Tag Archives: US Capitol

US Capitol attack: Trump’s brand ‘tarnished’ after alleged bruise presidency.

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Bookbinder said the president should have completely divested himself of his business at the outset of his term.

Donald Trump shot to prominence with a business empire that bears his name, but after four years of political tumult capped by his supporters’ violent attack on the Capitol, the US president’s brand stands tarnished, threatening his businesses, experts say.

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Companies that stuck with Trump throughout his term are cutting ties in an 11th-hour stampede, including Signature Bank which closed Trump’s personal accounts and the PGA of America which scotched a plan to hold its 2022 championship at Trump’s New Jersey golf course.

Such announcements not only reflect the business community’s skittishness to proximity with a widely-condemned figure, but further hem in his company, already hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and the looming loss of US taxpayer revenue tied to Trump’s visits.

The president’s role in the Capitol calamity that killed five people and drew international shock has generated withering criticism from diverse groups ranging from the Business Roundtable to the AFL-CIO labor federation.

Trump’s “name is really an albatross,” said Michael D’Antonio, who authored a 2015 biography of Trump, adding that January 6 was a game-changer for the president’s brand.

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“He is the most disgraced president in history. This is a person who’s synonymous with a mob attacking the US Capitol,” he said. “I just think this went a step too far.”

Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, said Trump’s brand will suffer long-term damage due to the chaos.

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“Before his term, Trump stood for wealth, success and over-the-top luxury,” he said. “Now the brand has associations with anti-government views, racism and extremism. This makes the brand fairly toxic.”

Mixed bag
Recent reports in US media, including The Washington Post, have chronicled low occupancy at Trump properties in Washington and Chicago as the US contends with the Covid-19 crisis.

In addition, Trump owes some $400 million to Deutsche Bank, which reportedly also plans to halt business with Trump after the Capitol siege.

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Trump’s company did not respond to written questions from AFP.

The president has dismissed business challenges, stating in an October 15 televised event that the $400 million is “a tiny percentage of my net worth.”

Assessing the state of Trump’s finances is difficult because of the opaque nature of government disclosure information and the private status of the Trump Organization.

However, winning the presidency has most certainly cost the company some business, as when the Trump Organization bowed out of a luxury hotel in Soho, New York, where the president is unpopular.

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The overall impact of Trump’s presidency on his business is really hard to estimate, said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

His sons, Don Jr and Eric, who now run the Trump Organization, had floated a pair of new hotel chains, Scion and American Idea, aimed at the “red states” that are home to large portions of Trump’s base.

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But the brothers pulled the plug on the venture in 2019, citing obstacles which they blamed on political opponents.

New directions?
In spite of these setbacks, Trump’s properties have enjoyed a reliable stream of taxpayer revenue courtesy of the president’s regular stays at his clubs and golf courses where he is joined by White House staff, family and Secret service.

CREW estimates that Trump’s properties garnered over $100 million from more than 500 visits by the president, according to a September report.

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The document criticized Trump for some 3,400 conflicts of interest tied to hotel stays by foreign governments or lobbyists and fundraising events by other politicians, such as Representative Jim Jordan, who defended Trump during last week’s impeachment debate.

Instead, he used his presidency to promote it, while his sons became vocal champions of his presidency, effectively “melding” Trump’s business and political endeavors.

That decision could limit the brand’s ability to appeal to consumers outside his political base.

“What you have now is a smaller but extremely devoted cult following,” Bookbinder said.

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D’Antonio thinks Trump is likely to shift away from his legacy businesses and evolve into “sort of a TV, political evangelist,” perhaps creating his own widely-floated television network then charging fans to watch it.

Under such a scenario, Trump might sell current assets to pay off his Deutsche Bank debt, which D’Antonio said could mean “there may not be any Trump towers or Trump hotels or Trump golf courses 10 years from now.”

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#Newsworthy

US Capitol riot probe link to foreign Gov’ts

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Bitcoin payments can be traced because they are documented on a public ledger.

The FBI is investigating whether foreign governments, organisations or individuals provided financial support to people who helped plan and execute the January 6 attack on the Capitol, a news report said on Sunday.

As part of the investigation, the FBI is examining payments of $500,000 in bitcoin, apparently by a French national, to key figures and groups in the far right before the riot, one current and one former FBI official told NoRM‘s known Media.

The payments were documented and posted online last week by a company that analyses cryptocurrency transfers.

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The current FBI official was quoted as saying the bitcoin transfers appear to have been made by a French computer programmer who took his own life on December 8 last year after triggering the transfers, according to French media.

The cryptocurrency payments prompted the FBI to examine whether any of the money was used to fund illegal acts, which, if true, raises the possibility of money-laundering and conspiracy charges, the FBI official said.

On December 8, Chainalysis reported the donor sent 28.15 BTC – worth about $522,000 at the time of transfer – to 22 separate addresses, many of which belong to far-right activists.

The Chainalysis blog post, first highlighted by Yahoo News, said far-right podcaster Nick Fuentes received the most money, 13.5 BTC – worth about $250,000.

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Separately, a joint threat assessment issued last week by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and various other federal and DC-area police agencies noted since the deadly January 6 riot, “Russian, Iranian, and Chinese influence actors have seized the opportunity to amplify narratives in furtherance of their policy interest amid the presidential transition.”

