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

 

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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/

 

Former EPD good ol’ boys are finally getting caught with their hands in the cookie jar!!!

Integrity

Thanks to a complaint from a concerned citizen and the questioning of Ryan Burns from the Lost Coast Outpost, it looks like the FBI and the State Attorney General’s office will be looking into the Coroner’s handling of estate properties.  And by handling, we mean the most extreme “low-balling” of the purchase price and outright theft of deceased people’s property:

https://lostcoastoutpost.com/2017/jul/7/da-maggie-fleming-calls-fbi-state-attorney-general/

Great “ethical standards” law enforcement!!!  Stealing from the dead or potential family members of the deceased is just plain low.  But that’s business as usual at the Eureka Police Dept(EPD) and in Humboldt’s Good Ol’ Boy network. Wait, EPD you say?  Why would we put EPD into a story about the Sheriff-Coroner sales of property that appears on the face of it illegal?  The reason is that former EPD officers (not Sergeants or Lieutenants) Frank Jager and Dave Parris have run the coroner’s office since the nineties!

Mills and Downey

When we first heard about the selling off of deceased people’s property to county employees, Eureka Mayors, and their family members: we weren’t at all surprised.  We’ve been getting tips for years that people who’ve had their property seized in marijuana raids have later seen their ATV’s and trailers being used/owned by the same officers who raided their property.  But what the hell could we do about that? Who would believe us? If people in the drug trade don’t complain, the problem would just persist.

However, in this case, we have some hope.  At first, we were pretty worried.  Newly minted Sheriff William “Billy” Honsal gave an interview to Ryan Burns, in which he talked about the new “investigation” he was calling for.  The “independent” investigator would be hired by the HCSO, to look into the corruption that was happening under Billy Honsal’s nose when he was in command or second-in-command at the Sheriff’s office:

https://lostcoastoutpost.com/2017/jun/30/sheriff-honsal-interview/

In that same article, Honsal was quoted as saying, “I don’t want to get too specific into the investigation because I want the independent investigator at the DA’s Office to evaluate the entire investigation and then make a referral to the DA based upon that, but the idea is there is a government code section that basically says no property shall be sold to any current employees of the Coroner’s Office or Public Administrator.”

Now that quote was when we started to get worried and started asking questions to our sources at the County and City of Eureka.  Our worst fears of corruption and potential cover-up had been confirmed, …..that is until today’s announcement from DA Fleming.  Congratulations and respect to DA Magie Fleming for requesting the State and Federal Government to investigate this case.  Maybe some truth will come out of this investigation and criminals (whether elected or not) will be held to account.

But even before this investigation gets underway, it would be nice for the community to understand who the players involved in this good ol’ boy theft of property were, and why those connections had us so worried about what may happen.

NCJ photo of Jager

First, we have former EPD officer Frank Jager, currently the Mayor of Eureka, who was the Humboldt County Coroner from 1999 until 2009. Then in 2009, the Department was taken over by Dave Parris.  Parris ran the department until it was consolidated with the HCSO in 2015.

Paris and Downey

Interesting to note that both Jager and Parris were police officers at the Eureka Police Department.  Neither of them promoted above the rank of officer (?), but both of them ended up running the Detectives Bureau at EPD at different times. Their rise to the top position of County Coroner was filled with lots of glad-handing, favors and out and out corruption.  It’s also important to notice that these men went to prayer breakfasts in the morning and then stole from dead people during the day. (Not a big surprise to the Examiner)

To top that off, Billy Honsal, a regular prayer breakfast attendee is the son of William Honsal Sr.  William Honsal Sr. was a former EPD Captain who was known for several officer-involved shootings.  Honsal Sr. is BFF’s with recently retired evangelical Sheriff Downey, who hired Honsal Jr. from an outside agency as the under-sheriff, groomed him as his heir and then promoted him to Sheriff when he left suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly earlier this year.

