Stonewalling and Follow the money $$$

Follow the money $$$

A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has a history of accidental truth telling, like when he revealed the Benghazi hearings were designed to take down Hillary Clinton  

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/kevin-mccarthys-truthful-gaffe/2015/09/30/f12a9fac-67a8-11e5-8325-a42b5a459b1e_story.html?utm_term=.a6a68a940692

The Washington Post has a great interactive chart on Trump & Russian connections, see it here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/trump-russia/?utm_term=.55288fbf2ced

 

Stonewalling

Former national security advisor Michael Flynn is not cooperating with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian election interference, Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said Thursday.

Burr initially said Flynn was not complying with a subpoena issued by the committee before quickly walking back his remarks to reporters.

While Flynn “is not cooperating” so far, Burr said, he hasn’t gotten a “definitive” answer from Flynn’s lawyers.

“I may have been premature,” Burr said. “There may be a day or two left.”

Flynn’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment or confirmation.

The demand is for documents related to the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election.

Flynn — the former intelligence officer who was fired in February for misleading Vice President Pence and other White House officials about the contents of a December phone call with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak — has been under scrutiny for accepting payments from Russia and Turkey and allegedly misleading the government about them.

Flynn had previously offered to testify before the Senate and House intelligence committees — which are both investigating Russian interference in the election — in exchange for immunity, but it does not appear that either committee has accepted the offer.

In April, the committee sent a series of requests to several former Trump associates asking for records on any dealings with Russians — a request Flynn’s lawyers declined to cooperate with through counsel, sparking the subpoena.

Trump’s former foreign policy advisor Carter Page, informal adviser Roger Stone and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort were also asked to provide documents. As of last week, the committee had received two responses, according to Burr. One of these, Page, is publicly known. Burr declined to reveal the second.

The letters asked for the men to list any meetings they might have had with Russian officials between June 16, 2015 — the day Trump formally launched his campaign — and Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, as well as records of any communications during the period.

The senators also want details on any financial assets or real estate holding tied to Russia, and a broader list of meetings between any Trump campaign aides and Russians.

In December 2015, Flynn was paid $45,000 to speak at an event hosted in Moscow by the Kremlin-backed network RT, during which he was seated with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also received payments for additional speeches to Russian firms Kaspersky and Volga Dnepr.

As a retired military officer, Flynn is prohibited under the emoluments clause of the Constitution from accepting payment from a foreign government without advance permission from both the secretary of State and the secretary of the Army.

According to documents released by House Oversight Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Flynn did not disclose the RT payment when he applied to renew his security clearance in January 2016, just a month after he traveled to Moscow.

Flynn’s lawyer has claimed that he briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency “extensively” both before and after the 2015 trip.

FBI Agents fear Trump will successfully scuttle the Russian Investigation

FBI Agents Worry White House Will Kneecap Russia Probe

The acting FBI director may promise that the investigation into Trump-Russia connections will continue. Many agents aren’t buying it.

On Tuesday night, after James Comey got fired, FBI agents tasked with thwarting Russian intelligence operations started drinking.

Two well-connected former FBI employees told The Daily Beast that counterintelligence agents working on the Russian counterintelligence program out of FBI headquarters in downtown Washington met for drinks in the hours after their boss’s firing and shared their concerns: that they would be reassigned elsewhere, and their work on the Russian-Trump associate’s investigation would come to a grinding halt.

“We do not have any comment,” an FBI spokeswoman said in an email to The Daily Beast Friday morning.

These are worries that have spread through the bureau in the days since Comey was fired: that the new administration will find ways to stymie investigations that could create political problems—especially on Russia. It’s a concern the president himself exacerbated in an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt that aired Thursday evening.

“And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won,’” the president said, discussing his reasoning for firing Comey.

Among current and former agents who worked on Russian counterintelligence, concern about political meddling is palpable.

“It’s complete bananas,” said one FBI source. “Management in counterintelligence are insanely concerned, worried about the overreaching obstruction and political influence from the White House.”

And a former high-ranking FBI official who worked on aspects of the case said there’s “no doubt the investigation can be damaged.”

