No one wants job as Trump’s communications director . . . the job is career suicide

White House communications director Mike Dubke—the man responsible for Donald Trump’s “messaging”—abruptly resigned after three months on the job. And as BuzzFeed reports, few Republican operatives are gunning for the high-states position.

“Hell no!” one Republican told the news outlet. “That would be career suicide.”

Another, reportedly stiffing laughter, wondered if the question was a joke.

“Sorry, I’m sorry,” they said. “Oh, you’re being serious? Oh my god, I’m crying of laughter, why would anyone in their right mind want to be his communications director?”

“It’s attractive to someone who is willing to ruin their reputation or who isn’t worried about what the future of their career looks like,” another told BuzzFeed.

“You’re going to come out of the administration with your reputation in tatters, your credibility utterly destroyed, and your job prospects close to nil unless you want a low level CNN contributorship,” that person added.

The White House communications team has reportedly drawn the ire of Trump in recent weeks, as the administration struggles to stay ahead of a growing number of damaging leaks. Trump has expressed frustration with the team’s ability to counter-message the multiple investigations into possible collusion between the president’s campaign and Russia, and is reportedly considering a shakeup among his staffers.

Amid growing White House turmoil, Dubke asked to part ways with the administration.

“He has expressed his desire to leave the White House and made very clear that he would see through the president’s international trip,” counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said in an interview on Fox News.

 And according to one Republican operative, the next communications director will likely face a similar fate.

“It would be only a few months on the job before tapping out the ‘I want to spend more time with family’ email,” that person said.

A former staffer for George Bush agreed that “coming on board now is a bit like taking over communications for the White Star Line after the Titanic has sunk.”

“I mean, no one is going to blame you and how much worse can it possibly get?” the source quipped.

Jared Kushner let the cat out of the bag: Trump thinks Republicans are “stupid” — he’s right

One of the strategies Donald Trump employed as he began putting his name on the U.S. political map years ago was championing “birtherism,” the long-held conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was born outside of the U.S. and hence should never have been elected. He often chastised Obama and demanded the president produce his birth certificate, revving up an anti-Obama base that eventually helped put Trump in the White House.

Evidently, Trump may have been using the so-called birthers only as a means to an end.

His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is also a senior adviser to the president, allegedly told a former editor of the newspaper he once owned that the billionaire real-estate mogul didn’t believe his own “birtherism” claims, and only made them to charge up Republicans because they are “stupid,” GQ reported.

During a discussion on how to cover Trump, the former New York Observer editor, Elizabeth Spiers, claimed she told Kushner that she had serious problems with Trump’s repeated claims that Obama was not born in the U.S., to which Kushner allegedly told her: “He doesn’t really believe it, Elizabeth. He just knows Republicans are stupid and they’ll buy it.”

Spiers told her Kushner anecdote in response to a question from a conservative blogger on Facebook, and then screenshotted the response and put it up on Twitter.

 

From early 2011 to late 2012, Spiers served as the Observer’s editor-in-chief and as editorial director of Observer Media Group, according to her LinkedIn profile, and also helped found the since-vanished website Gawker in 2002. Kushner bought the newspaper for $10 million in 2006, and in November discontinued its print edition. Kushner stepped down as the paper’s publisher in January.

If Spiers’s story is true, Kushner once again finds himself at the heart of a troubling story. For the last several days, the 35-year-old’s contacts and meetings with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, and a Russian banker during the Trump campaign’s transition to the White House have come under the scrutiny of federal intelligence agencies. Kushner was supposedly attempting to set up a back-channel for communication directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

However, Kushner is reportedly not being directly investigated himself, and those close to him have said he’s likely to offer congressional testimony.

Trump is known to value loyalty and to protect his family members or anyone within his inner circle, and he has defended Kushner. On Tuesday morning, Trump retweeted a Fox News story posted by Fox & Friends that cited an unnamed source who said Kushner was not trying to set up a direct line to Putin.

Following the money: Why did Jared Kushner go to a bank that’s under investigation to set up communications with Putin?

Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn approached the Russian ambassador about setting up a secret, secure channel to the Kremlin. Kushner’s idea? Make it super-secure by just having members of the Trump regime walk straight into the Russian embassy and call Putin from there. Hey, just a thought.

Kislyak was reportedly “taken aback” by the proposition of a U.S. administration using communications lines at a Russian embassy. In other words, this was so off the wall, reckless, and unusual that Kislyak—Kislyak!—was thrown by it.

But Kushner didn’t stop with the Russian ambassador. In his quest to find the perfect communications channel, he also drummed up a meeting with Vnesheconombank head Sergey Gorkov. Vnesheconombank was under sanctions, and though Gorkov is pals with Putin, it seems remarkably odd that Kushner would think lining up a meeting with the head of an outlaw bank would be the best way to arrange a clandestine red telephone. So … why? Why meet with Gorkovv?

Federal and congressional investigators are now examining what exactly Mr. Kushner and the Russian banker, Sergey N. Gorkov, wanted from each other. The banker is a close associate of Mr. Putin, but he has not been known to play a diplomatic role for the Russian leader. That has raised questions about why he was meeting with Mr. Kushner at a crucial moment in the presidential transition, according to current and former officials familiar with the investigations.

In addition to helping set up a communications channel, Gorkov would certainly have appreciated the opportunity to get in a request to lift the sanctions against his bank. But what would Kusher want with a Russian banker? As it turns out, there’s a good answer to that one.

Anbang, an insurer and prolific deal-maker close to China’s government, had considered investing $4 billion in 666 Fifth Avenue. Kushner had overpaid for the building in 2007, when he bought it with the help of bank loans for $1.8 billion. The financial crisis ensued, occupancy rates plummeted and Kushner had to be rescued by outside investors to keep the troubled building afloat. Anbang’s investment would have valued the building at a handsome $2.85 billion, and also refinanced about $1.15 billion in debt.

The possibility of a transaction brought scrutiny from two Bloomberg news reporters, Caleb Melby and David Kocieniewski, as well as from Congress and the New York Times. I discussed it in a column here two weeks ago. And for good reason: Kushner is a senior White House adviser who has Trump’s ear on foreign policy. The math of Trump’s 36-year-old son-in-law being saved from a reckless investment by China presented all sorts of conflicts of interest and the potential for disastrous policy moves by the White House.

Kushner has a building out there that’s an enormous cash drain. Chinese investors have determined that buying Kushner’s tug on Trump’s sleeve isn’t worth handing Jared a $1 billion pay day. Where else could he get money for his enormous Manhattan white elephant?

He could follow the example of his father-in-law.

By the 2000s, the property developer and casino owner with ready access to the capital markets and the biggest New York banks was no more. A series of corporate bankruptcies had limited his financing options. Mr Trump had become an entertainer who portrayed a tycoon on television and licensed his name to businesses looking for a brand, leading to fee-making opportunities as disparate as Trump University and Trump Vodka.

The bankrupt Trump found his money in a very special place. As Donald Jr. said at the time …

“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Or as Eric Trump made even more clear:

“Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”

If they played it right Gorkov could get his sanctions lifted, Kushner could get his loan, and Putin could get a secret call line into the White House. The arrangement could be good for everyone—so long as “everyone” was restricted to Kushner, Gorkov, Trump, and Putin.

Following the money – – it leads directly between Putin and Trump

The money trail leads to/from Putin and Trump, funneled through various Russian mobsters, foreign banks, and shady “investment” companies.

CNN is reporting that communication intercepts made during the election indicate that the Russians believe they have information that could be used against Trump and those close to him.

One source described the information as financial in nature and said the discussion centered on whether the Russians had leverage over Trump’s inner circle. The source said the intercepted communications suggested to US intelligence that Russians believed “they had the ability to influence the administration through the derogatory information.”

What’s the nature of this information? It could be details of how Russian oligarchs bailed Trump out of bankruptcy when no bank would touch him, using Trump’s real estate holdings to launder money coming into the US.

