Media (337)

 

Treason

(Door hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

In 18 US Code paragraph 2381 treason is defined as ‘giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States,’ and by that definition Trump and his GOP allies in Congress come close.  Yesterday’s two meetings of DOJ, FBI and assorted members of Congress not only violated constitutional oversight procedures, but risking the exposure of the identity of an FBI informant involved in the Russian collusion investigation may very well jeopardize US intelligence gathering in the future, not only aiding Russia but all enemies of the US.  As unheard of as it is that a subject of a criminal investigation would get information about the details of that investigation, that was exactly the purpose of the meeting Trump demanded, as Rudy Giuliani confirmed in one of his many verbal guffaws.  The initial presence of John Kelly and White House attorney Emmett Flood in both meetings was a severe violation of due process, even if they left after making opening remarks in which they expressed the president’s ‘desire for full transparency,’ and Trump’s attempt to criminalize the investigators of his potential crimes will go into the history books as an abuse of power that trumps Watergate.

Having thus violated the constitution and created an unsolvable dilemma for DOJ and FBI, Trump turned his eye to his upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un and must have felt something running down his pants.  Stupid remarks by John Bolton about the ‘Lybian model,’ echoed by Mike Pence, had produced an aggressive response from North Korea, which gave the president an excuse to cancel a meeting he was totally unprepared for and therefore scared of.  In the run-up to the meeting Trump had primarily been focused on tertiary issues, like the unlikely chance that he might win the Nobel Peace Prize and the issuing of a commemorative coin with Kim’s name misspelled, but as the June 12th  date came closer he must have realized that denuclearizing the Korean peninsula was a deal he could not make.  Without informing the American allies Japan and South Korea Trump notified Kim with a letter that was typified by some pundits  as ‘what a high school student would write to break up with his girlfriend before she does it.’  To illustrate the chaos in the administration, an hour and a half before the letter went out the State Department issued a statement that contacts with North Korea were on track.

With regards to the Mueller probe Trump’s powers of misinformation were on full display.  He called an FBI informant a ‘spy,’ and suggested that Obama had planted the man in his campaign.  George Papadopoulos, once called a ‘coffee boy,’ was now a ‘high ranking campaign official,’ who had been spied on by the FBI.  Unclear remains, however, why the FBI, according to Trump dead set on sabotaging his candidacy, kept its surveillance of his campaign a secret while exposing Hillary Clinton’s email problems.

The cancellation of the meeting with Kim has not improved the atmosphere in the White House.  Apparently Trump blames Pence and Mike Pompeo blames Bolton, so unless they all find a common patsy they’ll be sniping at each other for a while.  In all of this China is the big winner:  not only have the sanctions on ZTE been lifted and are the tariffs on hold, but North Korea is also back in the fold where according to China it belongs.

After speaking with Mueller’s staff Giuliani prophesized that the investigation would be over by September 1st, but he forgot to add ‘only if Trump sits down for an interview with the Special Counsel.’  Meanwhile according to legal experts Mueller probably has indictments ready to go out to federal prosecutors the moment he would get fired.


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Full Protection

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

At the beginning of the week Kim Jong-un canceled a meeting with the South Korean president and threatened to cancel his upcoming meeting with Trump.  He also made clear that total de-nuclearization is not an option.  Apparently the young despot was upset by John Bolton’s statement that the US would pursue the ‘Lybian model,’ which didn’t end too well for Gadaffi.  Trying to salvage his photo-op with Kim Trump promised him ‘full protection,’ and it would not be the first time the US protected a bloodthirsty dictator, but Kim would be the first communist enjoying the privilege.  In Israel Ivanka Trump, a mid-level White House staffer but America’s princess, opened the new US embassy in Jerusalem, while at the Gaza border the Israeli military killed 58 Palestinians whose protest was condemned by Jared Kushner, Trump’s peace-maker, in remarks that were left out of the official transcript.  Meanwhile Trump was suddenly concerned about job losses in China, quite a departure from his campaign promises but understandable because of a $500 million Chinese investment in a Trump project in Indonesia.  An upcoming Qatari investment in Kushner’s almost bankrupt 5th Avenue property can also be explained by changes in US foreign policy.

