Tag Archives: Paul Manafort

Flying high again

Sentenced!! Jeffrey Yohai, who is only relevant for a four-year marriage to bumbling fraudster and Trump associate Paul Manafort‘s daughter, picked up a nine year prison term and $6.7 million restitution payment after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit (his own separate) bank and wire fraud.

Yohai (above) was out on bond after a 2018 guilty plea including misuse of construction loan funds. While awaiting sentencing,  he ran side projects. Perhaps the most ambitious was a two-tailed investor swindle that reportedly ensnared Hollywood big shot Dustin Hoffman. One on end, Yohai scored $15 million in loans (which he did not repay) to spruce up some Hollywood Hills properties (which he did not own). Then he hoodwinked the real owners into letting him line up rich tenants, pocketed the rent checks, and falsified transfer documentation when the owners demanded payment.

If the victim demanded repayment, Yohai would often buy time by sending checks written on accounts with insufficient funds. When those checks bounced, according to the complaint, Yohai would assert he wired the money back to the victim and send fake wire transfer documentation, “insisting that there must be some banking mistake to explain why the funds never arrive.” [sic]

He also sold “non-existent backstage passes for the Coachella music festival.”

One of the bank fraud convictions for which Papa Paul is currently imprisoned included a dishonest bank loan application with his son, who was not charged on that occasion.

Yohai, a recovering drug addict, also reportedly cheated other abusers. Prosecutors contend that after leaving [rehab], Yohai scammed fellow addicts who paid to live at a “sober living” home he set up in L.A. Yohai allegedly took a $5,000 security deposit from one such man and charged another $35,000 a month “for ‘detox’ care which [Yohai] could not and did not provide.”

Jessica Manafort recently changed her surname (for obvious reasons) to her mother’s maiden name, Bond.

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Scott Warren is back in the news as the Feds attempt to stick the No More Deaths volunteer with his own ten-year stretch on retrial for harboring charges.

Warren allegedly let two undocumented people crossing Arizona’s Sonoran Desert crash at a humanitarian aid workers’ building for a few days. No More Deaths had attracted federal ire by fingering Customs and Border Protection for emptying water jugs left for illegal immigrants. To avoid another hung jury, the government has reportedly filed a motion forbidding the defense from mentioning Trump or his immigration policy at the trial, which would be “irrelevant and unfairly prejudicial.”

“WE DON’T SAY HIS NAME.”

The Intercept notes about 87% of adults surveyed by UCLA/University of Washington, including an overwhelming majority of self-identified Republicans, believe provision of water and first aid to illegal immigrants, of which Warren stands accused, should not be a criminal offense.

*

More trouble at the EPA. Instead of destroying the planet, Trump’s infamous deregulation station is reportedly destroying documents. And scandal-plagued ex-chief Scott Pruitt‘s shenanigans may be involved.

Multiple “senior EPA officials” anonymously disputed the shredding allegations to Politico. Documents in question relate to correspondence with a former Comcast lobbyist, Richard Smotkin, who reportedly set up one of Pruitt’s multiple jet-setting trips while in office (Morocco, 2017, over $100,000). Washington Post reported as details leaked last year that Smotkin accompanied Pruitt on the trip, ostensibly to broker a free trade agreement, but to some appearances promoting the sale of U.S. natural gas to Morocco. Smotkin promptly went to work for the Moroccan government.

Though the EPA chief did visit a solar power research installation, he canceled a public appearance with an energy efficiency expert at an international conference in Marrakesh and instead met with the chairman of a large phosphate exporter.

Accused shredder, EPA chief of staff Ryan Jackson (below, double chin without glasses) is apparently also not cooperating with an inspector general investigation into how Jackson happened upon the planned Congressional testimony of environmental chemist and former EPA Board of Scientific Counselors chairwoman Deborah Swackhamer in time to harass her before she publicly “criticized the Trump administration’s approach to science.”

Jackson refused to tell IG investigators how he obtained Swackhamer’s testimony in advance, telling them, “I am not going to involve others or point fingers. … Welcome to Washington.”

Current head EPA thug Andrew Wheeler protested that questioning Jackson on the matter “implicates constitutional concerns.” [sic]

Jackson was also reportedly less than forthcoming to IG inquiries into the firing of Pruitt’s aide Madeline Morris for her objections to scrubbing politically sensitive meetings from the official schedule.

As New York Times reported last year, in the final, coal-dark days of Pruitt’s acid rain reign, Jackson waved off the notion Morris was canned for the schedule alterations. Kevin Chmielewski, Pruitt’s former deputy chief of staff who fired Morris and dredged up the issue, was himself fired from EPA that year.

Jackson had refused to comment on Morris’s six weeks of salary collection following her dismissal, an arrangement which would break federal law. IG agents dropped in unannounced to further explore this irregularity last July, and not in especially good faith, in Jackson’s opinion.

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/justice-department/paul-manafort-s-ex-son-law-yohai-charged-another-real-n933526
https://www.politico.com/story/2019/09/16/manafort-jeffrey-yohai-1498903
https://apnews.com/9a368dcf9ca7484e8e40b87780aed174
https://theintercept.com/2019/11/11/immigration-aid-scott-warren-retrial/
https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/07/epa-ryan-jackson-documents-investigation-067566
https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/lobbyist-helped-broker-pruitts-100000-trip-to-morocco/2018/05/01/b2e20ee0-4d76-11e8-b725-92c89fe3ca4c_story.html
https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/11/07/top-epa-official-watchdog-engaged-standoff-that-inspector-general-calls-flagrant-problem/
https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/epa-aide-questioned-deleting-pruitt-meeting-details-then-was-fired/

December Doom! Walls and Wall Street Weasels

Cohen Cooperates

Disgraced ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen (above, caught with phone in class) picked up 36 months’ hard time in a (presumably) white collar facility for paying off Trump’s mistresses–amounting to campaign finance violations–as the 2016 presidential contest heated up. 

While the desirable deal also hit Cohen for nearly $2 million in restitution and fines, he apparently caught a break for singing to Robert Mueller regarding the Russia Investigation.

Federal sentencing guidelines called for [Cohen] to face between 51 and 63 months — four to five years — in prison for the tax fraud, false statements and campaign finance violations he pleaded guilty to in August.

Assuring his return to the “public villain with oversized head” section of the Halloween costume inventory for 2019, the high-rolling Cohen, according to NPR, observed, “Today I get my freedom back.” That’ll look great on a Starbucks cup!

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New Beginnings

Rather than leave the Senate gracefully, deposed lawmaker Claire McCaskill (D-MO) accused her colleagues who actually won their re-elections campaigns of forgoing “tough votes.” Presumably these include her decisive decision to continue unconstitutional surveillance of Americans.

The 65-year-old bemoaned the office that will launch her lucrative lobbyist or consultant career for its preponderance of “embarrassing uncles,” blissfully unaware Joe Biden has now been gone for ten years.

Immigration Situation, CBP Improvisation, Park Defecation and TSA Implication

As detailed by Trump’s bluster of a “Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border,” the Federal Government is enjoying a partial shut down after the Senate refused to vote on a House funding bill that allocates $5.7 billion for Trump’s Border Wall. National focus is trained not on the fact our inept employees who failed to write their own budget now can’t begrudgingly provide mediocre services on which they hold a monopoly, but on the paychecks they cannot collect:


Some 800,000 federal workers across the country find themselves in financial uncertainty as the government shutdown crawls into its 12th day. Some 420,000 employees are considered “essential,” and are working without pay, while another 380,000 have been ordered to stay home.

Our muckraking the laughable TSA is old news. The bumbling seem to be on the “essential” list, as “88% of [parent agency] Department of Homeland Security” is working for IOUs. But according to Huffington Post, TSA agents first ducking their unpaid assignments by calling out sick are now just quitting.

CNN reported a 200-300 percent increase in agents calling out sick at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, and also claimed that throughout the first week of January, as many as 170 agents called out at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport each day.

Via their union, the remaining TSA agents threatened a
“massive security risk for American travelers […] there are problems that will arise – least of which would be increased wait times for travelers.”

Also,


[TSA employee union American Federation of Government Employees] launched a lawsuit against the federal government for forcing federal employees to show up to work uncompensated, calling the demands “inhumane.” 

The logic here is that every day we don’t borrow more money to reopen the government, there are fewerprofessionals to cup our genitals before we’re allowed to fly. Aren’t you motivated to call the Congress and complain?

Big brass at TSA got defensive when news of the “people who root through innocent peoples’ dirty laundry all day without changing gloves are sick but more than usual” stats broke:

Trump joined the fight, and CNN promoted their “bananas are the devil” analogy in response:

This comes on the heels of a monumental shift in TSA air marshal policy: starting December 28, the undercover agents moved–to the back of the plane. Good luck picking them out now!

Not everyone was PUN ALERT on board with the change:


“The TSA wants to change the way operations are carried out, and the men and women of the Federal Air Marshal Service do not support these changes,” Brian Borek, representative of the air marshals to the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. “The TSA, riddled with their own organizational issues, should allow the air marshals to do what they have continued to do best — fly operationally sound missions to protect the integrity of the aircraft, its crew, and passengers in the manner that they have been training and perfecting for the last 17 years.”

Borek also noted implementing the change amidst the madness of the tail end of Christmas travel was an idiotic move does not pass the common-sense [sic] test.”

John Cohen, a former acting undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said it appears that DHS and TSA are making important decisions arbitrarily.

“Changes to security routines on planes and at airports are serious and should not be enacted haphazardly […] And there is clearly a perception that is what is going on here.”

Interestingly, Boston Globe reported just last month the TSA had pulled the plug on Quiet Skies (see above link), following widespread criticism that federal air marshals were spying on thousands of unwitting fliers who are not suspected of any crime or on any terrorist watch list.

[…]
TSA administrator David Pekoske 
acknowledged in a congressional hearing in September that Quiet Skies has not foiled any terrorist threats or led to any arrests.

But back to the real domestic security crisis: starving homeless people.

First, ICE helped deal with undocumented children flooding into the country by arresting those who volunteered to shelter them. Apparently, Trump made a rule that every adult in a volunteer household must surrender “biometric data, including fingerprints” to the Federal Government.

Nearly two thirds of those arrested — 109 in total — had no criminal record, the agency said.

