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OPEN THREAD: Everything Else Not about Robert Mueller

[Please check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Though today will probably be nutzo with Mueller hearing content, we need a place to capture everything else going on.

Let me repeat: this is everything else NOT about Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel’s Office (SCO) investigation and resulting report which will be addressed in a House Judiciary Committee hearing today.

I’ll kick this off with a few things I’ve had on my desktop. Caution: may contain speculation.

~ ~ ~

This is tangential to the Special Counsel’s investigation, but not a direct part of it.

Former Trump campaign adviser George Nader, who testified before the SCO, may also be prosecuted in New York as well as by the feds in Virginia:

I don’t recommend reading the government’s motion opposing Nader’s release on bond linked in her thread unless you have a strong constitution. I couldn’t stomach it. Judge Leonie Brinkema denied his release, thank goodness.

Nader was indicted last Friday when charges filed in April 2018 related to transporting a minor in 2000 for the purposes of sex and for possession of child pornography were unsealed. The charges had remained sealed while Nader cooperated with the SCO investigation.

He had been arrested in early June at JFK International airport in New York when he returned after complications from heart surgery.

I assume whatever was found at JFK voided any immunity agreement, as well it should.

At some point we need a society-wide discussion about the confluence of men whose proclivities deny consent to those with less power. It’s this issue I want us to address — it’s entwined with the anti-democratic movement.

~ ~ ~

I really hate to think about Alan Dershowitz at all let alone about his sex life. But didn’t anybody notice the weird caveat last week when he spoke about his love life last week Thursday?

“I have had sex with one woman since the day I met Jeffrey Epstein. I challenge David Boies to say under oath that he’s only had sex with one woman during that same period of time. He has an abnormal amount of chutzpah to attack me and challenge my perfect, perfect sex life during the relevant period of time …”

This guy can play all kinds of word games, right? He parses like crazy. So why didn’t he say I’ve only had sex with my wife/life partner [insert her name because she’s a human being]?

And yet we know he’s admitted to receiving therapeutic massage at pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s place. Was he prevaricating about the meaning of the word ‘sex’ as Bill Clinton once did?

Not kink shaming sex between consenting adults, but that’s my point — were any these ‘massages’ or not-sex-sex with some other person actually with a non-consenting human? Like a minor?

Really wonder if it would be beneficial to go through the body of Dershowitz’ work with an eye to his opinions with regard to consent by individuals with less power in a given situation.

~ ~ ~

Deutsche Bank (DB) is in a world of hurt. It’s trying to downsize and reorganize in a big fat hurry, expecting to shed as many as 18,000 jobs over the next 2-3 years.

It’s also clients and deposits, hemorrhaging nearly a billion dollars a day after the bank announced it was exiting prime brokerage.

Now DB is trying to shed a problematic client, Jeffrey Epstein, whose accounts are like a mythic hydra. Lop off the known accounts and a bunch more unknown pop up.

DB has submitted Suspicious Activity Reports a number of times on Epstein’s accounts’ transactions; while not all activity triggering a SAR may be illicit, this is Epstein we’re talking about.

Timing is also rather interesting — check this excerpt from the NYT:

In 2015 and 2016, anti-money laundering compliance officers in Deutsche Bank’s offices in New York and Jacksonville, Fla., raised a variety of concerns about the work the bank was doing with Mr. Epstein. The employees were concerned that the bank’s reputation could be harmed if it became public that Mr. Epstein was a client, according to the three people familiar with the relationship.

Huh. What an interesting overlap with the U.S. 2016 campaign season. This, too, was interesting:

In addition, the compliance officers on at least one occasion noticed potentially illegal activity in one of Mr. Epstein’s accounts, including transactions in which money was moving outside the United States, two of the people said. The compliance officers produced a so-called suspicious activity report, but it is unclear whether the report was ever filed with the Treasury Department’s financial-crimes division.

Despite the compliance officers’ misgivings, the bank continued to do extensive business with Mr. Epstein.

