Archive for the ‘Indictment’ category

Nothing Burger With Wheeze

October 31, 2017

Nothing Burger With Wheeze, Amerian Greatness, October 31, 2017

 

It’s a carnival of corruption, a carnival of collusion, but the one name missing from the roster of malefactors is that of President Donald Trump. I believe this whole misbegotten investigation, in the end, will garner a lot of scalps. But the scalps will not, I suspect, be those of Trump or his supporters. Rather, the whole focus of the investigation is likely to shift to the real “colluders with Russia,” the Clintons and their enablers.

This is not a result, I surmise, that Robert Mueller will relish. But if he does not recuse himself (and there are good reasons that he should), I suspect that evidence of the real collusion—to deprive the United States of its lawfully elected president—will point in only one direction. It will be irresistible. And it won’t be directed against Donald Trump.

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Given the ocean of blaring red type with which the Drudge Report greeted the news of the indictment of Paul Manafort and Richard Gates on Monday morning, you might have thought that here, at last, was the smoking gun in the Trump-colludes-with-Ruskies-to-snatch-the-election-from-Hillary narrative. I have no doubt the collective hearts of Max Boot, Gabe Schoenfeld, and Bill Kristol skipped a joyous beat when they heard tell of the indictments this weekend. “At last!” I could almost hear them exclaim, “It’s make-way-for-ducklings time! Trump will soon be gone and the power brokers will once again pay attention to us. Order in the universe will be restored.”

No such luck, friends. As Ted Cruz observed many months ago, the whole Russian collusion delusion is a “nothing burger.” Robert Mueller’s heavy-handed “let’s-squeeze-’em” pursuit of these two former players in Donald Trump’s campaign may make for dramatic headlines. And doubtless, it is a nuisance (and potentially more) for Messrs. Manafort and Gates, who, if they have incompetent lawyers, may face jail time and extensive fines. But really, at the end of the day, their alleged malfeasance, despite the “Conspiracy against the United States” heading in the indictment, amounts to concealing from Uncle Sam some $75 million they hoovered up as unregistered foreign agents for Ukraine and sending the proceeds through the rinse, suds, spin, and dry cycle back home in the United States. Naughty, yes; prosecutable, to be sure; but it has nothing to do with the assigned subject of Robert Mueller’s terrier-like activities as special counsel.

As my friend Andrew C. McCarthy put it in a characteristically incisive summary of the episode, Mueller’s case “seems shaky and overcharged” and will likely be a “boon to Trump,” who is not mentioned in the indictment, which focuses on activities that took place five and even 10 years ago, long before Donald Trump began disturbing the sleep of the NeverTrumpers.

“Even from Paul Manafort’s perspective,” McCarthy notes,

there may be less to this indictment than meets the eye — it’s not so much a serious allegation of “conspiracy against the United States” as a dubious case of disclosure violations and money movement that would never have been brought had he not drawn attention to himself by temporarily joining the Trump campaign.

Moreover, McCarthy continues, “From President Trump’s perspective, the indictment is a boon from which he can claim that the special counsel has no actionable collusion case.”

It appears to reaffirm former FBI director James Comey’s multiple assurances that Trump is not a suspect. And, to the extent it looks like an attempt to play prosecutorial hardball with Manafort, the president can continue to portray himself as the victim of a witch hunt.

A few days ago, the world was stunned by the news that 1) the original funder of the Fusion GPS anti-Trump research was the conservative website Washington Free Beacon, edited by Matthew Continetti, the son-in-law of energetic NeverTrumper Bill Kristol, and 2) when the Beacon ended its contract with Fusion GPS, its services were picked up by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC. It was at that point, in May-June 2016, that Fusion GPS employed the former British Spy Christopher Steele to look for dirt on Trump in Russia. That was the origin of the infamous “Trump Dossier,” with its (in the words of former FBI director James Comey) “salacious and unverified” claims about Donald Trump’s behavior in Russia.

This whole story has been exhaustively and exhaustingly picked over. Who knew that Tony Podesta, older brother of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, was in bed (and in today’s climate, we must stipulate, not literally) with Paul Manafort? Yep, it’s true. And this just in—the elder Podesta has just announced that he is stepping down from his lobbying firm, the Podesta Group, after, nota bene, it was announced that Mueller was turning his jaundiced eye on him.

