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FBI Arrests Michael Grimm’s Girlfriend; Meanwhile Another Congress Member Implicated

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Diana Durand (L) has been arrested in connection with illegal campaign contributions allegedly made to the 2010 campaign of New York Republican Congressman Michael Grimm (R)

By Richard Edmondson | Fig Trees and Vineyards | January 18, 2014

Diana Durand, a Texas woman who apparently has been romantically involved with Congressman Michael Grimm, has been arrested and charged with illegally funneling money into the New York congressman’s 2010 campaign.

She is also accused of steering “straw donations” into the campaign of yet another congress member, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL), according to the New York Daily News.

A straw donation is a donation to a political campaign made by one person, though under another person’s name. It is a way of getting around legal limits on the amount of money that can be contributed to political candidates.

Schock, like Grimm, is an avid supporter of Israel.

Durand is 47-years old and was arraigned in federal court in Houston on Wednesday. She has hired an attorney, Stuart Kaplan, who is a longtime associate of Grimm, both having served in the FBI.

Grimm left the FBI in 2006, was elected to Congress in 2010, and in 2012 the FBI opened an investigation into him over possible illegal campaign donations to his 2010 congressional campaign made by supporters of Israeli Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto.

Durand is free on $50,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court on January 30. The following is from the New York Daily News account:

The single mother of one worked with Grimm before his election when he launched a trucking company near Houston. Records list her brother and sister-in-law as executives at the firm.

Sources said Durand and Grimm, 43, who is divorced, were involved romantically, and that she visited him in Washington after his election.

Durand was busted Friday, nearly five months after a Brooklyn judge first ordered her arrest. Feds spent the intervening months in an unsuccessful bid to win her cooperation in an ongoing probe into allegations that Grimm and supporters encouraged donors to make illegal contributions to his 2010 campaign, people with knowledge of the case said.

As I reported previously, campaign donations totaling more than $500,000 were reportedly solicited on Grimm’s behalf by a top Pinto aide, Ofer Biton, who was arrested in 2012 for immigration fraud and who pled guilty to that charge last August.

The FBI had sought to have Biton turn state’s evidence against Grimm, but he has refused, and apparently Durand intends doing likewise. Also as I repoted before, Grimm has friends in high places—Israel—where he reportedly maintains close ties to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and according to reports, the Israeli police have done their best to sabotage the FBI’s investigation.

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Grimm with Benjamin Netanyahu

Schock would appear to be the second congress member implicated in what seems to be a widening investigation. According to the Chicago Tribune:

Schock, 32, is a prolific fundraiser serving his third term in Congress. He had more than $2.9 million in his war chest in September, when the most recent campaign-finance reports were filed.

The House Ethics Committee has been examining Schock’s fundraising after reports that in 2012, he solicited $25,000 for a super PAC, in excess of a $5,000 limit for lawmakers asking for money for that kind of independent-expenditure group.

The Tribune also reports on a statement issued by Schock’s office in which a spokesperson said, “This literally is the first our office has heard of this issue.”

In March of 2010, Schock and 326 other members of Congress signed onto a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton affirming their “commitment to the unbreakable bond that exists between our country and the State of Israel and to express to you our deep concern over recent tension.”

The “recent tension” referred to by the signatories of the letter is an incident I referred to in my first article on the Grimm investigation. On March 9, 2010 the Israeli government announced the construction of 1,600 new homes, for Jews only, to be built in East Jerusalem. The announcement coincided with a state visit to Israel by US Vice President Joe Biden, and was viewed by many as insulting to America. Clinton referred to it as “deeply negative” for US-Israeli relations.

And as I also noted:

Coincidentally, simultaneous to the slight against Biden, the parents of Rachel Corrie were in Israel for the start of their civil trial charging the Israeli military in the wrongful death of their daughter.

Biden’s response to the announcement of the 1,600 new homes was to issue a servile statement in which he declared that “there is no space between the United States and Israel,” whereupon he boarded a plane and jetted home to America without offering any words of support to the Corrie family.

