Is Tehran spying on Southern California?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGELES TIMES)

 

Is Tehran spying on Southern California? Feds say O.C. waiter and ‘Chubby’ from Long Beach were agents of Iran

Is Tehran spying on Southern California? Feds say O.C. waiter and ‘Chubby’ from Long Beach were agents of Iran
Authorities allege that two Iranians were operating in Orange County as spies on behalf of Iran. One of the men, Majid Ghorbani, worked at Darya, a popular Persian restaurant in Sana Ana, for more than 20 years. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

They seemed an unlikely pair of spies.

The older man, Majid Ghorbani, worked at a posh Persian restaurant in Santa Ana’s South Coast Village Plaza. At 59, he wore a thick gray mustache and the weary expression of a man who had served up countless plates of rice and kebab.

The younger man, Ahmadreza Mohammadi Doostdar, was a Long Beach native who held dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship. Round-faced and bespectacled, the 38-year-old answered to the Farsi nickname “Topol,” or “Chubby.”

Yet even as the men sipped coffee at a Costa Mesa Starbucks, chatted outside an Irvine market, or made trips to Macy’s at South Coast Plaza, they were doggedly trailed by federal agents.

Despite the pair’s disarming appearance, U.S. authorities allege they were operating in Orange County as agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran — an accusation that has alarmed many in the local Persian community because it suggests tensions between the U.S. and Iran have spilled over into Southern California.

The men’s goal, authorities say, was to conduct surveillance on Israeli and Jewish facilities in the U.S., and to collect information on members of the Mujahedin Khalq, MEK, an Iranian exile group that has long sought to topple the regime in Tehran and enjoys newfound support among members of the Trump administration.

Within the span of a year — from the summer of 2017 to the spring of 2018 — authorities say the men crisscrossed Orange County and the United States, videotaping participants at MEK rallies in New York and Washington, D.C., and photographing Jewish centers in Chicago.

During that time, the men also flew back and forth between Iran and Los Angeles International Airport, and appeared to be assembling “target packages” — dossiers that would “enable an intelligence or military unit to find, fix, track and neutralize a threat,” according to documents filed in Washington, D.C., federal court.

In at least one instance, the pair were recorded by an FBI listening device as Ghorbani briefed Doostdar on a New York MEK event in September 2017, according to court documents.

“I took some pictures and collected some information of them and some senators that they are working with,” the waiter said, according to court documents. “I have prepared a package, but it is not complete.”

::

The target of the alleged spying, the MEK, is a shadowy organization with a militant past. Up until 2012, it was deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. Although few Americans have heard of it, the group has vexed the Iranian government since the revolution of 1979, when members helped to overthrow the shah.

Led by a husband-and-wife power couple — Massoud and Maryam Rajavi — the group was sheltered and armed by Saddam Hussein for nearly 20 years. Known for its female-led military units, the MEK was disarmed after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Massoud Rajavi went missing that same year and is believed to be dead.

Despite a long history of lobbying U.S. lawmakers and officials for support, few have taken the group seriously — up until now, that is.

President Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, is not only a prominent hawk on Iran, he has championed the MEK. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, has also supported the group.

“The MEK in recent years has spent time and money building political capital,” said Daniel Benjamin, director of Dartmouth College’s Center for International Understanding. “Bolton has been the MEK’s most dedicated long marcher.”

Although the Trump administration has not explicitly stated that it seeks regime change in Iran, it has reimposed tough economic sanctions and pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal. These actions, as well as new, cozier relations with the MEK, have apparently worried Iran enough to act against the group.

In a case similar to the one in Orange County, two Iranians in Albania were arrested in March after allegedly surveilling the MEK. In July, an Iranian diplomat in Germany was arrested on suspicion of plotting to bomb a MEK rally in Paris.

“This is escalation of Iran attempting to attack us,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, the U.S. deputy director of the National Council of Resistance of Iran — an MEK-linked organization.

::

It is unclear how Ghorbani and Doostdar first came into contact, but investigators believe their first physical meeting occurred behind Darya, the Persian restaurant where Ghorbani had worked for more than 20 years.

Doostdar was born in Long Beach but left at a young age to move to Canada and then Iran. An energy tech consultant, Doostdar had visited the U.S. on only a few occasions, court documents say. His wife gave birth to a baby girl in late August and was hoping to bring her to the U.S.

