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From Riches to Rags: Manafort’s Lavish Lifestyle Takes Center Stage at Criminal Trial

House of Bijan, where Paul Manafort liked to shop.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Before Paul Manafort began leading the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, the Republican political operative lived an extravagant lifestyle, spending more than $1 million on lavish clothes between 2010 and 2014, more than $6 million on seven homes, $820,000 to manicure the lawns, a $21,000 black titanium and crystal watch and a $15,000 ostrich jacket. 

During the second day of the criminal trial Wednesday, prosecutors said Manafort financed his lifestyle by using wire transfers from secret offshore accounts to dodge taxes and lying to banks about his income to acquire loans.

Paul Manafort jail mugshot.

The high-priced consultant accumulated the wealth working for government officials in Ukraine.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, who’s investigating Russian interference during the presidential election, charged Manafort with 18 criminal counts, including tax evasion, bank fraud and conspiracy. If convicted, the 69-year-old could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

A manager and CFO at luxury retailer Alan Couture and the exclusive menswear retailer House of Bijan testified, describing Manafort’s pricey spending habits that included tailored pin-stripe suits, neckwear and jackets.

The defense sought to undermine government witness Paul Gates, a former business partner of Manafort’s, saying Gates often made the payments to buy the luxury items. for Manafort.

Gates cut a plea deal with prosecutors to provide information about Manafort’s expenses.

Trump Urges AG Sessions to Nix Special Counsel Probe of Collusion, Obstruction of Justice

Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearing in January.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump on Wednesday urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to nix the special counsel investigation into allegations of collusion and obstruction of justice in his administration and presidential campaign.

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further, before it continues to stain our country any further,” Trump wrote in a series of tweets.

Trump continued, “Russian Collusion with the Trump Campaign, one of the most successful in history, is a TOTAL HOAX. The Democrats paid for the phony and discredited Dossier which was, along with Comey, McCabe, Strzok and his lover, the lovely Lisa Page, used to begin the Witch Hunt. Disgraceful!”

Following the tweets, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani tried to downplay the comments.

“We have been saying for months that it is time to bring this inquiry to an end. The President has expressed the same opinion,” Giuliani said.

Trump has been angry with Sessions since he recused himself from any investigation involving Trump’s campaign because the former senator was involved in the campaign and acknowledged speaking to at least one high-level Russian in the lead-up to the campaign.

That gave Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein authority to appoint Robert Mueller to investigate Russia’s involvement in the campaign following Trump’s firing of then-FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.

Despite Trump’s rhetoric and claims that his campaign and administration did nothing wrong, he continues to refuse to sit down with Mueller for an interview.

Mueller Refers Lobbyists’ Work with Ukrainian Governments to Federal Prosecutors in N.Y.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The deeper special counsel Robert Mueller looks, the uglier his findings get.

The former FBI director who is leading the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election has led him to something unrelated – lobbyists and consultants working for the Ukrainian government.

This week, Pauk Manafort is on trial on numerous charges of tax evasion and bank fraud related to millions of dollars he made working with Ukrainian officials.  

CNN is now reporting that Mueller has turned over new cases involving the Ukrainian government to federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. 

Prosecutors are investigating whether U.S. lobbyists failed to register their work supporting the Ukrainian government. Those lobbyists include Democrat Tony Podesta, ex-Minnesota GOP Rep. Vin Weber and former President Obama’s White House counsel Greg Craig.

No charges have been filed yet, and it’s unclear how far along prosecutors are in the investigation.

Why Trump’s Intervention in New FBI Headquarters Could Be about Personal Gain

The FBI’s current headquarters in Washington D.C., named after J. Edgar Hoover.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Some Democratic lawmakers are accusing President Trump of intervening in the project to building a new FBI headquarters because the current building is a stone’s throw from his Washington hotel.

In February, Trump’s administration abruptly ended long-standing plans to build a new headquarters in the suburbs in Maryland or Virginia.

Some lawmakers say Trump has a personal stake in keeping the headquarters in Washington D.C. so a new competing hotel doesn’t take its place.

Trump recently became intimately involved in the project to build a new headquarters at the current site, ranting that the current building is “terrible.”

“Honestly, I think it’s one of the ugliest buildings in the city,” Axios reported Trump saying. 

“It’s no surprise Trump is fixated on the FBI HQ,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., tweeted. “Yet another example of his conflicts of interest. It’s prime real estate down the street from Trump International. He has business ties w/ one of the bidders. It’s why I asked the IG to investigate.”

General Services Administration watchdog Carol Ochoa is investigating

Sen. Ben Cardin

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., urged the president to let the GSA resume its original plans of relocating the building to a new site.

“The men and women of the @FBI have long needed a new headquarters, as the Hoover Building is crumbling around them,” Cardin tweeted. “@POTUS needs to let @USGSA return to the nearly-complete process of selecting a new suburban site for the #FBI and step out of the details.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., minced no words, suggesting Trump was choosing personal profit over sound policy.

“Trump has an obsession with renovating the FBI HQ at its current location—despite recommendations to find a more secure location,” Van Hollen tweeted . Could it be a new hotel there would eat into the profits of the nearby Trump Hotel? We should put the security of FBI before Trump’s pocketbook!”

