US Senate Scrutinizes Saudi, UAE Arms Sales

Later this week, the U.S. Senate is expected to mount an effort to block an $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as many American lawmakers continue to seethe over Riyadh’s human rights record, the war in Yemen and last year’s murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  The Trump administration sought to bypass congressional review of the weapons sale by tying it to a national emergency declaration to counter threats from Iran.

Passions over Saudi Arabia run high in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican, says relations with the kingdom have deteriorated.

“The current relationship with Saudi Arabia is not working for America … I am never going to let this go until things change in Saudi Arabia.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, Democrat, says the kidnapping and murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi last October in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, by Saudi special agents was a breaking point.
“What kind of ally kidnaps a resident of your country [Khashoggi] who was seeking our protection, brings him into a consulate, chops him up and makes him disappear?  The nature of this alliance [with Saudi Arabia] has been exposed.”


US Senate Scrutinizes Saudi, UAE Arms Sales video player.
Watch Michael Bowman’s video

Months after the Senate narrowly approved a resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen’s bloody civil war, the chamber could vote against pending sales of U.S. bombs, guided munitions and military support to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.  The Trump administration’s attempt to fast-track the arms deal under an emergency declaration irks lawmakers of both parties.

“I am glad to know I am not the only one in this body disturbed by the president’s willingness to bypass Congress and sell this weaponry without any consideration of the recent events that have strained our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” said Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat.

While simple majorities are believed to exist to pass resolutions of disapproval, it is doubtful that two-thirds super-majorities could be mustered to override likely presidential vetoes of the resolutions.  

Last week, the Senate declined to consider an effort to block arms sales to Bahrain and Qatar.  Floor debate demonstrated that arms sales to the Middle East remain popular among significant numbers of Republicans, especially given a spate of troubling incidents in the Persian Gulf region.

“As Iran’s economy staggers under the weight of new American sanctions, the ayatollahs are lashing out and raging against the world.  It is essential we support our Gulf partners during this dangerous time so they can defend themselves from Iranian aggression,” said Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican.

Other Republicans argued that withholding arms sales will only serve to compel longstanding allies to purchase weaponry from America’s adversaries.


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Trump Predicts Demise of 2 Prominent US Newspapers

U.S. President Donald Trump contended Sunday two of the country’s top newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington Post, would go out of business when he leaves office.

Trump attacked both newspapers, both of which often publish articles that he labels as “fake news” — stories about his chaotic White House and administration policies that he does not like.

“A poll should be done on which is the more dishonest and deceitful newspaper, the Failing New York Times or the Amazon (lobbyist) Washington Post!” Trump said on Twitter, referring to the Post’s ownership by Jeff Bezos, the founder of the giant online retailer Amazon.

“The good news is that at the end of 6 years, after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT), both of these horrible papers will quickly go out of business & be forever gone!” Trump said. He was making an assumption that he is re-elected in 2020 and his White House tenure extends through 2024.

… is that at the end of 6 years, after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT), both of these horrible papers will quickly go out of business & be forever gone!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2019

Trump rarely misses an opportunity to attack the U.S. mainstream news media and its coverage of him, but it was not immediately clear what prompted his joint attack on the Times and Post, both of which were founded in the 19th century, and over the years have won dozens of Pulitzer Prizes, journalism’s top award for excellence.

Late Saturday, however, he unleashed a broadside on the Times for its story disclosing that the U.S. had secretly stepped up its online attacks on Russia’s power grid.

“This is a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country,” he tweeted.

…..ALSO, NOT TRUE! Anything goes with our Corrupt News Media today. They will do, or say, whatever it takes, with not even the slightest thought of consequence! These are true cowards and without doubt, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2019



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AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s Misfires on Iran, Trade and That Wall

In President Donald Trump’s reckoning, an Iran tamed by him no longer cries “death to America,” the border wall with Mexico is proceeding apace, the estate tax has been lifted off the backs of farmers, the remains of U.S. soldiers from North Korea are coming home and China is opening its wallet to the U.S. treasury for the first time in history.

These statements range from flatly false to mostly so.

Here’s a week of political rhetoric in review:


TRUMP, speaking about Iranians “screaming ‘death to America’” when Barack Obama was in the White House: “They haven’t screamed ‘death to America’ lately.” — Fox News interview Friday.

THE FACTS: Yes they have. The death-to-America chant is heard routinely.

The chant, “marg bar Amreeka” in Farsi, dates back even before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Once used by communists, it was popularized by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the revolution’s figurehead and Iran’s first supreme leader after the U.S. Embassy takeover by militants.

It remains a staple of hard-line demonstrations, meetings with current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, official ceremonies, parliamentary sessions and main Friday prayer services in Tehran and across the country. Some masters of ceremonies ask audiences to tone it down. But it was heard, for example, from the crowd this month when Khamenei exhorted thousands to stand up against U.S. “bullying.”

