Sunday, March 26, 2017

Could a Supreme Court Case End Gerrymandering?

Here in Virginia - and North Carolina and Wisconsin and other states - Republicans have managed to control state legislatures and congressional seats through gerrymandering - drawing districts that make Republican victories more likely while packing Democrat votes into  the smallest number of districts possible.  The Virginia Constitution requires voting districts be "compact" yet what one sees are insanely drawn districts, many of which are not even fully contiguous.  Last year some of Virginia's grotesquely drawn congressional districts were redrawn and Democrats won an additional congressional seat.  Currently, state districts are under court challenge and, depending on the outcome, the redrawn maps could be a major blow to Republicans' disproportionate hold on the Virginia General Assembly.  As state wide elections - including the 2016 presidential election - there are more Democrat votes than Republican votes.  Gerrymandering has been the tool that has distorted the make up of the legislature and congressional seats.  A piece in Salon looks at a case pending in the United States Supreme Court that has the potential to cause a cataclysmic change in drawing district maps.  Here are excerpts:
Gerrymandering, the process of drawing distorted legislative districts to undermine democracy, is as old as our republic itself. Just as ancient: the Supreme Court’s unwillingness to get involved and determine a standard for when a partisan gerrymander has gone too far.
That might be changing. During the 2000s, Justice Anthony Kennedy expressed openness to a judicial remedy, if an evenhanded measure could be devised to identify when aggressive redistricting was no longer just politics as usual.
When the pivotal swing justice looks for a standard, law professors and redistricting nerds get to work. There are now several cases related to the extreme maps drawn after the 2010 census – by Republicans in Wisconsin and North Carolina, and by Democrats in Maryland – on a collision course with the Supreme Court.
The case with the most promise to deliver a lasting judicial remedy is Whitford v. Gill, from Wisconsin, which advances a fascinating standard called the “efficiency gap.” It is the brainchild of law professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos and political scientist Eric McGhee, but has an elegant simplicity that is easily understandable outside of academia. If gerrymandering is the dark art of wasting the other party’s votes – either by “packing” them into as few districts as possible, or “cracking” them into sizable minorities in many seats – the efficiency gap compares wasted votes that do not contribute to victory.
In November, a panel of federal judges smiled upon this standard and ruled that the state assembly districts drawn by a Republican legislature in the Whitford case represented an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. “Although Wisconsin’s natural political geography plays some role in the apportionment process, it simply does not explain adequately the sizable disparate” advantage held by Republicans under these new maps, wrote the court.
The judges ordered new state assembly maps in time for the 2018 election – a big deal, considering these district lines have helped give Republicans their largest legislative majorities in several decades, despite years in which Democratic candidates receive more votes. But just as important, it accepted the “efficiency gap” rationale and sent it toward Justice Kennedy. If Kennedy finds it workable, it would become much more difficult for politicians to choose their own voters and rig maps in their favor.
They were very aware of the kind of information [about the behind-the-scenes GOP redistricting chicanery] that was available in discovery. We knew we had a lot of smoking-gun evidence that would indicate partisan intent, and it turned out that we had even more than we thought. But by then we also had the results of the 2012 elections, where Democrats got a majority of the statewide vote but only 39 percent of the seats. By any measure for partisan effect, that was pretty good data.
[T]he efficiency gap measures the way that a party favored to win does so by wasting as few votes as possible – voters that can then be spread into other districts. The party that’s disfavored by the maps wins their seats by a substantial margin. Those voters are packed into that district. In a cracked district, there are a lot of wasted votes for the losing party – who might get 45 percent – but very few for the winning party. That’s how I explain it.
The efficiency gap nicely sums it up – there are many more Democratic seats that are won with 75-percent-plus of the votes than Republican seats. There are very few swing districts. The Democrats’ votes are packed, cracked and wasted. Then there are a bunch of Republican seats [where] they win around 55 or 60 percent – they win many more seats, much more efficiently.
All the data shows that gerrymandering is only getting worse, by both sides. It’s a problem, and a national one, of single-party control.
Right now, Republicans are doing it more than Democrats. That’s because more states have single-party Republican control than [are controlled by] Democrats. But I’m not claiming Democrats are holier than thou. The courts can shake that up a bit, and they need to. But it’s only going to set some limits. It doesn’t mean it’s the end of partisan gerrymandering.
One can only hope that the Supreme Court embraces this analysis and sets the stage for redistricting across the country.

