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Archive for March, 2018

Closely Guarded Steele Dossier Alleges Russia Influenced Trump’s Decision Making

President Trump at the White House, via the White House.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A closely guarded, shocking memo authored by former British spy Christopher Steele alleges Russia influenced Donald Trump’s decision-making during the presidential transition and even believed it blocked Trump from appointing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for the secretary of state position.

A lengthy profile of the former intelligence officer in the New Yorker indicated Steele wrote the salacious dossier in November 2016 based on information he received from a “senior Russian official” who said the Kremlin was convinced it had successfully influenced Trump to choose a secretary of state who was more Russia-friendly and would not lift sanctions over the Ukraine crisis. 

A month later, Trump dropped Romney and selected former ExxonMobil executive “Rex” Tillerson, who had business ties to Russia and impressed Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The memo also alleges CIA Director John Brennan was tipped off by British intelligence officials in August 2016 about intercepted communications between Trump’s campaign and Moscow. The CIA followed up and discovered Putin was personally involved in election interference.

The memo includes allegations that Trump may be connected to a prominent Russian mobster who operated a gambling and money laundering ring out of an apartment in Trump Tower.

News reports on Monday revealed that Trump and many of his top campaign aides have been subpoenaed and ordered to disclose all communication among each other.

Fired FBI Director Comey to Break Silence in Televised Interview

Former FBI Director James Comey.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Former FBI Director James Comey, whom President Trump fired over “this Russian thing,” plans to break his silence in his first televised interview since his termination last year.

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos will interview Comey for a special “20/20” segment on April 15.

The former FBI boss wrote a book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies & Leadership,” that will be published earlier than planned – April 17 – because of the relevance of the topics, the publisher said.

Trump initially said he fired Comey on May 9 because of the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation in the lead-up to the election. But the president later admitted he terminated Comey because of “this Russian thing,” referring to conclusions by numerous U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the election.

Just eight days later, the Justice Department appointed Mueller, a former FBI director, to investigate Russia’s election meddling.

In testimony before lawmakers, Comey suggested he was fired after refusing Trump’s request to drop an investigation into a former campaign aide.

Comey served as the FBI director from 2013 to 2017.

Trump, Top Campaign Aides Targeted in Subpoena in Special Counsel Probe

President Trump

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A grand jury subpoena reveals special counsel Robert Mueller is targeting President Trump and a majority of his campaign’s top officials, according to a new report.

The subpoena demands all emails, texts, letters, handwritten notes and all other forms of communication from Nov. 1, 2015, to present, according to news site Axios, which received copies of the grand jury records.

The subpoenas could reveal a trove of new information as Mueller’s team investigates whether the president and his campaign colluded with Russia to wage a propaganda war against his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

Trump responded this morning on Twitter, accusing the Obama administration of launching an investigation “with zero proof of wrongdoing,” which he said was “unprecedented” and “bigger than Watergate.”

The president, who repeatedly dismissed Russian interference in the election as a “hoax,” continues to call Muellers’ investigation a “witch hunt,” even though the special counsel team has filed more than 100 charges against 19 people and three companies. Three of Trump’s high-ranking campaign aides – Rick Gates, Mike Flynm and George Papadopoulos – have agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller’s team.

The longtime associates and former campaign officials who were targeted in the subpeona are Carter Page, Corey Lewandowski, Steve Bannon, Hope Hicks, Keith Schiller, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and Roger Stone.

Ned Price, a former CIA official under Obama, tweeted that the subpoena indicated “Mueller is treating it like a criminal enterprise.”

Price also noted that the inclusion of Roger Stone, who only worked briefly in the early stages of the campaign, suggests Mueller is investigating whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.

Since 13 Russians and three Russian groups were charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. less than a month ago, numerous news reports have indicated Trump also was under investigation for obstruction of justice.

And that’s not it.

Last week, sources close to the probe told several news agencies that Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner also are under investigation for various business dealings before and during the presidential transition.

Mueller Pursuing Criminal Charges Against Russians Who Stole, Spread Democrats’ Emails

FBI cyber crime agents, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Special counsel Robert Mueller is building a criminal case against another batch of Russians who hacked and leaked information from Democrats.

The potential charges involve conspiracy, computer fraud and violations of election law, but would rely on intelligence gathered by the CIA, FBI, NSA and Homeland Security, NBC News reported, citing multiple current and former officials familiar with the investigation.

An indictment would reveal for the first time the identities of the hackers, their connection to Moscow and other details behind the theft and public disclosure of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. During the presidential campaign in July 2016, Trump even called on Russia to find and release Clinton’s emails.

One source said charges could be filed in the next few weeks or months.

Last month, Mueller charged 13 Russians and three Russian groups for waging a propaganda campaign to help Trump win.