In one variation, a demonstrator at Tehran’s Quds rally last month held a sign with three versions of the slogan: “Death to America” in Farsi, “Death to America” in Arabic,” ″Down with U.S.A.” in English.



TRUMP: “Wages are growing, and they are growing at the fastest rate for — this is something so wonderful — for blue-collar workers. The biggest percentage increase — blue-collar workers.” — remarks Tuesday in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

THE FACTS: He’s claiming credit for a trend of rising wages for lower-income blue-collar workers that predates his presidency.

Some of the gains also reflect higher minimum wages passed at the state and local level; the Trump administration opposes an increase to the federal minimum wage.

With the unemployment rate at 3.6%, the lowest since December 1969, employers are struggling to fill jobs. Despite all the talk of robots and automation, thousands of restaurants, warehouses, and retail stores still need workers.

They are offering higher wages and have pushed up pay for the lowest-paid one-quarter of workers more quickly than for everyone else since 2015. In April, the poorest 25% saw their paychecks increase 4.4% from a year earlier, compared with 3.1% for the richest one-quarter.

FILE - People turn to face a U.S. flag during the playing of the national anthem before U.S. President Donald Trump rallies with supporters during a Make America Great Again rally in Southaven, Mississippi, U.S. Oct. 2, 2018.
Fact-Checking Site Supports Claim US Ranked as ‘Flawed Democracy’
A fact-checking site has verified claims circulating on the Internet that the United States has fallen in a ranking of world’s strongest democracies. issued the verification Friday, supporting an internet claim by a group called The Christian Left that “the USA has dropped off the list of the 20 most democratic countries in the world.” It cited an annual ranking by The Economist magazine, which has been evaluating the world’s governments on type and strength since 2006.

The Economist‘s most recent Democracy Index, its 2017 evaluation issued in January 2018, showed that the United

Those gains are not necessarily flowing to the “blue collar” workers Trump cited. Instead, when measured by industry, wages are rising more quickly for lower-paid service workers. Hourly pay for retail workers has risen 4.1% in the past year and 3.8% for hotel and restaurant employees. Manufacturing workers — the blue collars — have seen pay rise just 2.2% and construction workers, 3.2%.

TRUMP: “And to keep your family farms and ranches in the family, we eliminated the estate tax, also known as the ‘death tax,’ on the small farms and ranches and other businesses. That was a big one. … People were having a farm, they loved their children, and they want to leave it to their children. … And the estate tax was so much, the children would have to go out and borrow a lot of money from unfriendly bankers, in many cases. And they’d end up losing the farm, and it was a horrible situation.” — remarks in Council Bluffs.


THE FACTS: There still is an estate tax. More small farms may be off the hook for it as a result of changes by the Republican-controlled Congress in 2017 but very few farms or small businesses were subject to the tax even before that happened.

Congress increased the tax exemption — temporarily — so fewer people will be subject to those taxes.

FILE - Facebook logo is displayed in a start-up companies gathering at Paris' Station F, in Paris, Jan. 17, 2017.
Facebook to Step Up Fact-checking in Fight Against Fake News
Facebook is to send more potential hoax articles to third-party fact checkers and show their findings below the original post, the world’s largest online social network said on Thursday as it tries to fight so-called fake news.

The company said in a statement on its website it will start using updated machine learning to detect possible hoaxes and send them to fact checkers, potentially showing fact-checking results under the original article.

Facebook has been criticized as being one of the main distribution points for so-called fake news, which many think influenced the 2016 U.S

Previously, any assets from estates valued at more than $5.49 million, or nearly $11 million for couples, were subject to the estate tax in 2017. The new law doubled that minimum for 2018 to $11.2 million, or $22.4 million for couples. For 2019, the minimums rose to $11.4 million, or $22.8 million for couples. Those increased minimums will expire at the end of 2025.

According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, only about 80 small farms and closely held businesses were subject to the estate tax in 2017. Those estates represent about 1 percent of all taxable estate tax returns.



TRUMP: “I think we’re going to do very well with North Korea over a period of time. I’m in no rush. … Our remains are coming back; you saw the beautiful ceremony in Hawaii with Mike Pence. We’re getting the remains back.” — joint news conference Wednesday with Poland’s president.

THE FACTS: The U.S. is not currently getting additional remains of American service members killed during the Korean War.

With U.S.-North Korea relations souring, the Pentagon said last month it had suspended its efforts to arrange negotiations this year on recovering additional remains of American service members. The Pentagon said it hoped to reach agreement for recovery operations in 2020.

The Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency said it has had no communication with North Korean authorities since the Vietnam summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in February. That meeting focused on the North’s nuclear weapons and followed a June 2018 summit where Kim committed to permitting a resumption of U.S. remains recovery; that effort had been suspended by the U.S. in 2005.

