HomeBernie Sanders3/30 News Roundup & Open Thread
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To expand his real estate developments over the years, Donald Trump, his company and partners repeatedly turned to wealthy Russians and oligarchs from former Soviet republics — several allegedly connected to organized crime, according to a USA TODAY review of court cases, government and legal documents and an interview with a former federal prosecutor.

The president and his companies have been linked to at least 10 wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations or money laundering.

Among them:

• A member of the firm that developed the Trump SoHo Hotel in New York is a twice-convicted felon who spent a year in prison for stabbing a man and later scouted for Trump investments in Russia.

• An investor in the SoHo project was accused by Belgian authorities in 2011 in a $55 million money-laundering scheme.

• Three owners of Trump condos in Florida and Manhattan were accused in federal indictments of belonging to a Russian-American organized crime group and working for a major international crime boss based in Russia.

• A former mayor from Kazakhstan was accused in a federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles in 2014 of hiding millions of dollars looted from his city, some of which was spent on three Trump SoHo units.

• A Ukrainian owner of two Trump condos in Florida was indicted in a money-laundering scheme involving a former prime minister of Ukraine.

Trump’s Russian connections are of heightened interest because of an FBI investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian operatives to interfere in last fall’s election. What’s more, Trump and his companies have had business dealings with Russians that go back decades, raising questions about whether his policies would be influenced by business considerations.

Trump told reporters in February: “I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia. I have no loans with Russia at all.”


Say Hello To Medicare-For-All’s Latest Cosponsor

I should have known that Tulsi Gabbard would wind up on the right side of that line. After all, she’s been passing every progressive acid test with flying colors ever since Bernie started rattling cages way back in 2015, from DAPL to Syria to Glass-Steagall reinstatement to marijuana legalization to leaving the DNC to endorse Sanders early on in the primary race. Establishment Democrats who fear a 2020 presidential run threat from the Hawaiian congresswoman keep desperately trying to cast her as a conservative, but if supporting single-payer healthcare, the environment, economic justice, and non-interventionism while opposing the war on drugs is what a conservative looks like nowadays, you can call me Kellyanne Conway.

Meanwhile Berniecare is beginning to look a lot more interesting as well. There was some early talk that what Sanders is pushing for will be a “public option” as opposed to a proper single-payer healthcare system, which would be vastly inferior to the Medicare-for-all plan being advanced by H.R. 676, but new reports seem to indicate that this may not be the case after all. “Berniecare” is not expected to be a Senate version of H.R. 676, but a separate Senate bill with its own House counterpart.

This is great news! However, I wish they would just all join behind Bernie’s Medicare-for-all. But, as Caitlin says–look at where the conversation is now!!!! Happy Dance.


Another vote calculated to allow Murkowski and Collins to appear “moderate”


Vice President Pence on Thursday cast a tiebreaking vote as the Senate moves to nix an Obama-era rule that blocked states from defunding healthcare providers for political reasons.

Pence, who also serves as the president of the Senate, appeared on the floor after a procedural vote stalled at a 50-50 tie, casting the 51st vote in favor.

Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) joined all Democrats in voting against ending debate on the bill.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who has been recovering from two back surgeries and hasn’t voted since Feb. 17, returned to the Senate to cast a vote, creating the tie that called for Pence’s vote.

Leadership held the vote open for roughly an hour as they rounded up enough votes to move forward. A final vote on getting rid of the Obama-era rule could happen as early as Thursday afternoon.

Former President Obama’s rule required that state and local governments distribute federal Title X funding for services related to contraception, fertility, pregnancy care and cervical cancer screenings to health providers, regardless of whether they also preform abortions.


Neil Gorsuch Is Not Another Scalia. He’s the Next John Roberts.

Neil Gorsuch has been compared (including by me) to Antonin Scalia, whom he called “a lion of the law,” but after two days of hearings it’s clear he’s closer to John Roberts—another handsome face with an ugly ideology. When asked about his legal philosophy, Gorsuch invoked the mantra of Justice Byron White, saying, “I decide cases.” He refused to weigh in when asked about controversial cases like Citizens United, saying “I can’t get into politics.” His personal views, he frequently maintained, were irrelevant to his rulings as a judge.

Yet we know enough about Gorsuch to surmise that he was nominated by Donald Trump to be a smooth-talking advocate on the bench for a far-right ideology. He was hand-picked by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. He has close ties to a conservative billionaire and has praised one of the GOP’s most notorious voter-suppression advocates. He’s criticized liberals for challenging gay marriage bans in the courts. During the Bush administration, he praised the Guantánamo prison and defended harsh anti-terror policies. As a judge, he joined the Hobby Lobby decision restricting a woman’s right to choose and ruled against a truck driver who abandoned his trailer in subzero temperatures after it broke down. He’s consistently favored corporate power and corporate influence in the political process. In fact, a review of his opinions suggests he will be more conservative than Roberts and Alito, second only to Justice Thomas.


What a creep, whether he imitates Roberts or Scalia!


The Progressive Revolution Is A Spiritual Revolution

Different take from Caitlin. Very thoughtful and some awesome images.

You do you and I won’t get in the way. If our paths have to diverge here then so be it, but take the strength of my convictions with you because although you need to believe something different from me and you need to do something different from me, I see your heart and you are true and you have my every blessing.


Wells Fargo Gets Another Slap on the Wrist for the Fake Accounts Scandal

On the one hand, it’s frustrating to see Wells Fargo, which engaged in a remarkably large-scale, brazen fraud by opening as many as 2 million fake accounts to keep its stock-boosting cross-selling story going, get away with penny-ante costs. The initial joint regulatory fines of $185 million, combined now with an additional $110 million settlement of some private suits, seems skimpy.

But even though Wells opened tons of bogus accounts, it levied bogus fees in a smaller number of cases. Those charges didn’t add up to big bucks. While customers suffered all sorts of other harm, like possible damage to credit ratings (opening more accounts, or even just pulling more credit reports, are a demerit) and the hassle of fighting Wells to close phony accounts and get rid of fraudulent charges, regulators and courts see those costs as too intangible to be worthy of compensation.

On the other hand, the private lawsuit settlement shows why Corporate America has been keen to try to kill class action litigation: despite lawyers taking their oft-derided big cut, Wells customers will be getting more out of the private settlement than out of regulators’ efforts. As the Los Angeles Times reports:

On Tuesday, the bank agreed to pay $110 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed two years ago, a deal that could also put to rest 11 other class-action cases, many filed after the bank’s practices were thrown into the national spotlight last September.

The settlement, if approved by a federal judge in San Francisco, would provide payouts to all Wells Fargo customers who say they have been victims of the bank’s bad practices from 2009 until now…

The settlement marks a dramatic legal turnaround for Wells Fargo customers, who have had little success in taking the bank to court over unauthorized accounts. The bank has successfully argued in several cases that customers cannot sue the bank and instead must resolve disputes in private arbitration.

By contrast, under the joint $185 million settlement, Wells agreed to pay only as much as $5 million to customers, and the settlement put Wells in charge of deciding who to pay what. By contrast, The Los Angeles Times reports that Wells has paid out only $3.2 million to date.

If you assume 40% of the $110 million goes to lawyers (which is a high estimate), you have $66 million going to customers, nearly 20 times what they would have otherwise received.

Read the rest here:

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