Jaw-Dropping!!! 😲

In last month’s mid-term elections, a relatively unknown man named George Santos was elected to represent New York’s 3rd district in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Republicans will have a very slim majority of 4 seats in the House come January 3rd.  An article in yesterday’s New York Times about Santos caused my jaw to drop.  Apparently, Mr. Santos is a consummate liar and literally nothing on his resume is to be believed!  A few snippets from the NYT article …

    George Santos, whose election to Congress on Long Island last month helped Republicans clinch a narrow majority in the House of Representatives, built his candidacy on the notion that he was the “full embodiment of the American dream” and was running to safeguard it for others.

    His campaign biography amplified his storybook journey: He is the son of Brazilian immigrants, and the first openly gay Republican to win a House seat as a non-incumbent. By his account, he catapulted himself from a New York City public college to become a “seasoned Wall Street financier and investor” with a family-owned real estate portfolio of 13 properties and an animal rescue charity that saved more than 2,500 dogs and cats.

    But a New York Times review of public documents and court filings from the United States and Brazil, as well as various attempts to verify claims that Mr. Santos, 34, made on the campaign trail, calls into question key parts of the résumé that he sold to voters.

    Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, the marquee Wall Street firms on Mr. Santos’s campaign biography, told The Times they had no record of his ever working there. Officials at Baruch College, which Mr. Santos has said he graduated from in 2010, could find no record of anyone matching his name and date of birth graduating that year.

    There was also little evidence that his animal rescue group, Friends of Pets United, was, as Mr. Santos claimed, a tax-exempt organization: The Internal Revenue Service could locate no record of a registered charity with that name.

    His financial disclosure forms suggest a life of some wealth. He lent his campaign more than $700,000 during the midterm election, has donated thousands of dollars to other candidates in the last two years and reported a $750,000 salary and over $1 million in dividends from his company, the Devolder Organization.

    Yet the firm, which has no public website or LinkedIn page, is something of a mystery. On a campaign website, Mr. Santos once described Devolder as his “family’s firm” that managed $80 million in assets. On his congressional financial disclosure, he described it as a capital introduction consulting company, a type of boutique firm that serves as a liaison between investment funds and deep-pocketed investors. But Mr. Santos’s disclosures did not reveal any clients, an omission three election law experts said could be problematic if such clients exist.

    And while Mr. Santos has described a family fortune in real estate, he has not disclosed, nor could The Times could find, records of his properties.

But wait … it gets even worse!

    Records show that Mr. Santos’s mother, who died in 2016, lived for a time in the Brazilian city of Niterói, a Rio suburb where she was employed as a nurse. After Mr. Santos obtained a high school equivalency diploma, he apparently also spent some time there.

    In 2008, when Mr. Santos was 19, he stole the checkbook of a man his mother was caring for, according to Brazilian court records uncovered by The Times. Police and court records show that Mr. Santos used the checkbook to make fraudulent purchases, including a pair of shoes. Two years later, Mr. Santos confessed to the crime and was later charged.

    The court and local prosecutor in Brazil confirmed the case remains unresolved. Mr. Santos did not respond to an official summons, and a court representative could not find him at his given address, records show.

    That period in Brazil overlapped with when Mr. Santos said he was attending Baruch College, where he has said he was awarded a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance. But Baruch College said it was unable to find records of Mr. Santos …

The first question is … why are we only learning of this now???  How did he manage to bamboozle the Republican Party into the nomination, and why didn’t the Democratic Party do their opposition research homework?  The next question is … will he be allowed to take his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on January 3rd, just two weeks from now?  The chairman of New York’s Democratic Party has called for an ethics investigation, but given the slim Republican majority in the House, best guess is that nothing much will happen … for now, at least. Mr. Santos is yet another example of what the Republican Party has become.  He should fit in really well with Marge Greene, Loren Boebert, Matt Gaetz and some of the others he’ll be serving with, eh?

I urge you to read the entire article … it’s a bit lengthy, but it is an eye-opener, a jaw-dropper!

