Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Cannon’s SCOTUS Ambition: Did Trump Offer a Quid Pro Quo?

Donald Trump Judge Aileen Cannon bribe
Photo: Gage Skidmore

In a series of increasingly bewildering legal maneuvers, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has come under intense scrutiny for her dismissal of the classified documents case against former President Donald Trump. Her questionable legal rationale, coupled with reports of lavish retreats bankrolled by Trump's right-wing donors and public support from his allies like Matt Gaetz, suggests an unsettling quid pro quo. Did Trump or his team promise her a Supreme Court seat or an appointment to Attorney General in exchange for her judicial favors?

Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe contends that Judge Cannon's recent actions resemble “a job application” for a possible Supreme Court appointment should Trump win a second term and Justices Alito or Thomas retire. Additionally, UNLV history professor Gregory Brown speculated that she is “the odds-on favorite” for Attorney General if Trump regains the presidency.

The possibility of a quid pro quo arrangement cannot be ignored. While such allegations are serious and should be treated with caution, the mounting evidence and suspicious circumstances of Cannon's actions demand a thorough investigation by the DOJ and the FBI.

Decades of Legal Precedent Ignored

Judge Cannon's 93-page opinion, released on Monday, threw out all charges against Trump related to his alleged mishandling of classified documents and obstruction of justice. The judge's reasoning hinged on her determination that Special Counsel Jack Smith was improperly appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland, a conclusion that flies in the face of decades of legal precedent and practice.

Cannon's decision to dismiss the case on this tenuous legal basis is particularly disturbing in light of the overwhelming evidence and the danger of leaving America's closely guarded secrets unsecured in a facility previously infiltrated by multiple suspected spies. The Department of Justice has presented a compelling case suggesting that the former president illegally retained highly sensitive national security documents—including nuclear secrets—after leaving office and obstructed efforts by the government to retrieve them. Legal experts have widely regarded this case as the strongest and most straightforward of the various criminal cases against Trump.

However, by effectively dismissing charges, Cannon has not only defied legal precedent but has also signaled a concerning disregard for the weight of evidence and the national security of the United States. Her decision to disregard the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in United States v. Nixon, which affirmed the authority of the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor, has raised eyebrows and sparked accusations of judicial overreach and potential bias. She similarly disregarded a 2019 D.C. federal appeals court ruling that cited Nixon while upholding special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment.

The apparent partnership between Cannon and influential conservative operatives is echoed by Trump’s boastful mantra learned from his late mentor Roy Cohn: “Don't tell me what the law is, tell me who the judge is.” This old-school corruption mentality seems to have been reincarnated in Cannon’s courtroom, where rulings appear to be sculpted not by the law but by expectations from Trump’s realm.

Gaetz's Tweet Sparks Quid Pro Quo Concerns

Adding fuel to the speculation of impropriety, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz posted a photo of Cannon on social media shortly after her ruling with the caption “Future Supreme Court Justice Cannon.” This public endorsement not only exposes Trump’s potential quid pro quo with Cannon but also signals a game plan to reward her for her loyalty to Donald Trump.

Matt Gaetz tweet Aileen Cannon for Supreme Court

“Are you admitting to a quid pro quo?” one user asked Gaetz in response to his post.

The idea that a sitting federal judge may have struck a corrupt backroom deal to throw out criminal charges against a former president in exchange for a Supreme Court seat is almost too outrageous to believe. And yet, the circumstances surrounding this case make such an arrangement seem disturbingly plausible.

Legal scholar Katie Phang on MSNBC’s “The Weekend” questioned why Cannon didn’t dispose of this issue much earlier. “Why not dispose of that issue in February?” she asked. “This is at the end of June, the beginning of July, and then she sits on a 93-page opinion for that long?” This delayed timeline and the ultimate confluence with the RNC showcase a neatly packaged judicial favor, orchestrated for the highest political effect—raising serious concerns about 

Unexplained Delay in Cannon's Financial Disclosures

What accentuates the suspicion surrounding Cannon’s partiality is her attendance at undisclosed, all-expenses-paid retreats funded by right-wing organizations. Cannon frequented such gatherings at the Sage Lodge in Pray, Montana, in both 2021 and 2022. Not long after her 2022 trip, she controversially ruled in favor of Trump by appointing a special master in the classified documents case and was subsequently overturned by the Eleventh Circuit.  

These colloquiums, organized and paid for by the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, cater to federal judges with elaborate amenities like $1,000-a-night lodging, gourmet food, and bottomless craft beer. 

Cannon failed to disclose this information, skirting the judicial transparency required by law. What's more troubling is that Cannon has yet to file her 2023 financial disclosure report, even as nearly all her fellow federal district court judges have done so, according to the United States Courts website. This inaction stands in stark contrast to Cannon's own timely filings in the past two years, on May 26, 2023, and May 16, 2022. Her unexplained delay as of late July raises serious concerns about accountability and potential conflicts of interest.

The Antonin Scalia Law School’s funding raises additional eyebrows, largely funded by prolific right-wing donors like Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society and the Charles Koch Foundation. Centrally involved in stacking federal courts with conservative judges under Trump, Leonard Leo’s influence and the hidden luxury of these judicial retreats reek of partisan grooming—planting seeds of influence among key judges for future legal and political paybacks.

Cannon's Rulings Consistently Favored Trump

Cannon’s pattern of rulings in favor of Trump reflects a consistent bias that can’t be ignored. From suggesting extra protections for Trump as a former president to delaying trial dates and requiring actions that unreasonably hamper the special counsel’s investigations, her actions have consistently aligned with Trump’s interests.

