Connect with us

News

Leaker: Some of Michael Cohen’s financial records have suspiciously gone missing from a Treasury database

Published

on

Now, there could be an innocent explanation. After all, this wouldn’t be the first time that a president’s lawyer was under federal investigation and suddenly records documenting his dubious transactions mysteriously disappeared from an executive branch department

Wait, I’m being handed a bulletin. It says here … it would be the first time that had ever happened. Well then!

Ronan Farrow doesn’t specify whether the leaker he spoke to is the same guy who gave Michael Avenatti the information about Cohen’s financial records or if this is a second leaker who handed documentation of the same info to media outlets like the Times. Presumably it’s the same guy. Either way, prior suspicions about the nature of the documentation are confirmed. It is indeed a “Suspicious Activity Report,” which banks are required to file with the Treasury Department whenever they notice something happening in a bank account that doesn’t look quite right to them. Avenatti’s been crowing for months that SARs are what would ultimately blow the lid off Michael Cohen’s funny business. Coincidentally, despite it being highly illegal for the government to publish them, one ended up in his hands.

But here’s the wrinkle. According to Farrow’s source, there were three SARs for Michael Cohen filed by First Republic Bank dating back to last year. One, covering the period from September 2017 to January of this year, contains the info about Novartis, AT&T, and Korea Aerospace Industries that Avenatti revealed last week. (If you read these posts, you know all about it by now.) The other two, stretching from late 2016 to June 2017 and then from June 2017 to September 2017, reportedly include details involving another $3 million flowing into Cohen’s account. But somehow, some way, they’ve … disappeared from the database maintained by FINCEN, the Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit. They were there before, they’re not there now.

Which is, apparently, very, very unusual.

The official, who has spent a career in law enforcement, told me, “I have never seen something pulled off the system. . . . That system is a safeguard for the bank. It’s a stockpile of information. When something’s not there that should be, I immediately became concerned.” The official added, “That’s why I came forward.”

Seven former government officials and other experts familiar with the Treasury Department’s fincen database expressed varying levels of concern about the missing reports. Some speculated that FINCEN may have restricted access to the reports due to the sensitivity of their content, which they said would be nearly unprecedented. One called the possibility “explosive.” A record-retention policy on FINCEN’s Web site notes that false documents or those “deemed highly sensitive” and “requiring strict limitations on access” may be transferred out of its master file. Nevertheless, a former prosecutor who spent years working with the FINCEN database said that she knew of no mechanism for restricting access to SARs. She speculated that FINCEN may have taken the extraordinary step of restricting access “because of the highly sensitive nature of a potential investigation. It may be that someone reached out to FINCEN to ask to limit disclosure of certain SARs related to an investigation, whether it was the special counsel or the Southern District of New York.” (The special counsel, Robert Mueller, is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election. The Southern District is investigating Cohen, and the F.B.I. raided his office and hotel room last month.)

That’s the best-case scenario for the White House. It was prosecutors who asked for Cohen’s SARs to be yanked, whether because they feared they would leak to the media (understandably!) or because they feared a Trump ally at Treasury might share the info with Trump or Cohen himself to clue him in on what the feds know and what they’re looking at. The worst-case scenario is that, er, this is egregious obstruction of justice by someone who surreptitiously deleted the SARs to try to thwart Cohen’s prosecution. If that’s what happened, we have a great mystery to solve. On whose authorization did the deleter nuke those records?

In either scenario, though, you’re left with a question: Why was the third SAR, the one that leaked, left in the database? If you’re going to purge information that’s damaging to Cohen for whatever virtuous or nefarious reason, logic dictates that you’d want to remove all of it. What Avenatti published was shady enough. Another thing: Surely there must be some log of who removed the SARs from the database and when, and just as surely they must be recoverable. To think that all trace of them could be wiped away by pulling them off the FINCEN database makes no sense. Some people, like Farrow’s source, would have already noticed that there were three reports before and only one now. And the banks that submitted them to FINCEN presumably have copies of them, or can re-create them if need be based on records of transactions in Cohen’s accounts. If deleting the records is an attempt at a cover-up, it seems like a half-assed one.

