The “FinCen files” story reveals: getting caught doesn’t stop banks from taking dirty money. It may even encourage them
On December 11, 2012, U.S. Justice Department officials called a press conference in Brooklyn. The key players were once and future bank lawyer Lanny Breuer (disguised at the time as Barack Obama’s Assistant Attorney General in charge of the DOJ’s Criminal Division), and Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and future Attorney General. The duo revealed that HSBC, the largest bank in Europe, had agreed to a $1.9 billion settlement for years of money-laundering offenses.
An alphabet soup of regulatory agencies was represented that day, from the Justice Department, to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Treasury, the New York County District Attorney, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, among others.
The regulators outlined a slew of admissions, with HSBC’s headline offense being the laundering of $881 million for Central and South American drug outfits, including the infamous Sinaloa cartel.
The laundering was so brazen, regulators said, the bank’s Mexican subsidiary had developed “specially shaped boxes” for cartels to pack with cash and slide through teller windows. The seemingly massive fine reflected serious offenses, including violations of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA).
The next years would follow up with a flurry of similar settlements extracting sizable-sounding fees from other transnational banks for laundering money on behalf of terrorists, sanctioned businesses, mobsters, drug dealers, and other malefactors. Firms like JP Morgan Chase ($1.7 billion), Standard Chartered ($300 million), and Deutsche Bank ($258 million) were soon announcing settlements either for laundering, sanctions violations, or both.
Even seasoned financial reporters accustomed to seeing soft-touch settlements scratched their heads at some of the deals. In the case of HSBC, the stiffest penalty doled out to any individual for the biggest drug-money-laundering case in history — during which time HSBC had become the “preferred financial institution” of drug traffickers, according to the Justice Department — involved an agreement to “partially defer bonus compensation for its most senior executives.” If bankers can’t get time for washing money for people who put torture videos on the internet, what can they get time for?
When I did a story on the case in early 2013, I found the HSBC settlement was the latest step in a dizzying, decade-plus cycle of offenses and ignored reprimands, involving multiple regulatory bodies. The number of times HSBC had blown off compliance orders seemed too absurd to be real. In one stretch between 2005 and 2006, the bank received (and, apparently, ignored) 30 formal warnings just from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Prosecutors insisted the deferred prosecution settlements slapped on companies like HSBC, Standard Chartered, and JP Morgan Chase were tougher than jail terms. The deals would place banks in a permanent state of quasi-arrest, with regulators granted enormous supervisory power and serious charges pre-filed and hanging over the firms going forward.
As one federal investigator put it to me back then, “This way, we have them by the short ones.”
Fast-forward eight years. On September 20th, a combination of Buzzfeed and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published the details of a major document leak highlighting a decade of money-laundering incidents, involving hundreds of billions of dollars and a number of the world’s biggest banks. The leak centered on a cache of over two thousand “suspicious activity reports,” or SARs, filed by those banks to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a regulatory arm of the U.S. Treasury.
Though the ICIJ was also behind the release of the Panama Papers, investigative editor Michael Hudson told me he believes the FinCen leak is “the most important” project they’ve worked on. Instead of being about one group of actors, or one jurisdiction, these revelations span the banking sector as a whole.
“It shows the widest set of problems,” he says.
The story has been covered around the world, but some press accounts particularly here in the States seem to have missed the punchline, i.e. that the banks figuring most prominently in the FinCen leak are exactly the same institutions paraded before the public as subjects of “message-sending” punishments back in 2012-2014.
HSBC, for instance, continued to take in questionable money through 2012 and beyond, including $30 million from Hong Kong accounts related to a Ponzi scheme called World Capital Market. WCM was suspected of bilking “investors” — most of them ordinary people scraping together five or ten thousand dollars and throwing them at false promises of guaranteed returns — of nearly $80 million.
The leaked records show HSBC flagged the account as suspicious as early as 2013, but continued to take the money from this and a wide variety of other dicey accounts. Although regulators saw all of this information, the Department of Justice not only didn’t take action, it announced in 2017 that HSBC had “lived up to all of its commitments” and agreed to file a motion to lift the deferred prosecution deal.
A similar pattern held with JP Morgan Chase, which in 2013 was hit with a cease and desist order over “systemic deficiencies” in its money-laundering controls, yet continued to do business with rogue accounts, including some infamous and obvious ones. To give some sense of the sums involved, JPM made roughly a half-billion dollars just servicing the accounts for con artist Bernie Madoff.
As far back as 2006, JP Morgan Chase knew enough to pull its own money out of investments in hedge funds tied to Madoff, but never told investors, and continued to manage his accounts for years. The bank ultimately settled with the government over the Madoff episode in 2014, after the 2013 “cease and desist” order, while continuing to manage money for other malodorous accounts — including, according to the ICIJ, more than $1 billion for Jho Low, the fugitive financier behind Malaysia’s infamous 1MDB fund.
In a detail that should infuriate the #Resistance crowd, Jamie Dimon’s bank also continued to do business in huge sums for former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort even after Manafort stepped down in scandal, and even after the bank flagged Manafort’s accounts. From the ICIJ report:
JPMorgan also processed more than $50 million in payments over a decade, the records show, for Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager for President Donald Trump. The bank shuttled at least $6.9 million in Manafort transactions in the 14 months after he resigned from the campaign amid a swirl of money laundering and corruption allegations spawning from his work with a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.
“If you look at the cases where they tried to punish and deter the big banks, the headline-making efforts just haven’t worked,” says Hudson. “In the aftermath of these supposed crackdowns, the banks continued to move money in staggering amounts, for powerful and dangerous characters.”
“The big takeaway is, the system just doesn’t work,” adds former federal prosecutor Paul Pelletier. “I think these SARs represent about $2 trillion in suspicious transactions, and nearly all of it went through. And this is just a small fraction of the overall amount of money.”
According to Hudson, the FinCen files represent about two-tenths of one percent of the suspicious activity reports filed between 2011 and 2017.
In the aftermath of the HSBC deal in 2012, money laundering cases began to attract a fair amount of press attention. HSBC’s case even became one of the subjects for Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney’s “Dirty Money” series:
At the time, there was an expectation that these stories could be told in the past tense, because firms like HSBC had been busted. The FinCen leaks show the opposite. The settlements may actually have been an accelerant, allowing for the appearance of regulation, while alerting banks to broader weaknesses that encouraged more brazen behavior going forward. We may have to change the way we think about “dirty money,” from being an outside contaminant, to endemic to the system at its core.
Public legend about movement of ill-gotten cash usually centers on crooks sitting under ceiling fans in tropical locales, receiving mysterious wire transfers in places outside the physical reach of American regulators, like Vanuatu, Panama, or the British Virgin Islands. The FinCen leaks make clear the real hub of money laundering is in what Hudson calls the “choke point” of New York, where the world’s largest financial institutions have streamlined the process of moving shady money.
SARs don’t always indicate a crime. They’re the regulatory equivalent of a call to police to check something out that doesn’t add up. Bank monitors who compile them might be spotting something in their account rolls like high numbers of cash transactions, large numbers of wire transfers to a country where the customer doesn’t do business, etc.
The requirement to produce these reports creates a cat-and-mouse game for banks. Every time compliance officers discover derogatory information that leads to an account being closed, it’s a direct hit to a bank’s revenues. On the other hand, to keep regulators off their backs, banks have to be seen to be doing all they can to sniff out illegalities. Therefore there’s an incentive for banks to cycle through creative ways of looking like they’re engaging in compliance, without actually doing so.
A bank might create sizable AML departments, but pad them with inexperienced, entry-level employees incapable of spotting problems (see here for the HSBC example I wrote about years ago). A firm may hire a top-of-the-line department head, but not give him or her real resources. Required hiring boxes may be checked, but the company may non-report or under-report problems. Companies may even generate huge numbers of suspicious activity reports while leaving key data like names or addresses missing.
In a different scenario, reports are filed too late for action to be taken. SARs are supposed to be filed within 30 days, for instance, but the FinCen documents were filed to the government an average of 166 days after the initial detection of a potential problem.
In another stalling method, banks informally agree not to close suspicious accounts until a certain number of SARs have accrued. When the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations looked at HSBC in 2012, for instance, they found internal emails from bank executives suggesting that HSBC’s Mexico operations had settled on a policy of not closing accounts until four SARs had been filed.
When the company’s chief compliance officer found out about its subsidiary HMEX’s standard, he wrote, in a bemused tone, “4 SARs seems awfully indulgent, even by local standards.” HMEX later cut the standard to two SARs, which seems to be the exception rather than the rule. In the FinCen leaks, companies are seen repeatedly filing reports about the same actor, each time implying they’ve dug just enough to write a report, but never quite enough to actually close the account.
Of course, in banking, size matters. “Maybe the bank looks at a wire transfer and says, ‘This smells.’ Do that in a $12,000 transaction, and they’ll kick you out of the bank,” says Pelletier. “Do it at $12 million, and they’ll let it go.”
What’s unique about this leak it shows bad behavior the banks actually reported. As one former investigator put it this week, “This is the stuff they actually have a suspicious activity report for!” That banks keep taking the money is bad, but the fact that regulators keep receiving the reports and letting shady transactions slide makes the dirty-money problem a bizarre symbiosis of private rapaciousness and (at best) governmental apathy.
While credit card companies are able to detect fraud and banks are able to detect suspicious activity thanks to technological advances, the government lacks the same capability, in part perhaps because the reporting system is not automated. Since it’s a crime to leak a “SAR” — you “literally have to steal one” to make one public, as one former investigator puts it — they’ve rarely been seen by the public. The ICIJ has now put them on display:
The government receives millions of these written reports, which often appear to reflect a fair amount of person-hours of research by the bank. However, the government lacks what one investigator described to me as an “AI-type test” for passive review of this material, and lacks the personnel to go through it all individually.
At best, a federal investigator may go through the SAR database to check an individual or company already targeted in another probe. This particular batch of SARs seems to have been gathered as part of a congressional investigation into Russian interference, for instance. The rest of the reports are fated to be memory-holed by overwhelmed regulators.
What do you get in this seeming worst-case scenario, when banks pretend to monitor, and regulators pretend to collect the monitoring? A short list of some of the messes found in the FinCen docs:
— In one ridiculous case, Deutsche Bank’s New York branch processed $2.6 billion and $700 million, respectively, for a pair of companies called Ergoinvest and Chadborg trade. Both companies declared annual incomes of $35,000, and the statements for both firms bear the signature of the same obscure dentist in Belgium, who claims he doesn’t even own a car. Yet the money kept rolling through! The companies earned British registrations through “formation agencies” located in the Baltics, where investigators have found a rat’s nest of problems in recent years. Deutsche Bank, the originator of 62% of the leaked SARs (perhaps reflecting the focus of the Russia investigation that produced the FinCen docs), moved at least $150 billion just from one small Tallinn-based bank, Danske Estonia, for instance.
— Ukrainian Ihor Kolomoisky was the subject of raids by federal investigators earlier this summer, and has been profiled in colorful news reports that read like movie scripts. In one piece, he allegedly dropped crayfish meat by remote control into a tank to be devoured by sharks in the middle of a meeting, as a Dr. Evil-style intimidation tactic.
The crux of accusations by prosecutors is that Kolomoisky employed gangland tactics at home (including using “armed goons” to take over an oil company), then funneled the money to places like the States, to be invested in legit vehicles like real estate. This is exactly the kind of person the SAR process is designed to identify and disqualify quickly. Nonetheless, the FinCen files show Deutsche Bank, which had entered into a settlement deal in 2015 for moving over $11 billion in suspicious transactions, moved at least $240 million for a Kolomoisky-connected account at exactly that time, between 2015 and 2016.
— Even as Russian aluminum baron Oleg Deripaska garnered enormous media attention in recent years, including during the Russiagate furor, he continued to move money freely through the American banking system. The FinCen files contain a total of 58 SARs related to Deripaska, issued between 1997 and 2017, covering an amazing $12.41 billion in transactions. The Bank of New York Mellon flagged 16 transactions involving a Deripaska subsidiary company called Mallow Capital, but apparently kept doing business. To quote the ICIJ, “Mellon said Mallow Capital appeared to be a shell company operating in a high-risk area with no known legitimate business purpose. In 2012 and 2013, Mallow sent itself nearly $420 million using different British Virgin Islands addresses and different banks…”
The FinCen leaks highlight two major weaknesses of the regulatory system. One is the longstanding absence of a requirement that anyone opening a U.S. account name a “beneficial owner,” i.e. who is really controlling the account. The other is correspondent banking. Banks in the U.S. are required to “know your customer” in addition to monitoring and reporting domestic accounts. Still, any foreign bank with a license may open “correspondent” accounts in those same regulated Western banks. A lot of the worst instances catalogued in the FinCen leaks involve these correspondent accounts, opened in Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, etc.
In the long run, the regulatory system ends up serving as a de facto partner for banks that all but admit they’re taking in money from Ponzi schemers, mobsters, drug lords, and rogue states.
This is a “feature, not a bug” problem. Going back to the years after the crash, regulators spoke often about the need to carefully construct settlements, so that even repeat offenders might remain viable.
In late 2012, for instance, at a press conference announcing a market manipulation settlement for the Swiss Bank UBS, Breuer told reporters, “Our goal here is not to destroy a major financial institution.”
“This is a bank that has broken the law before,” a reporter said that day. “So why not be tougher?”
“I don’t know what tougher means,” Breuer answered.
Some time later, then-Attorney General Eric Holder gave a video message on the theme, “There is no such thing as Too Big to Jail.” While insisting “no one is above the law,” Holder pointed out that some criminal charges carried automatic regulatory penalties that “may even trigger the loss of that institution’s charter.” This, he implied, is not always a good thing.
This issue had come up at the HSBC press conference the previous year, when Breuer said, “had the US authorities decided to press criminal charges, HSBC would almost certainly have lost its banking license in the US.”
For that reason, Holder insisted, regulators often “must go the extra mile to coordinate closely with the regulators who oversee these institutions’ day-to-day operations.”
Translated, this meant the Justice Department was crafting punishments to make sure banks landed on their feet and remained functional as American businesses, even in the face of public reprimand.