Who knew that the FBI, too, engaged the services of Spook Steele to continue gathering dirt on Trump? Did that work provide the rationale for the Obama Administration’s going to the FISA Court to get authorization to bug Trump’s associates? What about Robert Mueller? He was head of the FBI when that storied agency was prevailed upon not to announce it was investigating the Russian company that acquired Uranium One, and thereby some 20 percent of U.S. Uranium assets, back when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and Barack Obama was still pursuing his “reset” with Russia. What’s going on there? And the $140 million (give or take) that found its way into the coffers of the Clinton Foundation around the time of that transfer? Or the $500,000 speaking fee for a short speech by Bill Clinton, paid by a Russian bank working for the Russian company acquiring Uranium One? What about that?

It’s a carnival of corruption, a carnival of collusion, but the one name missing from the roster of malefactors is that of President Donald Trump. I believe this whole misbegotten investigation, in the end, will garner a lot of scalps. But the scalps will not, I suspect, be those of Trump or his supporters. Rather, the whole focus of the investigation is likely to shift to the real “colluders with Russia,” the Clintons and their enablers.

This is not a result, I surmise, that Robert Mueller will relish. But if he does not recuse himself (and there are good reasons that he should), I suspect that evidence of the real collusion—to deprive the United States of its lawfully elected president—will point in only one direction. It will be irresistible. And it won’t be directed against Donald Trump.

Democrats demand Congress move to protect Mueller from Trump ire

October 30, 2017

Democrats demand Congress move to protect Mueller from Trump ire, Washington TimesSally Persons and Stephen Dinan, October 30, 2017

(Rumors are also being spread that Henny Penny will soon announce the imminent fall of the sky. Congress must immediately pass legislation to silence Henny Penny. Please see also, Manafort surrenders…What has this got to do with Trump? –DM)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, speaks during her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill on Oct. 26, 2017. (Associated Press)

Democrats demanded Monday that Congress approve a bill preventing the special counsel from being fired after Robert Mueller unsealed charges against three former Trump campaign officials concerning their work with or on behalf of Russian interests.

Sen. Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat and vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said the charges against Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman and top deputy, and the guilty plea from a foreign policy advisor, are reasons to quickly protect Mr. Mueller from interference by an angry president.

“Members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, must also make clear to the president that issuing pardons to any of his associates or to himself would be unacceptable, and result in immediate, bipartisan action by Congress,” Mr. Warner said in a statement.

Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, unsealed indictments against Paul Manafort, who served as Trump campaign chairman from March to August, and against his deputy Rick Gates, charging them with a long-running scheme to represent pro-Russian interests in Ukraine, laundering money and avoiding taxes for the operation, then lying to investigators to cover it up.

The crucial activity appeared to take place before 2014, or well before the campaign.

But Mr. Mueller also unsealed a guilty plea entered earlier this month by George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor, who admitted to lying to cover up contacts he had during the campaign with someone promising dirt on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Democrats said the charges showed there were live targets for Mr. Mueller’s investigation within the Trump campaign operation, and said it’s a reason to defend the special counsel against interference.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, warned Mr. Trump not to intervene to help his two former associates.

“The president must not, under any circumstances, interfere with the special counsel’s work in any way. If he does so, Congress must respond swiftly, unequivocally, and in a bipartisan way to ensure that the investigation continues,” he said.

Multiple congressional committees are probing Russian activities during the election, including Mr. Warner’s panel.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she still wants to see yet another investigation launched.

“Even with an accelerating Special Counsel investigation inside the Justice Department, and investigations inside the Republican Congress, we still need an outside, fully independent investigation to expose Russia’s meddling in our election and the involvement of Trump officials,” Ms. Pelosi said in a statement.

Manafort surrenders…What has this got to do with Trump?

October 30, 2017

Manafort surrenders…What has this got to do with Trump? IWB, Mark Angelides, October 30, 2017

GWB. Remarks at Graduation Ceremony for FBI Special Agents. Quantico, VA.

It seems fairly obvious that when Manafort’s home was raided and he was warned by prosecutors that he would be facing charges, it was an attempt to get him to roll over on the president and either give up some real evidence or make up some tales to extricate himself. Those who know Manafort personally have stated that “he wouldn’t lie,” (at least not to get others IN trouble, getting himself OUT is clearly a different matter).

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Former Campaign manager to the Trump team, Paul Manafort has turned himself into the authorities after the long-awaited charges were finally filed on Friday. It is not our place to judge his guilt, but we can ask one question…What has this got to do with Donald Trump and the Russian conspiracy?

Back in the summer, the media had a frenzy about the FBI raiding Manafort’s home searching for evidence of money laundering from his days as a Ukraine spin master and lobbyist. According to the filed charges (you can read them here), they’ve found it. But not one of the charges mentions a single word about Donald Trump, his campaign team, his presidential bid, or in fact anything whatsoever that you would expect from an investigation into the aforementioned!

