The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Was Bloomberg As Awful As He Looked? Maybe Not

Reprinted with permission from DCReport

Call me crazy, but the media could have it wrong about Michael Bloomberg.

The latest Democratic debate post-mortem came fast and furious – and from a prominent Op-Ed in The New York Times to the cover of The New York Post – the verdict was almost unanimous.

Bloomberg was “disastrous.” His campaign had “imploded.” He “bombed.” Get the hook for “timid,” “defensive” Mini Mike, the pundits said. “Bye, Felicia” might be the only headline missing from the gleeful media pile-on of Bloomberg after he made his presidential debate debut.

Bloomberg was about as likely to get the nomination as Amy “Who’s the president of Mexico?” Klobuchar.  Like it or not, many warned, Crazy Bernie just got another surge.

Who could doubt them? When has the media been wrong?  How soon we forget.

The Democratic candidates tried to out-Trump Trump with in-your-face name-calling, playing to the Roman gladiator tone set by Trump and fed by the media.

They got it wrong with Hillary Clinton. Many in the press were so out of sync with the country that the day before the 2016 election Huffington Post was still predicting a landslide of almost 98 percent for Clinton.

Maybe they’re wrong now.  On Wednesday night, the Democratic candidates tried to out-Trump Trump with in-your-face name-calling, especially Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg (“I speak five languages”) and Klobuchar. They were playing to the Roman gladiator tone set by Trump and fed by the media.

Only Trump Can Do Trump

Too bad that none of the Democratic candidates’ high-priced strategists understand a key point: Only Trump can do Trump. He’s a one-off, a natural-born disruptor whether you like it or not.

Elizabeth Warren’s attempt to burst out of the gate like Trump when she barked that Bloomberg had called women “fat broads and horse-faced lesbians” came across as both jarring – and warmed-over Trump.

In other words, fail.

Impeccable Citing Facts

Bloomberg, for all his deer-in-the-headlights look and defensiveness, was the only candidate who didn’t trash anyone.  He was impeccable when it came to citing facts and figures—both involving his coal plant charities as well as his record on employing women—that held up. No one expected him to present as a slick, charismatic debater.

You might not warm up to him, but he may have come off surprisingly well to an electorate turned off by more than three years of Trump’s harsh blustering and bullying.

“Bloomberg was the foremost loser,” intoned Politico. “To be blunt, he was terrible.”

Going High

But is that true in the real world? In fact, Bloomberg was doing what one-half of the two patron saints of the Democratic Party—Michelle Obama—has always said we should do. He went high when everyone else went low.

Americans may well be tired of politics as an ongoing World Championship Wrestling match. They could be sick and tired of the focus on wokeness and microaggressions that take up increasing space in both the press and politics—and be willing to overlook some misplaced jokes and even past mistakes like Bloomberg’s stop and frisk program.

They may want bland and boring, even if it comes with the racism and sexism not unknown to men of Bloomberg’s age, if it means a steady hand on the tiller for a change.

If I were Bloomberg’s strategists, I’d take the unlikely moniker of “underdog” that The New York Times gave him Thursday and run with it.

Only in this day and age could a billionaire underdog possibly be the country’s best chance of beating a smug top dog billionaire.

Why Trump’s Hit On Iran General May Burn US Intelligence Networks

Reprinted with permission from DCReport

Trump’s hit on Iran’s powerful military mastermind Qassim Suleimani may have just closed the door on future U.S. monitoring of other high-level Iranians and their efforts to build nuclear weapons.

“The first thing me and a bunch of guys thought was, Trump’s in Florida without the people around him who would try to stop this,” a former senior U.S. intelligence officer speaking on condition of anonymity told DC Report.

“He’s pissed off about the attack on the [U.S.] embassy. He thinks Obama should have gotten rid of Suleimani long ago and he wants to show who’s got the balls. But it wasn’t the smartest move. It’s called a pre-emptive neutralization.

“The problem is, once you do one assassination, you usually end up having to do more.”

Once you do one assassination, you usually end up having to do more.

Both former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush decided against killing Suleimani, fearing it would lead to war.

Trump tweeted on Friday, “General Qassim Suleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more…but got caught. He was, directly and indirectly, responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself.

“While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Suleimani was both hated and feared within the country,” Trump continued. “They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!”

A Blood-Red Ring

Suleimani, 62, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force who ran every significant military and intelligence operation for more than two decades, was killed in a convoy of vehicles leaving Baghdad Airport Thursday. His mangled body was identified by the trademark blood-red ring on his hand. Also killed was Abu Mahdi-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Force.

It is unclear what the men were doing at the airport, but Suleimani’s plane had flown in from either Lebanon or Syria and Mahdi-Muhandis had arrived at the airport to greet him. They were both killed by an MQ-9 Reaper drone.

In pulling a move straight out of the “Die Hard” playbook from his Mar-a-Lago HQ in Palm Beach, Trump may get a massive bounce off his base and deflect from that pesky impeachment issue in Washington D.C., but he’s playing a short game.

