Bob Dylan on Moby Dick

“Here’s a face. I’ll put it in front of you. Read it if you can.”

From the Nobel Prize lecture:

Moby Dick is a fascinating book, a book that’s filled with scenes of high drama and dramatic dialogue. The book makes demands on you. The plot is straightforward. The mysterious Captain Ahab – captain of a ship called the Pequod – an egomaniac with a peg leg pursuing his nemesis, the great white whale Moby Dick who took his leg. And he pursues him all the way from the Atlantic around the tip of Africa and into the Indian Ocean. He pursues the whale around both sides of the earth. It’s an abstract goal, nothing concrete or definite. He calls Moby the emperor, sees him as the embodiment of evil. Ahab’s got a wife and child back in Nantucket that he reminisces about now and again. You can anticipate what will happen.

The ship’s crew is made up of men of different races, and any one of them who sights the whale will be given the reward of a gold coin. A lot of Zodiac symbols, religious allegory, stereotypes. Ahab encounters other whaling vessels, presses the captains for details about Moby. Have they seen him? There’s a crazy prophet, Gabriel, on one of the vessels, and he predicts Ahab’s doom. Says Moby is the incarnate of a Shaker god, and that any dealings with him will lead to disaster. He says that to Captain Ahab. Another ship’s captain – Captain Boomer – he lost an arm to Moby. But he tolerates that, and he’s happy to have survived. He can’t accept Ahab’s lust for vengeance.

This book tells how different men react in different ways to the same experience. A lot of Old Testament, biblical allegory: Gabriel, Rachel, Jeroboam, Bildah, Elijah. Pagan names as well: Tashtego, Flask, Daggoo, Fleece, Starbuck, Stubb, Martha’s Vineyard. The Pagans are idol worshippers. Some worship little wax figures, some wooden figures. Some worship fire. The Pequod is the name of an Indian tribe.

Moby Dick is a seafaring tale. One of the men, the narrator, says, “Call me Ishmael.” Somebody asks him where he’s from, and he says, “It’s not down on any map. True places never are.” Stubb gives no significance to anything, says everything is predestined. Ishmael’s been on a sailing ship his entire life. Calls the sailing ships his Harvard and Yale. He keeps his distance from people.

A typhoon hits the Pequod. Captain Ahab thinks it’s a good omen. Starbuck thinks it’s a bad omen, considers killing Ahab. As soon as the storm ends, a crewmember falls from the ship’s mast and drowns, foreshadowing what’s to come. A Quaker pacifist priest, who is actually a bloodthirsty businessman, tells Flask, “Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are led to bitterness.”

Everything is mixed in. All the myths: the Judeo Christian bible, Hindu myths, British legends, Saint George, Perseus, Hercules – they’re all whalers. Greek mythology, the gory business of cutting up a whale. Lots of facts in this book, geographical knowledge, whale oil – good for coronation of royalty – noble families in the whaling industry. Whale oil is used to anoint the kings. History of the whale, phrenology, classical philosophy, pseudo-scientific theories, justification for discrimination – everything thrown in and none of it hardly rational. Highbrow, lowbrow, chasing illusion, chasing death, the great white whale, white as polar bear, white as a white man, the emperor, the nemesis, the embodiment of evil. The demented captain who actually lost his leg years ago trying to attack Moby with a knife.

We see only the surface of things. We can interpret what lies below any way we see fit. Crewmen walk around on deck listening for mermaids, and sharks and vultures follow the ship. Reading skulls and faces like you read a book. Here’s a face. I’ll put it in front of you. Read it if you can.

Tashtego says that he died and was reborn. His extra days are a gift. He wasn’t saved by Christ, though, he says he was saved by a fellow man and a non-Christian at that. He parodies the resurrection.

When Starbuck tells Ahab that he should let bygones be bygones, the angry captain snaps back, “Speak not to me of blasphemy, man, I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.” Ahab, too, is a poet of eloquence. He says, “The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails whereon my soul is grooved to run.” Or these lines, “All visible objects are but pasteboard masks.” Quotable poetic phrases that can’t be beat.

Finally, Ahab spots Moby, and the harpoons come out. Boats are lowered. Ahab’s harpoon has been baptized in blood. Moby attacks Ahab’s boat and destroys it. Next day, he sights Moby again. Boats are lowered again. Moby attacks Ahab’s boat again. On the third day, another boat goes in. More religious allegory. He has risen. Moby attacks one more time, ramming the Pequod and sinking it. Ahab gets tangled up in the harpoon lines and is thrown out of his boat into a watery grave.

