Trump Failing to Drain Swamp, Address Conflicts of Interest

Pre-election promises seem to have all but vanished, according to a report from advocacy groups. 

One of Donald Trump’s key election promises was to “drain the swamp” from lobbying and corporate donations in Washington. But a new report from advocacy groups has explained how this promise is all but broken, with a mountainous catalogue of conflict of interests, scandals, corruption and cronyism from within the Trump family.

RELATED: Cruel or Crueler? Trump vs. the Koch Brothers on Health Care

According to “Broken Promises: How Trump is Profiting Off the Presidency and Empowering Lobbyists and Big Donors,” published by Every Voice and Public Citizen, Trump has broken virtually every swamp draining pledge.

“Trump has filled his administration with the same major donors and Wall Street executives he claimed he would fight if elected,” Public Citizen said in a press release.

As a well-established billionaire businessman, Trump initially vowed to address the conflicts of interests with the presidency by isolating himself from his business interests through handing control over to his sons. But the report said that Trump had failed to properly divest and his ethical plan was well below other administrations.

Trump was seen to have a long list of questionable activities since he was inaugurated two months ago, where a number of his business partners were in attendance.

While the president said that his business would not pursue any new foreign deals, the company then restarted a project in the Dominican Republic and settled trademark disputes in China. 

Furthermore, a number of government policies were seen to benefit his businesses. The controversial Muslim travel ban failed to include countries where Trump businesses had dealings and the plan to scrap regulations for Wall Street could see increased profits for Trump companies.

Rollbacks on environmental regulations could also benefit Trump owned golf courses, while plans to curb lobbying with the federal government was also appear to have gone by the wayside.

“Trump refuses to take his conflicts of interest and the threat of wealthy special interest influence in his administration seriously, he fails the millions of voters who supported him because of their sincere belief he’d reduce the power of lobbyists and big donors if elected,” said head of Every Voice, David Donnelly.

Trump’s family was also seen to be benefiting from his new post, as his wife Melania's attorney, for instance, recognized the business and marketing opportunity of being first lady and she was earlier criticized for promoting here Jewelry brand through the White House's official website.

RELATED: Haters Gonna Hate: Kaepernick Gives $50,000 to Meals on Wheels 

After retailer Nordstrom chose to drop his daughter Ivanka’s clothing company, Trump went on the attack, tweeting that she had been “treated so unfairly” by the company.  

More recently, Ivanka was seen sitting in on a business and labor meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Despite not being elected or even a government employee, she is reportedly taking up office in the West Wing and has been issued with government equipment. Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, has already been appointed as one of Trump’s main advisors. 

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Cop Who Killed Eric Garner Had 'Chronic History of Complaints'

"If you get three complaints in a year, you're supposed to be on performance monitoring. He got three in the course of two months," the civil rights attorney said.

Freshly leaked documents show that Daniel Pantaleo, the cop who killed Eric Garner in July 2014, had a "chronic history of complaints" making him "among the worst on the force" in the three years leading up to Garner's death.

RELATED: Report: US Police Twice as Likely to Kill Unarmed Black Civilians

The new documents — leaked to ThinkProgress, who published them late on Tuesday — show that in the years leading up to the July 2014 killing of Garner, the New York City Civilian Complaints Review Board had received 21 complaints and allegations about Pantaleo, four of which they substantiated, recommending the officer receive the harshest possible discipline.

That number of complaints about an individual officer is rare — only 5 percent of New York's police officers have received eight or more complaints, and only 2 percent have had two or more complaints substantiated, according to the ThinkProgress report.

"Regardless of the outcome, if you get three complaints in a year, you're supposed to be on performance monitoring," said Jonathan Moore, a civil-rights attorney who represented Garner's family. "He got three in the course of two months in 2012."

Perhaps most disturbingly, one of the four substantiated allegations was for an "abusive stop and frisk" just two years before Pantaleo killed Garner with an illegal chokehold during another "stop and frisk".

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In each of the substantiated allegations, the civilian review board's recommendations for sanction were ignored, with the police department ordering much weaker sanctions.

