How Trump’s Dinesh D’Souza Pardon Should Backfire

My Slate piece on Friday:

If it pushes New York to change its double jeopardy laws, it could be a big defeat for the president.

President Donald Trump’s pardon of Dinesh D’Souza on Thursday sparked speculation that it was a signal to his associates not to cooperate with Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Roger Stone, Trump’s own informal adviser and a potential defendant in the Mueller investigation, seemed to think as much: “The special counsel has awesome powers, as you know, but the president has even more awesome powers,” Stone told the Washington Post.

If that is the strategy, it may be backfiring legally and politically.

Continue reading “How Trump’s Dinesh D’Souza Pardon Should Backfire”

Declaration of Prosecutorial Independence: Get ready for DOJ v. Trump

My latest in Slate, based on my research with Ethan Leib.

“On Thursday, Department of Justice officials have scheduled a pair of meetings about an FBI informant’s role in the bureau’s investigations of Donald Trump. In brokering the deal, Trump and the Department of Justice have averted one showdown, but they are still heading toward a confrontation over highly sensitive and confidential material. The bad news is that the next confrontation might provide a pretext for Trump to fire DOJ officials, while further endangering our nation’s intelligence gathering and the rule of law. The good news is that this pretext is so clearly in bad faith that it might allow those DOJ officials to offer an overdue constitutional argument to clarify the limits of executive power: that the president’s constitutional duty to “faithfully execute” the office means he cannot sabotage criminal investigations or national security for self-protection. The next move might be to prepare for declaratory relief in federal court…”

See article for more.

Brookfield, the fund saving Kushner, is linked to both Qatar and UAE

The news broke this Saturday afternoon that Donald Trump, Jr. had met George Nader, an emissary from Saudi Arabia and UAE, along with Erik Prince, Stephen Miller, and Joel Zamel, an Israeli social media expert on Aug. 3, 2016 in Trump Tower:

During the Trump Tower meeting, the Times said, George Nader, the emissary for the two crown princes, indicated that leaders in Saudi Arabiaand the UAE wished to help Trump. Nader, the Times said, is now cooperating with Mueller… It is not known if anything came of the alleged offer for assistance. The Times stated that Trump Jr responded “approvingly”.

This report raises many enormous questions. But it also connects back to another explosive story last week: Brookfield, an enormous fund linked to Qatar, was negotiating to buy Kushner’s disastrous $1.8 billion investment in 666 5th Ave. I’ve written a blogpost and a Google Doc timeline connecting Qatar as the possible intermediary between the Russia-Trump quid pro quo deal of lifting sanctions in return for Rosneft sale commissions. I’ve also written about Kushner’s terrible real estate investment, and how he allegedly escalated a Gulf crisis against Qatar, which coincidentally was followed by a Qatar-linked loan of $184 million. The Brookfield deal could save Kushner from an upcoming balloon payment that his family cannot afford, which could mean financial ruin. I addressed the Qatar links in the Brookfield deal in detail at p. 11-12 of my time line here, with public sourcing. Qatar is the largest outside investor in BPY, even though that’s only 9%, and I cite Wendy Siegelman’s research showing how Qatar is often a lead manager in some major Brookfield projects in New York and London. We need to see the details of the deal.

And it turns out that Brookfield is also linked to the United Arab Emirates.

