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2017 Seychelles meeting was effort to establish back channel to Kremlin

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Imperia Russian vodka
Imperia Russian vodka…

Speculated in the press for a while, but good to know that Mueller is catching up.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has gathered evidence that a secret meeting in Seychelles just before the inauguration of Donald Trump was an effort to establish a back channel between the incoming administration and the Kremlin — apparently contradicting statements made to lawmakers by one of its participants, according to people familiar with the matter.

In January 2017, Erik Prince, the founder of the private security company Blackwater, met with a Russian official close to Russian President Vladi mir Putin and later described the meeting to congressional investigators as a chance encounter that was not a planned discussion of U.S.-Russia relations.

A witness cooperating with Mueller has told investigators the meeting was set up in advance so that a representative of the Trump transition could meet with an emissary from Moscow to discuss future relations between the countries, according to the people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

(click here to continue reading Mueller gathers evidence that 2017 Seychelles meeting was effort to establish back channel to Kremlin – The Washington Post.)

One wonders why any incoming administration would need to have a back channel to the Kremlin? Enough that multiple efforts to set it up have been discovered1

Remember Erik Prince:

 

Prince is best known as the founder of Blackwater, a security firm that became a symbol of U.S. abuses in Iraq after a series of incidents, including one in 2007 in which the company’s guards were accused — and later criminally convicted — of killing civilians in a crowded Iraqi square. Prince sold the firm, which was subsequently re-branded, but has continued building a private paramilitary empire with contracts across the Middle East and Asia. He now heads a Hong Kong-based company known as the Frontier Services Group.

Prince was an avid supporter of Trump. After the Republican convention, he contributed $250,000 to Trump’s campaign, the national party and a pro-Trump super PAC led by GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, records show. He has ties to people in Trump’s circle, including Stephen K. Bannon, now serving as the president’s chief strategist and senior counselor. Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos serves as education secretary in the Trump administration. And Prince was seen in the Trump transition offices in New York in December.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel – The Washington Post.)

225 W Randolph St Cyanotype
225 W Randolph St Cyanotype

Jared “dimpled slumlord” Kushner also tried to setup a back channel to the Kremlin, using the Russian embassy’s secure facilities. Strange, no?

 

Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.

 

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.

 

The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.

The State Department, the White House National Security Council and U.S. intelligence agencies all have the ability to set up secure communications channels with foreign leaders, though doing so for a transition team would be unusual.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin – The Washington Post.)

Why not have normal diplomatic communications with a supposedly hostile nation? What do the Trumpsters have to conceal about their relationships with Putin and the Kremlin? Why all the secrecy? 

Exc Corpse Notify
Exc Corpse Notify

And there was that weird computer server that connected Trump Tower to Alfa Bank for a still unexplained reason:

 

In late July, one of these scientists—who asked to be referred to as Tea Leaves, a pseudonym that would protect his relationship with the networks and banks that employ him to sift their data—found what looked like malware emanating from Russia. The destination domain had Trump in its name, which of course attracted Tea Leaves’ attention. But his discovery of the data was pure happenstance—a surprising needle in a large haystack of DNS lookups on his screen. “I have an outlier here that connects to Russia in a strange way,” he wrote in his notes. He couldn’t quite figure it out at first. But what he saw was a bank in Moscow that kept irregularly pinging a server registered to the Trump Organization on Fifth Avenue.

 

More data was needed, so he began carefully keeping logs of the Trump server’s DNS activity. As he collected the logs, he would circulate them in periodic batches to colleagues in the cybersecurity world. Six of them began scrutinizing them for clues.

The researchers quickly dismissed their initial fear that the logs represented a malware attack. The communication wasn’t the work of bots. The irregular pattern of server lookups actually resembled the pattern of human conversation—conversations that began during office hours in New York and continued during office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn’t an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank.

The researchers had initially stumbled in their diagnosis because of the odd configuration of Trump’s server. “I’ve never seen a server set up like that,” says Christopher Davis, who runs the cybersecurity firm HYAS InfoSec Inc. and won a FBI Director Award for Excellence for his work tracking down the authors of one of the world’s nastiest botnet attacks. “It looked weird, and it didn’t pass the sniff test.” The server was first registered to Trump’s business in 2009 and was set up to run consumer marketing campaigns. It had a history of sending mass emails on behalf of Trump-branded properties and products. Researchers were ultimately convinced that the server indeed belonged to Trump. (Click here to see the server’s registration record.) But now this capacious server handled a strangely small load of traffic, such a small load that it would be hard for a company to justify the expense and trouble it would take to maintain it. “I get more mail in a day than the server handled,” Davis says.

Earlier this month, the group of computer scientists passed the logs to Paul Vixie. In the world of DNS experts, there’s no higher authority. Vixie wrote central strands of the DNS code that makes the internet work. After studying the logs, he concluded, “The parties were communicating in a secretive fashion. The operative word is secretive. This is more akin to what criminal syndicates do if they are putting together a project.” Put differently, the logs suggested that Trump and Alfa had configured something like a digital hotline connecting the two entities, shutting out the rest of the world, and designed to obscure its own existence. Over the summer, the scientists observed the communications trail from a distance.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Was a server registered to the Trump Organization communicating with Russia’s Alfa Bank?.)

Footnotes:
  1. or alleged, or whatever []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 8th, 2018 at 10:19 am

Trump and Corruption

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What Are You Hiding Trump
What Are You Hiding, Trump?

If one had paid attention to Donald Trump over the years, either as a running joke, or as an example of crony capitalism run amok, one would have noticed his frequent skirting of ethical norms. I’ve always considered Trump to be a wanna-be gangster. Everything is permitted, as long as Donnie gets his beak wet. Sadly, in the 2016 election, Trump and his enablers were able to switch media focus onto other shiny objects: Hillary Clinton’s emails, “economic nationalism”, sexual misconduct and so forth. There could have been a thousand television segments aired in 2016 about Trump’s corrupt business practices in Panama, Vancouver, the Republic of Georgia, and wherever else, instead Trump was allowed to call in by telephone, guide the conversation, and get thousands of hours of free media coverage.

Trump has always been a swamp dweller, Bannon’s “Drain the Swamp” branding was ironic, but never based in reality. The Trump White House is filled with ethically challenged corrupt people of all levels of mendacity.

Anyway, can’t go backward. 

Ben Smith writes about Trump and Trump’s love of corruption…

When Donald Trump was elected, reporters and editors all over sat down to think through the possible reporting tracks on the Trump presidency: There was his new populist movement, his personality and family, his policy plans.

And then there was the corruption beat: Trump had a long history of enriching himself at taxpayers’ expense, and he and his circle did not come out of a tradition that knew the meaning of the term public service.

