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Letitia James" office stressed it has "substantial" evidence from an investigation that Trump wants to end

"Substantial" evidence against the Trump Organization "could support the filing of an enforcement proceeding," the New York AG's office said Friday. New York Attorney General Letitia James and former President Donald Trump.Associated Press Lawyers for Trump and New York's attorney general clashed in federal court on Friday. The attorney general's office said the inquiry into the Trump Organization was "totally appropriate." Trump has called the investigation a "witch hunt" and sued in federal court to shut it down. Investigators in New York pushed back against former President Donald Trump's bid to stop the three-year inquiry into his namesake business, saying they'd collected a "substantial amount of evidence" that could support an enforcement action against the Trump Organization."There's clearly been a substantial amount of evidence amassed that could support the filing of an enforcement proceeding, although the final determination on filing that proceeding has yet to be made," Andrew Amer, a New York assistant attorney general, said during an hourlong court hearing Friday in Albany, New York.Attorney General Letitia James of New York had previously said that her office "uncovered significant evidence that suggests Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefit."Amer's remarks, attesting to the scope of the evidence against Trump, came as the attorney general's office defended the investigation against a legal attack from the former president in federal court.Trump sued James last year in a longshot bid to halt her office's civil inquiry, arguing that the New York attorney general's past comments showed the investigation was politically motivated. In court papers and his own public statements, Trump has deployed a familiar label for the investigation: "witch hunt."Arguing Friday in Albany, Amer said the investigation commenced not out of political animus but in response to the congressional testimony of Michael Cohen, the former Trump lawyer and fixer who called the former president a "con man" and a "cheat" in a 2019 appearance before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.Amer said it was "totally appropriate" for James' office to have opened the investigation on those grounds.The hearing unfolded just days after a New York Supreme Court justice lifted a contempt order against Trump in connection with the state attorney general's investigation. Judge Arthur F. Engoron held Trump in contempt last month after finding that the former president had failed to comply with a December subpoena from James' office seeking records from his personal files.As a condition of lifting the contempt order, Engoron ordered Trump to pay $110,000 — the total he accrued from his $10,000 daily fines. Engoron threatened to reimpose the contempt order if Trump did not meet the conditions by May 20.On Friday, Amer said Engoron "has repeatedly found that the investigation is lawful." Amer said Trump's lawsuit, filed in the federal trial court in Albany, called for an inappropriate intervention in a state-court action.The case involves "a subpoena enforcement action brought in the state court against an ordinary citizen and nothing more," he said.Amer said the volume of evidence, combined with the state judge's past rulings, "really shuts the door" on Trump's arguments for ending the investigation.Judge Brenda Sannes, a 2014 appointee to the federal bench, did not issue an immediate ruling.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 13th, 2022

Letitia James" office stressed it has "substantial" evidence from an investigation that Donald Trump wants to end

"Substantial" evidence against the Trump Organization "could support the filing of an enforcement proceeding," the New York AG's office said Friday. New York Attorney General Letitia James and former President Donald Trump.Associated Press Lawyers for Trump and the New York attorney general clashed in federal court on Friday. The New York AG's office said the inquiry into the Trump Organization is "totally appropriate." Trump has called the investigation a "witch hunt" and sued in federal court to shut it down. Investigators in New York pushed back against former President Donald Trump's bid to stop the three-year inquiry into his namesake business, saying they've collected a "substantial amount of evidence" that could support an enforcement action against the Trump Organization."There's clearly been a substantial amount of evidence amassed that could support the filing of an enforcement proceeding, although the final determination on filing that proceeding has yet to be made," New York Assistant Attorney General Andrew Amer said during an hourlong court hearing Friday in Albany, New York.New York Attorney General Letitia James had previously said that her office "uncovered significant evidence that suggests Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefit."But Amer's remarks, attesting to the scope of the evidence against Trump, came as the attorney general's office defended the investigation against a legal attack from the former president in federal court.Trump sued James last year in a Hail Mary bid to halt her office's civil inquiry, arguing that the New York attorney general's past comments showed that the investigation was politically motivated. In court papers and his own public statements, Trump has deployed a now-familiar label for the investigation: "witch hunt."Arguing Friday in Albany, assistant New York attorney general Andrew Amer said the investigation commenced not out of political animus but rather in response to the congressional testimony of Michael Cohen, the former Trump lawyer and fixer, who called the former president a "con man" and a "cheat" in a 2019 appearance before the House Oversight Committee.Amer said it was "totally appropriate" for James' office to have opened the investigation on those grounds. The hearing unfolded just days after a New York state Supreme Court justice lifted a contempt order against Trump in connection with the state attorney general's investigation. The state judge, Arthur F. Engoron, held Trump in contempt last month after finding that the former president had failed to comply with a December subpoena from James' office seeking records from his personal files.As a condition of lifting the contempt order, Engoron ordered Trump to pay $110,000 — the total he accrued from his $10,000 daily fines. Engoron threatened to reimpose the contempt order if Trump did not meet the conditions by May 20.Referring to Engoron on Friday, Amer said the state Supreme Court justice "has repeatedly found that the investigation is lawful." Amer said Trump's lawsuit, filed in the federal trial court in Albany, called for an inappropriate intervention in a state court action.The case involves "a subpoena enforcement action brought in the state court against an ordinary citizen and nothing more," he said.Amer said the volume of evidence, combined with the state judge's past rulings, "really shuts the door" on Trump's arguments for ending the investigation.Judge Brenda Sannes, a 2014 appointee to the federal bench, did not issue an immediate ruling.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 13th, 2022

Vomiting, fighting, and breaking a child"s swing: Inside the details of Sue Gray"s partygate report

Sue Gray's long-awaited report into partygate lifted the lid on the raucous behaviour in Number 10 during England's COVID-19 lockdowns. Boris Johnson gives a toast at the part thrown during one of England's lockdowns.ITV News Sue Gray's long-awaited report lifts the lid on multiple parties that took place during lockdowns. People drank so much they were sick, got into fights, and broke a child's swing, the report said. Gray blamed "failures of leadership and judgment in No 10 and the Cabinet Office". The long-awaited investigation into Prime Minister Boris Johnson and so-called partygate released on Wednesday, lifting the lid on some of the the raucous behaviour in 10 Downing Street during England's COVID-19 lockdowns.The report by Sue Gray, a senior civil servant, called for senior leadership at Downing Street to "bear responsibility" for a culture in which rule-breaking was allowed to develop. It also said there was "no excuse for some of the behaviour" uncovered during the course of the probe. Her report lifts the lid on booze-fuelled behaviour that led to people throwing up, getting into fights and breaking property. Gray blamed "failures of leadership and judgment in No 10 and the Cabinet Office", although she did not name Johnson or other individuals specifically. However, she said that "some of the more junior civil servants believed that their involvement in some of these events was permitted given the attendance of senior leaders", adding: "The senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility for this culture."'Somewhat of a comms risk'The report includes communication between some of the people who organised events, such as the infamous bring-your-own-booze garden party, which was pulled together by Johnson's then-personal private secretary Martin Reynolds. Although Reynolds was thought to have instigated the event, various emails and messages show that other aides were involved before he sent an email out, including a discussion about how to get alcohol — which led to staff being asked to supply their own. The message was also sent to the office of the Cabinet Secretary. Johnson attended the event for around half an hour, the report said.The messages also suggest that attendees were aware the gathering was not strictly within the rules, as one notes the timing was close to the scheduled press conference, and it would be "helpful if people can be mindful of that as speakers and cameras are leaving, not walking around wavingbottles of wine etc".Reynolds replied: "Will do my best!"'We seem to have got away with [it]'It also reveals a subsequent message between Reynolds and other Number 10 aide, referring to an unknown incident as "a complete non story but better than them focusing on our drinks (which we seem to have got away with)".It appears relatively few people shied away from the invite, with just one unnamed Number 10 director saying they had told Reynolds it was not a good idea. Lee Cain, then-director of communications, emailed Reynolds saying it was "somewhat of a comms risk in the current environment", although adds: "I'm sure it will be fine."There is no evidence that Dominic Cummings, former chief advisor to Johnson, raised objections to it, although he has previously said he did. Vomiting, fighting and breaking propertyCommunications around other events are also laid bare in excruciating detail, with Cain yet again warning of a "substantial comms risk" for a leaving party held in June 2020, involving pizza and karaoke, which got so rowdy that one member of staff was sick. There was also "a minor altercation" between two individuals, the report says. That event ended after 3am.Another alcohol-fuelled event, with around 45 attendees, left a child's swing damaged, the report said.There was no mention of a suitcase being used to bring alcohol onto the premises, although the report notes that wine and beer had been bought by attendees.Alcohol was drunk "until the early hours", with the last staff member leaving at 4:20 a.m. at that event, the report said.Leaving drinks for Cain and CummingsLeaving drinks for the two senior aides "was not pre-planned", and took place at the same time as "wine time Fridays", the report notes. Johnson gave a leaving speech for Cain, and drank alcohol along with other attendees. Multiple pictures were taken of the event, which were leaked to ITV News earlier this week. Gray says she did not investigate further after handing evidence over to the Metropolitan Police. Details of this event, and the so-called Abba party which supposedly took place in the Downing Street flat on the same evening, are limited. Disrespect to cleaners – who were left to sort the messBeyond the various parties, the report is also critical of a culture of poor behaviour towards support staff. Gray says she learned of "multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment of security and cleaning staff", adding: "This was unacceptable."The senior civil servant said she backs changes that have been introduced subsequently, allowing people to make complaints electronically, which she said she hoped would "truly embed a culture that welcomes and creates opportunities for challenge and speaking up at all levels".Although staff are described as having stayed late to tidy up after several events, cleaners were left to scrub red wine off the walls in at least one instance, the report says.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 25th, 2022

Manhattan DA"s office says Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg can"t just blame Michael Cohen to get his criminal charges dismissed

Trump Org gave Weisselberg fringe benefits like rent and school tuition far beyond the "turkey for the holidays" of other companies, prosecutors said. Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg looks on as then-U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke during a 2016 news conference at Trump Tower in Manhattan.Carlo Allegri/Reuters/File Photo The Manhattan DA's office asked a judge to make sure charges against the Trump Organization and CFO Allen Weisselberg stick. They said a grudge held by Michael Cohen isn't what spurred the investigation. Prosecutors conceded that one of the 15-counts in the indictment was filed too late. Prosecutors for the Manhattan District Attorney's office have asked a New York judge to reject arguments from the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg to dismiss the pending criminal indictments against them.In a 129-page court filing made public Monday, they argue that Weisselberg's and the company's claims don't pass legal muster and misrepresent the role that Michael Cohen, a former company executive and personal lawyer for Donald Trump, played in the investigation."This case, at its core, is ordinary," prosecutors wrote in the filing. "The Indictment is based on criminal tax evasion that took place in New York County and is of the sort this Office regularly prosecutes."Prosecutors brought the 15-count criminal grand jury indictment in July, alleging Weisselberg and the Trump Organization fashioned a scheme that permitted him to avoid taxes on $1.7 million worth of income.The new filing offers the most extensive look yet into the Manhattan DA probe of Trump's billion-dollar real estate and golf course business. But it focuses only on the alleged executive payroll scheme. For Weisselberg — the only Trump executive charged — those income-tax-free payments allegedly included tuition for his grandkids, the use of luxury Trump apartments, and his-and-her Mercedes Benzes for him and his wife over the course of more than 15 years, the indictment said.The top charge, second-degree grand larceny, alleges that by collecting some of his pay in undeclared gifts, Weisselberg saved — and thereby stole — $900,000 in federal income taxes since 2005. The charge carries anywhere from zero jail time to 15 years in prison."Allen Weisselberg violated the basic imperative that all New Yorkers faithfully report and pay tax on their income," prosecutors wrote in the new filing, originally submitted to court on Friday but not made public until now. "While such self-reporting typically is verified by an employer's tax reporting procedures, in this case, Defendants corrupted those procedures."Prosecutors say a Bloomberg investigation, not Michael Cohen, triggered the chargesLawyers for Weisselberg and the company asked the judge overseeing the case in February to dismiss the charges. They argued that the case was a politically motivated "selective prosecution," and that it was improperly spurred by Cohen, who they argued had a "vendetta" against Weisselberg. Cohen has held a grudge against Weisselberg ever since the CFO provided grand jury testimony that led federal prosecutors to bring charges against him in 2018, for an unrelated scheme, they said.The new response from prosecutors redacts Cohen's name, as well as the name of Allen Weisselberg's former daughter-in-law Jennifer Weisselberg, keeping in the practice of keeping grand jury evidence under seal. Both Cohen and Jennifer Weisselberg, however, have previously told Insider they testified before grand jurors in the case numerous times, and their identities are clear in the new filing despite the redactions.In a new filing, Assistant District Attorney Solomon Shinerock laid out a different sequence of events.Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney and fixer, arrives at federal court for his sentencing hearing, December 12, 2018 in New York City.Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty ImagesThe Manhattan DA's office already had an ongoing, unrelated investigation into the Trump Organization, Shinerock wrote. Cohen told investigators in September 2019 that Jennifer Weisselberg told him about "cash, school tuition, and housing provided by the Trump Organization" to her and her former husband, though prosecutors didn't look into those issues at the time, according to Shinerock. It was only after a set of articles published by Bloomberg in November 2020 about those untaxed benefits, using Jennifer Weisselberg as a source, that prosecutors looked into it, Shinerock wrote."As set forth in the Shinerock Affirmation, a Bloomberg article published nearly two and a half years after Weisselberg's testimony prompted the Office to expand an existing investigation to include the conduct for which Weisselberg now stands indicted," the Monday filing said.The Manhattan DA's motion said that Weisselberg's leaps of logic about the roots of the investigation are simply wrong."Weisselberg asks the Court to assume that his 2018 testimony led to [Cohen's] federal indictment; that [Cohen] was angry at him, or at least needed to provide evidence against him to obtain a more favorable federal sentence; and in turn, that [Cohen] caused the Office to investigate Weisselberg's crimes underlying this Indictment and provided some unspecified information that was somehow used in the Investigation," prosecutors wrote.The Manhattan DA's office conceded that one charge should be droppedThe prosecutors agreed that the fourth charge, for criminal tax evasion, should be dropped against Weisselberg, conceding that they missed the statutory deadline, but they argued it should stick with regard to the Trump Organization.They also alleged that the charges are much more substantial than a "fringe benefits" case that the defense lawyers have described. The intermingling of personal and business finances, they said, remains "unusual.""The nature and magnitude of the non-cash compensation employees received under the indicted scheme — the payment of rent, utilities, and garage expenses at luxury apartment buildings, private school tuition for family members, leases for luxury cars for both employees and their spouses, large amounts of unreported cash, and ad hoc expenses such as electronics and furniture — are entirely different than the typical fringe benefit such as a turkey for the holidays," they argued.The Trump Organization's Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, center, awaits a car after leaving a courtroom appearance in New York, Monday, Sept. 20, 2021.AP Photo/Craig RuttleThe filing makes no mention of additional defendants or charges. Strings left tantalizingly dangling in the original Trump Organization-Weisselberg indictment remain at loose ends.Lacking are any references to 0ther Trump Organization executives who also "devised and operated" the scheme, as alleged in the indictment. Yet the filing breathes new life into the Manhattan DA's investigation, which had appeared to be winding down ever since Alvin Bragg took over as Manhattan District Attorney in January.Insider previously reported that, by last year, the Manhattan DA's 3-year probe into the Trump Organization had focused tightly on potential criminal charges against former President Donald Trump himself.After that effort ground to a stop in February, there was little teed up in the way of other targets or charges, sources had said.A separate, parallel investigation, spearheaded by New York Attorney General Letitia James, has appeared to gain steam in recent weeks.During a recent court hearing, a lawyer from James' office said the New York attorney general had collected a "substantial" amount of evidence that could support a civil enforcement action. The comment came as the New York attorney general's office fended off a bid by Trump's legal team to end the three-year inquiry into the financial practices of the Trump Organization.Defending the validity of the investigation, assistant New York attorney general Andrew Amer said the inquiry arose not out of any political animus against Trump but rather out of the congressional testimony of Michael Cohen, the former Trump lawyer and fixer who called the former president a "con man" and a "cheat" in a 2019 appearance before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.New York State Attorney General Letitia James attends Wreath Laying ceremony on Veterans Day on Madison Square Park. In 2020 the ceremony and following parade were canceled because of COVID-19 pandemic. The nation's largest celebration of veterans in the largest city in America once again was held in person on Veterans Day.Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty ImagesJames said in January that her office had "uncovered significant evidence that suggests Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefit."Lawyers for Trump have argued on both fronts that the attorney general's and district attorney's investigations have been politically motivated and unfairly intermingled, since some of James's lawyers have been cross-designated to work on the DA case.The Monday filing, too, rejects that argument, saying James has no power to shape the DA investigation."This Office did not seek input from AG James, nor was she ever a decision maker on the case in any capacity," prosecutors wrote.Trump recently paid a $110,000 fine after a New York state judge found him in contempt for failing to turn over records to James' office.Payment of the fine was one of several conditions New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron set for lifting the contempt order against Trump.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMay 23rd, 2022

Trump"s campaign committee dodges penalty as federal watchdog deadlocks on complaint it laundered hundreds of millions of dollars

The ruling by the Federal Election Commission, which the agency has not yet made public, does not offer reasons for the bipartisan body's decision. Insider reported in December 2020 that Jared Kushner, helped create a shell company that secretly paid President Trump's family members and spent $617 million in reelection cash.Andrew Harnik/AP Photo The Federal Election Commission has "evenly divided" on a case involving Donald Trump's 2020 re-election committee. A complaint alleged that Trump's campaign hid the true sources of its payments. Trump continues to face significant legal peril in other realms. Federal regulators have deadlocked on a complaint that Donald Trump's 2020 White House campaign laundered hundreds of millions of dollars in spending through corporate entities closely tied to the ex-president and his family, according to a ruling document obtained by Insider.The ruling by the Federal Election Commission, which the agency has not yet made public, does not offer reasons for the bipartisan body's decision on an arrangement detailed in late 2020 by Insider. The six-member commission was "equally divided" on several legal questions it considered, according to a letter it sent Monday to the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, which had filed a formal complaint.Had the FEC ruled against the Trump campaign, Trump's committee could have faced significant fines. The Campaign Legal Center alleged that the Trump campaign routed funds through two firms — American Made Media Consultants and Parscale Strategy — to conceal its spending in the 2020 presidential election. The Trump campaign, it further contended, had failed to keep an "arm's length relationship" with American Made Media Consultants, citing Insider's reporting in December 2020 that Jared Kushner, the then-president's son-in-law and advisor, helped create a shell company that secretly paid the president's family members and spent $617 million in reelection cash.In the complaint, the Campaign Legal Center said Trump's campaign funneled millions of dollars to American Made Media Consultants and Parscale Strategy, which then paid sub-vendors. In addition to Kushner's involvement, the lawsuit notes Insider's reporting that American Made Media Consultants' board included family members of Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence. The other firm, Parscale Strategy, is run by former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.The Campaign Legal Center filed an initial complaint in July 2020 and a supplement to its complaint in January 2021, following Insider's reporting on Trump's campaign operations.In March, the Campaign Legal Center sued the FEC in federal court, alleging that the commission was slow-walking its complaint against Trump's operation."The FEC is responsible for protecting voters' right to know how politicians are raising and spending money, but the FEC has abdicated its responsibilities for years — particularly when it comes to enforcing the law against the Trump campaign — so the FEC's deadlock over the campaign's massive concealment scheme is shameful but not surprising," Adav Noti, the Campaign Legal Center's vice president and legal director, told Insider.A Trump spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment on the latest FEC ruling. The FEC did not immediately respond to an inquiry.More legal trouble for TrumpAn adverse ruling from the Federal Election Commission would have only added to Trump's legal woes.Democratic Reps. Ted Lieu of California and Kathleen Rice of New York in December 2020 had asked both the FBI and FEC to investigate the shell company created by Kushner, in response to Insider's investigation. They argued that Trump's campaign may have violated laws barring the spending of campaign cash for personal use and public disclosure requirements when it spent its money through American Made Media Consultants.Separately, Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat of Wisconsin, wrote in a December 2020 letter to then-Attorney General Bill Barr and then-FEC Chairman Trey Trainor: "If Mr. Kushner's American Made Media Consultants did in fact spend $617 million as reported, he and his associates — which include additional Trump family members as well as the Vice President's nephew — could face penalties amounting to more than one billion dollars."Trainor, one of three Trump-nominated commissioners currently on the FEC, worked as a lawyer in service of Trump's 2016 re-election effort.In New York, Trump is facing investigations into his namesake business, with the Manhattan district attorney and the state attorney general mounting parallel inquiries. While the district attorney's investigation appears to be winding down, the New York Attorney General Letitia James' office has repeatedly signaled in recent months that it has a bounty of evidence against the Trump Organization.During a court hearing Friday, an assistant New York attorney general said James' office had amassed a "substantial amount of evidence" that could support an enforcement action against against Trump's business. James had previously stated that her office has "uncovered significant evidence that suggests Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefit."Trump is also facing continued scrutiny over his conduct in the White House. The New York Times reported last week that federal prosecutors have opened a grand jury investigation examining whether classified White House documents taken to Trump's home in Florida were mishandled. That inquiry stems from the National Archive's discovery that, at the end of his four-year term, Trump took 15 boxes from the White House that contained government documents, mementos, gifts and letters.Meanwhile, the special House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol has been preparing for public hearings that are likely to address Trump's conduct leading up to the insurrection. The House panel recently subpoenaed five Republican lawmakers, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, all of whom are close allies of the former president.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytMay 16th, 2022

Greenwald: The Demented - And Selective - Game Of Instantly Blaming Political Opponents For Mass Shootings