But so far, no one has been charged with stealing e-mails and leaking them to WikiLeaks.

Weekend Series on Crime: The Real Mobsters Talk About the Sopranos

FBI Investigating Ivanka Trump over International Business Deal

Ivanka Trump, via Twitter

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The FBI has launched an inquiry into an international business deal involving President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, according to a new report.

Agents are focused on Ivanka Trump’s handing of negotiations and financing for Trump International Tower in Vancouver, a current U.S. official and former U.S. official familiar with the inquiry told CNN.

News of the investigation comes after numerous reports this week that the president, his son Donald Trump Jr. and his son-in-law Jared Kushner have become potential targets in the special counsel investigation that began over Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Among the reevaluations was that Robert Mueller’s legal team is scrutinizing business deals involving the president and Kushner, who is the husband of Ivanka Trump.

Kushner and Trump Jr. also are under investigation for a secret meeting with a Russian lawyer who offered “dirt” on Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign.

The Vancouver development, featuring a trademarked Ivanka Trump spa, opened in February 2017, just a month after Trump’s inauguration.

The president’s attorneys are trying to prevent him from being interviewed by Mueller for fear that Trump will lie under oath and be charged with perjury.

Trump continues to call the investigation a “witch hunt.”

CNN wrote:

The Trump Organization does not own the building. Instead, like other Trump projects, it receives licensing and marketing fees from the developer, Joo Kim Tiah. A scion of one of Malaysia’s wealthiest families, Tiah runs his family’s Canada-based development company Holborn Group. President Trump’s June financial disclosure form said the Trump Organization made more than $5 million in royalties and $21,500 in management fees from the Vancouver property.
The $360 million project, which features 147 guest rooms and 217 luxury residences, quickly became a magnet for foreign buyers.
In the case of Vancouver, it’s not clear why investigators are examining this particular deal. The timing of the deal — as one of the few Trump-branded properties to open since Trump took office — could be of interest. The flow of foreign money, either from the developer or international condo buyers, could also be sparking scrutiny.

Excerpt From Investigative Reporter Dan Moldea’s Book: ‘Hollywood Confidential’

A specialist on organized-crime investigations since 1974, best-selling author and independent investigative journalist Dan E. Moldea has published seven nonfiction books including, “The Hoffa Wars: Teamsters, Rebels, Politicians and the Mob.” This excerpt is being published with permission.

CHAPTER ONE

“Forget it, Dan. It’s Chinatown”

By Dan E. Moldea

I didn’t see the minefield ahead.

On April 12, 2002, Anita Busch sent an email, asking me for a favor. She wanted me to collect three articles that Bernard Weinraub of the New York Times had written about one-time Hollywood super-agent Michael Ovitz, two from 1996 and the third from 1999. She provided no explanation, and I didn’t need any. I just did what she asked. Later that day, I sent Anita two of the three articles that she had requested, along with six other stories in which Weinraub had discussed Ovitz. At the time of her email to me, Anita was freelancing for the New York Times. She and Weinraub were in the midst of what would become a seven-part series which began on March 22 about Ovitz and his latest business venture, the Artists Management Group, a broadly based management company for those involved in film and television productions. The two reporters alleged that Ovitz had engaged in financial mismanagement, based on a recent audit of the company’s records.

The final part of their series appeared in the newspaper on May 7.1 The day before that final installation, Anita and Weinraub published a story about Ovitz, “A Faded Hollywood Power Broker Relinquishes His Talent Business,” which seemingly added insult to injury: Even by the turbulent and often cruel standards of Hollywood, Mr. Ovitz’s downfall has been startling. As a founder of the Creative Artists Agency, he emerged as a strong-willed and intimidating figure who sought to inspire fear, and succeeded. But Mr. Ovitz, who is 55, has seen his career fall into a downward spiral since 1997 when he was fired as president of the Walt Disney Company.

Today, Mr. Ovitz reached one of the lowest points in his career. He agreed for a company called The Firm to acquire the major units of his current company, the Artists Management Group. . . . For Mr. Ovitz, the deal is a serious financial and personal blow. 2 In lieu of continuing to freelance for the New York Times and other publications upon the completion of her work on Ovitz, Anita accepted a job on or about May 21, working under contract for the Los Angeles Times. On June 3, her first day with the newspaper, Hollywood legend Lew Wasserman, the retired chairman of MCA, died. As part of her research, she called me to discuss my third book, Dark Victory: Ronald Reagan, MCA, and the Mob, in which Wasserman was a major character. In that 1986 work, I concentrated on MCA, a powerful Hollywood corporation, and its fiftyyear relationship with President Reagan who was in the midst of his second term in office.

