The Jimmy Kimmel Test



The Russian Connection: Felix Slater, RICO and Trump

Donald Trump’s connections to Russian organized crime is getting greater scrutiny by special counsel Robert Mueller and his team. Trump’s association with a known convicted felon could lead to charges against Trump for financial fraud. Earlier this week in Brooklyn Federal Court, a lawyer representing an investigative reporter requested that the documents related to Slater’s guilty plea in a $40 million Mafia stock fraud scheme and how he avoided prison time be made public. The documents include the complaint, the cooperation agreement and the pre-sentencing report from Sater’s case. The lawyer, Richard Lerner, argued that the documents may contain evidence that Donald Trump committed financial fraud by knowingly doing real estate deals with a known felon.

Now, Mueller has hired Andrew Weissman, one of the prosecutors in the 1998 mob stock-scam case during which Felix Sater flipped.

On Monday night MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow spelled out the Mafia stock scheme, Russian mobsters, money laundering and Felix Slater’s involvement along with Trump and financial fraud.

Bloomberg View executive editor and columnist Timothy L. O’Brien has a close examination of Trump, Russia and his shadowy business partnerships

Robert Mueller is examining whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice when he fired James Comey as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Washington Post recently reported. As we’ve heard for months now, there is also a probe of possible collusion between Trump’s campaign team and the Kremlin to tilt the 2016 election in the president’s favor.

But the Justice Department inquiry led by Mueller now has added flavors. The Post noted that the investigation also includes “suspicious financial activity” involving “Russian operatives.” The New York Times was more specific in its account, saying that Mueller is looking at whether Trump associates laundered financial payoffs from Russian officials by channeling them through offshore accounts.

Trump has repeatedly labeled Comey’s and Mueller’s investigations “witch hunts,” and his lawyers have said that the last decade of his tax returns (which the president has declined to release) would show that he had no income or loans from Russian sources. In May, Trump told NBC that he has no property or investments in Russia. “I am not involved in Russia,” he said.

But that doesn’t address national security and other problems that might arise for the president if Russia is involved in Trump, either through potentially compromising U.S. business relationships or through funds that flowed into his wallet years ago. In that context, a troubling history of Trump’s dealings with Russians exists outside of Russia: in a dormant real-estate development firm, the Bayrock Group, which once operated just two floors beneath the president’s own office in Trump Tower.

Bayrock partnered with the future president and his two eldest children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, on a series of real-estate deals between 2002 and about 2011, the most prominent being the troubled Trump Soho hotel and condominium in Manhattan.

During the years that Bayrock and Trump did deals together, the company was also a bridge between murky European funding and a number of projects in the U.S. to which the president once lent his name in exchange for handsome fees. Icelandic banks that dealt with Bayrock, for example, were easy marks for money launderers and foreign influence, according to interviews with government investigators, legislators, and others in Reykjavik, Brussels, Paris and London. Trump testified under oath in a 2007 deposition that Bayrock brought Russian investors to his Trump Tower office to discuss deals in Moscow, and said he was pondering investing there.

“It’s ridiculous that I wouldn’t be investing in Russia,” Trump said in that deposition. “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment.”

One of Bayrock’s principals was a career criminal named Felix Sater who had ties to Russian and American organized crime groups. Before linking up with the company and with Trump, he had worked as a mob informant for the U.S. government, fled to Moscow to avoid criminal charges while boasting of his KGB and Kremlin contacts there, and had gone to prison for slashing apart another man’s face with a broken cocktail glass.

In a series of interviews and a lawsuit, a former Bayrock insider, Jody Kriss, claims that he eventually departed from the firm because he became convinced that Bayrock was actually a front for money laundering.

Kriss has sued Bayrock, alleging that in addition to laundering money, the Bayrock team also skimmed cash from the operation, dodged taxes and cheated him out of millions of dollars. Sater and others at Bayrock would not comment for this column; in court documents they have contested Kriss’s charges and describe him, essentially, as a disgruntled employee trying to shake them down.

But Kriss’s assertion that Bayrock was a criminal operation during the years it partnered with Trump has been deemed plausible enough to earn him a court victory: In December, a federal judge in New York said Kriss’s lawsuit against Bayrock, which he first filed nine years ago, could proceed as a racketeering case. [..]

Trump has said over the years that he barely knows Sater. In fact, Sater — who former Bayrock employees say met frequently with Trump in the Trump Organization’s New York headquarters, once shepherded the president’s children around Moscow and carried a Trump Organization business card — apparently has remained firmly in the orbit of the president and his closest advisers.

Sater made the front page of the New York Times in February for his role in a failed effort — along with Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen — to lobby former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on a Ukrainian peace proposal.

Comey was still Trump’s FBI director when he testified before the House Intelligence Committee in March about Russian interference in the 2016 election. During that hearing, Comey was asked if he was “aware of” Felix Sater, his criminal history and his business dealings with the Trump Organization. Comey declined to comment.