However,

Just under 80 percent of people screened by ICE during the sponsorship process showed results that they were not in the country legally.

[our emphasis]

It’s important to protect the immigrants from other immigrants. Our solution is to continue warehousing them in government facilities. So far only two (that we know of) have not survived.

On December 7, Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, of Guatemala, apparently went into septic shock just after boarding the bus with her father to get from her point of entry (Antelope Hills, NM) to the “processing” hub at Lordsburg, NM. She reportedly had a medical screening and “observation,” as well as access to food and water, in the 6ish hours before the bus came. However, after she started seizing, got airlifted and died, government records indicated she had gone “several days” without food or water.

Then Felipe Gómez Alonzo, 8, also of Guatemala, died on Christmas eve despite receiving Amoxicillin for his 103-degree fever, diagnosed as “common cold,” at an Alamogordo, NM hospital earlier in the day.

Felipe and his father were detained by CBP for about a week, an unusually long time that the agency did not fully explain[.]


Perhaps under scrutiny after burying news of
Maquin’s demise for a week, Custom and Border “Protection” promptly released the following sensitive Christmas day headline:
“An eight year-old Guatemalan national previously apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection was died [sic] shortly after midnight on December 25 at Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico. “

According to Washington Post, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said during testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee that the agency’s holding cells are “incompatible” with the new reality of parents with children coming across the border to surrender to agents en masse, requesting asylum.

“Our Border Patrol stations were built decades ago to handle mostly male single adults in custody, not families and children[.]”

The shutdown will not curtail the border-crossers getting caged. Associated Press reports CBP officers and the Border Patrol remain on the job despite the shutdown.

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The other government tentacle attracting attention is the parks, because we all prefer our government to take control of the Grand Canyon and charge $35 for parking.

CNN had to fill some space and noted on Monday:

In the 16 days since the government shutdown began and more than 21,000 National Park Service employees were furloughed, seven visitors to national parks have died.[…] [T]he tally of deaths is not out of the ordinary for the expansive National Park Service, which sees an average of six deaths per week[:] accidents like drownings, falls, and motor vehicle crashes, as well as medical incidents such as heart attacks.

[our emphasis]

Other self-evident observations from the rabid media:
[A]dmissions have […] surged because no one is collecting admission fees.

(Huffington Post)

Unlike shutdowns in some previous administrations, the Trump administration [has left] parks open to visitors despite the staff furloughs.

(USA Today)

“US military war veterans visit the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on October 1, 2013. The US Park Service opened the area to the veterans who are brought to Washington to visit and reflect at their memorials. Top through the efforts of Honor Flight, a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. The US government shut down Tuesday for the first time in 17 years after a gridlocked Congress failed to reach a federal budget deal amid bitter brinkmanship. Some 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed in a move reminiscent of two previous shutdowns — for six days in November 1995 and 21 days from December that year into early 1996. AFP Photo/Karen BLEIERKAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images (Newscom TagID: afplivefive358687.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]”

And if there’s one necessary government function exposed out of all this, it’s human waste disposal. Joshua Tree had to close its campground:

“The park is being forced to take this action for health and safety concerns as vault toilets reach capacity,” the park service said. “In addition to human waste in public areas, driving off-road and other infractions that damage the resource are becoming a problem.” Signs at Joshua Tree informed campers this week that the grounds would close “for the safety of visitors and park resources” due to a “lapse in federal appropriations.” Handwritten signs urged visitors: “Pack out your trash. There are no trash services at this time.”

Human beings are incapable of picking up their own trash. Perhaps that’s why the Feds took control of the parks.

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Even when the government reopens, don’t expect your travel difficulties to end with a soft molestation at the xray machine. Delta Airlines hopes to board passengers faster by rolling out eight boarding groups, color coded, starting later in January.

This is the actual (reportedly “more complicated“) new boarding order, according to CNN, which should send you running for an actual good airline:

  1. Preboarders
  2. Delta One
  3. Premium Select (or First Class “if applicable”)
  4. Comfort+ 
  5. Sky Priority (the poor souls who use frequent flier “perks” at Delta Airlines)
  6. Economy Main Cabin 1 and Delta credit card holders and Silver Medallion members 
  7. Economy Main Cabin 2
  8. Economy Main Cabin 3
  9. Basic Economy

CNN notes that the cheapest ticket holders get to make everyone else board and wait for them, so you can save money and spend less time in a cramped seat next to a stranger. Maybe they have to deplane last.

Delta wasn’t done. As of December 18, all animals in Delta cabins must be at least four months old. Also, “emotional support animals” (greatest country in the world, everyone) are banned from flights eight hours or longer. Because if you’re too fragile to fly without your platypus, Delta believes you can suck it up if only the flight is longer.

Notably,

Service and support animals fly free on Delta — unlike regular pets, which cost passengers $125 each way.Delta says the number of service animals on its flights has increased nearly 150% since 2015. 

So either travelers are replicating the “put all my shit in a carryon bag because Delta started charging to check suitcases” workaround with their animals, or we just need much more emotional support when flying with the dirty Delta.

Refresh the ‘Feed

Facebook closed the year on a high note by revealing that between 5 and 7 million users were over-exposed for nearly two weeks in September, courtesy of a “bug.”

The bug allowed apps users had approved to pull their timeline photos to also receive their Facebook Stories, Marketplace photos, and most worryingly, photos they’d uploaded to Facebook but never shared. 

In January, CNBC interviewed the diaspora of ex-Facebook employees to investigate the company’s performance evaluation system. Apparently, given the cap on highly graded employees, you have to suck ass starting on orientation day to survive semiannual reviews.

Is Zuckerberg’s camaraderie, like the advertised health benefits of his piss-colored Gatorade, dubious??

Many former employees blamed the cult-like atmosphere partly on […] [the] peer review system [, which] pressures employees to forge friendships with colleagues at every possible opportunity, whether it be going to lunch together each day or hanging out after work.

Also, when promotions come up in December,
employees[…] focus on short-term goals and push out features that drive user engagement and improve their own metrics without fully considering potential long-term negative impacts on user experience or privacy, multiple former employees said.

We’ve all realized you can’t delete a Facebook account, but are those who never enrolled in the public tantrum train safe? No.

UK Charity Privacy International found 34 Android apps upload user data to Zuckerberg’s machine upon launch. Known culprit apps include
Pregnancy+, MigraineBuddy, Bible+ and Muslim Pro.

Regardless of an unsuspecting Android owner’s PUN ALERT status with the social media giant, any app running Facebook’s Software Developer Kit (SDK) provides a window to your soul:

A Facebook spokesperson told Yahoo News, “Facebook’s SDK tool means that developers can choose to collect app events automatically, to not collect them at all, or to delay collecting them until consent is obtained, depending on their particular circumstances.”

[our emphasis]

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Technology Tangle Continues for Manafort

God bless Paul Manafort. As we previously reported, the convicted tax cheat helped pen his own prosecution by virtue of inability to convert a Word document to PDF.

The Trump associate’s shenanigans were further exposed Tuesday when his defense team contested–with a sloppily-constructed document–Mueller’s charge that Manafort blew his plea deal by lying to the Feds last year.

[W]hile portions of the filing were supposed to be redacted and shielded from the public, court watchers were able to view the filing in its entirety by copying and pasting the redacted sections.

Oops. The dirty details, reportedly shielded on the court docket within an hour, showed additional accusations from Mueller that Manafort dealt 2016 US election polls to Konstantin Kilimnik, and met the suspected Russian intelligence operative (and fellow Mueller indictee) during the 2016 campaign.

Interesting tidbit, courtesy of The Hill: Mueller’s middle name is “Swan.”

Thanks to our sources:

https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/421004-cohen-sentenced-to-three-years-in-prison?userid=115887

https://www.npr.org/2018/12/12/676040070/michael-cohen-sentenced-to-3-years-in-prison-following-plea-that-implicated-trum?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=2042&fbclid=IwAR2MsX_fPHlwM7XIKuPcCxNAqvIHQz5AvmKUnnGcV549JtAG9wJ9SoBquUk

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/senate-has-too-many-embarrassing-uncles-mccaskill-says-in-farewell-remarks-2018-12-13?siteid=yhoof2&yptr=yahoo

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/white-house/trump-to-deliver-primetime-address-on-national-security-crisis-at-the-border

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-shutdown/trump-threatens-to-use-emergency-power-to-build-wall-end-shutdown-idUSKCN1P416X

https://www.npr.org/2018/12/21/679073393/trump-warns-of-very-long-shutdown-unless-senate-approves-border-wall-funds

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/09/shutdown-highlights-that-4-in-5-us-workers-live-paycheck-to-paycheck.html

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/heres-what-shuts-down-in-a-government-shutdown/

https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/tsa-union-warns-apos-massive-130215466.html

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/homeland-security-denies-hundreds-tsa-225049079.html

https://www.yahoo.com/gma/exclusive-tsa-planning-major-shift-air-marshal-operations-212505199–abc-news-topstories.html

https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2018/12/15/curtails-quiet-skies-passenger-surveillance/2lRAv2AwjGpUcgq08mHaPM/story.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/ice-arrested-170-immigrants-seeking-sponsor-migrant-children-n946621?cid=sm_npd_ms_tw_ma

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/7-year-old-migrant-girl-taken-into-border-patrol-custody-dies-of-dehydration-exhaustion/2018/12/13/8909e356-ff03-11e8-862a-b6a6f3ce8199_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d18bffbf4190

https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/14/us/guatemalan-girl-death-ice/index.html

https://apnews.com/0a7e7ec16cd743e4840c321a99e005ef?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=AP&utm_campaign=SocialFlow

https://www.dhs.gov/news/2018/12/25/guatemalan-national-passes-away-gerald-champion-regional-medical-center-alamogordo

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/07/us/national-parks-deaths-trnd/index.html

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/heartbreaking-government-shutdown-causing-garbage-162718272.html

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/01/01/free-all-national-parks-overrun-garbage-other-bad-behavior/2456757002/

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/01/us/government-shutdown-national-parks-toilets-services/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/11/business/delta-new-boarding-process/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/12/us/delta-airlines-bans-support-animals-trnd/index.html


https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/08/facebook-culture-cult-performance-review-process-blamed.html

https://www.yahoo.com/news/android-apps-sending-data-facebook-even-dont-account-105540553.html

https://thehill.com/policy/national-security/424380-redaction-error-in-court-filing-reveals-manafort-shared-polling-info?userid=115887

Your Insecurity is Showing

Correction: the previous version of this post noted Quiet Skies had been in operation for eleven years. In fact, the passenger stalking program is only in its ninth year, as reflected in the edited post below.

