Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Bombshell Newsweek Report: Trump’s Biz Ties Would Be NatSec Nightmare


Donald Trump’s sprawling web of business ties around the world would make him the most conflicted president in American history, with virtually no foreign policy decision untainted by Trump Organization interests, according to a bombshell Newsweek cover story published online Wednesday.
As investigative reporter Kurt Eichenwald details in the story, which is based on confidential interviews with executives, foreign politics, global financiers, and even criminals, the GOP nominee personally tried to woo Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, did business with the son of an Azerbaijan official who is accused of laundering money for the Iranian military, and holds the trademark for possible Trump branded projects in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
One of Trump’s most troubling business entanglements is in Turkey, a critical U.S. ally in the fight against ISIL in the Middle East. After Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan presided over a 2012 ribbon-cutting dedication of a Trump property in Istanbul, relations between him and the real estate mogul have frayed, with the president speaking out against Trump’s derogatory remarks about Muslims. The politically influential Dogan family, whose Dogan Group was Trump’s Turkish business partner on the project, is embroiled in criminal allegations, with its owner facing charges that he engaged in a fuel-smuggling scheme.
Eichewald writes:
The Trump family rakes in untold millions of dollars from the Trump Organization every year. Much of that comes from deals with international financiers and developers, many of whom have been tied to controversial and even illegal activities. None of Trump’s overseas contractual business relationships examined by Newsweek were revealed in his campaign’s financial filings with the Federal Election Commission, nor was the amount paid to him by his foreign partners.
It would also be a monumental task for Trump to untangle these conflicts of interest, according to the report:
Trump’s business conflicts with America’s national security interests cannot be resolved so long as he or any member of his family maintains a financial interest in the Trump Organization during a Trump administration, or even if they leave open the possibility of returning to the company later. The Trump Organization cannot be placed into a blind trust, an arrangement used by many politicians to prevent them from knowing their financial interests; the Trump family is already aware of who their overseas partners are and could easily learn about any new ones.
It's worth reading the whole report over at Newsweek.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A tale of many Trumps: book reveals the showman, womaniser and slick operator

Dan Roberts in Washington and Lauren Gambino in New York 

Donald Trump’s shifting political and business loyalties are laid bare in a new book that challenges his credentials as a conviction politician in often lurid detail.
Despite a recent campaign focus on letting “Trump be Trump”, the 431-page biography instead charts the career of many Trumps: the showman, the womaniser, and a business partner who quickly ditches failing schemes.
The book, the first of several expected on Trump, was compiled by a team of two dozen Washington Post journalists, led by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, during a three-month period earlier this year, in which they had some 20 hours of interviews with him.

Challenged with evidence that he had changed party affiliation seven times between 1999 and 2012, the Republican candidate defended his political flip-flopping as a necessary expediency. “I think it had to do more with practicality, because if you’re going to run for office, you would have had to make friends,” he told the authors.

He declined to say whether he had voted for Hillary Clinton, for whom he once hosted a packed penthouse fundraiser and donated campaign contributions six times over a decade. “I felt it was an obligation to get along, including with the Clintons,” he once said, according to the book titled Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money and Power.

But the team of reporters also reveal new accounts of business reversals, including interviews with some of the victims of a collapsed Florida property scheme who sued after discovering that he had little responsibility for it other than receiving income for the use of his name. 

Instead, reports the Washington Post book, one of the project’s actual developers had pleaded guilty in a separate Wall Street fraud case involving mafia crime families. Trump insists he “barely knew” the man.

 Trump also confirms a notorious incident in which unwelcome tenants in one of his skyscrapers were encouraged to leave by being told they would have to walk 60 flights to get to work because the elevators had mysteriously shut down. 
Yet much of the detail of Trump’s business dealings – from a mortgage venture described as a “boiler room” to a vitamin sales scheme said to share similarities with pyramid schemes – may please supporters with depictions of a man who invariably ends up “winning”. A controversial clothing line, made mainly in low-wage factories offshore, is said to have netted Trump $1m with no money down.

The self-proclaimed teetotaler, who doesn’t like shaking hands for fear of germs, also emerges as a consummate master of media manipulation.
NBC executive Jim Dowd is quoted saying Trump believed the Apprentice TV show provided him with the opportunity to run for the White House. “He told me ‘I’ve got the real estate and hotel and golf niche. I’ve got the name recognition, but I don’t have the love and respect of middle America.’ Now he did. That was the bridge to the [2016 campaign].”

The book details Trump’s parasitic, and at turns downright bizarre, relationship with the press. Trump even granted a reporter an in-person interview at the hospital on the day his daughter Tiffany was born. In another instance, it appears Trump, pretending to be a spokesman for himself, leaked details of his first divorce from Ivana to People magazine. 

Early in his career, he employed a “carrot and stick” approach with reporters to both garner attention and pre-empt negative press. When Trump learned a journalist from the Village Voice was interested in digging into his business dealings, he called the reporter, Jack Newfield, and later referred to him as a friend. At one point he offered to help get Newfield an apartment in a more affluent neighborhood. But Trump also warned him, “I’ve broken more than one writer.” 

“For decades, Trump’s daily morning routine included a review of everything written or said about him in the previous 24 hours. The clippings were usually culled by Norma Foerderer – for two decades Trump’s ever-present chief assistant – who also handed her boss a spiral notebook containing media requests, most of which he would handle himself,” according to the book. “As his celebrity grew, the daily pile of Trump related news coverage swelled; still, he diligently tried to review everything written or said about him.” 

