Tag Archives: mitt romney

Tennessee man sentenced for Romney tax return fraud, extortion scheme

A Tennessee man was sentenced this week to 48 months in prison for engaging in an extortion and wire fraud scheme involving former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s tax returns.

Michael Mancil Brown, 37, was found guilty at trial on May 12 of six counts of wire fraud and six counts of using facilities of interstate commerce to commit extortion.

U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson of the Eastern District of Arkansas imposed the sentence and ordered Brown to pay $201,836 in restitution to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

According to testimony at trial, evidence recovered from a computer seized from Brown’s residence in 2012 implicated him in a scheme to defraud Mitt Romney, the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers and others by falsely claiming that he had gained access to the PricewaterhouseCoopers internal computer network and had stolen tax documents for Romney and his wife, Ann D. Romney, for tax years prior to 2010.

In August 2012, a letter delivered to the offices of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Franklin demanded that $1 million worth of the digital currency Bitcoin be deposited to a specific Bitcoin account to prevent the release of the purportedly stolen Romney tax returns, according to trial evidence.

The letter invited interested parties who wanted the allegedly stolen Romney tax documents to be released to contribute $1 million to another Bitcoin account.

As part of the scheme, similar letters were delivered to the offices of the Democratic and Republican parties in Franklin and similar statements were posted to Pastebin.com.

The U.S. Secret Service’s Nashville Field Office investigated the case with assistance from the FBI’s Nashville Division.

Senior Counsel Anthony V. Teelucksingh of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Byron Jones of the Middle District of Tennessee prosecuted the case.

Scott Walker is honorary host for Aug. 16 Trump fundraiser

Hypocrisy. Mendacity. Moral double-speak. They’re as old as humanity, and yet somehow ever new.

Welcome to today’s GOP — no principles required.

Republican leaders — including Wisconsin’s own Paul Ryan, Ron Johnson, Scott Walker and Robin Vos — damn Donald Trump out of one side of their mouths while endorsing him with the other. They seek to eat their partisan cake while avoiding indigestion in the voting booth.

The duplicitous character of the state’s GOP leaders was reflected in a recent headline in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that proclaimed: “Walker, Johnson, Ryan skipping Trump event.” The event in question was a rally held Aug. 5 at the KI Convention Center in Green Bay. All three said they had previous engagements.

A principled stand against Trumpism? Think again.

Walker might have ditched the Green Bay rally, but his name appears prominently — as an honorary host, no less — on the invitation to a big-ticket fundraising reception for the Republican nominee to be held in Milwaukee on Aug. 16. Other honorary hosts include Wisconsin congressman Sean Duffy and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, the latter for comic relief, perhaps.

Meanwhile, Johnson takes double-speak to new heights, “supporting” Trump but not “endorsing” him. Follow?

Supporting Trump is like playing Russian roulette with the nation’s future, and the majority of GOP leaders know it. Barack Obama called him “unfit to serve as President,” and a right-wing National Review correspondent — and certified Obama-hater — agreed: “Of course it is true.”

Trump’s ignorance is exceeded only by his narcissism.  His psychosocial development is stuck at the same stage as infants whose only way of interacting with the world is standing in their cribs and screaming when they want something. If Trump got elected, White House staff would have to set up a high chair in the Oval Office.

Fortunately, there are a number of conscientious Republicans, including the state’s staunchest GOP business leaders, who care more about the nation than about partisan politics. The list of prominent anti-Trump Republicans is growing so fast that it will probably have doubled — at least — by the time this editorial is seen in print.

The anti-Trump list includes influential right-wing Wisconsin radio personality Charlie Sykes, former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and major Republican donors such as Meg Whitman, who’s contributing money to Hillary Clinton instead. Three prominent former members of George W. Bush’s administration — Richard Armitage, Henry Paulson, Brent Scowcroft — have also announced they’re supporting Clinton.

Although these apostatizing conservatives deserve a shout-out, it comes with a caveat: Republicans themselves paved the way for Trump’s ascension by decades of promoting divisiveness, fear, racism, economic inequality and anti-intellectualism. We hope the shock of reaping what they’ve sown will throw them on a better path.

The leadership shown by these Republican insurgents only magnifies our disgust with politicians like Ryan, Walker, Johnson and Sen. John McCain, who continue to support Trump despite their very public, very grave reservations. Their reputations are — and should be — diminishing by the minute.

“Love the sinner but hate the sin” has never made any sense, and it’s not a noble strategy for a presidential election.

