Nov. 15

Trump Rants Against Prosecutors

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump blasts Mueller probe a week after installing new acting attorney general, John Wagner, Nov. 15, 2018. President Trump on Thursday lashed out anew at the investigation of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, calling his team of lawyers “a disgrace to our NationNation” and accusing them, without evidence, of threatening witnesses to get answers they want.

matthew whitaker headshot recentTrump’s rant, in a pair of morning tweets, came a week after the installation of Matthew G. Whitaker, right, as acting attorney general, a move many Democrats have said appears designed to curtail Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election.

Trump angrily dismissed a reporter’s question about that notion last week and said he had not spoken to Whitaker about the Russia probe before naming him to replace ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Many of Trump’s complaints in Thursday’s tweets were familiar, but they took on heightened significance with Whitaker now overseeing Mueller’s probe, which is also examining whether Trump has obstructed justice.

Nov. 13

Reuters, Maryland goes to court to challenge Trump's attorney general pick, Sarah N. Lynch and Susan Heavey, Nov. 13, 2018.  The state of Maryland launched a court challenge on Tuesday to the legality of President Donald Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting U.S. attorney general, saying the president overstepped his constitutional authority and broke federal law.

Trump installed Whitaker as acting attorney general last week after ordering Jeff Sessions to resign from the post. Trump had repeatedly criticized Sessions for recusing himself in March 2017 from the federal investigation, now headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election, a probe Trump has called a “witch hunt.”

Maryland asked U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander to bar Whitaker from appearing in an official capacity as acting attorney general in existing litigation related to the Affordable Care Act healthcare law and to substitute Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in Whitaker’s place.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here comes that boatload full of House Democrat subpoenas against Donald Trump, his family, and his goons, Bill Palmer, Nov. 13, 2018. Over the weekend, Palmer Report explained that while the new Democratic House majority obviously intends to destroy and oust Donald Trump, the most effective way to do that is not to immediately jump into impeachment proceedings. Instead, the best chance of impeachment actually working is if the Democrats use their newfound subpoena power and committee hearing control to severely weaken Trump first. Sure enough, here comes the boatload of subpoenas.

Internally, House Democrats are preparing to launch a “subpoena cannon” in the direction of Donald Trump and everyone in his orbit, according to Axios. In all there are at least eighty-five different targets for these subpoenas. In our estimation, that’s enough to include Trump’s cabinet, his White House advisers, his campaign advisers, and his family.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that when the House Intelligence Committee was under Republican control, various Trump-Russia figures raced to testify before the committee, so the committee could falsely declare their innocence. The trouble for them now: their testimony is still on record, and now it’s about to fall under control of House Democrats. If any of Trump’s people lied during their testimony, look for quick criminal referrals on the part of incoming committee chairman Adam Schiff.

Nov. 12

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: Trump is cracking, Jennifer Rubin, right, Nov. 12, 2018. President Trump is back in the United States — and back to attacking democracy.

The press and the country at large should keep in mind that Trump acts out when he is weak, humiliated and cornered. He’s all those things right now:

• His performance in Europe was panned.• The election results get worse for Republicans with each passing day.• His great North Korea diplomacy, contrary to the gullible pundits and political spinners, was a bust. (He was snookered.)• We now have two major Middle East problems — Iran and out-of-control Sunni despots who think (not unreasonably) they can lead him around by the nose.• He is not winning the trade war, and it may be one of many factors leading to an economic pullback before the 2020 election.• Mueller plows ahead, with possibly more indictments (e.g., Roger Stone, Donald Trump Jr.). • Obamacare is here to stay. It’s more popular than ever, and red America has fallen in love with Medicaid expansion.• Trump’s finances are no longer protected from scrutiny, nor are his daughter and son-in-law’s.

ny times logoNew York Times, Top Democrats Vow to Block Matthew Whitaker From Interfering in Russia Inquiry, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Nov. 12, 2018 (print edition). Newly empowered House Democrats threatened to subpoena the acting attorney general and take other measures as they push for his recusal from the investigation.

jerrold nadler o SmallThe incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, right, vowed to make Mr. Whitaker the panel’s first witness when the new Congress convenes in January — and subpoena him if necessary. The incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, said Democrats would investigate Mr. Whitaker, a Trump loyalist who has repeatedly and explicitly criticized the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race.

democratic donkey logo“The questions we will ask him will be about his expressed hostility to the investigation, and how he can possibly supervise it when he’s expressed, when he’s come out and said the investigation is invalid,” Mr. Nadler said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

And Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, warned that if Mr. Whitaker did not step aside, Democrats would attach legislation protecting the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to a must-pass spending bill.

CNN, Roger Stone associate Jerome Corsi says he expects to be indicted by Mueller, Evan Perez with host Wolf Blitzer, Nov. 12, 2018 (3:30 mins.). Roger Stone associate Jerome Corsi said Monday he expects to be indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for "giving false information to the special counsel or to one of the other grand jury." Corsi made the comment during his streaming show on YouTube.

"And now I fully anticipate that the next few days, I will be indicted by Mueller for some form or other of giving false information to the special counsel or to one of the other grand jury or however they want to do the indictment. But I'm going to be criminally charged," Corsi said Monday.

Corsi could face any number of charges -- spanning from perjury to making false claims to obstruction of justice. The potential charges are related to false statements he made about his relationship with WikiLeaks and Stone.

Corsi's role in the investigation largely revolves around the possibility that he was an intermediary between Stone and WikiLeaks. Stone denies that he ever told Trump about WikiLeaks' dumps before they became public. He also denies colluding with Russia.

Nov. 9

Trump's New Attorney General

Vox, Exclusive: Trump loyalist Matthew Whitaker was counseling the White House on investigating Clinton, Murray Waas Nov 9, 2018. Whitaker advised the president on launching a new special counsel while working as chief of staff for Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

matthew whitaker screengrabMatthew Whitaker, whom President Donald Trump named as his acting attorney general on Wednesday, privately provided advice to the president last year on how the White House might be able to pressure the Justice Department to investigate the president’s political adversaries, Vox has learned.

Whitaker (shown in a file photo) was an outspoken critic of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe before he became the chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in September 2017. That has rightfully raised concerns that Whitaker might now attempt to sabotage Mueller’s investigation. But new information suggests that Whitaker — while working for Sessions — advocated on behalf of, and attempted to facilitate, Trump’s desire to exploit the Justice Department and FBI to investigate the president’s enemies.

In May 2018, President Donald Trump demanded that the Justice Department open a criminal investigation into whether the FBI “infiltrated or surveilled” his presidential campaign and whether Obama administration officials were involved in this purported effort. Trump, his Republican allies in Congress, and conservative news organizations — most notably Fox News — were making such claims and amplifying those of others, even though they offered scant evidence, if any, that these allegations were true.

Sessions, Rosenstein, and other senior department officials believed that if they agreed to Trump’s wishes, doing so would constitute an improper politicization of the department that would set a dangerous precedent for Trump — or any future president — to exploit the powerful apparatus of the DOJ and FBI to investigate their political adversaries. Those efforts, in turn, coincided with the president’s campaign to undermine Mueller’s investigation into whether the president’s campaign aides, White House advisers, and members of his own family colluded with Russian to help Trump win the 2016 election.

washington post logoWashington Post, New acting attorney general was paid by firm the FTC called a ‘scam,’ Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and Robert O'Harrow Jr., Nov. 9, 2018 (print edition). Former customers of World Patent Marketing, which was forced to pay a settlement and cease operations, expressed dismay at Matthew G. Whitaker’s appointment to lead the Justice Department for now.

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

matthew whitaker agIt is unclear how Whitaker, shown at right, — who was appointed acting attorney general by President Trump on Wednesday — responded to a Federal Trade Commission subpoena to his law firm.

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

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

Whitaker’s sudden elevation this week to replace fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions has put new scrutiny on his involvement with the shuttered company, whose advisory board he joined in 2014, shortly after making a failed run for U.S. Senate in Iowa.

At the time, he was also running a conservative watchdog group with ties to other powerful nonprofits on the right and was beginning to develop a career as a Trump-friendly cable television commentator.

See also below:

ny times logoNew York Times, Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker Once Criticized Supreme Court’s Power, Charlie Savage, Nov. 9, 2018 (print edition). The acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, once espoused the view that the courts “are supposed to be the inferior branch” and criticized the Supreme Court’s power to review legislative and executive acts and declare them unconstitutional, the lifeblood of its existence as a coequal branch of government.

washington post logoWashington Post, As a Senate candidate, Whitaker said he won’t support ‘secular’ judicial nominees and courts should be ‘inferior branch,’ Michael Kranish and Robert Barnes​, Nov. 9, 2018. Matthew G. Whitaker’s comments, made during an unsuccessful 2014 run, have drawn new scrutiny since he was named acting attorney general.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Appointment of the Acting Attorney General Is Unconstitutional, Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III, Nov. 9, 2018 (print edition). The president is evading the requirement to seek the Senate’s advice and consent for the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and the person who will oversee the Mueller investigation. Mr. Katyal and Mr. Conway are prominent appellate lawyers.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump’s Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker panics and locks down his Twitter account after his scandals explode, Bill Palmer, Nov. 9, 2018. When it comes to Donald Trump, the only thing more consistent than his dirty scheming is the fact that he never bothers to do his homework before putting his schemes in motion.

The Atlantic, Opinion: It’s Probably Too Late to Stop Mueller, Benjamin Wittes (Editor in chief of Lawfare and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution), Nov. 9, 2018. The prospects for interference are dimmer than many imagine.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Mueller probe could be in mortal danger, Harry Litman, Nov. 9, 2018. Harry Litman teaches constitutional law at the University of California at San Diego and practices law at the firm Constantine Cannon. He was U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania from 1998 to 2001 and deputy assistant attorney general from 1993 to 1998.

More On New Attorney General

The Atlantic, Opinion: It’s Probably Too Late to Stop Mueller, Benjamin Wittes (Editor in chief of Lawfare and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution), Nov. 9, 2018. The prospects for interference are dimmer than many imagine.

Eighteen months ago, I said, President Donald Trump had an opportunity to disrupt the Russia investigation: He had fired the FBI director and had rocked the Justice Department back on its heels. But Trump had dithered. He had broadcast his intentions too many times. And in the meantime, Mueller had moved decisively, securing important indictments and convictions, and making whatever preparations were necessary for hostile fire. And now Democrats were poised to take the House of Representatives. The window of opportunity was gone.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Mueller probe could be in mortal danger, Harry Litman, Nov. 9, 2018. Harry Litman teaches constitutional law at the University of California at San Diego and practices law at the firm Constantine Cannon. He was U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania from 1998 to 2001 and deputy assistant attorney general from 1993 to 1998.

How serious is the forced resignation of Jeff Sessions and the installation of his chief of staff, Matthew G. Whitaker, as acting attorney general? And what does it portend for the Mueller probe and related investigations?

The first question is easy: It is as serious as a heart attack. Whitaker’s appointment, which President Trump effectuated before all of the midterm election results were even final, immediately divested Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein of his oversight authority of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.

washington post logoWashington Post, As a Senate candidate, Whitaker said he won’t support ‘secular’ judicial nominees and courts should be ‘inferior branch,’ Michael Kranish and Robert Barnes​, Nov. 9, 2018. Matthew G. Whitaker’s comments, made during an unsuccessful 2014 run, have drawn new scrutiny since he was named acting attorney general.

Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker has said that judges should have a “biblical view,” that he could not support nominees who are “secular” and declared that federal courts should be the “inferior branch” of government.

Whitaker’s comments, made during an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 2014, have drawn new scrutiny since President Trump named him Wednesday to replace ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In an April 25, 2014, debate, moderator Erick Erickson asked the candidates about their faith. Whitaker said that, if elected, he would want judges who “have a biblical view of justice, which I think is very important …”

Erickson interjected: “Levitical or New Testament?”

“I’m a New Testament,” Whitaker answered, according to an account at the time in the Des Moines Register. “And what I know is as long as they have that world view, that they’ll be a good judge. And if they have a secular world view, where this is all we have here on Earth, then I’m going to be very concerned about that judge.”

ny times logocharlie savageNew York Times, Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker Once Criticized Supreme Court’s Power, Charlie Savage, right, Nov. 9, 2018 (print edition). The acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, once espoused the view that the courts “are supposed to be the inferior branch” and criticized the Supreme Court’s power to review legislative and executive acts and declare them unconstitutional, the lifeblood of its existence as a coequal branch of government.

In a Q. and A. when he sought the Republican nomination for senator in Iowa in 2014, Mr. Whitaker indicated that he shared the belief among some conservatives that the federal judiciary has too much power over public policy. He criticized many of the Supreme Court’s rulings, beginning with a foundational one: Marbury v. Madison, which established its power of judicial review in 1803.

“There are so many” bad rulings, Mr. Whitaker said. “I would start with the idea of Marbury v. Madison. That’s probably a good place to start and the way it’s looked at the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of constitutional issues.”

The interview was among evidence that shed new light on Mr. Whitaker’s views, including disparagement of the Russia investigation, which he now oversees, and an expansive view of presidential power. Congressional aides, journalists and other observers scoured his record after Mr. Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday and replaced him with Mr. Whitaker, instantly raising questions about whether the president wanted a loyalist in charge at the Justice Department with the power to end the Russia investigation.

Groups throughout the nation marched on Thursday to support the inquiry of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, and to protest Mr. Whitaker’s appointment. Thousands demonstrated in dozens of cities, including in Washington, Philadelphia, Omaha and Salt Lake City.

In New York, about 4,000 people marched from Times Square to Union Square, the police said. Protesters held signs and chanted “Trump is not above the law.” On Twitter, #ProtectMueller was trending.

Whitaker Appointment Unconstitutional?

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Appointment of the Acting Attorney General Is Unconstitutional, Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III, Nov. 9, 2018 (print edition). The president is evading the requirement to seek the Senate’s advice and consent for the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and the person who will oversee the Mueller investigation. Mr. neal katyal oKatyal, shown at left, and Mr. Conway, shown below at right via his Twitter photo (and husband of Trump White House counselor Kellyanne Conway), are prominent appellate lawyers.

What now seems an eternity ago, the conservative law professor Steven Calabresi published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in May arguing that Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel was unconstitutional. His article got a lot of attention, and it wasn’t long before President Trump picked up the argument, george conway twittertweeting that “the Appointment of the Special Counsel is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!”

Professor Calabresi’s article was based on the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2. Under that provision, so-called principal officers of the United States must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate under its “Advice and Consent” powers.

He argued that Mr. Mueller was a principal officer because he is exercising significant law enforcement authority and that since he has not been confirmed by the Senate, his appointment was unconstitutional. As one of us argued at the time, he was wrong. What makes an officer a principal officer is that he or she reports only to the president. No one else in government is that person’s boss. But Mr. Mueller reports to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. So, Mr. Mueller is what is known as an inferior officer, not a principal one, and his appointment without Senate approval was valid.

matthew whitaker agBut Professor Calabresi and Mr. Trump were right about the core principle. A principal officer must be confirmed by the Senate. And that has a very significant consequence today.

It means that Mr. Trump’s installation of Matthew Whitaker, shown left in a new official photo, as acting attorney general of the United States after forcing the resignation of Jeff Sessions is unconstitutional. It’s illegal. And it means that anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid.

Much of the commentary about Mr. Whitaker’s appointment has focused on all sorts of technical points about the Vacancies Reform Act and Justice Department succession statutes. But the flaw in the appointment of Mr. Whitaker, who was Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff at the Justice Department, runs much deeper. It defies one of the explicit checks and balances set out in the Constitution, a provision designed to protect us all against the centralization of government power.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump’s Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker panics and locks down his Twitter account after his scandals explode, Bill Palmer, Nov. 9, 2018. When it comes to Donald Trump, the only thing more consistent than his dirty scheming is the fact that he never bothers to do his homework before putting his schemes in motion.

We all know why he named Matthew Whitaker as his new Acting Attorney General: the guy has already said he thinks the Trump-Russia investigation should be shut down. But the part Trump missed, or doesn’t understand the importance of, is that Whitaker is a disaster in a thousand other ways.

It’s not just that Matthew Whitaker has gone on national television and pre-confessed to the obstruction of justice he intends to commit, making it much easier for the Democrats to build a case for forcing him to recuse himself. It’s that Whitaker is a complete train wreck in every way imaginable. For instance he was part of a scam company that was shut down by the Federal Trade Commission last year. That’s right, Trump’s own federal government has already busted Whitaker and branded him a criminal, but Trump doesn’t seem to know or care. It gets worse.

After Democratic political operative Adam Parkhomenko began exposing Matthew Whitaker’s older pro-Russia tweets yesterday, Whitaker hit the panic button and locked down his Twitter account so that the public couldn’t see any of his old tweets. Those who visited Whitaker’s account last night were greeted with this message: “This account’s Tweets are protected. Only confirmed followers have access to @MattWhitaker46’s Tweets and complete profile. Click the “Follow” button to send a follow request.”

If Matthew Whitaker has done this with the intention of deleting his scandalous older tweets, he’s going to be disappointed to learn that public internet archive services already have caches of his old tweets, and he can’t delete those. In any case, the Acting Attorney General of the United States just locked down his Twitter account because his scandals are exploding so severely. That’s beyond precedent. He just made it even easier for the Democrats to use his scandals to push him out of a job.

Propaganda Payoff

wsj logoWall Street Journal, Donald Trump Played Central Role in Hush Payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, Joe Palazzolo, Nicole Hong, Michael Rothfeld,Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Rebecca Ballhaus, Nov. 9, 2018. Federal prosecutors have gathered evidence of president’s participation in transactions that violated campaign-finance laws.

david pecker croppedAs a presidential candidate in August 2015, Donald Trump huddled with a longtime friend, media executive David Pecker, in his cluttered 26th floor Trump Tower office and made a request.

What can you do to help my campaign? he asked, according to people familiar with the meeting.

Mr. Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc., offered to use his National Enquirer tabloid to buy the silence of women if they tried to publicize alleged sexual encounters with Mr. Trump.

djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtubeLess than a year later, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Pecker to quash the story of a former Playboy model who said they’d had an affair. Mr. Pecker’s company soon paid $150,000 to the model, Karen McDougal (shown with Trump at left), to keep her from speaking publicly about it. Mr. Trump later thanked Mr. Pecker for the assistance.

The Trump Tower meeting and its aftermath are among several previously unreported instances in which Mr. Trump intervened directly to suppress stories about his alleged sexual encounters with women, according to interviews with three dozen people who have direct knowledge of the events or who have been briefed on them, as well as court papers, corporate records and other documents.

Nov. 8

Election Follow-ups

washington post logoWashington Post, Questions of uncounted ballots remain in gubernatorial races in Georgia, Florida, Elise Viebeck, Nov. 8, 2018. Republican Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, claimed victory and submitted his resignation from that office, even though his race against Democrat Stacey Abrams had not been called. In Florida, Democrat Andrew Gillum appeared to back off his election-night concession to Republican Ron DeSantis, citing reports of uncounted ballots. See also, Washington Post, Senate, governor's races in Florida pull into recount range.

washington post logoWashington Post, Once in majority, House Democrats plan quick vote to protect coverage for those with preexisting conditions, Erica Werner​, Nov. 8, 2018. The vote would follow up Democrats’ successful midterms strategy of focusing on health care and attacking Republicans relentlessly over their attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

New Insights On Mueller Probe

Palmer Report, Analysis, Buzz says Donald Trump Jr is on the verge of arrest, Bill Palmer, Nov. 8, 2018. Yesterday, Donald Trump made the too little, too late move of firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions after Special Counsel Robert Mueller had by all accounts already reached the finish line of his investigation. The question was why the usually-tepid Trump pulled the trigger at all. Now there’s suddenly buzz everywhere that Donald Trump Jr is on the verge of arrest. This is bolstered by the fact that one of the people making this assertion is Junior himself.

Donald Trump Jr has been running around telling people that he thinks he’s going to get indicted soon, according to New York Magazine and Politico. But this report is just the start of it. Now the Democratic Coalition has just announced that according to its sources, Junior’s arrest is “imminent.” Other usually-reliable pundits are floating the same thing. But really, this comes back to Junior’s own claim that he’s about to get popped – and yes, there are ways he could know it’s about to happen.

For instance, Robert Mueller’s people told Paul Manafort in advance that he was about to be indicted and arrested, in the hope of convincing him to cut a plea deal. It’s not quite as clear why Mueller would give Donald Trump Jr an advance heads-up, as he’s not going to flip on his father, at least not right away. That said, if Mueller has hauled Junior’s associates before a grand jury, they could have tipped him off about how far Mueller has progressed.

There are a couple key things to keep in mind here. We don’t know if Robert Mueller is planning to nail Donald Trump Jr for Trump-Russia collusion right out of the gate, or if he might initially have someone like SDNY nail Junior on more-easily-proven financial crimes instead. If Mueller hands it off, that would help circumvent any potential complications raised by Jeff Sessions’ recent firing. Also, if Junior is about to be arrested, it would mean he’s already been indicted, and it’s under seal. Stay tuned.

ny times logo

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC, Conservative Scholars Dispute Whitaker appointment, expert guests, Nov. 8, 2018. At least two prominent conservative scholars disputed President Trump's power to promote Justice Department Chief of Staff Matthew Whitaker to the post of acting attorney general without senate confirmation.

Those scholars are University of California at Berkeley Law School professor John Yoo, a high-level Justice Department appointee during the George W. Bush presidency, and Fox News commentator and former New Jersey state court judge Andrew Napolitano.

Their views were reported by several MSNBC hosts, among others, who separately quoted guest Neal Katyal as saying many individuals would have "standing" before the courts to challenge Whitaker's powers, particularly if Whitaker seeks to thwart Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of the Trump Administration.

Host Lawrence O'Donnell, formerly a longtime Democratic staffer for the U.S. Senate, also warned that Whitaker could be liable for the obstruction of justice charges that have a five-year statute of limitations that could extend into a Democratic administration.

In related news, a member of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team told a federal appeals panel how newly appointed Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is now kept informed of the special counsel's work and can affect major decisions.

Prosecutor Michael Dreeden made the comments in response to questions from a three-judge panel hearing arguments from Andrew Miller, a reluctant witness before the special counsel's grand jury probe into the activities of GOP consultant Roger Stone. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow reported on the comments. The events were at the federal courthouse in Washington, DC. The Justice Integrity Project visited the courthouse vicinity based on a tip advising of unusual activity at the courthouse.

ny times logoNew York Times, Acting Attorney General Once Declared Courts ‘the Inferior Branch,’ Nov. 8, 2018. The newly installed head of the Justice Department, Matthew G. Whitaker, also criticized the Supreme Court’s power to review legislative and executive acts. In a Q. and A. in 2014, Mr. Whitaker espoused views that a constitutional scholar called “internally contradictory” and “ignorant.”

Investigator's Report Announced

wayne madsen trumps bananas coverWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: General release of Trump-Mafia collusion Road Map, Wayne Madsen (syndicated columnist, author of 16 books, including the recent Trump's Bananas Republic, and former Navy intelligence officer), Nov. 8, 2018 (Most WMR columns are subscription only but this article is available to the general public.)

Since WMR began developing and maintaining the "Trump-Mafia collusion Road Map" in 2017, it has been WMR's intention to release it to the general public the moment Donald Trump made a hostile move on the Department of Justice and specifically, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Sessions — who was recused from overseeing the collusion investigation of Trump's and his family's criminal foreign entanglements — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are all being targeted by Trump and his criminal associates in an attempt to hide the Trump Organization's close connections to and involvement with major international criminal networks.

The Trump-Mafia Road Map illustrates the myriad nature of Trump's criminal enterprises. Due to its size and compression, the .PDF file [download here] must be expanded by at least 400 times, using a .PDF viewer, for proper reading and scrolling.

sam clovis fox news CustomOn November 7, Trump fired Sessions, removed Rosenstein from overseeing Mueller's investigation, and named, as acting Attorney General, the Attorney General's chief of staff Matt Whitaker, a GOP operative from Iowa and a close friend and political associate of Sam Clovis, left, a Trump campaign official and a witness called before a grand jury empanelled by Mueller.

This "Wednesday afternoon massacre" was the first step toward Trump's shutting down the important work of Mueller and his team of investigators.

There is an inter-active version of the Road Map. It contains side notes and other relevant information. It can be accessed by clicking here. If you choose this viewing method, be prepared for very long load times. This is a massive document. Your device may freeze during accessing. We are, therefore, recommending only downloading the PDF document.

djt roy cohn mob clients carmine galante john gotti tony salerno1533348924301

More On Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Acting attorney general said to have no plans to recuse from Russia probe, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Josh Dawsey​, Nov. 8, 2018. Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker has no intention of recusing himself from overseeing the special counsel probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to people close to him who added they do not believe he would approve any subpoena of President Trump as part of that investigation.

matthew whitaker agSince stepping into his new role on Wednesday, Whitaker (left) has faced questions — principally from Democrats — about whether he should recuse from the Russia investigation, given that he has written opinion pieces in the past about the investigation, and is a friend and political ally of a witness.

On Thursday, two people close to Whitaker said he has no intention of taking himself off the Russia case.

Ethics officials at the Justice Department are likely to review his past work to see if he has any financial or personal conflicts. In many instances, that office does not require a Justice Department official to recuse, but suggests a course of action. In the past, senior Justice Department officials tend to follow such advice, but they are rarely required to do so, according to officials familiar with the process.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: This is what the firing of Mr. Sessions could mean for the Russia investigation, Charlie Savage, Nov. 8, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s decision to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appoint Mr. Sessions’s former chief of staff, Matthew G. Whitaker, as the acting head of the Justice Department immediately raised questions about what the move means for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel leading the Russia investigation.

What does this mean for the Mueller investigation?

The shake-up means that Mr. Whitaker assumes oversight of the inquiry from Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general.

jeff sessions ag oMr. Sessions, left, recused himself from overseeing cases arising from the 2016 election, citing his role as an active Trump supporter, so Mr. Rosenstein has been serving as acting attorney general for the investigation into whether any Trump associates conspired with Russia’s election interference and whether Mr. Trump obstructed the inquiry itself. He appointed Mr. Mueller as special counsel.

But because Mr. Whitaker is not recused from overseeing cases arising from the 2016 election, as Mr. Sessions was, he takes over the case. Mr. Rosenstein goes back to his day job overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Justice Department.

Palmer Report, Donald Trump’s new Acting Attorney General stooge Matthew Whitaker is already crashing and burning, Bill Palmer, Nov. 8, 2018. After he fired Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump could have picked just about anyone to be his new Acting Attorney General. Trump has any number of loyal stooges who would be willing to do his corrupt bidding in this role. But as it turns out, Trump – true to form – picked the one guy who is already crashing and burning in real time.

matthew whitakerThe key to secretly putting your own corrupt stooge in power is to make sure it’s actually a secret. Donald Trump, who becomes more divorced from reality by the hour, doesn’t appear to understand that concept. Of all the stooges available, Trump chose Matthew Whitaker, right, – a guy who has spent the past several months flat out admitting on television and in writing that he thinks Trump should be shielded from any attempt at investigation.

If Trump had picked anyone else as Acting Attorney General, House Democrats would have had to wait for that person to actually commit obstruction of justice, and get caught doing it, before they’d be able to make any headway in forcing that person out. But because Matthew Whitaker has already publicly and repeatedly pre-confessed his intent to commit obstruction on Trump’s behalf, the Democrats can immediately make headway in taking this guy down.

In fact Nancy Pelosi is already calling for Matthew Whitaker to recuse himself. Will it happen? We’ll see. Keep in mind that Donald Trump installed Jeff Sessions as Attorney General specifically to protect himself in the Trump-Russia investigation, yet as soon as Sessions found himself facing potential criminal culpability of his own, he quickly recused himself. Whitaker is already crashing and burning; we’ll see how bad it gets for him.

ny times logoRobert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)New York Times, Opinion: Mueller Was Running on Borrowed Time. Has It Run Out? Editorial Board, Nov. 8, 2018. The president seems to want a lawman he can control. Robert Mueller (shown in a file photo), the special counsel, always knew he was running the Russia investigation on borrowed time. That time may have just run out on Wednesday afternoon, when President Trump ousted his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, less than 24 hours after Republicans lost their eight-year lock on the House of Representatives.

So who’s going to protect Mr. Mueller now?

rod rosenstein indict russians 7 13 2018 screeengrabUntil Wednesday, the job was being performed ably by Rod Rosenstein (shown in a screengrab), the deputy attorney general who assumed oversight of the Russia investigation when Mr. Sessions recused himself in March 2017.

Under Mr. Rosenstein’s leadership, the investigation Mr. Mueller took over has resulted in the felony conviction of the president’s former campaign chairman, guilty pleas from multiple other top Trump aides and associates and the indictments of dozens of Russian government operatives for interfering in the 2016 election. For more than a year, Mr. Rosenstein walked a political tightrope, guarding Mr. Mueller’s independence on the one hand while trying to appease Mr. Trump’s increasingly meddlesome demands on the other.

The good news is that no one, including Mr. Whitaker, can stop the multiple prosecutions or litigation already in progress — including the cooperation of Paul Manafort; the sentencing of Michael Flynn; or the continuing investigation of Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump's former lawyer, and the Trump Organization by federal prosecutors in New York. The courts will have the final say on what happens in each of those cases.

Nov. 7

washington post logoWashington Post, Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigns at Trump’s request, Devlin Barrett, Nov. 7, 2018. Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department on Oct. 26.

jeff sessions ag oAttorney General Jeff Sessions resigned on Wednesday at President Trump’s request, ending the tenure of a loyalist he soured on shortly after Sessions took office in 2017 because the former senator from Alabama had recused himself from oversight of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Despite the tension with the White House, Sessions had described the position of top law enforcement officer as his dream job and he pursued his conservative agenda with gusto. But he also had to live with sometimes humiliating attacks from a president he couldn’t seem to please and the suspicions of career staff members who feared the politicization of a Justice Department that prides itself on its independence.

Department veterans have expressed concerns that Trump’s repeated public attacks on Sessions, the Justice Department and the FBI could cause lasting damage to federal law enforcement.

Sessions, 71, was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump, and in many ways he had been the biggest supporter of the president’s policies on immigration, crime and law enforcement.

But all of those areas of agreement were overshadowed by the Russia investigation — specifically, Sessions’s recusal from the inquiry after it was revealed that he had met more than once with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the 2016 campaign even though he had said during his confirmation hearing that he had not met with any Russians.

Trump has never forgiven Sessions for that decision, which he regarded as an act of disloyalty that denied him the protection he thought he deserved from his attorney general. “I don’t have an attorney general,” he said in September.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sessions’s ouster throws future of special counsel probe into question, Rosalind S. Helderman, Matt Zapotosky and Carol D. Leonnig, Nov. 7, 2018. The new acting attorney general could sharply curtail Robert S. Mueller III’s authority or budget.

matthew whitakerTrump named as acting attorney general Matthew F. Whitaker, right, Session’s chief of staff, who as a legal commentator last year wrote that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III appeared to be taking his investigation too far.

A Justice Department official said Wednesday that Whitaker would assume final decision-making authority over the special counsel probe instead of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

Since last year, Rosenstein has overseen the investigation because Sessions, a key Trump surrogate in 2016, recused himself from dealing with matters involving the campaign. It wasn’t immediately clear what role, if any, Rosenstein may play in the probe going forward.

DeSmog, Dark Money Paid New Trump Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s Salary for 3 Years, Sharon Kelly, Nov. 7, 2018.Today, President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that Matthew G. Whitaker, who served as chief of staff for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, would replace his boss. Sessions was forced from office a day after the midterm elections, which were rough for climate and anti-fracking measures around the country.

Whitaker (shown in a C-SPAN screenshot as a Republican surrogate during the 2012 presidential campaign) was appointed as Session’s chief of staff on September 22, 2017. Before that, he served for three years as the executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), which describes itself as “a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency in government and civic arenas.”

FACT has come under fire for its own lack of transparency, with the Center for Responsive Politics calling attention to FACT’s funding, which in some years came entirely from DonorsTrust, an organization also known as the “Dark Money ATM of the Conservative Movement” and whose own donors include the notorious funders of climate denial, Charles and David Koch.

“In other words, an organization ‘dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency’ gets 100 percent of its funds from a group that exists mainly as a vehicle for donors to elude transparency,” the Center for Responsive Politics wrote in 2016.

In 2014, FACT received $600,000 from DonorsTrust — the only donation it reported that year, according to An additional $500,000 flowed from DonorsTrust to FACT in 2015. And in 2016, DonorsTrust gave $800,000 to FACT, tax records show, as well as two additional donations, one for $100,000 and another for $450,000. That $2.45 million represents virtually all of FACT's entire reported receipts for those years (except for a total of $456 from 2015 to 2016).

In 2016, Whitaker earned $402,000 as FACT’s director and president, according to the organization’s tax filings. That followed reported compensation from FACT for Whitaker of $63,000 in 2014, and $252,000 in 2015.

His work included advocacy for causes backed by the fossil fuel industry.

As FACT’s executive director, Whitaker sought documents from the Attorneys General United for Clean Power Coalition, alleging in a 2016 op-ed that the Coalition “launched a campaign to silence many public policy organizations and even individuals for their work challenging liberal views on climate change, as well as private companies like ExxonMobil.”

That coalition, representing attorneys general from 17 states, included Eric Schneiderman, then attorney general for New York state, Maura Healey of Massachusetts, and Claude Walker of the Virgin Islands, who were all reportedly investigating ExxonMobil for failing to disclose what it knew about climate change to its investors for decades.

Whitaker labeled the probe of ExxonMobil, which has funded climate denial efforts to the tune of at least $33 million, “both unconstitutional and unethical” — but it recently led to charges against the company.

barbara underwoodLast month, following three years of investigation, Schneiderman’s successor Barbara Underwood, left, filed a 91-page lawsuit alleging that ExxonMobil had engaged in four counts of fraud.

“Investors put their money and their trust in Exxon — which assured them of the long-term value of their shares, as the company claimed to be factoring the risk of increasing climate change regulation into its business decisions,” Underwood said in a statement, according to Courthouse News. “Instead, Exxon built a facade to deceive investors into believing that the company was managing the risks of climate change regulation to its business when, in fact, it was intentionally and systematically underestimating or ignoring them, contrary to its public representations.”

FACT has also come under fire for its right-wing partisan bent.

“It’s perhaps worth noting that although FACT describes itself as a ‘non-partisan ethics watchdog,’ its ethics complaints are targeted overwhelmingly (though not exclusively) at Democrats, and it is funded entirely by an anonymous trust fund (a so-called ‘pass-through) favored by ultra-wealthy conservative donors, including Charles Koch,” the Global Anti-Corruption Blog wrote in September of this year.

As Acting Attorney General, Whitaker will replace Jeff Sessions, described as a “climate change skeptic” by the Washington Post for saying on the floor of Congress in 2015 that “Carbon pollution is CO2, and that’s really not a pollutant; that’s a plant food, and it doesn’t harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases.”

The Department of Justice's Office of Public Affairs has not yet responded to questions about Whitaker and FACT sent by DeSmog.

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC, Analyst: Sessions Replacement 'Worst Possible,' Katie Tur interview of Matthew Miller, Nov. 7, 2018. Former Obama Administration Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that President Trump's replacement of Attorney General Jeff Sessions with his replacement, Chief of Staff Matthew G. Whitaker is the "worst possible" choice

That's because, in Miller's view, a 2017 Whitaker opinion column for CNN described as improper any attempt by the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller III to probe Trump's finances or the behavior of his family. Whitaker wrote that it would be a "red line" if Mueller extends the probe into matters not covered by the "four corners" of his initial appointment.

matthew whitaker cnn july 26 2017 don lemon SmallThat would presumably exclude Donald Trump Jr.'s 2016 campaign meeting at Trump Tower with Russian operatives to obtain dirt on rival presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. "I doubt if you could find any other person at the Justice Department" who has taken that position, Miller said. Whitaker is shown second from the left in a screenshot from a CNN interview on the topic by host Don Lemon, at far left, on July 26, 2017.

Miller said that the appointment poses a "red alert" to the continued viability of the Mueller investigation but would probably not result in Mueller's firing. Instead, Miller said, the Justice Department is likely to simply sit on any new Mueller findings and never approve major new indictments or forward any report to congressional authorities. Miller said it is a time for the public to think of taking to the streets in protest of new developments.

Miller said that the appointment poses a "red alert" to the continued viability of the Mueller investigation but would probably not result in Mueller's firing. Instead, Miller said, the Justice Department is likely to simply sit on any new Mueller findings and never approve major new indictments or forward any report to congressional authorities. Miller said it is a time for the public to think of taking to the streets in protest of new developments.

Sessions had been recused from supervision of the Mueller probe because of a Sessions conflict whereby some of his own activities. Deputy Attorney Gen. Rod Rosenstein had been supervising Mueller but that authority is now likely to transfer to Whitaker, who had been a Bush-appointed U.S. attorney for Iowa from 2004 to 2009.

Trump is now under investigation for, among other possible crimes, obstruction of justice for his firing of FBI director James Comey who was investigation allegations of election rigging in 2016 with Russian influence.

MSNBC analyst Robert Costa, a Washington Post reporter, said that Whitaker is a "hard-right" Republican partisan Costa observed years ago in Whitaker's unsuccessful campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in Iowa.

Another MSNBC analyst, former Justice Department executive Chuck Rosenberg, told host Nicole Wallace that the circumstances of Whitaker's appointment might be highly relevant to a Mueller obstruction of justice probe.

NBC analyst and author John Heilmann said that Trump has installed a "lackey" in Whitaker instead of the normal transition figure, Deputy Attorney Gen. Rod Rosenstein, and is rather clearly moving towards thwarting the Mueller probe, thereby prompting a possible constitutional crisis.