Ishmael survives. He’s in the sea floating on a coffin. And that’s about it. That’s the whole story. That theme and all that it implies would work its way into more than a few of my songs.

“And That’s Still Not All Of It”

Bob Dylan on The Odyssey, from his Nobel Prize lecture:

 The Odyssey is a great book whose themes have worked its way into the ballads of a lot of songwriters: “Homeward Bound, “Green, Green Grass of Home,” “Home on the Range,” and my songs as well.

The Odyssey is a strange, adventurous tale of a grown man trying to get home after fighting in a war. He’s on that long journey home, and it’s filled with traps and pitfalls. He’s cursed to wander. He’s always getting carried out to sea, always having close calls. Huge chunks of boulders rock his boat. He angers people he shouldn’t. There’s troublemakers in his crew. Treachery. His men are turned into pigs and then are turned back into younger, more handsome men. He’s always trying to rescue somebody. He’s a travelin’ man, but he’s making a lot of stops.

He’s stranded on a desert island. He finds deserted caves, and he hides in them. He meets giants that say, “I’ll eat you last.” And he escapes from giants. He’s trying to get back home, but he’s tossed and turned by the winds. Restless winds, chilly winds, unfriendly winds. He travels far, and then he gets blown back.

He’s always being warned of things to come. Touching things he’s told not to. There’s two roads to take, and they’re both bad. Both hazardous. On one you could drown and on the other you could starve. He goes into the narrow straits with foaming whirlpools that swallow him. Meets six-headed monsters with sharp fangs. Thunderbolts strike at him. Overhanging branches that he makes a leap to reach for to save himself from a raging river. Goddesses and gods protect him, but some others want to kill him. He changes identities. He’s exhausted. He falls asleep, and he’s woken up by the sound of laughter. He tells his story to strangers. He’s been gone twenty years. He was carried off somewhere and left there. Drugs have been dropped into his wine. It’s been a hard road to travel.

In a lot of ways, some of these same things have happened to you. You too have had drugs dropped into your wine. You too have shared a bed with the wrong woman. You too have been spellbound by magical voices, sweet voices with strange melodies. You too have come so far and have been so far blown back. And you’ve had close calls as well. You have angered people you should not have. And you too have rambled this country all around. And you’ve also felt that ill wind, the one that blows you no good. And that’s still not all of it.

 

Menendez & Netanyahu

The federal corruption trial of Senator Robert Menendez and his very good amigo, Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, is underway in New Jersey. It doesn’t appear to be going well for the prosecution.

On Tuesday, the government put Dr. Melgen’s girlfriends on the stand, and they weren’t happy about it. Senator Menendez is accused, inter alia, of exerting improper influence to obtain visas for the foreign-born women in exchange for gifts—bribes, prosecutors say—from Dr. Melgen. Svitlana Buchyk, a “model and actress,” had the courtroom “laughing at some of her answers,” Politico reported. When asked by a defense attorney how long she had spent with prosecutors preparing her testimony, she said she didn’t know, “it just seems very long when I’m around them.”

Asked if she understood why she was in court, Ms. Buchyk “let out a long, exasperated ‘no,’” Politico reported. “No, I don’t know why I’m here,” she said, indicating lead prosecutor Peter Koski. “He’s just forcing me to be here.”

In the courtroom, Judge William Walls did not allow Dr. Melgen’s girlfriends to be referred to as “girlfriends,” only “friendship” was acknowledged, fooling no one. In a bizarre filing before the trial opened, the government worked hard to portray the senator and the wealthy doctor as two dirty old men living the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Dr. Melgen wanted to bring his young “foreign girlfriends to the United States to visit him,” the document notes. The women were “from Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Ukraine.” Senator Menendez helped with the visas. Dr. Melgen arranged for Mr. Menendez and his girlfriend (oh by the way both men are married) “to stay in Punta Cana, an exclusive oceanside resort town” in the Dominican Republic.