Ghorbani, whom neighbors and co-workers described as quiet and easygoing, was born in Iran but immigrated to the U.S. in 1995. He kept mostly to himself and lived with his brother and a Pomeranian dog in a quiet Costa Mesa apartment complex not far from the restaurant.

A fellow employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she wasn’t authorized to speak on behalf of the restaurant, said Ghorbani was well-liked and generous. On one occasion, Ghorbani lent money to a co-worker who was struggling, the employee said.

Investigators said Ghorbani also infiltrated meetings the MEK held at Darya. During one meetup in early August, Ghorbani met with MEK members as they discussed sending three American senators to evaluate the group’s base in Albania, according to the indictment.

Rene Redjaian, a spokeswoman for Darya, said the restaurant owners had no idea that Ghorbani was allegedly involved in spying. “Our owners love America and knew nothing about the events that took place at Darya,” Redjaian said.

As time went on, the men continued their alleged covert operation, unaware that federal agents were closing in.

In December 2017, Doostdar returned to Iran allegedly to hand over the intelligence Ghorbani had collected. Unbeknownst to him, FBI agents searched his checked luggage at LAX and found an orange and white CVS pharmacy envelope. Inside the envelope, FBI agents found photos of Ghorbani standing next to people who were at the New York City MEK rally from September 2017. Many of the photographs had names and positions of the individuals written on the back, including one photograph that had “Dr. Ahmad Rajavi, the brother of Massoud,” written on it, prosecutors said in court documents.

In March 2018, Ghorbani traveled to Iran to conduct an in-person briefing about ways to take photos for an upcoming conference supported by the MEK, prosecutors allege.

When he returned April 17, authorities found tucked in his luggage a list written in Farsi that detailed his future tasks, including deeper infiltration into the MEK and recruiting a second person, according to court documents.

The pair never succeeded in allegedly recruiting another operative, however.

On Aug. 9, FBI agents swarmed Darya restaurant and arrested Ghorbani in front of stunned co-workers.

Doostdar was arrested the same day in Chicago.

Both men have been accused of acting as agents of a foreign government without prior notification of the U.S. attorney general and with providing services to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. Both men have pleaded not guilty and remain in custody.

Ghorbani’s lawyer has declined to comment on the case. Doostdar’s attorney, Thomas Durkin, said he’s suspicious about the timing of his client’s arrest considering it comes on the heels of Trump reimposing sanctions against Iran.

“There’s political machinations going on between the Trump administration and Iran. Why did the government all of a sudden decide to arrest these people?” he said.

::

The arrests of Ghorbani and Doostdar have left many in Orange County’s Persian community shaken.

“There is a sense of fear in the Iranian community that the regime in Iran are sending people to USA and keeping track of movements,” said Mike Kazemi, an Irvine immigration lawyer.

For those in the Persian community who are against the Islamic Republic but also disagree with the Trump administration’s policies toward Iran, the escalation in tensions has been disconcerting. They say it serves as a reminder of how both American and Iranian officials view members of the Iranian diaspora with suspicion.

“We are in the middle of two hard places,” Kazemi said.

Yet others in the community say they are refusing to allow geopolitics to interfere with their day-to-day lives.

Nasrin Rahimieh, a professor of humanities at UC Irvine, said she understands how recent developments might cause some Persians to feel scared of being too visible.

Throughout her career, Rahimieh said, she has been chastised for either appearing pro-Islamic Republic or anti-Islamic Republic.

But those experiences have left Rahimieh emboldened to speak out against what she said is the fear-mongering rhetoric present in today’s political environment.

“There is such rabid desire to show Iranians as bad actors and as bad agents that it’s had the opposite effect on me,” Rahimieh said. “To paint all Iranians with the same brush is something that needs to be protested.”

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Jayme Closs Turns Up Alive In Northern Wisconsin

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Jayme Closs turns up ‘like a ghost’ on a Wisconsin street 70 miles from where her parents were shot dead at home

(CNN)Kristin Kasinskas was at home Thursday evening when someone pounded on the door. When she opened it, her neighbor was standing next to a skinny girl with unkempt hair and oversized shoes.

