Why It’s No Exaggeration To Call Trump A Crime Boss.

If you read the Mueller Report, or follow the news, you know that the Special Counsel’s Office obtained indictments against 34 people and three companies, many of them associated with the Trump campaign. Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen, now sit in prison. Trump National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, is awaiting sentencing. Trump advisor, Roger Stone, is awaiting trial. At least seven other criminal cases have been transferred to US Attorneys. And 14 cases have been referred to other government investigators.

Yet that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the corruption and crime of those tied to Trump. Like any organized crime family, the unsavory and criminal activity of those associated with Trump is widespread.

Consider the fact, that the Mueller team found indications of potential illegal activity by many other Trump associates, including Donald Trump, Jr. But the investigators felt there was not enough evidence to indict noting that many of the Trump team hid behind the 5th Amendment, a web of lies and deceit, the use of signals and innuendo, the use of encrypted communications, and the destruction of evidence. In fact, in its report, the Special Counsel’s Office stated, “The Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.”

Of course, the Mueller Report also lists numerous instances of obstruction of justice for which Trump could be indicted if not for a Department of Justice ruling that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

Not covered by the Mueller Report are the many other instances in which Trump family members, associates and appointees routinely lied to Congress or to the government. Former Attorney General and Senator Jeff Sessions “forgot” about his pre-election and pre-inauguration communications with Russians. There is evidence that Erik Prince lied about his meeting with Russians in the Seychelles. And presidential advisor and Trump son-in-law, Jared Kushner, not only lied to Congress about his contacts with Russians. He was denied top secret security clearance over questions about his family’s business, foreign contacts, and foreign travel.

Trump cabinet members Ryan Zinke, Steve Mnuchin, Ben Carson and Jeff Sessions have all been accused of misusing federal funds for personal benefit. More recently, Elaine Chao, Department of Transportation Secretary and Sen. Mitch McConnell’s wife has been accused of using her position to enrich her family business, Foremost Group. She is also accused of rushing the approval of $78 million in construction projects for Kentucky’s most Republican districts in advance of her husband’s 2020 re-election effort. And it was recently revealed that one of Jared Kushner’s companies received $90 million from an anonymous foreign source, raising questions of corruption and the potential influence of foreign governments in the Trump administration. Of course, Trump’s refusal to divest from his businesses or to place them in a blind trust raises the same questions. Moreover, setting aside Trump’s constant travel to Trump properties, which result in his businesses capturing millions in profits from taxpayer money, he is quite clearly in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause as representatives of foreign governments spend their time and money at Trump properties in hopes of currying favor with the administration.

Yet unethical and potentially illegal behavior is nothing new for Trump. Only the names of his partners in crime have changed.

As landlords, Trump and his father were found guilty of racial discrimination. Trump was also accused of tenant intimidation in an attempt to get tenants to leave rent-protected buildings, finally settling with the tenants and agreeing to government monitoring.

Trump has been accused of hiring undocumented workers as far back as the eighties when he hired undocumented Polish immigrants to destroy the classic Bonwit Teller building to make way for Trump Tower. His Trump Model Management company was accused of hiring undocumented models. Indeed, his current wife Melania was hired as an undocumented model. And, until recently, Trump employed undocumented workers at his golf courses.

Before the bankruptcy of his casinos, Trump was accused of breaking a variety of gambling rules, including failure to disclose a $3.5 million loan from his father. He has been accused of refusing to pay workers and contractors on his many real estate projects, illegally taking charity funds from his Trump Foundation for his personal use, defrauding those who signed up for Trump University, even buying thousands of copies of his own book with money from campaign donors in order to line his own pockets.

In many cases, Trump bullied his accusers with countersuits. And he often paid millions to settle the cases. For example, in the case of Trump University, he settled the resulting lawsuits for a sum of $25 million.

Trump has been linked to several mafia crime families. Trump’s longtime lawyer and mentor, Roy Cohn, even represented the boss of the Genovese crime family. (Perhaps that’s why Trump often uses the language of mobsters, e.g. “rat”.) Further, Russian oligarchs and mafia figures have purchased millions worth of property from Trump, raising suspicions of his involvement in Russian money laundering.

