|Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks|
|russian organized crime in us – Google News: Kushner failed to disclose outreach from Putin ally to Trump campaign – NBCNews.com|
russian organized crime in us – Google News
|trump investigated by the fbi – Google News: Kushner received emails from Sergei Millian an alleged dossier source who was in touch with George Papadopoulos – Business Insider|
trump investigated by the fbi – Google News
|Russia influence in Eastern Europe – Google News: Putin’s game plan to seize European territory by DISTRACTING world, ex KGB spy claims – Express.co.uk|
Russia influence in Eastern Europe – Google News
|Donald Trump | The Guardian: Trump’s Panama tower used for money-laundering by condo owners, reports say|
Trump Ocean Club drew people accused of corruption and future president benefited from laundered funds, reports say
The Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower soars over Panama City bay, a 70-storey skyscraper shaped like a sail. Donald Trumps first international hotel venture, it opened in 2011, a mix of condominiums, hotel rooms and a casino.
As one of the tallest structures in Latin America, it was a bold and lucrative expression of the Trump brand, earning him as much as $13.9m in management fees and royalties in the last three years.
Donald Trump | The Guardian
|Putin and American political process – Google News: Roberts: Have I got a bridge in Brooklyn just for you! – Danville Commercial News|
Putin and American political process – Google News
|Roberts: Have I got a bridge in Brooklyn just for you! | Opinion|
“Dear Donald: If you really believe me, if you think us Russians didn’t try to tilt the election in your favor, then I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. It’s in Brooklyn. Yours faithfully, Vlad.”
That note could well have been waiting for President Trump as he returned from his lengthy trip to Asia, where he continued to pursue his deranged and dangerous attempts to deny Russian involvement in last year’s election. His statements reveal a man deeply committed to a post-truth world — a place where facts and fact-finders don’t matter, and he alone, the Twitter King, gets to define reality.
Even worse, his attempts at denial are profoundly un-American, rejecting the consensus view of his own intelligence agencies while swallowing the disinformation spread by the Russian ruler, a tyrant who has repeatedly demonstrated his disdain for democratic values and exceeds even Trump in assaulting his media and political critics.
Putin lies. Trump believes. And the world laughs. On what planet does this Make America Great Again?
As Sen. John McCain said: “There’s nothing ‘America First’ about taking the word of a KGB colonel over that of the American intelligence community. … Vladimir Putin does not have America’s interests at heart. To believe otherwise is not only naive but also places our national security at risk.”
Last January, America’s intelligence agencies issued a joint report concluding that Moscow had tried to influence the U.S. election. Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to probe those influences more deeply.
“The president was given clear and indisputable evidence” of Russia’s role, says James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, and yet Trump continues to reject that evidence, fearing it could undermine the legitimacy of his election. He fired FBI director James Comey in a failed attempt to sidetrack ongoing investigations, and during his Asia trip, returned yet again to a topic that clearly burns him to the core.
That “clear and indisputable evidence” is really an “artificial Democratic hit job,” he told reporters, adding that the intelligence chiefs who produced the report are “political hacks.” His critics are all “haters and fools” who don’t understand the importance of refurbishing relations with Russia. Putin vehemently denies any knowledge of election meddling, and Trump believes his denials.
The reaction was so negative that Trump backtracked slightly, saying he accepted the findings of the intelligence agencies, but he clearly doesn’t. His ego is so huge and so fragile that he denies any fact that contradicts his worldview.
Putin knows and exploits this character flaw. The former KGB officer is a “trained liar and manipulator,” said former deputy CIA director Michael Morell to the Washington Post, and Trump is swallowing his propaganda “hook, line and sinker.”
Trump knows Putin helped him and is grateful for the boost in defeating “crooked Hillary.” But because Putin denies the help, and Trump gratefully accepts the denial — bolstering the argument he won on his own — the president is even further in Putin’s debt. A brilliant KGB double play. And that’s what has intelligence experts so worried.
“I think Mr. Putin is very clever in terms of playing to Mr. Trump’s interest in being flattered,” former CIA director John Brennan told CNN. “And I also think Mr. Trump is, for whatever reason, either intimidated by Mr. Putin, afraid of what he could do or what might come out as a result of these investigations.”
The president’s refusal to confront Putin, while eagerly embracing the Russian leader’s lies, “demonstrates to Mr. Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and to try to play upon his insecurities, which is very, very worrisome from a national security standpoint,” says Brennan.
In Trump’s view, the “artificial Democratic hit job” is hindering his ability to forge a new relationship with Russia and solve a range of problems, including North Korea’s nuclear threat. “It’s a shame because people will die because of it,” he complained.
And normally, improving relationships with Moscow would certainly advance America’s interests. But these are not normal times. Putin has proven, over and over again, from Ukraine to Syria, that he is no friend to America or to democratic values.
“I don’t know why the ambiguity about this,” said Brennan. “Putin is committed to undermining our system, our democracy and our whole process. And to try to paint it in any other way is, I think is astounding, and in fact, poses a peril to this country.”
