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Saturday, May 13, 2017

FBI raid, Comey, DiFi, Trump, Felix Sater -- and Neil Bush

RAID! A couple of days ago, the FBI raided Strategic Campaign Group, a Manafort-linked Republican consultancy group in Annapolis. Was this raid linked to Russiagate or the Comey firing? Newsweek says no...
It prompted speculation on social media that the raids were linked to the ongoing investigation, but Rogers told the Gazette that the raids were connected to the work the company did on candidate Ken Cuccinelli’s failed 2013 gubernatorial race.

Cuccinelli, the former Virginia attorney-general, sued the Strategic Campaign Group in 2014, alleging the group had formed a political action group (PAC) taking donations to help fund his campaign, but he did not see a dollar of the money.
Is that all there is to it? Similar allegations have been leveled against campaign "consultants" in the past without triggering this kind of reaction from the Bureau. Note, for example, this...
The day after the FBI raided the offices of a Maryland campaign consulting firm that has done work on national and local races, the firm deleted or locked much of its online presence.

The website for Strategic Campaign Group, which had previously featured more than a dozen pages detailing the firm's various campaign services, blog posts, social media, frequently asked questions and biographical information about its founders, has been pared down to just a homepage — which itself has several dead links still pointing to pages that were active one day ago.

In addition, Strategic Campaign Group's Facebook, Instagram and Google Plus accounts have all been closed, and the firm made its Twitter feed private. Its Pinterest and LinkedIn pages remain active.

On Thursday, FBI agents swarmed the firm's offices on Main Street in Annapolis, placing garbage bags over the windows to keep onlookers from peering inside while agents worked.
Also see here...
First of all, so-called "scam PACs" are normally the domain of the Federal Elections Commission, which conservative activists have rendered toothless. Yes, the FBI does investigate fraud, yet the amounts at issue in the Cuccinelli scandal are in the mid five figures - hardly the kind of operation that the Washington, DC FBI office normally goes out of its way to take down. And the FBI has never said anything about a new focus on scam PACs.

Furthermore, Cuccinelli told the Associated Press "that he'd not spoken to any federal law enforcement officials about Strategic Campaign Group but is ‘curious' to see where the case goes" - which is odd, since the FBI normally talks to alleged victims as part of any investigation.
Odd indeed. It's fair to suggest that the FBI was after something else, and that Cuccinelli's complaint merely served as a convenient excuse for the raid.
Strategic Campaign Group has more than one connection to Trump's world.

Although the information has been scrubbed from the organization's website today, Senior adviser Dennis Whitfield used to be a director at BKSH and Associates, a company founded by Trump conspiracy-wrangler Roger Stone and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort that more or less invented the foreign lobbying trade. Through a merger, BKSH later became Prime Policy Group, which worked for the government of Russian puppet Victor Yanukovitch in Ukraine. Prime Policy Group acknowledged its relationship to Stone and Manafort as late as last July.
Remember, Yanukovich is the fellow who poisoned his rival. He also hired Tad Devine, the master manipulator behind the Bernie Sanders campaign.

I stand with those who strongly suspect that there is more -- much more -- to this raid than at first meets the eye. But that doesn't mean I'll go out on a limb with Louise Mensch...
The @FBI raids yesterday were connected to #TrumpRussia - there is a #RICO case against the entire @GOP sources say
The entire GOP? The entire GOP is millions of people. That'd be one hell of a RICO case.

Comey's a-comin'! My earlier story must have been based on an overly-cynical assessment of the situation. It turns out that James Comey does want to testify -- in public.

Time for those alleged tapes, Mr. Trump. Put up or shut up.

DiFi gets it right. I was never a big fan of Diane Feinstein. But she's doing the right thing right now...
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a statement that she supports "Senator Durbin’s call for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to resign if he is unwilling to appoint a special counsel. These investigations are far too important to risk disruption, delay or interference."
Morgan Lewis is the name of Trump's TREMENDOUS law firm that wrote the TREMENDOUS letter which Josh Marshall reproduces here (tremendously). But Morgan Lewis also has TREMENDOUS ties to a TREMENDOUS country called Russia. The following comes from the Morgan Lewis website:
MOSCOW, May 2, 2016: Morgan Lewis has been recognized by Chambers & Partners’ 2016 Chambers Europe guide as Russia Law Firm of the Year. The prestigious honor was announced at the publication’s recent annual awards dinner in London, where firms from 24 countries were recognized.
Could the optics possibly be more tremendously awful? Does Trump even care about optics anymore? What's next? Is he going to start quoting Pushkin and humming Prokofiev?