“This is Jayme Closs!” the neighbor said, according to an account Kasinskas gave to the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. “Call 911!”
With those words, the frantic search for Jayme ended 87 days after she vanished on October 15, the same night police found her parents dead in their home near Barron, Wisconsin. She was located Thursday in the Wisconsin town of Gordon — about 70 miles north of where she was last seen.
As the stunned neighbors stood at the door, Jayme did not say a word.

She asked a dog walker for help

The neighbor was walking her dog when Jayme approached and asked for help, according to Kasinskas, a local teacher.
The woman was so unnerved, she did not want to be identified, the Star Tribune reported. She told the paper that when Jayme walked up to her, she immediately knew who she was.
They rushed to the nearest home, which happened to be that of Kasinskas. As they waited for authorities, Jayme declined food and water, and instead met the family’s puppy.
“I honestly still think I’m dreaming right now. It was like I was seeing a ghost,” her husband, Peter Kasinskas, told the paper.
Authorities said Jayme was located shortly before 5 p.m., and a suspect arrested 10 minutes later.

Good news after a day of rumors

Jayme was taken to the hospital after she was found, her aunt Sue Allard said.
“Oh my gosh,” Allard told CNN affiliate WCCO between sobs. “There was rumors earlier today, and I prayed and prayed and they come to not be true … I thought today was going to be the day, and then I find out two hours later that she’s found and I just cannot believe this.”
Jayme’s cousin, Seara Closs, shared her relief on social media.
“She is alive and on her way home from the bottom of my heart thank you all for the help!” she posted on Facebook. “I can never repay each and everyone one of you for posting and sharing and contributing to the search of my cousin Jayme Closs!”
No more details were immediately available. Authorities planned a news conference Friday morning.

Mysterious 911 call

Since Jayme disappeared, authorities have said they believe she’s in danger. Her parents, James and Denise Closs, were found shot dead in their home the same night she went missing.
Investigators say a mysterious 911 call led deputies to discover the bodies. When the dispatcher called the number back, a voice mail greeting indicated the phone belonged to Denise Closs. The log does not say who made the 911 call, but the dispatcher heard yelling in the background.
Police arrived to find the door kicked in but no one was there. Investigators said they believed Jayme was at home during the shooting.

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Months of tips and searches

For months, thousands of people joined search parties as investigators received thousands of tips. The FBI offered a cash reward for information on her whereabouts, and authorities urged hunters in the area to be on the lookout for clues.
The searches and thousands of tips had not yielded any clues before Thursday. But Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said they never got tired of looking for Jayme.
“We promised to bring Jayme home and tonight we get to fulfill that promise. From the bottom of my heart THANK YOU!,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “This case has been very trying on the family so please respect their privacy and we reunite them later tonight.”
He also thanked the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, which responded to the scene when Jayme was found, and other law enforcement agencies that helped in the search.
Barron is 90 miles east of Minneapolis.

Missouri woman’s tiny house was reported stolen, then found days later 30 miles away

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC)

 

Missouri woman’s tiny house was reported stolen, then found days later 30 miles away

Meghan Panu had said her tiny house on wheels was stolen over the weekend. It was found Wednesday morning.
By Minyvonne Burke

Home for the holidays.

A tiny house reported stolen by a Missouri woman will be returned after the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office tracked down the missing residence Wednesday morning.

Sheriff Dave Marshak said in a tweet that Meghan Panu’s home, which was built on wheels, was found parked on a dirt road in a wooded area in House Springs, Missouri, about 30 miles away from where it had been nabbed in St. Louis.

Image: Meghan Panu sits on the front steps of her house in St. Louis. The 12-foot-tall house was hitched to a pickup truck and stolen, and was later found by police.
Meghan Panu sits on the front steps of her house in St. Louis. The 12-foot-tall house was hitched to a pickup truck and stolen, and was later found by police.Courtesy of Ryan Gines via AP

Panu, of St. Louis, said in an Instagram post that she thinks the house was stolen between Friday night and Saturday morning.

She told NBC-affiliate KSDK that the owner of a building supply store in the area had let her park the house there until she could move it to a lot she had picked out. But she said that over the weekend she received a call from the store’s owner that the house was gone.

So far, authorities have not identified who took the house, the sheriff told NBC News.

In a second tweet, Marshak shared some more good news for Panu saying a towing company would bring her house back to her free of charge.

Panu reacted to the news of her house being found, by posting on her Facebook page: “TINY HOUSE FOUND” with a lightning bolt emoji.