On other occasions, the two men and their, er, friends, enjoyed vacations “at Melgen’s villa at Casa de Campo, a cloistered resort on the southeastern coast of the Dominican Republic with renowned golf courses, a spa, polo fields, a marina, restaurants and other amenities.” The trial brief describes an “enclave, venerated for its seclusion” and “frequently visited by luminaries in sports, entertainment and business, including Beyonce, Jay-Z, Jennifer Lopez, Richard Branson and Bill Gates.” Elsewhere in the brief, the government notes that with assistance for Dr. Melgen, Mr. Menendez stayed at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Paris, “one of Europe’s most elite, routinely hosting celebrities from the world over, including the likes of George Clooney and Maria Sharapova.”

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Is This The End Of Bibi?

Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu is the great survivor in the blood sport of Israeli politics. Glib, cunning and endlessly calculating, he squeezed past Shimon Peres to narrowly win a first term as prime minister in 1996, only to crash on the rocks of hubris and be crushed by Ehud Barak three years later. Ariel Sharon brought him back to political life as foreign minister and, later, finance minister. He repaid him by quitting the government after Mr. Sharon decided to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. In 2009, he returned as prime minister and has been there ever since, coming out on top in two more elections and cobbling together governing parliamentary coalitions with parties from many points on the Israeli political spectrum. He says he’ll seek an unprecedented fifth term as prime minister.

Unless he goes to jail first. The prime minister often has danced perilously close to scandal and defeat, only to come out on top. But a series of corruption cases suddenly has the Israeli public wondering if this is the end of Bibi. Four cases working their way through the Israeli justice system pose a threat.

Israeli prosecutors like round numbers. In “Case 1000,” Mr. Netanyahu is alleged to have received shipments of expensive cigars and champagne, as well as gifts of jewelry, plane tickets and hotel rooms, from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer. What Mr. Netanyahu did in return is murky. News reports say he may have helped the two men with visa and residency issues—pretty thin stuff to bring down a prime minister—and protected Mr. Milchan’s interests in an Israeli television channel. Mr. Netanyahu insists that the lavish gifts were just tokens of affection from two good friends. The charges here could run from breach of public trust to bribery.

In “Case 2000,” Mr. Netanyahu is suspected of conspiring with an Israeli newspaper owner, Arnon Mozes, to illegally block a rival publication. In a classic Bibi twist, the rival publication was in fact a pro-Netanyahu tabloid owned by American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a supporter of the prime minister. But Mr. Netanyahu wanted Mr. Mozes’ newspaper to stop criticizing him. So he plotted to throw his own supporter, Mr. Adelson, under the bus. You can’t make this stuff up. Allegedly, Mr. Netanyahu conspired with Mr. Mozes to move legislation through the Israeli parliament that would have crippled Mr. Adelson’s newspaper. The charge here is bribery—an exchange of better newspaper coverage for favorable legislation. Mr. Netanyahu has deployed the “just kidding” defense in the case, insisting he never really meant to go forward with the plan, but was simply stringing Mr. Mozes along in conversations.

“Case 3000” is known in Israel as “the Submarine Affair.” Mr. Netanyahu is not a target in the investigation—at least not yet. He has denied any wrongdoing. In the case, Israeli businessman Michael Ganor is alleged to have bribed government officials to secure a billion-dollar deal to purchase submarines from a German manufacturer. Mr. Ganor’s lawyer was David Shimron, who was also Mr. Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and adviser. And his cousin. The Israeli media have reported that Mr. Shimron leaned on government officials on behalf of Mr. Ganor and was looking at a large payout from the deal, which was suspended amid the corruption controversy; Mr. Shimron denied the reports and says he did nothing wrong. A former Israeli defense minister, on the outs with the prime minister, reportedly told police investigators that Mr. Netanyahu facilitated the deal by sinking an earlier Defense Ministry contract and ordering more submarines than Israel needed. Mr. Netanyahu denied the allegations.

In “Case 4000,” known as “the Bezeq Affair,” a Netanyahu appointee at the Israeli Communications Ministry has been accused of providing confidential documents and information to the Israeli telecom giant, Bezeq. The information provided an improper financial advantage to Bezeq, investigators say. Mr. Netanyahu’s very good friend Shaul Elovitch is the controlling shareholder in Bezeq. A government inquiry found that Mr. Netanyahu, who in various ministerial capacities had the power to shape policy to benefit Bezeq, had failed to disclose his relationship with Mr. Elovitch. Mr. Netanyahu has not been charged with wrongdoing in the case.