What’s the bottleneck? Did corruption inside DB prevent Epstein from being discovered earlier than last fall’s investigative reporting by the Miami Herald’s Julie K. Brown? Did any of these banking transactions mirror human trafficking transactions?

Will we ever know or will this all quietly go away?

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There will be a separate post for the Mueller hearing today. Please take all Mueller hearing related content to that thread, thanks. This is an open thread.

Jared’s Clearance and the Foreign Policy Version of Conspiracy to Defraud America


I confess there is no multi-day Trump story I’ve looked forward to more than the problem with Jared Kushner’s clearance. And it is officially here. Last night, the NYT described how Jared is butting heads with John Kelly over whether he’ll lose clearance under Kelly’s post-Rob Porter mandate that people who can’t be cleared won’t be kept around anymore.

Kushner, frustrated about the security clearance issue and concerned that Mr. Kelly has targeted him personally with the directive, has told colleagues at the White House that he is reluctant to give up his high-level access, the officials said. In the talks, the officials say, Mr. Kushner has insisted that he maintain his current level of access, including the ability to review the daily intelligence briefing when he sees fit.

Today CNN and WaPo weigh in, with CNN nodding towards the conflict this will present Trump.

Though a source familiar with the situation said Kushner has not yet appealed to the President directly about his access to highly classified information, those close to Trump believe he would be inclined to grant his son-in-law access if asked. This source pointed to the fact that Kushner is part of the President’s family and has outlasted all of his rivals in Trump’s inner circle, including former chief of staff Reince Priebus, former chief strategist Steve Bannon, former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and former deputy campaign manager David Bossie.

Trump, however, has given Kelly his full support in efforts to reform the White House’s system of security clearances, and has told his chief of staff that changes need to be made to bring the system into order, according to a person who has spoken to him about the matter. Kelly has interpreted that as a wide-ranging mandate that would include Kushner, a person familiar with the matter said. The person said Trump and Kelly would likely discuss the matter this week, if they haven’t already, before Kelly’s self-imposed Friday deadline.

WaPo brings the appropriate level of skepticism over whether Kushner can really do his Fake Peace Plan job without clearance.

It is not clear how Kushner could perform his job without a high-level security clearance.

He holds a broad range of responsibilities, from overseeing peace efforts in the Middle East to improving the efficiency of the federal government. And he is the administration’s interlocutor with key allies, including China and Saudi Arabia, where he has developed a personal relationship with the young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

[snip]

And apart from staff on the National Security Council, he issues more requests for information to the intelligence community than any White House employee, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private discussions.

More importantly, WaPo includes a series of false bravado quotes from Jared’s defense attorney, Abbe Lowell, who bizarrely offered up his judgement that Jared is speaking with foreign officials “properly.”

“My inquiries to those involved again have confirmed that there are a dozen or more people at Mr. Kushner’s level whose process is delayed, that it is not uncommon for this process to take this long in a new administration, that the current backlogs are being addressed, and no concerns were raised about Mr. Kushner’s application,” he said in a statement.

[snip]

Lowell said Kushner’s job is “to talk with foreign officials, which he has done and continues to do properly.”

I’ve come to think of Kushner’s clearance process in similar terms to the way I’ve thought of the bail process Mueller has used with Paul Manafort and Rick Gates: While Gates ultimately did make bail, Manafort is still (!) almost four months after his arrest, struggling to show enough liquidity free of taint from his money laundering to alter his release conditions. The process of making bail (and having to serially beg to attend his kids’ soccer events) seems to have been one of the factors that brought Gates to the point of flipping, but along the way, he probably gave Mueller’s team far more leverage in plea negotiations, because they know how little Gates actually has to pay a defense attorney to oversee the flip (indeed, that may lie behind the confusion over Gates’ current legal representation).

Kushner’s liquidity problems are literally an order of magnitude greater than these men. But unlike them, he made the idiotic decision to work in the White House, and thereby to undergo the scrutiny of sworn statements laying out all the financial vulnerabilities and foreign entanglements that might make him susceptible to blackmail.

