Tuesday night’s bombshell report that Congressman Matt Gaetz is under DOJ investigation for a possible relationship with a 17-year old took another wild turn when New York Times reporter Katie Benner revealed Attorney General Bill Barr or his office approved the investigation.
Benner also went further in the interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Tuesday night, revealing that the investigation began not late last year, but earlier, at the end of last summer, “so it’s been going on for more than six months.”
“This is a serious investigation that was serious enough that even the highest levels of the Justice Department, including the Office of the Attorney General Bill Barr, said that it should continue,” Benner explained.
She also questioned why Rep. Gaetz went public with specific details after the New York Times published its report, Tuesday, saying that by doing so the Florida Republican congressman “blew up” the FBI’s investigation by naming the former DOJ official Gaetz claims is blackmailing him and his family in a $25 million “extortion” scheme.
“I think one of the reasons why he has talked publicly about this extortion and one of the reasons why he’s publicly said that the FBI has asked his own father to wear a wire is in order to try to get people to not pay attention to the fact there was in fact the Trump administration thought it worthy to investigate him,” Benner said.
“In publicly talking about the extortion plot that he’s described and publicly saying his father wore a wire, he’s basically destroying and blowing up the FBI investigation, which is in itself something you would think would be against his own interest,” Benner added.
Gaetz is denying he did anything wrong, including denying having a sexual relationship with a 17-year old girl, and instead blamed the former DOJ official. But Benner said both stories could be true: there is an investigation into his actions authorized at the highest levels of the DOJ, and that a former DOJ official found out and is blackmailing him. She did not state Gaetz’s extortion claim was true, only that it is possible.
Katie Benner ( @ktbenner ), who is bylined on tonight’s NYT reporting on Matt Gaetz, explains the timeline of the investigation of Gaetz and how Gaetz’s claim of an extortion plot fits into the longer timeline of the investigation.
(Very clarifying!) pic.twitter.com/G44cqSZjEy
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) March 31, 2021
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‘Next Chapter?’ Manhattan DA Signals Trump Himself Might Finally Land Under Indictment
Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg may finally have changed his mind about indicting former president Donald Trump.
The recent conviction of the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg gave a glimpse of evidence that could tie the ex-president directly to the tax fraud scheme, such as a memo he signed approving chief operating officer Matthew Calamari’s illegal request to reduce his taxed salary to cover the cost of his untaxed corporate apartment, reported The Daily Beast.
“We now move on to the next chapter,” Bragg said last week after the company was ordered to pay $1.6 million in penalties for tax fraud.
Trump already asserted under oath in another case in 2021 that he personally oversaw Calimari’s compensation, and prosecutors have checks he signed to cover tuition at a private school for Weisselberg’s grandchildren, whose mother Jennifer Weisselberg has repeatedly told investigators she personally heard Trump discuss the scheme to artificially lower taxed salaries for his executives.
“This case has tentacles,” said Duncan Levin, a former prosecutor who now represents Jennifer Weisselberg and has been communicating with investigators.
The district attorney’s office declined to comment on what Bragg meant about another chapter, but former prosecutors from that office say their experience leads them to believe prosecutors will go after Trump.
“For people who want a certain outcome — to go after Trump — it gives hope,” said Catherine A. Christian, a former assistant district attorney who investigated financial fraud. “They’re going to be thorough. I’m doubtful he would have said ‘next chapter’ if they weren’t looking.”
“It happens all the time with large, complex investigations,” she added.
Prosecutors had hoped to flip Weisselberg or company controller Jeffrey McConney, who was nearly labeled a hostile witness during the Trump Organization trial, but ultimately were unable to get their full cooperation.
“They didn’t flip, and they failed,” said former Manhattan prosecutor Jeff Chabrowe. “They tried to do everything they could, and in the end, they got a truncated thing here where they went after the organization and Weisselberg, and there’s this fine that’s pretty weak.”
‘Final Nail in His Coffin’: Trump’s Taxes Contain ‘Powerful Evidence of Criminal Tax Evasion’
In a column for the Daily Beast, longtime investigative journalist and Donald Trump biographer David Cay Johnston made the case that there is enough evidence of financial fraud in the former president’s tax returns from 2015 to 2020 to indict and prosecute him.
At issue, he noted, are deductions taken for Trump companies — some of which may never have existed.
According to Johnston, the author of “The Big Cheat: How Donald Trump Fleeced America and Enriched Himself and His Family,” he found “powerful evidence of criminal tax evasion,” after reviewing the documents after they were released on Friday morning to the public after years of obstruction from Trump.
“Consider a rich business owner who fabricates deductions but who would still owe zero tax in the audited year even if those deductions were denied. That means an audit that will not generate any tax revenue. That’s also what Trump apparently did in 26 sole proprietor, or Schedule C, filings in the six years of released tax returns,” he wrote before adding, “Trump also turned a profit off a portion of the tax system, making $2.8 million profit off the Alternative Minimum Tax, or AMT.”
As for those 26 Trump businesses that may or may not exist, Johnston suggested that investigators dig deeper into how the former president used them to get out of paying taxes in the years involved.
“Most glaring in the tax returns is that they include 26 Trump businesses—or imaginary businesses—with zero revenue and hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax deductions for expenses,” he pointed out while noting they should be of interest to New York State Attorney General Letitia James, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
“Unless Trump can produce records showing the expenses are real and meet other standards to be deductible, that’s fraud. That Trump did it 26 times as a candidate and as president is powerful evidence that he qualifies for prosecution by the federal government and New York State for criminal tax fraud,” he wrote before adding the results could lead to a “slam dunk” prosecution.
You can read more here.
Image: Evan El Amin/Shutterstock
Watch: J6 Committee Votes to Send Four Criminal Referrals Against Donald Trump to DOJ
The U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack has voted to send four criminal referrals to the Dept. of Justice, even more than previously expected.
The Committee’s referral says Donald Trump is guilty of: Obstruction of an official proceeding; Conspiracy to defraud the United States; Conspiracy to make a false statement; Inciting, assisting or aiding/comforting an insurrection, as reported by CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Calling the move “a major escalation for a congressional investigation that is the most significant in a generation,” The New York Times reports this is “the first time in American history that Congress has referred a former president for criminal prosecution,” and “is the coda to the committee’s intense 18-month investigation into Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election that culminated in a violent mob of the former president’s supporters laying siege to the Capitol.”
Watch this historic moment below or at this link.
The vote pic.twitter.com/Tsk0mE0wCC
— Acyn (@Acyn) December 19, 2022
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