“This particular case is within HQ with pieces in other field offices,” the source continued. “Hard to stop, but definitely subvert.”

The pace of the FBI’s Russian counterintelligence investigation dramatically picked in recent weeks when the probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn expanded to include his company’s work for the Turkish government, and a round of subpoenas were issued by a Virginia grand jury for related business and financial records. This stems from reports out of Turkey that Flynn had at some point attempted to return money he was paid for work he didn’t end up doing. That gave investigators a money trail to follow. Flynn reportedly failed to disclose this income when he was employed by the White House.

Two sources suggested that aspects of the larger investigation are focused on whether foreign influence was or is currently being exerted at the White House. It is unclear if this is specifically related to Flynn, or other aspects or targets of the case.

“It is not just a historical investigation,” said one former intelligence official who worked aspects of the early stages of the investigation.

Andrew McCabe, the bureau’s interim director, told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning that nothing would stop the investigation. But his confidence didn’t calm many nerves, in large part because there’s a broad consensus in Washington that his days at the bureau are numbered. In that same hearing, McCabe praised Comey and directly contradicted a White House spokesperson’s assertion that the FBI rank-and-file had turned on their former boss.

“Literally who cares, nothing he said matters. He’ll be gone,” said one congressional staffer.

McCabe isn’t the only top FBI official who could be in trouble.

Several administration sources said Associate Deputy Director David Bowdich could also be in the crosshairs. Sources said he has played an integral role in the investigation that led to the resignation of Flynn. That investigation is ongoing. The FBI website says Bowdich oversees the management of all FBI personnel and budgeting. So if he’s replaced, that could have a significant effect on the resources available to agents working on the Russia investigation.

The FBI declined to comment.

And it’s not just Bowdich. As FBI director, Robert Mueller changed the structure of the bureau’s leadership, adding outside non-agent, non-bureau personnel into the FBI at the rank of assistant director. These became mostly administrative positions, though some had joint oversight of counterintelligence operations. Comey continued this tradition. Sources said Trump could replace people in those positions with his loyalists, who could could slow the investigation.

The larger temporary task force investigating Russian influence investigation could soon be gone, according to a former FBI official.

They could “dismantle it, transfer the agents out, minimally staff it, have DOJ refuse to prosecute,” that official said.

“They could slow down the investigations to a crawl, prevent charges from moving forward to DOJ for prosecution, or any other number of ways the White House could subvert these investigations,” said a former FBI official who worked on Russian investigations.

“You have to remember, these agents have families they need to support,” said a former high ranking FBI official who worked closely with the Counterintelligence division. “The threat of being fired for doing their job is real here.”

And Comey’s firing could have already had an impact, according to Carrie Cordero, a former attorney in the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

“On a really major, highly sensitive, big big big-time case, it does matter the level of the director’s personal involvement,” she said. “It just does.”

And Comey’s support mattered.

“He gave the agents, the investigators, cover politically,” she said. “He said, ‘You go where the facts take you and I will handle the politics of it, I’ll go brief the Hill, I’ll hold off the White House.’ He’s the lineman in football, keeping everybody away from the guys that are trying to run or make the pass. He provided a cover for them to do what they needed to get done.”

Ron Hosko, assistant director of the bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division before his retirement, said the agency could also hit snags at the Justice Department, where the White House’s political appointees will have more sway.

“There are often frustrations in sensitive, important investigations that you end up with prosecutors—either too few, who are unwilling to move forward at the desired pace, or too many and you turn every simple decision into a debate club—and it slows progress,” Hosko said. “Here, I think that is the pulse that you in the media and others ought to be keeping close to: What’s the pace? Are the investigators getting the prosecutors’ support that they need?”

Attorneys in the DOJ’s National Security Division are responsible for securing subpoenas and court orders for the FBI agents working the Russia investigation. Hosko said agents sometimes suspect politics is to blame when Justice Department lawyers don’t move as fast as they would like.

“Prosecutors will sometimes start to debate and question every word in a subpoena and it tends to slow progress,” Hosko said. “And then you start to ask questions about—is this because of something political?”