An earlier ruling where Cannon intervened to slow the FBI’s investigation into Trump's handling of classified documents is a glaring example. Her order to appoint a special master to review documents seized from Mar-a-Lago halted the investigation's progress. This decision was later unanimously reversed by an 11th Circuit panel, which made it clear that they were unwilling to “carve out an unprecedented exception in our law for former presidents.”

Moreover, legal scholars have pointed out that her latest ruling on the dismissal was legally precarious and devoid of sound judicial reasoning. Cannon’s arguments against the legality of Special Counsel appointments have been previously litigated and overwhelmingly rejected 9-0 by the Supreme Court. Ignoring binding precedents, such as the Nixon case, reveals not just a deviation from standard legal practice, but a deliberate act to align with Trump’s legal strategy.

Michael J. Gerhardt, a University of North Carolina law professor, criticized Cannon’s handling of the case, highlighting it as a demonstration of bias favoring Trump's unfounded arguments. Becoming an exception in judicial prudence, Cannon’s rulings demonstrate a tendency to drive legal processes with a partisan compass rather than the scales of justice.

Questionable Rulings Demand Investigation 

Given the mounting evidence of potential misconduct, it’s imperative that the Department of Justice and the FBI investigate these suspicious patterns. Cannon’s undisclosed vacations, the suspicious timing of her ruling, and the overt endorsements from Trump’s allies like Matt Gaetz must be scrutinized to uncover the depth of any potential corruption. 

Judge Aileen Cannon's actions extend beyond mere judicial decisions; they signal a troubling exploitation of judicial power for ideological ends and potential personal gain. As political polarization deepens, maintaining an impartial judiciary becomes even more important. With 60% of Americans disapproving of the Supreme Court, it’s clear that faith in our judicial system is eroding.

Ethical breaches and biased decisions by Judge Aileen Cannon exemplify the troubling corruption infecting the U.S. judicial system. A transparent, impartial judiciary is crucial to safeguarding democracy, making it imperative to address and rectify Cannon's questionable rulings and to investigate any potential behind-the-scenes promises. This scrutiny is necessary to ensure the integrity of judicial conduct and protect the judiciary from undue influences that threaten its foundational role in our democracy.

Dark Secrets: The Disturbing Truth About Donald Trump and Epstein’s Friendship

Donald Trump with Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell, and Melania Trump

For nearly two decades, former President Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein ran in the same social circles, attended the same parties, and cultivated a friendship that would later become the subject of intense scrutiny and speculation. As more information has come to light about Epstein's crimes in recent years, Trump has understandably attempted to distance himself from the disgraced financier. However, a closer examination of their relationship reveals a disturbing pattern of behavior and raises serious questions.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) criticized the media for ignoring Trump's presence in the recently released Epstein documents. “We hear a lot from our constituents on different issues,” Lieu said, "but something that isn't getting enough attention are the Epstein files." The California Democrat's remarks fueled the viral spread of #TrumpPedoFiles on Twitter, drawing renewed attention to the disturbing claims against the former president. Lieu's critique highlights rising frustrations over perceived reluctance by the mainstream media in probing Trump's potential connections to Epstein's sordid activities.

On July 1st, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Luis Delgado ordered the release of damning grand jury documents, describing the testimony as revealing “sexually deviant, disgusting, and criminal” conduct. This decision came after a three-year push by Palm Beach County Clerk Joseph Abruzzo to make these records public. The documents shed light on Trump's frequent communications with Epstein between 2004 and 2006, a period when Epstein's predatory behavior was allegedly at its peak. 

Epstein files, call logs include Donald Trump
From the Epstein files, Epstein's call logs included Trump on numerous occasions

The newly released documents have reignited controversy surrounding former U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta's role in Jeffrey Epstein's 2008 plea deal. This agreement, widely condemned as a miscarriage of justice, allowed the wealthy financier to evade federal prosecution for sexually exploiting minors. Despite allegations of widespread abuse across Florida and New York from 2002 to 2005, Epstein faced only minor state charges. 

The agreement’s repercussions followed Acosta into his role as Donald Trump's Labor Secretary, ultimately forcing him to resign in 2019 after federal prosecutors brought new charges against Epstein and his lenient plea deal was publicized. Acosta's past also includes a clerkship for conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

Notably, Trump is believed to be the individual referred to as “Doe 174” in the documents, identified by his public statement wishing Epstein's convicted accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell well. 

Epstein Invokes Fifth on Trump and Underage Girls

While Epstein readily acknowledged a personal relationship with Donald Trump under oath, he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights when pressed about potentially socializing with the former president in the presence of underage girls. The issue came to light during a 2010 deposition, where Epstein confirmed socializing with Trump, but abruptly pled the Fifth when asked if minors were present during these encounters. This selective transparency is highly suspicious and raises more questions than it answers.

Q: Have you ever had a personal relationship with Donald Trump?

A. What do you mean by "personal relationship," sir?

Q. Have you socialized with him?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Yes?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Have you ever socialized with Donald Trump in the presence of females under the age of 18?

A: Though I'd like to answer that question, at least today I'm going to have to assert my Fifth, Sixth, and 14th Amendment rights, sir.

A Friendship Forms in Palm Beach

Donald Trump with Epstein in 1992
Donald Trump with Epstein in 1992

Trump and Epstein's association dates back to at least the late 1980s, when both were fixtures of the Palm Beach social scene. Trump himself confirmed the length of their relationship in a 2002 interview with New York Magazine, stating: “I've known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He's a lot of fun to be with.”

