Hunter Biden Gets a Step Closer to Vindicating Twitter’s Takedown Decision

Yesterday, as things moved closer to an expulsion vote for George Santos, activist “Anarchy Princess” taunted Santos staffer, Vish Burra, about whether he hacked Hunter Biden’s phone.

AP: Like the same way that you got into Hunter Biden’s stuff?

VB: [laughter]

AP: Yeah, didn’t you hack Hunter Biden’s shit, his phone or something?

VB: [turns to camera] Yeah, and I’d do it again.

Burra, who in 2020 was the producer of Steve Bannon’s podcast, has previously described “extracting” the contents of the “laptop” and took credit for hooking Bannon up with Emma-Jo Morris, who published the initial NY Post story.

Hunter Biden described Burra’s past claims in his lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani and Robert Costello for unlawfully accessing and manipulating his data.

As further evidence of Defendants’ illegal hacking of Plaintiff’s data, it recently has come to light that Defendant Giuliani apparently worked directly with Steve Bannon and Vish Burra to access, manipulate, and copy Plaintiff’s “laptop,” which Burra has dubbed the “Manhattan Project” because he and others “were essentially creating a nuclear political weapon,” referring to Burra’s work with Defendant Giuliani and others (Steve Bannon and Bernie Kerik) to manipulate the “laptop.”

But Burra has not, as far as I know, confessed to “hack[ing] Hunter Biden’s shit.”

Yesterday — whether in jest or not — he did.

Later that same day, Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger had their semi-annual appearance before Jim Jordan’s Weaponizing Government committee.

At the hearing, Dan Goldman had this exchange with Shellenberger about the “Hunter Biden” “laptop:”

DG: You’ve talked about the Hunter Biden laptop, and how the FBI knew it existed. You are aware, of course, that the laptop, so to speak, was actually — that was published in the New York Post was actually a hard drive that the NY Post admitted — here! — was not authenticated as real. It was not the laptop the FBI had. You’re aware of that, right?

MS: It was the same contents.

DG: How do you know?

MS: Because it’s the same —

DG: You would have to authenticate it to know it was the same contents. You have no idea.

MS: [inaudible] conspiracy. Are you suggesting the NY Post participated in a conspiracy to construct the contents of the Hunter Biden laptop?

DG: No, sir, the problem is that hard drives can be manipulated by Rudy Giuliani or Russia.

MS: What’s the evidence that that happened?

DG: Well, there is actual evidence of it, but the point —

MS: There’s no evidence of it. You’re engaged in a conspiracy theory.

Miranda Devine (who keeps dog-whistling about Hunter Biden’s “expensive” lawyers) and the House GOP all seem to think this was a very clever exchange, as that’s the clip they all sent out to froth up the rubes.

Goldman is right: You’d need to authenticate the contents of the “laptop.” As I have shown, even the FBI had not checked whether anything was altered on the laptop they received while in John Paul Mac Isaac’s custody, ten months after receiving it. Their computer guy was still suggesting ways to do that on October 22, 2020, over a week after the NY Post story was published. At the time, Lesley Wolf — the villain of the Republican story — was in no rush to do so.

Understand, though: the critical question here is not whether the hard drive was authenticated. The question is whether it was hacked. Here’s how Vijaya Gadde described the decision to take down the original NY Post link in October 2020.

For example, on October 14th, 2020, the New York Post tweeted articles about Hunter Biden’s laptop with embedded images that look like they may have been obtained through hacking. In 2018, we had developed a policy intended to, to prevent Twitter from becoming a dumping ground for hacked materials. We applied this policy to the New York Post tweets and blocked links to the articles embedding those source materials. At no point did Twitter otherwise prevent tweeting, reporting, discussing or describing the contents of Mr. Biden’s laptop.

If the data in NY Post’s hands was hacked, then according to Twitter’s terms of service, links to it should have been taken down.

If the data in NY Post’s hands was hacked, then the takedown that Republicans claim was a violation of their speech was, in fact, adherence to Twitter’s terms of service as they existed at the time.