So why are the charges coming out now? If I were of a more paranoid bent, I would suggest that since the eruption of at least four major scandals over the last two weeks (all of which concerning Russia, Mueller himself, and the DNC) that Mueller, along with press, are trying desperately to get back to “the narrative.”

It seems fairly obvious that when Manafort’s home was raided and he was warned by prosecutors that he would be facing charges, it was an attempt to get him to roll over on the president and either give up some real evidence or make up some tales to extricate himself. Those who know Manafort personally have stated that “he wouldn’t lie,” (at least not to get others IN trouble, getting himself OUT is clearly a different matter).

So with Manafort refusing to dish the dirt, they have just gone ahead with the charges of money laundering, tax evasion, and of course, lying to authorities about it. Yet this really seems to have nothing to do with the president.

Lest you think this is an indulgent flattery piece that suggests the president can do no wrong, rest assured, I think it highly likely that at some point in time, the president has been involved in some questionable practices (especially with regards to his business dealings). But this is about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and this has turned up nothing to do with a Trump-Russia collusion deal! So what is the purpose?

Simply, the prosecutors (most of whom were large Clinton donors), Mueller (who was the guy who tried to falsify evidence in the case of trying arrest Julian Assange in Iceland), and the DNC, who have the most to gain by getting rid of Trump, have no realistic route back to power other than forcing the president to leave in disgrace. They have no new policies, no new ideas, and no new candidates…All they have are hints and allegations of some mysterious scandal that even today, with Manafort’s arrest, has still failed to materialize.

FBI’s Focus On Manafort Doesn’t Have Anything To Do With Russian Collusion In The Election

October 30, 2017

FBI’s Focus On Manafort Doesn’t Have Anything To Do With Russian Collusion In The Election, Daily Caller, October 29, 2017

(I have read the lengthy indictment of Paul Manafort and Richard Gates, released today (October 30th). It mentions neither Trump nor the campaign and appears to have nothing to do with Russian collusion. It is available here. — DM)

Paul Manafort (Getty Images)

The FBI’s investigation into President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is focused on several suspicious wire-transfers he made four years before the presidential election, according to a Sunday report from Buzzfeed.

Manafort allegedly made 13 wire transfers from 2011 to 2012 that drew the attention of federal law enforcement officials who were examining if he was helping the Ukrainian regime launder millions it plundered through corrupt dealings. Much of the money was filtered through the U.S. before landing in various areas around the world, Buzzfeed’s report notes.

Trump’s former campaign manager has been the subject of multiple law enforcement investigations into  Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.

A spokesman for Manafort did not respond to reporters’ questions about the investigation or any of the specific wire transactions. He became Trump’s campaign manager in May 2016 before he was forced to resign three months later after media reports exposed his ties to Russian oligarchs.

Manafort has since emerged as a key figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian influence, despite the former campaign manager’s repeated denials of any wrongdoing. His widely-reported connections to corrupt former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych sparked speculation he used Russian agents to help Trump at the expense of Clinton.

American financial institutions, which are required by law to tell the Treasury Department about any transactions they deem suspicious, began flagging Manafort’s transactions, Buzzfeed’s report notes. Suspicious activity reports do not prove wrongdoing, but they are sufficient to begin probes. Federal law requires financial institutions to file reports on cash transactions exceeding $10,000 in a single day.

Manafort’s suspicious financial transactions were flagged as far back as 2012 and forwarded to the FBI’s International Corruption Unit and the Department of Justice, a former Treasury official told reporters. Law enforcement officials said they found red flags in his banking records going back to 2004.

Four of the transfers originated with Manafort’s political consulting firm Global Endeavour, which was hired by Yanukovych to consult and lobby on his behalf. Manafort was working with the former Ukrainian president to lobby the U.S. and other Western countries to support for Ukraine’s entry into the European Union.

Tony Podesta and the Podesta Group’s involvement in Ukrainian politics is also complicating the situation. Mueller expanded the investigation to focus on Podesta and his Democratic-leaning lobbying firm with connections to Clinton, sources told NBC in an Oct. 24 report.

Manafort organized a public relations campaign for a group called European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU), which lobbied the U.S. to support Ukraine’s EU push. Podesta’s company was one of many firms that worked on the campaign.

The sources said Mueller’s investigation into Podesta, the brother of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, began as a fact-finding mission about Manafort’s role in the campaign but quickly morphed into a criminal inquiry into whether the firm violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, known as FARA.