Virginia’s Democratic senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and Tim Kaine said in a joint statement Monday the Trump’s micromanagement of the project is delaying a much-needed new headquarters. 

Sen. Mark Warner

“That’s one reason why it is important that we see the results of the IG investigation into this decision,” the statement reads. “Our hardworking law enforcement and intelligence professionals deserve a state-of-the-art and secure facility. Having President Trump micromanage this complex procurement—with so many other issues on his plate and so many questions about apparent conflicts of interest here—just isn’t helpful to these public servants or to the region.”

The White House responded that Trump’s involvement is intended to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent appropriately.

“The president is interested in making sure taxpayer dollars spent on new buildings are being spent wisely and appropriately,” Sarah Huckabee said in a statement. “He has been a builder all of his life and it should come as no surprise he wants to take the skills and great success he had in the private sector and apply it here.”

The FBI declined to comment.

Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., recently unveiled an infrastructure plan that could provide the funding required to allow the Trump administration to replace the crumbing, four-decade-old headquarters with a new one at the current site. 

$15,000 Ostrich Jacket? Prosecutors: Manafort’s Lavish Lifestyle Financed by Tax Evasion, Fraud, Pr

Paul Manafort

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, relished his “extravagant lifestyle” so much that he committed tax evasion and bank fraud to finance it, special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors said Tuesday in opening arguments. 

Prosecutors told a jury that Manafort “believed the law did not apply to him – not tax law, not banking law” as he splurged on real estate and swanky clothes, including a $15,000 jacket “made from an ostrich.”

“He got whatever he wanted,” assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye said in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia.

Defense attorneys painted a much different picture, saying Manafort was victimized by his deceptive former partner, Rick Gates, who agreed to cooperative with prosecutors in exchange for leniency. And if Manafort failed to pay the proper amount of taxes, his attorneys say it was inadvertent. 

If convicted, Manafort could be sentenced to prison for the rest of his life.

Prosecutors said Manafort dodged paying his taxes while he worked as a consultant for a political party in Ukraine and then lied to banks to continue getting loans as his payments stopped.

The trial resumes today.

Follow Ticklethewire.com for daily coverage of the trial.

Facebook Reveals New Coordinated Disinformation Campaign Ahead of Midterm Elections

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Facebook revealed Tuesday that it uncovered a new coordinated disinformation campaign potentially targeting the midterm elections.

The company said the campaign involved dozens of fake accounts on its social media platform. In a statement posted on Facebook, the company said it removed 32 pages and accounts from its platform and Instagram “because they were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior.” 

Facebook said the accounts were targeting protests planned in Washington D.C. next week.

The company is uncertain of the source of the fake accounts and is investigating.

The discovery comes at a time when federal agencies in the U.S. said Russia continues to spread disinformation to divide Americans.

Facebook found:

  • In total, more than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of these Pages, the earliest of which was created in March 2017. The latest was created in May 2018.
  • The most followed Facebook Pages were “Aztlan Warriors,” “Black Elevation,” “Mindful Being,” and “Resisters.” The remaining Pages had between zero and 10 followers, and the Instagram accounts had zero followers.
  • There were more than 9,500 organic posts created by these accounts on Facebook, and one piece of content on Instagram.
  • They ran about 150 ads for approximately $11,000 on Facebook and Instagram, paid for in US and Canadian dollars. The first ad was created in April 2017, and the last was created in June 2018.
  • The Pages created about 30 events since May 2017. About half had fewer than 100 accounts interested in attending. The largest had approximately 4,700 accounts interested in attending, and 1,400 users said that they would attend.

Man Accused of Killing Off-Duty Border Patrol Agent Is Facing Second Trial

Hisaias Justo Lopez is on trial for allegedly murdering an off-duty Border Patrol agent.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The man accused of stabbing to death an off-duty Border Patrol agent outside of a Far East El Paso bar is facing his second trial after the first one ended in a mistrial.

Testimony began in the second trial on Tuesday, when the common-law wife of Agent Isaac Morales said her husband flashed his Border Patrol badge after an argument ensued between him and Hisaias Justo Lopez in May 2017. Yasmi Gonzalez testified that Lopez swatted the badge out of Morales’ hand, pulled out a knife and threatened to kill the 30-year-old agent, KVIA reports.

Gonzalez said Lopez then stabbed the Border Patrol agent in the eye. He died four days later.

The defense has an entirely different story and points to a surveillance camera that shows Morales and one of his friends following Lopez as he walked away. In the first trial, the defense argued that Morales punched Lopez in the face.

During her testimony, Gonzalez said she did not recall whether that happened.

The trial resumes Wednesday.

Giuliani Says Collusion Is Not a Crime; But Legal Experts Say Conspiracy Is

President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump has fervently denied colluding with Russia to undermine the 2017 election.

Now his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, says the issue is irrelevant because collusion likely is not a crime. 

“I don’t even know if that’s a crime, colluding with Russia,” Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, told CNN on Monday. “You start analyzing the crime – the hacking is the crime. … The President didn’t hack.”

While some legal experts agree that collusion itself is not a crime, conspiracy to undermine an election is. Former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by Trump, said at a CNN town hall in Apri that collusion “is not actually a thing that exists under the federal laws of the United States.”

Comey said the issue is whether anyone conspired with a foreign government to commit crimes against the U.S., which he and other legal experts said is a crime.