Lost in the Sauce: Trump Tower inflated profits to obtain larger loan…again

Welcome to Lost in the Sauce, keeping you caught up on political and legal news that often gets buried in distractions and theater… or a global health crisis.

TOMORROW: I’m going to post a keep_track look at issues involved in police brutality, prosecution of cops, protests, etc.

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Russia

The U.S. National Security Agency says the same Russian military hacking group that interfered in the 2016 presidential election has been exploiting a major email server program since last August or earlier. The NSA might have issued an advisory to publicize the IP addresses and a domain name used by the Russian military group, known as Sandworm, in its hacking campaign — in hopes of thwarting their use for other means.

A Russian oligarch is reportedly backing an effort to smear Biden and states he is working with the Trump administration to leak additional damaging material… The oligarch, Oleksandr Onyshchenko, gave tapes of Biden on a phone call with then Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to pro-Russia Ukrainian politician Andriy Derkach, who then leaked the tapes. The audio consisted of edited fragments of phone conversations from years ago when Biden joined other leaders in pressing for the ouster of Ukraine’s corrupt prosecutor general.

  • Derkach met with Rudy Giuliani last year. Onyshchenko worked with another Giuliani associate, Pavel Fuchs (also a co-developer of Trump’s Moscow Tower), to launder hundreds of millions in frozen Yanukovych assets bought from a Russian tycoon. Now, this same group of oligarchs tied to Trump and Giuliani are leaking tapes of unknown provenance to try to undermine a US political campaign.
  • Pro-Trump One America News Network wanted Onyshchenko to come to the US to help with Rudy’s disinformation campaign. OAN tried to help him get a visa to travel to the U.S.

Giuliani is also trying to raise $10 million to finance the production of a Biden-Ukraine documentary that can be released this year. Giuliani and his partners have considered the possibility of drawing in investors from overseas, raising the possibility that Giuliani is (again) attempting to orchestrate foreign involvement in the current presidential election.


Flynn-Kislyak transcripts

Last week, the DNI office released the transcripts of the December 2016 calls between former national security adviser Michael Flynn and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak… The transcripts confirm that Flynn lied to the FBI when he claimed that he had not discussed the sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration in response to Vladimir Putin’s attack on the 2016 election.

The transcripts show Flynn encouraged the Russians to not retaliate severely, suggesting that when Trump took office things between Moscow and Washington could be smoothed over… At no point does Flynn castigate Kislyak for Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election. As the Obama administration was trying to impose a punishment on Putin for that attack, Flynn, on behalf of the Trump gang, was sending an utterly different message: We don’t care about that.

  • In fact, Flynn was signaling to Putin that once Trump took office, Trump wouldn’t be pursuing the matter and, instead, would be reaching out to Russia as a partner. (A few months later, Trump, in the Oval Office, would tell Kislyak that directly.)

Kisylak argued that the Obama administration sanctions were aimed at damaging the incoming Trump administration just as much as they were the Kremlin… “I just wanted to tell you that we found that these actions have targeted not only against Russia, but also against the president elect,” said Kislyak, adding that he hopes “within two weeks we will be able to start working in [a] more constructive way.

Tidbit: Mueller’s team asked Trump a series of questions about Flynn’s calls with Kislyak; the president simply ignored them.

Tidbit: Flynn told Kislyak in December 2016 that “the boss” (Trump) was aware of Russia’s request to have a secure teleconference between Trump and Putin.


Personnel issues

The FBI’s top lawyer Dana Boente was asked to resign on Friday following criticism by Fox News for his role in the investigation of Flynn… Two sources familiar with the decision to dismiss Boente said it came from high levels of the Justice Department rather than directly from FBI Director Christopher Wray.

  • Before he moved to the FBI General Counsel job, Boente was the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia—the last US Attorney appointed by President Obama to leave office during the Trump era.

Trump’s given reason for firing the State Dept. Inspector General last month was proven to be a false pretense… Trump claimed he was fired for leaking to the media when, in fact, IG Steve Linick was cleared earlier this year by an independent investigation. Pompeo recommended Linick’s removal at a time when the office was investigating multiple instances of abuse of power by the Secretary of State.

Members of three House and Senate committees will interview former State Department Inspector General Steve Linick on Wednesday, as part of an investigation into his abrupt firing. Linick will speak to members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee behind closed-doors.

  • The committees also plan to call Brian Bulatao, undersecretary of State for management; Lisa Kenna, Pompeo’s executive secretary; senior adviser Toni Porter; Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper; former Deputy Assistant Secretary Marik String, a legal adviser to the department; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Political-Military Affairs Mike Miller; and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Charles Faulkner.

Mike Pompeo’s CIA advisory board rankled agency veterans… As CIA director, Pompeo and his wife Susan organized an undisclosed board of outside advisers while he was director of CIA that some at the agency viewed as inappropriately weighted toward wealthy individuals and well-connected political figures.

Op-Ed: Mike Pompeo Is the Worst Secretary of State Ever. The F.B.I. said a Saudi Air Force trainee who killed three U.S. sailors and wounded eight others at a Navy air base in Pensacola, Fla., on Dec. 6 was an act of foreign-planned “terrorism.” …That sort of intelligence failure — the first foreign-planned terrorist attack on U.S. shores since 9/11 — is something you’d expect Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to be particularly upset about… He just smirks and marches on. But every American should care. The morale and effectiveness of our State Department — and our standing in the world — are both the worse for him.

