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CORRUPTION

Impeachment Probe Looking Into Mulvaney Involvement With Ukraine Before Trump Phone Call: Report

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According to a report at the Daily Beast, Democrats are asking questions about acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s curious decision to hold up a weapons shipment to Ukraine before Donald Trump’s phone call with President Zelensky.

The report notes that Mulvaney, in his other job as head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), held up the sale of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine even after the Trump administration had approved the sale.

The Beast reports, “The unusual move didn’t just foreshadow the huge fight that has President Donald Trump now facing impeachment. It also caught the eye of congressional investigators in the impeachment inquiry. This summer, OMB delayed the provision of a second shipment of military aid to Ukraine. An Intelligence Community whistleblower pointed to the Trump administration’s decision to temporarily hold up the aid as a source of concern about alleged efforts to extort Ukraine. Democrats responded by opening an impeachment inquiry.”

According to one Democrat, Mulvaney has some explaining to do.

“If I were an enterprising reporter, I’d spend a little bit of time on the issue of Javelin missiles,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) told reporters on Wednesday.

The report goes on to note that Mulvaney has been closed-mouthed about the decision even when pressed by the Pentagon.

“Various officials, including the anonymous whistleblower whose account launched the impeachment probe, have said that OMB—which remains under Mulvaney’s leadership after his promotion to Trump’s acting chief of staff—declined to explain to the Department of State, the Pentagon, and Capitol Hill why it froze the 2019 aid package,” the report states. “The postponement generated quiet confusion and frustration for months. It is highly unusual for OMB to get involved with funds that had already been apportioned by Congress, as the Ukraine aid had.”

That, in turn, has drawn scrutiny from House investigators.

“Mulvaney’s skepticism about the Javelin sales has drawn the attention of impeachment investigators, who are scrutinizing his work on Ukraine policy,” The Beast reports. “He is already a central focus of the impeachment inquiry, thanks to his role in delaying nearly $400 million of U.S. security aid to Ukraine. Officials have testified that the Trump administration temporarily withheld that aid in an effort to force Kyiv to announce an investigation of the Bidens.”

You can read more here.

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CORRUPTION

Head of Office Managing Security Clearances ‘Abruptly Resigns’ After Trump Rehires Fired Body Man as Top WH Official: Report

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The director of the U.S. Government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which is in charge of human resources policy and the management of security clearances, resigned abruptly on Tuesday after just six months on the job.

Dale Cabaniss quit because of “poor treatment from the 29-year-old head of the Presidential Personnel Office, John McEntee (photo), and a powerful appointee at OPM, Paul Dans, the new White House liaison and senior adviser to the director of OPM,” Politico reports.

McEntee had been President Donald Trump’s body man. He was fired by then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly after a reported gambling issue made his security clearance untenable.

Business Insider reported last month that McEntee “was fired in 2018 amid an investigation into allegations of financial crimes,” and “was also the focus of a financial-crimes investigation by the Department of Homeland Security.”

Politico adds that “McEntee’s return to the White House has roiled the administration with some officials criticizing the former Trump campaign staffer for what they see as an effort to stock the administration with his friends, including at least three college seniors.”

After Kelly’s ouster President Trump rehired McEntee during a recent wave of loyalty hiring that included members of his original team who Trump feels most comfortable around. Among those rehires was Hope Hicks, who resigned the day after she admitted to Special Counsel Robert Mueller that she has lied for Trump.

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CORRUPTION

Trump’s Company Paid Bribes to Lower Property Tax Bills: Report

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Real estate mogul Donald Trump’s firm, The Trump Organization, paid bribes through middlemen to New York City tax assessors to lower its property tax bills, according to a damning report by ProPublica.

Trump’s company paid the bribes in exchange for lowered tax bills “for several Manhattan buildings in the 1980s and 1990s, according to five former tax assessors and city employees as well as a former Trump Organization employee.”

Among those buildings is 40 Wall Street, pictured above.

Two of the five former city employees admitted they personally took the bribes. The other three said they knew about the bribes.

“The city employees were among 18 indicted in 2002 for taking bribes in exchange for lowering the valuations of properties, which in turn reduced the taxes owed for the buildings. All of the 18 eventually pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Manhattan except for one, who died before his case was resolved.”

The moment that corrupt assessors told their co-conspirators that the Trump Organization had agreed to pay bribes was memorable, said Frank Valvo, a former city assessor who served a year and a half in prison for his role in the scheme.

The excitement was palpable in the office, Valvo recalled, as one of the assessors broached the news. “He says, ‘We got Trump!’” Valvo recalled. “Wow. Holy Smokes.”

ProPublica notes that the Trump organization denies bribes were paid, and adds that there is no evidence that Donald Trump knew about them.

Trump Organization chief legal officer Alan Garten wrote in a statement: “If anything, the Trump Organization was a victim of the scandal.”

Read the full report here.

Image by Ken Lund via Flickr and a CC license

 

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CORRUPTION

Jared Kushner Wrestles Control of Trump Pardon Process Away From Bill Barr’s DOJ: Report

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President Donald Trump has taken the pardon process away from the Justice Department and given more direct control to son-in-law Jared Kushner and former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi.

The president granted clemency Tuesday to a group of 11 political allies, Fox News regulars and others, and he has put together an informal task force overseen by Kushner to recommend and vet new candidates, reported the Washington Post.

The group has been meeting since late last year, after Kushner recommended taking away control of the process away from the Department of Justice.

One official told the newspaper that Trump was unconcerned about criticism of this week’s pardon spree, and said more pardons would be coming before November’s election.

“He likes doing them,” the official said.

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