March 2019 Update

March 21

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Trump family friend David Pecker, chairman of American Media, Inc. (AMI), parent company of the National Enquirer (screenshot from CNN)

Palmer Report, Opinion: National Enquirer sells out Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, March 21, 2019. The National Enquirer, its parent company AMI, and its boss David Pecker just keep finding their way in and out of legal trouble in relation to Donald Trump’s scandals. Now the Enquirer gang has decided to sell Trump out in the hope of keeping itself out of even more legal trouble.

bill palmer report logo headerWe already saw Pecker and the National Enquirer sell Donald Trump and Michael Cohen out to the SDNY in return for immunity. But then Pecker blew his immunity when he got caught trying to blackmail Trump’s longtime nemesis Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and now Pecker is in real danger of facing serious criminal charges. So he’s selling Trump out yet again.

Pecker and AMI have agreed to turn over Trump-related documents to the House Judiciary Committee, according to CBS News. Based on the nature of the document request, these are ostensibly the same documents that they’ve already turned over to the SDNY. So this won’t necessarily further incriminate Trump, but it will serve to publicly incriminate Trump, as the committee will turn around and use these documents as part of its public hearings on Trump’s crimes.

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March 20

Trump Airs Grievances Against McCain

Roll Call, Analysis: ‘I didn’t get a thank you’ for approving John McCain’s funeral, Trump says, John T. Bennett, March 20, 2019. President’s economic speech in Ohio becomes political rally — with tanks. President Donald Trump went to Ohio to deliver an economic message. Instead, as always, a political rally broke out — this time, in front of military tanks.

djt smiling fileHe already was in quite a mood Wednesday afternoon as he approached reporters awaiting his departure on the White House’s South Lawn, declaring that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report is being written “out of the blue.”

“I just won one of the greatest elections of all time in the history of this country — and even you will admit that — and now I have somebody writing a report that never got a vote,” Trump (shown at left in a file photo) said before boarding Marine One in Washington. “So explain that, because my voters don’t get it and I don’t get it. … But it’s sort of interesting that a man, out of the blue, just writes a report.” (The notion that Mueller’s report is a surprise is yet another false statement by Trump.)

john mccain with flag recentAfter a quick flight and motorcade ride to Lima Army Tank Plant, the president had plenty more to say, attacking the late Republican Sen. John McCain (right) from Arizona and again declaring that the Islamic State’s self-styled caliphate will be gone by Wednesday night. (He has previously said it was already eliminated)

Here are a collection of the most eyebrow-raising quotes from the president as he addressed plant workers in front of several tanks:

“Well, you better love me. I kept this place open.”

Trump was referring to the Army’s response to shrinking defense budgets under the Obama administration. The service slowed the production level at the Lima plant to one tank per month, according to defense analyst and consultant Loren Thompson.

“McCain didn’t get the job done for our great vets and the VA — and they knew it. … A lot of people like him, and I think that’s great.

Though Trump said in Lima he hopes this is the end of his feud with a man who died seven months ago, he brought up the late Senate Armed Services chairman unprompted. His conservative base was often frustrated by McCain’s efforts to cross the aisle. Trump knows that. The feud likely will continue.

“I gave him (McCain) the kind of funeral he wanted, which as president I had to approve. And I didn’t get a thank you. But that’s OK.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The White House hasn't turned over a single piece of paper to my committee, Elijah E. Cummings, March 20, 2019. Elijah E. Cummings, right, a Democrat, represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the House, where elijah cummings headshothe is the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform.

In November, the American people voted overwhelmingly to put Democrats in charge of the House of Representatives to start serving as a truly independent check and balance on the executive branch. Since then, President Trump and his allies have complained of “Presidential Harassment,” decrying Democrats for having the audacity to request documents and witnesses to fulfill our constitutional responsibilities.

The problem is that the White House is engaged in an unprecedented level of stonewalling, delay and obstruction.

I serve as chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, the primary investigative body in the House of Representatives. I have sent 12 letters to the White House on a half-dozen topics — some routine and some relating to our core national security interests. In response, the White House has refused to hand over any documents or produce any witnesses for interviews.

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Washington Post, Mueller team cites ‘press of other work’ in seeking delay to open Manafort records, Spencer S. Hsu and Matt Zapotosky, March 20, 2019 (print ed.). The filing comes amid signs that the special counsel’s probe is winding down and speculation that he could any day transmit his final report to the attorney general.
Prosecutors with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team on Tuesday cited the “press of other work” in asking a judge to give them until April 1 to respond to the court about a request from The Washington Post to unseal records in Paul Manafort’s criminal case.

In a two-page filing, Deputy Solicitor General Michael R. Dreeben and prosecutor Adam C. Jed wrote, “Counsel responsible for preparing the response face the press of other work and require additional time to consult within the government.”

March 19

Mueller Report

Roll Call, Rep. Nadler: White House can’t claim executive privilege on Mueller report, Griffin Connolly, March 19, 2019. Judiciary Committee chairman says administration waived that privilege ‘long ago.’ The top House Democrat in the impending fight between robert mueller full face filethe executive branch and Congress over the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s report to the public indicated Tuesday that he will strongly oppose White House lawyers’ efforts to redact some information.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler claimed Tuesday that the Trump administration waived any claims of executive privilege over Mueller’s eventual findings “long ago” when it agreed to cooperate with the probe.

White House lawyers have reportedly indicated they expect to review Mueller’s report and request redactions based on claims of executive privilege for conversations between President Donald Trump and his advisers. The administration would have to prove that those conversations needed to be withheld because of sensitive content like national security. It wouldn’t cover any aspects of the 2016 campaign.

Palmer Report, Opinion: What today’s newly released Michael Cohen search warrant documents really tell us, Bill Palmer, March 19, 2019. Partially redacted documents were released today in relation to the search warrant that was carried out against Michael Cohen’s residence and office nearly a year ago. bill palmer report logo headerThis wasn’t because prosecutors wanted to announce anything, and was instead the result of a legal victory by a number of major news outlets who sought the documents. So what do these documents tell us?

The key here is that we clearly don’t know how many cases have been referred to other prosecutors. For instance we just learned yesterday that the Feds raided the office of former Trump campaign fundraiser Elliott Broidy last summer. The bottom line: no one in Trump’s orbit is off the hook for anything, unless they’re innocent.

Massage Charges To Be Dropped?

djt li yang cindy

Florida massage parlour founder Li "Cindy" Yang and President Trump are shown in a photo signed by Trump.Yang's bio identifies her as the founder and CEO of GY US Investments. Her website said that she is a member of the “Presidential Fundraising Committee.”

Yahoo News, Report: Florida prosecutors offer Patriots' Robert Kraft deal to drop solicitation charges, Shalise Manza Young, March 19, 2019. Prosecutors in Palm Beach County, Florida, have offered New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft a chance to avoid prosecution for soliciting prostitution and having his charges dropped, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

robert kraft twitterCalled deferred prosecution, it would require that Kraft admit that he could be proved guilty at trial.

Kraft (shown in a file photo) is not the only man charged who has been presented with this offer, the WSJ reports.

It is unclear whether Kraft will accept the agreement.

The proposed deferred prosecution deal comes with caveats: completion of an education course about prostitution, 100 hours of community service, screening for sexually transmitted diseases and payment of some court costs.

But Kraft and his attorney would also review the evidence in the case and agree that if it were to go to trial, the state would be able to prove guilt.

Kraft has been charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution; he was one of several men charged after a months-long investigation by Jupiter police, who were looking into alleged human trafficking.

A statement from a Kraft spokesman at the time of the charges being announced proclaimed his innocence.

Jupiter police say they have Kraft on surveillance video entering Orchids of Asia day spa, paying for services and receiving oral sex on two occasions, including on the day of the AFC championship game.

If Kraft accepted the deal and charges are dropped, he could still be punished by the NFL under the personal conduct policy. The league has reinforced that the policy applies to all members of the league, including team owners.

Trump Hotel Constitutional Dispute

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal appeals court to hear Trump hotel case as president asks for it to be thrown out, Ann E. Marimow and Jonathan O'Connell, March 19, 2019 (print ed.). ​The attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia contend that the president is illegally profiting from the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

President Trump’s luxury hotel in downtown Washington and the foreign dignitaries who book rooms and host events there are central to a novel appeals court case Tuesday involving anti-corruption provisions of the Constitution.

The attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia contend that the president is illegally profiting from the Trump International Hotel’s foreign and state government visitors and that his financial gain comes at the expense of local competitors.

“The president is neither above the law nor exempt from litigation, and nothing in this suit impinges on his public duties,” D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) say in court filings in advance of oral arguments at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

At issue are the Constitution’s once-obscure emoluments clauses, designed to prevent undue influence on government officials but never before applied in court to a sitting president.

A federal judge in Maryland allowed the case to move forward and adopted a broad definition of the ban to include “profit, gain, or advantage” received “directly or indirectly” from foreign, federal or state governments.

The three-judge panel on Tuesday will specifically consider whether the District and Maryland have legal grounds — or standing — to sue the president in the first place. And the appeals court will consider the president’s request to dismiss the case outright or to take the unusual step of ordering the lower-court judge to allow a midstream appeal.

The judges are Paul V. Niemeyer, Dennis W. Shedd and A. Marvin Quattlebaum Jr. Niemeyer was nominated to the 4th Circuit by President George H.W. Bush, Shedd by President George W. Bush and Quattlebaum by President Trump.

Despite the case — and a separate emoluments suit brought by 198 Democrats in Congress — the Trump Organization did more business with foreign governments in 2018 than it did the year before. The company said it received $191,000 in profits from large events and hotel bookings paid for by foreign governments last year, money it donated to the U.S. Treasury. The previous year the company reported about $150,000.

March 18

NY Times Probes Trump-Troubled Bank

ny times logoNew York Times, A Mar-a-Lago Weekend and an Act of God: Trump’s History With Deutsche Bank, David Enrich, March 19, 2019 (print ed.). As a developer, Donald Trump borrowed more than $2 billion from Deutsche Bank. Once he was president, employees were told not to utter his name. Now Mr. Trump’s financial ties with the bank are the subject of investigations by two congressional committees and the New York attorney general.

Mr. Trump and Deutsche Bank were deeply entwined, their symbiotic bond born of necessity and ambition on both sides: a real estate mogul made toxic by polarizing rhetoric and a pattern of defaults, and a bank with intractable financial problems and a history of misconduct.

deutsche bank logoMr. Trump used loans from Deutsche Bank to finance skyscrapers and other high-end properties, and repeatedly cited his relationship with the bank to deflect political attacks on his business acumen. Deutsche Bank used Mr. Trump’s projects to build its investment-banking business, reaped fees from the assets he put in its custody and leveraged his celebrity to lure clients.

Over nearly two decades, Deutsche Bank’s leaders repeatedly saw red flags surrounding Mr. Trump. There was a disastrous bond sale, a promised loan that relied on a banker’s forged signature, wild exaggerations of Mr. Trump’s wealth, even a claim of an act of God.

But Deutsche Bank had a ravenous appetite for risk and limited concern about its clients’ reputations. Time after time, with the support of two different chief executives, the bank handed money — a total of well over $2 billion — to a man whom nearly all other banks had deemed untouchable.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Anthony Kennedy and his son were even more deeply involved in Donald Trump’s Russia scandal than we Anthony Kennedy official SCOTUS portraitthought, Bill Palmer, March 18, 2019. Last year, even as Donald Trump’s presidency seemed to be on its last legs, and the Republican Party seemed to be inching away from him, something happened that caused the GOP to rush back into his arms and buy him significant time.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, right, abruptly announced he was retiring, thus allowing Trump to nominate his replacement. This was suspicious beyond words, because Kennedy’s son was an executive at Deutsche Bank, which was at the financial center of Donald Trump’s Russia scandal.

bill palmer report logo headerThis set off a million theories about how Donald Trump might have used Trump-Russia dirt on Justin Kennedy as leverage to force Anthony Kennedy into retirement. The trouble was that, while it all made sense, it was all vague and circumstantial. But that’s no longer the case. Tonight the New York Times published a verty lengthy expose about the mutually corrupt relationship between Trump and Deutsche Bank over the years – and both the older and younger Kennedy play a role in the story.

deutsche bank logoThe NY Times article confirms, once and for all, what had long been suspected: Justin Kennedy was indeed the Deutsche Bank senior executive who kept making the decision to loan large amounts of money to Donald Trump for bad real estate deals, even after every other bank in the world had sworn off lending money to Trump. Oh, and there’s this sentence: “Occasionally, Justice Kennedy stopped by Deutsche Bank’s offices to say hello to the team.”

U.S. Flood Disaster

ny times logoNew York Times, Record Floods Pummel Midwest When Farmers Can Least Afford It, Mitch Smith, Jack Healy and Timothy Williams, March 18, 2019. “There’s no harder business to be in,” one Nebraska man said. Farmers across Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota have lost livestock and livelihoods after record floods pummeled the region.

Ice chunks the size of small cars ripped through barns and farmhouses. Baby calves were swept into freezing floodwaters, washing up dead along the banks of swollen rivers. Farm fields were now lakes.

The record floods that have pummeled the Midwest are inflicting a devastating toll on farmers and ranchers at a moment when they can least afford it, raising fears that this natural disaster will become a breaking point for farms weighed down by falling incomes, rising bankruptcies and the fallout from President Trump’s trade policies.

Probe Of Trump Ally?

djt li yang super bowlMassage parlor founder Li "Cindy" Yang, lower left, an active Republican contributor and PR specialist in linking Chinese nationals to prominent Repubicans, and a friend watch this year's Superbowl with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago (Facebook photo).

Miami Herald, Democrats call for counterintelligence investigation of massage parlor boss Cindy Yang, Alex Daugherty, March 18, 2019. Democrats in Congress are asking the FBI to investigate Florida massage parlor operator Li “Cindy” Yang after the Miami Herald and others reported on Yang’s access to President Donald Trump and work to get Chinese business executives access to political fundraisers.

In a letter sent on Friday to FBI Director Christopher Wray, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph Alles, Democrats leading the House and Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees called for criminal and counterintelligence investigations into “credible allegations of potential human trafficking, as well as unlawful foreign lobbying, campaign finance and other activities by Ms. Yang.”

Yang, who founded a string of South Florida Asian day spas linked to sexual services, arranged for a group of Chinese expats to attend a 2017 Republican fundraiser for Trump at a New York restaurant as part of her work with the National Committee of Asian American Republicans. Yang opened — but had since sold — the massage parlor that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft allegedly visited on the day of the AFC Championship Game. The business was under surveillance, and he and several other men were charged.

Mueller Probes

Palmer Report, Analysis: Feds raided office of Donald Trump’s pal Elliott Broidy, and it’s going to get very ugly, Bill Palmer, March 18, 2019. We’re all learning today that the Feds raided the office of Donald Trump’s associate Elliott Broidy last summer. This remained a secret until just now, thanks to documents that have been obtained by ProPublica. This is a very big deal, not only for Trump, but for the Republican National Committee – and things are going to get ugly.

bill palmer report logo headerWhat immediately stands out here is that, as opposed to the highly publicized raid of Michael Cohen’s office last year, the Feds have kept the raid of Elliott Broidy’s office a secret all this time. This strongly suggests that the evidence obtained in the raid is being used in ongoing investigations into bigger fish.

elliott broidyThe reporting from ProPublica reveals that the Feds targeted Broidy, right, over allegations of money laundering and lobbying the Trump regime on behalf of Middle Eastern nations. This more or less cements that the Feds’ goal here is to use Broidy’s crimes to get to Trump and his administration.

rnc logoThis brings us to the still unresolved questions about Elliott Broidy’s personal scandals. He allegedly paid his mistress $1.6 million to have an abortion and keep quiet about it all. It’s widely suspected that it was actually Donald Trump who impregnated the woman, and that Broidy was merely acting as a middleman for the payoff and ended up taking the fall for it, but no specific evidence has surfaced in this regard.

The raid has likely either confirmed or disproven this notion, and it’ll eventually come out one way or the other.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lobbying Case Against Democrat With Ties to Manafort Reaches Key Stage, Kenneth P. Vogel and Katie Benner, March 18, 2019. A long-running federal investigation into a former White House counsel in the Obama administration is Gregory Craigreaching a critical stage, presenting the Justice Department with a decision about whether to charge a prominent Democrat as part of a more aggressive crackdown on illegal foreign lobbying.

The case involving the lawyer, Gregory B. Craig (shown in a file photo), was transferred in January from federal prosecutors in New York to those in Washington.

A decision about whether to prosecute Mr. Craig, who was White House counsel for President Barack Obama during his first year in office, is expected in the coming weeks, people familiar with the case said. The investigation centers on whether Mr. Craig should have disclosed work he did in 2012 — while he was a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom — on behalf of the Russia-aligned government of Viktor F. Yanukovych, then the president of Ukraine.

democratic donkey logoThe work was steered to Mr. Craig by Paul Manafort, who was then a political consultant collecting millions of dollars from clients in former Soviet states. Mr. Manafort, below right, who went on to become President Trump’s campaign chairman in 2016, was sentenced this month to seven and a half years in prison on charges brought by Mr. Mueller’s team related to obstruction of justice and violations of banking, tax and lobbying laws stemming from his work in Ukraine.

paul manafort mugThe Manafort case, and others developed by Mr. Mueller, marked the first high-profile criminal charges in years under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA. The 1938 law requires Americans to disclose detailed information about lobbying and public relations work for foreign governments and politicians. One of the first significant initiatives under the new attorney general, William P. Barr, was the reorganization of the unit that oversees FARA, suggesting that enforcing laws on foreign lobbying will become a priority of his tenure.

Mr. Craig, 74, would be the first Democrat to be charged in a case spinning out of the special counsel’s investigation — a distinction that could be used to rebut accusations leveled by Mr. Trump and his supporters that the investigation is a partisan witch hunt.

March 17

U.S. Politics / Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: White House missteps and clashes of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Michael Kranish, March 17, 2019 (print ed.). Four months after President Trump named son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka as White House advisers, he was chided by a former Justice Department official named Mark Corallo. “You could start draining the swamp by removing your in-laws,” tweeted Corallo, a conservative Republican.

Yet shortly after the caustic tweet, Corallo was surprised to find himself being asked to become the White House’s communications director. vicky ward kushner bookHe turned that offer down, pleading that he needed time with his family. Then he was asked to be a communications consultant for the legal team. He agreed on the condition that he would never have to say anything negative about special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who he said “walks on water.”

As Corallo settled into his position, however, his concerns about the actions of Ivanka Trump and Kushner only increased, according to Vicky Ward’s book Kushner, Inc.: Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

The Kushners were “reckless,” Corallo is quoted as saying. He cited his concern that they were present when President Trump was discussing the Mueller probe with his lawyers. That, according to Corallo, would make them witnesses to a conversation, potentially undercutting the otherwise-privileged discussions between the president and his attorneys.

Michael Kranish is an investigative political reporter with The Washington Post and a co-author of “Trump Revealed.” He is the author of “The World’s Fastest Man: The Extraordinary Life of Cyclist Major Taylor, America’s First Black Sports Hero,” to be published in May.

Axios, Sneak Peak: Where's Rudy? Jonathan Swan, March 17, 2019. Rudy Giuliani has vanished from your television. The last time the president's once-ubiquitous attack dog did a major TV appearance was on Sunday, Jan. 20, when he went on NBC's "Meet the Press" and CNN's "State of the Union."

Between the lines: Sources familiar with Giuliani's thinking say he views a major part of his job as trying to undermine public confidence in the Mueller probe and harden the support of Republican voters for Trump to protect him against impeachment. So for Giuliani to stay off TV for an extended stretch is odd.

rudy giuliani recent• White House officials had expected Giuliani's Jan. 20 Sunday show appearances to be an easy "victory lap" after Mueller's office took the rare step of publicly disputing a BuzzFeed story accusing Trump of committing a felony.
Instead, Giuliani tripped over himself, saying the Trump Tower Moscow talks may have lasted up until November 2016. The claim was both unhelpful and, in the White House's view, incorrect.

• Giuliani walked back the comments in a statement the next day: "My recent statements about discussions during the 2016 campaign between Michael Cohen and then-candidate Donald Trump about a potential Trump Moscow 'project' were hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the president."

Since that weekend, the president's most prominent lawyer has kept his head down. He has only made one on-camera appearance: a March 8 hit on the streaming channel of the Washington newspaper The Hill, where he said Paul Manafort's surprisingly short jail sentence was fair.

• Two sources with direct knowledge told me that both Trump and the White House lawyer handling the Russia investigation, Emmet Flood, have privately griped about some of Giuliani's TV appearances.

Giuliani's response: When I asked Giuliani about all of this, he texted that he has spent hours with Trump in the last month and hasn't heard any complaints about his TV appearances from the president.

March 16

donald trump apprentice color nbc

Donald Trump from a publicity photo for his TV show "The Apprentice" (NBC TV).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: ‘The President … Is Not Above the Law,’ Editorial Board, March 16, 2019. A New York court rules that the Constitution does not shield President Trump from allegations of misconduct before he took office. The legal travails of President Bill Clinton may soon haunt President Trump. A New York appeals court on Thursday ruled that Mr. Trump, like Mr. Clinton before him, is not protected by the presidency from answering civil charges.

The five-judge panel in Manhattan said that the Constitution’s supremacy clause does not bar state courts from hearing claims over “alleged unofficial misconduct” — that is, claims of improper or illegal action before a president took office.

The decision expands on the precedent set in Clinton v. Jones, in which a unanimous Supreme Court in 1997 ruled that a federal court had jurisdiction over a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Paula Jones, a former low-level Arkansas state employee, against Mr. Clinton.

Yes, the presidency is important and its occupant may have important duties to attend to other than to produce documents or sit for depositions in a civil suit alleging sexual misconduct and defamation, the court explained, but “the President is still a person, and he is not summer zervosabove the law.”

Two judges dissented, observing that the threat of contempt, should Mr. Trump resist the legal process, would put a state court in “direct control” over the president.

A former contestant on Mr. Trump’s reality TV show “The Apprentice,” Summer Zervos (shown at right) went public during the 2016 campaign with accusations that Mr. Trump kissed and groped her without her consent. She is suing the president for defaming her shortly after she came forward, calling her charges a “hoax.” She filed her suit days before Mr. Trump took the oath of office.

djt li yang cindy

Florida massage parlour founder Li "Cindy" Yang and President Trump are shown in a photo signed by Trump.Yang's bio identifies her as the founder and CEO of GY US Investments. Her website said that she is a member of the “Presidential Fundraising Committee.”

ny times logoNew York Times, She Extols Trump, Guns and the Chinese Communist Party Line, Frances Robles, Michael Forsythe and Alexandra Stevenson, March 16, 2019. The Republican National Committee promised an “evening reception with Donald J. Trump” last March at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. A contribution of $2,700 toward the president’s re-election would get you in the door. Two seats for dinner were on offer for $25,000. And there was a third option: for $50,000, dinner for two and a photo with Mr. Trump.

Cindy Yang was determined to get the photo.

But there was a hurdle. The invitation limited campaign contributions to $5,400 per person, so Ms. Yang, a Chinese immigrant who had set up a string of day spas in Florida and was active in groups backed by the Chinese government and Communist Party, needed others to chip in.

Over the weeks leading up to the event, at least nine people in Ms. Yang’s orbit, some of them with modest incomes, made donations at exactly $5,400. She ended up at the dinner.

Ms. Yang was little known outside southern Florida until her name became associated with the arrest last month of Robert K. Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, in a prostitution sting at a Jupiter massage parlor. The Miami Herald first reported that she had previously owned that parlor.

Though she was not charged or implicated in the sting, her other business efforts have since come under public scrutiny. One promised rich Chinese clients access to the social scene around Mr. Trump — and was promoted online with pictures of cabinet members, the Trump family and even the president himself.

One of the $5,400 political donations came from a 25-year old woman who gives facials at a beauty school, in a strip mall in nearby Palm Beach Gardens that is owned by Ms. Yang’s family. Another $5,400 came from a woman who says she worked as a receptionist at a massage parlor owned by Ms. Yang’s husband. A third gift of $5,400 came from an associate of Ms. Yang’s who had been charged in 2014 after a prostitution sting with practicing health care without a license, police records show.

The receptionist, Bingbing Peranio, listed as a “manager” on her disclosure, spoke with a reporter about her relationship with Ms. Yang. She described herself as a big fan of Mr. Trump’s and said Ms. Yang, a registered Republican, was seen as a leader among Asian-American Republicans in Florida.

Asked if Ms. Yang had reimbursed her for the $5,400, Ms. Peranio said, “I do not want to answer that question.” Reimbursing someone for a political contribution or contributing in the name of another person is illegal.

It is rare for workers in the massage and spa business to support candidates for office at such high-dollar levels, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission records. In 2017 and 2018, of the nearly 65,000 donations made by people listed as massage therapists on F.E.C. disclosures, only two gave the maximum $5,400, including one of the Trump donors connected to Ms. Yang.

Ms. Yang, contacted by The New York Times, declined to discuss the contributions or her attendance at the Mar-a-Lago event. Her lawyer, Evan W. Turk, did not respond to questions about the donations but said in a statement to the media on Thursday that “the evidence indicates that our client has been falsely accused,” without providing further detail.

A spokesman for the Republican National Committee denied “any wrongdoing on behalf of the R.N.C. or Trump campaign.”

In the past few years, Ms. Yang also began forging ties with organizations connected to the Chinese Communist Party and the government in Beijing.

In 2016, she joined the Florida Association for China Unification, part of a global network of organizations aimed at promoting the return of Taiwan to mainland control, a connection first reported by Mother Jones. Such groups fall under the oversight of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, which seeks to enlist the vast ethnic Chinese diaspora to promote Beijing’s policies.

March 15

Los Angeles Times, Congress requests former Fox News reporter’s notebooks regarding Trump’s hush money, Stacy Perman, March 15, 2019 fox news logo Small(print ed.). Congress requests former Fox News reporter’s notebooks regarding Trump’s hush money.Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, chairman of the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Reform, on Wednesday requested former Fox News reporter Diana Falzone turn over all documents relating to her reporting on President Trump’s “debts and payments to silence women alleging extramarital affairs with him prior to the 2016 presidential election.”

djt stormy daniels 2006The request comes a week after the New Yorker published an investigation on Fox News that disclosed Falzone had reported an article about Trump making hush payments to porn star Stormy Daniels (shown with Trump) prior to the 2016 presidential election in order to keep her quiet about their alleged affair. According to the New Yorker, Fox killed the story because Rupert Murdoch, chairman of Twenty-First Century Fox, wanted Trump to win the election.

Ken LaCorte, Falzone’s editor at Fox, published a response in Mediate disputing her version of events, saying the piece didn’t meet journalistic standards and was not killed because of any political agenda.

Falzone, who has since left Fox, sued the company for gender and disability discrimination in May 2017. However, as part of her settlement, she signed a nondisclosure agreement and has not been able to rebut LaCorte’s claims or any matter arising out of her time at Fox.

washington post logotom barrackheadshotWashington Post, Inside the Trump inaugural dinner designed as a glittery overture to foreign diplomats, Michael Kranish, Rosalind S. Helderman, Mary Jordan and Tom Hamburger, March 15, 2019. The Chairman’s Global Dinner was the brainchild of inaugural committee chairman Thomas J. Barrack Jr., right. State, federal and congressional investigators are now looking into activities related to the committee.

March 14

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 washington post logoWashington Post, In overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, House calls for Mueller report to be made public, Karoun Demirjian​, March 14, 2019.  Republicans joined Democrats to back a resolution calling on the Justice Department to release the special counsel’s full report to Congress and the public. It sends a message but cannot force the attorney general’s hand.

The final vote count was 420 in favor, with no one voting no. Four lawmakers voted “present.”

But the resolution by itself cannot force attorney general William P. Barr to publish more of the report than he intends to — and that is why even some of the Republicans supporting it complained that the measure was a waste of time.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Tucker Carlson says he’s the victim of a powerful bully. Meet the 24-year-old who found the tapes, Eli Rosenberg​, March 14, 2019. In reality, credit goes to Madeline Peltz, a 20-something in her first adult job who lives in the basement of a D.C. house she rents fox news logo Smallwith five other people, a few cats and a dog named Noodles.

Madeline Peltz works the night shift at the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America. Given the timing of that particular shift, one of her main responsibilities is watching Tucker Carlson’s 8 p.m. show on Fox News.

And she’s watched a lot of Tucker Carlson (shown at left in file photos with President Trump).

tucker carlson djtCarlson has been in the public eye for some 20 years — first as a print journalist, then a television commentator, founder of the conservative site the Daily Caller, and now, Fox News host, with a prime-time slot and a salary in the millions. But people have been confused by Carlson’s tone on Fox since he took over for Bill O’Reilly in 2018, noting concern about diversity and demographics in his show.

After many Carlson-watching hours, the 24-year-old researcher developed a working theory, which she outlined on the nonprofit’s website: that Carlson is using his platform on Fox News to introduce white-nationalist ideas to the mainstream, making him a uniquely prominent “mouthpiece for white supremacy.”

March 13

ny times logoNew York Times, Paul Manafort Is Sentenced to 3.5 More Years in Prison, Sharon LaFraniere, March 13, 2019. Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, has been ordered to serve a total of seven and a half years in prison after a second federal judge added more time to his sentence on Wednesday, saying he “spent a significant portion of his career gaming the system.”

Judge Amy Berman Jackson of Federal District Court in Washington sentenced Mr. Manafort, 69, on two conspiracy counts that encompassed a host of crimes, including money-laundering, obstruction of justice and failing to disclose lobbying work that earned him tens of millions of dollars over more than a decade.

“It is hard to overstate the number of lies and the amount of fraud and the amount of money involved,” she said, reeling off Mr. Manafort’s various offenses, rapid-fire. “There is no question that this defendant knew better and he knew what he was doing.”

Soon after the additional sentence was handed down, Mr. Manafort was charged in state court in New York with mortgage fraud and more than a dozen other felonies, an effort to ensure he will still face prison time if Mr. Trump pardons him for his federal crimes.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York Charges Manafort With 16 Crimes. If He’s Convicted, Trump Can’t Pardon Him, William K. Rashbaum, March 13, 2019. The charges are part of an effort to ensure he will still face prison time if President Trump pardons him for his federal crimes.

Paul J. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, has been charged in New York with mortgage fraud and more than a dozen other state felonies, the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said Wednesday, an effort to ensure he will still face prison time if Mr. Trump pardons him for his federal crimes.

News of the indictment came shortly after Mr. Manafort was sentenced to his second federal prison term in two weeks; he now faces a combined sentence of more than seven years for tax and bank fraud and conspiracy in two related cases brought by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

The president has broad power to issue pardons for federal crimes, but has no such authority in state cases.

While Mr. Trump has not said he intends to pardon his former campaign chairman, he has often spoken of his power to pardon and has defended Mr. Manafort on a number of occasions, calling him a “brave man.”

Mueller Report

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Report Has Washington Spinning (and It’s Not Even Filed), Staff report, March 12, 2019 (print ed.). The capital is jittery and full of rumor as it awaits the report of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on Russian interference and President Trump.  It may or may not be the report of the century, it may or may not be ready soon, and it may be only a few pages. But it is definitely highly anticipated.

Critics Of Mueller, Defenders of Assange

Consortium News, Opinion: VIPS: Mueller’s Forensics-Free Findings, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), March 13, 2019. The final Mueller report should be graded “incomplete,” says VIPS, whose forensic work proves the speciousness of the story that DNC emails published by WikiLeaks came from Russian hacking.

We veteran intelligence professionals have done enough detailed forensic work to prove the speciousness of the prevailing story that the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks came from Russian hacking. Given the paucity of evidence to support that story, we believe Mueller may choose to finesse this key issue and leave everyone hanging. That would help sustain the widespread belief that Trump owes his victory to President Vladimir Putin, and strengthen the hand of those who pay little heed to the unpredictable consequences of an increase in tensions with nuclear-armed Russia.

There is an overabundance of “assessments” but a lack of hard evidence to support that prevailing narrative. We believe that there are enough people of integrity in the Department of Justice to prevent the outright manufacture or distortion of “evidence,” particularly if they become aware that experienced scientists have completed independent forensic study that yield very different conclusions. We know only too well — and did our best to expose — how our former colleagues in the intelligence community manufactured fraudulent “evidence” of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

We have scrutinized publicly available physical data — the “trail” that every cyber operation leaves behind. And we have had support from highly experienced independent forensic investigators who, like us, have no axes to grind. We can prove that the conventional-wisdom story about Russian-hacking-DNC-emails-for-WikiLeaks is false. Drawing largely on the unique expertise of two VIPS scientists who worked for a combined total of 70 years at the National Security Agency and became Technical Directors there, we have regularly published our findings. But we have been deprived of a hearing in mainstream media — an experience painfully reminiscent of what we had to endure when we exposed the corruption of intelligence before the attack on Iraq 16 years ago.

