Flipping and the POTUS


Staff & Wire Reports



In this Aug. 21, 2018 photo, President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a in Charleston, W.Va.  Trump assailed longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen for making a plea deal in an interview that aired Thursday, accusing his former fixer of “flipping” and arguing “it almost ought to be illegal.”  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

In this Aug. 21, 2018 photo, President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a in Charleston, W.Va. Trump assailed longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen for making a plea deal in an interview that aired Thursday, accusing his former fixer of “flipping” and arguing “it almost ought to be illegal.” (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)


Michael Cohen leaves Federal court, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, in New York. Cohen, has pleaded guilty to charges including campaign finance fraud stemming from hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)


This Thursday, July 12, 2018 photo provided by the Alexandria, Va., Detention Center shows Paul Manafort, who was booked into the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center. On Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, the longtime political operative who for months led Donald Trump's winning presidential campaign, was found guilty of eight financial crimes in the first trial victory of the special counsel investigation into the president's associates. (Alexandria Detention Center via AP)


Trump denies wrongdoing, says Cohen is making up stories

By ZEKE MILLER, CATHERINE LUCEY and JONATHAN LEMIRE

Associated Press

Thursday, August 23

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump, incensed over a deal his longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen cut with prosecutors, says it might be better if “flipping” were illegal because people “just make up lies.”

Trump, in a television interview that aired Thursday, downplayed his relationship to Cohen, who claims the president directed a hush-money scheme to buy the silence of two women who say they had affairs with him. The president argued Cohen only worked for him part-time and accused him of making up stories to reduce his legal exposure.

“I know all about flipping,” Trump told “Fox and Friends,” which taped the interview with him Wednesday at the White House. “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.”

Trump made the comments as his White House struggled to manage the fallout from Cohen’s plea deal and the conviction of Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on financial charges. The president suggested that Cohen’s legal trouble stemmed from his other businesses, including involvement with the New York City taxi cab industry.

The back-to-back legal blows have raised speculation that Democrats would launch impeachment proceedings if they win the House of Representatives this fall. Trump argued the move could have dire economic consequences.

“If I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash. I think everybody would be very poor,” Trump said. He added: “I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who’s done a great job.”

“Without this thinking,” said Trump as he pointed to his head, “you would see, you would see numbers that you wouldn’t believe in reverse.”

Trump did not say if he would pardon Manafort, but expressed “great respect” for him and argued that some of the charges “every consultant, every lobbyist in Washington probably does.”

Cohen, who says he won’t seek a pardon from Trump, pleaded guilty Tuesday to eight charges, including campaign finance violations that he said he carried out in coordination with Trump. Behind closed doors, Trump expressed worry and frustration that a man intimately familiar with his political, personal and business dealings for more than a decade had turned on him.

Yet his White House signaled no clear strategy for managing the fallout. At a White House briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted at least seven times that Trump had done nothing wrong and was not the subject of criminal charges. She referred substantive questions to the president’s personal counsel Rudy Giuliani, who was at a golf course in Scotland. Outside allies of the White House said they had received little guidance on how to respond to the events in their appearances on cable news. And it was not clear the West Wing was assembling any kind of coordinated response.

In the interview, Trump argued, incorrectly, that the hush-money payouts weren’t “even a campaign violation” because he subsequently reimbursed Cohen for the payments personally instead of with campaign funds. Federal law restricts how much individuals can donate to a campaign, bars corporations from making direct contributions and requires the disclosure of transactions.

Cohen had said Tuesday he secretly used shell companies to make payments used to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film actress Stormy Daniels for the purpose of influencing the 2016 election.

Trump has insisted that he only found out about the payments after they were made, despite the release of a September 2016 taped conversation in which Trump and Cohen can be heard discussing a deal to pay McDougal for her story of a 2006 affair she says she had with Trump.

The White House denied the president had lied, with Sanders calling the assertion “ridiculous.” Yet she offered no explanation for Trump’s shifting accounts.

As Trump vented his frustration, White House aides sought to project a sense of calm. Used to the ever-present shadow of federal investigations, numbed West Wing staffers absorbed near-simultaneous announcements Tuesday of the Cohen plea deal and the conviction of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on financial charges.

Manafort faces trial on separate charges in September in the District of Columbia that include acting as a foreign agent.

That Cohen was in trouble was no surprise — federal prosecutors raided his offices months ago — but Trump and his allies were caught off-guard when he also pleaded guilty to campaign finance crimes, which, for the first time, took the swirling criminal probes directly to the president.

Both cases resulted, at least in part, from the work of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s attempts to sway voters in the 2016 election.

Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, said Wednesday that Cohen has information “that would be of interest” to the special counsel.

“There are subjects that Michael Cohen could address that would be of interest to the special counsel,” Davis said in a series of television interviews.