In Washington, DC, the Senate Intelligence Committee published its conclusion that Russia had interfered in the election on behalf of Trump, while the Senate Judiciary Committee released a trove of documents, showing that at the June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower Don Jr. was very eager to get dirt from the Russians on Hillary Clinton.  According to Rudy Giuliani, still Trump’s unpaid lawyer, this is no problem because ‘everybody does it.’  The quid pro quo didn’t work because the Russians had little to offer in return for the lifting of US sanctions, but Giuliani forgot that an attempt at collusion is also collusion.  The documents also show that Don Jr. almost certainly lied about what Trump knew about the meeting, including telling the committee that he didn’t remember his father’s blocked phone number at the time.  The Trump defense has now evolved from ‘didn’t do it’ to ‘cannot be indicted,’ an issue that legal scholars disagree on.  At the US Treasury two Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) regarding Michael Cohen’s slush fund account disappeared.  They may have been removed by Robert Mueller, or by Steve Mnuchin on behalf of Cohen and Trump.

Concern over the disappearance of the SARs caused a whistleblower to make it public, and it turns out that an informant who contacted people in the Trump campaign with Russian contacts started the FBI investigation that got the code name ‘Crossfire Hurricane.’  The Trump camp suggests that an FBI mole spied on the campaign, but the extreme secrecy of this investigation contrasts starkly with the FBI’s revelations about the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, which probably cost her the election, and almost suggests that the Deep State was on Trump’s side.

On his recent financial disclosure form Trump reported his reimbursement of the $130K Michael Cohen paid to Stormy Daniels one year too late, while his debt to Cohen, who very actively pursued the building of a Trump Tower in Moscow through the election, should have been reported as a liability one year earlier.  These ‘omissions’ are felonies, and Michael Avenatti, Stormy’s lawyer, has already announced that two other women received even more generous settlements via Cohen.

But more than about Avenatti and Stormy Trump should be worried about Summer Zervos, a woman he once assaulted whose civil case will now go into the ‘discovery’ stage, meaning that she can depose Trump as well as videotapes from ‘The Apprentice’ showing more harassment.  It may keep Melania in the hospital a bit longer.


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Politics of Destruction

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

At the beginning of the week Rudy Giuliani revealed that Michael Cohen had a slush fund out of which he might have made payments to other women than Stormy Daniels with whom Donald Trump had affairs.  According to Hizzoner this was a common practice at law firms, including the firm where he was employed, and that cost him his job because the partners disagreed.  Giuliani is like O.J. Simpson, he was a failed mayor who was saved by 9/11 and now he’s doing everything he can to fuck up a second time.  In the meantime it came out that the money Cohen had received in his ‘Essential Consultants’ account was more than just a slush fund, but included millions of dollars in  payments from corporations like AT&T and Novartis that were trying to buy access to Trump.  Most intriguing is a $500,000 payment by Columbus Nova, an American investment firm whose biggest client is a company controlled by a Russian oligarch.  It opens up the possibility that Stormy was ultimately paid off with Russian money.  Still unclear is if Trump himself took a cut from the payments, but it definitely brings Cohen back into the Mueller probe.

As he announced during the campaign Trump pulled the US out of the Iran deal and reinstated sanctions, making the world a more dangerous place.  The effect of his decision is that the relationship between the US and European countries, which may also be hit by the sanctions, will deteriorate, to the delight of Putin, who will now have considerably more oil revenues, and that Israel will feel emboldened to bang the drums for a war with Iran.  The hostilities between Israel and Iranian troops in Syria have already begun.  Trump’s approach to the Iran deal was similar to his approach to Obamacare:  destroy without having a clue what comes next.  It complements the destruction of the environment and the US public education system already taking place in the Trump era, and if the president has his way freedom of the press might be next.  In advance of negotiations between Trump and Kim Jong-un North Korea released three American hostages, and Trump turned their arrival into a reality show that was mostly about himself, at some point even trumpeting that they had broken the all time TV viewership record for 3 AM.

Following the release of the hostages Trump announced that he would meet with Kim on June 12th in Singapore.  It is obvious that by that time a detailed agreement won’t have been negotiated, but Trump believes that he is most effective when he improvises, which is what worries the experts.  Kim’s father and grandfather have bamboozled American presidents who were a lot better prepared than Trump before, and the fear is that Kim will play the president like a fiddle.

In Trump’s shadow Melania Trump announced her ‘personal’ project to protect kids, among other things from the cyber bullying her husband excels in.  The first lady borrowed terminology from Michelle Obama and literature from an Obama initiative, so this might actually work.  To counter the project Jeff Sessions announced that parents and children would be separated at the Mexican border.

The Jewish joke ‘if Moshe shows up aunt Sarah’s funeral is spoiled for me’ got a new version when  John McCain made clear that he didn’t want Trump at his funeral and Orrin Hatch urged him to ‘invite’ the president.  There are things you cannot make up, and this is one of them.


