Houston

Multiple ABC affiliates aided President Trump’s campaign efforts by directing readers to wish the president a happy birthday and fill out the campaign’s fundraising lists in the process.

At least five ABC outlets ran digital news stories telling readers how they can wish the president a happy birthday before eventually deleting the posts, according to the Daily Beast. The stories linked back to a webpage run by the Trump reelection campaign with instructions on how to send the president an internet birthday card.

The birthday card asks signatories to share personal information such as their names, phone numbers, and ZIP codes. The page requires each person to input an email address, which the campaign would contact later for funds or promotions.

“Happy Birthday, Mr. President!” each story said. “To help him celebrate, the GOP has made him a digital birthday card … Those who want to leave their well wishes can do so on the GOP’s website.” Trump turned 73 on Friday.

The stories published did not follow ABC’s editorial standards, an ABC spokesperson said.

The initial story was published by an overnight producer and other stations quickly syndicated it in several large markets including New York, Philadelphia, and Houston. The stories have since scrubbed from each site.

Many politicians use their birthdays to help fill out fundraising lists, but a media outlet aiding in the strategy is rare. In 2010, Time magazine helped then-President Barack Obama fill out his campaign’s fundraising lists by directing readers to wish the president a happy birthday.

Publicly available fundraising figures show Trump leading all the Democratic presidential candidates. Trump’s campaign committee has raised roughly $93 million so far, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Bernie Sanders’ committee has the second most cash of any 2020 presidential candidate at roughly $21 million. However, many of the figures are weeks old and other candidates, such as former Vice President Joe Biden, have yet to officially report their funds.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Houston Astros
Jun 12, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Mike Moustakas (11) rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the fourteenth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

June 13, 2019

Mike Moustakas slugged the Brewers’ fourth home run of the night with one out in the 14th inning, a two-run shot that led Milwaukee to a 6-3 win over the host Houston Astros on Wednesday.

Milwaukee earned a split of the two-game interleague series by overcoming a dominant effort from the Astros’ pitchers, who recorded a club-record 24 strikeouts.

The Brewers’ Christian Yelich singled to right to lead off the 14th, and Moustakas went deep off Cionel Perez (1-1) for his 21st homer to snap a 3-3 tie. Yasmani Grandal then doubled and scored on Jesus Aguilar’s single.

Before Jake Marisnick stroked a one-out single in the bottom of the 13th, the Astros went eight innings without recording a hit. Adrian Houser (2-1), the Brewers’ sixth pitcher, earned the win with two shutout innings.

Braves 8, Pirates 7 (11 innings)

Ozzie Albies drove in the winning run on an 11th-inning double, giving host Atlanta a victory over Pittsburgh.

Austin Riley, who was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, came all the way around to score from first base on Albies’ double. Michael Feliz (2-3) took the loss, giving up the one run in one-plus inning.

Jacob Webb (4-0) pitched two innings of scoreless relief to earn the win. The victory was the sixth straight for Atlanta. Pittsburgh has lost six in a row.

Mariners 9, Twins 6 (10 innings)

Daniel Vogelbach went 4-for-5 with a homer, and Seattle took advantage of three 10th-inning Minnesota errors to score three unearned runs and pull out a victory in Minneapolis.

Seattle’s Shed Long hit his first major league home run, a three-run drive to cap a five-run eighth inning. Mallex Smith had three hits, including two doubles, for the Mariners, who won for just the ninth time in their past 32 games.

Anthony Bass (1-1) picked up the win in relief despite squandering a ninth-inning lead by serving up a two-run homer by Byron Buxton. Roenis Elias notched his sixth save with a scoreless 10th inning.

Marlins 9, Cardinals 0

Garrett Cooper hit a grand slam and fell a double short of the cycle, and Jordan Yamamoto pitched seven scoreless innings to win his major league debut as host Miami defeated St. Louis.

The Marlins won the finale of a three-game series, snapping a six-game losing streak in which they totaled just 10 runs.

Cooper went 3-for-5 with four RBIs and two runs. It was the second career grand slam for Cooper, who hit one May 23 against the Detroit Tigers.

Diamondbacks 2, Phillies 0

Merrill Kelly threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings to lift visiting Arizona past Philadelphia to earn the series win.

Kelly (7-6) allowed three hits and no runs, struck out five and walked none while throwing 93 pitches, 67 for strikes.

Greg Holland earned his 10th save in 11 opportunities and the 199th of his career with a scoreless ninth.

Tigers 3, Royals 2

Brandon Dixon’s eighth-inning sacrifice fly scored the go-ahead run, and Detroit emerged with a victory over host Kansas City.

Jorge Soler, who drove in both of the Royals’ runs, flied out to center to end the game with the tying run on base.

Nick Ramirez (3-0) pitched two scoreless innings to pick up the victory. Shane Greene handled the ninth for his 20th save in 21 chances.

Red Sox 4, Rangers 3

Mookie Betts worked a walk-off base-on-balls to carry Boston to a win over visiting Texas. Christian Vazquez opened the ninth with a ground-rule double, and Jackie Bradley Jr.’s single to shallow right moved pinch runner Marco Hernandez to third.

After a four-pitch walk to Michael Chavis, Betts coaxed a five-pitch walk off reliever Jesse Chavez (2-2), breaking the reliever’s 22 2/3-inning scoreless streak.

Andrew Benintendi finished 3-for-4 with two doubles, a triple and two RBIs to help the Red Sox snap their three-game losing streak and win for just the second time in seven games on the current homestand.

Blue Jays 8, Orioles 6

Rowdy Tellez hit a grand slam during a six-run fifth inning as visiting Toronto defeated Baltimore.

Derek Law opened for the Blue Jays and threw a scoreless inning before Edwin Jackson (1-4) earned the victory with five solid innings. Jackson gave up two runs on four hits, striking out two and walking two.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had three hits for Toronto, and four of his teammates had two hits apiece. Trey Mancini homered among his two hits for the Orioles.

Cubs 10, Rockies 1

Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez homered, Cole Hamels pitched seven shutout innings, and Chicago beat Colorado in Denver.

Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado left the game with a left forearm contusion after being hit by a pitch from Hamels in the third inning.

Hamels (6-2), who fanned nine, also singled twice and drove in two runs, and Carlos Gonzalez had two hits against his former team. The Cubs had lost five straight road games.

Reds 7, Indians 2

Rookie Nick Senzel and Joey Votto homered to open the game as visiting Cincinnati posted a victory over Cleveland to salvage a split of their two-game interleague series.

The back-to-back homers to start the game marked the first time Cincinnati accomplished the feat since Alex Ochoa and Barry Larkin went deep at St. Louis on June 26, 2001.

Eugenio Suarez and Curt Casali homered to lead off the sixth and seventh innings, respectively, and Jose Iglesias ripped a two-run double in the eighth for the Reds, who saw eight of their nine hits go for extra bases (four homers, four doubles).

Athletics 6, Rays 2

Ramon Laureano broke an eighth-inning tie with his first career grand slam, giving Oakland a victory over Tampa Bay in the finale of a three-game series in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Brett Anderson pitched into the seventh inning, and three A’s relievers combined for 2 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing Oakland to take two games in the series despite dropping the opener 6-2 on Monday.

Liam Hendriks (3-0), who stranded the bases loaded after Tampa Bay scored twice in the seventh, was credited with the win after recording two outs.

Giants 4, Padres 2

San Francisco took advantage of three errors to score three runs, and Kevin Pillar added a home run in a victory over visiting San Diego that completed a two-game sweep.

Shaun Anderson (2-1) won for the second time in his past three starts, limiting the Padres to two runs and four hits in six innings.

Anderson got the better of Joey Lucchesi (5-4), who pitched well in the second San Francisco Bay Area homecoming of his career but was victimized by a shaky defense. He gave up three runs (two earned) in six innings.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden are assailing each other in overlapping visits to the key state of Iowa on Tuesday, previewing what the country might get in next year’s election if Biden becomes his party’s nominee.

The president unleashed a series of schoolyard taunts of the former vice president before taking off from the White House, declaring “Joe Biden is a dummy.”

