Archive for the ‘Democrats’ Category
Kevin Drum has a brief post worth reading. In it, he comments on this graph:
I find it odd that as Republicans become more able to help others (as their income increases) they become less inclined to help others. I wonder if it is simply that wealth undermines one’s morality and compassion. (Certainly Jesus seemed to think so—but what does he know?)
Joe Conason is interviewed by Salon regarding his reporting on the Clinton Foundation:
No one has been able to produce real evidence of corruption at the Clinton Foundation, but the relentless media chatter falsely implying otherwise has had its effect: Few voters know about the good work that the foundation does. Americans are instead more likely to believe false stories about corruption than know about the foundation’s work.
Journalist Joe Conason wants to change that. In his new book, “Man of the World: The Further Endeavors of Bill Clinton,” Conason profiled Bill Clinton’s post-presidency career in philanthropy. Through his work for the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and other activities, former president Clinton has devoted himself to fighting against poverty and for greater access to education, nutrition and health care around the world. I recently spoke with Conason over the phone. The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
You’ve written a lot about the Clintons for how long now?
Well, I mean since he first ran for president. So that’s — what is it? Almost 25 years? Something like that.
So what motivated you to write this book about Bill Clinton’s post-presidency?
Esquire magazine asked me to write a profile about him in 2005 when he was just about to launch Clinton Global Initiative. That summer before [he and his associates] launched it, I went to Africa with him on his annual Africa trip, and we visited several countries.
And when I came back and went to the first CGI and wrote the piece for Esquire, it got a huge reception. I realized sometime after that that what they were doing was really interesting and different from what other presidents had done when they left office and that there might be a book in it.
It took a couple of years, but I persuaded [the Clintons] to cooperate with a book that they would have no control over. President Clinton didn’t see the book until August, when it was all ready to hit the printer.
But they nevertheless were very cooperative, and I went on a couple of more trips to Africa with him and other places, traveled with him a lot and interviewed him, you know, more than a dozen times — sort of sit-down, taped interviews. And it turned out that I was right, there was really a lot to write.
How would you say President Clinton’s vision of a post-presidency differs from other presidents before him? And, well, after him, as well?
Well, we’ll see what comes after. In spite of their sometimes tense relationship, President Obama has displayed a lot of interest in what Clinton has done since he left the White House since he knows he’s leaving soon, and they’ve talked quite a bit about it. So we’ll see what Obama does.
Clinton studied the post-presidencies of earlier presidents very carefully, and especially Jimmy Carter, who[m] he hosted at Camp David just before his own presidency ended to talk about what Carter had done. That again was a very tense relationship, one that had big ups and downs, but I think Clinton really respected what Carter had done.
But [Clinton is] a bigger personality in a lot of ways and more ambitious and wants to do more things. He never sort of set a boundary around what he was doing.
He started out realizing that something really needed to be done about AIDS treatment in the developing world, because there were likely to be 100 million AIDS victims if nothing was done.
He never decided, Well, it’s only going to be about these things or it’s only going to be about these themes or I’m only going to do health or I’m only going to do education. He really allowed himself to cast a very wide net. And I don’t any other president had done that yet after leaving the White House.
How do you see the Clinton Foundation and [its] work? And how does that differ from the way it’s being portrayed in the media?
I’d say it’s night and day, Amanda.
The media is focused on false stories about conflicts of interest, or true stories about potential conflicts of interests that don’t seem to me to matter very much. They want to know about every email that was ever sent on behalf of any donor or anybody that might’ve been a donor or attended CGI.
I’m looking at things like they’ve had 11 and a half million AIDS victims on treatment who otherwise would have died, for instance. That’s just one thing. Or, rebuilt the entire health system of the country of Rwanda. Or, you know, they’ve eliminated malaria from most of Tanzania and saved thousands and thousands of people’s lives that way.
It would take a long time to enumerate all the accomplishments of the foundation. This is not just Clinton himself. This is a lot of people who are either volunteers or employees there — doctors, volunteer business executives, all kinds of people who decided they wanted to address these problems. It’s why I wanted to write the book in the first place.
