AlterNet Staff

Probe into suspected foreign campaign contribution for Trump mysteriously shut down

For the last three years, federal prosecutors have been conducting a secret investigation to determine whether or not millions of dollars flowing from an Egyptian state-owned bank could have illegally contributed to President Donald Trump's 2016 presidential victory. However, now that investigation has mysteriously been shut down.

This week, the investigative probe was confirmed by a Justice Department senior official who shared details with CNN. According to the DOJ official, the investigation was closed in July, reports CNN.

"The case was first looked at by the Special Counsel investigators who failed to bring a case, and then it was looked at by the US attorney's office, and career prosecutors in the national security section, who also were unable to bring a case. Based upon the recommendations of both the FBI and those career prosecutors, Michael Sherwin, the acting US attorney, formally closed the case in July."

In a September court filing, the Justice Department confirmed that an "an ongoing foreign campaign contribution investigation" was transferred to Washington, D.C., prosecutors after United States Department of Justice Robert Mueller's office was shut down in July 2019.

At one point, the extensive, top-secret investigation was so confidential that a full floor inside a Washington, D.C. federal courthouse was blocked off so Mueller's team could carry out investigative proceedings.

While investigators still have not confirmed whether or not they had legitimate evidence to confirm bank transfer from the Egyptian bank, insiders have suggested otherwise.

According to The Daily Beast, multiple insiders reportedly confirmed to CNN that there was substantial information to uphold a subpoena and continue the campaign finance investigation despite Mueller's investigative probe being complete.

It has also been reported that there were questions concerning a last-minute campaign contribution to Trump's 2016 campaign. The president, himself, reportedly contributed $10 million to his own campaign. The sizable donation was the single, largest contribution to the campaign and the president could not be reimbursed for it. However, investigators had qualms about the donation and where it may have originated from.

Federal law enforcement officials suspected, in part because of intelligence information, that there was money moving through the Egyptian bank that could connect to Trump's campaign donation, according to the sources. Yet untangling the web of Trump's complex business interests ultimately remained out of reach. - CNN

DOJ admits Trump lied about declassification of Russia documents

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) was forced to assert that President Donald Trump actually lied when he tweeted that he had declassified documents relative to the federal investigation into the alleged "Russian Hoax."

The DOJ released a statement in response to an emergency motion filed by BuzzFeed News journalist Jason Leopold seeking unredacted sections of the Mueller report and 302s— Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) witness interview materials. BuzzFeed also requested that Senior U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton order the government agency to reprocess its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and lift redactions the Trump administration may have left in place.

The publication also argued that with the president's claim that the documents had been declassified, there was no longer a justifiable reason for the DOJ to legally continue withholding the documents.

However, the government agency pushed back against Trump's claims. While the DOJ officials acknowledged that the president does have the authority to declassify documents, they made it clear that he had not done so, despite his tweets suggesting otherwise.

"The President has the authority to declassify documents that are otherwise currently and properly classified. The President has not exercised this authority with respect to any of the FD-302s remaining at issue in this case," the DOJ wrote.

The DOJ added, "The Court cannot infer that any such sweeping order exists based on the President's Twitter statements because they merely suggest that the President 'authorized' the 'declassification' of unspecified information. The Twitter statements do not refer to any specific document and do not indicate that the President was exercising his Constitutional authority to declassify specific information. They were not an order to declassify particular material."

The latest controversy and DOJ response comes less than two weeks after Trump's problematic tweets. On October 6, the president claimed he had "fully authorized" the total declassification of the documents.

"I have fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the single greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax. Likewise, the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal. No redactions!" Trump tweeted.

Just an hour after the initial tweet, Trump continued with his rant as he tweeted, "All Russia Hoax Scandal information was Declassified by me long ago. Unfortunately for our Country, people have acted very slowly, especially since it is perhaps the biggest political crime in the history of our Country. Act!!!"

Regardless of Trump's tweets, the DOJ also noted the White House's position, which suggests Trump's social media remarks carry no weight and cannot be enforced.