The agency said it had “reached the point where we can no longer effectively plan, coordinate, and conduct field operations” with the North during this budget year, which ends Sept. 30.

Trump Speech

Last summer, in line with the first Trump-Kim summit in June, the North turned over 55 boxes of what it said were the remains of an undetermined number of U.S service members killed in the North during the 1950-53 war. So far, six Americans have been identified from the 55 boxes.

U.S. officials have said the North has suggested in recent years that it holds perhaps 200 sets of American war remains. Thousands more are unrecovered from battlefields and former POW camps.

The Pentagon estimates that about 5,300 Americans were lost in North Korea.



TRUMP: “We’re building a wall … And by next year, at the end of the year, we’re going to have close to 500 miles of wall.” — remarks Tuesday at the Republican Party of Iowa annual dinner.

TRUMP: “We’re going to have close to 500 miles of wall built by the end of next year. That’s a lot. And we’re moving along very rapidly. We won the big court case, as you know, the other day. And that was a big victory for us.” — remarks Monday with Indianapolis 500 champions.

THE FACTS: He’s being overly optimistic. It’s unclear how Trump arrives at 500 miles (800 km), but he would have to prevail in legal challenges to his declaration of a national emergency or get Congress to cough up more money to get anywhere close. Those are big assumptions. And by far the majority of the wall he’s talking about is replacement barrier, not new miles of construction.

So far, the administration has awarded contracts for 247 miles (395 km) of wall construction, but more than half comes from Defense Department money available under Trump’s Feb. 15 emergency declaration. On May 24, a federal judge in California who was appointed by Obama blocked Trump from building key sections of the wall with that money. In a separate case, a federal judge in the nation’s capital who was appointed by Trump sided with the administration, but that ruling has no effect while the California injunction is in place.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speak during the third presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Oct. 19, 2016.
Fact-checking Clinton and Trump on Terrrorism, Immigration, Economy
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off Wednesday at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in Nevada for their third and final debate before the November 8 presidential election.

The two began the night debating their very different approaches to some of the country’s stickiest issues: gun rights, abortion and immigration.

It was a striking turnabout from how the previous two debates unfolded. The last time the two met, in St.

Even if Trump prevails in court, all but 17 miles (27 km) of his awarded contracts replace existing barriers.

The White House says it has identified up to $8.1 billion in potential money under the national emergency, mostly from the Defense Department.

Customs and Border Protection officials say the administration wants Congress to finance 206 miles (330 km) next year. The chances of the Democratic-controlled House backing that are between slim and none.



TRUMP: “Right now, we’re getting 25% on $250 billion worth of goods. That’s a lot of money that’s pouring into our treasury. We’ve never gotten 10 cents from China. Now we’re getting a lot of money from China.” — remarks Monday.

TRUMP: “We’re taking in, right now, billions and billions of dollars in tariffs, and they’re subsidizing product.” — remarks Tuesday in Council Bluffs.

THE FACTS: He’s incorrect. The tariffs he’s raised on imports from China are primarily if not entirely a tax on U.S. consumers and businesses, not a source of significant revenue coming into the country.

A study in March by economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Columbia University and Princeton University, before the latest escalation, found that the public and U.S. companies were paying $3 billion a month in higher taxes from the trade dispute with China, suffering $1.4 billion a month in lost efficiency and absorbing the entire impact.

It’s also false that the U.S. never collected a dime in tariffs before he took action. Tariffs on goods from China are not remotely new. They are simply higher in some cases than they were before. Tariffs go back to the beginning of the U.S. and were once a leading source of revenue for the government. Not in modern times. They equate to less than 1% of federal spending.

TRUMP: “Look, without tariffs, we would be captive to every country, and we have been for many years. That’s why we have an $800 billion trading deficit for years. We lose a fortune with virtually every country. They take advantage of us in every way possible.” — CNBC interview Monday.

THE FACTS: Trump isn’t telling the whole story about trade deficits.

When he refers to $800 billion trade gaps, he’s only talking about the deficit in goods such as cars and aircraft. He leaves out services — such as banking, tourism and education — in which the U.S. runs substantial trade surpluses that partially offset persistent deficits in goods. The goods and services deficit peaked at $762 billion in 2006. Last year, the United States ran a record $887 billion deficit in goods and a $260 billion surplus in services, which added up to an overall deficit of more than $627 billion.

The U.S. does tend to run trade deficits with most other major economies. But there are exceptions, such as Canada (a nearly $4 billion surplus last year), Singapore ($18 billion) and Britain ($19 billion).

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speak during the third presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Oct. 19, 2016.
Fact-checking Clinton and Trump on Terrrorism, Immigration, Economy
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off Wednesday at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in Nevada for their third and final debate before the November 8 presidential election.