This time, with the principles of physics and forensic science to rely on, we are able to adduce solid evidence exposing mistakes and distortions in the dominant story. We offer you below — as a kind of aide-memoire— a discussion of some of the key factors related to what has become known as “Russia-gate.” And we include our most recent findings drawn from forensic work on data associated with WikiLeaks’ publication of the DNC emails.

We do not claim our conclusions are “irrefutable and undeniable,” a la Colin Powell at the UN before the Iraq war. Our judgments, however, are based on the scientific method — not “assessments.” We decided to put this memorandum together in hopes of ensuring that you hear that directly from us.

If the Mueller team remains reluctant to review our work — or even to interview willing witnesses with direct knowledge, like WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and former UK Ambassador Craig Murray, we fear that many of those yearning earnestly for the truth on Russia-gate will come to the corrosive conclusion that the Mueller investigation was a sham.

In sum, we are concerned that, at this point, an incomplete Mueller report will fall far short of the commitment made by then Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “to ensure a full and thorough investigation,” when he appointed Mueller in May 2017. Again, we are at your disposal.


The centerpiece accusation of Kremlin “interference” in the 2016 presidential election was the charge that Russia hacked Democratic National Committee emails and gave them to WikiLeaks to embarrass Secretary Hillary Clinton and help Mr. Trump win. The weeks following the election witnessed multiple leak-based media allegations to that effect. These culminated on January 6, 2017 in an evidence-light, rump report misleadingly labeled “Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA).” Prepared by “handpicked analysts” from only three of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies (CIA, FBI, and NSA), the assessment expressed “high confidence” in the Russia-hacking-to-WikiLeaks story, but lacked so much as a hint that the authors had sought access to independent forensics to support their “assessment.”

Given the stakes involved in the Russia-gate investigation – including a possible impeachment battle and greatly increased tension between Russia and the U.S. — it is difficult to understand why Comey did not move quickly to seize the computer hardware so the FBI could perform an independent examination of what quickly became the major predicate for investigating election interference by Russia. Fortunately, enough data remain on the forensic “trail” to arrive at evidence-anchored conclusions. The work we have done shows the prevailing narrative to be false. We have been suggesting this for over two years. Recent forensic work significantly strengthens that conclusion.

March 12

Trump Impeachment?

nancy pelosi djt sotu feb 6 2019 doug mills nytimes via ap feb 2019

Nancy Pelosi said of impeachment: ‘It divides the country.’ Photograph: Pool New / Reuters

The Guardian, Pelosi comes out against impeaching Trump: 'He's just not worth it,' Guardian staff and agencies, updated March 12, 2019. House speaker says move would be too divisive without ‘compelling and bipartisan’ rationale

Donald Trump should not be impeached unless the reasons are overwhelming and bipartisan, given how divisive it would be for the country, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has said.

“I’m not for impeachment,” Pelosi, the top US Democrat, said in a Washington Post interview published on Monday.

“Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country,” she said. “He’s just not worth it.”

It was Pelosi’s most direct comment yet on Trump’s possible impeachment, a topic she has dealt with cautiously as it carries the potential to sharply split Democrats and the public ahead of next year’s White House and congressional elections.

Palmer Report, Opinion: That’s not how any of this works, Bill Palmer (right), March 12, 2019. If you know me, then you know that I’m as liberal as they bill palmercome, and that I have great respect for liberals in general. There is, however, one thing that always confuses me about our side of the ideological fence: why are we always so quick to assume that our own liberal leaders are complete idiots, even when the evidence says otherwise?

bill palmer report logo headerSpeaker Nancy Pelosi has spent the past few months running circles around Donald Trump, in such rapid fashion it’s left his head spinning. We don’t know precisely how their ongoing battles will play out. But it’s such a mismatch, the one thing we know for sure is that Pelosi will win, and Trump will suffer at her hands accordingly. So why on earth would Pelosi stupidly decide to take impeachment off the table yesterday? She wouldn’t.

Even if you take Pelosi’s impeachment comments at face value without reading between the lines, she’s simply saying that there’s no point in impeaching Donald Trump right now, today, because it wouldn’t succeed. She’s right. What’s the point of ringing up Trump on impeachment charges right now, when we all know the Senate wouldn’t come anywhere close to removing him right now?

Trump Watch

djt li yang super bowlMassage parlor founder Li "Cindy" Yang, lower left, an active Republican contributor and PR specialist in linking Chinese nationals to prominent Repubicans, and a friend watch this year's Superbowl with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago (Facebook photo).

manchurian candidate 1962 movie posterThe Manchurian Candidate is a 1962 American suspense thriller film about the Cold War and sleeper agents.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump is the "Manchurian Candidate"-turned-President, Wayne Madsen (syndicated columnist, author, former Navy Intelligence officer), March 12, 2019 (Subscription required; excerpted with permission).

Palm Beach: Forget Russian oligarchs for the time being. Donald Trump and his family appear to have been co-opted by a standard Chinese intelligence operation -- both mainland and Taiwanese -- that uses overseas Chinese, shady dummy corporations, prostitution and blackmail, and political influence peddling to influence foreign governments.

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: The Massage Parlor Owner and Mar-a-Lago, Michelle Goldberg, right, March 12, 2019 (print ed.). We're jaded, but this should be a big scandal.

Even if you’re an avid follower of the news, it’s hard to keep track of Donald Trump’s scandals. Revelations that would have been shocking in the world we all lived in a few years ago — for example, news that the president overruled his staff to insist on security clearances for his fashion designer daughter and her husband — now take up half a news cycle, at most.

Still, it’s worth trying to summon whatever is left of our pre-Trump sensibilities and pause to consider the epic sleaze of the unfolding story of Li Yang, also known as Cindy Yang.

Yang, in case you haven’t heard of her yet, is a Florida businesswoman whose family owns a chain of massage parlors that, as The Miami Herald put it, “have gained a reputation for offering sexual services.”

Last month, Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots and a close friend of and donor to Trump, was charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution at a spa Yang founded, Orchids of Asia. (She reportedly sold it around 2013, but online reviews indicate it was known as a place to buy sex before that.) Kraft pleaded not guilty. The authorities have said that Orchids of Asia is part of a major sex trafficking operation.

ny times logoNew York Times, The New York attorney general’s office issued subpoenas to two banks for records related to Trump Organization projects, William K. Rashbaum and Danny Hakim, March 12, 2019 (print ed.). The New York attorney general’s office late on Monday issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank for records relating to the financing of four major Trump Organization projects and a failed effort to buy the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League in 2014, according to a person briefed on the subpoenas.

deutsche bank logoThe inquiry opens a new front in the scrutiny of Deutsche Bank, one of the few lenders willing to do business with Donald J. Trump in recent years. The bank is already the subject of two congressional investigations and was examined last year by New York banking regulators, who took no action.

The new inquiry, by the office of the attorney general, Letitia James, was prompted by the congressional testimony last month of Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, the person briefed on the subpoenas said. Mr. Cohen testified under oath that Mr. Trump had inflated his assets in financial statements, and Mr. Cohen provided copies of statements he said had been submitted to Deutsche Bank.

March 11

washington post logoadam schiff officialWashington Post, Schiff says it’s a ‘mistake’ for Mueller not to interview Trump, Karoun Demirjian, March 11, 2019 (print ed.). House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), right, also deferred to the special counsel on whether Blackwater founder Erik Prince lied to Congress about his involvement with the Trump campaign.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: WMR's scoop about Trump's connection to Florida prostitution ring advances, Wayne March 11, 2019 (Subscription required; excerpted with permission). On March 11, WMR was the first to report on a possible connection between the law enforcement sting of several south Florida day spas, where Asian women were discovered to be working as virtual sex slaves, and Donald Trump's local resorts.

We reported, "The Trump Organization’s notorious business practices of hiring undocumented workers makes it even more likely that trafficked spa workers may have worked or are working at both Trump National Jupiter -- which, along with the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, serves wealthy members of his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach -- and Trump National Doral in Miami-Dade, cannot be ruled out. The Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach, located between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, also offers spa services."

djt li yang cindy

Florida massage parlour founder Li "Cindy" Yang and President Trump are shown in a photo signed by Trump.Yang's bio identifies her as the founder and CEO of GY US Investments. Her website said that she is a member of the “Presidential Fundraising Committee.”

Palmer Report, Report: Robert Mueller pursuing indictments of several Donald Trump family members, Bill Palmer, March 11, 2019. Here’s the thing about reports that come from unnamed inside sources. In order to believe it, you have to take the reporter’s word on it that the source exists to begin with, and you have to assume that the source is being truthful to the reporter.

That can be the tricky part, as insiders only tend to share information with reporters to drive their own agenda, so the information typically is slathered in bias at best. But when a fairly major publication claims to have inside knowledge of something explosive, you have to at least chew on it.

bill palmer report logo headerThat brings us to this new report from British publication The Spectator that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finished his report, and he’s going to use it to push for indictments against four members of Donald Trump’s family. That’s explosive enough, of course, before you get to the additional claim that Mueller also wants to indict Trump himself. Then there’s the kicker: new Attorney General William Barr is cool with indicting Trump’s family, but he’s pushing back on indicting Trump himself. Can any of this be real?

In a word, maybe.

March 10

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Kavanaugh said Congress should hold presidents accountable. Barr agreed, Deanna Paul, March 10, 2019 (print ed.). ​Republicans have accused House Democrats of overusing investigative powers. Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr are on record saying the House should find the truth.

washington post logoWashington Post, Encapsulating his unorthodox presidency, Trump assumed 10 personas in one speech, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker, Monica Akhtar and Danielle Kunitz, March 10, 2019 (print ed.). ​Offering a preview of the 2020 campaign, last week’s spectacle at the Conservative Political Action Conference showcased President Trump in his purest form.

Trump Probes

djt robert mueller headshots

Palmer Report, Analysis: The calm before the storm, Bill Palmer, March 10, 2019. This upcoming week is going to play a huge role in the fate of Donald Trump, Robert Mueller (shown together above), Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and too many other related people to list. Yet here we are on a comparatively quiet Sunday morning, with so many storylines in play, but most of them not having come all the way to fruition yet, even as we wait for the fireworks to start.

bill palmer report logo headerThis week we should get closure on the sentencing of Michael Flynn.

michael flynn microphoneRemember back when the judge asked aloud if Flynn (shown at right) had committed treason, and then told Flynn to go find a way to help Robert Mueller even more? That’s back in play now. If the Flynn case really is put to bed this week, we could finally see Mueller unveil some of what he redacted in the Flynn sentencing memo. Keep in mind that for Mueller to have recommended that Flynn get off with a slap on the wrist, Flynn must have sold out Donald Trump and everyone else pretty hardcore.

But that’s just the start of what this week brings.

March 9

washington post logoWashington Post, Next judge to sentence Manafort has already been thrust onto national stage, Spencer S. Hsu​, March 9, 2019. The next paul manafort abc flickr Customfederal judge to sentence former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has already been thrust onto the national stage during the year-long run of special counsel cases. Manafort is shown as campaign manager in a 2016 file photo.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, left, set to decide Wednesday whether she will add prison time for Manafort, is the same judge who was recently in the spotlight for the Roger Stone case (by being prosecuted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team).

She comes primed for her role by three decades as an attorney and judge dissecting sensitive political corruption and white-collar criminal amy berman jacksoncases in the nation’s capital.

Dolan recalled winning the first felony conviction of a Virginia sitting state judge as a special prosecutor with Jackson. It was the early 1990s, and many jurors in Norfolk had not seen a female trial lawyer, he said. “They went quite quickly from, ‘Who is this little woman’ to ‘Who is this sharp lawyer?’ ” Dolan said.

The Baltimore-born daughter of a U.S. Army-trained physician, Jackson, 64, earned bachelor’s and law degrees from Harvard University. She prosecuted violent and sex crimes at the U.S. attorney’s office in the District for six years, then in 1986 joined a law firm that became part of Venable.

djt li yang cindy

Florida massage parlour founder Li "Cindy" Yang and President Trump in a photo signed by Trump.Yang's bio identifies her as the founder and CEO of GY US Investments and says she has been “settled in the United States for more than 20 years” and is a member of the “Presidential Fundraising Committee.”

Mother Jones, A Florida Massage Parlor Owner Has Been Selling Chinese Execs Access to Trump at Mar-a-Lago, David Corn, Dan Friedman and Daniel Schulman, March 9, 2019. The strange, swampy saga of Trump donor Li Yang. The latest Trump political donor to draw controversy is Li Yang, a 45-year-old Florida entrepreneur from China who founded a chain of spas and massage parlors that included the one where New robert kraft twitterEngland Patriots owner Bob Kraft (shown in a file photo) was recently busted for soliciting prostitution. She made the news this week when the Miami Herald reported that last month she had attended a Super Bowl viewing party at Donald Trump’s West Palm Beach golf club and had snapped a selfie with the president during the event.

Though Yang no longer owns the spa Kraft allegedly visited, the newspaper noted that other massage parlors her family runs have “gained a reputation for offering sexual services.” (She told the newspaper she has never violated the law.)

Beyond this sordid tale, there is another angle to the strange story of Yang: She runs an investment business that has offered to sell Chinese clients access to Trump and his family. And a website for the busines — which includes numerous photos of Yang and her purported clients hobnobbing at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Palm Beach — suggests she had some success in doing so.

Yang, who goes by Cindy, and her husband, Zubin Gong, started GY US Investments LLC in 2017. The company describes itself on its website, which is mostly in Chinese, as an “international business consulting firm that provides public relations services to assist businesses in America to establish and expand their brand image in the modern Chinese marketplace.”

li yang ronna romney mcdanielBut the firm notes that its services also address clients looking to make high-level connections in the United States. On a page displaying a photo of Mar-a-Lago, Yang’s company says its “activities for clients” have included providing them “the opportunity to interact with the president, the [American] Minister of Commerce and other political figures.” The company boasts it has “arranged taking photos with the President” and suggests it can set up a “White House and Capitol Hill Dinner.”

li yang rick scott jan 8 25k croppedAccording to the Miami Herald, Yang is a registered Republican, and since 2017 she and her relatives have donated more than $42,000 to a Trump political action committee and more than $16,000 to Trump’s campaign.

Her Facebook page, which was taken offline on Friday, was loaded with photos of her posing with GOP notables: Donald Trump Jr., Rep. Matt Gaetz or Florida, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel (above left), Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, among others (including then-Florida Governor and now U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, right).

washington post logoWashington Post, In another blow to Trump, judge rules in favor of ACLU in family separations case, Maria Sacchetti, March 9, 2019 (print ed.). The judge will hear arguments later this month on whether he should order the administration to track down all the separated families.

washington post logoWashington Post, Is Paul Manafort’s sentence too light? He fared worse than many fraudsters, data shows, Justin Jouvenal, Julie Tate and Rachel Weiner, March 9, 2019 (print ed.). U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III surprised many when he departed from federal sentencing paul manafort mugguidelines in Manafort’s case. But the average prison sentence in similar bank-fraud cases was about 31 months.

But a review of data for all 452 similar cases nationwide in fiscal 2018 show President Trump’s former campaign chairman received a sentence that was somewhat stiffer than other federal defendants’ prison terms.

The average prison sentence in such bank-fraud cases was about 31 months, roughly 16 months shorter than the 47 months Manafort received for convictions in federal court in Northern Virginia, according to an analysis of court data maintained by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).

But Manafort, who was convicted by a jury in August 2018, fared much better when compared with other defendants who were also convicted by federal juries. The average sentence for those trials, 22 in all, was 98 months, according to the analysis.

Palmer Report, Opinion: No wonder Matt Whitaker ran away screaming, Bill Palmer, March 9, 2019. After William Barr was confirmed as the new matthew whitaker headshot recentpermanent Attorney General, Donald Trump offered outgoing Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker (right) a cushy new fake job at the Department of Justice, presumably to keep Whitaker from cutting a perjury plea deal against him. Whitaker took the job, but then abruptly resigned after just a couple weeks.

We knew something didn’t smell right, and now it’s starting to surface.

bill palmer report logo headerLegal activist group American Oversight has obtained Department of Justice records which reveal that after Donald Trump ordered then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to launch a sham investigation into Hillary Clinton, Sessions did precisely that. In November of 2017, Sessions instructed U.S. Attorney John Huber to investigate Hillary. At the time, Matt Whitaker was the Chief of Staff for Sessions. These newly exposed records reveal that Whitaker was the one who sent Sessions’ instructions to Huber. Why is this such a big deal?

hillary clinton buttonIn the big picture, it means that Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions really did abuse their power by attempting to open what they knew was a baseless criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton for political reasons. This is impeachable, and perhaps prosecutable, and we’re going to hear a lot more about this story in the coming days. But when it comes to Matt Whitaker, he lied about this whole thing.

So now we have Matt Whitaker not only having committed perjury during his recent House Judiciary Committee testimony, but also having committed perjury in this Sessions/Clinton matter. Whitaker knew he was going down for at least one count of perjury when he abruptly resigned his brand new DOJ job.

Palmer Report, Fact Check: Why is Amazon already selling the Robert Mueller report? Bill Palmer, March 9, 2019. This month two different books amazon logo smallcalled “The Mueller Report” have become available for preorder on the website. One is being offered by the Washington Post, and the other claims to be from Robert Mueller while boasting of an introduction from Alan Dershowitz. Both books claim a release date of March 26th, 2019. Meanwhile, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has made no indication of when or how his report will be released. So what’s really going on here?

bill palmer report logo headerHere are the facts. No one, outside of Robert Mueller and his team, has any specific knowledge about when his report will be issued. These two “books” are merely empty templates that have been put up for preorder, with best guesses for release dates. They each plan to take the publicly available version of Mueller’s report that you’ll be able to get anywhere else for free, stuff it into a book, add some custom material, and charge you money.

The version being offered by the Washington Post says it’ll include “related materials” from the newspaper. Fair enough; you’re paying to get the Post’s analysis of the Mueller report, once the report surfaces. Considering the solid investigative research that the Post has done into Donald Trump’s various criminal scandals over the past few years, this analysis could prove to be useful.

alan dershowitz2The other version misleadingly lists “Robert S. Mueller III” as the author but is actually being offered by Skyhorse publishing, which has previously published pro-Trump books from Alan Dershowitz, including The Case Against Impeaching Trump. For this new book, the “introduction” from Dershowitz (right) will likely be something more akin to a rebuttal of the Mueller report. Unless you’re a Trump supporter and you want to read Dershowitz defending his ally Trump while attacking Mueller, ordering this version would be a complete waste of money.

In any case, neither of these books has any actual connection to Robert Mueller.

March 8

Manafort Sentencing

ny times logoNew York Times, Manafort Is Sentenced to Nearly 4 Years; Punishment Falls Short of Guidelines, Sharon LaFraniere, March 8, 2019 (print ed.). Paul Manafort, the political consultant and Trump presidential campaign chairman whose lucrative work in Ukraine and ties to well-connected Russians made him a target of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was sentenced on Thursday to nearly four years in prison in the financial fraud case that left his grand lifestyle and power-broker reputation in ruins.

The sentence in the highest-profile criminal case mounted by the special counsel’s office was far lighter than the 19- to 24-year prison term recommended under sentencing guidelines. Judge T. S. Ellis III of the United States District Court in Alexandria, Va., said that although Mr. Manafort’s crimes were “very serious,” following the guidelines would have resulted in an unduly harsh punishment.

A team of Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors sat glum-faced as Judge Ellis delivered his decision. Mr. Manafort, who has gout and came to the hearing in a wheelchair with his foot heavily bandaged, had asked the judge for compassion. “To say I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement,” he said in a barely audible voice, reading from a prepared statement.

March 8

Spas, Sports and Trumps

Daily Mail, Founder of massage parlor where Robert Kraft was arrested is a Trump donor, frequent Mar-a-Lago partygoer and White House djt li yang super bowlguest who was seen watching the Patriots win the Super Bowl with the president, Chris Spargo, March 8, 2019. The Chinese entrepreneur who founded Orchids of Asia Day Spa & Massage was seen rooting for the New England Patriots at Mar-a-Lago alongside President Donald Trump early last month.

Li Yang (at left in photo via Facebook) shared a photo of herself and a friend sitting directly behind President Trump at the event, which took place just two weeks before Patriots owner Robert Kraft would be charged with two counts of misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution for incidents that allegedly transpired at that spa. She is shown below with the President's son Eric in another photo via Facebook. 

Kraft is accused of visiting the spa on two consecutive days in January, with a worker performing a manual sex act on the billionaire during his first appointment while another worker performed an oral sex act during his second sojourn.

eric trump li yang facebookHe is planning to fight those charges and denies claims he was the recipient of any sexual act at the spa, despite police claiming there is video evidence in the case.

Kraft is one of Trump's closest friends, while Yang is one with deep pockets. Records obtained by show that she donated $8,100 to the Trump Victory Fund in 2018, listing her occupation on federal election forms as Chairman of the Women's Charity Foundation

She is also a Trump Republican, having beenann inactive voter with no declared political party for the decade before the current president ran for office.

Miami Herald, Trump cheered Patriots to Super Bowl victory with founder of spa where Kraft was busted, Sarah Blaskey, Nicholas Nehamas, miami herald logoand Caitlin Ostroff, March 8, 2019. Li Yang, 45, posed with Donald Trump during the Super Bowl while rooting for the Patriots. Two weeks later, authorities would charge the team owner, Robert Kraft, with soliciting prostitution at a spa in Jupiter that Yang had founded.

Seated at a round table littered with party favors and the paper-cutout footballs that have become tradition at his annual Super Bowl Watch Party, President Donald Trump cheered the New England Patriots and his longtime friend, team owner Robert Kraft (shown in a file photo), to victory robert kraft twitterover the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3.

Sometime during the party at Trump’s West Palm Beach country club, the president turned in his chair to look over his right shoulder, smiling for a photo with two women at a table behind him.

The woman who snapped the blurry Super Bowl selfie with the president was Li Yang, 45, a self-made entrepreneur from China who started a chain of Asian day spas in South Florida. Over the years, these establishments — many of which operate under the name Tokyo Day Spas — have gained a reputation for offering sexual services.

March 7

Manafort Sentencing

Forbes, Commentary: The Judge Who Let Manafort Off Easy With 47 Months Is An Arch-Conservative, Charles Tiefer, March 7, 2019. It is striking that a judge just sentenced Paul Manafort, a major target of the Mueller investigation, to only 47 months in prison. The Sentencing Guidelines justified a sentence well above fifteen years. It was all-important that Manafort, who had been the head of the Trump presidential campaign, receive a strong sentence.

This was partly for the general reason in sentencing, to send the message to potential malefactors of the consequences. But, it was also needed to persuade Manafort to tell Mueller (and, eventually, in some forum, the public) the truth about President Trump and Russia.

Instead, this weak sentence sends these kind of messages of a conservative judge: it is not so bad to use Republican connections to cash in with Putin’s allies; Trump’s campaign manager is worthy of much, much more respect than in the Sentencing Guidelines; Mueller’s quest for the Russia connection deserves little help, and some messages.

Senior U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis was nominated to the bench in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan, who of course favored very conservative picks. Before then, he had worked since 1970 for Hunton and Williams, a very well known, quite conservative, Richmond firm.

President Reagan nominated Judge Ellis to the Eastern District of Virginia. Presidents have a special reason to want to stack that particular court with strong conservatives. The Pentagon and the CIA are in that district. There is a great desire among conservatives to stack that district court to handle the cases that concern national security brought in that district, including espionage cases.

Take a comparison of the Manafort case with another prosecution of a political figure, a black Democratic Congressman from a black district in Louisiana named William J. Jefferson. (I was a peripheral observer of that case. The FBI had raided Jefferson’s Congressional office and carried off his computer hard drive. The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the violation of Congressional independence by that raid, and I was the principal witness (because I knew the established limits on prosecution tactics as a former House General Counsel and I was now a professor.))

Jefferson’s case was basically bribery. It was nationally famous because agents raiding his house found cash in the freezer.

Manafort may have gotten off easy with four years, but Ellis threw the book at Jefferson. In 2009 Ellis sentenced Jefferson to 13 years, the longest sentence of any Congressman to that date. (After further twists and turns Ellis let off Jefferson in December 2017 for five years time served.) It seems that while Judge Ellis can sympathize with Manafort, the Republican presidential campaign manager, he did not sympathize with Jefferson.

Everything now depends on the sentence Manafort receives in his other case, and whether it is consecutive or concurrent. Imagine the relief for Trump if it is a sentence no longer than 47 months and it runs concurrently. If Manafort had gotten (or still gets) a sentence of more than 15 years, Trump would face the problem of pardoning Manafort to prevent him from experiencing great pressure to cooperate with Mueller.

The press and public have been waiting for the first use of the pardon power as a major statement about Trump.

Now, Trump might just get off and not need to display the pardon weapon. Trump should say "Thank you, Judge Ellis."

March 6

Explosive Reports About Trump

djt michael cohen

ny times logoNew York Times, Cohen Offers Documents in Bid to Show Trump Lawyers Helped With False Testimony, Nicholas Fandos and Maggie Haberman, March 6, 2019. Michael D. Cohen gave documents to the House Intelligence Committee to back up his claim that President Trump’s lawyers made changes to a knowingly false statement that Mr. Cohen delivered to Congress in 2017. It was not clear how many changes were made by Mr. Trump’s lawyers.

Mr. Cohen, in what was expected to be his last visit to Capitol Hill, brought multiple drafts of his 2017 statement along with emails with Mr. Trump’s lawyers about its drafting, hoping to back up claims that he made last week at an open hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. In that session, Mr. Cohen testified that there were “changes made, additions” to the original written statement, including about the length of negotiations over a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said that several people facing scrutiny have inquired about presidential pardons, Michael S. Schmidt, Ben Protess and Maggie Haberman, March 6, 2019.

rudy giuliani recentPresident Trump’s lead lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said Wednesday that lawyers for several people facing scrutiny from the Justice Department in the investigations into the Trump campaign and presidency had contacted him to see whether the president would pardon their clients.

Mr. Giuliani declined to identify the lawyers who broached the subject with him or their clients. He made his statement in response to questions about Mr. Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, who has told federal prosecutors in Manhattan about pardon discussions last year that involved Mr. Giuliani and a lawyer who was expressing interest in representing Mr. Cohen, according to people briefed on the matter.

ny times logojared kushner head shotNew York Times, Questions For and About Jared Kushner, Editorial Board, March 6, 2019. It is apparently legal for the president’s son-in-law to serve as a top White House adviser. But that is not a grant of immunity.

abc news logoABC News, Michael Cohen shared documents on false statement to Congress with House Intelligence Committee, John Santucci, Benjamin Siegel and Sarah Kolinovsky, March 6, 2019. During a closed-door hearing with the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney and fixer to President Donald Trump, shared documents and emails with committee members showing what he said were edits to the false statement he provided to Congress in 2017, in an effort to bolster his public testimony last week, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

michael cohen ap file croppedTestifying publicly before the House Oversight Committee last week, Cohen (right) said Trump’s current personal lawyer Jay Sekulow changed the former Trump loyalist’s statement to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees regarding the duration of discussions about the Trump Tower Moscow project before he submitted it to Capitol Hill.

Last week Sekulow denied the claims in a statement to ABC News.

“Today’s testimony by Michael Cohen that attorneys for the President edited or changed his statement to Congress to alter the duration of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations is completely false."

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation / Commentary: Trump complains about list of 81 people and entities when there is a "bigger list" he should worry about, Wayne Madsen, March 6, 2019 (subscription required). Trump's branded Chinese massage parlors, spas and escort services; Studio 54 in retrospect. Trump complains about list of 81 people and entities when there is a "bigger list" he should worry about; Trump's branded Chinese massage parlors, spas and escort services; Studio 54 in retrospect.

There are a lot of slimy denizens in the swamp Trump created in Washington, New York, and elsewhere. WMR has created a list of Trump mob cartel entities and individuals that, far from the list of 81 created by the House Judiciary Committee, numbers into the thousands.

The list was developed from a massive relational chart linking the activities of the Trumps, Kushners, Manaforts, Flynns, and other entities and individuals under investigation by federal and state authorities. This is closer to the list that Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigators are working from.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just revealed why he absolutely must be ousted BEFORE the end of his term, Bill Palmer, March 6, 2019. Last week Michael Cohen predicted that if Donald Trump loses reelection in 2020, he may refuse to leave office, thus ending democracy as we know it. I’ve never subscribed to this particular notion, because for all his numerous psychoses, Trump always cuts a deal and walks away when he knows he’s lost (see his six bankruptcies). But Trump just made clear that he has something up his sleeve when it comes to not wanting to leave office.

bill palmer report logo headerStuffed into the tenth paragraph of a largely unrelated New York Times article last night, we find this randomly inserted sentence: “Some people close to Mr. Trump have privately predicted that he will ultimately choose to seek a second term in part because of his legal exposure if he is not president.” There it is. Trump is under the impression that as long as he’s the president, he won’t face any criminal consequences.

This means that Donald Trump will be willing to cheat as brazenly and treasonously as possible during the 2020 election, under the premise that if he doesn’t find a way to win, he’ll go straight to prison. He’s right. The very minute that Trump is no longer president, he’ll be arrested and arranged on criminal charges. In fact various state and federal prosecutorial entities will be fighting over who gets to cuff the bastard first.

For that reason, Donald Trump cannot be allowed to be a participant in the 2020 election.

Trump Privacy / Hypocrisy

djt new york military academy

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Grab that record’: How Trump’s high school transcript was hidden, Marc Fisher, March 6, 2019 (print ed.). Former officials of the military academy that President Trump attended say that wealthy alumni directed them to retrieve, remove and hide Trump’s academic records.

The request came in 2011, they said, immediately after Trump had demanded that then-President Barack Obama release his school records.

More On Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: New revelations implicate Donald Trump Jr. in his father’s nefarious schemes, Greg Sergeant, March 6, 2019. We now have concrete confirmation that Donald Trump Jr. signed checks reimbursing Michael Cohen for payments he made as part of a criminal scheme on President Trump’s behalf. The New York Times has obtained eight of the checks from Trump’s accounts reimbursing hush-money payments made by Cohen, his former lawyer and fixer.

The signature of Trump’s eldest son is on two of them.

The eight checks bolster the outlines of the story Cohen has told. He recently testified that during the campaign, Trump knowingly entered into a conspiracy with him to buy the silence of Stormy Daniels about an alleged affair, a criminal violation of campaign finance laws at Trump’s direction, and then reimbursed Cohen throughout 2017, while Trump was president.

Two of the checks came from a trust and thus were signed by Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg and Trump Jr.

In a remarkable coincidence, the Times reports that one of the checks signed by Trump Jr. was issued on the same day that a Trump aide confirmed that the president had helped dictate a statement by Trump Jr. falsifying the rationale behind the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting. At that meeting Trump Jr. eagerly tried to conspire with Russia to corrupt our election on his father’s behalf.

That confluence of events neatly captures the seamy role that Trump Jr. has played throughout this whole affair, on multiple fronts.

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: Michael Cohen’s testimony exposed a direct parallel between Trump and Watergate, Shane O’Sullivan, March 6, 2019. Payoffs kept Watergate hidden, but eventually whistleblowers like Cohen flipped. The secret payoffs made by President Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen to silence two women alleging affairs with Trump before the 2016 election recall the secret payoffs made by President Richard M. Nixon’s personal attorney, Herbert Kalmbach, to buy the silence of the Watergate burglars and insulate the White House from investigation.

In both cases, the hush-money payments violated campaign finance laws. But there are crucial differences: While Nixon didn’t know about the Kalmbach payments, Cohen claims Trump approved a payment of $130,000 to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels a few days before the 2016 election and subsequently reimbursed him.

Cohen submitted two of 11 reimbursement checks to the House Oversight Committee, one of which was a personal check signed by Trump in August 2017, while he was president. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) called the check an “explosive smoking gun document.” Cohen also suggested these payments are currently under criminal investigation.

Shane O'Sullivan is a documentary filmmaker, senior lecturer in filmmaking at Kingston University, London and author of the new book, "Dirty Tricks: Nixon, Watergate and the CIA."

Acosta-Epstein Scandal

Miami Herald, US attorney's office in Miami recuses itself from Jeffrey Epstein case, Julie K. Brown, March 6, 2019. Just days before a Friday deadline, the Justice Department has reassigned the Jeffrey Epstein victims' rights case to the U.S. attorney's office in Atlanta, the attorneys representing Epstein's victims said Tuesday.

Miami federal prosecutors, in a letter to attorneys for the victims Monday, said they had recused themselves from the case, according to Brad Edwards and Jack Scarola, representing Epstein's victims.

