[Discussion] Impeachment, Legacy, and Discussion of Individual 45

Though noted as discussion, news, debate, and all things related to events that occurred during the Tr*mp administration can go here. The scope of this thread is specific to the former administration and it's hangers-on in the aftermath of the shift in power for the United States and impacted areas worldwide.

Hobear wrote:

So tired of the so when and where to we leave this country conversation with my wife. .

After we have our third kid, before re-education camps for progressives.

Trump Organization Could Face Criminal Charges in D.A. Inquiry

NYT wrote:

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has informed Donald J. Trump’s lawyers that it is considering criminal charges against his family business, the Trump Organization, in connection with fringe benefits the company awarded a top executive, according to several people with knowledge of the matter.

The prosecutors had been building a case for months against the executive, Allen H. Weisselberg, as part of an effort to pressure him to cooperate with a broader inquiry into Mr. Trump’s business dealings. But it was not previously known that the Trump Organization also might face charges.

If the case moves ahead, the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., could announce charges as soon as next week, the people said. Mr. Vance’s prosecutors have been conducting the investigation along with lawyers from the office of the New York State attorney general, Letitia James.

Any indictment would be the first to emerge from the long-running investigation and would raise the startling prospect of a former president having to defend the company he founded, and has run for decades, against accusations of criminal behavior.

Prosecutors recently have focused much of their investigation into the perks Mr. Trump and the company doled out to Mr. Weisselberg and other executives, including tens of thousands of dollars in private school tuition for one of Mr. Weisselberg’s grandchildren, as well as rents on apartments and car leases.

They are looking into whether those benefits were properly recorded in the company’s ledgers and whether taxes were paid on them, The New York Times has reported.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers met on Thursday with senior prosecutors in the district attorney’s office in hopes of persuading them to abandon any plan to charge the company, according to several people familiar with the meeting. Such meetings are routine in white-collar criminal investigations, and it is unclear whether the prosecutors have made a final decision on whether to charge the Trump Organization, which has long denied wrongdoing.

“In my more than 50 years of practice, never before have I seen a district attorney’s office target a company over employee compensation or fringe benefits,” said Ronald P. Fischetti, a personal lawyer for Mr. Trump. “It’s ridiculous and outrageous.”

Several lawyers who specialize in tax rules have told The New York Times that it would be highly unusual to indict a company just for failing to pay taxes on fringe benefits. None of them could cite any recent example, noting that many companies provide their employees with benefits like company cars.

Still, an indictment of Mr. Trump’s company could deal a blow to the former president just as he has started to hold rallies and flirt with a return to politics. The Trump Organization is inseparable from Mr. Trump, acting as the corporate umbrella for a portfolio of hotels, golf clubs and other real estate, most of which are branded with his name.

It is unclear whether Mr. Trump will ultimately face charges himself. The investigation, which began three years ago, has been wide-ranging, examining whether the Trump Organization manipulated the value of its properties to obtain favorable loans and tax benefits, people with knowledge of the matter have said.

The inquiry is also examining the organization’s statements to insurance companies about the value of various assets and any role that its employees — including Mr. Weisselberg — may have played in hush-money payments to two women during the 2016 presidential campaign.

...

Companies, even private ones like the Trump Organization, are subject to criminal prosecution, and can face fines and other penalties if they are found guilty. Charges also can threaten an organization’s relationships with banks and business partners and cause lasting reputational damage.

The indictments could increase pressure to cooperate on Mr. Weisselberg, who could seek to cut a deal with prosecutors to testify against Mr. Trump in exchange for leniency.

Mr. Weisselberg’s intimate knowledge of the Trump Organization — he has worked at the company for decades and was one of the top executives when Mr. Trump was in the White House — would make his cooperation an enormous asset to investigators looking at all aspects of the company. Because of that, he has been a central focus of scrutiny in the district attorney’s investigation, with particular attention paid to the benefits that he and his family received.

With a registered serial number, the gun can be traced to the last registered owner, and then investigated for illicit transfers, after it’s been used in a crime. Without it, the police don’t have that info. Makes it much harder to figure out who was involved.

