Author Archive | Boohunney

So you want a manual transmission?

Just looking through the social media this morning and a friend posted this article. It is a guide to car models that a manual transmission is available.

I used to drive manual transmission exclusively. Then, when I was in sales in Downtown Atlanta, I bought a car with an automatic. It was nice not having to change gears in traffic.

There are some pretty sporty models. So, for you stick shift fans, here you go!

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DeVos picks new head of Office of Federal Student Aid …

Education Secretary, Betsy Devos, has appointed Arthur Wayne Johnson, the CEO of private student loan company Reunion Student Loan Finance Corporation, to run the Office of Federal Student Aid, which manages $1.2 trillion in student debt.

The announcement Tuesday did not mention Johnson’s role as founder and chief executive of Reunion Student Loan Finance Corporation, based in South Dakota.

Rather, DeVos praised a dissertation Johnson, 61, completed last year through a weekend PhD program at Mercer University in Atlanta.

 

“He actually wrote the book on student loan debt,” DeVos said in a statement.

The announcement came almost a month after James Runcie abruptly resigned as chief operating officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). Runcie, as he left with three years remaining in his term, warned of what he described as brewing management problems within the Education Department. He complained in a letter to staff of being “encumbered from exercising” his “authorities to properly lead.”

 

DeVos, in a statement, called Johnson “the right person to modernize FSA.” She added:  “He will bring a unique combination of CEO-level operating skills and an in-depth understanding of the needs and issues associated with student loan borrowers and their families.”

 

It was a stark departure for Johnson, who had started his career as a financial consultant and ascended to executive-level positions with credit card and banking firms before starting his own student loan company in 2013.

 

That company, Reunion Student Loan Finance Corporation, targets the “underserved, premium quality segment of the private student loan market” to refinance debt into lower monthly payments, Johnson wrote on his résumé. The company’s website promotes Reunion as providing a “fast, smooth and efficient refinancing experience.”

I hope this choice is heavily vetted. It could mean ending government subsidized loans and outsourcing of the operations. Our young people have it hard enough trying to finance a college education.

 

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Mueller will be looking into these kinds of things, too…

BloomberView has an opinion piece by Timothy O’Brien about Trump’s relationship with Bayrock Group, a real estate development firm.

Trump has repeatedly labeled Comey’s and Mueller’s investigations “witch hunts,” and his lawyers have said that the last decade of his tax returns (which the president has declined to release) would show that he had no income or loans from Russian sources. In May, Trump told NBC that he has no property or investments in Russia. “I am not involved in Russia,” he said.

But that doesn’t address national security and other problems that might arise for the president if Russia is involved in Trump, either through potentially compromising U.S. business relationships or through funds that flowed into his wallet years ago. In that context, a troubling history of Trump’s dealings with Russians exists outside of Russia: in a dormant real-estate development firm, the Bayrock Group, which once operated just two floors beneath the president’s own office in Trump Tower.

Bayrock partnered with the future president and his two eldest children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, on a series of real-estate deals between 2002 and about 2011, the most prominent being the troubled Trump Soho hotel and condominium in Manhattan.

During the years that Bayrock and Trump did deals together, the company was also a bridge between murky European funding and a number of projects in the U.S. to which the president once lent his name in exchange for handsome fees. Icelandic banks that dealt with Bayrock, for example, were easy marks for money launderers and foreign influence, according to interviews with government investigators, legislators, and others in Reykjavik, Brussels, Paris and London. Trump testified under oath in a 2007 deposition that Bayrock brought Russian investors to his Trump Tower office to discuss deals in Moscow, and said he was pondering investing there.

“It’s ridiculous that I wouldn’t be investing in Russia,” Trump said in that deposition. “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment.”

One of Bayrock’s principals was a career criminal named Felix Sater who had ties to Russian and American organized crime groups. Before linking up with the company and with Trump, he had worked as a mob informant for the U.S. government, fled to Moscow to avoid criminal charges while boasting of his KGB and Kremlin contacts there, and had gone to prison for slashing apart another man’s face with a broken cocktail glass.

In a series of interviews and a lawsuit, a former Bayrock insider, Jody Kriss, claims that he eventually departed from the firm because he became convinced that Bayrock was actually a front for money laundering.

