Inspector Generals and Auditors

What do Enron, Healthsouth, Adelphia and Tyco have in common? All were found guilty of fraudulent activities. And, each were misled by CEOs and even CFOs. The names Kenneth Lay and Richard Skilling of Enron (accounting and tax fraud), Richard Scrushy of HealthSouth (accounting fraud), John and Tim Rigas of Adelphia (fraud, corruption and theft) and Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Switz of Tyco (massive theft) will not be remembered in a good light. The Enron scandal even brought down one of the largest accounting firms, Arthur Andersen.

Because of their activities, the SEC passed a rule stating that the Board of Directors’ Audit Committee must be given greater authority and independence. In short, the Audit Committee must be independent of the Executive Committee and cannot include the President or Treasurer. It also must:

– Not include anyone employed by the organization or the audit firm
– Have at least one “ financial expert ” who is familiar with the audit process
– Avoid conflicts of interest.

In the federal government, the Inspector General’s office imbedded in each of the departments of the Executive branch serves like an auditor. The equivalent Board oversight is the Congress of the United States, not the president. It is a very important role that keeps America running like a democracy and not an autocracy. When this oversight is compromised, America’s democracy is diminished.

I raise this now as the president of the United States seems to be at war with the Inspector Generals in the Executive branch. Friday night, the president sent a letter that he was firing Michael Atkinson who did his job and reported to Congress the veracity of a whistleblower complaint. To Atkinson’s credit, he publicly defended his role and encouraged whistleblowers to still come forward.

This week, the Glenn Fine, the appointed IG overseeing the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus fund, was removed and will be replaced by a Trump appointee. Fine was well regarded in this role coming out of the Department of Defense. Something seems fishy here.

If that were not enough, the president was critical of a US Department of Health and Human Services IG report led by Christi Grimm. The report was critical of the hospital preparedness for the coronavirus, which is not a surprise, since hospitals and governors are begging for help.

What does all of this mean? Why is the president at war with the Inspector General’s office? Is he hiding something? Are they saying things that run counter to his own storytelling which is well-known to be less than truthful? If this were a publicly traded company, these actions would raise a red flag with the Audit Committee. They should do the same with Congressional oversight.

In short, the US is not a kingdom. It is not an autocracy. The president has never reported to anyone before his swearing in, except for his father. He is highly accustomed to not being questioned. In fact, he does not like being questioned, which is apparent on a daily basis. Yet, he must answer to Congress. I urge Congress to do their job. They must represent Americans, not a political party.

“Truth is not the goal”

After media pressure, Facebook closed down a fake news site in North Carolina. As reported in The Charlotte Observer in an article called “Facebook takes down NC Facebook page with fake news” by Zachary Eanes, after a few months of publishing fake news and garnering 50,000 followers, the site was closed. A person contacted by the reporter said the following in response:

“‘Truth is not the goal’ behind the stories shared. ‘Getting Trump reelected is the ultimate goal.'”

That line is worth rereading. In essence, the truth does not matter. I have been echoing the premise the Republican party can no longer claim to be the “law and order” party as too many of its leaders have aided and abetted the corrupt and deceitful actions of the president. And, it can no longer claim to be a party of truth, the decline in truthfulness having started long ago, but made worse by the deceitful actions and words of the president.

It should be noted the site included a number of articles pushed by Russian disinformation sources. This is on top of a radio station in Iowa, which appears legitimate, but is using the Russian sputnik radio feeds for sources of disinformation. There is a reason Trump and Russia want you to believe Ukraine did all the election meddling. Trump wants Russia’s help again.

Let me be brutally frank. The biggest purveyor of fake news is the guy who says those words the most. His name is Donald Trump. Taking the president at his word is a fool’s errand.

A few Wednesday wanderings

It is a good day to go for a hike and see where I may wander. I am thinking of the JRR Tolkien line “Not all those who wander are lost.” Although, sometimes I feel I am lost in a country that has lost its compass. Here are a few thoughts to ponder while I wander.

I read that Senator Rand Paul read the name of the whistleblower in the senate yesterday. I left Paul a message after I read this. The gist is to tell him I have applauded him when he has been bipartisan and when he has shown political courage to push back on the president. I defend his right to do what he thinks is best. But, reading the name of the whistleblower on the floor of the senate is extremely poor form. It places someone in danger. We protect whistleblowers for a reason. Plus, I watched a parade of honorable diplomats testify under oath and at great risk of their concerns over Ukraine’s fledgling democracy and what they believe Trump did to use them for personal gain.

I saw where the president’s approval rating has increased to 49% under one poll with an average of 43.6% This shows me two things. People are not paying attention as they are told to look the other way. It also tells me the economy is propping up Trump’s numbers more than they should be. I have said for ten years, the president gets too much credit and too much blame for the economy. I am glad it continues at a pretty good clip, but it has been so doing for going on 128 consecutive months, and Trump has only been president for going on 37 months.