Paleocon wrote:
hbi2k wrote:

I guess I'm confused about what advantage the lack of a serial number is supposed to confer in a new civil war or domestic terrorism scenario. What's the up side versus going through the regular channels of gun ownership?

It is a pretty attractive option for convicted felons who are not legally allowed to own firearms.

Robear wrote:

With a registered serial number, the gun can be traced to the last registered owner, and then investigated for illicit transfers, after it’s been used in a crime. Without it, the police don’t have that info. Makes it much harder to figure out who was involved.

I should have specified that I'm confused about what the advantage to Rawk specifically would be, since he's the one saying he's tempted by the idea. I can certainly see why it would be an advantage if one's intention was to use it to commit a crime, but that did not strike me as Rawk's intention.

If you are a law-abiding non-felon whose intention is to have a firearm to use for self-defense in the event of a new civil war or right-wing domestic terrorism situation, what is the advantage to a ghost gun over one with a serial number obtained through more ordinary channels?

If the Republicans take over, defending yourself against the state will be a crime. The irony is palpable.

So what's the scenario where using an untraceable firearm as opposed to a traceable one makes a difference? Either the legal apparatus is sufficiently intact that defending yourself in court on self-defense grounds is worthwhile, in which case you do that, or it's not, in which case you've already taken your bugout bag and joined up with some like-thinking individuals in a bunker somewhere I suppose.

hbi2k wrote:

So what's the scenario where using an untraceable firearm makes a difference? Either the legal apparatus is sufficiently intact that defending yourself in court on self-defense grounds is worthwhile, in which case you do that, or it's not, in which case you've already taken your bugout bag and joined up with some like-thinking individuals in a bunker somewhere I suppose.

This is basically my reasoning for hating the use of guns for personal defense. By the time you need them things have already gone too far.

Defending yourself against the state is *already* a serious crime, Mixolyde. The fact that we let people get away with it and live to form new militias is just encouragement...

“Ghost gun” sounds like something that is illegal and is something that probably should be illegal, but during the next Republican administration in 2025 being a registered gun owner who voted wrong means you’ll likely be labeled as a potential insurectionist and your house will be fired upon indiscriminately from the street instead of just being doorknocked by the Purity Patrols and forced to take the Q Digital Soldier Oath to the new president as they install the monitoring equipment.

ruhk wrote:

“Ghost gun” sounds like something that is illegal and is something that probably should be illegal, but during the next Republican administration in 2025 being a registered gun owner who voted wrong means you’ll likely be labeled as a potential insurectionist and your house will be fired upon indiscriminately from the street instead of just being doorknocked by the Purity Patrols and forced to take the Q Digital Soldier Oath to the new president as they install the monitoring equipment.

I think it's more likely we experience something like "Parable of the Sower", to be honest.

I was just thinking that if I’m going dark that I shouldn’t half-ass it. For myself it’s just a paranoid fantasy.

ruhk wrote:

“Ghost gun” sounds like something that is illegal and is something that probably should be illegal, but during the next Republican administration in 2025 being a registered gun owner who voted wrong means you’ll likely be labeled as a potential insurectionist and your house will be fired upon indiscriminately from the street instead of just being doorknocked by the Purity Patrols and forced to take the Q Digital Soldier Oath to the new president as they install the monitoring equipment.

Oh, so we're back to dystopian fanfic. Got it.

hbi2k wrote:

Oh, so we're back to dystopian fanfic. Got it.

Well, Florida has legalized murdering protestors (among a couple other states) and just passed legislation forcing college students and faculty to register their political views with the state, so even though I intended it as partly satirical it’s probably not as satirical as I’d intended.

ruhk wrote:

Well, Florida has legalized murdering protestors (among a couple other states) and just passed legislation forcing college students and faculty to register their political views with the state, so even though I intended it as partly satirical it’s probably not as satirical as I’d intended.

A non-profit group sued Florida two day after DeSantis signed the protest law. Oklahoma passed a similar law in April, but it doesn't take effect until November and the ACLU is already queuing up their legal response for when the law takes effect.