The reassignment means that the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, Byung J. "BJay" Pak, will oversee the case for the government. Pak, a former Georgia lawmaker, was appointed Atlanta's chief federal prosecutor by President Donald Trump in October 2017.

The Justice Department is still under a Friday deadline for prosecutors to confer with the victims' attorneys in an effort to settle the case. On Feb. 22, U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra in Palm Beach County ruled that federal prosecutors, under former Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta, broke the law when they concealed a plea agreement from more than 30 underage girls in Palm Beach who had been sexually abused by Epstein, a multimillionaire New York hedge fund manager.

Marra stopped short of voiding the agreement, which granted Epstein and an untold number of accomplices immunity from federal prosecution for sex trafficking crimes, provided Epstein plead guilty to minor charges in state court. At the time of the plea deal, federal prosecutors had gathered enough evidence against Epstein to write a 53-page federal indictment, court records show.

An investigation by the Miami Herald, "Perversion of Justice," found that after Acosta met privately with one of Epstein's lawyers, the government agreed to seal the plea agreement so that no one - not the victims, not even the state court judge who sentenced Epstein - would know the full extent of his crimes. Epstein, now 66, was allowed to plead guilty to prostitution charges and served 13 months in the Palm Beach County jail, where he was given liberal work release, and allowed to travel to New York and his private island in the Caribbean during his subsequent house arrest. He was released in 2009, and now divides his time between New York, Palm Beach and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

March 5

New York Probing Trump Insurance

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Organization’s Insurance Policies Under Scrutiny in New York, William K. Rashbaum and Ben Protess
March 5, 2019. New York State regulators have issued an expansive subpoena to the Trump Organization’s longtime insurance broker, the first step in an investigation of insurance policies and claims involving President Trump’s family business, according to the company and a person briefed on the matter.

President Donald Trump officialThe subpoena was served late Monday on the company, Aon, one of the largest insurance brokerage firms in the world, as part of an inquiry by the New York State Department of Financial Services.

It came just days after Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer and lawyer, indicated in congressional testimony that the Trump Organization inflated the value of its assets to insurance companies.

The subpoena is the latest sign that the Trump Organization is facing scrutiny from multiple fronts — federal prosecutors, congressional Democrats, and now, insurance regulators.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, White House rebuffs House Democrats’ request for documents on security clearances, Rachael Bade, March 5, 2019. The standoff could escalate into a subpoena fight in the coming days or weeks.

In a letter to House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), White House Counsel Pat A. Cipollone said the committee request for the information was “without legal support, clearly premature, and suggests a breach of the constitutionally required accommodation process.”

Rather, Cipollone said his staff would brief the panel and allow them to view documents related to their investigation. That offer has not been sufficient for committee Democrats in the past.

washington post logoroger stone who framed roger stone coverWashington Post, Judge warns Roger Stone of ‘costs and consequences’ for his new book release amid gag order, Spencer S. Hsu​, March 5, 2019. The judge said she was left with an impression that the longtime Trump friend, accused of lying to Congress in the Mueller probe, may have been using her docket to gin up publicity for his book. 

Palmer Report, Opinion: Looks like Roger Stone is going to jail next week, Bill Palmer, March 5, 2019. Judge Amy Berman Jackson has issued her formal response today to the revelation that Roger Stone wrote a book (shown at right) about the criminal case against him behind her back, and suffice it to say that it doesn’t look good for Stone.

The judge has given Roger Stone until Monday, March 11th, to comply with her lengthy list of demands.

Barr To Control Mueller Probe

william barr senate hearing cnn screengrab jan 15 2019

Trump nominee for Attorney General William Barr during his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing on Jan. 15, 2019.

Roll Call, Attorney General Barr will not recuse himself from Mueller investigation, John Bennett, March 5, 2019 (print ed.). Attorney General William Barr will not recuse himself from oversight of the Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, following the advice he received from Justice Department senior career ethics officials, a DOJ spokeswoman said Monday.

During his Senate confirmation hearing, Barr did not commit to recusing himself. “I will seek the advice of the career ethics personnel, but under the regulations, I make the decision as the head of the agency as to my own recusal,” he told the Judiciary Committee in January.

Justice Department logoSome Democrats have called for his recusal due to his past criticism of Mueller’s investigation.

A source told Roll Call earlier Monday that based on the track record of Barr, who was attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, “he seems inclined to follow the Justice Department’s guidelines that a sitting president can’t be indicted.”

That means if Mueller or investigators in New York’s federal Southern District find the president broker federal laws, Barr would not sign off on charging Trump.

“That makes it a political decision,” the GOP source said. “And [Speaker] Nancy Pelosi hasn’t given us any reason to think she’s going to bring articles if impeachment if the votes for removal aren’t there in the Senate.”

More On Trump Probes

jared kushner head shotPalmer Report, House Democrats make criminal referral against Jared Kushner, Bill Palmer, March 5, 2019. One day after House Democrats sent formal document requests to more than eighty Trump-related people and entities, they’re now upping the ante. House Democrats just made a formal criminal referral against Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Even as that process plays out, the Democrats have already succeeded in pushing the media to focus heavily today on Kushner’s status as an alleged criminal.

bill palmer report logo headerTo be clear, a criminal referral is not a criminal indictment. Jared Kushner will not be magically arrested tomorrow as a result of this referral. Nothing moves that quickly.

By rule, the Department of Justice will examine the criminal referral and make a decision about whether a criminal investigation and criminal charges are warranted. Congressman Ted Lieu, one of the people who made the referral, reminded everyone this morning that “Making false statements or omitting material info on SF-86 security form is punishable by up to 5 years in prison.” So yeah, the DOJ will surely conclude that Kushner committed a felony and move forward accordingly, unless Trump tries to sabotage it.

That may be the whole point, of course. If Donald Trump wants to meddle in this very public criminal investigation into Jared Kushner over his SF-86, he’ll have to do it in plain sight.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Start Broad Trump Corruption Inquiry, Nicholas Fandos March 5, 2019 (print ed.). The House Judiciary Committee sent sweeping document requests to 81 agencies, individuals and entities tied to President Trump. The Democratic majority signaled its intention to focus on actions that could conceivably provide the basis of a future impeachment proceeding.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The 81 people and organizations just looped into the Trump probe — and why they were included, Philip Bump, March 5, 2019 (print ed.). Members of the House Judiciary Committee’s Democratic caucus sent letters Monday requesting information from more than 80 people and organizations linked directly or tangentially to President Trump, his administration, his campaign or the Russian effort to interfere with the 2016 election’s results.

The list is exhaustive and contains any number of names that might not be familiar to people who aren’t deeply immersed in the investigations into Trump and the campaign. Below, find all 81 targets of the letters, in alphabetical order, with explanations of who they are. Many of the documents requested from these individuals are both generic and sweeping, jumping-off points for the specific reasons why each person was probably included. Those reasons are also identified below.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Double checking the House Judiciary Committee’s new target list, Daniel Cotter, March 4, 2019. President Donald Trump is going to be tweeting, any time, about the list of House Judiciary Committee “lottery winners” just released. The list contains many in Trump’s orbit, while not listing some, such as Ivanka Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerHouse Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler promised over the weekend that the list would contain at least sixty corporations or individuals, but the current list is eighty-one strong. Among that list are several individuals and organizations that include the name Trump in them:

• Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust
• Donald Trump Jr.
• Eric Trump
• Trump Foundation
• Trump Organization
• Trump Transition

The list also includes the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee, Kushner Companies, the NRA, and many other familiar names. Whether this list is final is open to question – as noted, Ivanka is not listed.

ny times logogarrett graffNew York Times, Opinion: How Giuliani Might Take Down Trump, Garrett M. Graff (the author of “The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller’s F.B.I. and the War on Global Terror”), March 5, 2019 (print ed.). The parallels between the Mafia and the Trump Organization are striking, and [former prosecutor Rudy] Giuliani perfected the template for prosecuting organized crime.

Any onetime Mafia investigator who listened to the Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen testify Wednesday would have immediately recognized the congressional hearing’s historical analogue — what America witnessed on Capitol Hill wasn’t joseph valachi 1904 1971so much John Dean turning on President Richard Nixon, circa 1973; it was the mobster Joseph Valachi (1904-1961, shown at left) turning on the Cosa Nostra, circa 1963.

Indicting the whole Trump Organization as a “corrupt enterprise” could also help prosecutors address the thorny question of whether the president can be indicted in office; they could lay out a whole pattern of criminal activity, indict numerous players — including perhaps Trump family members — and leave the president himself as a named, unindicted co-conspirator.

Such an action would allow investigators to make public all the known activity for Congress and the public to consider as part of rudy giuliani recentimpeachment hearings or re-election. It would also activate powerful forfeiture tools for prosecutors that could allow them to seize the Trump Organization’s assets and cut off its income streams.

The irony will be that if federal prosecutors decide to move against President Trump’s empire and family together, he’ll have one man’s model to thank: his own TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani (right), who perfected the template to tackle precisely that type of criminal enterprise.

March 4

Barr To Control Mueller Probe

william barr senate hearing cnn screengrab jan 15 2019

Trump nominee for Attorney General William Barr during his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing on Jan. 15, 2019.

Roll Call, Attorney General Barr will not recuse himself from Mueller investigation, John Bennett, March 4, 2019. Attorney General William Barr will not recuse himself from oversight of the Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, following the advice he received from Justice Department senior career ethics officials, a DOJ spokeswoman said Monday.

During his Senate confirmation hearing, Barr did not commit to recusing himself. “I will seek the advice of the career ethics personnel, but under the regulations, I make the decision as the head of the agency as to my own recusal,” he told the Judiciary Committee in January.

Some Democrats have called for his recusal due to his past criticism of Mueller’s investigation.

A source told Roll Call earlier Monday that based on the track record of Barr, who was attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, “he seems inclined to follow the Justice Department’s guidelines that a sitting president can’t be indicted.”

That means if Mueller or investigators in New York’s federal Southern District find the president broker federal laws, Barr would not sign off on charging Trump.

“That makes it a political decision,” the GOP source said. “And [Speaker] Nancy Pelosi hasn’t given us any reason to think she’s going to bring articles if impeachment if the votes for removal aren’t there in the Senate.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Start Broad Trump Corruption Inquiry, Nicholas Fandos March 4, 2019. The House Judiciary Committee sent sweeping document requests to 81 agencies, individuals and entities tied to President Trump. The Democratic majority signaled its intention to focus on actions that could conceivably provide the basis of a future impeachment proceeding.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Double checking the House Judiciary Committee’s new target list, Daniel Cotter, March 4, 2019. President Donald Trump is going to be tweeting, any time, about the list of House Judiciary Committee “lottery winners” just released. The list contains many in Trump’s orbit, while not listing some, such as Ivanka Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerHouse Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler promised over the weekend that the list would contain at least sixty corporations or individuals, but the current list is eighty-one strong. Among that list are several individuals and organizations that include the name Trump in them:

• Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust
• Donald Trump Jr.
• Eric Trump
nra logo Custom• Trump Foundation
• Trump Organization
• Trump Transition

The list also includes the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee, Kushner Companies, the NRA, and many other familiar names. Whether this list is final is open to question – as noted, Ivanka is not listed.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s day of reckoning is finally upon us, Bill Palmer, March 4, 2019. Today is going to be the busiest day yet in the takedown of Donald Trump, and based on where his head is right now, he’s not remotely prepared for what’s going to hit him over the next several hours.

bill palmer report logo headerFor starters, the House Judiciary Committee is sending document requests today to more than five dozen Trump-related people and entities, including Donald Trump Jr, Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump and Jared Kushner. These are not the kinds of “requests” that can be ignored or easily worked around, and so Trump’s family members will have to quickly decide whether to turn over evidence that incriminates him (and likely themselves), or to risk getting busted for not turning it over. But that’s just part of what’s going down today.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings publicly informed the White House on Friday that if he didn’t get the John Kelly and Don McGahn memos about Jared Kushner’s security clearance scandal by today, he’d drop the hammer on them. So either the memos will conveniently become public today, or we’ll see subpoenas go out today, take your pick. And yeah, this is on top of the House Oversight Committee seeking the memos directly from Kelly and McGahn. One way or the other, it’s all going to come out, and very soon.

There are other big things at play. The judge in the Roger Stone case has given him until today to explain his secret book deal which appears to violate his gag order, so Stone could well be in jail by the end of the day. The hits keep coming.

ny times logogarrett graffNew York Times, Opinion: How Giuliani Might Take Down Trump, Garrett M. Graff (the author of “The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller’s F.B.I. and the War on Global Terror”), March 4, 2019. The parallels between the Mafia and the Trump Organization are striking, and [former prosecutor Rudy] Giuliani perfected the template for prosecuting organized crime.

Any onetime Mafia investigator who listened to the Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen testify Wednesday would have immediately recognized the congressional hearing’s historical analogue — what America witnessed on Capitol Hill wasn’t joseph valachi 1904 1971so much John Dean turning on President Richard Nixon, circa 1973; it was the mobster Joseph Valachi (1904-1961, shown at left) turning on the Cosa Nostra, circa 1963.

Indicting the whole Trump Organization as a “corrupt enterprise” could also help prosecutors address the thorny question of whether the president can be indicted in office; they could lay out a whole pattern of criminal activity, indict numerous players — including perhaps Trump family members — and leave the president himself as a named, unindicted co-conspirator.

Such an action would allow investigators to make public all the known activity for Congress and the public to consider as part of rudy giuliani recentimpeachment hearings or re-election. It would also activate powerful forfeiture tools for prosecutors that could allow them to seize the Trump Organization’s assets and cut off its income streams.

The irony will be that if federal prosecutors decide to move against President Trump’s empire and family together, he’ll have one man’s model to thank: his own TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani (right), who perfected the template to tackle precisely that type of criminal enterprise.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Trump has made 9,014 false or misleading claims in 773 days, Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly, March 4, 2019. In the first two months of 2019, the president averaged nearly 22 suspect claims a day. In his two-hour CPAC speech, he made more than 100.

seth rich

Rolling Stone, Pro-Trump Conspiracy Peddler Jerome Corsi Apologizes to Seth Rich’s Family, Andy Kroll, March 4, 2019. Corsi retracted a column parroting the baseless conspiracy that Rich (shown above) and his brother hacked the DNC in 2016. The family of Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer whose unsolved murder in 2016 spawned a wave of conspiracy theories, has notched another legal victory against the proponents of baseless theories about Rich.

On Monday, pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi (left, in a screen grab) retracted a nearly year-old column published on the website Infowars, run by another notorious conspiracy peddler, Alex Jones, that promoted the unfounded claim that jerome corsi screenshot 2018 09 06Rich and his brother participated in the hack of the DNC and leaked documents to WikiLeaks. In addition to the retraction, Corsi apologized to the Rich family. Around midday Monday, Infowars formally retracted the column and published an apology that mirrored Corsi’s.

Corsi’s March 5th, 2018, story was an attempt to defend Roger Stone, the now-indicted former Trump adviser, against allegations that he had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans to release thousands of emails stolen from the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta in the weeks before the 2016 presidential election. Last week, Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, stoked the controversy around Stone’s ties to WikiLeaks after Cohen testified that Stone told Trump in the summer of 2016 that he had spoken to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange about an upcoming dump of thousands of hacked emails. (Stone and Wikileaks denied Cohen’s claim.)

In his column, Corsi promoted a theory that the DNC hack — a crime for which Special Counsel Robert Mueller later indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers — was an “inside job” by Rich. Corsi cited a Washington Times op-ed that said Seth Rich and his older brother, Aaron, had carried out the DNC hack, quoting one passage directly from the op-ed, which was written by a retired Navy admiral: “Interestingly, it is well known in the intelligence circles that Seth Rich and his brother, Aaron Rich, downloaded the DNC emails and was paid by Wikileaks for that information.”

In a statement posted Monday morning on and on Twitter, Corsi now says his Infowars column was “not based upon any independent factual knowledge regarding Seth or Aaron Rich.” He says he relied “primarily” on the Washington Times op-ed, which was retracted last September after Aaron Rich sued the newspaper for defamation. Corsi’s apology and retraction came after a series of negotiations between lawyers for Corsi and Aaron Rich as the one-year statute of limitations for a potential defamation lawsuit approached, a source familiar with the talks tells Rolling Stone.

The Washington Times‘ apology was the first since the Rich family filed lawsuits against various individuals and media companies, including Fox, for spreading unfounded claims about the brothers. Fox has yet to apologize to the Rich family; some of the network’s hosts, such as Sean Hannity, are among the loudest proponents of the Seth Rich conspiracies.

Roger Stone Gag Order

TPM, Roger Stone’s Request About His Book That Ticked Off His Judge, Tierney Sneed, March 4, 2019. Roger Stone wants to know if a book he wrote, which has recently been retitled ““The Myth of Russian Collusion,” will get him in trouble under the gag order in his case, a court filing posted Monday revealed.

roger stone who framed roger stone coverThe filing is the redacted version of a request Stone previously made under seal in his case, in which he asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson how the book, which was re-published under the new title last month, squares with the gag order she imposed in the case.

In a new introduction to the book, Stone suggested that special counsel Robert Mueller was going to “frame” him on “bogus” charges in order to “silence me or induce me to testify against the president.” He also accuses the Obama administration of spying on and infiltrating the Trump campaign and then fabricating the “Russian collusion myth” to distract from their own misdeeds.

The judge has already signaled her annoyance at Stone for not raising this issue sooner. On Friday, while the original request was still under seal, she issued an order demanding that he explain why he didn’t bring the book to her attention at the hearing where she imposed the gag order banning him from commenting on his case or on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation more broadly.

According Stone’s filing, the book was re-released on Feb. 19, after Stone had the month prior apparently submitted an updated introduction to be included in the new edition. Mentions of the introduction appear to be redacted in Stone’s filing. However, prosecutors on Monday filed their own notice that said an “updated Introduction” was what was referenced in Stone’s request.

The explanation the judge demanded from Stone is expected to be filed on Monday as well.

The judge, as part of Stone’s conditions of release, banned him from commenting about his case after he posted an inflammatory photo and caption about her on his Instagram. The image included a cross-hairs sign over her shoulder.

When Berman Jackson announced the gag order she went through several examples of public commentary Stone would no longer be allowed make, carving out exceptions only for the promotion of his legal defense fund and for declarations of his innocence.

Minutes after the Stone filing was posted publicly to the docket Monday, prosecutors filed a notice of their own that included under seal screenshots of an online preview of the book that include the updated introduction. The prosecutors also filed under seal a screenshot from an image posted to Roger Stone’s Instagram account (and later taken down) with his photo under the banner “who framed Roger Stone.”

Variety, Prosecutors Alert Judge of Roger Stone Instagram Post Amid Gag Order, Ted Johnson, March 4, 2019. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s legal team alerted Judge Amy Berman Jackson of an image briefly posted to Roger Stone’s Instagram with the title “who framed Roger Stone.”

Under the terms of a gag order put in place last month, Stone and his associates are prohibited from talking about the case and Mueller’s Russia investigation.

In a filing on Monday, prosecutors cited a report from CNBC that was part of a multi-image post. The “who framed Roger Stone” title, a play on the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” was then deleted. The posts were designed to help Stone raise money for his legal defense fund.

Jackson has yet to weigh in on the image. She imposed the gag order after Stone posted an image of her on his Instagram page. In the background was a symbol that looked like a rifle scope.

March 3

Palmer Report, Opinion: Ted Lieu lays out the details of “massive” new House Judiciary Committee investigation into Donald Trump, Bill ted lieuPalmer, March 3, 2019. On Sunday morning, Chairman Jerry Nadler announced that the committee is sending document requests to more than sixty Trump-related people and entities. By Sunday afternoon, we learned that the list included four of Donald Trump’s family members.

Now Ted Lieu (right), who also sits on the committee, is offering additional insight into the probe. Ted Lieu’s statement reads:

"The House bill palmer report logo headerJudiciary Committee is starting a massive investigation into whether Donald Trump and his family and associates committed crimes or engaged in unethical misconduct. We cannot avert our eyes to the evidence plainly before us that crimes and other misconduct may have been committed by Trump and those within his orbit."

“Unlike the narrow scope of the Special Counsel’s investigation – whether there is enough evidence to charge a person with a crime related to Russian interference – the Judiciary Committee’s oversight mission is far more broad. We want to know if Executive Branch officials, including the President, committed any crimes or engaged in any unethical misconduct.

“We will hold hearings, interview witnesses, analyze documents and build a record. Our investigation will either exonerate Trump and those around him, or it won’t. We will then have a conversation with the American people on how to proceed after we conclude our investigation. I want to commend Chairman Jerry Nadler for his strong and steady leadership, and look forward to working with him on this critical investigation.

So what does this really tell us? Well, Congressman Lieu’s use of the word “massive” is a pretty good clue as to the sheer size and scope of the investigation. But here’s the key sentence: “We will then have a conversation with the American people on how to proceed after we conclude our investigation.”

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, Acquiescence to Trump is now the GOP’s defining trait, Robert Costa, March 3, 2019 (print ed.). At times erasing the principles that conservatives had claimed as the foundation of the party for more than a half century, Republicans are wholeheartedly accepting behavior and policies from President Trump that would spark outrage in the GOP if they came from a Democratic president.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawmakers exploring whether Cohen was involved in talks about possible pardons, Matt Zapotosky, Tom Hamburger and Karoun Demirjian, March 3, 2019. The topic, which they view as a potentially ripe area of inquiry into whether anyone sought to obstruct justice, came up in closed-door testimony Thursday, though the details are unclear.

washington post logojerrold nadler o SmallWashington Post, House Judiciary chairman says he will launch probe of Trump’s ‘abuse of power,’ Mike DeBonis and Rachael Bade​, March 3, 2019. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), right, said he is sending document requests to more than 60 people and entities tied to the president as part of an inquiry that could eventually lead to impeachment.

March 2

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump whipped up public emotion over Otto Warmbier’s death. Now it’s boomeranging back on him, David Nakamura, March 2, 2019. President Trump’s decision to make Otto Warmbier the public face of his pressure campaign on North Korea aimed to convince the American public that, beyond the existential but abstract threat of its nuclear weapons, Kim Jong Un’s brutal regime posed a more tangible danger to the United States.

By highlighting Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student who died days after his release from 17 months in captivity, Trump married his “fire and fury” war rhetoric with an emotional appeal over the grief of a single family.

Yet after the collapse of nuclear negotiations with North Korea in Hanoi last week, Trump is facing an unforeseen backlash as the public’s emotion has boomeranged back on him. At a news conference, Trump said he raised Warmbier’s death with Kim but took the dictator “at his word” that he did not know of the mistreatment and felt “very badly” about it.

March 1

Trump-Kushner Probes

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Ordered Officials to Give Jared Kushner a Security Clearance, Maggie Haberman, Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Goldman and Annie Karni, March 1, 2019.  President Trump ordered his chief of staff to grant his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, right, a top-secret security clearance last year, overruling concerns flagged by intelligence officials and the White House’s top lawyer, four people briefed on the matter said.

jared kushner head shotMr. Trump’s decision in May so troubled senior administration officials that at least one, the White House chief of staff at the time, John F. Kelly, wrote a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been “ordered” to give Mr. Kushner the top-secret clearance.

The White House counsel at the time, Donald F. McGahn II, also wrote an internal memo outlining the concerns that had been raised about Mr. Kushner — including by the C.I.A. — and how Mr. McGahn had recommended that he not be given a top-secret clearance.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Trump’s Money Man Could Face Scrutiny Next, Sarah Maslin Nir, March 1, 2019. In his testimony before allen weisselberg croppedCongress, Michael Cohen mentioned Allen Weisselberg, Donald J. Trump’s chief financial officer, more than 20 times.

Mr. Cohen identified Mr. Weisselberg as being involved with a hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, a pornographic film actress.

Palmer Report, Opinion: We told you House Democrats were going to haul in Sean Hannity, Bill Palmer, March 1, 2019. When Sean Hannity (right) interviewed Donald Trump on his Fox News show last night, Hannity said something that caused Palmer Report to predict that he would be hauled in to testify before one or more House committees. Sure enough, one of the House Democrats just confirmed that we were correct.

bill palmer report logo headerSean Hannity said this to Donald Trump last night about Michael Cohen: “I can tell you personally, he said to me at least a dozen times that he made the decision on the payments and he didn’t tell you.” Oops. Hannity (right) just outed himself as being, at the least, a material witness in a criminal scandal.

sean hannity profileAfter Sean Hannity’s program aired last night, Democratic Congressman David Cicilline tweeted “Sean Hannity is now volunteering himself as a witness. I look forward to his testimony.” This is a big deal considering that Cicilline sits on the House Judiciary Committee, which is one of the committees currently investigating Donald Trump’s scandals.

February 2019 Update

Feb. 28

Trump Probes: Cohen

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen and House Government Operations Chairman Elijah Cummings (Feb. 27, 2019 Fox News collage)

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen and House Government Operations Chairman Elijah Cummings (Feb. 27, 2019 Fox News collage)

washington post logoWashington Post, Cohen drops ominous hint that Trump faces legal peril, Matt Zapotosky, Rosalind S. Helderman, Karoun Demirjian michael cohen ap file croppedand Rachael Bade, Feb. 28, 2019. In testimony to the House Oversight Committee, Michael Cohen alleged that President Trump manipulated financial records, paid to cover up extramarital affairs and reacted with glee when he learned in advance of a WikiLeaks dump of emails damaging to Hillary Clinton.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hearing showcased fresh faces – and significance of divided government, James Hohmann​, Feb. 28, 2019. Elections have consequences, and the seven-hour inquest never would have happened if Democrats had not won control of the House in November.

Hearing from Cohen was especially meaningful because Attorney General William Barr has not committed to publicly releasing the full report that will be submitted by special counsel Bob Mueller. Barr has cited Justice Department guidelines that limit the disclosure of information about people who are not charged with a crime. That means much of what the public learns about Trump vis-à-vis the investigations could come from House Democrats.

The Cohen hearing laid the groundwork and offered rationales for Democrats to issue subpoenas to a host of Trump world figures, including the president’s children Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric, plus several top executives in the Trump Organization. Cohen’s testimony also provided fresh fodder for Democrats to pursue Trump’s tax returns.

atlantic logoThe Atlantic, Analysis: An Interlude of Moral Clarity, Franklin Foer, Feb 27, 2019. Michael Cohen’s testimony was a reminder that this presidency isn’t normal. “A Racist … A Con Man … A Cheat.” Those were the words etched in the chyron as Michael Cohen testified. Yet that litany somehow fails to do justice to Cohen’s moral portrait of Donald Trump.

At the beginning of this presidency, the great fear was “normalization.” The shock of Donald Trump’s election, this theory held, would eventually dissipate. Once he sat behind the big desk, surrounded by oil paintings and heavy curtains, he would be bathed in the incantatory power of his office. The nation would absorb the shock of his misogyny, racism, venality, and dangerous vainglory, and then move on. Perhaps the fact that normalization has slipped from discourse is evidence that there was something to this fear.

atlantic logoThe Atlantic, Analysis: 9 Striking Moments From Michael Cohen’s Testimony, Madeleine Carlisle and Gabby Deutch, Feb 27, 2019. In his first public appearance before lawmakers, Donald Trump’s ex-ally took questions about the president’s conduct and his own credibility.
Below, Cohen’s most noteworthy exchanges with members of Congress:

1. Cohen explains what business as usual looks like in Trumpland.

Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York: In your 10 years of working for Donald Trump, did he control everything that went on in the Trump Organization, and did you have to get his permission in advance or report back after every meeting of any importance?

Michael Cohen: Yes. There was nothing that happened at the Trump Organization … that did not go through Mr. Trump with his approval and sign-off, as in the case of the [hush-money] payments [to women who claim to have had affairs with Trump].

Tips From Cohen Hearing

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Won the Cohen Hearing, Caroline Fredrickson (president of the American Constitution Society), Feb. 28, 2019. Too many representatives chose to bloviate instead of interrogate — except for one.

Consider the line of questioning from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. She asked Mr. Cohen a series of specific questions about how Mr. Trump had handled insurance claims and whether he had provided accurate information to various companies. “To your knowledge,” she asked, “did Donald Trump ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?” He had.

These questions were not random, but, rather, well thought out. Like a good prosecutor, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was establishing the factual basis for further committee investigation. She asked one question at a time, avoided long-winded speeches on why she was asking the question, and listened carefully to his answer, which gave her the basis for a follow-up inquiry.

As a result, Mr. Cohen gave specific answers about Mr. Trump’s shady practices, along with a road map for how to find out more. Mr. Cohen began his testimony calling Mr. Trump a “con man and a cheat;” In just five minutes, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez actually helped him lay out the facts to substantiate those charges.

Unfortunately, too few of her colleagues followed suit. In his testimony, Mr. Cohen claimed numerous ethical breaches and criminal acts on the part of the president, many for which Mr. Cohen himself apparently served as main actor.

All of these areas offered fruitful avenues for exploration. But instead of asking probing questions and eliciting damning evidence from Mr. Cohen, too many committee members chose to make a speech.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump former "fixer" Cohen on NDAs: "Not all of them had to do with women," Wayne Madsen, Feb. 28, 2019. Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen had a rather poignant response to a focused question during his testimony before the House Government Oversight Committee on February 27.

WMR has reported on Trump's past sexual allegations involving underage girls -- involving him and convicted child sex assaulter Jeffrey Epstein -- and boys.

WMR is aware that during the 2016 campaign pressure was brought by legal representatives for Trump on two women who alleged that Trump raped them when they were 13- and 12-years old, respectively.

Feb. 27

Huge Trump 'Fireworks'

CNN, Elijah Cummings' stunning closing remarks at Cohen hearing, Feb 27, 2019 (8:02 mins.). Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) concluded the House Oversight Committee's questioning of President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen by delivering a call to "keep democracy in tact" and a return to normalcy in the political arena.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cohen Calls Trump a ‘Racist,’ a ‘Con Man’ and a ‘Cheat’ as Republicans Fire Back, Michael Cohen, Feb. 27, 2019. michael cohen ap file croppedPresident Trump’s former lawyer, accused Mr. Trump of directing hush payments, lying about his business in Russia and inflating his wealth.

Full transcript. Michael D. Cohen (right), the former attorney and fixer for Donald J. Trump, provided his opening statement to Congress for his public testimony on Wednesday about the 2016 campaign and Mr. Trump’s business practices. Watch Mr. Cohen’s testimony live and see the documents he provided to Congress here. “I am no longer your ‘fixer,’ Mr. Trump,” he said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Testimony From Cohen Could Create New Legal Issues for Trump, Michael D. Shear, Feb. 27, 2019.  Michael D. Cohen provided the committee with a copy of a $35,000 check from President Trump that Mr. Cohen said reimbursed him for hush money payments to cover up an alleged affair with a pornographic film actress.

Michael D. Cohen provided the committee with a copy of a $35,000 check from President Trump that Mr. Cohen said reimbursed him for hush money payments to cover up an alleged affair with a pornographic film actress.CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

The dramatic public testimony to Congress on Wednesday morning by President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, could intensify the legal issues facing the president in the criminal and civil investigations that are swirling around him, legal experts said.

Mr. Cohen’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee was a remarkable personal and political rebuke to the president from a lawyer who served Mr. Trump with fierce loyalty for more than a decade.

In his prepared testimony, Mr. Cohen — who has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and will go to prison for his crimes — blasted the president as a “racist,” a “con man” and a “cheat.”

But legal experts said that several of the specific allegations by Mr. Cohen in his opening statement could be relevant to questions about whether Mr. Trump participated in a conspiracy to affect the 2016 election, violated campaign finance laws and obstructed justice in an effort to deflect investigations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cohen to allege that Trump knew of WikiLeaks plot, Matt Zapotosky, Karoun Demirjian and Rosalind S. Helderman​, Feb. 27, 2019. Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, will tell a House panel that Trump knew that WikiLeaks planned to publish hacked Democratic National Committee emails, according to his written testimony.

The hearing grew heated early, as Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) objected to what he said was a late release of Cohen’s prepared remarks and some evidence.

House Rejects Trump 'Emergency'

washington post logoWashington Post, House passes resolution to nullify Trump’s emergency declaration, Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim, Paul Kane and John Wagner​, Feb. 27, 2019 (print edition). The 245-182 tally was mostly along party lines, with 13 Republicans defecting to side with Democrats. The vote fell well short of the two-thirds majority that would be required to overcome President Trump’s threatened veto.

Roll Call, Meet the 13 Republicans who rebuked Trump over his national emergency, Bridget Bowman, Feb. 26, 2019. President wants to republican elephant logofund a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. Thirteen Republicans rebuked President Donald Trump on Tuesday, supporting a Democratic effort to stop the president from declaring a national emergency to fund a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Five lawmakers did not vote, including New York GOP Rep. John Katko, who is one of three Republicans in a district that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Missouri GOP Rep. Ann Wagner also did not vote, along with Democratic Reps. Lois Frankel of Florida, Steve Cohen of Tennessee, and Peter DeFazio of Oregon.