Which brings me back to my description of how Mueller is leveraging “conspiracy to defraud the United States” (what I will henceforward refer to as ConFraudUS*) charges to prosecute political influence peddling for which our regulatory system has completely collapsed. With the Internet Research Agency indictment, Mueller charged ConFraudUS because the trolls bypassed a campaign finance system that no longer works. With Manafort and Gates, Mueller charged ConFraudUS because they bypassed Foreign Agents Registration Act requirements that have never been enforced.

In the old days, to pursue the kind of quid pro quo we see outlines of, in which Trump officials (from George Papadopoulos’ proposed business with Sergei Millian to the possibility Kushner might get bailed out by the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is itself a cut-out for the sanctioned Vnesheconombank, whose head, Sergey Gorkov, Kushner met in December 2016), you’d pursue bribery. But post-Bob McDonnell, bribery is a far tougher charge to make stick, as Mueller prosecutor Andrew Goldstein, who worked on the Sheldon Silver prosecution team, knows well.

What if, however, you could charge people whose meetings seamlessly tie the foreign policy decisions of the United States with discussions of their own financial interests, with ConFraudUS? That might make it easier to charge someone whose foreign policy decisions don’t serve the US interest but might enrich them for the quid pro quo entailed.

Which is why I’m interested in the report that Mueller has shown increased interest (almost certainly tied to Steven Bannon’s public pronouncements that, “It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit”) in Jared’s foreign financial dealings, how he has mixed his business interests and US foreign policy.

One line of questioning from Mueller’s team involves discussions Kushner had with Chinese investors during the transition, according to the sources familiar with the inquiry.
A week after Trump’s election, Kushner met with the chairman and other executives of Anbang Insurance, the Chinese conglomerate that also owns the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, according to The New York Times.

At the time, Kushner and Anbang’s chairman, Wu Xiaohui, were close to finishing a deal for the Chinese insurer to invest in the flagship Kushner Companies property, 666 Fifth Avenue. Talks between the two companies collapsed in March, according to the Times.

Mueller’s team has also asked about Kushner’s dealings with a Qatari investor regarding the same property, according to one of the sources. Kushner and his company were negotiating for financing from a prominent Qatari investor, former prime minister Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, according to The Intercept. But as with Anbang, these efforts stalled.

Lowell’s false bravado in this report is even more ridiculous than that in the clearance stories.

A representative for Kushner declined to comment prior to the publication of this story. After publication, Kushner attorney Abbe Lowell told CNN in a statement, “Another anonymous source with questionable motives now contradicts the facts — in all of Mr. Kushner’s extensive cooperation with all inquiries, there has not been a single question asked nor document sought on the 666 building or Kushner Co. deals. Nor would there be any reason to question these regular business transactions.”

Lowell may not have turned over any documents relating to 666 Fifth Avenue. But Deutsche Bank got subpoenas even before Bannon started running his mouth (albeit in a separate EDNY probe). Moreover, the key detail under my imagined ConFraudUS charge would be whether Kushner did things — like try to get Chinese investors visas — that didn’t serve or indeed violated the interests of the United States. Admittedly, the President gets largely unfettered control over the foreign policy of the United States (though Trump has defied Congress in areas where they do have some control). But to the extent Jared pursued his own business interests during the transition, he wouldn’t be able to claim to rely on presidential prerogative.

Which brings me back to Jared’s long struggle to get a security clearance.

Abbe Lowell may not have turned over the financial documents on 666 Fifth Avenue that would show how susceptible Jared’s debt woes make him to foreign influence. But he has serially provided that evidence in support of Jared’s almost certainly futile attempt to convince the FBI he should get a permanent TS/SCI security clearance.