Update: We learned David Pecker (again, his actual name) (below) has quit a board position with Canadian media provider, Postmedia, in wake of allegations Pecker’s National Enquirer colluded with Michael Cohen to bury negative press on Trump prior to his election.

Pecker, like Cohen, has reportedly collected federal immunity for informing on Trump’s payoff of Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels.

*

We are jacking up airport security once again!

TSA’s hitherto secret program: “QUIET SKIES”

Last month, Boston Globe busted the notoriously ham-handed TSA for secretly siccing air marshals (“Special Mission Coverage” or SMC) on up to 50 passengers who may be “unknown or partially-known terrorists” daily. Since 2010.

Every American is automatically screened for the Quiet Skies program when he or she enters the country and, if included, can be tracked on domestic flights, the Globe reported.

The agency bulletin mandates the 17 “rules” of the program are [TRIGGER WARNING] “triggered when individuals enter the United States from foreign locations” to determine the 50 daily targets (35 of whom are followed and analyzed).

Although it presumes to target passengers with history flags like using known terrorist-associated emails to book tickets, the “Selectees” are by definition not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base [sic]. They receive “enhanced screening at security checkpoints,” and other Federal agencies are tipped off if any “derogatory” characteristics are noted by the marshals.

Who, by the way, are documenting such dangerous behaviors as sleeping, face touching, and visiting the bathroom; if the Selectee has gained or lost weight based on their profile; if they have body odor; and whether they leave the airport by bus, taxi, or private vehicle.

Every Selectee is monitored for the shorter of either 90 days or 3 “encounters.”

TSA declined to confirm the program’s existence (or any successful terrorist interceptions) to Globe.

Perhaps fortunately,

[D]ozens of air marshals have raised concerns about the Quiet Skies program with senior officials and colleagues, sought legal counsel, and expressed misgivings about the surveillance program, according to interviews and documents reviewed by the Globe.

[…]

In late May, an air marshal complained to colleagues about having just surveilled a working Southwest Airlines flight attendant as part of a Quiet Skies mission. “Cannot make this up,” the air marshal wrote in a message.

One colleague replied: “jeez we need to have an easy way to document this nonsense. Congress needs to know that it’s gone from bad to worse.”

*

Unfortunately, TSA’s malevolent government tentacles are also extending to further baggage scrutiny. Washington Post in June revealed new “screening supervisor discretion” to demand passengers empty their carryon* luggage of snacks.

Not to be confused with Detroit Lions running back, Kerryon Johnson (above).

“TSA asked me to take my snacks out of my bag and I feel personally victimized […] I had a whole bunch of crazy snacks in my bag that I was really excited to eat.”–snack surveillance victim Thea Neal. our emphasis

Essentially, based on the whim of the head TSA screamer screener, food must be xrayed separately with the 3-ounce toothpastes and iPads. A boon for the plastic bin manufacturers.

“There’s a very good reason for everything we do. Nothing is arbitrary.” ––(former?) TSA thug Mike England

A Twitter profile identifies Mike England (above) as “former TSA spokesman” and currently “Deputy Chief of Public Affairs” for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

(our emphasis)

England speculated travelers may be forced to display their food if the cattle line supervisor, faced with a long line of miscreants innocent civilians, believes the surprise inspection will process people through the full-body radiation humiliation station faster. The theory: food looks like explosives to the xray machine, and baring your corn nut fetish decreases manual bag searches.

It’s unclear if TSA ever detects any explosives ushered through the security line.

“The next thing they’re going to make us take out of our bags is medicine. And that would be a real invasion of privacy.” –snack surveillance victim Lauren Rosenberg

*

We might refocus security on the planes themselves! Unfortunate already to be flying with Delta, Delany Luh (below) was recently sexually assaulted on their Chicago-to-Los Angeles run. To placate her, the airline offered a $200 voucher.

Via Twitter.

Luh reported she notified flight attendants immediately, while Delta contends: [a]fter deplaning, Ms. Luh first informed a Delta agent that she had been improperly touched on the leg by another passenger during her flight. Immediately upon learning this information, Delta reported the incident to local and federal law enforcement for their handling.

The alleged perpetrator “Will” fled the airport before security could close with the trademark efficiency we’d have seen if it had been an L.A.-to-Chicago run:

Summer Part 1: Stories We Shelved!!! April 9–United We Drag

*

A rival passenger molesting outfit is celebrating recent justification for eye-fucking unsuspecting travelers. Customs and Border Protection, known for safeguarding Constitutional rights, nabbed an unidentified 26-year-old male landing at Washington Dulles airport from Brazil earlier this week.

(He is unidentified because national security, but the incident is required propaganda to ease citizens into a new layer of government intrusion.)

When the man presented a French passport, the airport scanned his face for comparison (apparently now standard procedure for international arrivals) and them mugs didn’t match.

CBP were so desperate to document the criminal activity, they photographed a physical search maneuver that revealed the man’s valid Republic of Congo ID card, stashed in his shoe.

According to Digital Trends, CBP is already testing a facial-recognition exit in 13 airports and arrival at 10 airports, but Orlando International is the first in the country that has made the commitment to implementing both for international travel.

Everyone should emulate the obsequious citizens of Orlando in committing to national security!

Related:

Summer Part 1: Stories We Shelved!!! March 10, 19 and 22–Genes, Tattoos and Faces

The gentleman is reportedly the “FIRST CAUGHT” by the biometric scanner, as further detailed in CBP’s laudatory statement, in just one week of deploying the new technology.

CBP was recently spotlighted for seizing a U.S. citizen’s phone upon her re-entry to the country in February, attempting to coerce her into unlocking it, and confiscating it to copy the data upon her refusal.

After 120 days, [Rejhane] Lazoja finally got her phone back but only after involving her attorneys, one of which told Ars Technica that federal authorities had “forensically cracked” her phone and copied what was on it before returning it. But as the court documents note, officials have never given any reasons for why the phone was seized in the first place.

[…]

Comments to this article have been closed due to multiple violations of our rules and guidelines including insults, swearing, name-calling, and off-topic conversation.

[our emphasis]

Uncle Sam’s Unsatisfying Anal

*

Meanwhile, The Intercept returned to Edward Snowden‘s classified document dump to spotlight eight major AT&T “peering sites” that have reportedly enabled Federal communications snooping since 1985.

Is your city on the list??

AT&T’s “extreme willingness to help,” per the agency, allows access to emails and phone calls from other domestic carriers like Sprint, as well as international giants using American AT&T networks for data pit stops.

According to the NSA’s documents, it was using AT&T’s networks as of March 2013 to gather some 60 million foreign-to-foreign emails every day, 1.8 billion per month.

*

The family of Justine Damond, allegedly murdered by ex-Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, is suing Minneapolis, Noor, his partner Matthew Harrity, ex-police chief Janee Harteau and current chief Medaria Arradondo for $50 million, plus punitive damages, according to New York Post. Steep!

John Ruszczyk claims his daughter’s civil rights were disregarded when Noor and his partner rolled up to the alley where Damond “became deceased” , because their body cameras were not activated and they proceeded to conduct a cover up.

*

To no one’s surprise, alleged House Democrat hacker Imran Awan got “time served” and three months of “supervised release” to atone for his one count of bank fraud. (He has been under house arrest.) As we have reported extensively, Awan pleaded guilty to merely lying on a bank loan application, despite reported evidence he and several family members stole equipment and data while working lucrative contracts for Democratic congresspeople.

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: July 25: Debbie, Derelict of Any Responsibility

Prosecutors ultimately concluded there was no evidence of Awan’s guilt in the latter activities.

Perhaps factoring into his sentence was the president’s public railing against Awan’s alleged offenses: Trump has referred to Awan multiple times as “the Pakistani mystery man,” and mentioned him during his joint press conference this summer in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Fox News)

CNN noted Judge Tanya S. Chutkan handed down the lenient punishment along with condemnations for the “unbelievable onslaught of scurrilous media attacks” and “baseless accusations” that were “lobbed at [Awan] from the highest branches of government.”

*

Paul Manafort is likely slated for some serious jail time as his Virginia tax fraud trial ended.

The jury found Manafort guilty on five charges of filing false income tax returns, one count of failing to report foreign bank accounts and two counts of bank fraud. 

His other ten charges–also of bank fraud and failing to report foreign accounts–are up in the air after the jury reached a mistrial.

Next up: a Washington, D.C. trial of Manafort’s charges related to unregistered foreign lobbying and money laundering.

It seems the only “career criminal” boxes he has yet to check are the five charges of manslaughter ABC News erroneously pinned on him in June.

*

While the disgraced ex-Trump campaign chair pleaded not guilty to everything–including the recent witness tampering charge that revoked his house arrest–disgraced ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen (below) pleaded guilty to eight charges, which include making false statements to a bank, tax fraud (evading over $1.4 million in income tax), and campaign finance violations. He’s threatened with up to 65 years of hard time in a cushy white-collar facility.

Style isn’t everything.

Cohen admitted that “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” he kept information that would have harmed Trump from becoming public during the 2016 election cycle.
[…] [Cohen] acted with Trump and his allies, including David Pecker [**YES, HIS ACTUAL NAME**], the CEO of the National Enquirer’s publisher, American Media Inc., to suppress potentially damaging claims against the now-President.
[…] Correction: This story has been updated to correct the name of the alcohol that Cohen said he drank on Monday night.

The suppressed info, widely publicized, includes Trump’s alleged extramarital affairs with porn actress Stephanie Clifford and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

For her discretion, Cohen paid Clifford a cool $130,000, which was technically considered a Trump campaign contribution and therefore exceeded federal limits.

McDougal banked $150,000 from American Media.

More scandalous, of course, is the Christopher Steele “dossier” allegation that Cohen hobnobbed with Russians in Prague months before Trump’s election. Robert Mueller‘s Special Counsel investigation into reported Russian 2016 Trump collusion/election interference may yet give Cohen further appearances to try out the rest of his wardrobe.

