FBI recommends no criminal charges against Hillary Clinton

July 5, 2016

FBI Director James Comey announced today that the FBI has completed its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State. Even though the FBI found that she lied when she publicly denied emailing classified information, he said the FBI would be recommending that the Department of Justice not charge her with any crimes. Under the circumstances, the department will likely follow his investigation. Although the Bureau’s recommendation effectively ends the potential criminal case, it does not resolve the political controversy. With that in mind, let’s take a look at Comey’s findings.

Our investigation looked at whether there is evidence classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on that personal system, in violation of a federal statute making it a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way, or a second statute making it a misdemeanor to knowingly remove classified information from appropriate systems or storage facilities.

/snip/

From the group of 30,000 e-mails returned to the State Department, 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained Secret information at the time; and eight contained Confidential information, which is the lowest level of classification. Separate from those, about 2,000 additional e-mails were “up-classified” to make them Confidential; the information in those had not been classified at the time the e-mails were sent.

/snip/

Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

Having found no evidence of intentional misconduct, the critical question was whether her conduct constituted “gross negligence.” Comey found that it did not. Instead, he found that she and the other people in the email chain were “extremely careless.” What is the difference?

Gross negligence is a legal term with a specific meaning. It’s an objective test. A person acts in a grossly negligent manner if her conduct constitutes a “substantial deviation” from the legal duty to exercise due care when handling classified information compared to the conduct of a reasonable person in the same situation.

“Extremely careless” is a subjective test because it’s not based on a comparison to the conduct of a reasonable person. What may appear to be extremely careless conduct to one person may not appear to be be extremely careless to another. Depending on the circumstances, extremely careless conduct may or may not constitute gross negligent conduct. The relevant circumstances probably include:

(1) the number of people in the email chain who received and transmitted the classified information and whether they were authorized to possess it (they were);

(2) the nature of the information transmitted (we don’t know because it’s classified);

(3) whether the information was intercepted by unauthorized third parties (it probably wasn’t); and

(4) how widespread the practice was (Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice also did it)

I believe James Comey decided against charging Hillary Clinton because in his opinion her extremely careless behavior did not rise to the level of intentional or grossly negligent behavior.

I generally agree with the caveat that I do not know who was in the chain and what information was transmitted. Due to the political aspects of this case, I believe it should ultimately be decided in the court of public opinion by the voters in November.

Whether voters will hold her accountable for lying when she denied transmitting classified information remains to be seen.


Donald Trump is unfit to govern because he enthusiastically supports torture

June 30, 2016

Donald Trump reacted to the suicide bombings at the airport in Istanbul by claiming that we need to torture our enemies. MSNBC reports,

Trump seemed particularly annoyed that the United States feels the need to act lawfully. “We have laws; they don’t have laws,” the GOP candidate said last night in Ohio, adding, “Their laws say you can do anything you want and the more vicious you are the better.”

From there, Trump transitioned to emphasizing his support for barbarism. “You have to fight fire with fire,” he declared. “We have to be so strong. We have to fight so viciously. And violently because we’re dealing with violent people viciously.”

Trump added, “Can you imagine [ISIS members] sitting around the table or wherever they’re eating their dinner, talking about the Americans don’t do waterboarding and yet we chop off heads? They probably think we’re weak, we’re stupid, we don’t know what we’re doing, we have no leadership. You know, you have to fight fire with fire.”

I could not care less whether members of ISIS think we are weak and stupid. Their opinions are irrelevant. We will win the war against ISIS on the battlefield with superior military forces, tactics and weapons. We will win the hearts and minds of the people by fighting honorably and respecting the rule of law.

Torture, which includes waterboarding, is prohibited by international law. When used during witness interrogations, it does not reliably produce the truth. Instead, it produces confirmation of the interrogator’s suspicions. Used otherwise, it’s a manifestation of a psychosexual disturbance that will produce incalculable suffering, multigenerational hate, desire for revenge and war everlasting.

Donald Trump is unfit to govern because he does not understand the consequences of using torture. He is a one-trick pony who only thinks in terms of being meaner and nastier than his opponents. The world is not a junior high school playground and he needs professional help.


Trump lied when he accused Hillary Clinton of corruption

June 23, 2016

Trump based his accusation of corrupt behavior by the Clintons, regarding foreign financial contributions to the Clinton Foundation, on information in Clinton Cash, by Peter Schweiser. In Fact-checking the April 26 shows, ‘Clinton Cash’ published by PoliFact, Newt Gingrich made a similar claim. The authors wrote.

Robert Delahunty, a University of St. Thomas constitutional law professor who worked in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel from 1989 to 2003, also called Gingrich’s link between Clinton and the foreign governments’ gifts to the Clinton Foundation as “implausible.”

“The truth is that we establish corporate bodies like the Clinton Foundation because the law endows these entities with a separate and distinct legal personhood,” Delahunty said.


