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Manhattan District Attorney Negotiating 'Favorable' Deal With Weisselberg

Former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, who worked for the Trump family since 1970, is nearing a plea deal with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in his case, according to The New York Times. Charges include conspiracy, grand larceny, criminal tax fraud, and falsifying business records.

Weisselberg, who is 75, could walk away with a minor prison sentence of just five months, the Times reports, calling it “an unexpectedly favorable outcome for him.”

The plea deal would not include any cooperation on broader issues related to Donald Trump. Legal experts have said Weisselberg knows nearly everything that the Trump Organization has done.

“His plea deal, if finalized, would bring prosecutors no closer to indicting the former president but would nonetheless brand one of his most trusted lieutenants a felon.”

Earlier this year Manhattan D.A. Bragg came under intense criticism after he seemingly halted his office’s longtime investigation into Donald Trump.

One of the prosecutors who worked 0n the Trump case but quit when Bragg ended it called it a “grave failure of justice,” and said Trump was “guilty of numerous felonies.”

“Prosecutors accuse Weisselberg of a 15-year scheme to defraud federal, New York State, and New York City tax authorities of $1.76 million in ‘off-the-books’ compensation,” Law & Crime reported. “These included $359,058 in tuition expenses for multiple family members, $196,245 for leases on his Mercedes Benz automobiles, $29,400 in unreported cash, and an unspecified amount in ad hoc personal expenses, according to his indictment.”

In 2018 The New Yorker reported “Allen Weisselberg, the firm’s longtime chief financial officer, is the center, the person in the company who knows more than anyone.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Inside A Manhattan Republican’s RNC Watch Party

New York City Republicans got together on Thursday night to watch their nominee’s coronation — at an apartment in a Trump building, appropriately.

But Republicans in New York City are not the Trump crowd, or so it seemed. They didn’t even want to lynch Hillary Clinton, like the crowds at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland have been demanding all week.

Todd Shapiro, the party’s host and vice president of the New York Republican committee, didn’t sound much like Trump’s nationalist base, making him a good example of New York City Republicans. He doesn’t think Clinton should be locked up, and believes Obama did the best job he could with the mess he inherited. Both of these convictions would make him persona non grata at the convention.

“Today’s gonna be history. It’s gonna be the first time in a long time that it will guarantee that a new Yorker will be in the White House. No matter which party.” That sentiment alone shows an openness to Hillary Clinton uncommon, to say the least, amongst Trump’s Republicans.

Still, Shapiro, who has been a Republican “since it was cool to be a young republican,” can barely contain his excitement for Trump. His mother gave him a Trump doll that says “You’re fired!” as a gift once. He just got back from Cleveland and told me that although he’s been to many conventions, he’s never seen energy like this year’s.

Shapiro, who works in public relations, has been around Trump’s family and thinks Donald’s a good dad, who has raised kids that “are like future Kennedys.”

Great. But “what about all the controversy surrounding Trump?”

“What controversies?” Shapiro replied.

When I reminded him, he shrugged it off. “You’re gonna see a different Donald Trump come out right now. A more conservative, presidential and less of a showman [Trump.]”

It was already primetime and speakers were warming the stage, but no one in the Central Park South apartment was watching the television showing Fox News’ coverage. In fact, most people in the room looked uninterested.

There was a Japanese sushi chef, a handful of older men who looked like they owned multimillion dollar homes in the Hamptons, and lots of wives a la Melania, dressed to impress and holding Chihuahuas. It looked like what Trump’s scene must have been for most of his life – cocktails, a good view, and lots of Democrats.

Republicans are a rare species in New York City and this watch party was no exception. One of the attendees, Eric Lourieo, was too liberal even for Clinton. He is a Bernie Sanders supporter and will not vote in November unless “Trump is within five points of Hillary,” because after all, he is a “patriot.”

Perhaps the most surprising attendee was Stuart Salles, a labor lawyer who has defended unions for more than 30 years. As an expert on workers and their rights, Salles knows how dangerous Trump would be for workers. He says the labor community is also very clear on the matter, and that the New Yorkers who support Trump do it for one of two reasons: money, or hatred of Hillary Clinton.