And Hunter Biden’s lawsuit alleges that Rudy Giuliani and Robert Costello unlawfully accessed — hacked — his data.

And yesterday, Burra — the guy who set up the tie between Bannon and the NY Post in the first place — laughingly agreed that he did hack Hunter Biden’s shit.

Now, Michael Shellenberger says there’s no evidence the data on the hard drive was altered by Burra and others. Miranda Devine says you have to take the word of the Bidens to believe that happened.

They said that the same day Burra laughingly said he would hack Hunter Biden again.

More importantly, you don’t have to go to the Bidens for evidence that the hard drive was altered. You can go to Garrett Ziegler, whom Hunter Biden has also accused of hacking his shit.

In the set of emails publicly released by Ziegler at BidenLaptopEmails dot com, there is an email from Hunter Biden’s Rosemont Seneca email account (hosted by Gmail), that was sent on September 1, 2020 ET (September 2 GMT).

It’s a resent version of an email sent in 2016 (DDOS says that a footer was also altered).

If everything John Paul Mac Isaac says is true, if everything Rudy Giuliani says is true, this “laptop” was in the custody of Rudy Giuliani (or Robert Costello, on Rudy’s behalf) on the date it was sent. Whoever resent this email — and it was sent over a year after Hunter left Burisma — it was added to the “laptop” while it was in Rudy’s custody.

I’ll leave it to the lawyers and the tech people to explain how an email set from an account hosted by Gmail was added to the hard drive from which Garrett Ziegler obtained his copy. I’ll leave it to the lawyers to argue about whether it would necessarily require unauthorized access to Hunter Biden’s Gmail or iCloud account for that email to be on the hard drive.

But it’s something that could not have been on the laptop when someone — allegedly Hunter Biden — dropped off a laptop at John Paul Mac Isaac’s shop on April 12, 2019. By all understandings of the dissemination of various hard drives — which Thomas Fine has illustrated this way — it would have been on what NY Post worked from on its October 14, 2020 story.

There’s no evidence, Michael Shellenberger said. You’re supposed to take the words of the Bidens, Miranda Devine said.

And on the same day they made those claims, Vish Burra said, of hacking Hunter Biden’s stuff, “Yeah, and I’d do it again.”

George Santos’ Other Shoe

Back on September 12, I noted that EDNY seemed to have a plan in place such that George Santos might be considering a plea even as the drama in the GOP House caucus played out.

Which is to say that Big Kev may lose the deciding vote that made him Speaker even before discussions of impeachment and shutdowns are resolved.

Santos’ vote was not enough to save Kevin McCarthy on October 3 (though McCarthy seems unconvinced he’s done, so Santos might yet have another chance to provide McCarthy a deciding vote). And he was in the fractious House meeting when EDNY rolled out a superseding indictment. Santos will vote for someone today, but it’s unclear that’ll result in the election of a Speaker.

The superseding indictment should have come as no surprise. It adds two schemes to the charges in his original indictment. One was mapped out in the criminal information to which Santos’ campaign treasurer Nancy Marks pled guilty last week: in order to qualify for the NRCC program, he and Marks allegedly falsely claimed family members had supported his campaign. For that scheme, EDNY indicted Santos with:

  • Conspiracy to defraud the US (the single charge to which Marks pled guilty) [count one]
  • Two counts of wire fraud for each false FEC report [counts two and three]
  • False statements and falsification charges for the 2021 FEC report claiming the donations [counts four and five]
  • Identity theft tied to misuse of the identities of 11 donors [count six]
  • False statements and falsification charges for the 2022 FEC report claiming Santos had given himself a $500,000 loan [count seven and eight]

In addition, Santos is charged with access device fraud and identity theft [counts nine and ten] falsely using someone else’s credit card to make donations to himself. Specifically, Santos is accused of making a $12,000 payment on August 1, 2021 to a company associated with Santos, most of which Santos then pocketed.

All those charges were larded onto the other counts originally charged in May.

Even with the ten new counts, Santos may not be done.

The credit card fraud counts — two right now — remain fairly amorphous. While Santos is alleged to have attempted to make numerous credit card payments, only that one on August 1, 2021 is enumerated.

