Michael Schvartsman Prepares to Plead … with Trump Org’s Sometime Lawyer Alan Futerfas

Days after the merger between Truth Social and Digital World Acquisition Corporation went through, the new company, Trump Media and Technology Group, released its 8K. It described that it’s not sure Truth Social will make it a year.

In connection with the Company’s assessment of going concern considerations in accordance with Financial Accounting Standard Board’s Account Standards Update (“ASU”) 2014-15, “Disclosure of Uncertainties about an Entity’s Ability to Continue as a Going Concern” as stated above, the Company has until September 8, 2024 to consummate a Business Combination. It is uncertain that the Company will be able to consummate a Business Combination by this time. If a Business Combination is not consummated by this date, there will be a mandatory liquidation and subsequent dissolution of the Company. Additionally, the Company has incurred and expects to incur significant costs in pursuit of its acquisition plans. The Company lacks the financial resources it needs to sustain operations for a reasonable period of time, which is considered to be one year from the date of the issuance of the financial statements. As a result, these factors raise substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern. The financial statements do not include any adjustments that might result from the outcome of these uncertainties.

It further described that it is hemorrhaging cash. Josh Marshall did a thread on it and concluded the company is basically worthless. (Update: Now he has done a full post on it.)

TMTG tanked on the news.

As that was happening, something curious was happening in the case of Michael Schvartsman.

He was charged last summer with insider trading in conjunction with the merger between DWAC and Truth Social. In February, DOJ supserseded his indictment, adding a money laundering charge for laundering the proceeds of his insider trading to buy a yacht he has since renamed Provocateur.

As part of the pretrial motions, lawyers revealed that a Russian porn investor, Anton Postolnikov, had also participated in the insider trading.

A Russian-American businessman based in Miami is suspected of making nearly $23 million from alleged insider trading involving former President Donald Trump’s media company, according to federal court records.

The businessman, Anton Postolnikov, is the owner of a Caribbean bank that caters to the porn industry and also reportedly loaned $8 million to Trump’s media company. Postolnikov, who owns a few residences on exclusive Fisher Island in Miami, is the nephew of a former high-ranking Russian government official who at one time was a staffer for Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to media reports.

[snip]

One of Troiano’s affidavits includes an e-mail Garelick sent Postolnikov on June 24, 2021, about four months before the merger was announced.

“Anton, Good times last night! Following up on that Trump Media Group SPAC we mentioned. The deal is going to finalize this week. Please let us know if you are interested in investing. . . .,” Garelick wrote in the message, which was also copied to Michael Shvartsman.

In March, the judge in the case, Lewis Liman, rejected the motions to dismiss of Schvartsman and his co-defendants.

Today, Schvartsman and his brother, Gerald, docketed plans to change their plea on Wednesday.

Normally, that’d just be an interesting coincidence with Trump’s crashing social media empire.

Except for one detail. Also today, Schvartsman added a lawyer to his defense team: Alan Futerfas.

Futerfas has long done work for Trump Organization and was closely involved on Don Jr’s representation during the Mueller investigation.

As the GOP House Burns, James Comer Keeps Sniffing Dick Pics

As of yesterday, the House had gone for 17 days without a Speaker. Patrick McHenry, McCarthy’s temporary replacement, says he no authority to do anything but schedule yet more futile votes (and, apparently, evict Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer).

The government has less than four weeks of funding.

It’s not clear anything set up by McCarthy before his deposition should be proceeding.

But all the while — this entire time that House Republicans have been struggling to fulfil the most basic function of government — James Comer and his staffers have been hunched in a dark room somewhere, feverishly pursuing the same delusions of dick pics and … personal loans!! … they’ve been frothing over since January.

And so it was on Friday afternoon, after Jim Jordan’s third humiliating defeat in the House, that Comer ran out, like a child discovering a dead frog in a gutter, waving a check.

It was a check that James Biden — the President’s brother — used to pay off a personal loan on March 1, 2018, over a year after Joe Biden left the Naval Observatory, years before Joe Biden entered the White House, and six weeks after his brother gave him that loan.

As Democrats explained minutes after James Comer ran out waving his dead frog, after 3 million people had already poked around at Jamey’s dead frog, Joe Biden loaned his brother $200,000 six weeks earlier.

James Biden paid it off.

As of this moment, 8 million people have excited themselves with Comer’s transparent bullshit about that check, all the while Comer and Jim Jordan and Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise have proven themselves impotent to do the most basic things Nancy Pelosi did — in heels and backward — to keep the House running for years.

While millions of fragile-minded dupes glee over a check between brothers, Republicans haven’t managed to keep the House open or fund the Government.

Some guy from Kentucky fiddling while the House burns.

In the weeks since Comer got his stash of (as Democrats described) another 1,400 records payments for, “life insurance policies, doctor visits, holiday and birthday presents, groceries, vet visits and pet care, and plumbing repairs” and Matt Gaetz deposed the Speaker, the Trump Organization fraud trial in NYC has shown:

  • Eric Trump claimed he “pour[ed] concrete” rather than dealt with the appraiser who described that he had “lofty ideas” about valuation
  • Trump’s retired CFO and co-defendant Allen Weisselberg,
    • Professed to be unable to answer 90 questions
    • Claimed his $2 million severance had nothing to do with his criminal tax penalty, to say nothing of his forgetfulness
    • Was accused, by Forbes, of lying on the stand about his involvement in Trump’s three-times inflation of his penthouses square footage
  • Weisselberg’s son Jack was involved in key loans pertaining to Trump Tower and another NYC property
  • Mazars complained that Trump Organization, “were not getting us all the documents” they needed to do their work

Every one of these is a scandal worth a congressional hearing. Every one of these should raise questions about whether the guy engaging in so much adjudged fraud while claiming it didn’t matter because he could just find some “buyer from Saudi Arabia” to make him good should be anywhere in politics, much less in the White house.

But instead, James Comer is waving his dripping dead frog around — a personal check for a personal loan between brothers — like he just found a $2 billion bribe from Saudi Arabia.

This is … fucking insane.

Republicans can’t keep their own caucus together. They may not be able to keep government open.

And all the while, James Comer is there writhing around about about easily debunked conspiracy theories about a personal loan.

Alleged Menendez Co-Conspirator Fred Daibes’ Life Just Got More Difficult

In Robert Menendez’ side of the Robert Menendez bribery docket, things are going as they do at the beginning of complex prosecutions: The two sides are squabbling over protective orders and prosecutors are asking for a CIPA hearing.

Not so on Fred Daibes’ side.

Daibes, you’ll recall, is the long-term Menendez fundraiser implied to have given Menendez gold bars to help him beat a criminal prosecution. The indictment alleges that Menendez tried to intervene with the US Attorney he helped get the job, Phil Sellinger, as well as Sellinger’s First AUSA, but failed to have much of an effect.

According to the indictment, Menendez did. The indictment alleges that Menendez raised Daibes before supporting Sellinger for the nomination.

In that meeting, MENENDEZ criticized the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey’s prosecution of FRED DAIBES, the defendant, and said that he hoped that the Candidate would look into DAIBES’s case if the Candidate became the U.S. Attorney. MENENDEZ did not mention any other case in the meeting. After the meeting, the Candidate informed MENENDEZ that he might have to recuse himself from the DAIBES prosecution as a result of a matter he had handled in private practice involving DAIBES. MENENDEZ subsequently informed the Candidate that MENENDEZ would not put forward the Candidate’s name to the White House for a recommendation to be nominated by the President for the position of U.S. Attorney.

And Menendez allegedly called Sellinger’s First AUSA, Vikas Khanna.

b. On or about January 21, 2022, MENENDEZ called Official-3 and asked the identity of Official-3’s First Assistant U.S. Attorney (“Official-4”). As a result of Official3’s recusal, Official-4 had supervisory responsibility over the prosecution of DAIBES.

