Manafort Case Shows Trump, Bush-era DoJ Crimes, Misconduct


Down With Tyranny! first published this column

Among the remarkable Mueller probe revelations last week was the claim that attorneys for former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort (shown in a mugshot) have been sharing confidential information paul manafort mugabout the special counsel’s investigation with the legal team of “Individual 1,” aka President Trump.

The New York Times broke the main story electronically on Nov. 27 under the headline, Manafort’s Lawyer Is Said to Have Briefed Trump Team on Mueller Talks. Reporters Michael S. Schmidt, Sharon LaFraniere and Maggie Haberman wrote:

A lawyer for Paul Manafort 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, the 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.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, 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.

A number of prominent legal pundits soon warned that such cooperation was not only rare but could be regarded as criminally illegal and / or unethical, thereby triggering potential liability for President Trump, Manafort and the lawyers involved.

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

Potential problems could include obstruction of justice (under the theory that the actions could have the intent and effect of undermining the special counsel’s investigation). The conduct also could provide grounds for impeachment of Trump and potential bar sanctions against attorneys involved.

More importantly, the controversy illustrates continuing tension between the federal enforcement “community” and the opportunists (or worse) who operate within the justice system or on its fringes. Such conflicts are especially important and outrageous as the Trump administration draws upon some of the very worst Bush administration attorneys.

Among the many such shocking situations, this column focuses on three such officials who have become extremely prominent and otherwise newsworthy, in part because of their ties to President Trump and his team.

kevin downing head portraitManafort’s lead defense attorney, Kevin Downing (right), is a former senior litigator within the Justice Department’s tax fraud section, which missed a series of colossal tax frauds, including by Downing’s future client Manafort. Downing reportedly is also one of the attorneys involved in the liaison with the Trump White House that the New York Times reported last week;

• U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta as U.S. attorney for Miami in the Bush administration was involved both in major tax fraud cover-ups and also in whitewashing the federal-state prosecution of billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein is a Trump friend and neighbor who is back in the news this week with the beginning of a major defamation trial in West Palm Beach, Florida; and

• Our third Bush-era former Justice Department official is Matthew Whitaker, whom Trump named as acting attorney general after Whitaker tried out for the job by arguing on cable news shows that Mueller’s investigation are excessive and unwarranted. Whitaker’s career includes a stint as a Bush-appointed U.S. attorney for southern Iowa, where he vigorously prosecuted one of his political enemies whom a jury acquitted in just two hours.

An Overview

Let’s provide some context before exploring more thoroughly the abusive conduct of these three officials-- and the utter failure of watchdog mechanisms, whether in the Justice Department, courts, Congress or the media, to do much about these problems, at least so far.

The problem of rogue officials using their powers within the U.S. Justice Department for political purposes exploded into the national consciousness in late 2006 and early 2007 with the so-called “U.S. Attorney firing scandal.” Bush administration forced the resignation of nine (by some counts eight) of the nation’s 93 powerful regional U.S. attorneys.

Most of the mainstream media focused on the injustice visited upon that handful of prosecutors who were fired for their failure to bring political cases (often involving prosecuting Democrats on flimsy charges, including “corruption” and “vote fraud”).

Yet the much larger scandal was the actions by the remaining U.S. attorneys around the nation to keep their jobs despite pressures from Bush White House senior advisor Karl Rove and ambitious political operatives in the Justice Department.

Their goal? Apparently this: To drive prominent Democrats out of office and into prison, often via flimsy “corruption” charges of the kind that framed (there’s no other word for it) former don siegelman wAlabama Gov. Don Siegelman, his state’s most prominent Democrat.

Siegelman was sentenced to prison for a seven-year term, with significant segments in solitary confinement to punish him for interviews about the gross injustice. The nearly two decades of prosecutions have helped seriously undermine the Alabama Democratic Party in its efforts to achieve statewide election victories. The only major exception for more than a decade was the unique circumstance of former Siegelman attorney Doug Jones' 2017 special election victory over accused pedophile Roy Moore for a U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, Trump's pick to become attorney general last year.

Other goals of the politically driven Bush Justice Department included protecting important Republicans and Republican-oriented institutions from prosecution. Another was to lay the groundwork for current voter suppression efforts by hoked-up prosecutions and fear-mongering about the largely non-existent problem of individual voter fraud while ignoring larger scale efforts to rig entire elections, particularly in swing states.

Down With Tyranny was prominent among the news outlets, primarily in the alternative media, that helped expose these problems in the Siegelman case and similar situations. One of dozens of reports that I wrote about this was for the Huffington Post in 2009, Siegelman Deserves New Trial Because of Judge’s ‘Grudge’, Evidence Shows... $300 Million in Bush Military Contracts Awarded to Judge’s Private Company.

Democrats Forgive, Forget?

Sadly, however, the Obama administration took little interest in documented injustices in these kinds of cases throughout the nation.

eric holder HR oIn many instances, Obama officials sought to ratify in the courts the abusive tactics initiated by the Bush Justice Department. Obama Attorney Gen. Eric Holder and Solicitor Gen. Elena Kagan, for example, opposed Siegelman’s appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court that had been endorsed by unprecedented numbers of law professors and former state attorneys general who underscored the injustice of his prosecution.

