Connect with us

News

‘I Can’t Afford a Big Frontal Attack on the President,’ Mitch McConnell Confided

Published

on

In this daily series, Newsweek explores the steps that led to the January 6 Capitol Riot.

On Monday, November 23, Attorney General William Barr met with President Trump in the Oval Office, the first time the two had met or even spoken since mid-October. He had been one of Trump’s most loyal cabinet members and an unquestioned conservative.

A White House aide had called Barr to tell him that the president was displeased that he hadn’t heard from him. According to Woodward and Costa’s “Peril,” Barr went to the White House where Trump complained about election fraud, telling the Attorney General that he had heard that the Justice Department was “hanging back.” Trump asked why Justice wasn’t looking into the reports.

“It’s not our role to take sides between you and the other candidate,” Barr answered. “That’s what we have elections to decide.”

Trump insisted that Justice should investigate, that there was a “crime of sufficient magnitude” that could affect the outcome, and Barr agreed that Justice would look into allegations on a “case-by-case” basis.

Mitch McConnell 2020 Election
“I can’t afford a big frontal attack on the president,” Mitch McConnell confided to AG Bill Barr. The Senate majority leader pleaded with Barr to “inject some reality” into Donald Trump’s view of the election. Here, McConnell is at the Omni Louisville Hotel on November 4, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Barr had already instructed U.S. Attorneys around the nation to review all credible allegations of substantial fraud. Sixteen Assistant U.S. Attorneys in fifteen districts urged Barr to cease the investigation because there was no evidence of irregularities. Richard Pilger, head of the Justice Department’s election crimes branch, resigned in protest.

The investigations turned up nothing. According to Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker’s “I Alone Can Fix It,” “Barr told his senior deputies that at some point someone was going to have to say that the emperor has no clothes. The question was when.” None of that was conveyed to the president, who continued to tighten his circle. From the outside Barr looked like a Trump apologist, or even co-conspirator, though the evidence now suggests that Barr was just humoring the president.

At the White House that day, Barr urged Trump to protect his legacy, to focus on “all the great things you’ve accomplished.

“Be positive,” he said to Trump. “Then go down to Georgia and make sure the Republicans hold the Senate.”

Barr was reportedly so alarmed by Donald Trump’s mindset from the meeting, he told the White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner that things were “getting out of hand.” The two assured him that the president was easing into his defeat, as evidenced by his outward support of the beginning of transition preparations for President-elect Joe Biden.

“I had no motive to suppress” any actual evidence of fraud or impropriety, Barr later told Jonathan Karl in his new book “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show.” “But my suspicion all the way along was that there was nothing there. It was all bullshit.”

Barr then spoke to Mitch McConnell. The Senate majority leader hadn’t spoken up and was therefore portrayed as pro-Trump, but was actually one of the few high-level elected officials who was thinking strategically at the time, his actions matching his words. He told Barr they still needed Trump to focus on Georgia ahead of the January 5 runoff election that would determine if Republicans held the Senate. “I can’t afford a big frontal attack on the president at this point,” McConnell told Barr.

According to both “Betrayal” and “Peril,” McConnell felt that he couldn’t declare Joe Biden the winner, fearful that his pronouncement would provoke Donald Trump into doing something like sabotage the Georgia race, or worse.

“You’re in a better position to inject some reality into this situation,” he pleaded with Barr. “You are really the only one who can do it.”

“I understand that,” Barr said. “And I’m going to do it at the appropriate time.”
Over the next few days, McConnell urged Barr “to come out and shoot down the talk of widespread fraud.

“Bill, I look around, and you are the only person who can do it,” McConnell said.
A week later, all of his ducks in order, Barr broke with the president.

Continue Reading

News

Plot thickens in saga of Cambodian prince’s failed soccer club bid — Radio Free Asia

Published

on

The remarkable tale of Cambodian Prince Norodom Ravichak’s abortive takeover of French soccer club Saint Etienne took even more bizarre twists when the prince granted an interview to sports daily L’Equipe.

Published in a two-page spread on Nov. 17, the Q&A was illustrated with a photo of the besuited prince taken the day before at a leisure club for serving and retired military officers in the French capital’s tony eighth arrondissement.

