Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Today Donald Trump Became Anti-President


Ali Mohammed Hafedh Kinani at 9, in 2007, when he was murdered by the Blackwater goons Trump pardoned last night, via The Nation.

No, really, it's as if he's not even part of the executive branch any more, after Congress passed that "stimulus" with overwhelming, veto-proof majorities, and he responded:

"I'm asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2000, or $4000 per couple," Trump said in a video released on Twitter. "I'm also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items in this legislation or to send me a suitable bill."

He refused to have anything to do with the job for seven months, turning negotiations over to Steven Mnuchin, and now that the job is done he doesn't like how it came out. Not that he's threatening to veto the monster omnibus bill and shut down the government next week (this is actually possible, even though Congress has the votes to overturn a veto, because so many members have already gone home for Christmas). He may just allow it to become law without him, in ten days, delaying the checks, or he may end up signing it after all.

(Or conceivably Democrats could try to coopt the idea and force consideration of a revised bill upping the "stimulus" payments as he suggested, which is a level they'd wanted from the start, though I'd hope they won't obey his other demands on those "wasteful and unnecessary items", to zero out the foreign aid budget and to cancel funding for a couple of museum projects that fail to be centered around white men, the Smithsonian Museum of the American Latino and the Smithsonian American Women's History Museum; and even if Trump was willing to accept the result, it's not likely the Senate would be, and given the existence of, you know, Christmas and a shutdown deadline, it's not a great moment for this kind of game.)

But he's just denying he's involved in it in any way. As Steve M notes, Stephen Bannon is showing up in the Oval Office, along with Peter Navarro, and Mike Flynn, and Sydney Powell, and the inevitable Stephen Miller, and all these nihilists are telling him he's not the government. He's asking the waiter to take it back, as if he's only a customer in this crappy restaurant, or demanding to speak to the manager. He's not the manager.

It's also unclear whether he will carry out his threat to veto the National Defense Authorization Act [Update: He did; Congress will override the veto next week], because it doesn't enable conservatives to sue Twitter and Facebook for their (imaginary) discrimination, and because it includes provisions for changing the names of 10 military bases named after treasonous Confederate generals, which Congress also has votes to override, and which will also become law if he fails to veto it or sign it tomorrow. I'm betting he's trucking off to Mar-a-Lago tomorrow without doing anything about either one, because he's basically not even regarding himself as president any more, except he'll no doubt continue pardoning people, via Twitter, until he gets down to Jared, Ivanka, Rudy, and maybe himself, around 19 January, before his anti-inauguration in some Florida stadium on Inauguration Day.

Yesterday's blizzard of pardons seems directed from outside government, too, as if he saw himself as a kind of tribune, as a criticism of government, for enforcing laws he doesn't like, like making it a felony to lie to the FBI (wouldbe Junior James Bond George Papadopoulos and fatuous twit Alex van der Zwaan, joining enemy agent General Flynn and ratfucker Roger Stone)—a crime he certainly seems to have committed himself, in his responses to written questions from the Mueller investigation. Others pardoned for crimes he's committed himself include former Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-CA (one of the first two members of Congress to endorse Trump in 2016), for diverting campaign funds for his personal use and former Rep. Steve Stockman, R-TX, for doing the same with his own charitable foundation. Coincidentally, the other first congressman to endorse Trump, former Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), has been rescued from the 26-month prison sentence of insider trading he started in October.

Medicare and Medicaid fraud are the issue in the case of Philip Esformes, who made something like $37 million running the largest such fraud in US history (though it doesn't seem to compete in dollar figures with the fraud committed by the Columbia/HCA company, whose CEO was Rick Scott, later Florida governor and now Florida senator) as head of