Hosko also said he believes Dana Boente, the acting head of the DOJ’s National Security Division, has “impeccable integrity,” and wouldn’t let political concerns slow an investigation.

But those reassurances are unlikely to quell the fears of veteran FBI agents investigating the president’s associates.

“The Orange blob in the WH doesn’t care about anyone or anything he can’t control,” said the former high-ranking official. “He’s made that abundantly clear.”

 

Daily Beast   Jana Winter and Betsy Wooddruff

Trump not welcome at FBI Headquarters

President Donald Trump has reportedly backed out of a planned visit to FBI headquarters this week. According to NBC News, Trump was told “it was not likely he would be warmly welcomed” after he fired the agency’s director, James Comey, on Tuesday. “My sense is most FBI employees feel a loyalty to Comey,” an FBI employee told NBC News. “And whether they agree or disagree with the way he handled the email case, like and respect him… Trump would not be well-received at the headquarters.” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Wednesday that Comey had lost the support of the FBI’s rank-and-file, but Acting Director Andrew McCabe pushed back on that account at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday, telling lawmakers Comey was well-respected and liked.

NAFTA -This guy stands for nothing and will back down on anything (SAD)

Now he’s backing down on his earliest and most consistent campaign promise, getting rid of NAFTA.

Going after NAFTA is what tilted the Electoral College in Trumps favor. Three states that made the difference Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania all were tight, but went Trump most likely because of how widely hated NAFTA is in those states.

Trump agrees not to terminate NAFTA at this time

Flip flopper in chief Donald Trump on Wednesday told the leaders of NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico that the United States will not immediately move to exit the regional free trade agreement.

The announcement followed US media reports that Trump was considering giving formal notice of pulling the United States out of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In phone calls to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump “agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time,” the White House said in a statement. It added that “the leaders agreed to proceed swiftly, according to their required internal procedures, to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal to the benefit of all three countries.”

Trump campaigned for president in 2016 on a platform that included renegotiating or abandoning the trade agreement, which he claimed was “the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere” in a September debate with Hillary Clinton.

NAFTA was established January 1, 1994 under then-president Bill Clinton. It removes tariffs and allows a free flow of goods between the three partners. Trump has repeatedly derided NAFTA as a “disaster” and claimed the deal resulted in millions of lost US industrial jobs, mostly to Mexico.

“It is my privilege to bring NAFTA up to date through re-negotiation,” Trump said, according to the White House statement. “It is an honour to deal with both President Pena Nieto and Prime Minister Trudeau, and I believe that the end result will make all three countries stronger and better.”

Both conversations were “pleasant and productive,” the statement said.

The US trade deficit in goods and services last year with Mexico was $62 billion, but with Canada the US had a surplus of $8 billion. Two White House officials told Politico news website on Wednesday that a draft executive order for the United States to exit NAFTA was in the final stages of review, and could be unveiled within a week or two. The New York Times had quoted a senior administration official saying Trump was likely to sign such an executive order.

But late on Wednesday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross brushed off the reports as “rumour.”

“There was a rumour that there would be an executive order, just a rumour, and my practice is to comment on things we have actually done or are doing as opposed to commenting on rumours,” Ross said.

According to The Washington Post, Trump is expected to tell Congress that he intends to re-negotiate the deal, but also hold the threat of exiting the agreement to gain more concessions from Mexico and Canada.

The administration’s talk of exiting NAFTA has run into opposition from several prominent Republican lawmakers, including border senators John McCain of Arizona and John Cornyn of Texas, Politico reported.

“I’d be glad to have re-negotiation of some of the terms of it, because a lot of time has passed,” McCain told Politico. However a withdrawal would “be disgraceful and a disaster.”

The Trump administration has slapped tariffs in recent days on some imports of Canadian timber and threatened to retaliate against Canadian moves that harm US dairy farmers. Timber and milk, however, are not covered by NAFTA.

The softwood lumber dispute between Washington and Ottawa has been ongoing for at least 35 years, with US producers accusing their Canadian counterparts of exporting lumber at subsidized prices and harming US businesses. Lumber is an important component of the massive US construction and home-building industry. Most US homes are made with wood framing and some entirely of wood.

