Tag Archives: influence peddling

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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Buzzfeed investigative report on Michael Cohen and Trump Tower Moscow

Investigative reporters Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold at Buzzfeed, in a lengthy investigative report, have The Definitive Story Of How Trump’s Team Worked The Trump Moscow Deal During The Campaign:

All through the hot summer campaign of 2016, as Donald Trump and his aides dismissed talk of unseemly ties to Moscow, two of his key business partners were working furiously on a secret track: negotiations to build what would have been the tallest building in Europe and an icon of the Trump empire — the Trump World Tower Moscow.

Talks to construct the 100-story building continued even as the presidential candidate alternately bragged about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and rejected suggestions of Russian influence, and as Russian agents worked to sway US public opinion on Trump’s behalf.

Trump Tower MoscowAn architectural rendering of the proposed Trump Tower in Moscow. Provided to BuzzFeed News.

While fragments of the Trump Moscow venture have trickled out — most recently in a report last night by Yahoo NewsMichael Cohen’s efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow went on longer than he has previously acknowledgedthis is the definitive story of the Moscow tower, told from a trove of emails, text messages, congressional testimony, architectural renderings, and other documents obtained exclusively by BuzzFeed News, as well as interviews with key players and investigators. The documents reveal a detailed and plausible plan, well-connected Russian counterparts, and an effort that extended from spearfishing with a Russian developer on a private island to planning for a mid-campaign trip to Moscow for the presidential candidate himself.

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The Trump Swamp: ‘pay to play’ corruption

Over the weekend the New York Times and the Washington Post did some excellent investigative reporting into the shady finances of Donald Trump and his consigliere Michael Cohn. The more we learn about Cohn’s “pay to play” scheme, and the two pending lawsuits challenging Trump’s “pay tp play” scheme under the emoluments clauses of the U.S. Constitution, the more this feckless GOP-controlled Congress has an obligation to investigate Trump’s tax records and financial dealings as president to “drain the swamp”: this is the most corrupt administration in recent American history.

Steve Benen has a decent short summary, The closer one looks at Trump’s finances, the louder the questions become:

Last summer, Donald Trump sat down with the New York Times, which asked whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller will have crossed “a red line” if the investigation into the Russia scandal extends to include examinations of the resident’s finances. “I would say yeah. I would say yes,” he replied, adding, “I think that’s a violation.”

Naturally, this generated no shortage of speculation as to why Trump is so concerned about scrutiny of his finances. For that matter, there’s no reason to separate questions about the president’s finances with the Russia scandal – because as Rachel Maddow has explained on her show more than once, there’s an amazing number of people from Russia who’ve purchased Trump properties over the years. (My personal favorite is the story of Dmitry Rybolovlev, the fertilizer king, who purchased a derelict Florida estate from the future president at an extreme markup.)

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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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‘The Kush’ has to go – drain the swamp of corruption (Updated)

The “Secretary of Everything” in the Trump administration, son-in-law Jared Kushner, is having a really bad week.

Jared had his security clearance pulled by Chief of Staff General John Kelly because he has not been able to pass a FBI background check after more than a year, because Jared has not been forthcoming about his foreign contacts and business dealings on his SF-86 form. For anyone else, that gets you terminated and/or prosecuted for lying on the SF-86 form.

“Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter.” Kushner’s overseas contacts raise concerns as foreign officials seek leverage.

We previously learned that Jared was negotiating financing for his business interests during the transition. Mueller Eyes Kushner’s Pursuit of Foreign Financing:

During the transition period, Kushner (reportedly) met with the chairman of the Chinese firm Anbang Insurance, in hopes of securing a $400 million investment in his family’s flagship property at 666 Fifth Avenue. Meanwhile, his company also (reportedly) sought $500 million in capital from the former prime minister of Qatar for the same project.

And let’s not forget that Jared asked the Russian ambassador for a “back channel” to Moscow to avoid detection by the U.S. intelligence agencies during the transition. Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin.

‘The Kush’ is a whole bucket full of red flags of national security risks. He should have been gone a long time ago.

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