Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Last Call For Orange Meltdown, Con't

The Trump campaign is pulling advertising across the country in an effort to save as much cash for the final stretch in October.

President Donald Trump has pulled most of his advertising from TV over the past week, ceding the airwaves to Democratic rival Joe Biden, who is currently outspending him by more than 10-to-1, advertising data shows.

Though Trump has an outsized ability to command national attention, it is unusual for a White House contender to go mostly dark on TV the week after their presidential convention. The election is just over two months away and early voting will begin in September in some states.

The move comes as Trump’s campaign has burned through money almost as fast as it has taken it in. And after Biden drastically narrowed what was once an overwhelming cash advantage enjoyed by the president, campaign officials have acknowledged they were trying to conserve money.

That’s allowed Biden an opportunity to communicate an unfiltered message to voters without competing advertising.

During the month of August, Biden doubled what Trump spent, dropping about $80 million in states that included key battlegrounds such as Wisconsin, Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan, according to data from the ad tracking firm Kantar/CMAG.

Trump’s limited spending targeted some of those states, but it was also directed to places like Iowa and Montana, which he won handily in 2016. This week he is spending about $1.6 million to Biden’s $18.3 million. Most of Trump’s ads are placed on Fox News Channel and CNN, as well as a smattering that will run in New Mexico and Washington, D.C., the data shows.

Trump spokesman Jason Miller said Monday that the campaign will be going back up on the air this week. Yet data from Kantar/CMAG shows it does not have an increase in advertising booked until Sept. 8.

“We have over $200 million worth of TV ads that are reserved (from) Labor Day until Election Day,” Miller said. “We’re speaking with voters in states as they’re starting to come online.”

So it could be that the Trumpies are just taking the week off before they start their main offensive after Labor Day.  Of course, since Trump controls the federal government, he pretty much has unlimited resources, like $250 million for a new "government public service campaign" on COVID-19.

As the presidential election fast approaches, the Department of Health and Human Services is bidding out a more than $250 million contract to a communications firm as it seeks to “defeat despair and inspire hope” about the coronavirus pandemic, according to an internal HHS document obtained by POLITICO.

Several weeks ago, the department sent out to a number of communications firms a “performance work statement,” which lays out what work will be expected of the winning firm. The document says that the vast majority of the money will be spent from now until January.

The document also lists the goals of the contract: “defeat despair and inspire hope, sharing best practices for businesses to operate in the new normal and instill confidence to return to work and restart the economy,” build a “coalition of spokespeople” around the country, provide important public health, therapeutic and vaccine information as the country reopens, and give Americans information on the phases of reopening.

“By harnessing the power of traditional, digital and social media, the sports and entertainment industries, public health associations, and other creative partners to deliver important public health and economic information the administration can defeat despair, inspire hope and achieve national recovery,” the document also says.

The contract comes as the administration’s health agencies face growing questions about their independence in recent weeks. The head of the Food and Drug Administration, Stephen Hahn, admitted that he overstated the benefits of convalescent plasma at a news conference last week with President Donald Trump, and health officials have flip-flopped on key warnings about the virus, including the value of masks to protect Americans.

The FDA also faces a potential key decision in the coming few months: whether to give emergency authorization for a coronavirus vaccine. Polls show that nearly a fifth of adults would refuse a coronavirus vaccine if one were available, in some cases over fears that any approval would be motivated by politics rather than science. Just 14 percent of voters would be more likely to take a vaccine recommended by Trump, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll last month.

So odd how this "inspiring hope" campaign pushing Americans to "reopen the economy" just happens to coincide with 1) Trump's largest political liability currently with 185,000 COVID-19 fatalities and rising and 2) the Trump regime's message at the convention that Trump has done a "fantastic" job handling the pandemic.

Don't take Trump's word for it, take the word of the experts, who happen to be working for Trump (and not the American people.)

Point is, Just because Trump is retooling his message this week, doesn't mean the Firehose of Lies™ isn't being primed to spew after Labor Day.

A Taxing Explanation, Con't

Here's an interesting scenario from Just Security's Martin Sheil: the court fight over Trump's tax returns between Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance and the Trump regime isn't over the returns themselves, but the fact that what Vance subpoenaed was the copy of Trump's returns filed by accounting firm Mazars USA. 

The goal here isn't what's in the federal returns, but what's not in them, mainly any defense that Trump could use to blame Mazars themselves for his tax issues. Sheil proposes that the state tax returns are a huge, huge clue that there's fraud, and that the Mazars copy is needed to prove the accountant didn't do it...and that Trump did.

