Russian crime bosses and their ties to Putin

ProPublica reports: Among the wealthy sophisticates who came and went from their seaside villas on the Spanish island of Mallorca, there was something that didn’t quite fit about the Russian who lived in a neoclassical mansion on the Avenida Portals Vells. Tall and powerfully built, with a flattened nose and graying, short-cropped hair, he looked more like an aging boxer than an international businessman. Most days, dressed in a t-shirt and sweat pants, he would drive over to a local marina in his older-model Mercedes—he saved the Bentley for rides with his wife—and stop in at a favorite restaurant. Taking a table by the water’s edge, he would order a tapa and watch the boats, murmuring into his cell phone in a hoarse, Slavic whisper.

It wasn’t long before police began to wonder about Gennady Petrov. He and his family were clearly Russian, but their passports were Greek. They seemed to have a lot of money, and to spend it in unusual ways. A real estate agent reported that Petrov had paid a contractor to build a tunnel down to the sea from another home he had owned in the area. Then there was an incident involving two Russians who were arrested as they prowled outside an upscale shopping center. The suspects wouldn’t talk, even after the police found a bomb in their car. But detectives eventually determined that the men were hoodlums who had flown in from Frankfurt to track another Russian—a businessman who was apparently involved in a dispute with Petrov.

The authorities soon discovered that Petrov was indeed a former boxer—and reputedly a high-ranking figure in one of Russia’s most powerful criminal organizations, the Tambovskaya. In Spain alone, he had amassed at least $50 million in properties and businesses. Beyond his island refuge, he was said to control a global network of legitimate and illicit activities, ranging from jewelry stores and extortion rings to the gray-market sale of Soviet MiG-29 fighter jets. But even the scope of Petrov’s enterprises did not prepare Spanish investigators for what they heard when they began to listen in on his telephone calls.

At one point, Petrov called a senior justice official in Moscow to complain that a Russian shipyard had fallen behind on construction of a new yacht Petrov had ordered. According to a confidential Spanish report of the conversation, the Russian official promised to go see the shipbuilder with some of “his boys,” and show him “a lot of affection.” Days later, another Spanish wiretap caught two of Petrov’s associates laughing about how agents of the Russian security forces had left the shipbuilder terrified. The yacht was back on schedule.

In hundreds of telephone calls intercepted during the year before Petrov’s arrest in 2008, Spanish investigators listened as the mob boss chatted with powerful businessmen, notorious criminals and high-level officials in the government of Vladimir Putin. During one trip to Russia, Petrov called his son to say he had just met with a man who turned out to be the Russian defense minister—and to report that they had sorted out a land deal, the sale of some airplanes, and a scheme to invest in Russian energy companies.

“Will you join the government?” a fellow mob boss joked with Petrov in another conversation monitored by Spanish investigators. “I bought a suitcase to store all the bribes you’ll get.” Petrov seemed to enjoy the irony, but said he was quite satisfied with Putin’s continued political control.

At a time when Russian intelligence and criminal activities have become an urgent concern in the United States and Europe, the Spanish investigations of Petrov and other Russians offer a remarkable view of the way that some of the most powerful mafia bosses have operated, both in Russia and abroad. Building on ties that sometimes date to the last years of the Soviet Union, more sophisticated mob leaders have survived gang wars and crackdowns to amass extraordinary wealth and influence, while remaining almost as deferential to Putin’s government as the oligarchs he helped create. Rather than simply bribing police officials to facilitate their activities, bosses like Petrov have established themselves as business partners, money launderers, and investment scouts for high-ranking officials who have amassed sizable fortunes themselves, Western security officials say. Those relationships, in turn, have enabled crime bosses to expand their involvement in legitimate business and political activities that are linked to the Russian government. [Continue reading…]

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Marine drill instructor sentenced to 10 years in prison for targeting Muslim recruits

The Washington Post reports: A military jury sentenced a former Marine drill instructor to 10 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge from the service Friday for subjecting Muslim recruits to verbal and physical abuse, including one young man who committed suicide after an especially troubling encounter.

The eight-member jury issued its sentence a day after it found Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix guilty of maltreatment for terrorizing three Muslim men at the Marines’ storied boot camp in Parris Island, S.C. Felix also will have his rank reduced to private.

Prosecutors had asked for a seven-year prison term. Felix faced a maximum possible sentence of more than 21 years. It’s not immediately clear why the jury elected to exceed what the prosecution had requested.

The military justice system requires automatic appeals for all prison sentences consisting of a year or more and all dishonorable discharges. Felix will be held at Camp Lejeune’s brig until his expected transfer to a larger prison.

One of Felix’s victims, 20-year-old Raheel Siddiqui, died at Parris Island last year when he fell 40 feet onto a concrete stairwell. Prosecutors said Felix forced Siddiqui to run back and forth in the recruits’ squad bay and then slapped him in the face just before the recruit suddenly sprinted from the room and jumped to his death. Two other Muslim recruits accused Felix of putting them in an industrial clothes dryer and, in one instance, turning it on. [Continue reading…]

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Harvey Weinstein’s army of spies

Ronan Farrow writes: In the fall of 2016, Harvey Weinstein set out to suppress allegations that he had sexually harassed or assaulted numerous women. He began to hire private security agencies to collect information on the women and the journalists trying to expose the allegations. According to dozens of pages of documents, and seven people directly involved in the effort, the firms that Weinstein hired included Kroll, which is one of the world’s largest corporate-intelligence companies, and Black Cube, an enterprise run largely by former officers of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies. Black Cube, which has branches in Tel Aviv, London, and Paris, offers its clients the skills of operatives “highly experienced and trained in Israel’s elite military and governmental intelligence units,” according to its literature.

Two private investigators from Black Cube, using false identities, met with the actress Rose McGowan, who eventually publicly accused Weinstein of rape, to extract information from her. One of the investigators pretended to be a women’s-rights advocate and secretly recorded at least four meetings with McGowan. The same operative, using a different false identity and implying that she had an allegation against Weinstein, met twice with a journalist to find out which women were talking to the press. In other cases, journalists directed by Weinstein or the private investigators interviewed women and reported back the details.

The explicit goal of the investigations, laid out in one contract with Black Cube, signed in July, was to stop the publication of the abuse allegations against Weinstein that eventually emerged in the New York Times and The New Yorker. Over the course of a year, Weinstein had the agencies “target,” or collect information on, dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focussed on their personal or sexual histories. Weinstein monitored the progress of the investigations personally. He also enlisted former employees from his film enterprises to join in the effort, collecting names and placing calls that, according to some sources who received them, felt intimidating. [Continue reading…]

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Refusing Weinstein’s hush money, Rose McGowan calls out Hollywood

The New York Times reports: In late September, just as multiple women were days away from going on the record with reports of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct, one of his alleged assault victims, Rose McGowan, considered an offer that suggested just how desperate the Hollywood producer had become.

Ms. McGowan, who was working on a memoir called “Brave,” had spoken privately over the years about a 1997 hotel room encounter with Mr. Weinstein and hinted at it publicly. Through her lawyer, she said, someone close to Mr. Weinstein offered her hush money: $1 million, in exchange for signing a nondisclosure agreement.

In 1997, Ms. McGowan had reached a $100,000 settlement with Mr. Weinstein, but that agreement, she learned this summer, had never included a confidentiality clause. Ms. McGowan, who was most widely known for her role as a witch on the WB show “Charmed,” had recently developed a massive following as a fiery feminist on Twitter, but she was now, at 44, a multimedia artist, no longer acting, her funds depleted by health care costs for her father, who died eight years ago.

