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Tea Leaves and Alpha Bank – UPDATED 11/1

Read this.  JUST. READ. IT.

The article, by Franklin Foer, published on Slate at 5:36 p.m., is titled “Was a Trump Server Communicating With Russia?”

This is big.  So big you’ll get sick of big.

Believe me.


UPDATE: This is a very long article, and I hadn’t finished it when I posted this.  Now that I’ve finished it, I seems extremely likely to me that this is the information that Harry Reid was referencing in his letter to Comey yesterday.  If so, this is just stunning–that the FBI has withheld this information from the public, yet Comey waited a nanosecond after learning of the emails on Weiner’s computer to announce it to the public even without knowing what they actually were.

Did Comey know last Friday that this news was about to break?  Did that play into his decision to make that information public?

The plot sickens.  In any event, it does seem that the info Reid wanted so badly to become public, now has, as of tonight.  This is the “explosive information” that he was referencing in that letter.  Near the end of the Foer article, he discusses the role that two NYT reporters, Eric Lichtblau an Steven Lee Myers, who also were chasing the story, played in the actual substantive events in September when they made their investigation known to Alpha Bank.  And the Times reporters were in contact with Foer today, right after the Slate article was published. There should be a major story on this in tomorrow’s Times; I would think so, anyway.

But I hope one of these journalists, or another one, asks the computer scientists they’ve been working with if they think there’s a way to determine whether the same crowd that is communicating via the setup described in the article also played  role in the appearance of tens of thousands of Huma Amedin’s personal emails on the hard drive of Weiner’s computer.  And whether that is why Trump suddenly late last summer started claiming that Weiner had access to Abedin’s State Dept. emails.

Tomorrow should be an interesting day.

Added 10/31 at 10:14 p.m.



SECOND UPDATE: Reader Noni Mausa and I just exchanged these comments in the Comments thread this morning:

Noni Mausa / November 1, 2016 10:06 am

I have wondered for some years how long it will be till computer files, images, and emails lose their evidential status, given the expanding abilities of hackers — the digital equivalent of planting drugs or stolen goods in someone’s home is becoming rapidly more plausible.

As for the NYT article, I of course have no firsthand knowledge, (how many of us do? that’s why we have reporters). but the bona fides of the hacker-hunters sound bona fide to me. If messages of some sort were passing between a large Russian bank and Trump’s headquarters, with their frequency responsive to electoral events stateside, at the very least this seems an indication of common interests, whether financial or political. Even if they were “innocently” tied to ordinary financial dealings, this is still of deep concern when the presidency comes into it.

I dare say, since the dedicated mutual traffic on the server on Trump’s end has now gone dark, we will probably not be able to ever know the details of the Trump-Alfa conversation. Stay tuned for another half-dozen conspiracy theories, of which one, the least plausible, will be true, plus at least two major motion pictures.


Me / November 1, 2016 10:26 am

Wow. Noni, you raise a really interesting point about the Trump server. Based on all that stuff reported about retrieving stuff from Clinton’s server, I think the FBI COULD retrieve info from that server.

Soooo … if this is the stuff Reid WAS referring to by “explosive information” that the FBI is sitting on, has the FBI sought a search warrant to confiscate the server? If nor, why not? And if the FBI did NOT know of the server–something that seems unlikely, given that at least one of the scientists who provided the info to Foer, the Slate journalist, apparently works as a contractor for the FBI, and given that these scientists have been trying since last June to attract some media attention to their Reddit posts–will the FBI NOW IMMEDIATELY REQUEST A SEARCH WARRANT TO CONFISCATE THE SERVER? AND WILL THE FBI, UM, ANNOUNCE THAT, BEFORE THE ELECTION?

Harry Reid should hold a press conference on this. TODAY.

Updated 11/1 at 11:05 a.m.

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Trump suggests to undocumented immigrants that they quickly pool their savings and use the funds to buy real estate in extremely leveraged deals* in order to avoid paying back taxes (or income taxes at all) once they become legal residents during a Trump administration. And Eric Trump agrees!