A little more from Farrow. The two missing SARs are from First Republic Bank, the one that housed the “Essential Consultants” bank account that Cohen used to pay Stormy Daniels and to receive payment from corporate clients whom he was, ahem, “consulting.” But other banks filed SARs on him too:

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney filed a separate sar showing that, during that same three-month period (June to September 2017), Cohen set up two accounts with the firm, into which he deposited three checks from his Essential Consultants account, two in the amount of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars and one in the amount of five hundred and five thousand dollars. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney marked those transactions, which added up to more than a million dollars, as possible signs of “bribery or gratuity” and “suspicious use of third-party transactors (straw-man).

Not great! But also not easily explained if there’s a behind-the-scenes effort at FINCEN to cover up Cohen’s shady transactions. If you’re going to nuke some of Cohen’s records to try to protect him, you’d probably want to also nuke the one by a globally famous investment bank suggesting bribery, no?

One last quote for you, but this one’s not from Farrow. I mentioned in this post earlier this afternoon that the Daily Mail had claimed that Cohen solicited big bucks from a Qatari official during the presidential transition and told him that he’d pass some money along to “Trump family members.” The detail about passing cash to the Trumps remains unconfirmed. But the fact that Cohen hit up the Qatari for money? Now confirmed by WaPo:

Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, solicited a payment of at least $1 million from the government of Qatar in late 2016, in exchange for access to and advice about the then-incoming administration, according to several people with knowledge of the episode…

Cohen’s offer to Qatar came as he was bragging to others that he could make millions from consulting on Trump and that foreign governments would be interested in having his expertise. At the time, Cohen was also angling, unsuccessfully, as it turned out, to enter the White House, telling associates that he might become counsel or chief of staff.

Eh, it’s just more gossip spread by anonymous sources, right? Not quite: The Qatari official, Ahmed al-Rumaihi, confirmed to the Intercept in an interview earlier today that Cohen hit him up for a mil. Quote: “Al-Rumaihi said Cohen asked him for an upfront fee of $1 million for his services in the midst of their conversation about a potential Qatari investment in U.S. infrastructure.” The bit in WaPo’s except about Cohen jockeying for a White House job at the time can’t be emphasized enough. Leaning on some corporation for a bribe — sorry, I mean a “consulting fee” — when you’re working in the private sector and promising access to the president is scummy but pretty mundane scum by Washington standards. Hitting up a foreign government for money when you anticipate working for the U.S. government yourself sounds a lot like pretty straightforwardedly soliciting a bribe. Cohen denies everything, of course.

Leave a comment

Continue Reading

News

Previously Deported Illegal Alien Charged with Brutal Murder of Shakopee, MN Woman

Published

on

By

Minnesota officials charged Fraider Diaz-Carbajal from Mexico with the brutal murder of his former girlfriend in Shakopee, Minnesota earlier this month.

Fraider Diaz-Carbajal had been previously deported but told the court he has lived in the are for 18 years.
Fraider does not speak English and needed a translator.

He stabbed his former girlfriend several times before cutting his own neck.

SW News Media reported:

A 27-year-old woman who was killed in Shakopee on Aug. 12 has been identified as Enedelia Perez Garcia, 27, and today prosecutors charged Fraider Diaz-Carbajal, 35, 1279 Taylor St. Unit 6, with second-degree murder (not premeditated) in her death. Police say he was in the country illegally after being deported in 2014.

At about 4:02 p.m. on Aug. 12, Shakopee police were dispatched to a fight call involving a knife at 1279 Taylor St., No. 6., and while on the way to the Taylor Ridge Towhomes, they were told a male had a knife and a female was possibly dead.

According to the charging documents, officers found a bloody scene in the upstairs bedroom: Diaz-Carbajal was lying with his head resting on the stomach and chest of a woman who was sitting on the floor with her back against the wall and did not appear to be breathing. Diaz-Carbajal’s throat was cut with a 6 to 8-inch-long laceration and there were several stab wounds in his abdomen. He was “taking occasional breaths and moving” and a large, bloody knife was at his left side.

Leave a comment

Continue Reading

News

Can AI produce fine art?

Published

on

By

We don’t normally cover the fine art beat here for obvious reasons, but there was a sale of a painting to a French collector in February which drew some attention. Another work by the same artist is going on sale at Christie’s presently. They works are going for some impressive amounts of money, but that’s not what makes the story interesting. The artist is an Artificial Intelligence program from a company named Obvious. (Time)

Hanging inside a gold frame on a pristine white wall in Christie’s Central London Gallery is a dark, moody portrait of a man in Puritan-style black clothes—the work, it seems, of some Old Master. But scrawled in the bottom right corner, there’s an unexpected signature: a mathematical equation.