A typical settlement involved a fine that sounded large but was really equal to months or weeks of profit, with penalties in some cases also being deductible, so taxpayers could share in the joys of paying a bank’s debt to society. In other words, settlements were designed not to hurt too much, but just the right amount.
Even a “record” harsh settlement doled out to the French bank BNP-Paribas in 2014 for sanctions violations, which included a rare plea to a real criminal charge in addition to a $9 billion penalty, only incurred a one-year exile from U.S. dollar transactions. Even when throwing the proverbial book at firms, regulators made sure to pave clear roads to redemption.
This was not necessarily a bad thing. There’s no reason why anyone should want systemically-important institutions (who are often major employers) to be wiped off the face of the earth, willy-nilly. The problem is that if you completely remove the threat of a lost charter, it signals to everyone that regulators will tolerate even open repeat violations. In this light, even a “tough” public punishment becomes a license to steal.
Hudson, for instance, notes that announcements of many of the biggest money laundering settlements involving the firms in the FinCen files were accompanied by jumps in the company’s share prices. HSBC’s shares rose in London and Hong Kong after the 2012 settlement, and even BNP’s criminal plea deal prompted a 3.6% jump in share price. Markets see the settlements as seals of approval going forward, and “send the signal that the regulators are looking to do a deal,” Hudson says.
The irony of all this is that the Trump era has seen much gnashing of teeth over America’s withdrawal from global bureaucracies like the Paris Agreement, the “Open Skies” arms control treaty, the Iran deal, and other conventions. Meanwhile, in the one place we want an isolationist-style wall, around the Federal Reserve-connected American banking system, barriers are wearing away. Only in crime, it seems, is America becoming more global in outlook.
Saagar Enjeti analyzes whether the presidential debates will be free and fair between President Trump and Joe Biden, as mainstream reporters fail to ask Biden tough questions.
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all right please john yes thank you mr president why did you lie to the american people and why should we trust what you have to say terrible question and the phraseology i didn’t lie what i said is we have to be calm we can’t be panicked i knew that the tapes were these were a series of phone calls that we had mostly phone calls and bob woodward is somebody that i respect just from hearing the name for many many years not knowing too much about his work not caring about his work but i thought it would be interesting to talk to him for a period of you know calls so we did that i don’t know if it’s good or bad i don’t even know if the book is good or bad but certainly if he thought that was a bad statement he would have reported it because he thinks that you know you don’t want to have anybody that is going to suffer medically because of some fact and he didn’t report it because he didn’t think it was bad nobody thought it was wait a minute women and your question the way you phrase that is such a disgrace it’s a disgrace to abc television network it’s a disgrace to your employer and that’s the answer you ready because you think i i love you said him or something in the flu and then you went out and told the american public that this was just like the flu let me tell you we’ve had one year you told everybody else something else no and five times right five times do you ever hear the expression five times we’ve had flu years where we lost a hundred thousand people the flu is a very serious problem for this country also and we’ve been losing them scott what kind of a number have we lost over the years with fluz into the hundreds of thousands well i mean the the last five years have been something like 35 to 80 000 per year every year even with antiviral drugs flu is a very serious problem also this is worse than the most friendly deadlier than the most strenuous flu okay and then you went out and said it’s just like the flu what i went out and said is very simple listen what i went out and said is very simple i want to show a level of confidence and i want to show strength as a leader and i want to show that our country is going to be fine one way the other whether we lose one person we shouldn’t lose any because this shouldn’t have happened this is china’s fault this is nobody’s fault but china china should not have allowed it to happen whether you have a one person 180 000 people or two and a half or three million people which it could have been very seriously if we didn’t make the moves and when you look at the opposition where they said oh why did he put the ban on dr fauci said we saved hundreds of thousands of lives by putting the ban on china and then ultimately putting the ban on europe there was no lie here what we’re doing is we’re leading and we’re leading in a proper way and if frankly somebody else was leading it they wouldn’t have closed it if you look at nancy pelosi you look at cuomo you look at de blasio you look at biden months later they said there’s no problem they’re talking about me months later and before any statement was made you have to remember i put the ban on china so obviously outwardly i said it’s a very serious problem and it’s always a serious problem that doesn’t mean i’m going to jump up and down in the air and start saying people are going to die people are going to die no no i’m not going to do that we’re going to get through this and we’re right now i hope really think we’re going to we’re rounding the final turn and a lot of good things are happening with vaccines and with therapeutics but there’s no lying and the way you ask i think we did a great job and the people that did such are generals our admirals mike pence all of the people that have worked so hard and now dr atlas and all of them dr fauci dr burks they should be respected for the job they’ve done so you won’t die you won’t downplay it again because you said you downplayed it that’s what you told me all i’m doing is no i don’t want to jump up and down and start screaming death death because that’s not what it’s about we have to lead a country we’re leading a great country and we’re doing a great job and the people that have done such a good job should be given the kind of credit that they deserve we possibly have done the best jobs when you start looking at what we’re doing with the vaccines and therapeutics and ventilators we had no ventilators john we make thousands of ventilators now a month and we’re supplying them to the whole world the job we’ve done is the best job and don’t give me any credit give the people that have done this the credit they’ve done a great job yeah phil go ahead yeah mr president you talked about the need to stay calm and not just put it down and and scare people a lot of other world leaders were calm german chancellor angela merkel was very calm as she presented information to the german people so that they could stay safe and protect their families so why is you as president