Posted: November 30, 2018 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Buenos Areas, Cohen, Deutsche Bank, Russian
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
It’s been evident this week that the Mueller election silent period is over and that indictments are coming. (Yay for no more silent nights from him!!!) This week has been an internicine cage fight between all the creeps in the Trump Family Syndicate and raids. Cohen seems to have come clean in the “no collusion” thing. Manafort resorts to the thug form and gets dumped by Team USA. Trump is having such a meltdown he could barely flip that switch on the National Christmas tree. So, this post mostly follows up on BB’s news yesterday as we go further down the Russian Rabbit hole.
It’s illegal to bribe foreign officials to get business favors in foreign countries when you’re an American. So, what does it mean when you’re doing it big time to the guys that are going to help you win an election and you’re on the campaign trail for the presidency? We’ve had so many laws broken recently by the placeholder in the White House that it’s both horrifying and numbing. Buzz Feed broke this last night and it took the oxygen right out of the news cycle. “The Trump Organization Planned To Give Vladimir Putin The $50 Million Penthouse In Trump Tower Moscow. During the presidential campaign, Michael Cohen discussed the matter with a representative of Putin’s press secretary, according to two US sources.”
President Donald Trump’s company planned to give a $50 million penthouse at Trump Tower Moscow to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the company negotiated the luxury real estate development during the 2016 campaign, according to four people, one of them the originator of the plan.
Two US law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed News that Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer at the time, discussed the idea with a representative of Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary.
The Trump Tower Moscow plan is at the heart of a new plea agreement by Cohen, who led the negotiations to bring a gleaming, 100-story building to the Russian capital. Cohen acknowledged in court that he had lied to Congress about the plan in order to protect Trump and his presidential campaign.
The revelation that representatives of the Trump Organization planned to forge direct financial links with the leader of a hostile nation at the height of the campaign raises fresh questions about President Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin. The plan never went anywhere because the tower deal ultimately fizzled, and it is not clear whether Trump knew of the intention to give away the penthouse. But Cohen said in court documents that he regularly briefed Trump and his family on the Moscow negotiations.
The two men worked furiously behind the scenes into the summer of 2016 to get the Moscow deal finished — despite public claims that the development was canned in January, before Trump won the Republican nomination. Sater told BuzzFeed News today that he and Cohen thought giving the Trump Tower’s most luxurious apartment, a $50 million penthouse, to Putin would entice other wealthy buyers to purchase their own. “In Russia, the oligarchs would bend over backwards to live in the same building as Vladimir Putin,” Sater told BuzzFeed News. “My idea was to give a $50 million penthouse to Putin and charge $250 million more for the rest of the units. All the oligarchs would line up to live in the same building as Putin.” A second source confirmed the plan.
Dollar Bill Jefferson must be sitting in his federal jail cell in awe of such heights of bribing public officials. The amount in his fridge was no where near this. It’s a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and I have no idea if they charge him with it before or after he leaves office. This is just another one of those constitutional crises thingies we’re getting used to. It’s been in place since 1977 so it’s hardly a new thing.
The FCPA has two provisions- Anti-Bribery and Accounting. In essence, the Anti-Bribery Provisions make it a crime for any US individual, business entity or employee of a US business entity to offer or provide, directly or through a 3rd party, anything of value to a foreign government official with corrupt intent to influence an award or continuation of business or to gain an unfair advantage. The Accounting Provisions basically make it illegal for a company that reports to the SEC to have false or inaccurate books or records or to fail to maintain a system of internal accounting controls.
Which brings us to two raids that happened just yesterday. Law enforcement in Frankfurt stormed Duestche Bank which is the only bank that will fund the Trump Family Crime Syndicate. Today is the second day they’re on the scene.
Police have searched the offices of all the members of Deutsche Bank’s (DBKGn.DE) board as part of an investigation into money laundering allegations linked to the Panama Papers, a source told Reuters on Friday.
Investigators are looking into the activities of two unnamed Deutsche Bank employees alleged to have helped clients set up offshore firms to launder money, the prosecutor’s office has said. The inquiries focus on events from 2013 to this year.
Gerhard Schick, a member of parliament for the opposition Green party, said it was “particularly irritating” that the bank’s current board members oversaw operations during the time in question. “This is not about legacy issues,” he said in a statement to Reuters.
Bloomberg reports today that the raid goes straight to the top and is likely to snag some senior officials. The big question is where did the money come from and who benefited from the laundering and resulting funds? It’s likely the Russians are involved so that could lead us right back to Putin’s puppet.
The police raid on Thursday and Friday was targeting two suspects identified by their age and an unspecified number of other suspects, the prosecutors said. One of the two suspects works in the bank’s anti-financial crime unit, a person familiar with the matter said. It was headed by Philippe Vollot until this summer and now is led by Stephan Wilken. The unit head ultimately reports to Matherat.
The other suspect identified by age works in the private wealth unit, according to the person. It’s led by Fabrizio Campelli and it’s part of Deutsche Bank’s private and commercial bank that is headed by management board member Frank Strauss. It was led by Sewing from 2015-2018 before he was appointed CEO.