Trump Appoints LGBT Civil Rights Opponent to lead HHS Civil Rights Office

It seems as if not a day goes by when Der Trumpenführer isn't doing something to deliver on his promise to Christofascists to do all in his power to role back LGBT civil rights.  Yes, some times with the Russia treason investigations and the now failed Obamacare repeal effort dominating the news, these efforts get lost from the mainstream media's coverage.  That, however, doesn't mean that dangerous and insidious things are not happening.  A case in point is the appointment of anti-gay extremist Roger Severino to lead the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights.  Talk about putting the fox in charge of the hen house.  Nothing good can come of this appointment.  Meanwhile, "friends" who voted for Trump continue to have their heads up their ass and tell me that I have "nothing to worry about."  Think Progress looks at this disturbing development.  Here are excerpts:
Earlier this week, according to a statement by several progressive groups*, President Donald Trump appointed Roger Severino, a leading anti-LGBT activist, to lead the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights. In doing so, Trump potentially gives Severino an opportunity to dismantle civil rights protections he criticized as a staffer at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
In 2016, for example, Severino co-authored a Heritage report criticizing proposed Obama administration rules preventing discrimination against transgender patients within the health care system. Protecting trans people against such discrimination, Severino warned, would “penalize medical professionals and health care organizations that, as a matter of faith, moral conviction, or professional medical judgment, believe that maleness and femaleness are biological realities to be respected and affirmed, not altered or treated as diseases.”
[I]n 2007, Severino published a law review article entitled “Or for Poorer? How Same-Sex Marriage Threatens Religious Liberty,” where he claimed that marriage equality would lead to “both government compulsion of religious institutions to provide financial or other support for same‐sex married couples and government withdrawal of public benefits from those institutions that oppose same‐sex marriage.”
As the head of the HHS civil rights office, Severino will not only be able to push from within the department to dismantle existing protections for LGBT Americans, he could also potentially push for special rights for anti-LGBT employers and health providers — such as regulations explicitly permitting these employers and providers to engage in discrimination if they believe that their faith requires them to do so.   
Severino is cut from the same cloth as Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, who likewise believes that the myth and legend based religious sensibilities of Christian extremists out weigh the very real needs and civil rights of LGBT Americans - and countless women as well.  Again, nothing good will come form this appointment.

The Real Reason Behind the GOP's Rush to Repeal Obamacare

There was in truth only one real motivation behind the GOP's thankfully failed Obamacare "repeal and replace" effort:huge tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans.   Yes, some of the most right wing Republicans are anti-government and want the government out of the healthcare arena completely, but the net effect of a total repeal with no replacement would be the same, namely huge tax cuts for corporations and the truly wealthy.  What I found so utterly dishonest was the GOP claim that tax credits would have allowed individuals the "freedom to choose the coverage best for them."  The reality is that the tax cuts were so inadequate that there'd be only one "choice" available - to have no coverage.  Even if working class individuals were relieved of all income tax obligations, in most instances, it would still not provide the funding needed for healthcare coverage.  The "replacement" offered also ignored the reality that many employees with coverage offered through their jobs fail to secure coverage for one reason: they cannot afford to add coverage for their spouse and/or children due to the expense.   