But a year ago, there was no reporting to do on the corruption story for a simple reason: The Trump administration hadn’t been around long enough.

Well, now it’s been around long enough.

And in recent weeks there has been an escalating series of stories about self-dealing, money flowing to cronies, and high-stakes policy decisions impossibly tangled with personal wealth. What Trump and his critics appear not to have realized is that this — not conspiracies, porn actresses, or divisive comments — is the starkest threat to his presidency.

That is another way of saying that what we typically call corruption isn’t a criminal matter. It’s a political one.

This is an axiom of politics: You can get away with horrible policy, bad leadership, and complicated conflicts of interest. But when you’re caught doing something easier to explain — sexually harassing staffers or stealing even modest amounts of money — you’re announcing your resignation.

Former Rep. Aaron Schock, for instance, is still fighting corruption charges — but his Downton Abbey–styled office made the appearance of corruption too easy to fight. Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. blew campaign funds on a Rolex, fur coats, and Bruce Lee memorabilia, and went to jail without even stealing any public funds. And while former secretary Tom Price dodged concerns about insider trading that could have been worth millions of dollars, expensive plane travel — mere thousands! — ended his career.

(click here to continue reading The Real Threat To Trump Isn’t Russia, Racism, Or Incompetence. It’s Corruption..)

Adam Davidson of The New Yorker:

 

Several news accounts have confirmed that Mueller has indeed begun to examine Trump’s real-estate deals and other business dealings, including some that have no obvious link to Russia. But this is hardly wayward. It would be impossible to gain a full understanding of the various points of contact between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign without scrutinizing many of the deals that Trump has made in the past decade. Trump-branded buildings in Toronto and the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan were developed in association with people who have connections to the Kremlin.

Other real-estate partners of the Trump Organization—in Brazil, India, Indonesia, and elsewhere—are now caught up in corruption probes, and, collectively, they suggest that the company had a pattern of working with partners who exploited their proximity to political power.

One foreign deal, a stalled 2011 plan to build a Trump Tower in Batumi, a city on the Black Sea in the Republic of Georgia, has not received much journalistic attention. But the deal, for which Trump was reportedly paid a million dollars, involved unorthodox financial practices that several experts described to me as “red flags” for bank fraud and money laundering; moreover, it intertwined his company with a Kazakh oligarch who has direct links to Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin. As a result, Putin and his security services have access to information that could put them in a position to blackmail Trump. (Sekulow said that “the Georgia real-estate deal is something we would consider out of scope,” adding, “Georgia is not Russia.”)

 

 

(click here to continue reading Trump’s Business of Corruption | The New Yorker.)

Trump Tax Chicken
Trump Tax Chicken

Matthew Yglesias of Vox:

 

The reality of Trump’s presidency has been just the reverse.

 

There is nothing blind about his finances — his business empire is merely managed on a day-to-day basis by his adult sons, with whom he is in regular contact and who also work as leading members of his political operation.

 

His daughter and son-in-law serve as high-ranking officials in the White House, he operates a hotel in the nation’s capital that serves as an informal headquarters for his administration, and he spends a majority of his weekends at his private resorts in Florida, Virginia, and New Jersey.

 

Some of the grifting that results from this is almost comical, as in the periodic stories about the Secret Service spending thousands of dollars at a time renting golf carts from clubs that the president owns.

 

But lining his pockets with vast sums of public money is the least of the problems with Trump’s conduct in this regard. The real issue is that by joining one of Trump’s private clubs, wealthy individuals are putting cash directly in the president’s pocket while also gaining access to him. Trump seems to regularly — and quite openly — poll Mar-a-Lago members for their thoughts on the issues of the day. But it’s also an opportunity for more subtle lobbying in unprecedented ways.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Trump’s corruption deserves to be a central issue in the 2018 midterms – Vox.)

It Pays to Play
It Pays to Play

and

 

An early Trump administration controversy that now seems almost quaint came when presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway used a television news appearance from the White House grounds to tout Ivanka Trump’s shoe brand. It wasn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but this kind of low-level legal violation keeps happening in the Trump era, right up to an apparent Hatch Act violation from Jared Kushner as he touted Brad Parscale’s appointment as campaign manager of the Trump 2020 reelection bid.

 

But the list gets longer and contains more serious violations:

 

US intelligence agencies have reports of multiple foreign governments discussing ways to use Kushner’s business interests to compromise his work for the federal government.

This week, four political appointees at the Commerce Department lost their jobs after they flunked background checks.

Even as Ben Carson’s tenure at the Department of Housing and Urban Development was facing an inspector general investigation over improper involvement of the Carson family in public business, Carson apparently demoted a career staffer after she objected to his plan to spend $31,000 on a dining set for his office.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin was caught improperly accepting Wimbledon tickets and charging the public for his wife’s travel.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is flying first-class at public expense so he could avoid having unpleasant interactions with fellow passengers. T

hese kinds of problems will only grow worse the longer Trump’s own conflicts of interests are permitted to go unabated. Maintaining a high standard of ethical conduct across a sprawling bureaucracy overseen by dozens of political appointees is genuinely challenging, even when elected officials are trying to do it.

 

When the president of the United States doesn’t care about ethics and the predominant attitude of his co-partisans in Congress is that ignorance is bliss, corruption will grow like mushrooms in the shade.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Trump’s corruption deserves to be a central issue in the 2018 midterms – Vox.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 6th, 2018 at 11:13 am

Kremlin Blocked Romney As Trump’s Secretary Of State, Requested Tillerson Instead

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Mitt Zombie  900 W Randolph
Mitt Zombie – 900 W Randolph

Wow! Hope Mueller’s team has good evidence of this explosive claim because that’s cray-cray!

One subject that Steele is believed to have discussed with Mueller’s investigators is a memo that he wrote in late November, 2016, after his contract with Fusion had ended. This memo, which did not surface publicly with the others, is shorter than the rest, and is based on one source, described as “a senior Russian official.” The official said that he was merely relaying talk circulating in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but what he’d heard was astonishing: people were saying that the Kremlin had intervened to block Trump’s initial choice for Secretary of State, Mitt Romney. (During Romney’s run for the White House in 2012, he was notably hawkish on Russia, calling it the single greatest threat to the U.S.) The memo said that the Kremlin, through unspecified channels, had asked Trump to appoint someone who would be prepared to lift Ukraine-related sanctions, and who would coöperate on security issues of interest to Russia, such as the conflict in Syria. If what the source heard was true, then a foreign power was exercising pivotal influence over U.S. foreign policy—and an incoming President.

