Implausible deniability

Plausible deniability is the ability of people (typically senior officials in a formal or informal chain of command) to deny knowledge of or responsibility for any damnable actions committed by others in an organizational hierarchy because of a lack of evidence that can confirm their participation, even if they were personally involved in or at least willfully ignorant of the actions. In the case that illegal or otherwise disreputable and unpopular activities become public, high-ranking officials may deny any awareness of such acts to insulate themselves and shift blame onto the agents who carried out the acts, as they are confident that their doubters will be unable to prove otherwise. The lack of evidence to the contrary ostensibly makes the denial plausible, that is, credible, although sometimes it merely makes it unactionable. The term typically implies forethought, such as intentionally setting up the conditions to plausibly avoid responsibility for one’s (future) actions or knowledge. In some organizations, legal doctrines such as command responsibility exist to hold major parties responsible for the actions of subordinates involved in heinous acts and nullify any legal protection that their denial of involvement would carry.

Ivanka Trump helped make her father’s first international hotel venture a success with the help of an alleged international fraudster with ties to money launderers and criminals from the former Soviet Union.

A joint report between Reuters and NBC News examined the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama, which includes residential apartments and a casino in one of the tallest buildings in Latin America.

President Donald Trump’s daughter worked with Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, a 43-year-old Brazilian who was arrested three years later by Panamanian authorities on charges of fraud and forgery unrelated to the Trump project.

He later fled the country after his release on $1.4 million bail.

Nogueira and his company, Homes Real Estate Investment & Services, was responsible for up to half of the advance 666 apartment sales, according to Reuters.

The joint Reuters-NBC News report found Nogueira did business with a Colombian who was later convicted of money laundering and is now jailed in the United States, a Russian investor in the Trump tower jailed in Israel in the 1990s for kidnapping and death threats, and a Ukrainian investor arrested for alleged human trafficking while working with Nogueira and later convicted in Ukraine.

https://www.rawstory.com/2017/11/ivanka-filled-trumps-panama-tower-with-the-help-of-fraudster-with-ties-to-russian-money-launderers/

Watch the in-depth report tonight: Richard Engel on Assignment

LIVE TONIGHT, 6:00 PM ON MSNBC

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Trump, his family and cronies; the real “Enemies of the people”

The ‘Paradise Papers’ expose Trump’s fake populism

President Trump entered the White House on a platform of populist rage. He channeled ire against the perceived perfidy and corruption of a shadowy world of cosmopolitan elites. He labeled his opponent Hillary Clinton a “globalist” — an establishment apparatchik supposedly motivated more by her ties to wealthy concerns elsewhere than by true patriotic sentiment.

“We will no longer surrender this country, or its people, to the false song of globalism,” Trump declared in a campaign speech in 2016, setting the stage for his “America First” agenda. The message was effective, winning over voters who felt they had lost out in an age defined by globalization, free trade and powerful multinational corporations.

Fast-forward a year, though, and it’s worth asking whether Trump — a scion of metropolitan privilege and a jet-setting tycoon who has long basked in his private world of gilded excess — ever seriously believed any of his own populist screeds. Little he has done since coming to power suggests a meaningful interest in uplifting the working class or addressing widening social inequities. Indeed, much of the legislation that he and his Republican allies are seeking to push through suggests the exact opposite.

Now there’s even more evidence underscoring his administration’s flimsy commitment to the rhetoric that brought it to power. This week, we’ve been confronted by a steady drip of revelations contained in the leaked trove of documents known as the “Paradise Papers.” These are about 13.4 million files obtained in part from a Bermuda-based law firm that helped corporations and wealthy individuals set up offshore companies and accounts. In many cases, the moves allowed the firm’s clients to avoid paying taxes at home. A similarly mammoth leak last year, dubbed the “Panama Papers,” prompted, among other things, the resignations of leaders in Pakistan and Iceland.

Hundreds of journalists from 96 media organizations around the world are sifting through the documents and following up on what leads they provide (The Washington Post is not among the publications to have reviewed these documents). That’s because the list of prominent figures implicated in these dealings is vast, ranging from the Queen of England to Irish pop-legend-turned-philanthropist Bono to a string of Russian oligarchs. They cast light on the offshore schemes of the chief financier behind the election campaign of Canada’s liberal prime minister, a big donor to Britain’s Conservatives and huge U.S. corporations such as Nike and Apple.

