John B. Strong: “Keeping up with Wyoming” Or How to “Stake our claim to a piece of a multi-trillion dollar industry”

Below is a guest opion article submitted for publication on this blog by private business owner John B. Strong. Mr. Strong grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and moved to New Mexico in 1997. He started and Art Gallery in Santa Fe in 2000 that he now operates with his partner Carlos Acosta. John Strong has been investing in startups since 2004. He is a co-founder or board member at several different companies, mostly in technology, healthcare, and financial services. Mr. Strong was recently the Chairman of Scout Security, a company that was taken over from Kickstarter to an IPO and listing on the Sydney Stock Exchange. Mr. Strong describes himself as being “obsessed with entrepreneurship and small businesses.” In the interest of full disclosure, John B. Strong is also a member of the Advisory Board of Devvio, a local firm mentioned in the article.

(NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are those of John Strong and do not necessarily reflect those of the political blog www.petedinelli.com blog).

The following article is the article:

“Not many people yet realize that there is an emerging technology that is set to dwarf all others, including the internet and the advent of cellphones. This technology will be transformational to almost every industry in the world, and to us as individuals as well. It’s the blockchain, not to be confused with crypto currencies, which most people are now becoming at least aware of if not familiar with. Crypto currencies will basically reside on the blockchain itself, which is an immutable ledger of transactions. That doesn’t sound like such a big deal until you consider what it can do.

Blockchains cannot be altered or changed in any way, and if you place information or transactions on them, they are secure forever and unalterable. Consider what that means…. Your phone in the blockchain will never be able to be hacked, your emails are impossible to be read or be stolen, and credit card fraud would be a thing of the past. Instead of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on closing costs and title fees on a real estate transaction, it will be done for a few dollars in a few seconds. Selling a car? Same thing. Voting?, there will be no way to steal a vote from someone else or alter the result in any way. Identity theft will be a bad memory. Sending money to someone anywhere in the world will be of no consequence at all.

Recently someone sent $1,000,000 for a total fee of .10 cents across the world and it was received in less than 30 seconds. The implications of this are staggering for almost every industry on earth, including insurance, financial services and banking, pharmaceuticals and healthcare, commerce and supply chain management of every kind, management of the Internet of things (IOT) and operations of government agencies and cities. Our children and grandchildren will laugh at hearing of the embarrassment of hacked emails, or phones. It is in short, a very big deal.

If you look back only one year ago, almost every high profile CEO including guys like Jamie Dimon (CEO of J P Morgan Chase) were characterizing this industry as fraud and pie in the sky. Today? Every single large business is scrambling to develop their own blockchain components.

So if you’re wondering why I titled this “Keeping up with Wyoming” here’s why…Wyoming, of all places has had the foresight to decide that it will stake its claim to this emerging industry. How? By passing a series of legislation to both legalize the different uses of the blockchain and crypto currencies, and to promote incubating blockchain and crypto startups in a friendly regulatory environment. Their legislature has passed no less than 13 laws governing the industry in the last year, including laws that:

1. Classify digital tokens as an asset instead of a security, this is important because regulating assets is the express purview of states. Wyoming is the first elected body “In the world” to do this.

2. Recognize direct property rights for individual owners of digital assets of all types

3. Creates a fintech sandbox to provide regulatory relief to financial innovators from existing laws for up to 3 years.

4. Authorizes a new type of state-chartered depository institution to provide basic banking services to blockchain and other businesses.

We all know that Capital ultimately flows to where it’s treated best. For digital assets within the US, I’m pretty confident that will end up being Wyoming, but it doesn’t have to be. Forbes has said that Wyoming means to be “The Digital asset Delaware” and Bloomberg has said that Wyoming aims to be the “Digital Asset Capital of the US”. There’s a lot to be gained here, and in New Mexico we can take our share of this easier than you may think. If we make a commitment to passing this type of legislation, we can certainly catch up to Wyoming quickly, and in some ways we can go further and be more regulatory friendly. We also have a secret weapon that they (and no other state) will ever have…. Two national labs in Los Alamos and Sandia, and along with them are thousands of Phd level brains that are tailor maid for this emerging industry.

In New Mexico we can be the Silicon Valley of this emerging technology, and also its logical home. The stakes are high, and the time to start is now, as there will soon be hundreds of these startups looking for the best regulatory and business friendly home to locate in, that also has the depth of talent nearby. In Wyoming, they are the most unlikely place to have made these efforts, but they are getting significant attention for having done so, while in New Mexico we really are the logical place for these businesses.

So what is actually keeping us from it? I’m not sure I know the answer to that question, as no one is asking the state to put up large amounts of money here, just legislation, and that doesn’t really cost anything. This industry doesn’t need subsidies like the film industry or financial support from the State. It just needs a nurturing legal and regulatory environment to get off the ground. We have an opportunity to gain thousands of high paying jobs, and possibly a couple of companies that can grow into behemoths if we play our cards right.

Think I’m kidding? Just take a look a one startup that’s already here. Devvio (www.devv.io) is a local blockchain platform founded by Albuquerque’s very own Tom Anderson. It is already the fastest platform in the world, able to process hundreds of times more transactions per second than Visa/Mastercard. They are already inking major contracts with Fortune 50 companies, and have attracted incredibly important leadership with global credentials, including Ray Quintana, a former Managing director at the hugely successful Cottonwood Technology fund, and General Vincent Stewart who recently retired as the Deputy Commander of U.S. Cyber Command, and prior to that was the Commander of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He is recognized as one of the three or four top global authorities on cyber security. Guys at his rank join the boards of companies like Microsoft or IBM, not small startups in New Mexico, so this is pretty impressive. He is arguably the most important person to join a New Mexico company in the last twenty years.

I have personally mentioned this to several of our top elected leaders (I won’t mention any names here) and do you think a single one asked if they could meet him at some point? Of course not, and that is a big part of the problem, we tend to think in the past and if we are lucky our leaders think a bit into the present, but not so much to the future.

So if you’ve read this thus far, the next time you meet one of your elected officials or political figures, ask them what they are doing to claim our share of the largest emerging industry on earth. And if they don’t know what your talking about tell them to study up. Our future may depend in it.”
___________________________

POSTSCRIPT:

See the below links for related article:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/caitlinlong/2019/03/04/what-do-wyomings-new-blockchain-laws-mean/#7befce9b5fde

https://www.jhnewsandguide.com/jackson_hole_daily/local/legislators-look-to-add-real-estate-banking-to-blockchain-laws/article_53830417-349a-5423-a8e4-6f5ccd51efe3.html

ABQ Journal and NM Speaker Of House Brian Egolf Exchange Insults Over Ethics

On Thursday, August 29, 2019, the Albuquerque Journal published a front-page story that Santa Fe State District Judge Bryan Biedscheid ruled that New Mexico must allow non-residents to participate in its medical cannabis program despite concerns raised by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Department of Health. Matthew Garcia, general counsel for the Governor’s Office and Thomas Bird, the Health Department’s attorney, argued the change was aimed at providing reciprocity to residents of other states who have valid medical marijuana cards. It was also argued by the state’s attorneys that such a shift would encourage the transport of marijuana across state lines, which is illegal under both federal and state laws.

In announcing his ruling, the Judge said the language of the amended medical cannabis statute is clear, and that it does not allow the Department of Health to withhold identification cards to qualifying patients who live outside of New Mexico. According to Judge Bryan Biedscheid ruling, the language of the amended medical cannabis statute is clear:

“It does not allow the Department of Health to withhold identification cards to qualifying patients who live outside of New Mexico. … This statute, plainly and unambiguously, does away with the requirement of residence of the state of New Mexico … Continuing to insist on a showing of residence for eligibility in the program, when that has been taken out by the Legislature, is not appropriate.”

You can read the full Journal article entitled ‘Judge Opens Up Medical Pot Program To Out Of State Residents’ at the below link:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1359894/judge-opens-medical-marijuana-program-to-out-of-state-residents-govs-office-plans-to-appeal.html

In announcing that the State will appeal the court ruling, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham strongly criticized the ruling by issuing the following statement:

“We remain of the opinion that New Mexico’s medical cannabis program should not be bulldozed by an out-of-state litigant operating with his own financial interests at heart rather than those of the state’s medical program or of the many New Mexicans who depend upon it … [The ruling] contradicts both the intent of the legislative sponsor and the interpretation of the New Mexico Department of Health, and the state plans to appeal the decision.”

NM SPEAKER AS A PRIVATE ATTORNEY SUES STATE REPRESENTING PLAINTIFF

The Plaintiffs’ attorney suing the state over the medical pot program’s patient registration is Speaker of the House Brian Egolf. According to the Journal story, Attorney Egolf argued that there was “no clear evidence” that the NM Legislature intended to require New Mexico residency. Egolf argued there is nothing to back up the concern that the change would impede the state’s ability to maintain regulatory control and he argued before the court:

“There is no evidence offered to support this theory [that] … anyone who’s driving through the state of New Mexico will be able to pull over to the side of the road to get a registry identification card like it’s a Snickers bar … That’s completely wrong.”

Egolf noted that the federal law prohibits U.S. government resources being used for the prosecution or dismantling of any medical cannabis program and New Mexico’s program will not be in jeopardy.

ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL EDITORIAL

On October 1, 2019, the Albuquerque Journal published an editorial relating to Speaker of the House Brian Egolf’s involvement with the court challenge of New Mexico’s Medical Cannibis program. Below is the editorial with a link to the article:

EDITORIAL HEADLINE: “Did Brian Egolf Miss The Day In Law School Where They Cover Conflicts Of Interest?”

The Santa Fe Democrat currently serves as New Mexico’s Speaker of the House. Egolf, like many of his fellow unpaid New Mexico lawmakers, also has a day job as an attorney. That’s normal for our citizen Legislature and not a problem in and of itself.

Well, not unless a situation arises wherein Egolf’s role as a high-ranking legislator allows him to grease the skids for legislation that ultimately enriches him in his private law practice.

And if Egolf isn’t quite fully immersed in that sticky terrain, he’s at least ankle deep in it.

Consider: Egolf is currently representing medical marijuana magnate Duke Rodriguez in an ongoing lawsuit against the state of New Mexico.

While Rodriguez’s Ultra Health LLC has all but cornered New Mexico’s medical marijuana market, Rodriguez – himself a medical marijuana user – lives in Arizona. He is one of three people who live out of state who sued the state to be allowed to participate in New Mexico’s medical cannabis program.

As Journal reporter Dan Boyd reported Sept. 24, the case took its most recent turn on Sept. 23, when a judge ordered the New Mexico Department of Health to start issuing medical marijuana cards to out-of-state residents. The matter remains in limbo as the state Department of Health plans to ask the judge to reconsider, but it was still a clear, albeit not yet final, victory for Rodriguez’s bottom line – and, presumably, for his high-powered lawyer Egolf.

And therein lies the rub.

