Real Question On Betting Form-- Odds Offered: What Will Trump Be Impeached For?
But there is some crap going down that's getting swallowed up in all the fuss over all the other stuff that's coming at us at such high velocity. Who remembers Trump's solemn campaign promise to support bipartisan "Buy America" efforts? That sure got flushed down the memory hole fast as some Putin-owned company supplies the steel for the Keystone KX Pipeline Trump has authorized. As David Sirota reported at the International Business Times last week, despite Trump's campaign promises, as soon as he was elected, Ryan and McCarthy-- under pressure from lobbyists for foreign companies-- had killed legislation that would have directed government infrastructure contracts to American manufacturing companies. It was a bold act of defiance against the rhetoric of the newly elected president, and now a top Democrat is attempting to force Trump to put his 'Buy America' promises into action-- against his own party in Congress." That would be Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who reintroduced "legislation requiring billions of dollars of the government’s spending on water infrastructure to go only to projects that use American steel. Baldwin’s move is particularly notable because she hails from a state that proved critical to Trump’s win. It is also the home state of House Speaker Paul Ryan, the Republican whose office helped kill the initiative in December."
Amid a presidential campaign focused on trade issues, Baldwin introduced a first version of her Buy America bill last July. It appeared headed for approval when the Republican-controlled Senate overwhelmingly passed an infrastructure bill that included the language.HuffPo's Zach Carter had an even uglier story last week, Meet The Martin Shkreli Of Defense Contracting, which will prove the beginning for the end of the universally detested Trump OMB director, Mick Mulvaney. First keep in the back of your mind that the honey pot known as the Pentagon is the only federal agency that hasn't conducted an audit. A better name might be the Department of Corporate Fraud. "Monopolists," wrote Carter, "seem to be fleecing the Pentagon in an echo of Pharma Bro’s 5,000% drug hike." Let's following the money... starting with the $54 billion increase in defense spending Mulvaney claims he's giving the Defense Depratment based on what he intuits from Trump's campaign speeches. The White claimed in the roll out that there is "an ambitious reform agenda" that would "reduce the costs of military programs wherever feasible." Oh God!
House Republicans, though, did not include the language in their version of the bill. A senior House Republican on the committee that crafted that bill argued that preferences for domestic firms would ultimately harm Americans.
“Quotas in any form and in any sort ultimately hurt the consumer,” South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford told the Wall Street Journal. “They’re a form of protectionism, plain and simple.”
During the House-Senate negotiations over the final bill, Ryan was lobbied by representatives of foreign steelmakers to block Baldwin’s provision from being included in the final legislation. At the time, the Wall Street Journal noted that the lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs was representing two major foreign steel producers-- Russia’s NLMK Inc. and California Steel Industries, which is owned by Brazilian and Japanese conglomerates. According to federal disclosures, in 2016 Squire Patton Boggs was paid $520,000 to lobby for the two foreign companies.
Federal records show that in 2016, two of Squire Patton Boggs' registered lobbyists for the two foreign-owned companies have ties to Ryan and Republican lawmakers: Natasha Hammond had been Ryan’s assistant for policy and Jack Kingston is a former longtime Republican congressman.
Squire Patton Boggs also is the immediate past employer of Ryan’s chief of staff; it now employs former Republican House Speaker John Boehner and it delivered more than $550,000 to Republican candidates and federal party committees in the 2016 election cycle, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. That includes more than $65,000 to Republicans on the two House panels that crafted the chamber’s version of the bill.
...In the months since House Republicans first blocked the Buy America language, Trump’s administration has sent mixed signals about how-- and whether-- it will advocate for policies that preference U.S. companies.
During his first week in office, Trump issued an executive order directing his administration to make sure all new pipelines are built with American-made steel. But then just days after Wilbur Ross was confirmed as Commerce Secretary, that department exempted the Keystone XL project from its mandates. Ross assumed the Cabinet post after serving on the board of the Luxembourg-based steel company ArcelorMittal, which was previously slated to provide steel for the project. The company has spent more than $1.7 million on federal lobbying in the last year, according to disclosure records.
In public, Trump has continued to echo Buy America themes, most recently reiterating them at a rally in Kentucky where he argued that Americans are being taken advantage of.
“Like Henry Clay, we want to put our own people to work," he said. “We believe in two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American,” he told the audience in Louisville. “From now on, it's going to be America first. America first. We will be, I promise you, a rich nation once again. And we will do what we have to do, and we will not allow other countries to take advantage of us like they've been doing to a level that's hard to believe.”
In reintroducing the bill, Baldwin is trying to force Trump into acting on that rhetoric. She told IBT that Trump won her state promising to support the kind of legislation that she is pushing-- but that she has not seen evidence that he is following through on his promises.
“I have no doubt that he won Wisconsin narrowly in part because of his focus on Buy America,” she said. “It was what I ran on and what I focus on and clearly it had an impact on workers voting for Donald Trump. Now I think the real mission is to hold him accountable to those words... There are too many instances right now where he is not following through on that word. I want a solid commitment from Washington and Donald Trump on a strong Buy America standard and I hope I’ll get that."
It was a particularly sensitive subject for new Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who built a reputation during his tenure in Congress as a serious deficit hawk unafraid to challenge his Republican colleagues on ballooning war spending. One of his favorite punching bags was the Overseas Contingency Operations budget, which Mulvaney derided as “a slush fund” that should be eliminated. The Trump budget would increase both overall defense spending and the amount that flows to the OCO. To maintain his credibility and demonstrate that Trump’s new “hard power” defense priorities weren’t just an excuse to throw money away, Mulvaney needed to sniff out wasteful endeavors.
He appears to have missed at least one. On Tuesday, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the Pentagon’s acting inspector general accusing defense contractor TransDigm Group of illegally overcharging the Department of Defense by acting as a “hidden monopolist.”
The business model Khanna described is devilishly clever, wildly profitable and totally at odds with the basic principles of a competitive market. TransDigm is essentially the Martin Shkreli of defense contractors. It’s a large holding company that searches for specialty parts used in heavy machinery-- unique panels, connectors, cables and other components-- that are produced exclusively by a single company. TransDigm buys these producers and Pharma Bros them, dramatically inflating the price to exploit their monopoly.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) cited examples of TransDigm price hikes, including a cable assembly that went from $1,737 to $7,863 and a motor rotor that had been $654 now going for $5,474.
Khanna’s letter cited five specific aerospace parts the company had jacked the price on, including a “cable assembly” that went from $1,737.03 to $7,863.00 after being acquired by TransDigm. The price of a TransDigm “motor rotor” soared from $654.46 to $5,474.00.
But the practice is widespread throughout TransDigm. The company’s own filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission state that 80 percent of its sales come from parts for which TransDigm believes itself to be a monopolist.
Not all of the company’s parts even work. In 2016, the Washington Post reported that drones were crashing due to faulty starter-generators supplied by a TransDigm subsidiary.
“The president is asking for $54 billion more on defense,” Khanna told the Huffington Post. “How much money are we wasting on monopolistic behavior?”
The Pentagon has rules designed to defend itself against predatory pricing. Companies that function as the sole vendors of supplies have to detail their costs to the government, which allows the firms to reap a reasonable profit margin over and above these expenses. But Khanna’s letter argued that TransDigm evaded these rules by setting up “a network of captive distributors”-- middlemen who sold to the government, creating the illusion of an actual competitive market.
“TransDigm isn’t a business, it’s the abuse of monopoly power so extreme it borders on performance art,” according to Matthew Stoller, a fellow with the New America Foundation’s Open Markets division. “Congress should investigate this aggressively.”
No less than 12 TransDigm subsidiaries failed to disclose to the Defense Department in their procurement filings that they were owned by TransDigm, according to Khanna.
TransDigm did not respond to requests for comment. The company’s chief executive, W. Nicholas Howley, received $18.7 million in 2016-- more than the chief executives of Apple, Boeing or Citigroup.
Khanna’s interest in the TransDigm case reflects a broader concern in Washington over concentrated economic power. In early March, the Center for American Progress hosted a forum on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, focused on his antitrust record...
Khanna is waiting to hear back from the Defense Department before taking further action, but he hasn’t ruled out a congressional investigation.
“This is a bipartisan issue,” Khanna told HuffPost. “There are many of my Republican friends who want to see our dollars going to troops and readiness and not to anticompetitive behavior.”
It's going to be a long 4 years... or maybe not. One of Europe's preeminent betting houses, PaddyPower in Dublin is now offering 3 different opportunities to bet on impeachment:
1. What Year Is Trump Impeached?
• 2017-- 3/1
• 2018-- 9/1
• 2019-- 16/1
• 2020-- 20/1
2. Will Trump Be Impeached In His First Term?
• Yes-- 11/10
3. What Will Trump Be Impeached For?
• Tax Evasion-- 3/1
• Bribery-- 10/1
• Perjury-- 12/1