People and firms who lobby on behalf of foreign governments must file detailed disclosures about their spending with the Department of Justice. Willful failure to file is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison. Podesta and Manafort filed the requisite forms only after the media began reporting on their dealings with ECMU, according to NBC’s report.

CNN reported Friday that Mueller has filed charges in sealed indictments. It is currently not known what the charges are or who they have been filed against. CNN reported that multiple people could face charges. The FBI could begin arresting those charged within the week.

Cooking the books? Not quite

September 12, 2017

Cooking the books? Not quite, Israel Hayom, Akiva Bigman, September 12, 2017

Regardless, the real story is this: after a litany of allegations — the misuse of patio furniture, the buying of candles, the mishandling of deposits for bottles, the improper use of a caregiver for Sara Netanyahu’s father, and the controversial use of services by an electrician and catering staff — we now finally have a real legal debate raging in Israel, dealing with our very essence as a nation: Can a cleaning lady that occasionally prepares a Shabbat dinner be considered a cook for legal purposes?

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Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit recently said he prepared a draft indictment against Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But his announcement misses the point: The allegations that expense reports were falsified at the Prime Minister’s Residence are of no relevance to her conduct, legally speaking. There is no way of proving that she was involved in any way, shape or form in the accounting practices at the residence. If someone cooked the books, it wasn’t her. It would be even harder to prove that she was aware of any such action.

So what’s left? The only thing that can conceivably be directly attributed to Sara Netanyahu is that she ordered meals from restaurants for the Prime Minister’s Residence despite the fact that the residence employed a full-time cook — ostensibly in violation of regulations. “Netanyahu created the false impression that the Prime Minister’s Residence had no cook even though cooks were employed the entire time,” Mendelblit wrote last Friday.

But the State Comptroller’s Office says something else. According to a report on the period in question, only in July 2013 did the CEO at the residence ask the civil service commissioner for an official kitchen employee, and this request was granted a month later. This means that throughout most of the period in question, there was no cook employed there and the position did not even exist. So what’s all the fuss about? Well, it turns out that although there was no official employee, one of the cleaning ladies did some occasional cooking.

“A member of the cleaning staff at the residence served as a cook from March 2009 until October 2011,” Mendelblit wrote. Such a statement seems to be quite a stretch. Occasional cooking by an unprofessional employee cannot properly oversee the preparation of the meals at the official residence, both in quantity or in quality.

And regardless, that specific worker carried out no cooking beyond October 2011. The expenses reported for takeaway food show as much: In 2010, a year that saw a cleaning lady cook essentially all the time, some NIS 70,000 ($19,800) were reported. In 2011, the expenses rose to NIS 90,000 ($25,547). In 2012, when she no longer cooked, the expenses spiked to NIS 158,000 ($44, 852). And after the official cook was hired in 2013, the expenses dropped dramatically to NIS 64,000 ($18,100).

The sums mean that the average monthly payments on takeaway food were between NIS 6,000 and NIS 13,000 ($1,700 to $3,684). This is equivalent to about NIS 200 per day ($56), when there was a cook, to NIS 400 ($113) per day when there was no cook. Considering that the official residence includes the prime minister, his wife and their two sons, such sums are not unreasonable.

Contrary to the media’s false narrative suggesting that the indictment is a fait accompli, it is too early to tell whether Netanyahu will actually be indicted. She has the right to a pre-indictment hearing, and she may very well succeed in dissuading the attorney general from going ahead with the indictment or at least make him rethink the move.

Regardless, the real story is this: after a litany of allegations — the misuse of patio furniture, the buying of candles, the mishandling of deposits for bottles, the improper use of a caregiver for Sara Netanyahu’s father, and the controversial use of services by an electrician and catering staff — we now finally have a real legal debate raging in Israel, dealing with our very essence as a nation: Can a cleaning lady that occasionally prepares a Shabbat dinner be considered a cook for legal purposes?

Wife of Israeli PM to be indicted on charges of misusing public funds

September 7, 2017

Wife of Israeli PM to be indicted on charges of misusing public funds, DEBKAfile, September 7, 2017

(Indictment for ordering “expensive meals? Insanity. — DM)

Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, informed the prime minister’s wife Sara Netanyahu Thursday evening that he will indict her on charges of misusing public funds by ordering meals from expensive restaurants costing tens of thousands of shekels.

The Netanyahu family later issued a statement saying that the claims are absurd and false, calling her a brave and honest woman who had not done anything improper.