Several recent developments signal more trouble ahead for Mr. Netanyahu. Most ominous, earlier this month, his former chief of staff, Ari Harow, agreed to testify in Case 1000 and Case 2000. Nailed on fraud charges in an unrelated case, Mr. Harow agreed to turn state’s witness in the two corruption cases. In the Submarine Affair, the key suspect, Mr. Ganor, has signed a cooperation agreement and agreed to testify. In the Bezeq Affair, the Netanyahu appointee at the center of the case has been placed under house arrest, and Mr. Netanyahu’s failure to disclose his relationship with the telecom giant’s controlling shareholder could lead to a conflict-of-interest probe.

That’s a lot of investigative muscle directed at the prime minister, but I wouldn’t count Bibi out just yet. Witnesses—even state witnesses—often are not as helpful as prosecutors think they will be. Mr. Netanyahu has an explanation for everything and a masterful command of the levers of political power. He’ll go down fighting. The endgame will play out over the next few months. If Mr. Netanyahu is indicted in any of the corruption cases and refuses to step down, it will be up to the Israeli parliamentary and judicial systems to summon the political will to remove him from office.

***

 

Will Menendez Walk?

A criminal indictment is a beautiful thing—an austere document, grave and fateful. Who is charged with committing what crimes, and where, and when, and how? What laws have been violated? In it rests the fearsome power of the state. From it may pass a person’s liberty, even life itself. It is transparent in spite of itself: making the argument, it reveals its flaws

The indictment of United States Senator Robert Menendez and Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen charges the two old friends with a conspiracy to commit bribery and “honest services fraud.” It states that they schemed to corruptly influence Senator Menendez’s “official acts” and “defraud and deprive the United States and the citizens of New Jersey of the honest services of a public official.” It sketches attempts to obtain visas for Dr. Melgen girlfriends; attempts to influence the Department of Homeland Security in a contractual matter concerning a Melgen-owned security-screening company; and attempts to gain a favorable ruling from the Department of Health and Human Services in a gigantic Medicare reimbursement dispute—an episode that eventually would land Dr. Melgen in calamity.

Every indictment tells a story. This one is a tale lust, greed and comical incompetence. Whether it’s a story of criminal behavior is another matter. Dr. Melgen showers his old friend with free plane trips, vacation holidays, and large campaign donations at critical moments. Senator Menendez fails to disclose the gifts, setting himself up for a false statements charge. The senator’s office helps the married Dr. Melgen obtain visas for three young girlfriends, all identified as “models.” Embassy officials push back, but eventually the visas are approved. The senator’s office attempts to intervene with the Department of Homeland Security to undermine a security-screening company in the Dominican Republic, a move that would boost the fortunes of Dr. Melgen’s rival company. But it turns out that DHS has no leverage in the matter. In 2009, the senator and his staff step into an $8.9 million Medicare fight, advocating on Dr. Melgen’s behalf in an increasingly tense series of meetings with Department of Health and Human Services officials, working their way up the bureaucratic food chain. The battle goes on for three years. Senator Menendez is rebuffed at every turn. Senator Menendez grows increasingly upset. The Medicare determination is upheld: Dr. Melgen owes $8.9 million.

The Medicare dispute was just the beginning of Dr. Melgen’s troubles. In 2015, he was indicted in a sweeping $90 million Medicare fraud scheme. The drug at the center of part of the scheme, an eye medication called Lucentis, was the same medication in the earlier Medicare dispute. There is no indication that Senator Menendez was involved in the Florida fraud scheme. In April, Dr. Melgen was convicted on all counts. He faces as much as twenty years in prison. Unless maybe he can cut a deal.

The Menendez-Melgen corruption trial opens September 6 in a New Jersey federal court. Does Dr. Melgen have anything to offer the prosecution? Senator Menendez may have some reason to fear Dr. Melgen’s testimony, but he can find solace—and possibly liberty—in last year’s Supreme Court McDonnell decision. In McDonnell, the court narrowed the definition of official acts and honest services fraud. Prosecutors needed to prove a direct “official action.” An “official act” has to be more than “setting up a meeting, talking to another official, or hosting an event,” the court ruled. Yes, Melgen could roll on Menendez. Yes, a host of government officials and aides could testify that the senator sought favorable actions for his friend. But where are the direct official acts that go beyond typical donor services? Based on the indictment, Senator Menendez, a canny and experienced political operator, appears to have stayed outside that realm.

