Daily Check-In 10/17/2018

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

 

THE RUSSIAN INVESTIGATION

 

The Treasury case centers on a dozen stories published by BuzzFeed News that described suspicious activity reports, or SARs, which are generated by banks when a financial transaction may involve illegal activity.

Prosecutors charged Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards with the unauthorized disclosure of suspicious activity reports and conspiracy. The charges were filed in federal court in New York but she made her first court appearance in Northern Virginia.

Edwards, 40, lives outside Richmond and works as a senior adviser at the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, often referred to as “FinCEN.” At a brief court appearance in Alexandria, she was released on $100,000 bond and instructed to appear next month in court in New York. She was also prohibited from speaking to anyone at FinCEN or accessing any FinCEN equipment.

Geoffrey S. Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Edwards “betrayed her position of trust by repeatedly disclosing highly sensitive information.”

The stories cited in the criminal complaint filed against Edwards match the headlines, wording and information contained in BuzzFeed News stories, though the court papers did not identify the news organization by name.

Those stories often focused on suspicious activity reports related to key figures in the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Russian diplomats and other Trump associates.

One of the stories published in September included financial transactions involving Rob Goldstone, a British music publicist who helped arrange a meeting between senior Trump advisers and a Russian lawyer in 2016 that has been a focus of the investigation.

The last BuzzFeed story cited in the charging documents was published on Monday, again drawing largely on information from SARs reports.

About 2 million suspicious activity reports were filed in 2017 by banks, money service businesses, casinos and others, according to FinCEN officials. On their own, suspicious activity reports often do not mean very much. But taken with other evidence, they can help guide investigators to specific transactions that might involve financial crimes.

The 18-page criminal complaint details a search of Edwards’s phone and a flash drive she possessed, on which FBI agents say they found a lengthy digital trail of her interactions with the reporters, in which she shared SARS reports.

“The majority of the files were saved to a folder on the flash drive entitled ‘Debacle — Operation-CF,’ and sub-folders bearing names such as ‘Debacle\Emails\Asshat’,” the complaint stated. “Edwards is not known to be involved in any official FinCEN project or task bearing these file titles or code names.”

The flash drive files “appear to contain thousands of SARs, along with other highly sensitive material relating to Russia, Iran, and the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” the complaint charges.

When FBI agents questioned Edwards on Tuesday, she initially denied having contacts with the reporter whose name appears on the stories at issue, then “changed her account, and admitted that on numerous occasions, she accessed SARs on her computer, photographed them, and sent those photographs to Reporter-1” using an encrypted application on her phone, according to the complaint.

The court filing said Edwards referred to herself as a whistleblower in the interview, but added while she had previously filed a whistleblower complaint related to her work, that did not involve the SARs disclosures.

The court documents also indicate the FBI has investigated one of Edwards’s bosses, an associate director of FinCEN, noting that person exchanged 325 text messages with the reporter in question during the month when the first story appeared citing SARs reports.

The boss, referred to in court papers as Edwards “co-conspirator,” was not identified in court papers. People familiar with the case identified the person as Kip Brailey. Brailey did not respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday.

A FinCEN spokesman said Edwards has been placed on administrative leave and declined to comment about Brailey.

A BuzzFeed spokesman declined to comment.

Remember a while back when we heard reports of SARs disappearing from the FinCEN system, so a Senior Treasury Official took what info they had and went to a reporter to put this in the press? (Daily Check-In 05/16/2018)  Yeah, this isn’t that.  That happened when the SAR’s for Michael Cohen went into a restricted status.  These charges are about Suspicious Activity Reports being given to BuzzFeed starting in the Fall of 2017, which formed the basis and groundwork for a lot of their reporting about the Russian Investigation.

It wasn’t just Manafort’s SAR’s that were given to the press, but also those of other parties in the Russian Investigation like Rob Goldstone, Rick Gates, The Argalov’s and Maria Butina.

I do appreciate the naming convention she used.  “Operation CF” isn’t an official project name or code name, unless the Treasury has let the agents name ops things like Clusterfuck.  CF=Clusterfuck.

She has claimed whistleblower protections.  Let’s see how this goes.

 

KHASHOGGI & SAUDI ARABIA

As more details come out, the worse this is going to get, and the worse it will look.  The newest reports now refer to specifics in a recording made of the murder and torture.