[snip]

d. On or about January 24, 2022, DAIBES’s Driver exchanged two brief calls with NADINE MENENDEZ. NADINE MENENDEZ then texted DAIBES, writing, “Thank you. Christmas in January.” DAIBES’s Driver’s fingerprints were later found on an envelope containing thousands of dollars of cash recovered from the residence of MENENDEZ and NADINE MENENDEZ in New Jersey. This envelope also bore DAIBES’s DNA and was marked with DAIBES’s return address. In or about the early afternoon of January 24, 2022— i.e., approximately two hours after NADINE MENENDEZ had texted DAIBES thanking him and writing “Christmas in January”—MENENDEZ called Official-4, in a call lasting for approximately 15 seconds. This was MENENDEZ’s first phone call to Official-4. On or about January 29, 2022—i.e., several days after NADINE MENENDEZ had texted DAIBES, thanking him and writing “Christmas in January”—MENENDEZ performed a Google search for “kilo of gold price.”

[snip]

45. Official-3 and Official-4 did not pass on to the prosecution team the fact that ROBERT MENENDEZ, the defendant, had contacted them as described in the above paragraphs, and they did not treat the case differently as a result of the above-described contacts. In or about April 2022, FRED DAIBES, the defendant, pled guilty pursuant to a plea agreement that provided for a probationary sentence.

Apparently completely unrelated to all that, after a series of continuances on Daibes’ sentencing after entering into a sweetheart plea deal, the judge in the case, Susan Wigenton, threw out the terms of the deal (presumably meaning the probation sentence).

TEXT ORDER as to FRED DAIBES, MICHAEL MCMANUS: All parties are hereby advised that, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure (Rule) 11(c)(3)(A), and as stated on the record on April 27, 2022, the date of the Courts deferred decision of acceptance of the plea agreement at the time of the entry of Defendant Fred Daibes’s plea of guilty, the Court has had an opportunity to review the presentence report (PSR). Pursuant to Rule 11(c)(5), the Court hereby rejects the plea agreement dated April 13, 2022. (D.E. 67.) Similarly, as stated on the record on May 24, 2022, the date of the Courts deferred decision of acceptance of the plea agreement at the time of the entry of Defendant Michael McManus’s plea of guilty, the Court has had an opportunity to review the PSR. Pursuant to Rule 11(c)(5), the Court hereby rejects the plea agreement dated May 5, 2022. (D.E. 76.) The Court is not required to adhere to the terms of the plea agreements, and the cases may be disposed of less favorably toward the Defendants than the plea agreements contemplated. Should any party wish to withdraw from either of the plea agreements (D.E. 67, 76), they must do so by Monday, October 16, 2023. If the pleas are not withdrawn, this Court will proceed with sentencing as scheduled. So Ordered by Judge Susan D. Wigenton on 10/5/2023. (cds) (Entered: 10/05/2023)

Daibes now has ten days to withdraw from the plea deal or accept what sounds like will be a far harsher sentence.

Meanwhile, prosecutors in the Menendez docket are curious why Daibes’ lawyers from that case are now representing Wael Hana in the Menendez case, suggesting there may be a conflict, not just with the Hana representation, but also because Lawrence Lustberg is a witness to some of the events in the Menendez case.

As discussed at the October 2, 2023 initial pretrial conference, Mr. Lustberg presently represents co-defendant Fred Daibes in his pending federal case in the District of New Jersey, which case is related to the charges in this matter. See, e.g., Indictment ¶ 38. Ms. Collart likewise also represents Daibes in the pending New Jersey federal case. Since the initial conference before Your Honor earlier this week, the district judge in the District of New Jersey has rejected Daibes’s plea agreement pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C), increasing the likelihood of future litigation in that case. This representation presents at least a potential conflictof-interest regarding Mr. Lustberg’s and Ms. Collart’s ongoing duty to Daibes, including their duty to maintain confidences. See, e.g., United States v. Perez, 325 F.3d 115, 127 (2d Cir. 2003).

In addition, as discussed at the initial pretrial conference, Mr. Lustberg has personal knowledge of certain facts relevant to this matter. See, e.g., Indictment ¶¶ 40, 44(c). Such knowledge raises two related, but distinct concerns: First, the Government at trial may seek to call Mr. Lustberg and/or enter into evidence materials or elicit testimony from other witnesses regarding events with which Mr. Lustberg was involved. Second, Mr. Lustberg (and his cocounsel) may be limited in their ability to make certain arguments to the Court or the jury at trial, irrespective of whether their client, Hana, wishes them to make these arguments. Although the Court need not resolve the question now, the first of these issues could present an “unsworn witness” issue regarding at least Mr. Lustberg. See, e.g., United States v. Locascio, 6 F.3d 924, 933-34 (2d Cir. 1993); United States v. Kerik, 531 F. Supp. 2d 610, 614-16 (S.D.N.Y. 2008). The Government believes that the second of these issues is waivable by the defendant. See, e.g., Perez, 325 F.3d at 125-27.

As I noted, I think the indictment actually presents far less clarity about what Daibes got in exchange for a good deal of cash than most commentators acknowledge.

The complications in Daibes’ life might present a way to clarify them.

In tangential news, after a series of reports on the fatal accident that led Nadine Menendez to need a new car, New Jersey has reopened that investigation.

Why Reality TV Star Donald Trump Is More Trusted than Most News Outlets

Today, Donald Trump is attending the first day of the fraud trial that he already substantially lost.

Depending on who you believe, he is either attending because he’s using his attendance to delay a deposition in his own lawsuit against Michael Cohen (who will also be a key witness in this fraud trial).

He cited this as his excuse for skipping out on 2 deposition days in his federal case against ex-lawyer Michael Cohen.

If he didn’t show up, he’d be in contempt of court.

Or, he’s using it as a way to affect the outcome — the outcome that was already substantially determined by Judge Engoron’s ruling last week, a ruling addressed in passing, without explaining how he can affect something that has already occurred.

For Mr. Trump, his attendance at trial is far more personal than political, according to a person familiar with his thinking. The former president is enraged by the fraud charges and furious with both the judge and the attorney general. And Mr. Trump, who is a control enthusiast, believes that trials have gone poorly for him when he hasn’t been present, and he hopes to affect the outcome this time, according to the person.

In his courthouse remarks, Mr. Trump lashed out at the judge’s earlier fraud ruling on his property valuations. “I didn’t even put in my best asset, which is the brand,” he said.

I think Trump is attending to spin a judgment that has already been issued as, instead, an outcome he predicted.

Today.

Days after the ruling.

Here’s how it works. On the way into the trial, Reality TV Star Donald Trump made a public statement in which he told his cult followers that the judge that the judge was rogue and the prosecutor was racist. He renewed his claim that Judge Engoron erred by using Palm Beach’s valuation (the one they made in 2011, not in 2021) rather than his boast that Mar-a-Lago is worth a billion dollars.

Few outlets reported that 77-year old Reality TV Star Donald Trump had slurred his words.

No one asked why his spouse hadn’t accompanied him to this trial. (Though this time, one of his co-defendant sons accompanied him to the courthouse.)

Few outlets reported Tish James’ comments about how no one is above the law.

Many outlets were so busy reporting on Reality TV Star Donald Trump’s statements that they didn’t explain that Trump’s Parking Garage Lawyer, Alina Habba, didn’t even try to push for a jury trial, something Judge Engoron confirmed as the trial started.

At least some of the outlets that reported Chris Kise’s arguments about valuation did not explain that those issues were already decided, in a ruling last week.

Most outlets reported that Reality TV Star Donald Trump glared at The Black Woman Prosecutor on his way out for lunch. Some also reported that she laughed that off.

On the way back in the courthouse, Reality TV Star Donald Trump made even more incendiary comments about the judge who already did and will decide his fate. Reality TV Star Donald Trump told his followers that the judge presiding over a trial that might lead him to lose his iconic Trump Tower should be prosecuted and was guilty of election interference.

Many observers clucked that such a stunt would lead the judge — the one who already ruled against Trump — to rule against him.

Trump is going to lose this trial. Know how I know? Judge Engoron already ruled against him!

But most of Trump’s followers don’t know that. Most of Trump’s followers believe that Chris Kise’s comments about valuation were still at issue. Most cult members will see Trump’s comments today — it won’t be hard, because every outlet is carrying them — and remember that before the trial, Trump “predicted” that The Corrupt Judge and The Black Woman Prosecutor would gang up on him.

