Court Sets Dec. 7 Manafort Date As Trump Russian Scandals Mount

A federal judge on Friday set Dec. 7 as a key date for prosecutors to submit their reportedly explosive evidence of recent wrongdoing by the corrupt former Trump 2016 Campaign Chair Paul J. Manafort.

amy berman jacksonAs evidence mounted of a conspiracy by President Trump's former aides to advance his business and election interests with the help of Russians, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson also set March 5 as a tentative sentencing date for Manafort. He pleaded guilty in September before Jackson, right, to extensive bank and tax fraud charges brought by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Our Justice Integrity Project covered Manafort's earlier trial in Virginia before another federal judge. A jury sitting in Alexandria convicted Manafort of massive tax and bank frauds that occurred for the most part before he joined the Trump campaign in March 2016. The evidence showed that he obtained more than $60 million in income, declared just $13 million, and obtained more than $21 million in fraudulent loans during the Trump presidential campaign.

paul manafort mugManafort, shown in a mug shot, pleaded guilty just before a second trial in Washington, DC of criminal charges based largely on his actions during the presidential campaign. Manafort, who is being held in a federal cell in Virginia pending sentencing, was reported this fall to be cooperating with authorities, seeking leniency.

But prosecutors accused him early last week of lying to them. Then Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani created another surprise by telling New York Times reporters last week that Manafort was coooperating with other defendants by sharing information through his attorneys even after his guilty plea. Commentators said they have rarely if ever heard of such actions, which could create legal problems for defense attorneys.

In sum, this is the week that the public could first see that the Mueller probe has transitioned to one targeting the president, his family and their finances with a ith a "laser" focus by Mueller's team, according to Georgetown law professor Paul Butler, who was speaking to an MSNBC host on Nov. 30.

"The President is in considerable legal jeopardy," continued Butler, a frequent MSNBC contributor who earlier in the day had sat next to this reporter in the public gallery of Judge Jackson's courtroom. The crimes committed by president, Butler said in summarizing the week's disclosures, might include obstruction of justice, fraud and campaign finance violations.

The growing pressures on Trump include those from his former longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen, now a government witness. Prosecutors announced on Thursday an additional guilty plea by Cohen, whose confession implicated both Trump and an unidentified member of the president's family in Russian-linked business planning during the presidential campaign. Cohen's legal team released the next day on Nov. 30 a memo arguing that his cooperation has been so extensive that he should receive leniency.

Trump as reacted to growing pressure by prosecutors and their witnesses by denouncing the Mueller probe and failure of the U.S. Justice Department to imprison Trump's own political enemies.

djt trump train obama clinton holder retweet nov 28 2018Trump retweeted this week, for example, the adjoining graphic by conservative commentators portraying as criminals former Presidents Obama and Clinton, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, among others.

The targets shown behind bars included Mueller and Deputy Attorney Gen. Rod Rosenstein, both of whom are Republicans and career prosecutors who won their current posts under Trump's own administration.

As noted by CNN in Donald Trump, Internet troll, the president's message to his tens of millions of Twitter followers seemingly endorsed the argument "Now that Russia's collusion is a proven lie, when do the trials for treason begin?"

Meanwhile, Trump denounced "McCarthyite" tactics by prosecutors. Trump failed to note that his late mentor, fixer and attorney Roy Cohn had previously served during the early 1950s as the chief counsel of Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI), with Cohn using his acknowledged legal skills in such a nasty, vindicative and demogagic manner as to help make term "McCarthyite" notorious at least as much as its namesake.

As president, Trump has complained that he needs a "Roy Cohn" to attack his enemies in the Justice Department, a stance that further undermines Trump's attempt to play the victim of appointees under his own administration.

Such actions and the accumulating evidence against Trump and his inner-circle paint an appalling portrait of the administration's corruption, incompetence and anti-American conduct. The scope is without parallel at high levels of government in recent decades, including the Watergate scandals.

That evidence is fast accumulating in the public eye following a hiatus from mid-September to early November. Justice Department policy discourages politically sensitive indictments shortly before federal elections. But the absence of new disclosures during that period does not mean no evidence exists.

Right after the election, Trump tried to assert new control over Mueller by appointing a new acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker. But critics promptly challenged Trump's ability under the Constitution to appoint a Cabinet secretary without Senate confirmation in a non-emergency situation, especially one involved in so many conflicts of interest and scandals as Whitaker.

The Justice Integrity Project excerpts each day major news articles and commentaries about the Mueller probe for placement on a special subsite here. Shown below this column in an appendix are selected recent news items from that site.

Last week's major developments included continuing revelations regarding Cohen's disclosures against the Trump team and about Whitaker's oft-stated opposition to Mueller and Democrats — and Whitaker's own vulnerability to challenges on both his legal status as an unconfirmed nominee and a director previously of a scam company that the Federal Trade Commission fined $26 million. The Wall Street Journal has reported that Whitaker is now under criminal investigation by the FBI that he ostensibly directs.

What Changed Last Week

paul manafort lawnewz dcmaThis reporter is among a number of other reporters and commentators who believe that last week's legal developments marked a major advance in showing publicly a roadmap of how the special counsel is demonstrating lying, greed, unethical conduct, vulnerability to Russian blackmail by Trump and / or his team, as well as the likelihood of specific crimes. These might incluide, as professor Butler stated, obstruction of justice and campaign financing violations, plus vulnerability to impeachment under the Constitution, whose standard for impeachment does not necessarily include all of the protections for a defendant used in criminal trials.

As we reported in our Sept. 17 column Five Notable Nuggets From Manafort Scandal, Trump's vulnerabilities are becoming apparent even though Trump retains many defenders in Congress, the pundit class and the public.

Longtime Democratic strategist Mark Penn, for example, argued to a Fox News audience on Friday, The Mueller investigation has come up empty on Russia "The investigation, I believe," wrote Penn, "has come up truly empty on its central charge related to the president — collusion with the Russian government. They are now trying to find someone, anyone who had any contact with Julian Assange with the aim of calling that collusion-lite."

Closer review of Penn's superficial argument shows that it omits so many vital facts that its defense of Trump amounts to little more spin. That Penn would use such sophistry is hardly rare. The pundit class if filled with those willing to say almost anything to get visibility, usually to advance their businesses or political grudges.

True, the picture is further clouded by the inherent secrecy of the investigative process (with no significant leaks so far by the Mueller team).

Another such factor is the recent vehement protests against Mueller by Trump, several of his supporters who have  either pleaded guilty or otherwise denounced prosecutors. The latter group involves Trump's longtime supporters Roger Stone and Dr.Jerome Corsi, earch of them authors and each suspected by authorities of trying ensure that WikiLeaks disclosure in 2016 of Democratic emails hacked by Russians would create maximum damage to the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton in 2016. Stone, Corsi, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and others have denied conspiring and other wrongdoing.

Corsi rejected a plea deal last week on a false statement charge with a denunciation of Mueller following extensive interviews with prosecutors. He is among the defendants who may be holding out for a presidential pardon, a difficult process because such a pardon of a witness could be used by Congress and the public as evidence of obstruction of justice by Trump.

Mueller Time

vtb bank logo 2018Those skirmishes aside, federal prosecutors obtained a guilty plea Thursday from Cohen in which he admitted lying to Congress to hide his actions in 2016 to help his longtime boss in unsucessful efforts to build a Trump-branded skyscraper in Moscow with the help of Russia's state bank VTB (logo at right). Then as now, the bank was under U.S. sanctions and thus forbidden to do business with an American such as Trump, who would thus have had every incentive to overturn sanctions against Russia that Congress and the Obama administration had imposed on the country.

Cohen identified the key American behind the Russia-liaison plan as "Individual 1," later described as Trump. The Washington Post reported in ‘Individual 1’: Trump emerges as a central subject of Mueller probe that the Cohen statements cast fresh doubts on Trump’s version of key events involving Russia. That signals potential political and legal peril for the president. "Investigators have now publicly cast Trump as a central figure of their probe into whether Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign," wrote the Post reporters, who continued this way:

Together, the documents show investigators have evidence that Trump was in close contact with his lieutenants as they made outreach to both Russia and WikiLeaks — and that they tried to conceal the extent of their activities.

A major issue in Manafort sentencing next March — and the topic of the government's submission due on Dec. 7 — is whether Manafort, 69, should receive extra punishment for violating his cooperation agreement by lying to prosecutors and sharing information about their probe with President Trump's legal team.

Mueller has charged that  Manafort committed misconduct in what many legal observers have described as a rare breach of legal norms that could bring reprisal both upon Manafort and his attorneys. Manafort's attorneys deny wrongdoing and will respond to the government's Dec. 7 filing at an unspecified date before sentencing.

The implications go far beyond the Manafort team's fate.

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Related News Coverage

The Justice Integrity Project updates almost daily a special site, Trump Watch, that excerpts news stories and commentary about the Mueller probe of the Trump administration and related events. Some of those stories are excerpted also below.