Like so much else in the GOP agenda, what Paul Ryan and Der Trumpenführer were peddling was one huge lie.  Voters well for it during the 2016 elections, but with every passing day, the abortion known as the American Health Care Act was increasingly recognized as a con job that would harm millions of Americans.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at why the GOP was in such a hurry.  It also suggests what any "tax reform" package offered up by the GOP will have as its underlying motive.  Here are highlights:
Why were Republicans rushing to vote on a health-care plan that they'd barely finished drafting, that budget scorekeepers hadn't had a chance to fully evaluate, and that, insofar as people did know about it, was widely despised?
In part, it's because their plan was so unpopular and because it got more unpopular the more people learned about it. But it's also because only by rushing to reshape a full sixth of the American economy without knowing exactly how they would be reshaping it would Republicans be able to use health care to pave the way for the rest of their agenda, including tax reform. In other words, the GOP didn't want to let a detail like tens of millions of people losing their health insurance get in the way of two tax cuts for the rich.
Here's what we knew about the Republican plan. The latest version that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had a chance to analyze would have, over the course of 10 years, cut taxes by $1 trillion, disproportionately benefiting the rich; cut Medicaid spending by $839 billion, exclusively harming the poor and sick; and cut the Affordable Care Act's health insurance subsidies by about $300 billion, mostly hurting older people of modest means. Add it all up, and the CBO estimated that 24 million people would have lost their health insurance as a result. Not only that, but premiums would have increased 15 percent to 20 percent more than they otherwise would have in the next four years. . . 
This wasn't just a matter of higher premiums and higher deductibles, though. Trumpcare also would have repealed the “essential health benefits” that plans are required to cover now. States would have been allowed to write their own rules, so, depending on where you lived, insurance companies might have been able to sell you “insurance” that didn't cover hospitalizations, prescription drugs, maternity care, mental health care and preventive care, and also imposed annual and lifetime limits on your benefits. 
The surprising thing, then, isn't that as few as 17 percent of people approved of the American Health Care Act. It's that as many as 17 percent did.
But there's a reason the GOP was pushing a bill that would have taken everything people don't like about the health-care system and made it worse. That's the fact that it would have allowed them to pass two permanent tax cuts for the rich. Anyone, you see, can pass a tax cut that expires after 10 years. But if you want to make it last — and you don't have 60 votes in the Senate — then you need to find a way to pay for it (or at least look like you did). Taking health insurance away from poor and sick people would have done just that for the Obamacare taxes, which primarily hit people in the top 1 or 2 percent. 
[T]he combination of tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the poor that was the GOP health-care plan would have been a reverse Robin Hood that redistributed income from people making $50,000 or less to mostly those making $200,000 or more.
If Republicans had repealed the Affordable Care Act's $1 trillion worth of taxes before they revised taxes, that's $1 trillion less they'd have to come up with to make it look like money wasn't being lost. Now, without those phantom savings, tax restructuring, Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) admitted, will be “more difficult.” Not that it was ever going to be easy. After all, the $1 trillion they were trying to save with a “border adjustment tax” seems to be on political life support, since every major retailer, including big GOP donors such as Walmart, is opposed to it.
Republicans will either have to scale back their ambitions for how deeply they will cut taxes or how long they will. Whatever they choose, though, the top tax rate isn't going to stay under 30 percent.  And for the GOP, that's the real tragedy of 24 million people keeping their health insurance.
So why do working class whites who would have been screwed royally by the GOP "replacement" plan vote Republican?  For many of the rich, it is obvious: greed and self-enrichment via tax cuts.  But why the rest?  The answer is the same one that Republicans have used for many years now.  Appeal to racism and white nationalism, generate hatred due to loss of white privilege, use abortion as a snare for right wing Christians, and demonize those deemed "other."  It's the same method used over and over again by the GOP to get individuals to vote against their own best interests.  What's amazing is that so many are so gullible - or perhaps stupid is the better word - that they keep falling for the same ploy. When are these people going to wake the hell up? 

Sunday Morning Male Beauty -Pt 1

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Quote of the Day - Calling Out Christofascist Misogyny

My blogger friend Bob Felton - a straight man living in North Carolina who is an engineer by training - and I have never met.  We have read each other's blogs for years now and occasionally exchange e-mails or Facebook communications.  Like me, Bob holds a very dim view of religion, especially fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity.   He credits me with changing his thinking on gays and gay rights.  He often comes up with very apt summations of the evils of religion and the foulness of the "godly folk."  He hit a bulls-eye with this quote responding to one of my posts:
WE DO KNOW now that there is a lot more to sexuality than plumbing, that sexual orientation is a biological switch that is set before birth; virtually every biologist and medical researcher on earth will tell you that. The refusal to accept that, and instead constrict the lives of others in deference to the things written by some Bronze Age anonymity, goes to character.
Let me elaborate so that there is no confusion about what I’m saying: When Pastor Bubba or your Auntie Grizelda howls and bellows that it doesn’t matter what scientists say because Leviticus says everything anybody needs to know about the subject, he or she is exhibiting bad character and decent, educated adults should avoid them.
In addition to taxing churches, one of the main ways the evils of fundamentalist Christianity is to make its adherents social and political outcasts.  Truly decent people should avoid them and give them no deference whatsoever.  

