Saturday, August 25, 2018

Michael Cohen, Qatar, and an alleged million-buck bribe. Plus: Trump's "love child" and a mysterious Russian hacker

Qatar. The Maddow show noted that part of the Michael Cohen pleas involved $100,000 which Cohen received for the role he played in a real estate deal involving Qatari interests. To be frank, that deal struck me as relatively unimportant. This isn't.

The little-noticed story at the other end of the link involves Qatari spy whose cover was blown via a libel suit.
There are three reasons Qatar is probably so desperate to suppress this information about their government agent.

Firstly, the Qataris are probably worried that SDNY prosecutors may implicate Al-Rumaihi in one of Michael Cohen’s crimes now that he’s a cooperating witness. Second, Qatar’s initial false claims in open court — the deposition is not a fully open proceeding — were tailored to protect their spy, Al-Rumaihi, from being deposed in court. Lastly, Al-Rumaihi’s secret spying operation potentially exposes him to federal criminal charges for spying, unregistered foreign agency, and conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Former Qatari general consul Ahmed Al-Rumaihi first made headlines for trying to buy a $100 million townhouse in New York. But his real moment of fame arrived this summer when he was spotted ushering the Qatari Foreign Minister into a December 2016 clandestine meeting at Trump Tower during the presidential transition.

Al-Rumaihi admitted to agreeing to a $1 million bribe to Cohen, but nobody knows if that money was really paid or not, but prosecutors are certainly in position to find out now.

Furthermore, Ahmed Al-Rumaihi’s role in the Trump-Russia dossier oil deal is the very thing they are trying to distance themselves from, even though he was caught on video escorting the Qatari Foreign Minister into Trump Tower with Michael Cohen.

Nobody knows if Michael Cohen made tapes of his interactions with the Qataris, but we do know that he met with a Qatari royal family delegation this April in Miami, and Buzzfeed even found notes about that meeting which were reconstructed from his shredder.
This thing seems potentially big. Al-Rumaihi, it seems, is not just a spy. He stands at the nexus point between Qatar and Russia.
In fact, the QIA — which Ahmed Al-Rumaihi oversees from his board position — applied for permission from Vladimir Putin in just this May to take direct ownership of a substantial block of shares in the sanctioned Russian-state owned oil company Rosneft. The fact that nobody applied to the Russian government previously to own those oil company shares provides indirect evidence that the Rosneft partnership was controlled by Russian government interests.

The Singapore holding company created to end-run American sanctions and sell the shares in December 2016 just released that it earned $775 million in the first 15 months owning the shares, and valued the stake being sold to the QIA at $8.4 billion dollars.
QIA stands for Qatar Investment Authority. If I understand aright, Qatar was being used as a cut-out to help Russia avoid sanctions. And the man at the top of QIA paid a million-dollar bribe to Trump's fixer.

Did that million bucks go to Cohen personally? Or did it go to Trump?

The picture is not yet clear; we need further details and a lot more narrative simplicity. But keep on eye on the Qatar angle. If bribery is not an impeachable crime, what is?

The "love child." Everyone's clucking about the latest "catch and kill" scandal from the National Enquirer/AMI collection. This is the tale of an illegitimate child supposedly fathered by Trump during an affair with an employee working within the building. The claim is made not by the alleged mother (who remains without a name) but in an indirect fashion, via a doorman named Dino Sajudin. He received $30,000 from the Enquirer for exclusive rights to the story.

It seems as though the Enquirer's purpose was to seek out and identify individuals with derogatory information about Trump.In this particular case, however, I doubt that the "love child" actually exists.

This story is not new, although many people are treating it as such. The accusation first made the rounds back in April, by way of Ronan Farrow.

Ronan the Accuser was not the only source: The very first publication to mention this yarn was an AMI cyber-rag called Radar Online. Yes, AMI broke the story even though Pecker was, at the time, devoted to burnishing Trump's image. Do you need more reason for doubt?