"Imagine that. Here's the disposition of a substantiated charge for making a bad vehicle search and a bad vehicle stop, and the remedy is instruction," Moore told ThinkProgress. "What happened on July 17 (2014) with Eric Garner was a bad stop and frisk."

Garner's death and the impunity of the white police officer who killed yet another unarmed Black man — New York state attorneys declined to press charges despite the video evidence of Pantaleo's illegal use of force — led to thousands of demonstrations across the nation as people took the streets chanting Garner's dying words, "I can't breathe."

Eric Garner's family has been seeking Pantaleo's disciplinary record for years, but have been met with continued stonewalling by both New York City and its police department.

RELATED: The Trump Silver Lining: Black, Muslim, Native American Unity

The records are also the focus of an ongoing lawsuit by the Legal Aid Society of New York against the police department for greater transparency in the complaints process.

ThinkProgress say they received the records by someone claiming to work for the civilian complaints review board. While both the review board and the police department refused to comment on the documents, people familiar with the independent body told ThinkProgress the documents appear authentic.

Despite the city settling with Garner's family for US$5.9 million in a wrongful death lawsuit, Pantaleo continues to work for the NYPD and received a raise in 2016.

The NYPD claims it cannot take any disciplinary actions against Pantaleo until the U.S. Justice Department completes its own criminal investigation into Garner's killing.

So far the only person connected to Garner's convicted of any crime is Ramsey Ortega, a friend of Garner's who filmed the incident which many see as playing a key role in the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The day the city announced its financial settlement with Eric Garner's family, Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, told reporters, "Don't congratulate us. This is not a victory. Victory will come when we get justice."

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Trump’s approval rating is in a free fall

President Trump’s approval rating has taken a nosedive, according to the latest Gallup poll.

Only 37 percent of respondents approve the job the president is doing — the lowest level since he took office — while 58 percent disapprove, the poll found.

Trump’s approval rating was 45 percent a week earlier.

Other presidents have experienced even lower ratings, but Trump is the first commander-in-chief in at least 70 years to have dropped this low by March of his first term, according to Gallup.

His plummeting numbers come as the GOP seeks to push through the proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare.

Trump also has faced a roadblock with his revised travel ban after a federal judge in Hawaii issued a temporary restraining order against it.

“We’re going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including all the way up to the Supreme Court,” Trump told a crowd during a rally in Tennessee last week. “We’re going to win. The danger is clear. The law is clear. The need for my executive order is clear.”

Trump also has faced criticism for his handling of alleged Russian ties and his tweeted claim that President Obama “wire tapped” Trump Tower.

FBI Director James Comey is expected to testify Monday before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and the still-unproven wiretapping claim.

Earlier this month, a Fox News poll showed Trump’s approval rating had dropped by 5 percentage points since last month.

The survey found that 43 percent of voters approved of the job he was doing compared to 51 percent who did not.

The Gallup poll, which included about 1,500 adults nationwide, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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41 Killed in US Attack on Syrian Mosque

"It was right after prayers at a time when there are usually religious lessons for men in it," one witness told AFP.

On Thursday the U.S. government confirmed that it carried out an airstrike in Syria which, according to AFP, struck a mosque killing 46 civilians.

RELATED: 70% Spike in Civilian Deaths by US-Led Coalition in Syria, Iraq

A spokesperson for U.S. Central Command initially denied that the bombing had targeted the mosque, saying instead that it had attacked a meeting closeby held by al-Qaida in Syria.

However, the same spokesperson later told AFP reporters that while the precise location of the strike was "unclear", it was the same one widely reported to have hit the village mosque late on Wednesday night in Al-Jineh, in Aleppo province.

Abu Muhammed, a village resident, told AFP that he "heard powerful explosions when the mosque was hit. It was right after prayers at a time when there are usually religious lessons for men in it."

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"I saw 15 bodies and lots of body parts in the debris when I arrived. We couldn't even recognize some of the bodies," he added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 46 people were killed in the attack and over 100 wounded.

