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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Hold That Line

by digby

These Democrats need to listen to Nancy:

House Democrats held an emotional debate behind closed doors Thursday over how to stop losing embarrassing procedural battles with Republicans — a clash that exposed the divide between moderates and progressives.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) took a hard line at the caucus meeting, saying that being a member of Congress sometimes requires taking tough votes.

“This is not a day at the beach. This is the Congress of the United States,” Pelosi said, according to two sources.

Pelosi also said vulnerable Democrats who had the “courage” to vote against the Republican motions to recommit would become a higher priority for the party leadership and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the superstar New York freshman lawmaker, suggested she would alert progressive activists when Democrats are voting with the GOP on these motions, said the sources.

In the end, Pelosi and other top Democrats didn’t agree to any rules change and will continue to study the issue. The motion to recommit offers the House minority one last shot at changing legislation before it receives a final floor vote. Typically, the motion is used to try to squeeze the majority party, but it rarely succeeds.

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Democratic leaders have vowed to do a better job preparing for the Republican motions, but the controversy has divided Pelosi and her longtime lieutenants, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.

Pelosi argues that Democrats must stick together on procedural votes, which is the traditional view of party leaders on both sides of the aisle. Hoyer and Clyburn, however, have suggested that moderate members can vote with Republicans if they think it will improve their political standing.

Republicans have already won two motions to recommit this Congress, including a Wednesday vote that angered Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives. In contrast, Republicans stuck together and never lost a single such motion when they controlled the House from 2011 to 2019.

I don't know what is wrong with these people but they need to realize that they get NOTHING from capitulating to Republicans on procedural votes. Voters don't even know what they are. Holding the line will strengthen them, not weaken them.

The inaugural bribe and emolument plot

by digby

Oh look, yet another Federal Prosecutor is digging into Trump and his cronies:
The attorney general for the District of Columbia is the latest to jump into an investigation of Trump’s inaugural committee, subpoenaing the committee this week over whether it “improperly provided private benefit,” the New York Times reports. 
The subpoena reportedly asks for information regarding the roles that Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Eric Trump may have had on the inaugural committee. It also seeks information regarding payments to the Trump International Hotel and the Trump Organization, per the New York Times. 
The request reportedly comes as part of an investigation into whether money was “wasted, mismanaged and/or improperly provided private benefit, causing the committee to exceed or abuse its authority or act contrary to its nonprofit purpose.” 
The New Jersey Attorney General sent a civil subpoena to the committee earlier this month, after federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York sent a wide-ranging subpoena to the inaugural committee on Feb. 4, asking for an array of documents. 
The D.C. subpoena reportedly follows on the SDNY request in asking whether any agreements existed whereby donors paid vendors directly for services provided to the inaugural committee. 
Trump’s inauguration took in a record-breaking $107 million haul, nearly twice as much as any previous one.

And it was the most pathetic inaugural in history. They certainly didn't show the money.

The evidence so far shows that they were funneling donor money into the Trump Organization's coffers and helping foreign and possibly criminal interests to subvert the law to buy access. It also appears they were very disorganized and weren't very careful in covering their tracks. Imagine that.

Maybe it's the kids' time in the barrel. I hope so. They were in on all the corruption and are benefiting from it today.


Some words to shove in Donald Trump's face, Part DXCVIII

by digby

October 28, 2016  in Cedar Rapids, IA
“As you’ve heard, earlier today the FBI after discovering new emails is reopening their investigation into Hillary Clinton… The investigation is the biggest political scandal since Watergate and it’s everybody’s hope that justice at last can be delivered.”

November 2, 2016  in Miami, FL
“If Hillary Clinton were to be elected, it would create an unprecedented and protracted constitutional crisis. Haven’t we just been through a lot with the Clintons, right?”

November 2, 2016 in Orlando, FL
“Hillary is likely to be under investigation for many years, probably concluding in a criminal trial.”

November 4, 2016 in Atkinson, NH
“She'll be under investigation for years. She'll be with trials. Our country, we have to get back to work.”

November 4, 2016 in Wilmington, OH
“Hillary has engaged in a criminal massive enterprise and cover-ups like probably nobody ever before.”

November 5, 2016 in Reno, NV
“There's virtually no doubt that FBI Director Comey and the great, great special agents of the FBI will be able to collect more than enough evidence to garner indictments against Hillary Clinton and her inner circle, despite her efforts to disparage them and to discredit them. If she were to win this election, it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis. In that situation, we could very well have a sitting president under felony indictment and ultimately a criminal trial.”

November 5, 2016 in Denver, CO
“Her current scandals and controversies will continue throughout her presidency and we will make it honestly, look, it's gonna be virtually impossible for her to govern. Now, the Republicans have talked very tough and the Democrats. It's gonna be just another mess for another four years, folks. A mess. We've got to get back to work, right? I mean, we have to get back to work.”

November 6 in Minneapolis, MN
“First thing you should do is get rid of Clinton. Hillary Clinton will be under investigation for a long, long time for her many crimes against our nation, our people, our democracy, likely concluding in a criminal trial.”

November 6 in Moon Township, PA
“The investigations into her crimes will go on for a long, long time. The rank and file special agents at the FBI won't let her get away with these terrible crimes, including the deletion of 33,000 emails after receiving a congressional subpoena. Right now, she's being protected by a rigged system.”

Senior Republican lawmakers are openly discussing the prospect of impeaching Hillary Clinton should she win the presidency, a stark indication that partisan warfare over her tenure as secretary of state will not end on Election Day.
Chairmen of two congressional committees said in media interviews this week they believe Clinton committed impeachable offenses in setting up and using a private email server for official State Department business. 
And a third senior Republican, the chairman of a House Judiciary subcommittee, told The Washington Post he is personally convinced Clinton should be impeached for influence peddling involving her family foundation. He favors further congressional investigation into that matter. 
“It is my honest opinion that the Clinton Foundation represents potentially one of the greatest examples of political corruption in American history,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who leads the Constitution and Civil Justice subcommittee. “Now that perspective may be disproven, time will tell. But given that conviction on my part, I think all options are definitely on the table.” 
The impeachment talk is the latest sign that Clinton will not be handed a clean slate — let alone an extended honeymoon — by Republican lawmakers should she win the presidency.

He wasn't wrong, really. The Republicans were planning to initiate impeachment proceedings against Clinton immediately after the election.