Schock and the other signers of the letter went on to state:

Our valuable bilateral relationship with Israel needs and deserves constant reinforcement. As the Vice-President said during his recent visit to Israel: “Progress occurs in the Middle East when everyone knows there is simply no space between the U.S. and Israel when it comes to security, none. No space.” Steadfast American backing has helped lead to Israeli peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. And American involvement continues to be critical to the effort to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

We recognize that, despite the extraordinary closeness between our country and Israel, there will be differences over issues both large and small. Our view is that such differences are best resolved quietly, in trust and confidence, as befits longstanding strategic allies. We hope and expect that, with mutual effort and good faith, the United States and Israel will move beyond this disruption quickly, to the lasting benefit of both nations.

Born of Morrocon Jews, Pinto is one of the richest rabbis in Israel and is viewed by some as a religious and financial “guru” and a “wonder rabbi.” His adherents in the past have included some of the wealthiest oligarchs in the world and also Israeli political leaders:

In Israel, the list of those seeking Rabbi Pinto’s advice reads like a high-society gossip column: Multi-millionaires Lev Leviev and Nochi Danker, opposition leader Tzipi Livni and former Industry Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer, who the rabbi supposedly brought out of a coma earlier this year. It is even rumoured that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu consults him.

Now, however, he seems to be in hotwater with Israeli police, who have charged him with attempting to bribe a police official—apparently in a bid to sabotage the FBI’s investigation of Grimm. The FBI is hoping to have Pinto testify against Grimm, and reportedly is in possession of a wiretap audio in which Israeli police can be heard threatening the rabbi.

And finally, as I reported yesterday, Grimm apparently isn’t the only Congress member who has accepted donations from Pinto’s wealthy followers. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is reported to have as well.

Cantor’s ties to Pinto have also been commented upon by blogger Richard Silverstein, who has written extensively on the FBI’s investigation of Grimm:

The key question is whether the techniques and solicitors used in Grimm’s campaign match those used by Cantor. If so, then the FBI is very interested in Cantor. If Cantor was smarter than Grimm and didn’t use mafiosi to collect cash as Grimm did, then he may not get into trouble. But the very fact that Cantor dipped into Grimm’s cookie jar so heavily is mighty suspicious. Who knows where it will lead?

Grimm, by the way, is not Jewish but of Italian descent, which makes us wonder why the Israelis are apparently so keen to protect him—and after all, there are plenty of Israel supporters in Congress. But as Silverstein notes, it’s insurance:

To be clear, I don’t have a smoking gun that points to Netanyahu involvement in sabotaging the FBI investigation.  But I do have a series of strong circumstantial evidence that leads in that direction.  But why would Bibi or Sara care about this enough to take such risky actions as agitating the FBI?  Let’s return to that grand strategy of electing even more Israel-friendly GOP members of Congress.  If Michael Grimm was their model to see whether Pinto was a new source of campaign cash, they needed to protect him if he might be going down.  Rather than lose their investment and shut down this conduit for millions in new campaign funding, they’d go to the mat to help Grimm.

More background on Bibi’s strategy in dealing with the U.S. political process: he’s found that presidents may not like him because they are slightly more independent than members of Congress.  But Congress is in his back pocket due to that campaign largess I mentioned earlier.  Bibi is hated in the White House but loved (or feared) in Congress.  When he can’t get an invitation to the White House, he goes over the president’s head and gets to address a Joint Session of Congress.

This is the same strategy he and the Lobby are following regarding the Iran sanctions legislation.  The president doesn’t want new sanctions.  Most sane members of Congress don’t want them either.  But the Lobby and Israel do.  They want a war with Iran.  So they want to sabotage Obama’s strategy of negotiating his way out of the impasse.  How best to do this?  Don’t confront Obama head-on because he’s an immovable object on this matter.  But do an end-around.  Activate all those pro-Israel IOUs in Congress.

So the more Michael Grimms there are in Congress, the more Israel has its own interests guaranteed in the halls of Congress.

And of course, there’s no shortage of money. In fact, in a manner of speaking, there’s money to burn:

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Rabbi Pinto, center, surrounded by oligarchs, including Israeli diamond billionaire Lev Leviev, far right.

January 19, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment