Excellent Read: “Trump Tourism: How Charlottesville enabled Cindy Yang to market Mar-a-Lago in China “

Remember Warren G. Harding? He was a self-professed “man of limited talents” boosted into the Presidency by the Republican Party as the polar opposite to replace the Democrat’s distant, cerebral, League-of-Nations proponent Woodrow Wilson. Until recently, Harding’s Teapot Dome Scandal was considered the ultimate conflation of political and business corruption. But just in time for its centennial:

Yang’s invitations to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club and resort, started coming after high society’s post-Charlottesville exodus. She helped promote the cobbled-together replacement galas, selling them online as opportunities for Chinese businessmen to gain face time with the Trump family.

On Chinese social media, Safari Night became a “midnight carnival” of the American social and political elite and an important networking opportunity for businessmen from overseas. Seats were marked up from the original $600 to $1,000. The ads also offered VIP packages for overnight stays at Mar-a-Lago — $10,000 for two nights, with spa and golf course access, according to one post from a member of a local Asian-American political group.

Dozens of people associated with her Asian-American political group turned out. Yang also recruited guests through her nonprofit group, Women’s Charity Foundation Inc. One of the group’s guests impressed the crowd by plunking down $40,000 for a pair of paintings, with the proceeds going to charity, according to a post on the foundation’s WeChat page that was later removed…

In both years prior to Charlottesville, Mar-a-Lago hosted 33 events, according to the Herald’s analysis of the Palm Beach Daily News’ social events calendar. It dropped to 10 events in the season after Charlottesville…

Selling access to private events is not new, and foreign nationals are not barred from giving contributions to private foundations or nonprofits as they are from giving to U.S. political campaigns.

But experts say Trump’s presidency is unique, and Mar-a-Lago in particular provides unprecedented levels of access…

A cottage industry of influence peddling

… Yang and Lee are not alone in their efforts to capitalize on their access to the Trump family. According to a Herald analysis of Chinese social media and classified advertisements, at least five other groups are marketing Trump-related tours to Chinese elites.

“This may be the highest-level invitation you’ll receive at this stage in your life,” one Chinese-language ad declared. Though most ads promoted events at Mar-a-Lago, a few marketed access through political fundraisers with Trump across the country…
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Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Yes to All of This


House Democrats are taking the first steps toward issuing subpoenas for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s entire report, as well as for documents from five former associates of President Donald Trump, setting up potential legal showdowns.

The House Judiciary Committee plans to hold votes on Wednesday to authorize the subpoenas, the panel said Monday in a news release. Three days earlier, Attorney General William Barr said he would provide Congress with a redacted version of Mueller’s report on his investigation into Trump and Russian election meddling by mid-April.

“Congress requires the full and complete Special Counsel report, without redactions, as well as access to the underlying evidence,” Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said in an emailed statement Monday. “Attorney General Barr has thus far indicated he will not meet the April 2 deadline set by myself and five other Committee chairs, and refused to work with us to provide the full report, without redactions, to Congress. The Attorney General should reconsider so that we can work together to ensure the maximum transparency of this important report to both Congress and the American people.”…

Republican Venality: National (In)Security & The Cost of Corruption

Betty Cracker already posted about the risks of this potential security breach, but seriously — this is the kind of petty, venal abuse we used to mock when it happened in poverty-stricken, desperate authoritarian states:

… Ms. Newbold’s decision to accuse her own office of rampant mismanagement of the security clearances of at least 25 employees came after months of what she characterized as personal discrimination and professional retaliation from Carl Kline, the office’s former director, after she spent roughly a year trying to raise issues internally.

In a White House where aggressive leak investigations are conducted in service of President Trump, who has aides sign nondisclosure agreements, Ms. Newbold’s account represents the rarest of developments: a damning on-the-record account from a current employee inside his ranks…

Described as both “no nonsense” and “intense” by people who have interacted with her during the clearance process, Ms. Newbold has served under four presidential administrations, beginning with the Clinton White House in 2000. Eventually she worked her way up to adjudications manager, a job that required her to help make determinations about the security clearances of administration employees. Her office is filled with holdovers from other administrations, and it is meant to be nonpartisan.

Yet in the Trump administration the office was filled with people who had little experience in vetting employees in the interest of national security, Ms. Newbold said in a nine-hour deposition with the House Committee on Oversight and Reform last week.

Ms. Newbold told the committee that at least two senior administration officials had been granted security clearances — which gave them access to classified information — despite possible disqualifying issues. She also told the committee that she had compiled a list of at least 25 individuals, including contractors and senior advisers, who had a “wide range” of disqualifying information, including drug use, financial problems and criminal conduct…

Surely the ‘Party of National Security’ will speak up about this travesty!…

Professor of international relations Stephen M. Walt, at Foreign Policy, “America’s Corruption Is a National Security Threat”:

… [C]orruption is inherently inefficient. Instead of resources going where they are most needed, they get diverted into bribes, payoffs, kickbacks, and other shady arrangements. And when the wealthy and powerful use connections to get jobs or contracts (or to get their kids into college), that means that more deserving and talented people get excluded and less qualified people end up in positions of authority. The more common such practices become, the more honest and law-abiding people will be tempted to follow suit just to keep up. And once corruption becomes endemic in a society, rooting it out becomes difficult if not impossible.
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Sunday Night Open Thread: Trump Teflon Wearing Off

GOP Stupidity Open Thread: Botching the Mueller Report Rollout

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