Holder, right, after a recent speaking appearance at the Center for American Progress seeking to energize Democratic voters this year, told me in a brief interview that he was not familiar with the Siegelman case.

That was a brush-off given the case’s notoriety.

tamarah grimesHolder had fired Justice Department whistleblower -- paralegal Tamarah Grimes, left -- who complained against the government’s tactics [See From Justice Dream Job to Nightmare…Tamarah Grimes, Justice Department Paralegal… Why This Whistleblower Was Dissed & Dismissed, KNOW: The Magazine For Paralegals.]

As if that weren’t enough to focus Holder’s attention on Alabama, his late sister-in-law, Vivian Malone, had integrated the University of Alabama in an iconic desegregation advance.

Where's Accountability?

So here we are, December 2018. The public faces large numbers of lingering injustices from the Bush era and large cadres of “law enforcers” from that period who have positioned themselves for higher office in an even more lawless Trump administration.

Let’s look again at Kevin Downing, Manafort’s lead defense attorney. The Manafort prosecution includes, among other charges, jury verdicts and Manafort’s later guilty plea involving Manafort’s receipt of $60 million in income from 2012 to 2016, a period when he reported just $13 million.

paul manafort abc flickr CustomDowning left the Justice Department as a senior litigation counsel in mid-2012 for private practice. His representation of Manafort (shown Trump 2016 campaign chairman) raises questions about "revolving door" justice.

In fairness to Downing, Manafort’s wrongdoing described in the Mueller indictment thus largely fell outside of Downing’s prominent role at the Justice Department’s tax fraud section. It's true also that Downing received an award from Holder for prosecuting fraud by Switzerland-based UBS, one of the world’s most influential financial companies.

However, the whistleblowing former UBS banker Bradley Birkenfeld portrays Downing in Birkenfeld’s 2016 memoir Lucifer’s Banker as one of the villains in what became one of the leading documented financial fraud investigations in U.S. history.

Birkenfeld asserts that Downing and his Justice Department team reacted with scorn and other hostility when Birkenfeld came to them voluntarily in 2007 with massive evidence revealing the identities of what he called 19,000 U.S. tax cheats who were part of a tax and money laundering fraud that UBS was perpetrating against the U.S. Treasury and public.

bradley birkenfeld cover mugBirkenfeld writes that Downing and his team, under pressure for another major investigation that was failing, appeared to be frightened at the prospect of criminally prosecuting the powerful UBS and its ultra-wealthy clients. Instead, Birkenfeld alleges that they made him a convenient scapegoat with the help of the Miami U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta.

Birkenfeld, right, a fall guy by his account, received a three-year prison term even though he was the one who alerted the federal government to the massive scheme and brought them the documentary evidence.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department handled UBS higher-ups and their crooked clients almost entirely via civil actions far less onerous than criminal prosecution. At the same time, Birkenfeld and his attorneys learned in the midst of his ordeal that the Internal Revenue Service was collecting $15 billion in taxes and penalties from the UBS scandal, leading to a $103 million whistleblower award for Birkenfeld.

That’s history. What may be ahead is a claim by some legal pundits that Manafort, his attorneys and Trump’s team appear to have illegally colluded by conveying information this fall after Manafort’s plea deal in mid-September, as reported in the New York Times story.

Several experts have said there is no basis for “joint defense agreement” between a defendant who has pleaded guilty and others who are fighting the special counsel. We are reaching out to Downing for comment.

The Epstein Pedophile Scandal

Acosta, below, a Harvard-educated son of Cuban immigrants, became assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights beginning in 2003.

alexander acosta labor oThe positioning provided the Bush administration with the politically useful, especially in Florida, a public image of a Hispanic professional in a key post. As it turns out, many of the key hiring decisions there were being made by Acosta's aide, Bradley Schlozman, who would be rebuked by the department’s Inspector General for improperly favoring conservatives in hiring decisions.

Schlozman went on to become U.S. attorney in Kansas City where he became a notorious vote-suppression and "voter fraud" zealot who sought to crucify Democrats and minorities for relatively trivial misconduct in voter registration drives.

In one such case, Schlozman and his colleagues threw the book at minimum-wage voter registration canvassers who made up names for voter registration lists but without the government proving that the fraud involved an effort to compromise actual voting. Yet that prosecution could be touted as "voter fraud" requiring "reforms" best categorized these as the voter suppression increasingly common in many GOP-controlled voting regions.

Acosta’s own most notorious action came when he approved a sweetheart plea deal for the billionaire pervert and investor Jeffrey Epstein after West Palm Beach police documented jeffrey epstein sex offendermore than 100 “Jane Doe” complaints of teenage girls whom Epstein, right, allegedly victimized in a ring targeting junior high and high school girls.

Epstein used surrogates to recruit the girls to give him "massages" that evolved into sexual encounters at his mansion located in a ritzy area just a mile from the Mar-a-Lago estate Epstein’s friend Donald Trump.

What helped make the case outrageous is that Acosta ended a joint federal-state investigation with a highly unusual plea deal whereby Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution.

