Trump Watch

 

 JIPLogo

robert mueller full face fileShown below is a list of recent news stories reporting on probes of the Trump Administration. The reports are listed in reverse chronological order, and are drawn primarily from news stories relating to investigations (including by Special Counsel Robert Mueller III (right) and the U.S. Congress) of major claims of wrongdoing by President Trump, his 2016 campaign and the current administration.

Andrew Kreig / Justice Integrity Project editor

2018

July

July 16

Trump-Putin Preview

In hosting a meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, at the White House last year, President Trump barred the U.S. media from attending while he disclosed classified information, according to later reports. Much of the news, including the photo above showing also Russia's ambassador to the United States (at right), came from Russian sources or leaks. Photo: Alexander Shcherbak/TASS.

All staff and other witnesses, except possibly a translator, are barred from Trump's meeting with Russian Premier Vladimir Puter in Finland on July 16, 2018. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Ahead of meeting with Putin, Trump faults U.S. ‘stupidity’ for poor relations with Russia, Philip Rucker, Anton Troianovski and Seung Min Kim, July 16, 2018. President Trump’s comments, which he tweeted before his one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, were in sync with Moscow’s view that Obama-era policies and the Justice Department’s probe into election interference have inflamed tensions between the countries.​Trade War Update

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Yes, special investigations can be witch hunts. The Mueller probe is not one, Nelson W. Cunningham, July 16, 2018 (print edition). President Trump and his allies have made much of the fact that 13 lawyers working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III are Democratic voters or contributors. Almost all of them are career Justice Department employees who, like most in the D.C. and New York areas, seem to lean to the left.

This has understandably raised questions about their ability to be fair. But do you remember the 36 Angry Republicans who preceded them?

ken starr wBefore there was Mueller, there was Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel tasked with investigating President Bill Clinton over of the course of five years. Those Angry Republicans worked for him.

Starr (shown at left) started with the Whitewater land deal and Vince Foster’s suicide, and over more than five years also investigated the travel office firings, the handling of FBI files and the Monica Lewinsky scandal, for which Starr ultimately recommended that Congress consider Clinton’s impeachment.

The lesson from the Starr investigation is that the political makeup of independent investigations does matter — as do the checks and balances that can serve to keep such investigations from becoming a “witch hunt.” Unfortunately for Trump, it’s much harder to make the case that the Mueller investigation is improperly balanced against him than the Starr investigation was against Clinton.

Mueller himself is not only a registered Republican, but few can match his record of Republican presidential service, which includes senior appointments under Presidents Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43.

Nelson W. Cunningham served as general counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee under then-chair Joseph Biden and as general counsel of the White House Office of Administration under President Clinton. He is now president of McLarty Associates, a global strategy firm.

July 15

ny times logovladimir putin o wNew York Times, Just by Meeting With Trump, Putin Comes Out Ahead, Andrew Higgins and Neil MacFarquhar, July 15, 2018.  When President Vladimir V. Putin (right) of Russia sits down with President Trump in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday he will already have accomplished virtually everything he could reasonably hope for.

washington post logoWashington Post, 'I hadn’t thought’ of asking Putin to extradite indicted Russian agents, Trump says, Seung Min Kim, July 15, 2018. The president also tried to set expectations for his one-on-one meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in a new CBS interview.

washington post logoWashington Post, For Mueller, pushing to finish parts of probe, question of U.S. involvement remains, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky, Carol D. Leonnig and Shane Harris, July 15, 2018 (print edition). As Robert S. Mueller III attempts to resolve whether any Americans were involved in the conspiracy to interfere with the 2016 election — and whether President Trump has sought to obstruct the probe — there are signs that he is moving to finish a big part of his work by summer's end.

robert mueller full face fileIn a 29-page indictment Friday, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (right) blamed specific officers in the Russian government for the 2016 hacking of Democrats, answering one of his investigation’s central questions while highlighting another he must still explain: Were any Americans involved in the conspiracy to interfere in the race for the White House?

The Hill, White House: We canceled Bolton’s interview with CNN after network's Acosta 'disrespected' Trump, Morgan Gstalter, July 14, 2018. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Saturday that the White House decided to cancel an interview between CNN and national security adviser John Bolton after a CNN reporter “disrespected” President Trump earlier this week.

CNN’s “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper on Saturday tweeted that the White House intervened and canceled a scheduled interview with Bolton who “remains fully prepared to do the interview” on Sunday.

sarah huckabee sanders screenshot“Actually a @CNN reporter disrespected @POTUS & PM May during their press conference,” Sanders tweeted in response. “Instead of rewarding bad behavior, we decided to reprioritize the TV appearances for administration officials.”

Sanders (shown in a file photo) was referring to Trump's refusal to take questions from the network on Friday during an international press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Trump lashed out at the network after CNN reporter Jim Acosta tried to ask him a question.“CNN is fake news. I don’t take questions from CNN,” Trump responded.

July 14

gru logo Custom 2

Above, the logo of the Russian intelligence service GRU 

dnc horizontal logo

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Indicts 12 Russian Officials in 2016 Hacking of Democrats, Eileen Sullivan and Katie Benner, July 14, 2018 (print edition). Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, on Friday announced new charges against 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Russian FlagThe announcement came just a few days before President Trump is expected to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki, Finland.

robert mueller full face fileThe 11-count indictment includes charges of conspiracy by the Russian intelligence officials against the United States, money laundering and attempts to break into state boards of elections and other government agencies. The indictment is part of the investigation of Special counsel Robert Mueller (shown at right) into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The 29-page indictment is here.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Indictment lands at a really awkward moment for Trump, Amber Phillips​, July 14, 2018 (print edition). The development in the Russia investigation — coming days before a planned summit with Vladimir Putin — could force President Trump’s hand on something he has seemed loathe to do: Confront the Russian leader about election meddling.

The timing of the newest indictment in the special counsel's Russia investigation couldn't be better for President Trump's opponents — or more inconvenient for Trump and his allies.

Russian FlagFriday's indictment of 12 Russian spies, who are accused of hacking Democrats during the campaign, could blunt any positive results Trump's allies thought they had gleaned from Thursday's contentious congressional hearing about alleged FBI bias in the Russia investigation.

vladimir putin o wTrump is gearing up for a meeting Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin (right). This indictment could force his hand on something he has seemed loathe to do: confront Putin about election interference.

Meanwhile, these 12 new charges prove that the special counsel's Russia investigation is very real — not a “witch hunt” as the president has claimed. It brings the total indictments to 32 people, most of whom are either Russians or Trump campaign officials or people with ties to the Trump campaign.

And Friday's indictments come a day after some on the left found a new spokesman for protecting the FBI from Republican attacks, beleaguered FBI agent Peter Strzok.

Trump Watch: Roger Stone Rebuttals

roger stone hands waving no credit from stone cold Custom

Stone Cold Truth, Opinion: Statement of Roger Stone on Russian indictment, Roger Stone (shown above in photo from his website), July 14, 2018. "This indictment is exoneration."

As I testified before the House Intelligence Committee under oath, my 24-word exchange with someone on Twitter claiming to be Guccifer 2.0 is benign based on its content, context, and timing.

This exchange is entirely public and provides no evidence of collaboration or collusion with Guccifer 2.0 or anyone else in the alleged hacking of the DNC emails, as well as taking place many weeks after the events described in today’s indictment and after Wikileaks had already published the DNC material.

The indictment does not allege or even allude that I was part of this alleged hacking nor does it allege or allude to me having anything to do with getting the allegedly hacked material to WikiLeaks.

The indictments announced show I did not conspire with any of the defendants to do the alleged hacking, distribute the allegedly stolen emails or aid them in any way.

See related video below from InfoWars interview by Harrison Smith, July 13, 2018 (11:57 min. video).

Trump Backtracks On NATO, May

djt queen melania 7 13 18

Queen Elizabeth hosted President Trump and his wife Melania after Trump insulted the U.K.'s prime minister, then gave a qualified apology while also denouncing a taped interview by the Murdoch-owned Sun as "fake news"

ny times logotheresa may newer fileNew York Times, With May’s Government Teetering, Trump Gives It a Shove, Stephen Castle and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, July 14, 2018 (print edition). President Trump publicly undercut Prime Minister Theresa May in a remarkable breach of protocol just hours after landing in her country. In an interview with The Sun, Mr. Trump criticized how Mrs. May has handled Brexit negotiations. “She didn’t listen to me,” he said.

djt theresa may sun front page 7 13 18 Small

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump, In UK, Denies Critical Remarks About Its Leader, Staff report, July 14, 2018 (print edition). President Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May worked to avoid a political crisis after a bombshell interview in which Mr. Trump criticized the British leader on several fronts, most notably her approach to the British withdrawal from the European Union.

United Kingdom flagThe president has never shown much affection for diplomatic norms and multilateral institutions, as he demonstrated at the NATO summit meeting this week, but Mrs. May chose to nurture the “special relationship” rather than allow the remarks to fracture it. Here’s the latest:

• Mr. Trump sat down for talks with Mrs. May, and the two held a news conference in which they tried to restore a sense of unity after the devastating interview with the British tabloid The Sun. Tea with the queen will come later.

• Mr. Trump, having said that Mrs. May’s approach to Brexit, as the withdrawal is often called, would almost certainly imperil a trade deal that Britain badly wants, said that ties between the two countries were at the “highest level of special” and that she was doing a “fantastic job.”

Picking Press Favorites

cnn logoThe Hill, Trump: I don't take questions from CNN, Brett Samuels, July14, 2018 (print edition). President Trump on Friday at an international press conference lashed out at CNN, declaring that he would not take questions from the network.

CNN correspondent Jim Acosta attempted to interject with a question during a press conference with Trump and fox news logo SmallBritish Prime Minister Theresa May. After criticizing CNN, Pres. Trump declines to take a question from a CNN reporter at joint presser with Theresa May. "CNN is fake news. I don't take questions from CNN."

Pres. Trump then called on a Fox News reporter: "Let's go to a real network." 

July 13

rod rosenstein indict russians 7 13 2018 screeengrab

Dep. Attorney Gen. Rod Rosenstein announces the federal indictment of 12 Russian GRU officers on July 12 (screenshot)

 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump persists in his push for friendly ties with Putin despite Russia indictments, Philip Rucker, July 14, 2018 (print edition). After he was told about the indictments of a dozen Russian officers on hacking allegations, President Trump publicly repeated his frequent attacks on the integrity of the Russia probe and offered kind words for Russian President Vladi­mir Putin ahead of their meeting next week.

washington post logoWashington Post, Election system firm with Maryland contract has ties to Russian oligarch, FBI tells state, Ovetta Wiggins, July 13, 2018. Top state officials have asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help ensure that the state’s election system is secure after learning about the link.

rudy giuliani recentHuffPost, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani Claims New Mueller Indictments Absolve Trump In Laughable Tweet, David Moye, July 13, 2018. Giuliani said the new charges prove the president is “completely innocent.” Twitter disagrees.

Giuliani (right): "The indictments Rod Rosenstein announced are good news for all Americans. The Russians are nailed. No Americans are involved. Time for Mueller to end this pursuit of the President and say President Trump is completely innocent."

Palmer Report, Opinion: Now we know why so many Republicans in Congress aren’t even bothering to run for reelection, Bill Palmer, July 13, 2018. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has obtained indictments against twelve Russian government spies who hacked and stole Democratic Party secrets during the election and then strategically shared them. Aside from the timing, which is clearly aimed at disrupting the Trump-Putin summit, the most notable new revelation here is the involvement of a Republican congressional candidate.

Mueller’s indictments allege that the Russian government hackers gave [stolen documents] to an unnamed congressional candidate in the 2016 election. The Russians would not have hacked the Democrats and then given that information to a Democratic candidate, so we know that the candidate in question is a Republican. We’re working on narrowing down that list further, but the bottom line is this: the Russian government obviously wouldn’t have wanted just one Republican candidate to have those Democratic Party secrets.

So what really happened here? Did the Kremlin give the one Republican congressional candidate instructions to share the stolen data with other Republican candidates? Did the Kremlin tell the Trump campaign to share that data with Republican candidates it trusted? Those details will come out later, and Mueller has his reasons for keeping them under wraps for now. But the bottom line is that this is almost certainly leading up to a big reveal that several Republican candidates in 2016 – and quite possibly the Republican Party leadership itself – had its hands on Democratic Party secrets stolen by the Russians.

The implications here are astounding. Knowingly receiving stolen goods is a crime. It’s also a crime for a candidate to accept gifts of value from a foreign government. These are the easy cut-and-dry charges to prove, before getting to the headier criminal charges like conspiracy against the United States or treason.

LaRouchePAC Statement, Opinion: Mueller Issues Fake Indictment, Staff report, July 13, 2016. Desperate to head off a possible accommodation between President Trump and President Putin, which could result in a principled approach to a viable peace, the British, Robert Mueller, and the "resist" holdover forces in the U.S. intelligence community and news media have staged a trifecta of calculated information warfare operations within the last 24 hours to sabotage the summit.

Reached today, after conducting a quick review of Mueller's indictment, former NSA Technical Director William Binney declared the document to be "a fabrication."

"The only actual forensic investigations performed on available data regarding "hacks" of the DNC are independent investigations assessed and approved by a group of us at the Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity," Binney noted. (See, Intel Vets Challenge 'Russia Hack' Evidence, and A New Report Raises Big Questions About Last Year’s DNC Hack.)

william binneyBinney (shown in a file photo) continued:

The FBI never even bothered to examine the DNC computers, relying instead on the DNC and Atlantic Council cyber contractor Crowd Strike for its evidence. Our analysis demonstrated that the Guccifer II and DC Leaks personas were created inside the United States. Our analysis also fully demonstrated that the transfer of the information was consistent with a download to a thumb drive, not transmission over the internet.

Separate and apart from the VIPS analysis, Ray McGovern and I have consistently said that available data surrounding charges regarding ‘Russian hacking' suggest that the CIA's Vault 7 Cyber weapons arsenal enabling false attribution and ‘tell-tale' signs in Cyrillic and other ‘obfuscation' may be at work in a least some of this.

House Hearing On FBI's Strzok

washington post logoWashington Post, The Strzok hearing damaged our democracy, Editorial Board, July 13, 2018 (print edition). Tempers boiled over on Capitol Hill peter strzok croppedThursday as Peter Strzok (right), the FBI official at the center of President Trump’s attempts to discredit special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, testified before a joint meeting of two House oversight committees. With all its yelling and interruptions, the hearing was a fitting coda to the hyperpartisan farce of an investigation that House Republicans have conducted into the FBI and Mr. Mueller’s Russia probe.

Republicans spent hours parsing text messages and waving documents in the air. But all of it, just like most of the broader House investigation, was a distraction from this central point about the conspiracy narratives the president and his defenders have been cooking up about the FBI: If the agency had been trying to harm Mr. Trump’s campaign, agents could have released damaging information on pro-Trump Russian interference before Election Day — and they did not.

wayne madsen screen shot

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: The FBI's "inquisitors" — a parade of the depraved, Wayne Madsen (shown above in a cable news screenshot), July 13, 2018 (subscription required). Investigative reporter and author of 15 books Wayne Madsen is a former Navy intelligence officer and frequent broadcast commentator.

U.S. House logoOn July 12, former deputy assistant director of the FBI Peter Strzok testified before 70 members of a joint hearing of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees on his actions as the chief of the bureau's counter-intelligence division during the 2016 presidential election.

bob goodlatte cropped oStrzok's text messages, in which he criticized Trump, were fodder for the Republicans who used the occasion to push their various unfounded conspiracy theories.

The Republicans who took shots at Strzok represent a cavalcade of miscreants, misfits, perverts, and criminals, starting with House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), right, who is retiring at the end of the current term.

The Trump Swamp

washington post logowilbur rossWashington Post, Government ethics office scolds Wilbur Ross over stock sales, Steven Mufson, July 13, 2018 (print edition). The commerce secretary (right) was strongly reprimanded for failing to completely divest himself of his far-flung stock holdings in a timely fashion and for taking short positions in an effort to offset certain stocks until they could be sold.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jared Kushner lacks security clearance for most sensitive intelligence that goes to Trump, Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker, July 13, 2018 (print edition). Jared Kushner (right), a senior White House adviser and President Trump’s son-in-law, lacks the security clearance level required to review some of the government’s most sensitive secrets, according to two people familiar with his access.

For the first year of the Trump administration, Kushner had nearly blanket access to highly classified intelligence, even as he held an interim security clearance and awaited the completion of his background investigation.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoBut when White House security officials granted him a permanent clearance in late May, he was granted only “top secret” status — a level that does not allow him to see some of the country’s most closely guarded intelligence, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss security issues.

Kushner has not yet been approved to review “sensitive compartmented information,” better known as SCI. The Central Intelligence Agency determines who can access this information, which primarily involves U.S. intelligence sources and surveillance methods, they said.

July 11

Palmer Report, Opinion: A dangerous day for democracy, Daniel Cotter, July 11, 2018. On Tuesday, two additional developments in the justice system emerged that should cause concern about our representative democracy.

The first was the latest Trump Executive Order, which he issued on July 10: “Executive Order Excepting Administrative Law Judges from the Competitive Service.” In previous Palmer Report articles, we have reported on the potential impacts of the SCOTUS case, Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission, which dealt with Administrative Law Judges (“ALJs”).

The Executive Order references the decision in Lucia and then takes away the competitive aspects, as well as removing the current process of selecting ALJs for a particular agency from the Office of Personnel Management Central Pool. The selections likely will be more political.

joe manchin oA second thing happened today: Senator Joe Manchin, a purported Democrat (shown at right), voted with Republicans in the Senate to close debate on the nomination of Brian Benczkowski to become the Director of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. While Benczkowski is considered an experienced and talented litigator, as a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, he has no prosecutorial experience. In addition, while under consideration for an administration position last year, he represented for a brief time Alfa Bank, a subject of the Russian probe. Benczkowski could potentially have oversight of the investigation should Special Counsel Robert Mueller be fired.

With this administration, we must watch closely so that these two seemingly independent movements do not result in the slippery slope of losing our representative democracy.

ny times logoNew York Times, Kushner’s Firm Deepens Ties to Those With Business in Washington, Jesse Drucker and Kate Kelly, July 11, 2018. The family company of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is doing deals with investors who have a lot riding on federal decisions.

Eighteen months into Jared Kushner’s White House tenure, his family’s real estate firm is deepening its financial relationships with institutions and individuals that have a lot riding on decisions made by the federal government.

In the latest example, an arm of Brookfield Asset Management is close to completing an investment of up to $700 million in the Kushner family’s tower at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The deal will be a boon to the Kushners, who are struggling to recoup their investments in their flagship building.

At the same time, another Brookfield unit is awaiting the Trump administration’s approval of its acquisition of the nuclear-power company Westinghouse Electric. The deal is being reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, made up of senior federal officials who consider the potential national security risks of transactions involving foreign companies. Brookfield’s headquarters are in Canada.

Mr. Kushner, who is President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has broad portfolios of both White House responsibilities and personal business interests — a combination that experts say has the potential to create real and perceived conflicts between his public and private roles.

July 9

bbc news logo2BBC, Trump: Is the President a Sex Pest? Richard Bilton, July 9, 2018 (20 mins.). Donald Trump has been accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour by more than 20 women, but he has dismissed them all as liars. Now one of those women is suing him for defamation.

An American court will have to decide what really happened and whether the President of the United States is a sexual predator. So what is the truth about Donald Trump's behaviour towards women? In the week of his visit to Britain, reporter Richard Bilton investigates new allegations about Mr Trump and meets the women who say the president is a sex pest.Show less

Raw Story, Trump’s personal chauffeur is suing him, David Badash, July 9, 2018. President Trump’s personal chauffeur is suing him. Noel Cintron, who has served the real estate mogul for 25 years, has filed suit against Trump claiming thousands of hours of unpaid overtime. He also says Trump eliminated his health insurance.

Cintron just “sued the Trump Organization for about 3,300 of overtime that he says he worked in the past six years. He’s not allowed to sue for overtime prior to that due to the statute of limitations,” Bloomberg reports. In his complaint, “Cintron says he was required to be on duty for Trump starting at 7 a.m. each day until whenever Trump, his family or business associates no longer required his services. He worked as long as 55 hours per week, but was paid a fixed salary of $62,700 in 2003, $68,000 in 2006, and $75,000 in 2010.”

He received just two raises over the past six years, but his 2010 raise “came with a catch, Cintron said. He was induced to surrender his health insurance, saving Trump approximately $17,866 per year in premiums, according to the lawsuit.”

July 8

Politico, Details emerge on Justice Department meeting with reporters on Manafort, Josh Gerstein, July 8, 2018. Lawyers for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort (shown below) are crying foul over a meeting Justice Department prosecutors held with four Associated Press reporters last year as news organizations and the FBI bore down on the longtime lobbyist and political consultant.

Paul ManafortManafort's defense has argued for months that the off-the-record session on April 11, 2017, was a potential conduit for improper leaks to the press about the probe that led to two criminal cases against the former Trump campaign chief. Now, Manafort's attorneys have fresh evidence they say bolsters their claims: two memos written by FBI agents who attended the meeting and documented their version of what transpired.

Manafort's legal team paints the evidence as confirmation that journalists were given inside information about the investigation in violation of Justice Department policies and, perhaps, legal prohibitions on disclosure of grand jury secrets.

One of the FBI memos indicates that the AP did get some information at the meeting. At the conclusion of the session, reporters got a vague assurance that they "appeared to have a good understanding of Manafort's business dealings," one memo says. The same memo says the meeting was "arranged" by Andrew Weissmann, the then-chief of the fraud section of Justice's Criminal Division and now the top prosecutor on the Manafort case.

However, the memos indicate that the bulk of the information flow at the meeting went the other way, with the AP journalists providing the FBI with a bevy of facts the news organization uncovered during its inquiries into Manafort's work and finances. The meeting took place a day before the AP published a story saying that Manafort received at least some payments ascribed to him or his companies in a so-called black ledger of off-the-books spending by former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Reporters do sometimes give government agencies a heads up on forthcoming stories that could significantly impact an investigation, but the details in the FBI memos show that the AP provided numerous details to the officials about the news outlet's investigation. Many appear to have already been public, but some seem unreported, like a claim that Manafort sent an internal White House document to people he was working with in Ukraine.

July 5

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Fox News executive Bill Shine joins Trump White House as deputy chief of staff for communications, Paul Farhi and Felicia Sonmez, July 5, 2018. With Thursday’s announcement, Shine becomes the fifth communications chief since Trump took office nearly 18 months ago. Before Hope Hicks, Anthony Scaramucci served 10 days in the role. He was preceded by Mike Dubke and Sean Spicer.

The move will bolster the White House’s messaging operation ahead of what is shaping up to be a fierce partisan battle over Trump’s choice for a successor to retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, set to be unveiled on Monday.

Yet the appointment is also likely to open the White House up to attacks regarding Shine’s record at Fox, as well as the Trump administration’s response to sexual misconduct allegations against officials within its own ranks. During his time at Fox, Shine helped to build the network into the media juggernaut it is today. But much like his mentor and patron, Ailes, Shine’s long tenure was clouded by unsavory allegations and associations with darker chapters in the network’s history. Ailes died in May 2017.

Trump himself has been accused of sexual harassment and improper behavior by more than a dozen women, accusations which he denies. And earlier this year, White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned amid reports that he had physically and emotionally abused his two ex-wives.

The presidential appointment reunites Trump with Shine, who gave the then-businessman and reality TV star copious airtime on Fox to opine on a range of subjects. Among them was a regular slot on “Fox & Friends,” on which Trump often promoted his false claim that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. The weekly appear­ances helped burnish Trump’s political credentials, at least with more than a million viewers of the morning program.

gretchen carlsonShine has spent the past 14 months off the public grid after his ouster from Fox last May. He briefly succeeded Ailes as the network’s top executive after Ailes was driven out by sexual harassment allegations, including a lawsuit by former host Gretchen Carlson (shown at left), which Fox’s parent company settled in mid-2016 for $20 million.

Shine himself was never directly accused of harassment at Fox. But his latter years at the network were pockmarked by his association with Ailes, especially accusations that he helped facilitate Ailes’s predatory behavior. Shine has consistently denied wrongdoing.

He also was part of Fox’s senior management during the period in which the network was paying millions of dollars in settlements to former employees who had accused Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly of harassment.

He was named in suits filed by Carlson and former network contributors Julie Roginsky and Andrea Tantaros for his role in allegedly discouraging women at the network from taking their harassment claims to court. Roginsky, who said Ailes sexually harassed her, accused Shine of retaliating against her for her refusal to join “Team Roger,” a cadre of women who supported Ailes in his battle with Carlson. Shine denied those allegations.

laurie luhn cropped squareHe also allegedly played a role in covering up Ailes’s relationship with Laurie Luhn, a former Fox booker who claimed she had a long, abusive affair with Ailes that eventually led to her mental breakdown. Luhn received $3.1 million from Fox in 2011 to settle her allegations of abuse and mistreatment by Ailes.

Shine’s appointment by Trump on Thursday brought swift rebuke from attorney Nancy Erika Smith, who represented Carlson and Roginsky in their suits against Ailes. “Roger Ailes’s enabler and confidant is well qualified to speak on behalf of a president who brags about assaulting women and preying on teenage beauty pageant contestants, and pays adult film actresses to be quiet about his adultery,” Smith said. “Being from Fox News, Shine is also well qualified to speak for a president who lies every single day.”

July 4

Trump Watch

djt july4 nydn Small

Opinion: New York Daily News July 4 front-page editorial: The Clown Who Plays King.

david cay johnston headshotny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How to Make Trump’s Tax Returns Public, David Cay Johnston (right), July 4, 2018. Mr. Johnston is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and the author of two books about Donald Trump.

On June 14, the New York State attorney general, Barbara Underwood, filed a civil complaint against President Trump and his three oldest children, accusing them of “persistently illegal conduct” in using the Donald J. Trump Foundation as “little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality.”

Ms. Underwood believes there is abundant evidence to bring criminal charges against Mr. Trump as well. She made that position very clear in the letters she sent to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission in Washington recommending “further investigation and legal action.”

Ms. Underwood sent those letters, at the same time she filed the civil complaint, because New York state law does not grant her automatic authority to initiate criminal investigations. Her criminal referral to Washington noted that it would be a crime for the president to interfere in such an investigation.

However, given Mr. Trump’s assertion that he has the power to halt any criminal inquiry and to pardon himself for federal crimes, a criminal investigation by any part of the federal executive branch seems highly unlikely.

andrew cuomo2The attorney general could, however, easily gain that authority. All that’s needed is for Gov. Andrew Cuomo (left), the New York State Police or the state Department of Taxation and Finance to make a request, and the authority would be granted to her. Criminal jurisdiction also rests with Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney. Mr. Vance has shown no interest, so far, in investigating other complaints against Mr. Trump.

July 3

us senate logo

Daily Beast, Bipartisan Senate Panel Gives Middle Finger to Devin Nunes, Spencer Ackerman, July 3, 2018. A bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee says intelligence agencies were right to find the Russians interfered in the election to harm Clinton and elect Trump.

fbi logoThe Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have said the NSA, CIA, and FBI got it wrong when they assessed that the point of Russia’s 2016 election interference was to harm Hillary Clinton and elect Donald Trump. But now their counterpart in the Senate, in a bipartisan report, said the intelligence agencies got it right.

In April, the House Intelligence Committee Republicans put out an extensive report exonerating Trump from accusations of collusion with Russian President Vladimir Putin, delivering a conclusion that Democrats had come to consider pre-ordained. Democrats quickly distanced themselves from it. Chief panel Democrat Adam Schiff said at the time that the GOP report suffered from a “raft of misleading conclusions, insinuations, attempts to explain away inconvenient facts, and arguments meant to protect the President and his campaign.”

devin nunes file flagOne of the key findings of the GOP report, led by critical White House ally Devin Nunes (shown at right) of California, was that the three intelligence agencies erred in their assessment of “Putin’s strategic intentions” behind his election interference. Nunes’ report struck a delicate balance. It conceded that the election interference happened and that most of the intelligence community analysis (ICA) “held up to scrutiny,” but accused the agencies of not meeting their own standards for tradecraft.

Palmer Report, Opinion: How Rep. Jim Jordan’s sex abuse scandal impacts Trump-Russia, Bill Palmer, July 3, 2018. Republican Congressman Jim Jordan has been accused of having covered up, and thus prolonged, a sex abuse scandal while he was the wrestling coach at Ohio State University; he denies having known about the abuse. This is a disturbing development which requires urgent discussions about how to stop sex abuse crimes from happening, and those discussions are playing out across social media today as we speak. This article will focus strictly on the siginficant political impact that the Jim Jordan scandal will have on the Trump-Russia scandal.

We have yet to see whether the GOP will try to rally around Jim Jordan and protect him, or whether the party will force him to resign for fear of the impact his sex abuse scandal could have on the entire party in the November election. That decision may ultimately depend on how much public outrage there is over the next few days. The House GOP has done nothing of late to suggest that it’ll do the right thing for moral reasons, but it could dump Jordan for selfish reasons.

Just days ago, we were reminded of the key role that Jim Jordan has been playing in trying to sabotage the investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia scandal. Jordan leads the committee that hauled in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last week, trying and failing to trip up Rosenstein for Trump’s benefit. If Jordan resigns, Trump loses a key co-conspirator in his coverup. If Jordan tries to remain on the job, it’s difficult to imagine that he could continue acting as a public face of Trump’s defense.

July 2

richard painterPoliticusUSA.com, Bush Ethics Lawyer Richard Painter Calls For Investigation If Kennedy Was Paid To Resign, Leo Vidal, July 2, 2018. Richard Painter, the former White House Ethics Attorney for President George W. Bush, has come up with a way to delay hearings for a new Supreme Court justice to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

According to Painter (shown in a file photo), there should be no hearings on a replacement for Kennedy until there is a full and complete investigation into the circumstances surrounding Kennedy’s resignation.

In other words, if Kennedy was paid or bought off in some way by Trump or his family, then the American people need to know about it. After Kennedy’s unexpected retirement announcement several stories appeared in the media claiming financial ties between Kennedy and his two sons and Trump and his family. Some people speculated that Kennedy was bought off in some way due to these extensive and longstanding financial connections.

Late last week Painter tweeted his novel theory for why Senate hearings for Kennedy’s replacement should be delayed:

“The circumstances of Justice Kennedy’s resignation must be investigated by the Senate Judiciary Committee before any replacement is considered. The Constitution does not give Trump the power to use underhanded means to induce Supreme Court resignations.”

As Painter points out it would be both unethical and unconstitutional for a president to “induce Supreme Court resignations” by using financial remuneration of some kind.

Soon after Painter’s tweet there was a response from a group he called “the right wing Power Blog” attacking him for his suggestion:

“The right wing Power Line Blog blows a fuse over this, but Sen. Jud. Comm. must investigate the circumstances of the Kennedy resignation before confirmation hearings for ANY new justice. @GovArne agrees."

Painter is a lifelong Republican who is now running for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota — as a Democrat. He is the subject of an in-depth article today at Salon.com which discusses in detail the transition he has gone through from being in Bush’s White House to being one of Donald Trump’s fiercest critics.

In the article Painter asks the same questions as millions of other Americans:

“Trump admires dictators and authoritarians. His loyalty to Vladimir Putin is clear and he now has a bromance with Kim Jong-un. This is a truly dire situation, but the American people still seem asleep to what is really happening. Where is the outrage? How is Trump able to get away with this?”

Then he adds: “Donald Trump’s conduct is very dangerous for the United States.”

michael cohen abc george stephanopoulos 7 2 18

ABC News, EXCLUSIVE: Michael Cohen says family and country, not President Trump, is his 'first loyalty,' George Stephanopoulos, July 2, 2018. Michael Cohen -- President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney and a former executive vice president at the Trump Organization -- has always insisted he would remain loyal to the president.

abc news logoHe was the fix-it guy, the pit bull so fiercely protective of his boss that he’d once described himself as "the guy who would take a bullet" for the president.

But in his first in-depth interview since the FBI raided his office and homes in April, Cohen strongly signaled his willingness to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York -- even if that puts President Trump in jeopardy.

“My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,” Cohen told me. “I put family and country first.”

We spoke for 45 minutes Saturday evening at a Manhattan hotel, where Cohen has been staying for the past several months. And during that time, the question of whether Cohen might flip on the president has been the subject of intense speculation.

washington post logomichael cohen ap file croppedWashington Post, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen says his first loyalty is to his family, not the president, John Wagner​, July 2, 2018. President Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen (shown at right in a file photo) signaled in a new interview a willingness to cooperate with federal prosecutors, even if doing so undercuts the interests of the president.

Salon, Donald Trump, Anthony Kennedy and the “boy” at Deutsche Bank: Not just about the money, Jesse Kornbluth, July 2, 2018. There’s a tangled web linking the Trump and Kennedy families. But financial corruption isn’t the whole story.

As a way of looking at a presidency that is enamored of every possible felony -- self-dealing, conflicts of interest, emoluments, collusion with foreign governments and domestic corporations -- crime-breeds-crime is a reasonable way to look at any Trump-related event.

But the resignation of a Supreme Court justice? Because Trump cares so much about money, that’s been suggested. And there’s smoke: the links between Trump, Kennedy and Kennedy’s son Justin. In years past we’d call that the League of White Men, taking care of their own, behind the scenes, The Way It Is. Today we tend to call it something else: collusion.

Here’s why. On the surface, Kennedy’s resignation looked textbook: He’ll leave effective July 31, at the end of the Supreme Court term, as is traditional. But he announced it on June 27. Hand-delivering his letter to the Oval Office was no surprise to the White House, which had a list of candidates ready to roll out. Trump says he’ll announce his nominee on July 9.

If Kennedy had waited a few weeks, some analysts believe Trump couldn’t have gotten his successor approved before the midterm elections. If the Democrats did well in November, it’s at least conceivable they could have blocked any conservative nominee. Approving a nominee before November means our likely future has the court killing Roe v. Wade, giving more power to corporations, turning the poor and minorities into serfs, exiling or detaining Others the president might choose to torture. That’s huge. But let’s consider the bottom line: For Donald Trump, the only real issue of interest is . . . himself. If a 4-4 Court had to rule on a difficult question -- Does the president have the power to pardon himself? -- it might not go well for Trump.

What started the speculation about dirty money connecting Trump, Kennedy and his son is the revelation that Kennedy and Trump have had a longstanding relationship through their children and their children’s success. We knew about Trump’s dealings with Deutsche Bank, the only bank willing to do business with him. (It’s also, perhaps not coincidentally, the bank that seems to have the longest illegal relationship with laundered Russian money. In January 2017, it was fined $425 million by New York regulators to settle allegations that it helped Russian investors launder as much as $10 billion through its branches in Moscow, New York and London.) But we’re just finding out about the Trump relationship with Justin Kennedy, the justice’s son, who worked at Deutsche Bank for a decade.

July 1

Trump Watch

michael cohen 7 14 2015 cnn customPalmer Report, Opinion: “My silence is broken” – Michael Cohen is spilling his guts, Bill Palmer, July 1, 2018. You knew something was about to give. Donald Trump’s longtime fixer Michael Cohen (shown in a file photo) has spent the past two weeks making one eyebrow raising move after another, from taking a selfie with notorious Trump detractor Tom Arnold to resigning from the RNC in protest of Trump, even as three major news networks reported that he was planning to cut a plea deal. Now Cohen is indeed spilling his guts to the media.

abc news logoHere’s what Michael Cohen tweeted just now: “Spent Saturday afternoon with George Stephanopoulos ABC (not on camera) interview for Monday’s GMA. My silence is broken!” In response, Stephanopoulos tweeted “Tune in tomorrow morning on GMA for more on my conversation with President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen.” Neither of them is giving away the particulars of what they discussed, but it’s not difficult to figure out what’s happening here.

Michael Cohen has been taking one coded but clear shot at Donald Trump after another over the past two weeks, signaling that he’s not interested in taking the fall for Trump in the various criminal scandals that have tied the two men together. So unless Cohen has decided to completely and abruptly change his tune, this interview should consist of Cohen officially distancing himself from all things Trump. There is, however, an odd twist to this.

nbc logoNBC News reported two weeks ago that federal prosecutors have informed Michael Cohen that he would soon be indicted and arrested if he didn’t hurry up and cut a plea deal. Considering that Cohen is about to be criminally charged, it’s an awfully risky move to do a television interview about his scandals, as anything he says can and will be used against him by prosecutors. The Cohen saga keeps getting weirder, but it should get more clear tomorrow morning.

donald trump jr filePalmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump Jr gets into bed with the Russian bots, Bill Palmer, July 1, 2018. Public opinion is still split as to . (shown in a file photo) whether Donald Trump Jr was actively conspiring with the Russian government during the election because he was just that evil, or just that stupid.

If the increasingly idiotic conspiracy drivel he posts on Twitter is an indication, he might indeed simply be an idiot who doesn’t quite understand what treason is. Today Junior did something which either showed us just how naive and stupid he is, or just how complicit he is with the Russians.

Over the past thirty-six hours Donald Trump Jr has posted four tweets and retweets that used the hashtag #walkaway. It’s supposed to be the official hashtag for the people who are abandoning the Democratic Party in protest of how poorly liberals are treating Donald Trump. As there is no real-world evidence whatsoever that any such movement exists, the whole thing has come off as suspicious at best. Sure enough, it’s turned out to be an easily documented Russian bot conspiracy.

Respected political reporter Dave Weigel did a little digging, and found that the #walkaway hashtag was being driven by Twitter accounts that were either clearly identifiable as bots, or clearly identifiable as newly created fake accounts. It’s long been widely documented that when bots are used in organized fashion to drive a Trump-friendly hashtag on Twitter, those bots are Russian in origin.

June

June 29

ny times logoNew York Times, House G.O.P. Breaks Into Open Warfare With Rosenstein, Demanding Files, Nicholas Fandos, June 28, 2018. For months, their sparring had been indirect, stern letters exchanged, pointed threats traded through the news media. But on Thursday, the ever-intensifying skirmishes between Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and conservative House Republicans broke into an ugly public fight.

On the House floor, Republicans voted in lock step to give the Justice Department seven days to produce sensitive documents related to the Russia inquiry and the F.B.I.’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email use. Though nonbinding, the measure was intended to put Mr. Rosenstein on notice that House lawmakers were willing to take punitive action — potentially including impeachment — if their demands were not met.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Shaken’ Rosenstein Felt He Was Used in Comey Firing, Michael S. Schmidt and Adam Goldman, June 29, 2018. After the F.B.I. director James B. Comey was fired, the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, privately appeared conflicted about his involvement in the dismissal.

rod rosenstein us attorneyIn the days after the F.B.I. director James B. Comey was fired last year, the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, repeatedly expressed anger about how the White House used him to rationalize the firing, saying the experience damaged his reputation, according to four people familiar with his outbursts. In public, Mr. Rosenstein has shown no hint that he had second thoughts about his role — writing a memo about Mr. Comey’s performance that the White House used to justify firing him. “I wrote it. I believe it. I stand by it,” Mr. Rosenstein said to Congress last year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court prospect has said presidents should not be distracted by legal inquiries, Michael Kranish and Ann E. Marimow​, Brett M. Kavanaugh worked on the independent counsel’s team that investigated Bill Clinton, and his views could be a focus of his confirmation hearing if President Trump nominates him to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

U.S. Circuit Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy who is viewed as one of the leading contenders to replace him, has argued that presidents should not be distracted by civil lawsuits, criminal investigations or even questions from a prosecutor or defense attorney while in office.

Kavanaugh had direct personal experience that informed his 2009 article for the Minnesota Law Review: He helped investigate President Bill Clinton as part of independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr’s team and then served for five years as a close aide to President George W. Bush.

Having observed the weighty issues that can consume a president, Kavanaugh wrote, the nation’s chief executive should be exempt from “time-consuming and distracting” lawsuits and investigations, which “would ill serve the public interest, especially in times of financial or national security crisis.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Better Reason to Delay Kennedy’s Replacement, Paul Schiff Berman, June 29, 2018. Mr. Berman is a professor at George Washington University Law School. Presidents under the cloud of investigation should not get to pick the judges who may preside over their cases. Almost immediately after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement on Wednesday, Senate Democrats argued that his replacement should not be confirmed until after the midterm elections this fall — a version of the same argument that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, used to stymie President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016.

This is surely a valid argument, not least because Mr. McConnell’s blatantly anti-democratic ploy stole a judicial appointment from a popularly elected president and gave it to one who lost the popular vote by millions.

But there is another reason to withhold confirmation that both Republicans and Democrats should be able to agree on: People under the cloud of investigation do not get to pick the judges who may preside over their cases. By this logic, President Trump should not be permitted to appoint a new Supreme Court justice until after the special counsel investigation is over, and we know for sure whether there is evidence of wrongdoing.

June 28

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Rosenstein and Wray pushed back on GOP criticism of Russia probe, Amber Phillips, June 28, 2018. One by one, the Republican arguments claiming bias came up. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray had a rebuttal for each.

fbi logoThe case President Trump and his allies have built against the Justice Department and the FBI is circumstantial at best.

And on Thursday, the various arguments Trump and his Republican allies have leaned on to suggest or outright claim FBI bias against the president got knocked down, one by one, by the top of the bureau's chain of command.

rod rosenstein cspan What's more, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein (shown in a file photo) and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray categorically denied these characterizations of the FBI's work while under oath. Wray and Rosenstein, who appointed special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, testified Thursday for hours to the House's Judiciary Committee.

Let's run down the top GOP attacks thrown at the Russia investigation and what Rosenstein and Wray had to say about them.

ny times logoNew York Times, Kushner Company Sues Jersey City, Claiming ‘Anti-Trump’ Bent Stalled Project, Charles V. Bagli, June 28, 2018. The family of President Trump’s son-in-law said in a lawsuit that the Democratic mayor of Jersey City reneged on tax cuts to appease voters because of the family’s ties to President Trump.

There was a time when the developer Charles Kushner and his son Jared were on the best of terms with Jersey City’s mayor, Steven Fulop. But that was before the younger Mr. Kushner became a senior adviser to President Trump and the Kushners’ $900 million project in the city’s Journal Square section stalled.

On Wednesday, a partnership led by Charles Kushner filed a lawsuit in federal court in New Jersey claiming that the Fulop administration put his two-towered residential complex in default in April out of a “political animus” toward the Kushners and Mr. Trump. The default was issued, the suit contends, “to appease and curry favor with the overwhelmingly anti-Trump constituents of Jersey City.”

June 27

ny times logoNew York Times, Manafort Trial to Go Forward, but With a Warning for Mueller, Sharon LaFraniere, June 26, 2018. The judge, who had challenged whether prosecutors had exceeded their authority, decided that they had not. But he also expressed concern that a position like Robert S. Mueller III’s not be “deployed as a political weapon.” Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, has been charged in two jurisdictions with a host of federal crimes as part of the special counsel inquiry into Russia’s influence on the presidential campaign.

Paul ManafortIn a preliminary hearing last month, Judge T. S. Ellis III challenged the charges of bank fraud and tax evasion against Mr. Manafort (shown at left), saying he saw no relationship between the case before him and “anything the special counsel is authorized to investigate.”

robert mueller full face fileBut in the 31-page opinion issued on Tuesday, the judge said that “upon further review,” it was clear to him that the special counsel Mueller (shown at right) had “followed the money paid by pro-Russian officials” to Mr. Manafort — a line of inquiry that fell squarely in his authority.

June 26

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: We Have a Crisis of Democracy, Not Manners, Michelle Goldberg, June 26, 2018 (print edition). Michelle Goldberg, right, became an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times in 2017 and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues.

Whether or not you think public shaming should be happening, it’s important to understand why it’s happening. It’s less a result of a breakdown in civility than a breakdown of democracy.

Though it’s tiresome to repeat it, Donald Trump eked out his minority victory with help from a hostile foreign power. He has ruled exclusively for his vengeful supporters, who love the way he terrifies, outrages and humiliates their fellow citizens. Trump installed the right-wing Neil Gorsuch in the Supreme Court seat that Republicans stole from Barack Obama. Gorsuch, in turn, has been the fifth vote in decisions on voter roll purges and, on Monday, racial gerrymandering that will further entrench minority rule.

All over the country, Republican members of Congress have consistently refused to so much as meet with many of the scared, furious citizens they ostensibly represent. A great many of these citizens are working tirelessly to take at least one house of Congress in the midterms — which will require substantially more than 50 percent of total votes, given structural Republican advantages — so that the country’s anti-Trump majority will have some voice in the federal government.

