Another Letter To America

Dear United States of America and Donald Trump,

Here I am writing to you again.

You’ll be pleased to know it’s not about guns this time. The truth is I can’t take my eyes off you and your politics. Suddenly you’re a catastrophe waiting to happen. And if the news over the last 24 hours is any guide, the catastrophe’s already happening. In slow motion, of course, but nonetheless moving inevitably towards a massive fallout and collateral damage. Your White House is in daily disarray, in case you haven’t noticed. It lurches from one crisis to another. It’s disastrous, it’s damaging, it’s chaotic. It’s also fascinating. Apologies if I seem to be basking in the warmth of someone else’s misfortune. But the chaos won’t last forever. It can’t. Something has to give.

As a spectator in the relatively safe backwater known as Australia, and a very long way away from you, I can only look on with shock and awe. I could write pages and pages and pages about your Presidency, Donald Trump. Whoever writes your biography will have endless sources of amusement and negativity to wade through. No point in me joining the chorus. It is stating the obvious.

I do want to try and understand you. And the only way I can do that, is to liken you to a famous historic figure of tragedy. A figure, created by the master of dramatic tragedy, Mr William Shakespeare. Donald Trump you really are Shakespeare’s modern day Julius Caesar. So many parallels. You are a man who thinks rules, governance and the law don’t apply to him. So did Julius Caesar. You fly above it all in a private jet. Ok. Not Julius Caesar, but you get my point.

Like Julius Caesar, your biggest flaw is vanity. You want to bask in public adulation. Adored and admired. To be recognised as a man, way bigger than the sum of many or even any parts. You stand alone. A colossus. But like Caesar your fate is foretold. To be dispatched, to a political gulag. It won’t be at the hands of obvious enemies. No sir. Your biggest enemies are your friends, Republican friends in the Congress.

This tornado is getting ready to touch ground, gathering strength for some time. But really the catalyst for what will happen began with the reasons behind the arbitrary sacking of  FBI Director, James Comey. You couldn’t help himself. Your press lackeys give one version while you give another contradicting them. You blindside your own people. Never tell them of your plans. Why should you? You’re Donald Trump. You can say and do whatever you like. Well actually no you can’t. You’re not Donald Trump the businessman anymore nor are you Donald Trump the TV host who simply says your fired. You are Donald Trump, President of the United States and different rules apply. If you don’t believe me, look at Richard Nixon. In fact the word, Watergate is getting used a lot lately.

Why Watergate? Because you are said to be trying to do what Nixon wanted to do and couldn’t. Stop an official investigation. You see, your security advisor, General Michael Flynn was sacked after it emerged he lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. Now, news has broken that former FBI Director Comey, allegedly wrote a memo, accusing you of trying to stop the investigation into Michael Flynn. If it’s true, that’s political interference of the worst kind. Using your office and power to try and thwart an independent, lawful investigation. That is intolerable. It will not be tolerated by Republican or Democrat. No one admits to seeing the memo. No one knows, for sure, it even exists. But plenty of people are now saying they desperately want to follow the paper trail. And in really bad news for you, one of those people is a Republican. And not just any old Republican. Jason Chaffetz, the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee. It is the one Congressional committee with the power to follow the paper trail.

“On the surface that seems like an extraordinary use of influence to try to shut down an investigation being done by the FBI,” Mr Chaffetz said.

“(We are) going to get the Comey memo, if it exists. I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready.”

The committee Mr Chaffetz heads sent a letter to the FBI requesting it to provide the memo – and any other relevant materials from Mr Comey.

Another senior Republican figure, former presidential nominee John McCain, openly compared the current situation to the Watergate scandal.

“I think we’ve seen this movie before. I think it appears at a point where it’s of Watergate size and scale,” Mr McCain said to former TV anchor Bob Schieffer at a dinner.

“The shoes continue to drop, and every couple of days there’s a new aspect,” he said. “Get it all out. It’s not going to be over until every aspect of it is thoroughly examined and the American people make a judgment. The longer you delay, the longer it is going to last.”

As you might expect, other Republicans are ducking for cover. It prompted CNNs political reporter Chris Cilliza to say: “ If you are a Republican in Congress, now is the time to panic.”

The story, about the former FBI Director’s alleged memo, was broken by the New York Times newspaper. The Times says it hasn’t seen the memo, but says one of the former FBI Director’s associates, allegedly read excerpts from it, to one of its reporters.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go, you allegedly told Mr Comey. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Now, I’m telling what you already knew. Please forgive the re telling, I know it’s boring and repetitive but I like to re tell a story because it helps me understand what’s going on.

I also know it’s hard to predict what will happen next. But in my experience these things tend to have a mind and a life of their own. I wouldn’t put money on betting you won’t be in office by Christmas.

It’s a real pity, Bill Shakespeare isn’t around. I’m sure he’d love to write about you. What am I saying? He already did. Just called you by a different name. And the setting was Rome, not Washington DC. Smart bloke that Will Shakespeare.

Anyhow, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. I remain your friend as always.

Take care and kind regards.

Hard To Be Sorry For Cocaine Cassie

I’ve thought long and hard. What I am about to say seems harsh. Maybe even cruel. Certainly it’s heartless. But I have absolutely no sympathy, none, for a young Australian woman, languishing in a Colombian jail, facing drug trafficking charges. Sorry.

For those who might not know, let me tell a little of the back story as I know it.