For some reason, very few of our colleagues have the slightest interest in that. I’ll hear, as I have already a few times while I’m going around talking about this book, Well, no one would deny the good work, but …
That’s fine, don’t deny the good work because you don’t know anything about it. But what if you looked at the good work for 15 minutes? What if you sent somebody overseas to look at the good work? Almost nobody ever does.
That’s the difference between my outlook on it and what I would call the conventional media narrative now, which is all about this idea that somehow something corrupt had to have happened.
Keep in mind, these were people who, up until the election cycle started, would go to Clinton Global Initiative every year and suck up shamelessly to Clinton trying to get an interview. [The] same people now only want to talk about why nobody trusts the Clintons and ask, Don’t you think that they should shut down the foundation?
Sure, they should shut down the foundation and if those 11 million people die, nobody in our media world would care. I think says a lot more about them than it does about Clinton.
In the book, I talk a lot about The New York Times, which influences all media coverage basically, especially in politics. And The New York Times has been very focused on the foundation and problems that [Times journalists] allege in the foundation, such making up this whole story about Russian uranium, which was a completely fabricated, phony story taken from “Clinton Cash” that they put on the front page.
You know what, they know better. Celia Dugger, who is a very good reporter for the Times, went to Africa with Clinton and saw what he did — and saw what the foundation had done. So they know, and they ran a very good story about it years ago but this is years ago. And that was one time in 15 years basically that they paid attention the real work. Meanwhile, they are constantly on this, and it’s all part of the political cycle.
The popularity of the Clintons goes up and down. You can see it in Gallup polls that are taken every year, it goes up and down whether one of them is running for office — especially her. And I think you know the basis for all of that.
How would you characterize Bill Clinton’s philosophy of philanthropy? . . .
David Dayen reports in The Intercept:
Like a lot of other Americans, Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants to know why the Department of Justice hasn’t criminally prosecuted any of the major players responsible for the 2008 financial crisis.
On Thursday, Warren released two highly provocative letters demanding some explanations. One is to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, requesting a review of how federal law enforcement managed to whiff on all 11 substantive criminal referrals submitted by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC), a panel set up to examine the causes of the 2008 meltdown.
The other is to FBI Director James Comey, asking him to release all FBI investigations and deliberations related to those referrals. The FBI typically doesn’t release investigative details about cases that DOJ chooses not to pursue, but Warren pointed out that in releasing information about presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server in July, he had pretty much shattered that precedent, and set a new one.
“You explained these actions by noting your view that ‘the American people deserve those details in a case of intense public interest,’” Warren wrote to Comey. “If Secretary Clinton’s email server was of sufficient ‘interest’ to establish a new FBI standard of transparency, then surely the criminal prosecution of those responsible for the 2008 financial crisis should be subject to the same level of transparency.”
In other words, if Comey can spend hours relating FBI decision-making about State Department emails, he can do the same for the activity that made millions jobless and homeless.
The FCIC’s criminal referrals, which were sent to the Justice Department in October 2010, have never been made public. But Warren’s staff reviewed thousands of other documents released in March by the National Archives, including hearings and testimony, witness interviews, internal deliberations, and memoranda, and found descriptions and records of them.
They detail potential violations of securities laws by 14 different financial institutions: most of America’s largest banks — Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual (now part of JPMorgan), and Merrill Lynch (now part of Bank of America) — along with foreign banking giants UBS, Credit Suisse, and Société Generale, auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers, credit rating agency Moody’s, insurance company AIG, and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The FCIC presented DOJ with evidence that these institutions gave false representations about the loan quality inside mortgage-backed securities; misled credit ratings agencies; overstated assets and earnings in financial disclosures; failed to disclose credit downgrades, subprime exposure and the financial health of their operations to shareholders; and suffered breakdowns in internal company controls. All of these were tied to specific violations of federal law.