Others were just confused. One woman came up to me and asked if I knew what was going on. She had received an email invitation and came with her boyfriend “for the booze.”

Finally, just as I was about to give up my search for a true, full-red Republican like the ones wearing cowboys hats at the convention and shouting “lock her up,” I found someone truly passionate about Trump.

Matthew Sheldon, a publicist, liked Trump from the start, because “he speaks the truth.” He thinks Trump can put New York into play in November, because just like Sheldon, he was born and raised in New York and has “business smarts.”

“People are excited about him because he’s a New Yorker. Hillary Clinton is not a New Yorker.” Sheldon said. “She thinks she’s a New Yorker, but she’s not. She’s a transplant.”

Sheldon admits that Trump isn’t a conservative, and he doesn’t mind because he isn’t one either. “I’m fiscally conservative but I believe his social policies are more in line with what I am,” he said. I mentioned that Trump’s vice presidential pick is the true definition of a Christian conservative, but Sheldon believes that Mike Pence is just for show; Trump is in good health — according to him — he’ll do whatever he thinks is best when in power, and will serve as a unifying force for both parties. Like Shapiro, he seemed shocked when asked about all the controversy surrounding Trump. “That’s the media,” he said.

He was once a Democrat but his disdain for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who he thinks has been the worst president in the history of the country, were pushing him out of the party just as Trump offered a new Republican one, and he switched over for this election.

Sheldon is the closest thing to a textbook Trump supporter I found at the watch party. He does think Clinton should have been indicted over her use of a private email server. “The Clintons have time and time again gotten a pass that other Americans will not get. It’s not fair. What she did was beyond criminal,” he said.

Still, the Manhattan native didn’t go all the way. When asked what he thought about a Trump advisor’s comments that Clinton should be shot for treason, Sheldon said “that’s ridiculous. Listen, it doesn’t go to that degree.”

But it does go to that degree with some Trump supporters, especially those present at the event these New Yorkers got together to watch. Unfortunately, that was not a deal breaker for them, nor for millions more like them.

 

Photo: People walk in the rain past a U.S. flag painted on a building in the Manhattan borough of New York, February 16, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

David Koch Loves Manhattan

One may start the day at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. On the way in, you’ll pass through the new David H. Koch Plaza — the result of a $65 million gift from David H. Koch.

After lunch, cross Central Park to the American Museum of Natural History, and marvel at the giant stegosaurus of the tiny brain. You will find him and other prehistoric remains in the David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing, funded with a $20 million check penned by David H. Koch.

Yes, that’s the same David H. Koch who, with his famous brothers, finances right-wing campaigns against environmental laws, taxes and really any public obligation that might inconvenience the heirs to the Koch Industries fortune. David does sprinkle a few million on think tanks that spread the word. And he pays for parties in red states to train the Tea Party troops to curse government and quietly submit to being polluted upon by the various subsidiaries of Kansas-based Koch Industries.

But personally, he’ll take Manhattan, where he lives in grand style surrounded by liberals. There he talks up his fairly progressive views on social matters that don’t impact his bottom line. Neighbors running the cultural and scientific institutions are delighted to have him on their boards and thank him profusely for his contributions.

Some humorless New York liberals may grumble at Koch’s ubiquity while basking in his munificence. About which, the night is still young.

Cocktails and then off to the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. Home of the New York City Ballet, the building ceased to be called the New York State Theater after a fix-up funded with $100 million from David H. Koch.

Should you slip on the theater’s magnificent inlaid marble floor and fracture bones, you may be rushed to the David H. Koch Pavilion at the Hospital for Special Surgery, overlooking the East River. The billionaire gave the hospital $25 million.

Soon you won’t have to leave Manhattan’s Upper East Side for superb outpatient care. The future David H. Koch Center is being built by New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Koch’s gift of $100 million is the largest in the hospital’s history.