It’s unclear whether Sater and Bayrock are part of Mueller’s investigation. But Mueller has populated his investigative team with veteran prosecutors expert in white-collar fraud and Russian-organized-crime probes. One of them, Andrew Weissmann, once led an FBI team that examined financial fraud leading to the demise of Enron. Before that, Weissmann was a prosecutor with the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn and part of a team that prosecuted Sater and mob associates for investment scams in the late 1990s.

However the Mueller probe unfolds, a tour of Trump’s partnership with Bayrock exposes a number of uncomfortable truths about the president’s business history, his judgment, and the possible vulnerabilities that his past as a freewheeling dealmaker — and his involvement with figures like Sater — have visited upon his present as the nation’s chief executive.

The rest of the article is well worth the read.

Rachel Maddow interviews Mr. O’Brien about his article and how Trump’s past business dealings could integrates with the investigation into Trump’s Russian connection.

The Breakfast Club (The Typewriter)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

A key moment in the Watergate scandal; Adolf Hitler visits Paris after France falls to Nazi Germany; The typewriter gets a patent; Polio vaccine pioneer Dr. Jonas Salk and TV producer Aaron Spelling die.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Machines take me by surprise with great frequency.

Alan Turing

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Lines in the Sand

So the draft Senate version of ‘Repeal and Replace’ is out and it’s every bit as horrible and disingenuous as its secretive genesis would suggest.

Far from making any substantive changes to the deplorable House Bill, it endorses and reinforces its most heinous aspects.

The principle goal of both Bills is to steal $800 Billion from Medicaid to give to the richest 2% (with the bulk of measurable benefits going to the top .1%). The effect will be to kill around 100 sick people every single day and make 10s of Millions of Senior Citizens homeless.

It can, and no doubt will by the “Moderate” Republicans who think it politically counter productive to be associated with such slaughter (not that they have a soul, just that they want to be re-elected), be claimed it is slightly less Draconian than the House Bill in that the initial cuts are not as steep and the implementation extended, and that the benefits are still based on individual patients rather than being a strict State based cap regardless of the number of sick and old people.

On the other hand in the Senate Bill the cuts are deeper and the benefit base is indexed to the rate of general inflation rather than the medical inflation rate which is much higher (the principle failure of the ACA is that it does nothing at all to address the monopolistic price increases of Big Pharma, Hospital Conglomerates, Medical Device Manufacturers, Testing Providers, et al.).

In short, 98% of U.S. Citizens should die, slowly, in great pain.

No doubt other terrible details will emerge. We’ve only had the Bill to examine for 6 hours or so and most of the text is amendments to existing language that must be studied to understand the import.

And indeed that’s the primary barrier to passage at the moment. Rand Paul (R Ky), Ted Cruz (R Tx), Mike Lee (R Ut), and Ron Johnson (R Wi) have already announced they will not support the Bill as presented because it preserves ‘too much Obamacare’. Pat Toomey (R Pa) wants to repeal Medicaid sooner.

Conventional Wisdom suggests that as many as 30+ Senators from States that expanded Medicaid might find the bill too harsh. Rob Portman (R Oh), Shelley Capito (R WV), Lisa Murkowski (R Ak), and Cory Gardner (R Co) are cited as leading voices in this group. Dean Heller (R Nv) might also be a member as he faces a tough challenge in 2018.

Some Senators (and they are mostly members of that 30+ group being double counted) are alleged to have State based issues that will make it even harder to garner their support. Mostly it means they’ll just be easier to bribe.

Now the basic public lie about “Repeal and Replace” is that it’s going to reduce Insurance Premiums. To the extent that it is it’s going to do so it’s by allowing Health Insurance Mega Corps to sell crappier policies that cover less and are practically useless, and letting Companies and Individuals escape penalties for not purchasing Insurance at all.

Monday it’s expected the Congressional Budget Office will produce a detailed score and if you’re wondering why the Senate is waiting for it when the House did not it’s because there must be a CBO score in order to use the 50 + 1 vote majority Reconciliation process (Republicans clearly don’t have the 60 votes required by normal order). It’s hard to imagine that this Bill, which hews so closely to the House Bill before it, will result in substantially better numbers than the 20+ Million more uninsured and 850% Premium rise for Seniors.

Lived Experience



The Breakfast Club (Under The Boardwalk)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

France falls to Nazi Germany on what becomes a day of several key events during World War II; Joe Louis knocks out Max Schmeling in their boxing rematch; Entertainers Judy Garland and Fred Astaire die.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Never be so faithful to your plan that you are unwilling to consider the unexpected. Never be so faithful to your plan that you are unwilling to entertain the improbable opportunity that comes looking for you.

Elizabeth Warren

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The Usual Suspects


This is not really mostly about Coal but to set the mood let’s listen to Florence Reece.