From the testimony I have seen and read, the obstruction of justice by the president and the refusal to seek the truth, I feel the president is guilty as charged. Another reason to know this is he is saying he is not, but his excuses keep changing. I have long grown weary of weak-kneed GOP sycophants rationalize the toddler’s tantrums and truancy. In my view, these folks put loyalty to this imposter king ahead of loyalty to the constitution. And, people need to know this. Fortunately, there is even a Republican group spending money to shed light on this poor stewardship.

Those are the three thoughts of the day. Have a great rest of the week.

Disappointment – letter to a GOP Senator

Senator Burr, as an independent and former Republican, I have voted for you in the past. I have applauded you when you have gone out of your way to be bipartisan, especially with your and Mark Warner’s handling of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

I did not expect the Senate to remove Donald Trump, even though the testimony I have seen and his actions to block evidence and witnesses indicate someone who is guilty. The why question I want an answer to is why did the White House try to bury the infamous phone call, if it was so perfect? And, frankly, I am troubled that we have a shadow diplomacy going on which keeps our diplomats in the dark. I would say this if the person was Mother Teresa, but Rudy Giuliani is a far cry from her exemplar.

What does trouble me is the insistence that the president did nothing wrong and the Senate’s lack of interest in getting at the truth. I have concerns that we have a national security risk in the White House. It is already clear, that he feels empowered to be regal. We are not a kingdom.

So, I am disappointed in your stance. What troubles me further, is many Republicans know that Trump is guilty, yet they cannot say it. The rationalization of his corrupt and untruthful actions and statements is wearisome and numbing. My question to you and other GOP leaders, is what will you have to defend next week, next month, and the months thereafter? Adam Schiff asked an important question that the GOP needs to heed – do you want to know now or later? To be brutally frank, the GOP may want to rethink allowing Bill Weld and Joe Walsh on the primary ballots in all states.

That is my two cents. I will not be voting for the junior Senator from NC nor will I vote for the incumbent president. I would consider Weld or Walsh as a candidate, but do believe they need a fair chance, which the president has denied. I want to look up to my president and expect what he says is truthful. Neither of these apply to Donald Trump.

There is a reason the US president does not want people reading evidence

In an editorial by Neal Katyal and Joshua Geltzer yesterday in The Washington Post called “Lev Parnas and Rudy Giuliani have demolished Trump’s claims of innocence” (see link below), it lays bare false reasons of the US president using strong-arm tactics in Ukraine. Per the editorial:

“Americans who have been wondering why President Trump has taken the extraordinary step of trying to block every document from being released to Congress in his impeachment inquiry need wonder no longer. The new documents released Tuesday evening by the House Intelligence Committee were devastating to Trump’s continuing — if shifting — defense of his Ukraine extortion scandal, just days before his impeachment trial is likely to begin in the Senate. These new documents demolish at least three key defenses to which Trump and his allies have been clinging: that he was really fighting corruption when he pressured Ukraine on matters related to the Biden family; that Hunter Biden should be called as a witness at the Senate impeachment trial; and that there’s no need for a real, honest-to-goodness trial in the Senate.

The most basic principles of constitutional law require relevant information, including documents and executive branch witnesses, to be turned over to Congress in an impeachment proceeding. Particularly because sitting presidents cannot be indicted, impeachment is the only immediate remedy we the people have against a lawless president. For that remedy to have any teeth, relevant information has to be provided. That’s why President James Polk said that, during impeachment, Congress could ‘penetrate into the most secret recesses of the Executive Departments … command the attendance of any and every agent of the Government, and compel them to produce all papers, public or private, official or unofficial.’ No president, not even Richard Nixon, thought he could just say ‘no’ to impeachment. That’s why the House added Article II to Trump’s impeachment: ‘Obstruction of Congress.’ It was a response to an unprecedented attempt by a president to hide the truth.

The documents released Tuesday show what Trump has been so afraid of. For starters, they prove that his already-eyebrow-raising claim to have been fighting corruption in Ukraine was bogus. Notes taken by Lev Parnas — who is an associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and is now facing federal criminal charges — show what his and Giuliani’s mission was when they got in touch with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: “get Zalensky to Announce that the Biden case will Be Investigated.” Look hard at the real goal here: not to prompt an investigation of Hunter Biden, but to score an announcement of a Biden investigation. Pursuing an announcement, rather than an investigation, makes sense only if Trump’s objective was to dirty the reputation of Joe Biden, a leading political rival.”

There is not much to add as this article and the above three paragraphs speak volumes. In a nutshell, it is yet one more example of why taking Donald J. Trump at his word is a fool’s errand. It is also is more evidence as to why Trump is the most corrupt and untruthful president in my lifetime, including Richard Nixon, who incorrectly said he was not a crook.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/opinions-lev-parnas-and-rudy-giuliani-have-demolished-trumps-claims-of-innocence/ar-BBYYE1P?ocid=spartandhp

The obvious answer

The US president wants people to testify in a Senate trial, but not those who may know more about what he did. Yesterday, he tweeted he wanted Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff to testify.

The answer is obvious. Pelosi should say “I will gladly testify if you will as well, Mr. president.” And, Schiff could say “I will gladly testify if Rudy Giuliani or John Bolton will.”