Thanks to our sources:

https://apps.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/graphics/2018/07/tsa-quiet-skies/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/quiet-skies-air-marshals_us_5b5e8897e4b0fd5c73d09f15

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/traveling-via-air-expect-to-remove-your-snacks-and-place-them-in-a-bin/2018/06/29/ea0bede2-796c-11e8-aeee-4d04c8ac6158_story.html?utm_term=.62159216ae3f

https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/biometric-entry-and-exit-at-orlando/

https://thenextweb.com/security/2018/08/24/new-facial-recognition-system-at-us-airport-nabs-an-impostor-for-the-first-time/

https://theintercept.com/2018/06/25/att-internet-nsa-spy-hubs/

https://nypost.com/2018/07/23/family-of-bride-to-be-killed-by-officer-sues-for-50m/

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/08/21/ex-dem-it-aide-imran-awan-avoids-jail-time-after-attorneys-complain-about-trump.html

https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/21/politics/imran-awan-sentencing/index.html

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/402125-manafort-guilty?userid=115887

https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/21/politics/michael-cohen-plea-deal-talks/index.html

Pruitt: In Memoriam

The most pathetic head of a militant, unnecessary government agency was forced out on July 5, ending months of antipathy and taxpayer dollar waste. Scott Pruitt resigned two days after evidence surfaced that he forged his official events calendars to avoid (apparently this is an emotion he is capable of harboring) embarrassment.

Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned in disgrace last week. 

As we have reported previously, Pruitt was ladling out exemptions to the Renewable Fuel Standard that distorts the ethanol market. Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley  and Joni Ernst were pissed, and began talking up Pruitt’s scandals.

(Interestingly, while Trump promised to continue this inefficient propping up of Iowa corn farms, ethanol subsidy adversary and Texas Senator Ted Cruz actually won the state’s 2016 GOP primary for president.)

To be fair, while Pruitt did apparently use staffers to land his daughter McKenna the position of clerk of the White House Counsel last summer, a breathlessly-shared New York Times story that he used the EPA mantle to maneuver her into law school at University of Virginia turned out to be shoddy reporting.

He did use his pre-Trump career subordinates to score a letter of recommendation from former Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, William Howell.  McKenna (below) got the coveted seat.

However, much like Veterans Affairs, the pompous Oklahoman kept two sets of schedules: the official public record, and his actual itineraries. Reportedly, the former were doctored:

Pruitt’s aides would print sections of the private calendar containing details of events, gather around a table, sometimes in Pruitt’s office, and decide what would be omitted or altered on the public calendar.

Some calendar events hidden from the public and uncovered by CNN include Pruitt noshing with coal producer Alliance Resource Partners CEO, Joseph Craft, and Vatican official (and accused sex criminal) Cardinal Pell when Pruitt blew through $120,000 of taxpayer cash in Italy last year.

Seven of the undisclosed meetings involved individuals who were nominated or reportedly under consideration for EPA positions.

Vox reported on perhaps Pruitt’s most disturbing extravagance yet:

The EPA, according to three expense line items for April, spent a total of $2,749.62 on “tactical pants” and “tactical polos.”

Pruitt’s office spent $24,115 on a variety of tactical clothing and body armor in seven separate orders. 

[our emphasis]

Unfortunately, the “arm ourselves against the weather” notion is a holdover from previous administrations:

EPA Spends $200,000 on Body Armor to Prepare For Changing Climate

Much of the dirt on Pruitt, including the calendar alterations and daughter internship overture, came from Trump handler Kevin Chmielewski (below, not Trump), who was fired from EPA in March.

Washington Free Beacon, however, found evidence Chmielewski actually resigned without giving a reason.

Apparently, the Presidential Personnel office, which had no qualms tolerating a similar situation for Jared Kushner, raised Cain over irregularities in the former bagman’s security clearance. Chmielewski, who worked briefly for DHS before EPA, was flustered:

In a lengthy, combative interview with the Free Beacon, Chmielewski repeatedly refused to answer several questions and threatened to spend the “rest of his career going after” this reporter.

He said neither the PPO, nor anyone else in the federal government, ever contacted him with background check concerns. He told the Free Beacon that he has a permanent Top Secret-level security clearance but would not provide any paperwork to prove it.

“This is how ridiculous and idiotic you are,” Chmielewski said in the interview.

Free Beacon also found $7,667 in unpaid taxes to the state of Maryland and a 2005 DUI tarnishing Chmielewski’s record.

Pruitt was replaced by deputy Andrew Wheeler, a former lobbyist who squints all the time.

Andrew Wheeler official photo.jpg

*

An ingenious Chicago man, Dushaun Henderson-Spruce (below), duped the US Postal Service into forwarding all corporate mail for (wildly more successful, despite USPS’s government-backed box monopoly) rival UPS to Henderson-Spruce’s apartment. For three months.

NPR reported the paper form–top government efficiency!–was not even filled out correctly:

At first, the initials ‘HS’ were written on the signature line, but the initials were then scratched out and replaced with ‘UPS,’ according to the charges.

Henderson-Spruce, who told investigators he briefly worked for UPS several years ago, was previously charged in 2016 for one count of misdemeanor bank fraud, for possession of a stolen check.

New charges carry a potential 25 years.

*

In May, NSA indiscriminately wiped hundreds of millions of “call detail records”–everything they (unconstitutionally) compiled since 2015–because in coercing the telephone companies to relinquish private phone records, they inadvertently bagged “some CDRs that NSA was not authorized to receive.”

Because you weren’t allowed to know they were recording all your call logs until Snowden revealed the spy agency’s Constitution trampling, you also get no insight into the deletion process. Shut up and let the Government take care of you.

*

In June, bumbling criminal and ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was sent to jail, his house arrest revoked for new charges of witness tampering. He picked up new charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, to which he pleaded not guilty.

After initially bitching from his private solitary suite that being two hours outside of D.C. limited face time with his attorneys to prepare his defense, Manafort is now reportedly boasting on the monitored prison phone lines that he circumvents the prison’s “no email” rule by typing emails on a laptop that his associates move in and out of the compound. The messages send as soon as the team hits a “hotspot.”

Even the smartest criminals slip up occasionally:

Russia Probe Continues While Shulkin Doubles Down

*

Delta is weathering another rough summer. First, public backlash was fierce when Delta banned “pitbull-type service animals” because–get this–they bite:

“We must err on the side of safety. Most recently, two Delta employees were bit by a pit bull traveling as a support animal last week. We struggled with the decision to expand the ban to service animals, knowing that some customers have legitimate needs, but we have determined that untrained, pit bull-type dogs posing as both service and support animals are a potential safety risk.”

(Washington Post did a fun expose in January on passengers abusing the “emotional support animal” loophole to get large dogs–and ducks–seats on planes.)

Delta said it flew 250,000 [emotional support] animals last year, up 150 percent from 2015, while “incidents” such as biting or defecating had nearly doubled since 2016.

Then, Delta’s contractor SkyWest Airlines turned a plane back to the gate at Fort Wayne International when a passenger was too slow to turn her phone to “airplane mode” during taxi.

Other passengers, including a Latina woman, who spoke up in defense of Rodgers […] [a] total of four adults and a child were removed from the flight.

The original transgressor, Robyn Rogers, is on Instagram as “DJ Reborn.”

If it matters, from the New York Post-obtained video, Rogers appears to be black, and the flight attendant white.

*

Sketchy suspected House Democrat data downloader Imran Awan, who we are not allowed to characterize as sketchy because he is an immigrant, pleaded guilty to a single charge of bank fraud.

Mr. Awan’s sentencing was scheduled for Aug. 21. Under federal guidelines, he faces a likely range of zero to six months in prison. And as part of the agreement, the government will ask the court to dismiss all charges against [Awan’s wife] Ms. Alvi when Mr. Awan is sentenced.

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! Awan Updates

Politico broke it down:

At the time of his arrest, Awan was accused of attempting to defraud the Congressional Federal Credit Union by obtaining a $165,000 home equity loan for a rental property, which is against the credit union’s policies since it is not the owner’s primary residence. Those funds were then included as part of a wire transfer to two individuals in Faisalabad, Pakistan, according to the indictment filed against Awan.

Media shrills such as Washington Post, which have completely ignored Awan & company’s sordid subterfuge because it makes the Democrats look like idiots, gleefully declared Awan’s legal victory to “debunk […] conspiracy theories.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted right-wing news sites and Trump’s reactionary interest in the “Pakistani mystery man” is an “anti-Muslim, right-wing smear job.”

Right-wing Daily Caller obtained a transcription from a September 2016 powerpoint presentation of Theresa Grafenstine, Inspector General for the House who conveniently retired last year.

According to her LinkedIn, Grafenstine (above) now works for Deloitte Consulting.

Grafenstine found that Imran made “unauthorized access” to congressional servers in a way that suggested he was trying to “conceal” his activity and that his unusual activity suggested a server could be used for “nefarious purposes.”

As we have reported previously, Awan and his highly-paid relatives, who were all fired, were trippin’ with the inventory. The IG report found over $100,000 in electronics were removed from House inventory when the alleged conspirators (“shared employees” Imran Awan, Abid Awan, Hina Alvi, Jamal Awan and Rao Abbas) could not produce them for an audit. Purchase prices were manipulated so individual items could be reported as “office supplies” to the Federal bean counters.

Also, the employees continued to access the House server months after they were fired.

It is noteworthy the IG had evidence of this potentially criminal activity at least seven months before the “shared employees” were canned in February 2017. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) kept Imran on the payroll until his July 2017 arrest.

Federal prosecutors spoke with 40 witnesses, but found no evidence that Mr. Awan had engaged in illegal conduct involving House computer systems, per the plea agreement.

As a conservative opinion writer noted earlier this year, none of the Awan IT aides were subjected to background checks for employment, using a loophole in hiring procedures that exempts potential hires from background checks if another member of Congress vouches for them.

Awan’s attorney, a longtime Hillary crony, will seek a fine for his client instead of jail time, per Fox News.

*

Speaking of plea deals for the privileged, disgraced FBI agent Chase Bishop (below) has been re-armed and offered a sweet settlement of his second-degree assault charge by the prosecution. The details will not be released, because he is your employee.

chase-bishop-in-court.jpg

Bishop’s lawyer, David Goddard, said that the FBI strongly encourages its agents to carry their guns when they’re not working

[our emphasis]

(This is why we need the Federal Government to control our gun use, while packing themselves without any accountability. Federal agents are beyond reproach.)

