Monday, November 27, 2017

Last Call For Raiding The Till

If you're still somehow wondering why Congress has yet to lift a finger to seriously curb asset forfeiture raids by state and local governments, the fact of the matter is that it's a massive income cash cow for cities and counties worth billions every year of what basically amounts to free money taken from citizens by police and prosecutors. In Suffolk County, NY for example, the county prosecutor's office issued millions in bonuses to employees paid for with -- you guessed it -- a major increase in asset forfeitures since 2012.

Newly disclosed records show Suffolk district attorney employees have received $3.25 million in bonuses since 2012 — $550,000 more than reported previously — as county lawmakers prepare for a hearing Tuesday on a bill to tighten legislative control over how proceeds from seized criminal assets are spent. 
Bonus recipients included deputy chief homicide prosecutor Robert Biancavilla, who received a total of $108,886 between 2012 and 2017, and division chief Edward Heilig and top public corruption prosecutor Christopher McPartland, who each received $73,000, according to records obtained from county Comptroller John Kennedy’s office through the Freedom of Information Law. 
Federal prosecutors have charged McPartland and former District Attorney Thomas Spota with attempting to cover up former county Police Chief of Department James Burke’s assault of a suspect who broke into his car. Spota and McPartland have pleaded not guilty. 
The bonuses, which were funded from assets seized in criminal cases by the district attorney’s office, did not receive legislative approval. The original figure of $2.7 million came from documents provided by County Executive Steve Bellone’s office, which only included bonuses for top management employees.

On Tuesday, the legislature will hold a public hearing on a bill by Legis. Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue) to require asset forfeiture expenditures, including by the district attorney’s office and the police, sheriff’s and probation departments, to be approved by the Public Safety Committee. 
Calarco called it inappropriate to spend asset forfeiture money on bonuses, particularly without a legislative vote. 
“Asset forfeiture money that comes into this county counts into the millions of dollars,” Calarco said. “That’s a lot of money to be spent at the sole discretion of an individual with no oversight.”

Note that Albany's proposed solution isn't "asset forfeiture is bad", it's "spending the massive windfall from asset forfeiture should require state legislature approval, not county approval."   Don't in fact be surprised if states start collecting county/city police asset forfeiture funds like this across the country in the name of "transparency".

It's still legal police shakedown tactics that net billions every year, and once these funds start disappearing down the rabbit holes of state legislatures, well states will just have to keep making their seizures in order to help balance the budgets, you know.

So no, Congress won't do anything, and neither will states.  Except for, you know, counting the money they forcibly take from Americans.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

John Schindler reminds us that while there are obvious KGB ties to Republicans like Donald Trump and GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, there are a couple of problematic Democrats with Kremlin dalliances as well, and none more prominent than Rep. John Conyers of Michigan.  The esteemed civil rights leader has quite the background on his own ties to Moscow over the years, his sexual harassment issues notwithstanding.

That’s because, whatever inappropriate things Conyers may (or may not) have done with female staffers, he’s unquestionably been uncomfortably pro-Moscow for decades. Cursory examination of Conyers’ words and actions reveal a politician who is, at best, a longstanding dupe of the Kremlin. Worst of all, this “secret” aspect to Conyers’ political life has been hiding in plain sight for years, something that polite people didn’t bring up at Georgetown soirĂ©es, yet which was known to anybody who can access Google. 
However, in the current hothouse climate regarding Russian spies and lies in our nation’s capital, Conyers’ ties to the Kremlin matter needs to be discussed. From the beginning of his political career, Conyers had close relations with prominent members of the Communist Party USA, and he was a longtime member of the National Lawyers Guild, a CPUSA-affiliated group, as well as a leader of its Detroit chapter. Conyers never made much effort to mask his associations with known CPUSA members, even after being elected to Congress. Keep in mind that, as proven by KGB files, the CPUSA was a wholly-owned Kremlin operation, clandestinely funded by Soviet spies, and operating under Moscow’s direction. 
Conyers went further and associated with known KGB fronts. He was long active in the World Peace Council—which sounds like a Quaker-run group but was founded by the Kremlin at the beginning of the Cold War. The WPC followed the Moscow line religiously, serving as a conduit for KGB Active Measures against the West, regularly denouncing American “war-mongering” and “imperialism” while coordinating anti-NATO protests in many countries. 
With the publication of the Mitrokhin archive in 1999, the KGB’s supervisory relationship to the WPC was made public, though it was obvious long before to anyone who wanted to see that the latter was a leading Kremlin front for espionage and propaganda. Not that Conyers was deterred from involvement with the WPC, and he helped establish its American chapter, the U.S. Peace Council. He addressed its inaugural meeting in Philadelphia in November 1979, alongside numerous KGB agents, including Romesh Chandra, a prominent Indian Communist who headed the WPC for decades and was a senior operative of the Soviet secret police. 
Such public actions did not go undetected, and on occasion the press made noteof Conyers’ ties to the WPC and other Soviet fronts, particularly in the early 1980s, when KGB Active Measures against NATO reached their peak. It should be noted that Conyers was hardly the only left-wing Democrat in Washington who cultivated links to Kremlin spy-fronts during the Cold War. 
American counterintelligence had questions, too. Investigating members of Congress was always a touchy issue for our counterspies, given the political sensitivities, but Conyers’ chumminess with the KGB was noted in our Intelligence Community. The benign take on Conyers’ questionable associations was that was a mere dupe, a “useful idiot” to use the proper term. Others weren’t so sure, and when I asked a veteran IC counter-intelligencer who had checked out Conyers back in the 1980s, he responded with a wry smile: “Do you really think anybody’s that stupid?” 
Moreover, this isn’t just a historical matter. Conyers has continued to follow the Moscow line on countless issues down to the present day. Back in 2010, when WikiLeaks was busy dumping hundreds of thousands of stolen classified State Department files on the Internet, Conyers came to the defense of Julian Assange and his cyber-criminal gang, stating that WikiLeaks had committed no crimes. That was a remarkable thing for the then-chair of the House Judiciary Committee to say, particularly when the leadership of his own party—including President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—proffered a radically different take on the case. 
Since WikiLeaks barely bothers to conceal its Kremlin links these days, questions abound regarding Conyers’ public defense of the group which did so much damage to the Democrats and their presidential nominee in 2016. Even as relations with Moscow have soured since Russia’s seizure of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine in early 2014, Conyers has continued to spout Kremlin propaganda, as he has done for decades. 
In June 2015, Conyers went on a tirade against Ukraine on the floor of the House, denouncing Kyiv’s military as “neo-Nazi”—a slander that was quickly parroted by Kremlin mouthpieces online. He stated that Ukraine should not get anti-aircraft missiles from Washington, citing as evidence the shootdown of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in July 2014, the murder of 299 innocents—without noting that it was Russians, not Ukrainians, who downed the civilian airliner. It comes as no surprise that the bill amendment before the House to block anti-air missiles for Ukraine that was sponsored by Conyers was arranged by the notorious pro-Kremlin lobbyist Paul Manafort—the very same swamp macher who’s now facing indictments over his shady ties to President Trump and the Russians. 
Conyers’ decades of spouting unfiltered Kremlin propaganda is so notorious in Washington that last year the Huffington Post, nobody’s idea of a right-wing outlet, ran a piece on him entitled “Putin’s Man in Congress.” That charge seems fair, based on the evidence, and is something that needs public discussion, particularly as Washington prepares to root out Moscow’s secret spy-propaganda apparatus in our nation’s capital. 