Trump Foundation to Close Amid Lawsuit Accusing It of ‘Willful Self-Dealing’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Trump Foundation to Close Amid Lawsuit Accusing It of ‘Willful Self-Dealing’

Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York.Credit Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
Image
Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York.Credit Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

[What you need to know to start the day: Get New York Today in your inbox.]

The Donald J. Trump Foundation will close and give away all its remaining funds in response to a lawsuit filed by the New York attorney general’s office, which had accused the Trump family of using the charity for self-dealing and political gain, the office announced on Tuesday.

The attorney general, Barbara Underwood, accused the foundation of “a shocking pattern of illegality” that was “willful and repeated” and included unlawfully coordinating with Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“This amounted to the Trump Foundation functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests,” Ms. Underwood said.

The closure of the foundation is a milestone in the investigation. But the broader lawsuit, which also seeks millions in restitution and penalties and a bar on President Trump and his three oldest children from serving on the boards of other New York charities, is proceeding.

What assets remain after penalties will be directed to charities that must be approved by the attorney general’s office, and the process will be subject to judicial supervision. Ms. Underwood and a lawyer for the foundation signed the stipulation agreeing to the dissolution.

“This is an important victory for the rule of law, making clear that there is one set of rules for everyone,” Ms. Underwood said. “We’ll continue to move our suit forward to ensure that the Trump Foundation and its directors are held to account for their clear and repeated violations of state and federal law.”

Mr. Trump had said after the 2016 election that to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest, he would dissolve the foundationfollowing revelations of its financial mismanagement. But the attorney general’s office blocked the president from doing so, amid concerns about the handling of the foundation’s documents and assets.

Alan S. Futerfas, a lawyer for the foundation, characterized Ms. Underwood’s announcement as making a “misleading statement.”

“The foundation has been seeking to dissolve and distribute its remaining assets to worthwhile charitable causes since Donald J. Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election,” he said. “Unfortunately, the N.Y.A.G. sought to prevent dissolution for almost two years, thereby depriving those most in need of nearly $1.7 million.

“The N.Y.A.G.’s inaccurate statement of this morning is a further attempt to politicize this matter,” he added.

The investigation of the foundation was begun by Eric T. Schneiderman, the former attorney general, who was an antagonist of Mr. Trump before stepping down amid revelations of sexual misconduct this year.

Next month, the ongoing case will fall to the incoming attorney general, Letitia James, a vocal critic of Mr. Trump who said recentlythat she would “use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family.”

Ms. Underwood’s office sued the Trump Foundation in June, charging it with “improper and extensive political activity, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions, and failure to follow basic fiduciary obligations or to implement even elementary corporate formalities required by law.”

[Want to know more about the Trump Foundation? Read this explainer.]

Nonprofit foundations are supposed to be devoted to charitable activities, but the attorney general’s office, following a two-year investigation, accused the Trump Foundation of being used to win political favor and even purchase a $10,000 portrait of Mr. Trump that was displayed at one of his golf clubs. The existence of the portrait was first reported by The Washington Post.

Mr. Trump was required to sign annual I.R.S. filings in which he attested that the foundation did not engage in political activity.

The lawsuit accused the foundation of virtually becoming an arm of the Trump campaign, with its campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, directing the foundation to make disbursements in Iowa only days before the state held its presidential nominating caucuses.

“Is there any way we can make some disbursements [from the proceeds of the fund-raiser] this week while in Iowa? Specifically on Saturday,” Mr. Lewandowski wrote to the foundation’s treasurer in an email disclosed in the lawsuit.

Such charities are also barred from advancing the self-interests of its executives over the charity’s mission, but the attorney general’s office said in a court filing this year that the foundation had entered into a number of “prohibited self-dealing transactions that directly benefited Mr. Trump or entities that he controlled.”

One of those was revealed by a note in Mr. Trump’s handwriting that said $100,000 of Trump Foundation money should be directed to another charity to settle a legal dispute between the Town of Palm Beach and Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

The attorney general’s office is seeking for the Trump Foundation to pay $2.8 million in restitution, which is the amount raised for the foundation at an Iowa fund-raiser in 2016 that Mr. Trump held on the day that he avoided attending a debate with his Republican rivals. The foundation reported $1.7 million in assets in 2017 to the Internal Revenue Service.

