A Sign of the Times; or, Fascists R Us

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco was an Italian composer whose work was banned by Mussolini’s government because he was a Jew. With help from Arturo Toscanini and Jascha Heifetz, he was able to immigrate to the United States in 1939, first living in New York and then in Los Angeles. He would go on to write the film scores for more than 200 MGM movies, and his film score work is said to have been a significant influence on Henry Mancini, Nelson Riddle, Herman Stein and André Previn. Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s extensive oeuvre also includes choral music for Jewish sacred services, operas, and concertos, some commissioned by artists such as Heifetz and Gregor Piatigorsky.

Today, Castelnuovo-Tedesco is especially remembered for his exquisite compositions for guitar, many written for his friend and supporter Andrés Segovia. And that brings me to the topic of this blog.

Renata Arlotti is a young classical guitarist from Italy who has performed with major music institutions (such as the Royal Academy in London) and in prestigious music festivals throughout Europe. Her first CD was dedicated to Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and she was invited to the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles (Istituto Di Cultura — Los Angeles) to perform a concert also dedicated to Castelnuovo-Tedesco.

Today she announced on Facebook that her U.S. debut is canceled because Trump’s State Department wouldn’t give her a visa. In her own words:

When I tried to get my visa to the USA, it was denied to me because last year I went to play in Tehran and took part to “Tehran Contemporary Music Festival”.

Being in the category of people that went to Iran after 2011, I am now not allowed to go to the USA unless I go through an interview at the American Embassy (which is to be held in my native country, Italy, although I live in London), unless I pay 12 times more the price of a regular Visa and wait quite a few time in order to get it, provided I am successful with the interview.

As there wasn’t time enough to go through all this process and I couldn’t take a flight to Rome or Milan, the journey I was really waiting for is now not possible anymore.

The Istituto Di Cultura — Los Angeles offered her another concert date to give her time to get the visa, so the concert may yet happen, but it’s not certain.

(Update) Here’s a YouTube video of Arlotti playing a rondo by Castelnuovo-Tedesco.

I learned about the cancellation from a Facebook friend who is a grandson of Castelnuovo-Tedesco, who wrote, “My grandfather was lucky to flee fascism in Italy, and now an artist from Italy can’t come here to pay tribute to him (almost 80 years later) because of our government.”

Yep, this is happening in America.

Renata Arlotti

Renata Arlotti

Court Orders Scott Walker to Straighten Up and Act Like a Governor.

Charles Pierce explains:

Republican majorities in the Wisconsin legislature gerrymandered the state so badly that even this Supreme Court gagged on the result. In addition, two seats in the state legislature came open and Walker was required by law to call special elections to fill them. Given the pasting Republicans have taken in similar elections around the country, this did not fill Walker and his pet legislature with either optimism or glee. So, he simply refused to call the elections.

Last week, however, a judge that Walker appointed told him to get the Koch Brothers’ mitts off his puppet strings and call the elections. This occasioned a week of huffing and blowing all throughout the capitol in Madison. The legislature has before it a bill that would eliminate the special elections on the grounds that the Republicans might lose them. (I’m paraphrasing here.) Meanwhile, Walker appealed the previous court’s decision and, on Wednesday, another court in Dane County slapped him down.

Walker has apparently decided to not push the matter further and to schedule the elections. But this morning he had a Trump-style twitter hissy fit. Allegra Kirkland writes at TPM:

In a Thursday morning tweetstorm, the Republican governor blamed “liberals from Washington, D.C.” and Holder, whose national redistricting group sued Walker to force him to schedule the races.

“Obama Attorney General Eric Holder and his Washington, D.C.-based special interest group are behind the legal push to force Wisconsin taxpayers to pay for special elections for seats that will be filled in a few months in the normal elections,” Walker wrote.

In subsequent tweets, Walker claimed Holder’s National Redistricting Foundation had only intervened to boost its profile and raise money ahead of the fall midterms.

However, Eric Holder didn’t hand down the court decisions.

Stuff to Read

John Paul Stevens argues for repealing the 2nd Amendment. I’ve been saying for years that if the gun people refuse to compromise, eventually there will be nothing left to do but repeal the 2nd Amendment. Well, folks, now I’m starting to see people talk about it. I don’t see it happening soon, but continued obstinance on the part of gun rights people will lead to the 2nd being amended or repealed eventually. And that will be on them.