“I’d rather run against Biden than anybody,” he said. “I think he’s the weakest mentally and I like running against people that are weak mentally.”

Biden, too, was going on the offense, campaigning alone in Iowa in an effort to present himself as the front-runner in a field of two dozen Democrats. He released an advance text of his speech in which he slams Trump, essentially goading the president to respond to him directly.

In it, he calls Trump an “existential threat to America.” That was part of his effort to emphasize the economy— an issue the president often promotes as his chief strength in a time of low unemployment — during a speech in Davenport, a center of eastern Iowa’s agricultural manufacturing industry.

“How many sleepless nights do you think Trump has had over what he’s doing to America’s farmers?” Biden will ask, according to the prepared remarks. “Zero.”

Though the race for the Democratic nomination is early and fluid, the dueling visits to Iowa offer a glimpse into what a Trump-Biden matchup might portend. Trump and Biden have been circling each other for months .

Despite the private counsel of his advisers, Trump had thrown a steady stream of public insults at Biden even before his fresh round Tuesday. Since March, Trump has mocked or criticized Biden on Twitter nearly 40 times.

In one of his most brazen attacks, during a recent state visit to Japan , Trump echoed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s description of Biden as “low-IQ.”

Biden, in turn, has hit at Trump. At a recent Houston fundraiser, Biden vowed not to “get down in the mud wrestling with this fella,” only to say later at the same event, “We all know this guy doesn’t know anything.”

Both men have something to prove during this trip.

For Trump, the biggest concern in this state dominated by agriculture interests is trade. He begins his trip in Council Bluffs to tour and speak at Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy, which produces and sells the corn-based fuel additive ethanol, before addressing an Iowa GOP dinner in Des Moines.

He’s expected to highlight his efforts to help farmers hurt financially from Chinese tariffs on U.S. agriculture products, measures that were imposed last year after Trump slapped levies on Chinese imports.

Trump also is likely to try to sell farmers on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal, which remains to be ratified by lawmakers in each country. Supporters of the deal, which is an update to the North American Free Trade Agreement, feared that Trump’s recent threat to impose tariffs on Mexico over illegal immigration would jeopardize the pact’s passage by U.S. lawmakers. But Trump announced an agreement with Mexico late last week and delayed the tariffs for the time being.

The president, however, has been stung by criticism that what he announced Friday resembled steps Mexico had already agreed to take. He lashed out Monday in a pair of tweets in which he teased a secret deal with Mexico to be announced soon. Mexico countered that no secret deal was in the works.

For his part, Biden’s trip comes after he roiled the Democratic contest last week by saying he supported a prohibition on federal funds supporting abortion. After an outcry from women’s groups and most other Democratic candidates , he backtracked and said he would support the repeal of the Hyde Amendment.

On the weekend, more than a dozen of Biden’s Democratic rivals were in Iowa for a party dinner. Several aimed veiled barbs at the former vice president for skipping the event and framed him as someone unable to bring the country into the future.

According to his prepared remarks, Biden will say he was at his granddaughter’s high school graduation.

“I guess some folks were surprised I made that choice, but I don’t know why,” he will say. “There are some things more important than running for president.”

Superville reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe in Dubuque, Iowa, and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

Source: NewsMax Politics

Illustration photo of the Dropbox app
FILE PHOTO: The Dropbox app logo seen on a mobile phone in this illustration photo October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration

June 11, 2019

(Reuters) – Cloud storage provider Dropbox Inc on Tuesday announced a major update of its core software that will pull together a variety of work-related tools into one spot, part of the company’s continued push to offer higher-profit services beyond raw storage space.

The company’s new “workspace,” announced at an event held in San Francisco, will let users create and share documents from Microsoft Corp’s Office suite and Alphabet Inc’s Google Docs from the main Dropbox window, as well as start conversations in services like Slack Technologies Inc or Zoom Video Communications Inc.

Dropbox, which started by charging for storage space, now has higher-priced plans for professional users that make more money off features like the ability to make the text in scanned documents searchable. The company also offers a range of business plans that give businesses more control of who can share which files.

In a statement, Dropbox Chief Executive Drew Houston said the new software was intended to let users work together on files without having to bounce between multiple windows.

“We’re focused on removing the friction from that experience, pulling everything together in a way that nobody has done before,” Houston said in the statement.

Started as a free service to consumers, Dropbox now offers a range of enterprise software services and competes with companies such as Google and Microsoft.

Last month, the company raised its full-year revenue outlook and reported better-than-expected results after adding more paying subscribers.

Between 2017 and 2018, the company went from 11 million paying users to 12.7 million, with revenue growing from $1.1 billion to $1.4 billion over the same time.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Source: OANN

Throughout the Raptors’ unprecedented run through this year’s NBA playoffs, it’s been Drake vs. well, pretty much everybody not in a Toronto uniform.

The braggadocious rapper, who doubles as the team’s global ambassador, has been a courtside fixture for most of the home games that have led to the Raptors’ first finals appearance in its 24-year history.

Monday night was no different with Drake, who has a key to the city, showing up early for the 9 p.m. tipoff, getting a hug from ESPN’s Doris Burke and Raps superfan Nav Bhatia along the way. Wearing a troll-free all-black outfit, he even shook hands with faux rival Draymond Green, though he could be seen lobbing insults towards the forward during the first quarter. Bouncing from foot-foot during R&B singer Monica’s rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, he flew the Canadian flag when he was seen on screens singing the words to O Canada.

But in the lead-up to Game 5 at Scotiabank Arena, he lobbed barbs at some of basketball’s biggest stars.

During Game 5 of the team’s series against 76ers, the Grammy winner mocked Joel Embiid’s Game 3 airplane gesture with a celebration of his own as the Raps trounced Philadelphia.

Later, he used his so-called “curse” to doom the surging team from the City of Brotherly Love in their final game against the Raptors by wearing a pair of 76ers shorts.

With Philly dispatched, during the East final, Drake laughed and whooped it up when Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo flubbed a free-throw attempt. He was also seen giving Raptors coach Nick Nurse a massage on the court leading Milwaukee’s bench boss Mike Budenholzer to say, “There’s certainly no place (on the court) for fans and, you know, whatever it is exactly that Drake is for the Toronto Raptors.”

The superstar also got into a social media feud with Bucks co-owner Wes Edens’ daughter Mallory who was spotted at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee wearing a T-shirt bearing the face of Pusha T — Drake’s arch nemesis.

Then came the NBA finals. Top brass tried to warn the Raps about Drizzy’s antics, but that went in one ear and out the other.

After Game 1 against the Warriors, Drake was captured on video courtside calling Draymond Green “trash.” He also was caught on camera picking lint out of Stephen Curry’s hair (wearing dad’s retro jersey) and then posting it for sale on eBay.

At Game 2, he trolled Golden State star Kevin Durant with a hoodie that featured Macaulay Culkin as his Home Alone character and the words “Kevin?!?!?!”

Durant and Splash Brother Klay Thompson got the last laugh, though, when Andre Iguodala nailed a three-pointer that sealed the win for the Warriors with 5.9 seconds left to play.

“You weren’t talking tonight were ya? With your bum ass,” Thompson said.

Drake responded by saying the Warriors “squeezed that” win “by the way,” before taking a dig at Durant, who, until Monday night, was absent from the playoffs after suffering a calf injury during the Warriors’ second-round series against the Houston Rockets. “You played nice tonight, though,” he said sarcastically.

But following the Raptors’ wins in Oakland, Drake turned the saltiness to 11.

After the Raps went up 2—1, he posted a photo of Thompson surrounded three young women with the caption reading, “Stay Golden my friends … good night” with crying emojis at the bottom.

Then, following the team’s 105-92 Game 4 win, he posted a video to his Instagram where someone could be heard saying, “Draymond … you the reason the Golden State Warriors lost the finals, ya hear?”

During Game 5, Drake — who wasn’t the only big name in the house with Wayne Gretzky, Dallas Green, Eugene Levy, Eugenie Bouchard, Vince Carter and Thierry Henry were also in attendance — was animated early, pumping his fist wildly on the sidelines as the Raptors’ Danny Green notched an early three and when the Warriors’ Thompson landed in early foul trouble. Later in the first, he could be seen scolding the refs for a perceived missed call against the Raptors’ Pascal Siakam.