And, significantly, they include figures intimately connected to Trump. The most startling revelation involved Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who maintained his stake in a shipping firm called Navigator Holdings after assuming public office — and even as a Russian natural gas firm called Sibur increased its business dealings with Navigator. Sibur happens to be closely connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin: Both his son-in-law and favored judo partner are owners of the company.

“The latest document leaks raise more questions about business ties between Russia and some of the most prominent members of Trump’s Cabinet,” my colleague Carol Morello noted. “The New York Times reported that the documents include references to offshore holdings by Gary Cohn, the chief economic adviser, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. There is, however, no evidence that any of the holdings were illegal.”

“I’m not embarrassed at all,” Cohn told CNBC on Tuesday. Cohn was named in the papers as an officer of 22 business entities in Bermuda, dating back to when he was a senior Goldman Sachs executive. “This is the way that the world works.”

That is certainly true. As my colleague Rick Noack noted, the Paradise Papers may generate a media-led uproar, but the loopholes revealed in them still exist and are, in most cases, legal.

So, why does this all matter? Consider the argument of a more genuine economic populist, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.): “The major issue of our time is the rapid movement toward international oligarchy in which a handful of billionaires own and control a significant part of the global economy,” Sanders said in a statement this week. “The Paradise Papers shows how these billionaires and multinational corporations get richer by hiding their wealth and profits and avoid paying their fair share of taxes.”

That’s something the populist, antiglobalist Trump would, in theory, be upset about. But Trump has not said or tweeted a word about the leaks. The Republican tax changes being unfurled under his watch specifically benefit corporations and the superwealthy. New York Times columnist (and Nobel Prize-winning economist) Paul Krugman calculated that, if enacted, the Trump tax cuts would even yield a $700 billion windfall to wealthy foreigners who own U.S. equities.

And perhaps the greatest irony revealed in the documents is that Trump’s campaign attacks on his “globalist” opponent were themselves partially sponsored by offshore cash. According to the Guardian, the billionaire Mercer family — which funds alt-right website Breitbart and is closely linked to ultranationalist ideologue Stephen K. Bannon — “built a $60m war chest for conservative causes inside their family foundation by using an offshore investment vehicle to avoid U.S. tax.”

it’s not surprising, then, that Trump parrots Bannon’s divisive blood-and-soil ethno-nationalism while coming up short on his economic promises.

“Taxes are, as a noted American jurist put it, the price we pay for civilization,” noted an editorial in the Guardian, which is one of the publications scrutinizing the documents. “Voters tax themselves, among other things, for schools, roads, a health service, for welfare provision, to pay their soldiers and build a diplomatic corps. When a group at the top of society secedes and forms a globally mobile republic, able to choose which jurisdiction they wish to operate under, the public is right to ask why we allow this to happen. Why should taxes just be for the little people?”

Trump campaigned for the “forgotten people.” But he seems increasingly bound up with the “globally mobile republic” he so vehemently decried.

Ishaan Tharoor The Washington Post

https://www.washingtonpost.com/people/ishaan-tharoor

The Steele Dossier linked Trump to the mob, now Mueller links them to Manafort

Mueller Reveals New Manafort Link to Organized Crime

 

Trump’s former campaign manager didn’t just do business with accused gangsters. One of them transferred millions into a Manafort account, allegedly used for money laundering.

Buried deep in Robert Mueller’s indictment of Paul Manafort is a new link between Donald Trump’s former campaign and Russian organized crime.

The indictment (PDF), unsealed on Monday, includes an extensive look into Paul Manafort’s byzantine financial dealings. In particular, it details how he used a company called Lucicle Consultants Limited to wire millions of dollars into the United States.

The Cyprus-based Lucicle Consultants Limited, in turn, reportedly received millions of dollars from a businessman and Ukrainian parliamentarian named Ivan Fursin, who is closely linked to one of Russia’s most notorious criminals: Semion Mogilevich.

Mogilevich is frequently described as “the most dangerous mobster in the world.”  Currently believed to be safe in Moscow, he is, according to the FBI, responsible for weapons trafficking, contract killings, and international prostitution. In 2009, he made the bureau’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

“Ivan Fursin was a senior figure in the Mogilevich criminal organization,” Taras Kuzio, a non-resident fellow at Johns Hopkins-SAIS’ Center for Transatlantic Relations and a specialist on the region told The Daily Beast.