The NRA admits if accepts foreign money. It does not admit to funneling that money into anyone’s election campaign.

“The impulse to live luxuriously on taxpayer dollars has become a pattern for this administration. ” See “A Cabinet of Conspicuous Corruption.”

Did Putin finally go too far?

The Downside of Being POTUS

David Frum writes,

Back when he was a private businessman, Trump learned how to use law as a weapon. The lesson he took from that is that if your pockets are deep enough—and your conscience dull enough—it doesn’t matter that you are wrong. The other party will go broke before you will lose.

USA Today tallied the heavy-handed Trump litigation strategy back in June 2016. Over three decades, Trump fought 3,500 lawsuits—and faced 200 mechanic’s liens—mostly arising from disputes over unpaid bills. His strategy was to contest everything, and never quit: “The Trump teams financially overpower and outlast much smaller opponents, draining their resources. Some just give up the fight, or settle for less; some have ended up in bankruptcy or out of business altogether.”

As president, however—and especially as a historically unpopular president—Trump has abruptly discovered that his old techniques no longer work. Worse: The old techniques now work against him.

The new bottom line: If you are famous enough—and disliked enough—it doesn’t matter whether you are right. The other party will become world-famous and super-wealthy before you can win.

I have looked and looked for an example of a sitting president suing anybody. It doesn’t seem ever to have happened.

I didn’t watch the Stormy Daniels interview, but from what I read she was very credible. Frum doesn’t address her allegation that she was threatened; he thinks she is entirely motivated by money. Whatever Daniels is about, however, Frum is right that Trump has lost part of his leverage. Further, any public official — especially a president — forfeits most rights to sue for defamation that a private citizen enjoys.

Trump is too thick to realize this, and his couple of third-string lawyers don’t seem all that sharp, either.

Greg Sargent wrote today,

President Trump has boundless faith in his ability to survive any financial, political, legal or public relations mess, by resorting to what philosopher Harry Frankfurt famously described as “bulls–––.” Time and again over the years, he has fallen back on his trademark tactics: bluffing with abandon; suing to overwhelm his antagonists with legal bills; fighting back as hard as possible, solely to dissuade future foes; flooding the media zone with confusion-sowing falsehoods; and, above all, never admitting to error, wrongdoing or deliberate lying.

But now, with Stormy Daniels speaking out about Trump — even as Trump’s legal team is falling apart, just as the Mueller probe is set to hit its climax — it’s hard to escape the sense that Trump’s titanic talent for bulls––––ing may be faltering in the face of the crush of events he now faces.

He doesn’t seem to have appreciated the fact that he’s lived his life as a cartoon character on the edges of popular culture, where he wasn’t under that much scrutiny. Now he’s the center of the world’s attention. And also the attention of Bob Mueller.

Trump continues to approach the Mueller probe as a P.R. problem — i.e., one that he and his allies can bluster their way out of in conventional Trumpian fashion — rather than as something potentially a lot worse. Remember, this comes just as Trump and what’s left of his legal team are trying to decide whether Trump should sit for an interview with Mueller. Trump has repeatedly said he relishes facing Mueller, and the lawyer advising caution — John Dowd — is now gone.  Trump’s instinct to bluff and bluster his way through the Mueller probe is more likely to go unchecked — even as he is less likely to fully prepare for the very real legal perils an interview will pose.

In the words of the formidable Fran Lebowitz, “Everyone says he is crazy – which maybe he is – but the scarier thing about him is that he is stupid. You do not know anyone as stupid as Donald Trump. You just don’t.” If he is ever interviewed by Mueller, there will be no contest. Trump won’t be prepared. Trump won’t be able to bluff or bluster. Mueller will own his ass.

See also Jennifer Rubin, “There’s No Plan.”

When Is a Terrorist Not a Terrorist? (And Other Stuff)

A young white guy has been identified as the Austin bomber. Mark Anthony Conditt, 24, blew himself up this morning as police closed in on him.

Yesterday the White House released the opinion that the Austin bombings had “no connection to terrorism,” in spite of the fact that the people of Austin were justified in feeling terrorized. I wonder if Austin police had already told them they had a suspect who was a white homeboy.

Here’s some good news — Breitbart’s readership plunges.