Speaking of Mother Russia: Forbes' Richard Behar has written a new piece on Trump's Russian links. This one takes us back to Bayrock, Felix Sater and Tevfik Arif, names you will recall from previous posts. Bottom line: Sater and Arif (both former Trump partners) have fallen out.
Sater warned Arif, in writing, that news headlines will read: “The Kazakh Gangster and President Trump,” unless Arif forks over $3.5 million to reimburse Sater for legal expenses he claims he’s owed, the Journal reported. Specifically, Sater is threatening to reveal negative information about Arif’s “past relationship with President Trump and the Republic of Kazakhstan”—as well as Arif’s alleged connections to “organized crime figures and his business activities in Kazakhstan,” which involve “dealings in the post-Soviet metals industry there.”

Spokespeople for Bayrock and Arif have called the allegations “unsubstantiated falsehoods.” The general counsel of Trump Organization didn’t respond to calls and emails.
Sater, however, may not even need the dough. I’ve discovered that he and a former Trump Organization colleague, Daniel Ridloff, received roughly $20 million—in a settlement of a case that is linked to an alleged multi-billion-dollar global money laundering scheme originating in Kazakhstan, and stretching to Russia and the U.S.
Here's where the story becomes absolutely delicious...
Specifically, both men were accused in a 2013 complaint filed by a Swiss financier of absconding with nearly $43 million from the sale of an Ohio shopping mall (Tri-County Mall near Cincinnati) to—American Pacific International Capital (APIC). That company is based in San Francisco. One of the directors is businessman Neil Bush—the son of former President George H.W. Bush and brother of former President George W. Bush.
Bush says he knows nothing about Sater, and that his company bought the mall at a public auction. However, Sater's bio lists himself as an adviser to a Neil Bush oil company that used to drill in Turkmenistan.

Was Donald Trump an FBI asset?
Such was the claim made by someone in the comments section of this very blog, just a few days ago. Unfortunately, the commenter couldn't back up his words with evidence. (Some parapolitical theorists have reached such a heightened level of cosmic awareness that they have transcended the need for "evidence" and "proof" and "citation of sources" and similar mundane trifles.)

Yet the allegation has a certain attraction. As all readers of Wayne Barret and David Cay Johnston know, Donald Trump has gotten away with all sorts of legally dubious crap over the years. It makes sense that Donnie would protect his interests by making various deals with the feds.

You may have noticed that Trump Tower has a history of renting to high-level crooks, and that the feds always found it easy to "tapp" those particular suites. (Apparently, there has been a lot of bugging in that building.) One example would be Felix Sater, a former Trump Tower tenant who himself functioned as an FBI informant.
Latest from Louise:


PS, Joseph, I understand your predicament with Louise. I have a similar one. Much as I despise and I am disgusted by what Kellyanne says, I have a "thing" for her.
About the FBI raid: the scam group had been siphoning off money from Trump supporters, stealing from Trump's campaign as it were. As Bert Gordon (George C. Scott) screamed at Eddie Felson in "The Hustler": "You owe me MONEY!" Possibly or likely, Comey wouldn't bother about it (it's a job for the FEC, not the FBI), so he was fired, and the next day the raid happens. You know: "Should I give this one to Clemenza?" "No, give it to one of the Jew congressmen. We're not murderers...".

About Comey's willingness to testify and Trump's "tap[p]e" threat: Trump warned against leaking, not about testifying. Benefit of doubt for Cannonfire: Likely Trump doesn't understand the distinction.
Here's an article about the sale of Tri County Mall from the Cincinnati Business Courier:

Don't know if it includes anything you don't already know, Joseph or it may not contain any relevant information. Just thought something might catch your eye!

I also suggested DT might be a confidential informant back on March 21.

"How could DT survive the level of surveillance brought to bear on his property (Trump Tower) without being swept up and indited himself? Based on the circumstances you (Joe) have outlines DT could have been either a confidential informant and/or aiding security services in a sting operation..."

As a casino owner DT would know all about surveillance, and counter-surveillance. Casinos need to watch the employees, and make sure the customers are not using surveillance technology to cheat. If DT had similar surveillance and counter surveillance operating at Trump Tower, even the FBI might check in with DT's chief of security before trying to set up a surveillance operation in the building. Donald Art-of-the-Deal Trump would know how to play that.

Think about the complicated relationship billionaire casino owner Howard Hughes had with the FBI/CIA/Mafia.

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