Monday, April 15, 2024

As Zelenskyy Fights for Freedom, Republicans Amplify Putin’s Ukraine Lies

Zelenskyy

As Ukraine fights to defend its sovereignty from Russia's unprovoked invasion, a deeply troubling trend has emerged within the Republican Party: a growing embrace of Kremlin propaganda that undermines America's commitment to our allies. This disturbing development not only jeopardizes Ukraine's prospects for victory but also calls into question the GOP's loyalty to fundamental American values and national security interests.

At the forefront of this alarming trend is former President Donald Trump, whose reported “peace plan” for Ukraine bears a chilling resemblance to the appeasement policies of UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain toward Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany. According to reports, Trump has privately suggested that Ukraine should cede the Donbas region and the Crimean Peninsula to Russia. 

Trump's reported “peace plan” is not only woefully misguided but also profoundly dangerous. It would effectively reward Russia's unprovoked aggression by ceding Ukrainian territory to Moscow, emboldening the autocratic ambitions of Vladimir Putin in a chilling parallel to the appeasement of Hitler that enabled Nazi Germany's conquests. 

To entertain the notion that Putin would honor any such agreement in the long term would be geopolitical malpractice. After all, he is a ruthless dictator who has repeatedly demonstrated his contempt for international law and human rights.

 History has taught us time and again that capitulating to the territorial demands of authoritarian leaders only leads to further aggression, and any peace achieved will be temporary. Trump's proposal is not a path to peace, but a dangerous capitulation that would destabilize the rules-based international order.

Zelenskyy Bashes Trump's Plan

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rightly condemned Trump's reported plan as “a very primitive idea,” emphasizing that “people's lives are at stake.” Tamila Tasheva, Ukraine's top official in charge of Crimea, echoed this sentiment, warning that “any retreats made by Ukraine at this point could potentially fuel future escalations.” She added, “It's weakness, rather than the capability to resist, that emboldens Russia's actions.”

Ukraine

Putin's Grip on GOP

Trump's misguided proposal is not an isolated incident, but part of a broader pattern within the Republican Party of embracing Russian disinformation and undermining support for Ukraine. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul acknowledged that “Russian propaganda has made its way into the United States, unfortunately, and it's infected a good chunk of my party's base.”

One of the most egregious peddlers of this Russian disinformation is Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama. Tuberville has repeatedly parroted Kremlin talking points, claiming that Russia invaded Ukraine to acquire “more farmland” and suggesting that Putin deserves the benefit of the doubt because he's interested in peace. 

Whether motivated by sheer ignorance or active malice, Tuberville's peddling of these transparent fictions is unacceptable for a Senate Armed Services Committee member entrusted with upholding American national security. His apparent alignment with Russian interests raises serious questions about his fitness to serve in such a critical role overseeing U.S. military readiness and strategic policy.

Back in 2020, Tuberville incorrectly said, “You know, our government wasn't set up for one group to have all three of branches of government. It wasn't set up that way, our three branches, the House, the Senate, and executive,” so the hope is that his comments were motivated by ignorance rather than malice. 

The Republican Party's alarming embrace of Kremlin disinformation poses an existential threat not just to Ukraine's survival, but to the integrity of American democracy itself. By willfully spreading Russian propaganda, GOP leaders are undermining the very pillars of truth and accountability that sustain our system of government. Their efforts to sow doubt about Ukraine's righteous struggle against Russian aggression diminish the global credibility of the United States as a defender of democratic values.

Ukraine & Global Stability

This disturbing trend carries grave implications far beyond the current conflict. If Republicans continue prioritizing allegiance to Russia over allegiance to the United States, it could irreparably damage America's international standing and compromise national security. 

How can we effectively counter threats from adversaries like China and Iran when a major political party actively amplifies propaganda from a hostile foreign power? Holding the line against authoritarian influence demands an uncompromising commitment to truth—something sorely lacking among the Russia apologists within Republican ranks.