“I had all these people I’m paying telling me to take it so that I could fund my art,” Ms. McGowan said in an interview. She responded by asking for $6 million, part counteroffer, part slow torture of her former tormentor, she said. “I figured I could probably have gotten him up to three,” she said. “But I was like — ew, gross, you’re disgusting, I don’t want your money, that would make me feel disgusting.” [Continue reading…]

Ronan Farrow reports: In March, Annabella Sciorra, who received an Emmy nomination for her role in “The Sopranos,” agreed to talk with me for a story I was reporting about Harvey Weinstein. Speaking by phone, I explained that two sources had told me that she had a serious allegation regarding the producer. Sciorra, however, told me that Weinstein had never done anything inappropriate. Perhaps she just wasn’t his type, she said, with an air of what seemed to be studied nonchalance. But, two weeks ago, after The New Yorker published the story, in which thirteen women accused Weinstein of sexual assault and harassment, Sciorra called me. The truth, she said, was that she had been struggling to speak about Weinstein for more than twenty years. She was still living in fear of him, and slept with a baseball bat by her bed. Weinstein, she told me, had violently raped her in the early nineteen-nineties, and, over the next several years, sexually harassed her repeatedly.

“I was so scared. I was looking out the window of my living room, and I faced the water of the East River,” she said, recalling our initial conversation. “I really wanted to tell you. I was like, ‘This is the moment you’ve been waiting for your whole life. . . .’ ” she said. “I really, really panicked,” she added. “I was shaking. And I just wanted to get off the phone.”

All told, more than fifty women have now levelled accusations against Weinstein, in accounts published by the New York Times, The New Yorker, and other outlets. But many other victims have continued to be reluctant to talk to me about their experiences, declining interview requests or initially agreeing to talk and then wavering. As more women have come forward, the costs of doing so have certainly shifted. But many still say that they face overwhelming pressures to stay silent, ranging from the spectre of career damage to fears about the life-altering consequences of being marked as sexual-assault victims. “Now when I go to a restaurant or to an event, people are going to know that this happened to me,” Sciorra said. “They’re gonna look at me and they’re gonna know. I’m an intensely private person, and this is the most unprivate thing you can do.” [Continue reading…]

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John Kelly and the dangerous moral calculus of working for Donald Trump

Ryan Lizza writes: Anyone in politics or government who works for Donald Trump, whether on the payroll or in some other supporting role, is forced to make a sacrifice. Working for Trump means that one’s credibility is likely to be damaged, so there is a kind of moral calculation that any Trump supporter must make: Does working for him serve some higher purpose that outweighs the price of reputational loss?

There is a hierarchy of justifications for backing Trump. At the bottom are the spokespeople and purely political officials who are almost instantly discredited, because they are forced to defend the statements of a President who routinely lies and manufactures nonsensical versions of events. Sean Spicer learned this on his first day on the job, when Trump sent him into the White House briefing room to tell the press lies about Inauguration-crowd sizes. He never recovered. But there was also no higher purpose for which Spicer could claim he was serving Trump, except that he was a political-communications official, and being the White House spokesman is the top prize in that profession.

Republicans in Congress are a little farther up the pyramid. Many privately say that they believe Trump is a disaster of a President, an embarrassment to the G.O.P., and, as Bob Corker recently said publicly, echoing what he claimed were the views of most Republican senators, setting America “on the path to World War III.” They justify their support by noting that Trump will implement the core Republican agenda, and that alone is worth the price of a person at least some of them believe is unfit to be President. They may be privately embarrassed by Trump, the agreement goes, but at least he has appointed a reliable conservative to the Supreme Court, almost repealed Obamacare (and still might), and has a decent chance at signing a big tax cut into law. How morally justifiable one believes this argument is depends a lot on how bad one believes Trump is for the country and the world, though a Third World War seems like it would be a steep price to pay for Neil Gorsuch. [Continue reading…]

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Malta car bomb kills Panama Papers journalist

The Guardian reports: The journalist who led the Panama Papers investigation into corruption in Malta was killed on Monday in a car bomb near her home.

Daphne Caruana Galizia died on Monday afternoon when her car, a Peugeot 108, was destroyed by a powerful explosive device which blew the vehicle into several pieces and threw the debris into a nearby field.