Egolf is clearly working his hardest to obtain a certain outcome for his client in the politically fraught world of medical marijuana. He also clearly wields tremendous influence over legislative matters, including laws around medical marijuana. Despite this apparent clash of interests, Egolf hasn’t included Rodriguez’s company on a list of potential conflicts of interest, nor has he recused himself in medical marijuana-related legislative matters.

When Republicans raised the issue back in 2017, Egolf said his work with the medical marijuana industry would not influence his work as a lawmaker. He also pointed out it would be tough to find clients who don’t interact with legislation in some way – a fair point – and, according to a 2017 Journal story, noted that, like other state legislators who are lawyers, he disclosed the law firm he works for and the state agencies he’s represented.

On Egolf’s side of the ledger, New Mexico Ethics Watch backed up his stance that he didn’t need to disclose medical marijuana clients as potential conflicts of interest. And perhaps that’s in line with the letter of the law.

But is that really what’s best for New Mexico? Why should only state agencies be included in lawyers’ disclosures and not private industry?
Perhaps it’s a good topic for New Mexico’s newly minted Ethics Commission to cut its teeth on. Because disclosure norms notwithstanding, having the guy who helps make the rules for an industry also represent that industry in court should raise some eyebrows.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1372801/speakers-work-on-medical-marijuana-suit-raises-concerns.html

SPEAKER OF NEW MEXICO HOUSE BRIAN EGOLF RESPONDS TO JOURNAL

On Sunday, October 6, the Albuquerque Journal Published Speaker of the House Brian Egolf’s response to its editorial as follows:

Headline: EDITORIAL ALL (MEDICAL POT) SMOKE, NO FIRE

BY REP. BRIAN EGOLF / SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE, SANTA FE DEMOCRAT

Did the Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board miss the day in journalism school where they cover accuracy in reporting, especially in editorials?

The Journal’s Editorial Board should not allow these pages to be weaponized for politically-motivated and unfounded attacks. Yet a recent editorial (Oct. 1) regarding my work as a private lawyer representing a medical cannabis producer did just that. The outrageous nature of the attack against me and my character demands a response.

Political opponents have long muddied the waters in an attempt to discredit me and the entire medical cannabis compassionate-use program. Their arguments are false and have been repeatedly debunked.

At issue is how legislators maintain high ethical standards, prevent conflicts of interest, and ensure that our service does not give us a leg up in our everyday lives. I have studied and scrupulously followed the standards of ethical behavior for legislators during my 11 years of service in the Legislature and have championed the creation of the Ethics Commission to bring true transparency and clear ethical guidance to all public offices. I am confident that my legal work and my legislative service do not present a conflict of interest.

This paper’s Editorial Board takes the position that lawyers cannot serve in the Legislature without creating conflict with every vote, floor speech or bill introduction. This newspaper ignores, however, the law and the rules of ethical conduct for lawyers. It is absurd to think that a lawyer should recuse from a vote every time a client may be affected. For example, if that were the standard, no lawyer-legislator could vote on funding for roads because every client who uses our roadways would be affected.

As legislators, we must hold ourselves to the highest standard of ethics. For attorneys who are also legislators, the Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys provide additional rules and requirements to ensure that our actions in the courtroom are kept strictly separate from our legislative service. Legislator-lawyers may not refer to our legislative service in the courtroom or take any action that gives the impression that we are using our legislative offices to gain an advantage for a client. I go to great lengths to abide by the spirit and the letter of the law in my courtroom conduct, as witnessed by judges, colleagues and clients.

The legislative process benefits from having people with diverse personal and professional backgrounds as lawmakers. As noted in a recent legal case, attorneys have unique experience to bring to public service. In a 2015 court order, a district court judge explicitly ruled that preventing a legislator from representing their clients in adversarial proceedings would “contravene clear statutory language and create serious disincentives for those most schooled in the law from taking up public service as state representatives.”

As citizen legislators, we must ensure that our behavior is not influenced by the promise of a specific benefit for ourselves or our families. We also must separate our professional lives from our legislative service. It is clear from the record that the medical cannabis legislation in question went through the regular legislative process and was not expedited in any manner. The bill was introduced and modified several times in the Senate and made its way through the process in the House with no particular speed. This record is available plainly on the legislative website, and I invite the public to examine the record for themselves. Unfortunately, the Albuquerque Journal “greased the skids” in its editorial process and thereby ignored facts, the clear record and the law to produce a political hit-job.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1374952/editorial-all-medical-pot-smoke-no-fire.htm

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

It did not come as any surprise to Round House observers nor to political pundits that the Albuquerque Journal published a highly negative editorial criticizing Speaker of the House Brian Egolf for his involvement in the medical cannabis case and suing the state. Many wondered why it took so long given the Albuquerque Journal’s past history of such editorials against New Mexico legislators, especially Democrats in power. This is not the first time the Journal published an editorial criticizing Speaker Egolf.

What did come as a surprise is that Egolf felt it was necessary to respond to the Albuquerque Journal. Ostensibly, the state had no problem with Egolf representing the plaintiff in that Matthew Garcia, general counsel for the Governor and Thomas Bird, the Health Department’s attorney, did not object to Egolf representing the Plaintiffs. The Governor’s Office and the Department of Health did not ask the Court to remove Egolf from the case for any sort of perceived conflict, but the Governor did decide to appeal the ruling.

The problem Speaker Egolf has is that in politics, public perception by voters is often viewed as a reality. The public perception Speaker Egolf is dealing with is the perception that gives New Mexico politicians a very bad name and reputation.

Speaker Egolf in his letter argues in part as follows:

“… At issue is how legislators maintain high ethical standards, prevent conflicts of interest, and ensure that our service does not give us a leg up in our everyday lives. … Legislator-lawyers may not refer to our legislative service in the courtroom or take any action that gives the impression that we are using our legislative offices to gain an advantage for a client. … As legislators, we must hold ourselves to the highest standard of ethics. For attorneys who are also legislators, the Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys provide additional rules and requirements to ensure that our actions in the courtroom are kept strictly separate from our legislative service. … As citizen legislators, we must ensure that our behavior is not influenced by the promise of a specific benefit for ourselves or our families. We also must separate our professional lives from our legislative service.”

The highest standard of ethics for any attorney and for that matter any elected official includes avoiding any and all conflicts of interest, appearance of a conflict and avoiding the appearance of impropriety. There is no doubt that private attorney Brian Egolf is a highly respected, accomplished and successful New Mexico trial attorney who honors the New Mexico Code of Professional Responsibility and Canons of ethics prescribing the standards of ethical conduct for attorneys. However, that is not enough when it comes to also being an elected official at the same time and the public perception that goes with it.

Egolf is still Speaker of the House and he cannot separate that fact from his professional work as an attorney in a courtroom setting, especially when he argues against legislation he supported and voted for and turns around and then represents a client and paid by a client that is against that legislation, hence the perception of a conflict of interest by the public. It is true as Mr. Speaker argues that legislator-lawyers may not refer to legislative service in the courtroom or take any action that gives the impression that they are using their legislative offices to gain an advantage for a client. But it really does not matter. When you are an attorney and elected official, especially Speaker of the House, and you walk into a courtroom to challenge a law where you have legislative authority over, the impression of a conflict to many exists without a word having to be said. No introductory comments, assurances, disclaimers or disclosures before the hearing begins will eliminate the doubt and perception in the public’s mind.

Separating “professional lives from legislative service”, and for that manner personal lives, is virtually impossible when it comes to elected officials in the public eye, especially when you are the Speaker of the House, a position many feel is the second most powerful position in state government. Many voters no doubt agree with the Speaker’s comments “… At issue is how legislators maintain high ethical standards, prevent conflicts of interest, and ensure that our service does not give us a leg up in our everyday lives” and “ legislators must hold ourselves to the highest standard of ethics”. The problem is all too often is legislators do not uphold even minimum requirements of ethical conduct.

Least anyone forget, last fall former Democrat State Senator Phil Griego was convicted of fraud, bribery and other public corruption charges, and sentenced to 18 months in prison and more than $47,000 in fines. Griego was a licensed realtor by profession and as a State Senator voted for funding on a state property purchase and then represented the purchaser and Greigo was paid a $50,000 real estate commission. Then there is former tough-on-crime Republican State Representative Monica Youngblood who after arrested pressured police not to charge her because she always supported law enforcement issues and she was convicted of aggravated drunken driving and she lost her reelection bid. Now we have long time Democrat State Senator and retired magistrate Judge Richard Martinez, who presided over many DWI cases, is awaiting trial on aggravated DWI charges who refuses to resign and saying he is running for another term. Martinez refuses to step down as chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee that deals with DWI legislation and Senate leadership are reluctant to remove him as chair. Then you have the granddaddy of all unethical conduct when powerful Democratic State Senate President Pro Temp Manny Aragon, who was also a prominent trial attorney, went to Federal Prison for being paid millions in kickbacks for his role in the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court Construction Project.

I totally understand Speaker Igolf’s arguments regarding the need to make a living as a private attorney, being bound by the canons of ethics for attorneys and at the same time being and elected official and held to a higher standard. I did it for 4 years as an Albuquerque City Councilor and as a practicing attorney with my own law firm. I can even sympathize with him when he is on the receiving end of negative Albuquerque Journal editorials seeing as I have had more than my own fair share of such editorials over my public service career and have endured the Journal’s insulting editorial wrath. I have never received an Albuquerque Journal endorsement the three times I ran for public office, and as a Democrat that did not surprise me in the least. Notwithstanding, media first amendment rights are a very critical part of the process and politicians all too often forget that point and we see that today on the national level with the worn out “fake news” comment used by so many.

Legendary New Mexico criminal defense lawyer Billy Marchiondo once said that you never to get into a “pissing match with anyone who buys ink by the barrel”. Marchiando made the remark after he sued the Albuquerque Journal for libel and slander when the paper accused him of having organized crime connections, and he lost the case. This is exactly what Mr. Speaker did when he went “tit for tat” with the editorial and wrote “Did the Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board miss the day in journalism school where they cover accuracy in reporting, especially in editorials?” and concluded with “… the Albuquerque Journal greased the skids in its editorial process and thereby ignored facts, the clear record and the law to produce a political hit-job.” Speaker Egolf may believe the editorial was 100% unfair or inaccurate to him, but the front page report was 100% accurate. Front page newspaper stories are read far more than newspaper editorials.

Making the excuse that the New Mexico Legislature is a “citizen legislature” where elected officials are not paid full time and they need to make a living is as hollow as it gets. All elected officials know what they are getting themselves into, including the scrutiny, before they run for office. It’s the public service career they have chosen. That public service career includes the media and public’s scrutiny on ethics. If your work or your profession are affected or harmed being an elected official, you probably have no business running, need to get out of politics or at least get a thicker skin.

With his arguments before the court as a private attorney being paid by a client to oppose enacted legislation he supported, Mr. Speaker Egolf apparently does not understand or have any appreciation of what the public perceives, even if there is no violation of professional ethics or rules of conduct for attorneys. It’s the appearance that undermines credibility of elected officials. Egolf should have declined the medical marijuana patient registration case or at the very minimum had an associate argue the case for his firm before the court to avoid the public perception that Speaker Egolf had a conflict.