How? How could he have recorded his own murder?

“Hey Siri, Record.”

You’ll have to get an app that automatically records everything once it’s opened, but this is how Jamal Khashoggi likely recorded his own murder.

Jamal wore an Apple Watch, 3rd Generation.  Not the most recent version, but the version right before that, which comes with either built-in GPS and LTE connection, or just GPS connection.  The way to tell the difference is the LTE, or cell capable watches, have a red dot on the crown.  Both versions connect to their parent phone via Bluetooth, but the LTE version can make phone calls on its own.

Jamal likely started a recording with his watch while keeping his phone outside of the consulate, but close enough to be in Bluetooth range, say 50 feet.  If he was on LTE, the range likely wouldn’t matter as he’d be calling his phone from his watch.

According to the reports, as soon as he was inside, he was attacked by his murderers, who then started cutting off his fingers.  They didn’t sedate him, knock him out, or strip him, or even ask basic questions.  They went straight to the mutilation.  Because they started hacking him to pieces right off the bat, they didn’t check to see if his watch was doing anything.

Imagine being the person on the other end of the recording, hearing someone that trusted you being butchered like a farm animal by nonchalant killers.  Now imagine the rage at knowing that this all likely could have been prevented, if so ordered.

This is why Trump and Kushner are now Accessories to Murder.

 

COHEN, NEW YORK, AND THE OTHER LAWSUITS

FBI agents are probing the Manhattan district attorney’s office over its handling of high-profile cases that were dropped once lawyers for the well-connected subjects made donations, the Daily News has learned.

Investigators have been quietly seeking information in recent months about decision-making by DA Cy Vance Jr. and his staff, sources with knowledge of the undertaking said.

The queries are centered on how things are handled in the office and who the major players are, the sources said. The FBI interest grew out of revelations that investigations were closed once lawyers representing the bigwig suspects made hefty donations to Vance’s campaign coffers, sources said.

The team has asked about current and former high-level staff members and their relationships to private law firms and outside agencies, sources said. Investigators are considering whether undue influence was at play.

The extent of the inquiry was not immediately known and it was not clear whether criminal charges were being considered.

Manhattan’s top prosecutor came under fire last year after questions surfaced about his office’s 2015 decision not to go after ex-Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein after model Ambra Battilana accused him of groping her breasts in his Tribeca office.

A lawyer hired by Weinstein at the time had given Vance $24,000 and another attorney sent him $10,000 after the decision to spare the powerful producer an arrest.

In another case, the DA also failed to bring criminal charges against two of President Trump’s children in an alleged real estate scam.

Cyrus Vance, DA for Manhattan, has a lot of explaining to do.  Remember when his office wanted to press criminal charges against the Trump Children for fraud but he killed that after Trump’s lawyer Mark Kasowitz? (Daily Check-In 10/6/2017,Daily Check-In 10/11/2017)  That was last year.  In the time since then, his behavior has raised a lot of eyebrows.  Now, we finally have confirmation that his graft caught the attention of the FBI.

The question I have is how pervasive is this?  How deep does it go?

From the Pro Publica Piece:

Patterns of deceptive practices occurred in a dozen deals across the globe, as the business expanded into international projects, and the Trumps often participated. One common pattern, visible in more than half of those transactions, was a tendency to misstate key sales numbers.

In interviews and press conferences, Ivanka Trump gave false sales figures for projects in Mexico’s Baja California; Panama City, Panama; Toronto and New York’s SoHo neighborhood. These statements weren’t just the legendary Trump hype; they misled potential buyers about the viability of the developments.

Another pattern: Donald Trump repeatedly misled buyers about the amount (or existence) of his ownership in projects in Tampa, Florida; Panama; Baja and elsewhere. For a tower planned in Tampa, for example, Trump told a local paper in 2005 that his ownership would be less than 50 percent: “But it’s a substantial stake. I recently said I’d like to increase my stake but when they’re selling that well they don’t let you do that.” In reality, Trump had no ownership stake in the project.

The Trumps often made money even when projects failed. And when they tanked, the Trumps simply ignored their prior claims of close involvement, denied any responsibility and walked away.