To be frank, I would like to see the following people testify in addition to Trump, Giuliani and Bolton, given their knowledge of what was happening:

– Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
– Vice President Mike Pence
– Pence’s aide he keeps blocking from testifying
– Former White House Counsel Don McGahn
– Former Dir of Intelligence Dan Coates
– Former Deputy Director Sue Gordon

The departure over Coates and Gordon is not mentioned, but their being asked to leave happened around the time Bolton left and before the public awareness of the infamous phone call.

Call me crazy, but I find it interesting that McConnell does not want people to testify. And, per his history, the president is the last person that should testify given his untruthful bent.

Three why questions

Tell me why, three why questions have not sunk into more people’s minds about the Ukraine mess caused by the US president?

– Why did people who heard the “perfect” phone call try to hide it?

– Why does the US president want witnesses called, but prevents those in the know from testifying?

– Why don’t more people believe hard working, honorable public servants who testified under oath at great risk instead of a person who is known to be cavalier with the truth?

I would like to hear some answers to these three why questions starting with people named McConnell, Graham and Barr. This American would like to hear from folks like Mulvaney, Pompeo, Giuliani, and Pence under oath. Tell me why I should not be able to do so?

Two powerful quotes

Two quotes. One from Carl Sandburg, the other from Samuel Clemens, or Mark Twain, as he is better known.

I was reminded this weekend of the quote from Sandburg in an editorial by Ned Barnett of the Raleigh News and Observer. The context for the editorial which included the quote, is the receved death threats toward Michael Gerhardt, an impeachment expert after he testified that Trump should be impeached.

Referencing the “histrionics of the Republican members,” Gerhardt cited Sandburg, “If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.”

I have cited the Twain quote several times. It defines the difficulty in changing the impressions of Trump supporters. Twain said “It is easier to fool someone, than to convince them they have been fooled.” Sadly, this quote needs an addendum to update it for modern social media and biased news sources.

The addendum is “It is even harder when the person doing the fooling controls the sources of information of those fooled.”

Per Trump, the impeachment document is filled with “fake news.” As I have said countless times, the biggest purveyor of fake news in America is Donald J. Trump and it is not even close. Sadly, his sycophants are oblivious to this observation. As Thomas Wells, an attorney who worked for Trump for years, wrote before the election, “Donald Trump lies everyday, even about things of no consequence.”

Think about this third quote as you ponder the more famous two.

A few Republican voices

In a New York Times article today (see link below), co-authors George Conway, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver, and Rick Wilson penned “We are Republicans and we want Trump defeated.” Here are three paragraphs from the article:

“Mr. Trump fails to meet the bar for this commitment. He has neither the moral compass nor the temperament to serve. His vision is limited to what immediately faces him — the problems and risks he chronically brings upon himself and for which others, from countless contractors and companies to the American people, ultimately bear the heaviest burden.

But this president’s actions are possible only with the craven acquiescence of congressional Republicans. They have done no less than abdicate their Article I responsibilities.

Indeed, national Republicans have done far worse than simply march along to Mr. Trump’s beat. Their defense of him is imbued with an ugliness, a meanness and a willingness to attack and slander those who have shed blood for our country, who have dedicated their lives and careers to its defense and its security, and whose job is to preserve the nation’s status as a beacon of hope.”

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/we-are-republicans-and-we-want-trump-defeated/ar-BBY4ODO?ocid=spartandhp

From a letter to the editor in The Charlotte Observer ten days ago (see link below), Andy Nillson, a Republican candidate for Lt. Governor in 2000, wrote:

“Lately, the truth that many Republicans like me are realizing is that the our president is not upholding the ideals of our party and our country.

His administration violates duties of office with callous indifference. And President Trump expects Republicans to fall in line behind him, regardless.

I have been most appalled by the president’s mishandling of foreign policy matters – especially the Ukraine situation – and his conduct during the Mueller investigation.

His power must be checked by other Republicans. Congress must do its duty to bring forth all of the evidence so the country can move forward. We cannot repeat Watergate. It will set Republicans back 50 years.”

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2019/12/08/letter-from-a-republican-candidate-in-2000/

Finally, a few months ago, a group called “Republicans for the Rule of Law” began running commercials. Here is a quote from the commercials and a link to a previous post:

“It is no longer about whether Republicans believe President Trump or whether they support his policies. It’s about whether they support his admitted abuse of power and his efforts to secure a foreign government’s help in an American election.”

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2019/09/30/republicans-for-the-rule-of-law-condemn-trump-behavior-and-obstruction-with-ukraine/

Somber but necessary day

Last Friday was a somber, but necessary day in America. The House Judiciary Committee voted for two articles of impeachment of the US president. Whether it hurts or helps Democrats is irrelevant. This independent and former GOP voter feels it was necessary as we cannot have a president act in this manner. We are a democracy, not a kingdom. Acting in this manner is a risk to our national security and constitution. I applaud the political courage of those honorable public servants who testified under oath and at great risk. I also do not find the president to be the most truthful of people and, as a result, is the biggest purveyor of fake news in America by far.