Martin Sheil, a retired criminal investigator for the IRS, said the indictment, with its connections to Fursin, helps illuminate the murky world Manafort operated in before taking the reins of Trump’s presidential bid.

“This indictment strongly indicates the existence of a previously unknown relationship between an alleged Russian organized crime leader and Mr. Manafort,” Sheil told The Daily Beast.

According to the indictment, Manafort and his former business partner, Rick Gates, used Lucicle to avoid paying taxes on money which they then spent on a variety of pricey items: clothes, antiques, and at least one Mercedes-Benz.

Paul Manafort’s attorney, Kevin Downing, told reporters on Monday that the idea that anyone would engage in such a scheme is laughable.

“The second thing about this indictment that I, myself, find most ridiculous is a claim that maintaining offshore accounts to bring all your funds into the United States, as a scheme to conceal from the United States government, is ridiculous,” he told a scrum of reporters on the steps of a D.C. courthouse.

But the indictment alleges otherwise. According to Mueller’s team, from April 2012 to March 2013, Lucicle transferred more than $1.3 million to a home improvement company in the Hamptons, where Manafort owns property.

Lucicle also sent more than $200,000 to a New York men’s clothing store from March 2012 to February 2013. In that same window of time, it also sent more than $100,000 to a New York antique dealer, more than $340,000 to a Florida contractor, $88,000 to a landscaper in the Hamptons, and a comparatively paltry payment of $7,500 to a clothing store in Beverly Hills.

On Oct. 5, 2012, Lucicle wired in $62,750 to pay for a Mercedes-Benz. And on Valentine’s Day of 2013, it sent $14,000 to a Florida art gallery. In total, according to Mueller’s indictment, Lucicle wired more than $5 million into the U.S. for Gates and Manafort.

At least some of the money Manafort and Gates used to pay for all those goodies appears to have come from Fursin. The New York Times reported in July that Lucicle and Fursin are tied to an “offshore entity, Mistaro Ventures, which is registered in St. Kitts and Nevis and listed on a government financial disclosure form that Mr. Fursin filed in Ukraine.”

According to the Times, “Mistaro transferred millions to Lucicle in February 2012 shortly before Lucicle made the $9.9 million loan to Jesand L.L.C., a Delaware company that Mr. Manafort previously used to buy real estate in New York.” It was one month after that transfer that Lucicle started shelling out millions to pay for cars, clothes, and real estate, according to the indictment.

That isn’t Fursin’s only connection to Manafort. He is also a lawmaker for the Party of Regions, which paid at least $17 million to Manafort’s firm.

In addition, Fursin’s longtime business associate, Ukrainian billionaire Dmitry Firtash, has an off-again, on-again partnership with Manafort. Together, they tried to buy the Drake Hotel in Manhattan for a cool $850 million. Firtash also bankrolled Ukraine’s Party of Regions.

Firtash has his own legal complications. He is currently under indictment in U.S. federal court for allegedly orchestrating an international titanium mining racket. The acting U.S. attorney in Chicago recently dubbed him an “organized-crime member” and an “upper-echelon associat[e] of Russian organized crime.” His attorneys say those charges are mere “innuendo,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

A December 2005 report from the Austrian Federal Criminal Investigation Agency said the FBI described Fursin and Firtash as senior members of the Semion Mogilevich Organization.

Ken McCallion, a former federal prosecutor who represented Yulia Tymoshenko in a civil case against Manafort and Firtash, told The Daily Beast that Fursin and Firtash are close.

“It was very similar to the relationship between Manafort and Gates,” he said. “Gates was a significant player in the criminal activities that Manafort engaged in… He played a major role, he was a major lieutenant in Manafort’s organization. By the same token, Fursin was one of the chief lieutenants of Firtash.”

Betsy Woodruff – Daily Beast

https://www.thedailybeast.com/mueller-reveals-new-manafort-link-to-organized-crime

Trump: Dutch documentary Part III -1 billion dollar international money-laundering scheme

“The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump, Part III: The Multibillion-Dollar Fraud”

Lock him up!

Trump’s real estate empire is linked to an international money-laundering scheme that netted more than $1 billion for himself and his business partners, according to the third installment of a documentary series by Dutch filmmakers that aired Wednesday.