Russian state and proxy media outlets “have amplified themes related to the violent and chaotic nature of the Capitol Hill incident, impeachment of President Donald Trump, and social media censorship”, the unclassified intelligence report said.

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“In at least one instance, a Russian proxy claimed that ANTIFA members disguised themselves as supporters of President Trump, and were responsible for storming the Capitol building.”

Chinese media, meanwhile, “have seized the story to denigrate US democratic governance, casting the United States as broadly in decline – and to justify China’s crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong”.

The examination of possible foreign influence related to the Capitol riot, which involves the FBI’s counterintelligence division, comes after years of what current and former FBI officials say is mounting evidence that Russia and other foreign adversaries have sought to secretly support “political extremists” on the far right and far left.

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‘Mutual affection’

Law enforcement officials and security analysts say there has long been “a mutual affection between Western white supremacists and the Russian government”, as two scholars put it in a February paper on the JustSecurity website.

Some senators were concerned enough about the issue that they inserted a requirement in the 2021 defence bill that the Pentagon “report to Congress on the extent of Russian support for ‘racially and ethnically motivated violent extremist groups and networks in Europe and the United States’ – and what can be done to counter it”.

Fuentes, who spoke at pro-Trump rallies last year in Michigan and Washington, DC, told the ProPublica news organisation he was at the “Stop the Steal” rally on Wednesday, January 6, but did not follow the mob into the Capitol.

One group of Fuentes’ supporters, which calls itself the Groyper Army, was filmed running through the Capitol carrying a large blue flag with the America First logo, ProPublica reported.

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“We’re looking at and treating this just like a significant international counter-terrorism or counter-intelligence operation,” Michael Sherwin, the US attorney in Washington, DC, said at a news briefing last week.

“We’re looking at everything: Money, travel records, looking at disposition, movement, communication records.”

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#Newsworthy

Donald Trump ‘impeached’ for inciting US Capitol riot – Nancy Pelosi

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Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday that the Senate would not take action until after Biden is sworn in, however.

The US House of Representatives has impeached President Donald Trump for “incitement of insurrection” after a mob of his supporters stormed the United States Capitol last week, marking the first time in US history that a president has been impeached twice.

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The House resolution, which passed by a vote of 232-197 on Wednesday afternoon, states that Trump’s actions and remarks ahead of the storming of the Capitol building in Washington, DC incited the rioters.

“Today, in a bipartisan way, the House demonstrated that no one is above the law – not even the President of the United States,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she signed the article of impeachment after the vote.

The measure, Pelosi said, also makes clear “that Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to our country”.

Ten Republicans joined 222 Democrats in voting to impeach Trump, making the vote a bipartisan rebuke of the president’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

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The riot at the Capitol on January 6 left five people dead and sent shockwaves across the US and the world, spurring Democratic Party legislators to launch an impeachment push against Trump in his final days in the White House.

The Capitol was stormed after Trump delivered an inflammatory speech to a crowd of his supporters that had gathered in protest against Congress’ certification of US President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory.

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Trump ‘unequivocally’ condemns violence
The impeachment article states that in the months before January 6, Trump repeated false claims of widespread election fraud and said the results should not be accepted.

He also “willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged – and foreseeably resulted in – lawless action at the Capitol, such as: ‘if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country any more,’” the article states.

Trump did not immediately comment on his impeachment.

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But in a video posted on the White House Twitter account on Wednesday evening, he condemned the attack on the Capitol and said there was no excuse for violence.

“I want to be very clear, I unequivocally condemn the violence that we saw last week. Violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country and no place in our movement,” Trump said.

The president had remained defiant on Tuesday, rejecting Democrats’ impeachment effort as dangerous and “a continuation of the greatest and most vicious witch hunt in the history of our country”.

Senate trial
The House named managers to prosecute the charge of insurrection against Trump in a Senate trial, which is not expected to begin until after Biden’s inauguration.

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That is when Democrats are poised to take control of the Senate. At least two Senate Republicans have already called on Trump to step down, and a third has said they would consider voting for impeachment.

“Make no mistake, there will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement after the House vote.

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“There will be a vote on convicting the president for high crimes and misdemeanors. And if the president is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again,” Schumer said.

“It will best serve our nation if Congress and the executive branch spend the next seven days completely focused on facilitating a safe inauguration and an orderly transfer of power to the incoming Biden administration,” McConnell said.

While some Republicans have sought to distance themselves from Trump over the past few days and asked him to step down, many still defended him on Wednesday by calling the impeachment process unnecessary at a time when the US needs to heal.

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“In seven days, there will be a peaceful transfer of power just like there has been every other time in our country, but Democrats are gonna impeach President Trump again. This doesn’t unite the country,” Republican Congressman Jim Jordan said.

US House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi

Calls for accountability
But Democrats said healing cannot begin without accountability for the attack on the Capitol.

“The constitutional crimes inspired by an out-of-control president, inspired by his hatred and the big lie that he told cannot be ignored,” said Democrat Hakeem Jeffries during the debate on Wednesday.

Speaking to NoRM‘s known Media after the vote, Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar said “to the American people and to the world it is clear why we had to make sure that [Trump’s] actions had consequences”.

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She described his impeachment as an “act of accountability” that would create a pathway towards justice and unity in the US.

“This is a president who has not only been a threat to our democracy, our government – but he’s been a president who has used rhetoric to divide our nation. And once we are able to remove him we can start the process of healing,” Omar said.

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#Newsworthy