The two began the night debating their very different approaches to some of the country’s stickiest issues: gun rights, abortion and immigration.

It was a striking turnabout from how the previous two debates unfolded. The last time the two met, in St.

Mainstream economists reject Trump’s argument that the deficits arise from other countries taking advantage of the United States. They see the trade gaps as the result of an economic reality that probably won’t bend to tariffs and other changes in trade policy: Americans buy more than they produce, and imports fill the gap.

U.S. exports are also hurt by the American dollar’s status as the world’s currency. The dollar is usually in high demand because it is used in so many global transactions. That means the dollar is persistently strong, raising prices of U.S. products and putting American companies at a disadvantage in foreign markets.

TRUMP: “You know, France charges us a lot for the wine and yet we charge them little for French wine. So the wineries come to me and they say — the California guys, they come to me: ‘Sir, we are paying a lot of money to put our products into France and you’re letting – meaning, this country is allowing this French wine which is great, we have great wine, too, allowing it to come in for nothing. It is not fair.’” — interview Monday with CNBC.

THE FACTS: Trump, who’s been in the wine business, is technically wrong about France applying tariffs. The European Union does.

He’s right about a disparity in wine duties.

Tariffs vary by alcohol content and other factors. A bottle of white American wine with 13 percent alcohol content imported into the EU carries a customs duty of 10 euro cents (just over 11 U.S. cents). A bottle of white wine from the EU exported to the United States has a customs duty of 5 U.S. cents.

The gap in duties is narrower for red wine with an alcohol content of 14.5 percent.

Bulk wines are another story. The U.S. tariff is double the EU one, a break for American producers because bulk wine represents 25% of the volume of U.S. wine coming into the EU, according to the French wine exporter federation.

The value of wine imported by France has jumped 200% over a decade. Americans are the top consumers of French wine exports.


TRUMP, on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report: “The Mueller report spoke. … It said, ‘No collusion and no obstruction and no nothing.’ And, in fact, it said we actually rebuffed your friends from Russia; that we actually pushed them back — we rebuffed them.” — remarks Wednesday in Oval Office.

THE FACTS: He’s wrong to repeat the claim that the Mueller report found no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign; it’s also false that his campaign in 2016 denied all access to Russians. Nor did the special counsel’s report exonerate Trump on the question of whether he obstructed justice.

Mueller’s two-year investigation and other scrutiny revealed a multitude of meetings with Russians. Among them: Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer who had promised dirt on Clinton.

On collusion, Mueller said he did not assess whether that occurred because it is not a legal term.

He looked into a potential criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign and said the investigation did not collect sufficient evidence to establish criminal charges on that front.

Mueller noted some Trump campaign officials had declined to testify under the Fifth Amendment or had provided false or incomplete testimony, making it difficult to get a complete picture of what happened during the 2016 campaign. The special counsel wrote that he “cannot rule out the possibility” that unavailable information could have cast a different light on the investigation’s findings.

In an interview broadcast Wednesday with ABC News, Trump said if a foreign power offered dirt on his 2020 opponent, he’d be open to accepting it and that he’d have no obligation to call in the FBI. “I think I’d want to hear it,” Trump said. “There’s nothing wrong with listening.”

REPUBLICAN SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, Judiciary Committee chairman, in response to Trump’s comments that he’d be open to accepting political dirt from foreign adversaries like Russia: “The outrage some of my Democratic colleagues are raising about President Trump’s comments will hopefully be met with equal outrage that their own party hired a foreign national to do opposition research on President Trump’s campaign.” — tweet Thursday.

THE FACTS: Graham is making an unequal comparison.

He seeks to turn the tables on Democrats by pointing to their use of a dossier of anti-Trump research produced by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, that was financed by the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Graham also insists on “equal outrage” over Democrats using that information from a former intelligence officer of Britain, an ally with a history of shared intelligence with the U.S. That’s a different story from a foreign adversary such as Russia, which the Mueller report concluded had engaged in “sweeping and systematic” interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Moreover, Steele was hired as a private citizen, though one with intelligence contacts.

The Mueller report found multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, and the report said it established that “the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”

Trump and his GOP allies typically point to the Steele dossier as the basis for the Russia probe. But the FBI’s investigation began months before it received the dossier.

TRUMP: “The Democrats were very unhappy with the Mueller report. So now they’re trying to do a do-over or a redo. And we’re not doing that. We gave them everything. We were the most transparent presidency in history.” — Oval Office remarks Wednesday.


THE FACTS: It’s highly dubious to say Trump was fully cooperative in the Russia investigation.

Trump declined to sit for an interview with Mueller’s team, gave written answers that investigators described as “inadequate” and “incomplete,” said more than 30 times that he could not remember something he was asked about in writing, and — according to the report — tried to get aides to fire Mueller or otherwise shut or limit the inquiry.

