Russiagate Open Thread: Follow the Money, Again

The classics, evergreen:

The documents show Aras Agalarov, a billionaire real estate developer close to both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, at the center of this vast network and how he used accounts overseas to filter money to himself, his son, and at least two people who attended the Trump Tower meeting. The records also offer new insight into the murky financial world inhabited by many of Trump’s associates, who use shell companies and secret bank accounts to quickly and quietly move money across the globe.

Now, four federal law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed News, investigators are focused on two bursts of transactions that bank examiners deemed suspicious: one a short time after the meeting and another immediately after the November 2016 presidential election.

The first set came just 11 days after the June 9 meeting, when an offshore company controlled by Agalarov wired more than $19.5 million to his account at a bank in New York.

The second flurry began shortly after Trump was elected. The Agalarov family started sending what would amount to $1.2 million from their bank in Russia to an account in New Jersey controlled by the billionaire’s son, pop singer Emin Agalarov, and two of his friends. The account had been virtually dormant since the summer of 2015, according to records reviewed by BuzzFeed News, and bankers found it strange that activity in Emin Agalarov’s checking account surged after Trump’s victory.

After the election, that New Jersey account sent money to a company controlled by Irakly “Ike” Kaveladze, a longtime business associate of the Agalarovs and their representative at the Trump Tower meeting. Kaveladze’s company, meanwhile, had long funded a music business set up by the person who first proposed the meeting to the Trump camp, Emin Agalarov’s brash British publicist, Rob Goldstone…

The transactions came to light after law enforcement officials instructed financial institutions in mid-2017 to go back through their records to look for suspicious behavior by people connected to the broader Trump-Russia investigation. The bankers filed “suspicious activity reports” to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which in turn shared them with the FBI, the IRS, congressional committees investigating Russian interference, and members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.

Suspicious activity reports are not evidence of wrongdoing, but they can provide clues to investigators looking into possible money laundering, tax evasion, or other misconduct. In the case of the Agalarovs and their associates, bankers raised red flags about the transactions but were unable to definitively say how the funds were used.

Federal prosecutors have used suspicious activity reports not only to investigate possible election interference and collusion, but also to charge people, such as Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, with financial and other white-collar crimes. Manafort was convicted last month of bank and tax fraud, and Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russia…

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Beginning 13 days after the election, the Agalarovs’ bank account in Russia made 19 separate wire transfers to a New Jersey personal checking account belonging to Emin Agalarov and two friends from high school. That checking account, held at TD Bank, had been opened in 2012. Bank examiners thought it was unusual that the account had never before received a Russian wire transfer and that its only deposit since the summer of 2015 was for $200, in January 2016.

The postelection transfers to the checking account were in large, round-dollar amounts ranging from $15,000 to $175,000. Between November 2016 and July 2017, the sum topped $1.2 million.

But what triggered alarms wasn’t just that activity in the account had jumped since Trump’s election. It was also how the checking account handled the money. While some of it went toward credit card bills, mortgage installments, and other run-of-the-mill payments, TD Bank officials also saw the checking account quickly pass funds to an account controlled by another participant in the Trump Tower meeting.

On Nov. 21, 2016, Emin Agalarov’s checking account received $165,000 from an account based in Russia belonging to his family. The following day, the account sent $107,000 to Corsy International, a company run by Kaveladze, the longtime Agalarov associate who attended the Trump Tower meeting.

Bankers were suspicious for a number of reasons. For one, Kaveladze was an employee of the Agalarovs’ Crocus Group, their sprawling construction and real estate empire based in Russia. Why, bankers wondered, would the funds start in Russia, briefly make a pit stop in Emin Agalarov’s New Jersey account, and finally be sent to Corsy International? Balber, the attorney for Kaveladze and the Agalarovs, would not address questions about specific transactions, but said they were all legitimate.