Kriss has sued Bayrock, alleging that in addition to laundering money, the Bayrock team also skimmed cash from the operation, dodged taxes and cheated him out of millions of dollars. Sater and others at Bayrock would not comment for this column; in court documents they have contested Kriss’s charges and describe him, essentially, as a disgruntled employee trying to shake them down.

But Kriss’s assertion that Bayrock was a criminal operation during the years it partnered with Trump has been deemed plausible enough to earn him a court victory: In December, a federal judge in New York said Kriss’s lawsuit against Bayrock, which he first filed nine years ago, could proceed as a racketeering case…

Hit the link and read the whole thing. It is really fascinating.

Rachel Maddow did an interview with O’Brien the other night.

 

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On the campaign trail with Trump…

When will Donald get the notion in his head that he won the election?

He does not have to campaign anymore. Now he is proposing an immigration law that is already in place…

President Trump in a rally on Wednesday evening said immigrants who enter the United States should not be eligible for welfare benefits for five years, though such a law has already existed for 20 years.

“The time has come for new immigration rules which say that those seeking admission into our country must be able to support themselves financially and should not use welfare for a period of at least five years,” Trump told a crowd in Cedar Rapids, Iowa at the U.S. Cellular Center.

The president said his administration would be “putting in legislation to that effect very shortly.”

But such a law is already in effect and has been in place since 1996.

Known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), the legislation was passed during the administration of former President Bill Clinton and said that an immigrant is “not eligible for any Federal means-tested public benefit” for 5 years, which starts on the date the immigrant enters the country…”

I try very hard not to go the route of ad hominem attacks on his advisors, but, for real, who is driving this bus?

 

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Waiting on Mitch’s Healthcare Bill …

Today is the Mitch McConnell says the text of the Senate ACHA bill will be revealed. After the unveiling of the bill, we will have to wait until next week for a CBO score. The Senator’s goal is to have a bill through by the break for the Fourth of July holiday.

U.S. Senate Republicans plan to unveil the text of their draft healthcare bill on Thursday as senators struggle over issues such as the future of the Medicaid program for the poor and bringing down insurance costs.

Republicans in the chamber have been working for weeks behind closed doors on legislation aimed at repealing and replacing major portions of the Affordable Care Act, former Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, popularly known as Obamacare.

The effort has been plagued from the start by tensions between moderates and conservatives, which surfaced again on Tuesday. Democrats have also criticized the behind-the-scenes meetings, staging a protest on the Senate floor on Monday.

“Republicans are writing their healthcare bill under the cover of darkness because they are ashamed of it,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer charged.

Many Senators have expressed that they do not know what is in the bill. It is believed that a group of 13 Republican Senators has been working in secretive, closed-door sessions.

Here is what is known to be in the bill…

The bill is expected to repeal the biggest parts of the Affordable Care Act, including the individual mandate and the employer mandate. It is also expected to defund Planned Parenthood for one year by kicking the women’s health organization out of the Medicaid program. That provision could be dropped if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs votes from key moderates who oppose it….

It would eliminate Obamacare’s subsidy program and replace it with a different structure to help low-income people afford insurance. But Republicans are still trying to craft an alternative that would prohibit coverage of abortion without violating the strict reconciliation rules enabling them to pass the bill without a Democratic filibuster….

The bill is also expected to dramatically reshape Medicaid. Instead of an open-ended entitlement, states would get a set amount of money per person. In a win for conservatives, the Senate is expected to cut the program as aggressively as the House did until 2025 or 2026 and then make payments that grow in line with inflation. States are expected to have significant new flexibility for how they run their Medicaid programs. Republicans are likely to include a carve-out for certain children with complex medical needs, according to several sources…

The bill is expected to repeal Obamacare’s taxes, but how soon that is done is fluid because it would likely depend on how much tax revenue is needed to cover other costs associated with the GOP plan….

Public approval for the House version is dropping, even with Republican voters. It is predicted that the Senate version will be equally unpopular…

And while 16 percent of Republican voters opposed the bill in late April, about 30 percent of such voters now say they are against the bill, the Morning Consult/Politico survey found…

Just 35 percent of all voters now approve of the House bill, down from 42 percent at the end of April, according to that poll.

Another survey, also released Wednesday, found that majorities of voters oppose all the key provisions found in the House bill — even in congressional districts that voted strongly for Republicans in recent elections.

