A look at where the investigations related to Trump stand
By The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 18
A look at where the investigations related to President Donald Trump stand and what may lie ahead for him:
WHAT’S THIS ALL ABOUT?
Trump is facing criminal investigations in Washington and New York.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia and whether the president obstructed the investigation. Trump also plays a central role in a separate case in New York, where prosecutors have implicated him in a crime. They say Trump directed his personal lawyer Michael Cohen to make illegal hush money payments to two women as a way to quash potential sex scandals during the campaign.
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW TODAY?
A judge abruptly postponed the sentencing Tuesday for President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said he could not hide his disgust for Flynn’s crime of lying to the FBI and warned that he could send the retired Army lieutenant general to prison.
It was an unexpected development since prosecutors have recommended against prison time, citing his cooperation in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
Defense lawyers requested the delay after Sullivan lambasted Flynn.
Flynn pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts. He became known during the Trump campaign for leading chants of “Lock her up” during Trump rallies, referring to Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton.
SO … DID THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN COLLUDE WITH RUSSIA?
There is no smoking gun when it comes to the question of Russia collusion. But the evidence so far shows a broad range of Trump associates had Russia-related contacts during the 2016 presidential campaign and transition period, and that several lied about the communication.
There is also evidence that some people in Trump’s orbit were discussing a possible email dump from WikiLeaks before it occurred. American intelligence agencies and Mueller have said Russia was the source of hacked material released by WikiLeaks during the campaign that was damaging to Clinton’s presidential effort.
OTHER QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
—WHAT ABOUT OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE? That is another unresolved question that Mueller is pursuing. Investigators have examined key episodes such as Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey and his fury over the recusal from the investigation of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
—WHAT DOES TRUMP HAVE TO SAY ABOUT ALL THIS? Trump has repeatedly slammed the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” and insisted there was “NO COLLUSION” with Russia. He also says his now-former lawyer, Cohen, lied to get a lighter sentence in New York.
For more in-depth information, follow AP coverage at https://apnews.com/TrumpInvestigations
Opinion: Impeach, indict, and sanction
by Kary Love, Attorney-at-Law
I still like to start with the words of the Constitution which, being a declaration of the ordinary People, the words have ordinary and usual meaning, not twisted judge/shyster language.
Art I § 3 clause 7 in plain language (the 2 ¶ below) allows indictment, trial, judgment & punishment in addition to impeachment or, it appears, even without impeachment. In other words, it is possible to impeach first, then indict and criminally punish—because the punishment for impeachment is limited to removal and disqualification for “any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.”
However, the criminal process is not limited by the express language to after impeachment. Rather I suggest it was to make clear impeachment first does not implicate double jeopardy rights of the accused. Nor is it rational that the Framers thought a person of such dishonor as to be a criminal ought to be the chief law enforcement officer of the US hence—impeach him and remove from office. But, because no one is above the law, that is not the end, following impeachment criminal prosecution can take place. Nothing in the express language prohibits “Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law” prior to or independent of impeachment.
The control of the House and the Senate by the President’s “faction” (now known as party) could put him above impeachment, even after the new Congress is sworn in next month. His crimes under state or federal law, however, are not political matters and the full force of the law against criminals ought to attach independent of impeachment, or the very person charged with a duty to “faithfully execute the law” holds others criminally responsible while being criminal himself. Such an outcome is not consistent with an “office of honor,” as the office of the President ought to be.
A conclusion the President is above the law would need an express power granted the President and none is stated in Art II, nor elsewhere in the Constitution. A criminal president is a criminal. All criminals are subject to the law equally with all other citizens. None are exempted anywhere in the Constitution, except those receiving pardons, and those are only as to federal crimes—and pardons are not permitted if they are a part of a quid pro quo that trades favors for freedom contrary to the rule of law—for example, if Manafort were to lie to protect Trump, Trump could not pardon Manafort without committing yet another crime, Obstruction of Justice. It is somewhat sad to be compelled to such analysis at all, but that is the price of “an office of honor.” It cannot be dishonorably discharged and remain “honorable”—that is simply illogical.
