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Friday, June 23, 2017

Bernie Sanders's wife, Jane Sanders, has reportedly hired lawyers following a federal investigation into her time as president of the now-defunct Burlington College in Vermont. She is accused of fraudulently obtaining a $10 million bank loan that was purportedly used to buy 33 acres of land for the school. ... When asked about the allegations against him in May, Bernie Sanders said it would be improper to comment, though he added: "There is a process going on, which was initiated by Trump's campaign manager, somebody who does this all of the time, has gone after a number of Democrats and progressives in this state."

A so-called Chinese "urban village," Dafen once produced an estimated 60 percent of all the world's oil paintings. During its heyday -- when the village's reputation as an art factory rang truer than today -- it almost exclusively cranked out copies of paintings in the Western art canon. These canvases found their way into hotel rooms, show homes and furniture outlets all around the world. ... Now, an array of factors, which in many ways mirror the larger picture of rapid Chinese economic development, have converged to threaten Dafen's long-term viability. In response, the government is stepping in to try to change its image from a city of cheap fakes to a creative hub home to original artists making works to fill the homes of China's rapidly growing middle class. read more

U.S. District Court Judge Mark A. Goldsmith responded to a habeus corpus petition filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 114 immigrants by staying the deportation orders until he decides whether he has jurisdiction to hear the case.

The Justice Department said the detainees must go to immigration court to try to remain in the U.S., not U.S. District Court. But the ACLU said they might be deported before an immigration judge can consider their requests to stay. read more

Thursday, June 22, 2017

President Donald Trump says he did not make secret recordings of ex-FBI chief James Comey despite an earlier hint to the contrary. He said in a tweet: "I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings." Days after he fired Comey, the president had tweeted: "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations ... " He has been under pressure to produce the tapes amid inquiries into alleged Russian meddling in the election. The House Intelligence Committee had earlier this month asked the White House to hand over any such recordings.

Two of the nation's top intelligence officials told Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team and Senate investigators, in separate meetings last week, that President Donald Trump suggested they say publicly there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians, according to multiple sources. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers described their interactions with the President about the Russia investigation as odd and uncomfortable, but said they did not believe the President gave them orders to interfere, according to multiple sources familiar with their accounts. Sources say both men went further than they did in June 7 public hearings, when they provided little detail about the interactions. read more



On January 10, 2016, in the midst of Sanders' sudden stardom -- just weeks before the votes in Iowa and New Hampshire -- the U.S. attorney for Vermont was sent a "Request for an Investigation into Apparent Federal Bank Fraud."

Backed by six exhibits and a dozen documents, the four-page letter described how Jane Sanders had "orchestrated" the purchase of 33 acres along Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont's largest city, where her husband had minted his populist political brand as mayor. The deal closed in 2010, when the senator's wife was president of Burlington College, a tiny, obscure, nontraditional school that always seemed to be struggling for students and funds. The letter alleged that to secure a $10 million loan and execute her grand plan to expand the college, Jane Sanders had falsified and inflated nearly $2 million that she'd claimed donors had pledged to repay the loans.

Sanders had "successfully and intentionally engaged in a fraudulent scheme to actively conceal and misrepresent material facts from a federal financial institution," the letter alleged. It pressed for a federal investigation into potential bank fraud.

Bernie and Jane Sanders shrugged off the charges. Reporters, mesmerized by the rumpled Vermont senator's razor-thin margin in Iowa and crushing defeat of Clinton in New Hampshire, ignored the letter. The allegations got no traction on the trail.

Beyond the glare, federal investigators and FBI agents started to pull apart the $10 million financial arrangement. They showed up at Burlington College to sift through hard drives, audit reports and spreadsheets. They began to interview donors, board members and past president Carol Moore. "I was contacted and spoke with an FBI agent numerous times last spring, again last summer," Moore told Vermont Public Radio in May 2017, "and recently, maybe a month ago."

A second letter to federal prosecutors in early 2016 alleged that Senator Sanders' office had pressured the bank to approve the loan application submitted by Jane Sanders. "Improper pressure by a United States Senator is a serious ethical violation," the letter asserted.

Again, Sanders avoided publicly commenting on the charges.

That strategy seems to have run its course. The federal investigation has been going on for a year and a half. As recently as April, federal investigators were reviewing records and interviewing participants, according to email traffic and former Burlington College board members who have been contacted by FBI agents. The FBI, it seems, is looking into exactly what Jane Sanders did or didn't do -- and whether her husband Bernie, hero of the progressive left, tried to ease along one of the loans.

From David Frum's "The Lasting Damage of Trump's 'Tapes' Bluff" (www.theatlantic.com):

The tweet was intended to intimidate. It failed, spectacularly: Instead of silencing Comey, it set in motion the special counsel investigation that now haunts Donald Trump's waking imagination.

But the failed intimidation does have important real world consequences.

First, it confirms America's adversaries in their intensifying suspicion that the president's tough words are hollow talk. The rulers of North Korea will remember the menacing April 4 statement from the Department of State that the United States had spoken enough about missile tests, implying that decisive actions lay ahead -- and the lack of actions and deluge of further statements that actually followed.

The Chinese will remember Trump's retreat from his "two China" messaging during the transition. They will have noted that Trump has entirely retreated from his insistence that they restrain North Korea or pay some price -- seeing instead his "At least I know China tried!" tweet of June 20.

The Russians have buzzed American aircraft and severed the deconfliction hot line over Syria. They have paid no real price for their attack on the integrity of the 2016 election -- indeed, the president continues to exonerate them and to argue for relaxed sanctions.

And while the administration continues on a collision course with Iran, even they must wonder whether there is really very much to fear from a president who has alienated the big European countries -- notably Germany -- who once joined U.S. sanctions but who are now increasing their exports to Iran at a rate of almost 30 percent a year.

"Never bluff." Each outgoing president should write those words by hand in the letter of advice he leaves atop the Resolute desk for his incoming successor. Trump showed the whole world that when he sweats, he panics. That's a lesson that will be remembered by the planet's bad actors for however long this president holds office.

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