Tag: investigation

Is this the beginning of the end of the Trump Administration?

We are just a couple of days short of being five months into what is supposed to be a four-year term of Donald Trump being President of the United States, but developments in the last few days or so are indicating that this may be the beginning of the end of the Trump Administration.

The biggest recent news is the announcement that former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed the special prosecutor in the case regarding the Trump presidential campaign’s ties to Russia:

(b) The Special Counsel is authorized to conduct the investigation confirmed by then-FBI Director James 8. Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 20, 2017, including:

(i) any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals     associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and

(ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and

(iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).

Additionally, there are other developments that have indicated to me that this could be the beginning of the end of the Trump Administration:

  • An audio tape (transcript here) in which House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) bragged about Russian President Vladimir Putin paying Trump and U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)…Republicans have tried to claim that McCarthy was merely joking, but it’s certainly suspicious when Republicans claim that Putin is paying some of their own, and it’s not 100% clear if they were being serious or not.
  • Vice President Mike Pence has already set up a leadership PAC to support Republican political efforts…this is the first time a sitting VPOTUS has ever done this.
  • Democratic members of Congress are openly mentioning the prospect of impeaching Trump.
  • It has been reported that disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and others with close ties to Trump had 18 contacts with the Russians that were not previously disclosed.

There’s certainly evidence that this may be the beginning of the end of the Trump Administration.

Tennessee Republican Andy Holt supports domestic terrorists

Tennessee State Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) is the first elected official in the United States that I have been made aware of who has publicly supported the Bundy family and a group of domestic terrorists who have taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon. In fact, Holt went as far as to take to Twitter and publicly ask for information about where he could send an unspecified amount and type of support to the Bundy militia (screengrab by Chattanooga City Council member Chris Anderson, Holt deleted the tweet from his account):

As you can clearly see, Anderson flatly called for a federal investigation into possible treason by Holt. Treason is the only crime that is defined in the U.S. Constitution (Article III, Section 3):

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

(emphasis mine)

Both types of treason (levying war against the U.S. and aiding the enemy) either do or may apply in this scenario, the former to the Bundy militia, and the latter to Holt. According to local law enforcement in Oregon who have knowledge of the ongoing siege, the Bundy militia has intentions of attempting an overthrow of the U.S. government and the government of Harney County, Oregon, so that is clearly plotting an act of treason. By intending to send “support” to the Bundy militia, Holt is at least plotting to aid the Bundy militia, unless his remarks are pure hyperbole. If Holt’s remarks are more than hyperbole (i.e., sending support to the Bundy militia or actually plotting to do so), then he’s committing treason.

However, some of Holt’s other tweets are clearly not hyperbole, and give you a general idea of how much of a vile, disgusting human being that he is. Darrell Bouldin, a 2012 Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegate from Tennessee, compiled a few of Holt’s homophobic remarks towards Anderson, who is openly gay:

https://twitter.com/DarrellBouldin/status/683908639023853568

Andy Holt is even more vile and disgusting than Donald Trump, and I didn’t even think that was possible until now. Please use the hashtag #UNFITFORTN when tweeting about how much of a disgusting human being Holt is.

It’s time to abolish charter schools in America

Charter schools are schools that are run with varying levels of autonomy from laws, rules, and regulations that apply to traditional public schools and are granted a charter by either a government entity of some kind (in the U.S., this is either a state-level education authority, a public higher education institution, or a local school district) or a private entity granted charter authorization power by a state or local government entity. In recent decades, charter schools have opened en masse in many U.S. states.

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), a Wisconsin-based progressive watchdog group, recently conducted research of both a federal program designed to provide funding to charter schools, and they released their report on their findings last month. For supporters of public education and American taxpayers, the findings are not good at all.

At the federal level, there is a little-known federal government program that provides taxpayer-funded grants to charter schools, called the Charter Schools Program State Educational Agencies (CSP SEA). Out of a total of over $3.7 billion in federal funds given out to charter schools since 1995, over $3 billion of that has been given out via the CSP SEA program. Federal charter school grant programs operate with very little accountability or transparency. In fact, the federal government has passed off the primary responsibility of accountability for federal charter school grants to the states, which, in turn, have passed off responsibility for the federal grants to charter school authorizers, some of which are public entities and some of which are private entities. Additionally, there wasn’t anything resembling a public list of charter schools that received CSP SEA funds until CMD repeatedly asked for the federal government to give them a list of such charter schools.