Earlier this week, the US Commerce Department announced it was imposing tariffs of up to 24 percent on Canadian softwood lumber. Canada’s dairy sector is protected by tariffs on imports and controls on domestic production as a way to support prices for the country’s farmers.

The latest dairy trade row was triggered when Canada extended those policies to apply to ultrafiltered milk, a product used in cheese production and at the centre of a thriving US export business.

A man is known by the company he keeps…… and the biggest LOSER

Days after the White House announced that it would not release visitor logs, the president hosted an unannounced dinner party that included Bat shit crazy Sarah Palin, the GOP’s 2008 vice presidential nominee and a former Alaska governor, and Low life nut job rocker Ted Nuget and delusional Kid Rock who also supported him during the 2016 campaign.

Lookout out Ivanka 

Palin posted photos from the Oval Office on Thursday morning, including one in which she is chatting up the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

“A great night at the White House. Thank you to President Trump for the invite!” she tweeted.

But it was the photo of Trump’s dinner guests trolling the Clinton photo that caught the most attention.

The bigoted anti semite Ted Nugent posted rambling thoughts on his Facebook page late Wednesday…………..

“So today is the 242nd anniversary of The Shot Heard Round The World is it! Well well well looky looky here boogie chillin’, I got your Shot Heard Round The World right here in big ol greazyass Washington DC where your 1 & only MotorCity Madman WhackMaster StrapAssasin1 dined with President Donald J Trump at the WhiteHouse to Make America Great Again! Got that? Glowing all American over the top WE THE PEOPLE gory details coming ASAP!! BRACE!”

The White House did not provide its own readout of the encounter.

 

The Loser………

Trump loves winning and winners, and all presidents love hanging out with sports champions. On Wednesday, Trump honored the New England Patriots for their overtime Super Bowl victory.

But many players skipped the ceremony in protest, and attendance was down noticeably from years past.

oops

NEW POLL –United Airlines favored over Trump: A new poll measured the favorability of United Airlines compared to President Trump.

Forty-two percent say they prefer the airline company to Trump. Forty percent favor Trump over United instead, while 18 percent remain undecided between the two.

http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/aviation/329687-poll-voters-prefer-united-airlines-to-trump

 

No tax return? You should always follow the money!

TWO smoking guns:

Former MI6 chief Richard Dearlove says Donald Trump borrowed money from Russia during 2008 financial crisis

Richard Dearlove told Prospect Magazine that “what lingers for Trump may be what deals – on what terms – he did after the financial crisis of 2008 to borrow Russian money” when other banks and lenders would not risk the money, given Mr Trump’s history of bankruptcy.

Just days before taking office Mr Trump tweeted that Russia has never had “leverage” over him.

Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!” 4:31 am – 11 Jan 2017

Mr Trump also recently said US-Russia relations may be at an “all-time low” following the US air strike in Russian-allied Syria after a chemical attack in the Idlib province.

Robert Amsterdam, a lawyer at international law firm Amsterdam & Partners with considerable experience in Russian affairs, told The Independent there was “no question” that US intelligence agencies and the FBI had information about Trump’s financial dealings with Russian entities prior to the 2016 US election.

Trump-Russia investigation ‘now has concrete evidence of collusion’

“Trump’s relationship with Russia goes back many, many years. I’m sure the FBI was monitoring it,” he said.

Two parallel investigations into alleged ties between Trump associates and Russia during the 2016 presidential election as well as Russia’s alleged tampering with the election are being conducted in Congress at the moment.

Democrat Senator Mark Warner, Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee said the tactics used by the Kremlin “send a chill down anyone who believes in the democratic process“.

If the FBI and or other US intelligence agencies did know about any financial burden Mr Trump had with Russian lenders, it will raise further questions over why the information was not released earlier, especially given the FBI’s approach to Mr Trump’s opposition candidate Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.

FBI Director James Comey infamously sent a letter on 28 October – just 11 days before Americans went to the polls – to Congress stating the agency found new, pertinent emails in its ongoing investigation into then-candidate Ms Clinton’s use of a private email server for messages containing classified information.

