Posts tagged with "SDNY"

Trump campaign aide paid $20,000 a month by Bannon’s shifty We Build the Wall organization

September 2, 2020

Senior Trump campaign official Jason Miller appears to have been paid about $20,000 a month for work done for We Build the Wall, the supposed nonprofit organization co-founded by former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, according to public court filings obtained by Salon.

Bannon was arrested along with three others—and charged with defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors who contributed to the fundraising campaign for the “ private border wall”—the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced on August 20, according to a report by The Hill.

The We Built the Wall nonprofit — now reportedly under investigation in connection with the federal charges against Bannonstarted paying Miller the same month that Bannon’s associates learned they were under federal investigation, court documents and public reports show.

The Trump campaign has not disclosed any payments to Miller since news of his hiring broke in June, Salon notes—nor has the campaign disclosed any salary payments to campaign manager Bill Stepien, according to mandatory federal filings. Publicly available court documents obtained by Salon together with Federal Election Commission (FEC) records suggest that the campaign is paying Miller $35,000 a month, apparently through non-public indirect transactions.

Although prosecutors do not explicitly name Bannon’s nonprofit in the indictment, the document describes “Non-Profit-1” as predating the crowdfunding campaign and being dedicated to promoting “economic nationalism and American sovereignty.” This would appear to describe the Bannon-founded nonprofit called Citizens of the American Republic (COAR), which first filed a tax return in 2017. Its website says the group “seeks to advance the ideals of Economic Nationalism and American Sovereignty.”

Miller co-hosted a podcast with Bannon for COAR, reportedly beginning in October 2019.

In an August 23 interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Miller told host Chuck Todd that although he had worked for COAR, he had not been interviewed by government investigators. “I have not, and from public reports it looks like this investigation was going long before the podcast even started, the podcast and the radio show that I co-hosted with Steve,” Miller said.

While the exact timeline of the federal investigation is not a matter of public record, the Florida Agriculture Commissioner reportedly opened a probe into We Build the Wall in May 2019, but had not been contacted by SDNY investigators despite referring elements of the case to the FBI.

Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have charged Bannon, along with co-defendants Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea, with running a multimillion-dollar fraud and money laundering scheme, in which they secretly siphoned millions of dollars in payments from their We Build the Wall crowdfunding campaign through a shell company as well as an unnamed nonprofit.

The group disguised the allegedly unlawful transactions with fake invoices to hide their own personal takes, according to the indictment.

Bannon denies the charges.

Research contact: @Salon

Judge orders Michael Cohen to be released from prison, returned to home confinement

July 24, 2020

A federal judge on Thursday ordered that President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and “fixer,  Michael Cohen be returned to home confinement, after the he was sent back to prison earlier this month over a dispute with federal corrections officials, The Hill reports.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, accused the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) of trying to violate Cohen’s First Amendment rights by imposing a gag order as a condition of his home confinement.

“I make the finding that the purpose of transferring Mr. Cohen from furlough and home confinement to jail as retaliatory, and it’s retaliatory because of his desire to exercise his First Amendment rights to publish the book and to discuss anything about the book or anything else he wants on social media” and elsewhere, Hellerstein said during a court hearing on July 23.

Cohen had been writing a book about his time working for Trump and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit this week alleging that he was sent back to prison in retaliation for the tell-all. Cohen is serving a three-year sentence for various charges, including fraud and lying to Congress.

“This order is a victory for the First Amendment,” Cohen’s attorney Danya Perry said in a statement after the hearing. “The First Amendment does not allow the government to block Cohen from publishing a book critical of the president as a condition of his release to home confinement. This principle transcends politics. We are gratified that the rule of law prevails.”

Cohen had been released to home confinement in May amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic’s effects on the prison population, The Hill said..

Earlier this month, Cohen and his attorney met with corrections officials to finalize the terms of the home confinement agreement and objected to a number of the conditions, including a prohibition against speaking with the media or publishing any sort of writing.

According to the report by The Hill, Justice Department officials detained Cohen during the meeting over his objections and sent him back to prison.

The DOJ denied that the gag order was aimed at stopping Cohen from proceeding with his book or that his being returned to prison was retaliation over the planned publication.

During Thursday’s hearing, Hellerstein, who was appointed to the court by former President Clinton, appeared disturbed by the manner in which BOP officials decided to reincarcerate Cohen and the gag order that they tried to impose upon him.

“I’ve never seen such a clause,” Hellerstein said. “In 21 years of being a judge and sentencing people and looking at the conditions of supervised release, I’ve never seen such a clause.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which defended the BOP’s move in court, did not immediately respond when asked for comment.

Research contact: @thehill

New York prosecutor warns Trump not to ‘run out the clock’ on financial probe

July 20, 2020

A New York prosecutor has warned the White House not to try to “run out the clock” on the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal probe into President Donald Trump, Reuters reports.

Carey Dunne, general counsel for District Attorney Cyrus Vance, spoke at a hearing by teleconference in federal court on Thursday, July 16, in Manhattan to discuss Trump’s renewed legal challenge to block or narrow Vance’s ability to see his tax returns.

The case concerns an August 2019 subpoena to Trump’s accounting firm Mazars USA for eight years of personal and corporate tax returns, related to Vance’s criminal probe into the Trump and his Trump Organization.

According to Reuters, Dunne told U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero that there are looming deadlines to prosecute cases because of statutes of limitations, and more delays could give Trump the “absolute temporary immunity” the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected.

“Let’s not let delay kill this case,” Dunne said. “Justice delayed becomes justice denied.”

Marrero approved a jointly negotiated schedule giving Trump until July 27 to file papers formally opposing the subpoena and its scope. Vance won’t enforce the subpoena that date.

William Consovoy, a lawyer for Trump, said the president could argue that the subpoena was “wildly overbroad” as to reflect Vance’s bad faith, which the prosecutor has denied.

Consovoy said the subpoena was similar to congressional subpoenas that the Supreme Court refused to enforce, and that Vance, a Democrat, might have gone after the Republican president to harass him or because of political differences.

In a Reuters/Ipsos poll this week, 66% of adults agreed that Trump should release his tax returns from earlier years, and 68% said Americans have a right to see presidential candidates’ returns before the November 3 election.

Vance’s investigation began after news reports that Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen paid pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 to buy her silence about claimed sexual encounters with Trump in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election. Trump has denied that the payoff ever occurred.

On July 9, the Supreme Court in a 7-2 vote rejected Trump’s earlier argument that he was immune from state criminal probes while in the White House, UPI reported.

Even if Vance prevails, grand jury secrecy rules make it unlikely Trump’s financial records will become before the election, those in the know say.

According to Reuters, all of that could change if criminal charges were brought against anyone, including other defendants. The litigation has made it unlikely this would happen, at least until after the election.

The case is Trump v Vance et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-08694.

Research contact: @Reuters