Also shielded from the public are Bishop’s toxicology results from the night his butter fingers put a round in the leg of Tom Reddington at a (presumably) drunken “dance-off” in a Denver bar last month. Bishop ran away, but was eventually picked up by police.

Prosecutors told Denver Post the blood alcohol level “[does] not support further charges” for Bishop.

He is due back in court on…also August 21.

*

And George Clooney was out of sight to the high-rolling driver who collided with the Hollywood has-been in Italy last week.

Ambulance personnel tend to actor George Clooney after he was involved in a scooter accident Tuesday in Italy.

Video of Clooney going up in the air was obtained by Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera.

While later headlines billed the Batman and Robin star’s transpo means as a “motorcycle,” the pictures above from CNN and OK Magazine indicate the manly mishap was indeed sustained on a scooter.

It is unclear if Clooney wore a helmet.

CNN reports he received a negative scan at Giovanni Paolo II hospital. The overrated actor also told CNN he hit 65 mph before tagging the Mercedes that cut in front of him.

The video shows the scooter going maybe 35 mph.

Related:

Clinton/Clooney Cash: Cum One, Come All

According to The Federalist and New York Post, a lawsuit originally filed with the FEC last year by pro-Trump organization Committee to Defend the President alleges Hillary bagged hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from individual wealthy donors by funneling to state Democratic parties, which can make unlimited contributions to the DNC via the Hillary Victory Fund. This would appear to be a loophole around the federal limit of $2700 per person, per candidate, per election–in the amount of $84 million. This allegedly allowed Hillary to control the DNC in exchange for paying down their debt.

BONUSIn a very public spectacle, FBI agent Peter Strzok treated the public to a 10-hour array of smug expressions (cataloged by someone on Steemit) as the House Judiciary Committee questioned Strzok about his former investigative role under Robert Mueller into Trump’s 2016 campaign. We have not watched the actual video.

550a814a8c7a20c609e1d338f0e2b88db7c37d7c818121b0e816f365aa8cf941.jpg

Apparently, Strzok, refused to answer a question out of loyalty to the FBI. GOP dinosaur and Chair of the committee, Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte (below, right), incorrectly claimed Strzok had been subpoenaed and threatened to hold him in contempt.

Republican Louie (his actual, adult name) Gohmert of Texas found an opening to mention Strzok’s extramarital affair with fellow ex-Mueller investigator Lisa Page, to the consternation of Democrats, who proceeded to suggest Gohmert harbors a psychiatric illness.

Page, who received Strzok’s “we’ll stop [the election of Donald Trump]” text that was hidden from the public until the Justice Dept IG report dropped last month, participated in part one of a two-day, private interview by the HJC. She had refused to comply with a subpoena for public hearing Wednesday and was also threatened with contempt. According to The Hill, although Republicans were gratified with her responses to some questions friend-with-benefits Strzok refused to answer, they were off-put she showed up with an FBI attorney. (Page, unlike Strzok, has resigned from the FBI.)

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/05/politics/scott-pruitt-epa-resigns/index.html

http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/392461-pruitt-frequently-asked-aides-to-help

http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/392570-pruitts-new-problem-with-the-gop-ethanol

http://time.com/4203690/iowa-caucuses-ted-cruz/

https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/02/politics/scott-pruitt-whistleblower-secret-calendar/index.html

http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/394791-nsa-deletes-scores-of-call-records-over-technical-irregularities

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/6/21/17488454/scott-pruitt-tactical-pants-scandal

http://freebeacon.com/issues/epa-whistleblower-run-ins-law-enforcement-background-check-red-flags/

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/judge-jails-ex-trump-campaign-chair-manafort-ahead-155410775–politics.html

https://www.yahoo.com/news/delta-bans-pit-bulls-dogs-115851622.html

https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/nation-now/2018/06/28/delta-attendant-kicks-passengers-off-plane-over-airplane-mode-dispute/741161002/

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article163818253.html

http://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-nation/2018/07/04/Imran-Awan-an-ex-congressional-IT-worker-for-Democrats-pleads-guilty-to-bank-fraud/stories/201807040068

http://thehill.com/opinion/cybersecurity/384125-democratic-house-it-scandal-illustrates-the-hazards-of-reckless

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/07/03/ex-dem-it-aide-imran-awan-pleads-guilty-to-bank-fraud-in-deal-with-prosecutors.html

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/judge-dancing-fbi-agent-accused-in-backflip-gunfire-incident-can-carry-weapon-again/

https://www.9news.com/article/news/crime/dancing-fbi-agent-offered-plea-deal-in-club-shooting/73-572427832

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/07/10/europe/george-clooney-scooter-accident-italy-intl/index.html

https://nypost.com/2018/06/09/democratic-parties-accused-of-funneling-84m-into-clinton-campaign/

http://thefederalist.com/2018/04/24/bombshell-fec-records-indicate-hillary-campaign-illegally-laundered-84-million/

https://steemit.com/informationwar/@gregorypatrick/my-favorite-c-span-clip-from-the-peter-strzok-hearing-did-you-use-that-smirk-when-you-lied-to-your-wife?sort=author_reputation

http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/396980-former-fbi-lawyer-lisa-page-gets-closed-door-grilling-from-house

Defendant, Doors, Drew, Drama, Debt and Disgrace

After pleading not guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges in Virginia–necessitating a second ankle bracelet, as he is already on house arrest from Robert Mueller indictments in D.C.–disgraced ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort requested charges for false statements and conspiracy money laundering. His attorneys note these two charges are covered in the ongoing federal case.

Manafort has sued the Justice Department for exceeding the scope of the Mueller investigation on collusion with Russia in 2016 by pursuing all possible criminal activity by Manafort under a “blank check” of prosecution.

CNN reports Manafort faces a combined maximum sentence of over 300 years, the majority stemming from the Virginia fraud charges.

*

Interior secretary Ryan Zinke‘s office (not the secretary himself, the bumbling bureaucracy noted) ordered three (3) sets of double doors for $139,669.68. And that included reusing “existing door handles, locks and latches.”

A spokeswoman blamed  “regulations that require historic preservation and outdated government procurement rules.”

Duke Ellington School of the Arts of Mismanaging Renovation

The doors were last replaced about six years into U.S. nation-building in Afghanistan (2007).

PHOTO: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke addresses criticism of his travel practices before delivering a speech billed as A Vision for American Energy Dominance, at the Heritage Foundation, Sept. 29, 2017, in Washington.

Zinke (above) rode to the rescue (probably not on a charter flight, which he exploits on taxpayer dollars somewhat less frequently than other Trump cabinet members, per ABC News), informing a House committee “we got it down to $75,000” by “manipulating” the contract terms. He did not elaborate.

Taxpayer-backed luxurious travel for multimillionaire “public servants” is back in the news, however. Head Treasury thug Steven Mnuchin put in some tough hours on military jets between spring and fall of 2017. His eight known trips–pried from redacted FOIA requests by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington–topped $995,000.

A source within Treasury who declined to be named told POLITICO that [Mnuchin predecessor Jack] Lew spent $3.25 million on travel expenses in 2016, which, according to the documents obtained by CREW, included 10 international trips using military aircraft, with stops in a combined 25 cities.

CREW notes that Mnuchin’s manifest is far stingier than previous secretary’s, however. He does not mix with commoners.

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! September 13 and 29: Mnuchin Continues Opulent Employment; Tom Price Priced Out of Trump Administration

Besides reportedly flying commercial not once during his tenure, one example of the former Goldman Sachs hack’s public exploitation is his self-designated Presidential Mission Trip to Miami last June. The original $27,000 FAA aircraft back from the Miami meeting with Mexico’s finance minister lacked a secure phone line, so Mnuchin upgraded to a $45,000 military plane. There were five people on the trip. His own travel office noted “for your awareness, the cost per person on commercial air is approx.: $688 roundtrip.” 

Treasury maintains Mnuchin has been off high-priced military aircraft since a $180,000 journey to the Middle East last October, but will require  jet next week for the G-20 summit in Argentina.

Mnuchin also told Sunday news host Chuck Todd that Trump’s characterization of Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) as “a very low I.Q. individual” was just a “funny name”:

“You know [Trump] likes to put names on people. He did that through the entire presidential election, including all the Republicans that he beat. […] He’s using these vulgarities in the context of a campaign and obviously there were a lot of funny moments in that rally.”

*

Conor Lamb

Democrat Conor Lamb‘s (above) upset win in a special election to serve the remainder of 2018 for Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district (which is redrawn for the midterms), despite two Trump rallies (including the “Maxine Waters has a low I.Q.” performance), had House Republicans worried.

“If you’re getting outraised [financially], this is a wake up call. Prepare to bear down.”–Steve Stivers (R-OH) 

Trump Dump

[our emphasis]

“Winning is better than losing,” reported Jim Jordan (R-OH), noting failed GOP candidate Rick Saccone‘s loss in a district that overwhelmingly supported Trump in 2016 was “not good.”

The race flowed with evil “outside money.” Although Lamb was boosted by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and End Citizens United, the bigger story seemed to be Saccone’s $10 million backing from national Republicans.

Libertarian candidate Drew Miller (above) scored about 0.6% of the vote, or double the margin between Lamb and Saccone, after raising $2,000.

*

Ryan McAvoy, a White House staffer, left his personal email and password at a bus stop, but for Trump allies like Jared Kushner, House Intelligence Committee Democrats can’t rely on idiocy alone to seek out possible Russian collusion on non-official channels of communication. They’re floating subpoenas for the disgraced, temporary security clearance-stripped “Peace in the Middle East” adviser’s (below) transition team messages on “SMS, iMessage, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Signal, Slack, Instagram, and Snapchat.”

Jared Kushner is pictured. | AP Photo

Hillary Updates

Trump ousted secretary of state Rex Tillerson (below, left) and appointed CIA director Mike Pompeo (below that) in his stead.

Image result

Tillerson’s deputy Steve Goldstein (below) was also fired.

Irwin Goldstein.jpg

Current CIA deputy director Gina Haspel is nominated to take Pompeo’s place.