Under a highly unusual provision of the plea deal, the government agreed not to investigate anyone else, including those who recruited the girls and Epstein’s high-powered friends. They included Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew of the United Kingdom.

As it turned out, Epstein served just 13 months and was permitted "work release" whereby he could leave a West Palm Beach jail during the day and return at night during his sentence. Acosta did not inform victims and their families of the terms of the sweetheart plea deal.

That has prompted years of acrimony, litigation and adverse news commentary, including a major Miami Herald investigation published on Nov. 28 entitled "Perversion of Justice." Here is a link to one of the main stories that provides a gateway to the multi-part series: Perversion of Justice: A decade before #MeToo, a multimillionaire sex offender from Florida got the ultimate break. Link to several other segments are shown in the appendix below.

perversion of justice miami herald logoHerald reporters led by Julie K. Brown identified 60 victims, among other sources, focusing heavily on Acosta's decision-making more than a decade ago. Their powerful stories included How a future Trump Cabinet member gave a serial sex abuser the deal of a lifetime.

Trump apparently rewarded Acosta by naming him in February 2017 as nominee to become Secretary of Labor, the federal government’s main post protecting American workers.

Some reporters at that point (including me) promptly highlighted Acosta's role in the Epstein case but senators proved too timid to question him in depth about it before his confirmation.

My colleague Wayne Madsen, editor of the Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), a prolific author, and a former Navy intelligence officer, and I last year began reporting that two girls, aged 12 and 13, filed legal papers alleging that Epstein and Trump had raped them in the early 1990s in New York City.

Defendants denied the claims. The girls then withdrew their allegations shortly before the 2016 presidential election, with one accuser “Katie Johnson” (a pseudonym) claiming fear at the time from death threats from unknown persons.

Madsen and I documented the story last January in a series that included the segment underscoring the blackmail / extortion liabilities of such predatory behavior targeting underage girls: Trump’s multiple sex scandals endanger U.S. national security. Here is one of the stories: Trump’s multiple sex scandals endanger U.S. national security. 

The accusations continue to percolate. This is in part because Acosta is reported to be a long-shot to be nominated at the next U.S. attorney general. Trump has said he wants a loyalist in the position, unlike the now-dismissed Sessions, who recused himself from supervising Mueller because Sessions had been implicated with Russian contacts during the presidential campaign.

Beyond that, a much-delayed civil trial was scheduled to begin on Dec. 4 in West Palm Beach. to resolve vexatious litigation and defamation claims between Epstein and Bradley J. Edwards and attorneys representing victims. Madsen and I were among the reporters planning to cover the trial. But it was settled at its outset, as reported here in the Palm Beach Post's Settlement reached in Epstein case; Frankel urges probe of Acosta and in WMR's Decade of litigation wraps up with Epstein apology to sex victims' attorney.

The Next Mueller Boss

Finally, we revisit the appointment of the current acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker, left, whose appointment by Trump without U.S. Senate confirmation has been widely denounced matthew whitaker headshot recentas unconstitutional tactic to shift supervision of the special counsel’s probe of alleged crime by Trump and his team away from the current supervisor, Deputy Attorney Gen. Rod Rosenstein.

As of this writing, Whitaker is not known to have interfered with the Mueller probe which Whitaker had denounced during his de facto "audition" for the Justice Department's post as a pro-Trump pundit on cable news shows. But that may be only because Whitaker's appointment is under several legal challenges, which are compounded by Whitaker’s remarkably shabby professional qualifications for such a high post.

News reports have indicated that Whitaker helped direct a scam company fined $26 million by the Federal Trade Commission for deceiving customers, for example, and that the company is currently under federal criminal investigation. These dubious achievements are chronicled in our column, updated almost daily, Trump's New Acting AG Is Unfit To Serve.

As indicated by that roundup, Whitaker’s critics have found a trove of unseemly conduct in his past. But perhaps most relevant to this column’s themes is his zealous prosecution Matthew McCoy Official Portrait 85th GAbeginning in 2007 of Iowa State Sen. Matt McCoy, right, a gay Democrat with solid electoral support portending a bright future.

In a pattern similar to other Bush political prosecutions across the nation, Whitaker ruthlessly targeted McCoy as corrupt for seeking commissions totaling about $2,000 from a local company. But a federal jury in 2007 acquitted McCoy in just two hours.

McCoy served a total of 26 years in Iowa's legislature before winning by a huge margin this year a race to become supervisor of Polk County, encompassing the state capital of Des Moines.

Bottom Line

The injustices portrayed above largely focus on the actions of just three prominent Trump-era alumns from the Bush era. We know lots about them now.

Looking ahead, one question is whether anyone is going to do much to prevent similar abuses from the Trump administration's ex-Bushie "law enforcers" that Senate Republicans are trying to confirm en masse into the federal judiciary and Justice Department.

In January 2009, President-elect Obama tried to mollify Republicans and the public by telling an ABC News interviewer that his administration was including to "look forward" regarding alleged Republican injustices and human rights violations during the Bush administration:  "And I don't believe that anybody is above the law," Obama said. "On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards."

That's a whitewash because law enforcement necessarily looks "backward." Ignoring injustice and its perpetrators must not happen again with the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.


