Media (369)


Triple Trouble

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Donald Trump is looking for a Chief of Staff, but he really should try to find a competent team of lawyers.  The big surprise at Michael Cohen’s sentencing was not the three years the president’s former fixer is going to spend in prison, but the collaboration agreement of AMI, David Pecker’s company, which admitted participating in a ‘catch and kill’ plot, in concert with the Trump-campaign, to mislead American voters by keeping information about Trump’s affair with a playmate, Karen McDougal, out of the press.   The explicit intent was to prevent damage to the candidate, making payments to Ms. McDougal a campaign finance violation, and ‘cooperation in the future’ is mentioned, which indicates that there is more to come from AMI.  Similarly, Michael Cohen’s payment to Stormy Daniels and his reimbursement by the Trump organization spells trouble.  Only Trump, his eldest children, and Allen Weisselberg were authorized to sign checks for the Trump organization.  Since Weisselberg is cooperating with the investigation one of the others probably forked the money, fraudulently booked as a legal retainer, over to Cohen.

And while the campaign finance violations make Trump complicit in two felonies, the biggest threat to his presidency is still coming from Robert Mueller.  Cohen told investigators that in November 2015 he was already approached by a Russian who offered ‘synergy’ between his government and the Trump campaign.  Since then, there have been contacts between Michael Flynn and Putin, between Flynn and Russian Ambassador Kislyak, between Jeff Sessions and Kislyak, between Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, between Don Jr., Jared Kushner and Manafort and Natalia Vesilnitskaya, and between George Papadopoulos and Carter Page and assorted Russians.  Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi had advance knowledge about emails the Russians stole from the DNC that were published by Wikileaks, and Kushner tried to set up a secret backchannel with the Russian government.  During most of the campaign Trump was trying to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, while the Russians were preparing a massive intervention in the elections on his behalf.  For reasons Mueller will reveal all of the above lied about their Russian contacts.

Trump’s defense against the felony and upcoming conspiracy accusations is a prime example of legal acrobatics.  Since he can no longer maintain that payments to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels were a simple private business transaction, and the criminal features of his campaign’s collusion with the Russians are coming more into focus, he uses the protections of the office he stole against the investigations of the theft itself, by maintaining that the president cannot be indicted and that the need to constantly deal with the Mueller probe distracts him from governing the US.

Proof of the latter was on display during a televised meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in the Oval Office, where Trump tried to bully the Democrats into giving him $5 billion to build ‘The Wall’ and was rebuffed in a way he probably never experienced before.  Pelosi said to his face “you don’t know what you’re talking about,” and Schumer made the president assume sole responsibility for a potential government shutdown.  Later that day Pelosi didn’t hesitate to question Trump’s manhood.

Yesterday NBC broke the news that Trump was the third man in the room when Cohen and Pecker first discussed the ‘catch and kill’ scheme.  Manhattan prosecutors started a criminal investigation into Trump’s inauguration committee for selling access, and New York’s Attorney General announced a broad investigation into the Trump organization and foundation.  No wonder that Chris Christie just turned down the Chief of Staff job.

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Sentencing Memos

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

In Argentina world leaders witnessed the embarrassment of a compromised president, who had to cancel a meeting with Putin and forfeit the opportunity to address Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, but the embarrassment didn’t stop there.  At one event Trump left a flabbergasted Argentine president alone on a podium, and before leaving the G20 he announced a ‘great deal’ with China that turned out to be just a freeze, and that immediately was undermined by Trump’s calling himself a ‘Tariff Man.’ Wall Street took notice and the stock market has been in a tailspin ever since.  Back in DC the funeral of Poppy Bush got all the attention, and because it was common knowledge that the 41st president used to throw his shoes at the TV whenever Trump was on it #45 had to stay out of the limelight.  In his place Mike Pence spoke when the coffin arrived at the Capitol, and used the opportunity to shamelessly compare himself to Bush Sr. and Trump to Ronald Reagan, all but announcing his candidacy for 2024, if not earlier.  There are rumors that Trump is considering to replace Pence on the ticket for 2020, and this might help him make up his mind.

