Trump megadonor Louis DeJoy in jeopardy as Postmaster General after Biden nominates two new board members
This is good news, and pray that DeJoy is gone soon. tRump put him there in order to disrupt and/or block mail in voting!
Excerpts from the Article:
Louis DeJoy’s future as the US Postmaster General could be in question after a surprise move by the White House to oust two of the controversial GOP figure’s allies on the Postal Service’s board of governors.
President Joe Biden made the move on Friday to send the nominations of Daniel Tangherlini and Derek Kan to the Senate, a move which would replace two members of the board whose terms are expiring: Ron Bloom, the board’s chairman, and board member John Barger.
Mr Barger’s support for Mr DeJoy throughout his widely criticised operational changes at the USPS was not terribly surprising, as both are Republicans. However Mr DeJoy found a strategic ally in Mr Bloom, a Democrat who chaired the board. Mr Bloom previously held several positions in the Obama administration including a role in the government bailout and reorganising of automakers Chrysler and General Motors.
The USPS board has faced calls for months from critics, including Democrats in Congress, for Mr DeJoy to be removed from the top role due to the effects of his operational changes, including a significant worsening of mail delivery times.
Some changes seemed specifically aimed at making mail delivery slower or less convenient. High-speed mail sorting machines were decommissioned. Late trips to deliver mail were ended. Public mailboxes were removed from streets around the country.
Most if not all of those moves were reversed by USPS ahead of the 2020 election after significant outcry from Democrats. They called the measures an overt attempt by a supporter of Donald Trump to slash the US mail service at the behest of the forme president, who was repeatedly critical of mail-in voting.
Mr DeJoy was previously deputy finance chair for the Republican National Committee, and served a role in the 2020 RNC convention. In June, it was revealed that he is under investigation by the Justice Department regarding campaign contributions made by employees of his logistics and freight company, New Breed Logistics.
Mr Bloom defended some of Mr DeJoy’s efforts earlier this year during testimony before the House. And as recently as last week he was reported by The Washington Post to have been telling colleagues that he expected the president to renominate him to the board, despite opposition from Democrats in both chambers of Congress.
Mr Biden does not have the authority to directly appoint or fire the Postmaster General, and is required to keep the nine-member board to a maximum of five members of the same party. Currently, the board is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, with one independent member.
Still, the Biden administration has kept up a steady stream of pressure in public statements aimed at the board’s governors urging them to reevaluate the leadership of the agency amid the service slowdowns.
“[W]e have continued concerns about the Postmaster General’s leadership,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki during her Friday news briefing. She added that the White House takes “serious issu[e] with the job he’s doing running the Postal Service”.
The battle over the Postal Service represents a fundamental disagreement between different schools of thought among US lawmakers about how the agency should operate.
The effort had been delayed in 2020 after Democrats raised concerns over further slowing of mail service at a time when a record number of Americans were voting by mail due to the Covid pandemic.
Out of Control and WE Must Stop Them! The Senate passed a stopgap funding bill to avoid a shutdown. Here are key things to know.
They backed down this time, temporarily, because they really had no choice. But these hard core obstructionists who are harming Americans in so many ways, must and can be stopped. VOTE THESE MOTHERFRUCKERS OUT OF OUR GOVERNMENT. OUT!
Excerpts from the Article:
The Senate passed a stopgap bill that will extend funding through mid-February after the House approved the measure earlier in the day. The bill will next go to President Biden for his signature.
The final tally in the Senate was 69-28. The final House vote was 221-212. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois was the only Republican to join Democrats in voting for the resolution.
Why this matters: The passage of the stopgap bill ahead of a Friday midnight deadline put an end to a standoff that had threatened to trigger a shutdown, which could have impacted multiple federal departments and employees.
How we got to the vote: Party leaders cleared the way for a vote tonight in the Senate after overcoming a Republican standoff over President Biden’s vaccine mandates.
To resolve the impasse, the two parties came up with an agreement to hold votes on the stopgap bill as well as on a GOP amendment to prohibit the use of federal funding for Covid-19 vaccine mandates, which failed.