Trump licensed his name for an initial fee of $1 million. But that was just the beginning of the revenue streams, a lengthy and varied assortment that granted him a piece of everything from sales of apartment units to a cut of minibar sales, and was notable for the myriad ways in which both success and failure triggered payments to him.

Consider the final accounting: In the wake of the project’s bankruptcy, a 50 percent default rate and his company’s expulsion from managing the hotel, Donald Trump walked away with between $30 million and $55 million.

If everything went smoothly, according to the bond prospectus, Trump’s take would be $74 million by 2010. That sum was equivalent to about a third of the entire financing for the project.

Of course, things would go less than perfectly. But Trump was protected if that happened, too. His contract created a safety net for him if prices rose so high that buyers failed to close. One provisionrequired that two years after the first closing, developers would pay the Trumps fees for unsold units — basing the amount on the average sales prices of the units that had closed. In theory, avoiding such payments provided an incentive to sell more units; in reality, it meant that Trump would get paid whether or not units actually sold.

The contract required that monthly sales and marketing reports be provided to the Trumps. It was a stipulation the Trump Organization appeared to value: In an email related to another project, Trump’s son Eric chastised business partners in the Dominican Republic for delays in making such reports. “I am getting weekly emails from my team who requests this info on all projects for basic monitoring purposes,” Eric wrote.

His sister, meanwhile, asserted her engagement with the company’s endeavors. “I’m involved in every aspect of our new construction projects,” Ivanka said in a 2008 interview. “[A] lot of what I do is get involved in the acquisition process, from sourcing the potential opportunities and then the initial due-diligence process, but then, of course, I follow the deals through to predevelopment planning, design, interior design, architectural design, sales and marketing, and, ultimately, through operations.”

Ivanka Trump’s exaggerations about the Ocean Club reflected a tactic she and her father employed repeatedly in other cases, ProPublica and WNYC found. Their statements, typically made in the midst of sales drives, tended to overstate the number of units under contract or the Trump Organization’s equity stake in projects scattered around the globe.

The Trumps’ propensity to overstate sales led them, as ProPublica, WNYC and the New Yorker reported last year, to be investigated on potential felony fraud charges in one case. Ivanka had announced in June 2008 that 60 percent of the units at the SoHo tower had been bought when in fact 15 percent had, according to an affidavit filed by a Trump partner. The Manhattan district attorney’s office considered charging the Trumps but backed off after a visit from a donor — Trump’s attorney Marc Kasowitz. (The DA, Cyrus Vance, denied he was influenced by the donation but later changed his policy and now refuses donations from lawyers with cases before him.)

 

SCOTUS & THE COURTS

 

TRUMP THE RUSSIAN ASSET

 

TRAITOR TOTS

 

FIGHTING BACK

 

IMMIGRATION

 

COLD WAR 2.0

 

#NEVERAGAIN

 

FIXING THE INTERNET

 

THE PROPAGANDA MACHINE

 

WHITE HOUSE CHAOS

 

TRADE WAR AND ECONOMY

 

STUDENT LOANS

 

GOP: THE PARTY OF LINCOLN IS DEAD

Despite the upsides of his presidency, like tax cuts and broad deregulatory efforts, Donald Trump has always presented the most obvious reason to pull the parachute — but I’ve always believed in the fight to better the GOP. After the 2012 election, I wanted to help in expanding the party tent, in making the GOP more inclusive, and in thinking ahead to a less white America. But we all know what happened next.

When the Republican base doubled down on its worst instincts in backing Trump, I felt the fight for the soul of the GOP was more important than ever. Our country can’t abide with an increasingly authoritarian Democratic Party and a Republican Party whose response is to say “hold my beer.

So why exit the GOP now, years later? A Republican president offering cover to neo-Nazis after the rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was pretty nauseating. I still can’t forget Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio or emphatic endorsement of Roy Moore. If you go by the running list of nasty things the Republican de facto leader has said or done, obviously that would seem like ample reason to have left long ago.

Supreme Court nominees have been dumped or withdrawn many times before, but this time it had to be do or die. Passions over Kavanaugh were inflamed not just out of a sense of injustice, but because the pursuit of domination requires ownership of the courts. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s success in getting Kavanaugh across the finish line despite sexual assault allegations was not the kind of moment where’d you’d expect a victory party. Yet the popping of corks ensued anyway across social media and hotel bars throughout D.C.