As fantastical as the memo sounds, subsequent events could be said to support it. In a humiliating public spectacle, Trump dangled the post before Romney until early December, then rejected him. There are plenty of domestic political reasons that Trump may have turned against Romney. Trump loyalists, for instance, noted Romney’s public opposition to Trump during the campaign. Roger Stone, the longtime Trump aide, has suggested that Trump was vengefully tormenting Romney, and had never seriously considered him. (Romney declined to comment. The White House said that he was never a first choice for the role and declined to comment about any communications that the Trump team may have had with Russia on the subject.) In any case, on December 13, 2016, Trump gave Rex Tillerson, the C.E.O. of ExxonMobil, the job. The choice was a surprise to most, and a happy one in Moscow, because Tillerson’s business ties with the Kremlin were long-standing and warm. (In 2011, he brokered a historic partnership between ExxonMobil and Rosneft.) After the election, Congress imposed additional sanctions on Russia, in retaliation for its interference, but Trump and Tillerson have resisted enacting them.

(click here to continue reading Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier | The New Yorker.)

This entire Jane Mayer piece is worth reading, twice, so go ahead and read it now.

No Puppet No Puppet
No Puppet! No Puppet!

Written by Seth Anderson

March 5th, 2018 at 10:22 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , , ,

Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier

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Forgive Yourself Trump Tower

Jane Mayer has written a deep dive into Christopher Steele and infamous dossier. We should all study it. I trust someone on Mueller’s team has a subscription to The New Yorker…

The dossier painted a damning picture of collusion between Trump and Russia, suggesting that his campaign had “accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.” It also alleged that Russian officials had been “cultivating” Trump as an asset for five years, and had obtained leverage over him, in part by recording videos of him while he engaged in compromising sexual acts, including consorting with Moscow prostitutes who, at his request, urinated on a bed.

In the spring of 2016, Orbis Business Intelligence—a small investigative-research firm that Steele and a partner had founded, in 2009, after leaving M.I.6, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service—had agreed to do opposition research on Trump’s murky relationship with Russia. Under the arrangement, Orbis was a subcontractor working for Fusion GPS, a private research firm in Washington. Fusion, in turn, had been contracted by a law firm, Perkins Coie, which represented both Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Several months after Steele signed the deal, he learned that, through this chain, his research was being jointly subsidized by the Clinton campaign and the D.N.C. In all, Steele was paid a hundred and sixty-eight thousand dollars for his work.

Steele had spent more than twenty years in M.I.6, most of it focussing on Russia. For three years, in the nineties, he spied in Moscow under diplomatic cover. Between 2006 and 2009, he ran the service’s Russia desk, at its headquarters, in London. He was fluent in Russian, and widely considered to be an expert on the country. He’d also advised on nation-building in Iraq. As a British citizen, however, he was not especially knowledgeable about American politics. Peter Fritsch, a co-founder at Fusion who has worked closely with Steele, said of him, “He’s a career public-service officer, and in England civil servants haven’t been drawn into politics in quite the same way they have here. He’s a little naïve about the public square.”

And so Steele, on that January night, was stunned to learn that U.S. politicians were calling him a criminal. He told Christopher Burrows, with whom he co-founded Orbis, that the sensation was “a feeling like vertigo.” Burrows, in his first public interview on the dossier controversy, recalled Steele telling him, “You have this thudding headache—you can’t think straight, you have no appetite, you feel ill.” Steele compared it to the disorientation that he had felt in 2009, when his first wife, Laura, had died, after a long illness, leaving him to care for their three young children.

(click here to continue reading Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier | The New Yorker.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 5th, 2018 at 9:30 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

The Mitt-Hawley Fallacy and Trade Wars

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F Trade
F Trade…

Since we discussed tariffs earlier, it is only fair to note that Dr. Paul Krugman disagrees with the premise that the Smoot-Hawley tariff act was a cause of the Great Depression, and with the idea that tariffs are by themselves a bad thing…

protectionism in general should reduce efficiency, and hence the economy’s potential output. But that’s not at all the same as saying that it causes recessions.

But didn’t the Smoot-Hawley tariff cause the Great Depression? No. There’s no evidence at all that it did. Yes, trade fell a lot between 1929 and 1933, but that was almost entirely a consequence of the Depression, not a cause. (Trade actually fell faster during the early stages of the 2008 Great Recession than it did after 1929.) And while trade barriers were higher in the 1930s than before, this was partly a response to the Depression, partly a consequence of deflation, which made specific tariffs (i.e., tariffs that are stated in dollars per unit, not as a percentage of value) loom larger.

(click here to continue reading The Mitt-Hawley Fallacy – The New York Times.)

The Trade Union Vow
The Trade Union Vow

…and on the Lord Little Hands Dotardo’s tariff threats in general:

 So what will happen when the Trump tariffs come?

 There will be retaliation, big time. When it comes to trade, America is not that much of a superpower — China is also a huge player, and the European Union is bigger still. They will respond in kind, targeting vulnerable U.S. sectors like aircraft and agriculture.

And retaliation isn’t the whole story; there’s also emulation. Once America decides that the rules don’t apply, world trade will become a free-for-all.

Will this cause a global recession? Probably not — those risks are, I think, exaggerated. No, protectionism didn’t cause the Great Depression.

What the coming trade war will do, however, is cause a lot of disruption. Today’s world economy is built around “value chains” that spread across borders: your car or your smartphone contain components manufactured in many countries, then assembled or modified in many more. A trade war would force a drastic shortening of those chains, and quite a few U.S. manufacturing operations would end up being big losers, just as happened when global trade surged in the past.

An old joke tells of a motorist who runs over a pedestrian, then tries to fix the damage by backing up — and runs over the victim a second time. Well, the effects of the Trumpist trade war on U.S. workers will be a lot like that.

 

(click here to continue reading And the Trade War Came – The New York Times.)

Emphasis mine.

Hmmm, so maybe I shouldn’t lay awake worrying about the upcoming conflagration? That Trump is not trying to sabotage the world economy so that totalitarian governments will rise around the world? I suppose we’ll see for ourselves, if Trump even follows through with his trade threats.

One Chromosome Too Many
One Chromosome Too Many

 

Trump has threatened to withdraw NAFTA pact since the 2016 campaign, saying the 24-year-old deal allowed manufacturers to relocate to Mexico and take advantage of cheaper labor. Even a number of Democrats have said NAFTA should be reworked, but Canada and Mexico have resisted Trump’s strong-arm tactics.

 

And a number of GOP lawmakers are apoplectic about what would happen if Trump withdrew from NAFTA, warning it could devastate the U.S. agriculture industry.

 

Tying NAFTA to the steel and aluminum tariffs shows that Trump is trying to use his new trade gambit as leverage, though it’s unclear if it will work.