But due to Senate rules governing procedure, all 100 senators needed to agree to quickly pass the plan before Friday, an outcome that was not clear it could be locked in until late in the day when party leaders announced a deal had been reached.
Now another looming deadline approaches: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen estimates that the government will run out of money on Dec. 15, an extension from the previous deadline of Dec. 3.
“There are scenarios in which Treasury would be left with insufficient remaining resources to continue to finance the operations of the U.S. Government beyond this date,” Yellen said of the new deadline in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Nov. 16. While the pushed deadline gives lawmakers some additional time to address the debt ceiling, it remains unclear how Democrats will proceed after Republican leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have repeatedly stated they will not help with legislation to raise the limit.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced earlier this evening that a deal had been reached for the chamber to pass a bill to keep the government funded through Feb. 18.
How we got here: Negotiators from both parties announced a plan this morning that would prevent a lapse in funding, but due to Senate rules governing procedure, all 100 senators would need to agree in order to quickly pass the plan before Friday, and a handful of GOP senators had been standing by their threats to delay the process over the vaccine rules.
I think he is correct, thank God! I said this years ago: “Kirschner believes there’s actually a case to be made against Trump for all the lies and misinformation he spread about the coronavirus and how to defeat it, from his intentional falsehoods about the nature of the threat to his disgraceful conduct designed to undermine safeguards, such as mask mandates, entirely because he believed it helped him politically. Kirschner, who formerly headed up the homicide unit of the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., told me that Trump’s “grossly negligent conduct was reasonably likely to result in death or serious bodily injury to another.”
This former state prosecutor – Ken Abraham – agrees with everything he says!
Excerpts from the Article:
Former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner has been speaking the blunt truth about Donald Trump’s criminal conduct for years. He’s not stopping now just because most of the media, and most Democrats in Congress for that matter, have moved on. I spoke to Kirschner, who is now an NBC News legal analyst, in a recent “Salon Talks” episode about Steve Bannon’s indictment and more.
During our conversation, we kept coming back to is Kirschner’s conviction that the disgraced former president is still a very real threat to our nation. And Kirschner, who served for more than 30 years as a federal prosecutor, is adamant that the only way to neutralize that threat is by prosecuting Trump for his crimes, ranging from those he may have committed in his effort to overturn the 2020 election to possible crimes arising from his mishandling of the pandemic.
Kirschner believes there’s actually a case to be made against Trump for all the lies and misinformation he spread about the coronavirus and how to defeat it, from his intentional falsehoods about the nature of the threat to his disgraceful conduct designed to undermine safeguards, such as mask mandates, entirely because he believed it helped him politically. Kirschner, who formerly headed up the homicide unit of the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., told me that Trump’s “grossly negligent conduct was reasonably likely to result in death or serious bodily injury to another.”
Regarding the possible crimes arising from the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, Kirschner said this about Trump’s apparent role: “If you don’t punish an attempted overthrow of the government, an insurrection, a rebellion, we’re going to get more rebellions. That’s just common sense.” Watch my Salon Talks interview with Kirschner here or read a transcript of our conversation below to hear him lay out the case for manslaughter charges against Trump himself, and discuss the likelihood that prominent Trump allies are on their way to prison.
This article has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Let’s start with Steve Bannon. He’s been indicted. Can you explain why there was a delay in this indictment? What do you think actually prompted the Department of Justice and the U.S. attorney in D.C to finally indict him?
We were on Steve Bannon indictment watch for 22 days from the day he was voted in contempt and referred for prosecution to the D.C. U.S. attorney’s office until the U.S. attorney finally presented it to the grand jury and the grand jury indicted him for two counts of contempt of Congress. Twenty-two days. We know historically it’s been done in as few as nine days. It was done to a Reagan-era EPA official named Rita Lavelle. Twenty-two days may sound like a long time. First of all, it wasn’t that long. It takes some time to put a quick investigation together, present it to the grand jury and have them vote out an indictment. But I really think the holdup was because there was an acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia in place at the front end of that 22-day period.