But you'd think he would have realized that what was good for the gander would be good for the goose, but he doesn't really realize anything so this is just another example of projection. And I suppose it's one reason his feral survival instinct has led him to concentrate solely on keeping his base with him. It's how he will survive an impeachment trial in the Senate. 

But he's running for president again and impeachment or not, the investigative hell of a second term will be worse than anything Hillary Clinton could have ever contemplated. 

It's not as if he hasn't been asking for it from the beginning. 


They're just wearing their white slip on the outside now

by digby

We know this guy is a flat-out racist, and a corrupt one to boot. In many ways he was a precursor to Trump. But he's just completely letting it all hang out now:

Former Gov. Paul LePage (R) tore apart a bill currently in the Maine state legislature that proposes essentially eliminating the Electoral College in favor of the popular vote because it would only “be minorities that elect” the President.

According to a Thursday Maine Beacon report, LePage told local radio station WVOM that the legislation would render him and other whites “a forgotten people.”

“Actually what would happen if they do what they say they’re gonna do is white people will not have anything to say,” LePage said. “It’s only going to be the minorities that would elect. It would be California, Texas, Florida.”

LePage has made some unrelated headlines lately, allegedly just finding out that his administration (thus, the taxpayers) spent $1,100 per night on Trump hotel rooms and contending that a lost 2018 House race was a “stolen election.”

Considering how racist he was in office, it's hard to believe that being a private citizen has actually freed him up to really say what's on his mind. But let's not kid ourselves. The Kris Kobachs and Trumps of this country are on exactly the same page. They just don't put it in quite such obvious terms. But I can see Trump saying exactly the same thing before too long. This is the subtext of his anti-immigrant "message." At some point he'll drop any pretense and just start saying it right out loud.

Henchman Gaetz just following orders

by digby

Of course Trump is the one who told Gaetz to threaten Cohen and say his wife was going to be unfaithful to him while he is in prison. Of course he was:

It would be nice if one of the marginally sane Fox News employees like Chris Wallace would bring this up to Gaetz next time his on there. But they won't.

I heard somewhere that Gaetz was in the hearing room yesterday and had begged for the chance to get five minutes even though he isn't on the committee. Obviously, Cummings wasn't going to let him do that and it's telling that this disgusting gambit wasn't taken up by Mark Meadows who instead dragged out Lynn Patten to prove that Trump isn't a racist. Apparently, this was a bridge too far even for him.

The point of all this, of course, is that Gaetz got it out there, even if he had to apologize for it later and possibly even face sanctions. That's what a henchman does. Fortunately, Cohen didn't seem to be rattled by it. After all, he used to be the top henchman himself. He couldn't have been surprised by it.


The bromance fails

by digby

First the total failure of the border wall negotiations. Now this:

President Trump and Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, abruptly ended their second summit meeting on Thursday after talks collapsed with the two leaders failing to agree on any steps toward nuclear disarmament or measures to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

“Sometimes you have to walk,” Mr. Trump said at an afternoon news conference in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.

He said Mr. Kim had offered to dismantle the North’s most important nuclear facility if the United States lifted the harsh sanctions imposed on his nation — but would not commit to do the same for other elements of its weapons program. That, Mr. Trump said, was a dealbreaker.

“It was about the sanctions,” Mr. Trump said. “Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn’t do that.”

The premature end to the negotiations leaves the unusual rapprochement between the United States and North Korea that has unfolded for most of a year at a deadlock, with the North retaining both its nuclear arsenal and facilities believed to be producing additional fissile material for warheads.

It also represents a major setback at a difficult political moment for Mr. Trump, who has long presented himself as a tough negotiator capable of bringing adversaries into a deal and had made North Korea the signature diplomatic initiative of his presidency.

Golly, maybe he isn't the greatest negotiator in the world after all.

Seriously, this is why these big summits are usually choreographed in advance with nothing left to decide once the principles get there. You don't want this to happen, especially when nuclear arms deals are in the balance. It's not a good look.

Of course, we should probably be happy that Trump didn't decide to give Kim nuclear weapons as a token of his affection...

The Emotional Truth of Corruption in Washington

By Spocko

I watched the Cohen hearings with the Academy Awards still fresh in my mind.  No awards will be given for the GOP congress people who expressed how disgusting it is that they had to listen to a (shutter) Liar.

 Hearings are performances designed to tell a story.  Cohen is acting as Trump's John Dean, cast by Lanny Davis.

Of course John Dean the person is very different from John Dean the President's lawyer testifying against his boss.  I don't know Dean, but I can't imagine him making "at least 500" threats against people on behalf of the President. That sounds more like a job for creepy G. Gordon Liddy.

The Democrats are working this story with facts, which is good. Trump is a corrupt bully, who has put his need for money, fame and power first.  Acting this way before running for office makes him a standard corrupt rich guy. But acting this way as President is a bigger offense, one that hurts our entire country.

Cohen is telling the story of a selfish person who loves money. But we need more to get to the emotional truth of just how horrible Trump is for America in his position right now.

 Who is Trump hurting with his actions?

I can say, "The American People" but that's a bit too broad. If I want to start with specifics I point to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, two women who have been threatened by Trump via Cohen,

But I also think of all the small businesses and contractors that Trump screwed over using threats before he became President. Some of those people might have entered into contracts with him with their eyes open, knowing of his reputation, but were Americans really aware of just how horrible he was?

During the campaign Trump said he would use his knowledge of negotiation to get the best deals for America, some people liked that and thought, "Well he may be a crook, but now he'll be OUR crook!"  But Trump hasn't been putting the American people first. His attitude is,  'What's good for Trump's Businesses is Good For America." 

Trump's corruption while in office matters. It turns out that the founders KNEW human nature and they understood there have always been rich people who want to use the power of government to obtain profit for themselves.

"Corruption is when people in public office use that public office for private or selfish ends."  ---Zephyr Teachout on Why Is This Happening podcast with Chris Hayes, August 21, 2018

On the podcast Chris Hayes interviewed Zephyr Teachout author of Corruption in America. She defined corruption now and explained that the founders were obsessed with corruption. It's a great interview, especially in light of what we have learned in the last few months.
 Hamilton in "The Federalist Papers," describes the Constitutional Convention saying, we did everything we could to erect every practicable obstacle to corruption. Because that's the threat, we're not gonna have self-government if we don't protect against corruption. Or as somebody else said, if we don't protect against corruption we will soon be at an end. 
 "So the job of building structures, building a constitutional structure, is not just to punish those who behave badly but actually to protect people from their own temptations. " 
--Zephyr Teachout, Why Is This Happening podcast, August 21, 2018
America has always struggled with corruption, some periods have been worse than others. I just watched two old movies, Born Yesterday (1950), and Solid Gold Cadillac (1956) that show how Hollywood talked about corruption in an earlier era.