In what would be a stunning reversal on an issue central to his candidacy, Donald Trump floated a possible process to allow undocumented immigrants to remain in America in a town hall that aired Wednesday.

“No citizenship,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity in an interview taped Tuesday afternoon in Austin, Texas. “Let me go a step further — they’ll pay back-taxes, they have to pay taxes, there’s no amnesty, as such, there’s no amnesty, but we work with them.”

Trump said he was moved by concerns from fans who opposed his previous calls for a “deportation force” to remove all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.

Donald Trump Openly Weighs a Massive Immigration Reversal, Benjy Sarlin,, today [h/t Greg Sargent)

Meanwhile, son Eric helpfully instructed yesterday that tax returns don’t show anything instructive about such things as who, or what entities, actually are funding the purchases of this real estate, how many times refinancing has occurred and how it occurred, who or what entities own partnership interests (and what those interests are), and whether they are profitable and, if so, how much is paid in taxes on that income.  Politico’s Tyler Pager reported yesterday:

“There is no tax attorney in the world who will tell you to release your tax returns while you’re under a standard, routine audit,” Eric Trump said on CNBC. “It would never happen. Anybody who thinks that is in La-La Land. … It would be foolish to do.”

Eric Trump added that he is the biggest proponent of his father not releasing his tax returns.

“His tax return, did you see the Twitter picture, it’s 5 feet tall,” he said. “You would have a bunch of people who know nothing about taxes trying to look through and trying to come up with assumptions they know nothing about.”

Donald Trump’s tax returns have become a key campaign issue with Democrats hammering him for not disclosing them and saying the returns could reveal hidden business interests, particularly with Russia. Warren Buffett, the billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, has publicly challenged Trump to release his tax returns, saying he will release his own if Trump does.

Still, Eric Trump maintained he does not think his father should release them.

“You learn a lot more when you look at somebody’s assets,” he said. “You know how many hotels we have around the world. You know how many golf courses we have around the world. You know every single building we have.”

“We have,” of course, appears to be loosely defined here.  But what we do know, courtesy of Eric’s brother Donald Jr., is that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” and that “[w]e see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”  Or at least this was so in 2008, when Donald Jr. disclosed this to his audience when speaking at a real estate conference.

No one need wonder who suggested that Trump hire Paul Manafort to run his campaign, decades after Manafort had stopped being a Republican Party operative.  But that’s in the past.

The future, by contrast, holds big things for undocumented immigrants. Multimillions of dollars in tax-free income.  At least if they become real estate developers.

Eric’s given away the secret that the Trump University professors withheld.  And he did it without even charging tuition.

There does remain that little question of how to go about having unpaid back taxes count for future real estate purchases under the tax code.  But if the newly-documented immigrants hire accountants and tax lawyers recommended by Trump’s accountants and tax lawyers, this shouldn’t prove difficult.

And for a partnership interest in the real estate, Trump surely will have his accountants and lawyers provide names.


*ADDENDUM: About one of those extremely leveraged real estate deals:

“I don’t settle lawsuits — very rare — because once you settle lawsuits, everybody sues you,” he said recently.

But Mr. Trump made an exception when buyers of units in Trump SoHo, a 46­ story luxury condominium­hotel in Lower Manhattan, asserted that they had been defrauded by inflated claims made by Mr. Trump, his children and others of brisk sales in the struggling project. He and his co­defendants settled the case in November 2011, agreeing to refund 90 percent of $3.16 million in deposits, while admitting no wrongdoing.

The backdrop to that unusual denouement was a gathering legal storm that threatened to cast a harsh light on how he did business. Besides the fraud accusations, a separate lawsuit claimed that Trump SoHo was developed with the undisclosed involvement of convicted felons and financing from questionable sources in Russia and Kazakhstan.

And hovering over it all was a criminal investigation, previously unreported, by the Manhattan district attorney into whether the fraud alleged by the condo buyers broke any laws, according to documents and interviews with five people familiar with it. The buyers initially helped in the investigation, but as part of their lawsuit settlement, they had to notify prosecutors that they no longer wished to do so.