During the 1980s and early 1990s, Trump routinely made headlines for his splashy persona and high-stakes investments. The book notes that he was adored by working-class New Yorkers, especially ones from the outer boroughs who appreciated his Queens accent, and by immigrants, who saw him as the epitome of the American dream, excessive but successful.  

Reporters became accustomed to speaking to Trump directly. On occasion, the book said, it appeared he would masquerade as a spokesman for the organization under the name “John Miller” or “John Barron”. He even used “The Baron” as a codename when leaving messages for Marla Maples while he was still married to Ivana Trump. Barron is also the name of his youngest son with his current wife, Melania Trump. Incidentally, when he first met Melania, he allegedly asked for her phone number even though he was on a date with another woman at the time.

The book also describes how Trump was devastated by the deaths of his casino executives, Stephen Hyde, Mark Grossinger Etess, and Jonathan Benanav in 1989. The four attended a meeting at Trump Tower in New York that ran longer than expected. Having missed their flight home, the men boarded another helicopter back to Atlantic City. A scrape on the rotor blades caused the helicopter to split apart in mid-air.
Trump learned of the crash first, and called the three families to inform them, according to the book. In an interview with the Post, Trump compared that experience to when the military informs “soldiers’ families when they’re gone”. Later Trump would claim that he was supposed to be on the helicopter and changed his mind at the last minute. “It was, like, a fifty-fifty deal,” he told CNN, though this account has been disputed

The book describes how Trump adopted the ethos of Roy Cohn, a fearsome New York lawyer and former consigliere to Senator Joseph McCarthy, who represented the builder for 13 years: “All press is good press”. Cohn, who died of Aids in 1986, weeks after being disbarred, is credited with inviting Trump into New York’s influential social and political circles that proved useful as he grew his business in the city. 

Trump later explained his philosophy to Elizabeth Jarosz, a second-season contestant who later became a brand strategy consultant. “All publicity is good publicity … When people get tired of you is when you do more publicity, because that’s when you become an icon,” she recalled.

Monday, July 11, 2016

GOP platform draft declares pornography 'public health crisis'


Cleveland (CNN)The Republican Party will declare internet pornography a "public health crisis" under an amendment added to the draft party platform Monday at preliminary meetings in Cleveland.
North Carolina delegate Mary Frances Forrester successfully proposed the amendment in a subcommittee of the platform committee Monday morning.
"The internet must not become a safe haven for predators," the provision states. "Pornography, with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the life of millions. We encourage states to continue to fight this public menace and pledge our commitment to children's safety and well-being. We applaud the social networking sites that bar sex offenders from participation. We urge energetic prosecution of child pornography which closely linked to human trafficking."
The amendment passed with little debate.
The debates over the platform on Monday touched on a variety of topics, from endangered species to medical marijuana to abortion and international trade.
The full committee continues its deliberations on the platform into Tuesday and will send a full draft to the floor of the convention next week.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

White House Blasts Benghazi Report As 'In-Kind Contribution' To RNC


"Is the RNC going to disclose the in-kind contribution that they received from House Republicans today?” Earnest said at his daily media briefing.
Earnest went on to note that House Republicans spent $7 million taxpayer dollars on their investigation, which he said was intended to "tear down Secretary Clinton's poll numbers."
Clinton herself responded to the report earlier in the day, saying it was "time to move on." House Republicans determined in their report that President Obama's administration acted too slowly in response to the attacks.
"The variety of conspiracy theories that have been flowering on the Republican side of the aisle are politically motivated fantasies," Earnest said.

Witness At Cruz Hearing Smears 2 Dem Reps As Tied To Muslim Brotherhood


“I attended a convention in Columbus, Ohio, in 2008, organized by Muslim Brotherhood group, ISNA, and both the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons had recruitment and outreach booths,” Gaubatz said. “Both Congressman Keith Ellison and Andre Carson spoke at the Muslim Brotherhood event.”
Ellison's office confirmed to the Huffington Post that he indeed attend the 2008 convention and other conventions organized by ISNA, while Carson's office did not return Huffington Post's request for comment. Huffington Post pointed out that President Obama has addressed the group's convention in 2015, via a video message. ISNA, meanwhile, has denied any connection to the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the Huffington Post.
Gaubatz was described as a "National Security Consultant" in the hearing's witness list, and has long accused Islamic advocacy groups of being front groups to influence U.S. national security policy. He once posed as an intern at the Muslim civil rights group Council on American Islamic Relations, where he collected documents for a 2009 book co-authored by his father, "Muslim Mafia."
He was testifying in front of the the Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts, of which Cruz is the chairman.
Later in the hearing, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) praised Ellison for his "great patriotism."
Another witness, Zuhdi Jasser -- the founder of American Islamic Forum for Democracy and “A Battle for the Soul of Islam” -- bashed President Obama for speaking at a Baltimore mosque in February.
“Here’s a mosque that had gender apartheid as a policy within its mosque. It had a sermon which was a screed against homosexuals a year prior, that our Muslim reform movement publicized and said, ‘Look at it. Why is he going to this mosque?’” Jasser said. “It appeared to be a bigotry of low expectations that somehow we don't hold Muslims accountable to the same values we do everybody else in the West and in this country.”
Jasser then referenced a speech Obama gave at the 2015 National Prayer Breakfast, in which the President compared concerns about Islam and terrorism today to Christianity and the Crusades.
“We'll give lectures to Christians, Jews and others, but when it comes to muslims, the mosque he chooses as a backdrop is in the 13th century when it comes to women's rights, gay rights and other rights.”

Monday, June 20, 2016

Israeli Intelligence chief : We do not want isis defeat in Syria

In a speech delivered at “Herzliya” conference yesterday , Halevy explicitly said “Israel” does not want the situation in Syria to end with the defeat of ISIS “,  the Israeli NRG site reported.
“Withdrawal of the super powers from the region and letting Israel alone in front of Hezbollah and Iran that possess good abilities Will make “Israel” in a hard position” . Therefore, we’ve to do all we can so as not finding ourselves in such situation”, the Israeli chief intelligence added.

Anti-Trump delegates raising money for staff and a legal defense fund

By Ed O'Keefe

Supporters of a growing anti-Donald Trump movement announced plans Sunday to raise money for staff and a possible legal defense fund as they asked new recruits to help spread the word with less than a month until the Republican National Convention.
Having started with just a few dozen delegates, organizers also said Sunday that they now count several hundred delegates and alternates as part of their campaign.
"As we carefully consider not only the presidential nominee but the rules of the convention, the platform of the Republican Party and the vice presidential nominee, remember that this is true reality TV – it is not entertainment," Regina Thomson, co-founder of the group now calling itself "Free the Delegates," said Sunday night.
The group is led by convention delegates seeking to block Trump at the GOP convention next month in Cleveland by changing party rules so that they can vote however they want -- instead of in line with the results of state caucuses and primaries. It is quickly emerging as the most organized effort to stop Trump and coincides with his declining poll numbers.
Concerned Republicans also are increasingly alarmed by Trump's rhetoric, including his racial attacks on a federal judge, a fresh call made Sunday to begin profiling Muslim Americans, and his support for changing the nation’s gun laws in the aftermath of a mass shooting in Orlando.

But Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and other party leaders believe that convention delegates are bound to the results of the caucuses and primaries held over the course of the year. An RNC spokesman on Friday dismissed plans to undermine Trump, first reported by The Washington Post, as "silly" and "nothing more than a media creation and a series of tweets."
Trump called attempts to strip of the party nomination "totally illegal but also a rebuke of the millions of people who feel so strongly about what I am saying." On Saturday, he accused former opponents Jeb Bush and Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) of trying to undermine his candidacy.
But in a conference call Sunday night, leaders of Free the Delegates repeatedly insisted that they are not working on behalf of any of Trump's former opponents. They also lashed out at top party leaders.
"Mr. Priebus needs to understand that leadership has not answered the call of the most important people in the Republican Party and that’s the conservatives. We have always been there, we’ve endured a lot of one-way loyalty," said Chris Eckstrom, a Dallas-based businessman and founder of Courageous Conservative PAC, an organization that once supported Cruz's campaign but is now backing the new movement.
"It’s now our time and our duty to say that this is a conservative platform in the Republican Party and we simply will not abandon it," Eckstrom added.
Thomson, Eckstrom and others addressed at least 1,000 Republicans nationwide who participated in the call, organizers said. The Washington Post obtained call-in information from a caller, but there was no way to independently verify how many people participated.
Also on the call was Steve Lonegan, a Republican consultant from New Jersey who is advising the campaign on fundraising and media outreach. During the call, Lonegan asked participants to donate to Eckstrom's PAC, reiterating that both men are volunteering their time and would spend the PAC money only to help track down like-minded delegates, hiring staff to assist the campaign while in Cleveland and to help any delegates who may face threats or pressure.
Delegates in several states have said they are under pressure not to join anti-Trump groups. In North Carolina, some have proposed fining delegates or kicking them out of the party if they vote against Trump. In other states, party leaders have threatened to strip delegates of their credentials if they buck primary results and against Trump, said delegates who have contacted The Post. Some who have reached out have spoken on the condition of anonymity, saying that spouses are fearful of physical threats if they speak out publicly about their plans.
Kendal Unruh, one of the group's founders, said that she is planning to propose adding the "conscience clause" to the convention's rules so that there is no confusion about what delegates can do. While some Republicans believe that they already can vote their conscience, Unruh said that adding the rule would end any dispute.
"I’m so convinced that it’s going to pass with a majority," she said.
Unruh and other delegates were pleased to hear House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) tell NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that it's "not my place to decide" whether delegates should be unbound at the convention.
"It is not my job to tell delegates what to do, what not to do, or to weigh in on things like that. They write the rules. They make their decisions," Ryan told NBC.
"Paul Ryan signed our permission slip," Unruh said in response.
Talmage Pearce, a GOP delegate from Arizona's Fifth Congressional District, said that Ryan "spoke wisely and empathetically" in his interview.
"Regarding Trump, I cannot in good conscience vote for him," Pearce said in an email. "The deceit, bullying, insulting, blackmailing, and liberal views all make it impossible for me to cast him my endorsement. Trump would need to change significantly and convince myself and millions of other conservatives across the country that he has changed in order to earn our votes."
A delegate from Colorado supporting the campaign said that "we will not put our delegates in an ethical dilemma" if they are unbound. "We live in America. The land of the free. As delegates, we should be free to vote our conscience."
The delegate spoke by email and on the condition of anonymity because he said he's already being harassed by other Republicans and is concerned for his safety.

Cecil Stinemetz, a delegate from Iowa, participated in Sunday night's call. Angered by intimidation tactics used by one of his state party's leaders, he forwarded an email he received on Friday from Steve Scheffler, who holds one of Iowa's seats on the Republican National Committee and is a leader of the Iowa Christian Alliance.
"Stop this madness Cecil!!" Scheffler wrote. "All the other candidates have either folded their campaigns or suspended them. You are hurting Iowa! Can't you behave yourself? You are an embarrassment! The binding for Iowa is what it is and your trying to make a name for yourself in the press is disgusting! Christians don't behave this way!"
Scheffler declined to comment when contacted for a response about the exchange, but didn't deny that he wrote the email.
"I'm not sure I've ever been this disappointed," Stinemetz said of the message.
"My whole adult life I have been a loyal Republican. But this whole experience has really opened my eyes to what some folks I previously thought were nuts were warning us about," he added. "If you want to know how it's possible for someone like Donald Trump to rise this far in our party, it's because we have leaders like this."

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Atty Contempt Hearing Set Over ID Of Trump-Linked Cooperator (RICO)

Law360, New York (June 10, 2016, 10:14 PM ET) -- A New York judge on Friday set a September hearing to decide civil contempt claims against a pair of lawyers who are accused of revealing the identity of a government cooperator who has been linked to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, conduct that may result in criminal prosecution.
The strange, secretive case involves allegations that attorneys Richard Lerner and Frederick Oberlander violated court orders by disclosing the identity of real estate developer Felix Sater as a government cooperating witness to the press and in court filings.

According to court documents, the lawyers are accused of disclosing a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act conviction of Sater's, also referred to in court records as John Doe, as well as his cooperation with the Department of Justice in the prosecution of purported Mafia and Russian organized crime figures, information that had been ordered to be sealed.

Sater, a former member of Trump SoHo developer Bayrock Group LLC, sued for civil contempt, and U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan on Friday set a fall date for an evidentiary proceeding to decide the contempt allegations.

Judge Cogan has also taken the unusual step of referring the matter to New York federal prosecutors for consideration on whether criminal contempt of court charges should be brought against Lerner and Oberlander.

The judge on Friday noted that the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York informed him that it cannot advise him on where it stands regarding the conclusion of the criminal investigation.

Sater was convicted in 1998 of racketeering for a purported securities fraud scheme, but his conviction remained sealed for years because he became an informant for the government. It was during the time his conviction was sealed that Bayrock worked on real estate projects tied to Trump, according to court documents.

For his part, Lerner has claimed that Sater used the concealment of his conviction to execute a fraud on banks, investors and others by persuading them to sink nearly a billion dollars to finance Trump-branded projects. He maintains the fraud took place with the knowledge and facilitation of former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch, now the U.S. attorney general.

A separate lawsuit, originally filed by a Oberlander on a client's behalf, claims Bayrock entities and principals collaborated with Trump on hotel projects while concealing that Sater had been convicted of a felony related to organized crime and was allegedly skimming money.

In a statement provided to Law360 by Sater’s attorney, Robert S. Wolf of Moses & Singer LLP, he called Lerner and Oberlander “rouge lawyers” who have violated numerous district court and Second Circuit orders.

“As I stated on the record, our client seeks to have Oberlander and Lerner indicted by the government and prosecuted for their criminal contempt,” Wolf said. “Additionally, we will pursue all maximum sanctions including financial sanctions to recover the exorbitant legal costs incurred as a result of their outrageous and life threatening misconduct by Oberlander and Lerner identified in these proceedings.”

An attorney for Oberlander, Jeffrey C. Hoffman of Blank Rome LLP, said the contempt allegations are not based on sworn statement of facts, as there are no orders with unambiguous decretal language.

"In fact as to some of the alleged orders they do not exist but are 'presumed' to exist," Hoffman said, adding that it was Sater and his team that publicly filed sealed court documents in Israel, which resulted in their dissemination to the media.

In a joint statement, Oberlander and Lerner called the contempt proceedings fraudulent, and said they are being charged with contempt for writing an editorial critical of Lynch and for making a filing a U.S. Supreme Court petition, with a redacted version for the press.

"The only contempt here is the court’s contempt for half a millennium of Anglo-American law. Never before has a court thought it could be contempt to speak freely of matters in the public record. And while Mr. Sater is allowed to charge us with contempt for ‘revealing’ his 1998 RICO conviction in media interviews, no one seems to care that he himself has filed court papers claiming his conviction has been public since March 2000," they said.

Many of the records in the contempt proceeding remain sealed.

Oberlander is represented by Jeffrey C. Hoffman of Blank Rome LLP. Lerner is appearing pro se.

Sater is represented by Robert S. Wolf and Robert B. McFarlane of Moses & Singer LLP.

The case is In Re Motion for Civil Contempt by John Doe, case numbers 1:12-mc-00557 and 1:16-mc-00706, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

--Additional reporting by Aebra Coe. Editing by Patricia K. Cole.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Former Texas official says he was told to drop Trump University probe


WASHINGTON -- Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton moved to muzzle a former state regulator who says he was ordered in 2010 to drop a fraud investigation into Trump University for political reasons.
Paxton's office issued a cease and desist letter to former Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection John Owens after he made public copies of a 14-page internal summary of the state's case against Donald Trump for scamming millions from students of his now-defunct real estate seminar.
Owens, now retired, said his team had built a solid case against the now-presumptive Republican presidential nominee, but was told to drop it after Trump's company agreed to cease operations in Texas.
The former state regulator told The Associated Press on Friday that decision was highly unusual and left the bilked students on their own to attempt to recover their tuition money from the celebrity businessman.

Trump University is the target of two lawsuits in San Diego and one in New York that accuse the business of fleecing students with unfulfilled promises to teach secrets of success in real estate.
A federal judge overseeing one of the class action suits unsealed documents in the case earlier this week, then ordered some of those records to be withdrawn from public view, saying they had "mistakenly" been released. Trump has personally attacked U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel as "a hater of Donald Trump," claiming he is biased against Trump because of his Hispanic heritage.
"We're in front of a very hostile judge," Trump told a crowd in San Diego on May 27. "The judge was appointed by Barack Obama, federal judge. Frankly, he should recuse himself because he's given us ruling after ruling after ruling, negative, negative, negative."
"What happens is the judge, who happens to be -- we believe -- Mexican. Which is great. I think that's fine," he said. "You know what? I think the Mexicans are going to end up loving Donald Trump when I give all these jobs, OK?"

Curiel was born in East Chicago, Indiana. Curiel's parents, however, are Mexican, according to a 2002 New York Times report of the judge's work in the Southern District of California's narcotics enforcement division.
Despite the lawsuits, the presumptive GOP nominee said Thursday he plans to reopen Trump University once the legal cases are resolved.

As CBS News reported in September, Trump University closed not because of litigation, but because students were not signing up for its Gold elite mentoring program that cost $35,000. The university, as a result, could no longer afford to fulfill its commitments to the students who had already paid.

A June 2010 memo from Trump University said the program was facing "significant operations risk" and it closed a month later. A former employee told CBS News that the program was "run into the ground."
According to the documents provided by Owens, his team sought to sue Trump, his company and several business associates to help recover more than $2.6 million students spent on seminars and materials, plus another $2.8 million in penalties and fees.
Owens said he was so surprised at the order to stand down he made a copy of the case file and took it home.

"It had to be political in my mind because Donald Trump was treated differently than any other similarly situated scam artist in the 16 years I was at the consumer protection office," said Owens, who lives in Houston.
Owens' boss at the time was then-Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is now the state's GOP governor.

 The Associated Press first reported Thursday that Trump gave donations totaling $35,000 to Abbott's gubernatorial campaign three years after his office closed the Trump U case. Several Texas media outlets then reported Owens' accusation that the probe was dropped for political reasons.

Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch said Friday that the governor had played no role in ending the case against Trump, a decision he said was made farther down the chain of command.
"The Texas Attorney General's office investigated Trump U, and its demands were met - Trump U was forced out of Texas and consumers were protected," Hirsch said. "It's absurd to suggest any connection between a case that has been closed and a donation to Governor Abbott three years later."

Paxton issued a media release about the cease and desist later Friday, saying Owens had divulged "confidential and privileged information."
Owens first learned about the state's action against him on Friday afternoon when contacted by the AP for response.

"I have done nothing illegal or unethical," said Owens, a lawyer. "I think the information I provided to the press was important and needed to be shared with the public."

Paxton faces his own legal trouble. He was indicted last year on three felony fraud charges alleging that he persuaded people to invest in a North Texas tech startup while failing to disclose that he hadn't invested himself but was being paid by the company in stock. Paxton has remained in office while appealing the charges.

Texas was not the only GOP-led state to shy away from suing Trump.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi briefly considered joining a multi-state suit against Trump U. Three days after Bondi's spokeswoman was quoted in local media reports as saying her office was investigating, Trump's family foundation made a $25,000 contribution to a political fundraising committee supporting Bondi's re-election campaign.
Bondi, a Republican, soon dropped her investigation, citing insufficient grounds to proceed.

In New York, meanwhile, Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Trump over what he called a "straight-up fraud." That case, along with several class-action lawsuits filed by former Trump students, is still ongoing.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

'Idiocracy' Team Ready Anti-Donald Trump Campaign Ads


 Mike Judge and Etan Cohen, the director and writer behind the 2006 cult comedy Idiocracy, have reteamed to pen a series of anti-Donald Trump campaign ads starring the film's wrestler-turned-president, played by Terry Crews.

The ads were fueled by a tweet Cohen sent as Trump began dominating the GOP ticket. "I never expected #idiocracy to become a documentary so soon," Cohen wrote in February, referencing the 2006 film that featured a seemingly unbelievable distant future where society was dumbed down to the point of idiocy thanks to television and pop culture.

Following Cohen's tweet, which was retweeted nearly 4,000 times, Cohen reached out to Judge about crafting campaign ads satirizing Trump, the screenwriter told Buzzfeed.
"We just thought it would take much, much longer to get to this point," Cohen said.

 "Obviously, when writing the movie, we knew that that was true about TV and movies and pop culture. But it was a crazy joke to think that it could be extrapolated to politics. It seems to be happening really rapidly."

The one hold-up before these bite-size follow-ups to Idiocracy can get in front of a camera: Judge and Cohen are waiting for Fox, the film's right holder, to give the go-ahead for Crews to reprise his role.

"The most dangerous contrast to Trump is that Camacho actually realizes he needs advice from other people, and knows that he’s not the smartest guy in the room," Cohen said, adding that he'd vote for Camacho over Trump because Crews' character is "not racist."

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Exclusive: Trump's 3,500 lawsuits unprecedented for a presidential nominee


USA TODAY analysis finds 3,500 legal actions by and against Trump, fighting everyone from the government to the vodka makers


Donald Trump is a fighter, famous for legal skirmishes over everything from his golf courses to his tax bills to Trump University. But until now, it hasn’t been clear precisely how litigious he is and what that might portend for a Trump presidency.
An exclusive USA TODAY analysis of legal filings across the United States finds that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and his businesses have been involved in at least 3,500 legal actions in federal and state courts during the past three decades. They range from skirmishes with casino patrons to million-dollar real estate suits to personal defamation lawsuits.

The sheer volume of lawsuits is unprecedented for a presidential nominee. No candidate of a major party has had anything approaching the number of Trump’s courtroom entanglements.

Just since he announced his candidacy a year ago, at least 70 new cases have been filed, about evenly divided between lawsuits filed by him and his companies and those filed against them. And the records review found at least 50 civil lawsuits remain open even as he moves toward claiming the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in seven weeks. On Tuesday, court documents were released in one of the most dramatic current cases, filed in California by former students accusing Trump University of fraudulent and misleading behavior.

The legal actions provide clues to the leadership style the billionaire businessman would bring to bear as commander in chief. He sometimes responds to even small disputes with overwhelming legal force. He doesn’t hesitate to deploy his wealth and legal firepower against adversaries with limited resources, such as homeowners. He sometimes refuses to pay real estate brokers, lawyers and other vendors.

As he campaigns, Trump often touts his skills as a negotiator. The analysis shows that lawsuits are one of his primary negotiating tools. He turns to litigation to distance himself from failing projects that relied on the Trump brand to secure investments. As USA TODAY previously reported, he also uses the legal system to haggle over his property tax bills. His companies have been involved in more than 100 tax disputes, and the New York State Department of Finance has obtained liens on Trump properties for unpaid tax bills at least three dozen times.
And despite his boasts on the campaign trail that he “never” settles lawsuits, for fear of encouraging more, he and his businesses have settled with plaintiffs in at least 100 cases reviewed by USA TODAY. Most involve people who say they were physically injured at Trump properties, with settlements that range as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Alan Garten, general counsel for the Trump Organization, said in an interview that the number and tenor of the court cases is the “cost of doing business” and on par with other companies of a similar size. "I think we have far less litigation of companies of our size," he said.

However, even by those measures, the number of cases in which Trump is involved is extraordinary. For comparison, USA TODAY analyzed the legal involvement for five top real-estate business executives: Edward DeBartolo, shopping-center developer and former San Francisco 49ers owner; Donald Bren, Irvine Company chairman and owner; Stephen Ross, Time Warner Center developer; Sam Zell, Chicago real-estate magnate; and Larry Silverstein, a New York developer famous for his involvement in the World Trade Center properties.

To maintain an apples-to-apples comparison, only actions that used the developers' names were included. The analysis found Trump has been involved in more legal skirmishes than all five of the others — combined.

The USA TODAY analysis included an examination of legal actions for and against Trump and the more than 500 businesses he lists on the personal financial disclosure he filed with the Federal Election Commission. USA TODAY also reviewed five depositions in which Trump sat for 22 hours of sworn testimony. This report is based on those legal filings as well as interviews with dozens of his legal adversaries.

A handful of the ongoing cases involve local or state government entities, with the possibility of personal legal disputes between the president of the United States and other branches of government if Trump is elected. For instance, the Trump team has filed a lawsuit seeking a state ethics investigation of the New York attorney general. The suit was filed in response to an ongoing fraud investigation into Trump University by the attorney general, an elected state official.

And at a campaign rally in San Diego last Friday, Trump railed against a federal judge overseeing an ongoing lawsuit against Trump University. Trump said Judge Gonzalo Curiel "happens to be, we believe Mexican," and called him a "hater of Donald Trump" who "railroaded" him. Born in Indiana, Curiel was appointed to the federal bench by President Obama. The judge on Tuesday unsealed hundreds of pages of documents in the case.
The trial is set for November — just after Election Day.

Trump’s history of legal actions provides clues about his style as a leader and manager. While he is quick to take credit for anything associated with his name, he is just as quick to distance himself from failures and to place responsibility on others. In one lawsuit — filed against him by condo owners who wanted their money back for a Fort Lauderdale condo that was never built — he testified in a sworn deposition: “Well, the word ‘developing,’ it doesn't mean that we're the developers.”

At times, he and his companies refuse to pay even relatively small bills. An engineering firm and a law firm are among several who filed suits against Trump companies saying they weren't paid for their work. In a 2011 deposition tied to a dispute over his deal with Van Heusen menswear, he said he abruptly decided not to sign a check to a firm that helped broker the deal, after 11 consecutive quarterly payments, because "I don't feel that these people did very much, if anything, with respect to this deal.”

The number of lawsuits raises questions about potential conflicts and complications if Trump does win the White House. Dozens of cases remain unresolved, about half in which he is the plaintiff. It raises the possibility of individuals being sued by the president of the United States, or suing him, in non-governmental disputes.

Under the law, Trump wouldn’t get special advantages as the plaintiff — or protections as a defendant. Under long-standing conflict-of-interest rules, as a plaintiff he couldn’t improperly benefit from governmental knowledge. He also wouldn’t get immunity from civil litigation that stemmed from events prior to taking office.

Together, the lawsuits help address this question: How would Trump’s record in business translate into leading the most powerful government on the globe — a task that involves managing a $4 trillion annual budget, overseeing 1.8 million civilian federal employees and commanding the most powerful armed forces in the world?

While leaders who had business careers sometimes have been elected to the White House — oilmen George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, for instance, and mining engineer Herbert Hoover — the jobs have some fundamental differences, political scientists and presidential historians say. A president can't rule by fiat, as some CEOs do. And getting things done in government often involves building coalitions among legislators and foreign leaders who have their own priorities and agendas.

“He’s operating as his own boss and a CEO-on-steroids mentality, where you snap a finger and things get done,” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, who has written biographies of Franklin Roosevelt and Teddy Roosevelt and edited Ronald Reagan’s diaries. “But a lot of good governance is on learning how to build proper coalitions and how to have patience with the glacial pace of government, and you’re forced to abide by laws at all times. "

Brinkley sees "a lot of warning signs about having someone of Trump’s temperament and professional disposition being the commander-in-chief.”..............

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

An expert explains why domestic extremists are a much bigger risk than foreign terrorists in America


Take America back from those who have stolen it.
Protect America from those who want to destroy it.
Restore the principles that these usurpers betrayed.

These are the messages that have defined the GOP presidential race. They have been used for the past eight years to justify obstruction of the Obama administration, and are now being used to paint the democratic candidates as dangerous. In the late stages of the GOP primary as the rhetoric became increasingly xenophobic, they were applied to increasingly broad swaths of the American population as well.
Years of constant repetition by members of the GOP have given them an appearance of legitimacy, now strengthened by Donald Trump’s victory in the GOP primary contest and the party’s growing embrace of him as their standard-bearer.
Unfortunately, the Republican Party isn’t alone in using these messages.
Right-wing extremist groups use them as well, and to very specific ends: to define the conditions under which antigovernment violence becomes legitimate in their worldview.
I have spent nearly 15 years studying how the risk of violence grows within societies around the world, and running programs designed to stem the tide. I have seen rhetoric like this used to mobilize violence in countries like Iraq and Kenya.
This same dynamic, I argue, is taking shape within American society now. If it continues, it represents a greater threat than anything we face from terrorist groups outside our own borders.

Turning a blind eye

Militia men surrounding the ranch of Cliven Bundy, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Fear and anger make for strong motivation.
The GOP has spent many years mobilizing both (sometimes tacitly and sometimes actively), in the form of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, racist and antigovernment sentiment. This strategy has secured them votes from the white, Christian, male and ideologically extreme demographic needed to offset the party’s growing distance from an increasingly diverse and progressive American society.
This has typically been done in code, a practice that’s come to be known as “dog whistle politics” – but this election has brought it into the open.
Few have emerged unscathed. For months, Republican candidates traded shots claiming that each other, liberals, immigrants and Black Lives Matter protesters – to name a few – are to blame for the picture they’ve painted of a degraded America that’s fallen into hostile hands.
Even the GOP itself has fallen into the cross-hairs. The divide between party leadership and the population it claims to represent is growing, and becoming septic. Trump has built his candidacy on the idea that America is sick, broken and misled, and “making it great again” depends on taking it back and cutting out the cancer.
His campaign rhetoric has a common thread with that of extremists. It emphasizes betrayal and theft. It tells Americans that things are bad because of it, and then points a finger and places blame.

The patriot paradox

Every violent group in history describes its own violence as the legitimate response to a threat that was forced on them. Groups survive in the long term when that description makes sense to enough of the population to buy them tolerance and safe space to operate, plan and grow. That’s true of terrorism and violent extremism – but because protesters and supporters alike view each other as enemies of the state and therefore legitimate targets, it also helps to explain the growing physical violence at Trump rallies. It should also provide a warning for what that as-yet-limited violence could grow into.
For examples, look at the websites of American extremist groups. Their reasoning usually orbits around the belief that they are defending the Constitution, stopping the theft of the political process from the people of the United States and resisting takeover by hostile powers. As such, they don’t consider themselves extremist at all, but defenders against it. It’s the same language we saw in 2014 at the Bundy Ranch standoff, and again in 2015 at the Malheur occupation.
The names these groups take – “Patriot Movement,” “Freemen,” “Sovereign Citizens“ – serve to legitimize them in American eyes, drawing on the narrative that true Americans are not only able – but expected – to throw off oppression themselves. Typically, each group insists it’s not violent – unless pushed, and then of course it stands ready to respond in kind.
Here, of course, is the rub. The constantly repeated themes of theft and betrayal from the GOP suggest to the patriot militias and to supporters who feel angry and alienated that the push has already happened. Trump has on many occasions claimed that America is “lost” to the American people. Given his hostility against immigrants and Black Lives Matter protesters and short-lived nomination of a white nationalist as a delegate in California, it seems clear he means white Americans. The “birther” argument, which Trump supported and other GOP officials failed to reject, at its heart is an argument that President Obama is the foreign agent that the patriot movement feared. Ted Cruz often repeated this idea that the nation is under threat of destruction and that the Obama government is law-breaking and unconstitutional.
Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh was executed after being sentenced to death for the bombing of a federal building that took 168 lives. Reuters
We’ve seen the message from across the GOP that Hillary Clinton is in thrall of elite interests that stand opposed to those of everyday Americans. As for Sanders’ self-embraced “socialist” label, it has stood in for alien since before the Cold War.
Recent years and the 2016 race aren’t the first time we’ve heard this kind of language from Americans within the patriot movement.
The following words were spoken by Timothy McVeigh, in an interview explaining why he destroyed the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.
Those who betray or subvert the Constitution are guilty of sedition and/or treason, are domestic enemies and should and will be punished accordingly. It also stands to reason that anyone who sympathizes with the enemy or gives aid or comfort to said enemy is likewise guilty. I have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and I will.
David Lane, white supremacist, founder of The Order and convicted murderer, phrased the rationale for his violence thus:
cover-ups in the Kennedy assassination and the Vietnam affair made it apparent that powers alien to America’s claimed role were running things.
We could rewrite Lane’s and McVeigh’s words alike using Trump’s birther argument or Ted Cruz’s accusation of elites without significantly changing the meaning. Indeed, although the United States remains fixed on foreign groups such as ISIS and al-Qaida when it defines terrorism, domestic violence already poses an equal or even greater threat. The foreign groups can certainly kill, but they have no power to divide our society; that additional and deeper threat is only our own.

The threat from inside

Consider this: individual acts of violence linked to racism and extremist politics are on the increase. The Washington Post reported in February 2015 that the number of Muslims killed in hate crimes is, on average, five times higher post-9/11 than before the attacks. Politics is increasingly divisive, and anger is the defining characteristic of American society.
The blame for these rifts and the likely consequences neither begin nor end with Donald Trump. He simply used an existing trend for his own gain. His praise of violence and embrace of racism and political extremism, however, goes past even what the GOP has already made commonplace.
Mainstream GOP rebuttals were too little too late. Paul Ryan rebuked Trump’s belated disavowal of David Duke, but the act rang hollow because the Washington Post reported that some of Cruz’s advisers were radically anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists. Meanwhile, Pamela Geller, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck and a host of other conservative commentators continue pandering to fear, prejudice, theft and betrayal unchallenged.
In an age defined by the fear of terrorism, “taking America back from people who betrayed her security” has real power at the polls, as Trump can attest. But this strategy for winning elections isn’t just divisive. It’s creating a risk of violence that has already outgrown the threat it’s supposed to be a shield against.
Trump’s emergence as the GOP candidate has added fuel to the fire, especially while the GOP dithers over whether or not to embrace him and his message. Trump himself is unlikely to stop or be convinced of the effect he’s really having on American security. It’s left to the GOP to decide whether American security or winning an election is more important to them.
The Conversation
David Alpher, Adjunct Professor at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Trump Withheld Alimony From Marla Maples When She Threatened His Presidential Ambitions

Andrew Kaczynski BuzzFeed News Reporter

When Donald Trump publicly floated the idea of running for president in 1999, his ex-wife Marla Maples made it clear she would spill the beans on her ex-husband if he were to make it to the general election.
“If he is really serious about being president and runs in the general election next year, I will not be silent,” Maples told London Telegraph. “I will feel it is my duty as an American citizen to tell the people what he is really like.”

The reaction from Trump and his attorney was swift and brutal. They launched a full-court effort in the press to discredit Maples and withheld an alimony payment to “send a message.” The episode illustrates how Trump uses character assassination and threats to quash any opposition. Maples has largely remained silent on Trump’s 2016 candidacy.
“She’s pretty upset that she hasn’t been in the limelight,” Trump told reporters about Maples, according to the Associated Press. “But she got a little limelight today. I guess she wants her day in the sun.”

“It’s too bad the venom that she’s got, and I thought I was very nice to her,” Trump said of Maples to Fox News’ Neil Cavuto. “I’ve taken good care of her. But she’s got a lot of venom and it’s too bad. And it’s just not becoming of her, but I think she’ll probably be more responsible.”
“I mean you have a confidentiality agreement; you’re not allowed to talk,” continued Trump. “And she goes out and says, ‘I wouldn’t this, I wouldn’t that.’ So I say, ‘Why am I paying money to somebody that’s violated an agreement?’ But we’ll see what happens in the future and if in the future she continues I guess I`ll have to take very strong measures.”

Trump’s lawyer, Jay Goldberg, was even harsher in his criticism of Maples, saying, “The 15 minutes of glory ended when she left Donald’s side. So this is a perfect way to attract publicity. All of her actions stand for the proposition ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’”
Goldberg even took a shot at Maples’ intelligence, saying, “Ms. Maples didn’t have the capacity to understand, participate, or take a role in the business world. The public is quite aware of the difference in capacity, mental capacity, between Marla Maples and Ivana Trump.”

Then, Trump, who the Daily News reported was enraged by Maples’ comments, said he wouldn’t pay the remaining $1.5 million of his alimony, the balance of the pair’s divorce settlement which was due that week.
“We notified the court that we are not paying and that we are putting the check in an escrow account,” Trump’s lawyer said to the Daily News.
Maples’ lawyer, William Beslow, said the payment was overdue and that Maples “respects the privacy of her marriage.” They also hit back at Trump’s team for going after her.
“One has to ask, ‘Why now are Mr. Trump’s representatives maligning Ms. Maples?’ and the truth is clear,” Beslow stated. “They’re hoping to discredit Ms. Maples, so that if she chooses to say anything in the future, Mr. Trump can shrug it off as the words of an angry person whose intelligence should be questioned.”

The pair headed to court over the missed payment, but a Manhattan judge declined to consider Trump’s claims that Maples violated her prenuptial agreement.
“The interview reveals no details about the marriage,” Maples’ lawyer said. “In all other respects, she is as free as anyone to make statements about Mr. Trump.
Trump’s lawyer then claimed Trump had no intention of withholding alimony, but wanted to send a message.

“It was never our intention to withhold the $1.5 million check,” Goldberg said to the New York Post. “Our purpose was to send a message that she was playing close to the fire. That should slow her down.”
Goldberg took a parting shot at Maples, who he called a failure.
“She’s certainly a woman scorned,” he said. “She’s unhappy because she was a failure here in New York. She didn’t accomplish anything. She got no roles, except The Will Rogers Follies, which Donald got for her.”
Jennifer Bretan, a spokeswoman for Maples, blasted Trump to the Post.
“It’s the sign of real insecurity that Donald Trump feels the need to authorize his mouthpiece to strike out against an ex-wife who he has basically been holding financially hostage. ”
Meanwhile, Maples’ lawyer, Beslow, took a last shot at Trump.
“Ms. Maples left Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump did not leave Ms. Maples,” Beslow said.