Trump, in turn, praised Manafort as “a brave man!” raising speculation the former campaign operative could become the recipient of a pardon. He contended the prosecution was an overreach by the Justice Department and he revived his criticism of the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Manafort had tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Cohen, he refused to ‘break,’” Trump said.

Sanders said the matter of a pardon for Manafort had not been discussed.

Among Trump allies, the back-to-back blows were a harbinger of dark days to come for the president. Democrats are eagerly anticipating gaining subpoena power over the White House — and many are openly discussing the possibility of impeaching Trump — should they retake control of the House in November’s midterm elections.

And even Trump loyalists acknowledged the judicial proceedings were a blow to the GOP’s chances of retaining the majority this year.

“They have survived the Russia thing, but no one knows what’s next,” said former campaign aide Barry Bennett.

Debate swirled inside and outside the White House about next steps and how damaging the legal fallout was for the president.

Allies of the president stressed an untested legal theory that a sitting president cannot be indicted — only impeached.

Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci argued that “at the end of the day it will be up to the House and the Senate to decide on the president’s presidency.”

Former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer stressed that the revelations may be sordid but do not meet the constitutional bar of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“Having an affair and lying about it with a porn star and a Playboy bunny is not impeachable,” Fleischer said, “it’s Donald Trump.”

Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Chad Day, Ken Thomas and Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

The Conversation

Today’s GOP leaders have little in common with those who resisted Nixon

August 23, 2018

Michael Koncewicz

Assistant Research Scholar , New York University

Disclosure statement

Michael Koncewicz does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Republican leaders in 2018 are profoundly different than the ones who dealt with Watergate in the 1970s.

During Watergate, a significant number of GOP members of Congress and the Nixon administration publicly resisted President Richard Nixon’s efforts to undermine the rule of law.

Today’s GOP leaders, with few exceptions, meekly follow President Trump.

Republicans in Congress, and even GOP candidates for Congress, have been loathe to criticize the president. Their submissiveness has significant implications. In my view, some Republicans today are, with the support of the president, openly impeding an ongoing investigation that may or many not implicate Trump.

Recent attacks from Republicans on Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election has made that much clear.

That’s in contrast to how some prominent members of the GOP acted during the Watergate crisis that led to President Nixon’s resignation.

Research in my forthcoming book “They Said No to Nixon” reveals that Republican civil servants serving in President Nixon’s administration blocked his attempts to politicize their work.

Their stories, when contrasted with the actions of Republicans today, show how the GOP has transformed from a party that included moderate civil servants to one that embraces a culture of loyalty now.

Past isn’t prologue

The political backdrop today is of growing crisis for President Trump as Mueller’s investigation has spawned indictments of the president’s associates.

Two dozen people, including five in Trump’s circle, have been charged in Mueller’s investigation. On Tuesday, Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted of tax evasion and bank fraud on the same day the president’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes, including campaign finance violations.

Trump feeds the crisis atmosphere with intemperate tweets and inflammatory statements.

Earlier this month, Trump sent out a tweet that openly encouraged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end Mueller’s investigation.

Following the Manafort conviction, the president once again referred to the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” and praised Manafort, calling him a “brave man” for refusing to “break.”

The president has set the tone for Republicans in Congress who have mostly followed his lead.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has attempted to rally Republicans in Congress to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Mueller investigation. House Majority Leader Paul Ryan disavowed this effort, though he was still supportive of other measures conservative House members wanted to take that would escalate the conflict with Rosenstein and the Justice Department.

The House Republican attacks on Rosenstein follow those of Devin Nunes, a Republic-Calif., the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, who has repeatedly tried to find ways to limit the scope of the Mueller investigation.

Moderate Republicans

Here are three instances when Republicans in both Congress and the Nixon administration stood up to Nixon.

One: Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency on Aug. 9, 1974, more than two years after five men who worked for the president’s re-election campaign were caught breaking into the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate office complex.

Subsequent investigations uncovered evidence that the White House attempted to cover up their involvement in the break-in in order to hide their broader campaign to spy on their political opponents. That evidence included the “smoking gun” tape which featured the president discussing with his Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman how they could stop the Watergate investigation.

On Aug. 7, Republican Senators Barry Goldwater and Hugh Scott, along with Congressman John Jacob Rhodes, went to the White House and told the president that his support in Congress had collapsed. They also told the president that the House would impeach him and that the Senate would convict him.

Nixon announced his resignation the very next day.

Two: In contrast to the Republican party of 2018, which has largely followed Trump’s brand of conservatism, the GOP of the Nixon era represented a wider range of views. The Nixon administration and Republicans in Congress included many moderates whose priorities were not always in line with the more conservative White House.