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Trump and Epstein were frequently photographed together at social events in Palm Beach and New York. They attended the same exclusive parties, flew on each other's private jets, and Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort was a frequent stomping (and recruiting) ground for Epstein.

One particularly illuminating incident occurred in 1992, when Trump hosted a party at Mar-a-Lago that was attended by 28 young women for a “calendar girl” competition. The only men in attendance? Trump and Epstein. “I said, ‘Donald, this is supposed to be a party with V.I.P.s. You’re telling me it’s you and Epstein?’” Houraney told the New York Times. 

George Houraney, who organized the event, said he warned Trump about Epstein's behavior, saying: “Look, Donald, I know Jeff really well, I can't have him going after younger girls.” But Trump reportedly dismissed his concerns and went ahead with the party anyway.

This aligns with a concerning broader pattern of Trump, at the minimum, overlooking Epstein's predatory actions towards young women and girls. In a revealing 2002 New York Magazine profile, Trump made a telling comment about Epstein: “He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” This remark hints at Trump's awareness of Epstein's criminality and raises questions about his willingness to ignore or even condone such behavior.

The casual way Trump references Epstein's preference for “younger” women is chilling in retrospect, knowing what we now know about the extent of Epstein's sex trafficking operation. It suggests Trump was at least aware of Epstein's behavior, yet continued to associate closely with him for years afterward.

Hoffenberg: Trump Was Crazy About Maxwell

Any examination of Trump's ties to Epstein must also consider his relationship with Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein's longtime girlfriend and accomplice in his sex trafficking operation. 

Donald Trump with Ghislaine Maxwell
Donald Trump with Ghislaine Maxwell

According to Steven Hoffenberg, a former Trump acquaintance and Epstein's ex-business partner, Trump's affinity extended beyond Epstein himself. “Donald liked Epstein,” Hoffenberg stated, “But he was crazy about Maxwell, a very charming lady.”

Trump and Ghislaine Maxwell were frequently photographed together at various social events over the years, underscoring their close acquaintanceship. Trump's public appearances with Epstein and Maxwell also garnered significant media attention; notably, in February 2000, Epstein, accompanied by Maxwell, attended a celebrity tennis tournament at Mar-a-Lago. During this event, Epstein brought along Prince Andrew, resulting in photographs of Trump with the British royal and Trump's then-girlfriend, Melania Knauss.

Trump with Ghislaine Maxwell, newspaper clipping

After Maxwell's arrest for sex trafficking in 2020, Trump raised eyebrows when he said of her: “I wish her well, frankly. I've met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach, and I guess they lived in Palm Beach. But I wish her well, whatever it is.”

This oddly sympathetic comment about a sex trafficker drew criticism from many, and once again raised questions about the true nature of Trump's connections to Epstein's inner circle.

Suspiciously Young Women at Mar-a-Lago

Multiple sources have described seeing unusually young women and girls around Trump and Epstein at Mar-a-Lago in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Roger Stone, a longtime advisor to Donald Trump, revealed in his 2016 book that after visiting Jeffrey Epstein's Palm Beach home, Trump remarked about the pool being filled with girls. Trump jokingly commented that it was nice of Epstein to let “the neighborhood kids use his pool.” 

Virginia Roberts Giuffre, one of Epstein's most prominent accusers, has stated that she was recruited into Epstein's sex trafficking ring by Ghislaine Maxwell in 2000 while working as a spa attendant at Mar-a-Lago at age 16. While Giuffre has not accused Trump of any wrongdoing, that Epstein and his associates were apparently recruiting underage girls directly from Trump's property is suspicious.

Epstein's Little Black Book

When Epstein's infamous “little black book” of contacts was made public as part of various court proceedings, it contained 14 phone numbers connected to Donald Trump.

The extensive list of contact methods for reaching Trump in Jeffrey Epstein's book underscores the closeness and frequency of their communications, blowing up Trump's assertions that he barely knew Epstein. Numerous victims have testified that Epstein used this book to connect with influential figures who could either support his sex trafficking operation or become potential clients. 

This black book not only exposes the depth of Trump's relationship with Epstein but also highlights the broader network of powerful individuals entangled in Epstein's network, including Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew.

Trump's Disturbing Comments About Women

While Trump's connections to Epstein are concerning enough on their own, they become even more troubling when viewed in the context of Trump's long history of sexualizing young women and girls—including his own daughter.

During a 2013 interview on The Wendy Williams Show, Trump was asked about his and his daughter Ivanka's favorite things. He provocatively responded, “I was going to say sex, but I can relate to [golf and real estate].” In a 2006 episode of The View, Trump made a disconcerting remark when asked about Ivanka posing for Playboy, saying, “Ivanka posing for Playboy would be really disappointing… not really. But it would depend on what was inside the magazine… Although she does have a very nice figure. I’ve said that if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” 

On The Howard Stern Show in 2003, Trump boasted, “You know who’s one of the great beauties of the world, according to everybody? And I helped create her. Ivanka. My daughter, Ivanka. She’s 6 feet tall, she’s got the best body.” 

During a 2015 Rolling Stone interview, Trump remarked, “Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father…” And a 2016 Buzzfeed News scoop revealed that Trump once asked, “Is it wrong to be more sexually attracted to your own daughter than your wife?” 

According to the recently published book Blowback: A Warning to Save Democracy From the Next Trump, Trump often made lewd comments about Ivanka, discussing her breasts and backside, and fantasizing about sex with her, which once led John Kelly to remind him Ivanka was his daughter.

