The company you keep

Even parents who are not helicopter parents have concerns over the friends their children make. These friends can be positive or negative influences. My wife and I opened our house to our kids’ friends – we loved the chaos, but also got to meet them.

Speaking of the company you keep, on yet another Friday night cleansing, the president announced he would commute the sentence of his confidant Roger Stone. Stone was convicted of lying to Congress and more and is a self-professed dirty trickster, which still puzzles me why anyone would brag about that?

Stone is a contemporary of Paul Manafort, who also went to jail for more than a few malfeasances related to unreported foreign dealings and income. Manafort served as Trump’s campaign manager for over four months.

Michael Flynn pleased guilty to lying to the FBI twice, but that does not seem to matter now to some. What is also not reported enough, is the FBI did not pursue other legitimate charges of not reporting relationships with foreign governments and conducting government business before being sworn in. The FBI wanted his help, so they made a plea deal.

And, it still puzzles me why the president commuted the sentence of disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich marketed for money the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he became president. That is both illegal and highly unethical.

These are the kind of people the president values. Maybe this is part of the reason he fawns over autocratic-type and brutal leaders from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Philippines, North Korea, Brazil, etc.

It also interests me how he demeans, denigrates and eventually forces out people who are more loyal to the Constitution than to him. People who testified under oath at great risk over concerns, Inspector Generals who wrote reports or raised concerns inconsistent to whatever tactic the president was employing and, of course, whistleblowers who raised concerns with the hope of some protection have come under fire. Names like Alex Vindman, Fiona Hill, Michael Atkinson, Mitch Behm, Glenn Fine, Christi Grimm, Steve Linick, et al are American heroes run out of Dodge by the corrupt sheriff. It also is frustrating to watch Senators and Congresspeople throw these folks under the bus.

I have been a broken record with Republican Senators and my two Republican Congressman (the first had to resign over unreported conflicts of interest) sharing my concerns about the most corrupt and deceitful president in my lifetime, including Richard Nixon. I would ask them what will you have to defend next week, the week after, next month…?

I recall Republicans making a big deal out of Obama not wearing s flag pin. How unpatriotic! But, now it is OK that a president prefers the company of criminals, he takes the side of Putin over his own intelligence people, he does not bother to study key briefings endangering Americans, he is far more untruthful than he is not beating up on those who try to tell the truth, so badly botching a COVID-19 response using misinformation and finally promoting racial injustice dividing America.

These are questions that stymie me, and the sycophants who look the other way are abetting this corruption. But, don’t take my word for it, Google all those names above and determine for yourself. Ask why are the various groups treated so differently by this president?

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.