 

Trump on Thursday surprised much of Washington — and his own staff — by announcing that he would impose a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum. A formal announcement is expected this week or next. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and top trade adviser Peter Navarro are both supportive of the tariffs, but even they were hard pressed to explain how the new restrictions would work.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Trump says Canada and Mexico will only escape new tariffs after NAFTA concessions – The Washington Post.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 5th, 2018 at 8:53 am

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with , ,

Kushner’s Family Business Received Loans After White House Meetings

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225 W Randolph St
225 W Randolph St is owned by Kushner Co’s.

Speaking of the dimpled slumlord, Jared Kushner, apparently he is his father-in-law’s favorite for a reason: corruption comes as easily as breathing…

Early last year, a private equity billionaire started paying regular visits to the White House.

Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo Global Management, was advising Trump administration officials on infrastructure policy. During that period, he met on multiple occasions with Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, said three people familiar with the meetings. Among other things, the two men discussed a possible White House job for Mr. Harris.

The job never materialized, but in November, Apollo lent $184 million to Mr. Kushner’s family real estate firm, Kushner Companies. The loan was to refinance the mortgage on a Chicago skyscraper.

Even by the standards of Apollo, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, the previously unreported transaction with the Kushners was a big deal: It was triple the size of the average property loan made by Apollo’s real estate lending arm, securities filings show.

It was one of the largest loans Kushner Companies received last year. An even larger loan came from Citigroup, which lent the firm and one of its partners $325 million to help finance a group of office buildings in Brooklyn.

(click here to continue reading Kushner’s Family Business Received Loans After White House Meetings – The New York Times.)

For the record, I walked by 225 W. Randolph today, currently the regional headquarters of AT&T, leased from Kushner, and the building looked pretty run-down from the outside.

Slightly Run Down Entrance to 225 W Randolph
Slightly Run Down Entrance to 225 W Randolph

Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post adds:

 

“Kushner represents a total failure in every possible dimension,” says ethics guru Norm Eisen. “His appointment was a violation of the federal anti-nepotism statute. We now know that he has the worst ethics and conflicts issues of anyone in the administration with the possible exception of his father-in-law. He could not even fill out his financial disclosures and security clearance forms properly, with dozens of amendments being required.” He adds, “His contacts with the Russians and other foreign governments are deeply problematic. His security clearance has been downgraded to the level of a White House intern, making it impossible for him to do the jobs for which he is purportedly there. He must go before he does any more damage.”

 

News this week that Kushner received jumbo loans from two banks after meeting with Citigroup and Apollo Global Management highlights the risk he poses. How many other suspect meetings have been taken? What ones are planned? Kushner apparently has no appreciation for the appearance of conflicts of interest, let alone actual conflicts. Because he is so heavily indebted and still operates his real estate company, we cannot be sure whether performance of his White House duties are for his own benefit or the country’s. If he meets with a bank executive, or representatives of one of the four countries attempting to influence there is at the very least the appearance of corruption. And because Kushner’s portfolio is so broad it seems unlikely he wouldn’t inevitably make some decision that affects his own financial interests and/or those of his lenders.

 

All of this goes to the legal and ethical implications of his continued presence in the White House. However, the political ramifications are nearly as bad, It’s now painfully obvious he is there solely by nepotism and that the president knew or should have known about the security risks and conflicts Kushner brought with him. To allow him to remain simply reaffirms the president’s comfort level with ethical malfeasance. Just as keeping Rob Porter for so long signaled the White House really didn’t think spousal abuse was that big a deal, Trump’s retention of Kushner suggests that the president doesn’t much care if his inner circle is beholden to foreigners.

 

 

(click here to continue reading The Jared time bomb – The Washington Post.)

Don t Say I Never Warned You
Don’t Say I Never Warned You

From NBC:

 Federal investigators are scrutinizing whether any of Jared Kushner’s business discussions with foreigners during the presidential transition later shaped White House policies in ways designed to either benefit or retaliate against those he spoke with, according to witnesses and other people familiar with the investigation.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has asked witnesses about Kushner’s efforts to secure financing for his family’s real estate properties, focusing specifically on his discussions during the transition with individuals from Qatar and Turkey, as well as Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates, according to witnesses who have been interviewed as part of the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to sway the 2016 election.

Kushner’s family real estate business, Kushner Companies, approached Qatar multiple times, including last spring, about investing in the company’s troubled flagship property at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York, but the government-run sovereign wealth fund declined, according to two people familiar with the discussion. Another discussion of interest to Mueller’s team is a meeting Kushner held at Trump Tower during the transition in December 2016 with a former prime minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, or HBJ, according to people familiar with the meeting.

HBJ had been in talks with Kushner Companies about investing in its Fifth Avenue property, which is facing roughly $1.4 billion in debt that is due in 2019, these people said. Those talks with the company continued after Kushner entered the White House and stepped away from the business, but last spring HBJ decided against investing, these people said.

In the weeks after Kushner Companies’ talks with the Qatari government and HBJ collapsed, the White House strongly backed an economically punishing blockade against Qatar, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, citing the country’s support for terrorism as the impetus. Kushner, who is both President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a key adviser, has played a major role in Trump’s Middle East policy and has developed close relationships with the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

 Some top Qatari government officials believe the White House’s position on the blockade may have been a form of retaliation driven by Kushner who was sour about the failed deal.

 

(click here to continue reading Mueller team asking if Kushner foreign business ties influenced Trump policy – NBC News.)

Trump Eventually We Will Get Something Done
Trump: Eventually We Will Get Something Done

From Newsweek:

 

New York’s banking regulator has reportedly requested loan information about Jared Kushner, his family and real estate business Kushner Companies, from three banks including Deutsche Bank AG, which is steeped in another controversy involving the presidential adviser.

 

New York State’s Department of Financial Services last week sent letters to Deutsche Bank, Signature Bank and New York Community Bank requesting loan applications and processes, and information about the institutions’ relationships with Kushner and his business assets, a person familiar with the correspondence told Bloomberg in a report published Wednesday.

Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, took on more debt over the past year from lenders including Signature Bank and New York Community Bank, recent government disclosures show. The couple had unsecured lines of credit of $5 million to $25 million from each of the three banks, according to a disclosures filing from late December.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Jared Kushner’s Loans From Deutsche Bank, Other Lenders Sought by Banking Regulator: Report.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 2nd, 2018 at 8:16 pm

Kushner Cos. Claims Jared Is a Victim of Harassment

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Absent the Human Voice bleached
Absent the Human Voice… 

For your chuckle of the day, check out Bess Levin’s “Jared Kushner, dimpled slumlord” piece in Vanity Fair, which begins…

Though we can’t say for certain, in all likelihood, Jared Kushner spent the afternoon rocking back and forth in a fetal position under his desk, emitting soft moans that left White House aides frantically searching for what they assumed was a wounded animal loose in the building. After entering the West Wing last year with a slate of modest goals that included solving America’s opioid epidemic, bringing peace to the Middle East, overhauling I.T. infrastructure, and more or less “re-invent[ing] the entire government,” and rounding out his first year there with approximately zero of these items accomplished, the First Son-in-Law on Wednesday found his downpour of a week upgraded to a Category 5 shit-storm.

Within a 48-hour period, Kushner had his interim security clearance downgraded; learned that his P.R. guru is quitting; and was the subject of a mortifying article in The Washington Post alleging that officials in at least four countries have discussed ways to manipulate him “by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience.” To cap things off, on Wednesday, multiple outlets reported that the New York Department of Financial Services has requested information from several banks “about their relationship with Kushner and his finances,” among them Signature Bank, New York Community Bank, and Deutsche Bank, the latter of which Kushner has been a client for years, and from which he and the First Daughter have unsecured lines of credit between $5 million and $25 million, while Kushner and his mother, Seryl, reportedly have an unsecured line of credit valued at up to $25 million. In December, The New York Times also reported that the Kushner family business, Kushner Companies, had received a $285 million loan from Deutsche in 2016, and that Jared had “ordered up a glowing profile of [executive Rosemary] Vrablic in the real-estate magazine he owned,” with a disclosure about their connection at the very end of the article. According to The Wall Street Journal, the inquiries are “expansive” and “comprehensive,” meaning the senior adviser to the president can expect the equivalent a full-body cavity search of his finances.

Obviously, it’s a situation the boy prince never expected to find himself in, given that his life thus far has primarily involved working at institutions run by his ex-con father or his father-in-law, where he was accustomed to never being told no. And speaking of Charles Kushner, who went to prison for, among other things, setting up his brother-in-law with a prostitute, taping the encounter, and sending it to his sister as retaliation for cooperating with the government, perhaps he’ll have some fatherly words of wisdom to impart re: the big house, should things progress to that point.

(click here to continue reading Kushner Cos. Claims Jared Is a Victim of “Harassment” | Vanity Fair.)

Jared Kushner has been a wormtongue to Trump for a long time. If he had any self awareness, or perhaps paid attention to the history of other Trump sycophants, Kushner might have been aware of what being in Trumpland inevitably leads to – debasement, humiliation, degradation, and even possible jail time. 

Sad! Jarvanka might not get the last laugh at Bannon’s expense after all…

That Is The Way It Goes
That Is The Way It Goes

The polite term for slumlord is predatory capitalist, but it doesn’t have quite the zing. And since I had to refresh my memory:

 

In a feature for ProPublica and the New York Times Magazine, journalist Alec MacGillis shined light on the role of Jared Kushner—son-in-law and close adviser to President Trump—as a real estate developer and landlord. In 2011 and 2012, seeking a stable source of revenue, Kushner and his partners purchased thousands of units of working-class housing in the inner-ring suburbs of cities like Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Their largest holdings are in Baltimore County, Maryland, where they control 15 complexes that house up to 20,000 people in total. And in managing these properties, reports MacGillis, Kushner is a harsh and unforgiving landlord.

 

Kushner’s company is relentless in its pursuit of “virtually any unpaid rent or broken lease—even in the numerous cases where the facts appear to be on the tenants’ side.” Residents are slapped with thousands of dollars in fees and penalties, even if they had previously won permission to terminate a lease. All of this is compounded by poor upkeep of facilities. MacGillis describes one family that has had to deal with mold, broken appliances, and physical damage to their unit—even after paying the management company for repairs. In one complex, a resident “had a mouse infestation that was severe enough that her 12-year-old daughter recently found one in her bed.” In another, raw sewage flowed into the apartment.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Jared Kushner’s life as a predatory capitalist..)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 28th, 2018 at 8:32 pm

Posted in humor,politics

Tagged with ,

NSA chief: Trump has not ordered disruption of Russia election meddling

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Eustace Vladimirovich Tilley by Barry Blitt  newyorker  trump
Eustace Vladimirovich Tilley by Barry Blitt The New Yorker

This is not good. Speaking of traitors to America, Trump is happy to twiddle his liddle Twitter thumbs, watch Fox and Friends in his bathrobe, and let Putin do what he will.

A top national security official told lawmakers on Tuesday he had not been directed by Donald Trump to disrupt Russian efforts to meddle in US elections, and that Vladimir Putin had come to the conclusion there was “little price to pay” for such actions.

Adm Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency and chief of US Cyber Command, told the Senate armed services committee: “Clearly, what we’ve done hasn’t been enough.”

Asked if he had been granted the authority by Trump to counter Russian cyber-attacks at source, Rogers said: “No, I have not.”

He added: “I need a policy decision that indicates there is specific direction to do that. The president ultimately would make this decision in accordance with a recommendation from the secretary of defense.”

Trump has dismissed investigations into Russian interference in the US election – and potential collusion between Trump aides and Moscow – as a partisan exercise.

Rogers cited Trump’s decision in January to delay the implementation of new sanctions against Russia that Congress passed on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis last year.

“I believe that President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion there’s little price to pay here, and that therefore I can continue this activity,” Rogers said.

“Everything, both as the director of NSA and what I see on the cyber command side, leads me to believe that if we don’t change the dynamic here, this is going to continue and 2016 won’t be viewed as something isolated.

“This is something that will be sustained over time.”

(click here to continue reading NSA chief: Trump ‘has not ordered disruption of Russia election meddling’ | US news | The Guardian.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 28th, 2018 at 10:43 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

Trump again overcompensates for cowardice

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Bernie Scares Trump
Bernie Scares Trump

Trump is afraid of many things, among them, giving a full press conference1, or answering questions from the Mueller investigation under oath

Amusingly, Jennifer Rubin, once a stalwart GOP defender at all costs, has transformed into a never-Trumper. Today’s column covers the courage of Lord Little Hands of Orange…

President Trump is not known for personal courage. He used “bone spurs” to get out of military service in Vietnam. (He apparently is not scared of stairs, but is petrified of sharks and, by his own account, is revolted by the sight of blood. He’s also a germaphobe.) He’ll fire people, but not if he has to confront the person directly. (He sent an aide to fire FBI director James B. Comey; gave up trying to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — when White House counsel Don McGahn wouldn’t do it; and backed off trying to remove deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe when FBI director Christopher A. Wray threatened to quit.) When caught saying or doing something he shouldn’t (e.g., mocking a reporter with a disability, calling African countries “shitholes,” calling Democrats “un-American” and “treasonous,” etc.), he figuratively flees the scene by either denying what he said, or pretending it was a joke. And, for whatever reason, he will bend over backwards to avoid offending Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s ironic, isn’t it, that Hillary Clinton sat stoically before the GOP-controlled committee charged with investigation the Benghazi tragedy for eleven hours, but Trump cannot muster up the nerve to talk face-to-face with Mueller? Some people, I suppose, are just naturally more stouthearted than others.