Snarky Snippets Waiting For The Asteroid

A few days ago, I read that there is a slight possibility … about .04% … that an asteroid could hit planet earth before election day.  My first thought was to cross my fingers that it lands squarely on the head of Donald Trump.  My fingers are still crossed.asteroid-trump

Meanwhile, I shall open the vent and let off some steam in the form of snarky snippets …

Penalizing the Free Press???

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Fahrenthold is under fire by the Trump administration.  Why?  Because of his report in The Washington Post on Thursday exposing the way in which Trump’s company has been gaining financial benefit from the Secret Service when he travels to his own properties.

“Federal spending records show that taxpayers have paid Trump’s businesses more than $900,000 since he took office. At least $570,000 came as a result of the president’s travel …

Trump Organization charged the Secret Service — a kind of captive customer, required to follow Trump everywhere. In addition to the rentals at Mar-a-Lago, the documents show that the Trump Organization charged daily “resort fees” to Secret Service agents guarding Vice President Pence in Las Vegas and in another instance asked agents to pay a $1,300 “furniture removal charge” during a presidential visit to a Trump resort in Scotland.”

Apparently, Trump & Co took umbrage, though Mr. Fahrenthold has the facts to back up every statement in his story.  Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere issued a ‘statement’ …

“The Washington Post is blatantly interfering with the business relationships of the Trump Organization, and it must stop. Please be advised that we are building up a very large ‘dossier’ on the many false David Fahrenthold and others stories as they are a disgrace to journalism and the American people.”

Say WHAT???  Mr. Deere has a B.A. in Political Science and History from Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas, but apparently he never managed to take a course in Constitutional Law, else he might have a better understanding of the First Amendment as it relates to freedom of the press!

No doubt such a dossier would go back to Fahrenthold’s best-known article, the one that exposed Trump describing how he felt stardom gave him permission to assault women on the Access Hollywood videotape.

Fahrenthold responded to Deere’s threats …

“If you think the Washington Post got something wrong in a story, we want to know about it. Doesn’t have to be in dossier form, and you don’t have to be the president. We listen to everybody.”

Trump & Co need to tread very cautiously here, for their own house is riddled with vermin, the latest being multiple violations of the Hatch Act in their campaign rally known as the Trump Circus earlier this week.  We the People will not tolerate our free press being infringed upon!  We the People have every right to know where our hard-earned tax dollars are being spent, and I for one salute Mr. Fahrenthold for uncovering the fact that Trump’s businesses are benefitting from his travel.  This is a blatant ethics violation and should be public knowledge.  It only makes me wonder how many other abuses of our money are being hidden from us.

Speaking of that Hatch Act …

Doesn’t it seem to you that the “president”, the person who is tasked with ensuring the laws of the land are enforced, should … obey the laws?  Well, we all heard Attorney General Bill the Boob Barr say that Trump is ‘above the law’, but that immunity does not extend to his family and members of his administration!  There were numerous violations of the law known as the Hatch Act this past week, and this wasn’t the first time, but what made it worse this time was the blatant, in-your-face violations by more than a few people in the Trump administration, including his daughter, Ivanka.

The Hatch Act prohibits civil service employees in the executive branch of the federal government, except the president and vice president, from engaging in some forms of political activity.  Any way you cut it, the Republican National Convention is political activity.  And yet … Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared from Jerusalem, where he was on official state business, to make a campaign speech with the Old City as backdrop. Melania Trump delivered a speech from the White House Rose Garden. And acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf performed a naturalization ceremony on television as Trump looked on.

Ethics officials warned that using the White House (which, technically, belongs to We the People) as a backdrop for campaign speeches could constitute a violation of the Hatch Act, but their concerns were ignored.  And White House chief of staff Mark Meadows proved his complete disrespect for all of us when he said …

“Nobody outside of the Beltway really cares.”

Oh yes, Mr. Meadows … I REALLY CARE!  This was reminiscent of when Donald Trump first refused to make public his tax returns, saying that nobody would understand them.  BULLSHIT!  I would understand his tax returns (far better than he does, no doubt), and I DO care about the people in this administration using the power of their positions for political gain!  If we cannot trust them to follow one law, then in my opinion, we cannot trust them to obey any law.  Which makes them lawless.