As Alternet’s Steven Rosenfeld reports, director of “The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump, Part III: The Multibillion-Dollar Fraud” Sander Rietveld followed the transfer of money from Kazakhstan to the United States to identify “how this could relate to Donald Trump, the Trump Organization, and Trump’s real estate.”

The result, Rietveld said, ”is a follow-the-money documentary revealing the connections between several people in Trump’s orbit and an alleged multibillion-dollar fraud.” Rietveld also noted Kazakh oligarch Ilyas Khrapunov “tried to block” the documentary from airing.

“Judge turned down his request and allowed airing documentary,” Rietveld said.

The documentary zeros in on money from Kazakhstan that went towards Bayrock, the group that joined forces with Trump International for the company’s SoHo Tower project. The project manager of Bayrock, Felix Sater, pleaded guilty in 1998 to a fraud scheme involving the Russian mob. He later became an FBI informant and in 2017 began cooperating with investigators working on an international money laundering scheme, the Financial Times reports.

“The significant thing is they have got the Kazakh government saying that Bayrock was a money launderer for these guys,” James Henry, an investigative reporter who worked on the film, told AlterNet. Henry noted if special counsel Robert Mueller probes Trump’s Bayrock ties, “we have Felix Sater laundering criminal money.”

Pointing to the previous two installments in this documentary series, Henry argued Trump and his associates have engaged in “a continuing cover-up of money laundering.”

Watch the video below, via YouTube:

https://www.rawstory.com/2017/09/watch-trumps-mob-ties-and-multibillion-dollar-fraud-revealed-in-dutch-documentary-sequel/

At 5am FBI raids the home of former lobbyist for Russian billionaire and Trump campaign chairman

The FBI conducted a predawn raid of Paul Manafort’s home as part of its Russia investigation

Natasha Bertrand

The FBI conducted a predawn July raid on the home of President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, as part of its ongoing investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

FBI agents working with Robert Mueller, who was appointed special counsel to lead the investigation after James Comey was fired as FBI director in May, left Manafort’s home in Washington’s northern Virginia suburbs “with various records,” according to The Post.

The New York Times reported shortly afterward that investigators were looking for tax documents and foreign banking records, documents “typically sought when investigating violations of Bank Secrecy Act,” Times reporter Adam Goldman noted.

The Bank Secrecy Act was passed “to deter and detect money laundering, terrorist financing, and other criminal acts and the misuse of our nation’s financial institutions,” according to the Treasury Department.

Manafort has been cooperating with investigators’ requests for relevant documents. But the search warrant obtained by the FBI in July indicates that Mueller managed to convince a federal judge that Manafort would try to conceal or destroy documents subpoenaed by a grand jury.

“The only reason to do a search warrant on a target who is ostensibly cooperating with the investigation is a lack of trust,” said Kenneth Julian, a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips who served for more than 11 years as a federal prosecutor in the Central and Eastern districts of California.

Manafort’s spokesman, Jason Maloni, confirmed in a statement that “FBI agents executed a search warrant at one of Mr. Manafort’s residences” and said Manafort had “cooperated.”

The raid happened one day after Manafort met privately with the Senate Intelligence Committee and provided notes about his meeting with two Russian lobbyists at Trump Tower in June 2016. Trump’s son Donald Jr. and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also attended the meeting, which was not disclosed by the campaign at the time.

An adviser close to the White House told The Post that the documents obtained by the FBI included material Manafort had already given to congressional investigators.

But Jack Sharman, a white-collar lawyer in Birmingham, Alabama, who was appointed special counsel to the House Banking Committee for the Whitewater investigation of President Bill Clinton, said a search warrant like this “is designed to send a message.”‘

“One purpose of such a raid is to bring home to the target the fact that the federal prosecution team is moving forward and is not going to defer to or rely on Congress,” added Sharman, who also recently served as special counsel to the Alabama House Judiciary Committee for the impeachment of Gov. Robert Bentley.

‘They don’t believe he is fully cooperating’

A former Department of Justice spokesman, Matthew Miller, said a raid coming months into an investigation when the subject’s attorneys had been speaking with, and presumably cooperating with, the DOJ “suggests something serious.”