Trump has made many comments over the years sexualizing underage girls, from saying he'd be dating a 10-year-old girl in 10 years, to bragging about barging into dressing rooms at his beauty pageants to see contestants naked, some of whom were as young as 15. And of course, there's the infamous Access Hollywood tape where Trump brags about being able to get away with sexually assaulting women because he's a star.

This pattern of behavior and comments makes Trump's close association with a known pedophile and sex trafficker like Epstein all the more disturbing. It suggests that, at a minimum, Trump was comfortable socializing closely with someone he likely knew or suspected was abusing underage girls.

Trump's Pattern of Projecting Controversies onto Opponents

As the evidence mounts about Trump's own extensive ties to Epstein over many years, it's notable how quickly he has attempted to shift the focus onto others through baseless accusations and conspiracy theories. This deflection seems to fit Trump's well-documented pattern of projecting his own controversies and misdeeds onto his political opponents.

In a trademark move shortly after Epstein’s death, Trump took to Twitter to retweet an unfounded conspiracy theory alleging Bill Clinton was connected to Epstein's death. This distraction tactic conveniently diverts scrutiny away from Trump's own well-established links to Epstein's operations and onto a political rival.

trump retweet epstein projection
Tweet Trump retweeted in 2019

This conspiratorial finger-pointing by Trump isn’t a new tactic for him, and is designed to sow confusion and doubt in the minds of the public. If everyone is implicated, then his own well-documented relationship with Epstein over many years gets diminished amidst the noise and chaos. It's a strategy straight out of the disinformation playbook—create a storm of distractions and counter-allegations so the truth becomes buried.

2016 Lawsuit Accusing Trump of Rape

While Trump has not been directly implicated in Epstein's sex trafficking operation, he has faced accusations of sexual misconduct related to Epstein over the years.

In 2016, a woman filed a lawsuit under the pseudonym “Katie Johnson” accusing Trump of raping her at one of Epstein's parties in 1994, when she was 13 years old. She alleged Trump tied her to a bed and violently raped her, and that Epstein also raped her and other underage girls at the party.

trump lawsuit 2016

The lawsuit was later voluntarily dismissed, but the circumstances of the case raise troubling questions. Johnson's attorneys cited threats against her as the reason for withdrawing the lawsuit, leaving the disturbing accusations unproven in court. However, according to investigative journalist Ronan Farrow, Trump and his allies at the National Enquirer sought to silence Johnson through intimidation tactics, including efforts to “track down the woman” and “see what they could do about her.” 

While the specifics of these alleged threats remain unclear, their apparent impact is undeniable—Johnson became too fearful to reveal her identity publicly and hasn’t been heard from since the lawsuit was dismissed. This pattern mirrors the National Enquirer’s “catch and kill” tactics exposed during Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York, where stories about Trump were buried. 

Sarah Ransome, allegedly abused by Trump, Bill Clinton, and Epstein
Sarah Ransome’s claims

It's also worth noting that Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct, assault, or harassment by 26 other women over the years, and was recently found liable for sexually abusing E. Jean Caroll in 1996. While most of these accusations do not involve Epstein, they establish a clear pattern of predatory behavior towards women that makes Trump's close association with Epstein seem more ominous.

The Suspicious Circumstances of Epstein's Death

One of the most controversial aspects of the Epstein saga was his death in federal custody in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. While officially ruled a suicide, many questions remain about the circumstances of Epstein's death.

It's worth noting that at the time, Epstein was being held in a federal facility that fell under the purview of Attorney General William Barr, who acted as Trump’s fixer on numerous occasions. The significant irregularities surrounding Epstein's death — from guards failing to conduct required checks, to surveillance cameras mysteriously malfunctioning, to his cellmate being transferred out the day before Epstein died—have fueled speculation about whether foul play was involved to silence Epstein.

In an unprecedented move, Barr personally interrogated Epstein's last cellmate, Reyes, about Epstein’s death and reportedly told Reyes, “I owe you a favor, thank you for telling us the truth.” This direct involvement raises eyebrows given Barr's various ties to Epstein: Epstein previously hired Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Barr's father had employed Epstein to teach at an elite New York City school. Despite these apparent conflicts, Barr refused to recuse himself from the case.

While there's no direct evidence implicating Trump in Epstein's death, the fact that it occurred under such suspicious circumstances while Epstein was in the custody of Trump's DOJ is certainly eyebrow-raising given their prior connections and the potential damage Epstein could have inflicted on Trump if he cooperated with prosecutors.

Decades-Long Association Demands Scrutiny

The recently released grand jury documents shine new light on Donald Trump's extensive ties to Jeffrey Epstein over many years, raising disturbing questions about what Trump knew and what role he may have played in Epstein's prolific sex trafficking crimes. While Trump has attempted to distance himself from Epstein, the evidence paints a picture of two men running in very close circles, attending the same parties. 

The American people have a right to know the truth about the man who once held—and might again hold—the highest office in the land. Was Trump merely an unwitting associate of a prolific sexual predator? Or was he aware of or even involved in Epstein's crimes?

These are not pleasant questions, but they are vitally important. The victims of Epstein and Maxwell's abuse deserve justice and accountability—not just from Epstein and Maxwell, but from anyone who enabled or turned a blind eye to their crimes, no matter how wealthy or powerful they may be.

The story of Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein is far from over. Fresh revelations continue to emerge, raising ever more questions about the true nature of their relationship. While we may never know everything that transpired between these two powerful men, one thing is clear: their decades-long association demands further scrutiny and investigation from a mainstream media that has often turned a blind eye to potential abuses by society’s elite.

