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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Sleaze Update, April 3

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s daughter and her White House adviser husband, are paying $15,000 a month to rent their new home in Washington’s fashionable Kalorama neighborhood from its billionaire owner, according to newly filed documents.
The documents, filed by the landlord with the District of Columbia housing department, present the first concrete financial information about the rental agreement between the couple and the home’s owner, a Chilean magnate whose company is embroiled in a dispute with the U.S. government over a mine potentially worth billions of dollars.
The rent is in line with that paid for similar luxury properties in the area, according to local brokers. Even so, it represents a seemingly poor financial deal for the landlord, according to real-estate experts.

The owner, Andrónico Luksic, bought the house after the November election and paid $5.5 million for the six-bedroom property. The house never was advertised for rent. The White House has said Ms. Trump’s and Mr. Kushner’s broker knew somebody had a bid on the property and helped facilitate the match. The couple moved in shortly afterward.
Michael Isikoff reports at Yahoo:
The White House abruptly canceled a scheduled meeting in February between President Trump and a high-level Russian central banker after a national security aide discovered the official had been named by Spanish police as a suspected “godfather” of an organized crime and money-laundering ring, according to an administration official and four other sources familiar with the event.
The event had been planned as a meet and greet with President Trump and Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Bank of Russia and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, in a waiting room at the Washington Hilton before the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 2. Torshin, a top official in his country’s central bank, headed a Russian delegation to the annual event and was among a small number of guests who had been invited by Prayer Breakfast leaders to meet with Trump before it began.
But while reviewing the list of guests, a White House national security aide responsible for European affairs noticed Torshin’s name and flagged him as a figure who had “baggage,” a reference to his suspected ties to organized crime, an administration official told Yahoo News. Around the same time, a former campaign adviser alerted the White House that the meeting could exacerbate the political controversy over contacts between Trump associates and the Kremlin, another source familiar with the matter said.
The sources were unable to say who inside the White House canceled the scheduled meeting, or precisely when the decision was made. The administration official who spoke to Yahoo News said that White House officials were already planning to scrap the meeting when the National Security Council staffer raised concerns about it. But it was not until the night before the Prayer Breakfast that Torshin was informed, without explanation, that his meeting with the president had been scrapped.
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“He’s sort of the conservatives’ favorite Russian,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., who together with Rep. Tom Massie, R-Ky., had dinner with Torshin and other members of the Russian delegation to the Prayer Breakfast at a Washington restaurant. “He’s someone who understands our system. His approach is, ‘I agree with you Americans: People should have a right to own guns. There should be religious freedom. The whole problem is with radical Muslims. We were able to have a very good exchange.”
Robert Faturechi reports at ProPublica:
On the same day the stockbroker for then-Georgia Congressman Tom Price bought him up to $90,000 of stock in six pharmaceutical companies last year, Price arranged to call a top U.S. health official, seeking to scuttle a controversial rule that could have hurt the firms’ profits and driven down their share prices, records obtained by ProPublica show.
Stock trades made by Price while he served in Congress came under scrutiny at his confirmation hearings to become President Trump’s secretary of health and human services. The lawmaker, a physician, traded hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of shares in health-related companies while he voted on and sponsored legislation affecting the industry, but Price has said his broker acted on his behalf without his involvement or knowledge. ProPublica previously reported that his trading is said to have been under investigationby federal prosecutors.
On March 17, 2016, Price’s broker purchased shares worth between $1,000 and $15,000 each in Eli Lilly, Amgen, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, McKesson, Pfizer and Biogen. Previous reports have noted that, a month later, Price was among lawmakers from both parties who signed onto a bill that would have blocked a rule proposed by the Obama administration, which was intended to remove the incentive for doctors to prescribe expensive drugs that don’t necessarily improve patient outcomes.
What hasn’t been previously known is Price’s personal appeal to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about the rule, called the Medicare Part B Drug Payment Model.