of the united states did you not level with the american people did you not share the information that you knew at the time in real life you know what what uncle is doing but if you look at the european union right now they’re having breakouts like you’ve never seen before and frankly their numbers are a level that are much worse than the numbers here we are we have done we have phil we have done much much better than the european union i just read your numbers that are not good on their behalf that are very good at ours and we have rounded the final turn and we have we’re going to have vaccines very soon maybe much sooner than you think listen maybe much sooner than you think but we have done a phenomenal job and the people that have done this job including the american public that’s had to put up with a lot with the lockdowns and all of the things that they had to do they have to be given credit they have to be given credit for the deadly virus you knew it was airborne you knew on february 7th you told bob woodward how it transferred from person to person in the air how deadly it was why did you not come to the podium well let me ask you this if bob woodward thought that was bad because this is stuff that everyone knew there’s a report that i have here someplace where china said it was airborne earlier than the statements i made people knew it was airborne this was nothing this was no big when i say it was airborne everybody knew it was airborne this was no big thing in february read the reports china came out with a statement that it was an airborne disease i heard it was an airborne disease i assumed it early on the fact is there has to be a calmness you don’t want me jumping up and down screaming there’s going to be great death there’s going to and really causing some very very serious problems for the country if bob woodward thought what i said was bad then he should have immediately right after i said it gone out to the authorities so they can prepare and let them know but he didn’t think it was bad and he said he didn’t think it was bad he actually said he didn’t think it was bad the only one that said it was bad or thinks it was bad were the fake news media because they take it and they try and put it a certain way if bob woodward thought it was bad then he should have immediately gone out publicly not wait four months you know he’s had that statement for four months maybe five months he’s had it for a long time it was a series of taped interviews mostly by telephone quick ones not long ones quick ones and it was i did it out of curiosity because i do have respect and i want to see i wonder whether or not somebody like that can write good i don’t think he can but let’s see what happens thank you mr president um we’re just about 50 days out from the election and we haven’t seen a lot out of the germ investigation yet yeah where is that and do you do you have confidence in the investigation well i can’t tell you that yet i have to see i’m not involved in it i purposely stayed uninvolved i’m i guess considered the chief law enforcement officer of the country i could be involved if i wanted to i thought it would be uh better if i wasn’t i think it’s better if our great attorney general handle it he has durham who is a very very respected man and we’re going to see what it is i can’t tell you that i can tell you this i can tell you this they they lied they cheated they leaked they got caught they spied on my campaign never in history has there been anything like this and i guarantee if the roles were reversed and i was on the democrat side people would have been in jail at the very highest level people would have been in jail for two years already nothing like this has ever happened and the term would be for many many years because it’s treason and other words can be used also do you think there should be more indictments as a part of this well i think just on what i read in your wonderful papers i think and and see what you know just looking at the media not even what i know i think comey is a disgrace to our country i think strzok who just wrote a book which is a total fake is a disgrace i think paige lisa page his lover is a disgrace to our country uh i think that when you look at mccabe where his wife got seven hundred thousand dollars in campaign contributions from hillary clinton right and then hillary clinton’s under investigation and yet she paid the head of the fbi one of the top people but actually the head because he took over for for the other guy who fortunately i fired i made a good move when i fired that was a smart move because they were looking to take down this administration duly elected administration so i fired him that was a great move when i fired him because maybe if i didn’t i wouldn’t be here talking to you as president but when mccabe’s wife gets seven hundred thousand dollars in campaign contributions when she was running for whatever office she was running from from virginia and yet he’s in charge of the investigation of hillary clinton now he says well i wasn’t really in judge of course he was a judge he was totally in charge he knew exactly what was going on these people got caught in the probably the biggest political scandal in the history of our country they got caught now what the durham report is going to say i can’t tell you but if they say half as much as i already know just from seeing it you know you have people i watch some of the shows i watch liz mcdonald she’s fantastic i watched fox business i watched uh lou dobbs last night sean hannity last night tucker last night laura i watched uh fox and friends in the morning you watch these shows you don’t have to go too far into the details they cover things that are it’s really an amazing thing they got caught in the biggest political scandal in the history of our country they were spying on their opponent’s campaign not only spying they were making up fake dossiers you have the dirty dossier they were making up the dirty it was all made up it was all fiction it turned out to be fiction and then they were using that in the fisa courts this revered court what’s not so revered anymore because when you look at what they did and how they played it and they heard a lot of people general flynn is still being hurt and he’s being hurt very badly he’s a wonderful person i spoke to general milley about general flynn two weeks ago i said what do you think of general flynn he said he’s a great soldier sir he’s a wonderful wonderful human being he’s been destroyed he’s been destroyed no i think that this uh without knowing anything about what durham is going to release the durham report we’ll call it uh or maybe it’s going to be more than a report maybe it’s going to be much more than a report i don’t know maybe it’s a report or maybe it’s much more than that but when i look at the uh the things that everybody in this room knows just from reading about it from yourselves back and forth i think it’s a disgrace to our country and i think if people don’t pay a very very substantial price it’ll happen again and this should never ever happen to another president do you understand that you’re saying
No one should ever get a second chance to destroy the Constitution.