I’ve worked for more than 10 U.S. attorneys in D.C. Some of them were acting, some of them were interim, some of them were presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed. Ordinarily when you have an acting U.S. attorney, that person just tries to keep the trains running on time, not make a lot of waves, not take on a lot of high-profile decisions. The new permanent U.S. attorney was confirmed by the Senate and took over one week before Steve Bannon was indicted. His name is Matt Graves, a former colleague of mine. He’s a good man. He’s a thoughtful man. He was a public corruption prosecutor when he was in my office. One week after he arrived, bam, Steve Bannon indicted. I think that’s an important tell and some foreshadowing about how promptly the new D.C. U.S. attorney is going to go about his business.
This is not the answer. The answer is (1) to support efforts to provide good mental health counseling and treatment, so pathetically lacking now in America for years! (2) There are just too many damn guns in America, and owners must keep them locked up!
#1 is the best solution. Current gun safety laws are so weak they are not much of a deterrent, and, beyond that, it seems a bit unfair to punish parents already grief stricken by the crime and the consequences for all involved.
Excerpts from the Article:
The prosecutor overseeing the investigation into a mass killing at a Michigan high school this week strongly suggested Wednesday that she would charge the teenage suspect’s parents, an unusual move but one that gun control advocates say is essential to combating the nation’s scourge of shootings by minors.
Officials have said that the father of the suspect, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, bought the semiautomatic handgun used in the killings last Friday. Just four days later, on Tuesday, Crumbley forged a path of terror at Oxford High School, killing four people and injuring seven others, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said.
While it is unclear how Crumbley may have obtained the gun from his father, McDonald said Wednesday that gun owners have a responsibility to secure their weapons — particularly when young people are involved. “Those who do not do that should and will be held accountable,” she said. “We have to do better.”
McDonald said in addition to charges announced Wednesday against the teen — including four counts of first-degree murder — she expected that other charges could be filed, including against Crumbley’s parents.
Such a charge would be a rarity: Adult gun owners are almost never held accountable when children use their weapons to harm themselves or others.
That’s despite the fact that if children as young as 6 did not have access to guns, well more than half of the country’s school shootings since 1999 would never have happened, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.
“If you look at school shootings, the overwhelming majority are committed by students, and the overwhelming majority of those students have guns that they brought from their homes or a relative’s home,” said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy.
While school shootings remain rare, there have been more in 2021 — 34 — than in any year since at least 1999, according to a Washington Post database that tracks acts of gun violence on K-12 campuses during regular school hours.
This year’s total has eclipsed the previous record, of 29 from three years ago, despite most students not attending school for the first two months of 2021 — and a full month remaining before year’s end. Targeted attacks, most often sparked by fights between students, have driven the spike in on-campus gun violence since March.
In schools across 22 states, at least 45 people have been shot, and nine of them were killed. This year’s shootings alone have exposed about 27,000 students to gun violence, bringing the total since 1999 to 278,000.
Tuesday’s mass killing in Oxford, about an hour’s drive from Detroit, was the deadliest school shooting in more than three years.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said Wednesday that Crumbley “wasn’t on any law enforcement radar that I’m aware of” before the shootings. But there were problems in the immediate lead-up to the attack: Bouchard said that, on Monday, school officials met with Crumbley to discuss “concerning behavior in the classroom.”
On Tuesday morning, Crumbley’s parents were summoned to the school for a meeting at which the teen was present. Bouchard, who did not elaborate on the nature of the issues being discussed, said that early that afternoon, Crumbley went to the bathroom and emerged wielding the handgun. As he walked the hallways, he began firing “methodically and deliberately” at his fellow students at close range, prosecutors said.
A judge ordered Crumbley held without bail at a Wednesday arraignment. He did not enter a plea, so a not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf. His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, appeared side-by-side in a virtual appearance before switching off their cameras for the remainder of the hearing.
Ethan Crumbley’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Prosecutors have not said what they believed may have motivated the teen, but McDonald said a “mountain of evidence” indicated that the shooting was premeditated. “It isn’t even a close call,” she said.
Lt. Tim Willis of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said at Wednesday’s court hearing that Crumbley had recorded a video the night before the shooting in which he discussed killing students.
