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Manhattan DA subpoenas Trump’s tax returns in probe of hush money payments



The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office headed by Cy Vance has sent a grand jury subpoena to President Donald Trump’s accounting firm to get his tax returns and corporate tax returns for the past 8 years, a person with direct knowledge of the matter tells NBC News.

The subpoena, first reported by the New York Times, stems from Vance’s criminal investigation into the Trump Organization about payments made to two women who have alleged affairs with the President.

Legal experts with such requests says that the subpoena will likely focus not just on the tax returns but will likely also ask for the underlying documents used to generate the tax returns such as bank statements, expense statements, and other financial documents.

The subpoena was served on Mazars USA, which prepares the President’s tax returns.

A representative for Mazars USA said that as “a a matter of firm policy and professional rules we do not comment on the work we conduct for our clients,” but the company “will respect the legal process and fully comply with its legal obligations.”

The President’s attorney, Marc Mukasey, told NBC News, “we are evaluating the situation and will respond as appropriate.”

A spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

In addition to Trump’s company, the D.A.’s office also subpoenaed the publisher of the National Enquirer, which was involved in negotiations with adult film star Stormy Daniels and paid $150,000 to silence another woman who’d claimed she had an affair with Trump, Playboy model Karen McDougal, the Times has reported.

The President has strongly denied the affairs.

The President’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, last August admitted to making the illegal payment to Daniels in order to keep her quiet in the days ahead of the 2016 election.

Cohen is currently serving a three-year prison sentence for a slew of crimes, including breaking campaign finance laws by hiding payments related to the alleged affairs.

Prior to his Congressional testimony earlier this year Cohen released copies of two checks with the President’s signature that he says were used to pay him back for his $130,000 payment to Daniels.

NBC News has previously reported that Cohen has proffered information to prosecutors from the D.A.’s office.

Dareh Gregorian contributed.

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How a conspiracy theory about George Soros is fueling allegations of Ukraine collusion



WASHINGTON — An associate traveling with Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine this week has voiced an unusual theory for why he may not be able to return to the United States: “Soros people,” he says, are working to discredit him and may block his visa.

Andriy Telizhenko, a former Ukrainian diplomat who has alleged Ukraine’s government conspired with Democrats in 2016, said he’s been told that people associated with liberal megadonor George Soros, including former Ukrainian politicians, are working against him — possibly because he’s helping Giuliani continue investigating President Donald Trump’s political opponents and undermine the credibility of the House impeachment inquiry.

“Soros people are trying to discredit my reputation with lies and then will try to block me,” he said in a text message to NBC News from Kyiv. He did not name any individually or provide proof other than to say some were writing about him online.

It was far from the first time that Soros, a billionaire philanthropist and a frequent target of conspiracies about Jews controlling the world, has popped up as part of a conspiracy theory portraying Soros as using Ukraine as a playing field to undermine Trump’s campaign. The president’s allies and other Republicans have been working to tie Soros to nefarious plots to intervene in U.S. affairs for a full year — or even longer.

When Fiona Hill, then a National Security Council official, started hearing early in 2019 about a smear campaign against a colleague in Ukraine invoking Soros, she had a sinking feeling: She’d heard this before.

A similar conspiracy theory about Soros had been lobbed against Hill during her first year as Trump’s top adviser on Russia and Europe. That’s when Hill says a former Republican congressman from Florida tried to get the vice president’s office to get rid of her — “to have me fired for being a Soros mole in the White House,” she told Congress.

That former congressman, Connie Mack IV, now a lobbyist, confirms he met in 2017 with the vice president’s national security adviser about Hill’s “conflict of interest” stemming from what he alleged are her ties to Soros, a frequent target of conspiracies about Jews controlling the world. Hill testified that the allegation was “frankly an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.”

“I think that was a clever way to not answer the question and to force the conversation in a different direction,” Mack said in an interview with NBC News. “She never once addressed whether or not she has any connection to Soros, instead blaming people that want to raise the issue as being anti-Semitic, which is devious in my opinion.”

