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Mar 01 2018

Big Time!

You write what you know, just like my New York Times best selling (twice, no kidding) cousin does. I’m not going senile, I’ve been 120+ for the last 13 years and I’m just as fake as Sam Clemens. He lived not far from Stars Hollow, not that anything in the Nutmeg State is far from Stars Hollow.

Capo di Tutti are term limited and as part of the deal I’d already picked my successor before I got elected. It was kind of an interesting meeting, there were 3 other people present.

First was a former Capo who had a commitment problem that led to keys being thrown on the Hotel roof at 3 am during my term and awkward hours trying to persuade his momentary object of affection (as opposed to his long term obligation) to stay involved despite her shabby treatment because she really was quite talented (get your minds out of the gutter) while we waited for it to get light enough for the Janitor to go out and find them. She liked me well enough because I was a nice guy but alas I was ultimately ineffective. Without her leadership her Local faded.

Oh, he was a fun guy- and connected. After I got elected he took me under his wing to make sure I didn’t do anything stupid and thwart the National cabal. We were going to a meeting and he got us thrown out of the Airport Bar by arguing with the Bartender which was not only a problem when our flight got delayed for 3 hours, but also the next time we passed through that hub and the same Bartender was at the same Bar. He was… memorable.

The second was the current Capo, nice enough guy. I met him when he was Consigliere to a Local Capo when I was also a Local Capo and Consigliere to my buddy on the make for Capo di Tutti. She had a friend and originally I hooked up with the friend and my buddy hooked up with her. That didn’t work out and several awkward months later I hooked up with her and we had a splendid if temporary time together. I later, but before this meeting, learned he had done everything he could to poison that relationship.

You can choose to disbelieve this because I remember it clearly so many years later, but I really didn’t hold it against him.

The last was my eventual successor, leader of the largest Local in our Region and one that my buddy and I had been cultivating for years. They were split between Capulets and Montagues and both of them loved us.

They all hated my opponent, the only declared candidate at that point, and came to beg me to run. Hah! I was already running. And I didn’t hate him, I was sorry for him. He was a nice guy but he had really serious health issues and I was convinced the job would kill him, it damn near killed me. The price of the deal was that I’d give ambitious guy a cushy job and my endorsement next time.

Sure. Whatever.

I won! This was my theme song-

We’ll skip forward a bit and just say I kept my promise. Ambitious guy was a complete disappointment and a total failure. As past Capo I was busier than ever covering for his sorry ass and I resolved that next cycle I’d install my activist brother, who does almost everything just as well as if I’d done it myself and the rest he does better. For years I’ve felt guilty about that because, it’s not fun. In recent conversations I’ve confessed this and he loyally alleges he was flattered and honored.

Well… brother, you know. Between us we dominated the politics (he more Michael, me more Vito) of the organization until we got tired of doing it. This was his theme song-

And that finally brings me to my main point (ask TMC, I talk exactly the same way I write) which is I was browsing The New York Times when I ran across this-

Has Jared Kushner Conspired to Defraud America?
By MARCY WHEELER, The New York Times
FEB. 28, 2018

Amid the dizzying details of internet trolls, almost a million dollars’ worth of antique rugs and fake bank accounts, the indictments brought by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, in his investigation of Russian tampering in the 2016 election have one thing in common.

Both the indictment of 13 Russians associated with a troll farm called Internet Research Agency and the indictment of President Trump’s onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort accuse the defendants of pretending to engage in American politics in good faith but secretly serving someone else’s interest. In both cases, the charge, “conspiracy to defraud the United States,” is an assertion that they were really serving the interests of Russia or of a Russian-backed Ukrainian politician, and that by hiding their true intent, the defendants prevented the United States government from protecting our politics from undisclosed outside influence.

That precedent, and the guilty plea to the same charge by Rick Gates, Mr. Manafort’s deputy, may pose a real danger to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser. According to reports, Mr. Mueller appears to be assessing whether Mr. Kushner, in the guise of pursuing foreign policy on behalf of the United States, was actually serving the interests of his family and foreign governments.

On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that “officials in at least four countries” — United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico — “have privately discussed ways they can manipulate” Mr. Kushner by taking advantage of his “complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience.” The president gave his son-in-law an expansive foreign policy role, including an effort to negotiate peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The implication in the article is that the United States government has intercepted communications of foreign leaders talking about ways they could take advantage of Mr. Kushner, whose family real estate empire is facing substantial debt woes.