Officials said they were also looking at social media posts by the teen in the days leading up to the shooting. In one that appeared to have been posted on Crumbley’s Instagram account last Friday, a picture of a hand cradling a gun was captioned: “Just got my new beauty today. SIG SAUER 9mm. Ask any questions I will answer.”
While Crumbley’s account has been deleted, screenshots of the post circulated widely. Officials have previously said that a SIG Sauer 9mm was the murder weapon and that they were reviewing social media posts that showed Crumbley with such a gun.
McDonald would not provide details Wednesday when asked whether the handgun purchased by Crumbley’s father had been locked or secured in any way at the family’s home. But she said that gun owners have a responsibility to keep their weapons out of the hands of minors, who are barred from possessing guns in Michigan.
It is not clear under what statute Crumbley’s parents would be charged, if they are.
Michigan law does not require gun owners to lock up their weapons or keep them away from children, according to Giffords Law Center. Even in the 30 states that have passed some form of a child access protection law, researchers say, the statutes are often not enforced, or are too limited or carry weak penalties, rendering them ineffective.
While investigators don’t always determine — or publicly reveal — the weapons’ origins when they are fired by a child, The Post identified and reviewed 105 cases between 1999 and 2018 in which the source was identified.
Of those, the guns were taken from a child’s home or those of relatives or friends 84 times. The Post discovered just four instances in which the adult owners of the weapons were criminally punished because they failed to lock them up.
None of the four successful prosecutions identified by The Post resulted from charges related to negligent-storage laws. The harshest penalty among those cases was a 29-month term behind bars for involuntary manslaughter. In that instance, a man in Michigan used a shoe box to store his .32-caliber semiautomatic handgun, which a 6-year-old visitor found and took to school, then fatally shot a first-grade classmate.
McDonald called Wednesday for laws to be strengthened to better address gun access issues among minors. “How many times does this have to happen?” she asked in what has become a familiar refrain following school shootings.
But such toughening of the rules has been fiercely resisted by gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association. Bouchard, the sheriff, said Wednesday that prosecutors aren’t adequately using the gun rules they already have, often dropping charges on crimes such as possession. “We have a whole lot of gun laws that are meant to hold criminals accountable. And they’re not utilized,” he said.
Even gun control proponents acknowledged that a change in legislation can only do so much.
“Laws,” said David Chipman, a veteran Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent once nominated to lead the agency, “can help hold people accountable for contributing to reckless harms. But it will take community pressure to ensure that irresponsible gun owners stop being shielded as patriots by gun extremists and rather called out as the pariahs that they are, especially by fellow, responsible gun owners.”
While details of the Crumbley gun purchase were not immediately clear Wednesday, Webster noted that gun sales have surged since the beginning of the pandemic or possibly just before. Many people are buying guns with the goal of protecting themselves from danger, even though it’s much more common that someone purchases a gun and “an underage youth gets their hands on it and hurts themselves or others,” Webster said.
Active shooters usually get their guns legally and target places they already know, according to an FBI study that looked at dozens of different attacks. The FBI study found that these attackers often displayed numerous red flags and warning signs that were noticeable beforehand, which included expressing a desire to harm people.
“Usually,” Webster said, “these things don’t come out of the blue.”
Beware! Truly successful treatment programs are rare indeed! This one is a total rip off! Years ago I tried to find out their success rate. They have no idea; note that they cite general statistics, not those pertinent to their programs.
More than 85% of all crimes are addiction related!
Excerpts from the Article:
The advertisements are everywhere. On television, a sleek black sedan pulls up to a sprawling estate with a rolling green lawn as a mother recounts how Recovery Centers of America saved her child from drugs. On Facebook, radio, highway billboards, and commuter trains, people are urged to call the company’s instantly memorable hotline: 1-800-RECOVERY.
The marketing blitz and an infusion of private equity money have helped make Recovery Centers of America into the self-described fastest-growing addiction treatment provider in the country. Launched less than three years ago by a high-end real estate developer, it’s part of a rush of entrepreneurs who see opportunity in the treatment business as the opioid crisis sweeps the country.
But an investigation by STAT and the The Boston Globe has uncovered evidence of shoddy care and turmoil inside the walls of the company’s two Massachusetts treatment centers. This report is based on interviews with more than a dozen former and current employees, internal RCA documents, and state investigative reports — depicting a company that spends lavishly on facilities and marketing while skimping on giving patients basic care.
At a company that promotes itself as the new frontier of addiction treatment and charges an average of $24,000 a month, some patients were not getting basic counseling. They were often unsupervised. The staff has complained repeatedly to management and the state that they weren’t able to keep the patients safe. And patients were found to be having sex.
RCA operates luxury residential and outpatient facilities in five northeastern states, featuring original artwork, custom furniture, and manicured gardens. In Massachusetts alone, the company has spent nearly $50 million to buy and renovate a country inn in the rolling hills of Westminster and a former hospital in Danvers.
“RCA is 100 percent committed to our patients and their paths to recovery,” according to a statement from the company. “At the very core of our facilities and mission is a steadfast dedication to the highest standards and regulations, and the care and safety of every individual we treat and employ.”
In Westminster, patients sleep on Serta Prestige Suite II Pillow Top mattresses selected after company executives tested more than 30 brands. Each day, fresh linens are carefully folded and placed on the end of patient beds. Every room has a flat-screen television and private bathroom. But when state regulators inspected the facility in February, they found that essential services like individual counseling and group therapy sessions were not regularly being provided, worker training was lacking, the facility was understaffed, and patients were not properly supervised.
One staff member complained to the state that patients were trading their medication for financial and physical favors. Staff members grew so incensed about conditions inside the facility that one wrote an inflammatory email to management.
“Our patient to staff ratio is exhausting for us and non therapeutic for the patients,” wrote one employee in a January email to management at Westminster obtained by STAT and the Globe. “The patients who should in no way even still be with us are taking advantage of our lack of staff by turning us into a drug hotel and brothel rather than a recovery center and the ones who are with us to make an attempt at meaningful recovery are feeling ignored, stressed, and unprepared for after their stay.”
If you know anyone in there or considering them, YOU should not do business with RCA. Here is the rest of this long horror story:
Letter to the Editor – His long, dirty toenails! – kra PUBLISHED IN THE WILMINGTON NEWS JOURNAL 11/28/21
Click on this link to read my Letter, PUBLISHED in our state’s Largest Newspaper! 🙂 🙂
Letter: Racism — as we saw in Ahmaud Arbery’s case — in our legal system must be eliminated
Delaware News Journal Letters to the Editor
The three men charged in the Ahmaud Arbery were found guilty on Wednesday,
Regardless, their trial will linger in the annals of the history of racism in our courts for a very long time.
Arbery’s father, Marcus, embraces Ben Crump and Rev. Al Sharpton outside the courtroom.
I would have been surprised and outraged if the verdict had been anything but guilty. I have reviewed all information available to the public, and no other verdict makes sense in light of the evidence.
I have read dozens of articles about racism — overt and subconscious — in our courts. But this trial takes the prize. One of the defense lawyers, Kevin Gough, made numerous racist remarks and was admonished by the judge, and continues to try to defend his hateful remarks. Another, Laura Hogue, referred to Arbery’s “long, dirty toenails.”
Arbery’s mother never saw this day coming
What!? If Arbery did have long, dirty toenails, that is totally irrelevant. Moreover, I have taken part in more than 700 trials, viewed or read about thousands more, and never have seen such a blatant attempt to evoke racial hatred of the victim.
Both lawyers should be censured or even disbarred for such conduct.
You, the public, should voice similar concerns about racism — and lawyers who foster it — poisoning the system.
— Ken Abraham, Dover
The next deadly variant no doubt will be called: “The You Humans Are So Friggin’ Stupid; All You Had To Do Was Wear Your Masks Variant”!
It is important to maintain a sense of humor, especially in trying times.
Prosecute this life long Con Man!
Excerpts from the Article:
The Trump Organization owns an office building at 40 Wall Street in Manhattan. In 2012, when the company was listing its assets for potential lenders, it said the building was worth $527 million — which would make it among the most valuable in New York.
But just a few months later, the Trump Organization told property tax officials that the entire 70-story building was worth less than a high-end Manhattan condo: just $16.7 million, according to newly released city records.