The newly created ethics commission needs to formulate specific rules of conduct or a “legislative code of ethics” for legislators and specifically define what a “conflict of interest” is for legislators, what a Speaker of the House can and cannot do when it comes to potential conflicts of interests, when they need to disclose and to recuse themselves from voting and disclose the identity of clients who pay them for a living. Otherwise, this is an issue our citizen legislators will continue to deal with.

Egolf has now created a major headache for himself in the event the Governor and the legislature seek to amend the law once again to include a residency requirement. Egolf will be forced to decide does he vote to amend the statute to include residency or as Speaker of the House does he do whatever he can to derail the legislation and take the position of his client and oppose it? And if the residency requirement passes, will Egolf turn around and then sue the state once again on behalf of his client? The House Democratic caucus who elected Speaker Egolf need to have a discussion of the matter.

Given the Speakers strong response to the Albuquerque Journal, it is apparent he feels he has done absolutely nothing wrong and it is doubtful he will change his opinion. One thing for sure, he needs to proceed with great caution knowing the media is watching his every move.

Trump’s Lies, Obstruction And Shakedown Support At Least 5 Articles Of Impeachment

Federal elections laws are clear and provide that no one can solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a United States election. The specific law is as follows:

Federal statute 52 USC 30121 entitled “Contributions and donations by foreign nationals” provides:

(a) Prohibition

It shall be unlawful for-

(1) a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make-

(A) a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election;

(B) a contribution or donation to a committee of a political party; or

(C) an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication (within the meaning of section 30104(f)(3) of this title); or

(2) a person [including a candidate for office] to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1) from a foreign national.

(b) “Foreign national” defined

As used in this section, the term “foreign national” means-

(1) a foreign principal … except that the term “foreign national” shall not include any individual who is a citizen of the United States; or

(2) an individual who is not a citizen of the United States or a national of the United States

IT IS ILLEGAL TO ACCEPT ANY ELECTION HELP FROM FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS

On June 13, 2019 Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub, the head of the Federal Election Commission made it 100% clear that it is illegal to accept any election help from foreign governments by candidates running for President. In a statement released to the public she said:

“Electoral intervention from foreign governments has been considered unacceptable since the beginning of our nation.”

Weintraub made it clear that any presidential campaign that receives an offer of help from a foreign source should call the FBI. Weintraub noted that there is a distinction as to the different types of communications saying talking with foreign governments is clearly part of the job of president. The FEC chair made it clear that soliciting, accepting or receiving “anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election” is illegal.

https://www.vox.com/2019/6/14/18677631/trump-campaign-finance-law-fec-illegal-fbi

There are 3 specific instances of conduct by President Trump where he admitted to soliciting a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to interfere with a US Presidential election.

FIRST ARTICLE OF IMPEACHMENT: SOLICITING RUSSIA FOR ELECTION INTERFERENCE

On July 27, 2016, while running for office, then Presidential candidate Donald Trump encouraged Russian hackers to find emails that had been deleted from Hillary Clinton’s private server that she used while serving as secretary of state when he said at a press conference in Florida:

“I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing … “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Trump

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-russia-clinton-hack_us_5b48d9d0e4b0e7c958faf811

On July 27, 2016, according to the federal indictment of the 12 Russian intelligence officers for their involvement in hacking the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election, the Russian hacking occurred hours after Trump gave his press conference and solicited Russian hackers to find Clinton’s emails.

The indictment states that on July 27, 2016, the same day as Trump’s press conference, Russian hackers, “for the first time,” attempted to break into email accounts, including those used by Clinton’s personal office. Notably, the indictment is very specific that the hack happened in the evening, meaning the Russian officials did it after Trump’s press conference where he asked for Russian help and Russia acted on Trump’s request.

EVIDENCE OF RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE SOLICITED BY TRUMP

Three senior intelligence officials said the intelligence community has found clear evidence that Russia did indeed compromised or interfered with voter registries in the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin, and there are probably more.

(February 28, 2018 NBC News report: “U.S. intel: Russia compromised seven states prior to 2016 election”.)

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/elections/u-s-intel-russia-compromised-seven-states-prior-2016-election-n850296

Thirteen United States intelligence agencies found that Russia tried to influence our election in favor of Trump. According to an APRIL 18, 2019 Time Magazine report “Over the course of the 2016 election, a wide-ranging group of Russians probed state voter databases for insecurities; hacked the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee; tried to hack the campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio and the Republican National Committee; released politically damaging information on the internet; spread propaganda on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram; staged rallies in Florida and Pennsylvania; set up meetings with members of the Trump campaign and its associates; and floated a business proposition for a skyscraper in Moscow to the Trump Organization. The goal, as determined by the U.S. intelligence community and backed up by evidence gathered by Special Counsel Robert Mueller was to damage the Clinton campaign, boost Trump’s chances and sow distrust in American democracy overall.” Instead of condemning Russian interference with the 2016 election, Trump denied it and accepted the help from Russia to discredit Clinton in order to get elected.

https://time.com/5565991/russia-influence-2016-election/

SECOND ARTICLE OF IMPEACHMENT: SOLICTING UKRAINE TO INVESTIGATE BIDENS AND A “QUID PRO QUO”

“Quid pro quo” is Latin and simply translated means something of value given or received in exchange for something of value.

Trump withheld this past summer nearly $400 million in foreign aid to Ukraine already authorized by congress and as leverage for Ukrain to investigate Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Trump has repeatedly denied publicly that there was any “quid pro quo” when he used the funding as leverage to encourage Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to pursue an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.

According to a White House memo of the July phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to “look into” his political rival and former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son. The memo was compiled by White House officials who listened to the call and the memo is not a verbatim transcript. Trump has said that a transcript does exist but the transcript has not been released.

According to the memo, Trump asked for 3 favors that essentially would help interfere with the 2020 Presidential election by discrediting presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden.

The 3 favors Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were to:

1. “Look into” his political rival and former Vice President Joe Biden

2. Trump asked Zelensky several times to speak with U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr to speak with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and

3. Help investigate something to do with the Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/9ked3d/the-three-favors-trump-asked-the-ukrainian-president-in-new-transcript

EXCERPTS FROM MEMO RELEASED BY WHITE HOUSE

Following are the relevant excerpts from the 5 page memo released by the White House documenting the phone call:

Ukrain President Zelenskyy: “… I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelin [missiles] from the United States for defense purposes.”

President Trump: I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.

Ukrain President Zelenskyy: Yes, it is very important for me and everything that you just mentioned earlier. For me as a President, it is very important and we are open for any future cooperation. We are ready to open a new page on cooperation in relations between the United States and Ukraine. For that purpose, I just recalled our ambassador from United States and he will be replaced by a very competent and very experienced ambassador who will work hard on making sure that our two nations are getting closer. I would also like and hope to see him having your trust and your confidence and have personal relations with you so we can cooperate even more so. I will personally tell you that one of my assistants spoke with Mr. Giuliani just recently and we are hoping very much that Mr. Giuliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine. …

President Trump: Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.

Ukrain President Zelenskyy: I wanted to tell you about the prosecutor. First of all I understand and I’m knowledgeable about the situation. Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate, who will be approved by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case. On top of that, I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to us, it would be very helpful for the investigation to make sure that we administer justice in our country with regard to the Ambassador to the United States from Ukraine as far as I recall her name was Ivanovich. It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%. Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President well enough.

President Trump: Well, she’s going to go through some things. I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it. I’m sure you will figure it out. I heard the prosecutor was treated very badly and he was a very fair prosecutor so good luck with everything.

You can review the entire White House memo here:

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/qvgzvq/heres-the-full-transcript-of-the-call-between-trump-and-the-president-of-ukraine

Trump has insisted that his July conversation with Mr. Zelensky was “perfect” even after the release by the White House of the memo showing him imploring the Ukrainian leader to “do us a favor” by investigating the Bidens and other Democrats shortly after President Zelensky discussed his need for more American aid to counter Russian aggression in his country. The only thing that was mad perfect was that Trump wanted and solicited a “favor”.

TEXT MESSAGES CONFIRM QUID PRO QUO TO HAVE UKRAIN INTERFER WITH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

On October 3, House Democrats conducting the impeachment inquiry of President Trump released text messages provided to Congress by Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine who testified more than eight hours behind closed doors on Capitol Hill. The text messages revealed that U.S. ambassadors worked to persuade Ukraine to publicly commit to investigating Trump’s political opponents and explicitly linking the inquiry to whether Ukraine’s president would be granted an official White House visit and improve relations between the two countries.

You can read the text messages at the below link:

https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/_cache/files/a/4/a4a91fab-99cd-4eb9-9c6c-ec1c586494b9/621801458E982E9903839ABC7404A917.chairmen-letter-on-state-departmnent-texts-10-03-19.pdf

The text messages show how top US diplomats and Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, sought to advance Trump’s goal of getting the Ukrainians to investigate meddling in the 2016 election and investigate Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

On July 25, former U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations Kurt Volker texted the top Zelenskiy just before Trump spoke by phone to Zelenskiy as follows:

“Heard from White House – assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for a visit to Washington. ”

It was the July phone call led a U.S. intelligence official to file a whistleblower complaint that lead to the impeachment inquiry of Trump.

The released text messages reveal that Volker and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland repeatedly stressed the need to get the Ukrainians to agree to the exact language that Zelenskiy would use in announcing an investigation. In August, Volker proposed to Sondland that they give Ukraine President Zelenskiy a statement to use at a news conference citing “alleged involvement of some Ukrainian politicians” in interference in U.S. elections.

Volker and Sondland agreed that the Ukrainian president should say:

“We intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, including those involving Burisma and the 2016 U.S. elections. ”

Burisma Holdings is the Ukrainian gas company that Hunter Biden joined its board in 2014 while his father was vice president. Zelenskiy never did make the statement.

On August 29, Zelenskiy aide Andrey Yermak texted Volker:

“Need to talk with you.” The text messaged reflected a panicking top aide to Zelenskiy reaching out to Volker after Trump unexpectedly halted upwards of $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine as he increased pressure on Zelenskiy to investigate.

The released text messages show Volker and Sondland playing an active role in advancing Trump’s goal of forcing the Ukrainian to investigate the former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

After Trump canceled a planned meeting with Zelenskiy in Poland William Taylor, a career diplomat who became the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, pushed backed in a text by saying:

“Are we now saying that security assistance and WH [an acronym for the White House] meeting are conditioned on investigations?”.

A full week later, Taylor told Sondland:

“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

Sondland a few hours later texted Taylor and said:

“Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear, no quid pro quos of any kind …”

Sonland went on to suggest they stop discussing the matter via text messages ostensibly realizing that he was suggesting a meeting with Trump was a “quid pro quo” for Ukraine to first investigate the Bidens.