In 2017, Mack’s client was Viktor Orban, Hungary’s nationalist prime minister who has vilified Soros as part of his bid to stifle dissent. But Soros’ name would later emerge again and again in the events at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

A successful campaign to oust Marie Yovanovitch as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine by Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and two now-indicted associates was galvanized by accusations that Yovanovitch protected Soros’ efforts. Those accusations originated in an opinion article by John Solomon in the “The Hill,” which, according to documents given to Congress, he coordinated with one of the indicted Giuliani associates and with two pro-Trump lawyers, Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova.

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Last month, as the impeachment probe unfolded, diGenova told Fox News that Soros “wants to run Ukraine” and “controls a very large part” of the U.S. diplomatic corps, along with FBI agents in Ukraine and elsewhere. Giuliani falsely told The Washington Post in September that Yovanovitch was “now working for Soros.” In fact, she is still a U.S. government employee.

Giuliani also told CNN that month that an anti-corruption nonprofit in Ukraine that took funding from a Soros philanthropy had fabricated evidence against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. He later told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that the Ukrainians had “brought me substantial evidence of Ukrainian collusion with Hillary Clinton, the D.N.C., George Soros, George Soros’ company.”

“They put it in my lap,” he said.

And last month, a photo that purportedly showed the whistleblower who outed Trump’s call with the Ukrainian leader went viral, tweeted out by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. It turned out to be a photo of Soros’ son.

Aryeh Tuchman of the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks anti-Semitism, said the notion of a secret cabal of Jews plotting to take over countries or the world to advance their own interests has been prevalent for hundreds of years, playing a role in pre-Holocaust propaganda. Although he said not all criticisms of wealthy Jews such as Soros are necessarily anti-Semitic, they’re likely to be perceived that way by anti-Semites.

“An extremist, a hardcore anti-Semite who hears a mainstream individual, a pundit, a politician, anyone articulating these sort of conspiracy theories, they may be emboldened, they may feel that their anti-Semitic ideology has been confirmed,” Tuchman said. “This may energize them in a way they may not have been.”

In Hill’s case, it began with Mack pushing the theory, to journalists and lawmakers, that Hill was driving “hostility towards Hungary” within the Trump administration because of what he said were her ties to Soros: her work for a European civil society foundation that had received funding from Soros philanthropies, and her former role on an unpaid advisory board for a Soros-linked institute.

In an interview, Mack said he’d found a book on the internet that said that Hill had attended Soros’ wedding, although he couldn’t recall the name of the book offhand and an internet search did not turn one up. Hill’s attorney said the assertion was false — she wasn’t at the wedding.

Hill said she starting getting death threats when Mack’s allegations made it to Roger Stone, a Trump associate who was convicted last month of lying to Congress, as well as the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his far-right channel, InfoWars. In lobbying documents about Hill, Mack said he was shining “a light on the far-reaching network of George Soros in order to continually degrade his international influence.”

“There is clearly a conflict of interest,” Mack said. Orban, his client, had been working to oust a Soros-founded university from Budapest.

Mack said he made that case to Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser at the time, Andrea Thompson. Hill, testifying in the impeachment hearings, said Mack had used the InfoWars article “as an exhibit” to buttress his claim that she was “a Soros mole.”

Thompson declined to comment. But Lee Wolosky, Hill’s attorney, said any work Hill had done at Soros-linked entities had been promoting a “fundamentally American” interest: advancing democracy and civil society in the former Soviet Union.

“That is a core American value and has been a bedrock of our foreign policy for decades,” Wolosky said. In a swipe at Mack, he added, “taking money from foreign governments to promote the agendas of autocrats in Washington is fundamentally un-American.”

In the Ukraine saga, the theory of a nefarious Soros plot to undermine Trump centers on an anti-corruption nonprofit in Ukraine called AntAc, which received the majority of its funding from the U.S. government but had also taken funding from Soros philanthropies.

Giuliani and others accused the group, without evidence, of hiring a “crooked FBI agent” to help develop “dirty information” on Manafort, who was later convicted in the U.S. of financial crimes related to his work in Ukraine. The key disclosure that precipitated his downfall — the so-called black ledger showing off-the-books payments from Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government — did not emanate from AntAc but from a Ukrainian law enforcement agency and a Ukrainian politician.