Greenwald: The Demented - And Selective - Game Of Instantly Blaming Political Opponents For Mass Shootings Authored by Glenn Greenwald via greenwald.substack.com, At a softball field in a Washington, DC suburb on June 14, 2017, a lone gunman used a rifle to indiscriminately spray bullets at members of the House GOP who had gathered for their usual Saturday morning practice for an upcoming charity game. The then-House Majority Whip, Rep. Steven Scalise (R-LA), was shot in the hip while standing on second base and almost died, spending six weeks in the hospital and undergoing multiple surgeries. Four other people were shot, including two members of the Capitol Police who were part of Scalise's security detail, a GOP staffer, and a Tyson Foods lobbyist. “He was hunting us at that point,” Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI) said of the shooter, who attempted to murder as many people as he could while standing with his rifle behind the dugout. Buffalo Police on scene at a Tops Friendly Market on May 14, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. At least 10 people were killed after a mass shooting at the store with the shooter in police custody. (Photo by John Normile/Getty Images) The shooter died after engaging the police in a shootout. He was James T. Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old hard-core Democrat who — less than six months into the Trump presidency — had sought to kill GOP lawmakers based on his belief that Republicans were corrupt traitors, fascists, and Kremlin agents. The writings he left behind permitted little doubt that he was driven to kill by the relentless messaging he heard from his favorite cable host, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, and other virulently anti-Trump pundits, about the evils of the GOP. Indeed, immediately after arriving at the softball field, he asked several witnesses whether the people gathered "were Republicans or Democrats.” A CNN examination of his life revealed that “Hodgkinson's online presence was largely defined by his politics.” In particular, “his public Facebook posts date back to 2012 and are nearly all about his support for liberal politics.” He was particularly "passionate about tax hikes on the rich and universal health care.” NBC News explained that “when he got angry about politics, it was often directed against Republicans,” and acknowledged that “Hodgkinson said his favorite TV program was 'The Rachel Maddow Show' on MSNBC.” Indeed, his media diet was a non-stop barrage of vehement animosity toward Republicans: "His favorite television shows were listed as 'Real Time with Bill Maher;' 'The Rachel Maddow Show;' 'Democracy Now!’ and other left-leaning programs.” On the Senate floor, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) divulged that Hodgkinson was an ardent supporter of his and had even “apparently volunteered” for his campaign. A Sanders supporter told The Washington Post that “he campaigned for Bernie Sanders with Hodgkinson in Iowa.” The mass-shooter had a particular fondness for Maddow's nightly MSNBC show. In his many Letters to the Editor sent to the Belleville News-Democrat, reported New York Magazine, he “expressed support for President Obama, and declared his love for The Rachel Maddow Show". In one letter he heralded Maddow's nightly program as "one of my favorite TV shows.” While consuming this strident and increasingly rage-driven Trump-era, anti-GOP media diet, Hodgkinson “joined several anti-GOP Facebook groups, including ‘Terminate The Republican Party’; 'The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans’;, and 'Join The Resistance Worldwide!!'" Two of his consuming beliefs were that Trump-era Republicans were traitors to the United States and fascist white nationalists. In 2015, he had posted a cartoon depicting Scalise — the man he came very close to murdering — as speaking at a gathering of the KKK. Once Trump was inaugurated in early 2017, the mass shooter's online messaging began increasingly mirroring the more extreme anti-Trump and anti-GOP voices that did not just condemn the GOP's ideology but depicted them as grave threats to the Republic. In a March 22 Facebook post, Hodgkinson wrote: “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It's Time to Destroy Trump & Co." In February, he posted: “Republicans are the Taliban of the USA.” In one Facebook post just days before his shooting spree, Hodgkinson wrote: “I Want to Say Mr. President, for being an ass hole you are Truly the Biggest Ass Hole We Have Ever Had in the Oval Office.” As NBC News put it: “Hodgkinson’s Facebook postings portray him as stridently anti-Republican and anti-Trump.” Despite the fact that Hodgkinson was a fanatical fan of Maddow, Democracy Now host Amy Goodman, and Sanders, that the ideas and ideology motivating his shooting spree perfectly matched — and were likely shaped by — liberals of that cohort, and that the enemies whom he sought to kill were also the enemies of Maddow and her liberal comrades, nobody rational or decent sought to blame the MSNBC host, the Vermont Senator or anyone else whose political views matched Hodgkinson's for the grotesque violence he unleashed. The reason for that is clear and indisputable: as strident and extremist as she is, Maddow has never once encouraged any of her followers to engage in violence to advance her ideology, nor has she even hinted that a mass murder of the Republican traitors, fascists and Kremlin agents about whom she rants on a nightly basis to millions of people is a just solution. It would be madness to try to assign moral or political blame to them. If we were to create a framework in which prominent people were held responsible for any violence carried out in the name of an ideology they advocate, then nobody would be safe, given that all ideologies have their misfits, psychopaths, unhinged personality types, and extremists. And thus there was little to no attempt to hold Maddow or Sanders responsible for the violent acts of one of their most loyal adherents. The same is true of the spate of mass shootings and killings by self-described black nationalists over the last several years. Back in 2017, the left-wing group Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) warned of the “Return of the Violent Black Nationalist.” In one incident, “Micah Xavier Johnson ambushed Dallas police officers during a peaceful protest against police brutality, killing five officers and wounding nine others.” Then, “ten days later, Gavin Eugene Long shot six officers, killing three, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.” They shared the same ideology, one which drove their murderous spree: Both Johnson and Long were reportedly motivated by their strong dislike of law enforcement, grievances against perceived white dominance, and the recent fatal police shootings of unarmed black men under questionable circumstances, specifically the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota . . . Needless to say, the ideas that motivated these two black nationalists to murder multiple people, including police officers, is part of a core ideology that is commonly heard in mainstream media venues, expressed by many if not most of the nation's most prominent liberals. Depicting the police as a white supremacist force eager to kill black people, “grievances against perceived white dominance,” and anger over “the white supremacism endemic in America’s system of governance from the country’s founding” are views that one routinely hears on MSNBC, CNN, from Democratic Party politicians, and in the op-ed pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post. Yet virtually nobody sought to blame Chris Hayes, Joy Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Jamelle Bouie or New York Times op-ed writers for these shooting sprees. Indeed, no blame was assigned to anti-police liberal pundits whose view of American history is exactly the same as that of these two killers — even though they purposely sought to murder the same enemies whom those prominent liberals target. Nobody blamed those anti-police liberals for the same reason they did not blame Maddow and Sanders for Hodgkinson's shooting spree: there is a fundamental and necessary distinction between people who use words to express ideas and demonize perceived enemies, and those who decide to go randomly and indiscriminately murder in the name of that ideology. Since that 2017 warning from the SPLC, there have been many more murders in the name of this anti-police and anti-white-supremacist ideology of black nationalism. In June of last year, the ADL said it had “linked Othal Toreyanne Resheen Wallace, the man arrested and accused of fatally shooting Daytona Beach Officer Jason Raynor on June 23, to several extremist groups preaching Black nationalism." He had “participated in several events organized by the NFAC…best known for holding armed marches protesting racial inequality and police brutality.” He had a long history of citing and following prominent radical Black anti-police and anti-White ideologues." Also in June of last year, a 25-year-old man named Noah Green drove a car into a Capitol Hill Police Officer, killing him instantly. The New York Times reported that he follows black nationalist groups, while a former college teammate “recalled that Mr. Green would often talk to fellow players about strategies to save and invest, emphasizing the need to close the wealth gap between white and Black America.” Just last month, a self-identified black nationalist named Frank James went on a terrifying shooting spree in the New York City subway system that injured dozens. He had “posted material on social media linked to black identity extremist ideologies, including the Nation of Islam, Black Panthers, Black Liberation Army, BLM and an image of black nationalist cop-killer Micah Johnson.” Angie Speaks, the brilliant writer who voices the audio version of the articles for this Substack, reported in Newsweek that James had “posted prolifically on social media and hosted a YouTube channel where he expressed Black Nationalist leanings and racial grievances." In 2019, The New York Times reported that “an assailant involved in the prolonged firefight in Jersey City, N.J., that left six people dead, including one police officer, was linked on Wednesday to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement,” and had written “anti-police posts.” Most media outlets and liberal politicians correctly refused to assign blame to pundits and politicians who spew anti-police rhetoric, or who insist that the U.S. is a nation of white supremacy: the animating ideas of these murders. Yet in these cases, they go much further with their denialism: many deny that this ideology even exists at all. “The made-up 'Black Identity Extremist' label is the latest example in a history of harassing and discrediting Black activists who dare to use their voices to call out white supremacy,” claimed the ACLU in 2019. PBS quoted a lawyer for an advocacy group as saying: “We're deeply concerned about the FBI's 'black identity extremist' designation. This is mere distraction from the very real threat of white supremacy...There is no such thing as black identity extremism.” The same year, The Intercept published an article headlined “The Strange Tale of the FBI’s Fictional ‘Black Identity Extremism' Movement,” which claimed over and over that there is no such thing as black extremism and that any attempt to ascribe violence to this ideology is a lie invented by those seeking to hide the dangers of white supremacy. It is virtually impossible to find any ideology on any part of the political spectrum that has not spawned senseless violence and mass murder by adherents. “The suspected killer of Dutch maverick politician Pim Fortuyn had environmentalist propaganda and ammunition at his home,” reported CBS News about the assassin, Volkert van der Graaf. Van der Graaf was a passionate animal rights and environmental activist who admitted “he killed the controversial right-wing leader because he considered him a danger to society.” Van der Graaf was particularly angry about what he believed was Fortuyn's anti-Muslim rhetoric. As a result, “some supporters of Fortuyn had blamed Green party leader Paul Rosenmoeller for "demonizing Fortuyn before he was gunned down in May just before general elections.” In other words, simply because the Green Party leader was highly critical of Fortuyn's ideology, some opportunistic Dutch politicians sought absurdly to blame him for Fortuyn's murder by Van der Graaf. Sound familiar? During the BLM and Antifa protests and riots of 2020, an Antifa supporter, Michael Reinoehl, was the leading suspect in the murder of a Trump supporter, Aaron J. Danielson, as he rode in a truck (Reinoehl himself was then killed by federal agents before being arrested in what appeared to be a deliberate extra-judicial execution, though an investigation cleared them of wrongdoing, as typically happens when federal agents are involved). In 2016, The New York Times reported that “the heavily armed sniper who gunned down police officers in downtown Dallas, leaving five of them dead, specifically set out to kill as many white officers as he could, officials said Friday.” The Paper of Record noted that many believed that anti-police protests would eventually lead to violent attacks on police officers: it “was the kind of retaliatory violence that people have feared through two years of protests around the country against deaths in police custody.” Then there are the murders carried out in the name of various religions. For the last three decades at least, debates have been raging about what level of responsibility, if any, should be assigned to radical Muslim preachers or Muslim politicians when individuals carry out atrocities and murders in the name of Islam. Liberals insist — correctly, in my view — that it is irresponsible and unfair to blame non-violent Muslims who preach radical versions of religious or political Islam for those who carry out violence in the name of those doctrines. Similar debates are heard with regard to Jewish extremists, such as the Israeli-American doctor Baruch Goldstein who “opened fire in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, killing 29 Muslim worshippers.” Many insist that the radical anti-Muslim speech of Israeli extremists is to blame, while others deny that there is any such thing as “Jewish terrorism” and that all blames lies solely with the individual who decided to resort to violence. To be sure, there have been a large number of murders and other atrocities carried out in U.S. and the West generally in the name of right-wing ideologies, in the name of white supremacy, in the name of white nationalism. The difference, though, is glaring: when murders are carried out in the name of liberal ideology, there is a rational and restrained refusal to blame liberal pundits and politicians who advocate the ideology that animated those killings. Yet when killings are carried out in the name of right-wing ideologies despised by the corporate press and mainstream pundits (or ideologies that they falsely associate with conservatism), they instantly leap to lay blame at the feet of their conservative political opponents who, despite never having advocated or even implied the need for violence, are nonetheless accused of bearing guilt for the violence — often before anything is known about the killers or their motives. In general, it is widely understood that liberal pundits and politicians are not to blame, at all, when murders are carried out in the name of the causes they support or against the enemies they routinely condemn. That is because, in such cases, we apply the rational framework that someone who does not advocate violence is not responsible for the violent acts of one's followers and fans who kill in the name of that person's ideas. Indeed, this perfectly sensible principle was enshrined by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark 1982 unanimous free speech ruling in Claiborne v. NAACP. That case arose out of efforts by the State of Mississippi to hold leaders of the local NAACP chapter legally liable for violence carried out by NAACP members on the ground that the leaders’ inflammatory and rage-driven speeches had “incited” and “provoked” their followers to burn white-owned stores and other stores ignoring their boycott to the ground. In ruling in favor of the NAACP, the Court stressed the crucial difference between those who peacefully advocate ideas and ideologies, even if they do so with virulence and anger (such as NAACP leaders), and those who are “inspired” by those speeches to commit violence to advance that cause. “To impose liability without a finding that the NAACP authorized — either actually or apparently — or ratified unlawful conduct would impermissibly burden the rights of political association that are protected by the First Amendment,” ruled the Court. This principle is not only a jurisprudential or constitutional one. It is also a rational one. Those who express ideas without advocating violence are not and cannot fairly be held responsible for those who decide to pick up arms in the name of those ideas, even if — as in the case of James Hodgkinson — we know for certain that the murderer listened closely to and was influenced by people like Rachel Maddow and Bernie Sanders. In such cases, we understand that it is madness, and deeply unfair, to exploit heinous murders to lay blame for the violence and killings on the doorsteps of our political adversaries. But when a revolting murder spree is carried out in the name of right-wing ideas (or ideas perceived by the corporate press to be right-wing), everything changes — instantly and completely. In such cases, often before anything is known about the murderer — indeed, literally before the corpses are even removed from the ground where they lie — there is a coordinated effort to declare that anyone who holds any views in common with the murderer has “blood on their hands” and is essentially a co-conspirator in the massacre. A very vivid and particularly gruesome display of this demented game was on display on Saturday night after a white 18-year-old, Payton Gendron, purposely targeted a part of Buffalo with a substantial black population. He entered a supermarket he knew was frequented largely by black customers and shot everyone he found, killing 10 people, most of them black. A lengthy, 180-page manifesto he left behind was filled with a wide variety of eclectic political views and ideologies. In that manifesto, Gendron described himself as a "left-wing authoritarian” and “populist” (“On the political compass I fall in the mild-moderate authoritarian left category, and I would prefer to be called a populist”). He heaped praise on an article in the socialist magazine Jacobin for its view that cryptocurrency and Bitcoin are fraudulent scams. He spoke passionately of the centrality and necessity of environmentalism, and lamented that “the state [has] long since heavily lost to its corporate backers.” He ranted against “corporate profits and the ever increasing wealth of the 1% that exploit the people for their own benefit.” And he not only vehemently rejected any admiration for political conservatism but made clear that he viewed it as an enemy to his agenda: “conservatism is corporatism in disguise, I want no part of it.” But by far the overarching and dominant theme of his worldview — the ideology that he repeatedly emphasized was the animating cause of his murder spree — was his anger and fear that white people, which he defines as those of European descent, were being eradicated by a combination of low birth rates and mass immigration. He repeatedly self-identified as a "racist” and expressed admiration for fascism as a solution. His treatise borrowed heavily from, and at times outright plagiarized, large sections of the manifesto left behind by Brenton Tarrant, the 29-year-old Australian who in 2019 murdered 51 people, mostly Muslims, at two mosques in New Zealand. Gendron's manifesto included a long list of websites and individuals who influenced his thinking, but made clear that it was Tarrant who was his primary inspiration. Other than extensive anti-Semitic sections which insisted that Jews are behind most of the world's powerful institutions and accompanying problems, it was Tarrant's deep concern about what he perceived is the disappearance of white people that was also Gendron's principal cause: If there’s one thing I want you to get from these writings, it’s that White birth rates must change. Everyday the White population becomes fewer in number. To maintain a population the people must achieve a birth rate that reaches replacement fertility levels, in the western world that is about 2.06 births per woman…. In 2050, despite the ongoing effect of sub-replacement fertility, the population figures show that the population does not decrease inline with the sub-replacement fertility levels, but actually maintains and, even in many White nations, rapidly increases. All through immigration. This is ethnic replacement. This is cultural replacement. This is racial replacement. This is WHITE GENOCIDE. Within literally an hour of the news of this murder spree in Buffalo — far too little time for anyone to have even carefully read all or most of Gendron's manifesto, and with very little known about his life or activities — much of the corporate press and liberal pundit class united to reveal the real culprit, the actual guilty party, behind this murder spree: Fox News host Tucker Carlson. So immediate and unified was this guilty verdict of mob justice that Carlson's name trended all night on Twitter along with Buffalo and Gendron. Twitter trending topics, May 14, 2022 The examples of liberal pundits instantly blaming Carlson for this murder are far too numerous to comprehensively cite. “Literally everyone warned Fox News and Tucker Carlson that this would happen and they fucking laughed and went harder,” decreed Andrew Lawrence of the incomparably sleazy and dishonest group Media Matters, spawned by ultimate sleaze-merchant David Brock. “The Buffalo shooter… subscribed to the Great Replacement theory touted by conservative elites like Tucker Carlson and believed by nearly half of GOP voters,” claimed The Washington Post's Emmanuel Felton. “See if you can tell the difference between [Gerdon's manifesto on 'white Replacement’] and standard fare on the Tucker Carlson show,” said Georgetown Professor Don Moynihan. “The racist massacre in Buffalo rest [sic] at the feet of Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson, and the GOP,” decreed Hollywood's nepotism prince Rob Reiner. The shooter was inspired by “a white nationalist conspiracy theory that Tucker Carlson has defended on his show,” was the verdict of The Huffington Post's Philip Lewis less than six hours after the shooting spree began. And on and on. That Carlson was primarily responsible for the ten dead people in Buffalo was asserted despite the fact that there was no indication that Gendron even knew who Carlson was, that he had ever watched his show, that he was influenced by him in any way, or that he admired or even liked the Fox host. Indeed, in the long list of people and places which Gendron cited as important influences on him — “Brenton Tarrant, [El Paso shooter] Patrick Crusius, [California Jewish community center killer], John Earnest, [Norwegian mass murderer] Anders Breivik, [Charleston black church murderer] Dylann Roof, etc.” — nowhere does he even allude to let alone mention any Fox News host or Carlson. To the contrary, Gendron explicitly describes his contempt for political conservatism. In a section entitled “CONSERVATISM IS DEAD, THANK GOD,” he wrote: "Not a thing has been conserved other than corporate profits and the ever increasing wealth of the 1% that exploit the people for their own benefit. Conservatism is dead. Thank god. Now let us bury it and move on to something of worth.” In this hated of conservatism, he copied his hero Brenton Tarrant, who also wrote that “conservatism is corporatism in disguise, I want no part of it,” adding about conservatives: They don’t even BELIEVE in the race, they don’t even have the gall to say race exists. And above all they don’t even care if it does. It’s profit, and profit alone that drives them, all else is secondary. The notion of a racial future or destiny is as foreign to them as social responsibilities. So desperate and uncontrolled was this ghoulish attempt to blame Carlson for the Buffalo shootings that my email inbox and social media feeds were festering with various liberal pundits demanding to know why I had not yet manifested my views of this shooting — as though it is advisable or even possible to formulate definitive opinions about a complex mass murder spree that had just taken place less than five hours before. “Still working on your talking points to defend your buddy Tucker or are you holding off on trying out your deflections until the bodies get cold?,” wrote a pundit named Jonathan Katz at 6:46 pm ET on Saturday night in a highly representative demand — just four hours after the shooter fired his first shot. Demands to assert definitive opinions about who — other than the killer — is to blame for a mass murder spree just hours after it happened can be called many things; "journalistic” and "responsible” are not among them. As it happened, I was on an overnight international flight on Saturday and into Sunday morning; I deeply apologize for my failure to monitor and speak on Twitter twenty-four hours a day. But even if I had not been 40,000 feet in the air, what kind of primitive and despicably opportunistic mindset is required not only to opine so definitively about how your political opponents are guilty of a heinous crime before the corpses are even taken away, but to demand that everyone else do so as well? In fact, Katz was particularly adamant that I opine not just on the killings but on the list of pundits I thought should be declared guilty before, in his soulless words, “the bodies get cold” — meaning that I must speak out without bothering to take the time to try to understand the basic facts about the killer and the shootings before heaping blame on a wide range of people who had no apparent involvement. But this is exactly the morally sick and exploitative liberal mentality that drives the discourse each time one of these shooting sprees happen. Rachel Maddow had far more known connections to Scalise's shooter James Hodgkinson than Carlson has to Gendron. After all, as Maddow herself acknowledged, Hodgkinson was a fan of her show and had expressed his love and admiration for her. His animating views and ideology tracked hers perfectly, with essentially no deviation. And yet — despite this ample evidence that he was influenced by her — it would never occur to me to blame Maddow for Hodgkinson's shooting spree because doing so would be completely demented, since Maddow never told or suggested to anyone that they go out and shoot the political enemies she was depicting as traitors, Kremlin agents, plotters to overthrow American democracy and replace it with a fascist dictatorship, and grave menaces to civil rights and basic freedom. The attempt to blame Carlson for the Buffalo shootings depended entirely on one claim: Carlson has previously talked about and defended the view that immigration is a scheme to “replace” Americans, and this same view was central to Gendron's ideology. Again, even if this were true, it would amount to nothing more than a claim than the shooter shared key views with Carlson and other conservative pundits — exactly as Hodgkinson shared core views with Maddow and Sanders, or the numerous murderers who killed in the name of black nationalism shared the same views on the police and American history as any number of MSNBC hosts and Democratic Party politicians, or as Pim Fortuyn's killer shared core views with animal rights activists and defenders of Muslim equality (including me). But nobody is willing to apply such a framework consistently because it converts everyone with strong political views into murderers, or at least being guilty of inciting murder. But all bets are off — all such principles or moral and logical reasoning are dispensed with — when an act of violence can be pinned on the political enemies of liberals. If a homicidal maniac kills an abortion doctor, then all peaceful pro-life activists are blamed. If an LGBT citizen is killed, then anyone who shares the views that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had until 2012 about marriage equality is blamed. If a police officer unjustifiably kills a black citizen, all police supporters or those who dissent from liberal orthodoxy on racial politics are decreed guilty. But liberals are never at fault when right-wing politicians are murdered, or police officers are hunted and gunned down by police opponents, or an anti-abortion group is targeted with firebombing and arson, as just happened in Wisconsin, or radical Muslims engage in random acts of violence. By definition, "moral reasoning" that is applied only in one direction has nothing to do with morality and everything to do with crass, exploitative opportunism. Though it does not actually matter for purposes of assigning blame, it is utterly false to claim that Carlson's ideology — including on “replacement” — is the same as or even related to the views expressed by the killers in Buffalo or New Zealand. Indeed, in key respects, they are opposites. Both Tarrant and Gendron targeted citizens of the countries in which they carried out their murder spree. They justified doing so on the ground that any non-white citizen is automatically an "invader," regardless of how long they have been in the country or how much legal status they have. “It would have eased me if I knew all the blacks I would be killing were criminals or future criminals, but then I realized all black people are replacers just by existing in White countries,” Gendron wrote. To claim that Carlson ever said anything remotely like this or believes it is just an outright lie. Indeed, with great frequency, Carlson says that the priority of the U.S. Government should be protection of and concern for American citizens of all races. Tarrant and Gendron believe and explicitly say that any non-white citizen of a European country is automatically an “invader” who must be killed and/or deported to turn the country all-white. Carlson believes the exact opposite: that the proper citizenry of the United States is multi-racial and that Black Americans and Latin Americans and Asian-Americans are every bit as much U.S. citizens, with all of the same claims to rights and protections, as every other American citizen. His anti-immigration and "replacement” argument is aimed at the idea — one that had been long mainstream on the left until about a decade ago — that large, uncontrolled immigration harms American citizens who are already here. There is no racial hierarchy in Carlson's view of American citizenship and to claim that there is is nothing short of a defamatory lie. But even if these liberal smear artists were telling the truth, and Carlson's view of immigration and “replacement” were similar or even precisely identical to Gendron's, one could certainly say that Carlson holds immoral and despicable views. But he would still no more carry blame for the Buffalo murders than liberal pundits have blood on their hands for countless massacres carried out in the name of political causes they support and theories they espouse, whether it be animus toward the police or anti-imperialism or opposition to Israeli occupation of the West Bank or the belief that the United States is a fundamentally racist country or the view that the GOP is a fascist menace to all things decent. The distinction between peaceful advocacy even of noxious ideas and those who engage in violence in the name of such ideas is fundamental to notions of fairness, justice and the ability to speak freely. But if you really want to claim that a public figure has "blood on their hands" every time someone murders in the name of ideas and ideologies they support, then the list of people you should be accusing of murder is a very, very long one indeed. To support the independent journalism we are doing here, please subscribe, obtain a gift subscription for others and/or share the article Tyler Durden Sun, 05/15/2022 - 18:30.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytMay 15th, 2022

Futures Rise As Earnings Season Begins

Futures Rise As Earnings Season Begins US index futures bounced, with Nasdaq 100 contracts halting a three-day drop, as investor attention turned to the start of corporate earnings season, which BofA dubbed the "Last big beat for a while" amid concerns over high inflation and slowing growth. Contracts on the Nasdaq 100 were up 0.4% as of 630 a.m. in New York, signaling a pause in the rout that wiped $1.6 trillion from the market value of technology behemoths in just over a week. S&P 500 futures and Dow futures gained 0.4%, with Asian stocks also rising even as Europe’s Stoxx 600 Index dropped; the selloff in U.S. Treasuries also eased with the 10Y yield flat at 2.72% while the US Dollar resumed its advance and the yen fell to a 20-year low as the growing gap between rising U.S. bond yields and perpetually low ones in Japan continued to pressure the currency. Oil rose after Russia vowed to continue the war in Ukraine and China partially eased Covid curbs. Bitcoin continued to trade on either side of $40K. A quick look around the world: U.K. inflation surged to a 30-year high, surging 7% above expectations of 6.7%, before the Bank of England’s next decision in May, while New Zealand’s central bank delivered a surprise 50bps rate hike (exp 25bps) its biggest interest-rate increase in 22 years. Meanwhile, markets continued to digest Tuesday’s U.S. inflation data which was viewed by many as a peak in CPI, which prompted traders to pare back expectations on how aggressively the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said U.S. monetary policy needs to be tightened to a point that it curtails economic growth or policy makers will end up risking their credibility (translation: he wants stocks 30% lower). He supports a half percentage point increase at the Fed’s policy meeting in May and says the rate should move up “sharply” after that. On the geopolitical front, the presidents of Poland and the three Baltic states are heading to Kyiv in a show of support that follows the visits of other leaders to the Ukrainian capital, including from Boris Johnson and European Union chiefs. The Biden administration is preparing a new military assistance package for Ukraine.  Here are some of the latest news out of Ukraine: Ukrainian President Zelensky proposed swapping pro-Russian politician Medvedchuk for Ukrainian prisoners of war, according to Reuters. Ukrainian Deputy PM says it is not possible to open humanitarian corridors on Wednesday; occupying forces have violated the ceasefire, via Reuters. Sweden's largest party Social Democrats favour applying to NATO at the June meeting in Spain, according to SvD. US President Biden said it will be up to lawyers to determine if Russia's actions in Ukraine qualify as genocide but added it seems like genocide to him and that the evidence is mounting, according to Reuters. US President Biden's administration is expected to announce at least USD 750mln in additional weapons for Ukraine and deliberations continue on a mix of weapons, which could evolve, according to Reuters. Ukrainian President Zelensky said it is not possible to draw 100% firm conclusions about whether Russia used chemical weapons in Mariupol and that it is not possible to conduct a full investigation in a besieged city, according to Reuters. Chechen leader Kadyrov said over 1,000 Ukrainian marines surrendered in Mariupol, according to Sputnik. US equities have been roiled again this month by the double whammy of soaring bond yields and concerns around a looming global recession. After data on Tuesday showed a smaller-than-expected increase in core inflation last month, focus this week will be on quarterly earnings starting with the big banks, which generally offer a window on the economy since they touch on everything from mortgages to general consumer behavior. “Despite the increased price pressure, analysts are still expecting profit margins of the S&P 500 to reach new all-time highs by the second quater, which seems optimistic in our view,” said Mathieu Racheter, head of equity strategy at Julius Baer. “We see a higher risks of negative earnings revision ahead, driven by the cyclicals sectors. We continue to recommend investors to remain defensively positioned within their equities allocation.” Among notable pre-market moves in the US, Sierra Oncology shares jumped 37% to $54.30 after GlaxoSmithKline agreed to buy the maker of therapies for rare forms of cancer for $55/shares in cash, or about $1.9 billion. Genius Group shares, on the other hand, tumbled 29% after a whopping 408% gain on their first day of trading yesterday. JPMorgan was little changed ahead of its first-quarter results due later in the morning. Here are some of the biggest U.S. movers today: Antares Pharma (ATRS US) surges 48% in premarket trading after Dow Jones reported that Halozyme Therapeutics (HALO US) is close to buying the maker of needle-free systems for $5.60 per share in cash, citing people familiar with the matter. The departure of PayPal (PYPL US) finance chief John Rainey to become CFO at Walmart (WMT US) was less concerning to some analysts than the absence of a guidance update with the announcement. PayPal stock falls 1.5% in premarket, Walmart +0.5%. Hillman Solutions (HLMN US) fell 8.9% postmarket Tuesday after holders offered 10m shares. Investors are now turning their attention to the earnings season, while awaiting the European Central Bank’s meeting on Thursday. Money managers are increasingly hedging the risk of stagflation, especially in Europe, amid concerns that high inflation and slowing growth will end up squeezing company profits. “It appears that the market is swinging quickly to try and price ‘peak inflation,’” Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at Oanda, wrote in a note. “Naturally, ‘peak inflation’ should be a reason to pile back into equities. However, it just isn’t that simple. The environment for equities remains challenging.” “We’re hopeful that this is where it’s going to peak,” Ann Miletti, head of active equity at Allspring Global Investments, said on Bloomberg Television, referring to U.S. inflation. But she added that markets continue to face a wall of worry, ranging from rising rates to the impact of China’s Covid lockdowns. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was down 0.4%, with travel and leisure sector leading declines as energy, miners and media are the strongest performing sectors. FTSE 100 outperforms, adding 0.3%; DAX lags, dropping 0.3%. LVMH erased early gains as it warned of a negative impact on demand because of lockdowns in China. Here are some of the biggest European movers today: Telecom Italia shares rise as much as 4.7% after a local press report that Apax and France’s Iliad are preparing a joint offer for its ConsumerCo business. Ted Baker shares rise as much as 5.7% after the high-street retailer said Sycamore will participate in formal sale process. Oxford Instruments gains as much as 9.4% after the firm said it expects its financial performance to be marginally ahead of expectations. Tesco shares slump as much as 7% after the U.K. grocer said profit may show little change or decline slightly this year amid the U.K.’s cost of living crisis. Analysts noted Tesco’s focus on providing customers with “compelling” value. Other U.K. grocery stocks including Ocado, Sainsbury and Marks & Spencer also fell Adidas shares declined as much as 4.1% after being downgraded to reduce from add and PT cut to Street-low EU190 at Baader Helvea based on rising headwinds and a “more cloudy” outlook for rest of the year. LVMH shares fall as much as 1.3%, reversing earlier gains, as worry over a Covid-19 resurgence in the key market of China remained at the forefront of investors mind even as the luxury conglomerate beat first-quarter expectations. Barry Callebaut shares fall as much as 5.4% amid worries the Swiss chocolate maker may be further affected by the war in Ukraine and its far- reaching consequences. The company said it’s taking an impairment for its financial assets in Russia. Earlier in the session, Asian equities rose for the first time in three days as U.S. Treasury yields retreated from multi-year highs, easing concerns over potential damage to corporate earnings. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed as much as 1.2%, rebounding from its lowest level since March 16. Tech hardware stocks drove gains after the 10-year Treasury yield slipped overnight following a smaller-than-expected jump in a key U.S. inflation gauge. TSMC was among the biggest contributors to gains in Asia ahead of its earnings release Thursday. “A pause in the yield rally at the current level may provide a breather for the equities market in the coming days, as attention will be shifted to the upcoming earnings season to drive sentiment,” said Jun Rong Yeap, a strategist at IG Asia. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Japan and South Korea led gains around the region. New Zealand’s main index fell after an unexpectedly large 50-basis-point hike by its central bank --its biggest in 22 years. Chinese stocks declined as a top virus expert stressed the importance of the nation’s dynamic zero strategy and data showed Chinese imports unexpectedly fell. China’s Imports Drop, Export Growth Slows on Covid Lockdowns Amid news of looser quarantines in some Chinese cities, investors are keenly awaiting formal relaxation of Beijing’s strict virus policies as its growth slowdown weighs on the region. Meanwhile, soaring prices in the U.S. and parts of Europe have finally reached Asia, deepening concerns about rising input costs for businesses Japanese equities gained, rebounding after two days of losses, following a smaller-than-expected rise in U.S. inflation and a drop in Treasury yields. Electronics and auto makers were the biggest boosts to the Topix, which rose 1.4%. Fast Retailing and Tokyo Electron were the biggest contributors to a 1.9% advance in the Nikkei 225. The yen extended losses against the dollar to a ninth day. The U.S. consumer price index increased 8.5% in March compared with a year earlier, less than economists expected. The 10-year Treasury yield slipped six basis points Tuesday following the inflation data. “Markets had been pricing in substantial negative impacts from higher U.S. interest and lockdowns in China, so stocks are rebounding somewhat today,” said Tomo Kinoshita, global market strategist at Invesco Asset Management. “There was a risk that if the U.S. CPI came in higher than market expectations that the Fed would turn more hawkish, but that didn’t happen.” In FX, the Bloomberg dollar spot index is near flat. CHF and EUR are the strongest performers in G-10 FX, NZD and JPY underperform. Yen drops to a 20-year low against the U.S. dollar, trading now at 126.15. In fixed income, bonds bounced ahead of Tuesday's new lows, but recovery remains weak rather than firm as Bunds hover above 155.00, Gilts just under 119.00 and T-note midway between 119-31/120-17 extremes. Lacklustre 10-year Bund auction in keeping with T-note sale last night, and with long bond supply still to come. Italy sees decent demand for multi-tranche offerings after recent heavier concession. In commodities, crude futures advanced with Brent extending on its torrid Tuesday gains and rising 2% back over $106. The International Energy Agency halved its estimate for a decline in Russian crude oil output for April as the nation has been able to find new customers even with global restrictions and self-sanctioning by traditional buyers. But top oil trader Vitol Group said it intends to completely stop trading Russia-origin crude and products by the end of this year. Most base metals trade in the green; LME zinc rises 2.8%, outperforming peers. LME copper lags, dropping 0.1%. Spot gold rises roughly $9 to trade at $1,976/oz. Spot silver gains 1.2% to ~$26. Looking at the day ahead now, data releases include US PPI for March, UK CPI for March and Italy’s industrial production for February. From central banks, we’ve got a policy decision from the Bank of Canada, as well as a speech from Bank of Japan Governor Kuroda. Finally, today’s earnings releases include JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock, Tesco and Delta Air Lines. Market Snapshot S&P 500 futures up 0.6% to 4,418.25 MXAP up 0.7% to 173.79 MXAPJ up 0.7% to 577.71 Nikkei up 1.9% to 26,843.49 Topix up 1.4% to 1,890.06 Hang Seng Index up 0.3% to 21,374.37 Shanghai Composite down 0.8% to 3,186.82 Sensex down 0.3% to 58,425.03 Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.3% to 7,479.02 Kospi up 1.9% to 2,716.49 STOXX Europe 600 little changed at 456.72 German 10Y yield little changed at 0.84% Euro little changed at $1.0832 Brent Futures up 0.2% to $104.89/bbl Gold spot up 0.4% to $1,975.13 U.S. Dollar Index little changed at 100.37 Top Overnight News from Bloomberg Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said U.S. monetary policy needs to be tightened to a point that it curtails economic growth or policy makers will end up risking their credibility The Biden administration is preparing a military assistance package of roughly $750 million for Ukraine in its battles against Russian invaders, people familiar with the matter said Tuesday night An immediate interruption in Russian energy supplies over the war in Ukraine could jeopardize 220 billion euros ($240 billion) of German output over the next two years, a report warned The yen’s drop to a two-decade low versus the dollar sets the tone in the options space, while overnight volatility in the euro rallies ahead of the ECB decision Thursday It’s the next big market call that could enrich traders across Wall Street: The raging global energy crisis and ever-more hawkish central banks knock key economies into 1970s- style stagflation French President Emmanuel Macron led his rival Marine Le Pen 53.2% to 46.8% ahead of the run-off presidential election set for April 24, according to a polling average calculated by Bloomberg on April 13. The gap between them has narrowed from the 8 percentage points recorded on April 11 A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk Asia-Pac stocks mostly shrugged off the weak lead from the US and rebounded from a two-day losing streak. ASX 200 was kept afloat by the commodity-related sectors including energy after WTI crude futures climbed back above USD 100/bbl landmark and with Australia's government providing funding for domestic refiners. Nikkei 225 outperformed currency weakness and with the index unfazed by disappointing Machinery Orders. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp lagged on COVID woes despite China testing an easing of quarantine rules in eight cities, as infections continued to spread with a fresh record of daily cases in Shanghai, while Sunac's missed coupon payment, further inclusions to the US HFCAA list and mixed trade data added to the cautious mood. Top Asian News Yen Falls to 20-Year Low as Policy, Yield Divergence Continues Japan Finance Minister Says Sudden FX Moves Problematic: Kyodo SMBC Nikko Ex-Deputy President Indicted Over Block Offers China’s Exports to Russia Slump After Ukraine Invasion European bourses are pressured across the board, Euro Stoxx 50 -0.7%, in what has been a somewhat choppy European morning with limited fresh macro drivers emerging. Sectors are similar to their initial cash open performance, as Energy and Basic Resources outperform while Travel, Retail and Personal Goods lag. US futures are firmer across the board, ES +0.3%, and while they have been directionally moving with Europe magnitudes are more limited; support following yesterday's CPI but ahead of PPI and JPM earnings. BlackRock Inc (BLK) Q1 2022 (USD): EPS 9.52 (exp. 8.95), Revenue 4.699bln (exp. 4.74bln). +0.3% in the premarket. Top European News Deutsche Telekom Edges Closer to T-Mobile Control With New Stake U.K. Inflation Jumps More Than Expected to 30-Year High of 7% European Gas Rises With Lower Flows Via Ukraine, Norway Outages U.K. Homebuilders Commit $2.6 Billion for Fire Safety Repairs FX: Kiwi knee jerks higher after bigger than generally expected 50 bp RBNZ hike before retreating abruptly on reflection of unchanged OCR outlook; NZD/USD sub-0.6800 vs peak just over big figure above. Yen flogged yet again as Japanese officials continue to fret about speed rather than size of moves and core machinery orders miss consensus; USD/JPY knocks down barriers at 126.00 to reach 126.31 and breach 2015 peak. DXY extends advance above 100.000 before waning ahead of May 2020 peak just over 100.500. Aussie retains 0.7400+ status vs Greenback before jobs data, but with assistance from sharp reversal in AUD /NZD cross flows - from circa 1.0833 to 1.0950. Euro keeps its head above 2022 low against Dollar, narrowly, and Pound rebounds after minor boost from strong UK inflation prints, EUR/USD down to 1.0811 or so vs 1.0806, Cable revisits 1.3000 vs 1.2972 at worst. Loonie immersed in technical levels awaiting BoC and guidance to accompany a widely forecast half point rate rise; USD/CAD near 1.2650 and flanked by 200, 100 and 50 DMAs. Fixed Income: Bonds bounce ahead of Tuesday's new lows, but recovery remains feline rather than firm as Bunds hover above 155.00, Gilts just under 119.00 and T-note midway between 119-31/120-17 extremes. Lacklustre 10-year Bund auction in keeping with T-note sale last night, and with long bond supply still to come. Italy sees decent demand for multi-tranche offerings after recent heavier concession. Commodities: WTI and are firmer in a continuation of the consolidation from the upside seen in yesterday's session amid Brent geopolitical tensions. Most recently, the benchmarks have eclipsed a circa. USD 2/bbl range that had been holding throughout the morning; current bests, USD 102.13/bbl and USD 106.45/bbl respectively. US Private Energy Inventory Data (bbls): Crude +7.8mln (exp. +0.9mln), Cushing +0.4mln, Gasoline -5.1mln (exp. -0.4mln), Distillate -5.0mln (exp. -0.5mln). IEA OMR: Lowers 2022 global oil demand estimate by 260k BPD on COVID in China and lower OECD demand. February global stocks 714mln/bbl below the end-2020 level, OECD accounts for 70% of the decline. Russian oil supply is expected to fall by 1.5mln BPD in April and by around 3mln BPD from May. CNOOC (883 HK) is said to be considering exiting operations in Britain, US and Canada amid tensions with the West, according to Reuters sources. Spot gold and are bid this morning, though the yellow metal is still shy of yesterday's USD 1978.21/oz silver peak. LME Zinc outperforms piggybacking the performance of its Shanghai peer overnight US Event Calendar 07:00: April MBA Mortgage Applications, prior -6.3% 08:30: March PPI Final Demand YoY, est. 10.6%, prior 10.0%; 08:30: PPI Final Demand MoM, est. 1.1%, prior 0.8% 08:30: March PPI Ex Food and Energy YoY, est. 8.4%, prior 8.4%; MoM, est. 0.5%, prior 0.2% 08:30: March PPI Ex Food, Energy, Trade YoY, est. 6.5%, prior 6.6%; MoM, est. 0.5%, prior 0.2% DB's Henry Allen concludes the overnight wrap After a succession of major bond selloffs this month, yesterday marked the first time so far in April that US Treasuries put in a positive performance. Given the US CPI report showed inflation hitting its highest rate since 1981 in March, with a year-on-year rate of +8.5%, that might seem counter-intuitive. But the monthly print of +1.2% was already expected by the consensus, even if it was the strongest since September 2005, whilst there was also a downside surprise in core inflation, which came in at +0.3% over the month (vs. +0.5% expected). In turn, that saw investors take out some of the expected monetary tightening they’d been pricing over the rest of the year, with the futures-implied policy rate by December’s meeting down by -10bps relative to the previous day. Looking at some of the details, higher gasoline prices were responsible for more than half of the headline monthly increase in CPI, having gone up by +18.3% in March. That’s their biggest monthly increase since June 2009, and follows the major spike in oil prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On the other hand, used cars and trucks came down -3.8% over the month, which is their largest monthly decline since May 1969. In terms of housing inflation, rent of primary residence fell back to +0.43% (vs. +0.57% in Feb), though owners’ equivalent rent came in at +0.43%, in line with the narrow band of +0.41-0.45% in which it’s been rising since September. Against that backdrop, yields on 10yr Treasuries came down -5.9bps to 2.721%, marking their first daily decline so far this month, with trademark intraday volatility, as 10yrs were as much as +5.3bps higher in early morning trading, before trading -10.8bps lower during the New York lunch hour. 2yr yields had a larger on net decline (-9.2bps) that saw the 2s10s curve steepen up to 31.2bps, which is the steepest its been since the March FOMC meeting when the Fed embarked on their new hiking cycle. And although the total number of hikes priced for the year as a whole came down somewhat, the odds of a 50bp move at the next meeting in May actually ticked up to 93.5%, the highest to date. Overnight though, the 10yr yield has pared back some of its declines yesterday, moving up +2.3bps to 2.744%. While the CPI release may have triggered a bond rally, Fed communications remained just as hawkish, and yesterday we heard more from Governor Brainard, who is awaiting confirmation to her new post as Vice Chair. She expressed a preference to get the policy rate to neutral by the end of this year, echoing similar comments from Fed officials earlier in the week. She still thinks the Fed has room to engineer a soft landing and sustain the current economic expansion due to the historic strength of the labour market. Separately, in an interview released overnight with the FT, St Louis Fed President Bullard (who voted for a 50bps hike in March) said that it was a “fantasy” that the Fed could bring inflation down without going above neutral. Even as investors priced in a slightly shallower pace of Fed rate hikes over the coming year, US equities still managed to rollover after trading in the green for most of the day, with the S&P 500 down -0.34%. Financials (-1.07%) led the way lower with the decline in yields ahead of financials earnings kicking off today, while energy (+1.72%) was the clear outperformer on rebounding crude prices. Small-cap stocks put in a decent performance, with the Russell 2000 (+0.33%) ending a run of 5 consecutive declines. European equities also traded lower as well, with the STOXX 600 down -0.35%, along with other indices including the DAX (-0.48%), the CAC 40 (-0.28%) and the FTSE 100 (-0.55%). Turning to commodities, oil prices moved sharply higher yesterday, with Brent Crude (+6.26%) closing above $104/bbl for the first time in over a week. That came as Russian President Putin said that talk with Ukraine were “at a dead end”, and other haven assets including gold (+0.68%) also moved higher on the day. Over in the US meanwhile, President Biden accused Russia of “genocide”, standing by his comments and saying that “it has become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of being able to be Ukrainian”. Those further gains in oil prices meant that European inflation expectations rose to fresh highs, with the 10yr German breakeven up to 2.90%, its highest level yet in data going back to 2009, whilst the 10yr Italian breakeven rose to 2.69%, a level not seen since 2008. Importantly, measures of long-run inflation expectations, ostensibly beyond the influence of the current shock, have increased as well, with the 5y5y forward inflation swap for the Euro Area rising to +1.6bps to 2.38% yesterday, marking its highest level since 2013. In spite of those rises in European inflation expectations, sovereign bond yields in Europe moved lower along with US Treasuries, paring back an initial rise that saw the 10yr bund yield move to its highest intraday level since 2015, at 0.87%. By the close of day however, yields on 10yr bunds (-2.6bps), OATs (-1.9bps) and BTPs (-5.7bps) had all moved lower. Overnight in Asia, equity markets have bucked the trend seen in the US and Europe, with the Nikkei (+1.60%), the Kospi (+1.40%) and the Hang Seng (+0.29%) all moving higher. However, the Shanghai Composite (-0.44%) and CSI (-0.51%) are both lagging as the Covid-19 outbreak in China continues to weigh on investor sentiment. Looking forward, stock futures in the US are pointing to a decent start today, with contracts on the S&P 500 (+0.51%) and Nasdaq 100 (+0.69%) both higher. On the monetary policy front, we also heard from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand overnight, who hiked their official cash rate by +50bps to 1.50% as they seeks to tame inflation. This is the fourth consecutive interest rate hike by the central bank and its biggest hike since 2000. Turning to the French election, we’re now just 11 days away from the second round between President Macron and Marine Le Pen, and the polls continued to point to a fairly tight race, albeit with Macron in the lead. In terms of yesterday’s polls, Macron was ahead by 54-46 in Opinionway (down from 55-45 the previous day), whilst Ifop’s 52.5-47.5 margin was unchanged from the previous day. French assets performed basically in line with their European counterparts yesterday, with the spread of French 10yr yields over bunds moving up by just +0.6bps to 50.8bps. Running through yesterday’s other data, the UK employment report was somewhat softer than expected, with payrolled employees up by just +35k in March (vs. +125k expected). Nevertheless, the unemployment rate did fall back to the pre-pandemic low of 3.8% in the three months to February, in line with expectations. Elsewhere, Germany’s ZEW survey saw further declines in April, with the current situation reading down to an 11-month low of -30.8 (vs. -35.0 expected), and the expectations component fell to a 2-year low of -41.0 (vs. -48.5 expected), even if both were somewhat better than expected. Finally in the US, the NFIB’s small business optimism index fell to a 2-year low of 93.2 in March (vs. 95.0 expected). To the day ahead now, and data releases include US PPI for March, UK CPI for March and Italy’s industrial production for February. From central banks, we’ve got a policy decision from the Bank of Canada, as well as a speech from Bank of Japan Governor Kuroda. Finally, today’s earnings releases include JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock, Tesco and Delta Air Lines. Tyler Durden Wed, 04/13/2022 - 06:57.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeApr 13th, 2022

