Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Cohn and Cohen

"Gary Cohn leaving White House after dispute over trade" by Damian Paletta and Philip Rucker Washington Post  March 06, 2018

WASHINGTON — Gary Cohn, the White House’s top economic adviser, announced Tuesday that he was leaving the administration amid a major internal clash over President Trump’s sharp and sudden pivot toward protectionist trade policies.

Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs who had been an interlocutor between the Trump administration and the business community, still plans to stay in his job for several weeks, a person briefed on his plans said.

He plans to continue to push back on Trump’s planned tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, which have threatened to touch off a global trade war, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Cohn’s plans.

But his departure as National Economic Council director leaves the White House without a financial heavyweight who business executives and foreign leaders believed had served as a counter to Trump’s protectionist impulses and as a moderating force in other areas.

Cohn’s resignation announcement is the latest jolt to a White House that has been especially tumultuous in recent weeks and unable to retain its top talent. Last week, communications director Hope Hicks and deputy communications director Josh Raffel announced their resignations.

In February, staff secretary Rob Porter was forced out over domestic abuse allegations. And the year began with the departures of deputy national security adviser Dina Powell as well as Cohn’s deputy on the National Economic Council, Jeremy Katz.

Taken together, the departures largely diminish the faction of free trade advocates who not only held center-right views on trade and other issues, but were seen as moderating forces inside a West Wing otherwise populated by more hardline conservatives.

Why didn't he keep Bannon then?

Bloomberg reported that Trump demanded Cohn’s cooperation on tariffs in a meeting in the Oval Office Tuesday — asking Cohn directly if he would support his decision to move forward with the plan.

Cohn would not offer his support, according to two people familiar with the episode — and just hours later, the White House announced Cohn’s resignation.

Your fired?

In a way, Cohn’s resignation was exactly as Trump had predicted this week, telling associates that he expected Cohn to quit if he went ahead with the tariffs. Trump is expected to announce the moves as early as this week.

The New York Times reported that Cohn’s resignation followed conversations he held with the president in recent weeks about the possibility of replacing John F. Kelly as White House chief of staff, said people who were briefed on the matter. The president never formally offered Cohn the job, those people insisted, but Trump had discussions with him about whether he would be interested.

One of them had to go.

Trump could cast a wide net in searching for a replacement, though he has told advisers that he wants to consider Larry Kudlow, a media personality and 2016 campaign adviser, according to several people briefed on Trump’s discussions.

In many ways, Cohn’s NEC was one of the most stable parts of the White House, avoiding the scandals and revolving-door image that the National Security Council and other offices endured. But Cohn and the president had an on-again, off-again relationship.

Cohn’s departure rattled a number of business executives around the country, many of whom saw the Wall Street veteran as a free market capitalist who would speak out against those who wanted to pick fights with global trading partners.

‘‘The protectionists are clearly running the show right now, the economic nationalists are,’’ said Brian Gardner, managing director of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. ‘‘If they replaced [Cohn] with another economic nationalist, then it really gets dicey for the markets and investors.’’

So when is the capital flight and designed crash?

Kudlow has been largely supportive of Trump’s economic agenda, but he has expressed concerns about Trump’s moves on trade. He had in recent days encouraged Cohn to stay. Reached by phone on Tuesday, Kudlow declined to comment.

Cohn’s departure was first reported by the New York Times and immediately confirmed by White House officials.

Cohn had first discussed with Trump the possibility of departing the White House in January, a person familiar with the conversation said, always having had the goal of staying in the Trump administration for around a year. An infrastructure plan Cohn had spent months trying to design was supposed to be the focus of the early part of this year but it was repeatedly sidelined.

So this was something planned for and expected, and not at all a sign of chaos, etc??

It was Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin who helped convince Trump to postpone ripping up trade agreements or imposing tariffs late last year to avoid enraging congressional Republicans during the tax debate.

Cohn was not expected to stay long into 2018, but he did outlast the first wave of departures in January and February. The stock market soared in 2017 in part because of global growth but also because of investor enthusiasm over Trump’s deregulatory agenda and tax cut focus, items that Cohn helped design.