Come all you good workers. Good news to you I’ll tell.
Of how the good old union has come in here to dwell.

Which side are you on boys? Which side are you on?

My daddy was a miner. He’s now in the air and sun.
He’ll be with you fellow workers until the battle’s won.

Which side are you on boys? Which side are you on?

They say in Harlan County, there are no neutrals there.
You’ll either be a union man or a thug for J.H. Claire.

Which side are you on boys? Which side are you on?

Workers can you stand it? Oh, tell me how you can.
Will you be a lousy scab or will you be a man?

Which side are you on boys? Which side are you on?

Don’t scab for the bosses. Don’t listen to their lies.
Poor folks ain’t got a chance unless they organize.

Which side are you on boys? Which side are you on?

That’s History. The contemporary part that’s about Coal is this one-

But that’s not what I’m here to tell you about. I’m here to talk about the draft SLAPP.

A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Such lawsuits have been made illegal in many jurisdictions on the grounds that they impede freedom of speech.

The typical SLAPP plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit. The plaintiff’s goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. In some cases, repeated frivolous litigation against a defendant may raise the cost of directors and officers liability insurance for that party, interfering with an organization’s ability to operate. A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate. A SLAPP is often preceded by a legal threat.

I’ll let Mike Masnick take it from here.

Coal CEO Threatens John Oliver With A SLAPP Suit
by Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt
Tue, Jun 20th 2017

This past weekend on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, he took on the issue of “coal” and some politicians’ obsession with coal jobs as the only true “American” jobs. The whole segment is interesting, but obviously not the kind of thing we’d normally write up. What we do frequently write about, however, is censorious threats, often from wealthy execs, designed to try to silence people from commenting on issues regarding those doing the threatening. And, it appears that’s exactly what happened with coal exec Bob Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy, when he found out that John Oliver was doing a segment that included some bits about Murray.

Oliver notes that this is the first cease & desist his show has received (which he agrees is incredible). Oliver also points out that Murray has, in fact, been known to follow through on these threats — suing the NY Times, a contributor to the Huffington Post and more. Many of these lawsuits appear to be fairly classic SLAPP suits, in which the lawsuits against reporters and journalism outfits are designed to try to silence them. Thankfully, Oliver and HBO have good lawyers who clearly know Oliver’s rights to talk about, criticize and satirize Murray — and Oliver then spends the next ten or so minutes doing so (hilariously), even to the point of involving a talking squirrel (you need to watch it yourself to understand why it makes sense).

Kudos to Oliver for taking a principled stand here for free speech on an important issue. Of course, Oliver has HBO and its lawyers to back him up, but it sure would be a hell of a lot easier if we had strong anti-SLAPP laws to protect him. So, once again, this is why we need a strong federal anti-SLAPP law, not to mention better state-level anti-SLAPP laws. Bob Murray appears to be based in Ohio, which (lucky him) appears to have no anti-SLAPP law, while I believe John Oliver is in NY, which has an incredibly weak anti-SLAPP law.

The Breakfast Club (It’s Summer!)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo stress free zone_zps7hlsflkj.jpg

This Day in History

Three civil rights workers disappear in Mississippi; John Hinckley, Jr. found not guilty by reason of insanity for shooting President Ronald Reagan and three others; Britain’s Prince William born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

I would rather be without a state than without a voice.

Edward Snowden

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Special Election 2017: GA-6 and SC-5

Up Date 22:30 Karen Handel has been projected as the winner of the GA-6 Congressional District.

Up Date 21:30 Both the NYT and MSNBC have Handel leading Osoff by 3 points, 51% – 49%, with 60% of the vote counted.

Up Date 21:15 The NYT and MSNBC are projecting Republican Ralph Norman has won the SC-5 election.

This could be a long night. The latest polls show a dead heat between the two candidates to replace Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price’s House seat in the Georgia 6th district outside Atlanta. The race between Democrat Jon Osaff and Republican Karen Handel is seen as the final chance for Democrats to take a seat from Republicans is a traditionally red district that Trump won by only 1%. it has been raining all day with torrential downpours and flash flood watches and there are fears that that will suppress voter turnout for Osoff. The polls closed qt 7 PM but were in extended in two places in DeKald county until 7:30 PM due to equipment problems.

The New York Times is reporting that Osoff has a 1 point lead over Handel, 50.5 – 49.5 with 6 percent of precincts fully reporting.

In South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District, the race is between Ralph Norman, a Republican and a former state representative, and Archie Parnell, a Democrat and a wealthy former banker to replace Mick Mulvaney, now director of the Office of Management and Budget. Polls close at 7 PM ET. This race has not gotten the national media attention and Mr. Norman is expected to win. Currently, he leads Mr. Parnell 51.5% – 47.9% with 69% of the precincts reporting. There are three other candidates in this race.

Up Date as results come in

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