The potential crime at issue in the Mueller probe is "ten times worse" than President Richard Nixon's Watergate cover up, according to historian Michael Bechloss, who told MSNBC host Ari Melber that Nixon was covering up a burglary, whereas Mueller's core probe is about alleged interference by Russia into the 2016 presidential election of Trump.

Roll Call, Here’s How a House Democratic Majority Might Protect Mueller If Trump Fires Him, Griffin Connolly, Nov 7, 2018. With power to investigate and subpoena, Democrats have options to protect special counsel.

House Democrats, with their new majority, will have an expansive new toolkit once they take control of the chamber on Jan. 3 to protect special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation — even if acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker decides to shut it down.

If President Donald Trump, through Whitaker or his full-time replacement, does indeed order Mueller to shutter his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election, that would trigger a quick response from Democrats. In two months, they will wield the all-important power of subpoenaing officials.

Democrats’ first step would be to preserve evidence Mueller has collected over roughly the last year and a half so that the Trump administration doesn’t confiscate files and hide them.

With their new majority, Democrats could bypass Trump’s Justice Department, which has the authority to enforce or toss out congressional subpoenas, by subpoenaing Mueller himself to learn what he knows.

“Either [top House Intelligence Committee Democrat] Adam Schiff or Judiciary or Oversight or all three — I would imagine they’d do this jointly — would issue a subpoena for all the documents that Mueller had in possession at the time of his removal,” Bardella said. “It would have to be a subpoena because it’s classified information.”

Democrats could then essentially move the investigation under the jurisdiction of a congressional committee and hire Mueller, to see it through with full subpoena power. That assumes Mueller would be willing to effectively work for Democrats in a highly politicized role.

The Democrats could — and probably would — instead establish a select committee with Mueller or another hand-picked investigator as the committee’s chief counsel.

Trump appears to believe that a confrontational game of chicken with House Democrats can be a political point machine for him. That’s evident from the events of Wednesday, including the forced resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump’s combative press conference, and his tweets threatening political opponents with counter-investigations for conducting oversight of his administration.

“If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “Two can play that game!”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is apparently on the president’s side, warning House Democrats multiple times at a press conference Wednesday not to go overboard on “presidential harassment.”Crossing a line?

But if Trump fires Mueller, Democrats say they would have no choice but to respond with rigorous oversight.

“If you’ve triggered a constitutional crisis, you’ve triggered a constitutional crisis. And that can’t be ignored,” said Virginia Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, the second-in-line among Democrats on the House Oversight Committee.

Trump and other Republicans warned ahead of the midterms that Democrats would move to impeach Trump upon winning a majority in the House, even though Democratic Speaker front-runner Nancy Pelosi of California and projected House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler have made it clear that they plan to wait for Mueller to conclude his investigation.

But Democrats had a warning of their own for Trump: If you fire Mueller, we’re going to investigate the circumstances of that decision — you don’t want that.

By firing Mueller, Trump would potentially be laying himself a trap by opening his administration and Justice Department up to yet another investigation, this one a sweeping probe into the circumstances surrounding the decision to shut down the special counsel.

washington post logoWashington Post, With the midterms over, Mueller faces key decisions in Russia investigation, Rosalind S. Helderman, Matt Zapotosky and Carol D. Leonnig, Nov. 7, 2018.  robert mueller kit fox medill flickr croppedAmong the most pressing matters before the special counsel: a probe into longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone’s activities and ongoing negotiations for a presidential interview.

For more than seven weeks, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, shown in a file photo, has been silent.

In the run-up to Election Day, there were no indictments or public pronouncements by the special counsel’s office, in keeping with Justice Department guidelines that prosecutors should avoid taking steps that could be perceived as intending to influence the outcome of the vote.

With the midterm elections now over, Mueller faces key decision points in his 18-month-old investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign — a probe that has already led to charges against 32 people, including 26 Russians. Four aides to President Trump have pleaded guilty to various charges, most recently his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort in September.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Sees ‘Big Victory,’ and Threatens Democrats, Peter Baker and Eileen Sullivan, Nov. 7, 2018. The president vowed to retaliate if the new Democratic-controlled House investigates his finances and political dealings.

George W. Bush saw a “thumpin’.” Barack Obama saw a “shellacking.” Donald J. Trump sees a “Big Victory.”

President Donald Trump officialNever one to admit defeat, even in the face of a major setback, President Trump wasted little time on Wednesday morning trying to frame his party’s election losses as a win even though Democrats seized control of the House of Representatives.

His Tweet: "Received so many Congratulations from so many on our Big Victory last night, including from foreign nations (friends) that were waiting me out, and hoping, on Trade Deals. Now we can all get back to work and get things done!"

But even as he claimed victory, he quickly went on offense against the newly elected Democratic House, threatening to retaliate if the opposition uses its new subpoena power to investigate him for corruption and obstruction of justice in an early foreshadowing of the bitter partisan warfare that could dominate the next two years.

“If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level,” he wrote. “Two can play that game!”

Then, in a head-spinning pivot, Mr. Trump shortly afterward endorsed Representative Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, for House speaker and even volunteered Republican votes if she cannot muster enough in her own caucus.

“In all fairness, Nancy Pelosi deserves to be chosen Speaker of the House by the Democrats,” he wrote. “If they give her a hard time, perhaps we will add some Republican votes. She has earned this great honor!”

Whether he meant it as a gracious gesture or a tweak because he enjoys having Ms. Pelosi as a foil was not immediately clear.

While Bill Clinton, Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama expressed humility following major midterm losses in 1994, 2006 and 2010, Mr. Trump acted as if he had nothing to regret.

ny times logoNew York Times, Breaking Barriers, Letitia James Is Elected New York Attorney General, Jeffery C. Mays, Nov. 7, 2018 (print edition). Ms. James made history on three fronts and positioned herself at the forefront of America’s legal bulwark against the policies of President Trump.

Letitia James was overwhelmingly elected as the attorney general of New York on Tuesday, shattering a trio of racial and gender barriers and placing herself in position to be at the forefront of the country’s legal bulwark against the policies of President Trump.

letitia james public advocateWith her victory over Republican nominee Keith H. Wofford, Ms. James, 60, right, the public advocate for New York City, becomes the first woman in New York to be elected as attorney general, the first African-American woman to be elected to statewide office and the first black person to serve as attorney general.

The victory follows a rugged political season that arose after the surprise resignation of former attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman, following charges that he physically abused multiple women. Ms. James will succeed Barbara D. Underwood, who was appointed by the State Legislature in May to complete Mr. Schneiderman’s term.

Ms. Underwood, left, already has dozens of cases pending against Mr. Trump, including an investigation into his charity and lawsuits to stop immigrant barbara underwoodfamilies from being separated at the border and to block the rollback of net neutrality and environmental regulations.

In her victory speech in Brooklyn, Ms. James vowed to continue the office’s scrutiny of the president. “He should know that we here in New York — and I, in particular — we are not scared of you,” she said. “And as the next attorney general of his home state, I will be shining a bright light into every dark corner of his real estate dealings, and every dealing, demanding truthfulness at every turn.”

Ms. James has said she will continue cases such as the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, which the state charges has misled the public about the dangers of OxyContin. She also said she intends to name a public ethics counsel, pursue criminal justice reform and push for the power to bring corruption cases independent of the governor’s office.

Nov. 4

Palmer Report, Opinion: You can vote for Robert Mueller on Tuesday. No, really, Bill Palmer, Nov. 4, 2018. Donald Trump is on the ballot in every single House and Senate race; you just won’t see his name. There’s also another person on the ballot: Special Counsel Robert Mueller. By all accounts he’s gearing up to make his big move against Trump shortly after the election. He’s simply waiting to see how things shake out, so he can decide how to proceed – and he needs your help.

robert mueller screenshot washington postIf the Democrats win the House, it will allow Robert Mueller to hand his findings and recommendations to the House, and let the Democrats run with it. After all, the destruction and ouster of a criminally corrupt president is still ultimately a political process. House Democrats can immediately begin holding daily televised hearings to destroy Trump one swift blow at a time, even while sending subpoenas flying and taking a proverbial buzzsaw to what little is left of Trump’s viability.

If the Republicans retain control of the House and Senate, that will leave Robert Mueller as the lone ranger. Much as we might enjoy the visual, it’s not the ideal scenario. Mueller would be forced to try more unilateral and riskier moves.

Nov. 1

jefferson morley newDeep State, Former Spy Chiefs Warn of Trump’s Dangerous Radicalization: ‘We Have Four Years to Stop Him,’ Jefferson Morley, right, Nov. 1, 2018. Trump is similar to ISIS in that both use social media to recruit and radicalize, say Clapper and Hayden.

If you think some former U.S. intelligence officials have been harsh in their criticism of President Trump, well, they’re getting harsher. In the wake of the mail bomb arrest and the Pittsburgh synagogue shootings, James Clapper and Michael Hayden are likening President Trump’s political rhetoric to radicalization tactics used by terrorists.

james clapper oClapper, shown in a file photo, former director of the National Security Agency, and addressee of one of the bombs mailed to CNN, told a Virginia audience on Wednesday, “It’s not unlike what we experienced with ISIS where you have a group using social media to recruit and radicalize their supporters.”

While former CIA director John Brennan has attacked Trump’s character, Clapper and Hayden have tried to restrict themselves to issues of policy. No more. The president is acting like a recruiter for a terrorist organization, and a few among his supporters are acting like terrorists, the former spy chiefs say.

Former CIA director Michael Hayden, who appeared with Clapper at George Mason University, added, “I don’t want to say the two groups are equivalent, but there are parallels.”

michael hayden CIA official portraitHayden, shown in a former official photo at right, proceeded to spell them out.

“At CIA when our people looked at radicalization, I asked, ‘Is it the ideology of al-Qaeda or ISIS that attracts them? Or are these unhappy young males, who don’t have a job, have disappointments, are unattached, and are looking to attach themselves to a larger cause?”

“In this country,” said Hayden, “what you get are individuals who are unhappy, violence-prone on their own, with a great sense of grievance, who now get legitimization and justification for their grievance by attaching it to something larger themselves. .... and here’s what’s new. They now have a set of grievances to which they can attach themselves that have been articulated by the president of the United States of America.”

The charge is severe, but the most recent evidence lends credence to the claim.

“If you look at the bomber, it was all there on his van,” Hayden said. “If you look at the incident in Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh, [the shooter who killed 11 people had] a latent anti-Semitism, but the proximate cause was his belief that international Jewry was sponsoring the invasion of America by that caravan which is still a thousand miles from the U.S. border. That has been a constant theme coming from the White House.”

Both men said Trump’s attacks on the press, the FBI, and his critics are damaging the country’s democratic institutions, perhaps irretrievably. “We have four years to stop him,” Hayden said. “We don’t have eight.”

Propaganda 'News', Opinion: We Went To Jacob Wohl’s Most Important Press Conference Ever And It Was Everything We’d Hoped It Would Be, Thornton McEnery, Nov. 1, 2018. When we left our quiet, comfortable home in the pre-dawn darkness to drive alone to Washington DC this morning, we did so with the solitary hope the eventual reward would warrant our sacrifice.

Oh, how it did.

Awaiting us hours down I-95 was the promise of a press conference being hosted by our old pal Jacob Wohl and some MAGA DC lawyer that he’d pulled into his latest venture: becoming a global private eye hellbent on destroying prosecutor Robert Mueller. According to Jacob’s pre-sale, he was going to present a victim of sexual assault who would claim that her abuser was none other than Mueller himself. Our boy Jacob was going to show her off to the assembled press at a Holiday Inn in Arlington, VA and end the long investigation into his adopted daddy, President Donald Trump.

We had spent the previous day watching Jacob’s whole plan unravel in the most JacobWohlian way possible. The investigation firm that he claimed had contacted him turned out to be yet another of his adorable shell companies with a web registration bearing his email and a phone number that rang back to his mom’s cell. He had also apparently forgotten to update the photo template on the website he fabricated, leaving up bio headshots of famous actors and models, stock photo faces, and of course, his own head. The whole thing was very cute and dumb and totally what we’ve come to expect from Jacob over the years.

What we didn’t expect though was just how utterly fucking shambolic the whole presser would be once we finally arrived at the Rosslyn Holiday Inn....


Oct. 31

washington post logoWashington Post, Mueller probes timing of WikiLeaks release of Podesta emails, Robert Costa, Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and Manuel Roig-Franzia, Oct. 31, 2018 (print edition). The special counsel investigation is pressing witnesses about longtime Trump ally Roger Stone’s private interactions with senior campaign officials and whether he had knowledge of politically explosive Democratic emails that were released in October 2016, according to people familiar with the probe.

robert mueller screenshot washington postAs part of his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, shown in a screenshot at right, appears to be focused on the question of whether WikiLeaks coordinated its activities with Stone and the campaign, including the group’s timing, the people said. Stone and WikiLeaks have adamantly denied being in contact.

On Friday, Mueller’s team questioned Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, about claims Stone is said to have made privately about WikiLeaks before the group released emails that prosecutors say were hacked by Russian operatives, according to people familiar with the session.

Oct. 30

GOP Voter Suppression: Newsworthy?

ny times logoNew York Times, In North Dakota, Native Americans Try to Turn an ID Law to Their Advantage, Maggie Astor, Oct. 30, 2018. Nobody in the squat yellow house serving as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s get-out-the-vote headquarters knew its address. It was on Red Tail Hawk Avenue; they knew that much. But the number was anyone’s guess. Phyllis Young, a longtime tribal activist leading the voter-outreach effort, said it had fallen off the side of the house at some point. Her own home has a number only because she added one with permanent marker.

This is normal on Native American reservations. Buildings lack numbers; streets lack signs. Even when a house has an address in official records, residents don’t necessarily know what it is.

Yet under a law the Supreme Court allowed to take effect this month, North Dakotans cannot vote without a residential address. Post office boxes, which many Native Americans rely on, aren’t enough anymore.

The Republican-controlled state legislature began debating this requirement just a few months after Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, won a Senate seat in 2012 with strong support from Native Americans. That race was decided by fewer than 3,000 votes. Ms. Heitkamp is now seeking re-election in one of the nation’s most aggressively contested elections, and she is trailing her Republican opponent, Representative Kevin Cramer, in the polls. And once again, she is looking to Native Americans for a strong vote: there are at least 30,000 of them in North Dakota.

Supporters of the address requirement say it is needed to prevent voter fraud and has nothing to do with Ms. Heitkamp. Native Americans, noting that state officials have not confirmed any pattern of fraud, see it as an attempt at voter suppression.

But in these final days before the election, their tribal governments are working feverishly to provide the necessary identification, and some Native Americans believe their anger could actually fuel higher turnout.

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: Voter suppression is a crucial story in America, but broadcast news mostly shrugs, Margaret Sullivan, Oct. 30, 2018 (print edition). With the midterm elections a week away, and tensions building daily, a bipartisan rallying cry grows louder: People must get out and vote.

But how possible is that, exactly, for some Americans? In North Dakota, thousands of Native American voters may be prevented from voting next week in a key Senate race because of an ugly technicality that amounts to targeted voter suppression.

In Georgia, hundreds of thousands of citizens were “purged” from the voting rolls in what election-law experts have called the worst disenfranchisement of voters in modern American history.

Yes, voter suppression is alive and well in the United States. But Americans who rely on the broadcast news networks for their information, and they still number in the millions every night, probably don’t know about it.

cbs news logoObsessed with all things Trump — caravan invasion, anyone? — and occupied with breaking news about hurricanes and mass shootings, the networks have almost ignored voter suppression.

With the consequential midterm elections only a week away, the near silence is deafening.

nbc news logo“What is happening to voting rights is fundamental to how we function as a country,” says Robert Greenwald, an independent filmmaker who is trying to fill the gap with a video that explores the problem. “There has been nowhere near enough media attention,” he told me.

Andrew Tyndall, who closely tracks network news for his well-respected Tyndall Report newsletter and website, has a plausible theory about why.

“The network news divisions have not worked out how to cover politics without following the agenda set by President Trump,” he told me by email. “That’s not to say their coverage is pro-Trump, since they will use his agenda to present him in both a positive and negative light. But it does mean that they find it difficult to present politics as being abc news logoabout anything except him.”

Since Labor Day, Tyndall told me last week, the three broadcast networks (CBS, NBC and ABC) together had done only a handful of stories — fewer than 10, all told — on threats to voting rights.

Oct. 29

djt man in high castle nazi salutes wmr graphic

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: This is a real-life "Man in the High Castle" drama, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 29, 2018 (Subscription required). Investigative reporter Wayne Madsen, a former Navy intelligence officer, has studied the Trump family extensively, including in the latest of Madsen's 16 books, "Trump's Bananas Republic."

In the television adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel, The Man in the High Castle, which has, as its premise, how Americans fare in an alternate history where Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan win World War II, American John Smith becomes the SS Obergruppenführer for Nazi-occupied America. The television series has turned out to be so popular, Amazon Prime has extended it to a third season.

There is a reason why The Man in the High Castle, both the novel and the TV series, is so popular. Donald Trump has, in effect, become an Obergruppenführer over the United States.....We are all now bit players in an increasingly Nazified world. And that is why the upcoming November 6 mid-term election is the most important election in the history of the United States.

Oct. 25

nbc news logoNBC News, Mueller has evidence suggesting Stone associate knew Clinton emails would be leaked, Ken Dilanian and Anna Schecter, Oct. 25, 2018  Special counsel Robert Mueller's office has obtained communications suggesting that a right-wing conspiracy theorist might have had advance knowledge that the emails of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman had been stolen and handed to WikiLeaks, a source familiar with the investigation told NBC News.

jerome corsiMueller's team has spent months investigating whether the conspiracy theorist, Jerome Corsi, right, learned before the public did that WikiLeaks had obtained emails hacked by Russian intelligence officers — and whether he passed information about the stolen emails to Donald Trump associate Roger Stone, multiple sources said.

An author and commentator, Corsi is considered to be the founder of the so-called Birther movement of people who believed Barack Obama was not a U.S. citizen, a lie that Trump used to help propel his presidential candidacy. In 2017, Corsi became the Washington, D.C. bureau chief for InfoWars, a web site run by Alex Jones, whose inflammatory lies about the 2014 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting have gotten him banned from YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Corsi no longer works there.

Oct. 11

Oct. 11

Justice Integrity Project, Courts Continue Voter Suppression As Trump Celebrates With His Justice In Partisan White House Gala, Hatefest

By Andrew Kreig

The U.S. Supreme Court helped launch the Brett Kavanaugh era on Oct. 10 by curtailing the voting of Native Americans in North Dakota, where a tight Senate race threatens a Democrat who voted against Kavanaugh's recent confirmation.

brett kavanaugh white house promoThe court enabled a new state rule barring voters who use for election purposes Post Office boxes instead of street addresses. Many Native Americans living on reservations use only PO Boxes and have heavily supported Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, below, the incumbent Democrat who is now an underdog in her race.

heidi heitkamp oThe court's refusal to intervene follows its recent practice of avoiding review for the most part of voter suppression and gerrymandering efforts by Republican state officials who have taken major steps recently to reduce voter registrations and polling place en masse in ways that heavily disadvantage Democrats in November.

In the North Dakota case, five votes were needed from the nine justices. Kavanaugh, shown in a White House-promoted political-type photo of a kind unusual for a sitting justice, did not participate for unexplained reasons, presumably because of his busy schedule getting installed onto the court.

Several columns this week describe a looming legal crisis regarding election-rigging in next month's elections and beyond.

Update: Trump Administration Seeks to Stifle Protests Near White House and on National Mall.

Investigative reporter Greg Palast, who documented for the BBC in 2001 how Republicans had stolen the 2000 presidential election by eliminating the names of more than 100,000 suspected Democrats from voter rolls (and not by the few ballots with hanging "chads" described by the American media), published several investigations regarding secret cutbacks in 2018 voter rolls by Republican secretaries of state seeking to tilt next month's elections.

For example, he wrote for Truthout in GOP’s Brian Kemp Purged 1 in 10 Georgia Voters: I’ve Got the Names:

"My lawyer had to threaten Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp with a federal lawsuit to force him to turn over the names of over half a million voters whose citizenship rights he quietly extinguished," Palast began. "This past week, I released the name of every one of these Georgia voters Kemp flushed from voter rolls in 2017."

Yet all such legal actions and reporting is based on the increasingly quaint theory that federal courts will honestly address the election issues and not just endorse Republican vote suppression by 5-4 party line votes by justices installed like Kavanaugh after long involvement in extreme partisan politics, including dirty tricks at election time.

brett kavanaugh election fraud wmr graphicTaking another broad view, investigative reporter Wayne Madsen linked Kavanaugh with presidential election rigging in the United States with Karl Rove and in the Ukraine with Paul Manafort in 2004, as portrayed at right and as described in his column Exclusive Investigative Commentary: Bush backed Kavanaugh to keep election thefts of 2000 and 2004 a secret.

The column, based on Madsen's years of covering election frauds, linked Kavanaugh and Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee to the Bush dynasty and its election-rigging operation headquartered in Chattanooga, TN,  where Corker was mayor before his 2006 election to the senate.

Madsen thereby explained the all-out Bush team pressure that kept such supposed "moderates" as Corker and former Bush appointee Susan Collins as strong Kavanaugh supporters despite their supposed willingness to weigh evidence fairly about  allegations against the nominee. Collins is married to Thomas Daffron, a lobbyist with deep ties to the Bush administration and powerful corporations.

Also, Ohio-based investigative reporters/authors Robert Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman published Will the Trump GOP Strip and Flip America's 2018 Election While the Democrats Fail to Protect the Vote?

djt brett kavanaugh anthony kennedy oct 8 2018 white houseEarlier this week, President Trump invited the newest justice and his family to the White House to reenact the official weekend swearing-in ceremony.

With Trump front and center and denouncing Democrats, the White House ceremony became a highly partisan attack by the president on "mobs" of protesters against the nominee.

Democrats and other protesters must be defeated at the polls in next month's elections to maintain law and order, the president urged as the new justice looked on during the celebration — thereby horrifying both Democrats and others who think presidents and judges should at least pretend to be non-partisan on formal occasions.

The spectacle was an especially flagrant disregard of norms for a non-partisan judiciary independent of party or president. That's because Kavanaugh, doubtless now deeply indebted to Trump, has argued that a president should not have to undergo civil or criminal litigation.

Oct. 10

The Atlantic, The Trump Campaign Says Exploiting Hacked Emails Is Free Speech, Natasha Bertrand, Oct. 10, 2018. Lawyers for the campaign asserted in court papers a right to disclose “even stolen information.”

In a motion to dismiss a new lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump’s campaign team of illegally conspiring with Russian agents to disseminate stolen emails during the election, Trump campaign lawyers have tried out a new defense: free speech.

The lawsuit, filed last month by two donors and one former employee of the Democratic National Committee, alleges that the Trump campaign, along with former Trump adviser Roger Stone, worked with Russia and WikiLeaks to publish hacked DNC emails, thereby violating their privacy.

But the Trump campaign — represented by Jeffrey Baltruzak, Michael A. Carvin, Nikki L. McArthur, and Vivek Suri, all of the law firm Jones Day — responded in a brief filed Tuesday that the campaign can’t be held legally responsible for WikiLeaks’s publication of the DNC emails.

Furthermore, the Trump lawyers argued, the First Amendment protects the campaign’s “right to disclose information — even stolen information — so long as (1) the speaker did not participate in the theft and (2) the information deals with matters of public concern.”

The motion’s language seems to further an argument made by Trump and his allies as they await the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into a potential conspiracy between the campaign and Russia in 2016: namely, that collusion, even if it involved the coordinated release and exploitation of a candidate’s emails during the presidential election, is not a crime.

Oct. 7

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Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, as his wife Ashley and two daughters look on, is sworn onto the court by Chief Justice John Roberts, whom Kavanaugh recommended for the court as Bush Administration White House Staff secretary (Supreme Court photo, Oct. 6, 2018). A political precedent used during the Republican installation of Associate Justice Clarence Thomas was to rush the swear-in in order to limit the impact of new scandal and protest for the lifetime appointment.

ny times logorepublican elephant logoNew York Times, Kavanaugh Is Sworn In After Close Confirmation Vote in Senate, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Oct. 7, 2018 (print edition). Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court on Saturday by one of the slimmest margins in American history, locking in a solid conservative majority on the court and capping a rancorous battle that began as a debate over judicial ideology and concluded with a national reckoning over sexual misconduct.

He was promptly sworn in by both Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy — the court’s longtime swing vote, whom he will replace — in a private ceremony.

brett kavanaugh zina bash c span sept 2018

Oct. 6

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The High Court Brought Low, The Editorial Board, Oct. 6, 2018 (print edition). Don’t let Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh have the last word about American justice.

The task of plugging the holes and patching the rents in the court’s legitimacy now falls to the justices themselves, mainly to Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. (shown at left) He john roberts omust know that every decision of political significance rendered by a 5-to-4 majority that includes a Justice Kavanaugh will, at the very least, appear to be the product of bias and vengeance. If he cares about the integrity of the court as much as he claims to, the chief will do everything in his power to steer the court away from cases, and rulings, that could deepen the nation’s political divide.

There’s work the rest of us can do as well.

We can, for one thing, find ways in our own workplaces and communities to assure victims of sexual assault that they will be respected if they come forward, even if so many national political figures are dismissive of them.

And if we disapprove of the direction of the courts, we can put the lessons Mitch McConnell taught us to work — and vote.

It’s worth noting that, of the five justices picked by Republicans, including Judge Kavanaugh, four were nominated by presidents who first took office after losing the popular vote. And the slim majority of senators who said they would vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh on Saturday represent tens of millions fewer Americans than the minority of senators who voted to reject him. The nation’s founders were wise to design the court as a counter-majoritarian institution, but they couldn’t have been picturing this.

Most Americans are not where this Senate majority is. They do not support President Trump. They do not approve of relentless partisanship and disregard for the integrity of democratic institutions. And they have the power to call their government to account.

GOP Wins Court Battlerepublican elephant logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Kavanaugh Is Sworn In After Close Confirmation Vote in Senate, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Oct. 6, 2018. Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court on Saturday by one of the slimmest margins in American history, locking in a solid conservative majority on the court and capping a rancorous battle that began as a debate over judicial ideology and concluded with a national reckoning over sexual misconduct.

He was promptly sworn in by both Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy — the court’s longtime swing vote, whom he will replace — in a private ceremony.

washington post logoWashington Post, Divided Senate confirms Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, Seung Min Kim and John Wagner, Oct. 6, 2018. The Senate voted to confirm Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh as the Supreme Court’s 114th justice on Saturday by one of the narrowest margins in the institution’s history, as police stood guard and protesters’ shouts of “shame, shame” echoed through the Senate chamber.

The 50-to-48 vote capped a brutal confirmation fight that underscored how deeply polarized the nation has become under President Trump, who has now successfully placed two justices on the nation’s highest court, cementing a conservative majority.

With Vice President Pence presiding, senators sat in their chairs and rose to cast their votes, repeatedly interrupted by protesters in the visitors’ gallery who yelled out and were removed by Capitol Police. The Supreme Court announced Kavanaugh would be sworn in later Saturday.

Oct. 3

Report: Trumps As Longtime Tax Cheats

ny times logoirs logoNew York Times, Special Investigation: Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father, David Barsow, Susanne Craig an Russ Buettner, Oct. 3, 2018 (print edition). The president has long sold himself as a self-made billionaire, but a Times investigation found that he received at least $413 million in today’s dollars from his father’s real estate empire, much of it through tax dodges in the 1990s.

ny times logoNew York Times, 4 Ways Fred Trump Made Donald Trump and His Siblings Rich, Susanne Craig, Russ Buettner,  and David Barstow, Oct. 3, 2018 (print edition). In Donald Trump’s version of how he got rich, he was the master dealmaker who parlayed a $1 million loan from his father into a $10 billion empire. But The Times’s investigation found that the president’s father created scores of revenue streams for his son.

ny times logoDonald TrumpNew York Times, 11 Takeaways From The Times’s Investigation Into Trump’s Wealth, Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and David Barstow, Oct. 3, 2018 (print edition). Based on a trove of confidential financial records, the Times report offers the first comprehensive look at the inherited fortune and tax dodges that guaranteed Donald Trump a gilded life.

djt fred trump daily bast photo illustation

Donald Trump, left, and his father Fred Trump (Daily Beast photo collage)

Daily Beast, Trump Attacks New York Times, but Doesn’t Deny Tax-Fraud Bombshell, Staff report, Oct. 3, 2018.  Donald Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday morning to once again attack The New York Times, this time over its bombshell investigation into the roots of his family’s real-estate business, which alleges tax evasion and “outright” fraud.

Notably, however, he did not dispute its findings. “The Failing New York Times did something I have never seen done before. They used the concept of “time value of money” in doing a very old, boring and often told hit piece on me,” he wrote, apparently unaware that the time value of money is a common economic concept. “Added up, this means that 97% of their stories on me are bad,” he added. “Never recovered from bad election call!” The Times report claims Trump helped his family avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes, and that the “self-made billionaire” received more than $413 million from his parents.

Daily Beast, Filing by Trump’s Federal Judge Sister Led to NYT Tax-Fraud Exposé, Staff report, Oct. 3, 2018. The next Trump family reunion might be a bit contentious. The New York Times has revealed that its bombshell story about Donald Trump engaging in “dubious” tax schemes and “outright” fraud to increase his inheritance from his parents’ wealth came about because of a filing made by his federal judge sister.

Journalist Susanne Craig said she found the disclosure form Maryanne Trump Barry filed as part of her Senate confirmation hearing. It showed a $1 million contribution from an obscure family-owned company: All County Building Supply & Maintenance. “‘What the heck?’” Craig remembered thinking, leading her to talk to people who detailed Fred Trump’s dubious method of moving cash from his companies to his children. The Times describes Maryanne Trump Barry’s filing as a “central finding” of the story.

Supreme Court Battle

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Taunts Christine Blasey Ford at Rally, At an event in Mississippi, Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker, Oct. 3, 2018 (print edition). President Trump mocked the woman who accused Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexual assault. He imitated her, exaggerating her responses at last week’s hearing. The crowd cheered.

washington post logojeff flake oWashington Post, ‘Just plain wrong’: Flake, Collins criticize Trump’s attack on Ford, John Wagner and Seung Min Kim​, Oct. 3, 2018. Republican Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), right and Susan Collins (Maine) are considered crucial to the confirmation prospects of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh.

Oct. 2

Trump Tax Fraud?

david cay johnston headshotDaily Beast, Opinion: New York Times Exposed Trump’s Tax Fraud. Time for the Authorities to Go After Him, David Cay Johnston, right, Oct. 2, 2018. The many scams executed by Donald and his family have now been exposed. It’s time for Congress, the IRS, and New York state to step up.

For decades Donald Trump, his parents and siblings cheated on taxes in numerous ways, The New York Times reported in an extraordinarily thorough and well documented expose published on Tuesday night.

In a meticulously reported 14,000-word article, the paper demolishes Donald’s claims that he is a self-made billionaire who started out with a $1 million loan from his father Fred, which he paid back with interest. Donald got at least $413 million, in today’s money, from his father and never fully repaid his loans.

The Times obtained access to more than 100,000 pages of Trump documents including “bank statements, financial audits, accounting ledgers, cash disbursement reports, invoices, and canceled checks. Most notably, the documents include more than 200 tax returns from Fred Trump, his companies and various Trump partnerships and trusts.” It did not get any of the president’s personal tax returns.

The arcane and difficult subjects of both tax and accounting are masterfully explained in plain English. As the paper’s former tax reporter, and the journalist who has covered Trump the longest, I’m in a solid position to judge the depth and quality of their work. It is masterful.

The Times expose is exactly what it purports to be: “unprecedented in scope and precision.” And it shows in vivid detail how egregious the tax cheating was—not chiseling here and there, but gigantic lies to escape lawful burdens. The piece goes far beyond the two civil income tax fraud trials Trump lost, news I broke in The Daily Beast two years ago.

Most if not all of the transactions detailed in The Times can be pursued as civil tax fraud by both the federal and New York state governments. Neither the federal or state governments have statutes of limitations on civil fraud. Generally, criminal tax cases are limited to returns filed in the past six years.

State tax authorities said Tuesday night they were looking into the facts reported by The Times. Since June 15, DCReport has been calling for a criminal investigation of Trump’s taxes. After our readers flooded Governor Andrew Cuomo with phone calls he signaled his approval of such an inquiry.


Sept. 28

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats’ lawsuit alleging Trump’s business violates Constitution can proceed, judge rules, Jonathan O'Connell, David A. Fahrenthold and Carol D. Leonnig​, Sept. 28, 2018. ​The federal judge’s decision means that the Trump Organization is now facing two lawsuits claiming it is improperly receiving payments from foreign governments.

A federal judge on Friday gave the go-ahead to a lawsuit filed by 200 congressional Democrats against President Trump alleging he has violated the Constitution by doing business with foreign governments while in office.

The lawsuit is based on the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bars presidents from taking payments from foreign states. Trump’s business, which he still owns, has hosted foreign embassy events and visiting foreign officials at its downtown D.C. hotel.

richard blumenthal portraitThe decision opens up yet another legal front for the president, who is now facing an array of inquiries into his business, his campaign and his charity. In his ruling, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan wrote that the members of Congress “appropriate seek relief in federal court” because they have no way to address their concern about Trump’s alleged violation of the emoluments clause with legislation.

The congressional plaintiffs, led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), right, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), asked the court to force Trump to stop accepting payments they consider improper — or to force him to seek Congress’s consent first.

Sept. 24

rod rosenstein oath cropped no credit Small

washington post logoWashington Post, Rod Rosenstein, who had been overseeing Russia probe, has offered to resign, Devlin Barrett, Ashley Parker and Carol D. Leonnig, Sept. 24, 2018. Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein has told White House officials he is willing to resign in the wake of revelations he once suggested secretly recording the president, but it’s unclear if the resignation has been accepted, according to people familiar with the matter.

One Justice Department official said Rosenstein was on his way to the White House Monday and is preparing to be fired. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is shown in a file photo.

Rosenstein had been overseeing the investigation of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates conspired with those efforts. It wasn’t immediately clear what Rosenstein’s departure might mean for that investigation, or who now would oversee it, though that role could naturally fall to Solicitor General Noel Francisco.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rod Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General, Is Expected to Leave Job, Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Sept. 24, 2018. Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, was expected to leave days after private discussions were revealed in which he talked about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office. Mr. Rosenstein was the top Justice Department official overseeing the Russia investigation, and had been a fierce defender of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel.

Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, was planning on Monday to leave his job at the Justice Department, days after private discussions were revealed in which he talked about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office and secretly taping him to expose chaos in the administration.

Justice Department log circularIt was not immediately clear whether he expected to be fired by Mr. Trump or whether he planned to resign. Justice Department officials said on Monday morning that he was on his way to the White House expecting to be fired. But over the weekend, Mr. Rosenstein called a White House official and said he was considering quitting, and a person close to the White House said he was resigning.

[Read New York Times, Rosenstein Suggested Secretly Recording Trump and Discussed 25th Amendment, Adam Goldman and Michael S. Schmidt, Sept. 21, 2018.]

It was also unclear whether Mr. Trump would accept a resignation that would likely thrust the administration into further turmoil just weeks before November’s midterm elections. As the top Justice Department official overseeing the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, Mr. Rosenstein had long been the target of Mr. Trump’s bitter grievance about what he calls a politically motivated witch hunt.

Mr. Rosenstein had been a fierce defender of Mr. Mueller, repeatedly refusing to consider firing him despite accusations by Mr. Trump and his allies that the special counsel is part of a Democratic conspiracy to undermine his presidency. His departure prompted immediate questions about whether Mr. Trump would seek next to topple Mr. Mueller, a move he tried to orchestrate last year, only to be talked down by his White House counsel.

Sept. 21

Et Tu, Rod?

rod rosenstein oath cropped no credit Small

ny times logoNew York Times, Rosenstein Suggested Secretly Recording Trump and Discussed 25th Amendment, Adam Goldman and Michael S. Schmidt, Sept. 21, 2018.The deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, shown above in a file photo, suggested last year that he secretly record President Trump in the White House to expose the chaos consuming the administration, and he discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit.

Mr. Rosenstein made these suggestions in the spring of 2017 when Mr. Trump’s firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director plunged the White House into turmoil. Over the ensuing days, the president divulged classified intelligence to Russians in the Oval Office, and revelations emerged that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Comey to pledge loyalty and end an investigation into a senior aide.

Justice Department log circularMr. Rosenstein was just two weeks into his job. He had begun overseeing the Russia investigation and played a key role in the president’s dismissal of Mr. Comey by writing a memo critical of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But Mr. Rosenstein was caught off guard when Mr. Trump cited the memo in the firing, and he began telling people that he feared he had been used.

None of Mr. Rosenstein’s proposals apparently came to fruition.

washington post logoWashington Post, McCabe memos say Rosenstein considered secretly recording Trump, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, Sept. 21, 2018. Memos written by Andrew McCabe when he was the acting FBI director say Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein suggested he secretly record his talks with President Trump, and that Rosenstein discussed possibly trying to remove Trump from office, according to people familiar with the matter.

The account, first reported by the New York Times, paints Rosenstein as so concerned in May 2017 in the wake of Trump’s firing of then-FBI Director James B. Comey that he contemplated secretly recording conversations with the president. He also initiated discussions about invoking the 25th Amendment, which details how the Cabinet can decide whether a president is no longer able to discharge the duties of the office, one of the McCabe memos said.

andrew mcCabe oThe revelations immediately prompted speculation that Trump might seize on the new information to fire Rosenstein. The deputy attorney general oversees special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates conspired in those efforts.

The saga features two of the president’s biggest targets for public criticism, McCabe, shown at right, and Rosenstein, both of whom he blames for an investigation he calls a “witch hunt.” In this instance, McCabe’s memos offer an extraordinary account of Rosenstein’s thinking at a difficult time in the Justice Department and could could give Trump fresh ammunition to move to oust Rosenstein. McCabe was fired this year, and a grand jury is weighing possible charges against him for allegedly misleading investigators in a leak probe.

Rosenstein denied the account.

“The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect,” Rosenstein said. “I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”

People familiar with the 2017 discussions — and the memos written about the discussions — offered wildly divergent accounts of what was said and what was meant.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Washington Post exposes New York Times story on Rod Rosenstein for being bullshit, Bill Palmer, Sept. 21, 2018. “No, that could never happen, major newspapers have better standards than that.” This is the reflexive response I’ve been getting from some observers in the two hours since I called bullshit on the New York Times story about Rod Rosenstein wanting to wear a wire and wanting to invoke the 25th Amendment.

Unfortunately, the reality is that major media outlets do often walk into traps set by inside sources with an axe to grind. It’s pretty clearly what just happened here – and it’s yet another reminder that if Donald Trump knows how to do one thing well, it’s to take advantage of the mainstream media’s willingness to play the role of braindead stenographer.

ny times logoThe New York Times story in question is already being exposed a work of fiction.

For instance the Washington Post just reported, from another source who was in the meeting in question, that Rosenstein’s remark about wearing a wire “was said in a moment of sarcasm, and that the 25th amendment was not discussed.” If you make an obviously sarcastic remark in order to demonstrate that a certain scenario isn’t realistic, and someone writes a story claiming that you offered up that scenario as a realistic option, that’s a fake story – period.

Sadly, none of this should come as a surprise. We spent the entire 2016 election cycle seeing that major news outlets often give us dubious and even false stories based on inside sources they know are biased and/or unreliable.

Most major newspapers think “journalism” equals printing anything that’s been given to them by multiple inside sources, even if those sources aligned with each other, and even if those sources are biased to the point that their claims about their adversaries shouldn’t be believed. Most cable news hosts think “journalism” equals quoting major newspapers as if they were the word of God, and then offering doomsday speculation about it to keep you tuned in.

But anyone with their thinking cap on today knows that this story is sourced to Team Trump, and that it’s a dishonest attempt at setting the groundwork for ousting Rosenstein, and that it’s a direct response to this morning’s failure of Trump’s declassification gambit, which was also an attempt at ousting Rosenstein.

This Rosenstein story is quickly being exposed as a wildly out of context work of fiction from sources with an axe to grind – just like all the false reporting on Hillary’s emails.

Today is a good day to take a look around at the various political reporters and pundits, and to see who has the guts to state the obvious. In this industry, you take a lot of heat for pointing out that someone as big as the New York Times has run an obviously bullshit story.

Lazy thinkers out there don’t want to hear it from you, because it’s easier for them to just pretend every word they hear from the Times is fact. And competing pundits (on both sides) then use it as an opportunity to paint you as some kind of conspiracy theorist for going against the Times. It’s so much easier on days like this to just go with the flow.

So let’s see who in this industry has the guts and integrity today to speak the truth about this story.

Supreme Court Battle

djt brett kavanaugh family 7 9 18 Small

President Trump introduces U.S. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh, shown with family, as his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court on July 9, 2018 (White House photo)

Center for American Progress, Opinion: Kavanaugh’s Credibility Chasm, Jake Faleschini and Jesse Lee, Sept. 21, 2018. Amid a crisis in Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination process, new reports suggest that President Trump’s nominee may have been personally involved in a public relations effort to shift blame for sexual assault allegations made against him onto another specific individual with unsubstantiated speculation from an ally.

This alone would demonstrate a deep breach of integrity and credibility and would be disqualifying in itself for a position on the highest court in the land. Unfortunately, it also aligns with an entire career using dishonest tactics and statements to advance his personal ambition.

In Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s first words on the national stage as a Supreme Court nominee, he made two plainly false statements in quick succession. In a vacuum, they might be dismissed as overly effusive pleasantries; in fact, they were part of a decades-long pattern of defaulting toward deception whenever useful.

“Mr. President, thank you. Throughout this process, I’ve witnessed firsthand your appreciation for the vital role of the American judiciary,” Kavanaugh stated. This immediately stood as a refutation of Trump’s previous nominee Neil Gorsuch, who had in fact condemned Trump’s well-known, ruthless attacks on the judiciary, reportedly leaving Trump outraged. Kavanaugh was making clear there that he would offer no such dissent. In fact, Kavanaugh later refused to echo Gorsuch’s criticism of Trump in his own hearing.

Later in his initial statement, Kavanaugh said, “No president has ever consulted more widely, or talked with more people from more backgrounds, to seek input about a Supreme Court nomination.” Again, this claim is ridiculous on its face and is reminiscent of early Trump Cabinet meetings where attendees would heap superlative praise upon Trump. But it also spoke to a deeper deception: In fact, Trump had explicitly promised to choose his nominee off of a pre-approved list from conservative advocacy groups, a list to which Kavanaugh’s name had mysteriously been added just months before.

More generally, though, Kavanaugh’s statement shows he opts to say what is best in the moment in order to advance his career. This is even if those statements were objectively — even obviously — misleading. However, this is no new tactic for Kavanaugh. As shown below, this has been a hallmark of his entire career.

  • Leaking information for Ken Starr
  • Accessing stolen documents
  • Warrantless wiretapping
  • Judicial Nominations
  • Sexual harassment allegations against Judge Alex Kozinski
  • Roe v. Wade
  • Presidential Power

Kavanaugh began his career as a political operative willing to use whatever deceptive means necessary — from leaking in the special counsel’s office to dealing with stolen documents in court fights while in the White House. Worse than that, though, when he attempted to transition into a career in the judicial branch, he neither changed his ways nor owned up to his past behavior. Instead, he repeatedly misled the Senate about his prior deceptions, from one confirmation hearing to the next.

Kavanaugh may have rightly believed that, with the Senate controlled by other partisan Republicans, lying and misconstruing facts regarding his record would have no consequence. Indeed, Senate Republicans have blocked any review of the vast majority of his record, so this list of false and misleading statements represents only a small portion of the total.

But, as his Supreme Court confirmation process comes to a head — hinging precisely on whether his denials of credible accusations against him should be believed — Kavanaugh’s record of almost casual deception has caught up with him. The American people simply have no reason to believe him.

Sept. 20

abc news logoABC News, Michael Cohen spoke to Mueller team for hours; asked about Russia, possible collusion, pardon: Sources, George Stephanopoulos, Eliana Larramendia and James Hill, Sept. 20, 2018. President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has participated over the last month in multiple interview sessions lasting for hours with investigators from the office of special counsel, Robert Mueller, sources tell ABC News.Interested in Russia Investigation?

Add Russia Investigation as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Russia Investigation news, video, and analysis from ABC News.

The special counsel’s questioning of Cohen, one of the president’s closest associates over the past decade, has focused primarily on all aspects of Trump's dealings with Russia -- including financial and business dealings and the investigation into alleged collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign and its surrogates to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

Sept. 19

'This Incident Did Happen'

christine blasey ford high schoolThe New Civil Rights Movement, 'This Incident Did Happen': Woman Says She Knew Kavanaugh and 'Many of Us Heard About It in School,' David Badash, Sept. 19, 2018. Christine Blasey Ford's high school who have signed on to a letter supporting her has come forward to say Brett Kavanaugh did sexually assault Christine Blasey in high school. Dr. Ford is shown at right in high school. She says she was 15 at the time she was attacked.

In postings to Facebook and Twitter, which she says she has since deleted because the media is contacting her and she is unsure of how to move forward, Christina King writes that at the time, 'many of us heard about it in school and Christine's recollection should be more than enough for us to truly, deeply know the accusation is true.'

King, who has also been identified as Christina King Miranda, says drinking in those days at these private Catholic prep schools was 'out of control.'

See also, OpEdNews, 'This Incident Did Happen': Woman Says She Knew Kavanaugh and 'Many of Us Heard About It in School, Rob Kall (Founder and publisher of prominent progressive site OpEdNews that has extensive social media capabilities), Sept. 19, 2018. Quick Link: 'This Incident Did Happen.'

Sept. 18

Trump's Judicial Team At Senate

senate gop judiciary

Republican U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Members

Yahoo News, Analysis: Republican men — and not a single GOP woman — will be Christine Blasey Ford's interrogators on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Alexander Nazaryan, Sept. 18, 2018. Next week, Christine Blasey Ford will likely face intense questioning from Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee about the truthfulness of her accusations against Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee, who she says attempted to rape her during a party in the 1980s. Her turn on Capitol Hill could decide Kavanaugh’s suddenly uncertain fate, as well as the Supreme Court’s direction for a generation.

republican elephant logoFord will face questions from the 11 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Ford will face questions from the 11 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, all of them men, with an average age of 62. (The chairman, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the second-oldest sitting senator, is 85.) In the committee’s 202-year history, it has not had a single Republican woman. Four of the 10 Democrats are women, including ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who is a few months older than Grassley. The committee has never been chaired by a woman.

The spectacle of Ford, 51, being interrogated about her sexual history by older men could present an uncomfortable sight that the White House may take great pains to avoid. The outrage over that discrepancy, however, is already building. “In the year 2018, a group of white men has essentially complete control over lifetime nominations to an entire branch of government,” tweeted Robert Reich, the former Labor secretary and current Berkeley professor. The message was retweeted more than 2,000 times

In the last 40 years, use of the judiciary to advance ideological goals has rendered the process of nominating judges highly political, with nominees evaluated on a narrow range of cultural issues, notably abortion, gun control and, until recently, gay marriage. That has tended to turn the Senate Judiciary into a hotbed of assertive ideologues, including, recently, Jeff Sessions and Ted Cruz. GOP women have made their contributions elsewhere, effectively ceding judicial nominations to their male counterparts.

Sept 17, 2018

Justice Integrity Project

By Andrew Kreig

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

Paul Manafort admitted during his federal court plea deal too many crimes to mention here or in any other news commentary of reasonable length.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson told her courtroom in the nation’s capital that she had never previously heard such a long litany of crimes, which are reported here in a court filing.

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

evan perez cnn sept 14 2018 manafort plea jip MG 5396 Medium

A Justice Integrity Project photo shows CNN’s Justice Department correspondent Evan Perez reporting on the Sept. 14 Manafort guilty plea

It's being widely reported that Manafort could now be sharing secrets deeply damaging to President Trump and his family on such topics as the 2016 Trump Tower strategy meeting Republican National Convention Decodedwith Donald Trump Jr. and Russian representatives and also the reasons why the Trump campaign made a pro-Russia change in the GOP campaign platform under Manafort's leadership at the Republican National Convention in 2016.

More generally, the public sees the remarkable number of high-level aides to Trump who have been indicted and convicted. These include Manafort's longtime aide Rick Gates. Gates was also the 2016 Deputy National Campaign chairman and a leader of the Trump Inaugural. Others indicted and convicted include former Director of National Intelligence Michael Flynn and Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

allen weisselberg croppedPerhaps even more devastating to a Trump defense and other efforts to block an investigation are the massive documentation collected by Mueller's team and other federal and state prosecution allies.

These documents encompass White House and other federal records, nearly all of Cohen's professional records (possibly including tapes of conservations with Trump and others) and records kept by the Trump Organization's long-serving Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, shown at right, and likely including Trump's secret tax returns.

Yet there are other important aspects to Manafort's plea and forthcoming cooperation with prosecutors. Our picks as “notable news nuggets” are below, along with an appendix excerpting major news treatments published elsewhere.

  • Hiring 'the Best': Manafort Is 'The Swamp'
  • Manafort Admits To All Charges (Even those from the hung jury in Virginia)
  • Guilt Includes $16 Million Fraudulent Loan From Would-be Army Secretary
  • Mueller Probe Is Not a 'Witch-hunt' If Pro-Russian Party Paid Manafort To Hurt Hillary
  • Forfeitures Now Meet or Exceed Mueller Probe's Cost

Looking Ahead:

  • Forfeiture Precedent For United States To Seize Trump Assets Gained Via Crime?
  • Real Reason Why Manafort Backed Mike Pence For Vice President

Sept. 15

GOP Lobbyist's Crime Career

washington post logoWashington Post, Guilty plea exposes hardball tactics Manafort used to thrive in ‘swamp,’ Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Matt Zapotosky, Sept. 15, 2018. Before he was the Trump campaign chairman, the lobbyist went to extreme lengths in a secret effort to help a Ukrainian politician, court papers show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 14

paul manafort rick gates nbcnews

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

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

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

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

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

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

In August, Manafort was found guilty on eight out of 18 counts of financial crimes in his first trial in Virginia. The jury was deadlocked on the remaining 10 counts, which ended in mistrial. As part of his plea agreement, Manafort has admitted his guilt to the rest of the bank fraud counts in Virginia, and in return, the government will not retry the other counts in which a mistrial was declared.

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

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

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

paul manafort cnn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sept. 13

ABC News, Paul Manafort and special counsel reach tentative plea deal: Sources, Katherine Faulders, Trish Turner, John Santucci and Matthew Mosk, Sept. 13, 2018. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has tentatively agreed to a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller that will head off his upcoming trial, sources familiar with the negotiations tell ABC News.

The deal is expected to be announced in court Friday, but it remains unclear whether Manafort has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors or is simply conceding to a guilty plea, paul manafort mugwhich would allow him to avoid the stress and expense of trial, according to three sources with knowledge of the discussions.

Manafort, shown in a mug shot, and his most senior defense attorneys spent more than four hours Thursday in discussions with a team of special prosecutors who are involved in the ongoing investigation into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

ABC News spotted the team arriving in a dark SUV Thursday morning, pulling into a secret entrance out of public view at the building where Special Counsel Robert Mueller is based.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Everything just went down the toilet for Donald Trump Jr and Jared Kushner, Bill Palmer, Sept. 13, 2018. Paul Manafort and Special Counsel Robert Mueller have tentatively agreed to a plea deal, and while we don’t yet know if that deal will officially require Manafort to cooperate with the Trump-Russia investigation, that part doesn’t matter. Manafort is doing this in the hope he might get out of prison before the end of his natural life, meaning he’s going to sell out everyone he can sell out. That’s an instant nightmare for at least two members of Donald Trump’s family.

Donald Trump Jr is in seventeen kinds of legal trouble over his Trump Tower meeting with Russian government representatives during the election. His own emails reveal that he went into that meeting seeking dirt on Hillary Clinton, which means he attempted to receive stolen goods, and he attempted to receive foreign items of value on behalf of a campaign – both felonies. But these kinds of criminal cases are always made much stronger by a cooperating witness.

washington post logoPresident Donald Trump officialWashington Post, Trump has made more than 5,000 false or misleading claims as president, Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly, Sept. 13, 2018 (print edition).  The president — who broke the 2,000-mark for questionable claims in January — has averaged 32 false or misleading claims a day in just the past nine days.

Sept. 12

Palmer Report, Analysis: Donald Trump mistakenly spilled his guts to a lawyer he had no attorney-client privilege with, Bill Palmer, Sept. 12, 2018. As far back as last year, Palmer Report has been pointing out that Donald Trump never had any attorney-client privilege with his lawyer Ty Cobb, because he had put Cobb on the White House payroll to save money. We’ve long asked the question of whether Trump was aware of this, because if he confessed his crimes to Cobb, then Cobb would be legally required to sell him out to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Now we have our answer.

Bob Woodward’s new book was released today. It exposes a conversation between Donald Trump and his former criminal defense attorney John Dowd. In that conversation, Dowd explains to Trump that there was never any attorney-client privilege between Trump and Ty Cobb. Trump’s response: “Jesus.”

It turns out Trump had told Cobb all kinds of things that he suddenly regretted. The book doesn’t reveal what those things specifically are, but Trump’s shocked and panicked response makes clear that he told Cobb things he shouldn’t.

Because there is no attorney-client privilege, it means that Ty Cobb is required by law to tell Robert Mueller everything that Donald Trump ever said to him. So unless Cobb is willing to go to prison in order to protect Trump, which is highly doubtful, it means Cobb is going to sell Trump out to Mueller – and he probably already has.

washington post logoWashington Post, Liquor board declines to act on Trump’s liquor license after residents complain about his character, Rachel Chason, Sept. 12, 2018. An effort by a group of D.C. residents to strip Trump International Hotel of its liquor license by arguing its owner — the president — is not of “good character” hit a roadblock Wednesday when the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board declined to review the case.

The board cited a technicality, noting that the character of liquor license owners is not reviewed at will, but when liquor licenses are issued, transferred or renewed. The five board members present Wednesday did not rule on the substance of the complaint, which suggests that President Trump is violating the D.C. law that states license applicants must be of “good character and generally fit for the responsibilities of licensure.”

“It is important to note that all hotel liquor license owners in the District of Columbia are required to apply for a renewal of their license by March 31, 2019,” Chair Donovan Anderson said following his decision, opening the possibility that the residents could file their complaint again next year.

But Joshua Levy, the attorney who filed the complaint on behalf of seven residents — three ministers, two retired judges and two rabbis — said the group does not plan to wait until next year and will submit a filing asking the board to reconsider its decision.

“The facts are so compelling right now,” Levy said after the ruling. “The board has a duty to act right now.”

Anderson said the board conducted a regulatory inspection of the Trump hotel following the complaint and found one alleged sale to a minor, which Anderson said does not have bearing on the good character complaint but will be reviewed by the board later this month.

The group behind the complaint, called “Make Integrity Great Again,” is backed by Jerry Hirsch, an Arizona Republican who practiced law and ran real estate and technology companies before becoming a philanthropist.

Hirsch said in a statement Wednesday that he found it puzzling that the board decided the complaint on a technicality.

Sept. 9

bob woodward david martin cbs

Author Bob Woodward, right, is interviewed by David Martin of CBS (CBS photo)

CBS News, Bob Woodward: "People better wake up to what's going on" in the Oval Office, David Martin, Sept. 9, 2018. Watergate journalist Bob Woodward made headlines once again this past week, with his new book about the Trump White House, entitled Fear. This morning, in his first TV interview, Woodward paints a picture for our David Martin of an administration in disarray:

"You look at the operation of this White House and you have to say, 'Let's hope to God we don't have a crisis,'" said Bob Woodward.

For the Washington Post reporter, that is the bottom line to all the jaw-dropping chaos and discord described in his new book, "Fear: Trump in the White House" (published by Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS).

"People who work for him are worried ... that he will sign things or give orders that threaten the national security or the financial security of the country, or of the world," Woodward said.

Aides like then-Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn and White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter literally stole documents off the president's desk in the Oval Office, such as a letter terminating a trade agreement with South Korea, so that, Woodward explained, Mr. Trump could not sign them: "Because they realized that this would endanger the country."

Martin asked, "How'd they get away with that?"

"[Trump] doesn't remember. If it's not on his desk, if it's not immediately available for action, it goes away."

Axios Sneak Peek,  Scoop: Inside Trump's biggest hire, Jonathan Swan, Sept. 9, 2018. President Trump was bluffing when he tweeted that he knows the successor to White House counsel Don McGahn, and instead he is vacillating about new legal leaders as he girds for open warfare with Democrats and Robert Mueller. The newest name on the president's mind: Fannie Mae general counsel Brian Brooks, two sources with direct knowledge tell me.

don mcgahn cato screengrabTrump wants somebody who'll be unquestioningly loyal — who'll be "his guy" and defend him on TV, said a source familiar with his thinking. (McGahn, right, fulfills neither criteria: He's independent-minded, TV-shy and makes no effort to disguise his contempt for Jared and Ivanka.)

Why it matters: This is, by far, Trump's most important current staffing decision. The climax of Mueller's probe lies ahead. And the White House faces the possibility of impeachment proceedings — and certainty of endless subpoenas and investigations — if Democrats win the House in November.

Emmet Flood, the White House attorney dealing with Mueller's investigation, looked set to take the job. But Axios has learned that Trump is now seriously considering Brooks, a low-profile member of Washington's high-powered legal community. Flood is still very much in contention, along with Washington litigator Pat Cipollone, according to sources involved in the process.

No decision is likely for a few weeks, one of those sources said. Meanwhile, the White House Counsel's office is down to bare bones. McGahn is leaving soon, almost all of his deputies have departed and the office is nowhere near equipped for the storm that's likely coming.

washington post logobob woodward fear trump in the white houseWashington Post, Bob Woodward’s meticulous, frightening look inside the Trump White House, Jill Abramson, Sept. 9, 2018 (print edition). Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times, is a columnist for the Guardian and senior lecturer in Harvard’s English department. Her book “Merchants of Truth: The Business of Facts and the Future of News” will be published in January.

It’s hard to imagine a more disturbing portrait of a president than the one Bob Woodward painted of Richard Nixon in his final days: paranoid, poisoned by power, pounding the carpet and talking to the portraits on the walls. But the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency, as recounted by Woodward in his new book, Fear, are strikingly similar and in some ways even more gut-wrenching. Then, as now, the country faced a crisis of leadership caused by a president’s fatal flaws and inability to function in the job.

In both Fear and “Te Final Days, which he co-authored with Carl Bernstein, Woodward shows how a federal criminal investigation clouds and then comes to obsess a president and paralyze the operations of the White House. At a moment when feverish talk of presidential impeachment dominates the political discourse, Fear is full of Nixonian echoes, including Trump’s childishly short attention span and refusal to read briefing papers. Nixon’s aides were instructed not to give him anything more complicated than a Reader’s Digest article.

Fear is an important book, not only because it raises serious questions about the president’s basic fitness for the office but also because of who the author is. Woodward’s dogged investigative reporting led to Nixon’s resignation. He has written or co-authored 18 books, 12 of them No. 1 bestsellers; broken other major stories as a reporter and associate editor of The Washington Post; and won two Pulitzer Prizes. His work has been factually unassailable. (His judgment is certainly not perfect, and he has been self-critical about his belief, based on reporting before the Iraq War, that there were weapons of mass destruction.)

 donald trump arianne zucker billy bush access hollywood

In this 2005 frame from video, Donald Trump prepares for an appearance on ‘Days of Our Lives’ with actress Arianne Zucker. He is accompanied to the set by Access Hollywood host Billy Bush.

washington post logoWashington Post, Who’s taping now? In Trump’s world, everything is recorded, Sarah Ellison​, Sept. 9, 2018.  There was a time when recordings were definitive. The release of key segments of Richard Nixon’s tape recordings of his conversations in the Oval Office were a decisive step in his road to impeachment. But there are important differences between then and now.

Video or it didn’t happen. That was almost the lesson nearly two years ago when The Washington Post published the “Access Hollywood” tape capturing Donald Trump on a hot mic bragging about grabbing women’s genitals.

Except the world learned something else. With Trump, the normal rules don’t apply: Even with a video, there are those who will still argue it didn’t really happen.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump to provide written answers under oath in Summer Zervos defamation lawsuit, Elise Viebeck, Sept. 9, 2018. The former contestant on “The Apprentice” says President Trump groped her in 2007. Court rules require the statements to be sworn, meaning that false answers could open Trump to charges of perjury.

Sept. 7

djt tump int hotel

The Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington while the site of the historic Old Post Office was under reconstruction (Justice Integrity Project photo). City residents have challenged Trump's liquor license on "good character" grounds in a filing here to be heard on Wednesday, Sept. 12

HuffPost, More ‘Bad Character’ Examples Added To Trump’s DC Liquor License Challenge, Mary Papenfuss, Sept. 7, 2018. The president needs to be “of good character” if he wants to hold on to his liquor license for Trump International Hotel.

A unique challenge by District of Columbia citizens to President Donald Trump’s liquor license has been updated to list even more examples of his alleged “bad character” that could threaten the president’s continued ability to have alcohol served at his Trump International Hotel.

New accusations concerning Trump’s character include revelations by the president’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen in court that Trump ordered him to make payments during the presidential campaign to cover up information about alleged affairs. Trump later acknowledged that the payments came from him. That means Trump “likely committed serious violations of the campaign finance laws,” according to supplemental documents added Thursday to the original challenge.

He also made “misleading statements regarding his son Donald Trump, Jr.’s June 2016 meeting” at Trump Tower with a Kremlin-connected attorney to get “dirt” on presidential rival Hillary Clinton, and then “lied to cover up his role in the crafting of the misleading statement” about the meeting, the document states.

“This new evidence of criminal conduct further supports Mr. Trump’s lack of good character,” the document says.

Third Supplement to Complaint by on Scribd

Five local religious leaders and two retired judges are challenging the liquor license Trump holds for his hotel in the District of Columbia, arguing that he doesn’t have the “good character” required by law to hold such a license.

By law, if the “true and actual owner of the establishment” serving alcohol is not “of good character,” the liquor license can be suspended or revoked by the local Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

“The president is not above the law,” attorney Joshua Levy told HuffPost. “There’s no excuse or exception, even for the president of the United States.”

Editor's note: The challenge here to the hotel's liquor license will be heard on Wednesday, Sept. 12, by the District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), chaired by  Donovan Anderson at its offices at 2000 14th St. NW in the city. The board agenda here suggests that discussion will be in executive session as part of a day-long proceeding with numerous other restaurant-related disputes.

Manafort Plea Deal?

Bloomberg, Manafort Weighing Plea Deal to Avoid New Criminal Trial, Source Says, David Voreacos and Neil Weinberg, Sept. 7, 2018. Paul Manafort’s lawyers have talked to U.S. prosecutors about a possible guilty plea to avert a second criminal trial set to begin in Washington this month, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, was convicted of bank and tax fraud last month in a Virginia federal court. He’s accused in Washington of financial crimes including conspiring to launder money, as well as acting as an unregistered foreign agent of Ukraine and obstructing justice.

paul manafort mugThe negotiations over a potential plea deal have centered on which charges Manafort, shown in a mug shot, might admit and the length of the sentence to be recommended by prosecutors working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the person familiar with the matter said. Manafort, 69, already faces as long as 10 years in prison under advisory sentencing guidelines in the Virginia case.

By pleading guilty, Manafort could avoid the risk of a longer prison term if he’s convicted at a second trial, as well as the threat of forfeiting several properties and financial accounts. He could also save the cost of paying lawyers to defend him at trial. Such white-collar criminal cases can cost defendants millions of dollars.

The talks may break down without a deal, but if they succeed, they could prompt Mueller to request a reduced sentence in both the Washington and Virginia cases.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘There’s a new sheriff in town’: Trump uses official events to wage campaign against press, David Nakamura, Sept. 7, 2018. The president enlisted law enforcement officers to amplify his criticism of an anonymous New York Times op-ed during a White House ceremony.

It was supposed to be a quick photo op with President Trump. But the 44 sheriffs at the White House got a lot more than that when Trump conscripted them as unwitting bystanders in a withering assault Wednesday on a critical, anonymous essay about him in the New York Times. In a surreal setting, the president turned to the uniformed law enforcement officers, assembled on a small riser in the stately East Room, for explicit support as he attacked the “dishonest media” as a “disgrace.”

“Hey, I’ll ask the sheriffs: Can you imagine?” Trump said, responding to a reporter’s shouted question about the opinion piece. It was purportedly written by a senior official in the Trump administration who suggested a “quiet resistance” of fretful aides who were conspiring to protect the nation from an unstable president.

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: Stop looking for the anonymous writer. Start looking at Trump, Jennifer Rubin, right, Sept. 7, 2018. In true Washington fashion, the anonymous New York Times op-ed sparked an irrational, unproductive search for the author’s identity. If an unnamed “senior official” told us WWIII was about to break out, we wouldn’t spend our waking hours trying to find the reporter; we’d be trying to figure out whether he was right, what the consequences might be and how to stop it or ameliorate its ill effects.

Nevertheless, the fruitless search for the op-ed writer distracts us from the calamity. The president, we are repeatedly told by people close to him, is nonfunctioning, irrational and unfit to such a degree that he’s not fulfilling his job in a meaningful way. I’m inclined to agree with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who told CNN: “If senior administration officials think the President of the United States is not able to do his job, then they should invoke the 25th Amendment.”

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘A never-ending cycle’: Book, op-ed show how some Trump aides work to curb his instincts, Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Greg Jaffe, Sept. 7, 2018 (print edition). This week’s revelations of a purported “resistance” force of senior government officials acting as guardrails against President Trump — manipulating him, infantilizing him and ignoring his directives — raised the specter of a shadow administration.

“Who’s in charge at the White House?” a reporter shouted at Trump on Thursday as he departed for a rally in Montana.

The president did not answer.

An anonymous op-ed in the New York Times, from someone identified only as a senior official, and a new Bob Woodward book, Fear, detail efforts at the highest levels of the government to contain Trump’s impulses and, in the most extreme cases, defy and even undermine his orders.

The successive disclosures crystallized what has long been evident throughout the Trump presidency — a cadre of administration officials alarmed by the whims and wishes of a chief executive they view as mercurial and impetuous working to curb his instincts on a range of issues, including national security, trade and immigration.

Raw Story, ‘Birther king’ Jerome Corsi will not testify before grand jury Friday despite Mueller subpoena: report, Brad Reed, Sept. 7, 2018. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller said cyber security will be the number one future threat in the country, but for the time being, "counterterrorism and stopping terrorist attacks" is more important. (Photo: Kit Fox/Medill Flickr)Don't miss stories. Follow Raw Story!

jerome corsiJerome Corsi, right, the conspiracy theorist best known for falsely claiming that former President Barack Obama forged his birth certificate, will not be appearing before a grand jury on Friday, despite being subpoenaed by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Buzzfeed News’ Zoe Tillman reports that Corsi’s attorney now says his client will not testify in front of the grand jury, even though he claimed earlier in the week that Corsi would comply with the subpoena.

Sept. 6

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The democratic crisis described by Bob Woodward and the New York Times op-ed, Aaron Blake, Sept. 6, 2018. In recent days, four senior administration officials have been described as using subterfuge to prevent the president from acting upon his decisions. Whether or not the rest of it is a crisis, that sure sounds like one.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pence, other officials deny authoring anti-Trump op-ed, John Wagner, Sept. 6, 2018. A spokesman for the vice president said he “puts his name” on pieces he writes. Several senior administration officials have released statements to deny penning the anonymous column.

Sept. 5

Times Publishes Explosive Attack

ny times logoNew York Times, Times Publishes Op-Ed From ‘Resistance’ Administration Official. Trump Calls It ‘Gutless,’ Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, Sept. 5, 2018. President Trump denounced what he called a “gutless editorial” posted by The New York Times on Wednesday, an essay written by an unnamed administration official claiming that advisers to the president were deliberately trying to thwart his “reckless decisions” from the inside.

At an event at the White House, Mr. Trump angrily assailed The Times for publishing the Op-Ed column, the second time in two days that news reports highlighted the way that some members of his team quietly seek to undermine the president when they believe he may be acting dangerously.

The column, written by an unnamed senior administration official, claimed that some of those close to the president were working to thwart his “misguided impulses.” Editors in The Times opinion section took the rare step of publishing a column without naming the author because of the significance of the subject.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration, Anonymous, Sept. 5, 2018. I work for the president, but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations, our anonymous contributor writes.

Times Editor's Note: The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers. We invite you to submit a question about the essay or our vetting process here.

Next Manafort Trial

washington post logoWashington Post, Witnesses in Paul Manafort’s D.C. trial may include consultant who admits foreign money was funneled to Trump inauguration, Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 5, 2018. An American political consultant who is cooperating with federal prosecutors and has admitted in court that he steered $50,000 from a Ukrainian politician to Donald Trump’s inaugural committee is among potential witnesses listed in the upcoming trial in Washington for Paul Manafort. W. Samuel Patten pleaded guilty on Friday in federal court to failing to register as a foreign lobbyist while working on behalf of a Ukrainian political party.

On Wednesday, as part of pretrial activity in Washington, Patten’s name was among those of 120 people who might testify or be mentioned at the trial of Trump’s former campaign chairman set to open Sept. 24, according to court filings.

Also on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District warned attorneys for both sides to drop “unduly prejudicial” tactics they deployed in Virginia. Jackson postponed ruling on the most contentious requests from the defense and prosecutors to exclude what they see as biasing evidence from the trial. But in a two-hour-long hearing, Jackson said she followed reports from Manafort’s trial in Virginia and ordered both sides to avoid duplicating some approaches they took there.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The self-fulfilling coup against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Sept. 5, 2018. Tonight’s op-ed in the New York Times has led a lot of people, including Donald Trump, to conclude that there’s now a coup underway against him. They’re citing the one passage in which the op-ed mentions that the cabinet was considering invoking the 25th Amendment against Trump early on. But it’s the rest of the letter that demonstrates the real “coup” playing out against Trump, and it’s rapidly about to become a self-fulfilling one.

The 25th Amendment is literally part of the Constitution, and it gives the vice president and cabinet the explicit right to remove the president from power. If the president disagrees, he takes it to Congress, who votes on it. This would represent a constitutional crisis for sure. But it would not be a coup, because that’s when you try to remove the president from power through unconstitutional means. So where is the real coup?

The rest of the op-ed reveals that one or (supposedly) more senior officials in the Trump administration are taking steps to trick or deceive Trump out of his presidential authority. The new Bob Woodward book dovetails with this, as it documents White House officials refusing to carry out Trump’s deranged military orders in the hope he’ll forget he gave the orders, and stealing documents off his desk in the hope he’ll forget about the decisions he’s already finalized.

These people have no constitutional right to do this to the President of the United States, and so they have in fact been carrying out a soft coup all along. Of course we’re glad they have been doing it, because it’s probably saved the nation from even worse damage as this plays out. It also makes clear that this guy has no business holding the office of President, and should have been removed via the 25th Amendment or impeachment a long time ago. But now it has another layer altogether.

Mueller Probe

ny times logojerome corsiNew York Times, Jerome Corsi, Conspiracy Theorist, Is Subpoenaed in Mueller Investigation, Maggie Haberman, Sept. 5, 2018. Jerome Corsi, a conspiracy theorist and political commentator with connections to the former Trump adviser Roger J. Stone Jr., has been subpoenaed to testify on Friday before the grand jury in the special counsel investigation into Russia’s election interference and whether Trump associates conspired with the effort, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

The lawyer, David Gray, said that he anticipates that investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, plan to ask Mr. Corsi, right, about his discussions with Mr. Stone, who appeared to publicly predict in 2016 that WikiLeaks planned to publish material damaging to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Mr. Mueller’s team appears to be zeroing in on Mr. Stone as a possible nexus between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, which was used by Russian intelligence officers to spread information stolen from Democrats, according to an indictment by Mr. Mueller’s team. Another former associate of Mr. Stone, the New York political gadfly Randy Credico, is also expected to testify before the grand jury on Friday.

Mr. Stone has maintained that he had no contact with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, and that he learned what WikiLeaks was doing through public sources and from Mr. Credico, who had a friend in common with Mr. Assange.

fred guttenberg jamie guttenberg parkland sept 4 2018 Andrew HarnikAP

Trump Court nominee Kavanaugh snubs murdered Parkland shooting victim's father Fred Guttenberg at Sept. 4 hearing (Associated Press photo by Andrew Harnik)

Common Dreams, Opinion: This Is Who Brett Kavanaugh Is, Abby Zimet, Sept. 5, 2018. Among his other egregious traits -- rabid abortion opponent, fan of unconstrained presidential chutzpah, foe of the environment and longtime supporter of gun rights and especially assault weapons, whose confirmation, coincidentally, the NRA is spending over a million bucks to ensure -- there's this:

At his Tuesday hearing, purported devoted family man and "just such a nice person" Brett Kavanaugh refused to shake the hand of Fred Guttenberg, father of Parkland shooting victim Jamie Guttenberg, who has spent his grievous days, and likely nights, since his daughter was gunned down working tirelessly to ensure that other people's kids won't be.

Guttenberg described the moment: "Put out my hand to introduce myself as Jaime Guttenberg's dad. He pulled his hand back, turned his back to me and walked away. I guess he did not want to deal with the reality of gun violence." When word of the ugly snub spread, the White House tried to blame Capitol Police, who later interrogated Guttenberg (WTF?), for intervening; they also claimed Guttenberg was an “unidentified individual,” though he'd earlier been introduced to the gathering by Dianne Feinstein. In the fiery words of Emma Gonzales, we call bullshit. Photos and video of the encounter, complete with the clear contempt on Kavanaugh's face, expose the brutal truth: He's just a(nother) scumbag without heart, soul or moral compass.

Sept. 4

bob woodward fear trump in the white house

washington post logoWashington Post, Woodward’s book reveals a ‘nervous breakdown’ of Trump’s presidency, Philip Rucker and Robert Costa​, Sept. 4, 2018. Aides routinely stole documents off President Trump’s desk. Military leaders ignored the president’s orders. And the backstabbing went both ways.

A forthcoming book by Bob Woodward paints a harrowing portrait of the Trump presidency, based on in-depth interviews with administration officials and other principals.

Related story: The Fix: The most damning portrait of Trump’s presidency yet — by far.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump and White House strike back at Bob Woodward over new book, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey​, Sept. 4, 2018. Despite rumors for weeks that Woodward’s latest project would likely prove disastrous for President Trump and his team, the White House found itself ill-prepared and scrambling to obtain a copy of “Fear” Tuesday as scenes from the book first emerged. It eventually mounted a forceful defense.

john kelly o dhsHours after The Washington Post first reported several key incidents from Woodward’s book, “Fear,” the administration mounted a vigorous string of public denials, with statements from top advisers — White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, right, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders — as well as from Trump’s former personal attorney John Dowd.

Mattis called the book “fiction,” and Sanders denounced the tome in a statement as “nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees” without disputing any of the specifics that have been reported in excerpts.