Trump can be sued in court. From New Republic:

Summer Zervos, a former Apprentice contestant, sued Trump in January 2017 for repeatedly describing her as a liar on the campaign trail. She told the court that she suffered emotional damage and financial losses as a result of his attacks on her reputation. Trump and his lawyers argued in December that allowing the case to proceed in New York’s courts would violate the Constitution’s supremacy clause. Placing a sitting president at the mercy of a state court would raise serious federalism concerns, they warned.

Judge Jennifer Schecter rejected that argument on Tuesday. “No one is above the law,” she wrote in an 18-page opinion. The U.S. Supreme Court previously held in the 1997 case Clinton v. Jones that a sitting president isn’t immune from civil lawsuits in federal courts pertaining to his non-official conduct; Schecter ruled that the high court’s logic applied to cases in state courts as well.

See also Cambridge Analytica and its many scandals, explained. This is a big deal.

Illinois Primary Today

Illinois primary today. Thanks goodness.

I’ve been watching the campaign from the other side of the Big Muddy, where I can see television ads run on St. Louis-area stations. Illinois, like New York, has long been weighted down by old party boss-style politics and corruptions in which both parties are complicit. The sitting Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, has done a heckofa job standing in the way of doing anything that might, you know, make things better. He ought to be very vulnerable.

Rauner does nothing but run negative ads. His negative ads against his primary opponent, Jeanne Ives, featured clips of her allegedly saying nice things about the Democratic speaker of the Illinois House, Mike Madigan. (Madigan is one of those “permanent” politicians. He has been in Illinois politics for so long one suspects he was around when Illinois was still the Northwest Territory. I think they built the statehouse around him.) Rauner’s video clips of Ives were so obviously and badly edited I wondered if they were produced by Project Veritas. I’m sorry I can’t find any videos of them, but they’re really stupid ads. In any event, the ads had the effect of making Ives seem sympathetic and reasonable until I saw one of her ads against Rauner, which was downright unhinged.

What can one say but … OMG. Seriously, that is a real campaign ad. It isn’t a spoof.

Possibly afraid that Rauner’s ads against Ives were too soft and ineffectual, the Democratic Governor’s Assocation made this one:

Seem noteworthy that the Democratic Governor’s Association would take sides in a Republican primary, but there it is.

There are three men running for the Democratic nomination. Any of them would be an improvement on Rauner or Ives, but I’m guessing the least desirable one will be elected. J.B. Pritzker, heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, has blanketed the state with an incessant television ad campaign that’s been going on for months. And they are very good ads, well produced and positive, showing all kinds of real folks talking about how J.B. is a great guy. Pritzker has spent $70 million of his own money on those ads, it says here. He took a hit a few weeks ago when Rauner released tapes of an old phone conversation between Pritzker and former governor and current convict, Rod Blagojevich. Pritzker can be heard recommending another politician for an appointment because “it covers you on the African-American thing.” But this appears to have been smoothed over.

The other two Democratic candidates are Chris Kennedy, son of Bobby of Blessed Memory; and state Sen. Daniel Biss, who is the most progressive of the three and who is backed by Our Revolution Illinois.  But I haven’t heard a peep about either guy in all these months of campaigning. I assume they are more visible from within Illinois.

There is a surprising shortage of polling for these races, but I’m guessiing we’re looking at Rauner versus Pritzker in the fall.

Update: I forgot to mention that today Illinois has a shot at getting rid of one of the worst Blue Dogs in the House.

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) spent much of his career antagonizing his own party as an outspoken pro-life advocate who has been hostile to gay rights and has voted against Democratic priorities from the DREAM Act to Obamacare to Planned Parenthood funding. After more than a decade representing a safely Democratic seat stretching from Chicago’s Southwest Side out to largely working-class suburbs, he’s facing the toughest primary challenge of his career from former ad executive Marie Newman, a staunch liberal whose campaign has gotten a major boost from a constellation of national progressive groups seeking his ouster.

Go, Marie Newman!

Update: It will be Rauner vs. Pritzker in November; Pritzker should win easily. Lipinski,  alas, won in a squeaker over Marie Newman.

Trump Convicts Himself, Tweet by Tweet

Trump won’t shut up. These tweets are from yesterday:

And these are from this morning:

Does an innocent man say stuff like this? For that matter, does a guilty man who isn’t dumber than a pair of socks say stuff like this? As Andrew McCabe explained,

“This is part of an effort to discredit me as a witness,” he told the Times.

“Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey,” McCabe said in a public statement.

Well, yeah; the blind could see it. So will any future grand juries. Or judges.

Trump  has not been so direct in attacking Mueller himself before now, probably on advice of counsel. Benjamin Hart writes,

The New York Times revealed one possible reason for Trump’s especially intense wrath of late: the special counsel’s office had sent over a list of questions to the White House to set up a possible interview with the president. Last week, Mueller subpoenaed documents relating to the Trump Foundation, crossing a “red line” the president had set dictating that Mueller not delve into Trump and his family’s personal finances.

The investigation, in other words, appears to be drawing ever closer to the president and he’s responding the only way he knows how: by preparing to take out his enemy, no matter the consequences.

Thankfully for Trump, the Republican response to this increasingly likely scenario has consisted mostly of silence.

At Vox, Emily Stewart writes that Jeff Sessions may have violated his recusal pledge when he fired Andrew McCabe.

That decision [for Sessions to fire McCabe] has prompted a number of questions, including whether McCabe’s firing was politically motivated — or performed at the urging of President Donald Trump — and why it was done so vindictively, taking place as it did just two days before McCabe would have been eligible to receive a full federal pension after more than 20 years of service. Another question has begun to percolate as well: Should Sessions, who recused himself from all matters related to the 2016 presidential campaign — which included anything involving the Clinton Foundation — have been able to fire McCabe at all? ,,,

… Writing at the New York University School of Law-based blog Just Security, Ryan Goodman, a professor of law at New York University, made the argument on Saturday that Sessions violated his promise recuse himself from matters involving the 2016 election — a decision Trump had been furious about for quite some time.

“Some might contend that Sessions’ recusal covered only the Clinton and Trump campaigns, and that McCabe’s firing involved the Clinton Foundation investigation as a separate matter,” he wrote. “But Sessions unequivocally assured senators of his intentions during his confirmation hearings in response to a clear and specific question from the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Sen. Grassley asked a follow-up question that went right to the point. In response, Sessions very clearly said his recusal would cover any matters involving the Clinton Foundation.”

The stated reason for McCabe’s firing is that in 2o16 McCabe allowed FBI officials speak to Wall Street Journal reporters about the investigation into Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. Of course, if that were the real reason, McCabe would be retiring today with his full pension.

Also too: See Sean Illing, Cambridge Analytica, the shady data firm that might be a key Trump-Russia link, explained. And the AP reports that the Kushners have been caught lying to New York City about rent-controlled apartments as part of a scam to toss tenants out of their homes.

Trump Is a Disease: McCabe and Russia

This was tweeted before Andrew McCabe was fired, possibly costing him his pension and proving to the world that Donald Trump is a nothing but a malicious son of a bitch. And today the SOB couldn’t keep himself from compounding the damage:

Trump is a disease. Some are trying to argue that McCabe’s firing was recommended by the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, meaning it wasn’t really a political decision, but Trump himself blew that argument out of the water with that tweet. We don’t know what the OPR’s reasons were, but nothing short of criminal activity should have cost McCabe his pension, IMO.

Here is McCabe’s statement on his firing.

This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally. It is part of this Administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day. Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the Special Counsel’s work.

McCabe is vowing to talk, talk, talk.  Which makes one wonder what Trump thought he was going to accomplish.

Aaron Blake at WaPo:

It’s readily apparent why getting McCabe fired might send a message that Trump likes. But might it also come back to bite Trump?

Trump has now, after all, cemented the enemy status of a top-ranking official at the FBI (its No. 2) and onetime acting director. He previously did that by firing McCabe’s superior, former FBI director James B. Comey, and Comey has rewarded that decision by leaking unhelpful things and testifying about Trump in a negative light. He is now set to release a book.

But the McCabe and Comey situations are also somewhat different. Trump arguably terminated Comey more out of fear of how he was conducting the Russia investigation; he appears to have gone after McCabe because of vendetta and possibly to send a signal to others in law enforcement who might run afoul of him. Trump’s successful push to get McCabe fired is also undeniably more personal in nature, given McCabe was ousted just 26 hours before he was to gain full retirement benefits. McCabe was already basically out the door, and firing him now — regardless of how valid the reasons in the yet-to-be-released inspector general’s report (and those reasons might be completely valid!) — comes off as even more spiteful.