Great Depression 2.0 Looming? Analyzing Donald Trump’s Tariff Obsession

Donald Trump hush money
Photo: Liam Enea

With the 2024 election looming, former President Donald Trump has reemerged on the political stage with an economic vision that reads like a billionaire's fever dream. His most recent proposal? Abolish the federal income tax entirely and replace it with towering tariffs on imported goods. At first blush, this may sound like a tax reprieve for hard-working Americans. But a closer examination reveals a regressive ploy to further enrich corporations and the wealthy elite at the expense of the middle class and working poor.

Trump's tariff-driven tax scheme is similar to the tariffs that exacerbated the Great Depression. His plan is a recipe for runaway inflation that would hammer those who can least afford it. From the grocery aisles to big-box retailers, American consumers would bear the brunt as businesses pass on the costs of his de facto consumption tax.

Trump's attacks on economic stability extend beyond his tax cuts. His draconian immigration plan to deport millions of undocumented workers would create labor shortages in agriculture, hospitality, construction, and more—further stoking inflationary pressures. This approach threatens to dismantle the economic progress achieved under the Biden administration, reversing gains in job growth and inflation reduction. 

Skyrocketing Prices: The Immediate Effect of Trump’s Tariffs

A key aspect of Donald Trump's economic agenda is a blanket 10% tariff on all goods entering the U.S., with an insane 60% tariff on Chinese imports (think smartphones, TVs, and laptops). Echoing the disastrous Smoot-Hawley Tariff that deepened the Great Depression, Donald Trump's economic platform centers on sweeping tariffs that could cripple American consumers and businesses. 

While Trump's team touts this policy as a silver bullet for reviving domestic manufacturing and safeguarding American jobs—worthy goals in their own right—imposing excessive tariffs is like performing open-heart surgery with a spoon. Such a blunt, heavy-handed approach overlooks the complex dynamics and potential unintended consequences that could ripple across the economy.

At their core, tariffs function as consumption taxes paid by American businesses and consumers, raising the sticker price on everything from clothing and electronics to cars and groceries. While Trump casts his plan as “America First” economics, it is in fact a regressive tax hike that would hammer lower and middle-income families the hardest, as these households spend a much larger share of their income on consumer goods compared to the wealthy.

consumer spending as a percentage of after tax income by decile

Consider the real-world impact: A 10% tax on all imports would translate to immediate price increases across retailer aisles and online checkout carts from California to Maine. And that's before factoring in Trump's 60% tariff on Chinese imports. For millions of cash-strapped Americans already feeling the squeeze from inflation, these additional costs would decimate disposable incomes.

Economists estimate that Trump's tariff scheme would siphon over $1,700 annually from a typical middle-class household's budget, while the poorest 50% of Americans would see 3.5% of their income wiped out. This regressive tax policy mirrors the Republican Party’s disastrous embrace of tariff hikes during the 1930s, which choked off trade, invited retaliation, and ultimately compounded the economic calamity afflicting ordinary Americans.

Trump’s proposed tariffs aim to fund an extension of his tax cuts, a move that would further disadvantage the middle and working classes. These tax cuts have already disproportionately benefited corporations and wealthy elites, widening the gap while offering little relief to ordinary Americans. This extension would deepen economic inequality, prioritizing the affluent over the broader public.

If the tax cuts are extended in 2025, households in the top 1% income tier will receive over $60,000 in annual tax cuts on average according to the Tax Policy Center, dwarfing the average tax cut of under $500 for the bottom 60% of households. Measured against after-tax income, these regressive policies hand the top 5% significantly more tax relief of working and middle-class families. 

Trump tax cuts 2025, tax change per quintile

Working families are stuck bearing the costs while the privileged few reap the gains, which is an inversion of Trump's so-called “America First” economic policy that is supposed to revitalize the working class. This latest plan exposes the former president's economic nationalism as little more than craven plutocracy wrapped in populist garb.

Tariffs and Deportations Risk Massive Inflation Spike

Further complicating the situation is Trump's plan to deport around 11 million undocumented immigrants, many of whom work in low-wage sectors such as agriculture, food processing, and manufacturing. These low-wage jobs are notoriously hard to fill with American workers, who are often unwilling to accept the same wages. Removing this essential workforce risks crippling these industries and exacerbating the nation’s existing labor shortage.

Purging the nation's workforce of nearly 6.8 million undocumented immigrants—over half of the estimated 11 million currently residing in the United States—would deliver a crippling blow to vital sectors of the economy. Industries like agriculture, hospitality, and construction—heavily reliant on this labor force—would face severe worker shortages. This abrupt exodus would drive up operational costs as companies scramble to fill vacancies, inevitably passing these heightened expenses onto consumers in the form of inflated prices. 

Compounding this economic strain are the lingering effects of former President Trump's tax cuts, near zero interest rates, and his administration's catastrophic mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which battered supply chains and fueled rampant inflation. The Biden administration has worked diligently to rectify these errors, implementing policies to stabilize the economy and reduce inflation. Deporting 6.8 million productive workers would undermine this progress, causing labor shortages and driving up production costs, ultimately reversing the gains made under Biden's leadership to get the country back on track.

Additionally, Donald Trump's claim that deporting 10 million immigrants would open up jobs for Americans is an economically illiterate fantasy rejected by experts across the ideological spectrum. The notion that removing millions of workers would free up employment opportunities is based on the thoroughly debunked “lump of labor” fallacy—the mistaken belief that economies only contain a fixed number of jobs.