Among the moderates were cabinet members Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Treasury Secretary George Shultz.

Less than two months before the 1972 presidential election, in which Nixon was running for re-election, IRS Commissioner Johnnie Walters refused to comply with the White House’s plan to audit hundreds of the president’s enemies. Shultz defied the White House and supported Walters, who worked for him.

When Nixon later sent orders to the staff of the Office of Management and Budget to punish universities that permitted large antiwar protests, Shultz defied him again and refused to carry out a plan to cut federal funds to MIT.

Three: Elliot Richardson, Nixon’s attorney general, famously resigned on Oct. 20, 1973, after refusing Nixon’s order to fire the Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. Cox was investigating the Watergate burglary and crimes related to it.

In what came to be known as the “Saturday Night Massacre,” Richardson’s deputy, William Ruckelshaus, a fellow moderate, also resigned in protest. Cox was subsequently fired by the man who became acting attorney general, Robert Bork.

After Cox was fired, Congress was besieged by telegrams calling for Nixon’s impeachment. By the end of the month, a plurality of the American public were in favor of impeachment.

Nixon later wrote in his memoirs of Richardson, a product of the Ivy League establishment, “The first major mistake was the appointment of Richardson as Attorney General.” He added, “Richardson’s weakness, which came to light during the Cox firing, should have been apparent.”

Nixon labeled moderates who resisted his orders as weak and disloyal, similar to how Trump has described Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others who disagree with him.

Commitment to civil service

I believe that the individuals who said “no” to Nixon placed an emphasis on finding nonpartisan solutions in their work instead of slavishly following their party and its leader.

For example, former IRS Commissioner Johnnie Walters, the Republican who refused to audit Nixon’s “enemies,” said in 2008, “By doing the job right, we were protecting our tax system and the tax laws and the taxpayers, and not the Administration.” Like Shultz, Walters’ stand demonstrated that he was someone who was not bound by his political party.

Walters and other administration officials were committed to nonpartisan civil service. Nixon was a politician.

Nixon once said to his outgoing cabinet member John Connally: “I don’t believe that civil service is a good thing for the country.”

Culture of loyalty

The actions of Walters, Shultz, Richardson and Ruckelshaus, as well as the Republican congressional leaders who told Nixon he’d lost party support, show that there were GOP officials and leaders who were willing to challenge President Nixon.

Similar to today, each of these Republicans had to overcome the president’s culture of loyalty. Nixon frequently obsessed over creating what he called a “new establishment” that would move the country in a more conservative direction. Its central component was loyalty to him.

During a meeting where he plotted out his second term, Nixon said: “I’d rather take a dumb loyalist than a bright neuter.”

Soon after the Saturday Night Massacre, Nixon wrote that “establishment types like Richardson simply won’t stand with us when (the) chips are down.”

Today’s Republicans are led now by a president who also demands loyalty at every turn. And their actions stand in marked contrast to those who once were faced with similar challenges, and who chose country over loyalty to one man.

An alternative to propping up coal power plants: Retrain workers for solar

August 22, 2018

Joshua M. Pearce

Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering, Michigan Technological University

Disclosure statement

Dr. Joshua M. Pearce works as Professor of Engineering for the Michigan Technological University. He receives funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), The Air Force Research Laboratory (ARFL) with the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) and America Makes, and the National Science Foundation (NSF). In addition, his past and present consulting work and research is funded by many non-profits and for-profit companies, many of them in the energy field. He does not directly work for any solar module manufacturer and has no direct conflicts of interests.

The Trump administration announced new pollution rules for coal-fired power plants designed to keep existing coal power plants operating more and save American coal mining jobs.

Profitability for U.S. coal power plants has plummeted, and one major coal company after another has filed for bankruptcy, including the world’s largest private-sector coal company, Peabody Energy.

The main reason coal is in decline is less expensive natural gas and renewable energy like solar. Coal employment has dropped so low there are fewer than 53,000 coal miners in total in the U.S. (for comparison, the failing retailer J.C. Penny has about twice as many workers).

The EPA estimates the new rules will cause about 1,400 more premature deaths a year from coal-related air pollution by 2030. The Trump administration could avoid the premature American deaths from coal pollution – which amount to about 52,000 per year in total – and still help the coal miners themselves by retraining them for a more profitable industry, such as the solar industry.

A study I co-authored analyzed the question of retraining current coal workers for employment in the solar industry. We found that this transition is feasible in most cases and would even result in better pay for nearly all of the current coal workers.

How to make the jump?

What is left of the coal mining industry represents a unique demographic compared to the rest of America. It is white (96.4 percent); male (96.2 percent); aging, with an average age of 43.8 years old; and relatively uneducated, with 76.7 percent having earned only a high school degree or equivalent. Many are highly skilled, however, with the largest sector of jobs being equipment operators at 27 percent. Many of these skills can be transferred directly into the solar industry.

