Really? The attorney general of the United States is telegraphing that the conclusion of an unfinished investigation should be feared by one of two major political parties? “I don’t think it’s appropriate for the attorney general to be casting DOJ actions in terms of whether they’re good or bad for one political party,” Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told us. “He’s implying that what’s going on behind the scenes at DOJ will be good for Republicans and bad for Democrats.” “The special responsibility of the attorney general is that he’s charged with upholding all of our laws,” Vladeck continued. “The more it looks like partisanship is behind his actions, the more it’s understandable why public confidence in the Justice Department has waned.” “What Barr should be doing right now is working to establish public credibility and faith in a nonpartisan Justice Department,” adds Susan Hennessey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
By the way, we know how the FBI investigation began — when Trump aide George Papadopoulos bragged to an Australian diplomat that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton and was giving it to the Trump campaign, and Australia informed the FBI. As for the thumb being put on the scales against Trump, 11 days before the election, the director of the FBI publicly stated that the Democratic nominee was under renewed investigation. The investigation into the Trump campaign, on the other hand, was kept secret and did not affect the election. What’s more, throughout the investigation, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III accused the president of precisely nothing. He made almost no public statements and allowed no leaks. Yet Barr claims that because Trump felt “falsely accused,” it was appropriate for him to launch endless attacks on the very foundational legitimacy of the investigation, which Trump also tried to obstruct multiple times.
One last point about Barr’s embrace of the “witch hunt” idea. He’s flirting with the position of the president and his party that there should never have been any investigation in the first place. A “witch hunt” is an investigation that lacked any legitimate purpose from the get-go. So despite the fact that Russia launched a “sweeping and systematic” effort to help Trump get elected; despite the between 100 and 250 contacts between Trump campaign figures and people associated with Russia; despite Trump World repeatedly signaling eagerness for the Kremlin’s help; despite that fact that everyone involved was constantly lying about contacts with Russia; despite the fact that Trump’s former campaign chair, former national security adviser and former personal lawyer would all go on to plead guilty to crimes — despite all that, Barr is still casting doubt on the investigation’s legitimacy. Donald Trump now has an attorney general. But the United States no longer does.
Money Laundering at Deutsche Bank?
A potentially devastating story broke over the weekend by the NY Times detailing how Trump-Kushner money transactions were flagged by employees of Deutsche Bank for potential money laundering, yet the powers-that-be at the bank hid those revelations. Some more major news on a Deutsche Bank court case could land on Wednesday. I’ve consistently said for years to expect the major crimes will be uncovered by following the money. Mueller was apparently restrained in his ability to track international financial improprieties, so it’s the ongoing probes tasked with getting to the bottom of all this. We’ve posted excerpts from that NY Times article as seen inside: msn.com/en-us/news/politics/
Anti-money laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended in 2016 and 2017 that multiple transactions involving legal entities controlled by Donald J. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be reported to a federal financial-crimes watchdog. The transactions, some of which involved Mr. Trump’s now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity, according to five current and former bank employees. Compliance staff members who then reviewed the transactions prepared so-called suspicious activity reports that they believed should be sent to a unit of the Treasury Department that polices financial crimes. But executives at Deutsche Bank, which has lent billions of dollars to the Trump and Kushner companies, rejected their employees’ advice. The reports were never filed with the government.
Former Deutsche Bank employees said the decision not to report the Trump and Kushner transactions reflected the bank’s generally lax approach to money laundering laws. The employees — most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to preserve their ability to work in the industry — said it was part of a pattern of the bank’s executives rejecting valid reports to protect relationships with lucrative clients. “You present them with everything, and you give them a recommendation, and nothing happens,” said Tammy McFadden, a former Deutsche Bank anti-money laundering specialist who reviewed some of the transactions. “It’s the D.B. way. They are prone to discounting everything.” Ms. McFadden said she was terminated last year after she raised concerns about the bank’s practices. Since then, she has filed complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators about the bank’s anti-money-laundering enforcement.