The Anatomy Of Big Pharma"s Political Reach

The Anatomy Of Big Pharma's Political Reach Authored by Rebecca Strong via Medium.com, They keep telling us to “trust the science.” But who paid for it? After graduating from Columbia University with a chemical engineering degree, my grandfather went on to work for Pfizer for almost two decades, culminating his career as the company’s Global Director of New Products. I was rather proud of this fact growing up — it felt as if this father figure, who raised me for several years during my childhood, had somehow played a role in saving lives. But in recent years, my perspective on Pfizer — and other companies in its class — has shifted. Blame it on the insidious big pharma corruption laid bare by whistleblowers in recent years. Blame it on the endless string of big pharma lawsuits revealing fraud, deception, and cover-ups. Blame it on the fact that I witnessed some of their most profitable drugs ruin the lives of those I love most. All I know is, that pride I once felt has been overshadowed by a sticky skepticism I just can’t seem to shake. In 1973, my grandpa and his colleagues celebrated as Pfizer crossed a milestone: the one-billion-dollar sales mark. These days, Pfizer rakes in $81 billion a year, making it the 28th most valuable company in the world. Johnson & Johnson ranks 15th, with $93.77 billion. To put things into perspective, that makes said companies wealthier than most countries in the world. And thanks to those astronomical profit margins, the Pharmaceuticals and Health Products industry is able to spend more on lobbying than any other industry in America. While big pharma lobbying can take several different forms, these companies tend to target their contributions to senior legislators in Congress — you know, the ones they need to keep in their corner, because they have the power to draft healthcare laws. Pfizer has outspent its peers in six of the last eight election cycles, coughing up almost $9.7 million. During the 2016 election, pharmaceutical companies gave more than $7 million to 97 senators at an average of $75,000 per member. They also contributed $6.3 million to president Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign. The question is: what did big pharma get in return? When you've got 1,500 Big Pharma lobbyists on Capitol Hill for 535 members of Congress, it's not too hard to figure out why prescription drug prices in this country are, on average, 256% HIGHER than in other major countries. — Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 3, 2022 ALEC’s Off-the-Record Sway To truly grasp big pharma’s power, you need to understand how The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) works. ALEC, which was founded in 1973 by conservative activists working on Ronald Reagan’s campaign, is a super secretive pay-to-play operation where corporate lobbyists — including in the pharma sector — hold confidential meetings about “model” bills. A large portion of these bills is eventually approved and become law. A rundown of ALEC’s greatest hits will tell you everything you need to know about the council’s motives and priorities. In 1995, ALEC promoted a bill that restricts consumers’ rights to sue for damages resulting from taking a particular medication. They also endorsed the Statute of Limitation Reduction Act, which put a time limit on when someone could sue after a medication-induced injury or death. Over the years, ALEC has promoted many other pharma-friendly bills that would: weaken FDA oversight of new drugs and therapies, limit FDA authority over drug advertising, and oppose regulations on financial incentives for doctors to prescribe specific drugs. But what makes these ALEC collaborations feel particularly problematic is that there’s little transparency — all of this happens behind closed doors. Congressional leaders and other committee members involved in ALEC aren’t required to publish any records of their meetings and other communications with pharma lobbyists, and the roster of ALEC members is completely confidential. All we know is that in 2020, more than two-thirds of Congress — 72 senators and 302 House of Representatives members — cashed a campaign check from a pharma company. Big Pharma Funding Research The public typically relies on an endorsement from government agencies to help them decide whether or not a new drug, vaccine, or medical device is safe and effective. And those agencies, like the FDA, count on clinical research. As already established, big pharma is notorious for getting its hooks into influential government officials. Here’s another sobering truth: The majority of scientific research is paid for by — wait for it — the pharmaceutical companies. When the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published 73 studies of new drugs over the course of a single year, they found that a staggering 82% of them had been funded by the pharmaceutical company selling the product, 68% had authors who were employees of that company, and 50% had lead researchers who accepted money from a drug company. According to 2013 research conducted at the University of Arizona College of Law, even when pharma companies aren’t directly funding the research, company stockholders, consultants, directors, and officers are almost always involved in conducting them. A 2017 report by the peer-reviewed journal The BMJ also showed that about half of medical journal editors receive payments from drug companies, with the average payment per editor hovering around $28,000. But these statistics are only accurate if researchers and editors are transparent about payments from pharma. And a 2022 investigative analysis of two of the most influential medical journals found that 81% of study authors failed to disclose millions in payments from drug companies, as they’re required to do. Unfortunately, this trend shows no sign of slowing down. The number of clinical trials funded by the pharmaceutical industry has been climbing every year since 2006, according to a John Hopkins University report, while independent studies have been harder to find. And there are some serious consequences to these conflicts of interest. Take Avandia, for instance, a diabetes drug produced by GlaxoSmithCline (GSK). Avandia was eventually linked to a dramatically increased risk of heart attacks and heart failure. And a BMJ report revealed that almost 90% of scientists who initially wrote glowing articles about Avandia had financial ties to GSK. But here’s the unnerving part: if the pharmaceutical industry is successfully biasing the science, then that means the physicians who rely on the science are biased in their prescribing decisions. Photo credit: UN Women Europe & Central Asia Where the lines get really blurry is with “ghostwriting.” Big pharma execs know citizens are way more likely to trust a report written by a board-certified doctor than one of their representatives. That’s why they pay physicians to list their names as authors — even though the MDs had little to no involvement in the research, and the report was actually written by the drug company. This practice started in the ’50s and ’60s when tobacco execs were clamoring to prove that cigarettes didn’t cause cancer (spoiler alert: they do!), so they commissioned doctors to slap their name on papers undermining the risks of smoking. It’s still a pretty common tactic today: more than one in 10 articles published in the NEJM was co-written by a ghostwriter. While a very small percentage of medical journals have clear policies against ghostwriting, it’s still technically legal —despite the fact that the consequences can be deadly. Case in point: in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Merck paid for 73 ghostwritten articles to play up the benefits of its arthritis drug Vioxx. It was later revealed that Merck failed to report all of the heart attacks experienced by trial participants. In fact, a study published in the NEJM revealed that an estimated 160,000 Americans experienced heart attacks or strokes from taking Vioxx. That research was conducted by Dr. David Graham, Associate Director of the FDA’s Office of Drug Safety, who understandably concluded the drug was not safe. But the FDA’s Office of New Drugs, which not only was responsible for initially approving Vioxx but also regulating it, tried to sweep his findings under the rug. "I was pressured to change my conclusions and recommendations, and basically threatened that if I did not change them, I would not be permitted to present the paper at the conference," he wrote in his 2004 U.S. Senate testimony on Vioxx. "One Drug Safety manager recommended that I should be barred from presenting the poster at the meeting." Eventually, the FDA issued a public health advisory about Vioxx and Merck withdrew this product. But it was a little late for repercussions — 38,000 of those Vioxx-takers who suffered heart attacks had already died. Graham called this a “profound regulatory failure,” adding that scientific standards the FDA apply to drug safety “guarantee that unsafe and deadly drugs will remain on the U.S. market.” This should come as no surprise, but research has also repeatedly shown that a paper written by a pharmaceutical company is more likely to emphasize the benefits of a drug, vaccine, or device while downplaying the dangers. (If you want to understand more about this practice, a former ghostwriter outlines all the ethical reasons why she quit this job in a PLOS Medicine report.) While adverse drug effects appear in 95% of clinical research, only 46% of published reports disclose them. Of course, all of this often ends up misleading doctors into thinking a drug is safer than it actually is. Big Pharma Influence On Doctors Pharmaceutical companies aren’t just paying medical journal editors and authors to make their products look good, either. There’s a long, sordid history of pharmaceutical companies incentivizing doctors to prescribe their products through financial rewards. For instance, Pfizer and AstraZeneca doled out a combined $100 million to doctors in 2018, with some earning anywhere from $6 million to $29 million in a year. And research has shown this strategy works: when doctors accept these gifts and payments, they’re significantly more likely to prescribe those companies’ drugs. Novartis comes to mind — the company famously spent over $100 million paying for doctors’ extravagant meals, golf outings, and more, all while also providing a generous kickback program that made them richer every time they prescribed certain blood pressure and diabetes meds. Side note: the Open Payments portal contains a nifty little database where you can find out if any of your own doctors received money from drug companies. Knowing that my mother was put on a laundry list of meds after a near-fatal car accident, I was curious — so I did a quick search for her providers. While her PCP only banked a modest amount from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, her previous psychiatrist — who prescribed a cocktail of contraindicated medications without treating her in person — collected quadruple-digit payments from pharmaceutical companies. And her pain care specialist, who prescribed her jaw-dropping doses of opioid pain medication for more than 20 years (far longer than the 5-day safety guideline), was raking in thousands from Purdue Pharma, AKA the opioid crisis’ kingpin. Purdue is now infamous for its wildly aggressive OxyContin campaign in the ’90s. At the time, the company billed it as a non-addictive wonder drug for pain sufferers. Internal emails show Pursue sales representatives were instructed to “sell, sell, sell” OxyContin, and the more they were able to push, the more they were rewarded with promotions and bonuses. With the stakes so high, these reps stopped at nothing to get doctors on board — even going so far as to send boxes of doughnuts spelling out “OxyContin” to unconvinced physicians. Purdue had stumbled upon the perfect system for generating tons of profit — off of other people’s pain. Documentation later proved that not only was Purdue aware it was highly addictive and that many people were abusing it, but that they also encouraged doctors to continue prescribing increasingly higher doses of it (and sent them on lavish luxury vacations for some motivation). In testimony to Congress, Purdue exec Paul Goldenheim played dumb about OxyContin addiction and overdose rates, but emails that were later exposed showed that he requested his colleagues remove all mentions of addiction from their correspondence about the drug. Even after it was proven in court that Purdue fraudulently marketed OxyContin while concealing its addictive nature, no one from the company spent a single day behind bars. Instead, the company got a slap on the wrist and a $600 million fine for a misdemeanor, the equivalent of a speeding ticket compared to the $9 billion they made off OxyContin up until 2006. Meanwhile, thanks to Purdue’s recklessness, more than 247,000 people died from prescription opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2009. And that’s not even factoring in all the people who died of heroin overdoses once OxyContin was no longer attainable to them. The NIH reports that 80% of people who use heroin started by misusing prescription opioids. Former sales rep Carol Panara told me in an interview that when she looks back on her time at Purdue, it all feels like a “bad dream.” Panara started working for Purdue in 2008, one year after the company pled guilty to “misbranding” charges for OxyContin. At this point, Purdue was “regrouping and expanding,” says Panara, and to that end, had developed a clever new approach for making money off OxyContin: sales reps were now targeting general practitioners and family doctors, rather than just pain management specialists. On top of that, Purdue soon introduced three new strengths for OxyContin: 15, 30, and 60 milligrams, creating smaller increments Panara believes were aimed at making doctors feel more comfortable increasing their patients’ dosages. According to Panara, there were internal company rankings for sales reps based on the number of prescriptions for each OxyContin dosing strength in their territory. “They were sneaky about it,” she said. “Their plan was to go in and sell these doctors on the idea of starting with 10 milligrams, which is very low, knowing full well that once they get started down that path — that’s all they need. Because eventually, they’re going to build a tolerance and need a higher dose.” Occasionally, doctors expressed concerns about a patient becoming addicted, but Purdue had already developed a way around that. Sales reps like Panara were taught to reassure those doctors that someone in pain might experience addiction-like symptoms called “pseudoaddiction,” but that didn’t mean they were truly addicted. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever to support that this concept is legit, of course. But the most disturbing part? Reps were trained to tell doctors that “pseudoaddiction” signaled the patient’s pain wasn’t being managed well enough, and the solution was simply to prescribe a higher dose of OxyContin. Panara finally quit Purdue in 2013. One of the breaking points was when two pharmacies in her territory were robbed at gunpoint specifically for OxyContin. In 2020, Purdue pled guilty to three criminal charges in an $8.3 billion deal, but the company is now under court protection after filing for bankruptcy. Despite all the damage that’s been done, the FDA’s policies for approving opioids remain essentially unchanged. Photo credit: Jennifer Durban Purdue probably wouldn’t have been able to pull this off if it weren’t for an FDA examiner named Curtis Wright, and his assistant Douglas Kramer. While Purdue was pursuing Wright’s stamp of approval on OxyContin, Wright took an outright sketchy approach to their application, instructing the company to mail documents to his home office rather than the FDA, and enlisting Purdue employees to help him review trials about the safety of the drug. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires that the FDA have access to at least two randomized controlled trials before deeming a drug as safe and effective, but in the case of OxyContin, it got approved with data from just one measly two-week study — in osteoarthritis patients, no less. When both Wright and Kramer left the FDA, they went on to work for none other than (drumroll, please) Purdue, with Wright earning three times his FDA salary. By the way — this is just one example of the FDA’s notoriously incestuous relationship with big pharma, often referred to as “the revolving door”. In fact, a 2018 Science report revealed that 11 out of 16 FDA reviewers ended up at the same companies they had been regulating products for. While doing an independent investigation, “Empire of Pain” author and New Yorker columnist Patrick Radden Keefe tried to gain access to documentation of Wright’s communications with Purdue during the OxyContin approval process. “The FDA came back and said, ‘Oh, it’s the weirdest thing, but we don’t have anything. It’s all either been lost or destroyed,’” Keefe told Fortune in an interview. “But it’s not just the FDA. It’s Congress, it’s the Department of Justice, it’s big parts of the medical establishment … the sheer amount of money involved, I think, has meant that a lot of the checks that should be in place in society to not just achieve justice, but also to protect us as consumers, were not there because they had been co-opted.” Big pharma may be to blame for creating the opioids that caused this public health catastrophe, but the FDA deserves just as much scrutiny — because its countless failures also played a part in enabling it. And many of those more recent fails happened under the supervision of Dr. Janet Woodcock. Woodcock was named FDA’s acting commissioner mere hours after Joe Biden was inaugurated as president. She would have been a logical choice, being an FDA vet of 35 years, but then again it’s impossible to forget that she played a starring role in the FDA’s perpetuating the opioid epidemic. She’s also known for overruling her own scientific advisors when they vote against approving a drug. Not only did Woodcock approve OxyContin for children as young as 11 years old, but she also gave the green light to several other highly controversial extended-release opioid pain drugs without sufficient evidence of safety or efficacy. One of those was Zohydro: in 2011, the FDA’s advisory committee voted 11:2 against approving it due to safety concerns about inappropriate use, but Woodcock went ahead and pushed it through, anyway. Under Woodcock’s supervision, the FDA also approved Opana, which is twice as powerful as OxyContin — only to then beg the drug maker to take it off the market 10 years later due to “abuse and manipulation.” And then there was Dsuvia, a potent painkiller 1,000 times stronger than morphine and 10 times more powerful than fentanyl. According to a head of one of the FDA’s advisory committees, the U.S. military had helped to develop this particular drug, and Woodcock said there was “pressure from the Pentagon” to push it through approvals. The FBI, members of congress, public health advocates, and patient safety experts alike called this decision into question, pointing out that with hundreds of opioids already on the market there’s no need for another — particularly one that comes with such high risks. Most recently, Woodcock served as the therapeutics lead for Operation Warp Speed, overseeing COVID-19 vaccine development. Big Pharma Lawsuits, Scandals, and Cover-Ups While the OxyContin craze is undoubtedly one of the highest-profile examples of big pharma’s deception, there are dozens of other stories like this. Here are a few standouts: In the 1980s, Bayer continued selling blood clotting products to third-world countries even though they were fully aware those products had been contaminated with HIV. The reason? The “financial investment in the product was considered too high to destroy the inventory.” Predictably, about 20,000 of the hemophiliacs who were infused with these tainted products then tested positive for HIV and eventually developed AIDS, and many later died of it. In 2004, Johnson & Johnson was slapped with a series of lawsuits for illegally promoting off-label use of their heartburn drug Propulsid for children despite internal company emails confirming major safety concerns (as in, deaths during the drug trials). Documentation from the lawsuits showed that dozens of studies sponsored by Johnson & Johnson highlighting the risks of this drug were never published. The FDA estimates that GSK’s Avandia caused 83,000 heart attacks between 1999 and 2007. Internal documents from GSK prove that when they began studying the effects of the drug as early as 1999, they discovered it caused a higher risk of heart attacks than a similar drug it was meant to replace. Rather than publish these findings, they spent a decade illegally concealing them (and meanwhile, banking $3.2 billion annually for this drug by 2006). Finally, a 2007 New England Journal of Medicine study linked Avandia to a 43% increased risk of heart attacks, and a 64% increased risk of death from heart disease. Avandia is still FDA approved and available in the U.S. In 2009, Pfizer was forced to pay $2.3 billion, the largest healthcare fraud settlement in history at that time, for paying illegal kickbacks to doctors and promoting off-label uses of its drugs. Specifically, a former employee revealed that Pfizer reps were encouraged and incentivized to sell Bextra and 12 other drugs for conditions they were never FDA approved for, and at doses up to eight times what’s recommended. “I was expected to increase profits at all costs, even when sales meant endangering lives,” the whistleblower said. When it was discovered that AstraZeneca was promoting the antipsychotic medication Seroquel for uses that were not approved by the FDA as safe and effective, the company was hit with a $520 million fine in 2010. For years, AstraZeneca had been encouraging psychiatrists and other physicians to prescribe Seroquel for a vast range of seemingly unrelated off-label conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, anger management, ADHD, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and sleeplessness. AstraZeneca also violated the federal Anti-Kickback Statute by paying doctors to spread the word about these unapproved uses of Seroquel via promotional lectures and while traveling to resort locations. In 2012, GSK paid a $3 billion fine for bribing doctors by flying them and their spouses to five-star resorts, and for illegally promoting drugs for off-label uses. What’s worse — GSK withheld clinical trial results that showed its antidepressant Paxil not only doesn’t work for adolescents and children but more alarmingly, that it can increase the likelihood of suicidal thoughts in this group. A 1998 GSK internal memo revealed that the company intentionally concealed this data to minimize any “potential negative commercial impact.” In 2021, an ex-AstraZeneca sales rep sued her former employer, claiming they fired her for refusing to promote drugs for uses that weren’t FDA-approved. The employee alleges that on multiple occasions, she expressed concerns to her boss about “misleading” information that didn’t have enough support from medical research, and off-label promotions of certain drugs. Her supervisor reportedly not only ignored these concerns but pressured her to approve statements she didn’t agree with and threatened to remove her from regional and national positions if she didn’t comply. According to the plaintiff, she missed out on a raise and a bonus because she refused to break the law. At the top of 2022, a panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit against Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Roche, and GE Healthcare, which claims they helped finance terrorist attacks against U.S. service members and other Americans in Iraq. The suit alleges that from 2005–2011, these companies regularly offered bribes (including free drugs and medical devices) totaling millions of dollars annually to Iraq’s Ministry of Health in order to secure drug contracts. These corrupt payments then allegedly funded weapons and training for the Mahdi Army, which until 2008, was largely considered one of the most dangerous groups in Iraq. Another especially worrisome factor is that pharmaceutical companies are conducting an ever-increasing number of clinical trials in third-world countries, where people may be less educated, and there are also far fewer safety regulations. Pfizer’s 1996 experimental trials with Trovan on Nigerian children with meningitis — without informed consent — is just one nauseating example. When a former medical director in Pfizer’s central research division warned the company both before and after the study that their methods in this trial were “improper and unsafe,” he was promptly fired. Families of the Nigerian children who died or were left blind, brain damaged, or paralyzed after the study sued Pfizer, and the company ultimately settled out of court. In 1998, the FDA approved Trovan only for adults. The drug was later banned from European markets due to reports of fatal liver disease and restricted to strictly emergency care in the U.S. Pfizer still denies any wrongdoing. “Nurse prepares to vaccinate children” by World Bank Photo Collection is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 But all that is just the tip of the iceberg. If you’d like to dive a little further down the rabbit hole — and I’ll warn you, it’s a deep one — a quick Google search for “big pharma lawsuits” will reveal the industry’s dark track record of bribery, dishonesty, and fraud. In fact, big pharma happens to be the biggest defrauder of the federal government when it comes to the False Claims Act, otherwise known as the “Lincoln Law.” During our interview, Panara told me she has friends still working for big pharma who would be willing to speak out about crooked activity they’ve observed, but are too afraid of being blacklisted by the industry. A newly proposed update to the False Claims Act would help to protect and support whistleblowers in their efforts to hold pharmaceutical companies liable, by helping to prevent that kind of retaliation and making it harder for the companies charged to dismiss these cases. It should come as no surprise that Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Merck, and a flock of other big pharma firms are currently lobbying to block the update. Naturally, they wouldn’t want to make it any easier for ex-employees to expose their wrongdoings, potentially costing them billions more in fines. Something to keep in mind: these are the same people who produced, marketed, and are profiting from the COVID-19 vaccines. The same people who manipulate research, pay off decision-makers to push their drugs, cover up negative research results to avoid financial losses, and knowingly put innocent citizens in harm’s way. The same people who told America: “Take as much OxyContin as you want around the clock! It’s very safe and not addictive!” (while laughing all the way to the bank). So, ask yourself this: if a partner, friend, or family member repeatedly lied to you — and not just little white lies, but big ones that put your health and safety at risk — would you continue to trust them? Backing the Big Four: Big Pharma and the FDA, WHO, NIH, CDC I know what you’re thinking. Big pharma is amoral and the FDA’s devastating slips are a dime a dozen — old news. But what about agencies and organizations like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), World Health Organization (WHO), and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)? Don’t they have an obligation to provide unbiased guidance to protect citizens? Don’t worry, I’m getting there. The WHO’s guidance is undeniably influential across the globe. For most of this organization’s history, dating back to 1948, it could not receive donations from pharmaceutical companies — only member states. But that changed in 2005 when the WHO updated its financial policy to permit private money into its system. Since then, the WHO has accepted many financial contributions from big pharma. In fact, it’s only 20% financed by member states today, with a whopping 80% of financing coming from private donors. For instance, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is now one of its main contributors, providing up to 13% of its funds — about $250–300 million a year. Nowadays, the BMGF provides more donations to the WHO than the entire United States. Dr. Arata Kochi, former head of WHO’s malaria program, expressed concerns to director-general Dr. Margaret Chan in 2007 that taking the BMGF’s money could have “far-reaching, largely unintended consequences” including “stifling a diversity of views among scientists.” “The big concerns are that the Gates Foundation isn’t fully transparent and accountable,” Lawrence Gostin, director of WHO’s Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, told Devex in an interview. “By wielding such influence, it could steer WHO priorities … It would enable a single rich philanthropist to set the global health agenda.” Photo credit: National Institutes of Health Take a peek at the WHO’s list of donors and you’ll find a few other familiar names like AstraZeneca, Bayer, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck. The NIH has the same problem, it seems. Science journalist Paul Thacker, who previously examined financial links between physicians and pharma companies as a lead investigator of the United States Senate Committee, wrote in The Washington Post that this agency “often ignored” very “obvious” conflicts of interest. He also claimed that “its industry ties go back decades.” In 2018, it was discovered that a $100 million alcohol consumption study run by NIH scientists was funded mostly by beer and liquor companies. Emails proved that NIH researchers were in frequent contact with those companies while designing the study — which, here’s a shocker — were aimed at highlighting the benefits and not the risks of moderate drinking. So, the NIH ultimately had to squash the trial. And then there’s the CDC. It used to be that this agency couldn’t take contributions from pharmaceutical companies, but in 1992 they found a loophole: new legislation passed by Congress allowed them to accept private funding through a nonprofit called the CDC Foundation. From 2014 through 2018 alone, the CDC Foundation received $79.6 million from corporations like Pfizer, Biogen, and Merck. Of course, if a pharmaceutical company wants to get a drug, vaccine, or other product approved, they really need to cozy up to the FDA. That explains why in 2017, pharma companies paid for a whopping 75% of the FDA’s scientific review budgets, up from 27% in 1993. It wasn’t always like this. But in 1992, an act of Congress changed the FDA’s funding stream, enlisting pharma companies to pay “user fees,” which help the FDA speed up the approval process for their drugs. A 2018 Science investigation found that 40 out of 107 physician advisors on the FDA’s committees received more than $10,000 from big pharma companies trying to get their drugs approved, with some banking up to $1 million or more. The FDA claims it has a well-functioning system to identify and prevent these possible conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, their system only works for spotting payments before advisory panels meet, and the Science investigation showed many FDA panel members get their payments after the fact. It’s a little like “you scratch my back now, and I’ll scratch your back once I get what I want” — drug companies promise FDA employees a future bonus contingent on whether things go their way. Here’s why this dynamic proves problematic: a 2000 investigation revealed that when the FDA approved the rotavirus vaccine in 1998, it didn’t exactly do its due diligence. That probably had something to do with the fact that committee members had financial ties to the manufacturer, Merck — many owned tens of thousands of dollars of stock in the company, or even held patents on the vaccine itself. Later, the Adverse Event Reporting System revealed that the vaccine was causing serious bowel obstructions in some children, and it was finally pulled from the U.S. market in October 1999. Then, in June of 2021, the FDA overruled concerns raised by its very own scientific advisory committee to approve Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm — a move widely criticized by physicians. The drug not only showed very little efficacy but also potentially serious side effects like brain bleeding and swelling, in clinical trials. Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, a Harvard Medical School professor who was on the FDA’s scientific advisory committee, called it the “worst drug approval” in recent history, and noted that meetings between the FDA and Biogen had a “strange dynamic” suggesting an unusually close relationship. Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, told CNN that he believes the FDA started working in “inappropriately close collaboration with Biogen” back in 2019. “They were not objective, unbiased regulators,” he added in the CNN interview. “It seems as if the decision was preordained.” That brings me to perhaps the biggest conflict of interest yet: Dr. Anthony Fauci’s NIAID is just one of many institutes that comprises the NIH — and the NIH owns half the patent for the Moderna vaccine — as well as thousands more pharma patents to boot. The NIAID is poised to earn millions of dollars from Moderna’s vaccine revenue, with individual officials also receiving up to $150,000 annually. Operation Warp Speed In December of 2020, Pfizer became the first company to receive an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA for a COVID-19 vaccine. EUAs — which allow the distribution of an unapproved drug or other product during a declared public health emergency — are actually a pretty new thing: the first one was issued in 2005 so military personnel could get an anthrax vaccine. To get a full FDA approval, there needs to be substantial evidence that the product is safe and effective. But for an EUA, the FDA just needs to determine that it may be effective. Since EUAs are granted so quickly, the FDA doesn’t have enough time to gather all the information they’d usually need to approve a drug or vaccine. “Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Event” by The White House is licensed under CC PDM 1.0 Pfizer CEO and chairman Albert Bourla has said his company was “operating at the speed of science” to bring a vaccine to market. However, a 2021 report in The BMJ revealed that this speed might have come at the expense of “data integrity and patient safety.” Brook Jackson, regional director for the Ventavia Research Group, which carried out these trials, told The BMJ that her former company “falsified data, unblinded patients, and employed inadequately trained vaccinators” in Pfizer’s pivotal phase 3 trial. Just some of the other concerning events witnessed included: adverse events not being reported correctly or at all, lack of reporting on protocol deviations, informed consent errors, and mislabeling of lab specimens. An audio recording of Ventavia employees from September 2020 revealed that they were so overwhelmed by issues arising during the study that they became unable to “quantify the types and number of errors” when assessing quality control. One Ventavia employee told The BMJ she’d never once seen a research environment as disorderly as Ventavia’s Pfizer vaccine trial, while another called it a “crazy mess.” Over the course of her two-decades-long career, Jackson has worked on hundreds of clinical trials, and two of her areas of expertise happen to be immunology and infectious diseases. She told me that from her first day on the Pfizer trial in September of 2020, she discovered “such egregious misconduct” that she recommended they stop enrolling participants into the study to do an internal audit. “To my complete shock and horror, Ventavia agreed to pause enrollment but then devised a plan to conceal what I found and to keep ICON and Pfizer in the dark,” Jackson said during our interview. “The site was in full clean-up mode. When missing data points were discovered the information was fabricated, including forged signatures on the informed consent forms.” A screenshot Jackson shared with me shows she was invited to a meeting titled “COVID 1001 Clean up Call” on Sept. 21, 2020. She refused to participate in the call. Jackson repeatedly warned her superiors about patient safety concerns and data integrity issues. “I knew that the entire world was counting on clinical researchers to develop a safe and effective vaccine and I did not want to be a part of that failure by not reporting what I saw,” she told me. When her employer failed to act, Jackson filed a complaint with the FDA on Sept. 25, and Ventavia fired her hours later that same day under the pretense that she was “not a good fit.” After reviewing her concerns over the phone, she claims the FDA never followed up or inspected the Ventavia site. Ten weeks later, the FDA authorized the EUA for the vaccine. Meanwhile, Pfizer hired Ventavia to handle the research for four more vaccine clinical trials, including one involving children and young adults, one for pregnant women, and another for the booster. Not only that, but Ventavia handled the clinical trials for Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax. Jackson is currently pursuing a False Claims Act lawsuit against Pfizer and Ventavia Research Group. Last year, Pfizer banked nearly $37 billion from its COVID vaccine, making it one of the most lucrative products in global history. Its overall revenues doubled in 2021 to reach $81.3 billion, and it’s slated to reach a record-breaking $98-$102 billion this year. “Corporations like Pfizer should never have been put in charge of a global vaccination rollout, because it was inevitable they would make life-and-death decisions based on what’s in the short-term interest of their shareholders,” writes Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now. As previously mentioned, it’s super common for pharmaceutical companies to fund the research on their own products. Here’s why that’s scary. One 1999 meta-analysis showed that industry-funded research is eight times less likely to achieve unfavorable results compared to independent trials. In other words, if a pharmaceutical company wants to prove that a medication, supplement, vaccine, or device is safe and effective, they’ll find a way. With that in mind, I recently examined the 2020 study on Pfizer’s COVID vaccine to see if there were any conflicts of interest. Lo and behold, the lengthy attached disclosure form shows that of the 29 authors, 18 are employees of Pfizer and hold stock in the company, one received a research grant from Pfizer during the study, and two reported being paid “personal fees” by Pfizer. In another 2021 study on the Pfizer vaccine, seven of the 15 authors are employees of and hold stock in Pfizer. The other eight authors received financial support from Pfizer during the study. Photo credit: Prasesh Shiwakoti (Lomash) via Unsplash As of the day I’m writing this, about 64% of Americans are fully vaccinated, and 76% have gotten at least one dose. The FDA has repeatedly promised “full transparency” when it comes to these vaccines. Yet in December of 2021, the FDA asked for permission to wait 75 years before releasing information pertaining to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, including safety data, effectiveness data, and adverse reaction reports. That means no one would see this information until the year 2096 — conveniently, after many of us have departed this crazy world. To recap: the FDA only needed 10 weeks to review the 329,000 pages worth of data before approving the EUA for the vaccine — but apparently, they need three-quarters of a century to publicize it. In response to the FDA’s ludicrous request, PHMPT — a group of over 200 medical and public health experts from Harvard, Yale, Brown, UCLA, and other institutions — filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act demanding that the FDA produce this data sooner. And their efforts paid off: U.S. District Judge Mark T. Pittman issued an order for the FDA to produce 12,000 pages by Jan. 31, and then at least 55,000 pages per month thereafter. In his statement to the FDA, Pittman quoted the late John F. Kennedy: “A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” As for why the FDA wanted to keep this data hidden, the first batch of documentation revealed that there were more than 1,200 vaccine-related deaths in just the first 90 days after the Pfizer vaccine was introduced. Of 32 pregnancies with a known outcome, 28 resulted in fetal death. The CDC also recently unveiled data showing a total of 1,088,560 reports of adverse events from COVID vaccines were submitted between Dec. 14, 2020, and Jan. 28, 2022. That data included 23,149 reports of deaths and 183,311 reports of serious injuries. There were 4,993 reported adverse events in pregnant women after getting vaccinated, including 1,597 reports of miscarriage or premature birth. A 2022 study published in JAMA, meanwhile, revealed that there have been more than 1,900 reported cases of myocarditis — or inflammation of the heart muscle — mostly in people 30 and under, within 7 days of getting the vaccine. In those cases, 96% of people were hospitalized. “It is understandable that the FDA does not want independent scientists to review the documents it relied upon to license Pfizer’s vaccine given that it is not as effective as the FDA originally claimed, does not prevent transmission, does not prevent against certain emerging variants, can cause serious heart inflammation in younger individuals, and has numerous other undisputed safety issues,” writes Aaron Siri, the attorney representing PHMPT in its lawsuit against the FDA. Siri told me in an email that his office phone has been ringing off the hook in recent months. “We are overwhelmed by inquiries from individuals calling about an injury from a COVID-19 vaccine,” he said. By the way — it’s worth noting that adverse effects caused by COVID-19 vaccinations are still not covered by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Companies like Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are protected under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, which grants them total immunity from liability with their vaccines. And no matter what happens to you, you can’t sue the FDA for authorizing the EUA, or your employer for requiring you to get it, either. Billions of taxpayer dollars went to fund the research and development of these vaccines, and in Moderna’s case, licensing its vaccine was made possible entirely by public funds. But apparently, that still warrants citizens no insurance. Should something go wrong, you’re basically on your own. Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine business model: government gives them billions, gives them immunity for any injuries or if doesn't work, promotes their products for free, and mandates their products. Sounds crazy? Yes, but it is our current reality. — Aaron Siri (@AaronSiriSG) February 2, 2022 The Hypocrisy of “Misinformation” I find it interesting that “misinformation” has become such a pervasive term lately, but more alarmingly, that it’s become an excuse for blatant censorship on social media and in journalism. It’s impossible not to wonder what’s driving this movement to control the narrative. In a world where we still very clearly don’t have all the answers, why shouldn’t we be open to exploring all the possibilities? And while we’re on the subject, what about all of the COVID-related untruths that have been spread by our leaders and officials? Why should they get a free pass? Photo credit: @upgradeur_life, www.instagram.com/upgradeur_life Fauci, President Biden, and the CDC’s Rochelle Walensky all promised us with total confidence the vaccine would prevent us from getting or spreading COVID, something we now know is a myth. (In fact, the CDC recently had to change its very definition of “vaccine ” to promise “protection” from a disease rather than “immunity”— an important distinction). At one point, the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) and former Governor Andrew Cuomo prepared a social media campaign with misleading messaging that the vaccine was “approved by the FDA” and “went through the same rigorous approval process that all vaccines go through,” when in reality the FDA only authorized the vaccines under an EUA, and the vaccines were still undergoing clinical trials. While the NYS DOH eventually responded to pressures to remove these false claims, a few weeks later the Department posted on Facebook that “no serious side effects related to the vaccines have been reported,” when in actuality, roughly 16,000 reports of adverse events and over 3,000 reports of serious adverse events related to a COVID-19 vaccination had been reported in the first two months of use. One would think we’d hold the people in power to the same level of accountability — if not more — than an average citizen. So, in the interest of avoiding hypocrisy, should we “cancel” all these experts and leaders for their “misinformation,” too? Vaccine-hesitant people have been fired from their jobs, refused from restaurants, denied the right to travel and see their families, banned from social media channels, and blatantly shamed and villainized in the media. Some have even lost custody of their children. These people are frequently labeled “anti-vax,” which is misleading given that many (like the NBA’s Jonathan Isaac) have made it repeatedly clear they are not against all vaccines, but simply making a personal choice not to get this one. (As such, I’ll suggest switching to a more accurate label: “pro-choice.”) Fauci has repeatedly said federally mandating the vaccine would not be “appropriate” or “enforceable” and doing so would be “encroaching upon a person’s freedom to make their own choice.” So it’s remarkable that still, some individual employers and U.S. states, like my beloved Massachusetts, have taken it upon themselves to enforce some of these mandates, anyway. Meanwhile, a Feb. 7 bulletin posted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicates that if you spread information that undermines public trust in a government institution (like the CDC or FDA), you could be considered a terrorist. In case you were wondering about the current state of free speech. The definition of institutional oppression is “the systematic mistreatment of people within a social identity group, supported and enforced by the society and its institutions, solely based on the person’s membership in the social identity group.” It is defined as occurring when established laws and practices “systematically reflect and produce inequities based on one’s membership in targeted social identity groups.” Sound familiar? As you continue to watch the persecution of the unvaccinated unfold, remember this. Historically, when society has oppressed a particular group of people whether due to their gender, race, social class, religious beliefs, or sexuality, it’s always been because they pose some kind of threat to the status quo. The same is true for today’s unvaccinated. Since we know the vaccine doesn’t prevent the spread of COVID, however, this much is clear: the unvaccinated don’t pose a threat to the health and safety of their fellow citizens — but rather, to the bottom line of powerful pharmaceutical giants and the many global organizations they finance. And with more than $100 billion on the line in 2021 alone, I can understand the motivation to silence them. The unvaccinated have been called selfish. Stupid. Fauci has said it’s “almost inexplicable” that they are still resisting. But is it? What if these people aren’t crazy or uncaring, but rather have — unsurprisingly so — lost their faith in the agencies that are supposed to protect them? Can you blame them? Citizens are being bullied into getting a vaccine that was created, evaluated, and authorized in under a year, with no access to the bulk of the safety data for said vaccine, and no rights whatsoever to pursue legal action if they experience adverse effects from it. What these people need right now is to know they can depend on their fellow citizens to respect their choices, not fuel the segregation by launching a full-fledged witch hunt. Instead, for some inexplicable reason I imagine stems from fear, many continue rallying around big pharma rather than each other. A 2022 Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports survey of Democratic voters found that 59% of respondents support a government policy requiring unvaccinated individuals to remain confined in their home at all times, 55% support handing a fine to anyone who won’t get the vaccine, and 48% think the government should flat out imprison people who publicly question the efficacy of the vaccines on social media, TV, or online in digital publications. Even Orwell couldn’t make this stuff up. Photo credit: DJ Paine on Unsplash Let me be very clear. While there are a lot of bad actors out there — there are also a lot of well-meaning people in the science and medical industries, too. I’m lucky enough to know some of them. There are doctors who fend off pharma reps’ influence and take an extremely cautious approach to prescribing. Medical journal authors who fiercely pursue transparency and truth — as is evident in “The Influence of Money on Medical Science,” a report by the first female editor of JAMA. Pharmacists, like Dan Schneider, who refuse to fill prescriptions they deem risky or irresponsible. Whistleblowers, like Graham and Jackson, who tenaciously call attention to safety issues for pharma products in the approval pipeline. And I’m certain there are many people in the pharmaceutical industry, like Panara and my grandfather, who pursued this field with the goal of helping others, not just earning a six- or seven-figure salary. We need more of these people. Sadly, it seems they are outliers who exist in a corrupt, deep-rooted system of quid-pro-quo relationships. They can only do so much. I’m not here to tell you whether or not you should get the vaccine or booster doses. What you put in your body is not for me — or anyone else — to decide. It’s not a simple choice, but rather one that may depend on your physical condition, medical history, age, religious beliefs, and level of risk tolerance. My grandfather passed away in 2008, and lately, I find myself missing him more than ever, wishing I could talk to him about the pandemic and hear what he makes of all this madness. I don’t really know how he’d feel about the COVID vaccine, or whether he would have gotten it or encouraged me to. What I do know is that he’d listen to my concerns, and he’d carefully consider them. He would remind me my feelings are valid. His eyes would light up and he’d grin with amusement as I fervidly expressed my frustration. He’d tell me to keep pushing forward, digging deeper, asking questions. In his endearing Bronx accent, he used to always say: “go get ‘em, kid.” If I stop typing for a moment and listen hard enough, I can almost hear him saying it now. People keep saying “trust the science.” But when trust is broken, it must be earned back. And as long as our legislative system, public health agencies, physicians, and research journals keep accepting pharmaceutical money (with strings attached) — and our justice system keeps letting these companies off the hook when their negligence causes harm, there’s no reason for big pharma to change. They’re holding the bag, and money is power. I have a dream that one day, we’ll live in a world where we are armed with all the thorough, unbiased data necessary to make informed decisions about our health. Alas, we’re not even close. What that means is that it’s up to you to educate yourself as much as possible, and remain ever-vigilant in evaluating information before forming an opinion. You can start by reading clinical trials yourself, rather than relying on the media to translate them for you. Scroll to the bottom of every single study to the “conflicts of interest” section and find out who funded it. Look at how many subjects were involved. Confirm whether or not blinding was used to eliminate bias. You may also choose to follow Public Citizen’s Health Research Group’s rule whenever possible: that means avoiding a new drug until five years after an FDA approval (not an EUA, an actual approval) — when there’s enough data on the long-term safety and effectiveness to establish that the benefits outweigh the risks. When it comes to the news, you can seek out independent, nonprofit outlets, which are less likely to be biased due to pharma funding. And most importantly, when it appears an organization is making concerted efforts to conceal information from you — like the FDA recently did with the COVID vaccine — it’s time to ask yourself: why? What are they trying to hide? In the 2019 film “Dark Waters” — which is based on the true story of one of the greatest corporate cover-ups in American history — Mark Ruffalo as attorney Rob Bilott says: “The system is rigged. They want us to think it’ll protect us, but that’s a lie. We protect us. We do. Nobody else. Not the companies. Not the scientists. Not the government. Us.” Words to live by. Tyler Durden Sat, 04/09/2022 - 22:30.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytApr 9th, 2022