Heads will roll …

The U.S. now has 187,000 deaths that we are aware of as a result of the coronavirus.  So far, Trump has pushed his uneducated theories that ingesting household disinfectants could be a cure, and has claimed that an anti-malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, is also a cure.  Neither are true, both can be lethal, but this is what happens when you let an idiot dictate to the scientific community.  His latest promotion is for another treatment, blood plasma treatment.  This, too, is unproven as a cure for the coronavirus and may well have negative effects.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can no longer be trusted and has gone along with Trump’s touting of the blood plasma treatment, authorizing its use without further testing and against the warnings of the medical community.  FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn initially said that 35% of people could be saved by this unproven treatment.

Mr. Wayne Pines served 10 years in senior positions at the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He was FDA’s chief of consumer education and information, chief of press relations and associate commissioner for public affairs. He was the chief media spokesman for the FDA for seven years and also was the founding editor of FDA Consumer magazine.  Mr. Pines was fired last week.  Why?  Because he recommended that Hahn reverse his misleading claim on blood plasma.  Such is life in the Trump administration … you either go along, or you go out the door!

Hahn later admitted that he had “oversold” the treatment and it was more likely that only 3-5% of people might … might be helped by blood plasma treatment.  Another FDA staffer, Emily Miller, was also fired this week, after only 11 days in her job as Assistant Commissioner for Media Affairs, although I’m unclear of the reason, for she was playing along nicely with Mr. Hahn’s myth.  Perhaps she was the ‘sacrificial lamb’.

A double whammy …

The poor people of Louisiana … first they are hit with Hurricane Laura, and then in a double whammy, they are hit with Hurricane Donnie.  Donnie went to Louisiana and Texas to “survey storm damage and receive briefings on emergency operations and ongoing relief efforts”.  His appearance helps nobody and accomplishes nothing, but is yet another photo op.  Ask yourself, if he weren’t campaigning, fighting to retain his title, would he have bothered?  I think not, and I can only wonder if he took a case of paper towels to throw at people as he did when he toured Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017.  Ask yourself this:  how much did this photo op cost U.S. taxpayers?  I wouldn’t begrudge any amount of money to actually provide help to the victims of the storm, but I absolutely do not wish to fund Trump’s pointless trip.

I Didn’t ‘Cancel’ Anybody’s ‘Culture’!

Why is it that people these days feel a need to create cutesy sayings that could be otherwise defined without completely re-writing the English language?  A week or so ago, I puzzled and pondered over being called ‘woke’, which made no sense at all either grammatically or in terms of syntax.  I am awake most often, and I awoke this morning, but … que es esto ‘woke’???  Okay, so I figured that one out with help from both Merriam-Webster, Google, and a few helpful readers.  Before that, there was ‘social distancing’, which is just a nice term for ‘stay away from people’.  More than a few times, I’ve been labelled a ‘snowflake’, which I always take as a compliment, for snowflakes are beautiful and unique, but I’m told it isn’t intended as a compliment.  How I long for the good ol’ days when people just called me “bitch” and I knew what they thought of me.

Today’s latest, and I’ve heard it bandied about a few times, but only today did it fly onto my radar, is “cancel culture”.  What the SAM HELL do these people even mean?  Okay, back to my ol’ friend Google, who tells me that ‘cancel culture’ “describes a form of boycott in which an individual (usually a celebrity) who has acted or spoken in a questionable or controversial manner is boycotted.”  So … why the hell didn’t they just say that???  Is this a generational trick to try to exclude us older folks from the conversation?

I go on record right now, today, at this very moment, as saying that if people must speak in these evasive terms, then I do not choose to take part in the conversation.  I could wipe the floor with those who think this is cute … remember, I came of age in the 1960s when “Lay it on me, man”, and “All show and no go”, and “Let it all hang out” were the buzz phrases of the day.

The first time I heard of ‘cancel culture’ was a few weeks ago when it was used by Ivanka Kushner, after she was uninvited to give the commencement address at Wichita State University in Kansas, in part because of her father’s unfeeling responses to the murder of George Floyd, and in part because they realized that Ivanka cannot relate to the average person just finishing college, walking into the world of uncertainty.  She was, after all, born with a silver spoon in her mouth and has never … not one day in her life … been deprived or denied anything she wanted.

