Day 670


(Matt Kiser) #1

Updated 11/20/2018 2:54 PM PST

1/ Trump won't take action against Saudi Arabia or Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the death of Jamal Khashoggi, issuing an exclamation-point laden statement that defended the Kingdom and effectively closed the door on the issue. Trump questioned the CIA's assessment that Mohammed ordered Khashoggi's assassination, saying: "It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn't!" Regardless, Trump said, the U.S. "intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia" despite calling the "crime" against Khashoggi "terrible" and "one that our country does not condone." The statement was subtitled "America First!" (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / NPR / NBC News)


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://whatthefuckjusthappenedtoday.com/2018/11/20/day-670/

#2

Boy, does this have a bad smell – which, I have a feeling, will only get worse the longer it sits out in the sun. :fish: :sunny::hotsprings:

Since this is a long article, I thought I’d drop some highlights here.

In the three years after he arrived in Washington in 2014, Matthew G. Whitaker received more than $1.2 million as the leader of a charity that reported having no other employees

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust described itself as a new watchdog nonprofit dedicated to exposing unethical conduct by public officials…

So at the same time that Whitaker was being paid by this “charity” as a “watchdog … exposing unethical conduct,” he was also being paid by an unethical company that bilked its customers out of millions of dollars. :interrobang:

Contrary to its claims in news releases and a tax filing, the group was created under a different name two years before Whitaker’s arrival, according to incorporation and IRS records…

In its application to the IRS for status as a tax-exempt organization, the organizers reported that the group would study the impact of environmental regulations on businesses, records show. In that incarnation, the group took no action and “only existed on paper,” one man named in IRS filings as a board member told The Washington Post. Another named in a state filing as a board member said he never agreed to be on the board

Whitaker’s 2017 pay from the charity — more than $500,000 for the first nine months, or half the charity’s receipts for the year, according to tax filings — and the group’s earlier, dormant incarnation have not been previously reported by media…

James Crumley, who provides marketing services to conservative nonprofits and campaigns, was listed in an IRS filing as one of the directors. In a phone call, he initially said he did not remember anything about the group, including why it was formed.

“I can only speculate since I didn’t even remember this group existed,” he wrote in an email later.

Crumley said he’d learned that the group held no meetings and apparently had no bank account in its first two years. “The organization only existed on paper and didn’t do anything at all,” he wrote.

Looks like you could call this a “charity shell company” and that’s not suspicious at all. :wink:

Noah Wall, now a vice president of advocacy for a conservative nonprofit called FreedomWorks, was listed in Virginia state filings as a director of the group in 2014. Wall said he was surprised to learn of his role. He said he was approached by Wotring but never agreed to join.

“I never signed anything,” he said. “I’m not entirely sure what any of this is.”

Yes, everything’s completely above board here. :wink: :wink:

On July 21, 2014, the IRS approved the group’s application for tax-exempt charity status

The next few paragraphs describe how the “charity” kept changing its name and purported mission while changing its address from a UPS drop box to a “virtual office and mailing address shared by 200 organizations.”

It’s very possible that this organization is misusing its status as a charity,” said David Nelson, a specialist on nonprofit organizations and a former tax partner at the Ernst & Young accounting firm, who reviewed the group’s tax filings at The Post’s request. “It appears the IRS never gave approval to FACT.” [The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust is the most recent incarnation of the charity and the one which paid Whitaker.]

In its federal tax filing for 2014, FACT declared that it had not changed its name or its mission that year, records show, and there was no mention of the prior names. The spokesman for FACT declined to provide documents that he said showed it had notified the IRS of the name change.

In the 2014 filing, FACT reported that it had no employees and that it paid Whitaker $63,000 for three months of work, 30 hours a week, as president and director…

The remainder of the article includes some excellent research work by the WaPo establishing that, despite FACT’s claimed “nonpartisan” mission, it was indeed highly partisan. This would appear to disqualify it from tax-exempt status (my conclusion, not the WaPo’s).

The WaPo also attempts to trace the funding for this “charity,” and makes some headway, but just like Manafort’s shell companies, the funding was routed through multiple layers of various financial entities, making the ultimate source virtually impossible for a news organization to trace – perhaps a congressional committee with subpoena power could uncover the true source (again, my words, not the WaPo’s).

The article concludes with a tally of Whitaker’s take.

In the three years he worked at the charity, Whitaker’s pay rose sharply each year, tax filings show. Last year, he was paid $55,000 a month. In all, he earned $1,219,000 — more than a third of the donations the group received from 2014 to 2017. :moneybag: :money_mouth_face:


#3

Natasha Bertrand of the Atlantic does review the parallels between the Nixon and T Administration with regard to the recent analysis by Lawfare blog (see below) of the Watergate hearing. Nixon’s interference in the Justice dept to find our more of what they had on him and T’s installation of Matt Whitaker, the ultimate insider/loyalist for T, the Federalists and all those who wanted him in there are two parallel tracks that need to be compared.

Nearly 45 years ago, the House Judiciary Committee concluded that President Richard Nixon’s contact with high-level Justice Department officials overseeing the Watergate investigation, detailed in a 62-page “road map” of evidence collected by prosecutors in 1972–73, amounted to an impeachable misuse of executive power.

A half century later, the FBI’s former top lawyer, Jim Baker—a close friend and associate of fired FBI Director James Comey—is laying out parallels, albeit subtly, to President Donald Trump’s interactions with the law-enforcement officials who have been investigating him and his campaign team since July 2016.

The president, in short, was using a senior Justice Department official to gather intelligence about an ongoing criminal investigation in which he was personally implicated,” Baker and Grant wrote, pointing out that Nixon repeatedly asked Petersen whether he himself was being investigated. Their interactions, moreover, “must be understood within the larger context of the president’s knowledge of the facts regarding Watergate at the time.” In other words, what did the president know, and when did he know it?

This article was written for Lawfare blog by James Baker, the ex lawyer for the FBI who left this spring, and Sarah Grant, a Harvard Law student.

The uncanny parallels between what Nixon did during his Watergate investigation years, and the current WH w/ T’s relationship with his Acting AG, Matt Whitaker are stunning. Both Presidents were getting inside information from within the Justice Dept. Clearly they are abusing their power and Nixon was told to stop it or he’d be impeached. T’s pick Matt Whitaker, who does have an inside track to the Mueller investigation, and could be leaking details of it potentially, if not already has revealed important parts of the Mueller investigation.

Coincidence…I don’t think so.

In a conversation between the president of the United States and senior Justice Department officials, the officials informed the president that two of his senior White House staff were under investigation. One of the officials later testified: “He said he couldn’t believe it. You know, just these are fine upstanding guys. Just couldn’t be, you know.” He impressed on the president, “We are here to alert you. We think we’ve got something. We could be wrong, but we are telling you it’s time for you to move to protect yourself and the presidency.” And he urged the president to “get rid” of the staffers in question; the president responded, “‘Yeah, and I don’t think I should. I’ve got to think about this and that and a thousand other things.’”

This happened in 1973.

One of the aspects of the recently released Watergate “road map” and related documents that attracted our attention is the set of materials pertaining to interactions, direct and indirect, between President Richard M. Nixon and two senior Department of Justice officials. The interactions cited in the road map occurred during March and April 1973. During that period, the president and his subordinates at the White House had contacts with Attorney General Richard Kleindienst and Henry E. Petersen, who was assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and is the official quoted above regarding the interaction with President Nixon. From June 1972 to May 1973, Petersen supervised the Watergate investigation conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). President Nixon was in touch with him frequently about the investigation, his future career and other matters along the way.

https://www.lawfareblog.com/what-watergate-road-map-reveals-about-improper-contact-between-white-house-and-justice-department


#4

We’re finally getting some financial disclosures from Whitaker. This is all just breaking so there’s very little interpretation of the data yet – but I’m sure that’s coming as investigative reporters dig in. One thing to note right away is that he revised one of the forms 5 times in the last two weeks. Is he rewriting history?

The Justice Department on Tuesday released two financial disclosures for Whitaker: the first one he was required to file when he joined the Justice Department as chief of staff to Sessions last year, and the annual disclosure he was required to make in May. Transparency advocates had pressed the Justice Department in recent days to release Whitaker’s disclosures.

The rest of the article covers some highlights of the disclosures.


#5

or is it a Jared Kushner move???!!!

(He famously re-wrote, edited, added to his security forms which covers finance and who’d he’s met)


#6

This is the best news today! Finally, a real congressional investigation into Trump’s highly suspicious financial dealings. I hope they also look into the finances of the rest of his family – and Wilbur Ross’, too. :mag_right: :moneybag:

The House intelligence committee’s incoming Democratic majority is taking its first steps to follow Donald Trump’s money, The Daily Beast has learned.