  1. Brookfield Property Partners (BPY) is the unit of Brookfield Assets Management that is negotiating the deal. Its annual report shows that BPY has eight directors, one of which is Soon Young Chang. See p. 109: “Dr. Chang is a member of the board of directors of Dubai World. Dr. Chang serves as Senior Advisor to the Investment Corporation of Dubai, providing strategic counsel and lending his global perspective to the investment arm of the Dubai Government. Dr. Chang is the founder and chairman of Midas International Asset Management Company, an international asset management fund which manages over $5 billion. He is also a founding partner of Sentinel Advisor, a New York-based arbitrage fund.”
  2. Chang is a director of Dubai World, the investment company for the Government  of Dubai, one of the two most powerful emirates in the UAE. Wikipedia summarizes: “As a subsidiary of Dubai Inc., it is the emirate’s flag bearer in global investments and has a central role in the direction of Dubai’s economy. Assets include DP World, which caused considerable controversy when trying to take over six US ports…” It is chaired by Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the youngest son of Dubai’s former ruler Saeed bin Maktoum bin Hasher Al Maktoum, the half-brother of Dubai’s former ruler Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, and the uncle of Dubai’s ruler Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
  3. Chang advises the Investment Corporation of Dubai, the state-owned holding company, a sovereign wealth fund owned by the government. Its chair is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, “the ruler of Dubai,” and the Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE. He offers some interesting remarks about the 2016 election addressing conspiracy theories here.“Yes, I believe in some conspiracy theories… Even during the US elections there was talk about conspiracies, but if a country says we are victims of a conspiracy and then stops working, this is a mistake. Here in the UAE we have faced conspiracies, media campaigns, economic wars. But we never stopped, it only made us more determined.”
  4. Brookfield (BPY) lists (at p. F-60) one of its most significant developments as ICD Brookfield Place in Dubai, UAE ($163 million).
  5. Brookfield Asset Management’s annual report states: “We currently have approximately 6 million square feet of active development projects, including properties in New York, London and Dubai.” Again, BAM highlights Dubai. One of their eight corporate offices is in Dubai.

There was excellent coverage of the Saudi Arabia/UAE meeting over the weekend. I highly recommend Chris Hayes’s interview of Middle East expert Dexter Filkins here. Filkins explains the axis of conflict in the Middle East of Saudi/UAE/Egypt (plus Israel) vs. Iran/Syria/Lebanon, with Qatar getting caught in between. One might wonder if UAE and Qatar are at odds, why would they both be involved in the same deal to help Kushner? If UAE had made an arrangement with the Trump campaign, Qatar had even more incentive to be helpful and not get frozen out. The Saudi/UAE blockade of April 2017 show the risks of not being in with the Trump administration. (Filkins puzzles at how Kushner knew all about this blockade before it happened, while Tillerson and Mattis were in the dark…) It is conceivable that Qatar was either cooperating with UAE or competing with UAE in assisting the Trump campaign. The Brookfield negotiations might reflect Qatar’s response to the blockade “stick” by offering cooperating now with UAE in return for a carrot.

Another innocent explanation is that both Qatar and UAE have so much cash, and they are often in the middle of massive energy and real estate deals around the world. It may actually be a coincidence that Qatar and UAE keep showing up in these events. But the number of coincidences are remarkable, and it is a problem that anyone has a reasonable doubt that the Trump administration is compromised by massive debts, foreign bailouts, and rampant conflicts of interest.

I am speculating from public reports and connecting dots. Nader is reportedly cooperating with Mueller, but so far we see no smoking gun. I don’t have any conclusions here, just three observations and three questions:
It is clear that Soon Young Chang has significant relations with UAE’s upper-most leadership. It is clear that Brookfield has a significant relationship with UAE. And it is now reported that UAE sent an emissary to the Trump campaign to discuss assisting it.
What does Soon Young Chang know? And when did he know it?
What does George Nader know? And when did he know it?
What does Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum know? And when did he know it?
Brookfield’s annual report states under “conflicts of interest”:
“While Brookfield acts in good faith to resolve all potential conflicts in a manner that is fair and balanced taking into account the facts and circumstances known to it at the time, there can be no assurance that any determination made by Brookfield will be most beneficial to us, favorable to us or would not have been different if additional information were available to it.”
I’d like to hear Brookfield address this massive conflict of interest, from the UAE and Soon Young Chang, to Qatar, and to Kushner. Maybe their investors would like an explanation, too.