But unless and until that happens, millions and millions of Americans watch helplessly as the president cages children, dehumanizes immigrants, spurns other democracies, guts health care protections, uses his office to enrich himself and turns public life into a deranged phantasmagoria with his incontinent flood of lies.

 daily beast logoDaily Beast, Trump Tower-Linked Pop Star Releases ‘Pee Tape’ Music Video, Scott Bixby, June 26, 2018. The video features ‘Trump’ partying with bikini-clad pageant contestants, Emin slipping ‘Ivanka Trump’ a briefcase, and ‘Stormy Daniels’ ripping vodka shots with ‘Hillary Clinton.’ [Editor's note: The article and link to the video are shown as an example of pop culture and media influence, not because any of the innuendos are regarded as true.]

Emin Agalarov, the Russian pop star-slash-oligarch offspring who helped arrange Donald Trump Jr.’s infamous Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer promising damaging information about Hillary Clinton, is leaning in to his bit part in one of the most surreal political scandals of the Trump era with his newest music video.

The video, filmed for Agalarov’s single “You Got Me,” riffs on the alleged existence of a kompromat videotape in Kremlin’s possession depicting what a former FBI director once characterized as “prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow.”

Among other things, the video features a Donald Trump look-alike partying in a gilded hotel room with bikini-clad pageant contestants, Emin clandestinely slipping “Ivanka Trump” a briefcase of intel, a faux Stormy Daniels ripping vodka shots in a club with a faux Hillary Clinton, and Kim Jong Un as a computer hacker erasing all evidence that Trump was ever there.

June 22

tom arnold michael cohen twitter

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC, Tom Arnold Says Cohen Ready To Cooperate Against Trump, Lawrence O'Donnell, June 22, 2018. Actor Tom Arnold, currently working for ViceNews on an anti-Trump cable series, The Hunt For the Trump Tapes, debuting in September, told MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell that former Trump attoney Michael Cohen, shown at left above, will cooperateg with authorities investigating the president and also with Arnold's show.

Arnold also Tweeted the photo above showing him and Cohen, taken in a hotel lobby. Cohen has Tweeted that the photo does not mean he is cooperating with Arnold.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here’s the thing about this Michael Cohen and Tom Arnold story, Bill Palmer, June 22, 2018. It started when Tom Arnold tweeted a photo of him and Michael Cohen posing together, with the caption “I love New York.” NBC News then asked Arnold what was going on, and he quipped that he and Cohen are teaming up to take Donald Trump down. Apparently Arnold meant this somewhat in jest, but much of the media mistakenly took it to mean that Cohen was signing on to Arnold’s new Vice TV show about hunting for damaging Trump tapes. Arnold then clarified today that this was not the case, and Cohen – who is rarely on Twitter – sent a “Thank you” tweet to Arnold.

Whatever you think of Michael Cohen, he’s in the midst of a no-win situation where he can either sell out his mentor and go to prison for a few years, or go to trial and risk going to prison forever. By all accounts he’s stressed and exasperated. Yet in this photo, Cohen looks genuinely happy, as if meeting with Tom Arnold was the only thing he’s enjoyed all year. It evokes echoes of Melania Trump seemingly genuinely happy to be sitting with President Obama. Cohen looks pleased and relieved to be hanging with the anti-Trump side. There is something going on here.

djt epstein mar a lagoWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Trump confronted with photo of him and Epstein at Duluth rally, June 22, 2018 (subscription required for full report; photo via Getty Images).

Amid the controversy of his separating more than 2300 children from their asylum seeking parents at the U.S.-Mexican border, Trump was confronted by a protester at a rally in Duluth, Minnesota with a photo of convicted child molester Jeffrey Epstein and Trump taken at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida during the 1990s.

New York Observer, Private Prison Stocks Are Soaring Amid the Trump Administration’s Immigration Crisis, Davis Richardson, June 20, 2018. The stocks of two of the world’s biggest private prison companies are outperforming the market amid the current immigration crisis.

geo corrections and detention logoDespite a small dip in the Dow Jones Industrial Average by 0.14 percent on Wednesday, the GEO Group and CoreCivic both saw their stocks increase 1.79 percent and 3.18 percent, respectively. Both corporations work alongside Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to operate detention centers holding immigrants.

The rising stock prices follow the announcement of a Republican compromise bill on immigration that is expected to pledge the construction of family detention centers from a $7 billion budget allocation—a workaround to the White House’s “zero tolerance” policy supported by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

core civic logo flag“The proposed solution being floated to them is more family detention,” immigration attorney R. Andrew Free, who first noticed the rising stocks on Twitter, told Observer. “On their stock calls, their corporate representatives mentioned these contracts are very good and very profitable and provide a new source of revenue.”

Both the GEO Group and CoreCivic supported Trump’s presidency. The companies donated $250,000 to Trump’s Inaugural Committee, with GEO having donated $225,000 to a Trump Super PAC during the 2016 election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mueller signals outside prosecutors may eventually take over Russian trolls case, Devlin Barrett, June 22, 2018. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has enlisted four assistant U.S. attorneys for the case against 13 Russians and three companies because any prosecutions could drag on for years.

robert mueller full face fileA handful of new federal prosecutors have joined one of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s cases — an indication that he is preparing to hand off at least one prosecution to others when his office completes its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

In a pair of court filings Friday, the special counsel added four assistant U.S. attorneys to the case against Russian entities and people accused of running an online influence operation targeting American voters. People familiar with the staffing decision said the new prosecutors are not joining Mueller’s team, but rather are being added to the case so that they could someday take responsibility for it when the special counsel ceases operation.

The case those prosecutors are joining could drag on for years because the indictment charges a number of Russians who will probably never see the inside of a U.S. courtroom. Russia does not extradite its citizens.

June 21

djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtube

The New Yorker reports that Karen McDougal, shown in a photo drawn from YouTube with President Trump, was paid $150,000 by American Media, Inc., for her story about an affair with the married future president Trump in 2006

ny times logomichael cohen ap file croppedNew York Times, National Enquirer Executives Said to Be Subpoenaed in Cohen Investigation, Jim Rutenberg, June 21, 2018 (print edition). The investigation into President Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael D. Cohen (right) has ensnared the publisher of The National Enquirer, further thrusting the media company into a federal inquiry involving a onetime top lieutenant to a sitting president.

Prosecutors with the Southern District of New York subpoenaed executives at the publisher, American Media, this spring, according to people who have been briefed about the move but agreed to share the details about it only on the condition of anonymity.

david pecker croppedThe prosecutors had already asked for communications between Mr. Cohen and American Media’s chairman, David J. Pecker (left), and its chief content officer, Dylan Howard. That request was part of a search warrant they secured for Mr. Cohen’s home, office, hotel room and electronic devices in April. The people familiar with the investigation said prosecutors sought similar communications from Mr. Howard and Mr. Pecker.

karen mcdougal playboyDuring the presidential campaign, American Media had arranged to effectively silence Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump years earlier, with a $150,000 payout.

The payment caught the attention of investigators conducting a broad investigation into Mr. Cohen’s efforts on behalf of Mr. Trump during the campaign, as well as his own business dealings. It is also the subject of a complaint at the Federal Election Commission.

June 20

djt michael cohen

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Michael Cohen just resigned from the RNC in protest of Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, June 20, 2018. Here’s what’s really going on. Donald Trump’s longtime fixer Michael Cohen, shown above in a file photo, has just resigned from his position as Deputy Finance Chair of the Republican National Committee. In his resignation letter, Cohen cited his opposition to Donald Trump’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents and locking them in cages. Of course there’s a whole lot more going on here with Cohen’s resignation.

rnc logoTo be clear, we’re not doubting Michael Cohen’s sincerity when he says that, as the son of a Holocaust survivor, he can’t stand to watch what Trump is doing to these families. That doesn’t sound like the kind of thing he’d say if he didn’t truly believe it. But take a look at what else is going on today. Even as ABC News is reporting Cohen’s resignation from the RNC in protest of Trump, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Cohen is furious at Trump for not paying his legal bills.

This comes even as ABC and CNN are reporting that Cohen is looking to cut a plea deal, and as NBC reports that the Feds have told Cohen that he’s just days away from arrest if he doesn’t cut a deal. There are a lot of moving parts here. It’s somewhat surprising that the RNC hasn’t yet fired Cohen, considering the legal trouble he’s facing. Perhaps Trump told the RNC to keep Cohen on board, for fear of alienating him.

In any case, Donald Trump is out on a limb with his child concentration camps, and it’s made him more politically vulnerable than ever. Michael Cohen is making a point of publicly stabbing at Trump on this issue, and that can be taken as a sign that Cohen has decided to definitively distance himself from Trump in the eyes of all observers. Maybe he’s siding with the kids because he’s trying to gain sympathy from an eventual jury trial. But we think this is yet another sign that Cohen has made up his mind to cut a deal against Trump, and he’s closing one door at a time.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation / Commentary: Trump is a serial child abuser; efforts to force him to stop are ineffective, Wayne Madsen (shown at left), June wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small20, 2018 (subscription required). Wayne Madsen is an investigative reporter, syndicated columnist, author and former Navy intelligence officer once temporarily deputized by the FBI to help investigate pedophilia by a fellow Navy officer.

Court filings and witness accounts show that Donald Trump is nothing more than a serial child abuser. This antipathy toward children has taken on many forms over the decades and it includes mental, physical, and, in some cases, sexual abuse.

The Hill, Religious leaders, former judges asks DC to revoke Trump Hotel's liquor license due to president's 'lack of good character,' Luis Sanchez, June 20, 2018. Religious leaders and former judges filed a complaint on Wednesday asking the Washington D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to revoke the Trump International Hotel’s liquor license because of President Trump’s character. The hotel is shown at right in a Justice Integrity Project photo as it was under renovation.

djt tump int hotelThe complaint argues that a D.C. liquor license can be suspended or revoked if the “true and actual owner" of an establishment is not a person of "good character."

“Donald Trump, the true and actual owner of the Trump International Hotel, is not a person of good character. The Trump International Hotel nonetheless currently holds a Class C/H license issued by the Board,” the complaint reads.

The complainants, who are D.C. residents, are asking the board to investigate Trump's "lack of good character."

They also want the hotel's licensee, Trump Old Post Office LLC, to appear before the board to show cause why its license to sell and serve alcoholic beverages should not be revoked.

The complaint notes that “good character” investigations are typically done when someone applies for a license or for renewal, but argues that the board should investigate Trump’s “lack of good character now” because of recent events.

The group lists lies the president has told, sexual assault accusations against Trump and alleged racist acts. They also call out Trump for his “failure to abide by the law and to repudiate associations with known criminals.”

June 16

michael horwitz headshot

webster tarpley podium2World Crisis Radio, Opinion: Justice Dept. Inspector General's report on Comey was huge cover-up, whitewash, Webster G. Tarpley (shown at right), June 16, 2018 (radio broadcast: 74:01 mins.). Dr. Webster Tarpley, an  author and commentator, described as a "whitewash" Inspector Gen. Michael Horwitz's much-touted 538-page report on former FBI Director James Comey's performance during the 2016 presidential campaign and its aftermath.

fbi logorudy giuliani recentTarpley said Horwitz (shown above) failed to probe leaks from the FBI's New York City office by rogue agents who were assisting their former boss Rudy Giuliani supporting GOP nominee Donald Trump, thereby helping Trump's campaign immeasurably.

By contrast, Tarpley argued, Horwitz fed the current GOP spin machine by highlighting private anti-Trump conversation between two other agents, neither of whom were shown to have undertaken any serious anti-Trump action.

Tarpley said the agents could have easily disclosed to the media during the campaign (albeit in violation of law and FBI rules) that the FBI had undertaken a national security investigation of the Trump campaign beginning in the summer of 2016, but that story never surfaced until long after Trump's election, Tarpley noted.  

washington post logoWashington Post, From ‘the Count’ to inmate: The fall of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, Tom Hamburger, June 16, 2018 (print edition). He owned at least five properties from Manhattan to Palm Beach and purchased three Range Rovers and a Mercedes-Benz. He spent millions of dollars on oriental rugs and tailored suits. And he reached new heights of power in 2016 when he gained a top position in Donald Trump’s campaign.

But on Friday, ordered by a federal judge to await trial in jail, Paul Manafort’s once high-flying life sank to a new low.

The image of the grim-faced Manafort, led out of a D.C. courtroom by a U.S. marshal, offered a vivid reminder of the precipitous fall of a man who has been counselor to presidents, an architect of the modern-day influence industry and, for a time, a key engineer of Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party.

nbc news logoNBC News, Paul Manafort sent to Virginia jail after judge revokes bail, Charlie Gile and Tracy Connor, Updated June 16. 2018. 6 Paul Manafort was locked up in a Virginia jail Friday night after a federal judge revoked his bail amid allegations of witness tampering. An inmate database showed that President Donald Trump's former campaign chief was booked into the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Va., at 8:22 p.m. Jail records listed his housing unit as "VIP-1."

He was taken to the 500-bed facility hours after prosecutors working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller convinced Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Manafort couldn't be trusted on house arrest any longer. Manafort, 69, did not appear to react to Jackson's ruling beyond a nod to his attorney. He gave a quick wave to his wife as he was taken into custody and led out of the courtroom.

The move drastically ratchets up pressure on Manafort as Mueller continues to investigate whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Manafort's ex-business partner, Rick Gates, who was indicted with him in October, has already pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate.

After Jackson's ruling, Trump tweeted that Manafort got a "tough sentence" — though he hasn't actually been sentenced for anything — and tried to downplay his involvement with the campaign."Like Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign," the president told reporters at the White House before the hearing.

"You know, Paul Manafort worked for me for a very short period of time. He worked for Ronald Reagan. He worked for Bob Dole. He worked for John McCain, or his firm did. He worked for many other Republicans. He worked for me, what, 49 days or something. Very short period of time."

In fact, Manafort worked for the Trump campaign for 144 days. He joined the campaign in March 2016, became chair in May and resigned in August 2016.

June 15

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The key takeaways from the Justice Department inspector general’s report, Editorial Board, June 15, 2018 (print edition). michael horwitz headshotThe Justice released Thursday a highly anticipated report [by Inspector General Michael Horwitz, right] on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Trump wanted. But there is enough in it for him and his allies to twist and cherry-pick that its actual findings are likely to be lost in partisan noise.

Given Mr. Trump’s allegations about the FBI conspiring against him, the first thing to note is that the report provides no support for the theory of a broad anti-Trump plot. True, the inspector general uncovered private messages between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, including one saying “we’ll stop” Mr. Trump from becoming president. “The conduct by these employees cast a cloud over the entire FBI investigation,” the report reads.

But examining the actions the FBI took, the inspector general concluded that Mr. Strzok “was not the sole decisionmaker” and, in fact, “advocated for more aggressive investigative measures” against Ms. Clinton. “We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative actions we reviewed.” The inspector general also concluded that the decisions made on how to conduct the Clinton investigation were reasonable.

paul manafort face nation

Former Trump 2016 Presidential Campaign Manager Paul Manafort (screenshot from a Face the Nation appearance during the campaign )

washington post logoWashington Post, Manafort ordered to jail after charges of witness tampering, Spencer S. Hsu, Ellen Nakashima and Devlin Barrett​, June 15, 2018. The order to imprison President Trump’s former campaign manager came in a federal court hearing after Paul Manafort had been asking to post a $10 million bond and end seven months of home detention. He has been awaiting trial on federal conspiracy and money-laundering charges brought by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

A federal judge ordered Paul Manafort to jail Friday over charges he tampered with witnesses while out on bail — a major blow for President Trump’s former campaign chairman as he awaits trial on federal conspiracy and money-laundering charges next month.

“You have abused the trust placed in you six months ago,’’ U.S. District Court judge Amy Berman Jackson told Manafort. “The government motion will be granted and the defendant will be detained.”

The judge said sending Manafort to a cell was “an extraordinarily difficult decision,” but added his conduct left her little choice, because he had allegedly contacted witnesses in the case in an effort to get them to lie to investigators.

“This hearing is not about politics. It is not about the conduct of the office of special counsel. It is about the defendant’s conduct,” Jackson said. “I’m concerned you seem to treat these proceedings as another marketing exercise.”

Manafort, 69, has pleaded not guilty to all charges in what prosecutors say was a broader conspiracy to launder more than $30 million over a decade of undisclosed lobbying for a former pro-Russian politician and party in Ukraine.

ny times logoirs logoNew York Times, How the I.R.S. Could Punish Trump and His Foundation, Jesse Drucker, June 15, 2018 (print edition). New York’s attorney general, who sued the Trump Foundation for engaging in political activities, also referred the matter to the Internal Revenue Service.

The New York attorney general sued President Trump and his foundation on Thursday. But his bigger problem might be with the Internal Revenue Service.

The lawsuit accused Mr. Trump and three of his children of using the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a nonprofit charity, for political and business purposes, even though he signed federal tax returns swearing that wasn’t happening. Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood referred her findings to the I.R.S. for further investigation.

Any involvement of the I.R.S. puts in play a range of possibilities. The agency has the power to bring civil penalties, and its investigation could lead to federal criminal charges. Similar behavior has prompted federal prosecutions, according to lawyers who have worked on such cases.

Reactions To Justice Department Campaign Report

ny times logofbi logoNew York Times, Trump Calls Justice Dept. Report ‘Total Disaster’ for F.B.I., Eileen Sullivan, June 15, 2018. “Doesn’t get any lower than that!” Mr. Trump wrote of the findings in a Justice Department report that detailed texts between F.B.I. agents who opposed his presidential bid.

ny times logoHillary Clinton ButtonNew York Times, Democrats Find Vindication, and New Agony, in Report, Alexander Burns, June 15, 2018 (print edition). Hillary Clinton supporters saw the report on James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, as proof that she was wronged in 2016. “It’s disappointing and infuriating,” one ally said. On Thursday, Clinton supporters won a powerful kind of validation from the unlikeliest source: President Trump’s Department of Justice.

The inspector general’s report criticizing Mr. Comey for his flamboyant handling of the Clinton investigation sent an angry thrill through the ranks of Democrats and Mrs. Clinton’s allies. Michael E. Horowitz, an investigator not appointed by Mr. Trump, concluded that Mr. Comey had twice breached the bureau’s traditional discretion: first by holding a July news conference to announce he would not charge Mrs. Clinton with mishandling classified information, and then later sending a letter to Congress disclosing that the agents were scrutinizing new evidence in the matter

June 14

barbara underwoodThe Hill, New York attorney general sues to dissolve Trump Foundation, Jacqueline Thomsen, June 14, 2018. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood (D) filed a lawsuit against President Trump, the Donald J. Trump Foundation and members of the Trump family on Thursday, alleging that the charity has violated federal and state law.

The lawsuit also states that Trump used the foundation to cover legal fees and to promote his properties and businesses. The lawsuit alleges that Trump’s campaign “extensively directed and coordinated the Foundation’s activities in connection with an event for veterans in Iowa that Trump held in 2016 instead of participating in a presidential debate.

The document alleges that the foundation assisted the campaign in organizing the event and that the foundation was widely utilized in promoting it, but that the charity was used “to satisfy the campaign’s requirements.”

The attorney general cited emails showing that the campaign “played the lead in role in determining the disposition” of the fundraiser proceeds, including ones showing then-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski communicating with foundation staffers about the disbursement of the funds, according to the document.

The lawsuit also alleges that Trump requested that foundation staff use $100,000 from the foundation in 2007 to settle a lawsuit between the city of Palm Beach, Fla., and his Mar-a-Lago estate. The document features a handwritten note by Trump requesting the transaction.“As our investigation reveals, the Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality,” Underwood said in a statement. “This is not how private foundations should function and my office intends to hold the Foundation and its directors accountable for its misuse of charitable assets.”

Trump responded to the lawsuit in a pair of tweets Thursday, saying he "won't settle the case."

The sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) A.G. Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000. I won’t settle this case!...

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 11:09 AM - Jun 14, 2018

....Schneiderman, who ran the Clinton campaign in New York, never had the guts to bring this ridiculous case, which lingered in their office for almost 2 years. Now he resigned his office in disgrace, and his disciples brought it when we would not settle.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 11:09 AM - Jun 14, 2018

washington post logoWashington Post, IG report criticizes Comey’s handling of Clinton probe, includes anti-Trump exchanges among FBI personnel, John Wagner, Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian, June 14, 2018. A highly anticipated report from the Justice Department’s inspector general criticizes James B. Comey for his actions as FBI director during the Hillary Clinton email investigation and includes new text messages from FBI personnel conveying political opposition to Donald Trump.

Justice Department logoTrump was set to receive a briefing Thursday on the 500-page report, which the president is widely expected to use to launch fresh attacks against not only Clinton but also the law enforcement officials behind special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia probe, which Trump has repeatedly referred to as a “witch hunt.”

Perhaps the most damaging new revelation in the report, according to multiple people familiar with it, is a previously unreported text message in which Peter Strzok, a key investigator on both the Clinton email case and the investigation of Russia and the Trump campaign, assured an FBI lawyer in August 2016 that “we’ll stop” Trump from making it to the White House.

“[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” the lawyer, Lisa Page, wrote to Strzok.

JIP Editor's Note: The article above is based on contents of the report leaked by Republicans. A story later will report on the full report.

Comey Responds To DOJ Report

Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, 2017

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: This Report Says I Was Wrong. But That’s Good for the F.B.I., James Comey (President Trump's first FBI director, shown above in a file photo), June 14, 2018. An inspector general report faulting me also found no evidence of bias or improper motivation in the F.B.I. investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The Department of Justice’s independent watchdog, the inspector general, has released a report that is critical of my decisions as F.B.I. director during the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email account. The report concludes that I was wrong to announce the F.B.I.’s completion of the investigation without coordinating with the attorney general and that I was wrong to inform Congress in late October that we had reopened the investigation.

fbi logoIn both situations, the inspector general’s team concludes, I should have adhered to established norms, which they see as mandating both deference to the attorney general on the public announcement and silence about an investigation so close to an election.

I do not agree with all of the inspector general’s conclusions, but I respect the work of his office and salute its professionalism. All of our leaders need to understand that accountability and transparency are essential to the functioning of our democracy, even when it involves criticism. This is how the process is supposed to work.

This report is important for two reasons.

First, the inspector general’s team went through the F.B.I.’s work with a microscope and found no evidence that bias or improper motivation affected the investigation, which I know was done competently, honestly and independently.

The report also resoundingly demonstrates that there was no prosecutable case against Mrs. Clinton, as we had concluded. Although that probably will not stop some from continuing to claim the opposite is true, this independent assessment will be useful to thoughtful people and an important contribution to the historical record.

Second, this report is vital in shedding light for future leaders on the nature and quality of our investigation and the decisions we made. In 2016, my team faced an extraordinary situation — something I thought of as a 500-year flood — offering no good choices and presenting some of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. We knew that reasonable people might choose to do things differently and that a future independent reviewer might not see things the way we did. Yet I always believed that an inspector general report would be crucial to understanding and evaluating our actions.

summer zervos

abc news logoABC News, Appeals Court denies Trump bid to get Summer Zervos defamation suit tossed, Aaron Katersky and James Hill, June 14, 2018. New York State’s highest court on Thursday rejected an appeal from President Trump in a defamation case brought by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice” who alleges that Trump groped and kissed her without her consent in 2007. This is the third time Trump’s attempt to halt discovery in the case and a possible deposition of the president has failed. She is shown above in a screenshot from the show.

In a brief order, the New York Court of Appeals, on procedural grounds, rejected the president’s attempt to dismiss the case or delay it until after he leaves office. The court ruled that Trump’s appeal is premature because there has not been a final determination of his motions in the lower courts.

But the president’s legal team was undaunted. “The Court of Appeals did not address the merits of the issue at stake here (an issue first raised by the U.S. Supreme Court in Clinton v. Jones) —- namely, that, under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, state courts do not have jurisdiction over a sitting President," a spokesperson for the president’s attorney, Marc Kasowitz, said in a statement.

Kasowitz has claimed that the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution bars a state court lawsuit against a sitting president and has said “this issue will likely reach the Supreme Court of the United States.” The president has denied he sexually assaulted or harassed women, including Zervos, before he took office.

June 12

washington post logoWashington Post, George Conway, lawyer and husband of Kellyanne, rebuts Trump on constitutionality of special counsel, Meagan Flynn, June 12, 2018. On the morning of his 500th day in office, June 4, President Trump turned his attention to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation.

On Monday evening, George Conway, a conservative lawyer, published a 3,500-word essay in which he called Trump’s tweet a “meritless legal position” rooted in an assumption from a conservative legal scholar that is “uncomplicatedly, flatly wrong.”

“The ‘constitutional’ arguments made against the special counsel … have little more rigor than the tweet that promoted them,” Conway wrote. “Such a lack of rigor, sadly, has been a disturbing trend in much of the politically charged public discourse about the law lately, and one that lawyers — regardless of their politics — owe a duty to abjure.”

Conway’s essay was notable not just for its analysis but for its venue, Lawfare, a highly regarded legal blog that has featured some of the strongest expert critiques of Trump’s conduct as president — and also for its author, a respected lawyer who happens to be married to one of Trump’s most visible advisers, Kellyanne Conway.

Vanity Fair, “The Era of Primal Trump”: Advisers worry that with Singapore in the rearview mirror, “It’s going to hit the fan pretty soon,” Gabriel Sherman, June 12, 2018. As Trump returns from Singapore after his historic, self-touted, inconclusive meeting with Kim Jong Un, people close to the president say the Mueller probe is reaching an inflection point. “It’s going to hit the fan pretty soon,” a friend of the president told me.

Within the next month, Mueller is reportedly planning to deliver his findings in the obstruction of justice investigation to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. “Donald is very worried,” said a Republican close to Trump. The difference is that Trump is now more unshackled than at any point in his presidency, meaning that firing Mueller or Rosenstein remains a possibility.

CNN, Rosenstein plans to call on House to investigate its own staff, Laura Jarrett, June 12, 2018. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's ongoing battle with House Republicans reached new heights Tuesday, as the No. 2 senior leader of the Justice Department plans to call on the House to investigate its own committee staff.

rod rosenstein us attorneyRosenstein, shown at left, has butted heads with House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes for months over a subpoena for documents related to the Russia investigation, but the battle spilled out into public view Tuesday after Fox News reported staff on the committee felt "personally attacked" at a meeting with Rosenstein in January.

Justice Department officials dispute the recounting of the closed-door meeting detailed in the story, and Rosenstein now plans to "request that the House general counsel conduct an internal investigation of these Congressional staffers' conduct" when he returns from a foreign trip this week, a Justice Department official said. "The Deputy Attorney General never threatened anyone in the room with a criminal investigation," the official said.

"The Deputy Attorney General was making the point -- after being threatened with contempt -- that as an American citizen charged with the offense of contempt of Congress, he would have the right to defend himself, including requesting production of relevant emails and text messages and calling them as witnesses to demonstrate that their allegations are false," the official added.

"That is why he put them on notice to retain relevant emails and text messages, and he hopes they did so." Another former US official, also present at the meeting, agreed that at no time did Rosenstein threaten any House staff with a criminal investigation.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rod Rosenstein goes after Trump’s stooge Devin Nunes, Bill Palmer, June 12, 2018. As Donald Trump’s criminal scandals have grown worse, and the inevitability of his demise becomes more apparent, we’ve seen more Republicans in Congress seeking to distance themselves from him.

The most notable exception has been House Intel Committee Chair Devin Nunes, who is already so deeply caught up in Trump’s scandals, he probably has nothing more to lose by committing obstruction of justice in the name of trying to derail those scandals. But now Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has had enough, and he’s going after Nunes in clever fashion.

devin nunesFor months, Devin Nunes (shown at right) has been using his position as Chairman as an excuse to try to poke around at the evidence against him and Donald Trump in the Russia scandal. These efforts haven’t gotten him anywhere, but it’s nonetheless forced Rosenstein to play defense. Now Rosenstein has had enough and he’s playing offense.

Nunes’ staffers made the mistake of threatening to hold Rosenstein in contempt of Congress. Because they were threatening to formally accuse Rosenstein of a crime, he seized the opportunity to turn the whole thing on its head, according to a new report from CNN. He informed Nunes’ staffers that they will need to retain all emails and text messages going forward which relate in any way toward their accusations against him, because these communications are now evidence.

Here’s the part that Rod Rosenstein didn’t directly say, but he didn’t have to: if Devin Nunes’ staffers fail to retain their own texts and emails, or try to destroy them, they’ll have committed of obstruction of justice. He just took their false accusations and legal threats against him, and put them in a situation where they’ll either have to provide evidence of their own participation in the Trump-Nunes obstruction, or they’ll end up committing obstruction by not retaining that evidence. Rosenstein may have just backed Nunes’ staffers into a corner where they’ll have to flip on him.

June 10

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s not wrong about pardoning himself, Michael W. McConnell, June 10, 2018 (print edition). Michael W. McConnell is a professor of law and director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He formerly served as a [Republican-appointed] judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

When President Trump tweeted that he has the constitutional authority to pardon himself, he likely weakened his case in the minds of most ordinary people. Why would he talk about pardons if he hasn’t done anything for which he might need one? But as a legal and constitutional matter, Trump is not wrong. Presidents do have the constitutional authority to pardon themselves, albeit at the considerable risk of impeachment if they do so.

The president’s pardon power was intentionally made broad, even though the framers of the Constitution were well aware that it could be abused. They understood the pardon as an essential final check against miscarriages of justice and overly harsh applications of the letter of the law — and more importantly, as a device for national reconciliation after episodes of political unrest. George Washington used the power this way after the Whiskey Rebellion, Abraham Lincoln after the Civil War, and Jimmy Carter after Vietnam.

Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution says the president “shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” The exception for impeachment shows that the clause extends to presidential misconduct, and suggests the ultimate remedy is impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate, rather than criminal prosecution.

But we do not have to guess. Two days before the Constitutional Convention voted in 1787 to approve the final draft, Edmund Randolph of Virginia moved to narrow the president’s pardon power on the ground that it “was too great a trust. The President himself may be guilty.” His point was supported by none other than James Madison. But James Wilson of Pennsylvania, the finest lawyer among the delegates and later a justice on the first Supreme Court, stressed the importance of the pardon power and argued that if the president “be himself a party to the guilt, he can be impeached and prosecuted.” (“Prosecuted” meant prosecuted before the Senate.) Randolph’s motion was defeated eight states to two, with one state divided.

The framers of the Constitution thus specifically contemplated and debated the prospect that a president might be guilty of an offense and use the pardon power to clear himself. They concluded that the remedy of impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate was a sufficient check on the possibility of abuse.

June 8

More Charges Against Former Trump Campaign Chief Manafort

Paul Manafort

washington post logoWashington Post, Special counsel Mueller indicts Paul Manafort, Russian associate on obstruction charges, Devlin Barrett, Spencer S. Hsu and Rosalind S. Helderman, June 9, 2018 (print edition). The indictment of former Trump Campaign Manage Paul Manafort, shown above in a file photo, marks the first such charges for Manafort’s associate, Konstantin Kilimnik. Prosecutors have previously said Kilimnik has ties to Russian intelligence, which he denies.

james wolf ali watkins

Former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe and New York Times reporter Ali Watkins (file photos)

washington post logoWashington Post, Young reporter in leak investigation enjoyed meteoric rise in Washington journalism, Sarah Ellison and Paul Farhi, June 8, 2018. The first known leak investigation of the Trump administration has put under scrutiny a 20-something New York Times reporter, who enjoyed a meteoric rise through Washington’s journalism ranks that began while she was still in college.

Times reporter Ali Watkins hasn’t been charged in the Justice Department’s investigation of the leak of classified information from the Senate Intelligence Committee. But the revelation late Thursday that the FBI had secretly seized years’ worth of Watkins’ phone and email records, dating back to when she was a student at Temple University, raised questions about her relationship with the man at the center of the investigation.

Watkins’ romantic involvement with former intelligence committee aide James A. Wolfe — who was indicted on Thursday — focused attention on her reporting for such news organizations as McClatchy’s Washington bureau, BuzzFeed and Politico.

June 7

james wolf ali watkins

Former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe and New York Times reporter Ali Watkins (file photos)

ny times logoNew York Times, Times Reporter’s Records Are Seized in Justice Dept. Inquiry, Adam Goldman, Nicholas Fandos and Katie Benner, June 7, 2017.  Prosecutors seized phone and email records as part of an investigation into leaks by a former Senate aide. It was the first known use of such an aggressive tactic under President Trump.

Justice Department log circularFederal law enforcement officials secretly seized years’ worth of a New York Times reporter’s phone and email records this year in an investigation of classified information leaks. It was the first known instance of the Justice Department going after a reporter’s data under President Trump.

The seizure — disclosed in a letter to the reporter, Ali Watkins — suggested that prosecutors under the Trump administration will continue the aggressive tactics employed under President Barack Obama.

Mr. Trump has complained bitterly about leaks and demanded that law enforcement officials seek criminal charges against government officials involved in illegal and sometimes embarrassing disclosures of national security secrets.

fbi logoInvestigators sought Ms. Watkins’s information as part of an inquiry into whether James A. Wolfe, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s former director of security, disclosed classified secrets to reporters. F.B.I. agents approached Ms. Watkins about a previous three-year romantic relationship she had with Mr. Wolfe, saying they were investigating unauthorized leaks.

News media advocates consider the idea of mining a journalist’s records for sources to be an intrusion on First Amendment freedoms, and prosecutors acknowledge it is one of the most delicate steps the Justice Department can take. “Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy, and communications between journalists and their sources demand protection,” said Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman.

michael cohen ap file croppedPalmer Report, Opinion: Michael Cohen’s friend hints at Cohen going “nuclear” against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, June 7, 2018. In the two months since the FBI raided the home and office of Donald Trump’s longtime fixer Michael Cohen, we’ve seen Trump spend a lot of time trying to distance himself from Cohen’s actions, while putting very little effort into defending Cohen. Now that Cohen (shown at right) is just eight days away from a major evidence deadline that could serve as a de facto decision point for whether he’s going to cut a plea deal, one of Cohen’s friends is hinting about which way Cohen is leaning.

MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace hosted a panel today to discuss what Michael Cohen might do next. One of the participants on that panel: Cohen’s friend, radio host Donny Deutsch. The panel debated whether or not Cohen will end up cutting a plea deal. Deutsch described Cohen as being “very angry at this point.” He was then asked if Cohen is more angry at Trump or at the government. Deutsch then added “I think he’s angry with misguided loyalty … and I believe there could be some nuclear things coming.”

Deutsch didn’t specifically elaborate on what he meant by “nuclear things.” But it’s not difficult to figure out that he’s talking about Michael Cohen cutting a plea deal against Donald Trump and giving up Trump’s dirtiest secrets.

June 6

The Atlantic, One of the most shocking revelations from the special counsel’s investigation is the suggestion that Paul Manafort’s longtime aide is a pawn of Russian intelligence, Franklin Foer, June 6, 2018. In the early years of the century, as Paul Manafort made his way across Moscow and Kiev, he was followed by a diminutive man. With a generous slackening of the tape, the man measured just above 5 feet. This made for a striking contrast in physical frames, because Manafort and his expansive shoulders crowd a room. It also made the pair an almost slapstick spectacle.

But over time, Manafort and the smaller man, his aide-de-camp, began to converge in appearance. The aide started to dress like his boss, buying expensive suits cut in a similar style. He would mimic his mentor’s habits, using the same car service to shuttle through the cobblestone streets of the Ukrainian capital in the same model BMW. He would come to earn the title “Manafort’s Manafort."

When Manafort first began to contemplate doing business on a grand scale in Russia and Ukraine, he faced a basic logistic challenge. He intended to operate in countries where mastery of English was not a prerequisite for the acquisition of wealth and power. Manafort hardly understood a word of his prospective clients’ languages. “Paul is the smartest political guy I know, but he couldn’t order a glass of water,” one of his former staffers told me. So he grew reliant on Konstantin Kilimnik, a Soviet-born native who could render idiomatic English and translate the cultural nuances of the region that might elude outsiders. Manafort would describe him to others in his office as “my Russian brain.” For a decade, Kilimnik was a fixture in Manafort’s meetings with the region’s leading politicians and oligarchs.

After so much time spent in close quarters, the relationship between the two became trusting and deep. By 2011, Kilimnik had taken over Manafort’s office in Kiev. This made Kilimnik the primary interface for Manafort’s lone client, a corrupt clique of former gangsters that ruled Ukraine under the banner of their political organization, the Party of Regions. When they weren’t in each other’s presence, the mentor and protégé exchanged “millions of emails” — at least in Kilimnik’s estimate. “We discussed a lot of issues, from Putin to women,” he once texted a reporter.

Since the early ’80s, the Democratic and Republican parties have sent operatives abroad to promote the cause of democracy, to work with like-minded political parties to help spread the practical teachings of American electioneering. A large chunk of the funding for the organizations they started — the National Democratic Institute is the IRI’s cousin from across the aisle — derives from the United States government. The groups attract both idealists and adventurers, most of them young politicos eager to ply their trade in exotic corners of the globe. Of all the adventures, the greatest was the former Soviet Union in the immediate aftermath of the Communist collapse, an opportunity to play a role in the region’s first genuine campaigns in modern history. It was a chance to feel the intoxicating rush of newfound freedom.

In the dying days of the Soviet empire, Kilimnik had attended a language school run by military intelligence — the GRU — which had given him mastery of Swedish and English. It was this linguistic foundation that provided the basis for his hiring at the IRI. Konstantin Kilimnik went to work as a translator there at the crest of the post-Soviet era’s optimism, before the prospects for democratic change dissipated and cynicism returned.

June 5

The Atlantic, Paul Manafort Loses His Cool, Franklin Foer, June 5, 2018. Special Counsel Robert Mueller says the longtime Trump associate tried to tamper with witnesses while awaiting trial on conspiracy and money-laundering charges. At the height of his powers as a political consultant, Paul Manafort was known for his cool. In fact, the value of his counsel increased at moments of crisis. While others panicked, Manafort rarely evinced a hint of frazzle. He could still think strategically, detach himself from emotion, and issue clearheaded guidance. But he could afford to keep his head at such moments, because the problems he was called on to solve belonged to others.

Robert Mueller’s allegation that Manafort attempted to tamper with a witness permits us to peer inside Manafort’s mind as it has functioned in a very different set of circumstances. When it comes to Manafort’s own deep problems — his moment of legal peril — he seems unable to muster strategic thinking. He has shown himself capable of profoundly dunderheaded miscalculations.

It’s hard to understand how he could have attempted the scheme described by Mueller in the midst of the highest-profile, most scrutinized criminal inquiry of the century. But that alone fails to capture the depths of his blundering.

June 4

paul manafort abc flickr Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Manafort Is Accused of Attempted Witness Tampering, Matta Apuzzo, June 4, 2018. Federal prosecutors on Monday accused President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort (shown in a file photo above), of attempting to tamper with witnesses in his federal tax and lobbying case.

In court documents, prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, said that Mr. Manafort tried to contact witnesses by phone and through an encrypted messaging program.

Prosecutors said that was a violation of Mr. Manafort’s release while he awaits trial. They asked a federal judge to revise the terms of his release or revoke it entirely, which would send him to jail until trial.

An F.B.I. agent, Brock W. Domin, wrote in court documents that at least one witness reported Mr. Manafort’s contact and said that he appeared to be trying to coach their story about Mr. Manafort’s lobbying practices.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says he has ‘absolute right’ to pardon himself but denies wrongdoing, John Wagner​, June 4, 2018.  President Trump’s assessment echoed comments made by his attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has offered an expansive view of the president’s executive powers. Trump also took aim again at special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, calling his appointment “totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The president as the persecuted: Trump’s strategy of self-victimization, Philip Rucker​, June 4, 2018.  The president has created around himself an aura of unfair persecution — by the nation’s elites, Democrats, the media and law enforcement — that inspires sympathy from and solidarity with his aggrieved supporters.

washington post logorudy giuliani recentWashington Post, Giuliani: Under constitution, Trump could shoot Comey and not be indicted, John Wagner, June 4, 2018. President Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani reportedly said Sunday that Trump could shoot former FBI director James B. Comey in the Oval Office and still not be indicted for it while still serving as president.

The HuffPost reported that Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, made the assertion on a day when he conducted a series of interviews in which he discussed the expansive powers granted to the president in the Constitution.

“In no case can he be subpoenaed or indicted,” Giuliani said, according to the HuffPost. “I don’t know how you can indict while he’s in office. No matter what it is.” Giuliani said that impeachment would be the remedy for a president’s illegal behavior, offering as an example the hypothetical case of Trump shooting Comey rather than firing him, the HuffPost reported.

June 3

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Lawyers Assert Executive Power to Avoid Questioning, Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman, Charlie Savage and Matt Apuzzo, June 3, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s lawyers have for months quietly waged a campaign to keep the special counsel from trying to force him to answer questions in the investigation into whether he obstructed justice, asserting that he cannot be compelled to testify and arguing in a confidential letter that he could not possibly have committed obstruction because he has unfettered authority over all federal investigations.

In a brash assertion of presidential power, the 20-page letter — sent to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and obtained by The New York Times — contends that the president cannot illegally obstruct any aspect of the investigation into Russia’s election meddling because the Constitution empowers him to, “if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon.”

Mr. Trump’s broad interpretation of executive authority is novel and is likely to be tested if a court battle ensues over whether he could be ordered to answer questions. Hand-delivered to the special counsel’s office in January and written by two of the president’s lawyers at the time, John M. Dowd and Jay A. Sekulow, the letter offers a rare glimpse into one side of the high-stakes negotiations over a presidential interview.

paul manafort cnn

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Donald Trump just went berserk about Paul Manafort, Bill Palmer, June 3, 2018. When it comes to his own people taking him down, Donald Trump is facing trouble on a number of fronts. So why is Trump suddenly going berserk about Paul Manafort (shown above in a file screenshot), the one guy who has made a point of not selling him out?

Two things recently transpired which failed to get the headlines they should have. The first was that, two weeks ago, Paul Manafort’s former son-in-law cut a plea deal against him. The second was that this past week, Manafort’s friends set up a legal defense fund for him, thus confirming that he’s out of money. When the people closest to you start flipping on you, and you can no longer afford your high priced lawyers, it’s usually a sign that you’re done.

We’ve been waiting to see if this was all going to add up to Paul Manafort concluding he’s screwed, and reluctantly cutting a plea deal against Donald Trump. Now suddenly Trump is pushing Manafort back into the headlines, just to distance himself from the guy. This makes no sense at all, unless Trump thinks Manafort is about to flip on him. Has Manafort tipped Trump off as a courtesy, or is Trump merely looking at the same pieces of the puzzle that we are? In any case, this means that something is about to break with Manafort.

djt hope hicksPalmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump may have just sent Hope Hicks to prison, Bill Palmer, June 3, 2018. Last summer, after we learned that Donald Trump Jr had met with the Russians at Trump Tower during the campaign, the media reported that it was Donald Trump himself who dictated his son’s public response.

Since that time, Trump has publicly insisted that this was not the case. Now we’re learning that in January, Trump sent a confidential memo to Robert Mueller, admitting that he dictated the response, while arguing that it’s legal for the president to obstruct justice. The trouble: he may have just sent Hope Hicks (shown in a file photo adjoining him) to prison in the process.

Donald Trump is not going to be able to sell the notion that it’s legal for him to obstruct justice because he’s the president. But even if he could pull that one off, his aides would still be committing a crime if they were conspiring with him to obstruct justice. In other words, in an attempt at protecting himself, Donald Trump and his memo may have just sent Hope Hicks to prison. Of course this in turn would only motivate her to cut a plea deal against Trump, so it may not exactly have been Trump’s best move.

djt melania trump file

Palmer Report, Turns out Donald Trump has been ghost-tweeting for Melania for quite some time, Bill Palmer, June 3, 2018. Earlier this week, just as Melania Trump’s vanishing act was becoming a major controversy, a new tweet appeared on her account which was obviously not written by her.

It was a rude attack on the media which sounded like it had been written by Donald Trump (shown above in a file photo with his wife). The next morning Donald gave himself away by using the exact same key phrase in one of his own tweets. It was clear that Donald was ghost-tweeting on Melania’s account, making her disappearance even more suspicious. Now it turns out he’s been ghost-tweeting for her for quite some time.

June 1

paul manafort rnc 2016 abc flickr

 Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Photo: Disney | ABC Television Group / Flickr

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, To Flip Manafort: Is Mueller Gathering Plea Deals? Gina Bradbury, June 1, 2018. While many others targeted by special counsel Robert Mueller have agreed to cooperate, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has pleaded not guilty to various charges brought against him.

Earlier this month, Jeffrey Yohai — Manafort’s former son-in-law and business partner — accepted a sealed plea agreement in response to conspiracy charges brought in a real estate fraud case. He also pleaded guilty to another count related to a bank account overdraft. Yohai has agreed to cooperate with state and federal prosecutors in New York and California, as well as with the special counsel’s office, to answer questions regarding Trump’s and his campaign members’ ties to Russia.

