So what has Donald Trump been up to since he apparently won the election to be president of the United States? Some of the lowlights:

• Trump agreed to pay $25 mln to settle claims that he defrauded students at “Trump University.” During the campaign Trump was unequivocal that the fraud accusations were completely false and he would never settle the case, but New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman (D) who had faced harsh attacks from Trump since filing the 2013 suit, said his office had sued Trump for “swindling thousands of innocent Americans out of millions of dollars” and that the settlement had come despite significant resistance from Trump for years.

“Today, that all changes,” Schneiderman said (11/18). “Today’s $25 mln settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.”

Schneiderman said the settlement includes a $1 mln penalty paid to New York state for violating the state’s education laws by calling the program a “university” despite offering no degrees or traditional education. Trump did not, however, admit fault regarding the claims that customers were cheated..

• Trump’s charitable foundation admitted in its 2015 tax return that it violated an IRS ban on“self dealing,” which bars nonprofit leaders from using their charity’s money to help themselves, their businesses or their families, the Washington Post reported (11/22). The Post has reported that on several instances Trump appeared to use the Trump Foundation’s money to buy items for himself or to help one of his for-profit businesses. Trump’s foundation also admitted that it had engaged in self dealing during prior years, which presents another problem for Trump because in previous tax returns the foundation claimed it had not engaged in self dealing. Knowingly signing a materially false tax return is a felony.

• Trump reportedly has asked foreign government officials to help some of his foreign properties. Trump admits he asked a group of British politicians who kill a proposed wind farm he believes would mar the views at a Scottish golf course he owns. He reportedly asked the president of Argentina to approve permits for a high-rise in Buenos Aires. (Trump denied the allegation, although his local partner announced the project was moving forward the next day.) Trump has also had his daughter Ivanka, who is supposedly managing his day-to-day business interests, sit in on meetings with heads of state.

Trump still refuses to release his tax returns, but in his most recent financial disclosures he listed financial interests in at least 144 companies in 25 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, South America and North America, CNN reported (11/28). Trump has said he believes he is placing his businesses in a “blind trust” by turning over management to his children and, in an echo of Richard Nixon’s guiding philosophy, Trump told the New York Times he doesn’t believe as President he can have a conflict of interest.

• As he tries to put his administration together, one of his first appointments was Steve Bannon as his White House chief strategist and senior counselor. Bannon had been executive chair of Breitbart News, a far-right news website that the Southern Poverty Law Center called a “white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill.” Bannon became the top Trump campaign strategist after the Republican convention.

After that, Trump tapped Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general despite his history of racist remarks and vocal support for white supremacist groups that tanked his nomination for a federal judgeship in 1986, his opposition to immigration reform and the Voting Rights Act, attempts to roll back marriage equality, holding up the confirmation of the Supreme Court’s first Latina Justice, repeatedly voting to gut funding for food stamps and sponsoring bills to give the government more surveillance power.

At least with Sessions’ nomination as attorney general Rudy Giuliani didn’t get the nod, but Trump apparently is still trying to find a post suitable for the talents of the former New York City mayor and federal prosecutor. He was rumored to be a possible choice for secretary of state.

• The news that Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote nationwide had widened to more than 2.3 mln votes apparently is getting under Trump’s skin. After Clinton’s campaign said it would participate in a recount of Wisconsin votes being undertaken by Green presidential candidate Jill Stein, Trump tweeted (11/27) that he had fallen short in the popular vote in the general election only because millions of people had voted illegally. “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” he wrote, without offering any proof.

This claim has been popularized by Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist who believes a “Jewish mafia” wants to hurt Americans, Matthew Rozsa noted at Salon.com (11/28). Jones claimed through his site, InfoWars, that “3 million votes in the US presidential election were cast by illegal aliens, according to Greg Phillips of the VoteFraud.org organization. If true, this would mean that Donald Trump still won the contest despite widespread vote fraud and almost certainly won the popular vote.”