Born Yesterday shows a millionaire junk dealer/business man who goes to Washington and bribes a congressman to get a law passed that will make money for him.

Solid Gold Cadillac shows a board of directors expecting to profit off of defense contracts when their founder goes to Washington to work in government.

In both cases, the men were foiled because they underestimated the competence of the women in the movie.

The men also underestimated people's need for justice, their desire for fairness under the law,  and the work they are willing to do prevent further injustice or harm to others. 

Here are two clips from the end of the movie demonstrating the understanding of the writer
Garson Kanin, (a friend of Paddy Chayefsky) how corrupt thugs work and what it takes to control them.

In both of these movies there were self-awareness people who knew they had been comprised and used. Some felt bad about it and changed. Others accepted their fate. How they reacted as the various schemes fell down around them depended on how the person was written.
They both stream on Amazon Prime. I highly recommend Born Yesterday. Judy Holliday won the Oscar for Best Actress for portraying the dumb blond Billie Dawn. In real life Holliday had a 172 IQ.  There are so many parallels with Trump's story it's spooky. I think every American should watch it. Also read about how Judy Holliday's dumb blond act outsmarted the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (Dubbed the Senate's answer to the HUAC) when she testified before them. 
 A Corrupt Person Says What? 

When some people are caught with their hands in the cookie jar they lie and deny. "I didn't do it! If I did, where's your proof?!"

Others, after they get caught, say. "Yah got me, but it's not a big deal."

Still others attack the people who arrested them and the "disloyal" people who exposed their lawbreaking.

Some people, when they know they are busted, start cooperating to reduce their sentence. (I suspect some of them also want to stick it to the people that brought them into the scheme.)

When I watched the end of these movies I thought about the Mueller investigation. After the investigation is over, I want appropriate punishments for those who have been found guilty of their various crimes. And, I want things to change to prevent further injustice and harm to our country.

When normal people see the smaller fish getting caught and people paying the price with jail time, they think, "I better not do that!" This is what we want. It's the reasoning prosecutors use when they say, "We want to send a message to the people, 'Don't break the law.'"

Some people--those involved in similar corrupt schemes--think,  "How can I not get caught?"
They plan to get trickier when they break the law in the future. They scorn people who get caught, they don't care about the principles behind the law, just the tricks to avoid technically breaking it. Dick Cheney learned a lot during Tricky Dick's Presidency, e.g. how not to get caught during the Bush years.

Then there is a group of people who think, "How can we change the law so an action we want to take is no longer illegal?This is the group of people who have been ascendant since the 1980's. These people work to change laws, reduce or remove regulations and write model laws just to help themselves. (See the work of ALEC in multiple areas as an example)

Additionally there is a group of people who work to change attitudes about the actions that the laws were created to address. 

When you look deeper into these people you can see their emotional truth. These are selfish. They hurt individuals. They plan to use the power of government for their own selfish ends. They are hurting our country. It's our patriotic act to stop them.



This is not the end

by Tom Sullivan

If Republicans on the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday thought they were there to defend the sitting president from a Democrat-led inquiry into his financial crimes, they failed. Instead, they relentlessly challenged Michael Cohen's credibility as a felon convicted of lying to Congress and conspiring to violate campaign finance laws. One of Cohen's co-conspirators in the campaign finance felonies, Individual 1, is the president of the United States. But they were too busy attacking Cohen to notice they were undermining Donald Trump.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) summarized the strategy of Republican members for Cohen, saying, “Our colleagues are not upset because you lied to Congress for the president. They’re upset because you stopped lying to Congress for the president.”

Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney, was not a sympathetic figure. His opening statement focused on his criminal schemes involving Trump and avoided mention of his individual charges for tax evasion and fraud. Republicans on the committee reminded him.

But rage as they might, Republicans failed at making Cohen cower. The amateur bullies faced a seasoned professional. Whatever one thinks of Cohen, his contrition or his credibility, he intimidated people for a living.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) asked Cohen how many times he had threatened people (with legal action) for Trump:

“Quite a few times,” Cohen answered.

“50 times?” Speier asked.


“100 times?”


“200 times?”

“More,” Cohen responded.

Speier asked finally, “500 times?”

“Probably, over the 10 years.”
Republicans were outclassed in the bullying department, and unprepared to defend the president. They failed to rebut Cohen's testimony and never defended the president from Cohen's allegations.

Attorney and former federal prosecutor Ken White critiqued both Republicans and Democrats on the panel.

"House Republicans needed a trial lawyer—or even a moderately bright junior-high mock-trial participant—to tell them how to do anything," White writes in The Atlantic. Cohen did himself few favors as a witness by baiting his interrogators even when they deserved it, White added.

And Democrats?
This was an opportunity to build the outline of a case against Trump. Democrats didn’t. Instead they triumphantly repeated Cohen’s more salacious accusations, speechified, and uncritically embraced Cohen’s I-am-a-sinner-seeking-redemption narrative. They didn’t hurt his credibility, but they utterly squandered the chance to support it.
But perhaps not all. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) in deliberate and sober questioning laid the groundwork for House Democrats to subpoena Trump's taxes and Trump Organization financial records. Federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York will likely have them first. SDNY investigations were a real presence in the room on Wednesday and perhaps the greater threat to the Trump Organization.

"Where this ends is a RICO charge in the Southern District of New York," Cohen's friend Donny Deutsch told MSNBC's Ari Melber. Two quotes from the day stand out. Cohen tied Trump directly to Wikileaks via Roger Stone:
... I was in Mr. Trump's office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of "wouldn't that be great."
It is not criminal, but damaging politically. In the past, Stone has denied the link, Jeffrey Toobin wrote:
“I have no memory of ever talking about WikiLeaks with him,” Stone told me in Fort Lauderdale. Responding to persistent rumors that Mueller has a witness who says he heard Trump and Stone on a speakerphone discussing WikiLeaks, Stone said, “Prove it.”
Cohen is that witness, and perhaps Trump's secretary too. The danger for Trump now is other Trump Organization employees, although they are few, may see an opening for abandoning a sinking ship, as may White House staff.

