NEW: Michael Flynn's lawyers seem to suggest that Joseph Mifsud attended the infamous December 2015 Russia Today dinner. (h/t @HansMahncke)
EXCL The US Defence Dept has postponed a lucrative new refuelling deal for military aircraft at Prestwick Airport amid a Congressional investigation into spending at the heavily-indebted hub & @realdonaldtrump’s Turnberry resort. My @TheScotsman latest:
https://twitter.com/LincolnsBible?ref_s ... r%5Eauthor
US military fuel deal with Prestwick 'kicked into long grass' over Trump investigation
A US Congressional committee investigation is scrutinising US Defence Department payments to President Donald Trump's Turnberry resort and Glasgow Prestwick Airport. Picture: John Devlin
Wednesday 11 September 2019
A US Defence Department agency has postponed a lucrative new military aircraft refuelling deal with Glasgow Prestwick Airport amid multiple investigations and growing political scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic into US military patronage and spending at the loss making hub and President Donald Trump’s flagship Scottish resort.
The Scotsman can reveal that the expanded EUCOM Into-Plane agreement covering the Scottish-Government owned airport and the US Defence Logistics Agency (DLA), which was due to come into force in a matter of weeks, has been put on hold until December at the earliest.
One source familiar with the deal said the deal was being “kicked into the long grass” as a result of a newly-disclosed investigation by the US House Oversight Committee.
However, the DLA said the decision was not related to or influenced by such developments, and said an extension to its existing contract - which subsequently pushed back the start of the new deal - had been ratified on 28 August.
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While that predates the launch of an internal US Air Force inquiry, and details of the House Oversight's Committee being made public, it postdates the committee's first communications with the US Defence Department. It first wrote to the Pentagon in 21 June regarding the DLA and Prestwick deal.
The House committee is conducting a wide-ranging inquiry into the US Defence Department’s spending at Prestwick and Mr Trump’s nearby Turnberry resort over concerns of “serious conflicts of interest” and potential violations of the foreign emoluments clause of the US constitution.
It is understood one strand of the inquiry is focusing on the arrangement struck between Prestwick and the DLA, a Virginia-based body which manages the global supply chain for the US Army, Navy, and Air Force.
As The Scotsman revealed in June, the airport’s parent company, Glasgow Prestwick Airport Limited, received more than £9.02m between October 2017 and March this year for at least 644 separate aviation turbine fuel orders placed by the DLA. It has received a further £4.8m for hundreds more orders in the six months since.
With the existing deal set to expire at the end of the month, the pending extension promised to be even more gainful for the heavily indebted airport, which was put up for sale earlier this year by Scottish ministers and is reliant on the DLA for the vast majority of its revenue.
The new EUCOM deal covers not only Prestwick, but a host of European airports as far afield as Estonia, Iceland, Norway, and Poland, who supply US military aircraft with fuel.
Documentation obtained by The Scotsman shows the DLA attribute the postponement to issues with the “extensive pre-award process.”
However, sources familiar with the combat logistics support agency’s existing and future agreements with Prestwick said the controversy engulfing the airport, Trump Turnberry, and the US Defence Dept was directly to blame. .
One said the new deal has been “kicked into the long grass” in light of the increased scrutiny surrounding hub and its financial relationship the US defence apparatus.
ScotRail is nearly 5 percentage points below its punctuality target. Picture: Neil Hanna
ScotRail now won't hit its punctuality target until 2022
“The DLA’s excuse for the delay is that it is slightly behind schedule in determining contract renewals. That’s nonsense,” added the source.
“They don’t want to do anything until the Congressional committee’s investigation has concluded.”
READ MORE: Greens demand Prestwick Airport not sold to US military
Prestwick, which has decades-long ties with the US military, remains an approved DLA site and is continuing to supply fuel to US aircraft in the meantime - it is understood the existing arrangement will simply continue until it is renewed.
But one source said the “political heat” meant it was likely US Air Mobility Command movements through Prestwick would reduce in number as they are routed through other European locations.
The monetary value of the planned new deal is unclear, but it is expected to surpass the terms of the existing arrangement, which is worth as much as £16.91m to Prestwick.
