Monday, October 16, 2017

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Scandals: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump- One! Harvey Weinstein- Two! Bill de Blasio Library Pay-To-Play Scandal- Three?

If you have been catching up with the news recently you know about the scandals involving Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.  . .

Vance's office was ready in 2012 to prosecute Ivanka, the daughter of Donald Trump and her husband Jared Kushner for real estate fraud, “allegedly duping prospective buyers in a failed Manhattan project dubbed Trump Soho” (a violation of the Martin Act).  Reportedly, against his staff's recommendations (and despite some damn good email evidence), Vance did not prosecute.  His receipt of campaign contributions was involved. . .   Now under the spotlight, Vance just gave back money, a $31,000 donation from Father (Donald) Trump's lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, he took in 2013 after dropping the case.  Another $9,000 from employees at Kasowitz’s law firm and $9,000 more raised at a breakfast hosted by Kasowitz was not returned.

That's one scandal!

Then there is the case of movie production mogul Harvey Weinstein whom a slew of women have now accused of sexual assault and harassment.  Vance made a decision not to prosecute Weinstein in 2015.  His decision not to prosecute was despite an very damning police sting audio tape that documented his harassment of an Filipina-Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez in a Manhattan hotel.

Again, Vance's receipt of campaign contributions was involved.  . . The lawyer, Elkan Abramowitz, who helped Harvey Weinstein avoid charges (Vance's former law partner) reportedly donated $26,550 in campaign cash to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. (including $2,100 after Vance let Weinstein walk) plus, according to campaign finance records, his law firm gave Vance another $11,500, before Vance's Weinstein decision.

That failure to prosecute is scandal number two!

The media is beginning to notice and connect the two because of the similar behaviors on Vance's part.  The New York Times editorial board issued an editorial saying: "that eyebrows understandably soar skyward when a district attorney pockets cash from a lawyer who may have a client facing charges that could send that client to Attica.. . .  As lawyers might say, res ipsa loquitur. The thing speaks for itself."

Is there one more? 
. . . Now you might remember that until recently Cyrus Vance was working with US. Attorney Preet Bharara to investigate pay-to-play deals by Mayor Bill de Blasio.  And you may remember that one of those pay-to-play deals was the sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library.  Then Donald Trump fired Preet  (March 11, 2013) and just a few days later (March 16, 2013) all these investigations were dropped. . .  And?  We'd love to know more about what was involved.

Preet Bharara has since lifted the curtain to say that he believes that before he Trump fired him Trump was trying to “cultivate” a relationship with him where he'd be asked by Trump to do the wrong thing.

How hard do you think it would be to trace aspects of the Brooklyn Heights Library and other pay-to-play deals being investigated back to campaign contributions to Vance from those close to de Blasio or Democratic party operatives or involved developers wanting de Blasio's real estate favoring reign to continue undisturbed?:  The Times editorial noted that the list of Vance's donor's "is strewn with law firms and individual lawyers" some of whom "may have unsavory motives when they open their wallets."

But we don't even have to get to that kind of extensive cross-checking to bring us full circle to the Vance contributions we have already discussed.  We need only note that the Brooklyn Heights shrink-and-sink-a-public-library scheme replicated the previously executed Donnell shrink-and-sink-a-library and replace it with a luxury tower scheme.  That Donnell deal also involved a woefully lacking excuse for a valid "bid."  For both deals there was a significant overlap of people involved behind the scenes.  And, if you could have flipped people to get them talking, the trail led back to Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner as a principal financial beneficiary from the sale of Donnell . .

. . . It's probably not exactly what Trump supposedly had in mind when trying to "cultivate" a relationship with Bharara unless you want to think generally in terms of privilege exercised by a well-connected elite prone to take advantage of the commoners.

It's been suggested that an excuse for Vance's decision not to prosecute is that it is waste of his office's resources to prosecute the powerful who can fight back and bollix up prosecutions by hiring expensive lawyers and pay for 14 carat obfuscatory PR maneuvers regular folk can't afford.  (Similar to the Weinstein case, in 2011, Vance abandoned a sexual-assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund.). . .

. . .  On the other hand, shouldn't our first priority be to prosecute the powerful whose conduct entrenches corruption at the core of our system and warps our most important institutions?

Coincidentally or not, The New Yorker magazine got the ball rolling with major stories it respectively ran about both the Kushner/Ivanaka Trump and Weinstein failures to prosecute. . .

. . . We could hope that another New Yorker story might get the ball rolling on a third such story about the non-prosecution of de Blasio.  Maybe not: David Remnick, the New Yorker's editor is a trustee of the New York Public Library and investigating the Donnell Library sale or anything leading back to it would be unconformable for the NYPL trustees (and perhaps particularly Trump buddy Stephen Schwarzman).

Or we could hope that another prosecutor with power and authority, most obviously New York State Attorney General Eric Schniederman, could pick up the scent . . . But maybe not: It has been noted that Schneiderman also takes political donations from those he could or should be investigating-  How was it that the Times editorial put it about eyebrows understandably soaring skyward when a prosecutor  pockets cash from a lawyer who may have a client facing charges that could send that client to Attica?

Vance is running for office unopposed in the November 7th election.

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