ARTICLE THREE OF IMPEACHMENT: SOLICTING SOLICITING CHINA AND OTHER COUNTRIES FOR ELECTION INTERFERENCE

On Thursday, October 4, President Trump publicly called on China and again Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden thereby again requesting help from a foreign power that could benefit Trump, this time in the 2020 election.

Trump proclaimed on the White House lawn before departing for Florida:

“China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine. … I would [also] say that President Zelensky [of Ukraine], if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Bidens .. Because nobody has any doubt that they weren’t crooked.”

Democrat Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee leading the impeachment inquiry, said Trump’s solicitation for China to investigate Biden were further evidence of Trump’s betrayal of duty and said:

“The president of the United States encouraging a foreign nation to interfere and help his campaign by investigating a rival is a fundamental breach of the president’s oath of office. ”

Kate Bedingfield, former Vice President Joe Biden’s deputy campaign manager, said in a statement:

“What Donald Trump said on the South Lawn of the White House was this election’s equivalent of his infamous ‘Russia, if you’re listening’ moment from 2016 — a grotesque choice of lies over truth and self over the country ” referring to the on camera called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s email servers.

Hillary Clinton for her part weighed in on Twitter by saying:

“Someone should inform the president that impeachable offenses committed on national television still count”.

President Trump and Attorney General Barr have solicited help from Australia and Italy to uncover information undermining the origin of Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 election. The Times of London reported that Trump sought help from Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain. Trump has pushed back against critics who have called such requests an abuse of power, arguing that there was nothing wrong with seeking foreign help to fight corruption.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/03/us/politics/trump-china-bidens.html

COUNT FOUR OF IMPEACHEMENT: OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE IN 2016 RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE INVESTIGATION

On May 29, 2019, US Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller ended his two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller noted the Justice Department’s longstanding policy against indicting a sitting president and said that his office was never able to even consider bringing charges against Donald Trump, either openly or under seal until Trump left office. According to Mueller:

“We concluded that we would not reach a determination—one way or the other—about whether the president committed a crime. … Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.”

Despite the fact that the special counsel’s report on Russian interference did not come to a conclusion as to whether President Trump obstructed justice, the Mueller Report did find 10 incidents in which Trump may have indeed “obstructed justice”. However, Special Council Mueller left it up to congress to decide if there was obstruction of justice. Any one of the 10 acts could form the basis of impeachment by the Democratic Controlled US House of Representatives.

CBS News did an exceptional summary of the 10 times Trump may have obstructed justice. In the postscript to this article is a listing of the 10 times Trump may have obstructed justice and quoting a CBS News article with the link below outlining the 10 instances of obstruction of justice.

COUNT FIVE OF IMPEACHMENT: OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE IN UKRAIN IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY

On October 8, Trump administration moved to block ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland from testifying in the expanding impeachment inquiry. The administration directed Sondland, a Trump appointee whose texts with other officials in the U.S. and Ukraine caused a firestorm when they surfaced this week, not to appear before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight committees as scheduled. His testimony was to follow that of former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker, who last week provided Democrats with a trove of messages in which he, Sondland, and Bill Taylor, Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, discussed military aid to Kiev and a White House visit for new Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Sondland was a key player in the administration’s interactions with Ukraine and is seen as a central witness in the president’s apparent abuses of power. House democrats immediately announced they intend to subpoena him, and that the State Department’s efforts to stop Sondland from testifying will be considered obstruction of justice in their inquiry.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/10/trump-responds-to-impeachment-inquiry-with-more-obstruction-of-justice-gordon-sondland-testimony

There have now been two whistle blowers that have come forward with information. Given the pace of the scandal, it is more likely than not more obstruction of justice incidents will be alleged.

IMPEACHMENT PROCESS

Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution provides as follow:


“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

High crimes and misdemeanor are whatever the House of Representatives say it is in Articles of Impeachment. The power and authority to bring Articles of Impeachment rests solely with the United States House of Representatives and articles of impeachment are passed by a simple majority vote. After Articles of Impeachment are passed by the House, the charges are forwarded to the United States Senate for a trial presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. A trial is then conducted by the United State Senate for removal from office and two-thirds of the United Senate, or 67 votes, are needed to convict and to remove a President.

TREASON AND OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

Treason against the United States is defined under federal law as when “a person, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United State” (18 U.S. Code § 2381 – Treason)

Under federal law, “obstruction of justice” is defined as an act that “corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice.” (18 U.S.C. § 1503). Someone obstructs justice when that person has a specific intent to obstruct or interfere with a judicial proceeding, such as the firing of an FBI Director during an ongoing FBI investigation which is what the Russian probe investigation was all about.

For a person to be convicted of obstructing justice, that person must not only have the specific intent to obstruct the proceeding, but that person must know:

(1) that a proceeding was actually pending at the time; and
(2) there must be a connection between the endeavor to obstruct justice and the proceeding, and the person must have knowledge of this connection.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

A “high crimes and misdemeanor” can be whatever the House of Representatives say it is in Articles of Impeachment. It is clearly illegal and a felony for any President or for that matter Vice President, to solicit accept or receiving “anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election”. Vice President Mike Pence is also being implicated in the scandal. This would include asking another country or its leaders to investigate and provide “dirt” on a potential political opponent or their family.

Congressional Democrats with their Impeachment Inquiry are now at a crossroad when it comes to President Trump and Vice Prsident Pence with the end not at all guaranteed. If impeached by the House, Trump is not likely to be convicted and removed by the Senate. Trump will be the Republican nominee, unless he is forced to resign by the Republican controlled Senate. The eventual Democrat nominee is far from certain.

When you review the entire 466 page Mueller Report, the one conclusion that any reasonable person can come to is that the Russian probe uncovered evidence of a President “giving aid and comfort” to Russia to influence his election to become President and to hide or stop the Russia investigation to disrupt the 2016 election by firing FBI James Comey or both.

Articles of Impeachment in the US House of Representatives are passed by a simple majority vote. It is clear that the Democratic controlled House of Representatives now has more than enough grounds and votes for impeachment with Trump’s solicitation of foreign and even hostile government’s such as Russia and China for help.

What is as equally clear is that the Republican controlled United State Senate probably will not vote to convict and remove Trump from office. Republican Majority Floor leader has already said in his own re election commercials that Trump will not be convicted in the Senate as long as he is Majority leader. If all 48 Senate Democrats vote yes to convict, 19 Republican Senators still would have to vote with all the Democrats to convict and remove Trump from office. Nineteen Republican Senators voting to convict is not at all likely given Trumps strangle hold over the Republican Senators and the Republican Party, but that does not mean Trump should not be charged and impeached.

Impeachment of Trump seems to be all but certain by the House for his solicitation of Russia, Ukrain and China and other countries to interfere with our elections and for obstruction of justice in the Mueller investigation. Trump’s active and very public solicitation of countries, some who very hostile towards the United State, to interfere with our elections is an afront to our democracy that cannot be ignored nor tolerated.

No one is above the law, including a dictator such as Trump who is desperate and who now do anything to hold on to power. Let the Republican Senators vote and show they put their own party and their own interests over the good and best interest of our country. As the impeachment process proceeds, voters will see that Trump and the Republican Senators who support him need to be voted out of office.

OCTOBER 10 UPDATE

On October 10, the New York Times reported that Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two of Rudy Giuliani associates, were arrested with one-way tickets out of the United States within hours after having lunch with Rudy Guiliani, Trumps personal attorney, at Trump’s International Hotel in Washington. Both were arrested after Federal prosecutors unsealed charges against the two men who have aided President Trump’s efforts to gather damaging information in Ukraine about his political opponents. Giuliani has been public about his hunt for damaging information about Democrats. The indictment of the two men gives a more complete picture of how Guiliani subcontracted part of the work to Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman.

Parnas and Fruman are executives of an energy company that donated $325,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC last year, which prompted a Federal Election Commission complaint by a nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog accusing the men and the company of violating campaign finance laws. The two men were charged with making illegal campaign donations. According to the indictment, the two men are connected to a key element of the Ukrain pressure campaign and the effort to recall the United States ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, after she became a focus of criticism from many of Mr. Trump’s allies. Parnas and Fruman donated money and pledged to raise additional funds in 2018, some amounts violating legal limits for a congressman who was then enlisted in the campaign to oust her.

You can read the full New York Time article here:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/10/us/politics/lev-parnas-igor-fruman-arrested-giuliani.html

________________________________________

POSCRIPT

The Mueller report cited the following 10 incidents in which Trump may have “obstructed justice” but Mueller left it up to congress to decide if there was obstruction of justice:

1.”THE CAMPAIGN’S RESPONSE TO REPORTS ABOUT RUSSIAN SUPPORT FOR TRUMP”

“The first instance of possible obstruction detailed in the report occurred during the 2016 campaign, when questions first “arose about the Russian government’s apparent support for candidate Trump. The report states that while Mr. Trump was publicly skeptical Russia had released emails from Democratic officials, he and his aides were also trying to get information about “any further Wikileaks releases.” The report also notes that despite Mr. Trump’s insistence he had no business connections to Russia, his namesake company was trying to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. And once the election was over, Mr. Trump “expressed concerns to advisers that reports of Russia’s election interference might lead the public to question the legitimacy of his election.”

2.”CONDUCT INVOLVING FBI DIRECTOR COMEY AND MICHAEL FLYNN”

“The second instance involves Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who left the administration just weeks into Mr. Trump’s presidency after he misled FBI agents and top administration officials — including Vice President Mike Pence — about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn had said he had not discussed sanctions on Russia with Kislyak, a lie that Pence and others then repeated. The day that Mr. Trump found out Flynn had lied to Pence and the FBI, he had dinner with Comey, whom he asked for “loyalty.” Mr. Trump then secured Flynn’s resignation on Feb. 13, 2017. “Now that we fired Flynn, the Russia thing is over,” he told an outside adviser, who disagreed with the president’s assessment. That same day, Mr. Trump had another meeting with Comey and encouraged him to stop investigating Flynn. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,” Mr. Trump said. The president then asked Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland to draft an internal memo “stating that the president had not directed Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak. McFarland declined because she did not know whether that was true, and a White House Counsel’s Office attorney thought that the request would look like a quid pro quo for an ambassadorship she had been offered.”

3.”THE PRESIDENT’S REACTION TO THE CONTINUING RUSSIA INVESTIGATION”

“The third instance involves then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was debating whether to recuse himself from the Russia investigation in February 2017, as well as Comey. Mr. Trump asked White House Counsel Don McGahn to talk Sessions out of recusal, and became angry when Sessions announced he would recuse himself on March 2. The president then asked Sessions to “unrecuse” himself. After Comey testified to Congress that there was an FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Mr. Trump reached out to his CIA and NSA directors to help “dispel the suggestion that the President had any connection to the Russian election-interference effort.” Comey had told Mr. Trump he wasn’t under investigation and, against Mc Gahn’s advice, the president twice called the FBI director to ask him to say that publicly.”

4.”THE PRESIDENT’S TERMINATION OF COMEY”

“The fourth instance stems from Mr. Trump’s decision to fire Comey, which directly led to Mueller’s appointment. Mr. Trump decided to fire Comey in May 2017 — days after the FBI director declined to tell Congress that Mr. Trump wasn’t under investigation. After Mr. Trump dismissed Comey, the White House insisted he had done so at the recommendation of the Department of Justice. In reality, Mr. Trump had not consulted with the Justice Department before deciding to fire Comey. In conversations that followed, Mr. Trump indicated the Russia investigation was the real reason he had let Comey go: “The day after firing Comey, the president told Russian officials that he had ‘faced great pressure because of Russia,’ which had been ‘taken off’ by Comey’s firing. The next day, the president acknowledged in a television interview that he was going to fire Comey regardless of the Department of Justice’s recommendation and that when he ‘decided to just do it,’ he was thinking that ‘this thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’”

5.”THE APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COUNSEL AND EFFORTS TO REMOVE HIM”

“The fifth instance revolves around Mr. Trump’s reaction to Mueller’s appointment. Upon hearing the news that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had tasked Mueller with investigating the Russia matter in May 2017, the president privately declared it was “the end of his presidency.” Mr. Trump then demanded Sessions’ resignation, although he did not accept it at the time, and told aides Mueller had conflicts of interest that should preclude him from acting as the special counsel. It was then reported in June that Mueller was investigating Mr. Trump for obstruction of justice, prompting the president to publicly attack Mueller and the Justice Department. Within days of the first report, he told Mc Gahn to tell Rosenstein that Mueller had conflicts of interest and must be removed. Mc Gahn ignored the request, explaining that he would rather resign.”

6.”EFFORTS TO PREVENT PUBLIC DISCLOSURE OF EVIDENCE”

“The sixth instance stems from the June 2016 meeting between top campaign aides and “a Russian lawyer who was said to be offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton as ‘part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.’” Mr. Trump told his aides “not to publicly disclose the emails setting up the June 9 meeting, suggesting that the email would not leak and that the number of lawyers with access to them should be limited.” Donald Trump Jr., who had been present at the Trump Tower meeting, wrote a press release saying “the meeting was with ‘an individual who [Trump Jr.] was told might have information helpful to the campaign’” — a line that was edited out about the president. Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer then denied to reporters the president had “played any role” in Trump Jr.’s statement.

7.”FURTHER EFFORTS TO HAVE THE ATTORNEY GENERAL TAKE CONTROL OF THE INVESTIGATION”

“The seventh instance has to do with Mr. Trump’s repeated attempts to have Sessions “reverse his recusal.” Mr. Trump asked Sessions to do this in the summer of 2017. The following December, Mr. Trump told Sessions he would be a “hero” if he took control of the investigation. Additionally, in October 2017, the president asked Sessions to “take [a] look” at investigating Hillary Clinton.”

8.”EFFORTS TO HAVE MCGAHN DENY THAT THE PRESIDENT HAD ORDERED HIM TO HAVE THE SPECIAL COUNSEL REMOVED”

“The eighth instance concerns Mr. Trump’s efforts to get Mc Gahn to dispute press accounts that the president had instructed him to try and get rid of Mueller. In early 2018, Mr. Trump told White House officials to tell Mc Gahn to rebut the stories, but Mc Gahn told the officials the stories were true. Mr. Trump then personally appealed to Mc Gahn, telling him in an Oval Office meeting to deny the reports. In the same meeting, the president also asked McGahn why he had told the special counsel about the president’s efforts to remove the Special Counsel and why McGahn took notes of his conversations with the president,” the report states. “McGahn refused to back away from what he remembered happening and perceived the president to be testing his mettle.”

9.”CONDUCT TOWARDS FLYNN, MANAFORT, [REDACTED]”

“The ninth instance stems from Mr. Trump’s response to the prosecutions of Flynn and Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman, as well as an individual whose identity was redacted. “After Flynn withdrew from a joint defense agreement with the president and began cooperating with the government, the president’s personal counsel left a message for Flynn ‘s attorneys reminding them of the president’s warm feelings towards Flynn, which he said ‘still remains,’ and asking for a ‘heads up’ if Flynn knew ‘information that implicates the president,’” the report states. When Flynn’s counsel reiterated that Flynn could no longer share information pursuant to a joint defense agreement, the president’s personal counsel said he would make sure that the president knew that Flynn’s actions reflected ‘hostility’ towards the president. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump praised Manafort during his “prosecution and when the jury in his criminal trial was deliberating. At one point, he praised Manafort as “a brave man” who refused to “break.”

10.”CONDUCT INVOLVING MICHAEL COHEN”

“The tenth and final instance of potential obstruction concerns Mr. Trump’s behavior toward Michael Cohen, his onetime personal lawyer. Mr. Trump profusely praised Cohen when he remained loyal to the administration, at one point personally calling to encourage him to “stay strong,” only to criticize him viciously when he began cooperating with the government. After the FBI searched Cohen’s home and office in April 2018, the president publicly asserted that Cohen would not ‘flip,’ contacted him directly to tell him to ‘stay strong,’ and privately passed messages of support to him,” the report states. Cohen also discussed pardons with the president’s personal counsel and believed that if he stayed on message, he would be taken care of. But after Cohen began cooperating with the government in the summer of 2018, the president publicly criticized him, called him a ‘rat,’ and suggested that his family members had committed crimes.”

You can review the full unedited CBS News report here:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/obstruction-of-justice-10-times-trump-may-have-obstructed-justice-mueller-report/

Mueller: Did Not Clear Trump, Could Not Indict Trump, Up To Congress Or Voters To Remove Trump

ALB City Councilors Isaac Benton and Pat Davis Both Need To Be Thanked For Their Service And Voted Out Of Office On November 5 And Replaced With True Progressives

Democrat City Councilors Isaac Benton and Pat Davis are seeking to be elected to another term on the Albuquerque city Council with the municipal election to be held on Tuesday, November 5, 2019. The November 5, 2019 election will be the first consolidated elections for the City of Albuquerque, which will include City Council elections and capital improvement bonds, the Villages of Tijeras and Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, the Albuquerque Public School Board, CNM, the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control District and the Ciudad Soil and Water Conservation Board. Voters will get one ballot for the races that pertain to them when they go to vote based on their voter registration.

ISAAC BENTON

Democrat Isaac (Ike) Benton is the District 2 City Councilor and was first elected to the council in 2005. Benton is a retired architect and avowed urbanist. Benton’s city council district includes a large area of downtown Central and the North Valley which leans left and is heavily Hispanic. Benton ran unopposed in 2015. Democrat (D) Isaac Benton has 5 opponents: Steve Baca (D), Joseph Griego (D), Robert Raymond Blanquera Nelson (D), Zack Quintero, (D) and Connie Vigil, an Independent.

PAT DAVIS

Democrat City Councilor Pat Davis was elected to the Albuquerque City Council on October 6, 2015 to represent District 6. District 6 encompasses the International District, Mesa Del Sol, Nob Hill, Southeast Heights, and the University of New Mexico. Last year, Davis ran unsuccessfully for US Congress in the First Congressional District. Davis withdrew from the race when he polled at 3% and could not raise the money to run a viable campaign. Before Davis withdrew from the congressional race, Davis had no problem accusing the then Democrat front runner former US Attorney Damon Martinez of being a “racist”, which was a lie, and Davis endorsed the eventual Democratic nominee who went on to become elected to congress. Democrat (D) Pat Davis has only one opponent: Gina Naomi Dennis a progressive Democrat, who is an attorney, a neighborhood activist and was a Bernie Sanders delegate to the Democratic Party National Convention in 2016.

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

You always know when it’s an election year when politicians call a press conference to announce new initiative’s and funding to please their constituents and curry favor to get back in the good graces of their constituents. What is pathetic is when those same politicians think that their constituents are so damn stupid or naïve not to realize their actions are to make amends for past positions and votes.

Albuquerque City Councilors Pat Davis and Isaac Benton are two such politicians running to be elected again to the Albuquerque City Council. Specific instances this past year alone where both have tried to get back in the good graces of their constituents include the following:

1. On May 3, 2019, Albuquerque City Councilors Isaac Benton and Pat Davis held a press conference to announce their proposal to invest up to $1.5 million in specific Central corridor “public safety” initiatives and marketing measures for the Nob Hill area affected by the ART Bus project. Included is $500,000 in one-time funding for grants to nonprofit business associations and merchant groups along the Nob Hill area central corridor. Many business owners and residents in Nob Hill along the Central Corridor where the ART Bus project was constructed have complained about repeated vandalism in the area and numerous break-ins resulting in the businesses having to spend money on expensive repairs and security measures. The only reason Benton and Davis supported investing up to $1.5 million in specific Central corridor for “public safety” initiatives and marketing measures for the Nob Hill area affected by the ART Bus project is that they hope their constituents will “forgive and forget” their past support of the ART Bus project and their refusal to place it on the ballot for a public vote.

2. On August 13, 2019 a mere 4 days after the Bernalillo County Commission enacted the county paid sick leave ordinance, Albuquerque City Councilors Pat Davis and Isaac Benton ordered an economic analysis of the paid sick leave legislation enacted by the county to see how it would work in Albuquerque. It was late in 2018 that Davis introduced a “paid sick leave” bill for the city council to consider. The paid sick leave ordinance has yet to have a committee hearing and make it to the full council for a vote. Davis said he knows his bill “lacks enough votes” on the nine-member council to pass it even though the council is controlled by a Democratic majority of 6 to 3 Republicans. Benton and Davis demand for an economic analysis of the paid sick leave should have been done long before Davis introduced his legislation and amounts to nothing more than a publicity stunt in an effort to shore up sagging support within their progressive Democratic districts so they can say all the right things to get media attention and for progressive Democrats to hear.

3. On August 16, Mayor Tim Keller issued an administrative executive order banning guns from city community centers and from the city’s health and social service centers. Not to be out done by Mayor Tim Keller, on Wednesday September 18, Albuquerque City Councilors Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, citing more than a dozen shootings that have occurred at government buildings and public meetings around the country in the past 22 years, introduced legislation to ban guns on city properties. The ordinance bans guns on “any city structure, building, or office space which is owned, leased or otherwise occupied by the City for purposes of hosting the public, or conducting business with the public”. The proposed ordinance would include City Hall, all parks, libraries, and any place the City Council, city commissions or elected officials are holding an open meeting.

Davis on his own also introduced two other gun-related bills:

The first requires gun owners to keep their firearms locked up when outside of their immediate possession and control. The proposed laws would require people in Albuquerque to keep their guns locked in a safe at home or with a secure device in the car when they are not with them.

The second would make it illegal to threaten mass violence in Albuquerque, including over social media, which Davis said would allow police to initiate investigations sooner than they now can.