The debt owed by the airport to the Scottish Government stands at £38.4m. Its most recent accounts show its holding company’s annual losses total £7.6m.
It comes as Scotland’s transport secretary, Michael Matheson, today refused to rule out the sale of the airport to the US military.
Up to three offers for Prestwick are being assessed following the deadline for full bids last Friday. The sale is due to be completed early next month.
Mr Matheson told Holyrood’s connectivity committee that discussing potential bidders would “infringe on the integrity" of the sale process.
While the US Air Force (USAF) has launched its own review of the use of overseas airports and hotels, Politico reported today that Senator Gary Peters, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, has formally requested an independent investigation into the USAF’s increased use of Prestwick and overnight stays at Mr Trump’s loss making hotel, which itself remains reliant on £107m in loans.
In a letter to the Pentagon, the Michigan senator wrote: “I am disturbed by the growing number of those in government willing to engage in questionable taxpayer funded travel to and lodging at properties owned by the president - properties from which President Trump can draw income at any time.”
A spokeswoman for Glasgow Prestwick Airport said: “The existing DLA approval has been extended by two months, until 30 November 2019. This is a European wide extension and not specific to the Glasgow Prestwick Airport location.”
The DLA said it was inaccurate to describe the changed dates regarding the deal as a "delay,"
It said there were more than 60 locations across Europe that required site inspections, "extensive negotiations," and technical evaluations of various proposals in order to "eventually determine which offeror will receive a contract award for a particular location."
The DLA energy technical and contracting teams, it added, have a "limited number" of members who are working simultaneously on multiple expansive programmes with "unique challenges and demands."
Asked if the decision was influenced by or related to the Congressional inquiry surrounding Prestwick and Mr Trump, a spokesman for the DLA said: "No. This decision was made in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations."
He said the DLA anticipated awarding a long-term contract to Prestwick by the end of November, adding: "As long as the US Department of Defence customer has a requirement at that location then the DLA Energy contracting office will continue to support the mission."
https://www.scotsman.com/news/us-milita ... -1-5002381
A judge threatened a 2-year-old migrant with an attack dog. Trump just promoted him.
Judge Promoted by Trump Administration Threatened a 2-Year-Old With an Attack Dog
“Want me to go get the dog?” the judge yelled at a Guatemalan boy. “Do you want him to bite you?”
Mother Jones illustration; Democracy Now!; Getty
On March 30, 2016, in an immigration courtroom in Charlotte, North Carolina, a 2-year-old boy was doing what you might expect: He was making some noise. But Judge V. Stuart Couch—a former Marine known to have a temper—was growing frustrated. He pointed his finger at the Guatemalan child and demanded that he be quiet.
When the boy failed to obey his command, the threats began. “I have a very big dog in my office, and if you don’t be quiet, he will come out and bite you!” Couch yelled.
Couch continued, as a Spanish-language interpreter translated for the child, “Want me to go get the dog? If you don’t stop talking, I will bring the dog out. Do you want him to bite you?” Couch continued to yell at the boy throughout the hearing when he moved or made noise.
Kathryn Coiner-Collier, the only independent observer in the courtroom that day, says her mouth was on the floor as Couch made his threats. She sometimes saw Department of Homeland Security dogs sweeping the court building, and it was completely plausible to her that dogs could have been there that day. Coiner-Collier, then a coordinator for a project run by the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy to assist immigrants who couldn’t afford attorneys, says she “ferociously scribbled everything” Couch was saying. Soon after, she wrote an affidavit containing the dialogue above, and Kenneth Schorr, the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s executive director, submitted a complaint to the Justice Department in April 2016.
“I was outraged,” Schorr says about learning of the threats. “I’ve been practicing law for over 40 years and I have never experienced judicial conduct this bad.” Coiner-Collier says Assistant Chief Immigration Judge Deepali Nadkarni, Couch’s superior, interviewed her multiples times about the affidavit and told her that it was accurate. Schorr says Nadkarni told him that everything in the affidavit was corroborated by the internal investigation. Nadkarni wrote to Schorr in June 2016, “Judge Couch acknowledged he did not handle the situation properly and assured me it will not occur again.”