… a series of very deep studies published in the [Financial Times] that examined the structure and history of several major Trump real estate projects from the last decade—the period after his seventh bankruptcy and the cancellation of all his bank lines of credit. …

The money to build these projects flowed almost entirely from Russian sources. In other words, after his business crashed, Trump was floated and made to appear to operate a successful business enterprise through the infusion of hundreds in millions of cash from dark Russian sources.

He was their man.

There are cautions attached to CNN’s report, as the sources that contacted them only have the Russian’s word for the value of their information, they haven’t seen the information directly. What seems to be clear is that the Russians thought—think—they have details that put the Trump regime under the Kremlin’s thumb.

 

In 2008, Donald Trump Jr. attended a real estate conference, where he stated that

Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.

Sign This Petition

Sign the petition: Appoint a special prosecutor on Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign

  • By signing this petition you will receive periodic updates on offers and activism opportunities from Daily Kos. You may unsubscribe at any time. Here’s our privacy policy.

As it turns out, that may have been an understatement. Human rights lawyer Scott Horton, whose work in the region goes back to defending Andrei Sakharov and other Soviet dissidents, has gone through a series of studies by the Financial Times to show how funds from Russian crime lords bailed Trump out after yet anther bankruptcy. The conclusions are stark.

Among the powerful facts that DNI missed were a series of very deep studies published in the [Financial Times] that examined the structure and history of several major Trump real estate projects from the last decade—the period after his seventh bankruptcy and the cancellation of all his bank lines of credit. …

The money to build these projects flowed almost entirely from Russian sources. In other words, after his business crashed, Trump was floated and made to appear to operate a successful business enterprise through the infusion of hundreds in millions of cash from dark Russian sources.

He was their man.

Yes, even that much seems fantastic, and the details include business agencies acting as a front for the GRU, billionaire mobsters, a vast network of propaganda sources, and an American candidate completely under the thumb of the Kremlin.

It reads like the a B-grade spy novel, a plot both too convoluted—and too bluntly obvious—for John le Carré. The problem is it may not be a conspiracy theory. It may be a conspiracy.

Horton’s analysis comes from piecing together information in three Financial Times “deep reports.” One of these focused on Sergei Millian, the head of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce in the US at the time of Trump Jr.’s “money pouring in from Russia” claim.

Mr Millian insists his Russian American Chamber of Commerce (RACC) has nothing to do with the Russian government. He says it is funded by payments from its commercial members alone.

Most of the board members are obscure entities and nearly half of their telephone numbers went unanswered when called by the Financial Times. An FT reporter found no trace of the Chamber of Commerce at the Wall Street address listed on its website.

Why was RACC’s background filled with so many holes? The Financial Times quotes former Russian MP Konstantin Borovoi in tagging the chamber as a front for intelligence operations that dates back to Soviet times.

“The chamber of commerce institutions are the visible part of the agent network . . . Russia has spent huge amounts of money on this.”

Millian helped arrange for Trump to visit Moscow in 2007, and had other outings with Trump in the states, including a visit to horse races in Miami. Millian claims that he had the right to market Trump properties in Russia.

“You could say I was their exclusive broker,” he told Ria. “Then, in 2007-2008, dozens of Russians bought apartments in Trump properties in the US.” He later told ABC television that the Trump Organisation had received “hundreds of millions of dollars” through deals with Russian businessmen.

Despite documents and photos showing Trump with Millian, Trump denied their association during the campaign.

Hope Hicks, Mr Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, said Mr Trump had “met and spoke” with Mr Millian only “on one occasion almost a decade ago at a hotel opening”.

The second Financial Times article puts Trump at the middle of a money laundering scheme, in which his real estate deals were used to hide not just an infusion of capital from Russia and former Soviet states, but to launder hundreds of millions looted by oligarchs. All Trump had to do was close his eyes to the source of the money, and suddenly empty apartments were going for top dollar.

Among the dozens of companies the Almaty lawyers say the Khrapunov laundering network used were three called Soho 3310, Soho 3311 and Soho 3203. Each was a limited liability company, meaning their ownership could easily be concealed.