I laid this out yesterday at the very end of my Democracy Now appearance:

I think—the reason why Kushner’s business deals are important, we’ve talked—and in the intro, this wasn’t the only example of—there’s the Don Jr. We’ve talked about how poorly Trump’s people have separated his business interests from the interests of the country. The same is even more true for Jared Kushner, whose family business is basically bankrupt. And over and over again, he’s been shown to be in negotiations with entities, including Russians, but also Chinese and Middle Eastern. So, you know, he’ll go in and say, “OK, we’ll talk about this grand peace plan,” which is not about peace at all, “but, oh, by the way, can you bail out our 666 Park Avenue building, which is badly underwater?” And I think Mueller could make the same argument he’s made with the IRA indictment and the Manafort indictment, and say that Jared Kushner is pretending to be serving America’s foreign policy interests, but in fact he is just doing his own bidding. He’s just trying to bail out his own company. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s moving towards a very similar indictment on conspiracy to defraud the United States, having to do with his conflicts of interest.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, interesting that Kushner also hasn’t managed to get top security clearance, when he’s a senior adviser to President Trump, as Porter didn’t because he beat his wives, etc. And then you’ve got Donald Jr. now in India promoting Trump businesses, as, of course, Donald Trump is the president of the United States. And he’s standing with the prime minister of India as he does this, promoting the Trump brand, Marcy.

MARCY WHEELER: Exactly. I mean, if Trump and his son and his son-in-law are pretending to be doing the business of the United States but are instead just trying to enrich themselves, again, I don’t think it’s a—you know, we’ve talked about the Emoluments Clause and how you go after the Trump campaign—the Trump officials for their egregious conflicts of interest. And, frankly, it extends into his Cabinet. But what Mueller seems to be doing, with some very good appellate lawyers, by the way, is to be laying out this framework that if you are pretending to be doing something in the interest of the United States but are actually doing something else, serving somebody else’s bidding, whether it’s Russia, pro-Russian Ukrainian political party, or whether it’s your own family business, then they’re going to go after you for a conspiracy charge. And I wouldn’t be surprised if these conspiracy charges all kind of link up at the end, in this kind of grand moment of—I think that’s where he’s headed.

Remember, Trump and his spawn never really thought they’d win the election. Instead, they seemed interested in, among other things, a Trump Tower in Moscow and refinancing 666 Fifth Avenue. But if they made deals with Russians in hopes such personal financial benefits would result, a ConFraudUS charge might be a way to prosecute them for it.

*I originally shortened this “CTDTUS,” but following Peter Crowley’s suggestion, I’m instead using “ConFraudUS.”

 

[Note: At the top of this post there is an embedded video of Marcy’s interview with Democracy Now. It isn’t rendering properly on all browsers and operating systems and may appear as a blank space. You can watch the video or listen to audio at this link. /~R]

Three Things: Mit Handelsblatther

Let’s get some more pressing business out of the way and then we’ll get down to this alleged subpoena.

~ 3 ~

Calls — make them. We should all simply get used to making calls or sending faxes to our members Congress and other government officials on a regular basis. Our democracy has now shown us the error of believing in the vote alone; voting is the very minimum democracy requires. We simply have to do more.

Today we need to do more to protect Net Neutrality. We have less than two weeks to make an impression on the Federal Communications Commission, leaving them with no doubt the public wants Net Neutrality.

Contact the FCC — need a script? See @Celeste_pewter.

Contact your Senators — need a script for that too? Here you go.
The odds may not be in our favor given the intransigence of FCC chair Ajit Pai and two of the commissioners, but we can’t curl up and give in.

~ 2 ~

NBC’s Today Show won morning ratings after firing accused sexual harasser and abuser Matt Lauer this past week. Good fucking riddance to bad baggage.

Ah, but NBC only terminated him because Lauer represented a threat to the corporation’s bottom line. They really don’t give a flying fig about women, proved with their donations.

No corporation that gives a campaign donation to pedophile and political hack Roy Moore really cares about women. NBC and its parent corporation Comcast care far more about ending Net Neutrality and being on the prospective GOP senator’s good side. What flexible ethics — get rid of an abuser because he violates policy then donate money to another abuser.