Speaking of Ivanka …

On Tuesday, Ivanka apparently became the unofficial spokesperson for Goya products!  Now, you may or may not know that many of us, this writer included, are boycotting (cancel culturing???) Goya products after Goya’s CEO, Robert Unanue, praised Donald Trump, saying …

“We are all truly blessed … to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder. We have an incredible builder, and we pray. We pray for our leadership, our president.”

This after Trump said of Mexican immigrants to the U.S. …

“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

You just keep on praying Mr. Unanue, because while I used to use Goya rice and beans in my cooking … I will never again purchase your products.

But, Ivanka and Donnie have both endorsed Goya in the past week …



The United States Office of Government Ethics has this little rule called the Hatch Act that says, “Executive branch employees may not use their Government positions to suggest that the agency or any part of the executive branch endorses an organization (including a nonprofit organization), product, service, or person.”

Hmmmm … but the rules of ethics don’t really seem to apply to Trump & Co, do they?  Remember just a week or two after Trump’s inauguration, when his ‘senior advisor’, Kellyanne Conway, publicly promoted Ivanka’s line of apparel and other over-priced junk?  That, too, was in violation of the same ethics ruling, yet Kellyanne is still part of Trump’s entourage of clowns and has paid no price for her perfidy.  Neither I’m sure, will Ivanka.  Rules, in the world of Trump, are for us peons, made to be disregarded by those of wealth and power.

But back to ‘cancel culture’.  If I choose not to buy Goya products, or shop at Wal-Mart or Home Depot, or eat at Chick-Fil-A because the people who would profit from my purchases support an ideology that I find offensive, that is my choice.  I am making a consumer choice based on my own values.  My purchasing power is my voice. I am not canceling anybody’s culture, but rather am refusing to support those who are racist, homophobic, or abuse their employees.  Period.  No need for cutesy labeling.  It seems to me this is just another way to further divide the populace of this nation, as are the other labels that people have dreamed up for those who don’t agree with them, or don’t act the same or believe the same.

Meanwhile, both Donald and Ivanka are in violation of ethics rules and both should be officially censured, or better yet, fired!


Alright, since Trump so loves to use those words, “You’re Fired”, then it’s time he used them to Mr. Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  NOW!!!  This man is out of control, treating our tax money as his personal expense account and meanwhile doing nothing … absolutely nothing … positive toward the protection of the environment!  I thought I was done writing about him a few weeks ago, thought surely he would be fired within the week, but that has not happened, so I am baaaaaccckkk.

Despite all the scandals that just keep coming, yesterday afternoon Trump praised him!

“… EPA is doing really, really well, someone has to say that about you a little bit, you know that, Scott. People are really impressed with the job that’s being done at the EPA.”

Hello???  Excuse me???  What job?  What EPA, for that matter?  Just two days ago, it was reported that Pruitt had enlisted an EPA aide to help his wife Marlyn obtain and open a Chick-Fil-A franchise.  How does this pertain to the business of the Environmental Protection of the United States?  How does it pertain to anything other than increasing Scott and Marlyn’s wealth, which is already substantial, at least as compared to yours or mine.

When asked about the misuse of agency staff for a personal mission, Pruitt sounded just like Kellyanne, talking in circles all around the issue …

“I think with great change comes, you know, I think, opposition. I mean there’s significant change that’s happening for us, not only at the EPA but across this Administration, and it’s needed, and, uh, look, my wife is an entrepreneur herself. I love, she loves, we love Chick-Fil-A as a, as a franchise of faith, and it’s one of the best in the country, and so, that’s something we were very excited about.”

SOOOO????  I love P.F. Chang’s, too, but I’m not going to lie, cheat and steal to own one!  I will just go eat there once a month or so, and pay my check and leave a tip like everybody else.

But it gets even better … and remember, all this is just in the last week.  Prior to last week, he already had twelve federal investigations into his activities!  TWELVE!!!In December, Pruitt attended a University of Kentucky basketball game as a guest of coal baron Joseph W. Craft III, who has been lobbying the EPA on behalf of his coal company, Alliance Resource Partners.  Pruitt and Craft have met no less than seven times in a fourteen-month period.