The current owners of Saint Etienne had announced their intention to file a criminal complaint against Ravichak the previous week for “acts of forgery, use of forgery and attempted fraud” in relation to his proposal to purchase the club. Specifically, they alleged that the 100 million euro ($113 million) bank guarantee he had submitted in support of his bid was a fake.

Ravichak, who is a nephew of Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni, clearly intended to put the allegations to rest during the interview. In doing so, he introduced to the public a motley crew of colorful associates. And in attempting to explain away the irregularities that had so alarmed Saint Etienne’s owners, the self-styled businessman and philanthropist invited more questions than he answered.

An Nov. 17 article in French sports daily L’Equipe where Prince Norodom Ravichak addressed his controversial bid for Saint Etienne soccer club.
An Nov. 17 article in French sports daily L’Equipe where Prince Norodom Ravichak addressed his controversial bid for Saint Etienne soccer club.

Dubious document

Dated Sept. 13 of this year and bearing the letterhead of German finance giant Deutsche Bank, the first sign that something might be amiss with the now-infamous bank guarantee is the signature of Marcus Schenck, who was deputy CEO of the bank until he left it in 2018.

Typed entirely in upper case, the letter – which has not been made public – claims that the bank is “ready, willing and able to issue a standby letter of credit” in the amount of 100 million euros “specially to guarantee the buy and sale agreement” for an unnamed “sports project.”

It continues that the beneficiary of this letter of credit would be Prolan Trading Pte Ltd, a Singaporean company of which Ravichak is the representative and authorized signatory, according to the letter. Official records with the Singaporean business registry tell a different story.

Prolan Trading was established on May 25 this year, just over a month after Saint Etienne’s owners officially announced their intention to sell. Its sole shareholder and director is Singaporean businessman Mohammed Maideen, who told RFA on Nov. 9 that he was unaware of his company’s name being used in the bid for Saint Etienne. The following day he filed a request that Prolan Trading be struck off the business registry, records show.

Deutsche Bank’s press office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Prince Norodom Ravichak and his brother Prince Norodom Narithipong are responsible for managing a fund at Soteria Capital that Ravichak says signed a letter of guarantee for his first bid for Saint Etienne.
Prince Norodom Ravichak and his brother Prince Norodom Narithipong are responsible for managing a fund at Soteria Capital that Ravichak says signed a letter of guarantee for his first bid for Saint Etienne.

A tale of two Prolans

Speaking to L’Equipe on Nov. 16, Ravichak disavowed any responsibility for the seemingly fake bank guarantee. That had been procured on his behalf by French real estate entrepreneur Philippe Soulie and his conveniently named Swiss company Prolan Group SA, the prince said.

“If anyone was at fault, it was whoever issued this document, Prolan or Deutsche Bank. I have nothing to reproach myself for,” Ravichak told L’Equipe.

Approached for comment, Soulie repeatedly avoided answering the question of whether he had indeed arranged the bank guarantee, although he insisted that there had been “nothing false from our side.”

Citing confidentiality agreements, Soulie refused to be drawn on his role in the failed transaction, the content of the bank guarantee or the role of the Singaporean company featured on it, Prolan Trading, whose name bears more than a passing resemblance to his own Prolan Group.

For his part, Maideen told RFA that if Prolan Trading’s name had ended up on a bank guarantee in September, it was without the permission of the company’s sole director and shareholder: him. He added that while he had recently become acquainted with Soulie’s Prolan Group, he had done “no business [with them] yet.”

Friends with deep pockets

One thing Soulie was keen to stress is that Ravichak is not short of contacts with deep pockets.

“The prince has enough contacts and investors,” Soulie wrote in a message. “If he didn’t buy [the club] that’s probably about the value of the club, no?”

He hinted that more than a few of those wealthy connections were party to the prince’s bid for Saint Etienne, which he said had involved “a lot of intermediaries.”

In his interview with L’Equipe, Ravichak was unequivocal that the 100 million euros was never his to begin with. “This is Chinese money,” he said.

The prince also revealed that prior to the appearance of the Deutsche Bank guarantee, he had made an earlier 30 million euro bid for Saint Etienne, although he insisted that both offers were tendered “always with the same source of funds.”

“For my first offer, I sent a letter of guarantee signed by the CEO of Soteria Capital, a well-known Hong Kong investment fund whose parent company is Bank of Asia,” the prince told L’Equipe. “Nari [Prince Norodom Narithipong], my brother, and I are on the board.”