All 3 of the proposed city ordinances likely violate the New Mexico Constitution prohibiting municipalities from enacting legislation regulating citizens “right to bear arms” under Article II, Section 6 of the Constitution of New Mexico” which states as follows:

“No law shall abridge the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms for security and defense, for lawful hunting and recreational use and for other lawful purposes, but nothing herein shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons. No municipality or county shall regulate, in any way, an incident of the right to keep and bear arms.”

The proposed city ordinances clearly exceed the authority of the Albuquerque City Council which is zero under the New Mexico Constitution. It is well settled case law that gun control measures are within the exclusive authority of the New Mexico legislature which has enacted gun control legislation and will be considering even more in the 2020 legislative session.

For more on New Mexico statutes and case law on gun control see:

https://www.petedinelli.com/2019/09/26/three-city-councilors-ignorant-on-gun-control-and-grand-stand-before-election-nm-law-and-court-rulings-on-gun-control/

TALK LIKE DEMOCRATS VOTE LIKE REPUBLICANS

Both Davis and Benton proclaim to be “progressive democrats”. However, their City Council voting records say otherwise. During the past four years, Albuquerque has suffered from record breaking high crime rates and the ART bus project without either Benton nor Davis even trying doing much to improve things, at least not until now when they want to be elected again.

There are at least 8 egregious specific votes Isaac Benton’s and Pat Davis’s that reveal the true voting record as going against core Democratic principles:

1.Councilors Benton and Davis voted repeatedly for and the disastrous ART Bus project that has destroyed the character of Route 66. Both refused to advocate to put the ART Bus project on the ballot for public approval. Benton and Davis voted to spend federal grant money that had yet to be appropriated by congress. The ART Bus project has been a total disaster resulting the destruction of the character of Route 66. ART has a negative impact on Central resulting in several businesses going out of business. Many central businesses and Nob Hill businesses, no longer exist because of the ART Bus Project.

2.Both Benton and Davis voted to use $13 million dollars in revenue bonds to pay for the ART Bus project. The revenue bonds were not voted upon by the public. It was reported that the Albuquerque City Council borrowed over $63 million dollars over a two-year period to build pickle ball courts, baseball fields and the ART bus project down central by bypassing the voters. The $65 million dollars was borrowed with the Albuquerque City Councilors voting to use revenue bonds as the financing mechanism to pay for big capital projects.

https://www.abqjournal.com/919263/revenue-bonds-find-favor-in-abq.html

3. The Albuquerque City Council plays a crucial oversight role of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) including controlling its budget. Benton and Davis did nothing when it comes to Albuquerque Police Department (APD) reforms and has never challenged the previous Administration and the former APD command staff in any meaningful way demanding compliance with the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree reforms. Each time the Federal Court appointed Monitor presented his critical reports of APD to the City Council, Benton and Davis remained silent. Both declined to demand accountability from the Mayor and hold the APD command staff responsible for dragging their feet on the reforms. Both Benton and Davis failed to attend any one of the federal court hearings on the consent decree.

4. Both Benton and Davis voted for the city ordinance amendments requiring equal pay for woman but failed to demand more. The amendments to the equal pay for woman ordinance sounded good and look good on paper but accomplished very little. The truth is that the equal pay for woman ordinance only applies to city contracts and those who do business with the city. The ordinance is voluntary and gives preferential treatment on city contracts to those who voluntarily comply. The equal pay for woman ordinance should apply to all businesses licensed to do business in Albuquerque, it should be mandatory for all businesses and enforced by city planning that issues business licenses and could be made so by the city council.

5. When he served on a task force to overhaul Albuquerque’s public fiancé laws, Pat Davis declined to advocate meaningful changes to our public finance laws making it easier for candidates to qualify for public finance. The only change both Davis and Benton agreed to was increasing the amount of money candidates get and not the process of collecting the donations to qualify and not expanding the time to collect qualifying donations. The lack of changes to the public finance laws favors incumbents like Davis and Benton.

6. Davis advocated for enactment of the Healthy Workforce ordinance by voters which would have mandate the pay of sick leave by employers and was always there for a photo op with those organizations who pushed to get it on the ballot. However, both Benton and Davis never demanded the City Attorney’s office enforce the existing Albuquerque minimum wage ordinance, even when workers were forced to sue their employers. Davis and Benton claim to be in favor of increasing the minimum wage, but they have never demanded the Mayor nor the City Attorney to enforce the current city ordinance enacted by voters with a 2 to 1 margin.

7. On July 2, 2018 Democrat Mayor Tim Keller vetoed the $2.6 million economic development package that would help Topgolf to construct a $39 million entertainment complex at the site of the former Beach Waterpark. Benton and Davis went along with the City Council voting 8-1 to give the incentives after a 9-0 veto override Keller’s veto of a resolution expressing the city councils support. A few weeks later, Both Benton and Davis again voted to override Democrat Mayor Keller’s veto of the funding. Rather than give the new Democrat Mayor the benefit of the doubt, Benton and Davis voted to overturn the veto, but never once voted to overturn a veto of the previous Republican Mayor.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1192145/keller-vetoes-topgolf-economic-development-package.html

8. The most egregious votes by Benton and Davis was that they voted for the final adoption of the ABC-Z comprehensive plan which will have long term impact on our neighborhoods and favors developers. The enactment of the comprehensive plan was a major priority of Republican Mayor Berry and the development community pushed hard for its enactment before Berry left office. The ABC-Z project rewrite was nothing more than making “gentrification” an official city policy and the “gutting” of long-standing sector development plans by the development community to repeal those sector development plans designed to protect neighborhoods and their character. Benton, a retired architect knew better but refused to intervene on behalf of neighborhood interests.

Pat Davis has only one opponent after so many in the Nob Hill business area complained about him not listening to them and voting repeatedly against the area’s best interests. At one time, an effort was undertaken to initiate a recall against Davis, but nothing ever materialized.

What people should be sick of are Democrats acting and talking like Republicans especially after they get elected to positions like City Council and arguing that they are being “nonpartisan”. Both City Councilors Isaac Benton and Pat Davis will say that they have done a great job as City Councilors by acting “non-partisan” and they needed to cooperate with Republicans to get things done, even though Democrats now hold a majority of 6-3 on the City Council and even though the Mayor is a Democrat.

There is a significant difference between cooperating and working with other elected officials from the opposite party and then being hypocritical and going against your own basic political philosophy of what you believe to be true and then turning around and acting and voting against that what you claim to believe in. What would be disappointing is if Davis and Benton are elected again saying they are Progressives Democrats when in fact they vote like conservative Republicans.

Any of those running against Davis and Benton would better serve voters of District 2 and 6. City Councilors Benton and Davis need to be thanked for their service and voted out of office. If their constituents “forgive and forget” they deserve the representation they get for another 4 years and cease any complaints of two city counselors ignoring what they want and who promote their own personal agendas and political careers.

“APD Party Patrols” No Solution To Teenager Murders, Gangs and Drugs

On Sunday, September 29, 17-year-old Sean Markey, a senior at Sandia High School, was shot while at a high school homecoming party. APD received multiple calls about gunshots and officers responded to several calls of shots fired in the 3900 block of Garcia, near Montgomery and Eubank. Markey was rushed to Presbyterian Kaseman Hospital by a friend and the teenager later died.

In September alone, 5 teenagers were shot and killed in four incidents across the city. An APD spokesman said he did not know how many teenagers have been shot during parties this year, but “we have identified 20 shooting incidents tied to house parties.”

According to APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos:

“Over the last several weeks, we have noticed an uptick in the number of house parties throughout the city that have resulted in dangerous and deadly gunfire. … We [are seeing] … both the offenders and victims in a lot of these cases are teenagers involved in this deadly violence. … It is hard to stomach. … These are our kids. They shouldn’t be in that position, either side, they shouldn’t have a gun, and they shouldn’t be in that kind of confrontation. … One of the things we’re immediately moving toward is holding the owners of these homes accountable for providing alcohol to minors. … We want parents to be responsible and to look out for their kids. ” Gallegos added that authorities will be exploring whether adults could be prosecuted if they know there are guns at a party.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1372815/sandia-high-school-senior-killed-at-homecoming-party.html

PARTY PATROL PROPOSED

Just a few days after the murder of the Sandia High teenager, Albuquerque City Councilors Trudy Jones, Ken Sanchez and Brad Winter announced a proposal to renew and finance APD’s “party patrol” program that existed in the early 2000’s but was discontinued in 2007. The 3 city councilors are proposing $150,000 to provide funding and to renew the party patrol program.

Under the “Party Patrol” program, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) officers would work special overtime shifts to specifically answer party calls. APD would issue citations to underage partiers and call their parents. Councilor Winter said he was uncertain exactly how APD would run the program now, including whether it would issue citations to those found drinking under age 21.

According to Councilor Winter:

“I think the administration needs to look at what part of [the party patrol program] worked and didn’t work and adjust it”.

Mayor Tim Keller’s administration made it clear it has no intent on duplicating the old strategy. APD Police Chief Michael Geier said in a statement:

“To be clear, we are not bringing back the same ‘Party Patrol’ of the past that mainly targeted teen drinking, but rather working with the community on teen violence intervention”.

The Keller administration, including police and city attorneys, are in the process of deciding on the details of the program, including using a totally different name. Keller’s office announced plans for what it wants to call a “Youth Violence Intervention” strategy. It is a strategy that incorporates police and social services, including supporting diversion programs for young offenders and programs that “build relationships between youth and first responders” according to a news release.

HISTORY OF APD PARTY PATROL

City Councilor Brad Winter is credited for starting the Party Patrol in 2001. At the time, Winter was an assistant principal at La Cueva High School. As a City Councilor, he went to APD when he heard there was a lot of underage drinking happening around the city.

The original APD “Party Patrol” used federal and city council appropriations to pay 12 police officers overtime every Friday and Saturday night to check out calls about loud parties. The dozen officers were broken up into two teams, one for the East Side and one for the West Side. When a person called 911 and complained about a loud party, APD would dispatch the Party Patrol and APD would go straight to the party to see if there was underage drinking. APD would issue the kids “minor in possession of alcohol” citations and arrested the homeowner for giving alcohol to minors.

APD went so far as to advertise the Party Patrol and bought billboards, took out radio commercials and used a “hearse” to advertise that the Party Patrol was going to be out. In its advertising APD used the phrase “Party Meet Poopers” and showed a police officer or an APD badge with the words Party Patrol on it.

The party patrol became very controversial. Critics of the party patrol program objected to the early practice of citing all underage kids at a party, regardless of whether they were drinking or in possession of alcohol. APD eventually stopped the practice. In 2007, a civil rights lawsuit was filed and a federal judge ruled that party patrol officers who entered a home without a search warrant had violated the owner’s constitutional rights.

At the height the program, the Party Patrol was giving out about 2,000 citations a year. The Party Patrol busted up hundreds of parties, wrote thousands of citations and the affect was teenagers were scared to go out drinking. Eventually, the APD party patrol was stopped in part because of the federal lawsuit and in part a victim of its own success. Program funding stopped and there were not enough officers to assign to it.