Behind the scenes, AMI determined that Sajudin lacked credibility. Of course, a source's lack of credibility has never stopped the Enquirer from publishing smears about Democrats

Let's review a Cannonfire post from last April...
As noted in our previous post, Sajudin is not exactly the most credible source one could wish for. Everything about the guy makes me envision the word "SCUZZBALL" in blazing gold letters above his head. The NY Daily News interviewed Sajudin's former wife, who offered the following observation:
“He’s infamous for making up stories,” Nikki Benfatto said of her former husband Dino Sajudin.

“He’s seen the chupacabra. He’s seen bigfoot. One of our friends who passed away, he saw him too, walking down the street.”
Sajudin first made the news in an apparently unrelated matter back in 2012, when he witnessed a 21 year-old woman jump from a building in an apparent suicide. At the time, some suspected that the death might have a hidden dimension, since the building "houses a number of diplomats" according to one news story.

Remember Yevgeniy Nikulin? He's the Russian computer hacker arrested in the Czech Republica for breaking into various sites. It is suspected -- but not proven -- that his activities may have proven useful to the effort to deep-six Hillary. From the Guardian, last January:
Formspring, one of the sites he allegedly hacked, was the platform used for sexting by Anthony Weiner, the former New York mayoral candidate and husband of Huma Abedin, Clinton’s closest aide.
The Russians have also sought to extradite him for a computer crime committed in 2009. It is thought that he was recruited to work for the government on that occasion. (American intelligence services do the same thing.)

He's set to stand trial in the San Francisco area. Bloomberg offers a report which offers a few

The mystery around Yevgeniy Nikulin deepened Friday when a federal judge asked why his lawyers, who want him evaluated for possible mental illness, chose a San Francisco psychiatrist with a troubled past at California’s medical board.

And Nikulin’s defense team -- led by a New York-based attorney seasoned in representing Russians and Eastern Europeans charged with serious crimes in the U.S. -- say Russian officials have shown unusually strong interest in his case, arranging at least once to visit him in jail when the attorneys weren’t present.
They clearly do not want the guy to blab. Nikulin's attorney is terrified that his client will end up poisoned. Nikulin has taken to laughing at strange moments, and to spend long, disturbing stretches staring into the void. Apparently, he began to act that way only recently.

The shrink seems to be an interesting fellow...
But two days after the defense lawyers submitted the name of their chosen psychiatrist, Alexander Grinberg, U.S. District Judge William Alsup ordered Bukh and prosecutors to provide him with more information on Grinberg’s “probationary status with the California Medical Board arising out of complaints of unprofessional conduct and gross negligence.” The judge set an Aug. 27 deadline for both sides to comment.

Bukh said he’s not aware of the complaints against Grinberg, who has a 2-star rating on Yelp and a 4.5-star rating on Grinberg, whose voicemail has greetings in English and Russian, didn’t immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment.
Bet you're curious to learn what Yelp has to say about the guy, aren't you? Here's a report from an unhappy customer...
this man is horrible.
he will make you wait for 1 hour or more after your appointment time to see him.
repeatedly. this happened every time i went.
and he is a psychiatrist!
psychiatric patients especially do not need to be made to wait for 2 hours!
then, he did not address any of the concerns i came to him with.

I would not even take my dog to see this guy!
A more sympathetic customer offered the following:
Yes there are long waits. But that is i believe because Dr.G fills a particular niche serving underserved pts , many of whom are foreign born and non-english speaking.

That being said he treated an almost nonverbal young friend of mine at a very difficult time in life, got her stabilized on decent meds , did not over- medicate, and continued to followup until other solutions began to take effect. He offers a lot of time , compassion and wisdom for your money.
Those are the only two reviews. I don't believe that we should suspect Grinberg of being party to a nefarious conspiracy based on one really bad Yelp review.

That said, expressing concern over Nikulin's safety is perfectly justified. If he did have anything to do with the strange affair of Anthony Weiner, the Russians are not the only ones who would want to see him dead or discredited.

Drugs can be used to accomplish either goal.
The love child story if true won't sway Evangelical Cultists, they'll give Trump another Mulligans. The Qatar/Rosneft dealing will interest Robert Mueller and Washington republicans will ignore it. The Great White Dope was prophetic when he said he could shoot someone on 5th Ave and not lose votes. The man can read an audience that's for sure.
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