More On Trump Probes

Palmer Report, Analysis: Michael Cohen may have just sent Donald Trump Jr to prison, Bill Palmer, Feb. 27, 2019. Michael Cohen is still just bill palmer report logo headergetting started with his public testimony before the House Oversight Committee. Cohen has condemned himself while condemning Donald Trump, and he’s produced documents to corroborate much of what he’s saying.

There was one moment that may get overlooked by the media and the public, but will end up proving key for prosecutors – and it’s the worst news possible for Donald Trump Jr.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Matt Gaetz begs for mercy after Nancy Pelosi drops the hammer on him, Bill Palmer, Feb. 27, 2019. It was the felony witness tampering tweet heard round the world. On Tuesday evening Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz (right), a close ally of Donald matt gaetz o CustomTrump, publicly threatened to ruin Michael Cohen’s marriage if Cohen went through with his scheduled public testimony on Wednesday about Donald Trump. Even as legal experts were debating whether Gaetz would be criminally indicted for the tweet, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi took control.

bill palmer report logo headerNancy Pelosi posted a tweet which didn’t even mention Matt Gaetz by name, yet nonetheless rather clearly called for the House Ethics Committee to investigate Gaetz’s tweet. It took Gaetz awhile to get the message, but right around midnight he signaled that he’d finally figured out how much trouble he was in, and how afraid he is of what’s about to happen to him.

Matt Gaetz posted this tweet at 11:52pm eastern time: “Speaker, I want to get the truth too. While it is important 2 create context around the testimony of liars like Michael Cohen, it was NOT my intent to threaten, as some believe I did. I’m deleting the tweet & I should have chosen words that better showed my intent. I’m sorry.”

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Bars 4 U.S. Journalists From Trump’s Dinner With Kim in Hanoi, Michael M. Grynbaum and Katie Rogers, Feb. 27, 2019. The White House on Wednesday barred four American journalists from covering President Trump’s dinner with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, in Hanoi, Vietnam, after two of the reporters called out questions to Mr. Trump at an earlier appearance.

It is highly unusual for a presidential administration to retaliate against reporters by restricting their access, particularly at a closely scrutinized foreign summit meeting. Given the backdrop — a United States president meeting with the totalitarian leader of a country with no independent media — the move sent a starkly different message from those delivered in such settings by Mr. Trump’s predecessors, who often sought to encourage expressions of press freedom when meeting with representatives of autocratic regimes.

Shortly before the dinner was to start, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, informed the group of journalists traveling with Mr. Trump that only photographers and television-camera operators would be allowed to attend the event, excluding reporters for several print and radio news outlets.

Ms. Sanders cited the “sensitivities” of the meeting and “shouting” by reporters at a previous appearance by Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim, during which a reporter for The Associated Press, Jonathan Lemire, asked the president to comment on the congressional testimony of Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen.

Feb. 26

Palmer Report, Expert: Robert Mueller has huge Trump-Russia fireworks coming with his final report, Bill Palmer, Feb. 26, 2019. All along, Palmer Report has been pointing out what we’ve thought was fairly obvious: Special Counsel Robert Mueller is an aggressive prosecutor who isn’t simply going to file a report about Donald Trump’s crimes and then go home, bill palmer report logo headerleaving it to chance whether Trump and his family are brought to justice. It turns out a top U.S. intel expert agrees – and he’s going into more detail about how he thinks this will really play out.

john brennan twitterFormer CIA Director John Brennan (left) is no longer on the inside of the U.S. intel community, but he knows how these things work, and he knows Robert Mueller. He expects that when Mueller files his final report, he’ll simultaneously unseal his biggest indictments for one big dramatic ending. He said this during an MSNBC interview on Monday:

“I would think that the indictments are going to probably be presented along with the final report. So far we haven’t had any indictments of, for example, members of the Trump family, as well as any indictment that’s identified Americans who are involved in a criminal conspiracy. If in fact there is evidence to that, and if the Special Counsel decides to go forward with it, I would expect it to be the final act. I think Bob Mueller and his team know that cutting that close to the bone would be the final bell for them.”

robert mueller full face fileJohn Brennan’s clear implication is that, once Robert Mueller (right) indicts and arrests Donald Trump’s family, Trump will use up whatever meager political capital he has left to try to force Mueller to be fired, regardless of how badly it might blow back on Trump. So the point for Mueller would be to take all the biggest swings at once, thus ensuring they happen. From there, Brennan expects that Mueller will hand off any remaining unfinished criminal cases to the likes of SDNY, and we’re expecting the same.

Justice Integrity: In the News

washington post logoWashington Post, This courthouse is the closest you can get to Mueller’s probe, one wall away from its secrets, Avi Selk, Feb. 25, 2019. The line to see Roger Stone get gagged stretched from the courtroom door all the way down the marbled hall on Thursday — 100 people deep, with yet more holding placards and TV camera tripods and their respective ideological convictions on the sidewalks outside the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse, a few blocks from the Capitol.

roger stone headshotOf course, the people didn’t yet know that Stone would be gagged at the end of the hearing — barred from publicly discussing his upcoming trial on charges of lying, witness tampering and obstruction in the criminal investigation of President Trump’s inner circle. Rather, some of those in line thought Trump’s longtime friend might be sent straight to jail, his bail revoked for allegedly attacking the judge on Instagram last week. Or perhaps Stone [shown in a file photo] would make a scene, as when he flashed Nixonian victory signs at previous hearings this year.

And then there were rumors that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation was nearing its end, and so this might be the last public hearing presidential puppetry 2before Trump himself is implicated in the final report. Or exonerated. No one knew.

“For many good-government people, this is the ultimate constitutional crisis,” said Andrew Kreig, squashed into a third-row pew at Stone’s hearing Thursday, describing the hyperbole on each side.“The alternative view is it’s overthrowing the duly elected president. It’s hard to imagine a more dramatic situation.”

Kreig, who edits a website titled Justice Integrity Project and once wrote a book [right] about how “secretive elites guide our government leaders,” figured this was about the 12th hearing he had attended in the Mueller investigation, including former national security director Michael Flynn’s chaotic sentencing hearing in December and Manafort’s first trial in Virginia (during which, he recalled, another loyal spectator managed to knit an entire blanket).

More On Trump Probes

michael cohen abc 2018 12 14

Former Trump Personal Attorney and Deputy Republican National Committee Finance Chairman Michael Cohen (Screenshot last year from ABC News).

washington post logoWashington Post, Cohen expected to describe Trump’s ‘lies, racism and cheating,’ person familiar with congressional testimony says, Matt Zapotosky and Rosalind S. Helderman, Feb. 26, 2019. Here are 20 questions lawmakers could ask Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, that might shed new light on probes swirling around Trump.

rnc logoWashington Post, Analysis. Michael Cohen’s three days of Capitol Hill testimony, explained, Aaron Blake, Feb. 26, 2019. Cohen is testifying privately on Tuesday and Thursday and in public on Wednesday.

Washington Post, Analysis: Lies, racism, cheating.' So begins the Michael Cohen show, Jacqueline Alemany, Feb. 26, 2019.  The headlines will keep on coming.

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort should receive less than 10 years in prison, his attorneys tell judge, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner, Feb. 26, 2019 (print edition). Their sentencing recommendation came Monday in the D.C. federal case of Trump’s former campaign chairman.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Mueller’s Investigation, Andrew Goldstein Is Right Behind Him, Noah Weiland and Michael S. Schmidt, Feb. 26, 2019 (print edition). Robert S. Mueller III has a reputation as the all-knowing investigator, but Mr. Goldstein has a day-to-day role in one of the central lines of inquiry.

robert mueller full face fileThe routine was always the same. President Trump’s lawyers would drive to heavily secured offices near the National Mall, surrender their cellphones, head into a windowless conference room and resume tense negotiations over whether the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III (right), would interview Mr. Trump.

Justice Department log circularBut Mr. Mueller was not always there. Instead, the lawyers tangled with a team of prosecutors, including a little known but formidable adversary: Andrew D. Goldstein, 44, a former Time magazine reporter who is now a lead prosecutor for Mr. Mueller in the investigation into whether the president obstructed justice.

Mr. Mueller is often portrayed as the omnipotent fact-gatherer, but it is Mr. Goldstein who has a much more involved, day-to-day role in one of the central lines of investigation.

Mr. Goldstein, the lone prosecutor in Mr. Mueller’s office who came directly from a corruption unit at the Justice Department, has conducted every major interview of the president’s advisers. He questioned Donald F. McGahn II, Mr. Trump’s former White House counsel, and Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer and lawyer, for dozens of hours. He signed Mr. Cohen’s plea agreement. He conducted grand jury questioning of associates of Roger J. Stone Jr., the former adviser to Mr. Trump who was indicted last month.

washington post logodjt handwave fileWashington Post, Trump Organization asks House committee to cease investigations, citing an alleged conflict of interest, John Wagner and Tom Hamburger, Feb. 26, 2019 (print edition). In a letter, a lawyer for the president’s company objected to the committee’s hiring of an outside lawyer whose firm has represented the Trump Organization.

Feb. 24

paul manafort rnc 2016 abc flickr

Former Trump Presidential Campaign Manager Paul Manafort In 2016 (file photo from ABC-TV)

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort a ‘hardened’ and ‘bold’ criminal, Mueller prosecutors tell judge, Rachel Weiner, Feb. 24, 2019 (print edition). Their sentencing memo for Trump’s former campaign chairman was unsealed Saturday and did not suggest a specific prison term. Manafort has pleaded guilty to multiple charges in D.C. and Virginia.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort (shown in a mug shot) is a “hardened” criminal who “repeatedly and brazenly violated the law,” prosecutors told a Washington federal judge.

paul manafort mugBut in the filing submitted Friday and made partially public Saturday, they recommended no specific punishment for those crimes, saying that is the practice of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (shown below in a file photo), whose office brought the case.

Prosecutors noted that federal guidelines call for a sentence of 17 to 22 years, although under Manafort’s guilty plea in his D.C. case, the maximum he faces behind bars is 10. The special counsel team said it may ask for Judge Amy Berman Jackson to impose a sentence that runs after any prison time Manafort is given for related crimes in Virginia federal court.

Jackson could make the sentence she imposes run during or after his Virginia prison term. In Virginia, where Manafort was found guilty of bank and tax fraud at trial, there is no upper limit to his sentence. In Alexandria, prosecutors have also asked only for a “serious” sentence. Federal guidelines in that case call for him to spend roughly 19 to 24 years in prison.

robert mueller screenshot washington post

ny times logoNew York Times, Manafort ‘Repeatedly and Brazenly’ Broke Law, Prosecutors Say in Sentencing Memo, Sharon LaFraniere, Feb. 24, 2019 (print edition). The special counsel’s team said the fact that Mr. Manafort lied to prosecutors after agreeing to cooperate “reflects a hardened adherence to committing crimes and lack of remorse.” In a new court filing unsealed on Saturday, prosecutors cited sentencing guidelines that could result in a prison term of up to 22 years for Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, for conspiracy charges to which he pleaded guilty last fall.

Justice Department logoMr. Manafort is scheduled to be sentenced next month for the conspiracy charges, as well as for eight other felonies stemming from a financial fraud prosecution in Northern Virginia.

Mr. Manafort, 69, admitted in September that he had conspired to obstruct justice by trying to persuade witnesses to lie to cover up the fact that he had failed to register as a foreign lobbyist in the United States.

Registering as a lobbyist with the Justice Department would have required him to disclose millions of dollars in hidden payments he was receiving from Russia-friendly political parties in Ukraine over a decade.

In the sentencing memo to a federal judge in Washington, prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, said that “for over a decade, Manafort repeatedly and brazenly violated the law” — continuing to commit crimes even after he was indicted.

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: Drawing to a close, Illustrated by Steve Brodner, Feb. 24, 2019 (print edition). An illustrated guide to the many, many people in the Russia investigation’s orbit

Feb. 23

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller just dropped an 800-page bomb, Bill Palmer, Feb. 23, 2019. Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed his sentencing memo against Paul Manafort under seal last night, and today the judge instructed him to publicly release a redacted version. Sure enough, it’s just been released, and all told, it’s a whopping eight hundred pages long.

bill palmer report logo headerThis explains why it took more than twelve hours past the filing deadline to get the whole thing properly redacted for public release. The primary filing document is just a couple dozen pages; the attachments make up the bulk of the biblical-length tome. We’re just now starting to make our way through the filing, which has plenty of black redaction bars, but also plenty of non-redacted material. Here’s what stands out so far.

This document makes clear just how thoroughly Robert Mueller and his team went through every stage of Paul Manafort’s criminal life in order to bust him as thoroughly as possible. Voluminous details are included about Manafort’s illegal lobbying efforts, both foreign and domestic, dating back several years before he went to work for Donald Trump. Manafort’s crimes while running the Trump campaign are also spelled out in great detail.

We’ll see what details end up standing out. But for now, the upshot is that Robert Mueller has managed to penetrate every last inch of Paul Manafort’s life of crime. Why does this matter? If Mueller has done this to a secondary target like Manafort, he’s surely managed to do the same to Donald Trump. When Mueller does take his big swing at Trump, it’s going to expose – in devastating detail – every crime Trump has ever committed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Department, Democrats brace for fight over access to Mueller report, Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian, Feb. 23, 2019 (print edition). Justice Department officials have worried that they will have a weak argument for withholding materials, given how much information was turned over to Congress after the FBI’s robert mueller full face fileinvestigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

The Justice Department and Democratic lawmakers are bracing for a fight over access to the evidence uncovered by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (right) during his nearly two-year investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether President Trump obstructed justice.

Mueller’s investigation is winding down, according to people familiar with the matter, and Justice Department officials expect to receive a report from him in March. Democrats on Friday demanded that the report be made public.

djt don jr ivanka pecker eric

Palmer Report,Opinion: New York District Attorney just cornered Donald Trump into checkmate, Bill Palmer, Feb. 23, 2019. Yesterday we all learned that Manhattan District Attorney cyrus vance jrCyrus Vance (right) has prepared a state-level criminal case against Paul Manafort. The clear implication was that if Donald Trump tried to pardon Manafort, New York would simply lock Manafort right back up.

But last night we learned that New York is preparing to file criminal charges against Manafort even if Trump doesn’t try to pardon him. So what’s going on?

bill palmer report logo headerNew York truly is willing and able to bring state-level criminal cases that he can’t do anything to sabotage – not just against a dead man walking like Paul Manafort, but also against Trump’s kids. And while New York State might have a hard time putting Trump on trial while he’s still in office, it can arrest his kids at any time.

That’s checkmate. Even if Donald Trump doesn’t care about the fate of his kids, the criminal cases against them can be used to rip apart the Trump Organization, seize the Trump family’s assets, and build a bulletproof state level case against Trump which can be brought against him the minute he leaves office.

Feb. 22

ny times logoNew York Times, New York Prosecutors Expected to Charge Manafort, Guarding Against Trump Pardon, William K. Rashbaum, Feb. 22, 2019. The Manhattan district attorney’s office is preparing state criminal charges against Paul J. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, in an effort to ensure he will still face prison time even if the president pardons him for his federal crimes, according to several people with knowledge of the matter.

Mr. Manafort is scheduled to be sentenced next month for convictions in two federal cases brought by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. He faces up to 25 years in prison for tax and bank fraud and additional time for conspiracy counts in a related case. It could effectively be a life sentence for Mr. Manafort, who turns 70 in April.

cyrus vance jrThe president has broad power to issue pardons for federal crimes, but no such authority in state cases. And while there has been no clear indication that Mr. Trump intends to pardon Mr. Manafort, the president has spoken repeatedly of his pardon power and defended his former campaign chairman on a number of occasions, calling him a “brave man.”

The office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (right), first began investigating Mr. Manafort in 2017 in connection with loans he received from two banks. Those loans were also the subject of some of the counts in the federal indictment that led to his conviction last year. But the state prosecutors deferred their inquiry in order not to interfere with Mr. Mueller’s investigation.

Feb. 21

Miami Herald, Federal prosecutors broke law in Jeffrey Epstein case, judge rules, Julie K. Brown, Feb. 21, 2019. A judge ruled Thursday that federal prosecutors — among them, U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta — broke federal law when they signed a plea agreement with a wealthy, politically connected sex trafficker and concealed it from more than 30 of his underage victims.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra, in a 33-page opinion, said that the evidence he reviewed showed that Jeffrey Epstein had been operating an international sex operation in which he and others recruited underage girls — not only in Florida — but from overseas, in violation of federal law.

“Epstein used paid employees to find and bring minor girls to him.,’’ wrote Marra, who is based in Palm Beach County. “Epstein worked in concert with others to obtain minors not only for his own sexual gratification, but also for the sexual gratification of others.’’

Instead of prosecuting Epstein under federal sex trafficking laws, Acosta, then the U.S. attorney in Miami, helped negotiate a non-prosecution agreement that gave Epstein and his co-conspirators immunity from federal prosecution. Epstein, who lived in a Palm Beach mansion, was allowed to quietly plead guilty in state court to two prostitution charges and served just 13 months in the county jail. His accomplices, some of whom have never been identified, were never charged.

The Justice Integrity Project, along with the Wayne Madsen Report and others, has reported extensively on how Acosta's actions helped protect such accused fellow pursuers of underage girls as his friend Donald Trump, who has been accused in withdrawn lawsuits of together raping two underage girls in New York City. Senate and House investigators have threatened to demand answers from Acosta in separate oversight hearings.


Feb. 20

Reuters, Justice Department preparing to receive Mueller report: CNN, Tim Ahmann and Susan Heavey, Feb. 20, 2019. The U.S. Department of Justice may announce as early as next week that Special Counsel Robert Mueller (shown below in a file photo) has given the attorney general his report on the federal Russia investigation, CNN said on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.

robert mueller screenshot washington post

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Department preparing for Mueller report in coming days, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Matt Zapotosky​, Feb. 20, 2019. Justice Department officials are preparing for the end of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and believe a confidential report could be issued in coming days, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The special counsel’s investigation has consumed Washington since it began in May 2017, and it increasingly appears to be nearing its end, which would send fresh shock waves through the political system. Mueller could deliver his report to Attorney General William P. Barr next week, according to a person familiar with the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations.

Regulations call for Mueller to submit to the attorney general a confidential explanation as to why he decided to charge certain individuals, as well as who else he investigated and why he decided not to charge those people. The regulations then call for the attorney general to report to Congress about the investigation.


New Trump Scandal

ny times logojamal khashoggi entering consulateNew York Times, House Opens Inquiry Into Proposed U.S. Nuclear Venture in Saudi Arabia, Nicholas Fandos and Mark Mazzetti, Feb. 20, 2019 (print edition). White House officials pushed the venture over repeated legal and ethical warnings, a report from House Democrats said.

The inquiry comes amid lawmakers’ anger over the Trump administration’s reluctance to punish the Saudis for the journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing. The former Washington Post columnist, U.S. resident and Saudi critic was hacked to death after he entered the Saudi embassy in Turkey (with the scene at right) as his finance waited for him on the street outside.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s nuclear scandal with Saudi Arabia is his most horrifying yet, TR Kenneth, Feb. 19, 2019. Today we’ve gotten more details on the Michael Flynn connection to selling the Saudis our nuclear energy secrets, thanks to the New York Times. We also found out that Lara Trump, Eric Trump’s wife, has a brother that has been put to work advising the Department of Energy despite having no energy background or experience. To remind you, the Department of Energy is the agency that controls our nuclear arsenal, power plants and technology.

bill palmer report logo headerWhy should this bother the National Nuclear Security Administration? Well, if we play the "Who’s Compromised?" game, we come up with a lot of people in the Trump circle trying to put together a nuclear power plant deal for the Saudis. This is in and of itself inexplicable. Why sell coal to Newcastle? Don’t the Saudis have enough oil to fuel their power needs and most of the world? Huh? None of this makes sense.

Except when you realize that weapons-grade plutonium is made in nuclear reactors, i.e. nuclear power plants.

 Stone Faces Sanction

amy berman jackson roger stone

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Stone's threatening federal judge no laughing matter, Wayne Madsen (WMR editor, author of 16 books and former Navy intellience wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallofficer, shown in a Justice Integrity Project photo during a 2015 panel discussion), Feb. 20, 2019 (subscription required; excerpted with permission). Longtime Donald Trump adviser and political dirty trickster Roger Stone may have finally pulled off his last stunt.

After Stone's U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia trial judge, Amy Berman-Jackson, imposed a limited gag order on Stone -- ordering him not to discuss around the court house the case brought against him by Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller -- Stone posted a social media message widely construed as a threat against Jackson.

Although Stone deleted the threatening message and issued a formal apology to the judge through his attorneys, the federal judiciary and the U.S. Marshals Service, responsible for protecting judges, do not take kindly to threats. Since 1979, four federal judges have been assassinated and the disabled husband and mother of another judge were murdered in an unsuccessful targeted assassination of the judge.

The Justice Integrity Report plans to cover a hearing on the matter before Jackson on Thursday in Washington, DC.

Walls Closing On Trump?

Palmer Report, Opinion: The last gasps of Donald Trump’s dead presidency, Bill Palmer, Feb. 20, 2019. We just learned that, in his latest “evil genius” plan to save himself from geoffrey berman sdnyouster and prison, Donald Trump tried to convince Matt Whitaker to reinstate long-ago-recused U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman to oversee the SDNY [Southern District of New York] case against Trump. Of course this went nowhere, because nothing works that way. Not only does it mean that Trump went to the trouble of appointing Whitaker for nothing, it also means Trump has reached such a point of self-defeating stupidity, even Matt Whitaker can figure out that Trump’s scheming is too stupid to work.

devin nunes grimacingBack when this illegitimate presidency started, Donald Trump seemed frustrated by the fact that the only people he could find to carry out his criminal scheming were incompetent idiots like Devin Nunes (a California Republican, shown at left), who kept predictably screwing it up. But now that Trump is approaching his end, he’s sunk to the point that the idiots are looking at him funny.

Does anyone really think that Donald Trump’s upcoming evil scheme of installing William Barr as Attorney General is somehow going to save him? Of course not. If Barr is smart, he’ll keep his nose clean. And if he’s stupid enough to do Trump’s criminal bidding, then he’s stupid enough to screw it up.

Feb. 19

Trump Probes

ny times logoNew York Times, Intimidation, Pressure and Humiliation: Inside Trump’s Two-Year War on the Investigations Encircling Him, Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos and Michael S. Schmidt, Feb. 19, 2019. Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos and Michael S. Schmidt, Feb. 19, 2019 Intimidation, Pressure and President Trump’s efforts have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice as Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, finishes his work.

As federal prosecutors in Manhattan gathered evidence late last year about President Trump’s role in silencing women with hush payments during the 2016 campaign, Mr. matthew whitaker headshot recentTrump called Matthew G. Whitaker (right), his newly installed attorney general, with a question. He asked whether Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation, according to several American officials with direct knowledge of the call.

Mr. Whitaker, who had privately told associates that part of his role at the Justice Department was to “jump on a grenade” for the president, knew he could not put Mr. Berman in charge because Mr. Berman had already recused himself from the investigation. The president soon soured on Mr. Whitaker, as he often does with his aides, and complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president’s many legal problems go away.

ny times logoNew York Times, Takeaways From The Times’s Investigation Into Trump’s War on the Inquiries Around Him, Eileen Sullivan, Feb. 19, 2019. President Trump has called the Russia investigation a hoax, a witch hunt and fake news. But since he has been in office, Mr. Trump has tried to end the inquiry into his campaign’s possible coordination with Russia during the 2016 presidential election, opening himself up to questions about whether these efforts constitute attempts to obstruct justice.

robert mueller full face fileA review by The New York Times (excerpted above) found a continuous, behind-the-scenes effort by Mr. Trump to undermine multiple investigations that have touched his presidency. His efforts included seeking to derail federal law enforcement through targeted political appointments and a public campaign to discredit the Russia investigation, which is led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III (shown at right).

1) Mr. Trump wanted to put a perceived loyalist in charge of a federal inquiry in New York related to hush money payments made by his former personal lawyer. After subjecting his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to protracted humiliation over Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation and then firing him, Mr. Trump asked his newly installed acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, if one of the president’s perceived allies could take control of the federal investigation in New York involving him.

Mr. Whitaker, a loyalist who had told people that his job was to protect the president, said no. The person Mr. Trump wanted, Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, had already recused himself over another routine conflict of interest.

2) Mr. Trump’s public attacks on the Russia investigation have evolved from a public relations strategy to a legal strategy.

The president’s assault on investigators on Twitter and in public interviews moved beyond his typical criticism of individuals into a mosaic of efforts to undermine every facet of the investigation. That includes attacking the investigators, raising questions about the legitimacy of law enforcement investigative tools and discrediting witnesses — most of whom were close allies he once praised.

The president cheered efforts by Republican loyalists in Congress who began investigations into cases and pressed for details about confidential Justice Department investigative procedures. One loyalist, Representative Matt Gaetz, a second-term Republican from Florida, spearheaded this campaign in July 2017 while he killed time at an airport in between flights.

washington post logoWashington Post, Roger Stone deletes photo of judge presiding over his case, says he didn’t mean to threaten her, Reis Thebault and Manuel Roig-Franzia, Feb. 19, 2019 amy berman jackson roger stone(print edition). Days after a federal judge imposed a limited gag order on him, Roger Stone posted a photograph of that judge to his Instagram page that included her name, a close-up of her face and what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun sight near her head.

Stone, a longtime confidant of President Trump, deleted the picture soon afterward, then reposted it without the crosshairs before deleting that second post as well.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson is presiding over Stone’s criminal trial, in which he has pleaded not guilty to charges of lying about his efforts to gather information about hacked 2016 Democratic Party emails that were published by WikiLeaks.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Roger Stone just got some bad news from the judge, Daniel Cotter, Feb. 19, 2019. Roger Stone took it upon himself to post a picture bill palmer report logo headerof his trial judge with crosshairs next to her head, then took it down and claimed he meant no harm. On Monday evening, Stone, under cover of a “Notice of Apology” by his lawyers, filed an apology with the court. As anyone could tell Stone, including what his lawyers surely did yesterday, that was not enough.

On Tuesday morning, Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued a minute order as to Roger J. Stone, Jr., stating:

Defendant is ORDERED to show cause at a hearing to be held on Thursday, February 21, 2019 at 2:30 p.m. as to why the media contact order entered in this case and/or his conditions of release should not be modified or revoked in light of the posts on his Instagram account on or about February 18, 2019.”

Posting items such as Roger Stone did is not wise, especially when it implies a potential threat against a sitting federal judge. Stone potentially faces being jailed from now until his trial ends, for his conduct on Instagram.

washington post logorod rosenstein cspan Washington Post, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein plans to leave Justice Dept. next month, Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 19, 2019 (print edition). Rosenstein has spent nearly two years in the hot seat after he appointed special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Wagging The Dog?

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Warns Venezuela’s Military to Stop Blocking Emergency Aid, Annie Karni, Nicholas Casey and Anatoly Kurmanaev, Feb. 19, 2019 (print edition). President Trump delivered his sharpest warning yet in an increasingly tense showdown over the country’s crisis. He said military authorities would “lose everything” by remaining loyal to Nicolás Maduro and refusing to allow in emergency aid stockpiled on the border.

President Trump on Monday delivered his sharpest warning yet to Venezuela’s military authorities in an increasingly tense showdown over that country’s crisis, proclaiming they would “lose everything” by remaining loyal to President Nicolás Maduro and refusing to allow in emergency aid stockpiled on the border.

Mr. Trump gave the warning in a speech denouncing Venezuela’s brand of socialism to an enthusiastic crowd in Miami that included many Americans of Venezuelan descent who have fled Venezuela or have relatives in the country, once Latin America’s wealthiest but now facing the greatest economic collapse in generations.

He spoke five days before a deadline that his administration and the Venezuelan opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, have declared for getting humanitarian aid into the country — a move aimed at weakening Mr. Maduro, who is no longer recognized by the United States and roughly 50 other nations as the country’s president. Mr. Trump was the first to recognize Mr. Guaidó last month as Mr. Maduro’s replacement until new elections can be held.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: It's back to the future with Venezuelan "Contras," the neocons, and the CIA, Wayne Madsen (author, syndicated columnist and former Navy intelligence officer), Feb. 19, 2019 (Subscription required). Trump's call for a coup in Venezuela is ironic when his most loyal supporter in the U.S. Senate, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), claimed that senior Justice Department officials who were discussing legally invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office in early 2017 were trying to stage a "coup" against Trump.

Coups are unconstitutional in any form, while the removal of a president under the 25th Amendment is following the U.S. Constitution to the letter.

Feb. 18

Stone Puts His Judge In 'Crosshairs'

roger stone fox news

Raw Story, Roger Stone lashes out at federal judge with threatening picture of her next to crosshairs, Eric W. Dolan, Feb. 18, 2019. Trump’s longtime confidant Roger Stone (shown in a file photo) on Monday attacked the federal judge presiding over his criminal case in the special counsel’s Russia probe. In an Instagram post, Stone lashed out at U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson (shown at right).

amy berman jackson roger stone“Through legal trickery Deep State hitman Robert Mueller has guaranteed that my upcoming show trial is before Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointed Judge who dismissed the Benghazi charges again Hillary Clinton [sic] and incarcerated Paul Manafort prior to his conviction for any crime,” he wrote. Stone then asked for donations.

The Guardian’s Jon Swaine noted that the picture Stone posted on Instagram (shown at right) placed crosshairs next to Jackson’s head.

Last week, Jackson prohibited Stone from commenting on the case near the Washington, D.C., courthouse. But he remains otherwise free to discuss his situation. However, Jackson has warned that she could amend the limited gag order in the future if necessary.

“This is completely out of bounds. The cross hairs will likely lead prosecutors to ask for revocation of his pre-trial release. At best, this is a cheap stunt designed to get the judge to recuse, at worst, an outright threat,” former U.S. attorney Joyce Vance said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Roger Stone and Donald Trump both just went off a cliff, Bill Palmer, Feb. 18, 2019. There’s a popular and arguably overused meme on social media in which one public figure says or does something incredibly stupid, and then another public figure says “Hold my beer” before doing something even more incredibly stupid. I can’t recall an instance of that meme fitting any situation better than when it came to Donald Trump and Roger Stone today.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump woke up this morning and decided that his best move was to threaten “retribution” against Alec Baldwin over his Saturday Night Live portrayals. This went over about as well as one might have expected. Trump was condemned for it from all sides, as he managed to come off as both weak and dangerously out of control. Baldwin, never one to back down, will surely respond by portraying Trump on SNL more frequently. It was a disaster for Trump.

But then Roger Stone had his “Hold my beer” moment.

There has long been debate among observers as to whether Roger Stone would cut a plea deal at the first sign of real trouble, or if he would try to stick to his guns as long as possible. But we’re in a different realm now. Stone is about to go sit in solitary confinement in jail, in the same comparatively rough conditions Paul Manafort has been facing. Anyone get a good look at Manafort lately? By all accounts, he’s practically dead already. Stone is a lunatic, but even he may decide he simply can’t suffer the same fate as his pal Manafort.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Matt Whitaker perjury case takes an even stranger turn, Bill Palmer, Feb. 18, 2019. On Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler matthew whitaker headshot recentpublicly informed Matt Whitaker that the committee had found proof that Whitaker (right) had lied about his communications with Donald Trump. Nadler demanded that Whitaker come back and tell the truth. The clear implication: we have you nailed on felony perjury, and you can sell Trump out, or you can go to prison.

Tellingly, the next day, the Donald Trump regime announced that Whitaker – whose time as Acting Attorney General was ending – had been given a pointless new job at the Department of Justice. Trump was clearly attempting to keep Whitaker in the fold, and prevent him from cutting any sort of plea deal. But just because Whitaker (apparently) accepted the job, it doesn’t mean he’s still playing for Team Trump at his own expense.

Trump's 'Emergency' Claim

washington post logoWashington Post, White House defends Trump’s emergency declaration amid mounting challenges, Amy B Wang, Feb. 18, 2019 (print edition). Critics have seized on recent comments by President Trump as proof that he did not need to declare an emergency at the southern border. “I could do the wall over a longer period of time,” he said last week. The White House on Sunday defended President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the southern border and sought to clarify his contradictory statements about its necessity, marking the start of what’s expected to be a drawn-out fight over funding the construction of djt maga hata wall amid mounting legal challenges and objections from Congress.