Deutsche Bank’s decision not to report the transactions is the latest twist in Mr. Trump’s long, complicated relationship with the German bank — the only mainstream financial institution consistently willing to do business with the real estate developer. Congressional and state authorities are investigating that relationship and have demanded the bank’s records related to the president, his family and their companies. Subpoenas from two House committees seek, among other things, documents related to any suspicious activities detected in Mr. Trump’s personal and business bank accounts since 2010, according to a copy of a subpoena included in a federal court filing. Mr. Trump and his family sued Deutsche Bank in April, seeking to block it from complying with the congressional subpoenas. The president’s lawyers described the subpoenas as politically motivated.
Suspicious activity reports are at the heart of the federal government’s efforts to identify criminal activity like money laundering and sanctions violations. But government regulations give banks leeway in selecting which transactions to report to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Lenders typically use a layered approach to detect improper activity. The first step is filtering thousands of transactions using computer programs, which send the ones considered potentially suspicious to midlevel employees for a detailed review. Those employees can decide whether to draft a suspicious activity report, but a final ruling on whether to submit it to the Treasury Department is often made by more senior managers. In the summer of 2016, Deutsche Bank’s software flagged a series of transactions involving the real estate company of Mr. Kushner, now a senior White House adviser.
Ms. McFadden, a longtime anti-money laundering specialist in Deutsche Bank’s Jacksonville office, said she had reviewed the transactions and found that money had moved from Kushner Companies to Russian individuals. She concluded that the transactions should be reported to the government — in part because federal regulators had ordered Deutsche Bank, which had been caught laundering billions of dollars for Russians, to toughen its scrutiny of potentially illegal transactions. Ms. McFadden drafted a suspicious activity report and compiled a small bundle of documents to back up her decision. Typically, such a report would be reviewed by a team of anti-money laundering experts who are independent of the business line in which the transactions originated — in this case, the private-banking division — according to Ms. McFadden and two former Deutsche Bank managers. That did not happen with this report. It went to managers in New York who were part of the private bank, which caters to the ultrawealthy. They felt Ms. McFadden’s concerns were unfounded and opted not to submit the report to the government, the employees said. Ms. McFadden and some of her colleagues said they believed the report had been killed to maintain the private-banking division’s strong relationship with Mr. Kushner.
After Mr. Trump became president, transactions involving him and his companies were reviewed by an anti-financial crime team at the bank called the Special Investigations Unit. That team, based in Jacksonville, produced multiple suspicious activity reports involving different entities that Mr. Trump owned or controlled, according to three former Deutsche Bank employees who saw the reports in an internal computer system. Some of those reports involved Mr. Trump’s limited liability companies. At least one was related to transactions involving the Donald J. Trump Foundation, two employees said. Deutsche Bank ultimately chose not to file those suspicious activity reports with the Treasury Department, either, according to three former employees. They said it was unusual for the bank to reject a series of reports involving the same high-profile client.
Mr. Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank spans two decades. During a period when most Wall Street banks had stopped doing business with him after his repeated defaults, Deutsche Bank lent Mr. Trump and his companies a total of more than $2.5 billion. Projects financed through the private-banking division include Mr. Trump’s Doral golf resort near Miami and his transformation of Washington’s Old Post Office Building into a luxury hotel. When he became president, he owed Deutsche Bank well over $300 million. That made the German institution Mr. Trump’s biggest creditor — and put the bank in a bind. Senior executives worried that if they took a tough stance with Mr. Trump’s accounts — for example, by demanding payment of a delinquent loan — they could provoke the president’s wrath. On the other hand, if they didn’t do anything, the bank could be perceived as cutting a lucrative break for Mr. Trump, whose administration wields regulatory and law enforcement power over the bank.
