Media (321)


A Mafia Boss

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

When the FBI raided Michael Cohen’s office, hotel room and residence, Trump called it ‘an attack on the country,’ echoing Louis Quatorze’s ‘l’état c’est moi.’  Since then an army of pundits with law degrees has made it clear that a warrant for the search could only have been issued because of strong indications that the president’s fixer, but not necessarily the president himself, had committed criminal acts.  Trump probably triggered the search when he told reporters that he knew nothing about the payment to Stormy Daniels, and it appears that the mortgage Cohen acquired to be able to make that payment and the LLC he set up in Delaware to process it are integral to the investigation.  In both cases Cohen had to disclose his reasons, and he probably didn’t tell his bank and the Delaware Commerce Department that he needed the money to cover up Trump’s boring sex with Stormy.   That doesn’t mean that other material seized by the FBI, probably even recordings of Cohen’s telephone conversations, cannot be used in various investigations.  Cohen has already announced that he’ll take the fifth, and is still desperately trying to keep the eyes of prosecutors off his files.

Moving the investigation of Cohen’s actions on behalf of Trump to the Southern District of New York is a masterful move by Mueller.  He may have been convinced that Trump would fire him for crossing the red line of accessing his business records, and it guarantees that even if he were fired the investigation will continue at the very location where Trump is most vulnerable.  Following the raid it has become evident that Trump no longer intends to sit down with Mueller, which allows the Special Counsel to release a first report well ahead of schedule.  The expectation is that that report will deal with obstruction of justice by Trump, and focus on four instances: the firing of James Comey, dangling the possibility of pardons in front of suspects like Flynn and Manafort, the memo written on Air Force One about the Trump Tower meeting with Russians, and the pressure on Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.  The report will be issued to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein – if Trump has not fired him in the meantime, something pundits are constantly predicting – who will then forward it to Congress that will consider if it warrants impeachment.

The president is getting advice from all corners in his orbit on how he can get rid of Rosenstein and, by proxy, of Mueller.  It ranges from ‘as head of the executive branch he can fire anybody at will,’ what Trump himself seems to believe, to Alan Dershowitz’s more careful suggestion that Rosenstein should recuse himself because of his role in the firing of Comey.  In between lies the option that Trump could repeal the Federal Regulation that governs Special Counsel investigations.

Anything Trump decides to do with regards to Rosenstein and Mueller however, except for letting them serve and finish their job, will only strengthen the perception that he is obstructing justice, and that explains the obvious frustration gushing out of Trump’s public statements.  He’s going back and forth on firing Rosenstein, but also on rejoining the TTP, bombing Syria and tariffs on imports from China.

And the president’s frustration will only increase when James Comey, whose tell-all book ‘A Higher Loyalty’ comes out next Tuesday, starts his publicity campaign this coming weekend.  Comey is not holding anything back in his criticism, even comparing Trump to the mafia bosses he prosecuted in a previous life.

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De ''revange'' van Jip

Mijn kleinzoon Jip (10) heeft de schrijfmachine ontdekt. Niet bij mij thuis (ik heb er nog een aantal staan) maar op zijn Montessorischool in Amsterdam. 
      Kijk eens naar dit fraaie stukje tikwerk, waarin hij bovendien een levenslesje geeft door met doorzettingsvermogen en training een overwinning op zichzelf en op een ander te boeken.
      Tevens vindt hij een creatieve oplossing voor het voltooid deelwoord  ''gewonnen'', dat niet meer op het velletje past.  

Hij maakt een -n op een nieuwe regel.  


Een XEROX 615

Het was september 1984. De VPRO was B-Omroep geworden en op de radio werd een totaalprogramma geïntroduceerd, dat op vrijdag van ’s ochtends 7 uur tot half vijf in de middag werd uitgezonden. HET GEBOUW.
      Computers waren nog volop in ontwikkeling. In de VPRO-villa’s stond een aantal handmatige typemachines. Daar kon ik vrij goed mee overweg.

Maar de leiding van de omroep vond dat het tijd was om die machines te vervangen door elektronische schrijfmachines. Daar kon ik minder goed mee overweg.  
      In de VPRO-Gids schreef ik daar dit stukje over.

Toen mijn andere kleinzoon Sam die leeftijd had, zag hij die schrijfmachines bij mij thuis en vroeg: ''Wat zijn dat voor dingen?''

‘’Dat zijn schrijfmachines’’, zei ik. “De voorloper van de computer’’.
      Hij keek mij wantrouwend aan , schudde zijn hoofd en zei uit de grond van zijn hart: ‘’NEE!!!”  