And there’s nothing in the indictment specifically tied to Sam Miele, Santos’ finance guy who was indicted on August 15 for impersonating a key McCarthy staffer. Miele’s case was continued in September to last Friday; time was excluded last week until today (extending past yesterday’s grand jury meeting); and yesterday EDNY asked for another month-long continuance, to November 14. Miele hasn’t, apparently, availed himself of the kind of no cooperation plea deal that Nancy Marks entered into last week. But EDNY seems to think he might, on short order.

As it is, Republicans are likely to face a two week window between the time former Rhode Island Congressperson David Cicilline is replaced on November 7, probably by Democrat Gabe Amo, and the time former Utah Congressperson Christ Stewart is replaced on November 21, probably by Republican Celeste Maloy, in which their margin will shrink by one. But EDNY is increasing the heat on George Santos.

And it seems like there’s likely still another shoe yet to drop there.

Update: Roger Sollenberger reported before the superceding indictment came out yesterday that ultimately there was $500,000 that ultimately back-filled the bullshit financial loan Santos made to his campaign. But it’s not clear, yet, whence it came.

As Kevin McCarthy Embraces James Comer’s Wet Dreams of Dick Pics, George Santos Discusses “Paths Forward”

I don’t, yet, have the stomach to write up the shittiness of the Hill reporting on Kevin McCarthy’s embrace of James Comer’s wet dreams of dick pics and SARs.

Suffice it to say access merchants like Jake Sherman are transcribing Big Kev’s preordained decision to back impeachment without mentioning that he is supporting an inquiry because he has no evidence of wrongdoing on Biden’s part, a constitutional abomination.

This WaPo story is the rare story on the development that makes the corruption behind McCarthy’s decision — and his own weakness in adopting it — the story, as it should be.

To appease those lawmakers, Republican leaders are weighing whether to use a potential impeachment inquiry vote as a bargaining chip in the funding negotiations. But even if the inquiry is included in the talks, it’s not certain that Republicans have the necessary 218 votes to pass it. Some lawmakers are staunchly against it, and McCarthy has said that an impeachment inquiry would occur through a vote on the House floor, as opposed to his unilateral decision-making.

“I think it’s abusing the process,” Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) said, lamenting how political impeachments have become. “We’ve been good about letting [the] Judiciary and Oversight [committees] run their course, and I’ve not seen a compilation of facts or evidence that had been put together that would convince me or anybody else at the moment that the next step is an impeachment inquiry.”

House Republicans have been investigating whether Biden benefited from his son Hunter’s business dealings, but they have yet to discover evidence directly connecting the two. While they have uncovered allegations that the Justice Department stymied the investigation into Hunter Biden’s financial misdeeds, along with testimony about his penchant for touting the family brandto reel in business deals, investigators on the House Oversight and Judiciary committees have not unearthed any evidence of wrongdoing by the president.

The fact that McCarthy is capitulating to the most radical members of his own party out of desperation makes developments in Brooklyn more significant.

On August 15, EDNY indicted George Santos’ fundraiser, Samuel Miele, for impersonating McCarthy’s former Chief of Staff, Dan Meyer, in conversations with fundraisers.

That case was reassigned, as a case related to Santos‘ own fraud prosecution, to Judge Joanna Seybert. Within a week of the charges, the Miele case shifted to discussions of “possible dispositions,” code for a plea agreement, as suggested in a letter asking for a continuance of even an initial hearing to September 5.

Since that date, the parties have engaged in meaningful discussions about possible dispositions of this matter without the need for a trial. The parties are jointly requesting that the Court exclude the time from today’s date through September 5, 2023, to allow the parties to focus on those discussions instead of trial preparation.

Last week, after EDNY had provided some discovery to Miele, both sides joined in asking for another longer continuance to discuss what was explicitly described as a plea.

The parties now write to advise the Court that the government has made two substantial discovery productions in accordance with Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and that negotiations concerning a potential resolution of this case without the need for a trial are active and ongoing. Under these circumstances, the parties respectfully submit that excluding additional Speedy Trial time to accommodate the defendant’s ongoing discovery review and facilitate plea discussions will serve the ends of justice and outweigh the best interests of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial.