George Luján, the executive director of the South West Organizing Project, expressed concerns about reinstating APD party patrols, and about officers arresting and citing teenagers and had this to say about bringing Party Patrols back:

“I would say that that would fall under the category of a recycled, failed idea that we tried before and it didn’t work. … I think a lot of us are worried about our kids and the safety of young people. But we have to be sure that we don’t fall into these traps where, in the pursuit of safety, we do more harm than good.”

https://www.koat.com/article/do-cops-need-to-become-party-poopers-again/29357535

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/albuquerque-city-councilor-wants-to-bring-back-regular-party-patrols/5512395/

GANGS AT THE CENTER OF DRUG AND GUN VIOLENCE

On May 24, 2019, it was reported by APD that gangs are driving much of the drug and gun violence crime and that city gangs are at the center of much of the city’s gun violence and drug trafficking. The report showed that APD can barely keep up with the problem and gave a summary of a number of gang and drug related murders, including teenager murders.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1321616/apd-makes-several-arrests-in-crackdown-on-gun-violence.html

The story reported something law enforcement has known for decades and that is gangs are a serious problem in New Mexico. In July 1990 the New Mexico Judicial Council did a survey that queried 30 local law enforcement agencies across the State on the extent of gang activity in their jurisdictions. The 16 responding agencies identified 127 gangs statewide with an estimated membership of between 4,200 and 5,800. A total of 111 of these gangs are in Albuquerque and comprise the majority of the total gang membership.

Evidence indicates that 80% of the State’s street gangs are involved in narcotics trafficking. Twenty percent of reported crimes committed by gang members are narcotics violations, 36% are violent crimes, and 40% are property crimes. Of the 111 Albuquerque gangs, 61 are Hispanic, 31 black, and 19 white.

https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=130829

Fast forward to October 15, 2012. It was reported that the then Mayor responded to rising violent crime rates by tripling the size of its Gang Unit to a fifteen-member team split into a plain-clothes squad dedicated to undercover investigative work and a uniformed task force to patrol the entire city of Albuquerque. According to APD at the time, there were as many as 246 active gangs in Albuquerque at the time and a total of 7,700 documented gang members.

https://underabq.tumblr.com/post/33669501709/gangs-of-albuquerque

TEENS, GANGS, DRUGS AND GUN VIOLENCE

APD has not said if the murder of 17-year-old Sean Markey was gang or drug related or if it was a drive by gang shooting. Notwithstanding, the murder does fit a definite pattern of a gang related drive by shooting and with what is going on with teenagers in Albuquerque.

According to APD Commander Mizel Garcia, commander of APD’s Special Investigations Division Gang Unit, gang activity is at the center of much of Albuquerque’s gun violence and the trafficking of narcotics.

The following recent reported murders support the point of drugs and gangs as being at the center of the problem:

In December, 2018, 15-year-old Collin Romero and 14-year-old Ahmed Lateef went reported missing on the west mesa. Weeks later, Sandoval County authorities found the boys dead in a shallow grave. Investigators say two Albuquerque teens were tortured and killed over marijuana. The Office of Medical Investigators (OMI) autopsy reports revealed that 15-year-old Romero was shot nine times and he was beaten and stabbed in his joints. 14 year old Lateef was shot 19 times. Police say 19-year-old Stephen Goldman is the suspect in the murders.

https://www.krqe.com/news/crime/autopsy-reports-reveal-grisly-details-about-murders-of-albuquerque-teens/

On April 10, APD detectives arrested Ryan Winter, 46, and his three children, who APD police say are gang members, Keith, 16, Kevin, 16, and Faith, 17, in connection with the vicious beating of a man and a woman on Feb. 9. Allegedly, the family tracked down the victims after a fight between Faith Winter and others, including the female victim. The Winters beat the woman with a gun and shoved a shotgun in the man’s face outside a gas station.

On April 16, APD detectives arrested Donald Crapse “a self-admitted motorcycle gang member” after allegedly witnessing him snort drugs outside a southwest Albuquerque home during a surveillance operation.

On May 7, police arrested Cesar Marquez and Adrian Marquez after APD received a call of a juvenile running around with a gun in a Walmart parking lot. According to a police spokesman “As officers entered the parking lot they heard multiple gunshots. ” Police found the 2 men in a blue Ford Mustang and identified Adrian Marquez as the suspect who fired off shots. Inside the car, detectives found a loaded gun and an ounce of cocaine.

On May 9, APD Detectives arrested Chris Salcido after a month’s long investigation alleging that he is gang member involved in several shootings and a “driver of crime and gun violence.” Salcido was caught at a southwest Albuquerque home after a standoff with police. Inside the home, they found three ounces of cocaine, two pistols and an assault rifle that had been reported stolen. Salcido has also been tied to several shootings and associated with 36 calls for service, including shots fired, suspected narcotics trafficking and aggravated battery.

On May 9, police arrested Dana LaMonda and Juan Carlos Pacheco at a home in southwest Albuquerque after following up on reports of possible gang activity and suspected ties to several shootings. LaMonda was booked on a felony warrant for aggravated burglary of a firearm and Pacheco for separate charges.

On September 14, it was reported that 5 people were murdered and at least five injured in connection with three shootings in Albuquerque. APD Police said 3 of the 5 victims that were murdered were teens. Police identified them as Daniel Alexis Baca (17), Victoria Cereceres (16), and Noah Tafoya (18). The two other adults who died were identified as Christine Baca (36), and Manuelita Sotelo (77). The friends of 17 year old Daniel Alex Baca said friends said he died because of “the life he chose” and that was drug dealing and drugs.
For news coverage see:

https://www.koat.com/article/six-people-dead-in-separate-shootings-in-albuquerque/29029926

https://www.abqjournal.com/1321616/apd-makes-several-arrests-in-crackdown-on-gun-violence.html

https://www.krqe.com/news/crime/autopsy-reports-reveal-grisly-details-about-murders-of-albuquerque-teens/

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

If only Albuquerque was the same as it was from 2001 to 2007 when the Party Patrol first existed and violent crime was down and one of APD’s biggest worries was underage drinking at high school homecoming and graduation parties. Albuquerque’s biggest worry in 2019 and going into 2020 is drugs, gangs and gun violence.

Albuquerque City Councilors Trudy Jones, Ken Sanchez and Brad Winter have good intentions but are kidding themselves if they believe that the problem is alcohol and guns used by high school teenagers. Bringing back a version of the “party patrol” from nearly 20 years ago in which APD was dispatched to break up house parties, issue misdemeanor citations to underage partygoers and calling parents to pick up their children is simply not going to cut it.

In recent months before civic groups such as the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks (NAIOP), the Economic Forum and the Albuquerque Bar Association, Mayor Tim Keller has produced charts, graphs and statistics showing that violent crime is indeed in all parts of the City and not confined to any particular area of the City. One chart used is a series of red dots showing crime sites and reflects the city literally bathed in red dots throughout. Crime may be down according to FBI statistics, but the crime rates have gotten so out of control that even after progress of reducing our crime statistics are still extremely high. Albuquerque still has some of the highest crime rates for murder and violent crimes in the country.

The Keller Administration and Chief Michael Geier have said they are disinclined to revive the party patrol, which had mixed results and resulted in civil rights violations. Chief’s Geier’s reluctance is noteworthy because 19 years ago he was the APD Captain in charge of the party patrol, and although he defended its work at the time, he does understand how it operated and more importantly its weaknesses.

The Keller Administration rightly is considering a more holistic approach involving law enforcement, social services and the community to deal with the cycle of violence with more youth programs and more services that give back a sense of trust, hope and support to the community. It is commendable that such an approach is being taken, but no doubt it will take years to show any affect.

The City Council needs to step aside and let APD do its job. APD needs to again increase the size of the gang and narcotics unit and initiate an aggressive and unrelenting number of tactical plans against the city’s gangs and widespread drug dealing to the youth of our community. Fugitive warrant sweeps would be a good start.

The Albuquerque Public School System (APS) has its own police force employing many retirees and former law enforcement officials assigned to the individual schools. You would think APS security would know the students and have insightful information about high school parties. If there is a high school party problem involving alcohol use, APS could initiate its own Party Patrol Program during homecomings and graduation season. APD also provides police officers to the schools. The Albuquerque Public School System and APS Security along with APD assigned to the schools could implement APS “party patrol” to deal with high school homecoming parties, graduation parties and other high school related parties involving the individual schools.

Until APD acts more aggressively to curb gang violence and narcotics dealing to our youth, parents of teenagers and residents can expect to see more teen killings followed by outrage, more candlelight vigils, more funerals, more condolences, more rhetoric demanding action and more promises never kept.

2019 ABQ City Council Candidates And Issues

The Local Election Act (LEA) was passed by the New Mexico Legislature in 2018. The Local Election Act provides for consolidated local elections to be conducted in New Mexico.

The upcoming November 5, 2019 election will be the first consolidated elections for the City of Albuquerque, which will include City Council elections and capital improvement bonds, the Villages of Tijeras and Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, the Albuquerque Public School Board, CNM, the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control District and the Ciudad Soil and Water Conservation Board. Voters will get one ballot for the races that pertain to them when they go to vote based on their voter registration.

ALBUQUERQUE CITY COUNCIL RACES

There are 4 Albuquerque City Council races that will be on the November 5, ballot:

City Council District 2 is the city-center district encompassing downtown, old town, parts of the University of New Mexico and the entire valley east of the river and is heavily Hispanic. District 2 incumbent City Councilor Isaac Benton has 5 opponents who qualified for the ballot seeking to replace him. The candidates are: Steve Baca (D), Joseph Griego (D), Robert Raymond Blanquera Nelson (D), Zack Quintero, (D) and Connie Vigil, (I).

City Council District 4 is Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights District now represented by Republican Brad Winter who is not running for another term. District 4 has candidates who qualified for the ballot and running to replace Brad Winter. Those candidates are: Athena Ann Christodoulou, Democrat Ane C. Romero and Republican Brook L. Bassan

City Council District 6, Albuquerque’s Southeast Heights encompassing the University of New Mexico, Nob Hill and the International District Hill and the International District. District 6 is represented by Democrat City Councilor Pat Davis and he has one opponent and she is Democrat Gina Naomi Dennis who is an attorney, neighborhood activists and who was a Bernie Sanders delegate in 2016 to the Democratic National Convention.

City Council District 8 is Albuquerque’s District 8, Far Northeast Heights and Foothills represented by Republican City Councilor Trudy Jones who is running for another term on the council. Jones has one challenger and she is Democrat S. Maurreen Skowran who qualified for public financing. Trudy Jones has elected to finance her campaign with private financing and has never sought public financing of her campaigns.

