Over 20 percent of Trump condos sold in America have the characteristics of possible money launderingJanuary 12, 2018
Trump doubles down on 'no collusion' claim in typo-filled tweets8:46 a.m.
Yearly domestic box office to soar past $11 billion sooner than ever before8:03 a.m.
Trump reportedly wrote a campaign check to Argentina's president in 2015. It bounced.7:44 a.m.
France's Macron to address nation in response to enduring 'yellow vest' protests6:55 a.m.
Trump will meet with a skeptical Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to avert a Christmas government shutdown6:22 a.m.
At least 14 Trump associates and family members had contact with Russians during the 2016 campaign5:47 a.m.
Top EU court rules that Britain can unilaterally cancel Brexit4:37 a.m.
Over one-fifth of President Trump's condos sold in America were purchased in transactions that have the characteristics of possible money laundering, BuzzFeed News reports. Over 1,300 of condominiums developed by Trump or licensed under his name "were bought not by people but by shell companies, and ... the purchases were made without a mortgage, avoiding inquiries from lenders," BuzzFeed News writes. The Treasury Department has flagged such sales as telltale signs of potential money laundering schemes, although not all such sales are necessarily indicators of illegal activity.
In one particularly startling case, though, the Trump SoHo Hotel Condominium in Manhattan, where Trump is 18 percent owner, made more than three-quarters of its sales to shell companies that paid in cash. BuzzFeed News is careful to note, however, that their reporting also "examined non-Trump buildings in Manhattan and South Florida and found that roughly the same percentage of units were sold to shell companies in all-cash transactions as in Trump buildings."
In 2015, a New York Times investigation estimated that "nearly half of the most expensive residential properties in the United States are now purchased anonymously through shell companies." However, as some have pointed out, those other properties notably do not have the name of the president of the United States attached to them.
This is not the first time purchases at Trump developed or licensed condos have raised suspicions. Former Panamanian financial crimes prosecutor Mauricio Ceballos told NBC News and Reuters that the Trump Ocean Club in Panama City is "a vehicle for money laundering." Writing for The Week, Paul Waldman observes that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has "made a point of hiring a number of lawyers for his team who have expertise in money laundering and other financial crimes." Mueller is reportedly looking into "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings," Bloomberg News writes.
President Trump on Monday again declared on Twitter that there was no collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia, although he did not earn high marks for spelling in the process.
In response to former FBI Director James Comey's recent Congressional testimony, Trump declared while citing Fox News that Democrats failed to find a "Smocking Gun." He spelled the word "smoking" incorrectly for a second time in the next sentence, going on to insist that his former lawyer Michael Cohen's payment of hush money to two women was a "simple private transaction" and not a "campaign contribution." But even if it wasn't on the up and up, then it's his "lawyer's liability if he made a mistake, not me," Trump wrote.
“Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia after James Comey’s testimony. No Smocking Gun...No Collusion.” @FoxNews That’s because there was NO COLLUSION. So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution,...
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 10, 2018
....which it was not (but even if it was, it is only a CIVIL CASE, like Obama’s - but it was done correctly by a lawyer and there would not even be a fine. Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me). Cohen just trying to get his sentence reduced. WITCH HUNT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 10, 2018
The domestic box office fell to a three-year low in 2017, but with the help of superheroes, dinosaurs, and Lady Gaga, this year is set to shatter records.
ComScore estimates that the domestic box office will reach $11 billion by Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, which means it will have taken either 345 or 346 days to do so, Deadline reports. That would be the quickest the U.S. box office has ever reached $11 billion, with the previous record being 361 days in 2016, a year when the final yearly total ended up being $11.3 billion. That year, only $10.3 billion had been grossed by this point in December.
That's great news for Hollywood after the total domestic box office just barely reached $11 billion last year and saw a 6.2 percent decline in tickets sold over 2016, per Box Office Mojo. But 2018 delivered two new entries into the all-time top five highest grossing films domestically: Black Panther, which grossed $700 million, and Avengers: Infinity War, which grossed $678 million. Three films this year made more than $600 million domestically (Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Incredibles 2), whereas in 2017, only Star Wars: The Last Jedi was able to cross that threshold, and no movie did so in 2016 at all.
The $11 billion total will be reached long before the massively profitable Christmas season, and this year, Star Wars' absence from cinemas has left room for five major blockbusters: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Mortal Engines, Aquaman, Bumblebee, and Mary Poppins Returns. The box office is currently on pace to finish somewhere around $11.7 billion or $11.8 billion, which would already be the best year ever, but Deadline writes that depending on how this upcoming holiday brawl shakes out, it's entirely possible 2018 could reach $12 billion for the first time in history. Brendan Morrow
In August 2016, when Hillary Clinton was widely expected to be elected president, Argentina's new president regaled Secretary of State John Kerry and other senior U.S. officials with a story about Clinton's underdog rival, Donald Trump, Axios reports. Argentina's Mauricio Macri, elected president in 2015, has a long history with Trump, dating back to a contentious business deal between Trump and Macri's father. So Macri was surprised, he told the Americans, when Trump called him up out of the blue during Macri's campaign to offer help.