Here are 6 things to watch as Congress considers banning lawmakers from trading stocks

Insider's "Conflicted Congress" investigation found more than 1 in 10 members of Congress has violated a law designed to curb financial conflicts and promote transparency. A House panel is holding a hearing about congressional stock trading — one of the most concrete steps suggesting that reforms are ahead.Mark Wilson/Getty Images A key House panel will hold a hearing Thursday on congressional stock trading. The hearing comes after Insider found numerous STOCK Act violations and conflict-of-interest issues.  Stock-trading bans for judges and lawmakers' spouses could be particularly contentious. There isn't much members of Congress can agree on these days, even within their own party. Democrats are still divided over how to jumpstart the Build Back Better Act and are gearing up for a mostly party-line vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.But on Thursday, a key US House panel is turning its attention to a surprisingly unifying issue: government ethics. At the center of the hearing by the Committee on House Administration is a debate over the merits of banning federal lawmakers from trading individual stocks. The hearing is the first on the issue in more than a decade. It marks an acceleration on the matter after Insider's Conflicted Congress investigation found 1 in 10 members of Congress had failed to report their stock trades in a timely way or faced late penalties, as required by the 2012 Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or STOCK Act.Insider's investigation also uncovered numerous conflict-of-interest concerns where members of Congress personally invested in industries they oversee. Recent reports show members or their spouses investing in missile manufacturers during Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and lawmakers who hold stocks in Russian companies.Five witnesses will testify before the Committee on House Administration during Thursday's hearing. Here are six things to watch during the high-stakes hearing:Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California, leads the Committee on House Administration.Nhat V. Meyer/The Mercury News via Getty ImagesHow serious are members about the possibility of a trading ban? Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who chairs the Committee on House Administration, never used the word "ban" last month when she announced the STOCK Act hearing. Her comments instead focused on making the current law more rigid. She mentioned the committee was investigating the extent to which members of Congress were following the rules about disclosing their trades. She also said they'd be looking at stronger penalties for members who don't report their trades on time. Members are supposed to pay a late fee of $200 the first time they are tardy, regardless of how late they reported their transactions or how much those transactions were worth. But right now — especially in the House — penalties for violating the STOCK Act are inconsistently enforced and the process is not transparent, Insider found. There isn't even a public ledger anywhere showing who paid a penalty."As we have seen through recent reporting, Congress has not been good about complying with the STOCK Act's disclosure requirements, and that's a problem," said Jennifer Schulp, director of Financial Regulation Studies at the CATO Institute, a libertarian think tank. Republicans invited Schulp to testify, and she's opposed to a stock-trade ban because she said transparency helps to inform voters of what their elected officials are doing. But she said Congress should consider other ways to strengthen the STOCK Act, such as publicly reporting who is flouting the law and who paid fines. Shortening the timeframe between when lawmakers or their family members can make a trade and when they have to report it could also help, she said. Currently, lawmakers must publicly disclose stock trades within 30 to 45 days, depending on when members learned about their trades.Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, the Committee on House Administration's top Republican, said in an interview last month that he was skeptical about a ban but hadn't totally ruled it out. He stressed that Congress could improve lawmakers' ethics trainings to help them better comply with disclosure rules. Davis also said Congress could improve how it makes lawmakers' trading information  available to the public. But the committee will certainly hear about how and why to implement a stock trading ban. Democrats on the committee called on nonprofit anti-corruption organizations, including the Project on Government Oversight and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, to testify on behalf of a ban. Meanwhile, 37 former members of Congress on Wednesday asked current lawmakers to ban themselves — and their immediate family members — from trading stocks while in office.Enforcement: tougher and more transparent?Here's a recent example of how convoluted current congressional stock disclosure rules are. Stick with us — it's a bumpy ride.On February 28, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi disclosed to the Clerk of the House of Representatives that her husband, Paul Pelosi,  purchased $2.9 million in stock on January 21. Pelosi also affirmed in her disclosure that she became aware of her husband's stock trades the same day, January 21. A stock disclosure filing submitted February 28, 2022, by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.Clerk of the House of RepresentativesFederal law and House guidance states that members of Congress must disclose such stock trades "within 30 days of notice of the transaction." They have a maximum of 45 days to disclose a transaction in the event that a financial or stock broker bought stock on their behalf but didn't inform the member of Congress about it until, say, 35 or 40 days after doing so.At its face, this language indicates Pelosi disclosed her husband's trade one week late. Several former congressional ethics attorneys told Insider that this 30-day rule is real and clear — but that the Committee on House Ethics, in particular, doesn't follow it."The law requires members of Congress to disclose stock trades within 30 days of knowing of the trade, but the Ethics Committee has created exceptions contrary to law," said Kedric Payne, the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center's general counsel and senior director for ethics and a former deputy chief counsel of the Office of Congressional Ethics.Pelosi's office denied that the speaker was late and referred questions to the Committee on House Ethics. But the Committee on House Ethics, which enforces the STOCK Act, refused to answer Insider's questions — as has been the case for months.In October, however, Insider obtained an email from Tonya N. Sloans, the Committee on House Ethics' director of financial disclosure, advising another member of Congress that she actually had 45 days to disclose her stock transactions, and that the 30-day rule doesn't apply."As long as the transaction is reported within 45 days of the transaction … the transaction is timely," Sloans wrote.On March 4, Pelosi filed another disclosure with the Clerk of the House of Representatives. In it, she said that she didn't learn of her husband's stock trades on January 21, as she originally affirmed, but on February 28.An updated stock disclosure filing submitted March 4, 2022, by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.Clerk of the House of Representatives"The Speaker was made aware of these transactions on February 28, 2022. The last disclosure has been amended to correct the notification date of these transactions," Pelosi deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill told Insider.There is no evidence that Pelosi paid a fine or was otherwise warned in the matter.On Thursday, expect lawmakers to debate whether Congress can do better when it comes to clarifying what existing law even requires of them. And bet that lawmakers will discuss whether they should provide more insight into what's now a decidedly opaque process for investigating potential STOCK Act disclosure violations and penalizing members who break the law.If they do talk about a ban, who will it apply to? Two bills, the Ban Conflicted Trading Act and the TRUST in Congress Act, would prevent lawmakers from trading individual stocks while in office. They'd force lawmakers to hold onto existing investments or have them put assets into a blind trust.Both bills have bipartisan support but differ in a key way: The TRUST in Congress Act would extend a ban to lawmakers' spouses. Several good government groups view a lawmaker-only ban as meaningless. They pan the idea that finances in a marriage can remain separate given that spouses do tend to live together, likely discuss their jobs on a regular basis and share in each other's wealth.Take Pelosi, for instance. Pelosi herself does not trade any stocks. But her husband, Paul, has millions of dollars worth of investments, including in companies that together spend tens of millions of dollars annually lobbying the federal government for favorable treatment. With her husband's wealth considered, Pelosi ranks among the wealthiest members of Congress. Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, a co-sponsor of the TRUST in Congress Act, speaks at a press conference outside the Capitol on December 21, 2020.Cheriss May/Getty ImagesWill senior staff get considered? Discussions on Capitol Hill about reforming the STOCK Act have included very few mentions of senior congressional staff. One big reason: lawmakers are concerned about being able to retain top talent when they know the people working for them can easily depart for a far more high-paying corporate lobbying position. Yet Insider has found that at least 182 of the highest-paid Capitol Hill staffers, who earned a minimum salary of $132,552, were late reporting their stock trades during 2020 and 2021 — in violation of the STOCK Act.These staffers often wield significant influence over their elected bosses. Many also regularly meet with special interests and corporate lobbyists, who could conceivably represent a company or industry in which a congressional staffer personally invests. That's why the STOCK Act obligated senior staff to disclose their stock trades, just as lawmakers have to. These disclosure documents, however, are notoriously difficult to access: One must physically go to the US Capitol to obtain them. Even if you successfully access the office where the records are, and snag one of the few dedicated computer terminals where you may access them, you're not allowed to download them. But you can print them — for 20 cents per page.Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat of Virginia who co-sponsored the bipartisan TRUST in Congress Act, told Insider one of her biggest concerns was that Thursday's hearing will attempt to address too many issues at once and distract from Congress focusing on … members of Congress. "I'm hyper alert to things that might be poison pills," Spanberger said, citing the staffer example and then questions over whether to create new requirements for federal employees. "I'm not in any way opposed to it," she said of a ban on trading for top staffers, particularly those on committees. "But the principle I'm focused on is that we are the elected ones. We are the ones who have to demonstrate that we should be, and are, trustworthy." Some members of Congress think it's time for Supreme Court justices to provide far more information about their finances while they sit on the bench.Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesWill Congress target judges?Spanberger's concerns extend to the question over whether to create new requirements for the judiciary — she's concerned that the legislation might become too large and result in nothing being able to pass. In September 2021, The Wall Street Journal released a bombshell investigation that found 131 federal judges broke the law by hearing cases in which they had a financial interest. As a result, some lawmakers and outside groups started talking about restrictions on their stock ownership. "The recent scandals make it clear that it is time to go a step further and ban stock trading activity altogether for some, if not most, government officials," Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist at Public Citizen, wrote in comments he submitted to the committee. While Public Citizen says it would support numerous reforms on stock trading, it is encouraging Congress to be more encompassing, including by banning Supreme Court justices from trading. Even Pelosi has said that it might be important to consider "government-wide" reforms."The court system, the third branch of government, the Judiciary, has no reporting," she said during a press conference on February 9. "The Supreme Court has no disclosure. It has no reporting of stock transactions.  And yet it makes important decisions every day." Will members use the hearing as an opportunity to attack each other? The discussion about congressional stock trading is happening smack at the start of a midterm election year.Political campaigns know that voters are agitated by the idea that lawmakers are in Washington to benefit and enrich themselves rather than the people they were sent there to represent. They're running tons of ads and fundraising emails attacking their opponents about their stock trades. Hearings can often provide fodder for even more attacks. So the question is, how much will members call out each other for STOCK Act violations or conflict-of-interest questions? Bryan Metzger contributed to this report.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytApr 6th, 2022

Trump Sues Hillary Clinton, Says She "Maliciously Conspired" To Weave Collusion Conspiracy Theory

Trump Sues Hillary Clinton, Says She 'Maliciously Conspired' To Weave Collusion Conspiracy Theory Former US President Donald Trump sued Hillary Clinton and several other Democrats on Thursday, alleging they attempted to rig the 2016 US presidential election by fabricating a conspiracy theory tying his campaign to Russia. "Acting in concert, the Defendants maliciously conspired to weave a false narrative that their Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, was colluding with a hostile foreign sovereignty," reads the lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Florida. Remember this? Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank. pic.twitter.com/8f8n9xMzUU — Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 1, 2016 Meanwhile, a flashback: Authored by Paul Sperry via RealClearInvestigations.com, A Hillary Clinton campaign operation to plant a false rumor about Donald Trump setting up a “secret hotline” to Moscow through a Russian bank was much broader than known and involved multiple U.S. agencies, according to declassified documents and sources briefed on an ongoing criminal investigation of the scheme. In addition to the FBI, the 2016 Clinton campaign tried to convince the Obama administration’s State Department, Justice Department and Central Intelligence Agency to look into the hoax, and continued pressing the issue even after Trump was inaugurated in January 2017.The goal was to trigger federal investigative activity targeting her Republican rival and leak the damaging information to the media. “The Clinton machine flooded the FBI with pressure from a number of angles until investigations of Trump were opened and reopened,” said one of the briefed sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive law enforcement matter. "The deception was wide-ranging." Michael Sussmann: The indicted former Clinton campaign attorney wasn't the only one feeding the bogus Alfa Bank story to the feds. perkinscoie.com Special Counsel John Durham outlined the FBI part of the scheme in a felony indictment of Michael Sussmann. The former Clinton campaign lawyer was charged last month with making a false statement to the former general counsel of the FBI when he claimed he was not working “for any client” in bringing to the FBI’s attention allegations of a secret channel of communication between computer servers in Trump Tower and the Alfa Bank in Russia. According to the indictment, Sussmann was in fact acting on behalf of clients including the Clinton campaign, and an unnamed tech executive who RCI has previously reported is Rodney L. Joffe, a regular adviser to the Biden White House on cybersecurity and infrastructure policies. Internal emails reveal the Clinton operatives knew the links they made between Trump and Russia were “weak,” even describing them as a “red herring,” but fed them to investigators anyway. The Sussmann indictment revealed the doubts of those developing the Alfa Bank story. U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia After Sussmann’s meeting with the FBI in September 2016, the Clinton campaign approached the State Department the following month with the same lead, this time using paid Clinton campaign subcontractor Christopher Steele to feed the rumors. A former British intelligence officer, Steele was offered as a reliable source to help corroborate the rumors. On Oct. 11, 2016, Steele gave his contact at Foggy Bottom documents alleging that a supposed hidden server at Trump Tower was pinging Moscow. Christopher Steele: Author of the debunked dossier passed the Alfa Bank story to the State Department, which passed it along to FBI agent Peter Strzok. (Aaron Chown/PA FILE via AP) Two days later, a State official who previously worked under former secretary Clinton funneled the information to the FBI’s then-top Eurasia/Russia counterintelligence official, Stephen Laycock, according to recently declassified notes and testimony. Laycock, in turn, forwarded the information to Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who led the investigation of Trump and his campaign and had just weeks earlier texted a bureau lawyer, “We’ll stop [Trump from being elected].” "I informed Peter Strzok and another supervisor,” Laycock testified last year in a closed-door Senate hearing. Telephone: After Steele fed the Alfa Bank story to State, it was passed to the FBI’s then-top Eurasia/Russia counterintelligence official, Stephen Laycock (left), who in turn passed it on to lead FBI agent on Trump-Russia, Peter Strzok (right). Facebook/Twitter Steele, who later confessed he was “desperate” to defeat Trump, was the author of the debunked dossier claiming Trump colluded with Russia to steal the election. He even misspelled the name of the Russian bank as “Alpha.” Still, the FBI took his rumors seriously enough to interview tech vendors working for the Trump Organization and obtain warrants to search Trump Tower servers. Within days of receiving the State Department tip, Strzok also used Steele’s dossier to secure a wiretap on Trump adviser Carter Page. Clinton foreign policy adviser and current National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan would put out a written statement trumpeting the Trump-Alfa Bank story, which was shared by then-candidate Clinton on Oct. 31, 2016, after Slate reported on it. Fusion GPS, the Washington opposition-research group that worked for the Clinton campaign as a paid agent, and helped gather dirt on Alfa Bank and draft the materials Sussmann would later submit to the FBI, reportedly pressed Slate to publish the story by the account of its author, journalist Franklin Foer. The Clinton campaign played up the Trump-Alfa Bank story on the eve of the 2016 election. Twitter/@HillaryClinton “This was a highly sophisticated operation using enablers in both the media and federal agencies,” George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told RealClearInvestigations. The Clinton campaign did not let up even after Trump won the election. In mid-November 2016, it enlisted top Justice Department official Bruce Ohr – whose wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS – to add credibility to the Alfa rumors. That month, Ohr advised the FBI that Steele had told him that the Alfa Bank server was a link to the Trump campaign. Then in early December, Ohr met with the FBI case supervisor who worked for Strzok at least twice. Declassified notes and other records show that during those meetings, Ohr provided him with thumb drives he had received from paid Clinton opposition researcher and Fusion GPS co-founder, Glenn Simpson, and Ohr’s wife and Simpson’s colleague, Nellie. Quoting his Clinton sources, Ohr insisted the alleged backdoor computer channel between Trump and Alfa was real. Bruce Ohr: The Justice Department official -- linked to Clinton opposition research firm Fusion GPS through his wife Nellie, a Fusion employee -- brought the firm's arguments and materials to the FBI. The Global Initiative The FBI spent months investigating the claim, eventually dismissing it as baseless. After the FBI closed the case, Sussmann turned to the nation’s top intelligence agency for assistance, as RCI first reported. In December 2016, Sussmann called then-CIA Director John Brennan’s general counsel – Caroline Krass – to set up a meeting to brief her about the same Alfa Bank rumors. Krass expressed interest in the tip. Then in early February 2017, officials from her office formally sat down with Sussmann for more than an hour to discuss the Trump-Russian bank rumors. Sussmann provided them updated versions of the materials he had handed off to the FBI. Caroline Krass: General counsel to then-CIA Director John Brennan welcomed Sussmann's pitch of the Alfa Bank story, which reportedly passed from the CIA to FBI. CIA/Wikipedia The CIA, in turn, referred the rumors to an FBI liaison for further investigation, according to the sources briefed on his case. Strzok was the lead FBI liaison to the CIA at the time. Among the documents Durham has obtained is a CIA memo memorializing the meeting with Sussmann, according to the sources. In his grand jury indictment, Durham accused Sussmann of also misleading the CIA, which he referred to only as “Agency-2.” The special counsel alleges that Sussmann, as he did when meeting with an FBI official, had also failed to inform contacts at Langley that he was representing a client – in the latter case specifically Joffe – tied to the Clinton campaign operation and who had been promised a high-level job in a Clinton administration. Billing the Democrat’s campaign for his work on the “confidential project," Sussmann recruited Joffe and a team of federal computer contractors to mine proprietary databases containing vast quantities of sensitive, nonpublic Internet data for possible dirt on Trump and his advisers. In a new court document filed last week, Durham revealed his team has obtained more than 80,000 pages of documents in response to grand jury subpoenas issued to more than 15 targets and witnesses, including the computer contractors. Among others receiving subpoenas: political organizations, private firms, tech companies and other entities, including a major university — Georgia Tech — which allegedly participated in the Clinton conspiracy as a Pentagon contractor. Some witnesses have been granted immunity and are cooperating with prosecutors, the sources close to the probe said. Jonathan Turley: "One would expect a CIA official to express reluctance in an investigation that would have a largely domestic focus," says the law professor. CNN “While Sussmann may have hidden his work for the Clinton campaign, this was obviously a useful attack on Trump,” Turley said. “One would expect a CIA official to express reluctance in an investigation that would have a largely domestic focus. But as with the FBI, the Clinton campaign found eager officials to move on any such allegation.” The CIA is largely barred from collecting information inside the United States or on American citizens.“The CIA has no business involving itself in a domestic political issue,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told RCI. “The evidence suggests the primary purpose of the meeting was political." Fitton said his watchdog group has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the CIA demanding all records generated from the contacts Sussmann had with the agency in December 2016 and February 2017. The CIA did not return requests for comment.For good measure, old Clinton hands tried another pressure point. In early February 2017, Clinton's foreign policy adviser Sullivan huddled with Fusion GPS's Simpson and Daniel Jones, an FBI analyst-turned-Democrat-operative, to reboot the same smear campaign against Trump. (As RCI previously reported, Sullivan, who spearheaded the campaign's effort to promote the narrative of a disturbing Trump-Russia relationship via the Alfa Bank story, is under scrutiny for possibly lying to Congress about his role in the operation.) Jones, in turn, reached out to his former colleagues at the FBI, who reopened the investigation into the old allegations of a cyber-link between Trump and Alfa Bank. Jake Sullivan played a pivotal role in the Alfa Bank story as 2016 Clinton foreign policy adviser. AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File The next month, acting on Jones’ recycled tip, FBI agents visited the offices of the Pennsylvania company that housed the Trump server, which was actually administered by a third-party hotel promotions firm – Cendyn, based in Florida. But their second investigation proved to be another dead end. The sinister communications Jones claimed were flowing between an alleged Trump server and Alfa Bank were found to be innocuous marketing emails. In other words, spam. Sources say it is odd that FBI headquarters continued to pursue the allegations, because internal FBI communications reveal that the bureau’s own cyber sleuths had pooh-poohed them within days of Sussmann’s briefing, RCI has learned. Strzok himself had been briefed on that assessment of the materials Sussman dropped off at headquarters on Sept. 19, 2016. In fact, in a Sept. 23, 2016, internal message to Strzok, an FBI official relayed his preliminary findings following an interview with Cendyn, the Florida marketing firm that managed the alleged Trump server.“Followed up this morning with Central Dynamics [Cendyn] who confirmed that the mail1.trump-email.com domain is an old domain that was set up in approximately 2009 when they were doing business with the Trump Organization that was never used,” according to the message. Reacting to the Durham indictment, Strzok recently tried to distance himself from the Alfa scandal, insisting in a Lawfare blog: “I had a minor role in the events in question, insofar as I transferred the material Sussman gave to Jim Baker, the FBI’s general counsel at the time, to the personnel who ultimately supervised and looked into the allegations.” Echoing other critics, Strzok complained that Durham – who originally was tapped to investigate the origins of the Russia “collusion” investigation by Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr – is conducting a partisan witch hunt on behalf of Trump. Strzok's claims notwithstanding, Barr's successor, the President Biden-nominated Attorney General Merrick Garland, testified last week that he has renewed funding and staffing for Durham’s far-reaching investigation for the next fiscal year. “[Y]ou can readily assume his budget has been approved,” Garland assured Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee.   Tyler Durden Thu, 03/24/2022 - 14:20.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytMar 24th, 2022