As PolitiFact explained (11/18), Phillips not only isn’t affiliated with VoteFraud.org (as Jones claimed), but he has refused to provide any additional information that could verify or disprove his assertions. Phillips has even refused to say what his data says or where it has come from, only promising to release the information publicly once he has finished analyzing it. Until then, individuals like Trump and Jones who embrace his claims are doing so based solely on the man’s word, Rozsa noted.

PolitiFact has ranked the Trump/Jones claim as False. And we can look forward to the President tweeting lies the next four years.

ETHICS LAWYERS: ELECTORAL COLLEGE SHOULD REJECT TRUMP UNLESS HE SELLS BUSINESSES. Ethics lawyers for the last two presidents are in agreement that members of the Electoral College should not make Trump the next president unless he sells his companies and puts the proceeds in a blind trust. Richard Painter, Chief Ethics Counsel for George W. Bush, and Norman Eisen, Chief Ethics Counsel for Barack Obama, believe that if Trump continues to retain ownership over his sprawling business interests by the time the electors meet on Dec. 19, they should reject Trump.

In an email to ThinkProgress (11/24), Eisen explained that “the founders did not want any foreign payments to the president. Period.” This principle is enshrined in Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution, which bars office holders from accepting “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”

Eisen said that Trump’s businesses, foreign and domestic, “are receiving a stream of such payments.” A prime example is Trump’s new hotel in Washington, D.C., which, according to Eisen, is “actively seeking emoluments to Trump: payments from foreign governments for use of the hotel.”

“The notion that his (through his agents) solicitation of those payments, and the foreign governments making of those payments, is unrelated to his office is laughable,” Eisen added.

This problem will be repeated “over and over” again with Trump’s other properties and business interests, he said. The only way to cure this Constitutional violation is for Trump to sell his companies and set up a blind trust before he takes office.

Eisen’s conclusions are shared by Harvard Law Professor Larry Tribe, one of the nation’s preeminent constitutional scholars. Tribe told ThinkProgress that, after extensive research, he concluded that “Trump’s ongoing business dealings around the world would make him the recipient of constitutionally prohibited ‘Emoluments’ from ‘any King, Prince, or foreign State’ — in the original sense of payments and not necessarily presents or gifts — from the very moment he takes the oath.”

Tribe said the violation would qualify as one of the “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” that would require Trump to be “removed from Office.”

Richard Painter, Bush’s Chief Ethics Counsel, was in complete agreement with Tribe and Eisen during an appearance on CNN.

“I don’t think the electoral college can vote for someone to become president if he’s going to be in violation of the Constitution on day one and hasn’t assured us he’s not in violation,” Painter said.

Painter also suggested a cure for the constitutional problem short of total divestment. Trump could agree to have his businesses audited and any payment from a foreign government be turned over to the United States. (Tribe does not think this would actually cure the Constitutional violation, Judd Legum noted at ThinkProgress.)

Thus far, Trump has not shown a willingness to do anything. Trump told the New York Times that he is under no obligation to set up a trust and he “could run my business perfectly, and then run the country perfectly.” Instead, he plans on having his adult children run the company while he retains ownership.

Trump told a room full of reporters that “the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest.”

Painter told CNN that his attempts to warn the Trump transition of the legal consequences of their approach, including emails to adviser Kellyanne Conway, are being ignored.

REPUBS WILL PUSH MEDICARE PRIVATIZATION. For nearly six years, House Speaker Paul Ryan has championed a plan to shift Medicare away from its open-ended commitment to pay for medical services, moving it toward a fixed government contribution for seniors to buy insurance. Donald Trump has said he would protect Medicare and Social Security, but Trump’s senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway, said on PBS NewsHour (11/22) that the President-elect was “open to hearing” alternatives to the Medicare program, including Ryan’s plan. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), the House Budget Committee chairman and a candidate to be Trump’s secretary of health and human services, has embraced the idea, known as premium support.

Democrats have denounced “premium support,” which they call “voucherizing” Medicare, replacing the current government guarantee with skimpy vouchers — “coupon care for seniors.” The fear is that the healthiest seniors would choose private insurance, lured by offers of free health club memberships and other wellness programs, leaving traditional Medicare with sicker, more expensive patients and higher premiums.