QUESTIONS AND ISSUES

All too often, city council races are ignored by many voters and the campaigns do not really heat up until the very last month of the campaign. Most city council races are won with direct voter contact and candidates going “door to door” looking for support and votes. With this in mind below are areas of concern and a few questions that could be addressed at candidate forums and when a candidates go door to door:

GUN CONTROL

The City Council has 3-gun control ordinances now pending:

One ordinance bans all guns on “any city structure, building, or office space which is owned, leased or otherwise occupied by the City for purposes of hosting the public, or conducting business with the public”. The proposed ordinance would include City Hall, all parks, libraries, and any place the City Council, city commissions or elected officials are holding an open meeting. The Mayor has issued and executive order banning guns on municipal property.

The second would require gun owners to keep their firearms locked up when outside of their immediate possession and control. The proposed laws would require people in Albuquerque to keep their guns locked in a safe at home or with a secure device in the car when they are not with them.

The third would make it illegal to threaten mass violence in Albuquerque, including over social media.

1. What is your position on all 3 pending ordinances and how would you vote?

2. Do you feel the Albuquerque City Council should enact gun control legislation seeing that exclusive authority on gun control is given to the New Mexico legislature and municipalities are barred by the New Mexico constitutions from enacting such legislation?

LEGALIZATION OF RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA

In the event the New Mexico legislature enacts legalization of the recreational use of marijuana, do you feel municipalities should still have the option to opt out of allowing it in the community or have zoning authority over businesses who sell recreational marijuana?

APD AND CRIME:

1.The Albuquerque City Council plays a crucial oversight role of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) including approving its budget. What oversight role do you believe the Albuquerque City Council should play when it come to the Albuquerque Police Department (APD)?

2. What is your position on the APD and the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree and mandated reforms?

3. Should the City seek to renegotiate or set aside the terms and conditions of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) and if so why?

4. Should the City Council by ordinance create a Department of Public Safety with the appointment of a Chief Public Safety Officer to assume management and control of the Albuquerque Police Department, the Albuquerque Fire Department, the Emergency Operations Center and the 911 emergency operations call center?

5. Should the function of Internal Affairs be removed from APD and “civilianized” under the City Office of Inspector General, the Internal Audit Department and the City Human Resources Department?

6. What are your plans for increasing APD staffing levels and what should those staffing levels be?

7. Should APD staffing be “work load” based or “population” based?

8. How do you feel the Albuquerque City Council can enhance civilian oversight of APD and the implementation of the Department of Justice mandated reforms?

9. Since 2010, there have been 41 police officer involved shootings and the city has paid out $60 million to settle deadly force and excessive use of force cases, with all settlements negotiated by the City Attorney’s office and the Mayor’s Office . Do you feel the City Council should have representation on the City Risk Management Committee that approves settlements or have ultimate and final authority to approve settlements?

10. Should the City return to a “no settlement” policy involving alleged police misconduct cases and require a trial on the merits or a damages jury trial?

11. What are your plans or solutions to bringing down high property and violent crime rates in your district and Albuquerque and does your plan include community-based policing?

12. Should APD personnel or APD resources be used in any manner to enforce federal immigration laws and assist federal immigration authorities?

13. Should the City of Albuquerque consolidate law enforcement and fire services with Bernalillo County and create a single agency under one governing authority?

14. Should the City Council reinstate the “red light camera” program where civil traffic citations are issued to combat and reduce red light violations and intersection traffic accidents?

THE ALBUQUERQUE ECONOMY:

1.What strategy or policies should the Albuquerque City Council implement to bring new industries, corporations and jobs to Albuquerque?

2. Albuquerque’s major growth industries include health care, transportation, manufacturing, retail and tourism with an emerging film industry. What should the City Council do to help or enhance or grow these industries?

3. To what extent should the Albuquerque City Council use tax increment districts, industrial revenue bonds and income bonds to spur Albuquerque’s economy?

5. What financial incentives do you feel the city can or should offer and provide to the private sector to attract new industry and jobs to Albuquerque, and should the Albuquerque City Council implement a policy that includes start-up grants or loans with “claw back” provisions?

6. What sort of private and public partnership agreements or programs should the City Council promote to spur economic development?

7. What sort of major projects or facilities, such as a multi-purpose arena or event center, if any, should the City Council consider to spur economic development or downtown redevelop? Should such a project be placed upon the ballot for voter approval?

8. What programs can the City Council implement to better coordinate its economic development with the University of New Mexico and the Community College of New Mexico (CNM) to insure an adequately trained workforce for new employers locating to Albuquerque?

9. Are you in favor of the enactment of a gross receipt tax or property tax dedicated strictly to economic development, programs or construction projects to revitalize Albuquerque that would be enacted by the City Council or be voter approved?

11. What programs can the Albuquerque City Council enact to implement to insure better cooperation with Sandia Labs and the transfer of technology information for economic development?

CITY PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT:

1. On June 16, 2014, the Albuquerque City Council by a unanimous vote of 9 to 0 approved and adopted R-14-23 entitled “Railyards Master Development Plan and Site Development Plan” for the rail yards. The 3 separate development proposals are being considered: low density development, medium density development and a high-density development. One financial report projects $50 million will be needed for the low-density development, $55 million preparation work for the medium density and $80 million for high density development. What is your position on the Railyards redevelopment?

2. What is your position on the two-year rewrite of the City’s comprehensive plan known as ABC-Z project now known as the integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) which is an attempt to bring “clarity and predictability” to the development regulations and to attract more “private sector investment”? Many sector development plans designed to protect the historical nature of neighborhood have now been repealed by IDO and ctitics of the IDO plan claim it is “gentrification” made official policy of the city and that it has reduced neighborhood input on zoning and development.

3. What do you feel the Albuquerque City Council can do to promote “infill development” and would it include the City acquiring property to be sold to developers and the formation of public/private partnerships?

4. What do you feel the City Council can do to address vacant residential and commercial properties that have been declared “substandard” by city zoning and unfit for occupancy?

5. Should the City of Albuquerque seek the repeal by the New Mexico legislature of laws that prohibits City and City Council resolutions annexation of property without county approval?

6. What is your position on City and County consolidation for all government services, including zoning and development?

7. What plan do you propose to deal with abandoned and vacant properties that have become magnets for crime?

8. The installation of “roundabouts” is being considered in a number of areas of the city. Do you feel roundabout are a viable traffic control option?

CAMPAIGN PUBLIC FINANCE REFORM

1. If you did not participate in the city campaign finance system to receive funding to run your campaign, why not?

2. Do feel that the city’s campaign finance laws should be repealed?

3. Are you in favor of the “Dollars for Democracy” program where city voting residents would be given “city vouchers” of upwards of $25 that voters can give to candidates for office and the candidates can redeem the vouchers with the city?

4. Currently, only 6 weeks are allowed to collect $5.00 qualifying donations for public financing. Do you feel that the city campaign finance laws should be changed to allow upwards of 4 months to collect the $5.00 qualifying donations?

5. Do you feel candidates should be allowed to collect qualifying donations from anyone who wants, and not just residents or registered voters of Albuquerque. Privately finance candidates now can collect donations from anyone they want and anywhere in the State and Country?

EDUCATION:

1. Should the City of Albuquerque have representation or be included on the Albuquerque School board, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents and the Community College of New Mexico Board?

2. What should the City do, if anything, to help reduce high school dropout rates?

3. Should the City of Albuquerque advocate to the New Mexico legislature increasing funding for early child care development programs and intervention programs with increased funding from the permanent fund?

4. What education resources should or can the City make available to the Albuquerque school system?

THE HOMELESS:

1. What should be done to reduce the homeless population in Albuquerque in your District?

2. What services should the City provide to the homeless and the poor if any?

3. Should the City continue to support the “coming home” program?

4. What is your position on the funding and locating “Tiny Home” housing to be offered to the homeless within city limits as what is being done by the county?

5. Should the city be more involved with the county in providing mental health care facilities and programs?

6. Do you feel a zoning “cap” should be placed on the number of homeless shelters in each city council district?

7. Are you in favor of centralized or decentralized services and health care for the homeless?

8. Are you in favor of the city’s proposal for the construction of a homeless shelter and the enactment of the bonds for the project that will house upwards of 350 homeless?

9. The city’s panhandler ordinance was struck down by the federal court as a violation of first amendment rights. What do you feel needs or can to be done to curb and reduce panhandling?

PROJECT PLANNING AND FUNDING:

1.The Albuquerque Rapid Transit Project (ART) is a $129 million-dollar project including $69 million Federal Transportation (FTA) grant. Should ART project be abandoned, the bus platforms removed and Central restored to its orginal traffic flow?

2.Do you feel that all increases in gross receipts taxes should be voter approved?

3. The City Council has approved over $63 million dollars over the past two years to build “pickle ball” courts, baseball fields and the ART bus project down central by bypassing voters and using revenue bonds as the financing mechanism to pay for big capital projects. Do you feel revenue bonds is an appropriate funding mechanism for large capital improvement projects?

ANIMAL WELFARE

1.. What is your position on the City’s “catch and release” program for feral cat’s that upon being caught by the city’s Animal Welfare Department, they are spade or neutered and then released?

2. What would you do to promote dog and cat adoptions or should the city euthanize all animals after a thirty (30) day hold?

3. What is your familiarity with the HEART ordinance and do you feel it is too restrictive and should it be amended or repealed?

OTHER INITIATIVES:

1. What is your position on the mandatory sick leave initiative mandating private businesses, no matter the size of the business, to pay sick leave to employees?

2. Should the City Council by resolution instruct the City Attorney’s office enforce the increase in the minimum wage enacted by voters?

3. Should the City Council by resolution instruct the City Attorney’s office to enforce the mandatory sick leave initiative if it is enacted?

4. Are you in favor of increasing public financing for Mayoral and City Council candidates or should Albuquerque’s public finance laws be repealed by the City Council?

5. Do you feel changes to the city public finance laws should be made expanding the time frame to collect contributions and making it easier for candidates for Mayor and City Council to qualify for public finance?

6. Do you intend to ask for or rely upon your political party affiliation to promote your candidacy for City Council?

7. Should major capital improvement projects such as the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project (ART), be placed on the ballot for voter approval and should there be a specified amount before a public vote is required?

8. The City Council has enacted a resolution making it an “Immigrant friendly” city. Should Albuquerque be a “sanctuary city?”

9.Should the issue of Albuquerque becoming a “sanctuary city” be placed on the ballot for voter approval?

10. All municipal elections in the State of New Mexico are supposed to be none partisan. Notwithstanding, should the City Clerk be required to disclose party affiliation of candidates running for municipal office on the ballot?

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Each City Council District has approximately 75,000 residents. Historically, only 2,000 to 4,000 votes are cast in each City Council District. Low voter turnout in city elections with any luck will be a thing of the past with the municipal elections moved from October to November and with the consolidated election ballot.

Each vote can and does make a difference. Voters should demand and expect more from candidates than fake smiles, slick campaign flyers, and no solutions and no ideas. Our City needs more than promises of better economic times and lower crime rates for Albuquerque.

Voters need to demand answers and find out what candidates really stand for and what they intend to do once elected. Unless you vote, real change can never occur and if you do not vote you have no business complaining about the condition of our city.

Please vote on Tuesday, November 5 and get involved.