And the FCIC named names, specifying nine top-level executives who should be investigated on criminal charges: CEO Daniel Mudd and CFO Stephen Swad of Fannie Mae, CEO Martin Sullivan and CFO Stephen Bensinger of AIG, CEO Stan O’Neal and CFO Jeffrey Edwards of Merrill Lynch, and CEO Chuck Prince, CFO Gary Crittenden and Board Chairman Robert Rubin of Citigroup.
None of the 14 financial firms listed in the referrals were criminally indicted or brought to trial, Warren writes. Only five of the 14 even paid fines in civil settlements. None of the nine named individuals were criminally prosecuted, and only one – Crittenden, of Citigroup – had to pay so much as a personal fine, for a mere $100,000. . .
And see also this Wall Street on Parade column by Pam Martens and Russ Martens. It begins:
While Elizabeth Warren attempted to deliver her keynote speech at the Democratic Convention in July, which included an unabashed endorsement of Hillary Clinton after Warren had failed to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders during the critical primary campaign, chants of “we trusted you” could be heard reverberating through the cavernous hall in Philadelphia.
Warren rose to fame challenging the corrupt practices on Wall Street. She was now aligned with a Presidential candidate who was using Wall Street’s ill-gotten gains from the customers they had fleeced to finance her path to the Oval Office. There is no doubt that this has caused significant cognitive dissonance among Warren’s constituents in Massachusetts’ – the landing site of the Pilgrims and one of the original 13 colonies.
This bit of background might help to explain why, with less than two months before the November 8 election – and Hillary Clinton running for a third Obama term, promising to continue in his footsteps – Elizabeth Warren issued two letters that draw a sharp focus on the failures of Obama’s Justice Department and FBI to prosecute the myriad criminal acts on Wall Street that led to the 2008 financial collapse. (Warren’s letters were embargoed until midnight last evening, promising a full run of the news cycle today.)
In a 20-page letter to the Inspector General of the Department of Justice, Michael E. Horowitz, Senator Warren asked for an investigation into why the DOJ had failed to indict any of the Wall Street executives that had been referred to it for potential criminal prosecution by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC). In a separate letter, Warren asked FBI Director James Comey for his related files.
The FCIC released thousands of documents in March of this year, showing that it had made multiple criminal referrals to the DOJ. Warren wrote in her letter:
A review of these documents conducted by my staff has identified 11 separate FCIC referrals of individuals or corporations to DOJ in cases where the FCIC found ‘serious indications of violations[s]’ of federal securities or other laws. Nine individuals were implicated in these referrals (two were implicated twice). The DOJ has not filed any criminal prosecutions against any of the nine individuals. Not one of the nine has gone to prison or been convicted of a criminal offense. Not a single one has even been indicted or brought to trial. Only one individual was fined, in the amount of $100,000, and that was to settle a civil case brought by the SEC.
This particular paragraph is a Pandora’s Box by a factor of $2.5 trillion. The two individuals Warren refers to who were “implicated twice” in the FCIC’s criminal referrals are Robert Rubin, the former Treasury Secretary in the administration of Bill Clinton, who in the lead up to the crash of Citigroup in 2008 served as Executive Committee Chair of Citigroup’s Board of Directors. (After advocating for the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which allowed Citigroup to own both an insured depository bank, an investment bank and brokerage firm, Rubin went straight from his post as Treasury Secretary to the Board of Citigroup, where he collected $126 million in compensation over the next decade.)
The other individual whose name appears twice is . . .
Colin Powell Urged Hillary Clinton’s Team Not to Scapegoat Him for Her Private Server, Leaked Emails Reveal
Lee Fang and Naomi LaChance report in The Intercept:
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell attempted to discourage Hillary Clinton and her team from using him as a scapegoat for her private email server problems, according to newly leaked emails from Powell’s Gmail account.
“Sad thing,” Powell wrote to one confidant, “HRC could have killed this two years ago by merely telling everyone honestly what she had done and not tie me to it.”
