Category Archives: Courts

Michael Cohen’s deep ties to the Russian mafia

If you only get your news from network/cable television news, the media narrative in the Michael Cohen case is that the Special Counsel’s investigation came across some information in its Russia investigation about Cohen’s handling of nondisclosure agreements with Donald Trump’s sexcapades that Robert Mueller decided was outside the scope of his investigation, so it was referred to the U.S. Attorney office for the Southern District of New York.

But then there was this allegation about taxi medallions, and the television news media was all “what’s up with that?” Maybe they should, oh I don’t know, do some reporting and find out.

It turns out that the current media narrative is incorrect. Michael Cohen has deep ties to the Russian and Ukrainian mafia in New York, and the taxi medallions involve a lot of mob money which is part of Cohen’s personal fortune. The Cohen case is about Russian influence, not just Donald Trump’s sexcapades.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has a hint of what the Cohen case is about. Good Grief. Cohen’s World Gets Mobbier The Closer I Look:

In today’s podcast, we look into the background of Michael Cohen. TPM first reported last year that Cohen was actually a childhood friend of Felix Sater, whose father was himself a reputed capo in the Mogilevich organized crime syndicate, said to be Russia’s largest and most dangerous. Filling out this picture of how Cohen fell into this milieu we’ve always been focused on the fact that Cohen’s uncle, Morton Levine, owned and ran a Brooklyn social club, El Caribe, which was a well-known meeting spot for members of Italian and Russian organized crime families in the 1970s and 1980s. (Levine, a medical doctor has never been charged with a crime.) But now it turns out there’s a bit more to this story.

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Beg your pardon, but this is obstruction of justice hiding in plain sight

Last Friday, Donald Trump’s consigliere Michael Cohen was in court on a motion to suppress evidence seized in a raid by the FBI on his office, home, and hotel room, and a bank deposit box. (It did not go well for him on Monday).

Trump called Cohen on Friday to “check in,” according to two people briefed on the call. Depending on what else was discussed, the call could be problematic, as lawyers typically advise their clients against discussing investigations. Trump Sees Inquiry Into Cohen as Greater Threat Than Mueller.

This could be viewed as witness intimidation or tampering, or even suborning perjury. “Don’t say nothing, Mikey. You keep your mouth shut! You know whadda mean?

Federal prosecutors revealed Friday that Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months and that they have impaneled a grand jury to probe his business dealings.

Donald Trump sent another message to Michael Cohen on Friday to keep his mouth shut: he pardoned Scooter Libby, who was convicted of one count of obstruction, two counts of perjury and one count of lying to the FBI about how he learned of Valerie Plame’s identity and whom he told (leaking classified information, Valerie Plame was a nonofficial cover (NOC) CIA spy, putting her life and those of all her known associates and contacts at risk). Jurors Convict Libby on Four of Five Charges.

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Governor Ducey’s ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ plan to fund teacher raises; teachers to vote on strike

After our Koch-bot Governor Ducey went from “those damn teachers should be grateful for the pittance I gave them” to doing a complete 180 degree flip-flop last week, saying he would agree to the teacher’s demands for a 20 percent pay increase by 2020, the question he left unanswered was “how do you intend to pay for it?” In a rare editorial opinion the Arizona Daily Star editorialized, Star Opinion: Gov. Ducey’s 20 percent teacher raises? Show us the money.

The Arizona Capitol Times has a partial answer today, and as you might expect, it’s the same old dog and pony show the GOP does with the state budget every year. Ducey proposes spending sweeps, reductions and rosy revenues to fund teacher raise. Lord help us.

Gov. Doug Ducey plans on funding a 20 percent teacher raise over the next three years with rosy revenue projections (magic!) and a mix of funding sweeps, lottery revenues and spending reductions.

State budget analysts provided legislators an analysis of Ducey’s plan, which the governor announced on April 12 amid emphatic teacher protests and threats of a strike. The governor promised he would push for a 9-percent raise in 2018, to be followed by 5 percent raises in the next two years.

That plan would cost the state $240 million in fiscal year 2019 alone. By FY21, the cost rises to $580 million, according to budget documents obtained by the Arizona Capitol Times.

In fiscal year 2019, that includes $176 million added to the base funding formula for K-12 schools, and $64 million in one-time dollars meant to act as “bridge” to the adjustment in Proposition 301 approved by the Legislature.