Cohen made that danger explicit in a damning statement to Trump's defenders: "I did the same thing that you're doing now for 10 years. I protected Mr Trump for 10 years," Cohen said. "I can only warn people, the more people follow Mr. Trump, as I did blindly, are going to suffer the consequences that I'm suffering."

Those words will outlive those of Trump's defenders. The former Trump "fixer' delivered them like an oracle in Act 1 of a Greek tragedy. We know what happens in the final act.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Cohen's fear

by digby

Me too. He's already laying the groundwork.

His testimony today drew a picture of a lawless man, now our president, always dancing as fast as he can, likely to do anything to keep himself from finally, at long last, being caught.

Lets hope this is the way it goes:



A new Democratic majority on guns

by digby


The House on Wednesday passed a bill expanding federal background checks for gun purchases and transfers, the first major new firearm restrictions to advance in a generation.

The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which passed 240-190 with mostly Democratic votes, is unlikely to be considered in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 53-seat majority. President Trump also has issued a veto threat Tuesday for the expanded background checks bill.

But amid loud applause in the House, Democrats and gun-control advocates celebrated Wednesday’s vote as the first significant congressional movement on tightening access to firearms since the 1990s. The outline of the bill approved by the House was first sketched out in the days after the 2012 killing of elementary school students and teachers in Newtown, Conn., only to fail a key Senate test vote months later.

As Brownstein points out in that tweet, until recently gun fetishism was a bipartisan position. That's changed.

Keep in mind that the gun legislation that the Democrats support would not in any inhibit rural gun owners from buying and owning guns. It's just that gun fetishists are insistent that they not be regulated in any way.

But he assured us that he's like, smart

by digby

I know it's shallow but I have to admit that I'm dying to see those school records now:

Fordham University confirms Michael Cohen’s testimony that he threatened legal action if President Donald Trump’s academic records were released.

The former Trump Organization lawyer told congressional investigators that Trump directed him to threaten his high school, colleges and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores.

A spokesperson for Fordham, which Trump attended for two years, confirmed to NPR that a representative from the Trump campaign contacted the school toward the beginning of the race asking about the release of school records.

“We told the caller that Fordham is bound by federal law,” the spokesperson told NPR, “and that we could not/would not reveal/share any records.”

The spokesperson said that was the school’s policy regardless of whether the former student was running for office.

After that call, the spokesman said, “Fordham received a follow-up letter from one of Mr. Trump’s attorneys summarizing the call and reminding us that they would take action against the University if we did, in fact, release Mr. Trump’s records.”

Cohen shared with the House Oversight Committee copies of a letter he sent at Trump’s direction threatening civil and criminal actions against those schools if his grades or SAT scores were ever disclosed without permission.

It's one more piece of evidence that everything Trump accuses others of doing is a projection of his own behavior.


The late William T. Kelley, who taught Trump at the University of Pennsylvania, said, “Donald Trump was the dumbest goddamn student I ever had.” Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter of “The Art of the Deal,” says Trump had “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.”


What was Matt Gaetz up to?

by digby

One of Trump's most odious congressional henchmen may be in a bit of trouble:

The Florida Bar has opened an investigation into whether Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) violated professional conduct rules by threatening former Trump fixer Michael Cohen ahead of Cohen’s congressional testimony on Wednesday.

The organization, which licenses lawyers to practice in the state, would not disclose details of the investigation, but spokesperson Francine Walker, said the bar is “quite aware of [Gaetz’s] comments...and we have opened an investigation.”

“If rules have been violated, The Florida Bar will vigorously pursue appropriate discipline by the Florida Supreme Court,” Walker said in a statement. “The Florida Bar takes its responsibility of regulating lawyer conduct very seriously.”

Reached by text on Wednesday, Gaetz said he had not “seen anything like that.”
Gaetz initially defended the missive, saying: “This is what it looks like to compete in the marketplace of ideas.” Under pressure, he later apologized, saying “it was NOT my intent to threaten, as some believe I did.”

According to Florida Bar guidelines, once the bar’s grievance committee decides that the alleged conduct might have violated ethics guidelines, attorneys have 15 days to respond to complaints against them. Attorneys for the bar then investigate the matter. If the grievance committee finds probable cause to believe that a violation took place, it then refers its findings to the state supreme court, which then makes a ruling and, if applicable, apply sanctions.

Several lawyers made the argument that the congressman had, indeed, engaged in a form of witness intimidation by suggesting that something nefarious would happen to Cohen’s wife once he went to prison.

“It’s that last line that seems really problematic,” emailed Stephen Vladeck, a professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law, “‘She’s about to learn a lot…’ What is the test implied in that statement, as opposed to the insinuation that as a result of his testimony, his wife is going to come into negative information about him?”.

We've seen or heard nothing so far about Cohen's alleged girlfriends so this does seem to have been some sort of threat to get Cohen to lie in the hearing. Why else would he have done it?

I doubt anything will come of this. He got it out there and the cult, including its Dear Leader, were no doubt pleased at Gaetz's aggressive assholishness. That's the tie that binds.


They have to release the report

by digby

One of the main consequences of the Mueller investigation being so buttoned up is that it's made the public hungry to see the full report. If the DOJ insists upon keeping it secret the people will be livid --- and it will have the effect of looking like the Attorney General is an accomplice in the cover-up. I don't know if William Barr knows this but his legacy will be forever stained as one of the most nefarious government officials in history if he doesn't allow the whole story to be told:

Voters overwhelmingly think the forthcoming report prepared by Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating foreign interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign, should be made public by the Justice Department, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted amid rumors that Mueller may be preparing to wind up the probe.

More than two-thirds of voters surveyed, 68 percent, say the report — which will go first to Attorney General William Barr and other DOJ officials — should be made public. Only 10 percent say it shouldn’t be made public, and 22 percent are undecided.

Democrats (79 percent) are more likely to say the report should be released, but majorities of Republicans (59 percent) and independents (66 percent) also think Mueller’s report should be public. Even 61 percent of voters who approve of the job President Donald Trump is doing say any report authored by the special counsel should be released.

“As one of the biggest political stories of the past two years, there is significant interest across party lines to see the results of the Mueller probe,” said Morning Consult vice president Tyler Sinclair.