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Kansas Republicans Vote to Expand Medicaid Under Obamacare

Even as Republican efforts in the House of Representatives to repeal Obamacare were crashing and burning, Kansas Republicans were taking steps to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.  Why? Because it is backed by the hospital industry and the business community and because it will aid many of Kansas' poorer citizens.  This is a sharp turn around from the Kansas GOP's agenda that cut taxes and cut funding to public education and other critical programs only to leave the state a financial basket case, proving that a "pure" GOP economic plan is the road to disaster. A piece in Mother Jones looks at this ironic approach by Kansas Republicans that is moving forward in spite of the threatened veto by nutcase GOP Gov. Sam Brownback, an architect of the state's economic and budgetary disaster.  Here are excerpts:
On the same day the House was supposed to pass a bill dismantling Medicaid, Kansas Republicans took a big step toward expanding the program in their state.
In a voice vote Thursday morning, a committee in the Kansas Senate approved legislation that would enable the state to take advantage of an Obamacare provision offering Medicaid health insurance coverage to a wider group of poor people. The federal government would provide the vast majority of the funding.
Many deep-red states like Kansas have rejected Medicaid expansion based largely on their ideological objections to Obamacare. But as I reported earlier this week, a new bloc of moderate Republicans in the state—backed by the health care industry and business community—have teamed up with Democrats to push Medicaid expansion. They point out that the state has given up, to date, nearly $2 billion in federal funds that could have helped both improve the health of the state's low-income communities while also boosting its economy.
The Kansas House overwhelming passed Medicaid expansion earlier this year. The full state Senate is expected to vote on the issue Monday, according to KCUR. But they would likely need to cobble together a veto-proof majority, since Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has vocally opposed to adopting the program.

More coverage on this development is here at Mother Jones:
According to a study by the nonpartisan Kansas Health Institute, about 152,000 people would join KanCare, the state's Medicaid program, if Kansas adopted the ACA expansion. Roughly 80,000 of those people currently lack health insurance coverage, while 71,000 would ditch their current coverage to jump onto Medicaid.
Now, Eplee has joined a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats that is trying to make that happen. They want their state to accept everything Obamacare has to offer before their brethren at the national level can tear it apart—and they've got the state business and medical communities on their side. Voters agree, too, with 82 percent supporting Medicaid expansion in a poll sponsored by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
"I'm out here in the rural area practicing [medicine], and I see it every day," Eplee says. "When I gave my testimony [in favor of Medicaid expansion], I gave examples of the working poor and their inability to get health insurance and to get the help they need. It puts them in very dire, precarious financial situations of being made medically bankrupt by one illness or one disease. It just takes one event, and then they're wiped out financially."
When the Kansas House collected testimony on the issue earlier this year, more than 160 organizations and individuals supported expansion. Just four offered testimony that opposed the idea—mostly national conservative organizations.
Koesten was part of a group of moderate Republicans that last year reclaimed control of the state legislature from the far right of the party. Five years earlier, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback had waged an electoral war to purge the party of legislators who opposed his ambitious tax cuts, ushering in a conservative takeover executed with the help of the Koch brothers' organization Americans for Prosperity. But after Brownback's policies left an enormous hole in the state budget, the moderates roared back in the 2016 elections. Moderate Republicans primaried sitting conservatives, and Democrats knocked off others. Out of 165 total lawmakers in the state Senate and House, there are 49 new members this year.
The consequences became clear late last month, when the state House voted 81-44 in favor of Medicaid expansion. "There was just enough change in the primary and the general election that tweaked the control over to the moderate side, where this was unstoppable at this point in time," explains Robert St. Peter, president and CEO of the Kansas Health Institute.
The hospitals have good reason to be upset about the money the state is leaving on the table. Many hospitals, especially in rural parts of the state, are under increasing financial strain from treating uninsured patients. In 2015, Mercy Hospital in Independence, Kansas, closed. Independence has just 9,500 residents, but the closure attracted media coverage from around the state. . . . an industry advisory group, found that out of 107 rural hospitals in Kansas, 31 are considered "vulnerable" and at risk of closure. The report didn't name the hospitals in trouble, leaving each community worried that its hospital could be next.

Kansas is one of the last places one would expect to see Republicans regaining a grasp on objective reality and actually pushing policies that help poorer citizens.  It is the exact opposite of Paul Ryan's reverse Robin Hood agenda. 

Trump Supporters - Today's Equivalent to 1930's/1940's Germans?