Just another reminder that the Russians have been playing us for a very, very long time, and it's not always the GOP causing the damage, and again, as with Trump and Rohrabacher, the case can be made with publicly available information that Conyers's ties to the Kremlin are at best very unseemly.

Don't be surprised if Conyers gets caught up in this along with Rohrabacher when Mueller brings the hammer down, and that could be sooner rather than later as there's yet more evidence that former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn is actively working out a plea deal with Robert Mueller.

The lawyer for President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn met Monday morning with members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, the latest indication that both sides are discussing a possible plea deal, ABC News has learned. 
Trump’s legal team confirmed late last week that Flynn’s attorney Robert Kelner alerted them that he could no longer engage in privileged discussions about defense strategy in the case, a sign Flynn is preparing to negotiate with prosecutors over a deal that could include Flynn’s testimony against the president or senior White House officials. 
That process would typically include a series of off-the-record discussions in which prosecutors lay out in detail for Flynn and his lawyers the fruits of their investigation into his activities. Prosecutors would also provide Flynn an opportunity to offer what’s called a proffer, detailing what information, if any, he has that could implicate others in wrongdoing. 
When reached Monday, Kelner declined to comment on the nature of his morning visit to Mueller’s offices in Washington, D.C. 
Sources familiar with the discussions between Flynn’s legal team and Trump’s attorneys told ABC News that while there was never a formal, signed joint defense agreement between Flynn’s defense counsel and other targets of the Mueller probe, the lawyers had engaged in privileged discussions for months.

I love how everyone involved is completely pretending this is normal and how it doesn't mean Flynn has flipped and turned on Trump in order to save his own ass and his son's ass from a lifetime in prison, too.  Stay tuned.

Who's The Boss?

Now that Richard Cordray has resigned from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (ostensibly to run as the Dems' best shot to replace John Kasich as Governor of Ohio) the question is who will lead the agency in his wake.  Cordray named deputy director Leandra English to run the agency, but Trump is naming his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, as the acting director of the agency, setting up a legal fight for the ages.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's top lawyer sided with the Justice Department over President Donald Trump's appointment of Mick Mulvaney to lead the CFPB as a leadership battle over the controversial watchdog agency escalated.

In a memorandum obtained by POLITICO, CFPB general counsel Mary McLeod said Trump had the legal authority to name an acting director to the bureau under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

"It is my legal opinion that the president possesses the authority to designate an acting director for the bureau," McLeod wrote in the Nov. 25 memo to the CFPB leadership team. "I advise all bureau personnel to act consistently with the understanding that Director Mulvaney is the acting director of the CFPB."

Yet even as McLeod's memo was circulating, Leandra English, former CFPB Director Richard Cordray's choice to serve as acting director of the watchdog agency, sued the Trump administration in U.S District Court in Washington.

In her lawsuit filed late Sunday, English named Trump and Mulvaney as defendants and asked the court to establish her authority as acting director.

"Ms. English has a clear entitlement to the position of acting director of the CFPB," the filing claims. "The President's purported or intended appointment of defendant Mulvaney as acting director of the CFPB is unlawful."

Here's the difference: Leandra English actually wants the agency to continue to fight for consumer rights against huge financial corporations and big banks. Mick Mulvaney wants to shut the agency down completely and says it was a mistake for the agency to even have been created in the first place.

English has a case because the 2010 Dodd-Frank legislation specifically says the deputy director takes charge of the agency should the director step aside, and that the President cannot fire the director without cause.  The Trump regime says that's all nice and good, but that Dodd-Frank is superseded by the Vacancies Reform Act because Trump says so, and that he gets to appoint an interim director for any federal agency that doesn't have a permanent head.

Who's right here?  Nobody knows.  Should be an interesting day at work today for the CFPB though.


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