Gina Haspel official CIA portrait.jpg

There were reports (now retracted) that Haspel directed the 2002 waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah (below) at a CIA black site in Thailand.

Abu Zubaydah.jpg

She did oversee Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri‘s (below) waterboarding later that year and order destruction of the tapes of Zubaydah’s torture.

Nashiri.jpg

Both men are currently held without charges at Guantanamo Bay.

Senator Rand Paul will filibuster both Haspel and Pompeo’s nominations.

*

The president wasn’t done. FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe (below), who has been on “terminal leave” since January (using accrued days off to make it until a planned retirement in March), was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday, less than two days before he would have qualified for a pension, for allegedly not cooperating with an Inspector General.

Retiring FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe

Two days before Christmas, Trump tweeted, “FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go?!!!”

Apparently, Trump is still sour at McCabe’s involvement in the Hillary Secret Server probe that ended without charges for the former secretary of state. That announcement came from recently-fired FBI chief James Comey.

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: May 9: FBI Director Comey Fired

There were reports that current FBI head Christopher Wray refused Sessions’ request to fire McCabe back in January.

Trump tweeted early Saturday morning: “Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!”

McCabe protested the move as Trump’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the [Mueller] special counsel investigation.”

Former CIA head John Brennan, who famously hacked Senator Dianne Feinstein‘s computer attempting to bury a report on American torture, tweeted to Trump:

“When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you.”

*

The National Debt closed at over $21,000,000,000,000 on Thursday. Additionally, within the next decade, interest alone on the debt is projected to top $1 trillion annually–about triple the take of corporate tax in f.y. 2017 (or about 2/3 of the total confiscated in income tax).

Unconcerned Republicans now intend to make permanent some of their newly-enacted cuts to individual tax rates, which currently expire in 2025. The accompanying corporate tax cuts are already permanent, because priorities.

*

In more local news, Seaside, California teacher, city council member and reserve police officer Dennis Alexander shot up the ceiling and injured three students while leading a firearms safety demonstration. He is now on leave from the police and school positions.

Teacher who accidentally fired gun at school apologizes and thanks community for support

A Glock 21, semi-automatic .45 caliber service pistol was used in the demonstration.

The Seaside High School website lists Anderson as an educator in the career and technical department responsible for introductory classes on fire and police, as well as public safety.

Class resumed after “no major injuries” were discovered. The children’s parents might not have found out, except one boy came home with a bloody shirt and later had part of a slug pulled out of his neck at the emergency room:

​Bullet fragments removed from student's neck

The boy’s father noted: “He’s shaken up, but he’s going to be OK. I’m just pretty upset that no one told us anything and we had to call the police ourselves to report it.”

Although Alexander had taught the class in the past, the weapon itself was apparently banned from school premises. Maybe police get special privileges.

 

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/14/politics/paul-manafort-motion-to-dismiss/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/13/politics/paul-manafort-faces-305-years/index.html

https://www.yahoo.com/gma/interior-spend-139-000-doors-zinkes-office-034103697–abc-news-topstories.html

http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20180315/news/303159870

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/03/15/steven-mnuchin-plane-travel-cost-421176

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/378390-house-gop-frets-over-pennsylvania-race?utm_source=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=14145

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mnuchin-trump-insult-maxine-waters-iq_us_5aa52df9e4b01b9b0a3c53df

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/03/13/us/elections/results-pennsylvania-house-special-election.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-replaces-secretary-state-tillerson-cia-director-n856091

https://www.propublica.org/article/cia-cables-detail-its-new-deputy-directors-role-in-torture

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/03/18/rand-paul-gina-haspel-cia-217653

ProPublica’s Retraction Doesn’t Mean Gina Haspel Didn’t Oversee Torture, She Still Totally Did

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/03/18/rand-paul-gina-haspel-cia-217653

https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/18/politics/rand-paul-mike-pompeo-gina-haspel-cnntv/index.html

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/01/the-defenestration-of-andrew-mccabe/551771/

https://www.yahoo.com/news/former-fbi-deputy-director-mccabe-booted-agency-052802977–politics.html

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/john-brennan-donald-trump-andrew-mccabe_us_5aad0cf7e4b05b2217ff0e53

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/national-debt-hits-21-trillion

https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/15/opinions/trillion-dollar-debt-interest-opinion-macguineas/index.html

A closer look at who does (and doesn’t) pay U.S. income tax

http://thehill.com/policy/finance/378861-gop-pushes-for-phase-two-of-tax-cuts

http://thehill.com/opinion/finance/366889-democrats-should-get-on-board-with-making-trump-tax-cuts-permanent

https://www.yahoo.com/news/california-teacher-injures-three-pupils-131503194.html

http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ln-seaside-high-school-gun-apology-20180316-story.html

http://www.ksbw.com/article/seaside-high-teacher-accidentally-fires-gun-in-class/19426017

Russia Probe Continues While Shulkin Doubles Down

Rick Gates, the former deputy campaign manager for Donald Trump, will cooperate with Robert Mueller's investigation, The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday. (Aaron P. Bernstein via Getty Images)

On Friday, Richard Gates (above, who, according to Wikipedia, goes by “Rick”), formerly of the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee, pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the U.S. and false statements to the FBI during the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian 2016 election interference.

Last October, Gates, 45, was hit with twelve charges related to laundering $30 million with his fellow accused, ousted Trump campaign head Paul Manafort. To these, Gates had pleaded not guilty.

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! October 23: Podesta Joins the Presidential Party

“Despite my initial desire to vigorously defend myself, I have had a change of heart. The reality of how long this legal process will likely take, the cost, and the circus-like atmosphere of an anticipated trial are too much. I will better serve my family moving forward by exiting this process.” –Richard Gates

He is expected to serve 18 months in exchange for cooperation.

Manafort maintained his innocence. Word on the street is special counselor Robert Mueller of Justice had to flip Gates to nail his longtime associate.

To secure $20 million in fraudulent bank loans, Manafort, 68, emailed PDF files of his company Davis Manafort Inc. to Gates for assistance in converting them to Word documents. Manafort was then able to falsify profits and losses, inadvertantly helping to build the prosecution’s case.

Gates’ other associate, Alex van der Zwaan, 33, (below) on Tuesday pleaded guilty to lying to prosecutors.

Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, 30, (below, left, unshaven) pleaded guilty last year to making false statements to the FBI.

Image result for George Papadopoulos

*

Disgraced VA secretary David Shulkin has sicced his new chief of staff, Peter O’Rourke (below), on the “subversion” offered by critics of the secretary’s reign.

His boss is suddenly very concerned with accountability, O’Rourke told Politico“Those who crossed the line in the past are going to have to be accountable for those decisions.”

Shulkin, touting Trump’s reported blessing to crack some skulls on Tuesday, noted “I don’t think everybody’s going to remain at the VA.” He also referred to the infamous Federal neglect of veterans as “my operation.”

Thanks to our sources:

Who Is Rick Gates?

http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/375309-former-trump-adviser-pleads-guilty-in-mueller-probe?userid=115887

https://www.cnn.com/2017/10/30/politics/paul-manafort-russia-investigation-surrender/index.html

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/02/new-charges-against-manafort-and-gates-cast-uncertainty-on-direction-of-special-counsel-probe.html

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/20/shulkin-veterans-agency-purge-417896

ICE, IRS, VA and the Russia Thing

A chief counsel at ICE, Raphael Sanchez, resigned Monday after his four-year scheme of stealing seven immigrants’ identities and spending $190,000 on credit cards and Amazon accounts opened in their names was exposed.

This required forging social security cards and drivers licenses from the ICE database. Not to be confused with the Vigilant database ICE now accesses for new prey:

Refrigerators, ICE and Ex-Im Updates

(Accolades are in order for Alameda, CA, whose residents recently nixed a $500,000 contract for a Vigilant license plate reader network.)

The 44-year-old Seattle-based lawyer, whose job description is “immigration removal proceedings in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington”,  claimed three illegal immigrants as dependents on his tax returns with impunity, but got pinched when he used a Chinese national’s permanent resident card to pay his electric bill.

Through his own lawyer, Sanchez offered “sincere and immense regret” and pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. His recommended sentence is four years.

*

Despite Pentagon comptroller David Norquist echoing military leaders’ “pleading” with Congress to save $2,000,000,000 PER YEAR by closing “tens of thousands of excess military bases around the world” [our emphasis], our entitled representatives have so thoroughly refuted the move that Defense didn’t even broach the subject in their 2019 budget request. According to Washington Times, the improbable decision to conduct a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) is out of the question this election year.

The last BRAC round occurred in 2005 and took a decade to complete. It is estimated to have cost $24 billion and the Pentagon estimates it will save about $4 billion per year.

The House Armed Services Committee dismissed the Pentagon’s request last year, because America was founded on the basis of a stifling cent Federal government whose chief objective is to provide military and contracting jobs indefinitely.

*

As the IRS gears up for tax season, they’re dogged by the independent Taxpayer Advocate Service‘s damning details of last year’s effort to recover $920 million that was mistakenly not confiscated. Private collection agencies and IRS itself were allowed to pocket 25% commissioneach–of what they scored for the Feds.

Image result

IRS’ target group unfortunately included many struggling taxpayers. The 4,100 targets had a median household income of $41,000 (national median last year was $59,039, according to the Census Bureau); 28% made less than $20,000, and some received Social Security, making them ineligible for shakedown by IRS ground rules.

19% were below the federal poverty level.

Of those bullied into “installment agreements” by the collectors, 45% could not afford to make the payments because they had income that was less than their allowable living
expenses.

According to the report obtained by ThinkProgress, the agencies got paid for accounts actually settled by IRS:

The IRS is aware that it is paying commissions to [collection agencies] with respect to work done by the IRS, but has
no plans to change its procedures to attempt to identify payments that were clearly not attributable to [agencies]…

[our emphasis]

Also, the initiative cost $20 million but recovered just $7 million.

A revenue-neutral FairTax, collected with every purchase to punishe consumption rather than production, eliminating the IRS, is still out of the question.

Related:

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: May 10: IRS Takes From Little People; Squander Millions on Unused Email, Faulty Fraud Detection

The Department of Veterans Affairs is back under the microscope.