And mafia figures may not be the most unsavory of Trump’s associates.

Elliott Broidy, an RNC official and one of Trump’s top campaign fundraisers, along with his business partner, George Nader, used his influence to buy favor and bribe officials to shape the administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East. Broidy has admitted to paying his former mistress and Playboy model $1.6 million to keep the affair, and the resulting pregnancy and abortion, quiet. And Nader, already a convicted pedophile, was recently arrested for possession and distribution of child porn.

Another Trump associate, Jeffrey Epstein, was convicted of sexually abusing and trafficking underage girls for sex at parties he arranged at his New York townhouse and on his island in St. Thomas. It has been reported that Trump was a regular at Epstein’s parties, raising questions about Trump’s own activities with underage girls. After all, Trump’s affection for young women, even teenagers is well-known. Contestants in Trump’s Miss Teen USA pageant accused him of walking into their dressing room unannounced. And a woman filed suit against both Epstein and Trump accusing them of raping her at a series of sex parties when she was only 13. In addition, Trump has been accused by many others of sexual assault including unwanted groping, climbing into bed with a model unannounced and rape. And, of course, he was famously recorded bragging about his assaults.

The list goes on.

Beware The Politics Of Self-Righteous Zealotry.

For many years, we’ve heard network pundits talk about a “war on Christianity” and call for the US to officially become a Christian nation. Such talk would have made our Founding Fathers cringe. After all, many of them had settled in the US, like some of my ancestors did, as the result of religious persecution in Europe. Our earliest European settlers were Puritans, Huguenots, Quakers, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Jews and others who had fled their homes in search of religious freedom.

Yet, some of the original colonies themselves began imposing their religious views on others, claiming that a particular denomination was the official religion of the colony and taxing all citizens to support that denomination. It was as a result of such discrimination that those who wrote the US Constitution included the wording that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Nevertheless, preying on our citizens’ fear of radical Islamic terrorism, many of our political candidates continue to call for the US to be named a Christian nation. One wants to prohibit certain immigrants based on their religion. Others want to “return our nation to its Christian values.”

That may be good politics. But it is dangerous policy. After all, almost every atrocity in the world has been committed in the name of righteousness – crimes committed as the result of zealotry for an ideology based on the ends justifying the means.

Such atrocities have been committed in the name of Christianity, Islam, Judaism…even Buddhism. But the problem doesn’t just lie with religion. Out of the same kind of self-righteous zealotry, they have also been committed in the name of communism, fascism and capitalism. Almost always, such crimes are not considered crimes by those committing them – the true believers believe that they are doing the right thing for their religion, their nation or their children. Such was the case when the Bush administration zealously decided to impose democracy in Iraq resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands (some say hundreds of thousands) Iraqis.

There have been examples of other destructive examples of self-righteous zealotry in the US. The KKK murdered blacks under the cross of Christianity. Senator Joe McCarthy accused, investigated, blacklisted and imprisoned many who failed to demonstrate that they were not communists or communist sympathizers (it’s always difficult to prove a negative). The same mentality led to the John Birch Society which believed both the Soviet Union and the US were led by a cabal of internationalists, bankers and corrupt politicians. Its leader even accused President Eisenhower of being a communist. The same rightwing conservatives wrapped themselves in the cloak of Christianity to draw greater distinctions between righteous Americans and the godless communists. To distinguish themselves from communism, they pushed through legislation replacing the original national motto “E Pluribus Unum” – from many one – with “In God We Trust.” They added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. And congressional members of The Fellowship, aka The Family, instituted the National Prayer Breakfast at the capitol, a quasi-governmental Christian event that has been held every year since 1953.

Much of the conservative-based zealotry was driven underground after Edward R. Murrow focused attention on the abuses of McCarthyism and after William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater shunned the John Birch Society. But the ideology never went away. As a result, we are now seeing conservatives again using religion to divide. The movement again raised its ugly head with the “Moral Majority” of the 70s and 80s. About the same time, the GOP’s “southern strategy” reached out to racist southern Democrats who were outraged by the Civil Rights Act. GOP politicians also latched onto the issues of abortion and the so-called “sanctity of marriage” to embolden the “righteous” and further divide us. And they claim that any attempt to prevent the establishment of Christianity as the official state religion – the placement of Christian symbols and the institution of mandatory Christian prayers in public schools and government meetings – is a “war on Christianity.” You can hear such accusations at any GOP presidential debate, at most GOP rallies and on GOP media such as Fox News Channel.

