By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (5/17/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
It turns out there are consequences. On good days, when you make decisions based on questionable ethics, someone will be held accountable: Novartis Lawyer To Retire Over $1.2 Million Contract With Trump Attorney Michael Cohen.
“The Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis announced Wednesday that a top lawyer who co-signed a $1.2 million contract to hire President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen will step down in June.
“Felix R. Ehrat, group general counsel of Novartis, is retiring “in the context of discussions surrounding Novartis’ former agreement with Essential Consultants, owned by Michael Cohen,” the company said.
““Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error,” Ehrat said in a statement. “As a co-signatory with our former CEO, I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end.””
Questionable, not illegal, but that was enough for Novartis general counsel to step down.
Hey, Trump blue collar supporters, check out this deal…
But we don’t all abide by the same standards, not even close. This next story must be considered in two parts: Trump Vows To Help China Save Chinese Jobs. Really.
The subhead of the Vox story gives a little context: Trump’s bid to protect the Chinese cellphone maker ZTE is a head-spinning policy reversal.
The jaw dropping part of this story to people of all political flavors is the ‘but’:
“President Trump is on the brink of a costly trade war with China in large part because he says China has stolen American jobs by cheating on trade rules.
“But on Sunday, Trump announced his newest trade initiative: saving Chinese jobs.
““President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost,” Trump tweeted Sunday afternoon.”
The company of Trump’s concerns, where “too many jobs in China lost”, is a company in trouble with the U.S. Commerce Department because of sales to Iran and North Korea in violation of U.S. sanctions, but also a concern for surveillance and security reasons.
Taken alone, this is shocking, taken along with this next news story in another time this would be the crisis that brought down an administration: Report: China Has Committed $500 Million To Indonesian Development That Will Include Trump Hotels And A Trump Golf Course.
“On Sunday, Donald Trump surprised his own advisers and reversed U.S. policy by announcing on Twitter that he wanted to lift U.S. sanctions on the Chinese telecom company ZTE. On Monday, Trump explained that the move was in part a personal favor to China’s president, Xi Jinping.
“In what may or may not be related news, the Agence France-Presse news service is reportingthat a Chinese company agreed last Thursday to build a theme park at a major Indonesian development project that is set to include Trump-branded hotels, residences, and a golf course—and that will be funded in part by $500 million in Chinese government loans.”
Hmm, lets see here… Trump does a “personal favor” for Xi to help a Chinese telecommunications company that operated in violation of U.S. sanctions, is a security concern, puts Chinese jobs ahead of U.S. jobs … considered against a backdrop of a Chinese investment in Indonesia that hugely benefits the Trump Organization, does anyone see a potential conflict?
Novartis compared to a Trump branded hotel in Indonesia funded by Chinese investment and announced at the same time as Trump does Xi a favor and protects Chinese jobs at a telecommunications company selling technology to Iran and North Korea. No problem here, nothing to see, keep moving along folks.
We will keep moving, let’s take a look at the next major instance of Trump family corruption.
The Daily Mail reports: EXCLUSIVE: Michael Cohen ‘asked Qatari investor for millions of dollars’ which he said he would ‘pass to Trump family members’ at Trump Tower meeting – and Qatar’s foreign minister was there too.
There are many points of interest with this news. The original news of Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, a former Qatari diplomat heading a $100bn investment fund, attending a meeting in Trump Tower allegedly with Cohen and former Trump national security adviser who pled guilty Michael Flynn was broken by way of pictures, video and questions on Twitter posted by Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti. It is also not so expected that the Daily Mail would be breaking a major news story. There are obvious questions, how did Avenatti know, where did he get the pictures, how did the Daily Mail break the story? Even with those questions, Ahmed Al-Rumaihi confirmed the meeting and his attendance.
“Donald Trump‘s lawyer, Michael Cohen, is facing claims he asked a Middle Eastern official for millions of dollars to give to ‘Trump family members’ in a meeting at Trump Tower weeks after the president’s election victory, DailyMail.com can reveal….
“The official said: ‘He said Cohen told him to send millions to various members of the Trump family.’ Al-Rumaihi did not do so, the official added. The Trump family members were not named.”
There will be much more to learn about this meeting and may prove some of the more alarming reports presented in the Steele Dossier: Michael Cohen’s Meetings With Michael Flynn And A Qatari Diplomat Might Be The Key To Unlocking The Steele Dossier.
The Monday (4/14) Slate article subhead asks a really simple, really big question: What were all of these men doing together at the same time in Trump Tower in December 2016?
Oddly the story starts with a Big 3 basketball founder and weaves through a rap star, a court case and an ‘admission’ of a juicy bribe made to Michael Flynn. And that’s not even the best part of the story.
“Big 3 basketball league co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz told Slate that he recognized Ahmed Al-Rumaihi in photos with Cohen that were tweeted Sunday by attorney Michael Avenatti.