The companies were created in April 2013 in New York. A week later, property records show, they paid a total of $3.1m to buy the apartments that corresponded with their names in the Trump Soho, a 46-storey luxury hotel-condominium completed in 2010 in a chic corner of Manhattan.

Why would Trump’s organization make such a good means of laundering funds? Because real estate has an arbitrary value. Is that apartment worth $1 million? Two million? Why not $3 million for a buyer who really wants it? When the whole transaction is just one LLC with undisclosed ownership paying another LLC with undisclosed ownership, it’s even neater than hiding the money in an offshore account. And while some businesses require due diligence in looking at the source of funds, real estate is a bit more … flexible.

The laws regulating US real estate deals are scant, experts say. Provisions against terrorism financing in the Patriot Act, passed in the aftermath of the September 11 2001 attacks, obliged mortgage lenders to conduct “know your customer” research. But money launderers pay in cash. Sales such as those of the Trump Soho apartments have passed through this loophole, which was partially closed only this year.

Converting funds stolen overseas into property in the US and cash in the account of an LLC represented a win for both the oligarchs and Trump. Best of all, Trump’s sole requirement was that he pay scant attention to the deal—something at which he was already a proven master. For example, the actual owners of the Trump Soho were another limited liability company, Bayrock. Trump was a partner in the LLC and Bayrock cut the checks Trump received when those apartments were sold. And yet …

In a 2011 deposition, given in a dispute over the Fort Lauderdale project, Mr Trump said he had “never really understood who owned Bayrock”. Jody Kriss, a former Bayrock finance director, has claimed in racketeering lawsuits against his former employer that Bayrock’s backers included “hidden interests in Russia and Kazakhstan”. Bayrock has denied Mr Kriss’s allegations but declined to answer questions about the source of its funds and its relationship with the Khrapunovs.

The third article digs more deeply into the origins of Bayrock and its connection with Trump. That connection … was very close.

The Republican presidential nominee and Bayrock were both based in Trump Tower and they joined forces to pursue deals around the world — from New York, Florida, Arizona and Colorado in the US to Turkey, Poland, Russia and Ukraine. Their best-known collaboration — Trump SoHo, a 46-storey hotel-condominium completed in 2010 — was featured in Mr Trump’s NBC television show The Apprentice.

This is the same group about which Trump said he “never really understood” the ownership.

“I don’t know who owns Bayrock,” Mr Trump said. “I never really understood who owned Bayrock. I know they’re a developer that’s done quite a bit of work. But I don’t know how they have their ownership broken down.”

At the very least, Trump confessed to partnering with, taking money from, and acting as a representative for a corporation whose ownership he didn’t know, in deals that totaled hundreds of millions in countries around the world. However, it seems far more likely that Trump knowingly worked with oligarchs, groups associated with the Russian government, and plain old mobsters. Why? Because he was desperate.

By the 2000s, the property developer and casino owner with ready access to the capital markets and the biggest New York banks was no more. A series of corporate bankruptcies had limited his financing options. Mr Trump had become an entertainer who portrayed a tycoon on television and licensed his name to businesses looking for a brand, leading to fee-making opportunities as disparate as Trump University and Trump Vodka.

The Trump Organization was a hollow shell and Trump was bankrupt, but Donald Trump the public figure was a “successful businessman,” a screen behind which criminal activity could be carried out on a massive scale. Throwing his name at every scheme in existence wasn’t a strategy, it was a fire sale on Trump’s respectability. Steaks? Water? Vodka? Fake real estate school? You pony up the cash, and Trump will slap his name on it. Because by the early 2000s, Trump wasn’t just broke, he had nothing left to pawn. He wasn’t a successful businessman, but he still played one on TV. His image had more value than his real estate portfolio.

But the apartments and buildings where Trump held some degree of ownership could be turned into value again. All it took was partnering with foreign crime bosses looking for a place to stash their cash. To inflate the value of his portfolio, Trump had to do nothing other than look away as the dirty money poured in from one LLC to the next. Citizens in Russia, Kazakhstan, and other former Soviet states lost hundreds of millions, but Trump got a cut as looted funds flowed through offices and apartments in buildings that carried those critical gold letters.