Nearby, at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, state-of-the-art treatments are being supported by a $67 million gift from David H. Koch.

Not all the charity stays in Manhattan, though. For example, the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is the fruit of a $100 million gift from you-know-who.

You have to appreciate this: Not far from MIT, brother Bill Koch owns a 26-acre waterfront estate in plush Osterville, on Cape Cod. (David prefers to summer in the Hamptons.) Bill has fought with money and legal brass knuckles against a wind farm planned for Nantucket Sound.

Now, Koch Industries’ oil-coal-chemical empire is considered one of the nation’s worst polluters, its leaks, spills and chemical explosions visited mostly in the red states. But when wind turbines were proposed for his yachting grounds off Massachusetts, Bill complained they would cause “visual pollution.”

The conservative crusade to shrink government has already slashed federal spending on science and culture, with interesting results. Federal funding traditionally spreads to all regions. The more these budgets are cut, the more nonprofit organizations must depend on the generosity of billionaires.

Billionaire giving tends to favor elite institutions, which are concentrated in New York, California, Massachusetts and a few other progressive states. That’s also where the billionaires are concentrated and where they receive invitations to party and give.

So in the end, the strangle-government movement enhances the competitive advantage of the liberal powerhouses. Another irony of red-state politics to throw on the pile.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Dinner In White Tradition Sparkles Again In New York

New York (AFP) — With the setting sun glittering on the Hudson, nearly 5,000 people turned out for the fourth edition of “Diner en blanc” (Dinner in White), dressed to the nines.

In what amounts to a flashmob sunset picnic, diners get details of the event with virtually no notice, and turn up all in white — even bringing chairs.

This year, the surprise locale was Nelson Rockefeller Park, in Manhattan, with its enviable river view. As it is every year, the location was kept secret until minutes before organizers announced it.

Guests, who register in advance, turned out with tables, chairs, tableware — all in white.

The tradition dates back to an original event 26 years ago in Paris at which the organizer invited guests to all wear white so they would be easily spotted in a park.

The weather was more than cooperative. The music was more than a soupcon French, with tunes from Edith Piaf, to Michel Fugain and Joe Dassin.

Guests often get a little whimsical in their dress, with massive hats, masks, feathers, and the odd huge string of pearls.

This year, there was sushi, charcuterie, salads, salmon, a cheese plate, and champagne before dancing.

“It is a challenge to organize but it is worth it,” said a radiant Sandy Safi, co-founder of Diner en blanc international.

At midnight, the park must return to its original state. Guests even collect their own trash and cart it off.

This year’s international round has taken place in cities including Johannesburg, New York, Mexico City, Paris, and Singapore.

AFP Photo/Timothy A. Clary

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New York City’s Best Brewery and Distillery Tours

New York’s millions of annual visitors now have some new activities in which to indulge: local breweries, distilleries, and wineries.  DNAinfo.com takes you on a tour of the latest tipple spots within the five boroughs.  

All of the listed places give tours and give you a chance to see what local entrepreneurs are doing not only for the city’s economy, but for the cause of local and regional food consumption.

DNAinfo reports, “New York City has plenty of breweries, distilleries and wineries that offer free or low-priced tours that let you watch how they craft their drink and offer samples at the end so you can taste the finished product.”

Some hot spots on the list include: SingleCut Beersmiths in Astoria, The Chelsea Brewing Company in Manhattan, and the popular Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg.

For the full list, visit: DNAinfo.com.

Photo: LenDog64 via Flickr.

 

Christie Speaks At GOP Event At New York City’s Tony Harvard Club

By Michael Linhorst, The Record (Hackensack, N.J.)

NEW YORK — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spoke at a Republican Senate event at New York’s Harvard Club on Tuesday, the latest in a series of gatherings he has attended with top national Republicans even as his administration continues to battle scandal back in New Jersey.

The governor didn’t take questions on his way into the tony club in midtown Manhattan, where he met with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, other politicians and top GOP donors for the Majority Makers Policy Retreat held by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The committee, which announced Tuesday that it raised $4.62 million in donations last month, is trying to gain a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate in November’s election.

