Joe Conason

A tale of two foundations

Nobody ought to be surprised to hear of the belated demise of the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a racketeering enterprise under investigation by the state authorities in New York for the past two years. Barbara Underwood, the state attorney general, announced that the foundation will dissolve and its assets distributed to bona fide charitable groups. She seeks to prohibit its overseers, President Trump and his adult children, from serving on the board of any nonprofit in New York for the foreseeable future.
       

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Trump Brought Out the Worst of the GOP - and Will Leave the Party of Lincoln in a Degenerated State

Whatever the outcome of the midterm elections, the Republican Party under Donald Trump has awakened bad memories of the racially divisive campaign that helped elect George H.W. Bush to the presidency exactly three decades ago.

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The Taint on Brett Kavanaugh Keeps Growing

By delaying a vote on Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court, pending a "supplemental FBI investigation" of his background, Senate leaders hoped a quick show of bipartisan cooperation would soothe growing public concern about both process and nominee. But that hurried investigation is unlikely to inspire confidence.

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The Senate Judiciary Committee Must Investigate the Sinister 'Mistaken Identity' Plot That Tried - And Failed - to Exonerate Kavanaugh

While the Senate Judiciary Committee ponders disputed allegations of sexual assault and harassment against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, its members must also contend with the indisputable fact that Kavanaugh's advocates attempted to perpetrate a massive deception on his behalf. Of all the bizarre aspects of this process, that may be the most sinister.

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The Massive Brett Kavanaugh Charade Is Collapsing Before Our Eyes

Facing a public relations debacle, Senate Republicans have come up with a surefire compromise to win confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court: Instead of simply dismissing the sexual assault accusation lodged against their nominee, they will pretend to investigate -- and only then rubber-stamp him.

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Don't Believe the 'Insulting' Book Tour Hype: Ken Starr Is No Robert Mueller

In hawking his new memoir, Kenneth Starr displays all the dignity, fairness and proportion that characterized his pursuit of Bill Clinton's impeachment two decades ago.

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Here's How Trump Will Rig His Own Case

Nothing that Brett Kavanaugh said on his first day of his Supreme Court confirmation hearings relieves the most profound suspicion: that President Donald Trump nominated him to front a legalistic coup against the rule of law.

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Here's Why Right-Wing Attacks on Real Journalism Are So Dangerous for the Country

Whenever the president complains about "Fake News," always capitalized and often punctuated with exclamation points, rest assured that he doesn't mean the actual sources of fraudulent information that infest the internet and haunt American politics. No, Donald Trump's definition of "fake" has nothing to do with factuality or responsibility in media. It merely means news he doesn't like, usually truthful reporting about him, his family, his administration or his cronies produced by credible newspapers and broadcasters.

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Here's How Democrats Can Defeat Trump - by Pledging to Fulfill One of His Biggest Broken Promises

While commentators chastise congressional Democrats for lacking a cogent message for midterm voters, does the opposition really need to say much more than "to hell with Trump"? If so, they can start hammering a theme that will unite the party base, attract wavering supporters and blister the hide off this president for a monumental broken promise.

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'QAnon' Is About Much More than Trump - It Reveals the Deep Pathologies of the Republican Party

The political movement swirling around President Donald Trump -- formerly known as the Republican Party -- displays certain unique features but is really just the latest noxious excrescence of the American right. Like so many of its predecessors, the Trump movement is built on fear. And like every movement motivated by paranoia, its followers are mentally vulnerable to the most idiotic conspiracy theories.

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How Could a US President Accused of Sexual Assault Hire A Man Who Was Forced to Resign from Fox News?

When Bill Shine took over as White House communications director during the July 4 holiday, the former Fox News co-president seemed to have dodged the obvious questions that loomed over his appointment.

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Let's Stop Feigning Surprise at the Trump Administration's Racism

Can we stop pretending to be shocked when a member of the Trump administration -- or one of its prominent supporters -- emits a squib of stinking racism?

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Trump Wants to Kill the White House Correspondents' Dinner - Here's One Big Reason To Fight Back

Only Donald Trump could manage to justify the continued existence of the White House Correspondents Association dinner, a springtime ritual of journalistic self-indulgence that might just as well have ended years ago. By declaring the dinner "DEAD" -- after yet another humiliating comic takedown of him and his enablers -- the president is testing his authoritarian impulse against American traditions of unfettered and even offensive speech.