Don Jr.’s Trump Tower Meeting with Saudi and UAE: Was it a crime?

I’m re-posting my discussion of these issues here. We cannot criminalize conversations with foreign nationals about politics. That shoe doesn’t fit well on the other foot.

But we don’t know if Don Jr. made any deals in this meeting, accepted more than just information, or lied to investigators about any of these details. I’d be most concerned that Don Jr. lied to Congress in his long testimony, but it’s important to be clear and fair about what criminal law covers and what it doesn’t.

Trump and Nunes Are Unwittingly Undermining Their Con Law Argument Against the Mueller Investigation

And bonus: They are disproving Scalia’s dissent in Morrison v. Olson and its ahistorical assertion of extreme executive power.

Asha Rangappa (friend from Yale Law) and I write in Just Security and Slate:

“The latest sideshow stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion is Congressmen Devin Nunes’s (R-Calif.) and Mark Meadows’s (R-N.C.) demand for classified documents from the Department of Justice. Nunes has requested that the DOJ reveal the identity of a key source in the Russia probe, despite the DOJ’s objection that providing this information would place the source in danger. Nunes nevertheless has issued subpoenas to the DOJ and is threatening Attorney General Jeff Sessions with contempt charges and impeachment if he doesn’t comply. Meanwhile, The Washington Post has reported that Meadows plans to use a federal audit to access the DOJ memo expanding Mueller’s jurisdiction beyond his original appointment. Meadows and Nunes have grounded their aggressive requests in Congress’ constitutional oversight authority over the Executive Branch, and the Trump administration has endorsed their efforts. Though they may not realize it, in doing so they are undermining the core constitutional argument asserted by President Trump and his allies against the Russia investigation.

Russia/Qatar/Trump Timeline

I have produced a Google Doc timeline, based on publicly available reports and documents, of the alleged bribery scheme between Russia and Trump associates, possibly through Qatar’s purchase of Rosneft.

Summary: 

Russia’s sale of Rosneft Gas is the key event in the Steele Dossier’s quid pro quo allegation. On June 2016, Russians allegedly offer Trump associates a massive payout derived from the commissions on Russia’s sale of 19.5% of state energy giant Rosneft ($11 billion), in return for lifting sanctions. Weeks after the election, Flynn and Kushner are in contact with Russian officials. Then Russia sells a 19.5% stake in Rosneft in a concealed deal, eventually revealed to be with Qatar. Immediately after the deal, a Qatari diplomat allegedly met with Cohen and Flynn at Trump Tower.

In January 2017, the Dossier is published. In the next few months, Kushner sought money directly from Qatar to bail out his real estate problem, but Qatar declines. It is possible that Qatar was backing off of the deal, wary of its exposure from the Dossier. In April 2017, Kushner reportedly escalated a Gulf state crisis against Qatar with a blockade and a risk of regional war. A few months later, the Qatar-backed Apollo Group delivered $184 million to Kushner, and a real estate fund linked to Qatar is in negotiations to bail out Kushner’s $1.8 billion disaster at 666 5th Ave.

The link to the full Google Doc timeline, which I will continually update, is here.

I welcome suggestions and feedback at jshugerman@law.fordham.edu and @jedshug on Twitter. (If I sometimes rely on speculation or inside sourcing, I indicate accordingly by posing speculations as questions and appropriate notations).

Here is a link to my first blogpost on the Qatar connection on June 3, 2017, when I read that Qatar was revealed to be the secret Rosneft buyer. Here is a link to my March 2018 Slate piece connecting the news of a massive Qatar-backed loan to Kushner, after Kushner’s escalation of the Saudi-Qatar conflict in 2017, back to the Steele/Rosneft timeline.

Here’s my segment on Chris Hayes on May 14 and my segment on Rachel Maddow on May 15 outlining this Qatar/Rosneft hypothesis. On Maddow, it is a 10 minutes intro on Qatar. I start at 11 minutes.