In 2014, Paul Manafort developed a business partnership with his son-in-law in an effort to remedy the couple’s financial struggles. (The couple separated in March 2017, ultimately divorcing in August.) From 2014 through 2016, Manafort invested hundreds of millions of dollars, together with funds Yohai had solicited from investors, that were rolled into limited liability companies (LLCs). The funds were used to purchase land and older properties in exclusive LA neighborhoods as spec home projects to turn a profit. Manafort, his wife Kathleen, and his daughter Jessica were the primary investors in three of the four properties.

May

May 31

washington post logoWashington Post, Gowdy criticizes Sessions and debunks Trump’s ‘spy’ claim, Editorial board, May 31, 2018 (print edition). There is at least one senior Republican with enough decency to admit the obvious. On Fox News on Tuesday, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, forcefully rebuked President Trump’s baseless and dangerous claim that the Obama administration improperly implanted a “spy” into his 2016 campaign. In so doing, Mr. Gowdy underscored the cowardice of the many other Republicans who stand by while the president shreds the FBI’s reputation for political gain.

trey gowdy better oMr. Gowdy (right) is one of a few people who would know. He received a classified Justice Department briefing last week on an informant who contacted members of Mr. Trump’s campaign in 2016, as the FBI investigated Russian election meddling. The Oversight Committee chairman’s conclusions corroborate those of senior Democrats who were also briefed — which shows that this is not a case of two competing partisan narratives but of truth vs. fiction.

Mr. Trump should admit that he has no evidence substantiating his repeated insistence that his campaign was spied on for partisan purposes. Instead, he has doubled down, as with his previous false claim that President Barack Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped.

May 30

washington post logorudy giuliani recentWashington Post, Giuliani says Trump won’t sit for Mueller interview unless all FBI informant documents reviewed, Josh Dawsey and John Wagner, May 30, 2018 (print edition). Rudolph W. Giuliani’s latest demand further ratcheted up the pressure that President Trump and his lawyers are trying to place on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team as his investigation into alleged coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia reaches a key juncture.

ny times logojeff sessions ag oNew York Times, Trump Told Sessions to Reverse Recusal on Russia Inquiry, Michael S. Schmidt and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, May 30, 2018 (print edition).  By the time Attorney General Jeff Sessions arrived at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort for dinner one Saturday evening in March 2017, he had been receiving the presidential silent treatment for two days. Mr. Sessions (shown at right) had flown to Florida because Mr. Trump was refusing to take his calls about a pressing decision on his travel ban.

When they met, Mr. Trump was ready to talk — but not about the travel ban. His grievance was with Mr. Sessions: The president objected to his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump, who had told aides that he needed a loyalist overseeing the inquiry, berated Mr. Sessions and told him he should reverse his decision, an unusual and potentially inappropriate request.

Mr. Sessions refused.

Justice Department log circularThe confrontation, which has not been previously reported, is being investigated by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as are the president’s public and private attacks on Mr. Sessions and efforts to get him to resign. Mr. Trump dwelled on the recusal for months, according to confidants and current and former administration officials who described his behavior toward the attorney general.

The special counsel’s interest demonstrates Mr. Sessions’s overlooked role as a key witness in the investigation into whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct the inquiry itself. It also suggests that the obstruction investigation is broader than it is widely understood to be — encompassing not only the president’s interactions with and firing of the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, but also his relationship with Mr. Sessions.

May 28

More on Trump Probes

Palmer Report, Opinion: Twitter reinstates Palmer Report and apologizes, Bill Palmer, May 28, 2018. Early on Sunday morning, Twitter informed us that various users had reported our tweet in which we asserted that Donald Trump would spend the rest of his life in prison. In this same notice, Twitter informed us that our tweet was not in violation of any rules. However, an hour later, we received a second notice informing us that we had been suspended from using our official @PalmerReport account for a week because we had engaged in “targeted harassment” against Trump. This naturally set off some fireworks and confusion across the social network. Today, Twitter officially backed down and apologized to us.

This backdoor suspension – which left our account fully visible but left us unable to use it – created the false impression that we had chosen to stop tweeting. Our followers on Twitter were asking us if we had gone out of business or if something bad had happened to me, and there was no proper way for us to even respond to their concerns.

We don’t expect to ever get a satisfactory response as to what truly transpired here. However, we’re relieved that this disturbing matter appears to be at its conclusion, and we’re pleased that Twitter acknowledged in writing that it was in the wrong for having suspended us. We’re aware of other Trump critics who have been improperly suspended in the wake of the judge’s ruling that Donald Trump must unblock his critics, and we will continue fighting on behalf of those individuals. The notion that anyone can be silenced for “targeted harassment” without violating any Twitter policies – simply for tweeting something negative about the President of the United States – is a chilling one. Palmer Report is more committed than ever to exposing his criminal scandals and abuses.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Fact check: did Melania Trump change her Twitter location to New York City? Bill Palmer, May 28, 2018. Melania Trump has not been seen nor heard from by anyone among the media or the public in two weeks, leading to endless questions about why she’s in hiding. Over the past twenty-four hours, a large number of social media users have noted that her official @MelaniaTrump account on Twitter now lists her location as “New York City.” Many have interpreted this as a sign that Melania has moved back to New York.

We’re aware that some political pundits are claiming to have inside sourcing confirming that Melania Trump has indeed moved to New York City. We can’t fact check other people’s inside sources without knowing the identity of those sources. In any case, the “Melania in New York” narrative has no connection to Palmer Report one way or the other. We have not reported any such thing. We can only factually state two things: 1) the @MelaniaTrump account on Twitter has always listed her location as New York City, meaning she did not recently change her location to New York City, and 2) no one among the media or the public has seen or heard from Melania in the past two weeks.

hope hicks strategic communications directorPalmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is now begging Hope Hicks not to testify against him, Bill Palmer, May 28, 2018. Last week we learned that the Republican National Committee, almost surely at the direction of Donald Trump, had funneled as much as half a million dollars to a law firm representing Hope Hicks in the Trump-Russia scandal. It may not have been illegal, but it was certainly hush money aimed at convincing her not to cut a plea deal or testify against him. Now Trump is hinting that Hicks (shown in a file photo) is facing her moment of truth.

Donald Trump has posted this tweet: “Who’s going to give back the young and beautiful lives (and others) that have been devastated and destroyed by the phony Russia Collusion Witch Hunt? They journeyed down to Washington, D.C., with stars in their eyes and wanting to help our nation…They went back home in tatters!” It reads like an attempt at bad poetry, and it’s something he clearly didn’t write himself. But he certainly signed off on it.

Based on the tenor and word choice of the tweet in question, Trump is clearly referring to Hope Hicks. Based on the way she’s being described, it sounds like she’s at her breaking point. Trump is incapable of feeling empathy, so his only possible interest in posting a tweet like this would be to try to convince her not to give up and cut a deal with Robert Mueller. So why Hicks specifically?

May 27

May 27

djt shera bechard

Playboy model Shera Bechard, who received hush money from a 'David Dennison,' and Donald Trump

New Daily (Australia), Opinion: The Playboy model and a hushed-up abortion: Is this Trump’s biggest secret? Larry Hackett, May 27, 2018. Let’s face it: it’s tough keeping track of the stream of sleaze surging around the Trump White House.

The sheer volume — the plea deals and co-operating witnesses, the raids on lawyers’ offices, the porn stars, Russians, the new faces and names emerging weekly — has become numbing and exhausting.

We may delight in the revelations, but many of us just don’t have the time for the details and slow drip of legal manoeuvres. Wake us when it’s over, whenever that is.

Which might explain why the story of fundraiser, the child pornographer and the Playboy playmate has failed to catch on.

Got your attention now?

Elliott Broidy is a well-connected Republican fundraiser and influence peddler around Washington. Like all lobbyists, his value is in his relationships (real or perceived) and access to power – in this case, to the new president.

During the inauguration festivities, Broidy met George Nader, a Lebanese-born lobbyist working on behalf of the United Arab Emirates. The pair struck up a friendship, and Nader began pressing Broidy to reach out to Mr Trump on behalf of the UAE in their efforts to isolate and punish fellow gulf state Qatar and, by extension, Iran. 

Nader (who pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography in 1991) pressed Broidy hard to do the UAE’s bidding, and for good reason: the two stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts from the UAE, whose princes were eager to influence Trump.

Broidy, according to an exhaustive report by The Associated Press, launched all manner of anti-Qatar activities – congressional bills, think-tank forums and donations to members of Congress. Despite Broidy and Nader’s denials, the AP suggests all these efforts were paid for by the UAE, which would violate US law.

(Broidy, no stranger to the dark arts of achieving influence, was convicted in 2009 of bribing New York State officials relating to a pension fund).

By the end of 2017, Broidy and Nader were on the verge of a US $600 million contract from the UAE. It was at precisely that moment that two things occurred: Broidy met Mr Trump at the White House, and he began making a series of secret transfers to bank accounts associated with Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s attorney/fixer.

May 26

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump proves he’ll throw any of his own people under the bus, J.H. Norton, May 26, 2018. Sociopaths have little or no conscience. They ignore societal norms that restrain questionable behavior or cause regrets afterwards. Donald Trump is a textbook case of this psychological disorder. He aggressively skirts ethical, moral and legal boundaries because in his mind the ends always, unquestionably, justify the means.

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues his investigation, a pattern has emerged. Trump has quickly distanced himself from anyone who gets in trouble. George Papadopoulos was dismissed as a coffee boy. Paul Manafort only worked on the Trump campaign for fleeting moment. Michael Cohen is a bit legal player with separate business interests. Roger Stone and Jared Kushner will surely get thrown under the bus once they are indicted. Just look at how Trump’s past treatment of his lawyer Roy Cohn and second wife Marla Maple,s if you hold any illusions about this not being a lifelong pattern.

roy cohnRoy Cohn (shown in a file photo) worked for Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wisc.) during his 1950s communist-baiting crusade. Afterwards Cohn became a New York City powerbroker. While Fred Trump’s money, connections and know-how are the foundation behind his son’s rise in real estate; Cohn did the critical dirty work for the younger Trump during the 1970s into the 1980s. However, when Cohn was dying of AIDS in the mid-1980s, the future “President” essentially abandoned his mentor. In fact, at Cohn’s funeral, not only did the Trump refuse to be one of the speakers, but he stood at the back of the service.

Marla Maples was Trump’s second wife. Before marrying her in 1993, Trump had Maples sign a prenup. Nothing especially surprising about that development in and of it self. However, as In Touch Weekly recounts, “When the Don broke up with Marla in 1997, he did so just weeks before the four-year anniversary that would have upped her divorce settlement. Therefore, she only got $2 million — as well as undisclosed child support payments for their daughter — when their lengthy court battle ended in 1999.” In other words, Trump bailed on his marriage before exposing himself to more potential financial liability, fought a protracted battle in court and won.

If Donald Trump can be remorseless in mistreating the lawyer who facilitated many of his early deals and the mother of his fourth child, then people like Cohen and Kushner have no chance of loyalty being extended their way when the law comes knocking.

May 25

ny times logomichael cohen ap file croppedNew York Times, At Trump Tower, Michael Cohen and Oligarch Discussed Russian Relations, William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess and Mike McIntire, May 25, 2018. Eleven days before the presidential inauguration last year, a billionaire Russian businessman with ties to the Kremlin visited Trump Tower in Manhattan to meet with Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen (shown at right), according to video footage and another person who attended the meeting.

vicktor vekselberg headshotIn Mr. Cohen’s office on the 26th floor, he and the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg (shown at left), discussed a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump, according to Andrew Intrater, an American businessman who attended the meeting and invests money for Mr. Vekselberg. The men also arranged to see one another at the inauguration, the second of their three meetings, Mr. Intrater said.

Days after the inauguration, Mr. Intrater’s private equity firm, Columbus Nova, awarded Mr. Cohen a $1 million consulting contract, a deal that has drawn the attention of federal authorities investigating Mr. Cohen, according to people briefed on the inquiry.

columbus nova logo

Mr. Intrater said in an interview that Mr. Vekselberg, his cousin and biggest client, had no role in Columbus Nova’s decision to hire Mr. Cohen as a consultant. When asked about the meeting at Trump Tower during the presidential transition, Mr. Intrater described it as a brief and impromptu discussion, and said that Mr. Vekselberg had not originally planned to attend.

The disclosure of the meeting sheds additional light on the intersection between Mr. Trump’s inner-circle and Russians with ties to the Kremlin.

Politico Magazine, George Conway’s Tweets Raise West Wing Eyebrows, Anna Karni, May 25, 2018 (print edition). The spicy Twitter feed of Kellyanne Conway’s husband has gotten noticed in the Oval Office. But friends say the real target of his ire isn’t Donald Trump.

George Conway’s Manhattan law firm sits near the corner of Sixth Avenue and 52nd Street, just three blocks from Trump Tower. During the 2016 election, when he still supported Donald Trump, the corporate litigator would sometimes walk over to the campaign HQ after work, according to former campaign aides. He’d pop in around 8 p.m. and would sit and work in his wife Kellyanne Conway’s office until she was ready to go. Then he’d drive her to New Jersey, or the couple would share a town car home.

Friends say he was proud of Kellyanne, the longtime Republican operative who was finally running the show, and the evening routine allowed him to grab some one-on-one time with his busier half. On election night, he cried, and noted to other campaign aides that as the first female campaign manager of a winning presidential bid, his wife had made history.

Over the past year, however, since Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed by the Justice Department, George Conway has become a man in turmoil. A serious, conservative attorney who believes in the rule of law, he has been torn, people who know him say, between the loyalty he feels toward his wife and an assault on his profession and his ideals that he did not anticipate when he cheered on election night—delivered by her boss.

During that period, he has walked away from a powerful job running the Justice Department’s civil division, where he would have served as one of the administration’s top lawyers. And he has become a Twitter phenom—tweeting and retweeting critiques of the president and support for the Mueller probe that his wife’s employer calls a “witch hunt.” Many in the White House have noticed, including Kellyanne and, according to multiple administration officials, the president himself.

The pushback coming from inside the house of Trump’s lead cable-news defender has become one of Washington’s favorite family dramas. In “Conway versus Conway,” George attacks the president, or seems to defend the Mueller probe, while Kellyanne puts her own credibility on the line to defend Trump, who has escalated his verbal assaults on the Russia inquiry and this week even demanded an investigation of the investigation.

Conway now has nearly 50,000 followers, and his tweeting—the majority of it retweets, rather than his own commentary—has attracted the notice of everyone from conservative legal scholars to TV host Whoopi Goldberg, who gave him a shoutout on a recent episode of ABC’s "The View": “I say George, keep it up, honey. Whether your wife gets it or not, stay sane. It’s a good thing to stay sane.”

Asked to explain his public feud with his wife’s boss, Conway declined to comment or elaborate on his tweets. “If I wanted to say anything publicly,” he said in a direct message on Twitter, “I would just say it.”

But friends and professional acquaintances say Conway’s tweets are just the tip of an iceberg of frustration with Trump that has only grown over the past year. While Conway has always been known as a contrarian, however, some friends have been surprised and disappointed by the public airing of anti-Trump sentiment from a man who is known to value discretion.

May 24

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats, Republicans briefed on FBI source who aided Russia inquiry, Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Karoun Demirjian and Seung Min Kim​, May 24, 2018. fbi logoJustice Department and intelligence officials briefed top Republican and Democratic lawmakers Thursday on a confidential FBI source who aided in the investigation of whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia, attempting to defuse a partisan conflict over use of the source and the FBI’s reluctance to reveal information about the matter.

Reversing its earlier position, the White House allowed top Democrats to join Republicans for two meetings Thursday. Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and White House lawyer Emmet T. Flood, recently made a point person for the special counsel’s investigation, also were also present for parts of the gatherings, though the White House insisted they made only “brief remarks before the meetings started to relay the President’s desire for as much openness as possible under the law.”

It was not immediately clear whether the Justice Department had provided information that would allay conservatives’ concerns, particularly those of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who has pushed vigorously for information about the FBI’s source, or President Trump.

May 23

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: There is no evidence for ‘Spygate’ — but there is a reason that Trump invented it, Philip Bump, May 23, 2018. President Trump has a new catchphrase that he is trying on for size.

"SPYGATE could be one of the biggest political scandals in history!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2018

“Spygate” made its debut on Wednesday morning during Trump’s “executive time,” the period during which he watches “Fox and Friends” before starting his official day. The term is a shorthand meant to refer to a scandal that Trump has insisted is potentially the worst in American history, easily eclipsing Watergate. Not to dampen his enthusiasm or anything, it’s also a scandal for which there’s no public evidence.

Trump’s claim is that the FBI put a “spy” in his campaign at the behest of Barack Obama’s White House as part of an effort to undercut his candidacy by alleging collusion with the Russians.

It’s hard to square that claim with 1) Trump’s repeated insistence that the Russia investigation began only after he won as an excuse for the Democrats’ loss, and 2) the fact that America only learned about the investigation into Russian collusion after voting had already occurred. If Obama and the Democrats put a spy in his campaign to undercut his chances, they made a small strategic error by not mentioning anything publicly before votes were cast. But that’s the claim, because internal consistency is not a requirement for any conspiracy theory, much less this one.

As it stands, the evidence that there was a “spy” — or multiple “spies” — within his campaign is as follows:

1. A professor based in Britain reached out to Trump campaign advisers George Papadopoulos and Carter Page before the election, apparently to evaluate any connections they might have had to Russian actors. The professor also had coffee once with senior adviser Sam Clovis, during which they discussed China.

2. A former adviser, fired in the middle of the campaign, is telling people that he knows of another spy, but hasn’t offered any evidence to that effect.

3. A “lot of people” are saying there were spies in the campaign, per Trump.

May 22

ny times logoNew York Times, Michael Cohen’s Business Partner Agrees to Cooperate as Part of Plea Deal, Danny Hakim, William K. Rashbaum and Vivian Wang, May 22, 2018. A significant business partner of Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, has quietly agreed to cooperate with the government as a potential witness, a development that could be used as leverage to pressure Mr. Cohen to work with the special counsel examining Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Under the agreement, the partner, Evgeny A. Freidman, a Russian immigrant who is known as the Taxi King, will avoid jail time, and will assist government prosecutors in state or federal investigations, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Mr. Cohen’s conduct was initially examined by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating the 2016 election that led to Mr. Trump’s victory, and then referred to the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan. Last month, federal agents carried out search warrants at Mr. Cohen’s home, his office and a hotel room where he was staying, seeking documents related to his business associates and accountants.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have been resigned to the strong possibility that the investigation of Mr. Cohen’s businesses could lead him to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

ny times logofbi logoNew York Times, News Analysis: By Ordering Inquiry Into F.B.I., Trump Crosses New Line, Charlie Savage, May 22, 2018 (print edition). Mr. Trump’s latest demand — asking for a specific investigation — further undermines the independence of the Justice Department from White House interference, experts said.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Leaders to Be Shown Some Details on Russia Inquiry, Michael D. Shear and Micholas Fandos, May 22, 2018 (print edition). The White House brokered an agreement on Monday with intelligence and law enforcement officials that will allow Republican congressional leaders to view some of the most highly classified information related to the Russia investigation, administration officials said.

For months, a small group of lawmakers close to Mr. Trump have been in a pitched fight with the Justice Department over access to some of its most delicate case files, including documents detailing the scope of the Russia investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel.

They have trained their focus most recently on access to documents and information related to a secret informant used by F.B.I. agents to gather information from Trump associates who were overseas during the 2016 presidential campaign. Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the House Intelligence Committee chairman, has threatened to hold Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who is overseeing the Russia inquiry, in contempt of Congress or to try to impeach him if he does not hand over the material.

Until Monday, intelligence and law enforcement officials had strenuously resisted both demands, saying that the information was highly sensitive and that it was not appropriate to turn over the unredacted material to Congress, where they fear it could potentially become public or be used to undermine Mr. Mueller’s inquiry. They raised some of their concerns in a letter and then in a face-to-face meeting two weeks ago with Mr. Nunes.

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump v. the Department of Justice, Editorial board, May 22, 2018 (print edition). The president and his enablers are engaged in a campaign to undermine the foundations of American justice.

cbs news logoCBS News, Richard Painter says there is more evidence against Trump than there was against Nixon, Blair Guild, May 21, 2018. In an interview with CBSN's Elaine Quijano, former White House chief ethics counsel Richard Painter said that there is "far more evidence of abuse of power and obstruction of justice" against President Trump than there ever was against President Richard Nixon.

richard painter"We're well beyond that point and yet the House and the Senate won't do anything at all," he said on Monday's "Red & Blue." Painter (shown at right) says that there appears to be "very strong evidence" that Mr. Trump violated the Emoluments Clause through his company's business dealings with foreign governments and potential violations of the First Amendment through his attempted travel ban.

"Going after President Trump's abuse of power and violations of the constitution needs to be the number one priority," he said. Painter served in the Bush administration from 2005 to 2007 and is now running for U.S. Senate as a Democrat in Minnesota against Sen. Tina Smith, who replaced former Sen. Al Franken after his resignation in January. He called Mr. Trump's behavior "unprecedented even in the most conservative circles of the Republican Party" and called on congressional Democrats to be more assertive in calling out the president.

"I think this president is a great risk to our democracy and he has shown that since he was elected," he said. Painter said he personally believes that Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence should be removed from office.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The constitutional crisis is here, Eugene Robinson, May 22, 2018 (print edition). Stop waiting for the constitutional crisis that President Trump is sure to provoke. It’s here.

On Sunday, via Twitter, Trump demanded that the Justice Department concoct a transparently political investigation, with the aim of smearing veteran professionals at Justice and the FBI and also throwing mud at the previous administration. Trump’s only rational goal is casting doubt on the probe by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, which appears to be closing in.

Trump’s power play is a gross misuse of his presidential authority and a dangerous departure from long-standing norms. Strongmen such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin use their justice systems to punish enemies and deflect attention from their own crimes. Presidents of the United States do not — or did

ap logoAssociated Press, The princes, the president and the fortune seekers, Desmond Butler and Tom LoBianco, May 22, 2018. After a year spent carefully cultivating two princes from the Arabian Peninsula, Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump, thought he was finally close to nailing more than $1 billion in business.

He had ingratiated himself with crown princes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who were seeking to alter U.S. foreign policy and punish Qatar, an archrival in the Gulf that he dubbed “the snake.”

elliott broidyTo do that, the California businessman (shown at left) had helped spearhead a secret campaign to influence the White House and Congress, flooding Washington with political donations.

Broidy and his business partner, Lebanese-American George Nader, pitched themselves to the crown princes as a backchannel to the White House, passing the princes’ praise — and messaging — straight to the president’s ears.

Now, in December 2017, Broidy was ready to be rewarded for all his hard work.

It was time to cash in. In many ways, the partnership between Broidy, 60, and Nader, 59, embodies the insider influence that has given contractors in D.C. the nickname “beltway bandits.”

Both of their careers were marked by high-rolling success and spectacular falls from grace — and criminal convictions. The onset of the Trump administration presented an opportunity: a return to glory.

Broidy, who made a fortune in investments, was finance chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2006 to 2008. But when a New York state pension fund decided to invest $250 million with him, investigators found that he had plied state officials with nearly $1 million in illegal gifts while collecting $18 million in management fees.

In 2009, Broidy pleaded guilty to a felony charge of rewarding official misconduct. “In seeking investments from the New York State Common Retirement Fund, I made payments for the benefit of high-ranking officials at the Office of the New York State Comptroller, who had influence and decision-making authority over investment decisions,” Broidy said in his plea and cooperation agreement.

andrew cuomoAndrew Cuomo, then-New York attorney general, called it “an old-fashioned payoff.” “This is effectively bribery of state officials, and not just one,” said Cuomo (shown at right), who is now New York’s governor. Three years later, Broidy’s conviction was knocked down to a misdemeanor after he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and pay back the $18 million to the state.

Nader’s problem was pedophilia. As a young Lebanese immigrant to the U.S. in the 1980s, he quickly established himself as a forceful independent operator, founding a policy magazine called Middle East Insight. By the ’90s, he had risen as a behind-the-scenes player, setting up dinners for Israeli and Arab dignitaries with Washington power brokers and U.S. lawmakers.

But in May 2003, Nader was convicted in the Czech Republic of 10 counts of sexually abusing minors and sentenced to a one-year prison term, the AP revealed in March. He served his time in Prague, according to Czech authorities, then was expelled from the country.

djt the org rules them all

One year ago Trump pledged allegiance to the Wahhabi Orb. The one Orb that rules them all: his swearing of an oath to the Wahhabi death star was part of the opening of the potemkinesk "Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology" in Riyadh. The Saudis arranged the whole theater to flatter Trump into fighting Iran for them. They hope to have bought Washington's obedience.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: A Dive Into Washington's Swamp, B, May 22, 2018. The Saudi "anti-terrorism" effort was directed at its local rivals Qatar and Iran. Trump strongly supported the Saudi anti-Qatar campaign until the Pentagon finally told him that Qatar hosts the biggest U.S. air-base in the Middle East, which can not be moved at a moments notice.

Now an interesting AP story gives some backdrop to Trump's deference to Riyadh. It is the result of many bribes and lots of shady dealings. If or rather how Trump or his family profited from these is not yet known.

AP Story: The princes, the president and the fortune seekers (excerpted also above):

After a year spent carefully cultivating two princes from the Arabian Peninsula, Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump, thought he was finally close to nailing more than $1 billion in business.

saudi arabia flagSince the UAE and Saudi Arabia opened a feud against Qatar they have sought to win U.S. support for their position. The anti-Qatar campaign is related to the anti-Iran campaign and both have strong Israeli backing. In response to the Saudi efforts Qatar hired a company to hack the emails of the UAE ambassador in Washington DC and of other people involved in the Saudi lobbying effort. Both sides spent huge amounts for bribes, disguised as U.S. campaign donations to Congress and the White House, to influence U.S. legislation and behavior:

Summaries written by Broidy of two meetings he had with Trump — one of which has not been disclosed before — report that he was passing messages to the president from the two princes and that he told Trump he was seeking business with them.

By December of last year, the partners were riding a wave of success in their campaign to create an anti-Qatar drumbeat in Washington.

Saudi Arabia was finding a new ascendancy following Trump’s election. Broidy sought to claim credit for it, emails show, and was keen to collect the first installment of $36 million for an intelligence-gathering contract with the UAE.

robert mueller screenshot washington postIt all might have proceeded smoothly save for one factor: the appointment of Robert Mueller (left) as special counsel to look into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

There was no "Russian interference" in the U.S. election. All that Mueller found in one year of investigations was some minor old misbehavior by some Trump aids and a Russian Internet marketing company which tried to sell advertisements on its click-bait websites.

The real collusion happened between the Trump family and Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Huge sums from Zionist interests and from the oil dictatorships flew into campaign funds and the relevant pockets. One of their main aims was and is to incite war against Iran. Those with access and influence over Trump, like Broidy and Nader, where hugely rewarded.

The swamp which Trump said he would drain, swallowed him whole.

erik princeThe protagonists in the AP story include Erik Prince (shown at left), the private military contractor of Blackwater fame. George Nader, a convicted pedophile, has known Prince for years. He negotiated solatia payments to families of Iraqis who Blackwater mercenaries had killed. In 2012 George Nader helped brokered a $4.3 billion arms deal between Russia and Iraq. Erik Prince continues his mercenary business selling his private armies to the UAE and whomever else is willing to pays the right price.

Broidy was involved in the fleecing of the Malaysian development fund 1MDB by the former Prime Minister of Malaysia. Up to $4.5 billion have allegedly vanished. While Broidy's was pitching the Saudi plans to Trump he also scored a big Pentagon contract.

The question not answered in the long AP story is how Trump or his family profited from the Saudi largess. One benefit was probably through his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who needs a large amount of money to keep his investment in a New York sky-scarper afloat. In early 2017 Kushner met George Nader in New York. Privately Nader referred to Kushner as 'clown prince':

elliott broidyBroidy (a deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee shown at left) met Trump once again on Dec. 2. He reported back to Nader that he’d told Trump the crown princes were “most favorably impressed by his leadership.” He offered the crown princes’ help in the Middle East peace plan being developed by Jared Kushner. He did not tell Trump that his partner had complete contempt for the plan — and for the president’s son-in-law.

“You have to hear in private my Brother what Principals think of ‘Clown prince’s’ efforts and his plan!” Nader wrote. “Nobody would even waste cup of coffee on him if it wasn’t for who he is married to.”

Days after Broidy’s meeting with Trump, the UAE awarded Broidy the intelligence contract the partners had been seeking for up to $600 million over 5 years, according to a leaked email.

In early 2017, Kushner's family tried to get Qatari money for the family’s distressed asset at 666 Fifth Avenue. The Qataris declined. A few weeks later Jared Kushner supported the Saudi blockade against the "funder of terrorism" Qatar. In March 2018 Qatar was finally willing to pay up to save the Kushner's real estate. Shortly thereafter Trump endorsed Qatar as an ally in the fight against terrorism.

This sequence of events is, of course, pure coincidence. Trump and his family cannot be bribed. They float way above the swamp. (Just kidding.)

In related news the Psy-Group, an Israeli company which influenced social media for the Trump campaign, has now been shut down:

According to the New York Times report, Mr. Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., met with Mr. Zamel months before the elections. At the time, Psy-Group was developing a proposal for a "covert multimillion-dollar online manipulation campaign” to aid Mr. Trump to win the elections, the New York Times reported, citing four people familiar with the matter.

The campaign had been reportedly canceled after Psy-Group learned its involvement in the elections would be illegal. The New York Times reported Mr. Zamel still received a payment estimated at around $2 million from a Trump associate.

Paid by whom? And for what?

Justice Department log circularOne year after the launch of the Mueller investigation of undue foreign influence in U.S. campaigns and politics, it is finally looking at the real culprits. No one has more influence in U.S. elections and policies than the Zionists and the Gulf monarchies.

This is then the point where the Mueller investigation will likely be shut down. There are too many people benefiting from the swamp and all the slush money moving around. Neither party in Congress has an interest in publicizing their relations to Zionist campaign money and Gulf monarchies' bribes.

With Mueller gone it will be another free for all. The swamp will grow bigger.

May 21

washington post logofbi logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. seeks inquiry into whether political motivation tainted FBI’s probe of Trump campaign, Matt Zapotosky, Robert Costa and David Nakamura, May 21, 2018 (print edition). In a tweet, President Trump demanded to know if law enforcement infiltrated his campaign for “political purposes.”

The Justice Department responded by saying it had asked its inspector general to expand its own review, a move that officials hoped would avert a larger showdown over a confidential source.

stefan halper 2010Editor's note: Background on source here: The Intercept, The FBI Informant Who Monitored the Trump Campaign, Glenn Greenwald, May 19, 2018. An extremely strange episode that has engulfed official Washington over the last two weeks came to a truly bizarre conclusion on Friday night. And it revolves around a long-time, highly sketchy CIA operative, Stefan Halper (shown at right).

Axios, Peter Navarro pushed Stefan Halper for Trump job, Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene, May 21, 2018. President Trump's top trade adviser, Peter Navarro, recommended appointing Stefan Halper, an academic and suspected FBI informant on the Trump campaign, to a senior role in the Trump administration, Axios has learned.

Behind the scenes: During the presidential transition Navarro recommended Halper, among other people, for ambassador roles in Asia. A White House official said Halper visited the Eisenhower Executive Office Building last August for a meeting about China.

Context: During the transition everyone involved in Trump’s presidential campaign were asked to submit resumes for administration positions. Halper, who already knew Navarro in the context of being a China scholar and interviewing for his anti-China book and film, pitched himself for an ambassadorship in Asia, according to a source briefed on their interactions. Navarro says he submitted Halper’s name for the Asian ambassadorship — we have not been able to confirm the country — along with around a dozen other people for roles in the region.

The White House has not acknowledged Halper’s role as an informant.

Why it matters: This is personal for President Trump, who yesterday demanded a Justice Department probe into the FBI. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then authorized an Inspector General probe into the FBI's use of FISA for counterintelligence operations.

Background on the FBI informant story:

-- Trump has been tweeting about an FBI "spy," bolstered by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes. -- The Justice Department had been working with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to ensure the identity didn't leak out.-- The Daily Caller first reported the suspect's name as Halper in March. The Washington Post and New York Times reported on the informant last week, providing multiple identifying details, but did not name the suspect.-- The suspected FBI informant first reached out to Trump campaign staffer George Papadopoulos in the summer of 2016, and subsequently met with Trump campaign officials Carter Page and Sam Clovis. -- Halper, 73, is an academic and veteran of three Republican administrations. He worked at Cambridge University until 2015.

columbus nova logo

washington post logomichael cohen ap file croppedWashington Post, Michael Cohen payments put spotlight on investment firm linked to Russian billionaire, Rosalind S. Helderman, Michael Kranish and Steven Mufson, May 21, 2018 (print edition). The head of Columbus Nova, which paid President Trump’s personal lawyer $500,000 to bring in new investors, also contributed to Trump’s inaugural committee and the Republican National Committee. Trump's attorney Michael Cohen, also a deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, is shown at right.

May 19

The Intercept, The FBI Informant Who Monitored the Trump Campaign, Glenn Greenwald, May 19 2018. Stefan Halper, Oversaw a CIA Spying Operation in the 1980 Presidential Election

stefan halper 2010An extremely strange episode that has engulfed official Washington over the last two weeks came to a truly bizarre conclusion on Friday night. And it revolves around a long-time, highly sketchy CIA operative, Stefan Halper.

george hw bush HRFour decades ago, Halper was responsible for a long-forgotten spying scandal involving the 1980 election, in which the Reagan campaign – using CIA officials managed by Halper, reportedly under the direction of former CIA Director and then-Vice-Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush (shown in a file photo) – got caught running a spying operation from inside the Carter administration. jimmy carter portraitThe plot involved CIA operatives passing classified information about Carter’s foreign policy to Reagan campaign officials in order to ensure the Reagan campaign knew of any foreign policy decisions that Carter (shown in a portrait at right) was considering.

Over the past several weeks, House Republicans have been claiming that the FBI during the 2016 election used an operative to spy on the Trump campaign, and they triggered outrage within the FBI by trying to learn his identity. The controversy escalated when President Trump joined the fray on Friday morning. “Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president,” Trump tweeted, adding: “It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a “hot” Fake News story. If true – all time biggest political scandal!”

In response, the DOJ and the FBI’s various media spokespeople did not deny the core accusation, but quibbled with the language (the FBI used an “informant,” not a “spy”), and then began using increasingly strident language to warn that exposing his name would jeopardize his life and those of others, and also put American national security at grave risk. On May 8, the Washington Post described the informant as “a top-secret intelligence source” and cited DOJ officials as arguing that disclosure of his name “could risk lives by potentially exposing the source, a U.S. citizen who has provided intelligence to the CIA and FBI.”

mark warner shirtsleevesThe top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner (shown at right), who spent much of last week working to ensure confirmation of Trump’s choice to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, actually threatened his own colleagues in Congress with criminal prosecution if they tried to obtain the identity of the informant. “Anyone who is entrusted with our nation’s highest secrets should act with the gravity and seriousness of purpose that knowledge deserves,” Warner said.

But now, as a result of some very odd choices by the nation’s largest media outlets, everyone knows the name of the FBI’s informant: Stefan Halper. And Halper’s history is quite troubling, particularly his central role in the scandal in the 1980 election. Equally troubling are the DOJ and FBI’s highly inflammatory and, at best, misleading claims that they made to try to prevent Halper’s identity from being reported.

To begin with, it’s obviously notable that the person the FBI used to monitor the Trump campaign is the same person who worked as a CIA operative running that 1980 Presidential election spying campaign.

It was not until several years after Reagan’s victory over Carter did this scandal emerge. It was leaked by right-wing officials inside the Reagan administration who wanted to undermine officials they regarded as too moderate, including then White House Chief of Staff James Baker, who was a Bush loyalist.

The NYT in 1983 said the Reagan campaign spying operation “involved a number of retired Central Intelligence Agency officials and was highly secretive.” The article, by then-NYT reporter Leslie Gelb, added that its “sources identified Stefan A. Halper, a campaign aide involved in providing 24-hour news updates and policy ideas to the traveling Reagan party, as the person in charge.” Halper, now 73, had also worked with Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Alexander Haig as part of the Nixon administration.

cia logoWhen the scandal first broke in 1983, the UPI suggested that Halper’s handler for this operation was Reagan’s Vice Presidential candidate, George H.W. Bush, who had been the CIA Director and worked there with Halper’s father-in-law, former CIA Deputy Director Ray Cline, who worked on Bush’s 1980 presidential campaign before Bush ultimately became Reagan’s Vice President. It quoted a former Reagan campaign official as blaming the leak on “conservatives [who] are trying to manipulate the Jimmy Carter papers controversy to force the ouster of White House Chief of Staff James Baker.”

Halper, through his CIA work, has extensive ties to the Bush family. Few remember that the CIA’s perceived meddling in the 1980 election – its open support for its former Director, George H.W. Bush to become President – was a somewhat serious political controversy. And Halper was in that middle of that, too.

In 1980, the Washington Post published an article reporting on the extremely unusual and quite aggressive involvement of the CIA in the 1980 presidential campaign. “Simply put, no presidential campaign in recent memory — perhaps ever — has attracted as much support from the intelligence community as the campaign of former CIA director Bush,” the article said.

Though there was nothing illegal about ex-CIA officials uniting to put a former CIA Director in the Oval Office, the paper said “there are some rumblings of uneasiness in the intelligence network.” It specifically identified Cline as one of the most prominent CIA official working openly for Bush, noting that he “recommended his son-in-law, Stefan A. Halper, a former Nixon White House aide, be hired as Bush’s director of policy development and research.”

In 2016, top officials from the intelligence community similarly rallied around Hillary Clinton. As The Intercept has previously documented:

Former acting CIA Director Michael Morell not only endorsed Clinton in the New York Times but claimed that “Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” George W. Bush’s CIA and NSA director, Gen. Michael Hayden, pronounced Trump a “clear and present danger” to U.S. national security and then, less than a week before the election, went to the Washington Post to warn that “Donald Trump really does sound a lot like Vladimir Putin” and said Trump is “the useful fool, some naif, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.”

djt official SmallSo as it turns out, the informant used by the FBI in 2016 to gather information on the Trump campaign was not some previously unknown, top-secret asset whose exposure as an operative could jeopardize lives. Quite the contrary: his decades of work for the CIA – including his role in an obviously unethical if not criminal spying operation during the 1980 presidential campaign – is quite publicly known.

And now, as a result of some baffling choices by the nation’s largest news organizations as well as their anonymous sources inside the U.S. Government, Stefan Halper’s work for the FBI during the 2016 is also publicly known

george papadopoulos linked in croppedLast night, both the Washington Post and New York Times – whose reporters, like pretty much everyone in Washington, knew exactly who the FBI informant is – published articles that, while deferring to the FBI’s demands by not naming him, provided so many details about him that it made it extremely easy to know exactly who it is. The NYT described the FBI informant as “an American academic who teaches in Britain” and who “made contact late that summer with” George Papadopoulos (shown at left) and “also met repeatedly in the ensuing months with the other aide, Carter Page.” The Post similarly called him “a retired American professor” who met with Page “at a symposium about the White House race held at a British university.”

In contrast to the picture purposely painted by the DOJ and its allies that this informant was some of sort super-secret, high-level, covert intelligence asset, the NYT described him as what he actually is: “the informant is well known in Washington circles, having served in previous Republican administrations and as a source of information for the C.I.A. in past years.”

Despite how “well known” he is in Washington, and despite publishing so many details about him that anyone with Google would be able to instantly know his name, the Post and the NYT nonetheless bizarrely refused to identity him, with the Post justifying its decision that it “is not reporting his name following warnings from U.S. intelligence officials that exposing him could endanger him or his contacts.” The NYT was less melodramatic about it, citing a general policy: the NYT “has learned the source’s identity but typically does not name informants to preserve their safety,” it said.

In other words, both the NYT and the Post chose to provide so many details about the FBI informant that everyone would know exactly who it was, while coyly pretending that they were obeying FBI demands not to name him. How does that make sense? Either these newspapers believe the FBI’s grave warnings that national security and lives would be endangered if it were known who they used as their informant (in which case those papers should not publish any details that would make his exposure likely), or they believe that the FBI (as usual) was just invoking false national security justifications to hide information it unjustly wants to keep from the public (in which case the newspapers should name him).

In any event, publication of those articles by the NYT and Post last night made it completely obvious who the FBI informant was, because the Daily Caller’s investigative reporter Chuck Ross on Thursday had published an article reporting that a long-time CIA operative who is now a professor at Cambridge repeatedly met with Papadopoulos and Page. The article, in its opening paragraph, named the professor, Stefan Halper, and described him as “a University of Cambridge professor with CIA and MI6 contacts.”

djt sword dancers wh may 20 2017

President Trump Celebrating His Presidency with Backers in Ritual Sword Dance on His Frst White House Overseas Trip (Saudi Arabia, May 2017)

ny times logodonald trump jr fileNew York Times, Trump Jr. and Other Aides Met With Gulf Emissary Offering Help to Win Election, Mark Mazzetti, Ronen Bergman and David D. Kirkpatrick, May 19, 2018. Three months before the 2016 election, a small group gathered at Trump Tower to meet with Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son (shown at right). One was an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. Another was an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes. The third was a Republican donor with a controversial past in the Middle East as a private security contractor.

The meeting was convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team, and it forged relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months — past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office, according to several people with knowledge of their encounters.

erik princeErik Prince (left), the private security contractor and the former head of Blackwater, arranged the meeting, which took place on Aug. 3, 2016. The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the crown princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president. The social media specialist, Joel Zamel, extolled his company’s ability to give an edge to a political campaign; by that time, the firm had already drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump.

The company, which employed several Israeli former intelligence officers, specialized in collecting information and shaping opinion through social media.

george nader c spanIt is unclear whether such a proposal was executed, and the details of who commissioned it remain in dispute.

But Donald Trump Jr. responded approvingly, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting, and after those initial offers of help, Mr. Nader (shown at right) was quickly embraced as a close ally by Trump campaign advisers — meeting frequently with jared kushner head shotJared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law (shown at left), and Michael T. Flynn, who became the president’s first national security adviser. At the time, Mr. Nader was also promoting a secret plan to use private contractors to destabilize Iran, the regional nemesis of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.

More On Guns In Schools

May 17

washington post logorobert mueller full face fileWashington Post, Analysis: Mueller probe shows no signs of slowing down as inquiry enters second year, Matt Zapotosky, May 17, 2018.  In 365 days, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his team have charged 19 people and three companies, securing five guilty pleas, in the wide-ranging Russia probe. Here’s a look at what comes next in the investigation — and how it could end.

washington post logoWashington Post, Probe of leaked banking records related to Michael Cohen expands after New Yorker report, Beth Reinhard and Emma Brown, May 17, 2018. The Treasury Department’s inspector general is expanding a probe into leaks of confidential reports about suspicious banking activity by Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, to include an uncorroborated allegation that some of those reports were mysteriously absent from a government database.

ny times logofbi logoNew York Times, Analysis: Code Name Crossfire Hurricane: The Secret Origins of the Trump Investigation, Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman and Nicholas Fandos, May 17, 2018 (print edition). It began with an F.B.I. mission to London and a pledge of secrecy. Crossfire Hurricane was its code name. President Trump has described the investigation as a political effort to undermine him. But agents repeatedly took steps that ultimately benefited him.

May 16

new yorker logoNew Yorker, Missing Files Motivated the Leak of Michael Cohen’s Financial Records, Ronan Farrow, May 16, 2018. Ronan Farrow, age 30 and ronan farrowshown at right in a Facebook photo, is a Pulitzer-winning New Yorker staff writer, a Rhodes Scholar and a Yale Law School graduate.  A law-enforcement official released the documents after finding that additional suspicious transactions did not appear in a government database. 