The time has come for Republicans to reckon with the cancer of Russian influence that has metastasized within their ranks. They must choose between defending American values and interests or continuing to do the Kremlin's bidding. As House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner (R-OH) acknowledged, some Republicans are peddling rhetoric that is “directly coming from Russia.” 

The path forward is clear: Republicans must decisively reject Russian disinformation and recommit themselves to supporting Ukraine's struggle for freedom. They must heed the words of President Zelensky, who warned that “if Ukraine loses this war, other countries will be attacked.” A Russian victory in Ukraine would embolden authoritarian regimes worldwide and deal a devastating blow to the cause of democracy.

Pulling Back the Curtain on Trump’s $175 Million Bond Swindle in New York

Trump New York
Photo: Gage Skidmore

An investigation by The Daily Beast has uncovered alarming details about the obscure insurance company, Knight Specialty Insurance, that Trump roped in to provide the bond. It's a company that appears to be as unscrupulous and devoid of ethical principles as the twice-impeached former president himself.

After a 90-day hearing, Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that former President Donald Trump engaged in extensive bank fraud for over a decade and was hit with a staggering $464 million judgment, which has been increasing every day because of accruing interest. 

Trump encountered significant hurdles in securing the requisite bond to legally prevent New York Attorney General Letitia James from seizing his assets, as reputable surety companies proved reluctant to aid him in light of the fraud allegations and Trump’s long history of not paying back his debts. The ruling underscores the gravity of the financial misconduct claims against the former president and the challenges he faces in shielding his real estate empire from potential forfeiture amid the escalating legal implications.

Unlicensed in New York

But eventually he was able to enlist a California-based insurance firm connected to Don Hankey Jr to provide him with a bond to fend off asset seizures. The company, Knight Specialty Insurance Company, is not only unlicensed in New York, but it has also not been vetted by a voluntary state entity that verifies its eligibility standards to prove financial stability. This lack of verification raises concerns about the financial stability of the company and its ability to pay out such a large sum of money.

The reason for Knight's lack of oversight and vetting is disturbingly simple: the company does not seem to have enough money in its coffers to legitimately post Trump's bond. In fact, the $175 million bond accounts for a staggering one-third of the company's total assets and more than its total surplus funds. As New York’s former top financial regulator Maria T. Vullo put it, “It's incomprehensible for a carrier to underwrite” such a bond, given Knight's financial limitations.

In a court filing last Thursday, Knight Specialty Insurance Company revealed that its liquid assets are likely insufficient to fully cover the bond required for Trump. According to a financial assessment, Knight has just $138 million in surplus capital reserves. To meet Trump's bond obligation, the company would need to commit 127% of its surplus—far exceeding the 10% limit imposed by New York law on state-regulated sureties.

Knight's president, Amit Shah, defended the company's position, stating that as a non-New York excess lines insurer, Knight is not subject to the same solvency regulations governing domestic insurers under New York's surplus lines insurance laws. While Shah claimed Knight has over $1 billion in equity capital, the financial statements provided show only $26 million in cash and bank deposits, with an additional $483 million held in stocks and bonds.

Letitia James Rejects Bond

Letitia James
Photo: Matt Cohen

In light of these revelations, the New York Attorney General's office has given Trump and Knight 10 days to justify the validity and sufficiency of the bond surety provided.

But the shadiness doesn't end there. The legal document from Knight Specialty Insurance doesn't even explicitly promise that the company will pay the $175 million if Trump loses his appeal. Instead, the agreement states that Trump himself will be responsible for paying the sum, effectively negating the entire purpose of the bond. 

Trump's latest charade appears to be a calculated effort to evade the financial penalties of his alleged fraudulent behavior. And the consequences he is attempting to avoid could prove catastrophic for the former president’s fortune, allegedly amassed through illicit means, as well as his already severely diminished credibility.

And who is the billionaire behind this shady insurance company? None other than Don Hankey Jr., a MAGA supporter who has built his fortune on the backs of vulnerable Americans through predatory subprime auto loans and illegal repossessions, including from active-duty military personnel. 