The day after the continuance in Miele’s case, prosecutors in Santos’ case asked for a continuance of a status hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday, in part, to “discuss possible paths forward in this matter.”

Further, the parties have continued to discuss possible paths forward in this matter. The parties wish to have additional time to continue those discussions.

By all appearances, Santos is further from a plea than Miele is, probably for good reason. Miele has testimony against Santos to offer as leverage; Santos has his seat in the House (though depending on the precise nature of his relationship with Andrew Intrater and Viktor Vekselberg, Santos might be able to trade testimony as well).

But this is a public integrity case, and as such, a resignation is one of the things that prosecutors are permitted to use in negotiating a plea deal.

And EDNY is discussing very short timelines, with Miele’s next hearing currently scheduled for October 6, and Santos’ next status hearing scheduled for October 27.

Which is to say that Big Kev may lose the deciding vote that made him Speaker even before discussions of impeachment and shutdowns are resolved.

Some of George Santos’ Alleged Crimes Resemble Trump’s Suspected Crimes

DOJ has released the indictment against George Santos.

The charges are:

1-5: Fraudulent political contribution scheme

6-8: Money laundering of false donations

9: Theft of public money

10-11: Wire fraud tied to unemployment payments

12-13: False statements in Congressional disclosure report

The most interesting charges are 1-5:

Effectively, DOJ accuses Santos of telling two donors their money would support his candidacy when instead he was pocketing the money.

This is the same theory behind the Build the Wall fraud, where Bannon et al raised money promising to build a wall and instead spent it on their own personal expenses. Bannon et al were charged with conspiracy to violate 18 USC 1343, whereas Santos was charged with 1343 himself. And Santos was charged on a different money laundering statute (18 USC 1957(a) and (b) versus 1956). But the theory is the same.

The scam — directing political donations to a private company — is the same scam that Daily Beast recently reported Herschel Walker to have engaged in.

More interesting, though, given the speed with which some Republicans have denounced Santos, this is close to the same theory behind the financial part of the investigation into Trump. He is suspected of soliciting funds for use on voter security and instead spent it on his legal fees and other expenses.

There’s at least one obvious difference though: Santos falsely claimed that “Company #1” was a 501(c)(4). It was no such thing. There’s no reason to doubt that Trump’s PACs are what they say they are.

But for that significant difference, a bunch of Republicans are condemning the same kind of solicitation fraud for which Trump is currently being investigated.

Feds Charge the Deciding Vote That Made Kevin McCarthy Speaker

I have to admit I was wrong about something.

For most of Nancy Pelosi’s period as the Democratic Leader in the House (whether Speaker or Minority Leader), I mocked the way that Republican leaders in the House could not count votes without her help. I continued that mockery as Kevin McCarthy struggled to win the Speakership through 15 rounds of voting, until he won finally because six radical Republicans, including Matt Gaetz and Andy Biggs, voted present rather than against McCarthy finally.

But since then, McCarthy has managed a series of close votes with far greater success than Paul Ryan or John Boehner. Most remarkable was the vote on April 26 to hold the debt ceiling hostage, which Republicans passed with 217 yes votes, 215 no votes (including a handful of GOP flamethrowers, including Biggs and Gaetz), and 3 people — two Democrats and one Republican — not voting.

It undoubtedly surprised President Biden as well. He seemed to be counting on continued GOP dysfunction and so didn’t fully prepare a Plan B if the GOP unexpectedly learned to count votes.

That’s important background to the news — first reported by CNN — that EDNY has charged George Santos.

No one yet knows what the charges are (besides that there was a whole bunch of fraud involved). The abrupt departure of first Santos, then his staffers, from their office yesterday is the most we have to go on right now.

Federal prosecutors have filed criminal charges against New York Rep. George Santos, the Republican lawmaker whose astonishing pattern of lies and fabrications stunned even hardened politicos, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Santos is expected to appear as soon as Wednesday at federal court in New York’s eastern district, where the charges have been filed under seal.