But it goes further from there!  Until DA Fleming made her bold move the investigation of Jager and Parris would have been under the direction of Chief DA Investigator Wayne Cox.  Cox was an officer at EPD before becoming a DA Investigator.  Cox was given the Investigator and Chief position by his former boss, Mike Hislop.  Hislop was a former EPD Sergeant who got the position of Chief DA Investigator from his father in law, Jim Dawson.  Now the EPD connections are obvious here, and there’s clearly a built-in bias if Cox was to head an investigation into fellow former fellow EPD officers Jager and Parris.

But it goes even further from there….   You see, many sources have reported to us that Mike Hislop was a thief of the first order back in his days in power.  In fact, we’ve been told that he had a hanger at the Eureka airport filled with lots military surplus gear he obtained when he was a Peace Officer.  That gear was supposed to be utilized by the agency he worked for, but there’s been accusations and speculation that the gear never made it to his employers. And military gear was just the tip of the iceberg for tips about Hislops corruption and thefts.  So you see why we were a little worried that Hislop’s minion Wayne Cox might not look seriously into corruption and theft.

Hopefully, the FBI looks into this as a very “broad” investigation.  Maybe they can flesh out whether the theft/sale of deceased people’s property was an isolated corrupt practice, or was part of a broader theft of community member’s property (such as drug seizures, Military Surplus given to departments, unclaimed property, ect.).

As a side note, this investigation and corruption couldn’t have been a surprise to former Sheriff Mike Downey or soon to be former Chief Andy Mills.

The Examiner has to ask. Did they leave their post’s early knowing shit was about to hit the fan?  That’s as good an explanation as any of the questionable statements we heard from them when they announced their departures!!!

Good luck Federal and State authorities, bring your hip boot waders you’re stepping into some deep shit!!!

Mobbed up Russian operative Felix Sater rats on his former business partner Trump

The Financial Times reported Thursday morning that Felix Sater, former business partner of President Donald Trump with deep ties to the Mafia and the Russian government, is cooperating in an international investigation into an alleged money-laundering network. Sater has a history of channeling money from prominent families in the Eastern bloc into Trump properties. This could pose problems for Trump, given Sater’s history of outing former close associates in exchange for immunity.

Dumbo Don with reputed Russian mobster Felix Sater

According to recent reports from The New York Times and Bloomberg, these financial connections are also being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia.

Sater is undoubtedly one of the more unsavory people the president has conducted business with. He was famously involved in a clash at a bar where he stabbed another man in the face with the stem of a martini glass, an assault that landed him in prison for a year. He pleaded guilty to racketeering as part of a $40 million stock fraud scheme orchestrated by the Mafia but avoided jail time by becoming a valuable federal informant for the FBI and CIA. Andrew Weissmann, the prosecutor who negotiated that plea deal, has been hired by Robert Mueller.

Then-U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch said in a letter to Sen. Orrin Hatch during her confirmation as Barack Obama’s Attorney General that Sater provided “information crucial to national security and the conviction of over 20 individuals, including those responsible for committing massive financial fraud and members of La Cosa Nostra.”

In 2002, Sater reinvented himself, working at a real estate development firm called Bayrock Group. Bayrock’s offices are conveniently located on the 24th floor of Trump Tower in New York, which is where the paths of Sater and Trump cross. In a 2008 sworn deposition Sater said he would pitch Trump business deals (“just me and him”) on a “constant basis.”

By around 2005, Trump began licensing his name for real estate developments in New York and Florida. He struck up an exclusive deal with Bayrock to develop a property in Russia, a deal which later fell through while the others remained.

The same 2008 deposition reveals more of the casual nature of the business relationship between Sater and Trump. Sater says he would “pop [his] head into Mr. Trump’s office” to tell him how the Russia deal was coming along. According to Sater, Trump asked him to escort Donald Jr. and Ivanka Trump during their 2006 trip to Moscow.

Looming in the background of all this, however, is Sater’s murky and checkered past. In 2007, Bayrock Group became a partner in Trump’s SoHo property. The property offering plan to New York State says that there were “no prior felony convictions of Sponsor [Bayrock], or any principals of Sponsor.” In December of 2007, The New York Times ran an article unearthing Sater’s criminal history. Two days later, Trump was deposed in a lawsuit. He stated multiple times that he had “very little” interaction with Sater. Despite this, in 2010 Sater toted around a business card that read he was a “senior adviser” at the Trump Organization.