"And the White House has made clear that the Twitter statements 'do not require altering any redactions on any record at issue in this case, including, but not limited to, any redactions taken pursuant to any discretionary FOIA exemptions,'" the DOJ wrote. "Nor do the President's statements on Twitter prevent the Department from taking appropriate exemptions and redacting documents consistent with law and the positions the Department takes in FOIA matters.' Therefore, the Twitter statements do not, as Plaintiffs argue, operate as a waiver of any of these exemptions."

WH officials tipped off GOP elites, trade insiders at helm of pandemic: NYT report

President Donald Trump's White House is, yet again, at the center of controversy for its early response to the pandemic.

Although Trump has repeatedly been criticized for downplaying the coronavirus and not responding soon enough, The New York Times reports that some of his White House officials, including the president's economic advisor Larry Kudlow, actually did react—to warn insiders about the possible collapse of the stock market.

According to an NYT report published on Wednesday evening, the president's White House's economic advisers privately warned various conservative insiders and wealthy campaign donors of the uncertainty that might arise due to the coronavirus outbreak. The warnings are said to have been issued in late February, just a few short weeks before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a global pandemic.

This occurred all while Trump waged a public effort to give the American people a false sense of security about the virus. The publication's report centered on a memo written by a hedge fund consultant, who attended a three-day meeting at the Hoover Institution, widely known as a conservative public policy think tank at Stanford University.

The consultant's assessment detailed the possibility of a pandemic-related market crash as he warned Republican elites, along with other well-connected stock traders. A total of eight people received the consultant's memo but many different aspects of the memo spread to many New York investors other elite trade insiders.

Here is an excerpt from the NYT report:

The consultant's assessment quickly spread through parts of the investment world. U.S. stocks were already spiraling because of a warning from a federal public health official that the virus was likely to spread, but traders spotted the immediate significance: The president's aides appeared to be giving wealthy party donors an early warning of a potentially impactful contagion at a time when Mr. Trump was publicly insisting that the threat was nonexistent.

Interviews with eight people who either received copies of the memo or were briefed on aspects of it as it spread among investors in New York and elsewhere provide a glimpse of how elite traders had access to information from the administration that helped them gain financial advantage during a chaotic three days when global markets were teetering." - The New York Times.

The NYT report comes months after Republican elites like Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) faced scrutiny following her and her husband's speculative sale of $18.7 million in Intercontinental Exchange stock, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Georgia senator, who also serves on the Senate Health Committee, first began selling off her stock on January 24 — the same day the committee held its first private all-members session on COVID-19. Loeffler's stock sales transactions were completed over three dates with the last transaction being completed on March 11, just two days before the WHO's pandemic declaration.

"Senator Loeffler filed another Periodic Transaction Report (PTR) and the facts are still the same," Loeffler's spokesperson told Vox in a statement. "These transactions are consistent with historical portfolio activity and include a balanced mix of buys and sells. Her stock portfolio is managed independently by third-party advisors and she is notified, as indicated on the report, after transactions occur."

Leaked footage exposes Trump allies boasting about ballot harvesting

Leaked footage from a right-wing organization reportedly shows multiple allies of President Donald Trump advocating for ballot harvesting despite the president constantly accusing Democratic voters of doing so.

With less than 25 days to Election Day, Republican activist Charlie Kirk spoke during a closed-door gathering of Conservatives hosted by the Council for National Policy (CNP) where he appeared to praise the impact coronavirus will have on the election. According to Kirk, COVID may prohibit many liberal college students from voting in the upcoming election.

"So, please keep the campuses closed," Kirk said in hopes that closures will suppress the vote. "Like, it's a great thing."

Many of the videos highlight discussions that took place between February and August. In one of the videos, Bill Walton, the executive committee president for CNP, even attempted to offer a dangerous comparison of the election to spiritual warfare as a matter of "good versus evil."

"This is a spiritual battle we are in. This is good versus evil," Walton said to an audience that attended an event at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City on Aug. 21, adding, "We have to do everything we can to win."

