Eric Hopton for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online Ants' movements seemingly hide or mirror mathematical patterns. If we could tap into their inaudible squeaks they might just be saying to each other "Hey, shall we use Gaussian and Pareto distributions for this one, buddy?" Authors of a new study found apparently random changes in the direction…
A former U.S. prosecutor is breaking down the ins and outs of former President Donald Trump's highly publicized lawsuit against the New York Times, three of its reporters, and his niece, Mary Trump. Appearing on MSNBC with Chief Legal Correspondent Ari Melber, former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance broke down all of the issues with the former president's lawsuit.
Vance began with the questionable timing of Trump's lawsuit. Citing his legal history, she said noted that many of Trump's lawsuits have had ulterior motives. "Trump usually files lawsuits as an aggressive mechanism," Vance noted. "This is his history so he might file a lawsuit to distract from other things that are going on around him."
Since Trump would likely be subjected to the process of discovery, which would require some element of exposure that he typically steers clear of, Vance believes the case could simply be a "stunt, perhaps a fundraising strategy than it is a legitimate effort."
Vance went on to explain why the case appears to be "a bad legal strategy" for the former president. Citing the new Slapp statute in the state of New York, which protects First Amendment rights, Vance noted that Mary Trump could be allowed to have the dismissal of the charges fast-tracked. That could also lead to Trump being left to foot the bill for court and attorney fees.
Vance's remarks follow The New York Times' response to Trump's lawsuit. On Wednesday, September 22, the publication released a statement defending its reporting on the former president's taxes. The Times also vowed to fight the former president's legal suit.
"The Times's coverage of Donald Trump's taxes helped inform the public through meticulous reporting on a subject of overriding public interest," the statement read. "This lawsuit is an attempt to silence independent news organizations and we plan to vigorously defend against it."
While President Biden's CARES Act has in many ways proven a lifeline for thousands of businesses struggling to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 crisis, his PPP loan program, coordinated by the Small Business Administration (SBA), has also been the subject of great controversy, with many critics arguing that its provisions were abused by massive corporations that hardly needed the extra boost.
This article first appeared in Salon.
Back in December, The New York Times reported that just 1% of the businesses that received federal COVID-19 relief raked in over a quarter of the total loan amounts disbursed. "The money," the Times wrote, "was shared unevenly, with the biggest sums going to a sliver of the companies in need." Roughly 600 large businesses received maximum loans amounts of $10 million. Even public companies with massive cash reserves – like Ruth's Chris, Shake Shack, and AutoNation – took in PPP loans, casting doubt over the program's ability to fairly distribute aid.
The program, however, faced it's perhaps worst reputational blow even months before that report, when it was revealed that scores of lawmakers (and their families) received millions in loans for their own personal businesses, even when these same lawmakers may have had a hand in writing the program's provisions. To boot, some of these lawmakers opposed legislation that would have added to the program's transparency, potentially allowing them to benefit from undue federal aid behind the curtain.
According to a Sludge report, at least 28 members of Congress (or their spouses) benefited from some $27 million in small business loans. Some of these members include Reps. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., Kevin Hern, R-Okla., Greg Pence, R-Ind., and Carol Miller, R-W.Va.
One of these lawmakers, Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., received federal loans ranging between $150,000 and $350,000 for his various car dealerships, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. Kelly, who voted "no" on the TRUTH Act – which would have required the SBA to disclose all of the PPP's recipients in addition to their loan amounts – is tied to four businesses that benefited from the program, including Mike Kelly Automotive Group Inc., Mike Kelly Automotive LP, Mike Kelly Hyundai Inc., and Kelly Chevrolet Cadillac.
A spokesperson for his office told the Inquirer that Kelly is "not involved in the day-to-day operations of his auto dealerships and was not part of the discussions between the business and the PPP lender." However, The Post Gazette found last July that he was still named as the president of Mike Kelly Hyundai, Mike Kelly Automotive, and Kelly Chevrolet Cadillac on one of his recent House financial disclosures, with his wife reporting a salary from Kelly Chevrolet Cadillac.
Kelly is the 39th wealthiest member of Congress, according to a 2018 analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, with a net worth of $12.4 million.
Other lawmakers who benefited from the PPP program include Reps. Roger Williams, R-Tex., and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla.