The Soteria Capital-backed bid was refused, according to Ravichak, because Saint Etienne’s accountants declared “that the source of the funds is not verifiable.”

A Soteria Capital pitch deck marked “Strictly Private & Confidential” and seen by RFA shows Ravichak and his brother Narithipong are responsible for managing the Soteria Cambodia Royal Fund. The fund, whose name seems to trade on the brothers’ links to the Cambodian monarchy, focuses on development projects in Cambodia as well as overseas investments, according to the presentation.

Metadata for the pitch deck shows that it was created this April, the same month that Saint Etienne’s owners announced their intention to sell. Hong Kong company records show Soteria Capital has only had an asset management license since January of this year, when it acquired a licensed business.

Bank of Asia, Soteria Capital’s parent company, is a digital bank in the British Virgin Islands, a notorious financial secrecy jurisdiction. The bank was founded in 2017 by Carson Wen, a former three-term deputy of the National People’s Congress, China’s national legislative body.

In an interview with Bloomberg shortly after the bank opened for business Wen explained that his target market was the 50 percent of offshore companies registered in the British Virgin Islands who were believed to be unable to find a bank willing to take their custom.

Wen very publicly fell out with American banker Chad Holm, who was essentially a co-founder in Bank of Asia. A 2018 Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court judgement in the dispute revealed that Holm had been introduced to Wen by the latter’s “sort of advisor” Azura Mangunhardjono. For years, Mangunhardjono posed as a wealthy Hong Kong socialite until a 2019 investigation by the South China Morning Post revealed her to be a serial fraudster, duping wealthy lovers and friends out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Soteria Capital and its representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

Soccer’s new normal

For soccer fans uninterested in the businesses behind the beautiful game, there may be plenty of surprising elements to Ravichak’s bid for Saint Etienne, which he contends is “in the interest of the club and its supporters.” After all, it is not every day that the nephew of a reigning monarch consents to act as a front for Chinese capital looking to take control of a top-tier European club. Much less that the bid would be mired by an allegedly forged bank guarantee from one of the world’s largest financial institutions. Or that the fake guarantee would bear the details of a company owned by a man claiming to be totally unaware that his business’s name was wrapped up in the 100 million euro transaction.

For soccer journalist James Montague, however, the situation is all too familiar. His 2017 book, The Billionaire’s Club: The Unstoppable Rise of Football’s Super-rich Owners, examined the genuine billionaires who own the world’s biggest teams and their influence on the game. Just as common, though, are chancers looking to leverage one of the world’s most popular sports for a quick buck, he told RFA.

“Once you scratch the surface of football ownership, it’s basically a wild west where nobody’s held to account, and it attracts the kind of people who as quickly as they take over a club they disappear,” Montague said. “I can’t think of another industry that attracts a larger number of weirdos.”

Often, he said, buyers will take control of a club with promises to invest in its rejuvenation but will instead saddle the club with as much debt as possible before vanishing.

“Anyone who has financial acumen can work out how to navigate this world and turn a profit from a club if they don’t care for the consequences,” he added. “Somebody else will always pick up the pieces because clubs aren’t businesses, they’re social institutions.”

Continue Reading

News

See the Cover for Disney's Newest Frozen 2 Novel Polar Nights – Collider.com

Published

on

See the Cover for Disney’s Newest Frozen 2 Novel Polar Nights  Collider.com

Continue Reading

News

Wet Leg Unveil Two New Songs, Album Release Date

Published

on

Britain’s Wet Leg, one of the most buzzed-about indie groups to emerge in years via their singles “Chaise Longue” and “Wet Dream,” have dropped two new songs and unveiled the release date for their forthcoming debut album and a big pile of tour dates in the U.S. and the U.K.

Hailing from the unlikely locale of the Isle of Wight in southern England, the group’s core members — Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers — have released two new songs, “Too Late Now” and “Oh No.” As Teasdale notes in the the announcement, “Too Late Now” is “about sleepwalking into adulthood. I never imagined that my adult life would look the way it does and I guess this song reflects on some of the pressures and pulls of life. Sometimes I get really inside my head and everything can feel very overwhelming. I think this song is about accepting that life can feel a bit shit from time to time. Maybe don’t indulge that thought too much though. Just take some time for yourself. Take a breath. Have a bath. It might make you feel a bit better.”