Sperry: Ukraine Worked With Democrats Against Trump In 2016 To Stop Putin -- And It Backfired Badly

Sperry: Ukraine Worked With Democrats Against Trump In 2016 To Stop Putin -- And It Backfired Badly Authored by Paul Sperry via RealClearInvestigations, Six years ago, before Russia’s full-scale invasion of their country, the Ukrainians bet that a Hillary Clinton presidency would offer better protection from Russian President Vladimir Putin, even though he had invaded Crimea during the Obama-Biden administration, whose Russian policies Clinton vowed to continue. Working with both the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign, Ukrainian government officials intervened in the 2016 race to help Clinton and hurt  Donald Trump in a sweeping and systematic foreign influence operation that's been largely ignored by the press. The improper, if not illegal, operation was run chiefly out of the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, where officials worked hand-in-glove with a Ukrainian-American activist and Clinton campaign operative to attack the Trump campaign. The Obama White House was also deeply involved in an effort to groom their own favored leader in Ukraine and then work with his government to dig up dirt on – and even investigate -- their political rival. Ukrainian and Democratic operatives also huddled with American journalists to spread damaging information on Trump and his advisers – including allegations of illicit Russian-tied payments that, though later proved false, forced the resignation of his campaign manager Paul Manafort. The embassy actually weighed a plan to get Congress to investigate Manafort and Trump and stage hearings in the run-up to the election. As it worked behind the scenes to undermine Trump, Ukraine also tried to kneecap him publicly. Ukraine's ambassador took the extraordinary step of attacking Trump in an Op-Ed article published in The Hill, an influential U.S. Capitol newspaper, while other top Ukrainian officials slammed the GOP candidate on social media. Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S. attacked Trump in an Op-Ed weeks before the 2016 election. At first glance, it was a bad bet as Trump upset Clinton. But by the end of his first year in office, Trump had supplied Ukrainians what the Obama administration refused to give them: tank-busting Javelin missiles and other lethal weapons to defend themselves against Russian incursions. Putin never invaded on Trump's watch. Instead, he launched an all-out invasion during another Democratic administration – one now led by President Biden, Barack Obama's former Vice President, whose Secretary of State last year alarmed Putin by testifying, “We support Ukraine's membership in NATO.” Biden boasted he’d go “toe to toe” with Putin, but that didn't happen as the autocrat amassed tanks along Ukraine’s border in response to the NATO overtures. The Ukrainian mischief is part of Special Counsel John Durham’s broader inquiry – now a full-blown criminal investigation with grand jury indictments – into efforts to falsely target Trump as a Kremlin conspirator in 2016 and beyond. Sources say Durham has interviewed several Ukrainians, but it’s not likely the public will find out exactly what he's learned about the extent of Ukraine’s meddling in the election until he releases his final report, which sources say could be several months away. In the meantime, a comprehensive account of documented Ukrainian collusion – including efforts to assist the FBI in its 2016 probe of Manafort – is pieced together here for the first time. It draws from an archive of previously unreported records generated from a secret Federal Election Commission investigation of the Democratic National Committee that includes never-before-reviewed sworn affidavits, depositions, contracts, emails, text messages, legal findings and other documents from the case. RealClearInvestigations also examined diplomatic call transcripts, White House visitor logs, lobbying disclosure forms, congressional reports and closed-door congressional testimony, as well as information revealed by Ukrainian and Democratic officials in social media postings, podcasts and books. 2014: Prelude to Collusion U.S. envoys Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt helped bring to power Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko, right. (AP) The coordination between Ukrainian and Democratic officials can be traced back at least to January 2014. It was then when top Obama diplomats – many of whom now hold top posts in the Biden administration – began engineering regime change in Kiev, eventually installing a Ukrainian leader they could control. On Jan. 27, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt phoned Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland at her home in Washington to discuss picking opposition leaders to check the power of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whom they believed was too cozy with Putin. “We’ve got to do something to make it stick together,” Pyatt said of a planned coalition government, adding that they needed “somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing.” Nuland responded that Biden’s security adviser Jake Sullivan had just told her that the vice president – who was acting as Obama’s point man in Ukraine – would give his blessing to the deal. “Biden’s willing,” she said. But they agreed they had to “move fast” and bypass the European Union. “Fuck the EU,” Nuland told the ambassador, according to a leaked transcript of their call. Hunter Biden: His father helped engineer the rise of an amenable Ukrainian leader who would later fire a prosecutor investigating the son.   Nuland’s role in the political maneuvering was not limited to phone calls. She traveled to Kiev and helped organize street demonstrations against Yanukovych, even handing out sandwiches to protesters. In effect, Obama officials greased a revolution. Within months, Yanukovych was exiled and replaced by Petro Poroshenko, who would later do Biden’s bidding – including firing a prosecutor investigating his son Hunter. Poroshenko would also later support Clinton's White House bid after Biden decided not to run, citing the death of his older son Beau. The U.S. meddling resulted in the installation of an anti-Putin government next door to Russia. A furious Putin viewed the interference as an attempted coup and soon marched into Crimea. Nuland is now Biden’s undersecretary of state and Sullivan serves as his national security adviser. Whispering in their ear at the time was a fiery pro-Ukraine activist and old Clinton hand, Alexandra “Ali” Chalupa. A daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, Chalupa informally advised the State Department and White House in early 2014. She organized multiple meetings between Ukraine experts and the National Security Council to push for Yanukovych’s ouster and economic sanctions against Putin. In the NSC briefings, Chalupa also agitated against longtime attorney-lobbyist Manafort, who at the time was an American consultant for Yanukovych's Party of Regions, which she viewed as a cat’s paw of Putin. She warned that Manafort worked for Putin’s interests and posed a national security threat. At the same time, Chalupa worked closely with then-Vice President Biden’s team, setting up conference calls with his staff and Ukrainians. Another influential adviser at the time was former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who provided Nuland with written reports on the Ukrainian crisis and Russia that echoed Chalupa’s warnings. Nuland treated them as classified intelligence, and between the spring of 2014 and early 2016, she received some 120 reports on Ukraine and Russia from Steele. 2015: The Move Against Manafort Commences Paul Manafort: Targeted by Chalupa over work for the ousted Ukrainian president and ties to Trump. (AP) In April 2015, the DNC hired Chalupa as a $5,000-a-month consultant, according to a copy of her contract, which ran through the 2016 election cycle. (Years earlier, Chalupa had worked full-time for the DNC as part of the senior leadership team advising Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.) After Trump threw his hat in the ring in June 2015, Chalupa grew concerned that Manafort was or would be involved with his campaign since Manafort had known Trump for decades and lived in Trump Tower. She expressed her concerns to top DNC officials and “the DNC asked me to do a hit on Trump,” according to a transcript of a 2019 interview on her sister’s podcast. (Andrea Chalupa, who describes herself as a journalist, boasted in a November 2016 tweet: “My sister led Trump/Russia research at DNC.”) Chalupa began encouraging journalists both in America and Ukraine to dig into Manafort’s dealings in Ukraine and expose his alleged Russian connections. She fed unsubstantiated rumors, tips and leads to the Washington Post and New York Times, as well as CNN, speaking to reporters on background so a DNC operative wouldn’t be sourced. “I spent many, many hours working with reporters on background, directing them to contacts and sources, and giving them information,” Chalupa said. But no reporter worked closer with her than Yahoo News correspondent Michael Isikoff. He even accompanied her to the Ukrainian Embassy, where they brainstormed attacks on Manafort and Trump, according to FEC case files. Chalupa was also sounding alarm bells in the White House. In November 2015, for example, she set up a White House meeting between a Ukrainian delegation including Ukraine Ambassador Valeriy Chaly and NSC advisers – among them Eric Ciaramella, a young CIA analyst on loan to the White House who later would play a significant role as anonymous "whistleblower" in Trump’s first impeachment. In addition to Putin’s aggression, the group discussed the alleged security threat from Manafort. Chalupa was back in the White House in December. All told, she would visit the Obama White House at least 27 times, Secret Service logs show, including attending at least one event with the president in 2016. Eric Ciaramella (middle right) across from Ukrainians in a June 2015 meeting at the White House, flanked by Biden security adviser Michael Carpenter and Ciaramella's NSC colleague Liz Zentos. (unknownukraine.com) January 2016: High-Level Meetings With Ukrainians in the White House On Jan. 12, 2016 – almost a month before the first GOP primary – Chalupa told top DNC official Lindsey Reynolds she was seeing strong indications that Putin was trying to steal the 2016 election for Trump. Emails also show that she promised to lead an effort to expose Manafort – whom Trump would not officially hire as his campaign chairman until May – and link him and Trump to the Russian government. That same day, Chalupa visited the White House. A week later, Obama officials gathered with Ukrainian officials traveling from Kiev in the White House for a series of senior-level meetings to, among other things, discuss reviving a long-closed investigation into payments to American consultants working for the Party of Regions, according to Senate documents. The FBI had investigated Manafort in 2014 but no charges resulted. One of the attendees, Ukrainian Embassy political officer Andrii Telizhenko, recalled Justice Department officials asking investigators with Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau, or NABU, if they could help find fresh evidence of party payments to such U.S. figures. (Three years later, Democrats would impeach Trump for allegedly asking Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political rival, Joe Biden.) The Obama administration’s enforcement agencies leaned on their Ukrainian counterparts to investigate Manafort, shifting resources from an investigation of a corrupt Ukrainian energy oligarch who paid Biden’s son hundreds of thousands of dollars through his gas company, Burisma. “Obama’s NSC hosted Ukrainian officials and told them to stop investigating Hunter Biden and start investigating Paul Manafort,” said a former senior NSC official who has seen notes and emails generated from the meetings and spoke on the condition of anonymity. Suddenly, the FBI reopened its Manafort investigation. “In January 2016, the FBI initiated a money laundering and tax evasion investigation of Manafort predicated on his activities as a political consultant to members of the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian politicians,” according to a report by the Justice Department’s watchdog. The White House summit with Ukrainian officials ran for three days, ending on Jan. 21, according to a copy of the agenda stamped with the Justice Department logo. It was organized and hosted by Ciaramella and his colleague Liz Zentos from the NSC. Other U.S. officials included Justice prosecutors and FBI agents, as well as State Department diplomats. The Ukrainian delegation included Artem Sytnyk, the head of NABU, and other Ukrainian prosecutors. Ciaramella was a CIA detailee to the White House occupying the NSC’s Ukraine desk in 2015 and 2016. In that role, Ciaramella met face-to-face with top Ukrainian officials and provided policy advice to Biden through the then-vice president's security adviser Michael Carpenter. He also worked with Nuland and Chalupa.Ciaramella was carried over to the Trump White House. As RealClearInvestigations first reported, he would later anonymously blow the whistle on Trump asking Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to help “get to the bottom of” Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election, a phone call that triggered Trump’s first impeachment by a Democrat-controlled House. Ciaramella’s former NSC colleague Alexander Vindman leaked the call to him. Vindman, a Ukrainian-American, is also aligned with Chalupa. (Vindman is now back in the news for his demands that the United States provide more active military support to Ukraine and his insistence that Trump shares great blame for the war.) As Manafort drew closer to Trump, Obama officials zeroed in, and the FBI reopened a closed 2014 probe. (Justice Department Office of the Inspector General) February 2016: Obama White House-Ukraine Coordination Intensifies On Feb. 2, two weeks after the White House meetings, Secret Service logs reveal that Ciaramella met in the White House with officials from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCEN, which would later provide the FBI highly sensitive bank records on Manafort. (In addition, a senior FinCEN adviser illegally leaked thousands of the confidential Manafort records to the media.) On Feb. 9, less than a month after the White House summit, Telizhenko, who worked for the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, met with Zentos of the NSC at a Cosi sandwich shop in Washington, according to emails obtained by the Senate. It's not known what they discussed. In addition, on Feb. 23, the two emailed about setting up another meeting the following day. “OK if I bring my colleague Eric, who works on Ukraine with me?” Zentos asked Telizhenko, apparently referring to Ciaramella. In the emails, they discussed the U.S. primary elections, among other things. NSC's Zentos and Ukraine's Telizhenko would meet and correspond numerous times during 2016. (HSGAC-Finance Committee Hunter Biden Report) Telizhenko would later testify that Ambassador Chaly had ordered him then to “start an investigation [into the Trump campaign] within the embassy just on my own to find out with my contacts if there’s any Russian connection that we can report back.” He suspects the Ambassador delivered that report to Chalupa and the DNC. Chalupa visited the White House on Feb. 22, entrance records show, just days before the second meeting Telizhenko had planned with Zentos. March 2016: Chalupa Engineers Manafort Messaging Assault With Ukrainians After Manafort was named Trump campaign chair, the campaign against him went into overdrive. New York Times On March 3, Zentos and Telizhenko planned to meet again, this time at a Washington bar called The Exchange. According to their email, Zentos wrote, “I’ll see if my colleague Eric is up for joining.” The pair also met the next day at Swing’s coffee house in Washington. After the meeting, Telizhenko emailed Zentos seeking a meeting with senior Obama NSC official Charlie Kupchan, an old Clinton hand who was Ciaramella’s boss on the Russia/Ukraine desk. Kupchan is an outspoken critic of Trump who has made remarks suggesting what countries “can do to stop him” and “protect the international institutions we’ve built .” Zentos and Telizhenko also met on March 10, patronizing the Cosi coffee shop again. On March 24, 2016, four days before the Trump campaign announced that it had hired Manafort, Chalupa met at the Ukrainian Embassy with Ambassador Chaly and his political counselor Oksana Shulyar, where they shared their concerns about Manafort, according to Politico. When news broke on March 28 that Manafort was joining the Trump campaign, Chalupa could hardly contain herself. “This is huge,” she texted senior DNC officials. “This is everything to take out Trump.” She immediately began circulating anti-Manafort memos, warning the DNC of the “threat” he posed of Russian influence. The next day, March 29, she briefed the DNC communications team about Manafort. They, in turn, hatched a plan to reach out to the Ukrainian Embassy to get President Porochenko to make an on-camera denouncement of Manafort and feed the footage to ABC News, where former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos works as a top anchor. On March 30, Chalupa fired off an email to Shulyar, her contact at the Ukrainian Embassy: "There is a very good chance that President Poroshenko may receive a question from the press during his visit about the recent New York Times article saying that Donald Trump hired Paul Manafort as an adviser to his campaign and whether President Poroshenko is concerned about this considering Trump is the likely Republican nominee and given Paul Manafort’s meddling in Ukraine over the past couple of decades,” Chalupa wrote. "It is important President Poroshenko is prepared to address this question should it come up. In a manner that exposes Paul Manafort for the problems he continues to cause Ukraine." Within minutes of sending the email, Chalupa wrote the DNC’s communications director Luis Miranda, “The ambassador has the messaging.” Then she reached out to a friend in Congress, Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, about holding hearings to paint Manafort as a pro-Kremlin villain. April 2016: Chalupa Solicits Ukrainian Dirt on Trump, His Campaign, and Manafort Though accounts differ, Chalupa discussed Trump dirt with Ukrainian representatives. Federal Election Commission American presidential campaigns aren't supposed to work with foreign governments to dig up dirt on their political opponents. Geneva Convention rules bar diplomats from becoming entangled in their host country’s political affairs, particularly elections. There are also federal laws banning foreign nationals from engaging in operations to influence or interfere with U.S. political and electoral processes. In 2018, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals on charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government for that purpose. But just weeks after Manafort was hired by the Trump campaign, the Ukrainian Embassy appeared to be working with the Clinton campaign to torpedo him and the campaign. Emails reveal that Chalupa and Shulyar, a top aide to Ambassador Chaly, agreed to meet for coffee on April 7, 2016, at Kafe Leopold, a restaurant near the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington. (Chalupa had paid a visit to the White House just three days earlier.) One of the purposes of the meeting, according to FEC case files, was to discuss Manafort and the danger he allegedly posed. They were joined at the café by Telizhenko, who said he was working on a “big story” on Manafort and Trump with the Wall Street Journal. In a sworn 2019 deposition taken by the FEC, Telizhenko alleged that Chalupa solicited “dirt” on Trump, Manafort, and the Trump campaign during the meeting. Telizhenko also testified that Chalupa told him that her goal was “basically [to] use this information and have a committee hearing under Marcy Kaptur, congresswoman from Ohio, in Congress in September and take him off the elections." Telizhenko later approached Ambassador Chaly about the DNC representative's overtures and he responded: “Yes. And I know that this is happening. You should work with her." After speaking with Chaly, Telizhenko claims that he went back to Shulyar who instructed him to help Chalupa. “I went to Oksana and said, ‘Like what are we doing?’” he testified. " And she told me, ‘You have to work with Chalupa. And any information you have, you give it to me, I’ll give it to her, then we’ll pass it on later to anybody else we are coordinating with.’” Less than a week later, on April 13, Telizhenko met again with White House official Zentos, email records reveal. Telizhenko said he resigned the next month because of concerns regarding his embassy’s work with Chalupa and the Clinton team. In her sworn account of the meeting, Chalupa acknowledged discussing Manafort and the “national security problem” he allegedly presented, but denied asking the embassy for help researching him. She allowed that she “could have mentioned the congressional investigation … that I had talked to Marcy Kaptur,” but maintained she couldn't recall trying to enlist the embassy in the effort. Shulyar, however, clearly recalls that Chalupa sought the embassy’s help warning the public about Manafort – including pitching stories to the press and lobbying Congress, according to a 2020 written statement to the FEC. An “idea floated by Alexandra Chalupa was that we approach a co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus to initiate a congressional hearing on Paul Manafort,” Shulyar said, though she denied the embassy acted on the idea. Around the same time, two Ukrainian lawmakers – Olga Bielkova and Pavlo Rizanenko – visited the U.S. and met with journalists, as well as a former State Department official with close ties to Sen. John McCain – David Kramer of the McCain Institute. Kramer would later leak the entire Steele dossier to the media. The meeting was arranged by major Clinton Foundation donor Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch who lobbied Clinton when she was Obama’s secretary of state. Bielkova was also connected to the Clinton Foundation, having once managed a Clinton Global Initiative program for Ukrainian college students. While Clinton was at Foggy Bottom from 2009 to 2013, Ukrainians gave more money – at least $10 million, including more than $8 million from Pinchuk – to the Clinton Foundation than any other nationality including Saudi Arabians. Pinchuk's donation was a down payment on an astounding $29 million pledge. On April 12, 2016, Bielkova also attended a meeting with Ciaramella and his NSC colleague Zentos, head of the Eastern Europe desk, according to lobbying disclosure records. In late April, Chalupa helped organize a Ukrainian-American protest against Manafort in his Connecticut hometown. Activists shouted for Trump to fire Manafort, whom they called “Putin’s Trojan Horse,” while holding signs that read: “Shame on Putin, Shame on Manafort, Shame on Trump” and “Putin, Hands Off the U.S. Election.” Chalupa also organized social media campaigns against Manafort and Trump, including one that encouraged activists to share the Twitter hashtags: “#TrumpPutin” and "#Treasonous Trump." Also that month, Chalupa reached out to Yahoo News reporter Isikoff to pitch a hit piece on Manafort. She connected him with a delegation of Ukrainian journalists visiting D.C. Isikoff would later be used by Steele to spread falsehoods from his dossier. May-June 2016: Manafort Dirt Spreads In a May 3 email, Chalupa alerted DNC communications director Luis Miranda and DNC opposition research director Lauren Dillion that there was “a lot more [dirt on Manafort] coming down the pipe[sic].” Chalupa told them the dirt has “a big Trump component” and would “hit in the next few weeks.” It’s not clear if she was referring to the notorious "black ledger” smear against Manafort, who was promoted to campaign chairman on May 19, but a story about it was brewing at the time. On May 30, Nellie Ohr, an opposition researcher for the Clinton-retained firm Fusion GPS, emailed her husband, Bruce Ohr, a top official at the Justice Department who would become a prime disseminator of the Steele dossier within the government, and two federal prosecutors to alert them to an article indicating NABU had suddenly discovered documents allegedly showing Manafort receiving illicit payments. Amid the flurry of anti-Manafort activity, Zentos met again with Telizhenko on May 4, records show. And Chalupa visited the White House for a meeting on May 13. Chalupa paid another visit to the White House on June 14, Secret Service logs show. On June 17, Ciaramella held a White House meeting with Nuland and Pyatt of the State Department to discuss undisclosed Ukrainian matters. In late June, the FBI signed an evidence-sharing agreement with NABU, less than two months before the Ukrainian anti-corruption agency released what it claimed was explosive new evidence on Manafort. July 2016: Ukrainian Officials Attack Trump Publicly Chalupa continued to pow-wow with the Ukrainian Embassy and got so cozy with officials there that they offered her a position, which she declined, as an “embedded consultant” in the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That same month, high-ranking Ukrainian officials openly insulted Trump on social media in an unusual departure from normal diplomacy. For instance, Ukraine Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov tweeted that Trump was a “clown” who was “an even bigger danger to the U.S. than terrorism.” In another July post, he called Trump “dangerous for Ukraine.” And on Facebook, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk warned that Trump had “challenged the very values of the free world." (After Trump upset Clinton, Avakov and other officials tried to delete their statements from their social network accounts, saying that they had been wrong and had rushed to conclusions.) “It was clear that they were supporting Hillary Clinton’s candidacy,” Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Artemenko told Politico. “They did everything from organizing meetings with the Clinton team to publicly supporting her to criticizing Trump." While attending the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, Chalupa spread the scurrilous rumor that Manafort was the mastermind behind the alleged Russian hacking of the DNC and that he “stole" her and other Democrats’ emails. She later told her sister’s podcast that she had reported her conspiracy theory to the FBI, eventually sitting down and meeting with agents in September to spin her tale of supposed espionage (the Senate has asked the FBI for copies of her interview summaries, known as FD-302s). Chalupa also prepared a report for the FBI, as well as members of Congress, detailing her Russiagate conspiracy theories, which Mueller later found no evidence to support. In addition, Chalupa helped spread a false narrative that Trump removed a reference to providing arms to Kiev from the Republican platform at the party's convention earlier that month. Internal platform committee documents show the Ukraine plank could not have been weakened as claimed, because the “lethal” weapons language had never been part of the GOP platform. The final language actually strengthened the platform by pledging direct assistance not just to the country of Ukraine, but to its military in its struggle against Russian-backed forces. August-September 2016: The Phony Manafort Ledger Leaks  A page released by Ukrainian authorities from the fake Manafort ledger. New York Times/NABU In another attempt to influence the 2016 election, Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko leaked to the U.S. media what he claimed was evidence of a secret handwritten ledger showing Manafort had received millions in cash from Yanukovych’s party under the table. He claimed that 22 pages of the alleged ledger, which contained line items written by hand, had mysteriously appeared in his parliament mailbox earlier that year. Leshchenko would not identify the sender. A fuller copy of the same document showed up later on the doorstep of a Ukrainian intelligence official who passed it to NABU, which shared it with FBI agents stationed in Kiev. Leshchenko and NABU officials held press conferences declaring the document was “proof" of Manafort corruption and demanding he be “interrogated.” The Clinton campaign seized on the story. In an Aug. 14 statement, campaign manager Robby Mook stated: “We have learned of more troubling connections between Donald Trump's team and pro-Kremlin elements in Ukraine.” He demanded Trump "disclose campaign chair Paul Manafort's and all other campaign employees' and advisers' ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities." But there was a big hole in the story. Though Manafort was a consultant to Yanukovych's party, he was paid by wire, not in cash, casting serious doubt on the ledger’s authenticity. Another problem: the ledger was alleged to have been kept at party headquarters, but rioters had destroyed the building in a 2014 fire. Leshchenko admitted that he had a political agenda. He told The Financial Times at the time that he went public with the ledger because “a Trump presidency would change the pro-Ukrainian agenda in American foreign policy.” He added that most of Ukraine’s politicians are “on Hillary Clinton’s side." Leshchenko also happened to be "a source for Fusion GPS,” as Nellie Ohr confirmed under questioning during a 2019 closed-door House hearing, according to a declassified transcript. Fusion was a paid agent of the Clinton campaign, which gave the private opposition-research firm more than $1 million to gin up connections between Trump and Russia. Fusion hired Steele to compile a series of “intelligence” memos known as the dossier. As a former MI6 operative, Steele gave the allegations a sheen of credibility. FBI counterintelligence veteran Mark Wauck said the dossier and the black ledger both appear to have originated with Fusion GPS, which laundered it through foreigners who hated Trump – Steele and Leshchenko. "The ledger and the dossier are both Fusion hit jobs,” Wauck said. “The two items shared a common origin: the Hillary campaign’s oppo research shop." In an August 2016 memo written for Fusion GPS, “The Demise of Trump’s Campaign Manager Paul Manafort,” Steele claimed he had corroborated Leshchenko’s charges through his anonymous Kremlin sources, who turned out to be nothing more than beer buddies of his primary source collector, Igor Danchenko, a Russian immigrant with a string of arrests in the U.S. for public intoxication, as RealClearInvestigations first reported. Danchenko had worked for the Brookings Institution, a Democratic think tank in Washington that Durham has subpoenaed in connection to its own role in Russiagate. Danchenko was indicted last year by Special Counsel Durham for lying about his sources, including one he completely made up, as RCI reported. “YANUKOVYCH had confided in PUTIN that he did authorize and order substantial kick-back payments to MANAFORT as alleged,” Steele claimed in the unsubstantiated report, citing “a well-placed Russian figure” with knowledge of a "meeting between PUTIN and YANUKOVYCH” allegedly “held in secret” on Aug. 15. As a paid informant, Steele had long reported to the FBI about alleged corruption involving Yanukovych. The FBI used his Clinton-funded dossier as a basis to obtain warrants to spy on former Trump adviser Carter Page, including the false claim that Page acted as an intermediary between Russian leadership and Manafort in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” that included sidelining Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue. Steele also falsely claimed that Page had helped draft the RNC platform statement to be more sympathetic to Russia’s interests by eliminating language about providing weapons to Ukraine, according to a report by the Department of Justice's watchdog. In fact, Page was not involved in the GOP platform. The misinformation came from Danchenko’s fictional source. Fusion co-founder Glenn Simpson worked closely with the New York Times on the Manafort ledger story. In his book, “Crime in Progress,” Simpson boasts of introducing Leshchenko to the Times as a source, who ended up providing the paper some of the dubious ledger records. On Aug. 19, Manafort stepped down from the Trump campaign the day after the Times reported what it had been fed by the anti-Trump operatives. In effect, Ukrainian government officials tried to help Clinton and undermine Trump by disseminating documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and telling the American media they were investigating the matter. In 2018, a Ukrainian court ruled that Leshchenko and NABU’s Sytnyk illegally interfered in the 2016 U.S. election by publicizing the black ledger. Among the evidence was a recording of Sytnyk saying the agency released the ledger to help Clinton’s campaign – “I helped her,” Sytnyk is recorded boasting. But the damage was done. The Ukrainians, along with Chalupa and the Clinton camp, achieved their goal of undermining the Trump campaign by prompting Manafort’s ouster though they never proved he was colluding with the Russians. Neither did Special Counsel Mueller. In fact, Mueller did not use the ledger to prosecute Manafort after a key witness for the prosecution told him it was fabricated. “Mueller ended up dropping it like a hot potato,” Wauck said.  Ukraine’s neutrality in the election was also called into further question that September, when Porochenko met with Clinton during a stop in New York. He never met with Trump, who appeared to get the cold shoulder from the Ukrainian leader. In statements following Trump’s surprise victory over Clinton in November, Ukraine’s embassy has denied interfering in the election and insisted that Chalupa was acting on her own. Epilogue After Trump won the election in spite of her efforts to sabotage him, Chalupa predicted: “Under President Trump, the Kremlin could likely invade U.S. allies in Europe without U.S. opposition.” Not only did Russia not invade Europe “under Trump,” it didn’t even invade Ukraine. Rather, the invasion came under Biden, whose campaign Chalupa supported. Yet she continues to blame Trump. Recent tweets show a still-obsessed Chalupa has not dialed back her extremist views about Trump or Manafort, whom she believes should be prosecuted for “treason." In a Feb. 28 post on Twitter, for example, Chalupa claimed that Putin installed “a puppet regime in the U.S. with the help of Paul Manafort.” The previous day, she tweeted, “We had a Putin installed Trump presidency.” A day before that, she wrote: “Now would be a good time to release the Putin-Trump treason calls.” And on Feb. 25, Chalupa tweeted another wild conspiracy theory: "It’s important to note that Putin’s imperial aspirations are of a global criminal empire, as we saw when he installed Donald J. Trump president and tried to turn the U.S. into a Russian satellite state." Tyler Durden Fri, 03/11/2022 - 19:00.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytMar 11th, 2022

The Federal Election Commission let Trump off the hook for allegedly using $2.8 million in charitable donations to veterans for political purposes