2019 Updates

Jan. 9

natasha bertrandThe Atlantic, Manafort’s Own Lawyers May Have Hastened His Downfall, Natasha Bertrand (right), Jan 9, 2019. The initial failure to redact a sensitive document was the latest in a series of missteps by Paul Manafort’s lawyers. When Paul Manafort’s lawyers accidentally revealed sensitive information about his contacts with a suspected Russian spy on Tuesday because of a redacting snafu, it wasn’t merely a blip. Rather, it was the latest in a series of apparent missteps the legal team for President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman has made in the nearly two years that it’s been defending the 69-year-old operative in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

From publicly attacking the government’s charges and opting for two trials instead of one to bizarrely maintaining a joint defense agreement with the president even after entering into a cooperation deal with the government, legal experts say Manafort’s lawyers appear to have dug their client into a deep hole. “From the beginning to the end, they pursued unconventional strategies that did not follow the usual playbook and appeared to prejudice their client,” Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor in the Northern District of Illinois, told me.

konstantin klimnikOn Tuesday, their mistake was careless. The redaction error showed that prosecutors apparently believe that Manafort shared internal Trump polling data with the suspected spy Konstantin Kilimnik [left] during the campaign.

That error aside, Manafort’s alleged lies to Mueller during the time he spent cooperating — which his lawyers don’t want to challenge with a hearing, they revealed in Tuesday’s court filings — have likely damaged his chances of getting a light sentence. (Manafort’s lawyers said in Tuesday’s court filings that he did not intentionally lie to prosecutors. “These occurrences happened during a period when Mr. Manafort was managing a U.S. presidential campaign,” they wrote. “It is not surprising at all that Mr. Manafort was unable to recall specific details prior to having his recollection refreshed.”)

Manafort may be banking on a presidential pardon, which Trump has not ruled out. But the missteps of his attorneys appear to have done Manafort more harm than good.

kevin downing head portraitMariotti pointed to the public attack on the government by Kevin Downing (left), Manafort’s lead lawyer and a tax-law specialist, following a hearing in November 2017. He described the charges against Manafort — which included money laundering, bank fraud, and tax evasion — as “ridiculous” to reporters outside the courthouse, adding that there was “no evidence the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.” His comments led to a scolding from the judge and a court-imposed gag order. “There is no good reason to attack the prosecutors from the very beginning,” Mariotti said. Downing did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Manafort declined to comment.

The unorthodox lawyering did not end there: Instead of having Manafort plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors in exchange, potentially, for a more lenient sentence, Manafort’s lawyers effectively forced Mueller’s charges into two separate courts, putting Manafort at risk of having to sit for two trials instead of one. Legal experts scratched their head at that decision; Politico described it as “akin to choosing to play Russian Roulette with two bullets in the gun instead of one.”

It was only after being convicted in Virginia on eight counts of financial fraud that Manafort decided to sign a plea agreement and forego a separate, impending trial in Washington, D.C., related to his unregistered foreign lobbying.

More than two months after Manafort agreed to cooperate, however, it was revealed that his legal team had never pulled out of its joint defense agreement with Trump’s lawyers — and had been providing valuable insights about the Mueller inquiry to them. Legal experts called the arrangement “extremely unusual” — and potentially unethical depending on what was discussed between Manafort’s lawyers and Trump’s team.

Dec. 7

Roll Call, Analysis: Why Trump’s Call for ‘Overwhelming Bipartisan’ Vote for Barr Seems Unlikely, John T. Bennett, Dec. 7, 2018. Wyden: Bush 41-era AG holds ‘anti-democratic’ view that president is ‘effectively royalty.’  President Trump and acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker on Friday gave a full-throated endorsement to the president’s pick to fill the post, former Attorney General William Barr, but Democratic senators and civil rights advocates are sounding alarms.

matthew whitaker agWilliam Barr “deserves” from the Senate “overwhelming bipartisan support,” Trump said while addressing a law enforcement conference in Kansas City. “There’s no one more capable or qualified for this position,” he claimed.

Whitaker, right, while introducing Trump at the conference in Missouri, called Barr “highly qualified.” If confirmed by the Senate for a second tour, Barr “will continue to support the men and women in blue,” Whitaker said, adding: “I commend the president for this excellence choice.”

The former AG, however, has amassed writings and comments on executive power that could make for a bumpy confirmation process. For instance, he has written about the need for the executive branch to resist congressional attempts to obtain executive data.

Justice Department log circularIn a July 1989 memo after he joined the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, Barr urged the department’s officials to try to avoid lawmakers’ “attempts to gain access to sensitive executive branch information,” as well as hinder a chief executive’s ability to fire a subordinate, the New York Times reported.

“It is important that all of us be familiar with each of these forms of encroachment on the executive’s constitutional authority,” Barr wrote in that memo. “Only by consistently and forcefully resisting such congressional incursions can executive branch prerogatives be preserved.”

Barr also has sharply questioned several key fundamental aspects of the special counsel probe, and Trump used his morning “executive time” to fire off another remarkable Twitter attack on the Russia investigation.

Dec. 3

Palmer Report, Opinion: Confirmed: Robert Mueller is about to publicly drop the hammer on Paul Manafort and Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Dec. 3, 2018. Last week Special Counsel Robert Mueller made a point of blowing up the cooperating plea deal with Paul Manafort, revealing in the process that Manafort had been conspiring with Donald Trump behind Mueller’s back. Mueller moved for immediate sentencing, which meant that he’d have to tell the judge precisely what Manafort lied about. The question was whether those details would be made public. Now we have our answer – and we know when it’ll happen.

bill palmer report logo headerRobert Mueller’s office, which rarely says anything to anyone, is making a point of telling respected political reporter Michael Isikoff that the Paul Manafort filing – which will happen this Friday – will be made public. Although there is the possibility that portions of it could be strategically redacted, we are at least about to find out most of what Manafort lied to Mueller about. So why is relevant to Donald Trump?

Considering that Manafort was secretly plotting with Trump the entire time to try to sabotage Mueller, it seems logical that Manafort was lying to Mueller about his Trump-related crimes. Mueller has clearly gotten to the truth without Manafort’s help, or else he wouldn’t have known that Manafort was lying to him. Now this public court filing allows Mueller to put the truth out there about the crimes that Manafort and Trump were committing together.

We’re now seeing what Robert Mueller’s strategy looks like. Ahead of any final report and big fish arrests, Mueller is using court proceedings to incrementally expose Donald Trump’s crimes to the public. This appears to be Mueller’s way of convincing the public that Trump and everyone around him is guilty, in order to build broader support for the Trump takedown he’s about to attempt. Mueller is still keeping his final takedown strategy a secret.

Dec. 1

Paul Manafort

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Mueller Exposes the Culture of Lying That Surrounds Trump, Sharon LaFraniere, Dec. 1, 2018. The president has demanded loyalty of advisers, including an embrace of his habitual boasts, misstatements and outright falsehoods; Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, asked a judge that he be allowed to avoid prison when he is sentenced.

When Michael D. Cohen admitted this past week to lying to Congress about a Russian business deal, he said he had testified falsely out of loyalty to President Trump. When he admitted this summer to lying on campaign finance records about payments to cover up a sex scandal during the campaign, he said it was at Mr. Trump’s direction.

paul manafort mugPaul Manafort, left, and Rick Gates, former senior Trump campaign officials, lied to cover up financial fraud. George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign aide, lied in hopes of landing an administration job. And Michael T. Flynn, another adviser, lied about his interactions with a Russian official and about other matters for reasons that remain unclear.

robert mueller kit fox medill flickr croppedIf the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, right, has proved anything in his 18-month-long investigation — besides how intensely Russia meddled in an American presidential election — it is that Mr. Trump surrounded himself throughout 2016 and early 2017 with people to whom lying seemed to be second nature.

They lied to federal authorities even when they had lawyers advising them, even when the risk of getting caught was high and even when the consequences for them were dire.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Michael Cohen’s new sentencing memo may have just taken down some of Trump’s White House advisers, Daniel Cotter, Dec. 1, 2018. Late on Friday, Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer and keeper of secrets beyond imagination, filed his Sentencing Memorandum with the Southern District of New York. In the memo, which refers to Trump as “Client 1,” Cohen through his lawyers writes about the false statements:

bill palmer report logo header"Michael’s false statements to Congress likewise sprung regrettably from Michael’s effort, as a loyal ally and then champion of Client-1, to support and advance Client-1’s political messaging. At the time that he was requested to appear before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Michael was serving as personal attorney to the President, and followed daily the political messages that both Client-1 and his staff and supporters repeatedly and forcefully broadcast.

Furthermore, in the weeks during which his then-counsel prepared his written response to the Congressional Committees, Michael remained in close and regular contact with White House based-staff and legal counsel to Client-1."

What the last paragraph does not directly state, but alludes to, is that both White House staff and legal counsel to Trump were fully aware of what Cohen was preparing to submit to Congress. It also suggests that they may have been involved assisting Cohen in drafting such responses.

Acting Attorney General Whitaker

washington post logoWashington Post, Acting AG Whitaker has suggested that Trump plays with the truth, Aaron C. Davis and Ilana Marcus, Dec. 1, 20189 (print edition). A review of hundreds of public comments by acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker shows that while he has primarily functioned as a defender of President Trump, he has also criticized the president on numerous occasions, sometimes harshly, while working as a commentator on radio and television.

Whitaker has repeatedly suggested that Trump plays with the truth. He has said Trump should release his tax returns and was “self-serving” in the way he fired FBI Director James B. Comey. Whitaker said during the run-up to the 2016 election that neither Trump nor Hillary Clinton were very good options for the presidency. “I mean, both these candidates are unlikable,” he said.