 

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Team Mueller …

While we watch the Trump administration spin its wheels and the Republican Congress do everything except legislate, special counsel Robert Mueller is assembling his team very quietly.
If one looks closely, these are experts in the field of financial crime.

And this is a stealthy cast of characters

Aaron Zebley, Mueller’s chief of staff when he was FBI director

  • Zebley was an elite FBI agent for 7 years in the Counterterrorism Division
  • He was instrumental in tracking down dangerous Al Qaeda members back in 1999
  • He then became a prosecutor and one of Mueller’s go-to confidants
  • He was part of the I-49 team: a small group of FBI agents based in NYC who were actively searching for Osama Bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks

 

James Quarles III, former Watergate investigator

  • A litigator and a partner at WilmerHale, where he started in 1975. He runs the DC office of the firm
  • He served as an assistant special prosecutor for the Watergate investigation
  • During that investigation, Quarles focused on campaign finance research — something that will certainly be called upon throughout the Russia investigation, particularly after the FBI issued subpoenas for financial disclosures from Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort
  • He has argued cases in front of the Supreme Court

 

Jeannie Rhee, former deputy attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel

  • Rhee was senior adviser to former Attornery General Eric Holder for two years
  • She advised him and the WH on “constitutional, statutory and regulatory issues regarding criminal law, criminal procedure, executive privilege, civil rights and national security,” according to WilmerHale.
  • She tried more than 30 cases when she served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the D.C. Attorney’s Office
  • She rejoined WilmerHale as a partner in the Litigation/Controversy Department where she advised “clients who are the subject of government investigations” regarding “white-collar criminal investigations, False Claims Act allegations and securities enforcement matters.”
  • In 2015, Rhee represented Hillary Clinton in a case about her private email server, according to Politico.

Andrew Weissmann, DOJ criminal fraud section chief

  • He was Mueller’s one-time general counsel
  • Previously led the fraud unit at the DOJ
  • Weismann oversaw the Enron Task Force in the early 2000s, investigating the failed energy company
  • From 1991 to 2002, Weissmann handled cases against various crime families in NY as part of his work in the office of the U.S. Attorney for New York’s Eastern District
  • He worked at a law firm where he focused on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, securities fraud, and other issues.

 

Michael Dreeben, DOJ’s deputy solicitor general

  • Dreeben currently serves in the Justice Department, overseeing its criminal docket before the Supreme Court and handling its appellate cases
  • He has argued more than 100 cases in front of the Supreme Court
  • He was a deputy in the Office of the Solicitor General
  • He’s been heralded as “1 of the top legal & appellate minds at DOJ in modern times,” and has been called “the most brilliant and most knowledgeable federal criminal lawyer in America—period.”

Lisa Page, an experienced DOJ trial attorney

  • There has been no official announcement from the special counsel about Page, but WIRED notes Mueller has reached out to her
  • Her investigatory expertise: organized crime cases, money laundering, and one particularly relevant case where she partnered with Hungary’s FBI task force to investigate European organized crime.

Note: Her work in Hungary is what led to the ongoing money laundering case against Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian leader who was once business partners with Paul Manafort.

Andrew Weissman is a person of particular note as he is known for “flipping witnesses.”

Andrew Weissmann, who headed the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal fraud section before joining Mueller’s team last month, is best known for two assignments – the investigation of now-defunct energy company Enron and organized crime cases in Brooklyn, New York – that depended heavily on gaining witness cooperation.

Securing the cooperation of people close to Trump, many of whom have been retaining their own lawyers, could be important for Mueller, who was named by the Justice Department as special counsel on May 17 and is investigating, among other issues, whether Trump himself has sought to obstruct justice. Trump has denied allegations of both collusion and obstruction.

“Flipping” witnesses is a common, although not always successful, tactic in criminal prosecutions.

Robert Ray, who succeeded Kenneth Starr as the independent counsel examining former President Bill Clinton, noted that Trump’s fired former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, has already offered through his lawyer to testify before Congress in exchange for immunity, suggesting potential willingness to cooperate as a witness.

“It would seem to me the time is now to make some decisions about what you have and what leverage can be applied to get the things you don’t have,” Ray said, referring to Mueller’s team.

I think the depth and breadth, the warp and weave of all things Trump and Russia is going to be quite a tale.

Better than any crime fiction written.

 

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