The poll was conducted Feb. 22-24, as speculation swirled that the special counsel investigation into the 2016 presidential race would conclude soon. The special counsel statutes require Mueller to inform Barr and other higher-ups at the Department of Justice of his findings, but Barr has not committed to releasing the full report to the public.

Nearly half of voters, 49 percent, say the Trump administration should not have the right to redact anything in the Mueller report before its public release, compared with 28 percent who say the administration does have the right to censor parts of the document. Nearly a quarter, 23 percent, have no opinion.

Voters remain divided on whether Trump’s campaign worked with Russia in 2016. Slightly more say it did, 43 percent, than the 39 percent who say the Trump campaign didn’t. But nearly 2 in 10, 18 percent, say they don’t know or have no opinion.

After what we've seen today, there is simply no way the country will stand for the Trump Department of Justice covering this whole thing up. And it's pointless. If they keep it quiet anyway they will lose the election in 2020 and the new administration will almost certainly release it all. Barr has nothing to gain by doing it.

The Fox fever swamp bizarroworld hearing

by digby

In case you are wondering how the wingers are explaining the Cohen hearing to the cult:

They don't seem to realize that attacking Cohen for being a liar just confirms what Cohen is saying: that he lied to protect Trump, which is what they are now doing. Cohen said near the end of this first segment:

"The more people that follow Mr Trump as I did blindly, are going to suffer the same consequences as I did...look at what's happened to me."

Cohen called Trump a racist, a conman and a cheat and when asked what he would call himself, he answered: "a fool."

These GOP toadies are the same. It's unclear if they will ever realize it. As hard as it is to believe, they are much dumber than Michael Cohen.


The Trump-Kim-Cohen split screen reality show

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

There have been many bizarre moments since Donald Trump came on the political scene. One might even argue that the last three and a half years have been an endless surreal nightmare. But on Wednesday we may reach a Dadaesque pinnacle of strange as we watch a momentous split-screen event unfold, with one side in Washington and the other one halfway around the world in Vietnam. The president is meeting in Hanoi with his BFF, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, while his self-proclaimed "fixer," former Trump Organization executive vice president Michel Cohen, testifies before the House Oversight Committee about what he terms Donald Trump's "dirty deeds."

Trump is excited to see his good buddy:

He obviously believes that Kim's motivation is to find opportunities to build condos and golf courses just like him. That's unlikely. As the Wall Street Journal reminds us, Trump's friend "ordered the execution of his uncle, the assassination of his half-brother and is keeping some 100,000 political prisoners locked up in harsh gulags." Trump doesn't care about that. He says they have "chemistry" -- and there are all those beautiful love letters.

There are no great hopes for a breakthrough at this summit, however. It's another Trump international pageant, a spectacle he seems to enjoy almost as much as his campaign events. Even he has uncharacteristically kept expectations somewhat subdued, although we know he'll tout whatever "deal" he makes as the greatest diplomatic breakthrough in human history. Some experts seem to think that this would be the right time to turn up the heat on Kim rather than take Trump's love-bomb approach, but Trump is so over his head that at this point we just have to hope he doesn't decide to give Kim advanced military equipment as a token of his trust and affection.

But as thrilled as Trump may be to see his good pal, he'll be sure to tune in late at night Hanoi time to watch Cohen speak before Congress. Trump's ebullience may dissipate rapidly when he hears Cohen's prepared testimony, which was released on Tuesday evening:

Oh, my. As the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York has put it:

Cohen says that he witnessed Donald Trump Jr. telling his father, "The meeting is all set" and Trump replying, "That's good, let me know" right around the time of that infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016. He also makes clear that Trump was planning that Moscow Trump Tower deal from the beginning and stayed in the loop the whole way. Remember the big brouhaha over the BuzzFeed article alleging that Trump directed Cohen to lie about that project, which special counsel Robert Mueller's office then denied? Well, it turns out Cohen had told the prosecutors that Trump "directs" people to do things without actually saying it. He says that Trump's lawyers reviewed the statement that formed the basis of his guilty plea for lying to Congress before he testified.

Cohen is scathing toward his former boss, saying:

He is a racist.

He is a conman.

He is a cheat.

This is not news. But the onetime fixer is apparently bringing some evidence with him, such as a check signed by Donald Trump dated in 2017, after he was already president. It was allegedly part of Trump's repayment for the Stormy Daniels hush money. Cohen says Trump told him to take out a personal mortgage to do the payout during the campaign, so the money couldn't be traced back to the candidate.

Cohen will also reportedly turn over financial documents that he says Trump used to deflate and inflate his net worth in order to obtain bank loans. If that is true, the president of the United States has committed fraud.

As for the allegations of racism, Cohen relates some ugly anecdotes, none of which are surprising and all of which are undoubtedly the tip of the iceberg. He says that Trump was desperate to keep any of the schools he attended from releasing his records. That's particularly rich considering that Trump made a fetish out of Barack Obama's academic record, even promising to pay a million dollars to Obama's charity of choice if he'd release them, once again proving the theory that most of Trump's insults or personal attacks are projections of his own insecurities onto other people.

Michael Cohen is going to testify that the president of the United States is a criminal. Trump and his supporters, of course, are going to say that since Cohen is an admitted liar nothing he says should be believed. But it's hard to see what Cohen has to gain from lying this time around. He's already going to jail, he's been disbarred and his life as he knew it is gone. He's reportedly talked to Mueller's team and the prosecutors of the Southern District for more than 70 hours, and they aren't playing games with perjury. For him to keep on lying now would be suicidal.

The Republicans seem to understand this on some level, because one of Trump's most loyal henchmen, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., tweeted what appeared to be a personal threat intended to get Cohen to back out of his testimony.

Hey, @MichaelCohen212 - Do your wife and father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she'll remain faithful when you're in prison. She's about to learn a lot ...

Gaetz took to the House floor to make clear that he was planning to attack Cohen's personal life and his marriage, using the phony pretext that lying to a spouse means you can't be trusted to tell the truth in a congressional hearing. The monumental chutzpah of Trump's defenders using this threat against the man who is going to jail for helping Trump pay off a porn star over an extramarital liaison is breathtaking.

Gaetz later apologized and deleted the tweet, but he had accomplished his mission. It failed. It does not appear that Cohen will back off and one supposes he's at least prepared for these despicable personal attacks now. So it's not clear that Gaetz did anything to help his president's cause.