“Manafort’s representatives have been insisting for months that he is cooperating with these investigations, and if you are really cooperating, DOJ typically doesn’t need to raid your house — they’ll trust you to respond fully to a subpoena,” Miller said.

“The fact they cut any cooperation short and raided his house suggests they don’t believe he is fully cooperating and that there are documents or electronic files, possibly contained on computers at his house, in his possession that they did not trust him to turn over.”

A former federal prosecutor, Renato Mariotti, explained on Twitter that to obtain a search warrant, the FBI must work with a federal prosecutor to lay out evidence in an affidavit showing probable cause that a search of the suspect’s home will uncover evidence of a crime.

“Why would the FBI want to search the home of a subject like Manafort? Because there may be documents, ledgers, and other records,” Mariotti said. “More importantly, there may be computers and other digital media that contain communications.”

Also chiming in on Twitter was Asha Rangappa, a former FBI special agent who noted that, in obtaining a warrant, the FBI evidently convinced a judge that there was probable cause a crime had been committed — and “that there was some risk that Manafort may try to remove conceal evidence despite cooperation.”

“In order to get a search warrant, FBI agents had to swear to their belief that fruits of a crime would be found in Manafort’s home,” said Julian, the former California-based federal prosecutor.

Rangappa noted that when she was at the FBI, raids were often conducted at 5 a.m. “to catch target unawares, so they cannot destroy or remove evidence.” She added that anything the government finds “can be used to leverage Manafort,” especially if it shows “that he had been lying” to the government or Congress.

Manafort’s ties to Russia came under scrutiny last August, when The New York Times discovered that a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine designated him $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments. Manafort, a longtime Republican operative, had advised the party and its former leader Viktor Yanukovych for nearly a decade.

The ledger, and Manafort’s activities in Ukraine more broadly, were examined more closely following Yanukovych’s ouster on corruption charges in 2014. Manafort has been associated with at least 15 bank accounts and 10 companies in Cyprus, dating back to 2007, NBC reported in March.

On March 22, the Associated Press reported that Manafort was paid $10 million from 2006 to 2009 to lobby on behalf of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, using a strategic “model” that the AP said Manafort wrote would “greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success.”

Manafort has insisted that he has never received any illicit cash payments. But he has a “pattern” of using shell companies to purchase homes “in all-cash deals,” as WNYC has reported, and then transferring those properties into his own name for no money and taking out large mortgages against them.

Manafort’s tendency to form shell companies to purchase real estate is not illegal. But it has raised questions about how much Manafort has been paid throughout the decades he’s spent as a political consultant, and by whom.

http://www.businessinsider.com/fbi-paul-manafort-home-raid-russia-probe-2017-8

 

Emerald triangle get ready; time pay tribute to the tyrant Trump

With a promise to use “care and professionalism,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions has moved to expand a scandal-plagued program of asset forfeiture that allows law enforcement officials to seize money and goods from individuals suspected of crimes, in many cases without a criminal conviction or even a charge. While it is nice to pledge care and professionalism, aspects of this program have proved rife with abuse, and it must be reformed.

The logical foundation of asset forfeiture is recovering the proceeds of criminal activity, such as drug deals. “No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime,” Mr. Sessions declared in a speech Monday in Minneapolis to the National District Attorneys Association. Again, it is hard to argue with the principle. But in reality, as a Post investigation showed in 2014, asset forfeiture has turned out to be an opportunity for police to seize cash and valuables from drivers stopped for minor infractions, and it often can be extremely difficult for the innocent to recover their property. The bounty is often parceled out to law enforcement agencies, creating a perverse profit motive.

In 2015, the Justice Department under President Barack Obama announced curtailment of a kind of forfeiture that allowed local police to share part of their proceeds with federal authorities. This was known as “adoptive” forfeiture, under which state and local authorities would get the seizure cases processed, or “adopted,” under more permissive federal statues, rather than stricter state laws. The 2015 order all but ended adoptive forfeiture. Now, Mr. Sessions is turning the spigot back on, as a Justice Department policy announcement on Wednesday made clear.

The Post report in 2014 revealed onerous seizures from the innocent. In one case, a 40-year-old Hispanic carpenter from New Jersey was stopped on Interstate 95 in Virginia for having tinted windows. Police said he appeared nervous and consented to a search. They took $18,000 that he said was meant to buy a used car. He had to hire a lawyer to get his money back.