And also last week, it was reported that Mr. Pruitt had visited a jewelry store in Washington where he spent $3,230 of taxpayer money!  What, you ask, did he buy?  Well, $1,560 went to buy 12 fountain pens.  $130 per pen.  WHY???  I buy a 12-pack of pens for $5.99 and they write just fine!  And anyway, doesn’t the GAO provide such things as pens, legal pads and toilet tissue?  I do not know quite what the other $1,670 was spent on, but we are told it was “gifts to the Administrator’s foreign counterparts and dignitaries upon his meeting with them.”Prior to any of the above, Pruitt was already under investigation for a host of potential crimes, including frequent first-class personal travel at taxpayer’s expense, inappropriate relations with representatives of the coal mining industry, unnecessary sweeping 24-hour security measures that have cost the EPA roughly $3.5 million, and more.

And amid all the scandal, Pruitt’s top aide, Millan Hupp, resigned on Monday – Friday will be her last day.  Hupp, as the director of scheduling and advance, has been entangled in many of the scandals dogging Pruitt.  She was one of two aides who received hefty salary bumps, even after the White House refused Pruitt’s request for raises. She recently testified to the House Oversight Committee that she regularly spent her days doing personal tasks for Pruitt, from hunting for housing to calling the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., in order to inquire about purchasing a used mattress.  Yes, you heard me right … for some unknown reason, Herr Pruitt wished to buy a used mattress from Trump Towers.  Ick. Pruitt’s top legal counsel, Sarah Greenwalt, also gave her resignation.

The democrats in Congress have long been fed-up with Pruitt’s costly antics, but this week, even the republicans are tired of it.

“I’m not going to come down here, just because he happens to be a nominee of a president I support or a nominee from my party, and try to defend the indefensible. I thought that Mr. Pruitt would have learned his lesson.” – Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana

“Some are true; some are not true. Whether he can weather the storm, I’m not sure. The accusations are all troubling. They are.” – Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of OklahomaThis man thinks the U.S. Treasury is his own personal bank account.  Remember Trump’s claim that he would “drain the swamp”.  Instead, he put Pruitt, the granddaddy of all alligators in it and feeds him well every day, at the White House mess, as it happens.  According to an article in Politico, Pruitt has been eating at the White House mess nearly every day … so often that he has been asked to cut back and “please eat elsewhere sometimes.”

It is past time for Scott Pruitt to hear the words, “You’re Fired”.  It is past time for We The People to demand accountability, starting with this very worst example of corruption, thievery and violations of ethics.  And it is far past time for Congress to demand that the Director of the EPA be fired without severance!  No, Donald Trump, Scott Pruitt is not doing an “impressive” job at the EPA, for he is far too busy wheeling and dealing, and wasting OUR money!

Let’s Play Connect the Dots

Donald Trump does absolutely nothing simply to be nice.  He is devoid of human compassion; he cares not a whit about human beings.  But suddenly, Donald Trump is so concerned about the jobs of Chinese people employed by Chinese communication company ZTE that he is willing to walk back sanctions, forgive a breach by the company that could have put U.S. national security at risk.  And why?  We’ll get to that in just a minute.

ZTE manufactures smart phones and relies heavily on components shipped from U.S. companies.  ZTE had been shipping parts and finished product to Iran and North Korea, in violation of U.S. sanctions.  In light of their breach, the U.S. Department of Commerce banned U.S. companies from selling parts or services to ZTE.  Simple, right?  And ZTE, claimed it would have no choice but to go out of business without the U.S. components it so heavily relies on.

You may remember that throughout his entire campaign, Donald Trump was critical of the Chinese.  In May 2016 he said …

“We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country, and that’s what they’re doing. We’re going to turn it around. And we have the cards, don’t forget it. We’re like the piggy bank that’s being robbed. We have the cards. We have a lot of power with China.”

He continually said China was manipulating its currency to make its exports more competitive.  And as recently as last month he was critical of China’s trade and economic policies.  But now …

“President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost.”

Say what???