(click here to continue reading With ‘I’d run in there’ comment, Trump again overcompensates for cowardice – The Washington Post.)

Footnotes:
  1. he hasn’t had one since February 16, 2017, over a year ago []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 27th, 2018 at 4:27 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with

How Facebook Enabled Trump

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We Are What We Watch
We Are What We Watch (on Facebook)

More and more, Facebook seems to be the reason that Donald Trump’s traveling garbage barge won the 2016 election, without considering the substantial Putin assistance. Facebook was instrumental in Trump’s electoral college victory despite his popular vote loss.

Antonio García Martínez writes at Wired:

LIKE MANY THINGS at Facebook, the ads auction is a version of something Google built first. As on Google, Facebook has a piece of ad real estate that it’s auctioning off, and potential advertisers submit a piece of ad creative, a targeting spec for their ideal user, and a bid for what they’re willing to pay to obtain a desired response (such as a click, a like, or a comment). Rather than simply reward that ad position to the highest bidder, though, Facebook uses a complex model that considers both the dollar value of each bid as well as how good a piece of clickbait (or view-bait, or comment-bait) the corresponding ad is. If Facebook’s model thinks your ad is 10 times more likely to engage a user than another company’s ad, then your effective bid at auction is considered 10 times higher than a company willing to pay the same dollar amount.

A canny marketer with really engaging (or outraging) content can goose their effective purchasing power at the ads auction, piggybacking on Facebook’s estimation of their clickbaitiness to win many more auctions (for the same or less money) than an unengaging competitor. That’s why, if you’ve noticed a News Feed ad that’s pulling out all the stops (via provocative stock photography or other gimcrackery) to get you to click on it, it’s partly because the advertiser is aiming to pump up their engagement levels and increase their exposure, all without paying any more money.

During the run-up to the election, the Trump and Clinton campaigns bid ruthlessly for the same online real estate in front of the same swing-state voters. But because Trump used provocative content to stoke social media buzz, and he was better able to drive likes, comments, and shares than Clinton, his bids received a boost from Facebook’s click model, effectively winning him more media for less money. In essence, Clinton was paying Manhattan prices for the square footage on your smartphone’s screen, while Trump was paying Detroit prices. Facebook users in swing states who felt Trump had taken over their news feeds may not have been hallucinating.

One of the ways the Trump campaign leveraged Lookalike Audiences was through its voter suppression campaigns among likely Clinton voters. They seeded the Audiences assembly line with content about Clinton that was engaging but dispiriting. This is one of the ways that Trump won the election, by the very tools that were originally built to help companies like Bed Bath & Beyond sell you towels.

Unsurprisingly, the Russians also apparently made use of Custom Audiences in their ads campaign. The unwary clicker on a Russian ad who then visited their propaganda site suddenly could find yet more planted content in their Feed, which could generate downstream engagement in Feed, and thus the great Facebook wheel turned. The scale of their spend was puny, however, a measly $100,000, which pales in comparison to the millions Trump spent on online advertising.

(click here to continue reading How Trump Conquered Facebook Without Russian Ads | WIRED.)

Hit the Jackpot
Hit the Jackpot

or as Casey Newton writes at The Verge:

 

Did Facebook’s ad platform give Donald Trump an unfair advantage in the 2016 election?

To place an ad on Facebook, a political campaign has to win an automated auction. At any given time, millions of advertisers are competing to place ads in front of Facebook’s 2 billion-plus daily users. Advertisers can price their ads by the number of people who see it, the number of people who click on a link, or the number of people who engage with the ad, such as by watching a video or installing an app. Facebook averages out the cost of these various ads into a figure it calls an “eCPM” — the effective cost per 1,000 impressions.

 

The CPM is a standard measurement in the advertising industry. But Facebook’s ads differ from traditional ads in an important way: the company offers advertisers a monetary incentive to create more engaging ads. As users begin to click, share, and engage with an ad, Facebook begins showing it to more people. That lowers the eCPM, often allowing advertisers to reach a larger audience for the same amount of money. In some cases, Facebook’s automated systems will choose to display ads that had lower bids, if it believes the content of the ad will draw more engagement from users. The monetary goal of this system is to keep users scrolling through the News Feed, maximizing the number of ads that they encounter.

In my piece, I wrote about a senior Facebook employee who said Trump’s CPM was substantially lower than Clinton’s, according to communications I reviewed. At the time, I couldn’t find a second source for something else the employee said, which was that Trump’s effective CPM averaged $0.06, compared with $1.06 for Clinton.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Trump campaign gamed Facebook ads even better than we thought – The Verge.)

No wonder Facebook numbers for the politically aware ‘yout’ and the rest of us are falling off a cliff. Who wants to spend time with your Trump-loving neighbors and relatives?

On a personal note, I “unpinned” Facebook from my browser so that it wasn’t always open, and found myself visiting much less frequently. In fact, Facebook now is sending me emails trying to lure me back by telling me my grandmother has posted such and such (she probably hasn’t, she doesn’t post much), or so forth. 

Written by Seth Anderson

February 26th, 2018 at 9:48 pm

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with ,

No matter whom he fires or pardons, Trump won’t be able to escape state attorneys general.

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Oath
I have been worried about this Trump pardoning business for a while.

Jed Handelsman Shugerman of Slate reassures me that even if Trump pardons Manafort, Kushner, and the whole crew, state attorney generals could still step in.

There are more and more signals that Donald Trump is exploring firing Robert Mueller and pardoning anyone and everyone in his circle. So what would happen next? The bottom line is that those moves would backfire spectacularly.

First, can Trump pardon himself? That’s surprisingly hard to answer. The constitutional text gives no answer, and the Constitutional Convention of 1787 debates aren’t particularly helpful. Some people cite the Latin phrase Nemo judex in causa sua (One can’t be a judge in his own case) as some kind of answer, but the pardon power is executive, not judicial, so a president isn’t formally a judge in his own case. Plus, we don’t live in Rome, even if the Latin sounds wicked smart. The bottom line is that the only significant barriers to self-pardons are politics (impeachment) and federalism (state powers).

Presidential pardons can’t apply to state prosecutions. That means state attorneys general, especially New York’s Eric Schneiderman, Washington, D.C.’s Karl Racine, and Delaware’s Matthew Denn should think about canceling their summer vacation plans. (Yes, Delaware. Go Google “quo warranto,” see this old post, or better yet continue reading.) And maybe they should open up some office space for Mueller and his A-Team when he inevitably gets fired for getting closer and closer to hard evidence of serious crimes.

The president cannot pardon people for state crimes. Even if Trump pardons, say, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, a state prosecutor can bring charges under state law anytime. Similarly, Trump can be prosecuted under state law. President Richard Nixon’s attorney general concluded in 1974 that a sitting president can’t be indicted, but there is no constitutional text or precedent for such a conclusion—and it was obviously an interpretation that benefited Nixon. I think this is an open question.

(click here to continue reading No matter whom he fires or pardons, Trump won’t be able to escape state attorneys general..)

Impeach
Impeach!

I’m not sure this is entirely convincing: there will be speculation regarding pardons until it actually happens, and until then we won’t know what will transpire. I don’t know if I trust Eric Schneiderman and Matthew Dean yet, but at least there is a possibility that America won’t end when Mueller indicts the Trump clan, and Trump pardons everyone…

Written by Seth Anderson

February 24th, 2018 at 12:43 pm

Posted in crime,politics

Tagged with

Chicago to Trump Justice Department: Drop Dead

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Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Justice (London, U.K.)

The proper response would have been to send a flaming bag of poop along with returning the documents sent by Trump’s goons. The “My offer is this: nothing” response…

The city of Chicago has told federal officials it is complying with a request for documents related to the ongoing dispute over its “sanctuary city” status by sending the Chicago Police Department’s general orders and its immigrant welcoming ordinance, among other orders, brushing off what it calls “insinuations” of violating federal law.

The city’s letter to the federal government Friday was in response to a Department of Justice requests for records to Chicago, Cook County and other municipalities across the country that have not fallen in line with the new immigration policies of the administration of President Donald Trump.

The federal government had sought records showing local law enforcement agencies are sharing information with federal agents, and it threatened the loss of federal grants if they didn’t comply.

“The Department’s insinuations about Chicago’s compliance with federal law are especially puzzling given that it is the Department’s misguided policies against welcoming jurisdictions, like Chicago, that judges across the country repeatedly have found to violate the Constitution and federal law,” wrote Ed Siskel, corporation counsel in Chicago’s Department of Law.

(click here to continue reading Chicago fires back at feds’ request for ‘sanctuary city’ documents, questioning ‘integrity’ of Trump’s Justice Department – Chicago Tribune.)

zing! Love it…

Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary
Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary

and there’s more:

In a letter Friday on behalf of Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, Siskel suggested the Justice Department’s efforts weren’t transparent.

“Rather than being motivated by a sincere desire to reduce violent crime in Chicago and other cities, it is increasingly clear that the Department’s policies … are in fact a pretext for the Department’s true purpose: to demonize immigrants and penalize municipalities that refuse to fall in line with the Department’s unlawful demands,” he wrote.

Further, the city asked the federal government to respond to its own Freedom of Information request about what documents the government believes the law entitles it to receive regarding immigrant populations in local jurisdictions, saying the government’s requests have been unclear and “outright contradictory.”

Siskel’s letter also took issue with what he described as the federal government’s threat of “criminal action” against public officials who don’t comply with these requests.

“It should go without saying that, in a free democracy, the executive branch cannot threaten individuals with criminal charges for opposing the President’s policies,” Siskel wrote. “The Department’s threats against welcoming cities raises serious questions about the integrity of the Department’s decisions in this area.”

Written by Seth Anderson

February 24th, 2018 at 1:19 am

Trump Promotes Arming Teachers

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Scaring The Nation With Their Guns and Ammunition
Scaring The Nation With Their Guns and Ammunition

President Idiot’s latest suggestion is the suggestion of someone who gets most of his information from television or movies. Most veterans I’ve heard discuss this seem to universally think it a horrid abomination of an idea. Trained professionals hit the target 30% of the time or less (different folks have posited different numbers), but a high school teacher is going to protect kids from a massacre in a crowded school hallway? Laughable, except real people will die. And the teacher shortage is about to become acute – I’d guess many teachers would find alternative jobs before having to become soldiers in their own classrooms.

President Trump on Thursday intensified his calls for arming highly trained teachers as part of an effort to fortify schools against shooting massacres like the one that occurred in Parkland, Fla., last week, even as he denounced active shooter drills that try to prepare students to survive a rampage.

“I want certain highly adept people, people who understand weaponry, guns” to have a permit to carry concealed firearms in schools, Mr. Trump said during his second White House meeting in two days to discuss how to respond to the shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Teachers who were qualified to handle a weapon — Mr. Trump estimated between 10 percent and 40 percent — would receive “a little bit of a bonus,” he said, adding that he would devote federal money to training them.

(click here to continue reading Trump Promotes Arming Teachers, but Rejects Active Shooter Drills – The New York Times.)

Tweet
Tweet!

A few Tweets on this topic I read yesterday from various folks…

So, yeah…

She s Not A Girl Who Misses Much
She’s Not A Girl Who Misses Much

Making schools a free-fire zone is ridiculous. Donald Trump doesn’t want guns in his own hotels/golf courses, but he wants Mrs. Hettenhausen to strap on a .45 before she starts her English class? And when is she training? Before 3rd period?

 

Donald Trump spoke in favor of gun rights at the National Rifle Association convention today, but security and staff at several of his prized hotels and golf courses told ABC News that guests are not allowed to carry guns there.

Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s posh Florida club, doesn’t allow guns, a hotel staff member told ABC News.

Trump National Doral, in Miami, Florida, doesn’t allow guns either, a security official told ABC News. The resort would “much rather not” have guns on the property, said a security official with the hotel, who noted that guns are “not to be carried on our property.”

“We’ve had guests that have brought them before,” he said, but those guns “had to remain in their safe the whole time in the room.”

A security worker at Trump National in Jupiter, Florida, said “no” when asked if guns were allowed on premises by citizens who are licensed to carry them. 

Trump International Golf Club in Palm Beach County, Florida, also doesn’t allow citizens with concealed-carry licenses to bring their guns on the property, a golf-shop worker told ABC News.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Donald Trump Is Against ‘Gun-Free Zones’ But Guns Aren’t Allowed on Many of His Properties, Staff Says – ABC News.)

PMURT KCUF
!!!PMURT KCUF

The original Trump plan was to have two armed, well trained and well paid security guards from Blackwater né Academi on either side of each and every child. They would escort the kid from home to class, then form a perimeter around the child. Taxpayer money will funnel directly into Eric Prince’s Seychelles Island bank accounts, and Trump would get a percentage.