Justice Integrity Project editor Andrew Kreig is a Washington, DC-based reporter, attorney and author whose non-partisan project has long investigated political prosecutions and other official misconduct, including cover-up. He has extensively covered voter suppression, the Siegelman and Manafort federal corruption cases, and corrupt actions by prominent federal officials.

Contact the author This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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

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. 8

djt christmas eve 2017 on phone no credit

washington post logoWashington Post, 5 big takeaways from the Cohen, Manafort filings, Aaron Blake, Dec. 8, 2018 (print edition). In all three court filings Friday night, the plot thickened for President Trump just a little bit. Federal prosecutors drew some more important lines between Russia and those connected to President Trump (shown in a file photo) on Friday, in a trio of filings in the Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort cases.

Beginning late Friday afternoon, we saw Cohen sentencing recommendations filed by both the Southern District of New York and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation (here from New York federal prosecutors and here from Mueller's team), and a document from Mueller’s team laying out Paul Manafort’s alleged lies to it (here).

In all three, the plot thickened for Trump just a little bit. Below are the big takeaways.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Is Mueller Building an Expansive Obstruction Case? Bob Bauer (professor of law, shown at right), Dec. 8, 2018. The sentencing memos suggest the possibility that Trump and perhaps others were involved in a series of lies from Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen.

robert bauerThe court filings on Friday in the Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort cases require reading between the lines. Some lines, redacted, are missing altogether. However, what has been made public calls for reconsidering the longstanding assumptions about President Trump’s potential exposure to a charge of obstruction of justice.

That discussion has been dominated by the circumstances around the firing of James Comey, the former F.B.I. director. But Mr. Cohen and Mr. Manafort, along with the former national security adviser Michael Flynn, may now have become central figures in inquiries into whether the president, and perhaps others acting at his guidance, directed, encouraged or acquiesced in lies to criminal and congressional investigators.

In the special counsel’s sentencing memorandum, prosecutors credit Michael Cohen with four “respects” in which his assistance has been “significant.” One involves the details Mr. Cohen provided about the “circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the Congressional inquiries.” In that testimony, he lied about the president’s business dealings with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. We know from Mr. Cohen’s earlier plea agreement that, for his testimony, he was in “close and regular contact” with the White House and the president’s lawyers.

Justice Department log circularA similar question is presented in the case of Paul Manafort. The memorandum filed by prosecutors set out Mr. Manafort’s breach of his cooperation agreement. Contrary to his express representations to the government, he was in contact with the White House, with a “senior administration official,” in 2018.

The prosecutors make clear that they have evidence of multiple contacts. Who was Mr. Manafort communicating with, and about what? That he was bidding for a pardon is one possibility. Another is that he was making sure that the president knew that he was holding the line — against telling the truth about the matters under investigation.

Bob Bauer is a professor at New York University School of Law and served as a White House counsel under President Barack Obama.

washington post logorobert mueller full face fileWashington Post, Mueller flashes some cards in Russia probe, but hides his hand, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, A 55-page flurry of court filings shows just how deeply the investigations surrounding President Trump have gone, scrutinizing secret Russian contacts, hush money meetings and a tangle of lies designed to conceal those activities.

But for all the cards special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, right, played Friday, it’s still not clear what else he holds, or when he will put them on the table. “The recent court filings by Mueller’s team are more revealing by what they did not include than by what they did,” said Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice.

washington post logoWashington Post, 5 big takeaways from the Cohen, Manafort filings, Aaron Blake, Dec. 8, 2018 (print edition). In all three court filings Friday night, the plot thickened for President Trump just a little bit. Federal prosecutors drew some more important lines between Russia and those connected to President Trump on Friday, in a trio of filings in the Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort cases.

Beginning late Friday afternoon, we saw Cohen sentencing recommendations filed by both the Southern District of New York and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation (here from New York federal prosecutors and here from Mueller's team), and a document from Mueller’s team laying out Paul Manafort’s alleged lies to it (here).

In all three, the plot thickened for Trump just a little bit. Below are the big takeaways.

washington post logoWashington Post, Republican anxiety spikes as Trump faces growing legal and political perils, Robert Costa and Philip Rucker, Dec. 8, 2018. A growing number of Republicans fear that a battery of new revelations in the far-reaching Russia investigation has dramatically heightened the legal and political danger to Donald Trump’s presidency — and threatens to consume the rest of the party, as well.

rnc logoPresident Trump added to the tumult Saturday by announcing the abrupt exit of his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, whom he sees as lacking the political judgment and finesse to steer the White House through the treacherous months to come.

Trump remains headstrong in his belief that he can outsmart adversaries and weather any threats, according to advisers. In the Russia probe, he continues to roar denials, dubiously proclaiming that the latest allegations of wrongdoing by his former associates “totally clear” him.

But anxiety is spiking among Republican allies, who complain that Trump and the White House have no real plan for dealing with the Russia crisis while confronting a host of other troubles at home and abroad.

Dec. 7

washington post logoWashington Post, Mueller says Manafort told ‘discernible lies,’ including about contacts with employee alleged to have Russian intelligence ties, Rosalind S. Helderman, Dec. 7, 2018. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III told a judge Friday that Paul Manafort (shown in a mug shot at right), President Trump’s former campaign chairman, told “multiple dis­cern­ible lies” during interviews with prosecutors, including about his contacts with an employee who is alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence.

paul manafort mugThe allegations came in a new court filing by the special counsel that pointed to some the questions prosecutors have been asking a key witness in their closely-held investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.

Mueller’s prosecutors filed a portion of the document under seal and redacted other key points from view.

But they said that Manafort had told numerous lies in five different areas, including about his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian employee of Manafort’s political consulting firm who prosecutors have said has Russian intelligence ties. Manafort met twice during the campaign with Kilimnik.

Manafort was convicted of tax and bank fraud charges in Virginia in August. He pleaded guilty in September to additional charges, including conspiring to defraud the United States by hiding years of income and failing to disclose lobbying work for a pro-Russian political party and politician in Ukraine.

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. 6

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: The laughable fraud called "Pizzagate" diverts from actual child trafficking tied to Trump, Wayne Madsen (investigative reporter, author and former Navy intelligence officer), Dec. 6, 2018 (subscription required). Trump and his cronies are involved in covering up an international sex trafficking ring involving underage girls and boys.

Dec. 5

djt sword dancers wh may 20 2017

President Trump bonds with Saudi Arabian leaders in May 2017 with a ceremonial "Sword Dance" during the first overseas visit of his presidency.

washington post logosaudi arabia flagWashington Post, Saudi-funded lobbyist paid for 500 rooms at Trump’s hotel in late 2016, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell, Dec. 5, 2018. U.S. veterans who stayed in the rooms were sometimes unaware of the Saudi government's role in funding the lobbying trips. These bookings fueled a pair of federal lawsuits alleging the president violated the Constitution by taking improper payments from foreign governments.

Lobbyists representing the Saudi government reserved blocks of rooms at President Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel within a month of Trump’s election in 2016 — paying for an estimated 500 nights at the luxury hotel in just three months, according to organizers of the trips and documents obtained by The Washington Post.

At the time, these lobbyists were reserving large numbers of D.C.-area hotel rooms as part of an unorthodox campaign that offered U.S. military veterans a free trip to Washington — then sent them to Capitol Hill to lobby against a law the Saudis opposed, according to veterans and organizers.

djt tump int hotelAt first, lobbyists for the Saudis put the veterans up in Northern Virginia. Then, in December 2016, they switched most of their business to the Trump International Hotel (shown while under reconstruction) in downtown Washington. In all, the lobbyists spent more than $270,000 to house six groups of us senate logovisiting veterans at the Trump hotel, which Trump still owns.

Those bookings have fueled a pair of federal lawsuits alleging Trump violated the Constitution by taking improper payments from foreign governments.

During this period, records show, the average nightly rate at the hotel was $768. The lobbyists who ran the trips say they chose Trump’s hotel strictly because it offered a discount from that rate and had rooms available, not to curry favor with Trump.

Dec. 4

Down With Tyranny! Manafort Revelations Show Trump Team Crime, Legacy Of Injustice, Andrew Kreig, Dec. 4, 2018. Among the remarkable Mueller probe revelations last week was the claim that attorneys for former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort have been sharing confidential information about the special counsel’s investigation with the legal team of “Individual 1,” aka President Trump.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Decade of litigation wraps up with Epstein apology to sex victims' attorney, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 4, 2018. Nearly a decade of vexatious civil litigation in Palm Beach County court between convicted underage sex molester Jeffrey Epstein and Fort Lauderdale trial attorney, Bradley Edwards, who represented pro bono many of Epstein's victims, concluded rapidly on December 4 after Edwards's attorney, Jack Scarola, announced an out-of-court settlement between Epstein and Edwards.

Palm Beach Post, Settlement reached in Epstein case; Frankel urges probe of Acosta, Jane Musgrave, Dec. 4, 2018. Moments before jury selection was to begin in what promised to be a salacious trial plumbing the misdeeds of billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, both sides announced a settlement had been reached, negating the need for the much-anticipated three-week trial.

While the terms of the monetary settlement were confidential, as part of the accord, Epstein apologized for filing a lawsuit against attorney Bradley Edwards. In the lawsuit, Epstein accused the Fort Lauderdale lawyer of trumping up allegations that he had sexually assaulted young women at his Palm Beach mansion.

Epstein paid $5.5 million to settle the claims against three of the young women Edwards represented and eventually dropped the suit against Edwards. But, Edwards turned the tables on Epstein, filing a malicious prosecution lawsuit against the 65-year-old wildly successful money manager. That was the lawsuit that was to be decided by a Palm Beach County Circuit Court jury.

In the apology that was read aloud in court, Epstein admitted he sued Edwards because the lawsuits the attorney filed on behalf of the young women were “troublesome for me.”

“The lawsuit I filed was my unreasonable attempt to damage his business reputation and cause Mr. Edwards to stop pursuing cases against me,” attorney Scott Link said on behalf of Epstein, who was not in the courtroom. “It did not work.”

Epstein, who spends most of his time on his private island in the Virgin Islands or at his New York penthouse apartment, said what he did was wrong.