The illogic of allowing a criminal immunity because he won a job whose duty was to faithfully execute the law makes the law an ass. The president may be an ass, he may be a criminal, but the law ought not to be, and allowing a criminal to persist in the office of the presidency, even with the complicity of the House and Senate, is incompatible with a government of law and the “honorable” office of the presidency.
(Art I §3 clause 7 pertinent parts below)
Art I §3:
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.
Sanctions on the crime boss in the White House
OK, so the Republican Senate will not likely impeach their very own President, but the People can impose serious sanctions on Trump for his numerous offenses. Since Corporate Ethics should not always be an oxymoron, there are also companies imposing sanctions on Trump in the only language he truly understands—eliminating his profits.
At first glance, Grab Your Wallet is a modest website: a Google spreadsheet that lists about 50 companies to boycott. Included are the department stores Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Lord & Taylor, as well as online retailers like Overstock.com, Zappos, and Amazon, all of which sell some type of Trump swag. (The precise number of companies listed continues to decline, as retailers dump the Trump brand.) The site gets an impressive two million unique visitors every month, and when I spoke with the Grab Your Wallet founder, she told me that 22 retailers had dropped Trump products since the start of the boycott. She believes that this is just the beginning.
Thus, consumers are voting with their pocketbooks, a more effective way to influence corporations and government than, for example, refusing to pay income taxes, which always results in the IRS seizing what we have and exacting punishing fees and penalties. There is no cost to consumers with boycotts of corporations who are identified as linked to Trump, and high costs to Trump when more and more corporations stop doing business with him. Unimpeachable logic.
Kary Love is a Michigan attorney who has defended nuclear resisters, including some desperado nuns, in court for decades and will on occasion use blunt force satire or actual legal arguments to make a point.
In farewell, Ryan sees solutions if ‘politics will allow it’
By ALAN FRAM
Wednesday, December 19
WASHINGTON (AP) — Outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan is bemoaning America’s “broken politics” in a farewell speech in which he calls Washington’s failure to overhaul costly federal benefit programs “our greatest unfinished business.”
“Our complex problems are solvable,” Ryan says in excerpts of remarks he plans to deliver Wednesday at the Library of Congress, across the street from a Capitol where he’s served two decades in the House, the last three years as speaker. “That is to say, our problems are solvable if our politics will allow it.”
The Wisconsin Republican’s address, which touts achievements and admits shortcomings, comes as the window closes on a tumultuous two years of GOP control of government dominated by President Donald Trump. It also comes six weeks after an Election Day that saw Democrats capture House control, which begins Jan. 3.
Under Ryan, Congress approved the biggest tax cuts in decades, boosted defense spending and rolled back regulations protecting clean air and water adopted by former President Barack Obama. But annual federal deficits are surging, Medicare and other expensive entitlement programs are growing and a top GOP priority — scuttling Obama’s health care law — has crashed.
Providing chaotic background music for Ryan’s departure, Congress in its closing days was mired in a struggle to avoid a partial government shutdown as Trump clashes with Democrats over his demand for taxpayer money to build a border wall with Mexico.
In excerpts provided to The Associated Press, Ryan calls the House “the most productive we have had in a generation,” citing passage of more than 1,000 bills, though most were minor. He predicts that the failed GOP effort to repeal and rewrite Obama’s health care law will be the framework for an ultimate solution, and said the party’s fruitless attempts to revamp immigration laws — both the House and Senate rejected bills — came closer that people realize.
“We have taken on some of the biggest challenges of our time, and made a great and lasting difference in the trajectory of this country,” he said.
Yet his comments also underscore some of the GOP’s recent failures.
Ryan, 48, acknowledges he never achieved two longtime policy dreams — reining spending by the government’s huge entitlement programs and controlling the enormous and growing national debt. Thanks partly to the 10-year, $1.5 trillion tax cut Republicans enacted last year, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates a record $12.4 trillion accumulated federal deficits for the coming decade.