As I have recounted, I have little sympathy for Trump supporters who, in my view, were motivated by foul emotions that boil down to hatred towards others and irresponsible selfishness.  With the collapse of Republicans' Obamacare "repeal and replacement," effort, many Trump supporters may dodge the bullet of losing healthcare coverage.  But there is much else that may yet come home to roost for them before the Trump/Pence nightmare is over.  Trump's proposed budget cuts could hit Appalachia especially hard and poor/working class whites who voted for Trump may yet pay a high price for giving into their racism and embrace of ignorance, not to mention their open willingness to ignore the uglier aspects of  the Trump/GOP agenda.  Besides seeking to destroy the social safety net, this agenda is marked by its effort to dehumanize non-whites, LGBT citizens, and non-Christians. Personally, I cannot grasp the mind set that willingly sees others as less than human and/or undeserving of what each of us wants for ourselves and our loved ones.  Worse of all, is the participation of supposed Christians in this open hatred of those deemed "other."  The phenomenon is especially foul when directed at children who had no role in determining the race of their birth, the religion of their parents or where they were born.  Transgender youth are another disturbing target of Republicans and these self-anointed "godly folks." 

How does one buy into such malignant treatment of others?  An op-ed in the New York Times offers a possible glimpse.  The piece is authored by the granddaughter of a German member of the Nazi Party in the late 1930's and first half of the 1940's. It focuses on the deliberate refusal to admit the horrors being done and the refrain of "we did not know" despite all the evidence that shows that it was impossible not to know.  I see a similar mindset and denial in "friends" who voted for Trump - some of whom I have now severed relationships with - and who truly should have known better. Here are op-ed highlights:
My grandparents were Nazis. It took me until recently to be able to say — or write — this. I used to think of and refer to them as “ordinary Germans,” as if that was a distinct and morally neutral category. But like many “ordinary Germans,” they were members of the Nazi Party — they joined in 1937, before it was mandatory.
Understanding why and how this woman I knew and loved was swept up in a movement that became synonymous with evil has been, for me, a lifelong question.
They joined the Nazi Party to be youth leaders in an agricultural education program called the Landjahr, or “year on the land,” in which teenagers got agricultural training. My grandmother always maintained that she had joined the Nazis as an “idealist” drawn to the vision of rebuilding Germany, returning to a simpler time and, perversely, promoting equality.
In the Landjahr, sons and daughters of factory workers would live and work side by side with sons and daughters of aristocrats and wealthy industrialists. She liked the idea of returning to “traditional” German life, away from the confusing push and pull of a global economy.
Through research, I understand the Landjahr program was part of Hitler’s larger “Blut und Boden” (“blood and soil”) vision of making Germany a racially pure, agrarian society. The “racially pure” part was not something my grandmother ever mentioned.
“We didn’t know” was a kind of mantra for her on the long walks we took when I visited her at the farm she lived on, not far from where she grew up. “But didn’t you hear what Hitler was saying?” I would ask, grappling with the moral paradox of a loving grandmother who had been a Nazi.
My grandmother would shrug and answer something like, “He said a lot of things — I didn’t listen to all of them.” . . . . And anyway, she was focused on her own problems, on making ends meet and, once the war began, protecting her children.
This insistence on her own ignorance was an excuse, and I didn’t and still don’t accept it. It is impossible that she wouldn’t have known of Hitler’s virulent anti-Semitism and the Nazis’ objective of ousting Jews, whom Hitler had falsely (but successfully) linked to a Bolshevik terrorist threat. But did she follow what she knew of Hitler’s plan to its horrific, unimaginable end? In the late 1930s there was talk of sending Jews to Madagascar and to “settlements” in the east. But even if she believed this, why wasn’t she appalled at the injustice? At the dangerous stripping of rights?
In German there are two words for knowing: “wissen,” which is associated with wisdom and learning, and “kennen,” which is like being acquainted. Acquaintance is, by definition, a surface understanding, susceptible to manipulation.
When you are “acquainted with” something it’s much easier to see only part of the whole. Especially if the other half of what you hear and see is appealing. Hitler brought back jobs and opportunity, restored national pride and told seductive, simplifying lies . . . .
“But what did you think when you started hearing the rumors about concentration camps?” I would press her. “Didn’t you ever listen to the foreign news reports?”
“Allied propaganda” was my grandmother’s answer. That’s what Hitler said it was. And she, like many Germans, trusted him. Her trust, apparently, relieved her of the need to understand.
My grandmother heard what she wanted from a leader who promised simple answers to complicated questions. She chose not to hear and see the monstrous sum those answers added up to. And she lived the rest of her life with the knowledge of her indefensible complicity.