Florida's “viewpoint diversity” law requires colleges to distribute surveys about political viewpoints and beliefs, but doesn't require students to fill them out or define what should happen if a school was found to be stifling (conservative) viewpoints (DeSantis strongly hinted that public funding would be cut).

Freedom of speech at publicly-funded universities is an exceptionally well-established thing that has been endlessly tested by lawsuits over the years. These new laws will trigger lawsuits that'll argue they'll actually suppress free speech because they are vague and it's a right wing fantasy that colleges and universities are indoctrinating students and brainwashing them to hate all things conservative.

These laws are pointless conservative posturing and are purposefully designed to get media attention for when they are passed and when they are inevitably overturned by lawsuits. They exist to generate and sustain white rage.

...Until they get to this right-wing activist Supreme Court. Kavanaugh wrote a book on how nice it would be to ignore precedent when he got there.

It’s not going to stop there, it never does. Advocating for the murdering of political opponents has been common in conservative social media for years now. It’s been common in fringe conservative media since last year, and even “mainstream” conservative media like Tucker Carlson is starting to flirt with it. Just last week during his diatribes about the FBI Tucker was doing his “just asking questions” schtick about what to do with all the Democrats who were the “real” people responsible for Jan 6.

Is say that the GOP is writing those laws to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable. They’ll take every inch they can get. They want to legalize racism. That much is abundantly clear.

RawkGWJ wrote:

Is say that the GOP is writing those laws to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable. They’ll take every inch they can get. They want to legalize racism. That much is abundantly clear.

They want a single-party white ethno-state where they can do whatever they want to whomever they want with no consequences.

Mixolyde wrote:
RawkGWJ wrote:

Is say that the GOP is writing those laws to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable. They’ll take every inch they can get. They want to legalize racism. That much is abundantly clear.

They want a single-party white ethno-state where they can do whatever they want to whomever they want with no consequences.

They aren't even being terribly clever about hiding it.

Paleocon wrote:
Mixolyde wrote:
RawkGWJ wrote:

Is say that the GOP is writing those laws to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable. They’ll take every inch they can get. They want to legalize racism. That much is abundantly clear.

They want a single-party white ethno-state where they can do whatever they want to whomever they want with no consequences.

They aren't even being terribly clever about hiding it.

Because they don't have to be. That's the worst part. It's blatant and easy to spot, and this approach of hiding it in plain sight, even pointing it out and screaming about it, seems to be working.

Why bother hiding it when they have yet to suffer sufficient repercussions in the voting booth?

That’s the thing I find so depressing.

It's why I find democrat led efforts to end partisan gerrymandering so ridiculous. The Supreme Court said it was legal, and there are no repercussions at the voting booth. In fact, just the opposite. So do it better and fix at least a few states.

Mixolyde wrote:

It's why I find democrat led efforts to end partisan gerrymandering so ridiculous. The Supreme Court said it was legal, and there are no repercussions at the voting booth. In fact, just the opposite. So do it better and fix at least a few states.

It’s legal because it is not prohibited by law. Partisan gerrymandering was ruled to not be forbidden by the constitution, and there was no overriding federal law against it,

If they now pass a national law forbidding it, the question changes from “is it legal?” to “is the ban unconstitutional?”

I occasionally listen to the Opening Arguments podcast, and they’ve mentioned this several times without saying there was any reason a priori to consider it unconstitutional. But, of course, this Supreme Court is dominated by “howler monkeys” now.

Here's some stuff we just learned about the antics surrounding former AG William Barr's decision to investigate and break from Trump's delusions about election fraud:

Trump brought up Barr’s AP interview [where he acknowledged there was no fraud].

“Did you say that?”

“Yes,” Barr responded.

“How the f*ck could you do this to me? Why did you say it?”

“Because it’s true.”

The president, livid, responded by referring to himself in the third person: “You must hate Trump. You must hate Trump.”

Seth wrote:

Here's some stuff we just learned about the antics surrounding former AG William Barr's decision to investigate and break from Trump's delusions about election fraud:


check out CNN's article on Barr as a sort of "counter-point" to the Atlantic Article.