Sept. 3

new yorker logoThe New Yorker, How Rudy Giuliani Turned Into Trump’s Clown, Jeffrey Toobin, Sept. 3, 2018 (Sept. 10 print edition). The former mayor’s theatrical, combative style of politics anticipated — and perfectly aligns with — the President’s.

rudy giuliani recentThe addition of Rudy Giuliani (right) to Trump’s legal team has been part of a larger change in the President’s strategy. During the first year of the Mueller investigation, which began in May of 2017, John Dowd and Ty Cobb, the lawyers leading Trump’s defense, took a coöperative approach, turning over as many as 1.4 million documents and allowing White House staffers to be interviewed.

Since joining Trump’s team, Giuliani has greeted every new development as a vindication, even when he’s had to bend and warp the evidence in front of him. Like Trump, he characterizes the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt” and the prosecutors as “thugs.” He has, in effect, become the legal auxiliary to Trump’s Twitter feed, peddling the same chaotic mixture of non sequiturs, exaggerations, half-truths, and falsehoods. Giuliani, like the President, is not seeking converts but comforting the converted.

This has come at considerable cost to his reputation. As a prosecutor, Giuliani was the sheriff of Wall Street and the bane of organized crime. As mayor, he was the law-and-order leader who kicked “squeegee men” off the streets of New York. Now he’s a talking head spouting nonsense on cable news.

djt roy cohnBut this version of Giuliani isn’t new; Trump has merely tapped into tendencies that have been evident all along. Trump learned about law and politics from his mentor Roy Cohn, the notorious sidekick to Joseph McCarthy who, as a lawyer in New York, became a legendary brawler and used the media to bash adversaries. [Trump and Cohn are shown together in a file photo at right.]

In the early months of his Presidency, as Mueller’s investigation was getting under way, Trump is said to have raged, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” In Giuliani, the President has found him.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Two easy wins now in doubt’: Trump renews attack on Sessions, Josh Dawsey​, Sept. 3, 2018. The president’s tweet cites the indictments of a pair of Republican congressmen and seems to suggest that politics should guide his attorney general’s actions.

jeff sessions ag oPresident Trump attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions, right, and the Justice Department on Monday in connection with the indictments of two GOP congressmen on corruption charges, saying they could hurt the Republican Party in the midterm elections.

“Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department,” he said on Twitter.

ben sasse o croppedTrump did not address the charges themselves or name the congressmen, but the tweet was apparently referring to the indictments this summer of Reps. Chris Collins of New York and Duncan D. Hunter of California, the president’s two earliest congressional endorsers.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), left, criticized the president’s tweet. “The United States is not some banana republic with a two-tiered system of justice — one for the majority party and one for the minority party. These two men have been charged with crimes because of evidence, not because of who the President was when the investigations began,” he said in a statement.

Sept. 2

maria butina with gun ad

Maria Butina’s efforts to deal in Russian jet fuel were detailed in hundreds of pages of previously unreported emails. She is shown above in a 2014 promotion for guns.

ny times logoNew York Times, Seeking Jet Fuel Payday, Wife of Ex-N.R.A. Chief Tapped Accused Russian Agent, Matthew Rosenberg, Michael LaForgia and Andrew E. Kramer, Sept. 2, 2018. Maria Butina surrounded herself with prominent American conservatives and dubious characters bent on making a fast buck. It was not always easy to tell one from the other. Ms. Butina, supported by Russian intelligence, managed to infiltrate conservative groups and advance Moscow’s interests in the United States, prosecutors say.

For the young Russian gun rights activist studying in the United States, it would have been an unimaginably rich payday: $1 million to help broker the sale of Russian jet fuel to an American middleman. All she had to do was secure the fuel.

So the activist, Maria Butina, whom American prosecutors now accuse of being a covert Russian agent, reached out to contacts in her homeland — and turned on the charm. In a July 2017 email, she told one man that his passport photo was “a handsome one.”

maria butina mug alexandriaThe following month, she told another Russian contact that she had labeled him in her phone as “the lovely Shakhov.” Every time he called, she was notified that “‘the lovely Shakov is calling you,’” Ms. Butina wrote. “Good feelings.”

A year later, Ms. Butina, 29 (and shown in a mug shot), is in a jail cell outside Washington, awaiting trial. Federal prosecutors have depicted her as a character out of “Red Sparrow,” the spy thriller about a Russian femme fatale.

Sept. 1

washington post logogeorge papadopoulos linked in croppedWashington Post, Ex-adviser to Trump says he told Mueller that candidate liked idea of Putin meeting, Spencer S. Hsu and Rosalind S. Helderman, Sept. 1, 2018. In a court filing, lawyers for George Papadopoulos, right, said that in March 2016, when he raised the idea of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump “nodded with approval and deferred to” then-Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Looks like Jeff Sessions is going to prison after all, Bill Palmer, Sept. 1, 2018. For the past week, the prevailing narrative has been whether or not Attorney General Jeff Sessions will get to keep his job. But based on the events of the past twenty-four hours in the Trump-Russia scandal, it turns out Sessions has something far worse to worry about, and that’s whether he’ll end up going to prison once he eventually does lose his job.

First we had yesterday’s guilty plea and cooperating plea deal by Republican operative Samuel Patten, who committed a number of Trump-Russia related crimes. One of the things he confessed to: having lied under oath to a Senate committee while testifying about the Trump-Russia scandal. For the first time, we’re seeing someone going down for having committed perjury before Congress in this scandal, which sets a new precedent. But that was just the half of it.

We all recall Jeff Sessions having lied about his Russia meeting during his Senate confirmation hearings a year and a half ago. That was perjury, but the Republican-controlled Senate took no legal action against him after he recused himself from the Trump-Russia investigation. Last night George Papadopoulos made his court filing for his upcoming sentencing hearing, and in so doing, he revealed that Sessions also lied to the House Judiciary Committee last year.

So now within a span of just hours, we’ve seen Robert Mueller publicly establish that criminal charges are on the table for those who lie to Congress about the Trump-Russia scandal, and that Jeff Sessions lied to Congress a second time. Is this a coincidence?


Aug. 30

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Winter is coming’: Allies fear Trump isn’t prepared for gathering legal storm, Philip Rucker, Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker, Aug. 30, 2018 (print edition). Advisers worry that President Trump has neither the staff nor the strategy to protect himself if Democrats take over the House, which would empower them to shower the administration with subpoenas or even pursue impeachment charges.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump firing Jeff Sessions looks more likely than ever. Here’s the storm that awaits, Aaron Blake, Aug. 30, 2018 (print edition). President Trump likes to talk about firing people. And apparently he’s been doing it again with Jeff Sessions.

But doing it after the midterms solves only a political problem. It does nothing to temper the potentially game-changing effect on the Russia and related investigations. And that’s the big question that is likely to remain, given that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s and the Southern District of New York’s Michael Cohen cases aren’t done.

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani letter criticizing Romania’s anti-corruption drive drew attention of State Dept., Josh Dawsey and Tom Hamburger, Aug. 30, 2018 (print edition). The missive raises more questions about Rudolph Giuliani’s decision to work for foreign clients while serving as one of President Trump’s personal attorneys.

Aug. 29

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort wants to move his D.C. trial to Roanoke, saying Washington jurors are biased, Spencer S. Hsu, Aug.29, 2018. Attorneys for Paul Manafort are asking to have his coming money laundering and conspiracy trial moved from Washington, D.C., to Roanoke, arguing his fraud convictions in Alexandria this month worsened pretrial publicity in the nation’s capital.

In court filings Wednesday, his defense team also claimed a more pro-Republican jury, as they believe would be found in Roanoke, would decide his case more fairly. That repeats an argument the Manafort defense made, and lost, in asking to move his Virginia case out of Alexandria.

The defense for President Trump’s former campaign chairman told a federal judge in D.C. Manafort “has become an unwilling player in the larger drama” between Trump and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and asserted that nowhere are potential jurors more biased against him than in the District because of its partisan makeup and saturation of political news.

Aug. 27

ny times logojared kushner head shotNew York Times, Kushner Companies and Michael Cohen Accused of Falsifying Building Permits to Push Out Tenants, Charles V. Bagli, Aug. 27, 2018. Charles Kushner, the developer whose son Jared Kushner, right, is a senior adviser to President Trump, and Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer, face scrutiny in New York for claims that they falsified construction permits in an attempt to remove rent-regulated tenants from buildings scattered across the city.

On Monday, the city’s Department of Buildings fined Kushner Companies $210,000 for 42 instances in which it says the company falsified construction permits at 17 residential buildings, where many of the tenants were protected by rent regulations from steep rent increases and eviction.

Landlords are required in New York City to disclose whether tenants in their buildings are rent regulated to obtain a construction permit. This requirement is designed to safeguard rent-regulated tenants from harassment. Unscrupulous landlords sometimes push out rent-protected tenants so they can sharply increase rents on those units.

Aug. 26, 2018.

djt handwave file

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s wall of secrecy erodes amid growing legal challenges, David A. Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey and Rosalind S. Helderman​, Aug. 26, 2018 (print edition). President Trump, shown in a file photo, seems politically wounded as longtime aides and trusted associates cooperate with prosecutors and embarrassing revelations about his affairs and his charity trickle out, uncontained.

washington post logoWashington Post, Manafort, Cohen cases reveal weaknesses in enforcement of tax and election laws, Damian Paletta, Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Aug. 26, 2018 (print edition). Several decisions by policymakers and lawmakers to defang regulation and defund investigations, particularly through political pressure aimed at the Internal Revenue Service, helped the tax fraud and campaign finance violations to go unnoticed.

Axios, Sneak Peek, Jonathan Swan, Aug. 26, 2018. Congressional Republicans are getting ready for hell. Axios has obtained a spreadsheet that's circulated through Republican circles on and off Capitol Hill — including at least one leadership office — that meticulously previews the investigations Democrats will likely launch if they flip the House.

Why this matters: Publicly, House Republicans are putting on a brave face about the midterms. But privately, they are scrambling to prepare for the worst. This document, which catalogs requests Democrats have already made, is part of that effort. It has churned Republican stomachs. Here are some of the probes it predicts:

• President Trump’s tax returns

• Trump family businesses — and whether they comply with the Constitution's emoluments clause, including the Chinese trademark grant to the Trump Organization

• Trump's dealings with Russia, including the president's preparation for his meeting with Vladimir Putin

• The payment to Stephanie Clifford — a.k.a. Stormy Daniels

• James Comey's firing

• Trump's firing of U.S. attorneys...

These demands would turn the Trump White House into a 24/7 legal defense operation. The bottom line: Thanks to their control of Congress, Republicans have blocked most of the Democrats’ investigative requests. But if the House flips, the GOP loses its power to stymie.

Lawyers close to the White House tell me the Trump administration is nowhere near prepared for the investigatory onslaught that awaits them, and they consider it among the greatest threats to his presidency.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Will Mueller Do? The Answer Might Lie in a By-the-Book Past, Matt Apuzzo, Aug. 26, 2018 (print edition).  Long before the convictions last week of two former members of President Trump’s inner circle, the political left’s expectations for the Russia investigation were at a fever pitch.

robert muellerThe special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III (shown in his former post as FBI director), faces crucial decisions in the coming months: Subpoena the president? Recommend charges? Write a public report?

For insight on what he will do next, look to his four decades of law enforcement.

Democrats predicted that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, would break with a half-century of policy and prosecute a sitting president. One MSNBC panel considered how to arrest him if he refuses to leave the White House. (Answer: “At some point, he is going to have to come out.”)

Mr. Mueller, a lifelong Republican who is an unlikely hero for the anti-Trump resistance, faces a series of crucial decisions in the coming months. Will he subpoena the president? Recommend charges? Will he write a public report? Each could help sway the midterm elections and shape the future of the presidency itself.

Aug. 25

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The three illegal acts that may have helped Trump win the presidency, Philip Bump, Aug. 25, 2018. It is worth remembering that Michael Cohen’s revelation was the third allegation of an effort to surreptitiously aid Trump’s 2016 campaign that violated the law. Hush money. Hackers. Trolls.

washington post logoWashington Post, Manafort’s trial in D.C. to take 3 weeks, probe Ukraine lobbyist work, Spencer S. Hsu​. Aug. 25, 2018 (print edition). A filing on Friday night is a road map of the next trial facing President Trump’s former campaign chairman, convicted Tuesday in federal court in Alexandria on eight of 18 tax- and bank-fraud charges.

The Paul Manafort trial set for September in Washington is expected to last three weeks and, on the basis of a list of 1,500 possible exhibits, will delve far more deeply into how he operated as a lobbyist and consultant than was done in his ­just-completed trial in Virginia.

The estimated trial timeline and exhibits were included in a joint filing Friday night in federal court in Washington by Manafort’s defense and prosecutors with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

The required filing is a road map of the next trial facing President Trump’s former campaign chairman, convicted Tuesday in federal court in Alexandria on eight of 18 tax- and bank-fraud charges after a trial that focused on Manafort’s finances.

Aug. 24

Trump CFO Joining DoJ "Flipper" Witnesses?

allen weisselberg djt carolyn kepcher

In a file photo, Donald Trump, center, is accompanied by longtime Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg and high-ranking Trump executive Carolyn Kepcher, both whom became highly visible as "Apprentice" evaluators on the hit TV reality show. Weisselberg, 71, as reported below, has become a government witness.Trump abruptly replaced his firing co-executioner Kepcher, now 49, on the show in 2006 with his daughter Ivanka and ended Kepcher's other Trump Organization employment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump Organization executive granted immunity in federal probe of Cohen, Carol D. Leonnig, Devlin Barrett and Rosalind S. Helderman​, Aug. 24, 2018. Allen Weisselberg, chief financial officer for the Trump Organization, was one of the executives who helped arrange $420,000 in payments to Donald Trump’s longtime attorney Michael Cohen to help reimburse him for hush money he paid an adult-film star [Stormy Daniels].

stormy daniels djt insight 1 19 2018 CustomWeisselberg was granted immunity by federal investigators in New York in exchange for his truthful testimony about his role in the payments, according to people familiar with the discussions.

allen weisselberg croppedWeisselberg, right, is the person identified in court filings as “Executive-1,” who prosecutors said helped authorize $420,000 in payments to Cohen, one person said. He testified last month before a grand jury investigating Cohen.

In addition to being the longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, Weisselberg is also one of two trustees of the trust that controls the president’s assets.

See related New York Times story below: Trump, Familiar With ‘Flipping’ Under Legal Pressure, Says It ‘Almost Ought to Be Illegal.

ny times logoNew York Times, Manhattan D.A. Eyes Criminal Charges Against Trump Organization, William K. Rashbaum, Aug. 24, 2018 (print edition). The Manhattan district attorney’s office is considering pursuing criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two senior company officials in connection with Michael D. Cohen’s hush money payment to an adult film actress, according to two officials with knowledge of the matter.

cyrus vance jrA state investigation would center on how the company accounted for its reimbursement to Mr. Cohen for the $130,000 he paid to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, who has said she had an affair with President Trump, the officials said.

Both officials stressed that the office’s review of the matter is in its earliest stages and prosecutors have not yet made a decision on whether to proceed.

State charges against the company or its executives could be significant because Mr. Trump has talked about pardoning some of his current or former aides who have faced federal charges. As president, he has no power to pardon people and corporate entities convicted of state crimes.

As the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., right, considers opening an investigation, the New York State attorney general’s office has moved to open a criminal investigation into whether Mr. Cohen has violated state tax law, an inquiry that would be unrelated to the federal tax evasion charges that he pleaded guilty to on Tuesday, according to a person with knowledge of the state matter.

djt david pecker

Donald Trump and his friend David Pecker (file photo)

wsj logoWall Street Journal, David Pecker Granted Immunity in Cohen Case, Nicole Hong and Lukas Alpert, Aug. 24, 2018 (print edition). Publishing executive met with prosecutors to describe involvement of Cohen, Trump in hush-money deals to women ahead of 2016 election.

David Pecker, the chief executive of the company that publishes the National Enquirer, was granted immunity by federal prosecutors for providing information about Michael Cohen and Donald Trump in the criminal investigation into hush-money payments for two women during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.

In exchange for immunity, Mr. Pecker, CEO of American Media, Inc., has met with prosecutors and shared details about payments Mr. Cohen arranged in an effort to silence two women who alleged sexual encounters with Mr. Trump, including Mr. Trump’s knowledge of the deals, some of the people said. Prosecutors have indicated that Mr. Pecker won’t be criminally charged for his participation in the deals, the people said.

Mr. Pecker has previously said he is a longtime friend of Messrs. Trump and Cohen.

Prosecutors have indicated Dylan Howard, chief content officer of American Media, also won’t be criminally charged in the Cohen investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter.

djt roy cohn mob clients carmine galante john gotti tony salerno1533348924301

Opinion commentary: In New York City, Donald Trump's mentor and attorney in his rise in the constructing and gambling businesses was super-lawyer Roy Cohn, whose other clients included leaders of three of the city's five Mafia families such as John Gotti, as shown above in a Wikipedia entry on Cohn.

ny times logoNew York Times, With a Vocabulary From ‘Goodfellas,’ Trump Evokes the Wiseguys of New York, Mark Landler, Aug. 24, 2018 (print edition). As Mr. Trump faces his own legal troubles, he has taken to using a vocabulary that sounds uncannily like that of John J. Gotti and other mobsters in the waning days of organized crime.

For much of the 1980s and 1990s, “the Dapper Don” and “the Donald” vied for supremacy on the front pages of New York’s tabloids. The don, John J. Gotti, died in a federal prison in 2002, while Donald J. Trump went on to be president of the United States.

Now, as Mr. Trump faces his own mushrooming legal troubles, he has taken to using a vocabulary that sounds uncannily like that of Mr. Gotti and his fellow mobsters in the waning days of organized crime, when ambitious prosecutors like Rudolph W. Giuliani tried to turn witnesses against their bosses to win racketeering convictions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Urges Sessions to Examine Corruption on the ‘Other Side,’ Eileen Sullivan, Nicholas Fandos and Katie Benner, Aug. 24, 2018. Undeterred by his attorney general’s pledge to keep politics out of the Justice Department, President Trump again attacked Jeff Sessions, urging him to look into several highly partisan issues.

jeff sessions ag oThe fresh jabs launched at Mr. Sessions, right, in early morning Twitter posts came after an evening of what appeared to be restraint. Mr. Trump wanted to rebut Mr. Sessions’s comments on Thursday on Twitter, but his advisers stopped him, according to people briefed on the matter.

The exchange extended the war that Mr. Trump has waged for more than a year on the Justice Department, focusing mostly on the special counsel’s inquiry into Russian election meddling.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Surrender Donald, Bill Palmer, Aug. 24, 2018. Today we learned that Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg was granted immunity by federal prosecutors in exchange for his testimony before the Michael Cohen grand jury. Cohen has ended up pleading guilty, meaning that Weisselberg won’t have to testify against Cohen at trial. But an immunity deal means that Weisselberg will have to keep cooperating with prosecutors on anything they want, which means he has to give up all of Donald Trump’s dirty financial secrets.

In other words, Trump’s whole life is over. So now what?

To be clear, everything is going to come out now. Special Counsel Robert Mueller just gained de facto access to decades worth evidence and documents and testimony about the criminal enterprise known as the Trump Organization. This helps explain why it was reported last night that the District Attorney for Manhattan is preparing criminal charges against top Trump Organization officials; if Michael Cohen’s cooperation helps make the case, then Weisselberg makes it a slam dunk.

Even though Donald Trump is still occupying the office of President of the United States, there is now nothing he can do to prevent the State of New York and the Manhattan DA from ripping apart his entire financial empire. Trump can’t stop them by firing anyone, because these people don’t answer to him, and he can’t stop it by pardoning anyone, because these are non-federal charges, which he can’t pardon.

wsj logoWall Street Journal, Trump’s former lawyer received a $100,000 brokerage fee for a Florida real-estate deal in which he represented a company owned by Sheikh Abdul Aziz, Mark Maremont and Rob Barry, Aug. 24, 2018. Michael Cohen Guilty Plea Reveals Link to Qatari Royal Family. A $100,000 real-estate brokerage fee that was part of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s guilty plea Tuesday came from representing a company owned by a member of the Qatar royal family, according to interviews and real-estate documents. Mr. Cohen admitted to failing to pay taxes on more than $4 million in income, among other felonies. That income included what prosecutors described as $100,000 in 2014 from “brokering the sale of a piece of property in a private aviation community in Ocala, Florida.”

Slate, Opinion: A Lone Holdout Juror Actually Made It More Likely That Paul Manafort Will Go to Jail Even if Trump Pardons Him, Jed Shugerman, Aug. 23, 2018. On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump had recently discussed with his lawyers the prospect of issuing a pardon for Paul Manafort. The former Trump campaign chairman, who was convicted earlier this week on charges of bank fraud and tax fraud, remains under scrutiny by special counsel Robert Mueller for his work on the 2016 campaign and his connections to Russia.

In considering a pardon, Trump could be seeking to pre-empt a cooperation deal with another former top lieutenant after Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign-related offenses this week and promised through an attorney to cooperate with the Mueller probe. A pardon would backfire, though, because Manafort would still face numerous state charges and his federal convictions this week would now be admissible in some of those states. Moreover, Trump would only be strengthening the criminal obstruction and the impeachment cases against him.

paul manafort mugIf Trump pardons Manafort, shown in a mug shot at left, on the charges from this month’s federal case alone, then he would still face prosecution in three very blue states (New York, Illinois, and California) and one increasingly blue-ish state (Virginia).

Those are four jury pools that would potentially be altogether worse for Manafort. If, in this month’s trial, Manafort could only persuade one juror out of 12 on about half of these charges, his chances would seem pretty low at running the table in four more trials in Manhattan, Los Angeles, Chicago, and northern Virginia. And we haven’t even discussed the charges in the second federal trial next month and whatever additional state criminal liability Manafort might face that has not been charged at the federal level. And Mueller still might be strategically holding off on other charges.

It’s also important to note that the Supreme Court has taken up a case called Gamble v. United States in which it could rule on double jeopardy and federal-state dual sovereignty for next term. This case could directly impact the Trump investigation if Manafort is pardoned. There are many reasons the Senate should delay confirming Judge Brett Kavanaugh. But there is no way Kavanaugh should be confirmed while he may be the deciding vote on a case directly impacting double jeopardy law and the Trump investigation.

Ultimately, a Trump pardon wouldn’t benefit Manafort in any concrete sense, but it would build a stronger case for impeachment and removal. Such a pardon would only add proof of Trump’s obstruction, providing additional evidence of criminal corrupt intent. Finally, the same principle of state sovereignty to prosecute would apply to any crimes Trump himself may have committed. If Trump is foolish enough to try to pardon himself, there will be no holding back the state prosecutor.

CNN, Ex-Trump World Tower doorman releases 'catch-and-kill' contract about alleged Trump affair, Staff report, Aug. 24, 2018. A former Trump World Tower doorman who says he has knowledge of an alleged affair President Donald Trump had with an ex-housekeeper, which resulted in a child, is now able to talk about a contract he entered with American Media Inc. that had prohibited him from discussing the matter with anyone, according to his attorney.

On Friday, Marc Held -- the attorney for Dino Sajudin, the former doorman -- said his client had been released from his contract with AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer, "recently" after back-and-forth discussions with AMI.

CNN has exclusively obtained a copy of the "source agreement" between Sajudin and AMI, which is owned by David Pecker. The contract appears to have been signed on Nov. 15, 2015, and states that AMI has exclusive rights to Sajudin's story but does not mention the details of the story itself beyond saying, "Source shall provide AMI with information regarding Donald Trump's illegitimate child..."

The contract states that "AMI will not owe Source any compensation if AMI does not publish the Exclusive..." and the top of the agreement shows that Sajudin could receive a sum of $30,000 "payable upon publication as set forth below."

But the third page of the agreement shows that about a month later, the parties signed an amendment that states that Sajudin would be paid $30,000 within five days of receiving the amendment. It says the "exclusivity period" laid out in the agreement "is extended in perpetuity and shall not expire." The amendment also establishes a $1 million payment that Sajudin would be responsible for making to AMI "in the event Source breaches this provision."

Media News

The Wrap, Cohen, Manafort give 5 MSNBC shows largest audience ever, Tony Maglio and Reid Nakamura, Aug. 22, 2018. MSNBC shows got a big ratings boost on Tuesday from back-to-back news about former Trump associates Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen.

“Hardball,” “All In,” “11th Hour,” “The Beat” and “MTP Daily” all boasted their largest audiences ever on Tuesday, the day former Trump campaign chairman Manafort was convicted on eight charges relating to bank and tax fraud, and Cohen, the president’s former personal attorney, pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations.
Additionally, “Maddow,” “Deadline” and “The Last Word” all got their second-most total viewers of all time on Tuesday. Each of these records and near-records exclude political conventions, debates and election nights.

With 3.893 million total viewers, “The Rachel Maddow Show” was the most-watched show on all of cable on Tuesday night, followed by its lead-out “The Last Word,” which was watched by 3.339 million viewers.

Chris Hayes’ “All In” finished sixth with 2.658 million viewers. “Hardball With Chris Matthews” came in at seventh with 2.478 million, and “11th Hour With Brian Williams” finished 10th with 2.412 million.

MSNBC’s primetime line-up, composed of “All In,” “The Rachel Maddow Show” and “Last Word,” finished first in both total viewers and among the key cable news demographic of adults 25-54.

maria butina mug alexandriaNew York Times, Maria Butina Did Not Use Sex in Covert Russian Plan, Her Lawyers Say, Michael LaForgia, Aug. 24, 2018.  Federal prosecutors who said that a Russian gun-rights activist traded sex as part of a secret influence campaign had only weak evidence to support that claim, the woman’s lawyers argued in court papers filed on Friday.

Instead, they said, the government distorted years-old text messages from the woman, Maria Butina, shown in a mug shot, and quoted others out of context to trump up salacious allegations. It was all part of a “sexist smear” effort that spread widely and prejudiced public opinion against Ms. Butina, her lawyers, Robert N. Driscoll and Alfred D. Carry, argued.

Politico, It Would Take Exactly One Senator to Get Trump’s Taxes, George Y. Kin, Aug. 24, 2018. What does he owe to Russia? Here’s how a single Senate Republican could begin to unravel the mystery.

More On DC Scandals

washington post logomichael cohen paul manafort nydaily news 821 2018Washington Post, Critics fear Trump’s attacks are inflicting lasting damage on the justice system, Felicia Sonmez, Josh Dawsey and Ann E. Marimow​, Aug. 24, 2018 (print edition). President Trump took his criticism of the criminal justice system to new heights, alarming national security and law enforcement officials who fear the president is seeking to protect himself from encroaching investigations at the expense of American ­institutions.

• Trump continues public feud with Sessions, urging investigations of the ‘other side’

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Fox fallout shows why Trump’s lawyers don’t want Mueller to get an interview, James Hohmann​, Aug. 24, 2018.  Even Rudolph W. Giuliani says he disagrees with the president’s comments on “flippers.”

Aug. 23

Manafort Juror Speaks Out

paula duncan

Manafort juror Paula Duncan speakers out (screen shot from Fox News interview)

fox-news-logo Small.pngFox News via MSN, Manafort juror reveals lone holdout prevented Mueller team from convicting on all counts, Shannon Bream interview, Aug. 22, 2018 (11:47 min. video). Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team was one holdout juror away from convicting Paul Manafort on all 18 counts of bank and tax fraud, juror Paula Duncan told Fox News in an exclusive interview Wednesday.

“It was one person who kept the verdict from being guilty on all 18 counts,” Duncan, 52, said. She added that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team of prosecutors often seemed bored, apparently catnapping during parts of the trial. (More from interview below.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Lone holdout on Manafort jury blocked conviction on all counts, juror says, Matt Zapotosky​, Aug. 23, 2018. A juror in the trial of President Trump’s former campaign chairman said she and most of her peers wanted to convict him on every charge.

Media Role In Trump Cover-Up

washington post logodavid pecker croppedWashington Post, Trump campaign, tabloid hatched plan to bury stories, prosecutors allege, Sarah Ellison, Beth Reinhard and Carol Leonnig​, Aug. 23, 2018 (print edition). David Pecker, right, and his company, the publisher of the National Enquirer, were more deeply involved in the effort to help the Trump campaign than was previously known, according to documents released as part of Michael Cohen’s plea.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact checker: Trump team’s narrative on hush money is not just misleading. It’s a lie, Glenn Kessler, Aug. 23, 2018 (print edition). This week’s guilty plea by Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former attorney, offers indisputable evidence that the president and his allies have been deliberately dishonest at every turn in statements about hush-money payments to silence two women. Here is the definitive story of a Trump lie.

Cohen's Father Cites Holocaust

The Hill, Cohen's father said he didn’t survive Holocaust to have his name 'sullied' by Trump: report, Aris Folley, Aug. 23, 2018. The decision of President Trump’s former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen to plead guilty to multiple fraud charges and campaign finance law violations reportedly came after a conversation he had with his father earlier this year, who said he did not survive the Holocaust to have his name "sullied" by Trump.

djt time crying child 6 18The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that a person familiar with the conversation said the exchange prompted Cohen, who once said he would “take a bullet” for the president, to break with Trump.

Maurice Cohen, a Polish Holocaust survivor, reportedly urged his son not to protect Trump and said that he did not survive the Holocaust to have his name “sullied” by the president, a person familiar with the conversation told the Journal.

rnc logoOn June 20, Michael Cohen resigned as deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, tweeting his first public criticism of Trump, which referenced his father, the Journal notes.

“As the son of a Polish holocaust survivor, the images and sounds of this family separation policy [are] heart wrenching,” Michael Cohen said in a since-deleted tweet, according to the Journal.

Trump v. Sessions?

ny times logojeff sessions ag oNew York Times, Attorney General Pushes Back on Trump Attack, Saying Justice Will Stay Independent, Eileen Sullivan, Aug. 23, 2018. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, right, defended himself against a recent attack by President Trump, who has questioned his leadership.

“While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations,” Mr. Sessions said in a rare public statement. Attorney General Jeff Sessions pushed back against President Trump’s recent attack on him — namely that Mr. Sessions never took control of the Justice Department — and said on Thursday that he would not be influenced by politics in the job.

“While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations,” Mr. Sessions said in a rare public statement.

The president has long expressed regret over naming Mr. Sessions to be attorney general because he suggested Mr. Sessions failed to protect him by recusing himself from the government’s continuing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections and any possible coordination with members of Mr. Trump’s campaign.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says Sessions was given attorney general job only because of his loyalty during campaign, John Wagner and Matt Zapotosky​, Aug. 23, 2018. In a Fox News interview, the president blasted his appointee for failing to take control of the Justice Department, which he said was dominated by Democrats.

More On Trump Scandals

ny times logoNew York Times, Fearing More Trump Scandals, G.O.P. Urges Incumbents to Address Misdeeds, Jonathan Martin and Nicholas FandosAug. 22, 2018. Senior Republican Party leaders began urging their most imperiled incumbents on Wednesday to speak out about the wrongdoing surrounding President Trump, with Representative Tom Cole, a former House Republican campaign chairman, warning, “Where there’s smoke, and there’s a lot of smoke, there may well be fire.”

Democrats face their own pressure to shed their cautious midterm strategy and hammer the opposition for fostering what Democratic leaders are labeling “a culture of corruption” that starts at Mr. Trump and cascades through two indicted House Republicans to a series of smaller scandals breaking out in the party’s backbenches.

ny times logo

More On Trump Scandals

washington post logoWashington Post, White House grapples with Cohen, Manafort convictions, Robert Costa and Josh Dawsey, Aug. 23, 2018 (print edition). Inside President Trump’s orbit, there is a debate: Some confidants see this week — in which two of his former aides were convicted in federal courts — as an unsettling inflection point. Others just see yet another round of problems that are not a danger to Trump.

washington post logojeff sessions ag oWashington Post, Trump says Sessions was given attorney general job only because of his loyalty during campaign, John Wagner and Matt Zapotosky​, Aug. 23, 2018. In a Fox News interview, the president blasted his appointee for failing to take control of the Justice Department, which he said was dominated by Democrats.

More On Manafort Jury

fox-news-logo Small.pngFox News via MSN, Manafort juror reveals lone holdout prevented Mueller team from convicting on all counts, Shannon Bream interview, Aug. 22, 2018 (11:47 min. video) (Continued from above). Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team was one holdout juror away from convicting Paul Manafort on all 18 counts of bank and tax fraud, juror Paula Duncan told Fox News in an exclusive interview Wednesday.

The identities of the jurors have been closely held, kept under seal by Judge T.S. Ellis III at Tuesday's conclusion of the high-profile trial. But Duncan gave a behind-the-scenes account to Fox News on Wednesday, after the jury returned a guilty verdict against the former Trump campaign chairman on eight financial crime counts and deadlocked on 10 others.

Duncan described herself as an avid supporter of President Trump, but said she was moved by four full boxes of exhibits provided by Mueller’s team – though she was skeptical about prosecutors' motives in the financial crimes case.

“Certainly Mr. Manafort got caught breaking the law, but he wouldn’t have gotten caught if they weren’t after President Trump,” Duncan said of the special counsel’s case, which she separately described as a “witch hunt to try to find Russian collusion,” borrowing a phrase Trump has used in tweets more than 100 times.

“Something that went through my mind is, this should have been a tax audit,” Duncan said, sympathizing with the foundation of the Manafort defense team’s argument.

She described a tense and emotional four days of deliberations, which ultimately left one juror holding out. Behind closed doors, tempers flared at times, even though jurors never explicitly discussed Manafort’s close ties to Trump.

republican elephant logo“It was a very emotionally charged jury room – there were some tears,” Duncan said about deliberations with a group of Virginians she didn’t feel included many “fellow Republicans.”

A political allegiance to the president also raised conflicted feelings in Duncan, but she said it ultimately didn’t change her decision about the former Trump campaign chairman.

“Finding Mr. Manafort guilty was hard for me, I wanted him to be innocent, I really wanted him to be innocent, but he wasn’t,” Duncan said. “That’s the part of a juror, you have to have due diligence and deliberate and look at the evidence and come up with an informed and intelligent decision, which I did.”

Duncan, a Missouri native and mother of two, showed Fox News her two notebooks with her juror number #0302 on the covers.

In the interview, Duncan also described how the special counsel’s prosecutors apparently had a hard time keeping their eyes open.“A lot of times they looked bored, and other times they catnapped – at least two of them did,” Duncan said. “They seemed very relaxed, feet up on the table bars and they showed a little bit of almost disinterest to me, at times.”

The jury box was situated in a corner of the courtroom that gave them an unobstructed head-on view of the prosecutors and defense, while members of the media and the public viewed both parties from behind.

Judge Ellis told jurors, including Duncan, that their names would remain sealed after the trial’s conclusion, because of dangerous threats he received during the proceedings.

But the verdict gave Duncan a license to share her story without fear. “Had the verdict gone any other way, I might have been,” Duncan said.

Her account of the deliberations is no longer a secret. And neither is the pro-Trump apparel she kept for a long drive to the federal courthouse in Alexandria every day.

“Every day when I drove, I had my Make America Great Again hat in the backseat,” said Duncan, who said she plans to vote for Trump again in 2020. “Just as a reminder.”

Aug. 22

paul manafort michael cohen nypost

The New York Post and New York Daily News front page stories are displayed above and at right.

washington post logomichael cohen paul manafort nydaily news 821 2018Washington Post, Citing Cohen plea, Senate Democrats seek delay in Kavanaugh hearings, John Wagner and Mike DeBonis, Aug. 22, 2018. Senate Democrats on Wednesday called for delaying confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh in the wake of a guilty plea by Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former attorney, on campaign-finance counts that involve the president.

Democrats, who have been seeking leverage to slow down Kavanaugh’s consideration, argued that a new justice could be forced to decide questions directly relating to Trump, including whether he must comply with a subpoena from prosecutors and whether he can be indicted while in office.

Trump Lawyer's Guilty Plea

wsj logoWall Streeet Journal, How Dollars Flowed From Trump Organization to Michael Cohen, Joel Eastwood, Aug. 22, 2018. Cohen told a judge he made payments to two women ‘for the purpose of influencing the election’ and acted at the direction of Donald Trump.

Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign-finance violations related to two payments made in the final months before the 2016 election to women who alleged having had sexual relations with Donald Trump.

Politico, ‘He’s Unraveling’: Why Cohen’s Betrayal Terrifies Trump, Michael Kruse, Aug. 22, 2018. Perhaps for the first time, an insider has bitten back — hard. For 16 or so hours after Tuesday’s double-barreled bombshell news, President Trump couldn’t even publicly say Michael Cohen’s name. That was the first signal he had been wounded by his former fixer’s guilty plea.

He said he felt badly for Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager who had just been convicted of bank and tax fraud. But he said nothing at first about Cohen’s admission in open court that he had tried to influence the 2016 election by paying off two women — and that he had done so at Trump’s direction.

Trump insisted the Manafort case had “nothing to do with Russian collusion,” but Cohen’s damning statement couldn’t be so easily swatted aside. Because Cohen’s actions have everything to do with Trump.

Washington Post, Convictions of former associates ramp up pressure on Trump, Devlin Barrett, Carol D. Leonnig, Philip Bump and Renae Merle, Aug. 22, 2018 (print edition). Former ‘fixer’ takes plea deal; ex-Trump campaign chairman found guilty of fraud. The dramatic collision of the investigations into Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort came as the legal and political pressure intensified on President Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cohen doesn’t want to be ‘dirtied’ by a Trump pardon, lawyer says, John Wagner and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Aug. 22, 2018 (print edition). During a whirlwind media tour, Lanny Davis took repeated shots at President Trump, accusing him. of committing impeachable offenses related to hush money payments.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s company approved $420,000 in payments to Cohen, relying on ‘sham’ invoices, prosecutors say, Carol D. Leonnig and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Aug. 22, 2018 (print edition).  Documents released as part of Michael Cohen’s plea deal reveal new details about the financial arrangements behind efforts to silence women in the 2016 campaign.

Law and Justice

david cay johnston headshotDC Report, New York Prosecutors Can Now Go After Trump, David Cay Johnston, right, Aug. 22, 2018. The guilty plea by Michael Cohen gives New York state and local prosecutors ample grounds to investigate Donald Trump. They should just in case the special prosecutor's federal inquiry is shut down, our David Cay Johnston reports. It's an important story you won't read anywhere else about the duty of Cy Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, and Barbara Underwood, the state attorney general, to investigate.

cases that will require Kavanaugh’s vote for a conservative victory.”

Looking Back In History

jfk pt 109 crew 1943 jfk library

Lt. John F. Kennedy, right, with his World War II crew on the PT109 before destruction of their boat and a dramatic rescue (1943 photo from the JKF Library)

whowhatwhy logoruss bakerWhoWhatWhy, Opinion: JFK’s War Heroism Speaks Louder Than Rhetoric of War-Dodging Chicken Hawks, Russ Baker, right, Aug. 22, 2018. Talking tough about military action and being tough are not one and the same. That’s worth remembering in the Trump era, when potential conflicts always seem just a tweet away. While many politicians, including President Donald Trump, have been quick to threaten military action, few have seen the horrors of war up close.

One reminder that war heroes do not necessarily become hawks — and vice versa — comes this month: the 75th anniversary of the day in 1943 when future president John F. Kennedy’s PT boat sank after being sheared in half by a Japanese destroyer off the Solomon Islands.

Kennedy managed to swim in the dark, for five hours, in treacherous currents — all while towing an injured mate. His teeth were clenched to the strap of a life jacket that held the man. (Go here to read the whole riveting story). Kennedy was later credited with saving members of the crew, and received both the Navy Marine Corps Medal and the Purple Heart for his heroics.

Kennedy’s war experience first became national news when, in 1944, both the New Yorker and Reader’s Digest published his story of survival during war on the high seas. Later, it served as a focal point of his candidacy in his first run at public office — in the 1946 Massachusetts congressional elections. Kennedy acknowledged the importance of his “war hero” status himself, later commenting, “I was elected to the House right after the war because I was the only veteran in the race.”

Aug. 21

michael cohen nytimes twitter 8 21 2017

New York Times, Pleading Guilty, Cohen Implicates President; In Manafort Trial, A Conviction On Eight Counts

ny times logoNew York Times, Cohen: Tump Asked for Hush Payments to Women, Cohen Says, William K. Rashbaum, Maggie Haberman, Ben Protess and Jim Rutenberg, Aug. 21, 2018. Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former fixer (shown above in a file photo in front of Trump Tower), made the extraordinary admission in court on Tuesday that he had arranged payments to two women at Mr. Trump’s behest to secure their silence about affairs they said they had with him.

djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtubeNote: Other information in the case strongly suggested that the women were former Playmate Karen McDougal, left, and porn star Stormy Daniels, below at right,, each of whom has claimed to have received payoffs from Trump via intermedias to keep quiet about their affairs with him.

Mr. Cohen acknowledged the illegal payments while pleading guilty to breaking campaign finance laws and other charges. He told a judge in United States District Court in Manhattan that the payments to the women were “at the direction of the candidate,” and “for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016.

djt stormy daniels screengrabMr. Cohen also pleaded guilty to multiple counts of tax evasion and bank fraud, bringing to a close a monthslong investigation by Manhattan federal prosecutors who examined his personal business dealings and his role in helping to arrange financial deals with women connected to Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cohen made the extraordinary admission that he paid a pornographic film actress “at the direction of the candidate,” referring to Mr. Trump, to rnc logosecure her silence about an affair she said she had with Mr. Trump.

[Read more about Mr. Cohen’s appearance in court and his admission that he paid Stormy Daniels, shown in a file photo, “at the direction” of President Trump. Mr. Cohen was a deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee.]

ny times logoNew York Times, Manafort Found Guilty of 8 Fraud Charges, Sharon LaFraniere, Aug. 21, 2018. The ex-Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort was convicted of eight counts, but the jury couldn’t reach a verdict on the other 10.

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, was convicted on Tuesday in his financial fraud trial, bringing a dramatic end to a politically charged case that riveted the capital.

The verdict was read out in United States District Court in Alexandria, Va., only minutes after Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer, pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to violating campaign finance law and other charges.

Mr. Manafort’s trial did not touch directly on Mr. Mueller’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election or on whether Mr. Trump has sought to obstruct the investigation. But it was the first test of the special counsel’s ability to prosecute a case in a federal courtroom amid intense criticism from the president and his allies that the inquiry is a biased and unjustified witch hunt.

paul manafort mugThe verdict was a victory for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, whose prosecutors built a case that Mr. Manafort hid millions of dollars in foreign accounts to evade taxes and lied to banks repeatedly to obtain $20 million in loans.

Mr. Manafort, shown at left in a jail mugshot, was convicted of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the remaining 10 counts, and the judge declared a mistrial on those charges.

Kevin Downing, a lawyer for Mr. Manafort, said his client was “evaluating all of his options at this point.”

Politico, Mueller wins more than a conviction in Manafort case, Darren Samuelson and Josh Gerstein, Aug. 21, 2018. By convincing a jury that he has uncovered criminal behavior, the special counsel has likely insulated his larger probe from political threats.

Special counsel Robert Mueller may have won only a partial courtroom victory against Paul Manafort, but Tuesday’s guilty verdicts against the former Trump campaign chief strengthen Mueller's hand in his wider probe of President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

Blasted by Trump and his allies as a biased and out-of-control prosecutor, Mueller —through his deputies who argued the case in court — has convinced an Alexandria, Virginia, jury that Manafort is guilty of eight out of 18 federal charges of bank and tax fraud. Manafort faces a maximum of 80 years in jail.

While some pro-Trump conservatives suggested Tuesday that Mueller had won a Pyrrhic victory because jurors deadlocked on a majority of the counts against Manafort, many legal experts called the outcome a clear success that will reassure Mueller’s defenders.

“This is unquestionably a win for the special counsel,” said Timothy Belevetz, a former assistant U.S. attorney from the Eastern District of Virginia. “It strengthens the special counsel’s mandate by demonstrating the office is productive and is achieving results.”

Even a former spokesman for Trump’s legal team conceded that the eight guilty verdicts were a victory for Mueller. “I don’t think it’s ever a black eye to a prosecutor when they get eight guilty verdicts,” said Mark Corallo, who also served as a Justice Department spokesman under President George W. Bush. “That’s a very serious conviction. There’s no defeat to a prosecutor when they get eight out of 10, 15 or 20 charges.

More GOP Scandal?

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Duncan Hunter, wife charged with spending campaign money on personal expenses, Matt Zapotosky, Aug. 21, duncan hunter o2018. The Justice Department on Tuesday charged a Republican Congressman, right, and his wife with using more than $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for family vacations, theater tickets and other personal expenses.

Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (Calif.) and his wife, Margaret, were charged in a 48-page indictment that details how they allegedly used campaign money to live beyond their means, funding trips to Italy, Hawaii and other places, as well as school tuition, dental work and theater tickets. The Justice Department said in a news release that the couple also allegedly spent tens of thousands of dollars on more modest items, such as golf outings, video games and even home utilities.

republican elephant logoThe Justice Department alleged the couple falsely described the purchases in FEC filings as “campaign travel,” “dinner with volunteers/contributors,” or by using other seemingly innocent monikers. They described the payment of their family dental bills as a charitable contribution to “Smiles For Life,” and tickets to see “Riverdance” at the San Diego Civic Theater as “San Diego Civic Center for Republican Women Federated/Fundraising.”

“Elected representatives should jealously guard the public’s trust, not abuse their positions for personal gain,” U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said in a statement. “Today’s indictment is a reminder that no one is above the law.”

Hunter, 41, who represents an area near San Diego, served in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine. He is running for reelection in November.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Omarosa releases video recording and blows up Donald Trump’s defense, Bill Palmer, Aug. 21, 2018. Trump is having his worst day ever, by far. So could it omarosa manigault abc ml 12 14 17 Customget any worse? Sure, because it turns out Omarosa (shown in a file photo) was booked for MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews tonight, and she brought a video recording with her which just happened to conveniently blow up Trump’s defense.

It turns out Omarosa’s video wasn’t of Donald Trump, it didn’t incriminate anyone, and it wasn’t even secretly recorded. All it did was show Michael Cohen getting onto Trump’s plane during the campaign and walking around like he owned the place. But this video demonstrated that Cohen was indeed involved with the campaign, and as Omarosa went on to explain, the trip depicted in the video had been put together entirely by Cohen. So why is so important?

Even though Donald Trump instructed Michael Cohen to pay off two women in violation of federal campaign law, Cohen was never officially a campaign official. Trump has already argued to an extent earlier this year, and will certainly try to argue more loudly now, that he can’t have been in violation of campaign law because Cohen wasn’t with the campaign. This video helps demonstrate otherwise, thus weakening Trump’s argument in the court of public opinion.

Breitbart, Omarosa: 'This Is the Beginning of the End for Donald Trump,'  Pam Key, Aug. 22, 2018. Omarosa: 'This Is the Beginning of the End for Donald Trump'

washington post logolarry kudlow cpac 2016 gage skidmore CustomWashington Post, Trump adviser Larry Kudlow hosted publisher of white nationalists at his home, Robert Costa, Aug. 21, 2018. Peter Brimelow, who has promoted white nationalists on his website, was a recent guest at a birthday bash for President Trump’s top economic adviser.

Kudlow, shown in a portrait by Gage Skidmore, expressed regret after learning of Brimelow's views: “If I had known this, we would never have invited him.”

Brimelow attended the gathering, a birthday bash for Kudlow, one day after a White House speechwriter was dismissed in the wake of revelations that he had spoken alongside Brimelow on a 2016 panel.

Brimelow, 70, was once a well-connected figure in mainstream conservative circles, writing for Dow Jones and National Review. But over the past two decades, he has become a zealous promoter of white-identity politics on, the anti-immigration website that he founded in 1999.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cohen: Tump Asked for Hush Payments to Women, Cohen Says, William K. Rashbaum, Maggie Haberman, Ben Protess and Jim Rutenberg, Aug. 21, 2018. Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former fixer (shown in a file photo in front of Trump Tower), made the extraordinary admission in court on Tuesday that he had arranged payments to two women at Mr. Trump’s behest to secure their silence about affairs they said they had with him.

Mr. Cohen acknowledged the illegal payments while pleading guilty to breaking campaign finance laws and other charges. He told a judge in United States District Court in Manhattan that the payments to the women were “at the direction of the candidate,” and “for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016.

djt stormy daniels screengrabMr. Cohen also pleaded guilty to multiple counts of tax evasion and bank fraud, bringing to a close a monthslong investigation by Manhattan federal prosecutors who examined his personal business dealings and his role in helping to arrange financial deals with women connected to Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cohen made the extraordinary admission that he paid a pornographic film actress “at the direction of the candidate,” referring to Mr. Trump, to secure her silence about an affair she said she had with Mr. Trump.

[Read more about Mr. Cohen’s appearance in court and his admission that he paid Stormy Daniels, shown in a file photo, “at the direction” of President Trump.]

U.S. Security Officials React To Trump

john brennan souza pogo graphic

Former CIA Director John Brennan. (Photo: White House / Pete Souza; Illustration by POGO)

washington post logoWashington Post, Almost 250 officials have spoken out against Trump’s decision to revoke Brennan’s clearance. Here’s a list, Youjin Shin, Aug. 21, 2018. A bipartisan group of former intelligence officials has voiced support for former CIA director John Brennan after President Trump revoked his security clearance. Brennan has been a vocal critic of Trump.

cia logoOn Aug. 15, President Trump revoked former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance. Brennan led the CIA during most of President Barack Obama’s second term and had become a vocal Trump critic.

A bipartisan group of more than a dozen former intelligence directors, plus retired Adm. William H. McRaven, spoke out against the president’s move. On Aug. 17, they were joined by another 60 officials, and over 170 added their names on Aug. 20. Here’s an non-exhaustive list of major figures who have voiced their support for Brennan.

Axios, Go deeper: Trump denies considering blocking Obama from intel briefings, Haley Britzky, Aug. 21, 2018. President Trump denied on Tuesday a New Yorker report about his consideration of blocking former President Barack Obama from intelligence briefings.

The big picture: The New Yorker's Adam Entous reported that the "extraordinary step" of booting Obama from intelligence briefings had been suggested to Trump, but that he hadn't taken it.

What Trump said: "Fake News, of which there is soooo much (this time the very tired New Yorker) falsely reported that I was going to take the extraordinary step of denying Intelligence Briefings to President Obama. Never discussed or thought of!"

new yorker logoWhat the New Yorker reported: Adam Entous wrote that some of Trump's advisers suggested that he "take the extraordinary step of denying Obama himself access to intelligence briefings." But, per Entous, Trump decided against it at the recommendation of former national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

Russian Election Threats?

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Above, the logo of the Russian intelligence service G.R.U.

ny times logovladimir putin o wNew York Times, Russian Hackers Now Targeting Conservative Think Tanks, David E. Sanger and Sheera Frenkel, Aug. 21, 2018. The Russian military intelligence unit that sought to influence the 2016 election appears to have a new target: conservative U.S. think tanks that have broken with President Trump, a report by Microsoft found. The shift underscores the agency’s goals of disrupting any institutions that challenge Moscow and President Vladimir V. Putin, right, of Russia.

In a report scheduled for release on Tuesday, Microsoft Corporation said that it detected and seized websites that were created in recent weeks by hackers linked to the Russian unit formerly known as the G.R.U. The sites appeared meant to trick people into thinking they were clicking through links managed by the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute, but were secretly redirected to web pages created by the hackers to steal passwords and other credentials.

Related coverage below:

washington post logomicrosoft logo squareWashington Post, Microsoft shuts down Russian operation targeting U.S. political institutions, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg​, Aug. 21, 2018. The technology giant said hackers created phony versions of websites used by the Senate and Washington nonprofit organizations. Among those targeted was a conservative think tank active in investigations of corruption in Russia, Microsoft said.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Microsoft Promotes Russia Scare To Gain Insider Access To Campaign Information, b, Aug. 21, 2018. The software behemoth Microsoft Corp wants to gain an insider view on candidates and election campaigns at the federal, state and local level.

The Seattle based company now offers a "special cybersecurity protection" to those candidates and campaigns that use its Office 365, Outlook or Hotmail cloud services. Those who take up the offer will put their emails, internal strategy papers and financial records onto Microsoft owned and administrated servers where Microsoft personal will have a special eye on them.

 The company hopes that a large amount of such data will enable it "to collect critical feedback" into developing political dangers and will allow it to "to address the specific needs of eligible organizations". This could, for example, be done by directing or withholding campaign contributions in line with its corporate interests. The acquired material will also be of interest to various national intelligence agencies and might be of value for future political trades.

Microsoft's new data acquisition path for its corporate intelligence has its own marketing campaign. This uses the well established bogeyman of the "Russian threat."

Microsoft engineers scanned the 220 million internet domain names to find a few domains that seem to have some similarities with know product names or known institutional names. Microsoft claimed that these domain names were trademark infringements of its office product, as well as of the conservative Hudson Institute, the International Republican Institute and the U.S. Senate. A judge agreed and allowed the company to seize the domain names. They now redirect to Microsoft honeypot servers. Any attempt to access them will be logged.

Its public relation department held a press conference and managed to spin a scare story of a "Russian threat" around the seized domain names. It did not provide any evidence on how the seized domain names might or might not be related to "Russia."

Journalists were pointed to a blog post by Microsoft's president which they could pick for quotes. After scaring the bejesus out of the stenographing scribes, the company made sure to empathize the offer that, if taken up, will give its strategic intelligence department valuable internal insights into election campaigns.

Major U.S. news sites swallowed the bait, hook, line and sinker.

Aug. 21, 2018 (updated)

Justice Integrity Project

By Andrew Kreig

Justice Integrity Project, Jury Gets Mind-Boggling Manafort Tax, Fraud Case

A federal jury in Virginia began deliberations on Aug. 16 of charges that President Trump's 2016 campaign manager committed astonishing levels of multi-million-dollar corruption.

Following a 12-day trial, the jury in the Washington suburb of Alexandria began considering the tax, bank fraud and conspiracy charges filed by the Justice Department's Trump For Presidentspecial counsel against 2016 Trump Campaign Manager Paul J. Manafort for conduct that stemmed largely from Manafort's years as adviser to a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party before he joined the Trump campaign in the spring of 2016.

But one subset set of the 18 pending charges alleged that Manafort — shown below right in a 2016 screenshot just before the Republican National Convention — received $16 million in unmerited, fraudulent loans from a Chicago banker who sought help from Manafort in 2016 to obtain a top post in the Trump administration.

That evidence opened a rare window into a breathtaking degree of corruption involving Trump supporters like Manafort and Chicago banker Stephen Calk, even if Calk obtained only an advisory post instead one of more than a dozen other top posts that he wanted.

paul manafort cnnQuoted below (near this column's conclusion) is Calk's seemingly illegal letter of self-recommendation (with repeated misspellings of simple words) and grandiose expectations of becoming Army Secretary, Treasury Secretary, or some comparable post near the highest level of government.

An email from Trump's influential son-in-law Jared Kushner introduced at the trial quoted Kushner as telling Manafort that Kushner was "on" the task of reviewing Manafort's recommendation of Calk. Manafort had been replaced as campaign manager during the summer but was still attempting to wheel and deal.

Aug. 20

Mueller Probe

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washington post logorobert muellerWashington Post, Trump calls Mueller lawyers ‘thugs’ and ‘a National Disgrace!’ John Wagner​, Aug. 20, 2018. A spate of morning tweets by the president, shown in a file photo, marked the latest escalation of rhetoric against the special counsel, Robert Mueller, now investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller is shown at right when he was FBI director for more than a decade.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Lawyers’ Sudden Realization: They Don’t Know What Don McGahn Told Mueller’s Team, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Aug. 20, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s lawyers do not know just how much the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, told the special counsel’s investigators during months of interviews, a lapse that has contributed to a growing recognition that an early strategy of full cooperation with the inquiry was a potentially damaging mistake.

ny times logodon mcgahn cato screengrabNew York Times, Trump Lawyers’ Sudden Realization: They Don’t Know What Don McGahn Told Mueller’s Team, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Aug. 20, 2018 (print edition). President Trump’s lawyers do not know just how much the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, right, told the special counsel’s investigators during months of interviews, a lapse that has contributed to a growing recognition that an early strategy of full cooperation with the inquiry was a potentially damaging mistake.

The president’s lawyers said on Sunday that they were confident that Mr. McGahn had said nothing injurious to the president during the 30 hours of interviews. But Mr. McGahn’s lawyer has offered only a limited accounting of what Mr. McGahn told the investigators, according to two people close to the president.

ny times logomichael cohen ap file croppedNew York Times, Cohen Is Being Investigated for Loans in Excess of $20 Million, William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess and Maggie Haberman, Aug. 20, 2018 (print edition). Federal authorities investigating whether Michael D. Cohen, right, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, committed bank and tax fraud have zeroed in on loans obtained by taxi businesses that he and his family own.

Any criminal charges against Mr. Cohen, right, which could be filed by the end of the month, would deal a significant blow to the president.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Russian spy Maria Butina caught working with John Bolton, Bill Palmer, Aug. 20, 2018. Back when Donald Trump hired John Bolton as his new White House National Security Adviser, various observers thought it was because Trump was preparing to start a war, and he wanted a perennial warmonger like Bolton in the fold.

john bolton full cropped CustomPalmer Report instead pointed to Bolton’s close ties to Cambridge Analytica, which had just gotten busted in the Trump-Russia scandal, and suggested that Trump was bringing Bolton into the White House because he was a key Trump-Russia player. Sure enough, Bolton, shown at right in a file photo, has now been caught working with arrested Russian political operative Maria Butina.

Leading Democrats in the House just sent a lengthy letter to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly which starts off like this: “We are writing regarding recent reports that National Security Advisor John Bolton, in his former capacity as a top official with the National Rifle Association (NRA), worked directly with a Russian citizen who has now been charged by federal prosecutors with infiltrating that organization and spying against the United States for years.”

nra logo CustomThe upshot here is that when the White House was vetting John Bolton for the National Security Adviser position, they either learned that Bolton was working with Maria Butina and tried to suppress it, or they did an extraordinarily negligent job of vetting him.

This letter appears to be aimed at pressuring Kelly into turning over the records from the vetting process, for fear that he’ll expose himself to obstruction charges if he refuses. But the goal here is to expose that John Bolton was working with a Russian spy before Trump made him National Security Adviser.

This revelation about John Bolton and Maria Butina lends more credence than ever to Palmer Report’s earlier premise that Trump hired Bolton because of the Trump-Russia scandal.

Aug. 19

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ny times logoNew York Times, Top Lawyer in White House Gives Mueller Coveted Details, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, Aug. 19, 2018 (print edition). The White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, has cooperated extensively in the special counsel investigation, sharing detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether President Trump obstructed justice, including some that investigators would not have learned of otherwise, according to a dozen current and former White House officials and others briefed on the matter.

don mcgahn cato screengrabIn at least three voluntary interviews with investigators that totaled 30 hours over the past nine months, Mr. McGahn described the president’s furor toward the Russia investigation and the ways in which he urged Mr. McGahn (shown at right to respond to it. He provided the investigators examining whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice a clear view of the president’s most intimate moments with his lawyer.

Among them were Mr. Trump’s comments and actions during the firing of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and Mr. Trump’s obsession with putting a loyalist in charge of the inquiry, including his repeated urging of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to claim oversight of it.

It is not clear that Mr. Trump appreciates the extent to which Mr. McGahn has cooperated with the special counsel. The president wrongly believed that Mr. McGahn would act as a personal lawyer would for clients and solely defend his interests to investigators, according to a person with knowledge of his thinking.

rudy giuliani chuck todd mtp 8 19 18

NBC's "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd, left, reacts as President Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliana tells Todd on the Aug. 19 show "The truth isn't truth." (NBC screenshot)

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani melts down and yells “Truth Isn’t Truth” and his whole world explodes, Bill Palmer, Aug. 19, 2018. Donald Trump woke up this morning in such an unhinged panic about White House Counsel Don McGahn having sold him out to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, his crazed tweets threatened to take over the day’s narrative.

But it turned out that was a mere warm up act for what was coming, as Trump’s criminal defense attorney Rudy Giuliani appeared on "Meet The Press" and not only managed to top Trump in the absurdity department, he arguably turned in the most absurd television interview performance of all time. No really.

washington post logoCIA LogoWashington Post, Analysis: Former intelligence officials bite back after Trump goes after Brennan’s clearance, Dan Balz, Aug. 19, 2018 (print edition).  President Trump’s order to revoke the security clearance of critic and former CIA director John Brennan has generated a kind of collective rebuttal rarely, if ever, seen in relations between a president and those who have gathered the nation’s secrets.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I read six sycophantic pro-Trump books — and then I read Omarosa, Carlos Lozada, Aug. 19, 2018 (print edition). Hagiographies of the president share seven core traits.

Books cited in this essay:

newt gingrich gage skidmore3Understanding Trump by Newt Gingrich (shown in a Gage Skidmore portrait). Center Street. 347 pp. $27.

Let Trump Be Trump: The Inside Story of His Rise to the Presidency by Corey R. Lewandowski and David N. Bossie. Center Street. 278 pp. $27.

Trump’s America: The Truth About Our Nation’s Great Comeback by Newt Gingrich. Center Street. 339 pp. $27

Liars, Leakers, and Liberals: The Case Against the Anti-Trump Conspiracy by Judge Jeanine Pirro. Center Street. 274 pp. $27

The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump by Gregg Jarrett. Broadside. 332 pp. $28.99

The Briefing: Politics, The Press, and the President by Sean Spicer. Regnery. 278 pp. $28.99

Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House by Omarosa Manigault Newman. Gallery Books. 334 pp. $28

Aug. 18

Crackdown On Critics

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)

washington post logoWashington Post, White House drafts more cancellations of clearances as Trump aims to punish critics, Karen DeYoung and Josh Dawsey​, Aug. 18, 2018 (print edition). President Trump wants to sign off on “most if not all” of the documents revoking the security clearances, said one senior White House official, who indicated that communications aides have discussed the optimum times to release them as a distraction during unfavorable news cycles.

Trump's comments followed the release of a statement signed by 14 former CIA directors and deputy directors from Republican and Democratic administrations, as well as a former director of national intelligence, who called Trump’s revocation this week of former CIA director John Brennan’s clearance a blatant attempt to “stifle free speech” and send an “inappropriate and deeply regrettable” signal to other public servants. CIA LogoLater Friday, 60 additional former CIA officials issued a statement objecting to the Brennan action and stating their belief “that former government officials have the right to express their unclassified views on what they see as critical national security issues without fear of being punished for doing so.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Is Not a King, Tim Weiner (the author of histories of the F.B.I. and C.I.A.), Aug. 18, 2018 (print edition). A group of former intelligence and military leaders have a message for the nation’s troops and spies: think twice before following the president’s orders in a crisis.

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, GOP fundraiser Broidy under investigation for alleged effort to sell government influence, Carol D. Leonnig, Devlin Barrett, Ellen Nakashima and Josh Dawsey, Aug. 18, 2018 (print edition). The Justice Department is examining whether longtime Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy, right, offered to influence the Trump administration for foreign officials, according to three people familiar with the inquiry.

elliott broidyAs part of the investigation, prosecutors are scrutinizing a plan that Broidy, left, allegedly developed to try to persuade the Trump government to extradite a Chinese dissident back to his home country, a move sought by Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to two of the people.

They also are investigating claims that Broidy sought $75 million from a Malaysian business official if the Justice Department ended its investigation of a development fund run by the Malaysian government. The Malaysian probe has examined the role of the former prime minister in the embezzlement of billions of dollars from the fund.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. seeks to halt lawsuit by D.C. and Maryland against Trump’s business, Jonathan O'Connell, Aug. 18, 2018 (print edition). The lawsuit centers on whether President Trump is violating the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign and state governments while in office. Justice officials said case would distract from Trump’s “performance of his constitutional duties.”

Aug. 17

New York Times, Trump Appears to Be Fixed on Punishing Ties to Russia Inquiry, Michael D. Shear and Julian E. Barnes, Aug. 17, 2018 (print edition). For more than a year, law enforcement officials have repeatedly rebuffed President Trump’s efforts to use the power of his office to derail the Russia investigation. Stymied, Mr. Trump is lashing out in other ways against an investigation that he clearly hates or fears.

washington post logowilliam mcraven 2012Washington Post, William McRaven, commander of the Osama bin Laden raid, asks Trump to revoke his security clearance, Felicia Sonmez, Aug. 17, 2018 (print edition). One day after President Trump stripped former CIA director John Brennan of his security clearance, the commander of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden said it would be an honor if the president would take away his clearance next.

William H. McRaven, shown at right in a 2012 photo, a retired four-star admiral who oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid, directly addressed Trump in a Washington Post op-ed published online Thursday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Threatens to Revoke Clearance of Justice Dept. Official, Michael D. Shear, Aug. 17, 2018. President Trump threatened to revoke “very soon” the security clearance of Bruce Ohr, a little-known Justice Department official who is the target of conspiracy theorists.

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Former CIA Director John Brennan. (Photo: White House / Pete Souza; Illustration by POGO)

POGO: Project On Government Oversight, Opinion: Weaponizing Security Clearances Is Unacceptable, Whether CIA Directors are the Victims or Perpetrators, Katherine Hawkins, Aug. pogo logo square17, 2018.

A group of former CIA directors and deputy directors has denounced President Trump’s revocation of former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance in retaliation for Brennan’s criticisms of him as “an attempt to stifle free speech.” They are correct about the dangers of the President‘s actions — but wrong to claim that the abuse of executive authority over clearances and classified information is “unprecedented.” Adverse action against a whistleblower’s security clearance is a common form of retaliation, and the legal protections against such reprisals are weak and poorly enforced.

Executive agencies regularly use their classification powers to avoid oversight or accountability for embarrassing or unlawful conduct. POGO called for Brennan’s resignation in 2014 over the agency’s retaliatory search of the computer files and baseless criminal referral of the Senate staffer who led the intelligence committee’s investigation into CIA torture. The current CIA Director, Gina Haspel, used her classification authority to prevent any substantive disclosure of her central role in the torture program during her Senate confirmation process.

The current clearance adjudication process does not have adequate protections. Approximately four million Americans hold security clearances, and for many of them, losing their clearance would mean losing their jobs. The President’s actions could encourage retaliation by other national security officials who wish to silence whistleblowers and critics, who are in a much more vulnerable position than Brennan. They need enforceable protection against using the security clearance process for retaliation—something that the leaders of U.S. intelligence agencies and their Congressional allies have long opposed.

Omarosa Revelations

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump goes off the deep end, seeks the arrest of Omarosa, Bill Palmer, Aug. 17, 2018. Donald Trump is now telling his advisers that he wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to have Omarosa arrested as punishment for her new tell-all book and the secret White House recordings she’s been releasing.

This sounds like something from the Onion, but it’s actually coming from Vanity Fair [“Death Spiral”: Why Omarosa Totally Triggered Trump], which has previously demonstrated that it has reliable sources in Trump’s inner circle. So omarosa manigault newman headshotwhere does this leave us?

There are no legal experts who believe that Omarosa (shown in a file photo) has committed any crime with her secret recordings. Donald Trump is rather ignorant of the law in general, so maybe he mistakenly thinks otherwise. Or maybe Trump wants Omarosa arrested without regard for whether she’s broken any laws.

Either way, by announcing to his political advisers that he wants the Department of Justice to arrest Omarosa, he’s violating her civil rights – and he’s very likely committing a crime of his own.

melania trump ny post nude cover july 30 2016The Hill, Omarosa predicts in new book that Trump would deport Melania if she crosses him, Aris Folley, Aug. 17, 2018. Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman claims in her new tell-all memoir of her time in the White House that President Trump would find a way to invalidate his wife’s citizenship if she were to cross him.

According to The Mercury News, Manigault Newman hypothesizes in her new book that Trump would find a way to deport Melania Trump to Slovenia, her native country, if she decided to leave him during his time in office.

“Since Donald is fully aware of however she acquired her permanent citizenship, he could, if there were anything fishy around it, expose the methods and somehow invalidate it,” Manigault Newman wrote. “He is a vindictive man, and I would not put anything past him.”

melania trump twitterThe first lady, shown at left in her Twitter photo and on the front page of the Murdoch-owned New York Post two years ago in some of her early modeling photos in New York, reportedly got a green card through a program specifically for people with "extraordinary ability,” known as the elite EB-1 program or the “Einstein visa.” She became a U.S. citizen in 2006.

The program is reserved for people such as academic researchers and multinational business executives, in addition to those with sustained national and international acclaim, melania trump ny post cover aug 1 2016The Washington Post reported in March.

“If Melania were to try to pull the ultimate humiliation and leave him while he’s in office, he would find a way to punish her,” Manigault Newman wrote. “This is a man who has said he could pardon himself from the Mueller investigation. Why not pardon himself over an alleged visa payoff?”

Naturalized citizens may be "de-naturalized" and subjected to deportation on several grounds, including falsification or concealment of relevant facts and refusal to testify before Congress.

Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s spokeswoman, responded earlier this week to claims in Manigault Newman’s book that Melania Trump could not wait for her husband's presidency to be over in order to divorce him.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Court ruling hands Omarosa major advantage over Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Aug. 17, 2018. Even as Omarosa continues to release more of the secret recordings she made of Donald Trump and his administration, Trump keeps seeking ways to try to shut her down. He’s told staffers that he wants Attorney General jeff sessions ag oJeff Sessions, right, to arrest her, and while that’s a jarring abuse of power, it’s highly unlikely to go anywhere.

However, Trump has also seized on another, slightly less unrealistic angle that he thought was going to work.

Donald Trump has had all of his people sign a nondisclosure contract which he thought binded them to arbitration. Accordingly, he filed for arbitration this week to try to force Omarosa to stop releasing tapes. But in a matter of rather interesting timing, a judge handed down a ruling today in a separate case which just happens to directly impact the Trump-Omarosa battle.

Former Trump staffer Jessica Denson has been engaged in a legal battle since last year about whether she had the right to go public about the alleged sexual harassment she was subjected to during the campaign, without having to go through arbitration. The judge ruled today that the arbitration clause is very narrow in definition, and applies to almost no situations. This instantly undermines Donald Trump’s current effort at trying to force Omarosa into arbitration.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Death by a thousand cuts, Bill Palmer, Aug. 17, 2018. Palmer Report has long pointed out that there’s a good chance Donald Trump’s presidency will go down the drain not as a result of one shockingly scandalous reveal, but rather through death by a thousand cuts. Richard Nixon [shown in an iconic 1974 photo leaving Washington following richard nixon leaves wh 1974 1his resignation] wasn’t ousted because of any one memorable Watergate moment, though there were many. He went down once the combined weight of all of those moments had simply made it impossible for him to move forward. We’re now seeing Omarosa, of all people, doing this to Trump all by herself.

Simply by releasing three secret recordings within the span of a week, Omarosa has exposed Donald Trump as a clueless weakling who can’t take responsibility for his own personnel moves, exposed Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly, below at right, as a stooge with no regard for security protocol, exposed Trump’s daughter-in-law to a potential prison sentence, and exposed Trump’s 2020 “reelection” campaign as little more than a front for bribe money.

john kelly o dhsFurther, by using these tapes to build credibility where she would otherwise have none, Omarosa has managed to breathe life into the accusations she can’t prove. The mainstream media is finally talking about Donald Trump’s alleged use of racial slurs on the set of the Apprentice. Penn Jillette and Tom Arnold say they’ve heard it themselves. But now it’s a source of discussion at the White House press briefing, and a lead story on cable news. The kicker is that this is just getting started, as the New York Times now says that Omarosa may have as many as two hundred tapes – and it’s clear she’s going to keep releasing them in swift fashion.

Special Counsel / Manafort Trial

Roll Call, Manafort Judge Says He’s Getting Death Threats, Griffin Connolly, Aug. 17, 2018. Judge T.S. Ellis III says he won’t reveal jurors info to prevent them from getting similar threats.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump defends Manafort on jury’s second day of deliberations, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, Lynh Bui and Devlin Barrett​, Aug. 17, 2018. “It’s very sad what they’ve done” to him, President Trump said as jurors began their second day of deliberating whether Paul Manafort is guilty of tax- and bank-fraud crimes.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘No Comment’: The Special Counsel’s (Very) Careful Team, Noah Weiland, Aug. 17, 2018 (print edition). The trial of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, has provided the public with its first extended glimpse of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators.

robert mueller graphic IMG 6401The prosecutors’ habits are to be expected in such a big case, former members of independent counsel teams said. The difference this time is the magnitude of the investigation paired with an era of instant news.

“This is unusual,” said Solomon L. Wisenberg, a deputy independent counsel who was selected by Judge Kenneth W. Starr to handle the grand jury questioning of President Bill Clinton. “This is a major, major trial with intense press interest in an era when you have 24-hour cable news.”

Perhaps no member of Mr. Mueller’s team has drawn more curiosity than the special counsel himself, who has not spoken publicly about the inquiry. The void has filled with speculation about the smallest observations — even about his choice of watch, the hyper-accurate Casio DW-290, which he wears with the face on the inside of his wrist.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House drafts more cancellations of clearances as Trump aims to punish critics, Karen DeYoung and Josh Dawsey​, Aug. 17, 2018. President Trump wants to sign off on “most if not all” of the documents revoking the security clearances, said one senior White House official, who indicated that communications aides have discussed the optimum times to release them as a distraction during unfavorable news cycles.

washington post logoWashington Post, Commerce secretary faces scrutiny for investments, not selling certain holdings, Steven Mufson​, Aug. 17, 2018. Wilbur Ross’s failure to divest created potential for violation and undermined public confidence, Office of Government Ethics says.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump seeks to revoke ‘very quickly’ security clearance of Justice official, John Wagner and Karen DeYoung, Aug. 17, 2018. President Trump's statement on Justice Department official Bruce Ohr came as more than a dozen former senior U.S. intelligence officials signed a letter sharply criticizing Trump for what they call his “ill-considered” decision to revoke former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance.

Trump's Fight With Viet Vets

New York Magazine, Opinion: Trump Picked Fight With Vietnam Vets Over Who Better Understood What Agent Orange Was, Eric Levitz, Aug. 17, 2018. President Trump is comprehensively unfit for his job. He’s bad at the big, historically important stuff, like understanding legislation and how it gets passed, setting coherent diplomatic goals and then pursuing a rational strategy for advancing them, and not orchestrating crimes against humanity.

boy scouts logo customBut he’s every bit as bad at the little things. The man is simply incapable of fulfilling his most basic responsibilities as the figurehead of the American State — responsibilities like giving a speech to the Boy Scout Jamboree without bringing up the orgies he once attended on his friend’s yacht, or making a condolence call to the bereaved widow of a fallen soldier without insinuating that her husband was responsible for his own death, or hosting a White House solar eclipse party without staring directly into the sun, or meeting with Vietnam veterans about their health-care concerns without getting into fight about whether he understands the difference between napalm and Agent Orange better than they do.

That last failure was just revealed by the Daily Beast Friday morning.

One of the first things that Trump did as president — after more than a year of campaigning as a champion of veterans’ interests — was to name reality star Omarosa Manigault Newman as the White House point person for veterans’ issues.

This did not please veterans.

omarosa manigault newman headshotThus, to reassure the constituency, Trump and Omarosa, shown in a file photo, met with the leadership of various veterans organizations at the White House in March of 2017.

After everyone was settled in, the president went around the room asking the representatives from each group about what they were working on, and how his administration could further their aims. Rick Weidman, co-founder of Vietnam Veterans of America, told the president about how the number of Vietnam veterans who suffer from medical conditions caused by their exposure to Agent Orange (a notorious herbicidal weapon used by the U.S. during that war) is much higher than the government recognizes. For this reason, only a fraction of those who were poisoned by the chemical have access to the special health benefits that they should be entitled to, Weidman explained.