But people close to Cohn said he found the pivot toward protectionism this year infuriating, and said he wouldn’t force himself to go out in public and defend it.

That is where the print copy ended.

Cohn did not attend Trump’s news conference on Tuesday, something he typically does.

‘‘He was a voice of reason and sanity on economic policy, so I think a lot of people valued his presence and the grounding that he brought to the White House,’’ said Lanhee Chen, a Republican policy expert and a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

He made a last-ditch effort on Monday to schedule a meeting for Trump with companies that would be harmed by new steel and aluminum tariffs, and the White House refused to schedule the meeting for the president.

At the center of the West Wing drama has been a president who aides say is not easily controlled and whose dark moods of late have manifested themselves in private fits of rage as well as policy gyrations. 


Trump has chosen to manage his White House like he did his real estate empire as well as the casts of his hit reality television show, ‘‘The Apprentice’’ — by fostering chaos. At a Tuesday afternoon news conference, just two hours before Cohn’s resignation was announced, Trump defended his management style.

‘‘I like conflict,’’ Trump said. ‘‘I like having two people with different points of view, and I certainly have that. And then I make a decision. But I like watching it. I like seeing it. And I think it’s the best way to go.’’ 

Think what you want, it is better than groupthink.

Trump went on to argue that his White House is a talent magnet, even though Kelly has struggled to recruit experienced candidates for top-level jobs in the administration.

‘‘I read where, oh, gee, maybe people don’t want to work for Trump,’’ the president said. ‘‘Believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House. They all want a piece of that Oval Office. They want a piece of the West Wing. And not only in terms of, it looks great on their resume. It’s just a great place to work. It’s got tremendous energy. It’s tough.’’

Trump on Tuesday morning previewed future firings. ‘‘I still have some people that I want to change [always seeking perfection],’’ he wrote in a tweet.

But asked at the news conference who he had in mind, and whether he was looking to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, with whom he has feuded bitterly for months, Trump would not say.

‘‘I don’t really want to talk about that,’’ the president said. He added, ‘‘There will be people that change. They always change. Sometimes they want to go out and do something else. But they all want to be in the White House. So many people want to come in. I have a choice of anybody.’’


"Special counsel has examined episodes involving Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer" by Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger Washington Post  March 07, 2018

WASHINGTON — Special Counsel Robert Mueller has requested documents and interviewed witnesses about incidents involving Michael Cohen, the longtime lawyer for President Trump whose wide-ranging portfolio has given him a unique vantage point into Trump’s business, campaign, and political activities.

Aren't those privileged communications?

There is no indication that Cohen is a subject or target of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. But the scrutiny of his interactions is another sign of the far-reaching nature of the special-counsel probe, which is examining members of the president’s inner circle and aspects of Trump’s past business outreach to Russia.

What they used to call a fishing expedition.

As one of Trump’s closest advisers, Cohen played a role in at least two episodes involving Russian interests that have drawn Mueller’s attention, according to several people familiar with document subpoenas and witness interviews.

One area of focus has been negotiations Cohen undertook during the campaign to help the Trump Organization build a tower in Moscow. Cohen brought Trump a letter of intent in October 2015 from a Russian developer to build a Moscow project. Later, he sent an e-mail to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman seeking help to advance the stalled project. He said he did not recall receiving a response.

Another area that Mueller’s team has explored is a Russia-friendly peace proposal for Ukraine that was delivered to Cohen by an Ukrainian lawmaker one week after Trump took office, the people said.

Cohen is also among nine Trump associates whose communications with former Trump aide Sam Nunberg are being sought by the special counsel, according to a grand jury subpoena sent to Nunberg last week.

Cohen is the only individual on the list who never worked for Trump’s campaign or the White House, and the only one still working for the president.

Stephen Ryan, an attorney for Cohen, rejected the notion that his client was under particular scrutiny by Mueller.