A blogger whose posts often attracted more readers than the combined circulation of the country’s newspapers, Caruana Galizia was recently described by the Politico website as a “one-woman WikiLeaks”. Her blogs were a thorn in the side of both the establishment and underworld figures that hold sway in Europe’s smallest member state. [Continue reading…]

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Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. were close to being charged with felony fraud

ProPublica reports: In the spring of 2012, Donald Trump’s two eldest children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., found themselves in a precarious legal position. For two years, prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office had been building a criminal case against them for misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump SoHo, a hotel and condo development that was failing to sell. Despite the best efforts of the siblings’ defense team, the case had not gone away. An indictment seemed like a real possibility. The evidence included emails from the Trumps making clear that they were aware they were using inflated figures about how well the condos were selling to lure buyers.

In one email, according to four people who have seen it, the Trumps discussed how to coordinate false information they had given to prospective buyers. In another, according to a person who read the emails, they worried that a reporter might be onto them. In yet another, Donald Jr. spoke reassuringly to a broker who was concerned about the false statements, saying that nobody would ever find out, because only people on the email chain or in the Trump Organization knew about the deception, according to a person who saw the email.

There was “no doubt” that the Trump children “approved, knew of, agreed to, and intentionally inflated the numbers to make more sales,” one person who saw the emails told us. “They knew it was wrong.” [Continue reading…]

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Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock wired $100,000 to Philippines last week

NBC News reports: Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock wired $100,000 to an account in his live-in girlfriend’s home country of the Philippines in the week before he unleashed the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, according to multiple senior law enforcement officials.

But while officials have confirmed that Marilou Danley was in the Philippines on Sunday when Paddock opened fire on a crowd attending a country music festival on the Vegas Strip, it was not known whether the money was for her, her family, or another purpose.

Danley, 62, who had traveled to Hong Kong on Sept. 25, could fill in some of the blanks when she returns to the U.S. on Wednesday, the officials said. Her arrival airport was not known.

“We anticipate some information from her shortly,” said Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo. “She is currently a person of interest.”

Paddock’s still-stunned brother, Eric Paddock, said he suspects the money was to take care of Danley.

“One hundred thousand dollars isn’t that huge amount of money,” he said. “Condemn Steve for gambling. Steve took care of the people he loved. He made me and my family wealthy.”

Paddock may have “manipulated her so that she was far away from this and had money,” Eric Paddock added. “As he was descending into hell…he wanted to take care of her.”

Meanwhile, senior law enforcement officials told NBC News that Paddock gambled with at least $160,000 in the past several weeks at Las Vegas casinos. [Continue reading…]

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Want to fight crime? Increase immigration and save DACA

Rachel Kleinfeld writes: There are few points on which the vast majority of scholars agree. One of them is that immigrants, both legal and illegal, are far more law-abiding than native-born Americans. The findings are so strong that some scholars argue that part of the steep fall in violence in the 1990s was caused by higher than normal immigration during that period.

The fact that U.S. locales with higher rates of immigration have lower homicide rates is echoed by research conducted by Reid et al., Wadsworth, Ousey and Kubrin, and Stowell et al. The findings held for Los Angeles in the 2000s, and for gang-ridden San Diego from 1980 to 2000 when immigrants were pouring into the city: As immigrants arrived, homicides fell. In fact, pretty much the only slightly negative correlation between immigration and crime comes from Jörg Spenkuch, who found that a 10% increase in foreign-born immigrants with poor employment outlooks raises a county’s property crime rate by just over 1%, but causes no rise in violence.

This is no surprise when you know that immigrants themselves are far less likely to commit crimes – especially violent crimes – than native-born Americans. In fact, immigrants started out less violent than native-born immigrants, and have become less and less crime-prone with each census since 1980. By 2000, native-born Americans were five times more likely to be incarcerated than immigrants. That particularly holds true for less-educated Mexican, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan young men, who are overrepresented among illegal immigrants. By 2010, more than 10 percent of native-born men aged 18-39 without a high school diploma were incarcerated. The percentage for Central American immigrants? Just 1.7 percent. [Continue reading…]

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Where the undocumented immigrant population grows, crime goes down

Tom Jacobs writes: Pandering politicians regularly insist that undocumented immigrants are a danger to society.