Last month, a New York state judge ruled that the lawsuit could proceed, even as Mr. Trump’s lawyers had argued that the court did not have jurisdiction over Mr. Trump, as president, and that the statute of limitations had passed on some of the issues.

“I find I have jurisdiction over Mr. Trump,” Justice Saliann Scarpulla wrote in a 27-page ruling.

Mr. Futerfas had said in a statement then that “all of the money raised by the Foundation went to charitable causes” and that “we remain confident in the ultimate outcome of these proceedings.

“I won’t settle this case!” Mr. Trump posted on Twitter in June, accusing “the sleazy New York Democrats” of targeting him.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

The sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) A.G. Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000. I won’t settle this case!…

55.8K people are talking about this

The foundation lawsuit follows years of scrutiny of President Trump’s charitable activities and adds to his extensive legal challenges, amid a continuing investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

The Trump Foundation is hardly the first charity dissolved by the state — Mr. Schneiderman previously shut down a sham breast cancer charity, for example — but it is the first involving a sitting president of the United States.

Also, if the attorney general’s office is successful in barring Mr. Trump from serving on foundation boards for a decade, it would put him in the unusual position of not being able to serve on the board of his own post-presidential foundation, should it be set up in New York.

Danny Hakim contributed reporting.

Saudi denounces US Senate vote as ‘blatant interference’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL-JAZEERA NEWS AGENCY)

(THE SAUDI ROYAL FAMILY OF MURDERERS HAS NO CLUE THAT IN A DEMOCRACY THIS IS WHAT A SENATE IS SUPPOSED TO DO, CHECKS AND BALANCES ON THE DICTATORS CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY)

Saudi denounces US Senate vote as ‘blatant interference’

US senators backed measure accusing MBS of ordering Khashoggi’s murder, urged end to support for Saudi-led Yemen war.

Jamal Khashoggi was killed on October 2 inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul [File: Sedat Suna/EPA-EFE]
Jamal Khashoggi was killed on October 2 inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul [File: Sedat Suna/EPA-EFE]

Saudi Arabia has denounced as “blatant interference” a resolution by the US Senate accusing the kingdom’s crown prince of ordering the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and calling for an end to Washington’s military support for a Riyadh-led war in Yemen.

The Senate’s move last week dealt a new warning to US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly signalled his backing for the Saudi leadership even amid a mounting outcry the killing of Khashoggi, a critic of the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the devastating Yemen conflict.

“The recent position of the United States Senate, which has been built on baseless allegations and accusations, includes blatant interference in its internal affairs and the role of the kingdom at the regional and international level”, the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement released by the Saudi Press Agency on Monday.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor, was murdered on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul to obtain documents needed for his planned marriage.

In a unanimous vote on Thursday, the Senate approved the resolution condemning Khashoggi’s murder and calling Prince Mohammed – also known as MBS – “responsible” for it.

The senators’ move came after senior intelligence officials from the US spy agency reportedly said that such an operation would have needed the approval of MBS, the kingdom’s de facto leader.

After giving contradictory statements about the whereabouts of Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia admitted that the writer was killed inside its consulate and his body was dismembered. The kingdom maintains that Prince Mohammed had no knowledge of the killing, which Turkey said was ordered at the highest level of Saudi leadership.

“The kingdom has previously asserted that the murder of Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi is a deplorable crime that does not reflect the Kingdom’s policy nor its institutions and reaffirms its rejection of any attempts to take the case out of the path of justice in the kingdom,” the Saudi foreign ministry’s statement said.

Yemen war

On the Senate’s Yemen measure, which more broadly attacks Trump’s prerogative to launch military actions, 49 Democrats or their allies voted in favour, along with seven Republicans, while another three Republicans abstained.

Saudi Arabia launched a massive aerial campaign against Yemen’s Houthi rebels in March 2015, aimed at restoring the government of exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Since then, the US has been helping the Saudi-UAE military alliance with weaponry and logistical support. Until recently, it was also refuelling the alliance’s fighter jets which were responsible for the more than 18,000 raids carried out on the war-ravaged country, which, according to the United Nations is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

More than three-quarters of Yemen’s population – some 22 million people – need humanitarian assistance, while 11 million require dire help in order to survive.