This term, the Supreme Court declined President Donald Trump’s attempts to shield personal financial records from congressional and judicial subpoena. The ruling’s impacts on executive powers and attorney-client privilege have been widely reported, and litigation over access to the documents will likely soon reach critical mass.

But Cy Vance Jr., the Manhattan District Attorney (DA), may have already obtained the pertinent New York state tax returns for the Trump Organization and its executives, including Trump and his family.

Should this be the case, then why the fuss over the Mazars USA subpoena that has already been appealed and opined upon by the Supreme Court and sent back to the federal District Court in Manhattan for further argument and appeal? What other surprises can the public expect?

It is a routine internal procedure for agents of the New York state tax authority assigned to criminal tax investigations authorized by the New York Attorney General’s (AG) office (of which the Manhattan DA is a part) to obtain business and personal state tax returns that are material to their inquiry. It is likely that the experienced criminal tax investigator on the DA’s team has followed this routine protocol, and obtained the state tax returns early in their investigation.

But the tax returns alone would not be sufficient to establish criminal tax fraud. Criminal tax investigators for New York traditionally include retired Internal Revenue Service (IRS) criminal investigators working towards a second pension. These experienced forensic accountants would be most concerned with the classic tax fraud defense historically posed by the accused, wherein the taxpayer attempts to shift responsibility for the alleged fraud to the accountants who prepared the tax returns in question. Tax crooks have long raised their hands in innocence and then pointed their fingers at the hired hands claiming, “it was all their idea” with regard to any alleged tax fraud.
A viable tax fraud indictment cannot proceed until this defense is cut off. This may explain the intense legal struggle over the Mazars USA subpoena. The Mazars USA files will include much more than completed tax returns. Draft tax returns, financial statements, correspondence, emails, texts, and notes to the file containing direction from the taxpayer client to the preparer will likely be found in the Mazars USA files accompanied by the accountant’s work papers and notes to the file.

This type of evidence will not only cut off a potent defense of the taxpayer but it will also likely provide the investigators with a trove of evidence of intent or mens rea, demonstrating to a potential jury that the fraud committed was, in fact, intentional and not some type of accident, negligence, or innocent mistake. Paul Manafort’s accountant testimony at trial was so devastating that his attorney famously cried out in open court “only a fool would provide their accountant this type of information.” It is precisely this type of information that Vance is seeking from the Mazars USA subpoena.

If the investigative team has pursued normal protocols, then we can make the rebuttable presumption that the Manhattan DA has already outlined a potential tax fraud indictment based on tax returns already in their possession and evidence previously obtained.

And the key to all this is Michael Cohen.

The DA’s team likely has all the grand jury information (documents and testimony) generated by the Southern District of New York (SDNY) investigation of Michael Cohen. All that would be needed to obtain the above SDNY grand jury evidence would be for an individual from the office of the Manhattan DA or New York AG to be placed on what is known as the 6(e) list which is a record of individuals authorized for disclosure of grand jury information. The prosecutor maintains this listing and adds individuals who are needed as the inquiry progresses.

Indeed, information sharing between federal and state prosecutors has already been established in related cases. Early in his investigation, Robert Mueller traveled to New York to meet with state prosecutors and to establish cooperation between the offices (likely including adding state prosecutors to the 6(e) list) – thus ensuring that state inquiries could continue even if the New York-based targets of Mueller’s investigations were federally pardoned or if Mueller were fired. Cohen was part of the Mueller investigation and it is likely that the 6(e) list for his grand jury included authorized officials from the New York AG’s offices.

Additionally, and notably, Deutsche Bank has cooperated with Vance’s subpoena for critical bank documents which can be used by the Manhattan DA to further corroborate tax fraud allegations. The DA may also look to use the records to pursue bank fraud violations that were referenced in Cohen’s congressional testimony; Cohen stated that the Trump Organization had submitted falsified financial statements to banks when applying for loans. The material gathered from a successful Mazars USA subpoena may also be used to corroborate these potential bank fraud charges as Mazars USA reportedly refused to certify the financial statements provided by the Trump Organization that were then submitted to the bank. Instead, Mazars USA included an unusual disclaimer with the financials: “Users of this financial statement should recognize that they might reach different conclusions about the financial condition of Donald J. Trump.”

Clearly, the Vance team will want to drill down on just why Mazars USA would include such a disclaimer with any financial statement that the company prepared for the Trumps.

Which may mean that the bulk of what Cyrus Vance's office already needs to make the case on Trump came from the Cohen investigation, shared by Mueller.