The video for “Too Late Now,” directed by Fred Rowson, continues in offbeat surrealism of its predecessors, with the band “beamed in from space to seek out the bubble bath of enlightenment.”

Wet Leg was recorded and mostly produced by Speedy Wunderground’s Dan Carey (“Chaise Longue” and “Angelica” were produced by Jon McMullen and Josh Mobaraki respectively). The album was mostly recorded in London, in April 2021, meaning they had a finished album before the world had even heard debut single “Chaise Longue” or played live. “I guess how it happened was unconventional,” Chambers admits.

Yet despite the group’s often humorous lyrics and videos, these days, it’s hard to avoid some seriousness creeping in. “Wet Leg was originally just supposed to be funny,” Teasdale says in the announcement. “As a woman, there’s so much put on you, in that your only value is how pretty or cool you look. But we want to be goofy and a little bit rude. We want to write songs that people can dance to. And we want to people to have a good time, even if that might not possible all of the time.”

That message is connecting: Collectively, Wet Leg’s previous singles “Chaise Longue” and “Wet Dream” have racked up over 8.5 million streams and over 3 million views on YouTube, the group is one of Vevo DSCVR “Artists To Watch 2022: and “Amazon Artists To Watch 2022.” In addition, “Too Late Now” just picked up the accolade of being named BBC Radio 1’s “Hottest Record”.

The band are heading to the US next month for their first shows there – already sold out dates in NY, LA and San Francisco – and will also open three CHVRCHES shows in LA and San Francisco. Today, they announce a full North American tour for March 2022. And, having already sold out their April 2022 UK tour, Wet Leg have confirmed a run of intimate UK regional dates at the top of the year.

Album tracklisting:

  1. Being In Love
  2. Chaise Longue
  3. Angelica
  4. I Don’t Wanna Go Out
  5. Wet Dream
  6. Convincing
  7. Loving You
  8. Ur Mum
  9. Oh No
  10. Piece of Shit
  11. Supermarket
  12. Too Late Now

2021

1st December – Transmusicales de Rennes, Rennes, France

7th December – Mercury Lounge, New York, NY – sold out

8th December – Union Pool, Brooklyn, NY – sold out

9th December – Baby’s All Right, Brooklyn, NY – sold out

13th December – The Echo, Los Angeles, CA – sold out

14th December – The Moroccan Lounge, Los Angeles, CA – sold out

15th December – Popscene @ Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco, CA – sold out

16th December – Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco *

17th December – Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles, CA *

18th December – Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles, CA *

* = with CHVRCHES

2022

16th January – Brixton Academy, London, UK ^

19th January – Eurosonic, Groningen, Netherlands

20th January – Ekko, Utrecht, Netherlands

28th January – Yes Pink Room, Manchester, UK

29th January – The Louisiana, Bristol, UK

30th January – The Joiners, Southampton, UK

1st February – Elsewhere, Margate, UK

2nd February – 100 Club, London, UK

3rd March – Amsterdam Bar and Hall, Minneapolis, MN

4th March – Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL

5th March – A&R Music Bar, Columbus, OH

7th March – Horsehoe Tavern, Toronto, ON, Canada

8th March – Bar le Ritz PBD, Montreal, QC ,Canada

10th March – Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY

11th March – DC9, Washington, DC

12th March – PhilaMOCA, Philadelphia, PA

14th March – Basement East, Nashville, TN

16th-18th March – SXSW, Austin, TX

23rd March – Pabellon Cuervo, Mexico City, Mexico ^

25th March – Wise Hall, Vancouver, BC

26th March – Sunset Tavern, Seattle, WA

27th March – Vitalidad, Portland, OR

16th April – Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK – sold out

17th April – The Mash House, Edinburgh, UK– sold out

19th April – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, UK – sold out

20th April – Gorilla, Manchester, UK – sold out

21st April – Trinity Centre, Bristol, UK – sold out

23rd April – o2 Institute, Birmingham, UK – sold out

24th April – Norwich Arts Centre, Norwich, UK – sold out

26th April – Koko, London, UK – sold out

27th April – The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth, UK – sold out

28th May – Neighbourhood Weekender @ Victoria Park, Warrington, UK

 

^ = with IDLES

 

Continue Reading

Trending