Horton’s evaluation of this material in coordination with the declassified DNI report is that Trump actively worked with and for Russian interests.

What these exposes showed, is that Trump pursued the projects hand in glove with Russian mobsters who worked closely with Putin’s Kremlin …

But based on the information in the Financial Times report, it appears that there are actually two possible answers. Trump may have been actively involved with and working for Russian sources. He might also have simply played the role of useful idiot, displaying his readiness to feign ignorance about any deal … so long as it generated some funds to float his sinking boat.

In the end, there’s not a lot of difference in the outcome. Trump got money. Oligarchs cleaned their cash. Russia got their man.

Poor little Ivanka — no one wants to buy her cheap, overpriced, made-in-China crap

President Donald Trump’s supporters and voters can’t afford to support his products or his properties and now that’s being passed along to his daughter Ivanka. So, she’s taking the brand to the discount stores.

According to a new Bloomberg report, Ms. Trump sought out a sophisticated, upper middle-class market to target her fashion line, but they’re not buying, so now she’s being forced to turn to a discount market.

A T.J. Maxx near the New York’s Queensboro bridge offers the Ivanka Trump brand for every discount shopper in the neighborhood but it isn’t a place that screams sophisticated luxury. Not exactly the marketing Trump was shooting for.

In her 2009 book, Trump wrote that she hoped to sell “heirloom chic” jewelry, a “cleaned up” version of Hollywood-style glamor. She wouldn’t use the Tiffany’s tactic, however, of getting lower income shoppers hooked with $100 items before leading them up the pricey diamond path.

“We wanted to offer luxurious pieces in the five-, and six-, and even seven-figure range, but at the same time we wanted to offer entry-level pieces priced between $500 and $1000,” wrote Trump. “We wanted to fill that void just below the high-end diamond jewelers such as Harry Winston, Bulgari, Graff, Van Cleef & Arpels–the boutiques that exemplified acquisitions of $50,000 or more—while at the same time creating luxurious pieces that would be the envy of any jeweler.”

When she started this line, the business mogul looked to brands like Tiffany & Co. and Christian Louboutin for notable marketing. Her line appears next to couture names like Harry Winston and in pricey shops on Madison Avenue. But the Trump name has slipped from luxury boutiques to discount. Among racks of damaged jackets and unsellable slacks sits Ivanka’s celebrity brand. However, opening up her line to the masses has saved the company from bankruptcy.

“Celebrities, as a branding tool, appeal more to the mass than luxury,” said founder BrandSimple Allen Adamson. “The further downmarket she goes, the more horsepower her brand potentially has.”

The trend downmarket began in 2010 when she began a footwear and clothing line with lower prices. Four-digit pricetags weren’t working for a broad market. Her father’s candidacy and win in November accelerated the shift downward in wake of boycotts and scandals. Plans for the release of the Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry Collection were killed because a $10,000 necklace didn’t seem “on brand” for a line that boasts discount shoes. Instead, a “fashion jewelry” collection was launched without the solid gold and diamonds. Some pieces sell for only $11.

It isn’t the only low-cost product. Bloomberg compared pricing data for shoes, bags and dresses for Trump and other brands. It’s managed to hold it’s own among working women brands like Banana Republic and Ann Taylor.

“I wanted the price points to be accessible,” Trump said six years ago, “but ultimately we’re in the business of luxury, and these looks are consistent with that larger messaging.”

By 2011 her brand boomed and her line grew to $100 million business among critical demographics like 25 to 40 year-olds with an average income of $60,000 to $100,000. But over time, that demographic stopped buying. Trump tried to spread the brand abroad, specifically in China, because their culture is “very simpatico with how our brand is positioned,” she said.

That didn’t work either. The Mandarin edition of Vogue reported each of Trump’s boutiques would only haul in $3 million with only five percent growth over the first year. They quietly closed their doors in 2016. Things got worse when every department store but one canceled Ivanka’s brand.