The critique of the president by Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney who rose to prominence over the past four years as the head of a conservative nonprofit group, has often come in unguarded moments, and sometimes late into on-air discussions. “Sometimes I wonder if anybody has the president’s ear or if he just kind of watches news accounts and responds to, which is a little dangerous,” Whitaker said in June 2017 on a radio show.

ny times logoNew York Times, Whitaker’s Ascent Surprised Investigators of Firm Accused of Fraud, Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Katie Benner, Dec. 1, 2018 (print edition). Matthew G. Whitaker, right, the acting attorney general, sat on the board of a patent firm that was investigated by the Federal Trade Commission. Newly disclosed documents shed light on Mr. Whitaker’s involvement with the company and investigators’ stunned reaction to his rise at the Justice Department.

matthew whitaker agAs Federal Trade Commission lawyers investigated a Miami company accused of defrauding thousands of customers, they were stunned to learn last year about a new job for a figure in their inquiry, Matthew G. Whitaker: He had been named chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“You’re not going to believe this... Matt Whitaker is now chief of staff to the Attorney General. Of the United States,” James Evans, an F.T.C. lawyer, wrote to colleagues in an email on Oct. 24, 2017.

ftc logoThe emails were part of a trove of files the trade commission made public on Friday in response to Freedom of Information Act requests for documents about its investigation into the company, World Patent Marketing. Mr. Whitaker sat on its advisory board.

In early November, President Trump fired Mr. Sessions and installed Mr. Whitaker as the acting attorney general.

His appointment immediately prompted outcry in part because Mr. Whitaker had sharply criticized the special counsel investigation into Russia’s election interference and possible ties to Trump associates, which he now oversees as the nation’s top law enforcement officer. Democrats have expressed alarm and vowed to investigate Mr. Whitaker when they take over the House of Representatives in January.

Wikileaks Angle

Raw Story, Trump pal Jerome Corsi has only raised $3,500 of his $250K legal defense fund after 4 days of begging, Bob Brigham, Dec. 1, 2018. Jerome Corsi, right, expects to be indicted by jerome corsispecial counsel Robert Mueller. Corsi is known as the “birther king” for launching the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. He has refused a plea deal and has said he’s going to file a “criminal complaint” against the special counsel.

Corsi’s legal defense team has at least two attorneys, David Gray and Larry Klayman. In an attempt to create a war chest for legal battle against the special prosecutor, Corsi has taken to the online fundraising site GoFundMe to raise money.

However, in the four days since the page was launched, only 69 people have contributed. While Corsi set the goal of raising $250,000, only $3,510 has been raised as of publication.

Other Trump Campaign, Inaugural Officials

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Fund-Raiser Received Laundered Foreign Money, Prosecutors Say, Kenneth P. Vogel, Dec. 1, 2018 (print edition). Federal prosecutors cited the involvement of a onetime top fund-raiser to President Trump on Friday in a scheme to launder millions of dollars into the country to help a flamboyant Malaysian financier end a Justice Department investigation.

elliott broidyElliott Broidy, right, a Los Angeles-based businessman who was a finance vice chairman of Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign and inauguration committees, was paid to lobby the Trump administration to try to end an investigation related to the embezzlement of billions of dollars from a Malaysian state-owned fund, according to court filings made public on Friday.

The filings were released in connection with a guilty plea entered by George Higginbotham, a former Justice Department employee. Mr. Higginbotham admitted to conspiring to lie to banks about the source of tens of millions of dollars he funneled into the United States from the Malaysian financier Jho Low, who federal authorities say masterminded a scheme to loot the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad fund, also known as 1MDB.

republican elephant logoIn his guilty plea, Mr. Higginbotham admitted that he and the entertainer and businessman Pras Michel, a former member of the Fugees, a defunct hip-hop group, arranged for millions of dollars of Mr. Low’s money to be transferred to a law firm owned by Mr. Broidy’s wife to pay them to try to end the 1MDB investigation. Mr. Higginbotham, who left the Justice Department in August, was not involved in the department’s investigation of Mr. Low, and is cooperating with prosecutors.

A draft agreement called for a $75 million “success fee” to be paid to Mr. Broidy if the investigation was resolved within 180 days, or $50 million if it was resolved within 365 days.

The charging papers and supporting documents do not identify Mr. Broidy or his wife, Robin Rosenzweig, by name, and neither has been charged with a crime. But the facts of the case align with previous reporting on Mr. Broidy’s efforts related to 1MDB, as well as emails from Mr. Broidy that were stolen from Ms. Rosenzweig’s account and disseminated to news outlets that match emails cited in Friday’s court filings.

Mr. Broidy, who pleaded guilty in 2009 in an unrelated pension fund bribery case, is one of several Trump associates whose business with foreign governments and figures has attracted scrutiny, including from investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

A veteran Republican fund-raiser who also owns a defense contracting firm, Mr. Broidy had seemed positioned to become a highly influential figure in a political hierarchy that was upended by Mr. Trump’s victory. Mr. Broidy had started raising money for Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign at a time when most elite Republican donors were staying away. After Mr. Trump’s election, Mr. Broidy marketed his connection to the new administration to politicians, businessmen and governments around the world, including some with unsavory records, and won big contracts for his defense firm.

Nov. 30

Putin, Trump, Collusion

Palmer Report, Opinion: Vladimir Putin signals the end of Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Dec. 1, 2018. It’s difficult to tell who was trying harder to avoid whom, when Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin all but pretended they didn’t know each other at the opening of the G20 summit.

But the telling moment came when Putin then walked over and high-fived the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, a clear show of excited solidarity between two murderous leaders who each hold puppet strings over the “President of the United States.” Ultimately, however, the real upshot came when Putin issued a statement about his canceled G20 meeting with Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerMoments after Michael Cohen revealed in court that Donald Trump had been plotting with Russian election riggers to build Trump Tower Moscow during the election, Trump announced that he was canceling his planned one-on-one meeting with Putin at the G20. There was no doubt as to the real reason, but Trump used the convenient cover story of Russia’s recent military aggression against Ukraine. It turns out Putin wasn’t happy with that explanation.

Putin’s spokesperson announced during the G20 summit that Donald Trump had more likely canceled the meeting due to “the U.S. domestic political situation” – which was a clear reference to the developments in the Trump-Russia scandal. Here’s the thing.

Putin knowns that the best way he could help Trump right now would be to go along with the cover story that this was about Ukraine. Instead, Putin decided to deliver a dagger by pointing out that Trump, rather obviously, canceled the meeting because of his own worsening scandals. It’s now clear that Putin isn’t even willing to provide Trump any cover on these things. And if Putin isn’t willing to prop Trump up anymore, then it signals the end of Trump. Putin must now be calculating that he’s personally better off if Trump sinks than swims.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Is Compromised by Russia, Michelle Goldberg, Nov. 30, 2018 (print edition). Michael Cohen's latest plea is proof. One of the chief questions in dmitry peskovthe Trump-Russia scandal has been whether Vladimir Putin has leverage over the president of the United States, and, if so, what that leverage looks like. The significance of the fabled “pee tape,” after all, is not that it would reveal Donald Trump to be a pervert bent on defiling the place where Barack Obama slept. Rather, the tape matters because, if real, it would show the president to be vulnerable to Russian blackmail. (Putin aide Dmitry Peskov is shown at right.)

That’s also why evidence of Trump’s business involvement with Russia would be significant, as Trump himself acknowledged shortly before his inauguration, when he tweeted, “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA — NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

We still don’t know for certain if Russia has used leverage over Trump. But there should no longer be any doubt that Russia has leverage over him.

Fox Defends Trump

fox news logo SmallFox News, Opinion: The Mueller investigation has come up empty on Russia — You won’t believe what's coming next, Mark Penn, Nov. 30, 2018. The pattern and purpose of Mueller’s investigation and the endgame is becoming clear, and yes, it’s clearly get the president at all costs. The team Mueller hired really foretold the story — Andrew Weissmann as the stop-at-nothing pit bull and a group of Democratic-leaning lawyers, including some who have represented the Clintons, had the obstruction of justice charge ready to go on day one.

Trump’s first team of lawyers with their “don’t worry and cooperate” strategy set the president back, and let the whole thing spiral out of control. The investigation, I believe, has come up truly empty on its central charge related to the president — collusion with the Russian government. They are now trying to find someone, anyone who had any contact with Julian Assange with the aim of calling that collusion-lite. But mostly what Mueller’s team is doing is bludgeoning witnesses on unrelated charges to piece together a case against the president. They are shaping that case through the indictments -- and threats of indictments -- that are being used to get guilty pleas to make the president seem like an obstructor or co-conspirator. They are literally creating the crimes. Let’s review what Mueller and his team are doing:

Michael Cohen

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Cohen Lied. Here’s Why It Matters, Editorial Board, Nov. 30, 2019 (print edition). With Michael Cohen’s latest deal, the special counsel shows he is President Donald Trump officialunafraid of crossing Donald Trump’s red lines on Russia. When all is said and done, the April raids by federal prosecutors targeting Michael Cohen’s office and other premises in Manhattan may be seen as a turning point for Donald Trump’s presidency.