Many, I hear, are not happy with this new turn, including members of Congress, some in Trump’s own camp, cabinet members, and the U.S. intelligence community.  Not that Trump cares what anybody thinks, but most, including myself, were scratching our heads and wondering wtf?  Even for the inconsistent Trump, this was inconsistent.  But then, a possible explanation crossed my radar.  Remember the game “connect the dots”?  Let’s see how well you can connect the dots here …

  • In the week before Trump’s reversal, the Chinese government awarded five new trademarks to his daughter and White House adviser, Ivanka Trump. Two more were awarded afterward.
  • Between ZTE receiving its fine and Trump’s reversal, a Chinese state-owned corporation announced a $500 million loan package for a theme park in a Trump-branded real estate development in Indonesia.
  • Because Trump and his family did not divest themselves from the Trump Organization, they stand to gain millions of dollars from ongoing business with the Chinese government.

sharkI leave it to you to … connect the dots.

Meanwhile, from the other side of his mouth Trump is threatening to put tariffs on up to $150 billion worth of Chinese goods, and China has threatened to respond with sweeping tariffs of its own. A full-blown trade war between the two countries could cause the price of goods and unemployment to surge in both countries.

Lawmakers and the intelligence community believe that in addition to its sale of equipment to US adversaries, ZTE could pose an espionage risk to the US by covertly using its cellphones for surveillance.  Edward Alden, a trade expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, expressed concerns that it sends a message that “every US action is now up for negotiation in some way or other in the future.”

No, Donald Trump is not lifting the ban on ZTE in order to save jobs in China.  He is not doing it to be nice, for he is anything but a nice ‘man’. Regardless of his motive, to make this decision without consulting with U.S. intelligence agencies, Congress, or even Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce, was foolhardy.  If his motive was personal gain for his own company and his daughter’s, then it becomes a blatant violation of ethics and just one more reason he is not qualified to sit in the Oval Office.  Think about it.

Pruitt’s Got To GO!!!!

pruitt-4.jpgWhy is Scott Pruitt still the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)?  In fact, I might even ask why Scott Pruitt is still a free man, for he has violated enough laws to have gotten most people put in jail by now.  The Washington Post refers to him today as a ‘swamp monster’, and I would agree that seems a fairly good assessment.

Since taking over the EPA last February, Pruitt has been on a one-man mission to violate every code of ethics possible and to use our hard-earned tax money to support his lavish, hedonistic lifestyle.  And he is still doing it, and nobody has made a move to fire this man!  WHY???  Oh … perhaps it is because he slavishly goes along with the destructive ‘policies’ of Don Trump, eh? Remember, when you finish an 80-hour work week, come home too exhausted to even enjoy the weekend, that Pruitt is off on some jaunt to Morocco or somewhere, staying in luxury hotels and eating gourmet food!  This is why you worked those 80 hours, so you could pay taxes to support this buffoon.pruitt-1As EPA administrator, Pruitt reversed and delayed numerous environmental rules, relaxed enforcement of existing rules, and halted the agency’s efforts to combat climate change.  Wait a minute … isn’t it called the Environmental PROTECTION Agency?  How is any of this considered protecting the environment?  Oh … I remember now … that new ‘alternative’ vocabulary.

Scott Pruitt is under at least 11 separate investigations by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the E.P.A. inspector general, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and two House committees over his spending habits, conflicts of interests and management practices.  I ask the question again:  WHY is Scott Pruitt still in his position?pruitt-5Pruitt made frequent use of first class travel, as well as frequent charter and military flights. As EPA administrator, Pruitt leased a condo in Washington D.C. at a deeply discounted rate from a lobbyist whose clients were regulated by the EPA. Pruitt further caused ethics concerns by circumventing the White House and using a narrow provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act to autonomously give raises to his two closest aides of approximately $28,000 and $57,000 each, which were substantially higher than salaries paid to those in similar positions in the Obama administration, and which allowed both to avoid signing conflicts of interest pledges.

Last September, Pruitt spent $43,000 of our money to build a soundproof booth in his office, supposedly to protect against ‘hacking and eavesdropping’, even though there is already such a secure booth in the building.  And what, for Pete’s Sake, is so top secret about his job that it must be kept top secret???  Methinks he has an over-inflated sense of self-importance.  Last month, the GAO found this purchase violates federal spending laws.