The exact nature of the charges couldn’t immediately be learned but the FBI and the Justice Department public integrity prosecutors in New York and Washington have been examining allegations of false statements in Santos’ campaign finance filings and other claims.

The congressman’s attorney declined to comment. Spokespeople for the Brooklyn US Attorney’s Office, the Justice Department and the FBI declined to comment.

Santos was en route back to New York Tuesday night, skipping House votes for the evening, according to a source familiar.

A spokeswoman for Santos, Naysa Woomer, would not respond to shouted questions from reporters Tuesday afternoon and abruptly departed the congressman’s DC office with her backpack when asked about the federal charges against him. Prior to her departure from the office, CNN witnessed three staffers for Santos abruptly depart with their bags. They wouldn’t talk when pressed for comment.

NYT reports the staffers have been told to stay away from the office today, as well, which may well be an attempt to give Santos time to read the charges and determine his own next steps.

All this developed while McCarthy was meeting with Biden and other Congressional leaders on the debt ceiling. The meeting did not go well — in part because McCarthy accused Biden of lying when he said that to accomplish the cuts McCarthy demanded would include cuts to Veterans benefits. McCarthy came out of that meeting to the news of the adverse verdict against Trump in New York and the Santos charges.

Regarding Santos, the Speaker said he would not force Santos out of Congress unless he were convicted, which could leave a lame duck member in the seat for months or the balance of Santos’ term.

But, again, no one knows what the charges are, nor do they adequately account for the possibility that some of the conduct could include the Ponzi scheme in which Santos had previously been involved or his significant financial relationship with Andrew Intrater, long suspected of serving as a proxy for his sanctioned cousin, Viktor Vekselberg. When someone has committed as much apparent fraud as Santos has, there’s no telling what the real story behind all that fraud is.

So either McCarthy moves forward with the support — both for his Speakership and for his hostage-taking — of someone under active criminal investigation. Or McCarthy does something to trigger a vote on his continuation in that role.

I’m not, this time, going to underestimate McCarthy’s ability to count votes or his willingness to capitulate to the most radical extremists in his caucus. But that’s sort of the point: McCarthy is not just owned by Marjorie Taylor Greene at this point, he is owned by whatever alleged crimes imposter Congressman George Santos has committed.

[Photo: Emily Morter via Unsplash]

Let’s Give ‘Em Something To Talk About: Cooked, Hooked, Mooked

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

Did something happen today? LOL

We need a fresh post and thread to talk about it.

~ 3 ~

Cooked: Donald Trump’s wallet

A jury in Manhattan awarded E. Jean Carroll $5 million in damages after finding the former president Donald Trump liable for defamation and sexual abuse.

Under New York State’s New York’s Adult Survivors Act which went into effect last November, Carroll filed a lawsuit against Trump for defamation based on his public denials after she accused him of raping her in 1996.

While the jury did not find Trump liable for rape – the challenge likely hanging on penetration as Teri Kanefield explained in an online thread – they did find credible Carroll’s accusation of sexual abuse and found Trump had defamed her with his repeated denials.

As revolting as it often is, Trump’s testimony is worth a scan as yet another example of classic abuser’s behavior called DARVO: Trump repeatedly Denied the accusation, Attacked his accuser, Reversed the Victim and Offense by claiming Carroll and the other women who supported her with their own sexual abuse accusations against Trump were lying about him. He minimized what he said about grabbing women by the pussy in the Access Hollywood tape and lied about his infidelities.

After reading Trump’s testimony one can only wonder what he might say under oath about the presidential records and classified documents he stole from the White House.

~ 2 ~

Hooked: Rep. George Santos charged by DOJ

Criminal charges were filed today under seal in the Eastern District of New York against Rep. Santos. Specifics about the charges are as yet unknown.

While the current GOP-led House Ethics Committee has been dragging its feet investigating – Santos, alias Anthony Dee – the representative for New York’s 3rd congressional district has been under pressure by House Democrats to resign due to his manifold lies and apparent frauds.

