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Only two more years…

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Author Topic: Only two more years…  (Read 77 times)
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Posts: 28693

Having fun in the hills!

« on: February 11, 2017, 06:52:40 pm »

from The Washington Post....

Trump's two-year presidency

The 2018 mid-term elections could swing Congress back
to Democratic control, and that could mean impeachment.

By KATHLEEN PARKER | 8:03PM EST - Friday, February 10, 2017

President Trump pauses during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday, February 10th. — Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press.
President Trump pauses during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday, February 10th.
 — Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press.

GOOD NEWS: In two years, we'll have a new president. Bad news: If we make it that long.

My “good” prediction is based on the Law of the Pendulum. Enough Americans, including most independent voters, will be so ready to shed Donald Trump and his little shop of horrors that the 2018 mid-term elections are all but certain to be a landslide — no, make that a mudslide — sweep of the House and Senate. If Republicans took both houses in a groundswell of the people's rejection of Obamacare, Democrats will take them back in a tsunami of protest.

Once ensconced, it would take a Democratic majority approximately 30 seconds to begin impeachment proceedings selecting from an accumulating pile of lies, over-reach and just plain sloppiness. That is, assuming Trump hasn't already been shown the exit.

Or that he hasn't declared martial law (all those anarchists, you know) and effectively silenced dissent. We're already well on our way to the latter via Trump's incessant attacks on the media — “among the most dishonest human beings on Earth” — and press secretary Sean Spicer's rabid-chihuahua, daily press briefings. (Note to Sean: Whatever he's promised you, it's not worth becoming Melissa McCarthy's punching bag. But really, don't stop.)

With luck, and Cabinet-level courage that is not much in evidence, there's a chance we won't have to wait two long years, during which, let's face it, anything could happen. In anticipation of circumstances warranting a speedier presidential replacement, wiser minds added Section 4 to the 25th Amendment, which removes the president if a majority of the Cabinet and the vice president think it necessary, i.e., if the president is injured or falls too ill to serve. Or, by extension, by being so incompetent — or not-quite-right — that he or she poses a threat to the nation and must be removed immediately and replaced by the vice president.

Aren't we there, yet?

Thus far, Trump and his henchmen have conducted a full frontal assault on civil liberties, open government and religious freedom, as well as instigating or condoning a cascade of ethics violations ranging from the serious (business conflicts of interest) to the absurd (attacking a department store for dropping his daughter's fashion line). And, no, it's not just a father defending his daughter. It's the president of the United States bullying a particular business and, more generally, making a public case against free enterprise.

To an objective observer, it would seem impossible to defend the perilous absurdities emanating from the White House and from at least one executive agency, the Agriculture Department, which recently scrubbed animal abuse reports from its website, leaving puppies, kittens, horses and others to fend for themselves.

In a hopeful note, a few Republicans are speaking out, but the list is short.

Representative Jason Chaffetz recently got a taste of what's ahead for Republican incumbents. Facing an unruly crowd at a town hall meeting in Utah, the House Oversight Committee chairman was booed nearly every time he mentioned Trump. Even if many in the crowd were members of opposition groups, the evening provided a glimpse of the next two years. From 2010's Tea Party to 2018's Resistance, the pendulum barely had time to pause before beginning its leftward trek.

While we wait for it to someday find the nation's center, where so many wait impatiently, it seems clear that the president, who swore an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution, has never read it. Nor, apparently, has he ever even watched a Hollywood rendering of the presidency. A single episode of “The West Wing” would have taught Trump more about his new job than he seems to know — or care.

Far more compelling than keeping his promise to act presidential is keeping campaign promises against reason, signing poorly conceived executive orders, bashing the judicial and legislative branches, and tweeting his spleen to a wondering and worrying world.

Trump's childish and petulant manner, meanwhile, further reinforces long-held concerns that this man can't be trusted to lead a dog-and-pony act, much less the nation. Most worrisome is how long Trump can tolerate the protests, criticisms, humiliations, rebuttals and defeats — and what price he'll try to exact from those who refused to look away.

• Kathleen Parker writes a twice-weekly column on politics and culture for The Washington Post. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary In 2010.


Read more on this topic:

 • VIDEO: Angry Utahns pack Chaffetz's home state town hall

 • Dana Milbank: Here's how you can deal with Trump — besides drinking Everclear

 • David Cole: ‘So-called judges’ trump Trump

 • Katrina vanden Heuvel: The resistance to Trump is big, diverse and ferocious

 • Eugene Robinson: Trump inspired a movement, all right

 • Linda Hirshman: To resist a Trump presidency, ask ‘What would the abolitionists do?’

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Having fun in the hills!

« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2017, 09:52:56 pm »

from The Washington Post....

Feds, Trump attorneys wrangle over president's D.C. hotel lease

House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz joins Democrats in questioning
the arrangement in which Trump is the landlord and tenant.

By JONATHAN O'CONNELL | 2:37PM EST - Friday, February 10, 2017

The Trump International Hotel, shown in December, has served as a hub for inaugural activities in the District. It also represents ground zero for what top Democrats and some ethics advisers see as the president's unique web of conflicts of interest. — Photograph: Alex Brandon/Associated Press.
The Trump International Hotel, shown in December, has served as a hub for inaugural activities in the District. It also represents ground zero
for what top Democrats and some ethics advisers see as the president's unique web of conflicts of interest.
 — Photograph: Alex Brandon/Associated Press.

FEDERAL OFFICIALS have held private talks in recent days with attorneys for President Trump's real estate company to address a potential violation of Trump's lease with the government for his new luxury hotel near the White House, but the two sides have so far failed to reach a resolution, according to documents and people familiar with the discussions.