“I’m scared to death,” said Charles Drapeau, who has multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, and takes a drug that costs more than $10,000 a month. “We don’t know exactly how it will work, but just the fact that they are talking about messing with Medicare, it’s frightening to me,” Robert Pear reported at the New York Times (11/24).

Kevin Drum noted at MotherJones.com (11/25) that it’s pretty plain that “premium support” would be worse for seniors than the current Medicare system. “After all, if it were better, Ryan wouldn’t feel like he has to exempt current Medicare recipients. But everyone currently on Medicare is keenly aware of how their benefits would be affected by Ryan’s vouchers, and if they aren’t, AARP will tell them in no uncertain terms. So they’ll fight Ryan’s cuts tooth and nail.”

This could be a boon for Democratic senators who are up for re-election in 2018. “Let me say unequivocally to you now: I have fought to protect Medicare for this generation and for future generations,” Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., who is running for re-election in 2018, said in a video message to constituents. “I have opposed efforts to privatize Medicare in the past, and I will oppose any effort to privatize Medicare or turn it into a voucher program in the future.”

Democrats are relishing the fight and preparing to defend the program, which was created in 1965 as part of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, Pear reported. They believe that if Trump chooses to do battle over Medicare, he would squander political capital, as President George W. Bush did with an effort to add private investment accounts to Social Security after his re-election in 2004.

Democrats will “stand firmly and unified” against Ryan if he tries to “shatter the sacred guarantee that has protected generations of seniors,” said House Dem Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Republicans have pressed for premium support since Ryan first included it in a budget blueprint in 2011. As he envisions it, Medicare beneficiaries would buy health insurance from one of a number of competing plans. The traditional fee-for-service Medicare program would compete directly with plans offered by private insurers like Humana, UnitedHealth Group and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Democrats say that premium support would privatize Medicare, replacing the current government guarantee with skimpy vouchers — “coupon care for seniors.” The fear is that the healthiest seniors would choose private insurance, lured by offers of free health club memberships and other wellness programs, leaving traditional Medicare with sicker, more expensive patients and higher premiums.

The Medicare phase-out normally wouldn’t make it past a Senate filibuster, but House Budget Chairman Price said Republicans will pass the Medicare overhaul in a budget reconciliation bill this year, Sarah Ferris reported at The Hill magazine (11/17). A budget reconciliation bill can be passed with a majority in the Senate, and cannot be filibustered, but it can only make changes to taxes and spending. The GOP is currently planning to use its first reconciliation bill to repeal Obamacare on a time-delayed basis, to avoid having to write an alternative plan. The second bill could privatize Medicare, among other changes.

“So why is Ryan doing this, anyway?” Drum asked. “I suppose because it’s one of the few ways to open up a significant amount of budget room for his gigantic tax cuts. If you want big tax cuts, after all, you need big spending cuts too, and that means cutting big programs. Unfortunately for Ryan, there really aren’t all that many big spending programs, especially once you take defense off the table. So he has little choice but to chop away at Medicare if those top marginal rates are going to come down.”

MINIMUM WAGE ISN’T LIVING WAGE IN ANY STATE. The highest minimum wage in the country is $11.50 an hour, in Washington, D.C. The lowest living wage for a single adult in the country is $14.50, in South Dakota. South Dakota’s minimum wage, meanwhile, is $8.55 an hour, while the District of Columbia’s single adult living wage is $21.92, Laura Clawson noted at DailyKos.com (11/26).

Those figures come from a new report from the People’s Action Institute (see jobgap2016.org). The big picture:

“Forty-three states have a living wage above $15 per hour for a single adult, and in no state can a single adult make ends meet on less than $14.50 per hour. Yet, only nine states have a minimum wage greater than $9 per hour and while California and Massachusetts reach $10 per hour, each still falls well short of providing a living wage. Even Washington, D.C.’s recent minimum wage increase to $11.50 provides only 52% of the District’s single adult living wage.”