So Donald, about that bridge …
Steve and Cokie Roberts can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|russian organized crime in us – Google News: Civil suit becomes Kazakh soap opera with Trump ties – Miami Herald|
russian organized crime in us – Google News
|Kushner got emails about WikiLeaks, Russia in 2016, lawmakers say|
Lawmakers asked Jared Kushner to turn over all responsive documents by Nov. 27. | Thomas Peter/Getty Images
By KYLE CHENEY
Jared Kushner received emails in September 2016 about WikiLeaks and about a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite” and forwarded them to another campaign official, according to a letter to his attorney from the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Kushner failed to turn over the relevant documents when they asked for them last month.
Story Continued Below
“We appreciate your voluntary cooperation with the Committee’s investigation, but the production appears to have been incomplete,” the pair wrote in a letter dated Thursday to Kushner’s attorney, Abbe Lowell.
Lowell said in a statement that he and Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a White House senior adviser, had been responsive to the requests.
“We provided the Judiciary Committee with all relevant documents that had to do with Mr. Kushner’s calls, contacts or meetings with Russians during the campaign and transition, which was the request,” Lowell said, adding that he and Kushner had also told the committee they would be open to additional requests for information.
In a section of the letter titled “Missing documents,” Grassley and Feinstein said Kushner had handed over some materials but omitted communications that mentioned some of the people connected to the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“If, as you suggest, Mr. Kushner was unaware of, for example, any attempts at Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, then presumably there would be few communications concerning many of the persons identified,” the lawmakers wrote.
Grassley and Feinstein also alluded to documents they received from other witnesses on which Kushner was copied.
“Other parties have produced September 2016 email communications to Mr. Kushner concerning WikiLeaks, which Mr. Kushner then forwarded to another campaign official,” they wrote. “Such documents should have been produced…but were not.
“Likewise,” the letter continued, “other parties have produced documents concerning a ‘Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite’ which Mr. Kushner also forwarded. And still others have produced communications with Sergei Millian, copied to Mr. Kushner. Again, these do not appear in Mr. Kushner’s production despite being responsive to the second request. You also have not produced any phone records that we presume exist and would relate to Mr. Kushner’s communications regarding several requests.”
They asked Kushner to turn over all responsive documents by Nov. 27.
According to the lawmakers, Kushner’s attorney suggested providing some documents might “implicate the president’s Executive Privilege.” In their letter, they asked Lowell to resolve those issues and produce the documents or create a “privilege log” to detail over which documents the president is asserting executive privilege.
Grassley and Feinstein also said Kushner declined to produce documents connected to his security clearance application, citing their confidentiality. The lawmakers said they intend to take Lowell up on a separate request to visit his office to review the documents in person, but they said the committee would not waive its request to obtain its own copies.
The committee is also seeking another broad group of documents about Kushner’s contacts with former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Grassley and Feinstein said they’d like all communications between Kushner and Flynn since Election Day 2016, as well as any communications that reference email hacking, Russia, the Magnitsky Act and other people or entities that have been implicated in the Russian interference scheme.
The lawmakers said they have yet to receive access to Kushner’s lengthy interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee and are seeking a copy of it from Lowell to determine “whether the transcript satisfies the needs of our investigation.”
|Lawfare – Hard National Security Choices: Today’s Headlines and Commentary|
Russia blocked the extension of the U.N. investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the Washington Post reported. Russias representative to the Security Council vetoed a resolution that the U.S. introduced to prolong the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), the U.N. probe created to find the responsible parties for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Russia had criticized the JIMs latest report for blaming the Syrian government for the April sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun. The investigations term expired on Thursday.
China reiterated its position that the U.S. and South Korea should stop conducting joint military exercises in exchange for a freeze in North Korean nuclear testing, the Post reported. The White House said President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had agreed to disagree about the proposed approach. Earlier this week, Trump said Xi had told him the freeze-for-freeze proposal would not work. In response, China insisted it still supported the proposal. Separately, North Koreas envoy to the U.N. said it would not begin negotiations about its nuclear program unless the U.S. and South Korea end their military exercises, according to Reuters. He also said he expected the U.S. to impose more sanctions in the coming months.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed the Trump campaign to obtain Russia-related documents from several top officials, the Wall Street Journal reported. Despite the Trump campaigns insistence that it is cooperating with the special counsel inquiry, in mid-October Muellers team issued an order requesting documents from at least a dozen senior campaign aides for documents and emails containing Russia-related keywords. Separately, the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Jared Kushner received emails in September 2016 about Wikileaks and about a Russian overture, Politico reported. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein requested the emails in a letter they sent to Kushners attorney on Thursday.
George Papadopoulos bragged to Greek journalists last year about a phone call with Donald Trump relating to his role in the Trump campaign, Politico reported. The claims would contradict assertions from senior Trump campaign leaders, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions that Papadopoulos was not an important part of the campaign. Papadopoulos also told journalists in Greece that he was authorized to represent the campaign to foreign leaders.
Sergei Kislyak, Russias former ambassador to the United States, said he could not name all the Trump campaign officials he has met or spoken with, CNBC reported. In an interview with a Russian news channel, Kislyak said naming all Trump officials he had interactions with would take over twenty minutes. Kisylaks undisclosed meeting with Jeff Sessions prompted Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation last March.
A suicide bombing in Kabul killed twelve people in a blast near a meeting for one of the countrys leading political parties, the Post reported. The Islamic State issued an unsubstantiated claim of responsibility for the bombing while the Taliban denied involvement.
