“Drain the swamp” was always an empty slogan that meant nothing — and I mean NOTHING — to Donald Trump. It was a phony sales pitch, a focus-group-tested bald-faced lie. And his supporters bought it hook, line, and metaphorical sinker.
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Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign manager, has been on trial since last week. He is the first defendant charged in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to go to trial. He’s facing decades, if not centuries, in prison, so the stakes are high. He’s been indicted for bank fraud, tax evasion, money laundering, failure to register as a foreign (pro-Russia Ukraine) political consultant, and for generally being a corrupt, greedy bastard.
The first week consisted mostly of presenting incriminating but dry documents. This week, sparks are flying. Manafort is staring down the star prosecution witness, his former partner Rick Gates who has entered into a cooperation deal with the government. The judge and the prosecution team are at each other’s throats. The Manafort trial is certainly one of the biggest stories of the year.
But one other political story broke through the excitement this week. Though unrelated, it is related.
Federal prosecutors charged Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) Wednesday with insider trading. Collins was on the board of Australian biotech company Innate Immunotherapeutics and was its largest shareholder. He had also solicited his son, his son’s future father-in-law, and others as investors.
The Chris Collins Innate Immunotherapeutics story starts like this:
“Collins just happened to have bought up about a million dollars in Innate stock in August 2016, as the 21st Century Cures Act wended its way through Congress. This purchase was part of a special stock offering — a VIP opportunity into which Collins brought some friends. ‘Sixteen people with close ties to Collins bought Innate shares at discounted prices of $0.18 or $0.26 cents per share,’ the Daily Beast reported in April. ‘Those investors have given nearly $42,000 to Collins’s political campaigns over the years.’ … A handful of … Buffalo businessmen who are Collins donors got in the Innate game, some of them long before Collins was in Congress.
“Collins’ friends who bought discounted stock in 2016 would have paid around 25 or 34 cents per share, according to The New York Times. Shortly after the [21st Century Cures Act] became law, the price skyrocketed, eventually to $1.77 per share in January. Shortly before that peak is when reporters overheard Collins talking on the phone saying, ‘Do you know how many millionaires I’ve made in Buffalo the past few months?’ Being a donor or friend of Chris Collins pays off.”
(Carney, Timothy P.; “Chris Collins, Self-Proclaimed Millionaire-Maker, Wades Into Another Drug Lobby Fight”; Washington Examiner; 5/10/2017.)
Before June 2017 (before Collins allegedly passed the insider trading information for which he was busted), he was already under scrutiny for promoting Innate Immunotherapeutics, possibly illegally, using his position in Congress. Like the part-time Amway distributor or the guy selling “seats” on the “airplane” scam at the office, Collins (allegedly) regularly bugged his congressional staff, House colleagues, family members, and even a Cabinet secretary to invest in his pet company:
“In October , the Office of Congressional Ethics found ‘substantial reason to believe’ Collins violated federal law and House rules by meeting with federal officials in his congressional capacity to seemingly benefit the firm and also that he shared private information about the firm to solicit investors.”
(Merie, Renae; “Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) Charged With Insider Trading, Federal Prosecutors Announce”; The Washington Post; 8/8/2018.)
On June 22, 2017, Collins was enjoying himself at the White House congressional picnic. While schmoozing with fellow Trump compatriots, he received a confidential email from Innate’s CEO notifying him that a make-or-break multiple sclerosis clinical drug trial was a failure, which he knew would doom the stock value. Chris frantically began trying to phone his son, Cameron (who owned thousands of company shares). Chris got through on the seventh try and informed his son of the impending stock crash. In the following days, Cameron Collins spread the word to his future father-in-law and several other shareholders who all dumped their shares, long before the public was informed.
All told, Rep. Collins’ illegal heads-up, via his son, to his preferred circle of investors saved these guys $768,000 in losses, before the stock price fell by 92 percent. Though Collins Sr., as an Innate board member, apparently was prohibited from selling his own stock (which is his current defense), he lied to investigators when asked if he had tipped off his son. Collins also is suspected of tipping off a half-dozen or so House colleagues whom he had convinced to invest in Innate.
The Original Swamp Creature
On February 24, 2016, Rep. Chris Collins was the first legislator in either house of Congress to endorse then-candidate Donald Trump. Collins went on to be congressional liaison to the Trump transition team and has been a staunch supporter of the president at every turn since.