That was less than one-thirtieth the amount it had claimed the year before.
That property is now under scrutiny from the Manhattan district attorney and New York attorney general, along with several others like it for which the Trump Organization gave vastly different value estimates, according to public records and people familiar with their investigations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing inquiries.
After the indictment of the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer this summer for income tax fraud, prosecutors now appear to be examining whether the company broke the law by providing low values to property tax officers, while using high ones to garner tax breaks or impress lenders. New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) has said she is considering a lawsuit, and prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office have also convened a new grand jury, which could vote on criminal charges, according to the people familiar with the investigations.
Among the other properties under scrutiny: former president Donald Trump’s California golf club, for which he valued the same parcel of land at $900,000 and $25 million depending on the intended audience, and an estate in suburban New York, for which Trump’s valuations ranged from $56 million up to $291 million. The valuations were all given in the five years before Trump won the presidency.
Prosecutors appear to have dug deeply into these properties, according to court papers and people familiar with the investigation. They have compiled reams of emails, planning documents and financial data, even seeking the initiation fees Trump charged golf club members as far back as a decade ago. In Los Angeles, they have asked for geology reports on the rock layers under Trump’s course — where the value was affected by a history of landslides.
They have also sought detailed records from two outside companies that worked with the Trump Organization to formulate these valuations: appraisal firm Cushman & Wakefield and law firm Morgan Lewis. In court filings, prosecutors have referred to emails in which they said Trump executives or a Morgan Lewis lawyer pushed appraisers to change their findings. Neither Morgan Lewis nor Cushman & Wakefield responded to questions.
Real estate appraisers said it was highly unusual for any property owner to give such widely different values for the same property during the same time period.
“This is way, way beyond anything that’s believable,” said Norm Miller, a professor of real estate finance at the University of San Diego who has appraised properties for 50 years. “I’ve never seen anything with a gap that extreme.”
But extreme is not the same as illegal. Legal experts said that if prosecutors wish to prove a crime, they will need to do more than simply prove Trump’s valuations were wrong.
“Is it an overly optimistic? Is it an enthusiastic perception?” said Robert Masters, a former top aide to the district attorney in Queens. “Does that make it a lie?”
Masters said prosecutors would probably need to show that the figures were wrong on purpose — falsified deliberately, with an intent to deceive a lender or the government. Masters said that may require a witness on the inside, who could explain the decision-making behind the numbers.
“Is there somebody there who can translate the books?” he said.
The Trump Organization said in a statement on Monday that prosecutors should focus on other problems in New York. Eric Trump, the former president’s son and a top Trump Organization executive, also called the investigations an example of the “weaponization of political prosecutors.” “It is eroding Americans’ confidence in the legal system and it has to stop,” Eric Trump wrote in a statement.
This summer, Trump’s longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg and two Trump companies were indicted on charges of felony tax fraud. Prosecutors allege Weisselberg deceived income tax authorities by hiding some of the pay and benefits that he and other company executives received.
Trump himself was not accused of wrongdoing in that case. Weisselberg and the two companies have pleaded not guilty, and a trial is not expected until late next year. Now, the investigations into Trump’s company appear to be undergoing a shift — both in leadership and in focus.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D), who led the criminal side of the investigation for three years, declined to run for reelection. He will be replaced at year’s end by Democrat Alvin Bragg.
James, who is running a civil investigation of Trump’s company and assisting with Vance’s criminal probe, is staying. For now. She already has entered the governor’s race for 2022.
In recent months, investigators have looked beyond the income tax issues that were the focus of Weisselberg’s indictment, according to public records and people familiar with the investigation.
They have appeared to focus on allegations about the values of Trump’s properties that were first raised publicly by former Trump lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen in his testimony to Congress in 2019. Cohen said Trump used these values to deceive, inflating or deflating the same asset to get advantages he didn’t deserve. “Mr. Trump is a cheat,” Cohen said then. Trump responded by noting that Cohen had pleaded guilty to providing false testimony to Congress in the past.
James’s office has even commissioned its own appraisals of some Trump properties, to provide a standard to which they could compare Trump’s valuations, according to two people familiar with the investigation.
Investigators seem focused on the valuations of at least four Trump properties, according to court filings and people familiar with the investigation.
One is the office building at 40 Wall Street. Another is in California, where Trump owns a golf course atop oceanfront cliffs in the Los Angeles suburb of Rancho Palos Verdes. The cliffs have a history of landslides: In 1999, when somebody else owned the course, a 2,000-foot slide pulled the 18th hole into the ocean. After Trump bought the land in 2002, he sought to make extra money by building homes along the course — but city officials blocked those plans in one section of the course, saying a layer of slippery ash inside the cliffs made it vulnerable to slide again.
After that, records show, Trump’s company seemed to tell two divergent stories about the same land. In filings with property tax authorities — when it was advantageous for the land to be worth less — Trump seemed to bow to the difficulty of developing the land. In 2013, he told the county tax assessor that the entire 17-acre parcel was worth just $900,000, less than a single home in that neighborhood. But when it was advantageous for the land to be worth more, Trump’s company said it was. Twenty-seven times more.
That valuation came in 2014, as Trump’s company sought to get a “conservation easement” on that same parcel, formally giving up the right to build homes there.
For tax purposes, an easement works like a charitable donation: Instead of donating money, Trump was donating value — the money that the land would have brought him, if he’d built homes on it.
The bigger that value was, the bigger the tax deduction could be. In that case, Trump’s company, relying on an appraisal from Cushman & Wakefield, said the plot was worth at least $25 million.
Also in Westchester County, investigators have examined Trump’s golf club in the town of Briarcliff Manor. In 2015, his company sued the local property tax authorities to lower that club’s valuation, saying the property was worth just $1.4 million. If the town had agreed, that would have reduced the club’s tax bill by 90 percent. But in the same year, when Trump filed his financial disclosures as a candidate for president, he listed the club’s value as being more than 35 times higher: “Over $50 million.”
Jeffrey Dugas, who later appraised that club on behalf of Trump’s company, said neither number was accurate in his opinion. But, Dugas said, the huge gap between the two numbers was not — to him — evidence of a crime. He said the two numbers were probably prepared for different audiences, with different methodologies.
The $1.4 million figure, he said, may have been a lowball estimate from Trump’s lawyer, a kind of opening offer to start a negotiation with local tax authorities. And the $50 million figure may have been Trump’s own guess as to what the course would be worth, if he ever got approvals to build homes on it. “Neither of them go together,” Dugas said, calling them “apples and oranges.” Trump’s lawyer in that property tax case did not respond to a request for comment. The New York Times reported last month that Westchester County District Attorney Miriam “Mimi” Rocah (D), is also investigating that course, but Rocah’s office has not commented.
The full scope of the investigations into the Trump Organization’s valuations is unclear, hidden by the secrecy of a grand jury.
New York law makes it a felony to falsify business records, to file false documents with the government or to make false statements on a sworn document.
But in every case, those laws require proof of intent: Prosecutors have to show that someone made the false statements knowingly, in an effort to deceive or to cover up a crime.
Legal experts said prosecutors could face an especially high burden when applying these laws to the real estate industry — where the value of any property is always somewhat subjective, and where some amount of self-serving puffery is the norm. That opens the door to an everybody-does-it defense.
“I’m doing what was expected. I’m not fooling anybody. I’m working within a system where this is the norm,” said Rebecca Roiphe, a former prosecutor and a professor at New York Law School, playing out a hypothetical argument.
Another possible defense: Trump’s company could say he didn’t set these valuations himself but relied on outside experts such as appraisers, accountants or lawyers. In this case, prosecutors have seemed to focus on what Trump or his executives told those experts, and when they pushed them to change their original opinion.
Samuel W. Buell, a law professor at Duke University, said prosecutors often look for evidence that their targets misled their own experts. That negates the “gatekeeper” defense, he said, and may show evidence of an intent to mislead. “You lied to the gatekeeper, and that’s the only reason they let you through,” Buell said.
Hardly enough, but better than nothing.
Excerpts from the Article:
The federal government has reached a tentative $127.5 million settlement with the families of victims of a 2018 mass shooting at a Florida high school, who sued over the FBI’s failure to act on warnings that the gunman was planning an attack, a person familiar with the agreement said.