Saad Hariri, the recently-resigned former Lebanese prime minister, accepted an invitation to make an official visit to France, the Post reported. After meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Riyadh, Hariri said he would visit Paris soon. Lebanons president has accused Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri hostage. On Wednesday, Hariri said he would return to Lebanon within two days, a deadline that has now expired. Frances president, Emmanuel Macron, emphasized that the French invitation was not an offer of political exile.
The Pentagon is developing plans for a ballistic missile that would violate the terms of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the Journal reported. U.S. officials said the proposed design is not intended for production but rather to showcase to Russia how the U.S. would respond if Russia continues to violate the INF Treaty. Top Defense Department officials have said that the Russian-deployed cruise missile is in breach of the treatys terms. For its part, Russia says U.S. missile defense systems in Europe are in violation of the agreement.
Cambodias Supreme Court dissolved the leading opposition party, consolidating power for Prime Minister Hun Sen, according to the Journal. The Prime Ministers government had sued the Cambodian National Rescue Party after accusing its leader of treason in connection with an alleged plot for a U.S.-backed coup. The Supreme Courts action makes Cambodia a one-party state; the high courts judges are widely viewed as allies of the prime minister, says the Journal. A European Union spokesperson said the move made Cambodias upcoming election process illegitimate.
A Human Rights Watch report said Myanmars military systematically raped Rohingya Muslim women and girls, the New York Times reported. The report, based on interviews with 52 Rohingya women and girls, said uniformed military personnel raped hundreds of people before and during attacks on Rohingya villages. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently called on Myanmar to investigate reports of atrocities committed by its security forces. A Times report from last month details, with graphic images and witness accounts, the atrocities that the military has perpetrated against the Rohingya. The U.N. has called the atrocities ethnic cleansing.
The Senate passed the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018, according to Reuters. The $700 billion defense spending bill will now go to the White House for the presidents signature or veto. Trump is expected to sign the bill.
Russias justice ministry warned U.S. media outlets they might have to register as foreign agents under the terms of a bill that will soon go to the upper house of Russias parliament, the BBC reported. The ministry warned outlets associated with Voice of America and Radio Free Europe that they could face restrictions on their operations if they fail to register under and abide by new regulations. The proposed law is in retaliation for the U.S. Department of Justices enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act on Russia-backed RT and Sputnik.
The State Department said the U.S. would consider removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, according to the Times. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said Sudans removal from the list was conditional on it making further progress in cooperation with the U.S. against terrorism and on human rights issues.
The New York Times Magazines Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal wrote about the uncounted civilian toll of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.
ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare
Karen Young argued that the Saudi anti-corruption purge has overshadowed the slow progress in Saudi Arabias economic reform agenda.
Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared the National Security Law Podcast, covering among other issues, an en banc FISC decision and the NDAA.
Daniel Byman, Sarah Tate Chambers, Zann Isacson and Chris Mirasole set the stage for their upcoming series on regulating terrorist content on the Internet.
Benjamin Wittes shared the DMs on the DL edition of Rational Security.
Jimmy Chalk updated Water Wars, covering Trumps Asia trip.
Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit ourEvents Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on ourJob Board.
Lawfare – Hard National Security Choices
|The Russia probe has entered Phase 2|
We have now entered the second phase of the Russia probe. In the first, special counsel Robert Muellerand his team, starting from scratch, gathered sufficient evidence to file felony charges against Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos.
Phase 1 has given Mueller leverage against higher-level targets, who must be wondering how much the special counsel already knows, and how much he’s about to learn. Careful work may, eventually, enable him to secure evidence against the greatest target of them all: the president. In this second round, Mueller is holding all the cards and has the latitude to play them when and as he chooses.
The initial charges sent a message to the White House and former Trump campaign officials, who had tried to whistle their way past the graveyard, portraying the probe as lacking in substance and likely to be short-lived. The Oct. 30 flurry demonstrated that 1) people will be going to jail for a long time and 2) the probe is unlikely to stop short of the Oval Office. No more talk of fake news.
The sophisticated charges against Manafort and Gates, in particular, also revealed to veteran observers the meticulous professionalism and industry of Mueller’s squad, which is among the most formidable prosecutorial teams ever assembled. Further bad news for Team Trump.
From the public reports of potential criminal activity, it looks as though Mueller has set his immediate sights on no fewer than nine characters in Trump’s orbit: Michael Flynn (father), Michael Flynn (son), Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Carter Page, Corey Lewandowski, Stephen Miller, Keith Schiller and Sam Clovis. And of course there are possible wild cards that have not come into general public view. (No one anticipated the Papadopoulos indictment.)
Which of these men will next be charged? That depends not only on ease of proof, but also who can be used to induce cooperation among other campaign and administration insiders. My guess is that the Flynns are next on the chopping block.
It is a safe bet, moreover, that already discussions are taking place between Mueller’s team and multiple defense attorneys over terms of possible cooperation.
For these targets, Mueller can credibly warn that if they don’t talk first, others will, and their opportunity to receive a sharply reduced sentence will disappear. They are in effect playing an excruciating game of musical chairs in which the last defendants standing will be stuck with nothing but mammoth legal fees and lifelong disrepute.
