Editor’s Blog

Is This How Avenatti Found Out?
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 16: Stormy Daniels'  lawyer Michael Avenatti arrives to the Federal Court hearing related to the FBI raid on Michael Cohen's hotel room and office on April 16, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

TPM Reader TH thinks he knows where Michael Avenatti got his amazingly specific details. And it sounds right to me …

I want to shed some light on tonight’s post re: Cohen/Avenatti, specifically this line:

“They’ve also confirmed the dollar amounts. So while we still don’t know where or how Avenatti got this information he must have had access to one of Cohen’s ledgers, a bank statement or perhaps an investigative document. The details are simply too specific.”

I work as an Anti-Money Laundering and Bank Secrecy Act Specialist at a financial institution. Every bank/credit union/etc will have someone who’s responsibility it is to examine transactions and file Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) with FinCEN, a department of the Treasury. This is what I do.

Read More

Tonight’s Staggering Revelations

Tonight we have what I’d say may be the most staggering revelations since the tangle of “Trump/Russia” investigations began almost two years ago. This is not hyperbole.

Late this afternoon Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti posted what he called a “Preliminary Report” on financial transactions of Michael Cohen. The claims were staggering. But this wasn’t a legal filing in which the attorneys in question need to vouch for their accuracy. For all the fancy language it was simply a press release, with no clear explanation of the basis for the various claims. (It’s an example of how TPM is in many ways a much more conservative operation than many mainstream media publications. Bloomberg for instance published basically all the claims even though they were clear that it could not independently verify them. To be clear, this is not necessarily a criticism. These are fact sets for which there is little obvious precedent.) In any case, the key claims are now being confirmed – in most cases to the letter. Read More

Must Read

An absolute must-read. Back in 2014, the Russian hackers who later meddled in the 2016 election were terrorizing US military spouses posing as ISIS militants.

This is Embarassing

Our new Secretary of State thinks Kim Jong Un is referred to as “Chairman Un”.

Today what we’re hoping to do is – there have been discussions between that day to now, and we’ve continued to develop both administratively and sort of begin to put some outlines around the substance of the agenda for the summit between the President and Chairman Un. And today we’re hoping to nail some of those down to say – to put in place a framework for a successful summit between the two presidents.

Trumps Play Rough, Don’t They?

Not long ago, Donald Trump Jr. and his wife Vanessa Trump announced they were divorcing. The divorce appears to be getting acrimonious. For decades Donald Trump used The New York Post as a press tool to pump up his brand and attack enemies. The New York press world and the high octane real estate families who are fodder and enablers of it are all notoriously corrupt. And now – surprise, surprise! – The Post appears to be in the lead with dramatic dirt on Trump’s estranged wife – specifically, that in high school she dated and had a years-long relationship with a member of the Latin Kings, a notoriously violent Latino street gang which is the bigger brother, as it were, of MS-13, the street gang with roots in Central America and among Central American immigrants which Donald Trump endlessly cites as an example of the need for his draconian immigration policies. Read More

Sneaky

Michigan wants to attach work requirements to Medicaid. But its plan for how to implement the requirements is under fire for favoring the state’s rural, white, poor over poor residents of color in urban areas. Alice Ollstein has more in our Weekly Primer on the battle over the future of Obamacare (Prime access), which rounds up all of this week’s developments on the health care front.

The Mystery Deepens

Yesterday we discussed reports that opponents of the Iran Nuclear Deal, or at least opponents of at least two former Obama administration foreign policy staffers, had hired the Israeli private intelligence firm Black Cube to spy on and run a black ops operation against these two men, Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl.

Now The New York Times has obtained a copy of the report. Read More

Staggering Accusations

Four women accuse New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of a range of sexual misconduct and abusive, violent behavior. The New Yorker has the story.

Stuff Got Weird

So we were contacted by someone purporting to be Black Cube. Read More

Rudy-BS-oPedia

Our Caitlin MacNeal worked through almost a week of Rudy Giuliani’s evolving BS explanations about the Stormy Daniels payoffs to help you make sense of the whole mess.

Take Three on Trump Dirty Tricks

I noted below that the Israeli private intelligence firm that Harvey Weinstein hired to dig up dirt and muzzle his accusers is now mounting some sort of operation against at least two Obama administration national security officials. The initial version of the story from The Guardian said they were hired by aides to President Trump. Another account from Ronan Farrow at The New Yorker went deeper but was less certain about who was paying the bill. One source told Farrow it was “part of Black Cube’s work for a private-sector client pursuing commercial interests related to sanctions on Iran.”

Now Black Cube is out with its third successive response to the story, which of course should be taken with some skepticism. Read More

Here’s Why We Care About Fima Shusterman

For a sense of why we may care about Michael Cohen and father-in-law Fima Shusterman’s massive loans to a cratering business, look at this passage from a book to be published tomorrow, which I strongly recommend purchasing.

This passage is from Trump/Russia: A Definitive History.

Those Stories About Cohens/Shustermans Lending $26 Million Are Probably Wrong
on April 26, 2018 in New York City.