In the past few years, United States and European authorities have punished Deutsche Bank for helping clients, including wealthy Russians, launder funds and for moving money into countries like Iran in violation of American sanctions. The bank has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties and is operating under a Federal Reserve order that requires it to do more to stop illicit activities. On two palm-tree-lined campuses in Jacksonville, Deutsche Bank has thousands of employees who vet customers and transactions. Six current and former bank employees there said the operations were deeply troubled. Anti-money laundering workers were pressured to quickly sift through transactions to assess whether they were suspicious, the employees said. As a result, they often erred on the side of not flagging transactions. Two former employees said that they had raised concerns about transactions involving companies linked to prominent Russians, but that managers had told them not to file suspicious activity reports. The employees were under the impression that the bank did not want to upset important clients.
More articles on that Deutsche Bank money-laundering story are seen in these links, with excerpts below from the last link in this group:
President Trump’s lies come in a hundred varieties, from the trivial to the juvenile to the slanderous to the gruesome. But every once in a while he says something that sounds a lot like the kind of lie we’re used to hearing from other, more conventional politicians when they get caught doing something wrong and try to deny it. That’s what one has to conclude from the way he is reacting to the latest revelation about his weirdly suspicious relationship with Deutsche Bank. In case you haven’t followed this story, after a series of bankruptcies and the widening understanding in the finance world that you’d be crazy to loan money to him given his long track record as a liar and a con artist, by the late 1990s Trump found himself unable to get financing for projects from any U.S. bank. Deutsche Bank, then desperate to increase its business in the United States and with some flexible ideas about both risk and ethics, became the only bank that would lend to him.
So it isn’t just that Deutsche Bank was being dumb in loaning Trump money; this raises the question of whether there may have been money laundering going on. There have long been suspicions about Trump on this score, particularly because many of his properties have been favored destinations for Russian oligarchs and mobsters looking to move money out of their home country. And Deutsche Bank has in the past been a conduit for Russian money laundering, for which they have paid huge fines to regulators. Not only that, the fact that the transactions tagged by Deutsche Bank employees also involved the Trump Foundation is its own red flag, since that operation was essentially a scam from top to bottom.
The idea that banks were eager to loan money to Trump is simply a lie; the fact that he was shut out by all the major banks has been extensively reported. But the question it raises is: Why is Trump so freaked out by investigations into Deutsche Bank? You may recall that in April, he sued Deutsche Bank to try to force officials there not to comply with a congressional subpoena for records relating to his relationship with them. As I keep saying in different contexts, if the records he’s trying to keep secret actually showed nothing more than that he’s a successful and smart businessman, he’d be eager to make them public. The fact that he wants to keep them hidden is proof that there’s something suspicious going on.
When you look at the short span of President Trump’s political career, one question jumps out: How much of his craziest, most paranoid and norm-violating behavior is motivated by a desire to keep his financial arrangements secret? It began with Trump’s bizarre refusal to release his tax returns, in defiance of both a nearly half-century practice and Trump’s own promise that he’d do so. Then there was his refusal to divest from his sprawling multinational empire, or even put it into a blind trust — either of which would have forced at least some information disclosure to a third party. There were also the interviews and tweetstorms calling journalists who report on his finances “enemies of the people,” and suggestions that federal officials who audit him are anti-Christian. As well as his implicit threat in 2017 that he would fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III if he crossed a “red line” by examining Trump’s personal financial dealings.
Also, his curious personnel priorities. Once it became clear that House Democrats would exercise their explicit statutory authority to get Trump’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service, Trump asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to prioritize confirmation of Trump’s IRS general counsel nominee ahead of confirmation of a new attorney general. This IRS general counsel pick, mind you, also happened to have previously advised the Trump Organization on tax issues. Trump’s treasury secretary has also been spending so much time safeguarding Trump’s tax returns, in violation of that explicit statute, that the activity is reportedly crowding out his day job. All of which raises the question: Why exactly is Trump (and the rest of his administration) expending so much energy and political capital to keep these documents hidden? What could possibly be so disturbing or incriminating to justify such an effort?
