All In The (Crime) Family

Family

There are many distractions at the top of the news today, from Al Franken and Roy Moore to Trump’s Jerusalem decision, but this week is also seeing the noose tighten on America’s First Family of grifters.

On the heels of the Dec. 1 revelation of Michael Fynn’s guilty plea and cooperation with the Mueller investigation, the big news this week is that Mueller has apparently subpoenaed records of Trump and his family from Deutsche Bank. This might clarify issues around Trump’s $300 million debt to the bank and real estate deals involving Russian oligarchs.

The Flynn plea, which said a senior transition official had directed Flynn to contact the Russian Ambassador, pulled Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner deeper into the Russia investigation when he was identified as that official.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump Jr again proved to be the Fredo of the Trump crime family when he tried to not answer Congressional questioning about a conversation he had with his father regarding the infamous Trump Tower meeting by claiming attorney-client privilege (despite the fact that neither he nor his father are attorneys).

First daughter Ivanka Trump has largely been out of the news this week. Actually she has had a much lower profile since stories came out last month on her involvement in potential money laundering real estate schemes with Trump Organization affiliated properties, like the Trump Ocean Club in Panama. Shockingly, there are ties to Russian organized crime alleged as part of those investigative reports.

As we watch the world (hopefully) come apart for the Trumps with Mueller continuing  to build his case, have an Against the Family cocktail.

Via Kindred Cocktail, the Against the Family recipe is:

2 oz Rye

.5 oz sweet vermouth (Punt e Mes)

.5 oz Amaro Montenegro

Combine rye, vermouth, and amaro in a mixing glass and stir with cracked ice. Strain into a coupe glass and express orange oil over the top.

Cheers!

Reversing the Curse

Fist

I am a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan. I was happy beyond words on November 2, 2016, when the Cubs won the World Series and ended 108 years of frustration.

Many of us Cubs fans feared there would be a heavy price to pay for this victory, and less than a week later, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. On the bright side, the sun didn’t go super nova and destroy the Earth. Still it’s been a rough year.

On November 1 this year, the Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers to become World Series Champions. One week later — with the Cubs no longer the reigning baseball champs — the forces allied with Trump suffered major electoral defeats.

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

In the best baseball tradition, this calls for a beer. I am going with the very appropriate Chicago beer Fist City from Revolution Brewing. Like good anti-fascists everywhere, raise a Fist (City) and toast the hard work that has been done, and the hard work to come as the Cubs’ curse is out of the way and we can rid ourselves of these grifters and traitors.

And as for the Cubs, they had a good season and made it to the NLCS for the third year in a row, but now the curse is over and penance has been paid. We’re good. And the last time the Cubs lost the NLCS, they won the World Series the next year. Go Cubs Go!

Happy Friday!

Cheers!

Darkness Turning to Light

Solstice

The past year has seen things get increasingly dark in America. Since Trump’s election on November 8, 2016, the traditions that defined America as a beacon of freedom were under attack and in danger of being snuffed out.

Nazis marched in our streets and the President of the United States said there were many very fine people among them. Nazis! And not just Illinois Nazis, who everyone hates.

There is very little doubt at this point that Russia interfered with our 2016 election and the evidence has grown suggesting Trump and his campaign were involved in that effort. Still, however, Republicans in Congress don’t seem interested that American democracy was attacked.

But then came Tuesday’s off-year elections. It was not simply a good night for Democrats, it was a repudiation of Trumpism large and small.

New Jersey and Virginia governorships were won by Democrats, and Virginia was expected to be much closer, with Steve Bannon all but declaring victory for the Trump-supported Republican candidate.

But these weren’t even the particularly important measures of the backlash against the kind of country Trump wants to build. The diversity of the successful candidates on Tuesday was amazing. The Virginia statehouse saw a transgendered woman defeat the state’s self-declared homophobe-in-chief, and the first Latina elected to the chamber.

In NJ, a Republican county freeholder was defeated by a woman who decided to run after his sexist comment about whether the Women’s March on Washington will be “over in time for them to cook dinner.”

Across the country there were victories for the first (Insert ethnicity here) mayors that said we reject the white supremacist Trump/Bannon agenda, while Maine voted for the ACA Medicaid expansion by referendum to get around lawmakers.

To celebrate Tuesday’s ray of hope that America does not really side with Trump, that light is returning to the world, a Solstice cocktail is most appropriate.

Via Kindred Cocktails, the Solstice is:

2 oz rye

.75 oz Cointreau

1 t Allspice Dram

Build over ice in a rocks glass glass, stir.

Cheers!

Incompetent v. Indifferent

Heart

As we approach 10 days after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a major Category 4 storm, the federal response to the suffering of 3.5 million American citizens has been woefully inadequate.

The devastation is almost unimaginable, with the electrical grid gone across the whole island with no prospect of repairs for months to years, and nearly 2 million people without drinking water. During these 10 days, President Trump has spent two weekends at his golf resorts. The Washington Post reports the first weekend, a Lost Weekend, hampered efforts to provide relief for Puerto Rico.

This past week, Trump then blamed relief efforts on the fact that Puerto Rico is an island. “This is an island, surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water,” Trump said.

This weekend, again from his golf course in New Jersey, Trump lashed out at Puerto Rican officials, particularly the mayor of San Juan, in a series of early morning tweets. Apparently her desperate pleas for help did not come with enough Hail to the Chief.

While some have called Maria Trump’s Katrina, CNN said it is much worse. I am not a fan of trying to refurbish the image of George W. Bush. However, Katrina showed the Bush Administration to not be very good at handling a crisis, but their incompetence did not suggest the level of uncaring we see today.

