Report: UAE linked to illegal influence in 2016 US election

Adviser to UAE crown prince allegedly funnelled over $3.5m in illegal campaign contributions, New York Times says.

An indictment links the United Arab Emirates to illegal campaign donations [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]
An indictment links the United Arab Emirates to illegal campaign donations

A federal indictment unsealed in the United States details how the United Arab Emirates (UAE) sought influence in the campaigns of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and President Donald Trump in the 2016 election, according to a report by the New York Times.

The indictment, which was released this week by the US Department of Justice, accuses businessman George Nader of funnelling more than $3.5m in illicit campaign donations through fellow businessman Ahmad Khawaja.

Khawaja has also been charged with acting as a conduit for Nader’s illegal contributions.

The donations sought to attain “favour” and “potential financial support” in Washington for an unnamed foreign government , at first with Democrat Clinton and her allies, and then with Trump after he unexpectedly won the election, the New York Times reported.

The newspaper said that a close-reading of the 64-page indictment makes it clear that the government in question is the United Arab Emirates, where Nader runs a business and advises Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.

While lobbyists with foreign clients regularly make contributions to US political campaigns, critics told the newspaper that the alleged scheme detailed in the indictment is one of the most brazen attempts by a foreign government to buy foreign influence during a campaign in recent memory. Rarely, the newspaper noted, has a head of state been so closely linked to allegedly evading campaign finance laws.

Nader had previously testified last year during the Federal Bureau of Investigations inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He is in jail in the US on charges related to the possession of child pornography.

‘Baklava’, ‘Our Sister’, and ‘HH’

The federal indictment detailed that Nader and Khawaja, in messages, often referred to the back-channel donations as “baklava”, candidate Clinton as “Our Sister” or “the Big Lady”, and the UAE crown prince by the initials “HH” for his His Highness.

Leaked documents show Saudi, UAE bid to influence Trump

“Will send you a note on the matter as per HH instruction,” Nader wrote in a text message in late June 2016, which also described a million-dollar payment of “baklava”, according to the report.

Several exchanges quoted in the indictment also show Nader reassuring Khawaja about the delivery of large sums of money to pay for donations.

“Fresh hand made Baklva on the way designed especially for that private event at your house later this month! First tray on the way!” Nader wrote in a message in July 2016. “Once you taste it and you like the choices more on the way soon.”

The messages also indicated that Nader kept the crown prince abreast of his efforts.

“Traveling on Sat morning to catch up with our Big Sister and her husband: I am seeing him on Sunday and her in Tuesday Sir! Would love to see you tomorrow at your convenience. . . for your guidance, instruction and blessing!” Nader wrote in June 2016 to an Emirati official who appears to be the crown prince, the New York Times report said.

A representative of the Emirati embassy in Washington declined to comment to the newspaper.

Petition: Tell Congress to Ban surprise medical bills.

It’s bad enough that Americans have to pause in the midst of medical emergencies to ask if insurance companies will cover the cost of treatment. But it’s even worse that visits to “in-network” providers can still result in hundreds or thousands of dollars in surprise medical bills.1

Today, one in five emergency room visits — and 70 percent of critical air ambulance transports — result in surprise medical bills. When healthcare providers and insurance companies can’t agree on how much treatment costs, they turn around and bill patients for the difference.2

Insurance companies’ greed has broken our healthcare system in more ways than we can count. But right now, we have a chance to take real, bipartisan action to end surprise medical billing, and we can’t let it go to waste.

One surprise medical bill can tip someone into bankruptcy, and they are growing more and more common. Maybe the insurance company pads its profits by paying the hospital or ambulance less than the treatment costs. Or providers demand higher and higher fees that the insurance company won’t pay. Or the insurer reimburses the hospital, but not the doctor who provided treatment. Regardless, the story ends the same: patients end up stuck paying for the balance, with no warning and through no fault of their own.3

The good news is that there is new momentum behind legislation that would ban this “balance billing,” based on three commonsense principles:4

  • Ban surprise balance billing and fully protect patients with no exceptions, especially in emergency situations where people can’t make sure they will see an in-network provider
  • Contain costs by establishing a reasonable payment level between providers and insurers based on actual prices, not corporate greed
  • Ensure comprehensive protection nationwide so federal law reinforces the strongest state laws and helps people in states with no protections


A bipartisan consensus in Congress is emerging against surprise medical bills but insurers and emergency medical providers are fighting back to preserve their profits.5 It’s up to us to fight for the strongest possible legislation with no loopholes or handouts.