This former CIA Director sounds concerned.

See also “Five reasons Trump would have wanted Andrew McCabe fired.”

But let us turn to the other issue of the day, which is Russia. Two days ago, after prolonged foot-dragging, the Trump Administration finally announced sanctions on Russia.

In its toughest challenge to Russia to date, the Trump administration accused Moscow on Thursday of an elaborate plot to penetrate America’s electric grid, factories, water supply and even air travel through cyber hacking. The U.S. also hit targeted Russians with sanctions for alleged election meddling for the first time since President Donald Trump took office.

However, many have noted Trump himself is holding back in criticizing the Russians.

When it comes to Russia, there is the Trump administration — and there is the president.

The Trump administration denounces Russia for using nerve agent on British soil. President Donald Trump says nothing for days, then calls it “a very sad situation.”

The Trump administration castigates Russia for indiscriminate killing in Syria. Trump says nothing about it.

The Trump administration sanctions Russian hackers for meddling in the 2016 election. Trump muses that it could have been China or “many other people.”

The Trump administration condemns Putin’s unveiling of a new generation of Russian nuclear weapons. Trump remains silent.

Trump’s intelligence community stands by its conclusion that the Kremlin sought to help elect Trump in 2016. Trump insists the Russians actually opposed his election because he’s “a big military person.”

Trump’s national security adviser calls the evidence of Russian interference “incontrovertible.” Trump rebukes him on Twitter the next day.

The Trump administration pushes to harden America’s defenses for the 2018 midterms. Trump won’t even convene a meeting on the subject.

The Trump administration reassures NATO countries that America has their back against Russian intimidation. Trump complains incessantly that they need to pay more for their own defense.

You know, if a foreign country had been responsible for cyber hacking into America’s electric grid, factories, water supply and air travel, any other president would have raised hell about it. Trump can’t be bothered.

Of course, it’s possible that this has little to do with Putin. See (from a a couple of months ago) “Set aside Putin and follow the money”: a Russia expert’s theory of the Trump scandal:

Putin is happy to sow confusion and distrust in America’s system, of course, but to assume that’s the basis of this operation is to overlook a much simpler motive: money.

The financial connections between Trump and various Russian banks and oligarchs (business elites with ties to the Kremlin) stretch back decades, which is likely a big reason why Trump won’t release his tax returns. Trump’s election, Gunitsky contends, presented Russian oligarchs with an opportunity to recoup losses and leverage Trump’s debts for political gain.

So that’s it, folks. America is being sold out to the Russian oligarchs.

Japan Went to Jared

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meeting with the Usual Suspects in Trump Tower, November 17, 2016.

Remember the meeting with Shinzo Abe in Trump Tower, a couple of weeks after the election, when people were somewhat alarmed that Ivanka and Jared sat in? And remember the Mar a Lago national security meeting in February 2017?

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, February 10, 2017

Yesterday Caleb Melby of Bloomberg News reported that by some coincidence the government of Japan entered into a real estate deal with Jared Kushner & family shortly after the February meeting. On March 31 2017, Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp. closed on a stake in a building in Brooklyn, 175 Pearl Street, owned by the Kushner family. The government of Japan owns a controlling interest in Nippon Telegraph & Telephone. In effect, the government of Japan and the Kushner family are co-owners of the building.

The Brooklyn transaction represented a premium of more than 60 percent on a price-per-square-foot basis over what Kushner Cos. and its partners paid four years earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The deal enabled the Kushner group to take larger ownership stakes in nearby buildings in Brooklyn’s chic Dumbo neighborhood that have signed tenants such as Etsy Inc. and WeWork Cos.

Kushner Cos. is now a co-owner with the NTT unit. The Japanese firm owns 23 percent of the building through limited liability companies plus more through a Normandy-controlled investment fund, a person familiar with the arrangement said. A day after the companies bought 175 Pearl St., the NTT company purchased a stake in Normandy itself. Kushner Cos. maintains a non-controlling share of less than five percent.

The sale was made through a New Jersey company called Normandy, and until yesterday it wasn’t publicly known that Japan was the real purchaser.  This is what was reported in March 2017:

Normandy Real Estate Partners is set to close Friday on the $100 million purchase of a majority stake in  at Dumbo Heights, The Real Deal has learned. The 204,000-square-foot property, which has remained vacant for over a year, is part of the complex being developed by Kushner Companies, RFR Realty and LIVWRK.