While the “big water” comment proves Trump is in search of a brain as much as Bush was, it would certainly help now if he at least had a heart. Since the wizard isn’t likely to bestow one on Trump any time soon, in the meantime we can drink a Have A Heart cocktail.

This classic from Dr. Cocktail Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails book is:

1.5 oz gin

.75 oz Swedish Punsch

.75 oz lime juice

.25 oz grenadine

Cheers!

Shall We Play A Game?

Nuke Daq

In the hierarchy of distractions, Global Thermonuclear War tends to work better than most. (Made you look!)

As many Americans deal with an anxiety that has largely been absent for some 30 years, Trump keeps ratcheting up the provocative language around nukes in North Korea. Despite his “locked and loaded” rhetoric, much of the world doesn’t really believe the U.S. is on the brink of war with North Korea, and China has warned Kim Jong Un that his country is on its own if it starts something with the U.S. (but will intervene if the U.S. strikes first).

This is a serious situation, as well as a reminder of just how much Donald Trump is unsuited and ill-equipped to be president. At the same time, this does seem designed to draw our attention, and gathering attention is something Trump is suited for as he’s spent so much of his life honing those skills.

We cannot dismiss this distraction because there is no evidence that Trump wouldn’t start a war to cover his tracks.

The Washington Post reminds us today that amid all of the craziness of the North Korean brinksmanship and thanking Vladimir Putin for expelling U.S. diplomats from Russia, Trump continues to use the presidency to enrich his family. While the Post is primarily talking about the Trump Hotel, there are seemingly a deep web of financial interests at play.

The team of prosecutors assembled by special counsel Robert Mueller is loaded with specialists on financial crimes. The revelation that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s home was subject to a pre-dawn raid by the FBI serving a warrant for Mueller’s investigation suggests the vice is tightening.

Another interesting thread in the financial aspect came up today in a special report from Reuters detailing the ways in which Putin, via Russian state-owned energy firm Rosneft, is taking advantage of unrest in Venezuela to gain leverage over oil fields and access to U.S. markets (via CITGO) despite sanctions.

“Moscow has substantial leverage in the negotiations: Cash from Russia and Rosneft has been crucial in helping the financially strapped government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro avoid a sovereign debt default or a political coup. 

“Rosneft delivered Venezuela’s state-owned firm more than $1 billion in April alone in exchange for a promise of oil shipments later. On at least two occasions, the Venezuelan government has used Russian cash to avoid imminent defaults on payments to bondholders, a high-level PDVSA official told Reuters. 

“Rosneft has also positioned itself as a middleman in sales of Venezuelan oil to customers worldwide. Much of it ends up at refineries in the United States – despite U.S. sanctions against Russia – because it is sold through intermediaries such as oil trading firms, according to internal PDVSA trade reports seen by Reuters and a source at the firm.”

Republican Senators from several Gulf oil states are urging Trump to hold off on Venezuelan sanctions as they would send Maduro further into Russia’s arms, further harming U.S. energy interests.

How this plays out will be interesting to watch as there are a number of links to people in the Trump orbit. Of course there is Secretary of State and former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson who has many connections to Rosneft. But there are also known targets of the Trump-Russia investigation with Rosneft ties, including Manafort and Carter Page. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, outlined some of those ties back in March.

Without putting on the tinfoil hat, just some things to keep an eye out for while comfortable in the knowledge that Mueller’s team likely is all over this. So while we wait for things to blow up on one side or the other, enjoy the weekend with a Nuclear Daiquiri.

Via Cocktail Virgin, the Nuclear Daiquiri is:

3/4 oz Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum
3/4 oz Green Chartreuse
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/3 oz Falernum (Velvet)

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Cheers!

In Trump’s Shadow

Shadow

Trump is at his Bedminster, N.J., property on a “working” vacation while the White House undergoes some needed renovation.

Meanwhile, the decay in the Republican Party grows more visible as its fissures and crumbling façade splash across the news every day. As I wrote last week in Countdown To Extinction, Trump is the Elephant Gun that may well bring down the GOP. Republicans are now agreeing with Bill James, saying that Trump “invaded and took over the party.” What could the GOP possibly have done?

At the same time, Republicans in Congress are beginning to assert some independence such as the bill to reign in Trump’s ability to fire Bob Mueller. Even the chief architect of alternative facts, Kellyanne Conway, had to admit Trump’s approval ratings among Republicans, conservatives and Trump voters is down.

Now the NY Times is reporting that Republicans are looking ahead at the 2020 Presidential Election.

“President Trump’s first term is ostensibly just warming up, but luminaries in his own party have begun what amounts to a shadow campaign for 2020 — as if the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue weren’t involved.

“The would-be candidates are cultivating some of the party’s most prominent donors, courting conservative interest groups and carefully enhancing their profiles. Mr. Trump has given no indication that he will decline to seek a second term.

“But the sheer disarray surrounding this presidency — the intensifying investigation by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the plain uncertainty about what Mr. Trump will do in the next week, let alone in the next election — have prompted Republican officeholders to take political steps unheard-of so soon into a new administration.”

The whole article is worth a look, and while you’re reading about the shadow campaign, enjoy a Shadow Dreaming cocktail. After all, amidst a deteriorating GOP, for these shadow candidates, Dreaming is Free.

Via Kindred Cocktails, the Shadow Dreaming cocktail is:

2 oz Bourbon

.5 oz Carpano Antica Forumla sweet vermouth

.25 oz Zucca

.25 oz Demerara Rum 151

1 dash aromatic bitters (I used Dr. Adam’s Orinoco Bitters)

5 drops Bitterman’s Xocolatl Mole Bitters (as a float)

Build All except Mole Bitters in a mixing glass, stir until diluted, strain into a chilled, stemmed glass, and garnish with 5 drops Mole Bitters.

Cheers!