In the Nooz: Pruitt, Kushner, Manafort

The AP reports:

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt’s concern with his safety came at a steep cost to taxpayers as his swollen security detail blew through overtime budgets and at times diverted officers away from investigating environmental crimes.

Altogether, the agency spent millions of dollars for a 20-member full-time detail that is more than three times the size of his predecessor’s part-time security contingent.

Pruitt is clearly a five-alarm flake. I recall that his background is entirely in law and Oklahoma politics, not in business. As much as I hold corporations and CEOs in disdain, I think even Exxon would have weeded this whackjob out.

Pruitt’s ambitious domestic and international travel led to rapidly escalating costs, with the security detail racking up so much overtime that many hit annual salary caps of about $160,000. The demands of providing 24-hour coverage even meant taking some investigators away from field work, such as when Pruitt traveled to California for a family vacation.

The EPA official said total security costs approached $3 million when pay is added to travel expenses.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said late Friday that Pruitt has faced an “unprecedented” amount of death threats against him and his family.


A nationwide search of state and federal court records by AP found no case where anyone has been arrested or charged with threatening Pruitt. EPA’s press office did not respond Friday to provide details of any specific threats or arrests.

Pruitt has said his use of first-class airfare was initiated following unpleasant interactions with other travelers. In one incident, someone yelled a profanity as he walked through the airport.

Pruitt has been dragging this oversize security detail around with him on family vacations. The article also says that on occasions when Pruitt has to pay for his own plane tickets, he flies coach. Apparently he’s a five-alarm tightwad with his own money.  He got behind on paying the people who were giving him the sweet deal on the Capitol Hill brownstone, and he wasn’t taking their hints he should leave, so they changed the locks.

Now, on to Jared Kushner. Somehow, the Kushner Company got the money to buy out its partner in the 666 Fifth Avenue property.  Vornado Realty Trust is selling its shares to the Kushners. But no one seems to know if this means the Kushners have a new partner or where the money came from.  WTF? And why would the Kushners want to double down on this turkey?

Note also that JP Morgan Chase agreed to a $600 million loan to help the Kushners develop the Brooklyn properties I wrote about awhile back. Seems a bit risky, JP Morgan Chase.

Paul Manafort keeps trying to wriggle out of being prosecuted by Robert Mueller. He’s filed motions to dismiss the cases against him, none successful so far. Late yesterday he filed a motion arguing that evidence found in a storage unit should be suppressed because the FBI lacked a proper warrant.

The FBI first got into the Alexandria, Va. storage unit last May with the assistance of an employee who worked at two or more of Manafort’s companies, an agent told the federal magistrate judge who issued the warrant. Then, the agent used what he saw written on so-called Banker’s Boxes and the fact there was a five-drawer filing cabinet to get permission to return and seize many of the records. …

… The warrant U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan issued for the storage locker on May 27 authorized FBI agents to seize virtually any financial or tax records relating to Manafort or his business partner Rick Gates. Also approved for seizure were any records relating to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, his Party of Regions, a pro-Ukraine think tank called the European Center for a Modern Ukraine and a slew of offshore companies connected to Manafort.

The warrant also indicates that among the records FBI agents were authorized to seize from Manafort’s unit were all records “related to, discussing or documenting the Podesta Group.” Manafort engaged the Podesta Group for Ukraine-related lobbying. The lobbying group belatedly filed a foreign agent registration for that work last year. Earlier this year, the Podesta Group abruptly disbanded. It has not been charged.

Manafort’s lawyers are arguing that the employee was not authorized to allow anyone into the unit and that the warrant was overly broad. I’m no lawyer, but this seems a stretch.

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13 thoughts on “In the Nooz: Pruitt, Kushner, Manafort

  1. The Holiday for Pruitt to Morocco with seven staff members flying first class with an extended "accidental" layover in Paris included security but no one knows how much because the EPA is refusing to give additional info to Congress. The trip was outside the purview of the EPA since the goal was to sell Morrocco on the idea of liquified natural gas, which Ichon had a monopoly on. (See the previous article to see the Ichon connection.

    Using lights and siren to blow through DC traffic, Pruett cemented his reputation as an American member of royalty, forgetting that the founding fathers prohibited royal nobility.