In the study, we evaluated the skill sets of current coal workers and tabulated salaries. For each type of coal position, we determined the closest equivalent solar position and tried to match current coal salaries. We then quantified the time and investment required to retrain each worker.

Our results show there is a wide variety of employment opportunities in solar – the industry overall already employs more than five times more people than in coal mining, at over 250,000 by one industry group estimate. We also found the annual pay is generally better at all levels of education, even with the lowest-skilled jobs. For example, janitors in the coal industry could increase their salaries by 7 percent by becoming low-skilled mechanical assemblers in the solar industry.

Overall, we found that after retraining, technical workers (the vast majority) would make more money in the solar industry than they do in coal. Also note this study was about careers and was done before an uptick in the practice of hiring temporary coal workers. The only downside on salaries we found are that managers and particularly executives would make less in solar than coal. This represents only about 3.2 percent of coal workers that are professional administrators.

Retraining needs

How would coal workers make this transition? There are over 40 types of solar jobs which the DOE has mapped out. They range from entry-level jobs, such as installers, to more advanced positions in engineering and technical design. Most coal workers could not simply walk into a solar job; they would need some retraining. But certain positions require less training.

For example, a structural engineer in the coal industry would not expect to need additional schooling to work as one in the solar industry. And for some coal employees, the retraining would amount to only a short course or on-the-job training. This is particularly true for installers, which represents the most common and geographically spread solar jobs.

There are various programs already set up to do this, such as California’s solar apprenticeship program or one in Oregon, for example, and another through the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.

More advanced positions would require more education. Some solar-related engineering positions call for up to a four-year university degree, which has a large range in costs, from US $18,000 to over $136,000, depending on the school.

Our paper includes appendices that can help current coal workers match their existing job to the best potential fits in solar, as well as what training they’ll need. (Please note the costs and specific schools used are only examples and are not meant to be prescriptive; for example, most coal miners that need college credits would be able to find less expensive options at their own state schools.)

Overall, the analysis showed that a relatively minor investment – viewed from a nationwide retraining perspective – would allow the vast majority of coal miners to switch to solar-related positions. In the worst-case scenario we calculated, the cost was $1.87 billion.

Counting the benefits

Although there was a dip in solar jobs last year, in general the solar industry needs trained workers. Since the rapid decrease in the costs of solar photovoltaic technology, unsubsidized solar is now often the least expensive source of electric power, and solar deployment is rising in the U.S.

The way I see it, if the country retrains coal miners for the solar industry, the workers themselves win by making larger salaries in a growing field; America wins because we will be more economically competitive with lower-cost electricity; America wins again because of lower health care costs and reduced premature deaths from coal-fired air pollution; America wins a third time because of an improved economy and solar-related employment; and even the environment wins.

President Trump could even win by taking credit for it – he did recently sign an executive order that boosts American apprenticeships, which could be used to train coal workers for solar jobs. That is a lot of winning.

In this Aug. 21, 2018 photo, President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a in Charleston, W.Va. Trump assailed longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen for making a plea deal in an interview that aired Thursday, accusing his former fixer of “flipping” and arguing “it almost ought to be illegal.” (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/08/web1_121212222-484c9d9ae0a64ed09636cc63e3dd5223.jpgIn this Aug. 21, 2018 photo, President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a in Charleston, W.Va. Trump assailed longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen for making a plea deal in an interview that aired Thursday, accusing his former fixer of “flipping” and arguing “it almost ought to be illegal.” (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Michael Cohen leaves Federal court, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, in New York. Cohen, has pleaded guilty to charges including campaign finance fraud stemming from hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/08/web1_121212222-4396f87924f4430f9c6832cf6958e4ea.jpgMichael Cohen leaves Federal court, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, in New York. Cohen, has pleaded guilty to charges including campaign finance fraud stemming from hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

This Thursday, July 12, 2018 photo provided by the Alexandria, Va., Detention Center shows Paul Manafort, who was booked into the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center. On Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, the longtime political operative who for months led Donald Trump’s winning presidential campaign, was found guilty of eight financial crimes in the first trial victory of the special counsel investigation into the president’s associates. (Alexandria Detention Center via AP)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/08/web1_121212222-a0e1716fe30a4559914424c8009f6e33.jpgThis Thursday, July 12, 2018 photo provided by the Alexandria, Va., Detention Center shows Paul Manafort, who was booked into the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center. On Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, the longtime political operative who for months led Donald Trump’s winning presidential campaign, was found guilty of eight financial crimes in the first trial victory of the special counsel investigation into the president’s associates. (Alexandria Detention Center via AP)

Staff & Wire Reports