Mr Amsterdam said one possible explanation is “that the FBI has an informer who was once part of the Trump organization” and that information was not released in order to protect that source.

“In my view…[the FBI] had no obligation” to share the Trump investigation but “the same rules should apply to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump,” he said.

Mr Amsterdam explained that Russian authorities likely have the same, if not “better,” information about Mr Trump’s financial dealings with Russian entities.

“One of Mr Trump’s main lenders is a bank that’s been particularly close with Russians: Deutsche Bank,” said Mr Amsterdam.

It is unknown if Mr Trump is still paying off the alleged 2008 debts to Russian lenders or which part of the vast Trump organization took out the loans.

The Congressional investigations will also include interviews and possibly hearings with Mr Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

It has been confirmed that Vnesheconombank, a Russian state development bank, met with Mr Kushner in December 2016.

The bank is currently subject to western economic sanctions due to Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/richard-dearlove-mi6-trump-russia-money-2008-financial-crisis-us-election-a7684341.html

Concrete evidence of collusion between Trump team and Russia’ handed to official investigation

The official investigation into relations between Donald Trump and Russia now has “specific, concrete and corroborative evidence of collusion”, it has been reported.

New evidence proves discussions took place “between people in the Trump campaign and agents of [Russian] influence relating to the use of hacked material,” a source allegedly told the Guardian.

The developments come as it has emerged that Britain’s spy agencies were among the first to alert their American counterparts to contact between members of Mr Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives.

British and other European intelligence agencies first intercepted suspicious “interactions” between people associated with the US President and Russian officials in 2015 as part of routine surveillance of Russia, intelligence sources have confirmed to a number of different publications.

GCHQ British Spy Headquarters

Spy agencies, including GCHQ, were not deliberately targeting members of the Trump team but rather recorded communications through “incidental collection,” CNN reports.

This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information under the “Five Eyes“ agreement, which calls for open sharing of certain types of information among member nations the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Over several months, different agencies targeting the same people began to see a pattern in communications between the Republican’s inner circle and Russian operatives. For six months, until summer 2016, these interactions were repeatedly flagged to intelligence officials in the US, who sources have said were slow to act.

“It looks like the [US] agencies were asleep,” a source told the Guardian. “They [the European agencies] were saying: ‘There are contacts going on between people close to Mr Trump and people we believe are Russian intelligence agents. You should be wary of this.’

“The message was: ‘Watch out. There’s something not right here.’”

GCHQ’s involvement in the investigation is controversial, with Mr Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, having previously accused the “British spying agency” of bugging Trump Tower on behalf of Barack Obama. Mr Spicer cited an unsubstantiated report on Fox News, from which the television station later distanced itself.

At the time GCHQ diverged from its usual policy of refraining from commenting to the media, describing the allegations as “nonsense”.

“They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored,” a spokesperson for the agency said. But both US and UK intelligence sources now acknowledge that C played an early and important role in kickstarting the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation, which began in late July 2016.

One source told the Guardian the British eavesdropping agency was the “principal whistleblower”.

A GCHQ spokesperson declined to comment on the revelations, saying: “It is longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters”.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/trump-russia-investigation-now-has-specific-concrete-and-corroborative-evidence-of-collusion-a7683386.html

 

 

 

More on Trump’s hero Putin and his Mafia state

The WhatsApp Chat That Nails Putin’s Mafia State

New evidence in the so-called Magnitsky Affair shows the rot at the core of the Russian regime.

It was a digital conversation never intended for public consumption. Yet what it discloses is nothing short of damning evidence about a decade-old conspiracy between the Russian mob and officials in Vladimir Putin’s government to steal $230 million from the Russian people, then frame and kill the whistleblowing tax attorney who uncovered the crime.

But here it is: Evidence that leaves little room for doubt that Sergei Magnitsky, the murdered lawyer, was right all along. There was collusion between members of organized crime and the Russian government to perpetrate the original theft and then cover it up. In fact, the cover-up continued years after Magnitsky’s violent end in pretrial detention, where he was beaten to death.