Profiling Muslims is a bad idea and it’s unconstitutional

June 21, 2016

In his OpEd yesterday in the Washington Post titled, Trump’s special version of Jim Crow — for Muslims, Eugene Robinson wrote,

On Sunday, “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson reminded Trump that last year he had raised the idea of “profiling” for Muslims and asked him to elaborate. Trump’s response: “Well, I think profiling is something that we’re going to have to start thinking about as a country. Other countries do it,” he said, naming Israel, and “we have to start using common sense.”

Reuters reported late last week,

Muslim-Americans have repeatedly informed authorities of fellow Muslims they fear might be turning to extremism, law enforcement officials say, contrary to a claim by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump this week.

“They don’t report them,” Trump said in a CNN interview on Monday, in the wake of the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub of 49 people by an American Muslim who claimed allegiance to Islamic State. “For some reason, the Muslim community does not report people like this.”

But FBI director James Comey said, “They do not want people committing violence, either in their community or in the name of their faith, and so some of our most productive relationships are with people who see things and tell us things who happen to be Muslim.

“It’s at the heart of the FBI’s effectiveness to have good relationships with these folks,” Comey said at a press conference following the Orlando shootings.

In addition profiling Muslims is a violation of the reasonable-suspicion-based-on-articulable-objective-facts test of the 4th Amendment. It also violates the Freedom of Religion Clause of the First amendment.

Donald Trump and his supporters like to base their arguments on “common sense.”

Hogwash. If we relied on “common sense,” for example, we would still believe that the Earth is the center of the universe with the Sun, the planets and the stars revolving around it. We also would believe in magic, the supernatural and witches who consorted with the Devil. In Europe from approximately 1480 to 1650, the Inquisition murdered approximately, 80,000 to 100,000 mostly poor and elderly women for practicing witchcraft. After obtaining confessions through the use of torture, they burned them at the stake.

Since the Age of Enlightenment, we’ve been relying on evidence-based reasoning to question common-sense assumptions about reality. In the name of “common sense,” Trump and his merry band of idiots want to turn back time and recreate the witch craze. He has already promised to use torture to extract confessions. How many Muslims is he going to detain, torture and kill before we the people have to end the slaughter?

Hitler exterminated 6 million Jews less than a century ago.

There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Will Trump exterminate them?

We need to make sure he loses the election.


Trump is a dangerous demagogue and conspiracy theorist who must be defeated

June 15, 2016

The Washington Post is reporting today regarding a new Washington Post-ABC News poll,

The poll finds 70 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Trump, including a 56 percent majority who feel this way “strongly.” Negative ratings of Trump are up 10 percentage points from last month to their highest point since he announced his candidacy last summer, nearly reaching the level seen before his campaign began (71 percent). The survey was conducted Wednesday through Sunday among a random national sample of U.S. adults, coming after last week’s primary contests, but with the large majority of interviews completed before Sunday’s massacre at an Orlando club.

[Emphasis supplied]

Little wonder that his negative ratings are climbing out of sight. He’s a conspiracy theorist. Remember, he’s the racist birther extraordinaire who challenged President Obama’s presidency on the ground that Obama was supposedly born in Kenya and raised Muslim. He continues to push this racist nonsense despite Obama’s long form birth certificate that verifies his birth in Hawai’i.

Instead of demonstrating respect for the dead and wounded in Orlando, he is continuing to play the race/religion card by publicly hammering President Obama with the insane accusation that he is an ISIS sympathizer.

Again, from the Washington Post,

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a leading national security hawk, said he had “run out of adjectives” for Trump. “I don’t think he has the judgment or the temperament, the experience to deal with what we are facing,” said Graham, who does not currently support the mogul.

Graham, like other Republicans, took issue with Trump’s apparent suggestions in Monday interviews that Obama may identify with the radical Muslim terrorists. Obama “either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind,” Trump told Fox News.

Trump expanded on that Tuesday, saying in an emailed response to questions from the Associated Press: “President Obama claims to know our enemy, and yet he continues to prioritize our enemy over our allies and, for that matter, the American people.”

Graham said that Trump “seems to be suggesting that the president is one of ‘them.’ I find that highly offensive. I find that whole line of reasoning way off base. My problems with President Obama are his policy choices.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who faces a challenging reelection bid, also called Trump’s insinuations about Obama “offensive.”

The outrage is not confined to criticizing President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Trump also attacked the Washington Post for reporting the truth; that is, that he had suggested the president is sympathetic to ISIS. He revoked their credentials to attend his rallies and press conferences.

So much for his respect for the First Amendment.

Unlike senators Graham and Johnson, most Republicans are taking the cowardly approach by avoiding the press. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the majority leader of the Senate, who cannot run away and hide, is refusing to answer any questions about the “presumptive nominee.” Speaker Paul Ryan respectfully and quietly disagrees with Trump, but continues to support him.

The Republicans can run but they can’t hide. They own him, unless they replace him. If they fail to do so, they deserve to end up as a footnote in history listed with the Whigs as a failed U.S. political party.

Meanwhile, I’m watching Trump on TV, a vulgar imbecile with an orange face and sticky hair preaching to his racist low-information voters about a conspiracy between President Obama and Hillary Clinton to conceal his Muslim beliefs and sympathy for ISIS while protecting her from being charged with federal crimes for using a private email server, which isn’t a crime.