Ralph Reed, chairman of the nonprofit Faith & Freedom Coalition, also weighed in with a blatant commitment to ballot harvesting. Reed encouraged other evangelical leaders to do the same.

"Our organization is going to be harvesting ballots in churches," Reed said. "We're going to be specifically going in not only to White evangelical churches, but into Hispanic and Asian churches, and collecting those ballots."

Tom Fitton, president of the non-profit Conservative organization the Judicial Watch, also challenged the audience to come up with ways to suppress votes and "stop ballots from going out.

"We need to stop those ballots from going out, and I want the lawyers here to tell us what to do," Fitton said, adding, "But this is a crisis that we're not prepared for. I mean, our side is not prepared for."

The leaked footage follows Trump's repeated claim that the election will be rigged. For months, the president has waged war on mail-in ballots while filing lawsuits in multiple Democratic-run states. Trump has repeatedly condemned mail-in voting despite casting his own ballot by mail and encouraging Florida, Michigan, and North Carolina voters to vote by mail. Its also important to note that Florida and North Carolina are typically red states while Michigan is a swing state, all of which could greatly impact the outcome of the election.

USPS special agents find massive amount of undelivered mail in raid of QAnon postal workers's home

United States Postal Service (USPS) special agents reportedly discovered large amounts of undelivered mail after raiding the home of a mail carrier who aligns with the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon.

A total of eight large garbage bags—believed to be filled with undelivered mail—were confiscated from the home of USPS mail carrier, Sean J. Troesch, according to KDKA. Following the raid, the USPS Office of Inspector General confirmed agents had retrieved "several classes of mail," some of which were first class mail pieces.

"Special Agents recovered several different classes of mail, including business mail, flats, and small amount of first class mail. We expect to perform a piece count of the mail tomorrow, and make arrangements to have the mail delivered to customers as soon as feasible," the statement said.

Troesch's neighbors also revealed this was not the first time they had seen a large number of garbage bags in front of the home. Screenshots have also surfaced from a Facebook page belonging to someone who identifies as Sean J. Troesch. Many of the Facebook posts shared on that page highlighted far-right conspiracy theories, per the Pittsburgh City Paper.

Screenshots from Facebook

In addition to the QAnon posts focused on celebrity pedophilia conspiracies, Troesch is said to have posted an anti-quarantine post back in May. He also commented on multiple posts in support of QAnon theories.

Allegheny County voter registration records also indicate that a Sean J. Troesch resides at the residence that was raided by USPS special agents. The Inspector General office's findings are now being turned over to U.S. Attorney Bill Barr's office for a criminal investigation.

"Once USPS OIG special agents conclude their investigation, the case will be presented for federal prosecution to the U.S. Attorney's Office," Special Agent Scott Balfour told CNN.

No criminal charges have been filed against Troesch, as of yet.

Former military doctors urge vote for Biden to save Americans' 'health, security and future'

Former military healthcare specialists are appealing to the American public while urging them to vote for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Dr. Dean Taylor—a retired U.S. Army colonel, orthopedic surgeon, and a United States Military Academy (West Point) graduate— penned an op-ed published to USA Today on behalf of physician leaders and graduates of the United States' service academies. He expressed concern about the future of America's values, health, and security.

"Our future depends on having leaders of integrity, a foundational value of our service academies, a guiding value of the U.S. military, a fundamental value of the medical profession, and a value central to the democracy of the United States. Our leaders must be dedicated to selfless service, duty and sacrifice," Taylor wrote. "They must put others before themselves."

Not only is the election on the line, but the public health is also a concern. In addition to the coronavirus outbreak, millions of Americans are also at risk of losing healthcare and pre-existing condition protections under the Affordable Care Act.

Taylor noted the importance of the American public receiving service from compassionate leaders who are committed to combatting the public health crisis currently plaguing millions of Americans.

He added, "Our future depends on leaders dedicated to the health and security of all Americans. They must have the experience to compassionately address our public health crisis, and the leadership skills to work collaboratively and restore our national security and economy."