Telizhenko, the former Ukrainian diplomat, has long alleged that AntAc worked on Soros’ behalf in trying to get rid of former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin, Telizhenko’s former boss. Shokin is the prosecutor who Republicans allege that former Vice President Joe Biden got fired to protect his son Hunter Biden’s natural gas company from scrutiny. Telizhenko in 2017 alleged that during the 2016 campaign, Ukrainian embassy officials in Washington coordinated with a Democratic National Committee operative to dig up information linking Trump’s campaign to Russia.

Yovanovitch’s place in the conspiracy theory stems from unproven allegations by Giuliani associates that she worked to quash a Ukrainian government investigation into AntAc, in order to protect Soros’ work hurting Trump and helping Hillary Clinton. Hill, in her testimony, compared the smear campaign to “the new Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

A Soros spokesman referred questions to his philanthropy network, Open Society Foundations. Laura Silber, the group’s chief communications officer, said Soros, who is Hungarian American and a Holocaust survivor, has been funding projects in Europe for decades to fight corruption and promote the transition to democracy in former Soviet states.

“The anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and false allegations espoused by Rudolph Giuliani and his cronies are aimed at fomenting hatred, undermining democracy,” Silber said, “as well as distracting from the impeachment process and the critically important national security and Constitutional questions before Congress.”

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Pelosi announces House moving forward with articles of impeachment



House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Trump of abusing his power for his own benefit at the expense of national security, by withholding nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid from Ukraine, and dangling a White House meeting for Ukraine’s president, in exchange for announcing investigations into his political rivals.

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Biden calls Iowa voter who pushed him on Ukraine ‘a damn liar,’ challenges him to pushup contest



NEW HAMPTON, Iowa — Joe Biden on Thursday called an Iowa voter a “damn liar” and challenged him to a pushup contest after the man questioned the former vice president’s age as well as his son’s business dealings in Ukraine.

The man, who said he was an 83-year-old retired farmer, said the 2020 candidate is too old to be president and compared Biden’s diplomatic efforts in Ukraine to Trump’s.

The man claimed without evidence that Biden had “sent” his son Hunter to Ukraine “to get access to” ex-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

“You’re selling access to the president just like” Trump, the man added.

Biden shot back, “You’re a damn liar, man. That’s not true and no one has ever said that. No one has proved that.”

The man claimed he heard the allegation on MSNBC.

“You don’t hear that on MSNBC,” Biden said. “You do not hear that at all.”

Biden then directed the man’s attention to the questions about his age, challenging thim to do pushups, run or take an IQ test with him.

Biden then returned to pushing back on the Ukrainian allegations

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“No one has said my son has done anything wrong,” he said.

“I didn’t say you were doing anything wrong,” the voter responded.

“You said I set up my son to work at an oil company,” Biden said. “Isn’t that what you said? Get your words straight, Jack.”

When the man said he wasn’t voting for Biden in the state’s caucuses on Feb. 3, Biden shot back, “You’re too old to vote for me.”

Biden also appeared to refer to the man as “fat,” though campaign adviser Symone Sanders said that the former VP was saying “facts.”

Speaking to NBC News later, the man refused to give his name and said he doesn’t consider himself to be a Democrat or Republican but that he hates Trump. However, the man said he would vote for Biden if he becomes the Democratic nominee.

Biden later explained his vehement reaction by saying, “What I wanted to do is shut this down.”

He was again asked by a reporter at another campaign stop if he called the man fat.

“No, I didn’t,” he said.

There is no evidence that Biden acted improperly in handling Ukraine policy while his son was on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that was at one time under investigation by the country’s then-lead prosecutor, Viktor Shokin.

Biden in 2016 pushed for Shokin’s ouster in accordance with the wishes of multiple countries and international bodies, including the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, because of widespread concerns that Shokin was ignoring corruption. The investigation into Burisma was reportedly dormant by the time Biden pushed for Shokin’s ouster.

In a July 25 phone call, President Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the Bidens and a debunked conspiracy involving Ukraine and the 2016 election. The Trump administration also placed a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine at roughly the same time.

That phone call led to a CIA analyst detailed to the White House filing a formal whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump was abusing his office to have a foreign country provide him with electoral assistance in 2020. That complaint led to the House impeachment inquiry. Trump released the hold on military aid two days after Congress was first made aware of the complaint’s existence.

On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called on her chairmen to begin drafting articles of impeachment against Trump for those actions.

Mike Memoli reported from Iowa. Allan Smith reported from New York.

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