‘‘Unsourced innuendo like this succeeds only because the leakers know the Special Counsel will not respond to set the record straight,’’ he said in a statement.

A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

Known for his combative style and fierce loyalty to Trump, Cohen served for a decade as a top lawyer at the Trump Organization, tangling with reporters and Trump’s competitors on behalf of the celebrity real estate mogul.

He never formally joined Trump’s campaign but was in close contact with his longtime boss from his Trump Tower office throughout the 2016 race and presidential transition.

"Cohen’s aggressive tactics recently came into public view when he acknowledged he facilitated a $130,000 payment in October 2016 to an adult-film actress who claimed to have had a sexual encounter with Trump. 

Also see: Porn star Stormy Daniels challenges nondisclosure agreement with Trump

Problem is, she admitted to never actually consummating the affair. It was a shakedown scheme and what amounted to a $10 payoff to keep it quiet.

Cohen left the Trump Organization in January 2017, around the time of Trump’s inauguration, and since then has served as a personal attorney to the president.

Despite having no formal role in the administration, Cohen was a frequent White House visitor in the months after Trump took office, often dropping by the Oval Office without an appointment to visit with the president, according to three current and former administration officials.

Cohen’s access worried some senior aides in the West Wing, who felt he tended to bring out the president’s scorched-earth tendencies. Cohen told others that Trump was fond of him and expressed his desire to have him in the White House.

Cohen has been seen far less in the White House during the past six months but remains in regular contact with the president, according to people familiar with his role.

It is unclear how aggressively Mueller’s prosecutors have been probing issues involving Cohen, but they have periodically sought information related to the longtime Trump lawyer during the past several months, including in recent weeks, according to people familiar with the special counsel’s investigation...."

Globe must have taken the Fifth on that.



"No chaos in White House, Trump says, ‘only great energy’" March 06, 2018

WASHINGTON — President Trump pushed back Tuesday against reports that his White House is in chaos, following the resignations of senior staff members and as the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election meddling inched closer to his inner circle.

In a Twitter post, Trump said “people will always come & go.” He added, “There is no Chaos, only great Energy!”

It was an odd defense for a man who has thrived on chaos and has used it as a way to both organize people and manage them.

In his tweet, Trump suggested more resignations may be coming: “I still have some people that I want to change (always seeking perfection).”

The New York Times and others reported on the cascading chaos of last week, with the announcement of the resignation of one of his longest-serving aides, Hope Hicks. Economic adviser Gary D. Cohn resigned on Tuesday.

Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, had his security clearance downgraded, significantly limiting his access to some of the most serious national security issues the president faces. The White House also pushed back on rumors that Trump planned to fire his national security adviser, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, resigned early last year and is cooperating with the special counsel in its ongoing investigation.

The president’s tweet about chaos was one of several on a range of topics, including immigration policy and the prospects of a denuclearized North Korea. Trump was also critical of the Oscars’ record-low ratings. He said, “Problem is, we don’t have Stars anymore — except your President (just kidding, of course)!

The elephant in the office:

"US quietly OK’s import of African elephant body parts

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has quietly decided once again to allow Americans to import the body parts of African elephants shot for sport, despite presidential tweets decrying the practice as a ‘‘horror show.’’

Providence on camera (I hate saying we told you so, but we told you so)!

President Trump intervened in November when the US Fish and Wildlife Service first said it would lift an Obama-era ban on elephants imported from Zimbabwe and Zambia. They agency contends that encouraging wealthy big-game hunters to kill the threatened species would help raise money for conservation programs.

The agency overseen by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued a letter last week announcing the importation of elephant trophies will now be approved on a ‘‘case-by-case basis.’’ Nether the Interior Department nor Fish and Wildlife issued a media release announcing the decision, which was quickly condemned by environmental advocates."

RelatedOrangutan caught on camera smoking at an Indonesian zoo

"Nashville mayor pleads guilty to theft and agrees to resign" by Richard Fausset New York Times  March 06, 2018

NASHVILLE — Mayor Megan Barry of Nashville pleaded guilty to theft of property and agreed to resign Tuesday after a turbulent five weeks in which she acknowledged having an affair with the head of her security detail and faced persistent questions about whether she misspent taxpayer money.