In the end, the Mueller report found no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia but left open the question of whether Trump obstructed justice.

According to the report, Mueller’s team declined to make a prosecutorial judgment on whether to charge partly because of a Justice Department legal opinion that said sitting presidents shouldn’t be indicted. The report instead factually laid out instances in which Trump might have obstructed justice, specifically leaving it open for Congress to take up the matter.


TRUMP: “We have people on the Fed that really weren’t, you know, they’re not my people, but they certainly didn’t listen to me because they made a big mistake.” — CNBC interview.

THE FACTS: Actually, most of the members on the Fed’s Board of Governors owe their jobs to Trump.

In addition to choosing Jerome Powell, a Republican whom Obama had named to the Fed board, to be chairman, Trump has filled three other vacancies on the board in his first two years in office. Lael Brainard is the only Democrat on the board.

There are still two vacancies on the seven-member board. Trump had earlier intended to nominate two political allies — Herman Cain and Stephen Moore — but both later withdrew in the face of sharp opposition from critics.


TRUMP: “Tariffs are a great negotiating tool, a great revenue producer and, most importantly, a powerful way to get … companies to come to the U.S.A., and to get companies that have left us for other lands to come back home. We stupidly lost 30% of our auto business to Mexico.” — tweets Tuesday.

TRUMP: “They took 30% of our automobile companies. They moved into Mexico. All of the people got fired.” — interview Monday with CNBC.

THE FACTS: He’s incorrect that Mexico took 30% of the U.S. automobile business in the years since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994.

In 2017, 14% of the vehicles sold in the U.S. were imported from Mexico, according to the Center for Automotive Research, a think tank in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Parts imported from Mexico exceed 30%.

TRUMP: “If the Tariffs went on at the higher level, they would all come back.” — tweet Tuesday.

TRUMP: “What will happen is the companies will move into the United States, back where they came from. … They would all move back if they had to pay a 25% tax or tariff.” — interview Monday with CNBC.

THE FACTS: He’s wrong to assume that auto companies in Mexico would immediately move back to the U.S. if there were a 25% tariff on Mexican-made vehicles and parts.

It takes three years or four years minimum to plan, equip and build an auto assembly plant, so there would be little immediate impact on production or jobs. Auto and parts makers are global companies, and they would also look to countries without tariffs as a place to move their factories. The companies could also just wait until after the 2020 election, hoping that if Trump is defeated, the next president would get rid of the tariffs.

“They’re not going to invest in duplicative capacity in response to short-term policy incentives,” said Kristen Dziczek, a vice president at the Center for Automotive Research.

It is possible that some production could be shifted back to the United States. General Motors, for instance, makes about 39% of its full-size pickup trucks at a factory in Silao, Mexico, mainly light-duty versions, according to analysts at Morningstar. If the U.S. imposed a 25% tariff on assembled automobiles, GM could shift some production to a factory in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that also makes light-duty pickups. But there are limits. That plant already is running on three shifts and is almost near its maximum capacity.

Tariffs on Mexico probably would cost auto jobs in the U.S., too, because Mexico would almost certainly retaliate with tariffs of its own. Tariffs on both sides would raise prices of vehicles, because automakers probably would pass the charges onto their customers.

Industry experts say higher prices would cause more buyers to shift into the used-vehicle market, cutting into new-vehicle sales. Tariffs could be higher than 25% because parts go back and forth across the border multiple times in a highly integrated supply chain.

Vehicles built in Mexico get 20% to 30% of their parts from the U.S., so the tariffs would drive up prices there. That would hit lower-income people hard because automakers produce many lower-priced new vehicles in Mexico to take advantage of cheaper labor. About 62% of U.S. vehicle and parts exports go to Canada and Mexico, according to the Center for Automotive Research.

Tariffs would add $1,300 to $4,500 to the price of vehicles based just on the cost of parts, the center estimated.

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Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner Took in at Least $135M in 2019

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner took in as much as $135 million in revenue during their second year as aides to President Donald Trump, generated from their vast real estate holdings, stocks and bonds and even a book deal, according to their financial disclosures released Friday.

Ivanka Trump’s stake in her family’s Washington hotel down the street from the Oval Office generated $3.95 million in revenue in 2018, barely changed from a year earlier. The hotel, a favorite gathering spot for foreign diplomats and lobbyists, is at the center of two federal lawsuits claiming Donald Trump is violating the Constitution’s ban on foreign government payments to the president.

Another big Ivanka Trump holding, a trust that includes her personal business selling handbags, shoes and accessories, generated at least $1 million in revenue in 2018, down from at least $5 million the year before. Ivanka Trump announced in July of last year that she planned to close her fashion company to focus on her work as a White House adviser for her father.

