Showing posts with label Donald Trump. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Donald Trump. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Mob Boss Killer Anthony Comello Shows Love of Trump with Pen Markings of #MAGA Forever and Additional Patriot Slogans

The man charged with killing the reputed boss of the Gambino crime family wrote pro-Donald Trump slogans on his hand and flashed them to journalists before a court hearing Monday.

Anthony Comello, 24, was arrested Saturday in New Jersey in the death of Francesco "Franky Boy" Cali last week in front of his Staten Island home.

While waiting for a court hearing to begin in Toms River, New Jersey, in which he agreed to be extradited to New York, Comello held up his left hand.

On it were scrawled pro-Trump slogans including "MAGA Forever," an abbreviation of Trump's campaign slogan "Make America Great Again." It also read "United We Stand MAGA" and "Patriots In Charge." In the center of his palm he had drawn a large circle. It was not immediately clear why he had done so.

Anthony Comello MAGA Forever.jpg


Comello's lawyer, Brian Neary, would not discuss the writing on his client's hand, nor would he say whether Comello maintains his innocence. Asked by reporters after the hearing what was on Comello's hand, Neary replied, "Handcuffs."

He referred all other questions to Comello's Manhattan lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, who said in an emailed statement his client has been placed in protective custody due to "serious threats" that had been made against him, but gave no details of them. Ocean County officials could not immediately be reached after hours on Monday.

"Mr. Comello's family and friends simply cannot believe what they have been told," Gottlieb said. "There is something very wrong here and we will get to the truth about what happened as quickly as possible."

The statement did not address the writing on Comello's hand, and a lawyer from Gottlieb's firm declined to comment further Monday evening.

Comello sat with a slight smile in the jury box of the courtroom Monday afternoon as dozens of reporters and photographers filed into the room. When they were in place, Comello held up his left hand to display the writings as the click and whirr of camera lenses filled the room with sound.

During the hearing, Comello did not speak other than to say, "Yes, sir" to the judge to respond to several procedural questions.

Cali, 53, was shot to death last Wednesday by a gunman who may have crashed his truck into Cali's car to lure him outside. Police said Cali was shot 10 times.

Federal prosecutors referred to Cali in court filings in 2014 as the underboss of the Mafia's Gambino family, once one of the country's most powerful crime organizations. News accounts since 2015 said Cali had ascended to the top spot, though he was never charged with leading the gang. His only mob-related conviction came a decade ago, when he was sentenced to 16 months in prison in an extortion scheme involving a failed attempt to build a NASCAR track on Staten Island. He was released in 2009 and hasn't been in legal trouble since then.

Police have not yet said whether they believe Cali's murder was a mob hit or whether he was killed for some other motive.

The last Mafia boss to be rubbed out in New York City was Gambino don "Big Paul" Castellano, who was assassinated in 1985.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

If the Parallels between the Mafia and the Trump Organization are Striking? Then, Rudy Giuliani Perfected the #RICO Template for Prosecuting Organized Crime #SDNYInvestigation

Any onetime Mafia investigator who listened to Donald Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen testify Wednesday would have immediately recognized the congressional hearing’s historical analogue — what America witnessed on Capitol Hill wasn’t so much John Dean turning on President Richard Nixon, circa 1973; it was the mobster Joseph Valachi turning on the Cosa Nostra, circa 1963.

The Valachi hearings, led by Senator John McClellan of Arkansas, opened the country’s eyes for the first time to the Mafia, as the witness broke “omertà” — the code of silence — to speak in public about “this thing of ours,” Cosa Nostra. He explained just how “organized” organized crime actually was — with soldiers, capos, godfathers and even the “Commission,” the governing body of the various Mafia families.

Fighting the Mafia posed a uniquely hard challenge for investigators. Mafia families were involved in numerous distinct crimes and schemes, over yearslong periods, all for the clear benefit of its leadership, but those very leaders were tough to prosecute because they were rarely involved in the day-to-day crime. They spoke in their own code, rarely directly ordering a lieutenant to do something illegal, but instead offering oblique instructions or expressing general wishes that their lieutenants simply knew how to translate into action.

Those explosive — and arresting — hearings led to the 1970 passage of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO, a law designed to allow prosecutors to go after enterprises that engaged in extended, organized criminality. RICO laid out certain “predicate” crimes — those that prosecutors could use to stitch together evidence of a corrupt organization and then go after everyone involved in the organization as part of an organized conspiracy. While the headline-grabbing RICO “predicates” were violent crimes like murder, kidnapping, arson and robbery, the statute also focused on crimes like fraud, obstruction of justice, money laundering and even aiding or abetting illegal immigration.

It took prosecutors a while to figure out how to use RICO effectively, but by the mid-1980s, federal investigators in the Southern District of New York were hitting their stride under none other than the crusading United States attorney Rudy Giuliani, who as the head of the Southern District brought charges in 1985 against the heads of the city’s five dominant Mafia families.

Ever since, S.D.N.Y. prosecutors and F.B.I. agents have been the nation’s gold standard in RICO prosecutions — a fact that makes clear precisely why, after Mr. Cohen’s testimony, President Trump’s greatest legal jeopardy may not be in the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

What lawmakers heard Wednesday sounded a lot like a racketeering enterprise: an organization with a few key players and numerous overlapping crimes — not just one conspiracy, but many. Even leaving aside any questions about the Mueller investigation and the 2016 campaign, Mr. Cohen leveled allegations that sounded like bank fraud, charity fraud and tax fraud, as well as hints of insurance fraud, obstruction of justice and suborning perjury.

The parallels between the Mafia and the Trump Organization are more than we might like to admit: After all, Mr. Cohen was labeled a “rat” by President Trump last year for agreeing to cooperate with investigators; interestingly, in the language of crime, “rats” generally aren’t seen as liars. They’re “rats” precisely because they turn state’s evidence and tell the truth, spilling the secrets of a criminal organization.

Mr. Cohen was clear about the rot at the center of his former employer: “Everybody’s job at the Trump Organization is to protect Mr. Trump. Every day most of us knew we were coming and we were going to lie for him about something. That became the norm.”

RICO was precisely designed to catch the godfathers and bosses at the top of these crime syndicates — people a step or two removed from the actual crimes committed, those whose will is made real, even without a direct order.

Exactly, it appears, as Mr. Trump did at the top of his family business: “Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates,” Mr. Cohen said. Mr. Trump, Mr. Cohen said, “doesn’t give orders. He speaks in code. And I understand that code.”

What’s notable about Mr. Cohen’s comments is how they paint a consistent (and credible) pattern of Mr. Trump’s behavior: The former F.B.I. director James Comey, in testimony nearly two years ago in the wake of his firing, made almost exactly the same point and used almost exactly the same language. Mr. Trump never directly ordered him to drop the Flynn investigation, Mr. Comey said, but he made it all too clear what he wanted — the president isolated Mr. Comey, with no other ears around, and then said he hoped Mr. Comey “can let this go.” As Mr. Comey said, “I took it as, this is what he wants me to do.” He cited in his testimony then the famous example of King Henry II’s saying, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?,” a question that resulted in the murder of that very meddlesome priest, Thomas Becket.

The sheer number and breadth of the investigations into Mr. Trump’s orbit these days indicates how vulnerable the president’s family business would be to just this type of prosecution. In December, I counted 17, and since then, investigators have started an inquiry into undocumented workers at Mr. Trump’s New Jersey golf course, another crime that could be a RICO predicate; Mr. Cohen’s public testimony itself, where he certainly laid out enough evidence and bread crumbs for prosecutors to verify his allegations, mentioned enough criminal activity to build a racketeering case. Moreover, RICO allows prosecutors to wrap 10 years of racketeering activity into a single set of charges, which is to say, almost precisely the length of time — a decade — that Michael Cohen would have unparalleled insight into Mr. Trump’s operations. Similarly, many Mafia cases end up being built on wiretaps — just like, for instance, the perhaps 100 recordings Mr. Cohen says he made of people during his tenure working for Mr. Trump, recordings that federal investigators are surely poring over as part of the 290,000 documents and files they seized in their April raid last year.

Indicting the whole Trump Organization as a “corrupt enterprise” could also help prosecutors address the thorny question of whether the president can be indicted in office; they could lay out a whole pattern of criminal activity, indict numerous players — including perhaps Trump family members — and leave the president himself as a named, unindicted co-conspirator. Such an action would allow investigators to make public all the known activity for Congress and the public to consider as part of impeachment hearings or re-election. It would also activate powerful forfeiture tools for prosecutors that could allow them to seize the Trump Organization’s assets and cut off its income streams.

The irony will be that if federal prosecutors decide to move against President Trump’s empire and family together, he’ll have one man’s model to thank: his own TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who perfected the template to tackle precisely that type of criminal enterprise.

Thanks to Garrett M. Graff.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Special Agent Elvin Hernandez, with Homeland Security Investigations, a Specialized Unit within Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is Honored by President Trump

The federal anti-trafficking agent invited to the State of the Union address by President Donald Trump helped take down brutal operations that smuggled women from Mexico into the U.S. and forced them into prostitution.

Elvin Hernandez is a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, a specialized unit within Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He and his colleagues began targeting trafficking in Tenancingo, Mexico, a prostitution pipeline rife with crime and violence, in 2012. The final defendants of one crime family were sentenced last month to decades in prison.

Hernandez, who works in the New York office, was one the guests who sat with first lady Melania Trump. He was given a round of rousing applause when Trump introduced him, as he reddened and smiled.

At a recent briefing for Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on one of his major cases, Hernandez, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, said they targeted 10 organizations and dismantled all of them.

Trump has pushed the idea that human trafficking is a major reason why he needs $5.7 billion for a border wall, a request Democrats have flatly rejected. However, most trafficking victims cross through legal ports of entry, according the Counter Trafficking Data Collaborative, a global hub for trafficking statistics with data contributed by organizations from around the world.

Advocates say Trump distorts how often victims come from the southern border — the National Human Trafficking Hotline, a venture supported by federal money and operated by the anti-trafficking group Polaris, said there was a near-equal distribution between foreigners on one hand and U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents on the other. But advocates also say Tenancingo is a breeding ground for traffickers, where boys are groomed to be pimps, and women and girls are forced into prostitution, their families threatened with violence.

In total, Hernandez and his colleagues on the case brought down more than 80 defendants; rescued more than 150 victims including 45 minors; and reunified 19 children with their mothers.

One organization, the Rendon-Reyes family, smuggled young, poor and uneducated women into the U.S. from Mexico and forced them into prostitution throughout the U.S. Some of the women crossed the border illegally, and others were smuggled in using false birth certificates.

The traffickers manipulated the girls into fake romantic relationships. According to court documents, the suspects used “beatings, sexual assaults, forced abortions, threats to the victims, their families and psychological coercion.”

The women were forced into seeing as many as 45 clients in a day, according to documents.

Thanks to Colleen Long.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics by Chris Christie

Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics - by Chris Christie.

From the outspoken former governor, a no-holds-barred account of Chris Christie's rise to power through the bare-knuckle politics of New Jersey and his frank, startling insights about Donald Trump from inside the president's inner circle.

After dropping out of the 2016 presidential race, Chris Christie stunned the political world by becoming the first major official to endorse Donald Trump. A friend of Trump's for fifteen years, the two-term New Jersey governor understood the future president as well as anyone in the political arena--and Christie quickly became one of Trump's most trusted advisers. Tapped with running Trump's transition team, Christie was nearly named his running mate. But within days of Trump's surprise victory over Hillary Clinton, Christie was in for his own surprise: he was being booted out.

In Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics, Christie sets the record straight about his tenure as a corruption-fighting prosecutor and a Republican running a Democratic state, as well as what really happened on the 2016 campaign trail and inside Trump Tower. Christie takes readers inside the ego-driven battles for Trump's attention among figures like Steve Bannon, Corey Lewandowksi, Reince Priebus, Kellyanne Conway, Jeff Sessions, and Paul Manafort. He shows how the literal trashing of Christie's transition plan put the new administration in the hands of self-serving amateurs, all but guaranteeing the Trump presidency's shaky start. Christie also addresses hot-button issues from his own years in power, including what really went down during Bridgegate. And, for the first time, Christie tells the full story of the Kushner saga: how, as a federal prosecutor, Christie put Jared Kushner's powerful father behind bars--a fact Trump's son-in-law makes Christie pay for later.

Packed with news-making revelations and told with the kind of bluntness few politicians can match, Christie's memoir is an essential guide to understanding the Trump presidency.


Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Accenture Hired to Satisfy Donald Trump's Mandate to Secure the Border, Instead,Charges the US almost $14 Million to Hire Just 2 Border Agents #Corruption #DraintheSwamp

A scathing report by the Office of the Inspector General revealed that a consulting company hired by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to fill thousands of new jobs to satisfy President Trump's mandate to secure the southern border is "nowhere near" completing its hiring goals and "risks wasting millions of taxpayer dollars."

The audit found that as of Oct. 1, CBP had paid Accenture Federal Services approximately $13.6 million of a $297 million contract to recruit and hire 7,500 applicants, including Customs and Border Protection officers, Border Patrol agents, and Air and Marine Interdiction agents. But 10 months into the first year of a five-year contract, Accenture had processed only "two accepted job offers," according to the report.

The inspector general called for immediate action. The report is titled "Management Alert — CBP Needs to Address Serious Performance Issues on the Accenture Hiring Contract." It alleges the consulting company — which CBP agreed to pay nearly $40,000 per hire — failed to develop an "efficient, innovative, and expertly run hiring process," as the company pledged to do when it was awarded the lucrative contract. Instead, the probe concluded the company "relied heavily" on CBP's existing infrastructure, resources and experts in all of its recruiting.

"We are concerned that CBP may have paid Accenture for services and tools not provided," the report states. "Without addressing the issues we have identified, CBP risks wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on a hastily approved contract that is not meeting its proposed performance expectations."

According to the report, CBP has bent over backward to accommodate Accenture.

When it became clear the company would miss a 90-day deadline to reach the "full operation phase" outlined in the agreement, the agency modified the contract granting Accenture another three months to ramp up operations to meet the terms of the contract.

CBP also allowed the company to use the government agency's applicant tracking system when Accenture failed to deploy its own, leading to another contract revision.

The result of both changes meant that as recently as July 1, CBP staff continued to carry out a "significant portion of the hiring operations," the OIG noted. And because there was no way to track which applicants were recruited through Accenture's efforts, CBP agreed to "give credit and temporarily pay Accenture for a percentage of all applicants."

The OIG's conclusion: "CBP must hold the contractor accountable, mitigate risk, and devise a strategy to ensure results without additional costs to the Government."

The Department of Homeland Security's internal watchdog launched the investigation after receiving complaints about Accenture's performance and management on an OIG hotline.

Thanks to Vanessa Romo.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Offices Raided by FBI of Ed Burke, the Powerful Chicago Alderman & Real Estate Tax Attorney for Donald Trump

Federal agents raided the City Hall office of powerful Chicago Alderman Ed Burke on Thursday morning, sources familiar with the development confirmed. A law firm headed by Burke helped Donald Trump and investors in Trump's luxury downtown Chicago hotel cut their property taxes by an incredible 39 percent over seven years, saving them $11.7 million, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis found.

Agents arrived at the office early Thursday morning, told employees to leave and papered over the glass windows at the office’s entrance to conceal the investigation going on inside, a source confirmed. A woman who left the office and did not identify herself said FBI agents were inside.

Burke’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Burke’s ward office on the Southwest Side also had the same brown paper taped over its front door with three signs that read, “Office closed.” An officer sitting in a squad car parked behind Burke's ward office said a search warrant was being executed inside but offered no further details.

Burke is the longtime chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, where he controls much of the legislative purse strings at City Hall. He has held office since 1969 and is running for re-election to a record 14th term.

A law enforcement source told the Chicago Tribune that FBI agents raided Burke’s City Hall office and that the search was ongoing. No arrests were made or are imminent, said the source, who had no details on the nature of the investigation.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Trump Loyalists Reputedly Act Like Mafia Members to Manipulate and Gain Favor with The President

In mid-November, the New York Times published a report detailing cracks that are allegedly starting to show in Donald Trump’s relationship with Vice President Mike Pence. According to the report, Trump has alarmed some of his advisers by constantly asking whether they think Pence is loyal. Trump disputed the claims made in the report, but even those unfamiliar with White House matters have had the opportunity to observe that the president appears to put loyalty at the top of his priority list.

As recently detailed by the Inquisitr, some journalists claim that Trump is always seeking approval, talking to aides and collaborators who nod their heads in agreement, while rejecting any and all pushback, and firing those who dare disagree with him or his administration’s policies. In an interview, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Donald Trump’s biographer Michael D’Antonio shed light on how Trump loyalists, like Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, behave.

“[Corey] Lewandowski and [David] Bossie are not exactly heavyweights, either in politics or policy,” D’Antonio explained to Ana Cabrera on CNN Sunday, Raw Story reports. “They’re a couple of guys who got very lucky to be associated with a long-shot candidate who gained the Oval Office, despite losing the popular vote, and I think they’re trying to make themselves relevant.”

“They are people who have identified themselves as almost loyal captains. You know, in the mafia structure, they would be capos. And the way that they talk is sort of in a mafia style, talking about loyalty being the most important thing and when you signed on indicates how valuable you are.”

D’Antonio’s comments about Lewandowski and Bossie are in reference to their upcoming book, "Trump's Enemies: How the Deep State Is Undermining the Presidency". In the book, according to the Washington Post, the two Republican operatives portray Trump as a victim of an elaborate conspiracy. The president, they claim, is being attacked by disloyal members of the administration and Washington “swamp creatures.” According to Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio, the fact that Lewandowski and Bossie have decided to write a book essentially defending the president comes as no surprise since the two men are thought to be ardent supporters of the president and his agenda.

Trump loyalists, D’Antonio claims, talk and act like members of the mafia. In the Sicilian mafia, much like in the Trump administration, loyalty is appreciated and perceived as invaluable, according to the writer. And much like the infamous Sicilian mafia, the administration has a hierarchical structure.

D’Antonio concluded that Lewandowski and Bossie’s mafia-like behavior appears to be paying off, since the two Trump loyalists have managed to land an interview with the president, which means that he is likely to endorse and promote their book, the journalist claims.

Thanks to Damir Mujezinovic.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodard is Officially Released Tomorrow #Crazytown

THE INSIDE STORY ON PRESIDENT TRUMP, AS ONLY BOB WOODWARD CAN TELL IT

With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, author Bob Woodward, one of the most revered and well-respected journalists in American history, reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence.

Fear: Trump in the White House, is the most intimate portrait of a sitting president ever published during the president’s first years in office.

The book details aides of Trump as they try to deal with Trump's behavior. According to the book, aides took papers off of his desk to prevent him from signing them. White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly referred to Trump as an "idiot" and "unhinged", while Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Trump has the understanding of "a fifth or sixth grader," and John M. Dowd, formerly Trump's personal lawyer, called him "a fucking liar" telling Trump he would wear an "orange jump suit" if he agreed to testify to Robert Mueller in the Special Counsel investigation.

The book is based on hundreds of hours of recorded interviews with firsthand sources, contemporaneous meeting notes, files, documents and personal diaries".

Is Donald Trump the Head of a Crime Family and Does He Believe that He is Superior to Us?

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, reporter and researcher David Cay Johnston said during an MSNBC panel discussion Sunday that the president’s superiority isn’t a recent occurrence. Apparently, the president has felt everyone is below him for quite some time.

When it came to discussing Bob Woodard’s new book, Johnston opened up about his personal experience in dealing with the man. “Woodward’s book basically confirms everything I wrote about in my 2016 book, The Making of Donald Trump,” Johnston said. “He’s appallingly ignorant, lies all the time, he’s the head of a crime family, and Donald really believes that he is superior to the rest of us.”

Johnston said that there is a reason that Trump frequently attack’s people’s intelligence or calls them “dumb.”

“Because he believes we’re all idiots and fools and he alone is the person competent to run the country, which should help us to understand how totally incapable he is of carrying out the job and why so many people talked to Woodward,” he said.

Host Ayman Mohyeldin noted that Trump dismissed the book because the comments don’t sound like him. Johnston called it nonsense, saying it sounded exactly like Trump.

The panel also spoke about the interview with Omarosa Manigault-Newman on the network Sunday, in which she claimed the use of the #TFA hashtag was frequently used in text conversations in the White House. The acronym stands for “Twenty-Fifth Amendment,” something an anonymous New York Times op-ed writer said was discussed among cabinet members. Johnston said that it didn’t make sense for anyone to try to invoke the 25th Amendment.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Why Does a Career Russian Organized Crime Expert Bruce Ohr Upset Donald Trump So Much?

Followers of President Donald Trump’s personal Twitter feed know him as a frequent critic of the U.S. Justice Department. Although his favorite targets remain special counsel Robert Mueller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, lately the president has pushed another, rather unknown name into his crosshairs: Bruce Ohr.

Here, we’ve saved you a lot of Googling.

Who is Bruce OhrBruce Ohr - Russian Organized Crime Expert?

Ohr has been with the Department of Justice (or “Justice” Department, as per the president) for nearly three decades. He started as a prosecutor in New York before transferring to Washington, D.C., where he was eventually named associate deputy attorney general.

His focus is international organized crime ― particularly Russian organized crime. Colleagues and family members told The New York Times he has an upstanding reputation as “a scrupulous government official.” CNN reported that Ohr was viewed as “a consummate government servant.”

In certain posts, Trump called him a “creep” and a “disgrace.”

Ohr was demoted in December 2017. In a statement provided to Fox News at the time, a Justice Department official suggested he was doing too much ― “wear[ing] two hats” ― and the new role will allow him to focus back on organized crime.

Is that all?

Not quite. Ohr knows Christopher Steele, the former British spy who authored the Trump dossier, because Steele once worked for the FBI as a “confidential human source” over an unspecified time. (The agency kept the receipts.) Ohr communicated with him as a Justice Department official.

When Steele shared information with Mother Jones magazine shortly before the 2016 election, reportedly out of frustration, the FBI stopped using him as a source. But Ohr continued to talk to him and pass his information along to the FBI, even though he wasn’t officially involved with any investigation pertaining to Trump.

The so-called Nunes memo ― a much-hyped document authored by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) ― claims Steele told Ohr he really, really did not want Trump elected president.

Additionally, Ohr is married to Nellie Ohr, who formerly worked for Fusion GPS, the company that used funding from Democrats to compile a dossier containing several appalling claims about Trump. He didn’t initially tell Justice Department leadership about the scope of his wife’s work or his continued interactions with Steele.

Why does this matter?

Thanks to his wife and to Steele, Ohr is loosely connected to the Russia investigation. For that he has found himself at the center of a theorized anti-Trump conspiracy. (Phrases such as “RIGGED!,” “WITCH HUNT!” and “Fake Dossier” tend to materialize in the president’s complaints about him on Twitter.)

On Tuesday, Republicans in the House brought him in for a closed-door interview about his contacts with Steele. He was also questioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee in December 2017.

To the right, Ohr’s behavior taints the Russia investigation into possible coordination between that nation and Trump’s campaign. But the idea misses one big point: The Russia investigation didn’t start because of the Trump dossier. It was prompted by the actions of George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser.

What could Trump do to him?

The president could revoke Ohr’s security clearance, as he has threatened to do in recent weeks. That would make it pretty hard for Ohr to do his job.

To fire Ohr, Trump would have to lean on Sessions, an ostensible Trump supporter in the doghouse for recusing himself from overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Why is this all coming up now?

Conservative media have seized on the Ohr story, implying that the Russia investigation was born out of partisan prejudice. The president’s channel of choice, Fox News, is particularly preoccupied with it lately, and Trump has on multiple occasions cited the news outlet’s coverage in his tweets.

Thanks to Sara Boboltz.

Monday, August 27, 2018

American Capitalism Made Donald Trump, Not the Mafia

President Trump’s ruminations after the criminal conviction of his former campaign manager Paul Manafort and the guilty plea entered by his former personal attorney Michael Cohen have been likened to that of a mafia boss. “With Mob-Tinged Vocabulary, President Evokes His Native New York” read The New York Times White House memo headline Friday.

No doubt, Trump’s references to “rats” and former insiders “flipping” on him creates the sense he orbits in a solar system of self-interest, outside the bounds of our criminal justice system that’s defined by absolute values of right and wrong. But Trump’s amoral alignment that has him flying "above the law" is not just one we can ascribe to organized crime but to how we police American capitalism itself.

This is no trivial matter, since Trump is the first President that has been bestowed upon our republic by the business world and with the ever-exploding costs of campaigns, certainly likely not to be the last. And it is easy to understand from Trump’s previous brushes with law enforcement how he would now come away annoyed with how he and his associates are being treated.

For up until now, Trump’s battles with the government as a businessman were ones that were civil in nature, where government agencies like the Federal Trade Commission or the Security Exchange Commission made allegations, and his lawyers negotiated a resolution with Trump, perhaps paying a fine, but with Trump not having to admit any wrongdoing.

This regulatory deference to capital, corporations and the people who run them is baked into our system and repeatedly comes to the rescue of serial offenders like Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs, who have ruthlessly preyed upon the public, paid their fines and gone on to prosper.

Even though these laws often have criminal penalties attached to them, they are rarely invoked. By the time the former government regulators-turned pricey white-collar defense lawyers get done, the penalties are hardly a speed bump.

Shoplifters trying to score dinner go to jail. But if your heist is really, really big like millions of foreclosed homes, our politicians go golfing with you and ask you for campaign cash. The bigger you think, the greedier your ambition, and the bigger your bank account, the more our jurisprudence has your back.

Back in 2002 the SEC issued a cease and desist order against Trump’s Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc. for issuing a “fraudulent” press release that gave the public and investors the “false and misleading impression that his company had exceeded earning expectations through operational improvements, when in fact it had not.”

“Trump Hotels consented to the issuance of the Commission’s order without admitting or denying the Commission’s findings,” the SEC said in a press release. “The Commission also found that Trump Hotels, through the conduct of its chief executive officer, its chief financial officer and its treasurer, violated the antifraud provisions of the Securities Exchange Act by knowingly or recklessly issuing a materially misleading press release.”

There was no fine, just whatever punishment the markets might exact in how it priced the stock.

At the time of the alleged violations, Trump was chairman of the company. He issued a statement that he had “great respect for" the SEC and its chairman, Harvey Pitt and that he was “very happy that this all worked out."

It was all very civil.

Back in the summer of 1986, Trump ran afoul of the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvement Act, which requires the disclosure of mergers or acquisitions to the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice so those agencies can insure the transactions will not negatively impact national commerce or have anti-trust implications.

In 1988 the FTC charged that “in two separate transactions, Trump acquired stock in Holiday Corp. and Bally Manufacturing Corp. through Bear Stearns in an amount well beyond the dollar threshold at which he should have filed pre-merger notifications with the FTC and DOJ. Trump eventually made the appropriate filings but not within the time frame established by the HSR Act.”

Trump paid a $750,000 fine, but of course the FTC press release had the business boilerplate, “This judgment is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by Trump that he violated the law.”

"I firmly believe that I was in full compliance with the Hart, Scott, Rodino Act reporting requirements,’’ Trump said in a statement, adding he only agreed to the settlement ''to avoid protracted litigation with the Federal Government over a highly technical disagreement between the F.T.C. and the business community.''

Generations of enabling American corporations and characters like Donald Trump to get away with their self-dealing has left us with vast wealth and income inequality that only grows wider.

They bought the law, so there is no great equalizer.

No, we can’t blame Donald Trump on the mafia. He is a product of no-holds barred American capitalism where the law is only for the unincorporated little people.

Thanks to Bob Hennelly.

Friday, August 24, 2018

As 2 of His Most Trusted Advisors Face Jail Time, Some Say @RealDonaldTrump Sounds Like Crime Family Mob Boss John Gotti

Following the conviction of two of his top lieutenants, Donald Trump has adopted the gangster parlance of another New Yorker famously terrorized by Robert Mueller: John Gotti. “I know all about flipping, for 30, 40 years, I’ve been watching flippers,” Trump explained in an interview with Fox News that aired Thursday, referring to the deal his former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, cut with federal prosecutors this week. “If you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you will go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made, in all fairness to him, most people are going to do that,” he told Fox host Ainsley Earhardt, who appeared to be trying her best to maneuver the president toward more advantageous talking points. Instead, Trump lashed out again and again at those he has described as “rats” for speaking with federal law-enforcement officers about the conduct they witnessed in the course of his 2016 campaign.

If the White House was at all concerned about the president of the United States emulating La Cosa Nostra, they did nothing to stop Trump from happily publicizing his remarks on Twitter, where he shared multiple clips from the interview. In perhaps the most revealing moment, he suggested that cooperating with prosecutors should itself be made a crime—and that anything his former associates are telling Mueller about him are lies to save their own skin. “I have seen it many times,” he continued, leaning in toward Earhardt. “I have had many friends involved in this stuff. It’s called flipping, and it almost ought to be illegal.”

Trump’s casual admission that he has had “many friends” involved in flipping, or being flipped on themselves, is the sort of thing that would, in another era, shock Republicans and generate weeks of controversy. Instead, party leaders are largely excusing the president’s criminal idiom as just more locker-room talk. “Eight years ago to 10 years ago, Trump was not what I consider to be a pillar of virtue,” Orrin Hatch, the second-highest-ranking official of the U.S. Senate, told The New York Times on Wednesday, after Cohen testified that Trump had directed him to break the law by facilitating hush-money payments to two women who allege they had affairs with the future president. “I think most people in this country realize that Donald Trump comes from a different world. He comes from New York City, he comes from a slam-bang, difficult world.” Trump’s prolonged campaign to tar the Justice Department (often with sarcastic quotation marks around the word “Justice”) has itself been tacitly adopted by all but a few outspoken G.O.P. leaders.

On the campaign trail, Trump’s rough reputation as a brash Manhattan real-estate magnate was part of his appeal. More recently, however, the seedier side of his playboy lifestyle has overwhelmed the gilded facade: associations with criminals and con men, payoffs to women, out-of-court settlements, non-disclosure agreements. Trump’s hard-core fan base appears to be giving him a pass—the interview with Earhardt itself epitomized the casual indifference with which Fox News has treated the majority of the president’s scandals. Trump’s allies in Congress, however, sound increasingly worried that the appearance of criminality surrounding the president’s inner circle—and his tacit support of their behavior—will hurt the party’s chances of holding onto the House in November. The Times reports that “Publicly and privately, Republicans conceded that the guilty pleas did not look good and were not optimal heading into the midterm election—especially as the party struggles to keep its hold on the House.”

Still, as the Times notes, Republican lawmakers aren’t doing much about the convictions, or Trump’s Goodfellas-inspired response, other than to distance themselves from his most overt indulgence of white-collar crime. (On Wednesday, Trump called Manafort “brave” for refusing to “break” under pressure.) “It is bad news for the country, bad news for these people involved who either pled or were found guilty,” Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama told the Times, but said he didn’t want to get too involved while he focused on appropriation bills: “I don’t know other than what I read and see.” Senator Lindsey Graham described his “No. 1 goal right now” as to “keep doing my day job” and let Mueller do his.

For now, Republicans are pinning their hopes on the ability of the Trump-media industrial complex, namely Fox News, to keep the heat off Trump while helping to discredit Mueller’s investigation into the president. Trump himself seems to be betting on the booming economy as a firewall in November. “I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who’s done a great job,” Trump told Earhardt. If he were impeached, he argued, “Everybody would be very poor.” But the president’s habit of talking like a mafioso isn’t doing the party any favors. When asked Thursday whether he agreed with Trump that flipping should be illegal, Texas Senator John Cornyn—a former state Supreme Court justice and attorney general—perfectly encapsulated how the G.O.P. has found itself boxed in by the president’s “slam-bang” understanding of law and order. “Uh, I have to think about that a little more,” Cornyn told reporters on Capitol Hill. “That’s uh—I’ve never heard that argument before.

Thanks to Tina Nguyen.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Have Connections to the #Mafia Marked @RealDonaldTrump's Entire Career?

Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas titled their classic group portrait of Harry S. Truman’s foreign policy team, “The Wise Men.” A book about Donald Trump’s associations might be called “The Wise Guys.”

Mario Puzo would’ve been just the man to write it. Martin Scorsese could option the movie rights. And if he’s not in prison when filming starts, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort deserves a role. Though Manafort hasn’t been accused of Mafia membership, Smooth Paulie certainly acts the part, judging from testimony at his trial in federal court on charges of fraud and tax evasion. He has a closet full of suits worthy of John Gotti (though even the Dapper Don might have balked at an ostrich-skin windbreaker) and a maze of offshore bank accounts dense enough to addle Meyer Lansky.

When Manafort’s turncoat lieutenant Rick Gates took the stand to detail their alleged conspiracies, I was transported to the day back in 1992 when Gotti’s underboss Sammy Gravano began singing at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. Gotti’s lawyers attacked Sammy the Bull by demanding to know how many people he’d whacked. Manafort’s team asked Gates how many affairs he’s had.

If it seems harsh to compare Manafort to a mobster, take it up with President Trump, who got the ball rolling with a tweet before the trial began. “Looking back at history, who was treated worse, [Al] Capone, legendary mob boss . . . or Paul Manafort?” Trump mused. And the president ought to know: He has spent plenty of time in mobbed-up milieus. As many journalists have documented — the late Wayne Barrett and decorated investigator David Cay Johnston most deeply — Trump’s trail was blazed through one business after another notorious for corruption by organized crime.

New York construction, for starters. In 1988, Vincent “the Fish” Cafaro of the Genovese crime family testified before a U.S. Senate committee concerning the Mafia’s control of building projects in New York. Construction unions and concrete contractors were deeply dirty, Cafaro confirmed, and four of the city’s five crime families worked cooperatively to keep it that way.

This would not have been news to Trump, whose early political mentor and personal lawyer was Roy Cohn, consigliere to such dons as Fat Tony Salerno and Carmine Galante. After Cohn guided the brash young developer through the gutters of city politics to win permits for Trump Plaza and Trump Tower, it happened that Trump elected to build primarily with concrete rather than steel. He bought the mud at inflated prices from S&A Concrete, co-owned by Cohn’s client Salerno and Paul Castellano, boss of the Gambino family.

Coincidence? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Trump moved next into the New Jersey casino business, which was every bit as clean as it sounds. State officials merely shrugged when Trump bought a piece of land from associates of Philadelphia mob boss “Little Nicky” Scarfo for roughly $500,000 more than it was worth. However, this and other ties persuaded police in Australia to block Trump’s bid to build a casino in Sydney in 1987, citing Trump’s “Mafia connections.”

His gambling interests led him into the world of boxing promotion, where Trump became chums with fight impresario Don King, a former Cleveland numbers runner. (Trump once told me that he owes his remarkable coiffure to King, who advised the future president, from personal experience, that outlandish hair is great PR.) King hasn’t been convicted since the 1960s, when he did time for stomping a man to death. But investigators at the FBI and U.S. Senate concluded that his Mafia ties ran from Cleveland to New York, Las Vegas to Atlantic City. Mobsters “were looking to launder illicit cash,” wrote one sleuth. “Boxing, of all the sports, was perhaps the most accommodating laundromat, what with its international subculture of unsavory characters who play by their own rules.” But an even more accommodating laundromat came along: luxury real estate — yet another mob-adjacent field in which the Trump name has loomed large. Because buyers of high-end properties often hide their identities, it’s impossible to say how many Russian Mafia oligarchs own Trump-branded condos. Donald Trump Jr. gave a hint in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.”

For instance: In 2013, federal prosecutors indicted Russian mob boss Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov and 33 others on charges related to a gambling ring operating from two Trump Tower condos that allegedly laundered more than $100 million. A few months later, the same Mr. Tokhtakhounov, a fugitive from U.S. justice, was seen on the red carpet at Trump’s Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.

Obviously, not everyone in these industries is corrupt, and if Donald Trump spent four decades rubbing elbows with wiseguys and never got dirty, he has nothing to worry about from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. But does he look unworried to you?

Thanks to David Von Drehle.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Omarosa - Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House - Reputedly Backed by Secret Recordings

The former Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison in the Trump White House, Omarosa Manigault Newman, provides an eye-opening look into the corruption and controversy of the current administration.

Few have been a member of Donald Trump’s inner orbit longer than Omarosa Manigault Newman. Their relationship has spanned fifteen years—through four television shows, a presidential campaign, and a year by his side in the most chaotic, outrageous White House in history. But that relationship has come to a decisive and definitive end, and Omarosa is finally ready to share her side of the story in this explosive, jaw-dropping account.

A stunning tell-all and takedown from a strong, intelligent woman who took every name and number, Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House, is a must-read for any concerned citizen.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Where the Mob Bodies, Bootleggers and Blackmailers are Buried in the Lurid History of Chicago’s Prohibition Gangsters

In 1981, an FBI team visited Donald Trump to discuss his plans for a casino in Atlantic City. Trump admitted to having ‘read in the press’ and ‘heard from acquaintances’ that the Mob ran Atlantic City. At the time, Trump’s acquaintances included his lawyer Roy Cohn, whose other clients included those charming New York businessmen Antony ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno and Paul ‘Big Paul’ Castellano.

‘I’ve known some tough cookies over the years,’ Trump boasted in 2016. ‘I’ve known the people that make the politicians you and I deal with every day look like little babies.’ No one minded too much. Organised crime is a tapeworm in the gut of American commerce, lodged since Prohibition. The Volstead Act of January 1920 raised the cost of a barrel of beer from $3.50 to $55. By 1927, the profits from organised crime were $500 million in Chicago alone. The production, distribution and retailing of alcohol was worth $200 million. Gambling brought in $167 million. Another $133 million came from labour racketeering, extortion and brothel-keeping.

In 1920, Chicago’s underworld was divided between a South Side gang, led by the Italian immigrant ‘Big Jim’ Colosino, and the Irish and Jewish gangs on the North Side. Like many hands-on managers, Big Jim had trouble delegating, even when it came to minor tasks such as beating up nosy journalists. When the North Side gang moved into bootlegging, Colesino’s nephew John Torrio suggested that the South Side gang compete for a share of the profits. Colesino, fearing a turf war, refused. So Torrio murdered his uncle and started bootlegging.

Torrio was a multi-ethnic employer. Americans consider this a virtue, even among murderers. The Italian ‘Roxy’ Vanilli and the Irishman ‘Chicken Harry’ Cullet rubbed along just fine with ‘Jew Kid’ Grabiner and Mike ‘The Greek’ Potson — until someone said hello to someone’s else’s little friend.

Torrio persuaded the North Side leader Dean O’Banion to agree to a ‘master plan’ for dividing Chicago. The peace held for four years. While Torrio opened an Italian restaurant featuring an operatic trio, ‘refined cabaret’ and ‘1,000,000 yards of spaghetti’, O’Banion bought some Thompson submachine guns. A racketeering cartel could not be run like a railroad cartel. There was no transparency among tax-dodgers, no trust between thieves, and no ‘enforcement device’ other than enforcement.

In May 1924, O’Banion framed Torrio for a murder and set him up for a brewery raid. In November 1924, Torrio’s gunmen killed O’Banion as he was clipping chrysanthemums in his flower shop. Two months later, the North Side gang ambushed Torrio outside his apartment and clipped him five times at close range.

Torrio survived, but he took the hint and retreated to Italy. His protégé Alphonse ‘Scarface’ Capone took over the Chicago Outfit. The euphemists of Silicon Valley would call Al Capone a serial disrupter who liked breaking things. By the end of Prohibition in 1933, there had been more than 700 Mob killings in Chicago alone.

On St Valentine’s Day 1929, Capone’s men machine-gunned seven North Siders in a parking garage. This negotiation established the Chicago Outfit’s supremacy in Chicago, and cleared the way for another Torrio scheme. In May 1929, Torrio invited the top Italian, Jewish and Irish gangsters to a hotel in Atlantic City and suggested they form a national ‘Syndicate’. The rest is violence.

Is crime just another American business, a career move for entrepreneurial immigrants in a hurry? John J. Binder teaches business at the University of Illinois in Chicago, and has a sideline in the Mob history racket. He knows where the bodies are buried, and by whom. We need no longer err by confusing North Side lieutenant Earl ‘Hymie’ Weiss, who shot his own brother in the chest, with the North Side ‘mad hatter’ Louis ‘Diamond Jack’ Allerie, who was shot in the back by his own brother; or with the bootlegger George Druggan who, shot in the back, told the police that it was a self-inflicted wound. Anyone who still mixes them up deserves a punishment beating from the American Historical Association.

Binder does his own spadework, too. Digging into Chicago’s police archives, folklore, and concrete foundations, he establishes that Chicago’s mobsters pioneered the drive-by shooting. As the unfortunate Willie Dickman discovered on 3 September 1925, they were also the first to use a Thompson submachine gun for a ‘gangland hit’. Yet the Scarface image of the Thompson-touting mobster was a fiction. Bootleggers preferred the shotgun and assassins the pistol. Thompsons were used ‘sparingly’, like a niblick in golf.

Al Capone’s Beer Wars is a well-researched source book. Readers who never learnt to read nothing because they was schooled on the mean streets will appreciate Binder’s data graphs and mugshots. Not too shabby for a wise guy.

Thanks to Dominic Green.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

In the Largest Increase in Decades, Attorney General Jeff Sessions of @TheJusticeDept, Selects District of Columbia to Receive Additional Resources to Combat Violent Crime and Fraud

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has selected the District of Columbia to receive three additional Assistant U.S. Attorneys to focus on violent crime and civil enforcement matters, part of a nationwide influx of federal resources to communities.

In the largest increase in decades, Attorney General Sessions announced on June 4, 2018 that the Department of Justice is allocating 311 new Assistant U.S. Attorneys to assist in priority areas. Those allocations are as follows: 190 violent crime prosecutors, 86 civil enforcement attorneys, and 35 additional immigration prosecutors. Nationwide, much of the civil enforcement work will support the newly created Prescription Interdiction & Litigation Task Force, which targets the opioid crisis at every level of the distribution system.

“Under President Trump's strong leadership, the Department of Justice is going on offense against violent crime, illegal immigration, and the opioid crisis—and today we are sending in reinforcements,” said Attorney General Sessions. “We have a saying in my office that a new federal prosecutor is ‘the coin of the realm.’  When we can eliminate wasteful spending, one of my first questions to my staff is if we can deploy more prosecutors to where they are needed. I have personally worked to re-purpose existing funds to support this critical mission, and as a former federal prosecutor myself, my expectations could not be higher. These exceptional and talented prosecutors are key leaders in our crime fighting partnership. This addition of new Assistant U.S. Attorney positions represents the largest increase in decades.”

“My office is grateful for the extra support being provided by the Justice Department to make our community safer,” said U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu. “We will put our new attorneys to work as quickly as possible on complex cases involving violent crime, drug trafficking, health care fraud, and other serious offenses that harm the citizens of the District of Columbia.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office already is working with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and other law enforcement partners on a Justice Department initiative called Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) that is generating additional cases focusing on violent crime. Under Project Safe Neighborhoods, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to a coordinated law enforcement approach and identifying and addressing the most violent locations in the District of Columbia and the offenders.

In the District of Columbia, two of the three new Assistant U.S. Attorneys will focus on violent crime and one will focus on civil enforcement. The new attorneys are in addition to an Assistant U.S. Attorney provided to the District of Columbia in an earlier initiative created by Attorney General Sessions to target cases involving violent crime.

On the violent crime front, the two new prosecutors will take on responsibilities including work on multi-agency investigations focusing on neighborhood crews and gangs in the Sixth and Seventh Police Districts. Much of the upcoming work will include coordinating federal and local law enforcement resources to combat the recent uptick in violent crime in these areas.  The additional Assistant U.S. Attorneys will supplement and increase efforts in executing the Office’s ongoing Project Safe Neighborhoods initiatives and MPD’s Summer Crime Initiatives.

On the civil enforcement side, the new attorney will join five current Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Office’s Civil Division in sharing responsibility for handling a large docket of complex fraud cases.  The District of Columbia ranks fourth in the nation in the number of whistleblower cases filed under the False Claims Act since 1987, and the number of new cases in this district in which the United States is the plaintiff increased on average by 76% during the period from 2013 - 2017.  Those cases primarily involve procurement fraud and health care fraud schemes that require substantial resources to investigate and prosecute.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Bill Fawell is @GOP House candidate in Illinois, His Qualifications: Claims @Beyonce and her #BeyHive are tied to the #Illuminati, He is a 9/11 #Truther & @BarackObama #Birther, Wrote Book on Overthrowing the US Government

The Republican nominee for a US House seat in Illinois has said the September 11 terrorist attacks were an inside job and that singer Beyonce Knowles has ties to the Illuminati.

Bill Fawell is running against incumbent Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos in Illinois' 17th District, where she won by 20 points in 2016 even though the district also voted narrowly for Donald Trump.

Fawell won his uncontested primary in March. He has not reported any fundraising to the Federal Election Commission, per publicly available records.

A KFile review reveals Fawell, a real estate broker, pushed conspiracy theories in blogs and his 2012 book, "New American Revolution: The Constitutional Overthrow of the United States Government."

In his book, Fawell pushed a conspiracy theory that 7 World Trade Center collapsed as part of a controlled demolition and the attacks were a plot to destroy documents.

"Go to YouTube and punch in 'Building #7' It's the third building that went down with the twin towers on 9/11," Fawell wrote. "Nothing hit this building, not a thing, and it fell entirely upon its own. If it looks like a standard commercial implosion demolition, it's because that is exactly what it is."

"It's interesting to note that the clandestine branch of the CIA was housed on the top floor," he added. "No personnel were lost, but any and all documents were destroyed, just like a giant shredder. The Pentagon was hit in a wing being remodeled (but few people), that held a mountain of paperwork regarding 1 trillion dollars which the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, was having trouble accounting for. That mountain of paperwork became a pile of ash."

In a February 2013 post on the blog of a political action committee he established in 2012 called Elect a New Congress, Fawell said that Beyonce's husband, rapper Jay-Z, "has a long history of serving up the godless Illuminati" and shared a YouTube video that speculated that Beyonce's upcoming halftime performance at the Super Bowl would have Illuminati symbolism.

The Illuminati is a secret society that serves as the basis for a popular conspiracy theory that alleges that many of the world's leaders and celebrities are masterminding world events.

In the same blog post, Fawell said that the previous Super Bowl's halftime show, performed by Madonna, was satanic and influenced by the Illuminati. He also called Madonna a "narcissist skank with the crooked teeth."

In an interview with CNN, Fawell stood by his blog posts and the theories he espoused on them. He said that Jay-Z and Beyonce expressed their support for the Illuminati in their videos, and that singer Taylor Swift had as well.

In explaining his rationale that 7 World Trade Center didn't collapse on its own, he said, "There's no way that 1,500-degree jet fuel can melt steel that requires 2,500-degree temperatures to melt." He also acknowledged that he didn't expect any support from the national Republican Party apparatus.
The Illinois Republican Party did not respond to a request for comment.

Another Illinois Republican nominee for a House seat, neo-Nazi Arthur Jones, has been rejected by national Republicans and the state party for denying the Holocaust.

In a 2014 post, Fawell speculated that New York City was going to be destroyed in a false flag attack by the deep state in either the year 2016 or 2017.

"New York City is going to be destroyed in the biggest, baddest false flag attack ever made by any organization upon the American People in a Pearl Harbor redux," Fawell wrote. (False flag attacks are acts designed by perpetrators to look like they were carried out by other individuals or groups.)

He said that the attack would be made in an attempt to drag America into war, and that financial institutions were already withdrawing money from New York in preparation for the supposed attack.

In another post in 2014, he wrote that then-President Barack Obama created false flag attacks to shore up support for his foreign policy intervention against ISIS.

In addition to alleging conspiracies, Fawell used sexist and racist slurs against politicians.

In one 2013 post he called former Secretary of State Colin Powell an "Uncle Tom" and called former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a "bitch" as well as a witch.

He also regularly called Obama "Barry Soetoro" and sometimes called him "Barry Goddamn Soetoro Barack Hussain (sic) Obama."

When Obama lived in Indonesia as a child he sometimes was known as Barry Soetoro, as Soetoro was his stepfather's last name. Many conspiracy theorists allege that Soetoro is his real last name and use it to argue that he was not born in the United States.

Thanks to Nathan McDermott and Andrew Kaczynski.

Friday, May 18, 2018

History of Michael Cohen's Criminal Ties #RussianMafia

Michael Cohen, President Trump's long-time lawyer and personal "pit bull," was brought to heel when federal agents raided his office in Manhattan's Rockefeller Center. The U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan, acting on a referral from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, is investigating Cohen for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations that stem, at least in part, from a $130,000 payment Trump's attorney made to hush up a porn star who says she slept with the president. ("I will always protect Mr. Trump," Cohen said.) Meanwhile, Mueller is investigating a $150,000 "donation" that Cohen arranged for Trump's foundation in 2015 from a Ukrainian billionaire named Victor Pinchuk. "Attorney-client privilege is dead!" Trump tweeted. It's not dead, but the raid on Cohen's home, office and swanky Park Avenue hotel room is an extraordinary step that underscores his decade-long role as Trump's heavy, fixer and connector.

Cohen joined the Trump Organization in 2006, and eventually became Trump's personal lawyer, a role once occupied by Roy Cohn, Senator Joseph McCarthy's heavy-lidded hatchet man during the Red Scare who advised Trump in the 1980s. Michael Cohen's bare-knuckled tactics earned him the nickname of "Tom," a reference to Tom Hagen, the consigliore to Mafia Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather. He grew up on Long Island, the son of a physician who survived the Holocaust in Poland, and like Tom Hagen spent a childhood around organized crime, specifically the Russian Mafia. Cohen's uncle, Morton Levine, was a wealthy Brooklyn doctor who owned the El Caribe Country Club, a Brooklyn catering hall and event space that was a well-known hangout for Russian gangsters. Cohen and his siblings all had ownership stakes in the club, which rented for years to the first Mafiya boss of Brighton Beach, Evsei Agron, along with his successors, Marat Balagula and Boris Nayfeld. (Cohen's uncle said his nephew gave up his stake in the club after Trump's election.)

I spoke to two former federal investigators who told me Cohen was introduced to Donald Trump by his father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ukraine who arrived in the U.S. in 1975. Shusterman was in the garment business and owned a fleet of taxicabs with his partners, Shalva Botier and Edward Zubok – all three men were convicted of a money-laundering related offense in 1993. "Fima may have been a (possibly silent) business partner with Trump, perhaps even used as a conduit for Russian investors in Trump properties and other ventures," a former federal investigator told me. "Cohen, who married into the family, was given the job with the Trump Org as a favor to Shusterman." ("Untrue," Cohen told me. "Your source is creating fake news.")

Shusterman, who owned at least four New York taxi companies, also set his son-in-law up in the yellow cab business. Cohen once ran 260 yellow cabs with his Ukrainian-born partner, the "taxi king" Simon V. Garber, until their partnership ended acrimoniously in 2012. Glenn Simpson, the private investigator who was independently hired to examine Trump's Russia connections during the real estate mogul's presidential run, testified before the House Intelligence Committee that Cohen "had a lot of connections to the former Soviet Union, and that he seemed to have associations with organized crime figures in New York and Florida – Russian organized crime figures," including Garber.

A curious episode in Cohen's life came in 1999 when he received a $350,000 check from a professional hockey player named Vladimir Malakhov, who was then playing for the NHL's Montreal Canadiens. According to Malakhov, the check was a loan to a friend. The friend, however, swore in an affidavit that she never received the money and never even knew the check had been written until it was discovered years later in a Florida lawsuit. So what happened to the money? One interesting lead was an incident involving Malakhov, who was approached in Brighton Beach and shaken down for money by a man who worked for the Russian crime boss, Vyacheslav Ivankov. "Malakhov spent the next months in fear, looking over his shoulder to see if he was being followed, avoiding restaurants and clubs where Russian criminals hang out," according to testimony an unnamed Russian criminal gave to the U.S. Senate in 1996. Cohen, who said he didn't know Malakhov or anyone else in the case, offered his own theories as to the origin and fate of the check in a 2007 deposition with Malakhov's attorneys.

Q. You don't recall why this check was written to you for $350,000 in 1999 and how these funds left your trust account in any way, shape or form?

A: Clearly Vladimir Malakhov had to have known somebody who I was affiliated to and the only person I can—and I mentioned my partner's name, Simon Garber, who happens also to be Russian.

Regardless of what he did or didn't know Cohen was able to purchase a $1 million condo at Trump World Tower in 2001, persuading his parents, his Ukrainian in-laws and Garber to do the same in other Trump buildings. Cohen's in-laws Fima and Ania Shusterman bought three units in Trump World Tower worth a combined $7.66 million (one of which was rented to Jocelyn Wildenstein, the socialite known as "Catwoman" for undergoing extreme facial plastic surgery to please her cat-loving husband). Cohen later purchased a nearly $5 million unit in Trump Park Avenue. In a five-year period, he and people connected to him would purchase Trump properties worth $17.3 million. All the frenzied buying by Cohen and his family caught the attention of the New York Post, often described as Trump's favorite newspaper. "Michael Cohen has a great insight into the real-estate market," Trump told a reporter in 2007. "He has invested in my buildings because he likes to make money – and he does." Trump added, "In short, he's a very smart person."

During Trump's presidential run, reporters noticed a curious thing about Cohen. Questions about Trump's business or his taxes went to his chief legal officer or another staffer, but Cohen handled questions about Russia. "One of the things that we learned that caught my interest," Simpson testified to Congress in November 2017, "serious questions about Donald Trump's activities in Russia and the former Soviet Union went to Michael Cohen, and that he was the only person who had information on that subject or was in a position to answer those questions."

In the 1990s, there was an informal group of federal and local law enforcement agents investigating the Russian Mafiya in New York that called themselves "Red Star." They shared information they learned from informants. It was well known among the members of Red Star that Cohen's father-in-law was funneling money into Trump ventures. Several sources have told me that Cohen was one of several attorneys who helped money launderers purchase apartments in a development in Sunny Isles Beach, a seaside Florida town just north of Miami. This was an informal arrangement passed word-of-mouth: "We have heard from Russian sources that … in Florida, Cohen and other lawyers acted as a conduit for money."

A year after Trump World Tower opened in 2002, Trump had agreed to let Miami father-and-son developers Gil and Michael Dezer use his name on what ultimately became six Sunny Isles Beach condominium towers, which drew in new moneyed Russians all too eager to pay millions. "Russians love the Trump brand," said Gil Dezer, who added that Russians and Russian-Americans bought some 200 of the 2,000 or so units in Trump buildings he built. A seventh Trump-branded hotel tower built up Sunny Isles into what ostensibly has become a South Florida Brighton Beach.

An investigation by Reuters found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses have bought at least $98.4 million worth of property in the seven Trump-branded luxury towers. And that was a conservative estimate. At least 703 – or about one-third – of the 2044 units were owned by limited liability companies, or LLCs, which could conceal the property's true owner. Executives from Gazprom and other Russian natural resource giants also owned units in Trump's Sunny Isles towers. In an observation that several people I spoke with echoed, Kenneth McCallion, a former prosecutor who tracked the flows of Russian criminal money into Trump's properties, told me, "Trump's genius – or evil genius – was, instead of Russian criminal money being passive, incidental income, it became a central part of his business plan." McCallion continued, "It's not called 'Little Moscow' for nothing. The street signs are in Russian. But his towers there were built specifically for the Russian middle-class criminal."

Cohen joined the Trump Organization around the time that the second Sunny Isles tower was being built. A few years earlier, he had invested $1.5 million in a short-lived Miami-based casino boat venture run by his two Ukrainian business partners, Arkady Vaygensberg and Leonid Tatarchuk. Only three months after its maiden voyage, it would become the subject of a large fraud investigation. But Cohen was saved from his bad investment by none other than Trump himself, who hired Cohen as an attorney just before his casino ship sank. A source who investigated Cohen's connections to Russia told me, "Say you want to get money into the country and maybe you're a bit suspect. The Trump organization used lawyers to allow people to get money into the country."

Residents at Sunny Isles included people like Vladimir Popovyan, who paid $1.17 million for a three-bedroom condo in 2013. Forbes Russia described Popovyan as a friend and associate of Rafael Samurgashev, a former championship wrestler who ran a criminal group in Rostov-on-Don in southeastern Russia. Peter Kiritchenko, a Ukrainian businessman arrested on fraud charges in San Francisco in 1999, and his daughter owned two units at Trump Towers in Sunny Isles Beach worth $2.56 million. (Kiritchenko testified against a corrupt former Ukrainian prime minister who was convicted in 2004 of money laundering.) Other owners of Trump condos in Sunny Isles include members of a Russian-American organized crime group that ran a sports betting ring out of Trump Tower, which catered to wealthy oligarchs from the former Soviet Union. Michael Barukhin, who was convicted in a massive scheme to defraud auto insurers with phony claims, lived out of a Trump condo that was registered to a limited liability corporation.

Selling units from the lobby of the Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles was Baronoff Realty. Elena Baronoff, who died of cancer in 2015, was the exclusive sales agent for three Trump-branded towers. Glenn Simpson, who spent a year investigating Trump's background during the campaign, testified before the House Intelligence Committee that Baronoff was a "suspected organized crime figure."

An Uzbek immigrant who arrived in the United States as a cultural attaché in public diplomacy from the Soviet Union, Baronoff became such a well-known figure in Sunny Isles Beach that she was named the international ambassador for the community. Baronoff accompanied Trump's children on a trip to Russia in the winter of 2007–2008, posing for a photo in Moscow with Ivanka and Eric Trump and developer Michael Dezer. Also in the photo, curiously, was a man named Michael Babel, a former senior executive of a property firm owned by Oleg Deripaska, the Russian metals tycoon Paul Manafort allegedly offered personal updates on Trump's presidential campaign. Babel later fled Russia to evade fraud charges.

Baronoff had interesting connections to Sicily. She reportedly met her friend, the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, there. Baronoff was also close with Dino Papale, a local businessman, who described himself to The New York Times as "president of Trump's Sicilian fan club," while sporting a red "Make America Great Again" cap. Days after Trump's election in November, the local newspaper, La Sicilia, quoted Papale at length describing Trump's secret visit to the island in 2013. Papale hinted that he organized meetings between Trump and Russians.

Michael Cohen's in-laws, the Shustermans, also bought real estate in Sunny Isles. The development was paying off. Trump's oldest son, Don Jr., would later note, "We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia." There is no question Trump owed his comeback in large part to wealthy Russian expatriates.

Cohen and Felix Sater have known each other for nearly 30 years. They met in Brighton Beach when Cohen started dating his future wife, Shusterman's daughter, Laura, who Sater says he knew from the neighborhood. When Cohen joined the Trump organization, Sater had become a fixture in the office. Sater was developing Trump SoHo, a hotel-condo in lower Manhattan that later would be consumed by scandal, and had earned Trump's trust. Trump asked him to look after his children, Ivanka and Don Jr., on a 2006 visit to Moscow. (It was during the Moscow trip that Sater used his Kremlin connections to impress Trump's daughter. Sater would later boast: "I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putin's private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin.") When Sater's criminal past was exposed in The New York Times, Trump suddenly looked and acted like a man with something to hide. Despite laying claim to "one of the great memories of all time," he seemed to be having trouble recollecting who Sater was. "Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it," Trump told The Associated Press in 2015. "I'm not that familiar with him." Sater flatly contradicted Trump's version of their relationship. In a little-noticed interview with a Russian publication, Snob, Sater was asked if his criminal past was a problem for Trump. "No, it was not. He makes his own decision regarding each and every individual."

In the midst of Trump's presidential run, Sater was shopping a deal to build a Trump World Tower Moscow. Between September 2015 and January 2016, Sater tried to broker a deal for a Moscow company called IC Expert Investment Company. (Sater worked for IC Expert's owner, Andrei Rozov, after he left Bayrock.) Trump signed a letter of intent in October with IC Expert Investment for a Moscow hotel-condo with the option for a "Spa by Ivanka Trump." Providing financing was VTB, a Russian bank subject to U.S. sanctions. Sater's contact at the Trump Organization was his old friend, Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen. In mid-January, Sater urged Cohen to send an email to Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin's press secretary, "since the proposal would require approvals within the Russian government that had not been issued." Cohen sent the email, got no reply, and said he abandoned the proposal two weeks later.

What Cohen called his old friend's "colorful language" attracted attention from congressional investigators and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office: "Michael I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putins private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin," Sater emailed Cohen in November 2015. "I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected. We both know no one else knows how to pull this off without stupidity or greed getting in the way. I know how to play it and we will get this done. Buddy our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this."

Sater gave an unsatisfactory answer to BuzzFeed about why he wrote this email. "If a deal can get done and I could make money and he could look like a statesman, what the fuck is the downside, right?"

Shortly after Trump took office, Sater teamed up with Cohen to submit a Ukrainian peace plan to then national security advisor Michael Flynn that would have opened the door to lifting sanctions on Russia. What happened to the plan? The lawyer at first told The New York Times that he left the plan in Flynn's office. Then, after the story became an embarrassment, he called the Times story "fake news" and claimed he pitched the plan into the trash.

Cohen has always acted to protect Trump, and he likely believed that he could always rely on the impenetrable shield of attorney-client privilege. Arguably, no one who has worked with Trump over the past decade knows more about the president's past business dealings in Russia and elsewhere abroad than Cohen. Now that prosecutors have him in their sights, here's the question: Will Cohen's shield, now broken, become a sword?

Thanks to Seth Hettena.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Very Persuasive Story that James Comey Has to Tell

In his absorbing new book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey calls the Donald Trump presidency a “forest fire” that is doing serious damage to the country’s norms and traditions.

“This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,” Comey writes. “His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.”

Decades before he led the F.B.I.’s investigation into whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election, Comey was a career prosecutor who helped dismantle the Gambino crime family; and he doesn’t hesitate in these pages to draw a direct analogy between the Mafia bosses he helped pack off to prison years ago and the current occupant of the Oval Office.

A February 2017 meeting in the White House with Trump and then chief of staff Reince Priebus left Comey recalling his days as a federal prosecutor facing off against the Mob: “The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.” An earlier visit to Trump Tower in January made Comey think about the New York Mafia social clubs he knew as a Manhattan prosecutor in the 1980s and 1990s — “The Ravenite. The Palma Boys. Café Giardino.”

The central themes that Comey returns to throughout this impassioned book are the toxic consequences of lying; and the corrosive effects of choosing loyalty to an individual over truth and the rule of law. Dishonesty, he writes, was central “to the entire enterprise of organized crime on both sides of the Atlantic,” and so, too, were bullying, peer pressure and groupthink — repellent traits shared by Trump and company, he suggests, and now infecting our culture.

“We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country,” Comey writes, “with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized and unethical behavior is ignored, excused or rewarded.”

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” is the first big memoir by a key player in the alarming melodrama that is the Trump administration. Comey, who was abruptly fired by President Trump on May 9, 2017, has worked in three administrations, and his book underscores just how outside presidential norms Trump’s behavior has been — how ignorant he is about his basic duties as president, and how willfully he has flouted the checks and balances that safeguard our democracy, including the essential independence of the judiciary and law enforcement. Comey’s book fleshes out the testimony he gave before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2017 with considerable emotional detail, and it showcases its author’s gift for narrative — a skill he clearly honed during his days as United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.

The volume offers little in the way of hard news revelations about investigations by the F.B.I. or the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (not unexpectedly, given that such investigations are ongoing and involve classified material), and it lacks the rigorous legal analysis that made Jack Goldsmith’s 2007 book “The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration” so incisive about larger dynamics within the Bush administration.

What “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership" does give readers are some near-cinematic accounts of what Comey was thinking when, as he’s previously said, Trump demanded loyalty from him during a one-on-one dinner at the White House; when Trump pressured him to let go of the investigation into his former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn; and when the president asked what Comey could do to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation.

There are some methodical explanations in these pages of the reasoning behind the momentous decisions Comey made regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails during the 2016 campaign — explanations that attest to his nonpartisan and well-intentioned efforts to protect the independence of the F.B.I., but that will leave at least some readers still questioning the judgment calls he made, including the different approaches he took in handling the bureau’s investigation into Clinton (which was made public) and its investigation into the Trump campaign (which was handled with traditional F.B.I. secrecy).

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” also provides sharp sketches of key players in three presidential administrations. Comey draws a scathing portrait of Vice President Dick Cheney’s legal adviser David S. Addington, who spearheaded the arguments of many hard-liners in the George W. Bush White House; Comey describes their point of view: “The war on terrorism justified stretching, if not breaking, the written law.” He depicts Bush national security adviser and later Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as uninterested in having a detailed policy discussion of interrogation policy and the question of torture. He takes Barack Obama’s attorney general Loretta Lynch to task for asking him to refer to the Clinton email case as a “matter,” not an “investigation.” (Comey tartly notes that “the F.B.I. didn’t do ‘matters.’”) And he compares Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to Alberto R. Gonzales, who served in the same position under Bush, writing that both were “overwhelmed and overmatched by the job,” but “Sessions lacked the kindness Gonzales radiated.”

Comey is what Saul Bellow called a “first-class noticer.” He notices, for instance, “the soft white pouches under” Trump’s “expressionless blue eyes”; coyly observes that the president’s hands are smaller than his own “but did not seem unusually so”; and points out that he never saw Trump laugh — a sign, Comey suspects, of his “deep insecurity, his inability to be vulnerable or to risk himself by appreciating the humor of others, which, on reflection, is really very sad in a leader, and a little scary in a president.”

During his Senate testimony last June, Comey was boy-scout polite (“Lordy, I hope there are tapes”) and somewhat elliptical in explaining why he decided to write detailed memos after each of his encounters with Trump (something he did not do with Presidents Obama or Bush), talking gingerly about “the nature of the person I was interacting with.” Here, however, Comey is blunt about what he thinks of the president, comparing Trump’s demand for loyalty over dinner to “Sammy the Bull’s Cosa Nostra induction ceremony — with Trump, in the role of the family boss, asking me if I have what it takes to be a ‘made man.’”

Throughout his tenure in the Bush and Obama administrations (he served as deputy attorney general under Bush, and was selected to lead the F.B.I. by Obama in 2013), Comey was known for his fierce, go-it-alone independence, and Trump’s behavior catalyzed his worst fears — that the president symbolically wanted the leaders of the law enforcement and national security agencies to come “forward and kiss the great man’s ring.” Comey was feeling unnerved from the moment he met Trump. In his recent book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” Michael Wolff wrote that Trump “invariably thought people found him irresistible,” and felt sure, early on, that “he could woo and flatter the F.B.I. director into positive feeling for him, if not outright submission” (in what the reader takes as yet another instance of the president’s inability to process reality or step beyond his own narcissistic delusions).

After he failed to get that submission and the Russia cloud continued to hover, Trump fired Comey; the following day he told Russian officials during a meeting in the Oval Office that firing the F.B.I. director — whom he called “a real nut job” — relieved “great pressure” on him. A week later, the Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel overseeing the investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

During Comey’s testimony, one senator observed that the often contradictory accounts that the president and former F.B.I. director gave of their one-on-one interactions came down to “Who should we believe?” As a prosecutor, Comey replied, he used to tell juries trying to evaluate a witness that “you can’t cherry-pick” — “You can’t say, ‘I like these things he said, but on this, he’s a dirty, rotten liar.’ You got to take it all together.”

Put the two men’s records, their reputations, even their respective books, side by side, and it’s hard to imagine two more polar opposites than Trump and Comey: They are as antipodean as the untethered, sybaritic Al Capone and the square, diligent G-man Eliot Ness in Brian De Palma’s 1987 movie “The Untouchables”; or the vengeful outlaw Frank Miller and Gary Cooper’s stoic, duty-driven marshal Will Kane in Fred Zinnemann’s 1952 classic “High Noon.”

One is an avatar of chaos with autocratic instincts and a resentment of the so-called “deep state” who has waged an assault on the institutions that uphold the Constitution.

The other is a straight-arrow bureaucrat, an apostle of order and the rule of law, whose reputation as a defender of the Constitution was indelibly shaped by his decision, one night in 2004, to rush to the hospital room of his boss, Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, to prevent Bush White House officials from persuading the ailing Ashcroft to reauthorize an N.S.A. surveillance program that members of the Justice Department believed violated the law.

One uses language incoherently on Twitter and in person, emitting a relentless stream of lies, insults, boasts, dog-whistles, divisive appeals to anger and fear, and attacks on institutions, individuals, companies, religions, countries, continents.

The other chooses his words carefully to make sure there is “no fuzz” to what he is saying, someone so self-conscious about his reputation as a person of integrity that when he gave his colleague James R. Clapper, then director of national intelligence, a tie decorated with little martini glasses, he made sure to tell him it was a regift from his brother-in-law.

One is an impulsive, utterly transactional narcissist who, so far in office, The Washington Post calculated, has made an average of six false or misleading claims a day; a winner-take-all bully with a nihilistic view of the world. “Be paranoid,” he advises in one of his own books. In another: “When somebody screws you, screw them back in spades.”

The other wrote his college thesis on religion and politics, embracing Reinhold Niebuhr’s argument that “the Christian must enter the political realm in some way” in order to pursue justice, which keeps “the strong from consuming the weak.”

Until his cover was blown, Comey shared nature photographs on Twitter using the name “Reinhold Niebuhr,” and both his 1982 thesis and this memoir highlight how much Niebuhr’s work resonated with him. They also attest to how a harrowing experience he had as a high school senior — when he and his brother were held captive, in their parents’ New Jersey home, by an armed gunman — must have left him with a lasting awareness of justice and mortality.

Long passages in Comey’s thesis are also devoted to explicating the various sorts of pride that Niebuhr argued could afflict human beings — most notably, moral pride and spiritual pride, which can lead to the sin of self-righteousness. And in “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” Comey provides an inventory of his own flaws, writing that he can be “stubborn, prideful, overconfident and driven by ego.”

Those characteristics can sometimes be seen in Comey’s account of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, wherein he seems to have felt a moral imperative to address, in a July 2016 press conference, what he described as her “extremely careless” handling of “very sensitive, highly classified information,” even though he went on to conclude that the bureau recommend no charges be filed against her. His announcement marked a departure from precedent in that it was done without coordination with Department of Justice leadership and offered more detail about the bureau’s evaluation of the case than usual.

As for his controversial disclosure on Oct. 28, 2016, 11 days before the election, that the F.B.I. was reviewing more Clinton emails that might be pertinent to its earlier investigation, Comey notes here that he had assumed from media polling that Clinton was going to win. He has repeatedly asked himself, he writes, whether he was influenced by that assumption: “It is entirely possible that, because I was making decisions in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president, my concern about making her an illegitimate president by concealing the restarted investigation bore greater weight than it would have if the election appeared closer or if Donald Trump were ahead in all polls. But I don’t know.”

He adds that he hopes “very much that what we did — what I did — wasn’t a deciding factor in the election.” In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3, 2017, Comey stated that the very idea that his decisions might have had an impact on the outcome of the presidential race left him feeling “mildly nauseous” — or, as one of his grammatically minded daughters corrected him, “nauseated.”

Trump was reportedly infuriated by Comey’s “nauseous” remark; less than a week later he fired the F.B.I. director — an act regarded by some legal scholars as possible evidence of obstruction of justice, and that quickly led to the appointment of the special counsel Robert Mueller and an even bigger cloud over the White House.

It’s ironic that Comey, who wanted to shield the F.B.I. from politics, should have ended up putting the bureau in the midst of the 2016 election firestorm; just as it’s ironic (and oddly fitting) that a civil servant who has prided himself on being apolitical and independent should find himself reviled by both Trump and Clinton, and thrust into the center of another tipping point in history.

They are ironies that would have been appreciated by Comey’s hero Niebuhr, who wrote as much about the limits, contingencies and unforeseen consequences of human decision-making as he did about the dangers of moral complacency and about the necessity of entering the political arena to try to make a difference.

Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani.


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