Trump replied, “That’s taken care of,” according to multiple attendees who spoke to the Daily Beast.

The veterans were perplexed — they had just explained to the president that the issue was not, in fact, taken care of. When Weidman and his allies tried to reiterate their concerns, the president interrupted to ask whether Agent Orange was “that stuff from that movie.”

The president did not specify what film he was referencing. But as the commander-in-chief continued rambling, it became clear that he was thinking of the helicopter attack scene from Apocalypse Now. Multiple Vietnam veterans informed the president that the chemical agent used in that scene was napalm, not Agent Orange.

He then went around the room polling attendees about if it was, in fact, napalm or Agent Orange in the famous scene from “that movie,” as the gathering — organized to focus on important, sometimes life-or-death issues for veterans — descended into a pointless debate over Apocalypse Now that the president simply would not concede, despite all the available evidence.

In the many months since this encounter, the president has matched his failure to do right by Vietnam veterans on the minor matter of respecting their superior recall of Apocalypse Now, with betrayals on issues of greater import.

Aug. 16

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Society of Professional Journalists, SPJ President: There is no democracy without a free press / Our Letter to the Editor, Rebecca Baker, Aug. 16, 2018. Today, hundreds of newspapers across the country are publishing editorials to fight back against anti-press rhetoric. The Society of Professional Journalists stands in solidarity with these newsrooms and other journalism organizations and applauds their efforts to explain the importance of the work they do every day.

Justice Integrity Project Editor's Note: This editor, a member of SPJ beginning in the mid-1980s and more recently of the National Press Club, American Society of Newspaper asne logoEditors and Overseas Press Club, endorses on behalf of the project the editorial campaign on behalf of the press and public articulated by the announcement above by SPJ.

The public awareness campaign is typified also by the editorial below by the New York Times, which excerpts other sample editorials from across the United States

ny times logoNew York Times, A Free Press Needs You, Editorial Board, Aug. 16, 2018. “Public discussion is a political duty,” the Supreme Court said in 1964. That discussion must be “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,” and “may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”

In 2018, some of the most damaging attacks are coming from government officials. Criticizing the news media — for underplaying or overplaying stories, for getting something wrong — is entirely right. News reporters and editors are human, and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job. But insisting that truths you don’t like are “fake news” is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the “enemy of the people” is dangerous, period.

Answering a call last week from The Boston Globe, The Times is joining hundreds of newspapers, from large metro-area dailies to small local weeklies, to remind readers of the value of America’s free press. These editorials, some of which we’ve excerpted, together affirm a fundamental American institution.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to your local papers. Praise them when you think they’ve done a good job and criticize them when you think they could do better. We’re all in this together.

ny times logoNew York Times, Newspapers Are ‘in Collusion’ Over Free Press, Trump Says, Eileen Sullivan, Aug. 16, 2018. The president lashed out after over 200 newspapers, including The Times, published editorials about the dangers of his repeated attacks on the news media.

More Trump Crackdown On Critics

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump revokes security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan, Felicia Sonmez and David Nakamura, Aug. 16, 2018 (print edition). Brennan has been a leading critic of President Trump. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president is also reviewing security clearances of other former officials including former FBI director James B. Comey.

john brennan twitterPresident Trump has revoked the security clearance of former CIA director John O. Brennan, shown in a Twitter photo), White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Wednesday, citing “the risk posed by his erratic conduct and behavior.”

Brennan is a leading critic of Trump who as recently as Tuesday sharply denounced the president for calling his former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman “that dog.”

Trump is also reviewing security clearances of other former officials including former FBI director James B. Comey, Sanders said during a regular White House news briefing.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: John Brennan: President Trump’s Claims of No Collusion Are Hogwash, John Brennan (former CIA director), Aug. 16, 2018. That’s why the president revoked my security clearance: to try to silence anyone who would dare challenge him.

When Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s internal security service, told me during an early August 2016 phone call that Russia wasn’t interfering in our presidential election, I knew he was lying. Over the previous several years I had grown weary of Mr. Bortnikov’s denials of Russia’s perfidy — about its mistreatment of American diplomats and citizens in Moscow, its repeated failure to adhere to cease-fire agreements in Syria and its paramilitary intervention in eastern Ukraine, to name just a few issues.

cbs news logoCBS News, Top former intelligence bosses sign letter supporting John Brennan, Olivia Gazis, Aug. 16, 2018. Thirteen former leaders of the Pentagon, the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. have signed an open letter standing foursquare against President Trump, in favor of freedom of speech and, crucially, for the administration of justice. They have served presidents going back to Richard M. Nixon mostly without publicly criticizing the political conduct of a sitting commander in chief — until now.

Thirteen former senior intelligence officials, including 12 former CIA directors and deputy directors and one former director of national intelligence, have signed a letter of support for former CIA director John Brennan, calling the signal sent by the White House's decision to strip him of his security clearance "inappropriate" and "deeply regrettable."

"We feel compelled to respond in the wake of the ill-considered and unprecedented remarks and actions by the White House," the senior officials wrote. "We know John to be an enormously talented, capable and patriotic individual who devoted his entire adult life to the service of this nation."

robert gatesThe letter's signees include former Directors of Central Intelligence Robert Gates (left), William Webster, George Tenet and Porter Goss; former CIA directors Gen. Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta and Gen. David Petraeus; former director of national intelligence James Clapper; and former deputy CIA directors John McLaughlin, Stephen Kappes, Avril Haines, David Cohen and Michael Morell, who is also a CBS News senior national security contributor.

michael morrel npc kreig 5 11 2015 cropped SmallMorell, (shown at right in a file photo by the Justice Integrity Project) told "CBS This Morning" he helped organized the letter.

He said it was "difficult to get the language just right, because there were those of us who believed that what John has done since he left government and how he has chosen to use his voice is appropriate, and actually required in a democracy, and there are those of us who believe that he is acting inconsistent with the stature of a former director, so it was tough to get that right."

New Omarosa Tape On Trump Job Offer

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nbc logoNBC News, Omarosa releases secret tape of Lara Trump offering her $15K-a-month campaign job, Adam Edelman, Aug. 16, 2018. The tape, which was broadcast on MSNBC, was made just days after the former "Apprentice" contestant left her White House job.

Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former reality TV star who became a top White House aide to President Donald Trump, on Thursday released exclusively to MSNBC a secret tape of campaign official Lara Trump offering her a $15,000-a-month job after she was fired from the administration.

rnc logoThe tape — which, according to Manigault Newman was made on Dec. 16, 2017, just days after she had left the White House — appears to corroborate claims she made in her new book about receiving an offer from the president's re-election campaign, which would work with the Republican National Committee. Manigault Newman wrote in her book that the job offer came with the condition of signing a nondisclosure agreement; she said she did not accept it.

On the new tape, Lara Trump says: "It sounds a little like, obviously, that there are some things you've got in the back pocket to pull out. Clearly, if you come on board the campaign, like, we can't have, we got to," she continues, before Manigault Newman interjects, "Oh, God no."

"Everything, everybody, positive, right?" Trump continues.

The Hill, NYT: Omarosa believed to have as many as 200 tapes, Aris Folley, Aug. 16, 2018. Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman is reportedly believed to have scores of recordings from her time working for President Trump, leaving other aides concerned.

The New York Times reported on Thursday that Manigault Newman could have as many as 200 tapes that may contain information about the president and people close to him. The newspaper reported that a number of Trump administration aides have expressed concern that they too will make an appearance on Manigault Newman’s other tapes as she continues to release bombshell recordings in promotion of her new tell-all book, “Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House.”

Report: Trump Wants Omarosa Arrested

Vanity Fair, “Death Spiral”: Why Omarosa Totally Triggered Trump, Gabriel Sherman, Aug. 16, 2018. The perceived betrayal of a longtime female ally, and her perfectly executed Trumpian tactics, made the feud too personal to ignore.

omarosa manigault newman unhinged coverIn the days before Omarosa Manigault Newman rolled out her White House tell-all, Unhinged, Donald Trump’s advisers were hoping he wouldn’t engage with the book, believing it would only elevate her claims and help sell more copies.

“Just ignore it,” one told me, while even Melania Trump told her husband to let it go, Axios reported. Of course, this being Donald Trump, he ignored their counsel and went to war.

Now advisers fear his rage at Manigault Newman is fueling irrational outbursts that bolster the claim in her book that Trump said the “n-word” during an Apprentice outtake.

omarosa manigault newman headshotIn recent days, Trump has called Manigault Newman, shown in a file photo, “crazed,” a “lowlife,” and a “dog” on Twitter. His campaign filed an arbitration suit against her seeking “millions.”

And Trump told advisers that he wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to have Manigault Newman arrested, according to one Republican briefed on the conversations. (It’s unclear what law Trump believes she broke.)

Another Republican recounted how over the weekend Trump derailed a midterm-election strategy session to rant about Manigault Newman’s betrayal. In an effort to change the narrative, the White House announced yesterday that Trump had revoked former C.I.A. director John Brennan’s security clearance. But that only ignited a new public-relations crisis.

Trump Response To Omarosa

fox news logo SmallFox News, Lara Trump blasts Omarosa ‘betrayal,’ calls latest tape a ‘fraud,’ Adam Shaw, Aug. 16, 2018. Lara Trump tore into her old friend Omarosa Manigault Newman on Thursday after she released a tape of the president's daughter-in-law offering her a job on the 2020 campaign shortly after being fired from the White House.

“I hope it’s all worth it for you, Omarosa, because some things you just can’t put a price on,” Trump said in a statement. She fired back after Manigault Newman appeared on MSNBC and aired excerpts from a tape that appeared to show Lara Trump offering her a job at $180,000 a year to join President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, after she was fired in December 2017.

$92 M Cost Estimate For Trump Military Parade

CNN, Pentagon postpones Trump's military parade, Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne and Clare Foran, Aug. 16, 2018. The Department of Defense says the military parade originally scheduled for Veterans Day will be postponed.

"The Department of Defense and White House have been planning a parade to honor America's military veterans and commemorate the centennial of World War I," Defense Department spokesman Col. Rob Manning said in a statement Thursday. "We originally targeted November 10, 2018 for this event but have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019."

President Donald Trump said in February that a military parade in Washington would be "great for the spirit of the country," but that it would need to come at a "reasonable cost." The President said he was inspired by the Bastille Day parade in France, which he described as "quite something" after attending in 2017.

An administration official told CNN the $92 million figure for the US military parade, which was first reported by CNBC, was a planning estimate for an event that would meet President Donald Trump's intent. About half that amount would have been for non-military costs like security.

Manafort Jury Weighs Verdict

Roll Call, Manafort Jury at Impasse Over Foreign Accounts, ‘Reasonable Doubt’, Griffin Connolly, Aug 16, 2018. Jurors had four questions for judge Thursday. After roughly seven hours of deliberation Thursday, the six men and six women on the jury deciding the fate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort appeared at an impasse and will require at least another day to hand down their verdict.

FBI logoAt approximately 5:06 p.m., Judge T.S. Ellis III read a handwritten note from the jury with four questions. One of the questions referred to the requirements for people filing reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, or FBARs. Another asked the judge to redefine “reasonable doubt.”

The questions Thursday afternoon provide insight into the debates jurors are sorting out as they try to come to a consensus agreement on whether Manafort is guilty or innocent on none, some, or all, of the 18 counts of tax evasion and bank fraud.

In their first question for Ellis, the jury asked if someone is required to file an FBAR if they own “less than 50 percent of the account, do not have signature authority over the account,” but do have the authority to “direct disbursement of funds” from the account. Prosecutors have charged Manafort with willfully failing to submit FBARs to the Treasury Department in order to conceal the existence of 31 foreign accounts in which he allegedly hid more than $30 million from the IRS.

Aug. 15

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort's tax- and bank-fraud case is heading to the jury, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, Lynh Bui and Devlin Barrett, Aug. 15, 2018. Jury members in the trial of President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort heard closing arguments Wednesday as they prepared to deliberate on 18 charges of bank fraud and lying to the IRS that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.

"When you follow the trail of Mr. Manafort's money, it is littered with lies," prosecutor Greg Andres said during closing arguments to the six-woman, six-man jury in Alexandria, Va. "Mr. Manafort lied to keep more money when he had it, and he lied to get more money when he didn't."

The jury is scheduled to start deliberating Thursday after hearing testimony about the lavish lifestyle and multimillion-dollar loans of the political consultant and onetime chairman of the Trump campaign.

As Andres spoke, slowly and dispassionately, jurors looked at him, occasionally scribbling notes in the black notebooks they have used throughout the trial. Manafort, wearing a blue suit, did not look at Andres or the jury while the prosecutor spoke.

Aug. 13

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Welcome to the Resistance, Omarosa, Michelle Goldberg, Aug. 13, 2018. Naturally, Manigault Newman's new book, Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House, is self-serving, a way to avenge her 2017 firing and make money telling us what we already know about this wretched administration.

Nevertheless, she had other options for cashing in. She has revealed that she was offered a $15,000-a-month position on the Trump re-election campaign in exchange for keeping her mouth shut. She could have had a career in right-wing media; an African-American celebrity willing to say that the Republican Party isn't racist will always find patrons.

Studies have shown that the people who are most likely to leave cults are those who maintain intimate links to people outside them. Manigault Newman, who last year married a pastor who campaigned for Hillary Clinton, could never fully sever ties with Trump critics.

Aug. 12

Omarosa's Trump Book

washington post logoomarosa manigault newman unhinged CustomWashington Post, Ex-Trump aide releases recording purportedly made in White House Situation Room, Stephanie McCrummen​, Aug. 12, 2018. Omarosa Manigault Newman's purported recording, which would constitute a serious breach of White House security, was played on NBC News's "Meet the Press."

Axios Sneak Peek, Analysis: 1 big thing: Inside Omarosa's reign of terror; 2. Between the lines on Omarosa's secret tapes, Jonathan Swan, Aug. 12, 2018. Want to know the secret behind Omarosa's wild, largely unchallenged, run in the White House, during which she would swan in and out of the Oval Office, secretly recording the president and his chief of staff? It's simple: Some of the most powerful men in government were terrified of her.

1 big thing: Inside Omarosa's reign of terror: "I'm scared shitless of her... She's a physically intimidating presence," a male former colleague of Omarosa's told me. "I never said no to her," the source added. "Anything she wanted, 'Yes, brilliant.' I'm afraid of her. I'm afraid of getting my ass kicked." (He wouldn't let me use a more precise description of his former White House role because he admitted he's still scared of retribution from Omarosa. Other senior officials have admitted the same to me.)

Three other former officials shared that sentiment. "One hundred percent, everyone was scared of her," said another former official.

The big picture: Trump has nobody to blame but himself for Omarosa's raucous book tour, in which she calls him a racist and a misogynist, and says he's in mental decline. Trump brought her into the White House at the senior-most level with the top salary.

In many ways, two former senior administration officials pointed out, what Omarosa is doing now is pure Trump.

"She may be the purest of all the Trump characters," one told me. "She may be the most Trumpian. She knows media, she knows about physical presence, like Trump does...that's why I think he's rattled."

john kelly o dhs2. Between the lines on Omarosa's secret tapes: A scene that caught the attention of West Wing officials and national security lawyers today: Omarosa let NBC's "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd play tapes of White House chief of staff John Kelly, whom she secretly recorded while he was firing her.

Why this matters: It's extraordinary enough to secretly record a White House colleague and then play the tape on television. But it's even more stunning that the conversation happened in the Situation Room — the most secure area in the West Wing, reserved for the most sensitive conversations, many of them dealing with highly classified intelligence.

Behind the scenes: I spoke to several Trump officials who've spent time in the SitRoom. They say Kelly and the White House lawyers — especially Uttam Dhillon, who was recently appointed to head the Drug Enforcement Administration — used the SitRoom to talk with staff they were accusing of serious breaches, including problems with their clearances.

In the recording Omarosa played on "Meet the Press," Kelly refuses to elaborate on the "pretty serious integrity violations" he tells her she committed.

The bottom line: Omarosa says Kelly threatened her and she made her secret recording to protect herself. And to be clear: the conversation was not classified, meaning she may not have broken federal law. But national security lawyers I've spoken to say it's nonetheless disturbing.

Fox News, Omarosa releases purported secret recording of Chief of Staff John Kelly 'threatening' her in the Situation Room, Gregg Re, Aug. 12, 2018. Omarosa Manigault-Newman, the ex-reality star and former Trump aide who has since accused the president of racism, on Sunday released what she claimed was a secret recording of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly "threatening" her in the White House Situation Room.

But White House officials pushed back immediately, saying Manigault-Newman's termination for alleged ethical violations was handled appropriately and charging that she had flagrantly security protocols by taping Kelly in the highly secured room in the basement of the West Wing.

john kelly o dhsIn the recording, Kelly purportedly calls for Manigault-Newman's "friendly departure" from the administration without any "difficulty in the future relative to your reputation." According to the tape, Kelly continued by saying that things could get "ugly" for her, and that she was "open to some legal action" for conduct that would merit a court martial if she were in the military.

That comment was a "very obvious ... threat," Manigault-Newman told NBC's "Meet the Press." She said she had recorded the conversation because otherwise no one would believe her. That Manigault-Newman had apparently managed to record a conversation in the White House's high-tech Situation Room, which is the nerve center of sensitive government military operations, alarmed analysts Sunday.

The Hill, White House seeks to prevent Omarosa from releasing more tapes: report, Morgan Gstalter, Aug. 12, 2018. The White House is looking into legal options against former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman after she secretly recorded chief of staff John Kelly in the Situation Room, ABC News reported Sunday.

The administration reportedly wants to block Manigault Newman from releasing any more tapes and punish her for the recording she revealed on NBC's "Meet the Press" earlier Sunday, which was taped during Kelly's firing of her back in December.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Sunday that the "very idea a staff member would sneak a recording device into the White House Situation Room, shows a blatant disregard for our national security."

"And then to brag about it on national television further proves the lack of character and integrity of this disgruntled former White House employee," Huckabee Sanders continued.

A number of journalists, national security experts and former White House staff raised alarms about the dangers of recording in the Situation Room — the highly sensitive space where phones and electronic devices are prohibited for security reasons.

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer called Manigault Newman's taping "a massive violation of security protocol."

"She taped the chief of staff for the White House in the Situation Room, clearly a violation of every security protocol that she signed when she applied for a security clearance," Spicer said on "Fox News Sunday."

Manigault Newman released the tape in conjunction with her book tour for Unhinged: An Insider Account of the Trump White House. Excerpts of the explosive memoir released this week include the former aide claiming that Kelly fired her when he knew she was close to getting the audio of Trump using a racial slur.

Mueller Probe

kristin davis roger stone jan 28 2013washington post logoWashington Post, How an ex-madam, Roger Stone and a toddler got tangled up in the Russia investigation, Manuel Roig-Franzia, Aug. 12, 2018 (print edition). Stone, an infamous political trickster, has made allegations of harassment as close confidant Kristin Davis became his latest associate to appear before the grand jury convened by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. They are shown above in a file photo.

Investigators have been looking into Stone's communication with Twitter persona Guccifer 2.0.

washington post logo

devin nunes head oWashington Post, Opinion: The unimpeachable integrity of the Republicans, Dana Milbank, Aug. 12, 2018 (print edition). House Intellitgence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican shown at right, wants to impeach the deputy attorney general. But House Republicans are running out of prospective impeachment managers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Don't fall for Trump's latest whataboutism, Editorial board, Aug. 12, 2018 (print edition). The claim that the Clinton team's and the Trump team's actions in the 2016 campaign were on the same moral or legal plane is preposterous.

Aug. 11

michael avenatti ccn 3 23 18 Custom

Attorney Michael Avenatti, shown in a CNN file photo, spoke in Iowa to a Democratic gathering on strategies to fight President Trump

ny times logoNew York Times, Michael Avenatti Urges Democrats to Reject Michelle Obama's Advice on Trump, Maggie Astor, Aug. 11, 2018 (print edition). Michael Avenatti, fresh off his declaration that he may run for president in 2020, used his first big speech as a prospective candidate to call on the Democratic Party to reject Michelle Obama's oft-quoted advice about President Trump and his allies: "When they go low, we go high."

Mr. Avenatti, the hard-charging lawyer who represents the pornographic film star Stephanie Clifford, known as Stormy Daniels, did not once mention the former first lady in his keynote speech Friday night at the Democratic Wing Ding, a party fund-raiser in northern Iowa. But there was no mistaking his meaning.

"We must be a party that fights fire with fire," Mr. Avenatti said to cheers from the audience, his voice rising. "When they go low, I say hit back harder."

He received a thunderous ovation at the end of his speech, notably louder than the applause for the night's other speakers, including Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio as well as Representative John Delaney of Maryland, who is running for president.

At times, his language verged on apocalyptic. The Democratic Party, he said, is "fighting for no less than the survival of our republic," and doing so against "a man that wants to turn back the hands of time, to send us back to the Dark Ages."

In such a fight, he continued, "we must honestly ask ourselves whether those that we fight for can afford our gentleness."

President Donald Trump officialIt is a message in keeping with the work that has made Mr. Avenatti a boldface name: his alliance with Ms. Clifford, who claims to have had an affair with Mr. Trump and is suing the president's onetime fixer, Michael D. Cohen.

As Ms. Clifford's lawyer, Mr. Avenatti has adopted the president's brash manner and some of his tactics. He has a similar instinct for using the news media to his advantage; he seems always to be on one cable news show or another. His Twitter feed is sometimes combative, sometimes coy, virtually always provocative — an example of the tack he is now urging the Democratic Party to take.

There was a certain tension, however, in his speech, which mingled calls to arms with calls for Democrats to reach out compassionately to Trump voters whose support for the president may be wavering. Democrats should think of such voters "not as evildoers but as victims of a great con," he said. "Decent people get conned all the time, and let's face it, Trump is a very good con man."

New Book On Trump: 'Unhinged'

omarosa manigault newman unhinged Custom

The Guardian, The key Trump revelations in Omarosa Manigault Newman's new book, David Smith, Aug. 11, 2018 (print edition). The ex-White House adviser's forthcoming memoir says Trump insisted upon being sworn in to the presidency with his own book.

Omarosa Manigault Newman, whose association with Donald Trump goes back all the way to his days on reality TV, has displayed her flair for spectacle by publishing a scathing insider's account of his White House.

Omarosa says Trump is a racist who uses N-word – and claims there is tape to prove it.

Her book, Unhinged, characterizes the US president as a bigot, sexist and racist who has been caught on mic using the N-word "multiple times." This is the verdict of the woman who was his director of African American outreach during the 2016 presidential election, then the most senior African American on his staff until her sudden departure last December.

Manigault Newman, who embraced the role "villain" on The Apprentice, said in 2015: "When you have a big reality TV star as the front-runner for the Republican nomination there is no way to separate it. This is the new reality." Donald Trump is shown in a promotional photo for the show at right.

donald trump apprentice black and whiteHer memoir offers a glimpse of a reality TV candidacy and presidency full of chaos, egos, internecine warfare and mendacity.

When the Guardian approached the White House for comment about Manigault Newman's book on Thursday, there was no response. But on Friday, press secretary Sarah Sanders claimed: "This book is riddled with lies and false accusations". She added: "It's sad that a disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks."

There is more to come, however. Manigault Newman is due to appear on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday and then embark on a lengthy publicity tour that could further damage the man she once regarded as a mentor.

Aug. 10

Manafort Corruption Trial

steve calk banker cropped

washington post logoWashington Post, Manafort got $16 million in loans from bank whose CEO wanted Trump administration post, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, Lynh Bui and Tom Jackman, Aug. 10, 2018. Federal Savings Bank Senior Vice President Dennis Raico testified how Paul Manafort won quick approval for loans as part of a process that featured unusual involvement from the bank's CEO and chairman Steve Calk, shown above, who was seeking a role in the Trump administration.

A bank CEO who helped President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort obtain $16 million in loans hoped for a Cabinet-level position in the administration, a bank employee testified in federal court Friday.

The bank employee, Dennis Raico, was called as a witness after a confusing morning at Manafort's trial in Alexandria, Va., during which U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III huddled privately with prosecutors and defense attorneys, delaying the start of testimony until midafternoon. A transcript of those discussions was sealed.

No reason was offered for the delay, but when Raico finally took the stand, he described how the CEO, Steve Calk, was willing to depart from bank policies to approve loans for a friendly and well-connected political operative.

thomas s ellis iii federal judge

U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III is presiding, sometimes colorfully and in biased, anti-prosecution fashion, over the trial of Paul Manafort (file photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge in Manafort trial admits mistake after berating prosecutors, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, Lynh Bui and Devlin Barrett​, ​Aug. 10, 2018 (print edition). T.S. Ellis III's daily spats with the government's attorneys subsided Thursday as he asked jury members to ignore his outburst the day before. The move came in response to a motion filed overnight by prosecutors pursuing bank fraud and tax evasion charges against Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, as part of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation.

Other Mueller Probe News

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge holds witness in Mueller probe in contempt for refusing to appear before grand jury, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Aug. 10, 2018. Andrew Miller, a former aide to longtime Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone, had lost a court battle to quash a subpoena. • Analysis: Trump keeps tweeting about Mueller more and more.

roger stone fox shot

ny times logoNew York Times, Roger Stone, Lifelong Political Scrapper, Fights for His Future, Alan Feuer, Aug. 10, 2018. Several recent turns in the special counsel's Russia investigation have placed Mr. Stone, shown in a file photo, in increasing legal jeopardy.

As a flamboyant veteran of Washington and New York City politics, the campaign strategist Roger J. Stone Jr. has been in any number of knock-'em-down scrapes over the years, reaching back four decades to his early days as a self-described "dirty trickster" in the Nixon administration.

But now Mr. Stone, a veteran adviser to President Trump who has long cut a piratical figure on the political scene, appears to be engaged in his stiffest fight yet: the one for his own legal future.

On Friday, a stream of developments in the special counsel investigation underscored his peril. An old friend — a former procuress from New York whom Mr. Stone has employed as an administrative worker — testified about him to the federal grand jury hearing evidence in the inquiry. Another old friend, a New York City radio host, has been subpoenaed to appear before the same grand jury. And one of his close aides was held in contempt of court for ignoring his own subpoena, though the order was stayed.

Omarosa Book On Trump

usa today logo 5omarosa manigault newman unhinged coverUSA Today, Omarosa's 'Unhinged' bombshells: Trump racist, mentally 'in decline,' 'physically' unwell, Jocelyn McClurg, Aug. 10, 2018. Omarosa Manigault-Newman is going after President Donald Trump and his administration with a book entitled Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House set to be released on Aug. 14.

Omarosa Manigault Newman says she has "escaped from the cult of Trumpworld." In her new book, the former White House aide and reality TV star is unleashing fire and fury on her one-time boss and mentor, Donald Trump.

Gallery Books, publisher of "Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House," promised an "explosive, jaw-dropping account." We've read the book (on sale Aug. 14), which no doubt will provoke a tweet-storm of pushback from the White House.

omarosa manigault newman gage skidmore custom 2washington post logoWashington Post, Omarosa Manigault Newman says she refused $15,000-a-month hush money, pens White House memoir calling Trump racist, Josh Dawsey, Aug. 10, 2018. Omarosa Manigault Newman was offered a $15,000-a-month contract from President Trump's campaign to stay silent after being fired from her job as a White House aide by Chief of Staff John F. Kelly last December, according to a forthcoming book by Manigault Newman and a document viewed by The Washington Post.

But she refused, according to the incendiary new book, Unhinged: An Insider Account of the Trump White House, which also depicts Trump as unqualified, narcissistic and racist. Excerpts of the book were obtained by The Post. She is shown at right in a Gage Skidmore portrait.

After she was fired, Manigault Newman wrote, she received a call from Trump campaign adviser Lara Trump, the president's daughter-in-law, offering her a job and the monthly contract in exchange for her silence.

Aug. 9

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort trial Day 8: Judge Ellis apologizes for outburst at prosecutors, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, Lynh Bui and Tom Jackman​, Aug. 9, 2018. The mea culpa from U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III came before federal prosecutors sought to detail how Paul Manafort allegedly defrauded a bank by claiming a Manhattan property was a "second residence" in obtaining $3.4 million loan.

10:01 a.m.: Judge Ellis begins court with mea culpa for outburst over expert. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III has raked prosecutors from the special counsel's office over the coals for the past week and a half. But on Thursday, he backed down, telling jurors to ignore one piece of criticism. "I was critical of counsel for … allowing an expert to remain in the courtroom," he said before testimony began. "You may put that aside… I may well have been wrong."

10:37 a.m.: Documents show Manafort claimed Manhattan property was a 'second residence' in obtaining $3.4 million loan

With their first witness of the day, prosecutors sought to detail how Paul Manafort defrauded Citizens Bank – obtaining a $3.4 million loan in part by falsely claiming a property he owned in New York was a second residence, rather than a rental property.

Mortgage loan assistant Melinda James, who works at Citizens Bank, described for jurors how in 2016 Manafort sought what is known as a $3.4 million cash-out refinance on a property he owned on 29 Howard St. in lower Manhattan. What that means, James testified, is Manafort was essentially seeking to refinance so he could get cash for the equity in the property.

As he questioned James, Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye flashed for jurors the mortgage documents Manafort signed and emails Manafort wrote attaching documents to support his loan application. That is important because defense attorneys have sought to cast blame for the fraud of which Manafort is accused on his business partner, Rick Gates.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge in Manafort Trial Is a 'Caesar' in His Own Rome, Emily Cochrane and Sharon LaFraniere, Aug. 9, 2018. The message Judge T.S. Ellis III gives lawyers in his court is clear: Keep questions on point, move briskly and show some respect.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Manafort trial, prosecutors prepare to call final witnesses, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, Lynh Bui and Tom Jackman, Aug. 9, 2018. Testimony has turned from luxury suits and extramarital affairs to flow charts and accrual-based accounting as prosecutors describe millions of dollars they accuse onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of failing to report as income.

washington post logoWashington Post, Devin Nunes, in secret recording, tells donors GOP majority is necessary to protect Trump, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Aug. 9, 2018. The California Republican made the remarks during a closed-door fundraiser last month for a GOP colleague.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: In leaked audio, Devin Nunes makes strong case for Democratic Congress, Greg Sargent, Aug. 9, 2018. Last night, Rachel Maddow reported on leaked audio of Rep. Devin Nunes, who is perhaps President Trump's staunchest bodyguard against accountability on Capitol Hill, in which he candidly revealed that Republicans hope to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein after the elections. Nunes is already leading such an impeachment drive — which hasn't generated much GOP support — but Nunes added that he expected many Republicans to back Rosenstein's impeachment down the line.

In case the meaning of this isn't clear enough, Nunes also candidly stated that maintaining the GOP majority in Congress is imperative — to protect Trump from the Russia investigation.

In so doing, the California Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee inadvertently made a very powerful case for a Democratic takeover of Congress. Nunes's comments also point to a way that Democrats can make the midterms about Trump corruption, while also making the Russia story — and the handling of it by Trump and Congressional Republicans — an important strand in that argument.

Aug. 8

New York Magazine, The Whole Republican Party Seems to Be Going to Jail Now, Jonathan Chait, Aug. 8, 2018. The entire Trump era has been a festering pit of barely disguised ongoing corruption. But the whole sordid era has not had a 24-hour period quite like the orgy of criminality which we have just experienced. The events of the last day alone include:

(1) The trial of Paul Manafort, which has featured the accusation that President Trump's campaign manager had embezzled funds, failed to report income, and falsified documents. His partner and fellow Trump campaign aide, Rick Gates, confessed to participating in all these crimes, as well as to stealing from Manafort.

(2) Yesterday, Forbes reported that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross may have stolen $120 million from his partners and customers. Meanwhile Ross has maintained foreign holdings in his investment portfolio that present a major conflict of interest with his public office. (The "Don't worry, Wilbur Ross would never do anything unethical just to pad his bottom line" defense is likely to be, uh, unconvincing to the many people filing suit against Ross for allegedly doing exactly that.)

(3) Also yesterday, ProPublica reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs is being effectively run by three Trump cronies, none of whom have any official government title or public accountability. The three, reports the story, have "used their influence in ways that could benefit their private interests."

(4) And then, this morning, Representative Chris Collins was arrested for insider trading. Collins had been known to openly boast about making millions of dollars for his colleagues with his insider knowledge. He is charged with learning of an adverse FDA trial, and immediately calling his son — from the White House! — urging him to sell his holdings.

It has been, in sum, quite a day.

Some level of corruption is an inescapable part of political life in general, and certainly Democrats are not (and never have been) immune to it. But it has been especially chronic in the modern Republican Party, whose last experience with control of government ended in a series of corruption scandals so blatant they provoked widespread soul-searching on the right as to how the party and the conservative movement could so easily open itself up to grifters. (Remember Jack Abramoff? Bob Ney? Tom DeLay? Grover Norquist?) The temptation to use government as a vehicle for self-enrichment is especially strong in a party dedicated to a credal skepticism about the possibility government can do good.

Several possible explanations present themselves. Trump appears to select for greed and dishonesty in his cronies. (Collins does not work in the administration, but was Trump's first endorser in Congress.) The sorts of people Trump admires are rich and brash and disdainful of professional norms, and seem unlikely to rat on him. The sorts of people who are apt to work for Trump seem to be those who lack much in the way of scruples.

The administration is understaffed and disorganized to the point of virtual anarchy, opening up promising avenues for insiders to escape accountability. Trump's public ethos, despite his professions during the campaign that he could "drain the swamp" and impose a series of stringent ethics reforms, runs toward relativism — he famously tolerates anybody who supports him, regardless of criminal history or other disqualifications, defining their goodness entirely in terms of personal loyalty. And above all there is the simple fact that Trump himself is a wildly unethical businessman who has stiffed his counterparties and contractors, and worked closely with mobsters, his entire career. A president who is continuing to profit personally from his office is hardly in any position to demand his subordinates refrain from following suit.

ny times logoNew York Times, Manafort's Lawyers Accuse Gates of Multiple Affairs, Kenneth P. Vogel and Noah Weiland, Aug. 8, 2018. Lawyers for Paul Manafort accused his longtime deputy Rick Gates, shown below, of having four extramarital affairs and lying about them, a last attempt by the defense to undermine the credibility of the government's star witness at the fraud trial of Mr. Manafort on Wednesday.

rick gates cropped aug 2018Kevin Downing, the lead lawyer for Mr. Manafort, offered no evidence of either the affairs or Mr. Gates's misrepresentation of them, and the judge, T.S. Ellis III, cut off the questioning before Mr. Gates could directly respond to the allegations.

The exchange marked a dramatic conclusion to Mr. Gates's testimony against his former boss, which spanned three days in federal court here in the trial of Mr. Manafort on bank and tax fraud charges brought by the special counsel.

Mr. Gates provided hours of damning testimony against Mr. Manafort related to their decade of work together on behalf of Russia-aligned Ukrainian politicians and oligarchs. Mr. Gates accused Mr. Manafort of deliberately hiding income from the Ukraine work in foreign bank accounts to evade federal taxes, as well as personally directing the falsification of financial statements to obtain bank loans.

Aug. 7

Trump Cabinet Corruption?

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Forbes, New Details About Wilbur Ross' Business Point To Pattern Of Grifting, Dan Alexander, Aug 7, 2018.  A multimillion-dollar lawsuit has been quietly making its way through the New York State court system over the last three years, pitting a private equity manager named David Storper against his former boss: Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross (shown above).

The pair worked side by side for more than a decade, eventually at the firm, WL Ross & Co. — where, Storper later alleged, Ross stole his interests in a private equity fund, transferred them to himself, then tried to cover it up with bogus paperwork. Two weeks ago, just before the start of a trial with $4 million on the line, Ross and Storper agreed to a confidential settlement, whose existence has never been reported and whose terms remain secret.

It is difficult to imagine the possibility that a man like Ross, who Forbes estimates is worth some $700 million, might steal a few million from one of his business partners. Unless you have heard enough stories about Ross. Two former WL Ross colleagues remember the commerce secretary taking handfuls of Sweet'N Low packets from a nearby restaurant, so he didn't have to go out and buy some for himself. One says workers at his house in the Hamptons used to call the office, claiming Ross had not paid them for their work. Another two people said Ross once pledged $1 million to a charity, then never paid. A commerce official called the tales "petty nonsense," and added that Ross does not put sweetener in his coffee.

securities exchange commission sealThere are bigger allegations. Over several months, in speaking with 21 people who know Ross, Forbes uncovered a pattern: Many of those who worked directly with him claim that Ross wrongly siphoned or outright stole a few million here and a few million there, huge amounts for most but not necessarily for the commerce secretary. At least if you consider them individually. But all told, these allegations — which sparked lawsuits, reimbursements and an SEC fine — come to more than $120 million. If even half of the accusations are legitimate, the current United States secretary of commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history.

Not that he sees himself that way. "The SEC has never initiated any enforcement action against me," Ross said in a statement, failing to mention the $2.3 million fine it levied against his firm in 2016. The commerce secretary also noted that one lawsuit against him got dismissed, without saying it is currently going through the appeals process. Ross confirmed settling two other cases, including the recent one against Storper, but declined to offer additional details.

Those who've done business with Ross generally tell a consistent story, of a man obsessed with money and untethered to facts. "He'll push the edge of truthfulness and use whatever power he has to grab assets," says New York financier Asher Edelman. One of Ross' former colleagues is more direct: "He's a pathological liar."

New Scandal At Veterans Administration

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ProPublica, The Shadow Rulers of the VA, Isaac Arnsdorf Aug. 7, 2018. How Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter and two other Mar-a-Lago cronies are secretly shaping the Trump administration's veterans policies.