Unlike the McCains the Bushes didn’t keep Trump away from the funeral service, but he was not given a speaking role and every reference to ‘dignity’ and ‘respect’ could be heard as a criticism of the president, who sat in silence next to three predecessors and their wives who hate his guts.  After the service the Mueller probe was front and center in DC, because a sentencing memo in the case of Michael Flynn had to be filed that same day.  Before the filing Trump, identified as ‘Individual One’ in Michael Cohen’s confession about his involvement with the Trump Tower in Moscow, praised his old pal Roger Stone for refusing to testify and spill the beans about him, giving us the spectacle of a US President urging a potential witness not to talk to the legal authorities – arguably a case of witness tampering – while simultaneously demanding a maximum sentence for Cohen.  The sentencing memo, filed late that night, was a disappointment because large parts were redacted.  Flynn was praised for his ‘substantial’ and early cooperation with the probe and providing ‘first hand’ information about contacts with the Russians.  The recommendation was for him to serve no jail time.

Because of the redactions the memo generated plenty of expert speculation, primarily because it referred to three investigations Flynn had provided valuable information for.  It was not hard to identify the Russian collusion investigation as the first one, and Flynn’s interactions with Turkey and the plot to abduct the cleric Fethullah Gülen as the second, but nobody has so far been able to identify the third investigation.  Legal analysts agree that the many redactions indicate the high level of targets in that investigation, but are completely in the dark what it pertains to.

The uncertainty about the third criminal investigation is even more tantalizing because of the way Trump has always pampered Flynn.  Not only did he ask James Comey ‘to let Flynn go,’ and after Comey’s firing urge Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to ask the FBI to go easy on Flynn, but the president has never talked or tweeted smack about Flynn,  not even now.  The Flynn memo inspired Rudy Giuliani to freshen up his Yiddish and declare that Mueller doesn’t have ‘bupkes,’ but that can be of little comfort to Trump.

Today sentencing memos will be made public for Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen.  The former will detail Manafort’s lies and crimes after he pretended to be cooperating with the Mueller probe, and the latter will contain information about Cohen’s collaboration with the Southern District’s investigation.  Many redactions are expected, and that is bad news for Don Jr., Jared Kushner and Trump, because Mueller is far from finished.

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(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Donald Trump has never visited a war zone, and beyond having teargas canisters fired at women and children and threatening exhausted refugees with lethal force the Commander in Chief has no record of military accomplishments, but this week there were some explosions around him.  It started relatively innocent, with Trump making the usual pompous statements on assorted topics.  About his upcoming meetings with Xi, Muhamed bin Salman and Putin at the G20 the president declared that he didn’t need preparations, because he had prepared for these things all his life.  About the climate change report his administration released on Black Friday that predicts serious damage to the US economy during the rest of this century Trump simply said: ‘I don’t believe it,’ clarifying his opinion with the remark that ‘highly intelligent people like me see that the water and the air are getting cleaner.’  Unhappy with Federal Reserve policies he blamed for a decline in stock prices the president attacked the chairman he himself appointed with the words ‘I have a gut that tells me more than someone else’s brain can.’  It’s unclear if his gut also announced the market’s speedy recovery.

But then the bombs started dropping.  The Guardian published an article saying that Paul Manafort had visited Julian Assange multiple times, most recently at the beginning of his formal involvement with the Trump campaign.  If true, this would expose a direct link between Wikileaks, the Russians Manafort used to work for and the campaign, and bolster the collusion investigation.  Next, Robert Mueller withdrew Manafort’s plea deal, because Trump’s former campaign chairman had lied to the FBI even after becoming a cooperating witness.  Things got worse when Rudi Giuliani, Trump’s TV lawyer, issued the statement that thanks to a joint defense agreement Manafort’s lawyers had shared information about their client’s interactions with Mueller with team Trump.  Hizzoner should get his law school tuition reimbursed, because since Manafort pleaded guilty to all charges he doesn’t have a defense anymore, and therefore cannot have a defense agreement.  What it comes down to is that Trump’s lawyers used a convicted felon to spy on the Mueller probe, and that Manafort participated because only a presidential pardon can keep him out of jail.   For this his lawyers can get into serious trouble.

As much as Giuliani should stop talking and pretending to be a lawyer, Trump did him one better by telling an interviewer that he had not taken a pardon for Manafort off the table.  Dangling a pardon in front of a witness is an attempt at witness tampering, which qualifies as obstruction of justice, and adds to the list of felonies Mueller can eventually charge the president with.  Even though Trump cannot be indicted charges can be filed for a trial after his presidency.  Alan Dershowitz, in spite of firmly residing in the Trump camp, predicted that Mueller’s report would be ‘devastating’ for the president.