One theory is that, maybe, if Trump’s tax returns or other financial records become public, his supporters would learn that he’s not nearly as rich as he says. Another is that his finances are not exactly on the up and up. Of course, both explanations could be true. Thanks to dogged reporting from the New York Times, we know that Trump lost more than $1 billion over a decade beginning in 1985, more than nearly any other taxpayer in the country. We know that he inherited a fortune from his father — including through legally questionable tax dodges — but frittered much of that fortune away. We also know, thanks to other matters of public record — including testimony from the president’s own former attorney, as well as a sworn deposition from Trump himself — that Trump has inflated his net worth when it suited him.
So yes, whatever information Trump’s financial documents reveal about his actual net worth could potentially undermine the core tenet of his sales pitch to his voters. But what he might be a wee bit more worried about relates to the other red flags raised over the years. Issues such as: Why international transactions involving multiple Deutsche Bank accounts controlled by Trump set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect money laundering and other financial crimes, as the Times reported Sunday. Or why Trump purchased a house for $40 million and flipped it for more than twice that amount in a sale to a Russian oligarch, another transaction that might raise suspicions of money laundering. Or why, about a decade ago, the self-proclaimed “King of Debt” suddenly began making huge, all-cash real estate purchases, including of money-losing golf courses. Debt is highly tax-advantaged in real estate finance. The fact that Trump went on a cash spending spree while interest rates were near zero is fishy at best. Not least because a golf reporter said Trump’s son Eric told him that the organization wasn’t borrowing from banks because it had “all the funding we need out of Russia.” (Eric Trump later denied making the statement.)
We don’t know what Trump is working so hard to hide, but we have a lot of hints. They’re all troubling. Which is precisely why it’s so important that Congress — as part of its constitutionally mandated oversight duties — conduct a forensic audit of Trump’s worldwide financial dealings. That means learning whom he’s been getting money from, whom he owes money to, and what individuals or entities could be using financial influence to exert pressure over policy. Almost as troubling as whatever it is Trump is trying to hide: Why do all those supposed national security hawks in Trump’s party exhibit so little curiosity about the answers?
There’s a whole lot going on with the numerous investigations, & a lot more signs of criminal activities yet to be revealed: thinkprogress.org/new-court-
See these excerpts from washingtonpost.com/opinions/
The voice mail was from John Dowd, President Trump’s former personal lawyer who, according to The Post, “tried to learn whether Flynn had any problematic information about the president after Flynn’s attorney signaled his client might begin cooperating with Mueller’s investigators.” The kicker: “In one of the previously redacted filings released Thursday, prosecutors said Flynn described multiple episodes in which ‘he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the Administration or Congress that could have affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation.’ ” This may be the most significant revelation since we learned of the president’s efforts to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Even Attorney General William P. Barr conceded in his infamous memo to the Justice Department, “Obviously, the President and any other official can commit obstruction in this classic sense of sabotaging a proceeding’s truth-finding function. Thus, for example, if a President knowingly destroys or alters evidence, suborns perjury, or induces a witness to change testimony, or commits any act deliberately impairing the integrity or availability of evidence, then he, like anyone else, commits the crime of obstruction.” Barr also told Senate Judiciary Committee members during his confirmation hearing that it would be illegal for a president to coach a witness or persuade a witness to change testimony.