At issue is a clause in the lease barring an “elected official” from receiving “any benefit” from the agreement, which Trump signed with the General Services Administration in 2013 long before he became a presidential candidate.

The uncertainty of the status of the lease drew the attention this week of a top Republican lawmaker, Representative Jason Chaffetz (Utah), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, who sent a letter on Thursday to the GSA's acting director inquiring about the agency's plans.

Chaffetz told reporters this week that he was interested to learn how officials intended to grapple with the potentially awkward situation in which the Trump-led government intended to negotiate with a business controlled by the president's family.

“His being both the landlord and the tenant is something that we're curious what the GSA's opinion of that is,” Chaffetz said.

The question is one of numerous complications that have arisen since Trump refused to follow the advice of federal ethics officials and divest from his real estate and branding empire — a decision that experts say has created a global web of potential conflicts of interest.

While Trump has signed management of the hotel over to his oldest son, Don Jr., as part of his agreement to relinquish management of his businesses to his sons, the president has kept his 76.725 percent ownership stake in the project. The remaining portion is owned by his company and his children.

The 263-room hotel opened in the federally owned Old Post Office Pavilion last fall after Trump and his daughter Ivanka won a competitive bidding process and spent more than $200 million restoring the property. They added a 13,200-square-foot ballroom adorned with glass chandeliers at the eastern entrance and opened BLT Prime steakhouse and the Spa by Ivanka Trump.

The hotel has drawn criticism from some ethics experts who have sued Trump, arguing that receptions and other events held there by foreign governments violate a constitutional ban on presidents receiving payments from foreign governments. Trump has pledged to donate profits from foreign clients to the U.S. treasury.

The issue concerning the lease has proven difficult for the GSA, the federal agency that oversees contracting, which has undergone management changes as part of the transition between the Obama and Trump administrations. Trump, who replaced the interim director with an official from the GSA's Denver office within hours of taking office on January 20th, has yet to name a permanent pick to head the agency.

Congressional Democrats have implored the GSA since the immediate aftermath of the election to consider how difficult it would be to protect taxpayers once Trump became president and could assign his appointees to the agency.

Among Democrats' concerns are that, if the lease needs to be renegotiated, the process will be overseen in effect by a president with a personal financial stake in the outcome. Currently, the 60-year lease requires that the Trumps pay the GSA $3 million per year in base rent plus a share of profits above a certain threshold.

Democratic lawmakers led by Representative Elijah E. Cummings (Democrat-Maryland) wrote to the GSA in November warning of a “clear and very real conflict that will be triggered the moment Mr. Trump is sworn in as President of the United States unless concrete steps are taken now to avoid it.”

Three months after the election, however, no decisions have been announced.

The agency has been in repeated contact with Trump Organization attorneys since the election but has declined to issue any enforcement action thus far, according to documents and officials.

GSA attorneys met with attorneys representing the Trump Organization four days after the election, in a meeting that one official said took place at the agency's headquarters.

Afterward the GSA issued a statement saying it was “reviewing and evaluating” the contract to assess the Trump Organization's compliance.”

In December, the Trump Organization sent the GSA two letters about reorganizing Trump's D.C. hotel company, Trump Old Post Office LLC. The GSA did not respond to requests to release the letters.

On January 10th, the government's contracting officer for the hotel, Kevin Terry, wrote to Trump Organization attorney Lawrence S. Rosen to say he anticipated hearing more specifics on changes planned by the company.

“We look forward to receiving the final documents that explain the transfers and new organizational structure of Tenant,” Terry wrote.

The issue remained up in the air as Trump took the oath of office on January 20th, formally putting him in control of the agency responsible for the lease held by his company.

The Trump company's reorganization of the hotel became public on February 3rd, with a filing to D.C. government showing that Trump had transferred control of Trump Old Post Office LLC to Don Jr., who is now president, and Allen H. Weisselberg, now vice president, secretary and treasurer.

Three days later, in response to further questions from Democrats, the GSA sent a two-page letter from Saul Japson, acting associate administrator, saying that the agency “will continue to abide by its obligations under the Old Post Office contract and remain vigilant regarding the Government's rights and remedies under the contract.”

Spokesmen for GSA and the Trump Organization declined to comment for this article. The agency released a statement saying it was “committed to expeditiously resolving issues associated with the Old Post Office Lease.”

The GSA's inspector general, Carol F. Ochoa, has also reserved judgment. A spokeswoman for Ochoa, Sarah Breen, said the office was “still considering what would be the best course of action.”

Dan Tangherlini, the former GSA administrator who oversaw initial lease negotiations with Trump for the Obama administration and left the government two years ago, said he was not surprised the agency has not acted.

“Anything they did would have been viewed through a political lens,” he said.

As Trump appointees begin filling jobs at the agency, Tangherlini said he expects career GSA staff to do what they are told by the new leadership.

“They are awaiting instructions,” Tangherlini said. “And if the answer is, ‘Write me the memo that says this is okay’, they will go ahead and do that, and it will be subject to whatever legal and political scrutiny that comes with it. Or it's ‘Write me the letter that says it's not okay’. So I think they are waiting for someone to give them instructions and make a decision and be accountable for it.”

That leaves Democrats to press Trump appointees and career bureaucrats whose jobs — leasing office space for government agencies — typically remain several rungs below the political radar.

As part of their efforts to put pressure on Trump's company and the GSA, the Democrats released data they had obtained from the agency late last month showing that Trump had lost more than $1.1 million in the period the hotel was open from September to October — a potential embarrassment to the president, who has called the property “one of the great hotels of the world.”

• Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for The Washington Post for more than five years.

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