Searches don’t necessarily mean that prosecutors have evidence against a person whose office is being raided. They can raid homes or offices of people who aren’t implicated if there’s reason to believe document or other evidence relevant to the case may be found there. In probes of corporate crimes, investigators generally check whether top managers knew about the alleged wrongdoing or did enough to prevent it
Of course, the bank is related to both the Trump and Kushner businesses so it’s likely to vex and jeopardize Trump’s already troubled business dealings. This analysis is from Timothy O’Brien of Bloomberg .
When Trump nearly went personally bankrupt in the early 1990s, he left a handful of major U.S. banks on the hook for about $3.4 billion in loans he couldn’t repay (and about $900 million of which he had personally guaranteed). Hotels, casinos, real estate, an airline and other parts of his debt-ridden portfolio went into bankruptcy protection. In the wake of that collapse, Trump became a pariah among major U.S. banks, and he had to find unique ways of lining up money for the infrequent and small-boredeals he pursued thereafter. That left him borrowing money from labor unions and small, local lenders. Deutsche, keen at the time to make a name for itself in U.S. investment banking and commercial lending, was less hesitant to do business with Trump.
Deutsche’s first transaction with Trump involved a modest renovation loan for 40 Wall Street, a Manhattan skyscraper Trump controls, in 1998. Trump did little to merit Deutsche’s involvement after that until the early 2000s, when it agreed to loan him as much as $640 million for a Chicago project — the Trump International Hotel and Tower.
I was working on a biography of Trump at the time, and he told me that one of things he learned from his financial collapse in the early ’90s was that he had ignored valuable business advice from his father, Fred: Never personally guarantee a loan. Yet he still went ahead and guaranteed $40 million of the Deutsche loan for the Chicago project. (Trump sued me for libel in 2006, claiming the biography, “TrumpNation,” had misrepresented his business history and finances; he lost the suit in 2011.)
Deutsche had a relatively intimate understanding of Trump’s finances. Although Trump told me in 2004 and 2005 that his net worth was anywhere from $1.7 billion to $6 billion (and suggested it might even be $9.5 billion), my sources at the time told me his wealth was closer to $150 million to $250 million. When Trump litigated the point with me, my lawyers produced a Deutsche assessment of his finances that pegged his wealth at $788 million in 2005.
Trump’s relationship with Deutsche briefly soured in a dispute over the Chicago project. When the financial crisis landed in 2008 and imperiled that development, Trump sued Deutsche to avoid paying the $40 million he had guaranteed (claiming, in part, that Deutsche was responsible for the global economic distress unleashed by the crisis). A clash like that can permanently unwind a real estate partnership, but Deutsche and Trump agreed to settle, with the bank extending a loan from its private banking division to allow Trump to pay back its real estate lending unit, according to the New York Times.
Deutsche’s private banking arm has hung in there ever since, with Rosemary Vrablic as the Deutsche banker serving as Trump’s primary liaison there. She also has helped Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a White House adviser, as well as his mother, arrange multimillion-dollar loans and lines of credit at Deutsche. In recent years, Deutsche’s private banking unit has loaned Trump money — about $300 million, according to Bloomberg News and Trump’s government financial disclosure forms — for such projects as his Washington hotel and the Trump National Doral golf course.
The Trump SoHo Hotel, which stripped Trump’s name from the property last year, was financed in the mid-2000s in part with loans channeled through Icelandic banks that collapsed during the financial crisis. I’ve written extensively about Trump’s involvement with the firm originally behind that project, Bayrock Group LLC, and about the murky funds from Europe used to build it. While Deutsche was closely involved with Icelandic banks at the time of the collapse, no information has surfaced that it played a direct role in the Trump SoHo.
What’s likely now, however, is that Trump’s dealings with Deutsche — which have represented, at a minimum, a serious and long-standing financial conflict for him given the influence he wields over law enforcement and financial regulation as president — are about to draw greater scrutiny.
The other most interesting raid is still happening in Chicago. Salon calls the day a Trifecta of bad news for Trump family crime syndicate.
In another curious coincidence that may or may not be related, the law offices of Edward Burke, a Chicago alderman and former Trump tax attorney, were raided on Thursday. Burke’s law firm represented Trump’s businesses — including the same Chicago Trump Tower that secured funding from Deutsche Bank — for 12 years.
With Deutsche Bank hit with yet another money-laundering probe, one former Trump lawyer raided by the feds and another one apparently ready to spill the beans, Democrats — poised to take control of the House of Representatives in January — are already chomping at the bit to investigate.
“All these developments make clear the counterintelligence imperative for the House Intelligence Committee, in the new Congress, to continue to probe the Trump Organization’s financial links to Russia and determine whether the Russians sought financial leverage over Trump and his associates, or hold any such leverage today,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.
Again, no wonder Trump looked greener than the National Christmas tree at the ceremony and the quick exit was such that the White House Press Pool was abandoned there. It was a dark and bizarre event that usually leads into a charming White House Christmas season.
Reporters were briefly held at the Ellipse outside the White House without any immediate indication of where the president had gone. They were later notified that Trump had returned to the White House via motorcade without the press pool in tow.
Members of the press pool protested the situation on Twitter.