Last week, several news outlets obtained financial records showing that Michael Cohen (shown below left), President Trump’s personal attorney, had used a shell company to receive payments from various firms with business before the Trump Administration. In the days since, there has been much speculation about who leaked the confidential documents, and the Treasury Department’s inspector general has launched a probe to find the source.

michael cohen ap file croppedThat source, a law-enforcement official, is speaking publicly for the first time, to The New Yorker, to explain the motivation: the official had grown alarmed after being unable to find two important reports on Cohen’s financial activity in a government database. The official, worried that the information was being withheld from law enforcement, released the remaining documents.

novartis logoThe payments to Cohen that have emerged in the past week come primarily from a single document, a “suspicious-activity report” filed by First Republic Bank, where Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants, L.L.C., maintained an account. The document detailed sums in the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Cohen by the pharmaceutical company Novartis, the telecommunications giant A.T. & T., and an investment firm with ties to the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

washington post logodonald trump jr time cover croppedWashington Post, Senate releases more details on meeting between Trump Jr., Russian lawyer, Rosalind S. Helderman and Karoun Demirjian​, May 16, 2018. The documents help explain how Donald Trump’s son (shown on a Time Magazine cover) came to meet in June 2016 with the Moscow attorney who was promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. The intensity over which the Trump Tower meeting was sought has become a key point of scrutiny for congressional inquiries and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia favored Trump in 2016, Senate panel says in split with House GOP, Karoun Demirjian​, May 16, 2018. The determination by the Senate Intelligence Committee could complicate Republican messaging surrounding the Russia investigations as the parties head into the 2018 election season.

washington post logoWashington Post, 7 big things we just learned from the Trump Tower meeting testimony, Aaron Blake, May 16, 2018. The Senate Judiciary Committee released 2,500 pages of congressional testimony on Wednesday. The trove of information provides a new window into that ill-fated June 2016 Trump Tower meeting before which Donald Trump Jr. was promised damaging Russian government information about Hillary Clinton — from Natalia Veselnitskaya, who turned out to be a Kremlin-connected lawyer.

The episode has been a centerpiece of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation of whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. And now we know much more about what the people who were there said under oath about it. Here are some key findings.

nbc news logoNBC News, Mueller doesn't plan to indict Trump because of DOJ rules, Giuliani says, Hallie Jackson and Kristen Welker, May 16, 2018. Special counsel Robert Mueller has told President Donald Trump's legal team that he won't indict a sitting president, according to Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump's lawyers.

"They [the special counsel's office] acknowledge the fact that they can't indict us," Giuliani told NBC News on Wednesday, indicating that the information had been conveyed to Trump's lawyers. "They know they don't have that power. So their function is to write a report. We would like it to be the fairest report possible. But even if it isn't, we're prepared to rebut it in great detail, so we'd like them to do it."

He added: "It's as clear as can be that they don't have the right to indict under the Justice Department rules. And I know they're not going to indict."

washington post logoWashington Post, In new disclosure, Trump reports apparent payment through Cohen to Stormy Daniels, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell​, May 16, 2018. The payment by Michael Cohen, the president’s personal attorney, to the porn star was made in the last weeks before the 2016 presidential election, meant to ensure Daniels would not speak about the alleged affair publicly.

In new financial disclosure documents, President Trump reported reimbursing his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, for an expenditure over $100,000 last year — an apparent reference to the $130,000 that Cohen paid to ensure the silence of an adult-film actress who claimed she’d had an affair with Trump.

“In 2016 expenses were incurred by one of Donald J. Trump’s attorneys, Michael Cohen,” Trump reported in a footnote to his official Personal Financial Disclosure report, required of top federal officials. “Mr. Cohen sought reimbursement of those expenses and Mr. Trump fully reimbursed Mr. Cohen in 2017. The category of value would be $100,001 — $250,000 and the interest rate would be zero.”

That statement was couched in a footnote on the 45th page of a 92-page disclosure. Earlier this year, Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he had not known about Cohen’s payment to Daniels.

“Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?” a reporter asked at the time.

“No,” Trump said. “I don’t know.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Novartis lawyer to retire over $1.2 million contract with Trump attorney Michael Cohen, Carolyn Y. Johnson​, May 16, 2018. Felix R. Ehrat, who co-signed the deal between the Swiss drugmaker and the president's personal attorney, said that while the contract was legally in order, “it was an error.”

Daily Beast, ‘Infuriated’ Jared Kushner Lost His Cool When Russians Didn’t Deliver Hillary Dirt, Adam Rawnsley, May 16, 2018. Kushner claimed he had no idea why he was in that notorious Trump Tower meeting. Newly released testimony indicates otherwise.

Jared Kushner became “agitated” and “infuriate[d]” at the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting when a Kremlin-connected lawyer droned on about U.S. sanctions, instead of delivering on a promise to provide damaging information on Hillary Clinton. That’s according to Rob Goldstone, a British music promoter and friend of the Trumps who helped set up the meeting between Natalia Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Jr.—and who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Trump Tower confab.

Goldstone’s testimony stands in contrast to what Kushner said in public about the meeting. In a July 2017 statement, Kushner paints himself as bored and confused by Veselnitskaya’s presentation.

May 15

Washington Post, Michael Avenatti is using Trump-like tactics to battle Trump. But that may carry risks for his client, Emma Brown and Beth Reinhard, May 15, 2018 (print edition). The lawyer representing adult-film actress Stormy Daniels taunts his opponents, using Twitter to make explosive claims. And he is omnipresent on cable news. The take-no-prisoners approach has turned Avenatti into a darling of the political left. But experts say the bold strategy may backfire. Related story: "Michael Avenatti doubles down on his threat to sue the Daily Caller.

michael avenatti sketchTen weeks ago, Michael Avenatti (shown at right) was a California lawyer known for his successes in class-action lawsuits. Then he sued President Trump on behalf of adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and — through an extraordinarily aggressive media campaign — parlayed a narrow dispute about a one-night stand into a ­news-cycle-dominating assault on the president of the United States.

The take-no-prisoners approach has turned Avenatti into a darling of the political left, which is hungry for anti-Trump heroes and gleeful at the notion that the president could be taken down by a porn star. Many of Avenatti’s fans believe he is just as likely to unearth damaging revelations about Trump as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is leading the probe into Russian influence in the 2016 election.

To become one of Trump’s chief adversaries, Avenatti has carved a Trumpian path. He taunts his opponents. He uses Twitter to make explosive accusations. And he is omnipresent on cable news.

Yet Avenatti’s tactics and visibility may carry risks that could undermine his ability to represent his client, who is suing longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen and the president to be released from a non-disclosure agreement. Scrutiny of his business record and of his motives has provided grist for distracting headlines in recent days. And his publication last week of Cohen’s banking history — hard-to-get information touching on some of the most sensitive issues before the White House — could jeopardize his ability to represent Daniels in court, some experts say.

May 11

Washington Post, AT&T paid Cohen to consult on Time Warner merger, records show, Rosalind S. Helderman, Brian Fung and Tom Hamburger, May 11, 2018 (print edition). Soon after President Trump took office, AT&T agreed to pay $600,000 to his attorney Michael Cohen (shown at right) for help on issues pending before the federal government, including the proposed Time Warner deal, according to internal documents.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Giuliani Exits, His Firm Undercuts His Statements, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, May 11, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, abruptly resigned from his law firm, which then promptly undercut his recent statements defending the president.

rudy giuliani recentMr. Giuliani (shown at right) had taken a leave of absence last month from the firm, Greenberg Traurig, to represent Mr. Trump. But the firm, one of the nation’s largest, said in a statement on Thursday that he no longer worked there. Firm partners had chafed over Mr. Giuliani’s public comments about payments that another of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Michael D. Cohen, made to secure the silence of a pornographic film actress who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump. The president has denied her allegations.

Mr. Giuliani suggested that such payments were common at his firm, even without the knowledge of the clients. “That was money that was paid by his lawyer, the way I would do, out of his law firm funds,” he said on Fox News. He added, “Michael would take care of things like this like I take care of this with my clients.”

The New York Times asked Greenberg Traurig about those remarks early this week. Shortly after Mr. Giuliani’s resignation was announced, the firm responded. “We cannot speak for Mr. Giuliani with respect to what was intended by his remarks,” said a spokeswoman, Jill Perry. “Speaking for ourselves, we would not condone payments of the nature alleged to have been made or otherwise without the knowledge and direction of a client.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller is investigating crimes Donald Trump committed during his inauguration, Daniel Cotter, May 11, 2018. ABC News came out with an exclusive today that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking into potential issues with foreign entities making donations to the inauguration that took place for President Donald J. Trump in January 2017. This could spell additional legal trouble for the president and administration.

At issue is “millions of dollars in donations to President Donald Trump’s inauguration committee last year.” Russian connections are being reviewed, but also Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Those interviewed include Trump’s close adviser, Thomas Barrack. The gifts that Mueller is focused on top out at $1 million. One person also being asked about is Andrew Intrater, and another piece of the overall puzzle may just have fallen into place.

For those that have been following Michael Avenatti’s disclosure of potential funding sources of Essential Consultants LLC, the entity formed by the Michael Cohen who has been described by others and himself as “Donald Trump’s personal attorney” and by others as Trump’s “Fixer.” Essential received a large sum of money from Columbus Nova, which has ties to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Vekselberg is a close confidante of Russian President Vladimir Putin and chairman of asset manager Renova Group. Vekselberg is in turn is cousins with Intrater.

Renova was the target of the sanctions recently imposed by the United States Treasury Department. Viewers of the inauguration might recall seeing the cousins at the inauguration, which many questioned- why would Russian operatives be attending the inauguration of the United States president?

usa today logo 5USA Today, Trump was alerted to Eric Schneiderman's alleged abuse of women years ago, court filing suggests, Fredreka Schouten, May 11, 2018.  Donald Trump learned years ago of then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's alleged abuse of two women, a New York lawyer said Friday in a court filing. In a letter to the federal judge overseeing the handling of evidence seized from Trump attorney Michael Cohen, lawyer Peter Gleason said two women approached Gleason a year apart, saying they were "sexually victimized" by Schneiderman.

After talking with the one of the women in 2013, Gleason said he discussed the matter with retired tabloid newspaper and TV journalist Stephen Dunleavy who "offered to discuss the matter with Donald Trump," then a New York businessman.

"Mr. Dunleavy did indeed discuss this very matter with Mr. Trump, as evidenced by a phone call I received from attorney Michael Cohen," Gleason said in his letter to U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood. Gleason said he then shared with Cohen "certain details of Schneiderman's vile attacks on these two women." Schneiderman, who has battled repeatedly with President Trump, resigned his post this week, after The New Yorker reported that four women accused him of physical abuse.

May 9

washington post logorobert mueller full face fileWashington Post, Mueller questioned Novartis payment to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, Michael Kranish and Carolyn Y. Johnson​, May 9, 2018. The interest by Robert S. Mueller III indicates that the special counsel is scrutinizing clients that paid Michael Cohen while he served as Trump’s personal attorney.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. affiliate of Russian firm hired Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Emma Brown, May 9, 2018 (print edition). The payments from Columbus Nova point to a potential new financial tie between the president’s personal lawyer and a U.S. representative of a Russian billionaire who is close to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and has been the target of U.S. sanctions.  Analysis: How money flowed through Michael Cohen’s multi-purpose shell company,

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Lawyer Got $500,000 From Firm Tied to Russia Mogul, Mike McIntire, Ben Protess and Jim Rutenberg, May 9, 2018 (print edition). A firm tied to a Russian oligarch gave money to a company that Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s lawyer, previously used to pay Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress. The shell company also received funds from several corporations with business before the Trump administration, according to records reviewed by The Times.

michael cohen ap file croppedA shell company that Michael D. Cohen (shown at right) used to pay hush money to a pornographic film actress received payments totaling more than $1 million from an American company linked to a Russian oligarch and several corporations with business before the Trump administration, according to documents and interviews.

Financial records reviewed by The New York Times show that Mr. Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer and longtime fixer, used the shell company, Essential Consultants L.L.C., for an array of business activities that went far beyond what was publicly known. Transactions adding up to at least $4.4 million flowed through Essential Consultants starting shortly before Mr. Trump was elected president and continuing to this January, the records show.

vicktor vekselberg headshotAmong the previously unreported transactions were payments last year of about $500,000 from Columbus Nova, an investment firm in New York whose biggest client is a company controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, the Russian oligarch [and chairman of Renova Group, shown at left in a file photo]. A lawyer for Columbus Nova, in a statement on Tuesday, described the money as a consulting fee that had nothing to do with Mr. Vekselberg.

Other transactions described in the financial records include hundreds of thousands of dollars Mr. Cohen received from Fortune 500 companies with business before the Trump administration, as well as smaller amounts he paid for luxury expenses like a Mercedes-Benz and private club dues.

michael avenatti ccn 3 23 18 CustomReferences to the transactions first appeared in a document posted to Twitter on Tuesday by Michael Avenatti (shown at right), the lawyer for Stephanie Clifford, the adult film star who was paid $130,000 by Essential Consultants to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Mr. Trump.

The lawyer’s seven-page document, titled “Preliminary Report of Findings,” does not explain the source of his information but describes in detail dates, dollar amounts and parties involved in various dealings by Mr. Cohen and his company. Most of the transactions involved two banks: First Republic Bank and City National Bank.

Related documents, stories:

michael avenatti sketchAvenatti & Associates Project Sunlight, Preliminary Report of Findings [On Michael Cohen activities, funders and evidence], Michael Avenatti (shown at right, is an attorney representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in a defamation suit against President Trump), May 8, 2018. Avenatti editor's note: This information is true and correct as of the date of this Preliminary Report of Findings (May 8, 2018) to the best of our knowledge. Additional information is being obtained on a neardaily basis. The below information and findings [which can be read in a seven-page report here], therefore, are subject to change.

Michael Dean Cohen (“Mr. Cohen”) is an attorney licensed in the State of New York. He is a graduate of Cooley Law School and a resident of djt official SmallManhattan, New York City, New York. Mr. Cohen served at the right hand of Mr. Donald J. Trump (“Mr. Trump”) as Mr. Trump’s attorney beginning in approximately 2007 and continuing until at least April of this year. During this same approximate time period, Mr. Cohen also occupied a senior position with the Trump Organization (although it is unclear as to when he formally left the company). Importantly, at all relevant times, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump have consistently referred to Mr. Cohen as Mr. Trump’s attorney. In fact, in answering reporters’ questions on Air Force One on April 5, 2018, Mr. Trump, referring to Mr. Cohen, stated “Michael is my attorney” (present tense).

Essential Consultants, LLC. On or about October 17, 2016, Michael D. Cohen established a limited liability company named Essential Consultants, LLC (“Essential”) by filing the requisite paperwork with the Secretary of State in Delaware. At all material times, Essential has been exclusively owned and controlled by Mr. Cohen.

washington post logoWashington Post, Treasury inspector general launches probe into possible leak of Cohen’s banking records, Beth Reinhard and Emma Brown​, May 9, 2018. Detailed claims about Michael Cohen’s banking history were made public by Michael Avenatti, an attorney for a porn star who was paid $130,000 by Cohen to keep quiet about her alleged affair with President Trump.

The Treasury Department’s inspector general is investigating whether confidential banking information related to a company controlled by President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen may have been leaked, a spokesman said.

Rich Delmar, counsel to the inspector general, said that in response to media reports the office is “inquiring into allegations” that Suspicious Activity Reports on Cohen’s banking transactions were “improperly disseminated.”

stormy daniels 60 minutes cbsDetailed claims about Cohen’s banking history were made public Tuesday by Michael Avenatti, an attorney for Stormy Daniels (shown in a CBS "60 Minutes" interview), the adult-film star who was paid $130,000 by Cohen shortly before the 2016 election to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump.

On Twitter, Avenatti circulated a dossier that purports to show that Cohen was hired last year by the U.S.-based affiliate of a Russian company owned by Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian business magnate who attended Trump’s inauguration and was recently subjected to sanctions by the U.S. government. The affiliate, New York investment firm Columbus Nova, confirmed the payment, saying it was for consulting on investments and other matters, but denied any involvement by Vekselberg.

Avenatti’s dossier also alleged that, after Trump’s inauguration, Cohen’s company Essential Consultants had received payments from several others with business considerations before the federal government, including telecommunications giant AT&T, aircraft manufacturer Korea Aerospace Industries and pharmaceutical company Novartis. All three companies subsequently confirmed the payments.

In an interview, Avenatti declined to reveal the source of his information. “The source or sources of our information is our work product, and nobody’s business,” Avenatti said. “They can investigate all they want, but what they should be doing is releasing to the American public the three Suspicious Activity Reports filed on Michael Cohen’s account. Why are they hiding this information?”

A fixture on cable television, Avenatti has been calling on the Treasury Department for weeks to release reports of unusual banking transactions by Cohen. He came up with a social media hashtag: #releasetheSAR, using the acronym for a Suspicious Activity Report.

May 8

washington post logoeric schneidermanWashington Post, ‘Gotcha,’ tweets Kellyanne Conway as Trump supporters revel in Schneiderman resignation, Samantha Schmidt, May 8, 2018. It took three hours for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (shown at right) to step down Monday night after he was accused by four women of physical abuse in a New Yorker article.

Equally swift was the response from allies of President Trump, a longtime nemesis of the attorney general. Conservative commentators and vocal Trump supporters gleefully pointed out social media posts in which Schneiderman advocated for victims of sexual abuse or accusers of disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein — tweets they described as hypocritical.

kellyanne conway gage skidmoreKellyanne Conway (shown in a Gage Skidmore portrait), counselor to the president, and one of the president’s sons, Donald Trump Jr., both shared a tweet posted by Schneiderman in October of last year. “No one is above the law, and I’ll continue to remind President Trump and his administration of that fact everyday,” Schneiderman wrote in the tweet.

Meanwhile, critics of Trump fired back at those who were quick to condemn Schneiderman while defending a president accused by more than a dozen women of improper conduct or sexual assault. While Trump has chided Democrats accused of misconduct, such as former senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), he has given a pass to accused Republicans and allies, including former Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama and former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.

rudy giuliani recentNew York Magazine, Opinion: Here’s a Theory About That $1.6 Million Payout From a GOP Official to a Playboy Model, Paul Campos, May 8, 2018. On May 2, Rudy Giuliani (shown at right) revealed that the Trump administration has been lying for months about the fact that Donald Trump reimbursed his personal attorney Michael Cohen (shown below left) for the $130,000 he fronted to buy porn star Stormy Daniels’s silence about her affair with Trump.

michael cohen ap file croppedUntil then, Trump had been claiming that he didn’t know about any settlement, and that he hadn’t had a sexual liaison with Daniels. (The official White House line continues to be that Daniels is lying about having sex with Trump, but almost no one believes this.) Giuliani has claimed that Trump gave him the okay last week to contradict several months’ worth of denials, by revealing Trump’s payments to Cohen.

In journalism this is known as getting out in front of a story. After federal law-enforcement officials raided Cohen’s office on April 9, they surely had documentary evidence of these financial transactions, which meant it was inevitable the truth would eventually come out.

We should consider the strong possibility that the same tactic — i.e., shameless, baldfaced lying — may have played a role in the exposure of yet another Trump-related sex scandal. The Wall Street Journal published a story on April 13 revealing the existence of another nondisclosure agreement involving an affair between an adult entertainer and a client of Cohen’s. The NDA employed the pseudonyms David Dennison and Peggy Peterson — the same names used in the Stormy Daniels NDA — and was otherwise very similar to the Trump-Daniels agreement.

According to this newly revealed NDA, Dennison agreed to pay Peterson $1.6 million, in exchange for Peterson’s promise not to reveal the affair or her claim that Dennison had impregnated her. This NDA, like the Trump-Daniels document, was negotiated by attorneys Keith Davidson, on behalf of Peterson, and Michael Cohen, on behalf of Dennison. Payments were also delivered through Essential Consultants LLC, the same LLC created by Cohen to facilitate payments in the Stormy Daniels deal.

shera bechard 2010Whatever source revealed the existence of this NDA to the Journal also disclosed that, according to another document in Cohen’s office, the Dennison in this agreement was not Donald Trump but rather Elliott Broidy, a top Republican fundraiser, while Peterson was Shera Bechard, Playboy’s Miss November 2010 (shown at right in a photo via Wikipedia).

Apparently, Bechard had been Broidy’s mistress until he got her pregnant, at which point she hired Davidson, who contacted Cohen to demand the payment of hush money.

By a stroke of good fortune, Cohen already had a sex-scandal-with-an-adult-entertainer-hush-money-NDA template in his hard drive, since he had recently drafted at least one for Donald Trump. Indeed, Cohen didn’t even bother to change the pseudonyms. (That economical use of attorney resources explained away what otherwise could have been a very awkward detail in the narrative.)

This is the story that was leaked to the Journal — and to the New York Times, and CNN, which the Journal beat to the punch by publishing it first. It has since been repeated as fact by just about every major media outlet in the country. But there are good reasons to consider whether it might not be yet another audacious lie from Trumpworld.

elliott broidyLet me offer an alternative explanation of the affair and the payoff. It is still just a hypothesis, but, I would argue, it fits more comfortably with what we know about the various players than the reported version of events: Donald Trump, not Elliott Broidy (shown at left), had an affair with Shera Bechard. Bechard hired Keith Davidson, who had negotiated both Playboy playmate Karen McDougal’s deal with the National Enquirer and Stormy Daniels’s NDA with Trump. Davidson called Cohen, and the two of them negotiated a $1.6 million payment to Bechard.

May 5

john mccain 2009 w

New York Post, McCain doesn’t want Trump at his funeral, Mary Kay Linge, May 5, 2018. Sen. John McCain loathes President Trump so much that he plans to diss him from beyond the grave. The ailing Arizona Republican, who has brain cancer, is organizing his funeral – and close associates have told the White House that Trump will not be invited. Instead, Vice President Mike Pence, who served with McCain in Congress, will be asked to attend the service, the New York Times reported Saturday.

The ceremony will be held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. A stream of politicians, including former Vice President Joe Biden and former Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, have been visiting McCain at his Arizona ranch and a nearby hospital in recent weeks.

Trump’s long-running feud with McCain has roots in the early days of the 2016 presidential race. The senator criticized Trump for disparaging Mexican immigrants in the June 2015 speech in which he declared his candidacy. Three weeks later, Trump called McCain “incompetent” and dismissed his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump told an Iowa crowd. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

djt stormy daniels screengrab

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Is Said to Know of Hush Money Months Before Denial, Michael D. Shear, Maggie Haberman, Tim Rutenberg and Matt Apuzzo, May 5, 2018 (print edition). Two people familiar with the arrangement said President Trump knew about the $130,000 that Michael D. Cohen, his personal lawyer, paid to Stormy Daniels. How much the president knew about the payment and who else was aware of it have been at the center of a swirling controversy.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian Billionaire Was Questioned by Mueller Investigation, Adam Goldman, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum, May 5, 2018 (print edition). Viktor Vekselberg is one of seven Russian oligarchs who were targeted by American sanctions as punishment for Moscow’s election interference.

washington post logorudy giuliani recentWashington Post, Giuliani: Payment to porn star made to protect Trump family, John Wagner, Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey, May 4, 2018. President Trump’s new lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani (shown right) sought to clean up a series of comments made during a whirlwind media tour meant to bolster the president’s standing regarding a payment to a porn star but that instead created new problems for his client.

Inside Washington

washington post logomike pence oWashington Post, Opinion: Mike Pence dishonors himself. Again, Editorial board, May 5, 2018 (print edition). When Vice President Mike Pence (right) appeared at an event in Arizona the other day and lauded former sheriff Joe Arpaio as a “tireless champion of . . . the rule of law,” his comment wasn’t just a risible fiction about a man who made racial profiling his political calling card, thumbed his nose at a federal judge’s order and was convicted of criminal contempt of court.

In kowtowing to Mr. Arpaio, a hero to alt-right racists, the vice president also announced his own contempt for principles higher than reflexive genuflection to anything and anyone favored by President Trump.

May 4

Inside Washington

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge says special counsel wants Manafort to ‘sing’ about Trump, Rachel Weiner, May 4, 2018. A federal judge in Virginia on Friday sharply questioned the motivations of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s fraud prosecution of President Trump’s former campaign manager, saying it was aimed at getting him to provide evidence against the president.

Paul ManafortJudge T.S. Ellis III’s comments came during a hearing in Alexandria federal court, where attorneys for Paul Manafort (shown in a file photo) argued that bank- and tax-fraud charges against him are outside the scope of the special counsel’s authority. While the judge has yet to rule and indicated that he may well decide in favor of prosecutors, his scrutiny of their approach quickly became a rallying cry for supporters of the president.

Ellis suggested that if he ruled in Manafort’s favor, the case could simply be returned to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

It is precisely because the probe into Manafort’s financial dealings began years ago with federal prosecutors in that office, Manafort’s defense attorneys argued, that the special counsel should not be involved.

Ellis was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and took the bench in 1987. He presided over the plea and sentencing of American Taliban supporter John Walker Lindh as well as a case involving government secrets leaked to a pro-Israel lobbying group and Israeli official. Born in Bogota, Colombia, he served as an aviator in the U.S. Navy and has an undergraduate degree from Princeton and law degrees from Harvard and Oxford.

washington post logosarah huckabee sanders screenshotWashington Post, As a willing warrior for Trump, Sarah Sanders struggles to maintain credibility, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker, May 4, 2018. The White House press secretary plays a precarious role representing a president who traffics in mistruths and obfuscations. In the past week she was put in the harsh limelight as she was forced to explain the seemingly inconsistent accounts from her, President Trump and Rudolph W. Giuliani about the hush money paid to an adult-film actress.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller has figured out how to use Paul Manafort to take everyone else down, Bill Palmer, May 4, 2018. Of all the people Special Counsel Robert Mueller is known to have indicted or arrested in Donald Trump’s Russia scandal, only one of them – Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort – has refused to cut a plea deal. Manafort is instead insisting on going to trial, and vowing not to help Mueller take down Trump or anyone else involved. The thing is, Mueller has figured out how to use Manafort’s trial to take everyone else down anyway.

Robert Mueller has asked the judge in the Paul Manafort trial to issue to seventy blank subpoenas. Since two are needed to call a witness, it looks like Mueller is planning to haul in thirty-five witnesses against Manafort. Here’s the kicker: Mueller already has a mountain of physical evidence and the cooperation of Manafort’s former business partner Rick Gates. Mueller already has Manafort nailed. He doesn’t need thirty-five other witnesses. But that’s the whole point.

robert mueller full face fileMueller is going to use the Manafort trial to haul in a few dozen other people involved in the Trump-Russia scandal, and interrogate them on the witness stand. Maybe they’ll slip up and confess to their own criminal roles in the scandal. Maybe they’ll lie about their roles under oath, allowing Mueller to nail them for perjury. The point will be to catch as many of them in the act as possible, so he can use it as leverage to force them to flip on the next person up the chain, up to and including Donald Trump himself.

Even if Paul Manafort ends up caving before he gets to trial, the damage is already being done to Donald Trump’s side. Right now everyone connected to the Trump-Russia scandal is lying awake wondering if they’re one of the thirty-five unnamed people who are about to get hauled in for the trial. If some of them recognize it as a no-win situation, they might just go ahead and begin cooperating with Mueller now.

May 3

djt michael cohen

Legal Schnauzer,Seizure of documents from Michael Cohen's office could yield evidence of Donald Trump's sex crimes -- including assaults on minors, both male and female, Roger Shuler, May 3, 2018. The recent search and seizure involving Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen is likely to yield evidence of Trump's past sex crimes -- plus cash payments to buy silence from victims of sexual assault -- according to a report from a Washington, D.C.-based investigative journalist. Wayne Madsen reports that victims of Trump assaults likely includes minors -- both female and male. In short, Madsen writes, the raid on Cohen's office, residence, and hotel could provide evidence that the president of the United States is a pedophile. (See Wayne Madsen Report .)

Madsen and fellow journalist Andrew Kreig have written extensively about the case of Katie Johnson, who alleges in two federal lawsuits -- filed in California and New York -- that Trump and his wealthy friend, investment banker Jeffrey Epstein, raped her in 1994, when she was 13 years old. (See here, here, and here.) Johnson's complaint also alleges that Trump and Epstein raped a 12-year-old girl known only as Maria, who was abducted from Waterbury, CT, in March 1993, when she was 11.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Stormy Daniels already had a defamation claim against Trump. Now she has a splendid case. Jennifer Rubin, May 3, 2018.  Stormy Daniels already has a defamation claim against President Trump based in part on his accusation that her story that she was threatened in a parking lot was false. (Trump says the claim of an affair was “false and extortionist.”) Now she has a splendid case.

michael avenatti sketchNo wonder Michael Avenatti, Daniels’s lawyer (shown at right), is dancing a jig. He has long said he has evidence of the affair in addition to his client’s compelling story. Accusing someone of a crime is defamation per se, meaning no damages need to be proved. Avenatti will be entitled to depose Trump under oath to ask such nettlesome questions as:

• Did you have sexual relations with my client?• Did you publicly deny knowledge of a settlement payment on national TV?• Did you reimburse Michael Cohen for fronting the money?• Did you break up the payments in monthly installments? Why?• Have you made other payments to remain silent about adulterous affairs? How many? Did they all extort money from you, in your view? What are their names? How much did you pay out?

In addition, Cohen becomes a key witness in the defamation case. According to Daniels, Cohen strong-armed her into making a settlement. She, in other words, was the victim of a pressure campaign, not its instigator. Cohen would therefore need to answer questions that parallel inquiries for Trump. One or both might take the 5th — which many Americans would interpret as evidence one or both violated criminal campaign laws.

May 1

ny times logorobert mueller full face fileNew York Times, Mueller Has List of Questions for Trump: Most Relate to Possible Obstruction in Russia Inquiry, Michael S. Schmidt, May 1, 2018 (updated from April 30 electronic edition). Robert S. Mueller III (right), the special counsel investigating Russia’s election interference, has at least four dozen questions on an exhaustive array of subjects he wants to ask President Trump. The Times has obtained the list. It provides the most detailed look yet inside Mr. Mueller’s investigation, which has been shrouded in secrecy since he was appointed nearly a year ago.

[Read the questions here.]

The open-ended queries appear to be an attempt to penetrate the president’s thinking, to get at the motivation behind some of his most combative Twitter posts and to examine his relationships with his family and his closest advisers. They deal chiefly with the president’s high-profile firings of the F.B.I. director and his first national security adviser, his treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

But they also touch on the president’s businesses; any discussions with his longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, about a Moscow real estate deal; whether the president knew of any attempt by Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to set up a back channel to Russia during the transition; any contacts he had with Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime adviser who claimed to have inside information about Democratic email hackings; and what happened during Mr. Trump’s 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant.

President Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday that it was “disgraceful” that questions the special counsel would like to ask him were publicly disclosed, and he incorrectly noted that there were no questions about collusion. The president also said collusion was a “phony” crime.

April

April 29

Trump Probes

washington post logoJames Comey Higher Loyalty coverWashington Post, Comey calls House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation ‘a wreck,’ Sari Horwitz, April 29, 2018. On “Meet the Press,” the former FBI chief criticized the panel’s report as a “political document.” While the president has praised the report, Democrats released a rebuttal and charged that their Republican colleagues ended their work prematurely.

April 27

washington post logoWashington Post, House Republicans criticize intelligence community in Russia report, Karoun Demirjian, Greg Miller, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky​, April 27, 2018. The House Intelligence Committee said it found “no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated or conspired with the Russian government.” But the report says the committee “did find poor judgment and ill-considered actions by the Trump and Clinton campaigns.” House Democrats refused to endorse the report’s finding.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here’s what Donald Trump was about to say when Fox & Friends abruptly kicked him off the air, Bill Palmer, April 27, 2018. Donald Trump went on such an unhinged and self-harming bender during his appearance on Fox & Friends on Thursday morning that the hosts ended the interview early. It was an unprecedented development for a sitting President of the United States. Considering the incestuous relationship between Trump and Fox & Friends, it can be assumed that they did it in the hope of preventing him from doing any more harm to himself. So what exactly was Trump about to say when they cut him off?

Donald Trump had already admitted that Michael Cohen isn’t really his attorney, and that he really did spend the night in Moscow during the Pee Pee Tape timeframe. By the time Trump was cut off, he had moved on to laying out his fantasy about seizing control of the Department of Justice and forcing it to only investigate the things he personally wants investigated. If Trump hadn’t been cut off, he probably would have specifically called for an end of the investigations into the criminal activities of him and his associates, in favor of phony investigations into Trump’s political enemies such as Hillary Clinton and James Comey.

But Fox News regularly pushes for phony investigations into Trump’s adversaries. So why would Fox feel compelled to prevent Trump from ranting about it? The most logical explanation would be that Fox feared he was coming across as too dictatorial in nature. It’s one thing for political pundits to call for investigations into Trump’s political enemies by falsely insisting that such investigations have merit. It’s another for Trump start publicly talking about forcing the DOJ to conduct such investigations without even bothering to pretend that there was a legitimate reason why.

April 26

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate Judiciary Committee backs bill to protect special counsel Robert S. Mueller III from being fired by President Trump, Staff report, April 26, 2018. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 14-7 to advance legislation that would protect Mueller after the panel’s Republican chairman backed off from changes that threatened the bipartisan support for the bill.

The committee voted to approve the bill, which would delay any action to fire a special counsel by 10 days and guarantee the ousted special counsel a chance to have three federal judges swiftly review the decision, after the panel adopted an amendment from chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) to require that Congress be notified 30 days in advance of any special counsel being terminated.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he would not bring the bill to the floor, but the bipartisan authors of the bill, and Grassley, have said they are working to change his mind. This is a developing story. It will be updated.

djt stormy daniels screengrab

President Trump and Porn Star Stormy Daniels (File photos)

washington post logomichael cohen ap file croppedWashington Post, Trump says for first time that Cohen represented him in Stormy Daniels case, Philip Rucker​, April 26, 2018. The president has previously denied knowledge of a $130,000 payment to the adult film star that was arranged by his personal attorney Michael Cohen (shown at right) and is the subject of a federal investigation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Did Trump just make a ‘hugely damning admission’ in the Stormy Daniels case? Aaron Blake, April 26, 2018. President Trump made a rare public comment about the Michael Cohen-Stormy Daniels case Thursday morning, playing down the lawyer's work for him and insisting that he didn't know about Cohen's business activities.

But Trump also said something that would seem ... less than ideal. While describing Cohen's allegedly limited work for him — a “tiny fraction” of his legal work, Trump assured — Trump confirmed to “Fox and Friends” that Cohen “represented” him in the Daniels case.“Michael would represent me, and represent me on some things,” Trump said. “He represents me — like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me.”Daniels's attorney, Michael Avenatti, said shortly after Trump's interview that this constitutes a “hugely damning admission.” But does it?Experts generally agree that Trump faces an impossible choice. He can either disown Cohen’s actions -- which would undermine both his claims to attorney-client privilege and the non-disclosure agreement that Daniels signed -- or he can own them and potentially implicate himself in Cohen’s actions.

April 25

Trump Counsel Takes Fifth

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump attorney Michael Cohen says he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right in Stormy Daniels case, Emma Brown and Rosalind S. Helderman​, April 25, 2018. Cohen’s declaration cited an “ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.”

michael cohen ap file croppedMichael Cohen (shown at left), the longtime attorney of President Trump, told a federal judge on Wednesday that he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself in a lawsuit brought by adult entertainer Stormy Daniels. Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with Trump years ago, is seeking to void a confidentiality agreement she signed just days before the 2016 presidential election in exchange for $130,000. Cohen has said he facilitated the payment using his own money from a home-equity line of credit.

The suit, filed last month, named the president and Essential Consultants, a company Cohen created as a vehicle for the payment, as defendants. Daniels later added Cohen as a defendant.

“This is a stunning development,” Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for Daniels, said in a tweet. “Never before in our nation’s history has the attorney for the sitting President invoked the 5th Amend in connection with issues surrounding the President. It is esp. stunning seeing as MC served as the ‘fixer’ for Mr. Trump for over 10 yrs.”

in 2016, Trump sneered at Hillary Clinton aides for exercising their right not to self-incriminate during a congressional investigation into her private email server. “The mob takes the Fifth,” Trump said at one campaign rally. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” Yet in 1990, Trump himself took the Fifth to avoid answering 97 questions in a divorce deposition.

Cohen’s attorneys argued last week for a pause in the Daniels case, in the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California. Judge S. James Otero ordered them to file a declaration from Cohen himself, stating whether he intended to assert his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

April 23

Media / Trump Probes

Palmer Report, Analysis: Sean Hannity’s new Trump-connected real estate scandal explained, Daniel Cotter, April 23, 2018. The Hill and The Guardian are both reporting that Sean Hannity, the recently disclosed third legal client of Michael Cohen, has ties to shell companies that have purchased numerous foreclosure homes throughout the United States. Perhaps this is the “real estate advice” that Hannity stated he received from Cohen?

sean hannity gage skidmore 3This most recent disclosure would appear to support the reasons that Hannity (shown in a portrait by Gage Skidmore) did not want his name disclosed and raises questions about the use of shell companies (such as Essential Consultants LLC, which Cohen used to pay settlements in both the Broidy and Trump matters).

According to The Guardian, Hannity is connected “to a group of shell companies that spent at least $90m on more than 870 homes in seven states over the past decade. The properties range from luxurious mansions to rentals for low-income families. Hannity is the hidden owner behind some of the shell companies and his attorney did not dispute that he owns all of them.” As only Hannity can do, he sharply criticized President Barack Obama for the number of foreclosures and how it was hurting the country (never mind that the Great Recession occurred in the W years), while at the same time he was busy buying up this collection and hiding behind the shell companies.

According to The Guardian, the houses were in seven states- Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Vermont. The shell companies were all created in Georgia using variants of his children’s initials. The reporting also mentions a real estate lawyer that Hannity uses. What is unclear is what, if any, connection this latest disclosure and information has to the disclosure that Hannity was one of three legal clients of Cohen’s from 2017 to the present. (The properties were mostly acquired in 2013.) At a minimum, it leaves one wondering why Hannity would call Cohen for advice on real estate manners when he has what appears to be a competent real estate lawyer that he uses regularly. Perhaps Judge Kimba Wood will inquire more into any potential connection to the Cohen investigation.

April 21

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Business Deals That Could Imperil Trump, Peter Fritsch and Glenn R. Simpson, April 21, 2018. Mr. Fritsch and Mr. Simpson are the founders of the research firm Fusion GPS.  Forget Stormy Daniels. The business records subpoenaed by Robert Mueller might be Donald Trump’s greatest legal headache.

robert mueller full face fileThe most significant recent development involving the president may be that the special counsel, Robert Mueller (right), has subpoenaed Trump Organization business records as part of his inquiry into Russian interference in the presidential election.

Those documents — and records recently seized by the F.B.I. from the president’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen — might answer a question raised by the president’s critics: Have certain real estate investors used Trump-branded properties to launder the proceeds of criminal activity around the world?

We pored over Donald Trump’s business records for well over a year, at least those records you can get without a badge or a subpoena. We also hired a former British intelligence official, Christopher Steele, to look into Mr. Trump’s possible ties to Russia. In that 2015-2016 investigation, sponsored first by a Republican client and then by Democrats, we found strong indications that companies affiliated with Mr. Trump, then a presidential candidate, might have been entangled in foreign corruption.

ny times logomichael cohen ap file croppedNew York Times, Cohen Said He’d Take a Bullet for Trump. Maybe Not Anymore, Maggie Haberman, Sharon LaFraniere and Danny Hakim, April 21, 2018 (print edition). There’s a strong possibility that Michael D. Cohen (shown at right) could end up cooperating in a criminal investigation against the president, and insiders say Mr. Trump has long treated Mr. Cohen “like garbage.”

For years, a joke among Trump Tower employees was that the boss was like Manhattan’s First Avenue, where the traffic goes only one way. That one-sidedness has always been at the heart of President Trump’s relationship with his longtime lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, who has said he would “take a bullet” for Mr. Trump. For years Mr. Trump treated Mr. Cohen poorly, with gratuitous insults, dismissive statements and, at least twice, threats of being fired, according to interviews with a half-dozen people familiar with their relationship.

“Donald goes out of his way to treat him like garbage,” said Roger J. Stone Jr., Mr. Trump’s informal and longest-serving political adviser, who, along with Mr. Cohen, was one of five people originally surrounding the president when he was considering a presidential campaign before 2016.

Now, for the first time, the traffic may be going Mr. Cohen’s way. Mr. Trump’s lawyers and advisers have become resigned to the strong possibility that Mr. Cohen, who has a wife and two children and faces the prospect of devastating legal fees, if not criminal charges, could end up cooperating with federal officials who are investigating him for activity that could relate, at least in part, to work he did for Mr. Trump.

ny times logodjt official SmallNew York Times, Trump Criticizes Times Report About His Longtime Lawyer, Emily Cochrane, April 21, 2018.  President Trump on Saturday criticized a report by The New York Times that described his years of poor treatment of his longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, and concerns among the president’s advisers that Mr. Cohen will cooperate with the federal officials who are now investigating him.

Mr. Trump, in a series of tweets on Saturday morning, accused The Times and one of the reporters who wrote the article, Maggie Haberman, of “going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will ‘flip.’” Mr. Trump accused The Times of using “non-existent ‘sources,’” though he did not assert that the article was false.

[Read the story: “Michael Cohen Has Said He Would Take a Bullet for Trump. Maybe Not Anymore.”]

fbi logoHe also said that “I don’t speak to” Ms. Haberman and “have nothing to do” with her. In fact, she has interviewed the president twice in the Oval Office and three times by telephone. Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement that “the story is filled with named quotes on the record, and everything Maggie has reported from inside the White House has proven true.”

Mr. Trump often assails news organizations over reports he sees as unfavorable. While he rarely criticizes reporters by name, it was not the first time that he has singled out Ms. Haberman, who was part of a team that was awarded a Pulitzer Prize this past week for its reports on the Russia investigation. In March, he disputed an article describing his discussions about expanding the legal team that is dealing with the special counsel.

washington post logojeff sessions ag oWashington Post, Sessions tells White House he might resign if Rosenstein is axed, Sari Horwitz, Rosalind S. Helderman, Josh Dawsey and Matt Zapotosky, April 21, 2018 (print edition).  The attorney general (shown at right) made his position known in a phone call to White House Counsel Donald McGahn last weekend, as President Trump’s fury at Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein peaked after he approved the FBI’s raid on the president’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

rod rosenstein cspan

ny times logoJustice Department log circularNew York Times, Analysis: Rosenstein’s Survival Bid Could Cost the Justice Deptartment, Katie Benner, Sharon LaFraniere and Nicholas Fandos, April 21, 2018. Under siege by the president’s allies in the House, Rod J. Rosenstein (shown above), the deputy attorney general, has acceded to some demands. But his allies worry that may expose the Justice Department to political meddling.

April 20

 Hillary Clinton Button

washington post logodemocratic donkey logoWashington Post, Democratic Party sues Russia, Trump campaign and WikiLeaks over 2016 election, Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman and Ellen Nakashima, April 20, 2018. The multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by the Democratic National Committee alleges a far-reaching conspiracy to disrupt the presidential campaign and tilt the election to Donald Trump. Read the DNC’s lawsuit.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Donald Trump gets his worst news yet at the end of a terrible week for him, Bill Palmer, April 20, 2018. The week began with Donald Trump losing a criminal court battle to keep seized evidence from being turned over to prosecutors, continued with Sean Hannity being exposed as a client of michael cohen ap file croppedTrump’s “attorney” Michael Cohen (shown at right), got even worse when the Comey memos leaked and made Trump look terrible, and took a turn for the personal when Trump’s pal Roger Stone publicly came out against him. Now, at the end of a very bad week for him, Trump just got hit with his worst news yet.

Today the Democratic Party filed a lawsuit against the Donald Trump campaign, WikiLeaks, and Russia, for their roles in stealing and releasing the DNC emails during the election. This may initially sound like something between an irrelevant development and a farce. After all, lawsuits are supposed to be about winning money. So what is this? Are the Democrats just trying to get into Trump’s wallet? No, not at all, because this lawsuit isn’t about winning – it’s about what it’ll expose.

If you want to see how damaging a civil action can be to a criminally corrupt politician with a lot to hide, consider that Stormy Daniels’ lawsuit against Michael Cohen is a big part of the reason that the Feds were ultimately able to convince a judge to sign off on raiding Cohen’s office and seizing communications between Trump and Cohen. It’s the discovery process of a lawsuit like this that ends up being so ugly for Trump.

The Democratic Party will use its lawsuit to force the Donald Trump campaign to turn over embarrassing and incriminating documents and evidence that it can make public and turn over to criminal prosecutors. The lawsuit will help expose the dirty connections between the Trump campaign, the Kremlin, and WikiLeaks. As the Democrats are heading into the midterms, they’re putting the Trump-Russia criminal conspiracy on trial by proxy in civil court, for all to see. Trump now has to fight a legal battle on yet another front, and it’s one he’ll lose badly in the court of public opinion.