 

Trump has stated repeatedly that he doesn’t know who Sater is and denied any meaningful relationship, maintaining that all deals were done directly with Bayrock, not Sater (who was employed by Bayrock.) In a 2013 deposition tape for a lawsuit about alleged fraud in a Fort Lauderdale condo Sater helped develop, Trump said he wouldn’t recognize Sater if he were sitting in the same room with him.

When asked in a 2013 BBC Panorama interview about why Trump remained in a deal with Sater considering his past with the Mafia, Trump walked off set.

Trump has a troubling pattern of distancing himself from close associates, whether it be a business deal or a presidential campaign, as soon as their dark history is revealed to the public.

Take for example Carter Page, the investment banker who had a brief stint as a foreign policy adviser on the Trump campaign. Page had traveled multiple times to Russia, met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and often spoke favorably of the Russian government and called for warmer U.S.-Russia relations.

As soon as reports came out in September of 2016 that U.S. investigators were looking into Page’s potential ties to the Russian government, the Trump campaign distanced themselves from Page. Kellyanne Conway appeared on CNN and said that he was “certainly not involved” in the campaign she was running, despite Page being one of the first national security advisors on the Trump team. In late September Page announced he would be taking a “leave of absence” from the campaign.

Although Trump attempted to distance himself from Page, last spring, when many foreign policy experts wanted nothing to do with the Trump campaign, Trump volunteered Page’s name when asked who had advised him on the topic.

This distancing also occurred when former campaign manager Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn were scrutinized for their undisclosed relationships with Russian officials. In a press conference, White House press secretary Sean Spicer even went so far as to say Manafort played a “very limited role” in the campaign while Flynn was just a “volunteer.”

Trump’s connections with Russia continue to haunt him despite his attempts to dismiss the story. A NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Thursday morning found that a majority of Americans believe that Trump either acted illegally or unethically with Russia.

https://thinkprogress.org/https-thinkprogress-org-felix-sater-news-bad-for-trump-99e4ebe9a1ad

Trump successfully diverted us with misogyny yesterday while real news on collusion broke

Forget the stupid tweets: There’s big news on Trump’s Russia connections — and he doesn’t want you to read it
New reports link Michael Flynn to hacking and reveal Trump’s massive business deals in the former Soviet Union

Well, Thursday was a lot of fun, wasn’t it? We got to spend the day wallowing in presidential misogyny, a treat we haven’t been able to savor since we heard Donald Trump brag about getting away with random crotch grabbing because he is such a “star.” No one can be surprised. We knew he was a snake before we let him in.

As much as the president’s grotesque tweets served as a grim reminder of his true character, Trump did manage to do the one thing he has been dying to do for weeks: move the press off the Russia story. Sadly for him, it only lasted a few hours before yet another late-breaking Russia scoop hit. The Wall Street Journal’s Shane Harris published a story that links former national security adviser Michael Flynn to a longtime right-wing operative named Peter W. Smith, who told Harris he had engaged with Russian hackers to obtain the so-called “missing emails” from Hillary Clinton’s private server. Smith also claimed he was in touch with Michael Flynn and possibly his son, both of whom he knew through some earlier business dealings.

Harris also reports that “investigators have examined reports from intelligence agencies that describe Russian hackers discussing how to obtain emails from Mrs. Clinton’s server and then transmit them to Mr. Flynn via an intermediary.” That would be quite a coincidence if there were two different operations described exactly that way. As they say, stay tuned. There’s no way of knowing if this man was just blowing smoke about Flynn or whether it represents the first evidence that there was some collusion between the campaign and Russia, in this case through an outside intermediary steeped in right-wing opposition research for decades.

Smith died in May, but his history suggests it’s at least plausible that what he told Harris is true. Murray Waas wrote in Salon way back in 1998 about Smith’s role as the instigator of  “Troopergate,” which led to the Paula Jones lawsuit against Bill Clinton (with which Kellyanne Conway’s husband George was intimately involved) and the rest was history. Smith is exactly the kind of man who would have involved himself in a nefarious scheme like this.

