Tag Archives: campaign finance

New York sues Trump Foundation for self dealing

The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his dogged reporting of Trump’s philanthropy over the years, and found that it had been exaggerated and often was not truly charitable activities at all, reports that New York files suit against President Trump, alleging his charity engaged in ‘illegal conduct’:

The New York attorney general filed suit against President Trump and his three eldest children Thursday, alleging “persistently illegal conduct” at the president’s personal charity, saying Trump repeatedly misused the nonprofit organization — to pay off his businesses’ creditors, to decorate one of his golf clubs and to stage a multimillion-dollar giveaway at his 2016 campaign events.

The full 41-page court filing is online here (pdf).

In the suit, filed Thursday morning, Attorney General Barbara Underwood asked a state judge to dissolve the Donald J. Trump Foundation. She asked that its remaining $1 million in assets be distributed to other charities and that Trump be forced to pay at least $2.8 million in restitution and penalties.

Underwood said that oversight of spending at Trump’s foundation was so loose that its board of directors hadn’t met in 19 years, and its official treasurer wasn’t even aware that he was on the board.

Instead, she said, the foundation came to serve the spending needs of Trump — and then, in 2016, the needs of his presidential campaign. She cited emails from Trump campaign staff members, directing which charities should receive gifts from the Trump Foundation, and in what amounts.

Underwood also asked that Trump be banned from leading any other New York nonprofit organization for 10 years — seeking to apply a penalty usually reserved for the operators of small-time charity frauds to the president of the United States.

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The Trump crime family cashes in before the Special Counsel closes in

Most of you are already familiar with the three emoluments clause cases filed against Donald Trump for profiting off of foreign governments at his properties as president.

The first case filed by the ethics group CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) was dismissed for lack of standing, but that case is currently on appeal.

In the second case brought by the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia (No. 8:17-cv-01596), U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte of the District of Maryland ruled that D.C., Maryland can proceed with lawsuit alleging Trump violated emoluments clauses. Judge Messitte rejected an argument made by critics of the lawsuit — that, under the Constitution, only Congress may decide whether the president has violated the emoluments clauses. But Messitte’s ruling also narrowed the lawsuit’s scope to the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., saying that the District and Maryland had standing to sue because they could plausibly claim to have been injured by Trump’s receipt of payments from foreign and state governments.

The third case was filed by more than 200 Democratic members of Congress, Blumental et. al v. Trump in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 1:17-cv-01154), and is presently scheduled for a hearing on a motion to dismiss on June 7, 2018.

The Trump Hotel is only the tip of the iceberg according to reporting over the past week.

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Cohen payments get curiouser and curiouser (Updated)

Last week we were left wondering how Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels attorney, got his hands on Michael Cohen’s financial information, which appeared to come from a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR). Avenatti’s memo was quickly confirmed by news media outlets.

We still don’t know how Avenatti got his hands on the SAR report, but we now know how the media was able to confirm the financial information in his memo so quickly: a government whistleblower provided the news media with a copy of the SAR report.

The New Yorker reports, Missing Files Motivated the Leak of Michael Cohen’s Financial Records:

Last week, several news outlets obtained financial records showing that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, had used a shell company to receive payments from various firms with business before the Trump Administration. In the days since, there has been much speculation about who leaked the confidential documents, and the Treasury Department’s inspector general has launched a probe to find the source. That source, a law-enforcement official, is speaking publicly for the first time, to The New Yorker, to explain the motivation: the official had grown alarmed after being unable to find two important reports on Cohen’s financial activity in a government database. The official, worried that the information was being withheld from law enforcement, released the remaining documents.

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Follow the money: Russian money flowed into Michael Cohen’s business, but to whom did it flow, and for what purpose?

Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti is not saying how he came into possession of financial records of Michael Cohen, but at some point he may be required to disclose this to the court.

On Tuesday, Avenatti posted online a “Project Sunlight” executive summary (.pdf) for reporters to review. Avenatti examines Essential Consultants LLC, a Delaware company, on Oct. 17, 2016, just a few weeks before Election Day. The company’s banking records are from the First Republic Bank branch (“First Republic”) located in Manhattan, New York City, New York.

Avenatti alleges that representations made to the bank to open the account “were false when made and continued to be false at all material times based on the activity occurring in the account. This likely constitutes bank fraud.”

The media narrative has been that Essential Consultants LLC was used as a cut out for the payment of the $130,000 to Stormy Daniels, which it was.

But Michael Cohen was also using his company for a “pay to play” scheme to sell his access to Donald Trump as his personal attorney.

Avenatti alleges that “From October 2016 through January 2018, Mr. Cohen used his First Republic account to engage in suspicious financial transactions totaling $4,425,033.46.” Among these transactions include:

  • Chief among these suspicious financial transactions are approximately $500,000 in payments received from Mr. Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian Oligarch with an estimated net worth of nearly $13 Billion. Mr. Vekselberg and his cousin Mr. Andrew Intrater routed eight payments to Mr. Cohen through a company named Columbus Nova LLC (“Columbus”) beginning in January 2017 and continuing until at least August 2017.
  • Columbus Nova is a private equity firm founded in 2000 with over $2 billion in assets. Mr. Intrater is the CEO of Columbus Nova. Columbus Nova is the U.S. investment vehicle for Renova Group, a multi-national company controlled by Mr. Vekselberg. Renova group holds investments in various interests, including mining, oil, and telecommunications .
  • Also included in these suspicious financial transactions are four payments in late 2017 and early 2018 totaling $399,920 made by global pharmaceutical giant Novartis directly to Essential in four separate transactions of $99,980 each (just below $100,000).
  • In addition, Essential received $200,000 in four separate payments of $50,000 in late 2017 and early 2018 from AT&T.
  • Essential also received a $150,000 payment in November 2017 from Korea Aerospace Industries LTD.

There are a several other financial transactions highlighted in Avenatti’s executive summary.

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Rudy Giuliani trots out yet another Trump story in signal to Michael Cohen to not flip

Back in early April, in his first public statement about the “hush money” his personal lawyer Michael Cohen paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels, Donald Trump denied having any knowledge of the matter. Trump: I don’t know anything about the $130,000 my lawyer paid Stormy Daniels:

Trump’s denial was the first time he’s made a public statement about the money given to Daniels ahead of the 2016 election to keep her silent about her alleged 2006 affair with Trump.

Trump replied “no” when asked if he had had knowledge about the payment to Daniels. A reporter then asked if he knew why Cohen made the payment.

“You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen is my attorney,” Trump said, according to the pool report. “You’ll have to ask Michael.”

Trump also denied knowing where the money to pay Daniels came from and ignored another question on whether he had ever set up a fund that Cohen could use to make such a payment.

Last week Trump called into his team of advisors on Fox & Friends on Trump TV, and in a bizarre half-hour rant, Trump says for first time that Cohen represented him in Stormy Daniels case:

[I]n an interview with Fox News on Thursday morning, Trump appeared to reveal that he had knowledge of Cohen’s payment to Daniels.

“Michael represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me,” Trump said. “And from what I’ve seen, he did absolutely nothing wrong. There were no campaign funds going into this.”

And asked how much of his legal work Cohen is responsible for, Trump said: “As a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny fraction.”

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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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