I knew I heard that arrogant, defiant, stupidly-smug tone of voice before.
At first, I thought it was my brother’s voice, condemning the “fuckin’ FBI,” for laying out the evidence that sent him to prison for Income Tax Evasion over 30 years ago.
When Trump told his advisors that the highly-classified, top secret documents he had in his possession were “not theirs; it’s mine,” shades of my oldest brother’s, and his associate John Gotti’s, brazen bravado, bullying, and whining about law enforcement came to mind.
Then, I sat straight up in my chair. I knew where Trump got this gallows gangsterism from. Ironically, it was in an earlier FBI Affidavit that sent another political leader—and a pal of Trump’s– to prison 10-years ago.
I tore through my copious files of past cases of political corruption, and came upon the utterly damning 75-page racketeering and criminal corruption affidavit
against the disgraced, impeached, convicted, ex-Governor of Illinois, Rob “Blago” Blagojevich, who tried frantically to sell Barack Obama’s old Senate seat in November, 2008, right after Obama was elected President, and resigned from the Senate.
Caught on an authorized wiretap, in an ongoing, 6-year government corruption case, Blagojevich’s, conduct dripped with desperation and criminal intent to use his public office for personal gain. Blago was under enormous personal financial pressure. He could feel the hot breath of the Illinois’ State Legislature’s case for impeachment against him. His sense of urgency to cash in on his public office—while he still held it– leaped off of every page of the FBI’s meticulous affidavit against Blagojevich–an essential part of the government’s case for showing probable cause of the commission of crimes, and getting Court approval of an arrest warrant of the powerful Democratic politician. Blago’s voice was unmistakably loud and clear to FBI Agents listening in:
“I’ve got this thing and its fucking golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for fucking nothing. I’m not gonna do it.”
— (Page 59, FBI affidavit in support of an application for a criminal complaint and corresponding arrest warrant charging ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH, December 7, 2008).
Bingo, or “Blago” more appropriately! There it was.
I could clearly hear Trump making similar statements in precisely the same, self-righteous, victimhood voice: “I’ve got these things, these classified documents, and they are fucking golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving them up for fucking nothing. I’m not gonna do it.”
Only, unlike Blagojevich, Trump wasn’t caught on a government wiretap: his own people, his own recklessness, ostentatious obstruction of justice, and colossal callousness toward consequences of his own actions, did him in. And, he was playing with far more fire than Blago was: top-secret, highly classified documents with enormous national security implications. Selling a Senate seat was chump change in comparison. Trump’s extortion of the United States was potentially jeopardizing millions of lives, and thousands of “human sources” in our Intelligence Agencies.
Of course Trump would view Blago’s blatantly illegal behavior as giving him a green light to “monetize” everything he could get his hands on in government. They were buddies who first bonded on “Celebrity Apprentice,” April 4, 2010—nearly one year to the day after Blagojevich was charged by a Federal Grand Jury on 16 counts of racketeering, fraud and extortion.
Although Trump “fired” Blago that night on “Celebrity Apprentice,” he saw at least one thing in him he greatly admired:
“ I have great respect for you, Governor. I have great respect for your tenacity, for the fact that you just don’t give up.”
Two years later, on March 15, 2012– the day Blagojevich reported to Federal Prison in Colorado to begin serving out his 14 year term—Trump, always acutely attuned to trotting out a “victim-model” that he might someday find useful, tweeted:
“ It’s outrageous that Blagojevich goes to jail for 14 yrs, when killers and sex offenders are walking the streets. Is this Justice? I don’t think so.”(Trump Tweet March 16, 2012)
Trump must have had his old friend Jeffrey Epstein on his mind when he lamented “sex offenders walking the streets.” Just the year before in 2011, Epstein told the New York Post:
“ I’m not a sexual predator, I’m an offender. It’s the difference between a murderer and a person who steals a bagel.”
Rather than bloviating about stealing bagels, Trump continued to be obsessed with Blago’s case and his “unfair” punishment well into his Presidency. One month after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Blagojevich’s appeal for the second time, in April, 2018, Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that he was “considering” commuting Blagojevich’s 14 year prison sentence, which he described as “an overly harsh penalty” for what essentially amounts to a “foolish statement.” (Chicago Tribune). Typically, Trump failed to mention that his buddy Blago’s “foolish statement,” and his actions, were illegal.
