All about the Broidy case. How one of President Trump’s fundraisers initiated legal action against me
Legal representatives of the Circinus company, owned by Elliott Broidy, have announced publicly, by means of a press release sent to several Romanian newsrooms, that they initiated legal procedures against me and against HotNews.ro. In their statement, Circinus representatives say I have published „a series of defamatory articles about Mr. Elliott Broidy”. „These recent articles and subsequent statements also contain wrong, false, manipulative information and serious omissions in a manner which appears to be aimed at damaging Mr. Broidy’s reputation”, the press release signed by Matthew S. Salerno from Latham&Watkins LLP.
The press release, published by Evenimentul Zilei newspaper and Antena 3 TV channel (screenshot: Broidy: HotNews and Tapalaga are lying), during Alessandra Stoicescu’s show, concludes with the warning that „Mr. Broidy will continue to defend himself as well as his businesses with the same determination, using all possible legal means against all false and defamatory attacks, even more so as they can generate large scale losses”.
Two days before, Broidy filed a lawsuit against Qatar, accusing its government of hacking into his and his wife’s e-mails.
Given the serious accusations made by Broidy, we will put together again all information about the Circinus business in Romania, the content of the published articles and official actions made to establish the links between Donald Trump’s fundraiser, Liviu Dragnea and military contracts.
Here is all the information in the case.
The first to write on the businesses of Elliott Broidy (60) in Romania were the reporters at US publication Mcclatchydc.com. Mcclatchy published an article signed by Ben Wieder and Peter Stone on February 7, linking for the first time the fact that Broidy invited PSD leader Liviu Dragnea to the Trump Inauguration in January 2017 and the fact that Circinus, a company active in the field of military contracts, opened a Romanian branch in May 2017.
„Circinus also was scouting opportunities abroad, though. In May, 2017 – one month after Broidy became the RNC’s deputy finance chair – Circinus registered an offshoot in Romania, another country that has vowed to increase its military spending. That’s where Broidy’s inauguration guest, Dragnea, plays a key role, said the prominent Romania expert. “You couldn’t get a contract in Romania without Dragnea’s approval,” the expert said,” the American journalists wrote.
„On Broidy’s part, inviting the Romanians to the inauguration appears to have been one facet of a multi-pronged effort to win more business at home and abroad for a defense contractor, Circinus, LLC, he had quietly acquired in 2015,” the Mcclatchy journalists wrote.
The US-based publication insisted on corruption scandals involving Elliott Broidy and Liviu Dragnea, describing them in detail and explaining the wish of the PSD leader to gain the goodwill of United States politicians as part of the campaign to fight corruption accusations he faces in his home country.
What the American journalists couldn’t find until their February 7 article was published was whether the Romanian branch of Circinus had effectively won any contract in Romania. We continued the investigations at HotNews.ro, starting with the Mcclatchydc.com information. So, we checked the activity of Circinus SRL in Romania and found out, thanks to an article published by Adevarul newspaper, that Elliott Broidy’s company had just signed an agreement with Romarm company on February 1 (one week before the Mcclatchy article).
We noted at the time that the agreement was signed in a very secretive manner on February 1, without press and press releases, in a non-transparent manner, despite the event was attended by Economy minister Danut Andrusca, Defense minister Mihai Fifor and US Ambassador Hans Klemm.
Of all the media, Adevarul newspaper was the only one to publish a piece of news on February 2 about the signing of the agreement, but it erased the article from the website afterwards. The Adevarul article remained in the Google cache memory, where we found it. The Adevarul newspaper headline was: „Agreement to equip the Romanian Army with modern, NATO-standard command, control and communication programs” and it reported on the event extensively, with exclusive statements by representatives of US company Circinus Defense.
We will see below why the article was published exactly in the newspaper owned by businessman Cristian Burci, why it was erased and why no other publication reported on the event. What appeared inexplicable three weeks ago would become clear from information published later, which prove Cristian Burci’s direct interest in the business. After HotNews.ro reported about the agreement signaled in Adevarul, the article reappeared on the website. See the explanations provided by the Adevarul editor-in-chief to Paginademedia.ro.
Now, several issues have to be cleared: what the agreement between Circinus and Romarm says, what is its purpose, if it involves access to public funds and, if so, what is the value of the contract. Neither representatives of Circinus company, nor Romarm answered in a first phase to HotNews.ro questions, despite being contacted both by phone and by e-mail.
From the information published by Adevarul about this agreement and from information obtained by HotNews.ro at the time, it resulted that it was about the C4ISR system, one of the major, priority programs to equip the Armed Forces, with a value evaluated at about EUR 180 million. It is not clear whether the agreement involves access to public money or not. Neither of the parties involved provides details in this regard.
The first clarifications come from Circinus more than a week after the publication of the first article. The US company Circinus explains, in a point of view sent to HotNews.ro on February 21 and published in its entirety, that the agreement with Romarm is not a contract, but a partnership agreement and it denies that the agreement was signed in secret, saying all legal requirements were fulfilled. Also at the time, Circinus legal representative threaten with court action and claim we are liable in countries other than Romania for alleged damages generated in places where the articles could be accessed, such as the United States, United Kingdom, Germany or Spain.
„The articles that have appeared on hotnews.ro whose sources are attributed to various US publications are riddled with misrepresentations, innuendos and outright false statements. For instance: The stories describe a certain contract signed between Circinus and CN Romarm SA („Romarm”) for C4I „command and control” implementation necessary to upgrade Romanian military C4I capabilities (the „Contract”). The stories paint Circinus in a negative light, suggesting to readers that it is involved in unlawful activities, and the Contract is a pretense for extracting large sums for little in return,” the Circinus point of view shows.
In reply, I send them the following answer, which we publish in its entirety. (see also english version inside)
On March 5. almost a month after the questions were sent, the Economy Ministry provides an official answer. The Ministry thus claims the cooperation agreement signed by Romarm company and US company Circinus Defense at the Economy Ministry HQ on February 1 was not a contract, but a preliminary agreement between parties, which does not involve a selection/bidding procedures and does not contain financial clauses. The Partnership „is aimed, in principle, at industrial collaboration for the development of products and solutions in the field of intelligence and security technologies for both internal and external beneficiaries” and „the event had a discreet, not secret character„.
The first unequivocal threats from Circinus company come after a month and a week after the publication of the Mcclatchy and HotNews.ro articles, on March 16, in the form of a letter from Latham&Watkins LLP.
In short, Broidy’s legal representatives claim the articles (four of them) are defamatory, without pointing which information is untrue, false or offensive. Latham&Watkins representatives demand HotNews.ro to issue apologies, undertake in written form they will not publish other articles, erase the articles and pay consistent damages to their client.
What happened in the meantime?
An avalanche of revelations have been published in American media about Donald Trump’s fundraiser and the way he allegedly used his influence at the White House to win contracts, after his e-mail correspondence reached several newsrooms in the US.
- The Wall Street Journal, on March 1: „Trump Ally Was in Talks to Earn Millions in Effort to End 1MDB Probe in U.S. / Emails indicate Republican donor and wife were negotiating fee if the Justice Department closed its investigation / In emails dated during the past year, Elliott Broidy, a venture capitalist and a longtime Republican donor, and his wife, Robin Rosenzweig, an attorney, discuss setting up a consultinc contract with Jho Low,” a Malaysian businessman at the center of a scandal related to 1Malaysia Development Bhd., which has drawn attention to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. The messages include draft agreements between Ms. Rosensweig’s California-based law firm and representatives of Mr. Low, about possible provisions of their business arangement. In one draft there is a proposal including a USD 75 million in case the US Department of Justice closed its investigation, The Wall Street Journal reported on March 1. (Details here)
- The New York Times published a new report on March 5 about how Elliott Broidy allegedly used his influence at the White Hose to force the replacement of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (which eventually happened). „Mr. Broidy owns a private security company with hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts with the United Arab Emirates, and he extolled to Mr. Trump a paramilitary force that his company was developing for the country. He also lobbied the president to meet privately “in an informal setting” with the Emirates’ military commander and de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan; to back the U.A.E.’s hawkish policies in the region; and to fire Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson”, the New York Times read on March 5.
- Al Jazeera revealed on March 9 that the Prosecutor General of Ukraine has launched an investigation on Elliott Broidy. „The Prosecutor General of Ukraine has launched an investigation into claims surrounding an alleged multi-million dollar lobbying contract that names one of US President Donald Trump’s most influential fundraisers, Elliott Broidy. The 12-page document, which appears to have been signed by Broidy, outlines his role as providing „political advocacy” on behalf of a now sanctioned Russian bank, VTB. The deal was apparently dated June 12, 2014, just weeks before VTB Bank was blacklisted by the United States and European Union as a key Kremlin asset following Russia’s invasion of Crimea. Russian President Vladimir Putin is guest of honour at VTB Bank’s investor conference every year. The document raises serious questions about whether Broidy is in breach of the US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA),” according to which people representing the interests of other countries have to reveal their link to the respective government and provide information about their activity and financial data, according to Al Jazeera.
- On March 23, The New York Times reports that a political adviser to the de facto ruler of the U.A.E. worked for more than a year to turn „a top Trump fund-raiser into an instrument of influence at the White House for the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to interviews and previously undisclosed documents. (…) Mr. Nader tempted the fund-raiser, Mr. Broidy, with the prospect of more than $1 billion in contracts for his private security company, Circinus, and he helped deliver deals worth more than $200 million with the United Arab Emirates”, the New York Times reads. (Details here)
- The New York Times returns with new revelations about Broidy on March 25. The US publication writes that Circinus „has inside track for contracts valued at more than $200 million” in Romania, after Broidy invited Dragnea to Trump inauguration. „Mr. Broidy’s ability to leverage his political connections to boost his business illuminates how Mr. Trump’s unorthodox approach to governing has spawned a new breed of access peddling in the swamp he vowed to drain”, the New York Times writes. The article provides among others the example of the invitation sent to Liviu Dragnea, described by the authors of the article as a Romanian parliamentarian „facing corruption charges”, to attend an event at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, noting the Romanian leader published pictures with the US President on Facebook. „Circinus has yet to receive contracts from Romania, people close to Mr. Broidy said”, according to the New York Times, which notes, though, that the agreement signed by Circinus and Romarm last week „give it the inside track for contracts valued at more than $200 million”. Asked Monday, March 26, about his links to Broidy and the Romarm agreement signed by Circinus in Romania, which involved two ministries, the PSD leader said: „It was not I who was at the two ministries with Mr. Broidy, somebody else was. I learned about it from the press. No, my trip to the United States has nothing to do with those contracts. I say you are serious TV stations and investigated it, you’ll reach the truth”.
- On March 27, Reuters reports that Elliott Broidy has filed a lawsuit against Qatar, accusing its government of leaking his emails to the press as a revenge for his efforts to influence the Trump Administration in treating Qatar rivals more favorably. In the lawsuit filed at a Los Angeles court, Broidy accuses Qatar and its agents of hacking his and his wife’s emails and leaking stolen documents, through lobbyists in the US, to media organisations in order to write defamatory articles against him. (See the whole report here)
Broidy and the 2009 corruption scandal. All US newspapers who reported on Elliott Broidy recall a controversial episode from his past. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and McClatchy recall in their reports that the businessman, who owns Circinus since 2015, was involved in a corruption case in the United States in 2009. Elliott Broidy resigned as chairman of Markstone Capital after he pleaded guilty over the bribery of New York State officials and pension fund managers. Broidy pleaded guilty and Markstone agreed to return 18 million received in form of fees. He risked a prison sentence, but he dodged it by cooperating with the inquiry. (See a Reuters report on the case)
On March 27, Mcclatchydc.com returns with information on Circinus’ Romanian business. The US reporters who were first to report on the subject claim President Trump’s fundraiser has demanded support from the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US Congress to help him win contracts in Romania. According to the source, Broidy ”attempted to use a visit by Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif, who chairs the House panel, to Romania last August to help his defense firm Circinus and win points with some controversial political allies in Bucharest, according to emails and documents reviewed by McClatchy. Before Royce’s trip, Broidy offered him some unsolicited advice, and documents suggest that the businessman himself was in Romania at about the same time as Royce. A spokesman for Royce confirmed that Broidy and Royce discussed the Romania trip, but said that Royce did not take his suggestions.”