As if to prove the professor right, on Thursday Michael Cohen pleaded guilty of  lying to Congress about his involvement, and that of Trump and his family, in the attempt to have a Trump Tower built in Moscow.  It involved interactions with the office of Putin’s closest aide, Peskov, and went on until June 2016, three months before the presidential election.  Immediately after this news broke Trump canceled his scheduled meeting with Putin, allegedly because of the Russian agression against Ukraine, but very few believe him.

On his way to Airforce One Trump called Cohen ‘weak’ and ‘a liar,’ and subsequently Giuliani said that the president’s answers to Mueller’s questions and Cohen’s confession were in sinc, which is at least confusing.  The whole affair shows that the Russians had leverage over Trump since before the elections, and opens a Pandora’s box of collusion possibilities.  The wait is now for Mueller to drop the next bomb, possibly even today.

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Thankful for Me

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

It’s one of those weeks when you’re grateful that Trump is playing golf because you have already absorbed the maximum amount of sheer nonsense you can take.  Visiting the ravaged areas of California the president praised Finland, where according to him removal of brushes keeps the fires away.  He did not seem to realize that while California is mostly hot and dry it rains a lot in Finland, a country that is also covered by snow half of the year.  Apparently Trump didn’t know either that 60% of the Californian forests are managed by federal agencies, so that he was essentially criticizing his own administration when he was blaming poor forest management for the fires.  After touring the scarred leftovers of Paradise the president called it ‘Pleasure,’ adding ‘what a name.’  When he made that mistake a second time and Governor Jerry Brown corrected him Trump, unable to acknowledge a mistake, said ‘Pleasure, or Paradise,’ as if it was the same thing.  Asked if what he had seen changed his thoughts about climate change he said ‘no, I have a strong opinion,’ but added ‘I want great climate, and we’ll have that.’

Back in DC the president’s lawyers submitted Trump’s answers to written questions from Robert Mueller.  Trump insisted that he had written the answers himself, which is not very smart because it takes away the option of blaming any misstatements on his lawyers.  There were no questions about obstruction of justice, now probably the main area of inquiry for the Special Counsel, because Trump had indicated in advance that he would not answer those questions, which makes it likely that he will still be subpoenaed by Mueller unless Mueller has collected enough proof from different sources.  In an interview the president insisted that he had not known about his toilet-salesman turned acting Attorney General’s criticism of the Mueller probe when he appointed him, which is about as believable as his denials of sexual harassment because Matthew Whitaker was precisely put in the Department of Justice to spy on the investigation.  More legal problems emerged when it turned out that Ivanka had used a private email account for government business, something Trump had wanted to prosecute Hillary Clinton for.

Meanwhile the president’s assessment of guilt in the Khashoggi murder evolved from ‘we’ll never know’ to ‘who cares,’ denying the leaked opinion of the CIA.  An official statement said that although the Saudi Crown Prince may or may not have ordered the gruesome act it would not change anything in the relationship between the US and the kingdom because a $450 billion investment and thousands of jobs were at stake.   That investment exists only in Trump’s imagination, the real number of Saudi investments in the US is $14.5 billion so far and the rest consists of vague promises, but it was enough to blame ‘the world’ for the murder, because it is ‘a mean place.’

Trump’s attempt to limit asylum requests to official points of entry was put on hold by a Ninth Circuit Judge in San Francisco, which prompted the president to tweet about an ‘Obama-Judge’ and earned him a rare rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts.  It is, again, not very smart for Trump to piss off Roberts, who may very well be the swing vote on the new Supreme Court.  To redeem himself Trump declared that the ‘very tough people’ in the military on the border had been ordered to use lethal force if necessary, and threatened to close the border altogether if he wouldn’t get his way.

Under the auspices of the most vulgar president since Nixon, and probably ever, the White House adopted new ‘decorum’ rules for its press corps, in the same week that the president attacked the Navy Seals Admiral who was in charge of the elimination of Osama bin Laden.  On the occasion of Thanksgiving Trump declared that he was mostly thankful for himself, which is not only the pinnacle of narcissism but also a way for Trump to consolidate his base by guiding them into the house of horrors of his mind.