During the next two years, I watched the Reagan Justice Department, specifically the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, kill a federal investigation of MCA, as well as another broader probe of the Mafia’s penetration of the motion-picture industry. With life imitating art, these cases were embodiments of the dramatic conclusion of the 1974 film, Chinatown, in which wealthy powerbrokers used their influence with the law-enforcement community to evade responsibility for their roles in major crimes. In fact, one federal prosecutor placed a fine point on this analogy when—after hearing of my frustrations with reporting on the aborted MCA case—he told me, “Forget it, Dan. It’s Chinatown.” The newspaper’s obituary of Wasserman the following day referred to my work.

Dan Moldea (Photo credit: E. Ethelbert Miller)

On June 4, federal prosecutors indicted Julius “Jules” Nasso, along with sixteen reputed members of New York’s Carlo Gambino crime family as part of a major 68-count conspiracy case.

Nasso had been the business partner of motion-picture star Steven Seagal, whose popular action-adventure films included Above the Law, Out for Justice, and Under Siege. In effect, Anita, who usually covered show business, was now investigating the Mafia. Her partner for this investigation was Paul Lieberman, a respected veteran investigative reporter who worked in the New York bureau of the Los Angeles Times. The first Busch-Lieberman story appeared on June 5, stating: Nasso, 49, of Staten Island, was charged with two counts, conspiracy to commit extortion and attempted extortion of a figure in the motion picture industry.

Although prosecutors did not identify the extortion target in the indictment, Nasso’s lawyer said after court that Seagal is the film figure. “It’s definitely Steven Seagal,” said Nasso’s lead attorney, Barry Levin. “Steven Seagal has been seen talking to the grand jury.” Nasso had a 15-year business relationship with Seagal until a bitter falling-out. In March, Nasso filed a $60-million lawsuit against the actor, alleging the star of such films as Under Siege had backed out of a contract to perform in four movies. The two have not spoken in more than a year.”

In her follow-up article the next day, Anita, without the participation of Lieberman, wrote: “The alleged extortion attempt was caught on FBI wiretaps. The wiretaps recorded a conversation between Nasso and Gambino associate Anthony ‘Sonny’ Ciccone in which Ciccone 3 allegedly chastised Nasso for trying to share some of the extorted money with others without ‘prior approval.’”

Anita and Lieberman co-authored a third story on June 12, adding: “The Mafia captain who rules the Staten Island waterfront threatened to kill an entertainment figure, identified previously as actor Steven Seagal, as part of a multimillion-dollar extortion scene. . . . “Anthony ‘Sonny’ Ciccone ‘demanded millions of dollars from this individual and threatened his life,’ Assistant U.S. Atty. Andrew Genser said at a court hearing for the accused Gambino family docks boss.”6 However, Anita did not appear to trust her partner. In her personal notes, she wrote: I am sharing information with the reporter I’m working with, Paul Lieberman. But something doesn’t smell right. Lieberman is too close to these guys, I believe. He’s going out drinking with them.

Read more »

Senate Intelligence Leaders Accused Republicans of Leaking Text Messages to Fox News

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee suspect that House Republicans leaked to Fox News confidential texts messages between the panel’s Democratic leader and a Russian-connected lawyer, according to several news sources.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Vice Chairman Mark R. Warner, D-Va., were so alarmed they summoned a rare meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan to inform him of what they consider a careless, partisan attack and a violation of protocol. They also expressed concerns about how Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee are handling the investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, the New York Times reports

Sen. Mark Warner

The two senators said Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee leaked a batch of text messages between Warner and a lobbyist he had hoped would lead him to the dossier alleging troubling connections between President Trump and Russia. The Senate committee, which also is investigating Russia’s interference, provided the House panel with transcripts of the text messages.

“The speaker heard the senators on their concerns and encouraged them to take them up directly with their counterparts,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said.

The House Intelligence Committee, led by controversial Trump ally Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., has come under criticism from both sides of the aisle for actions many lawmakers consider diversionary and driven by partisanship. Last month, over the objection of the FBI and Justice Department, Nunes led the drive to release a controversial memo that claims abuses by the federal agencies’ surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

A few days later, Fox News obtained copies of Warner’s text messages, prompting Trump and other Republican allies to suggest the Democrat was up to something surreptitious. 

“Wow! -Senator Mark Warner got caught having extensive contact with a lobbyist for a Russian oligarch,” Trump tweeted  at the time. “Warner did not want a ‘paper trail’ on a ‘private’ meeting (in London) he requested with Steele of fraudulent Dossier fame.”

Warner said he did nothing wrong and notified his committee of the conversations in hopes of setting up an interview with the dossier’s author, the former British spy laid out salacious claims about Trump’s ties to Russia.