Those raids — and Mr. Cohen’s own malfeasance — opened the door for Robert Mueller, on Thursday, to convict President Trump’s longtime loyalist and personal lawyer of lying to Congress.

What the special counsel has gathered since the raids provides the clearest proof yet to the American public that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry — derided by the president and his allies as an aimless fishing expedition — is rooted in the law and facts. To those critics, this latest move was surely meant to send another message as well: He’s not about to back down.

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC:

, Host Rachel Maddow, Nov. 30, 2018. If other evidence in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s possession were to connect any dots showing that Trump and/or his White House advisers influenced Cohen’s false testimony, many people will be facing some difficult legal issues. The week of the weak president continues to get worse, and it is no wonder that while others are smiling at the G20, Trump seems distracted.

Matthew Whitaker

washington post logoWashington Post, Whitaker fielded complaints about patent company yet promoted it, records show, Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Nov. 30, ftc logo2018. Months after joining the advisory board of a Miami-based patent company in 2014, Matthew G. Whitaker began fielding angry complaints from customers that they were being defrauded, including from a client who showed up at his Iowa office to appeal to him personally for help, records show.

Yet Whitaker, now the acting attorney general, remained an active champion of World Patent Marketing for three years — even expressing willingness to star in national television ads promoting the firm, the records show.

Internal Federal Trade Commission documents released Friday in response to a public records request reveal the extent of Whitaker’s support for World Patent Marketing, even amid a barrage of warnings about the company’s behavior.

Donald Trump

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Individual 1’: Trump emerges as a central subject of Mueller probe, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 30, 2018 (print edition). In two major developments this week, President Trump has been labeled in the parlance of criminal investigations as a major subject of interest, complete with an opaque legal code name: “Individual 1.”

New evidence from two separate fronts of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation casts fresh doubts on Trump’s version of key events involving Russia, signaling potential political and legal peril for the president. Investigators have now publicly cast Trump as a central figure of their probe into whether Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign.

Together, the documents show investigators have evidence that Trump was in close contact with his lieutenants as they made outreach to both Russia and WikiLeaks — and that they tried to conceal the extent of their activities.

Money Laundering?

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Deutsche Bank, Trump, and Russia: A WhoWhatWhy Primer, Staff report, Nov. 30, 2018. Early Thursday morning German authorities raided the global powerhouse Deutsche Bank in relation to a money laundering investigation. The raid was reportedly spurred by information garnered from the Panama Papers — the 2015 document leak that revealed how wealthy international figures hide their riches via offshore bank accounts and shady shell companies. The new House Democratic leadership may also investigate.

At WhoWhatWhy, we’ve been watching Deutsche for quite a while — particularly its activities in the United States, its involvement with Russia, and its ties to Donald Trump. Here’s our Deutsche primer:

A Global Bank for Oligarchs — American and Russian, Part 1 (1/08/2018); Part 2 (1/15/2018); Part 3 (2/01/2018); Where the Dots of Russiagate Connect (1/24/2018); and House GOP Leads Russia Probe … Away From Deutsche Bank (2/27/2018).

Nov. 29

Michael Cohen

michael cohen 7 14 2015 cnn custom

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's longtime personal attorney (shown above during a 2016 cable news appearance backing his boss's candidacy).

ny times logoNew York Times, Michael Cohen Admits Talks for Trump Over Moscow Tower Occurred Well Into Campaign, Benjamin Weiser, Ben Protess, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Nov. 29, 2018. Mr. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, admitted that he had engaged in negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow well into the 2016 presidential campaign, far later than previously known. After Mr. Cohen’s plea, Mr. Trump said his former fixer was once again lying in order to get a reduced sentence for the crimes he pleaded guilty to earlier this year.

The revelations, which came as Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, were a startling turn in the special counsel’s investigation of Mr. Trump and his inner circle.

Mr. Cohen’s guilty plea comes at a particularly perilous time for Mr. Trump, whose presidency has been threatened by Mr. Cohen’s statements to investigators. In recent days, the president and his lawyers have increased their attacks on the Justice Department and the special counsel’s office.

Shortly after Mr. Cohen’s plea, Mr. Trump said his former fixer was once again lying in order to get a reduced sentence for the crimes he pleaded guilty to earlier this year. Under the earlier plea agreement, Mr. Cohen faced about four or five years in prison.

Mr. Cohen concluded his statement in court by saying, “I made these misstatements to be consistent with Individual 1’s political messaging and out of loyalty to Individual 1.”

“Individual 1” is President Trump, officials said.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, pleads guilty to lying to Congress, Rosalind S. Helderman, Nov. 29, 2018. Michael Cohen, a former personal attorney to President Trump, pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate project Trump pursued during the months he was running for president, according to the Associated Press. During the campaign, Cohen acted as Trump’s point person in an attempt to built a Trump-branded development in Moscow. He has said the project was in its early stages in the fall of 2015, as Trump’s presidential campaign heated up.

But he has said the project stalled in January 2016 prompting him to email a top aide to Russian President Vladi¬mir Putin to ask for help. Cohen previously has said he never received a response and the project was halted in January 2016.

robert muellerCohen’s new guilty plea is the latest development in a wide-ranging investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, right, into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump had insisted in the summer of 2016 that he had no business interests in Russia, statements that would be undermined if Cohen is now asserting conversations about the project continued past January 2016.

msnbc logo CustomRelated commentary: MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell described the guilty pleas significance as the first time that Cohen had described Trump Organization financial dealings with Russia and a potential gateway to Cohen's cooperation in prosecution focus on members of the Trump family. Former Justice Department executive Chuck Rosenberg, an MSNBC regular contributor, agreed with Mitchell's analysis on the noon interview.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: 4 key takeaways from Michael Cohen’s new plea deal, Aaron Blake, Nov. 29, 2018. Michael Cohen reached a new plea deal Thursday with the team of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, in which he admitted to lying to Congress about an effort to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Below are a few takeaways about what’s significant.

1. There are conspicuous mentions of Trump and his family2. Putin’s spokesman appears to have helped cover this up3. This ties the Trump family’s efforts to the Russian government4) The deal apparently died the day The Post broke a story about Russian hacking.

Russian Trump Building

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Presidents Trump and Putin meet last July (White House photo).

Buzzfeed, The Trump Organization Planned To Give Vladimir Putin The $50 Million Penthouse In Trump Tower Moscow, Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold, Nov. 29, 2018. During the presidential campaign, Michael Cohen discussed the matter with a representative of Putin’s press secretary, according to two US sources.

President Donald Trump’s company planned to give a $50 million penthouse at Trump Tower Moscow to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the company negotiated the luxury real estate development during the 2016 campaign, according to four people, one of them the originator of the plan.

Two US law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed News that Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer at the time, discussed the idea with a representative of Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary.

The Trump Tower Moscow plan is at the heart of a new plea agreement by Cohen, who led the negotiations to bring a gleaming, 100-story building to the Russian capital. Cohen acknowledged in court that he had lied to Congress about the plan in order to protect Trump and his presidential campaign.

The revelation that representatives of the Trump Organization planned to forge direct financial links with the leader of a hostile nation at the height of the campaign raises fresh questions about President Trump's relationship with the Kremlin. The plan never went anywhere because the tower deal ultimately fizzled, and it is not clear whether Trump knew of the intention to give away the penthouse. But Cohen said in court documents that he regularly briefed Trump and his family on the Moscow negotiations.

Trump Cancels Putin Meeting

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Cancels Meeting With Putin Over Russia’s Hostilities With Ukraine, Peter Baker, Nov. 29, 2018. President Trump on Thursday abruptly canceled his planned meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, citing the unresolved naval standoff between Russia and Ukraine and upending his hopes of further cementing the relationship between the two leaders.

The president’s decision, announced on Twitter barely an hour after he told reporters he still expected to go through with the meeting, came shortly after new revelations that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer was secretly negotiating to build a tower in Moscow during the 2016 presidential election.

Trump Tax Lawyer Raided

Palmer Report, Opinion: Feds invade office of Donald Trump’s former longtime tax attorney, Bill Palmer, Nov. 29, 2018.  The Feds have invaded the office of Chicago Alderman Edward Burke, ordered everyone out, and placed brown paper over the doors, according to a tweet from Chicago Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman. Here’s the thing about Burke. bill palmer report logo headerHe’s not just an Alderman for the city of Chicago. He also runs a law firm that did tax work for Donald Trump for twelve years, only to sever the relationship a few months ago. So what’s going on here?

The raid strongly suggests that Burke is being criminally investigated by the Feds. There are any number of potential reason for such an investigation, ranging from Burke’s political activities, to his various law firm clients. But when you factor in that Burke did tax work for Trump, and he’s being raided on the same day that Trump’s money guy Michael Cohen is incriminating Trump, and on the same day Trump’s favorite money laundering bank is being raided for money laundering, is this all one big coincidence?

Trump-linked Bank Under Scrutiny

ny times logoNew York Times, Deutsche Bank Offices Are Searched in Money Laundering Investigation, Melissa Eddy and Amie Tsang, Nov. 29, 2018. The company’s headquarters in Frankfurt were searched as part of an inquiry related to the so-called Panama Papers. The money-laundering investigation involves hundreds of millions of euros.

deutsche bank logoOne hundred seventy officers searched the headquarters of Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt and five other sites in the area early Thursday as part of a money-laundering investigation involving hundreds of millions of euros, prosecutors in Frankfurt said.