We can expect to see some fire and fury from Trump's Twitter feed once he hears about all this. There's little doubt he will be distracted and on edge during the Kim summit. Fortunately, that won't make much difference in the outcome. Trump is no more likely to make a bad deal if he's unfocused and angry than if he's engaged and upbeat.

But if anyone had told me four years ago that we'd be watching President Donald Trump cavorting with Kim Jong-un in Hanoi at the same moment his longtime personal lawyer told a congressional committee that the president was a racist criminal, I would have told them to sober up and get some sleep. But here we are, watching the most surreal reality show in history unfold on a split screen, and wondering if it's ever going to end.



A racist, a conman, and a cheat walk into a bar

by Tom Sullivan

Image via YouTube/CBC.

It's one guy: Donald Trump. So former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen will testify before the House Oversight Committee beginning at 10 a.m. EST this morning. His prepared remarks are here:

I am here under oath to correct the record, to answer the Committee’s questions truthfully, and to offer the American people what I know about President Trump.

I recognize that some of you may doubt and attack me on my credibility. It is for this reason that I have incorporated into this opening statement documents that are irrefutable, and demonstrate that the information you will hear is accurate and truthful.

Never in a million years did I imagine, when I accepted a job in 2007 to work for Donald Trump, that he would one day run for President, launch a campaign on a platform of hate and intolerance, and actually win. I regret the day I said “yes” to Mr. Trump. I regret all the help and support I gave him along the way.

I am ashamed of my own failings, and I publicly accepted responsibility for them by pleading guilty in the Southern District of New York.

I am ashamed of my weakness and misplaced loyalty – of the things I did for Mr. Trump in an effort to protect and promote him.

I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience.

I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is.

He is a racist.

He is a conman.

He is a cheat.
So, no breaking news. Cohen will face questioning not only about his credibility but his conscience. His personal history and list of offenses stand on their own apart from Donald Trump. He was disbarred in New York state on Tuesday.

But knowing his own credibility is in doubt, Cohen will present documents to support his allegations against Trump: a check Trump signed as president to reimburse Cohen for hush money payoffs, copies of financial statements for 2011 – 2013 Trump gave to Deutsche Bank and other financial institutions, and more. He'll need them, and likely more than he possesses.

"Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it," Cohen says in his statement. "He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project."

Since becoming president, Trump has become "the worst version of himself," Cohen states. "He is capable of behaving kindly, but he is not kind. He is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he is not generous. He is capable of being loyal, but he is fundamentally disloyal."

Expect withering questioning from staunch Trump allies on the committee, not about Donald Trump, but about Cohen's criminal past and history of perjury. Last night, Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) fired off a tweet (since deleted after six hours) effectively threatening Cohen over what might come out about Cohen in the hearings: Attorneys from across the country replied with accusations that Gaetz had just engaged in witness tampering, a crime, in public view and unprotected by the Speech and Debate Clause. Battle lines are drawn. Republicans will not accept anything Cohen says, even backed by evidence; they will bar no holds. The exhibits Cohen describes in his statement largely attest to Trump's lack of character or morals. For that we need no documentation. Unless Cohen brings something in his breast pocket to document crimes yet undisclosed or still unproven, the testimony this morning will simply tell us what we already know — including about the illegal campaign contributions already documented by the Southern District of New York.

As a veteran of reality TV, what the president fears is how Cohen's public testimony will play on television. Bloomberg's Tim O'Brien suggested as much to Chris Hayes last night [timestamp 10:00]. Documents are one thing. The testimony of a man already convicted for his part in Trump-related crimes, while under heavy assault by Trump loyalists on the committee, will make compelling television, no matter how severely Cohen's credibility is undercut by his own history. It could give pause to Trump voters already groaning under the impact of Trump's tariffs. It could tip White House employees toward abandoning ship lest they wind up in Michael Cohen's shoes. Cohen's three days of testimony might even poke holes in the Republican wall protecting Trump from indictment.

Trump's campaign M.O. is to activate voters' existential fears. Cohen's testimony will activate Trump's own. From Vietnam, Trump will be watching.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Let the games begin

by digby

One of Trump's dumbest accomplices openly threatens a witness:

Witness testing is cross-examination, not threatening them with damaging information and implying their spouses are going to be unfaithful.

It sounds to me as if Gaetz is planning to bring someone to the hearing like Frankie Five Angels in the Godfather. Seriously, this is the only thing I can think of. Remember, Trump did that before the debate with Clinton.

We caught a little glimpse of how they are planning to behave when Louis Gohmert asked Peter Strzok if he looked that innocent when he lied to his wife about his affair. (Bonnie Watson Coleman hilariously yelled back at Gohmert, "Did you forget to take your medication???")

Oy vey.

This latest reminded me of this piece by Never trump Matt Lewis:

This week has given us final proof that we've normalized the Trump era.

We have a president close to trampling over the bedrock of our constitutional system of governance with an emergency declaration to appropriate his own funding for a border wall. At the same time, he is taking even more concrete steps towards legitimizing a nuclear regime by having another ego-stroking sit-down with North Korea’s madman dictator, Kim Jong Un.

On Monday, The Washington Post reported that Trump stood accused of sexually harassing a campaign employee during his run for office in 2016. And in the coming days, the president’s former lawyer—a man closely associated with his business empire and his political rise—will testify three times before Congress about the inherent corruptness of both those ventures.

In any normal universe, any one of these stories would leave us jaw-dropped and politically paralyzed. Lawmakers would be rushing to the cameras to express their concern and condemnation. The media would be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of copy and coverage it would have to produce. Leaks would come from the administration about the profound level of chaos and discontent within.

And yet, this go around, we are all taking it in remarkable stride. It is just another week in Trumpland, and we’ve grown terribly accustomed to these rides.

The public is too overwhelmed to process the Trump overload. We are at the point where this bombardment of Trump—this never-ending fountain of sex, power, Russia, and low-grade corruption—feels perfectly normal. And that’s because it is.

As long as North Korea doesn’t nuke us this week and as long as Michael Cohen doesn’t reveal photographic evidence that Trump and Putin hacked Hillary’s email, this week’s events will recede into the past. Just like any other Trump week.

And what does that really say? For one thing, it means we're not going back. We have reached a new normal. We have adjusted to a different reality.

Just as you can’t unsee a grisly horror film (and restore that sense of innocence that made something as innocuous as the bogeyman feel frightening), we can’t assume the norms of the past will return when Trump does leave office.

