Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Saturday, April 7th, 2018.


In the Nooz: Pruitt, Kushner, Manafort

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Trump Maladministration

The AP reports:

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt’s concern with his safety came at a steep cost to taxpayers as his swollen security detail blew through overtime budgets and at times diverted officers away from investigating environmental crimes.

Altogether, the agency spent millions of dollars for a 20-member full-time detail that is more than three times the size of his predecessor’s part-time security contingent.

Pruitt is clearly a five-alarm flake. I recall that his background is entirely in law and Oklahoma politics, not in business. As much as I hold corporations and CEOs in disdain, I think even Exxon would have weeded this whackjob out.

Pruitt’s ambitious domestic and international travel led to rapidly escalating costs, with the security detail racking up so much overtime that many hit annual salary caps of about $160,000. The demands of providing 24-hour coverage even meant taking some investigators away from field work, such as when Pruitt traveled to California for a family vacation.

The EPA official said total security costs approached $3 million when pay is added to travel expenses.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said late Friday that Pruitt has faced an “unprecedented” amount of death threats against him and his family.

However,

A nationwide search of state and federal court records by AP found no case where anyone has been arrested or charged with threatening Pruitt. EPA’s press office did not respond Friday to provide details of any specific threats or arrests.

Pruitt has said his use of first-class airfare was initiated following unpleasant interactions with other travelers. In one incident, someone yelled a profanity as he walked through the airport.

Pruitt has been dragging this oversize security detail around with him on family vacations. The article also says that on occasions when Pruitt has to pay for his own plane tickets, he flies coach. Apparently he’s a five-alarm tightwad with his own money.  He got behind on paying the people who were giving him the sweet deal on the Capitol Hill brownstone, and he wasn’t taking their hints he should leave, so they changed the locks.

Now, on to Jared Kushner. Somehow, the Kushner Company got the money to buy out its partner in the 666 Fifth Avenue property.  Vornado Realty Trust is selling its shares to the Kushners. But no one seems to know if this means the Kushners have a new partner or where the money came from.  WTF? And why would the Kushners want to double down on this turkey?

Note also that JP Morgan Chase agreed to a $600 million loan to help the Kushners develop the Brooklyn properties I wrote about awhile back. Seems a bit risky, JP Morgan Chase.

Paul Manafort keeps trying to wriggle out of being prosecuted by Robert Mueller. He’s filed motions to dismiss the cases against him, none successful so far. Late yesterday he filed a motion arguing that evidence found in a storage unit should be suppressed because the FBI lacked a proper warrant.

The FBI first got into the Alexandria, Va. storage unit last May with the assistance of an employee who worked at two or more of Manafort’s companies, an agent told the federal magistrate judge who issued the warrant. Then, the agent used what he saw written on so-called Banker’s Boxes and the fact there was a five-drawer filing cabinet to get permission to return and seize many of the records. …

… The warrant U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan issued for the storage locker on May 27 authorized FBI agents to seize virtually any financial or tax records relating to Manafort or his business partner Rick Gates. Also approved for seizure were any records relating to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, his Party of Regions, a pro-Ukraine think tank called the European Center for a Modern Ukraine and a slew of offshore companies connected to Manafort.

The warrant also indicates that among the records FBI agents were authorized to seize from Manafort’s unit were all records “related to, discussing or documenting the Podesta Group.” Manafort engaged the Podesta Group for Ukraine-related lobbying. The lobbying group belatedly filed a foreign agent registration for that work last year. Earlier this year, the Podesta Group abruptly disbanded. It has not been charged.

Manafort’s lawyers are arguing that the employee was not authorized to allow anyone into the unit and that the warrant was overly broad. I’m no lawyer, but this seems a stretch.

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