To understand the evidence and its import—the extent to which it exposes the rot at the core of the Russian system run by Vladimir Putin—it’s necessary to revisit the admittedly complicated details of the conspiracy, at least as they have been corroborated by the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Department of Justice (PDF), and the European Parliament, all of which have upheld Magnitsky’s findings—even if his own government has not.

In June 2007, officers of the Russian Interior Ministry raided two offices in Moscow. The first belonged to Hermitage Capital, then the largest investment vehicle in the Russian Federation; the second was Hermitage’s law firm Firestone Duncan. The officers seized stamps and certificates for three subsidiaries belonging to the firm. In effect, with those bits of rubber, ink, and paper, they purloined those three companies, although no one knew it at the time.

Months later, Hermitage received a phone call from a St. Petersburg court informing it that it was liable for hundreds of millions of dollars in judgments levied against those same three stolen companies. At which point, Hermitage hired a young tax attorney at Firestone, Sergei Magnitsky, to find out what had happened.

He discovered that the documents seized by the Interior Ministry were actually used to re-register the Hermitage subsidiaries in three jurisdictions all over Russia and that a lawyer named Andrey Pavlov turned up in concurrent civil court cases representing the companies. Pavlov, who in another instance also represented the plaintiff company, pleaded guilty in the cases, costing the purloined subsidiaries more than $1 billion in phony liabilities. The subsidiaries then sought a collective tax refund for $230 million, citing losses from the previous tax year as a result of the liabilities. The entire refund was processed in 24 hours on Christmas Eve 2007.

 

This is the kind of thing that may sound complicated at first glance, but is quite easy to arrange if a government and a criminal enterprise are colluding.

When some of the details were exposed, the European Parliament sanctioned Pavlov as a member of the transnational Russian organized crime syndicate known as the Klyuev Group, headed by ex-convict Dmitry Klyuev. Members of this mafia, according to the U.S. government, include the very Interior Ministry policemen who raided Hermitage and its law firm, as well as the tax officials who processed the $230 million refund, and members of other law enforcement bodies assigned with investigating the fraud.

To date, no one credibly implicated in the conspiracy has been brought to book in Russia. Many members of the Klyuev Group have been awarded state honors or given promotions or reassigned or have taken early retirement.

Magnitsky, meanwhile, was arrested on charges of tax evasion, then blamed for the conspiracy he uncovered, then denied urgent medical care in pretrial detention, then beaten to death in an isolation cell in Moscow, as the Russian Presidential Human Rights Commission concluded in a summarily ignored post-mortem.

In the last several years, much of the $230 million—which, again, was taken not from Hermitage Capital but from Russian public coffers and therefore Russian taxpayers—has been located in a host of foreign bank accounts and real-estate markets, including that of Manhattan where an ongoing and increasingly surreal federal money-laundering case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Southern District of New York, until recently the demesne of Preet Bharara.

Key witnesses involved in the Magnitsky affair have gone silent. One Western government informant was poisoned in England. The lawyer representing the Magnitsky family mysteriously fell (or was pushed) out of his fourth-floor apartment building in Moscow a day before he was due to testify in Russian court about the latest developments in the case.

A landmark U.S. human rights law named for Magnitsky, meanwhile, has sanctioned 39 accomplices to the Magnitsky Affair.

Pavlov is not one of them. But Oleg Urzhumtsev, a senior Russian Interior Ministry official who allegedly helped orchestrate the Magnitsky affair, is. He left his government job in or around 2011, a few years after having investigated the tax fraud and questioned Pavlov (whom he did not charge with any crime) and after he signed decrees that shifted blame for the crime onto Magnitsky himself.

Which makes it all the more interesting that in a tranche of hacked and publicly leaked emails belonging to Pavlov, the alleged consigliere is shown conversing with Urzhumtsev in 2013 (six years after the original crime) and giving him instructions as to how to retroactively exonerate the Klyuev Group.

Pavlov confirmed the authenticity of the emails in a legal complaint he filed in Moscow to try and prevent independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta from publishing them. They contain several days’ worth of WhatsApp communications between the consigliere and the ex-Interior Ministry official, which go a long way toward vindicating Magnitsky’s gumshoe exposé.