Back to the Base

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

On Monday Trump and his lawyer, Michael Cohen, filed a motion in federal court stating that Stormy Daniels had broken her non-disclosure agreement, effectively confirming that she had spoken the truth in her 60 Minutes interview.  On Friday Trump told reporters that he didn’t know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy and had had nothing to do with it, which means that he could not have been a party to the agreement and therefore there was no agreement.  It was that kind of a week for Trump.  On Tuesday it turned out that Mueller had informed Trump’s lawyers that Trump is a ‘subject’ of the Russia investigation, but not a ‘target.’  Trump expressed his profound relief by trumpeting his new status around, which shows that he doesn’t know how fast a subject, a person under investigation, can become a target, a person about to be charged.  One easy way for Trump to change his status is lying to Mueller during an interview.  The president keeps saying that he wants to sit down with Mueller and answer his questions, but since he’s been lying more than five times per day since the beginning of his presidency it’s unlikely that he’d get through an interview unscathed.

Other than dealing with Trump’s status, Mueller has been active in many other areas.  In August 2017 Rod Rosenstein had given the Special Counsel permission to look into Paul Manafort’s connections with the Russians.  Questions to be answered are how Manafort landed in the Trump campaign, why he offered to work for free, if maybe someone other than the Trump campaign paid him, and with what kind of intentions he became the campaign chairman.  This line of questioning may very well move the investigation from collusion to conspiracy.  Mueller is now also looking into business dealings by Manafort that are not yet covered by his earlier indictment, meaning that Manafort could be looking at double the prison time he’s looking at right now.  Another expansion of the investigation is into Cohen’s role in the Trump organization, which means that Trump’s own business practices are now under scrutiny.  In spite of his professed innocence of any crimes, these developments have caused erratic behavior by Trump, who probably decided that he had to shore up his base to be able to challenge future revelations from Mueller and the ‘fake news’ press.

Trump did that with two speeches.  On Easter Monday, standing between Melania and a bunny rabbit, he surprised an audience of toddlers during the White House egg roll with a tirade about DACA, strengthening the military and the dangers of ‘Democrat supported’ immigration.  In a speech later in the week Trump threw away his prepared remarks to ramble about tariffs, withdrawal from Syria and having the National Guard patrol the Mexican border, which would be a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.

Republican commentator Steve Schmidt characterized Trump as ‘a drunk at the end of the bar in Queens.’  With regards to the tariffs on imports from China the president has been going back and forth, most recently announcing more tariffs, while his main advisors are hopelessly divided.  China’s retaliation will directly be aimed at products from states where Trump has a strong following and hurt his voters, and his trade war rhetoric has sent the stock market into a tailspin.

Scott Pruitt is setting a world record in corruption, nepotism and other abuses of his office at the EPA, but Trump is still considering him as a replacement for Jeff Sessions, while his Chief of Staff wants to fire Pruitt.  In the meantime departing National Security Advisor HR McMaster’s farewell present is a packet of strong sanctions on Russian olicharchs meant to inflict pain on Putin.

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Look Mama, without Lawyers

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

In a western I watched last night a cowboy with a quick draw was bragging about his prowess with the gun, but when he came face to face with a bank robber he froze and got himself killed. It reminded me of Trump, who made a name for himself in his reality show with ‘you’re fired,’ but cannot say those words in real life. He called VA Secretary David Shulkin but was only able to produce some small talk, to subsequently ask John Kelly to call Shulkin and tell him he’s fired. The firing was then announced by the president via a tweet. Like that cowboy, Trump is all talk and no balls. The same character trait is reflected in his deafening silence about Stormy Daniels. Her lawyer made a smart move by demanding that the non-disclosure agreement be voided because it was part of a campaign finance violation, but suffered a minor setback when a judge ruled that a motion to bring in Trump and Michael Cohen for depositions was premature. Cohen’s lawyer, David Schwartz, ‘the fixer’s fixer,’ didn’t help however, by declaring that the president knew nothing about the agreement. It opens Cohen up for disbarment for not having informed his client, and Trump for campaign finance violation charges.