But Edwards and his attorney, Jack Scarola, said the saga that began in 2009 is far from over. Edwards said he will continue to pursue a lawsuit now pending in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach, accusing federal prosecutors of violating the federal Crime Victims Rights Act by signing off on agreement that allowed Epstein to escape federal prosecution.

The so-called non-prosecution agreement allowed Epstein to plead guilty to two state charges — procuring a minor for prostitution and solicitation of prostitution. Epstein served 13 months of an 18-month sentence in a vacant wing of the county stockade — a cell he was allowed to leave during the day so he could continue to work.

Dec. 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Acting AG Whitaker has suggested that Trump plays with the truth, Aaron C. Davis and Ilana Marcus, Dec. 1, 2018 (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.

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.

The 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.

Nov. 30

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, 2018. 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 ftc logobeing 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.

Nov. 29

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 as Acting Attorney General specifically to hamstring Mueller, yet here was Mueller, pulling off a huge swing at Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerWe 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.

Nov. 28

#MeToo Scandals In Prosecution

JIP Editor's Note: The Miami Herald published a multi-part investigative project — "Perversion of Justice" — on Nov. 28 reporting how top officials gave a sweetheart deal to billionairre perversion of justice miami herald logomiami herald logopervert Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of future President Trump and past president Clinton, along with a promise not to investigate Epstein's friends and accomplices in a ring allegedly involving hundreds sex victims, many of them high school and junior high schoolers.

The Justice Integrity Project also has extensively covered this case, Jeffrey Epstein (shown below at right), and his enablers, who include prominent prosecutors and other lawyers, including President Trump's Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.

Jeffrey Epstein Harvard University But this Miami Herald series goes far beyond all previous news reports, which now number in the hundreds. The Herald credited reporter Julie K. Brown and visual producer Emily Michot with the series. The Herald obtained thousands of FBI and court records, lawsuits, and witness depositions, and went to federal court in New York to access sealed documents in the reporting of "Perversion of Justice." The Herald also tracked down more than 60 women who said they were victims, some of whom had never spoken of the abuse before.. 

Miami Herald, Perversion of Justice: A decade before #MeToo, a multimillionaire sex offender from Florida got the ultimate break, Investigative project, Nov. 28, 2018.

  • Part One: How a future Trump Cabinet member gave a serial sex abuser the deal of a lifetime
  • Part Two: Cops worked to put serial sex abuser in prison. Prosecutors worked to cut him a break
  • Part Three: Even from jail, sex abuser manipulated the system. His victims were kept in the dark
  • Interactive: Sex abuser Jeffrey Epstein was surrounded by powerful people. Here’s a sampling
  • Timeline: For years, Jeffrey Epstein abused teen girls, police say. A timeline of his case
  • Overview: How Miami Herald journalists investigated Jeffrey Epstein

miami herald logoMiami Herald, Epstein's Connections: They were little girls. Their stories were almost identical. The evidence was substantial, Julie K. Brown and Aaron Albright, Nov. 28, 2018.

Jeffrey Epstein had a little black book filled with the names and personal phone numbers of some of the world’s wealthiest and most influential people, from Bill Clinton and Donald Trump to actors, actresses, scientists and business tycoons. A money manager for the super-rich, Epstein had two private jets, the largest single residence in Manhattan, an island in the Caribbean, a ranch in New Mexico and a waterfront estate in Florida.

But Epstein also had an obsession.

For years, Epstein lured an endless stream of teenage girls to his Palm Beach mansion, offering to pay them for massages. Instead, police say, for years he coerced middle and high school girls into engaging in sex acts with him and others.

As evidence emerged that there were victims and witnesses outside of Palm Beach, the FBI began an investigation in 2006 into whether Epstein and others employed by him were involved in underage sex trafficking.

But in 2007, despite substantial evidence that corroborated the girls’ stories of abuse by Epstein, the U.S. attorney in Miami, Alexander Acosta, signed off on a secret deal for the multimillionaire, one that ensured he would never spend a day in prison.

Acosta, now President Donald Trump’s secretary of labor, agreed to seal the agreement so that no one — not even Epstein’s victims — would know the full extent of his crimes or who was involved.

This is the story of that deal — and how his victims, more than a decade later, are still fighting a criminal justice system that has stubbornly failed to hold wealthy, powerful men accountable for sexual abuse.

miami herald logoMiami Herald, Cops worked to put serial sex abuser in prison. Prosecutors worked to cut him a break (Part 1), Julie K. Brown, Nov. 28, 2018. A decade before #MeToo, a multimillionaire sex offender from Florida got the ultimate break.

Palm Beach, Florida / November 2004

Jane Doe No. 2

Michelle Licata climbed a narrow, winding staircase, past walls covered with photographs of naked girls. At the top of the stairwell was a vast master bed and bath, with cream-colored shag carpeting and a hot pink and mint green sofa.

perversion of justice miami herald logoThe room was dimly lit and very cold.

There was a vanity, a massage table and a timer.

A silver-haired man wearing nothing but a white towel came into the room. He lay facedown on a massage table, and while talking on a phone, directed Licata to rub his back, legs and feet.

Michelle Licata says she was 16 when she first visited Jeffrey Epstein’s home on El Brillo Way to give him a massage. She says he tried to penetrate her with his fingers.

