The Grifters of Trumpland Are Having an Especially Bad Week
Although it’s only Wednesday, it has already been a terrible week for several of President Trump’s supporters, associates, and former campaign aides who have been accused of financial crimes. Here is a rundown:
Rep. Chris Collins
The latest high profile Trump ally to get indicted is New York Republican Rep. Chris Collins, who was the first sitting congressman to endorse Trump’s run for president. This morning, federal prosecutors announced that Collins is being charged with multiple counts of securities and wire fraud pertaining to insider trading accusations.
Collins is accused of dumping stock held in the Australian biotech company Innate before unfavorable clinical trial results went public. He allegedly passed that insider information along to son Cameron Collins and Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron’s girlfriend. All three men saved a total of about $800,000 by selling their stock before the clinical lab results went public.
However, the Trump cast off who is having the worst week is unsurprisingly former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is currently standing trial on 18 counts of charges related to money-laundering, bank fraud, and tax fraud. His former lieutenant, and former Trump transition official Rick Gates is twisting the knife by flipping on Manafort and serving as the prosecutor’s star witness; in doing so, Gates has admitted to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort’s consulting firm in order to pay for luxury travel and accommodations for Gates’s mistress, including a high-end London apartment. Gates testified against Manafort as part of a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team that would result in reduced prison sentence of five to six years on fraud charges from his work with consulting for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.
Things aren’t looking much better for Trump’s aggrieved former consigliere/punching bag Michael Cohen. According to the Wall Street Journal, Cohen is being investigated by federal prosecutors in New York for tax fraud. The probe into Cohen’s taxes is a new revelation in the wide-ranging federal probe into Cohen’s businesses that went public in April following an FBI raid of Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room. So far, Cohen has not been charged with any crimes.
But the accusations against Manafort, Gates, and Cohen feel paltry compared the millions of dollars current Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross allegedly siphoned from his Wall Street cronies over the years according to a bombshell report from Forbes. The magazine talked to 21 sources who accused Ross, a man who is worth about $700 million, of pocketing a grand total of $120 million in shady business dealings during his tenure as the head of private-equity company WL Ross & Co. The report alleges that Ross has been the target of multiple lawsuits alleging financial impropriety. From Forbes:
In 2005, former WL Ross vice chairman Peter Lusk sued the future commerce secretary for $20 million, ultimately alleging that he had tried to cut him out of his interests. The executives reached a settlement in 2007, which former WL Ross employees say cost roughly $10 million. Asked to comment on the suit, Ross responded, “The Lusk case ended with mutual confidentiality requirements.”
Three years ago, [equity manager David] Storper launched what became a $4 million lawsuit against both his former employer, WL Ross, and former boss, the commerce secretary, alleging that Ross stole his interests. Attorneys for Ross admitted in court filings that one of his companies took Storper’s interest and reallocated part of it to the commerce secretary. But Ross’ lawyers also insisted all of that was allowed under internal agreements. “Simply put,” they wrote, “this lawsuit is a personal vendetta against Mr. Ross.” After a judge rejected attempts to prevent the case from going to trial, just days before the jury selections the two sides agreed to settle.
“He’s a pathological liar,” a former Ross employee told Forbes.
Given how long it took to oust flagrant conman Scott Pruitt from his post at the EPA, Wilbur is unlikely to be held accountable for allegations of misappropriating other people’s money.
Being sketchy is practically a requirement for working with a president who had to settle a multimillion dollar fraud lawsuit before getting sworn in to office, so these guys are doing just great.