In addition, CMD researched charter school practices in eleven states (California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, Colorado, New York, Utah, Wisconsin, and Indiana), as well as the District of Columbia. Here’s how federal funding in those jurisdictions was wasted:

  • In California, home to one-fifth of the nation’s charter school students, a total of 13 charter schools closed after receiving a total of over $4.7 million in federal grants.
  • In Indiana, two charter schools that received a total of over $1.4 million in federal grants were closed due to poor student performance, one charter school received a $702,000 federal grant before becoming a private religious school, one charter school that never opened was awarded a $193,000 federal grant, and one charter school that has yet to open was awarded $193,000 federal grant.
  • In Michigan, which provided CMD with the least amount of information regarding charter school funds, nearly $1.75 million in federal grants was paid out to 21 “ghost schools”, or charter schools that never opened.
  • In Ohio, a total of over $4.6 million in federal grants was awarded to a total of 19 charter schools that either closed or never opened.
  • In New York, a nearly $200,000 net discrepancy in 2011-2012 and an over $300,000 net discrepancy in 2012-2013 existed between New York state records on federal charter school grants and federal records on federal charter school grants awarded to New York charter schools.
  • In Texas, a $600,000 federal grant was awarded to a charter school created by the founder of a religious education association.
  • In Utah, the state hasn’t accepted any federal grants for expanding or replicating charter schools, although the state has spent millions in state taxpayer money on charter schools.
  • In Arizona, the federal government has granted roughly $69 million in federal funds for charter schools since 2009, and, from mid-2010 to mid-2014, more than 100 Arizona charter schools closed their doors.
  • In Colorado, the federal government has awarded up to $81 million in federal grants for charter schools. More than a dozen charter schools have closed in Colorado.
  • In Florida, the federal government awarded the state up to $104 million in federal charter school grants to the state in 2011. Since Florida authorized charter schools over a decade ago, more than 120 charter schools have closed down.
  • In Wisconsin, a total of over $2.5 million in federal grants were awarded to a total of 10 charter schools that closed.
  • In the District of Columbia, where charter schools operate a short distance away from the U.S. Department of Education headquarters, the federal district’s charter school authorizer has landed a total of over $37 million in federal charter school grants since 2010, despite the fact that, up until 2013, the federal district saw 30 charter schools close their doors.

That’s just the waste of federal taxpayer dollars on charter schools. There are many more problems with charter schools and agencies responsible for authorizing and regulating them. While problems with charter schools and their regulation vary from state to state, they include the following:

  • lack of government oversight and transparency
  • financial mismanagement
  • charter school supporters getting into positions of government power over charter schools
  • refusing to respond to open records requests in a timely manner
  • poor academic results and learning conditions
  • low enrollment numbers
  • at least in California, unsafe charter school buildings
  • misreporting charter school data, such as enrollment figures, to governmental authorities
  • charter schools violating laws, rules, regulations, and their charters
  • at least in Indiana, racial segregation
  • in Michigan, criminal activity, including felony fraud and tax evasion, by charter school operators
  • religious schools operating as charter schools and receiving taxpayer funding for charter schools
  • for-profit companies running charter schools
  • charter schools that closed or never opened receiving taxpayer funding
  • in Ohio, scrubbing performance data of online charter schools
  • charter school operators having undue political influence over regulators
  • in Colorado, sexual misconduct
  • in Colorado, at least one charter school operator not following multiple federal and state employment laws
  • state legislators and executives advocating for charter schools and implementing pro-charter school legislation
  • lack of efforts by regulators and authorizers to ensure that charter schools are non-religious in nature
  • taxpayer money that should go to traditional public schools going to charter schools instead

While CMD has recommended much stronger accountability measures for charter schools, I think that the problems that are inherent with charter schools are too serious to justify their continuation, and I support completely abolishing charter schools and giving the taxpayer money that would otherwise go to charter schools to traditional public schools instead.

PETITION: Tell President Obama and members of both houses of Congress to oppose the Campus Rapist Protection Act

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post contains a link to an online petition; the link is located at the bottom of the blog post.