Consider, for example, Manafort’s position should Mueller next bring charges against Flynn. He and Flynn have overlapping information. Now the two are locked in something like a classic prisoner’s dilemma: If one of them agrees to cooperate, it could sharply reduce the value, and thus the reward, for cooperation by the other. That means Manafort needs to make a decision promptly about whether to talk. And he has to do so knowing that his prospects for an acquittal are slim.
The charges against Flynn, should Mueller bring them, will likely be extensive, including false statements, conspiracy, money laundering and violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, all growing out of his illicit and highly profitable dealings with the Turkish government.
Flynn the elder is effectively ruined at this point. He has no professional prospects and the only upside for him would be to stay out of jail. Not so for Flynn the younger, who reputation is not yet fully tarnished. A conviction would be devastating. If Mueller charges the son, that will put immense pressure on the father — a controversial and arguably mean-spirited maneuver, but one that’s absolutely in the playbook. The most recent prominent example was the decision to charge the wife of Andrew Fastow in the Enron investigation. The man behind that decision, by the way, was Andrew Weissman, Mueller’s No. 2.
A similar dynamic arises with Donald Trump Jr., whose stumblebum flirtations with WikiLeaks and with Russian figures he believed could provide dirt on Hillary Clinton could give rise to a series of criminal charges. True, Trump Sr. appears to be hermetically self-centered, but he is in his 70s and facing, at best, a failing presidency. What will he do if he knows that his son and namesake could go to prison, forever soiling the Trump brand?
There will be future rounds of the probe in which Mueller’s path will be less smooth. In particular, his team will one day face in the courts a battery of legal and evidentiary arguments crafted by some of the country’s most sophisticated (and expensive) defense lawyers. But for now, Mueller rules.
Harry Litman, a former United States attorney and deputy assistant attorney general, teaches at UCLA Law School and practices law at Constantine Cannon.
|The Russia probe has entered Phase 2 – Los Angeles Times|
|Ivanka Trump and the fugitive from Panama|
PANAMA CITY/TORONTO – In the spring of 2007, a succession of foreigners, many from Russia, arrived at Panama City airport to be greeted by a chauffeur who whisked them off in a white Cadillac with a Donald Trump logo on the side.
The limousine belonged to a business run by a Brazilian former car salesman named Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, who was offering the visitors a chance to invest in Trump’s latest project – a 70-floor tower called the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower. It was the future U.S. president’s first international hotel venture, a complex including residential apartments and a casino in a waterfront building shaped like a sail.
“Mr Nogueira was an outgoing and lively young man,” remembered Justine Pasek, who was crowned Miss Universe by Donald Trump in 2002 and was acting in 2007 as a spokesperson for Nogueira’s company, Homes Real Estate Investment & Services. “Everybody was so impressed with Homes as they seemed to be riding the top of the real estate boom at the time,” she said.
One of those Nogueira set out to impress was Ivanka, Trump’s daughter. In an interview with Reuters, Nogueira said he met and spoke with Ivanka “many times” when she was handling the Trump Organization’s involvement in the Panama development. “She would remember me,” he said.
Ivanka was so taken with his sales skills, Nogueira said, that she helped him become a leading broker for the development and he appeared in a video with her promoting the project.
A Reuters investigation into the financing of the Trump Ocean Club, in conjunction with the American broadcaster NBC News, found Nogueira was responsible for between one-third and one-half of advance sales for the project. It also found he did business with a Colombian who was later convicted of money laundering and is now in detention in the United States; a Russian investor in the Trump project who was jailed in Israel in the 1990s for kidnap and threats to kill; and a Ukrainian investor who was arrested for alleged people-smuggling while working with Nogueira and later convicted by a Kiev court.
Three years after getting involved in the Trump Ocean Club, Nogueira was arrested by Panamanian authorities on charges of fraud and forgery, unrelated to the Trump project. Released on $1.4 million bail, he later fled the country.
He left behind a trail of people who claim he cheated them, including over apartments in the Trump project, resulting in at least four criminal cases that eight years later have still to be judged.
Nogueira, 43, denies the charges and told Reuters in an email: “I am no Angel but not Devil either.”
Ivanka Trump declined to comment on her dealings with Nogueira. A White House spokesman referred questions to the Trump Organization. Alan Garten, the organization’s chief legal officer, said: “No one at the Trump Organization, including the Trump family, has any recollection of ever meeting or speaking with this individual.”
Trump put his name to the development and stood to make up to $75 million from it, according to a bond prospectus for the project. He did not exert management control over the construction and was under no direct legal obligation to conduct due diligence on other people involved.
Still, some legal experts say the episode raises questions about the steps Trump took to check the source of any income from there. Arthur Middlemiss, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan and a former head of JPMorgan’s global anti-corruption program, said that since Panama was “perceived to be highly corrupt,” anyone engaged in business there should conduct due diligence on others involved in their ventures. If they did not, he said, there was a potential risk in U.S. law of being liable for turning a blind eye to wrongdoing.
Jimmy Gurule, a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, and a former under-secretary for enforcement at the U.S. Treasury Department, agreed. He also said any businessman should avoid working with “anyone with a potential link to criminality” simply as a matter of good ethics.
Reuters could not determine what due diligence Trump carried out in relation to the Ocean Club project.
