Posts tagged with "Trump Presidential Campaign"

Flynn sentencing delayed following combative hearing

December 19, 2018

The former (and fleetingly ensconced) national security adviser for the Trump administration, Michael Flynn, is not off the hook yet.

Flynn—who admitted lying to the FBI in January 2017 about a conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in which he promised to relax U.S. sanctions; and who served as a foreign agent for Turkey concurrently with his day job at the White House—was scheduled to be sentenced on December 18 by Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

However, the sentencing for crimes investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team was postponed, Politico reported, after Judge Sullivan suggested that all sides wait until Flynn had finished cooperating with the Russia probe.

The surprise outcome came after an uncommonly combative hearing, during which Sullivan repeatedly admonished Flynn, telling him, “Arguably, you sold your country out.”

The court had been expected to go easy on Flynn, after sentencing guidelines by the Mueller team noted that his “history and characteristics,” along with his contributions to the investigation, presented “mitigating” circumstances. “The defendant deserves credit for accepting responsibility in a timely fashion and substantially assisting the government,” the document said.

“All along you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security adviser to the president of the United States,” Sullivan said at Tuesday’s hearing. “Arguably, that undermines everything that flag over here stands for.”

According to Politico, after about an hour of back and forth with Flynn and his lawyers, as well as Mueller’s team, Sullivan called an abrupt recess to give Flynn and his lawyers more time to reconsider whether they wanted to proceed with the sentencing, indicating he was not always comfortable sentencing those who are still cooperating with authorities.

Sullivan also noted that he was not obliged to follow Mueller’s recommendation that Flynn get little or no prison time for pleading guilty.

“This is a very serious offense,” said Sullivan, who noted Flynn’s crime involved a high-ranking official of the government making false statements to the FBI “while on the physical premise of the White House.”

After the recess, the news outlet said, Flynn attorney Robert Kelner said they would accept Sullivan’s offer to postpone sentencing so they can “eek” out every drop of cooperation benefit. “We do not take it as a wink-wink, nod-nod,” Kelner said.

“I’m not promising anything,” Sullivan replied.

For his part, Politico said, Flynn initially had said he didn’t want to take Sullivan up on his offer to postpone his sentencing hearing. “I appreciate that, but no your honor,” the former Trump official said.

After running through some housekeeping issues related to the Flynn case, including setting the March 13 date for the next status conference, Sullivan adjourned the hearing with a “happy holidays.”

Research contact: @dsamuelsohn

Feds look at Trump inaugural fund and super PAC for illegal foreign donations

December 17, 2018

When President Donald Trump was sworn in on January 22, 2017, his first instinct was to place his right hand on his own book, The Art of the Deal, rather than the Bible. Looking back, some might say that the how-to book would have been the better choice, in light of the financial machinations that allegedly took place leading up to that day.

Federal prosecutors in New York now are investigating whether foreigners illegally funneled donations to Trump’s inaugural committee and to a pro-Trump super PAC in hopes of “buying influence” in the administration, The New York Times reports.

That would pose a big problem for the White House, because U.S. law prohibits foreign contributions to federal campaigns, political action committees, and inaugural funds.

The inquiry has focused in on money emanating from nations in the Middle East—including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Prosecutors are interested in finding out if entities from those nations used “straw donors” to disguise their donations to the two funds.

Thomas Barrack Jr., a billionaire financier and a longtime associate of Trump’s, raised money for both funds—but his spokesperson, Owen Blicksilver, told the news outlet, “Tom has never talked with any foreign individual or entity for the purposes of raising money for or obtaining donations related to … the campaign, the inauguration, or any such political activity.”

The super PAC, Rebuilding America Now, was formed in June 2016—during a period when the Trump presidential campaign reportedly was short of cash and out of favor with Republican donors. While Trump was adamant that he could finance his own campaign, he refused to dig too deeply into his own pockets.

According to several Times sources, Paul Manafort, the campaign manager at the time, suggested that Barrack step in to raise funds for the PAC, which could collect unlimited amounts of money as long as it avoided coordinating closely with the candidate.

However, in an interview with investigators a year ago, the Times said, Barrack commented that Manafort seemed to view the political committee as an arm of the campaign, despite laws meant to prevent such coordination, according to a person familiar with the interview.

In fact, Manafort asked two campaign aides, Laurance Gay and Ken McKay, to help run the operation. A press officer said at the time that the committee violated no rules because the campaign never paid the two men. Neither man returned repeated phone calls from the Times seeking comment.

According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, the committee raised $23 million and provided funds for Trump advertisements, polls, and other political expenditures. While most of the money came from U.S. donors, prosecutors have asked witnesses whether anyone from the Middle East also contributed to the kitty, perhaps using American intermediaries to cover the transactions.

After the election, the Trump campaign had money rolling in, raising an astounding $107 million for the inauguration—four times as much as the pro-Trump PAC and twice as much as the amount raised for President Barack Obama’s first inauguration.

Today, the question remains, how was that money used for Trump’s much smaller-scale inaugural event—and what happened to any unspent dollars?

Last week, for the first time, Ivanka Trump became publicly involved in the POTUS’s election probe.  According to reports by Newsweek and ProPublica, she hiked the rates for the meeting rooms and the ballrooms at the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC specifically during the days that visitors to the inauguration would be in the city. Any extra profits would have gone straight to the Trump Organization.

The inaugural committee complied with all laws and “has not been contacted by any prosecutors,” Blicksilver, who is also a spokesman for the fund, told The New York Times. Its finances “were fully audited internally and independently,” and donors were fully vetted and disclosed to the Federal Election Commission, as required, he said.

That remains to be seen. If there has been an audit, there is no external evidence of it. Although many news outlets, including the Times, have requested a copy of the financial analysis, none has been made available.

However, prosecutors certainly would be able to obtain those documents, if they exist.

Research contact: @nytimes