I was a Republican for most of my adult life. I came of political age in 1980, and although I grew up in a working-class Democratic stronghold in Massachusetts, I found a home in Ronald Reagan’s GOP. Back then, the Republicans were a confident “party of ideas” (a compliment bestowed on them by one of their foes, Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York), optimistic boosters of the American dream at home, and fierce opponents of the Soviet Union overseas. While the Democrats were the party of recrimination and retreat, the Republicans were the party of the future.
I understand the attachment to that GOP, even among those who have sworn to defeat Donald Trump, but the time for sentimentality is over. That party is long gone. Today the Republicans are the party of “American carnage” and Russian collusion, of scams, plots, and weapons-grade contempt for the rule of law. The only decent, sensible, and conservative position is to vote against this Republican Party at every level, and bring the sad final days of a once-great political institution to an end. Then build the party back up again—from scratch.
I’m not advocating for voting against the GOP merely to punish Republicans for Trump’s existence in their party. Rather, conservatives must finally accept that at this point Trump and the Republican Party are indistinguishable. Trump and his circle have gutted the old GOP and stuffed its empty husk with the Trump family’s paranoia and corruption.
Indeed, the transformation of the GOP into a cult of personality is so complete that the Republicans didn’t even bother presenting a platform at their own convention. Like a group of ciphers at a meeting of SPECTRE, they nodded at whatever Number One told them to do, each of them fearing an extended pinkie finger pressing the button that would electrocute them into political oblivion.
Some Republicans, even while they grant that Trump is a sociopath and an idiot—and how unsettling that so many of them will stipulate to that—are willing to continue voting for Republican candidates because the GOP is nominally pro-life or because the administration’s judicial appointments show that the people around the president are doing what conservatives should want done.
But Trump’s few conservative achievements are meaningless when compared with his war on American democracy, a rampage that few Republicans have lifted a finger to stop. Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr have turned the constitutional order and the rule of law into a joke. If you’re Roger Stone or Michael Flynn, the White House will arrange pardons, commutations, or even the outright betrayal of the Justice Department’s own lawyers. Felony convictions are for the little people. The Constitution is just busywork for chumps.
GOP representatives in the people’s house sneer at concepts such as oversight and the separation of powers. Rather than demand accountability from the executive branch on COVID-19, on the Hatch Act, on the Postal Service—on anything, really—they either repose in sullen silence or they take up the lance for the president and overwhelm committee hearings with Trumpian word salad.
Meanwhile, senators who swore to be “impartial” jurors refused to hear actual evidence during an impeachment trial. They confirmed a rogue’s gallery of incompetent henchmen and cronies to important positions. They continue to downplay Russian attacks on the U.S. political system and are now outfoxed by the likes of John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, a nonentity who has ruled that none of them, Republican or Democrat, should be allowed to ask any pesky questions about election security in person.
“But Gorsuch,” Republicans chirp when pressed about their party’s demise, as if Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh will saddle up and save us when elected Republicans refuse to stop Trump from finally turning the FBI into his private police force or Barr from using the Department of Homeland Security as the White House’s own Belarusian interior ministry. (Kavanaugh, who warned during his confirmation hearings that “what goes around comes around,” might be exactly the justice to put his stamp on such moves.)
Conservatives must also let go of fantasies about saving the “good” Republicans, a list that is virtually nonexistent. (You can’t count Mitt Romney more than once.) The occasional furrowed brow—a specialty of the feckless Susan Collins of Maine—is not enough. The few, like Romney, who have dared grasp at moments of sanity have been pilloried by Trump and other Republicans. In any case, Romney is chained to the GOP caucus, a crew that includes the jabbering Louie Gohmert and calculating Elise Stefanik in the House, and the sniveling Ted Cruz and amoral Mitch McConnell in the Senate.