Hankey has been widely criticized for the actions of his subprime auto financing enterprise, Westlake Services. Back in 2017, Hankey’s company was hit with a lawsuit by the Department of Justice for unlawfully repossessing 70 cars from US servicemembers. And in 2022 the Department of Justice fined the company $225,000 for further violations of Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act of 2003. 

“I believe this paper isn't worth much and there are more shenanigans behind it,” said one former regulator who spoke only on condition of anonymity, likely fearful of retribution from the Trump machine.

Usually, defendants like Donald Trump would secure a bond through a surety company regulated by the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS). These insurers are vetted to ensure they are qualified to provide the required coverage. However, it appears that Trump is pursuing an alternative route facilitated by Knight Specialty—operating within the “excess and surplus lines insurance” market.

By utilizing an excess and surplus lines insurer, Trump appears to be circumventing the rigorous vetting process and solvency requirements imposed on typical insurance providers operating in New York. This strategy allows him to obtain bonding capacity that may have been unavailable or too costly through traditional channels, given the high-profile nature of his case and the risk of trusting Trump to actually pay what he owes. 

Trump & Accountability

The investigation by The Daily Beast has uncovered a tangled web of shady dealings and questionable practices surrounding the $175 million bond obtained by Donald Trump through Knight Specialty Insurance. The lack of oversight, financial stability, and explicit guarantees from the insurance company, along with Trump's history of fraud and deception, raise serious concerns about the legitimacy and sufficiency of the bond. 

The involvement of a MAGA supporter and predatory lender like Don Hankey Jr. further muddies the waters, as his company has a history of unlawful practices and violations. Against the backdrop of Hankey's notoriously unethical business practices, Trump's strategy underscores a troubling disregard for accountability. 

As the Attorney General's office scrutinizes the validity of the bond, the public is left to question whether this is yet another attempt by Trump to evade accountability and buy time for his next scheme. However, Trump's latest charade is unlikely to withstand scrutiny from legal authorities, who are determined to ensure he faces justice for his alleged bank fraud and deception. And it serves as yet another reminder that no amount of wealth and legal maneuvering should be able to shield the former president or anyone else from the long arm of the law. 

Subpoenas For GOP Reps. Biggs And Gosar Indicate Arizona AG Is Closing In On The Architects Of Trump Fake Electors Scheme

fake electors
Photo: Gage Skidmore

According to reporting by Politico, Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes has subpoenaed two of former President Donald Trump's closest allies in Congress, Representatives Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ), as part of her ongoing investigation into the fake electors scheme. This move suggests that Mayes expanding her probe, seeking to uncover the full extent of the alleged plot to undermine democracy in Arizona.

Biggs and Gosar, both staunch supporters of Trump, were at the forefront of the efforts to challenge the legitimacy of President Joe Biden's victory in Arizona. The two congressmen were among the most vocal proponents of the “Stop the Steal” movement, which sought to sow doubt about the integrity of the election and pressure state officials to take action in Trump's favor.

Evidence gathered by the bipartisan House select committee investigating the January 6th Capitol riot has shed light on the roles played by Biggs and Gosar in the aftermath of the 2020 election. According to text messages obtained by the committee, Biggs wasted no time in contacting Trump's White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, urging him to push state legislatures to overrule the results in multiple states won by Biden. And according to Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander, it was Biggs, Gosar, and former Alabama congressman Mo Brooks that came up with the Jan. 6 insurrection in the first place. 

Gosar, for his part, has been equally fervent in his support for Trump's baseless claims of election fraud. He has gone so far as to describe Biden as a “fraudulent usurper” and praise the January 6th rioters as “peaceful patriots.” The New York Times reported in 2021 that Gosar was part of a “band of loyalists” who worked closely with Trump to pressure the Justice Department, amplify conspiracy theories, and flood the courts with lawsuits in an attempt to overturn the election results.

The subpoenas issued to Biggs and Gosar are an unusual move, given the robust constitutional protections enjoyed by members of Congress in criminal proceedings related to their official business. However, they are not the first lawmakers to face scrutiny in the ongoing investigations into Trump's efforts to subvert the 2020 election. 