Now you may wonder, what harm could come from institutionalizing Christian values in our government? The answer lies in history – the history of Christian Protestants and others being persecuted and driven out of their homes by Catholic Christians. That’s not to say that Catholicism is any worse, or better, than other religions. It’s just that one person’s religious values can easily become another person’s religious persecution.

Though it is true that the US has long been predominately Christian, it has never been a Christian nation, and it never should be. When we hear politicians like Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and others call for special treatment of those who believe in one religion over another, or over those who believe in no religion at all, we should all be mindful that our Founding Fathers created our Constitution and our government to end tyranny, including tyranny by the majority.

To learn how a government led by a self-righteous authoritarian like Trump might look like, I encourage you to read Thom Hartmann’s excellent essay for AlterNet.org.

No Religious Test.

Dr. Ben Carson’s recent statement that no Muslim should ever be allowed to become president of the US not only reveals his willingness as an evangelical Christian to discriminate against a significant portion of the US population. It also reveals his ignorance of the Constitution. To wit, Article VI states, “…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

If that statement is not clear enough, the First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” The author of this amendment, James Madison, believed it necessary since many of the original states had not only favored one denomination over another. Many of the states collected taxes from their citizens on behalf of their established religions. For example, Georgia, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia had established the Anglican church as their official religion. Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire were Congregationalist. While Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island had no established religions. Moreover, each of the states were populated with citizens who practiced an array of other religions.

Further, many of the Founding Fathers declared no preferred religion. Some, like Thomas Jefferson were deists, meaning that they believed in a Creator, but did not believe in organized religion. Indeed, Jefferson had gone so far as to create his own version of the Bible, eliminating the Old Testament and all of the passages detailing the accounts of revelations from God. He chose to focus, instead, on the teachings of Jesus calling it The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.

Given all of this, it’s preposterous to believe that the Founders ever intended the US to be a Christian nation…or a nation favoring any religion.

Yet, today, right wing evangelicals would have us believe that the US was founded exclusively on Christian principles. When more educated people deny their claims, the evangelicals then cry that “Christianity is under attack” and “the only thing that will return the US to its former greatness is to reaffirm its Christian principles.”

Hogwash!

For one thing, as I’ve explained, the Founders expressly forbade any established religion or faith. Second, studies have shown that atheists are actually more moral than their Christian counterparts. Studies have also shown that, rather than Christians being under attack, atheists are the group most subject to discrimination.

If you doubt that, ask yourself if an avowed atheist or a Buddhist or a Taoist or a Hindu or a Muslim could ever be elected President of the United States. Ask yourself what would happen if an atheist refused to issue marriage licenses to Christians based on religious freedom in the same way Kim Davis has discriminated against same sex marriage. Note how all of our candidates fall over one another to show that one is more “Christian” than another. With all of the candidates’ declarations of God Bless America, the answer should be obvious.

Clearly, we have established a religious test for office contrary to the Constitution. And I think the Founding Fathers would be horrified.

A Voter’s Guide To The GOP Debate.

Now that the defacto head of the Republican Party, Roger Ailes of Fox News Channel, has announced the participants in the first GOP presidential debate, here are a few things you should know about the candidates:

Donald Trump – You already know he’s rich (he tells everyone at every opportunity) and that he’s a bully and blowhard. But did you know that, despite inheriting a fortune from his father, he has filed for bankruptcy protection four times? Or that, on multiple occasions, it has been reported that he has ties to the Mob? Or that Trump was the target of a 1979 bribery investigation? Or that virtually every statement he has made during his presidential campaign has been a lie? To learn more, watch the documentary at TrumpTheMovie.com.