Last week we learned that the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general exaggerated his credentials… Joseph Cuffari’s official government bio claims “Dr. Cuffari earned a Ph.D. in philosophy,” but new reporting revealed that his degree is from an unaccredited “diploma mill” that required no classroom instruction and issued degrees for low flat fees. Additionally, the Ph.D. is in management, not philosophy.


Congress

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday about the origins of the Russia probe. “Mr. Rosenstein will testify about the new revelations contained in the Horowitz report concerning the FISA warrant applications and other matters,” Chairman Lindsey Graham said in a statement. “This will be the first in a series of oversight hearings regarding all things Crossfire Hurricane and the Mueller investigation.”

  • Reminder: After Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein begged for his job, reportedly trying to assure President Trump that he was on his team. “I give the investigation credibility,” Rosenstein[said on a call with Trump. “I can land the plane.”

Top Republicans are suing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over new proxy voting plans that will allow some members of the House to vote from home amid the coronavirus pandemic. The decision to allow proxy voting was approved by the House earlier this month, largely along party lines, and is only temporary.

House Republican introduces bill to hold up members’ pay if they vote by proxy… Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.), who is leading the effort, said: “Outsourcing the duty of a member of Congress is unconstitutional and wrong. House members should not be allowed to send someone else to do their jobs for them.”

Last week, Trump unexpectedly withdrew his support from a FISA reauthorization bill, leading Republicans to abandon the proposal and the House to pull a vote on the legislation. However, as Rep. Justin Amash pointed out, in 2018 Trump himself signed into law the long-contentious spying authority he recently began railing against.


Judicial news

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham urges senior judges to step aside before the November election so Republicans can fill vacancies… Graham said:

“This is a historic opportunity. We’ve put over 200 federal judges on the bench. … If you can get four more years, I mean, it would change the judiciary for several generations. So if you’re a circuit judge in your mid-60s, late 60s, you can take senior status, now would be a good time to do that, if you want to make sure the judiciary is right of center…”

  • Op-Ed: Should Trump lose, you can bet that the day after, McConnell will be on the phone to the White House Counsel’s Office demanding that they nominate someone for every vacant seat, ASAP. It won’t matter who — somebody’s neighbor, somebody’s nephew (there isn’t even a requirement that judges be lawyers) — so long as they’re committed conservatives, and as young as possible so they can serve for decades

Democratic lawmakers are scrutinizing one of President Donald Trump’s outside advisors and his multimillion-dollar “dark money” network for rigging the judicial nomination process… The Senate Democrats’ report details how an interlocked group of anonymous donors has been directing the judicial nominations process through media and lobbying campaigns. Leading this effort is allegedly Leonard Leo and his conservative organization, the Federalist Society.

The Supreme Court late Friday rejected a California church’s challenge of the state’s new pandemic-related rules on worship services, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s liberals in the 5-to-4 vote… Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s dissent falsely accused the state of religious discrimination in an extremely misleading opinion that omits the most important facts of the case. Roberts went out of his way to scold Kavanaugh’s dishonest vilification of the state.


Immigration

DOJ memo offered to buy out immigration board members… The buyouts were only offered to Board of Immigration Appeals members hired before Trump took office. Critics view the move as an effort to push out the civil servants on the board and stack it with new hires who would align with the Trump administration’s restrictive immigration agenda.

An immigrant woman sued a private prison company on Wednesday alleging she was raped inside an ICE detention center in Texas that resulted in her giving birth to her attacker’s daughter. The woman, identified in the complaint as Jane Doe, was detained at the Houston Processing Center, operated by CoreCivic.

The Trump administration is accelerating efforts to seize private property for Trump’s border wall, taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to survey land while its owners are confined indoors. However, landowners are largely fighting the effort in court. Since December, the administration has obtained only seven miles of land.

Family separation returns under cover of the coronavirus… Citing the coronavirus to seal the border, the Trump administration is engaged in a pressure campaign against immigrant parents to get them to give up either their kids or their legal claims to protection in the U.S.


Trump corruption

Trump Tower’s 2010 Profits Magically Grew By $3 Million In New Loan Filings. One set of reports listed the tower’s 2010 profits as $13.3 million; a second put them at $16.1 million. That helped the Trump Organization borrow $73 million more than it had before.

Trump Towers Istanbul partner lobbied the president and White House cabinet to sizably boost trade with Turkey in response to the novel coronavirus. Asked whether the president performed favors for a business associate, a senior White House official emphasized the longstanding trade relationship with Turkey, a NATO ally.

Lawmakers urge Trump to cancel DC’s July 4 event… “Given the current COVID-19 crisis, we believe such an event would needlessly risk the health and safety of thousands of Americans,” the lawmakers wrote. “Further, this event would come at the cost of millions of taxpayer dollars while we are facing an unprecedented economic downturn due to the pandemic,” they added.

The Republican National Committee held its winter meeting in January at Trump’s struggling Doral golf resort, giving Trump more than half a million dollars from the RNC and 13 state GOP committees. The state Republican party committees of West Virginia, Texas, Connecticut, Minnesota, Iowa, North Carolina, Alabama, Colorado, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Georgia, and Wyoming all contributed to the massive tab.

Trump’s Spent Nearly $20 Million on Lawyers to Carry Out His Political Vendettas… A large part of recent spending is aimed at curbing mail-in voting.

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