The can of worms is not finished emptying.

The web of Trump lies, cheating, and conspiring with Russians to steal the biggest prize of all—the White House, is quite wide and deep, and Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III is just getting his second wind, even as other prosecutors in various federal and state districts are filing suits and more charges, including now one just filed by the Attorney General of New York documenting the sleazy abuse of the tax-free foundation laws by the Trump Foundation with some $2.8 million illegally spent on Trump himself.

Many comparisons have been made to Nixon’s ignominious Watergate burglary scandal, but that was peanuts by comparison. That was one US political party leadership acting like thugs to steal an election for themselves. This one essentially shows us with a “leader” beholden to Russia, to Vladimir Putin, a far more nefarious plot, giving a great advantage to a murderous strongman from a foreign adversary.

Of course, most Republicans and pretty much all of Trump’s base are burying their heads, opening eyes and ears only when Fox “News” is blaring their lies and demonstrably wacky theories. Global warming? What a hoax. Trump campaign colludes with Russia? Witch hunt. White nationalism is a bad thing? Naw, not to them.

The Proud Deplorables are apparently pretty much fine with lies, treason, racism, sexism, environmental destruction, and thieving, all hot button hallmarks of the Trump campaign, the Trump regime, the Trump brand.

So here we are, with the whole world watching in disbelief at American credulousness and willingness to abandon democracy in favor of autocracy. While I support dialog with folks with whom I disagree, what is there to say in the face of this tsunami of evidence? Please wake up? Can you face the truth or will you choose to continue to slide to new depths along with a fake leader who has betrayed his country?

Nixon stepped down rather than face imminent impeachment. Trump will need the full treatment, however, as he is congenitally incapable of admitting his malfeasance, his errors, and his illegal actions. Will Congress grow a backbone in time to fix this?

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoiceDirector and on occasion an expert witness for the defense in court.

AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s bent reality: Cohen, clean air, taxes

By HOPE YEN

Associated Press

Monday, August 27

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is living in an alternate reality when it comes to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and other controversies swirling around him.

He laments the threat of a “perjury trap” in explaining why he’s hesitant to be interviewed by Mueller in the Russia probe, even as Trump’s lawyers assert that Mueller had ruled out trying to indict a sitting president.

Trump also makes the head-scratching claim that the crimes of his ex-lawyer, Michael Cohen, are not criminal and falsely suggests that Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman, should be viewed as innocent even after being found guilty on several bank fraud and other charges.

The statements came in a week of distorted truth in which Trump also complained about a politician plagiarizing his slogan despite his history of doing the same, wrongly claimed his tax cuts are the biggest ever and defied data in declaring the U.S. is No. 1 in environmental quality.

A look at his rhetoric and how they compare with the facts:

RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

TRUMP, citing concerns of a “perjury trap”: “So if I say something and he (former FBI director James Comey) says something, and it’s my word against his, and he’s best friends with Mueller, so Mueller might say: ‘Well, I believe Comey,’ and even if I’m telling the truth, that makes me a liar. That’s no good.” — interview with Reuters published Aug. 20.

RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP’S ATTORNEY: “I am not going to be rushed into having him testify so that he gets trapped into perjury.” — remarks Aug. 19 on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

THE FACTS: They’re making a disingenuous claim. Both Trump and his lawyers point to a threat of perjury charges, even as Giuliani has maintained that Mueller’s team indicated the special counsel had ruled out the possibility of indicting Trump.

Legal experts generally agree that sitting presidents can’t be indicted. Mueller would presumably be bound by Justice Department legal memos from 1973 and 2000 suggesting that a sitting president is immune from indictment and that criminal charges would undermine the ability of the commander in chief to do the job.

Trump and Giuliani falsely suggest that Mueller would be able to easily bring a perjury indictment based solely on Comey’s contradictory testimony. In fact, perjury charges are often difficult to prove: Mueller would have to show beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump intentionally lied. A conflicting statement from Trump doesn’t rise to a criminal offense if he arguably misunderstood, forgot, misspoke or misremembered information.

Mueller could also prepare a report detailing allegations intended for Congress to act upon as an impeachable offense. But impeachment is a political rather than a legal concept, strongly influenced by whichever party is in control of Congress.