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Een poëtische ontboezeming

Mijn vriendin en oud-collega Tessel Blok werd vijf jaar geleden na een dienstverband van meer dan 30 jaar op hardhandige wijze ontslagen bij de VPRO-Radio. Samen met nog een aantal andere collega’s. De politiek in Nederland had namelijk besloten dat er drastisch bezuinigd moest worden bij de Publieke Omroep.
      Sinds die tijd houdt zij zich staande door van alles aan te pakken. Tessel is namelijk niet alleen oma, ze is ook al behoorlijk lang weduwe.
      Afgelopen zaterdagochtend was zij met Peter de Bie te horen op Radio 1 in het MAX-Programma Nieuwsweekend, waar zij Mieke van der Weij verving.
      Zij deed dat uitstekend. Tessel bereidt zich namelijk niet alleen goed voor, ze luistert echt, weet waar ze het over heeft en stelt de juiste vragen. Een verademing voor mensen zoals ik, die nog steeds vrij veel naar de radio luisteren.

Het optreden leidde tot deze poëtische ontboezeming:

Van Tessel Blok  

Hoe raar een leven kan gaan:

34 jaar radio, reorganisatie, radio weg….

Malle rust, terug radio, maar heeeel soms

Schoonmaak- en thuishulp

Radio is te onzeker en vooral

Te weinig

Sta je eens even echt met je poten

In waar je het

Op de Radio

Vaak over hebt

Een niet gezochte maar zinvolle combinatie.

 

 

Hizzoner Speaks

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

The week started with a kerfuffle about the White House Correspondents Dinner, an incestuous annual event from which Donald Trump was absent because he can neither take nor tell a joke.  As a result Sarah Huckabee-Sanders became the butt of some of the comedian Michelle Wolff’s jokes, one about her dressing habits and one about her napalm eye make-up, and Wolff suggested that the world would be better off without Kellyann Conway, who was also attending.  In a response, Conway tweeted ‘if one woman is attacked, is then every woman attacked?’ which is kind of funny for a woman who day in day out defends a man who has attacked more women than probably anybody else in the country except Harvey Weinstein.  It was a storm in a teacup, and it disappeared from the newscasts when a list of 49 topics Robert Mueller wants to interview Trump about was leaked to the press, apparently by someone in the environment of Trump’s legal team.  The general speculation was that the list was leaked to discourage the president, who immediately falsely claimed that the list absolved him from collusion with the Russians, from sitting down with Mueller.

After the list had been published Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s new lawyer after Ty Cobb had ‘retired’ with two hours notice, sprang into action.  In a softball interview with Sean Hannity Hizzoner blew the strategy Trump’s legal team had been following so far out of the water, by declaring that Trump had fired James Comey because he didn’t want to state publicly that Trump was not a target in the collusion investigation, and that Trump had reimbursed Michael Cohen for the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels.  The next morning on Fox & Friends Rudy made things worse by saying that the payment to Stormy was made because of the upcoming election.  It is unclear if Giuliani went rogue or if the president knew what he was going to say, but the result was that Trump threw him under the bus, telling reporters that Hizzoner had only just started and someday would get his facts right.   Subsequently Giuliani had to eat crow,  by putting out a statement that the president had the right to fire Comey for any reason or no reason at all, that what he had said was his understanding, not Trump’s, and that the payment to Stormy would have been made anyway, election or not, for Melania’s sake.

Trump had already put himself on a slippery slope by first denying that he knew anything about the payment to Stormy, then acknowledging that Cohen had represented him, and finally admitting that he had reimbursed Cohen, but with his own money, which in his eyes made the payment not campaign related.  In the meantime Michael Avenatti, Stormy’s lawyer, claims that there were extensive communications between Stormy’s ex-lawyer and Cohen about the payment, showing a clear connection to the election.

Rudy’s fumble weakened Trump’s position in the Mueller probe, because it makes clear that the firing of Comey was a attempt to obstruct justice, but also in the Michael Cohen case, because either the payment or the reimbursement was a campaign contribution that should have been reported.   Trump’s other new lawyer, Emmet Flood, Bill Clinton’s former impeachment specialist, will have a hell of a job cleaning up after Hizzoner.

Meanwhile in New York Trump’s former physician, Dr. Bornstein, revealed that Trump’s former body guard, Keith Schiller, and a lawyer for the Trump organization had raided his office and taken Trump’s medical records.  According to Sarah Huckabee-Sanders this was standard procedure, which may lead to a joke at the next correspondents dinner.

 
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