Last week’s Office of Inspector General report scrutinized VA secretary David Shulkin (below) for attending the Wimbeldon tennis tournament–and stopping in Copenhagen, Denmark–last July in conjunction with the London Ministerial Summit on Veterans’ Affairs.

A portrait of David Shulkin, secretary of the Department

The Obama-appointed Undersecretary is the only Trump nominee to wield unanimous 100-0 consent from the Senate from his 2017 confirmation to head VA.

Washington Post, who apparently got the story first in September, noted Shulkin previously denied reaching out to Prince Harry’s 2016 Invictus Games head Victoria Gosling to poach the tennis tickets (worth thousands on the street). It turns out Shulkin did exactly that, and got served when OIG found Gosling could not come up with the first name of Shulkin’s wife, Dr. Merle Bari. This did not match Shulkin’s story that Gosling was a friend, so the exchange did not require ethics clearance.

Dr. Bari proved to be a very expensive add in add on to the delegation, adding $4300 in plane tickets alone to the $122,000, 11-day European extravaganza funded by the VA’s taxpayer-provided budget. Her status as “invitational traveler” cleared the VA ethics office just two weeks after her husband directed the agency to determine “essential” travel to “decrease employee travel and generate savings.”

Shulkin (2016 net worth: $17 million) repaid the government for Bari’s ticket.

A member of the security team’s expense voucher included “an inexplicable $3,825 overpayment for airport parking and a $2,718 overpayment for lodging.”

The report mentions another unusual expense: VA had official “Trip Book” itineraries printed for the entourage, 15 copies at a cost of $100 each.

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! September 13 and 29: Mnuchin Continues Opulent Employment; Tom Price Priced Out of Trump Administration

The best part? Shulkin’s chief of staff Vivieca Wright Simpson (below) resigned Friday after altering emails to VA’s ethics lawyer to suggest Shulkin received an award on the trip’s Denmark leg (which would have justified his wife’s traveling at taxpayer expense). OIG, of course, found Shulkin had no idea of the malfeasance.

636543769466427466-Screen-Shot-2018-02-16-at-11.19.54-AM.jpg

(Wright Simpson flew in economy class, but changed her connecting city, adding $2900 to the cost of her ticket.)

Two other staff members indulged in the trip, with six (6) security employees requiring “several additional days of advance travel.” So several of the trip itinerary booklets were apparently extras.

It’s unclear if Shulkin has yet rewritten VA hiring guidelines as he promised last December when USA Today found the agency has routinely–in violation of Federal law–employed physicians with revoked medical licenses for the past 15 years.

*

Besides Shulkin, four other Trump officials are under investigation for lavish travel using government funds. EPA head Scott Pruitt, for example, traveled from Cincinnati to New York on a military plane at a cost of $36,068.50 to catch his first-class flight to Rome, according to CNBC. Pruitt, according to the EPA, is awarded first or business class (for his frequent travel on jumbo jets to spread environmental protection) to avoid repeating past “security threats.” The Hill:

Pruitt has a “blanket waiver” to federal standards that limit officials’ ability to book first-class flights on the taxpayer dime.

*

Paul Manafort‘s release from house arrest looks even less likely, as Robert Mueller‘s long awaited Russia probe turned up evidence of his “additional criminial conduct…[including]  a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies.”

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! October 23: Podesta Joins the Presidential Party

It’s unclear if the still-pending $10 million bail deal will proceed for Manafort’s alleged overstatement of income by his company DMP International to secure a $9.5 million mortgage for his other venture, Summerbreeze LLC. No additional charges are yet filed, and D.C. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson (below) has everyone under gag order as her office aims for an October trial.

Amy Berman Jackson.jpg

On February 16, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein indicted 13 Russian citizens and 3 Russian entities for spreading anti-Hillary and pro-Trump propaganda during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election via (according to Politicoidentity theft, fake accounts, carefully orchestrated trips and outreach, a concerted social media strategy and even real live rallies across the United States secretly planned from Russia.

Specifically: Russian “specialists were instructed to post content that focused on ‘politics in the USA’ and to ‘use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except [Bernie] Sanders and Trump—we support them)[.]”

[our emphasis]

According to The Hill, the Russians sought to suppress support among black voters for Hillary Clinton, creating fake accounts on social platforms including Facebook and Instagram with names like “Blacktivist” and “Woke Blacks” — and suggesting that she was not strong enough on issues germane to African-Americans. 

 

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/ice-lawyer-seattle-charged-stealing-immigrants-ids-n847856?cid=sm_npd_nn_tw_ma

https://www.seattlepi.com/seattlenews/article/ICE-Seattle-Immigration-Corruption-12617163.php

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/raphael-sanchez-ice-chief-steal-immigrants-identity-fraud-us-immigration-customs-enforcement-a8214511.html

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/pentagon-drops-effort-to-close-unneeded-military-bases-that-cost-2-billion-per-year/article/2648854

IRS paid private debt collectors $20 million to recoup $6.7 million from low-income Americans

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/veterans-affairs-chief-shulkin-staff-misled-ethics-officials-about-european-trip-report-finds/2018/02/14/f7fbc020-0c3a-11e8-8b0d-891602206fb7_story.html?utm_term=.39103093bba7

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/02/16/va-secretary-david-shulkins-chief-staff-retiring-amid-travel-report-findings/344810002/

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/15/trump-cabinet-officials-in-ethics-scandals.html

http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/373811-pruitt-coach-travel-yielded-interactions-that-were-not-the-best

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/02/16/mueller-russia-indictments-not-playing-around-217014

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/16/bernie-sanders-russia-2016-election-interference-415691

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/16/mueller-manafort-bank-fraud-accusations-416509

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/374302-five-key-takeaways-from-the-russian-indictments?userid=115887

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! October 23: Podesta Joins the Presidential Party

Konstantin Kilimnik’s first name has now been corrected in this post.

Tony Podesta 2009.jpg

Conservative outlet Daily Wire noticed lobbyist extraordinaire Tony Podesta (above) had been subpoenaed in August by the “Russia Ruins U.S. Elections 2016” investigative committee head Robert Mueller (below).

In Washington.Muller, the special counsel ...

This is only interesting because Hillary’s decrepit former campaign chairman John Podesta, now a partisan writer for Washington Post, had to cease and desist his unauthorized lobbying for Vladimir Putin before signing onto Hillary‘s RMS Titanic campaign for U.S. president in 2016.

Panama Papers

Apparently, ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and the Podesta Group both worked with the pro-Putin outfit European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. Tony Podesta pocketed over $1 million to lobby the American Feds, casting former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych as a decent guy–without authorization from Washington to lobby on behalf of a foreign agent. Daily Wire reports Podesta registered these activities only after NBC blew the whistle.

Yanukovych (below) was exiled to Russia in 2014 after reportedly using his office to help the Kremlin undermine Ukraine.

Image result

Mueller started investigating Podesta’s possible violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act in October. Podesta put out a statement that his company always complies with lobbying restrictions, then resigned on October 30.

USA Today reports that while Podesta has worked on campaigns of Democrats including Ted Kennedy and George McGovern, Podesta Group itself works with Republicans as well, and their (now) former CEO Kimberley Fritts (below) was a Republican. [She jumped ship in November to start the new lobbying firm Cogent Strategies–with 40 percent of the Podesta staff.]

Kimberley Fritts is pictured. | AP Photo

However, Politico reports this transition was underway months ago. Like about the same time Tony Podesta got subpoenaed.

*

Mueller’s office and the Justice Department together have spent over $6 million on the investigation through September 30. The juiciest results of the probe thus far include Trump’s (oh so briefly) national security adviser Michael Flynn’s cooperation after admitting to lying to the FBI and Manafort’s indictment on twelve charges including conspiracy against the United States, money laundering, failure to register as a foreign agent and multiple failures to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.

Another Trump adviser, Rick Gates, was indicted and house-arrested alongside Manafort (also) on October 30.

Russian Relations

Although Manafort was recently sprung from that house arrest on $10 million bail to live in his Florida home with continued GPS monitoring, Mueller had serious misgivings, because as recently as November 30, Manafort ghostwrote an op-ed alongside a “long-time Russian colleague” who is “currently based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service.”

The “colleague,” with whom Manafort communed during the 2016 campaign, is Konstantin Kilimnik. The pair’s piece was to run under the name of Oleg Voloshin.

Mueller is understandably concerned Manafort meant to muddy the waters of his upcoming trial (which probably explains the gag order against his drumming up support with rosy op-eds). Daily Beast has an email from Manafort to Kilimnik on November 29 that includes:

“[This draft] keeps [Voloshin’s] approach but takes out pieces that would not be good to mention.”

Manafort reportedly struck the statement that he “had an ear of the president [Yanukovych] on a more regular basis than even some his ministers.”

Thanks to our sources:

http://www.dailywire.com/news/22614/special-counsel-robert-mueller-now-investigating-emily-zanotti?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_content=051717-news&utm_campaign=dwtwitter#

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/30/tony-podesta-stepping-down-from-lobbying-giant-amid-mueller-probe-244314

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/11/01/who-tony-podesta-and-why-he-under-scrutiny-bob-muellers-russia-investigation/821166001/

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/16/podesta-group-ceo-kimberley-fritts-new-lobbying-firm-245557

http://www.businessinsider.com/robert-mueller-investigation-cost-trump-russia-2017-12

https://www.unian.info/politics/1648501-lutsenko-reads-out-accusations-of-treason-against-yanukovych-video.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/paul-manafort-rick-gates-told-surrender-special-prosecutor-probe-n815536

http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/15/politics/manafort-bail-florida/index.html

https://www.thedailybeast.com/mueller-manafort-wrote-op-ed-with-russian-operative-last-month-4?ref=topic

https://www.thedailybeast.com/new-email-shows-paul-manaforts-heavy-hand-on-ghost-written-ukraine-op-ed

Hillary Updates

As we heard in the Friday “news dump,” grief-mongering, politics-playing, privacy-pissing, national security ham-handing FBI head man James Comey (who interestingly said as soon as Donald Trump seized the GOP nomination this summer that he was no longer a registered Republican, after donating to the presidential campaigns of John McCain and Mitt Romney) released a nebulous statement on a new development in the investigation of Anthony Weiner‘s allegedly felonious weiner that may have consequences for the investigation of Hillary’s Secret Server.