Cracking Iranian Intelligence

Why? Because at least at first glance, Trump apparently decided it was worth letting Iran know that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had managed to do the unthinkable: crack the vaunted Ministry of the Islamic Republic of Iran (known as MOIS or VAJA) intelligence service.

Tracking Suleimani’s whereabouts had long been a priority for the American and Israeli spy services and military, especially when he was in Iraq, The New York Times reported. The Times, quoting current and former military intelligence officials, said the successful attack on Suleimani came from a “combination of information from secret informants, electronic intercepts, reconnaissance aircraft and other surveillance tools.”

But the intelligence officer who spoke to DCReport said that based on his more than 30 years of experience he believes the assassinations came as a result of genius cyber-hacking on the part of the NSA and not much else.

“Probably nobody wants to say is this: Trump killed one big guy but as a result, we lose access to eavesdropping on Iran and their nukes which is arguably a lot more important.”

The NSA, he said, must have been “listening” to Iranian intelligence intel at “the very highest levels.”

Iran Knows What U.S. Knows

“Without a doubt, the Iranians now know we were listening to their commo [communications],” the intelligence officer said. “It was a night drone. Theoretically, they might have put a tracker somewhere on their cars, but I don’t quite see these guys leaving their cars unattended in the airport parking lot. Penetrating the MOIS is really really hard but obviously the NSA did it. MOIS is a very tough target. I guarantee you their counterintelligence chief is going crazy right now saying, how did the Americans know?”

It’s as if Iran found a way to hack into the uppermost intel of the NSA and thus knew where Trump or, say, Gen. Richard D. Clarke, head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, were at all times.

“You can’t think it was an inside job,” the officer said. “I don’t believe it was a human source. It wasn’t his [Suleimani’s] trusted aides because they’re dead, too. I highly doubt any of the western services got anybody in there. This had to be electronic.”

If all that is true, Trump may have sacrificed the ability for American intelligence to monitor Iranian’s nuclear program forever.

“Whatever we did, we’ve lost that source for good now. It used to be we caught the bad guys off their mobile phones, but they don’t use them anymore. Whatever they’ve been using, you can be sure they’re throwing them out.”

‘Forceful Revenge’

After the killings of Suleimani and Mahdi-Muhandis, the United States announced plans to send 3,000 more troops to the Middle East because of the attack on the American embassy in Baghdad Wednesday. Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed “forceful revenge”

“His departure to God does not end his path or his mission, but a forceful revenge awaits the criminals who have his blood and the blood of the other martyrs last night on their hands,” the supreme leader said in a statement.

Iraq’s Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia that hit U.S. troops in Iraq with a rocket attack Wednesday, igniting the spark that led to the assassinations also warned Friday that America will face “grave consequences.”

But not everyone thinks Iran, despite its nascent nuclear capabilities and glorious history as the world’s first global superpower and the birthplace of science and technology, will actually strike back like a bunch of low-rent Al Qaeda terrorists.

“Iran can be counted on to avoid direct confrontation with the U.S., and ignore this provocation without resorting to a military response,” long-time Japan-based correspondent Jennifer Matsui wrote on Facebook.

“This is typical of the kind of civilization that didn’t invent Cheese-in-Crust Pizza, but the concept of human rights and water supply systems. IMPOTUS is playing dotard Bingo on a chessboard.”

Inside The German Bank That Loaned Trump $2 Billion

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Just try phoning Trump’s private banker Rosemary T. Vrablic at Deutsche Bank’s U.S. headquarters in Manhattan. Back in 2017, before too many bankers involved with Deutsche Bank started turning up dead, Trump once dared reporters to call her, saying she was the “the head” of the bank and “the boss.”

The good news is that Vrablic, 58, is alive. That is not something to take for granted when you look at two dead Deutsche Bank executives with ties to Trump, Russia and possibly at dead pedophile money man Jeffrey Epstein. One banker was found hanged in 2014 and one in November.

Vrablic’s office picked up right away when this reporter called following the Supreme Court’s decision on Dec. 13 to take up Trump’s argument that he be allowed to shield disclosure of his financial information from Congress and the New York attorney general.

Not surprisingly, the woman who answered the phone in Vrablic’s office refused to identify herself. Nor would she put Vrablic on to answer questions about Trump.

She sounded flabbergasted that anyone from the public, much less the media, would be calling someone who is, for the most part, a mystery woman. And that is despite her role in approving about $300 million in allegedly suspect loans to Trump. That arrangement will be part of a quite likely historic oral argument by the Supreme Court in March with a planned June decision.

Refusing to transfer the call to a corporate spokesperson, the person who answered the phone tried to imply that Vrablic no longer worked there. Then she agreed to take a message that was never returned.