This is true for us all, but it is especially true for conservative Republicans who are holding out hope to (someday) take back their party. What Trump has done throughout his presidency has been antithetical to conservatism.

But think about this week in particular: There is an affront to social conservatives (an allegation of sexual assault); a slap in the face to those who champion human rights (by meeting with Kim); an insult to the anti-corruption crew (with Cohen’s testimony); and a middle finger to the institutionalists (with his emergency declaration). Who is left to claim that their intellectual soul is clean?

Let’s take what are arguably the two most important points: North Korea and the congressional vote on the emergency declaration.

The case against an emergency declaration should be obvious for any constitutional conservative. As I noted recently, if a president can simply bypass Congress by declaring something he wants to do an “emergency,” then the only thing that matters is whether a member of Congress will let him.

If a politician is willing to cede legislative authority to the executive branch—a branch that might soon be headed by a Democrat—it hardly matters if he or she is good on taxes or tariffs. As recently as 2014, nearly every conservative in America was on the record as opposing unilateral executive overreach. What changed?

Likewise, there was a time when sharing the stage with a tinhorn dictator from North Korea would have been viewed as dangerous and beneath the dignity of a president. Conservatives believe in negotiating from a position of strength and rhetorically advocating moral clarity. A president who says he and that dictator “fell in love” would have been downright laughable. This behavior cuts against every foreign policy Reaganite instinct.

So why are so many Republicans enabling this reality show?

I suppose an answer to that question can be found in Mark Leibovich’s new profile on Lindsey Graham. In it, you’ll hear the story of a man consumed with getting re-elected in 2020 and staying relevant politically. And maybe that’s not the worst of motives. You can’t make laws if you don’t have power, after all. And Graham can rightly note that he helped partially reverse Trump’s Syria withdrawal, in addition to bolstering the president’s bold stance in Venezuela.

Graham’s premise is that Trump is already president, and the best you can do is to try to influence him as much as possible. The other option is to go on the record and speak out against Trump’s policies. And do you know who doesn’t have much influence these days? Jeff Flake and Bob Corker.

So this is the sad state of conservatism in the Trump era: You can either have your dignity but no influence or relevance, or you can keep your dignity and hit the pavement. This is essentially the choice we have been given, and although it’s easy to mock those who choose to have influence, it’s debatable whether we owe them our pity or our gratitude.

They say you never stand so tall as when you stoop to kiss someone’s ass. If this is true, then Trump is surrounded by giants.

All of that is true. The world would certainly be better off if these people understood the meaning of the word leadership.

Unfortunately, what has happened is a result of decades of "leadership" by the conservative movement which brainwashed their voters by stoking their grievances with their non-stop culture war cries and racist demagoguery toward African Americans, immigrants, foreigners and religious minorities. These people retreated into a paranoid bubble, led by Fox News and talk radio, and this is what happened. They've been brainwashed to be thugs and respond to thugs over many years of relentless propaganda by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

It was always going to end up this way.

"Take a picture, Dan"

by digby

Haley, Tillerson and McMaster stunned when Trump says he's thinking about taking military action in Venezuela

For those thinking that Trump's position on Venezuela indicates some deeper thinking about human rights or socialism (as if he cares about or understands either of those things) think again:

Many observers see Trump's hawkish approach to Venezuela as a foreign policy aberration. In reality, though, it's pure Trump. Over a week of interviews, people with intimate knowledge of the president's thinking detailed to me why he's taken an unusually interventionist stance toward this country.

The key factors are instincts, personal relationships, aggressive advisers, and political opportunism.

Behind the scenes: A pivotal moment came in early 2017, when Lilian Tintori, the wife of political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez, met Trump in the Oval. The conversation wasn't planned, and the State Department didn't even know she was in the building; she had come for a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence that Sen. Marco Rubio arranged.
Toward the end of their conversation, Pence said to Tintori, "I want to introduce you to somebody. Come this way," according to a source with direct knowledge. Then he and Rubio walked her into the Oval.

Trump had no idea who she was. But he was taken by their conversation, some details of which The Washington Post first reported. After a short talk, Trump handed his iPhone to his social media guru, Dan Scavino.

"Take a picture, Dan," he ordered.

Scavino snapped a photo of Trump, Tintori, Rubio, and Pence. Then Trump drafted a caption to accompany the photo for Twitter.

"What do you think, Marco?" the president asked, handing the phone to Rubio. "You can edit it if you want."

Rubio eyeballed the tweet — sources dispute whether he changed anything — then handed the phone back to Trump, who hit send. And with that, the United States toughened its stance toward the Maduro regime.

"At the time, we were like, 'Wow, he just stuck it to Maduro!'" said a source with direct knowledge of the conversation.

Why this matters: Conversations like this one have shaped Trump's Venezuela approach. Privately, Trump often talks about his fondness for the Venezuelan expats who frequent his golf club in Doral.

"We have many Venezuelans living in the United States,” he said in a press conference last September. "Many of them live in the Doral area of Miami. I've gotten to know them well. They are great, great people. We are going to take care of those people."

Between the lines: That's not all, of course. His senior advisers universally support unseating Maduro. And people close to Trump say he takes a markedly different view of Venezuela than Middle Eastern war zones. He sees Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq as beyond help, a waste of American lives and money.

 Venezuela, in his view, is different: It's a neighbor, and a crisis there directly affects the U.S., via trade and migration. Trump thinks Venezuela should be rich and peaceful.

"Venezuela is not anything like the Middle East; it is a western country, with western institutions and western cultural leanings," said Rubio, a key player in Trump's Venezuela policy.

"The president sees this country with extraordinary economic potential, which has been run into the ground," Rubio told me. "I think he believes some of these issues in the Middle East are intractable and just can't be fixed. But he actually thinks Venezuela and the western hemisphere can [be fixed]."

"He also takes some of this stuff personally. The fact that Maduro and others have reacted the way they have [with their fiery rhetoric about Trump]... Ultimately there comes a point, for this president, where he become personally invested in it...he becomes an enemy and then he goes after you pretty hard."

Political opportunism also plays a big role. "It's a real-life example of the failure of socialism and there's an appeal in that," a senior White House official told me.

Trump and his advisors see their approach as a way to court Venezuelan expats, who may be friendly to the American right-wing because of the failure of Maduro's leftist government.

The fact that the bulk of those expats live and vote in Florida, of all states, is not lost on Trump and his political team.