Trump’s assertion of a “perjury trap” comes as he and his lawyers have hedged on an interview amid a months-long negotiation over whether and how investigators can question the president on possible obstruction of justice in the Russia probe. Mueller’s team has put forward questions including about his firing of Comey last year and his public antagonism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

2016 ELECTION

TRUMP: “You know, they kept saying I had a problem with the women’s vote; I get 52 percent in the election.” — remarks Friday in Columbus, Ohio.

THE FACTS: No. Trump appears to be citing a figure pertaining to white women only.

Among all women, about 54 percent nationally voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to exit polls, compared with Trump’s 41 percent.

COHEN AND MANAFORT

TRUMP: “Michael Cohen plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime.” — tweet Wednesday.

THE FACTS: False. The campaign finance violations are crimes. While it’s not a crime to pay someone to keep quiet, the Justice Department says the hush money payments arranged by Cohen to conceal allegations of Trump’s extramarital affairs were actually unreported campaign contributions meant to influence the outcome of the election.

That’s a critical assertion because it makes the payments subject to campaign finance laws, which restrict how much people can donate to a campaign and bar corporations from making direct contributions.

Though some campaign finance experts suggested before the guilty plea that the payments to two women who say they had sex with Trump could have been arranged for other purposes, such as protecting Trump’s personal reputation, Cohen himself acknowledged that the goal was to affect the election and protect Trump’s candidacy.

The $150,000 payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal by National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc. and the $130,000 payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels far exceeded permissible campaign contribution limits.

TRUMP: “A large number of counts, ten, could not even be decided in the Paul Manafort case. Witch Hunt!” — tweet Wednesday.

THE FACTS: The jury’s lack of consensus on 10 of 18 counts hardly makes Manafort an innocent man, or supports the notion that Mueller’s investigation is a “witch hunt.” Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, was found guilty on eight counts, including filing false tax returns and two bank fraud charges that will almost certainly guarantee years of prison for him.

On the 10 other counts, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict; they did not acquit him of those charges. Federal prosecutors have the option to try him again on those charges or accept what they’ve got.

Manafort faces another trial in Washington next month on separate charges, including conspiracy to defraud the U.S., money laundering and witness tampering.

POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS

TRUMP: “Bill DeBlasio, the high taxing Mayor of NYC, just stole my campaign slogan: PROMISES MADE PROMISES KEPT! That’s not at all nice. No imagination!” — tweet Tuesday.

TRUMP: “‘Promises Made, Promises Kept.’ They’re copying it now, the Democrats.” — West Virginia rally Tuesday.

THE FACTS: Trump is a slogan copycat himself. His slogan about promises made and kept was used by President Barack Obama in his 2012 campaign. Republican John Engler used it when he ran for re-election as Michigan governor in 1994.

“Make America Great Again” was used by President Ronald Reagan, preceded by “Let’s.”

“Drain the swamp” was a mantra of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi during the 2006 midterm election campaigns, in what turned out to be Democrats’ successful bid to take control of the House.

CLEAN AIR

TRUMP: “I want clean air. I want crystal clean water. And we’ve got it. We’ve got the cleanest country in the planet right now. There’s nobody cleaner than us.” — West Virginia rally Tuesday.

THE FACTS: The United States does not have the cleanest air on Earth. Not even close.

The Associated Press consulted five databases and reports. Each showed countries with cleaner air both in dangerous small particles and in ozone, which is smog.

For example, the Health Effects Institute’s state of global air report found 65 countries with less smog when adjusted for season and population. Those include Sweden, Switzerland, France, Germany, Norway, Canada and Venezuela. And in the more dangerous small particles, or soot, eight countries bested the U.S. Among them were Finland, Sweden and Norway.

Yale’s performance index ranks the United States 10th in overall air quality behind Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand and others. But when it comes to dangerous soot exposure levels, the United States ranked 87th, just behind the Philippines.

When it comes to clean water, the data comes close to supporting Trump. Yale’s team took the top countries in the world on drinking water and ranked them all No. 1, including the United States, although there are some technical differences among them.

TAXES

TRUMP: “It is the biggest tax cut in the history of our country and you people are benefiting by it.” — West Virginia rally Tuesday.

THE FACTS: This biggest-ever claim has become one of the president’s favorite fabrications.

His tax cuts are nowhere close to the biggest in U.S. history.

It’s a $1.5 trillion tax cut over 10 years. As a share of the total economy, a tax cut of that size ranks a lowly 12th, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Are people already seeing benefits from the tax cuts? Companies definitely are.