Republicans won, Democrats lost. But who is asking if the country won anything?

 

RACISM, PLAIN AND SIMPLE

 

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

 

PRIESTS

 

ENVIRONMENT

 

ELECTION 2018

 

THINKING AHEAD

 

PROGRESS IS PROGRESS

 

IN OTHER NEWS…

 

RUMOR MILL

WOAH In Sines v Kessler, Richard Spencer just filed a bunch of discovery without marking it confidential. This includes texts between him, Eli Mosley, and Jason Kessler regarding UTR 1 and UTR 2.

Or scratch that, just UTR 1.

This is the fucking sauce right here. A conversation between Spencer and Mosley about Jason, and talking about dropping him after UTR because he was “weird.” The context here is the presser Jason gave with the Warlocks biker gang.

And here’s Jason calling Spencer “my liege,” telling him that he’s “raising an army” and will “crack skulls.” Just go to fucking prison already.

I have to do actual work and my containers are done building so I will analyze more later but suffice it to say holy shit

In another text, Eli Mosley criticizes SURJ NoVa’s planning communication style, referring to their planning document as “our literal military operation document.” That’s gonna play real well in court, champ.

They discovered that someone in Jason’s family was Jewish, so these are the discussions. I’D LIKE TO HEAR MORE ABOUT THAT FUNDER.

We’ve known about the funder for months, but not the identity. One of my sources has told me that Jason received a sum of about $40,000 sometime in late 2016 or early 2017, which was linked to his recall efforts for Wes Bellamy.

The source also told me that Jason used to move money in and out of his account whenever his application renewals for his community housing were due. (This is called ‘money laundering’).

So far we haven’t been able to pin down the source, but it’s a short list, and this nugget of information allows us to update our priors.

True story, Richard Spencer’s trolling of yours truly is an important element of this lawsuit.

As the excellent @JLRLawpointed out, these materials were exhibits to a brief by Spencer to try to limit further discovery. If this is what he’s handed over, I can’t imagine how bad the rest of it is.

In this exchange, Jason tells Spencer that he will “literally fight” to have Richard there. Spencer responds by acknowledging his presence on the poster may lead to danger. Shortly later, he agreed to come. And then a woman was murdered.

Is it me or does this all feel like it was a huge plan to do violence

Withholding the after party location from David Duke is the most Mean Girls shit in this entire affair

According to the texts, Eli and Richard think that Jason’s funder was Jimmy Fry. Fry was someone who harassed me a LOT on Twitter that summer. He was eccentric even by Nazi standards.

b r u t a l

This thread is 50% uncovering exhaustive evidence of a conspiracy to commit political violence and 50% marveling in the vicious cruelty that is hormonal Nazi drama

Richard: If I attend there will likely be violence Jason: yes me and many others are ready and willing to do much violence Richard: ok let me think a bit Jason: the cops are definitely on our side and will support us doing violence

Jason: hey I need some 1 on 1 time with you no middle men Richard: right on just go ahead and call my middle man to set it up

Man, Spencer has tried arguing in court that he had nothing to do with the planning of the rally but both main organizers, Jason and Eli, are in these texts seeking his advise and permission on a bunch of factors.

I hope the pictures show up this time.  If not, please check out the Twitter thread.

 

That’s it for Wednesday.  I really need to trim down what I cover.

I’m getting a lot of noise nowadays.  Especially on Reddit.  Part of it might be with how much new news there is, or how voting has started for the midterms in a few states across the country, but I’m having a hard time seeing Russia and Mueller related news on /r/Politics.  I’m seeing the stories in other feeds, but they only appear briefly there on the New page, then disappear.  Meanwhile, stories from a week or two ago are rising to the front page.

I’ve seen this happen before with Butina stories and with Ronan Farrow articles.  Sometimes the trolls bury pieces they don’t like.  They can get overpowered by the rest of the audience, but trolls coming out of the woodwork to bury a piece is, unfortunately, getting to be common.

It’s also why I use multiple sources of stories, and try to go to specific sites instead of just aggregates.  It’s easy to see patterns in the various battlefields, if one knows what to look for.

 

Thank you, and have a good one.

 

“Without Journalists, it’s just propaganda.”

– Katy Tur

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