Reality TV Show Actor Donald Trump used his presence at the trial to create a reality in which he will have correctly predicted a loss that was baked in last week. Because he “predicted” such an outcome, his millions of cult followers will not only treat him as more trustworthy than the journalists playing some role in Trump’s Reality TV Show, cluck-clucking about his attacks on justice without focusing on the fraud and the more fraud and the already adjudged fraud.

Not only will Reality TV Show Actor Donald Trump have “predicted” the outcome, leading his followers to renew their faith in his reliability, but they will implicitly trust his explanation: that he lost the trial not because he is, and has always been, a fraud, but instead because Corrupt Judges and Black Prosecutors continue to gang up on him.

And in the process, Reality TV Show Actor Donald Trump will have continued the big con, the very same fraud of which he has already been adjuged. He will have once again distracted from his own fantasy self-worth and instead led people to report on his golden brand.

When you let Reality TV Show Actor Donald Trump to set the stage, as journalists, you are yet more actors in his Reality TV creation.

It’s not that journalists are bad or biased or corrupt (though some of their editors are). It’s just that Trump already cast them in a role and they’re playing it to a T.

Three Things: Fraud Trial Begins, Newsom’s Pick, Contingent Aid

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

It’s going to be a rather busy Monday. Grab your poison of choice — second LARGE cup of joe underway here — and let’s get at it.

~ 3 ~

It’s rather sad this needed to be said yet again in reference to Donald Trump:

“No matter how much money you think you may have, no one is above the law,” James told reporters before entering the courtroom. “The law is both powerful and fragile. And today in court will prove our case.”

But the wretched former guy apparently needs it as the civil fraud trial opens today in New York.

The Trump campaign’s post-debate stunt leaving a bird cage outside fellow GOP candidate Nikki Haley’s hotel room likely encouraged the reminder, on top of Trump’s other egregious behavior including insults about New York AG Letitia James.

The stunt, which followed Trump’s insult on social media saying Haley had a bird brain, didn’t go over well abroad. India’s media took note of this trashy behavior unbecoming a former U.S. president and a current presidential candidate.

One can only wonder if Trump would be both stupid and arrogant enough to pull such a gag on AG James as a dig at the prosecutor.

~ 2 ~

California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom will appoint Laphonza Butler to fill the Senate seat in the wake of Dianne Feinstein’s death.

Butler’s appointment is a statement none of the other possible appointees could make. She’s been president of political action committee EMILY’s List since 2021; the organization’s mission has been to get more women elected to office.

Butler has also been a superdelegate for California during the 2016 election when she supported Hillary Clinton. Originally from Mississippi, Butler has worked as a union organizer, last with SEIU where she worked toward raising the minimum wage and taxing the wealthiest Californians.

In 2018 Butler left the SEIU to join a Democratic communications firm, SCRB (now Bearstar Strategies) where she worked on Kamala Harris’ campaign.

Butler is gay and married; she and her partner have a daughter.

So many boxes checked off by one appointment, so many marginalized and suppressed groups now represented. Worth reading Philip Bump’s graphic-laden piece in WaPo to understand what this means.

~ 1 ~

Americans know Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) this weekend establishing a 45-day extension on the budget. Omitted from the extension was financial aid to Ukraine at a time when Ukraine is preparing ahead of winter warfare against aggressor Russia.

The failure to provide aid in spite of efforts by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is in part the result of ongoing influence operations by Russia targeting GOP members of Congress. Like Trump they have fallen prey to the idea that the US has no interest in Ukraine’s democratic sovereignty and that NATO and the EU likewise should play no role in rejecting Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

But the reasons why financial aid to Ukraine may not have passed with the CR isn’t solely due to hostile foreign influence. It’s also linked to ongoing corruption in Ukraine undermining the nation’s sovereignty while cannibalizing the resources needed to repel Russia and build back infrastructure destroyed by the last 19 months’ war.

Ukraine took a large move toward addressing corruption with its arrest of oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi on September 2. Kolomoyskyi, appointed Governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast in 2014 after the Euromaidan, had already been blacklisted and indicted by the U.S.

This arrest is only one step Ukraine must take. The Biden administration has continued to press the Zelenskyy administration for more measurable efforts on corruption. Without making more substantial headway, it would be difficult for Ukraine to join the EU let alone NATO. Ukraine can’t become a means to drain EU and NATO resources in peacetime.

Zelenskyy will have to make considerable progress over the next 45 days – for this reason alone the near-shutdown and CR have a beneficial effect since both the Biden’s State Department and Zelenskyy can point to a date toward which both will have to work on corruption together.

It’s all the more important that the U.S. at state and federal level also address domestic corruption. The U.S. can’t make a demand of other democracies to tackle corruption without setting an example.

All the more reason why we need to demonstrate and not merely say no person in this democracy is above the law.

~ 0 ~

This is an open thread.

Republicans Plan to Declare Trump’s Entire Business Model a High Crime and Misdemeanor

The Republicans have decided that the perfect time to kick off an impeachment is just before their own incompetence leads to a government shutdown, which will lead to millions of government workers and service members either getting laid off, or working without pay, will strain food support for poor families and limit food inspections, and will result in holdups for people traveling by air.

The GOP really does plan to launch a no-evidence impeachment while Rome burns.

Yesterday, House Ways and Means released another document dump from purported whistleblowers Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler. I’m wading through those now, but even a cursory review shows that Shapley makes claims that go beyond what his colleagues backed, at times delving into bad faith.

In advance of a hearing featuring Fox News pundit Jonathan Turley, Republicans released their justification for an impeachment inquiry.

It is nothing short of batshit insane.

That’s true, first of all, because they plan to impeach Joe Biden for actions his son took while Joe wasn’t even in government. One of their latest new fetishes is that in 2019, Hunter Biden used his father’s address as a permanent address and got legal financial transfers at it.

Again, much of this impeachment is about Joe Biden being a Dad.

Crazier still, the premise of this impeachment is that Hunter Biden traded on the family brand and he and his associates (including James Biden, but also a bunch of people who made far more money) made a paltry $24 million by doing so.

In other words, just days after a judge ruled that Trump and two of his sons had wildly inflated his own value — including by adding a brand premium to his properties!!! — continuing into the years he was President, Republicans want to impeach Joe Biden because business interests Joe Biden wasn’t part of tried to do that on a far, far smaller scale.

Republicans are impeaching Joe Biden because his son had business interests with a Chinese company, the most salacious interactions of which occurred the year after the Obama Administration, even though Trump’s own daughter benefited from her own family’s brand and her nepotistic job in the White House to obtain trademarks from the government of China during some of the same years.

The Chinese government granted 18 trademarks to companies linked to President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump over the last two months, Chinese public records show, raising concerns about conflicts of interest in the White House.

In October, China’s Trademark Office granted provisional approval for 16 trademarks to Ivanka Trump Marks LLC, bringing to 34 the total number of marks China has greenlighted this year, according to the office’s online database. The new approvals cover Ivanka-branded fashion gear including sunglasses, handbags, shoes and jewelry, as well as beauty services and voting machines.

The approvals came three months after Ivanka Trump announced she was dissolving her namesake brand to focus on government work.

China also granted provisional approval for two “Trump” trademarks to DTTM Operations LLC, headquartered at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York. They cover branded restaurant, bar and hotel services, as well as clothing and shoes.

And Trump’s own tax returns — released after a years-long fight — revealed that in the same year Republicans are obsessing about Hunter over, 2017, Trump’s company made $17.5 million in China, far more than Hunter made personally during this entire period.

Mr. Trump’s plans in China have been largely driven by a different company, Trump International Hotels Management — the one with a Chinese bank account.

The company has direct ownership of THC China Development, but is also involved in management of other Trump-branded properties around the world, and it is not possible to discern from its tax records how much of its financial activity is China-related. It normally reports a few million dollars in annual income and deductible expenses.

In 2017, the company reported an unusually large spike in revenue — some $17.5 million, more than the previous five years’ combined. It was accompanied by a $15.1 million withdrawal by Mr. Trump from the company’s capital account.

Republicans want to make the bread and butter of Trump’s corporate existence a High Crime and Misdemeanor.

Democrats should use this opportunity to show that Trump is the one who should have been under a five year tax investigation, Trump is the one who should be impeached for using his position in the White House to enrich himself, his daughter, and her spouse.