Recording artist Drake reacts during the second quarter in game five of the 2019 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena. (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

Kyle Terada / USA TODAY Sports

He really came alive with 30 seconds left to play in the first as Durant got into a skirmish with Fred VanVleet, picking up his second foul.

When Durant hit the deck early in the second quarter, Drake, who as a tattoo tribute to the two-time finals MVP, seemed distraught. But as the city’s flashiest cheerleader, he didn’t stay subdued for long. He jeered Green after he landed a technical foul and mocked Thompson when label mate Baka Not Nice performed during a TV timeout.

In the fourth, as the Raptors took the lead with under five minutes to play, he could smell blood in the water jumping up and down after superstar Kawhi Leonard hit a three, then a two, then another three, with his seat mate Future the Prince embracing him and seemingly holding him back from storming the floor. And even though the Raps couldn’t hang on, seeing their lead end in an eventual 105—106 loss, Drake shared a few more words with Green at the game’s end before fist-bumping fans on his way to the exit.

Proving that once again — you can ask Drake to cheer quietly. But he’s not going to listen.

And we don’t want him to.

Twitter: @markhdaniell

mdaniell@postmedia.com

NBA: Finals-Golden State Warriors at Toronto Raptors
Jun 10, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) sits on the court after an apparent injury during the second quarter in game five against the Toronto Raptors of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

June 11, 2019

TORONTO – – Golden State forward Kevin Durant, returning from a month-long injury absence, started Game 5 for the Warriors as they faced elimination Monday night in the NBA Finals but exited in the second quarter after apparently aggravating his calf strain.

Durant had 11 points, two rebounds and one block to help the Warriors set the early pace.

Four minutes into the third quarter, the Warriors announced Durant would not return due to a right lower leg injury. An MRI exam is scheduled for Tuesday.

At halftime, ABC reporter Doris Burke said on the game broadcast, “Durant’s agent and Warriors general manager Bob Myers were in the locker room with Durant. Due to the raw emotion of the situation, he was not immediately evaluated and the team is giving him his space.”

Burke said she spoke with Warriors head coach Steve Kerr returning to the court after halftime and he said of his message to the team, “You tell them to keep going, keep competing. Obviously we’re all worried and thinking of Kevin right now.”

Renowned former San Diego Chargers team doctor David J. Chao tweeted about Durant, “KD clearly grabbing at Achilles. Not saying complete tear but that is too low to be called calf. Bad news, his finals are done even if there is a game 7. Good news, should not affect his free agency.”

In his first game since Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets, Durant grabbed for his right Achilles and calf area while attempting to drive past Toronto Raptors forward Serge Ibaka with 9:46 to play in the first half. The Warriors were leading 39-34, and the home crowd erupted with cheers as Durant crumbled to the hardwood.

Ibaka and Kyle Lowry motioned to hush the fans as Durant was walked to the other end of the court and down the tunnel to the locker room.

The Raptors held a 3-1 series lead and were aiming to close out the championship series at home on Monday night.

Durant had missed nine games but was cleared to return to practice Sunday.

Kerr said pregame there would be no minutes restriction on Durant if he did play.

“You worry about the conditioning,” Kerr said. “The skill, obviously, is undeniable. He’s a guy who can get a shot off anytime he wants. … He’s Kevin Durant. If we have him out there, he’ll be a threat. We know that.”

Durant averaged 26 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game in the regular season. During the postseason, he is producing 34.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game entering Monday.

“The most difficult thing is just not being able to be out there with your teammates at the biggest time of the year,” Kerr said. “From that perspective, I have just felt bad for him. We all have. If you have a chance to play, go play and see what happens.”

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz celebrates his solo home in the sixth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during their MLB American League East baseball game in Boston
FILE PHOTO: Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz celebrates his solo home in the sixth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during their MLB American League East baseball game in Boston, Massachusetts, September 22, 2013. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter/File Photo

June 11, 2019

The Boston Red Sox have sent a team plane to the Dominican Republic to transport former star David Ortiz to the city for medical treatment, ESPN’s Enrique Rojas reported Monday afternoon.

Ortiz was listed in stable condition in the intensive care unit of a Dominican Republic hospital earlier in the day following surgery for gunshot wounds. Citing team sources, The Boston Globe said the Red Sox and Massachusetts General Hospital had been coordinating a move to the Boston facility for further care.

Rojas tweeted Monday afternoon that Dr. Abel Gonzalez, who performed the surgery, had said Ortiz was in stable enough condition to travel.

The 43-year-old Ortiz, recognized as the beloved “Big Papi” by baseball fans during his 14 seasons in Boston, was shot in the back Sunday night while visiting a nightclub in Santo Domingo. His media assistant said Ortiz underwent six hours of surgery. Doctors removed his gallbladder and part of his colon and intestines, and Ortiz also sustained liver damage.

–The St. Louis Cardinals placed right-hander Adam Wainwright on the 10-day injured list due to a strained left hamstring.

Wainwright, 37, sustained the injury while hitting a double during the Sunday night game against the Chicago Cubs. He said he felt the hamstring lock up just a few steps into running after hitting the ball in the top of the fifth inning. He left during the bottom of the fifth.

Right-hander Ryan Helsley was recalled from Triple-A Memphis to fill the roster opening.

–The Pittsburgh Pirates placed veteran right-hander Jordan Lyles on the 10-day injured list due to left hamstring tightness.

Right-handed reliever Montana DuRapau was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis to fill the vacant roster spot.

Lyles was coming off an outing against the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday when he gave up three runs on five hits with four walks over three innings in the Pirates’ 5-3 defeat. Over his past 18 2/3 innings, he had given up 16 earned runs.

–The San Francisco Giants acquired outfielder Alex Dickerson from the San Diego Padres in exchange for minor league right-hander Franklin Van Gurp.

The Padres designated Dickerson for assignment on Wednesday. The Giants assigned him to Triple-A Sacramento.

Dickerson, 29, was 3-for-19 with two RBIs in 12 games with the Padres this season. Van Gurp, 23, is 2-1 with a 4.54 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings over 18 relief appearances between the Class-A and Double-A levels this season.

–Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout is leading American League players in voting for next month’s All-Star Game with slightly more than 950,000 votes. Much of the rest of the balloting, released by Major League Baseball, could be considered a surprise.

Aside from Trout, only George Springer of the Houston Astros — currently second in the outfield voting — has started an All-Star Game in the past.

The leaders can’t take their spot to the bank. New voting rules have divided the balloting into rounds. At the conclusion of the first round, which ends June 21, the top three players at each position — nine in the outfield — will move on to the next round of balloting with the vote tally starting over.

–The Red Sox have moved up the start time for Wednesday’s game against the Texas Rangers in order to avoid a conflict with Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

First pitch for the game against Texas was switched from 7:10 p.m. ET to 4:05 p.m. The NHL finale between the host Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET.

The Red Sox said the switch was “made as a courtesy to fans who want to watch Game 7” of the Stanley Cup Final.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

Daniel Acker

Bloomberg News

An image of NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre hangs above a registration desk ahead of the NRA’s annual meeting in Indianapolis in April.

A former pro football player who serves on the National Rifle Association board was paid $400,000 by the group in recent years for public outreach and firearms training. Another board member, a writer in New Mexico, collected more than $28,000 for articles in NRA publications. Yet another board member sold ammunition from his private company to the NRA for an undisclosed sum.

The NRA, which has been rocked by allegations of exorbitant spending by top executives, also directed money in recent years that went to board members — the very people tasked with overseeing the organization’s finances.

In all, 18 members of the NRA’s 76-member board, who are not paid as directors, collected money from the group during the past three years, according to tax filings, state charitable reports and NRA correspondence reviewed by The Washington Post.

The payments received by about one-quarter of board members, the extent of which has not previously been reported, deepen questions about the rigor of the board’s oversight as it steered the country’s largest and most powerful gun rights group, according to tax experts and some longtime members.

The NRA, founded in 1871 to promote gun safety and training, relies heavily on its 5 million members for dues. Some supporters are rebelling publicly and questioning its leadership. 