During his brief time in office, Santos has been accused of breaking campaign finance laws, violating federal conflict of interest laws, stealing cash meant for an Iraq War veteran’s dying dog, masterminding a credit card fraud scheme and lying about where he went to school and worked.

In response, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said, “I’ll look at the charges.”

Right. He’s only had nearly 6 months to look into Santos to prevent more embarrassment for the House GOP Caucus and NY-03’s constituents. You’d think Santos having at least one alias and settling criminal charges for fraud in another country would clue McCarthy.

As Marcy noted, Santos was useful to McCarthy:

His utility is done, isn’t it, Kevin? Or do you want to be personally embarrassed by what may emerge from DOJ’s prosecution of Santos?

UPDATE — 10-MAY-2023 10:15 A.M. ET —
The indictment has been released to the public. Here it is:

See also Marcy’s latest post on McCarthy’s ability to count votes.

~ 1 ~

Mooked: Kevin McCarthy and his out-of-control caucus are feckless mooks

Speaking of McCarthy, he’s allowing his caucus to threaten tanking the entire global economy by way of a potential default on U.S. debt.

Never mind the entire problem began when the GOP-led 115th Congress passed Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The GOP’s bill relied on trickle-down economics to pay for itself, yet trickle-down economics don’t work, hurting those at the bottom of the economy the most. It left the country ill prepared for an effective and timely pandemic response, yet now the GOP wants to double down on its stupidity.

(Do not forget the House Speaker at that time was Paul Ryan. Don’t let him whitewash his way out of the blame for his role in the impending economic crisis. Ditto Mitch McConnell, former Senate Majority Leader.)

The same corporations and their wealthy owners which benefited from the Trump tax cuts are now raking in money hand over fist through price-flation for profits. They’re expecting their GOP minions to deliver even more benefits by starving the public which has yet to recover from the worst of the pandemic.

The complicit corporate media enables them by trotting out its tired “Dems in Disarray” bullshit, blaming Biden for the impending economic crisis when the problem is of the GOP’s making, just as it was when that idiot Senator from Texas Ted Cruz held the government’s operations and the economy hostage in 2013.

This is yet another kind of coup attempt; this time the mooks are seated inside Congress wielding a blunt economic weapon. If McCarthy and his minions aren’t willing to repeal part of Trump’s misbegotten tax cuts and raise taxes on the wealthy who can well afford to pay more, they’re acting in bad faith and against the needs of the American public.

~ 0 ~

What else is there to talk about? Share in this open thread.

On emptywheel’s Continued Obsession with Oligarch Real Estate Seizures

DOJ rolled out another sanctions-related action targeting those who allegedly managed sanctioned Russian oligarchs’ real estate the other day. It charged Vladimir Voronchenko with making payments to maintain four properties, amounting to $75 million in value, owned by Viktor Vekselsberg. The properties include a big home in Southhampton, a condo on Park Avenue, a Penthouse on Miami’s Fisher Island, and a smaller apartment just around the corner from the Penthouse.

The story told in the indictment is simple. Between 2008 and 2017, Vekselberg purchased the properties via some shell companies. Voronchenko managed the properties through an IOLTA account funded by Vekselberg.  Then, after Vekselberg was first sanctioned in April 2018, Voronchenko started making the payments into the IOLTA fund himself. Both those payments, and attempts to sell the Southampton House in 2020 and the Park Avenue condo in 2021, required an OFAC license, the indictment alleges.

Two days after DOJ subpoenaed Voronchenko on May 13, 2022, he fled, first to Dubai and, from there, to Russia.

I’m interested in how and whom the indictment charges, as compared to two earlier actions against Russian oligarchs. The indictment against Oleg Deripaska, his girlfriend, and two women who managed his US-based properties charges only conspiracy to violate IEEPA (plus some obstruction-related charges). The EDNY indictment against Andrii Derkach charges conspiracy to violate IEEPA and conspiracy to commit money laundering, as well as bank fraud and some other financial crimes. Both of those were charged last September (though Derkach’s indictment wasn’t unsealed until they took action to secure the LA properties they’re attempting to seize).