As Macri reportedly told the story, imitating Trump during the recounting, Trump told him he'd been watching Macri, adding, "I remember you fondly and I remember the business deal." Since the deal hadn't gone well, Macri said, he responded: "Fondly? Fondly, you son of a gun?" Then Trump offered help, and Macri shrugged it off until a FedEx envelope with a check arrived. The three people who told Axios the story couldn't agree on whether Trump's check was for $500 or $5,000, but they all remembered the punch line: "It bounced."
The White House declined to comment to Axios, and Argentina denied that the conversation ever took place. "The conversation certainly did take place," Axios rebuts. "It's not conceivable that our three sources could have colluded to make this up." Still, Macri's administration has diplomatic and practical reasons to deny the story: Trump tends to take public slights seriously and if the anecdote's true, Macri would have technically broken Argentina's rarely enforced restrictions against accepting foreign campaign donations. Peter Weber
French President Emmanuel Macron will make his first public comments on a month of "yellow vest" protests in Paris and other cities in a nationally televised address Monday night. The protests started in opposition to a fuel tax Macron's government had scheduled, but they've since transformed into a movement mobilized against his economic policies, many viewed as tilted toward the wealthy. Macron's decision to scrap the fuel tax did not dampen a fourth weekend protest on Saturday, where about 1,000 of the 136,000 yellow vest protesters were arrested and 71 people injured in Paris. Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said Sunday that Macron "will know how to find the path to the hearts of the French," but there is no "magic wand" to resolve the growing list of yellow vest demands. Peter Weber
Lawmakers are considering a wide range of legislation in the final days of the current Congress, but the only bills they need to pass are the seven remaining spending measures to keep the federal government running past a current deadline of Dec. 21. The most contentious of the remaining spending bills is for the Department of Homeland Security, with President Trump demanding $5 billion for his proposed border wall and Democrats saying no. Trump is set to meet with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — likely the incoming House speaker — and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday to discuss the impasse. Democrats say that, based on Trump's past reneging on legislative deals, they have low expectations for the talks. Peter Weber
Former FBI Director James Comes told House investigators on Friday that the bureau's counterintelligence investigation of possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia began with four unidentified Americans starting in July 2016, "weeks or months" before the FBI learned of "the so-called Steele dossier" compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele for Trump's political rivals. But now, thanks to recent disclosures by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, we know of at least 14 Trump associates and family members — including children Don. Jr. and Ivanka Trump — who were contacted by Russian nationals during President Trump's 2016 campaign, according to The Washington Post's tally.
Some of the Russians circling Trump's world "offered to help his campaign and his real estate business, and "some offered dirt on his Democratic opponent," the Post reports. As Mueller "slowly unveils the evidence that he has gathered since his appointment as special counsel in May 2017, he has not yet shown that any of the dozens of interactions between people in Trump's orbit and Russians resulted in any specific coordination between his presidential campaign and Russia. But the mounting number of communications that have been revealed occurred against the backdrop of 'sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election,' as Mueller's prosecutors wrote in a court filing last week."
Russia experts and former presidential campaign officials say that the number and nature of such contacts with a foreign power, much less a hostile power, is highly unusual during a presidential campaign. You can read more about the 14 Trump associates and their Russian contacts at The Washington Post. Peter Weber
On Tuesday, Britain's House of Commons is scheduled to vote on, and expected to reject, Prime Minister Theresa May's negotiated Brexit plan, throwing Britain's exit from the European Union into further uncharted waters. On Monday morning, the European Court of Justice, the EU's top court, answered one unresolved Brexit question, ruling that if Britain so desires, it can unilaterally cancel its divorce any time before it becomes final on March 29, 2019 — or during any extension to that exit date. Revoking the Article 50 exit clause would have to "follow a democratic process," the court ruled, meaning that in Britain, Parliament would have to approve calling off Brexit.
The ECJ issued its ruling in response to a question from a group of anti-Brexit U.K. politicians, and the court said Monday that its aim is to "clarify the options open to MPs" before they vote on Tuesday. The upshot is that staying in the EU is now "a real, viable option," BBC Brussels correspondent Adam Fleming notes, cautioning that "a lot would have to change in British politics" for Brexit to be actually called off.
Assuming lawmakers rejected May's proposal, Parliament could "follow a number of different courses of action, including backing a Norway-type deal or amendments that make significant changes made to the backstop agreement — the insurance policy that prevents a hard border in Ireland," Laura Silver says at BuzzFeed News. "The defeat would also pave the way to a second referendum on leaving the EU, which has already been discussed in Downing Street. It is unclear whether or not remaining in the EU entirely would be an option on the ballot paper." Peter Weber