Thursday, October 5, 2017

Emperor News

Photo via Flying Penguin.
David Graham of the Atlantic turned up on my radio this morning discussing the Emperor's Puerto Rico visit, which he has described for his magazine with some extremely pithy elegance:
Throughout the aftermath of the storm, Trump has often appeared more interested in the political ramifications of the storm than on the human effects, focusing on approval of himself and the federal government (though he doesn’t really draw a distinction between the two). This was also true at Muñiz Air Force Base. In praising Governor Ricardo Rosselló, for example, Trump reached for the lens of partisan affiliation.
“He’s not even from my party and he started right at the beginning appreciating what we did,” Trump said. “Right from the beginning, this governor did not play politics. He was saying it like it was, and he gave us the highest rates.”
This was an implicit jab at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has been critical of relief efforts, and whom Trump claimed over the weekend was doing so because Democrats had put her up to it. As I noted, his broadside against Cruz serves as a warning to politicians like Rosselló not to follow her lead, lest Trump punish them too. (Speaking in Washington Tuesday, before taking off, Trump said of Cruz, “Well, I think she’s come back a long way. I think it’s now acknowledged what a great job we’ve done, and people are looking at that.” It’s unclear what he is referring to. She attended Tuesday’s briefing.)
(Incidentally, Cruz, not Yulín, is the family name, in full Cruz Soto;  I've checked this, and "Yulín" is the second part of her given name, transmitted from a grandmother.)

On the air (bit starting around 16:00), he said something that struck me as kind of shocking, to the effect that Cruz handled the situation badly in comparison to Rosselló (I think there's some speculation she may be running for governor herself, and in that sense competing with Rosselló): because she made Trump mad, which could be bad for San Juan, and Rosselló made him happy, which would be good for the island. She's not "politically astute". Better to flatter him! And we'll learn later "whether that was the right strategy or not."

The president of the United States is like a bear in your campsite, an unpredictable menace. The journalists aren't saying it's normal, but I'm spooked by the way they're calling the situation as it is, like a baseball game during a volcanic eruption. "Looks like Judge is stuck at second base, don't see how somebody his size is going to jump across that lava flow if he can't get a good run up to it." "What kind of pitch are we going to see?"

Also on my radio the story of the Trump SoHo fraud non-prosecution, involving Grand Duchess Ivanka and Duke Donald Donaldovich and a condo-hotel development they were working on with Felix Sater's Bayrock company from some time in 2006 (just around the time the two of them visited Russian with Felix Sater when they were first scouting a site for Trump Tower Moscow), an ugly glass tower designed to wreck the architectural unity of the famous Cast Iron Historic District. As they opened for business right around the outset of the financial crisis in September 2007 (bad luck, not incompetence, but you can be sure when Trump claims to have made a killing out of the crisis, he's not only being disgusting, but not even telling the truth), they were having a hard time selling units with seven- and eight-figure prices, time-shares you could only live in 120 days a year (the rest of the time they were hotel rooms). Time-shares!

And then there was the publicity in December about Felix Sater's criminal past (which included, as you'll recall, using a broken margarita glass as a weapon, but also a much fancier money laundering and stock manipulation case). By June 2008 they had sold as few as 15% of the units, or as many as 30%, but nowhere near enough to call the project healthy, which in itself would be a turnoff to investors, who would not wish to invest in a failing project, so the Trumps started lying about it; Ivanka told Reuters it was 60% sold, and a year Donald Jr. told the RealDeal website it was 55%, and Big Donald seems to have claimed he had 3,200 buyers lined up.

The building, however, was a total bust; it turned out in the end, by Marcy 2010, that only 15.8% of the units had been sold, which had a remarkable meaning: if that number had been under 15%, the Trump Organization would have had to return all the buyers' deposits,

And eventually a number of buyers decided to sue: The Trumps, with their false claims of success, had unlawfully enticed them, they claimed, into buying in to a failing development.

“I don’t settle lawsuits — very rare — because once you settle lawsuits, everybody sues you,” he said recently.
In early 2016, to be sure, many months before settling his Trump University fraud case for a reported $25 million, but let's not even talk about that. He settled the Trump SoHo suit for 90% of $3.16 million in deposits in November 2011, and no admission of guilt. But that wasn't quite all.

Besides the fraud accusations, a separate lawsuit claimed that Trump SoHo was developed with the undisclosed involvement of convicted felons and financing from questionable sources in Russia and Kazakhstan
I hope that sounds familiar by now.

But the big thing was undoubtedly the criminal case being developed in the Major Economic Crimes Bureau of the Manhattan district attorney's office, following which a bunch of somewhat weird things began to happen, most of them apparently involving the DA (a Democrat, son of Jimmy Carter's Secretary of State) himself; that he was spooked somewhat by the failure of his 2011 sexual-assault prosecution against French Socialist politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn; that he received an extremely large campaign contribution, $25,000 from one of Trump's attorneys, Marc Kasowitz, in January 2012; that he got a personal visit from Kasowitz shortly afterwards—properly sending the $25K back first—during which Kasowitz (not a criminal lawyer at all, I mean not a lawyer who works on criminal cases, heh-heh) convinced him of what all Trump's brilliant attorneys, representing three different famous firms, had been unable to convince all Vance's brilliant prosecutors, that is of the innocence or at least unindictability of the Trump family; and that Kasowitz subsequently sent Vance, after a decent interval, an even larger campaign contribution, for $32,000 (Vance, who is running UNOPPOSED for reelection this year, has assured WNYC radio that he is returning that money as well).

I'd like to express the view that the Democratic Manhattan DA did not take Trump money to make the criminal case against Ivanka and Don Jr. go away. I'd really like to, and I hope to get a chance to do that soon (there were perfectly good reasons to drop the prosecution, as far as I can understand; restitution had been made to the victims, to begin with, although as thepilgrim points out in the comments, there are things so fishy about that settlement that it could just about be a scandal in its own right). I'll certainly let you know.

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