In an interview after yesterday’s House Ways and Means roll out, Richard Neal raised several problems with the impeachment inquiry. Notably, Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith — who was humiliated at his own press conference yesterday — has never made a 6103 request to the IRS to officially release these documents, as Neal himself did in the protracted effort to get Trump’s tax returns. It’s not clear any of this — especially Shapley and Ziegler going back to get files from IRS servers after they have been removed from the investigation — is legal.

As families face severe financial crisis because of Republican incompetence, Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, James Comer, and the recently-humiliated Jason Smith are going to pursue an impeachment premised on the notion that Trump’s entire business model is a High Crime and Misdemeanor.

Donald Trump’s Fantasy Self Worth

Yesterday, Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that Trump and his two sons have engaged in fraud since July 13, 2014, overstating the value of Trump properties by at least $812 million dollars and possibly as much as $2.2 billion.

The core of the scathing ruling — which imposed sanctions on his attorneys and ordered the dissolution of some of the properties — describes the fantasy world of Trump’s business valuations.

Exacerbating defendants’ obstreperous conduct is their continued reliance on bogus arguments, in papers and oral arguments. In defendants’ world: rent regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air; a disclaimer by one party casting responsibility on another party exonerates the other party’s lies; the Attorney General of the State of New York does not have capacity to sue (never mind all those cases where the Attorney General has sued successfully) under a statute expressly designed to provide that right; all illegal acts are untimely if they stem from one untimely act; and square foot subjective.

That is a fantasy world, not the real world.

Engoran went one by one, describing the properties that Tish James had demonstrated Trump Organization had overvalued:

He described how Trump (and a purported expert Trump brought in to pitch Mar-a-Lago’s value) repeatedly defied objective value. There is no such thing as “objective” value; square footage is a subjective process (though Chris Kise did admit at oral arguments that it is actually an objective number); the value of MAL is based on a realtor’s “dream” of “anyone from Elon Musk to Bill Gates” to “Kings, emperors, heads of state” who might overpay to own Trump’s beach resort.

In response to the ruling, both failsons rushed to Twitter to complain that Judge Engoran used the Palm Beach assessment for Mar-a-Lago, which of course incorporates the promises not to turn the property into a residence, rather than the dream-casting of their expert.

In doing so, Eric may have confessed to tax fraud, given that Palm Beach has been taxing Mar-a-Lago as a as a social club rather than a private residence.

That’s sort of the point: When the Trump men’s fantasies butt up against objective reality, they simply claim they’ll break their contracts, maybe even the law, to find a way to fluff up their own value to match their delusions.

Which brings us to one of the most telling passages in Engoron’s ruling. He quotes Trump as saying that market value of all this doesn’t matter because the Saudis will happily pay whatever he demands.

The defenses Donald Trump attempts to articulate in his sworn deposition are wholly without basis in law or fact. He claims that if the values of the property have gone up in the years since the SFCs were submitted, then the numbers were not inflated at that time (i.e.; “but you take the 2014 statement, if something is much more valuable now — or, I guess, we’ll have to pick a date which was a little short of now. But if something is much more valuable now, then the number that I have down here is a. low number”) [citation omitted] He also seems to imply that the numbers cannot be inflated because he could find a “buyer from Saudi Arabia” to pay any price he suggests.10 [citation omitted]

10 This statement may suggest influence buying more than savvy investing.

This is their out. This is the out that Jared Kushner already pursued. This may be the underlying basis for Trump’s LIV golf tournament deal.

Trump confessed, in a sworn deposition, that if he can’t make objective reality match his own delusions, he’s sure the Saudis will bail him out.

An interesting service the Saudis are offering.

The Still Ongoing Investigation into Where that Robert Menendez Cash Came From

Among the most interesting stories I’ve read on Robert Menendez since his indictment is this story, from the day before the indictment.

I find it interesting for how much of the story NBC already had — but more importantly, details from NBC that don’t show up in the indictment. The story reports on two of three prongs that appear in the indictment: It provides passing coverage of the IS EG Halal financing (though offers few specifics of the Egyptian favors) and extensive coverage of the Fred Daibes relationship.

The NBC story actually attributes the Mercedes, which the indictment directly ties to Menendez’ intervention in the state prosecution of a Jose Uribe associate, to IS EG Halal (Uribe does have ties to Wael Hana’s company). NBC doesn’t mention Menendez’s alleged intervention in the state prosecution of Uribe’s associate. Of more interest, it also describes a “a luxury D.C. apartment” that may have come from Hana’s company which is not mentioned at all in the indictment.

The story notes IRS-CI’s involvement in the case (as did Damian Williams at his presser announcing the charges); there’s no sign of tax charges, yet, in the indictment, or for that matter, of campaign disclosure violations (something the NYT reporter who has followed this closely is focused on).

As noted, however, the NBC story focuses much more closely on the Daibes prong of the investigation. It describes witnesses being asked if Menendez offered Daibes to interfere in the federal prosecution against him.

Sources say witnesses are now testifying before that federal grand jury. Part of the investigation centers on the senator’s ties to Fred Daibes, a New Jersey developer and one-time bank chairman. Officials with the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation want to know if Daibes or his associates gave gold bars to the senator’s wife, Nadine Arslanian — gold bars worth as much as $400,000.

At the time of the gift handoff, Daibes was facing federal bank fraud charges that could have landed him up to a decade in federal prison.

Sources familiar with the matter say federal prosecutors have been asking if Menendez offered to help support Daibes with his criminal case by contacting Justice Department officials about the case. If the senator did offer to act in exchange for expensive gifts, legal experts say that could be a crime.

“For purposes of the Federal Extortion Act, it makes no difference if the senator took an official act so long as he accepted the money and there was knowledge the money was in exchange for that official influence, even if he never carried out what he had promised he would do,” NBC Legal Analyst Danny Cevallos said.

The indictment does not describe such an offer. The closest thing it describes is this exchange, after the prosecution of Fred Daibes was continued, when Nadine told Daibes that Menendez was “fixated” on Daibes’ fate:

On or about December 23, 2021, the trial of DAIBES, which had previously been scheduled for January 2022, was adjourned for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Later that day, DAIBES texted NADINE MENENDEZ, a/k/a “Nadine Arslanian,” the defendant, and asked how ROBERT MENENDEZ, the defendant, who had recently sustained a shoulder injury, was doing. NADINE MENENDEZ responded that MENENDEZ was doing better having heard that the trial date was adjourned, and that MENENDEZ was “FIXATED on it.” DAIBES responded, “Good I don’t want him to be upset over it. This is not his fault he was amazing in all he did he’s an amazing friend and as loyal as they come. How is the shoulder is he sleeping. Let me know if I can get him a recliner it helped me sleep.” DAIBES thereafter provided a recliner to MENENDEZ.

There’s also an incident where Daibes and Menendez, together, yell at Daibes’ attorney for not being aggressive enough; that’s not a crime, and in fact Menendez will use it to claim he intervened because he cared, not because he was paid.

NBC’s description of Menendez’ contact with US Attorney Phil Sellinger’s office differs in fairly significant ways from the indictment. It cites sources claiming that Menendez never contacted Sellinger or his office.

Sources told News 4 there is no indication U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger or his office were ever contacted by the senator — but the two men had been close, with Sellinger appointed to the position with the senator’s support, and Sellinger previously serving as a campaign fundraiser for Menendez.

According to the indictment, Menendez did. The indictment alleges that Menendez raised Daibes before supporting Sellinger for the nomination.

In that meeting, MENENDEZ criticized the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey’s prosecution of FRED DAIBES, the defendant, and said that he hoped that the Candidate would look into DAIBES’s case if the Candidate became the U.S. Attorney. MENENDEZ did not mention any other case in the meeting. After the meeting, the Candidate informed MENENDEZ that he might have to recuse himself from the DAIBES prosecution as a result of a matter he had handled in private practice involving DAIBES. MENENDEZ subsequently informed the Candidate that MENENDEZ would not put forward the Candidate’s name to the White House for a recommendation to be nominated by the President for the position of U.S. Attorney.