Twenty-two-year-old Adelaide woman Cassandra Sainsbury was arrested, while trying to board a flight for London, at Bogata airport in Colombia. Five point eight kilos of cocaine was later discovered, concealed inside headphones carried in her suitcase.

As you might expect, Sainsbury denied any knowledge of the drugs and claims the headphones were presents for family and friends. According to the Sainsbury version of events, she allegedly bought the headphones, for a ‘cheap’ price, from a man called Angelo or Tom. The problem for Sainsbury, one among many, is that no one has been able to identify or find this man.

According to her Colombian lawyer, Orlando Herran, Angelo or Tom is a ‘ghost’. The lawyer certainly got that right. A ghost as in Angelo or Tom doesn’t exist and never did. In fact Herran went on to say: “ there’s no evidence of his true identity.”

Herran says while he believes his client’s version of events (of course he has to say that being her lawyer) “ it is here that we have a very grave problem. …at this point we do not have any proof that she really was tricked or that this other person that she refers to exists or is guilty.”

Since her arrest, Sainsbury’s Colombian lawyer says the Australian does a lot of crying and is not coping very well with her surroundings. That is perfectly understandable. Colombian prisons are by definition hell-holes. They’re overcrowded, filthy, lacking even the basics of life. Corruption is said to be widespread in the prison system. If she is convicted, Sainsbury faces the possibility of up to 20 years imprisonment.

So is she innocent as she claims? Or is she knowingly guilty? Unfortunately, everything points to the latter. And this is where the story gets very murky. It has now been revealed that Sainsbury’s arrest resulted from a tip off to Colombian authorities by the American Drug Enforcement Agency, the DEA. What alerted the DEA was the last minute purchase of a plane ticket on Sainsbury’s behalf in Hong Kong with the destination Colombia via London. An unknown person, bought the ticket to travel to South America. Sainsbury was travelling alone and for a short period of time. In the drug enforcement business, that is known as a red flag for a potential drug mule. In other words, a person prepared to act as a drug courier. Then there were other potential clues like the cryptic social media comments she posted in the days and weeks and months leading up to her trip. In the posts she appeared to be counting down the days to a life-changing event. The now deleted January 10 post read: “ 50 days until I make the biggest move I’ve yet to do…….50 days until everything changes.”

She added the following hashtags: #newbeginnings #newyearnewme #2k17#dreamjob #bondiliving #life #change #love #50daysleft #goodthingsarecoming.

On April 8, she posted a photograph from Bogota along with the comment: “Can’t complain about an all expenses paid work trip, in which (sic) is mainly holiday very little work. It’s the simple things that are the true beauty in the world. Mother Nature has been putting on quite the show for me over here.”

It would appear Cassandra Sainsbury anticipated a windfall of sorts.

Sainsbury’s family claim she was on a working holiday to promote her personal training business — a claim which appears to be supported by Sainsbury’s Instagram posts which are riddled with fitness-related hashtags.

But her fiance Scotty Broadbridge tells a completely different story, claiming she hasn’t done any personal training work for months and her most recent job involved “helping to manage” a cleaning company.

“Although Cassie is a PT, she is not currently personal training and hasn’t been for six months. I don’t know why that was mentioned at all,”  Broadbridge says.

Her fiance might not know but I am perfectly happy to speculate on why her personal training work was mentioned. It might have something to do with concocting a cover story to disguise the real reason for travelling to Colombia.

Broadbridge went on to say: “She helped manage a commercial cleaning business that had both national and international clients. Unfortunately it’s very easy for tourists to get targeted, especially in Colombia.”

So why would Sainsbury be so insanely stupid as to act as a drug mule? The answer is money. It usually is the answer, in these cases. In Adelaide, at one time, Cassandra Sainsbury ran her own gym but it collapsed with Sainsbury allegedly owing tens of thousands of dollars. In 2015, she opened Yorke’s Fitness charging an $800 a year membership but it went broke within six months. When the gym closed, Sainsbury disappeared.

“When she left town, there was rent owing on the premises,” Yorke florist Lyn Gates told a local television station. “It was a shock to me, plus the community … All of a sudden, she just took off and not paid – nicked – the rent and the equipment just disappeared.”

There does not appear to be much public sympathy for Casandra Sainsbury. Her family launched a crowdfunding campaign to help pay her legal costs. But it was shut down well short of its funding target because it was attracting a lot of negative comments.

Cassandra Sainsbury finds herself in an awful predicament whatever way you look at it. If she decides to fight the charges it will be two months for her case to be heard. It’s also unlikely she’d be given bail. If she decides to plead guilty, as her lawyer has already recommended, her potential prison sentence could be reduced substantially but it will still be many years inside a Colombian jail.

Colombian lawyer, Orlando Herrán says Sainsbury’s best chance of a reduced sentence is for her to negotiate with Colombian prosecutors in the two-month window before the start of her trial, but his immediate priority is to find a way to get her out of prison.

“She’s young and it is important that she gets out as soon as possible,” the lawyer says. “There are many examples of Colombians and foreigners who have been able to reach an agreement with prosecutors.

“If we can show she hasn’t had problems with police in Australia and no history of contact with drug traffickers, we can make a deal.”

But the Colombian authorities will be pressing Sainsbury to name names before they agree to any plea deal. And that potentially opens her up to even more danger in a prison system that doesn’t like snitches.

While I have no sympathy for her position, I take no comfort at all in seeing her suffering. But at the end of the day Cassandra Sainsbury only has herself to blame for her situation. And whatever lesson she learns from this  it is going to be very, very hard and very, very long.