The U.S. Justice Department filed a notice in federal court Monday saying the parties are “working to finalize additional details before submission for final approval by the appropriate Department of Justice official.”
The exact terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but a person familiar with the negotiations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because all of the details were not finalized, said the agreement was for about $127.5 million, distributed among the families of the victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla.
The settlement comes a month after the Justice Department agreed to pay $88 million to the families of those killed at a 2015 shooting at a historic Black church in Charleston, S.C. — which occurred after the FBI did not conduct a thorough gun-purchase background check of that gunman.
“The word ‘closure’ is not a word I like to use in these instances, because there’s no such thing as closure for these families who have suffered the way they did,” said Kristina Infante, of the law firm Podhurst Orseck, who was lead counsel for the 40 Parkland families suing the Justice Department. “It’s something different than that . . . it’s turning the page.”
The Florida gunman, Nikolas Cruz, now 23, pleaded guilty last month to killing 14 students and three faculty members in the February 2018 Parkland massacre. A jury trial is planned to determine whether he should face the death penalty or life in prison.
A day before Cruz’s guilty plea, families of his victims and dozens of others who were injured or traumatized reached a $25 million settlement with the Broward County school district, settling most of the negligence suits filed against local officials in connection with the shooting.
The FBI’s failure to investigate a January 2018 tip before the Parkland massacre was one of numerous warning signs that authorities failed to pursue. On at least three other occasions, including multiple calls to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, authorities were told that Cruz was a potential school shooter.
Those lapses continued until the day he opened fire. A state commission found that there were security lapses at the school and failures by law enforcement officers who responded.
Days after the attack, the FBI acknowledged that it did not follow its own rules for investigating tips related to Cruz.
Officials have said a person close to Cruz called the FBI’s tip line to warn the agency of concerns about Cruz’s “gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.” The FBI, however, failed to pass the tip along to its local field office for further investigation, officials have acknowledged.
The Parkland shooting prompted widespread protests against gun violence and calls for stricter gun control laws, but those efforts so far have not led to significant changes.
Good. They deserve everything the law can throw at them!
Excerpts from the Article:
After a Georgia jury found Travis and Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery on Wednesday, the three men are set to head to federal court in less than three months to stand another trial on federal hate crime charges.
After roughly ten and a half hours of deliberation, jurors in Glynn County found all three men guilty of felony murder. Travis McMichael was convicted on nine charges, Greg McMichael was convicted on eight charges and Bryan was convicted on six charges.
Arbery was fatally shot by Travis McMichael on February 23, 2020 after McMichael, his father Greg McMichael and Bryan chased the 25-year-old Black jogger down with their pickup trucks while conducting what they claimed to be a citizen’s arrest in the Satilla Shores neighborhood.
Despite the verdict in the Georgia court, the legal saga will continue in federal court in 10 weeks when the trial is scheduled to begin on February 7, 2022.
Last spring, the Justice Department (DOJ) charged all three men with interfering with Arbery’s civil rights and attempted kidnapping of Arbery.
The McMichaels were also charged with using, carrying and brandishing a firearm.
The DOJ is alleging that the three men “used force and threats of force to intimidate and interfere with Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race.”
In an eight-page indictment, federal prosecutors also alleged that “the three defendants chased Arbery through the neighborhood, using their trucks—and in the case of the McMichaels, firearms—in an attempt to restrain Arbery, restrict his free movement, corral and detain him against his will, and prevent his escape.”
If convicted of these federal charges, the defendants could face up to life in prison.
The suspects were indicted by a grand jury after the state was unable to bring hate crime charges against the defendants at the time of Arbery’s death due to Georgia law, which did not have a hate crime statute.
However, Arbery’s death led state lawmakers to pass a new hate-crime law months after. The new statute allows for extra penalties for those who commit crimes against others based on race, gender, sexual orientation and other identities.
Under state law, all three men were charged with the same nine counts: one count of malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment and one count of criminal intent to commit a felony.
The three defendants had each pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The state trial concluded on Tuesday and the jury reached their verdict after less than two days of deliberation on Wednesday.