Sign CREDO’s petition to Congress: Ban surprise medical bills.

SIGN THE PETITION
Thank you for speaking out,

Heidi Hess, Co-Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Petition: Investigate US Rep. Devin Nunes for complicity in the Ukraine affair.

Nunes.jpgThe House Intelligence Committee has submitted its report of the Trump impeachment inquiry—and it is definitive, detailed & utterly damning.

But what’s also noteworthy is how Rep. Devin Nunes—the ranking Republican on that committee—was directly involved in all aspects of the scheme he was pretending to investigate. He was more than just a Trump apologist. He is a Trump accomplice.

We already knew that in November 2018, Devin Nunes traveled to the Ukraine with three aides—where he allegedly met with corrupt former prosecutor Viktor Shokin for the express purpose of supporting Trump’s conspiracy theory against Joe Biden.

Now, the committee’s 300-page report shows that in April 2019, Nunes spoke with indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas—who was tasked by Trump to investigate the Biden’s activities in Ukraine. And we also now know that Nunes had talks with Rudy Giuliani, right when he was orchestrating the move to oust the U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine.

The fox was guarding the henhouse. Devin Nunes was more than just a partisan Republican, eager to defend Trump for political expediency. He was actively involved in enabling Donald Trump’s abuse of power, which should get the president impeached.

Sign the petition: Impeaching Donald Trump is not enough. We need to investigate Rep. Devin Nunes, for his outrageous complicity.

Click to AUTOMATICALLY sign the petition
Our message to the House Ethics Committee:
I am deeply disturbed at reports that Rep. Devin Nunes traveled to the Ukraine to help Trump dig up dirt on Joe Biden. It seems likely that he is doing more than just defending the President, but has instead abused his role on the House Intelligence Committee to jeopardize our national security and the integrity of our elections.

Keep fighting,
Paul Hogarth, Daily Kos

Aljazeera: What are US articles of impeachment, and what happens next?

House Speaker Pelosi says she has instructed the House Judiciary panel to draft articles of impeachment against Trump.

Trump attends the NATO leaders summit in Watford, UK [File: Toby Melville/Reuters]

Trump attends the NATO leaders summit in Watford, UK

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday asked the House Judiciary Committee to draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump over his effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival.

The announcement came after weeks of public hearings in the House Intelligence Committee, a 300-page report and divisive rhetoric highlighting the political divide that has come to define the impeachment process.

More:

With Democrats moving forward with impeachment charges, here’s a quick guide to how impeachment works, what happens next.

1. What is impeachment?

The founders of the United States included impeachment in the US Constitution as an option for removal of presidents by Congress.

They agreed that presidents could be removed if found guilty by Congress of “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors”.

2. What are articles of impeachment?

The sole authority under the Constitution to bring articles of impeachment is vested in the House of Representatives where proceedings can begin in the Judiciary Committee. If the House approves articles of impeachment, or formal charges, he or she would then be subject to trial in the US Senate.

In the context of Trump, Democrats first pursued a two-month inquiry, led by the House Intelligence Committee, which submitted a 300-page report about its findings earlier this week.

Democrats have accused Trump of abusing his power of office.

“The facts are uncontested,” Pelosi said on Thursday. “The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security by withholding military aid and (a) critical Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into his political rival.”

Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi makes a statement at the Capitol in Washington

The inquiry is centred on a July phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 presidential frontrunner, and his son Hunter, who served on a board of a Ukrainian gas company. Trump also wanted an investigation into a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 elections.

At the time of the call, the Trump administration was withholding nearly $400m in military aid from Ukraine.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing, calling the impeachment inquiry a hoax.

It’s unclear what articles of impeachment will be presented, but Pelosi’s comments on Tuesday offered a framework for what they may look like. They could also include obstruction of Congress and Justice, Democrats have said. The White House has stonewalled requests from the House for testimony and documents.

3. What happens next?

The House Judiciary Committee has announced it will hold a hearing on Monday that will include presentations on the evidence form the impeachment inquiry.

It’s unclear how long the process will take, but many expect the full House to vote by the end of the year on formal impeachment charges. Impeachment in the 435-member House must be approved with a simple majority.

Before then, however, the House Judiciary Committee will draw up and vote on articles of impeachment.

If the House votes to impeach, the matter moves to the Senate, where a trial is held. The chief justice of the Supreme Court presides over the trial.

A two-thirds majority vote is required in the 100-member Senate to convict and remove a president from office.

The Senate is made up of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats. At this point, no Republicans have indicated they will vote against the president should a trial take place.

4. Who would become president if Trump was removed?

A Senate conviction that removed Trump from office would automatically elevate Vice President Mike Pence to become president, completing Trump’s term, which ends on January 20, 2021.

 

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Moveon.org: HAPPENING NOW: WE’RE AT ALL SIX OF SUSAN COLLINS’ OFFICES ACROSS MAINE

download (2)I’m Caleb, an organizer working with MoveOn on impeachment here in Maine (you may have heard from me or my colleague Bonnie last week!).

As I send you this email, right now, Mainers from Caribou to Portland are at all six of Senator Susan Collins’ Maine offices demanding that she uphold her oath of office “to support and defend the Constitution” and that she hold Trump accountable by supporting his impeachment and removal.

Sen. Collins is home this week—so she has no excuses for not meeting with us.

If you weren’t able to join us in person today, can you help by flooding her district offices with calls?

Give her a call at your closest district office: 

  • Senator Susan M. Collins
    • Augusta, ME: 207-622-8414
    • Bangor, ME: 207-945-0417
    • Biddeford, ME: 207-283-1101
    • Caribou, ME: 207-493-7873
    • Lewiston, ME: 207-784-6969
    • Portland, ME: 207-780-3575

You can say something like this: No one is above the law. Please support the impeachment inquiry in the House and vote to convict and remove Trump in the Senate. There is already overwhelming evidence of Trump’s crimes and corruption, and you need to uphold your oath to support and defend the Constitution!

Then, let us know how the call went.

Here’s why it’s so important that we keep up the pressure on Collins today:

Last week, Sen. Collins, along with Mitt Romney and other Republican senators, met with Trump at the White House—in the middle of ongoing impeachment hearings.1

Collins has used the excuse that she’s acting as a “juror” in Trump’s trial in the Senate to justify her silence on Trump’s crimes. But have you ever heard of a juror holding private meetings with a defendant?2

It’s clear that, right now, Collins isn’t planning to be an impartial juror. She’s meeting with Trump behind closed doors but, so far, has refused to meet with her constituents who support impeachment and removal. Let’s change that.

As we show up at Collins’ offices all across the state today, it’d be really helpful if you could pile on by calling in. Click here to get a number and script; then, let us know how the call went.

Thanks for all you do.

–Caleb, Bonnie, Brian, Anne, and the rest of the team and the rest of the team

P.S. Check out MoveOn’s Facebook page to watch and share a livestream of our office visit in Portland!

Maine: Panel considers ways to improve indigent legal services

Former Maine Chief Justice Daniel Wathen says something has to happen to ensure adequate funding and representation for poor people tried for crimes in the state.

AUGUSTA — A former Maine chief justice said something has to happen to ensure adequate funding and representation for poor people tried for crimes in Maine.

More resources are needed regardless whether the state sticks with the current system or creates a public defender office, Daniel Wathen said.

The Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services held a public hearing last week as the panelists prepare a series of proposals to address the effectiveness of the state’s current system to provide legal defense to Maine’s poor.“Either an assigned counsel system or a public defender system can work. Both have advantages and disadvantages. But under either scenario, it requires adequate funding that the system has never experienced,” he told The Associated Press.

That system is under new scrutiny for lax oversight of the billing practices by the private attorneys commissioned to defend low-income clients.