““Yes, 100 percent,” Kwatinetz said when asked if he thought the videos and photos were of Ahmed Al-Rumaihi. Last week, Kwatinetz, who is a co-founder of Big 3 with Ice Cube, accusedAl-Rumaihi in a sworn court declaration of making an attempted bribe and of suggestively boasting that Flynn had not refused “our money.”
Where would the millions of dollars for “Trump family members” come from and why?
“Avenatti tweeted the images that appeared to show Al-Rumaihi entering an elevator in Trump Tower on Dec. 12, 2016, five days after news broke of the multibillion-dollar sale of 19.5 percent of the Russian fossil fuel giant Rosneft to Swiss trading firm Glencore and Qatar’s sovereign investment fund. (Glencore and Qatar sold off a major stake of Rosneft to China last year, but earlier this month Qatar bought back in to the Russian company for a total stake of 19 percent.)
“The Rosneft deal features prominently in an investigative dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. A central claim of the Steele dossier was that Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page, during an alleged meeting with Rosneft officials in summer 2016, promised that a Trump administration would undo sanctions against Russia, in part, in exchange for brokerage of the Rosneft deal. In May 2016, Al-Rumaihi reportedly took over as head of a major division of the wealth fund ultimately involved in the Rosneft deal.
“The allegations in the Steele dossier, made in October 2016, suggested a future quid-pro-quo deal between Russia and the Trump campaign. Trump has been conspicuously resistant to Russian sanctions despite widespread congressional support from both parties. As Jed Shugerman has noted in Slate, during congressional testimony Page acknowledged meeting with Andrey Baranov, the head of investor relations at Rosneft, during his July 2016 trip to Russia and acknowledged “briefly” discussing the sale of Rosneft as well as there being “some general reference” to sanctions. As Business Insider’s Natasha Bertrand has reported, Page also acknowledged meeting with top Rosneft managers in Moscow on Dec. 8—four days before the apparent Cohen–Al-Rumaihi meeting and one day after the completion of the Rosneft deal.”
We’re going to take this as a good place to wrap up.
Quid pro obvious
We have a Chinese investment that includes a Trump hotel in Indonesia reported at the same time Trump vows to save jobs in China as a “favor”. Is there anything about that with an appearance of quid pro quo?
At the same time, we have various reports that, if true, confirm a major revelation of the Steele Dossier whereby the sale of 19.5% of Russian state oil company Rosneft was used as a quid pro quo paying Trump out of proceeds for relaxation of U.S. sanctions against Russia. Fees have been alleged as 0.5% of the sale, or millions to “Trump family members” of $282 million. Is $282 million an incentive to sell out your country if you are worth a self claimed $10 billion? We don’t presume to know if Trump’s self-admitted greed would see that as a proper incentive, but there are other reports that suggest Trump may be worth less than a $1 billion and the fee was 1.5% or closer to $900 million – which would be the equivalent of doubling your wealth and without taxes.
Of course we would have a better idea if Trump disclosed his taxes like every other modern president before him.
We have reports of all the steps leading up to and following the December Trump Tower meeting. Former Trump national security adviser Carter Page admitted there was such an offer made to him as an emissary while he was in Moscow. And all the way through to the investors in a meeting following the Rosneft sale with the other half of the quid pro quo – the Trump representatives.
The Rosneft fee is not even the only attempt at a deal to have Trump remove the U.S. sanctions against Russia. Flynn, Cohen and indicted Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort were involved in a back-channel Putin and Ukraine peace proposal that among other outcomes, would have removed the sanctions.
Meanwhile the Senate Judiciary Committee released 2,500 pages of congressional testimony and exhibits shedding more light and details on another Donnie Jr. meeting with Russians in June 2016. We’ll focus on that in the next edition: Inside The June 2016 Trump Tower Meeting: A droning Russian lawyer and hot pink jeans, but no Clinton dirt.
So we have concrete reporting of events where even one of these meetings or deals would have brought down an administration. With Trump, there’s not enough time and space to keep track of all of them – never-ending chaos. Kick the can forward while crying “witch hunt” and playing to the Trump base. But even his base, while turning a blind eye akin to this Congressional Russpublican Congress, draws a line at firing special counsel Mueller – that would look bad and ‘people would be suspicious’.
The final point, if these are the lines of battle, you might appreciate reading about the real battle experience of Mueller from a story in Wired: The Untold Story of Robert Mueller’s Time in Combat.
While Robert Mueller faced duty and danger in Vietnam multiple deferment Sgt. Bone Spurs defended himself from HIV in New York nightclubs, noting, that his success at avoiding sexually transmitted diseases while dating numerous women in the 1980s was “my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”
The story notes:
“The two men have lived their lives in pursuit of almost diametrically opposed goals—Mueller a life of patrician public service, Trump a life of private profit.”
In one way, Trump is right
Novartis used poor judgment and took steps to right the ship. But Trump is right, our government, his government, is rigged – ethics is not a word that applies to this administration.
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free for non-derivative use with lin to www.thecommonercall.org )