  2. I think Pruitt's behavior is pretty reasonable given that he was hired to burn the EPA down. There may not have been death threats in police records, but I can't imagine overseeing/destroying an agency where nearly everybody hates you. Building a soundproof booth, getting bulletproof cars and furniture, massive 24 hour security detail – all of this makes perfect sense given what Pruitt was hired to do.

    What he is, is stupid in terms of the optics. We're fortunate for that.

    Adding to what Doug said, the trip to Morocco blows my mind. According to Rachel Maddow, Trump used Icahn to vet Pruitt. There is only one facility in the US where LNG can be shipped out, and that facility is owned by Icahn. 

  3. Just by-the-by: anybody remember when Dick Cheney was visiting New Orleans after Katrina and live-on-tv-nooz somebody in the crowd shouted 'F**k you Dick Cheney!'? Either that was before lagged live coverage, or the network chose to let it go thru. Unbleeped, too.

  4. link:

    In a tweet, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) called on Trump to not only keep Pruitt on staff at the EPA, but to start bringing the embattled administrator to the president’s “toxic” campaign rallies.

    “Dear @realDonaldTrump: Dem wave continues to get stronger. So now I’m thinking, please don’t fire @EPAScottPruitt. He’s such a great symbol of the corruption and fraud, waste & abuse in your Administration,” Lieu tweeted.

    “Can you please do more toxic rallies & bring Pruitt with you? Thanks,” he added.

  5.  And why would the Kushners want to double down on this turkey?

    From my understanding Vornado bought a 49% share in the building based on the building being valued at 800 million dollars. That would leave Kushner holding a 1.4 billion dollar debt for only 51% of the building. I don't think it's exactly doubling down on a turkey…It's more like getting a financial monkey off your back.

    • Swami, Vornado didn’t just buy shares of the building from the Kushners. They sold shares they had bought a few years ago back to the Kushners.

  6. I want to see the whole lot of them behind bars, right down to Ben Carson’s assistant manicurist. Pruitt will crumble when his receipts are subpoenad. And they might be now Gowdy has gone (somewhat) rogue. I think he decided he didn’t want to go to jail himself, a possible outcome for his colleagues Nunez.

  7. Trump actually criticized Putin by name in a tweet. It was about a chemical gas attack in Syria which Trump seems to be sincerely offended by. I don't understand – honestly – as the attempted murder of a Russian spy in England (with daughter) was suppressed as a Russia/Putin issue for a week and then morphed only into a Russia response. 

    Trump said a few days ago he wants out of Syria, so the objection to the gas attack isn't inspired by a Cheney-like ambition to expand the war. Combined with sanctions against some really important cookies in Putin's jar, this is going to strain the bromance a lot. Trump's admiration for Putin isn't mutual, I think. It was convenient when an ounce of praise by the Russian dictator bought months of groveling.  

    I've long believed that Putin has something on Trump. Now I wonder if we will find out what it is. When Putin gets PO'd at Trump, he'll release it through a third party.

    If anybody understands the change in the Putin/Trump alliance, clue me in.

  8. Maha.. My comment above was referring to the original deal that Vornado made with Kushner. My point was to emphasize how badly or desperate Kushner was to keep the wheels on the bus of his financial blunder. He not only over paid for the building by approximately 1 billion dollars according to Vornado's buy in figure. He sold approximately half the building to Vornado for 400 million dollars.. That means instead of owning a whole building that he paid 1.8 billion dollars for, he now own half a building for 1.4 billion. That's closely equivalent to Jack trading his cow for some magic beans.

    I don't know who's stepping in to pick up Vornado's share by I'm sure the percentage won't change. And no matter how hard Kushner works to turn a profit or get out from under his massive debt, half of his work will be to the benefit of  whoever holds Vornado's share. It's possible Kushner wants to turn the building into some sort of a tax liability sinkhole for all of Kushner Co. holdings. But given the scrutiny he's been under he better tread lightly.


    • “That means instead of owning a whole building that he paid 1.8 billion dollars for, he now own half a building for 1.4 billion. That’s closely equivalent to Jack trading his cow for some magic beans.” Well, now he is about to own it all again, because the Kushners are buying it back from Vornado. Focus: Vornado is not selling to another party; Vornado has a deal to sell their shares to the Kushner Co.

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