This is Edmond de Belamy by French art collective Obvious—or, more accurately, by an algorithm designed by Obvious.

“The whole process is about humans having as little input as possible in the finished piece,” says Gauthier Vernier, one of three 25 year-old French men who started Obvious in April 2017 out of their apartment in Paris. Since then, by teaching a computer about art history and showing it how to make its own work, Obvious have produced 11 artworks with the help of artificial intelligence.

I’m not going to go into great detail about the technical particulars behind this since you can read them all at the article and at the Obvious Art website if you wish. The short version is that they developed an algorithm that scanned a vast number of paintings taken from classical art. It uses something called Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) which randomly generate images meeting certain criteria (a face has two eyes, one nose, one mouth, etc.) and the program “tests” each image itself to see if it can tell whether it’s original art or a computer generation. The results do indeed resemble portraits.

Here’s the real question: Is this art? Allow me to offer the definitive answers (plural) because it works both ways.

First… Yes. This is art.

But that answer comes with a caveat. Anything can be art because art is in the eye of the beholder. You can walk down the beach, find a particularly interesting looking piece of driftwood, take it home, clean it up and mount it on a wooden base. If you find it attractive, if it brings you pleasure, if your friends come over and compliment you on it… it’s art. And that’s only good art I’m talking about. Some of the crap put out by human beings as “modern art” is total garbage. If a crucifix in a jar of urine or three basketballs shoved into a broken fish tank (I actually saw that one in a gallery in New York City some years ago) qualify as art, then anything this robot spits out can certainly bear the name.

Second… No. This is definitely not art.

What they are presenting is a painting. But it didn’t come from an original thought or moment of inspiration in a mind, human or otherwise. They fed a bunch of examples into a program and had it randomly place zeros and ones corresponding to random colors until it generated something which matched certain test criteria that the programmers defined as being “art.” There was no feeling, no intent nor even any knowledge in the “mind” of the program of what it was doing. It was solving a math problem by randomly guessing combinations until it arrived at some solutions which met those design criteria.

It also wasn’t “painted” in any way that requires effort, training or involves risk of messing up a brush stroke. I had to search for a while to find out how the actual, physical paintings are created, but the AI only generates an image file. It’s then fed into a fancy laserjet printer which is set up to print on canvas instead of paper. Then a human being took it out and mounted it in a frame. An artist could never reproduce one of their painting precisely by hand. There would always be at least minute differences. Obvious could crank out the same portrait a thousand times and they would all be the same.

This isn’t even artificial intelligence as near as I can see. And it’s certainly not fine art. You could switch out the canvas for paper and it would be making interesting posters. If some rich collector wants to go to Christie’s and lay out tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for one of these creations, that’s up to them. But save up your money, because Obvious can produce thousands more for you in no time at all.

Leave a comment

Continue Reading

News

President Trump Responds to Manafort Conviction “Nothing to do With Russian Collusion” (VIDEO)

Published

on

By

“NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIAN COLLUSION” – President Trump

President Trump responded Tuesday afternoon after a jury found his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty on 8 felony counts.

The President spoke to the press shortly after he landed in Charleston, West Virginia as he headed to his rally.

“It doesn’t involve me but I still feel really sad…you know it’s a very sad thing that happened. This has nothing to do with Russian collusion. This started as Russian collusion…this has absolutely nothing to do…this is a witch hunt and it’s a disgrace,” Trump said.

President Trump also said that he feels very bad for Paul Manafort. “He worked for Bob Dole, he worked for Ronald Reagan…” Trump continued.

The President didn’t answer any questions about his former lawyer Michael Cohen who just pleaded guilty to 8 counts; his plea deal includes 3-5 years jail time.

VIDEO:


After four days of deliberations, the jury reached a verdict on 8 counts and could not make a decision on 10 counts in the tax evasion and bank fraud case against Paul Manafort.

Judge Ellis declared a mistrial on 10 counts. The jury found Manafort guilty on 8 counts.

Both Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort were hunted down by Mueller and his thugs because of their association with Donald Trump.

We currently have a two-tiered justice system because AG Sessions is AWOL.

One set of laws for Trump and his supporters and another set of laws for Democrats and Clinton-Deep State cronies.

H/T: Zero Hedge

Leave a comment

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Like us on Facebook

Advertisement

Trending

Close