“I told her staff three times not to try that gambit. I had to throw a mini tantrum at a Hampton’s party to get their attention. She keeps tripping into these ‘character’ minefields,” Powell lamented. He noted that he had tried to settle the matter by meeting with Clinton aide Cheryl Mills in August.
Powell’s private messages were leaked by D.C. Leaks, an anonymously managed website that shares hacked emails from U.S. military and political figures. D.C. Leaks has a relationship with Guccifer 2.0, a hacker that many allege to have ties with Russian intelligence. D.C. Leaks provided access to Powell’s emails to a number of reporters on Tuesday.
The emails show Powell regularly corresponding with reporters and friends about the Clinton email server scandal, explaining that his situation was different. When Powell arrived at the State Department, the information technology system was badly dated, he argued. And unlike Clinton, Powell never set up a private server. Instead, he used his personal AOL account, on a server maintained by AOL, and used a government computer for classified communications.
“It is no secret that I used a unclassified personal email account in addition to my classified State computer,’” Powell wrote to the New York Times’ Amy Chozick. He implored the dozens of reporters and producers who emailed him to read his book, It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership, in which he devoted an entire chapter to his efforts to revamp the State Department’s IT system.
The Clinton campaign’s effort to blur the lines between Clinton’s private email server and Powell’s AOL account left Powell deeply frustrated.
“They are going to dick up the legitimate and necessary use of emails with friggin record rules. I saw email more like a telephone than a cable machine,” Powell wrote last year to his business partner Jeffrey Leeds. “As long as the stuff is unclassified. I had a secure State.gov machine. Everything HRC touches she kind of screws up with hubris.”
Powell added in a tangential complaint: “I told you about the gig I lost at a University because she so overcharged them they came under heat and couldn’t any fees for awhile. I should send her a bill.”
Clinton sought Powell’s advice at a dinner on . . .
Jennifer Rubin is a conservative columnist for the Washington Post, and I have frequently disagreed with her columns. However, unlike Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Marco Rubio, and others, she is not a hack who will support Trump regardless of what he says and what positions he takes, and in this column she shows that facts matter.
Suspicion falls on a high-level administration official. Colin Powell, who cultivates a saintlike image as a man above politics, knows that the accused is blameless. He nevertheless remains silent so as not to besmirch his own image. The accused twists in the wind and suffers personal and professional calamities, which largely could have been avoided had Powell spoken up earlier. The tale of Hillary Clinton’s emails? Actually, that was the Scooter Libby episode.
Libby, chief of staff to then-Vice President Dick Cheney, was falsely accused of leaking the name of CIA employee Valerie Plame. The real culprit was Richard Armitage, as his boss, Colin Powell, knew all too well. Powell and Armitage remained silent, but prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald (who also knew Armitage was the culprit) investigated Libby, whose poor memory led to a prosecution, conviction and later a partial pardon. Powell apparently felt no guilt in countenancing investigation of an innocent man. He learned no lesson, it seems.
Along comes Hillary Clinton, no computer whiz. New to the job, she asks Colin Powell about how he dealt with emails. In this case, it was a good thing she was using email. We now have that email exchange in which Powell tells her: “I didn’t have a BlackBerry. What I did do was have a personal computer that was hooked up to a private phone line (sounds ancient.) So I could communicate with a wide range of friends directly without it going through the State Department servers.” That sounds not so different at all, especially to a non-techie, from having her own server at home, doesn’t it? Powell confided, “I even used it to do business with some foreign leaders and some of the senior folks in the Department on their personal email accounts. I did the same thing on the road in hotels.” He acknowledged warnings from intelligence services, but he “went about our business and stopped asking.” He also advised that BlackBerry records could become public. He counsels, “I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data.”
You now understand how Clinton could have understood that, generally speaking, Powell did what she did. “Not using systems that captured the data” could very well have sounded to a layperson like “not using a server that captured the data on the State Department’s system.” She, like Powell, used insecure systems in hotels. Nevertheless, Clinton was painted as a liar, and Powell even indignantly claimed at one point that the Clinton team was always trying to “pin” the email problem on him.
