Catch and Kill Protection Rackets: Trump, Weinstein, Epstein and Wall Street

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: April 26, 2024 ~

Editor’s Note: This article has been edited and updated from an earlier version, published in 2020.

Donald Trump -- Pied Piper to Wall Street (Thumbnail)Trump and Catch and Kill: Yesterday, David Pecker, the former Chairman and CEO of American Media Inc. (AMI), the parent company of the National Enquirer tabloid, testified for a third day in the 34-count criminal trial of former President Donald Trump in New York. Pecker continued to expand on the sordid details of a catch and kill operation he had agreed to operate with the active involvement of Trump and his then attorney, Michael Cohen. The operation involved buying up stories about Trump’s salacious affairs with women and then killing them from publication in order to help Trump’s campaign for the presidency in 2016. There was also an understanding that Pecker would run negative articles about Trump’s political opponents in the National Enquirer.

During opening arguments in the trial on Monday, Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo explained the case to the jurors as follows:

“The defendant, Donald Trump, orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election. Then he covered up that criminal conspiracy by lying in his New York business records over and over and over again.”

While Pecker was mapping out more of the slimy details of his catch and kill operation yesterday, shocking news broke that the New York Court of Appeals had overturned the sex crimes conviction of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The court ruled with a 4-3 vote (and scathing dissents) that the trial judge had erred by allowing witnesses to testify about other alleged crimes committed by Weinstein that were not part of the case. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office promised to retry the case.

Weinstein, who has been serving time in prison in upstate New York, was also sentenced last year in California to 16 years in prison for rape and sexual assault. That sentence is not impacted by the Appeals court ruling in New York.

There have also been allegations in the past of a catch and kill operation to protect Harvey Weinstein.

Ronan Farrow and the Harvey Weinstein Investigation: Ronan Farrow has previously cast a harsh light on NBC, suggesting that it may have been involved in a nuanced form of catch and kill during his investigation of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual assaults on women. NBC failed to broadcast Farrow’s story despite having filmed witness interviews. After NBC told Farrow that his story wasn’t reportable, Farrow took it to the New Yorker, where the article was published on October 10, 2017. It won Farrow a Pulitzer Prize in 2018. That article includes allegations of three rapes by Weinstein.

Farrow appeared on the MSNBC Rachel Maddow program shortly after his article ran in the New Yorker. Farrow was asked by Maddow why NBC did not air the story. Farrow responded:

“I walked into the door at the New Yorker with an explosively reportable piece that should have been public earlier. And immediately, obviously, the New Yorker recognized that and it is not accurate to say that it wasn’t reportable. In fact, there were multiple determinations that it was reportable at NBC.”

Jeffrey Epstein and the U.S. Attorney’s Office: Catch and kill is also the only logical way to view what happened to sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein at the hands of Alex Acosta, then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida when Jeffrey Epstein got the sweetheart deal of a lifetime.

In July of 2006, the Palm Beach, Florida Police Chief, Michael Reiter, delivered a deeply investigated case against Epstein to the FBI, according to the November 2018 (paywall) intrepid reporting of Julie Brown in the Miami Herald. Brown indicated that it took just eight months of FBI interviews for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Florida to have a 53-page Federal indictment ready to file against Epstein involving sexual assaults against dozens of underage girls.

But the indictment was never filed. A deal was worked out by Acosta, and Epstein’s well-connected lawyers. Federal charges were dropped against Epstein and he was allowed to plead guilty to only Florida state charges: one count of soliciting sex from a minor and one count of soliciting sex from an adult woman. Epstein was allowed to serve just 13 months in jail, during which time he was given a work release program to sit in his well-appointed office 12 hours a day, and driven around by his chauffeured limo. The deal was so outrageously constructed that it even denied his dozens of victims knowledge of the terms of the deal.

Had Julie Brown not conducted that courageous investigation for the Miami Herald, had the Miami Herald declined to publish it in 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York would not have been embarrassed into bringing the new charges against Epstein on July 8, 2019. Acosta, who had morphed into Trump’s U.S. Labor Secretary, was embarrassed into resigning as a result of the public uproar.

JPMorgan’s Catch and Kill Deals with the Department of Justice: On November 19, 2013, the Department of Justice and other regulators settled their mortgage securities fraud case against JPMorgan Chase for an unprecedented $13 billion. One year later, we would learn from Matt Taibbi’s reporting at Rolling Stone that the Justice Department had a highly reliable lawyer-whistleblower that had worked at JPMorgan Chase, Alayne Fleischmann, who had hard evidence that she had warned the bank that it was peddling defective mortgages.

The Statement of Facts offered to the public by the DOJ along with the settlement strongly suggested a catch and kill operation. There were none of the typical smoking gun internal emails; there were none of the internal documents showing an intent to defraud; there were none of the documents that Alayne Fleischmann had provided to Justice Department investigators. And there were no names of employees who had engaged in the fraudulent practices.

The DOJ and other regulators brought the mortgage fraud case as a civil matter – not a criminal matter. But the following year, in 2014, the DOJ brought two criminal counts against JPMorgan Chase for its role in laundering money for Ponzi kingpin Bernie Madoff. This became the first of a series of deferred-prosecution agreements for criminal charges brought by the DOJ against JPMorgan Chase.

These deals functioned very much like catch and kill arrangements. Only the skimpiest of details were released to the public; the bank admitted to the criminal charges but the public was never given the salient details about how the bank and its management carried out the frauds.

In November 2016, units of JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay more than $264 million to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve in what was widely known as its Chinese “Princeling” scandal. In announcing the settlement in the Princeling scandal in 2016, officials at the Justice Department said this:

“The so-called Sons and Daughters Program was nothing more than bribery by another name…Awarding prestigious employment opportunities to unqualified individuals in order to influence government officials is corruption, plain and simple.  This case demonstrates the Criminal Division’s commitment to uncovering corruption no matter the form of the scheme…

“In this case, JPMorgan employees designed a program to hire otherwise unqualified candidates for prestigious investment banking jobs solely because these candidates were referred to the bank by officials in positions to award business to the bank. In certain instances, referred candidates were hired with the understanding that the hiring was linked to the award of specific business. This is no longer business as usual; it is corruption.”

What the case actually demonstrated was the Criminal Division of the DOJ’s willingness to uncover fraud but not prosecute fraud. The DOJ handed JPMorgan a non-prosecution agreement, hammered out by the Big Law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

Naturally, this emboldened the bank. It was charged with two more felony counts in 2020 for rigging the precious metals markets and the U.S. Treasury market. And, once again, it was given a deferred-prosecution agreement by the DOJ.

Sitting at the helm of the U.S. Department of Justice is the U.S. Attorney General. While on the stand yesterday, David Pecker revealed that in 2018 his publishing company had received a letter from the Federal Election Commission. Pecker testified that he took this letter to mean “We committed a campaign violation.” Pecker said when he shared his concerns with Michael Cohen, that Cohen had indicated he wasn’t worried and said this: “Jeff Sessions is the Attorney General and Donald Trump has him in his pocket.”

In a CBS interview in December of last year, former Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming said this: “One of the things that we see happening today is a sort of a sleepwalking into dictatorship in the United States.”

The mushrooming transmutations of catch and kill today involve not just public relations flacks, high-priced lawyers, publishers, and mainstream media. Increasingly, catch and kill includes the highest law enforcement office in the land, the U.S. Department of Justice. Is it any wonder millions of Americans are sleepwalking?

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