Friday Reads: Iron Fist in Velvet GlovePosted: August 24, 2018
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I figured it was apropos to use a phrase applicable at one point to Napoleon and at another to a mob boss in Galveston, Texas to start a discussion on today’s news. I also figured it’s about time to bring out the idea of the “hammer of justice” too. The walls are closing in on the Trump Family Syndicate and rumors about presidential pardons for convicted felon and possible “flipper” Paul Manafort and immunity for David Pecker must be keeping D’oh Hair Furor up at night. Welcome to film noir in living color!
Mueller can and likely will name Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator on any case he brings going forward, if he abides by Department of Justice guidelines and does not indict a sitting president. And Trump needs to worry about his criminal liability (and that of his son and son-in-law) when he leaves office.
Impeachment aside, given all that the President now faces, does anyone in his camp have the courage to discuss a so-far unmentionable strategy? Do what we did for Spiro Agnew, and the country. Negotiate a deal: You end the Mueller investigation, and I’ll send out of a tweet: “No collusion, I did nothing wrong, rigged witch hunt, but this is bad for the country, and I am a patriot. So I hereby resign. Sad.”
President Trump’s touchstone mob boss, Al Capone, famously went down for tax evasion when the feds couldn’t nail him on more serious crimes. Has Trump stopped to consider whether he could be headed for the same fate?
Trump and surrogates have argued that his former lawyer’s and his campaign chairman’s near-simultaneous legal losses don’t imperil the president himself. After all, none of the charges that Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort were convicted of this week involved Russian connections to Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Quoth the president: “And what’s come out of Manafort? No collusion. What’s come out of Michael Cohen? No collusion.”
As for the Cohen crimes that did directly implicate Trump — the campaign finance violations — the president and his people have argued that these are not actually crimes. After all, they’re so rarely prosecuted!
What about tax crimes, though?
There’s plenty of precedent for prosecuting those. And the Cohen filings this week raise serious new questions about whether Trump has criminal tax-fraud exposure.
To be clear, we don’t know whether Trump has violated any tax laws. But there’s a red flag in prosecutors’ filings against Cohen regarding the fate of hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes one would expect to have been paid Uncle Sam.
It’s a little technical, so bear with me. The issue involves payments that the Trump Organization made to Cohen as part of an agreement silencing adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. Stormy Daniels) and how the company accounted for them.
Cohen paid Clifford $130,000. Trump’s company ultimately reimbursed him for this payment to the tune of $420,000.
Why so much more than the original hush-money amount?
You can follow the money at the link. Today would be a great day for Trump to release his taxes!
Trump is itching to keep on interfering with the Justice Department. Why are key Senate Republicans enabling to remove Jeff Session who is a curse on the office but at least appears to want to keep politics out of the probe? I still will argue that Trump got some Kompromat on these guys.
Donald Trump, who’s long threatened to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, may have received a crucial go-ahead signal from two Republican senators with a key condition attached: wait until after the November elections.
Confronted with the criminal convictions this week of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his former personal attorney Michael Cohen, the president has only reaffirmed his open resentment that Sessions recused himself from what’s become a wide-ranging investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“The president’s entitled to an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that’s qualified for the job, and I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice,” Graham told reporters.
But he added that forcing out Sessions before November “would create havoc” with efforts to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as well as with the midterm elections on Nov. 6 that will determine whether Republicans keep control of Congress.
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Judiciary Committee’s chairman, also changed his position on Thursday, saying in an interview that he’d be able to make time for hearings for a new attorney general after saying in the past that the panel was too busy to tackle that explosive possibility.
It wasn’t clear, though, whether the senators’ comments were intended to endorse a move on Sessions later, or to coax Trump out of taking precipitous action now. And some senior Republican senators strongly rejected Graham’s seemingly impromptu fire-him-later idea.
The pivotal message on Thursday came from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who oscillates between criticizing many of the president’s policies and defending a president who sometimes invites him to go golfing at a Trump-branded resort.
Trump keeps playing the game of saying every one does it and the Dems are worse. He’s actively asking Sessions why he doesn’t go after pet conspiracy theories instead of actually looking at evidence and finding a crime. But, her EMAILS! BUT Benghazi! It should be evident by now with all those wastes of Congressional hearings that there is no there there. ABC reports on this.
President Donald Trump Friday morning urged Jeff Sessions to “look into all of the corruption on the ‘other side’’’ after the U.S. attorney general disputed Trump’s assertion a day earlier that Sessions had failed to take control of the Department of Justice.
Sessions defended his performance Thursday, saying he “took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President’s agenda.”
“While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations,” Sessions said in a statement. “I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action.”
Trump tweeted this morning in response, “Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.” Jeff, this is GREAT, what everyone wants, so look into all of the corruption on the “other side” including deleted Emails, Comey lies & leaks, Mueller conflicts, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr.”
Trump is convinced any one who criticizes him should be prosecuted for thought crimes and has a vendetta against him. It’s getting to Nixon level paranoia. Mark Landler, however, says Trumps verbal spews are straight out of “GoodFellas”. He writes this at the NYT.