This may seem a bit in the weeds. But if you’re trying to make sense of Michael Cohen’s role in all the money transactions being probed by the Feds, as well as the role of Fima Shusterman, his father-in-law, who appears to be his key connection into the Ukrainian immigrant money world, this is an important point.

There have been various reports that Cohen and Shusterman have loaned $26 million to the Shtayner family, another taxi baron family of Ukrainian immigrants who live in New York City but own a cab business based in Chicago. The story is that Cohen lent the Shtayner’s $6 million since 2012 and Fima Shusterman has lent them $20 million over the last eight months. This is the story according to the AP and also the weekend piece in the Times. Read More

GOP Fighting To Protect Right To Gerrymander

With the next round of redistricting approaching after the 2020 Census, we’re seeing powerful movements in a number of states to end gerrymandering and ensure districts are drawn more fairly.

So it’s no surprise, as Allegra Kirkland reports, that the GOP is mobilizing to protect their right to rig the maps.

The Dates Fit Together

I want to follow up on a point I made over the weekend: the Trump Family’s decisive turn to paying cash as opposed to financing their projects with debt starting in 2006 isn’t just an odd and hard to explain in itself. The shift also dovetails almost perfectly with his shift to reliance on money from Russia and Ukraine. 2006 is also the year when Michael Cohen went to work for the President. It’s also the year the Trump Soho development project got underway.

There are still some important qualifiers to the story. Read More

Stunning Developments on Trump/Private Black Ops Oppo Targeting Obama Staffers

We have a pretty stunning development about aides to Donald Trump apparently (though they deny it) hiring the same Israeli dirty ops/private intel firm that Harvey Weinstein used to cover up his history to mount an operation against public supporters of the Iran deal.

We start with this story in The Guardian. It’s very hedged and key details are not included. But the gist is that aides to Donald Trump hired an Israeli security firm to dig up dirt on two prominent supporters of the Iran nuclear deal. They are Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl, both Obama administration national security hands who were involved in the negotiation. They both continue to be prominent supporters of it into the Trump era. Last night I said that it sounded like Black Cube, the firm that surveilled and ran black ops operations against Harvey Weinstein’s accusers on his behalf. Read More

Where’s Rudy Getting the Money?

I mentioned a few days ago that just last March Rudy Giuliani went to Albania to speak before an Iranian exile group which is widely regarded as a cult and was for many years a US-government designated terrorist group. Giuliani is a long-time recipient of money (for speeches and lobbying) from the MEK and its various front groups. (There’s no word yet on what he was paid if anything for the March appearance.) Read More

onstage during the 7th Biennial UNICEF Ball on April 14, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California.
on February 23, 2018 in Washington, DC.
More Alabama Sheriff Craziness…

We recently wrote about Todd Entrekin, the Alabama sheriff accused of taking over $750,000 for inmates’ food and using it to buy a beach-house.

But when it comes to abuses of power, another sheriff in the state is giving Entrekin a run for his money. Ana Franklin took $160,000 also meant for inmates’ food and invested it in a sketchy used-car lot. She hasn’t accounted for an additional tens of thousands of dollars she said went to charity. And when a local blogger exposed her, she had the blogger’s source arrested.

Allegra Kirkland has the crazy details.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 28:  Former FBI director Robert Mueller attends the ceremonial swearing-in of FBI Director James Comey at the FBI Headquarters October 28, 2013 in Washington, DC. Comey was officially sworn in as director of FBI on September 4 to succeed Mueller who had served as director for 12 years.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Special Edition

We’ve seen an avalanche of news about the Trump legal team, the Stormy Daniels pay-off, the state of the Michael Cohen investigation and the President’s evolving legal jeopardy in the last 24 hours. It started yesterday afternoon with news about a shake up on the President’s legal team and spun out of control in that Rudy Giuliani interview on Hannity last night. We wanted to try to make sense of everything that happened, put it into a comprehensible whole. So we recorded a special “Extra” edition of The Josh Marshall Podcast this afternoon. Listen right here. And tell us what you think.

Rudy Went to Albania to Hang Out with A Iran Regime Change Cult (Really)

Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) is a notorious cult-like group of Iranian exiles which appears to have close to literally zero support inside Iran but has for years cultivated significant ties to DC Iran “regime change” advocates as well as a bipartisan list of shills willing to take their money (of which they have quite a lot).

It’s an odd group which mixes Islam, Marxism and neocon-inflected DC Pay-to-Play values into a bizarre amalgam run by current cult leader Maryam Rajavi. Until just a few years ago the US State Department listed them as a terrorist organization. They appear to be mainly out of the terrorism business now. But they’re still a treacherous and dangerous group. With all this you’ll be glad to learn that one of their biggest backers is none other than Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton. And perhaps they’re most high profile and ardent supporter (and recipient of their cash) is Rudy Giuliani. Read More

This Won’t End Well

House Chaplain ‘unresigns’, says Ryan aide objected to his being Catholic.

Late Update: Speaker Ryan caves almost instantly, unfires Chaplain, says his decision was based on “what I believed to be the best interest of this institution”