Nebraska comes the closest to having a minimum wage that’s a living wage—but that doesn’t mean it’s close. Nebraska’s minimum wage of $9 is 60% of its living wage of $15.03. Just 18 other states have a minimum wage that’s at least 50% of the living wage. Two—Hawaii and Virginia—are below 40%.

“When you look at it this way, the demand for a $15 an hour minimum wage is freakin’ modest,” Clawson noted.

JUDGE SUSPENDS RULE EXPANDING OVERTIME PAY FOR MILLIONS. A federal judge in Texas issued a nationwide injunction (11/22) against an Obama administration regulation expanding by millions the number of workers eligible for time-and-a-half overtime pay.

The regulation, which was scheduled to take effect 12/1, would raise the salary below which workers automatically qualified for overtime pay to $47,476, from $23,660.

Judge Amos L. Mazzant III of Sherman, Texas, ruled that the Obama administration had exceeded its authority by raising the overtime salary limit so significantly. The ruling was hailed by business groups who argued the new rules would be costly and result in fewer hours for workers, the New York Times reported.

The Labor Department said it “strongly disagreed” with the decision and was “considering all of our legal options,” raising the possibility of an appeal in the waning days of the Obama administration. Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute, whose writings on the subject helped shape the administration’s regulation, called the ruling “a disappointment to millions of workers who are forced to work long hours with no extra compensation.”

While the injunction is only a temporary measure that suspends the regulation until the judge can issue a ruling on the merits, many said the judge’s language indicated he was likely to strike down the regulation.

The fate of the regulation had already been thrown into question by the election of Donald J. Trump as president. Trump has promised to reverse many regulations approved during the Obama administration, and the Republican Congress has generally criticized the scope of the expansion of overtime eligibility.

HATE INCIDENTS SKYROCKET SINCE TRUMP’S ELECTION. Within hours after Donald Trump was elected president (11/8), the United States was awash in an unprecedented wave of hateful incidents, many of them perpetrated by people claiming to be Trump supporters, ThinkProgress noted (11/28).

Various forms of hatred surged during Trump’s campaign — especially Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and general support for white supremacy. But his election appears to have emboldened vitriol of all kinds, triggering a rash of harrowing — and sometimes violent — incidents that has left many Americans afraid. Just one week after Election Day, the Southern Poverty Law Center counted more than 300 reports of hate incidents, with more pouring in every day. One week later, the tally breached 700.

The SPLC also is tracking incidents against Trump supporters, and reported 27 in the two weeks after the election.

ThinkProgress is mapping this explosion of hate incidents of hate since Trump’s election and found 112 incidents where Trump’s name, policies, campaign, or election were mentioned. See the map at ThinkProgress.org.

MINORITIES BUYING GUNS FOLLOWING TRUMP ELECTION. More minorities have armed themselves in the weeks following the election, shopping for guns and attending weapons classes in record numbers, gun sellers and advocates said.

Some firearm stores have reported a four-fold increase in the number of minority customers since Donald Trump was elected president, NBC News reported (11/27).

The uptick in interest in guns among black citizens and other minorities is fueled by fear that already heightened racial tensions could grow violent as Trump takes office.

In the days since the election, apparent Trump supporters have spray-painted swastikas across the country, harassed Muslims and Latino people and even hosted a white nationalist conference in D.C., where attendees were spotted proudly giving the Nazi salute, Meg Wagner noted at the New York Daily News (11/24).

“You feel that racists now feel like they can attack us just because the president is doing it,” one gun shop owner told NBC News.

Fearing the worst, Yolanda Scott, a black financial analyst from Georgia, decided to buy a small pistol after the election. The racist bumper stickers on cars around her Southern hometown have always made her uneasy — and she’s worried those sentiments could turn physical one day.

Gun sales spiked the month leading up to the election, although that surge was likely fueled by fears that Hillary Clinton would win and make it harder to buy firearms. In October, federal officials processed more than 2.3 mln background checks for firearms — up from 1.9 mln in September and 1.8 mln in August.