One week after Trump’s May 31, 2018, statement on Air Force One, Blago’s lawyers filed a request with the White House for Executive Clemency. The following summer, Trump reiterated that he was “very strongly considering commutation of Blagojevich’s sentence because he felt the corrupt, racketeering, extortionist, impeached, ex-Illinois Governor had been “mistreated.” There it was again. That “fuckin’” FBI acting against such cute and curmudgeonly criminals, like the Teflon Don Gotti, with whom Trump did business, and Blow-dried Blago, for whom Trump had “great respect .”
In February, 2020, when he was up for re-election, Trump commuted Blagojevich’s 14-year criminal sentence, after the guy who actually did try to sell a U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, had served 8 years in prison. On February 19, 2020, Trump Tweeted:
“Rob Blagojevich did not sell the Senate seat. He served 8 years in prison, with many remaining. He paid a big price. Another Comey & Gang deal!”
It didn’t matter to Trump that Blago “did not sell the Senate seat” because he was caught, or that James Comey was notthe head of the FBI when Blagojevich was arrested, convicted and sent to jail. That happened during the 13-year tenure of Robert Mueller as FBI Director, who also sent Gotti and Bernie Madoff away to prison, where—regardless of how both appeared to be coated in Teflon while killing and swindling people–they died. Which is, perhaps, “Teflon” Trump’s biggest fear.
But there it was again, the old gangster grievance against the “fucking FBI,” which John Gotti and other New York mobsters–put away on airtight evidence and federal wiretap transcripts gathered by the FBI–considered to be a competing and dangerous “gang,” since the “Feds,” had the power to end their criminal enterprises.
Now, that may simply be Mar-A-Blago speak, with Trump making the reckless, illegal and utterly bonkers bet that his “fucking golden” tickets of classified national security documents—which he fraudulently claims are “his, not ours,”—are his final “get out of jail free cards.”
Maybe he’ll call his buddy Blagojevich to see how that worked out for him. After all, Blago owes him one.
The Biden Administration is overlooking a perfectly good solution to the student loan forgiveness debate, coming to a head within the next week.
As someone who did not pay off all of my student loans (including law school) until I was 50 years old, I know the burden of carrying that debt well into adulthood, as many loan recipients are still doing.
So, tune out the noise of the elitist Larry Summers and the inflation-doom sayers who favor keeping people saddled with debt for a lifetime. In fact, it’s the height of chutzpah that Summers is opening his mouth on this issue, since as Harvard University President, he presided over steep private University tuition increases which fueled the student debt crisis. He should have the decency to support a better solution.
I think the more enlightened position is to consider cancelling debt as a direct action toward increasing wealth, not inflation. In my own case, when I finally paid off the last of my student debt as the first person in my family’s history to attend college and graduate school, I immediately invested a similar amount into real estate, building our family’s wealth base for the first time ever—a family legacy and pool of wealth which we’ve grown over the past 20 years, after my college loans were paid.
My proposal is simple and straightforward, and based upon the highly successful National Teachers’ Corp model of 50 years ago: exchanging education debt for public service. This country is in desperate need of public school teachers, nurses, primary care physicians, and mental health professionals in virtually every community, especially following the COVID pandemic.
Rather than tinkering at the edges of student debt by relieving a paltry $10,000 worth (most Black students carry a student debt burden of an average of $50,000, according to the NAACP), I propose wiping out student debt completely for anyone presently earning under $250,000, in exchange for performing public service like teaching for 2 years in a public school (with proper certification), working in a public hospital or performing some other essential public service.
Such a barter of things of great value—clearly in the national interest—can be rolled out over a 10-year period, so individuals weighed down by school debt wouldn’t be forced to quit their current jobs immediately, and the federal government has time to finance and fine tune the program.
Such a focus upon the urgency of bringing more qualified teachers, nurses, doctors, and mental health professionals into our public service is no less important than rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, or jump-starting an American MicroChip industry. Such an influx of people into those essential public services from other professions (from Wall Street, law firms, hedge funds, engineering, computer programming, and all other fields) will concentrate public attention and pressure upon increasing the historically low salaries of public school teachers, the salaries and working conditions of nurses and primary care doctors, and of elevating those professions in the public’s eyes. With a teacher shortage crisis hitting us now, and teen suicide and mental health issues at record rates, why would we not make such an essential exchange?