We’re not going to get any help from the cowardly Republicans.

We’re going to have to turn out and vote for Hillary Clinton whether we like her or not.

Donald Trump is a dangerous demagogue who must be defeated.

Despite the encouraging new poll, we must not fall asleep at the wheel. This is no time to be nonchalant. We must take his threat seriously and act accordingly.

He will destroy our constitution and our democracy if we fail.


Trump is a greater threat to our democracy than ISIS

June 13, 2016

While everyone else was grief stricken, praying for the victims and offering their condolences after the mass shootings at the Pulse in Orlando early Sunday morning that killed 50 and injured 53, Donald Trump was congratulating himself. He tweeted,

Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!

Notice that he disguised self-congratulation by misrepresenting it as congratulations received from others. Yes, this is the real Donald Trump, an incredibly selfish and vile human being without a shred of empathy whose first instinct is to use the deadliest mass shooting in our history for personal advantage.

In a separate statement, he demanded President Obama’s resignation from office.

In his remarks today, President Obama disgracefully refused to even say the words ‘Radical Islam’. For that reason alone, he should step down. If Hillary Clinton, after this attack, still cannot say the two words ‘Radical Islam’ she should get out of this race for the presidency.

Worse, he even suggested this morning on Fox and Friends that President Obama may have had foreknowledge of what was going to happen, but did nothing to stop it.

Trump’s behavior convinces me that he is a greater threat to our democracy than ISIS.


Trump University was an enterprise engaged in racketeering activity

June 5, 2016

Trump University was a massive fraudulent scheme that targeted financially stressed victims who borrowed money from friends and relatives, cashed out their IRAs and 401(k)s and maxed out their credit cards in order to extricate themselves from poverty. They were willing to risk financial ruin on the say-so of Donald Trump, who enriched himself by millions of dollars at their expense. If there is a silver lining to this tragic predation, you will find it in the Trump University Playbook, a remarkably detailed manual of step-by-step instructions to steal money from vulnerable victims. The fraud will not be difficult to prove because the playbook lays it all out in excruciating detail.

One of the civil cases pending against Donald Trump in federal court in San Diego is Cohen v. Trump, No. 3:13-cv-02519-DMS-RBB. I regard it as the most important case pending against Trump because, unlike the other cases, potentially hundreds of million of dollars are at stake. Two reasons explain why more money is at stake:

(1) This is the only case in which the plaintiff has alleged that Trump’s actions regarding Trump University violated the civil RICO statute that authorizes treble damages See 18 USC 1962(c), and

(2) The court has approved the plaintiff’s request to process the case as a class action that permits thousand of other victims to piggy-back their claims against Trump without having to retain counsel to independently sue him. The case is assigned to Judge Gonzalo Curiel.

RICO is an acronym for a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization that is referred to as the ‘enterprise’ in the RICO statute. An apparently legitimate organization or business, even a school or a police department, can qualify as an enterprise if it’s being used to defraud people through a pattern of racketeering activity. Trump University is the enterprise in this case. To prove a civil RICO violation, the plaintiff must prove that Trump knowingly, willfully and unlawfully defrauded people by conducting or participating, directly or indirectly, in the affairs of the enterprise (Trump University) through a pattern of racketeering activity. The ‘racketeering activity’ alleged in this case was to carry out the fraud by using wire transmissions to transmit money and the U.S. Postal Service to transmit communications. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Trump devised and knowingly carried out a material scheme or artifice to defraud or to obtain money by means of materially false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, promises, or omissions of material facts that he communicated to others by committing multiple acts of mail fraud and wire fraud every day. In short, the complaint accuses him of using his name and Trump University to create the appearance of legitimacy to conceal a scheme to induce people to pay thousands of dollars to learn his secret knowledge to make millions of dollars by acquiring distressed or forfeited real estate properties at auctions for little more than the amount of the owner/borrower’s deficiency and reselling them later at fair market value for a substantial profit.

We have a name for this money-making venture. We call it ‘vulture capitalism’ by flipping distressed properties pursuant to a detailed method controlled by statute to recycle properties that buyers no longer can afford. There is nothing magical or secret about this method. It has been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years and anyone can learn how to do it for free from the comfort of their own home by using the internet. Trump misled people when he induced them to pay thousands of dollars for his ‘secret’ knowledge that he did not develop and did not own. Even worse, he never provided the statutory process that details how to do it.

More important, this investment method is not risk free and he did not warn them about the risks involved. Consider the game Musical Chairs, for example. The proverbial music stopped when the real estate bubble burst and the market collapsed in 2007/2008. Expanding one’s inventory of dirt cheap properties is not recommended when the real estate market has not reached a bottom and reset itself so that buyers and sellers have a sufficient basis to estimate fair market value. In fact, the housing market is still circling the drain in many parts of the country.

Most of the victims of this fraud were struggling financially and hoped to avert disaster by making a killing flipping real estate. Spending their last dime to further enrich Donald Trump without receiving anything of value in return must have wreaked havoc. There ought to be a special place reserved in hell for people who engage in predatory financial frauds that target vulnerable victims.


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