Friday Reads: All Chaos all the Time!Posted: March 2, 2018
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
I wake up these mornings to thinking this reminds me of 1968. There are students protesting in streets for one. But, the news these days reminds me more of those classic 60s TV shows with classic Russian spy meanies and bumbling Americans mixed in with the classic series about the FBI. There are so many instances of crime, intrigue, spying, investigations and the notorious double agents these days that I doubt even the best TV writing team would come up with any of this.
Then, there’s the classic 60s Soaps with scheming family members, bleach blondes galore, and some mean old geezer every one hates. We appear to be stuck in the reality show version of really whacky 60s TV programming. I fully believe there is a jail cell waiting with Jared Kushner’s name on it and it’s just around the corner.
Jared is in heaps of trouble. It appears the next set of indictments will be against the Russian Hackers of the Podesta emails. Just like two weeks ago, Mueller & Friends are laying the ground work on a crime against this country. Soon, we’ll see if any Americans supported that conspiracy. But, there’s also a ton of evidence of financial irregularities involving JarVanka that can be prosecuted at the state level in New York ensuring jail time, fines, and no promise of Presidential pardon. The golden children are on a slow turning spit with increasing fuel on the fire. Just this moring, the AP broke this little gem of a quid pro quo.
The Securities and Exchange Commission late last year dropped its inquiry into a financial company that a month earlier had given White House adviser Jared Kushner’s family real estate firm a $180 million loan.
While there’s no evidence that Kushner or any other Trump administration official had a role in the agency’s decision to drop the inquiry into Apollo Global Management, the timing has once again raised potential conflict-of-interest questions about Kushner’s family business and his role as an adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump.
The SEC detail comes a day after The New York Times reported that Apollo’s loan to the Kushner Cos. followed several meetings at the White House with Kushner.
“I suppose the best case for Kushner is that this looks absolutely terrible,” said Rob Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Without presuming that there is any kind of quid pro quo … there are a lot of ways that the fact of Apollo’s engagement with Kushner and the Kushner businesses in a public and private context might cast a shadow over what the SEC is doing and influence consciously or unconsciously how the agency acted.”
Apollo said in its 2018 annual report that the SEC had halted its inquiry into how the firm reported the financial results of its private equity funds and other costs and personnel changes. Apollo had previously reported that the Obama administration SEC had subpoenaed it for information related to the issue.
Ivanka’s business dealings are also part of an investigation as reported by CNN.
US counterintelligence officials are scrutinizing one of Ivanka Trump’s international business deals, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
The FBI has been looking into the negotiations and financing surrounding Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, according to a US official and a former US official. The scrutiny could be a hurdle for the first daughter as she tries to obtain a full security clearance in her role as adviser to President Donald Trump.
It’s standard procedure to probe foreign contacts and international business deals as part of a background check investigation. But the complexity of the Trump Organization’s business deals, which often rely on international financing and buyers, presents a challenge.
The FBI has been looking closely at the international business entanglements of both Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, to determine whether any of those deals could leave them vulnerable to pressure from foreign agents, including China, according to a US official.
The development — a 616-foot beacon dotting the Vancouver skyline and featuring a trademarked Ivanka Trump spa — opened in February 2017, just after Trump took office.
Ivanka, too, has her own set of problems. While the First Couple braced for an Intercept story that Kushner’s father had failed to secure a loan from the Qatari government just weeks before Kushner backed a blockade of Qatar, CNN dropped another bombshell: United States counterintelligence officials are probing a Trump Organization real-estate deal in Canada in which Ivanka played a leading role.
The financing and negotiations surrounding the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver have come under F.B.I. scrutiny, according to current and former U.S. officials who spoke with CNN. It’s unclear why the F.B.I. is interested in the deal, which dates back to 2013, and in which Ivanka played a key role. But CNN reports that foreign buyers involved, as well as the timing of the $360 million project’s opening in February 2017, may have caught the agency’s attention. Like many Trump Organization deals, the New York-based company does not own the building but rather is paid licensing and marketing fees by the developer, the Holborn Group. Joo Kim Tiah, a member of one of Malaysia’s wealthiest families, runs the Canada-based development firm, and said in October 2015 that the First Daughter was closely involved: “Ivanka and myself approved everything, everything in this project,” he said during an interview.
The Intercept reports Kushner Monkey Business in Qatar. This is the bombshell story mentioned in the Vanity Fair bit.
THE REAL ESTATE firm tied to the family of presidential son-in-law and top White House adviser Jared Kushner made a direct pitch to Qatar’s minister of finance in April 2017 in an attempt to secure investment in a critically distressed asset in the company’s portfolio, according to two sources. At the previously unreported meeting, Jared Kushner’s father Charles, who runs Kushner Companies, and Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif Al Emadi discussed financing for the Kushners’ signature 666 Fifth Avenue property in New York City.
The 30-minute meeting, according to two sources in the financial industry who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the potential transaction, included aides to both parties, and was held at a suite at the St. Regis Hotel in New York.
A follow-up meeting was held the next day in a glass-walled conference room at the Kushner property itself, though Al Emadi did not attend the second gathering in person.
The failure to broker the deal would be followed only a month later by a Middle Eastern diplomatic row in which Jared Kushner provided critical support to Qatar’s neighbors. Led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a group of Middle Eastern countries, with Kushner’s backing, led a diplomatic assault that culminated in a blockade of Qatar. Kushner, according to reports at the time, subsequently undermined efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to bring an end to the standoff.
Philip Rucker–writing for WAPO–calls the couple “diminished”. Everything I’ve been reading indicates orange jumpsuits in their future with diminished assets.
Kushner no longer receives the President’s Daily Brief, a daily digest that’s restricted to Trump and about a dozen other top officials, these people said. Kushner also was removed from a number of less-exclusive but still highly classified intelligence reports that are sent daily to senior administration officials, because he no longer has sufficient clearance to read them. His chances of eventually having his clearance access restored or made permanent remain unclear.
“It’s amazing how Rob Porter taking Hope Hicks out on a date and getting a picture taken in that British paper led to so many unintended consequences,” said a Republican strategist in frequent touch with the White House, speaking anonymously to share a candid opinion.
For months now, Kelly has been considering changes to professionalize the security clearance process, alarmed by how many staffers had interim clearances and how lax the enforcement of access to classified materials seemed to be, according to White House officials.
Jared Kushner has problems.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators are reportedly interested in the senior White House adviser for a plethora of reasons — including, but not limited to, the central topic of whether the Trump team worked with Russia to interfere with the 2016 campaign.
Meanwhile, Kushner’s security clearance was recently downgraded. For unclear reasons, the FBI has refused to grant him full “top secret” status — throwing his position in the White House into doubt.
Additionally, and probably not coincidentally, more and more questions have been raised about Kushner’s efforts in recent years to drum up investments in his family’s real estate projects — and whether those efforts inappropriately overlapped with his work in the Trump transition or White House.
This week alone, the New York Times reported that Kushner’s family business got big loans from two US financial institutions shortly after he met with their executives in the White House, and the Washington Post reported that foreign officials have discussed using his business entanglements to manipulate him. Meanwhile, and separately from Mueller’s probe, federal prosecutors and state regulators have both recently sought documents on Kushner Companies’ finances.
Looming over so much of this is the fact that the Kushner company owes $600 million on a money-losing Manhattan tower that’s fully due in just one year. The Kushners have spent much of the past few years trying to get wealthy foreigners to finance an expensive redevelopment plan for the property — but so far, all those efforts have failed.
The 37-year-old presidential son-in-law has not been officially accused of anything. There haven’t been any reports that charges against him are imminent. He and Kushner Companies have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. And for now, Jared continues to hold his high-level White House job, in which he is tasked with, among other things, making peace in the Middle East.
A New York Times column by Maggie Haberman and Mark Landler claims President Donald Trump asked his chief of staff John Kelly for help in ousting first daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner from their advisory roles at the White House.
The column alleges that Trump’s managerial style, dubbed “chaos theory” by the writers, has caused emotional grief for the White House staff. It further claims that aides have “expressed frustration” that Kushner and Ivanka Trump have remained as senior advisers and that President Trump has “privately asked” Kelly for help in moving them out.
It is unclear if the president is asking them to leave out of compassion or, as the Times hints, concerns about Kushner’s potential legal issues over various business dealings. The Times story also reports that President Trump has spoken to Kushner and Ivanka Trump and asked them to stay on at the White House but privately has claimed they “never should have come” to work there. Thus, he has asked Kelly to be the instigator of their departure.
So, describing this huge morass of corruption, entitlement and crime sprees must make these reporters need whiskey and showers. But, it’s rewarding to see all this come out at the time we know Mueller’s sight is on the Trump family. This comes from Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine.
So what can we take away? One safe conclusion is that the investigation is probably not near done. Another is that Trump and his family are not safe. Mueller has only so far charged people outside Trump’s family — his campaign manager, national security adviser, and 13 Russian internet trolls — which the president and his defenders have weirdly treated as a kind of vindication.
The big picture is that, after Trump burned enough creditors that American banks stopped dealing with him, he became deeply reliant on Russian capital. The Russian economy is deeply connected to Vladimir Putin, and uses its leverage to advance political goals. For instance, Vnesheconombank, which works closely with Putin, financed a Trump hotel in Toronto. Trump’s finances are totally opaque, and he has been willing to endure a great deal of critical media coverage — the thing he most hates in the world — in order to avoid publishing his tax returns.
Kushner is also an important figure. He has his own web of business ties with Russia, and had assumed a lead role in communicating with the Russians secretly. Remember the secret backchannel he conducted with Russia during the transition, designed to elude American intelligence? If a new development arose in recent weeks, that probably bodes poorly for the president’s son-in-law.
Meanwhile, as Steve Bannon sloppily confessed, after Donald Trump Jr. had a meeting with a Russian promising dirt on Hillary Clinton in June 2016, it is overwhelmingly likely that he proceeded immediately to tell the father whose approval is the thing he most craves. That may or may not be provable by Mueller. But he is certainly going to try.
Veteran journalist Carl Bernstein claimed Tuesday night that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is “in the crosshairs” of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation after the White House adviser had his security clearance downgraded.
“Jared Kushner is in the crosshairs of special prosecutor Mueller’s investigation, which is focused in part on Jared Kushner like a laser,” Bernstein said on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.”
“And there is every expectation in the White House and among lawyers that are representing other people in Mueller’s investigation that Jared Kushner has many, many strikes lining up against him in the Mueller investigation,” the Watergate reporter continued.
Oh, well, grab the popcorn. It continues.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?