It was Powell who was playing it too cute by half. He knew the advice he had given Clinton. He knew his own workarounds. Why didn’t he speak up, even if it meant casting himself in a poor light? Libby probably has wondered the same thing. Now Powell defensively writes in a prepared statement something about not being aware “at the time of any requirement for private, unclassified exchanges to be treated as official records.” He adds, “I stand by my decisions and I am fully accountable.” How about offering an apology for rotten advice to Clinton and for remaining mum, which made him look good and her much worse?
And James Comey, frankly, is partially to blame for making Clinton seem like an abject liar. He surely knew about the Powell-Clinton exchange, which is much more favorable to her than his sterile account and conclusion that Powell did not, in fact, do what she did. (He had no homeserver.) You also get a much better idea why she was not prosecuted; it was pretty darn close to what Powell did and, in any case, she relied in good faith on his advice.
Now, Clinton had an independent duty to comply with updated security protocols. She should not initially have said no classified emails were sent or received. She, like Powell, clearly was doing this to avoid allowing some material to be captured (not for “convenience”). But the entire scandal has a much less ominous feel when you have the details of the Powell-Clinton exchange. . .
Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has set up an online database of financial horror stories that shows what happens when an average American interacts with one of the financial supermarkets (a/k/a universal banks) that grew out of the repeal of the investor protection legislation known as the Glass-Steagall Act. The complaints are concentrated against the biggest Wall Street banks.
If you are one of the lucky Americans who has not already been mugged in the shopping aisles of the financial supermarkets, you should carefully browse through the database to see what awaits the unwary. Just go to thecomplaint archive, and place the name of any bank you want to examine in the upper right-hand search box. Searching under the name Citibank (part of the Wall Street behemoth Citigroup) will bring up 29,000 rows of complaints. A search under Chase, part of the mega Wall Street bank, JPMorgan Chase, brings up 37,000 rows of complaints. After years of being charged by Federal regulators for abusing their customers and the public trust, both U.S. banks became felons on May 20 of last year when they admitted to felony charges related to rigging foreign currency markets.
Wall Street banks are intended to function as efficient allocators of capital to grow new businesses and industries in America. But since the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed in 1999 under pressure from Citigroup, Wall Street’s biggest banks increasingly function as legalized loan sharking operations – targeting the poor, minorities and financially unsophisticated. In what has become a highly efficient, wealth transfer mechanism, billions of dollars each month move from the pockets of those least able to protect themselves from financial abuse to the coffers of the one percent in America who sit in the executive offices of these banks.
Under the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, banks holding insured deposits were not allowed to be affiliated with Wall Street investment banks and brokerage firms — which have a storied history of stock frauds, abusing their customers, and blowing up. That protection was removed when President Bill Clinton signed into law the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act on November 12, 1999, the legislation that repealed the Glass-Steagall Act. After protecting the nation for 66 years, it took just 9 years after its repeal for Wall Street to implode, taking the U.S. economy with it. . .
Continue reading. There’s a lot more.
The Washington Post had a major story that was presented as a scandal, but it included (in the fifth paragraph of the story):
There is no evidence that Laureate received special favors from the State Department in direct exchange for hiring Bill Clinton, but the Baltimore-based company had much to gain from an association with a globally connected ex-president and, indirectly, the United States’ chief diplomat.
I added emphasis. The story is written as though the fact that Laureate received no special favors is diappoionting, and the story seems to be saying that even though nothing bad happened, it still might have happened, and that’s bad. In other words, it’s a story simply slinging mud on the basis of what it admits is “no evidence.”
And the the 26th paragraph:
Clinton’s contract with Laureate was approved by the State Department’s ethics office….An ethics official wrote that he saw “no conflict of interest with Laureate or any of their partners,” according to a letter recently released by the conservative group Citizens United, which received it through a public-records request.
So again: nothing wrong was done, but that doesn’t stop the Washington Post from ringing bells of alarm.