While asset forfeiture is justified in huge drug busts, its abuse in highway arrests and in grabbing small sums from people has gone too far. Mr. Sessions declared in his address to the Minneapolis group: “Helping you do your jobs, helping the police get better, and celebrating the noble, honorable, essential and challenging work you do will always be a top priority of mine.” Wouldn’t it be in service of these goals to curb wrongful asset forfeitures and put in place strong protections against further exploitation by police of innocent Americans?

The Justice Department is promising to implement such protections, and Mr. Sessions said he would instruct department officials to use an “abundance of caution” for seizures involving vehicles and residences, where many mistakes have occurred. That’s not enough. Congress ought to consider legislation introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) with bipartisan support that would increase the government’s burden of proof before seizing assets.

Opinion from Washington Post

Sessions greenlights police to seize cash, property from people suspected of crimes but not charged

The Justice Department announced a new federal policy Wednesday to help state and local police take cash and property from people suspected of a crime, even without a criminal charge, reversing an Obama administration rule prompted by past abuse by police.

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said the Justice Department will include more safeguards to prevent the kind of problems that have been documented in the past. Police departments will be required to provide details to the Justice Department about probable cause for seizures, and federal officials will have to more quickly inform property owners about their rights and the status of the seizures.

“The goal here is to empower our police and prosecutors with this important tool that can be used to combat crime, particularly drug abuse,” Rosenstein said at a news briefing. “This is going to enable us to work with local police and our prosecutors to make sure that when assets are lawfully seized that they’re not returned to criminals when there’s a valid basis for them to be forfeited.”

Two years ago, then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. barred state and local police from using federal law to seize cash and other property without criminal charges or warrants. Since 2008, thousands of police agencies had made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a Justice Department civil asset forfeiture program, which allowed local and state police to make seizures and then share the proceeds with federal agencies.

A Washington Post investigation in 2014 found that state and local police had seized almost $2.5 billion from motorists and others without search warrants or indictments since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Post series revealed that police routinely stopped drivers for minor traffic infractions, pressed them to agree to searches without warrants and seized large amounts of cash when there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

Police then spent the proceeds from the seizure with little oversight, according to the Post investigation. In some cases, the police bought luxury cars, high-powered weapons and armored cars.

“You’re never going to eliminate allegations of abuses,” Rosenstein said, “never going to eliminate mistakes 100 percent. But I think this new policy is going to position us very well to make sure there are very few credible allegations of abuse, and where there are we’re going to make it a priority to follow up.”

The new policy from Attorney General Jeff Sessions authorizes federal “adoption” of assets seized by state and local police when the conduct that led to the seizures violates federal law. Rosenstein said that the department is adding safeguards to ensure that police have sufficient evidence of criminal activity when property is seized. Property owners will receive notice of their rights within 45 days, which is twice as quickly as required by current law. Law enforcement agencies will be required to provide officers with more training on asset forfeiture laws, he said.

State and local law enforcement officials supported the change, but Democratic and Republican lawmakers were skeptical.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) called Sessions’s policy “troubling” and said it would “expand a loophole that’s become a central point of contention nationwide.”

“Criminals shouldn’t be able to keep the proceeds of their crime, but innocent Americans shouldn’t lose their right to due process, or their private property rights, in order to make that happen,” Issa said in a statement.

Holder tweeted that Sessions’s policy was “another extremist action” and said the Obama administration policy was “a reform that was supported by conservatives and progressives, Republicans and Democrats.”

Kanya Bennett, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, called the action “outrageous.”

“We are talking about people who have not been convicted of a crime and are often not given a day in court to reclaim their possessions,” Bennett said. “Civil asset forfeiture is tantamount to policing for profit, generating millions of dollars annually that the agencies get to keep.”

At a meeting with county sheriffs on Feb. 7, President Trump made clear to law enforcement officials that he is a strong supporter of the civil asset forfeiture program and told the Justice Department to rescind the Obama administration restrictions.

On Wednesday, Sessions defended the reversal at a meeting with representatives from the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Major Cities Chiefs Association and other law enforcement officials who back the new policy.

“Civil asset forfeiture is a key tool that helps law enforcement defund organized crime, take back ill-gotten gains and prevent new crimes from being committed, and it weakens the criminals and the cartels,” Sessions said.