The disclosure for her husband, Jared Kushner, shows that he took in hundreds of thousands of dollars from his holdings of New York City apartments and that he owns a stake in the real estate investment firm Cadre worth at least $25 million.

Disclosure forms vague

The disclosures released by the White House and filed with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics shows minimum revenue for the couple of $28 million last year generated from assets valued at more than $180 million. The disclosures filed by federal government officials each year show revenue, assets and debts in broad ranges between low and high estimates, making it difficult to precisely chart the rise and fall of business and financial holdings.

Among the dozens of sources of income for Ivanka Trump was a $263,500 book advance for “Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success,” published in 2017. Trump has pledged to donate royalties to her charitable fund.

Kushner’s holdings of apartment buildings through his family real estate firm, Kushner Cos., were the source of much of his income. Westminster Management, the family business overseeing its rental buildings, generated $1.5 million. Separately, one of the family’s marquee holdings, the iconic Puck Building in the Soho section of Manhattan, generated as much as $6 million in rent.

Among other properties cited in the disclosure was a former warehouse-turned-luxury-condominium in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn that brought in more than $350,000 in sale proceeds and rent.

Legal, conflict of interest questions

Former and current tenants in the building have filed a suit against the Kushner Cos. alleging it used noisy, dusty construction to make living conditions unbearable in an effort to push them out so their apartments could be sold. The Kushner Cos. has said the suit is without merit.

Cadre has also drawn conflict-of-interest questions. It launched a fund to take advantage of massive tax breaks by investing in downtrodden areas designated “Opportunity Zones,” a Trump administration program pushed by both Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

Also, this month the Guardian newspaper reported that Cadre received $90 million in foreign funding from an opaque offshore vehicle since Kushner entered the White House.

Kushner lawyer Abbe Lowell did not immediately respond to an email and phone message seeking comment.

Less debt

Kushner appears to have cut his debt. He had loans and lines of credit worth at least $27 million at the end of last year, down from a minimum value of $40 million the previous year. His lenders include Bank of America, Citi Group and Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank is also a major lender to President Trump’s company and has been subpoenaed by congressional investigators looking into his finances.

Both Kushner and his wife took steps to distance themselves from their businesses before taking on their roles as unpaid White House advisers. Kushner stepped down as CEO of Kushner Cos. and sold stakes in many holdings, while Ivanka Trump similarly stepped away from executive roles at her companies.

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Is Receiving Foreign ‘Oppo Research’ Legal?   

The brouhaha over U.S. President Donald Trump’s “oppo research” comments — that he’d be willing to accept outside foreign government political assistance — comes down to this question:

Is opposition research a “thing of value” that foreign nationals are prohibited from offering to American political campaigns?

In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, Trump said he’d consider any foreign-sourced information that would help his 2020 re-election bid.

“There is nothing wrong with listening,” Trump said. “If somebody called from a country — Norway — ‘We have information on your opponent.’ Oh. I think I’d want to hear it.”

U.S. Federal Election Commission Commissioner Ellen Weintraub testifies in Washington, May 22, 2019, on “Securing U.S. Election Infrastructure and Protecting Political Discourse.”

FED comments; Trump backpedals

Trump later backpedaled, but the uproar caused by his comments was enough to prompt Ellen Weintraub, the chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission, to release a statement reiterating a long-standing U.S. prohibition on foreign assistance in U.S. elections.

“Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election,” Weintraub, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, wrote.

U.S. election law prohibits foreign nationals from making — and U.S. campaigns from soliciting and receiving — “a contribution or a donation of money or other thing of value.”

The law doesn’t say what constitutes a “thing of value.” However, FEC regulations consider all “in-kind contributions” such as office space, equipment and advertising services “things of value.”

Is it a thing of value?

Although the FEC hasn’t ruled on whether opposition research constitutes a thing of value, a spokesman noted that the commission has advised that candidates report “research/research services” as campaign expenditures. In recent years, a number of political campaigns have reported expenses related specifically to opposition research.

U.S. political campaigns spend tens of millions of dollars on opposition or “oppo research” — damaging information gathered for political advantage. In the 2016 election cycle, campaigns and political action committees spent nearly $71 million on “research,” according to Campaign Legal Center.

“Opposition research is something people ordinarily pay for, so in that sense it looks like it could be considered a thing of value and fall within the prescription of the law,” said James Gardner, an election law expert and professor at State University of New York at Buffalo.

But simply “listening” to information derived from foreign sources may rise to the level of a campaign finance violation.

“There are probably First Amendment considerations at work in terms of communication about a political subject,” Gardner said. “I don’t think the federal law was designed to prevent exchange of information.”

Foreigners can’t be paid

U.S. law allows foreign nationals to provide personal services to political campaigns as long as they’re not paid, according to the Campaign Legal Center.

Jennifer Daskal, a professor at American University Washington College of Law, said opposition research can be viewed as a “thing of value” because it costs money to produce it.