Two Democratic commissioners are accusing their Republican colleagues of refusing to enforce the law by blocking enforcement of the matter. Former President Donald Trump at the veterans event that triggered the initial complaint in Des Moines, Iowa on January 28, 2016.Christopher Furlong/Getty Images The FEC won't investigate Trump for possible campaign finance violations related to a veterans fundraiser. Trump steered the money to his foundation and gave out $100,000 checks to bolster his image. The commission's Democrats accused their Republican colleagues of voting against enforcing the law. The Federal Election Commission let former President Donald Trump off the hook even after the body's legal counsel said he violated federal campaign finance laws with a fundraiser for Iowa veterans in 2016, according to documents made public this week.At stake was whether Trump violated laws prohibiting "soft money" spending — using unregulated, non-campaign funds for political purposes — in connection with his 2016 presidential campaign. Specifically, Trump funneled roughly half of the $5.8 million he raised at the Des Moines veterans event on January 28, 2016 to his now-defunct Donald J. Trump Foundation. The Trump campaign then steered how the foundation, a separate entity, spent $2.8 million in charitable funds just ahead of the Iowa Republican caucuses. Last month, the FEC voted along partisan lines to close the case. The Campaign Legal Center, an ethics and government watchdog, slammed the commission in a statement to Insider."The FEC failing to enforce campaign finance laws is nothing new, but the latest deadlock may be a new low," said Erin Chlopak, senior director for campaign finance at Campaign Legal Center. "The Commission's non-partisan, career attorneys found reason to believe the Foundation was illegally used to benefit Trump's presidential campaign. The Republican Commissioners voted not to pursue the matter. It is time for the FEC to do its job."Democratic Commissioners Shana Broussard and Ellen Weintraub accused their Republican colleagues of "eroding the public's trust in the integrity of the federal campaign finance process" by blocking the enforcement of federal law."This is one in a long series of matters that we've had where our nonpartisan professional staff have recommended moving forward in some way against a complaint involving the former president," Weintraub told Insider in a interview on Thursday. "And every single time, the Republican commissioners come up with an excuse to not move forward."Weintraub suggested that Trump could've faced a "pretty hefty fine" had the commission moved forward, given that he was accused of a multi-million dollar violation of campaign finance laws."I think it would have been a strong message for us to send, to discourage that sort of activity by others," she said. "But sadly, we were not able to do that, we did not have the political will to move forward on this. I mean, some of us did."Republican Commissioners Sean Cooksey, Allen Dickerson, and Trey Trainor have not yet issued any statements on the matter, and none responded to Insider's requests for comment.'A respondent named Trump'Trump presents an enlarged copy of a $100,000 check to the owners of Puppy Jake, a charity that trains dogs for veterans, at a Davenport, Iowa event on January 30, 2016.AP Photo/Paul SancyaIn June 2018, New York's then-Attorney General Barbara Underwood referred evidence of Trump's possible violations to the FEC, writing in a letter that her office had "acquired substantial credible evidence" that Trump broke the law.In a complaint to the FEC the following month, the Campaign Legal Center accused the Trump campaign of violating campaign finance law for soliciting and then using his foundation's share of the veteran donations for political purposes based on the evidence uncovered by the NY AG's investigation.Emails and other documents uncovered by the New York Attorney General's investigation revealed that Trump's then-campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, gave Allen Weisselberg, then the Trump foundation's treasurer, a list of Iowa veterans organizations that the Trump campaign intended to target in order to drum up political support in the state ahead of the February 1, 2016 caucuses.Weisselberg is also the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization and is currently ensnared in separate investigations by the New York Attorney General and the Manhattan District Attorney.Trump went on to hand out 6-figure donations at several events in the days before the caucuses, giving enlarged $100,000 checks apiece to Partners for Patriots, Support Siouxland Soldiers, Mulberry Street Veterans Shelter, and Puppy Jake — all of which were charities based in Iowa. He ultimately lost the caucus to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.Emails show Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski directing Trump Foundation treasurer Allen Weisselberg to spend foundation funds at the campaign's behest.Exhibits/New York Attorney General's OfficeIn response to Campaign Legal's complaint, the Trump campaign said that the veterans contributions were only temporarily in the foundation's coffers, though documents uncovered by the New York Attorney General's investigation show contributions stretching all the way to May 2016. The campaign also argued that it was simply carrying out its legal obligations to donors by directing the charity's spending and accused the watchdog group of trying to "vilify fundraising for charity.""Essentially everything a federal candidate does may have some effect on that candidate's public image, and philanthropic activity is certainly no different," wrote Trump campaign lawyer E. Stewart Crosland in a letter to the commission in September 2019. "Whether those efforts result in some goodwill with the public is simply not a campaign-finance (or FEC) concern."Just three months later — under pressure from a lawsuit brought by the New York Attorney General's Office taking aim at both the veterans-related political contributions as well as other instances of possible fraud — Trump dissolved the foundation, later admitting to the facts of the case as part of the settlement.In May 2019, the FEC's legal counsel then recommended that the commission vote to investigate Trump for violating federal campaign finance laws. They reaffirmed that position in March 2020 after the campaign agreed to the facts of the case as part of a separate settlement with the State of New York.But there was one major problem: the Federal Election Commission had lost its quorum at the end of August 2019 when the body's membership of six commissioners atrophied to just three, barring the commission from making any decisions on pending cases. The FEC remained mostly without a quorum until December 2020, when the Senate confirmed three new appointees.When the commission finally voted on the matter in January 2021, it deadlocked along partisan lines over whether to pursue the case. Every Republican commissioner voted to dismiss the allegations entirely, while the two Democrats and one left-leaning independent voted to open an investigation.It was at their first executive session following the restoration of the quorum that the Republican commissioners voted not to investigate the claims against Trump. Trump holds up a sheet of paper with a list of donations to veterans groups at a press conference at Trump Tower on May 31, 2016.Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesAccording to Broussard and Weintraub, the Republican commissioners cited the fact that the statue of limitations was set to expire within six months in voting not to pursue the case. In the absence of a quorum, the FEC developed a backlog of cases, some of which were no longer enforceable. But Weintraub told Insider that she doesn't buy the Republicans' argument."We did have a lot of cases where we had to make a choice about whether to move forward or not, given the time that had run on statute of limitations," she said. "But we did move forward on a number of them, just not on any involving a respondent named Trump."Indeed, the commission's legal counsel found reason to believe in 2019 that several GOP figures, including Trump, violated the "foreign national" ban by employing the now-defunct British firm Cambridge Analytica, but the statute of limitations expired and Republicans blocked further action. Both in her interview with Insider and in her statement of reasons, Weintraub said the New York Attorney General's prior investigation had already done much of the fact-finding work for the commission, raising further questions about why six months was not enough time to enforce the law."We didn't have to do very much because the Attorney General handed it to us, all these incriminating facts," she said.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderFeb 24th, 2022

Durham Vs Horowitz: Tension Over Truth & Consequences Grips FBI"s Trump-Russia Reckoning

Durham Vs Horowitz: Tension Over Truth & Consequences Grips FBI's Trump-Russia Reckoning Authored by Aaron Maté via RealClearInvestigations.com, As he documents the role of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in generating false allegations of Trump-Russia collusion, Special Counsel John Durham has also previewed a challenge to the FBI’s claims about how and why its counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign began. At stake is the completeness of the official reckoning within the U.S. government over the Russiagate scandal – and whether there will be an accounting commensurate with the offense: the abuse of the nation's highest law enforcement and intelligence powers to damage an opposition presidential candidate turned president, at the behest of his opponent from the governing party he defeated. Trump-Russia Special Counsel John Durham has made plain his dissent from the findings of ... ... DoJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who concluded the FBI's Crossfire Hurricane was properly "predicated." The drama is playing out against the clashing approaches of the two Justice Department officials tasked with scrutinizing the Russia probe's origins and unearthing any misconduct: Durham, the Sphinx-like prosecutor with a reputation for toughness whose work continues; and Michael Horowitz, the Department of Justice inspector general, whose December 2019 report faulted the FBI's handling of the Russia probe but nonetheless concluded that it was launched in good faith. The bureau's defenders point to Horowitz's report to argue that the FBI’s Trump-Russia conspiracy investigation, codenamed Crossfire Hurricane, is untainted despite its extensive use of the discredited Clinton-funded Steele dossier. Though highly critical of the bureau's use of Christopher Steele's reports, Horowitz concluded that they “played no role in the Crossfire Hurricane opening," which he said had met the department's “low threshold” for opening an investigation. But Durham has made plain his dissent. In response to Horowitz's report, the special counsel announced that his office had "advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened." Durham stressed that, unlike Horowitz, his "investigation is not limited to developing information from within component parts of the Justice Department" and has instead obtained "information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S." Durham’s office has not described the specific basis for its disagreement. But the Crossfire Hurricane advocates’ defense has a big problem: copious countervailing evidence in the public record – including in Horowitz's own report. A considerable paper trail points to Steele’s political opposition research playing a greater role in the probe than the FBI has acknowledged: Numerous officials received Steele's allegations – some meeting with the ex-British intelligence officer himself – and discussed sending them up the FBI chain weeks before July 31, 2016, the Horowitz-endorsed date when the bureau claims it opened the Russia-Trump “collusion” investigation. These encounters call into question the FBI’s claim that Steele played no role in triggering Crossfire Hurricane and that its team only received the dossier weeks after their colleagues, on Sept. 19. The FBI’s own records belie its claims that it decided to launch the Russia probe not because of the dossier, but instead on a vague tip recounting a London barroom conversation with a low-level Trump campaign volunteer, George Papadopoulos. Australian diplomat Alexander Downer’s tip, recorded in bureau records, was that Papadopoulos had merely "suggested" that Russia had made an unspecified "suggestion" of Russian help – a thin basis upon which to investigate an entire presidential campaign. Upon officially opening Crossfire Hurricane on July 31, FBI officials immediately took investigative steps that mirrored the claims in the Steele dossier even though they were supposedly unaware of it. In August, the FBI team opened probes of Trump campaign figures Carter Page, Michael Flynn, and Paul Manafort – all of whom are mentioned in the dossier – based on predicates that are just as flimsy as the Downer-Papadopoulos pretext. The FBI’s claim that Steele played no role in sparking the Trump-Russia probe is further called into question by top bureau officials’ previous false claims about the investigation, including Steele's role. They not only lied to the public and Congress, but to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Above, the Horowitz report, which FBI apologists have seized upon because of its dubious headline finding that dossier compiler Christopher Steele "played no role" in sparking the Trump-Russia probe. U.S. Department of Justice 'Definitely of Interest to the Counterintelligence Folks' Durham's November indictment of Igor Danchenko, Steele's main source, was the final nail in the coffin for the Clinton-funded dossier. But to sympathetic media amplifiers of the FBI's Trump-Russia probe, its origins were unscathed. Horowitz's report, wrote Mother Jones reporter (and early Steele media contact) David Corn, "concluded that the FBI investigation of Trump-Russia contacts had been legitimately launched" thereby proving that "there was no hoax." In an article attempting to demonstrate "Why the Discredited Dossier Does Not Undercut the Russia Investigation," Charlie Savage of the New York Times said Horowitz's report "established" that Steele's allegations did not reach the Crossfire Hurricane team until Sept. 19, 2016, meaning that "they did not yet know about the dossier" when they launched the probe on July 31. But if the Crossfire Hurricane team really did not learn of Steele until Sept. 19, then those leading the Russiagate probe were among the few high-ranking officials in Washington intelligence circles unaware of the dossier. The first known Steele-FBI contact about the dossier came on July 5, more than three weeks before the Trump-Russia probe officially launched. Days before, Steele – working for the Clinton campaign via the Washington-based opposition research firm Fusion GPS – contacted Michael Gaeta, the senior FBI agent he had worked with on other matters. Gaeta was then serving in Rome as a legal attaché. Working for the Clinton campaign via Fusion GPS, opposition researcher Christopher Steele ... ... briefed the FBI's Michael Gaeta months before the bureau says it received Steele's dossier. Steele, Gaeta recalled in congressional testimony, informed him that “I have some really interesting information you need to see … immediately.” Gaeta jumped at the chance: “I said, all right, I will be up there tomorrow,” and immediately caught a flight to London. At Steele’s office on that early-summer day, the former British spy briefed his eager FBI handler on the Trump-Russia conspiracy theories he had generated and handed over a copy of his first “intelligence report.” Steele’s allegations did not stay in London, as Gaeta quickly shared them with FBI colleagues. “I couldn’t just sweep it under the rug, couldn’t discount it just on its face,” he told Congress, adding that Steele “was an established source.” On July 12, Gaeta told a colleague in the FBI’s New York field office, the then-assistant special agent in charge, about Steele’s allegations. According to Horowitz -- the IG who concluded that Steele “played no role in the Crossfire Hurricane opening” – this agent then informed his superior about the Steele allegations “the same day.” The Steele material, Horowitz’s team was told, was seen by these FBI officials as "something that needs to be handled immediately" and "definitely of interest to the Counterintelligence folks." On July 28, at his FBI colleague’s request, Michael Gaeta passed along copies of the two reports he had received from Steele. As Horowitz later found, the first one (dated June 20, 2016) provided by Steele to Gaeta, would later become “one of four of Steele’s reports that the FBI relied upon to support” its surveillance applications for Carter Page. Steele’s conspiracy theories quickly made their way up the FBI chain. According to the inspector general’s report, Gaeta heard from a colleague that high-level officials were already “aware of the reports’ existence,” including at the “Executive Assistant Director (EAD) level” at FBI headquarters in Washington. This occurred, Gaeta told Congress, “on maybe the 1st of August, right around then,” or “either the 31st of July.” “I was told by the [assistant special agent in charge] at a very high level, he goes at the EAD level at headquarters they have the reports,” Gaeta said. According to the IG report, Gaeta emailed an FBI supervisor on July 28 to report that Steele had told him that contents of two of his reports “may already be circulating at a ‘high level’ in Washington, D.C.” Gaeta also discussed the Steele dossier claims with the legal attaché overseeing his work at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. The unidentified government lawyer told the inspector general that he signed off on Gaeta’s discussions with the New York field office, and also recalled having the “expectation” that "Steele’s reporting" would be provided "to the Counterintelligence Division (CD) at FBI Headquarters within a matter of days.” Victoria Nuland: Received information directly from Steele “in the middle of July.”  Bruce Ohr: Made contact with Steele right before the former British spy’s meeting with Gaeta on July 5, and then shortly after. Before making the trip to see Steele in London, Gaeta also received the approval of Victoria Nuland, a senior Obama administration State Department official who now serves under President Biden. By her own telling, Nuland’s office then received information directly from Steele “in the middle of July.” Steele, Nuland recalled in a 2018 interview, “passed two to four pages of short points of what he was finding, and our immediate reaction to that was, this is not in our purview. This needs to go to the FBI.” Yet another senior U.S. government official also shared Steele’s information with the FBI. It helped that he had a personal connection: Then-senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, whose wife Nellie worked alongside Steele at Fusion GPS, first made contact with Steele right before the former British spy’s meeting with Gaeta on July 5, and then shortly after. This led to a July 30 breakfast between the Ohrs and Steele at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. – one day before Crossfire Hurricane began. At this sit-down, Ohr recalled to Congress, Steele claimed that he had evidence that Russian intelligence “had Donald Trump over a barrel.” According to Ohr, “I wanted to provide the information he [Steele] had given me to the FBI.” He immediately reached out to Andrew McCabe, the then-deputy director of the FBI. “I went to his office to provide the information, and Lisa Page was there,” Ohr recalled, referring to the FBI attorney who exchanged anti-Trump text messages with Strzok while both worked on the Trump-Russia probe. “So I provided the information to them.” When exactly this pivotal meeting occurred has never been resolved, and all involved have a fuzzy recollection. The transcript of Ohr’s August 2018 House testimony shows him responding “Yes” to a question placing his meeting with McCabe and Page on July 30 – the same day he met Steele, and one day before the Trump-Russia probe officially began. Yet earlier in the deposition, Ohr guessed that he in fact met with McCabe and Page “in August.” When he spoke to the DOJ inspector general, Ohr “did not recall exactly when he contacted McCabe.” Despite that testimony, Horowitz instead relied on an entry in Ohr’s calendar to determine the meeting did not take place until Oct. 18. McCabe, who was forced to resign from the department for lying about his contacts with the media, said he believes the meeting occurred in “fall 2016” and “did not remember Ohr calling him to set up the meeting or how it came to be scheduled.” George Papadopoulos: Crossfire Hurricane's "predicate" was vague, even exculpatory. “Suggested … Some Kind of Suggestion” According to the official narrative, while top-ranking FBI officials shared and discussed the Steele dossier with everyone but Crossfire Hurricane team members, the counterintelligence division decided to investigate the Trump’s campaign’s potential ties to Russia on July 31 based on an unrelated tip from Alexander Downer, the Australian diplomat. At a London bar in May, campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos reportedly told Downer that Russia had offered to help the Trump campaign by anonymously releasing information damaging to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Although there was no evidence that the Trump campaign had pursued, received, or used this undefined material, FBI officials deemed this rumor sufficient grounds to investigate the campaign for potential involvement in Russia’s alleged theft of DNC emails published by Wikileaks. Peter Strzok of the FBI wrote that Papadopoulos somehow "had advance knowledge" about Russian hacking ...  ... but bureau records show that Australian diplomat Alexander Downer's tip about the junior Trump aide contained no such mention. “In other words,” Peter Strzok, the senior FBI counterintelligence agent who opened the Trump-Russia probe, wrote in his memoir, “Papadopoulos had somehow learned about the hacking operation before the public did and had advance knowledge of the Russian plan to use that information to hurt Clinton’s campaign. Even the FBI hadn’t known about it at that time.” But when the Australian tip that reached the FBI in July 2016 was finally disclosed to the public in December 2019, Papadopoulos’ supposed “advance knowledge” about Russia’s alleged “hacking operation” turned out to be non-existent. The FBI’s tip from Downer contained no mention of the DNC hacking, a Russian interference campaign, or even the stolen emails handed to WikiLeaks. Nor did they even have any trace to suggest that a Russian intermediary had made an overture. Instead, according to the FBI Electronic Communication (EC) that opened the Trump-Russia probe, the FBI only heard that Papadopoulos, in his conversation with Downer, "suggested" that “the Trump team had received some kind of suggestion from Russia” (emphasis added) that it could “assist” the Trump campaign “with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Mrs. Clinton (and President Obama).” The FBI document acknowledged that the nature of the “suggestion” was “unclear” and that the possible Russian help could entail “material acquired publicly” – in other words, not emails hacked from the DNC, which, as Horowitz noted, were “not mentioned in the EC.” The FBI also acknowledged that it had no evidence concerning the Trump camp’s receptivity to the “suggested… suggestion”: It was “unclear how Mr. Trump’s team reacted to the offer,” the EC stated, and that Russia could act “with or without Mr. Trump’s cooperation.” Although Papadopoulos’ October 2017 guilty plea with the Mueller team suggested that he had told Downer about “thousands of emails” obtained by Russia, Downer later stated that the Trump campaign volunteer had made no mention of any stolen emails, and fact “didn’t say what it was” that Russia had on offer. In other words, what Strzok wrote in his own book was untrue. Joseph Mifsud: When it opened its probe, the FBI did not even know that that the purported “suggestion” to Papadopoulos came from this Maltese academic. Because Downer’s tip was so thin, the FBI’s predicate was not only vague or even exculpatory, but also contained no indication that the “some kind of suggestion” actually came from the Russian government, or a Russian national, or anyone for that matter. When it opened the probe, the FBI did not even know that that the purported “suggestion” to Papadopoulos came from his conversation with Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese academic. For his part, Mifsud has denied making any “suggestion” of Russian help to Papadopoulos at all. To accept that the FBI’s decision to open the Trump-Russia investigation was well-founded, one has to stipulate that the nation’s premier law enforcement agency decided to investigate a presidential campaign, and then a president, based on a low-level volunteer having “suggested”, during a barroom chat, “some kind of suggestion from Russia” that contained no mention of the alleged Russian hacking or stolen emails that the Trump campaign was supposedly conspiring over. One would also have to accept that the bureau was not influenced by the far more detailed claims of direct Trump-Russia connections – an alleged conspiracy that would form the heart of the investigation – advanced in the widely-circulating Steele dossier. Their mugs weren't in post offices, but the FBI targeted them. And it was the Steele dossier that named them, not the bureau's supposedly probe-originating witness, George Papadopoulos. 'An Insufficient Basis' for the Probe’s Supposed Predicate Adding to the questions surrounding the FBI’s basis for opening a Trump-Russia counterintelligence probe is that, upon doing so, the Crossfire Hurricane team didn’t bother to contact the campaign volunteer whose vague “suggestion” supposedly triggered it. Instead, the FBI expanded the probe to multiple other figures in the Trump orbit. Although no intelligence connected them to Downer's vague tip, all three shared the distinction of being named as Russia conspirators or assets in the Steele dossier. Rather than just focusing on Papadopoulos – who was never wiretapped and not even interviewed until January of 2017 – the FBI quickly opened parallel probes of campaign volunteer Carter Page, campaign adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, and then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. According to Horowitz, Strzok described “the initial investigative objective of Crossfire Hurricane” as an effort “to determine which individuals associated with the Trump campaign may have been in a position to have received the alleged offer of assistance from Russia” (emphasis added) that Papadopoulos had “suggested.” The FBI identified Page, Flynn, and Manafort as additional investigative targets, the IG found, not based on any new intelligence but because they had “ties to Russia or a history of travel to Russia.” They relied on a rarely used law – the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires Americans representing foreign governments to disclose these relationships – as the basis for their inquiries.  “Lacking any evidence — and admitting such in their own opening document — the team, nevertheless, proceeded to simply speculate who ‘may have’ accepted the Russian offer and subsequently opened up full investigations on four Americans,” Kevin Brock, the former FBI assistant director for intelligence and principal deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), opined in Congressional testimony in 2020. “This is unconscionable and a direct abuse of FBI authorities.” When it comes to Papadopoulos, the FBI "initially considered seeking FISA surveillance of Papadopoulos" but quickly determined that it had "an insufficient basis" to do so,  Horowitz found. But if the FBI felt that it had "an insufficient basis" to spy on Papadopoulos, how could the FBI deem him to be a sufficient basis for investigating and spying on members of the campaign that he worked for? Igor Danchenko, dossier fabulist: The FBI was deceptive about him, and much more. On Steele, a Pattern of FBI 'Factual Misstatements and Omissions' Although Horowitz took the FBI at its word that Steele played no role in triggering Crossfire Hurricane, he did so after documenting multiple instances of FBI lies – including about Steele's role in the probe. When the FBI used the Steele dossier to seek surveillance warrants on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page, the bureau made 17 "factual misstatements and omissions" to the FISA court, Inspector General Horowitz found in his December 2019 report. These abuses included embellishing Steele's established reliability as an FBI source; omitting information that undermined the credibility of Steele's main source, Igor Danchenko, and the fanciful claims he told Steele about prostitutes and billion dollar bribes; concealing that Steele was a source for a Yahoo News article that the FBI also cited as source material; omitting that both Page and Papadopoulos had made exonerating statements to FBI informants; and, most notably, omitting that the Clinton campaign was paying for Steele's services. The FISA court concurred with Horowitz, invalidating two of the four Page surveillance warrants on the basis of the FBI's "material misstatements." When the FBI briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee on its use of the Steele dossier in 2018, it told similar falsehoods while presenting the Clinton contractor as credible. According to the FBI's prepared talking points, the Senate was erroneously told that Steele's main source Danchenko "did not cite any significant concerns with the way his reporting was characterized in the dossier." Danchenko, the FBI additionally claimed, also "maintains trusted relationships with individuals who are capable of reporting on the material he collected for Steele." The FBI also said that its discussions with Danchenko "confirm that the dossier was not fabricated by Steele." But the FBI concealed – just as it did with the FISA court – that Danchenko had in fact told its agents that corroboration for the dossier's claim was "zero"; that he "has no idea" where claims sourced to him came from; and that the Russia-Trump rumors he passed along to Steele came from "word of mouth and hearsay" and "conversation that [he] had with friends over beers" that should be taken with "a grain of salt." When the FBI's deceptive reliance on Steele was brought to light in a memo from then-House intelligence chairman Rep. Devin Nunes in early 2018, the FBI fought to prevent its release. Moreover, the FBI resorted to more deception: In an explosive Jan. 31 statement aimed at thwarting the Nunes memo's release, the FBI claimed that it had "grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy." The FBI's tactic failed, and the memo was released two days later. When the first of the FBI's Carter Page warrants was declassified in July 2018, it showed that the only material omissions of fact were made by the FBI. The FBI told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court  that it "believes that [Russia’s] efforts are being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with" the Trump campaign. Its source for this belief was Steele, whom it described as "Source #1" and "credible" – all while omitting that the Clinton campaign was footing the bill. In addition, unidentified intelligence and law enforcement officials went out of their way to bolster Steele's image via anonymous leaks to credulous news outlets. "U.S. investigators corroborate some aspects of the Russia dossier," a CNN headline proclaimed in February 2017, weeks after the dossier’s publication. The FBI is "continuing to chase down stuff from the dossier, and, at its core, a lot of it is bearing out," an unidentified "intelligence official" told The New Yorker later that month. The FBI's faith in Steele extended to sharing classified information with him. According to Horowitz, at an October 2016 meeting in Rome, FBI agents gave Steele a “general overview” of Crossfire Hurricane, including its then-secret probes of Manafort, Page, Flynn, and Papadopoulos. The FBI was so eager to enlist Steele that it offered to pay him $15,000 “just for attending” the Rome meeting and a “significantly” greater amount if he could collect more information. This early FBI enthusiasm for Steele – and lengthy record of lying about it -- is hard to square with the bureau’s subsequent claims that he only played a minor role. Durham's Dissent Could Become a Political Flashpoint Despite uncovering FBI deceptions, Horowitz acknowledged that he was relying largely on the word of the officials he was investigating. "We did not find information in FBI or Department ECs [Electronic Communications], emails, or other documents, or through witness testimony, indicating that any information other than the [Friendly Foreign Government] information" – Australia's tip from Downer -- "was relied upon to predicate the opening of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation," his report states. As his dissenting statement made clear, Durham is not limited to one department nor to its employees' voluntary testimony. Durham's grand juries have already yielded indictments of two Clinton campaign-tied operatives for deceptive attempts to influence the FBI's Trump-Russia probe. That Horowitz has already uncovered so many inconsistencies in the FBI's account – and that Durham has gone out of his way to question the FBI predication that Horowitz accepted – suggests that the Steele dossier and the Alfa Bank "secret hotline" story are far from the only fraudulent Trump-Russia activity in Durham's sights. If Durham does unearth additional evidence that the FBI did not launch the Trump-Russia probe in the way that it claims, then that would be yet another devastating revelation for a bureau that has already been caught relying on Clinton-funded disinformation and lying about it. Given how hard the FBI and Democratic Party allies have fought to shield this conduct from scrutiny, Durham's probe could become a major political flashpoint as his probe reaches its final months and hones in on its final targets. Tyler Durden Fri, 01/21/2022 - 20:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 21st, 2022

Trumpworld"s new nemesis is the most important Justice Department official you"ve never heard of

Matt Graves, the Biden-appointed US attorney in DC, has brought charges against Bannon and leads the January 6 cases. Mark Meadows could be next. US attorney Matt Graves (left) and Steve BannonUS attorney's office in Washington; Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images Matt Graves brought contempt charges against Steve Bannon just a week after becoming US attorney. His office is handling January 6 prosecutions and is expected to receive more referrals from Congress. Former colleagues say he brings experience with high-profile cases involving public figures. The federal prosecutors knew that, if they didn't bring charges, Republicans would accuse the sitting Democratic administration of protecting one of its own. So the decision could not have a whiff of politics.It was late in the Obama presidency, and House Republicans had referred a top IRS official to the Justice Department in a scandal over whether the tax agency had improperly targeted conservative groups. The IRS official, Lois Lerner, invoked the 5th Amendment to avoid answering questions from the House, but Republicans argued that she had waived her constitutional rights against self-incrimination and should be charged with contempt of Congress.The Justice Department declined to pursue a case but stressed, in a 2015 letter, that career prosecutors had carefully reviewed the Republicans' criminal referral. Among the career prosecutors was Matt Graves, then a senior official in the US attorney's office in Washington, DC.Six years later, Graves is now the face of that US attorney's office and grappling once more with politically-charged contempt referrals from the House. A week after being sworn in as US attorney in Washington, DC, Graves signed the indictment charging Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon with contempt of Congress over his defiance of the January 6 inquiry. In the weeks since, the January 6 committee has only turned up the heat with recalcitrant Trump world figures, recommending that the full House vote to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Jeff Clark, a onetime top Justice Department official, in contempt of Congress.In a 222-208 vote late Tuesday, the House held Meadows in contempt and referred him to the Justice Department for prosecution."As with all criminal referrals, we will evaluate the matter based on the facts and the law, and the principles of federal prosecution," a spokesman for the US attorney's office, Bill Miller, said Wednesday.The referrals of Bannon and Meadows have landed on the doorstep of the US attorney's office in Washington at a time when it is also handling the deluge of prosecutions stemming from the January 6 attack on the Capitol. More than 700 prosecutions have arisen out of the January 6 investigation, which federal authorities have described as unprecedented.The cases have put the US attorney's office at the forefront of the Justice Department's dealings with Congress as the House January 6 committee looks to contempt prosecutions to bolster its aggressive push for answers about the Capitol attack.Former colleagues of Graves described the Reading, Pennsylvania, native as unflappable and almost uniquely made for the moment with his experience in an uncomfortable area for the Justice Department: the intersection of politics and prosecutions."He's not a novice to these issues. To have someone who has firsthand knowledge of the law, on the sort of issues you have to grapple with, it's huge. He would have picked it up anyway because he's a bright guy, but his past experience gave him an upper hand to be able to hit the ground running," said Channing Phillips, who served as the acting US attorney from March until Graves took office in early November.Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) heads to the House floor to vote at the US Capitol on February 3, 2021.Tasos Katopodis/Getty ImagesCheney floats a big fish: Trump  It remains unclear how many Trump figures the House will refer to the Justice Department for prosecution out of the congressional inquiry into January 6 — though one big fish has come up in recent days for Graves' office to potentially consider.Late Monday, as the House committee investigating January 6 voted to recommend holding Meadows in contempt, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming appeared to raise the possibility that the congressional inquiry could prompt the Justice Department to prosecute Trump over his conduct during the Capitol breach. Cheney, the committee's Republican vice chair, said text messages to Meadows were "further evidence of President Trump's supreme dereliction of duty during those 187 minutes." "And Mr. Meadows testimony will bear on another key question before this Committee: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress's official proceeding to count electoral votes? Mark Meadows' testimony is necessary to inform our legislative judgments," she said. Her comments made waves in legal circles in no small part because it sounded like she was reading straight from the federal criminal statute.In spite of attention surrounding his office, Graves has so far kept a low-profile in his first month as US attorney. He's made no comment about a potential Trump prosecution, which shouldn't be a surprise for someone of his position except for the fact one of his recent predecessors had publicly suggested such a case was under consideration during a controversial interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" back in March. Shortly after his Senate confirmation, Graves delivered remarks at an annual gathering of current and former prosecutors in the US attorney's office. But he has not given any public interviews or held press conferences since then. A spokesman for his office declined to comment for this article.Former colleagues said Graves' early approach is in keeping with his measured, mild-mannered style. But he could begin to step out in coming months as Bannon goes to trial next summer and criminal proceedings pick up against January 6 defendants."He won't seek the limelight but won't shy away from it either," said Ron Machen, a partner at the law firm Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr who served as the US attorney in Washington under the Obama administration.In his current job, Graves is the face of the largest US attorney's office in the country — a size owed, in part, to its unique role as a federal and local prosecutor for the District of Columbia. Graves could adopt a more public-facing posture as the nation's capital confronts a year in which it recorded 200 homicides, a level of deadly violence it has not seen since 2003.Graves previous stint as a prosecutor was highlighted by a case against former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.Mark Wilson/Getty Images)Jesse Jackson Jr. and Roger ClemensGraves previously served in the US attorney's office from 2007 to 2016, a period in which he rose to become a top public corruption prosecutor. His nearly decade-long tenure was highlighted by the prosecution of former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois, a onetime rising star in Democratic politics who pleaded guilty in 2013 to making lavish purchases and other personal expenditures with campaign funds.Jackson's guilty plea and 30-month prison sentence marked a triumph for the US attorney's office in a high-profile, politically-sensitive case against the son of the influential civil rights leader. But Graves also witnessed earlier in his tenure the failed prosecution of the former baseball star Roger Clemens on charges he lied to Congress in insisting that he never used steroids during his long career.Graves was not personally involved in the case, but former officials in the US attorney's office said the verdict underscored the challenges and pitfalls of politically-fraught prosecutions. Former officials said Graves is likely to draw on those experiences as closely-watched cases connected to the Trump era continue coming to the US attorney's office."He's not somebody who is going to be influenced one way or the other. I think he really will do the right thing, regardless of whether it's a referral with pressure from Democrats. "And, if the tables turn in 2022, who knows what referrals are going to come then?" said Matthew Solomon, a former top official in the US attorney's office who once supervised Graves. "In these kinds of cases, it's like brain surgery, and you have to have the judgment," he added. "You have to have an understanding of history, of what's happened in the past with these cases, and of political dynamics. And of course the touchstone is, in the end, doing what is right – but that often means cutting through a lot of noise and that takes force of personality as well as finesse.The Securities and Exchange Commission headquarters in Washington, DCAndrew Kelly/ReutersFirepower from the SECAs Graves has settled in as US attorney, he is also reconnecting with a former colleague from his time as a career prosecutor.Graves has recruited Bridget Fitzpatrick, a former federal prosecutor now serving as the Securities and Exchange Commission's chief litigator, to return to the US attorney's office as his top deputy, according to multiple people familiar with his pick. Fitzpatrick is expected to join the office later this month or in early 2022 after completing a background process.In her more than five-year tenure as a public corruption prosecutor, Fitzpatrick helped convict a sitting member of the District of Columbia's city council on charges he embezzled more than $350,000 earmarked for youth programs. She left the US attorney's office in late 2012 to join the SEC as the commission pushed to bring in more trial expertise in the aftermath of the financial crisis.In 2013, she won a court decision finding the former Goldman Sachs trader Fabrice Tourre — the self-proclaimed "Fabulous Fab" — liable for fraud. Tourre had become a symbol of Wall Street's role in the financial meltdown.The January 6 cases and contempt referrals from Congress will dominate the headlines of Graves and Fitzpatrick's tenure. But with their combined experience, Graves and Fitzpatrick have a chance to reinvigorate an office that was demoralized in the final year of the Trump administration as Justice Department leaders intervened in prosecutions to the benefit of the then-president's political allies, former officials said."Yes, they have to see through the January 6 cases. Yes, they have to deal with the congressional referrals. But, to me, I think a big project for them is also going to be rebuilding a significant white collar portfolio in that office," said Solomon, who served as the SEC's chief litigation counsel following his stint in the US attorney's office and recruited Fitzpatrick to the commission.Solomon said they have the "full package, which is incredibly rare, of being incredibly hard-working, having really good white-collar instincts and being very, very intelligent and also very good trial lawyers."Graves represented Ben Carson, a former Trump cabinet official, while in private practice.Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty ImagesBen Carson, Nike & GEGraves joined the law firm DLA Piper as a partner after stepping down in 2016 as the chief of the fraud and public corruption unit within the federal prosecutor's office. His role at the Justice Department put him in charge of the team that reviewed referrals from Congress and other cases involving well-known figures.In private practice, his work continued to feature public figures and closely-watched cases.Among his clients was Ben Carson, a former 2016 Republican presidential candidate who served in the Trump administration as secretary of housing and urban development. Graves' roster of corporate clients included Nike, General Electric and the news outlet Al-Jazeera, according to his financial disclosure.Public court filings show that Graves represented Al-Jazeera in litigation involving the professional baseball players Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Howard, who sued the news outlet over a documentary alleging that they used performance-enhancing drugs. Graves withdrew from the case in July after President Joe Biden nominated him for the US attorney role.In recent years, he has also represented the oil-rich state of Qatar, T-Mobile and the Bank of Palestine, amassing a client roster that has concerned good-government advocates who have raised alarm over the private sector ties of Biden appointees.But former leaders of the US attorney's office said the defense-side perspective will only help Graves as he makes closely-scrutinized decisions in the political crucible."He'll game it out, he's methodical. He'll look at the case law precedent and weigh the pros and cons. He's not just a career prosecutor but has been on the defense side and represented individuals and organizations as well," Machen said. "The ability to understand both sides of an issue rather than view the matter through only one type of lens is critical in these sorts of high-profile matters," added Machen, who held Graves' job from 2010 to 2015. "You have to be able to see the whole playing field and he has got the experience to do that and to do it effectively."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 15th, 2021