“I will be the first person to get in your face about defending the Second Amendment, but I will not defend corruption and cronyism and fearmongering,” said Vanessa Ross, a Philadelphia-area bakery owner and lifetime NRA member who previously worked at the Virginia headquarters managing a program for disabled shooters.

Among the revelations that have burst into public view: CEO Wayne LaPierre racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in charges at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique and on foreign travel, invoices show. Oliver North, forced out as president after trying to oust LaPierre, was set to collect millions of dollars in a deal with the NRA’s now-estranged public relations agency, Ackerman McQueen, according to LaPierre. And the NRA’s outside attorney reaped “extraordinary” legal fees that totaled millions of dollars in the past year, according to North.

Oliver North announced on April 27 that he will step down as president of the National Rifle Association.

The dueling allegations, coupled with multimillion-dollar shortfalls in recent years and an ongoing investigation by the New York attorney general, threaten the potency of the NRA, long a political juggernaut and a close ally of President Trump.

[NRA battles internal strife, external pressures as Oliver North steps down as president]

The NRA said its finances are healthy and that the allegations of misspending are unfounded. In a statement last month, a dozen board members said they have “full confidence in the NRA’s accounting practices and commitment to good governance.” LaPierre declined to comment.

The gun rights organization’s board includes firearms industry executives, conservative leaders, gun enthusiasts, and a handful of sports and entertainment celebrities. Among its members, whose names are not listed on the NRA website, are former Republican congressman Bob Barr of Georgia, basketball star Karl Malone and Joe Allbaugh, who served as the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the George W. Bush administration. (The three are not among the directors the NRA reported paying.)

After learning about the money his fellow board members received, Malone said he was concerned. “If these allegations are correct and 18 board members received pay, you’re damn right I am,” he said. “If it’s correct, the members who pay their dues should be damn concerned, too.”

Daniel Acker

Bloomberg News

An attendee holds an American flag-themed pistol at the Forjas Taurus booth during the NRA meeting in Indianapolis.

The NRA does not require board members to donate or raise funds for the group, as many nonprofit organizations do. They do not have term limits.

State and federal laws allow members of nonprofit boards to do business with their organizations under certain guidelines. The Internal Revenue Service can impose penalties if top officials and their families receive economic benefits that exceed fair market value.

Tax experts said the numerous payments to certain NRA directors create potential conflicts of interest that could cloud the board’s independent monitoring of the organization’s finances.

“In 25 years of working in this field, I have never seen a pattern like this,” said Douglas Varley, a Washington attorney at Caplin & Drysdale who specializes in tax-exempt organizations and reviewed the NRA’s federal and state filings from 2016 through 2018 for The Washington Post. “The volume of transactions with insiders and affiliates of insiders is really astonishing.”

Varley said he did not see any apparent violations of the law, and noted that the NRA, for the most part, appeared to have properly disclosed the payments.

“But the pattern raises a threshold question of who the organization is serving,” he said. “Is it being run for the benefit of the gun owners in the country and the public? Or is it being run as a business generating enterprise for officers and employees of the organization?”

Daniel Acker

Bloomberg News

Attendees walk through the exhibition floor during the NRA meeting in Indianapolis.

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said that the number of financial relationships between directors and the NRA is “small,” considering the size of the board and the organization. 

He called the gun rights movement “a close-knit community comprised of partners and vendors who understand the issue and are defenders of the Second Amendment.” 

Because gun-control groups have pressured companies into not doing business with the NRA, Arulanandam said, “the pool becomes smaller. Therefore, connections between employees or board members and partners are not unusual.”

William Brewer, an outside attorney for the NRA, said business arrangements with directors are approved “where appropriate” by the board’s audit committee. 

“Naturally, there are occasions where the NRA engages vendors who have a connection to NRA executives, employees or board members — but only when such an association works in the best interest of the organization and its members,” he said.

The NRA provided The Post with a copy of its conflict-of-interest policy, which states that approval by the audit committee is not required for minor transactions, reimbursement of expenses or “transactions and activities undertaken in the ordinary course of business by NRA staff.”

According to the policy, board members “owe a duty of loyalty to the NRA and must act in good faith and in the NRA’s best interests rather than in their own interests or the interests of another entity or person.”

Board members who spoke to The Post defended their ability to serve as fiscal watchdogs while also collecting fees. 

Former president David Keene, who has been paid $112,000 by the group for public speaking and consulting since 2017, said he has “never hesitated to exercise the oversight required of a board member and would gladly give up any compensation if I thought for a minute it was compromising my judgment or responsibility.” 

“NRA board members as a group tend to be both forthright and bullheaded, so I cannot imagine any of them would let a few dollars affect their judgment,” he added.

Financial ‘crisis’ allegations

Daniel Acker

Bloomberg News

Christopher Cox, chief lobbyist for the NRA, and NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre stand near an empty seat reserved for Oliver North, who was forced out as NRA president after trying to oust LaPierre.

In late April, the NRA’s annual meeting was getting underway in Indianapolis when members of the board received an alarming letter from LaPierre, who has run the gun lobby for decades.

In it, he wrote that North had warned that the group’s longtime public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen, was going to release information alleging “a devastating account of our financial status.” LaPierre said North indicated that the missive would not be sent if LaPierre resigned. 

The NRA chief hinted that North was compromised — conflicted between his duties to the board and his personal financial interests, noting that the retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel had signed a contract with Ackerman to host an NRA documentary series for “millions of dollars annually.”

“I believe our Board and devoted members will see this for what it is: a threat meant to intimidate and divide us,” LaPierre concluded.

The next day, North was forced to resign. But in a parting letter, he warned that the organization’s finances were in “clear crisis.” 

The board sided with LaPierre, reelecting him unanimously, according to NRA officials.

“We have full confidence in Wayne LaPierre and the work he’s doing in support of the NRA and its members,” said Carolyn D. Meadows, who replaced North as president.

Attorneys for North declined to comment.

[NRA reelects LaPierre as CEO, Trump blames group’s woes on New York state]

 Since then, the NRA has faced a steady drip of allegations about improper spending.

Letters from Ackerman’s chief financial officer to LaPierre, first reported by the Wall Street Journal and obtained by The Post, detailed large expenses billed by LaPierre, including nearly $275,000 in personal charges at a Beverly Hills men’s store and more than $253,000 in luxury travel to locations such as Italy, Budapest and the Bahamas. Bills also show $13,800 to rent an apartment for a summer intern.

Daniel Acker

Bloomberg News

A promotional poster for an NRATV show featuring former NRA president Oliver North.

In another letter, North warned top officials that huge fees charged by the Brewer law firm — which he said appeared to total $24 million in the previous 13 months — were “draining NRA cash at mind-boggling speed.” Brewer is the son-in-law of Angus McQueen, the CEO of the NRA’s longtime ad firm.

In the wake of the revelations, Retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West, a former Republican congressman from Florida and two-term NRA board member, called for LaPierre to resign, describing “a cabal of cronyism.” 

NRA officials said that LaPierre’s wardrobe allowance began 15 years ago and that he was urged by Ackerman to make the purchases for his public appearances, a practice that they said has since been discontinued. They said his travel was necessary for fundraising. The apartment was secured for a three-month summer internship when university housing typically used was unavailable, the NRA said. 

NRA officials also said that North’s memo describing the legal fees paid to the Brewer firm was “inaccurate.”

“It reflects a misinformed view of the firm, its billings, and its advocacy for the NRA,” said Charles L. Cotton, chairman of the NRA’s audit committee. “The board supports the work the firm is doing.” Brewer did not respond to a request for comment on his fees.

The swirl of allegations is being driven by the NRA’s increasingly acrimonious split from Ackerman, an Oklahoma-based firm that, with affiliated companies, received about $40 million from the nonprofit group in 2017, according to tax filings. Ackerman has produced provocative ads and television shows that increasingly marked a departure from the NRA’s traditional focus on gun rights. 

[As turmoil rocks NRA meeting, attendees back a group under pressure from all sides]

The gun lobby and the PR agency have sued each other in recent months, accusing one another of improper billing and deceit.