A scathing report released in April detailed significant shortcomings.

All states are required to provide an attorney to people who are unable to afford their own lawyer under a landmark 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Maine is the only one of them that hires and assigns private attorneys to what are known as “indigent” cases. All other states now meet the requirement through some version of a public defender’s office and a staff of attorneys.

Alison Beyea, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said the April report by the nonpartisan Sixth Amendment Center found that the system is failing indigent clients.

“The state has no mechanism in place for sorting the good from the bad, or for giving remedial training to the lawyers who are underqualified to do their job,” she said.

She pointed out that the ACLU has sued in other states for changes. But the ACLU is optimistic that the commission can make changes to avoid legal action.

In the 2018 fiscal year, Maine spent more than $21 million statewide to provide court-appointed counsel to Maine’s poor. The commission’s spending has nearly doubled in the nine years since it began overseeing several hundred private defense attorneys.

Pine Tree Watch, a nonprofit news service, launched an investigation and found that $2.2 million in potential overbilling by private attorneys.

US Navy secretary says Trump tweet not a formal order

Trump must issue formal order to stop review of Edward Gallagher, who was acquitted of war crimes, Richard Spencer says.

The Navy notified Gallagher he will face a review early next month to determine if he should remain on the elite force [File: John Gastaldo/Reuters]
The Navy notified Gallagher he will face a review early next month to determine if he should remain on the elite force [File: John Gastaldo/Reuters]

The secretary of the United States Navy has said he does not consider a Twitter post by President Donald Trump an order and would need a formal order to stop a review of a sailor who could lose his status as a member of its elite SEAL commando unit.

Trump on Thursday tweeted that the Navy should “get back to business” rather than convene a board to determine whether Navy Special Warfare Operator Edward Gallagher – who had been accused of war crimes but was found guilty only of a lesser offence – should retain his qualification as a Navy SEAL.

More:

Referring to Trump’s tweet, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said on Saturday: “I don’t interpret them as a formal order.”

He added: “I need a formal order to act.”

Trump had insisted in his tweet that the Navy “will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin”, inserting himself into an ongoing legal review of the sailor’s ability to hold onto the pin that designates him a SEAL.

The Navy on Wednesday had notified Gallagher that he will face a review early next month to determine if he should remain on the elite force.

Multiple US news outlets reported in recent days that Spencer had threatened to resign over the issue, a claim he sharply denied.

“Contrary to popular belief, I am still here. I did not threaten to resign,” Spencer said, speaking at a forum in Halifax, Canada, while also acknoledging that he serves at the pleasure of the president.

“The president the United States is the commander in chief. He’s involved in every aspect of government and he can make decisions and give orders as appropriate,” he said.

Convicted

Gallagher had been accused in the stabbing death of a wounded captive fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) armed group in Iraq in 2017, attempted murder of other civilians and obstruction of justice.

In July, he was acquitted of charges related to those accusations, but was convicted of a lesser charge: posing with the slain fighter’s body in a group picture with other SEALs.

As a result, he was demoted one rank, from chief petty officer to petty officer first class.

On November 15, Trump reversed the demotion handed down to the 40 year old under his conviction.

Gallagher’s lawyers have accused the Navy of trying to remove the SEAL designation in retaliation for Trump’s decision last week to restore Gallagher’s rank.

Gallagher filed a complaint with the inspector general accusing a rear admiral of insubordination for defying Trump’s actions. Rear Admiral Collin Green is the Naval Special Warfare commander.

Under the review procedure, a five-person board will convene on December 2 behind closed doors.

It will include one SEAL officer and four senior enlisted SEALs, according to two US officials cited by The Associated Press news agency.

Trump’s initial order in Gallagher only referred to restoring his rank, but it did not explicitly pardon the SEAL for any wrongdoing.

Green also notified three SEAL officers who oversaw Gallagher during the deployment – Lieutenant Commander Robert Breisch, Lieutenant Jacob Portier and Lieutenant Thomas MacNeil – that they are also being reviewed, according to the officials.

Removing their Trident pins means they would no longer be SEALs but could remain in the Navy. The Navy has revoked 154 Trident pins since 2011.