James Comey

James Comey as FBI director (FBI file photo)

washington post logoWashington Post, Comey memos offer fresh details on Trump’s attempts to shape Russia probe, Ellen Nakashima and Devlin Barrett, April 20, 2018 (print edition). President Trump expressed concerns about the judgment of his national security adviser Michael Flynn weeks before forcing him to resign last year, according to memos kept by former FBI director James B. Comey. The memos also say that Trump repeatedly denied allegations that he had consorted with prostitutes in Moscow in 2013 and prodded Comey to help disprove the claims.

ny times logoNew York Times, 6 Takeaways From the Comey Memos, Michael S. Schmidt, April 20, 2018. The memos paint a revealing portrait of Mr. Comey’s interactions with the president.

Atlantic, Analysis: Bad News for President Trump, The Comey memos are more revealing than they seem, Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes, April 20, 2018. If someone had told you a year ago, when news first broke that James Comey had made memos of his conversations with President Trump, that those memos would eventually come out and make little news, you probably wouldn’t have believed it. These memos are, after all, a big deal. They will play a major role in corroborating Comey’s story in the investigative setting.

If we accept that Comey’s story has been remarkably consistent over time, and has been corroborated, as Comey has also said, by the contemporaneous FBI witnesses to whom he claims to have told about the events in real time—a few points follow.

First, the president will not realistically defeat an obstruction-of-justice charge—whether it arises in a criminal context or, as is more likely, as an allegation he has to contend with in the political realm—by throwing dust in the air about what happened. The effort so far to discredit Comey by declaring him a liar has the small problem, accentuated by the memos, that he is apparently telling the truth.

robert mueller full face fileAnd one person who certainly knows that he is telling the truth is Robert Mueller (shown at right), who has access not merely to the memos but to all of the FBI witnesses in whom Comey confided at the time. Don’t imagine for a minute that what Comey said to them differs materially from what he said to the Senate intelligence committee, to the public, or to his file. It will all be consistent. And to the extent the president’s forces predicate their arguments on contesting Comey’s account of what happened, they will have to do so relying on the word of a man from whom The Washington Post has documented 2,436 false statements since January 20, 2017. The memos highlight vividly what we already knew: that the facts are a loser for the president.

washington post logofbi logoWashington Post, Trump complains that Comey is making money off his book while Flynn’s life is ‘totally destroyed,’ John Wagner, April 20, 2018. Trump took fresh aim on Twitter at the fired FBI director, whose memos on White House meetings were released a day before. For $26 million, Elliott Broidy said he could get the Trump administration to lift sanctions from a Russian natural gas company. The deal appears never to have been consummated, but we have details of the talks, and a roadmap on how he would do it, in a story we just published.

washington post logovladimir putin o wWashington Post, Comey memos showed Trump wanted a faster response to Putin call,Josh Dawsey, Ellen Nakashima and Devlin Barrett, April 20, 2018. President Trump became irate at his then-national security adviser Michael Flynn, when he learned that Flynn had failed to tell him about a congratulatory phone call from Russian President Vladi­mir Putin (shown at right) after Trump’s inauguration. The president's ire was compounded when Flynn scheduled a return call to the Russian leader six days later, according to a newly released memo written by then-FBI Director James B. Comey.

donald trump apprentice color nbc

Donald Trump publicity photo from The Apprentice, his iconic show promoting his ostensible wealth and power

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump lied to me about his wealth to get onto the Forbes 400. Here are the tapes, Jonathan Greenberg, April 20, 2018.  Jonathan Greenberg is an investigative journalist, author and new-media innovator. Posing as ‘John Barron,’ he claimed he owned most of his father’s real estate empire.

roger stone fox news

Palmer Report, Analysis: The real reason Roger Stone is suddenly coming out against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, April 20, 2018. Donald Trump is having a rather strange week, even by his standards. Now Roger Stone (shown above in a file photo), the closest thing Donald Trump has to a friend, is suddenly coming out against Trump. The Stone development might be the most notable of all.

Stone has decided to publicly attack Trump for how he’s treated [Michael] Cohen over the years. Here’s what Stone just told the New York Times about Trump and Cohen: “Donald goes out of his way to treat him like garbage.” So what just changed? Based on the timing, the Cohen raid has to be what changed Stone’s stance so radically. If Stone’s loyalty to Trump up to this point has been in the hope of getting a pardon, then suffice it to say that Stone just decided that it isn’t happening.

Either Roger Stone is planning to go to trial and try to defeat whatever criminal charges are brought against him, or Stone has decided he’s going to cut a plea deal, or Stone is now so far gone that he no longer cares what happens to him and he’s just lashing out indiscriminately. Take your pick. But Stone is clearly no longer on Team Trump. He just announced it for everyone to hear.

jay goldberg cnn screenshot Custom

Think Progress, In stunning CNN interview, Trump’s divorce lawyer suggests Cohen will flip, Aaron Rupar, April 20, 2018. "He's of a type that I have recognized in the past as one not suited to stand up to the rigors of jail life." Jay Goldberg, President Trump’s divorce lawyer, said during a CNN appearance on Thursday evening that he thinks Michael Cohen will end up cooperating with prosecutors because he’s afraid of being sexually assaulted in prison.

“He’s of a type that I have recognized in the past as one not suited to stand up to the rigors of jail life,” Goldberg said of Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney and the current target of a federal criminal investigation. “I think, in many ways — and it’s difficult to say this — prison has a racial overtone, and a person like Michael doesn’t see himself walking down Broadway while people are clamoring, ‘you’re going to be my wife.’ And so he’s under pressure from his family to try to figure out what it would take to bring the government aboard as his sponsor.”

Goldberg, who claims to know Cohen personally, told CNN’s Erin Burnett he shared his concerns directly with President Trump during a phone conversation a few days after the FBI raided Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room on April 9.

April 19

wsj logomichael cohen ap file croppedWall Street Journal, Cohen Would Turn Against President if Charged, Counselor Warned Trump, Joe Palazzolo, Michael Rothfeld and Michael Siconolfi, April 19, 2018 (print edition). Former prosecutor Jay Goldberg says he cautioned president that his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen (shown in a file photo), could be compelled to cooperate with prosecutors Mr. Trump made the call seeking advice from Jay Goldberg, who represented Mr. Trump in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Mr. Goldberg said he cautioned the president not to trust Mr. Cohen. On a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting the president, Mr. Cohen “isn't even a 1,” he said he told Mr. Trump.

djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtube

Donald Trump and Karen McDougal

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Playboy model settles with tabloid publisher, ending lawsuit over story of her alleged Trump affair, Staff report, April 19, 2018 (print edition). The National Enquirer’s parent company had bought — but never published — Karen McDougal’s story for $150,000.

washington post logoWrod rosenstein cspan ashington Post, Trump allies press Rosenstein for files on conduct of officials in Russia and Clinton probes, Robert Costa and Ellen Nakashima, April 19, 2018 (print edition). A private meeting came just days after a warning that House Republicans could impeach the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein (shown at right) if he does not meet GOP demands.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. hands Congress Comey’s memos describing private talks with Trump, Ellen Nakashima​, April 19, 2018.  In the redacted, unclassified memos, then-FBI Director James B. Comey describes a conversation in which President Trump asked him to end an investigation into his former national security adviser. Unredacted memos will be made available for members of three House committees to review on Friday in a secure facility.

The Justice Department provided Congress with a set of redacted, unclassified memos written last year by then-FBI Director James B. Comey that described his private conversations with President Trump, including one in which Comey says the president asked him to end an investigation into his former national security adviser.

The redacted memos contained no substantive information that had not already been discussed publicly by Comey in his testimony to Congress last year or in his recently released memoir.

The unredacted memos will be made available for members of three House committees to review on Friday in a secure facility on Capitol Hill.

The delivery of the memos was in response to an April 13 request by the GOP chairmen of the House Judiciary, Intelligence, and Oversight and Government Reform committees for access to the memos.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Mocks Sketch of Man Who Allegedly Threatened Stormy Daniels, Eileen Sullivan, April 19, 2018 (print edition). President Trump turned to Twitter early on Wednesday to dismiss the sketch of the man a pornographic actress claims threatened her years ago on his behalf. It was just the second time the president weighed in on the subject after weeks of frenzied news media coverage.

stormy daniels sketch threatThe president mocked the sketch (shown at left), which the pornographic actress, Stephanie Clifford (known as Stormy Daniels) released on Tuesday. His tweet accompanied a post from another Twitter user, who said the man looked like Ms. Clifford’s former husband.

“A total con job,” Mr. Trump wrote in his first ever Twitter post related to Ms. Clifford, who has said she had an affair with Mr. Trump in 2006. In making fun of the sketch, Mr. Trump shared it with his more than 50 million Twitter followers.

michael avenatti sketchMr. Trump’s representatives have denied that the two had an affair. Ms. Clifford says the man in the sketch threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 while she was with her infant daughter. Ms. Daniels and her attorney, Michael Avenatti (shown at right), are offering a $131,000 award for the person who identifies the man in the sketch. Ms. Clifford has said that Mr. Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, paid her $130,000 to keep quiet about an affair she says she had with Mr. Trump while he was married. The F.B.I. has been investigating Mr. Cohen for bank fraud related to this payment and other matters.

Lawfare, Opinion: Behind James Comey’s ‘A Higher Loyalty,’ Benjamin Wittes, April 18, 2018. The first time I had lunch with James Comey at the FBI, it was still early in his tenure as director. We walked from his office to the bureau’s cafeteria one floor up to get a sandwich for him and a salad for me. The director walking into the cafeteria was a big deal. Conversations stopped. Heads turned. In a comic irony to me that was, I’m sure, mortifying to her, the only person who did not seem to notice that Comey had entered the room was the young woman in front of him in the sandwich line.

fbi logoWatching from my vantage point at the salad bar, I saw this woman turn, realize who was behind her and become intensely flustered. Then I saw Comey refuse to cut the line and engage her in conversation while they waited. By the time they reached the front and ordered their sandwiches, she was chatting comfortably. I don’t know who this woman was (she did some kind of counterterrorism analysis, I believe I overheard her say), but I’m certain she remembers that day too.

As we walked back to his office, Comey explained that while he thought the world of his predecessor, Robert Mueller, he wanted to change the vertically integrated paramilitary culture of the FBI. Comey wanted to break down the cult of the director. He wanted people to speak more freely. It was important, he said, for him to be seen in the cafeteria, where Mueller almost never set foot. As part of this campaign of humanization, he told me, he was also mixing up shirt color; Mueller famously wore a white shirt every day and expected other men to do the same.

Baby steps, I thought.

April 17

Politico, Fox News says Hannity has ‘our full support’ amid Cohen controversy, Cristiano Lima, April 17, 2018. Fox News said on Tuesday that the network was previously unaware of what it described as an “informal relationship” between Sean Hannity and President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, but that the host “continues to have our full support.”

sean hannity gage skidmore 3“While FOX News was unaware of Sean Hannity’s informal relationship with Michael Cohen and was surprised by the announcement in court yesterday, we have reviewed the matter and spoken to Sean and he continues to have our full support,” a spokesperson said in a statement, according to reports. Hannity, the top-rated prime time host at Fox News, is shown in a portrait by Gage Skidmore.

A lawyer for the president’s attorney named Hannity in court on Monday as one of Cohen’s few clients, an announcement that sent ripples across the political media landscape and raised questions about his failure to disclose his legal affiliation on air. But Hannity, one of the president’s most prominent and outspoken backers on cable television, disputed the characterization of his relationship with Cohen.

“I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees,” Hannity said in a statement on social media. “I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective. I assumed those conversations were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter between me and a third-party.”

fox news logo SmallFox News’ announcement marks the latest instance of the network’s standing by its leading primetime anchor in the face of criticism over ethical decision-making. During the 2016 campaign, Hannity was sharply criticized for appearing in a pro-Trump campaign ad, and last year became the subject of a large-scale boycott campaign after propagating conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer.

After news broke that Hannity, who reportedly pushed Cohen’s legal team to have his identity kept confidential, was named in court, a wave of media figures and analysts blasted the host and network for not making the extent of his dealings with the attorney clear.

stormy daniels sketch threatPolitico, Stormy Daniels releases sketch of man who allegedly threatened her, Louis Nelson, April 17, 2018. Adult film actress Stormy Daniels and her attorney released a composite sketch of the man they say threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot to “leave Trump alone” in the wake of an interview she had given about her alleged affair with President Donald Trump.

This artist’s drawing released by attorney Michael Avenatti, reports to show the man that the adult film actress Stormy Daniels says threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 to remain quiet about her affair with President Donald Trump.

This artist’s drawing released by attorney Michael Avenatti, reports to show the man that the adult film actress Stormy Daniels says threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 to remain quiet about her affair with President Donald Trump. | Michael Avenatti via AP

Daniels and Michael Avenatti, her lawyer, appeared Tuesday on ABC’s “The View,” where they released the sketch publicly for the first time. Avenatti offered $100,000 for information leading to the identification of the man in the sketch and asked members of the public to email tips to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“We want to get to the bottom of who this is. We think we know who sent him, but we want to confirm it,” Avenatti said. He declined to say whether the sketch has been shared with law enforcement.

In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” earlier this month, Daniels recalled the 2011 incident wherein she said a man approached her and her child as she made her way to an exercise class in Las Vegas. The adult film actress said the man told her to “leave Trump alone” and “forget the story” of her alleged affair with Trump, which she had shared with “In Touch” magazine.

washington post logokimba wood croppedWashington Post, Federal judge weighs special master to review seized Cohen records, Philip Bump and Devlin Barrett, April 17, 2018. To avoid the appearance of bias, the U.S. District Court judge, Kimba Wood (shown at right) indicated she may appoint an outside attorney to assess whether any materials seized during a search of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's office, home, hotel room and safe-deposit box are protected by attorney-client privilege.

James Comey

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘This is not some tin-pot dictatorship’: Comey pushes back against Trump’s suggestion he be jailed, John Wagner​​, April 17, 2018. Former FBI director James B. Comey (shown above in a file photo) told NPR that the president's tweets pose a “great danger.”

Talking Points Memo (TPM), Investigation: Good Grief. Cohen’s World Gets Mobbier The Closer I Look, Josh Marshall, April 17, 2018 (podcast 44:46 mins).  We look into the background of Michael Cohen. TPM first reported last year that Cohen was actually a childhood friend of Felix Sater, whose father was himself a reputed capo in the Mogilevich organized crime syndicate, said to be Russia’s largest and most dangerous.

Filling out this picture of how Cohen fell into this milieu we’ve always been focused on the fact that Cohen’s uncle, Morton Levine, owned and ran a Brooklyn social club, El Caribe, which was a well-known meeting spot for members of Italian and Russian organized crime families in the 1970s and 1980s. (Levine, a medical doctor has never been charged with a crime.) But now it turns out there’s a bit more to this story.

I came across this in a January AP article about Boris Nayfeld, one-time organized crime boss in Brooklyn who now wants to go home to Russia to start a new life. Nayfeld is 70 and he just finished his latest prison sentence. The whole story is a bit low energy and a sad sack in a nonetheless menacing and predatory way.

According to published reports, in the 70s and early 80s, the boss of the Russian mob in New York (and for practical purposes the whole U.S) was a man named Evsei Agron. Things ended badly for Agron when was gunned down in a mob hit in 1985. After Agron was assassinated, his organization was taken over by under-boss Marat Balagula. Authorities believed Balagula was behind Agron’s killing. But he was never charged with the crime. Balagula ran things until 1991 when he was convicted of gasoline bootlegging. Nayfeld had been the bodyguard and enforcer for both Agron and Balagula, one would say more successfully in the latter case than the former. He took over the organization when Balagula went to prison.

What I didn’t realize until now is that both Agron and his successor Balagula ran their operations out of an office in the El Caribe social club. So the El Caribe wasn’t just a mob hangout. From the 70s through the 90s at least, the bosses of the Russian mafia in the U.S. literally ran their crime organization out of the El Caribe. So Michael Cohen’s uncle Morton Levine’s social club was the headquarters of Russian organized crime in the U.S.

That’s quite something. The AP article includes another detail. According to Levine, who is apparently still alive, all his nieces and nephews owned shares of the El Caribe and still do. Levine told the AP that Michael Cohen owned his stake in the club until Donald Trump was elected President when he “gave up his stake.” That was probably wise!

It was also very recent. One of the abiding questions about Cohen is how he became so deeply enmeshed in the Ukrainian and Russian emigre communities from such an early age and moved so early into businesses heavily infiltrated by organized crime. He married a Ukrainian immigrant whose father got him into the taxi business and himself had at least one conviction for money laundering. Cohen was raised in the Five Towns area of Long Island, not far from Brighton Beach as the crow flies – just across Jamaica Bay – but worlds away culturally. The El Caribe seems like the logical locus which brought Cohen into this world.

sean hannity profilePalmer Report, Analysis: Sean Hannity is just the tip of the iceberg, Bill Palmer, April 17, 2018. One week after Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen saw his life shattered into little pieces in the form of an FBI raid of his office and residence, we saw Trump’s most notorious television ally Sean Hannity (shown at right) dragged into the Trump-Cohen criminal investigation as well. It’s led to the question of just how many of Trump’s allies and sycophants are going to end up getting taken down in Trump’s scandals. The answer: we’re just getting started.

Donald Trump likes to surround himself with people who are either already morally corrupt, or who can be corrupted. The one consistent pattern we’ve seen is that the longer an associate or underling hangs around Trump, the more that person’s moral fiber disintegrates. Michael Cohen and Sean Hannity were not good people before Trump took them under his wing.

But Trump steered Cohen toward some truly ugly “fixer” work that has him in serious danger of going to prison, and Trump steered Hannity from merely misrepresenting the news for ratings, to outright rigging the news out of misguided personal loyalty. They’re part of a larger pattern that we’re soon going to see on full display.

republican elephant logoWhy do these types of people end up making a mess of their own careers and lives for the sake of the greater glory of Donald Trump? That’s a question for a psychologist. But the key here is that Trump knows how to find these types, and how to manipulate them. Was Hope Hicks intending to commit obstruction of justice when she signed on to work for Trump? Probably not. But former Trump spokesman Mark Corallo testified to Robert Mueller (shown at right) that he heard Hicks promising to scuttle key evidence. If that proves true, it’ll mean that Hicks started as merely someone who was unqualified for the job, and ended as a felon. There are endless similar examples.

robert mueller full face fileThe criminal investigations into Donald Trump’s lifetime of crime are spreading so far and wide, it’s now clear that everyone involved in Trump’s crimes is going to be exposed. Some of these Trump associates will testify against him, while others will take a fall for him. But we’re now at a point where Sean Hannity of all people is smack in the middle of a federal criminal investigation into Trump’s crimes and coverups. Before long, everyone in league with Trump will be called to answer for it. Hannity is just the tip of the iceberg.

April 16

washington post logodjt official SmallWashington Post, Fired FBI director Comey says Trump is ‘morally unfit’ and may be vulnerable to Russian blackmail, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, April 16, 2018 (print edition). In his first televised interview since being fired, James B. Comey took aim at President Trump in no uncertain terms, comparing his administration to a mafia family, likening his presidency to a forest fire and asserting there was evidence that he had committed a crime. The interview aired just days before Comey is set to release a book and begin promoting it.

washington post logoJames Comey Higher Loyalty coverWashington Post, The morning after Comey’s interview airs, Trump throws another punch at the fired FBI director, John Wagner and Matt Zapotosky, April 16, 2018. President Trump took fresh aim at fired FBI director James B. Comey on Monday, lambasting his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server and asserting again that Comey and another FBI official had committed crimes. Trump’s comments on Twitter were his first since Comey’s high-profile television interview Sunday night in which he said he believes Trump is “morally unfit” to be president and that he hopes Trump will be voted out of office.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump wants to review material seized from personal lawyer before federal investigators, Devlin Barrett, April 16, 2018 (print edition). In a new court filing, the president’s attorneys argued that his team should be allowed to review material taken from Michael Cohen’s office.President Trump asked a federal judge Sunday night to allow him to review documents that FBI agents seized from the office of his longtime lawyer before criminal investigators have a chance to see the material.

michael cohen iowa politics.com via flickr preston kempThe request underscores the high stakes in an ongoing legal fight in federal court in New York, where Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer (shown at right), is also fighting to get a chance to review material seized as part of a criminal investigation of his business dealings.Trump’s request, in the form of a letter from other lawyers representing him, could further complicate a hearing set for Monday afternoon.

During that session, lawyers for Cohen are expected to tell the judge overseeing the case how many legal clients he has and how many seized documents he thinks might be covered by attorney-client privilege.Cohen is set to attend the hearing. Also expected to be on hand is adult-film star Stormy Daniels, whom Cohen secretly paid $130,000 in 2016 to keep quiet the details of an alleged sexual liaison she had with Trump.

April 15

Trump Probes By Special Counsel

washington post logorobert mueller full face fileWashington Post, Congress should ‘forcefully respond’ if Trump fires Mueller, 245 former Justice Department officials say, Kristine Phillips, April 15, 2018 (print edition). Former department employees signed a statement defending special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (shown at right) and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, suggests ex-FBI director deserves ‘jail,’ Josh Dawsey, April 15, 2018.​ President Trump sharply attacked James B. Comey in a fusillade of tweets Sunday morning, suggesting that the former FBI director deserves to be imprisoned and serving up several of his favorite theories and unsubstantiated allegations of misdeeds.

James Comey Higher Loyalty coverTrump’s tweets are part of a wider effort by the White House and the Republican National Committee to discredit Comey, who has written a damaging tell-all book, titled A Higher Loyalty, to be released Tuesday. A Sunday night interview on ABC News will kick off his national book tour.

Comey’s book is a scathing depiction of his interactions with Trump, whom he likens to an “unethical” mob boss, and casts his inner circle in largely unflattering terms, saying it was more focused on politics than national security.

“I honestly never thought these words would ever come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current President of the United States was with prostitutes, peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013,” Comey said, according to an excerpt released by ABC News. “It’s possible, but I don’t know.”

April 14

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Donald Trump is so worried about Michael Cohen, Daniel Cotter, April 14, 2018. Reports Friday noted that Donald Trump was more concerned/worried about the raids on his lawyer’s office and home than he is by the Mueller Russia investigation. There may be several reasons that Trump is concerned, including what it might mean for his organization.

On June 16, 1999, then-Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder issued a memo, “Bringing Criminal Charges Against Corporations,” setting forth factors to take into account when charging a corporation. The memo states: “Corporations are ‘legal persons,’ capable of…committing crimes. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, a corporation may be held criminally liable for the illegal acts of its [representatives].” The memo recognized that corporations are artificial, acting through their agents, including employees.

The Holder Memo has been amended several times over the years by subsequent Deputy Attorney Generals, including most recently Yates, but the basics remain. The corporation may be indicted, considering the “pervasiveness of wrongdoing.”

Michael Cohen has been the Executive Vice President of The Trump Organization.

In a recent excellent book, We The Corporations, Adam Winkler describes the development of rights that corporations have achieved under the Constitution. Like people, corporations are subject to criminal indictment and conviction, and nothing in the developments Winkler describes changes that reality.Recall that in 2017, one of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ first initiatives was a resurged focus on civil-asset forfeitures, which allows law enforcement to seize assets with provable ties to crime without conviction and many argue without due process. There is also the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it criminal for “certain classes of person and entities to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business.”

While the investigation of Cohen and his potential criminal activity is ongoing, one reason Trump might be sweating this investigation is the potential consequences it holds for his namesake entity. If evidence gained from the Cohen search warrants (which revealed he does little if any legal work) shows criminal conduct of the entity, could Trump Organization be next? Mueller has indicted several Russian entities in his investigation, so we know the Feds are not afraid to pursue corporate wrongdoing.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s attorney’s attorney is “missing,” Bill Palmer, April 14, 2018. Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels, is having fun this week – because he’s winning. Their lawsuit against Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen has at least partially led to an FBI raid of Cohen’s office and residence, and Trump has been dragged right into the center of it.

David Schwartz, the attorney for Michael Cohen, doesn’t appear to be having fun this week, as he’s gone “missing. ”That’s the word being used by Avenatti, at least. Ever since Monday’s FBI raid, it’s been Trump’s legal team taking the lead in the courtroom, even though Cohen is the confirmed target of the SDNY U.S. Attorney’s office investigation in question. So what happened to Cohen’s legal team? Specifically, where has Cohen’s attorney been since the raid?

That’s a question that Avenatti would now like answered.Avenatti tweeted this today: “David Schwartz (Mr. Trump’s lawyer’s lawyer) is missing. He has not been seen since his Megyn Kelly interview 2 weeks ago. I wonder if he is in the audio/docs that were seized from Mr. Cohen by the FBI? So now we’re at a point where a porn star and her attorney are running circles around the President of the United States, his attorney, and his attorney’s attorney.

April 12

ny times logoNew York Times, Review: Comey’s Story of a ‘Forest Fire’ Presidency, Michiko Kakutani, April 12, 2018. In A Higher Loyalty,” James B. Comey, the James Comey Higher Loyalty coverformer F.B.I. director, offers an inside view of the drama leading up to the 2016 presidential election, and he doesn’t mince words. Here’s our critic’s review of the memoir.

From publisher's announcement of Comey memoir, to be released April 13 in advance of its scheduled publication next week: In his forthcoming book, former FBI director James Comey shares his never-before-told experiences from some of the highest-stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like, and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of power, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader.

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC, Breaking: Stormy Daniels's lawyer says Trump's counsel Cohen is pleading 5th amendment in civil suit, Nicole Wallace, April 12, 2018. In a late afternoon interview with MSNBC host Nicole Wallace, Michael Avenatti revealed that Trump's personal counsel Michael Cohen has filed an emergency motion on grounds of the Fifth Amend to be relieved from testifying in the civil litigation with porn actress Stormy Daniels. The Fifth Amendment is the Constitutional protection against self-incrimination.

michael avenatti ccn 3 23 18 CustomAvenatti (shown at left in a file photo) said the filing was Cohen's right but was also a major development that shows that his client should be able to tell her story to the public. Daniels, the stage name for Stephanie Clifford, has said in a lawsuit that Cohen paid for her silence shortly before the 2016 election regarding what she says was a long-running affair with Trump.

stormy daniels djt insight 1 19 2018 CustomAvenetti also said in his interview that he thought it likely that federal authorities would learn from their raid on Cohen's law offices Monday the identity of a man Avenetti and Daniels allege threatened her with physical harm if she told her story. She described it in part in an interview with In Touch Magazine and also on CBS 60 Minutes. Cohen and other Trump representatives has said Daniels should pay one million dollars in damages for each time she speaks about the matter..

nbc news logoNBC News, Trump, Mueller teams prepare to move forward without presidential interview, Carol E. Lee, Julia Ainsley, Kristen Welker and Hallie Jackson, April 12, 2018. Monday’s raid on Trump’s personal lawyer upended talks for the president to sit down with investigators. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office and President Donald Trump’s legal team are now proceeding with strategies that presume a presidential interview will likely not take place as part of the Russia investigation, after months of talks between the two sides collapsed earlier this week, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

On Monday Trump’s lawyers were discussing a possible interview with Mueller's team and had begun to hash out the final sticking points, including the timing, scope and length, according to people familiar with the discussions. One person familiar with the strategy said the president’s lawyers had over the weekend sought to expand his legal team to include individuals who would prepare him for an interview. Another person familiar with the matter, however, said preparations had not yet gone that far.

But the prospects for a presidential interview dramatically dimmed once the FBI raided the home, office and hotel room of Trump’s long-time personal lawyer, Michael Cohen on Monday, these people said. The president criticized the raid as out of bounds in Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Trump aides.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), FBI search and seizure targeting Cohen gathered evidence on Trump's past sex crimes, Wayne Madsen, April 12, 2018 (Subscription required; excerpted with permission). Wayne Madsen, a syndicated columnist widely published in American newspapers, editor of WMR, author of 15 books and former Navy intelligence officer, has also been a frequent contributor and source for the National Enquirer's investigative stories and those appearing elsewhere about the cutting-edge of sex scandals involving government officials at the highest levels of power. The top sentence of his investigative report today is excerpted with permission below:  

Justice Department logoTrump's and Cohen's legal troubles: they're worse than you think. There is an avalanche of evidence that suggests that the criminal referral by Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) -- which resulted in a "no-knock" search and seizure of President Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen's office, temporary hotel residence, and home -- was to gather evidence about Trump's past sex crimes and cash payments for silence from assault victims.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigators Look at National Enquirer’s Ties to Trump Lawyer, Jim Rutenberg, Emily Steel and Mike McIntire, April 12, 2018 (print edition). A federal inquiry is examining the relationship between a tabloid company, President Trump and his lawyer Michael D. Cohen, whose office was raided by the F.B.I. (Story excerpted at greater length below.)

donald trump arianne zucker billy bush access hollywood

Celebrity businessman Donald Trump, actress Arianne Zucker and TV personality Billy Bush in a still shot from the notorious Access Hollywood videotape

ny times logoNew York Times, F.B.I. Raid Sought Files Tied to ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape, Maggie Haberman, Matt Apuzzo and Michael S. Schmidt, April 12, 2018 (print edition). Agents in a raid this week sought records on the “Access Hollywood” tape in which President Trump was heard making vulgar comments about women, as well as any evidence that Michael D. Cohen, the president’s lawyer, tried to suppress damaging reports. (Story excerpted at greater length below.)

new yorker logoronan farrowNew Yorker, The National Enquirer, a Trump Rumor, and Another Secret Payment to Buy Silence, Ronan Farrow (shown at right), April 12, 2018. How the media organization protected the Presidential candidate early in his campaign.

Late in 2015, a former Trump Tower doorman named Dino Sajudin met with a reporter from American Media, Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, at a McDonald’s in Pennsylvania. A few weeks earlier, Sajudin had signed a contract with A.M.I., agreeing to become a source and to accept thirty thousand dollars for exclusive rights to information he had been told: that Donald Trump, who had launched his Presidential campaign five months earlier, may have fathered a child with a former employee in the late nineteen-eighties. Sajudin declined to comment for this story.

david pecker croppedHowever, six current and former A.M.I. employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared legal retaliation by the company, said that Sajudin had told A.M.I. the names of the alleged mistress and child.

Reporters at A.M.I. had spent weeks investigating the allegations, and Sajudin had passed a lie-detector test, during which he testified that high-level Trump employees, including Trump’s head of security, Matthew Calamari, had told him the story. AMI's top executive, David Pecker, a close friend of Trump, is shown in a file photo at right.

djt national enquirer coversThe New Yorker has uncovered no evidence that Trump fathered the child. A spokesperson for the Trump Organization denied the allegations, including the assertion that Calamari told Sajudin the story. When I reached out to the alleged daughter, she declined through a representative of her employer to answer questions. Her mother did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

I spoke with the father of the family, who said that Sajudin’s claim was “completely false and ridiculous” and added that the Enquirer (with a collage of pro-Trump covers shown at left) had put the family in a difficult situation. “I don’t understand what they had to pay this guy for,” he said. The New Yorker is not disclosing the family members’ names, out of respect for their privacy. Regardless of the veracity of Sajudin’s claims, legal experts said that A.M.I.’s payment to Sajudin is significant because it establishes the company’s pattern of buying and burying stories that could be damaging to Trump during the Presidential campaign.

Associated Press via NBC News, $30,000 Trump rumor? Tabloid paid for, spiked, salacious tip, Staff report, April 12, 2018. The payment was made to a doorman at a Trump building for a rumor that he'd heard.' Eight months before the company that owns the National Enquirer paid $150,000 to a former ap logoPlayboy Playmate who claimed she'd had an affair with Donald Trump, the tabloid's parent made a $30,000 payment to a less famous individual: a former doorman at one of the real estate mogul's New York City buildings.

As it did with the ex-Playmate, the Enquirer signed the ex-doorman to a contract that effectively prevented him from going public with a juicy tale that might hurt Trump's campaign for president.

The story of the ex-doorman, Dino Sajudin, hasn't been told until now. The Associated Press confirmed the details of the Enquirer's payment through a review of a confidential contract and interviews with dozens of current and former employees of the Enquirer and its parent company, American Media Inc.

Sajudin got $30,000 in exchange for signing over the rights, "in perpetuity," to a rumor he'd heard about Trump's sex life. The contract subjected Sajudin to a $1 million penalty if he disclosed either the rumor or the terms of the deal to anyone.

 abc news logoABC News, President Trump poised to pardon Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, sources say, Jonathan Karl, Katherine Faulders, John Santucci, April 12, 2018. lewis scooter libbyThe president has already signed off on the pardon for Lewis "Scooter" Libby, which is something he has been considering for several months, sources told ABC News.

The move would mark another controversial pardon for Trump and could raise questions as an increasing number of the president’s political allies have landed themselves in legal jeopardy. The White House has repeatedly said that no pardons are currently on the table for people caught up in the Russia investigation.

Early in his term, Trump pardoned controversial former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio after he was found guilty in July on criminal contempt charges stemming from his refusal to stop imprisoning suspected undocumented immigrants.

Libby was convicted in 2007 of lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice in the investigation into the leak of the identity of Valerie Plame, a former covert CIA operative. Then-President George Bush commuted Libby's 30-month sentence, sparing him prison time, but didn't pardon him.

After Libby claimed that he couldn't have been the source of the leak, multiple people came forward to testify that they learned of Plame's identity from Libby prior to when Libby said he had first received the information.

At trial, Libby claimed to have simply forgotten he actually learned about the identity from Cheney a month before he said he had. Since the conviction, Libby has since had his law license restored and former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell restored his voting rights in 2013. Many conservatives have been urging a pardon for Libby, including attorneys Joe diGenova and his wife, Victoria Toensing.

April 11

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump chooses impulse over strategy as crises mount, Ashley Parker, Seung Min Kim and Philip Rucker​, April 11, 2018. The president's early-morning taunting of Russia via Twitter caught West Wing staff members by surprise, but it was emblematic of a president operating on a tornado of impulses — and with no clear strategy — as he faces some of the most consequential decisions of his presidency, including Syria, trade policy and the Russian interference probe that threatens to overwhelm his administration.

steve bannon michael vadon flickr

Former Trump White House senior advisor and Campaign Manager Steve Bannon (Photo by Michael Vadon via Flickr)

washington post logoWashington Post, Bannon pitches White House on plan to cripple Mueller probe and protect Trump, Robert Costa​, April 11, 2018. Ousted from the White House, former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon is pushing a plan to White House aides and congressional allies to cripple the special counsel probe. Step 1: Fire the deputy attorney general, according to four people familiar with the discussions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s taunts fuel growing tension between U.S. and Russia over suspected chemical attack in Syria, Anne Gearan, John Wagner and Anton Troianovski, April 11, 2018. A heated war of words over Syria between old Cold War adversaries raised the possibility of open military conflict between the U.S. and Russia after President Trump taunted Russia in a tweet, vowing “missiles will be coming” at Syrian targets in the wake of a suspected chemical attack near Damascus that killed more than 40 civilians.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Law Is Coming, Mr. Trump, Editorial Board, April 11, 2018 (print edition).  Why don’t we take a step back and contemplate what Americans, and the world, are witnessing?

fbi logoEarly Monday morning, F.B.I. agents raided the New York office, home and hotel room of the personal lawyer for the president of the United States. They seized evidence of possible federal crimes — including bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations related to payoffs made to women, including a porn actress, who say they had affairs with the president before he took office and were paid off and intimidated into silence.

That evening the president surrounded himself with the top American military officials and launched unbidden into a tirade against the top American law enforcement officials — officials of his own government — accusing them of “an attack on our country.”

Mr. Trump has spent his career in the company of developers and celebrities, and also of grifters, cons, sharks, goons and crooks. He cuts corners, he lies, he cheats, he brags about it, and for the most part, he’s gotten away with it, protected by threats of litigation, hush money and his own bravado.

Those methods may be proving to have their limits when they are applied from the Oval Office. Though Republican leaders in Congress still keep a cowardly silence, Mr. Trump now has real reason to be afraid. A raid on a lawyer’s office doesn’t happen every day; it means that multiple government officials, and a federal judge, had reason to believe they’d find evidence of a crime there and that they didn’t trust the lawyer not to destroy that evidence.

Justice Department logoOn Monday, when he appeared with his national security team, Mr. Trump, whose motto could be, “The buck stops anywhere but here,” angrily blamed everyone he could think of for the “unfairness” of an investigation that has already consumed the first year of his presidency, yet is only now starting to heat up. He said Attorney General Jeff Sessions made “a very terrible mistake” by recusing himself from overseeing the investigation — the implication being that a more loyal attorney general would have obstructed justice and blocked the investigation.

In fact, the raids on the premises used by Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, were conducted by the public corruption unit of the federal attorney’s office in Manhattan, and at the request not of the special counsel’s team, but under a search warrant that investigators in New York obtained following a referral by Mr. Mueller, who first consulted with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. To sum up, a Republican-appointed former F.B.I. director consulted with a Republican-appointed deputy attorney general, who then authorized a referral to an F.B.I. field office not known for its anti-Trump bias. Deep state, indeed.

washington post logodana boenteWashington Post, Dana Boente, former top Justice Department official now at FBI, has been interviewed by Mueller and turned over notes, Matt Zapotosky, April 11, 2018. The interview shows how special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is exploring whether President Trump obstructed justice and keying in on conversations Trump had with former FBI director James B. Comey. Boente is shown at right.

April 11

ny times logodjt official SmallNew York Times, Trump Denounces Raid as ‘Attack on Our Country,’ Michael D. Shear, April 11, 2018. Calling the raid on his lawyer’s office “disgraceful,” Mr. Trump mused about firing the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

President Trump angrily unloaded on his top law enforcement officials on Monday night, complaining that the F.B.I. “broke into” the office of Michael D. Cohen, his personal lawyer, and assailing two early-morning raids as a “disgraceful situation” and an “attack on our country in a true sense.”

The president repeatedly said that the raids were part of a “witch hunt” against him that has been conducted since he took office, and he mused about the possibility that he might soon fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in the Russia inquiry.

fbi logo“We’ll see what may happen,” Mr. Trump said as he began a meeting with senior military officials to discuss responses to a chemical attack in Syria. “Many people have said, ‘You should fire him.’” The president railed against Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, for recusing himself in the Russia investigation, and he blasted the F.B.I. for failing to investigate Hillary Clinton, “where there are crimes.” He also lashed out at Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who is overseeing the Russia investigation.

Mr. Trump delivered the emotional tirade hours after federal officials raided Mr. Cohen’s office and hotel room, seizing business records, emails and documents, including information related to a payment that Mr. Cohen (shown below right in a file photo) made to a pornographic film actress.

michael cohen iowa politics.com via flickr preston kempUpdate: President Trump had attorney-client privilege on his mind early Tuesday, tweeting out his frustrations a day after the F.B.I. raided the office and hotel room of his personal attorney. “Attorney–client privilege is dead!” Mr. Trump wrote, in what appeared to be a reference to federal agents seizing records belonging to Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal attorney.

“A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!” the president wrote in a separate tweet, repeating a favorite phrase Mr. Trump has used to describe the government’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference and possible coordination with some of his associates.

ny times logofbi logoNew York Times, F.B.I. Raids Office of Trump Lawyer Who Paid Accuser, Matta Apuzzo, April 11, 2018 (print edition). Michael D. Cohen is at the center of several aspects of the special counsel’s investigation. He also acknowledged paying $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford, who said she had an affair with President Trump.

robert mueller graphic IMG 6401

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Investigating Ukrainian’s Payment for Trump Talk, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, April 11, 2018 (print edition).  The $150,000 payment was made as a donation to the Trump Foundation for a 20-minute video appearance in 2015. The special counsel is investigating a payment made to President Trump’s foundation by a Ukrainian steel magnate for a talk during the campaign, according to three people briefed on the matter, as part of a broader examination of streams of foreign money to Mr. Trump and his associates in the years leading up to the election.

Investigators subpoenaed the Trump Organization this year for an array of records about business with foreign nationals. In response, the company handed over documents about a $150,000 donation that the Ukrainian billionaire, Victor Pinchuk, made in September 2015 to the Donald J. Trump Foundation in exchange for a 20-minute appearance by Mr. Trump that month through a video link to a conference in Kiev.

fbi logoMichael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer whose office and hotel room were raided on Monday in an apparently unrelated case, solicited the donation. The contribution from Mr. Pinchuk, who has sought closer ties for Ukraine to the West, was the largest the foundation received in 2015 from anyone besides Mr. Trump himself.

The subpoena is among signs in recent months that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is interested in interactions that Mr. Trump or his associates had with countries beyond Russia, though it is not clear what other payments he is scrutinizing.

April 10

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Michael Cohen and dirty money transfers suspected at heart of Mueller criminal referral, Wayne Madsen, April 10, 2018. The FBI's "no-knock" search and gathering of evidence conducted during the early morning of April 9 on the hotel residence, home, and office of Donald Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was based on incidental evidence obtained by Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The evidence showed that Cohen was involved in ongoing criminal transfers of money in violation of federal laws against money laundering and bank and wire fraud. The referral also reportedly had no connection to Mueller's probe of Trump and his campaign for collusion with foreign interests.

rnc logoCohen, as a former top attorney for the Trump Organization and the current Deputy Finance Committee chairman for the Republican National Committee, is in possession of a number of documents that may point to various campaign finance crimes, as well as illegal banking and wire transfers to pay "hush money" to victims of Trump's sexual harassment and assault, as well as consensual trysts, such as that involving porn actress Stormy Daniels, aka Stephanie Clifford.

RedState, Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Got His Degree from the ‘Worst Law School in the Country,’ Sarah Rumpf, April 10, 2018. It’s not necessary to attend Harvard Law School in order to get a quality legal education and be a good lawyer, but degrees from certain bottom-tier law schools should raise flags of concern regarding the abilities of the attorneys with diplomas from those institutions hanging on their walls. Such is the case with Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s attorney and spokesman, whose herculean efforts to make a mockery of Trump’s promise that he would hire “the best people” are truly something to behold.

Cohen saw his name in headlines this week when the FBI raided his home, office, and hotel room, reportedly to seize evidence related to Cohen’s $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence about an alleged sexual affair with Trump, among other matters. (Ahem, like Trump’s tax returns, according to the New York Times.)

Both Trump and Cohen have adamantly denied Daniels’ story and insisted the president did nothing wrong, but the escalating series of missteps, bumbles, and weaponized ineptitude by Team Trump have made it clear that Cohen is, as The Daily Beast‘s Rick Wilson described him, “far from being the superlawyer.”

Cohen earned his law degree in 1991 from Thomas M. Cooley Law School, which later became affiliated with Western Michigan University. To say that Cooley is bottom-tier doesn’t begin to describe the problems; Cooley is the sub-basement of the bottom-tier, and then digging furiously through the floor deep into the substrata below.

Cooley has been accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) since the mid-1970s, but that accreditation is on increasingly shaky ground. According to ABA Standard 501, “a school shall not admit an applicant who does not appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar.”

The foundation of Cooley’s problems are its unbelievably lax admission standards, accepting almost 86% of applicants in 2016. The entering class that fall had a median GPA of 2.90 and median LSAT score of 141 (bottom 15th percentile of test takers).

In several blog posts lamenting the ABA’s failure to end “predatory admission practices,” law professor and chair of the National Advisory Council for Law School Transparency David Frakt described Cooley’s 2015 entering class as “statistically the worst entering class of law students in the history of American legal education at an ABA-Accredited law school,” cementing the college’s status as the “law school of last resort.”

Legal blog Above the Law excoriated Cooley for these dismal statistics, citing Frakt’s research to name Cooley the absolute worst on their list of the “Worst Laws School in the Country.”

This may explain how Cohen has found himself entangled in some of his more ridiculous legal theories, such as the time he defended Trump against an allegation by his ex-wife Ivanka Trump by claiming there was no such thing as marital rape. There absolutely is, and there definitely was a law making such act a crime in New York when the incident between the Trumps allegedly occurred. Cohen’s penchant for the bombastic and theatrical aside, you won’t see the intellectual heavyweights of the legal world insisting that there is “very clear case law” when that is simply not true.

Compounding the woes of Cooley’s students is how utterly, insanely expensive it is. Current estimates for tuition, fees, books, and living expenses are around $70,000 per year at Cooley’s various campuses. Tuition alone is over $53,000 annually, about $10,000 less than Harvard — but if you graduate from Harvard, well, you’ve got a Harvard degree and your employment opportunities will be looking very different.

April 9

washington post logomichael cohen 7 14 2015 cnn customWashington Post, FBI seizes records related to payment of adult-film star in raid of Trump attorney’s office, Carol D. Leonnig and Tom Hamburger, April 9, 2018. Among what federal agents seized in Michael D. Cohen’s offices were records related to a 2016 payment Cohen (shown at right) made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who says she had a sexual encounter with President Trump. The raid came as part of an investigation referred by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to federal prosecutors in New York, an attorney for Cohen said.