Currently, President Trump’s former campaign director is on trial for massive bank fraud and tax evasion. The star prosecution witness is his former deputy director, who stayed with the campaign through the presidential transition. The deputy has pleaded guilty to assisting in the bank and tax fraud, and is cooperating with the government to minimize his time sleeping on a steel bed and defecating on a steel commode.
Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer of 12 years is under investigation for tax and bank fraud, not to mention oodles of dirty work for his old boss, including during Donald’s time as candidate, president-elect, and president.
Mr. Trump said he would hire the best people and drain the swamp.
The first problem was that the best people didn’t want to work for him. The second problem was President Trump’s definition of “the best people.”
Can we finally put to bed the myth of Donald ever intending to drain the swamp?
Donald Trump is the swamp king and only wants swamp creatures around him. He had always planned to pack these people into important executive branch positions, especially positions of economic influence. That’s his crowd. Sure, he stumbled upon a few good people for national security positions such as Defense Secretary James Mattis and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates. But he still interferes with their ability to do their jobs. He doesn’t take their advice. And even one of his security picks, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, turned out to be crooked, i.e., very swampy — he’s also pleaded guilty and is coopering with government prosecutors.
“Drain the swamp” was always an empty slogan that meant nothing — and I mean nothing — to Donald other than a phony sales pitch:
“[Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher] Wylie told House Democrats this week that, as early as 2014, [Trump campaign CEO Steve] Bannon directed Cambridge Analytica to test messages such as ‘build the wall’ and ‘drain the swamp,’ which later became major slogans of the Trump campaign. Bannon served as vice president and secretary of Cambridge Analytica from June 2014 to August 2016, before joining the Trump campaign. ‘Some of the things that emerged from that were — my understanding was that “Drain the Swamp,” like, verbatim was tested, and used in some of the message testing,’ Wylie testified. ‘[Border] walls were discussed.’”
“Wylie testified that Bannon directed Cambridge Analytica in 2014 to test images and concepts for an American audience relating to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian expansion in Eastern Europe. He said Putin was the only foreign leader used in the testing.”
(Kelly, Erin; “Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower: Steve Bannon Used Data to Discourage Democratic Turnout”; USA Today; 4/25/2018.)
Trump’s drain-the-swamp mantra was always nothing more than a focus-group-tested bald-faced lie. His supporters bought it hook, line, and metaphorical sinker.
The Company You Keep
Your mama used to say: The company you keep defines your character.
Let’s look at the company President Trump keeps.
— Michael Cohen: former Trump personal lawyer; under investigation for campaign finance violations (secretly paying off candidate Trump’s mistresses), tax evasion, bank fraud, and money laundering
— Michael Flynn: former Trump national security adviser; indicted for lying to FBI about Russian contacts (to discuss easing of Russia sanctions) during presidential transition, and failure to report foreign lobbying work and income; pleaded guilty to lesser charges in government cooperation agreement
— Paul Manafort: former Trump campaign manager; on trial for money laundering, bank fraud, and tax evasion
— Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.): first person in Congress to endorse then-candidate Trump, staunch presidential supporter; indicted for insider stock trading
— Rick Gates: former Trump deputy campaign manager, presidential transition executive; indicted for money laundering, bank fraud, embezzlement, and tax evasion; pleaded guilty to lesser charges in government cooperation agreement
— Scott Pruitt: former Trump EPA administrator; forced to resign over charges of wasteful spending and using his office to enrich himself; was facing 15-some ethics investigations when he left office
— Tom Price: former Trump secretary of health and human services; forced to resign over charges of wasteful spending and using his office to enrich himself
— Wilbur Ross: current Trump commerce secretary; being sued for defrauding former associates
This is a partial list of Donald’s corrupt associates. Many others have not yet been indicted or fired.
With his former personal attorney Michael Cohen about to cut a deal with prosecutors, Donald Trump is excreting handy-sized units of building or paving material typically being rectangular. This is because he has more skeletons than Forest Lawn. After a lifetime of getting away with everything but murder (as far as we know), Donald is about to get his comeuppance.
Donald Trump is the most corrupt president in American history. It’s a given that swamp creatures are drawn to him like suckers to Trump University.
His mama would be so proud. ■
Trump Corruption Chronicles — We Must Never Forget