Second, bankers noted that Kaveladze — who after the election pushed for an additional get-together with the Trumps and some of the original Tower meeting participants — had previously been investigated for money laundering. According to a Government Accountability Office report published in 2000, Kaveladze established more than 2,000 corporations in Delaware for Russian real estate brokers, then set up bank accounts for them in the US. The brokers used these accounts to launder about $1.4 billion, the report found. Kaveladze was never charged with a crime and he referred to the GAO’s probe as a “witch hunt.”…

 
Such comparatively penny-ante sums, considering the stakes involved. Just gives the whole process the genuine Trump Touch.



Wednesday Morning Open Thread

The Washington Post, company paper in a town where the monopoly industry is politics, certainly thinks so:

Republicans have grown increasingly worried about losing control of the Senate, as President Trump’s approval rating tumbles and Democrats gain steam in key battleground races.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday sounded some of the most doubtful notes of Trump’s presidency that Republicans will keep the upper chamber of Congress, telling reporters, “I hope when the smoke clears, we’ll still have a majority.”

His comments came as Republican strategists and officials fretted over a fresh round of private polling on the Senate races, while public polls registered further erosion in Americans’ approval of Trump. “Shipwreck” was how one leading strategist described the situation, adding an expletive to underscore the severity of the party’s problems…

At the start of Trump’s tenure, some Republicans envisioned enough wins to secure a filibuster-proof majority of 60 seats, confident they could oust many of the 10 Democrats running in states Trump won in 2016. Even a few weeks ago, Republicans were talking more assuredly about flipping seats.

But less than two months till the Nov. 6 election, Republicans barely mention Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — states Trump won — as opportunities to knock out a Democrat, while McConnell reiterated that nine seats, plus Texas, were at stake.

“Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia and Florida. All of them too close to call, and every one of them like a knife fight in an alley; I mean, just a brawl in every one of those places,” McConnell told reporters in Louisville…

The dire warnings also could serve as a wake-up call to GOP donors for the final eight weeks of the campaign….

Sure, some of McConnell’s bluster is an old-school threat to those donors: Nice grift ya got goin’ here. Shame if some goo-goo Dems were to get voted in and take it away from ya. But more and more, it’s looking like a last desperate smash&grab, as the Repub looters stuff their pockets before the authorities show up.

It won’t be easy, rebuilding our institutions after the GOP arsonists are turfed out. But the ‘easy’ options — giving in to despair, or haring after third-party grifters — would only make things worse.



Fuck Scott Walker again

Apparently the Koch brothers network unleashed a massive denial of service attack on the blog right after I posted this yesterday, which is why the blog was down most of yesterday. They can’t stop us, though — I’m posting it again.

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Tony Evers is running against Scott Walker. Fuck Scott Walker. What more can I say?

Top billing. I can run this one as long as you want with whatever goal you want, because giving here might feel a lot like retail therapy. And this one’s super important, since the governor has a say over the new Congressional and state legislature districts.

Goal Thermometer








Fuck Scott Walker

Tony Evers is running against Scott Walker. Fuck Scott Walker. What more can I say?

Top billing. I can run this one as long as you want with whatever goal you want, because giving here might feel a lot like retail therapy. And this one’s super important, since the governor has a say over the new Congressional and state legislature districts.

Goal Thermometer








Today was a good day

This is one of my favorite quotes in all of literature, from Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson:

“Usually we felt guilty and frightened, because there was something wrong with us, and we didn’t know what it was; but today we had the feeling of men who had worked.”

That’s how I feel the past couple days about the Dems in the Senate. Usually, we think they are a bunch of sells-out and neoliberal shills and even cucks, but the last two days Booker and Harris and Durbin really went to work on the homes with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch.

Let’s elect a few more fighters. Give here to Jacky Rosen and Krysten Sinema, running for Senate.

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You can give to Beto here.

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And while it’s not a federal election, I’d like to see Stacey Abrams be the next of Georgia (I just raised the goal to 5K for this one).

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We are closing in on 200K raised this cycle at Balloon Juice. Thanks a lot everyone!