Asked to describe the message he planned to deliver to the group, the governor shot over his shoulder, “Seriously? Are you kidding me?” as he hurried into the club.

Christie was accompanied by his wife, Mary Pat, and Jeff Chiesa, former U.S. senator and state attorney general.

Earlier in the day, a Christie aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Christie would talk “about the importance of winning back the Senate majority this fall, and how the Republican Party can compete and win in all corners of this country, including blue states.”

Christie, a second-term governor with presidential ambitions, has worked for years on building a reputation as a pragmatic politician who can work across the aisle to get things done. His 22-point re-election victory in November — in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 700,000 — was intended to show his bipartisan appeal.

But his national ambitions are now in jeopardy as the scandal over the George Washington Bridge lane closures threatens to upend his career. The four days of closures in September caused massive traffic jams in Fort Lee, whose Democratic mayor declined to endorse Christie’s re-election campaign.

Like Christie’s recent trips to Florida and Texas, Tuesday’s appearance at the Majority Makers Policy Retreat was closed to the public and media. Senators, including McConnell, who were seen entering the Harvard Club did not speak with reporters outside.

A spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee declined to comment on the event.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Part Group Therapy, Part Protest: Hundreds Descend On Manhattan To Occupy Wall Street

Outraged at money’s outsized — and growing — influence on politics, and still fuming at the bailout of the banks in 2008 and what they see as coddling of the industry since then, about a thousand activists came together in and around Wall Street on Saturday to lay their grievances at the doorsteps of America’s major financial institutions.

They want the Glass-Steagall Act, the law that required a wall of separation between the investment banks that issue stocks and the commercial banks that hold deposits — repealed in the heady days of deregulation at the close of the 1990s — reinstated. And they’re frustrated at the passivity of their peers in the political process.

Many voted for Barack Obama in 2008 — but threaten not to do again.

The protests, organized in part via Twitter and other social networking media by a group of hacker/activists who often refer to themselves collectively as “Anonymous,” failed to deliver on hefty projected turnout — but that may not be the important takeaway here.

Rosemary Topar, a progressive activist based in New York, said the unorthodox nature of the action spoke to the political climate.

“I believe that we are at a point in our nation and in the world where petitioning for the redress of grievances in traditional ways has become limited in its effectiveness, because the system is so broken that the only thing anyone in power seems to care about is fundraising and reelection. If politicians feel that in order to keep their campaign coffers filled and keep their jobs that they must be beholden to the corporate elite who donate and lobby them to death, then they end up only working in their interest instead of in the best interests of the American people as a whole. We have seen how effective mass, long-term action taken by those in Egypt and other nations has been in getting the people’s demands met, and we want to replicate that here,” she said.

Despite being very confident the president would win reelection, some attendees swore not to support him again, saying he had proven himself a friend of established financial interests and unwilling to redistribute wealth, despite Republicans having claimed that’s his goal since at least the final months of the 2008 campaign.

“He’s the establishment candidate. He’s not gonna repossess their wealth like we want. We’re not gonna get what we want here, and we know that,” said Tony Buontempo of Linden, New Jersey. He said he would back a third party next November.

Others were more supportive of the president, directing their fire less at Obama and more at the banks and corporations they see as dominating our politics.

“This is not the first time the country has faced big business. We need to have the rich let the money loose and get it into the system. We need it to create jobs and get the economy healthy again,” said Claudia Ford, another activist. Despite some disappointment, she said she would “absolutely” support the president next fall. “If nothing else, for the Supreme Court.”

Thus we have the president’s chief challenge heading into an election year: he needs to regain some of the luster and magic of 2008 and efficiently cast his opponent as so far out of the mainstream that disappointed liberals feel compelled to back him, his concessions to Republicans notwithstanding.

With Rick Perry riding high in polls for the Republican nomination, Obama could just pull it off.

Follow National Correspondent Matthew Taylor on Twitter for continuing coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests@matthewt_ny