Trump’s announcement last week — an attempt to circumvent Congress by redirecting taxpayer money to pay for 230 miles of barriers along the border — has led to lawsuits. On Sunday, California’s attorney general said he was working with officials from at least six other states and would be filing suit against the White House “imminently.” The national emergency declaration also triggered protests, with various groups promising to hold more throughout the country Monday.

• Washington Post, ‘Answer my question’: Fox News’ Chris Wallace grills defiant Stephen Miller on national emergency, Alex Horton.

Feb. 15

william barr djt swearing in feb 14 2019 wh tia dufour

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, center, swears in William Barr, right as attorney general on Feb. 14 at an Oval Office ceremony as President Trump looks on (White House photo by .Tia Dufour)

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: Andrew McCabe’s disturbing account of working for Sessions and Trump, Greg Miller, Feb. 15, 2019. In “The Threat,” the former FBI deputy director recounts the dysfunction at the top of the Justice Department. The memoir is the latest in a rapidly expanding collection of score-settling insider accounts of Trump-era Washington.

washington post logodavid ignatiusWashington Post, Opinion: We’re entering a new phase of the Trump-Russia investigation, David Ignatius (right), Feb. 15, 2019 (print edition). President Trump has been insisting for so long that any investigation of his personal finances would cross a “ red line ” that people may have overlooked the outrageousness of his claim. But this self-declared immunity is about to change.

We’re entering a new phase of the Trump-Russia investigation, in which the president’s efforts to contain the probe are failing. Information he tried to suppress about his business and political dealings is emerging — with more to come.

adam schiff official“There are no red lines except what’s necessary to protect the country,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), left, said during an interview Monday. Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, told me he plans to request information, perhaps by subpoena, from Deutsche Bank, a major Trump lender, and that “our work on Trump’s finances has already begun.”

A Deutsche Bank subpoena would be especially sensitive.

deutsche bank logoThe president’s relationship with Deutsche Bank intrigues investigators for several reasons. Trump turned to the big German bank two decades ago, when U.S. banks wouldn’t extend him more large loans. The Post estimated in 2016 that Deutsche Bank had $360 million in outstanding loans to Trump’s companies. Deutsche Bank also lent $285 million to Jared Kushner’s family real estate company in October 2016.

Investigators have noted other points of interest: Deutsche Bank, unusually, managed its lending to Trump through its private-banking division rather than normal commercial lending. Finally, the bank has been implicated in Russian money laundering, paying $630 million in fines in 2017 to settle U.S. and British charges that it had improperly transferred $10 billion from Russia.

Feb. 14

fbi headquarters library of congress

washington post logoWashington Post, McCabe says he quickly opened FBI investigation of Trump for fear of being fired, Matt Zapotosky and John Wagner​, Feb. 14, 2019. Former acting FBI andrew mcCabe odirector Andrew McCabe (left) said in an interview that aired Thursday that he authorized an investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia a day after meeting with him in May 2017 out of fear that he could soon be fired. FBI headquarters is shown at right in a Library of Congress photo.

“I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground in an indelible fashion that were I removed quickly or reassigned or fired that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace,” McCabe told CBS.

fbi logoHis comments were the first time McCabe has publicly addressed why he opened an investigation into Trump following the firing of former FBI director James B. Comey, whose post McCabe took over.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. Discussed Removal of Trump From Office, Former Official Says, Adam Goldman and Matthew Haag, Feb. 14, 2019. Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy F.B.I. director, said that top Justice Department officials were alarmed by President Trump’s decision in May 2017 to fire James B. Comey, the bureau’s director. Mr. McCabe said that they discussed whether to recruit cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office.

william barr senate hearing cnn screengrab jan 15 2019

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr expected to be confirmed as attorney general and supervise Mueller’s probe, Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 14, 2019. William P. Barr (shown above during his Senate confirmation hearing last month) is likely to be confirmed Thursday as the U.S. attorney general, putting him in command of the Justice Department at one of the most politically charged moments in its history.

Barr, a Justice Department veteran who served as attorney general previously in the George H.W. Bush administration, has but one hurdle left to clear to become the country’s top law enforcement officer — full Senate confirmation. Lawmakers are expected to vote on his nomination at some point Thursday, though the precise time is unclear. The outcome is all but guaranteed, after Barr cleared a procedural hurdle by a 55-to-44 vote that was mostly along party lines.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on his nomination at some point today, though the precise time is unclear. The outcome is all but guaranteed, after William Barr cleared a procedural hurdle with a vote that was mostly along party lines.​

Trump, Saudi Defender

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s friend just tried to blame America First, Dana Milbank (right), Feb. 14, 2019 (print edition). Billionaire Tom Barrack, Donald dana milbank CustomTrump’s friend, informal adviser and chairman of the president’s inaugural committee, sounded like a man without a soul.

With a bone-chilling bloodlessness, Barrack (below left) on Tuesday defended the Saudi government’s murder of Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Asked at a Milken Institute gathering in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, about the murder, Barrack replied that “whatever happened in Saudi Arabia, the atrocities in America are equal or worse than the atrocities in Saudi Arabia.” He added: “For us to dictate what we think is the moral code there . . . I think is a mistake.”

tom barrackheadshotIncredibly, that wasn’t all. “The problem with what’s happened with the Khashoggi incident is the same problems of the West misunderstanding the East” for a century, Barrack said. “The West is confused at the rule of the law, doesn’t understand what the rule of law is in the kingdom.”

I don’t know what would make Barrack take such a dim view of American values, though the New York Times reported last year that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates provided 24 percent of the $7 billion that Barrack’s business raised in the 17 months after Trump’s inauguration.

Of greater concern is that Barrack advises a president who seems to think similarly.

Feb. 13

paul manafort rnc 2016 abc flickr

Former Trump Presidential Campaign Manager Paul Manafort In 2016 (file photo from ABC-TV)

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge finds Paul Manafort lied to Mueller probe about contacts with Russian aide, Spencer S. Hsu, Feb. 13, 2019. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied to prosecutors with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III about matters close to the heart of their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

paul manafort mugThe judge’s finding that Manafort, 69 (shown in a mug shot), breached his cooperation deal with prosecutors by lying after his guilty plea could add years to his prison sentence and came after a set of sealed court hearings.

amy berman jacksonManafort’s lies, the judge found, included “his interactions and communications with [Konstantin] Kilimnik,” a longtime aide whom the FBI assessed to have ties to Russian intelligence.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District (shown at left) said Manafort also lied to the special counsel, the FBI and the grand jury about a payment from a company to a law firm — which he previously characterized as a loan repayment — and made false statements that were material to another Justice Department investigation whose focus has not been described in public filings in Manafort’s case.

Palmer Report, Commentary: It's official -- Robert Mueller has destroyed Paul Manafort once and for all, Bill Palmer, Feb. 13, 2019. Paul Manafort gambled that he could cut a robert mueller kit fox medill flickr croppedcooperating plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, feed him false information, coordinate it all with Donald Trump, and not get caught. Manafort quickly lost that gamble, and as of this evening, he’s paying for it with everything he has.

Mueller (right) announced awhile back that he was ripping up Paul Manafort’s plea deal, citing Manafort’s bad faith actions. Of course this requires the approval of a judge, and so the two found themselves back in front of Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson. She ruled this evening that Manafort intentionally lied to Mueller about multiple matters. This is a big deal for two reasons, and one of them is very bad news for Donald Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst, this means that Paul Manafort’s life is effectively over. His plea deal was his one chance at possibly getting out of prison before the end of his natural lifespan. Now that he’s officially been faulted for the demise of his plea deal, he’ll be in prison forever. Donald Trump has already made clear that he’s not willing to take the risk of sticking his neck out to pardon people like Manafort. Even if he were to try, Manafort would still rot, thanks to state-level charges in New York.

Second, this further weakens Donald Trump’s “no collusion” fantasy. Robert Mueller accused Paul Manafort of lying about his interactions with Russian spy Konstantin Kilimnik, and sure enough, the judge says she agrees. That means Trump’s campaign chairman is going to prison partly for colluding with the Kremlin during the 2016 election. That’s on top of Donald Trump Jr’s emails, Roger Stone’s emails, and other hard proof of an illegal conspiracy between Russia and Team Trump to rig the 2016 election.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Manafort’s 2016 meeting with Russian goes to ‘heart’ of Mueller’s probe, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Feb. 13, 2019. In a sealed court hearing last week, prosecutors revealed they are deeply focused on a dinner Paul Manafort had at the Grand Havana Club with Russian political operative Konstantin Kilimnik.

The 2016 nominating conventions had recently concluded and the presidential race was hitting a new level of intensity when Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, ducked into an unusual dinner meeting at a private cigar room a few blocks away from the campaign’s Trump Tower headquarters in Manhattan.

rnc logoCourt records show that Manafort was joined at some point by his campaign deputy, Rick Gates, at the session at the Grand Havana Room, a mahogany-paneled space with floor-to-ceiling windows offering panoramic views of the city.

The two Americans met with an overseas guest, a longtime employee of their international consulting business who had flown to the United States for the gathering: a Russian political operative named Konstantin Kilimnik.

The Aug. 2, 2016, encounter between the senior Trump campaign officials and Kilimnik, who prosecutors allege has ties to Russian intelligence, has emerged in recent days as a potential fulcrum in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.

The New Republic, Investigative Report: The Spy Who Wasn't, James Bamford, Feb. 11, 2019. The U.S. government went looking for someone to blame for Russia's interference in the 2016 election—and found Maria Butina, the perfect scapegoat. “Real-life ‘Red Sparrow’? Court Filings Allege Russian Agent Offered Sex for Access,” blared an ABC News headline. “Maria Butina, Suspected Secret Agent, Used Sex in Covert Plan, Prosecutors Say,” declared The New York Times.

maria butina with gun adSince August 17, Butina has been housed at the Alexandria Detention Center, the same fortresslike building that holds Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. On November 10, she spent her 30th birthday in solitary confinement, in cell 2F02, a seven-by-ten-foot room with a steel door, cement bed, and two narrow windows, each three inches wide. She has been allowed outside for a total of 45 minutes. On December 13, Butina pleaded guilty to conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian Federation. She faces a possible five-year sentence in federal prison.

With anti-Russia fervor in the United States approaching levels directed at Muslims following the attacks of September 11, 2001, it was easy for prosecutors to sell the story of Butina as a spy to the public and the press. But is she really? Last February, Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the Russia probe, indicted 13 Russian spies for interfering with the 2016 election. And in July, two days before Butina was arrested, Mueller charged twelve more Russians with hacking into email accounts and computer networks belonging to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. It is not inconceivable that Butina is among their ranks.

Yet a close examination of Butina’s case suggests that it is not so. Butina is simply an idealistic young Russian, born in the last days of the Soviet Union, raised in the new world of capitalism, and hoping to contribute to a better understanding between two countries while pursuing a career in international relations.

James Bamford is the author of "The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America" and a documentary filmmaker for PBS.

CNN, Daughter and son-in-law of AG nominee leaving the Justice Department, David Shortell, Laura Jarrett and Pamela Brown, Feb. 13, 2019. As William Barr, President Donald Trump's attorney general nominee, awaits a Senate vote to confirm his move to the top of the Justice Department, his daughter and son-in-law, both Justice Department employees, are on their way to different jobs.

Mary Daly, Barr's oldest daughter and the director of Opioid Enforcement and Prevention Efforts in the deputy attorney general's office, is leaving for a position at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the Treasury Department's financial crimes unit, a Justice official said.

Tyler McGaughey, the husband of Barr's youngest daughter, has been detailed from the powerful US attorney's office in Alexandria, Virginia, to the White House counsel's office, two officials said.

It's not clear if McGaughey's switch is a result of Barr's pending new role, and the kind of work he'll be handling at the White House is not public knowledge.
Daly's husband will remain in his position in the Justice Department's National Security Division for now.

The moves were by choice and are not required under federal nepotism laws, but Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, called them "a good idea" to "avoid the bad optics that could come from the appearance of them working for him."

However, Shaub added that McGaughey's detail to the White House counsel's office was "concerning."

"That's troubling because it raises further questions about Barr's independence," Shaub said.

As attorney general, Barr will oversee the special counsel's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 US presidential election and whether there was a conspiracy with the Trump campaign. Barr, who himself had a storied career at the Justice Department, capped off by his first stint as attorney general under George H.W. Bush, joked about his family of government lawyers at his confirmation hearing last month.

Feb. 11

Palmer Report, Analysis: Melania Trump has a whole new problem, Shirley Kennedy, Feb. 11, 2019. In a new Vanity Fair piece published on the Trump inauguration committee scandal, we are reintroduced to a somewhat forgotten player: Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. The piece, which discusses the subpoenas and alleged misdeeds, describes Wolkoff as the female counterpart of Michael Cohen -– except the person whom she sought to protect is Melania Trump.

djt melania liberty ball inauguration 2017While Wolkoff initially enjoyed a close relationship with Melania, the two eventually parted ways, likely because Wolkoff tried to advise Melania in ways in which she did not want to be advised, such as Wolkoff’s insistence that Melania’s “Be Best” campaign sounded “illiterate.” No disagreement there. More important to the investigations at hand, Wolkoff is the one who is caught up in the Trump inaugural scandal. Out of the $107 million raised for the inauguration, $26 million allegedly went to “outside contractors” who provided services for the event. This payment, along with other questionable salaries and payments, rests at the center of the SDNY investigation.

melania trump twitterWolkoff made $500,000 of the $26 million. The bulk of those overall funds allegedly went to “outside contractors,” including $24 million to Apprentice creator Mark Burnett (who wanted to remain anonymous) and $100,000 to since-confessed felon Rick Gates. When the Times broke the story of unaccounted funds totaling $40 million, Wolkoff turned to Melania for help, but Melania left her high and dry. As is typical for this administration, Wolkoff – who worked gratis for Melania after the inauguration – was used and then thrown under the bus when she was no longer necessary. It appears that Wolkoff may be unwittingly getting her revenge.

Feb. 9

washington post logoWashington Post, The fixer’s secret agenda: Cohen claimed ‘blind loyalty’ to Trump but chased his own ambitions, Paul Schwartzman, Feb. 10, 2019 (print edition). Michael michael cohen ap file croppedCohen, right, who is scheduled to report to prison next month, built a reputation as Donald Trump’s loyal bulldog. He thought his loyalty would pay off in the form of elective office or a key White House job. It never did.

Part of an in-depth series: ‘All the best people’: How President Trump’s inner circle has changed the way Washington works.

Feb. 8

Bezos Claims Enquirer Extortion

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Trump family friend David Pecker, chairman of American Media, Inc. (AMI), parent company of the National Enquirer (screenshot from CNN)

washington post logoWashington Post, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos accuses National Enquirer’s parent of ‘extortion’ over ‘intimate’ photos, Paul Farhi​, Feb. 8, 2019 (print edition). Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, said the blackmail threat was made after he began looking into how the Enquirer acquired text messages that revealed his relationship with a former TV anchor.

jeffrey bezos washington postAmazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos (left) said Thursday that he was the target of an extortion attempt by the National Enquirer, which he said threatened to publish embarrassing photos of him if he didn’t halt his investigation into how the tabloid obtained private texts and photos between him and his mistress.

Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, said the Enquirer made the blackmail threat after he began looking into how the tabloid acquired text messages that revealed his relationship with Lauren Sanchez, a former TV anchor.

In a rare and revealing statement posted to the online publishing platform Medium, Bezos said the National Enquirer wanted him to make a false public statement to the news media that he and his security consultant, Gavin de Becker, “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage [of the affair] was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.” (AMI is American Media, the parent company of the National Enquirer.)

djt don jr ivanka pecker eric

 washington post logoWashington Post, National Enquirer’s parent says it will ‘thoroughly investigate’ extortion claims made by Bezos, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Paul Farhi, Sarah Ellison and Devlin Barrett​, Feb. 8, 2019. American Media Inc. said it believes the tabloid acted lawfully in its reporting on Jeffrey P. Bezos, the Amazon chief executive and owner of The Post.

lauren sanchez jeff bezos david pecker ap via fox news

Lauren Sanchez, Jeffrey ezos and David Pecker (left to right, Associated Press via Fox News photos)

Background: Daily Beast, Bezos’ Investigators Question the Brother of His Mistress, Lauren Sanchez, in National Enquirer Leak Probe, Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng, Jan. 31, 2019. Michael Sanchez is an outspoken Trump supporter with ties to Roger Stone and Carter Page. Jeff Bezos’ top personal security consultant has questioned his mistress’ brother as part of the probe into how the couple’s text messages wound up in the hands of the National Enquirer.

Gavin de Becker, the Amazon chief’s longtime personal security consultant and the point person for the investigation, confirmed to The Daily Beast on Wednesday that his probe has scrutinized Michael Sanchez, the brother of Bezos mistress Lauren Sanchez and a personal and business associate of Trumpworld figures including Roger Stone, Carter Page, and Scottie Nell Hughes.

On Wednesday, The Daily Beast first reported the existence of that investigation, which is taking place independent of Amazon and being funded by Bezos personally. Three sources familiar with the inquiry said it was increasingly probable that whoever leaked the text messages to the Enquirer, which ran a conspicuously large 12-page spread on Bezos’ affair, harbored political animosity towards Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post.

Michael Sanchez’s name bubbled up on the British celebrity news and gossip website Popbitch last week in the context of the Enquirer story. Stone also mentioned Sanchez in an interview with conspiracy theory site Infowars on Wednesday that sought to preempt The Daily Beast’s reporting by falsely claiming that it would accuse him of conspiring with the Trump administration to hack Bezos’ phone.

Feb. 7

paul manafort rick gates nbcnews Custom 2

Palmer Report, Commentary: Looks like Rick Gates sold out the entire Donald Trump campaign for conspiring with the Kremlin to rig the election, Bill Palmer, Feb. 7, 2019.  Last month we all learned that when Paul Manafort (above left) was running Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, he gave Trump’s private internal polling data to the Kremlin. The big question at the time was how the Feds found out. Now we’re getting the official answer from Robert Mueller’s team: it was Rick Gates (above right) who told them. While this was somewhat predictable, it’s nonetheless a big deal, and it tells us a lot.

bill palmer report logo headerRick Gates was a longtime sidekick and business partner to Paul Manafort. But Gates was also a key Donald Trump 2016 campaign adviser, and he was loyal enough to the campaign that he stayed on even after Manafort was fired. Gates also had close ties to the Republican National Committee which went beyond Trump or Manafort. Yet despite all this, Manafort didn’t try to hide from Gates the fact that he was giving the Trump campaign’s internal data to the Kremlin.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats begin hearings on obtaining President Trump’s tax returns, Jeff Stein, Feb. 7, 2019. Democrats face pressure from liberal lawmakers and activist groups to obtain the returns and investigate the president’s business empire.

washington post logoWashington Post, New Trump-Russia probe will focus on reports of money laundering, House committee chairman says, Karoun Demirjian​, Feb. 7, 2019 (print edition). Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) outlined a five-point plan for the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation, encompassing Russia’s election interference and the question of whether foreign governments have leverage over President Trump, his relatives or associates.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lashes out as Democrats step up inquiries of him and his administration, Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim, Feb. 7, 2019 (print edition). With hearings on presidential tax returns and family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border, the lights are set to shine brightly on a president who has, until now, faced little scrutiny from a Republican Congress. President Trump called Democratic investigations into his administration and business “ridiculous” and “presidential harassment.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in turn accused the president of delivering an “all-out threat” to lawmakers sworn to provide a check and balance on his power.

Related story: Washington Post, ‘Unlimited Presidential Harassment’: Trump takes fresh aim at DemocratsJohn Wagner, Feb. 7, 2019. President Trump took fresh aim Thursday at House Democrats, claiming they were going “nuts” with unprecedented investigations into his administration and businesses.

Virginia Scandals

washington post logoWashington Post, Sergei Millian, identified as an unwitting source for Steele dossier, sought proximity to Trump’s world in 2016, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Feb. 7, 2019. Democratic lawmakers plan to renew efforts to interview the Belarus-born businessman. Around the time of President Trump’s inauguration, two of his supporters met to toast the new administration at the Russia House, a Washington restaurant known among Russian diplomats and emigres for its vodka and caviar.

The Dupont Circle spot was suggested by Sergei Millian, according to onetime Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who said he met with the Belarus-born businessman there.

The get-together followed months of outreach Millian had made to the young aide — including offering him a lucrative consulting contract to work simultaneously for Trump and an unidentified Russian, which Papadopoulos said he rebuffed. FBI agents later pressed Papadopoulos about his relationship with Millian, Papadopoulos’s lawyers have said.

The interactions between the two men — the extent of which have not been reported previously — show how Millian, a self-described real estate developer who served as an unwitting source of information for former British spy Christopher Steele, was in closer proximity to Trump’s world than previously known.

Justice Department Disputes

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr’s attorney general nomination clears Senate panel. If confirmed, he would oversee Mueller probe, Matt Zapotosky​, Feb. 7, 2019. The procedural step sets the stage for William P. Barr’s confirmation vote next week before the entire Senate.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday along party lines to advance William P. Barr’s nomination to become attorney general, a procedural step that sets the stage for his confirmation vote next week before the entire Senate.

Because Republicans control the Senate, Barr is likely to be confirmed easily — though potentially without any Democratic support. At the Judiciary Committee’s hearing Thursday, all 10 panel Democrats voted against moving the nomination forward, while all 12 Republicans voted to advance it.

Democrats said they were particularly concerned that Barr would not specifically commit to letting the public see whatever report results from the special-counsel investigation into President Trump’s campaign.

“They paid for it,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who has co-sponsored a bill requiring the findings be released. “They deserve to see everything that’s in it.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Whitaker says he won’t testify before House panel unless Democrats drop subpoena threat, Karoun Demirjian and Devlin Barrett, Feb. 7, 2019. The House Judiciary Committee voted to give its chairman the authority to subpoena the acting attorney general, should he fail to appear or answer lawmakers’ questions.

matthew whitaker headshot recentActing Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker, left, said he will not appear before Congress on Friday without assurances that he won’t be subpoenaed — giving Democrats a deadline of 6 p.m. Thursday to respond.

Whitaker’s move came shortly after the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to give its chairman the authority to subpoena Whitaker’s testimony, should he not appear or answer lawmakers’ questions.

[Read the Justice Department’s letter to the House Judiciary Committee]

The confrontation highlights efforts by Democrats to assert their newfound control of the House of Representatives as a check on the Trump administration’s power, and the administration’s determination to push back against congressional investigations decried by the president. However the Whitaker subpoena standoff ends, it may set the tone for months or years more of wrangling between the White House and congressional Democrats.

Alliance for Justice, Opinion on Justice in the Trump Era, H.R. 1 and Brett Kavanaugh, Bill Yeomans, Feb. 7, 2019. Democrats are kicking off the new Congress with hearings on H.R. bill yeomans afj cropped Custom1, the For the People Act of 2019. The bill contains a blueprint for strengthening democracy through reforms in voting, campaign finance, and ethics in all three branches of government. It is massive, ambitious and long overdue. The bulk of the bill addresses access to the ballot and how to make those votes meaningful.

Buried deep in the lengthy proposal, however, there appears a longstanding proposal, discussed in excellent testimony, to subject Supreme Court justices to a code of conduct for the first time. That provision provides the occasion for a crucial examination of the health of the Supreme Court, including the challenges raised by its newest member.

Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by a Senate in which partisan fealty and a commitment to radically conservative ideology steamrolled concern about the integrity of the Court. The severely truncated process installed a nominee who was credibly accused of sexual assault. He lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee about a range of other matters, from his denial that he knowingly received memos stolen from Democratic Judiciary Committee staffers to the meaning of entries in his high school yearbook. His hearing proceeded without production of 90% of his official paper trail and the FBI was not permitted to conduct a full probe of the sexual assault allegations against him. His second appearance before the committee featured angry, partisan, injudicious attacks – by the nominee. The process left a bitter aftertaste for anyone concerned about the future of the Court.

H.R. 1 offers the opportunity to put that aftertaste to work. Kavanaugh serves as the poster child for reforms to the Court’s ethics. Kavanaugh’s confirmation cemented the image of the Court as a profoundly political institution. It continued the decades-long alliance between conservative politicians and the conservative legal movement to stock courts – and particularly the Supreme Court – with judges and justices who would apply conservative legal ideology to implement a conservative political agenda.

Feb. 6

 ny times logoNew York Times, Firms Recruited by Paul Manafort Are Investigated Over Foreign Payments, Kenneth P. Vogel, Feb. 6, 2019 (print edition). Prosecutors are looking into foreign payments to top law and lobbying firms recruited by Mr. Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, to improve the image of the Russia-aligned president of Ukraine.

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Maria Butina’s boyfriend Paul Erickson has just been arrested in the Trump Russia scandal – and it’s a big deal, Bill Palmer, Feb. 6, 2019. Everyone is waiting to see if Special Counsel Robert Mueller arrests Donald Trump Jr next, and the SDNY is aggressively making moves against seemingly everyone in Donald Trump’s orbit. Even as this plays out, the U.S. Attorney’s office for South Dakota of all places just got in on the Trump-Russia scandal action, arresting Paul Erickson.

bill palmer report logo headerPaul Erickson is best known as the boyfriend of confessed Russian spy Maria Butina (shown in file photos above). Erickson is also a Republican Party operative with deep ties to the party. Various media reports have asserted that Erickson was knee-deep in working with the Kremlin around the time of the 2016 election.

For now, the Feds in South Dakota have merely indicted Erickson in a fraud scheme in which he allegedly scammed people in wheelchairs by promising them fake toilets, and he pretended to build a bunch of homes in nearby North Dakota, according to the Daily Beast. None of this has anything to do with Trump-Russia, of course, but it doesn’t have to. These are the kinds of felonies that usually result in comparatively swift and easy convictions.

melania trump twitterVanity Fair, “I Am Disgusted”: Behind the Scenes of Trump’s Increasingly Scrutinized $107 Million Inauguration, Emily Jane Fox, Feb. 7, 2019. Stephanie Winston Wolkoff was the mastermind event producer behind Trump’s inaugural celebration, which has since come under S.D.N.Y. investigation. Now, taped conversations reveal Wolkoff’s concerns with how money was being spent, the general chaos of the process, the involvement of the Trump family, and the people in charge, namely Rick Gates and Tom Barrack.


Feb. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: If Trump declares a national emergency, Pelosi can jam Republicans. Here’s how, Greg Sargent, Feb. 4, 2019. Senate Republicans appear to be in a panic about President Trump’s threat to declare a national emergency to realize his unquenchable fantasy of a big, beautiful wall on the southern border. Republicans are reportedly worried that such a move could divide them, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky., left) has delivered that warning to Trump in private conversations.

mitch mcconnell2Republicans have good reason to be deeply nervous. Here’s why: According to one of the country’s leading experts on national emergencies, it appears that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) can trigger a process that could require the GOP-controlled Senate to hold a vote on such a declaration by Trump — which would put Senate Republicans in a horrible political position.

Trump reiterated his threat to declare a national emergency in an interview with CBS News that aired over the weekend. “I don’t take anything off the table,” Trump said, adding in a typically mangled construction that he still retains the “alternative” of “national emergency.”

nancy pelosiBut Pelosi (right) has recourse against such a declaration — and if she exercises it, Senate Republicans may have to vote on where they stand on it.

The Post reports that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has privately told Trump that a national emergency is “viable,” and officials at the Army Corps of Engineers are searching for ways to build the wall. This would be challenged in the courts, which would have to decide whether the statute Trump invoked actually does authorize this type of spending.

But Pelosi has a much more immediate way to challenge Trump’s declaration. Under the National Emergencies Act, or NEA, both chambers of Congress can pass a resolution terminating any presidentially declared national emergency.

Global News

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washington post logoWashington Post, While E.U. tries to bypass U.S. sanctions on Iran, Trump administration turns up heat, Griff Witte and Erin Cunningham, Feb. 4, 2019 (print edition. To be a European company with links to Iran in the age of American sanctions can mean dealing with challenges that verge on the existential.

Truthdig via OpEdNews, Opinion: Goodbye to the Dollar, Chris Hedges, Feb. 4, 2019. The inept and corrupt presidency of Donald Trump has unwittingly triggered the fatal blow to the American empire-the abandonment of the dollar as the world's principal reserve currency.

Nations around the globe, especially in Europe, have lost confidence in the United States to act rationally, much less lead, in issues of international finance, trade, diplomacy and war. These nations are quietly dismantling the seven-decade-old alliance with the United States and building alternative systems of bilateral trade. This reconfiguring of the world's financial system will be fatal to the American empire, as the historian Alfred McCoy and the economist Michael Hudson have long pointed out. It will trigger an economic death spiral, including high inflation, which will necessitate a massive military contraction overseas and plunge the United States into a prolonged depression. Trump, rather than make America great again, has turned out, unwittingly, to be the empire's most aggressive gravedigger.

donald trump make great logoThe Trump administration has capriciously sabotaged the global institutions, including NATO, the European Union, the United Nations, the World Bank and the IMF, which provide cover and lend legitimacy to American imperialism and global economic hegemony.

john bolton youtube guardianThe U.S. intervention in Venezuela, the potential trade war with China, the withdrawal from international climate accords, leaving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the paralysis in Washington and disruptive government shutdown and increased hostilities with Iran bode ill for America. American foreign and financial policy is hostage to the bizarre whims of stunted ideologues such as Mike Pompeo, John Bolton (right) and Elliott Abrams. This ensures more global chaos as well as increased efforts by nations around the globe to free themselves from the economic stranglehold the United States effectively set in place following World War II.

U.S. Politics

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President Trump rallying supporters (White House photo)

Wayne Madsen Report via OpEdNews, Commentary: Trump's vision of a single cultish political party, Wayne Madsen (commentator, former Navy intellience officer and author of 16 wayne madsen trumps bananas coverbooks, including his latest, Trump's Bananas Republic), Feb. 4, 2019. Donald Trump's vision of a country with a single political party pledging total loyalty to him, and only him, took a step closer to reality on January 25 after the Republican National Committee (RNC) voted to approve a resolution declaring its "undivided support" for Trump in the 2020 presidential election. The RNC move was designed to thwart any other Republican presidential hopeful from challenging Trump for the GOP nomination.

On January 26, Trump tweeted his thanks to the RNC: "Thank you to the Republican National Committee, (the RNC), who voted UNANIMOUSLY yesterday to support me in the upcoming 2020 Election. Considering that we have done more than any Administration in the first two years, this should be easy. More great things now in the works!"

rnc logoAlthough Trump's boast about his accomplishments to date is a lie, the RNC's move set about a chain of actions among Republican state-level parties to cancel primaries and caucuses.

In a number of states, the Republican Party leadership has been seized by Trump loyalists who are opposed to any attempt by a GOP moderate challenger to Trump, for example, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland or Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, to mount primary and caucus challenges. This is especially the case in South Carolina, Kansas, Arizona, and Florida.

 U.S. Election Integrity

washington post logoWashington Post, In N.C., a Trump appointee’s crackdown on alleged voter fraud focused on prosecuting immigrants, Amy Gardner, Beth Reinhard and Alice Crites, Feb. 4, 2019 (print edition). The decision to prioritize prosecution of noncitizens over looking into ballot-tampering allegations in Bladen County comes amid a push by the president and other Republicans to portray illegal voting as a widespread phenomenon.

Inside DC

ny times logorobert mueller full face fileNew York Times, Will the Mueller Report Be Made Public? Trump Won’t Commit, Katie Rogers, Feb. 4, 2019 (print edition). In an interview on CBS, President Trump would not say whether he would push to release the results of the inquiry by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III (shown at right). The law does not require the Justice Department to release a report, and Mr. Mueller has been silent on the issue.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘It’s way too many’: Senators grow concerned as vacancies pile up in Trump administration, Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim, Feb. 4, 2019 (print edition). From Veterans Affairs to the Justice Department, vast swaths of the government have top positions filled by officials serving in an acting capacity — or no one at all.

Media Trends

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How the media can cover Trump without being manipulated, Jill Abramson (shown at right, journalist and author of the new book Merchants of Truth”), Feb. 4, 2019 (print edition. The news media’s collective shock that Donald Trump won in 2016 was evidence of how out of touch most reporters were jill abramsonwith the less affluent, less educated, rural parts of the country, where white voter rage galvanized into votes that made him the 45th president.

I was powerfully moved by a recent article in the New Yorker about journalism by LBJ biographer Robert Caro. He described how he couldn’t really understand President Lyndon B. Johnson’s native Texas Hill Country until he and his wife actually moved there from New York City for three years. The locals had a derisive name for the reporters who parachuted in and out: “portable journalists.”

Mueller Probe

BuzzFeed News, Investigation: A Lobbyist At The Trump Tower Meeting Received Half A Million Dollars In Suspicious Payments, Emma Loop, Anthony Cormier, Jason Leopold, Tanya Kozyreva, and John Templon, Feb. 4, 2019. A bank flagged transactions, including large cash deposits, made before and after Rinat Akhmetshin attended the 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

A Russian-born lobbyist who attended the controversial Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 received a series of suspicious payments totaling half a million dollars before and after the encounter.

Documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News show that Rinat Akhmetshin, a Soviet military officer turned Washington lobbyist, deposited large, round-number amounts of cash in the months preceding and following the meeting, where a Russian lawyer offered senior Trump campaign officials dirt on Hillary Clinton.

The lobbyist also received a large payment that bank investigators deemed suspicious from Denis Katsyv, whose company Prevezon Holdings was accused by the US Justice Department of laundering the proceeds of a $230 million Russian tax fraud.

The Trump Tower meeting and those who attended it have become a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into whether the president’s campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. As part of that inquiry, banks were asked to pull financial information on the meeting attendees, and investigators at Wells Fargo handed over documents on Akhmetshin to the US Treasury in 2017. Those records were passed to Mueller's team, but Peter Carr, a spokesperson for the special counsel, declined to say whether the transactions are under investigation. Congressional investigators also requested the financial information from the Treasury Department.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Prison bells chime for Donald Trump Jr and Jared Kushner, Bill Palmer, Feb. 4, 2019. Donald Trump Jr. (shown in a file photo, right) and Jared Kushner just got the worst news possible. donald trump jr fileWe all knew it was coming eventually, but now it’s a reality. The House Intelligence Committee has scheduled a vote for this Wednesday, just forty-eight hours from now, on turning over the Trump-Russia testimony transcripts to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. This appears to be the final piece of the puzzle in the long awaited indictments and arrests of both these goons. So now what?

bill palmer report logo headerBack when corrupt Trump puppet Devin Nunes was in charge of the House Intel Committee, he encouraged everyone in the Trump-Russia scandal to come in and profess innocence, so he could then announce that they had all been “cleared.” This was the dumbest plot of all time, because not only did Nunes’ declaration carry no legal weight, it also resulted in these people committing felony perjury.

We’ve already seen Kushner repeatedly lie on his security clearance forms, also a felony. So it’s not too difficult to figure out that Kushner almost certainly lied to the committee as well.

Feb. 3

washington post logoPresident Donald Trump officialWashington Post, ‘A watershed moment’: Trump faces crossroads amid mounting threats on all sides, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Toluse Olorunnipa, Feb. 3, 2019. As the president prepares for his State of the Union address, advisers say the West Wing has the feel of Trump Tower, where Trump had absolute control over his family business and was free to follow his impulses.

The Intercept, Commentary: NBC News, to Claim Russia Supports Tulsi Gabbard, Relies on Firm Just Caught Fabricating Russia Data for the Democratic Party, Glenn Greenwald, Feb. 3 2019. NBC News published a predictably viral story Friday, claiming that “experts who track websites and social media linked to Russia have seen stirrings of a possible campaign of support for Hawaii Democrat Tulsi Gabbard.”

But the whole story was a sham: The only “expert” cited by NBC in support of its key claim was the firm New Knowledge, which just got caught by the New York Times fabricating Russian troll accounts on behalf of the Democratic Party in the Alabama Senate race to manufacture false accusations that the Kremlin was interfering in that election.

To justify its claim that Gabbard is the Kremlin’s candidate, NBC stated, “analysts at New Knowledge, the company the Senate Intelligence Committee used to track Russian activities in the 2016 election, told NBC News they’ve spotted ‘chatter’ related to Gabbard in anonymous online message boards, including those known for fomenting right-wing troll campaigns.”

What NBC — amazingly — concealed is a fact that reveals its article to be a journalistic fraud: That same firm, New Knowledge, was caught just six weeks ago engaging in a massive scam to create fictitious Russian troll accounts on Facebook and Twitter in order to claim that the Kremlin was working to defeat Democratic Senate nominee Doug Jones in Alabama. The New York Times, when exposing the scam, quoted a New Knowledge report that boasted of its fabrications: “We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the [Roy] Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet.'”

Axios, Investigation: Insider leaks private Trump schedules; "executive time" dominates, Jonathan Swan, Feb. 3, 2019. A White House source has leaked nearly every day of President Trump's private schedule for the past 3 months to Axios' Alexi McCammond.

Why it matters: This unusually voluminous leak gives us unprecedented visibility into how this president spends his days.

• We've published every page of the leaked schedules in the story that accompanies this item. To protect our source, we retyped the schedules in the same format that West Wing staff receives them.
• The schedules, which cover nearly every working day since the midterms, show that Trump has spent around 60% of his scheduled time over the past 3 months in unstructured "Executive Time."

What the schedules show: Trump, an early riser, usually spends the first 5 hours of the day in Executive Time. Each day's schedule places Trump in "Location: Oval Office" from 8 to 11 a.m.

• But Trump, who often wakes before 6 a.m., is never in the Oval during those hours, according to 6 sources with direct knowledge.
• Instead, he spends his mornings in the residence, watching TV, reading the papers, and responding to what he sees and reads by phoning aides, members of
Congress, friends, administration officials and informal advisers.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Sought a Loan During the 2016 Campaign. Deutsche Bank Said No, David Enrich, Jesse Drucker and Ben Protess, Feb. 2, 2019. Donald J. Trump turned to the German bank to borrow millions of dollars that would go to his golf resort in Scotland. Senior officials at the bank believed that Mr. Trump’s divisive candidacy made such a loan too risky, sources said.

Donald J. Trump was burning through cash.

deutsche bank logoIt was early 2016, and he was lending tens of millions of dollars to his presidential campaign and had been spending large sums to expand the Trump Organization’s roster of high-end properties.

To finance his business’s growth, Mr. Trump turned to a longtime ally, Deutsche Bank, one of the few banks still willing to lend money to the man who has called himself “The King of Debt.”

Mr. Trump’s loan request, which has not been previously reported, set off a fight that reached the top of the German bank, according to three people familiar with the request. In the end, Deutsche Bank did something unexpected. It said no.

Senior officials at the bank, including its future chief executive, believed that Mr. Trump’s divisive candidacy made such a loan too risky, the people said. Among their concerns was that if Mr. Trump won the election and then defaulted, Deutsche Bank would have to choose between not collecting on the debt or seizing the assets of the president of the United States.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Deutsche Bank has sold out Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Feb. 3, 2019. For the past two years, investigators around the world have been gradually closing in on Deutsche Bank over its key role in a massive Russian money laundering scheme that very much appeared to have served as the vehicle for how the Kremlin has been keeping Donald Trump afloat financially. Deutsche Bank has been cooperating incrementally, but apparently insufficiently, as evidenced by the German government’s recent raid on its headquarters. Now Deutsche is finally selling Trump out.

bill palmer report logo headerFor several years, even as Donald Trump repeatedly went broke, and banks around the world were increasingly unwilling to lend him more money, Deutsche Bank in Germany was singularly eager to keep stuffing large sums of money into Trump’s wallet. Combine this with Deutsche Bank’s 2017 bust for laundering Russian money into the hands of clients in places like Trump’s hometown of New York City, and it’s not difficult to parse that the “loans” were merely a front for the Kremlin funneling money to Trump.

deutsche bank logoThe question now is whether Deutsche Bank has sold Donald Trump out voluntarily. Yesterday the New York Times reported that during the 2016 election cycle, Trump tried to borrow even more money from Deutsche Bank, but it rejected the request, for fear that Trump would become president and then use the office to find a way to not have to pay the loan back. Here’s the thing. There are only two possible sources for this story. One is Deutsche Bank itself. The other potential source would be criminal investigators who have seized the bank’s records.

January 2019 Update

Jan. 30

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A big Trump case hinges on the definition of ‘emoluments.’ A new study has bad news for him, Aaron Blake, Jan. 30, 2019 (print edition). President Trump is dealing with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, a new Democratic House majority and a series of controversies. Lurking behind it all is a slow-moving legal case trying to establish whether Trump is violating the Constitution by accepting foreign money at his hotel.

A new study suggests he might be.

The study concerns the “emoluments clause” case, which was brought by the attorneys general in Maryland and the District of Columbia. The case seeks to show Trump is violating the portion of the Constitution barring a public official from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” The case has progressed further than some experts predicted, with a U.S. district judge last year allowing it to proceed and launching the discovery process, in which Trump’s business dealings can be revealed.

Perhaps the biggest unresolved question hanging over the whole thing is this: What exactly is an “emolument"?

The study from Clark D. Cunningham at Georgia State University and Jesse Egbert of Northern Arizona University uses a scientific method called “corpus linguistics” that combines traditional linguistics with large sets of data, in the form of contemporary written texts.

Studying 138 million words written between 1760 and 1799, the researchers found more than 2,500 uses of “emolument” or “emoluments."

U.S. Justice System / Politics

william barr senate hearing cnn screengrab jan 15 2019

William Barr, President Trump's nominee for Attorney General, testifies during his Senate confirmation hearing on Jan. 15 (screenshot).

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate panel postpones William Barr’s confirmation vote amid Democrats’ concerns, Karoun Demirjian, Jan. 30, 2019 (print edition). A planned Senate Judiciary Committee vote on William P. Barr’s nomination to serve as attorney general has been delayed, as Democrats continue to raise concerns about whether he would allow special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to finish his probe and publicize the results unimpeded.

The delay, which is customary for high-profile nominations, is not expected to impede Barr’s chances of being confirmed by the full Senate. But it is the latest reflection of the deep partisan tension surrounding Barr’s nomination, most of which centers on Democrats’ desire to protect Mueller’s probe from being unduly constrained.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Why did Kamala Harris withhold support for special investigations of police shootings? Salvador Rizzo Jan. 30, 2019. kamala harris portraitBefore she was a senator, Harris was the state attorney general of California. Before that, she was the San Francisco district attorney and a prosecutor in Alameda County.

Now Harris is running for president, and a big question out of the gate is: Was she a good cop or a bad cop?

Harris was attorney general, the top law enforcement officer in the state, from 2011 to 2017. The Black Lives Matter movement emerged during this time, just as police shootings of unarmed African Americans across the country, and disproportionate use of force against minorities, became major issues receiving widespread coverage.

At a town hall event that drew nearly 2 million viewers, CNN host Jake Tapper (below left) asked why Harris had opposed a bill to jake tapper sxsw 2017ensure independent investigations when police use fatal force.

Several states say such investigations are a best practice, and a task force established by President Barack Obama in 2015 recommended policies that “mandate the use of external and independent prosecutors in cases of police use of force resulting in death, officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death, or in-custody deaths.”

In response, Harris told Tapper that she never took a position on any bill or ballot initiative because of her duties as attorney general. But that is not accurate. She took positions on a range of pending bills and at least one proposed ballot initiative, according to her archived news releases. (We found more than a dozen examples.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Chris Christie rips Kushner’s dad: ‘One of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes that I prosecuted,’ Michael Brice-Saddler, Jan. 30, 2019 (print edition).  Chris Christie shreds Kushner’s dad for ‘disgusting’ crimes. Former New Jersey governor Chris chris christie cover let me finishChristie took several shots at White House senior adviser Jared Kushner in his new book Let Me Finish, alleging that in an act of spite, Donald Trump’s son-in-law coordinated his removal from the president’s transition team shortly after the 2016 election.

He claims Kushner (below left) was still "seething” from events that took place more than a decade prior — when Christie, as a U.S. attorney, prosecuted Kushner’s father, Charles, for tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign contributions, sending the elder Kushner to prison for 14 months.

The former governor did not mince words while discussing the case Tuesday:

jared kushner head shot“Mr. Kushner pled guilty, he admitted the crimes. So what am I supposed to do as a prosecutor?” Christie asked. “If a guy hires a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law, and videotapes it, and then sends the videotape to his sister in an attempt to intimidate her from testifying before a grand jury, do I really need any more justification than that?”

He added, “It’s one of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes that I prosecuted when I was U.S. attorney,” Christie said during a segment with PBS’s “Firing Line With Margaret Hoover.” “And I was a U.S. attorney in New Jersey, Margaret — so we had some loathsome and disgusting crime going on there!”

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats tap Georgia’s Stacey Abrams to deliver the response to Trump’s State of the Union address, Felicia Sonmez and Vanessa Williams, Jan. 30, 2019 (print edition). Democrats have tapped Georgia’s Stacey Abrams to deliver the response to President Trump’s State of the Union address, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced Tuesday.

stacey abrams campaignAbrams (shown at right in a campaign ad) narrowly lost the state’s race for governor in November after a lengthy dispute over blocked votes. She will address the nation in a prime-time speech shortly after Trump finishes his address to a joint session of Congress next Tuesday night.

In a statement announcing the decision, Schumer (D-N.Y.) praised the Georgia Democrat as “a present and future leader in this country.”

Jan. 29

Palmer Report, Opinion: Down goes Matthew Whitaker, Bill Palmer, Jan. 29, 2019. Yesterday, illegitimate Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker stepped up to the podium under the lights, and promptly melted – literally. Buckets of sweat came off the guy’s head as he nervously fumbled his way through a press conference that was supposed to be about a Chinese tech company. Then we found out why.

bill palmer report logo headerMatt Whitaker was inevitably asked about the Robert Mueller investigation. He responded by half-coherently claiming that Mueller’s investigation is all but done, and that he’s expecting Mueller’s report very soon.

Uh, wait a minute. We think that, after Roger Stone’s arrest, Donald Trump told Whitaker to go out there and say this as a way of feeding Trump’s delusions that Mueller is about to exonerate him any day now. Others think Whitaker accidentally gave something away. But whether it’s true or not, Whitaker can’t publicly say something like that without being seen as improperly meddling in the investigation.

Daily Beast, How the Proud Boys Became Roger Stone’s Personal Army, Kelly Weill, Jan. 29, 2019. The dirty trickster started his initiation last year. Now the ‘Western chauvinist’ group has his back against Mueller and the media. When Roger Stone waived his Nixonian salute on the steps of a federal courthouse in Florida last week following his arrest on the orders of Robert Mueller, he was joined by some unusual supporters: the Proud Boys.

On Tuesday, Stone was arraigned in a Washington, D.C. courthouse on charges he lied about dealings with WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign in 2016. Stone has spent the past two years as the most outlandish character in the Trump-Russia saga, with his colorful quotes and flamboyant wardrobe. At the same time, he’s grown tighter with the violent ultra-nationalist group, hiring them as security and participating in the group’s videos—even repeating its slogan.

With Trumpworld distancing itself from Stone, it was up to Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio to defend him.

“This whole investigation started with the Russia collusion thing. These charges today are just obstruction, nothing to do with that… I believe nothing’s gonna come of it. I believe some of it is manufactured,” Tarrio told The Daily Beast in Florida on Friday.

On Tuesday morning in D.C., a handful of Proud Boys gathered outside, holding signs “Roger Stone did nothing wrong” and promoting InfoWars. The Proud Boys got in arguments with Stone hecklers and were separated by police.

The Proud Boys are a neo-fascist group that glorifies violence against opponents, particularly on the left. Designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the group and its members have been involved in a series of bloody brawls across the country over the past three years, leading to the recent departure of founder Gavin McInnes.

Taking McInnes' place is Tarrio, who is especially close to Stone. They appeared together on Friday outside of court. On Sunday, Tarrio was photographed entering Stone’s house. Last month, Stone filmed a video with Tarrio where he told the group to “keep the faith.”

Tarrio’s Proud Boys count Stone as one of their own. The group posted a video last February showing Stone completing what has been described by the group as a low-level initiation. “Hi, I’m Roger Stone. I’m a Western chauvinist. I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.”

The Guardian, Let Me Finish review: Everybody hates Chris Christie – and he hates Jared Kushner, Lloyd Green, Jan. 29, 2019. The former chris christie cover let me finishNew Jersey governor spares Donald Trump but lashes out at everyone else. The result is a political tour de farce.

Chris Christie failed to a win a single delegate in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, and garnered less than 1% of the votes cast in the GOP primary. He then left the New Jersey governor’s mansion with a 14% approval rating. Let Me Finish, his bombshell of a book, could just as easily have been titled Everybody Hates Chris.

In time for the second anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration, Christie drops a dollop of revenge, chilled to malevolent perfection, Jared Kushner his primary target. Like most tell-alls, Let Me Finish is an exercise in score-settling, albeit one written from the realm of a dystopic presidency.

But what sets Let Me Finish apart is that it is authored by an elected official whom Trump offered several cabinet-levels positions – just not the ones Christie coveted, like attorney general. Christie was frequently, but not always, in the room where it happened. And so, Let Me Finish is a self-serving, fascinating and informative read.

For the second anniversary of Trump’s inauguration, Christie drops a dollop of revenge, chilled to malevolent perfection

From the get-go Kushner is the bane of Christie’s political existence. In his opening pages, Christie recalls how Steve Bannon came to fire him as the head of the transition, and in the process Christie extracted a confession that Bannon was only doing Kushner’s bidding.

“The kid’s been taking an ax to your head with the boss ever since I got here,” said Bannon.

Long story short, Christie, a former federal prosecutor under George W Bush, sent Charles Kushner, Jared’s father, to prison more than a decade ago for a 14-month stint. Coincidentally, that saga also involves witness tampering, tax evasion, a prostitute, a camera and a brother-in-law, all of which Kushner thought was a “family matter that should have been kept away from federal authorities”, relegated instead to the province of rabbis and beth dins.

Kushner repeatedly stuck a dagger in Christie’s ambitions and Let Me Finish is Christie’s revenge. With the assistance of Ellis Henican, jared kushner ivanka trump july 4 2017 facebooka veteran of Newsday and talk radio, Christie paints a portrait of Kushner as callow, smarmy, entitled and way over his skis. Kushner appears lacking in judgment even as he is cosseted by his family’s wealth and shielded by his father-in-law’s title. Said differently, if Kushner were not married to the boss’s daughter, he would not be anywhere near the Oval Office or still in possession of a security clearance.

Christie lays at Kushner’s feet blame for the hiring and firing of Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, and the firing of the FBI director James Comey, and thereby Trump’s ensuing legal woes. In Christie’s telling, he advised Trump to either fire Comey at the outset or be prepared to keep him. That did not happen.

Yet while Christie pours his bile on those who surround Trump, he seeks to leave the president unscathed and mostly succeeds. Critical of the initial iteration of the administration’s travel ban, Christie blames Trump’s aides and his absence from transition. In other words, had Christie been allowed to stay, Trump would have hit the ground running. Perhaps, and then only to a point. Trump is chaos incarnate.

Let Me Finish also recalls how Christie, then federal prosecutor for New Jersey, first met Trump. It was a match initiated by Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, a judge on the US court of appeals for the third circuit, which encompasses New Jersey, home of Trump’s bankrupt casinos.

As to be expected, Christie omits inconvenient details. Describing his appearance on Trump’s shortlist of vice-presidential picks, Christie lets it be known he had also been considered as a running mate by Mitt Romney in 2012. Nowhere does Christie mention that his earlier vice-presidential gambit ran aground after he was unable to quell the reservations held by Romney’s vetting team.

Throughout, Christie conveys a misplaced sense of being put upon. Unfortunately, victimhood does not suit him, not after Bridgegate or Beachgate, the time Christie and family hung out on a closed beach during a state government shutdown.

In the end, Let Me Finish is a tale of Christie’s willingness to dance with the devil and turn a blind eye when needed. He never convincingly explains why he thought Kushner would let bygones be bygones, or why he concluded that Trump was constitutionally capable of faithfully discharging the obligations of office.

Jan. 28

william barr smile fox screengrab Small

Roll Call, Barr says he’d resign rather than fire Mueller without cause, Todd Ruger, Jan. 28, 2019. Attorney general nominee (shown above in a screengrab from his confirmation hearing this month) fills in some blanks with new answers on special counsel probe, border wall, abortion. Attorney General nominee William Barr assured senators that he would not fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III without good cause or change Justice Department regulations for the purpose of firing him.

“I would resign rather than follow an order to terminate the special counsel without good cause,” Barr said in written answers to questions from Senate Judiciary Committee members released Monday.

Barr asserted his independence from the White House during his Jan. 15 confirmation hearing but he did not say that so directly, testifying only that he would “not carry out that instruction.” He also said, “Frankly it’s unimaginable to me that Bob would ever do anything that gave rise to good cause.”

That prompted several senators to ask follow-up questions about whether he would protect the Mueller-led investigation into connections between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Barr also gave more details in the written answers on several high-profile topics. Barr laid out his view of the process for making public the contents of the Mueller report at the end of the probe, though he said he does not know “what will be included in any report prepared by the special counsel, what form such a report will take, or whether it will contain confidential or privileged material.”

Barr told senators that the Justice Department regulations say that a special counsel will make a report “explaining the prosecution or declination decisions,” and that it will be handled as a confidential document similar to “internal documents relating to any federal criminal investigation.”

Immigration Scandal

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Convicted for leaving water for migrants in the desert: This is Trump’s justice, Editorial Board, Jan. 28, 2019 (print edition). A few weeks ago, federal prosecutors in Arizona secured a conviction against four humanitarian aid workers who left water in djt time crying child 6 18the desert for migrants who might otherwise die of heat exposure and thirst.

Separately, they dropped manslaughter charges against a U.S. Border Patrol agent who fired 16 times across the border, killing a teenage Mexican boy. The aid workers face a fine and up to six months in jail. The Border Patrol officer faces no further legal consequences.

That is a snapshot of twisted frontier justice in the age of Trump. Save a migrant’s life, and you risk becoming a political prisoner. Kill a Mexican teenager, and you walk free.

More On Trump Probes

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion -- Giuliani: Mobbed-up prosecutor and mayor, Wayne Madsen (investigative reporter, author, former Navy Intelligence officer), Jan. 28, 2019 (subscription required). If Donald Trump's legal mouthpiece, Rudolph Giuliani, right, appears as if he has as much at risk as his client, it is because he does.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Ted Lieu throws down the gauntlet, Bill Palmer, Jan. 28, 2019. Donald Trump had a whiny self-pitying meltdown last night which culminated with him listing off a bunch of non-accomplishments before declaring “Does anybody really think I won’t build the WALL? Done more in first two years than any President! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

ted lieuTed Lieu wasn’t having any of it, firing back with “Under the United States Constitution, you don’t get to decide if you can build your wall. Congress does. That’s why you threw a temper tantrum and shut down government for 35 days. Remember?” But he was just getting warmed up.

bill palmer report logo headerTed Lieu then turned his attention to Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who went on television and ludicrously tried to paint Donald Trump as the hero of his own disastrous government shutdown. Lieu had this message for McCarthy: “If you are going to lie, at least come up with more believable ones. We read and see the same statements by Donald Trump & his Administration that you do. You disrespect the American people by treating us like we are stupid. We are not stupid.” Not surprisingly, McCarthy had no response.

Then Donald Trump’s pretend-Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney went on television and threatened to shut down the government again in three weeks. Ted Lieu minced no words, simply calling Mulvaney “insane” and throwing down this gauntlet at Donald Trump: “No President should ever threaten harming Americans as a negotiating tactic. Ever.”

Jan. 26

roger stone cnn breitbart

Longtime Trump friend and advisor Roger J. Stone (shown on a file photo screengrab from a CNN interview)

washington post logoWashington Post, Mueller charges Stone, striking deep inside Trump’s inner circle, Devlin Barrett, Rosalind S. Helderman, Lori Rozsa and Manuel Roig-Franzia, Jan. 26, 2019 (print edition). The indictment of Roger Stone, a longtime friend of President Trump, goes further than the special counsel ever has toward answering the core question of his probe: Did Trump or those close to him try to conspire with the Kremlin?

robert mueller full face fileIn charging Stone, Mueller (right) has struck deep inside Trump’s inner circle. The indictment charges that Stone, a seasoned Republican political operative, sought to gather information about hacked Democratic Party emails at the direction of an unidentified senior Trump campaign official and engaged in extensive efforts to keep secret the details of those actions.

The 24-page document goes further than Mueller ever has toward answering the core question of his probe: Did Trump or those close to him try to conspire with the Kremlin? The indictment notes that before Stone’s alleged actions in the summer of 2016, the Democratic National Committee announced it had been hacked by Russian government operatives, implying that Stone must have known that.

It does not allege Stone conspired with anyone but suggests his mission was to find out how the stolen material would be made public — something that, on its own, would not necessarily constitute a crime.

Indicting Stone caps one of the special counsel’s longest pursuits since his appointment in May 2017, but it remains uncertain whether Mueller is nearing the end of his investigation.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Senator says Donald Trump is on the verge of getting hit with criminal charges, Bill Palmer, Jan. 26, 2019. This week’s criminal indictment and arrest of Roger Stone was about something far bigger than just Stone. The indictment omitted several of the alleged Stone crimes that Robert Mueller has been presenting to the grand jury, meaning that the case against Stone isn’t complete, and for now Mueller is simply looking to legally establish the criminal conspiracy that Stone participated in with WikiLeaks and the Donald Trump campaign.

bill palmer report logo headerVarious political pundits were able to quickly figure out that Steve Bannon was the senior Trump campaign official who instructed Roger Stone to illegally conspire with WikiLeaks. But the indictment went further by specifying that Bannon himself was instructed to have Stone do this, and Palmer Report deduced richard blumenthal portraitthat Bannon could only have taken this instruction from Donald Trump and/or a member of his family. It turns out a U.S. Senator agrees with us on this.

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, right, appeared on CNN and said this: “In my view, and probably in Robert Mueller’s view, that person, directing the senior official, had to be Donald Trump, or possibly Donald Trump Jr.” And if it was Junior, then he almost certainly ran it past his father first. Blumenthal then added that Donald Trump “is one step, maybe just a baby step, away from criminal charges.”

Jan. 25

Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone indicted in Mueller probe, Rosalind S. Helderman, Devlin Barrett and John Wagner, Jan. 25, 2019. Stone — who faces five counts of false statements along with other charges — has acknowledged exchanging messages with Guccifer 2.0, a Twitter persona that intelligence officials say was a front operated by the Russian military officers. Read the indictment.

roger stone hands waving no credit from stone cold Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Roger Stone says he won’t testify against Trump after indictment, Devlin Barrett, Rosalind S. Helderman, John Wagner and Manuel Roig-Franzia​, Jan. 25, 2019. Stone, a longtime adviser to President Trump, said he has been falsely accused by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Stone (shown above in a file photo) faces charges that he lied and tried to tamper with a witness to hide his efforts to learn about releases of Democrats’ hacked emails during the 2016 campaign.

Speaking before a raucous crowd outside the courthouse, Stone vowed to fight the case.

“I will plead not guilty to these charges. I will defeat them in court,” he said. Some in the crowd jeered and chanted “lock him up.” Others shouted support for Stone.

fbi logo“There is no circumstance whatsoever under which I will bear false witness against the president nor will I make up lies to ease the pressure on myself. I look forward to being fully and completely vindicated,” Stone said. “I will not testify against the president because I would have to bear false witness.”

With Stone’s indictment, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has struck deep inside Trump’s inner circle, charging a long-standing friend of the president. The court filing charges Stone sought to gather information about hacked emails at the direction of an unidentified senior Trump campaign official, and then engaged in extensive efforts to keep secret the details of those efforts.

john podesta emails wikileaks image

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: John Podesta: It might now be Roger Stone’s time in the barrel, John Podesta (shown above with Hillary Clinton), Jan. 25, 2019. John Podesta, the chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, served as counselor to President Barack Obama and chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.

Stone’s connection with and boasting about WikiLeaks during the campaign has always been fishy. But thanks to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, the truth is finally coming out. Friday’s indictment alleges that a senior campaign official “was directed” (and by whom?) to contact Stone about the WikiLeaks releases even after it was widely reported that they were a Russian hacking operation.

The accusations against Stone are serious. He faces a seven-count indictment: five counts of false statements, one count of obstruction and one count of witness tampering. The details of the indictment are devastating and, characteristically of Stone, quite colorful. According to the filing, Stone emailed a confederate labeled “Person 2” (identified by the media as radio host Randy Credico) to dissuade him from testifying truthfully about WikiLeaks before the House Intelligence Committee: “You are a rat. A stoolie. You backstab your friends-run your mouth my lawyers are dying Rip you to shreds” and “I am so ready. Let’s get it on. Prepare to die [expletive].” Stone instructs Person 2 to do a “Frank Pentangeli” — a character from “The Godfather Part II” who famously lies to congressional investigators — and, my nostalgic favorite, Stone paraphrases a quote from President Richard M. Nixon during the Watergate coverup: “Stonewall it. Plead the Fifth. Anything to save the plan.”

To anyone keeping abreast of the unfolding events in the Mueller investigation, this level of sleaze is not at all surprising. The walls have been closing in for some time. As a key member of Trump’s inner circle, Stone and his course of conduct during the campaign and after have exemplified a culture of cronyism and corruption that ignored all ethical standards and rewarded fabrication over the hard truth of reality.

Related stories:

washington post logo jerome corsiWashington Post, Witness in special counsel probe, former Stone associate, collected payments from Infowars through job Stone arranged, Manuel Roig-Franzia and Rosilind S. Helderman, Jan. 25, 2019 (print edition). Dr. Jerome Corsi, author and longtime right-wing pundit, shown in a file photo. Corsi also identified himself as "Person 1" in the grand jury indictment of Stone.

•  washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: 4 takeaways from the indictment, Aaron Blake,Jan. 25, 2019. In many ways, this feels like another “speaking indictment” from the special counsel. There’s a hint that something more could come. As he has in past indictments, Mueller isn’t showing us too much here. But spending so much time detailing the campaign’s interest in WikiLeaks — which speaks to Stone’s alleged lies but probably isn’t entirely necessary — does seem conspicuous. Remember that Mueller routinely includes stuff like this that comes up later — most notably with Konstantin Kilimnik’s ties to Russian intelligence and Michael Cohen’s plea to lying about Trump Tower Moscow.

• Alex Jones Show, Opinion: Exclusive update on the arrest of Roger Stone, Alex Jones, Jan. 25, 2019. The FBI conducted a dramatic pre-dawn raid on former Trump campaign advisor and War Room host Roger Stone. CNN admitted that they were waiting outside Stone’s house before the arrest due to “reporter’s instinct.” In his first statement since the arrest, Stone asserts that the indictment against him contains no evidence of Russian collusion and that special counsel Robert Mueller now has more power than President Trump.

• Palmer Report, Opinion: Roger Stone gets arrested, and it looks like Steve Bannon is next, Bill Palmer, Jan. 25, 2019. Special Counsel Robert Mueller had the FBI arrest Roger Stone this morning, and while we all knew it was coming eventually, the indictment itself may prove to be the real story here. It alleges that a senior Donald Trump campaign official was instructed to have Stone remain in communication with WikiLeaks, and report back about anything damaging to Hillary Clinton.

• Washington Examiner, Jerome Corsi confirms he is ‘Person 1’ in Roger Stone indictment, predicts he won't be charged, Kelly Cohen, Jan. 25, 2019. Conservative political commentator Jerome Corsi confirmed Friday that he is “Person 1” cited in the indictment of Roger Stone and predicted that he won't face charges. Stone, an ally of President Trump, was arrested and indicted on Friday as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The indictment outlines several communications between between Stone and “Person 1” and “Person 2” about WikiLeaks’ plans to release stolen emails from the Democratic Party during the 2016 presidential election.

"Dr. Corsi has reviewed the indictment of Roger Stone which references him as Person 1. Importantly, the Stone Indictment does not accuse Dr. Corsi of any wrongdoing and indeed this is the case. Dr. Corsi has fully cooperated with the Special Counsel and his prosecutors and testified truthfully to the grand jury, as well as during interviews with them,” Corsi said through his legal counsel, Larry Klayman and David Gray. In November, Corsi said he was rejecting a deal offered by Mueller to plead guilty to one count of perjury because he said he did not purposely lie to investigators.

Manafort Scandal

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort faces sealed hearing on allegations he lied to Mueller team after guilty plea, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner, Jan. 25, 2019. If a federal judge were to decide that the former Trump campaign chairman lied and broke his plea agreement, it could spell as much as 10 years more in prison for Manafort when his sentencing finally is set.

paul manafort mugFormer Trump campaign manager Paul J. Manafort (shown in a mug shot). The Justice Integrity Project is covering the hearing in federal court in Washington, DC.

A federal judge asked for a hearing behind closed doors before she decides whether Paul Manafort lied repeatedly to prosecutors in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, setting a hearing for Feb. 4, just days before the former Trump campaign chairman amy berman jacksonfaces sentencing in Virginia.

If U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson (left) in Washington were to decide he lied and broke his plea agreement, it could spell as much as 10 years more in prison for Manafort when his sentencing finally is set. Manafort faces a likely seven- to 10-year sentence in his related Virginia federal case, according to several legal experts.