The criminal case was eventually closed. Mr. Trump’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination rests on the notion, relentlessly promoted by the candidate himself, that his record of business deals has prepared him better than his rivals for running the country. An examination of Trump SoHo provides a window into his handling of one such deal and finds that decisions on important matters like whom to become partners with and how to market the project led him into a thicket of litigation and controversy.

Trump SoHo is one of several instances in which Mr. Trump’s boastfulness — a hallmark of his career and his campaign — has been accused of crossing the line into fraud.

Donald Trump Settled a Real Estate Lawsuit, and a Criminal Case Was Closed, Mike McIntyre, New York Times, Apr. 5, 2016

For me this general election campaign has been an exercise in frustration and dismay at the failure of Clinton and her campaign to apprise the public of critically important things about Trump that they don’t already know.  Like Trump’s monetary motive for his coziness with Putin, and his methods of financing his real estate empire that included bank fraud and partnerships with corrupt foreigners.  Things that make the Clintons’ self-dealing and misrepresentations to the public look utterly inconsequential by comparison.

And like what billionaire is backing Trump financially and calling the campaign shots, and would be calling the shots in a Trump administration.  And what those shots would be.

Whatever favors Clinton did as Secretary of State for Clinton Foundation donors, they were trivial in that they had nothing to do with making or changing government policy, it appears.  And the Clintons’ rapacious money mongering didn’t defraud banks or individuals.  And while it served their personal financial interests well, their foundation did have the effect of actually doing some real good on fairly widespread scale.  The Clintons, in other words, aren’t sociopaths.  Trump is.

Finally—finally—now, Clinton is angry enough about Trump’s statements about Clinton Foundation/State Department connection that she’s willing to depart from her campaign’s strategy of telling the public what they already know about Trump, but nothing else, because informing voters about the stuff they don’t know would require a slightly complex discussion.  Telling people what they already know is quick and easy and soundbite-y.  So it’s what her highly paid consultants and top campaign staff advise.

But in a stark, sudden and surprising departure, Clinton is about to begin educating the public about something somewhat complex, something that requires that she tell them things about Trump that they don’t already know.  She’s about to explain the alt-right, apparently in some actual depth, and illustrate that Trump is the alt-right’s candidate because he himself is alt-right.

So is his billionaire.  The public has no idea he has one, much less what the billionaire’s specific agenda is.  And if Clinton finally is ready to tell the public that, yes, Trump has his very own billionaire supporting his campaign with many millions of dollars, she will get some help from John McCain, who obviously reads Angry Bear even if Clinton and her campaign folks don’t.  Although, of course, it’s more accurate to describe the relationship as one in which the billionaire has his very own presidential nominee.

Addendum added 8/25 at 4:07 p.m.

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The Most Successful Trojan Horse Since the Trojan War

A key to beating Trump is to point out that on fiscal and other domestic policy at least, the election contest will not be to determine whether there will be another President Clinton or instead a President Trump.  There will be either a new President Clinton or a President Manafort.

Every time Trump tries to hint at the beginning of a back-away from Conservative Movement fiscal and other domestic policy, and toward some genuine economic-populist fiscal and anti-Chamber of Commerce regulatory policy, Edgar Bergen, er, [longtime Republican operative and current Trump campaign chief] Paul Manafort, quickly aborts it.

This will be a source of amusement for me going forward, although less so if Clinton fails to note this early and often, whether for fear of losing campaign donations or otherwise.  And less so still if she appears to be running as President Manafort Light.

— Me, here, May 9

Call me prescient.  Or just observant.  In contrast to my own party’s standard-bearer-in-waiting. Who is not.

A dismaying hallmark of Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been her penchant for highlighting the obvious or the already-very-well-known.  That she’s a woman and would be the first woman president, for example.  And that Donald Trump has campaigned on xenophobia and racism, is a blatant misogynist, has invited violence toward protesters at his rallies, and is pretty clearly mentally unbalanced, for another.  The theory is that the public needs to be told or reminded of these things because they’re unaware of them or have forgotten them, see.