Economists have long discarded such simplistic thinking, recognizing that immigrant populations actually grow labor demand through consumer spending, entrepreneurship, and expanding markets. Instead of viewing jobs as finite slices of a fixed pie to be hoarded, the evidence shows that immigrants actually create new employment opportunities. 

Replacing Income Taxes with Tariffs

In a recent closed-door meeting with Republican lawmakers at the Capitol Hill Club, Donald Trump pitched an “all tariff policy.” His plan would completely eliminate federal income taxes and replace them with tariffs on imported goods. According to a report by CNBC, Trump believes that by dramatically increasing tariffs, the government can offset the loss of revenue from income taxes. 

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman forcefully pushed back against the proposal. Krugman estimated that such a policy would require cripplingly high average tariff rates of 133% to generate sufficient revenue. As you can see below, replacing income taxes with tariffs isn’t feasible, and is a laughably bad idea. 

United States government revenue vs. United States imports

With imports currently around 14% of GDP and income tax revenues about 8% of GDP, a 57% tariff might initially seem adequate for replacement. However, Krugman argued that tariff hikes spawn a vicious cycle by driving up consumer costs and thus depressing import volumes—requiring even higher rates to offset the diminishing tax base. Brendan Duke of the progressive Center for American Progress estimated middle-class families would see a $5,000 tax hike under Trump's scheme because of inflated consumer prices.

GOP Policies Lead to Recession, Dems Clean up the Mess

A troubling pattern has emerged over the past three decades—Republican economic policy characterized by deregulation, tax cuts tilted toward the wealthy, and an embrace of low interest rates has repeatedly catalyzed overheated, unsustainable economic expansion culminating in recession. Each time, Democratic administrations have been left to clean up the fallout and get the economy back on track.

The early 1990s recession unfolded under George H.W. Bush, driven significantly by his refusal to act on soaring oil prices, prioritizing the interests of his friends in the oil industry over the American public. Despite urgings from economists, Congress, and his own energy secretary to sell oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to curb speculative price surges, Bush chose inaction, exacerbating the economic downturn. In stark contrast, President Biden has deftly used these reserves to significantly reduce the cost of gas, earning praise from The Economist as a “master oil trader.”

His son's two terms saw the creation and collapse of the housing bubble, triggering the Great Recession—the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. This catastrophe stemmed from GOP policies favoring short-term gains over long-term stability. Bush inherited a budget surplus, yet left office with over a trillion-dollar deficit, saddling Obama with massive fiscal challenges. The exorbitant costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars further escalated spending and destabilized the economy.

budget deficit/surplus by Presidential administration, from Clinton to Trump

Donald Trump amplified these reckless strategies. His tax cut did little for the middle class but boosted corporate stock buybacks and ballooned federal deficits by $1.9 trillion. His trade wars failed to bring back jobs, instead harming American farmers and manufacturers with retaliatory tariffs. The pandemic only magnified the economic vulnerabilities created by Trump’s economic policies.

In each of these episodes, Democratic successors were tasked with rescuing the nation from crises years in the making. Clinton's tenure produced budget surpluses and stable growth after cleaning up George H.W. Bush's mess. Obama righted the ship through stimulus and reinvigorated oversight following the Great Recession. Now, Biden has fostered robust job gains despite inheriting the Trump administration's policy disarray and COVID-battered economy.

The pattern could hardly be clearer—reckless Republican policies sow the seeds of the next preventable downturn, which Democrats are tasked with remedying. For working families whipsawed by these cycles, the costs of enabling future repetitions should give voters pause.

Donald Trump's Economic Plan: A 10% Minimum Price Hike for Americans

Donald Trump's economic agenda represents a clear and present danger to the financial well-being of working and middle-class Americans. His proposal to replace income taxes with tariffs on imports would function as a regressive tax hike, disproportionately burdening those who can least afford it. Furthermore, his plan to deport millions of undocumented workers would exacerbate labor shortages and spike inflation, undermining the progress made under the Biden administration. 

In recent history, Republican trickle-down economics and deregulation have consistently catalyzed financial crises, leaving Democratic administrations to clean up the mess. For voters prioritizing economic security and upward mobility, Trump's policies offer a treacherous path littered with past failures. The health of the nation's finances hangs in the balance of rejecting these misguided, plutocratic schemes that threaten to concentrate even more wealth at the very top while impoverishing working families.

The Art of the Bribe? Trump’s Witness Payoff Scheme Exposed

Donald Trump witness payoff
Photo: Liam Enea

As the legal battles surrounding former President Donald Trump threaten to derail his political career, a concerning pattern has emerged. ProPublica uncovered that nine different individuals who could hurt him legally have received substantial financial benefits from his businesses and political organizations at critical junctures in his legal cases against him. These perks, ranging from lucrative pay raises and cushy appointments to severance packages with strings attached, raise serious ethical concerns and allegations of witness tampering.

An in-depth analysis by ProPublica has revealed a troubling pattern of financial rewards bestowed upon key figures entangled in Trump's legal battles. The report highlights nine individuals who have seen their fortunes soar after becoming embroiled in the various criminal probes surrounding Trump.

These benefits often materialized at critical junctures in the legal proceedings, such as when potential witnesses were subpoenaed or compelled to testify before grand juries. One former White House aide, Dan Scavino, received a $600,000 retention bonus and Trump Media shares worth $4 million after being summoned as a key Jan. 6 witness.