For much of the 1980s and 1990s, “the Dapper Don” and “the Donald” vied for supremacy on the front pages of New York’s tabloids. The don, John J. Gotti, died in a federal prison in 2002, while Donald J. Trump went on to be president of the United States.
Now, as Mr. Trump faces his own mushrooming legal troubles, he has taken to using a vocabulary that sounds uncannily like that of Mr. Gotti and his fellow mobsters in the waning days of organized crime, when ambitious prosecutors like Rudolph W. Giuliani tried to turn witnesses against their bosses to win racketeering convictions.
“I know all about flipping,” Mr. Trump told Fox News this week. “For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go.”
Mr. Trump was referring to the decision by his former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to take a plea deal on fraud charges and admit to prosecutors that he paid off two women to clam up about the sexual affairs that they claimed to have had with Mr. Trump.
But the president was also evoking a bygone world — the outer boroughs of New York City, where he grew up — a place of leafy neighborhoods and working-class families, as well as its share of shady businessmen and mob-linked politicians. From an early age, Mr. Trump encountered these raffish types with their unscrupulous methods, unsavory connections and uncertain loyalties.
Mr. Trump is comfortable with the wiseguys-argot of that time and place, and he defaults to it whether he is describing his faithless lawyer or his fruitless efforts to discourage the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, from investigating one of his senior advisers, Michael T. Flynn, over his connections to Russia.
“When I first heard that Trump said to Comey, ‘Let this go,’ it just rang such a bell with me,” said Nicholas Pileggi, an author who has chronicled the Mafia in books and films like “Goodfellas” and “Casino.” “Trump was surrounded by these people. Being raised in that environment, it was normalized to him.”
Mr. Pileggi traced the president’s language to the Madison Club, a Democratic Party machine in Brooklyn that helped his father, Fred Trump, win his first real estate deals in the 1930s. In those smoke-filled circles, favors were traded like cases of whiskey and loyalty
It’s only fitting then that the Trump family crime syndicate may wind up defending themselves in Manhattan. First, for the debacle that is their foundation and just for the Trump Organization period. Trump cannot pardon any one for state crimes.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office is considering pursuing criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two senior company officials in connection with Michael D. Cohen’s hush money payment to an adult film actress, according to two officials with knowledge of the matter.
A state investigation would center on how the company accounted for its reimbursement to Mr. Cohen for the $130,000 he paid to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, who has said she had an affair with President Trump, the officials said.
Both officials stressed that the office’s review of the matter is in its earliest stages and prosecutors have not yet made a decision on whether to proceed.
State charges against the company or its executives could be significant because Mr. Trump has talked about pardoning some of his current or former aides who have faced federal charges. As president, he has no power to pardon people and corporate entities convicted of state crimes.
The Trump Organization recorded the reimbursement as a legal expense. But Mr. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime fixer, said on Tuesday that he paid Ms. Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels, to buy her silence during the 2016 campaign. Federal prosecutors have said the reimbursement payments were for sham legal invoices in connection with a nonexistent retainer agreement. Mr. Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance charges, did no legal work in connection with the matter, prosecutors said.
“On its face, it certainly would be problematic,” said one of the officials familiar with the district attorney’s office review, noting that listing the reimbursement as a legal expense could be a felony under state law.
Michael Cohen is now helping New York State pursue the Foundation. This via Fortune Magazine.
A day after President Donald Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight charges in federal court, New York’s state tax agency has subpoenaed Cohen for records relating to the Trump Foundation—at Cohen’s prodding, according to his attorney.
The Department of Taxation and Finance confirmed the subpoena to several news outlets, including CNN.
Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, told CNN on Tuesday night that his client had information “of interest both in Washington as well as New York state.” The New York Daily News, citing an anonymous source with direct knowledge, reported that Cohen called the tax agency to speak after the subpoena was issued.
Since before the 2016 presidential election, reporters have tracked allegedly illegal and unethical behavior by the non-profit Trump Foundation, once run by Donald Trump and his older children, with David Fahrenthold of theWashington Post leading the pack. Accounts include cases that appear to involve self-dealing, or the act of using charitable funds for the benefit of one’s personal interest; political contributions; using charity money for personal use like allegedly paying Donald Trump, Jr.’s Boy Scout membership fee in 1989 and buying a 6-foot-tall portrait of Trump; and to pay settlements or judgments against the for-profit Trump Organization.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed suit in June against the Trump Foundation and its officers—the president and three of his children, Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka—to dissolve the charity, disperse its $1 million in holdings, pay $2.8 million in restitution, and bar its officers from serving on a New York not-for-profit organization for 10 years. Underwood cited Trump campaign staff members directing donations from the foundation, among many other issues. Underwood said she lacks jurisdiction to pursue criminal charges, and sent letters to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission about “possible violations.”
This should be interesting. I don’t know if I should read a few law books or watch some gangster movies to figure out what may happen next. But, as many in the media said, Mueller and the state of New York know how to unravel a crime family and despite what Republicans in Congress may do, they will likely win in the end.
And from the WSJ today:
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?