The most expensive pieces of Ivanka Trump jewelry still available are a pair of gold-plated necklaces for $148.

Brand operations officer Abigail Klem took over as the Trump family headed for the White House. She wants to see the Trump brand continue to target Trump voters and not Trump donors.

But her biggest challenge is in managing to target shoppers unwilling to support anything with the Trump label. Bloomberg cites the research firm YouGov BrandIndex, who found conservative shoppers have a better impression of the brand than liberals who view it negatively. Two high-end clients, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus dropped Trump products.

While the sales were lower in 2016 than massive bump they saw in 2015 it was still a bump that scored a little under $30 million for the company. The future of the brand now depends on the downmarket strategy targeting Trump-style supporters. But it’s her father’s presidency that might still have the largest impact on the name.

At Marshall’s near DC — Ivanka Trump clothing marked down from $39.99 to $1.00.

Trump sends a message to his voters who are worried about their future: “No help from me. You’re on your own. Get lost!!”

129 days into Donald Trump’s presidency, stories about his already-disillusioned voters seem almost cliche. But with a POLITICO report about how hard the president’s new budget will hit rural areas that voted for him, that cliche proves right yet again.

According to POLITICO writer Lorraine Woellert, there’s already been talk of exactly how much Trump’s new budget will hurt rural communities by those that lead them.

“‘I thought, ‘Oh my God, I don’t know if they really thought this through,’” Michael Williams, a self-described “fiscal conservative” and mayor of Union County, Tennessee, told POLITICO.

With Trump’s budget cutting federal funding for many of the projects regions like Union County needs, the onus is, according to the language of the budget, on “state and local governments and the private sector to address community and economic development needs”. The county where Williams is mayor has a median income of $37,000 and raises most of their budget through property taxes, and he told POLITICO that they’d have to increase property taxes substantially to pay for works the city needs.

“If federal dollars are lost,” Woellert wrote, “it’s not apparent that states and municipalities could pick up the slack.”

In regions like Union County, municipalities rely on federally-funded programs like the Appalachian Regional Commission to provide grants for public works, such as one Williams requested to update one the county’s school’s septic and water systems. POLITICO reports that under the Trump budget, these sorts of programs won’t exist anymore.

“The commission and a handful of others like it combine federal dollars with state, local and private money to boost economic development and job growth in the poorest regions of the country,” Woellert wrote. “All these commissions would be eliminated under the Trump plan.”

Trump famously ran on a jobs-creation platform that had residents in rural areas unduly hit by outsourcing and the recession lining up to vote for him.

“Rural America in particular — where Trump got more than 60 percent of the vote — is struggling with high unemployment, slow economic growth and tepid home price appreciation,” Woellert wrote. “Three in four rural counties still haven’t fully recovered from the recession, according to the National Association of Counties.”

According to the report, the release of Trump’s budget sent a message to his suffering rural electorate: ” they were on their own.”

“People bought into Trump, particularly in these hardest-hit areas, on the idea that he’s going to create jobs,” Chris Estes, president of the National Housing Conference, told POLITICO. “This is not a budget for them.”

Oooopssss!!! FBI following the money . . . directly to . . .

Reuters has an excellent article summarizing the investigation into Trump-Russia contacts and some of the reasons behind those contacts.  Here’s the best part.

 

FBI investigators are examining whether Russians suggested to Kushner or other Trump aides that relaxing economic sanctions would allow Russian banks to offer financing to people with ties to Trump, said the current U.S. law enforcement official.

The head of Russian state-owned Vnesheconombank, Sergei Nikolaevich Gorkov, a trained intelligence officer whom Putin appointed, met Kushner at Trump Tower in December. The bank is under U.S. sanctions and was implicated in a 2015 espionage case in which one of its New York executives pleaded guilty to spying and was jailed.

The bank said in a statement in March that it had met with Kushner along with other representatives of U.S. banks and business as part of preparing a new corporate strategy.

It’s all about the money.