Would-be Madisonians among the Republicans warn that no party should have untrammeled access to the levers of power—and especially not the Democrats. Yes, they say, we understand that Trump must go, but if Joe Biden is allowed to run the executive branch without a Republican Senate, America will become a one-party state that sooner or later will fall under the boot of the dreaded Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This faux constitutionalism is naked hypocrisy: I do not recall, during my days in the GOP, anyone on the right ever pleading that Americans should leave at least a few Democrats in office so that we Republicans would not go crazy and start force-feeding Ayn Rand or Friedrich Hayek to impressionable schoolchildren.
America needs two healthy political parties. So if the Republicans suffer a full-spectrum defeat in 2020, what comes next? At the least, a shattering loss should result in a wholesale purge of the Republican National Committee. Even donors who like what they got from Trump will not pour money into a losing proposition.
In the long term, sensible conservatives—who believe in limited government and the prudent, constitutional stewardship of national power and resources—might feel safe to run for national office as Republicans again. Those at the local level who were bullied into silence by their state organizations might be able to come out of hiding and challenge the people who led them to disaster.
Reconstructing the GOP—or any center-right party that might one day replace it—will take a long time, and the process will be painful. The remaining opportunists in the GOP will try to avert any kind of reform by making a last-ditch lunge to the right to fill the vacuum left by Trump’s culture warring and race-baiting. In the short term, the party might become smaller and more extreme, even as it loses seats. So be it. The hardening of the GOP into a toxic conglomeration of hucksters, quislings, racists, theocrats, and cultists is already happening. The party gladly accepted support from white supremacists and the Russian secret services, and now welcomes QAnon kooks into its caucus. Conservatives must learn that the only way out of “the wilderness” is first to vanquish those who led them there.
No person should ever get a second chance to destroy the Constitution. Trump has brought the United States to the brink of civil catastrophe, and the Republican Party has protected him from the consequences of all his immoral and illegal actions more ably than even Fred Trump did. Conservatives need to put the current Republican Party out of its—and our—misery.
Narcissists play all sorts of mind games hoping they will be able to lure you in by gaining your trust. Once they gain your trust, they go to work executing all sorts of narcissistic mind games. The mind games of a narcissist are created to keep you feeling off-balance, insecure, and worrying about your state of mind. The more mind games a narcissist can play, the better they are at keeping you in the narcissistic abuse cycle. Although there are many different mind games narcissist play, in this video I address 10 mind games they play. They play mind games to fake you out, remain the boss inside the relationship, and work diligently at manipulating you to believe you are responsible for just about everything and anything. Narcissists play mind games so they can avoid intimacy, feeling vulnerable and maintain control over their victims. Narcissistic abuse is a form of emotional abuse. Narcissists use mind games as a form of covert abuse. Covert narcissists are difficult to spot but if you know the mind games they play, it can help you save your time, money, heart, and life from unnecessary narcissistic abuse.
- Fake Out: Empathy to get close to you. Then use confidence against you
- One Up: Must always maintain superiority. If you’re up, they must bring you down
- It wasn’t me. It doesn’t matter what lie you catch them in, they never accept accountability.
- Do you smell smoke: (Gas lighting) You have to know yourself whether you suffer from low self-esteem and are vulnerable. Saying things that aren’t true to get a reaction out of you.
- If you feel like you should be recording conversations to play them back to prove your side, that’s a warning sign
- They are remembering everything about you, probing your wounds, but often not sharing (honestly) about themselves.
- Pay attention if they redirect the conversation on you.
- I’m the boss around here: work to keep anger under wraps. May have ill will towards you. Do not want to meet you in the middle.
- need to show you who the boss is. If they sense loss of power or being held accountable which they can’t do because they associate that with vulnerability which they associate with weakness
- little red riding hood: wolf in sheep’s clothing. Inconsistency: Vegan, but kick the dog
- Rico Swave, Feme Fatale
- nothing makes sense: goal is to keep you insecure. Hot and Cold
- if you feel off balance
- do i feel seen, safe. Do they meet half way. Do they have a history of cheating.
12:53 1) your feelings are important and my feelings are important….. and we have to come to a decision that will work for us both
15:12 2) I understand your perceptions
20:59 3) Let me think about it
How to Shut Down and Diffuse a Narcissist with 3 Smart Key Phrases So You Can Keep Your Cool. Narcissistic Abuse and Codependency Recovery Support Online Program https://www.lisaaromano.com/12wbcp
8 Key Phrases You Can Use to Shut Down a Narcissist
10 Mind Games Narcissists Play They Hope You Won’t Figure Out
The best thing to do with a highly narcissistic person is to go no contact. When it is not possible to go no contact, the best thing to do is to diffuse and disarm a narcissist with key phrases you can use to shut them down and get them to leave you alone. The worst thing to do is engage and enrage a narcissist. Covert narcissists who use crazymaking communication against you, can drag you into never ending rabbit holes. When you learn to use these key phrases to shut down a narcissist, you can save your sanity and your soul!