Compare the very mild treatment the Post gave Donald Trump’s relationship with the Florida Attorney General. Kevin Drum summarizes what happened in 2013:
Late August: Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi calls Donald Trump to ask for a donation to her reelection campaign.
September 10: In an unusual show of interest in a down-ballot race in Florida, Ivanka Trump donates $500 to Bondi. Apparently that’s insultingly small.
September 13: Bondi tells the Orlando Sentinel that her office is “currently reviewing the allegations” that Trump University has defrauded its students.
September 17: The Trump Foundation makes a $25,000 contribution to a PAC backing Bondi.
October 15: The Florida Attorney General’s office backtracks, telling the Orlando Sentinel there was never any consideration of joining the lawsuit against Trump U because they had received only one complaint during the time Bondi was in office. This was untrue: the AG’s office had received a couple dozen complaints, but had weeded them out so they could say there was only one.
As Kevin Drum notes:
There have been an endless number of stories about “clouds” and “suspicions” and “questions raised” regarding donations to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. So far, though, there’s nothing even close to a smoking gun. Quite the opposite: the evidence so far suggests very strongly that nobody ever got anything for contributing to the Foundation.
But here we have a case that’s a mere hair’s breadth away from a smoking gun. There’s only the slightest wiggle room for believing that the events in Florida are all just a big coincidence. Maybe they deserve a little bit more front-page attention?
So what’s going on? Nancy LeTourneau writes about this kind of action in the Washington Monthly:
Do you remember that time when Jim Inhofe brought a snowball onto the Senate floor in February as “proof” that climate change is a hoax? He was being what we might call a “merchant of doubt.” Never mind that the scientific community has been studying the rise in global temperatures for quite a while. One snowfall in Washington raises doubts about what they’ve found.
The truth is that when scientists study things like global temperatures, they don’t assume that they need to look at the temperature of every single location on the planet every single day. Instead, they do a statistical analysis based on the number of locations/dates that prove to be significant as a way to measure the phenomenon. This is common practice in the scientific community and applies to everything from the study of climate change to political polling.
It is interesting to use this same method to study what we’ve learned lately about the Clinton Foundation. Any scientific inquiry must start with a hypothesis to test or questions to answer. In his interview on Democracy Now, Paul Glastris identified what the two questions are in this inquiry.
- Did Clinton Foundation donors get special access to the Secretary of State because of their donations?
- If they got special access, did they get anything in return for their donation?
To answer those questions from the perspective of scientific inquiry, we don’t need access to every single piece of data that it is possible to collect about the 4 years Hillary Clinton spent as Secretary of State. What we need is a statistically significant portion of that data. Tallying what that number would be is impossible because we don’t know the actual number of data points that exist (i.e., the denominator). But we can be fairly certain that when it comes to meetings/phone calls and emails, we have now gotten access to considerably more than a statistically significant number of them via the 171 emails released by Judicial Watch (in addition to what has already been released) and the 84 foundation donors studied by the Associated Press.
As has been pointed out here and elsewhere, based on a review of all of that data, what we have seen is that in every single instance, Sec. of State Clinton and her staff have consistently made the right choice. And yet, even the New York Times editorial board still insist on writing this:
Does the new batch of previously undisclosed State Department emails prove that big-money donors to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation got special favors from Mrs. Clinton while she was secretary of state?
Not so far, but that the question arises yet again points to a need for major changes at the foundation now, before the November election.
Can I suggest that, much as the “question” about Benghazi continues in the fevered minds of some (after even multiple Republican Congressional inquiries have produced nothing), “the question that arises yet again” is as dispositive as Inhofe’s snowball in February. We are, at this point, dealing with nothing more than merchants of doubt.
Some will suggest that the issue here is the “appearance of corruption.” But once data has been presented to disprove that appearance, it is time to stop making that accusation and move on. As Matt Yglesias points out so well today, the reason this continues is more aptly described as the “assumption of corruption” when it comes to Hillary Clinton. . .