***

On Feb. 18, 2013, Andrey Pavlov messages his friend Oleg Urzhumtsev on the encrypted platform WhatsApp: “I have a very serious and important matter for you. The Bald-Headed told me that I should assign it to you.” The Bald-Headed here appears to refer to the glabrous Dmitry Kluyev. And the task is to tamper with state evidence in order to exonerate the Klyuev Group from any criminal activity. It entails commissioning a fake forensic “study” to demonstrate that the three Hermitage seals stolen by the Interior Ministry in 2007 did not match those used in Pavlov’s civil cases. If they didn’t, after all, the Klyuev Group can’t have been guilty of any financial fraud.

Gaining access to the confiscated seals, however, means navigating various competitive arms of Russian law enforcement including the courts, the sub-agencies and departments within the Interior Ministry, and the Investigative Committee. And that in turn means seconding a series of “small bosses,” or mid-level officials, who might not be so willing to grant such access for an elaborate and unlawful scheme.

What follows is a revealing five-day dialogue between Pavlov and Urzhumtsev, chronicling, often in colorful language, every vicissitude of their project to rewrite their own criminal histories.

On Feb. 18, Pavlov messages Urzhumtsev to tell him that all three seals are in an evidence box with the Russian Interior Ministry’s Department for the Central Federal District. “The documents are with the court in [St. Petersburg], as I remember you were the one who had seized them.” Urzhumtsev, now out of a job at the Interior Ministry, nonetheless replies that he thinks he can arrange for the study to be commissioned using active officers in the ministry, but that he isn’t quite sure how to get hold of the seals from the Central District.

Later that day, he appears to have figured out a way. He tells Pavlov that he has tasked someone called “the Cossack”—an epithet used in the exchange to refer to an unidentified officer in the Interior Ministry’s Organized Crime and Corruption Investigations Department—with overseeing the request for access and the photocopying of the seals.

Pavlov thanks Urzhumtsev for sorting out the scheme. “I’ve always known that if you want, you can kick the brains out of anyone. 🙂 Thank you!”

Urzhumtsev affirms that he is “coaching” the Cossack on how to handle everything.

After a 48-hour delay, Pavlov expresses his frustration that even if the bogus study is successfully commissioned, Magnitsky family lawyer Nikolai Gorokhov and Hermitage Fund lawyer Alexander Antipov “have to be notified of it” and “it would be a clusterfuck.” No doubt this is because Gorokhov and Antipov would be in positions to examine and scrutinize this newly minted expert analysis and possibly discredit it.

Later, on Feb. 21, Urzhumtsev confirms that the Cossack “will come by in the morning, and will sign all the documents.”

Pavlov replies: “Oleg, you are saving me :). I owe you!”

The following day, Feb. 22., Urzhumtsev tells Pavlov that he spent the entire night composing “the full set of documents” for the Cossack required to gain access to the evidence box.

Later that day, Urzhumtsev confirms to Pavlov that “the full set of documents for the study is with Vityok,” referring, evidently, to the Interior Ministry officer overseeing the study. “The only thing, I haven’t had a chance to identify for him the objective for the study. But I think it could wait until [Monday.]” Pavlov replies: “He knows the objective, I told him, but it should be repeated,” thereby acknowledging that the conclusion of study has been predetermined.

The timing of the WhatsApp conversation, the transcript of which Pavlov emailed to himself, is also telling. It occurred exactly a month before Russia’s FBI-like Investigative Committee not only shuttered its case into the death of Magnitsky in custody, citing a “lack of crime,” but also charged the slain lawyer posthumously with perpetrating the very fraud he uncovered. Other Russian state officials, including judges and Interior Ministry officers now under U.S. sanctions for their role in the Magnitsky affair, are also referenced in Pavlov and Urzhumtsev’s discussion.

Even more disturbing is the allusion to Magnitsky family attorney Nikolai Gorokhov, who was either defenestrated or suffered an unfortunate and ill-timed accident on March 21 this year, a day before he was due to appear before the Moscow City Appeals Court to argue on behalf of a complaint filed by Magnitsky’s mother.