Pruitt has 18 people in his security detail guarding him round-the-clock.  WHY???  An internal EPA report showed that EPA intelligence officials concluded there was no justification for the expansion of Pruitt’s security detail and that there were no specific credible security threats against Pruitt.  He also insists that if, as he is riding through D.C. in his bulletproof car, there is traffic, the security detail is to use flashing lights and sirens to clear a path for him.  He is the administrator of the EPA, not a heart surgeon whose patient might die.  One such instance happened as Pruitt was heading to his favourite French restaurant in D.C.  Seriously???  People trying to get home from work are forced to move over so this ego-bloated man can get to his dinner quicker?  A number of officials at the EPA have questioned Pruitt’s unconscionable spending, and have promptly been “reassigned”.pruitt-2But Pruitt’s failings in ethics and judgment are only part of a much larger problem: Pruitt has failed at the core responsibility of his job. He’s not protecting the environment. Pruitt has become a one-man public-health risk to the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. From day one, he has worked to gut the EPA and hamstring its ability to protect the environment and public health. He works on behalf of the fossil-fuel industry and other industrial polluters, not the American people. That’s the greatest scandal — and the reason, first and foremost, he’s got to go.

Pruitt has been working to weaken standards designed to clean up dirty power plants and to walk back fuel standards for cars. He has put a hold on vital safeguards that would limit the amount of mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxic chemicals that industry can spew into the air or dump into our rivers. Speaking of water, he’s working to repeal the clean water rule that ensures protection for wetlands, rivers and streams that provide drinking water to a third of all Americans.

The EPA was established to protect the environment and public health for everyone. It is no longer doing that, and Scott Pruitt seems hell-bent on destroying it, while living a life of luxury on our nickel.  Remember how Trump & his fans used to chant “Lock her up”?  My chant is “Get Him OUT!!!”pruitt-3

No Conflict of Interest Here … No Sir, None At All

“Everything will make more sense if you reimagine the White House as simply the newest branch of the Trump family business empire, its latest outpost.” – Nomi Prins, Moyers & Company

Starting with the basics here.  Ivanka Trump is Donald Trump’s daughter.  Donald Trump, you may remember, is considered the president of the U.S.  Jared Kushner is Ivanka’s husband, making him Donald Trump’s son-in-law.  Like Donald Trump, Kushner is a real-estate tycoon.  Ivanka owns a company that produces clothing and such … in China. Kushner and Ivanka both serve in an advisory capacity to Donald Trump in his role as president.

Concerns of ‘conflict of interest’ have been voiced ever since Trump named Kushner as a senior White House advisor.  Daniel Weiner, a senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice explains:

“It [real estate] is very, very, very different from many other ways that other people make money, partly because its a highly leveraged industry, which means that someone who is at the head of a real estate empire likely owes money to lots of different people. Because if someone is your creditor and then they turn around and they need something from the federal government, it might be hard to say no. And I’m not saying that this is the case with Mr. Kushner, but that is sort of one of the issues that comes up.”

kushnerEarlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported  that Kushner failed to mention on his government disclosure forms both his multiple loans from various banks on properties that he co-owns and his co-ownership of a real estate finance tech startup that makes him business partners with billionaires like George Soros and Peter Thiel, as well as Goldman Sachs.

And as if that weren’t enough …

conflict-of-interestJared Kushner’s sister, Nicole Kushner, addressed a ballroom full of wealthy Chinese investors to consider investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a New Jersey real estate project to secure what’s known as an investor visa. The EB-5 immigrant investor visa program, which allows foreign investors to invest in U.S. projects that create jobs and then apply to immigrate, has been used by both the Trump and Kushner family businesses. There were a series of slide shows and presentations, and the brochure carried the line: “Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States.”