The betting here: Menendez walks. And for that he can thank the United States Supreme Court.

 ***

Micah Morrison is chief investigative reporter for Judicial Watch. Follow him on Twitter @micah_morrison. Tips: mmorrison@judicialwatch.org

Investigative Bulletin is published by Judicial Watch. Reprints and media inquiries: jfarrell@judicialwatch.org

The Final Confession of Peter W. Smith

I first ran into Peter W. Smith—that crafty master of the dark side of oppo research—in the early 1990s. The Chicago financier was spreading around a lot of money in Arkansas to support investigations into allegations that Arkansas state troopers were pimping for Gov. Bill Clinton. I didn’t take any of Mr. Smith’s money but state troopers, lawyers and a young reporter named David Brock did. “Troopergate” came to nothing, except that Brock wrote a story in the American Spectator that smeared a woman named “Paula,” which led to the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit, which led to the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton. So from a GOP oppo perspective, the mission was a roaring success. Thanks in large part to Peter W. Smith.

In the years that followed, plenty of folks on the Right took Mr. Smith’s money—he was a generous and inquisitive man, well known and well connected. On May 14, he committed suicide in a Rochester, Minnesota, hotel room near the Mayo Clinic. He was 81. He left a note stating “NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER,” according to the Chicago Tribune, citing a “bad turn” in his health in recent months and an expiring $5 million life insurance policy.

Before he died, however, Mr. Smith carefully prepared what amounts to a deathbed confession—a final piece of oppo research lofted into the Russian connection case from beyond the grave. The delivery vehicle for the final confession of Peter W. Smith was Shane Harris of the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Harris spoke with Mr. Smith ten days before his death.

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Extreme Transparency & Discretionary Disclosure

These are tough times for transparency. But let’s be honest: does anyone care? The concept has an “eat your vegetables” feel to it. Deep down we know it’s good for us, but, meh.

If you think transparency and sunshine laws don’t matter, consider these recent items:

  • despite enormous public interest, the federal government has declined to release a redacted report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election
  • President Trump refuses to make his tax returns public and will not release White House visitor logs
  • the majority leader of the United States Senate attempted to ram through a colossal change in American health care with a bill written in near-total secrecy
  • the House of Representatives repealed an SEC rule requiring that extractive industries disclose payments to foreign governments, killing an effective “follow the money” transparency measure that deterred payoffs and bribes
  • anonymously owned shell companies are steering billions in dirty money to U.S. luxury real-estate markets
  • fighting government stonewalls, Judicial Watch has been forced to sue in federal court for former FBI Director James Comey’s memo of his meeting with President Trump, and to file five additional lawsuits related to alleged monitoring of the president and his associates in the Russia connection case

There’s plenty of blame to go around for transparency failures. But as Judicial Watch’s Director of Investigations Chris Farrell has pointed out, when it comes to sunshine actions, the Trump White House has a solution at hand that’s both elegantly simple and breathtakingly radical. The Freedom of Information Act allows for the executive branch to make “discretionary disclosures.”

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The Ukraine Connection

In January, Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, met with a most unusual peace envoy: a former mobster and government informant named Felix Sater. They were joined by a third man, Andrii Artemenko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament with alleged ties to organized crime figures. Mr. Artemenko and Mr. Sater wanted the new president to consider a “peace deal” that would cede Crimea to Russia in exchange for the withdrawal of Russian forces from eastern Ukraine. Mr. Cohen was interested. Mr. Sater gave Mr. Cohen the proposal in a sealed envelope and Mr. Cohen dropped it off at the office of then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn while visiting the White House to meet with President Trump. The government of Ukraine learned about the deal the way the rest of the world did, by reading about it in the New York Times. It furiously denounced the move as a “gross violation” of Ukrainian law by forces “covertly representing Russian interests.”

No U.S. laws were broken in the backchannel approach to the White House and Mr. Artemenko, who has modeled his political persona on Mr. Trump, denies any connection to organized crime. But the episode underscores some of the dangers for the Trump White House lurking in the Russia connection case. Following the money may take Special Counsel Robert Mueller to some very shady places.