Romney blasts Donald Trump as an ignorant, arrogant, dishonest bully

Full remarks delivered by Mitt Romney about Donald Trump at the Hinckley Institute of Politics at University of Utah.

Click here to watch the video of this speech

I am not here to announce my candidacy for office. I am not going to endorse a candidate today. Instead, I would like to offer my perspective on the nominating process of my party. In 1964, days before the presidential election which, incidentally, we lost, Ronald Reagan went on national television and challenged America saying that it was a “Time for Choosing.” He saw two paths for America, one that embraced conservative principles dedicated to lifting people out of poverty and helping create opportunity for all, and the other, an oppressive government that would lead America down a darker, less free path. I’m no Ronald Reagan and this is a different moment but I believe with all my heart and soul that we face another time for choosing, one that will have profound consequences for the Republican Party and more importantly, for the country.

I say this in part because of my conviction that America is poised to lead the world for another century. Our technology engines, our innovation dynamic, and the ambition and skill of our people will propel our economy and raise our standard of living. America will remain as it is today, the envy of the world.

Warren Buffett was 100% right when he said last week that “the babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.”

That doesn’t mean we don’t have real problems and serious challenges. At home, poverty persists and wages are stagnant. The horrific massacres of Paris and San Bernardino, the nuclear ambitions of the Iranian mullahs, the aggressions of Putin, the growing assertiveness of China and the nuclear tests of North Korea confirm that we live in troubled and dangerous times.

But if we make the right choices, America’s future will be even better than our past and better than our present.

On the other hand, if we make improvident choices, the bright horizon I foresee will never materialize. Let me put it plainly, if we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished.

Let me explain why.

First, the economy: If Donald Trump’s plans were ever implemented, the country would sink into a prolonged recession.

A few examples: His proposed 35% tariff-like penalties would instigate a trade war that would raise prices for consumers, kill export jobs, and lead entrepreneurs and businesses to flee America. His tax plan, in combination with his refusal to reform entitlements and to honestly address spending would balloon the deficit and the national debt. So even as Donald Trump has offered very few specific economic plans, what little he has said is enough to know that he would be very bad for American workers and for American families.

But wait, you say, isn’t he a huge business success that knows what he’s talking about? No he isn’t. His bankruptcies have crushed small businesses and the men and women who worked for them. He inherited his business, he didn’t create it. And what ever happened to Trump Airlines? How about Trump University? And then there’s Trump Magazine and Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks, and Trump Mortgage? A business genius he is not.

Now not every policy Donald Trump has floated is bad. He wants to repeal and replace Obamacare. He wants to bring jobs home from China and Japan. But his prescriptions to do these things are flimsy at best. At the last debate, all he could remember about his healthcare plan was to remove insurance boundaries between states. Successfully bringing jobs home requires serious policy and reforms that make America the place businesses want to plant and grow. You can’t punish business into doing the things you want. Frankly, the only serious policy proposals that deal with the broad range of national challenges we confront, come today from Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich. One of these men should be our nominee.

I know that some people want the race to be over. They look at history and say a trend like Mr. Trump’s isn’t going to be stopped.

Perhaps. But the rules of political history have pretty much all been shredded during this campaign. If the other candidates can find common ground, I believe we can nominate a person who can win the general election and who will represent the values and policies of conservatism. Given the current delegate selection process, this means that I would vote for Marco Rubio in Florida, for John Kasich in Ohio, and for Ted Cruz or whichever one of the other two contenders has the best chance of beating Mr. Trump in a given state.

Let me turn to national security and the safety of our homes and loved ones. Trump’s bombast is already alarming our allies and fueling the enmity of our enemies. Insulting all Muslims will keep many of them from fully engaging with us in the urgent fight against ISIS. And for what purpose? Muslim terrorists would only have to lie about their religion to enter the country.

What he said on “60 Minutes” about Syria and ISIS has to go down as the most ridiculous and dangerous idea of the campaign season: Let ISIS take out Assad, he said, and then we can pick up the remnants. Think about that: Let the most dangerous terror organization the world has ever known take over a country? This is recklessness in the extreme.

Donald Trump tells us that he is very, very smart. I’m afraid that when it comes to foreign policy he is very, very not smart.

I am far from the first to conclude that Donald Trump lacks the temperament of be president. After all, this is an individual who mocked a disabled reporter, who attributed a reporter’s questions to her menstrual cycle, who mocked a brilliant rival who happened to be a woman due to her appearance, who bragged about his marital affairs, and who laces his public speeches with vulgarity.