Taylor went on to highlight the characteristics and qualities he believes make Biden a suitable candidate for president.

Joe Biden is the leader for our time and for our future. He is a servant leader of integrity, committed to the democratic process and willing to sacrifice selflessly. He is dedicated to uniting our country through collaboration, respect and civility. He has the personal and professional experience to understand the challenges of the pandemic, public health and health care. He will address those challenges so we can begin the process of restoring our national health structure, improving our economy, and protecting our national security.

He concluded, "We ardently encourage all of you as citizens of the United States of America to vote, and to vote for Joe Biden for the health, security and future of our entire country."

'Blatant abuse of the government': DOJ files lawsuit against Melania Trump's former advisor over tell-all book

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, former White House advisor and friend of first lady Melania Trump following the release of her tell-all book, "Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady."

The 16-page lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, argues that Winston Wolkoff signed a blanket nondisclosure agreement during her White House which spanned from January 2017 to August 2017. Government lawyers also insist she was bound to a confidentiality agreement far beyond her tenure.

As a penalty for the alleged "breach of contract," the Justice Department is also seeking to offset all proceeds from the book to the federal government.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Winston Wolkoff released a statement as she argued that the lawsuit is part of the Justice Department is attempt to silence her. Despite the lawsuit, Winston Wolkoff insists she did not violate any terms of confidentiality as the White House ultimately terminated the agreement.

"The President and First Lady's use of the U.S. Department of Justice to silence me is a violation of my First Amendment rights and a blatant abuse of the government to pursue their own personal interest and goals," Winston Wolkoff said in a statement. "I fulfilled all of the terms of the Gratuitous Service Agreement and the confidentiality provisions ended when the White House terminated agreement. With the publication of my book 'Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady,' I have exercised my right to free expression. I will not be deterred by these bullying tactics."

The lawsuit quickly drew criticism from legal experts who believe it is a waste of the Justice Department's resources as it appears to be more of a personal issue regarding the first lady and her former confidante.

"This is a complete abuse of the Justice Department's finite resources to bring a personal lawsuit on behalf of the First Lady against a former advisor," said Brad Moss, a national security attorney. "The case law has been expressly clear for decades that former officials cannot be contractually censored for anything other than classified information, and no amount of legal hairsplitting over Wolkoff's 'status' as a volunteer is going to change that."

Bill Barr quietly buries DOJ report that undermines Trump's Obamagate conspiracy

U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr and Republicans' pseudo "unmasking" investigation into Former President Barack Obama has not only come up short—it has come up completely empty.

Barr-appointed U.S. Attorney John Bash concluded his investigative report into Obama-era officials to determine if President Donald Trump was really spied on as he claimed he was.

Unfortunately, for Trump, Bash concluded the investigative review without any criminal charges or the release of a public report detailing his findings, according to The Washington Post. As a result of Bash's findings, Barr is reportedly working to keep the document away from the public because it could likely exonerate Obama and refute Trump's claims.

"Bash's team was focused not just on unmasking, but also on whether Obama-era officials provided information to reporters, according to people familiar with the probe, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive investigation. But the findings ultimately turned over to Barr fell short of what Trump and others might have hoped, and the attorney general's office elected not to release them publicly, the people familiar with the matter said. The Washington Post was unable to review the full results of what Bash found. - The Washington Post

On multiple occasions, President Donald Trump has spoken publicly about the "Obamagate scandal" despite having no evidence that such a scandal actually exists.

During a previous press conference in the Rose Garden, Trump was asked about his Mother's Day tweet storm. While the rest of the country celebrated the day, Trump was focused on Obamagate.

When asked what Obamagate is, Trump simply said, "You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious." Then, the president pivoted to criticizing the media for not releasing reports on the alleged "crimes."

'You know what the crime is': Trump stumped on Obamagate details

No specific details about Bash's investigative findings have been released to the public.