"Friends" who voted for Trump would be most upset to be likened to Nazi Party members, but in my view the parallels are on point.  They heard what they wanted to hear, made a deliberate effort not to know the truth by remaining in the Fox News/Breitbart bubble, and some sadly bought into the racism and white supremacy hook line and sinker.  They are complicit in a foul agenda and, if FBI investigations reveal Trump/Pence collusion with Russia, treason.  They deserve no sympathy, no efforts to be understood and they need to be held accountable. 

It's Time to Follow the Russian Money

I have worked with the FBI on several occasions in the past.  All of these cases involved real estate and financial improprieties and what ultimately constituted wire fraud and receipt of illicit funds.  On one occasion I was a witness in a federal court trial and in the others, I was the real estate expert that literally gave FBI special agents and .attorneys in the U. S. Attorneys office a tutorial, if you will, on real estate transactions and who money and document recordings should be done if a transaction is above board. One of the targets received a 30 year sentence. When all else fails, often wire fraud can be the hook to take down crooked real estate players.

All of this brings me to the topic of Russian money and how it flowed into numerous Trump properties - a post from  roughly a week ago noted the almost $100 million that had flowed into Trump properties in South Florida - and how Trump associates are alleged to have been swimming in Kremlin directed monies.  As in the cases I worked on with the FBI, often the flow of monies can build a fuller picture of what is really going on and who is receiving illicit funds, often knowingly by those who viewed themselves as smarter than everyone else and above the law.  Sound like Donald Trump?  A column in the Washington Post looks at the need for the FBI and IRS to "follow the money."  Here are excerpts:
As the Watergate probe was heating up in the summer of 1973, the special prosecutor’s office gained a silent partner: the Treasury Department’s Internal Revenue Service. The Watergate scandal had engulfed the activities of corporations and corporate officials. An IRS investigation found tax violations committed with campaign contributions to the 1972 presidential campaign of Richard M. Nixon.
With information gained from the IRS, the special prosecutor’s probe resulted in 18 corporate officials and 17 corporations pleading guilty to violations of campaign contribution laws.
This week, FBI Director James B. Comey told Congress that the bureau is “investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”
Based upon what has come to light thus far, expect the FBI to be joined by Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and the IRS. They are the agencies best equipped to conduct financial investigations into any possible crimes dealing with or motivated by money — as in money laundering.
Case in point: The Post’s March 21 article on a Ukrainian lawmaker’s release of financial documents allegedly showing that former Trump aide Paul Manafort laundered payments from the party of an ex-leader of Ukraine with ties to Russia using accounts in Belize and Kyrgyzstan.
If the financial documents are accurate and, as alleged by Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko, Manafort falsified an invoice to a Belize company to legitimize a $750,000 payment to himself, then the FBI and Treasury may come calling. . . . . Treasury agents, the Associated Press reported , have already obtained information about offshore transactions involving Manafort in connection with a federal anti-corruption investigation into his work in Eastern Europe.
The Financial Times reported in October that an investigation that it conducted had turned up evidence of ties between one Trump venture and an alleged international money-laundering network. Title deeds, bank records and correspondence showed that a Kazakh family accused of laundering hundreds of millions of dollars bought apartments in a Manhattan building part-owned by Trump and pursued business ventures with one of his partners.
Real estate provides a safe haven for overseas investors. It has few reporting requirements and is a preferred way to move cash of questionable provenance. Amid the turmoil, buyers found a dearth of available projects. Trump World Tower, opened in 2001, became a prominent depository of Russian money.”
Trump may be correct when he says he has no money in Russia and has never invested there. He can’t say, however, that Russians haven’t invested in his real estate properties.
His son Donald Jr. said no less, claiming in 2008 that Russian investments were “pouring in” to Trump’s business ventures.
So the feds must “follow the money trail” wherever it leads. Check records, bank accounts and real estate files where laundered money can ooze like water through a sponge. Who gave it, who got it, and when? Where is it now? And what was received in return?
Can federal agents under Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin count on Mnuchin’s defense against outside interference?
Congress strongly protected the integrity of federal investigations into Watergate. What about now?

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1