“Certainly, opposition research is valuable and it should be understood in my view as a thing of value,” Daskal said.

But determining the cost of the research is tricky and important in terms of its legal consequences. While campaign finance violations involving $2,000 to $25,000 during a calendar year carry a maximum penalty of one year in prison, a smaller violation may result in a simple fine.

Congressional action needed

To shield U.S. elections from foreign interference, Daskal said, Congress must pass legislation requiring political candidates to report any offer of assistance from foreign governments to the FBI.

“It’s important that … the Department of Justice and the intel community have information that they need to follow up and help protect against undue influence,” she said.

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НБУ оскаржив заборону на роботу Рожкової

Національний банк України оскаржить рішення Баришівського районного суду Київської області щодо заборони першому заступнику Глави НБУ Катерині Рожковій виконувати посадові обов’язки. Про це регулятор повідомив 14 червня.

«Національний банк України 14 червня подав до Баришівського районного суду Київської області клопотання про скасування вжитих ухвалою суду від 11 червня заходів забезпечення позову через встановлення заборони Катерині Рожковій брати участь у засіданнях правління НБУ та виконувати покладені на неї посадові обов’язки першого заступника голови НБУ”, – йдеться у повідомленні.

Клопотання обґрунтоване «грубим порушенням судом норм процесуального та матеріального права». У НБУ очікують, що клопотання розглянуть до 19 червня включно.

Перший заступник голови НБУ Катерина Рожкова неодноразово публічно виступала на захист позиції щодо необхідності націоналізації «Приватбанку», зокрема, заявляла, що колишні власники вивели з цієї фінансової установи понад 5 мільярдів доларів. Після цього в НБУ ініціювали розслідування міжнародної аудиторської компанії, яку довело цей факт.

У Національному банку Рожкова опікується питаннями банківського нагляду. Багато власників збанкрутілих банків звинувачують її у так званому «банкопаді» 2014–2016 років. У НБУ наполягають, що очистили ринок від банків, потенційно небезпечних для стабільності фінансової системи.

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Trump Says he’d ‘of Course’ Tell FBI if he Gets Foreign Dirt

President Donald Trump said Friday that “of course” he would go to the FBI or the attorney general if a foreign power offered him dirt about an opponent. It was an apparent walkback from his earlier comments that he might not contact law enforcement in such a situation.

Trump, in an interview Friday with “Fox & Friends,” said he would look at the information in order to determine whether or not it was “incorrect.” But he added that, “of course you give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that.”

Earlier in the week, Trump had told ABC that he would consider accepting information from an outside nation and might not contact law enforcement.

His assertion that he would be open to accepting a foreign power’s help in his 2020 campaign had ricocheted through Washington, with Democrats condemning it as a call for further election interference and Republicans struggling to defend his comments.

Asked by ABC News what he would do if Russia or another country offered him dirt on his election opponent, Trump said: “I think I’d want to hear it.” He added that he’d have no obligation to call the FBI. “There’s nothing wrong with listening.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller painstakingly documented Russian efforts to boost Trump’s campaign and undermine that of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

In segment released Friday from the president’s interview earlier this week, Trump told ABC that “it doesn’t matter” what former White House counsel Don McGahn told investigators and that McGahn may have been confused when he told prosecutors he had been instructed to seek Mueller’s removal.

McGahn was a crucial witness for Mueller, spending hours with investigators and offering detailed statements about episodes central to the special counsel’s investigation into possible obstruction of justice . McGahn described how Trump directed him to press the Justice Department for Mueller’s firing by insisting that he raise what the president perceived as the special counsel’s conflicts of interest.

Trump denied that account, saying, “The story on that very simply, No. 1, I was never going to fire Mueller. I never suggested firing Mueller.”

Asked why McGahn would have lied, Trump said, “Because he wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer. Or he believed it because I would constantly tell anybody that would listen — including you, including the media — that Robert Mueller was conflicted. Robert Mueller had a total conflict of interest.”

Though Trump tried to cast doubt on McGahn’s credibility, it is clear from the Mueller report that investigators took seriously his statements, which in many instances were accompanied by contemporaneous notes, and relied on his account to paint a portrait of the president’s conduct. It is also doubtful that McGahn, a lawyer, would have had any incentive to make a misstatement given that lying to law enforcement is a crime and Mueller’s team charged multiple Trump aides with false statements.

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Новий управитель «Межигір’я» до цього за безцінь придбав активи збанкрутілого банку Курченка – «Схеми»

Співвласник компанії ТОВ «Скомпані», яку на конкурсі АРМА обрали новим управителем колишньої резиденції Віктора Януковича «Межигір’я», раніше придбав на аукціоні активи збанкрутілого «Брокбізнесбанку», власниками якого є структури, наближені до біглого українського олігарха Сергія Курченка. Про це йдеться у розслідуванні програми «Схеми: корупція в деталях» (спільний проект Радіо Свобода та телеканалу «UA:Перший») «АРМАгеддон для «Межигір’я».