Trump, supported by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups, made plans to build a wall between the US and Mexico and ban all Muslims from entry the county central parts of his campaign.

Fearing the worst, Yolanda Scott, a black financial analyst from Georgia, decided to buy a small pistol after the election. The racist bumper stickers on the cars around her Southern hometown have always made her uneasy — and she’s worried those sentiments could turn physical one day.

Gun sales spiked the month leading up to the election, although that surge was likely fueled by Second Amendment-loving Americans fearing Democrat Hillary Clinton would win and make it harder to buy firearms. In October, federal officials processed more than 2.3 mln background checks for firearms — up from 1.9 mln in September and 1.8 mln in August.

With two months to go, 2016 has the second most gun background checks in the history of the system. Only 2015 had more.

The November numbers have not yet been released. Even when they do come out, officials do not break down the figure by demographics, so it will be impossible to tell how many more minority citizens applied.

But store owners said the pattern is clear. Michael Cargill, who owns Central Texas Gun Works in Austin, told NBC News that his shop’s gun classes are selling out, with Muslim, black, Hispanic and LGBTQ customers flocking to them.

FIDEL WASN’T OUR KIND OF MURDEROUS DICTATOR. Fidel Castro was greeted as a liberator in Havana when he overthrew Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in January 1959 but he converted Cuba into a one-party socialist state under Communist Party rule and him as maximum leader. His government executed hundreds of officials of Batista’s government and sent countless political opponents to prison. He expanded education and health care but he took control of the press, he suppressed dissent and he placed Cuba under a centrally planned economy. In the years since the revolution, researchers have estimated that the Cuban government killed thousands of counter-revolutionaries and thousands more died trying to flee the island.

US leaders joined Cuban emigres in condemning Castro as a murderous dictator, but the US hardly has clean hands in the Western Hemisphere. Richard Nixon was willing to work with murderous regimes, such as Chile after a military junta run by Augusto Pinochet killed or “disappeared” at least 3,200 people after the CIA-backed overthrow of its democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende in 1973. Ronald Reagan was heavily involved in wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala in the 1980s in an effort to stop Soviet influence in the Western Hemisphere. The *Washington Post* in 2004 noted that more than 75,000 people were killed during El Salvador’s civil wars, many of them civilians caught in the crossfire. The US organized Nicaragua’s contra guerrillas who fought the revolutionary Sandinista government in a war that killed as many as 50,000 people. Reagan also supported the repressive military dictatorship in Guatemala, where more than 200,000 people, mostly peasants, died over 36 years of civil strife. Honduras was used as a staging area for the US-funded contras.

The US-backed wars also created a massive wave of refugees who fled to the US in the 1980s. Many refugees learned gang culture in American cities, then brought it home, destabilizing cities in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and creating a security threat that has caused thousands to flee to the US to seek refuge.

In the 2016 fiscal year, which ended in September, nearly 409,000 migrants were caught trying to cross the southwestern border of the US illegally, a 23% increase over the previous fiscal year, according to statistics released by the Obama administration. Many were from Central America. Donald Trump has promised an unforgiving approach to illegal immigration, including a wall along the border with Mexico and stepping up deportations.

Meanwhile, the number of Cuban migrants who have reached the US has dramatically spiked since President Obama announced a renewal of ties with Cuba in late 2014, the Pew Research Center reported. in the last three months of 2015 as in the same period the year earlier, an exodus swelling after the restoration of diplomatic relations and amid fears of the loss of migration privileges.

During the first 10 months of fiscal year 2016, 46,635 Cubans entered the US via ports of entry – already surpassing full fiscal year 2015’s total of 43,159, according to US Customs and Border Protection. And fiscal 2015 was up 78% over 2014.

The surge has been driven in part by Cubans’ fears that warmer ties between the governments, announced in December 2014, mean they could lose privileges that now let them stay in the United States if they reach American soil – a policy originally based on the assumption those fleeing Cuba were largely political refugees. There is no such assumption for migrants fleeing totalitarian regimes that are allied with the US.

From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2016


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