Speaking of OPM: “Trump used $258,000 from his charity to settle legal problems”

David Fahrenthold deserves at least one Pulitzer. And if his excellent reporting saves our country from the horrors of a Trump presidency, possibly a Medal of Freedom as well.

From his latest Washington Post article:

Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.

Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses…

If the Internal Revenue Service were to find that Trump violated self-dealing rules, the agency could require him to pay penalty taxes or to reimburse the foundation for all the money it spent on his behalf. Trump is also facing scrutiny from the New York attorney general’s office, which is examining whether the foundation broke state charity laws.

More broadly, these cases­ also provide new evidence that Trump ran his charity in a way that may have violated U.S. tax law and gone against the moral conventions of philanthropy…

The four new cases of possible self-dealing were discovered in the Trump Foundation’s tax filings. While Trump has refused to release his personal tax returns, the foundation’s filings are required to be public…

By all means, read the whole thing. Of course it’s been clear since the beginning that Trump wouldn’t release his personal returns because they’d show just how much of a petty thief and two-bit chiseler he is, but now it looks more and more like an attempt to avoid legal repercussions.

Dare Call It Treason (Update)

As Adam noted yesterday, the DNC hack isn’t just standard intel gathering that virtually all governments do. The decision to use WikiLeaks as an outlet to publicly release the information to interfere with an election “meets the definition of an act of cyberwar,” according to Dave Aitel, whose Ars Technica editorial was quoted in Adam’s post.

Article III. of the Constitution of the United States, Section 110:

“Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open Court. The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason.”

Republican nominee Donald J. Trump, July 27, 2016:

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump said, staring directly into the cameras during a news conference. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

So to recap, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump openly “adhered” to a hostile foreign government and encouraged it to commit an act of war on the United States.


UPDATE: I was kinda kidding about the treason thing and definitely dishing out sauce for the tangerine-hued hell-gander with the “Lock Him Up” bit above. (I’m not a lawyer, but I am a firm believer in due process.) However, a bipartisan sampling of former officials are seriously calling Combover Caligula out, including William Inboden, who served in GWB’s NSC; he said Trump’s comments were “tantamount to treason” [Politico link]. Hmm.

Stay away from Cleveland

Folks, I know how tempting it is to go to the snakes’ den and tell them what you think to their face. I have done it. It’s cathartic. It feels great. Please don’t.

From a tactical perspective the convention does not need our help to be be a complete dumpster fire. Half the people in that convention hall hate the other half with the heat of a hundred suns, while a huge faction of delegates are openly scheming to unseat the nominee, i.e., destroy the party in order to save it. We should give them space to express all these feelings at each other. A common enemy outside would just give them a reason to rally together. Trump wants chaos. He feeds on it. The crazier things get outside the more Republicans will support him. Someone else once gained (siezed) power the exact same way.

Second and more important, Cleveland will be a security nightmare. Cleveland cops are a long way from role models on a good day. Next week the Cleveland PD will be overwhelmed, scared and dressed like an invading army. They will have divisions of staties and National Guard who will almost certainly follow their lead, open carry lunatics dressed like commandos will wander around giving them heartburn, and they will have an especially short fuse for anything that might be connected with Black Lives Matter. I recognize that is not fair. They have the badges and that is the mood right now, at least among departments with a history of racial problems. Does that sound like Cleveland to you? Best case scenario, expect aggressive crowd control and ‘free speech zones’ a good mile from the convention. I would not be surprised to see kettling, violent arrests for little or no reason and a whole lot of mace. It would not surprise me to see LRADs and possibly even microwave-based active denial systems deployed. I know the last one sounds crazy, but microwave torture (“crowd control”) beams have developed to the point where police departments could theoretically deploy them, if the DoD completely lost its mind. Given the circumstances I would not 100% write it off.

Finally, I know you know this already, but Trump’s hard core are fucking nuts. They are armed, racist, angry and they don’t believe in non-violence. Ohio’s laws let people open carry any guns they want right up to whatever line the Secret Service draws on the pavement. You legally have to retreat before using deadly force in Ohio, but don’t count on Florida Man knowing that. The RSVP list already includes those neo-Nazis who had the rally in Sacramento with all the stabbings. Inside the convention horrible people will be whipping up hate and fear like a soufflé cook on a meth bender.