a team of corrupt physicians, hospitals, and private practices in South Florida. The scheme worked as follows: bribes and kickbacks where paid to physicians, hospitals, and practices to refer patients to the facilities owned and controlled by Esformes. The assisted living and skilled nursing facilities would admit the patients and bill Medicare and Medicaid for unnecessary, fabricated and sometimes harmful procedures. In addition to that, some of the charges to Medicare and Medicaid include prescription narcotics prescribed to patients addicted to opioids to entice the patients to stay at the facility in order for the bill to increase. Another technique used by the dream team was to move patients in and out of facilities when the patients have reached the maximum number of days allowed by Medicare and Medicaid. This was accomplished by using one of the corrupt physicians to see the patients and coordinate for readmission in the same or a different facility owned by Esformes. Per Medicare and Medicaid guidelines, a patient is allowed 100 days at a skilled nursing facility after a hospital stay. The patient is given an additional 100 days if the he/she spends 6 days outside of a facility or is readmitted to a hospital for 3 additional days. The facilities not only fabricated medical documents to show treatment was done to a patient, they also hiked up the prices to equipment and medications that were never consumed or used. The role of Barcha as the Director of the Outreach program was to expand the group of corrupt physicians and practices. She would advise the community physicians and hospitals to refer patients to the facilities owned by Esformes and they woul receive monetary gifts. The group would refer patient to the facilities and receive kickbacks.

Esformes has a full pardon, after serving around five years of a 20-year sentence. While there was a commutation for Judith Negron, serving a 35-year sentence for her $205-million Medicare fraud scheme, yet another Florida case, of Negron's mental health care company, American Therapeutic Corporation, which

paid bribes and kickbacks to owners and operators of assisted living facilities and halfway houses and to patient brokers in exchange for delivering ineligible patients to ATC and ASI. In some cases, the patients received a portion of those kickbacks. Throughout the course of the conspiracy, millions of dollars in kickbacks were paid in exchange for Medicare beneficiaries, who did not qualify for PHP services, to attend treatment programs that were not legitimate PHP programs, so that ATC and ASI could bill Medicare for more than $205 million in unnecessary or illegitimate services.

Another kind of crime Trump hates prosecuting is any kind of police brutality, especially with guns, so he's pardoned former Customs and Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and José Compean, who got 11 and 12 years respectively for shooting a suspected marijuana smuggler on the other side of the Mexican border—these arguably too harsh sentences were commuted years ago by President George W. Bush, but Trump wants to establish that they shouldn't even have been charged, and gave them full pardons. He also gave full pardons to convicted murderer Nicholas Slatten, serving life, and Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard, given 30-year terms for manslaughter, for their massacre of between 14 and 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square, where they were patrolling for Erik Prince's Blackwater firm, on 16 September 2007: 

The first to be killed was Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y, 21, an aspiring doctor, who was driving his mother to an appointment.  His mother, Mahassin Mohssen Kadhum Al-Khazali, 44, a medical doctor, also was killed.  Others who died included Ali Mohammed Hafedh Abdul Razzaq, 9, who was traveling with his family; Osama Fadhil Abbas, 52, a businessman who sold used cars and who was enroute to a business meeting; Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, 47, a delivery truck driver, and his 11-year-old son, Qasim Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud; Sa’adi Ali Abbas Alkarkh, 52, a businessman; Mushtaq Karim Abd Al-Razzaq, 18, an Iraqi soldier who was standing at a military checkpoint; Ghaniyah Hassan Ali, 55, who was traveling with her daughter on a public bus, and who was in the area to get documentation for a trip to holy sites; Ibrahim Abid Ayash, 77, a gardener, who was traveling in another bus; Hamoud Sa’eed Abttan, 33, and his cousin, Usday Ismail Ibrahiem, 27, who were out looking for work with the Iraqi Army; Mahdi Sahib Nasir, 26, a taxi driver, and Ali Khalil Abdul Hussein, 54, a motorcyclist who was commuting to work.

There are also some no doubt deserved pardons of weed dealers, and even one moonshiner (Oklahoman Alfred Lee Crum, 89, for a guilty plea from 1952), but these rectifications of real injustice still amount only to the tens, as opposed to the thousands of pardons and commutations issued by Obama.

But the major thrust of these actions seems opposed to the whole concept of government by law, an endorsement of racketeering and gangsterism inside government and around it, a rejection of the idea that people with power over other people should refrain from abusing it. And as such a kind of defense of Trump's own placement of himself as a literal outlaw, a head of government who sees himself as outside government in every way, absolved of the need to do his work and free of the need to behave lawfully. 

I hope we can talk, when we start talking about the reforms we need to recover from Trumpery, about fixing the defects in the pardon power. It's easy to say you're not allowed to use it to protect yourself from prosecution, but that's not stopping him from doing it (at least, so far, in the cases of Flynn and Stone, with many more predicted in the next weeks). This shouldn't happen again.

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