Jackson’s decision to hold the hearing came at an hour-long hearing Friday in which prosecutors refused to rule out bringing further charges against Manafort over their accusations he lied, while saying they had no current intention or plans to do so.

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort due in court to face Mueller probe allegations he lied after pleading guilty, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner​, Jan. 25, 2019. 
A U.S. judge will weigh whether the former Trump campaign chairman breached his plea agreement by lying repeatedly to prosecutors in the special counsel probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

Jan. 18

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Disputes Report That Trump Directed Cohen to Lie, Mark Mazzetti and Sharon LaFraniere, Jan. 18, 2019. In an unusual move, the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, disputed a high-profile news report that claimed that President Trump had directed Michael D. Cohen, his longtime lawyer, to lie to Congress in 2016. Earlier, Democratic lawmakers had pledged to investigate the accusations in the BuzzFeed News article.

“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,” said the spokesman, Peter Carr.

The BuzzFeed report led to a flurry of statements by senior members of Congress before Mr. Carr’s statement who said that the allegations, if true, could be grounds for initiating impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Report that Trump ordered Michael Cohen to lie to Congress sparks Democratic outcry, Tim Elfrink, Jan. 18, 2019. Democratic leaders reacted with fury to a BuzzFeed News report that President Trump directed Cohen to lie under oath about his business interests in Russia.

michael cohen ap file croppedDemocratic leaders reacted with fury and demanded an investigation late Thursday following a new report that President Trump personally directed his former attorney, Michael Cohen, right, to lie to Congress about the president’s push for a lucrative condo project in Moscow in the lead-up to the 2016 election.

The Thursday night report from BuzzFeed News cites two unnamed federal law enforcement officials who say Cohen acknowledged in interviews with the office of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that the president directed him to deceive Congress about key facts linking Trump to the proposed deal in Russia. Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying under oath about those details.

Democrats said that if the report is accurate, Trump must quickly be held to account for his role in the perjury, with some raising the specter of impeachment.

“The allegation that the President of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date,” wrote Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Adam Schiff drops the hammer on Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Jan. 18, 2019. Last night we learned that Donald Trump instructed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about Trump Tower Moscow, and that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has the evidence to nail Trump for it.

bill palmer report logo headerThis means two things. First, Mueller is obviously about to take his big swing at Trump in short order. Second, it means the House must, and will, begin the impeachment process accordingly. Adam Schiff has something to say about that.

Congressman Adam Schiff (right), who is now in charge of the House Intelligence Committee, is in prime position to help expose Donald Trump’s Russia-related crimes. Even though the specific charge at hand here is suborning perjury, a form of felony adam schiff officialobstruction of justice, the perjury was an attempt at covering up the Trump-Russia election conspiracy.

Schiff had this to say about the latest bombshell: “The allegation that the President of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date. We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.”

Barr Confirmation Hearing

bill yeomans afj cropped CustomAlliance for Justice: Opinion: The Judiciary Committee Whiffs, William Yeomans (right, senior fellow at Alliance for Justice, which does not necessarily endorse his opinions that follow), Jan. 18, 2019. William Barr’s testimony did not surprise. He is experienced, smart, and a committed proponent of virtually unlimited presidential power.

While he sought to reassure critics by professing the importance of allowing Special Counsel Robert Mueller to complete his investigation and promising to be as transparent as the law allows when Mueller is done, he failed to commit on two of the largest issues facing his nomination: recusal from the Mueller probe and public release of Mueller’s findings.

The case for Barr’s recusal rests largely on his op-ed in support of the firing of James Comey and his curious 19-page memo criticizing Mueller’s investigation of Trump’s obstruction of justice.

While Barr argued that the memo offered a narrow interpretation of one statutorily based theory of obstruction, the language of the memo lays out a dangerously expansive view of presidential power that would seem to empower the president to interfere fatally in Mueller’s investigation. This theory of the unitary executive places all executive power within the person of the president and prevents Congress from limiting the president’s exercise of his constitutional powers.

alliance for justice logoIn view of the appearance of prejudgment created by Barr’s memo and other comments on the Mueller investigation, senators needed a commitment from Barr that he would honor the determination of neutral, career ethics officials. He could not give it.

djt handwave fileGiven the circumstances in which this nomination occurs, senators seemed far too accepting. Democrats seemed resigned to Republican unity and their own minority status.

They should have done more to demonstrate their awareness of the magnitude of the threat emanating from the White House and the need to take extraordinary measures to reassure the public and buttress the rule of law.

Bill Yeomans is the Senior Justice Fellow for Justice at Alliance for Justice. He previously taught constitutional law, civil rights, and legislation at American University Washington College of Law. He also served for 26 years in the Department of Justice, where he litigated cases involving voting rights and discrimination in employment, housing, and education, and prosecuted police officers and racially motivated violent offenders before assuming a series of management positions, including acting Assistant Attorney General. 

Trump Team Endanged Lives?

Roll Call, Pelosi spokesman says White House leaked commercial travel plans to Afghanistan, Lindsey McPherson, Jan. 18, 2019. Alternate plan was canceled after State Department warned against it. The shutdown feud between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump escalated Friday after the California Democrat’s office revealed it had made commercial travel arrangements to continue an Afghanistan trip the president tried to cancel — but the administration leaked their plans.

There was already a security risk with the speaker and her congressional delegation continuing the overseas troop visit after Trump announced Thursday where they'd be going. But the heightened threat from Trump leaking the commercial travel plans led the delegation to call off the trip for now, a Pelosi spokesman said.

“After President Trump revoked the use of military aircraft to travel to Afghanistan, the delegation was prepared to fly commercially to proceed with this vital trip to meet with our commanders and troops on the front lines,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in a statement.  “This morning, we learned that the administration had leaked the commercial travel plans as well.”

Hammill said the delegation has decided to postpone the trip “in light of the grave threats caused by the president’s action.”

Hammill said in a later tweet that multiple administration sources told Hill reporters early Friday morning that the Pelosi delegation was flying commercially. His tweet was in response to a Reuters reporter who quoted a White House official as saying the claim that the administration leaked the travel plans was “an offensive flat out lie.”

Jan. 17

Trump Probe

Buzzfeed, President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project, Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier, Jan. 17, 2019. Trump received 10 personal updates from Michael Cohen and encouraged a planned meeting with Vladimir Putin. President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.

Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.

And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.

Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the deal in testimony and in a two-page statement to the Senate and House intelligence committees. Special counsel Robert Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — widely understood to be Trump — “in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”

Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.

The Case For Impeachment

donald trump gage skidmore portrait

Donald J. Trump (Gage Skidmore photo)

atlantic logoThe Atlantic, Advocacy: The Case for Impeachment, Jeffrey Goldberg (Editor in chief, right), Jan. 17, 2018. Dear Reader : Earlier this week, I wrote to you about “Unthinkable" [subtitled "50 Moments That Define an Improbable Presidency", an Atlantic special project that catalogs some of the most outlandish and norm-breaking moments of Donald Trump’s first two years in the White House.jeffrey goldberg Small

I’m writing now to tell you that we’ve decided to bring forward the release of our next cover story, “The Case for Impeachment” by Yoni Appelbaum. We’re always hesitant to release our cover stories early, but I’m motivated to do so by two events: The Trump-caused government shutdown, unmatched in length and consequence, and the debate over whether the 45th president of the United States is secretly operating on behalf of Russia.

atlantic logoThe Atlantic, Investigative Commentary: Impeach Donald Trump, Yoni Appelbaum, March 2019 Issue, Jan. 17, 2019. On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump [shown in a Gage Skidmore photo] stood on the steps of the Capitol, raised his right hand, and solemnly swore to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. He has not kept that promise.

Instead, he has mounted a concerted challenge to the separation of powers, to the rule of law, and to the civil liberties enshrined in our founding documents. He has purposefully inflamed America’s divisions. He has set himself against the American idea, the principle that all of us — of every race, gender, and creed — are created equal.

This is not a partisan judgment. Many of the president’s fiercest critics have emerged from within his own party. Even officials and observers who support his policies are appalled by his pronouncements, and those who have the most firsthand experience of governance are also the most alarmed by how Trump is governing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rudy Giuliani: ‘I never said there was no collusion’ between Trump campaign and Russia, Allyson Chiu, Jan. 17, 2019. "Rudy Giuliani out-Giulianied himself tonight," CNN host Don Lemon said. Rudolph W. Giuliani claimed Wednesday night that he “never said there was no collusion” between President Trump’s campaign and Russia leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

rudy giuliani recentIn a remarkable, at times contentious, interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, the president’s lawyer (right) was accused of contradicting his own past statements about collusion as well as what Trump and his supporters have repeatedly asserted. On Twitter, Trump has used the phrase “no collusion” dozens of times, and a number of those instances were direct denials that his campaign was involved with the Russian government.

Giuliani’s shocking declarations — several of which Cuomo called out as being false — quickly sent the Internet into a tailspin as many wondered what could have prompted the former New York mayor to suddenly change course.

• The Fix Analysis: Giuliani just contradicted nearly all the Trump team’s past collusion denials

washington post logoWashington Post, The quintessential Trump campaign story: A bag of cash, Michael Cohen and a rigged online poll, Philip Bump​, Jan. 17, 2019. Here's a story of another payment (apart from the one to Stormy Daniels) that might skirt campaign finance laws.

We have, on Thursday, a story that perhaps serves as the best encapsulation to date of how the early days of Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency worked, a summary that, itself, seems to explain much of what happened afterward.

washington post logoWashington Post, Constitutional concerns over Trump’s D.C. hotel lease were ignored, watchdog says, Jonathan O’Connell and David A. Fahrenthold​​, Jan. 17, 2019 (print edition). The General Services Administration failed to determine whether the lease violates the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, which bar presidents from taking payments from foreign governments or individual U.S. states, the agency's inspector general said.

Jan. 15


Deep State, Bill Barr’s CIA Resume: Cover-Ups, Covert Operations, and Pardons, Jefferson Morley, Jan. 15, 2019. “I started off in Washington at the Central Intelligence Agency and went to law school at night while I was working at CIA,” recalled William Barr in a 2001 oral history for the University of Virginia.

The new Attorney General, approved by the Senate on Thursday, has what Trump might call “deep state” credentials.

Barr comes to the job as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer at a pressure-packed moment. Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has begun to disclose “the heart” of his case against President Trump’s campaign entourage: the interactions of his campaign manager Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian trained as a translator the Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU.

Not only is Barr now Mueller’s boss, he is also in charge of the FBI, where deputy director Andrew McCabe and other senior officials contemplated the possibility that the president of the United States was–and perhaps is–an agent of a foreign power.

To this subterranean power struggle, Barr brings a key asset: formative CIA experience.

Barr came to Langley in 1973. He was a 23 year graduate of Columbia with a masters in Chinese studies His resume shows he toiled at the agency by day and attended George Washington University law school at night. The Watergate scandal was ravaging the agency’s reputation and bringing down president Richard Nixon.

william barr portrait at dojAttorney General William Barr in 1991 (Credit: Justice Department)

Barr spent four formative years working in the Intelligence directorate and the Office of Legislative Counsel. He even made the acquaintance of CIA director George H.W. Bush. In 1977 Barr moved on to a prestigious clerkship for a federal judge and then a series of jobs in private practice and the Justice Department. In 1991, Bush, who had since been elected president, appointed Barr to be attorney general.

At age 41, Barr was one of the younger men ever to hold that office. He left after one year and went on to a long career in corporate law and public service. Barr now returns to his old job at the behest of a besieged president under investigation for his dealings with Russian state agents.

Will Barr protect the investigation of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller? Or will he act on a tightly argued memo in which he claimed Mueller has already exceeded his authority?

A close examination of Barr’s legal career indicates a high tolerance for presidentially sanctioned law-breaking.

In his first turn as attorney general in 1991, Barr handled three legal issues of deep concern to the CIA. He helped resolve all three issues favorably for the agency’s leaders and the president.

Barr’s decisions, it is worth remembering today, were unfavorable to law enforcement, Congress, and the voters.

Jan. 13

Mueller Probe

djt vladimir putin 7 8 2017 wh screenshot

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump kept details of meetings with Putin from senior officials in administration, Greg Miller, Jan. 13, 2019. On at least one occasion, President Trump took possession of his interpreter’s notes after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. officials said. There is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with Putin over the past two years, the officials said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Exposed: Donald Trump’s treason is so severe, he’s been hiding the worst of it from his own people, Bill Palmer, Jan. 13, 2019. From the start, Donald Trump has been rather open and casual about his treasonous relationship with Russia. During the election, he publicly asked Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, a cyber war crime. Since illegitimately taking office, he’s stood next to Putin while attacking the United States.

bill palmer report logo headerIn a stunning new bombshell from the Washington Post today, we’re learning that after Donald Trump has spoken privately with Vladimir Putin, he’s personally seized the interpreter’s notes, and ordered the interpreter not to discuss the details with anyone. It’s one thing to try to prevent such secrets from becoming public; Trump has clearly been afraid even his own complicit underlings might turn against him if they learned just how treasonous these conversations have been.

This comes just one day after the New York Times bombshell about the FBI having opened a counterintelligence investigation into Donald Trump in mid 2017. We don’t think this is a coincidence.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s wall battle could soon give way to bigger fights over Russia, impeachment, Greg Jaffe, Jan. 13, 2019. President Trump and his allies on Sunday derided recent reports that raised new questions about Trump’s interactions with Russians and their leader, Vladimir Putin.

Jan. 12

robert mueller graphic IMG 6401

ny times logoNew York Times, F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia, Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt and Nicholas Fandos, Jan. 12, 2019 (print edition). In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.

FBI logoThe investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.

Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the president’s activities before and after Mr. Comey’s firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which robert mueller full face fileMr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III [shown above in a graphic and at right in a file photo], took over the inquiry into Mr. Trump when he was appointed, days after F.B.I. officials opened it. That inquiry is part of Mr. Mueller’s broader examination of how Russian operatives interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates conspired with them. It is unclear whether Mr. Mueller is still pursuing the counterintelligence matter, and some former law enforcement officials outside the investigation have questioned whether agents overstepped in opening it.

Palmer Report, Opinion: One of Donald Trump’s people sold him out the day he fired James Comey, Bill Palmer, Jan. 12, 2019. Hours after the President Donald Trump officialrelease of the New York Times bombshell report that the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation against Donald Trump in mid 2017, we’re still sifting through the pieces and putting them into context.

The first observation here is that the FBI had solid evidentiary grounds to believe that Trump was serving as a Russian spy. The second is that one of Trump’s own people sold him out immediately after he fired Comey.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s long been reported that Donald Trump drafted a letter explaining his firing of James Comey which was highly self-incriminating, but then White House Counsel Don McGahn intervened and convinced Trump not to send it, and that the unsent letter eventually ended up in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s hands. But this new NYT expose reveals that the FBI had a copy of the letter at the time it opened the counterintelligence probe, before Mueller was even hired.

This means that one of Donald Trump’s own people immediately turned over that unsent letter to the FBI. It could have McGahn; if so, it would mean he was cooperating with the Feds even sooner than previously reported. It could have been Rod Rosenstein, who at that point had only been Deputy Attorney General for roughly two weeks. It could have been someone else. But only a small circle of Trump’s top people would have even known at the time that the letter existed.

So now we know that one or more of Donald Trump’s own top people began reporting his crimes far sooner than we previously thought. This means the FBI and Robert Mueller have had a much deeper window into Trump’s crime spree. That makes it even more likely that Mueller’s report will be nothing short of devastating for Trump, and for anyone in his circle who didn’t cooperate with the probe.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Is there a FISA warrant against Donald Trump? Bill Palmer, Jan. 12, 2019. Last night we learned that the FBI opened a rosemary collyercounterintelligence investigation into Donald Trump in May of 2017. This means that at the time, the FBI had solid evidence that Trump was a Kremlin spy. Now it’s time to ask the obvious question: has there been a FISA surveillance warrant against Trump for the past year and a half?

[Chief Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, right, a Republican nominee of then President George W. Bush, presides over the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC, also called the FISA Court.)]

bill palmer report logo headerLet’s be clear here. The FBI would absolutely have sought a FISA eavesdropping warrant against any American being investigated for acting as a foreign government spy.

In fact the Feds had FISA warrants against Paul Manafort and Carter Page during the election for that reason. So if there hasn’t been a FISA warrant against Donald Trump, the only reason would be that he’s occupying the office of President of the United States.

Jan. 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan. 7

Politico, Judge blasts lawyers for Russian firm charged by Mueller, Joseh Gerstein, Jan. 7, 2019. A judge publicly slammed the defense lawyers for a Russian company criminally charged by special counsel Robert Mueller, accusing the firm’s attorneys of submitting unprofessional and inappropriate court filings attacking Mueller’s office and of unwisely peppering legal briefs with jarring quotes taken from movies like Animal House.

“I’ll say it plain and simple: knock it off,” U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich told lawyers for the Russian company, Concord Management and Consulting, at a brief court hearing in Washington Monday morning.

The tone and content of the submissions from Concord’s combative attorneys, Eric Dubelier and Kate Seikaly, in past months has been unusual for lawyers practicing in federal court. A filing last week quoted both the British 19th Century historian Lord Acton and a slightly sanitized expletive uttered by the somewhat less erudite “Otter,” a fraternity brother in the 1970s classic Animal House.

A stern-faced Friedrich, the newest of President Donald Trump’s three appointees to the district court in Washington, made clear Monday that she was not amused by what she called the “clever quotes.” She also chastised Dubelier for ad hominem attacks on Mueller’s attorneys and other prosecutors in the case.

“I found your recent filings, in particular your reply brief filed Friday, unprofessional, inappropriate and ineffective,” the judge said. She suggested the submissions were an effort to bully her into granting pending defense motions to give the owners and officers of Concord greater access to materials Mueller’s office has turned over to permit the defense to prepare for trial.

Jan. 5

house democrat congressional committee leaders

New House Democratic committee chairs include, from left, Adam Schiff and Maxine Waters (both from California), Jerrold Nadler (NY) and Elijah Cummings (MD).

nancy pelosi oPalmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Donald Trump is truly scared of Nancy Pelosi, Bill Palmer, Jan. 5, 2019. It’s been two days since Nancy Pelosi (right) became Speaker of the House, and Donald Trump still has yet to publicly attack her. There’s a reason why.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s not Jerry Nadler who decides when to advance articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, even though Nadler is the Chairman of the committee where that’ll happen. And it’s not Elijah Cummings or Adam Schiff who will decide which of Trump’s criminal scandals to begin exposing in nationally televised hearings first, even though they’re in charge of the two committees that’ll make the biggest splash.

No, these folks all answer to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She’ll decide when Donald Trump gets impeached. She’ll decide which of his dirty laundry gets aired. She’ll be the one Trump is begging for mercy once things truly turn bad for him. While she’s an entirely fair person, she’ll show him no mercy, because he deserves none. And he knows it – which is why he’s more afraid of her than everyone else combined.

Jan. 3

Trump v. House 

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump rejects Democrats’ plan to reopen government, Damian Paletta and Erica Werner, Jan. 3, 2019 (print edition. After a meeting with congressional leaders ended with no resolution on President Trump's demands for border-wall funds, another meeting was set for Friday. But neither side offered any sign a deal was within reach, suggesting the partial government shutdown could continue indefinitely.

Trump v. Generals

 washington post logoWashington Post. Analysis: A defensive Trump calls a Cabinet meeting and uses it to boast, deflect and distract, Anne Gearan​, Jan. 3, 2018 (print edition). President Trump, 12 days into a government shutdown and facing new scrutiny from emboldened Democrats, djt handwave fileinaugurated the new year Wednesday with a Cabinet meeting. It quickly became a 95-minute stream-of-consciousness defense of his presidency and worldview, filled with falsehoods, revisionist history and self-aggrandizement.

Trump trashed his former secretary of defense, retired four-star Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, as a failure after once holding him out as a star of his administration.

“What’s he done for me?” Trump said.

He claimed to have “essentially” fired Mattis, who had surprised the White House by resigning in protest last month after the president’s abrupt decision to pull U.S. forces from Syria.

And Trump, who did not serve in the military and received draft deferments during the Vietnam War, suggested he would have made a good military leader himself.

“I think I would have been a good general, but who knows?” Trump said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump flubs his second meeting with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, Bill Palmer, Jan. 3, 2019. At least this time Donald Trump had the sense to get his butt kicked by the Democrats without television cameras in the room. Last month Trump famously met with incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and the whole world got to see Trump get outwitted.

bill palmer report logo headerNow he’s met with the Democratic leaders again, this time in private – and based on what’s leaked out, Trump arguably flubbed it even worse this time.

The Democrats are absolutely not going to give Donald Trump any funding for his racist border wall, which is also a fence, and has already been built, and has already been paid for by Mexico, or whatever nonsense Trump is pushing this time around.

native americans dcma

Without adequate language skills US immigration agents and judges are unable to communicate with the asylum seekers
(Image via, with permission via DMCA)

Strategic Culture Foundation via OpEdNews, Opinion: Fourth World Under Unprecedented Threat, Wayne Madsen, Jan. 3, 2018. Never in recent times has the Fourth World the 370 million indigenous peoples who have no states of their own been under assault, as it is now, from a combination of proto-fascist governments and resource-grabbing corporations.

The basic tenets of the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) are being undermined by governments that are serving the interests of mining and drilling companies eager to displace indigenous peoples from their natural resources, much of which are found on sacred ancestral lands.

Mr. Trump has opposed the sovereign immunity of the Native American tribes ever since the advent of casino gambling on tribal reservations. Trump, fearful of competition for his three Mafia-infused casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, did what he always does project his worst traits on to others. In the late 1990s, using a fake "pro-family" front group, the "New York Institute for Law and Society," Trump accused the St. Regis Mohawk tribe, which planned to open a casino in the New York Catskills, of being violent criminals and drug dealers. Running the dirty tricks campaign against the Mohawk tribe was Trump's longtime dark propagandist, Roger Stone. Stone commissioned media advertisements that falsely accused the Mohawk Nation, which sits astride the US-Canadian border, of smuggling liquor and cigarettes and dealing with mobsters. Stone is currently and unsurprisingly under investigation by the Department of Justice's special counsel, Robert Mueller, for 2016 political campaign and criminal conspiracy violations.

Trump's demonization of Native Americans does not stop with ancestral lands and "Indian gaming." Trump who racially slurs US Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts by calling her "Pocahontas" and his supporters' constant criticism of political refugees seeking asylum from violence in their native Guatemala omits any knowledge of who they are and why they want to live in safety in the United States. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are so ignorant about the human rights situation in Central America, they employ Spanish-speakers to deal with the asylum seekers. Yet, these unfortunate souls speak neither Spanish nor English. Many of them only speak Ixil, a Mayan language. Others speak different Mayan languages K'iche', Q'eqchi, Achi, Xinca, Mam, Kaqchekel, Yucatec Maya, Awakatek, Akateko, Jakaltek, and Q'anjob'al, among others for which there are few interpreters in government or even academia.

Without adequate language skills, US immigration agents and judges are unable to communicate with the asylum seekers.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen showed her total ignorance about the refugee situation at the border by stating at a White House briefing, "All US Border Patrol personnel in the Southwest border are bilingual every last one of them." What Nielsen failed to mention, either by design or because she is inept at her job, is that personnel bilingual in English and Spanish are not what is required at the border to deal with asylum seekers.



Dec. 30

Palmer Report, Commentary: We’ve reached the Russian arms dealer stage of Donald Trump’s Russia scandal, Bill Palmer, Dec. 30, 2018. / We did receive one crucial tidbit this weekend which could help explain a lot about the nature of the Trump-Russia scandal.

bill palmer report logo headerWe now know that during the 2016 election, Donald Trump’s campaign chairman wasn’t merely reaching out to his Kremlin overlords to try to use his position to erase the millions of dollars he owed them. According to a lengthy new expose from Time Magazine (Russian Ex-Spy Pressured Manafort Over Debts to an Oligarch), Team Kremlin was actively putting pressure on Manafort to make good on his debt.

In fact Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska sent a Russian arms dealer named Victor Boyarkin (below left) to try to collect from Manafort. victor boyarkin twitter july 2007Notably, these efforts go back to 2014.

So now we know that at the time Donald Trump hired Paul Manafort (shown in a file photo) to run his 2016 campaign, Manafort wasn’t just a guy who essentially owed millions of dollars to the Kremlin. He was a guy who was being pressured by a Russian arms dealer to find a way to make up for it.

paul manafort face nationThis means Manafort didn’t merely catch a lucky break when Trump hired him; Manafort was actively seeking out a way to help the Russians at the time he took the job.

This of course leaves the big question: can it be proven that Donald Trump knew he was hiring an indebted Russian asset to run his campaign? Paul Manafort cut a cooperating plea deal and then famously tried to sabotage it, so he’s presumably been no help in proving that Trump knew. But Manafort’s former longtime sidekick Rick Gates was right in the thick of this, and he’s been thoroughly making good on his plea deal.


roger stone hands waving no credit from stone cold Custom

Washington Examiner, Roger Stone turns on Jerome Corsi: He worked with Mueller to 'sandbag me,' Daniel Chaitin, Dec. 30, 2018. Political trickster Roger Stone (shown above in a file photo) appears to have turned on Jerome Corsi. In an Instagram post Sunday, Stone said the man he has called a "friend" was working with special counsel Robert Mueller to trap him with a perjury charge.

"So Jerry Corsi was working with Mueller to sandbag me on a fabricated perjury charge," Stone said in a post Sunday morning along with a photo of Corsi.

"Mueller’s minion even promised Corsi no jail time if he would lie and say he gave me John Podesta’s stolen e-mails (which he did NOT) Then they were going to say I passed them on to Trump (which I did NOT)," Stone added. "Jerry was willing to LIE about me but not himself! Now Jerry is lying about legitimate research he did for me regarding the Podesta brothers lucrative business in Russia."

jerome corsiAsked to clarify why he was suddenly lashing out at Corsi, Stone referred to interviews Corsi (right) has done in recent weeks in which he claimed he had told Stone and "many" others that he had figured out WikiLeaks had obtained emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, which were stolen by Russian intelligence officers.

"The assertion made by Dr. Corsi in a number of interviews that he told me that Podesta‘s emails had been stolen prior to their publication is false and there is no evidence to support it," Stone told the Washington Examiner.

Both Stone and Corsi, who have made appearances on conspiracy theory website InfoWars, are being scrutinized by Mueller's team.

Stone piqued the interests of Mueller's team with an August 2016 tweet that said, “it will soon [be] Podesta's time in the barrel.” In October 2016, WikiLeaks began publishing thousands of emails hacked from Podesta’s personal account. Stone has claimed that statement was in reference to his own investigations of Podesta and his brother, Tony.

Dec. 28

CNN, Government files sealed response to Supreme Court in mystery grand jury case, Mary Kay Mallonee, Dec. 28, 2018. The federal cnn logogovernment responded Friday to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts' issuance of a temporary pause on an order holding an unnamed, foreign government-owned company in contempt over a mystery court case related to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

The government response was filed under seal ahead of Monday's deadline.

The company asked the Supreme Court to intervene after a federal appeals court ruling that ordered the company to comply with the subpoena, which required it to turn over "information" about its commercial activity in a criminal investigation. The Supreme Court action also paused fines the company was facing for every day of noncompliance.

Roberts could now refer the matter to the full court to determine the next step.

robert mueller full face fileIt would take votes from five justices to keep in place the pause of the contempt citation if the Supreme Court decides to take up a full review of the lower court rulings.

The company's challenge of the subpoena appears to have begun in September. In its ruling this past week, the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia offered few clues about the company and its country of origin or what Mueller's team sought.

This is the first known legal challenge apparently related to Mueller's investigation to make its way to the Supreme Court.

Roberts' original order put on hold the contempt citation issued by a DC federal judge against the company for refusing to comply with a grand jury subpoena, but only long enough for the justices to decide whether they want to intervene.

Dec. 26

 ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Stupid Questions,’ Rarer Briefings, No Holiday Party: Trump’s Year With the Press, Michael M. Grynbaum, Dec. 26, 2018. The rituals of reporting on the White House, and the place of journalism in American life, continued to shift in 2018 under President Trump.

Presidents usually hold a holiday reception for the Washington press corps (even Mr. Trump acquiesced to one in 2017); this year’s edition was canceled. Presidents usually avoid criticizing American journalists on foreign soil; visiting Britain, Mr. Trump called NBC News “dishonest” and refused to take a question from Jim Acosta of CNN. (“Music to the ears of dictators and authoritarian leaders,” said an official at the Committee to Protect Journalists.)

Mr. Trump is reinventing relations between the president and the press. Next year may reveal if the changes are a blip, or permanent.
On Twitter, President Trump has used the term “Fake News” 174 times in 2018. It can be easy to forget that, two years ago, the White House press briefing took place nearly every day. The president refrained from insulting reporters on live television. And correspondents did not lose their access for showing insufficient “respect.”That’s the thing about traditions — they tend to be sacrosanct until they aren’t.

Dec. 23

OpEdNews (OEN), Commentary: Shanahan Sec of Defense Appt is Grotesque Joke; It Pierces the Veil, Rob Kall (publisher and editor-in-oenearthlogochief, shown at right), Dec. 23, 2018. The appointment of Patrick Shanahan as acting Secretary of Defense is a grotesque joke, the kind you might see in the Onion. Imagine the Onion headline: "Trump Cuts Out Middleman, Appoints Boeing Exec to Head Defense Dept to rob kall new screenshot 2018Expedite boost of Military Spending"

Shanahan (below left) never served in the military. That could be a really good thing if the right non-military person was appointed. But Shanahan has spent most of his career as a player in the military industrial complex, working at Boeing from 1986 through 2017, when he was appointed by Donald Trump as Assistant Secretary of Defense.

patrick shanahan oIt's almost like this appointment pierces the veil that the US military serves a purpose other than producing massive profits for companies within the military industrial complex.

At least with James Mattis we had someone who had some experience in the military, some experience of losing soldiers to death. Now we face a situation where we have a businessman running the military. Personally, I'd like to see Secretary of Defense be someone who is known for opposing war. That's not going to happen. It will be interesting to see how the actual military responds to this appointment.

Finally, it appears that Trump has taken a strategy of avoiding getting congressional approval of appointees by dumping people, then appointing "Acting" replacements. This should be illegal. An "Acting" Department head should only be allowed to be appointed if there is a vacancy, not because the president is firing someone.

Dec. 21

New York Magazine, Opinion: GOP Leaders Won’t Tolerate Trump’s Chaos for Much Longer, Frank Rich, Dec. 21, 2018. The beginning of the end of the Trump presidency came and went a long time ago. I have never wavered from my oft-stated convictions that (a) Trump will not finish out his term, and (b), the end will be triggered by a presidential meltdown that forces the Vichy Republicans in Washington to mount an insurrection — if only to save their own asses, not the country.

This week was a big step toward that endgame, and surely one of the most remarkable weeks in American history.

What we are likely to see in the meantime: further indictments of Trump family members and other close associates; a complete halt to governance in Washington whether there’s actually a government shutdown or not; new overt and covert threats to national security; a further effort by Trump to destabilize the Federal Reserve and assault its chairman; and perhaps, at last, an intervention by those Vichy Republicans, in the financial sector as well as in the capital, who see their own necks on the line.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Allies Fear That Traditional Ties No Longer Matter, Steven Erlanger and Jane Perlez, Dec. 21, 2018. The U.S. is withdrawing about 7,000 troops from Afghanistan. This, and the resignation, are being viewed as watershed moments for allies in Europe and Asia.

America’s allies in Europe and Asia thought they had learned to digest and compensate for the instinctive unpredictability of President Trump. But the bitter resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the abrupt announcement of plans to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan are being viewed as watershed moments for Washington’s relations with the world.

Attorney General Bill Barr and Vice President Dan Quayle with President George H. W. Bush. (Source: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum)

Attorney General Bill Barr and Vice President Dan Quayle with President George H. W. Bush. (Source: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum)

Lawfare, Bill Barr’s Very Strange Memo on Obstruction of Justice, Mikhaila Fogel and Benjamin Wittes, Dec. 20, 2018. The memo on obstruction of justice by Bill Barr, the once and future attorney general, is a bizarre document—particularly so for a man who would supervise the investigation it criticizes.

As the Wall Street Journal first reported, Barr, whom the president has nominated to succeed Jeff Sessions as attorney general, sent the unsolicited memo—dated June 8, 2018—to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to offer his view of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible obstruction of justice by the president. The document elicited questions over whether Barr would need to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation as attorney general, along with outrage from congressional Democrats: both Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking member on the Senate intelligence committee, have demanded that Trump withdraw Barr’s nomination. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary described the memo as “troubling.”