Among the documents seized were privileged communications between Cohen and his clients — including those with Trump, according to a person familiar with the investigators’ work. Investigators took Cohen’s computer, phone and personal financial records as part of the search of his office at Rockefeller Center, the person said.

April 6

robert mueller full face filePalmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller to Donald Trump: I’m coming for your money, Bill Palmer, April 6, 2018. In the past forty-eight hours, we’ve learned that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is suddenly subpoenaing Donald Trump’s business associates in aggressive fashion, and that Mueller seized Paul Manafort’s bank accounts last year. The former provides a clue as to just how thoroughly Mueller (shown at right) is going after every aspect of Trump’s lifetime of crime, above and beyond the stolen election. The latter, which Mueller made a point of including in court filings just now, may be the real story.

Why would Mueller choose now to use court filings to make public the fact that he seized Manafort’s financial assets six months ago? From a trial and prosecution standpoint, there was no need. Manafort certainly already knows that Mueller seized his bank accounts last year. Yet we’ve seen time and again that Mueller has tossed details into his court filings which very much seemed timed to deliver a message.

fbi logoSo it stands out that Mueller is now essentially bragging about his previous Trump-Russia asset seizures, just as he’s moving in on Donald Trump’s business partners. Clearly he’s willing to go after their money if it was ill-gotten, as evidenced by the fact that he just subpoenaed them in a major criminal investigation. Mueller is grilling these Trump business associates about their interactions with Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen, and clearly Mueller is willing to go after Cohen’s money if it was illegally obtained. But based on the fact that Cohen had to take out a home equity loan just to pay Stormy Daniels, it doesn’t appear he has any money to be seized.

This message is being aimed at one person: Donald Trump. For reasons thus far only known for sure to him, Robert Mueller is now sending a clear signal to Trump that he’s going to seize any assets that Trump obtained illegally. Mueller is clearly not quite in legal position to do it yet, or he’d just do it instead of broadcasting it. The big question here is why Mueller wants Trump to know that he’s eventually going to go after his money.

The most logical conclusion would be that Robert Mueller has thought long and hard about how he’s going to force Donald Trump to resign from his stolen presidency when the time comes.

a legal proceeding. “As history teaches us, it is one thing to deceive the press and quite another to do so under oath,” Mr. Avenatti wrote.

djt stormy daniels screengrab

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Says He Didn’t Know About Payment to Porn Actress, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, April 6, 2018 (print edition). In his first public remarks, Mr. Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he knew nothing about $130,000 paid to Stormy Daniels (shown above along with a file photo of the president). President Trump denied on Thursday knowing of a $130,000 payment his lawyer made to a pornographic film actress who claims to have had a sexual encounter with him, referring questions about the transaction to his personal lawyer.

Mr. Trump made his first public remarks about the matter on Air Force One as he returned to Washington from White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., where he had held a round table on tax cuts. Asked by a reporter whether he knew about the payment to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, known in her films as Stormy Daniels, he said, “No.”

Asked why Michael D. Cohen, his personal lawyer, had made the payment, Mr. Trump said, “You’ll have to ask Michael.” The president said he did not know where the money had come from.

Ms. Clifford has said that she was paid $130,000 before the 2016 election to buy her silence. She is now suing Mr. Trump to abrogate a nondisclosure agreement that was supposed to prevent her from discussing her relationship. She claims the agreement is null and void because Mr. Trump never signed it.

Ms. Clifford’s pugnacious lawyer, Michael Avenatti, quickly responded to the president on Twitter, pressing to use legal discovery to expose the back-and-forth around the $130,000 payment. He accused Mr. Trump of a “feigned lack of knowledge” about the payment. And he repeated his desire to depose Mr. Trump in a legal proceeding. “As history teaches us, it is one thing to deceive the press and quite another to do so under oath,” Mr. Avenatti wrote.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Michael Cohen’s view from under the bus: Trump denies knowing about Stormy Daniels payment, Jennifer Rubin (shown right), jennifer rubin twitterApril 6, 2018. The president’s denial and refusal to comment on whether there is a hush-money slush fund raises a raft of questions and complications for both Trump and Cohen.

First, if Trump is telling the truth and really did not know about the payment — made days before the election and designed to stave off more controversy over Trump sexual conduct — Cohen may have made an illegal campaign donation.

April 5

bill yeomans afj cropped CustomAlliance for Justice, Opinion: Are We There Yet? Making Sense of Justice in the Trump Era, Bill Yeomans (right), April 5, 2018. The ever-expanding chaos in the Trump administration has amped up concern that we are reaching the bursting point.

The departures of Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster, Hope Hicks, Rex Tillerson, Rob Porter, David Shulkin, John Dowd, and others launch a new phase in which Trump can surround himself with characters from his TV world and act even less responsibly. Trump has spewed ever more astonishing tweets disparaging the FBI, DOJ, Democrats, immigrants, and Amazon. Mueller’s net is tightening and, apparently, driving Trump toward desperation.

This is a phase to be dreaded – an endgame in which Trump will cast aside any remaining constraints, launching an orgy of firings, pardons, and maybe a couple of wars. Members of Congress heightened the concern by issuing statements cautioning Trump not to fire Bob Mueller and pushing for legislation to protect him.

rod rosenstein us attorneyThe legislation, which is a fine idea and probably constitutional, is not going to happen. In any event, even Trump should recognize that firing Mueller will not end the Russia investigation. Though Mueller, because of his talent and personal qualities, would be sorely missed, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (left) would appoint a replacement and carry on.

The power to define the scope of the investigation and to approve major steps rests with Rosenstein.

Trump would love to get rid of Rosenstein or, better yet, get rid of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replace him with a TV crony who could stifle the Russia investigation. Sessions has survived this long because of his support in the Senate. Rosenstein has survived because Trump has not yet been willing to risk the outrage that might follow his ouster and because he is uncertain he can put a reliable crony in his place. As the vise tightens, he may become less risk-verse.

djt stormy daniels screengrab

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Says He Didn’t Know About Payment to Porn Actress, Julia Hirschfeld Davis, April 5, 2018. In his first public remarks, Mr. Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he knew nothing about $130,000 paid to Stormy Daniels (shown above along with a file photo of the president). President Trump denied on Thursday knowing of a $130,000 payment his lawyer made to a pornographic film actress who claims to have had a sexual encounter with him, referring questions about the transaction to his personal lawyer.

Mr. Trump made his first public remarks about the matter on Air Force One as he returned to Washington from White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., where he had held a round table on tax cuts. Asked by a reporter whether he knew about the payment to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, known in her films as Stormy Daniels, he said, “No.”

Asked why Michael D. Cohen, his personal lawyer, had made the payment, Mr. Trump said, “You’ll have to ask Michael.” The president said he did not know where the money had come from.

Ms. Clifford has said that she was paid $130,000 before the 2016 election to buy her silence. She is now suing Mr. Trump to abrogate a nondisclosure agreement that was supposed to prevent her from discussing her relationship. She claims the agreement is null and void because Mr. Trump never signed it.

Ms. Clifford’s pugnacious lawyer, Michael Avenatti, quickly responded to the president on Twitter, pressing to use legal discovery to expose the back-and-forth around the $130,000 payment. He accused Mr. Trump of a “feigned lack of knowledge” about the payment. And he repeated his desire to depose Mr. Trump in a legal proceeding. “As history teaches us, it is one thing to deceive the press and quite another to do so under oath,” Mr. Avenatti wrote.

ny times logofacebook logoNew York Times, Facebook Now Says Improper Data Use Affected 87 Million, Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frenkel, April 5, 2018 (print edition). Facebook said that the personal information of up to 87 million people may have been improperly shared during the 2016 election with Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, a sharp increase from the company’s previous estimate.

April 3

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice official gave special counsel clearance to probe whether Manafort colluded with Russia, Spencer S. Hsu and Rosalind S. Helderman, April 3, 2018. Court filings show that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein authorized special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate whether onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort illegally coordinated with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.

fbi logoMueller’s team revealed the existence of the Aug. 2, 2017, memo in filings that seek to counter arguments by Manafort’s attorneys that the special counsel investigation has exceeded its legal authority. In a detailed, 53-page defense, Mueller’s team countered late Monday that an investigation of possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia would “naturally cover ties” between the campaign’s chairman and “Russian associated political operatives, Russian-backed politicians and Russian oligarchs.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump not currently a criminal target, Mueller tells president’s lawyers, Carol D. Leonnig and Robert Costa​, April 3, 2018.​ The special counsel informed Trump’s attorneys last month that he is continuing to investigate the president but does not consider him a criminal target at this point, according to three people familiar with the discussions. Some Trump advisers fear the president is not in the clear and could be baited into an interview that could put him in legal jeopardy.

jill mccabe

Dr. Jill McCabe, pediatrician, former Virginia State Senate candidate in 2015 and wife of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (photo via YouTube)

washington post logoandrew mcCabe oWashington Post, Opinion: Jill McCabe: The president attacked my reputation. It’s time to set the record straight, Jill McCabe, April 3, 2018 (print edition). Jill McCabe, an emergency room pediatrician, is married to former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe (shown at right). Jill McCabe breaks her silence. Here's why you should care.

I am an emergency room pediatrician and an accidental politician — someone who never thought much about politics until I was recruited to run for state office after making a statement about the importance of expanding Medicaid. That decision — plus some twisted reporting and presidential tweets — ended up costing my husband, Andrew, his job and our family a significant portion of his pension my husband had worked hard for over 21 years of federal service. For the past year and a half of this nightmare, I have not been free to speak out about what happened. Now that Andrew has been fired, I am.

democratic donkey logoAndrew and I met as sophomores in college, at Duke University. He was interested in law (eventually law enforcement), I in medicine (eventually pediatrics). Andrew’s a reliable Republican; I have voted, over time, for both Republicans and Democrats.

As we have raised our children, I tried to vote more regularly and pay more attention to the issues that affect our community. And with my work in a hospital emergency room in Virginia, I saw the impact of how government decisions hurt my patients, especially when the state decided not to accept the federal government’s funding to expand Medicaid.

I lost my race in November 2015. It was disappointing, and particularly hard for me because I have always been the kind of person who gives everything her all. But I felt good about my effort and enjoyed returning to normal life.

Almost a year later, everything changed. A reporter called my cellphone on a Sunday in October 2016, asking questions about contributions to my campaign and whether there had been any influence on Andrew’s decisions at the FBI.

fbi logoThis could not be further from the truth. In fact, it makes no sense. Andrew’s involvement in the Clinton investigation came not only after the contributions were made to my campaign but also after the race was over. Since that news report, there have been thousands more, repeating the false allegation that there was some connection between my campaign and my husband’s role at the FBI.

Related Story: Imagine being the accidental agent of your husband's demise. Deputy Editorial Page Editor Ruth Marcus explains why she asked Jill McCabe to break her silence.

March

March 30

Trump EPA Scandal

epa general logo

washington post logoWashington Post, As new details emerge, Scott Pruitt’s housing arrangements come under scrutiny, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, March 30, 2018. Scott Pruitt’s unusual housing arrangement during much of last year — when he paid a lobbyist a modest sum each night for staying in a Capitol Hill condo she co-owned — has generated a new round of scrutiny about the financial decisions of the Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

scott pruitt epa o CustomPruitt (shown at right) paid $50 for each night that he physically stayed in the condo, which sits a stone’s throw from the Capitol and is co-owned by health-care lobbyist Vicki Hart. According to people familiar with the arrangement, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly,

Pruitt initially approached her husband, lawyer J. Steven Hart, about staying there during his confirmation process in 2017 and then extended the terms of the arrangement through last July.

March 29

michael flynn state department Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Lawyer Broached Idea of Pardons for 2 Top Ex-Aides, Michael S. Schmidt, Jo Becker, Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman and Adam Goldman, March 29, 2018 (print edition). A lawyer for President Trump broached the idea of Mr. Trump’s pardoning two of his former top advisers, Michael T. Flynn (shown above) and Paul Manafort, with their lawyers last year, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.

The discussions came as the special counsel was building cases against both men, and they raise questions about whether the lawyer, John Dowd, who resigned last week, was offering pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the investigation.

The talks suggest that Mr. Trump’s lawyers were concerned about what Mr. Flynn and Mr. Manafort might reveal were they to cut a deal with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in exchange for leniency. Mr. Mueller’s team could investigate the prospect that Mr. Dowd made pardon offers to thwart the inquiry, although legal experts are divided about whether such offers might constitute obstruction of justice.

Mr. Dowd’s conversation with Mr. Flynn’s lawyer, Robert K. Kelner, occurred sometime after Mr. Dowd took over last summer as the president’s personal lawyer, at a time when a grand jury was hearing evidence against Mr. Flynn on a range of potential crimes. Mr. Flynn, who served as Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, agreed in late November to cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation. He pleaded guilty in December to lying to the F.B.I. about his conversations with the Russian ambassador and received favorable sentencing terms.

Mr. Dowd, who was hired last year to defend the president during the Mueller inquiry, took the lead in dealing directly with Mr. Flynn’s and Mr. Manafort’s lawyers, according to two people familiar with how the legal team operated. He denied on Wednesday that he discussed pardons with lawyers for the president’s former advisers. “There were no discussions. Period,” Mr. Dowd said. “As far as I know, no discussions.”

March 28

paul manafort rick gates nbcnews

Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, left, and his longtime associate Rick Gates (file photos)

washington post logoWashington Post, Manafort associate had Russian intelligence ties during 2016 campaign, prosecutors say, Spencer S. Hsu and Rosalind S. Helderman, March 28, 2018. The FBI has found that a business associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had ongoing ties to Russian intelligence, including during the 2016 campaign when Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, were in touch with the associate, according to new court filings.

The documents, filed late Tuesday by prosecutors for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, also allege that Gates had said he knew the associate was a former officer with the Russian military intelligence service.

The allegations underscore Mueller’s interest in Manafort and Gates, who continued to interact with business associates in Ukraine even as they helped lead Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Manafort, 68, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, money laundering, and tax and bank fraud charges related to his lobbying work for a Russian-friendly political party in Ukraine and former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

March 27

washington post logoWashington Post, Another prominent lawyer declines offer to represent Trump in Russia investigation, Carol D. Leonnig and Rosalind S. Helderman, March 27, 2018 (print edition). Dan K. Webb, a former U.S. attorney for Illinois and a corporate and white collar defense lawyer, was contacted by the president’s team, which has struggled to attract top legal talent. After rejecting Trump’s invitation to join his legal team, Ted Olson admonishes president.

March 25

stefan halper wellesley college 2013 screenshot

Cambridge University Professor Stefan Halper (Screenshot from 2013 speech at Wellesley College)

Daily Caller, Papadopoulos Met WIth Cambridge Prof In London, Chuck Ross, March 25, 2018. A London Meeting Before The Election Aroused George Papadopoulos’s Suspicions.

Two months before the 2016 election, George Papadopoulos received a strange request for a meeting in London, one of several the young Trump adviser would be offered — and he would accept — during the presidential campaign.

The meeting request, which has not been reported until now, came from Stefan Halper, a foreign policy expert and Cambridge professor with connections to the CIA and its British counterpart, MI6.

Halper’s September 2016 outreach to Papadopoulos wasn’t his only contact with Trump campaign members. The 73-year-old professor, a veteran of three Republican administrations, met with two other campaign advisers, The Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) learned.

Papadopoulos now questions Halper’s motivation for contacting him, according to a source familiar with Papadopoulos’s thinking. That’s not just because of the randomness of the initial inquiry but because of questions Halper is said to have asked during their face-to-face meetings in London.

According to a source with knowledge of the meeting, Halper asked Papadopoulos: “George, you know about hacking the emails from Russia, right?”

stefan halper 2010Papadopoulos told Halper (shown at right) he didn’t know anything about emails or Russian hacking, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. The professor did not follow up on the line of inquiry.

Halper first contacted Papadopoulos by email. In a Sept. 2, 2016, message sent to Papadopoulos’s personal email account, he offered the Trump aide $3,000 to write a policy paper on issues related to Turkey, Cyprus, Israel and the Leviathan natural gas field. Halper also offered to pay for Papadopoulos’s flight and a three-night stay in London.

Papadopoulos accepted the proposal, flew to England, and met with Halper and one of his assistants. He delivered the paper electronically Oct. 2 and received payment days later, according to documents TheDCNF reviewed.

Halper’s encounters with Papadopoulos were not the only encounters that the professor had with the Trump campaign. Halper met campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page at a July 2016 symposium held at Cambridge regarding the upcoming election, Page told TheDCNF. The pair remained in contact for several months.

Halper’s activities are all the more eye-catching because Papadopoulos and Page are central figures in the Russia investigation. Papadopoulos, 30, pleaded guilty in October 2017 to lying to the FBI about contacts he had during the campaign with Russian nationals and a London-based professor with links to the Russian government.

cia logoHalper also had connections to the CIA — most notably through his late father-in-law, Ray Cline.

Cline once served as director of the CIA’s bureau of intelligence and research. He was also the agency’s top analyst during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Halper got a job as foreign policy director on George H.W. Bush’s unsuccessful 1980 presidential primary bid on Cline’s recommendation.

Halper, who has a residence in Virginia, was also allegedly in charge of a team of former CIA analysts who kept tabs on the Jimmy Carter campaign.

n an ironic twist given the Russia probe’s focus on election meddling, Halper was also linked to a Reagan-era scandal dubbed “Briefing-gate.”

Halper was one of several Reagan White House officials linked to the scandal, which involved campaign briefing materials stolen from Carter’s campaign. Prior to the 1980 election, stolen Carter-campaign briefing papers containing classified information ended up in the hands of Reagan’s campaign officials.

The theft was not revealed until 1983. Halper was not directly implicated in stealing the documents, but he was identified as one of the campaign advisers who handled and disseminated them.

March 21

ny times logojohn brennan official cia portraitNew York Times, Ex-Chief of C.I.A. Suggests Putin May Have Dirt on Trump, Matthew Rosenberg, March 21, 2018. John O. Brennan (shown at right) said Russia may have compromising information on President Trump, setting off furious speculation about whether the former spy chief was basing that assertion on inside information.

washington post logoWashington Post, In congratulatory call to Putin, Trump ignored advisers’ warning, Carol D. Leonnig, David Nakamura and Josh Dawsey,  March 21, 2018. When he called Russia’s president after his reelection, President Trump ignored specific warnings from his aides, including a “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” note in his briefing materials. Trump also chose not to heed talking points on the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.

ny times logojeff sessions ag oNew York Times, F.B.I. Investigated Sessions for Perjury Over Russia Denials, Adam Goldman, Katie Benner and Matt Apuzzo, March 21, 2018. Andrew G. McCabe, whom Attorney General Jeff Sessions (right) fired last week, authorized the investigation. Mr. Sessions inaccurately testified that he had no contacts with Russians.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Criticizes Mueller, Again, as a Former C.I.A. Director Suggests Russia ‘May Have Something’ on the President, Eileen Sullivan, March 21, 2018. djt official portraitPresident Trump indirectly criticized Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, on Wednesday for the ongoing investigation into Russia’s 2016 campaign meddling, even as a former C.I.A. director said during a morning news show that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia may have compromising information on Mr. Trump.

After a weekend of attacking Mr. Mueller — against the advice of his own lawyers — Mr. Trump picked up again in early morning tweets when he quoted a Harvard professor who said Mr. Mueller should never have been appointed to be the special counsel to investigate Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. That investigation has expanded into inquiries into Mr. Trump’s aides and his own business dealings.

“I was opposed to the selection of Mueller to be Special Council,” Mr. Trump tweeted, misspelling the word, “counsel,” as he quoted Alan M. Dershowitz, a Harvard Law professor who has been outspoken in his defense of the president.

john brennan official cia portraitSeparately, on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” John O. Brennan, a former C.I.A. director (shown at right), speculated that the Russians “may have something on him personally,” referring to Mr. Trump. Mr. Brennan was the C.I.A. director when a salacious dossier surfaced in 2016 that claimed the Russians had compromising information on Mr. Trump. There has been no proof that such material exists, but Mr. Trump’s affection for the Russian leader has raised questions about the nature of their relationship. “I think he’s afraid of the president of Russia,” said Mr. Brennan, now retired from government service and a critic of Mr. Trump.

george nader djt

President Trump and lobbyist George Nader

ny times logoNew York Times, How Two Men Plied Arab Interests Inside Trump’s White House, David D. Kirkpatrick and Mark Mazzetti, March 21, 2018.  Correspondence between the men — one a witness in the special counsel inquiry, the other a major G.O.P. fund-raiser — reveal an effort to cultivate President Trump on behalf of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

A cooperating witness in the special counsel investigation worked for more than a year to turn a top Trump fund-raiser into an instrument of influence at the White House for the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to interviews and previously undisclosed documents.

Hundreds of pages of correspondence between the two men reveal an active effort to cultivate President Trump on behalf of the two oil-rich Arab monarchies, both close American allies.

High on the agenda of the two men — George Nader, a political adviser to the de facto ruler of the U.A.E., and Elliott Broidy, the deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee — was pushing the White House to remove Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, backing confrontational approaches to Iran and Qatar and repeatedly pressing the president to meet privately outside the White House with the leader of U.A.E.

summer zervos

washington post logoWashington Post, With at least three women now hoping to break their silence on Trump, his challenges grow, Beth Reinhard, Emma Brown, Frances Stead Sellers and Mark Berman​, March 21, 2018 (print edition). On the same day a former Playboy playmate sued for the right to speak out about an alleged affair, a judge ruled that the defamation lawsuit of a former “Apprentice” contestant can proceed against President Trump,  potentially allowing her lawyers to begin collecting evidence to support her claim that he forcibly kissed and groped her years ago.

The decision in the case brought by Summer Zervos (shown above in a photo from the show) came on the same day a former Playboy playmate, Karen McDougal, sued the publisher of the National Enquirer for the right to break her silence about the 10-month affair she says she had with Trump more than a decade ago.

The nearly simultaneous developments added to the political and legal challenges for the president, who has faced weeks of reports about his alleged affair with another woman, porn star Stormy Daniels, and his attorney’s effort to buy her silence.

All three women are now seeking to tell their stories on their own terms. McDougal is scheduled to give an interview Thursday to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, while “60 Minutes” is scheduled to air an interview with Daniels on Sunday.

As she rejected Trump’s effort to block Zervos’s lawsuit from proceeding, New York Supreme Court Justice Jennifer G. Schecter cited precedent from the Paula Jones case against President Bill Clinton, which led to his impeachment in 1998.

March 20

washington post logoWashington Post, Cambridge Analytica CEO appears to talk about using bribes and sex workers to sway elections on video, Craig Timberg, Tony Romm and Karla Adam, March 20, 2018 (print edition). A British television station’s undercover video raises new questions about the company embroiled in controversy over its use of Facebook users’ data. The broadcast did not offer evidence that such methods were used during the firm’s work for President Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Alexander Nix at Web Summit 2017 in Lisbon (Photo by Sam Barnes: Sam-7378 CC by 2.0)

Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix at Web Summit 2017 in Lisbon (Photo by Sam Barnes: Sam-7378 CC by 2.0)

ny times logoNew York Times, Cambridge Analytica Suspends C.E.O. in Facebook Scandal, Matthew Rosenberg, March 20, 2018. The company’s board said it was suspending the chief executive, Alexander Nix, with immediate effect, pending an independent investigation. Cambridge Analytica, the political data firm with ties to President Trump’s 2016 campaign, suspended its chief executive, Alexander Nix, on Tuesday, amid a furor over the access it gained to private information on more than 50 million Facebook users.

The decision came after a television broadcast in which Mr. Nix was recorded suggesting unseemly practices to influence foreign elections.The London-based company, founded by Stephen K. Bannon and Robert Mercer, a wealthy Republican donor who has put at least $15 million into it, offered tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior.

So-called psychographic modeling techniques, which were built in part with the data harvested from Facebook, underpinned the company’s work for the Trump campaign in 2016. Mr. Nix once called the practice “our secret sauce,” though some have questioned its effectiveness.

washington post logofacebook logoWashington Post, FTC opens probe into Facebook after firm scrapes millions of users’ personal data, Tony Romm and Craig Timberg, March 20, 2018. The investigation by the Federal Trade Commission marks the most substantial political and legal threat yet to the social media giant as it grapples with the fallout from Cambridge Analytica and its controversial tactics.

christopher wylie cnn

Former Cambridge Analytica Director of Research Christopher Wylie, now a whistleblower in scandal hurting Facebook and other stocks

washington post logofacebook logoWashington Post, Facebook’s rules for accessing user data lured more than just Cambridge Analytica, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Tony Romm, March 20, 2018. The social media giant changed its policies in 2015, but not before apps such as FarmVille and Tinder — as well as the Obama campaign — accessed the network’s information trove.

Sputnik, Dirty Tricks or Black Ops? The Secret World of Cambridge Analytica, Staff report, March 20, 2018. Executives at Cambridge Analytica have been caught on hidden camera boasting about using Ukrainian sex workers to create honey traps, bribing foreign political candidates and of using former intelligence agents to dig up dirt to help them blackmail politicians. Cambridge Analytica have worked on elections in North and South America, East Asia, Africa and Europe. They have been accused of swaying the EU referendum in the UK and of being a crucial factor in the election of Donald Trump as US president. Now, several senior officials at company have been filmed by undercover journalists bragging that their services go far beyond big data analytics and social media marketing.

Britain's Channel 4 carried out the four-month sting in late 2017 and early 2018, secretly filming Cambridge Analytica's CEO Alexander Nix, chief data office Dr Alex Tayler and managing director of CA Political Global Mark Turnbull. Channel 4's representative in these meetings posed as a Sri Lankan looking to employ the company in the country's elections.

Sputnik spoke to political and intelligence commentator Wayne Madsen who pointed out similar instances of private entities being involved in dirty tricks and black operations. Madsen highlighted how, "General Motors tapped consumer advocate Ralph Nader's phone in an attempt to uncover salacious information and, when that failed, hired prostitutes in an attempt to catch him in a compromising situation."

Madsen also referred to the CIA's Operation Midnight Climax, which Agency documents confirm involved hiring prostitutes to ‘lure' unsuspecting citizens to CIA safe houses where they were experimented on with LSD. Madsen commented, "This operation included several contractors, including the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) and the Human Ecology Foundation."

Channel 4's investigation shows that in Cambridge Analytica's world there is little distinction between political dirty tricks and intelligence agency black operations.

Nix also referred to having Israeli contacts (possibly ex-Mossad) who they use to do this sort of work on their behalf. According to Nix, disguising their work is a Cambridge Analytica specialty: "Many of our clients don't want to be seen to be working with a foreign company…so often we set up, if we are working then we can set up fake IDs and websites, we can be students doing research projects attached to a university, we can be tourists, there's so many options we can look at. I have lots of experience in this."

Turnbull explained that the information they obtain is then deployed as part of a propaganda strategy, saying "we just put information into the bloodstream of the internet, and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again." He referred again to the need for this to be covert, without the target audience realising what is being done and who is doing it: "It has to happen without anyone thinking, ‘that's propaganda', because the moment you think ‘that's propaganda', the next question is, ‘who's put that out?'"

These admissions raise the question of what kind of organization Cambridge Analytica are. They have denied that they actually offer these kinds of services, issuing a statement saying: "We entirely refute any allegation that Cambridge Analytica or any of its affiliates use entrapment, bribes, or so-called "honey-traps" for any purpose whatsoever… We routinely undertake conversations with prospective clients to try to tease out any unethical or illegal intentions."

However, they met with Channel 4's undercover reporter multiple times, each time being more explicit in what they offered, with Nix emphasizing in their final meeting, "I'm giving you examples of what can be done, and what has been done."

Meanwhile, Madsen was unequivocal in his opinion of the company, their practices and what the response should be, commenting: "Cambridge Analytica should be prosecuted for criminal violations of the Racketeer- Influenced & Corrupt Organizations (RICO) act."

steve bannon fileMoon of Alabama blog, Opinion: Cambridge Analytica And The Manipulation Of People, Debs is Dead, March 20, 2018. There is a relatively easy to digest video here where Christopher Wylie, a computer scientist, outlines the birth of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, the CEO and the method used to sell the development of the corporation to Steve Bannon (right), CA's first customer and Robert Mercer, the Wall Street financier who underwrote the cost of setting up the corporation. I recommend spending the 13 minutes required to watch the video because Wylie's summation of what they did and why is horrifying.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower to testify to House Democrats, Karoun Demirjian and Craig Timberg, March 20, 2018. The whistleblower who publicly revealed how Trump-affiliated data firm Cambridge Analytica used information mined from Facebook under false pretenses during the 2016 election cycle will give an interview to Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee as part of their investigation of Russian interference in the election, including possible ties to Donald Trump’s campaign.

A lawyer for Christopher Wylie confirmed Tuesday that Wylie plans to accept the invitation from the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.).

jefferson morleyusa today logo 5USA Today, JFK files: 15-year lawsuit over mysterious CIA agent drags as final files await release, Ed Brackett, March 20, 2018 (print edition). For 15 years, journalist, author and assassination expert Jefferson Morley (right) has fought to compel the CIA to produce records about longtime spy George Joannides, who worked with a group associated with President John F. Kennedy’s acknowledged assassin and then aided the committee that tried to investigate that killing.

Morley returned to federal court again Monday, this time before a three-judge appeals court panel to get the government to pay legal fees that have climbed to more than $500,000, said Morley’s attorney, James Lesar.

Circumstances around Kennedy’s murder and the various theories over the decades that reject the idea that the lone assassin was Oswald — who himself was murdered during a jail transfer two days after Kennedy was killed — can get pretty complicated.

Morley, however, says his case is simple: The government needs to inform the public of its activities. Morley wants the appeals court in Washington to force the government to pay his legal fees and to get the CIA to reveal some of Joannides’ records.

“We’re talking about very specific things. We are not talking about a Chinese box,” he said in response to a question mentioning the term.

Bill Miller, public information officer of the Washington U.S. Attorney’s office, said the office had no comment on the case beyond its court motions and filings.

As more and more government files have been released under the JFK Records Act since October, various long-held CIA secrets have been revealed, many of them not related to the assassination, at least directly. But even with the court case and the Records Act — with its final production due in April — files on Joannides remain scarce.

In 1963, the year Kennedy was murdered, Joannides was the CIA case officer over students from Cuba eager to oust dictator Fidel Castro, who had seized power in 1959. In 1978, Joannides was named by the CIA as its contact with the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

Probes Of Trump

washington post logorobert mueller full face fileWashington Post, Trump’s lawyers turned over documents to Mueller to try to limit interview scope, Carol D. Leonnig​, March 20, 2018 (print edition). Recognizing the extraordinarily high stakes, President Trump’s legal team is seeking to curtail his exposure to the special counsel (shown at right), whom Trump recently attacked in a series of tweets.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump legal team seeks to add high-profile conservative lawyer Theodore B. Olson, Robert Costa and Carol D. Leonnig​, March 20, 2018. theodore olson solicitor generalThe addition of Olson (a former U.S. Solicitor General shown at right in official photo from his term 2001 to 2004) would come as President Trump, feeling vulnerable to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe, has told confidants that he wants to recruit top-tier talent and shake up his group of lawyers.

CBS News, Top litigator Theodore Olson turns down offer from Trump legal team, John Bat, March 20, 2018. Former Solicitor General Theodore Olson has turned down an offer to join President Trump's legal team, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where Olson works, said Tuesday. Ted Boutrous tweeted, "I can confirm that @gibsondunn and Theodore B. Olson will not be representing @realDonaldTrump."

President Trump's legal team had sought Olson, one of the country's top litigators, to help navigate special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, the Washington Post reported. Olson considered the offer and analyzed possible conflicts of interest with his current firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Washington before turning down the offer.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Considers Reshuffling His Legal Team, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, March 20, 2018 (print edition). President Trump has discussed firing one lawyer, and another has considered quitting. A third, who has pushed theories on television that the F.B.I. framed the president, was hired.

ty cobb hogan lovalisPresident Trump’s legal team was poised for a shake-up on Monday, according to two people briefed on the matter, as he openly discussed firing one of his lawyers, another considered resigning and a third — who pushed theories on television that Mr. Trump was framed by the F.B.I. — joined the roster.

Mr. Trump has weighed aloud in recent days to close associates whether to dismiss his lawyer Ty Cobb (above right), who had pushed most strongly a strategy of cooperating fully with the special counsel investigation. The president reassured Mr. Cobb that he had no plans to fire him, according to a person who spoke with the president late Monday, in part to prevent a narrative that his team was in disarray after The New York Times began making inquiries. Mr. Trump’s lead lawyer, John Dowd, has contemplated leaving his post because he has concluded that he has no control over the behavior of the president, the two people briefed on the matter said.

joseph digenova Custom

ny times logo

New York Times, Trump Plans to Hire Lawyer Who Sees a ‘Plot’ by the F.B.I., Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, March 19, 2018. The lawyer, Joseph E. diGenova (shown above at left with Trump in separate file photos), has pushed the theory on television that President Trump was framed by F.B.I. and Justice Department officials.

President Trump hired the longtime Washington lawyer Joseph E. diGenova on Monday, adding an aggressive voice to his legal team who has pushed the theory on television that the F.B.I. and Justice Department framed Mr. Trump.

Mr. diGenova, a former United States attorney, is not expected to take a lead role. But he will serve as an outspoken player for the president as Mr. Trump has increased his attacks on the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Trump broke over the weekend from the longstanding advice of some of his lawyers that he refrain from directly criticizing Mr. Mueller, a sign of his growing unease with the investigation.

djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtube

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-Playboy Model Sues to Break Silence on Trump, Jim Rutenberg, March 20, 2018. Karen McDougal, shown above, is the second woman this month to challenge Trump associates’ efforts to bury stories of extramarital affairs. A former Playboy model who claimed she had an affair with Donald J. Trump sued on Tuesday to be released from a 2016 legal agreement requiring her silence, becoming the second woman this month to challenge Trump allies’ efforts during the presidential campaign to bury stories about extramarital relationships.

The model, Karen McDougal, is suing the company that owns The National Enquirer, American Media Inc., which paid her $150,000 and whose chief executive is a friend of President Trump’s. The other woman, the adult entertainment star Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels, was paid $130,000 to stay quiet by the president’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen. She filed a lawsuit earlier this month.

Both women, who argue that their contracts are invalid, are trying to get around clauses requiring them to resolve disputes in secretive arbitration proceedings rather than in open court. Mr. Trump has denied the affairs, which both women have described as consensual.

karen mcdougal playboyMs. McDougal, in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that Mr. Cohen was secretly involved in her talks with A.M.I., and that the media company and her lawyer at the time misled her about the deal. She also asserts that after she spoke with The New Yorker last month after it obtained notes she kept on Mr. Trump, A.M.I. warned that “any further disclosures would breach Karen’s contract” and “cause considerable monetary damages.””

March 19

washington post logorobert mueller full face fileWashington Post, Trump’s lawyers turned over documents to Mueller to try to limit interview scope, Carol D. Leonnig​, March 19, 2018. Recognizing the extraordinarily high stakes, President Trump’s legal team is seeking to curtail his exposure to the special counsel (shown at right), whom Trump recently attacked in a series of tweets.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Plans to Hire Lawyer Who Sees a ‘Plot’ by the F.B.I., Maggie Habermana and Michael S. Schmidt, Wakabayashi, March 19, 2018. The lawyer, Joseph E. diGenova, has pushed the theory on television that President Trump was framed by F.B.I. and Justice Department officials.

President Trump hired the longtime Washington lawyer Joseph E. diGenova on Monday, adding an aggressive voice to his legal team who has pushed the theory on television that the F.B.I. and Justice Department framed Mr. Trump.

Mr. diGenova, a former United States attorney, is not expected to take a lead role. But he will serve as an outspoken player for the president as Mr. Trump has increased his attacks on the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Trump broke over the weekend from the longstanding advice of some of his lawyers that he refrain from directly criticizing Mr. Mueller, a sign of his growing unease with the investigation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump made senior staff sign nondisclosure agreements. They may last past his presidency, Ruth Marcus, March 19, 2018 (print edition). In the early months of the administration, at the behest of now-President Trump, who was furious over leaks from within the White House, senior White House staff members were asked to, and did, sign nondisclosure agreements vowing not to reveal confidential information and exposing them to damages for any violation. Some balked at first but, pressed by then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the White House Counsel’s Office, ultimately complied, concluding that the agreements would likely not be enforceable in any event.

Moreover, said [a] source, this confidentiality pledge would extend not only after an aide’s White House service but also beyond the Trump presidency. “It’s not meant to be constrained by the four years or eight years he’s president — or the four months or eight months somebody works there. It is meant to survive that.”

This is extraordinary. Every president inveighs against leakers and bemoans the kiss-and-tell books; no president, to my knowledge, has attempted to impose such a pledge. And while White House staffers have various confidentiality obligations — maintaining the secrecy of classified information or attorney-client privilege, for instance — the notion of imposing a side agreement, supposedly enforceable even after the president leaves office, is not only oppressive but constitutionally repugnant.

March 18

washington post logofbi logoWashington Post, After McCabe firing, Trump attacks FBI and his lawyer says Russia probe must end, Philip Rucker, Matt Zapotosky and Carol D. Leonnig, March 18, 2018 (print edition). The president celebrated via Twitter the ouster of former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, who had been probing connections between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, as “A great day for Democracy.” McCabe said his dismissal was a deliberate effort to slander him and part of an “ongoing war” against the FBI and the Russia probe being led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

See also: New York Times, Trump Calls Out Mueller, Toeing Red Line for Some in G.O.P., Peter Baker, March 18, 2018. In two weekend tweets, President Trump lashed out at the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, by name, a departure from a strategy to show deference while his inquiry runs its course. For many, it raised a fear that Mr. Trump would try to shut down the investigation. “If he tried to do that,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, “that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency.”

Andrew McCabe o

Andrew McCabe official portrait

Consortium News, McCabe: A War on (or in) the FBI? Coleen Rowley, March 18, 2018. Andrew McCabe’s claim that his firing amounts to a “war on the FBI” doesn’t make sense considering it was the FBI’s own internal affairs office that recommended he be fired, as FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley explains.

The explanation from Andrew McCabe that he was fired merely due to his staunch support of his former boss and mentor, FBI Director James Comey, and the “Russiagate” investigation, does not pass the smell test. Similar to the one that mainstream corporate media is spinning, McCabe’s explanation almost totally ignores the fact that it was the relatively independent Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) and the FBI’s own Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR internal affairs) who recommended firing McCabe for his “lack of candor” on (the totally unrelated issue of) granting improper press access to the Wall Street Journal during ongoing FBI investigations of the Clinton Foundation and Clinton’s emails.

While the exact specifics of McCabe’s “lack of candor” – which McCabe denies – haven’t been released by the IG, it’s my own personal opinion that such official briefing of the press should not necessarily be a fireable offense as long as it’s justified to correct faulty media reporting and was not covertly done for improper political reasons.

But technically, firing for “lack of candor” has long been the FBI’s “bright line” policy, ever since former FBI Director Louis Freeh tried to “clean up” the FBI in the mid-1990s when so many agents, including Special Agents in Charge, were caught lying about sex affairs, improper government credit card charges and drunk driving incidents – some amounting to reckless homicides.

Coleen Rowley is a retired FBI special agent, division legal counsel and law enforcement ethics instructor who testified in connection with the 9-11 Joint Intelligence Committee’s Inquiry, the Senate Judiciary Committee investigation and Department of Justice Inspector General’s investigation, exposing some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002.

washington post logomark pocan CustomWashington Post, Congressman offers McCabe a job so he can get his pension. It might work, Amber Phillips, March 18, 2018 (print edition). McCabe was fired roughly a day before he was set to retire. With 20 years of law enforcement service under his belt, he could take a federal job for a day to get his full retirement benefits, a former government official said.

[U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc., shown at right) made the job offer via Twitter.]

washington post logojennifer rubin twitterWashington Post, Opinion: McCabe’s firing shows yet again how readily Trump incriminates himself, Jennifer Rubin (shown at right), March 18, 2018 (print edition). President Trump, never able to conceal his vindictiveness and incapable of understanding what evidence might be used against him, gleefully tweeted, “Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!”

No wonder Trump’s lawyers seem unable to imagine allowing him to sit for an interview with special prosecutor Robert S. Mueller III. He is likely to blurt out something akin to, “Yay, that’ll show McCabe and others what happens when they decide to help Comey!” That’s the essence of the tweet Trump could not resist sending.

Unfortunately for McCabe, his ability to challenge his firing is limited. “There is honestly few legal recourses for him to pursue absent discriminatory actions,” says attorney Mark Zaid, who specializes in defending national security employees. “In my 25 years of federal legal practice, I have found FBI’s due process to be sorely lacking.”

In sum, once more, a Trump-inspired stunt is likely to backfire. The politics are irrelevant to Mueller, who now views each of Trump’s antics through a single lens: Does this reveal corrupt intent to disable an investigation into Trump’s conduct? In this case, Trump leaves little doubt as to his motives.

March 17

djt robert mueller whowhatwhy adapted from fbi white house

Special Counsel Robert Mueller III and President Trump (FBI and White House photos adapted by WhoWhatWhy)

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Analysis: Subpoena of Trump Organization Records Brings Mueller Closer to Sater, Cohen, Kirsty Vitarelli, March 17, 2018. General Counsel Robert Mueller is scrutinizing Donald Trump’s business dealings and getting closer to the president’s friends who have Russian connections. News that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed Trump Organization records puts the president in a really tough spot with no good choices.

The move shows that Mueller clearly couldn’t care less about the “red line” President Donald Trump drew in July last year during an interview with the New York Times. The president was asked whether investigating his personal and family finances unrelated to Russia would be crossing a red line.

fbi logo“I would say yes,” Trump said back then. But that is precisely what Mueller seems to be doing now. Such a move could lead Trump to try getting rid of Mueller, something many of the president’s own allies believe would be a catastrophic decision.

If Mueller continues down this path, however, he will get a much clearer picture of Trump’s financial ties to Putin’s regime and to dubious figures in the US and within Russia. WhoWhatWhy has extensively covered some of the figures who likely will come under Mueller’s scrutiny.

andrew mccabe c span may 11 2017

ny times logoNew York Times, McCabe Says His Firing Was Meant to Undermine Mueller, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, March 17, 2018. Andrew McCabe (shown above in a file photo), the ex-F.B.I. deputy director, said his dismissal was meant to undermine his credibility as a potential witness in the Russia inquiry led by Robert S. Mueller III.

Andrew G. McCabe, the former F.B.I. deputy director and a frequent target of President Trump’s scorn, was fired Friday after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rejected an appeal that would have let him retire this weekend. Mr. McCabe promptly declared that his firing, and Mr. Trump’s persistent needling, were intended to undermine the special counsel’s investigation in which he is a potential witness.

fbi logoMr. McCabe is accused in a yet-to-be-released internal report of failing to be forthcoming about a conversation he authorized between F.B.I. officials and a journalist. In a statement released late Friday, Mr. Sessions said that Mr. McCabe had shown a lack of candor under oath on multiple occasions.

Early Saturday morning, the president weighed in with another shot at Mr. McCabe, posting on Twitter that it was “a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI.”

In an interview, Mr. McCabe was blunt. “The idea that I was dishonest is just wrong,” he said, adding, “This is part of an effort to discredit me as a witness.”

F.B.I. disciplinary officials recommended his dismissal. Mr. McCabe, who stepped down in January and took a leave of absence, denied the accusation and appealed this week to senior career officials in the Justice Department. Lack of candor is a fireable offense at the F.B.I., but Mr. McCabe’s last-minute dismissal was carried out against a highly politicized backdrop.

james comey fbi portraitMr. McCabe was among the first at the F.B.I. to scrutinize possible Trump campaign ties to Russia. And he is a potential witness to the question of whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct justice. Mr. Trump has taunted Mr. McCabe both publicly and privately, and Republican allies have cast him as the center of a “deep state” effort to undermine the Trump presidency.

As a witness, Mr. McCabe would be in a position to corroborate the testimony of the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey (shown above left), who kept contemporaneous notes on his conversations with Mr. Trump. Mr. Comey said Mr. Trump prodded him to publicly exonerate the president on the question of Russian collusion and encouraged him to shut down an investigation into his national security adviser.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s lawyer calls on Justice Dept. to immediately end Russia probe, Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker, March 17, 2018. Attorney John Dowd said in a statement that the investigation, now led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, was fatally flawed early on and “corrupted” by political bias. He called on Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees that probe, to shut it down. Analysis: Dowd's statements seem to lay the groundwork for two things, one of which is firing Mueller, Aaron Blake.

john brennan official cia portraitThe Hill, Ex-CIA director slams Trump after McCabe firing: You'll be remembered as a 'disgraced demagogue,' Jacqueline Thomsen, March 17, 2018. Former CIA director John Brennan (shown in an official photo) tore into President Trump for celebrating the firing of former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, saying Trump will be remembered as “a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history.”