V. Stuart Couch. Credit: National Security Archive
Schorr doesn’t think that Couch should have been able to remain on the bench after his threat to call in a dog on a child. In an unexpected way, he got his wish: In August, the Trump administration promoted Couch and five other judges to the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals, which often has the final say over whether immigrants are deported. All six judges reject asylum requests at a far higher rate than the national average; Couch granted just 7.9 percent of asylum claims between 2013 and 2018, compared to the national average of about 45 percent. (Before becoming an immigration judge, Couch served as a military prosecutor and attracted widespread attention for refusing to prosecute a Guantanamo detainee because he had been tortured.)
The boy’s mother declined to comment for this story, telling her attorney that she is still afraid of Couch. The Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees the country’s immigration courts, declined to answer questions about the incident. The interpreter who translated for Couch at the hearing declined to speak on the record about the incident.
During the hearing, Coiner-Collier says Couch turned off the courtroom’s recording device as he threatened the boy. After turning it back on, he made a statement in which she believes he intentionally inflated the boy’s age to obscure the fact that he had threatened someone who was a few months shy of his third birthday, according to his passport. “I will have the record reflect that [the boy] is a 5-year-old respondent that has been very disruptive during this hearing,” Couch said, according to her recollection in the affidavit. “The court had tried to control the child behavior’s and has been unsuccessful…The court is using a strong voice and strong language with him in the absence of parental control.” (Coiner-Collier did not have access to the recording when she wrote the affidavit, but she says Nadkarni confirmed that there were multiple breaks in the recording when Couch went off the record.)
The boy was only 2, Coiner-Collier stated in the affidavit. “Anybody in their right mind looking at this child would know he is not 5, would know he is not 4,” Coiner-Collier recalls. “He was a little dude…He probably wasn’t even taller than the table.” It’s also unclear how many of Couch’s commands he was able to understand, since his first language was not Spanish but K’iche’, a Mayan language.
After Couch made the statement about his strong language, he asked Coiner-Collier to remove the boy from the courtroom. When she asked the boy to come with her, he began to cry and grabbed onto his mother. Coiner-Collier picked him up and tried to carry him out, but he got free and ran back to the courtroom. She eventually took him to a nearby room, where he screamed and cried. A few minutes later, the hearing ended, and the boy’s mother, who was also crying, rejoined her son. Others did, too. “The women and children that day—I will never forget—left court hysterically crying, almost all of them,” Coiner-Collier says. (About her own reaction, she wrote in a text message to the mother’s attorney the next year, “I have never lost my composure like I did that day…I was…red in the face sobbing along with her.)
When she went back to the courtroom to file paperwork, Couch told her, “I owe you an apology.” He said he knew it wasn’t her job to watch over children. Then he made a comment that suggested he had threatened other children. Coiner-Collier paraphrased what he said in her affidavit: “Usually when I threaten children with scary animals, it works. Not with this kid.” (Coiner-Collier and others who have appeared before Couch never witnessed him threaten another child.)
Coiner-Collier quickly told her supervisor and Schorr what had happened. Schorr asked her to draft an affidavit. Two weeks after the hearing, Schorr submitted the complaint to the Justice Department’s assistant chief immigration judge for conduct and professionalism. Schorr says Nadkarni, Couch’s superior, told him that the Justice Department would take appropriate action, but Nadkarni was not able to offer any specifics. Schorr still doesn’t know whether Couch was disciplined. (Coiner-Collier says Couch later told her that she put his job on the line by complaining.)
https://www.motherjones.com/politics/20 ... ttack-dog/
Exclusive: Michael Cohen is interviewed for probe into Trump Organization
(CNN) — Prosecutors with the New York district attorney's office interviewed Donald Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen in recent weeks as part of their investigation of the Trump Organization's handling of hush money payments, according to people familiar with the matter.
Officials from the district attorney's office, led by Cyrus Vance, interviewed Cohen at the federal prison in Otisville, New York, where he is serving a three-year sentence after pleading guilty to multiple crimes including campaign finance violations tied to payments to two women alleging affairs with Trump a decade ago. Trump has denied having affairs with the women.