​22 березня Фонд гарантування вкладів фізичних осіб провів аукціон з продажу пулу активів «Брокбізнесбанку»​ на 23,83 мільярда гривень. Переможцем конкурсу виявилася компанія ТОВ «​ФК «​Депт Фінанс»​, яка запропонувала викупити активи банку за 15,68 мільйона гривень – 0,066% від балансової вартості активів.

У пулі значилися права вимоги (тобто кредити) на різноманітні активи: житлові будинки, низку земельних ділянок, будівля гуртожитку, нежитлова будівля та кредитний портфель із займів фізичних осіб.

Згідно з реєстром юридичних осіб, керівником ТОВ «​ФК «​Депт Фінанс»​ є Сергій Коренєв. Ця людина також є співвласником компанії ТОВ «Скомпані»​ – фірми, яка перемогла на конкурсному відборі Агентства з розшуку та управління активами, отримані від корупційних та інших злочинів (скорочено – АРМА) щодо управителя резиденції «Межигір’я».

​Керуючий партнер інформаційного агентства «Фінансовий клуб» Руслан Чорний розповідає, що активи таких банків зазвичай викуповують особи, пов’язані із власниками банку.

«Дуже часто купують ці активи якраз пов’язані з реальними власниками цих активів люди або компанії, які, фронтують цих людей, тобто за гроші цих власників викуповують свої активи за безцінь, – розповідає Чорний, – з огляду до переліку активів, які ви називали, я не знаю таких універсальних компаній, які б одразу розумілися як працювати з усіма цими активами. Найшвидше це, що дійсно можуть бути пов’язані з реальними власниками цих активів, вони викуповують свої активи за безцінь».

​Сам Сергій Коренєв в інтерв’ю «Схемам» заперечив будь-який зв’язок з олігархом Курченком.

«Нічого нас не пов’язує. Ми звичайна фінансова компанія, яка займається факторингом, ось, викупом прав по кредитам, якщо ви поглянете по Prozorro, ми не тільки «Брокбізнесбанк» купили. Це чисто, як кажуть, наша удача, що ми купили цей портфель і зараз над ним працюємо», – розповів Коренєв.

​29 травня ТОВ «Скомпані» стало переможцем конкурсу на право управління заарештованою резиденцією колишнього президента Віктора Януковича «Межигір’я».

Її директором є Олексій Вороненко – донедавна помічник депутата Євгена Мураєва – колишнього регіонала, згодом члена партії «Опозиційний блок» та власника телеканалу «Наш».

Обрання ТОВ «Скомпані» переможцем тендеру АРМА на управління резиденцією «Межигір’я» викликало великий суспільний резонанс.

У міжнародній організації Transparency International, яка наглядає за АРМА, закликали Агентство переглянути своє рішення та оголосити новий конкурс. Там вважають, що прецедент з обранням управителем компанію, наближену до екс-регіоналів, має призвести до вдосконалення законодавства.

«Переможці тендеру на управління активами повинні мати бездоганну ділову репутацію і не бути заплямовані діяльністю, що приносить шкоду державі. Задля виходу з цієї чергової «Межигір’я_кризи», ми закликаємо тендерний комітет АРМА переглянути своє рішення», – заявили в Transparency International.

Паралельно Громадська рада при АРМА висловила незадоволення результатами конкурсу з відбору нового управителя для «Межигір’я». Громрада вирішила залучити європейських партнерів для пошуку рішення для «Межигір’я», представники якої звернулися до Антикорупційної ініціативи ЄС в Україні – органу, який в тому числі допомагає у становленні Агентства з питань управління корупційними активами.

Громадська рада звернулася з проханням звернути увагу на проблему з «Межигір’ям» і допомогти знайти альтернативний шлях повернення «Межигірʼя» в держвласність. За інформацією «Схем», в Антикорупційній ініціативі ЄС таке обговорення заплановане на початок липня.

Раніше депутати закликали АРМА не підписувати договір на управління «Межигір’ям» з фірмою ТОВ «Скомпані» екс-помічника Мураєва. Вони вже звернулись до правоохоронних органів з вимогою розслідувати можливі зловживання під час проведення відбору управлінця «Межигірʼя».

«Межигірʼя» раніше було резиденцією Віктора Януковича, але після його втечі з країни в лютому 2014 року територія стала національним парком і музеєм корупції, де щорічно бувають мільйони українців та іноземців. Нині в резиденції відбуваються екскурсії й громадські заходи, знімаються фільми. Будівлями і зоокуточком «Межигір’я» опікуються волонтери, які збирають на це кошти з відвідувачів.



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