Two employees, who were not publicly identified but whose ages were given as 50 and 46, and other “unidentified people in positions of authority” are suspected of failing to report possible money laundering for transactions worth 311 million euros, or more than $350 million.

The money flowed to organizations in the British Virgin Islands before spring 2016, prosecutors said in an emailed statement.

JIP Editor's Note: Deutsche Bank has been widely reported elsewhere to have been the major bank financing the Trump Organization after most major banks withheld financing. Justin Kennedy, son of the recently retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, was formerly a key liaison at the bank between it and organizations led by the future president and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

natasha bertrandMueller Probe: Russian Ties

The Atlantic, Papadopoulos’s Russia Ties Continue to Intrigue the FBI, Natasha Bertrand, right, and Scott Stedman, Nov. 28, 2018. The former foreign-policy adviser to the Trump campaign boasted of a Russia business deal even after the election, according a new letter under review.

George Papadopoulos, a Trump-campaign adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his interactions with a Russia-linked professor in 2016, went to jail on Monday after fighting, and failing, to delay the start of his two-week prison sentence. But a letter now being investigated by the House Intelligence Committee and the FBI indicates that Papadopoulos is still in the crosshairs of investigators probing a potential conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The stunning implications of the Manafort-Trump pipeline, Harry Litman, Nov. 29, 2018 (print edition). Harry Litman teaches constitutional law at the University of California at San Diego. He has served as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania and deputy assistant attorney general.

Following the implosion of Paul Manafort’s cooperation agreement with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, a lawyer for President Trump casually announced that Manafort’s lawyers had been briefing Trump’s lawyers about his sessions with the Mueller team all along.

This revelation, far from routine, in fact is jaw-dropping — and it has significant legal and political implications.

First, and least, it represents another breach of the demolished cooperation agreement that Manafort entered into to avoid the expense and near-certain conviction in a second trial.

paul manafort mugSecond, whatever Team Trump may assert, the conversations between some combination of Manafort (shown in a mug shot), Trump and the lawyers for both of them were not privileged, and Mueller is entitled to know their contents. Thus, Mueller is fully entitled to subpoena Manafort counsel Kevin Downing and whichever Trump counsel spoke with him (one trusts it wasn’t Emmet Flood, who is too savvy for such shenanigans) and force them to reveal every word of the discussions.

Finally, the open pipeline between cooperator Manafort and suspect Trump may have been not only extraordinary but also criminal. On Manafort and Downing’s end, there is a circumstantial case for obstruction of justice.

Matthew Whitaker

Palmer Report, Opinion: Is this the part where Matt Whitaker gets fired? Bill Palmer, Nov. 29, 2018. In all the surreal developments today surrounding Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s decision to have Michael Cohen publicly implicate Donald Trump in the Trump Tower Moscow election scandal, one of the most noteworthy aspects was that Mueller did anything at all. Trump installed Matthew Whitaker at Acting Attorney General specifically to hamstring Mueller, yet here was Mueller, pulling off a huge swing at Trump.

We don’t know why Matt Whitaker rolled over today, but we do know that he did in fact roll over. Multiple major news outlets reported that Robert Mueller had Rod Rosenstein sign off on the Michael Cohen move, and while Whitaker was informed before it happened, he clearly didn’t stop it from happening. Did he try to stop it and fail? Did he fail to try? We don’t have any way of knowing. But the bottom line is that he utterly, crucially, failed Trump today.

Now Donald Trump has a decision to make. His scheme to stop Robert Mueller, by installing Matt Whitaker, is not working. So now what? Does Trump give Whitaker a stern talking to about his expectations going forward? Does Trump fire the guy, and try to find someone else to be his new Acting Attorney General?

Donald Trump could surely get away with firing Matthew Whitaker, because no one thinks the Whitaker appointment was appropriate or legal anyway. But unless Trump can immediately find some other corrupt lackey to install in his place, Rod Rosenstein would become the new Acting Attorney General, which would only serve to further strengthen Robert Mueller’s position. So will Trump sit tight on an apparent busted hand, or will he fire Whitaker out of spite, knowing it could cost him even more? Stay tuned.

Money Laundering Claim

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s favorite money laundering bank, Deutsche Bank, just got its headquarters raided, Bill Palmer, Nov. 29, 2018. This morning, Special Counsel Robert Mueller made a major move against Donald Trump by having cooperating witness Michael Cohen plead guilty to having lied about the timeframe for the ill-fated Trump Tower Moscow project during the 2016 election. Even as this plays out, another major scandal has come to a head with Deutsche Bank – and while it’s not yet clear what’s happening, it would be one heck of a coincidence if the two aren’t related.

bill palmer report logo headerDeutsche Bank’s headquarters in Frankfurt just got raided by the authorities as part of what the New York Times says is a massive money laundering investigation. The Times story does not mention Donald Trump or Russia. But if you’ve been paying attention these past two years, you know two things about Trump, Russia, and Deutsche Bank.

deutsche bank logoFirst, Deutsche Bank has routinely loaned major sums of money to Donald Trump over the years, even after he became such a poor credit risk that other banks wouldn’t touch him, and even after Deutsche ran into financial troubles of its own.

Second, Deutsche Bank was busted by U.S. and UK authorities in early 2017 for having laundered massive sums of money from Russia into the hands of people in places like New York City. It’s never been proven, but it’s long been widely suspected that these two stories are the same, and that Deutsche Bank was using these “loans” to launder Russian money to Trump in New York.

WikiLeaks Angle

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s night-owl calls to Roger Stone in 2016 draw scrutiny in Mueller probe, Manuel Roig-Franzia, Manuel Roig-Franzia, Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 29, 2018 (print edition). The calls almost always came deep into the night. Caller ID labeled them “unknown,” but Roger Stone said he knew to pick up quickly during those harried months of the 2016 presidential campaign. There would be a good chance that the voice on the other end of the line would belong to his decades-long friend — the restless, insomniac candidate Donald Trump — dialing from a blocked phone number.

Those nocturnal chats and other contacts between the man who now occupies the Oval Office and an infamous political trickster have come under intensifying scrutiny as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation bores into whether Stone served as a bridge between Trump and WikiLeaks as the group was publishing hacked Democratic emails.

Mueller’s keen interest in their relationship was laid out in a draft court document revealed this week in which prosecutors drew a direct line between the two men — referring to Stone as someone understood to be in regular contact with senior Trump campaign officials, “including with then-candidate Donald J. Trump.”

david cay johnston headshotDCReport, Opinion: Donald Trump May Have Just Lied His Way to Prison, David Cay Johnston (right, DCReport Editor-in-Chief and author of two books on President Trump's career), Nov. 29, 2018. How the Mueller Team Has Played Two Con Artists, Unmasking a Double Agent and Enticing the Other to Perjury.

Pay close attention to the front page story in Wednesday’s New York Times about Paul Manafort’s lawyer cooperating with Trump’s lawyers (Manafort’s Lawyer Is Said to Have Briefed Trump Team on Mueller Talks). It may well prove to be very important news just a short way down the road.

Its sole named source is Rudy Giuliani (below left), Trump’s television lawyer. Giuliani acknowledged that information gleaned from Manafort’s meetings with FBI agents and prosecutors as a cooperating witness was being passed to Team Trump by Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing.

rudy giuliani recentThat one fact could well doom Trump’s presidency and perhaps land Trump and others behind bars. After Manafort was convicted of eight federal felonies last August and was about to endure the costs of a second federal trial, the former Trump campaign manager agreed in September to cooperate with Muller’s prosecution team.

We call that “flipping” because you switch sides, from criminal to law enforcement. Flipping requires criminals to be completely truthful in every detail with prosecutors about known crimes as well as disclosing still hidden criminal activity.

If Trump and his lawyer relied on what Manafort’s lawyer passed on from meetings with Team Mueller, this double-agent legal game may blow up in Trump’s face.

More On Trump

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: 48 hours of Trump lies in a few tweets, Wayne Madsen, Nov. 29, 2018. In a mere 48 hours, incessant Donald Trump lies, communicated via Twitter, have rocked the stock market, enraged union workers, and have further eroded public confidence in the ability of the White House and its enablers in Congress to govern.

Nov. 28

Paul Manafortpaul manafort abc flickr Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Manafort’s Lawyer Is Said to Have Briefed Trump Team on Mueller Talks, Michael S. Schmidt, Sharon LaFraniere and Maggie Haberman, Nov. 28, 2018 (print edition). A lawyer for Paul Manafort, the president’s onetime campaign chairman shown above in a 2016 photo, repeatedly briefed President Trump’s lawyers on his client’s discussions with federal investigators after Mr. Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel, according to one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers and two other people familiar with the conversations.

The arrangement was highly unusual and inflamed tensions with the special counsel’s office when prosecutors discovered it after Mr. Manafort began cooperating two months ago, rudy giuliani recentthe people said. Some legal experts speculated that it was a bid by Mr. Manafort for a presidential pardon even as he worked with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in hopes of a lighter sentence.

kevin downing head portraitRudolph W. Giuliani, left, one of the president’s personal lawyers, acknowledged the arrangement on Tuesday and defended it as a source of valuable insights into the special counsel’s inquiry and where it was headed. Such information could help shape a legal defense strategy, and it also appeared to give Mr. Trump and his legal advisers ammunition in their public relations campaign against Mr. Mueller’s office.