As the pandemic raged, at least 75 lawmakers bought and sold stock in companies that make COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and tests

At least 75 federal lawmakers held shares of the COVID-19 vaccine makers Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, or Pfizer in 2020, an Insider analysis found. Rebecca Zisser/InsiderAFP via Getty Images; Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty; Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call; Marie Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call; Skye Gould/Insider At least 75 federal lawmakers held shares of Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, or Pfizer in 2020. Lawmakers' holding stock in these companies has prompted ethical concerns. Several other lawmakers traded shares of companies with a direct stake in the pandemic. Dozens of Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill have invested in companies that have a direct stake in the nation's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an Insider analysis of federal financial records. In 2020, at least 13 senators and 35 US representatives held shares of Johnson & Johnson, the medical behemoth that produced the single-shot COVID-19 vaccine that more than 15 million Americans have received.  At least 11 senators and 34 representatives also held shares in 2020 of another COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer, Pfizer. Two representatives or their spouses held shares of Moderna during the same year that the world went on lockdown in response to the pandemic.Lawmakers held these investments in COVID-19-minded companies as Congress was at the center of pandemic relief efforts. In 2020 and 2021, members of Congress voted on six relief bills together worth nearly $6 trillion. Congress also authorized more than $10 billion to help drug companies develop and distribute vaccines and forced health insurers to cover the cost of getting the shot. Policymakers especially viewed the coronavirus vaccines developed by Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna — which each spent substantial amounts of money lobbying the federal government in 2020 — as critical to helping countries around the planet overcome the grip of the pandemic. The tally of investments is part of the exhaustive Conflicted Congress project, in which Insider reviewed nearly 9,000 financial-disclosure reports for every sitting lawmaker and their top-ranking staffers.Rep. Marie Newman's spouse manages the family's finances.US House of RepresentativesLawmakers invest in big pandemic-era stocks The investors in vaccines included freshman Rep. Marie Newman, a Democrat of Illinois, whose husband, Jim Newman, has traded shares of both Johnson & Johnson and Moderna. The congresswoman's 2020 annual personal financial disclosure also listed the couple together holding shares in Moderna.Marie Newman's office previously told Insider that Jim Newman controlled these finances and that the accounts were for retirement, college savings for their children, and assistance for family healthcare costs. Mary Newman entered Congress in 2021, after it had passed all but one federal relief bill. Her husband continued trading after she was sworn in.  Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat of New Jersey, was the only other lawmaker who held Moderna stock. In May 2020, he sold up to $15,000 worth of his shares. In early January 2020, a share of Moderna traded below $20. As the pandemic took hold, the stock's value grew exponentially. Moderna peaked in September 2021 at more than $455 a share. After dropping steadily through the autumn, it began rising again in late November. By early December, a share of Moderna traded above $280.Rep. Mo Brooks previously made statements opposing the COVID-19 vaccine mandates.APEven some Republican lawmakers who vocally opposed COVID-19 vaccine mandates also invested in vaccine manufacturers.Vivien Scott, the wife of Rep. Austin Scott, a Republican of Georgia, traded up to $50,000 worth of Johnson & Johnson stock on two occasions this year. Austin Scott has bashed President Joe Biden's workplace vaccine mandates but stressed that he supports vaccines, particularly given that he had COVID-19 in 2020 and spent several days in the hospital on oxygen. "Congressman Scott and his wife own stocks like millions of American families do, and they follow all laws on trading," Scott's spokeswoman, Rachel Ledbetter, told Insider.Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama sold up to $50,000 worth of Pfizer stock in August 2021 and then was nearly a month late filing his disclosure. Brooks, an unabashedly pro-Trump lawmaker who is running for a US Senate seat, previously accused the pharmaceutical giant of playing politics with the timing of its announcement about vaccine-efficacy data.Martha Brooks, the congressman's wife, told Insider that she handled all the family's stock investments and used an investment broker to conduct these transactions. She acknowledged that she disclosed the stock transaction late. Rep. John Yarmuth is among the lawmakers who sold shares in 3M.US House of RepresentativesInvestments in 3M, Quest, Regeneron Democratic lawmakers also invested in COVID-19-sensitive companies, including through selling and buying stocks in vaccine manufacturers and other companies deeply involved with pandemic relief efforts. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat of Kentucky who chairs the House Budget Committee, sold up to $15,000 worth of stock in 3M, which creates and distributes personal protective equipment such as N95 masks, at the end of March 2020. When asked about Yarmuth's stock investments, Yarmuth's spokesperson said the chairman "has an investment manager who handles these transactions and had no role in this stock transaction." But Yarmuth, like most members of Congress, has not placed his assets in what's known as a "qualified blind trust" — a formal arrangement, requiring congressional approval, in which a lawmaker transfers management of their assets to an independent trustee. Qualified blind trusts can be expensive and time-consuming to establish, but congressional guidance suggests they provide the "most comprehensive approach" to avoiding "potential conflicts of interest or the appearance of such conflicts."Archie Smith, the husband of Democratic Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota, held up to $250,000 worth of 3M shares, according to her annual disclosure. Her office did not respond to a request for comment.Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon reported that his wife, Margaret Kirkpatrick, bought up to $15,000 worth of stock in Quest Diagnostics, a leading COVID-19 test provider, in March 2020. Blumenauer did not respond to repeated requests for comment about his financial filings.Democratic Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia reported buying up to $15,000 worth of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals stock in May 2020 through a jointly held account. He sold up to $30,000 worth of the stock between July and August 2020 through a jointly held account. Regeneron makes a monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 that doctors used last year to treat then-President Donald Trump."The congressman does not personally manage or direct any purchases or sales in his stock portfolio. They are managed by a bank brokerage," Beyer's spokesman, Aaron Fritschner, said of his boss' financial planning, adding, "The only direction they have from him is to avoid investments in a few areas like fossil fuels, private prisons, etc."  Democrats' mixed messaging Early in the pandemic, some lawmakers condemned people looking to make money off COVID-19-related treatments and defenses.Rep. Tom Malinowski, a Democrat of New Jersey, told MSNBC in April 2020, "This is not the time for anybody to be profiting off of selling ventilators, vaccines, drugs, treatments, PPE, anywhere in the world."But Malinowski was one of them: The lawmaker sold up to $15,000 worth of stock in Chembio Diagnostics, a company that offers COVID-19 testing kits and infectious-disease testing, in the early days of the pandemic.In 2020, he failed to disclose dozens of stock trades in violation of the federal Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 — which clarifies that it is illegal for members of Congress to engage in insider trading — acknowledging them only after Insider reported about his trading activities. Malinowski's office previously told Insider that the congressman employed a financial advisor to trade stocks on his behalf. Malinowski has since placed his stock assets in a qualified blind trust. But he remains under investigation by the House Committee on Ethics after the independent Office of Congressional Ethics said it found "substantial reason to believe" that Malinowski violated federal rules or laws designed to promote transparency and defend against conflicts of interest. The New Jersey lawmaker is one of 10 lawmakers who have taken the option to use a qualified blind trust, Insider found.Some Democrats have argued that their investments in these companies don't present a problem because they happened before the pandemic. Rep. David Price, a Democrat of North Carolina, reported owning up to $50,000 worth of shares in 3M. In a statement to Insider, the lawmaker said his investment "predates the pandemic by many years and was not influenced by current events.""I supported the STOCK Act because I firmly believe it should be illegal for Members of Congress to use nonpublic information to enrich themselves, an ethical standard that I live by," he said. Others said they did not directly manage their own investments. Gottheimer, the New Jersey Democrat whose portfolio includes Regeneron and Moderna, said through his spokeswoman, Alexandra Caffrey, that he did not personally make any decisions about the trades.Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a freshman Republican of Alabama, has invested in Johnson & Johnson, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and 3M. Tuberville's spokeswoman, Ryann DuRant, previously told Insider that her boss did not personally make his stock trades and has "long had financial advisors who actively manage his portfolio without his day-to-day involvement." But she has not said whether Tuberville gives any direction to his advisors about which stocks to avoid. When Insider followed up on December 3, DuRant said she didn't have anything new to add to her previous statement. Tuberville is a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which has routinely conducted hearings on COVID-19-related matters.In July 2020, Republican Rep. Carol Miller of West Virginia reported that her husband, Matt Miller, had bought up to $50,000 worth of shares of Abbott Laboratories, a COVID-19 testing company. Carol Miller did not respond to requests for comment about her financial filings. Pfizer and Moderna are among some of the biggest pandemic-era companies lawmakers invested it.Hazem Bader/AFP via Getty ImagesPharmaceutical contributions and conflictsLawmakers' trading stocks of companies that have been profiting from their response to the pandemic has raised concerns about ethics and conflicts of interest.  But Stanley Brand, who served as a general counsel to the US House of Representatives, told Insider that new regulation to bar lawmakers who sit on certain committees from trading stocks of companies in industries that the committees have jurisdiction over could create "a regulatory nightmare.""If you recuse these people, their constituents don't have a vote," he said. "You could literally disqualify half of a committee if you had that rule. I don't know, maybe you wouldn't even get a quorum, depending on what these people own."This issue doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon. Pharmaceutical companies at the center of the pandemic response have been bulking up their lobbying efforts and significantly contributing to political campaigns.Pfizer PACs and individuals who work for the pharmaceutical giant contributed more than $4 million to candidates and committees in the 2020 election cycle, while Johnson & Johnson PACs and employees contributed more than $2 million, according to OpenSecrets, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that tracks money in politics. Both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson gave more to Democrats than to Republicans. Of the big three vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer leads with the most money spent lobbying members of Congress during the pandemic. According to OpenSecrets, Pfizer spent nearly $11 million lobbying the federal government, including Congress, in 2020. The nonpartisan research organization also reported that Johnson & Johnson spent $7.9 million on lobbying in 2020. Moderna, which started lobbying the federal government in 2019, has spent $420,000 on federal lobbying in 2021, an increase from $280,000 in 2020.Joshua Silver, the CEO of the anticorruption advocacy group RepresentUs, said the flow of money in and out of the US Capitol — be it campaign contributions to elected officials, or sitting lawmakers investing in industries they're supposed to oversee — underscored an erosion of ethical standards in Congress. "We've seen 50 years of a steady unraveling of government ethics at the hands of wealthy special interests and the politicians who serve them," Silver said.Self-correction is too much to ask of this or any other Congress, he added. "Both parties are conflicted and benefit from the status quo," he told Insider. "The best way for the country to get back on track is for voters to cut ties with self-serving opportunists — and they better do it fast. The situation is much more bleak than the American public realizes." Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 13th, 2021

In Memory Of JFK: The First US President To Be Labeled A Terrorist & Threat To National Security

In Memory Of JFK: The First US President To Be Labeled A Terrorist & Threat To National Security Authored by Cynthia Chung via The Saker blog, In April 1954, Kennedy stood up on the Senate floor to challenge the Eisenhower Administration’s support for the doomed French imperial war in Vietnam, foreseeing that this would not be a short-lived war. In July 1957, Kennedy once more took a strong stand against French colonialism, this time France’s bloody war against Algeria’s independence movement, which again found the Eisenhower Administration on the wrong side of history. Rising on the Senate floor, two days before America’s own Independence Day, Kennedy declared: “The most powerful single force in the world today is neither communism nor capitalism, neither the H-bomb nor the guided missile – it is man’s eternal desire to be free and independent. The great enemy of that tremendous force of freedom is called, for want of a more precise term, imperialism – and today that means Soviet imperialism and, whether we like it or not, and though they are not to be equated, Western imperialism. Thus, the single most important test of American foreign policy today is how we meet the challenge of imperialism, what we do to further man’s desire to be free. On this test more than any other, this nation shall be critically judged by the uncommitted millions in Asia and Africa, and anxiously watched by the still hopeful lovers of freedom behind the Iron Curtain. If we fail to meet the challenge of either Soviet or Western imperialism, then no amount of foreign aid, no aggrandizement of armaments, no new pacts or doctrines or high-level conferences can prevent further setbacks to our course and to our security.” In September 1960, the annual United Nations General Assembly was held in New York. Fidel Castro and a fifty-member delegation were among the attendees and had made a splash in the headlines when he decided to stay at the Hotel Theresa in Harlem after the midtown Shelburne Hotel demanded a $20,000 security deposit. He made an even bigger splash in the headlines when he made a speech at this hotel, discussing the issue of equality in the United States while in Harlem, one of the poorest boroughs in the country. Kennedy would visit this very same hotel a short while later, and also made a speech: “Behind the fact of Castro coming to this hotel, [and] Khrushchev…there is another great traveler in the world, and that is the travel of a world revolution, a world in turmoil…We should be glad [that Castro and Khrushchev] came to the United States. We should not fear the twentieth century, for the worldwide revolution which we see all around us is part of the original American Revolution." What did Kennedy mean by this? The American Revolution was fought for freedom, freedom from the rule of monarchy and imperialism in favour of national sovereignty. What Kennedy was stating, was that this was the very oppression that the rest of the world wished to shake the yoke off, and that the United States had an opportunity to be a leader in the cause for the independence of all nations. On June 30th, 1960, marking the independence of the Republic of Congo from the colonial rule of Belgium, Patrice Lumumba, the first Congolese Prime Minister gave a speech that has become famous for its outspoken criticism of colonialism. Lumumba spoke of his people’s struggle against “the humiliating bondage that was forced upon us… [years that were] filled with tears, fire and blood,” and concluded vowing “We shall show the world what the black man can do when working in liberty, and we shall make the Congo the pride of Africa.” Shortly after, Lumumba also made clear, “We want no part of the Cold War… We want Africa to remain African with a policy of neutralism." As a result, Lumumba was labeled a communist for his refusal to be a Cold War satellite for the western sphere. Rather, Lumumba was part of the Pan-African movement that was led by Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah (who later Kennedy would also work with), which sought national sovereignty and an end to colonialism in Africa. Lumumba “would remain a grave danger,” Dulles said at an NSC meeting on September 21, 1960, “as long as he was not yet disposed of.” Three days later, Dulles made it clear that he wanted Lumumba permanently removed, cabling the CIA’s Leopoldville station, “We wish give [sic] every possible support in eliminating Lumumba from any possibility resuming governmental position.” Lumumba was assassinated on Jan. 17th, 1961, just three days before Kennedy’s inauguration, during the fog of the transition period between presidents, when the CIA is most free to tie its loose ends, confident that they will not be reprimanded by a new administration that wants to avoid scandal on its first days in office. Kennedy, who clearly meant to put a stop to the Murder Inc. that Dulles had created and was running, would declare to the world in his inaugural address on Jan. 20th, 1961, “The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.” La Resistance Along with inheriting the responsibility of the welfare of the country and its people, Kennedy was to also inherit a secret war with communist Cuba run by the CIA. The Bay of Pigs set-up would occur three months later. Prouty compares the Bay of Pigs incident to that of the Crusade for Peace; the Bay of Pigs being orchestrated by the CIA, and the Crusade for Peace sabotaged by the CIA, in both cases to ruin the U.S. president’s (Eisenhower and Kennedy) ability to form a peaceful dialogue with Khrushchev and decrease Cold War tensions. Both presidents’ took onus for the events respectively, despite the responsibility resting with the CIA. However, Eisenhower and Kennedy understood, if they did not take onus, it would be a public declaration that they did not have any control over their government agencies and military. Further, the Bay of Pigs operation was in fact meant to fail. It was meant to stir up a public outcry for a direct military invasion of Cuba. On public record is a meeting (or more aptly described as an intervention) with CIA Deputy Director for Plans Richard Bissell, Joint Chiefs Chairman Lyman Lemnitzer, and Navy Chief Admiral Burke basically trying to strong-arm President Kennedy into approving a direct military attack on Cuba. Admiral Burke had already taken the liberty of positioning two battalions of Marines on Navy destroyers off the coast of Cuba “anticipating that U.S. forces might be ordered into Cuba to salvage a botched invasion.”[7] (This incident is what inspired the Frankenheimer movie “Seven Days in May.”) Kennedy stood his ground. “They were sure I’d give in to them,” Kennedy later told Special Assistant to the President Dave Powers. “They couldn’t believe that a new president like me wouldn’t panic and try to save his own face. Well they had me figured all wrong.” Incredibly, not only did the young president stand his ground against the Washington war hawks just three months into his presidential term, but he also launched the Cuba Study Group which found the CIA to be responsible for the fiasco, leading to the humiliating forced resignation of Allen Dulles, Richard Bissell and Charles Cabell. (For more on this refer to my report.) Unfortunately, it would not be that easy to dethrone Dulles, who continued to act as head of the CIA, and key members of the intelligence community such as Helms and Angleton regularly bypassed McCone (the new CIA Director) and briefed Dulles directly. But Kennedy was also serious about seeing it through all the way, and vowed to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” * * * There is another rather significant incident that had occurred just days after the Bay of Pigs, and which has largely been overshadowed by the Cuban fiasco in the United States. From April 21-26th, 1961, the Algiers putsch or Generals’ putsch, was a failed coup d’état intended to force President de Gaulle (1959-1969) not to abandon the colonial French Algeria. The organisers of the putsch were opposed to the secret negotiations that French Prime Minister Michel Debré had started with the anti-colonial National Liberation Front (FLN). On January 26th, 1961, just three months before the attempted coup d’état, Dulles sent a report to Kennedy on the French situation that seemed to be hinting that de Gaulle would no longer be around, “A pre-revolutionary atmosphere reigns in France… The Army and the Air Force are staunchly opposed to de Gaulle…At least 80 percent of the officers are violently against him. They haven’t forgotten that in 1958, he had given his word of honor that he would never abandon Algeria. He is now reneging on his promise, and they hate him for that. de Gaulle surely won’t last if he tries to let go of Algeria. Everything will probably be over for him by the end of the year—he will be either deposed or assassinated.” The attempted coup was led by Maurice Challe, whom de Gaulle had reason to conclude was working with the support of U.S. intelligence, and Élysée officials began spreading this word to the press, which reported the CIA as a “reactionary state-within-a-state” that operated outside of Kennedy’s control. Shortly before Challe’s resignation from the French military, he had served as NATO commander in chief and had developed close relations with a number of high-ranking U.S. officers stationed in the military alliance’s Fontainebleau headquarters. In August 1962 the OAS (Secret Army Organization) made an assassination attempt against de Gaulle, believing he had betrayed France by giving up Algeria to Algerian nationalists. This would be the most notorious assassination attempt on de Gaulle (who would remarkably survive over thirty assassination attempts while President of France) when a dozen OAS snipers opened fire on the president’s car, which managed to escape the ambush despite all four tires being shot out. After the failed coup d’état, de Gaulle launched a purge of his security forces and ousted General Paul Grossin, the chief of SDECE (the French secret service). Grossin was closely aligned with the CIA, and had told Frank Wisner over lunch that the return of de Gaulle to power was equivalent to the Communists taking over in Paris. In 1967, after a five-year enquête by the French Intelligence Bureau, it released its findings concerning the 1962 assassination attempt on de Gaulle. The report found that the 1962 assassination plot could be traced back to the NATO Brussels headquarters, and the remnants of the old Nazi intelligence apparatus. The report also found that Permindex had transferred $200,000 into an OAS bank account to finance the project. As a result of the de Gaulle exposé, Permindex was forced to shut down its public operations in Western Europe and relocated its headquarters from Bern, Switzerland to Johannesburg, South Africa, it also had/has a base in Montreal, Canada where its founder Maj. Gen. Louis M. Bloomfield (former OSS) proudly had his name amongst its board members until the damning de Gaulle report. The relevance of this to Kennedy will be discussed shortly. As a result of the SDECE’s ongoing investigation, de Gaulle made a vehement denunciation of the Anglo-American violation of the Atlantic Charter, followed by France’s withdrawal from the NATO military command in 1966. France would not return to NATO until April 2009 at the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit. In addition to all of this, on Jan. 14th, 1963, de Gaulle declared at a press conference that he had vetoed British entry into the Common Market. This would be the first move towards France and West Germany’s formation of the European Monetary System, which excluded Great Britain, likely due to its imperialist tendencies and its infamous sin City of London. Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson telegrammed West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer directly, appealing to him to try to persuade de Gaulle to back track on the veto, stating “if anyone can affect Gen. de Gaulle’s decision, you are surely that person.” Little did Acheson know that Adenauer was just days away from signing the Franco-German Treaty of Jan 22nd, 1963 (also known as the ÉlyséeTreaty), which had enormous implications. Franco-German relations, which had long been dominated by centuries of rivalry, had now agreed that their fates were aligned. (This close relationship was continued to a climactic point in the late 1970s, with the formation of the European Monetary System, and France and West Germany’s willingness in 1977 to work with OPEC countries trading oil for nuclear technology, which was sabotaged by the U.S.-Britain alliance. The Élysée Treaty was a clear denunciation of the Anglo-American forceful overseeing that had overtaken Western Europe since the end of WWII. On June 28th, 1961, Kennedy wrote NSAM #55. This document changed the responsibility of defense during the Cold War from the CIA to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and would have (if seen through) drastically changed the course of the war in Vietnam. It would also have effectively removed the CIA from Cold War military operations and limited the CIA to its sole lawful responsibility, the collecting and coordination of intelligence. By Oct 11th, 1963, NSAM #263, closely overseen by Kennedy[14], was released and outlined a policy decision “to withdraw 1,000 military personnel [from Vietnam] by the end of 1963” and further stated that “It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by 1965.” The Armed Forces newspaper Stars and Stripes had the headline U.S. TROOPS SEEN OUT OF VIET BY ’65. It would be the final nail in the coffin. Treason in America “Treason doth never prosper; what is the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.” – Sir John Harrington By Germany supporting de Gaulle’s exposure of the international assassination ring, his adamant opposition to western imperialism and the role of NATO, and with a young Kennedy building his own resistance against the imperialist war of Vietnam, it was clear that the power elite were in big trouble. On November 22nd, 1963 President Kennedy was brutally murdered in the streets of Dallas, Texas in broad daylight. With the assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem, likely ordained by the CIA, on Nov. 2nd, 1963 and Kennedy just a few weeks later, de facto President Johnson signed NSAM #273 on Nov. 26th, 1963 to begin the reversal of Kennedy’s policy under #263. And on March 17th, 1964, Johnson signed NSAM #288 that marked the full escalation of the Vietnam War and involved 2,709,918 Americans directly serving in Vietnam, with 9,087,000 serving with the U.S. Armed Forces during this period. The Vietnam War would continue for another 12 years after Kennedy’s death, lasting a total of 20 years for Americans, and 30 years if you count American covert action in Vietnam. Two days before Kennedy’s assassination, a hate-Kennedy handbill was circulated in Dallas accusing the president of treasonous activities including being a communist sympathizer. On November 29th, 1963 the Warren Commission was set up to investigate the murder of President Kennedy. The old Congressman Hale Boggs of Louisiana was a member of that Warren Commission. Boggs became increasingly disturbed by the lack of transparency and rigour exhibited by the Commission and became convinced that many of the documents used to incriminate Oswald were in fact forgeries. In 1965 Rep. Boggs told New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison that Oswald could not have been the one who killed Kennedy. It was Boggs who encouraged Garrison to begin the only law enforcement prosecution of the President’s murder to this day. Nixon was inaugurated as President of the United States on Jan 20th, 1969. Hale Boggs soon after called on Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell to have the courage to fire J. Edgar Hoover. It wasn’t long thereafter that the private airplane carrying Hale Boggs disappeared without a trace. Jim Garrison was the District Attorney of New Orleans from 1962 to 1973 and was the only one to bring forth a trial concerning the assassination of President Kennedy. In Jim Garrison’s book “On the Trail of the Assassins”, J. Edgar Hoover comes up several times impeding or shutting down investigations into JFK’s murder, in particular concerning the evidence collected by the Dallas Police Department, such as the nitrate test Oswald was given and which exonerated him, proving that he never shot a rifle the day of Nov 22nd, 1963. However, for reasons only known to the government and its investigators this fact was kept secret for 10 months. It was finally revealed in the Warren Commission report, which inexplicably didn’t change their opinion that Oswald had shot Kennedy. Another particularly damning incident was concerning the Zapruder film that was in the possession of the FBI and which they had sent a “copy” to the Warren Commission for their investigation. This film was one of the leading pieces of evidence used to support the “magic bullet theory” and showcase the direction of the headshot coming from behind, thus verifying that Oswald’s location was adequate for such a shot. During Garrison’s trial on the Kennedy assassination (1967-1969) he subpoenaed the Zapruder film that for some peculiar reason had been locked up in some vault owned by Life magazine (the reader should note that Henry Luce the owner of Life magazine was in a very close relationship with the CIA). This was the first time in more than five years that the Zapruder film was made public. It turns out the FBI’s copy that was sent to the Warren Commission had two critical frames reversed to create a false impression that the rifle shot was from behind. When Garrison got a hold of the original film it was discovered that the head shot had actually come from the front. In fact, what the whole film showed was that the President had been shot from multiple angles meaning there was more than one gunman. When the FBI was questioned about how these two critical frames could have been reversed, they answered self-satisfactorily that it must have been a technical glitch… There is also the matter of the original autopsy papers being destroyed by the chief autopsy physician, James Humes, to which he even testified to during the Warren Commission, apparently nobody bothered to ask why… This would explain why the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), reported in a July 1998 staff report their concern for the number of shortcomings in the original autopsy, that “One of the many tragedies of the assassination of President Kennedy has been the incompleteness of the autopsy record and the suspicion caused by the shroud of secrecy that has surrounded the records that do exist.” [emphasis added] The staff report for the Assassinations Records Review Board contended that brain photographs in the Kennedy records are not of Kennedy’s brain and show much less damage than Kennedy sustained. There is a lot of spurious effort to try to ridicule anyone who challenges the Warren Commission’s official report as nothing but fringe conspiracy theory. And that we should not find it highly suspect that Allen Dulles, of all people, was a member and pretty much leader of said commission. The reader should keep in mind that much of this frothing opposition stems from the very agency that perpetrated crime after crime on the American people, as well as abroad. When has the CIA ever admitted guilt, unless caught red-handed? Even after the Church committee hearings, when the CIA was found guilty of planning out foreign assassinations, they claimed that they had failed in every single plot or that someone had beaten them to the punch, including in the case of Lumumba. The American people need to realise that the CIA is not a respectable agency; we are not dealing with honorable men. It is a rogue force that believes that the ends justify the means, that they are the hands of the king so to speak, above government and above law. Those at the top such as Allen Dulles were just as adamant as Churchill about protecting the interests of the power elite, or as Churchill termed it, the “High Cabal.” Interestingly, on Dec. 22nd, 1963, just one month after Kennedy’s assassination, Harry Truman published a scathing critique of the CIA in The Washington Post, even going so far as to state “There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position [as a] free and open society, and I feel that we need to correct it.” The timing of such a scathing quote cannot be stressed enough. Dulles, of course, told the public not to be distressed, that Truman was just in entering his twilight years. In addition, Jim Garrison, New Orleans District Attorney at the time, who was charging Clay Shaw as a member of the conspiracy to kill Kennedy, besides uncovering his ties to David Ferrie who was found dead in his apartment days before he was scheduled to testify, also made a case that the New Orleans International Trade Mart (to which Clay Shaw was director), the U.S. subsidiary of Permindex, was linked to Kennedy’s murder. Col. Clay Shaw was an OSS officer during WWII, which provides a direct link to his knowing Allen Dulles. Garrison did a remarkable job with the odds he was up against, and for the number of witnesses that turned up dead before the trial… This Permindex link would not look so damning if we did not have the French intelligence SDECE report, but we do. And recall, in that report Permindex was caught transferring $200,000 directly to the bankroll of the OAS which attempted the 1962 assassination on de Gaulle. Thus, Permindex’s implication in an international assassination ring is not up for debate. In addition, the CIA was found heavily involved in these assassination attempts against de Gaulle, thus we should not simply dismiss the possibility that Permindex was indeed a CIA front for an international hit crew. In fact, among the strange and murderous characters who converged on Dallas in Nov. 1963 was a notorious French OAS commando named Jean Souetre, who was connected to the plots against President de Gaulle. Souetre was arrested in Dallas after the Kennedy assassination and expelled to Mexico, not even kept for questioning. What Does the Future Hold? After returning from Kennedy’s Nov. 24th funeral in Washington, de Gaulle and his information minister Alain Peyrefitte had a candid discussion that was recorded in Peyrefitte’s memoire “C’était de Gaulle,” the great General was quoted saying: “What happened to Kennedy is what nearly happened to me… His story is the same as mine. … It looks like a cowboy story, but it’s only an OAS [Secret Army Organization] story. The security forces were in cahoots with the extremists. …Security forces are all the same when they do this kind of dirty work. As soon as they succeed in wiping out the false assassin, they declare the justice system no longer need be concerned, that no further public action was needed now that the guilty perpetrator was dead. Better to assassinate an innocent man than to let a civil war break out. Better an injustice than disorder. America is in danger of upheavals. But you’ll see. All of them together will observe the law of silence. They will close ranks. They’ll do everything to stifle any scandal. They will throw Noah’s cloak over these shameful deeds. In order to not lose face in front of the whole world. In order to not risk unleashing riots in the United States. In order to preserve the union and to avoid a new civil war. In order to not ask themselves questions. They don’t want to know. They don’t want to find out. They won’t allow themselves to find out.” The American people would do well to remember that it was first John F. Kennedy, acting as the President to the United States, who was to be declared a terrorist and threat to his country’s national security. Thus is it not natural that those who continue to defend the legacy of Kennedy should be regarded today as threat, not truly to the nation’s security, but a threat to the very same grouping responsible for Kennedy’s death and whom today have now declared open war on the American people. This will be the greatest test the American people have ever been confronted with, and it will only be through an understanding of how the country came to where it is today that there can be sufficient clarity as to what the solutions are, which are not to be found in another civil war. To not fall for the trapping of further chaos and division, the American people will only be able to rise above this if they choose to ask those questions, if they choose to want to know, to want to find out the truth of things they dared not look at in the past for fear of what it would reveal. “Whenever the government of the United States shall break up, it will probably be in consequence of a false direction having been given to public opinion. This is the weak point of our defenses, and the part to which the enemies of the system will direct all their attacks. Opinion can be so perverted as to cause the false to seem true; the enemy, a friend, and the friend, an enemy; the best interests of the nation to appear insignificant, and the trifles of moment; in a word, the right the wrong, the wrong the right. In a country where opinion has sway, to seize upon it, is to seize upon power. As it is a rule of humanity that the upright and well-intentioned are comparatively passive, while the designing, dishonest, and selfish are the most untiring in their efforts, the danger of public opinion’s getting a false direction is four-fold, since few men think for themselves.” -James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) We must dare to be among the few who think for ourselves. Tyler Durden Mon, 11/22/2021 - 22:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 22nd, 2021

New York AG Tish James is running for governor on her record of taking on Trump. But her role in the criminal probe of his company remains hazy.