I’ve supported many of the Biden Administration’s initiatives over the past two years, which have rescued a plummeting economy, directed resources to small businesses, increased health care coverage for millions and kept many families afloat financially. This solution is so self-evident, and firmly in the both the national interest and in the financial interest of individual families, that I don’t understand why the Biden Administration lacks vision here, is low-balling the solution, and only considering forgiveness of a small portion of undergraduate school debt. The biggest debt burdens are from graduate and professional school expenses. More than 20% of Americans are struggling to pay off existing education debt.
I was determined to pay off my student loans-in-full and work in public service or public health. Yet, my law school debt was “only” $18,000. The same professional JD degree costs 10 times that today. With more than 20% of Americans struggling to pay off college debt, it’s time to come up with a creative solution that benefits them, and the nation.
On the 72nd anniversary of the arrest of Ethel Rosenberg for allegedly providing valuable, top-secret information to the Russians about nuclear weapons designs, radar, sonar and jet propulsion engines, the WashingtonPost broke an explosive story headlined: “FBI searched Trump’s home to look for nuclear documents and other items, sources say.”
If true, the prospect of Trump selling highly classified nuclear documents to Vladimir Putin or the Saudis for billions of dollars and life-time asylum from US prosecution, adds an entirely new, and dangerous dimension, to the definition of Domestic Terrorism. Especially, if the terrorist conducting nuclear blackmail, is an angry, aggrieved, ex-President, entrusted with the most sensitive life and death secrets imaginable.
If the story was simply a “leak” by a patriotic FBI agent or DOJ employee intended to force Trump’s hand to release the detailed FBI affidavit revealing the crimes for which there was probable cause to search his home, Trump has been brilliantly outmaneuvered in an extraordinary high stakes game. In order to prove that he hadn’t commoditized nuclear secrets to our enemies—a crime punishable by life imprisonment or execution, as the Rosenberg’s learned–Trump would have no choice but to release the documents. Release of the sealed FBI search warrant, inventory documents and the affidavit—which can be like a lengthy indictment– threatens to strip bare the litany of crimes committed by Trump– serious enough to merit a court-ordered search of Mar-A-Lago. It’s a lose/lose situation for Trump.
I devoured this five-alarm story from every media source I could find, when visions of Ethel Rosenberg, played by Meryl Streep in the HBO production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, began dancing on my brain. Quickly, I ran to get my printed copy of Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize winning play.
I turned to the page where the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg shows up at Roy Cohn’s bedside, as he lay dying of AIDS. Cohn, who 20 years later would become Donald Trump’s personal attorney, had hounded Ethel and her husband Julius into electric-chair executions three years after her arrest .
ETHEL: They won, Roy. You’re not a lawyer anymore.
ROY: But am I dead?
ETHEL: No. They beat you. You lost.
I decided to come here so I could see if I could forgive you. You who I have hated so terribly. I have borne my hatred for you up into the heavens and made a needlesharp little star in the sky out of it. It’s the star of Ethel Rosenberg’s Hatred, and it burns every year for one night only, June 19. (June 19, 1953, was the day Ethel and her husband Julius were executed. Ethel had to be electrocuted three times before she finallydied.) It burns acid green.
I came to forgive, but all I can do is take pleasure in your misery. Hoping I’d get to see you die more terrible than I did. And you are, ‘cause you’re dying in shit, Roy, defeated. And you could kill me, but you could never defeat me. You never won. And when you die all anyone will say is: better he had never lived at all.”
We know from decades of evidence going back 50 years, when Trump and Roy Cohn blocked Blackfamilies from moving into federally funded Trump-owned apartments in Brooklyn, that the ex-President is capable of unencumbered evil, as he proved again and again, with his calls for the death of the ultimately innocent Central Park Five, the fabrications over Barack Obama’s birth certificate and Mexicans storming the border, and the continuing Big Lie about the 2020 Election, and the incitement of people to violence on his behalf.
The only President in all of American history to be twice impeached, Trump’s recklessness, and disregard for any order but his, and his breathtaking lawbreaking have surprised even those of us who have long pegged him as a criminal cipher and a con, and a mob-boss wannabe.
Now, a calm, fearless Attorney General who brought the Oklahoma City Bomber to justice a generation ago, and lost family members to the lawlessness of Nazi Germany, has shown the world, that another totalitarian emperor has no clothes, and no where left to hide.
Maybe, the only eulogy that could be given for Trump’s 50-year temper tantrum in the public eye, is a variation on the theme expressed by the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg, over Roy Cohn’s deathbed: “Better he never had never lived a public life at all.”