Like those earlier indictments, this one also charges a conspiracy to violate IEEPA. Like the Derkach indictment, it also charges conspiracy to commit money laundering. But it also charges Voronchenko with those crimes individually, violation of IEEPA and money laundering, along with contempt for fleeing after receiving the subpoena.

I’m interested in the timing — the charges against Deripaska (which was actually a superseding indictment) and Derkach were September. For some reason, DOJ waited to charge this one (perhaps they were waiting to see if Voronchenko would return to the scene of his alleged crime).

More curiously, they charge Vorochenko alone.

Admittedly, that’s how DOJ initially charged Derkach, too. They superseded the indictment in January to include his spouse, Oksana Terkhova.

Which is why I’m interested in some other people described in his indictment.

Obviously, there’s Vekselberg himself, who unlike Deripaska and Derkach, was not charged for dodging sanctions to sustain his properties.

There are three Voronchenko family members, each treated a bit differently. Family member-1 applied, with Voronchenko, for membership in the club at Fisher Island.

Family member-2 lived in Russia, where he or she was helping to transfer funds for the upkeep of the properties.

A third family member, Family member-3, was involved in efforts to sell the Park Avenue property starting in December 2021.

A different Vorochenko relative in Russia, described as Individual-2, controlled a bank account in Russia from which the IOLTA was funded after Vekselberg was sanctioned. As described, Individual-2 seems to have more legal liability than Vorochenko’s other family members (because he or she would have been involved in any alleged money laundering).

The fact that Individual-2, who would seem to be implicated in money laundering, is described differently than the other family members is of interest because there is an Individual-1. As described, that person is only in the indictment to substantiate that Voronchenko was aware of the sanctions against Vekselberg.

[O]n or about May 9, 2018, approximately one month after Vekselberg’s designation, VORONCHENKO sent a WhatsApp message to an associate (“Individual-1”) with a link to the website of a law firm in Washington, D.C. that specialized only in OFAC sanctions. On or about December 8, 2018, VORONCHENKO sent a WhatsApp message to Individual-1 containing a link to an article that discussed Vekselberg’s designation as an SDN.

It’s not criminal at all for Individual-1 to receive texts about sanctions against Vekselberg. This person may only be in the indictment, described as such, for that substantiation of Voronchenko’s knowledge of the sanctions.

But I’m interested in that second WhatsApp text.

The day before Voronchenko sent the text, Bloomberg published a long story about Vekselberg. It’s not exclusively about sanctions.

Rather, it’s the story about how Vekselberg’s effort to cultivate Michael Cohen — his payment of vast sums starting in 2017 to, basically, do nothing — ultimately led to his questioning by Mueller and then, a month later, his sanctioning.

Not long after Michael Cohen stopped pursuing a Trump-branded property project in Moscow, another Russian connection to the future U.S. president’s entourage started to form.

Like the real estate plan, it didn’t end well—particularly for Russian tycoon Viktor Vekselberg. His effort to engage in statecraft at the highest level unraveled spectacularly, costing him billions, cleaving his family and severing the extensive ties to the U.S. elite that turned him into what one Moscow newspaper called the “most American” of Vladimir Putin’s plutocrats.

This saga, much of it previously unreported, began with a chance encounter between Cohen, Trump’s now-disgraced former lawyer, and Vekselberg’s American cousin, Andrew Intrater, in the fall of 2016. Soon, Trump would be in the White House and Vekselberg would be privately boasting of having the pull needed to help achieve the sanctions relief the Kremlin was craving, people familiar with the matter said. Instead, he became the richest victim of the most dangerous standoff between the U.S. and Russia since the Cold War.


Through much of 2017, as the nascent Trump administration navigated controversies of its own making, Vekselberg was giving Russian officials and fellow businessmen vague yet certain assurances about his influence in the White House, according to six people who interacted with him at the time. He’d attended Trump’s swearing-in ceremony in Washington as a guest of Intrater, who’d donated $250,000 to the inaugural committee, and come back with a newfound sense of clout, they said.

As the story describes, Mueller was quite interested in whether Intrater was serving as a front for donations from Vekselberg.