Yet, hiding from the public, but (presumably) in plain sight of Clinton and her campaign for more than a half-year, has been Trump’s extreme-supply-side tax plan, posted suddenly on his website last October after months of intimating a preference for anti-supply-side, far more progressive tax policy. Reversing himself, dramatically but quietly, that proposal out-supply-sided, out-fiscal-regressive’d the Koch brothers’ candidates’ proposals, in order to fend off a threatened torrent of anti-Trump ads by a Koch-affiliated super PAC.  Which he did.

Trump’s intended audience, the Kochs, et al., of course have known of that tax proposal since the day he posted it on his campaign’s website.  But since he never mentioned it at his rallies or in interviews, his supporters didn’t.  And they still don’t, because Trump has avoided telling them, and so has Hillary Clinton.

True to form, Clinton sticks mainly to her stock in trade: anti-anti-women, anti-anti-ethnic-and-racial-animus.  A.k.a. identity politics.  Important issues, of course.  But so is supply-side, extremely regressive fiscal policy.  She knows that everyone knows Trump’s campaign positions and conduct concerning the first set of issues, and that very few people know of his tax proposal.  Yet she remains mum on the latter.  Notwithstanding that all she actually needs to do to win in November is inform the public of the latter.  At least until, I had feared, Trump withdraws his Heritage Foundation-inspired tax proposal, slapped together by adopting Jeb Bush’s and just increasing the size of the tax cuts for the wealthy, and began once again intimating support for a more progressive tax code than the current one.

And for about 24 hours late last week, after vacillating between trying to unify the party (via supply-side fiscal policy) and telling the party to go to hell (reversing himself on his supply-side tax proposal), he hinted at the first steps toward a reversal, prompted by Paul Ryan’s refusal to indicate support for Trump.  But faced with the immediate need to decide to largely self-fund his general-election campaign or instead be coopted by the party’s establishment, he opted for cooptation.

Hook, line … and sinker.  Explicitly.  Very publicly.  And with the vigor of a genuine convert, in a burning-his-bridges interview on CNN on Monday.  Reiterated even more clearly to The New York Times’ The Upshot blogger Peter Eavis later Monday.  Eavis writes today:

The 1 percent can breathe a small collective sigh of relief.

Hillary Clinton’s platform contains many new taxes for the wealthy, and in recent days it seemed that Donald Trump might be moving in the same direction. When asked Sunday on “Meet the Press” about taxing the rich, Mr. Trump said: “For the wealthy, I think, frankly, it’s going to go up. And you know what? It really should go up.”

He now says he wasn’t talking about the current income tax rate for people in the highest bracket, which is 39.6 percent. If he had been, it would have been a big move for Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, to push that rate higher. His official tax plan envisions a top rate of 25 percent. In a phone interview on Monday, I sought clarification from Mr. Trump on his remarks about raising taxes on the rich. I asked him whether the highest earners would be paying more than 39.6 percent if he were president.

“No, in fact, you’d be lower than that,” Mr. Trump said.

But how, given that he had said that taxes would be going up for the wealthy? Mr. Trump explained that he meant he might have to accept a top tax rate that is higher than the 25 percent his plan calls for. To get his tax plans through Congress, he would probably have to compromise, but even after such concessions, the top rate would be lower than it is now, he said.

The title of Eavis’s post? “Donald Trump’s Plan to Raise Taxes on Rich: Just Kidding.”

That is all Clinton needs to win against Trump.  That’s it.  It also probably is all the Democrats need in order to win control of both houses of Congress.  Yet Clinton thinks triangulation is the way to go right now.  So, mum’s the word.  And I guess will continue to be.

Old habits die hard.  Or don’t die at all.

For all her habitual blow-with-the-winds, follow-the-crowd positioning, Clinton is remarkably slow in recognizing a change in the direction in which the crowd is going.

Her campaign reportedly is ringing its hands today that it, and she, must continue to fight a primary contest that she has already effectively won, rather than redirecting her campaign fully toward the general election.  By which she and her campaign mean rebutting Trump on what Trump rebuts himself on month after month.  And, reportedly, apprising the public of things in Trump’s background that no part of the general public knows about and that have nothing directly to do with actual policy preferences and proposals.  But they do not mean making known to the blue-collar Rust Belt voters who will determine the outcome of the result in, say, Ohio and Pennsylvania that Trump is proposing and vowing not to back away from a plan to dramatically reduce federal taxes for the very wealthy.