Last February, shortly after Peter O'Rourke became chief of staff for the Department of Veterans Affairs, he received an email from Bruce Moskowitz with his input on a new mental health initiative for the VA. "Received," O'Rourke replied. "I will begin a project plan and develop a timeline for action."

O'Rourke treated the email as an order, but Moskowitz is not his boss. In fact, he is not even a government official. Moskowitz is a Palm Beach doctor who helps wealthy people obtain high-service "concierge" medical care.

mar a lago aerial CustomMore to the point, he is one-third of an informal council that is exerting sweeping influence on the VA from Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump's private club in Palm Beach, Florida (shown in an aerial view at right). The troika is led by Ike Perlmutter, the reclusive chairman of Marvel Entertainment, who is a longtime acquaintance of President Trump's. The third member is a lawyer named Marc Sherman. None of them has ever served in the U.S. military or government.

Yet from a thousand miles away, they have leaned on VA officials and steered policies affecting millions of Americans. They have remained hidden except to a few VA insiders, who have come to call them "the Mar-a-Lago Crowd."

Perlmutter, Moskowitz and Sherman declined to be interviewed and fielded questions through a crisis-communications consultant. In a statement, they downplayed their influence, insisting that nobody is obligated to act on their counsel. "At all times, we offered our help and advice on a voluntary basis, seeking nothing at all in return," they said. "While we were always willing to share our thoughts, we did not make or implement any type of policy, possess any authority over agency decisions, or direct government officials to take any actions… To the extent anyone thought our role was anything other than that, we don't believe it was the result of anything we said or did."

VA spokesman Curt Cashour did not answer specific questions but said a "broad range of input from individuals both inside and outside VA has helped us immensely over the last year and a half." White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters also did not answer specific questions and said Perlmutter, Sherman and Moskowitz "have no direct influence over the Department of Veterans Affairs."

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort trial Day 6: Gates explains how millions were funneled to Manafort, Justin Jouvenal, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, Rosalind Helderman, Aug. 7, 2018. Paul Manafort, President Trump's onetime campaign chairman, is on trial in federal court in Alexandria on bank and tax fraud charges. Prosecutors allege that he failed to pay taxes on millions he made from his work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party, then lied to get loans when the cash stopped coming in.

The case is being prosecuted by the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. We'll have live coverage here throughout Day 6 of the trial.

Rick Gates is now testifying that he gave a bank fraudulent home insurance documents at Paul Manafort's request, so that his boss could get a loan from Citizens Bank.

Manafort had told a representative from the bank that he had no mortgage on a townhouse he owned in Brooklyn, Gates explained. But when the bank first got documents from insurance broker Donna Duggan they showed there was a mortgage on the home.

ny times logoNew York Times, Paul Manafort Trial Live Updates: After a $215,000 Tax Bill, Manafort Writes 'This Is a Disaster,' Staff report, Aug. 7, 2018. Rick Gates, the former right-hand man to Paul Manafort, President Trump's campaign chairman, is testifying in Mr. Manafort's trial on bank and tax fraud charges in Alexandria, Va.In late 2015 and 2016, Mr. Manafort's political consulting firm had no clients. Prosecutors led him through a clinical examination of his and Mr. Manafort's business dealings, including how he hid income to avoid taxes.

Mr. Gates said that in March 2016, when he and Mr. Manafort joined a "presidential campaign" in the United States — he did not name Mr. Trump's bid for office — the firm had no clients. He said vendors and accountants were dunning Mr. Manafort about his unpaid bills.

paul manafort rick gates nbcnews

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

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort trial Day 6: Gates explains how millions were funneled to Manafort, Justin Jouvenal, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, Rosalind Helderman, Aug. 7, 2018. Paul Manafort, President Trump's onetime campaign chairman, is on trial in federal court in Alexandria on bank and tax fraud charges. Prosecutors allege that he failed to pay taxes on millions he made from his work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party, then lied to get loans when the cash stopped coming in.

The case is being prosecuted by the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. We'll have live coverage here throughout Day 6 of the trial.

Rick Gates is now testifying that he gave a bank fraudulent home insurance documents at Paul Manafort's request, so that his boss could get a loan from Citizens Bank.

Manafort had told a representative from the bank that he had no mortgage on a townhouse he owned in Brooklyn, Gates explained. But when the bank first got documents from insurance broker Donna Duggan they showed there was a mortgage on the home.

Trump Counsel Giuliani

washington post logorudy giuliani recentWashington Post, Giuliani says Trump team has 'real reluctance' over letting Mueller ask about obstruction, Robert Costa, Aug. 7, 2018 (print edition). President Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, right, said the legal team plans to send a letter to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that will largely rebuff his latest offer of a presidential interview.

Aug. 6

ny times logoNew York Times, Rick Gates Says He Committed Crimes With Paul Manafort, Sharon LaFraniere and Emily Cochrane, Aug. 6, 2018. For decades, Mr. Gates was right-hand man to Mr. Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who is accused of tax and bank fraud. He began testifying in federal court on Monday. Rick Gates, Paul Manafort's right-hand man for years, began testifying against his former boss on Monday in federal court in Alexandria, Va. He is considered the most important witness in Mr. Manafort's trial on tax and bank fraud charges.

Asked by prosecutors whether he was involved in any criminal activity with Mr. Manafort, Mr. Gates responded, "Yes."

Mr. Gates also testified that he and Mr. Manafort held 15 foreign bank accounts that were not disclosed to the federal government. Mr. Gates said the required financial filings were not submitted "at Mr. Manafort's direction."

rnc logoMr. Gates admitted to a wide variety of crimes, including bank fraud, tax fraud, money laundering, lying to federal authorities, lying in a court deposition and stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Mr. Manafort's accounts by falsely claiming expenses.

Mr. Manafort was Mr. Trump's campaign chairman, but resigned from the campaign in August 2016 after just five months. Mr. Gates, the deputy chairman, remained on the campaign as a liaison to the Republican National Committee through the election. Mr. Gates was named deputy chairman of Mr. Trump's inaugural campaign, raising huge sums for the event.

washington post logodonald trump jr time cover croppedWashington Post, Trump defends 2016 meeting between son, Kremlin-aligned lawyer, Ashley Parker and Rosalind Helderman, Aug. 6, 2018 (print edition). President Trump offered his most definitive and clear public acknowledgment that Donald Trump Jr. (shown on a Time Magazine cover last year) attended the meeting at Trump Tower to "get information on an opponent," contradicting an initial misleading statement he dictated for his son last year. In a tweet, the president called the meeting "totally legal."

While "collusion" is not mentioned in U.S. criminal statutes, Mueller is investigating whether anyone associated with Trump coordinated with the Russians, which could result in criminal charges if they entered into a conspiracy to break the law, including through cyberhacking or interfering with the election.

"Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower," the president wrote in one of several early morning tweets Sunday, many of which took aim at the media. "This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics — and it went nowhere." He concluded by further distancing himself from the meeting his son arranged, writing: "I did not know about it!"

washington post logoWashington Post, One Trump tweet, two problematic admissions, Aaron Blake​, Aug. 6, 2018 (print edition). President Trump this weekend tweeted about his personal legal issues in a way he perhaps shouldn't have.​

Aug. 4

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Hope Hicks was aboard Air Force One today with Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Aug. 4, 2018. Roughly six months after having abruptly announced her resignation in a cloud of Trump-Russia scandal controversy, former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks was spotted on Air Force One today with Donald Trump. This revelation sent shockwaves, as it was shocking yet not all that surprising. It was also plainly illegal, raising the stakes for what's really going on here.

hope hicks strategic communications directorEarly this year, it was reported that former Trump legal spokesman Mark Corallo was willing to testify to Special Counsel Robert Mueller that he heard Hope Hicks (shown in a file photo) promising Donald Trump that she would suppress and/or destroy Donald Trump Jr's emails about the Russia meeting in Trump Tower. Shortly after this surfaced, Trump's allies on the House Intel Committee hauled in Hicks, in an apparent attempt at figuring out whether she was planning to flip on Trump. The next day, Hicks announced her resignation from the White House. She then disappeared… until now.

The key here is the timing. Just days ago, Mueller called Trump's bluff on sitting down for an interview about the scandal.

If Trump brought Hope Hicks onboard Air Force One today to try to get his story straight with hers before he testifies, then he committed felony witness tampering – and Mueller will charge him for it. Trump has repeatedly demonstrated that when it comes to committing these kinds of crimes, he can't help himself, even as his attorneys advise him not to do it. Based on the timing, there's also another realistic explanation.

This kind of "kingpin" interview between Donald Trump and Robert Mueller only happens once everyone else has been interviewed. It's it's entirely possible that Mueller is coordinating with Hope Hicks, and Trump doesn't know it. For all we know, when he invited Hicks aboard Air Force One today to try to conspire with her, Mueller signed off on it, because it'll give him first hand witness testimony about Trump's witness tampering.

Keep in mind that if Mark Corallo's reported claims about Hope Hicks prove to be true, it would mean she committed felony obstruction of justice. If Hicks is still playing for Team Trump, she's going to prison for several years. However, if she's playing for Team Mueller behind Trump's back, she could potentially avoid prison altogether.

paul manafort rick gates nbcnews

At right, former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, left, and his longtime business partner and fellow Republican operative Rick Gates (file photos)

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort trial Day 4: Accountant says she went along with alleged tax fraud because she was afraid to confront Manafort, Justin Jouvenal, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky and Moriah Balingit, Aug. 4, 2018 (print edition). Accountant Cindy Laporta has testified at length Friday about how Rick Gates sent her backdated documents in an effort to help Paul Manafort pay less in taxes and secure loans. In one such effort, Laporta said Manafort turned to her when his bookkeeper wouldn't help.

Paul Manafort, President Trump's onetime campaign chairman, is on trial in federal court in Alexandria on bank and tax fraud charges. Prosecutors allege he failed to pay taxes on millions he made from his work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party, then lied to get loans when the cash stopped coming in.

ny times logoNew York Times, Manafort Was Deep in Debt and Saw an Opportunity in Trump, Matt Apuzzo, Eileen Sullivan and Sharon LaFraniere, Aug. 4, 2018 (print edition). Prosecutors in Paul Manafort's bank and tax fraud trial say he was desperate for money. Why, then, did he volunteer to work unpaid in a top post in the Trump campaign?

washington post logomaria butina with gun adWashington Post, Alleged Russian agent Butina cozied up to ex-Trump aide near end of 2016 race, Rosalind Helderman, Aug. 4, 2018 (print edition). Maria Butina, the Russian gun rights activist accused of being an agent of the Kremlin, socialized with a Trump adviser who anticipated joining the presidential transition team, putting her in closer contact with President Trump's orbit than was previously known.

Butina, working with well-connected GOP lobbyists and promoted as calling for American-style gun rights in Russia, poses with a gun.

Aug. 3

Washington Post, Paul Manafort trial Day 3: Bookkeeper testifies about Manafort's overseas accounts, unpaid bills, Rachel Weiner, Justin Jouvenal and Matt Zapotosky​, Aug. 3, 2018 (print edition). Heather Washkuhn testified that the company made about $400,000 in 2015, contradicting financial documents sent by Paul Manafort's business partner, Rick Gates, which indicated the firm made $4.5 million that year.

Attorneys for Manafort, President Trump's one-time campaign chairman, hope to rebut allegations of his financial wrongdoing by portraying him as the victim of Gates.

Manafort is on trial in federal court in Alexandria on bank and tax fraud charges. Prosecutors allege he failed to pay taxes on millions he made from his work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party, then lied to get loans when the cash stopped coming in.

The case is being prosecuted by the special counsel, Robert Mueller (shown at right), investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Here is what happened on the third day of the trial.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian Threat to Elections 'Is Real,' Trump Officials Say, Michael D. Shear and Michael Wines, Aug. 3, 2018 (print edition). Top national security officials vowed Thursday to defend American elections against what they called real threats from Russia only weeks after President Trump seemed to accept President Vladimir V. Putin's denials of interference during a summit meeting in Finland.

After the meeting, Mr. Trump said he had not meant to endorse Mr. Putin's denial of election meddling, but insisted that the culprit behind the intrusion"could be other people." A few days later, he asserted that the idea of any meddling by Russia was "all a big hoax."

But the men and women charged with detecting and defending against any threats to the American political process showed no such ambivalence. They bluntly said that Russia was behind a "pervasive" campaign to weaken America's democracy and influence the 2018 election.

They also sought to reassure voters that federal, state and local governments were taking steps to guard against what Christopher Wray, the F.B.I. director, described as a "24-7 365-days-a-year" effort by Russia to sow division as Americans head to the polls in the fall.

jacob hornberger headshotFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Silence on U.S. Meddling Abroad, Jacob G. Hornberger, Aug. 3, 2018. Among the most fascinating aspects of the brouhaha over supposed Russian meddling in America's electoral system is the total silence in the U.S. mainstream press about U.S. meddling in the political affairs of other countries.

Consider the mass outrage and indignation among the mainstream press that Russia would actually want to help a U.S. presidential candidate who favors normalizing relations with Russia over a candidate that was determined to do the opposite.

Why not the same outrage against the U.S. national-security establishment for helping its favorite people come to office in foreign countries?

By their silence regarding U.S. meddling in foreign countries, one could easily draw the conclusion that the U.S. mainstream press is saying the following: It's wrong for Russia to meddle in the U.S. electoral system but it's okay for the U.S. national-security establishment (i.e., the military, CIA, and NSA) to meddle in the electoral affairs of foreign countries.

Or to put it another way, if it's wrong in principle to meddle, then why is the U.S. government doing it, and why isn't the U.S. mainstream press condemning both U.S. meddling and Russia meddling?

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-'Manhattan Madam' Meets With Russia Investigators, Kristin Davis, Alan Feuer, Aug. 3, 2018. Kristin Davis, a Manhattan woman renowned for running a high-end New York City escort service a decade ago, met on Wednesday with investigators from the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, according to two people familiar with the matter.

kristin davis roger stone jan 28 2013Ms. Davis, who was known for years in New York City's tabloids as the Manhattan Madam, told The New York Times last month that she was contacted in late July by Mr. Mueller's office, which was seeking to serve her a subpoena as part of its investigation into ties between Russia and President Trump's campaign. Ms. Davis said at the time that she had no idea what Mr. Mueller's team wanted to know from her, insisting she did not believe it was related to her former prostitution business.

The subject of her interview this week with the special counsel's office remained unclear, but one possible line of inquiry was her long association with Roger J. Stone Jr., a veteran political consultant and Trump adviser who has become a focal point for Mr. Mueller's investigators. They are shown in a file photo.

Mr. Stone, a self-described "dirty trickster" with a career in politics reaching back to the Nixon administration, was in contact with Guccifer 2.0, an online figure that Mr. Mueller's team has said was controlled by Russian military intelligence officers. Guccifer 2.0 was instrumental in helping WikiLeaks distribute stolen emails and other internal political documents that proved damaging to Hillary Clinton's presidential bid and to the Democratic Party.

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Ongoing Constitutional issue? President Trump receives honors and hotel fees from Saudi potentates. At what cost to Americans? The scene above is a 2017 file photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, At Trump's hotel in N.Y., revenue went up this spring — thanks to a visit from big-spending Saudis, David Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell​, Aug. 3, 2018. The visit by travelers accompanying the Saudi crown prince highlights how little is known about President Trump's business dealings with foreign governments.

Aug. 2

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort trial Day 3: Bookkeeper testifies about Manafort's overseas accounts, unpaid bills, Rachel Weiner, Justin Jouvenal and Matt Zapotosky​, Aug. 2, 2018. Heather Washkuhn testified that the company made about $400,000 in 2015, contradicting financial documents sent by Paul Manafort's business partner, Rick Gates, which indicated the firm made $4.5 million that year.

Attorneys for Manafort, President Trump's one-time campaign chairman, hope to rebut allegations of his financial wrongdoing by portraying him as the victim of Gates.

Manafort is on trial in federal court in Alexandria on bank and tax fraud charges. Prosecutors allege he failed to pay taxes on millions he made from his work for a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party, then lied to get loans when the cash stopped coming in.

The case is being prosecuted by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Here is what happened on the third day of the trial.

washington post logojeff sessions ag oWashington Post, Trump urges end to Russia probe, calls prosecution of Manafort a 'hoax,' Rachel Weiner, Rosalind S. Helderman, Justin Jouvenal and Matt Zapotosky, Aug. 2, 2018 (print edition).​ As testimony was set to continue in the federal trial against his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, President Trump escalated his attacks on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation. He called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the probe "before it continues to stain our country any further." ​

washington post logoWashington Post, Mueller offers to limit investigators' questions for Trump, Carol D. Leonnig​, Aug. 2, 2018 (print edition). The proposal, the special counsel's latest effort to secure an interview with the president, comes as Trump has stepped up his attacks on the Russia investigation.

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washington post logoWashington Post, As midterms near, fears grow that U.S. is not protected from Russian interference, Ellen Nakashima and Craig Timberg​, Aug. 2, 2018 (print edition). Experts say the lack of administration leadership on the issue — with President Trump at times questioning conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community about Russia's disinformation and hacking campaign — renders less effective the efforts of agencies to mount a coordinated government action to protect the nation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mueller offers to limit investigators' questions for Trump, Carol D. Leonnig​, Aug. 2, 2018 (print edition). The proposal, the special counsel's latest effort to secure an interview with the president, comes as Trump has stepped up his attacks on the Russia investigation.

Aug. 1

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Paul Manafort shown in a 2016 cable screenshot when he was Donald Trump's presidential campaign manager

Roll Call, 5 Things You Should Know From the Paul Manafort Trial, Day 2, Griffin Connolly, Aug 1, 2018. President swings at a straw man and prosecutors mull shelving 'star witness' Rick Gates. Day Two of the tax evasion and bank fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort (shown below in a mug shot) is in the books. The day featured testimony from five witnesses — including Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign chief — and dozens of pages of evidence on Manafort's lavish lifestyle.

paul manafort mugThe high-powered political consultant is facing 18 counts and a maximum 305-year prison sentence if the Eastern Virginia jury finds him guilty. These are the five biggest takeaways from Day Two and how the trial turns from here:

1. thomas ellis iii headshotThe president is tweeting at a 'no collusion' straw man. Saying it loud for the people in the back: THIS IS A TAX EVASION AND BANK FRAUD TRIAL. None of the 18 counts against Manafort deal with collusion or conspiracy with a foreign nation, and the word Russia has not been mentioned through the trial's first two days.

2. The defense may have turned the tables on the prosecution with 'star witness' Rick Gates. U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye shocked the courtroom Wednesday when he told Judge T.S. Ellis III, right, that the trial's supposed star witness, Manafort right-hand man Rick Gates, might not be called to the witness stand. "He may testify, he may not," Asonye said. "We're trying to shorten the trial."

washington post logoirs logoWashington Post, Prosecutors say Manafort's wealth fueled by lies to IRS and banks, Rachel Weiner, Justin Jouvenal, Rosalind S. Helderman and Devlin Barrett​, ​Aug. 1, 2018 (print edition). In their opening statement at Paul Manafort's trial on 18 charges of financial fraud, prosecutors said that President Trump's former campaign chairman failed to pay taxes on some of the millions he made working in Ukraine, and then lied to banks to get loans when those payments stopped.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook says it has uncovered a coordinated disinformation operation ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Tony Romm, Aug. 1, 2018 (print edition). Facebook has shut down a sophisticated disinformation operation on its platform that engaged in divisive messaging ahead of the U.S. midterm elections, the company said Tuesday, an escalation of what a top executive described as an "arms race" to manipulate the public using its tools.

facebook logoFacebook said it discovered 32 false pages and profiles that were created between March 2017 and this May, which lured 290,000 people with ads, events and regular posts on topics such as race, fascism and feminism — and sought to stir opposition to President Trump. The company informed law enforcement before it deleted the profiles Tuesday morning. It also notified lawmakers of the activity this week, and said it would notify the real Facebook users who were swept up in the operation.

One of the most popular pages had links to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the Kremlin-backed organization of Russian operatives that flooded Facebook with disinformation around the 2016 election, Facebook said. Yet the operators of the newly banned pages, whom Facebook said it was not in a position to identify, were more clever about covering their tracks. Lawmakers and experts were quick to attribute the activity to Russia.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump's Tampa circus proves you can't reason with his base, Jennifer Rubin, Aug. 1, 2018. A few observations are in order: First, this is the behavior Trump incites and amplifies with his attacks on the free press. When he says the media is the "enemy of the people" or the worst people or the most dishonest people, his followers take it as license to treat members of the media as something less than human. Trump has defined the press as part of "the other," and his cult responds with the kind of venom used to keep a foreign body at bay.

We should stop infantilizing Trump supporters, treating them as hapless victims of forces beyond their control. We've done them wrong. They come from "real America." Bunk. Whatever one's economic hardships, any threatening, unhinged conduct and crude insults shouldn't be excused. Trump cultists claim to be injured by the disrespect of "elites"; the only ones showing disrespect in Tampa were those in the mob. (And anyway, what ever happened to personal responsibility for one's life choices?)

July 31

djt joint session feb 28 2017 office of speaker

"According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country."

-- President Trump, Address to Joint Session of Congress, Feb. 28, 2018, with Vice President Pence at left and Speaker Ryan

Lawfare, The Justice Department Finds 'No Responsive Records' to Support a Trump Speech, Benjamin Wittes, July 31, 2018. It isn't every day that the Department of Justice acknowledges formally that the president of the United States lied in a speech to Congress. But that's how I read a letter I received a few days ago from the department's Office of Information Policy in connection with one of my Freedom of Information Act suits against the department.

No, the Justice Department letter does not come out and say what it clearly means: that President Trump, early in his tenure, was untruthful both about the role of foreigners in terrorism and terrorism-related crimes and about Justice Department data on the subject.

But that is what the letter says if you read between the lines. To understand the significance of this letter, let's go back to Trump's first address to Congress, in February 2017. The new president made the striking claim quoted above.

I did not believe those words were true when Trump spoke them, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, the Justice Department does not keep data at a systematic level on where criminal defendants were born. For another thing, there are a lot of domestic terrorism cases, and they are generally not committed by people born abroad. To the extent that those cases are excluded — white supremacist violence, anti-abortion terrorism and militia violence — the inquiry is grossly biased. To the extent that such cases are included, one would have to analyze a raft of data that I didn't know the department kept in a comprehensive fashion.

Responding to the speech, in a series of articles published on Lawfare, Nora Ellingsen and Lisa Daniels carefully evaluated the president's claims. Examining a public list of international terrorism cases released by the Justice Department's National Security Division (NSD), Ellingsen and Daniels concluded that it simply wasn't accurate to say that a "vast majority" of individuals on that list "came here from outside our country" — "unless, that is, you include individuals who were forcibly brought to the United States in order to be prosecuted and exclude all domestic terrorism cases."

john kelly o dhsPalmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just made a move that suggests he knows the end is near, Bill Palmer, July 31, 2018. Donald Trump let it be known today that he plans to keep John Kelly as his White House Chief of Staff all the way through the end of his current term, and for once, I believe him. This development might sound initially surprising, considering how it's widely known that Kelly (shown at right) no longer has any influence over Trump or the White House, and is no longer really doing the job. But there are two things to consider here.

The first is that Donald Trump is a coward who never wants to fire anyone. Donald Trump no longer has an inner circle. It's why there's no one to convince him to fire his bumbling lawyer Rudy Giuliani. There's also no one to explain to Trump that since he's stopped allowing John Kelly to function as Chief of Staff, he needs to replace him. But that's only half the explanation. The other half is that even the ever-deluded Trump has to know by now – at least on his comparatively lucid days – that his time is growing short. This morning he tweeted that "collusion is not a crime." When you're busted to the point that you're left trying to explain that your crime wasn't actually a crime, you're near the end of the rope.

So why would Donald Trump even bother trying to replace his White House Chief of Staff this late in the game? The odds of him completing his term are small, and even if he does somehow make it to the finish line, he'll be so crippled by then, he'll just be barely hanging on. Sure, he could fire John Kelly and replace him with one of his few remaining eager sycophants, such as Stephen Miller or Kellyanne Conway. But at this point, why bother?

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller has a cooperating witness to nail Donald Trump Jr., Bill Palmer, July 31, 2018. Donald Trump Jr testified to Congress long ago under oath that he did not tell his father in advance about the Russia meeting. That became a problem for him over the weekend when it was revealed that Michael Cohen was willing to testify that he witnessed Junior telling his father about it. But Cohen hasn't even cut a plea deal yet, and even once he does, how would he be able to substantiate his claim? Enter Rick Gates.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Donald Trump and the Koch Brothers just declared war on each other, Bill Palmer, July 31, 2018. Donald Trump woke up this morning and bluntly declared war on the Koch Brothers, the pair of conservative billionaires who have been bankrolling the campaigns of numerous Republicans for years. This was a surreal moment of biting the hand that feeds. But this wasn't merely Trump picking a random fight to try to distract us from today's kickoff of the Paul Manafort trial. Trump suddenly has a serious problem when it comes to the Kochs, which prompted his meltdown.

July 29

huff post logoHuffPost, Analysis: Fox News Host Confronts Rudy Giuliani Over Michael Cohen 'Liar' Flip-Flop, Nick Baumann, July 29, 2018. In May, Giuliani said Cohen was "honest and honorable." Now he's changed his tune. 

Rudy Giuliani can't get his story straight on Michael Cohen — and Fox News anchor Chris Wallace is calling him out on it. On "Fox News Sunday," Wallace confronted Giuliani, who serves as one of President Donald Trump's attorneys, on his flip-flopping about Cohen, Trump's longtime lawyer and fixer.

In May, Giuliani called Cohen an "honest, honorable lawyer," Wallace noted. "But now you say, quote, your words... 'a pathological liar' who's been lying for years. So what happened?"

rudy giuliani recentGiuliani, left, said his shift stemmed from the revelation that Cohen had been "surreptitiously recording his clients" — referring to the tape of Cohen and Trump discussing a payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who's alleged she had a long-running affair with Trump before he became president. The tape was released last week and initially aired on CNN.

"Obviously if I knew that, I never would've said he was a reputable lawyer," Giuliani said. "I would've said he was a scoundrel."

"I knew nothing bad about Michael Cohen until all of this started to happen in the past couple weeks," Giuliani insisted.

Giuliani must not have been following previous news accounts about Cohen, who served as Trump's personal lawyer for more than a decade and was targeted by an FBI raid in April. Cohen had reportedly compared himself to Tom Hagen, the fictional consigliere of the Corleone crime family in "The Godfather." His business ventures are the subject of considerable interest from federal investigators, The New York Times reported in May, while Giuliani was still defending him.

And Giuliani months ago corrected a Cohen falsehood. Cohen claimed in February that he had paid Stormy Daniels, a porn actress who also has said she had a brief affair with Trump, $130,000 out of his own pocket, and Trump in April claimed he didn't know about the payment. Giuliani later admitted that Trump had repaid Cohen.

July 28

djt tump int hotel washington post logo

Washington Post, The framers worried about corruption. Their words may now haunt the president, Editorial Board, July 28, 2018 (print ed.). It seems a stretch to suppose that the president might be imperiled by a case that turns partly on definitions of the word "emolument" gleaned from 18th century dictionaries.

Or maybe not much of a stretch for anyone who has spent time in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel (shown above in a Justice Integrity Project file photo), a few blocks from the White House. There, to the tune of $40 million in revenue last year, it's possible to glimpse just the sort of influence-peddling the framers may have intended to prohibit by those clauses.

The hotel has been the lodging of choice for an unknown (but not unknowable) number of state and foreign officials, some of whom, it is a fair bet, thereby hoped to curry favor with the president. According to the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, both Democrats, who have sued to stop it, that favor-currying falls squarely within the "emoluments" the framers meant to forbid.

July 27

wsj logoallen weisselberg croppedWall Street Journal, Trump Organization Finance Chief Called to Testify Before Federal Grand Jury, Rebecca Davis O'Brien, Rebecca Ballhaus, Michael Rothfeld and Alexandra Berzon, July 27, 2018 (print edition). Longtime Trump executive Allen Weisselberg, shown at right, has been subpoenaed in Michael Cohen probe,

Allen Weisselberg, a longtime financial gatekeeper for President Donald Trump, has been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in the criminal probe of Mr. Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has suffered several major blows in the last 24 hours. The biggest blow may have gotten overlooked, Bill Palmer, July 27, 2018. Donald Trump has had such a horrible twenty-four hours, for so many different reasons, it's almost difficult to keep track of them all without a checklist. 

Yesterday we learned that one of the people mentioned on the leaked Trump-Cohen tape has now been subpoenaed to testify. That person is Allen Weisselberg, who has been handling the finances for the Trump Organization for a number of years. Weisselberg knows where all the proverbial bodies are buried when it comes to Donald Trump's financial crimes. This is pandora's box, and this subpoena opens it.

We're now looking at the Feds obtaining insider testimony about every criminal real estate deal, financial scam, and illegal coverup that Donald Trump has engaged in through the Trump Organization. Trump's financial "empire" has long been a house of cards and a thinly veiled front for corruption and money laundering – and this testimony could expose it for all to see.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump's international syndicate threatens to topple other leaders, Wayne Madsen, July 27, 2018. As Donald Trump's legal problems grow, seemingly by the hour, other world leaders with whom his Trump Organization has conducted business may suffer the legal and political consequences of being identified with Trump and vice versa.

donald trump jr kimberly guilfoyle and donald trump

Donald Trump Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle and President Trump (file photo)

huff post logoHuffPost, Exclusive / Investigation: Kimberly Guilfoyle Left Fox News After Investigation Into Misconduct Allegations, Sources Say, Yashar Ali, July 27, 2018. Sources tell HuffPost that Guilfoyle, who is dating Donald Trump Jr., engaged in emotionally abusive behavior and showed colleagues personal photos of male genitalia.

When it was revealed last week that longtime Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle would be leaving the network, some Fox News and White House insiders were surprised that she was choosing to move on from the cable news channel and head to a pro-Donald Trump super PAC. For nearly two years — even once rumors eventually kicked up that she might join the Trump administration — Guilfoyle said that, as a single mother, she had to think of her son's financial future and couldn't afford to leave the high-paying gig, multiple sources told HuffPost.

fox news logo SmallGuilfoyle's departure was initially billed as her decision. However, as HuffPost first reported last week, multiple sources said she did not leave the network voluntarily. They said Guilfoyle was informed her time at Fox News was up following a human resources investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior including sexual misconduct, and that her lawyers had been involved since the spring.

Sources also said that despite being told she would have to leave by July, Guilfoyle repeatedly attempted to delay her exit and tried to have her allies appeal to Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, to let her stay at the network.

This story is based on interviews conducted over the past year with 21 sources inside and outside Fox News and 21st Century Fox. All sources spoke to HuffPost on the condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to speak to the press, did not want to raise Guilfoyle's ire or have signed nondisclosure agreements that prevent them from speaking to others about their experiences.

In response to an email with a list of 19 detailed questions, Guilfoyle's attorney John Singer wrote the following statement:  

"Any accusations of Kimberly engaging in inappropriate work-place conduct are unequivocally baseless and have been viciously made by disgruntled and self-interested employees. During her lengthy and decorated tenure with the company, Kimberly was beloved, well-respected, and supportive of anyone she ever met. It's utterly preposterous that there are those who are nefariously and greedily twisting innocent conversations amongst close friends into much more than what it actually was for financial gain. Kimberly has happily moved onto the next chapter of her life and hopes others will do the same."

gavin newsom oFox News was a hotbed of sexual harassment and retaliation under Ailes, but executives at Fox News have worked over the past two years to improve the workplace culture and institute major changes in large part due to potential legal liabilities and regulatory concerns in the U.S. and U.K. Guilfoyle, according to several sources, failed to adapt to the new culture and still operated as if she were working under Ailes.

Guilfoyle, a former San Francisco County prosecutor, started at the network in 2006 as a legal analyst and worked her way up to become co-host of "The Five." She also served as a fill-in host for top-rated Fox News stars like Hannity. While living in the city, Guilfoyle was married for several years to then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, shown at right. (Newsom is now lieutenant governor of California and the front-runner in the current gubernatorial campaign). This reporter worked for Newsom for several years but has no relationship with Guilfoyle and has never spoken to her.

July 26

nbc news logoNBC News, Cohen will tell Mueller Trump knew of 2016 Russia meeting, source says, Hallie Jackson, Kristen Welker, Peter Alexander and Alex Johnson, July 26, 2018. Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, asserts that Trump knew in advance about a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 between his son Donald Trump Jr. (shown at right) and a donald trump jr time cover croppedRussian lawyer, in contradiction to Trump Jr.'s congressional testimony in May 2017, a knowledgeable source told NBC News on Friday night.

The source told NBC News that Cohen is willing to inform Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, about his version of the timeline surrounding the meeting. Cohen's assertion was first reported by CNN.

Lanny Davis, a lawyer for Cohen, said he had no comment but told NBC News: "I have to wonder why the Trump people would put that out. It was not from us."

But Trump's attorney, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, pushed back against that and dismissed the report, saying that Cohen was "not credible."

"Michael Cohen can't be believed unless it's corroborated five times," Giuliani said in a phone interview Thursday night. "I talked to the president about this at length before, as well as other witnesses, and it's not true.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Looking at Trump Tweets in Obstruction Investigation, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, July 26, 2018.  For years, President Trump has used Twitter as his go-to public relations weapon, mounting a barrage of attacks on celebrities and then political rivals even after advisers warned he could be creating legal problems for himself.

Those concerns now turn out to be well founded. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is scrutinizing tweets and negative statements from the president about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, according to three people briefed on the matter.

President Trump has used Twitter as his go-to public relations weapon, even after advisers warned he could be creating legal problems for himself. Now his attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey are being scrutinized by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge allows emoluments case against Trump to proceed, Ann E. Marimow, Jonathan O'Connell and David A. Fahrenthold, July 25, 2018.  A federal judge on Wednesday rejected President Trump's latest effort to stop a lawsuit that alleges Trump is violating the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign governments.

peter messeti american universityThe ruling, from U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte, right, in Greenbelt, Md., will allow the plaintiffs in the case — the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia — to proceed with their case, which says Trump has violated the Constitution's little-used emoluments clause.

The plaintiffs now want to interview Trump Organization employees and search company records to determine which foreign countries have spent money at Trump's hotel in downtown Washington.

The Justice Department and Trump's attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment. They could try to appeal the decision to a higher court and ask Messitte not to allow the attorneys general access to Trump Organization employees and books until the appeal is decided.

July 26

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump's Emoluments Trap, Karl A. Racine, Brian E. Frosh and Norman L. Eisen, July 26, 2018. Mr. Racine is the attorney general for the District of Columbia. Mr. Frosh is the attorney general for Maryland. Mr. Eisen is the chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Wednesday's ruling on our suit against the president makes clear that he may be violating the Constitution.

On Wednesday, a federal district court made history. Judge Peter J. Messitte of Maryland allowed a lawsuit to move forward against President Trump, alleging that he is violating the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign and domestic governments. In doing so, he became the first federal judge ever to rule on the meaning of the word "emolument" in the Constitution.

Coverage of the lawsuit, which was brought by two of us (with the third, Mr. Eisen, among the co-counsels), has sometimes cast doubt on the usefulness of the Emoluments Clauses, which we have argued forbid presidents from using their office to "profit, gain or advantage." Critics have noted how rarely they have been deployed. That's why Judge Messitte's ruling is so important: It opens a path to enforcement of the ethics regime that the framers developed as a bulwark against corruption in the highest office in the land.

washington post logoWashington Post, Once a 'punching bag,' Cohen takes a swing at Trump, Philip Rucker, Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Ashley Parker, July 26, 2018. The actions of President Trump's longtime attorney Michael Cohen appear to be driven more by his outrage over Trump's indifference and feelings of betrayal than by a legal strategy to help his case.

For the past decade, Michael Cohen worked as Donald Trump's personal lawyer and fixer. He was an eager supplicant, executing the wishes of his celebrity boss and forever seeking his attaboy affection. He said he would take a bullet for Trump, and, even after the president passed him over for a White House job, Cohen still professed his eternal loyalty.

But in Trump's world, eternity has limits.

By releasing audio of his covertly recorded conversation with Trump about purchasing the rights to a Playboy centerfold's story of an extramarital affair, Cohen made a decisive break from his longtime client. The move punctuates the steady deterioration of a relationship between Cohen and Trump and raises concerns in the White House that the former could spill secrets about the latter to the FBI.

July 25

Trump Watch

ny times logoNew York Times, Cohen's Lawyer, a Democrat, Comes Out Swinging at Trump, Matt Flegenheimer, July 25, 2018.  Lanny Davis — best known as a high-profile lawyer for Bill and Hillary Clinton — has helped Michael Cohen, the president's former personal lawyer, mount an aggressive defense in the news media.

Lanny J. Davis's client list, like his quintessentially Washington career as an all-purpose lawyer, lobbyist, crisis consultant and television-talker, is lengthy, international — and more than occasionally contradictory.

Mr. Davis has represented Harvey Weinstein and Penn State, a Ukrainian oligarch with links to President Trump's indicted former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and an Ivory Coast strongman whom Mr. Davis today insists he was trying to help dislodge as part of a secret arrangement with the State Department.djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtube

Donald Trump and former 'Playmate of the Year' Karen McDougal, who alleges a deal via the National Enquirer

washington post logoWashington Post, Cohen tape suggests Trump knew of model's deal to sell story of alleged affair, Carol D. Leonnig and Robert Costa, July 25, 2018 (print ed.). During the September 2016 conversation with his longtime attorney Michael Cohen, the then-Republican presidential nominee appeared familiar with the outline of a deal with Playboy model Karen McDougal to purchase the rights to her story of an alleged affair with him, according to a transcript of the exchange provided by the president's legal team.