That story will undoubtedly be picked over quite a bit in the coming days. Unfortunately, another big Russia story, arguably even more significant, landed yesterday and few people seem to have noticed. Kevin G. Hall and Ben Weider of the McClatchy Washington bureau reported that Trump’s business dealings in countries of the former Soviet empire were much more substantial than he’s let on and his ties to bankers, oligarchs and politicians in the area are much more consequential. They write:

McClatchy’s investigation reveals how Trump sought a foothold not just in Russia but across the former Soviet empire. Not known before, the Trump Organization in 2012 negotiated with then-Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov for an obelisk-shaped tower to be built near the presidential palace, designed by architect John Fotiadis, who also did the Batumi project and lists offices in New York and the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Trump Diamond lost out to a rival project in Astana for the tallest building in Central Asia, the 75-story Abu Dhabi Plaza.

That’s the tip of the iceberg. The Trump Organization was involved in dozens of deals throughout the region with money traced back to Russian sources, in some cases including the big oil company Rosneft. Once again, Trump’s close relationship with Bayrock CEO Felix Sater, a known mob associate with ties to the CIA, the FBI and the Russian government, was implicated along with another controversial company called the Silk Road Group. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, who has strong personal and business ties to Ukraine, was also involved with many of these negotiations. (Cohen was recently served with a subpoena by the House Intelligence Committee.)

What’s most interesting about all of these deals is their recent vintage. Indeed, the big tower project in Georgia mentioned in the McClatchy report wasn’t canceled until Jan. 6, 2017, two weeks before Trump took office. Trump said it was solely for business concerns (since he believes that it’s impossible for a president to have conflicts of interest) but the company he was involved with, Silk Road, said it was because of the massive publicity that was sure to follow, which hardly seems like convincing.

More likely the project was ditched because of the company’s relationship with Russia and Iran, two countries under U.S. sanctions. That would have been a bit of a problem for a sitting U.S. president, even one who believes that nothing is illegal if the president does it.

McClatchy reports that “none of this is revealed in Trump’s financial disclosure statements. And since he hasn’t released his tax returns, these sorts of relationships are not apparent.” We don’t know how many more situations like this exist that are still quietly percolating with Trump’s full knowledge while the country is kept in the dark.

There is a reason why Trump has been so desperate to end the Russia probe, and Occam’s razor says this is probably the reason. A G-Man with an unlimited mandate looking into all his dicey business dealings undoubtedly has him waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. Meanwhile, the president has prevailed against all advice and will sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the upcoming G-20 meeting. Trump’s political advisers tried to impress on him just how bad it will look to be glad-handing with Vlad, while his policy advisers are surely petrified that he will make a major error. Trump’s vaunted negotiating skills have turned out to be hype, and nobody know if he’s going to give away the store.

According to the Guardian, Trump has tasked his staff to come up with some “deliverables” for his pal Putin, with no plans to ask for anything in return. One thing we know he won’t be doing is broaching the subject of cyber attacks. According to this report by CNN, his team cannot get him to devote any time or attention to the problem:

“I’ve seen no evidence of it,” one senior administration official said when asked whether Trump was convening any meetings on Russian meddling in the election. The official said there is no paper trail — schedules, readouts or briefing documents — to indicate Trump has dedicated time to the issue.

He is simply not interested. But then, in Trump’s worldview, if the Russian helped him get elected why would he do anything to stop them from doing it again? What he does want is to stop the investigation from delving too deeply into his relationships and business dealings in the region. It turns out there are a lot more of them then he’s admitted up until now.

HEATHER DIGBY PARTON – Salon

http://www.salon.com/2017/06/30/forget-the-stupid-tweets-theres-big-news-on-trumps-russia-connections-and-he-doesnt-want-you-to-read-it/

You won’t loan us money: ok well sick the Saudi’s on ya Qatar

Here’s a wild story from Clayton Swisher about how Qatar’s decision not to have invested with Trump when he asked a few years ago may now be coming back to haunt them bigly.

Donald Trump, his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner all repeatedly sought financing for various investments in recent years from leading figures in Qatar, according to sources with direct knowledge of the meetings.