“You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America...America will triumph over you,” Brennan tweeted at Trump. The former CIA director was responding to a tweet by Trump hailing McCabe’s firing as a "great day for democracy."

The Hill, Dem offers to hire McCabe to help him qualify for his pension, Jacqueline Thomsen, March 17, 2018. A Democratic lawmaker on Saturday offered to hire former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe in an effort to help McCabe qualify to receive his pension after being fired from the agency two days before he qualified to receive it.

Rep. Mark Pocanmark pocan Custom (D-Wisc.) was responding to a tweet from NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who said the former FBI official might still be able to receive his pension if he’s hired by a member of Congress. “Andrew call me. I could use a good two-day report on the biggest crime families in Washington, D.C.,” Pocan tweeted.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe on Friday, two days before McCabe would qualify for his pension. Sessions dismissed McCabe after an internal report found he shared unauthorized information with the media and was not completely honest with investigators during their review.

Daily Beast, Andrew McCabe, formerly the deputy director of the FBI, has lawyered up, Betsy Woodruff, March 17, 2018. Michael Bromwich of the Bromwich Group confirmed to The Daily Beast that he is representing McCabe for the purposes of the matter that led to his firing.

“This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally,” McCabe said in a statement. “It is part of this Administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day.”

The Washington Post previously reported the news of Bromwich hire. Bromwich, who has been representing McCabe for several weeks, was formerly the inspector general of the Justice Department.

washington post logoWashington Post, A voter profiling firm hired by Trump likely grabbed data for tens of millions of Facebook users, Craig Timberg and Elizabeth Dwoskin​, March 17, 2018. More than 50 million people may have been affected because of information collected by the “thisisyourdigitallife” app, much more than Facebook revealed earlier.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia to expel 23 British diplomats, close consulate in escalating row over poisoned ex-spy, Matthew Bodner and Karla Adam, March 17, 2018. The move comes three days after British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats.

March 16

Justice Department Probes Of Trump

robert mueller graphic IMG 6401

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, as portrayed in a graphic widely disseminated on the web with the slogan "Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear"

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Business Gets Subpoena From Mueller in Russia Inquiry, Michael S. Schmidt, and Maggie Haberman, March 16, 2018 (print edition). The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has subpoenaed records from President Trump’s business, including some related to Russia, people briefed on the matter said. It’s the first known time the special counsel has ordered that documents directly related to the president’s businesses be turned over.

Justice Department logoThe breadth of the subpoena was not clear, nor was it clear why Mr. Mueller issued it instead of simply asking for the documents from the company, an umbrella organization that oversees Mr. Trump’s business ventures. In the subpoena, delivered in recent weeks, Mr. Mueller ordered the Trump Organization to hand over all records related to Russia and other topics he is investigating, the people said.

The subpoena is the latest indication that the investigation, which Mr. Trump’s lawyers once regularly assured him would be completed by now, will drag on for at least several more months.

Word of the subpoena comes as Mr. Mueller appears to be broadening his investigation to examine the role foreign money may have played in funding Mr. Trump’s political activities. In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller’s investigators have questioned witnesses, including an adviser to the United Arab Emirates, about the flow of Emirati money into the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI's Andrew McCabe is fired just before retiring, Matt Zapotosky, March 17, 2018 (print edition). Former deputy director became lightning rod for Clinton email and Russia probes.

andrew mccabe c span may 11 2017Attorney General Jeff Sessions late Friday night fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (shown at left), a little more than 24 hours before McCabe was set to retire. Sessions announced the decision in a statement just before 10 p.m., noting that both the Justice Department Inspector General and the FBI office that handles discipline had found “that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions.”

He said based on those findings and the recommendation of the department’s senior career official, “I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately.”

The move will likely cost McCabe a significant portion of his retirement benefits, though it is possible he could bring a legal challenge. McCabe has been fighting vigorously to keep his job, and on Thursday, he spent nearly four hours inside the Justice Department pleading his case.

McCabe has become a lightning rod in the political battles over the FBI’s most high-profile cases, including the Russia investigation and the probe of Hillary Clinton’s email practices. He has been a frequent target of criticism from President Trump.

Some in the bureau might view McCabe’s termination so close to retirement as an unnecessarily harsh and politically influenced punishment for a man who spent more than 20 years at the FBI. The White House had seemed to support such an outcome, though a spokeswoman said the decision was up to Sessions.

huff post logoHuffington Post, Read Andrew McCabe’s Response To Being Fired Two Days Before His Retirement, Eline Gordts, March 16, 2018. Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired the former deputy director of the FBI on Friday. In a court filing, the president weighs in for the first time directly on a case in which a porn actress was paid $130,000 to stay silent about an affair she claims she had with him.

I have been an FBI Special Agent for over 21 years. I spent half of that time investigating Russian Organized Crime as a street agent and Supervisor in New York City. I have spent the second half of my career focusing on national security issues and protecting this country from terrorism. I served in some of the most challenging, demanding investigative and leadership roles in the FBI. And I was privileged to serve as Deputy Director during a particularly tough time.

For the last year and a half, my family and I have been the targets of an unrelenting assault on our reputation and my service to this country. Articles too numerous to count have leveled every sort of false, defamatory and degrading allegation against us. The President’s tweets have amplified and exacerbated it all. He called for my firing. He called for me to be stripped of my pension after more than 20 years of service. And all along we have said nothing, never wanting to distract from the mission of the FBI by addressing the lies told and repeated about us.

No more....

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. hits Russians with sanctions over election interference, cyberattacks, Ellen Nakashima​, March 16, 2018. The financial sanctions seek to deter Moscow from targeting this year’s midterm elections. It’s a noteworthy step, as President Trump has shown reluctance to blame the Kremlin for tampering with the 2016 presidential race despite the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Moscow did so.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Vanessa Trump hires criminal defense attorney amid Don Jr divorce. Here’s what that means for Trump-Russia, Bill Palmer, March 16, 2018. On Wednesday it was reported that Donald Trump Jr and Vanessa Trump were on the verge of getting divorced. On Thursday it was further reported that Vanessa had in fact filed for a speedy uncontested divorce, on the same day it was reported that Robert Mueller had subpoenaed the Trump Organization’s financial records, raising the question of whether she might be trying to hurry up and secure her share of the assets before they can end up being seized by the Feds.

Now the story has gotten even stranger. It’s now being reported by Page Six – the same celebrity site that got the divorce story correct to begin with – that Vanessa has hired a criminal defense attorney. That’s a highly irregular move for an uncontested divorce. Of course this is no ordinary divorce. Donald Trump Jr is under criminal investigation for his role in his father’s Trump-Russia scandal. He could end up being indicted for anything from obstruction of justice to conspiracy against the United States.

There are a few different reasons why Vanessa might have felt the need for a criminal attorney. One could be if she fears that the Feds might end up coming after her share of the family’s money. Another could be that she fears she’ll be targeted in the scandal, perhaps as a witness, as there is no indication that she’s a Trump-Russia investigation target (and yes, the divorce proceedings make spousal privilege murky). Yet another posssibility could be that she’s considering cutting a deal against Donald Trump Jr which would allow her to keep the money in exchange for her testimony.

The reality is that we still don’t know why this divorce is suddenly happening in the middle of the biggest criminal scandal in U.S. history. People get divorced all the time, and if Donald Trump Jr and Vanessa Trump are getting divorced for personal reasons, it’s none of our business. But if so, why did she just hire a criminal defense attorney? Stay tuned.

March 15

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Business Gets Subpoena From Mueller in Russia Inquiry, Michael S. Schmidt, and Maggie Haberman, March 15, 2018. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has subpoenaed records from President Trump’s business, including some related to Russia, people briefed on the matter said. It’s the first known time the special counsel has ordered that documents directly related to the president’s businesses be turned over.

The breadth of the subpoena was not clear, nor was it clear why Mr. Mueller issued it instead of simply asking for the documents from the company, an umbrella organization that oversees Mr. Trump’s business ventures. In the subpoena, delivered in recent weeks, Mr. Mueller ordered the Trump Organization to hand over all records related to Russia and other topics he is investigating, the people said.

The subpoena is the latest indication that the investigation, which Mr. Trump’s lawyers once regularly assured him would be completed by now, will drag on for at least several more months. Word of the subpoena comes as Mr. Mueller appears to be broadening his investigation to examine the role foreign money may have played in funding Mr. Trump’s political activities. In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller’s investigators have questioned witnesses, including an adviser to the United Arab Emirates, about the flow of Emirati money into the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. hits Russians with sanctions over election interference, cyberattacks, Ellen Nakashima​, March 15, 2018. The financial sanctions seek to deter Moscow from targeting this year’s midterm elections. It’s a noteworthy step, as President Trump has shown reluctance to blame the Kremlin for tampering with the 2016 presidential race despite the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Moscow did so.

wayne madsen presstvWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Report: Trump clan has mob-linked double murder and maybe more on its hands, Wayne Madsen, March 15, 2018 (subscription required). Author and public affairs commentator Wayne Madsen (right) was a Navy intelligence officer for 14 years and then a defence contracting executive and think tank security and privacy expert.

March 13

roger stone sam nunberg screenshots

Mueller grand jury witness Sam Nunberg, left, and his friend Roger Stone, author of the column below debunking misleading reporting

Stone Cold Truth, Witness Commentary on Mueller Probe: Sam Can’t Take A Joke; More Fake News By The Washington Post, Roger Stone, March 13, 2018. I must address reports in today’s Washington Post in which my friend Sam Nunberg is identified as one of two sources who allegedly claim I told them I met Julian Assange in 2016. Sam Nunberg’s statements do not create evidence. There is no evidence that I participated in or have any knowledge of any collusion with the Russians to effect the 2016 elections. I had no advance notice of the content, source or timing of the Wikileaks publication of any material.

Nor did I receive any allegedly hacked material from any source and pass them on to Donald Trump or the Trump campaign. Nor did i know in advance that Wikileaks had obtained John Podesta’s emails and would publish them nor did I predict that his e-mail would be published.

No communication from me to Sam Nunberg or anyone else will prove otherwise- in fact documents I submitted to the House Intelligence Committee prove that I did not collaborate with Wikileaks and that my testimony there was truthful.

Allegations that I met with Julian Assange in London in 2016 , allegation apparently repeated by Sam Nunberg and apparently a second unidentified person are provably false.

My passport shows I never left the Country in 2015 or 2016 and surveillance camera’s for a guy in a virtual gulag at the Ecuadorian Embassy show he never left there and I never arrived there.

Now you have to understand when you worked with Sam would call and text you over and over. As Sam would call and text you 30 time a day. Sam said in a interview that he spoke to Steve Bannon 30 times a day.One major reporter said he called her eight times late one night.

Nunberg told CNN “They want me to testify against Roger,” Nunberg said. “They want me to say that Roger was going around telling people he was colluding with Julian Assange.” We can clear this up right now.

Late one Friday night when I was trying to get Sam off the phone. Sam asked if I had plans for the weekend- and I said “ I thought I would fly to London to have dinner with Julian Assange “- a joke and hung up. It was jocular and of course provably false via passport record and security video. It was a throw away line. I was amused when Sam took it seriously. I now realize Sam told several people- including two reporters that I had actually met Assange.

Sam called me to warn me that Mueller was out to get me three times after his initial interview with OSC then told me I must admit I told 58 people that I had gone to London…which of course is not true- I told ONE person….who was too intense to figure out it was a joke. Just the same I bare Sam no ill will as he struggles with his demons.

Now as to the second person baring false witness against me I am asked to answer a faceless charge and an e-mail I have not seen allegedly making claims I don’t recall. I had no advance notice of the alleged hacking of the DNC emails or John Podesta’s emails.

Sam is a talented researcher and writer and a relentless gossip and yenta. In this case he has done me a disservice.

The claim that I got documents or allegedly hacked email from Wikileaks – or anyone else it and gave them to Donald Trump or anyone in the Trump Camp is as false as the certainty that they were hacked by Russians or anyone else.

These are lies created by Democrats and some in the media that will be dispelled by the investigation.

My testimony before the House Intelligence Committee was 100 % truthful and documents I submitted to them show I did not collaborate with Wikileaks.

As far as the so-called “Back Channel – I addressed it here- the claim by Mother Jones that Randy Credico’s confirmation that Wikileaks would publish non-specific Clinton material predates his meeting and first interview with Assange is irrelevant – Credico was well aquainted with members of Assange’s legal team.

While we’re at it let’s dispense with Guccifer 2.0 since Chuck Todd revived this chestnut late week. My exchange with someone claiming to be a hacker has been fully released publicly. It is innocuous, banal and based on the timing, content and context certainly doesn’t constitute collusion.

March 8

washington post logoWashington Post, Mueller gathers evidence that 2017 meeting was effort to establish back channel to Kremlin, Sari Horwitz and Devlin Barrett, March 8, 2018 (print edition). A witness cooperating with the special counsel has said the meeting in Seychelles was set up so that a representative of the Trump transition team could meet with an emissary from Moscow to discuss U.S.-Russia relations — apparently contradicting statements made to lawmakers by one of its participants, people familiar with the matter said.

robert mueller full face fileSpecial counsel Robert S. Mueller III (right) has gathered evidence that a secret meeting in Seychelles just before the inauguration of Donald Trump was an effort to establish a back channel between the incoming administration and the Kremlin — apparently contradicting statements made to lawmakers by one of its participants, according to people familiar with the matter.

erik princeIn January 2017, Erik Prince (shown in a file photo), the founder of the private security company Blackwater, met with a Russian official close to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and later described the meeting to congressional investigators as a chance encounter that was not a planned discussion of U.S.-Russia relations.

A witness cooperating with Mueller has told investigators the meeting was set up in advance so that a representative of the Trump transition could meet with an emissary from Moscow to discuss future relations between the countries, according to the people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

George Nader, a Lebanese American businessman who helped organize and attended the Seychelles meeting, has testified on the matter before a grand jury gathering evidence about discussions between the Trump transition team and emissaries of the Kremlin, as part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.

george nader c span

The Intercept, George Nader, Cooperating Witness in Mueller Probe, Was Arrested for Child Pornography in the 1980s, George Nader, reportedly a cooperating witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, was arrested in 1985 on child pornography charges.

A frequent visitor to the Trump White House in 2017, Nader (shown above in a C-SPAN appearance) is the latest enigmatic character to saunter onto the stage as part of Mueller’s inquiry. A New York Times story last weekend said that Mueller was looking into whether Nader, a Lebanese-American with access to Persian Gulf elites, had helped funnel foreign money toward Trump’s campaign. On Tuesday, the paper said that Nader was cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.

The 1985 criminal case against Nader on child pornography charges was eventually dismissed, according to court documents obtained by The Intercept. The existence of the charges was first reported by The Atlantic.

“The court found that Mr. Nader’s constitutional rights had been flagrantly violated, and the case was thrown out in its entirety before trial,” a representative for Nader told The Intercept. “Mr. Nader vigorously denies the allegations now, as he did then.”

The 1985 criminal case against Nader on child pornography charges was eventually dismissed.

According to prosecutors, as relayed in the U.S. District Court judge’s ruling on a motion to suppress evidence in the case, Nader received a package that included both a film of young boys engaged in sexual acts and pictures depicting nude boys. Authorities conducted a search based on a warrant, and similar material was found in a room that Nader rented in a Washington home, according to the court documents. The evidence discovered in the home was ruled inadmissible when the warrant was challenged, but the material delivered in the original package was not ruled inadmissible at the time.

Palm Beach Post, Jeffrey Epstein’s salacious trial a go without ‘stolen’ documents, Jane Musgrave, March 8, 2018. What promises to be a salacious trial involving convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein appeared to be spinning out of control Thursday as his attorneys fended off allegations that they were trying to use stolen documents to get their billionaire client off the hook.

Despite allegations of wrongdoing against one of Palm Beach County’s most prominent law firms and complex issues involving imprisoned Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Donald Hafele refused Epstein’s request to delay the civil trial that is scheduled to start Tuesday.

“I’m not pleased by the events that have occurred here,” Hafele said at one point during the all-day hearing. Noting that he had already rescheduled the trial once late late year to allow Epstein’s new attorneys to get up to speed, Hafele described the request for yet another delay as unconscionable.

“This case has drawn a significant amount of public interest and has been pending for 3,013 days, as of today,” he said of the lawsuit Epstein originally filed against attorney Bradley Edwards in 2009 and has morphed into a malicious prosecution lawsuit pitting Edwards against Epstein.

Epstein’s attorneys Scott Link and Kara Rockenbach immediately appealed Hafele’s decision to the 4th District Court of Appeal.

In refusing to delay the trial that Epstein is not expected to attend, Hafele also rejected an effort by Epstein’s attorneys to show the jury what they described as newly-discovered evidence. They claimed confidential emails they uncovered proves that Epstein had good reason to sue Edwards over lawsuits Edwards filed against him on behalf of three young women who claimed Epstein paid them for sex when they were as young as 14.

Epstein ultimately dropped his lawsuit against Edwards, who responded by filing a malicious prosecution suit against the 64-year-old part-time Palm Beach resident who spends most of his time on a private island he owns in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Attorney Jack Scarola, who represents Edwards, described the new evidence Link and Rockenbach discovered as “stolen.” He said the evidence — some 27,000 emails that are protected by attorney-client privilege — came from the law offices of Epstein’s former attorney Joseph Ackerman. A federal judge in 2010 ordered Ackerman’s firm, Fowler White Burnett, not to retain the records and threatened to sanction the lawyers if they did, Scarola said.

To allow Epstein to use the confidential memos Edwards wrote to clients, including the teens he represented, is unfathomable, Scarola argued.

March 7

washington post logoWashington Post, Businessman with ties to United Arab Emirates is cooperating with Mueller probe, Devlin Barrett, Sari Horwitz and Rosalind S. Helderman, March 7, 2018 (print edition). Investigators are interested in the role that George Nader, a Lebanese American businessman, played in a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles, and whether any foreign money aided the Trump campaign.

A Lebanese American businessman who has acted as an adviser to the United Arab Emirates has been cooperating with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, after he was hit with a subpoena upon arriving in the United States in mid-January, according to people familiar with the matter.

george nader c spanThe businessman, George Nader (shown at right during a C-SPAN appearance), was served with a grand jury subpoena shortly after landing at Dulles International Airport, these people said. Investigators are interested in Nader’s role at a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles between Erik Prince, a supporter of President Trump, and a Russian official close to President Vladi­mir Putin, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

Nader — and the Seychelles meeting — are of interest to Mueller’s team as it examines whether any foreign money or assistance fueled the Trump campaign, and how Trump officials during the transition and early days of the administration communicated with foreign officials. One person described Nader as an important witness in Mueller’s efforts — one who has spoken repeatedly to investigators since his arrival in the United States.

djt stormy daniels nydaily 1 13 18 Customwashington post logoWashington Post, David Dennison’ and other interesting details from Stormy Daniels’s lawsuit against Trump, Aaron Blake, March 7, 2018. The lawsuit filed by the porn star, who says she had an affair with President Trump, represents the latest development in an increasingly troubling situation for the White House. It also serves as confirmation of key details surrounding the alleged relationship [which has been creating news for nearly two months, as indicated by the New York Daily News front page from Jan. 13].

Exactly how likely Daniels's lawsuit is to succeed is a major question. If she does prevail, it could free her up to talk about the (alleged) affair. But if nothing else, the lawsuit itself serves as confirmation of key details. The full lawsuit is 28 pages and includes the alleged nondisclosure agreement. Below, I've isolated the key parts. (Note that the lawsuit refers to Daniels by her real name, Stephanie Clifford.)

"2. Defendant Donald J. Trump a.k.a. David Dennison ('Mr. Trump'), an individual, is a resident of the District of Columbia (among other places). ...Ms. Clifford began an intimate relationship with Mr. Trump in the Summer of 2006 in Lake Tahoe and continued her relationship with Mr. Trump well into the year 2007. This relationship included, among other things, at least one 'meeting' with Mr. Trump in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel located within Los Angeles County.”

In some ways, this lawsuit seems to be a way for Daniels to put her side of the story into the public record without directly telling it. Here, she confirms details about the alleged affair that she previously shared with InTouch magazine in a 2011 interview that wasn't published until recently.

This also confirms previously reported details. But it's the first time Daniels has confirmed that she was shopping her story before the election. She has publicly been coy about the whole thing, apparently because of the nondisclosure agreement.

"16. After discovering Ms. Clifford's plans, Mr. Trump, with the assistance of his attorney Mr. [Michael] Cohen, aggressively sought to silence Ms. Clifford as part of an effort to avoid her telling the truth, thus helping to ensure he won the Presidential Election. Mr. Cohen subsequently prepared a draft nondisclosure agreement and presented it to Ms. Clifford and her attorney (the 'Hush Agreement').”

Two points here: First, this is Daniels alleging that Trump was personally involved — something the White House and Cohen have declined to confirm or deny (despite the Journal's reporting). And second, she alleges that the effort was geared toward aiding Trump's election. That may seem like a given, because it happened just before Election Day, but as The Washington Post's Philip Bump has reported, the payment is more legally problematic if it was clearly for this purpose.

Whether Trump needed to sign this agreement is the major legal question here.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Spoke to Inquiry Witnesses, Ignoring Lawyers, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, March 7, 2018. President Trump asked key witnesses in the Russia inquiry about matters they discussed with the special counsel. Experts say the conversations likely do not constitute witness tampering. The special counsel in the Russia investigation has learned of two conversations in recent months in which President Trump asked key witnesses about matters they discussed with investigators, according to three people familiar with the encounters.

In one episode, the president told an aide that the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, should issue a statement denying a New York Times article in January. The article said Mr. McGahn told investigators that the president once asked him to fire the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. McGahn never released a statement and later had to remind the president that he had indeed asked Mr. McGahn to see that Mr. Mueller was dismissed, the people said.

reince priebus gage skidmore 3In the other episode, Mr. Trump asked his former chief of staff, Reince Priebus (shown in a Gage Skidmore portrait), how his interview had gone with the special counsel’s investigators and whether they had been “nice,” according to two people familiar with the discussion.

The episodes demonstrate that even as the special counsel investigation appears to be intensifying, the president has ignored his lawyers’ advice to avoid doing anything publicly or privately that could create the appearance of interfering with it.

March 6

djt stormy daniels screengrabwashington post logoWashington Post, Porn actress Stormy Daniels sues Trump, says hush agreement is null because he didn’t sign it, Beth Reinhard, Frances Stead Sellers and Emma Brown​, March 6, 2018. The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles alleges that President Trump, then the Republican presidential nominee, never approved a $130,000 settlement arranged by his personal attorney, making it invalid.

Stormy Daniels, the porn star who says she was paid to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Donald Trump, sued the president Tuesday, asking the court to declare that her nondisclosure agreement before the 2016 election is void because Trump did not sign it.

In the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Daniels — whose real name is Stephanie Clifford — said she had wanted to go public with the story of her alleged decade-old affair with Trump in the weeks leading up to the election. The lawsuit was first reported by NBC News.

Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, and Daniels’s attorney at the time, Keith Davidson, negotiated what the lawsuit calls a “hush agreement” in which she would be paid $130,000. After delays and even a cancellation of the contract by Daniels on Oct. 17, the payment arrived on Oct. 27, 12 days before the election, according to e-mails reviewed by The Washington Post. Cohen said recently that he had used his own money to “facilitate” the payment.

kellyanne conway fox aug.28 2016

Roll Call, White House Denies Kellyanne Conway Violated Hatch Act, John T. Bennett, March 6, 2018. Trump aide accused of advocating for political candidates while on government business. The White House denies a special counsel’s finding that White House aide Kellyanne Conway (shown above in a file photo) violated the Hatch Act by advocating for political candidates while conducting official government business. The special counsel, Henry Kerner, told President Donald Trump in a letter that during television interviews late last year Conway “impermissibly mixed official government business with political views about candidates in the Alabama special election.”

Kerner pointed to interviews Conway did in November and December with CNN’s “New Day” and Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” programs. The interviews came during a special election in the Yellowhammer State in which Democrat Doug Jones defeated controversial Republican Roy Moore. In one interview with the Fox show, Conway said of Jones: “He’ll be a vote against tax cuts. He’s weak on crime, weak on borders. He’s strong on raising your taxes. He’s terrible for property owners.”

fox news logo SmallThe 1939 Hatch Act prohibits most executive branch employees — except the president, vice president and a handful of others — from conducting political business while in their official capacity. A report accompanying Kerner’s letter details several occasions on which the White House Counsel’s Office, either in group ethics training sessions or direct correspondence to Conway, spelled out what the Hatch Act prohibits.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley denied Conway did anything wrong, despite her own words in the Fox interview.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Roger Stone gives away that he’s going to be arrested, Bill Palmer, March 6, 2018. One day after Sam Nunberg made a mess for himself and his friend Roger Stone by giving one unhinged television interview about the Trump-Russia scandal after another, Stone tried to step to the plate today to put the fire out. Instead he made things worse for himself. When Stone appeared on MSNBC today, he revealed that he hasn’t heard a peep from Mueller thus far. No subpoenas. No requests for interviews or testimony. Stone seems to think this means he’s in the clear. Based on Mueller’s patterns, it means the precise opposite.

March 5

Trump Investigation

sam nunberg msnbc

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Trump aide Sam Nunberg called before grand jury, says he will refuse to go, Josh Dawsey​, March 5, 2018. In an interview with The Washington Post, Nunberg said he was asked to come to Washington to appear before the grand jury on Friday. The subpoena includes requests for a wide range of documents related to President Trump and his associates.

“Let him arrest me,” Nunberg told The Washington Post in his first stop on a media blitz, saying he does not plan to comply with a subpoena from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to hand over emails and other documents related to President Trump and nine current and former Trump advisers.

“Mr. Mueller should understand I am not going in on Friday” to the grand jury, he added. It is unclear what actions Mueller might take if Nunberg does not appear.

In a remarkable act of rebellion, Nunberg seized the national media spotlight for much of Monday afternoon to denounce Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt” and to detail what he said he had learned about the probe from his private interview last month with Mueller’s team. He at times sounded nervous and self-doubting, openly questioning his legal fate.

“strategic release.”

stormy daniels djt insight 1 19 2018 Custom

Wall Street Journal, Trump Lawyer’s Payment to Stormy Daniels Was Reported as Suspicious by Bank, Joe Palazzolo and Michael Rothfeld, March 5, 2018. The bank used by President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer to wire $130,000 to a former adult-film actress (shown above) flagged the transaction as suspicious and reported it to the Treasury Department, according to a person familiar with the matter.

michael cohen iowa politics.com via flickr preston kempThe lawyer, Michael Cohen (shown in a file photo), wired the money to a lawyer for former actress Stephanie Clifford, known professionaly as Stormy Daniels, form an an account at First Republic Bank.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller just officially dragged nearly every big name into the Trump-Russia scandal, Bill Palmer, March 5, 2018. Thus far we’ve seen Special Counsel Robert Mueller focus on certain individuals in the Trump-Russia scandal in a manner that’s spilled over into clear public view: paul manafortPaul Manafort (shown in a screenshot). Rick Gates.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Mueller is casting a wide net. We now know the target is Trump, Greg Sargent, March 5, 2018. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is now directly gunning for President Trump — and not just on one front. It appears that Mueller is investigating whether Trump himself committed misconduct or possible criminality on two fronts, and possibly more.

robert mueller full face fileNBC News is now reporting that Mueller (shown in a file photo) has sent a subpoena to an unnamed witness that appears to hint at just how wide a net Mueller has cast. NBC reports that the subpoena suggests Mueller is focused, among other things, on determining what Trump himself knew about Russian sabotage of the 2016 election as it was happening.

nbc news logoThe subpoena demands a range of documents that involve Trump himself, in addition to nine of his top campaign advisers and associates. The documents solicited include emails, text messages, work papers and telephone logs dating back to November 2015, about four months after Trump declared his presidential candidacy.

This builds on NBC’s previous report that Mueller’s investigators are asking witnesses questions that indicate that Mueller is examining whether Trump knew Democratic emails had been hacked before that became public, and whether he was somehow involved in their “strategic release.”

New Yorker logoNew Yorker, Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier: How the ex-spy tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia, Jane Mayer, March 5, 2018 (March 12 print edition). Steele (shown at right in a file photo) told friends that Trump supporters were using him as a “battering ram” to “take down the whole intelligence community.”

lindsey grahamIn January, after a long day at his London office, Christopher Steele, the former spy turned private investigator, was stepping off a commuter train in Farnham, where he lives, when one of his two phones rang. A friend in Washington, D.C., was calling with bad news: two Republican senators, Lindsey Graham (shown at right) and Charles Grassley, had just referred Steele’s name to the Department of Justice, for a possible criminal investigation. They were accusing Steele — the author of a secret dossier that helped trigger the current federal investigation into President Donald Trump’s possible ties to Russia — of having lied to the very F.B.I. officers he’d alerted about his findings.

The details of the criminal referral were classified, so Steele could not know the nature of the allegations, let alone rebut them, but they had something to do with his having misled the Bureau about contacts that he’d had with the press. For nearly thirty years, Steele had worked as a close ally of the United States, and he couldn’t imagine why anyone would believe that he had been deceptive. But lying to an F.B.I. officer is a felony, an offense that can be punished by up to five years in prison.

The accusations would only increase doubts about Steele’s reputation that had clung to him since BuzzFeed published the dossier, in January, 2017. The dossier painted a damning picture of collusion between Trump and Russia, suggesting that his campaign had “accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.” It also alleged that Russian officials had been “cultivating” Trump as an asset for five years, and had obtained leverage over him, in part by recording videos of him while he engaged in compromising sexual acts, including consorting with Moscow prostitutes who, at his request, urinated on a bed.

In the spring of 2016, Orbis Business Intelligence — a small investigative-research firm that Steele and a partner had founded, in 2009, after leaving M.I.6, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service — had agreed to do opposition research on Trump’s murky relationship with Russia. Under the arrangement, Orbis was a subcontractor working for Fusion GPS, a private research firm in Washington. Fusion, in turn, had been contracted by a law firm, Perkins Coie, which represented both Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Several months after Steele signed the deal, he learned that, through this chain, his research was being jointly subsidized by the Clinton campaign and the D.N.C. In all, Steele was paid a hundred and sixty-eight thousand dollars for his work.

Steele had spent more than twenty years in M.I.6, most of it focussing on Russia. For three years, in the nineties, he spied in Moscow under diplomatic cover. Between 2006 and 2009, he ran the service’s Russia desk, at its headquarters, in London. He was fluent in Russian, and widely considered to be an expert on the country. He’d also advised on nation-building in Iraq. As a British citizen, however, he was not especially knowledgeable about American politics. Peter Fritsch, a co-founder at Fusion who has worked closely with Steele, said of him, “He’s a career public-service officer, and in England civil servants haven’t been drawn into politics in quite the same way they have here. He’s a little naïve about the public square.”

And so Steele, on that January night, was stunned to learn that U.S. politicians were calling him a criminal.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller just officially dragged nearly every big name into the Trump-Russia scandal, Bill Palmer, March 5, 2018. Thus far we’ve seen Special Counsel Robert Mueller focus on certain individuals in the Trump-Russia scandal in a manner that’s spilled over into clear public view: Paul Manafort. Rick Gates. George Papadopoulos. Michael Flynn. We’ve also long been seeing scattered media reports that he’s focusing on various other players. But now suddenly just about everyone has officially been dragged into the scandal, thanks to a flurry of grand jury subpoenas.

fbi logoMultiple media outlets including Axios and NBC News have obtained copies of a grand jury subpoena that was recently sent to an unnamed witness in the Trump-Russia scandal. That subpoena demands access to all conversations between that witness and a whole lot of key players in the scandal.

Is Mueller targeting these people because they’re criminal suspects, or because they’re uncooperative witnesses? That remains to be seen. But hope hicks cory lewandowskieveryone on the list should have trouble sleeping tonight, and for that matter, so should everyone else involved with the scandal.

The list itself is remarkable: Steve Bannon. Michael Cohen. Rick Gates. Hope Hicks and Corey Lewandowski (shown together in a file photo). Paul Manafort. Carter Page. Keith Schiller. Roger Stone. And some guy named Donald Trump. Imagine learning that Mueller is so focused on your role in the Trump-Russia scandal, that he’s subpoenaing other people simply because you talked to them.

March 2

jared kushner head shotThe Intercept, Jared Kushner’s Real-Estate Firm Sought Money Directly From Qatar Government Weeks Before Blockade, Clayton Swisher and Ryan Grim, March 2 2018. The real estate firm tied to the family of presidential son-in-law and top White House adviser Jared Kushner (shown at right) made a direct pitch to Qatar’s minister of finance in April 2017 in an attempt to secure investment in a critically distressed asset in the company’s portfolio, according to two sources. At the previously unreported meeting, Jared Kushner’s father Charles, who runs Kushner Companies, and Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif Al Emadi discussed financing for the Kushners’ signature 666 Fifth Avenue property in New York City.

The 30-minute meeting, according to two sources in the financial industry who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the potential transaction, included aides to both parties, and was held at a suite at the St. Regis Hotel in New York.

A follow-up meeting was held the next day in a glass-walled conference room at the Kushner property itself, though Al Emadi did not attend the second gathering in person.

The failure to broker the deal would be followed only a month later by a Middle Eastern diplomatic row in which Jared Kushner provided critical support to Qatar’s neighbors. Led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a group of Middle Eastern countries, with Kushner’s backing, led a diplomatic assault that culminated in a blockade of Qatar. Kushner, according to reports at the time, subsequently undermined efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to bring an end to the standoff.

Officials in four countries discussed ways to manipulate Jared Kushner, President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law

jared ivanka kushner may 20 2017 9 day djt trip facebook Smallwashington post logoWashington Post, ‘Jared has faded’: Inside the 28 days of tumult that left Kushner badly diminished, Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, March 2, 2018. They were the ascendant young couples of the Trump White House: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, and Rob Porter and Hope Hicks. They enjoyed rarefied access to the president and special privileges in the West Wing. Glamorous and well-connected, they had an air of power and invincibility. They even double-dated once.

But an unlikely cascade of events — set in motion by paparazzi photos of Porter and Hicks published Feb. 1 in a British tabloid — crashed down on Kushner this week. The shortest month of the year delivered 28 days of tumult that many inside and outside the White House say could mark the fall of the House of Kushner.

Once the prince of Trump’s Washington, Kushner is now stripped of his access to the nation’s deepest secrets, isolated and badly weakened inside the administration, under scrutiny for his mixing of business and government work and facing the possibility of grave legal peril in the Russia probe.

Kushner’s tensions with chief of staff John F. Kelly have spilled into public view, while other dormant rivalries have resurfaced.

March 1

washington post logorobert mueller full face fileWashington Post, Mueller digs into Trump’s attempt to force Sessions to quit, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Rosalind S. Helderman, March 1, 2018 (print edition).Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (shown at right) has been investigating a period of time last summer when President Trump seemed determined to drive Attorney General Jeff Sessions from his job, according to people familiar with the matter.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Why Robert Mueller can’t hurry, Bill Palmer, March 1, 2018. “Robert Mueller, Please Hurry” has become a popular and understandable rallying cry for the Resistance. Recent events have reminded us that it’s probably not the best advice.

This week Mueller informed a federal judge that he’s ready to start the trial against Paul Manafort right now, and yet the judge assigned a September start date anyway. It’s just how these things work. The trial, if it happens, may last for years. By that time Trump’s fate will likely have already been decided. Manafort was always going to be inclined to take his chances at trial, because he can afford the kind of high priced attorneys who just might be able to find creative way to beat the rap.

paul manafort rick gates nbcnews Custom 2In fact, Mueller arrested Manafort’s sidekick Rick Gates (shown at far right with Manafort in file photos) in the hope of getting him to flip on Manafort, which might cause Manafort to realize that he’s going to have to cut a deal after all. That plan is now in the process of working, and we’ll see if Manafort flips or not. But it’s a reminder that if Manafort does go to trial, then whether Manafort wins or loses that trial, he’ll end up being no use to Mueller at all.

Keep in mind that Paul Manafort is facing one of the most broad and serious collections of criminal charges ever brought against any American, and yet he’s still hesitating about cutting a deal. To get people closer to Donald Trump to flip on him, the ones who can truly take him down, Robert Mueller has to put together some of the scariest sets of criminal charges in history.

If Mueller moves on people like Jared Kushner or Hope Hicks too quickly, before he’s built those criminal cases into pure nightmare fuel, and they decide to simply take their chances at trial, then that’ll be a fail for Mueller. He needs to scare them into cutting deals, and it takes time to dig through every dark corner of these people’s lives in order to find all of their skeletons. If Mueller tries to hurry up the process, he may blow it forever. He only gets one shot at these people. You don’t want him cutting corners. You want him getting it right.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Intelligence Panel Blames House G.O.P. for Leak, Nicholas Fandos, March 1, 2018. In an unusual confrontation, the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee told the House speaker that his members had leaked a senator’s texts that were published on Fox News.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee were behind the leak of private text messages between the Senate panel’s top Democrat and a Russian-connected lawyer, according to two congressional officials briefed on the matter.

richard burr o SmallSenator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina (shown at right), the committee’s Republican chairman, and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat, were so perturbed by the leak that they demanded a rare meeting with Speaker Paul D. Ryan last month to inform him of their findings. They used the meeting with Mr. Ryan to raise broader concerns about the direction of the House Intelligence Committee under its chairman, Representative Devin Nunes of California (shown below left), the officials said.

devin nunes head oTo the senators, who are overseeing what is effectively the last bipartisan investigation on Capitol Hill into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the leak was a serious breach of protocol and a partisan attack by one intelligence committee against the other. The text messages were leaked just days after the same House Republicans had taken the extraordinary step of publicly releasing, over the objections of the F.B.I., a widely disputed memorandum based on sensitive government secrets. Taken together, the actions suggested a pattern of partisanship and unilateral action by the once-bipartisan House panel.

ny times logojared kushner head shotNew York Times, Kushner’s Business Got Loans After White House Visits, Jesse DCrucker, Kate Kelly and Ben Protess, March 1, 2018. Apollo, the private equity firm, and Citigroup made large loans last year to the family real estate business of Jared Kushner (shown right), President Trump’s senior adviser. Early last year, a private equity billionaire started paying regular visits to the White House.

Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo Global Management, was advising Trump administration officials on infrastructure policy. During that period, he met on multiple occasions with Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, said three people familiar with the meetings. Among other things, the two men discussed a possible White House job for Mr. Harris. The job never materialized, but in November, Apollo lent $184 million to Mr. Kushner’s family real estate firm, Kushner Companies. The loan was to refinance the mortgage on a Chicago skyscraper.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal money laundering bust looms large in Trump-Russia scandal, Virginia Kugel, March 1, 2018. If you think it’s a “wild coincidence” that Robert Mueller has charged thirteen Russians in absentia and is now shining a spotlight on potential money laundering by the NRA and questionable family loans in connection with the Trump-Russia probe, here’s a leftover nugget from Trump’s Taj Mahal to consider.

“The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) today imposed a $10 million civil money penalty against Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort (Trump Taj Mahal), for willful and repeated violations of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). In addition to the civil money penalty, the casino is required to conduct periodic external audits to examine its anti-money laundering (AML) BSA compliance program and provide those audit reports to FinCEN and the casino’s Board of Directors.”

washington post logohope hicks strategic communications directorWashington Post, Hicks resignation jolts a West Wing besieged by internal tumult, Russia probe, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker, March 1, 2018 (print edition). Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, is one of President Trump’s longest-serving advisers. But her special relationship with Trump has ensnared her in the wide-ranging investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Hope Hicks told the truth about lying for Trump. Now she’s gone, Dana Milbank, March 1, 2018 (print edition). On Tuesday, White House communications director Hope Hicks did what for the Trump White House was extraordinary, if not unprecedented: She admitted to lawmakers that working for President Trump required her to lie. On Wednesday, she announced her resignation.

cnn logoCNN, Rick Gates tells judge he's canceling trip due to threat invoking Russian mafia, Katelyn Polantz, March 1, 2018. Former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates told a federal court Thursday afternoon that he and his wife believe it's "not prudent" for them to take their four children on a trip to Boston, after feeling threatened by an online commenter who invoked the Russian mafia.

February

Feb. 27

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump-linked crime syndicate to world: "Ignore Us!" Wayne Madsen, Feb. 27, 2018. Author, columnist and former Navy intelligence officer Wayne Wayne has compiled a chart (puiblished separately) showing the relationships of more than two thousand Trump, Kushner, Manafort and other corporate entitities.

Feb. 28

paul manafort rick gates nbcnews Custom 2Palmer Report, Opinion: Paul Manafort just backed the Republican Party into a no-win corner, Bill Palmer, Feb. 28, 2018,  The Republican Party was already heading into a no-win situation when it comes to the midterm congressional elections in November. Donald Trump is historically unpopular, his scandals are getting uglier by the day, names of certain Republican Congressman are now showing up in Trump-Russia indictments, and a whole lot of Republicans in Congress have already announced they won’t even bother to run for reelection. Now Paul Manafort of all people has just made things even uglier for the GOP.

Manafort (shown at left in adjoining photo) has been charged with dozens of felonies, and his longtime sidekick Rick Gates (shown above right) has agreed to testify against him, but – for the moment at least – Manafort is still planning to stubbornly take his chances at trial. Today the judge in the case announced that Manafort’s trial will begin in September of this year. That means the trial will be unfolding just as the congressional races are reaching their peak. Now we know that the trial will include Trump’s deputy campaign chairman Gates testifying about crimes that were committed by Trump campaign officials before, during and after the campaign.

That’s not remotely tenable for the GOP. It can’t go into the 2018 election cycle, which is already a referendum on Trump’s corruption and unpopularity, with a Trump-Russia criminal trial dominating the news every day. But what other option do they have? Even if the GOP could somehow convince Manafort to cut a plea deal instead of going to trial, that would just mean that Manafort would have to turn over evidence of Trump’s guilt, which would make things even uglier heading into the midterms.

Feb. 25

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the Manafort money machine: A decade of lavish spending, influence-peddling and alleged fraud, Marc Fisher, Feb. 25, 2018 (print edition). Before they joined the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates made millions from foreign dictators. In a richly detailed expanded indictment, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (shown below right) parted the curtain shielding how the Washington influence merchants worked the system.

robert mueller full face fileAs Donald Trump crisscrossed the nation promising to drain the swamp, two of his top advisers were busy illegally building a colossal fortress of riches deep inside that swamp, according to federal prosecutors.

For a decade prior and on through Trump’s populist crusade, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates used offshore accounts, hidden income, falsified documents and laundered cash to maintain Manafort’s lush life of multiple homes, fine art, exquisite clothes and exotic travel, the government says.

paul manafort rick gates nbcnews Custom 2In a richly detailed expanded indictment filed Thursday, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III parted the curtain shielding how two longtime Washington influence merchants worked the system. The government contends that Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman for five months before being fired, used people all around him, from his buddy Gates (with a beard and shown at right of Manafort) to banks, clients and the IRS, to build a life of conspicuous consumption.

fbi logoGates, who was Manafort’s deputy in their lobbying firm and on the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy and lying to the FBI, cutting a deal with prosecutors to give them information that could help Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democratic memo defending FBI surveillance of ex-Trump campaign aide is released, Karoun Demirjian and Rosalind S. Helderman​, Feb. 25, 2018 (print edition). In their now-public retort, Democrats charge that the GOP unfairly attempted to malign the FBI and Justice Department for including information from the author of a dossier alleging President Trump had ties to Russian officials in an application to surveil Carter Page, one of Trump’s former campaign advisers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: 5 Takeaways From the Release of the Democratic Memo, Charlie Savage, Feb. 25, 2018 (print edition). The Democratic memo released on Saturday was written to counter Republican claims that law enforcement officials had abused their powers.

Feb. 24

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Is Gaining Steam. Should Trump Be Worried? Peter Baker, Feb. 24, 2018. President Trump and his aides said they were not worried because none of the charges implicate the president. Yet the inquiry seems to be leading to a larger, as yet undefined, goal.

ny times logoalex van der zwaanNew York Times, How Skadden Got Entangled in the Mueller Investigation, Kenneth P. Vogel and Matthew Goldstein, Feb. 24, 2018. The guilty plea of a lawyer from the giant law firm has cast a spotlight on its work for a Russia-aligned former president of Ukraine and its advice to other firms. Defendant Alex Van der Zwaan, shown in a file photo.