Twashington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump creates an alternative reality, and he wants you to join him there, James Hohmann, July 25, 2018. "Just remember," President Trump said on Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo., "what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening."

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoHe was complaining about the escalating fallout from his trade war. The president is angry that the press is telling the stories of farmers who are facing financial hardship because of the predictable retaliation by other countries to his tariffs. Speaking to a crowd of 4,000 at the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Trump specifically cited a package he saw earlier in the day on NBC. "It was heart-throbbing," he said. "In fact, I wanted to say, 'I got to do something about this Trump. Terrible.'"

He then claimed NBC's piece was "done by the lobbyists and by the people that they hire" and argued that the time to push for better trade deals is when the economy is growing. "This country is doing better than it's ever done before," Trump said.

washington post logoelizabeth bruenigWashington Post, Opinion: America's heart of darkness, Elizabeth Bruenig, right, July 25, 2018 (print edition). Trump's presidency is part of a decades-long erosion of trust in government.

There is the obvious side of the scandal: Russia clearly took steps to interfere with the 2016 presidential election and, to some incalculable extent, probably succeeded.

dnc square logoIt appears to have meddled by way of dirty persuasion, purchasing (somewhat bizarre) anti-Clinton Facebook ads, launching (truly bizarre) pro-Trump Twitter bots and, the pièce de résistance, hacking into several Democratic National Committee members' email accounts and publishing thousands of missives on WikiLeaks. Trump's campaign may or may not have been actively involved in the plot to scuttle Hillary Clinton's chances (maybe the plot wouldn't have gone so well if it were?), President Trump may or may not believe Russia interfered whatsoever (his mind changes day to day), and Trump may or may not have won anyway. All of that's secondary.

The primary things are these: It just wasn't that hard for a foreign power to tinker with our deliberative democratic process, which suggests that it just isn't that hard, full stop, for anyone to tinker with our deliberative democratic process.

And if Trump's campaign played along, those who benefited when he won don't really seem to mind. Republicans will issue all sorts of official-sounding tweets and news releases decrying the subversion of America's hallowed institutions, but they've got their tax cuts and Supreme Court seats, and they're not going to initiate impeachment proceedings or primary Trump come 2020. A neutral observer couldn't be blamed for concluding that the rich and powerful people who contend for control of the country don't much care how public offices wind up in their hands, so long as they do.

And this is true across the board.

Those emails the Russians loosed upon the electorate were damning precisely because they revealed a similar scheme operating in miniature during the Democratic primary campaign: The supposedly neutral DNC functioned as more or less a Clinton campaign organ, subsisting off Clinton campaign funds and musing behind the scenes about targeting then-primary contender Bernie Sanders for being a secular Jew, how best to discipline his campaign for complaining about the DNC's partiality and, ironically, how to properly dispel the appearance of a DNC conspiracy against Sanders.

July 24

cnn logoCNN, Exclusive: CNN obtains secret Trump-Cohen tape, Chris Cuomo, Kara Scannell and Eli Watkins, July 24, 2018. Presidential candidate Donald Trump is heard on tape discussing with his attorney Michael Cohen how they would buy the rights to a Playboy model's story about an alleged affair Trump had with her years earlier, according to the audio recording of the conversation aired exclusively on CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time."

djt karen mcdougal blue dressThe recording offers the public a glimpse at the confidential discussions between Trump and Cohen, and it confirms the man who now occupies the Oval Office had contemporaneous knowledge of a proposal to buy the rights to the story of Karen McDougal, a woman who has alleged she had an extramarital affair with Trump about a decade ago. They are shown in a file photo at right.

Cohen told Trump about his plans to set up a company and finance the purchase of the rights from American Media, which publishes the National Enquirer.

"I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David," Cohen said in the recording, likely a reference to American Media head David Pecker.

Trump interrupts Cohen asking, "What financing?" according to the recording. When Cohen tells Trump, "We'll have to pay." Trump is heard saying "pay with cash" but the audio is muddled and it's unclear whether he suggests paying with cash or not paying. Cohen says, "no, no" but it is not clear what is said next.

No payment was ever made from Trump, Rudy Giuliani, the President's attorney, has said.

$12b In New Trump Slush Fund For Farmers?

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. readies plan to extend billions in aid to farmers caught in Trump's trade war, Damian Paletta and Caitlin Dewey​, July 24, 2018. The Trump administration on Tuesday announced up to $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers caught in an escalating trade war, seeking to temper growing Republican dissent over President Trump's trade policies.

The aid is designed to help farmers facing tariffs in China, Mexico and other countries that imposed the levies on U.S. products in response to Trump's new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. It is the latest sign that growing trade tensions between the United States and other countries are unlikely to end soon.

White House officials say farmers will begin seeing payments by September, and they hope the payments will quiet protests by farm groups and lawmakers — many of them Republicans — who contend that Trump's confrontational trade policy is harming American farmers months before the 2018 midterm elections.

But many Republicans criticized the administration's aid package, saying the president should back off his trade war and help farmers regain more access to foreign markets, rather than offering them government payments."If tariffs punish farmers, the answer is not welfare for farmers. The answer is remove the tariffs," Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote Tuesday on Twitter, echoing many Republicans.

•'Just be a little patient': Trump pleads with farmers caught in tariffs war, July 24, 2018.

Stormy Daniels Device

washington post logoWashington Post, Stormy Daniels's husband files for divorce and seeks restraining order, Samantha Schmidt, July 24, 2018. Stormy Daniels's husband has filed for divorce, accusing the adult-film actress of adultery and asking for sole custody of their 7-year-old daughter, according to court documents.

stormy daniels mug 7 11 18Daniels and her husband, heavy-metal drummer and adult film actor Glendon Crain, have been married since November 2015, according to the divorce petition. They were living together outside Dallas until July 11, the day before she was arrested at an Ohio strip club and accused of illegally touching patrons. (Those charges were later dismissed. She is shown at right in her mug shot.)

Crain also sought and was granted a temporary restraining order against Daniels, whose legal fight over an alleged decade-old affair with President Trump has turned her into a celebrity.

July 23

Trump Floats 'Enemies List?'

New York Times, Trump May Strip Clearances of Ex-Officials Critical of Him, Julian E. Barnes and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, July 23, 2018.
President Trump is considering whether to revoke the clearances of former intelligence and national security officials who served in the Obama administration and have criticized Mr. Trump.

All of the former officials have been critical of the president's diplomacy with Russia.

sarah huckabee sanders screenshotSarah Huckabee Sanders (shown in a file photo), the White House press secretary, said Mr. Trump was considering revoking the clearances of John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director; James B. Comey, fired by Mr. Trump as F.B.I. director last year; and James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, among others.

"The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearances because they politicized and in some cases monetized their public service and security clearances," Ms. Sanders said.

The suggestion was an unusual politicization of the security clearance process and is the latest turn in an effort by Mr. Trump to deflect scrutiny from his meeting last week with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whom he sided with over his own intelligence community in casting doubt about whether Moscow attacked the 2016 presidential election.

susan rice wShe also said Mr. Trump is looking to strip the security clearance of Susan Rice, Mr. Obama's national security adviser, and Michael V. Hayden, the former head of the C.I.A. and National Security Agency during the George W. Bush administration.

andrew mcCabe oShe also singled out Andrew G. McCabe (right), the former deputy director of the F.B.I., who was fired this year over a lack of candor about his dealings with reporters. Mr. McCabe does not have an active security clearance. Mr. Comey has also had no security clearance for about a year, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Security clearances allow former officials to work with companies on classified programs and provide advice to those firms and sometimes to government agencies. Stripping their clearances could harm their ability to work as consultants and advisers in Washington.

July 22

carter page pbs screenshot

Former Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page

washington post logoWashington Post, Administration releases application to wiretap Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, Shane Harris, July 22, 2018 (print ed.). The classified document, heavily redacted, accuses Page of acting as a Russian agent. Its release is sure to fuel the political fight between Republicans and Democrats over the propriety of the surveillance and how it was legally justified.

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: The hush-money payoffs: How many more are out there? Jennifer Rubin (right), July 22, 2018. For Trump's apologists, the revelation creates a new wave of angst.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judgment Days: God, Trump and the meaning of morality, Story by Stephanie McCrummen; Photos by Michael S. Williamson, July 22, 2018 (print ed.). Southern Baptists who fill the pews every Sunday have been making their own moral calculations about President Trump in church sanctuaries in places such as Luverne, Ala., population 2,700.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis, Inside the White House's tumultuous week of walk-backs after Helsinki, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig, July 22, 2018 (print ed.). The days that followed President Trump's meeting with Vladimir Putin amounted to a scramble of corrections and clarifications from the West Wing. Each announcement was followed by another mishap that fueled only more consternation.

July 21

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has crazed meltdown after his Michael Cohen tape stunt backfires on him, Bill Palmer, July 21, 2018. As the day has gone on, the mystery surrounding the Trump-Cohen tape story has become more clear.

Several major news outlets are reporting that the tape was one of the very few pieces of evidence seized from Michael Cohen's office that was ultimately ruled to have been protected under attorney-client privilege by a federal judge – and that it was Donald Trump who decided to waive privilege.

Now the new mystery is why he thought that would be a good idea, as it's predictably blown up in his face.

michael cohen ap file croppedAs it became clear that waiving attorney-client privilege and alerting the media to the tape had only served to make things worse for him, Trump aimed his rage at the Feds and at Cohen (right), tweeting "Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer's office (early in the morning) – almost unheard of. Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client – totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!"

To be clear, Donald Trump is lying on every count. The FBI conducted the raid based on a warrant signed by a judge. Michael Cohen had a legal right to secretly record his conversations with Trump under New York State law.

July 20

djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtube

Donald Trump and former 'Playmate of the Year' Karen McDougal, who alleges a deal via the National Enquirer

ny times logoNew York Times, Cohen Taped Discussion With Trump About Paying Model, Matt Apuzzo, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, July 20, 2018. President Trump's longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, secretly recorded a conversation with Mr. Trump two months before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model (shown also below at right) who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, according to lawyers and others familiar with the recording.

karen mcdougal playboyThe F.B.I. seized the recording this year during a raid on Mr. Cohen's office. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Cohen's involvement in paying women to tamp down embarrassing news stories about Mr. Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Prosecutors want to know whether that violated federal campaign finance laws, and any conversation with Mr. Trump about those payments would be of keen interest to them.

michael cohen ap file croppedThe recording's existence further draws Mr. Trump into questions about tactics he and his associates used to keep aspects of his personal and business life a secret. And it highlights the potential legal and political danger that Mr. Cohen represents to Mr. Trump. Once the keeper of many of Mr. Trump's secrets, Mr. Cohen (shown at left) is now seen as increasingly willing to consider cooperating with prosecutors.

The F.B.I. seized the recording this year in a raid on Mr. Cohen's office.

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: Are Republicans Covering for Trump, or for Themselves? Michelle Goldberg, July 20, 2018. If the N.R.A. was compromised by Russia, the whole party's in trouble.

Of all the interlocking mysteries of the Trump-Russia scandal, one that I've found particularly perplexing is the utter servility of congressional Republicans before a president many of them hate and believe to be compromised by a foreign power.

Yes, I know they're thrilled about tax cuts and judges. Given how Russia has become a patron of the right globally over the last decade, some Republicans might welcome its intervention into our politics, believing that the Democrats are greater enemies of the Republic. And some are just cowards, afraid of mean tweets or base blowback.

But that doesn't explain why, for example, Speaker Paul Ryan, a Russia hawk who is retiring in January, allowed his party to torpedo the House Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian interference in the election. Ryan, after all, knows full well who and what Donald Trump is.

This week, however, a new possibility came into focus. Perhaps, rather than covering for Trump, some Republicans are covering for themselves.

#MeToo / Trump Watch

donald trump beauty contests

A new BBC documentary that aired shortly before Donald Trump's visit to the United Kingdom this month was entitled "Trump: Is the president a sex pest?" Above is a graphic by Democratic Underground compiling previous commentaries. Below is a story about it.

The Cut, New BBC Documentary Alleges Trump Pursued Models As Young As 17, Amanda Arnold, July 20, 2018. (video). Just days before the U.S. president's visit to England in early July, the BBC figured it was a good time to revisit a very worthwhile question: Donald Trump, the sex scandal–plagued world leader who has been accused of sexual misconduct by numerous woman, and who once bragged about grabbing women by the pussy — could he be a sex pest?

bbc news logo2The BBC first ran a 30-minute report dedicated to this notable query on Monday, July 9 – three days before Trump's visit to England. Titled "Trump: Is the president a sex pest?" it focused on Trump's relations with women in the 1980s and 1990s. Now, for those of us stateside who would like an answer of our own, the documentary is scheduled to premiere in the US and Canada on Saturday, July 21, at 10:30am EST, with another airing on Sunday afternoon.

The report was not initially available for streaming outside of Europe, but outlets such as VICE News and the Mirror gained access when it first aired, and the BBC put out a press release today detailing some of the allegations from the documentary.

The half-hour show features two women and a man who say they witnessed Trump's behavior at parties in the '80s and '90s. One woman, Barbara Pilling — who has never spoken publicly before about Trump — said she met the president at a New York party in the late 1980s, where he questioned her over her age. When she responded 17, the president allegedly responded, "Oh, great. So you're not too old and not too young. That's just great."

"I felt like I was in the presence of a shark getting ready to roll his eyes back in his head and bite me," Pillings told BBC. She also spoke of Trump's predatory behavior toward other women at the party. According to Pillings, when a waitress offered Trump a drink, "He didn't take the drink and slapped her on the bottom. She was a blonde. He gave her butt a slap and it was very loud. He was like, 'Don't worry, that's not your tip.'"

Pillings also describes going to the restroom and discussing Trump with other models; one said the president was "trying to grab [her] ass" as she walked by.

The man, who asked to remain anonymous, claims he attended many of the same parties as the future president, where there was "a lot of cocaine around," and wealthy men solicited sex from younger women. "It was kind of like a feeding frenzy. The girls were there as consumables." ("There's no evidence that Donald Trump had sex with underage girls," the BBC notes, "but the program has been told he did pursue models in their teens.")

Dark Politics?

New York Daily News, 'Manhattan Madam' Kristin Davis subpoenaed in Mueller probe, Denis Slattery, July 20, 2018. Robert Mueller wants to talk to the "Manhattan Madam." Kristin Davis, the madam made famous for her role in the 2008 sex scandal that brought down former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (right), has been subpoenaed by the special counsel's office, according to a report Friday.

Davis, who once ran for governor and controller before being busted selling prescription pills, worked with flamboyant Republican consultant Roger Stone for a decade. Stone, a longtime ally of President Trump, has been a rumored target in Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling.

julian assange head bookMueller is reportedly interested in Stone's contacts with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (left) and the Twitter handle "Guccifer 2.0," which was allegedly used by Kremlin-linked hackers during the 2016 election to share emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee.

Davis' lawyer is negotiating the scope of the subpoena with Mueller's team, according to TMZ.

In a statement, a rep for Davis said she and Stone "are very good friends and she has worked on and off for him for the last 10 years. Roger is the godfather to her son. She is currently in the cosmetology business and she knows nothing whatsoever about Russian collusion with the 2016 election."

Andrew Miller, who ran Davis' campaign for governor and worked with Stone during the 2016 campaign, was subpoenaed by Mueller last month.

Davis was a key part of Spitzer's political downfall.The buxom 41-year-old admitted to providing the disgraced lawmaker with prostitutes, a claim he denies. Spitzer resigned from office after his affair with escort Ashley Dupre became public.

kristin davis roger stone jan 28 2013

This 2013 photo shows Kristin Davis, a then-candidate for New York City's mayor's office and formerly the notorious "Manhattan Madam," with her friend and political consultant Roger Stone

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller goes after head of prostitution ring in order to get to Roger Stone and Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, July 20, 2018. For the past several weeks, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been pulling out all the stops with his grand jury when it comes to Donald Trump's oldest friend Roger Stone. Mueller has subpoenaed at least a dozen current and former Stone associates and employees, making clear that he's zeroing in on indicting and arresting Stone. The goal is to get Stone to flip on Trump. Now Mueller is pulling out all the stops by going after the head of a prostitution ring.

robert mueller full face fileRobert Mueller (right) has subpoenaed Kristin Davis, who was once convicted for running a prostitution ring. Davis does not have any known connections to the Trump-Russia election scandal. So what does this have to do with Roger Stone? Davis has previously run for office, and her campaign was run by former Stone sidekick Andrew Miller, according to CNBC. If that name sounds familiar, it's because it's the second time it's come up this week.

Earlier this week Palmer Report brought you the story of how Mueller sent at least five of his prosecutors to a hearing which centered around Andrew Miller's refusal to cooperate with the grand jury. Mueller has been making a strong push to get Miller to cooperate in the case against Stone.

As he's apparently been unable to make that happen, it looks like he's moving on to try to use Davis to get to Miller, in order to get to Stone, in order to get to Trump. But there may be more to this.

eliot spitzerNew York Daily News, 'Manhattan Madam' Kristin Davis subpoenaed in Mueller probe, Denis Slattery, July 20, 2018. Robert Mueller wants to talk to the "Manhattan Madam." Kristin Davis, the madam made famous for her role in the 2008 sex scandal that brought down former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (right), has been subpoenaed by the special counsel's office, according to a report Friday.

Davis, who once ran for governor and controller before being busted selling prescription pills, worked with flamboyant Republican consultant Roger Stone for a decade. Stone, a longtime ally of President Trump, has been a rumored target in Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling.

julian assange head bookMueller is reportedly interested in Stone's contacts with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (left) and the Twitter handle "Guccifer 2.0," which was allegedly used by Kremlin-linked hackers during the 2016 election to share emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee.

Davis' lawyer is negotiating the scope of the subpoena with Mueller's team, according to TMZ.

In a statement, a rep for Davis said she and Stone "are very good friends and she has worked on and off for him for the last 10 years. Roger is the godfather to her son. She is currently in the cosmetology business and she knows nothing whatsoever about Russian collusion with the 2016 election."

Andrew Miller, who ran Davis' campaign for governor and worked with Stone during the 2016 campaign, was subpoenaed by Mueller last month.

Davis was a key part of Spitzer's political downfall.The buxom 41-year-old admitted to providing the disgraced lawmaker with prostitutes, a claim he denies. Spitzer resigned from office after his affair with escort Ashley Dupre became public.

July 19

Money Laundering?

new yorker logoNew Yorker, Opinion: A Theory of Trump Kompromat, Adam Davidson, July 19, 2018. Why the President is so nice to Putin, even when Putin might not want him to be.

Trump has made a lot of money doing deals with businesspeople from the former Soviet Union, and at least some of these deals bear many of the warning signs of money laundering and other financial crimes. Deals in Toronto, Panama, New York, and Miami involved money from sources in the former Soviet Union who hid their identities through shell companies and exhibited other indications of money laundering.

In the years before he became a political figure, Trump acted with impunity, conducting minimal corporate due diligence and working with people whom few other American businesspeople would consider fit partners. During that period, he may have felt protected by the fact that U.S. law-enforcement officials rarely investigate or prosecute Americans who engage in financial crimes overseas. Such cases are also maddeningly difficult to prove, and the F.B.I. has no subpoena power in other countries.

If, however, someone had evidence that proved financial crimes and shared it with, say, the special counsel, Robert Mueller, other American law-enforcement officials, or the press, it could significantly damage Trump's business, his family, and his Presidency.

Alena Ledeneva, a professor of politics at University College London and an expert on Russia's political and business practices, describes kompromat as being more than a single powerful figure weaponizing damning evidence to blackmail a target. She explained that to make sense of kompromat it is essential to understand the weakness of formal legal institutions in Russia and other former Soviet states.

Ledeneva argued that wealth and power are distributed through networks of political figures and businesspeople who follow unspoken rules, in an informal hierarchy that she calls sistema, or system. Sistema has a few clear rules — do not defy Putin being the most obvious one — and a toolkit for controlling potentially errant members. It is primarily a system of ambiguity. Each person in sistema wonders where he stands and monitors the relative positions of friends and rivals.

Ledeneva is skeptical that Putin, years ago, ordered an effort to collect kompromat on Trump. Instead, it is possible that there is kompromat in the hands of several different business groups in the former Soviet Union. Each would have bits and pieces of damaging information and might have found subtle (or not so subtle) ways to communicate that fact to both Trump and Putin. Putin would likely have gathered some of that material, but he would have known that he couldn't get everything.

Ledeneva told me that each actor in sistema faces near-constant uncertainty about his status, aware that others could well destroy him.

The scenario that, to my mind, makes the most sense of the given facts and requires the fewest fantastical leaps is that, a decade or so ago, Trump, naïve, covetous, and struggling for cash, may have laundered money for a business partner from the former Soviet Union or engaged in some other financial crime. This placed him, unawares, squarely within sistema, where he remained, conducting business with other members of a handful of overlapping Central Asian networks. Had he never sought the Presidency, he may never have had to come to terms with these decisions. But now he is much like everyone else in sistema. He fears there is kompromat out there — maybe a lot of it — but he doesn't know precisely what it is, who has it, or what might set them off.

July 18

ny times logoNew York Times, From the Start, Trump Has Muddied a Clear Message: Putin Interfered, David E. Sanger and Matthew Rosenberg, July 18, 2018. President Trump was shown clear evidence on Jan. 6, 2017, that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had ordered cyberattacks to sway the 2016 election. But his statements since have suggested other explanations.

Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election.

The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.

Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.

The shifting narrative underscores the degree to which Mr. Trump regularly picks and chooses intelligence to suit his political purposes. That has never been more clear than this week.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Now Says He Accepts U.S. Intelligence Reports on Russian Election Meddling, Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman, July 18, 2018 (print edition). Under unrelenting pressure from congressional Republicans, his own advisers and his allies on Fox News, President Trump abruptly reversed course on Tuesday and claimed he had misspoken during a news conference with President Vladimir V. Putin about whether Russia tried to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Trump, reading from a script, said he believed the assessment of the nation's intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the campaign after having seeming to have accepted Mr. Putin's assertion the day before that Russia was not involved.

On Tuesday he said that he had misspoken. He also insisted that he has "on numerous occasions noted our intelligence findings that Russians attempted to interfere in our elections." He did not mention the far greater number of occasions on which he has sown doubt about whether Russia meddled.

Mr. Trump also did not retract or explain his withering attack on the F.B.I. and the Justice Department for investigating his campaign's ties to Russia. He did not withdraw his assertion, standing next to Mr. Putin, that the Russian leader had offered an "extremely strong and powerful" denial of involvement during their two-and-a-half-hour meeting.

ny times logoPresident Donald Trump officialNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Says He Got Only One Word Wrong. Please Decide for Yourself, Editorial Board, July 18, 2018 (print edition). He said he misspoke when he said he saw no reason Russia would be responsible for the election meddling. He said he meant to say "wouldn't," not "would."

But here is what he said Monday, without notes, as he stood beside the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, on that and other subjects. We invite you to read the president's own words and decide for yourself what he really thinks.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Invokes Those at 'Higher Ends of Intelligence,' Eileen Sullivan, July 18, 2018. He said they loved his press conference with Mr. Putin. But it was not immediately clear to whom Mr. Trump was referring.

Mr. Trump's own director of intelligence, Dan Coats — the most senior intelligence official in the Trump administration — pushed back against Mr. Trump's remarks during Monday's news conference and clearly stated, again, that the American intelligence agencies had concluded Russia tried to influence the 2016 election.

christopher wray cropped SmallPalmer Report, Opinion: FBI Director Christopher Wray openly defies Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, July 18, 2018. Donald Trump's own handpicked FBI Director Christopher Wray has officially had enough of Trump's crap. Wray (shown in a file photo) has already consistently made clear that he's taking the FBI's Trump-Russia investigation seriously, as opposed to showing personal loyalty to Trump, as Trump was surely hoping. But now Wray is taking things further by openly defying Trump when it comes to Russian hacking.

Trump has spent the week insisting that Russia didn't hack the election, then blaming the United States for the fact that Russia hacked the election, then changing his story so many times that we've lost track of what his current position is. But there's no question about Christopher Wray's position on the matter. He appeared at a security forum today, and was asked about Trump's assertion that Russia isn't interfering in our elections.

Here's how Wray responded: "[Trump's] got his view, he's expressed his view. I can tell you what my view is. The intelligence community's assessment has not changed. My view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election." Wray was then asked if reports are true that he's previously threatened to resign in order to force Trump to back down on various matters. He said "I'm a low-key understated guy, but that should not be mistaken for what my spine is made out of. I'll just leave it at that."

This comes after Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats released a statement reaffirming the U.S. intelligence community's conclusions that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 election. Considering the hole that Donald Trump is already in for his treasonous press conference, he doesn't really have the muscle to oust any of his own people for openly defying him over it.

ny times logorepublican elephant logoNew York Times, Analysis: For G.O.P., 'The Dam Has Broken.' But for How Long? Peter Baker, July 18, 2018. Never has a president engendered such a wave of discussion about whether his real loyalty was to a foreign power.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Voters Mostly Stand by Him, but Cracks Open, Matt Flegenheimer, July 18, 2018. Mr. Trump has said his admirers will support him through anything. His remarks on Russia have put them to the test.

maria butina headshot

Accused Russian influence peddler Maria Butina (file photo)

ny times logoNew York Times, What Was Maria Butina Doing at the National Prayer Breakfast? Katherine Stewart, July 18, 2018. America's Christian nationalists have been finding common cause with the Russian government for a while now.

July 17

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Now Says He Accepts U.S. Intelligence Reports on Russian Election Meddling, Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman, July 17, 2018. Under unrelenting pressure from congressional Republicans, his own advisers and his allies on Fox News, President Trump abruptly reversed course on Tuesday and claimed he had misspoken during a news conference with President Vladimir V. Putin about whether Russia tried to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Trump, reading from a script, said he believed the assessment of the nation's intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the campaign after having seeming to have accepted Mr. Putin's assertion the day before that Russia was not involved.

On Tuesday he said that he had misspoken. He also insisted that he has "on numerous occasions noted our intelligence findings that Russians attempted to interfere in our elections." He did not mention the far greater number of occasions on which he has sown doubt about whether Russia meddled.

Mr. Trump also did not retract or explain his withering attack on the F.B.I. and the Justice Department for investigating his campaign's ties to Russia. He did not withdraw his assertion, standing next to Mr. Putin, that the Russian leader had offered an "extremely strong and powerful" denial of involvement during their two-and-a-half-hour meeting.

dana rohrabacher oPalmer Report, Opinion: Dana Rohrabacher is officially screwed – and other Republicans in Congress are going down with him, Bill Palmer, July 17, 2018. Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, right, has been openly loyal to Russia for decades.

Now we have confirmation that this is not just some weird abstract fanboyism on Rohrabacher's part, as he's been caught up in the indictment and arrest of Russian political operative Maria Butina.

Rohrabacher [a former Reagan White House speech writer and special assistant representing California's Orange County in Congress] is, to put it in layman's terms, screwed.

But Rohrabacher is not the only GOP member caught up in the Butina indictment. The paperwork in the Butina case reveals that during the election, "key leaders" of the Republican Party had a backchannel with the Kremlin through the NRA.

Trump Campaign Manager's Trial

paul manafort mug

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is shown in this booking photo in Alexandria, Va., on July 12. (Alexandria Sheriff's Office/Reuters)

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge refuses to move Paul Manafort trial to Roanoke, Rachel Weiner, July 17, 2018. Paul Manafort's upcoming trial on bank and fraud charges will continue in Alexandria, Va., despite his efforts to move the proceedings to Roanoke.

thomas s ellis iii federal judgeThe former Trump campaign chairman had argued that the jury pool in Northern Virginia is too liberal and too saturated with coverage of the case to give him a fair trial.

Judge T.S. Ellis III, a Republican at left, ruled Tuesday that Manafort is not entitled to a completely ignorant jury, nor one with as many Republicans as Democrats. Moreover, the nationwide coverage of the case would make any move ineffectual.

michael cohen ap file croppedPalmer Report, Opinion: Michael Cohen takes conspicuous new shot at Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, July 17, 2018. Shortly after the Donald Trump debacle played out on live national television, Cohen – who rarely posts anything to Twitter, decided to tweet this: "As I said to ABC's@George Stephanopoulos, 'I respect our nation's intelligence agencies who determined that Russia, had in fact, interfered or meddled in our democratic process. I repudiate Russia's effort…and call on all Americans to do the same.'"

This is consistent with Michael Cohen's ongoing insistence that he's not a traitor. He hasn't attempted to publicly defend himself against the numerous white collar criminal charges he's facing, but he keeps trying to distance himself from Donald Trump's Russia scandal. So where does this leave Cohen? He'll be indicted and arrested before much longer if he doesn't hurry up and cut a deal first. All the words in the world won't prevent him from seeing handcuffs.

July 16

Trump-Putin Meeting

djt vladimir putin summit 7 16 18 white house shealah craighead

President Trump and Putin shake hands at their summit in Finland on July 16, 2018 (White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Avoids Rebuking Putin on Meddling, Staff report, July 16, 2018. Won't Say If He Believes Moscow or U.S. Intelligence. President Trump said he raised the issue of Russian interference in the 2016 American election, and President Vladimir V. Putin again denied it.

After holding their first summit meeting, Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin held out the prospect of a new era of cooperation between the two countries, as Mr. Trump continued to throw into doubt longstanding assumptions about the West's political, military and trade alliances.

But Mr. Trump refused to say that he believed American intelligence agencies' findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 United States election, as a news conference where international affairs were expected to dominate turned again and again to the president's domestic political troubles.

The timing was exceptionally awkward, just days after the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian intelligence agents on charges of hacking the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, in an attempt to aid Mr. Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump and Putin end historic summit that Trump says 'changed' bad relations, Philip Rucker, Anton Troianovski and Seung Min Kim, July 16, 2018. President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin concluded their first formal one-one-one summit here Monday, a high-stakes meeting that Trump said "went very well" and changed relations that had never been worse.

Appearing at a joint news conference with Putin after the talks in the Finnish capital ended, Trump said in opening remarks that he and Putin discussed their disagreements "at length." He added: "Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed, as of about four hours ago."

He said he also "spent a great deal of time" talking about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The summit began hours after Trump blamed his own country, rather than Russia, for the hostilities between their two nations.

Speaking first at the news conference, Putin said the talks took place "in a frank and businesslike atmosphere," adding: "I think we can call it a success." He said that although bilateral relations have been "going through a complicated stage," there was "no solid reason" for that. "The Cold War is a thing of the past," he said.

He added later that Trump "mentioned the so-called interference of Russia in the American election" in 2016. Putin again denied any involvement by the Russian state and said any evidence of interference can be analyzed through a joint working group on cybersecurity.

 Trump Pushes Back

fox news logo SmallFox News, Trump fires back at Helsinki summit critics; Putin calls Russian meddling charges 'ridiculous,' Staff report, July 17, 2018. In exclusive interview with FOX News' Sean Hannity, President Trump defends his controversial comments at his post-summit news conference with Vladimir Putin, saying Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation has driven a 'phony wedge' between the U.S. and Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin denies having dirt on Trump, calls charges of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election 'utterly ridiculous' in exclusive interview with FOX News' Chris Wallace.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fox News's Chris Wallace gives Putin the grilling Trump won't, Aaron Blake, July 17, 2018 (print edition). The interview turned heated at points, with the news anchor clearly frustrated by the Russian president's trademark filibustering and Putin clearly frustrated by a journalist actually challenging him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Maria Butina, Russian gun rights advocate, charged in U.S. with acting as Russian Federation agent, Tom Jackman and Rosalind S. Helderman, July 16, 2018. A Russian national with alleged ties to a top Russian official was charged in federal court in Washington Monday with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation, and was ordered held without bond.

fbi logoMaria Butina, 29, was arrested Sunday in the District and made her first appearance in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson. Her attorney, Robert Neil Driscoll, told the judge that Butina's residence was searched by the FBI in April, that she had testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed session several months ago, and that "we have been offering to cooperate with the government the entire time."

maria butina headshotButina (shown at left) did not speak during the brief hearing other than to state her name. A detention hearing and preliminary hearing were set for Wednesday.

The charges against Butina come days after the Justice Department unveiled an indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly conspiring to hack Democrats in 2016 and just hours after President Trump cast doubt on Russia's involvement in an extraordinary joint news conference with President Putin.

Butina (shown also in a photo taken at a 2014 appearance) is accused of developing relationships with American politicians and a "gun rights organization," none of which are named in the affidavit supporting the criminal complaint. FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson wrote that Butina was attempting to "establish a 'back channel' communication for representatives of the Government of Russia."

Background On Related Story

maria butina with gun ad

Butina at the 2014 NRA convention in Indianapolis VK page

Mother Jones, The Very Strange Case of Two Russian Gun Lovers, the NRA, and Donald Trump, Denise Clifton and Mark Follman, March 1, 2018 for May/June 2018 Issue. Here's what we uncovered about an odd pair from Moscow who cultivated the Trump campaign.

For more than a year, reports have trickled out about deepening ties among prominent members of the National Rifle Association, conservative Republicans, a budding gun-rights movement in Russia—and their convergence in the Trump campaign.

nra logo CustomNow attention is focused around a middle-aged Russian central bank official and a photogenic young gun activist from Siberia who share several passions: posing with assault rifles, making connections with Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates, and publicizing their travels between Moscow and America on social media.

Alexander Torshin and his protégé Maria Butina also share an extraordinary status with America's largest gun lobbying group, according to Torshin: "Today in NRA (USA) I know only 2 people from the Russian Federation with the status of 'Life Member': Maria Butina and I," he tweeted the day after Donald Trump was elected president.

July 16

Putin Pushes Back

fox news logo SmallFox News, Putin denies having dirt on Trump, calls meddling charge 'utterly ridiculous' in Fox News interview, Alex Pappas, July 16, 2018. Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an occasionally combative interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace, called it "utterly ridiculous" that some people think the Russians could have swayed millions of American voters in the 2016 election, while insisting his country did not have dirt on President Trump or his family.

"Interference with the domestic affairs of the United States -- do you really believe that someone acting from the Russian territory could have influenced the United States and influenced the choice of millions of Americans?" Putin said. "This is utterly ridiculous."

The Russian president sat down for the interview airing on "Special Report" Monday after his summit earlier in the day with President Trump and other U.S. officials in Helsinki, Finland. Trump has faced harsh bipartisan criticism back home for his press conference with Putin, with lawmakers claiming Trump missed a key chance to "stand up" to the Russian president on election meddling.

"First of all, Russia, as a state, has never interfered with the internal affairs of the United States, let alone its elections," Putin replied.

Putin also denied having "kompromat" -- or "compromising material" -- on Trump. Earlier Monday, after Putin and Trump's joint news conference, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California claimed Trump's "weakness in front of Putin... proves that the Russians have something on the president, personally, financially or politically."

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: If you work for Trump, quit now, Ruth Marcus (Deputy editorial page editor), July 16, 2018. Everyone who works for President Trump: Quit now. Save your souls. Save your honor, such as it is. Save your reputation, such as it remains.

Russia attacked our democracy. Trump has demonstrated repeatedly, and did so again with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, that he doesn't care and won't defend his country.

If you work for this man and you call yourself a patriot, it is time for you to go.

This may sound excessive, even irresponsible. Indeed, for months I have agonized over the question of public service in the age of Trump.

Of course, as a general matter, it is better to have more grown-ups around Trump, mitigating his worst impulses, providing wisdom born of experience to counter his ignorance and petulance. But that assessment assumes facts not in evidence: that Trump is educable or containable. Actually, it contravenes the available evidence. There is none that Trump has done anything but what Trump wants to do. Monday's news conference made that clear.

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.

Palmer Report, Opinion: New development in Paul Manafort court proceedings suggests he may be negotiating plea deal, Bill Palmer, July 16, 2018. Believe it or not, court proceedings in the Paul Manafort case have been moving forward at a swift pace by traditional glacially slow federal court standards. That's both because Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been pushing for things to move swiftly, and because one of Manafort's two federal trials is taking place in a district with a reputation for moving quickly. Now suddenly, with no reason given, there's a one-week delay in the Manafort proceedings.

This sudden delay, coming out of nowhere, was reported by Rachel Maddow on Monday night on MSNBC. As she pointed out, there are a few different possible reasons that such a delay would be granted without any formal reason stated. But the most logical, and arguably the most likely, would be that Manafort is negotiating a plea deal. We'll see if that ends up being the case. But a few recent developments would explain why Manafort would choose now to finally cut a deal.

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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

fox news logo SmallFox News, Lisa Page 'cooperative,' 'credible,' lawmakers say after 5-hour closed-door session, Amy Lieu, July 13, 2017.  Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page was "cooperative" and "credible" in a closed-door session Friday with select House committee members that lasted nearly five hours.

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., had been among Page's harshest critics heading into the session, but he said her cooperation "speaks well of her," according to the Hill. Meadows said he thinks the American people "would be happy" with Friday's transcribed interviews, the Washington Post reported. "She's been willing to help in the spirit of transparency. … We've certainly learned additional things today," Meadows said.

Update July 16: Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page was questioned behind closed doors for a second day Monday on Capitol Hill by GOP lawmakers about anti-Trump texts she exchanged with colleague and former lover Peter Strzok.

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

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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

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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, 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 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."

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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 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 logoNew York Times, Opinion: We Have a Crisis of Democracy, Not Manners, Michelle Goldberg, June 26, 2018 (print edition). Michelle Goldberg, below 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.

michelle goldberg thumbWhether 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.

Conservative Review, Robert Mueller's Israel problem, Jordan Schachtel, June 5, 2018. As the Mueller probe drags along into year two of its supposed investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, a disturbing pattern has emerged.

The special counsel has become obsessed with the state of Israel. The former FBI director is deeply suspicious, to the point of total paranoia, that there is a grand conspiracy involving the Trump campaign and transition officials as potential agents for the Israelis.

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 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.

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