Those previously unreported overtures have taken on new relevance as a diplomatic crisis aggravated by President Trump has left the small Gulf nation blockaded and isolated by its rivals, with tensions in the Middle East reaching historic highs.

President Trump on Friday characterized Qatar as “historically” a “funder of terrorism at a high level,” an accusation that came just an hour after his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appealed for “no further escalation” in the Gulf Cooperation Council squabble, urging dialogue to quickly resolve the crisis, which pits Qatar against Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, and Bahrain. Tillerson noted the Qatari emir “made progress in halting financial support and expelling terrorist elements from his country,” comments echoed by the U.S. ambassador to Qatar, Dana Smith, who tweeted “Qatar is a strong partner in combating terrorist financing.”

That partnership is not merely rhetorical. Qatar is home to Al-Udeid air base, the regional Central Command headquarters from which American bombers depart on daily missions against ISIS and al Qaeda. Reacting to the GCC dispute, the Defense Department praised Qatar’s commitment to fighting ISIS as its secretary, James Mattis, expressed his confidence that the turmoil would not interrupt Qatar’s contribution to those efforts.

Given the weave of interests and close cooperation between the U.S. and Qatar, many are seeking ways to interpret Trump’s abrupt turn against Qatar in the dispute. Some think the answer lies not in the realm of policy but in the history of Trump’s business deals with the various actors in the dispute.

The Trump Organization (now under the stewardship of son Donald Jr.) is reportedly in talks with Emirati tycoons to receive several billion dollars of investment in addition to owning two golf courses in Dubai. The New York Times reports that Trump has previously had as many as eight business entities registered in Jeddah alone. In 2015, Trump spoke about his admiration for the Saudis and attributed it to his business dealings with them:

Saudi Arabia — and I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.

Therein lies the source of much consternation among Qataris. Several people interviewed for this piece expressed concern that Trump’s bias against their country might stem from a series of failed business overtures that he (along with his son-in-law Jared Kushner) made seven years ago, which are only now being reported. They did not go as swimmingly as the deals made with the Saudis and Emiratis.

In 2010, as markets were still reeling from the 2008 global economic crisis, Qatar was flush with cash and countless business executives and foreign governments came calling. Some came to get liquidity; others searching for silver linings amidst the global chaos. Trump was in the latter category, then as CEO of the Trump Organization but also as host and star of the hit domestic American reality TV show, “The Apprentice.”

Traveling with his daughter Ivanka, Trump visited Doha in 2010 for separate meetings with Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) executive board member Dr. Hussain Al-Abdullah and as well as Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani (commonly abbreviated as “HBJ”), who was then serving as foreign minister and prime minister. Neither responded to requests for comment on this article.

At the time, the pair constituted the brain trust of Qatar’s financial and investment sector. QIA is the world’s second largest sovereign wealth fund (presently estimated at having $338 billion in assets under management). Then as now, Sheikh HBJ had renown for being kingmaker of not just political deals but financial ones too. Using his business and political savvy, he has sealed deals ranging from Britain’s Harrods to Germany’s Deutsch Bank to America’s Miramax Hollywood studios.

A source close to the 2010 talks with Trump say he made the Doha stopover (along with stops in Dubai and Abu Dhabi) to raise money for a distressed real estate fund he was assembling. Trump opened the discussion with QIA by bragging about the success of Trump International and the many deals he had personally put together. Trump had hardly got through his own biography when Dr. Al-Abdullah, QIA’s senior executive, interrupted to say words to the effect of: We know who you are and what you have done. Tell us what you can do for us right now

That single, curt interruption apparently left Trump stunned.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-says-qatar-funds-terror-heres-his-record-of-trying-to-get-it-to-fund-him_us_593d6691e4b0c5a35ca06118?link_id=13&can_id=1b1ad1da3ea6bf38746c4b2884f2c9ec&source=email-qatar-rebuffed-trumps-real-estate-pitch-now-theyre-getting-blockaded&email_referrer=qatar-rebuffed-trumps-real-estate-pitch-now-theyre-getting-blockaded&email_subject=qatar-rebuffed-trumps-real-estate-pitch-now-theyre-getting-blockaded