Feb. 21

Intercept, Video: Glenn Greenwald and James Risen Debate the Trump/Russia Investigation, Feb. 21, 2018 (video). James Risen and Glenn Greenwald have both won Pulitzer Prizes. They both have found themselves in the crosshairs of the U.S. government for their journalism. And they both write for The Intercept. But Jim and Glenn have taken very different approaches to covering the Trump/Russia story. In this one-hour special video edition of Intercepted, they go head-to-head in a debate.

Glenn is one of the most high-profile critics of the official story bolstered by the U.S. intelligence community, the Democrats, and many media outlets, including some of this country’s most powerful papers and news channels. Jim battled both the Bush and Obama administrations — under threat of imprisonment — for refusing to name his sources in some of the most sensitive national security reporting of the modern era.

Jim recently broke a key story on a secret NSA channel to Russia and his first column for The Intercept, about the Trump/Russia investigation, posed the question: Is Donald Trump a traitor?

philip giraldiUnz Review via OpEdNews, Opinion: Russiagate Suddenly Becomes Bigger, Philip Giraldi, Feb. 21, 2018. Philip Giraldi (shown in a file photo) is a non-profit executive and former CIA officer. Last Friday's indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies by Special Counsel Robert Mueller was detailed in a 37-page document that provided a great deal of specific evidence claiming that a company based in St. Petersburg, starting in 2014, was using social media to assess American attitudes.

Using that assessment, the company inter alia allegedly later ran a clandestine operation seeking to influence opinion in the United States regarding the candidates in the 2016 election in which it favored Donald Trump and denigrated Hillary Clinton. The Russians identified by name are all back in Russia and cannot be extradited to the U.S., so the indictment is, to a certain extent, political theater as the accused's defense will never be heard.

In presenting the document, Rod Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General, stressed that there was no evidence to suggest that the alleged Russian activity actually changed the result of the 2016 presidential election or that any actual votes were altered or tampered with. Nor was there any direct link to either the Russian government or its officials or to the Donald Trump campaign developed as a result of the nine-month-long investigation.

Even on a worst-case basis, stirring things up is what intelligence agencies do, and no one is more active in interfering in foreign governments and elections than the United States of America, most notably in Russia for the election of Boris Yeltsin in 1996, which was arranged by Washington, and more recently in Ukraine in 2014. From my own experience I can cite Italy's 1976 national election in which the CIA went all out to keep the communists out of government.

rudy giuliani recentPalmer Report, Opinion: No wonder Rudy Giuliani is so nervous, Bill Palmer, Feb. 21, 2018. Two weeks ago, Palmer Report pointed out that Rudy Giuliani (shown in a file photo) was suddenly sounding very, very nervous about the FBI. In fact he went so far as to publicly warn Donald Trump and the Republican Party about messing with the FBI. It was clear that Giuliani, who used to brag about his FBI connections before he got caught up in scandal, was worried that he was going to get busted. Now we’re seeing new Trump-Russia developments that point to why Rudy sounds so nervous.

Yesterday, Robert Mueller revealed that he had obtained a guilty plea from attorney Alex Van der Zwaan, who had tried to mislead investigators in the Trump-Russia scandal. The question of course is why Mueller is making such a point of busting Van der Zwaan. The answer may lie in the fact that his father-in-law is the owner of Alfa Bank in Russia, which has allegedly been deeply involved in the Trump-Russia election rigging scandal. As it turns out, Alfa Bank’s former attorney is none other than Rudy Giuliani.

alex van der zwaanIf Mueller’s strategy here is to get Alex Van der Zwaan (shown at right) to give up what he knows about Alfa Bank’s involvement in the Trump-Russia scandal, then it’s not difficult to draw a straight line from there to Giuliani. Why was Rudy, a former Trump campaign adviser, also representing a Russian bank that’s been connected to the Trump campaign? What are the odds that that’s a mere coincidence?

No wonder Rudy Giuliani sounds nervous. Either he fears Robert Mueller and the FBI are about to nail him in the Trump-Russia scandal, or he’s already been forced to flip on Trump and he’s been left shellshocked by the experience. We’ll find out what’s really going on here soon enough. But there’s a reason why Giuliani, who never met a television camera he didn’t like, has been laying so low over the past year. He knew Trump-Russia would get him eventually, and it either has, or it will.

Feb. 18

ny times logomichael cohen 7 14 2015 cnn customNew York Times, Tools of Trump’s Fixer: Payouts, Intimidation and the Tabloids, Jim Rutenberg, Megan Twohey, Rebecca R. Ruiz, Mike McIntire and Maggie Haberman, Feb. 18, 2018. As accounts of past sexual indiscretions threatened to surface during Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign, the job of stifling potentially damaging stories fell to his longtime lawyer and all-around fixer, Michael D. Cohen.

To protect his boss at critical junctures in his improbable political rise, the lawyer (shown above in a CNN appearance) relied on intimidation tactics, hush money and the nation’s leading tabloid news business, American Media Inc., whose top executives include close Trump allies.

Mr. Cohen’s role has come under scrutiny amid recent revelations that he facilitated a payment to silence a porn star, but his aggressive behind-the-scenes efforts stretch back years, according to interviews, emails and other records.

They intensified as Mr. Trump’s campaign began in the summer of 2015, when a former hedge-fund manager told Mr. Cohen that he had obtained photographs of Mr. Trump with a bare-breasted woman. The man said Mr. Cohen first blew up at him, then steered him to David J. Pecker, chairman of the tabloid company, which sometimes bought, then buried, embarrassing material about his high-profile friends and allies.

Feb. 17

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Russia Isn’t the Only One Meddling in Elections. We Do It, Too, Scott Shane, Feb. 17, 2018. Bags of cash delivered to a Rome hotel for favored Italian candidates. Scandalous stories leaked to foreign newspapers to swing an election in Nicaragua. Millions of pamphlets, posters and stickers printed to defeat an incumbent in Serbia.

The long arm of Vladimir Putin? No, just a small sample of the United States’ history of intervention in foreign elections.

On Tuesday, American intelligence chiefs warned the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia appears to be preparing to repeat in the 2018 midterm elections the same full-on chicanery it unleashed in 2016: hacking, leaking, social media manipulation and possibly more. Then on Friday, Robert Mueller, the special counsel, announced the indictments of 13 Russians and three companies, run by a businessman with close Kremlin ties, laying out in astonishing detail a three-year scheme to use social media to attack Hillary Clinton, boost Donald Trump and sow discord.

Most Americans are understandably shocked by what they view as an unprecedented attack on our political system. But intelligence veterans, and scholars who have studied covert operations, have a different, and quite revealing, view.

“If you ask an intelligence officer, did the Russians break the rules or do something bizarre, the answer is no, not at all,” said Steven L. Hall, who retired in 2015 after 30 years at the C.I.A., where he was the chief of Russian operations. The United States “absolutely” has carried out such election influence operations historically, he said, “and I hope we keep doing it.”

Loch K. Johnson, the dean of American intelligence scholars, who began his career in the 1970s investigating the C.I.A. as a staff member of the Senate’s Church Committee, says Russia’s 2016 operation was simply the cyber-age version of standard United States practice for decades, whenever American officials were worried about a foreign vote.

Feb. 16

new yorker logoThe New Yorker, Donald Trump, a Playboy Model, and a System for Concealing Infidelity, Ronan Farrow, Feb. 16, 2018. One woman’s account of clandestine meetings, financial transactions, and legal pacts designed to hide an extramarital affair,

In June, 2006, Donald Trump taped an episode of his reality-television show, “The Apprentice,” at the Playboy Mansion, in Los Angeles. Hugh Hefner, Playboy’s publisher, threw a pool party for the show’s contestants with dozens of current and former Playmates, including Karen McDougal, a slim brunette who had been named Playmate of the Year, eight years earlier. In 2001, the magazine’s readers voted her runner-up for “Playmate of the ’90s,” behind Pamela Anderson. At the time of the party, Trump had been married to the Slovenian model Melania Knauss for less than two years; their son, Barron, was a few months old. Trump seemed uninhibited by his new family obligations. McDougal later wrote that Trump “immediately took a liking to me, kept talking to me - telling me how beautiful I was, etc. It was so obvious that a Playmate Promotions exec said, ‘Wow, he was all over you - I think you could be his next wife.’ ”

Trump and McDougal began an affair, which McDougal later memorialized in an eight-page, handwritten document provided to The New Yorker by John Crawford, a friend of McDougal’s. When I showed McDougal the document, she expressed surprise that I had obtained it but confirmed that the handwriting was her own.

The interactions that McDougal outlines in the document share striking similarities with the stories of other women who claim to have had sexual relationships with Trump, or who have accused him of propositioning them for sex or sexually harassing them. McDougal describes their affair as entirely consensual. But her account provides a detailed look at how Trump and his allies used clandestine hotel-room meetings, payoffs, and complex legal agreements to keep affairs — sometimes multiple affairs he carried out simultaneously — out of the press.

On November 4, 2016, four days before the election, the Wall Street Journal reported that American Media, Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, had paid a hundred and fifty thousand dollars for exclusive rights to McDougal’s story, which it never ran. Purchasing a story in order to bury it is a practice that many in the tabloid industry call “catch and kill.” This is a favorite tactic of the C.E.O. and chairman of A.M.I., David Pecker, who describes the President as “a personal friend.” As part of the agreement, A.M.I. consented to publish a regular aging-and-fitness column by McDougal. After Trump won the Presidency, however, A.M.I.’s promises largely went unfulfilled, according to McDougal.

McDougal, in her first on-the-record comments about A.M.I.’s handling of her story, declined to discuss the details of her relationship with Trump, for fear of violating the agreement she reached with the company. She did say, however, that she regretted signing the contract. “It took my rights away,” McDougal told me. “At this point I feel I can’t talk about anything without getting into trouble, because I don’t know what I’m allowed to talk about. I’m afraid to even mention his name.”

rob porter filePalmer Report, Opinion: Now we know why Donald Trump’s White House Counsel tried so hard to cover for Rob Porter, Bill Palmer, Feb. 16, 2018. The Rob Porter scandal, which initially appeared to be a straightforward if highly disturbing story about about a White House employee (shown in a file photo) accused of serial domestic abuse, has turned out to be something much more deep and vast.

Donald Trump and the highest rungs of his administration bent over backward to try to protect Porter, despite the evidence against him. With each passing day we’re learning more about the why and how of the coverup. Now we know why the White House Counsel tried so hard to cover for Porter.

john kelly o dhsWhite House Chief of Staff John Kelly (shown at left) may have played the most egregious role in trying to cover up the Porter scandal.

But of all the Trump senior advisers who knew what was going on, White House Counsel Don McGahn appears to have known about it the longest. That seemed strange, considering he’s the lawyer for the White House, and it’s his job to prevent these kinds of legal liabilities from becoming problems. As it turns out, this comes down to security clearances. Porter could’t get one, and as it turns out, McGahn doesn’t have one either.

don mcgahn cato screengrabAccording to a stunning new report from NBC News (Scores of top White House officials lack permanent security clearances), McGahn spent at least his first ten months in the White House without being able to obtain a security clearance for himself. It’s confirmed that as of November 2017, he still didn’t have clearance. No one is willing to say if he’s since gained clearance, which suggests he may still not have it. So what on earth did his background check turn up that would red flag him?

It’s fairly easy to understand why Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner have been unable to pass a background check and obtain permanent security clearance. But what the heck is hiding in White House Counsel Don McGahn’s past that would cause him to fail a background check? In any case, McGahn appears to have been keeping Porter’s failed background check a secret because he didn’t want his own failed background check to come to light. It has anyway.

Feb. 15

nbc news logoNBC News, Scores of top White House officials lack permanent security clearances, Carol E. Lee, Mike Memoli, Kristen Welker and Rich Gardella,Feb. 15, 2018 (2:09 min. video). More than 130 political appointees working in the Executive Office of the President did not have permanent security clearances as of November 2017, including the president's daughter, son-in-law and his top legal counsel, according to internal White House documents obtained by NBC News.

Of those appointees working with interim clearances, 47 of them are in positions that report directly to President Donald Trump. About a quarter of all political appointees in the executive office are working with some form of interim security clearance.

White House officials said Wednesday they would not comment, as is their policy, on the nature of security clearances. CNN also reported on the clearances earlier Wednesday evening. It is unclear whether some employees have had their clearance levels changed since mid-November.

The documents also show that 10 months into Trump's administration, at least 85 political appointees in the White House, vice president's office and National Security Council were working without permanent security clearances. About 50 appointees were operating with interim security clearances while serving in offices closely linked to the West Wing, such as the National Economic Council, the Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. Trade Representative and the White House executive residence.

jared kushner ivanka trump july 4 2017 facebookWhite House officials who are listed as not having permanent security clearances as recently as this past November include Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and senior adviser; Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser (the two are shown together on a foreign affairs trip last July); Dan Scavino, the president's director of social media; and Christopher Liddell, assistant to the president for strategic initiatives; according to the documents.

All four are listed as operating with interim clearances only for information classified as "top secret" and "TS/SCI," which is shorthand for "top secret, sensitive compartmented information."

One of the president's central arguments against his Democratic opponent in the 2016 presidential election was that Hillary Clinton's alleged mishandling of classified information not only disqualified her but was grounds for imprisonment.

washington post logochristopher wray officialWashington Post, White House reslsts as FBI director rebuts Porter timeline, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 15, 2018 (print edition). FBI Director Christopher A. Wray’s direct contradiction of the White House’s official version of how it handled domestic violence allegations against senior aide Rob Porter plunged the West Wing into a deeper bout of infighting and heightened the uncertainty about Chief of Staff John Kelly’s future in the administration.

Wray is shown at right in his official photo and below in a Justice Department photo at his swearing in ceremony on Aug. 2, 2017. With him is his wife, Holly Howell, and Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions.

christopher wray helen howell aug 2 2017 doj photo cropped

trey gowdy SmallRoll Call, Gowdy Launches Oversight Investigation Into Rob Porter Scandal, Griffin Connolly, Feb 15, 2018 (print edition). ‘How in the Hell was he still employed?’ House Oversight Committee chairman asks. The House Committee on Oversight and Government reform has launched an investigation into the White House’s handling of senior aide Rob Porter, who was not issued a permanent security clearance due to allegations of domestic abuse by his two ex-wives.

“Who knew what, when, and to what extent? Those are the questions that I think ought to be asked,” the committee’s chairman, GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina(shown above right) said Wednesday on CNN.

ny times logodjt melania liberty ball inauguration 2017New York Times, Inaugural Committee Paid $26 Million to First Lady’s Adviser, Maggie Haberman and Kenneth P. Vogel, Feb. 15, 2018. President Trump’s inaugural committee paid nearly $26 million to an event planning firm started by an adviser to the first lady, Melania Trump, while donating $5 million — less than expected — to charity, according to tax filings released on Thursday.

The nonprofit group that oversaw Mr. Trump’s inauguration and surrounding events in January 2017, the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee, had been under pressure from liberal government watchdog groups to reveal how it spent the record $107 million it had raised from wealthy donors and corporations.

Its chairman, Thomas J. Barrack Jr. (shown below left), a longtime friend of Mr. Trump, had pledged that the committee would be thrifty with its spending, and would donate leftover funds to charity.

tom barrackheadshotBut the mandatory tax return it filed with the Internal Revenue Service indicates that the group’s charitable donations included only an already publicized $3 million for hurricane relief, plus a total of $1.75 million to groups involved in decorating and maintaining the White House and the vice president’s residence.

The 116-page filing indicates that the overwhelming majority of the funds went toward expenses related to the inauguration, with the biggest share — nearly $51 million — split roughly evenly between two companies.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Shifting Stories on Porter Prolong Crisis for White House, Peter Baker, Feb. 15, 2018. The rule of thumb for crisis communications is to get the facts out quickly. But President Trump’s White House has thrown out the rule book in its handling of the resignation of Rob Porter, the staff secretary who was accused of abuse.

ny times logoNew York Times, Riding an Untamed Horse: Priebus Opens Up on Serving Trump, Peter Baker, Feb. 15, 2018. Reince Priebus, the president’s first White House chief of staff, said his tenure was even more arduous than outsiders knew. “Take everything you’ve heard and multiply it by 50,” he writes in a new book.

Feb. 14

michael cohen 7 14 2015 cnnwashington post logostormy daniels djt insight 1 19 2018 CustomWashington Post, Longtime Trump attorney says he made $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels with his money, Feb. 14, 2018. Michael Cohen (shown in a file photo above) did not say why he paid the money to the adult-film star (shown at right on an In Touch Magzine cover last month) — who says she had an affair with President Trump — or whether Trump reimbursed him or knew about the payment.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s lawyer goes off the deep end, Bill Palmer, Feb. 13, 2018. As Special Counsel Robert Mueller closes in on obstruction of justice charges against Donald Trump, we’ve seen Trump and his allies take increasingly desperate swings and misses in recent weeks, in the hope of fending off the inevitable.

djt stormy daniels screengrabNow Trump’s lawyer is trying what can only be described as a desperate last ditch gambit, and it’s difficult to see how this is going to work out well for either of them.Trump’s affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels (shown at right in a file photo separate from Trump's) was a crime against his wife Melania, but not part of the Trump-Russia criminal probe.

However, Trump’s $130,000 payoff to keep Daniels quiet about it is a legal matter. It’s been established that Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen created a phony company in Delaware in order to keep Trump’s name off the transaction. That’s still not necessarily illegal, but the trouble is that the money appears to have come from Trump’s campaign finances, which would be a violation of federal law.

Feb. 13

colbie holderness rob porter Custom

Images of Colbie Holderness after an alleged incident with her then-husband Rob Porter in the early 2000s. (Courtesy of Colbie Holderness)

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Rob Porter is my ex-husband. Here’s what you should know about abuse, Colbie Holderness, Feb. 13, 2018 (print edition). .Colbie Holderness was the first wife of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Sunday that she has no reason not to believe statements that Jennifer Willoughby and I have made about our ex-husband, former White House aide Rob Porter. I actually appreciated her saying that she at least did not not believe us.

rob porter fileBut I was dismayed when Conway, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” went on to say that she does not fear for White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who has reportedly been dating Porter (shown at right). “I’ve rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts.”

Borrowing Conway’s words, I have no reason not to believe her when she says that Hicks is a strong woman. But her statement implies that those who have been in abusive relationships are not strong. I beg to differ.

Recognizing and surviving in an abusive relationship take strength. The abuse can be terrifying, life-threatening and almost constant. Or it can ebb and flow, with no violence for long periods. It’s often the subtler forms of abuse that inflict serious, persistent damage while making it hard for the victim to see the situation clearly.

For me, living in constant fear of Rob’s anger and being subjected to his degrading tirades for years chipped away at my independence and sense of self-worth. I walked away from that relationship a shell of the person I was when I went into it, but it took me a long time to realize the toll that his behavior was taking on me. (Rob has denied the abuse, but Willoughby and I know what happened.)

Telling others about the abuse takes strength. Talking to family, friends, clergy, counselors and, later, the FBI, I would often find myself struggling to find the words to convey an adequate picture of the situation. When Rob’s now ex-girlfriend reached out to both Willoughby and me, she described her relationship in terms we each found familiar, immediately following up her description with “Am I crazy?” Boy, I could identify with that question.

Then there is the just-as-serious issue of being believed and supported by those you choose to tell. Sometimes people don’t believe you. Sometimes they have difficulty truly understanding what you are trying to tell them. Both Willoughby and I raised our cases with clergy. Both of us had a hard time getting them to fully address the abuse taking place. It wasn’t until I spoke to a professional counselor that I was met with understanding.

washington post logojennifer rubin twitterWashington Post, Opinion: Kelly needs to come clean, Jennifer Rubin (shown at right), Feb. 13, 2018.​ Now it appears that for days Chief of Staff John F. Kelly (below left) and his subordinates misled the American people, and perhaps the president, in making it appear that john kelly o dhsRob Porter still had the potential to be granted a final clearance.

This is false, raising the question as to why, knowing that he could not qualify for such a clearance, Porter would be kept on and given continued access (we presume) to top classified material.

Feb. 9

washington post logodemocratic donkey logoWashington Post, Trump will not release Democrats’ memo on FBI surveillance, Karoun Demirjian, Rosalind S. Helderman and Matt Zapotosky​, Feb. 9, 2018. The president has directed the Justice Department to work with House lawmakers so some form of the document could be made public, the White House counsel said Friday night.

President Trump will not immediately agree to release a Democratic memo rebutting GOP claims that the FBI abused its surveillance authority as it probed Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but he has directed the Justice Department to work with lawmakers so some form of the document could be made public, the White House counsel said Friday night.

In a letter to the House Intelligence Committee, White House counsel Donald McGahn wrote that the Justice Department had identified portions of the Democrats’ memo that it believed “would create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests” if disclosed. McGahn included in his note a letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray supporting that claim.

The decision stands in contrast to one Trump made last week on a Republican memo alleging the FBI misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain a warrant to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page. After the House Intelligence Committee voted on a Monday to make that document public, Trump authorized its release swiftly on a Friday afternoon.

washington post logorachel brand oWashington Post, Justice Department’s No. 3 official plans to step down, Sari Horwitz and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 9, 2018. Rachel Brand will take a private-sector job after nine months as associate attorney general, said a person familiar with the decision. She would have been in line to take over supervision of the Russia investigation if Rod J. Rosenstein was

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Very turbulent’: Trump and White House consumed with turmoil amid abuse allegations, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 9, 2018. In a conversation with the president, John F. Kelly said he would be willing to resign as chief of staff if that would improve the situation. But he made the offer casually and did not submit a letter of resignation or take formal action, according to two White House officials.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump still can’t get away with firing Rod Rosenstein, Bill Palmer, Feb. 9, 2018. Trump was betting that the Devin Nunes memo would create public outrage about the behavior of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which would in turn give Trump the political cover to get away with firing Rosenstein, thus taking out a key player in the Trump-Russia investigation. But by all accounts that memo failed. It didn’t change a single mind when it comes to Rosenstein. The memo put Trump zero percent of the way toward being able to fire Rosenstein.

rod rosenstein cspan Yet many out there, including many fatalists within the Resistance, are certain that Trump is going to somehow use the memo to fire Rosenstein (shown in a file photo), even though the memo completely failed in its goal of giving him the cover to fire Rosenstein, and that Trump is somehow going to magically get away with that firing, even though he has absolutely no cover for pulling it off. Nothing works that way.

Donald Trump simply does not have the political cover to fire him and get away with it. Because of that, if he does fire him, there will be blowback which will make things even worse for Trump. Even Trump, despite being a delusional lunatic, seems to understand this. He knows he’s stuck with Mueller because he fired Comey when he couldn’t get away with it, and it’s probably why he hasn’t fired anyone else since.

washington post logojared kushner head shotWashington Post, As Kushner’s security clearance is delayed, White House hesitates to act on others with possible problems, Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett, Feb. 9, 2018. White House Counsel Donald McGahn and other Trump administration officials have been so vexed by Jared Kushner’s months-long inability to obtain a permanent security clearance that they have hesitated to get involved in other cases with potential problems, several people familiar with the matter said.

Dozens of White House employees, including Kushner (shown above right), are still waiting for permanent clearances and have been operating for months on a temporary status that allows them to handle sensitive information while the FBI probes their backgrounds, U.S. officials have said. Two U.S. officials said they do not expect Kushner to receive a permanent security clearance in the near future.

It is not uncommon for ­security-clearance investigations to drag on for months, but Kushner’s unique situation has cast a pall over the process in the minds of some, these people said.

The president’s son-in-law and close adviser has been allowed to see materials, including the President’s Daily Brief, that are among the most sensitive in government. He has been afforded that privilege even though he has only an interim clearance and is a focus in the ongoing special counsel investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the election.

 

January

Jan. 24

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).

stormy daniels djt insight 1 19 2018 Custom

Today, we compare those claims by underage girls with the ones by Stormy Daniels, as reported by, among other places, In Touch magazine in column last week.

The In Touch cover story, illustated at left, was based on her blunt recollections of sleeping with Trump and otherwise socializing with him shortly after his wife Melania gave birth to son Barron in March 2006, according to the Daniels account years ago. In Touch did not publish it at the time but did so this month to follow up the Wall Street Journal’s report on Jan. 12 that Daniels received $130,000 shortly before the 2016 election from Trump attorney Michael Cohen via a company temporarily created to make the payment, thus obscuring its origin and purpose.

Cohen and Daniels (born Stephanie Clifford) later denied an affair or hush money. More generally, Trump and his representatives have issued blanket denials against all of those nearly 20 women who have alleged sexual harassment or assault. The many news reports of such accusations and denials include Donald Trump says women who accuse him of sexual assault are lying and The 19 Women Who Accused President Trump of Sexual Misconduct

Donald Trump, Arianne Zucker, Billy Bush in screenshot from Access Hollywood tape

To explore this further, we examine more closely the Daniels and Maria/Jane Doe stories. An extensive appendix below illustrates both Trump-related news coverage of these points, as well the emerging #MeToo movement protesting rape, harassment and cover-up by powerful men victimizing women and, in some cases, underage children of both sexes.

To buttress Trump's denials, he allegedly used his celebrity status (much like he described in the Access Hollywood tape that surfaced during the presidential campaign, as illustrated by the screenshot with Arianne Zucker and Billy Bush) to do what he wanted. The stories demonstrate that Trump has an established system whereby his minions can threaten and/or bribe his targets to cover up crimes or infidelity.

But the true danger is not the superficial embarassment that Trump might experience. Instead, the threat to the nation is what blackmailers, global and national, might extort from Trump and his administration to keep his secrets.

Jan. 17

washington post logo

Washington Post, Opinion: Staffers at The Hill press management about the work of John Solomon, Erik Wemple  Jan. 17, 2018. A group of newsroom staffers at The Hill have complained to management about stories written by John Solomon, the publication’s executive vice president of digital video. The complaints were launched in December when Solomon and reporter Alison Spann broke a story under this headline: “Exclusive: Prominent lawyer sought donor cash for two Trump accusers.”

The gist of Solomon and Spann’s story: Prominent California lawyer Lisa Bloom worked to secure payments for women who “made or considered making sexual misconduct allegations against Donald Trump during the final months of the 2016 presidential race.” The story cited “documents and interviews,” plus the on-the-record explanations by Bloom herself.

The story impressed the conservative media world. Fox News host Sean Hannity called it a “bombshell report,” while conservative websites aggregated away.

A New York Times story two weeks later noted that accuser-financing arrangements weren’t invented for the Trump era: Paula Jones’s harassment lawsuit against Bill Clinton received funding from the Rutherford Institute.

Jan. 12

robert mueller olderPalmer Report, Analysis: Robert Mueller takes possession of even more Donald Trump team laptops and cellphones, Bill Palmer, Jan. 12, 2018. Special Counsel Robert Mueller (right) has been so secretive about his investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia scandal, we’re often left to dig for clues in his official court filings about what he’s been up to. A month ago we learned that Mueller had taken possession of numerous laptops, cellphones and electronic devices belonging to the Trump team. Now we’re learning that Mueller has taken possession of far more of the Trump team’s electronic devices.

It was Rachael Maddow who discovered that in Mueller’s latest court filings in the case against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, the Mueller team is now disclosing possession of eighty-seven electronic devices, as opposed to just thirty-six such devices a month ago. That means that in the past month, Mueller and his team have somehow come into possession of an additional fifty-plus laptops and cellphones from Trump’s people. Here’s what that means in terms of prosecution and the overall investigation.

If Trump’s people were their usual sloppy selves, it’s unlikely that they wiped (or sufficiently wiped) any of the devices they had been using. This means Mueller would have access to every word processing document they typed, and perhaps access to personal email accounts that were being used on those laptops.

This is just the latest reminder that Robert Mueller and his team have consistently been several steps ahead of Donald Trump and his team throughout this investigation. Now we know that Mueller has his hands on eighty-seven of the Trump team’s electronic devices. This is why the Trump team should be shaking in its collective boots.

Jan. 11

Daily Beast, Steve Bannon Lawyers Up... as Russia Investigators Get Ready to Pounce, Betsy Woodruff, Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng, Jan. 11, 2018. Trump’s former chief strategist has largely avoided the spotlight of the Russia probe — until now.

Steve Bannon is lawyering up as he gets ready to face investigators looking into the Trump-Russia nexus. The Daily Beast has learned that the former top White House strategist has retained Bill Burck, of the firm Quinn Emanuel. Two sources tell us Burck is helping Bannon prepare for an interview with the House intelligence committee, which is currently scheduled for next week. Sources also said Bannon plans to “fully cooperate” with investigators. Burck also represents White House Counsel Don McGahn and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for the purposes of the Russia probe, as Law360 reported last September.

It is not unheard of for one attorney to represent more than one client on the same matter. But the fact that several key players with Trump administration ties have the same lawyer could irk investigators.

“In general, prosecutors don’t like it when the same attorney represents multiple people who are subjects — or more — because it looks like they’re controlling the story,” said Ken White, a former federal prosecutor who specializes in First Amendment issues, speaking of investigators’ targets.  

Palmer Report, Opinion: Steve Bannon is cutting a deal with Robert Mueller, Bill Palmer, Jan. 11, 2018. After one of the worst weeks that anyone in politics has ever had, Steve Bannon suddenly has nothing left to lose. His billionaire backer, his Breitbart site, and his satellite radio gig are all suddenly gone, thanks to his spat with his former pal Donald Trump. What is surprising is that, as given away by a move he made today, he’s already decided he’s cutting a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Bannon hired an attorney today to represent him in the Trump-Russia scandal, as he prepares to be called to testify before Congress. But he didn’t just hire any attorney. He hired the same guy who also represents former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and current White House Counsel Don McGahn in the scandal, according to the Daily Beast (Steve Bannon Lawyers Up). The same attorney cannot represent different people in the same criminal investigation if those clients are in any danger of having competing legal interests.

Last week we learned from the New York Times that Priebus had been taking detailed personal notes about the Trump-Russia coverup all along (link), and that he voluntarily gave those notes to Mueller months ago. This means Priebus cut a formal or informal deal to flip on Trump. By extension it means McGahn must have done the same, or else their shared attorney would have had to immediately cut one of them loose. In other words, Bannon is flipping on Trump.

Now comes the question of what all Steve Bannon has to offer. Robert Mueller is already investigating Cambridge Analytica, the Donald Trump campaign’s voter data firm. Bannon just happened to be running that company before he took over the Trump campaign.

Jan. 10

ny times logo

robert mueller full face fileNew York Times, Trump Sidesteps Question on Mueller Interview, Julie Hirscheld Davis and Nicholas Fandos, Jan. 10, 2018. President Trump declined to commit to being interviewed by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III (shown at right), investigating whether his campaign colluded with Russia to sway the 2016 election.“I’ll speak to attorneys,” Mr. Trump told reporters, backing away from a promise he made last year. Related Story: New York Times, Named in Dossier, Trump’s Lawyer Files Two Lawsuits, Jan. 10, 2018.

Jan. 9

washington post logo

Washington Post, Analysis: Six burning questions Mueller may want to ask Trump, Aaron Blake​, Jan. 9, 2018. With President Trump in negotiations to talk to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's team as part of the Russia probe, here are a few things that badly need an explanation from the commander in chief.

washington post logo

Washington Post, Ex-spy behind Trump dossier was told FBI had source inside campaign, testimony reveals, Devlin Barrett and Tom Hamburger​, Jan. 9, 2018. A transcript of a congressional interview of the founder of Fusion GPS, the firm that compiled research on candidate Donald Trump, was released by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee (shown at right)dianne feinstein.

Glenn R. Simpson urged Congress to release his testimony, and Feinstein’s move marked a shift in the cooperative relationship she has had with the committee’s Republican chairman, Sen. Charles E. Grassley.

Read the full transcript of Glenn Simpson's Senate testimony (Aug. 22, 2017).

washington post logo

Washington Post, Analysis: ‘Not a fabrication’: Six times the firm behind the dossier contradicted Trump’s claims, Amber Phillips, Jan. 9, 2018. The president's characterization of the dossier as politically motivated is wrong, said Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson.

Jan. 8

ny times logo

New York Times, Fusion GPS Founder Hauled From the Shadows for the Russia Election Investigation, Matt Flegenheimer, Jan. 8, 2018. As investigators circle President Trump’s administration over ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Glenn R. Simpson, a 53-year-old Wall Street Journal veteran-turned-master of high-dollar research, has arrived at the biggest story of either of his careers, lurching to the center of the Russia-tinged scandal that clouds the presidency.

Media Matters, Infowars fully embraces “The Storm,” a conspiracy theory called “the new Pizzagate,” Cristina López G., Jan. 8, 2018. The outlet is now working directly with online message boards to promote the conspiracy theory that Trump is staging a counter-cabal against the “deep state” officials in government.

Jan. 7

ny times logo

New York Times, Trump Defends Fitness, Saying He’s a ‘Stable Genius,’ Peter Baker and Maggie and Haberman, Jan. 7, 2018. President Trump, seeming to respond to revelations in a new book, issued an extraordinary defense of his fitness for office in a series of tweets.

ny times logo

stephen bannon cropped npc 2013New York Times, Bannon Tries Backing Away From Explosive Comments, Jeremy W. Peters, Michael Tackett and Noah Weiland, Jan. 7, 2018. Stephen K. Bannon, who is quoted in a new book calling Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russians in 2016 “treasonous,” said that Mr. Trump was “both a patriot and a good man.”Mr. Bannon’s apology came as the White House continued its assault on him, with Stephen Miller, an adviser to President Trump, saying on CNN that the comments were “out of touch with reality.”

breitbart logoBreitbart, Steve Bannon Issues Statement: My Support Is ‘Unwavering’ for Trump and His Agenda, Kristina Wong, Jan. 7, 2018. Stephen K. Bannon, executive chair of Breitbart News and former White House chief strategist, issued the following statement on Sunday:

“Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around.

“My support is also unwavering for the president and his agenda — as I have shown daily in my national radio broadcasts, on the pages of Breitbart News and in speeches and appearances from Tokyo and Hong Kong to Arizona and Alabama. President Trump was the only candidate that could have taken on and defeated the Clinton apparatus. I am the only person to date to conduct a global effort to preach the message of Trump and Trumpism; and remain ready to stand in the breach for this president’s efforts to make America great again.

“My comments about the meeting with Russian nationals came from my life experiences as a Naval officer stationed aboard a destroyer whose main mission was to hunt Soviet submarines to my time at the Pentagon during the Reagan years when our focus was the defeat of ‘the evil empire’ and to making films about Reagan’s war against the Soviets and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in selling uranium to them.

michael wolff chuck todd nbc screenshot

nbc news logoNBC News / Meet the Press, Michael Wolff: Trump White House facing '25th Amendment kind of stuff,' Host Chuck Todd interviews best-selling author Michael Wolff (shown atove at left), Jan. 7, 2018 (14:09 min.video). In an exclusive interview on Meet the Press, Michael Wolff, author of the new book, Fire and Fury, explains his reporting process to Chuck Todd, and describes the mood inside the Trump White House.

stephen miller white house screenshotBusiness Insider, Stephen Miller had to be escorted off CNN's set after his interview with Jake Tapper went off the rails, Linette Lopez, Jan. 7, 2017. His appearance on "State of the Union" ended abruptly after host Jake Tapper pressed him on damaging claims about President Donald Trump. Tapper said Miller was speaking "to an audience of one."

Two sources close to the situation told Business Insider that after the taping was done, Miller (shown above in a screenshot from a White House briefing) was politely asked to leave several times. He ignored those requests and ultimately security was called and he was escorted out, the sources said.

Miller's appearance on the cable network quickly went off the rails when Tapper pressed him on explosive claims about President Donald Trump that appeared in the book Fire & Fury.

Jan. 5

Trump Revelations

michael wolff CustomThe Hill, 'Fire and Fury' author disputes Trump claim he had 'zero access,' Brooke Seipel, Jan. 5, 2017. Michael Wolff, author of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, is disputing President Trump's claim that he gave Wolff "zero access" to the White House for the book.

"I absolutely spoke to the president... it certainly was not off the record," Wolff (shown in a file photo) said on NBC's "Today Show" Friday morning, just hours after the midnight release of the book.

michael wolff fire and fury"My window into Donald Trump is pretty significant," he added. "I work like every journalist works. I have recordings. I have notes. I am certainly and absolutely in every way comfortable with what I have reported." Wolff also took a jab at Trump for his criticism, saying: "My credibility is being questioned by a man who has less credibility than anyone who walks on Earth."

djt bannon nypost et tu bannon jan 4 2018His comments come after Trump railed against the book on Twitter late Thursday. "I authorized Zero access to White House (actually turned him down many times) for author of phony book! I never spoke to him for book. Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist. Look at this guy’s past and watch what happens to him and Sloppy Steve!" Trump tweeted. The Murdoch-owned New York Post, generally a supported of the president, headlined its Jan. 4 cover (shown at right) with Shakesperean caption from a toga-clad Trump, "Et tu Bannon?"

In his interview with "Today" Friday morning, Wolff said his book details aides transitioning from viewing Trump as an "interesting, unique character" to reaching "the conclusion that he cannot do this job."

"This man does not read. Does not listen. He's like a pinball, just shooting off the sides," he said of Trump.

donald trump gage skidmore

President Trump, shown in a file photo by Gage Skidmore

ny times logo

New York Times, Obstruction Inquiry Shows Trump’s Struggle to Keep Grip on Russia Investigation, Michael S. Schmidt, Jan. 5, 2018 (print edition). President Trump gave firm instructions in March to the White House’s top lawyer: stop the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, from recusing himself in the Justice Department’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s associates had helped a Russian campaign to disrupt the 2016 election.

 jeff sessions ag oPublic pressure was building for Mr. Sessions, who had been a senior member of the Trump campaign, to step aside. But the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, carried out the president’s orders and lobbied Mr. Sessions (shown at right) to remain in charge of the inquiry, according to two people with knowledge of the episode.

Mr. McGahn was unsuccessful, and the president erupted in anger in front of numerous White House officials, saying he needed his attorney general to protect him. Mr. Trump said he had expected his top law enforcement official to safeguard him the way he believed Robert F. Kennedy, as attorney general, had done for his brother John F. Kennedy and Eric H. Holder Jr. had for Barack Obama.

roy cohnMr. Trump then asked, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” He was referring to his former personal lawyer and fixer (shown at left), who had been Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s top aide during the investigations into communist activity in the 1950s and died in 1986.

The lobbying of Mr. Sessions is one of several previously unreported episodes that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has learned about as he investigates whether Mr. Trump obstructed the F.B.I.’s Russia inquiry. The events occurred during a two-month period — from when Mr. Sessions recused himself in March until the appointment of Mr. Mueller in May — when Mr. Trump believed he was losing control over the investigation.

Jan. 3

djt staff nypost cover july 29 17

The New York Post, a Murdoch-owned tabloid that generally provides favorable coverage to President Trump, last year published the above portrayal, with Steve Bannon at top left. Bannon is also shown below on a Time Magazine cover that generated Trump fury, then forgiveness.

washington post logo

Washington Post, Trump slams Bannon: ‘When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,’ Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker​, Jan. 3, 2018.  President Trump released a remarkably fiery statement after Stephen K. Bannon, his former chief strategist and campaign chief, mocked the president’s intellect, criticized the operations of the White House and torched Donald Trump Jr. and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.President Trump unleashed on his former chief strategist and campaign manager Wednesday, issuing a long and unusual statement questioning Stephen K. Bannon’s mental stability, honesty and political influence.

steve bannon cover time“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency,” the statement said. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.”

Trump continued: “Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base — he’s only in it for himself.”

The statement from Trump came after Bannon has criticized Trump and his family in recent interviews — mocking the president’s intellect, criticizing the operations of the White House and torching Donald Trump Jr. and the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

His most recent comments, published online Wednesday in excerpts from a book by journalist Michael Wolff, came two weeks after a Bannon profile in Vanity Fair that infuriated the president and his senior aides.

breitbart logoBreitbart, Book: Steve Bannon Calls Kushner, Manafort, Don Jr. Trump Tower Meeting with Russians ‘Treasonous, Charlie Spiering, Jan. 3, 2018. Former Trump Chief Strategist Steve Bannon says the Mueller investigation is targeting the alleged “greasy” money laundering of Trump associates like Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort as a path to attack President Trump, according to a new book by Michael Wolff called Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

michael wolff fire and furyDavid Smith reports in the Guardian: "Bannon has criticised Trump’s decision to fire Comey. In Wolff’s book, obtained by the Guardian ahead of publication from a bookseller in New England, he suggests White House hopes for a quick end to the Mueller investigation are gravely misplaced."

“You realise where this is going,” Bannon is quoted as saying. “This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [senior prosecutor Andrew] Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr and Jared Kushner (shown at right) … It’s as plain as a hair on your face.”

jared kushner head shotLast month it was reported that federal prosecutors had subpoenaed records from Deutsche Bank, the German financial institution that has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kushner property empire. Bannon continues: “It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit. The Kushner shit is greasy. They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me.”

Scorning apparent White House insouciance, Bannon reaches for a hurricane metaphor: “They’re sitting on a beach trying to stop a Category Five.”

President Trump at rally in Laconia, NH (Photo by Michael Vadon, July 16, 2015)

President Trump at 2016 campaign rally in Laconia, NH (Photo by Michael Vadon (July 16, 2015)

stephen bannon cropped npc 2013Roll Call, Trump Tower Meeting With Russian Was ‘Treasonous,’ Bannon Says, John T. Bennett, Jan. 3, 2018. Former top Trump aide: Mueller probe focused on money laundering. Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is calling a 2016 meeting between senior Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer they believed had dirt on Hillary Clinton “treasonous.”

In an interview for a coming book by Michael Wolff, Bannon (shown at right in a file photo) slammed Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner (President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, below at left on the cover of Time Magazine, and a close campaign and White House adviser) and Paul Manafort (his campaign chairman at the time of the meeting who has been indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller).

donald trump jr time cover cropped“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor — with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers,” Bannon continued, according to the Guardian. fbi logo“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s***, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

The Guardian obtained a copy of the book and first reported Bannon’s comments.

Former Trump Campaign Manager Lashes Back At Special Counsel

washington post logo

paul manafortWashington Post,  Ex-Trump campaign chairman Manafort challenges his indictment in Russia probe by filing lawsuit against Mueller, Spencer S. Hsu and Matt Zapotosky, Jan. 3, 2017. Paul J. Manafort challenged his indictment by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in a federal lawsuit, saying Mueller’s and the Justice Department’s prosecution of him concerns business dealings that have nothing to do with their investigation of Russian interference in last year’s presidential campaign.

The lawsuit contends special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is exceeding his authority by focusing his investigation not on Manafort’s actions with the Trump campaign in 2016 but alleged fraud, conspiracy and money laundering in his secret lobbying for pro-Russian Ukrainian groups.

Jan. 2

Investigations

matt gaetz dui

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Pensacola) is shown above in a billboard ad one Interstate 10 in his Florida district mocking his DUI (Driving while under the influence) arrests. The billboard ad GoFundMe ad campaign by activist Claude Taylor against Gaetz derives from the report below by Wayne Madsen.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: Mueller's "grand inquisitor" in Congress has a record of DWIs and a suspicious death, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 19, 2017.  (Excerpted from the subscription-only website WMR and released on Jan. 2 with permission.).

matt gaetz o CustomThe chief congressional enemy of Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller has a long record of drunk driving charges and one suspicious death, according to senior GOP sources in Tallahassee, the Florida capital.

fbi logoFirst-term U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz (in his official photo at left and also in a mug shot below) has led the charge against Mueller and his investigation of Donald Trump and his administration. Gaetz insists that Mueller, a Republican, is leading a politically-tainted witch hunt against Trump, his family members, and members of his campaign and administration. However, Gaetz has offered little, except for right-wing talking points, to disparage Mueller and his team of seasoned federal prosecutors.

matt gaetz mug CustomGaetz's record includes at least seven arrests for drunk driving and a closeted gay life style. Gaetz proclaims himself as an anti-gay rights social conservative. Gaetz's politically powerful father Don Gaetz, a former health care CEO who was sued by the U.S. Justice Department for Medicare fraud, is a powerful member of the Florida Senate. Senator Gaetz has used his position to propel his son into national politics. The Gaetz father-and-son team hails from a prominent North Dakota GOP political family.

Editor's note: The Justice Integrity Project will be ramping up the frequency of its investigative reporting in 2018, including by citations to the work of others, as here.

White House

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

washington post logo

Washington Post, Trump’s true priorities revealed in holiday news dumps, James Hohmann​, Jan. 2, 2018. Underscoring how politically unpopular these moves were, most of the decisions were rolled out the Fridays before Christmas and New Year’s Eve to minimize media coverage and public notice.

washington post logo

Washington Post, Trump’s lawyer is a specialist in securing preemptive pardons, Robert Nelson, Jan. 2, 2018. John Dowd has an unusual legal background.