“I acknowledge plainly that my ambitions for entitlement reform have outpaced the political reality and I consider this our greatest unfinished business,” he says.
While the House-passed health care bill would have culled savings from Medicaid and other programs, the effort died in the GOP-run Senate, killed by solid Democratic opposition and a handful of Republican opponents.
“Ultimately, solving this problem will require a greater degree of political will than exists today. I regret that,” Ryan says.
Ryan was first elected to Congress in 1998 and became a leader of Republicans trying to shrink government. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, he wrote spending plans that envisioned squeezing savings from popular benefit programs like Medicare and eliminating deficits — proposals that Congress never actually enacted. He announced last April that he would not seek re-election to the House, citing a desire to spend more time with his family.
The excerpts never directly mention Trump. But Ryan describes the divisiveness that has been a hallmark of Trump’s constant demonization of his political opponents, which has included racially tinged statements.
“All of this pulls on the threads of our common humanity, in what could be our unraveling,” he warns.
He suggests that “rediscovering that human connection is one lane on the road back to aspiration and inclusion as the guiding influences in public life.” He adds, “The drivers of our broken politics are more obvious than the solutions.”
On immigration, Ryan says no matter how the border wall battle is resolved, “The system will still be in need of serious reform. And no less than our full potential as a nation is at stake.”
He says resolving the problem is “an economic and moral imperative. And it would go a long way toward taking some of the venom out of our discourse.” Ryan for years was a quiet force for broad immigration overhauls that conservatives opposed as going too far in offering citizenship to immigrants in the U.S. illegally, but he was unable to unify Republicans behind one approach in in this year’s debacle.
The excerpts spend little time discussing last year’s GOP tax cut bill, which Ryan has previously named as one of his most significant accomplishments. He cites that bill’s tax breaks for investors in low-income communities and cautions Republicans to not let efforts to ease poverty “drift from your consciousness.”
Dipping into foreign policy, Ryan says both parties must “devote more time and energy to the direct challenge China poses to the West.” He says that his overseas travels tell him that “our allies wonder whether we are still in the game here.”
Under Trump, the U.S. and China have been having a trade faceoff. Trump has postponed new tariffs on China while the two countries negotiate.
Victims, accountability on agenda at pope’s sex abuse summit
By NICOLE WINFIELD
Tuesday, December 18
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican on Tuesday released the first details of Pope Francis’ upcoming high-stakes sex abuse prevention summit, making clear that bishops attending the gathering must reach out to victims before they get to Rome and that accountability is very much on the agenda.
Organizers of the Feb. 21-24 summit warned participants in a letter that failure to address the scandal now threatens the very credibility of the Catholic Church around the world.
As a first step, they urged the estimated 130 presidents of national bishops’ conferences attending the summit to meet with survivors in their home countries “to learn firsthand the suffering that they have endured.”
Francis invited the church leaders to the meeting to develop a comprehensive response to what has become the gravest threat to his papacy, as the abuse and cover-up scandal erupted anew in the U.S., Chile and elsewhere this year.
Survivors have been dubious about what the meeting can accomplish, given the limited time, the varied experiences and needs of national churches and the fact that the problem has already been known for years.
“They’re just now getting around to this? Good Lord, where’ve you been?” marveled Barbara Dorris, a survivor of abuse who has been a longtime outspoken advocate for victims.
Noting that the U.S. scandal first emerged in 2001, she said: “It’s been 17 years. If you haven’t met with survivors in 17 years, I think that says a lot right there.”
In revealing the first details of the meeting, the Vatican said it would focus on three main areas: responsibility, accountability and transparency. The reference to accountability suggests that church leaders will confront not only the crimes of priests who rape and molest minors, but the cover-up by their superiors as well.