SeeNashville mayor admits affair with ex-security detail chief

Barry agreed to serve three years of probation and pay restitution to the city after pleading guilty to the charge, a felony. Barry, a Democrat, became the first woman to serve as Nashville’s mayor in 2015 and had been seen until recently as a promising liberal voice in a region where her party has struggled.

That's it?

Barry discussed her exit at a brief news conference after her court appearance Tuesday morning. She did not take questions and did not discuss her decision to plead guilty.

“It has been my honor, and it has been the privilege of my entire professional life, to have the blessing and the opportunity to be your mayor,” Barry said.

(Blog editor shakes head at the out-of-touch tone deafness there)

Barry was a popular and powerful mayor who helped land a Major League Soccer team and was pushing for an expansion of public transportation. But after acknowledging her relationship with former sergeant Robert Forrest Jr. of the Metro Nashville Police Department, who led the mayoral security detail before retiring in January, much of that support eroded. Barry was married at the time of the affair, as was Forrest.

Separately, Forrest pleaded guilty Tuesday to the same charge as Barry and also received three years of probation. While many in Nashville were willing to reserve judgment on the affair itself, questions mounted about whether Barry improperly took taxpayer-funded trips with Forrest and whether she gave his daughter preferential treatment when she sought a city job.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, at the request of the local prosecutor, was investigating whether Barry or Forrest broke any laws concerning misuse of public funds. The City Council voted last month to create a special committee to investigate the trips.

Barry, 54, a former corporate ethics and compliance officer, was known for her outspoken support of abortion rights and same-sex marriage. Even as calls for her exit mounted, Barry maintained a public presence in Nashville and brushed aside suggestions that she should quit. On Monday, she posted photos of an appearance at a groundbreaking ceremony for a future solar park, but.....

You know, those who don't look after their own don't do well looking out for others.


How dumb can you be?

"Man hired to sweep Pruitt’s office for bugs is in business with top EPA security official" by Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis The Washington Post  March 06, 2018

WASHINGTON — Two senior Senate Democrats asked Environment Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Tuesday to provide details about how a business associate of the head of his security detail got a security contract with the agency.

Pasquale ‘‘Nino’’ Perrotta — who heads Pruitt’s security detail and also serves as a principal of Rockville, Md.-based Sequoia Security Group — suggested last year to EPA officials that they hire a fellow member of the management team at Sequoia, Edwin Steinmetz, according to an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal agency decisions. The roughly $3,000 contract to sweep Pruitt’s office for concealed listening devices was conducted by Edwin Steinmetz Associates, the official said.

Do I even have to say it?

Perrotta, a former Bronx criminal investigator and Secret Service agent who held several overseas posts, has protected EPA leaders dating to the George W. Bush administration. Despite that full-time job, he has pursued numerous side ventures over the years.....

Reminds me of Bernard Kerik, remember him?



"The idea behind the Hatch Act is simple. There’s a lot of power in Washington and elected officials earn their positions to wield that power on behalf of their constituents. One can see how an unscrupulous person might try to leverage that power to extend their partisan advantage, filling their staffs with political lackeys or dispatching staff to work on partisan political efforts. Or, in a more common example, using their official positions to advocate partisan positions. On Tuesday, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, became the latest member of Trump’s administration to have violated the Hatch Act, according to the Office of Special Counsel (not to be confused with special counsel Robert Mueller)....."

What a joke.

Soon all corruption will be legal. It's the Globe's top story!

Obama repeats the myth that his administration was free of scandal

He nailed it on that one!

Also see: 

Shulkin to pay back some expenses after Europe trip faulted

That makes "doctored e-mail and false statements to create a pretext for taxpayers to cover expenses for the secretary’s wife on a 10-day trip to Europe last summer" okay!

Shulkin intends to stay in VA post with White House support

Obama holdover not going anywhere?!