In a statement, Ackerman said it “followed the explicit directions” of NRA officials. The company said the NRA conducted an audit of its payments nearly every year and can justify all of its billings. “They could challenge any invoice, but they did not,” the company said. 

The NRA has accused Ackerman of concealing records, which the firm denies, and breaching confidentiality by leaking information.

The feud comes amid an investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, into the tax-exempt status of the organization, which is chartered in New York. As part of the probe, her office has issued subpoenas to the NRA, as well as orders to NRA entities and vendors to preserve records, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Daniel Acker

Bloomberg News

Attendees stand for the national anthem during the NRA meeting in Indianapolis.

Brewer, the NRA’s outside attorney, said the group complies with all regulations and is cooperating with the inquiry. “The NRA is prepared for this, and has full confidence in its accounting practices and commitment to good governance,” he said.

Amid the turmoil, much of the NRA board has remained silent — or defended LaPierre’s spending. 

“This is stale news — being recycled by those with personal agendas. In any event, the entire board is fully aware of these issues,” Meadows said in a statement.

The organization has not hired an outside firm to conduct an investigation into the allegations of misspending, a measure that legal experts note is often taken by nonprofit boards in such situations. Brewer said NRA practices are already under “constant review” by top officials and the board.

Instead, NRA leaders claim gun-control advocates are ginning up the controversies to sabotage the organization. “Our financial house is in order — we aren’t going away,” read a May 22 letter to members signed by Meadows and 11 other board members, many of them past presidents. 

But some longtime NRA members are losing faith in the leadership — and considering walking away from the organization.

“You have these facts coming to light, what to most NRA members seem very unreasonable amounts spent on luxuries and conveniences,” said NRA member and firearms trainer Robert Pincus of Florida.

“And at the same time you have the NRA cold-calling and fundraising, claiming they are going to go bankrupt if they don’t get money to fight New York state,” Pincus said. “Then you have the [new] president saying they are in great financial shape, all the financial problems of the past have been fixed. Those three messages don’t all go together.”

‘Nothing nefarious’

Federal and state filings show that the NRA has turned to its board members for a variety of paid services in the past three years — including to bring in new members.  

Attorneys who specialize in nonprofit organizations said it is unusual for board members to be paid membership commissions for recruitment. 

“Most groups lean on board members to give money, not for board members to get money,” said New York lawyer Daniel Kurtz. “I think the contributing public would look at that with a dim eye.”

Ethan Miller

Getty Images

Former NFL player Dave Butz attends a shooting event at Nellis Air Force Base in April 2011 in Las Vegas. Butz, a former board member, received $400,000 from the NRA for public outreach and firearms training

Among those paid such commissions was board member Owen Mills, who runs Gunsite Academy, an Arizona firearms training facility, which received about $11,000 in 2016 and 2017.

Mills defended the financial ties between board members and the NRA, saying they should be able to do business with the group as long as their prices are competitive.

“There’s nothing nefarious about it,” Mills said. “The NRA buys a lot of stuff. And so it wouldn’t be unusual to do business with your board members, and all of that is open to the public process.” 

Since 2016, large sums have flowed to board members for consulting, public filings show. NRA officials provided additional details about the specifics of some of the work they did.

Lance Olson, a former police officer from Iowa, received a total of $255,000 for outreach to gun collectors and fundraising, and Dave Butz, a former NFL player, received $400,000 for public outreach and firearms training, according to the NRA. 

Olson did not respond to requests for comment. Butz, who was not reelected to the board in April, declined to comment.

Jabin Botsford

The Washington Post

White House communications aide Mercedes Schlapp speaks to the media in January. A firm run by Schlapp, who resigned from the NRA board in 2017, received $85,000 in 2016 and 2017 for media strategy consulting.

A firm run by White House communications aide Mercedes Schlapp, who resigned from the board when she joined the administration in 2017, received a total of $85,000 in 2016 and 2017 for media strategy consulting.

She did not respond to requests for comment. Schlapp’s ability to represent the organization in Spanish-language media “made her firm highly qualified,” the NRA said. 

Longtime director and former NRA president Marion Hammer received at least $610,000 in the past three years for consulting services and legislative lobbying in Florida. Hammer declined to comment. In a statement, the group called her a “tireless supporter of the NRA’s fight to protect the Second Amendment.”

Director Bart Skelton, a writer in New Mexico, received at least $28,750 over three years to produce articles for NRA publications and $6,550 in compensation in 2017. He did not respond to requests for comment. 

NRA director and rock performer Ted Nugent’s company received $50,000 for appearances at the 2016 NRA convention, while director and country music singer Craig Morgan’s company got $23,500 for musical performances. 

Neither responded to requests for comment.

Johnny Hanson

Houston Chronicle/AP

NRA board member and musician Ted Nugent signs autographs at the NRA’s annual meeting in Houston in 2013. Nugent’s company received $50,000 for his appearances at the 2016 NRA convention.

In other cases, the NRA paid businesses run by members of its board.

The NRA Foundation, the group’s charitable arm, bought nearly $3.1 million in ammunition and other supplies in 2017 from Crow Shooting Supply, a business controlled by director and past president Pete Brownell. 

NRA officials and Brownell say the group began purchasing supplies from Crow before Brownell took over the company in 2011.

However, the first time the foundation disclosed the contract in tax filings was in 2017, as the Wall Street Journal first reported

NRA officials said the foundation made the disclosure in 2017 “in an effort to provide greater visibility regarding the Foundation’s mission and activities.”

A spokesman for Brownell, who announced last week that he was stepping down from the board to focus on his business, said the contract was vetted by the audit committee.

“Crow is one of the only wholesalers in the country who can meet the programs’ volume and shipping needs,” spokesman Ryan Repp said. “Pete takes his ethical obligations seriously,” adding that Brownell abstained from voting on issues that directly affected his business.

[Pete Brownell, who heads major supplier of firearms accessories, resigns from NRA board]

The amount of money collected by one board member remains unknown because she was paid by Ackerman, the NRA’s marketing agency. Julie Golob, a gun activist in Kansas City, Mo., hosts and consults for NRA video programming produced by the firm, according to internal documents. 

She declined to comment on how much she is paid or on her dual roles as NRA director and subcontractor. The NRA has said the arrangement was approved by the audit committee and that Golob does not participate in discussions related to Ackerman.

In addition to the 18 board members paid in recent years, the NRA also reported paying an undisclosed amount to a son of board member James Porter, a former president of the group. The son, who works for the Bradley law firm, has been involved in extensive litigation involving guns, according to his biography. Neither father nor son responded to requests for comment. 

Another director, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), received thousands of dollars in donations from the NRA’s political arm to his campaign. Young did not respond to a request for comment. 

Challenges on many fronts

Longtime NRA members said they are worried that allegations of insider dealing and big spending at the NRA could create the appearance of impropriety.

“The NRA cannot afford to give fodder to the public and to the media that we are anything but above board,” said Tiffany Johnson, a firearms instructor in Memphis and lifetime member. “We can’t give anybody any reason to even intimate that we have impermissible conflicts of interest, that there is self-dealing.”

Compounding the situation are signs that the NRA’s finances are under strain. 

President Trump on April 26 vowed to protect gun rights as the 2020 presidential race heats up, issuing a familiar warning at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Indianapolis.

Public filings show that the gun rights group — which spent $31 million to help elect Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, more than any other outside group — had a more than $17 million shortfall in 2017, the most recent tax filing available. That year, it collected nearly $312 million in revenue.

NRA officials said the organization is “on budget” this year and “meeting all banking and supplier obligations.” 

Scott Olson

Getty Images

An attendee looks over a Sightron rifle scope at the NRA meeting in April in Indianapolis.

But it is under intensifying scrutiny in Congress, where Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee have been examining the group’s ties to Russia. That inquiry has expanded to include the allegations of self-dealing. 

Meanwhile, the turmoil at the NRA has benefited some other gun rights organizations, which said they have seen an uptick in memberships and contributions.

“In recent months we have seen an over 20 percent increase in support,” said Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation and chair of its sister organization, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. He said donors are giving in response to “reports of lavish spending” at the NRA and the support for gun control among Democratic presidential contenders.

NRA directors say the current fracas has been overblown and will not inflict long-term damage. 