Social Marketing Open Thread: Nike for Kaepernick

Sportswriter Sally Jenkins, at the Washington Post “Nike knows the future looks something like Colin Kaepernick”:

Kicks have always been political, and Nike has always sought to capture new generations with its use of intense color. This is a company that built itself on chroma-fluorescent blues and acetate volt greens. The Colin Kaepernick campaign falls in that category: It’s a transactional piece of advertising that seeks to hook into the vanguard yearnings and values of its buyers by using a surprising hue. If the campaign is important, it’s not as an act of corporate conscience, but rather as a reflection of coming American demographics, which Nike is always so good at identifying and signifying.

Burning shoes and flaming hashtags are not unwelcome at Nike. The viral images of swooshes on fire won’t bother the marketers who decided to use Kaepernick one bit. This is a company that has been losing ground to Vans and for the first time in a decade didn’t have the most popular shoe in America in 2017, surpassed by Adidas Superstar. What Nike always has been best at is staying ahead, and the risk of employing Kaepernick in a campaign is nothing compared with what it risks by falling behind. Here’s why:

Millennials, those Americans between the ages of 22 and 37, are projected to surpass baby boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation in 2019, and fully 44 percent of them are of some race other than white. For post-millennials, that number rises to 48 percent, and for post-post-millennials (American children under age 10), it grows to more than 50 percent.

These Americans are “very different than earlier generations” in a variety of ways, according to demographer William Frey, author of “Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics Are Remaking America.” They are more prone to interracial marrying, friendlier to immigration and often want their consumption to have a social component. If Nike is willing to offend its graying buyers in order to court these multiple generations with a racial justice campaign, “it’s a good bet that a lot of younger people will be attracted and go along with that,” Frey said.

Andrew McCaskill, senior vice president of global communications at Nielsen, puts these demographics in stark business terms. “If you don’t have a multicultural strategy, you don’t have a growth strategy,” he says…

Nike’s mentions on social media skyrocketed after news of the Kaepernick ad broke. In 24 hours, there were more than 2.7 million references to the brand, according to the analytic firm Talkwalker. And Kaepernick is just one small piece of what is apparently a much larger millennials strategy: Last year, CEO Mark Parker announced a new 12-city drive, as the company tries to become once again an entity that “obsesses the needs of the evolving consumer.” Among the target cities are Mexico City, Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul and Milan, and the company projects 80 percent of its projected growth will come from metropolitan areas. Why? Because that’s where diverse, high-earning, younger people live…

No wonder Trump’s True Heartlanders(tm) are upset — the Great Commerce God has spoken, and its decree is: You rubes are no longer worth our attention.


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Scenes from an Italian restaurant

The candidate I support in the 2020 Democratic primary has to be the kind of person who can pull the gun out from behind the toilet and come out blazing. Or at least come back from the bathroom, blank out for a few minutes, and then start blazing. I can settle for that.

Before yesterday, the only candidate on that list for me was Gillibrand, but now Kamela Harris is on it too:

Nearly 12 hours into Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearing, Kamala Harris opened with a tantalizing query: Has the Supreme Court nominee ever discussed Robert Mueller’s probe with a lawyer at Kasowitz Benson & Torres, President Donald Trump’s longtime law firm?

“Be sure about your answer, sir,” Harris asked Kavanaugh. Trump’s high court pick appeared nonplussed, responding that “I’m not sure I know everyone who works at that law firm,” but the California Democrat – a veteran prosecutor known for her tenacious questioning and high on her party’s 2020 presidential short lists — would not let up.

“How can you not remember whether you’ve had a conversation about Robert Mueller or his investigation with anyone at that law firm?” Harris asked, suggesting that Kavanaugh was “thinking of someone and you don’t want to tell us.”

I hate to go here a little bit but I generally find that a lot of Democratic women in Congress are Michaels while too many of the men are Fredos. Let’s put two more women in the Senate: Jacky Rosen (NV) and Krysten Sinema (AZ).

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