How big a deal is this? “It appears to support the mounting evidence uncovered by Mueller that Trump’s lawyers, and presumably Trump himself (unless his lawyers were on an unauthorized mission of their own, which seems most unlikely), were committing the felony of witness tampering,” constitutional lawyer Laurence H. Tribe tells me. “And the subject matter — what we were conceding to our Russian adversaries — went to the core of our national security. So it seems like a very big deal indeed.” Even if we are not talking about criminal liability, the episode points to Trump’s unfitness for office. Former prosecutor Joyce White Vance tells me, “Knowing that the President’s lawyers sought to discourage Flynn from cooperating with prosecutors underscores how fundamentally flawed this presidency is. Mob bosses try to keep their associates from helping law enforcement uncover crimes, not presidents.” Recall that in the articles of impeachment that were drawn up against President Richard M. Nixon, “approving, condoning, acquiescing in, and counselling witnesses with respect to the giving of false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States and false or misleading testimony in duly instituted judicial and congressional proceedings” was included in Article I. The revelation notes that Flynn received communications from someone connected to the administration or to Congress. Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman, tells me, “These revelations make clear just how important it is that Congress get all of the materials underlying the Mueller report. We already knew that one of Trump’s attorneys had tried to dissuade Flynn from cooperating, but the news that someone connected to Congress did so as well raises questions both for Congress’s own internal ethics process and for the public.” Miller adds, “We need to know who that was and what they did.”
We should focus on three main takeaways from the new information. First, Barr’s redactions should now come under severe scrutiny. What else has the attorney general hidden, and why? The House now has even more reason to obtain the entire report and to obtain Mueller’s testimony. Second, this direct evidence of witness tampering calls into doubt Barr’s conclusion that there was no obstruction. Tribe notes, “Barr’s self-contradictions are piling up around him. Just when it seems his once-estimable reputation as a straight-shooter couldn’t be any more thoroughly ground down, it goes through the shredder yet again.” And third, this incident points to the urgency of hearings in which evidence of Trump’s misconduct is laid out for the public. It is one thing to be told there is evidence the president’s lawyer contacted Flynn; it’s another to read his exact words and hear his voice. No wonder Trump now frantically tries to stop further proceedings. The more we know, the shakier his grip on the presidency appears.
Trump, His Party & His Echo simply have No Scruples
The GOP has become so corrupted even to the point of turning into a maniacal cult for a demagogue, so at this stage the party is likely unsalvageable:
With the outlandish conspiratorial lies increasingly having no boundaries, found in excerpts from nytimes.com/2019/05/17/
President Trump offered a preview last week of his 2020 campaign tactics, and they were ugly. He intends to use the power of the presidency to harass his political opponents and create an air of scandal around them. By doing so, he hopes to make at least some voters believe that all politicians are equally corrupt rather than recognizing that Trump himself is the most corrupt president in a long, long time. Specifically, Trump signaled that he might ask the Attorney General William Barr to investigate Joe Biden’s past dealings with Ukraine. In the same vein, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, said he wanted to ask Ukraine’s government for help in the investigation.
“On its face, there is nothing illegal here. Trump is leveraging his power as president to compel a dependent foreign government to smear the opposition party,” Jonathan Chait wrote in New York magazine. “It’s just something no president has ever thought to do before. The powers legally available to a corrupt president and a party that has turned a blind eye to his violations of governing norms may be more terrifying than anybody has considered.” Or as my colleague Maureen Dowd put it: “A president who has spent two years battling accusations that he colluded with a foreign power to fix the 2016 election manages to wriggle off the hook. Just three weeks later, his lawyer unveils their 2020 plan: to collude with a foreign power to fix the election.” But reality has never been a precondition for Trump’s public claims. So expect him — and Giuliani and Sean Hannity — to keep pushing the Ukraine story. And if Biden’s candidacy starts to fade, expect dark conspiracies about the new frontrunners.
Trump has been a lifelong con man with a proven pattern in his business career of often cheating people, so we can’t expect him to change now (Our picture at the top shows Trumpenstein):
A Couple of Scumbags
Matt Gaetz & Jim Jordan; two of the most despicably repugnant thugs to ever serve in Congress. As delusional radical-right conspiracy mongers, Joseph McCarthy has got nothing on these guys. They’ve recently hit the news as seen inside these links with some potential legal troubles, entirely predictable for such corrupt liars constantly spreading their inane propaganda. Congress & America would be a better place the day either is removed from office: