Thursday, 18 May 2017

How is Trump faring under the weight of six separate investigations?

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been investigating Russia’s involvement in the U.S. presidential campaign since July 2016 and in December that year the U.S. Office Of National Intelligence began a review of Russian activities and intentions in recent U.S. elections (report). 

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reportedly began an investigation into Russia’s potential meddling in the US election last year as well.

In January 2017 the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee began an ongoing investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election campaign.

By March 2017 the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism had commenced hearings in an investigation into “Russian Interference in the 2016 United States Election”.

In addition to this it is reported that U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network is investigating payments involving Trump campaign advisor Paul Manafort and bank accounts in Cyprus related to money-laundering allegations and, that in April 2017 the Department of Defense Inspector General commenced an investigation to determine if Lieutenant General (Retired) Flynn accepted payments in violation of the Emoluments Clause, implementing laws, Defense regulations, including payments from Russian entities.

UPDATE 10.13am 18 May 2017- matters are moving fairly quickly and the U.S. Full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has set a 9.30am 24 May 2017 hearing date to investigate if President Trump interfered in an FBI probe and, earlier today Associated Press reported:

7:30 p.m. [US Eastern Daylight Time, 17 May]
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller says he accepts the responsibility of being appointed as a special counsel to oversee a federal investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 election.
In a short statement, Mueller says, “I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability.”
His law firm, WilmerHale, says he resigned immediately upon his Wednesday appointment by the Justice Department. Spokespeople declined to comment further.
The appointment came amid a growing Democratic outcry for someone outside the Justice Department to handle the politically charged investigation.
It follows the revelation Tuesday that fired FBI Director James Comey wrote in a memo that Trump had asked him to end an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. End of update.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s public reaction to these investigations has been confined to furious tweeting and disjointed justifications in the odd speech or interview. Although his peremptory sacking of three bureaucrats, New York Federal Prosecutor Bharara, Acting U.S. Attorney General Yates and FBI Director Comey, also appears related to the fact that the investigations are just not going away.

On 12 May 2017 a beleaguered Trump released this one-page letter from a law firm1 while once again tweeting that the story was fabricated. The letter has a narrow focus on transactions listed in his personal tax returns as it tries to avoid the elephant in the room:
1. MOSCOW, May 2, 2016: Morgan Lewis has been recognized by Chambers & Partners’ 2016 Chambers Europe guide as Russia Law Firm of the Year. The prestigious honor was announced at the publication’s recent annual awards dinner in London, where firms from 24 countries were recognized. See:

The Wall Street Journal reported on 12 May 2017:          
A unit of the U.S. Treasury Department that fights money laundering will provide financial records to an investigation by the Senate into possible ties between Russia and President Donald Trump and his associates, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.
The Senate Intelligence Committee asked for the records from the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network late last month, the Journal cited the people as saying.
One person said the records were needed to decide whether there was collusion between Trump associates and Russia during the 2016 campaign, the Journal said.

Media outlets in Britain and the United States have also been hunting for information and been joined by a Dutch film company whose 1:22hr made-for-television documentary, The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump - Parts 1 & 2, became available on the Internet this month.

On 10 October 2016 Forbes published an article which featured one of the individuals found in that documentary:

Felix Sater is not a name that has come up much during the presidential campaign. That he has a colorful past is an understatement: The Russian-born Sater served a year in prison for stabbing a man in the face with a margarita glass during a bar fight, pleaded guilty to racketeering as part of a mafia-driven "pump-and-dump" stock fraud and then escaped jail time by becoming a highly valued government informant.

He was also an important figure at Bayrock, a development company and key Trump real estate partner during the 2000s, notably with the Trump SoHo hotel-condominium in New York City, and has said under oath that he represented Trump in Russia and subsequently billed himself as a senior Trump advisor, with an office in Trump Tower…..
It wouldn't have taken much vetting to get the scoop on Sater. FORBES retained a highly regarded global-risk-assessment firm to conduct a background check, using only what was available to it in 2007--the year the Trump-Bayrock relationship was promoted. The investigative firm (it asked not to be named for fear of political repercussions) discovered many facts that we're revealing here and others that have come out before, including felony convictions and organized crime ties. Such due diligence on Sater could have been done for $5,000.

In April 2017 The Wall Street Journal reported that former Bayrock manager, USSR-born Sater and wealthy, Kazakhstan-born property developer and Bayrock principal Tevfik Arif are in a nasty legal dispute that has Sater suggesting he could publicize the other’s controversial past—and warning that the bad headlines could tarnish the president.

Trump is a former partner in certain relevant business ventures involving Bayrock, Arif and Sater - including Bayrock being an investor in Trump SoHo in 2005. Trump and unnamed co-defendents settled a case involving alleged fraud related to the sale of SoHo condos in 2011.

 In 2008 Donald Trump Jr publicly admitted these links to Russian financing:

And in terms of high-end product influx into the US, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia. There’s indeed a lot of money coming for new-builds and resale reflecting a trend in the Russian economy and, of course, the weak dollar versus the ruble”.

In March 2017 in Richard Roe et al v United States et al a motion to intervene was lodged in an attempt to have the court unseal judicial records in part on the grounds:

 “To seek to vindicate the public’s right of access to the record in this proceeding, which includes documents critical to understanding a story of pressing political consequence: President Donald Trump’s connection to Felix H. Sater, who is well known as a conduit to Russian oligarchs and organized crime”.

So how is President Trump coping with information coming out of either these six U.S. investigations or civil court cases and the resultant media storm?

Trump is quoted as telling three Time magazine journalists that “I’m now consumed by news.” He is also various described in mainstream media as being frustrated, visibly angry or seething with rage, as well as complaining in a Fox News
interview of “a level of hostility that’s in­cred­ible, and it’s very unfair.”

Calls for Trump's impeachment are beginning to mount.

These are two of the matters Treasury has investigated previously with regard to Donald Trump.
United States Department of Treasury, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, media release, 6 March 2015:
WASHINGTON, DC – The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) today imposed a $10 million civil money penalty against Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort (Trump Taj Mahal), for willful and repeated violations of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). In addition to the civil money penalty, the casino is required to conduct periodic external audits to examine its anti-money laundering (AML) BSA compliance program and provide those audit reports to FinCEN and the casino’s Board of Directors.
Trump Taj Mahal, a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, admitted to several willful BSA violations, including violations of AML program requirements, reporting obligations, and recordkeeping requirements. Trump Taj Mahal has a long history of prior, repeated BSA violations cited by examiners dating back to 2003. Additionally, in 1998, FinCEN assessed a $477,700 civil money penalty against Trump Taj Mahal for currency transaction reporting violations.
"Trump Taj Mahal received many warnings about its deficiencies," said FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery. "Like all casinos in this country, Trump Taj Mahal has a duty to help protect our financial system from being exploited by criminals, terrorists, and other bad actors. Far from meeting these expectations, poor compliance practices, over many years, left the casino and our financial system unacceptably exposed."
Trump Taj Mahal admitted that it failed to implement and maintain an effective AML program; failed to report suspicious transactions; failed to properly file required currency transaction reports; and failed to keep appropriate records as required by the BSA. Notably, Trump Taj Mahal had ample notice of these deficiencies as many of the violations from 2012 and 2010 were discovered in previous examinations.
Director Shasky Calvery expressed her appreciation to the Internal Revenue Service, Small Business/Self-Employed Division, which performed the examinations of Trump Taj Mahal, for their contributions to the investigation and for their strong partnership with FinCEN. She also thanked the Commercial Litigation Branch of the U.S. Department of Justice for their assistance with this enforcement action.
Trump Taj Mahal petitioned for bankruptcy in September 2014. That bankruptcy remains pending. The Bankruptcy Court approved of Trump Taj Mahal’s settlement on March 4, 2015.
FinCEN seeks to protect the U.S. financial system from being exploited by illicit actors. Its efforts are focused on compromised financial institutions; third-party money launderers; transnational organized crime; terrorist and other security threats; significant fraud; and threats to cyber security. FinCEN has a broad array of enforcement authorities to target both domestic and foreign actors affecting the U.S. financial system.
FinCEN's mission is to safeguard the financial system from illicit use and combat money laundering and promote national security through the collection, analysis, and dissemination of financial intelligence and strategic use of financial authorities.

NOTE: Trump Taj Mahal Associates, LLC ,Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc., Trump Entertainment Resorts Holdings, L.P., Trump Plaza Associates, LLC, Trump Marina Associates, LLC, Trump Entertainment Resorts Development Company, LLC, TER Development Co., LLC, and TERH LP Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection on 9 September 2014 in the United States Bankruptcy Court in the District of Delaware (Bankr. Ct. Dist. Del. Case No. 11-12103 (KG.

United States Department of Treasury, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, media release, 28 January 1998:

The Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced today that Trump Taj Mahal Associates (TTMA) has paid a civil money penalty of $477,000 for failing to file reports required by the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). TTMA is located in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where it operates the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort.
The $477,000 settlement amount is for BSA violations which occurred at the casino from April 1990 through December 1991. The violations are based on failures to file Currency Transaction Report by Casino forms (CTRCs) within the time period prescribed by the BSA.TTMA was cited for these BSA violations as the result of an Internal Revenue Service (IRS)compliance examination.
Settlement of the final penalty amount was influenced by TTMA’s otherwise laudable BSA compliance programs and its cooperation with Treasury Department Officials during the casino’s IRS examination and final settlement of the matter with FinCEN.
During the 12 years that casinos have been required to comply with Treasury’s anti-money laundering requirements, the industry has experienced dramatic growth and expansion. Today, close to $500 billion a year is wagered at casinos in the United States.
In announcing the penalty, FinCEN’s Director Stanley E. Morris, indicated that BSA compliance by casinos is essential to Treasury’s efforts against money laundering and other types of financial crime. "It is Treasury’s intention to ensure that casinos -- including the ones located in the newer gaming jurisdictions -- are complying with Treasury’s preventive programs," Morris said. "Casinos are cash-intensive businesses, and many offer a wide variety of financial services, similar to banks. Without effective safeguards, they may be vulnerable to money laundering."
Director Morris also commended the IRS’s Examination unit in Mays Landing, NJ for its BSA examination of TTMA and its attention to BSA compliance by the casinos located in Atlantic City, NJ.
The BSA requires casinos and other financial institutions to file reports of cash transactions in excess of $10,000 and to institute preventive compliance programs to safeguard against abuse of its financial services by casino customers. The reporting and recordkeeping information required by the BSA are extremely useful to the government’s efforts in criminal, tax and regulatory investigations and proceedings.
Today’s penalty is the twelfth levied by Treasury against casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey (NJ). With this penalty, Treasury has collected almost $2.2 million in civil penalties against the 12 casinos in Atlantic City over the past five years.

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