"We are going to look into any allegations of civilian casualties in relation to this strike," said Colonel John J. Thomas, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command.

The U.S. reported this month that its attacks in Iraq and Syria had killed at least 220 civilians since 2014, though most human rights groups say the numbers are much higher.

Just last week, a Pentagon investigation into a U.S. attack on Yemeni village which killed dozens of women and children absolved military personnel of any war crimes.

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How 2016 Became the Worst Year for Syrian Children

According to UNICEF the state of affairs of Syrian children has been deteriorating since last year. The organization's latest report published on March 12 suggests that at least 652 children were killed in military clashes in 2016. That is 20% more than last year.

Syrian army soldiers carry flags in the amphitheater of the historic city of Palmyra, Syria March 4, 2017.
Reflections on Six Years of Conflict in Syria        © REUTERS/ Omar Sanadiki

About 255 children were killed at or near school. More than 850 children were involved in military hostilities, which is 2.5 times more than that in the previous few years. It should be noted however, that the report statistically accounted for only the officially confirmed cases.

As the war against terrorists rages in Syria the militants are increasingly using children in combat clashes on the front lines and turning them into suicide bombers.

The former regional representative of UNICEF in the Middle East, Ahmed Khalifa, told Sputnik Arabic that these sad figures speak of the great sufferings and troubles of the Syrian children.

“As a result of the six-year conflict about 6 million small Syrian citizens are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance,” Khalifa said.

He further said that there are 250,000 children living in blockade conditions. These children are in the worst situation because they do not receive any humanitarian assistance.

“They are suffering from diseases that cannot be cured at home without any medical assistance or prescriptions,” the former representative said.

According to UNICEF more than 1 million Syrian children have become displaced  inside Syria, with another 2.3 having fled the country. These children are constantly in danger of getting kidnapped and enslaved.

Earlier, Sputnik reported that, according to estimates made by Norwegian media, six years of war have taken a terrible toll on the mental health of Syrian children.

Every fourth Syrian child was found to be struggling with suicidal thoughts, self-harm, substance abuse and/or depression, a survey conducted by Save the Children reveals. Two out of three children surveyed also answered they had lost a loved one, had their home destroyed or sustained war-related injuries themselves, the Norwegian news portal ABC Nyheter reported.

Save the Children surveyed 458 children and adolescents in all 14 of Syria's provinces (governorates) to coincide with the sixth anniversary of the Syrian war. Of those interviewed, 80 percent said they had become more aggressive, 71 percent suffered from bedwetting and involuntary urination, 51 percent resorted to drugs to cope and 50 percent admitted that they never felt safe, be it at home or at school.

These are possibly signs of so-called "toxic stress," i.e., prolonged stress that can lead to life-long issues with learning, behavior and health.

Syria has been mired in civil war since 2011, with government forces loyal to President Bashar Assad fighting a number of opposition factions and extremist groups.

Russia has been carrying out regular humanitarian aid deliveries to various parts of Syria and has been facilitating the distribution of UN aid in Syria where a civil war has been ongoing since 2011.

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Republicans on defense after report shows millions would lose insurance

Republicans on Tuesday defended their plan to dismantle Obamacare after a bipartisan report showed 14 million Americans would lose medical insurance by next year under their proposal even as it reduces the budget deficit.

The U.S. Congressional Budget Office, a research agency, on Monday forecast that by 2026, the number of people without health insurance would increase by 24 million people if the House of Representatives' legislation to replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act is adopted.

The Trump administration defended the replacement plan, saying it will offer consumers more choices.

Hospital and insurer stocks fell Tuesday morning, with Community Health Systems Inc off 3.2 percent and Tenet Healthcare Corp off 5.4 percent.

Medicaid and Medicare specialists WellCare Health Plans Inc and Centene Corp were both off 1.9 percent.

CBO's report complicated the plan by congressional Republicans who have vowed for seven years to undo Obamacare. President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy expanded health insurance to about 20 million Americans.