The White House referred Reuters questions about the Ocean Club development to the Trump Organization. Garten said the Trump Organization’s role in the project “was at all times limited to licensing its brand and providing management services. As the company was not the owner or developer, it had no involvement in the sale of any units at the property.”
He said the Trump Organization “never had any contractual relationship or significant dealings” with Nogueira.
Nine former business partners or employees of Nogueira interviewed by Reuters accused him of cheating them and his clients. Two of the nine have taken legal action against Nogueira. The cases have yet to be judged.
When first approached by Reuters, Nogueira declined to answer questions. Writing on October 4, he said in an email: “Anything I would say could also damage a lot of important and powerful people. I am not sure I should do that.”
Later, Nogueira agreed to meet. In a lengthy interview, he described his contacts with the Trump family and his role in the Ocean Club project. He said he only learned after the Ocean Club project was almost complete that some of his partners and investors in the Trump project were criminals, including some with what he described as connections to the “Russian mafia.” He said he had not knowingly laundered any illicit money through the Trump project, although he did say he had laundered cash later in other schemes for corrupt Panamanian officials.
It was not his job to check the source of money that investors used to buy units in the Trump Ocean Club, Nogueira said. “I didn’t know the money was coming from anything illegal. As long as they were doing wire transfers and not cash, I wasn’t worried about the source of it.”
Nogueira said that no one asked him about the source of funds. “Nobody ever asked me. The banks didn’t ask. The developers didn’t ask. The Trump Organization didn’t ask me. Nobody asked me: ‘Who are the customers? Where did the money come from?’”
It is unclear how much, if any, laundered money went into the Trump project.
Global Witness, an anti-corruption watchdog, says in an independently-produced report out today, that Panama in the 2000s presented particular challenges for property developers because of its then reputation for corruption.
The ultimate sources of cash for other Trump real estate projects where Trump has licensed his name have drawn scrutiny this year. In March, a Reuters review found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses had bought $98.4 million worth of property in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in southern Florida.
The buyers included politically-connected businessmen and people from the second and third tiers of Russian power. Responding to that story, Garten, the Trump Organization’s counsel, said the scrutiny of Trump’s business ties with Russia was misplaced and that the story was “overblown.”
Donald Trump’s involvement in the Ocean Club began in 2005, when local developer Roger Khafif travelled to Trump Tower in New York to pitch the idea of a Trump project in Panama. Khafif said he told the American tycoon that Trump would need only to license his name and provide hotel management. This way of doing business freed Trump from the burden of taking a stake or making a personal guarantee.
In an interview with Reuters, Khafif recalled that Trump wanted to use the Panama project as a “baby” for his daughter Ivanka, who had just joined the Trump Organization, to gain experience in the property business.
The plan was for Newland International Properties Corp, where Khafif was president and which owned the development, to finance construction with a bond underwritten by Bear Stearns, the U.S. investment bank. The bank, which collapsed in 2008, was acquired by JPMorgan, which declined to comment.
To sell the bond, the developer needed to prove it could sell the apartments. This was where Nogueira came in. The Brazilian had arrived in Panama in the mid-2000s from Spain, where he had worked as a car salesman.
He had already had a brush with the law. In September 2005, in an official notice posted on the internet, the Spanish economy ministry said it had opened proceedings to fine Nogueira for an alleged “serious violation” of the country’s money-laundering laws. The proceedings were terminated about nine months later after officials could not determine Nogueira’s whereabouts. The ministry declined to comment. Nogueira said it was a trivial incident, caused by him taking too much of his own cash through an airport.
Once in Panama, Nogueira became renowned for his friendships with politicians, his love of Aston Martin sports cars and expensive watches and, as one former associate recalled, for “never wearing the same shoes – no matter how expensive – for more than three months.”
He said he first got involved with the Trump Ocean Club project at an early sales meeting in 2006 in Panama arranged by Khafif, whom he knew already. Ivanka Trump and other real estate brokers were there, he said. He remembered listening as a minimum price of $120,000 for condominiums was discussed.
Nogueira said he stood up and said the price was at the level charged in ordinary developments. “Here, it is Trump selling. You have to give a value to that name. Make it $220,000!”
He said Ivanka replied: “Can you sell it?”
Nogueira said he asked for a week to prove himself. And within a week he managed to collect deposits on over 100 apartments, and after that Khafif made him a leading broker, working on a 5 percent commission of gross sales, he said.
Asked about Nogueira’s account of this meeting, Khafif said that “most of what he said was true.” Khafif said he remembered Nogueira meeting Ivanka “a couple of times.”
Nogueira said that in the months that followed he discussed promotion and sales with Ivanka in Panama, Miami and New York. He said he also joined a group that travelled with Ivanka on a private chartered jet to look at a potential site for another Trump project in Cartagena, Colombia.
While Donald Trump was not the owner of the Panama project, the Trump Organization participated in many details down to “choosing the furniture and fittings,” said Nogueira. Day-to-day the project was assigned to Ivanka, he said, adding: “I spoke to her a lot of times, a lot of times.” He also met Donald Jr. and Eric Trump.
Ivanka Trump did not respond to requests for comment about Nogueira. Garten, the Trump Organization’s counsel, described contact between Nogueira and the Trumps as “meaningless.” He said such meetings and events “may have been memorable” for Nogueira, but for Ivanka and the rest of the Trump family it would have been “just one of literally hundreds of public appearances they were asked to make that year.”