And it probably will not mean noting that he’s now mouthing, word-for-word, the Mitt Romney/Club for Growth lines about jobs creators needing very low taxes so that they can create jobs.  Or pay more in dividends, stock buybacks and executive bonuses. 

Tomorrow, behind closed doors with Paul Ryan & Friends, he will swear fealty to Mitt Romney’s platform.  And not just the part written literally, it turns out, by the Heritage Foundation and CNBC!  Also the part written by the Federalist Society. Including on Supreme Court and lower-court appointments.  Suffice it to say that his promise to hand Supreme Court and lower federal court appointments back to the Federalist Society would bode well for the Koch legal agenda.  And for the continued life of Citizens United.

For unions and people who aren’t so fond of Wall Street, though, not so much.

This all can be said to the public in a few sentences—most of them quotes from those two interviews, one of them videotaped and readily available.  There’s Trump, himself, saying these things.  This is what unifying “the party” means.  The price of running a modern general election campaign is this.  Literally.  And figuratively.   The pundits and Hillary Clinton have their eye on the red herring.

This candidate is the ultimate 0.1% proxy–potentially the most successful Trojan Horse since the Trojan War.  Trump has perfected to a science the art of the deal.

Clinton can begin saying these things now.  She doesn’t have to wait until the end of the primary season to begin saying them.  Her super PACs don’t, either.  And Bernie Sanders’ supporters won’t object.

Trust me.  I’m one of them.

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What Bernie Sanders is doing to help Hillary Clinton [UPDATED]

One charge against Sanders by the likes of Paul Krugman that I just could not abide—there were others, but this post is about this one—was that while Clinton was actively soliciting campaign funds for the Democratic Party to use for down-ballot candidates, Sanders was not.  In a post here about that a couple of weeks ago I pointed out that Sanders and his campaign will be playing a large role both in soliciting campaign funds from ordinary individuals for down-ballot campaigns—especially congressional campaigns—simply through’s huge database of Sanders donors, and that in fact those solicitations already had begun. is the organization that Sanders donors use to make their donations.

I also said that Sanders will play a large part in garnering support for Senate and House candidates simply by noting as he campaigns with candidates that he remains a senator and he, Elizabeth Warren and the other few real progressives in Congress need a Democratic-controlled Congress for their policy proposals to get heard in Congress.

Today I received this email message:

Beverly —

As Democrats, we believe that no one who works hard every day should have to live in poverty because they’re paid a minimum wage that’s too low. We know that climate change is a challenge we must confront. We believe no young person should have to spend so much on a college education that they end up shackled by years of debt.

And we know that we can never, never allow Donald Trump to become President of the United States.

Will you donate $3 or more today to help keep that from happening and to elect Democrats who will fight for everything we believe in?

If you’ve saved your payment information, your donation will go through immediately.






Or donate another amount.
Any Republican president would put President Obama’s progress on economic security in danger, make moves to repeal health care reform that millions of Americans are now relying on, and try to move backwards on the steps we’ve taken these past seven years to make our country more equal and more fair.

But it’s clear that Trump — with his repugnant attitude toward women, immigrants, Muslim-Americans, and pretty much anyone he comes across — is the worst of the bunch.

We’re going to be going up against him this fall. So right now, I’m asking you to pitch in $3 or whatever you can so that we can stop Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans:

Thank you,



Paid for by the Democratic National Committee, 430 South Capitol Street SE, Washington DC 20003 and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. Contributions or gifts to the Democratic National Committee are not tax deductible.

There is, I believe, no way that the Clinton campaign would have my email address—that ActBlue would forward it to the Clinton campaign—unless the Sanders campaign agreed at the Clinton campaign’s request to allow it.

Me?  I’m delighted.  I’m with him.  But I’m also now with her.  There’s no conflict there; she will be the nominee, and he will play a large role in policy matters, during the campaign and during the Clinton administration.

