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More details surface on the government meetings Jared Kushner and Steve Mnuchin did before scoring investors
Ahead of the final day of President Donald Trump's in the White House, both Jared Kushner and Steve Mnuchin used their positions to score meetings with international leaders. After leaving the Trump administration scored major investments from those same international leaders for their respective hedge funds.
Now the New York Times is noting that both Kushner and Mnuchin have started the Abraham Fund, named after Kushner's Abraham Accord, a kind of plan that aimed to establish peace in the Middle East, but ultimately just made a few agreements. The Abraham Fund would have the U.S. government pay for $3 billion in projects around the Middle East.
Kushner was the chief of the project, but after he left, the project came to a close.
"Yet after Mr. Kushner and Mr. Mnuchin crisscrossed the Middle East in the final months of the administration on trips that included trying to raise money for the project, each quickly launched a private fund that in some ways picked up where the Abraham Fund had ended," said the Times.
The two men brought top aides who helped score Gulf leaders and royal families while promoting the Abraham Fund while trying to score cash for their own hedge funds.
Mnuchin got $500 million commitments from the Saudis, Kuwaitis and Qataris, according to documents by the main sovereign wealth fund, which itself then gave $1 billion. Kushner got $2 billion from the Saudis.
The actions are under examination for any possible ethics violations.
"Both Mr. Kushner and Mr. Mnuchin hired several aides who were deeply involved in the accords: A top executive at Affinity, retired Maj. Gen. Miguel Correa, is a former military attaché in the Emirates who later worked in the White House. Top executives at Mr. Mnuchin’s fund, Liberty Strategic Capital, include a former ambassador to Israel and a former Treasury aide who helped arrange meetings with Gulf leaders," said the Times.
The revolving door spun so fast that there was one executive who appeared to be working for the government and for Liberty Strategic at the same time, the report explained. There were 11 executives and advisers given to the Saudis by April 2021 that including "Managing Director Michel D'Ambrosio," except he was still the assistant director of the Secret Service" at the time.
Eli Miller was working at the Treasury Department with Mnuchin and began waiting for him as far back as 2019. He had been working for the Persian Gulf sovereign wealth funds at Blackstone, another investment firm where Mnuchin once served.
There are questions about Kushner that some officials have urged the Justice Department to examine. For Mnuchin, there was a question about him going from Wall Street to the government sector.
“If he was, that is an abuse of his office,” Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis said. “I don’t know if it is criminal, but it is certainly corrupt.”
Mnuchin denied that the details in the Saudi documents were wrong.
The Times revealed that while coming into the White House, Kushner tried to install his own Treasury secretary, but Mnuchin built his own countercampaign, those familiar with the effort told the Times. The two men kept their distance in the administration even though they have similar interests.
Mnuchin also had investments from the region before Kushner, who never had any relationships prior to the White House. While in the Trump administration, Mnuchin spent more time in the Middle East than his predecessor. In fact, he made more than twice as many trips to meet with Persian Gulf monarchies than the previous secretary.
“He was a business guy who really knew how to do personal diplomacy, and they liked him,” said Michael Greenwald, a former Treasury attaché in Kuwait and Qatar. He served in both Trump and Barack Obama's administrations. “So that was an effective tool.”
Kushner went on at least 10 trips to the Persian Gulf, and formed a close alliance with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, even after American intelligence revealed he ordered the brutal murder of a Washington Post reporter, Jamal Khashoggi. Kushner defended MBS. Mnuchin announced his firm just three weeks after leaving office.
Kushner's slower start happened six months later when he announced his $2 billion investment from the Saudis. He didn't even have any staff. He ultimately hired his close aide and Correa, who clashed with diplomats who believed he was doing unauthorized arms sales. He was then evacuated to the White House. By the close of the Trump campaign, the two men were the only ones on the trips with Kushner.
Conservative Alice Stewart and Democrat Maria Cardona got into it over some Catholic bishops weaponizing communion. In the past, bishops have tried to threaten President Joe Biden because he doesn't believe in legislating abortion. Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was also threatened because she too doesn't want the government to dictate individuals' lives.
Speaking about the issue, Stewart attempted to cite Catholic tenents cited by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone in his press release attacking Pelosi.
"This is a long time coming and should have happened," argued Stewart, who isn't a Catholic. "This is not a conservative archbishop. This is universal."
The archbishop she's citing is actually very conservative. He serves as the archbishop of San Francisco, a city known for being among the biggest LGBTQ cities. Yet, Cordileone opposes same-sex marriage, which is an issue approved by 70 percent of Americans. In 2013, 58 percent of California voters supported ballot measures legalizing same-sex marriage. That number has only ballooned in the nearly 10 years since.
Stewart said that because the Catholic Church believes that abortion is a sin. Priests can deny someone absolution after confession, refusing them of having communion, but all any Catholic would have to do is find a priest who would give them absolution. This weekend, Pelosi went to church in Washington, D.C. where she was given communion.
Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. is not the kind of leader to weaponize communion. He announced last year that he wouldn't deny it of Biden, though Biden still attends his home church whenever possible. It's where his late wife, son and daughter are all buried.
"Pope Frances refers to abortion in extremely horrible terms calling it murder," said Stewart. "The Catholic Church needs to stand up. You can't pick and choose which tenets you believe in. It is part of the big picture of being a Catholic. This is universal catholic teaching."
Cardona, a practicing Catholic, explained to Stewart that Catholicism doesn't take one issue that negates the entirety of one's faith.
"Judge not lest ye be judged," Cardona quoted from Matthew 7:1. "The Holy Father, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, said that bishops should not be politicians. They should be pastors. This is incredibly misguided on behalf of the bishop. They represent not what the majority of Catholics believe but an extremely conservative political view that they are using their incredibly powerful perch to dispense of that view and I think it is completely wrong-headed of them."
She went on to say that it's one of the major reasons why the Catholic Church is seeing major losses in their U.S. churches. While the church might be gaining a following elsewhere in the world, in the US, where a lot of donations come from, the far-right domination of the U.S. Council of Bishops has been a problem for a more mainstream American audience.
"Those who have left Catholicism outnumber those who have joined the Catholic Church by nearly a four-to-one margin. Overall, one-in-ten American adults (10.1 percent) have left the Catholic Church after having been raised Catholic, while only 2.6 percent of adults have become Catholic after having been raised something other than Catholic," Pew wrote in 2009 before updating its numbers in 2011.
Millennials have been a large part of the rush away from organized religion, Pew data found last year. While the numbers saw huge losses between 2007 and 2014, after 2014 things remained steady. The thing that changed the most is that Pope Francis took over in 2013. Last year, one-third of the Catholics in Germany (221,000) left the church. It was the third year in a row such a large number fled the church. It makes sense for the pandemic, but for the numbers to continue dropping over the course of three years expands beyond COVID.
"Catholics aren’t disappointed—they’re exasperated," wrote Father Bryan Massingale last year. What Americans see is that the Pope does one thing while the US bishops do another. For example, the Council of Bishops was furious that Pope Francis met with President Joe Biden, a life-long Catholic and only the second president in history to be a dedicated follower of the faith. The Council voted that Biden should be denied communion, only to be shot down by the Pope.
America, the Jesuit Review, wrote in January from its editorial board that Catholic leaders must listen to those who have left the church if they mean to win anyone back. Last year, for example, the Michigan Catholic Conference was caught forking over hundreds of thousands of dollars not to help the poor, or children orphaned by COVID, but they gave almost $240,000 to fight a local group that was trying to expand LGBTQ protections.
This is a reason why people are leaving the Catholic church in droves and hoping that better minds within the Vatican prevail, said Cardona. The message coming from Pope Frances, by contrast, "is exactly what the Catholic church should be doing in reflecting the teachings of Jesus Christ. The bishop's weaponize that and I think it's completely wrong to do that."
She went on to tell Stewart that the most important part of being a Catholic is that an individual is responsible for their own morality and moral code.
"You have to act depending on the moral compass, it says. That is up to nobody else," said Cardona. "That is why this -- why you go to confession. If you believe you have sinned, you go to confession and how you are back into the grace of God and then able to take Holy Communion. That is no one's decision except for the person who decides to take Holy Communion. Interestingly enough that decision is as personal to whoever wants to decide to take Holy Communion as the decision to terminate a pregnancy is to a woman. It is that personal. It is no one else's decision. If those bishops believe whoever is taking communion that they are sinning because they believe in abortion rights, well you know what, that is up to that person and God and Jesus. If they believe that person will burn in Hell, well it is up to that person to make that decision. It is not up to the bishop. That is doctrine of the Catholic Church. You are responsible for your own morality and your own moral code. And that is how you should act. And so, I think, again, it is completely wrong-headed. They are weaponizing communion and a reason why the Catholic Church is losing people in droves."
Another point later argued is that Pope Francis is considered infallible in the church, so his thoughts reign supreme over any decision by a lowly bishop in San Francisco.
In the case of Biden, he's never had an abortion, so it isn't his "sin" that the fringe bishops purport to oppose. Their anger is over Biden's support of the legislation. So, weaponizing communion as a means of legislative lobbying could be a violation of tax laws, something that the Catholic Church deems a mortal sin.
"Next time I go to Church, I dare you to deny me Communion," U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) told his 1.6 million Twitter followers last year. As an XY gender, he doesn't appear to have had an abortion.
See the self-own below:
Conservative Alice Stewart humiliated after trying to tell a Catholic how Catholicism works youtu.be
CNN obtained emails revealing former President Donald Trump was pushing the appointment of his lawyer Cleta Mitchell to the federal election advisory board.