The Senate resolutions cannot be debated in the House of Representatives before January, and are likely be vetoed in any case by Trump.

In its statement, the Saudi foreign ministry said “the kingdom hopes that it is not drawn into domestic political debates in the United States of America, to avoid any ramifications on the ties between the two countries that could have significant negative impacts on this important strategic relationship”.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Trump Was In The Room When Illegal Payments Were Being Discussed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 Ohio on July 18, 2016.John Taggart / Bloomberg via Getty Images file Dec. 13, 2018 / 3:41 PM ESTBy Tom Winter

Donald Trump was the third person in the room in August 2015 when his lawyer Michael Cohen and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker discussed ways Pecker could help counter negative stories about Trump’s relationships with women, NBC News has confirmed.

As part of a nonprosecution agreement disclosed Wednesday by federal prosecutors, American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s parent company, admitted that “Pecker offered to help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate’s relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided.”

The “statement of admitted facts” says that AMI admitted making a $150,000 payment “in concert with the campaign,” and says that Pecker, Cohen and “at least one other member of the campaign” were in the meeting. According to a person familiar with the matter, the “other member” was Trump.

David Pecker attends an event in Paris in 2012.
David Pecker attends an event in Paris in 2012.Francois Durand / Getty Images

Trump was first identified as attending the meeting by The Wall Street Journal.

Daniel Goldman, an NBC News analyst and former assistant U.S. attorney said the agreement doesn’t detail what Trump said and did in the meeting. “But if Trump is now in the room, as early as August of 2015 and in combination with the recording where Trump clearly knows what Cohen is talking about with regarding to David Pecker, you now squarely place Trump in the middle of a conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which investigated Cohen’s hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, declined to comment.

Michael Cohen sentenced to 3 years in prison

DEC. 13, 201802:37

McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate, and her lawyers have said that the National Enquirer paid her $150,000 in August 2016 as part of a “catch-and-kill” strategy to keep the story from circulating publicly.

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When Cohen pleaded guilty to arranging the payments in August, he said he had done so “at the direction” of an unnamed candidate, and that a $150,000 payment prior to the 2016 election was “for the principal purpose of influencing” the election. The meeting between Cohen, Pecker and unnamed other parties to discuss suppressing stories was referenced in the criminal information document to which Cohen pleaded guilty. The document also refers to “at least one other member of the campaign” being present.

The statement of admitted facts says that AMI’s “principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.” Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for the president, has said the payments were made to spare Trump’s family from embarrassment.

I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called “advice of counsel,” and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid. Despite that many campaign finance lawyers have strongly……

44K people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

On Wednesday, Judge William Pauley sentenced Cohen to a total of 36 months behind bars, and three years of post-release supervision, for tax evasion, violating campaign finance law and other charges. The judge ordered him to pay almost $1.4 million in restitution and forfeit $500,000, while fining him $50,000 for lying to Congress. Cohen must turn himself in to start serving his sentence by March 6.

At his sentencing, Cohen said that “time and time again, I felt it was my duty to cover up [Trump’s] dirty deeds.”

President Trump tweeted after the sentencing that he “never directed Michael Cohen to break the law.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tom Winter

Tom Winter is a producer and reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit based in New York, covering crime, courts, terrorism, and financial fraud on the East Coast.

France train station attack three women stabbed by knifeman

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘EXPRESS NEWS’)

 

France train station attack: Horror in Mulhouse as three women stabbed by knifeman

THREE women have been stabbed – one in the neck – during a barbaric knife attack at a French train station.

france

An unidentified attacker butchered the women in Mulhouse, (Image: GETTY)

An unidentified attacker butchered the women in Mulhouse, located in the eastern region of the country. The victims did not know the man before he approached them out of the blue yesterday at 3pm and knifed them. Local website France Bleu reported the man stabbed the first woman in the back as she walked through the train station with her 10-year-old daughter. He then stabbed another woman through the hand.

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The man, a “young male”, then fled the scene of the attack before police chased him down and arrested him.

It has also been reported that the man has been known to police in France and was suffering from a “mental disorder”.

All three women are undergoing treatment in hospital, though it is not currently clear how serious their injuries are.

Violence continued in France over the weekend following protests by thousands of demonstrators who took to the streets of Paris in the wake of President Emmanuel Macron’s shocking fuel hikes, which have gone up by 23 percent in 10 months.