Michelle Obama meets the 2-year-old who sees her as a queen

"Arrests of undocumented immigrants in the Boston area rose more than 50 percent in the last fiscal year, according to federal data, signaling that President Trump is pushing to fulfill a campaign vow on bolstering enforcement. Still, the total number of arrests was far lower than during President Barack Obama’s first term....."

Ever hear of the Skadden report?

"Ukraine’s prosecutor also wanted to question Skadden’s lead lawyer on the report, Gregory B. Craig, who served as President Obama’s White House counsel, as well as Clifford M. Sloan, who also worked in the Obama administration. The Podesta Group, formerly led by a prominent lobbyist and Democratic donor, Tony Podesta, and Mercury Public Affairs have been subpoenaed by the special counsel’s office for records and testimony about the work they did for the European Center for a Modern Ukraine....."

"According to Federal Election Commission paperwork filed Monday, Shalala, 77, will run in Florida’s 27th district, which includes much of Miami Beach, downtown Miami, and coastal Miami-Dade County. Shalala, who has never run for elected office, has taught a political science class at the University of Miami since stepping down in April as president of the Clinton Foundation....."

The elite club is running out of candidates!

Monica Lewinsky calls Clinton affair a ‘gross abuse of power’ in Vanity Fair piece 

At least he was a Wynner.

This next article tells you all how phony is it all, and who calls the $hots:

"Senate advances bill to weaken banking safeguards" by Kevin Freking and Marcy Gordon Associated Press  March 07, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Senate advanced legislation Tuesday to roll back some of the safeguards Congress put in place to prevent a repeat of the financial crisis. Enough Democrats supported a procedural vote on the bipartisan bill to show it has a good chance of passage in the coming days.

The move to alter some key aspects of the Dodd-Frank law comes 10 years after the financial crisis rocked the nation’s economy. The bill has overwhelming Republican support and enough Democratic backing that it’s expected to gain the 60 votes necessary to clear the Senate. That was reflected in the 67-32 vote Tuesday, with 16 Democrats and one independent voting to move ahead with consideration of the bill.

Several Democratic lawmakers facing tough reelection races this year have broken ranks with minority leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat.

Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana, said he was proud to support Dodd-Frank eight years ago, and for the most part, the legislation has been successful. But it also had unintended consequences, he said, which included consolidation in the banking industry and a decline in lending to small businesses. He said local banks in Montana have suffered from regulations specifically designed to rein in risky behavior on Wall Street.

Was that unintended?

‘‘As a result of complying with these regulations, many of our community bankers are hanging up their hats,’’ Tester said.

Nonpartisan congressional analysts say the legislation would slightly increase the probability of a big bank failure — prompting a possible taxpayer bailout — or another financial meltdown. The probability of those events is deemed to be small under current law.

Democratic Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown said the drumbeat for derailing Dodd-Frank has been constant. He said Wall Street banks always want ‘‘a new exception, or a new, weaker standard, or a new tax break.’’

‘‘It is hubris to think we can gut the rules on these banks again, but avoid the next crisis,’’ said Brown.

The bill’s proponents insisted it would bring a needed boost to beleaguered banks outside Wall Street that didn’t engage in the reckless practices that fueled the financial crisis.

The legislation would increase the threshold at which banks are subject to stricter capital and planning requirements. Lawmakers are intent on easing those rules for mid-size and large regional banks.

Some of the nation’s biggest banks would no longer have to undergo an annual stress test conducted by the Federal Reserve to assesses whether a bank has enough capital to survive an economic shock and continue lending. Dozens of banks would also be exempted from making plans called ‘‘living wills’’ that spell out how the bank will sell off assets or be liquidated in a way that won’t create chaos.

Opponents of the bill argue that the same banks got about $50 billion in taxpayer-funded bailouts during the financial crisis.....


You know where they all belong?


Payday lenders, watchdog agency exhibit cozier relationship

Stocks edge higher as materials firms and retailers rise

The only thing that matters.