After he hung up, the man turned over and dropped his towel, exposing himself. He told Licata to get comfortable and then, in a firm voice, told her to take off her clothes.

At 16, Licata had never before been fully naked in front of anyone. Shaking and panicked, she mechanically pulled off her jeans and stripped down to her underwear. He set the timer for 30 minutes and then reached over and unsnapped her bra. He then began touching her with one hand and masturbating himself with the other.

“I kept looking at the timer because I didn’t want to have this mental image of what he was doing,’’ she remembered of the massage. “He kept trying to put his fingers inside me and told me to pinch his nipples. He was mostly saying ‘just do that, harder, harder and do this. …’ ”

After he ejaculated, he stood up and walked to the shower, dismissing her as if she had been in history class.

It wasn’t long before a lot of Licata’s fellow students at Royal Palm Beach High School had heard about “a creepy old guy” named Jeffrey who lived in a pink waterfront mansion and was paying girls $200 to $300 to give him massages that quickly turned sexual.

Eventually, the Palm Beach police, and then the FBI, came knocking on Licata’s door. In the police report, Licata was referred to as a Jane Doe 2 in order to protect her identity as a minor.

miami herald logoMiami Herald, A decade before #MeToo, a multimillionaire sex offender from Florida got the ultimate break (Part 2), Julie K. Brown, Nov. 28, 2018.

Palm Beach County Courthouse / June 30, 2008

perversion of justice miami herald logoJeffrey Edward Epstein appeared at his sentencing dressed comfortably in a blue blazer, blue shirt, jeans and gray sneakers. His attorney, Jack Goldberger, was at his side.

At the end of the 68-minute hearing, the 55-year-old silver-haired financier — accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls — was fingerprinted and handcuffed, just like any other criminal sentenced in Florida.

But inmate No. W35755 would not be treated like other convicted sex offenders in the state of Florida, which has some of the strictest sex offender laws in the nation.

Ten years before the #MeToo movement raised awareness about the kid-glove handling of powerful men accused of sexual abuse, Epstein’s lenient sentence and his extraordinary treatment while in custody are still the source of consternation for the victims he was accused of molesting when they were minors.

Beginning as far back as 2001, Epstein lured a steady stream of underage girls to his Palm Beach mansion to engage in nude massages, masturbation, oral sex and intercourse, court and police records show. The girls — mostly from disadvantaged, troubled families — were recruited from middle and high schools around Palm Beach County. Epstein would pay the girls for massages and offer them further money to bring him new girls every time he was at his home in Palm Beach, according to police reports.

The girls, now in their late 20s and early 30s, allege in a series of federal civil lawsuits filed over the past decade that Epstein sexually abused hundreds of girls, not only in Palm Beach, but at his homes in Manhattan, New Mexico and in the Caribbean.

alex acosta swearing in mike pence c spanIn 2007, the FBI had prepared a 53-page federal indictment charging Epstein with sex crimes that could have put him in federal prison for life. But then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta (shown with his being sworn by Vice President Pence as Labor Secretary last year) signed off on a non-prosecution agreement, which was negotiated, signed and sealed so that no one would know the full scope of Epstein’s crimes. The indictment was shelved, never to be seen again.

Epstein instead pleaded guilty to lesser charges in state court, and was required to register as a sex offender. He was sentenced to 18 months incarceration.

But Epstein — who had a long list of powerful, politically connected friends — didn’t go to state prison like most sex offenders in Florida. Instead, the multimillionaire was assigned to a private wing of the Palm Beach County stockade, where he was able to hire his own security detail. Even then, he didn’t spend much time in a cell. He was allowed to go to his downtown West Palm Beach office for work release, up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, records show.

miami herald logoMiami Herald, How a future Trump Cabinet member gave a serial sex abuser the deal of a lifetime, Julie K. Brown, Nov. 28, 2018. A decade before #MeToo, a multimillionaire sex offender from Florida got the ultimate break.

perversion of justice miami herald logoOn a muggy October morning in 2007, Miami’s top federal prosecutor, Alexander Acosta, had a breakfast appointment with a former colleague, Washington, D.C., attorney Jay Lefkowitz.

It was an unusual meeting for the then-38-year-old prosecutor, a rising Republican star who had served in several White House posts before being named U.S. attorney in Miami by President George W. Bush.

Instead of meeting at the prosecutor’s Miami headquarters, the two men — both with professional roots in the prestigious Washington law firm of Kirkland & Ellis — convened at the Marriott in West Palm Beach, about 70 miles away. For Lefkowitz, 44, a U.S. special envoy to North Korea and corporate lawyer, the meeting was critical.

Nov. 27

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller just worked around Matthew Whitaker, Bill Palmer, Nov. 27, 2018. Last night Special Counsel Robert Mueller did something explosive when he ripped up his cooperating plea deal agreement with Paul Manafort, accusing Manafort of having lied to him.

In effect, Mueller decided that he was no longer interested in Manafort’s cooperation at all. Palmer Report theorized last night that Mueller may have done this in order to take bill palmer report logo headerthings public in a way that Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker couldn’t stop. This evening, incoming House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler suggested more or less the same thing.