Comey closed the investigation after Bill Clinton forced his way onto the private jet of Attorney General Loretta Lynch just before Independence Day. Hillary, who curated all her State Department emails on her basement Secret Server and then deleted them against Federal regulations, reportedly went through a 3.5 hour debrief just before Comey’s public assessment of Hillary’s “extremely careless, but no reasonable prosecutor would charge her” behavior.

Hillary Email Updates

“It is pretty strange to put something like that out, with such little information, right before an election. In fact, it’s not just strange; it’s unprecedented and it is deeply troubling because voters deserve to get full and complete facts. Put it all out on the table.”

–Hillary rallies supporters in Daytona Beach, FL.

Once news of her Secret Server broke in spring of 2015, Hillary noted other Secretaries of State had used unauthorized, non-government emails to conduct business against regulations as well. She continues to suggest George W. Bush appointee Colin Powell told her to use the practice. Hillary’s call for transparency is interesting. State Department employees she paid privately to install her Secret Server have since “taken the Fifth” to avoid criminal prosecution.

There are also two (2) hard copies of all of the Hillary emails floating around in the U.S. Postal Service somewhere, as we previously reported:

Hillary Updates

Clinton campaign hack Robby Mook (yes that is his actual, very masculine name) had a frantic session on Fox News Sunday in which he suddenly demanded transparency for the potential criminal investigation of his super-secretive boss:

What we’re concerned and disturbed by is that Director Comey sent a letter saying we have some information. I don’t know if it’s significant; I don’t know if it isn’t.”
 
Mook said Comey didn’t say if the emails found were sent or received by the Democratic nominee. Another hypothetical situation is that the emails are duplicates that have already been released, Mook said.
 
“We need all the information,” Mook said, adding the FBI director needs to get it out quickly
There was also some confusion as to whether Comey only addressed the Republican Congress in his  letter. Turns out Hillary just scanned the first page before crying foul:

The Hill got some irate Planet Clinton sources to comment on the situation anonymously:
“I’m livid, actually,” one Clinton surrogate told The Hill. “This has turned into malpractice. It’s an unforced error at this point. I have no idea what Comey is up to but the idea this email issue is popping back up again is outrageous. It [the Secret Server] never should have occurred in the first place. Someone somewhere should have told her no. And they didn’t and now we’re all paying the price.”
*
Career Clintonite (and recent un-registered Russian lobbyist; see below) John Podesta had a scathing response to the FBI assault on the Clinton campaign, which Mr. Podesta chairs in order to get a Cabinet position in January. The Hill:
“FBI Director Comey should immediately provide the American public more information than is contained in the letter he sent to eight Republican committee chairmen,” Podesta said in a statement. 

[Podesta, like Mr. Mook in the above video, did not read the second page of the statement, which cc’d the ranking Dirty Dems.]

“Already, we have seen characterizations that the FBI is ‘reopening’ an investigation but Comey’s words do not match that characterization. Director Comey’s letter refers to emails that have come to light in an unrelated case, but we have no idea what those emails are and the Director himself notes they may not even be significant.
 
“It is extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election,” Podesta added.

*
Some Republicans who want special access to Hillary in the (still likely) second Clinton presidency have called out Comey. The Hill reports on GOP dinosaur Chuck Grassley, who is seeking election to his seventh 6-year Senate term Tuesday:

“Your letter failed to give Congress and the American people enough context to evaluate the significance or full meaning of this development,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the Republican head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote in a letter to the FBI. 

“Without additional context, your disclosure is not fair to Congress, the American people, or Secretary Clinton.”

*
And in fairness to Trump (why can’t there be a third or fourth option for President??), the FBI continues to investigate former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. Like Hillary when she was subpoenaed for the Secret Server, Mr. Manafort is also denying the FBI’s actions, according to The Hill:

Manafort has denied the allegations [of taking Russian bribes], as well as the Monday NBC report that the FBI has opened an inquiry.

“None of it is true. … There’s no investigation going on by the FBI that I’m aware of,” Manafort told NBC.

Related:

Russian Relations

*
As we have mentioned several times, Clinton campaign chair John Podesta was, until August, a chief lobbyist for the Russian state bank, Sberbank.
 All emphasis is ours.
 
Thanks to our sources:
http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/303689-report-fbi-reviewing-manaforts-foreign-ties

http://www.politico.com/blogs/james-comey-testimony/2016/07/what-party-is-james-comey-registered-as-225223

http://townhall.com/tipsheet/mattvespa/2016/10/29/clinton-what-the-fbi-is-doing-is-unprecedented-and-deeply-troubling–so-was-your-private-server-hillary-n2238481?utm_source=thdaily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=nl&newsletterad=

http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/303476-clinton-aide-what-comey-did-disturbing

http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/303901-fbi-spurs-total-chaos-in-elections-final-days

http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/303689-report-fbi-reviewing-manaforts-foreign-ties

http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/303402-anger-disbelief-in-clinton-camp

Russian Relations

Donald Trump may have a new flank to defend in his first presidential debate.

Carter Page, of Merrill Lynch in Moscow, was listed earlier this year on a list of foreign policy advisers for Trump, The Hill reports:

But Friday, after Yahoo News reported that Page was being investigated for allegedly meeting with Kremlin officials over the summer, a Trump campaign spokesman denied that Page had ever been part of the campaign.

“Mr. Page is not an advisor and has made no contribution to the campaign,” the campaign’s communications director Jason Miller said in an email to The Hill. “I’ve never spoken to him, and wouldn’t recognize him if he were sitting next to me.”

Presented with a statement from a campaign spokesperson in August that characterized Page as an “informal adviser,” albeit one who “does not speak for Mr. Trump or the campaign,” Miller doubled down.

“He’s never been a part of our campaign. Period,” he said.

[…]

The campaign did not respond to further requests for comment Friday night and Saturday morning.

Yahoo! noted Friday that intelligence officials believe Page met with Igor Sechin, an ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian oil executive who is among a group of leaders that the U.S. sanctioned in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Sechin is a former deputy prime minister and chief of staff to Putin and was described by the U.S. Treasury Department as having shown “shown utter loyalty” to the Russian strongman.

This is not the first time that Trump’s campaign has been embroiled in controversy over alleged ties to Russia. Campaign chairman Paul Manafort resigned last month shortly after reports emerged that a secret ledger from Viktor Yanukovych’s Kremlin-backed regime in Ukraine showed $12.7 million in cash payments to Manafort.

[…]

Trump and his running mate Mike Pence have called Putin a stronger leader than President Obama.

[The Hill. our emphasis]

Can’t get away with no Russian connections. Unless you’re a Democrat:

According to The Hill, Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton pounced on the possible Kremlin connection:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign responded to the Yahoo report on Friday, calling the allegations “chilling” and demanding that Trump reveal any other ties he has to “foreign assets.”

We’ve never seen anything like this in American politics,” Clinton spokesman Glen Caplin said in a statement. “Every day seems to cast new doubts on what’s truly driving Donald Trump’s decision-making: the interests of the American people or his own bottom line.

He needs to immediately disclose the full extent of his business relationships and foreign assets so the voters can make that determination for themselves.”

[our emphasis]

This is a noteworthy turn for the Clinton campaign, desperate for an edge going into Monday’s “only Republicans and Democrats get to compete because two-party duopoly” presidential debate. The camp is still recovering from Hillary’s pneumonia-fueled Labor Day collapse on a curb, in which she was dragged into a Secret Service van by handlers:

Hillary’s Hacking

Why is the Clinton surrogate slamming of Trump’s possible Kremlin ties a classic example of Hillary hypocrisy? Because her own campaign manager, John Podesta, as we reported from the Panama Papers last April, is the official Russian lobbyist for the Kremlin’s State-directed national bank:

Panama Papers

Podesta’s lobbying for the Russian state bank, Sberbank (“Savings Bank in Russia”) continues to escape the notice of the pro-Hillary media. Podesta’s past dealings in high finance were further explained by the right-wing Observer (who does use Clinton investigator Peter Schweizer as a source):

John Podesta sat on the board of a Dutch-registered company that took $35 million from the Kremlin. The company was a transparent Russian front, and how much Podesta was compensated—and for what—is unclear. In addition, Podesta failed to disclose his position on that board to the Federal government, as required by law.

But Observer is no Trump pusher, either:

Donald Trump possesses unsavory Russian ties. He parrots Kremlin propaganda, his inner circle includes people on Moscow’s payroll, and top American intelligence officials have called him an “unwitting agent” of Vladimir Putin. This is a serious matter deserving close scrutiny.

Just as serious is how the Kremlin has forged links with nearly all the presidential candidates this year, not just Trump—so much so that, no matter who wins on November 8, Putin will, too. Hillary Clinton also possesses Moscow links that merit investigation. I’ve previously explained how Kremlin money found its way to the Podesta Group, the prominent Democratic lobbying firm that just happens to be headed by the brother of her campaign chairman, John Podesta (who co-founded the firm).

[our emphasis]

According to The Hill, Mr. Podesta is hardly staying in the shadows as he conducts illegal, un-registered lobbying for the unofficial economic operations arm of Vladimir Putin: Podesta sounded off on the “dangerous” and “unpredictable” Trump before tomorrow night’s debate:

“Donald Trump will have to think about what he’s said in the past, his disparagement of that reporterwith disabilities and have to think about the names he’s called Gold Star families, Mexicans, to Muslims,” Podesta said.

“He’s a good television performer, so he may try to adjust for that in the debate, but the reality is he’s run his whole campaign that way.

[…]
“When you poke him a little bit, he comes back and attacks whoever’s doing it,” Podesta said.
 
“And that’s why he got in so much trouble when he attacked the Gold Star family. … That’s what he does. That’s who he is. That’s why he’s dangerous and unpredictable.”
[our emphasis]
Mr. Podesta’s second job seems a little shady to us. Fortunately for insiders, Americans are easily goaded into accepting horrific candidates…and the notion they have only two options in November.

 

Thanks to our sources:

http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/297599-trump-campaign-backs-away-from-adviser-suspected-of-ties-to-kremlin

Hillary’s Secret Kremlin Connection Is Quickly Unraveling

http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/297670-clinton-campaign-chair-there-is-only-one-donald-trump

Related: 

Clinton Emails, Trump and Russia