Normandy, a New Jersey-based real estate investment firm, will take the lead on redevelopment and leasing efforts at the eight-story property. Kushner Companies, LIVWRK and RFR will move into a “single-digit” minority position, sources said. Invesco, which was an equity partner in the building, is being bought out, sources added.

It was not immediately clear if brokers were involved. Representatives for Kushner, RFR and Blackstone declined to comment, while Normandy and LIVWRK did not respond to requests for comment.

Wait, Blackstone? Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman is one Trump’s BFFs. There are allegations floating around that Trump owes Blackstone a ton of money, although I don’t know if that’s been verified. Blackstone has been doing a lot of business with Trump’s buddies, the Saudis, lately.

So I did a little more digging. The Pearl Street property is part of a complex of properties in Brooklyn (including the old Watchtower building) that the Kushners bought and have been developing into office towers. Blackstone was involved in the financing.  This is from May 2017:

For Jared Kushner, last summer was a whirlwind of deal-making. On the campaign trail, in the weeks leading up to the Republican National Convention, the real estate scion was endeavoring to convince his father-in-law, Donald Trump, to install new advisers. At the same time, as CEO of his family’s namesake company, Kushner was helping negotiate one of the largest real estate deals ever completed in Brooklyn, the purchase of a famed commercial property overlooking the East River.

On both fronts, Kushner prevailed. The first week of August, along with two partner firms, he succeeded in acquiring Brooklyn’s Watchtower complex, owned for decades by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for $340 million. Two weeks later he secured the resignation of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, paving the way for Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, to take on senior White House roles.

Kushner stepped down from his role as CEO of Kushner Companies (now simply “Kushner”) in January, prior to Trump’s inauguration, and has agreed to divest himself of some assets. But he remains the beneficiary of more than 200 family-owned properties across the U.S., including 25-30 Columbia Heights. That arrangement puts the property’s prospective tenants in an unusual situation. However indirectly, they will be paying rent to a man with an office in the West Wing. Not only that, but a man who has positioned himself as the behind-the-scenes connection point between business and the administration, responsible for overseeing the president’s innovation office and brazenly at ease orchestrating public-private deals.

I love all the name dropping. Here we get to it:

Kushner did not hold back from mixing business and politics while traveling on Trump’s first overseas trip last week, even as reports that he had attempted to establish back-channel communications with Russia began to surface. For example, Stephen Schwarzman, cofounder and CEO of the Blackstone Group—which provided financing for the Columbia Heights acquisition—joined Kushner in Riyadh, while riding high on the news that Saudi Arabia had agreed to invest $20 billion in a Blackstone infrastructure fund. (Schwarzman heads the White House’s business-advisory council.)

Of course, Blackstone might not have been involved in the deal with Japan,but I thought it was interesting. Now, back to Bloomberg:

Trump’s victory was a source of acute concern in Japan. He ran a protectionist, Japan-bashing campaign, vowed to drop a Pacific trade deal, accused Tokyo of manipulating its currency, threatened to remove U.S. troops from the country and even suggested Japan might have to develop its own nuclear weapons. When Trump won, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe skipped a planned Peru visit and flew to New York to be the first head of state to personally congratulate the president-elect in a Trump Tower meeting that included Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who was still running Kushner Cos. at the time.

Trump warmed to Abe and, after taking office, White House officials asked Finance Minister Taro Aso to join Abe on his next visit for trade talks with Vice President Mike Pence. The Japanese leaders extended their push in a February 2017 trip to the White House, where Aso and Pence talked about economic cooperation. Afterward, Abe joined Kushner and other members of the Trump family aboard Air Force One for a flight to Mar-a-Lago, the Florida resort owned by the president.

NTT Urban Development and Normandy bought the Brooklyn property six weeks later from the Kushner group, which included Invesco Ltd. Atlanta-based Invesco had a majority stake in the property, which was operated by Kushner and Aby Rosen’s RFR Holding LLC.

Now, a year later, the Pearl Street property still sits empty and undeveloped. And ugly, I might add.  This is what it looks like:

175 Pearl Street, Brooklyn

Needs some work, I’d say. See also Rachel Maddow’s report on this last night.