Jeb Bush – You know that he is the son of George HW Bush and the brother of George W Bush. But do you know that it is well-documented that he actively subverted our democratic process by helping to steal the 2000 presidential election in Florida? Did you know that he has the same neo-con foreign policy advisors as his brother – the ones who led us into an unnecessary and unjustifiable war in Iraq? Did you know that the job growth he claims as governor of Florida came almost exclusively from the housing bubble? And that, when the bubble burst, the median income for Floridians declined by $5,700 – double that of the nation as a whole? Or that 200,000 fewer Florida families own their homes than in 2005?

Scott Walker – The only presidential candidate currently under indictment. John Dean, general counsel for the Nixon administration has said of Walker, “I find him more Nixonian than even Richard Nixon himself…a conservative without a conscience.” After Walker was elected, he has shown himself to be the ultimate bully and dictator. In addition to stripping state employee unions of collective bargaining rights, he led the gerrymandering of legislative districts, stacked the state’s Supreme Court then rewrote campaign finance laws and tried to narrow the open records law.

And what about Wisconsin’s economy under Walker? Thanks to GOP-style tax cuts, the state’s spending exceeds revenue, the state’s GDP ratio has dropped to -9.9 percent and the state’s federal spending to revenue ratio has nearly doubled. Wisconsin now receives $1.59 for each $1.00 it contributes in taxes.

Mike Huckabee – Once a fairly moderate governor, Huckabee seems to have gone nuts. Maybe it’s because you have to be batcrap crazy to win in the GOP. Maybe he spent too much time on Fox News Channel. Or maybe he’s been hearing too many voices. He calls evolution a theory (By the same standard, gravity is just a theory), not an established fact. He doesn’t believe in gay marriage, contraception, abortion or transgender rights. He wants to change the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards. He thinks it would be great if Americans were forced at gunpoint, if necessary, to listen to every message from David Barton (evangelist and author). And he is delusional enough to believe that most of our Founding Fathers were clergymen. (Yeah, that’s why they called for separation of Church and State.)

Marco Rubio – The GOP’s great Latino hope, Rubio has long claimed to be a refugee of Castro’s Cuba. Only the records show that his family left Cuba more than two years before the Cuban Revolution. He doesn’t believe man has contributed to climate change. He doesn’t believe in the minimum wage, abortion or employer coverage of contraception. He does, however, support comprehensive immigration reform. And though he receives a handsome salary as a US Senator, he moonlights as a university teacher, causing him to miss 99 Senate votes in 4 years – 8.3 percent!

Ben Carson – He’s smart and a celebrated surgeon, but when it comes to politics, he’s a wacko as they come. He supports a flat tax (he calls it a “proportional tax” in reference to the biblical tithe) which would destroy the poor and the middle class. He is stridently anti-gay rights, believing homosexuality is a choice and he likens gay marriage to pedophilia and bestiality. He said the Affordable Care Act is “the worst thing that has happened to this nation since slavery.” His answer to Obamacare is creating a health savings account for every American at birth. Apparently, when the money in the account has run out (and for many it will), you die.

Rand Paul – Anti-government, anti-tax, anti-abortion, anti-gun control and pro-states’ rights. He believes the primary Constitutional function of the federal government is national defense. ‘Nuff said.

Ted Cruz – Mr. filibuster and Tea Party darling. Cruz’s only real accomplishments prior to the Senate were to strengthen the NRA, help prepare testimony for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and help steal the 2000 election for George W Bush. In the Senate, about all he has done is to shut down the government, sponsor bills to repeal Obamacare and lie. Of the 50 statements fact-checked by Politifact Texas, 35 have been rated mostly false, false or pants on fire false.

Chris Christie – A bully who showed his true colors with Bridgegate, the conspiracy to punish a mayor who did not support his re-election. He also sold out his constituents by allowing Exxon Mobil to pay less than 3 percent of the cost to clean up the environmental contamination at two sites. And, under Christie’s leadership, New Jersey’s credit rating has been downgraded nine times in five years.

John Kasich – Literally, one of only three GOP candidates (the others, Jim Gilmore and George Pataki, were not included in the debate) who has a history of success and working across the aisle. Of course, that means he doesn’t stand a chance of getting the GOP nomination.

So there you have it. That’s the list of leading GOP presidential candidates. Proceed with caution.