According to Sludge, Williams, who boasts a net worth of $27.7 million, took in over $1.4 million for his JRW Corporation, valued $50 million back in 2019. The conservative legislator also reaped federal aid for his Roger Williams Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership in North Texas.
"I didn't personally benefit from [the loan]," he told Fox Business Network last year. "I've got hundreds of employees – they benefited from it."
Earlier that year, in March of 2020, Williams painted a very different picture of government subsidies, telling The Epoch Times that "a socialist wants you to get a check from the government...a capitalist wants you to get a check from the place that you work."
Williams, who voted against the TRUTH Act, also came under scrutiny from the House Ethics Committee back in 2016, when he tucked an ostensibly self-serving provision into President Obama's Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act. The line item, which he himself authored, effectively ensured that his own dealerships would be able to skirt a federal prohibition on renting out cars under safety recalls.
Rep. Buchanan, the third wealthiest member of Congress as of 2018, engaged in similar conduct with his various car dealerships. The Bradenton Herald reported that the Florida lawmaker, worth roughly $74 million, accepted loans totaling anywhere from $2.7 million to $7 million for three of his personal businesses. The largest went to Sarasota Ford, his Sarasota-based car dealership in which he reportedly owns a $50 million stake.
Like Kelly, Buchanan downplayed the significance of the federal aid, arguing that he himself does not manage the dealerships. But many government accountability advocates have speculated that Buchanan's move was an abuse of power.
"While small businesses in Sarasota and Bradenton struggled to get federal aid, Buchanan cut in line and got a loan in the earliest days of the program – after the Trump administration exempted members of Congress from going through a normally mandatory ethics review before getting a loan," Sarah Guggenheimer, DCCC Regional Press Secretary, wrote.
Buchanan did not vote on the TRUTH Act. His past campaign finance practices have been marred with accusations of corruption, as well as subsequent investigations by the Department of Justice, the FBI, the FEC, and the House Ethics Committee.
During the program's administration, which ended back in May, there was no rule barring federal lawmakers (or their families) from applying for a PPP loan, and no one has explicitly argued that such legislators broke any laws.
However, "it certainly looks bad and smells bad," Aaron Scherb, a spokesperson for Common Cause, told Fortune, suggesting that their participation in the program poses a significant conflict of interest. According to a Politico report from last year, Congress mandated no specific disclosure rules around PPP loans for its own members.
"There likely are several other cases of family and friends of public officials receiving bailout funds," echoed Craig Holman, Public Citizen's Capitol Hill lobbyist, to Roll Call. "However, the general lack of disclosure of most recipients of PPP funds prevents the public from knowing all the lawmakers who benefited from their legislative actions."
Trump's Texas 'forensic audit' already in chaos as officials admit they don't know what they're doing: report
A demand from Donald Trump that Texas officials audit the 2020 presidential ballots in select counties is already creating confusion and chaos in the Lone Star state, reports CNN.
On Thursday, the former president fired off a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott (R) demanding an audit of ballots in counties where President Joe Biden did well, and the office of the secretary of state issued a statement reading, "the Secretary of State has the authority to conduct a full and comprehensive forensic audit of any election and has already begun the process in Texas' two largest Democrat counties and two largest Republican counties -- Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Collin for the 2020 election."
However, despite announcing that "forensic audits" are proceeding, county election officials tell CNN they are not proceeding and they are clueless over how to go about complying.
As CNN's Sara Murray reports, "...a handful of Texas counties, officials in many of those counties told CNN they're still in the dark about the audit plans."
As the report notes, Abbott flipped responsibility for ordering the audits to the secretary of state's office -- which is currently lacking a secretary of state.
"Abbott's office referred questions about the audit to the secretary of state's office. The secretary of state job is currently vacant in Texas and other officials in that office did not respond to requests for comment," the report states. "Officials in Dallas, Harris and Tarrant counties said they had not yet received any requests from the secretary of state's office for information or materials that would be relevant for a post-election audit... One Texas official told CNN that even officials inside the secretary of state's office were unaware of any audit underway."
Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria fired back at the demand for an audit, telling CNN, "We have seen countless attempts to delegitimize the 2020 election. Today's actions represent another attack by officials on our communities' trust in elections."
CNN reports, "Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, a Republican, offered a more cutting assessment of the push," with Whitley explaining, "The conspiracy theorists who want to come up with all these ways or reasons why this election wasn't right -- they might very well find something else [to doubt]. t's time to move on."
You can read more here.
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