WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department’s inspector general is examining whether political considerations interfered with Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s promised analysis of the Republican tax proposal.
“It’s a top priority,” Rich Delmar, counsel to Inspector General Eric Thorson, said Thursday in an email. Delmar said he could not provide a time frame for when the inquiry would be complete because it would depend on how quickly the department’s official watchdog receives the information and “how complex issues are.”
In a letter early Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., asked Thorson’s office to review whether Treasury resources were used to research the tax plan, and why no analysis has been released to the public or Congress. Mnuchin has repeatedly pledged that the Republican proposal would pay for itself through economic growth, and that his department would provide detailed analysis to support those statements.
But, with the Senate preparing to vote on the tax overhaul this week, Mnuchin has yet to deliver the analysis.
“Either the Treasury Department has used extensive taxpayer funds to conduct economic analyses that it refuses to release because those analyses would contradict the Treasury Secretary’s claims, or Secretary Mnuchin has grossly misled the public about the extent of the Treasury Department’s analysis,” Warren wrote in the letter.
A new analysis released Thursday by the Joint Committee on Taxation found that the Senate tax bill would generate enough economic growth to lower its $1.4 trillion revenue cost by only about $458 billion over a decade. That would leave a 10-year revenue loss of roughly $1 trillion, said the JCT, Congress’s official scorekeeper on tax legislation.
Mnuchin has promised “complete transparency” about the analysis and the tax plan’s economic benefits. However, in September, The Wall Street Journal reported that Treasury had removed from its website a 2012 research paper that contradicted the Trump administration’s stance on the wage growth expected from a corporate rate tax cut.
LAPD captain investigated for possible ties to marijuana warehouse
LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles police captain is on paid leave as the department investigates whether he is involved with an alleged marijuana warehouse in Sun Valley.
The warehouse came to the LAPD’s attention Oct. 31 after someone called to report a burglary there.
Phillip A. Smith, a captain in Rampart Division, told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday that he was the caller.
Smith, who was off-duty at the time, said he did not know there was a marijuana business at the location.
“I can only say that a burglary came to my attention and I notified LAPD of the crime,” Smith said in an email. “They investigated and it led to an illegal marijuana grow.”
Smith said he discovered the burglary while next door to the warehouse, which recently had been a granite countertop business, on Bradley Avenue.
He would not say what he was doing there and referred further questions to his attorney, Muna Busailah, who could not be reached for comment.
According to an LAPD source familiar with the investigation, the department is looking into whether Smith provided security for the business.
The suspects entered the marijuana business through a rear door about 4 a.m. They left with a safe, cigarettes, cigars and marijuana plants, according to an LAPD news release.
Investigators from the Gang and Narcotics Division began looking into the illegal marijuana business and discovered that an LAPD employee was “affiliated with the location,” according to the news release, which did not identify Smith by name.
Smith is on paid leave until an internal investigation is completed. He has not been arrested or charged with a crime.
—Los Angeles Times
Gold trader implicates Erdogan as Iran sanctions trial continues
ISTANBUL — A Turkish-Iranian gold trader testified in a New York courtroom on Thursday that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan knew about a scheme to skirt U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Reza Zarrab said former Turkish economics minister Zafer Caglayan told him Erdogan, who was prime minister at the time, had given approval for two more Turkish banks to participate in the elaborate cash-for-gold scheme to pay for Iranian oil purchases banned by U.S. and U.N. sanctions, as he gave testimony for a second day.
Erdogan told state broadcaster TRT Haber earlier on Thursday: “We did the right thing no matter what comes out of the court case. We did not violate the embargo.”
The Iran sanctions case has been dismissed by Turkish authorities as a “theater.”
“What justice do we expect from such a court? I do not expect justice from there. Those who wrote this script are doing what is needed for the script,” Turkish government spokesman Bekir Bozdag told state-run news agency Anadolu.
Zarrab, the alleged mastermind behind the scheme who has turned witness for the U.S. prosecution, said Wednesday he had paid an estimated $53 million to $59 million in bribes to Caglayan to keep quiet about the scheme, through bank transfers, valuable items and in cash.
The only person on trial now is Mehmet Atilla, a former Halkbank deputy chief executive, defending against charges including bank fraud and sanctions violations.
Zarrab told the court Thursday he also paid tens of millions in bribes to Suleyman Aslan, the former head of Halkbank, but not Atilla, because he didn’t ask for any money.
Explaining why he did not bribe anyone else, Zarrab said through an interpreter: “I was giving bribes to the Turkish minister of the economy, and also giving to the head of Halkbank … I didn’t feel a need to pay any other individuals.”
Halkbank issued a statement on Thursday denying any wrongdoing.
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