In March, during one of his last trips to the U.S., he was stopped and questioned by Mueller’s team at an airport in the New York area. They asked about his ties to Cohen, who faces sentencing on Dec. 12 for confessed crimes that include violating campaign-finance rules. Investigators also asked why he attended Trump’s inauguration and if Intrater’s $250,000 gift was actually his money.


Mueller’s interest in Intrater, who’s been questioned twice, is telling. One area his team is known to be exploring is whether wealthy Russians funneled cash into Trump’s campaign or inauguration through U.S. citizens to bypass rules barring foreign donations. Federal Elections Commission data show Intrater had never made a political donation of more than $2,600 prior to Trump.

I was reviewing all this just the other day (I link the affidavit showing how the payments from Renova to Cohen led to the investigation against him in my last post on Jeff Gerth, which I’ll post later today or tomorrow). Remarkably, Mueller never did anything with the Vekselberg’s outreach to Cohen. Neither Vekselberg nor Andrew Intrater show up in the Mueller Report.

Of course, the question of whether Intrater is laundering donations for Vekselberg has become urgently important again. As the WaPo and NYT have both covered, Intrater claims he was duped by Santos to invest in the Ponzi scheme for which he was working.

A month after the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit in 2021 accusing a Florida-based company of operating a Ponzi scheme, one of the firm’s account managers assured an anxious client that his money was safe.

The client, a wealthy investor named Andrew Intrater, had been lured by annual returns of 16 percent and had invested $625,000 in a fund offered by the company, Harbor City Capital — in part because he trusted and admired the account manager, an aspiring politician named George Santos.

Admiration aside, Mr. Intrater wanted to know about his investment and a promised letter of credit that secured it. Mr. Santos said that it was already on the way.

“All issued and sent over,” Mr. Santos assured him in a text message sent in May 2021.

The letter of credit did not exist, the S.E.C. would later tell a court. The $100 million that Mr. Santos told Mr. Intrater that he had personally raised for Harbor City did not exist either, the commission said. Nor, seemingly, did the close to $4 million that Mr. Santos claimed he and his family had invested in Harbor City.

Mr. Santos’s representations form the basis of a sworn declaration that Mr. Intrater gave the S.E.C. in May 2022, as part of its Harbor City investigation. Mr. Intrater’s interactions with the S.E.C. are the first indication the commission might be interested in Mr. Santos.

Mr. Intrater told the S.E.C. that the representations influenced his decision to invest in Mr. Santos’s business and political endeavors — an allegation that could leave Mr. Santos vulnerable to criminal charges.

Intrater’s claim to have been duped makes it all the more curious that he donated heavily to Santos, including after he was purportedly duped.

Santos received contributions in multiple installments from Intrater between 2020 and 2022. The financier made two donations to Santos’ joint fundraising committees in 2022; $12,200 to the Devolder Santos Nassau Victory Committee and $10,800 to the DeVolder Santos Victory Committee. These, along with additional donations from Intrater, were bucketed into Santos’ leadership PAC, Gads PAC, which received a total of $12,100 between 2021 and 2022, the Nassau County Republican Committee received $10,000 in 2022, and to Santos’ campaign directly, who received a total of $12,200 in four installments between 2020 and 2022.

So I’m sure DOJ has an acute, renewed interest in the propriety of Intrater’s political donations.

Vorochenko got indicted, in a conspiracy, all by himself.

But he was speaking to someone about matters covered by the conspiracy that quickly lead into far more suspicious matters.

Update: I’m down so many different rabbit holes I forgot to link the Vekselberg action charged last month against the guys maintaining Vekselberg’s yacht in Mallorca. It describes the front companies Vekselberg used for the yacht, which may be the same shown above in the graphic.

As I noted there, one interesting aspect of the charge was venue: DC instead of one of the places where foreigners would be flown into (like EDNY, for JFK, or EDVA, for any of the VA airports), which is how venue is often assigned. The venue is all the weirder now that we see this indictment charged in SDNY. The SDNY press release thanks the FBI, but doesn’t say whether this case was (like the yacht charges) investigated by MN FBI agents.

Update, February 23: SDNY is now moving to seize the properties.