Written by Seth Anderson

February 22nd, 2018 at 3:15 pm

Posted in crime,politics

Tagged with , ,

Mueller, Manafort and Federal Savings Bank

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Entrance to The Federal Savings Bank
Entrance to The Federal Savings Bank

Follow up on the local FSB bank in Fulton Market we wrote about a few months ago…

Federal investigators are probing whether former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort promised a Chicago banker a job in the Trump White House in return for $16 million in home loans, two people with direct knowledge of the matter told NBC News.

Manafort received three separate loans in December 2016 and January 2017 from Federal Savings Bank for homes in New York City, Virginia and the Hamptons.

The banker, Stephen Calk, president of the Federal Savings Bank, was announced as a member of candidate Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers in August 2016.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is now investigating whether there was a quid pro quo agreement between Manafort and Calk. Manafort left the Trump campaign in August 2016 after the millions he had earned working for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine drew media scrutiny. Calk did not receive a job in President Donald Trump’s cabinet.

The sources say the three loans were questioned by other officials at the bank, and one source said that at least one of the bank employees who felt pressured into approving the deals is cooperating with investigators.

(click here to continue reading Mueller asking if Manafort promised banker White House job in return for loans – NBC News.)

The Federal Savings Bank
The Federal Savings Bank

Bloomberg adds:

 

The Federal Savings Bank, where Calk is founder, chairman and chief executive officer, also got a “seven-figure” investment from a firm run by one of Trump’s closest friends, Howard Lorber, according to court testimony not previously reported.

Lorber is CEO of the Vector Group, parent company of the New York real estate powerhouse, Douglas Elliman Real Estate LLC. Last year, Trump described Lorber, who is also chairman of Douglas Elliman, as one of his two best friends. In 1996, Trump and Lorber were together in Moscow exploring business opportunities, accompanied by Bennett LeBow, the Vector Group’s founder and chairman.

 

Bennett LeBow in 1998Photographer: Chuck Robinson/AP Images LeBow is a longtime player in both the cigarette and real estate industries in Russia and Ukraine. Among his former business partners is Vadim Z. Rabinovich, a Ukrainian politician who was elected to parliament in 2014 as part of the pro-Russia party that employed Manafort before he signed onto Trump’s campaign.

 

The Vector Group made a “seven-figure” investment in Calk’s bank, according to a 2015 deposition by Calk; Lorber in a 2015 deposition put the figure at $2 million, though he wasn’t sure if the investment was made by Vector or Douglas Elliman. Neither of the men said when the investment was made.

Calk was little known in political circles, even in Chicago. He built a mortgage business in Kansas with his brother John by focusing on military veterans. He moved the bank’s headquarters to Chicago in 2014 after being promised millions in grants and tax credits from the city.

According to a 2016 article in the trade publication, National Mortgage News, about 90 percent of the bank’s lending at the time was directed toward single-family home purchases, most through the Veterans Administration.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Behind Manafort’s Loans, a Chopper Pilot Who Flew Into Trump’s Orbit – Bloomberg.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 22nd, 2018 at 10:47 am

Primary Documents Are Key

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My Buttom Works!
My Buttom Works!

As a keen amateur historian, I feel strongly that if one is interested in a topic, one should seek out the primary documents as frequently as possible. Sure, you might also need expert opinion to help decipher and interpret what you read, but a key part of understanding a subject is familiarity with as much source material as you can find.

Of Ghosts and Grit
Of Ghosts and Grit

This seems an obvious point, but I’m constantly surprised at how infrequently people take that extra step. For instance, if you were a Christian, why wouldn’t you spend part of every weekend reading the words of Christ for yourself, instead of listening to a preacher tell you an interpretation. You might discover that Christ isn’t too enthusiastic about people who accumulate wealth, or that he was pretty adamant that helping poor and sick people was key. Fake Christians like Paul Ryan, Jeff Sessions, Rick Perry profess their religion in the public square, but yet seem to do the opposite of the teachings of their primary source material.

Anyway, I’m not religious, but I do follow American politics rather closely. And since this blog is nothing but a catalog of my fickle obsessions, I want to have spot where I can refer to a few primary documents of the Trump (mis)administration.

No Puppet! No Puppet!
No Puppet! No Puppet!

Such as the infamous Steele Dossier:

 

A dossier making explosive — but unverified — allegations that the Russian government has been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” President-elect Donald Trump for years and gained compromising information about him has been circulating among elected officials, intelligence agents, and journalists for weeks.

 

The dossier, which is a collection of memos written over a period of months, includes specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians. BuzzFeed News reporters in the US and Europe have been investigating various alleged facts in the dossier but have not verified or falsified them. CNN reported Tuesday that a two-page synopsis of the report was given to President Obama and Trump.

 

Now BuzzFeed News is publishing the full document so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.

 

 

(click here to continue reading These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia.)

and the testimony of Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS in front of the Senate’s Judiciary Testimony: 

 

The political battle over the FBI and its investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election intensified Tuesday with the release of an interview with the head of the firm behind a dossier of allegations against then-candidate Donald Trump.

 

The transcript of Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn R. Simpson’s interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee was released by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the panel’s senior Democrat, over the objections of Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa).

 

Feinstein’s action comes alongside an effort by Republicans to discredit the dossier as a politically motivated document that the FBI has relied too heavily upon in its investigation. Feinstein sought to push back against that perception and to bolster the FBI’s credibility.

 

“The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation,” she said.

[Read the full transcript of Glenn Simpson’s Senate testimony] [PDF]

In urging the committee to release the full transcript of his interview, Simpson has argued that Republicans are trying to obscure what happened in 2016.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Feud over Trump dossier intensifies with release of interview transcript – The Washington Post.)

and just for fun:

The Post is making public today a sizable portion of the raw reporting used in the development of “Trump Revealed,” a best-selling biography of the Republican presidential nominee published August 23 by Scribner. Drawn from the work of more than two dozen Post journalists, the archive contains 407 documents, comprising thousands of pages of interview transcripts, court filings, financial reports, immigration records and other material. Interviews conducted off the record were removed, as was other material The Post did not have the right to publish. The archive is searchable and navigable in a number of ways. It is meant as a resource for other journalists and a trove to explore for our many readers fascinated by original documents.

 

(click here to continue reading Trump’s financial records, depositions and interview transcripts: The documents behind ‘Trump Revealed’ – Washington Post.)

There are other documents of interest that I might add to this page later…

Written by Seth Anderson

January 10th, 2018 at 9:35 am

Posted in politics,religion

Tagged with ,