And Menendez allegedly called Sellinger’s First AUSA, Vikas Khanna.

b. On or about January 21, 2022, MENENDEZ called Official-3 and asked the identity of Official-3’s First Assistant U.S. Attorney (“Official-4”). As a result of Official3’s recusal, Official-4 had supervisory responsibility over the prosecution of DAIBES.

[snip]

d. On or about January 24, 2022, DAIBES’s Driver exchanged two brief calls with NADINE MENENDEZ. NADINE MENENDEZ then texted DAIBES, writing, “Thank you. Christmas in January.” DAIBES’s Driver’s fingerprints were later found on an envelope containing thousands of dollars of cash recovered from the residence of MENENDEZ and NADINE MENENDEZ in New Jersey. This envelope also bore DAIBES’s DNA and was marked with DAIBES’s return address. In or about the early afternoon of January 24, 2022— i.e., approximately two hours after NADINE MENENDEZ had texted DAIBES thanking him and writing “Christmas in January”—MENENDEZ called Official-4, in a call lasting for approximately 15 seconds. This was MENENDEZ’s first phone call to Official-4. On or about January 29, 2022—i.e., several days after NADINE MENENDEZ had texted DAIBES, thanking him and writing “Christmas in January”—MENENDEZ performed a Google search for “kilo of gold price.”

[snip]

45. Official-3 and Official-4 did not pass on to the prosecution team the fact that ROBERT MENENDEZ, the defendant, had contacted them as described in the above paragraphs, and they did not treat the case differently as a result of the above-described contacts. In or about April 2022, FRED DAIBES, the defendant, pled guilty pursuant to a plea agreement that provided for a probationary sentence.

Frankly, I find this part of the indictment unpersuasive, not just because the evidence presented only ever ties Daibes’ payments to proximate acts, not to a specific quid pro quo, but also because it is not explained how this case went from imminent trial to a sweet plea deal in four months.

A cooperation agreement in this investigation might explain it, but there’s no hint of that, though NBC seems to agree with me that that would explain what we’re looking at.

So one reason I find the NBC piece interesting is it portrays that prosecutors were still trying to obtain proof that this interference was a quid pro quo on the eve of the indictment. And SDNY didn’t provide that evidence in the indictment.

Couple that with two other details.

First, there’s the widely mocked line in the Menendez presser, attempting to explain the large amounts of cash found at his home:

For thirty years, I have withdrawn thousands of dollars of cash from my personal savings account, which I have kept for emergencies, and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba. Now this may seem old-fashioned. But these were monies drawn from my personal savings account based on the income that I have lawfully derived over those thirty years.

This story is at best a partial explanation for the cash shown in the indictment, much less the checks from Daibes and the gold bars (though Menendez has treated some, if not all, of the gold bars as Nadine’s property).

But consider the utility of it. Most reporters didn’t note Menendez’ silence about the gold bars (Menendez said he’d address other issues at trial). And for less credulous supporters of Menendez, such an explanation is all you need to offer to win their continued support. As with Trump, for the kind of political support you need to try to fight this out, the explanation doesn’t have to be plausible, it just needs to exist.

More interestingly, there’s probably enough truth in the statement — some of the cash the FBI seized in the search last year likely did come from Menendez’ bank account, regardless of why he withdrew it — that if prosecutors attempt to use this video at trial, it could backfire. Prosecutors have called to seize all this cash in forfeiture.

Over $480,000 in cash—much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe—was discovered in the home, along with over $70,000 in NADINE MENENDEZ’s safe deposit box. Some of the envelopes contained the fingerprints and/or DNA of DAIBES or his driver. Other of the envelopes were found inside jackets bearing MENENDEZ’s name and hanging in his closet, as depicted below.

[snip]

A sum of $486,461 in U.S. currency seized from the Englewood Cliffs Premises on or about June 16, 2022.

But there’s not a shred of evidence that they have the ability to tie all of it — or even most of it — to the specific quid pro quos alleged in the indictment, for which it has better evidence of gold bars as payment. It may come from crime, but if it does, it may not come from this crime.

Prosecutors alleged that all of this $486,000 ties to the crimes alleged in the indictment. If Menendez can prove that some of it doesn’t, then he can use that overreach to discredit the prosecution.

As such, the statement — as ridiculous as it has justifiably been treated — seems partly a taunt. Menendez seems quite confident that prosecutors can’t trace a good deal of this cash, certainly not to these specific crimes, even if they can trace it to Daibes.

Note that Menendez’ claims to care about Egyptian human rights includes a similar taunt, referencing a meeting he had directly with Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Whether and how and which Egyptians, including Sisi, have evidence to support Menendez’s defense will be a topic of extended litigation. Imagine trying to litigate testimony from the Egyptian President? Similarly, Menendez may demand testimony from his (still) fellow Senators, who witnessed another interaction he had with Sisi.

Which brings me to Damian Williams’ presser.

One reason I’m struck by the NBC story is it suggested there was still some work before prosecutors would be ready to indict, and yet they obtained an indictment — an indictment that doesn’t map the Daibes corruption as closely as I assume they would like — the very next day. Since then, we’ve learned that SDNY unsealed the indictment without first waiting to arrest Wael Hana at the airport, as they did yesterday. It’s highly unusual to indict someone in a way that maximizes their opportunity to flee the country, unless you have good reason to believe they won’t do that.

Hana didn’t take that opportunity to flee.

The whole thing seems either rushed, perhaps in response to disclosures like NBC’s, or tactical, an effort to advance a larger investigation.

As Williams said in his presser,

This investigation is very much ongoing. We are not done. And I want to encourage anyone with information to come forward and to come forward quickly.

That’s a version of the statement Williams made (though nowhere near as forceful) in his first presser on the Sam Bankman-Fried arrest — “come see us before we come see you” — which preceded the announcement of cooperation pleas from two key SBF associaties the following week, at which Williams again invited cooperators to come foward: “we are moving quickly and our patience is not eternal.”

I may be alone in this judgement, but I don’t think SDNY has the Daibes side of these alleged corruption — by far the bulk of the money — at all locked down. The Daibes corruption was the topic of Menendez’ taunt about cash; he may be confident that prosecutors won’t succeed in doing so.

But Damian Williams, at least, seems to believe more is coming.

Update: I didn’t see this NBC report on an ongoing counterintelligence investigation until after I posted. Note that statutes of limitation on some of the allegations in the indictment (which started more than five years ago) would have expired.

“Piker:” Donald Trump Rants as if Robert Menendez’s 22 Ounces of Gold Were as Big as Jared’s $2 Billion

The former President went on one of his classic rants of projection last night, demanding that every Democratic Senator resign because of the alleged corruption of Robert Menendez.

“They all knew what was going on,” Trump said, “and the way [Menendez] lived.”

All Trump’s rants are, at their core, at least partly an attempt to use projection to cast attention away from his own similar or worse corruption.

This one is a doozy, though.

Start with the fact that Trump was suspected of getting $10 million from Egypt in September 2016, money he used to stay in the Presidential race. That suspected bribe was investigated for several years, with the Egyptian state-owned bank suspected of making the payment fighting a subpoena all the way to the Supreme Court. The investigation was then closed in summer 2020, without ever subpoenaing Trump Organization, during a period when Bill Barr was shutting down all Mueller-related investigations of Trump. The allegation that, like Menendez, Trump was on the take from Egypt — a key prong of the Mueller investigation — has been ignored by most outlets, so I may return to describe what we know of it.

Then consider that Trump told a comedian posing as Menendez, John Melenedez, that he believed Menendez had gotten a raw deal in his corruption prosecution. “Congratulations on everything,” Trump told the guy he thought was Menendez not long after DOJ dropped the first bribery prosecution. “We’re proud of you. Congratulations! Great job! You went through a tough, tough situation, and I don’t think a very fair situation. But congratulations!”

“They all knew what was going on, and the way [Menendez] lived,” Trump wailed. But so did Trump when he congratulated someone he thought was Menendez for getting away with accepting alleged bribes.