U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, a Republican who represents the 5th Congressional District of Arizona, has proposed federal legislation, officially called the Safe Campus Act (H.R. 3403), that, if enacted, would require colleges and universities in this country to effectively cover up sexual assaults that occur on campus, unless police become involved with a particular case.

I’m not making this up at all…that is an actual bill that has been proposed in Congress.

While the bill is officially called the Safe Campus Act, it might as well be called the Campus Rapist Protection Act, as that’s a more accurate description of what the proposed legislation would do. The legislation would make it a lot easier for college students to get away with the criminal act of rape, and, therefore, make college campuses far more dangerous than they currently are. Furthermore, the legislation would, if enacted, result in fewer people attending college out of fear that they might be raped on campus.

The legislation is backed by numerous fraternity groups, which apparently think that their members have an unfettered right to have sex with every woman they can find, even if the women don’t consent to sexual activity. No person in this country has an unfettered right to sexually assault anyone. In fact, sexual assault is a crime, and it should be treated seriously, not swept under the rug.

I’ve created a petition calling for President Barack Obama and members of both houses of Congress to oppose H.R. 3403. You can sign the petition here.

UNCONFIRMED REPORT: Trey Gowdy, leader of Benghazi witchhunt in the House, will NOT run for re-election

The Washington Examiner right-wing website, citing Republican Congressman John Fleming (R-LA) as its source, is reporting that U.S. Representative Harold Watson Gowdy III (R-SC), commonly known as Trey Gowdy, will not run for re-election to his House seat next year. Gowdy chairs the House Benghazi Committee that has been waging a political witchhunt against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The report of Gowdy’s retirement has NOT been confirmed by Gowdy himself, his campaign committee, or his congressional office. Gowdy currently represents the 4th Congressional District of South Carolina.

If this report is true, then that’s a clear sign that the giant waste of taxpayer money known as the House Benghazi Committee is beginning to be an electoral albatross for Republicans. While I’m not a Hillary Clinton supporter (I’m supporting Bernie Sanders for president), the House Benghazi Committee has clearly been nothing more than a waste of Congress’s time and taxpayers’ money.

The U.S. Justice Department fights a different kind of segregation in Georgia

When most people think of the words “Georgia” and “segregation”, most people in this country think of racial segregation of the Jim Crow era of American history.

However, segregation still exists in Georgia, although it’s a different kind of segregation: segregating schoolchildren with behavioral disabilities from non-disabled schoolchildren and giving the disabled schoolchildren a far inferior educational experience than the non-disabled schoolchildren. Now, the U.S. Department of Justice has stepped in, and they’re using the federal Americans with Disabilities Act to try to end this form of segregation in Georgia schools:

The Justice Department has accused Georgia of segregating thousands of students with behavior-related disabilities, shunting them into a program that denies them access to their non-disabled peers and to extracurricular activities and other basic amenities, including gymnasiums, libraries and appropriately certified teachers.

The department’s years-long inquiry into Georgia’s programs, and the pressure it is now putting on state officials to revamp the way they educate students with disabilities, have brought hope to advocates in the state who have long tried unsuccessfully for change.

[…]

Justice did not investigate Georgia’s lapses under the nation’s main law for protecting the interests of special education students — the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. Instead, the department focused on the state’s failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a much more powerful civil rights tool, according to legal experts.

Once again, the school system in Georgia is running a separate and unequal scheme, but, this time, it involves giving students with behavioral disabilities an educational experience that is far inferior than the educational experience that non-disabled students receive. That is absolutely disgusting, and I hope that the Justice Department succeeds in its effort to bring an equal education experience to all Georgian schoolchildren.

Apparent illegal coordination between one or more conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court bench and right-wing groups

The progressive website ThinkProgress is reporting that one or more of the four conservative justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court have been involved in illegal coordination between their official campaign organizations and right-wing political organizations, according to a legal brief filed by Francis Schmitz, the special prosecutor in the John Doe II investigation into violations of campaign finance laws by Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The name(s) of the justice(s) involved in the illegal coordination, the political groups involved in the illegal coordination, and the names of other individuals implicated were redacted because of Wisconsin state laws that govern John Doe investigations prohibiting the disclosure of identities until and unless charges are filed. Schmitz has asked for two of the justices to recuse themselves from the case, but the identities of those justices were redacted in the publicly-available version of the brief.

This development comes at the same time that the Wisconsin Supreme Court is hearing a case in which the conservative majority on the bench will probably decide to strike down the John Doe II probe, which is a flagrant conflict of interest, given that all four of the conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court bench have benefited from money spent by right-wing groups that are implicated in the investigation. However, none of the four conservatives have shown any indication that they will recuse themselves from the case. Personally, I believe that all four of the conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court bench, David Prosser, Michael Gableman, Patience Roggensack, and Annette Ziegler, should recuse themselves from all cases involving the John Doe II probe that are brought before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert INDICTED on federal criminal charges

Former Republican U.S. House Speaker and current lobbyist Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who presided over the lower branch of government for eight years from 1999 to 2007, has been indicted on federal criminal charges for his role in a scheme in which Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million in hush money to a former acquaintance that he wronged for some reason:

Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been indicted on federal charges alleging he agreed to pay $3.5 million in apparent hush money to a longtime acquaintance blackmailing him, then lied to the FBI when asked about suspicious cash withdrawals from several banks, federal prosecutors said.

The stunning indictment of the longtime Republican powerhouse alleged he gave about $1.7 million in cash to the acquaintance, identified only as Individual A in the charges, to “compensate for and conceal (Hastert’s) prior misconduct” against Individual A that had occurred years earlier.

[…]

Hastert, 73, of Plano, was charged with one count each of structuring currency transactions to evade Currency Transaction Reports and making a false statement to the FBI, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He will be arraigned later at U.S. District Court in downtown Chicago.

The full indictment is available here.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Hastert, I’ll provide a bit of a refresher about who Hastert is. Hastert is a longtime member of the same Republican old boys network here in Illinois that has produced the likes of George Ryan of licenses-for-bribes infamy. During his tenure in the House, Hastert was a big supporter of pork-barrel spending projects (example of that here), especially if they benefited Northern Illinois and not other areas of Illinois and the rest of the country. As House Speaker, Hastert allegedly received tens of thousands of dollars from Turkish people that federal authorities were wiretapping. After Hastert left Congress, Hastert received a $35,000/month contract to lobby on behalf of Turkey.

However, Hastert isn’t being indicted over pork-barrel spending or his corrupt ties to Turkish interests. Instead, he’s being indicted for trying to evade federal currency transaction reports, which the federal government requires financial institutions in this country to file for any deposit, withdrawal, or other type of monetary transaction of more than $10,000. Hastert has also been indicted on a related charge of lying to the FBI about his scheme to pay millions of dollars in hush money to someone, whose identity was not revealed in the indictment for legal/privacy reasons, who he wronged. Although not confirmed, some sources are reporting that the charges may stem from actions that Hastert took when he was a high school teacher before entering electoral politics.

Just like his right-wing political cronies George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, Hastert blatantly violated federal laws. However, unlike Bush and Cheney, Hastert might actually have to serve time in prison for his crimes.

Wisconsin legislators to Scott Walker: YOU’RE FIRED FROM YOUR OWN CORPORATE WELFARE AGENCY!!!

It’s official…the members of the Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Legislature’s Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee (JFC) have effectively fired Scott Walker from the corporate welfare agency he helped create, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC):

The state’s Republican-led budget committee Thursday retained legislative oversight of Gov. Scott Walker’s troubled job-creation agency, removed the governor from its board and pledged further changes later this fall in the wake of a recent critical audit and a (Wisconsin) State Journal investigation.

The Legislature’s powerful Joint Finance Committee voted along party lines for the changes to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., but only after rejecting a series of Democratic ideas to reform the agency and more than an hour of debate during which even Republicans conceded that the agency needs fixing.

“We know that it’s time to reform this,” said Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson. “We can’t do it in the middle of the budget.”

Knudson even made the sobering admission that he didn’t believe in the mission of the agency – to leverage state tax dollars to help create jobs.

Walker has been the chair of the WEDC’s board of directors since it began operations in 2011. It’s not clear who would replace Walker on the WEDC board, although it would all but certainly be another Republican.