Nov. 23

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We don’t know who was paying Matthew Whitaker, and that’s a problem, Ray Madoff, Nov. 23, 2018. His organization illustrates exactly what’s wrong with charitable tax law. Someone was paying acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitake and we don’t know who it was.

As The Post reported earlier this week, Whitaker — who was chosen in 2014 to lead a mysterious charity with undisclosed funders — received more than $1.2 million over the course of three years before he joined the Justice Department.

We don’t know who funded this charity, called the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, or why they chose to do it. But what we do know is that the way it reportedly operated under Whitaker’s leadership raises questions as to whether the organization acted as a conservative political campaign operation. We also know that those who funded the organization were able to do so entirely anonymously while writing off their donations on their taxes, all thanks to an increasingly popular charitable vehicle called the donor-advised fund.

Ray Madoff is a law professor at Boston College and the director of the Boston College Law School Forum on Philanthropy and the Public Good.

Nov. 21

Palmer Report, Opinion: Stick a fork in Matt Whitaker, Bill Palmer, Nov. 20, 2018. Just yesterday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller made a Trump-Russia court filing which all but declared that, one way or the other, he had already gained the upper hand against Donald Trump’s newly appointed Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. Now comes late breaking news about Whitaker’s financial records which should be enough to finish him off entirely.

bill palmer report logo headerRespected legal activist group CREW has managed to get its hands on Matt Whitaker’s financial disclosures tonight, even after the Trump regime tried to keep them buried. It turns out Whitaker’s disclosures have been revised five times in the past two weeks. CREW principal Norm Eisen, below right, has tweeted that, as he works his way through the mess, there’s an “aroma of bad fish coming out of my computer already.”

norman eisen SmallSo what is CREW about to find in Whitaker’s financial disclosures? We don’t know yet, but there’s no question it’ll be ugly. The White House wouldn’t have tried to keep his disclosures from becoming public knowledge, and taken the extreme step of altering them five times, unless there was something in there that Trump and Whitaker really didn’t want to become public, for fear it would finish Whitaker off.

washington post logoWashington Post, As U.S. attorney, Whitaker sought longer-than-usual drug sentences, Michael Kranish, Nov. 21, 2018. In one case, Matthew G. Whitaker offered a woman charged in a third drug case a choice between spending the rest of her life in jail, or accepting a plea bargain sentence of 21 to 27 years, records show. Whitaker’s record is newly relevant after President Trump named him as acting attorney general.

Raeanna Woody’s crimes hardly seemed like they would add up to a life sentence in prison. She had two nonviolent drug convictions, for possessing marijuana and delivering 12 grams of methamphetamine. But when she was arrested in a third drug case, she said, the office of U.S. Attorney Matthew G. Whitaker decided to make an example of her.

Under Whitaker, who is now acting attorney general, Woody was given a choice: spend the rest of her life in jail, or accept a plea bargain sentence of 21 to 27 years, according to court records. She took the deal.

Federal Judge Robert W. Pratt in the Southern District of Iowa later accused prosecutors of having “misused” their authority in her nonviolent case. He urged President Barack Obama to commute her sentence — and Obama did shorten her term , after she had served 11 years.

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 Promise

Hypothesis No. 2: The Assassination Fixation

Hypothesis No. 3: The Bad Gambler

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.

washington post logoWashington Post, New acting attorney general once promoted a company accused of deceiving clients, Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and Robert O'Harrow Jr.​, Nov. 8, 2018. Former customers of World Patent Marketing expressed dismay at Matthew G. Whitaker’s appointment to lead the Justice Department for now.

matthew whitaker screengrabWhen federal investigators were digging into an invention-promotion company accused of fraud by customers, they sought information in 2017 from a prominent member of the company’s advisory board, according to two people familiar with the probe: Matthew G. Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney in Iowa (shown in a screen shot).

ftc logoIt is unclear how Whitaker — who was appointed acting attorney general by President Trump on Wednesday — responded to a Federal Trade Commission subpoena to his law firm.

In the end, the FTC filed a complaint against Miami-based World Patent Marketing, accusing it of misleading investors and falsely promising that it would help them patent and profit from their inventions, according to court filings.

In May of this year, a federal court in Florida ordered the company to pay a settlement of more than $25 million and close up shop, records show. The company did not admit or deny wrongdoing.

Justice Integrity Project, Trump’s multiple sex scandals endanger U.S. national security, Andrew Kreig and Wayne Madsen, Jan. 24, 2018. Recent claims that Donald Trump paid hush money before the 2016 election to porn star Stormy Daniels to cover up a 2006 affair underscore far more sinister events.

Such a payoff would show not simply Trump’s low morals and high arrogance — but also his propensity for outright crime in ways potentially damaging to the United States and many of its residents.

These grim possibilities are especially relevant to our recent exposé “Welcome to Waterbury,” which drew on 2016 lawsuit allegations that Trump and his billionaire friend Jeffrey Epstein in 1993 raped “Maria,” age 12, and “Jane Doe,” age 13, also known as Katie Johnson, in a New York City luxury townhouse then being used by Epstein. Details are here in the Wayne Madsen Report and the Justice Integrity Project (JIP).