The bottom line: Trump's instincts on Venezuela find daily reinforcement from the growing uprising on the ground there, the rare unity with other democratic Western governments, largely favorable media coverage, and bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.

Also too --- oil. Let's not kid ourselves. Remember:
McCabe details what an FBI agent told him directly after briefing Trump. According to McCabe’s telling, the president reportedly derailed the meeting, which was supposed to be about Russian spies, by making unrelated comments about North Korea and other countries. 
Then Trump brought up Venezuela: “That’s the country we should be going to war with,” Trump said, according to McCabe’s recounting. “They have all that oil and they’re right on our back door.” 
McCabe expanded on this during a Tuesday night interview with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell: “The president’s remarks to the room were along the lines of ‘I don’t understand why we’re not looking at Venezuela. Why are we not at war with Venezuela?’”


Speaking of hoaxes

by digby

I would argue that this is much worse than what Jussie Smollett is accused of doing.

Carolyne Cass, the woman at the center of Trump supporter Jacob Wohl’s bogus rape claim against special Robert Mueller, has told USA Today that he tricked her into going along with his scheme to smear the man investigating President Donald Trump.

In her interview with the newspaper, Cass revealed that Wohl first approached her by pretending to be a man named Matthew Cohen, who was purportedly a private detective who had received training from Israeli intelligence agencies.

Although Wohl, posing as Cohen, initially said he wanted to help Cass deal with some individuals whom she claims stole money from her, it eventually became clear that he wanted her to go on the record and make a false rape accusation against the special counsel.

“They made it up,” Cass said of a sworn statement about a sexual assault by Mueller that she purportedly signed and that was given to reporters at Wohl’s infamous press conference. “They wrote it and docu-signed it.”

Cass also said that Wohl “completely lied to me” about his identity and his intentions, while also explaining that she had to “escape” from Wohl to avoid going to his planned press event detailing the phony accusation.

Despite this, however, Cass says she has still not been contacted by the FBI, which received a referral from the special counsel’s office last year.
Smollett's hoax was awful because it makes people skeptical of hate crime victims. This does the same thing with rape victims but it takes a step farther. Wohl and this woman accused a specific person of rape. That's doubly horrible.

This accusation only took hold on the far right, luckily, but there's a long history of such accusations festering in the fever swamps. Even though the accusation has been withdrawn, a fair number of those people will always believe it happened.


Ivanka and Jared: two All American kids who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps

by digby

From the, "you can't make this stuff up files":

If there's one thing Jvanka learned in her hardscrabble childhood in Trump Tower and Aspen, it's the satisfaction of achievement on your own merits.

I'm not sure if she an Jared have jetted off to one of their "mini-breaks" this month. But they must be so tired.

By federal law, the president’s family is protected under the watch of the U.S. Secret Service, which makes sense: The president of the United States is a high-profile public figure, and threats to the well-being of a president's family are real. What doesn’t make sense? Unchecked and egregious overuse of those protections by the First Family, especially because American taxpayers foot the Secret Service’s bill.

First Daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, who both serve as unpaid advisers to President Donald Trump, earned at least $82 million in income last year and could have made up to $222 million, according to The New York Times. They’re rich, and their vacations are expensive, especially when traveling with an entourage of security for whom they don’t foot the bill.

Even though Secret Service security detail is offered to the president’s immediate family by law, adult children are not required to use this service. Since Ivanka’s father took office, in 2016, the couple has spent almost half a million dollars of taxpayer money while traveling with the Secret Service.

Here is a list of the most egregious examples.

1. They spent $58,000 for a long weekend at a luxury resort in the Dominican Republic.

In August, Ivanka and Jared embarked on a long weekend getaway to the town of Rio San Juan, and they did so in VIP style. And American taxpayers footed the bill. According to documents obtained by Quartz, the first of two charges made to the government for this particular trip was submitted under the line item “VIP Visit Amanera Resort Rio San Juan.” According to Quartz, the Kushners arrived on either Friday, August 10, or Saturday, August 11, and left on Monday, August 13. According to the resort’s website, rates for that same time frame in 2019 start at $1,650 per night.

It’s still a free country, and multimillionaires have long held the right to vacation where they want, as extravagantly as they please. But American taxpayers are on the hook for the Kushner security detail’s travel and lodging, and taxpayers footed a $26,280 bill, apparently for security’s hotel accommodations, in addition to $32,064 for other security measures, according to Quartz.

2. Days after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, resulted in one death, Ivanka and Jared went on a spa getaway, resulting in a $14,000 bill for Secret Service expenses.

In August 2017, just days after a man drove his car into counter-protesters at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, killing one woman and injuring 19 others, Ivanka and Jared decided to get away to the Twin Farms Resort & Spa in Barnard, Vermont, according to a report from Refinery29.com.

While the couple was at the spa for only two days, their security team spent a total of eight days in the area, according to an original report from the New York Daily News. The Secret Service did not convey to the Daily News why agents needed to spend additional time in the area, but taxpayers footed the additional lodging costs anyway.

Perhaps even worse? For this trip, the cost of travel and lodging was reportedly inflated due to high demand for accommodation in the area during that season, and the overall cost was ultimately double what the U.S. General Services Administration lists as typical rates for the area, according to the Daily News. Beyond the trip being poorly timed, cost alone made this a pretty bad weekend to spa, Javanka!

3. Then there was the $330,000 ski trip to Aspen, this time with her siblings.

Few things are more valuable than quality bonding time with one’s siblings — and nothing, it seems, is more expensive than a Trump kids vacation with the Secret Service in tow! According to The Hill, in February 2017, Ivanka and Jared took a couple’s trip to Aspen with Ivanka’s brother Eric and his wife, Lara. According to documents that CBS News obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, in addition to travel and lodging costs for the security team, the Trump clan spent at least $26,000 on rental vehicles, as well as $22,000 on the necessary equipment agents needed in order to accompany the family down the slopes.

4. Taxpayers also had to foot the more than $66,000 bill for a Passover ski trip to Canada.

Expensive skiing trips are a theme here, clearly. To celebrate Passover in 2017, Ivanka and Jared took their three young children to the Four Seasons Resort and Residences in Whistler, British Columbia, where the hotel bill for the security team was $59,654, as well as $6,884 for "multi-day ski passes”. Seriously, how many Secret Service agents does it take to accompany a family of five down the bunny hill?

If there's one thing those hard working kids learned on their way up, it's to never leave a penny on the sidewalk.