In fact, Trump even commuted the separate Medicare fraud sentence of Menendez’ first co-defendant, Salomon Melgen (like Menendez, the jury hung on bribery charges against Melgen). When Trump claims that Senate Democrats knew what was going on? Unlike Senate Democrats, Trump reviewed Melgen’s conduct closely enough to save him from most of a 204-month prison sentence. Trump specifically said that “the ends of justice do not require [Melgen] to remain confined until his currently projected release date of August 2, 2031.” There’s no question Trump doesn’t care about Menendez’ corruption because he used his presidential authority to eliminate most punishment against Menendez’ co-defendant.

Finally, the craziest part of Trump’s attempt to project his own corruption on Democrats: a key allegation in the Menendez indictment alleges that Menendez did exactly what Jared Kushner did, only for a tiny fraction of the payoff that Jared got.

As I noted in this post, most of Menendez’ Egypt-related corruption came before he and Nadine were married, and most of the payment was laundered through Wael Hana’s halal company, at which Nadine had a no-work job. That may make it hard to prove was a quid pro quo.

There’s one glaring exception to that: The 22 one-ounce bars of gold that, the indictment suggests, Menendez and Nadine received days after Menendez helped shield Egypt from repercussions tied to their role in the Jamal Khashoggi execution.

As the indictment explains, after Nadine’s relationship with Egyptian Official-4 had blossomed over time, the two of them set up a meeting between Menendez and a senior Egyptian intelligence official on June 21, 2021, before the same official would meet with other Senators.

On or about June 21, 2021, NADINE MENENDEZ and Egyptian Official-4 organized a private meeting between MENENDEZ and a senior Egyptian intelligence official (“Egyptian Official-5”) in a hotel in Washington, D.C. prior to a meeting between Egyptian Official-5 and other U.S. Senators the next day. On the day of the private meeting, MENENDEZ provided NADINE MENENDEZ with a copy of a news article reporting on questions that other U.S. Senators intended to ask Egyptian Official-5 regarding a human rights issue. NADINE MENENDEZ then sent that article to Egyptian Official-4, who responded, “Thanks you so much, chairman [i.e., MENENDEZ, the Chairman of the SFRC] also raised it today, we appreciate it.” The next day, NADINE MENENDEZ texted Egyptian Official-4 that she hoped the article she had sent was helpful, and stated, “I just thought it would be better to know ahead of time what is being talked about and this way you can prepare your rebuttals.”

A Michael Isiskoff story posted the same day explained what Egypt would need to “rebut:” Egypt’s Intelligence head, Abbas Kamel, was set to be grilled about Egypt’s role — providing training and drugs — in the execution of Jamal Khashoggi.

A just-released Yahoo News “Conspiracyland” podcast series about Khashoggi’s murder [] revealed that the Gulfstream jet carrying a so-called Tiger Team of Saudi assassins to Istanbul made a middle-of-the-night stopover in Cairo for the purpose of picking up a lethal dose of undetermined “illegal” narcotics.

The drugs were injected hours later by a Saudi Ministry of Interior doctor into Khashoggi’s left arm inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul — an operation that the CIA has concluded was authorized by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, often known as MBS.

Abbas Kamel, the chief of Egyptian intelligence, is visiting Washington this week to meet with U.S. intelligence officials as well as members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Staffers told Yahoo News that a number of senators are preparing to ask Kamel about the Cairo stopover — the subject of a Washington Post editorial on Sunday — and whether Egyptian intelligence officials delivered or helped facilitate the delivery of the drugs.

[snip]

There is also evidence that Egyptian intelligence may have provided training for the Tiger Team as well as previous support for Saudi abductions ordered by MBS. A Saudi source familiar with the matter told Yahoo News that the Egyptians assisted the Tiger Team with the 2015 abduction from Italy of Saudi Prince Saud bin Saif al-Nasr. An outspoken foe of MBS, the prince was tricked into boarding a plane he thought was flying to Rome but ended up in Riyadh. He has not been heard from since.

The indictment implies that whatever Menendez did to blunt the accusations of his fellow Senators, it had some tie to the 22 ounces of gold that Hana purchased two days later, at least some bars of which were found at the Menendez residence when it was searched a year later.

On or about June 23, 2021—i.e., two days after the private meeting between MENENDEZ and Egyptian Official-5—HANA purchased 22 one-ounce gold bars, each with a unique serial number. Two of these one-ounce gold bars were subsequently found during the court-authorized search in June 2022 of the residence of MENENDEZ and NADINE MENENDEZ. During the relevant time periods, the spot market price of gold was approximately $1,800 per ounce.

In his rant, Trump accused Menendez of being “piker” compared to others, but he got the comparison wrong.

After all, Menendez sold out cheap. If he received all 22 of those gold bars in 2021 in recognition of having laundered the reputation of Egypt, it would have been worth roughly $40,000.

That’s a miniscule amount compared to what Jared got — $2 billion — for whitewashing Saudi’s role in the Khashoggi execution.

Trump, who knows better than Senate Democrats what was going on, is right: Menendez was a piker. But he was a piker when you measure him against the corruption of Trump’s own son-in-law.

The Sordid Second Season of the Robert Menendez Bribery Series

There’s a really sordid aspect regarding the timing of the indictment of Robert Menendez unveiled yesterday. Its timeline starts in February 2018, when Nadine Arslanian first starts dating the senior Senator from New Jersey. That was just weeks — possibly days! — after the last bribery case against Menendez ended.

So weeks after DOJ decided not to retry Menendez on his first bribery case, a then-unemployed woman, Nadine Arslanian, started dating the disgraced Senator and, within weeks of that, she alerted an Egyptian friend, Wael Hana, that she was dating him. That set off the most alarming — but probably not the stongest — part of the case: that Menendez was feeding Egypt information and ultimately set up a back channel with an Egyptian intelligence official, meeting at his home in Egypt in October 2021. Those are alarming allegations, but not allegations as clearly tied to financial payoffs to Menendez as some other things.

It’s like some TV producer decided to renew a series for a second season based off an entirely new story line slapped on the older story. “I know! We’ll throw a woman in the mix!”

Aside from that 2021 trip, much of the Egyptian influence operation happened before Nadine and Menendez were married in October 2020. For much of the period, Nadine complained she wasn’t being paid (in a no-work job at Hana’s Halal company). And some of the meetings between Menendez and the Egyptians would not be that far outside the norm for a Senate Foreign Relations Member, much less the Chair. The trip to Egypt, probably accidentally, was made official, giving Menendez legal cover for it. And the seeming bribery immediately upon his return — like a lot of the other payments in this period — came from a long-time Menendez fundraiser, Fred Daibes, or from a Hana associate, Jose Uribe, not directly from Hana.

In other words, this story appears to start with Nadine’s friends exploiting the access she got through her relationship with Menendez. That, as alleged, is largely her corruption. And to prove the corruption, DOJ will need to prove that the payments she only belatedly got were not part of a legitimate job. It’s sketchy as hell. It raises questions about Foreign Agent laws (especially for Hana). But at least as presented in the indictment, that’s not the strongest evidence, certainly not against Menendez.

The stuff that more directly implicates Menendez is his intervention in several criminal investigations, first in the case of an Uribe associate, then in the case of Daibes, Menendez’ longtime fundraiser. Menendez allegedly tried to intervene with prosecutors to help an Uribe associate beat a state charge, and Daibes beat a federal charge, but as described, both cases resolved in probation plea deals without his interference having any effect.

The items DOJ claims must be forfeited as fruits of the crime provide a sense of how much more Daibes allegedly paid Menendez than Hana:

  • The Menendez’ residence in Englewood Cliffs (this may have originally belonged to Nadine, in which case the forfeiture stems from mortgage payments of $23,000 IS EG Halal made on the residence in July 2019)
  • The $75,000 2019 Mercedes C300 José Uribe paid for starting in 2019, which the Menendez’ tried to make look like a loan retroactively in July 2022; it’s not clear — and DOJ doesn’t say — whether the Mercedes was payoff for the Egyptian influence or for Menendez’ attempt to influence the prosecution of Uribe’s associate
  • $486,461 in cash, some of which bore Daibes’ DNA or fingerprints, one envelope of which had Menendez’ DNA, some of which was stashed in a Menendez jacket
  • $79,760 in cash seized in Nadine’s safe deposit box
  • 2 1-KG bars of gold seized on June 16, 2022; these — and at least two others that Nadine sold for around $120,000 in March 2022 — likely came from Daibes
  • 11 1-ounce bars of gold seized on June 16, 2022; these were likely what remained of 22 ounces total, originally valued at around $39,600, purchased by Hana after some meetings with Egyptian officials on June 23, 2021
  • An account tied to Strategic International Business Consultants, which Nadine formed in June 2019 after IS EG Halal got its monopoly and to which IS EG Halal paid three $10,000 payments in August, September, and November 2019

So the Mercedes (worth $75,000) at least appears to be payoff for Menendez’ efforts to help an Uribe associate beat a state case. As noted, the indictment says prosecutors shielded the investigative team from Menendez’ interference, but Uribe and the associate nevertheless had a celebratory dinner with Menendez attributing his legal good fortune to Menendez.

