Left Justified

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SEC Forces Musk to Step Down as Tesla Chairman

October 2, 2018 by Dan Kazan in News and Media

Elon Musk in 2008. Photo Courtesy JD Lasica

As part of a deal in the wake of Elon Musk’s bizarre tweet this past August, the SEC is requiring Tesla’s CEO to step down as Chairman of the forward-thinking electric car company. The settlement will also require Musk to reign-in his Twitter account to prevent future inappropriate tweets.

The deal was struck only two days after the SEC accused Musk of misleading his investors about his plans to buy back his publicly traded company. He will be barred from re-election as Chairman for three years. An independent chairman will be appointed in his stead while Musk remains CEO.

The SEC also charged Tesla of failure to have disclosure controls in place to properly vet Musk’s tweets. Both Musk and Tesla will pay $20 million each to the SEC for the oversight.

The deal will still need to be approved by a court is more lenient that the original SEC demands, which included the total exclusion of Musk from any executive role at Tesla or any other publicly held company.

Jay Clayton, SEC chairman, defended the deal, a rare public statement from an SEC chief concerning enforcement actions.

I believe the agreement “is in the best interests of our markets and our investors, including shareholders at Tesla.”

Tesla and Musk agree to settle the allegation, but without admitting  or denying the charges.

“The total package of remedies and relief announced today are specifically designed to address the misconduct at issue by strengthening Tesla’s corporate governance and oversight in order to protect investors,” said Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC’s enforcement division.

Musk’s August 7 tweet invoked the number 420, a thinly veiled reference to marijuana. He said he mentioned “420” because he thought his girlfriend, rapper Grimes, would find it amusing.

“According to Musk, he calculated the $420 price per share based on a 20% premium over that day’s closing share price because he thought 20% was a “standard premium” in going-private transactions. This calculation resulted in a price of $419…he rounded the price up to $420 because he had recently learned about the number’s significance in marijuana culture and thought his girlfriend “would find it funny, which admittedly is not a great reason to pick a price,” the SEC stated in their complaint against Musk.

John McCain, War Hero and Longtime Senator, Honored in Washington Ceremonies

September 3, 2018 by Gail Nussbaum in News and Media



John McCain at GOPAC Fall Charter Meeting in Washington, D.C., 2006. Photo courtesy of Levan Ramishvili.

John McCain, Senior Senator from Arizona, was honored and remembered on Saturday during an invitation-only ceremony before he was laid to rest in the US Naval Academy. He died on August 25, at the age of 81 and will be buried on Sunday, September 2.

Services for the feisty, Vietnam veteran who was held captive for over five years in what is euphemistically referred to as the “Hanoi Hilton” took place throughout the week in Arizona, his home state, and Washington, DC, where he served in government for over 40 years.

Attending the service, held at the Washington National Cathedral, were political dignitaries from both sides of the aisle, including former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Obama eulogized the Navy aviator for about 20 minutes, as did Bush. Meghan McCain, the Senator’s daughter, spoke in moving language about her father’s life, integrity, generosity, love of family, and fierce patriotism.

Last Friday McCain’s casket was brought into the Rotunda of the US Capital during his Lying in State Ceremony. The ceremony is reserved as a rare honor bequeathed by a congressional resolution or approved by congressional leadership if the family grants permission. Since 1852 only 30 people have had such an honor, including President Abraham Lincoln, President John F. Kennedy, and Senator Daniel Inouye in 2012, the last such ceremony until McCain.

During the ceremony members of the public were permitted to pass by the casket and pay their respects while members of the armed forces stood guard.

President Trump did not attend any of the ceremonies, but Vice President Mike Pence represented the Executive Branch of the Government and laid a wreath at the Lying In State Ceremony.

Uncertainty Over Brennan’s Security Status

August 29, 2018 by Gail Nussbaum in News and Media

John Brennan

On August 15 President Trump’s press secretary Sarah Sanders announced that he was revoking the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan, along with the clearances of 9 other individuals. The move was an unprecedented demonstration of the president’s power to decide who has or doesn’t have security clearance.
“I have a unique constitutional responsibility to protect the nation’s classified information, including by controlling access to it. Today, in fulfilling that responsibility, I have decided to revoke the security clearance of John Brennan, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency,” read Sanders. “Mr. Brennan’s lying and recent conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary is wholly inconsistent with access to the nation’s most closely held secrets.”

Brennan responded at the time with pointed criticism of the move.

“This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics. It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out. My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent,” Brennan said in a tweet shortly afterwards.

Now, almost two weeks later, Brennan has not heard anything more about the status of his security clearance- not from the White House; the CIA; or any other official body or person from the administration.

“Whether or not my clearances have been stripped, I’m still uncertain about,” Brennan said in an interview Tuesday with MSNBC.

Several experts are saying that it is not at all clear if Brennan’s clearance has been nullified.

“In any other administration, the words of the president are presumed to have intrinsic actionable meaning — that is, they are themselves policy and agencies will respond to them as such,” said Benjamin Wittes, a Brookings Institution senior fellow. “With this president, there is an almost total disconnect between what the president says in public and the actions of the executive branch.”

“Therefore, when the president says he is doing something, you have to ask a question that you would never ask with any other president, which is: Is he doing that thing, or is he just saying that he’s doing that thing?” Wittes added.

The President’s move to revoke Brennan’s clearance conflicts with a 1995 executive order illustrating the detailed method that must be used to decide who can or can’t have access to secret information. The order says that the government has to show “as comprehensive and detailed a written explanation” of the reason the person does not meet the requirements to have access to the country’s most important classified information. In addition, those whose clearance has been revoked can appeal the decision, in person and in writing.

However, the president can choose to ignore such an executive order, and just like with the power to pardon, can revoke security clearances without any over-site or accountability.

Military Parade Cancelled by Disappointed Trump

August 20, 2018 by Gail Nussbaum in News and Media

Bastille Day. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

After attending a military parade in France for Bastille Day last year, President Trump began to plan for a similar event in Washington, DC, to coincide with Veteran’s Day, 2018. However, when made aware of what such a parade would cost the Federal budget, Trump backed down and cancelled, blaming the mayor of DC and local politicians of price gouging.

“The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it. Never let someone hold you up!”

The initial estimate on the cost of a parade was given at $12 million, but soon after the price tag rose to $30 million, and not long after that, $92 million.

A short time after the decision to cancel was announced and reported by CNBC, the Pentagon made its own announcement, saying the parade was only postponed, and not cancelled outright. The Defense Department did explain what changed their minds, but they did say that they were planning to “explore opportunities in 2019.”

Trump’s plan for a parade was first introduced in February, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Since the plan for a US parade has been shelved for the time being, Trump is beginning to formulate what he will be doing this coming Veteran’s Day.

“I will instead attend the big parade already scheduled at Andrews Air Force Base on a different date, & go to the Paris parade, celebrating the end of the War, on November 11th,” the president posted online this past Friday. “Maybe we will do something next year in D.C. when the cost comes WAY DOWN. Now we can buy some more jet fighters!”