The biggest concern in the Post report — and surely one reason such intelligence led to Mr. Kushner’s being stripped of his interim top-secret security clearance last week — is that foreign countries would offer him personal financial benefits in the same conversations in which he purports to represent America’s best interests.

There has already been ample reporting suggesting that Mr. Kushner may have done just that. During a period when Mr. Kushner was negotiating President Trump’s first visit to China, his family business was trying to sell a debt-ridden property in New York to an insurance company with ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Public scrutiny of the deal scuttled it. Last May, The New York Times described how, immediately after the Trump administration extended a visa program for wealthy investors, Mr. Kushner’s sister invoked Mr. Kushner in a presentation seeking Chinese investment in one of the family’s New Jersey real estate developments.

Such appearances of conflict might not, by themselves, get Mr. Kushner in trouble. The president has broad authority to set the country’s foreign policy, and public corruption laws have been far more difficult to enforce after a 2016 Supreme Court decision overturning the conviction of the former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell on bribery charges.

But Mr. Kushner might face more trouble to the extent he keeps such negotiations secret from those in charge of carrying out United States foreign policy. When the national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, learned of some of Mr. Kushner’s communications only after the fact, he was surprised, one official told The Post, and thought it was “weird.”

Mr. Kushner has been famously tardy in disclosing his business interests and ties with foreigners in his application for a security clearance. He was still making updates to his forms as recently as January. That means he has conducted an entire year of foreign policy without officially disclosing all the personal interests he may have been serving.

Finally, the risk might be greater still if Mr. Kushner negotiated such deals before Mr. Trump’s inauguration. That’s the possibility raised by Mr. Kushner’s pre-inauguration meetings with Russia. In December 2016, Mr. Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, the head of a bank under American sanctions, Vnesheconombank. That meeting came after Mr. Kushner suggested a back channel of communications in a meeting with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, according to Mr. Kislyak.

Nor did Mr. Trump’s transition team alert the Obama administration before Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates visited New York in December 2016 for a meeting involving Mr. Kushner and others at Trump Tower.

While the proper authorities may not have been informed of this series of meetings, Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with Mr. Mueller’s investigators late last year, did attend or at least knew of them. Steve Bannon, who recently sat for 20 hours of interviews with special counsel prosecutors, participated in the Zayed Trump Tower meeting along with Mr. Flynn and Mr. Kushner. So if they are a concern to Mr. Mueller, he has recently gotten far more details of what happened at the meetings.

Mr. Kushner’s defense attorney, Abbe Lowell, has been very forthcoming with the press. But he seems to have relied on the same on-the-record quotation since Feb. 16, when news first broke that Mr. Kushner might lose his interim security clearance. Twelve days ago, a statement from Mr. Lowell to The Washington Post directly addressed the gist of the story that just broke Tuesday. Mr. Kushner’s job, Mr. Lowell said, was “to talk with foreign officials,” which, he added, Mr. Kushner has done “properly.”

Perhaps Mr. Kushner is just a person who had no idea what he was doing and wanted to improve his and his family’s finances. Still, there are many reasons to question whether he has talked with foreign officials with the proper disclosures, designed to ensure that those claiming to represent the interests of the United States aren’t hiding their own interests or those of foreign governments.

In pursuing his investigation into Russian tampering, Mr. Mueller appears to be doing something more: restoring the regulatory teeth to ensure that those engaging in American politics are doing what they publicly claim they are. If Mr. Mueller extends this effort to foreign policy, Mr. Kushner may be in real trouble.

We like emptywheel even when we don’t understand her or disagree with her. I’ve personally met her several times, not that she’d remember me, and she’s been funny and charming and whip smart.

She’s had a bum rap in the past because she swears like a 20 year old (just as I do, I’ve taken an Internet test so it must be true) in conversation though she’s more circumspect in print (as am I) and has been banned from several Cable News (can we just agree they all suck?) Networks because they’re Puritan Prudes who need to grow up.

It is a genuine pleasure see her hit the Big Time! I’ll point out how much the NYT Opinion Editor, James Bennet, sucks at some later date, in this case he is not wrong.

I don’t have much connection with my cousin. When her Dad, Richard’s brother, died her Mom forbade my Father from mentioning it at the Marathon watching party she had arranged so he didn’t “spoil the mood”.

Not that we were close before that.