Polling shows the race between pedophile Roy Moore and Democratic Party candidate Doug Jones is far too tight to feel comfortable. It’s within margin of error which is too easily gamed by voter suppression or other tactics. But I hope Jones kicks Moore’s ass on election day.

Sen. Jeff Flake kicked in a $100 donation to Jones, writing “Country above party” on the description line. It’s chump change but he’ll take some crap from the GOP over this now that the RNC has lost whatever remained of its spine and returned to financing their pedo candidate.

~ 1 ~

Now for Handelsblathering —

The first report I read Tuesday morning was by Bloomberg, which offered very little detail about the subpoena allegedly served on Deutsche Bank. Where was the subpoena served? The article didn’t say; it only said,

Mueller issued a subpoena to Germany’s largest lender several weeks ago, forcing the bank to submit documents on its relationship with Trump and his family, according to a person briefed on the matter, who asked not to be identified because the action has not been announced.

Caveat: Bloomberg has a nasty habit of updating their articles without leaving adequate evidence of the changes made. The graf excerpted above may not be exactly the same as the one I read on Tuesday morning.

We’ll assume service was made on Deutsche Bank in Berlin. When was the subpoena served? “Several weeks ago” the article said, which is horribly non-specific. I would personally guess this was less than a month ago or the journalists would have said “more than a month” or offer some other framing to extend the time beyond a month. “Several weeks ago” might fit the period of roughly 20 weeks since Trump was asked about special prosecutor Robert Mueller looking into his family’s finance’s (July 9) — but that’s a big stretch at nearly five months.

What niggled at me was the sourcing of Bloomberg’s piece — it relied almost wholly on German financial news outlet Handelsblatt. Its editor Daniel Schaefer referred to the story as “our scoop” on Twitter. Every report after Handelsblatt’s relied on the same story — or at least it isn’t clear in much later stories whether secondary news outlets called Deutsche Bank in Berlin and confirmed there was a subpoena served on them, or if they contacted Handelsblatt to confirm what their source had told them.

The sourcing looked too damned thin.

It didn’t help matters that the article is partially behind a paywall and in English at their global site and in German at their domestic site; nor did it help that the German language article is difficult to find.

Looking at Handelsblatt’s article on the global site, the wording seems odd; it might be due to differences between German and English but this first graf doesn’t seem like it.

Deutsche Bank has been served. US investigators are demanding that it provide information on dealings linked to the Trumps, sources familiar with the matter told Handelsblatt. The subpoena is part of a probe by special counsel Robert Mueller and his team to determine whether the president’s campaign was involved in Russian efforts to influence the US election.

“…[Has] been served. When have you last seen a statement as bald as this yet as unclear? ‘Served’ what — pie? The word ‘subpoena’ appears in the third sentence, and even at that point its use is odd. “…[part] of a probe” suggests there has been more going on in Berlin than just the handing over of documents on request.

And then Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow came out later in the day and denied there had been any subpoena served.

Reporters contacted Handelsblatt but by then it was well after business hours in Germany.

A reader at TalkingPointsMemo speculates that Deutsche Bank may not have been able to disclose any subpoena to Trump or his lawyer if a grand jury orders them not to do so, and that Sekulow may not have been told there was a subpoena for this reason.

I don’t know; do German banks follow U.S. grand jury instructions to the letter? Maybe this one does since it has been in trouble with the U.S. for money laundering and it wants to improve its credibility while reducing its exposure.

I have a another theory, though, thanks to researching the Volkswagen dieselgate scandal. VW’s executives used some weaselly language to imply they were not involved in decision making; the language used relied on American’s limited grasp of German and the ways in German could be manipulated to misrepresent the truth.

What I want to know is whether Germans use the word “subpoena” in the same way we do, or if they rely on either an EU legal term, or a German word equivalent. In other words, if someone asked the bank if a subpoena had been served, they may say no — but if they were asked if document production had been ordered (Dokumentenproduktion, perhaps?), they might say something very different.