Because the roughly $100,000 in payments from Hana — with the exception of the one-ounce gold bars — came through IS EG Halal, DOJ will need to prove that Nadine’s no-work job really wasn’t a job or at least not a legal one.

The bulk of the payments, around $720,000 in cash and gold (the indictment also references checks not itemized here), came from Daibes. While he had financial ties to Hana, he also had a long-lasting relationship as a fundraiser for Menendez, and DOJ doesn’t lay out when the money came in. Given the extent of that relationship, Menendez’ intervention with the US Attorney’s office (and his equivocations about supporting Phil Sellinger’s appointment) are corrupt as hell but not unusual for Washington.

After all, Attorney General Garland only got confirmed after assuring Lindsey Graham and other Senators that he would continue the politically influenced criminal investigations into Hunter Biden and (by John Durham) of Hillary Clinton and her associates. And the entire House GOP is continuing such demands to this day, in part because their Sugar Daddy, Donald Trump, demands it.

There has to be something more to the Daibes’ money, something not laid out in this indictment. Particularly given that there are no campaign finance allegations, DOJ has not ruled out that Menendez was just on a regular take from Daibes. It simply doesn’t account for the amount of money Daibes allegedly gave Menendez, nor does it tie that money to specific quid pro quos.

(Daily Beast reports that Daibes has or had ties with the Italian mafia.)

Similarly, there must be more explanation to the Daibes’ plea deal. This indictment suggests that Sellinger’s First AUSA, Vikas Khanna, rebuffed Menendez’ efforts to intervene in the Daibes case, just like NJ state prosecutors rebuffed his efforts to intervene in the case of the Uribe associate who nevertheless attributed his plea to Menendez. The NJ USAO only belatedly clarified that Sellinger was recused and the plea had been approved by Khanna on the day of the indictment. And it’s hard to explain the repeated continuances of Daibes’ sentencing, first in September 2022, then in December 2022, then in March 2023, then in July 2023; sentencing for Daibes and his co-defendant is currently set for October 23, 2023. The sentencing submissions submitted in August 2022 remain sealed. If Daibes started cooperating in this case after the June 2022 searches of the other co-defendants, it might make sense, but there’s no hint of that.

Likewise, there’s no ready explanation for why SDNY is prosecuting this instead of NJ USAO. Rather than any mention that this got referred from one of those NJ offices, which is what you would hope happened if a politician attempted to influence a prosecution, the indictment establishes venue in fairly tangential acts (marked in blue in the timeline below): Two dinners Menendez and Nadine had in Manhattan, the loan payments Uribe arranged through a bank in the Bronx, and a text Nadine sent on September 5, 2019.

Finally, it’s not clear whether this investigation arose out of an investigation — perhaps for being a foreign agent, which inexplicably is not included in this indictment — into Hana, which led up to the search of his phone in November 2019 but which doesn’t appear to have alarmed anyone, or out of further scrutiny of Daibes.

Or maybe, after the prosecution failed the last time, DOJ Public Integrity (which was heavily involved in the first prosecution of Menendez) just kept watching, knowing he’d stumble again.

Some of the overt acts in this indictment — most notably when Menendez provided sensitive information about embassy staffing to the Egyptians — happened more than five years ago, so they’re only included as part of a conspiracy that continued for years after that. But I wouldn’t rule out that we get more clarity about all this money in a superseding indictment.

Update: Added the detail that the June 21, 2021 meeting with Egypt’s Intelligence head pertained to Egypt’s role in the Jamal Khashoggi assassination.

Timeline

Below, I’ve bolded key payments (there are other payments that DOJ does not date in the indictment). I’ve marked in pink the engagement and marriage of Nadine and Menendez, which may change the legal import of Nadine’s actions with Menendez. I’ve marked the acts that SDNY uses to establish venue in blue.

April 1, 2015: DOJ indicts Menendez and longterm associate, Salomen Melgen.

June 27, 2016: US v McDonnell decision.

July 17, 2017: Menendez moves to dismiss in light of US v McDonnell decision.

August 2017: State Department withholds $195 million in military support for Egypt and cancels $65.7 million in other financing.

November 16, 2017: Jury hangs in Salomon Melgen trial.

January 19, 2018: DOJ notices intent to retry case.

January 24, 2018: Judge William Walls grants Menendez’ Rule 29 motion on 7 of 18 counts.

January 31, 2018: DOJ moves to dismiss first bribery case.

February 2018: Nadine Arslanian, at the time unemployed, starts dating Menendez.

Early 2018: Nadine tells Hana she is dating Menendez.

March 2018: Menendez meets with Egyptian Official-1, Nadine, and Hana, without his professional staffers, in his DC Senate office and discusses foreign military funding.

April 2018: Uribe tells Hana that “the deal is to kill and stop all investigation”‘ of associate investigated for insurance fraud.

May 6, 2018: After meeting with Nadine and Hana (location uncertain), Menendez seeks out number and nationality of peoeple working at US Embassy in Cairo.

May 7, 2018: Menendez texts details of Embassy staffing to Nadine, who forwarded it to Hana, who forwarded it to Egyptian Official-2.

May 2018: Menendez has fancy dinner with Hana after which Hana texts Egyptian Official-1 that “the ban on small arms and ammunition to Egypt has been lifted.”

May 2018: Nadine gets Menendez to ghost write letter asking other Senators to release $300 million hold. He sends ghost-written letter to her via personal email; she sends it to Hana. Both delete the email.

Several months after March 2018: Nadine expresses hope that Egypt “replace him,” meaning Hana. 

June 30, 2018: Menendez, Nadine, and Hana meeting in Manhattan restaurant. 

July 2018: After meeting with Egyptian Official-1 set up by Nadine and Hana, Menendez tells Nadine he will sign off on $99 million sale to Egypt, stating that they have had such arms for many years and use them for counterterrorism in the Sinai.

October 30, 2018: Fred Daibes charged by US Attorney for obtaining loans under false pretenses.

December 2018: Nadine has car accident and starts complaining to Hana that she does not have a car.

January 27, 2019: Menendez, Nadine, and Hana meet at dinner (Uribe was invited but did not attend), after which Hana starts sending Nadine texts about Uribe associate’s criminal case. Nadine deleted those messages.

January 29, 2019: After reviewing texts with Nadine (which both deleted), Menendez attempts to pressure Official-2 to resolve the prosecution of Uribe’s associate. Official-2 does not intervene.

February 3, 2019: Nadine texts Hana, “I’m so excited to get a car next week !!”

2018 to 2019: Hana’s halal firm, which had no revenue, did not deliver on payments promised to Nadine.

March 12, 2019: Nadine and Uribe speak for 21 minutes, after which Uribe texts, “I am real. I will stand by my word.”

March 27, 2019: Uribe directs Nadine to a Mercedes dealer, after which she sends Menendez pictures to help pick a color.

April 2019: Uribe associate resolves case with guilty plea that was more favorable than prosecutors’ initial plea offer.

April 3, 2019: Nadine texts dealer saying Uribe told her to pick up car on April 5.

April 3, 2019: Uribe tells associate, “I need 15k cash this afternoon.”

April 4, 2019: Nadine texts Menendez that she’s going “to meet Jose for five minutes;” in the parking lot of a restaurant, he hands her $15,000 in cash.

April 5, 2019: Nadine uses the $15,0000 as a down payment to get the Mercedes, paying the rest with a loan based on false financing claims.