According to the emails, conservatives were working well before the Nov. 2020 election to get his hand-picked person on the Election Assistance Commission, which is supposed to be an independent agency that gives election guidelines for states.
Mitchell was one of those who participated in Trump's infamous phone call where he demanded that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R-GA) "find" 11,780 votes so that he could win the Georgia election.
The story of how she was appointed to that board "underscores how a core faction of Republicans has focused on pushing unsupported claims of widespread voter fraud even before Trump convinced much of the Republican Party to buy into his election lies that the 2020 election had been stolen," CNN wrote.
Raffensperger, along with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, is facing well-funded allies of Trump's in a GOP primary that will reveal the extent to which the former president can control the voters after his "big lie" election conspiracy. Polls still indicate that the overwhelming majority (70 percent) of Republican voters believe that the 2020 election was won by Trump.
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution/University of Georgia poll revealed that 45 percent of GOP primary voters indicated they would prefer to vote for a candidate that had Trump's endorsement. It might explain why Trump's hand-picked candidate, disgraced Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) is failing with just 27 percent of the vote as of April.
"According to the House committee investigating the insurrection and a Washington Post report disclosing White House records, Trump also spoke with Mitchell on the evening of Jan. 6, 2021," said CNN.
Mitchell left her law firm after the Trump Georgia call that was recorded and sent to the media. Now, however, she gets to influence election policy inside the government after her boss was voted out of office. She was appointed after an appointment to a government group developing civil rights policy and civil rights enforcement of the law.
"The emails obtained by CNN show how conservatives on the civil rights commission worked for months to gain a Republican appointment to the election advisory board," said CNN. "After two Trump appointments in 2020 gave the civil rights commission a 4-4 partisan split, the conservatives threatened to stop the commission’s work in a bid for concessions – including a Republican election board appointment – in exchange for approving the civil rights commission’s new Democratic chair."
“I made it plain to her we could stop the business of the commission if we were not treated fairly, and fairness is all we want,” wrote Trump-appointed civil rights commissioner J. Christian Adams. He was the one who pushed the addition of Mitchell.
Adams is no stranger to claims of voter fraud when there aren't any. In fact, he was part of Trump's "election integrity commission" that aimed to find 3 million undocumented "Mexicans" who voted illegally. They never did and Trump ended the commission. A commissioner later revealed that they found no evidence of voter fraud.
When CNN asked for comment, Adams claimed the conservative appointment could work because the rules required the vote to be bipartisan "and that needed to be fixed."
“We had the votes to get it done, and we got it done,” he said. “Cleta Mitchell has been a breath of fresh air on the advisory board already. Too often insiders don’t hear outside perspectives so I am thrilled that she is bringing diverse viewpoints that the advisory board might have not heard before.”
The chief of the commission admitted she wasn't pleased with the appointment.
Mitchell is now using language around election "confidence" to justify election restrictions. There are people who feel bad, after buying into the 2020 "big lie." Thus the law should cater to the feelings of the minority and restrict the votes of the majority of voters.
“We need to make this as transparent as possible to restore confidence in the voting systems,” she said. “I think this is probably one of the biggest challenges that we face in elections today.”
In Aug. 2020, Adams pushed voter fraud claims before the election had even been conducted. He told former Trump chief of staff Mark MEadows on Nov. 9, 2020, that Mitchell offered to start a non-profit group “to deal with raising money and paying for the cyber portion" of the election fraud claims. "She offered to do it if necessary.”
Adams then tried to have Democratic colleague Michael Yaki removed from the commission. At the time, Yaki was pushing a plan to ensure that the U.S. Postal Service meet mail-in-ballot deadlines because it might be "incapable" of doing so, the emails show. The rest of the commission blocked him from doing anything about it.
“My question is how does he get UNDONE from the EAC oversight commission? How does that get revoked and replaced?” Adams asked in another email to Meadows.
"The Republicans on the Civil Rights Commission discovered in the fall of 2020 that appointments to the election advisory board were supposed to be bipartisan, but both were Democrats. They also found that the commissioners had never voted on the current appointments, the emails show," said CNN.
So, Republicans sent a letter from the GOP Civil Rights commission asking the Election Assistance Commission to question the legitimacy of the Democratic appointees.
“There are significant doubts that this ‘appointment’ was actually an appointment that followed our Commission’s regular procedures,” they wrote in the letter.
It was only after Joe Biden took over that the Civil Rights commissioners began renegotiating the rules for the next appointment to the election commission.
“If we were to appoint Commissioner Adams to the EAC there would be some pretty significant public blow back,” wrote a communications aide.
By July 2021 the GOP chairs put Mitchell and Adams in as their two candidates. The Democrats chose Mitchell over Adams. Then they raised ethical concerns about Mitchell. She serves on Adams' election integrity organization. The general counsel of the commission declared there was no conflict and there shouldn't be any kind of outside investigation.
Read the full report at CNN.