“We are the most influential body representing firearms owners in the world,” said Mills, the director from Arizona, “and we will survive this little speed bump and come out all the stronger and remain the guardian of civil rights.”

Read more:

Senate Democrats investigate self-dealing at NRA and demand documents.

NRA convention attended by tens of thousands of supporters shadowed by internal drama.

NRA battles internal strife, external pressures as North steps down as president.

Alice Crites, Anu Narayanswamy and Julie Tate contributed to this report.

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Putin visits the Zvezda shipyard in the far eastern town of Bolshoy Kamen
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech as he visits the Zvezda shipyard in the far eastern town of Bolshoy Kamen, Russia September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo

June 10, 2019

By Catherine Belton

LONDON (Reuters) – A senior American banker once secretly awarded a shareholding in powerful Moscow investment bank Renaissance Capital to one of Vladimir Putin’s closest friends and brokered meetings for the friend with top U.S. foreign policy officials a decade ago, emails show.

The American banker, Robert Foresman, currently vice chairman at UBS investment bank in New York, held a series of prominent roles in Moscow’s financial world. He headed Dresdner Bank’s investment banking operations in Russia in the early 2000s, served as Renaissance Capital’s vice chairman from 2006 to 2009, and then led Barclays Capital’s Russia operation until 2016. Putin’s friend, Matthias Warnig, sits on the boards of several Russian state-controlled firms.

A deeply religious conservative, the blue-eyed, curly-haired U.S. banker, has said it has always been his calling to be a peacemaker between the two nuclear superpowers.

Now, a cache of Renaissance Capital emails from 2007 to 2011 reveal new details about the close relationship Foresman cultivated within Putin’s circle over the years and how he leveraged these ties to win deals. The emails, which were reviewed by Reuters, also shine a light on the part played by Western bankers in the heady days of Moscow’s 2007 economic boom, when the Kremlin was moving to take over ever greater swathes of the Russian economy.

The emails were exchanged among Renaissance Capital’s top executives and between the bank and its clients and business associates before ownership of the bank changed hands in 2012. They have figured in a long-running legal battle over the controversial takeover by the Russian state of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Yukos oil firm in the mid 2000s, and are reported here for the first time.

Foresman’s relationship with the Kremlin was more complicated – and more mercantile – than that of peacemaker, these emails show. They offer insight into how Foresman and his colleagues sought to help the Kremlin pull off, and profit from, its dismantlement of Yukos at a time when analysts say Moscow was seeking international legitimacy for the politically-charged process. They also show how the American banker guided Warnig around Washington foreign policy circles during the Bush and Obama administrations.

In a statement to Reuters, Foresman said he considered it inappropriate to comment on matters that may relate to proceedings before the English court – a reference to a civil lawsuit in the UK – but he refuted any suggestion of wrongdoing. Renaissance Capital’s new management declined to comment.

Foresman’s Moscow connections gained fresh attention recently when the banker was named in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. According to the report, Foresman was among the many influential people who reached out to Donald Trump when the future American leader’s campaign was building momentum.

In March 2016, Foresman emailed Trump’s assistant inviting the presidential candidate to an international business forum in St Petersburg, saying he’d had “an approach” from “senior Kremlin officials” about the candidate, according to the report. Foresman asked for a meeting with Trump, or with campaign manager Corey Lewandowski or “another relevant person,” saying he had other issues to discuss that he felt uncomfortable discussing over “unsecure email.”

In a later email, Foresman sought a meeting with one of Trump’s sons, Don Jr or Eric, to pass on information that should be “conveyed to [the candidate] personally or [to] someone [the candidate] absolutely trusts.”

The Mueller report says there wasn’t any evidence that Trump’s campaign team followed up on these approaches. When questioned by Mueller about these contacts, Foresman played down his ties to the Kremlin. He suggested he was merely seeking to “burnish his credentials” with the Trump team, the Mueller report says. No charges were made against Foresman.

A SECRET AGREEMENT

Back in 2007, Foresman was part of a small group of Renaissance Capital executives involved in drawing up a secret agreement to award an unspecified stake in Renaissance Capital, the privately owned investment bank where he was vice chairman, to close Putin associate Warnig, according to a series of emails related to the deal. The shares were awarded for “nil consideration,” or without any money changing hands, the agreement showed. The emails reviewed by Reuters didn’t reveal the percentage or value of the stake.

Contacted by Reuters, Foresman and Warnig declined to discuss the transaction.

Warnig served as an officer in East Germany’s Stasi secret police at the same time as Putin was a KGB officer in Dresden in the late 1980s. Warnig has said they first met in the early 1990s in St Petersburg, when Putin was that city’s deputy mayor. Today Warnig is chief executive of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe. He also sits on the boards of several Russian state-controlled firms, including oil giant Rosneft. He served for 12 years on the board of Bank Rossiya, sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury as the “personal bank” for senior Russian officials.

From 2001 to 2006, Foresman worked side by side with Warnig as head of Dresdner’s investment banking arm in Moscow, while Warnig was Dresdner Bank’s president for Russia.

In the months before and after he received the Renaissance Capital stake, Warnig sought to funnel at least three Kremlin-linked deals the bank’s way, Renaissance Capital emails dated between 2007 and 2009 show. In one instance, in 2007, Warnig helped broker crucial backing from Rosneft for a consortium including Renaissance Capital that was bidding for Yukos’ Dutch assets in an auction.

The consortium went on to win the auction. But the transaction became mired in lawsuits and was blocked. Yukos executives successfully argued in a Dutch court that the Russian state had no right to sell a Dutch-incorporated company. The Dutch Supreme Court ruled earlier this year the sale was illegal.

The emails were submitted as evidence as part of that case. They have also been submitted as part of a civil fraud lawsuit filed by Yukos’ former management that is due to come to trial on June 10 in the UK High Court. The suit alleges Foresman, as vice-chairman of Renaissance Capital, played a key role in paving the way for the consortium to knowingly participate in a rigged auction for the Yukos subsidiary. It alleges the foreign investors who formed the consortium stood to make enormous personal gain, and seeks tens of millions of dollars in damages.

In his statement to Reuters, Foresman said he is contesting the lawsuit vigorously.

Among the foreign bankers that joined the investor consortium with Foresman was Stephen Jennings, a tall and lanky New Zealander. Jennings founded Renaissance Capital in 1995, and the bank became a symbol of Russia’s transition to a market economy. In an interview in 2005 with the Financial Times, Jennings professed hopes that Russia’s economic growth under Putin would one day produce a middle class strong enough to counter any authoritarian turn.

Instead, the lawsuit alleges, Foresman and Jennings sought to benefit from Kremlin abuses of the market system and the rule of law. They acted, the suit claims, together with the two other main Western investors in the consortium: Stephen Lynch, a former U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, and Richard Deitz, the wiry founder of hedge fund VR Capital, which has offices in New York, London and Moscow.

Deitz and Jennings declined to comment for this article. Lynch didn’t respond to emailed questions. A person familiar with the consortium rejected any suggestion that the auction was rigged.

A PRIZE ASSET

The auction of Yukos Finance BV, a Dutch subsidiary of Khodorkovsky’s oil company. was the last in a series of Yukos bankruptcy sales by the Kremlin. These sales were to pay off more than $33 billion in back-tax bills levied against Yukos by Moscow after Khodorkovsky posed a political challenge to the Kremlin and was jailed for fraud. The Yukos bankruptcy transformed Rosneft from a state-owned minnow to Russia’s biggest oil company after it snapped up most of the assets. The Dutch unit was a prize: It held up to $1.5 billion in cash reserves, of which up to $650 million was net of debt. It also had a 49% stake in a strategically important Slovakian pipeline operator, Transpetrol, which later sold in 2009 for $240 million.

The bankruptcy auction took place on Aug. 15, 2007. The foreign investor consortium, acting through a Russian bidding vehicle, named Promneftstroy, won the auction for less than $310 million – well below the roughly $890 million combined value of the Yukos unit’s net cash reserves and its Transpetrol stake. The consortium won after making just three bids against a rival company, Versar, which, according to Yukos, never participated in any business apart from unsuccessfully bidding in Yukos auctions. Versar ceased to exist in 2010 when it was merged into another company, Russian corporate records show.