Vance likely possesses substantial evidence and investigative leads gathered in the Mueller and SDNY inquiry into Cohen. This would no doubt include information as to who directed Cohen to submit false invoices to the Trump Organization; these false invoices led to Cohen receiving checks totaling $420,000 to reimburse him for his hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels et al, a total which was “’grossed up’ for tax purposes,” according to SDNY.

The inclusion of taxes in the reimbursement payments by the Trump Organization indicates that these payments were treated as a business expense on the Trump business records, which would then flow through to the tax returns unless flagged by some executive prior to submission to the relevant tax authorities. If the deduction were not corrected then, flagrantly false tax returns would have been prepared, subscribed to, and submitted, based on the prior falsification of the business deduction for legal expenses.

Thus, the alleged tax fraud was committed in association with the cooking of the books of the Trump Organization stemming from the posting of the false invoices. This fraud elevates the state misdemeanor of falsification of business books and records to felony status since it is in coordination with the commission of another felony – tax fraud. Mail fraud and/or wire fraud charges could also be contemplated since the false invoices were either mailed or wired as were the reimbursement payments.
Trump signed one reimbursement check while in the White House. He further misrepresented these payments as ‘personal’ on his 2018 financial disclosure form in an attempt to characterize these payments as both business expenses (in the tax returns) and as personal expenses (in his financial disclosure form). This misrepresentation adds to the evidence of deliberate intent to defraud in any prospective Vance prosecution.

Vance has also referenced ‘patterns’ of illegal conduct when justifying the Mazars USA subpoena which requested Trump-related tax returns going back eight years. Patterns of financial impropriety have long been held to be evidence of ‘intent’ on the part of the defendant. Pro Publica published an analysis pointing out tax and loan discrepancies on the part of the Trump Organization relative to the 40 Wall St. building going back to 2012 and 2013. Cohen’s congressional testimony suggested that the falsification of business expense invoices was not an isolated case but part of a pattern on the part of Trump and his business to alter his business records at will.

Cooking the books to hide Trump's payoffs to Stormy Daniels is felony fraud at the state level, not just the federal one.  If Cyrus Vance gets his hands on the Mazars USA copy of Trump's tax returns, and Mazars is able to provide the documentation that they followed the law in preparing the returns and that the Manhattan DA's office can crunch the numbers Trump gave them, finding they were fraudulent, it's prison time for the Tangerine Tyrant.

Without the Mazars returns specifically, Trump's defense is that "the accountants ripped me off".

That's why this fight has literally gone to the Supreme Court.

This makes an amazing amount of sense to me.

Lowering The Barr, Con't

Attorney General Bill Barr continues to openly remove obstacles in his way towards a transition to Trump dictatorship, this time removing a 23-year Justice Department veteran overseeing the legality of counter-terrorism activities and replacing him with the numbnuts who is such an expert on legal policy and procedure that he leaked the Trump regime's charges against Julian Assange.

Current and former national security officials are raising concerns over Attorney General William Barr's recent decision to remove the head of a Justice Department office that helps ensure federal counterterrorism and counterintelligence activities are legal – and replace him with a political appointee with relatively limited experience.
"It's very alarming," said Katrina Mulligan, who worked for the Obama administration in several national security roles and then, after President Donald Trump's inauguration, joined the Office of Law and Policy in the Justice Department's National Security Division.

For much of the past decade, that little-known office has been led by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brad Wiegmann, a 23-year career public servant, not a political appointee. But two weeks ago, Wiegmann, 54, was told he is being reassigned and replaced with a political appointee, according to a Justice Department spokesman and sources familiar with the matter.

Mulligan and other sources told ABC News that the new head of the office is 36-year-old Kellen Dwyer, a cyber-crimes prosecutor who joined the federal government six years ago and made international headlines in November 2018 when he accidentally revealed that federal charges had been secretly filed against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Mulligan said that given Dwyer's limited time and experience handling national security matters, he is "a very odd" choice to replace Wiegmann, whom she described as "exceptional" at managing government bureaucracy and resolving "highly contentious matters across the government."

The timing of the personnel change – coming just two months before the U.S. presidential election, and in the midst of a battle against domestic terrorism and foreign interference in the election – has worried current and former members of the national security community.

Past chiefs of the office have served as political appointees, while others – like Wiegmann – served as career officials, so, "It would not have been that unusual early in an administration to place a political [appointee] in that policy role, but to do that now is very unusual," one current U.S. official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

None of this makes sense two months before an election unless you want a particular loyalist in the Justice Department's office of determining which of the Executive Branch's activities are legal and defensible, particularly in the name of counter-intelligence.

Because, you know, you're running amoral and illegal counter-intelligence operations on, say, political opponents.

Just saying. Barr knows exactly what he's doing.


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