Barr is a massive liar and an enabler who happens to have a book coming out. The Atlantic article is WAY too kind on Barr.

ruhk wrote:

“Ghost gun” sounds like something that is illegal and is something that probably should be illegal, but during the next Republican administration in 2025 being a registered gun owner who voted wrong means you’ll likely be labeled as a potential insurectionist and your house will be fired upon indiscriminately from the street instead of just being doorknocked by the Purity Patrols and forced to take the Q Digital Soldier Oath to the new president as they install the monitoring equipment.

Here's the Socialist Rifle Association's manifesto (they don't call it that but MAN was that a miss!):

https://socialistra.org/about/

Gotta say I'm quite enjoying the former guy taking a big ole swing at McConnell today claiming he conspired with Barr to lose the election for him and that it's McConnell's fault that Republicans lost Georgia and the Senate.

Hears to hoping the GOP civil war is long, exceptionally cantankerous, and deeply divides Republicans.

OG_slinger wrote:

Gotta say I'm quite enjoying the former guy taking a big ole swing at McConnell today claiming he conspired with Barr to lose the election for him and that it's McConnell's fault that Republicans lost Georgia and the Senate.

Hears to hoping the GOP civil war is long, exceptionally cantankerous, and deeply divides Republicans.

Man, I’ve been waiting MONTHS for the Airing of Grievances phase of Festivus.

OG_slinger wrote:

Gotta say I'm quite enjoying the former guy taking a big ole swing at McConnell today claiming he conspired with Barr to lose the election for him and that it's McConnell's fault that Republicans lost Georgia and the Senate.

Hears to hoping the GOP civil war is long, exceptionally cantankerous, and deeply divides Republicans.

Here's hoping they kill each other. Figuratively of course, naturally, for sure!

The land was worth millions. A Big Ag corporation sold it to Sonny Perdue’s company for $250,000.

Washington Post wrote:

It was a curious time for Sonny Perdue to close a real estate deal.

In February 2017, weeks after President Donald Trump selected him to be agriculture secretary, Perdue’s company bought a small grain plant in South Carolina from one of the biggest agricultural corporations in America.

Had anyone noticed, it would have prompted questions ahead of his confirmation, a period when most nominees lie low and avoid potential controversy. The former governor of Georgia did not disclose the deal — there was no legal requirement to do so.

An examination of public records by The Washington Post has found that the agricultural company, Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM), sold the land at a small fraction of its estimated value just as it stood to benefit from a friendly secretary of agriculture.

Perdue did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the real estate deal. Jackie Anderson, a spokeswoman for Chicago-based ADM, denied that the company sold the property at a discount, saying that ADM began negotiations with Perdue’s former company, AGrowStar, in 2015 — well before Trump was elected — and could not find another buyer.

“This was nothing more than a business decision to sell a significantly underperforming asset,” she said.

Danny Brown, the former president of AGrowStar, confirmed negotiations began in late 2015. But Brown said ADM wanted $4 million for the plant — 16 times what Perdue’s company ultimately paid for it.

The timing of the sale just as Perdue was about to become the most powerful man in U.S. agriculture raises legal and ethics concerns, from the narrow question of whether the secretary followed federal financial disclosure requirements to whether the transaction could have been an attempt to influence an incoming government official, in violation of bribery statutes, ethics lawyers say.

“This stinks to high heaven,” said Julie O’Sullivan, a Georgetown University law professor and former federal prosecutor. “It deserves a prosecutor’s attention,” she added. “Only a prosecutor with the powers of the grand jury can find out, in fact, whether there was a quid pro quo that existed at the time of the deal.”

Public officials are barred from accepting anything of value if the benefit is given “with intent to influence.” ADM, which spent millions of dollars lobbying the U.S. government during the Trump presidency, certainly had many interests before the USDA during Perdue’s tenure.

“We did not receive any special favors from Mr. Perdue during his administration,” Anderson said, “and it is unfair and inaccurate to imply that we did.”

ADM sold the plant in Estill, S.C., to Perdue’s then-company, AGrowStar, for $250,000 — a fraction of what county and independent appraisers say it is worth. Six years earlier, ADM had paid more than $5.5 million for the same land, a figure that closely matches assessments by independent experts contacted by The Post, who analyzed the value based on state records and drone footage of the property.