Throughout his life, Mr. Trump has not shied away from contacts with organized crime figures. He crossed paths with them in the construction business, in the casino business, in deals with Mr. Sater and his colleagues, and through his longtime personal attorney Roy Cohn, whose client list included many of New York’s leading mobsters. Maybe Mr. Trump never did business with the mob. Maybe he just got a kick out of gangsters. We don’t know. But the problem now for President Trump is a special counsel who may want to know, and who is empowered to find out.

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Trump v. Mueller

“The President went on to say that if there were some ‘satellite’ associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn’t done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren’t investigating him.”

–Former FBI Director James Comey to the Senate Intelligence Committee

 

“The Special Counsel is authorized to conduct the investigation…including: any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).”

–Justice Department letter appointing Robert Mueller as special counsel

 

The president has claimed a measure of relief—okay, “total and complete vindication”—after James Comey confirmed in Senate testimony that Mr. Trump himself is not under investigation in the Russia connection case. According to Mr. Comey’s notes of his meetings with the president, Mr. Trump insists he hasn’t done anything wrong but if any of his “satellite associates” did do something wrong, it would be good to find that out. The important thing, President Trump repeats, is that he himself is not a target of the probe.

The conventional wisdom out of Washington is that the president is a political neophyte stumbling from one crisis to another. But when it comes to legal battles, Mr. Trump is an experienced combatant. Trump biographers have noted that the future president was mentored by attorney Roy Cohn, an avatar of legal evil whose life’s work included hounding homosexuals and suspected communists, representing mobsters and financial titans, and protecting Trump family interests. Cohn beat back repeated federal attempts to jail him and died from an AIDS-related illness in 1986, but he lives on in the president’s brain. If you’re gaming Trump v. Mueller, think Roy Cohn, not the hapless New York corporate lawyers currently being shoved out front as cannon fodder.

The Roy Cohn method is to fight until the last dog dies and that’s precisely what the president wants. For Mr. Trump knows that a war with the special counsel is at hand. Taking a page from the Clintons’ Whitewater playbook, Trump surrogates have started blasting Mr. Mueller as Democrat-linked and unfit for office. Mr. Trump has served notice that anyone can be thrown under the bus—it would be “good to find out” if any of his associates did anything wrong, he tells the then-FBI chief—and Trump friends note that even Mr. Mueller is not safe from being fired. None of this is an accident.

As for Mr. Mueller, like Mr. Trump, it’s not in his character to back away from a fight. Mr. Mueller enlisted in the Marine Corps and commanded a rifle platoon in the Vietnam War, receiving the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. A Republican, he served in high Justice Department criminal prosecution posts and took over the FBI one week before 9-11. He’s a serious, straight-arrow prosecutor facing the biggest case of his lifetime. He’ll go where the evidence takes him and is assembling a formidable team to get him there.

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EB-5, VEB Updates, Bad Juju For Jared

A snarky, disparaging—and let’s be honest, wildly entertaining—color commentary on the Trump White House in the New York Times last week noted that the president lately has been taking a dim view of his son-in-law and senior aide, Jared Kushner. Mr. Kushner’s star is falling. The president made “several snarky, disparaging comments about Mr. Kushner’s family” and the “Trump-Kushner relationship…is showing unmistakable signs of strain,” the Times reported. It noted that Mr. Kushner’s influence diminished as he came under scrutiny in the Russia connection case, but “the most serious point of contention between the president and his son-in-law” was the Kushner family’s push in China to fund a New Jersey luxury tower project through the controversial EB-5 visa program.

We’ve been following EB-5 and outlined the Kushner China hustle last month. Foreigners—mostly wealthy Chinese—pay $500,000 for an EB-5 visa, which gives them a green card and a path to U.S. citizenship. The program was established by Congress to funnel low-interest loans, well below commercial lending standards, to development projects in economically distressed areas. But the money—more than $20 billion—mostly has gone to finance lavish developments in flashy locations like Manhattan, Miami and Beverly Hills. The real estate industry loves the program because it provides cheap financing.

In the May 24 edition of City & State, the Brooklyn-based journalist Norman Oder provided new details about the Kushner’s New Jersey luxury apartment projects. Mr. Oder had been covering EB-5 since 2010 at his groundbreaking Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report. Using New Jersey sunshine laws, Mr. Oder revealed previously unreported “creative mapmaking” of census tracts critical to two Kushner projects in New Jersey that use EB-5 funds.

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