What James has contributed to the Trump Organization criminal investigation is less clear than her record challenging the former president's policies. New York Attorney General and governor candidate Letitia James and former President Donald Trump. David Dee Delgado/Getty Images; Paul Hennessy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images New York AG Letitia James has joined forces with the Manhattan DA for the Trump Organization investigation. She's also running for governor and touting her record of going after former President Donald Trump. Her office has scored wins against Trump on the policy front, but her exact role in the criminal investigation is unclear. When New York Attorney General Letitia James announced her run for the governor's mansion in October, she highlighted some of her biggest cases. And she put 76 of them in one category."I've sued the Trump administration 76 times," she said. "But who's counting?"James' challenges to former President Donald Trump fall into two categories, one of which went unmentioned in her announcement video.There are the cases she brought against the Trump administration, including lawsuits trying to halt policies that she alleged protected predatory lenders, relaxed environmental rules, and discriminated against LGBTQ people."Defending the rights and wellbeing of New Yorkers and fighting for the powerless have always been my top priorities as attorney general," James told Insider in a statement, once again touting her office's 76 lawsuits. "For two years, my office stood up and fought the Trump Administration every time it tried to trample on the rights of New Yorkers and Americans across the country."James also brought cases against Trump personally, including an investigation into the Trump Organization, which so far has produced a criminal indictment against the former president's company and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg.Two prosecutors from James' office were cross-designated to work with the Manhattan District Attorney's office, which is leading the Trump Organization probe. Since the investigation is ongoing - prosecutors impaneled a second grand jury for the case earlier this month - there's limited public information about the machinations behind the probe, including what work each office has contributed thus far.While James can't talk about the details because the investigation is ongoing, Daniel R. Alonso, a former top deputy for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., pointed out the information James' office gathered for its civil cases against Trump could be a major asset."My best guess is that what the attorney general's office brought to the table is a hell of a lot of knowledge about the Trump Organization," Alonso told Insider. James has called out Trump from her perch as New York AGJames has approached her cases against the Trump administration with a special zeal. When he was in office, she used her position to get federal courts to halt policies she said trampled on civil rights issues."We filed 76 lawsuits against an administration that was hostile towards women, immigrants, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, workers, and countless others; and we won over and over again," she told Insider. "Now, under the Biden-Harris Administration, we've seen decisive leadership that has protected young Dreamers, women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and millions of others across New York and the rest of the United States."James also scored a big win with her office's investigation into the Trump Foundation, which was forced to dissolve in 2019, though the civil lawsuit began under the tenure of her predecessor, Barbara Underwood. Trump admitted to illegally using the nonprofit's money for personal profit and to advance his political career. Donald Trump attends the National Prayer Breakfast at a hotel in Washington, DC on February 8, 2018. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images In an interview with ABC's "The View" in December 2020, when asked about Trump calling her investigations against him "harassment," James basically launched into a campaign speech.​​"With respect to the rant of the President of the United States since I've been in office these past two years - yes, my office has either led or joined 68 lawsuits against this administration. Protecting our environment, protecting immigrants, protecting the rights of women, protecting dreamers, protecting the Affordable Care Act, protecting the Postal Service and the list goes on," she said, adding: "It's important that the president of the United States understand that no one is above the law."The law came for the former president's business after Michael Cohen, the former Trump Organization executive and personal lawyer for Trump, testified before Congress in February 2019. He alleged the company kept two sets of books: one to receive favorable bank loan and insurance rates, the other to pay little in taxes.Both the Manhattan DA's office and the New York Attorney General's office were listening. The offices then opened investigations, on parallel tracks, to examine the company's finances. Court filings and public announcements suggested they were each looking at whether the Trump Organization broke state laws by making hush-money payments to people who said they had affairs with Trump, by misrepresenting its finances, and by offering untaxed benefits to top employees.James and the Manhattan DA joined forcesAs recently as fall 2020, both prosecutors' offices had separate teams working what appeared to be the same leads. In an interview with Insider , Jennifer Weisselberg, a cooperating witness for both investigations, said that investigators from each office asked her about the same issues in separate interviews.James' office distinguished itself in the following months with a series of announcements about the inquiries into the valuations of several Trump Organization properties as part of a civil investigation. Among them is 40 Wall Street, located just across the street from James' office in Manhattan. The Trump Organization's Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, center, arrives for a courtroom appearance in New York, Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. AP Photo/Craig Ruttle) The properties also include the Seven Springs estate in upstate New York, which the Trump Organization said in tax filings was used as a nature conservatory. Eric and Donald Trump Jr. said in media interviews that they used the estate as a summer home, however, and James' office successfully forced Eric Trump, now a Trump Organization executive, to sit for an interview.Meanwhile, Vance's office put enormous resources into the case. It went to the Supreme Court twice to enforce a subpoena for the Trump Organization and obtain reams of tax documents. Solomon Shinerock - the prosecutor in the DA's office who has been doing almost all the talking at the two public court hearings so far - said in September that the office had about 6 million pages of evidence for the charges against Weisselberg and the company.Under state statute, the New York Attorney General's office has the ability to bring criminal cases under only a few areas of law. Otherwise, it needs a referral from the governor's office or state legislature to pursue a wide-ranging criminal investigation.The office can also "cross-designate" its attorneys with a district attorney's office, which is what happened for the Trump Organization investigation. Earlier this year, two prosecutors on James' team were basically loaned out to the Manhattan DA's office. The team-up saves work for everyone, Alonso said."If somebody's already gathered evidence, and they've already cataloged that they've already interviewed witnesses related to it - there's a value in accelerating that part of the investigation," Alonso said. "So it makes sense to team up." Cyrus Roberts Vance Jr. District Attorney of New York County and New York State Attorney General Letitia James arrive in court for the hearing of Allen Weisselberg in New York on July 1, 2021. Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images The DA and AG offices jointly led a criminal investigation, while the AG's office has also continued its civil probe. In July, the prosecutors on the criminal case filed a 15-count indictment against the Trump Organization and Weisselberg, accusing the executive of evading taxes on income and benefits like a free apartment. Vance and James walked side-by-side that day into court, where the company and Weisselberg pleaded not guilty to the charges."My office remains committed to enforcing the law and holding accountable those who abuse their authority - no matter how powerful," James said in the statement to Insider.Vance will retire on December 31 after three terms as DA, and on January 1, Alvin Bragg will take over. Bragg is a former top official in the New York State Attorney General's office himself, leaving two weeks before James took office. He's widely expected to keep the same tack as Vance."My approach to this case will be the same as mine to every case: follow the facts and deliver justice for New Yorkers," Bragg told Insider in June. "That's what we did in the Attorney General's office where I led the team that sued Trump and his administration more than 100 times, including successfully suing the Trump Foundation, removing the citizenship question from the census, and challenging the travel bans and other unlawful policies."Running for governor as a sitting AG is a tradition in New York politicsIn Albany, James has earned a reputation as a shrewd operator and a rising star in the Democratic Party. As the state's attorney general, she's in the process of suing the National Rifle Association into oblivion, and her office's investigations and litigation has shut down consumer scams and led to hundreds of gun buybacks. Nearly every day, her office issues a press release about cases against predatory lenders and opioid deaths.Now that the gubernatorial primary is open, lawmakers are weighing whom to support, or whether to stay out of the race altogether as Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul implements her agenda while trying to secure a full term.For Assemblyman Phil Steck, an Upstate Democrat from Schenectady who has yet to endorse a candidate, James' record on antitrust enforcement and opioids carries more weight than her challenges to Trump."I'm a fan of the attorney general for two reasons," Steck, who endorsed James' rival, Zephyr Teachout, in the 2018 AG primary, told Insider. In that primary, disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo endorsed James. Attorney General of New York Letitia James and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) take part in ceremonies before the Veteran's Day Parade in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., November 11, 2021. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri "First, since she's been attorney general, I think the office has done a lot of outstanding work in many areas that protect the public interest," Steck continued. "Two, she has a long history of progressive politics. So in comparison - while I know the current governor very well and like her - the reality is that the new administration is surrounding itself with a very similar aura to that which existed when Andrew Cuomo was governor."Changing how business is done in Albany could be a very powerful message for the James campaign following nearly three full terms of the Cuomo administration, Steck said. But he added that the AG's Trump investigations could play well in a primary atmosphere."I think from a strategic standpoint, what Tish James is doing is trying to show to Democrats that she was someone who was willing to take on Donald Trump," the assemblyman said.But did James's lawsuits against the Trump administration - often filed in concert with other Democratic state AGs - result in substantial change? One Democratic operative told Insider they didn't think so."Clearly Tish used Trump to raise her profile, and you see that in the announcement video," a longtime Democratic New York political operative, who plans on sitting out the 2022 gubernatorial primary campaign, told Insider."You know who's counting? The people who have seen zero results out of this," the operative continued. "To voters in New York and Democrats and donors across the country who were resting their hopes on Tish James, she's delivered bupkis." New York Attorney General Letitia James (L) and Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz take a look at some guns after a gun buyback event organized by the NYPD on June 12, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz Given that attorney general has been a well-trodden springboard for Empire State gubernatorial hopefuls - Cuomo ran on a "Clean Up Albany" slogan when he secured the top job - James' ability to showcase her record could make or break her campaign, according to the longtime state political operative."New York attorney general is one of the best perches for a push to run for office," the operative said. "Ask Elliot Spitzer. Ask Andrew Cuomo. Right? Elliot Spitzer, sheriff of Wall Street, took down titans in the financial industry - what did Tish do? She filed a few lawsuits against Donald Trump?"From the perspective of rival campaigns, the operative argued, there's an opening to to turn the primary electorate's anti-Trump fervor against James in a "boomerang" fashion."I do believe that you are going to see her Democratic opponents saying, 'Tish, where's the beef?'" the operative said, referencing the 1980s ad campaign from Wendy's. "So yeah, I think it's going to be a problem."Yet for a potential key Upstate endorsement like Steck, that decision won't hinge on James' Trump investigations."I'm just stressing the point that for me, when my decision as to who I might support for governor is announced, it's not going to be based on Donald Trump," Steck said.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 12th, 2021

Durham Probe Inches Closer To Hillary As Alfa Bank Hoax Plot Thickens

Durham Probe Inches Closer To Hillary As Alfa Bank Hoax Plot Thickens Authored by Paul Sperry via RealClearInvestigations.com, A Hillary Clinton campaign operation to plant a false rumor about Donald Trump setting up a “secret hotline” to Moscow through a Russian bank was much broader than known and involved multiple U.S. agencies, according to declassified documents and sources briefed on an ongoing criminal investigation of the scheme. In addition to the FBI, the 2016 Clinton campaign tried to convince the Obama administration’s State Department, Justice Department and Central Intelligence Agency to look into the hoax, and continued pressing the issue even after Trump was inaugurated in January 2017.The goal was to trigger federal investigative activity targeting her Republican rival and leak the damaging information to the media. “The Clinton machine flooded the FBI with pressure from a number of angles until investigations of Trump were opened and reopened,” said one of the briefed sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive law enforcement matter. "The deception was wide-ranging." Michael Sussmann: The indicted former Clinton campaign attorney wasn't the only one feeding the bogus Alfa Bank story to the feds. perkinscoie.com Special Counsel John Durham outlined the FBI part of the scheme in a felony indictment of Michael Sussmann. The former Clinton campaign lawyer was charged last month with making a false statement to the former general counsel of the FBI when he claimed he was not working “for any client” in bringing to the FBI’s attention allegations of a secret channel of communication between computer servers in Trump Tower and the Alfa Bank in Russia. According to the indictment, Sussmann was in fact acting on behalf of clients including the Clinton campaign, and an unnamed tech executive who RCI has previously reported is Rodney L. Joffe, a regular adviser to the Biden White House on cybersecurity and infrastructure policies. Internal emails reveal the Clinton operatives knew the links they made between Trump and Russia were “weak,” even describing them as a “red herring,” but fed them to investigators anyway. The Sussmann indictment revealed the doubts of those developing the Alfa Bank story. U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia After Sussmann’s meeting with the FBI in September 2016, the Clinton campaign approached the State Department the following month with the same lead, this time using paid Clinton campaign subcontractor Christopher Steele to feed the rumors. A former British intelligence officer, Steele was offered as a reliable source to help corroborate the rumors. On Oct. 11, 2016, Steele gave his contact at Foggy Bottom documents alleging that a supposed hidden server at Trump Tower was pinging Moscow. Christopher Steele: Author of the debunked dossier passed the Alfa Bank story to the State Department, which passed it along to FBI agent Peter Strzok. (Aaron Chown/PA FILE via AP) Two days later, a State official who previously worked under former secretary Clinton funneled the information to the FBI’s then-top Eurasia/Russia counterintelligence official, Stephen Laycock, according to recently declassified notes and testimony. Laycock, in turn, forwarded the information to Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who led the investigation of Trump and his campaign and had just weeks earlier texted a bureau lawyer, “We’ll stop [Trump from being elected].” "I informed Peter Strzok and another supervisor,” Laycock testified last year in a closed-door Senate hearing. Telephone: After Steele fed the Alfa Bank story to State, it was passed to the FBI’s then-top Eurasia/Russia counterintelligence official, Stephen Laycock (left), who in turn passed it on to lead FBI agent on Trump-Russia, Peter Strzok (right). Facebook/Twitter Steele, who later confessed he was “desperate” to defeat Trump, was the author of the debunked dossier claiming Trump colluded with Russia to steal the election. He even misspelled the name of the Russian bank as “Alpha.” Still, the FBI took his rumors seriously enough to interview tech vendors working for the Trump Organization and obtain warrants to search Trump Tower servers. Within days of receiving the State Department tip, Strzok also used Steele’s dossier to secure a wiretap on Trump adviser Carter Page. Clinton foreign policy adviser and current National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan would put out a written statement trumpeting the Trump-Alfa Bank story, which was shared by then-candidate Clinton on Oct. 31, 2016, after Slate reported on it. Fusion GPS, the Washington opposition-research group that worked for the Clinton campaign as a paid agent, and helped gather dirt on Alfa Bank and draft the materials Sussmann would later submit to the FBI, reportedly pressed Slate to publish the story by the account of its author, journalist Franklin Foer. The Clinton campaign played up the Trump-Alfa Bank story on the eve of the 2016 election. Twitter/@HillaryClinton “This was a highly sophisticated operation using enablers in both the media and federal agencies,” George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told RealClearInvestigations. The Clinton campaign did not let up even after Trump won the election. In mid-November 2016, it enlisted top Justice Department official Bruce Ohr – whose wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS – to add credibility to the Alfa rumors. That month, Ohr advised the FBI that Steele had told him that the Alfa Bank server was a link to the Trump campaign. Then in early December, Ohr met with the FBI case supervisor who worked for Strzok at least twice. Declassified notes and other records show that during those meetings, Ohr provided him with thumb drives he had received from paid Clinton opposition researcher and Fusion GPS co-founder, Glenn Simpson, and Ohr’s wife and Simpson’s colleague, Nellie. Quoting his Clinton sources, Ohr insisted the alleged backdoor computer channel between Trump and Alfa was real. Bruce Ohr: The Justice Department official -- linked to Clinton opposition research firm Fusion GPS through his wife Nellie, a Fusion employee -- brought the firm's arguments and materials to the FBI. The Global Initiative The FBI spent months investigating the claim, eventually dismissing it as baseless. After the FBI closed the case, Sussmann turned to the nation’s top intelligence agency for assistance, as RCI first reported. In December 2016, Sussmann called then-CIA Director John Brennan’s general counsel – Caroline Krass – to set up a meeting to brief her about the same Alfa Bank rumors. Krass expressed interest in the tip. Then in early February 2017, officials from her office formally sat down with Sussmann for more than an hour to discuss the Trump-Russian bank rumors. Sussmann provided them updated versions of the materials he had handed off to the FBI. Caroline Krass: General counsel to then-CIA Director John Brennan welcomed Sussmann's pitch of the Alfa Bank story, which reportedly passed from the CIA to FBI. CIA/Wikipedia The CIA, in turn, referred the rumors to an FBI liaison for further investigation, according to the sources briefed on his case. Strzok was the lead FBI liaison to the CIA at the time. Among the documents Durham has obtained is a CIA memo memorializing the meeting with Sussmann, according to the sources. In his grand jury indictment, Durham accused Sussmann of also misleading the CIA, which he referred to only as “Agency-2.” The special counsel alleges that Sussmann, as he did when meeting with an FBI official, had also failed to inform contacts at Langley that he was representing a client – in the latter case specifically Joffe – tied to the Clinton campaign operation and who had been promised a high-level job in a Clinton administration. Billing the Democrat’s campaign for his work on the “confidential project," Sussmann recruited Joffe and a team of federal computer contractors to mine proprietary databases containing vast quantities of sensitive, nonpublic Internet data for possible dirt on Trump and his advisers. In a new court document filed last week, Durham revealed his team has obtained more than 80,000 pages of documents in response to grand jury subpoenas issued to more than 15 targets and witnesses, including the computer contractors. Among others receiving subpoenas: political organizations, private firms, tech companies and other entities, including a major university — Georgia Tech — which allegedly participated in the Clinton conspiracy as a Pentagon contractor. Some witnesses have been granted immunity and are cooperating with prosecutors, the sources close to the probe said. Jonathan Turley: "One would expect a CIA official to express reluctance in an investigation that would have a largely domestic focus," says the law professor. CNN “While Sussmann may have hidden his work for the Clinton campaign, this was obviously a useful attack on Trump,” Turley said. “One would expect a CIA official to express reluctance in an investigation that would have a largely domestic focus. But as with the FBI, the Clinton campaign found eager officials to move on any such allegation.” The CIA is largely barred from collecting information inside the United States or on American citizens.“The CIA has no business involving itself in a domestic political issue,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told RCI. “The evidence suggests the primary purpose of the meeting was political." Fitton said his watchdog group has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the CIA demanding all records generated from the contacts Sussmann had with the agency in December 2016 and February 2017. The CIA did not return requests for comment.For good measure, old Clinton hands tried another pressure point. In early February 2017, Clinton's foreign policy adviser Sullivan huddled with Fusion GPS's Simpson and Daniel Jones, an FBI analyst-turned-Democrat-operative, to reboot the same smear campaign against Trump. (As RCI previously reported, Sullivan, who spearheaded the campaign's effort to promote the narrative of a disturbing Trump-Russia relationship via the Alfa Bank story, is under scrutiny for possibly lying to Congress about his role in the operation.) Jones, in turn, reached out to his former colleagues at the FBI, who reopened the investigation into the old allegations of a cyber-link between Trump and Alfa Bank. Jake Sullivan played a pivotal role in the Alfa Bank story as 2016 Clinton foreign policy adviser. AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File The next month, acting on Jones’ recycled tip, FBI agents visited the offices of the Pennsylvania company that housed the Trump server, which was actually administered by a third-party hotel promotions firm – Cendyn, based in Florida. But their second investigation proved to be another dead end. The sinister communications Jones claimed were flowing between an alleged Trump server and Alfa Bank were found to be innocuous marketing emails. In other words, spam. Sources say it is odd that FBI headquarters continued to pursue the allegations, because internal FBI communications reveal that the bureau’s own cyber sleuths had pooh-poohed them within days of Sussmann’s briefing, RCI has learned. Strzok himself had been briefed on that assessment of the materials Sussman dropped off at headquarters on Sept. 19, 2016. In fact, in a Sept. 23, 2016, internal message to Strzok, an FBI official relayed his preliminary findings following an interview with Cendyn, the Florida marketing firm that managed the alleged Trump server.“Followed up this morning with Central Dynamics [Cendyn] who confirmed that the mail1.trump-email.com domain is an old domain that was set up in approximately 2009 when they were doing business with the Trump Organization that was never used,” according to the message. Reacting to the Durham indictment, Strzok recently tried to distance himself from the Alfa scandal, insisting in a Lawfare blog: “I had a minor role in the events in question, insofar as I transferred the material Sussman gave to Jim Baker, the FBI’s general counsel at the time, to the personnel who ultimately supervised and looked into the allegations.” Echoing other critics, Strzok complained that Durham – who originally was tapped to investigate the origins of the Russia “collusion” investigation by Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr – is conducting a partisan witch hunt on behalf of Trump. Strzok's claims notwithstanding, Barr's successor, the President Biden-nominated Attorney General Merrick Garland, testified last week that he has renewed funding and staffing for Durham’s far-reaching investigation for the next fiscal year. “[Y]ou can readily assume his budget has been approved,” Garland assured Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee. Tyler Durden Sat, 10/30/2021 - 23:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 30th, 2021

House of Representatives votes to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress

The full House vote triggers a criminal referral to the Justice Department, which will decide whether to bring formal charges against Bannon. Steve Bannon and President Donald Trump at the White House in 2017. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images The House voted Thursday to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. Nine Republicans broke ranks and voted with Democrats to hold Bannon in criminal contempt. Congress' contempt referral will go to the DOJ, which will decide whether to bring charges. The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to hold Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist and a close confidant of former President Donald Trump, in criminal contempt of Congress. The vote will trigger a referral to the Justice Department, which will then decide whether to bring formal charges against Bannon.The final vote was 229-202, with nine Republicans breaking ranks to vote with Democrats and hold Bannon in contempt.Here are the Republicans who crossed party lines:Rep. Liz Cheney of WyomingRep. Adam Kinzinger of IllinoisRep. Peter Meijer of MichiganRep. Anthony Gonzalez of OhioRep. Fred Upton of MichiganRep. John Katko of New York Rep. Nancy Mace of South CarolinaRep. Brian Fitzpatrick of PennsylvaniaRep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of WashingtonBannon is among several Trump allies who were subpoenaed to provide documents and testimony to Congress as part of the January 6 select committee's investigation of the deadly Capitol insurrection and the events surrounding it.Bannon and the former senior Pentagon aide Kash Patel faced a deadline last week to comply with the subpoenas. The committee also expected the former White House communications aide Dan Scavino and former chief of staff Mark Meadows to sit for depositions on Friday.But Bannon's attorney Robert Costello informed the select committee last week that his client would not cooperate with the subpoena, citing Trump's claims of executive privilege."That is an issue between the committee and President Trump's counsel and Mr. Bannon is not required to respond at this time," Costello said in the letter.He added that Trump's lawyer Justin Clark had "directed" Bannon not to testify or turn over documents "until the issue of executive privilege is resolved."House Minority Whip Steve Scalise put out a statement earlier Thursday urging members to vote against the measure, saying Democrats were "pursuing a partisan agenda to politicize the January 6th attack." And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said at his weekly news conference that the subpoena was "invalid.""He has the right to go to court to see if he has executive privilege or not," McCarthy said of Bannon. "I don't know if he does or not, but neither does the committee."House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, called on Republicans to vote to hold Bannon in contempt, saying during a news conference that members of Congress "take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution.""The genius of our Constitution and our founders was the separation of power, checks and balances," she said. "If, in fact, you want to negate the ability of one check of a branch of government over another, then you are undermining the Constitution. So this goes beyond Bannon in its importance."But the California Democrat tacked on near the end of the presser: "I don't know if Republicans want to protect our democracy. So far we haven't seen any evidence of that."The ball is in Merrick Garland's court Members of a House select committee on July 27 investigating the deadly pro-Trump riot. Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images Multiple lawmakers on the January 6 select committee indicated in recent days that the panel was ready to take aggressive steps to force compliance with their subpoenas.Rep. Adam Schiff told Insider that while the Justice Department previously declined to enforce criminal contempt referrals, he expects that to change under the Biden administration."We now have an attorney general who respects the rule of law and who believes that no one is above the law. And it's our expectation that the Justice Department will enforce criminal contempt charges against those who flout the law," he told Insider.Kinzinger, one of two Republicans serving on the select committee, told Insider he hopes there's a "really good" chance that the Justice Department will move to prosecute Bannon."This is very unique," Kinzinger said. "It was an attack on the Capitol. The DOJ has a responsibility to the American people, and I think they'll follow through. It'll end up being in their court. It's a decision they have to make. We certainly hope and expect they will follow through on this."Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, another member of the select committee, said Bannon's defiance of the subpoena was "remarkable.""He didn't even work in the executive branch and he thinks he can just not show up," Raskin told Insider. "I don't think he can get away with it."Earlier Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland was asked if the Justice Department will seriously consider contempt referrals put forth by Congress."The department recognizes the important oversight role that this committee, the House of Representatives, and the Senate play with respect to the executive branch," Garland said. With respect to criminal contempt referrals, he added, "the Department of Justice will do what it always does in such circumstances: it will apply the facts and the law and make the decision consistent with the principles of prosecution."Thursday's full House vote came after the January 6 committee voted on Tuesday to formally hold Bannon in contempt of Congress.Cheney, who is also on the committee and serves as its vice chair, said after the Tuesday vote that "Bannon had substantial advance knowledge of the plans for January 6 and likely had an important role in formulating those plans.""The American people are entitled to Mr. Bannon's first-hand testimony about all of these relevant facts," she added.Trump v. Biden Trump. Win McNamee/Getty Images Trump, for his part, has urged all his former aides and allies to defy the committee's demands for documents and testimony.The committee's investigation is also the backdrop for for a legal showdown between Trump and President Joe Biden over the former's assertion of executive privilege over a set of documents the panel requested from the National Archives in connection to Trump's activities on January 6.But the Biden White House rejected Trump's request to withhold the records from the select committee."President Biden has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified as to any of the documents," White House counsel Dana Remus said in a letter earlier this month to the National Archives.On Monday, Trump fired back with a 26-page lawsuit against Congress and the National Archives to block the release of the records."In a political ploy to accommodate his partisan allies, President Biden has refused to assert executive privilege over numerous clearly privileged documents requested by the committee," Trump's lawyer Jesse Binnall said in the filing. He went on to claim that the records are covered under executive privilege and that Trump still has the right to assert that power even though he's no longer in office.Reps. Bennie Thompson and Cheney dismissed Trump's lawsuit as "nothing more than an attempt to delay and obstruct our probe."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 21st, 2021

Donald Trump could be charged with multiple crimes over his attempts to overturn his loss in the state of Georgia, report says

The Brookings Institution report says Trump and his allies attempted to pressure Georgia officials to "change the lawful outcome of the election." Former President Donald Trump. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images Donald Trump could be charged with crimes over Georgia election interference, a new report says. The report says Trump and his allies pressured Georgia officials to overturn his loss in the state. Trump is facing several probes in relation to his post-election conduct in Georgia. See more stories on Insider's business page. Former President Donald Trump could be charged with multiple crimes over election interference in Georgia, a new report says.The report by the Brookings Institution, a leading think tank in Washington DC, analyzes publicly available evidence that shows that Trump and his allies attempted to pressure Georgia officials to "change the lawful outcome of the election."A key piece of evidence is the now-infamous call made by Trump on January 3 to Georgia's Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger. He told him to "find 11,780 votes" to overturn Biden's win.The report adds that Trump publicly pressured and personally contacted several other officials in Georgia to ask them to help him overturn his loss in the state.It includes Governor Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr, who Trump reportedly placed direct calls to in December to urge them to go along with "his increasingly desperate plans to decertify his loss.""We conclude that Trump's post-election conduct in Georgia leaves him at substantial risk of possible state charges predicated on multiple crimes," the report said."These charges potentially include criminal solicitation to commit election fraud; intentional interference with performance of election duties; conspiracy to commit election fraud; criminal solicitation; and state RICO violations."The report added that criminal liability could extend to some Trump allies, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.Giuliani appeared before committees in the Georgia Capitol with the intent of convincing state lawmakers to "take extraordinary action to reverse Biden's win," the report notes.In February, Raffensperger's office opened a probe into Trump's efforts to overturn his loss in the state.Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis also launched a criminal investigation into Trump's conduct relating to the election.The Brookings Institution report analyzes these probes and suggests what crimes Trump could be charged with and his legal defenses.The report suggests that Trump would likely claim immunity, arguing he cannot be prosecuted for actions taken while he was president.Former presidents enjoy a measure of immunity for actions taken that "fall within the scope of their lawful duties as a federal official," according to the report. However, in this case, Trump's actions were "well outside the scope of his official duties," the report says.Trump and his allies have continued to promote baseless claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent.The former president is currently facing several criminal probes over his conduct while in office, as well as his personal finances.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytSep 26th, 2021

DOJ Again Refuses To Charge FBI Agents In Case Of Convicted Sex Offender Larry Nassar

DOJ Again Refuses To Charge FBI Agents In Case Of Convicted Sex Offender Larry Nassar Authored by Caden Pearson via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), The U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) on Thursday announced that it will adhere to a previous decision not to charge two former FBI agents who mishandled an investigation into convicted sex offender Larry Nassar, the former doctor of the USA Gymnastics national team. “This decision comes after multiple reviews and analyses of evidence gathered in the investigation of the former agents, and reflects the recommendation of experienced prosecutors,” the DOJ statement reads. “This does not in any way reflect a view that the investigation of Nassar was handled as it should have been, nor in any way reflect approval or disregard of the conduct of the former agents.” Former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar appears in court for his final sentencing phase in Eaton County Circuit Court in Charlotte, Mich., on Feb. 5, 2018. (Rena Laverty/AFP via Getty Images) After allegations of Nassar’s abuse were first reported to the FBI Indianapolis Field Office by the president of USA Gymnastics in 2015, local field agents failed to respond “with the utmost seriousness and urgency that the allegations deserved and required,” a 2021 report by the DOJ’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) found. Further, the report found that two FBI officials lied during their interviews to cover up or minimize their errors. One of the agents also made a false statement to the media in 2017 and 2018 about how his office handled the Nassar case. That agent also violated the FBI’s conflict of interest policy by discussing a possible job with the U.S. Olympic Committee while he was involved with the Nassar investigation. The OIG noted the seriousness of the former agents lying during the investigation into their conduct in the years after the events but said there wasn’t enough to bring a federal criminal case. “We will continue to learn from what occurred in this matter, and undertake efforts to keep victims at the center of our work and to ensure that they are heard, respected, and treated fairly throughout the process, as they deserve,” the DOJ statement reads. “To that end, the department has continued to assess gaps in the law to protect the most vulnerable among us from exploitation. Addressing those gaps could help prevent events like this from taking place in the future and hold perpetrators accountable. We stand ready to collaborate with Congress to do so.” Altogether, Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for separate charges, including possessing child sex abuse material and for sexual abuse. He was named in hundreds of lawsuits by female athletes who said Nassar abused them when he worked for Michigan State and Indiana-based USA Gymnastics. Tyler Durden Fri, 05/27/2022 - 09:25.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedge15 hr. 51 min. ago