The funniest thing I’ve found in years is where Rod Rosenstein was speaking while all of this was going on, along with the topic of his speech. Straight from the DOJ website: Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein Delivers Remarks at the American Conference Institute’s 35th International Conference on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Oxon Hill, MD, Thursday, November 29, 2018, Irony is not lost on this guy. Neither is getting the last laugh.
The term “rule of law” describes the government’s obligation to follow neutral principles and fair processes. The ideal dates at least to the time of Greek philosopher Aristotle, who wrote, “It is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the law.”
The rule of law is indispensable to a thriving and vibrant society. It shields citizens from government overreach. It allows businesses to invest with confidence. It gives innovators protection for their discoveries. It keeps people safe from dangerous criminals. And it allows us to resolve differences peacefully through reason and logic.
When we follow the rule of law, it does not always yield the outcome we prefer. In fact, one indicator that we are following the law is when we respect a result that we do not agree with. We respect it because it is required by an objective analysis of the facts and a rational application of the rules.
The rule of law is not simply about words written on paper. The culture of a society and the character of the people who enforce the law determine whether the rule of law endures.
One of the ways that we uphold the rule of law is to fight bribery and corruption. Until a few decades ago, paying bribes was viewed as a necessary part of doing business abroad. Some American companies were unapologetic about corrupt payments.
Once again, Melania’s proclivatives for dystopian decorating overshadowed nearly all attempts to emphasize the next battle in the War on Christmas on Fox.
“In real life they look even more beautiful, and you are all very welcome to visit the White House — the ‘people’s house,’” she said.
I just refer to them as the Used Tampon Trees.
Trump is in Argentina as the national embarrassment continues on the international stage. The back and forth meeting on and off business with Russia is truly odd.
President Donald Trump on Thursday canceled his planned meeting with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Argentina.
“Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin,” Trump tweeted. “I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!”
“The Kremlin regrets U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Argentina and said Moscow is ready for contact with Trump, RIA news agency cited spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying on Friday,” Reuters reported.
“This means that discussion of important issues on the international and bilateral agenda will be postponed indefinitely,” President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Now, the Kremlin announces there will be a meeting. Nothing stands between KGB and the need for a debrief from its agents.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will have a brief impromptu meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Argentina just as he will with other leaders at the G20 summit, RIA news agency cited Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying on Friday.
So, it’s definitely a ‘red’ christmas and I’m beginning to wonder if we get somewhat the feel of the red wedding.
So, we’re on the agenda as being a destablizing force along with Russia. I’m not sure if this actually makes Trump proud of himself or not.
World leaders are meeting in Argentina for their annual G20 summit amid new tension with Russia over Ukraine and a US trade row with China.
US President Donald Trump has cancelled a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in protest at Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian naval boats.
But ahead of the summit’s official start Mr Trump signed a trade deal with the Mexican and Canadian leaders.
A massive security operation is under way for the summit in Buenos Aires.
A bank holiday has been declared for Friday and the city’s main business district has been shut down.
Speaking before the signing of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) – to replace the Nafta free trade deal – Mr Trump described it as “probably the greatest trade deal ever”.
“All of our countries will benefit greatly,” he said.
So, maybe we’ll get some christmas cheer this year from some place other than the Red House with it’s used tampon alley, or commie car wash or whatever that was …
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Posted: November 29, 2018 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics
The Russia investigation news has been coming thick and fast since Trump turned in his written answers to Robert Mueller’s questions a little more than a week ago. The past two days we got revelations about Paul Manafort, but today’s breaking news is huge. This looks to be a very interesting day.
First, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is pleading guilty in the Mueller probe and its about Trump’s business in Russia.
The New York Times: Michael Cohen Pleads Guilty to Charge in Mueller Inquiry Related to Russia Business Deal.
Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, who pleaded guilty in August to breaking campaign finance laws, made a surprise appearance in a Manhattan courtroom on Thursday morning to plead guilty to a new criminal charge, the latest turn in the special counsel’s investigation of Mr. Trump and his inner circle.
At the court hearing, Mr. Cohen admitted to making false statements to Congress about his efforts to pursue a Trump Tower deal in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign. That real estate deal has been a focus of the special counsel investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russian operatives.
In testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr. Cohen played down the extent of his contact with the Kremlin about the potential project and made other false statements about the negotiations, which never led to a final deal.
Mr. Cohen’s new guilty plea comes at a particularly perilous time for Mr. Trump, whose presidency has been threatened by Mr. Cohen’s statements to investigators. In recent days, the president and his lawyers have increased their attacks on the Justice Department and the special counsel’s office.
And from ABC News: Michael Cohen expected to plead guilty to lying to Congress in collusion probe; gave 70 hours of interviews to special counsel: Sources.
Cohen is scheduled to appear in federal court in Manhattan on Thursday where he is expected to enter a guilty plea for misstatements to Congress in closed-door testimony last year about his contacts with Russians during the presidential campaign.
Once among the president’s most loyal and zealous defenders in business and politics, Cohen has now promised to “put family and country first” by cooperating with prosecutors, becoming perhaps the most pivotal public witness against his former boss.
Cohen’s earlier plea deal with federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York implicated President Trump in campaign finance felonies. Since then, Cohen has spent more than 70 hours in interviews with Mueller’s team. The questioning has focused on contacts with Russians by Trump associates during the campaign, Trump’s business ties to Russia, obstruction of justice and talk of possible pardons, sources familiar with the discussions have told ABC News.
“The potential significance of Cohen’s cooperation is immense,” said Kendall Coffey, a former United States Attorney in Florida.
As Trump’s personal attorney and problem solver for more than a decade, Cohen’s portfolio at the Trump Organization covered personal and business matters both routine and highly sensitive. His dealings while serving as a senior executive in Trump’s global empire include several projects thought to be of interest to Mueller’s prosecutors, most notably the pursuit of a Trump Tower project in Moscow during the presidential campaign.
“It cannot be determined if Cohen’s cooperation will lead to other criminal allegations,” Coffey said. “But for most high-powered business people with complex business interests, having one’s personal attorney become a star witness for the prosecution is the worst possible legal nightmare.”
MSNBC is now reporting that Trump has suddenly changed his story this morning, arguing that just because he was running for president “doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to do business.” But during the campaign and after, he claimed he had no business and no deals in Russia.
You might want to check out Ryan Goodman’s Twitter timeline. He has lots of interesting stuff to say this morning.
And there’s more huge news out of Germany where the headquarters of Trump’s bankers were raided.
The New York Times: Deutsche Bank Offices Are Searched in Money Laundering Investigation.
BERLIN — One hundred seventy officers searched the headquarters of Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt and five other sites in the area early Thursday as part of a money-laundering investigation involving hundreds of millions of euros, prosecutors in Frankfurt said.
Two employees, who were not publicly identified but whose ages were given as 50 and 46, and other “unidentified people in positions of authority” are suspected of failing to report possible money laundering for transactions worth 311 million euros, or more than $350 million.
The money flowed to organizations in the British Virgin Islands before spring 2016, prosecutors said in an emailed statement.
The German bank confirmed in a statement that the police were investigating several of its offices in Germany and said the investigation related to the Panama Papers, a trove of files that put a spotlight on global money laundering. “We are cooperating fully with the authorities,” Deutsche said in the statement.
We don’t know yet whether this investigation will affect Trump, but he has to be worried about it.
More news from last night, in case you missed it:
The Washington Post: Trump’s night-owl calls to Roger Stone in 2016 draw scrutiny in Mueller probe.
The calls almost always came deep into the night.
Caller ID labeled them “unknown,” but Roger Stone said he knew to pick up quickly during those harried months of the 2016 presidential campaign. There would be a good chance that the voice on the other end of the line would belong to his decades-long friend — the restless, insomniac candidate Donald Trump — dialing from a blocked phone number.
Those nocturnal chats and other contacts between the man who now occupies the Oval Office and an infamous political trickster have come under intensifying scrutiny as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation bores into whether Stone served as a bridge between Trump and WikiLeaks as the group was publishing hacked Democratic emails.
Mueller’s keen interest in their relationship was laid out in a draft court document revealed this week in which prosecutors drew a direct line between the two men — referring to Stone as someone understood to be in regular contact with senior Trump campaign officials, “including with then-candidate Donald J. Trump.”
The inclusion of the president by name in the draft filing rattled his legal team and indicated how closely the special counsel is scrutinizing what Trump may have learned from Stone about WikiLeaks’ release of emails that prosecutors say were hacked by Russian intelligence operatives.
In recent months, the Trump Organization turned over to Mueller’s team phone and contact logs that show multiple calls between the then-candidate and Stone in 2016, according to people familiar with the material.
Read more at the WaPo. This story also provides more evidence that that blocked number that Don Jr. called after the Trump Tower meeting was Trump.
I’m going to put this post up right away, because there is likely to be a lot more breaking news today. We can use this as a live blog.
Posted: November 27, 2018 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Donald Trump, Dwight D. Eisenhower, ICE, Julian Assange, Luke Harding, Marcy Wheeler, Natasha Bertrand, Paul Manafort, Peter Shinkle, Robert Cutler, Robert Mueller, Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez, Russia investigation, Russian mob, Semion Mogilevich, Virginia Heffernan
Lots of news breaking on Paul Manafort after the Mueller filing yesterday informing the court that Manafort lied repeatedly to the FBI after agreeing to a plea deal. The Guardian just released a blockbuster story, although quite several Intelligence experts on Twitter are questioning whether it’s legit.
The Guardian: Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy.
Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign, the Guardian has been told.
Sources have said Manafort went to see Assange in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016 – during the period when he was made a key figure in Trump’s push for the White House.
It is unclear why Manafort wanted to see Assange and what was discussed. But the last meeting is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
A well-placed source has told the Guardian that Manafort went to see Assange around March 2016. Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers.
Manafort denies the report. More from The Guardian story:
Manafort’s first visit to the embassy took place a year after Assange sought asylum inside, two sources said.
A separate internal document written by Ecuador’s Senain intelligence agency and seen by the Guardian lists “Paul Manaford [sic]” as one of several well-known guests. It also mentions “Russians”.
According to two sources, Manafort returned to the embassy in 2015. He paid another visit in spring 2016, turning up alone, around the time Trump named him as his convention manager. The visit is tentatively dated to March.
Manafort’s 2016 visit to Assange lasted about 40 minutes, one source said, adding that the American was casually dressed when he exited the embassy, wearing sandy-coloured chinos, a cardigan and a light-coloured shirt….
The revelation could shed new light on the sequence of events in the run-up to summer 2016, when WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of emails hacked by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. Hillary Clinton has said the hack contributed to her defeat.
One expert Twitter skeptic:
I’m sure other reporters are already trying to confirm the Guardian story. A strong argument in favor of the piece is that the primary author is Luke Harding, a writer with excellent sources in Russian in Ukraine. He’s the author of
Others are discussing why Manafort would have lied to the Mueller team. It could be he’s betting on a pardon, but more likely he’s terrified of being murdered by Putin and other oligarchs. Here’s something interesting:
Listen to the full podcast at Slate.
The notion that Manafort fears Russian oligarchs more than he fears Mueller and prison makes sense, it fits with this story by Betsy Woodruff from a year ago: Mueller Reveals New Manafort Link to Organized Crime.
Buried deep in Robert Mueller’s indictment of Paul Manafort is a new link between Donald Trump’s former campaign and Russian organized crime.
The indictment (PDF), unsealed on Monday, includes an extensive look into Paul Manafort’s byzantine financial dealings. In particular, it details how he used a company called Lucicle Consultants Limited to wire millions of dollars into the United States.
The Cyprus-based Lucicle Consultants Limited, in turn, reportedly received millions of dollars from a businessman and Ukrainian parliamentarian named Ivan Fursin, who is closely linked to one of Russia’s most notorious criminals: Semion Mogilevich.
Semion Mogilevich in Moscow court, 2008
Mogilevich, who also has ties to Trump, is easily the most powerful man in the Russian mafia.
Mogilevich is frequently described as “the most dangerous mobster in the world.” Currently believed to be safe in Moscow, he is, according to the FBI, responsible for weapons trafficking, contract killings, and international prostitution. In 2009, he made the bureau’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
“Ivan Fursin was a senior figure in the Mogilevich criminal organization,” Taras Kuzio, a non-resident fellow at Johns Hopkins-SAIS’ Center for Transatlantic Relations and a specialist on the region told The Daily Beast.
Martin Sheil, a retired criminal investigator for the IRS, said the indictment, with its connections to Fursin, helps illuminate the murky world Manafort operated in before taking the reins of Trump’s presidential bid.
“This indictment strongly indicates the existence of a previously unknown relationship between an alleged Russian organized crime leader and Mr. Manafort,” Sheil told The Daily Beast.
Read more at The Daily Beast.
Trump is freaking out this morning, tweeting insane attacks on Mueller.
This post at Alternet summarizes some of Marcy Wheeler’s recent arguments about Manafort and Mueller: This reporter argues that Trump used Manafort as a ‘mole’ inside Mueller’s investigation — but it just blew up in their faces.
Marcy Wheeler, one of most astute Mueller watchers who once provided as yet undisclosed information to the FBI about the investigation, argued compellingly that Manafort has been acting as a mole within the investigation for President Donald Trump. Even more intriguingly, though, she believes Mueller knew this and may have used Manafort against the president.
The only sane reason, she claimed in a new blog post, that Manafort would lie to Mueller even after taking a plea deal, is that he’s banking on a pardon from Trump, which would, in any case, cover only federal and not state crimes.
“Just about the only explanation for Manafort’s actions are that — as I suggested — Trump was happy to have Manafort serve as a mole in Mueller’s investigation,” she wrote.
If this is right, it could be devastating for Trump. He finally turned in his answers to the special counsel’s investigation last week — and he may have relied on Manafort’s “insider knowledge.”
“But Mueller’s team appears to have no doubt that Manafort was lying to them,” Wheeler explained. “That means they didn’t really need his testimony, at all. It also means they had no need to keep secrets — they could keep giving Manafort the impression that he was pulling a fast one over the prosecutors, all while reporting misleading information to Trump that he could use to fill out his open book test. Which increases the likelihood that Trump just submitted sworn answers to those questions full of lies.”
There are several reasons Wheeler’s argument is compelling. First, as she previously noted, Manafort’s plea agreement did not include a provision to limit him from speaking with outside parties about the investigations, even though Rick Gates, Manafort’s deputy who also pleaded guilty in the probe, was forced to agree to such a provision. For some reason, Mueller wasn’t worried about Manafort’s lawyers communicating with Trump — which he has been doing.
Click the link to read the rest.
I wonder how long his lawyers will be able to prevent Trump from pardoning Manafort?
A couple of other stories, one recent and very disturbing and one historical.
The Daily Beast: Trans Woman Was Beaten in ICE Custody Before Death, Autopsy Finds.
Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez
Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez, 33, a transgender woman from Honduras, died on May 25, nine days after being transferred to a dedicated unit for transgender women at the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico, which is operated under contract by CoreCivic, the second-largest private prison company in the United States.
“There she developed severe diarrhea and vomiting over the course of several days,” wrote forensic pathologist Kris Sperry, “and finally was emergently hospitalized, then transported to Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she remained critically ill until her death.” [….]
The autopsy concluded that Hernández Rodriguez’s cause of death was most likely “severe complications of dehydration superimposed upon HIV infection,” which made her susceptible to the physiologic effects of untreated dehydration.
“According to observations of other detainees who were with Ms. Hernández Rodriguez, the diarrhea and vomiting episodes persisted over multiple days with no medical evaluation or treatment, until she was gravely ill,” Sperry wrote.
Sperry’s autopsy, the second conducted on Hernández Rodriguez’s body following her death, also found evidence of physical abuse, with “deep bruising” on her hands and abdomen, evidence of blunt-force trauma “indicative of blows, and/or kicks, and possible strikes with blunt object.” An accompanying diagram illustrated long, thin bruises along Hernández Rodriguez’s back and sides, as well as extensive hemorrhaging on Hernández Rodriguez’s right and left wrists, which Dr. Sperry found were “typical of handcuff injuries.”
Horrifying. I’m sure we’ll being hearing many shocking stories about ICE abuses in the coming months and years.
Michael Isakoff at Yahoo News: In the closet in the White House: The tortured history of the gay man who touched off the purge of gays in government.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, left, and Robert Cutler, his special assistant for national security affairs. Photo by Joseph Scherschel, the Life Picture Collection, Getty Images
In the annals of presidential directives, few were more chilling than a document signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in April 1953. Crafted during the height of the Cold War, Executive Order 10450 declared that alongside Communism, “sexual perversion” by government officials was a threat to national security. The order became the trigger for a massive purge of the federal workforce. In the years that followed, thousands of government employees were investigated and fired for the “crime” of being gay.
The full story of Executive Order 10450 and its terrible consequences has only started to surface in more recent years as a result of books like “The Lavender Scare” and films like “Uniquely Nasty,” a 2015 Yahoo News documentary that this reporter co-wrote and directed. But it turns out there was an untold personal drama behind the making of the anti-gay White House order — a saga that is recounted for the first time in a new book to be published next week, “Ike’s Mystery Man: The Secret Lives of Robert Cutler.”
Written by Peter Shinkle, a former reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it tells the life story of the author’s great uncle, a central character in the creation of Executive Order 10450. A blue blood liberal Republican from a prominent Boston family, a Harvard graduate and member of the elite Porcellian Club, a wealthy banker and U.S. Army general during World War II, Robert “Bobby” Cutler Jr. became a close adviser to Eisenhower during his 1952 presidential campaign. He then was tapped by Ike to serve as White House special assistant for national security affairs, the forerunner to the position of national security adviser.
In that post, Cutler, who prided himself on never talking to the press, was a pivotal figure, helping to direct U.S. foreign policy during an era of tense global confrontation with the Soviet Union. And it was Cutler who oversaw the drafting of Executive Order 10450 — a role all the more remarkable because, as Shinkle reveals, Cutler was a gay man who secretly pursued a passionate, yearslong relationship with a young naval intelligence officer on the national security council staff.
Please go read the whole thing. It’s fascinating.
That’s it for me today. What stories are you following?
Posted: November 26, 2018 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Gassing Toddlers, Russia attacks on Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Trump Baby Jail, Trump drone wars
From the creative mind of my friend John Buss @repeat1968
Hello Dear Sky Dancers!
We couldn’t even have a peaceful thanksgiving holiday without the mayhem and mishap placeholder in the White House creating chaos through his policy weakness. Yes, he may have been off golfing and stealing money from the taxpayer to enrich his family crime syndicate, but some terrible things happened yesterday and I just can’t ignore them.
From WAPO: ‘These children are barefoot. In diapers. Choking on tear gas.’
A little girl from Honduras stares into the camera, her young features contorted in anguish. She’s barefoot, dusty, and clad only in a diaper and T-shirt. And she’s just had to run from clouds of choking tear gas fired across the border by U.S. agents.
A second photograph, which also circulated widely and rapidly on social media, shows an equally anguished woman frantically trying to drag the same child and a second toddler away from the gas as it spreads.
The three were part of a much larger group, perhaps 70 or 80 men, women and children, pictured in a wider-angle photo fleeing the tear gas. Reuters photographer Kim Kyung-Hoon shot the images, which provoked outrage and seemed at odds with President Trump’s portrayal of the caravan migrants as “criminals” and “gang members.”
Trump officials said that authorities had to respond with force after hundreds of migrants rushed the border near Tijuana on Sunday, some of them throwing “projectiles” at Customs and Border Protection personnel.
A migrant girl from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America, cries after running away from tear gas thrown by U.S. border agents. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)
I can hardly speak about how wrong this is on all levels. Seeking Asylum is a legal process outlined in treaties we’ve signed. I don’t even know if we’ve got an experience basically lobbing chemical weapons across the border into the country of an ally. I did read this at the same WAPO article:
Trump’s response in an early-morning tweet on Monday was to call for Mexico to return the migrants to their home countries, and to again threaten to “close the border permanently.”
That’s never been done, and experts interviewed by The Washington Post on Sunday night knew of no provision explicitly allowing Trump to permanently close the borders. Most of the border, with the exception of designated crossings, is already closed, which doesn’t stop migrants from entering.
So it probably would not solve Trump’s problems with asylum seekers, who, by law, must be allowed to present their claims if in fact they are able to cross the border anywhere.
“This is yet another of several Trump attempts to change what he disparagingly calls the policy of ‘catch and release’ without or against legal authority,” said Yale Law School’s Harold Hongju Koh, legal adviser to the State Department during the Obama administration. “All have been blocked. What he does not understand,” Koh said in an email, “is that everyone crossing our Southern border is not illegally present. Those with valid asylum claims have a legal right to assert those claims and remain.”
Closing the border “permanently” or otherwise would conflict with the asylum laws, agreed Peter S. Margulies, an immigration law expert at Roger Williams University School of Law.
Had the migrants made it to the border and presented themselves as asylum seekers, U.S. officials would have been required by federal law to consider their claim before sending them back to Mexico. Indeed, they are required to do so whether the migrants cross at a designated point of entry or anywhere else.
U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar forcefully reminded Trump of that law last week when he issued a nationwide restraining order against the president’s plan to consider asylum requests only from migrants who cross at legal checkpoints. It was Tigar’s ruling that prompted Trump to lash out last week against the “Obama judge” and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which in turn brought a rare rebuke from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
Trump’s legal options appear limited. “The border is very long,” Margulies told The Post. But if the administration can “stop people just short of the border, there’s a better argument that those people are not entitled to asylum. I think it would be terrible policy and I think it would be morally repugnant,” he said, “but the administration would be on better legal footing.”
Attempting to stop them short of the border appears to be just what Trump may be planning.
I usually don’t copy and paste this much from one source, but the article by Tim Elfrink and Fred Barbash–accompanyied by heart-wrenching photos–was difficult to chop up into small excerpts.
These are really dark times. We now have more children in ICE custody than ever before. The attacks on families seeking aslyum overshadowed this report on jailing children on CBS and Sixty Mintues.
Lee Gelernt: It became such a horrific scene that they started telling the parents, “Oh, your child is just going to take a shower, or just going to get some medical treatment,” and then the parent would never see the child again.
Lee Gelernt is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. In July, he convinced a federal judge to order the reunification of the children. But when the government realized it lost track of many of the parents, the Trump administration told the court reuniting the families was the ACLU’s problem.
Lee Gelernt: The government took these children away from their parents, and then deported hundreds and hundreds of the parents without the children. The judge said, “These parents need to be with their children.” And the government said, “Well, if you wanna find the parents, we don’t know where they are. Let the ACLU look for them.”
This is the Homeland Security order to arrest and detain all adults who crossed illegally to seek asylum. The copy released to the public was censored by the administration. But we’ve obtained what the White House didn’t want the public to see. The document reveals that child separation began nine months earlier than the administration acknowledged. There was a pilot program in the busy “El Paso sector” from “July to November 2017”. We don’t know how many children were taken in those five months. The censored part of the memo explains a reason for the policy — deterrence — as it “will have the greatest impact on current flows” [of immigrants.]
But Cecilia Munoz says the Obama administration found that deterrent messages failed to turn back immigrants.
Cecilia Munoz: And the reason for that is, if your child was told today by the gangs, “Your life is at risk unless you start running drugs for us.” You’re thinking much more about their safety today and tomorrow than you’re thinking about, “What’s going to happen once we get to our destination?”
Jeff Sessions: We are not going to let the country be overwhelmed.
Security was the stated reason for the policy change. One top White House official called immigration an existential threat to America. But Homeland Security’s inspector general found the chaotic implementation of the policy undermined law enforcement. The report says, “instead of patrolling and securing the border, officers had to supervise and take care of children.” And those officers weren’t prepared for their new role, according to Scott Shuchart, who recently left Homeland Security.
We lurch from consitutional and humanitarian crises–of his creation–to the incredible audacity of authoritarian regimes who feel empowered by the lawlessness and transactional greed of what is supposedly the leader of the free world. Russian seized Ukrainian navl ships over the weekend.
Russia has fired on and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels off the Crimean Peninsula in a major escalation of tensions between the two countries.
Two gunboats and a tug were captured by Russian forces. A number of Ukrainian crew members were injured.
Each country blames the other for the incident. On Monday Ukrainian MPs are due to vote on declaring martial law.
The crisis began when Russia accused the Ukrainian ships of illegally entering its waters.
The Russians placed a tanker under a bridge in the Kerch Strait – the only access to the Sea of Azov, which is shared between the two countries.
During a meeting of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, President Petro Poroshenko described the Russian actions as “unprovoked and crazy”.
Emboldened by the ineffective foreign policy of Trump and his penchant for adoring strongman, Putin continues to annex the Ukraine.
Tensions in the Sea of Azov have been simmering for months and this weekend its waters came to the boil.
Russian ships opened fire at three Ukrainian naval vessels Sundayafter they attempted to enter the sea.
Ukrainian media reported that 23 crew members were detained, including six who were injured, and the vessels seized.
Kiev’s navy is hugely outgunned and outnumbered by Moscow. Ukraine responded by putting its forces on high alert.
Some Western experts say the Kremlin’s tactics in the Sea of Azov are straight out of the Kremlin playbook.
Analysts have been warning for months that the Azov, which is just under half the size of Lake Superior, is the latest example of Russia carrying out “creeping annexation” — where borders are subtly shifted to take territory, or in this case waters, from former Soviet allies.
There is other quite serious news today.
From the AP: “GM to slash 14,700 jobs in North America”
General Motors will lay off 14,700 factory and white-collar workers in North America and put five plants up for possible closure as it restructures to cut costs and focus more on autonomous and electric vehicles.
The reduction includes 8,100 white-collar workers, some of whom will take buyouts and others who will be laid off. Most of the affected factories build cars that won’t be sold in the U.S. after next year. They could close or they could get different vehicles to build. They will be part of contract talks with the United Auto Workers union next year.
Plants without products include assembly plants in Detroit; Lordstown, Ohio; and Oshawa, Ontario. Also affected are transmission factories in Warren, Michigan, as well as Baltimore.
About 6,000 factory workers could lose jobs in the U.S. and Canada, although some could transfer to truck plants.
Another headline from WAPO: “In the United States, right-wing violence is on the rise”. In other words, something wicked this way comes. His reign is the Pandimonium Carnival.
Over the past decade, attackers motivated by right-wing political ideologies have committed dozens of shootings, bombings and other acts of violence, far more than any other category of domestic extremist, according to a Washington Post analysis of data on global terrorism. While the data show a decades-long drop-off in violence by left-wing groups, violence by white supremacists and other far-right attackers has been on the rise since Barack Obama’s presidency — and has surged since President Trump took office.
This year has been especially deadly.Just last month, 13 people died in two incidents: AKentucky gunman attempted to enter a historically black church, police say, then shot and killed two black patrons in a nearby grocery store. And an anti-Semitic loner who had expressed anger about a caravan of Central American refugees that Trump termed an “invasion” has been charged with gunning down 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue, the deadliest act of anti-Semitic violence in U.S. history.
This month brought two more bodies: A military veteran who had railed online against women and blacks opened fire in a Tallahassee yoga studio, killing two women and wounding five. All told, researchers say at least 20 people have died this year in suspected right-wing attacks.
From ABC News: Jared Kushner pushed to inflate Saudi arms deal to $110 billion: Sources: It’s obvious the Saudis have been bailing out his bad business deals. How many foreign interests own the Trump Family Crime Syndicate?
President Donald Trump‘s reluctance to hold Saudi leadership accountable for the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi stemmed from a partly aspirational $110 billion arms deal between the U.S. and Saudia Arabia that was inflated at the direction of Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, according to two U.S. officials and three former White House officials.
Kushner, in a bid to symbolically solidify the new alliance between the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia while claiming a victory on the president’s first foreign trip to Riyadh, pushed State and Defense officials to inflate the figure with arms exchanges that were aspirational at best, the officials said. Secretary of Defense James Mattis supported Kushner’s effort and ultimately endorsed the memorandum, according to a former NSC official familiar with the matter.
“We need to sell them as much as possible,” Kushner told colleagues at a national securitycouncil meeting weeks before the May 2017 summit in Saudi Arabia, according to an administration official familiar with the matter.
nother U.S. official said there was a back and forth between Kushner and Department of Defense and State officials on how to get to a larger number because the officials initially told Kushner that realistically they had about $15 billion worth of deals in works, based on the Saudi government’s interest in a THAAD system and maintenance of other systems.
But even that order has not been fulfilled.
The Saudis have bypassed the September deadline for one of the pricier items on the list – the THAAD or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile system. A Defense Department spokesperson said the sale has not been finalized.
The question is what are the Trumps getting out of this deal?
From Spencer Ackerman at the Daily Beast: “Trump Ramped Up Drone Strikes in America’s Shadow Wars. In his first two years in office, Donald Trump launched 238 drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia—way beyond what the ‘Drone President’ Barack Obama did.”
The U.S. president inherited a remotely piloted weapon of death from his predecessor. In his earliest period in office, he used this lethal robot force promiscuously, sharply escalating attacks on suspected terrorists away from his declared wars. As time went on, his use of drone strikes in those places diminished.
Barack Obama? Well, yes. But a look at available statistics for drone strikes on America’s undeclared battlefield shows that this description also applies to Donald Trump.
In 2009 and 2010, Obama launched 186 drone strikes on Yemen, Somalia, and especially Pakistan. Donald Trump’s drone strikes during his own first two years on the three pivotal undeclared battlefields, however, eclipse Obama’s—but without a corresponding reputation for robot-delivered bloodshed, or even anyone taking much notice. In 2017 and 2018 to date, Trump has launched 238 drone strikes there, according to data provided to The Daily Beast by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and the drone-watchers at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London.
Those numbers come with a slew of asterisks. The number of drone strikes on the full-fledged acknowledged battlefields of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria have, ironically, proven far more difficult to track than those in shadow war zones—and knowledgeable observers like Chris Woods of the UK’s Airwars organization believe that the true center of the drone strikes is found there. Additionally, the death toll from those strikes in shadow war zones, especially of civilians, is at best a rough estimate.
This week probably has had some of the most devastingly awful news for world peace we’ve seen in ages. It’s really gotten to me today. What a wicked bunch of people put in a wicked man to turn the world more wicked. And it’s happening in our name with our tax dollars …
What’s on your reading and blogging list today