April 7, 2019: Egyptian government official informs Hana he’ll become sole certifier for halal imports.

April 8, 2019: Nadine texts Menendez, “seems like halal went through. It might be a fantastic 2019 all the way around.”

Spring 2019: Egypt grants Hana’s halal company, IS EG Halal, exclusive monopoly on certifiying meat exported from the US to Egypt as halal.

April and May 2019: USDA complains to Egypt about monopoly grant to IS EG Halal.

May 2019: Uribe starts paying off Nadine’s loan, via an associate’s Bronx business account, keeping his name out of it.

May 3, 2019: Uribe causes associate to pay off Nadine’s loan through bank in the Bronx.

May 21, 2019: Menendez, Hana, and Egyptian Official-3 meet twice, the second time at steakhouse in DC. They discuss human rights issue. Hana requests Menendez’ intervention on USDA objections to IS EG Halal monopoly.

May 22 and 23, 2019: Hana provides Nadine information on USDA objections. She texts them to Menendez, and later deletes them.

May 23, 2019: Menendez intervenes with USDA Official-1, asking him to stop interfering with IS EG Halal’s monopoly. Official-1 did not accede to demand, but IS EG Halal kept monopoly.

June 2019: Nadine forms Strategic International Business Consultants, LLC, explaining to a relative she would use it to get paid. “Every time I’m in a middle person for a deal I am asking to get paid and this is my consulting company.”

July 2019: After mortgage company moves to foreclose on Nadine, IS EG Halal pays $23,000 to bring Nadine’s mortgage current. As part of those discussions, Nadine said, “When I feel comfortable and plan the trip to Egypt [Hana] will be more powerful than the president of Egypt.” [DOJ does not allege Menendez was part of this discussion.]

July 2019: A New Jersey detective asks to interview Uribe’s associate, leading Menendez to attempt to intervene again.

July 31, 2019: Uribe contacts Nadine saying “We need to move fast” … “We can stop this.” Nadine responds that she will “address itfirst thing tomorrow morning or tonight depending on when he is home.” Menendez does Google search on State agency employing insurance fraud investigator.

August 30, 2019: IS EG Halal pays Nadine $10,000.

September 3, 2019: Uribe texts Nadine saying, “Please don’t forget about me. I will never forget about you” … “I need peace.”

September 4, 2019: Menendez sets up meeting with NJ prosecutor for September 6.

September 5, 2019: Menendez, Nadine, and Uribe meet at Nadine’s house.

September 5, 2019: Nadine sends Uribe a text sent through cell tower in Manhattan.

September 6, 2019: Prosecutor meets with Menendez, Menendez informs Uribe the meeting was “very positive.”

September 9, 2019: Egyptian Official-3 texts Hana relaying that a State Department official told an Egyptian diplomatic official that “Senator Menendize put a hold on a billion $ of usaid to Egypt before the recess !!!!” Hana attempted to contact Nadine, then forwarded the Egyptian text to Daibes, who called Menendez and then responded that it wasn’t true.

September 2019: Menendez offered to provide assistance to Hana and Egypt during official trip to India, then later meets with Daibes, Hana, and Egyptian Official-3.

September 2019: Nadine complains to Daibes that Hana had not paid her. Daibes responds, “Nadine I personally gave Bob a check for September.”

September 2019: Nadine texts Menendez complaining that Hana has not left her an envelope, referencing a meeting Menendez had with senior Egyptian officials “last Saturday.” Nadine called Daibes.

September 21, 2019: Menendez, Hana, Daibes, and Egyptian Official-4 meet at restaurant in Manahattan.

September 28, 2019: IS EG Halal pays Nadine $10,000.

October 2019: Menendez and Nadine get engaged.

October 29, 2019: Uribe texts Nadine for an update. Menendez calls Uribe, after which he tells Nadine he is “a very happy person.”

After October 29, 2019: Menendez, Nadine, Uribe, and associate have celebratory dinner.

November 5, 2019: Uribe texts Nadine about automatic payments for Mercedes Benz.

November 5, 2019: IS EG Halal pays Nadine $10,000.

November 9, 2019: Uribe sets up automatic payments through another trucking company, ultimately paying $30,000 in addition to the cash down payment.

November 2019: Search of Hana’s cell phone reveals thousands of text messages with Nadine, many of which she had deleted.

March 2020: Nadine texts Egyptian Official-3 and offers to help, then setting up meeting with “the general,” after which Menendez intervenes to pressure State to increase its engagement on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

October 2020: Menendez, Nadine, Egyptian Official-3 ,and Egyptian Official-4 meet for dinner in Edgewater, NJ.

October 2020: Menendez and Nadine get married.

December 2020: Menendez and Nadine have dinner meeting with Egyptian Official-3.

December 2020: Menendez meets with US Attorney candidate and complains about prosecution of Fred Daibes. US Attorney candidate tells Menedez he might have to recuse. Menendez told US Attorney candidate he would not recommend him.

Early 2021: IS EG Halal delivers two exercise machines and air purifier to Menendez home.

May 2, 2021: Advisor intervenes with US Attorney candidate about recusing, tells Menendez “you’ll be comfortable with what he says.” Menendez recommends candidate. After confirmation, he recuses.

June 21, 2021: Nadine and Egyptian Official-4 organized meeting between Menendez and Egyptian Intelligence Head Abbas Kamel, in advance of meeting with other Senators that day. Both Nadine and Menendez alert Egyptian Official-4 that other Senators were going to raise a human rights issue. Per this thread (ThreadReader is down right now but it’s here) and this Isikoff story, the human rights issue was Egypt’s involvement in the execution of Jamal Khashoggi.

June 23, 2021: Hana purchases 22 one ounce gold bars, each worth $1,800. Two were found at Menendez residence in June 2022 search.

October 2021: Nadine arranges trip for her and Menendez to Egypt, originally planned as unofficial visit. When a SFRC took steps that made it an official visit, Egyptian Official-4 said he might lose his job. During the trip, Menendez had meeting at home of Egyptian Official-5 (the intelligence official).

October 17, 2021: Driver for Fred Daibes picks up the Menendezes from trip to Egypt; the next day Menendez searches, “how much is one kilo of gold worth.”

December 23, 2021: Daibes’ trial adjourned. Daibes asks about Menendez’ shoulder injury. Nadine responds that Menendez is fixated on trial date. Daibes sent recliner to Menendez.

December 2021 through February 2022: Menendez asks Advisor to ask why US Attorney recused himself.

January 2022: Menendez sends Nadine a link about military sales to Egypt totally $2.5 billion; Nadine forwards ot Hana, saying that Menendez had to sign off on it.

January 21, 2022: Menendez called NJ US Attorney and asked for First AUSA name.

January 22, 2022: Menendez complains to Daibes that his attorney has not been aggressive enough.

January 24, 2022: Nadine has two calls with Daibes’ driver. “Christmas in January.” Thousands in cash with Daibes’ DNA later found at residence. 

January 29, 2022: Menendez searches for “kilo of gold price.”

January 31, 2022; Menendez calls First AUSA, then calls Daibes.

March 2022: Menendez asks Advisor to bring up Daibes at lunch with US Attorney, Advisor declines to do so.

March 30, 2022: Nadine thanks Daibes, then sells 2 1-KG gold bars to jeweler, each worth $60,000.

March 31, 2022: Two 1-KG gold bars Nadine provided to jeweler sold in Manhattan.

April 2022: Daibes pleads guilty to plea agreement providing probationary sentence. Sentencing has been continued repeatedly since plea.

June 2022: Federal agents approach Menendez, Nadine, and Uribe, after which Menendez pays Nadine $23,000 and Nadine pays Uribe $21,000.

June 16, 2022: Search discovers:

  • 2 1-KG gold bars
  • 9 1-ounce gold bars
  • 10 envelopes of cash, each with 10s of 1000s of dollars, bearing Daibes’ fingerprints, one which included fingerprints of Menendez

July 14, 2023: Sentencing for Daibes and co-defendant reset, for fourth time, for October 23, 2023.

September 21, 2023: DOJ amends sentencing agreement to note that Phil Sellinger was recused and Vikas Khanna oversaw the Daibes prosecution.

September 21, 2023: Indictment

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