Months after Perdue took over the U.S. Department of Agriculture, his family trust sold AGrowStar to a group of investors along with all of its real estate for an undisclosed amount. According to Brown, AGrowStar sold for about $12 million.

The real estate sales illustrate the limits of the financial disclosure rules intended to reveal potential conflicts of interest before confirmation. Officials are not required to detail their companies’ transactions or any business deals completed before their confirmations.

The sale of Perdue’s company was also obscured by complex financial moves that appear to have evaded at least the spirit of an agreement Perdue made with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, according to Walter Shaub, who led the agency at the time.

“This may be a matter for the FBI to investigate, frankly,” he said.

...

ADM is no stranger to the ways of Washington. It employs a powerful team of in-house lobbyists, spending $1.7 million on those efforts in 2017, a figure that rose sharply the following year.

The Perdue years were good ones for ADM, which hit many targets among the top issues listed on its lobbying forms.

For one, the USDA changed food safety rules that had been in place for more than a half-century. In 2019, Perdue’s agency took steps to loosen regulations of pork production by reducing inspectors at slaughterhouses and eliminating the cap on “line speed” — the rate at which pigs are slaughtered, which had been 1,106 hogs per hour, or 18 hogs per minute.

A boost to the meat industry is a boost to the grain industry, since more pigs means more grain. The company was expanding its global animal feed business with a major acquisition of Neovia in 2019 that made it one of the largest players in the world.

When Thailand instituted a ban in 2019 on glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weed killer Roundup, ADM helped the USDA get the decision reversed by providing political intelligence on the Thai government, according to emails obtained by an advocacy group, the Center for Biological Diversity. Roundup is made by Bayer, but it is critical to ADM, which sells grains modified for resistance to glyphosate.

Vietnam also banned the chemical, prompting Perdue himself to warn Hanoi: “We are disappointed in Vietnam’s decision to ban glyphosate, a move that will have devastating impacts on global agricultural production."

Vietnam later postponed its ban.

But the biggest win for ADM came in the form of subsidies and tax breaks.

In 2019, U.S. farmers and Big Ag were pressuring the Trump administration to boost the biofuels industry. ADM is one of the largest U.S. producers of ethanol, made from corn, and of biodiesel made from vegetable oil.

The administration was caught in the middle of a perennial battle between corn growers and energy companies. U.S. regulations require oil refiners to blend a set amount of ethanol fuel made from corn into gasoline. More ethanol means less petroleum gas and vice versa. With oil prices low, U.S. gas producers were hurting, so the administration allowed many refiners to waive the ethanol requirements. Corn farmers, who were also suffering from a lack of demand, were growing increasingly angry, and the 2020 election was looming.

Inside the Trump administration, Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler, who had been a coal industry lawyer before his appointment, was backing the oil refiners. But the corn growers and ethanol producers, including ADM, had Perdue in their corner.

In August, Trump asked Perdue and Wheeler to come up with measures to boost demand for biofuels. Perdue traveled to Decatur, Ill., to attend the Illinois Farm Progress Show, where he told an audience that Trump would soon announce a plan.

Later, speaking from the “ADM stage,” Perdue dramatically took a call from Trump, who briefed the farmers on his trade policy and asked them to stick with him. “I hope you like me even better now than you did in ’16,” he said, eliciting a mixture of applause and boos.

In September 2019, Trump announced a deal to add hundreds of millions of gallons of ethanol to the U.S. gas supply. According to Bloomberg News, the deal was brokered at the White House by U.S. senators — and a representative of ADM.

Later that year, ADM checked off a top lobbying goal when Congress passed a biodiesel tax credit that amounted to $1 per gallon subsidy retroactive to 2017. In early 2020, at the onset of the coronavirus crisis, Perdue announced a $100 million subsidy of biofuels, including ethanol and biodiesel.

The subsidies and tax credit helped. On Jan. 29, 2020, ADM trumpeted quarterly earnings of $504 million.

More than half of that profit — $270 million — came from the biodiesel tax credit.