Mr Macron today announced he would hold emergency crisis talks with trade unions on the back of news that three people died as a result of the violence, which has also damaged the French economy.

In a bid to defuse the unrest and the criticism, the French head is expected to consult with national and local officials, trade unions and employers’ organisations.

His office also confirmed he will speak to the French people for the first time in four weeks at 8pm (7pm GMT) this evening in a move that will see the 40-year-old centrist would announce “immediate and concrete measures” to respond to protesters.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said France’s economy will be seriously affected by the protests against Mr Macron’s fuel reforms, which saw cars gutted after being set on fire and landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe graffitied.

Mr Le Maire said: “We must expect a new slowdown of economic growth at year-end due to the yellow vest protests. It is a catastrophe for trade, it is a catastrophe for our economy.”

He added: “Our country is deeply divided, between those who see that globalisation has benefited them and others who can’t make ends meet, who say globalisation is not an opportunity but a threat.”

Yesterday there were calls on Mr Macron to resign as French President.

Trump ‘Likely To Be Indicted’ On Campaign Finance Violations

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

Fox News Contributor: Trump ‘Likely To Be Indicted’ On Campaign Finance Violations

“It’s clear that Trump is the target,” former U.S. attorney Andrew McCarthy said.
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Fox News contributor Andrew McCarthy has bad news for President Donald Trump: Get ready to be indicted for violating federal campaign finance laws.

McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, said on “Fox & Friends” Sunday that attorneys with the Southern District of New York are “clearly” going after Trump, given recent revelations about statements by Michael Cohen, his former personal lawyer, to the U.S. district court.

“They are clearly going after the president on campaign finance violations and I think if you read the sentencing memo the Southern District filed in Cohen’s case, it’s clear that Trump is the target and he’ll be indicted eventually,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy served as assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District for 18 years before leaving the Justice Department in 2003.

On Friday, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District filed a sentencing memo recommending Cohen receive a 42-month prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to multiple counts of business and tax fraud, making false statements to Congress and violating campaign finance law.

Cohen told the court in August that during the 2016 presidential campaign Trump directed him to make hush money payments to at least two women who say they’ve had affairs with him after he married his third wife, Melania. The president has denied the affairs and the hush money allegations.

Prosecutors say the payments violate federal campaign finance laws.

The first payment in question ―  $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels ― violated campaign finance law restrictions against donations of more than $2,700 in a general election, according to federal prosecutors.

The second payment under legal scrutiny is $150,000 made by American Media Inc. to silence Karen McDougal, which prosecutors say constituted an illegal corporate donation to Trump’s campaign. The National Enquirer’s parent company was chaired at the time by Trump’s longtime confidante, David Pecker.

The Southern District case involving Cohen stems from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump obstructed justice.

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Mueller did not take a position on Cohen’s sentence but the special counsel’s office wrote in their sentencing memo that Cohen has “gone to significant lengths” to help in their investigation.

Fox News host Ed Henry on Sunday appeared taken aback by McCarthy’s prediction.

“You think the president of the United States is going to be indicted… I mean that kind of stops me in my tracks,” Henry said.

McCarthy said he can’t be positive whether the Justice Department would indict a sitting president or wait until Trump is out of office.

“I think what can happen is they could indict and he could be tried down the road when he’s out of office,” McCarthy said. “But will [Trump] be charged? Are they setting the stage to file charges against him? If you read that sentencing memo, I can’t come to any other conclusion.”

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that Trump “may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time.”

“There’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him,” Schiff said.

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.@AdamSchiff on the Russia Investigation: My takeaway is there’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office the justice department may indict him. That he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time.

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McCarthy delved deeper into the case in an Op-Ed published Sunday on Fox News’ website.

“Campaign finance violations have a high proof threshold for intent,” McCarthy wrote. “President Trump could argue that because there was no spending limit on his contributions, he did not think about the campaign-finance implications, much less willfully violate them.”

“The point for this day is that the Cohen case in New York City is not about Cohen,” he concluded. “The president is in peril of being charged.”

Brazil: STF Postpones Lula’s Case Until 2019

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BRAZIL 247)

 

Brazil: 8 Months Ago Today President Lula Was Arrested With No Evidence Yet

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BRAZIL 247)

 

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