Abuse victims and their advocates have long blasted the Vatican for failing to discipline and remove bishops who fail to protect their flocks, and until recently Francis appeared unwilling to significantly change course.
He appointed four key clerics to prepare the meeting: Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, a Francis-appointee and staunch supporter, Mumbai Cardinal Oswald Gracias, a member of the pope’s informal cabinet, as well as the Vatican’s leading abuse experts, Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna and the Rev. Hans Zollner.
Their letter to the global church hierarchy laid out the stakes.
“Absent a comprehensive and communal response, not only will we fail to bring healing to victim survivors, but the very credibility of the church to carry on the mission of Christ will be in jeopardy throughout the world,” they wrote.
“Each of us needs to own this challenge, coming together in solidarity, humility and penitence to repair the damage done, sharing a common commitment to transparency and holding everyone in the church accountable,” they said.
Their appeal for bishops to meet with victims was an indication that many in the church hierarchy continue to deny the scope of the problem and have never met with a victim. Some bishops’ conferences in Africa, for example, have yet to respond to a 2011 Vatican request to develop guidelines to deal with cases.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said that meeting with victims “is a concrete way of putting victims first and acknowledging the horror of what happened.”
Francis announced in September that he was convening the summit, signaling awareness at the top of the church that clergy abuse is a global problem and not restricted to some parts of the world or a few Western countries.
He did so as he worked to recover from his botched handling of the scandal in Chile, sparked earlier this year when he repeatedly discredited victims of a notorious Chilean predator priest and defended a bishop who had protected him.
Francis eventually admitted he was wrong, apologized to the victims and secured offers of resignation from every accused bishop in the country. Francis took action after The Associated Press challenged him on the case and produced evidence that he had received victims’ complaints.
Francis’ papacy was later jolted by accusations from a retired Vatican ambassador that the pope himself rehabilitated now-disgraced American ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was accused of molesting and harassing adult seminarians. Francis hasn’t responded to the allegations, though he has ordered a limited investigation into them.
Expectations for the February summit, already high after a year of crisis, took on greater import last month after the Vatican blocked U.S. bishops from taking action to impose new accountability measures on themselves.
The Vatican never fully explained why it halted the U.S. measures, part of the communications breakdowns that occasionally bedevil the Vatican.
The details of the summit were announced on the same day the Vatican announced a shakeup in its communications operation.
Francis named veteran Vatican correspondent Andrea Tornielli as editorial director coordinating Vatican media.
And he tapped Italian writer and professor Andrea Monda to head the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. Monda replaces Giovanni Maria Vian, a church historian and journalist who has headed the daily since 2007 and now becomes its emeritus editor.
Who is responsible for migrants?
December 18, 2018
Felipe A. Filomeno
Assistant Professor of Political Science and Global Studies, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Disclosure statement: Filomeno 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.
Partners: UMBC provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
President Donald Trump tends to portray migrants as a foreign problem that has suddenly – and unfairly – been “dumped” at America’s doorstep.
Migration “is a way they get certain people out of their country and dump in U.S.,” he wrote on Nov. 25 about a caravan of mostly Honduran women, children and young men seeking asylum in the United States.
He is not alone. The flow of refugees and asylum-seekers from poor countries to the United States border is often attributed, incorrectly, to domestic unrest in a far-off nation. Some Americans blame far-off governments for not being “willing to take care of their own country’s problems,” as one New York Times reader commenting on the migrant caravan put it recently.
This one-sided view of migration ignores the global forces that bind our world together, my research on immigration policy shows.
The extreme violence, environmental disasters and grinding poverty that drive people from places like Guatemala, Honduras and Afghanistan are largely the result of global phenomena like colonialism, climate change and trade.
Seen through an international lens, both migrant-sending and migrant-receiving countries share responsibility for the people displaced by globalization.
Colonialism and its consequences
It’s no coincidence that immigration routes today follow the same path European colonizers did – but in reverse.
France invaded Algeria in 1830 and kept it as a colony until 1962. Today, the largest immigrant group in France is Algerians.