Despite their thorough investigation, ProPublica found no direct evidence linking Donald Trump to the approval of substantial financial increments for witnesses. However, Trump's well-documented micromanagement and penny-pinching habits suggests that he likely maintains close oversight of financial decisions within his enterprises and political operations. 

Trump's history of dealing with unsavory figures, including his mentor Roy Cohn—known for his mafia affiliations—raises further suspicions. This, combined with the former president's alleged past links to both Italian and Russian organized crime, paints a picture of a man who may have acquired the knowledge and skills to navigate the murky waters of illegal activities while shielding himself from the long arm of the law.

Loyalty Rewarded with Hefty Payouts

The extension of loyalty to personal and financial benefits offered to staffers within Trump's circle has significantly afflicted some noteworthy Trump associates.

Allen Weisselberg: Donald Trump's long-time CFO secured a $2 million severance package that included a clause that prevents him from cooperating with prosecutors. Weisselberg was allegedly present at a meeting with Michael Cohen and Trump, where they arranged the repayment of hush money to Cohen—a matter that led to Trump’s conviction in New York. During the trial, prosecutors highlighted this severance agreement to explain why they weren’t going to call Weisselberg to testify, as he was incentivized against cooperating.

Weisselberg was sentenced to five months at Rikers Island for perjury related to New York Attorney General Letitia James's civil fraud investigation into Trump. The civil charges accused Trump and his associates, including Weisselberg, of inflating financial statements to secure favorable loan terms. Weisselberg admitted that he lied during depositions conducted by the New York Attorney General’s investigators and while he was on the stand in Trump’s civil fraud trial. 

Boris Epshteyn: Epshteyn, a college classmate of Eric Trump, worked on the 2016 campaign and briefly in the White House. He was instrumental in organizing false electors after Trump lost the 2020 election, and his communications have been central to several investigations. 

In 2022, Epshteyn testified before the Georgia grand jury that later indicted Trump for attempts to overturn the election. The FBI seized his phone, and by April 2023, he was interviewed by federal special counsel. In August 2023, the special counsel charged Trump with conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction. Shortly after, Georgia indicted Trump for racketeering. 

From late 2022 to August 2023, Epshteyn’s company, Georgetown Advisory, received $26,000 monthly from the Trump campaign. The month after Trump was indicted, the payment jumped to $50,000 and climbed to $53,500 by October. Despite the pay raise, Epshteyn’s company lacks an office and employees, with payments listed for “communications & legal consulting.” 

Jennifer Little: This Atlanta attorney, representing Trump in the Georgia election interference case, saw her payments significantly surge after being compelled to testify. Shortly after Little was compelled to testify in March 2023, a Trump political action committee paid her $218,000, the largest payment she'd received for her work with Trump. In the year following her testimony, she earned at least $1.3 million from the committee, more than double her earnings from the previous year.

Dan Scavino: Once Trump’s social media guru and witness to the January 6th events, found himself appointed to the board of Trump Media a month after the Jan. 6 congressional committee convened. This position, correlating with his required testimony, came bundled with a massive retention bonus of $600,000 and stock grants worth $4 million, underlining the troubling intertwining of loyalty, reward, and Trump's legalistic troubles.

Susie Wiles: Wiles, head of Trump’s campaign and a seasoned political consultant in Florida, was allegedly present when Trump improperly displayed classified documents to individuals without security clearances. The indictment detailed Trump showing Wiles a classified military map, acknowledging he shouldn’t be displaying it.

In June, Right Coast Strategies, Wiles’s consulting firm, was paid $75,000 by the Trump campaign, its highest monthly payment. Subsequently, Wiles’s daughter, Caroline, secured a $222,000 position with the Trump campaign, including a housing stipend.

Evan Corcoran: Corcoran’s notes—obtained by investigators—described Trump making a “plucking motion” while seemingly instructing Corcoran to withhold classified documents from officials. His notes became central to the indictment, and his descriptions of the meetings are likely to be a significant part of the prosecution’s case. 

Following his forced testimony, Corcoran recused himself from the classified documents case. Despite stepping back, his firm received a significant bump in compensation. Right after his grand jury testimony in March, the Trump campaign made two payments totaling $786,000 to his firm—the largest single-day payment from Trump. 

Margo Martin: Martin, a Trump aide with firsthand experience of Trump’s mishandling classified documents, experienced a 20% raise with a salary uplift that aligned inconveniently closely with key legal proceedings.

Shady Business as Usual: Trump’s Ties To Organized Crime

Trump’s current legal entanglements are hardly his first brush with dubious conduct. His connections to organized crime trace back decades, revealing a deeply entrenched pattern of mingling with mobsters and corrupt officials. Trump behaves like a mob boss too. Trump once said that he doesn’t like flippers (informants) and that “It almost ought to be illegal.” 

Perhaps even more concerning than his connections is Trump's own behavior, which seems to mirror that of a mob boss. His disdain for those who cooperate with law enforcement—”flippers” as he calls them—was made clear when he mused that acting as an informant “almost ought to be illegal.” Tony Soprano and Donald Trump are on the same page here.  

In his book, former FBI Director James Comey likened his visit to Trump Tower to the New York mafia social clubs he encountered as a prosecutor in the 1980s and 1990s. “The silent circle of assent, the boss in complete control, loyalty oaths, an us-versus-them worldview, and lying about everything, large and small, to uphold a code that placed the organization above morality and truth,” Comey wrote. 