Ivanka and Trump’s sons appeared in public at launch events for the tower, made promotional videos for the project and managed the Trump involvement.
Nogueira said that one video was commissioned by him. Ivanka helped arrange access to Trump Tower in New York for some sequences. “In this video we made, I was talking and she was talking.”
When the Spanish-language TV channel Univision, in an article published in 2011, first noted Nogueira’s role in the Trump project, Eric Trump responded that Nogueira had been an unaffiliated salesman. “I looked and I’ve never heard the name, nor does it appear in our database. What I found out was [Nogueira] owns a real estate agency in Panama that sells apartments in our building as a third party,” he told the channel.
Asked this month about Eric Trump’s statement in response to the Univision report, the Trump Organization said the company never had any ties to Nogueira or awareness of him.
Despite being a third party, Nogueira and his partners played a major part in the Trump project’s success, according to interviews with former key staff at Homes, developers, investors and lawyers, and an analysis of Panama corporate records and other public documents.
Homes accounted for up to half of the 666 apartment sales in advance of the bond prospectus, people involved in the project told Reuters.
Eleanora Michailov, a Russian who settled in Canada, was Nogueira’s international sales director. She recalled that Nogueira handled the sale of a third of the building, about 200 apartments. Another Homes sales agent, Jenny Levy, a relative by marriage to the developer, Khafif, said she alone sold 30 apartments.
“We sold half the building, baby! Homes sold half,” Levy said in a phone interview. Nogueira said that he and his agents across the world sold between 350 to 400 apartment and hotel units.
Khafif, president and co-owner of the developer, Newland, said he was unsure of the exact number, but Nogueira had probably sold up to 300 units. “Everybody was lining up to work with him … During those days he was the hottest real estate agency in town,” he said.
Homes found a ready market in Russia. “Russians like to show off,” said Khafif, who went on several sales trips to Moscow. “For them, Trump was the Bentley” of real estate brands.
Michailov said investors in the Ocean Club were asked to pay 10 percent up front for one of the apartments; she said the average price was about $350,000. Buyers had to pay a total of 30 percent within a year, according to the bond prospectus, and Homes organized the investment by setting up Panamanian companies for customers to enter pre-sales agreements with Khafif’s company, Newland.
In 2006 and 2007, Panama corporate records show, at least 131 holding companies with various combinations of the words “Trump” and “Ocean” in their name – for example, the Trump Ocean 1806 Investment Corp – were registered in Panama for pre-sales deals, and mostly by the Homes group.
In many cases the identity of the buyers was not clear. Nogueira and other Homes staff involved said Panamanian law at that time imposed no obligation to verify the identity of owners.
But listed as director of four Trump Ocean investment companies was Igor Anopolskiy, who in 2007 was Homes Real Estate’s representative in Kiev. Police records state he was arrested in March of that year for suspected people trafficking. Released a year later on bail, he was re-arrested in 2013, and in 2014 a Ukraine court handed Anopolskiy a five-year suspended jail sentence with three years probation for offenses including people smuggling and forgery, unrelated to the Trump project.
Interviewed in Kiev, Anopolskiy blamed the case on police corruption and denied committing any crime.
It was a Colombian businessman named David Murcia Guzman who triggered Nogueira’s downfall. Murcia was indicted in November 2008 for money laundering, first in Colombia and then in the United States. Murcia was sentenced to nine years in prison in the United States for conspiracy to launder drug money. After serving six years, he is expected to be deported to Colombia, his attorney, Robert Abreu, said. Colombia’s government said Murcia will serve a 22-year prison term upon his return for offenses including money laundering.
Murcia did not get permission from U.S. authorities to respond to Reuters’ questions.
Within days of Murcia’s indictment, the spotlight turned to Nogueira. Roniel Ortiz, a former lawyer for both Nogueira and Murcia, said Nogueira had offered to wash Murcia’s money by buying apartments on his behalf. Murcia “could not take his money to a bank,” Ortiz said, so Nogueira “offered to see how he could help.”
Ortiz said he did not know how much, if any, of Murcia’s money was used in the Trump project. Nogueira said Murcia gave him $1 million to invest in Panamanian property, which Nogueira used to pay the deposit on up to ten Trump apartments among other investments. Nogueira added: “He was not a bad guy. I don’t believe everything in those charges was true.”
In 2013 Nogueira, in conversations secretly recorded by a former business partner, said he had performed money laundering as a service, moving tens of millions of dollars mainly through contacts in Miami and the Bahamas. “More important than the money from real estate was being able to launder the drug money – there were much larger amounts involved,” he said in the recording. “When I was in Panama I was regularly laundering money for more than a dozen companies.”
The recordings were heard by Reuters and authenticated by five people who know Nogueira.
Speaking to Reuters, Nogueira said he could not recall making such claims and denied laundering cash through the Trump project or handling drugs money. He said that later, after his real estate business had collapsed in 2009, he had been involved in handling cash from corrupt officials and politicians, and was involved in corrupt schemes to sell Panamanian visas.
THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION
In the story of Panama’s Trump Ocean Club, a high point for many of those involved was a warm, cloudless night in early 2007.