Foresman had begun urging executives at Renaissance Capital to take part in the Yukos bankruptcy auctions earlier that year, the emails show.

In an email dated Feb. 21, 2007, Foresman wrote to three senior executives at “RC” – Renaissance Capital – pointing to the Kremlin-run Yukos asset auctions as an opportunity.

“I have reason to believe that RC, and only RC, can pull off the trade of our lives,” Foresman wrote. “We could pull off something that makes us huge profit, makes top global investors very happy, materially mitigates Rosneft’s litigation risk. And allows the Kremlin to show that the auction of Y assets is not rigged but rather is competitive.” Rosneft’s success in the auctions had raised the possibility of a legal challenge and the Kremlin was under international scrutiny over the process.

A memo drawn up by Renaissance Capital the day before the auction named the deal “Project Surplus” and said it could net the consortium a profit of up to $340 million. The memo, seen by Reuters, indicated the Western bankers believed the auction would go in their favor.

“The opportunity to participate and be the likely winner has largely arisen due to very close relationships that certain Renaissance individuals enjoy with the Kremlin,” the memo said. The Kremlin declined to comment.

The U.S. government was watching proceedings closely because of the strategic importance of the pipeline network Transpetrol operated. Foresman told an unidentified U.S. embassy official in Moscow in October that year that the consortium “had not been acting as a proxy for Rosneft” in the auction and said there was no prearranged deal with Rosneft over the Transpetrol stake, according to a diplomatic cable about the conversation later leaked by Wikileaks. Foresman didn’t dispute the contents of the cable in a deposition for the UK civil lawsuit.

But documents in the email cache and depositions of consortium members indicate that Rosneft was closely involved with the consortium in the deal. Foresman described in his deposition in November 2018 how Warnig channeled the consortium’s proposal for participating in the auction to the top of Rosneft.

In the hours before the sale of the Yukos unit, the consortium reached two legal agreements with Rosneft.

In the first of those agreements, reviewed by Reuters and dated Aug. 15, 2007, Rosneft agreed to lift any legal claims the Russian oil giant had against the Dutch firm’s assets.

In the second, also reviewed by Reuters and dated Aug. 15, 2007, the state oil champion agreed to delay repayment of a $60 million loan it had extended to Promneftstroy, the bidding vehicle, until the consortium arranged to sell Yukos’s Slovak pipeline to a company nominated by Rosneft. A month later, the consortium agreed to sell the pipeline stake to a Cyprus-registered firm for $105 million – less than half the price it fetched two years later. An email chain leading up to the sale agreement indicates the buyer was designated by Rosneft.

In the hours after the auction, another investor in the consortium, Benjamin Heller, then a managing director at U.S. fund HBK Investments, wrote to an associate saying: “Rosneft basically controlled the auction and decided it would clear at a certain price.” Heller, who isn’t named as a defendant in the lawsuit, declined to comment. Rosneft didn’t respond to Reuters’ questions about the auction. At the time of the sale, the state oil giant denied any involvement in it.

The person familiar with the consortium said there were mistakes in Heller’s email. “Rosneft didn’t set the price, and there were two bidders,” said this person. “The whole premise that Rosneft controlled the consortium, controlled the price and controlled the auction is not correct.”

He added that at the time of the auction the consortium didn’t have access to data valuing the Transpetrol stake above $103 million – a sale price that had been discussed a year earlier. He said the consortium had reached out to both sides of the Yukos divide, agreeing to pay back outstanding loans to Yukos’ former owner.

Two months later, in late 2007, the consortium’s hopes of making profits began to unravel when an Amsterdam court ruled that the auction violated Dutch law, and therefore the consortium owners didn’t have title to any of the assets of Yukos Finance BV.

PHANTOM SHARES

In emails dated Oct. 11, 2007, a few months after the consortium won the auction, Foresman and his colleagues at Renaissance Capital began discussing the drafting of a secret “phantom share agreement” for an unnamed “prospective new shareholder.” Phantom share deals are a common arrangement under which a company promises the holder a future cash payment that is tied to the value of a notional share of stock. Among the executives discussing the award of these shares was the bank’s founder, Jennings, who was the main owner at the time. He declined to comment about the transaction.

An agreement identifying Warnig as the recipient of “40,034 phantom shares” in Renaissance Capital’s parent company, Renaissance Holdings Management Limited, was drawn up by the investment bank’s legal counsel and sent to Foresman in an email dated Nov. 27, 2007.

An additional consultancy agreement drawn up by the legal counsel and sent to Foresman on Dec. 17, 2007, provided for paying $700,000 to an unnamed recipient for advice on “certain investment banking transactions and business development opportunities.” In his November 2018 deposition for the UK civil suit, Foresman said Renaissance Capital paid consultancy fees to Warnig. He didn’t specify the amount.

Foresman and the other Renaissance Capital executives sought to keep these arrangements secret, the emails show. When a RenCap employee mistakenly sent a message to Warnig’s official company email address in 2007 about the shareholding, Foresman fired off an angry reply to three senior Renaissance Capital executives. “This is clearly unacceptable and I cannot believe this could happen,” he said in the message, dated Dec.18, 2007. He said Warnig had immediately destroyed the message.

In a later email to the same colleagues, dated Feb. 12, 2008, Foresman stressed how Warnig had insisted the agreements remain absolutely confidential: They were to be known only by the executives at Renaissance who drew up the agreements. The email says: “Our man has signed his phantom share agreement, in his name, and also the consultancy agreement in the name of a legal entity.” It went on, “He stressed the absolute confidentiality of this.”

Warnig’s relationships with Foresman and Renaissance Capital’s founder and chairman, Jennings, were cemented over dinners and “banya” steam-bath sessions in Moscow, the emails show. And Foresman helped open doors for Warnig with U.S. ambassadors to Russia and U.S. government officials in Washington during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

The email cache shows, for instance, that Foresman helped set up meetings in 2009, early in Obama’s presidency, for Warnig with the U.S. government’s then national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia, Fiona Hill, as well as with Mary Warlick, then the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. He also brokered meetings for Warnig with officials in the Department of Energy and separately in Houston with Ross Perot Jr, the U.S. billionaire. Perot declined to comment for this article. Hill and Warlick didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The emails reviewed by Reuters didn’t reveal what came of the meetings.

After one such visit in March 2009, Foresman indicated these meetings were to become a back channel for Putin into Washington. In one email, he wrote, “my friend briefed his Big friend on the meetings” – an apparent reference to Warnig speaking with Putin. “That person was extremely satisfied with the messages that were received and absolutely committed to improving things. He asks for a repeat performance in Q2 for which he will have my friend deliver specific messages,” Foresman wrote.

(Reporting by Catherine Belton; editing by Janet McBride)

Source: OANN

MLB: Washington Nationals at San Diego Padres
Jun 9, 2019; San Diego, CA, USA; Washington Nationals second baseman Howie Kendrick (47) hits a solo home run during the eighth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

June 10, 2019

Pinch hitter Howie Kendrick, Trea Turner, Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon connected on four consecutive eighth-inning home runs off San Diego reliever Craig Stammen on Sunday afternoon to break a tie and lead the visiting Washington Nationals to a 5-2 victory over the Padres.

The four homers came in a span of seven pitches with one out in the eighth. It was the second time in Nationals history that players had connected on four straight home runs, the first being on July 27, 2017, against Milwaukee.

Sunday marked the ninth time in major league history that a team hit four consecutive homers. The Nationals are the only team to do it twice. The Padres are the only team to twice give up four straight homers, also doing so against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006.

Kendrick’s one-out drive to left snapped a 1-1 tie between Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg (7-3) and the Padres’ game-long group of bullpen pitchers. Stammen (4-3) was the fourth of five relievers deployed by San Diego. Strasburg gave up one run in seven innings.

Dodgers 1, Giants 0

Max Muncy’s first-inning home run was all starting pitcher Walker Buehler needed as Los Angeles earned a fiery victory at San Francisco.

