Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Something to Know - 19 March

Today's HCR has the economic pluses of the Biden Administration out there to show the improvement since his predecessor's reign.   The remainder of the article lays out the hardships that Trump has created for himself by his self-made sea of indictments.    As his lawyers have now pointed out, he cannot meet the conditions of paying the $454 + million in the NY State case, and he has one week to pony up or suffer the consequences.   Trump is now bringing Paul Manafort back into his campaign, either to run it  or advise.  Manafort was convicted and sentenced to prison for his misdeeds the last time Trump had him run his campaign.   There are two troubling things about Manfort; (1) his position in the Trump camp, and (2) his association with Kremlin oligarchs and Russian money.   Trump's association with Russian dark money and his need for immediate cash to pay his legal obligations should worry us.  If a flow of international money (especially Saudi or Russian) is placed into Trump's go-fund-me coffer, the office of the President would be subject to a very foul taste of outside influence.   The FBI should be vigilant in watching any flow of money.

Heather Cox Richardson from Letters from an American heathercoxrichardson@substack.com 

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It seems to me that the news tends to be slow on weekends during the Biden administration, while Mondays are a firehose. (In contrast, Trump's people tended to dump news in the middle of the night, after Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity's show was over, which may or may not have been a coincidence.) 

So, lots going on today as the Biden administration continues to make the case that a democratic government can work for ordinary Americans while Trump and his supporters insist that a country run by such an administration is an apocalyptic nightmare. 

First, economic analyst Steven Rattner reported today that according to The Economist, since the end of 2019 the American economy has grown about 8%, while the European Union has grown about 3%, Japan 1%, and Britain not at all. Rattner and economist Brendan Duke reported that entrepreneurship in the U.S. is booming, with 5.2 million "likely employer" business applications filed between January 2021 and December 2023, more than a 33% increase over those filed between 2017 and 2019. 

Economists Justin Wolfers and Arin Dube noted that, as Wolfers wrote, "[f]or the first time in forever, real wage gains are going to those who need them most." Wages have gone up for all but the top 20% of Americans, whose wages have fallen, reducing inequality. 

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) head Lina Khan announced that after the FTC challenged a set of AstraZeneca inhaler patents last September as being improperly listed, today AstraZeneca said it would cap patients' out-of-pocket costs for its inhalers at $35, down from hundreds. Earlier this month, Boehringer Ingelheim did the same.

The Environmental Protection Agency today announced it was banning asbestos, which is linked to more than 40,000 deaths a year in the U.S. and was already partly banned, but which is still used in a few products. More than 50 other countries already ban it. 

Also today, President Joe Biden issued an executive order to advance women's health research to integrate women's health into federal research initiatives, strengthening data collection and making funding available for research in a comprehensive effort to equalize attention to men's and women's health across their lifespans. The federal government did not require women's health to be included in federally funded medical research until 1993. In a speech today, First Lady Jill Biden recalled that in the early 1970s, researchers studying estrogen's effect in preventing heart attacks selected 8,341 people for the study. All of them were men. 

Last month, First Lady Biden announced $100 million in funding for research into women's health, and last Thursday Vice President Kamala Harris visited a Planned Parenthood clinic that provides abortion care in addition to breast cancer screening, fibroid care, and contraceptive care. She noted that women's reproductive health has been in crisis since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, with women in some states unable to access the care they need.

Former president Trump, who is now the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, prompted some of the economic reporting I noted above when he tried to spark attacks on President Joe Biden by asking on social media if people feel better off now than they were four years ago. This was perhaps a mistaken message, since four years ago we were in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Supermarket shelves were empty, toilet paper was hard to find, healthcare professionals were wearing garbage bags and reusing masks because the Trump administration had permitted the strategic stockpile to run low, deaths were mounting, the stock market had crashed, and the economy had ground to a halt. 

On this day four years ago, I recorded that "more than 80 national security professionals broke with their tradition of non-partisanship to endorse former Vice President Joe Biden for president, saying that while they were from all parties and disagreed with each other about pretty much everything else, they had come together to stand against Trump."