McClatchy notes the efforts of the PSD to weaken the anti-corruption laws, which sparked massive protests in Romania starting a year ago. „Before Royce’s trip to Romania last year, Broidy tried to convince him not to meet with Romania’s top anti-corruption prosecutor, Laura Kovesi, who has brought charges against Dragnea and several other politicians connected to his party, the emails show,” McClatchy reports.
Mistery surrounding businessman Burci starts to fade
McClatchy also reads that documents it received show ”that Broidy’s defense company was in talks to partner with a controversial Romanian businessman and a movie producer who played a key role in the New York state pension scandal. A draft agreement would have paid a company connected to Romanian businessman Cristian Burci and movie producer Steve Logiscli a portion of any business they helped Circinus secure in Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Azerbaijan. The agreement was never formalized, according to a person with knowledge of Circinus business operations, and Circinus has yet to win any contracts in Romania,” McClatchy reports.
McClatchy also notes that ”Burci and Broidy were at an event together in Washington with Fifor, the Romanian official Broidy had hoped Royce would contact on Circinus’s behalf, according to media reports in Romania. (…) Broidy knows Steve Loglisci from way back. He’s the brother of David Loglisci, the former chief financial officer of New York’s state pension fund and one of the officials involved in the pension pay-to-play scandal”.
The connection between Broidy, Burci and military contracts
G4Media.ro went further with the McClatchy investigation and found more details. Steven Reno Loglisci, presented by McClatchydc.com as Broidy’s man, can be found as an associate in Gray Rock SRL company in Romania, along with Ecaterina Violeta Rusan. Rusan is, for her part, a manager in several firms controlled by Cristian Burci. Established in September 2016, Gray Rock SRL’s main field of activity is ”cinematography production, video and TV programs”.
Official data consulted by G4Media.ro show that Ecaterina Violeta Ruscan is the link between Broidy and Burci, as she is associated with Loglischi (Broidy’s man) in Gray Rock SRL, but she is also manager as several of Cristian Burci’s firms. Ruscan is a manager at ad companies Proximity SRL, Graffiti Red SRL and Graffiti BBDO SA, where Luxembourg-based Graffiti Marketing and Multimedia Holding SA is main shareholder.
Dragnea distances himself from Defense minister Mihai Fifor
G4Media.ro revealed Friday, March 30 that Defense minister Mihai Fifor may be replaced in office in a government reshuffle at the direct request of PSD leader Liviu Dragnea. According to political sources, Dragnea is said to be discontent mainly about the good relationship the minister has with US officials, as it happened in the case of a former minister, Adrian Tutuianu. The second big reason is the Circinus affair. Dragnea wants to get rid of the association with fundraiser Elliott Broidy, who took the PSD leader to the Trump Inauguration events in january 2017.
This all comes half a year after Cristian Burci and Elliott Broidy on September 21, 2017 attended an event in Washington along with Defense minister Mihai Fifor. About the Romanian official, US publication Mcclatchy reports that Broidy hoped that Ed Royce, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives, would contact him in Circinus’ name.
The legal procedures in London. Somebody presenting themselves as a legal representative for Circinus in London contacted me on March 28. They asked for my address and personal data so that I be taken to court. I told them that the money they receive as a fee from Circinus should make it their duty to work a little and find my address, should they truly want to launch legal procedures. A day later, I received a notification by e-mail that Circinus has filed a so-called ”claim form” at a London court, claiming damages for articles that I have published.
Note: G4Media.ro will continue to serve the public interest despite unprecedented pressure on independent journalists. Considering the major public interest surrounding Elliott Broidy’s and his company’s actions in Romania, we will continue to make public all information, facts and documents that are relevant for the public opinion, no matter the risks, and will try to shed light in this case, as do our colleagues in the US media.
Donează lunar pentru susținerea proiectului G4Media
Donează suma dorită pentru susținerea proiectului G4Media
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