The Prop. 301 extension, approved in March, will shift $64 million in debt servicing to the Classroom Site Fund in fiscal year 2022, when the debt is paid off.

On top of those dollars, another $165 million would be added for teacher pay in fiscal year 2020, followed by $175 million in FY21.

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Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen is getting a legal education

Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer Michael D. Cohen is like Thomas “Tom” Hagen, the consigliere to the Corleone family in The Godfather.

A couple of weeks ago, McClatchy News reported Mueller probe tracking down Trump business partners, with Cohen a focus of queries;

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators this week questioned an associate of the Trump Organization who was involved in overseas deals with President Donald Trump’s company in recent years.

Armed with subpoenas compelling electronic records and sworn testimony, Mueller’s team showed up unannounced at the home of the business associate, who was a party to multiple transactions connected to Trump’s effort to expand his brand abroad, according to persons familiar with the proceedings.

Investigators were particularly interested in interactions involving Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney and a former Trump Organization employee. Among other things, Cohen was involved in business deals secured or sought by the Trump Organization in Georgia, Kazakhstan and Russia.

The New York Times reported on March 15 that Mueller had subpoenaed unspecified records from the Trump Organization. Days before that, the Washington Post reported that Mueller’s team was looking into a Moscow hotel deal for which Cohen brought to Donald Trump a letter of intent from a Moscow developer during the 2016 presidential campaign.

They must have obtained something of evidentiary value because a week ago Monday the F.B.I. Raided the Office of Trump’s Longtime Lawyer Michael Cohen: “The F.B.I. raided the Rockefeller Center office and Park Avenue hotel room [and home] of President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, on Monday morning, seizing business records, emails and documents related to several topics, including a payment to a pornographic film actress.”

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After Prop. 123, ‘we don’t get fooled again’

You can smell desperation coming from the governor’s office on the ninth floor.

Last year Gov. Ducey’s budget gave teachers a 2 percent raise over five years, or put another way, they would get a four-tenths of a percent raise per year over five years.

The legislature eventually settled on one percent last year — this was actually a one-time bonus — and one percent this year, with no promises for future pay raises.

The peasants should be grateful that we gave them anything.”

But now there is a national teachers revolt that has rocked West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and the grassroots educators group #RedForEd in Arizona is threatening a walkout of their own. Arizona teachers demand 20 percent raises, more money for students:

Frustrated and desperate, Arizona educators are demanding 20 percent pay raises to address the state’s teacher crisis and have threatened to take escalated action if state leaders don’t respond with urgency.

Besides the 20 percent teacher raises, educators’ demands are:

  • Restoring state education funding to 2008 levels. Arizona spends $924 less per student in inflation-adjusted dollars today than it did in 2008, according to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. Restoring education funding to that level would cost the state about $1 billion.
  • Competitive pay for all education support professionals, such as teachers’ aides and paraprofessionals. Dollar figures for this weren’t specified Wednesday.
  • A “permanent” step-and-lane salary structure in which teachers are guaranteed annual raises and steady advancement in wages.
  • No new tax cuts until the state’s per-pupil funding reaches the national average. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 figures, the most recent available, Arizona spent $7,489 per pupil compared with the national average of $11,392.

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Governor Ducey disses Arizona teachers, inviting a teacher walkout

Reminder: Today is another #RedForEd Wednesday, wear red in support of Arizona’s embattled teachers.

The Arizona Capitol Times reports, Ducey to meet with ‘decision makers,’ not teachers to talk about salaries:

Gov. Doug Ducey won’t meet with the leaders of two teacher groups to talk about salaries and related issues even as they are taking the first steps toward a walkout.

The governor’s statement comes less than a week after a request by Noah Karvelis of Arizona Educators United and Joe Thomas of the Arizona Education Association “to begin a negotiation process to resolve the #RedForEd demands.”

That includes not just the 20-percent salary increase to compete with neighboring states but also restoring education funding levels to where they were a decade ago.

It also comes as Arizona Educators United, a grassroots group of teachers, is working with its member teachers to set a date for walkout to get the attention of Ducey and legislators and show they are serious.

Ducey, in essence, has written off both groups as irrelevant to his own education funding plans.

“We’re meeting with the decision makers,” the governor said, meaning school superintendents and other officials. “And we’re going to continue to meet with the decision makers.”

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