The committee is looking to hire money-laundering and forensic accounting experts, three sources familiar with the plans confirm to The Daily Beast. One Democratic committee office said the purpose of the potential new hires is to examine unanswered financial questions about Trump and Russia, but their work could apply broadly across the panel’s intelligence oversight.

This indicates that likely chairman Adam Schiff’s stated interest in the intersection of financial crimes and intelligence threats isn’t just talk.


#7

Fantastic news!!

Rep Adam Schiff is a determined and very thorough legal eagle as well. He is considered the best of the best in terms of combing through details, AND also very good at posing important questions, legal arguments etc. He is sharp, persistent, a realist and not so hyperbolic as to turn everyone off. We have a real champion at the helm of the Dem Intelligence committee. TG there is no hyper-partisan Nunez to set up roadblocks.

A definite win for the investigation…and uncovering the truth.

F O L L O W T H E M O N E Y


#8

More discussion on the parallels between the embattled Nixon Administration during the Watergate inquiry and Mueller’s investigation of T, Russian involvement. From The Economist, another take on where T manipulation of the existing system - such as making up his own rules, defying rule of law, having Fox as his mouthpiece, a compliant and loyal R base and always spouting Witch hunt and fake news is the way he is going to weasel out of this mess.

Excerpt.

Whether Mr Trump’s alleged transgression was as bad as Nixon’s may depend, in another Watergate parallel, on what he knew about the Russian plot and when he knew it. Robert Mueller, to whom the president’s lawyers dispatched a long-awaited list of written responses to questions this week, is trying to ascertain that. The special counsel is reported to be probing what Mr Trump knew about the Russians’ effort to hack his Democratic opponent’s emails, shortly after he had urged them to do so, and what he knew about a meeting of his senior advisers with a group of well-connected Russians who were promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. Perhaps, in the absence of a smoking gun, the special counsel will find Mr Trump has no case to answer. But either way he seems unlikely to suffer Nixon’s fate.

That is partly because the tribal loyalties that might have saved Nixon are fiercer now. On the day he resigned, after being informed that Republican congressmen would not defend him, half his party’s voters still backed him. With the benefit of stronger partisanship, weaker politicians and a 24/7 propaganda machine in Fox News, Mr Trump could count on stiffer Republican protection.

Another reason he appears likelier to lower the standards of his office than to be held accountable to them relates to the peculiarities of his political persona. Nixon was a committed rule-breaker who pretended not to be. When the evidence against him emerged, it was therefore damning. By contrast, Mr Trump has consistently promised even more dramatic rule-breaking than he has delivered—almost no matter what Mr Mueller may find.

He vowed to jail Hillary Clinton. Yet after being advised by his White House counsel to drop that idea, it was reported this week, he did so. He has threatened to shut down Mr Mueller’s investigation since it was launched. In that context, his allegedly improper remarks to Mr Comey might seem modest; or at worst consistent with what he has been saying openly. Mr Trump has in this way scrambled expectations of presidential behaviour.

The favourite mantra of Trump apologists—“Take note of what the president does, not what he says”—is illustrative of that. It makes sense only when measured against the most dramatic, and indeed unimaginable, of his threats. That is in part because the president’s words also have impacts. Over the course of his near-daily attacks on Mr Mueller’s investigation and the Justice Department, Republican trust in those institutions has collapsed.

It is also nonsense because, while not following through on his biggest threats, Mr Trump is making good on a lot of lesser ones, which would in normal times be considered beyond the pale. “I measure a president’s sensitivity to the rule of law by his actions, not his off-the-cuff comments, tweets or statements,” huffed one of his most shameless defenders, Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, this week. This rather skated over the fact that Mr Trump had just sacked his attorney-general, Jeff Sessions, and appointed in his place an inexperienced and possibly illegitimate acting successor, Matthew Whitaker. And that he did so, a reasonable understanding of his words suggests, in a bid to derail Mr Mueller’s investigation into himself and his closest family members.

What the Framers feared
If the special counsel survives that manoeuvre, he will not recalibrate his view of the rule of law as Mr Leo has. That is why the president fears him. Yet any damning verdict on Mr Trump by Mr Mueller would be effective only if there is political will to enforce it. That is why the president’s assault on the dignity of his office and Congress’s related unwillingness to constrain him is so serious. There is a reasonable view that, to instigate a constitutional crisis, he would have to defy a court order or subpoena. An alternative view is that the corrosive effect of his lesser but relentless war on the political system will ensure that the need for such high-risk defiance will never arise.


(Matt Kiser) #9

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