Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405

Facebook: Digby Parton

@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)

thedigbyblog at gmail
satniteflix at gmail
publius.gaius at gmail
tpostsully at gmail
Spockosbrain at gmail
Richardein at me.com


Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic

Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Keeping Dear Leader's secrets

by digby

He sounds serious to me. But then I've always seen him as an authoritarian thug rather than an entertaining buffoon so it doesn't surprise me.

Donald Trump has suggested that, if elected, he'd make political appointees sign a sweeping non-disclosure agreement similar to one that he requires campaign workers to sign.

He may have some leeway to do so.

Interviews given and memoirs written by former cabinet members are a crucial source of information for presidential historians. Former Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Henry Kissinger have all written accounts of their time in the executive branch, along with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, to name just a few.

But Trump doesn’t approve.

In a March interview with The Washington Post, Trump was asked whether he'd make government employees sign confidentiality agreements. “I think they should," he replied.

Trump conceded that "there could be some kind of a law that you can’t do this," but then he continued: "When people are chosen by a man to go into government at high levels and then they leave government and they write a book about a man and say a lot of things that were really guarded and personal, I don’t like that.”

Post reporter Bob Woodward pointed out that government employees received their salaries not from the president but from the taxpayers. That prompted Trump to agree that "in the federal government it's a different thing. So it's something I would think about. But you know, I do right now — I have thousands and thousands of employees, many thousands, and every one of them has an agreement."

Could Trump prevent his top appointees from disclosing whatever information he chose — even after they left the government?

“Trump could likely fashion something like [that] in the White House.” said Norman Eisen, special counsel to President Barack Obama in 2009-11. “It would be unusual," Eisen explained, "to expand non-disclosure to extend outside the typical area of classified and sensitive information," but "he could try to do it by an executive order requiring his appointees to sign a written pledge not to disclose.”

“It is a troubling prospect," Eisen said, "one of many presented by a Trump presidency."

The confidentiality agreement Trump uses in his campaign is extremely wide in scope, protecting no fewer than four generations of the Trump family. Its definition of confidential information includes taxes, financial statements, contracts, schedules, appointments, meetings, conversations and notes of “Mr. Trump, any family member, any Trump company or any Family Member Company.” The term "family member” is defined to include Trump’s children and “their respective spouses, children and grandchildren, if any, and Mr. Trump’s siblings and their respective spouses and children, if any.”

The campaign confidentiality agreement also requires that employees and volunteers “during the term of [their] service and at all times thereafter” agree not to "disparage publicly" Trump, any Trump company, any Trump family member or any Trump family member's business enterprise...

Richard Painter, chief ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush in 2005-07, said that as president Trump would enjoy very broad latitude to require non-disclosure from top aides. “He can order them to do what he wants them to do," Painter said, "and fire them if they don’t, but that’s been true anyway." The only real restriction, he said, would be that a non-disclosure agreement couldn't violate existing laws like the Freedom of Information Act.

But Painter said Trump could not act to enforce non-disclosure agreements as president the way he can as a private citizen. Samaha agreed. “I just doubt the president’s lawyers would craft the policy this way," Samaha said, "unless the idea is to send a message, even if it’s legally unenforceable."

Eisen is less sanguine. The federal government may lack the power to make a non-disclosure agreement stick, he said, but it still has the power to try. On his way to courtroom defeat, a President Trump could run up legal costs for any ex-government appointee who aspired to speak freely of his time in office.

“The Attorney General could be ordered to enforce this,” Eisen said. “That threat would have a tremendous chilling effect. The ordinary person is going to be afraid to take on the full weight of the U.S. government.”

He made all his volunteers agree to sign one. He sued his ex-wife and many others for failing to adhere to one's they'd signed.

Here's one story of how Trump rolls on this issue:

Trump went to court in early 2006, claiming that he had been libeled in the book “TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald,” by Timothy L. O’Brien, then a business reporter at the New York Times. The book briefly addressed Trump’s claims about his net worth, which was then, as it is now, the subject of a great deal of bluster, speculation and opacity.

O’Brien concluded that Trump was worth substantially less than what Trump publicly claimed, an assertion that prompted the business mogul to sue O’Brien and his publisher, Warner Books. He claimed harm to his business and sought $5 billion in damages.