The setting was Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Florida. Spilling out of Lamborghinis and Porsches onto the welcoming carpet were the sales people, clients and potential clients whose acumen and cash would make it possible – within a month – to break ground on the project’s building site in Panama City.
Entertained with drinks, music and jokes from American TV celebrity Regis Philbin, the guests got to meet and greet Trump and his children, Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka. The event was organized to celebrate a successful sales campaign – and to solicit more sales.
The Trump Organization did not comment about the party. Philbin told Reuters he couldn’t recall the event because it was 10 years ago. “I used to be with him [Trump] a lot,” Philbin said. “I was good friends with him.”
Nogueira said he was at the party and there met Donald Trump for “the first and only time.” He recalled: “They introduced me and said, ‘That’s the guy selling Panama,’ and he thanked me. We just talked for two or three minutes.”
Besides Nogueira, the guests included people involved with the project as investors or salesmen, some of Russian or former Soviet Union origin. Among them, in the delegation from Homes and wearing a dark suit, was Alexander Altshoul, born in Belarus. “Russians like their brand names,” Altshoul told Reuters, explaining why investors were attracted to Trump. “The moment was right, they were speculating. Many people hoped to get profits.”
Altshoul, who holds Canadian citizenship, was listed on the Homes company website in 2007 as a “partner” and an “owner” of the firm. He became involved in Homes after moving to Panama from Toronto and investing with family and friends in the Trump project, paying deposits on 10 apartments and one hotel unit.
Among his partners in that investment, according to Altshoul and Panamanian corporate records, was a Muscovite named Arkady Vodovosov, a relative of Altshoul. In 1998, Vodovosov was sentenced to five years in prison in Israel for kidnap and threats to kill and torture, court records state.
Contacted by telephone, Vodovosov said inquiries about his involvement with the Trump project were nonsense. “We were in Panama for a very short time, and got out of there a long time ago,” he said, declining to answer further questions.
Altshoul attended the Mar-a-Lago party with another Homes partner, Stanislau Kavalenka, recalled people who were there. Kavalenka was also a Canadian émigré from the former Soviet Union.
At different times, Altshoul and Kavalenka each faced accusations of having connections to organized crime, but the charges were dropped. In Altshoul’s case, police in Toronto filed charges in April 2007, at the time he was promoting the Trump project. He was accused of involvement in a mortgage fraud scheme, unrelated to the Panama project, that involved sending funds through Latvia. The criminal case was dropped a year later.
In a statement, the Canadian government said it was “duty bound to withdraw charges where there is no reasonable prospect of conviction or if it is not in the public interest to proceed.” It did not elaborate further on the case. Altshoul said the decision showed he was innocent.
In 2004, Canadian prosecutors had accused Kavalenka of pimping and kidnapping Russian prostitutes. That case was dropped in 2005 after the alleged prostitutes, who were the main witnesses, did not show up in court. Kavalenka’s whereabouts are unknown. He did not respond to questions about his role in the Trump project sent to him through his family in Canada.
Nogueira said Altshoul and Kavalenka had joined Homes together, first as customers and later as partners. Altshoul told him he had had some difficulties “but they were solved, and it wasn’t my problem,” Nogueira said. Nogueira also said that after he read of Kavalenka’s Toronto case on Google, Kavalenka told him: “I was running some girls. That’s how I made money. But I was cleared.”
SOLD “LIKE HOT CAKES”
In the months after the Mar-a-Lago party, the prospects for everyone involved in the Trump Ocean Club looked rosy. In the midst of a global property boom and a successful pitch, sales had exceeded all expectations.
A bond prospectus was issued in November 2007, enabling the raising of construction funds. By the end of June that year, the prospectus declared, the project had “pre-sold approximately 64 percent of the building’s condominium and commercial units,” guaranteeing receipts on completion of the project of at least $278.7 million.
Trump said later, in a promotional video ahead of the 2011 opening, that the project sold “like hot cakes.”
But not all the money collected in the pre-sales campaign would go on to fund the project. Nine former business partners or employees of Nogueira interviewed by Reuters alleged that, at the Ocean Club and at other developments, Nogueira either failed to pass on all the deposits he collected to the project’s developers, or sometimes sold the same apartment to more than one client, with the result that, on completion of the project, some clients had no clear claim on a property.
Exactly how many apartments were double-sold is unknown. Michailov said up to 10 out of 80 apartments in the Trump tower that she had sold were also sold by Nogueira to others. Lawsuits in Panama and separate written complaints seen by Reuters record at least six instances of alleged fraud by Nogueira, in the Trump project and in other Panama construction projects. Two of the complaints seen by Reuters were in the “Panama Papers,” documents from a local law firm that were leaked to the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Ortiz, the former lawyer for Murcia and Nogueira, said of the Trump-branded project: “When the building was completed and people arrived to seek out their apartments, they ran into each other – two, three people who were fighting for the same apartment.”
Complaints against Nogueira, including allegations of fraud in Trump Ocean Club sales, resulted in four criminal cases against him in Panama and culminated in his arrest on fraud charges in May 2009.
Nogueira said double-sales occurred because of changes in the building specifications or clerical error. He said he never deliberately sold an apartment twice. He said that not everyone lost money from their investments, and most who did lost out because of poor or unlucky investment decisions. “If you are looking to make easy money from speculation then you have to accept there is a risk,” he said.