As for the message itself, I think the tone was pretty near perfect at this stage, as an opener.

I think Clinton has made some serious blunders in the last few days.  I have no idea why, for example, she thinks she needs to do anything affirmative to gain the votes of moderate Republicans, least of all by rehashing what everyone already knows about Trump.  Just as I don’t know why she thinks women who place a great deal of importance on electing a woman as president need to reminded that she is one and if elected will be the first.  I don’t share her fondness for highlighting the obvious or the already-very-well-known.

And her decision to court, in personal phone solicitations, no less, Republican donors, as the NYT reported two or three days ago—Wall Street ones and others—is stupefying.  Money for TV ads and the like will be far less important than handing Trump, who apparently now expects to be mostly self-funding his campaign because there aren’t all that many Republican donors who want him elected, such tangible campaign arguments to make in his own TV commercials and at his rallies and in interviews.  Trump is a New Yorker; he probably reads the New York Times.  (Well, okay, Paul Manafort probably reads the New York Times.)

Like ordinary voters—actually, even more so, probably—these donors will decide to support Clinton, or not, based not on Clinton but on Trump.  But that is less likely to be so for many Sanders supporters than for most other voters.  Her campaign priorities are skewed here, illustrating yet again her lack of agility in recognizing the differences between this campaign year and, well, others.  Jeb Bush had record amounts of money.

But this post is about Bernie Sanders and his campaign.  And I’m happy that he and it took the step they took.

And I’ll offer this tip to Clinton now that I’m WithHer: A key to beating Trump is to point out that on fiscal and other domestic policy at least, the election contest will not be to determine whether there will be another President Clinton or instead a President Trump.  There will be either a new President Clinton or a President Manafort.

Every time Trump tries to hint at the beginning of a back-away from Conservative Movement fiscal and other domestic policy, and toward some genuine economic-populist fiscal and anti-Chamber of Commerce regulatory policy, Edgar Bergen, er, Paul Manafort, quickly aborts it.

This will be a source of amusement for me going forward, although less so if Clinton fails to note this early and often, whether for fear of losing campaign donations or otherwise.  And less so still if she appears to be running as President Manafort Light.


UPDATE:  Yikes.  Yves Smith posted this comment at Naked Capitalism:

What Bernie Sanders is doing to help Hillary Clinton Beverly Mann, Angry Bear. I am posting this only because I am just about certain this is wrong. Mann is almost certainly correct on her opening point, Sanders will help on downticket Democratic party races, but I assume he will help only ideologically aligned Dems, not the remaining Blue Dogs. But if these Congresscritters are to the left of Clinton, they could serve to keep her honest (or more accurately, less dishonest) rather than “help” her. But I am certain she is wrong about her getting an anti-Trump DNC message via Bernie sharing his list with her. First, I am told by someone in the Sanders operation that Sanders will not do that (although there is the risk that his list is hacked or stolen). Second, I have given to Sanders via ActBlue and have gotten no such message. Third, as a blogger, I have gotten DNC propaganda upon occasion, including solicitations, before I gave to Sanders (and I haven’t given to anyone save a couple of locals via check since I gave a mere $20 to Obama as a result of seeing Palin’s acceptance speech). Every time I unsubscribe. Mann has written often about Clinton and Sanders, so I suspect she got added to the list that way.

Sooo … I was wrong in my assumption about the underlying source of that DNC email to me.

Meanwhile, reader EMichael linked in the Comments thread to this article today by Matthew Yglesias at Vox.  I responded to EMichael’s comment:

Nice article. Thanks for linking to it. I don’t read Vox; I don’t care much for it. So I probably wouldn’t have known of the article otherwise.

I’m really glad to see someone with a high profile say what I, a low-profile type, have been saying here at AB for weeks now.

The Yglesias article is titled “The real reason Bernie Sanders will enthusiastically back Hillary Clinton in November.”

So I guess the bottom line is that Sanders indeed is helping Clinton, just not directly.  Not yet.

Added 5/10 at 12:14 p.m.

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