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Het Gebouw van Jan Willem Roks

Ik heb al diverse keren geschreven over het VPRO-radioprogramma Het Gebouw. Dat was een experimenteel totaalprogramma, dat iedere vrijdag van zeven uur ’s ochtends tot halfvier in de middag werd uitgezonden. Van 1984 tot in 1993. Het Gebouw stond in ‘’Hilversum aan Zee” en kende een aantal afdelingen, kamers en een receptie. Overal stonden microfoons. Zelfs in de bezemkast.   
      Het programma was populair en had -vergeleken met de radio nu- zeer hoge luistercijfers. Die populariteit merkten we heel duidelijk toen we in 1991 dertien weken lang door het land trokken en steeds vanuit een ander gebouw in provinciesteden die uitzendingen maakten. Het was iedere keer bomvol en de bezoekers kenden de onderdelen van het programma en de bijbehorende mensen verrassend goed.
      ‘’Ach. U ziet er heel anders uit dan ik gedacht had’’.

      Soms kwamen er ook mensen spontaan naar Het Gebouw in Hilversum. De jongste was Jan Willem Roks, een scholier van dertien jaar oud, die in Halsteren West-Brabant woonde. Op vrijdag 3 oktober 1985 is het herfstvakantie. Hij stapt s'ochtends om vijf uur op zijn fiets en gaat naar het station van Bergen op Zoom. Met wat overstapjes arriveert hij uren later in de loop van de ochtend in Het Gebouw. 
      Jan Willem bleek veel te luisteren en had een cassettebandje meegenomen,
Hij had zijn poes geïnterviewd. Zijn lef & initiatief werd gewaardeerd, want het bandje werd diezelfde dag uitgezonden. Daarna is Jan Willem nog diverse keren langsgekomen. Soms deed hij klusjes.           
an Willem is inmiddels 45 jaar oud. Na omzwervingen in Antwerpen, Bussum, Utrecht en Den Haag woont hij  alweer 10 jaar in Halsteren. Getrouwd met Nelly en twee kinderen: Maino (9 jaar) en Olivia (6 jaar).  
      Sinds 1999 werkt hij in ‘de IT’, de laatste jaren in dienst van Microsoft Nederland als technisch specialist op het gebied van security.

      Dat weet ik, omdat Jan Willem onlangs contact met mij en met Peter Flik opnam. (Peter was regisseur van dat programma en ik eindredacteur). Na wat mails over en weer vroeg ik hem ondermeer het volgende:  
''Kun jij mij misschien eens uitleggen waarom jij toen steeds naar Het Gebouw kwam en met de poes praatte in plaats van te puberen of achter de meiden aan te gaan?
Kan ik dan misschien weer iets mee doen’’.

      Jan Willem schreef mij niet alleen, maar stuurde ook een door hem zelf in elkaar gezet  radioprogramma op. Een programma van 55 minuten met puur en alleen elementen en onderdelen uit Het Gebouw. Zijn interview met de poes zit er natuurlijk ook in.
      Het is knap gemaakt. Hij praat het zelf aan elkaar. Behoorlijk veel werk geweest, dat verzeker ik u.  

Luister HIER naar het programma van Jan Willem.

En hou er dan DIT DRAAIBOEK bij

Verder schrijft hij:

Beste Ronald,

Van huis uit waren we lid van de KRO – zoals het hoort in Brabant. De VPRO, dat was iets voor ‘alternatieven’ of ‘krakers’. Het was in ieder geval geen nette club, die VPRO. Althans, zo werd dat in het algemeen gezien in mijn omgeving. De buren waren lid van de VPRO en hadden de VPRO-Gids. Dat was mijn eerste kennismaking met de VPRO (buiten Koot & Bie, want daar mocht wel naar gekeken worden).

Het Gebouw had een enorme aantrekkingskracht: het liet zien dat het helemaal niet volgens de fatsoensregels hoefde. Er kon ook mooie, kwalitatieve en betrokken radio gemaakt worden met echte mensen, met echte emoties en in een echt gebouw. Niet klinisch, niet gelikt. Het Gebouw was echt. Het programma sprak enorm tot de verbeelding, het werd zo goed gevisualiseerd dat het echt ging leven.

Mijn interesse voor Het Gebouw (en Het Pandemonium, een Uur Ischa, Borát, Ronflonflon…) had ook wel iets met puberen te maken. Per slot van rekening kon ik me mooi afzetten tegen mijn ouders door mij met de VPRO te identificeren. En het had te maken met mijn brede interesse voor radio, journalistiek, buitenland, politiek en het onbekende.

Het leek me leuk het allemaal eens op een rijtje te zetten op een ‘bandje’.  55 minuten Gebouw-historie, aan de hand waarvan ik met mijn herinneringen door Het Gebouw loop.