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Rudy Giuliani -- And a Few Hard Questions for James Comey

For months, the White House has insistently whined that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is persecuting the president. Echoed by right-wing propaganda media, that theme is now amplified in Donald Trump's tweeted blasts at former FBI director James Comey, whom he vilifies as a "liar and leaker."
       

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Don't Let Trump Betray Veterans

Whenever Donald Trump fires a member of his administration, the least likely reason is incompetence, corruption, abuse of authority or wasteful extravagance. If those were causes for dismissal in the Trump administration, nearly his entire cabinet would have been replaced by now. That tweet signaling the removal of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin—an Obama administration holdover widely regarded as one of the few able appointees in the cabinet—wasn't provoked by any such offense.

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On Russia, GOP Probers Looked the Other Way

Like crooked cops protecting a mafia don, the House Intelligence Committee looked the other way last week when drafting its closing report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. Denying the obvious—and the shared assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies—the committee's Republican majority insisted that the Russians weren't truly seeking to elect Donald Trump, and actually may have meant to promote his opponent, Hillary Clinton. The committee also ignored the mounting indications of connivance between the Trump campaign and various Kremlin-connected entities, echoing the president's "NO COLLUSION" denials.

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The Dangers Of Diplomacy, Trump-Style

This planet just became a more perilous place to live.

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Donald Trump May Have No Choice But to Testify Before Robert Mueller

Donald Trump tells reporters that he is eager to chat with Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating his campaign's suspected collusion with the Kremlin and his attempts to obstruct that investigation, but his sincerity is in doubt. When he proclaims his willingness to let Mueller question him, "under oath," it sounds like typical Trump bluster.

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The GOP Is Starting a War With the Intelligence Community

Nothing is more fashionable these days on the Republican right than to trash America's law enforcement and intelligence services. Legislators like Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and Francis Rooney, R-Fla., broadcast accusations about "major corruption" within the Federal Bureau of Investigation and demand a "purge." Tom Fitton, who runs the right-wing legal outfit known as Judicial Watch, has even called for the FBI to be "shut down."

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We Need More Than 'Thoughts and Prayers' After Las Vegas

Whenever someone commits a heinous gun crime like the massacre in Las Vegas, politicians swiftly assure us that the victims and their families are in their "thoughts and prayers." What these mush-mouthed messages mean, in plain English, is that government, as embodied by those politicians, will do nothing to make the country safer from gun violence.

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Why the Media Want Hillary to Shut Up

There is something slightly strange about the reproachful media response to "What Happened," Hillary Clinton's new book on the 2016 campaign.

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Impeach Trump? Transcript Will Tell Whether President Blabbed Secrets to Russians

If Donald Trump disclosed highly classified state secrets to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, he may be vulnerable to impeachment—not because he broke the law, which evidently he did not, but because he committed an act that would be considered criminal and perhaps treasonous if perpetrated willfully by any other government official.

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With Le Pen, Trump (and Putin) Are Still Pushing Fascist 'Nationalism'

Hold the exhalations of relief about the supposed moderation of Donald Trump and the apparent demotion of Steve Bannon, his official strategist. With Trump's all-but-explicit endorsement of Marine Le Pen, the French neo-fascist presidential candidate, it is now clear that he remains enthusiastic about the fascists who have rebranded themselves as "nationalists."

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Is It Watergate Yet?

As Donald Trump and his subordinates lash out wildly in their campaign to suppress discussion of his presidential campaign's alleged collusion with the Kremlin, they conjure visions of a truly monumental scandal. With their latest attempts to manipulate the FBI and intimidate the Washington press corps, they clumsily encourage comparisons with Watergate—although, as usual with this crew, it isn't so simple to distinguish malevolence from incompetence.

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Why That Russian Dossier Can't Be Ignored

To see Michael Flynn depart his White House post in a miasma of misconduct—amid memories of his "Lock her up" speech about Hillary Clinton at the Republican convention last summer—was satisfying. To hear that he might be replaced as national security adviser by someone saner is reassuring.

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Investigate the Hackers - and Ignore Trump's Chaff

In the loud debate over the alleged Russian intelligence attack on our democratic system, Americans have heard all kinds of specious assertions from Donald Trump, his minions and others who, for their own reasons, reject the findings of the U.S. intelligence agencies. Trump clearly fears that a full investigation of those allegations will permanently discredit his narrow electoral victory, already tainted by Hillary Clinton's popular-vote majority. It is telling that he described the hacking probes as a partisan "political witch hunt" before the nation's spy chiefs even presented him with their evidence.