This entire story seems off kilter, as if it were intended for a very narrow audience. Why did the Deutsche Bank leaker talk with Handelsblatt, the fourth largest Germany daily subscription newspaper and the biggest business news paper, versus a Sun-like tabloid Bild or the weekly Der Spiegel? Why was there a specific indication that both Melania and Ivanka as well as Jared Kushner had accounts with Deutsche Bank?

Something isn’t quite right. But then nothing’s been quite right since January 21.

~ 0 ~

That’s a wrap. Treat this like an open thread.

Monday: Build That Wall

Poor Ireland. Poor Inishturk. To be forced to consider the onslaught of refugees fleeing political upheaval should one loud-mouthed, bigoted, multi-bankrupt idiot with bad hair win the U.S. presidency. I’m amused at how the Irish in this short film mirror the U.S. albeit in a more placid way. There are some who are ardently against him, some who’d welcome the business, and the rest cover the spread between the extremes though they lean more to the left than the right.

I find it appalling, though, that Trump would install a sea wall *now* after the golf course development has already been established, rather than do his homework upfront before investing in real estate which relies on natural dune formation. This kind of thoughtlessness is completely absurd, and the disgust evident in this film is well merited.

Keep your volume control handy; hearing Trump blathering may set your teeth on edge. Mute for a moment and continue.

Schtuff happens
I couldn’t pull a cogent theme out of the stuff crossing my desk today. I’m just laying it down — you see if you can make any sense out of it.

  • Ramen can get you killed in private prisons (Guardian) — The federal government may have to do more than simply stop using private prisons for federal criminal incarceration. This report by a doctoral candidate in the University of Arizona’s school of sociology suggests states’ prisons operated by private industry may be violating prisoners’ civil rights by starving them. Ramen noodles have become a hot commodity for this reason. Not exactly a beacon of morality to the rest of the free world when incarcerated citizens must scrap for ramen noodles to make up for caloric shortfalls.
  • World Anti-Doping Agency may have been attacked by same hackers who poked holes in the DNC (Guardian) — “Fancy Bear” allegedly had a fit of pique and defaced Wada after Russian athletes were banned at Rio. This stuff just doesn’t sound the same as the hacking of NSA-front Equation Group.
  • New Mexico nuclear waste accident among most costly to date (Los Angeles Times) — Substitution of an organic kitty litter product for a mineral product two years ago set off a chemical reaction un an underground waste storage area, contaminating 35% of the surrounding space. Projected clean-up costs are $2 billion — roughly the amount spent on Three Mile Island’s meltdown.
  • Build that wall! Americans blown ashore in Canada by high winds (CBC) — Participants riding flotation devices on the St. Clair River in the annual Port Huron Float Down were pushed by high winds into Sarnia, Ontario. About 1,500 Americans had to be rescued and returned to the U.S. by Canadian police, Coast Guard, and Border Service. Just a test to see if Canada’s ready for the influx of refugees should Trump win in November, right?
  • Paternity test reveals a father’s sperm actually made him an uncle (Independent) — Upon discovering a father’s DNA only matched 10% of his child’s DNA, further genetic ancestry revealed the ‘father’ had an unborn twin whose DNA he had absorbed in the womb. His twin’s DNA matched his child’s. This is not the first time paternity testing has revealed chimerism in humans.

Commute-or-lunch-length reads

  • Walmart is a crime magnet (Bloomberg) — Holy crap. Communities should just plain refuse to permit any more Walmarts until they clean up their act. Bloomberg’s piece is a virtual how-to-fix-your-bullshit task list; Walmart has zero excuses.
  • It’s in your body, what version is it running? (Backchannel) — Before the public adopts anymore wearable or implantable medical devices, they should demand open access to the code running inside them. It’s absurd a patient can’t tell if their pacemaker’s code is jacked up.
  • Dirty laundry at Deutsche Bank (The New Yorker) — This you need to read. Parasitic banking behavior comes in many forms — in this case, Deutsche Bank laundered billions.

There, we’re well on our way this week. Catch you tomorrow!