That complaint was to overturn a previous court ruling that Pavlov’s leaked emails, and this WhatsApp conversation in particular, didn’t constitute grounds to reopen the criminal investigation into her son’s suspicious death.

In an interview with Pavlov published last week in Novaya Gazeta, the outlet he has unsuccessfully tried to prevent from publishing his hacked emails, Pavlov told the newspaper: “But what do you see in [the WhatApp messages]? That both a lawyer and an investigator do know each other and discuss criminal cases? I see that some people are collecting material for the criminal case. Here the most important question: was the expertise falsified or did someone just want it to be held?”

This quaint interpretation obviously elides the prima facie evidence demonstrated in the conversation: Pavlov, a former subject of a state investigation into the fraud against Hermitage, is asking Urzhumtsev, a former state official tasked with investigating that fraud—and therefore Pavlov, whom he interviewed and then exonerated as part of that investigation—to interfere with an existing case file four weeks before that case was definitively closed. No court in the world would deem this an innocent colloquy between “a lawyer and an investigator.” Novaya Gazeta remarked that during the course of the interview, Pavlov seemed to be offering the newspaper “a proposal to abandon the story of his emails in exchange for some valuable documents.”

What the WhatsApp conversation constitutes is hard documentary proof that Sergei Magnitsky died for being correct. He exposed a sophisticated and cynical swindle by the mafia state Vladimir Putin has spent close to two decades constructing and protecting.

The conversation also shows that Western legislatures, facing a fierce lobbying campaign by agents of the Kremlin and pushback from bureaucracies in their own governments, have been right to honor Magnitsky’s memory by blacklisting the crooks, thieves, and thugs responsible for bleeding their country dry while terminating this patriotic lawyer to save their own hides.

Michael Weiss The Daily Beast

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/04/05/the-whatsapp-chat-that-nails-putin-s-mafia-state.html

This is a follow up to second half of our post from March 22 that explores Here’s how dissent is dealt with in Russia.

https://tuluwatexaminer.wordpress.com/2017/03/22/trump-begins-employing-his-mentor-putins-tactics-on-capitol-hill/

 

with all eyes on Trump’s Russian corruption you might have missed this other corruption

It’s been previously reported that HHS Secretary Tom Price has made some questionable stock trades that appear to be based on inside information he had as a congressman. But Robert Faturechi reports that there’s more:

On the same day the stockbroker for then-Georgia Congressman Tom Price bought him up to $90,000 of stock in six pharmaceutical companies last year, Price arranged to call a top U.S. health official, seeking to scuttle a controversial rule that could have hurt the firms’ profits and driven down their share prices, records obtained by ProPublica show.

….On March 17, 2016, Price’s broker purchased shares worth between $1,000 and $15,000 each in Eli Lilly, Amgen, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, McKesson, Pfizer and Biogen….The same day as the stock trade, Price’s legislative aide, Carla DiBlasio, emailed health officials to follow up on a request she had made to set up a call with Patrick Conway, the agency’s chief medical officer. In her earlier emails, DiBlasio said the call would focus on payments for joint replacement procedures. But that day, she mentioned a new issue.

“Chairman Price may briefly bring up … his concerns about the new Part B drug demo, as well,” she wrote. “Congressman Price really appreciates the opportunity to have an open conversation with Dr. Conway, so we really appreciate you keeping the lines of communication open.”

The “Part B drug demo” refers to a proposed Obama rule that removed the incentive for doctors to prescribe expensive drugs that don’t seem to improve patient outcomes. As it happens, there were plenty of folks in Congress from both parties who opposed this rule, so Price’s opposition wasn’t unusual. The difference is that all the others didn’t buy lots of pharmaceutical stock at the same time they were lobbying to stop a rule that might have eaten into pharmaceutical profits.

So far, the Price affair hasn’t attracted all that much attention. There are too many other Trump administration scandals to worry about. But this one has a decent chance of blowing up one of these days.

http://m.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/04/price-affair-dark-horse-corruption-scandal-just-waiting-erupt