Essentially, Kushner’s real estate business would be gaining investors, while Kushner would be using his influence within the federal government to provide immigration status.  This after Trump has vowed to “crack down” on immigration.  Conflict of interest?  You decide.

ethics-1And then there is Ivanka herself, who is a web of conflicts of interest.  When Kellyanne Conway used an interview to promote Ivanka’s product line, sales soared, despite a number of retailers reportedly boycotting her products. And not coincidentally, Ivanka’s company won three new trademarks for its products from China on the very day she dined with President Xi Jinping at her father’s Palm Beach club. Since Trump’s win in November, global sales of her merchandise have more or less gone through the roof.Ivanka-2While Donald Trump is exempt from conflict of interest (with the exception of receiving gifts from foreign states without the consent of Congress under the Emoluments Clause, but that is a whole other post), Jared and Ivanka are not exempted.  Naturally, the family being no stranger to lawsuits and legal entanglements, they have followed the recommendations of their attorneys to try to avoid conflict of interest charges.

Jared has resigned from more than 260 outside positions, including as CEO of the Kushner Companies and publisher of the New York Observer. He has divested or committed to divest approximately 80 holdings owned by himself, his spouse or their minor children.  Ivanka has resigned from all her officer positions with her outside companies, including those with the Trump Organization. She has appointed a company president to manage her day-to-day business operations and turned over the businesses themselves to a trust managed by her brother-in-law and sister-in-law.

Even so, there are still serious ethics concerns regarding the couple because (like Donald Trump himself) they have chosen not to divest all their assets or place them in a blind trust to be sold by the trustee. Jared has retained extensive real estate holdings primarily located in Chicago, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Philadelphia and throughout New Jersey. He has secured lines of credit (some of which are shared with his mother and father) through 10 banks, including Deutsche Bank, Bank of America and Citigroup.

The potential conflicts are complex and far too numerous to list here, but suffice it to say that there is little doubt in my mind they are profiting from their White House positions.  Even though they may have stepped down or aside from their business interests, they still retain ownership and are still making money from them.

So who oversees and monitors these two (and other administration officials) for ethics violations?  The media whistleblowers seems to be the first line of attack, according to an article in NPR:

“Of course, the media, whistleblowers and the courts are key elements of the accountability ecosystem. A number of agencies or government bodies also have a hand in holding presidents and appointees accountable on ethics and conflicts of interest:

Congress – Investigative, Disciplinary

Department Of Justice – Investigative, Disciplinary

Office Of Government Ethics – Advisory

FBI – Investigative

Inspectors General – Investigative, Advisory

White House Counsel’s Office – Advisory, Investigative

Government Accountability Office – Investigative, Advisory”

There are so many potential ethical violations just for these two that it reminds me of the most intricate, involved spider’s web you can possibly imagine.  I am no lawyer, but I already have questions that I believe need investigation, and I would like to see their tax returns for last year, and then in a year see their 2017 returns.  But don’t hold your breath.  The Trumps and the Kushners know their way around the world of legal entanglements.  They came to Washington with purpose … and it was not benevolence or altruism.  Conflict of interest?  I believe so.  Let the press dig their claws into this one … I am awaiting the results.

Breaking News: WH Is Not Cooperating With U.S. Oversight Committee (Mike Flynn)

Never before, even during Watergate, even during Iran-contra, has there been as much blatant disregard for the law, as much blatant conflict-of-interest, as in the current administration. Blogger-friend Gronda has done an excellent job in recapping the latest in a long series of conflicts and ethics violations in the Trump administration. Please take a few minutes to read this synopsis, as I believe this has the potential to turn into a scandal of epic proportions in the coming days. Thank you, Gronda, for your excellent work and for permission to share!

Gronda Morin

Image result for images of elijah cummings Cummings/ Chaffetz

On 4/25/17, both the republican chair Jason Chafftez from Utah and the democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings from Georgia held a press conference to announce that the White House is refusing to cooperate with their investigation into the president’s former National Security Adviser ret. Lt. General Mike Flynn. The U.S, House Intelligence Committee members were requesting documents regarding what information the general disclosed as he was being vetted for this top post but the White House has refused to comply.

As per the 4/25/17 NCRM report by David Badash, “You Simply Cannot Take Money From Russia, Turkey, or Anybody Else’ Chaffetz Says

“House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings say it appears former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn took payments from Russia and Turkey and did not follow the law by asking for and receiving permission to do so. Chairman Chaffetz says if Flynn…

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