Trump's daily rallies reveal the staggering number of battleground states in play this election: analysis

President Donald Trump's back-to-back campaign rallies may appear to be a sign of strength since the president declared he has defeated COVID-19, but the rallies actual reveal more about the peril of his re-election campaign, according to multiple political strategists.

Trump returned to the campaign trail on Monday after dismissing COVID-19 guidelines which require a full, 14-day quarantine. Over the next several days, he will be moving full steam ahead with scheduled visits to Iowa, Georgia, and Florida—states he won by sizable margins in 2016. In fact, no Democratic presidential candidate has managed to win the state of Georgia since Former President Bill Clinton was elected in 1992.

While it would seem like Georgia is a safe Republican haven, that may not be the case this year. Now, one Democratic strategist argues that Trump would not be visiting states he felt confident he could easily win, reports The Hill.

Democratic strategist Joe Trippi noted the latest poll projections which appear to be favorable for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Although Trump has repeatedly described the polls as "fake," his rallies are scheduled in the states where polls suggest Biden is leading.

"It is pretty clear that Biden is on offense, Trump is on defense. The electoral map is expanding for Biden and shrinking for Trump," Trippi said, adding, "You don't change that dynamic by going to states you won. It's Biden who is going into states that Trump won and should be off the map."

It is no secret that Trump prefers rallies more than other political events as he believes it is the best way to connect with his base. In 2016, Sam Numberg, who served as one of the Trump campaign's senior advisors, offered remarks similar to Trippi's. He previously admitted how important it is for the president to visit key battleground states to secure the vote.

"The president needs to visit states that are either leaning in his column or trending away but very closely, so he can go to the true battlegrounds and concentrate on them later in the process," Numberg said.

The latest remarks come as Trump is reportedly pushing to increase his time on the campaign trail. According to NBC News, Trump's senior advisor Jason Miller revealed the president was "getting on my case for not having enough rallies and public events scheduled."

The publication reports that Trump is hoping to hold "more in-person rallies and other events" and possibly multiple events in one day as Election Day approaches.

Ex-State Dept. official who leaked Pentagon Papers: Trump is an 'enemy of the Constitution'

A former U.S. Defense and State Department official is speaking out and urging progressives to vote for Democratic presidential Joe Biden due to President Donald Trump's threat to the Constitution.

Daniel Ellsberg published an op-ed in the Detroit Metro Times asking the American public to back Biden in the upcoming presidential election. Ellsberg, who identifies as a progressive voter who initially supported Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) presidential campaign, admitted that Biden was not his first candidate of choice.

While Ellsberg expressed concern about Trump's repeated dismissals of climate change warnings, he also stressed how important it is to combat the growing threat to the United States' democracy.

"More urgently, we're facing an authoritarian threat to our democratic system of a kind we've never seen before," Ellsberg said. "Right now he is even casting unwarranted doubt on the validity of mail-in ballots, and in other ways as well putting in question for the first time in our history whether he would peacefully leave office after a full-accounting of votes cast by Election Day gave the majority in the Electoral College to his opponent."

He later added, "I now see Donald J. Trump as a domestic enemy of the Constitution, in the sense of that oath. As president he has assaulted not only the First Amendment but also virtually every other aspect and institution of our country that preserves us as a republic.

Ellsberg acknowledged the fact that many voters have reservations about a Biden presidency but he also emphasized the importance of defeating Trump, describing it as America "[dodging] a bullet."

"The election now underway must remove Donald Trump from the presidency," Ellsberg said. "Whatever reservations you might have about Joe Biden, the fact remains that his victory over Trump would mean that our country will have dodged a bullet — preventing the destruction of our Constitution as a functional document and averting irreversible damage to human civilization in the next four years."

Ellsberg faced a highly publicized political controversy over his release of the "Pentagon Papers" in 1971, a top-secret Pentagon study detailing the federal government's decision-making during the Vietnam War. He was charged under the Espionage Act of 1917 but all charges against him were later dropped as a result of governmental misconduct and illegal practices for evidence-gathering.


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