I understand that dissent is the beating heart of a free society, and I would never tell anyone that they can’t go and speak their mind at jerks who richly deserve it. All I am suggesting is, for this occasion anyway, maybe live tweet it instead.

Late Night Open Thread

I’ll just put this snippet from my twitter timeline for you all to enjoy.


The “Sagebrush Rebels” Aren’t Going Away…

The Loon Lake Takeover is over (for the moment), but I’m still reading JJMcNab’s twitter feed on a daily basis. She’s a very useful source for links to all the latest (frequently laughable, sometimes horrifying) would-be domestic terrorists — grammar fails, logic deficits, and raw ugliness.

But also, excellent writers doing good journalism. Such as Hal Herring, “Can we make sense of the Malheur mess?”:

… I am isolated by a culture that is as inscrutable to me as any in the mountains of Afghanistan. For loving wilderness and empty lands and birdsong rather than teeming cities, I risk being called a xenophobe, a noxious nativist. For viewing guns as constitutionally protected, essential tools of self-defense and, if need be, liberation, I’m told that I defend the massacres of innocents in mass shootings. When I came to Montana at age twenty-five, I found in this vast landscape, especially in the public lands where I hunted and camped and worked, the freedom that was evaporating in the South, where I grew up. I got happily lost in the space and the history. For a nature-obsessed, gun-soaked malcontent like me, it was home, and when Ammon Bundy and his men took over the Malheur refuge, on a cold night in January, I thought I should go visit my neighbors…

I am doing my best here to be respectful of people with whom, it turned out, I disagree strongly, even violently. I could focus upon the essential nuttiness of the occupation, the lack of a plan for an outcome, the exhaustion of being assailed with pocket Constitutions any time one presents an argument that cannot be easily countered. Crackpots are drawn to such an open event like moths to a halogen light (and, no, I do not automatically exempt myself from the category). I wanted to find occupiers who could argue for what they were doing, but what is there to say when people take up arms inspired by, say, a belief that the President is the front for an Islamic takeover of the nation, or that the Chinese are already committed to buying the uranium that lies underneath the Hammond ranch.

I went to Malheur to ask questions and to listen, to learn and report. But what can be reported when your source is convinced of plots and powers that do not exist? When I asked whether they were endangering the Second Amendment by brandishing AR-15s, the answer was that an occupation like this was the entire purpose of the Second Amendment. When I asked whether, since the county was the highest level of government recognized, the occupiers would stand down if the sheriff asked them to (Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward, of course, already had), they said no, because Sheriff Ward was a tool of the oppressors. And when I asked whether they would stand down if the Oregon National Guard came and asked them to, they said it was too late for that. And so on…

The American West has the highest suicide rates in the nation, and has since frontier days. The current epidemic of suicide among white males in the US is part of the story here – in a recent article at Salon, Robert Hennelly wrote, “According to federal morbidity stats in 1999, 9,599 white men killed themselves. By 2010 that number was 14,379. In 2013 the U.S. recorded 41,149 suicides, 70 percent of which were white men, who mostly shot themselves. The most heavily affected demographic is middle-aged white men in the 45 to 64 age cohort…

Or this, from the Washington Post: “The year of ‘enormous rage’: Number of hate groups rose by 14 percent in 2015″.

Open Thread: ‘Militia’, Go Home


As reported by the Washington Post:

“The protesters have no claim to this land. It belongs to the native people who continue to live here,” Burns Paiute tribal chair Charlotte Rodrique said at a press conference Wednesday.

The occupation of the refuge, now in its fourth day, has been part demand for local control over public land and part protest over how the federal government manages the Western landscape. Bundy, an Idaho rancher and the son of Cliven Bundy, and his followers stake claim on vast stretches of federal land in the West and have vowed to occupy the refuge until a complete investigation into historical land deeds and ownership rights yields a transfer of land control to local interests. Bundy supporter and refuge occupier LaVoy Finicum, who lives near Bundy’s father in Arizona, said that a paper trail would reveal an illegal transfer of sale from private ownership to the government and that an investigation into historical Western real estate sales would unwind federal control of the lands.

But Sara J. Hawley, a member of the local Paiute tribe, said the land has never belonged to anybody but the Paiute.

“The Burns Paiute Tribe has not ceded any of its rights in the tribe’s ancestral territory,” added Rodrique, pointing to a treaty — never ratified in Washington — that means many Westerners are technically squatting on Paiute land.

“They wanted us to give up our land,” Rodrique said. “We never did it.”

In 1868, the Burns Paiute Tribe entered into a treaty with the federal government that among other things, guaranteed the protection and safety of the Paiute people and their cultural resources. Six tribe band leaders signed the treaty but the U.S. Senate never ratified it. Without ratification, the agreement was voided and a legal transfer of land never occurred, Rodrique said.

“We never gave up our aboriginal rights,” she said. “We did have a treaty but it wasn’t ratified, so therefore it was a contract that was never completed. And so we as a tribe view that this is still our land.”…

“They say they don’t want to bother the community, but you know what? Our kids are sitting at home right now when they should be at school. They’re jeopardizing, they’re scaring our people around here,” [Burns Paiute tribal councilman Jarvis] Kennedy said…

The NYTimes says the non-Paiute locals mostly aren’t much enamored of Bundy and his VanillaISIS cult, either:

BURNS, Ore. — Hundreds of residents crammed into a building at the Harney County Fairgrounds here on Wednesday night, far surpassing the capacity of the rows of brown metal folding chairs set up on a concrete floor, to talk in often deeply emotional terms about their community — and just who should be in charge of its destiny…

“You don’t get to come here and tell us how we get to live our lives,” said Sheriff Dave Ward of Harney County, who led the meeting, and the crowd erupted into applause and cheers. “I’m here to ask those folks to go home and let us go back to our lives in Harney County,” he added, again to huge applause… Read more

Is Anita Alvarez doing it again?

In 2012 an off duty Chicago police officer named Dante Servin stopped his car in front of front of a group of unarmed black people, pulled out his handgun and fired multiple times into the crowd, hitting one man in the hand and killing Rekia Boyd, 22.

State Prosecutor Anita Alvarez would have no doubt preferred to do nothing; her cozy relationship with law enforcement was legendary even by prosecutor standards. However the egregious details of this case forced her to do something. So a year and a half later she charged Servin with involuntary manslaughter. This is almost literally the least she could do, short of issuing Servin a parking ticket, and her decision put the trial Judge Dennis J. Porter in a bind. You can hardly call it involuntary when someone points a semi-automatic handgun at a group of people and pulls the trigger over and over again. Porter did not have the option to decide what kind of crime Dante Servin committed. Either he committed involuntary manslaughter or he didn’t. Since the killing was pretty clearly not involuntary, Porter let him go. It is hard to argue with people who feel that Alvarez used her prosecutorial discretion to keep Dante Servin free.

So Anita Alvarez decided to charge Chicago officer Jason Van Dyke with murder for shooting Laquan McDonald. Great! You saw the video. Even (some) other cops agree this guy should be locked up. But do you think Anita Alvarez went a little over the top charging Van Dyke with first degree murder? Sure he did something terrible. But I suggest people resist the temptation to see the charge and fast forward to the part where Van Dyke gets old in jail. Think for a moment about the standard the state has to meet to convict him. It won’t be enough to show that Van Dyke acted recklessly or even got caught up in the heat of the moment and killed McDonald because he was scared or thought it would be fun.

First-degree murder is defined as an unlawful killing that is both willful and premeditated, meaning that it was committed after planning or “lying in wait” for the victim.

The defense only has to prove that Jason Van Dyke did not plan this in advance and lie in wait for the opportunity to kill Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke was a cop, responding to a dangerous situation. Everyone agrees he did not need to shoot that young man. In fact his record shows that Jason Van Dyke had no business being a cop at all. But his defense does not need to worry about that. They only need to show the he did not commit premeditated murder. That seems like an awfully high bar to set, don’t you think?