For those of you who haven’t been following the WEDC debacle in Wisconsin, I’ll provide a quick refresher. Since its creation in 2011, the WEDC has, among other things, mismanaged money, violated laws, has had officials spend taxpayer money on items like college football tickets and alcoholic beverages, handed out tax breaks to companies that have shipped American jobs to foreign countries, and has given loans to companies that haven’t paid back a single penny of the money that was loaned to them. In fact, State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) have both called for a federal criminal investigation into the WEDC’s activities. For U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to not launch an investigation would mean that Lynch and the Obama Administration are complicit in a cover-up of at least possible violations of federal law at the WEDC, so Lynch better launch an investigation, preferably right now.

For the JFC to fire Walker from his own corporate welfare agency is an obvious example of damage control by the Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature. Preferably, I’d like to see these state-level corporate welfare agencies replaced by North Dakota-style state economic development banks, but Republicans and corporate Democrats are never going to support anything like that.

Hillary Clinton’s “Scott Walker” problem

Hillary Clinton has a “Scott Walker” problem on her hands.

Specifically, CNN is reporting that Hillary Clinton apparently intends to violate federal laws by raising money for a SuperPAC that is supporting her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination:

Hillary Clinton’s decision to personally raise money for a super PAC supporting her campaign is agitating her progressive critics, who see the move as further proof that the Democratic presidential frontrunner doesn’t share some of their values.

[…]

Within days of announcing her White House bid, Clinton had called out wealthy investors for paying too little in taxes and pledged to get big money out of politics. At the time, it was a welcome message for liberal Democrats who are uncomfortable with Clinton’s close ties to Wall Street and find the prominent role of super PACs in elections utterly distasteful.

But the recent revelation that Clinton will personally fundraise for a super PAC supporting her campaign — a decision to play by the rules of a system she has condemned as “dysfunctional” — has invited fresh eye-rolling. It has also exposed a core tension for Democrats, who have increasingly embraced super PACs at the same time that they decry the explosion of soft money in national politics.

The name of the SuperPAC in question is Priorities USA Action, a SuperPAC that was originally formed to support Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, but is now one of many pro-Hillary SuperPACs for the 2016 presidential election. No criminal charges have been filed against Hillary at this time, and there doesn’t appear to be any kind of criminal investigation into this matter at this time, apparently because the Priorities USA Action fundraisers featuring Hillary haven’t been held yet.

Hillary Clinton is a total hypocrite when it comes to money in politics. While she’s publicly complained about the ridiculous influence of big-money politics, she’s embracing that same ridiculous influence of big-money politics by intending to apparently violate the law to fundraise for one of the SuperPACs that are supporting her campaign. Hillary does not appear to be playing by the rules at all. In fact, she’s made it clear that she wants to apparently violate federal laws that prohibit illegal coordination between SuperPACs and candidates for federal elected office.

When I said that Hillary has a “Scott Walker” problem on her hands, what I mean by that is that Hillary intends to do is no different that what Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, himself an unofficial candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, did when he knew that he and several of his allies were going to face recall elections. Walker illegally solicited $700,000 from Gogebic Taconite, a mining company that has never actually operated a mine, but bought weaker environmental laws in Wisconsin, to the Wisconsin chapter of the right-wing political front group Club for Growth. Here’s how The Progressive magazine’s Rebecca Kemble reported that story when documents from the ongoing, but stalled, John Doe II investigation into Walker and his allies showing that Walker illegally solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars to benefit a right-wing group were released last year:

Even though all limits on the size of direct campaign donations are removed for candidates facing recall elections in Wisconsin, the Walker campaign still found it necessary to hide the source of the millions it solicited during 2011-2012 to keep him and his legislative allies in power.

According to emails between Walker campaign staff, the Wisconsin Club for Growth was the dark money clearinghouse that apparently coordinated “issue advocacy and “correct messaging” with the Walker campaign. Much of the money that came in the WiCFG door went back out to other political operatives like Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Citizens for a Strong America and the Jobs First Coalition to back Walker and Republican state senators facing recall or special elections in 2012.

GTac bought weaker environmental laws in Wisconsin by supporting anti-environment politicians so they could build an iron ore mine in Northern Wisconsin in violation of Native American treaties, but GTac recently decided to scrap the project entirely.

Hillary Clinton is just as unethical as the odious Scott Walker is, and that’s why progressive-minded Democrats can’t afford Hillary being our party’s presidential nominee.