Released on bail for $1.4 million, he continued to live in Panama until 2012 when, despite a ban on leaving the country, he fled to his native country, Brazil, before moving on again. Karen Kahn, a federal prosecutor based in Sao Paulo, said Nogueira is under a federal investigation for international money laundering, an inquiry triggered by several large bank transfers that arrived in his accounts from Panama.
Declining to disclose where he is living now, Nogueira agreed to meet Reuters and NBC News on November 13 at a neutral location, on condition it would not be revealed. Nogueira said an arrest warrant was outstanding against him in Panama. “Of course right now, I can be considered by the justice system to be fugitive. But there are two sides to everything.”
It wasn’t only alleged fraud that cost investors. After the global property crash of 2008, any chance of quick profit on the Trump Panama venture vanished.
By the time the Trump Ocean Club project was complete in 2011, many investors had withdrawn and lost their deposits rather than stump up the 70 percent balance. Bond holders lost, too, after Khafif’s company, Newland, defaulted on payments and the bond was restructured.
There was one person who still profited: Donald Trump.
Whatever the losses investors might suffer, under Trump’s licensing deal, detailed originally in the bond prospectus, the future U.S. president was guaranteed to receive payment. Court records from Newland’s bankruptcy in 2013 indicate Trump agreed to reduce his fee, but that he still earned between $30 million and $50 million from lending his name to the project.
The Trump Ocean Club
Reported by Ned Parker and Nathan Layne in New York and Toronto; Stefanie Eschenbacher, Christine Murray and Elida Moreno in Panama City; Stephen Grey and Tom Bergin in London; Brad Brooks in Americana, Brazil; Angus Berwick in Madrid; and Denis Dyomkin and Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto. This story was reported in partnership with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (OCCRP), a non-profit journalism group: Roman Anin in Moscow and Tel Aviv, and Anna Babinets and Elena Loginova in Kiev.
Photo editing: Simon Newman
Data: Christine Murray
Design: Catherine Tai
Edited by Richard Woods and Janet McBride
|Jared Kushner Keeps Failing To Disclose Connections With Russians – HuffPost|
|Jared Kushner still waiting on permanent security clearance | New … – New York Post|
|Jared Kushner Still Doesn’t Have White House Security Clearance After Ten Months|
Experts are baffled as to why Jared Kushner, who has been tasked with forging peace in the Middle East and is one of President Donald Trump’s top advisors, still does not have White House security clearance nearly a year after he was appointed.
Politico cited sources Thursday who said Kushner’s clearance to handle America’s most sensitive information is still under review.
Susan Hennessey, a national security fellow at the Brookings Institution, who specializes in congressional oversight of the intelligence community, said on Twitter: “The White House claim that it is ‘completely normal’ for it to take over 10 months to clear an extremely senior WH official is insane.”
White House Senior adviser Jared Kushner attends bilateral meetings held by U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. Thomas Peter/Reuters
Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law, was one of the president’s first appointees after he won the election a year ago. The White House told Politico that the delay is “completely normal” and that it can take more than 300 days, in some cases, to grant full security clearance. At present, Kushner has interim clearance.
Usually the most senior White House staff who will work closely with the president are prioritized with the goal of getting them clearance within 90 days, Leslie McAdoo Gordon, a security clearance lawyer, added. “Some of them get resolved in 90 days, but many of them don’t. It can take months. It can occasionally take years. You just have to work the system,” she said.
Kushner’s application has been complicated by the fact that he initially left more than 100 names off his list of foreign contacts on the security clearance application—a chargeable offense.
Some of the contacts left off Kushner’s application included meetings last December with then Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Gorkov, president of the state-run Russian bank VEB.
Other experts said the length of time it has taken to get clearance for Kushner, a first time applicant with a complex business and financial background, is normal. Kushner was CEO of his family’s real estate firm Kushner Companies.
“As a general rule, with respect to clearances, when you have people who have never had one before and they have massive financial and foreign connection and a staggering amount of business interests, like some of the people accompanying Trump, it wouldn’t be unheard of,” said Mark Zaid, another security clearance lawyer.
Trump has given Kushner the responsibility of brokering peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and restructuring the federal government. If his security clearance is revoked, he wouldn’t be able to carry out his job.
On Thursday the Senate Judiciary Committee confronted Kushner in a letter for not turning over documents—including some about his security clearance—that it has requested from him as part of its investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and whether it offered any assistance in the Kremlin’s election meddling efforts.
Kushner, the committee wrote, hasn’t turned over emails from September 2016 about WikiLeaks and a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite.” They said Kushner forwarded these to another campaign official. Kushner’s attorney Abbe Lowell said they are open to disclosing the documents.
Key American intelligence officials produced a report early this year that found Wikileaks released thousands of emails that were stolen by Russian intelligence from the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party. Early this week The Atlantic revealed that Wikileaks was in contact with Donald Trump Jr. and pushed him to spread the email disclosures.
The committee said it believes Kushner hasn’t turned over all communication about a select list of people they have picked out as part of the investigation.
“I’m thinking that asking why Jared Kushner still has a security clearance may not capture all his misconduct,” wrote Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California on Twitter. “We really should be asking: Why is #Kushner still in the White House?”
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