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Jeff Sessions, Leo DiCaprio, and a Fuzzi-Nutty Prus What's Next in the Mitchell Trial? -Mother Jones

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wild test Tuesday in the US went wacky when the defendant, former Fugees’ rapper Prasad Mitchell, unexpectedly took the stand to defend himself against allegations of campaign finance and illegal foreign lobbying – on the heels of testimony by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. on the shoes.

Mitchell said she decided to testify, “after consulting my lawyers and the universe.” His testimony included celebrity name-dropping, freewheeling asides—”I want to send a prayer to my friend Jamie Foxx”—and a candid admission to some of the campaign finance allegations against him.

The juxtaposition of Sessions (former senator from Alabama, early Donald Trump supporter) and Mitchell (musician, Barack Obama fan) on display in a proceeding that highlights the collision of celebrity and DC culture that also includes testimony from Leonardo DiCaprio and infamous trump moneyman Elliot Brody—and the defense’s unsuccessful attempts to subpoena Obama and Trump to testify.

The glue connecting these disparate figures is money. The key figure in the scam, Malaysian financier Zoe Taik Low, used his wealth to throw parties and fund films including DiCaprio. The Wolf of Wall Street, which allowed him to make celebrity friends. But according to the Department of Justice, his fortune was largely the product of the looting of state development funds by Malaysia’s former prime minister and his associates. Low, the Fed alleged, was laundering money through high-profile investments.

Mitchell on Tuesday described an elaborate 2012 effort he made to help Lo, who is not a US citizen, take a photo with Obama. “Despite all the money and resources they had, they had no one to take them in,” Mitchell said. Michelle had met Obama and supported his first campaign, so “I was the best person to help him get that picture.”

For his help, Mitchell said, “I basically requested or asked for a million dollars.” Low paid the fee, and Mitchell worked with a top Obama fundraiser named Frank White to commission Low’s picture. Michelle began this act by donating aggressively to the Obama campaign and working to get less in fundraising venues where she could meet Obama.

Prosecutors argue that Low gave Mitchell $20 million to spread to the Obama campaign—and Mitchell spent less than $2 million on charity. Michel testified that he used the $800,000 to refer to the men as “Haitian friends” for a $40,000 charity event he attended in June 2012 in Miami co-hosted by singer Marc Anthony. paid off – and another at White’s home in September. Mitchell had a contract stipulating his payment for helping Lo with the photos, he said, and he spent the $20 million “at my discretion”.

Mitchell claimed that he does not think there is anything wrong with paying friends to attend these events. “I had all this money,” he explained. “Everyone was excited to meet President Obama.” He compared their conduct to the “Apple Store” where people sometimes pay friends to buy them new iPhones when Apple buys three at a time. “I look at it as free money,” Mitchell later said.

Lo didn’t get to get his iconic photo at first. White, Mitchell said, told her that the Obama campaign had decided that having a wealthy foreign national at a fundraiser was bad optics. “She was very hot, like a party type,” Michelle said. “It didn’t go over well because of his playboy ways.”

He, White and Low later revived the photo effort, Mitchell testified: the underpaid White paid $20 million to help her attend the White House holiday party, where Low finally got her picture taken. . Mitchell said that White paid him $1 million more than that pot as a finder’s fee. (He argued that this payment also resulted from a legal contract.)

This testimony was part of an effort by Mitchell’s attorney, David Keener, to suggest that White—who asserted his Fifth Amendment right to avoid testifying—had forced Mitchell to donate to the Obama campaign. was pressured Keener cited grand jury testimony in which White said he told Mitchell, who White said wanted to be a diplomat, that raising big money was the best way to influence the Obama team: “Raise a lot of money. , you raise your profile and you have a better chance.

Michelle helped Lou again in 2017. Lo wanted access to the new Trump administration in hopes that political insiders could persuade the DOJ to drop the asset forfeiture case against him. His entertainment industry friend Nicky Lum Davis was a GOP fundraiser and friend of Broidy, who was then the Republican National Committee’s vice chairman of finance. For a series of large payments, Broidy agreed to lobby Trump directly to try to get off the hook. (It didn’t work. Lo was indicted on multiple counts, including co-respondent with Mitchell. He remains a fugitive. The DOJ believes he is living in China.)

Mitchell, Davis and Brody later took on another job: to help lobby China for the extradition of Guo Wengui, a Chinese billionaire who fled to the US in early 2015 to escape charges of fraud, corruption and rape. Was. Guo sought political asylum, claiming that China was targeting him because of his opposition to the Communist Party. Broidy and former RNC Finance Chair Steve Wynn lobbied Trump directly in 2017 to deport Guo back to China. Broidy also tried to arrange for a Chinese minister to meet with Sessions about Guo, and prepared a memorandum arguing that extradition would help US-Chinese relations.

Sessions testified Tuesday, ambiguously, that the memo “was received by me or my office.” But Sessions said he had not spoken to Brody or his aides. He missed only a few general official meetings related to China’s requests for Guo’s deportation. He also said that he has never met Michelle.

Broidy, Lum Davis, and another conspirator pleaded guilty to charges of illegal foreign lobbying. (Pardoned by Trump, Brody turned down testimony against Mitchell last week.) Lo, who remains at large, was charged with Mitchell and convicted of additional crimes related to the Malaysia robbery. Was.

Nevertheless, Mitchell’s defense seems aimed at emphasizing that his conduct was no worse than that of those who took Lou’s money. Not there Faced with the charges. Indeed, when the Justice Department seized his assets in 2015, Low procured help from the likes of Chris Christie, Mark Kassovitz, Bobby Burchfield—Trump’s ethics adviser, and GOP lobbyist Ed Rogers. As mother jones As previously reported, Lo told aides in 2017 that she paid Rudy Giuliani $8 million to lobby for her. (Giuliani has denied receiving any payment from Low, and no records of it have been revealed.)

“That’s what everybody does,” Mitchell said in his testimony. “Everybody who has a position tries to get the best lawyer with the best connections.”