The measure faces opposition from a range of Republicans - from conservatives who think it does not go far enough to moderates concerned about the impact on coverage and costs.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney dismissed CBO's ability to analyze health care coverage and said the focus should not be on how many people are insured.

"Coverage is not the end. People don't get better with coverage, they get better with care," he told MSNBC.

Separately, a White House analysis showed 26 million people would lose coverage over the next 10 years, Politico reported, citing an Office of Management and Budget document.

Mulvaney told CNN he was unaware of that document.

President Donald Trump, who campaigned on a pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare and has vowed to provide insurance for everybody, has yet to comment on the report.

He was scheduled to speak on Tuesday with Joseph Swedish, the chief executive officer of health insurer Anthem Inc, and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price as well as top House Republican leaders.

Price told NBC on Tuesday: "Every single American will have access and have the financial feasibility to purchase it."

Before the CBO issued its report, House Republicans had hoped to vote soon on the bill before sending it to the Senate, where its outlook is uncertain.

Overall, CBO projected that 52 million people would be uninsured by 2026 if the bill became law, compared with 28 million who would not have coverage that year if Obama's Affordable Care Act remained unchanged.

CBO also said federal deficits would fall by $337 billion between 2017 and 2026 under the Republican bill.

Democrats say the plan could hurt the elderly, poor and working families while giving tax cuts for the rich.

Doctors, hospitals and other medical providers as well as patient advocates have urged lawmakers to abandon it.

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N. Korea threatens ‘merciless’ strikes as US, S. Korea & Japan hold joint drills

North Korea has warned that it will launch “merciless” strikes if the US strike group that arrived for two days of trilateral drills with South Korea and Japan infringes on Pyongyang’s “sovereignty and dignity.”

© US Army

“If they infringe on the DPRK’s [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s] sovereignty and dignity even a bit, its army will launch merciless ultra-precision strikes from ground, air, sea, and underwater,” said the North’s state news agency, KCNA, as cited by Reuters.

Pyongyang pointed out that “many enemy carrier-based aircraft flew along a course near territorial air and waters of the DPRK to stage drills of dropping bombs and making surprise attacks on the ground targets of its army.”

North Korea has been steadily pounding the South and the US with strong rhetoric. KCNA reported on Monday that “if even a single shell is fired into the territory in which the sovereignty of the DPRK is exercised, the bases of aggression and provocation will be reduced to such debris that no living thing can be found.”

“The US should properly understand that its slightest misjudgment about the DPRK will lead it to final doom,” the agency added.

The latest statement comes as, on Tuesday, US, Japanese, and South Korean Navy forces kicked off joint two-day drills to the east of the Korean peninsula and north of Japan with the participation of Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) , South Korean Sejong the Great (DDG- 991), and Japanese Kirishima (DDG-174) missile destroyers.

The exercises are being billed as “promoting communications, interoperability, and partnership in the 7th Fleet area of operations.”

“The exercise will employ tactical data link systems to trade communications, intelligence and other data among the ships in the exercise. It will allow participants to enhance tactical capabilities, increase self-defense, strengthen partnerships, and improved situational awareness,” the US navy said in a statement.

Pyongyang launched four missiles to show their discontent with the war games on March 5.

Tensions with the North were also exacerbated when America’s ambassador to the UN said that the US’ new administration is reviewing its Korea strategy, stressing that “all options are on the table.

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Russia Rejects Deployment of US Anti-Missile System in South Korea

Moscow, Mar 7 (Prensa Latina) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has rejected today the deployment of elements of the THAAD U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea, after warning about the possibility of creating more tension in that area.

The presence of THAAD elements will only serve to further tensions in the Korean peninsula, a statement from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

An American C-17 Globamaster III transport plane arrived at the Osan's South Korean base with components of the U.S. anti-missile system, with an announced defensive purpose, but puts Russia's strategic deterrence at risk.

According to Washington, the measure responds to the launch on the eve of four missiles by Pyongyang to the Sea of Japan.

However, Moscow recalls that the White House has used other arguments in the past to justify its intentions to establish a joint defense zone with Japan, on that occasion, allegedly related to China's actions in the region.

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