Trump’s Alleged Russian Mob Ties

Bayrock, a real estate development firm operating from the 24th floor of Trump Tower, significantly reshaped Donald Trump’s business model. Owned by Tevfik Arif and managed by Felix Sater, who had close ties to Russian oligarchs and Russian intelligence, the company partnered with Trump in 2005. This alliance came at a critical time for Trump, who was struggling with a $4 billion debt from his Atlantic City casino bankruptcies and unable to secure bank loans from Western financial institutions.

Donald Trump, Tevfik Arif and Felix Sater
Donald Trump, Tevfik Arif and Felix Sater

Bayrock's model allowed Trump to franchise his name for 18-25% royalties with no need to invest upfront or manage development, promising substantial returns. Sater, operating out of Trump Tower, frequently traveled to Russia, laying the groundwork for real estate ventures in Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. 

However, Bayrock soon courted controversy. The firm was reportedly funded by a corrupt group of oligarchs known as “The Trio”, and Arif faced allegations of running a prostitution ring, though he was acquitted. A lawsuit by former Bayrock executives accused the company of being an oligarch-backed money laundering operation. Despite knowing Sater’s criminal past by 2007, Trump continued his association, even giving Sater a Trump Organization business card in 2010.

In 2015, Felix Sater emailed Michael Cohen, expressing confidence in Donald Trump's presidential prospects. “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote. “I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”

Trump Allies Caught Funneling Russian Money into Super PAC 

Rudy Giuliani—Donald Trump’s close ally and former attorney—collaborated with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Soviet-born businessmen with connections in Ukraine. On October 10, the pair was arrested in Virginia as they attempted to board a one-way flight to Vienna, shortly after having lunch with Giuliani at Trump’s Washington hotel. Federal prosecutors indicted Parnas and Fruman for funneling Russian money of uncertain origins into a pro-Trump super PAC.

Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman, associates of Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani
Lev Parnas, left, and Igor Fruman. Parnas and Fruman were business associates of Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump's former lawyer.

Parnas worked with attorneys Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, who are vocal Trump supporters. They hired Parnas as a translator for Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch fighting extradition to the U.S. and identified by U.S. prosecutors as an “upper-echelon associate of Russian organized crime.” Firtash once planned to redevelop New York's Drake Hotel with Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman. 

While officially representing Firtash, Toensing and diGenova also aided Trump's efforts. They utilized a deposition from a Ukrainian official, whose credibility is contested, to claim that charges against Firtash were politically motivated by Joe Biden. 

Recent revelations from Lev Parnas indicate Firtash's involvement in efforts to smear Joe Biden stemmed from a quid pro quo. Parnas told MSNBC that in exchange for Firtash's assistance, he assured the oligarch that his U.S. legal troubles would vanish. Firtash complied, providing a discredited affidavit from a Ukrainian prosecutor accusing Biden of wrongdoing. The falsified affidavit that Firtash acquired was later used by Republicans in the House as a part of their impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden, along with intelligence from an FBI informant with ties to Russian intelligence who was later indicted for lying to the FBI. 

Giuliani's reliance on questionable figures like Firtash to undermine Biden and the Democratic impeachment case underscores the corruption within Trump's circle. Firtash’s immense wealth, alleged ties to Russian organized crime, and history of diverting natural gas profits to pro-Russian politicians spotlight the shadowy connections Trump’s associates leverage. 

Roy Cohn: Mob Lawyer and Trump's Mentor

Donald Trump and Roy Cohn
Donald Trump and Roy Cohn

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Donald Trump quickly made allies with some of New York’s most notorious figures—including the infamous lawyer Roy Cohn—who became Trump’s mentor. Cohn, once the lead counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy, had evolved into a mob consigliere with clients like Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, boss of the Genovese crime family, and Paul Castellano, head of the Gambino crime family. 

These connections proved invaluable when Trump embarked on constructing Trump Tower, a project heavily dependent on mob-controlled concrete. According to Wayne Barrett’s book on Trump’s real estate dealings, Trump allegedly met with Anthony Salerno at Roy Cohn’s townhouse. When Salerno was later convicted of racketeering, the indictment listed an $8 million concrete contract for Trump Plaza.  

FBI Probes Trump's Ties to Gambino-Linked Teamsters Boss

In 1980, the FBI issued a subpoena to Donald Trump as part of an investigation into his connections with John Cody, a prominent Teamsters official with close ties to the Gambino crime family. The probe centered on suspicions that Cody, known for his significant influence in the concrete industry, may have received complimentary apartments within Trump Tower, a claim Trump refuted. 

Curiously a woman who was friends with Cody acquired three units directly below Trump's triplex despite lacking the income required to make such a significant purchase. These properties were frequented by Cody, who invested $500,000 in the units. 

During the tumultuous summer of 1982, John Cody, facing legal troubles, instigated a citywide strike, yet construction at Trump Tower continued without any issues. Following Cody's conviction on racketeering charges and his subsequent imprisonment, Trump initiated a $250,000 lawsuit against the woman for alteration work. The woman then filed a $20 million countersuit, asserting that Trump's alleged kickbacks could warrant an attorney general's investigation into potential criminal wrongdoing. Faced with these serious allegations, Trump swiftly settled the matter, paying the woman $500,000. 

The Price of Allegiance: Trump's Allies Receive Timely Payouts

While no smoking gun directly links Trump to these financial windfalls, they look extremely suspicous and cast a long shadow over the former president's dealings. These revelations fuel speculation that Trump and his inner circle may be orchestrating a complex scheme to shield him from the consequences of his actions, adding another layer of intrigue to the ongoing legal drama surrounding Trumpworld.