Pete's Prep: Tuesday, April 10, 2018

FBI raids offices of President's personal lawyer

From the Washington Post report:

Michael Cohen, the longtime attorney of President Trump, is under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations, according to three people with knowledge of the case.

FBI agents on Monday raided Cohen’s Manhattan office, home and hotel room as part of the investigation, seizing records about Cohen’s clients and personal finances. Among the records taken were those related to a 2016 payment Cohen made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump, according to a fourth person familiar with the investigation.

Investigators took Cohen’s computer, phone and personal financial records, including tax returns, as part of the search of his office at Rockefeller Center, that person said.

The Post reports that investigators have been collecting information about Cohen for weeks.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has this:

[Alan] Dershowitz argues that “probable cause” is too easy to gin up for  search warrants on attorneys as means to get to their clients, and he  may be right. However, when evidence suggests that attorneys have  participated in crimes, there has to be some mechanism to  address that; no one is above the law, not even attorneys, after all. It  has long been established that attorney-client privilege cannot be used  to shield criminal activities between the attorney and client in  question.

Dershowitz makes a better point in arguing that Cohen had been  cooperating with Mueller’s investigators, which is what these guidelines  suggest as an alternative. By conducting the raid, Dershowitz argues,  the DoJ has effectively penalized Cohen for his prior cooperation.  However, the question there is whether Cohen was being completely cooperative in this effort, and whether there was a risk of having evidence disappear without immediate intervention. 

I think Jonah Goldberg at National Review has a good assessment at this point. He wrote: "This is one of the rare moments in the Trump Wars where everybody is  right. The raid on Michael Cohen’s office is a big deal."

The fact that Mueller referred this to the U.S. attorney for the  Southern District of New York rather than fold it into his own  investigation suggests that whatever he found may not be central to his  probe. If Mueller had reason to believe that he had Cohen dead to rights  on the “collusion” stuff, he probably wouldn’t have farmed this out to a  different prosecutor.

On the other hand, the fact that U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman agreed  with Mueller’s interpretation and sought a warrant from a judge and  that the judge agreed to grant one suggests that Cohen is in trouble.

I think Goldberg is right - that Mueller's team found something that's not related to their probe and that it's got to be something really bad for them to turn it over to a Trump-appointed US Attorney for prosecution.


Fake Facebook 

It seems like there are more fake profiles and fake groups on Facebook than real ones. So, it's not terribly surprising that the most prominent Black Lives Matter page is a fraudulent page. What's surprising is how long it took to discover.

More than a year, according to CNN:

The page, titled simply "Black Lives Matter," had almost 700,000 followers on Facebook, more than twice as many as the official Black Lives Matter page. It was tied to online fundraisers that brought in at least $100,000 that supposedly went to Black Lives Matter causes in the U.S. At least some of the money, however, was transferred to Australian bank accounts, CNN has learned.

Fundraising campaigns associated with the Facebook page were suspended by PayPal and Patreon after CNN contacted each of the companies for comment.

It's awful timing for Facebook founder, Mark Zukerberg, who is set to appear before Congress this week to explain how his social media platform has been corrupted by bad actors influencing American society.

According to CNN, the fake BLM page was apparently run a white Australian man named Ian Mackay, who is an official with the National Union of Workers. The union, which represents thousand of workers, says it has suspended Mackay pending the outcome of an investigation.

The Facebook page was -- separate from Facebook's suspension of it -- apparently taken down by a person who administrated the page shortly after CNN contacted one of the Australian men who may be associated with it. "Black Lives Matter" appears to have been set up some time in 2016.

CNN says it appears the men were able to raise more than $100,000 via the fake pages they ran.

Are we souring on craft beer?

A new report from the Brewer's Association suggests craft beer may be plateauing in popularity.

From the Washington Post:

A new report by the Brewers Association — a trade  association representing small and independent American craft brewers —  showed that craft brewers saw a 5 percent rise in production volume in  2017. Yet with that growth comes an increasingly crowded playing field,  leading to more closures of small craft breweries. In 2017, there were  nearly 1,000 new brewery openings nationwide and 165 closures — a  closing rate of 2.6 percent. That’s a 42 percent jump from 2016, when  116 craft breweries closed.

Experts  say saturation is still some time away, and that pullback is inevitable  for any booming industry that, with time, begins to mature.

“We  have seen a little bit of deceleration,” said Bart Watson, chief  economist of the Brewers Association. “When you’re talking about an  industry that sells tens of billions of dollars a year, it’s hard to  grow at double-digit rates.”

So, it sounds like this may only be a temporary plateau.

Pete Kaliner

Pete Kaliner

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