Buehler (7-1) gave up five hits over seven scoreless innings with a walk and nine strikeouts as the Dodgers rallied to win the three-game series after a defeat on Friday. Giants starter Madison Bumgarner (3-6) was nearly as good as Buehler, giving up one run on four hits over seven innings with a walk and five strikeouts.

Thinking Muncy took too long to go into his home run trot, Bumgarner shouted at the Dodgers’ left-handed hitter before Muncy even reached first base. Muncy first reacted by brushing his hands toward Bumgarner as he approached first base, then appeared to invite the pitcher for a physical altercation as he jogged between first and second base. The two shouted at each other off and on until Muncy crossed the plate.

Yankees 7, Indians 6 (10 innings)

Aaron Hicks belted an RBI double with two outs in the 10th inning as visiting New York rebounded to top Cleveland after squandering a pair of leads.

New York scored five runs with two outs in the second inning and another in the ninth, only to see Cleveland rally to forge a tie on both occasions.

The Yankees claimed a 7-6 lead in the 10th after Cameron Maybin launched a double to deep center off Oliver Perez (1-1) with one out before Hicks doubled to left-center one out later. Aroldis Chapman (1-1) picked up the win after his bid for his 16th straight save went awry following an error by shortstop Didi Gregorius with two outs in the ninth.

Rays 6, Red Sox 1

Brandon Lowe homered twice among three hits, while Yandy Diaz also went deep and had four hits as visiting Tampa Bay powered past Boston in the finale of a four-game series.

Tampa Bay hit four homers in the contest, all solo shots. Blake Snell (4-5) gave up one run on five hits and struck out seven in six innings as the Rays took three of four in the key division series. The Red Sox were held to two or fewer runs in all three losses.

Eduardo Rodriguez (6-4) was tagged for four runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out seven and walking two.

Cubs 5, Cardinals 1

Kyle Schwarber drove in two runs, Kyle Hendricks won his sixth consecutive decision, and Chicago pulled away to complete a three-game sweep of visiting St. Louis.

Carlos Gonzalez homered while Anthony Rizzo and David Bote also drove in one run apiece for the Cubs. Kolten Wong hit an RBI double for the Cardinals, who lost for the fourth time in their past five games.

Hendricks (7-4) allowed one run on eight hits in seven innings, walking none and striking out three. Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright (5-6) exited the game after 4 1/3 innings because of left hamstring tightness. He allowed three runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out two.

Braves 7, Marlins 6 (12 innings)

Ronald Acuna Jr. tied the score with a three-run homer in the ninth, and Matt Joyce hit an RBI single in the 12th as the Atlanta won at Miami.

Closer Sergio Romo gave up four runs in the ninth — including Acuna’s homer — and fellow Marlins reliever Tyler Kinley gave up a run in the 10th before Adam Conley (1-6) took the loss in the 12th.

Ozzie Albies sparked the winning rally by diving into third with a one-out triple. He scored on a single by Joyce, who went 3-for-4 from the No. 8 hole. Dan Winkler (3-1) got the win for Atlanta, and Josh Tomlin picked up his first career save in his 205th appearance.

Twins 12, Tigers 2

Nelson Cruz blasted one of Minnesota’s four home runs among his three hits and drove in three runs as the Twins routed host Detroit.

Eddie Rosario supplied three hits, including a homer, scored two runs and knocked in two more while Byron Buxton ripped a two-run homer and scored twice. Miguel Sano also homered, C.J. Cron had two hits and two RBIs and Ehire Adrianza scored three runs.

Twins starter Jake Odorizzi (9-2) gave up one run on five hits in six innings and struck out eight. Detroit starter Ryan Carpenter (1-3) surrendered eight runs on 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Astros 4, Orioles 0

Yordan Alvarez homered in his second career plate appearance to support a strong outing from veteran Wade Miley as Houston claimed the rubber match of its three-game series with Baltimore.

Alvarez, the Astros’ third-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, broke a scoreless tie with his two-run, opposite-field homer off Orioles starter Dylan Bundy (3-7) with two outs in the fourth inning.

Miley (6-3) completed his afternoon having allowed six hits and two walks while recording five strikeouts over six-plus innings.

Mariners 9, Angels 3

Edwin Encarnacion hit two home runs, the latter the 400th of his major league career, as Seattle defeated Los Angeles in Anaheim, Calif.

Encarnacion is the 56th player to reach the 400-homer plateau and the third active player after Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. Tom Murphy also homered twice, and Daniel Vogelbach and Kyle Seager added solo shots for the Mariners, who took two of three games in the series.

Wade LeBlanc (3-2) entered after an opener and went six innings, allowing two runs on six hits with one walk and eight strikeouts. The Angels’ Jose Suarez (1-1) gave up two runs on four hits in 4 2/3 innings, with two walks and six strikeouts.

Brewers 5, Pirates 2

Mike Moustakas broke an eighth-inning tie with a two-run home run to carry host Milwaukee to a three-game series sweep of Pittsburgh.

Moustakas drilled the second pitch from reliever Francisco Liriano (1-1) out to right-center field for his 20th homer after the Brewers erased a 2-0 lead by tying the game in the seventh on a pinch-hit single by Ben Gamel.

Milwaukee’s Hernan Perez went 3-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base, Christian Yelich went 2-for-4 with a solo homer, and reliever Jeremy Jeffress (1-0) got the win. Jung Ho Kang clubbed a two-run homer, and Starling Marte had two hits and a stolen base for the Pirates.

Athletics 9, Rangers 8

Matt Olson and Khris Davis hit home runs as Oakland opened an early eight-run lead and held on to beat Texas to earn a split of a four-game series in Arlington, Texas.

Ryan Buchter got Shin-Soo Choo to ground out as the potential tying run in the eighth inning, and Blake Treinen survived a shaky ninth for his 14th save. A’s right-hander Frankie Montas (8-2) was charged with three runs (two earned) on seven hits and one walk with 10 strikeouts.

Olson hit a two-run homer as part of a three-run second inning, and Davis added a two-run shot with two outs in the third, helping Oakland jump to a quick 5-0 lead against struggling Drew Smyly (1-5).

Mets 6, Rockies 1

Noah Syndergaard allowed just one hit over seven scoreless innings, and Todd Frazier homered and drove in four runs as New York topped visiting Colorado.

The Mets took the final two games of the three-game series and have won four of their past five. The Rockies have dropped four of six since an eight-game winning streak.

Syndergaard (4-4) walked two and struck out seven. Rockies starter Jeff Hoffman (1-3), who grew up near Albany in upstate New York, allowed six runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out seven over 4 2/3 innings.

Reds 4, Phillies 3

Eugenio Suarez’s single capped a three-run seventh inning, and visiting Cincinnati rallied past Philadelphia to snap a three-game losing streak.

The Reds trailed 3-1 when Curt Casali hit an infield single with two outs and pinch hitter Josh VanMeter walked. Jose Alvarez (0-2) replaced Philadelphia starter Aaron Nola and allowed a single to Nick Senzel to load the bases before Joey Votto lined a first-pitch single to center to score Casali and VanMeter. Suarez followed with a single off Vince Velasquez to score Senzel and give the Reds the lead.

Zach Duke (3-1) pitched one-third of an inning and got the win as four Cincinnati relievers combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings. Raisel Iglesias got the final four outs for his 13th save.

Diamondbacks 8, Blue Jays 2

Ketel Marte and Carson Kelly homered in an eight-run third inning, Robbie Ray struck out 10 and visiting Arizona defeated Toronto.

Ray (5-3) held the Blue Jays to two runs, five hits and one walk in 6 2/3 innings as the Diamondbacks completed a three-game sweep to open a 10-game road trip.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. homered and doubled for the Blue Jays, who have lost four in a row. Toronto starter Clayton Richard (0-2) allowed seven runs, seven hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings.

White Sox 5, Royals 2

Reynaldo Lopez allowed one run on four hits over six innings to lead Chicago past host Kansas City.

Yoan Moncada had four hits and an RBI, and Eloy Jimenez had the longest home run (471 feet) in Kauffman Stadium in nearly two years. Lopez (4-6) walked one and struck out eight.

Glenn Sparkman (1-2) was the hard-luck loser for the Royals. He allowed three runs (two earned) on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN


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