And while Britain today may wish to close its borders, in 1948 it invited citizens of former British colonies into the country to help the United Kingdom rebuild after World War II. Indians and Pakistanis are now the second- and third-largest immigrant groups in the United Kingdom, after Polish people.
The Central Americans looking to the United States for refuge are following a similar historical pattern.
Technically, the United States was never an empire. But its government consistently intervened in Latin American domestic affairs during the late 20th century, installing and even removing leaders across the region.
In the 1980s, hoping to beat back Communism, the U.S. funded and armed authoritarian regimes in Central America as they battled leftist guerrillas. These decadeslong civil wars killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands.
War also killed the region’s economy. Average income in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua was actually lower in 1990 than it had been in 1980.
Regional instability caused mass migration to the United States. Between 1981 and 1990 almost 1 million Salvadorans and Guatemalans entered the United States clandestinely.
Trade, poverty and cheap immigrant labor
Economic links between richer and poorer countries have also spurred mass migration.
More international trade in recent decades has brought jobs and improved living standards in some countries – among them Chile, China and South Korea – preventing migration by creating the economic conditions that allow people to stay put.
Strategic agricultural aid to developing countries, too, has reduced emigration from some rural countries, according to a recent study in the journal World Development, which analyzed data from 103 countries that received aid from 1995 to 2010.
But international commerce has also unleashed migration elsewhere.
Mexican immigration to the U.S. surged after the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect in 1994. The deal increased Mexico’s manufacturing sector substantially – but it hurt farmers by opening Mexican markets to subsidized U.S. agricultural products.
Unable to compete with these cheap imports, hundreds of thousands of Mexican farmers lost their jobs. By 2006, an estimated 2 million peasants had been pushed out of rural areas in Mexico. Many of these displaced farmers migrated to the U.S., where they found jobs in the construction, agricultural and restaurant sectors.
Today, Hispanics make up around a quarter of workers in those industries. The same low-wage immigrant labor helps to keep manufacturing afloat in the U.S. despite the otherwise high costs of doing business.
Trump insists only that cheap imports from developing countries threatens U.S. industry. The realities of migration are more complex and nuanced than that.
Climate change is another global problem contributing to the migration crisis.
Global warming-related problems like rising sea levels and extreme weather have their origins in the Industrial Revolution in Europe 150 years ago. But their impacts are hitting poor countries first and hardest.
Residents of small Pacific islands such as Kiribati and Tuvalu must abandon their homes because coastal erosion is pushing people inland, creating conflicts over the scarce remaining dry land.
Even Central American migration is linked in part to climate change. Changes in temperature and rainfall across the region have damaged the coffee and maize crops over the past decade. Some farmers who’ve lost their rural livelihood joined the caravan earlier this year.
And though China has surpassed the United States as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, people in rich countries still use a disproportionate share of global resources.
Per capita carbon emissions in high-income countries is about 30 times higher than in low-income countries because people in the richer countries have bigger and more air-conditioned homes, eat more meat and drive and fly more.
Such statistics raise serious doubt about who, exactly, should take responsibility for modern climate refugees.
Stopping migration before it starts
Rich countries are not to blame for every problem that drives migration from poor countries.
Corrupt, predatory and violent leaders in Central America, Syria, Pakistan and many other places are also accountable for creating hazardous conditions in their countries.
And Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, which destroyed the nation’s capital and sent thousands fleeing for their lives, had nothing to do with climate change.
Still, too much political rhetoric out of Washington offers a simplistic, one-sided view of migration. A more balanced debate might help policymakers take measures that might actually address the problem, rather than just casting blame on poor countries and closing borders.
Other countries increasingly agree. On Dec. 10, 164 nations signed the Global Compact for Migration, the world’s first-ever comprehensive international agreement. It assigns shared responsibility for hosting migrants in ensuring their human rights are respected and addressing the root causes of displacement.
The United States was not one of them.