If you would like support as you heal codependency, check out my narcissistic abuse recovery coaching program. I launch this online course twice a year and I moderate it myself. You can take it from anywhere in the world.
THANKS TO GLOBE-SPANNING SOCIAL PLATFORMS like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, misinformation (any wrong information) and disinformation (intentional misinformation like propaganda) have never been able to spread so rapidly or so far, powered by algorithms and automated filters. But misinformation expert Joan Donovan, who runs the Technology and Social Change Research Project at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, says social media platforms are not the only ones who play a critical role in perpetuating the misinformation problem. Journalists and media companies also do, Donovan says, because they often help to amplify misinformation when they cover it and the bad actors who create it, often without thinking about the impact of their coverage.
There is clearly more misinformation around than in previous eras, Donovan tells CJR in a recent interview on our Galley discussion platform, because there’s just a lot more media, and therefore a lot more opportunity to distribute it. “But quantity never really matters unless there is significant attention to the issue being manipulated,” she says. “So this is where my research is fundamentally about journalism and not about audiences. Trusted information brokers, like journalists and news organizations, are important targets for piggybacking misinformation campaigns into the public sphere.”
Donovan’s research looks at how trolls and others—whether they are government-backed or freelance—can use techniques including “social engineering” (lying to or manipulating someone to achieve a specific outcome) and low-level hacking to persuade journalists and news outlets of the newsworthiness of a specific campaign. “Once that story gets picked up by a reputable outlet, it’s game time,” she says. Donovan and other misinformation experts warned that the Christchurch shooter’s massive essay about his alleged justification for the incident in April was clearly designed to get as much media attention as possible, by playing on certain themes and popular topics, and they advised media outlets not to play into this strategy by quoting from it.
Before she joined the Shorenstein Center at Harvard last year, Donovan was a member of the research group Data & Society, where she led the Media Manipulation Initiative, mapping how interest groups, governments, and political operatives use the internet and the media to intentionally manipulate messages. Data & Society published an extensive report on the problem last year, written by Syracuse University media studies professor Whitney Phillips, entitled “The Oxygen of Amplification,” with advice on how to cover topics like white supremacy and the alt-right without giving them more credibility in the process.
“Sometimes, I want to throw my hands in the air and grumble, ‘We know what we know from history! Journalists are not outside of society. In fact, they are the most crucial way the public makes sense of the world,” Donovan writes in her Galley interview. “When journalists pay attention to a particular person or issue, we all do… and that has reverberating effects.’” As part of her postdoctoral research, Donovan looked at racial violence and media coverage in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Ku Klux Klan was active. “The Klan had a specific media strategy to cultivate journalists for positive coverage of their events,” Donovan says. “As journalists pivoted slowly to covering the civil rights movement with a sympathetic tone, Klan violence rises—but also public spectacles, torch marches, and cross burnings. These acts are often done with the potential for media coverage in mind.”
Sometimes, I want to throw my hands in the air and grumble, ‘We know what we know from history! Journalists are not outside of society. In fact, they are the most crucial way the public makes sense of the world.
While mass shootings are clearly newsworthy, Donovan says, the internet introduces a new dynamic where all stories on a topic are instantly available to virtually anyone anywhere around the globe. And the fact that they are shared and re-shared and commented on via half a dozen different social networks means that “journalists quickly lose control over the reception of their work,” she says. “This is why it is even more crucial that journalists frame stories clearly and avoid embedding and hyperlinking to known online spaces of radicalization.” Despite this kind of advice from Donovan and others, including sociologist Zeynep Tufekci, a number of media outlets linked to the Christchurch shooter’s writings, and at least one even included a clip from the live-streamed video of his attack.
When it comes to what the platforms themselves should do about mitigating the spread of misinformation and the amplification of extremists, Donovan says the obvious thing is that they should remove accounts that harass and use hate speech to silence others. This “would go a long way to stamping out the influencers who are providing organizing spaces for their fans to participate in networked harassment and bullying,” she says. On YouTube, some would-be “influencers” use hate speech as a way to attract new audiences and solicit donations, Donovan says, and these attempts are aided by the algorithms and the ad-driven model of the platforms. “These influencers would not have grown this popular without the platform’s consent,” she says. “Something can be done and the means to do it are already available.”
On the topic of the recent Christchurch Call—a commitment to take action on extremism signed by the governments of New Zealand, France, Canada, and a number of other nations, along with tech platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter—Donovan says that until there are tangible results, the agreement looks like just another pledge to do better. “These companies apologize and make no specific commitments to change. There are no benchmarks to track progress, no data trails to audit, no human rights abuses accounted for.” Something the Christchurch Call also doesn’t address, Donovan says, are the fundamental incentives behind how hate groups are financed and resourced online, “thanks to access to payment processIng and broadcast technologies at will.”