Donald Trump says he admires Vladimir Putin, while has called George W. Bush a liar. That is a twisted example of evil trumping good.

There is dark irony in his boasts of his sexual exploits during the Vietnam War while John McCain, whom he has mocked, was imprisoned and tortured.

Dishonesty is Trump’s hallmark: He claimed that he had spoken clearly and boldly against going into Iraq. Wrong, he spoke in favor of invading Iraq. He said he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 9/11. Wrong, he saw no such thing. He imagined it. His is not the temperament of a stable, thoughtful leader. His imagination must not be married to real power.

The President of the United States has long been the leader of the free world. The president and yes the nominees of the country’s great parties help define America to billions of people. All of them bear the responsibility of being an example for our children and grandchildren.

Mitt Romney —PHOTO: Gage Skidmore
Mitt Romney —PHOTO: Gage Skidmore

Think of Donald Trump’s personal qualities, the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics. We have long referred to him as “The Donald.” He is the only person in America to whom we have added an article before his name. It wasn’t because he had attributes we admired.

Now imagine your children and your grandchildren acting the way he does. Will you welcome that? Haven’t we seen before what happens when people in prominent positions fail the basic responsibility of honorable conduct? We have, and it always injures our families and our country.

Watch how he responds to my speech today. Will he talk about our policy differences or will he attack me with every imaginable low road insult? This may tell you what you need to know about his temperament, his stability, and his suitability to be president.

Trump relishes any poll that reflects what he thinks of himself. But polls are also saying that he will lose to Hillary Clinton.

On Hillary Clinton’s watch at the State Department, America’s interests were diminished in every corner of the world. She compromised our national secrets, dissembled to the families of the slain, and jettisoned her most profound beliefs to gain presidential power.

For the last three decades, the Clintons have lived at the intersection of money and politics, trading their political influence to enrich their personal finances. They embody the term “crony capitalism.” It disgusts the American people and causes them to lose faith in our political process.

A person so untrustworthy and dishonest as Hillary Clinton must not become president. But a Trump nomination enables her victory. The audio and video of the infamous Tapper-Trump exchange on the Ku Klux Klan will play a hundred thousand times on cable and who knows how many million times on social media.

There are a number of people who claim that Mr. Trump is a con man, a fake. There is indeed evidence of that. Mr. Trump has changed his positions not just over the years, but over the course of the campaign, and on the Ku Klux Klan, daily for three days in a row.

We will only really know if he is the real deal or a phony if he releases his tax returns and the tape of his interview with the The New York Times. I predict that there are more bombshells in his tax returns. I predict that he doesn’t give much if anything to the disabled and to our veterans. I predict that he told the The New York Times that his immigration talk is just that: talk. And I predict that despite his promise to do so, first made over a year ago, he will never ever release his tax returns. Never. Not the returns under audit, not even the returns that are no longer being audited. He has too much to hide. Nor will he authorize the Times to release the tapes. If I’m right, you will have all the proof you need to know that Donald Trump is a phony.

Attacking me as he surely will won’t prove him any less of a phony. It’s entirely in his hands to prove me wrong. All he has to do is to release his back taxes like he promised he would, and let us hear what he said behind closed doors to The New York Times.

Ronald Reagan used to quote a Scottish philosopher who predicted that democracies and civilizations couldn’t last more than about 200 years. John Adams wrote this: “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” I believe that America has proven these dire predictions wrong for two reasons.

First, we have been blessed with great presidents, with giants among us. Men of character, integrity and selflessness have led our nation from its very beginning. None were perfect: each surely made mistakes. But in every case, they acted out of the desire to do what was right for America and for freedom.

The second reason is because we are blessed with a great people, people who at every critical moment of choosing have put the interests of the country above their own.

These two things are related: our presidents time and again have called on us to rise to the occasion. John F. Kennedy asked us to consider what we could do for our country. Lincoln drew upon the better angels of our nature to save the union.

I understand the anger Americans feel today. In the past, our presidents have channeled that anger, and forged it into resolve, into endurance and high purpose, and into the will to defeat the enemies of freedom. Our anger was transformed into energy directed for good.

Mr. Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes. He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants, he calls for the use of torture and for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit First Amendment freedom of the press. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.

Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.

His domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president. And his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.

America has greatness ahead. This is a time for choosing. God bless us to choose a nominee who will make that vision a reality.