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The Message From the Manger

Celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth is a custom familiar to everyone raised in Western cultures, whether or not they happen to share the Christian faith. So important is Christmas to Americans that even the traditional holiday greeting is misused as a partisan weapon -- seized by a political figure no less profane, irreligious and insincere than Donald Trump, who proclaims he will restore its meaning.

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The Man Who Gets Away With Everything

 Only Donald Trump would continue sponsoring campaign-style rallies, a full month after Election Day. And only Trump's most fervent followers, the zealots who still show up to hear him gloat at those events, would continue to chant "Drain the swamp!" at his command -- when he is so obviously emptying that swamp into the White House swimming pool.
        The bad joke of 2016 is that Trump actually perpetrates every one of the offenses charged against Hillary Clinton, whether invented or plausible, while he escapes all the blaming and shaming that fell so heavily upon her. The starkest example is the contrast between the Clinton Foundation, an enormous force for good that was falsely accused of wrongdoing in countless stories, columns and broadcasts, and the Trump Foundation, a vainglorious vehicle for tax evasion that has now confessed to unlawful self-dealing and remains barred from doing business by authorities in its home state.
        But it is the Clintons' reputation that suffered, even as Trump and his family remain unscathed.
        During the campaign, Trump shrieked "pay for play!" to defame the Clintons over and over again, without proof. But now he is doling out top positions in government to the patrons of his campaign, his business and his foundation. To Trump, a post in his cabinet is not a commitment of trust granted on behalf of the people, but a plum to bestow on some crony who once did him a favor.
        The most wanton example is designated Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a political and financial opportunist who predicted many months ago that if he raised enough money, then Trump would reward him with precisely this powerful post. Imagine the outrage if Clinton had appointed someone like Mnuchin -- a former top executive of Goldman Sachs who ruthlessly exploited government bailouts and crushed poor homeowners in the wake of the financial crisis -- after he had raised millions of dollars for her campaign.
        The hair on every pundit and anchor across America would have simultaneously burst into flame.
        But those same media sages watch Trump appoint Mnuchin, then shrug and comment wryly on his Goldman pedigree. Trump senior adviser Steve Bannon is from Goldman as well, of course -- and on Dec. 9, Trump chose Gary Cohn, the Wall Street mammoth's chief operating officer, to head the National Economic Council.
        As some wit said, Trump will be giving a speech to Goldman Sachs every time he addresses a White House meeting.
        Another billionaire financial operator chosen by Trump is Wilbur Ross, a "vulture" capitalist who got to know Trump when the real estate mogul was going bust, bigly, in Atlantic City. It was Ross who gave Trump the most important boost of his business career. Rather than force him into a personal bankruptcy that would have destroyed his career (and saved us from his impending presidency), Ross persuaded the banks to let him survive.
        That was a bad decision for many of Trump's creditors, who saw their companies ruined, but it has turned out to be a good decision for Ross -- who will soon wield power over major policy decisions affecting trade and industry as commerce secretary. Of course, Ross also made large donations to Trump's campaign.
        Then there's Linda McMahon, the former wrestling executive and failed Republican senatorial candidate from Connecticut just appointed by Trump to run the Small Business Administration. Promoting a fake sport may not qualify her to operate an important agency. And her family company has many embarrassing moments in its recent past, including the unlamented XFL. McMahon has no experience in government at all, but she does possess even more important credentials: She and husband Vince donated $5 million to the Trump Foundation and $6 million to a Donald Trump super PAC this year.
        Pay for play? Hillary Clinton never did anything nearly so brazen, whether as first lady, senator, secretary of state or candidate. But for the man who can get away with everything, these displays of cronyism are only the beginning.

Rogue FBI Agents Have Gravely Defaced Our Democracy

   Whatever the outcome next Tuesday, our political system crossed a disturbing Rubicon during the days leading up to that climax: For the first time in recent memory, officials of the nation's premier law enforcement agency sought to influence a national election with illicit leaks.

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How Bernie Sanders Can Squander - or Expand - His Victory

The time is coming when Bernie Sanders should declare victory—not because he is going to be the Democratic presidential nominee, but because he has already won so much.

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