Prosecution rests in Manafort tax evasion, fraud trial

By Chad Day, Stephen Braun and Mary Clare Jalonick | Associated Press

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Prosecutors on Monday rested their tax evasion and bank fraud case in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, closing two weeks of testimony that depicted him as using millions of dollars hidden in offshore accounts to fund a luxurious lifestyle — and later obtaining millions more in bank loans under false pretenses.

The trial of the longtime Washington operator now turns to Manafort’s defense team, which has so far blamed any wrongdoing on Rick Gates, the former Manafort protege who testified he and his former boss committed crimes together for years. Defense attorneys have called Gates a liar, philanderer and embezzler as they’ve sought to undermine his testimony.

Start your day with the news you need from the Bay Area and beyond.
Sign up for our Morning Report weekday newsletter.

Manafort’s lawyers have not yet said whether they will call any witnesses or present other evidence in the case. They will have to disclose that information Tuesday as the case reaches its final stages.

The trial is the first to emerge from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, but it does not relate to any allegations of Russian election interference or possible coordination with the Trump campaign. Neither Manafort nor Gates have been charged in connection with their Trump campaign work.

Still, the proceedings have drawn President Donald Trump’s attention — and tweets — as he works to undermine the standing of the Mueller investigation in the public square.

Trump has distanced himself from Manafort, who led the campaign from May to August 2016 — with Gates at his side. Gates struck a plea deal with prosecutors and provided much of the drama of the trial so far.

The government says Manafort hid at least $16 million in …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


Trump-appointed judge upholds Mueller to lead Russia probe

By Spencer S. Hsu | Washington Post

WASHINGTON – A federal judge upheld the constitutionality of special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment on Monday, finding Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein lawfully named Mueller in May 2017 in a challenge to an indictment brought by a Russian firm accused of funding an Internet trolling operation targeting U.S. voters.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, a 2017 appointee of President Donald Trump to the District of Columbia, was the latest trial-level judge – including ones appointed by Republican and Democratic presidents – to cast doubt on arguments advanced by conservative legal thinkers led by Northwestern law professor Steven Calabresi about the validity of Mueller’s appointment.

Start your day with the news you need from the Bay Area and beyond.
Sign up for our Morning Report weekday newsletter.

Some advocates have said they are seeking to get an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. Calabresi is a founder and current chairman of the Federalist Society.

Friedrich became the second federal judge to find that higher court precedents “make clear that the Acting Attorney General has the necessary statutory authority” to name a special counsel under the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Attorneys for Concord Management and Consulting argued in the case that the Appointments Clause requires the special counsel either be a “principal officer” nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, or be put in place only after Congress passes a law specifically allowing the deputy attorney general to confer the attorney general’s prosecutorial authority on an “inferior officer.”

Concord has pleaded not guilty to charges it conspired to obstruct the 2016 U.S. election by funding a coordinated fake social media propaganda campaign run by Internet Research Agency of St. Petersburg that pushed voters toward then-Republican candidate Donald Trump and away from Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Friedrich …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


Trump signs McCain defense bill, doesn’t mention McCain

By Jill Colvin and Darlene Superville | Associated Press

FORT DRUM, N.Y. — President Donald Trump on Monday signed a $716 billion defense policy bill named for John McCain but included no mention in his remarks of the Republican senator, who is battling brain cancer at home in Arizona.

Trump and McCain are engaged in a long-running feud that dates to Trump’s 2016 presidential run. At campaign rallies, Trump regularly castigates McCain — without using his name — for casting a dramatic thumbs-down vote that doomed Trump’s effort last year to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which was enacted by President Barack Obama.

Trump said there was “no better place than right here at Fort Drum” to celebrate passage of the defense bill, which will boost military pay by 2.6 percent, giving service members their largest increase in nine years.

The bill — formally the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act but referred to by Trump as simply the National Defense Authorization Act — will introduce thousands of new recruits to active duty, reserve and National Guard units and replace aging tanks, planes, ships and helicopters with more advanced and lethal technology, Trump said.

“Hopefully, we’ll be so strong we’ll never have to use it. But if we ever did, nobody has a chance,” he said.

The bill also authorizes billions of dollars for military construction, including family housing.

Besides setting policy and spending levels, the bill weakens a bid to clamp down on Chinese telecom company ZTE. It allows Trump to waive sanctions against countries that bought Russian weapons and now want to buy U.S. military equipment. The bill provides no money for Trump’s requested Space Force but authorizes the military parade he wants in Washington in November.

The compromise bill removes a provision reinstating penalties against ZTE and restricting the company’s ability to buy U.S. …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


County rejects plan for housing at old City Hall Annex, plans for parking

With affordable housing in critical shortage, Santa Clara County’s plan to demolish the old City Hall Annex in San Jose and temporarily convert the space to a parking lot has a few people riled up.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors is set to vote on approving the master plan for the area, which would include tearing down the Annex and putting in some 170 parking spaces.

That plan has a prominent real estate developer and the founder of a major local construction company seeing red. The building, they say, should be converted into housing for formerly homeless people instead.

In a July letter obtained by the Mercury News, James Salata, the president of San Jose-based Garden City Construction, blasted the county for rejecting a proposal to house more than 100 homeless people without giving it careful consideration. The county got the land in 2011 as part of a settlement in a lawsuit with the city,

The site — near N. 1st Street and W. Mission Street — is a good fit for such housing, Salata wrote, because it is near county services, public transportation and is somewhat removed from surrounding residential neighborhoods.

In an interview Monday, Salata said proponents of the idea are confident there is enough philanthropic interest to pay for the housing if the county would provide the site rent-free.

John A. Sobrato, the founder of the real estate development firm The Sobrato Organization and a major philanthropist in the area, appears to be on board.

In an email obtained by this news organization, Sobrato wrote, “[W]e have an opportunity to get 150 or more chronic homeless off the streets in about a year. While we wait to build new [Permanent Supportive Housing] units with bond money, many more folks will die on San Jose streets.”

Voters in the county passed a $950 million bond …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


1 2 3 4 66