In 2022, the FBI seized the phone of Representative Scott Perry (R-PA) as part of the Justice Department's election-subversion probe, and Georgia prosecutors have fought legal battles to compel testimony from Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Representative Jody Hice (R-GA).

The Fake Electors Scheme in Arizona

The Arizona investigation has focused on the actions of the “fake electors,” a group of 11 Republicans who convened at the state GOP headquarters on December 14, 2020 to sign documents falsely claiming they were the state's rightful electors. This group, which included then-Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward and two Republican lawmakers, was part of a larger effort across seven states won by Biden to submit “dual” sets of electors. The goal of this effort was to enable then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election or throw it into Congress.

The fake elector scheme has already led to criminal charges in three other states—Michigan, Nevada, and Georgia. The fact that Mayes is now subpoenaing Biggs and Gosar suggests that her investigation is not limited to the actions of the fake electors themselves, but is also looking into the broader network of individuals who may have been involved in the plot to undermine democracy in Arizona.

Biggs and Gosar were far from alone in their attempts to subvert the will of the people and install Donald Trump as a dictator, despite his clear electoral defeat. Other prominent Republicans, such as Representatives Scott Perry (R-PA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Mo Brooks (R-AL), have also been implicated in the plot to overturn the election results.

Biggs/Gosar
Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs at "AmericaFest", Photo: Gage Skidmore

A closer examination of the actions taken by these lawmakers in the aftermath of the election reveals a disturbing pattern of behavior that undermines the very foundations of our democracy and raises serious questions about their loyalty to the Constitution and the rule of law.

Evidence gathered by the January 6th Committee and other investigations has shown that these lawmakers were deeply involved in the “Stop the Steal” movement, working behind the scenes to pressure state officials, spread baseless conspiracy theories, and even coordinated with the organizers of the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

That these elected officials were willing to go to such lengths to undermine the democratic process is a betrayal of the trust placed in them by the American people. They took an oath to uphold the Constitution and defend the nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic, yet they actively worked to subvert the very system they were sworn to protect.

Trump's Scheme Against Democracy

It is becoming increasingly clear that the efforts to overturn the 2020 election were not the actions of a few rogue individuals, but rather a coordinated and widespread campaign that involved multiple members of Congress, Trump administration officials, and Donald Trump himself. This is not a matter of partisan politics; it is a question of whether we as a nation will tolerate traitorous actions by the same people who swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. 

As the criminal charges against Donald Trump continue to mount, it is essential that we do not lose sight of the role played by his enablers in Congress. These lawmakers should not be allowed to escape accountability for their actions simply because they hold positions of power and influence.

Just as Trump is facing the consequences of his attempts to overturn election results, so too should the congressional Republicans who aided and abetted him in this endeavor. They should be thoroughly investigated by the Department of Justice and state attorneys general like Kris Mayes, and if the evidence warrants it, they should face criminal charges for their role in this attack on our democracy.

The American people deserve to know the full extent of the plot to overturn the 2020 election, and they deserve to see those responsible held accountable for their actions. Anything less would be a betrayal of the principles upon which this nation was founded and a dangerous precedent for future attempts to undermine the will of the people.

Judge Cannon Denies Trump’s Effort to Exploit Presidential Records Act, But Her Loyalty to The Ex-President Shines Through

trump classified documents
Image of classified documents carelessly stored in Mar-a-Lago bathroom, which was part of the indictment against Donald Trump.

In her latest ruling on Thursday, Judge Cannon begrudgingly rejected Trump's absurd bid to have the entire case dismissed on the ridiculous argument that the documents he stole could be considered “personal materials” under the Presidential Records Act. This minor concession to legal rationale, however, was overshadowed by her continued refusal to decisively reject Trump's fictitious claims of having a unilateral authority to declassify documents at will.