The lawsuit is one of many that Trump has leveled at adversaries and former business partners over the years. But this one may have gone straight to the heart of Trump’s “brand.” Trump pursued it for five years, spending more than $1 million in legal fees, apparently to protect a fundamental aspect of his identity and mythos: That he is not merely very rich but clearly, most sincerely, super rich.

More than a decade later, the issue still clearly stings Trump. O’Brien, he said in an interview Tuesday, “is a whack job, a total nut job . . . one of the sleaziest people I’ve ever done business with. He wrote a book knowing it was totally false. He didn’t know what the assets were, and he disregarded their value. He really did set out with the intent to harm.”

To Trump’s great exasperation, O’Brien showed that there are good reasons to doubt Trump’s assertion that he was worth “five to six billion” dollars in 2005. (In a campaign-disclosure form filed in July, Trump claimed he is now worth more than $10 billion.) Based on documents and interviews with Trump and his associates, O’Brien estimated that Trump had inflated his bankroll as much as 20 times over. Subtracting debts and other liabilities, O’Brien says, Trump’s net worth was pegged at $150 million to $250 million, based on estimates by people with direct knowledge of Trump’s finances.

The suit may have settled the basic question — what is Trump worth? — but the public never got a glimpse of the answer. Trump supplied records and documents, including tax returns that he has declined to release during his campaign, but those were sealed by the court.

In any case, Trump was unable to show that O’Brien had acted with “reckless disregard” for the truth, the standard for sustaining a libel claim against a public figure.

“We blew him up on the whole notion that I set out with reckless disregard and malice,” says O’Brien, now the editor of Bloomberg View. “My lawyers drew and quartered him” on that issue.

The limited public record of the lawsuit includes interesting revelations. One is Trump’s admission, under questioning from O’Brien’s attorneys during a deposition, that he relied on his own “feelings” to assess the value of his holdings.

An attorney asked: Feelings?

“Yes, even my own feelings as to where the world is, where the world is going, and that can change rapidly from day to day,” Trump said, according to the court record. “Then you have a September 11th, and you don’t feel so good about yourself and you don’t feel so good about the world and you don’t feel so good about New York City. Then you have a year later, and the city is as hot as a pistol. Even months after that it was a different feeling. So yeah, even my own feelings affect my value to myself.”

The statement effectively validated O’Brien’s skeptical take on Trump’s self-reporting, which O’Brien characterized as Trump’s “verbal billions.”

A superior court judge in New Jersey ruled that Trump had no case and dismissed his suit in 2009. An appeals court affirmed that decision two years later.

Ultimately, Trump rationalized his defeat this way: “Essentially the judge just said, ‘Trump is too famous,’ ” he told the Atlantic magazine in 2013. “ ‘He’s so famous that you’re allowed to say anything you want about him.’ Well, I disagree with that.”

Well, not exactly.

Both courts cited a lack of “clear and convincing” evidence to satisfy the basic legal test for libeling someone as well known as Trump: willful disregard for the truth. The appeals court noted O’Brien’s diligent and extensive efforts to research Trump’s wealth.

Trump said in an interview that he knew he couldn’t win the suit but brought it anyway to make a point. “I spent a couple of bucks on legal fees, and they spent a whole lot more. I did it to make his life miserable, which I’m happy about.”

O’Brien notes that his reporting on Trump’s wealth consisted of only a few pages of his 288-page book, which was rife with passages about Trump’s “checkered” business career.

So why did Trump ignore the rest and take such offense at the net-worth discussion?

“It’s a measure of his deep insecurity,” O’Brien said. “His wealth and the size of his wealth . . . are integral to how he wants people to perceive him. He looks at the Forbes 400 [list of wealthiest Americans] as the pecking order, and his ego and standing are wrapped up in it. People who are comfortable with their wealth don’t need to brag about it. He’s not in that category.”

As it happens, Trump’s lawsuit and the publicity surrounding it did little to help “TrumpNation.” The book “didn’t sell particularly well,” O’Brien said.

Trump takes some credit for that. “I didn’t read the book,” he said. “I didn’t have time to read it. What I did do was make sure people knew it was false.”

But the author did get one last laugh. In a two-can-play-at-this-game column last year, he facetiously asserted that he, like Trump, was personally worth $10 billion. How did he make such an extraordinary figure? Among other things, O’Brien assessed his home at $6 billion, his aging Ford Escape at $3 billion, and his son’s Pokemon card collection at $100 million.

Absurd, yes. But that’s how rich he personally felt at the time.