 

 

New poll: Clinton leads all GOP candidates

Hillary Clinton leads all the GOP White House contenders in hypothetical general-election showdowns, according to the MSNBC/Telemundo/Marist poll.

Clinton’s lead comes despite the fact that the contentious — and often bizarre — Republican presidential primary is swallowing all of the air in the media. Democratic candidates Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley have been nearly missing from the headlines for weeks.

Clinton’s biggest GOP lead is against Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who has the highest unfavorable ratings of any candidate in either party. Clinton trumps The Donald by 52 to 41, according to the poll released today.

Clinton’s lead against Ben Carson, her closest Republican rival, is 48-47, which is well within the margin of error. Her next closest contender is Marco Rubio, whom she leads 48–45.

Clinton holds stronger leads against Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush —51–44 and 49–45, respectively.

Among registered Latino voters, Clinton holds a far more commanding lead over every GOP candidate. Rubio, who is the son of Cuban immigrants, performes the best against Clinton among Latinos, trailing her 58–39.

The fastest growing minority population in the United States, Latinos gave President Obama 71 percent of their vote and Mitt Romney only 27 percent, the lowest that a GOP candidate has received in the three previous election.

But, with the exception of Donald Trump, Latino voters nationally seem more receptive to Republicans in 2016, despite high-profile immigrant bashing from several GOP candidates. Most analysts, however, believe it will be extremely difficult for Republicans to get the approximately 40 percent of the Hispanic vote  needed to win the White House. 

Muslim-bashing GOP candidates score big with Republican voters

Some leading Republican presidential candidates seem to view Muslims as fair game for increasingly harsh words they might use with more caution against any other group for fear of the political cost. So far, that strategy is winning support from conservatives influential in picking the nominee.

Many Republicans are heartened by strong rhetoric addressing what they view as a threat to national security by Islam itself, analysts say. Because Muslims are a small voting bloc, the candidates see limited fallout from what they are saying in the campaign.

“I think this issue exists on its own island,” said Steve Schmidt, a Republican political consultant who ran Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “It’s highly unlikely to cause a political penalty, and there is no evidence that it has.”

Since the attacks that killed 130 people in Paris, GOP front-runner Donald Trump has said he wants to register all Muslims in the U.S. and surveil American mosques. He has repeated unsubstantiated claims that Muslim-Americans in New Jersey celebrated by the “thousands” when the World Trade Center was destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Donald Trump is already very well-known for being brash and outspoken and is appealing to a group of people — a minority of American voters, but a large minority — who seem to like that kind of tough talk,” said John Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.

Rival Ben Carson said allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S. would be akin to exposing a neighborhood to a “rabid dog.” Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said, “I’d like for Barack Obama to resign if he’s not going to protect America and instead protect the image of Islam.”

Such statements appeal to Republicans who think Obama and Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former secretary of state, have not done enough to fight jihadis, Green said. The sentiment also plays well for evangelicals concerned about violence directed at Christians in the Middle East and angered about restrictions their missionaries face in predominantly Muslim countries.

“There’s a religious undercurrent here, aside from foreign policy issues,” Green said.

Other inflammatory rhetoric from the Trump and Carson campaigns has generated far different reactions.

When Trump announced his campaign, he said Mexican immigrants are “bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He was widely denounced. Polls find Latinos strongly disapprove of his candidacy and his remarks alienated other immigrant groups.

The potency of comments criticizing Muslims was apparent even before recent attacks by extremists in France, Lebanon and Egypt.

Carson’s campaign reported strong fundraising and more than 100,000 new Facebook friends in the 24 hours after he told NBC’s Meet the Press in September, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.”

Campaign manager Barry Bennett told The Associated Press, “While the left wing is huffing and puffing over it, Republican primary voters are with us at least 80–20.”

“People in Iowa particularly, are like, ‘Yeah! We’re not going to vote for a Muslim either,” Bennett said at the time. “I don’t mind the hubbub. It’s not hurting us, that’s for sure.”

According to a 2014 poll by the Pew Research Center, Republicans view Muslims more negatively than they do any other religious group, and significantly worse than do Democrats. A different Pew poll last year found that 82 percent of Republicans were “very concerned” about the rise of Islamic extremism, compared with 51 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents.

Today, 84 percent of Republicans disapprove of taking in Syrian refugees, most of whom are Muslims, compared with 40 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents, according to a Gallup poll released just before Thanksgiving.

In recent years, Americans’ attitudes toward Islam and Muslims have been relatively stable following terrorist attacks. But opposition jumped in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and around major elections. To Dalia Mogahed, research director for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and former executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, those are signs that “the public was being manipulated” by politicians with agendas.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, when President George W. Bush visited a Washington mosque and said “Islam is peace,” public opinion of the faith actually improved, she said. But the absence of such a leader has created a clear path for candidates who oppose Islam.

“They’ve now latched onto Muslims as an easy target with no consequences,” Mogahed said. “We’ve really moved the threshold of what is socially acceptable.”

Singling out Muslims is not new.

Before the 2012 presidential election, Republican candidate Newt Gingrich called for a federal ban on Islamic law and said Muslims could hold public office in the U.S. if “the person would commit in public to give up Shariah.” Huckabee, then considering a presidential run, called Islam “the antithesis of the gospel of Christ.”

But candidates at the top of the field stayed away from such rhetoric.

“The kind of things that Donald Trump and Ben Carson are saying today are things that Mitt Romney would have never said,” said Farid Senzai, a political scientist at Santa Clara University. Romney was the Republican nominee in 2012.

Criticism of Muslims is hardly limited to presidential campaigns. In recent years, there have been ads by anti-Muslim groups and well-organized campaigns against the building of mosques, along with pressure on state legislatures to ban Shariah law.

“All of these things — built up over more than a decade by a few very vocal people — have created a climate in which it is not just acceptable for politicians to play to our basest instincts, but perhaps politically expedient,” Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said in an email.

The intensity of the rhetoric is partly a symptom of the large field of GOP candidates, all trying to stake out ground to prove themselves as the most patriotic and toughest on national security, said Charles Dunn, former dean of the school of government at Regent University, which was founded by Pat Robertson, an evangelist and one-time GOP presidential candidate.

“The tone is much more strident now, much less forgiving,” Dunn said.

American Muslims make up just under 1 percent of the U.S. population, Pew estimates. They come from many different backgrounds and are widely dispersed, limiting their political influence, Green said.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council, a policy and advocacy group based in Los Angeles, sent letters in October to all the presidential candidates asking them to attend the organization’s public policy forum. The candidates either did not respond or declined, council spokeswoman Rabiah Ahmed said.

“Over the last 10 years, the political and civic organizations for U.S. Muslims have become much better organized, but I think their voice is still fairly muted,” Green said.

Even so, some observers say the verbal attacks risk alienating larger segments of voters, particularly other immigrants worried they could be next.

Suhail Khan, who worked in a number of posts in George W. Bush’s administration and has decried criticism by Republican politicians of fellow Muslims, said: “There’s no doubt that when specific candidates, in this case Dr. Carson and Mr. Trump, think that they can narrowly attack one specific group, other Americans of various faiths and backgrounds are paying attention.”

___

Hillary Clinton calls Jeb Bush’s ‘free stuff’ comments ‘deeply insulting’

Hillary Rodham Clinton says Jeb Bush’s suggestion that Democrats offer “free stuff” to appeal to minority voters is “deeply insulting.”

Bush recently told a South Carolina audience that Democrats offer division and “free stuff,” or government help, to black voters while his message is about “hope and aspiration.”

Clinton took issue with the comments during a Facebook question-and-answer session this week. She said rhetoric like that is “deeply insulting, whether it comes from Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney or Donald Trump.”

“I think people are seeing this for what it is: Republicans lecturing people of color instead of offering real solutions to help people get ahead, including facing up to hard truths about race and justice in America,” Clinton wrote on Facebook.

Bush’s remarks drew comparisons to Romney’s comments following his 2012 loss in the presidential election to President Barack Obama, when the former Massachusetts governor told donors that Obama had offered “gifts” to minority voters.

Bush told Fox News over the weekend that his comments were taken out of context and he was making a point that was counter to what Romney had said at the time.

“I think we need to make our case to African-American voters and all voters that an aspirational message, fixing a few big complex things, will allow people to rise up. That’s what people want. They don’t want free stuff. That was my whole point,” Bush said.

As Zimbabwe seeks to extradite American who slaughtered lion, donations pour in for conservation group

EDITOR’S NOTE: Corrects money raised to U.S. dollars

A pair of U.S. philanthropists with a passion for wild cats pledged Friday to match new donations to Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Unit — the researchers who were tracking the movements of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe.

Tom Kaplan, a natural resource investor whose net worth was put by Forbes magazine at $1 billion, and his wife, Daphne, will match donations made after 3 p.m. London time Friday up to a total value of $100,000. The Kaplans hope to help the Oxford researchers raise half a million pounds to further their work.

More than the equivalent of half a million in U.S. dollars has already been raised from all over the world — $150,000 of it in the 24 hours after Jimmy Kimmel made a tearful plea for funding to assist WildCRU’s conservation efforts.

David McDonald, the director and founder of WildCRU, thanked Kimmel with a message on the organization’s website that said: “Jimmy Kimmel implored his millions of listeners in the USA to make donations to support our work on lions, and conservation more widely. We are so grateful for this and for the up-welling of support for our work worldwide.”

Kaplan said he was spurred into action to maintain the conservation momentum that Cecil’s death sparked.

“We have to seize this moment where we can all make a difference,” Tom Kaplan said in a statement, adding that if the “death of Cecil can lead to the saving of many more lions, then some good can come from tragedy.”

The pledge comes hours after Zimbabwe started extradition proceedings for the American dentist who paid two locals $50,000 to help him lure the lion out of a national park under cover of night and shot him with a crossbow. The wounded lion roamed for 40 hours in pain before the three men found, shot, skinned and decapitated the beloved animal.

Walter Palmer “had a well-orchestrated agenda which would tarnish the image of Zimbabwe and further strain the relationship between Zimbabwe and the USA,” Oppah Muchinguri, the African nation’s environment minister, told CNN.

But the Bloomington, Minnesota, dentist apparently has gone in to hiding. He briefly hired a public relations agency, but the firm quickly dropped him as a client. His business and suburban Minneapolis McMansion have been shuttered and all of his social media profiles have been erased.

A representative of Palmer’s contacted the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement late yesterday, but Palmer has yet to surface.

Cecil was not the first large mammal doomed to an illegal death by “trophy hunter” Palmer. The Bloomington, Minnesota, resident was convicted of poaching a black bear he killed in Wisconsin several years ago.

Records also show that Palmer had other impulse-control issues. His dental practice’s insurance company paid $127,000 to settle a sexual harassment complaint filed against him by a former receptionist there.

Palmer, who donated $5,000 to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, was also ordered to take management and ethics classes.

The slaughter of Cecil, a protected and internationally beloved resident of Hwange National Park, has touched off international outrage and sparked a worldwide conversation as to how to best safeguard the dwindling number of big cats. It has also harmed the local economy. Zimbabwe officials estimated that Cecil brought the area about $100,000 in tourism.

Oxford’s WildCRU, one of the world’s top university research groups, tracks the movements of hundreds of lions and runs an anti-poaching team. It also works with local farmers to help them live alongside the lions. It had followed Cecil’s movements in minute detail since 2008.

To make a donation to WildCRU from North America, click here.

Top GOP donors want Donald Trump out, an end to intraparty ‘violence’

Worried about “Republican-on-Republican violence,” top party donors are taking action, with one firing off a letter calling for more civility and another seeking to block businessman Donald Trump from the debate stage altogether.

Foster Friess, a Wyoming-based investor and one of the party’s top 20 donors in the last presidential contest, issued a letter to 16 White House prospects and the Republican National Committee late last week calling for candidates to stay on the “civility reservation.”

“Our candidates will benefit if they all submit to Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment, ‘Thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican,’” Friess wrote in a letter sent to Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus. A copy was obtained by The Associated Press.

In the dispatch, Friess cites the backing of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts. “Would you join the effort to inspire a more civil way of making their points?” Friess wrote. “If they drift off the ‘civility reservation,’ let’s all immediately communicate that to them.”

The call for calm comes as the sprawling Republican field shows signs it could tip into a bare-knuckles struggle for the nomination — a scenario that the party’s elite donors see as a distressing echo of four years ago.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Monday charged that Republicans don’t need Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s “lectures.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker repeatedly dismisses Republicans in Congress as doing little. And Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul regularly jabs his Republican opponents by name.

Yet no candidate has injected more provocation into the 2016 Republican presidential primary than Trump.

While few party officials see the reality television star as a credible candidate, he has lashed out at a growing number of Republican critics who have condemned his recent description of Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists. Trump over the weekend posted a message from another user on his Twitter account charging that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush “has to like the Mexican illegals because of his wife,” Columba, who was born in Mexico.

Campaigning in New Hampshire over the weekend, Bush said he “absolutely” took the remark personally. Trump has not apologized, but said Monday evening “somebody else” retweeted the message and, “I don’t know anything about it,” even though it was under his account.

Trump stood firm on his comments about immigrants, saying earlier Monday “the Mexican government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States,” and “criminals, drug dealers, rapists” are among them. He said “many fabulous people” come from Mexico and the U.S. is better for them, but this country is “a dumping ground for Mexico.”

Republican donor John Jordan said Monday that GOP leaders should take steps to block Trump’s access to the first presidential debate in early August.

Debate organizers at Fox News Channel, backed by the Republican National Committee, have released guidelines saying the top 10 candidates in national polling will be allowed to participate. Trump would qualify under the current terms, while contenders such as Ohio’s two-term Gov. John Kasich would not.

“Someone in the party ought to start some sort of petition saying, ‘If Trump’s going to be on the stage, I’m not going to be on there with him,’” Jordan told the AP on Monday. “I’m toying with the idea of it.”

“It’s something I feel strongly about as somebody who not only cares about the Republican Party, but also Latinos,” Jordan said.

Even as the other candidates say they’re trying to avoid intraparty backbiting, however, they can’t seem to avoid it.

In an interview Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Cruz refused to condemn Trump’s comments, saying he’s not going to perpetrate “Republican-on-Republican violence.” Christie, who entered the presidential race last week, wasn’t having it.

“I find it ironic, right, that Ted Cruz is giving lectures on Republican-on-Republican violence,” Christie said on Fox News, accusing the Texan of sponsoring hardball ads against Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander in the 2014 primaries. “I mean, all due respect, I don’t need to be lectured by Ted Cruz.”

The Republican National Committee has dramatically reduced the number of primary debates before the 2016 contest largely to avoid the kind of attacks that bloodied their 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney.

As the last GOP nomination heated up in January 2012, Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich got particularly nasty. Gingrich joined Obama supporters in attacking Romney’s business background, calling him a “vulture capitalist.”

Donors remember those exchanges well and fear a repeat of primary vitriol would lead to another general election loss. “Ninety-nine percent of leading donors saw the candidates carve each other up in the 2012 primaries and come out weaker for it and are determined not to let that happen again,” said Fred Malek, who has helped raise money for GOP presidential candidates for four decades.

Responding to Friess’ letter, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee wrote he plans on “becoming the nominee by playing a better game, not by breaking the legs of my rivals.”

“I hope that we don’t commit fratricide again as a party,” Huckabee wrote, according to a copy of his response obtained by the AP.

Associated Press writer Jonathan Lemire in New York City contributed to this report.

Scott Walker blasts his Senate rivals for achieving nothing, but they give him a free pass

Even while calling for a “civilized” Republican debate in 2016, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker charged on Friday that GOP senators seeking the White House haven’t accomplished anything.

The 47-year-old two-term governor was the first of five Republican presidential prospects to appear at a luxury mountainside resort in Utah, where 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney was hosting a private gathering at a luxurious spa with his top donors.

Despite Walker’s provocation, none of the other speakers attacked him for a broad range of high-profile failures, including presiding over a state that ranks last in business start-up activity, has the fastest shrinking middle class, has one of the worst job-growth rates, and faces more than a $2 billion deficit. Walker has been plagued with corruption charges, disappearing taxpayer money and arrests among his top advisors. He’s slashed spending on schools — at some points more than any other governor in the nation.

Bot others who spoke, including Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina in addition to Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, gave Walker a free pass on all those fiascos — and many more

 Sen. Lindsey Graham warned that his party may be going down a “death spiral” if it doesn’t embrace minority and younger voters.

Both Graham and another potential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, said the eventual nominee must get on board with an immigration overhaul or risk losing the presidency.

“Nobody is going to vote for a party that’s going to break their family apart,” Graham said.”

Kasich also urged Republicans to accommodate many of the immigrants who are living in the country illegally. “They’ve been God-fearing, hard-working people in many cases,” he said.

They were among the 2016 contenders pitching for the support of about 300 top political donors and strategists connected to Romney. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also was appearing and former technology executive Carly Fiorina is on Saturday’s schedule — after a morning skeet-shooting session led by Graham.

Walker said his party’s 2016 presidential class should be divided into two groups. “There are fighters and there are winners,” the Wisconsin governor said, describing the fighters as the senators in the race.

“They have yet to win anything and accomplish anything.”

Rubio did not engage Walker but drew a sharp contrast between the older and younger crop of candidates.

“Yesterday is over,” the 44-year-old Florida senator declared, repeating a common theme designed to distinguish himself from leading Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Jeb Bush. “The old ways of doing things aren’t working anymore.”

“Some have said I should have waited my turn,” Rubio said. “I didn’t know there was a line.”

Bush was invited to Romney’s gathering, but was in Europe on Friday.

Romney’s invitation-only event gave the Republican contenders an opportunity to connect with 250 leading donors and political operatives.

Some attendees started their day hiking with Romney and his wife at 6 a.m. Others played flag football with Rubio. Among other activities: a hot air balloon ride, outdoor yoga and horseback riding with Ann Romney.\

GOP rivals slam Scott Walker over flip-flopping

Scott Walker’s rivals see him as an up-and-comer in the Republican race for president, so they are focusing on the Wisconsin governor’s changing positions on a number of issues.

The still-unofficial campaigns of several Republicans have assembled internal memos, research papers and detailed spreadsheets that highlight and track Walker’s shifts on positions from immigration to ethanol to abortion.

They say Walker has a broad pattern of flip-flopping that will be his greatest vulnerability.

The rush of what’s known in the campaign trade as “opposition research” comes as Walker is in midst of a swing through two early voting states. He travels next week to South Carolina after spending this weekend in New Hampshire.

Steve Duprey, a Republican national committeeman from New Hampshire who is not aligned with any candidate, said Walker is relatively unknown among voters in his state — meaning the governor is subject to definition by his opponents.

“You have to be an authentic candidate,” Duprey said. “If people think you’re flipping left and right, that sticks with you.”

Walker has earned strong reviews for his early performances in Iowa and at several forums attended by other expected Republican presidential candidates.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who ran for president in 2012, said Friday that Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush are the leading candidates for the Republican nomination.

“Scott is from a Midwestern state, but he has a national profile and a national fundraising capability,” Pawlenty said. “The non-Jeb money is increasingly flowing to him, and he’s used to communicating red messages in blue places.”

In the past week, aides working for other Republicans expected to run in 2016 have circulated materials that highlight Walker’s change in position on immigration, ethanol mandates, Common Core education standards, abortion and right-to-work legislation.

One campaign has a spreadsheet that outlines when Walker changed a position in comparison to 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney. The analysis found that Walker’s shifts on more than a dozen issues came an average of 15 months before the Iowa caucuses — almost a year later than did Romney’s.

“Voters still don’t know the real Scott Walker,” said veteran Republican operative John Feehery, who is not aligned with any of the potential candidates. “And if he thinks he can get them to like him merely by saying things that they want to hear, he is going to run into the same problem that plagued Mitt Romney: authenticity.”

AshLee Strong, spokeswoman for Walker’s campaign-in-waiting, said each issue needs to be examined in detail to better understand his positions.

“Gov. Walker has a proven record of championing big, bold reforms in Wisconsin to limit the government and empower people,” Strong said. “It’s lazy and inaccurate to simply lump all issues into one narrative instead of actually examining the facts.”

Walker has acknowledged changing his some positions, most notably on immigration. As early as 2002, he publicly supported creating a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally. In an interview with Fox News this month, Walker said he no longer supports what he termed “amnesty.”

He defended his shift in view, saying he had done so after talking to governors of border states and voters nationwide. “My view has changed. I’m flat out saying it,” he said. “Candidates can say that. Sometimes they don’t.”

In the heat of his re-election campaign last year, Walker softened his position on abortion, saying in a television ad that the decision on whether to have an abortion is between “a woman and her doctor.”

This month, after drawing criticism from conservatives, Walker said he would sign a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

As a candidate for governor in 2006, Walker was critical of the requirement that gasoline contain a certain amount of corn-based ethanol. “Mandates hurt Wisconsin’s working families,” he said at the time. “And whether they are from Washington or Madison, we as fiscal conservatives should oppose them.”

Speaking at an agriculture summit in Iowa last week, Walker said the fuel standard that requires the use of ethanol is “something he’s willing to move forward on.”

Walker’s first budget as governor supported the Common Core academic standards in 2011, but he called for their repeal last summer. During his recent re-election campaign and in the months that followed, Walker said an effort to pass right-to-work legislation in Wisconsin would be a distraction and he urged lawmakers not to address it.

Last week, after the Wisconsin Legislature did so, he signed the bill into law.

A former Republican National Committee chairman, Michael Steele, said he has heard from other Republicans about Walker’s shifts on policy positions. Steele said it is a matter that will play in the presidential primaries.

“If you’ve taken positions and done things, you’ve got to stay true to that. You cannot reframe it for a presidential race,” Steele said. “Everyone’s trying to find a way to carve these men and women up before they even get out of the gate.”