Earlier this week, Sessions told the National District Attorneys Association that “no criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.”

But the ACLU’s Bennett said, “The problem is that we are not talking about criminals.”

“We are talking about Americans who have had their homes, cars, money and other property taken through civil forfeiture, which requires only mere suspicion that the property is connected to a crime,” she said.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/sessions-greenlights-police-to-increase-seizures-of-cash-and-property-from-suspected-criminals/2017/07/19/3522a9ba-6c99-11e7-96ab-5f38140b38cc_story.html?utm_term=.2092cd3ed2ce

 

Jilted by Qatar, Jared Kushner pushes his newfound Saudi buddies to blockade them

 

Welcome to global politics in the Trump era:

The Intercept reports the country of Qatar is being physically blockaded by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates and is accused of financing terrorism, with Jared Kushner pushing internally for a hardline against the country. Yet over the past year he and his firm have been secretly lobbying a financier there for a half-billion loan to bail out their flagging flagship property, 666 Fifth Avenue.

JARED KUSHNER TRIED AND FAILED TO GET A HALF-BILLION DOLLAR BAILOUT FROM QATAR

Not long before a major crisis ripped through the Middle East, pitting the United States and a bloc of Gulf countries against Qatar, Jared Kushner’s real estate company had unsuccessfully sought a critical half-billion investment from one of the richest and most influential men in the tiny nation, according to three well-placed sources with knowledge of the near transaction.

Kushner is a senior adviser to President Trump, and also his son in law, and also the scion of a New York real estate empire that faces an extreme risk from an investment made by Kushner in the building at 666 Fifth Avenue where the family is now severely underwater.

Qatar is facing an ongoing blockade led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which President Trump has taken credit for sparking. Kushner, meanwhile, has reportedly played a key behind-the-scenes role in hardening the U.S. posture toward the embattled nation.

That hardline comes in the wake of the previously unreported half-billion deal that was never consummated. Throughout 2015 and 2016, Jared Kushner and his father, Charles, negotiated directly with a major investor in Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, known as HBJ for short, in an effort to refinance the property on Fifth Avenue, the sources said.

Trump himself has unsuccessfully sought financing in recent years from the Qataris, but it is difficult to overstate just how important to Kushner the investment at 666 Fifth Avenue is for him, his company, and his family’s legacy in real estate. Without some outside intervention or unforeseen turnaround in the market, the investment could become an embarrassing half billion dollar loss. It’s unclear precisely how much peril such a loss would put Jared, or his family’s, finances in, given the opacity of their private holdings.

HBJ, a former prime minister of Qatar who ran the country’s $250 billion sovereign wealth fund, is a billionaire and one of the world’s richest men. He owns a yacht worth $300 million called Al Mirqab, the same name he gave to the private investment firm that Kushner pitched. The former emir of Qatar summed up HBJ’s power with a quip: “I may run this country, but he owns it.”

HBJ ultimately agreed to invest at least $500 million through Al Mirqab, on the condition that the Kushner Companies could raise the rest of a multi-billion refinancing elsewhere. The negotiations continued long after the election, carried out as recently as this spring by Charles Kushner. “HBJ basically told them, we’re good for 500, subject to a lot of things, but mainly subject to you being able to raise the rest,” said one source in the region with knowledge of the deal. The talks were confirmed by two additional sources with knowledge of the talks. One of those sources claimed that the potential deal was not contingent on the rest of the money being raised and that the HBJ investment was on hold as the overall structure of the financing was reconsidered. None of the sources would agree to talk on the record about a private financial transaction that has until now remained a secret.

After the election, Kushner Companies found many more suitors interested in doing business, one of the sources, who is U.S.-based, said. One of the investors taking the deal more seriously in the end of 2016 and early 2017, the U.S. source said, was “Hamid bin what’s-his-name,” referring to HBJ. Top executives at Kushner Companies, the source said, “are dumb enough to not know that why they want to deal with them has nothing to do with the real estate. Around the New Year they were like, ‘LPs” — industry slang for limited partners, or investors — “are engaging more!’ It’s like, I wonder why?”

from The Intercept By Ben Walsh, Ryan Grim and Clayton Swisher

https://theintercept.com/2017/07/10/jared-kushner-tried-and-failed-to-get-a-half-billion-dollar-bailout-from-qatar/