Trump has more lawyers working on the Stormy Daniels case than on Robert Mueller’s investigation, for which he cannot find lawyers because he is a difficult client with a weak case who doesn’t pay his bills. In that probe collusion and obstruction of justice are now coming together. It turns out that Paul Manafort’s Kiev office was managed by a Russian secret agent, a man Rick Gates stayed in touch with throughout the campaign. Mueller is also showing renewed interest in Jeff Sessions’s contacts with Russians during the GOP convention. On top of this it became known that Trump’s former lawyer, John Dowd, in the summer of 2017 approached lawyers for Michael Flynn and Manafort to discuss the possibility of a pardon for their clients, which would have been a clear case of obstruction of justice. Meanwhile, much to the chagrin of the Trumpists, Sessions decided not to appoint a second Special Counsel to investigate the FBI’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s emails, and a group of Democratic senators sent a letter to the whole chain of command in the Department of Justice asking for guarantees that Mueller will not be fired.

Trump’s foreign policy remains a mystery even to those who are closest to him. Grudgingly he joined more than 20 countries in expelling Russian diplomats, which prompted Sarah Huckabee Sanders to tout America’s ‘leadership’ role in this matter, but simultaneously he instructed White House staffers not to speak critically of Putin. With his improvised statement that the US would soon completely withdraw from Syria he totally surprised the Pentagon and the State Department.

And the surprises didn’t end there. The president appointed the White House physician Ronnie Jackson, who has no management experience, as VA Secretary, and announced that the US military would pay for the Mexican border wall. This makes him an Indian giver, because Trump will take away part of the funding provided via the omnibus bill that he has been bragging about.

In his uninterrupted decline into the deepest depths of depravity Trump has now declared war on Amazon, because its owner also owns the Washington Post. And as the Department of Housing and Urban Development stops fighting racial discrimination, the EPA lowers emission standards.

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Drums of War

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Donald Trump must have felt that his enemies are circling the wagons, and he responded in kind.  While the White House was still dealing with the fallout of the firing of Andrew McCabe by Jeff Sessions, two days before he would be eligible for a full pension and at Trump’s urging, the president sued Stormy Daniels for $20 million, $1 million for every time she had spoken about her affair with Trump, thereby implicitly acknowledging that there had been an affair.  Simultaneously ex-Playmate Karen McDougal sued the publisher of the National Enquirer to have a ‘catch and kill’ contract that doesn’t allow her to tell the story of her relationship with Trump voided. The legal threats, and in Stormy Daniels’s case threats of physical violence, didn’t deter the ladies.  Last night Ms. McDougal was interviewed on CNN and Sunday night 60 Minutes will air an interview with Stormy.  The most dangerous development for the president, however, is the case of Summer Zervos, who was sexually harassed by Trump and filed a defamation lawsuit. After a judge’s ruling Trump can be forced to give a deposition in a New York court.

Next, a media storm broke out over Trump’s congratulating Putin with his victory in the Russian election – in spite of the fact that his briefing paper said DO NOT CONGRATULATE – while he failed to bring up the nerve gas attack on a former Russian spy in England. A pundit compared it to J. Edgar Hoover calling Al Capone to congratulate him with a successful bank robbery.  It prompted former CIA Director Brennan to wonder what Putin has on Trump, with financial leverage as the most likely answer.  This question will ultimately be answered by Robert Mueller, whose probe is now reaching into the finances of the Trump Organization, which is the reason why Trump made some panic moves on this front.  He hired Joseph DiGenova as his lead lawyer, who is better known for peddling conspiracy theories on Fox News than for courtroom prowess, indicating that the president is going to fight a publicity war with Mueller.  John Dowd concluded that Trump is primarily going to be his own lawyer and resigned, cognizant of the saying:  If you represent yourself you have a fool for a lawyer.

On the foreign policy front it became known that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had lobbied hard for the firing of Rex Tillerson, whom they considered an obstacle in their conflicts with Qatar and Iran.  After the expected ouster of H.R. McMaster as National Security Advisor Mike Pompeo gained a colleague who is even more hawkish than him in John Bolton.  Bolton’s past achievements are 4,400 American and 500,000 Iraqi deaths, and he has argued for a pre-emptive strike on North Korea.

The tariffs Trump imposed on $50 billion imports from China are an economic declaration of war, and China is already promising to retaliate.  The almost certainty of a trade war between China and the US that will completely disrupt global markets, combined with Facebook’s data being compromised by Cambridge Analytica on behalf of the Trump campaign, sent the stock market in a downward tailspin.

Trump now has a war cabinet for his legal war with Mueller, his trade war with China and his war over nuclear armament with North Korea and Iran.  Its members are not exactly the best and the brightest, and the fact that the president feels increasingly threatened brings a ‘Wag the Dog’ scenario ever closer.

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