“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime,” Donald Trump famously declared in announcing his candidacy for president. A decade earlier, Iowa congressman Steve King said 13 Americans die each day as a result of undocumented drunk drivers.

A just-released study suggests such claims are hacia atrás—exactly backwards. Looking at state-level data, it finds three major drug-related problems are apparently mitigated as the population of undocumented immigrants grows.

Specifically, states with an increasing concentration of non-citizen residents lacking proper papers experienced “reductions in drug arrests, drug overdose deaths, and DUI arrests,” writes a research team led by sociologist Michael Light of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. [Continue reading…]

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In cyberwarfare, everyone is a combatant

The Wall Street Journal reports: This is already a banner year for hacks, breaches and cyberwarfare, but the past week was exceptional.

South Carolina reported hackers attempted to access the state’s voter-registration system 150,000 times on Election Day last November—part of what former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson alleges is a 21-state attack perpetrated by Russia. And U.S. intelligence officials alleged that agents working for the United Arab Emirates planted false information in Qatari news outlets and social media, leading to sanctions and a rift with Qatar’s allies. Meanwhile, Lloyd’s of London declared that the takedown of a significant cloud service could lead to monetary damages on par with those of Hurricane Katrina.

Threats to the real world from the cyberworld are worse than ever, and the situation continues to deteriorate. A new kind of war is upon us, one characterized by coercion rather than the use of force, says former State Department official James Lewis, a cybersecurity specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Businesses and individuals now are directly affected in ways that were impossible in the first Cold War. In another age, the threat of nuclear annihilation loomed over everyone’s heads, but the cloak-and-dagger doings of global powers remained distinct from the day-to-day operations of businesses. Now, they are hopelessly entangled. The often unfathomable priorities of terrorists, cybercriminals and state-affiliated hackers only make things worse.

The current climate of cyberattacks is “crazy,” says Christopher Ahlberg of Recorded Future, a private intelligence firm that specializes in cyberthreats. “It’s like a science-fiction book. If you told anybody 10 years ago about what’s going on now, they wouldn’t believe it.”

In the first Cold War, the U.S., China and the Soviet Union fought proxy wars rather than confront one another directly. In Cold War 2.0, we still have those—Syria and whatever is brewing in North Korea come to mind—but much of the proxy fighting now happens online.

The result is significant collateral damage for businesses that aren’t even a party to the conflicts, says Corey Thomas, chief executive of cybersecurity firm Rapid 7. Recent ransomware attacks that some analysts attribute to Russia might have been aimed at Ukraine but resulted in the shutdown of computer systems at businesses and governments around the world. Russia has denied involvement in these attacks. Botnets made of internet-connected devices, stitched together by an unknown hacker for unknown reasons, caused countless internet services and websites to become unavailable in October 2016. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s Russian laundromat

Craig Unger writes: In 1984, a Russian émigré named David Bogatin went shopping for apartments in New York City. The 38-year-old had arrived in America seven years before, with just $3 in his pocket. But for a former pilot in the Soviet Army—his specialty had been shooting down Americans over North Vietnam—he had clearly done quite well for himself. Bogatin wasn’t hunting for a place in Brighton Beach, the Brooklyn enclave known as “Little Odessa” for its large population of immigrants from the Soviet Union. Instead, he was fixated on the glitziest apartment building on Fifth Avenue, a gaudy, 58-story edifice with gold-plated fixtures and a pink-marble atrium: Trump Tower.

A monument to celebrity and conspicuous consumption, the tower was home to the likes of Johnny Carson, Steven Spielberg, and Sophia Loren. Its brash, 38-year-old developer was something of a tabloid celebrity himself. Donald Trump was just coming into his own as a serious player in Manhattan real estate, and Trump Tower was the crown jewel of his growing empire. From the day it opened, the building was a hit—all but a few dozen of its 263 units had sold in the first few months. But Bogatin wasn’t deterred by the limited availability or the sky-high prices. The Russian plunked down $6 million to buy not one or two, but five luxury condos. The big check apparently caught the attention of the owner. According to Wayne Barrett, who investigated the deal for the Village Voice, Trump personally attended the closing, along with Bogatin.