Economic growth has picked up this year because of the deficit-financed stimulus. Companies are taking their tax savings and buying back stock at a record pace, according to TrimTabs Investment Research.

But so far, the tax cuts haven’t delivered a major shot of financial adrenaline to most families.

One recent estimate by former Treasury Department official Ernie Tedeschi is that the cuts are adding $50 a month to average take-home pay, a figure that falls to $17 a month when higher state and local taxes are included in the estimate.

Nor are the cuts fueling higher wage growth.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that wages have dropped in the past 12 months after adjusting for inflation.

IMMIGRANTS AND CRIME

TRUMP, praising Immigration and Customs Enforcement: “To hear some of the stories going on with MS-13, you wouldn’t believe it. And they’re doing an incredible job. They’re actually liberating towns.” — remarks Aug. 20.

TRUMP: “A vote for any Democrat in November is a vote to eliminate immigration enforcement, throw open our borders and set loose vicious predators and violent criminals. They’ll be all over our communities. They will be preying on our communities.” — West Virginia rally Tuesday.

THE FACTS: Trump suggests that weak border enforcement is contributing to crime committed by MS-13. But the gang actually has many U.S.-born members at this point — people who by virtue of U.S. citizenship can’t be denied entry based on their nationality, or deported. The government has not said recently how many members it thinks are citizens and immigrants. In notable raids on MS-13 in 2015 and 2016, most of the people caught were found to be U.S. citizens.

More broadly, Trump overgeneralizes about people who arrive illegally in the U.S. Several studies have shown that immigration does not lead to increased crime.

Foreign-born immigrants are less likely to commit crime than native-born Americans, the research found, but crime rates rise for succeeding generations as the children and grandchildren of immigrants become more like native-born Americans.

TRUMP: “We have MS-13 on the run. They’ve poured in here with Obama, we have them on the run.” — remarks Tuesday.

THE FACTS: There’s no evidence that MS-13 gangs “poured in” during the Obama administration. The Justice Department has said there are about 10,000 MS-13 members in the U.S., the same number as more than a decade ago.

Trump’s Justice Department has indirectly credited the Obama administration, in its early years, with putting heavy pressure on the gang. It said, “Through the combined efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement, great progress was made diminishing or severely (disrupting) the gang within certain targeted areas of the U.S. by 2009 and 2010.”

TRUMP: “The new platform of the Democrat Party is to abolish ICE.” — remarks Friday in Columbus, Ohio.

TRUMP: “Leading members of the Democrat Party have even launched a campaign to abolish ICE. In other words, they want to abolish America’s borders.” — remarks Aug. 20.

THE FACTS: While some Democrats in the House and Senate have raised the prospect of eliminating Immigration and Customs Enforcement, no top Democrats in the House or Senate have called for such a move. Those Democrats who have expressed openness to eliminating ICE have said they would not abandon border enforcement, which is largely carried out by Customs and Border Protection.

Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Chad Day, Josh Boak, Seth Borenstein and Cal Woodward contributed to this report.

Health Effects Institute: https://www.stateofglobalair.org/report

Yale’s Environmental Performance Index: https://epi.envirocenter.yale.edu/2018-epi-report/introduction

Berkeley Earth’s air pollution monitoring: http://berkeleyearth.lbl.gov/air-quality/CountryList.php?mode=5

Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation: http://www.healthdata.org/

World Health Organization’s Urban Ambient Air Pollution: http://www.who.int/phe/health_topics/outdoorair/databases/AAP_database_summary_results_2016_v02.pdf?ua=1

Find AP Fact Checks at http://apne.ws/2kbx8bd

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In this Aug. 21, 2018, photo, Michael Cohen, center, leaves federal court in New York. President Donald Trump has long demanded loyalty from his friends and associates. But he has been learning the hard way that in politics those relationships come and go. A key defection came this week when Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, implicated the president in a stunning plea deal, followed by a longtime friend and media boss cooperating with prosecutors. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/08/web1_121224150-7028c67c1c7344df8cea9b6485bbb155.jpgIn this Aug. 21, 2018, photo, Michael Cohen, center, leaves federal court in New York. President Donald Trump has long demanded loyalty from his friends and associates. But he has been learning the hard way that in politics those relationships come and go. A key defection came this week when Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, implicated the president in a stunning plea deal, followed by a longtime friend and media boss cooperating with prosecutors. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Staff & Wire Reports