‘Global Laundromat’

Deutsche Bank lent Trump millions after he defaulted on loans they already gave him and after he once sued them in 2008. Known derisively as a “global laundromat,” the bank is facing U.S. and British legal actions over its role in a $20 billion Russian money-laundering scheme. Two Congressional committees want the bank to release 10-plus years of records involving Trump and his three oldest children as Congress probes Russian money laundering and possible foreign influence involving Trump. White House lawyers have fought the committees tenaciously.

It’s hoped that the Supreme Court’s verdict will end years-long efforts on the part of U.S. officials to glean the truth about Trump’s finances. Especially at issue is whether Russians interfered in the 2016 election and if that meddling was powered by Russian money funneled to Trump through the giant, scandal-ridden German bank.

Teller to Managing Director

Vrablic, a one-time bank teller turned Deutsche Bank private wealth managing director, was Trump’s liaison at the bank. She sat in a hoodie in the VIP section at the Trump inauguration.

Trump borrowed more than $2 billion in the past two decades. Many allege the loans could hold the key to Russian funding of Trump.

Hired in 2006 with celebratory ads in The New York Times and a sweet deal guaranteeing her $3 million a year, Vrablic’s work raised the bank’s public profile–at first in a good way. Now the opposite is true.

Trump burned through his relationships with bank investment and commercial real estate departments because of his constant defaults and failures. Then Vrablic stepped up in 2010.

The Kushner Network

Trump’s daughter Ivanka had just married Jared Kushner, who was a longtime client of Vrablic along with his mother Seryl. Ivanka steered Vrablic in the private bank sector of Deutsche Bank her father’s way. It turned out to be the financial lifeline crucial in helping him win the election.

People at Vrablic’s level in the banking world, even when they are swept up in such international scandals, are rarely household names unless they die suddenly… read suspiciously. Even then, they are familiar to only the most inside-baseball financial journalists. They are never part of the daily Trump-Schiff-Pelosi-Schumer-AOC-Nunes-McConnell etc. political narrative though their influence is often greater.

Their deaths often remain murky. Supposed details take on a life of their own on conspiracy websites but the actual truth remains frustratingly out of reach – a bit like Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged jail suicide.

A Pair of Suicides

Thomas Bowers, 55, Vrablic’s former boss, ran the private wealth division of Deutsche Bank and oversaw loans to Trump and reportedly to Epstein until he left the bank, reportedly in 2015. It is said he hanged himself at his Malibu home on Nov. 19.

His death was first reported in a tweet by David Enrich of The New York Times, one of the foremost experts on Deutsche Bank. Dark Towers: Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump and an Epic Trail of Destruction, an upcoming book by Enrich, focuses in part on the sudden death of William Broeksmit, a senior Deutsche Bank executive.

Broeksmit, a man who “knew too much,” according to Enrich, was found hanging in his London home in 2014. Enrich calls it a “mysterious suicide.”

Enrich previewed the deeply weird story of the whistleblower in the Broeksmit case, who turns out to be the troubled but possibly believable stepson of Broeksmit, in a New York Times Magazine story in October. So far, though, he has done no more than tweet about Bowers, first to announce his death, then to deny “rumors” that Bowers had been Epstein’s banker.

The Epstein Connection

Enrich said on Twitter that Bowers left Deutsche Bank in 2013, prior to Epstein becoming a client. Deutsche Bank would not comment on Bowers and other reports say Bowers left Deutsche Bank in 2015 when Epstein was already a customer.

Epstein, of course, allegedly committed suicide while in jail in August. One of Estonia’s leading bankers, Aivar Rehe, apparently committed suicide in September in Tallinn. Rehe ran Danske Bank which was used by clients in Russia and Eastern Europe to launder billions of dirty dollars. At the time of the Rehe death, Frankfurt prosecutors were eyeballing Deutsche Bank for its part in doing business with suspicious American customers, The New York Times reported.

The Democratic-controlled House Financial Services and Intelligence Committees issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank in April for the records. In turn, Trump sued the bank to prevent it from complying. It’s believed that the bank has documents that would show on how Trump made his money, who he partnered with and extensive details of what he borrowed and resulting transactions.

The subpoenas also included demands for information about suspicious activity in Trump’s Deutsche Bank accounts.

Trump’s Lender of Last Resort

Starting in the late 1990s, Trump had become such a bad credit risk, either repeatedly defaulting on loans or declaring bankruptcy, that no U.S. banks would do business with him.

Deutsche Bank, which badly wanted to expand internationally, especially into the United States, saw an opportunity with Trump and became his chief creditor, despite his rank financial past.

Anti-money-laundering investigators at Deutsche Bank flagged “multiple transactions” involving accounts controlled by Trump and Jared Kushner in 2016 and 2017 and alerted bank executives who apparently ignored the intel, The New York Times reported in May.

“You present them with everything, and you give them a recommendation, and nothing happens,” Tammy McFadden, a former Deutsche Bank anti-money laundering specialist who reviewed some of the transactions told the Times.

“It’s the D.B. way. They are prone to discounting everything.”

Additional reporting by Matthew Reagan and Anna Sasser, Occidental College, Los Angeles