Trump's lawyers put forth the ludicrous claim that the Presidential Records Act shielded him from prosecution under the Espionage Act for mishandling classified documents he improperly took to Mar-a-Lago. Cannon rightly rejected this argument, stating the PRA does not provide grounds to dismiss the charges against Trump related to his alleged mishandling of sensitive materials and obstructing efforts to recover them.

The proceedings in the classified documents case against former President Donald Trump have been marred by a deeply concerning pattern of bias and incompetence displayed by the presiding Judge Cannon. Appointed by Trump himself in 2020, her tenure overseeing this high-profile prosecution has been a masterclass in judicial activism thinly veiled by a fake impartiality.

Judge Aileen Cannon's proposed jury instructions, which sparked justified outrage from special counsel Jack Smith, contemplated the unconscionable scenario of either requiring jurors to examine highly sensitive classified materials or deferring entirely to Trump's self-serving assertions about his declassification powers. As seasoned legal analysts have noted, such instructions would effectively nullify the very purpose of the trial by preemptively exculpating the defendant.

In her defense of this legally dubious path, Cannon disingenuously framed her proposal as a mere “attempt to better understand the parties' competing positions.” This laughable justification makes it obvious that she is actively exploring avenues to undermine the prosecution's case before it has even begun.

Cannon's obstructionist tactics extend well beyond her questionable proposed jury instructions. Despite urgent calls from prosecutors to set a trial schedule months ago, she has inexplicably failed to do so, drawing accusations of deliberately stalling to push proceedings past the 2024 election cycle. Her snail like pace in resolving key pretrial motions and objections has become a transparent effort to run down the clock, providing Trump with the very delay he has repeatedly demanded.

Judge Cannon's Obvious Bias

Judge Cannon

The extent of Cannon's bias is so egregious that even members of Trump's own legal team have privately expressed concerns about her overtly preferential treatments. Her rulings have consistently favored the former president, from granting his request for a special master to review seized materials—a decision swiftly overturned on appeal—to her refusal to hold him in contempt for failing to comply with a grand jury subpoena.

Ty Cobb, a former White House lawyer under Trump, did not mince words in a recent CNN appearance, stating unequivocally, “I think the evidence of her bias is pretty palpable at this stage of the game.” 

Cobb, a veteran of the Russia investigation, astutely recognized that Cannon's missteps can no longer be attributed to mere inexperience or incompetence. Her actions, he asserted, have become so “grossly” compromised that they unmistakably create a perception of partiality and a concerted “attempt to put her thumb on the scale” in Trump's favor.

Trump's Delay Tactics

The implications of Cannon's conduct extend far beyond the immediate confines of this case. Her complicity in Trump's delay tactics validates the former president's longstanding disregard for institutional norms and processes. His audacious defense that he was simply “too busy” to return classified documents to the federal government exemplifies the cavalier attitude toward matters of national security that precipitated this crisis in the first place. 

Trump's own recorded statements where he brags about the classified nature of the documents he stole undermine any pretense of innocence and nullifies his “personal records” defense. His cavalier confessions gut the credibility of his legal arguments and makes it obvious that he has little concern for the national security of the United States.

Yet, Cannon appears all too willing to entertain these arguments, lending undue credence to Trump's perverse belief that the rules simply do not apply to him. In doing so, she emboldens his disdain for accountability and fortifies the insidious narrative that democratic institutions are mere inconveniences to be circumvented or exploited for personal gain.

As legal scholars have reiterated, Cannon's removal from this case is not merely warranted, but imperative to preserve the integrity of the judicial process. Her conduct has irrevocably tarnished any semblance of impartiality, rendering her continued stewardship of these proceedings an untenable affront to the principles of due process and equal protection under the law.

Judge Aileen Cannon’s unwavering allegiance to Trump's interests, whether born of ideological alignment or loyalty to the man who appointed her, has transformed her courtroom into a theater of the absurd, where legal precedent is ignored in favor of partisanship. The American people deserve better—they deserve a judicial system that operates not on the whims of political expediency but on the bedrock of blind justice, where no individual, regardless of stature, is exempt from accountability under the law.