For example, Mr. Giuliani said, Mr. Manafort’s lawyer Kevin M. Downing, right, told him that prosecutors hammered away at whether the president knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting where Russians promised to deliver damaging information on Hillary Clinton to his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.

The president has long denied knowing about the meeting in advance. “He wants Manafort to incriminate Trump,” Mr. Giuliani declared of Mr. Mueller

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What Was Paul Manafort Thinking? Harry Litman (former United States attorney and deputy assistant attorney general), Nov. 28, 2018 (print edition). There’s no good explanation for why he lied to Mueller.

How to make sense of the bizarre turn of events involving Paul Manafort?

robert mueller kit fox medill flickr croppedTwo months ago, he struck a plea deal with Robert Mueller, right, the special counsel — he pleaded guilty but agreed to provide full and truthful information in exchange for a more lenient sentence. But according to a filing by Mr. Mueller’s team on Monday, Mr. Manafort lied to them repeatedly, and after multiple warnings. He is now in a far worse position than if he had never elected to cooperate, or if he had followed through on his agreement.

What was he thinking? All of the available explanations for Mr. Manafort’s self-destructive path seem highly implausible, at best. So which hypothesis is the least implausible?

Hypothesis No. 1: The Pardon PromiseHypothesis No. 2: The Assassination FixationHypothesis No. 3: The Bad Gambler

New York Post, Trump says pardon for Paul Manafort still a possibility, Marisa Schultz and Nikki Schwab, Nov. 28, 2018. Trump compares Mueller's investigation to McCarthyism; Manafort lawyer shared Mueller probe details with Trump's legal team. He’s never discussed a pardon for Paul Manafort, President Trump said Wednesday — but it’s “not off the table.” “It was never discussed, but I wouldn’t take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?” the president said during an Oval Office interview.

He ripped special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe and charged that Manafort, former political adviser Roger Stone and Stone’s associate Jerome Corsi were all asked to lie by the special counsel. “If you told the truth, you go to jail,” Trump said.

“You know this flipping stuff is terrible. You flip and you lie and you get — the prosecutors will tell you 99 percent of the time they can get people to flip. It’s rare that they can’t,” Trump said.

“But I had three people: Manafort, Corsi — I don’t know Corsi, but he refuses to say what they demanded. Manafort, Corsi and Roger Stone.”

“It’s actually very brave,” he said of the trio. “And I’m telling you, this is McCarthyism. We are in the McCarthy era. This is no better than McCarthy. And that was a bad situation for the country. But this is where we are. And it’s a terrible thing,” Trump added.

Mueller’s team has accused Manafort of repeatedly lying to them “on a variety of subject matters.”

Trump v. Mueller

djt trump train obama clinton holder retweet nov 28 2018

cnn logoCNN, Donald Trump, Internet troll, Chris Cillizza, Nov. 28, 2018. Donald Trump has always had some Internet troll in him. He loves to provoke. He often traffics in half-truths (or less). He's a big fan of memes. But of late -- and with regard to Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation in particular -- the President is embracing his inner troll. Consider how Trump spent his Wednesday morning.

The image features a series of people behind prison bars -- including special counsel Mueller, former President Barack Obama and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein -- with the words, "Now that Russian collusion is a proven lie, when do the trials for treason begin?" written across the picture.

Then, Trump retweeted a set of month-old tweets from conservative commentators — Dan Bongino and Charlie Kirk — featuring Hillary Clinton cracking a joke after Recode's Kara Swisher mixed up Eric Holder and Cory Booker. "I know they all look alike," Clinton joked of the two African-American men.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump throws deranged fit about “treason,” Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 28, 2018. Now that we’ve learned that Paul Manafort reportedly met with WikiLeaks bill palmerfounder Julian Assange during the 2016 election, the mainstream media is finally beginning to cautiously use the word “treason” to characterize the Trump-Russia scandal. After all, we’re talking about Donald Trump’s campaign boss conspiring with a foreign enemy to try to alter the outcome of the election in Trump’s favor – and it’s difficult to imagine that Trump wasn’t in on the plot. Now Trump is the one throwing around the word “treason” – in typically deranged fashion.

This morning, after Donald Trump finished hyperbolically comparing Special Counsel Robert Mueller to Joseph McCarthy, he then retweeted a post which said “Now that Russia collusion is a proven lie, when do the trials begin for treason?” Included was an image which depicted Mueller, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, James Comey, and a number of other people in prison.

bill palmer report logo headerWith this retweet, Donald Trump – the supposed President of the United States – unquestionably accused all of his political opponents, and the people investigating his crimes, of committing “treason.” This is, of course, egregious beyond characterization, and should result in immediate impeachment and ouster.

But the real upshot here is that Trump now feels compelled to preemptively accuse his adversaries of treason because he knows that’s what his own people – and eventually himself – are going to be accused of having committed.

We can spend all day parsing the legal definition of the word treason. Many people mistakenly think treason charges require a declaration of war, when prosecutorial history reveals that such charges only require an act of war, and that the definition of an “act of war” has tended to be pliable. For instance, the Russian hacking of the elections could be defined as an act of cyber war.

usa today logoUSA Today, Senate again blocks Senate bill that would protect special counsel Robert Mueller, Eliza Collins and Bart Jansen, Nov. 28, 2018. The Senate again blocked an expedited vote on legislation that would protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired.

jeff flake oSens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. (right); Chris Coons, D-Del., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., urged brisk debate on the legislation in an effort to prevent President Donald Trump from firing Mueller Wednesday. Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah objected to the request, blocking immediate action. Lee said the bill was unconstitutional.

The bill had passed on a bipartisan basis out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but has been kept off the floor by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who said there is no need to bring it up. Before calling for unanimous consent, Flake said he worried that his colleagues who said there was no need for legislation because "there hasn't been any indication that Mr. Mueller be removed from office" were making a mistake.

"With the president tweeting on a regular basis, a daily basis, that the special counsel is conflicted, that he is leading the so-called 12 angry Democrats and demeaning and ridiculing him in every way, to be so sanguine about the chances of him getting fired is folly for us, I believe," Flake said.

nbc news logoNBC News, Trump's legal team has joint defense agreement with Stone ally Corsi, Anna Schecter, Nov. 28, 2018. President Donald Trump's legal team has a mutual defense agreement in place with conservative author Jerome Corsi amid special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into the 2016 election, according to Corsi and the president's lawyer.

Corsi, an associate of Roger Stone, said his lawyer David Gray has spoken with Trump attorney Jay Sekulow on more than one occasion about his dealings with Mueller.

"I wanted Jay Sekulow as the president's attorney to know what was happening to me with the Mueller investigation," said Corsi.

"I did this because I support Donald Trump...I wanted him to survive the Mueller investigation unscathed, which I believe he will, and I want him to be reelected in 2020."

washington post logoWashington Post, Losing cooperators is a blow, but not a fatal one, for Mueller, analysts say, Matt Zapotosky, Nov. 28, 2018 (print edition). Prosecutors said former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort violated his plea agreement by lying, while another possible witness declined to take a deal.

roger stone screenshot 2018 11 28

Roger Stone on C-SPAN

Lawfare, Opinion: Roger Stone’s ‘Time in the Barrel’: Campaign Dirty Tricks, Political Sabotage and the Law, Bob Bauer, Nov. 28, 2018. Bob Bauer served as White House Counsel to President Obama. In 2013, the President named Bob to be Co-Chair of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. He is a Professor of Practice and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at New York University School of Law, as well as the co-director of the university's Legislative and Regulatory Process Clinic.

Roger Stone is pleased to be known as a campaign “dirty trickster.” A former Trump campaign aide and Republican operative, he has embraced his past as practitioner of the political dark arts. “One man’s dirty tricks,” he has said, are “another man’s political, civic action. He has warned that “Politics ain’t bean bag, and losers don’t legislate.” Going still further, he has articulated as one of his “rules” for success that “To win you must do everything.” Yet he has also insisted that, “Everything I do, everything I’ve ever done has been legal.”

This claim is now likely to be put to the test. News reports increasingly suggest that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is circling around Roger Stone and his associates in the Russia matter and that the legality of his “dirty tricks” is very much in question.

Stone’s argument that ”it’s all just politics” is close in kind to the First Amendment protection defenses that the Trump campaign has claimed it enjoys even if, as alleged, it had contacts with Russia and WikiLeaks. Like those defenses, Stone’s claims will be evaluated in the light of the still emerging but increasingly troubling facts of the campaign and its associates’ active connivance with the Russian cyber attack on the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign. As the Watergate prosecutions showed, dirty tricks pursued to sabotage an opposing campaign are very much a legal issue. They are not easily passed off as good old-fashioned hardball politics, the kind that “ain’t beanbag”—especially when, as in this case, the fellow tricksters are a foreign government and its agents.

Nov. 27

Palmer Report, Commentary: Looks like Robert Mueller just busted Paul Manafort, Julian Assange, and Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Nov. 27, 2018. This morning The Guardian revealed that Paul Manafort met with Julian Assange three times at the Ecuadorian embassy, according to its visitor logs, including once while Manafort was running Donald Trump’s campaign. This isn’t some zany coincidence. This is, rather obviously, what Manafort lied to Robert Mueller about.

Let’s be clear here about what Paul Manafort was doing. [I]t’s engaging in an international treason plot to systematically rig an election. It’s not something you do unless the candidate is on board. So yeah, Trump had to have known.

bill palmer report logo headerRobert Mueller’s ten-day delay is still the linchpin to all of this. He could have busted Manafort for lying ten days ago, when the status update was originally due. Instead he made a point of briefly delaying the news. As we pointed out last night, the only relevant item that transpired during those ten days was that Donald Trump reached his deadline and turned in his written answers about Trump-Russia collusion.

It’s not difficult to parse that Mueller was looking to bait Trump into lying, in writing, about Manafort and Assange. This means Mueller has Trump nailed for not only being in on the election collusion conspiracy, but then committing the additional crime of lying about it in writing. As we’ve seen, even when Mueller has strong evidence to prove that someone committed a complex crime, he likes initially nailing them on simpler crimes instead, because it’s quicker and easier.

The plot between the Trump campaign, Russia, and WikiLeaks wasn’t merely being run by sideshow clowns like Roger Stone or Jerome Corsi. It was being run by Donald Trump’s campaign boss, who was meeting with the enemy in person, and there’s no doubt Trump knew all about it.

More On Mueller Probe

Guardian, Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy, Luke Harding and Dan Collyns, Nov. 27, 2018. Trump ally met WikiLeaks founder months before emails hacked by Russia were published. Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign, the Guardian has been told.

Sources have said Manafort went to see Assange in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016 – during the period when he was made a key figure in Trump’s push for the White House.

It is unclear why Manafort wanted to see Assange and what was discussed. But the last meeting is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

A well-placed source has told the Guardian that Manafort went to see Assange around March 2016. Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers.

Manafort, 69, denies involvement in the hack and says the claim is “100% false.” His lawyers declined to answer the Guardian’s questions about the visits. The revelation could shed new light on the sequence of events in the run-up to summer 2016, when WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of emails hacked by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. Hillary Clinton has said the hack contributed to her defeat.

Nov. 26

paul manafort abc flickr Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Manafort Breached Plea Deal by Repeatedly Lying, Mueller Says, Sharon LaFraniere, Nov. 26, 2018. Paul Manafort, above, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, repeatedly lied to federal investigators in breach of a plea agreement he signed two months ago, the special counsel’s office said in a court filing late on Monday. Prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, said Mr. Manafort’s “crimes and lies” about “a variety of subject matters” relieve them of all promises they made to him in the plea agreement. But under the terms of the agreement, Mr. Manafort cannot withdraw his guilty plea.

Defense lawyers disagreed that Mr. Manafort, shown at right in a mug shot, has violated the deal. In the same filing, they said that Mr. Manafort has met repeatedly with the special paul manafort mugcounsel’s office and “believes he has provided truthful information.”

But given the impasse between the two sides, they asked Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to set a sentencing date for Mr. Manafort, who has been in solitary confinement in a detention center in Alexandria, Va., since June.

The dramatic development in the 11th hour of Mr. Manafort’s case is a fresh sign of the prosecutors’ aggressive approach in investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential race and whether anyone in the Trump campaign knew about or assisted Moscow’s effort.

Mr. Manafort had hoped that in agreeing to cooperate with Mr. Mueller’s team, prosecutors would argue that he deserved a lighter punishment. He is expected to face at least a decade-long prison term for 10 felony counts ranging from financial fraud to conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Instead, after at least a dozen sessions with him, federal prosecutors have not only decided Mr. Manafort does not deserve leniency, but also could seek to refile other charges that they had agreed to dismiss as part of the plea deal.

More On Mueller Probe

abc news logoABC News, Roger Stone associate Jerome Corsi says he is rejecting a plea deal from Robert Mueller, Ali Dukakis, Pierre Thomas, Lucien Bruggeman, Nov. 26, 2018. Jerome Corsi, an associate of former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, has decided to reject a plea deal he says was offered to him by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

jerome corsiIn an interview with ABC News on Monday, Corsi, right, said the special counsel offered to allow him to plead guilty to one count of lying to federal investigators in exchange for cooperation in the probe and leniency at sentencing.

He provided ABC News with copies of a plea agreement he says was drafted by Mueller’s prosecutors that would have exposed Corsi to a prison sentence of up to five years for “knowingly [making] materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” to the FBI about communications with an unidentified “associate’s request to get in touch with an organization that he understood to be in possession of stolen emails and other documents pertaining to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” The unknown associate mentioned by Mueller matches the description of Roger Stone, who hired Corsi to do research for him during the 2016 election.

Corsi, a former Infowars bureau chief known for promulgating political smear campaigns and conspiracy theories, told ABC News that he could not sign on to a plea deal for a crime he says he did not commit.

“If I have to go to jail for the rest of my life, so be it,” Corsi said. “Have at it. I will not tell a lie to a federal judge or anybody else."

Nov. 25george papadopoulos simona mangiante mueller

Former Trump Team advisor George Papadopoulos (now a convicted felon), his wife Simona Mangiante, an outspoken critic of Special Counsel Robert Mueller III, right (file photos).

george papadopoulos mug croppedPalmer Report, Opinion: Judge in George Papadopoulos case hands major victory to Robert Mueller, Bill Palmer, Nov. 25, 2018. The judge in the George Papadopoulos case has ruled that he must start his fourteen day prison sentence tomorrow. This is not a big deal in and of itself, as he’ll be released with plenty of time left to go Christmas shopping. The big deal is the defense strategy that Papadopoulos (shown in a mug shot) was trying to use, and the fact that the judge rejected it out of hand.

In a separate ongoing legal battle, Robert Mueller tried to force Andrew Miller to testify before the grand jury about his longtime associate Roger Stone. Miller responded by challenging Mueller’s overall prosecutorial authority, and the battle is still playing out in court.

George Papadopoulos tried making the argument that his prison sentence should be delayed indefinitely, until a ruling is made in the Mueller/Miller matter. The logic was that if Mueller’s authority is struck down, then the charges against Papadopoulos would vanish anyway.



Sept. 17

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Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, left, and Deputy Campaign Manager Rick Gates, a former aide and business partner to Manafort for a decade.

Justice Integrity Project, Five Notable Nuggets From Manafort Scandal, Andrew Kreig, Sept. 17, 2018.  An analysis of the guilty plea on Sept. 14 by the corrupt global strategist Paul Manafort features five notable crime scenarios easy to overlook by busy readers or even many reporters.

The former 2016 Trump campaign chairman admitted during his federal court plea deal too many crimes to mention here or in any other news commentary of reasonable length, as described here in a court filing.

This editor covered Manafort’s guilty pleas on Sept. 14 at the federal courthouse in Washington, DC and the defendant's trial last month at the federal courthouse across the Potomac River from the District in Alexandria, Virginia.

Sept. 16

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump goes berserk about the demise of his presidency, Bill Palmer, Sept. 16, 2018. As of 4pm eastern time [Saturday], Donald Trump hadn’t tweeted anything at all – leaving some to wonder if perhaps his handlers had slipped a sedative in his coffee to keep him from exploding about the Paul Manafort plea deal against him.

Trump came alive by late afternoon, bragging about what a great job he was doing with Hurricane Florence, even while failing to acknowledge the Americans who were dying in the storm. Then around 6 pm, he remembered that Robert Mueller and Manafort had just destroyed his life, and he went off the deep end about it. It also included admissions to charges that the Virginia jury hung on, though Friday’s cooperation deal agreed to dismiss them after Manafort is sentenced.

Sept. 15

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I was a prosecutor. Here’s what stands out to me about Manafort’s deal with Mueller, Deanna Paul, Sept. 15, 2018. What’s clear is that Paul Manafort was out of cards to play. Unlike the other criminally charged former Trump aides, Manafort’s problem was that he was facing a functional life sentence.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, a prison term is determined by a defendant’s criminal history and his conduct during the charged crime.

In the D.C. plea deal, that calculation did not work out well for Manafort, handing him a particularly onerous sentence. In addition to a court-imposed fine, according to court documents, the range for Manafort was 210 to 262 months imprisonment, or 17 to 20 years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Guilty plea exposes hardball tactics Manafort used to thrive in ‘swamp,’ Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Matt Zapotosky, Sept. 16, 2018 (print edition). Before he was the Trump campaign chairman, the lobbyist went to extreme lengths in a secret effort to help a Ukrainian politician, court papers show.

Trump For PresidentBefore he was Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort embraced extreme tactics in his lobbying efforts: He schemed “to plant some stink” and spread stories that a jailed Ukrainian politician was a murderer. He enlisted a foreign politician who was secretly on his payroll to deliver a message to President Barack Obama in the Oval Office. And he gleefully fueled allegations that an Obama Cabinet member who had spoken out against his Ukrainian client was an anti-Semite, according to court papers.

With his guilty plea Friday, Manafort admitted the lengths to which he went to manipulate the American political system and the media for massive profit, exposing how he thrived in the Washington swamp that Trump railed against during his campaign.

fbi logoThe president has dismissed the allegations against his former campaign chairman as run-of-the-mill lobbying — and has even contemplated pardoning him. But new details revealed Friday show how far beyond the law Manafort went in pursuit of his goals.

By pleading guilty, Manafort agreed that he knew he was required by law to publicly report that a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party was paying him and his stable of lobbyists, which included former leaders of Austria, Poland and Italy.

viktor yanukovychInstead, he operated in the dark, working diligently to keep his lobbying for Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych, right, a secret and pocketing millions routed through offshore bank accounts to hide his work and avoid paying taxes.

“This is extraordinary,” said Michael McFaul, a Stanford University professor who served as U.S. ambassador to Moscow.

“I was well aware at the time that Manafort was making efforts to present Yanukovych in the best light,” McFaul said, but added that he had no idea of the extent of Manafort’s elaborate schemes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I was a prosecutor. Here’s what stands out to me about Manafort’s deal with Mueller, Deanna Paul, Sept. 15, 2018. What’s clear is that Paul Manafort was out of cards to play. Unlike the other criminally charged former Trump aides, Manafort’s problem was that he was facing a functional life sentence.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, a prison term is determined by a defendant’s criminal history and his conduct during the charged crime.

In the D.C. plea deal, that calculation did not work out well for Manafort, handing him a particularly onerous sentence. In addition to a court-imposed fine, according to court documents, the range for Manafort was 210 to 262 months imprisonment, or 17 to 20 years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis, Robert Mueller may have just eliminated one of Trump’s biggest complaints, Philip Bump, Sept. 15, 2018 (print edition). Trump likes to complain about the cost of the Mueller probe. It might just have paid for itself.

If we assume the same cost-per-day for the investigation that was reported through March of this year, the probe has so far cost the government about $26 million. That’s the $17 million through March and another $9 million since.

But here’s the thing, pointed out by journalist Marcy Wheeler on her personal site: The Mueller probe may have just paid for itself.

Why? Because part of the plea agreement reached between Mueller and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort includes forfeiture of certain property to the government. While it’s not clear how much value will be extracted from that forfeiture, there’s reason to think that it could more than pay for what Mueller has incurred so far.

ny times logoNew York Times, Paul Manafort Forfeits $22 Million in New York Real Estate in Plea Deal, Julia Jacobs, Sept. 15, 2018. Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, is forfeiting an estimated $22 million worth of real estate in New York — including three Manhattan apartments, a Brooklyn townhouse and a home in the Hamptons — as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors announced on Friday.

Under the terms of the deal, Mr. Manafort agreed to tell all he knows to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mr. Manafort, 69, said he would turn over to the government the five properties in New York, including an apartment in Trump Tower, as well as the contents of three bank accounts and his life insurance policy.Two of the Manhattan apartments, in SoHo, are estimated to be worth $3.2 million and $4.1 million, according to an estimate by Zillow, the online real estate company. Mr. Manafort’s apartment in Trump Tower in Midtown has an estimated value of $3 million.

The first four and a half months of the special counsel investigation cost taxpayers nearly $7 million, including $3.2 million in direct spending by Mr. Mueller’s team. The investigation has lasted about 16 months.

Sept. 14

cbs news logoCBS News, Paul Manafort will cooperate with special counsel, Paula Reid, Clare Hymes, Steven Portnoy and Jeff Pegues, Sept. 14, 2018 (4:16 min. video). Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort entered a guilty plea to two felonies Friday. He will also be cooperating with the special counsel in its Russia investigation, prosecutor Andrew Weissman told the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. Friday.

Weissman referred to Manafort's plea deal as a cooperation agreement in court Friday, which could jeopardize his chances of a presidential pardon. In late July, an attorney for Manafort told CBS News' Paula Reid that there was "no chance" his client would cooperate with the special counsel in its Russia probe. It is not yet clear whether Manafort's cooperation is related to President Trump or whether he would provide information on some other aspect of the investigation.

Manafort appeared at the hearing with three attorneys, including Kevin Downing, who said nothing during the hearing. The government brought a large contingent, though special counsel Robert Mueller was not present. Several lawyers, FBI and IRS agents who had worked on the case attended the hearing, occupying two-and-a-half rows in the audience. They were all hugging and congratulating each other at the end of the hearing.

The president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was asked by Reid (CBS Washington correspondent) whether he had been told by Manafort's attorneys that the cooperation deal will not require him to share anything related to the president. "I'm confident," he replied, without saying whether Manafort's lawyers had given him this assurance.

Manafort is pleading guilty to charges the special counsel filed Friday on conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiracy to obstruct justice. The former includes money laundering, tax fraud, failing to file Foreign Bank Accounts, and the latter includes the charge of witness tampering.

Manafort is still subject to whatever sentence is imposed in the Virginia trial. And the judge may decide to run those sentences consecutively or concurrently. In Washington, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that based on the guidelines, which are determined based on factors such as Manafort's involvement and the nature of the crimes, he faces a range of 210 to 262 months and a $400,000 fine. But that is more than the statutory maximum, which is five years, which the judge cannot exceed.

The charges were filed in a superseding criminal information -- a formal criminal charge -- which lays out the facts of the offense and is often the precursor to the announcement of a deal.

In the courtroom, Manafort stared straight ahead, while Weissman read a condensed version of the litany of illegal acts to which Manafort is pleading guilty. Jackson called it the "longest and most detailed" reading of criminal information she had ever heard.

paul manafort cnn

The Atlantic, What Paul Manafort Knows, Franklin Foer, Sept. 14, 2018. What kind of threat does Paul Manafort now pose to Donald Trump? Robert Mueller’s indictment of the fallen lobbyist is a masterful portrait of a craven man and his methods.

But the chronology contained in the document filed this morning takes us right up to the eve of Manafort joining the Trump campaign, and then leaves the reader bursting with curiosity about what comes next. While Mueller has tied up all sorts of narratives about Manafort’s strange career in Ukraine, so many strands of the Manafort story remain maddeningly untidy.

Perhaps not even Mueller fully knows what Manafort has to offer about his time in the Trump campaign. But in the unresolved threads of the tale, there are hints of the subjects that Manafort could clarify.

washington post logoWashington Post, Manafort to plead guilty to second set of charges in Mueller probe, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Sept. 14, 2018. The signal of a plea by Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, came not long before his trial in D.C. on charges of money laundering and lobbying violations and after his August conviction in federal court in Virginia.

• Read the new court filing in Manafort’s case, with excerpt at the top below. Some conduct extended into 2017, according to the plea document:

 PAUL J. MANAFORT, JR. (MANAFORT) served for years as a political consultant and lobbyist. Between at least 2006 and 2015, MANAFORT conspired with Richard W. Gates (Gates), Konstantin Kilimnik (Kilimnik), and others to act, and acted, as unregistered agents of a foreign government and political party.

Specifically, MANAFORT conspired to act and acted as an agent of the Government of Ukraine, the Party of Regions (a Ukrainian political party whose leader Victor Yanukovych was President from 2010 to 2014), President Yanukovych, and the Opposition Bloc (a successor to the Party of Regions that formed in 2014 when Yanukovych fled to Russia).

MANAFORT generated more than 60 million dollars in income as a result of his Ukraine work. In order to hide Ukraine payments from United States authorities, from approximately 2006 through at least 2016, MANAFORT, with the assistance of Gates and Kilimnik, laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships, and bank accounts.

Sept. 13

michael flynn flickr gage skidmore phoenix 10 29 2016

Convicted felon and former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, shown in a 2016 campaign photo by Gage Skidmore

Daily Beast, Opinion: Michael Flynn to Appear at Far-Right Conference With Pizzagaters, Racist YouTube Stars, Kelly Weill, Sept. 13, 2018. President Trump’s disgraced former national security adviser will be picking up an award from conspiracy-mongering outlet The Gateway Pundit.

While he awaits sentencing for lying to the FBI, former national security advisor Michael Flynn will take his awards where he can get them — even if that means appearing alongside Pizzagate pushers and racist YouTubers.

Flynn, a former lieutenant general who resigned as Trump’s national security advisor after he was revealed to have lied about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador, could spend up to six months in prison for lying to the FBI. That hasn’t stopped the Gateway Pundit, a far-right, conspiracy-mongering news outlet, from presenting Flynn with a “Award for Service to America” at its upcoming conference this weekend. The conference features Pizzagate conspiracy theorists, an alt-right YouTuber accused of leading a “cult,” and members of far-right European parties.Advertisement

Flynn is scheduled to appear Friday night, following a series of speeches on why “President Trump Is #Winning.” Flynn, whose contacts with Russian and Turkish officials have brought scrutiny on the Trump administration, is arguably not the best spokesperson for #Winning.

But the Gateway Pundit has a history of playing loose with facts. The website falsely named a young Michigan man as the killer who drove a car into a crowd of anti-racist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia last year. Gateway Pundit smeared the man as an “anti-Trump druggie” before the actual driver was revealed as neo-Nazi James Fields Jr. The Michigan man and his family are suing the Gateway Pundit, as is a man who uploaded a video of the car attack. The Gateway Pundit accused him of being a deep state plant who orchestrated the attack. After the smear campaign, conspiracy theorists harassed the man’s family and mailed him white powder, he alleges. The Gateway Pundit responded to the second lawsuit by calling the plaintiff an “unhinged leftie hack.” Both cases are ongoing.

The Gateway Pundit has also variously misidentified bomb-makers and shooters as anti-Trumpers, and peddled conspiracies about Hillary Clinton’s health during the 2016 election.