The district attorney opened the investigation last month and sent subpoenas to the Trump Organization and American Media Inc. seeking documents and records relating to payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to silence their allegations ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
The investigation is looking into whether the Trump Organization violated a New York state law involving false business records. Investigators are exploring whether the real estate company falsified its records in describing the reimbursement to Cohen for the payments.
Lanny Davis, a lawyer for Cohen, declined to comment. A spokesman for Vance's office also declined to comment.
Marc L. Mukasey, attorney for the Trump Organization, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Mukasey previously called the investigation "a political hit job" and added, "It's just harassment of the President, his family and his business, using subpoenas and leaks as weapons. We will respond as appropriate."
The investigation is a sign that legal issues continue to swirl around Trump and his business. House Democrats are suing to obtain the tax and bank records of Trump and his family members. The New York state attorney general has subpoenaed Trump's banks for loan documents relating to certain Trump Organization projects.
The state investigation, which is still in the early stages, began after the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York closed its own probe in July.
Prosecutors met with Cohen shortly after they opened their investigation, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. Cohen is one of several people with knowledge of the payments who would be of interest to investigators, but he has credibility issues for any potential case. Cohen pleaded guilty last year to lying to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Cohen was the only individual prosecuted as part of the federal investigation. He pleaded guilty to paying $130,000 to Daniels to keep her from going public with her allegation before the election.
American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, signed a non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors for its own role in the hush money scheme. AMI admitted to making a payment of $150,000 in cooperation with some members of Trump's campaign to prevent McDougal's claims of an affair from becoming pubic.
Federal prosecutors alleged that the Trump Organization paid Cohen $420,000 to reimburse him for the $130,000 hush money payment, increasing the amount to cover taxes and a bonus. Cohen was directed to submit monthly invoices and the payments were made in installments of $35,000 over 12 months, according to prosecutors in the Cohen case. The Trump Organization accounted for the fees as legal expenses even though, prosecutors alleged, Cohen did no legal work for the company in 2017. The Trump Organization was not charged with any wrongdoing.
https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/11/politics ... index.html
House Democrats Are Examining Whether the Middleman in Trump’s Secret Moscow Deal Withheld Information
But Felix Sater says he has cooperated fully with the probe of Trump’s covert Russia venture.
Felix Sater arrives for his closed-door testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on July 9, 2019. Stefani Reynolds/CNP via Zuma
When the Democrats took over the House of Representatives, there seemed to be the promise of vigorous investigations and high-profile hearings related to a long array of Donald Trump controversies, including the Trump-Russia scandal and one particular component of that affair: Trump’s secret effort to score a large project in Moscow while he was running for president. Yet the House Dems, as they debated what to do on the impeachment front, have rarely succeeded in mounting probes and holding hearings on Trump that shape the ongoing (and, yes, often crazy) political agenda of the day, week, or month. And the story of Trump’s covert venture in Moscow—like many other tales of Trump corruption—has drifted from public view. The House Intelligence Committee, though, is still on that case, and it is examining whether a key witness in that investigation, a former business associate of Trump, has tried to obstruct its probe—an allegation this onetime Trump ally fiercely denies.
First, some background. During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly asserted he had nothing to do with Russia. And when he was asked in December 2015 about his relationship with a man named Felix Sater—a former asset for US intelligence and law enforcement in key terrorism and mafia cases who also has a criminal record—Trump lied and essentially denied knowing the guy: “Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it. I’m not that familiar with him.”
Yet Trump had worked closely with Sater, a fellow developer, on the Trump Soho, a hotel condominium that opened in 2010 in New York City, and after that Sater had served as a scout for Trump, looking for projects in Russia and elsewhere. Sater even carried a business card identifying him as a Trump Organization consultant. Starting in September 2015, Sater became the middleman in Trump’s latest attempt to develop a tower in Moscow, which had long been a goal for Trump. Collaborating with Michael Cohen, then Trump’s lawyer and fixer, Sater hooked up the Trump Organization with a Russian company for this Moscow deal that could, if successful, reap Trump hundreds of millions of dollars. Trump himself signed a letter of intent for the project in October 2015. In emails to Cohen, Sater maintained that this deal could help Trump win the 2016 election.
The gargantuan venture certainly could not have succeeded if Russian President Vladimir Putin and his regime felt unkindly toward Trump. So Trump, as he campaigned, was in no position to speak critically of Putin or his government—that is, if he gave a damn about this project. And indeed Trump often gushed positively about Putin and refused to endorse criticism of the Russian leader (who, as it turned out, had ordered a clandestine attack on the American election in part to help Trump). In January 2016, Cohen even contacted Putin’s office for help on the project and spoke to an assistant to a key Putin aide about the venture. Cohen and Sater also considered giving Putin a $50 million penthouse in the tower to lure Russian oligarchs to buy into the project.
The Moscow tower project eventually fizzled out in mid-2016, as Trump neared winning the GOP nomination. Yet Trump never disclosed these negotiations to the public. He kept saying he had no interests in Russia and that he was an America First kind of candidate—not a pol who pursued a clandestine business deal that could not proceed if he criticized a foreign adversary. And after the election, once Trump’s private negotiations for this project had become public, Cohen lied to the House and Senate intelligence committees about the Moscow deal, falsely claiming that he had cut it off in January 2016 and that he had not spoken to Putin’s office about it. Cohen later admitted to special counsel Robert Mueller he had misled congressional investigators, and that’s one reason he is currently residing in a federal facility in upstate New York.
Sater, too, has been questioned by the House Intelligence Committee—twice. Both times were private sessions. The committee so far has chosen not to hold a public hearing with Sater. In fact, there have been no public congressional hearings dedicated solely to Trump’s secret Moscow deal, though Cohen did appear before the House Oversight Committee in February and testified that Trump had indirectly encouraged him to lie to congressional investigators about the project.
Sater tells Mother Jones that he has no objection to releasing the transcripts of his two sessions with the intelligence committee. And, he adds, he would like to testify publicly. Such a hearing could be explosive, if it places in the spotlight the secret negotiations Trump held for the Russian project as he ran for president. (Some Democrats have noted they have questions about Sater’s credibility—though there is no doubt about the fundamental elements of this episode: Sater spent months working with Cohen to broker this deal for Trump. And Sater has handed over to the committee records related to this project. )
Asked whether the House Intelligence Committee would release the transcripts of its sessions with Sater, a committee staffer provided this statement: “Mr. Sater still has not fully cooperated with the committee in providing documents we believe to be in his possession, and he remains under subpoena until he fully complies. We plan on releasing Mr. Sater’s transcript once that thread of our investigation is completed.” And this staffer adds, “We are still actively pursuing a number of open questions, including whether Mr. Sater played a role in assisting Michael Cohen to obstruct the committee’s investigation.”
This suggests that Sater is on the hot seat and possibly a target of the committee’s investigation. But Sater and his lawyer, Robert Wolf, deny he has withheld information, maintaining he has cooperated fully. In a statement sent to Mother Jones, Wolf says:
Over a month ago Mr. Sater completely produced all responsive documents requested by the subpoena and fully complied with the Committee’s July 30, 2019 letter requiring those documents be unredacted. In that same letter the Committee said they would address in separate correspondence Mr. Sater’s prior objections based upon attorney client privilege. However, no further correspondence has been received from the Committee in the last six weeks addressing the privilege objection. Nor has the Committee disputed the completeness of Mr. Sater’s production. In fact, there have been no communications whatsoever with the Committee since July 30th and obviously there have been no open questions directed to Mr. Sater.
Responding to Wolf’s assertions, the House Intelligence Committee staffer insists the previous statement “still is accurate” and says, “We have nothing additional to add.”
From the outside, it’s tough to determine the details of the conflict between Sater and the committee. But one thing is certain: The story of Trump’s secret dealings in Russia and the grand deception he pulled off about it during the 2016 campaign is more important than this dispute. That is a tale that still deserves the amplification and attention that congressional scrutiny and hearings can provide.
https://www.motherjones.com/politics/20 ... formation/