Here in the present, Trump appears to be getting more desperate as his problems, including his apparent growing difficulty speaking and connecting with his audience, mount. Last week, in an interview, he echoed Republican lawmakers and pundits when he suggested he was open to cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, something Republican lawmakers try to avoid saying to general audiences because it is hugely unpopular. Trump has since tried to repair that damage, for example, when he insisted on Saturday that it was he, rather than Biden, who would protect those programs. (In fact, Biden has called for expanding the social safety net, not contracting it, and last year forced Republicans to back off from proposed cuts.)  

Saturday's speech illustrated the degree to which Trump's rhetoric has become more profane and apocalyptic as he vows revenge on those he sees as his enemies. Campaigning in Vandalia, Ohio, for his chosen Senate candidate, Trump suggested that certain migrants "are not people." Then he said he would put tariffs of 100% on cars manufactured in Mexico by Chinese companies for sale in the U.S., "if I get elected. Now, if I don't get elected, it's going to be a bloodbath for the whole—that's going to be the least of it. It's going to be a bloodbath for the country."

By Sunday, Trump's embrace of the word "bloodbath" had created a firestorm. Surrogates insisted that he was talking about the auto industry alone, but as scholar of rhetoric Jen Mercieca and legal commentator Asha Rangappa note, Trump is a master at giving himself enough plausible deniability for his supporters to claim that, as Rangappa put it, "he wasn't saying what he was saying. I know what he meant. He knows what he meant. You know what he meant." In the same speech Saturday, Trump called those convicted of violence on January 6, 2021, "hostages" and "patriots," and has said he would pardon them, appearing to endorse violence to return him to power.

This morning, Trump's lawyers told a court that Trump cannot come up with either the money or a bond for the $454 million plus interest he owes in penalties and disgorgement after he and the Trump Organization were found guilty of fraud in a Manhattan court earlier this year. The lawyers say they have approached 30 different companies to back the bond, and they have all declined. They will not issue a bond without cash or stock behind it. Trump's real estate holdings, which are likely highly leveraged, aren't enough.

Last year, Trump said under oath that he had "substantially in excess of 400 million in cash," and that amount was "going up very substantially every month." Apparently, that statement was a lie, or the money has evaporated, or Trump doesn't want to use it to pay this court-ordered judgment on top of the $91.6 million bond he posted earlier this month in the second E. Jean Carroll case.

Timothy O'Brien of Bloomberg notes that Trump's desperate need for cash makes him even more of a national security threat than his retention of classified documents made it clear he already was. "[T]he going is likely to get rough for Trump as this plays out," O'Brien writes, "and he's likely to become more financially desperate with each passing day," making him "easy prey for interested lenders—and an easy mark for overseas interests eager to influence US policy."

This morning, Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post reported that Trump is turning to his 2016 campaign manager Paul Manafort to advise him in 2024. Dawsey notes that the campaign's focus appears to be on the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee in July, which suggests Trump's people are concerned that his nomination will be contested. Manafort has been known as a "convention fixer" since 1976.

Manafort is also the key link between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russian operatives. Manafort worked for many years for Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovich, who was closely tied to Russian president Vladimir Putin. When Ukrainians threw Yanukovich out of office in 2014, Manafort was left with large debts to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. In 2016, Manafort began to work for Trump's campaign. An investigation by a Republican-dominated Senate Intelligence Committee into the links between Trump's campaign and Russia determined that Manafort had shared polling data from the Trump camp with his partner, Konstantin Kilimnik, who the senators assessed was a Russian operative.  

In 2018, as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, Manafort was found guilty of hiding millions of dollars he had received for lobbying on behalf of Yanukovych and his pro-Russian political party, then getting loans through false financial records when Yanukovych lost power. A judge sentenced him to more than seven years in prison.

Trump pardoned Manafort in December 2020, shortly after losing the presidential election.
























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Juan Matute
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― The Lincoln Project

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