If the transaction seemed suspicious—multiple apartments for a single buyer who appeared to have no legitimate way to put his hands on that much money—there may have been a reason. At the time, Russian mobsters were beginning to invest in high-end real estate, which offered an ideal vehicle to launder money from their criminal enterprises. “During the ’80s and ’90s, we in the U.S. government repeatedly saw a pattern by which criminals would use condos and high-rises to launder money,” says Jonathan Winer, a deputy assistant secretary of state for international law enforcement in the Clinton administration. “It didn’t matter that you paid too much, because the real estate values would rise, and it was a way of turning dirty money into clean money. It was done very systematically, and it explained why there are so many high-rises where the units were sold but no one is living in them.” When Trump Tower was built, as David Cay Johnston reports in The Making of Donald Trump, it was only the second high-rise in New York that accepted anonymous buyers.

In 1987, just three years after he attended the closing with Trump, Bogatin pleaded guilty to taking part in a massive gasoline-bootlegging scheme with Russian mobsters. After he fled the country, the government seized his five condos at Trump Tower, saying that he had purchased them to “launder money, to shelter and hide assets.” A Senate investigation into organized crime later revealed that Bogatin was a leading figure in the Russian mob in New York. His family ties, in fact, led straight to the top: His brother ran a $150 million stock scam with none other than Semion Mogilevich, whom the FBI considers the “boss of bosses” of the Russian mafia. At the time, Mogilevich—feared even by his fellow gangsters as “the most powerful mobster in the world”—was expanding his multibillion-dollar international criminal syndicate into America.

Since Trump’s election as president, his ties to Russia have become the focus of intense scrutiny, most of which has centered on whether his inner circle colluded with Russia to subvert the U.S. election. A growing chorus in Congress is also asking pointed questions about how the president built his business empire. Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has called for a deeper inquiry into “Russian investment in Trump’s businesses and properties.”

The very nature of Trump’s businesses—all of which are privately held, with few reporting requirements—makes it difficult to root out the truth about his financial deals. And the world of Russian oligarchs and organized crime, by design, is shadowy and labyrinthine. For the past three decades, state and federal investigators, as well as some of America’s best investigative journalists, have sifted through mountains of real estate records, tax filings, civil lawsuits, criminal cases, and FBI and Interpol reports, unearthing ties between Trump and Russian mobsters like Mogilevich. To date, no one has documented that Trump was even aware of any suspicious entanglements in his far-flung businesses, let alone that he was directly compromised by the Russian mafia or the corrupt oligarchs who are closely allied with the Kremlin. So far, when it comes to Trump’s ties to Russia, there is no smoking gun.

But even without an investigation by Congress or a special prosecutor, there is much we already know about the president’s debt to Russia. A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics. “They saved his bacon,” says Kenneth McCallion, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration who investigated ties between organized crime and Trump’s developments in the 1980s. [Continue reading…]

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The latest Russia revelations lay the groundwork for a conspiracy case

Randall D. Eliason writes: Collusion is usually defined as a secret agreement to do something improper. In the criminal-law world, we call that conspiracy. If unlawful collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian nationals did take place, criminal conspiracy would be one of the most likely charges.

A conspiracy is a partnership in crime. The federal conspiracy statute prohibits conspiracies to defraud the United States, which includes conspiracies to impede the lawful functions of the federal government — such as administering a presidential election.

Conspiracy also prohibits agreements to commit another federal crime. This would include an agreement to violate the laws against hacking into someone else’s computer, or to violate federal election laws.

Conspiracies, by their nature, take place in secret. To break through that secrecy, prosecutors often rely on circumstantial evidence. The classic trial lawyer’s metaphor is that each such piece of evidence is a brick. No single event standing alone may prove the case. But when assembled together, those individual bricks may build a wall — a big, beautiful wall — that excludes any reasonable doubt about what happened. [Continue reading…]

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Lawsuit accuses Donald Trump of illegally destroying White House records

HuffPost reports: Two watchdog groups have sued Donald Trump over White House records, accusing the president of illegally destroying communications that must be preserved by federal law.

The suit — filed Thursday against Trump and the Executive Office of the President by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archive — focuses on an “auto-delete” app reportedly being used for messages sent from the White House that erase messages after they’re read.

Such communications could involve correspondence among the president, aides, advisers, contractors, lobbyists and others. They’re part of a “historical record” that belongs to the public and must be preserved, as mandated by the Presidential Records Act of 2014, notes the suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The law requires the preservation of communications in the White House and vice president’s office. [Continue reading…]

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Memo shows Watergate prosecutors had evidence Nixon White House plotted violent attack on peaceful protesters

NBC News reports: Watergate prosecutors had evidence that operatives for then-President Richard Nixon planned an assault on anti-war demonstrators in 1972, including potentially physically attacking Vietnam whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, according to a never-before-published memo obtained by NBC News.

The document, an 18-page 1973 investigative memorandum from the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, sheds new light on how prosecutors were investigating attempts at domestic political violence by Nixon aides, an extremely serious charge.

NBC News is publishing the memo, and an accompanying memo about an interview prosecutors conducted with GOP operative Roger Stone, as part of special coverage for the 45th anniversary of the Watergate break-in.

A plot to physically attack Ellsberg is notable because the former Pentagon official has long alleged that Nixon operatives did more than steal his medical files, the most well-known effort to discredit him. [Continue reading…]

 

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Money stolen by Russian mob linked to man sanctioned for supporting Syria’s chemical weapons program

Michael Weiss writes: An investment group that U.S. authorities say is run by Russian mobsters and linked to the Russian government sent at least $900,000 to a company owned by a businessman tied to Syria’s chemical weapons program, according to financial documents obtained by CNN.

According to a contract and bank records from late 2007 and early 2008, a company tied to a state-backed Russian mafia group, according to U.S. officials, agreed to pay more than $3 million to a company called Balec Trading Ventures, Ltd — supposedly for high-end “furniture.”

Wire transaction records seen by CNN confirm that at least $900,000 was transferred.

Both businesses are registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The company allegedly tied to Russian mafia was called Quartell Trading Ltd., and the U.S. Department of Justice claims it is one of the many vehicles into which millions of dollars of stolen Russian taxpayer money was laundered a decade ago in connection with the so-called “Magnitsky affair,” perhaps the most notorious corruption case in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. [Continue reading…]

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From Russia with blood

BuzzFeed reports: The London square was still and cold when the body fell, dropping silently through the moonlight and landing with a thud. Impaled through the chest on the spikes of a wrought iron fence, it dangled under the streetlamps as blood spilled onto the pavement. Overhead, a fourth-floor window stood open, the lights inside burning.

The dead man was Scot Young. The one-time multimillionaire and fixer to the world’s super-rich had been telling friends, family, and the police for years that he was being targeted by a team of Russian hitmen – ever since his fortune vanished overnight in a mysterious Moscow property deal. He was the ninth in a circle of friends and business associates to die in suspicious circumstances. But when the police entered his penthouse that night, they didn’t even dust for fingerprints. They declared his death a suicide on the spot and closed the case.

A two-year investigation by BuzzFeed News has now uncovered explosive evidence pointing to Russia that the police overlooked. A massive trove of documents, phone records, and secret recordings shows Young was part of a circle of nine men, including the exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who all died suspiciously on British soil after making powerful enemies in Russia. The files reveal that Young lived in the shadow of the Russian security services and mafia groups after fronting for Berezovsky – a sworn enemy of the state – in a series of deals that enraged the Kremlin, including the doomed Russian property deal known as Project Moscow. British police declared the deaths of all nine men in Berezovsky’s circle non-suspicious, but BuzzFeed News can now reveal that MI6, Britain’s secret intelligence service, asked its US counterparts for information about each one of them “in the context of assassinations”. [Continue reading…]

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