But the legal quality of the memo itself is a different question. Over at Just Security, Marty Lederman has what he describes as a “first take” on Barr’s memo, which is to say a detailed critique of it on both constitutional and statutory grounds. On National Review’s website, by contrast, Andrew McCarthy declares the memo a “commendable piece of lawyering” and “exactly what we need and should want in an attorney general of the United States.”

Whatever Barr’s memo is, it is not that. Because whether one agrees with his view of the law (as does McCarthy) or recoils at it (as does Lederman), one thing attorneys general of the United States should certainly not do is make up facts. And ironically for a memo laying out the argument that Bob Mueller has made up a crime to investigate, the document is based entirely on made-up facts.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Memo and a Recusal Decision Underscore Potential Threats to the Mueller Inquiry, Charlie Savage and Katie Benner, Dec. 20, 2018. Matthew G. Whitaker, who was installed last month as acting attorney general by President Trump, has cleared himself to supervise the special counsel’s investigation, rejecting the recommendation of career Justice Department ethics specialists that he recuse himself, according to a letter the department sent to Senate leaders on Thursday night.

The development came soon after the disclosure that the president’s nominee for attorney general, William P. Barr, had written a memo this spring in which he strongly criticized one of the main lines of inquiry by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III — whether Mr. Trump had committed obstruction of justice. Disclosure of the memo raised questions about whether Mr. Barr would order Mr. Mueller to shut down that component of the inquiry if the Senate confirmed him.

Together, the developments underscored the potential threats to Mr. Mueller’s ability to complete his work without interference at a time when his inquiry appears to be drawing closer to the White House and the president’s most trusted associates.

New York Magazine, Opinion: Now We Know Trump Picked William Barr to Shut Down Mueller’s Investigation, Jonathan Chait, Dec. 20, 2018.  william barr new oPresident Trump has repeatedly expressed his belief, in public and in private, that the attorney general should act as his personal capo, pressing investigations against his enemies and ignoring violations by his allies. And yet his choice to fill the job (after his first pick infuriated him by refusing to violate clear ethical protocols) is a relatively mainstream choice: William Barr, who held the same position under George H.W. Bush.

A partial answer to the mystery is that Barr has publicly defended Trump on several of his pet issues. He endorsed the firing of James Comey, called for investigation of the Clinton Foundation, impugned the neutrality of Robert Mueller’s investigators, and defended Trump’s practice of demanding investigations of his enemies. Barr has a record as one of the members of the Republican legal Establishment most indulgent of Trump’s conspiratorial mafia ethos.

But a new report in the Wall Street Journal suggests a more complete answer. Earlier this year, Barr wrote a lengthy memo excoriating Mueller’s investigation of Trump for obstruction of justice. Mueller’s investigation was “grossly irresponsible,” had “potentially disastrous implications,” and other choice descriptions spread over 20 pages culled from public reports. This memo was completely unsolicited.

Exactly why he wrote it is a more curious question. According to the Journal’s account, based on people “familiar with the process,” submitted copies of his anti-Mueller memo to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and to “the top lawyer representing the White House in the Mueller probe.”

NBC News, Mueller may submit report to attorney general as soon as mid-February, say sources, Pete Williams and Ken Dilanian, Dec. 20, 2018. nbc news logoMueller may submit report to attorney general as soon as mid-February, say sources. "They clearly are tying up loose ends," said a lawyer who has been in contact with the Mueller team. Where the Mueller investigation stands and what may be coming next.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is nearing the end of his historic investigation into Russian election interference and is expected to submit a confidential report to the attorney general as early as mid-February, government officials and others familiar with the situation tell NBC News.

"They clearly are tying up loose ends," said a lawyer who has been in contact with the Mueller team.

robert mueller kit fox medill flickr croppedThe sources either did not know or would not say whether Mueller, right, has answered the fundamental question he was hired to investigate: Whether Trump or anyone around him conspired with the Russian intelligence operations to help his campaign.

Mueller has not made public any evidence proving such a conspiracy, though he has rebutted in court filings the president's assertion that neither he nor any of his top aides had met or talked with Russians during the 2016 race. They did, according to Mueller; and, in the case of his lawyer's negotiations over a Trump Tower in Moscow, Trump knew about it, court filings say.

Mueller has also examined the question whether the president obstructed justice, and is expected to address that matter in his report. Whether the special counsel will accuse the president of wrongdoing on that score is unclear.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller’s final countdown officially begins, Bill Palmer, Dec. 20, 2018. For some time now, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s incremental moves have strongly suggested that he was looking to time his big endgame moves against Donald Trump to the Democratic Party takeover of the House. Now, on an evening in which the nation is in total chaos due to Trump’s increasing instability, word is surfacing about Mueller’s official countdown clock for taking Trump down.

bill palmer report logo headerOnce the Democrats take power in the House on January 3rd, Robert Mueller can begin using court filings to drop some of his biggest bombs, thus allowing the House Democrats to use public hearings to amplify and flesh out those findings. The question has been when Mueller would then reach his big finale, releasing his final report on Donald Trump’s crimes, and enabling the House to begin impeachment hearings if Trump doesn’t resign. Now we have a date, or at least a rather firm date range.

NBC News is reporting tonight that, according to inside sources, Robert Mueller is set to file his final report on Donald Trump in mid-February. That makes sense, as it’ll give Mueller and the Democratic House about five weeks to air out the worst of Trump’s dirty laundry before the final report is filed. Trump has committed so many dozens of different kinds of felonies, it’s best to spread these things out a bit, so each of his crimes gets the proper attention.

Of course this is really about convincing Donald Trump that he and his kids are going to lose all their assets and spend the rest of their lives in prison if he doesn’t very quickly negotiate a resignation deal in exchange for some kind of reduced criminal charges. Keep in mind that NBC couldn’t have gotten this timeframe tonight unless Robert Mueller decided to put it out there. Mueller is announcing to Trump that his life is over in seven weeks if he doesn’t surrender before then.

Dec. 17

Russian Cyber-Attack Reports robert mueller screenshot washington post

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, the former FBI director appointed by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama (file photo)

Washington Post, Russians targeted Mueller on social media, says report prepared for Senate, Craig Timberg, Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Dec. 17, 2018. Having worked to help get President Trump into the White House, Russian operatives turned their efforts to neutralizing the biggest threat to his staying there, according to a new report, and unloaded on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III via fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and beyond.

Months after President Trump took office, Russia’s disinformation teams trained their sites on a new target: special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Having worked to help get Trump into the White House, they now worked to neutralize the biggest threat to his staying there.

The Russian operatives unloaded on Mueller through fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter and beyond, falsely claiming that the former FBI director was corrupt and that the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election were crackpot conspiracies. One post on Instagram — which emerged as an especially potent weapon in the Russian social media arsenal — claimed that Mueller had worked in the past with “radical Islamic groups.”

Such tactics exemplified how Russian teams ranged nimbly across social media platforms in a shrewd online influence operation aimed squarely at American voters. The effort started earlier than commonly understood and lasted longer while relying on the strengths of different sites to manipulate distinct slices of the electorate, according to a pair of comprehensive new reports prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee and released Monday.

One of the reports, authored by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and network analysis firm Graphika, became public when The Washington Post obtained it and published its highlights Sunday. The other report was by social media research firm New Knowledge, Columbia University and Canfield Research.

ny times logofacebook logoNew York Times, Russian Effort to Influence 2016 Election Targeted African-Americans, Scott Shane and Sheera Frenkel, Dec. 17, 2018.  In some cases, Facebook ads were targeted at users who had shown interest in particular topics, including black history, the Black Panther Party and Malcolm X. The operation also tried to suppress Democratic turnout and unleashed a blizzard of posts on Instagram that rivaled or exceeded its Facebook operations, according to a report for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia used every major social media platform to help elect, support Trump, report says, Craig Timberg and Tony Romm​, Dec. 17, 2018 (print edition). The new report, prepared for the Senate and a draft of which was obtained by The Post, provides the most comprehensive analysis yet of the Russian disinformation campaign around the 2016 election that leveraged nearly all social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

russian flag wavingThe research -- by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and Graphika, a network analysis firm -- offers new details on how Russians working at the Internet Research Agency, which U.S. officials have charged with criminal offenses for meddling in the 2016 campaign, sliced Americans into key interest groups for targeted messaging. These efforts shifted over time, peaking at key political moments, such as presidential debates or party conventions, the report found.

washington post logo

Washington Post, Opinion: It’s the beginning of the end for the gun lobby’s power, E.J. Dionne Jr., Dec. 17, 2018 (print edition). Sometimes, dramatic shifts in American politics go unnoticed. They are buried under other news or dismissed because they represent such a sharp break from long-standing assumptions and expectations.

So please open your mind to this: Taken together, the events of 2016 and the results of the 2018 election will be remembered as the beginning of the end of the gun lobby’s power.

nra logo CustomSupporters of reasonable gun regulation have been so cowed by National Rifle Association propaganda over the past quarter-century that we are reluctant even to imagine such a thing. No matter how many innocents are slaughtered, no matter how many Americans organize, demonstrate and protest, we assume the NRA and its allies will eventually overpower us.

And let’s concede up front that the vast overrepresentation of rural states in the Senate tilts the system, undemocratically, toward those who claim that government is powerless to take meaningful steps against mass killings. The fact that Wyoming and Idaho have as many Senate votes as New York and California underscores the challenges that remain.

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Flynn’s ex-business partner charged with illegally lobbying for Turkey, Rachel Weiner​, Dec. 17, 2018. Bijan Kian is accused of acting as an agent of a foreign government for attempting to get Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen extradited from the United States. A former business partner of Michael Flynn is being charged with acting as an agent of a foreign government and conspiracy for attempting to get Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, below left, extradited from the United States.

turkey flagfetullah gulen 2016Bijan Kian made his first appearance in Alexandria federal court Monday morning. According to the indictment, Kian conspired with Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin to illegally lobby U.S. government officials and influence public opinion in the U.S. against Gulen.

Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin is accused of directing and funding Kian and Flynn’s work, and then lying in U.S. filings about his role. He is charged with the same crimes as Kian, as well as making false statements, but he remains in Turkey.

Flynn, who served as President Trump’s national security adviser during his first weeks in office, is identified in the indictment as “Person A.” Flynn is soon to be sentenced for lying to FBI agents as part of the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Prosecutors asked for no prison time for Flynn, citing his “substantial assistance.”

The Turkish government blames Gulen, who is living in exile in Pennsylvania, for instigating a failed coup in 2016.

Tabloid Media Power

ny times logoNew York Times, More Powerful Than a Russian Troll Army: The National Enquirer, Jim Rutenberg, Dec. 17, 2018 (print edition). The most powerful print publication in America might just be The National Enquirer. It functioned as a dirty-tricks shop for Donald J. Trump in 2016, which would have been the stuff of farce — the ultimate tabloid backs the ultimate tabloid candidate — if it hadn’t accomplished its goal.

The Enquirer’s power was fueled by its covers. For the better part of the campaign season, Enquirer front pages blared sensational headlines about Mr. Trump’s rivals from eye-level racks at supermarket checkout lanes across America. This stroke-of-genius distribution apparatus was dreamed up by the man who made The Enquirer the nation’s david pecker croppedbiggest gossip rag: its previous owner, Generoso Pope Jr.

The Enquirer’s racks, under the current chief, David J. Pecker, right,were given over to the Trump campaign. This was a political gift even more valuable than the $150,000 that The Enquirer paid in a “catch-and-kill” deal with the former Playboy model Karen McDougal for her story of an affair with Mr. Trump.

Wondering what The Enquirer’s covers were worth to the Trump campaign, I called Regis Maher, a co-founder of Do It Outdoors, the national mobile and digital billboard company. He said a campaign with that level of national prominence would cost $2.5 million to $3 million a month.

Dec. 15

washington post logoWashington Post, With nearly every organization Trump has led under investigation, legal threats could dominate his third year in office, David A. Fahrenthold, Matt Zapotosky and Seung Min Kim​, Dec. 15, 2018.  The ultimate consequences for the president are still unclear. But for now, Trump has been forced to spend his political capital — and that of his party — on his own defense.

​Two years after Donald Trump won the presidency, nearly every organization he has led in the past decade is under investigation.

Trump’s private company is contending with civil suits digging into its business with foreign governments and with looming state inquiries into its tax practices.

robert mueller screenshot washington postTrump’s 2016 campaign is under scrutiny by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, right, whose investigation into Russian interference has already led to guilty pleas by his campaign chairman and four advisers.

Trump’s inaugural committee has been probed by Mueller for illegal foreign donations, a topic that the incoming House Intelligence Committee chairman plans to further investigate next year.

Trump’s charity is locked in an ongoing suit with New York state, which has accused the foundation of “persistently illegal conduct.”

The mounting inquiries are building into a cascade of legal challenges that threaten to dominate Trump’s third year in the White House. In a few weeks, Democrats will take over in the House and pursue their own investigations into all of the above — and more.

Dec. 14

Trump Probes: Flynn Sentencing

michael flynn state department Custom

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn delivers remarks in early 2016 before his resignation and federal indictment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Rejects Flynn’s Attempt to Portray Himself as Victim of the F.B.I., Adam Goldman, Dec. 14, 2018. The special counsel’s office rejected on Friday a suggestion from Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, that he had been tricked into lying last year to F.B.I. agents investigating Russia’s election interference and ties to Trump associates.

sergey kislyak 2016 wProsecutors laid out a pattern of lies by Mr. Flynn to Vice President Mike Pence, senior White House aides, federal investigators and the news media in the weeks before and after the presidential inauguration as he scrambled to obscure the truth about his communications during the presidential transition with Sergey I. Kislyak, right, the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time.

Neither his lawyers nor Mr. Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, have explained why he lied to the F.B.I., a felony that he pleaded guilty to a year ago. But in a memo this week seeking leniency, his lawyers revealed details from the interview that stoked an unfounded theory that Mr. Flynn’s demeanor during questioning indicated that he did not understand that he was being formally investigated. They also blamed the F.B.I. for not informing Mr. Flynn ahead of time that lying to agents is illegal — an argument that prosecutors repudiated.

“A sitting national security adviser, former head of an intelligence agency, retired lieutenant general and 33-year veteran of the armed forces knows he should not lie to federal agents,” prosecutors for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, wrote in court papers. “He does not need to be warned it is a crime to lie to federal agents to know the importance of telling them the truth.”

fbi logoLeniency for Mr. Flynn had all but been assured after Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors recommended last week that he receive little or no prison time, crediting his cooperation with their inquiry and other investigations as well as his lengthy military service. His decision to attack the F.B.I. in his own plea for probation appeared to be a gambit for a pardon from Mr. Trump, whose former lawyer had broached the prospect last year with a lawyer for Mr. Flynn.

The president seized on the case that Mr. Flynn made against the F.B.I. in his sentencing memo, defending him on Twitter and on Fox News. “They convinced him he did lie, and he made some kind of a deal,” Mr. Trump said of investigators on Thursday during the television interview.

That contradicts the narrative that prosecutors have described in court papers. American intelligence had picked up Mr. Flynn’s conversations on wiretaps of the ambassador as part of standard surveillance. So the F.B.I. agents had evidence that Mr. Flynn was lying when he denied asking Mr. Kislyak that Russia refrain from reacting harshly to sanctions imposed by the Obama administration over election interference. He also said he did not remember Mr. Kislyak telling him that Moscow had backed off as a result of Mr. Flynn’s request.

And prosecutors revealed on Friday how far investigators had gone during the interview to give Mr. Flynn the chance to tell the truth. At one point, the F.B.I. agents repeated portions of what he had said privately to Mr. Kislyak to jog Mr. Flynn’s memory. “But the defendant never corrected his false statements,” the prosecutors wrote.

Lawyers for Mr. Flynn have tried to minimize his lying to the F.B.I. as an “uncharacteristic error in judgment.” In their sentencing memo, they also seized on the spurious theory that Mr. Flynn’s relaxed behavior was exculpatory.

“Even when circumstances later came to light that prompted extensive public debate about the investigation of General Flynn, including revelations that certain F.B.I. officials involved in the Jan. 24 interview of General Flynn were themselves being investigated for misconduct, General Flynn did not back away from accepting responsibility for his actions,” his lawyers wrote.

The theory about his body language grew out of F.B.I. memos, court papers and revelations about the interview in which the agents have revealed that Mr. Flynn appeared “relaxed and jocular” when they arrived at the White House. He offered to give them a tour, and they discussed the hotels where Mr. Flynn had stayed during the campaign and the president’s “knack for interior design,” according to court papers.

peter strzok croppedOne agent said Mr. Flynn was “unguarded” and “clearly saw the F.B.I. agents as allies,” and he readily answered questions, F.B.I. documents showed. Mr. Flynn had a very “sure demeanor” during the interview, according to the senior counterintelligence agent who interviewed him, Peter Strzok, left, who said he saw no “indicators of deception.”

But prosecutors explained his confidence not as evidence of truth-telling but as a result of the numerous dishonest accounts he had already given about his conversations with Mr. Kislyak. “By the time of the F.B.I. interview,” they wrote, “the defendant was committed to his false story.”

emmet sullivan 2012The move also prompted a quick response from the judge presiding over the case, Emmet G. Sullivan of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. He ordered that lawyers and prosecutors turn over documents related to Mr. Flynn’s Jan. 24, 2017, interview and could question Mr. Flynn during his sentencing about why he decided to revisit the circumstances of it nearly a year after pleading guilty.

Judge Sullivan, right, is wary of prosecutorial misconduct. In 2009, he dismissed the ethics conviction of former Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, and scolded prosecutors, who had withdrawn the charges, for improperly withholding evidence. He took the rare step of appointing a special prosecutor to investigate whether the prosecutors themselves should be charged.

Prosecutors also reminded the judge that Mr. Flynn had made false statements in trying to conceal lobbying work he had done on behalf of Turkey. The Turkish government had paid Mr. Flynn more than $500,000 to investigate Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who lives in Pennsylvania. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey believes that Mr. Gulen and his supporters were behind a failed coup attempt in 2016 and has repeatedly demanded the United States extradite him.

Trump Probes: Cohen Claims

michael cohen george stephanapolous dec 14 2018

ABC News, Michael Cohen talks to George Stephanopoulos: TRANSCRIPT, George Stephanopoulos, James Hill, Eliana Larramendia and Eric Avram, Dec. 14, 2018. Michael Cohen, the president's former personal attorney and fixer, said Donald Trump directed him to make payments to two women who said they had affairs with the then-candidate because abc news logoTrump "was very concerned about how this would affect the election."

A lightly edited transcript of Cohen's interview with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, which aired today on "Good Morning America," follows here:

Part 1

George Stephanopoulos: Michael, thank you for doing this.

Michael Cohen: George, good to see you.

Stephanopoulos: Emotional day in court yesterday, and I was struck by that line you had ... you said you felt like you had your freedom back.

Cohen: Yes.

Stephanopoulos: How does it feel today?

michael cohen plead guilty to 9 countsCohen: Like I have my freedom back. Though I have to be honest. It has been very rough to be before the court with my family in attendance, my mother, my father, my wife, my children, my sisters, my brother, my niece, cousins, friends, it was ... ummm, it was a very rough day.

Stephanopoulos: And then you wake up today, and the president is tweeting from very early in the morning several different things ... what struck me most is his claim that you agreed to this plea deal for this reason he said, "Those charges were just agreed to him in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence."

Cohen: I know which tweets you are talking about. First of all, it is absolutely not true. I did not do it to embarrass the president. He knows the truth. I know the truth, many people know the truth. Under no circumstances do I want to embarrass the president of the United States of America. The truth is, I told the truth. I took responsibility for my actions. And instead of him taking responsibility for his actions, what does he do? He attacks my family. And after yesterday, again being before the court and taking the responsibility and receiving a sentence of 36 months, the only thing he could do is to tweet about my family?

Stephanopoulos: He said in the tweets and repeated in an interview later on that basically he says -- his claim -- you are lying about him to protect your wife, to protect your father in-law.

Cohen: Inaccurate. He knows the truth, I know the truth, others know the truth, and here is the truth: The people of the United States of America, people of the world, don't believe what he is saying. The man doesn't tell the truth. And it is sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds.

Related story below:

washington post logo

Washington Post, Cohen says Trump knew hush-money payments were wrong, contradicting his former boss, John Wagner, Dec. 14, 2018.  'I will not be the villain': Michael Cohen's post-sentencing interview, annotated. Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, said in a television interview Friday that Trump knew it was wrong to make hush-money payments to women who alleged they had affairs with him, directly contradicting claims from the president.

michael cohen ap file croppedCohen, right, who has admitted facilitating payments to two women in violation of campaign finance laws, told ABC News that he knew what he was doing was wrong.

Asked whether the president also knew it was wrong to make the payments, Cohen replied, “Of course.” He added that the purpose was to “help [Trump] and his campaign.”

“He was very concerned about how this would affect the election,” Cohen said.

His comments, in an interview on “Good Morning America,” are at odds with those of Trump on Thursday in tweets and a television interview.

Trump Groups Probed

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Inaugural Fund and Super PAC Said to Be Scrutinized for Illegal Foreign Donations, Sharon LaFraniere, Maggie Haberman and Adam Goldman, Dec. 14, 2018 (print edition). Federal prosecutors are investigating whether President Trump’s inaugural fund and a pro-Trump super PAC received illegal foreign donations. Federal prosecutors are examining whether foreigners illegally funneled donations to President Trump’s inaugural committee and a pro-Trump super PAC in hopes of buying influence over American policy, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

The inquiry focuses on whether people from Middle Eastern nations — including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — used straw donors to disguise their donations to the two funds. Federal law prohibits foreign contributions to federal campaigns, political action committees and inaugural funds.

The line of questioning underscores the growing scope of criminal inquiries that pose a threat to Mr. Trump’s presidency. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is focusing on whether anyone in the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to tip the 2016 presidential election in Mr. Trump’s favor, while prosecutors in New York are pursuing evidence he secretly authorized illegal payments of hush money to silence accusations of extramarital affairs that threatened his campaign.

The inquiry into potential foreign donations to the inaugural fund and the super PAC is yet another front being pursued by multiple teams of prosecutors. Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a billionaire financier and one of Mr. Trump’s closest friends, raised money for both funds.

Trump Probes: Overviews

jennifer rubin new headshotwashington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The president’s no good, very bad, terrible week just got worse, Jennifer Rubin, right, Dec. 14, 2018. This was arguably the worst week (so far) of President Trump’s time in office. The incoming House speaker showed him up on national TV. He couldn’t get someone to replace John F. Kelly as White House chief of staff (though his hapless son-in-law is said to now be on the list of potential replacements). The president also was implicated (by his own Justice Department) in directing a scheme to hide hush-money payments to two former mistresses. What’s more, we learned, as Cohen did in receiving his three-year sentence, that the campaign-finance-related crimes are serious.

Meanwhile, Russian spy Maria Butina pleaded guilty. On another front, the Senate rebuked Trump on his lies about Mohammed bin Salman and his policy of unfettered support for the Saudi crown prince’s war in Yemen. (Revelations that Jared Kushner advised MBS, as the crown prince is known, during the cover-up phase of the murder of Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi didn’t help matters.) In addition, we learned that not only Michael Cohen but executives at the National Enquirer tabloid are cooperating in revealing Trump’s hush-payment scheme. Then things really went downhill.

First, Wall Street Journal reporting puts Trump in the room where the plot to pay hush money was hatched. According to its report, David Pecker, the chief executive of American Media, Inc. met with Trump in August 2015.

djt handwave file

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s claim that he didn’t violate campaign finance law is weak — and dangerous, George T. Conway III, Trevor Potter and Neal Katyal, Dec. 14, 2018. The case against the president would be far stronger than the case against John Edwards was. Last week, in their case against Michael Cohen, federal prosecutors in New York filed a sentencing brief concluding that, in committing the felony campaign-finance violations to which he pleaded guilty, Cohen had “acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1,” President Trump.

And this week, prosecutors revealed that they had obtained an agreement from AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer, in which AMI admitted that it, too, had made an illegal payment to influence the election. The AMI payment was the product of a meeting in which Trump was in the room with Cohen and AMI President David Pecker.

This all suggests Trump could become a target of a very serious criminal campaign finance investigation. In response, Trump has offered up three defenses. His first was to repeatedly lie. For quite some time, he flatly denied knowledge about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels. But now he seems to be acknowledging that he knew (since his personal company reimbursed Cohen for the payment, he ought to). Now Trump and his acolytes have turned to two other excuses: They point to an earlier case involving former senator John Edwards to argue that what Trump did wasn’t a crime; and they say, even if it was a crime, it wasn’t a biggie — there are lots of crimes, so what, who cares.

The former is a very weak legal argument, and the latter a dangerous one. Indeed, the campaign finance violations here are among the most important ever in the history of this nation — given the razor-thin win by Trump and the timing of the crimes, they very well may have swung a presidential election.

The bad arguments being floated in Trump’s defense are emblematic of a deterioration in respect for the rule of law in this country. The three of us have deep political differences, but we are united in the view that our country comes first and our political parties second. And chief among the values of our country is its commitment to the rule of law. No one, whether a senator or a president, should pretend America is something less.

Dec. 11

Palmer Report: Opinion: Maria Butina’s lenient Trump-Russia plea deal sentence means she gave up EVERYONE, Bill Palmer, Dec. 11, 2018. One day after Russian operative Maria Butina’s cooperating plea deal in the Trump-Russia scandal was announced, we’re now getting details of that deal. No, we don’t yet have confirmation of the names of the people she gave up. But considering the lenient sentence she just received, we don’t even need names, because it means she gave up everyone.

If Maria Butina, shown below right at a gunshow, had refused to cut a deal, she could have ended up charged with any number of espionage-related felonies. In fact, according to NBC News, her plea deal spells bill palmer report logo headerout the severity of her crimes, stating that she worked to “establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics … for the benefit of the Russian Federation.” Yet she’s getting little to no prison time.

maria butina handgun facebookYet federal prosecutors are only requiring her to plead guilty to a single comparatively minor charge, which will likely carry a zero to six month prison sentence.

In other words, this is essentially the same deal that Michael Flynn was given. He cooperated fully, and prosecutors ended up recommending no prison time at all. This is different in that she’s currently being denied bail because she’s a flight risk, but if she lives up to her end of the deal, she’ll likely go free once her nra logo Customcooperation is complete. And while deportation is usually a part of these kinds of deals, prosecutors aren’t going to send her to her death in Russia.

The bottom line is that prosecutors working in league with Robert Mueller just gave a potential free pass to a Russian spy who conspired with various Americans to alter the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. This can only mean that, during her proffer session, she gave up so much valuable information on so many bigger fish, they decided it was worth giving her a free pass. Everyone in the GOP and NRA with ties to Butina should be panicking right now.

Dec. 9

Mueller Probe

djt christmas eve 2017 on phone no credit

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Is Mueller Building an Expansive Obstruction Case? Bob Bauer (professor of law, shown below right), Dec. 9, 2018 (print edition). The sentencing memos suggest the possibility that Trump (shown above in a file photo) and perhaps others were involved in a series of lies from Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors’ Narrative: Trump Defrauded Voters. But What Does It Mean? Peter Baker and Nicholas Fandos, Dec. 9, 2018 (print edition). With this week’s memos, prosecutors investigating President Trump drew a portrait of a candidate who directed an illegal scheme to manipulate the election. In the aftermath, Mr. Trump’s lawyer minimized the importance of potential campaign finance violations as Democrats said they could lead to impeachment.

robert mueller full face fileThe latest revelations by prosecutors investigating President Trump and his team draw a portrait of a candidate who personally directed an illegal scheme to manipulate the 2016 election and whose advisers had more contact with Russia than Mr. Trump has ever acknowledged.

In the narrative that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III [shown at right], and New York prosecutors are building, Mr. Trump continued to secretly seek to do business in Russia deep into his presidential campaign even as Russian agents made more efforts to influence him. At the same time, in this account he ordered hush payments to two women to suppress stories of impropriety in violation of campaign finance law.

The prosecutors made clear in a sentencing memo filed on Friday that they viewed efforts by Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to squelch the stories as nothing less than a perversion of a democratic election — and by extension they effectively accused the president of defrauding voters, questioning the legitimacy of his victory.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The sheer brilliance of what Robert Mueller just did to Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Dec. 8, 2018. This weekend we’re seeing mainstream political pundits debating whether Donald Trump should be impeached, whether he’s even legitimately the president to begin with, and whether he and his kids will end up in prison. He still has his defenders to be sure, but in politics, half the battle lies in framing the argument to begin with. The crazy part is that we haven’t even seen anything yet.

bill palmer report logo headerSpecial Counsel Robert Mueller and his prosecutorial allies have managed to get the nation at large discussing the parameters of Donald Trump’s downfall simply by confirming that he committed a couple of election payoff felonies, using the word “synergy” between the Trump campaign and Russia, and strategically not blacking out a handful of ominous key sentences. Thus far, Mueller is only talking about perhaps five percent of the crimes that Trump has committed, and he’s already put the court of public opinion in motion.

Palmer Report has told you from the start that, while we didn’t know what Robert Mueller’s endgame strategy against Donald Trump was going to be, he was obviously never going to simply file a report and go home. Now we’re starting to see how he’s planning to take Trump down: death by a thousand proverbial cuts. This week he exposed just a bit of Trump’s crimes, and got everyone talking about whether it’s enough for Trump to be ousted.

Tomorrow or next week, even as the national debate about Donald Trump’s ouster rages on, Robert Mueller will expose more of Trump’s crimes, and make it harder for his defenders to continue to defend him. Mueller is just going to keep doing this to Trump until the Democrats take over the House, by which time they’ll hit the ground running with nationally televised public hearings on every one of Trump’s scandals, based on the things Mueller keeps exposing.

Dec. 8

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: 5 big takeaways from the Cohen, Manafort filings, Aaron Blake, Dec. 8, 2018 (print edition). Federal prosecutors drew some more important lines between Russia and those connected to President Trump on Friday, in a trio of filings in the Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort cases.

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

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

washington post logorobert mueller full face fileWashington Post, Mueller flashes some cards in Russia probe, but hides his hand, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, Dec. 8, 2018.A 55-page flurry of court filings shows just how deeply the investigations surrounding President Trump have gone, scrutinizing secret Russian contacts, hush money meetings and a tangle of lies designed to conceal those activities.

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

Inside Trump World

washington post logoWashington Post, Nick Ayers, Trump’s once-likely replacement for chief of staff John Kelly, won’t take the job, Felicia Sonmez, Josh Dawsey and Damian Paletta​, Dec. 8, 2018. nick ayers headshotAyers, Vice President Pence’s chief of staff, tweeted that he will leave the White House at the end of the year.

Trump’s new list of potential chiefs includes Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who is also acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, according to a White House official.

Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker and Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer were also said to be under consideration.

ny times logoNew York Times, John Kelly, Trump’s Chief of Staff, to Leave White House, Michael D. Shear, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman, Dec. 8, 2018. John F. Kelly, right, the retired Marine general tapped as chief of staff by President Trump last year to bring order to his chaotic White House, will leave the job by the end of the year, Mr. Trump said on Saturday, john kelly o dhsthe latest departure from the president’s inner circle after a bruising midterm election for his party.

Mr. Trump, speaking with reporters on the White House lawn before departing for the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, said that he would announce a replacement for Mr. Kelly, perhaps on an interim basis, in the next day or two.

nick ayers headshotJohn Kelly will be leaving — I don’t know if I can say ‘retiring,’” the president said. “But he’s a great guy. John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year.”

The leading candidate to replace Mr. Kelly is Nick Ayers, left, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff and a Republican political operative, who possesses the kind of savvy about campaigns that Mr. Trump has craved. Mr. Kelly, a career military officer before becoming Mr. Trump’s first homeland security secretary, lacked such experience.

Palmer Report, Commentary, Donald Trump and the NRA get caught in the act, Tim Faulkner, Dec. 8, 2018. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a situation where illegal coordination seems more obvious.” This quote was by Ann Ravel, a former chair of the Federal Election Commission in regard to alleged illegal campaign coordination between Donald Trump and the NRA. “It is so blatant that it doesn’t even seem sloppy,” Ravel added. “Everyone involved probably just thinks there aren’t going to be any consequences.”

bill palmer report logo headerThis revelation comes following an investigation into the NRA’s political activity by Mother Jones and The Trace, an independent nonpartisan group dedicated to reporting on guns and gun violence. As Palmer Report documented in October, the NRA has already been caught illegally conspiring with GOP Senate candidates prior to the recent midterm elections. We previously knew that the NRA spent $30 million in potentially laundered Russian money, in an effort to boost candidate Trump.

nra logo CustomIt now turns out the NRA utilized a media strategy firm, Red Eagle Media, in coordinated fashion with the Trump campaign, to bombard television viewers in Norfolk, Virginia with “anti-Hillary” and “pro-Trump” commercials. The political ads “targeted adults aged 35 to 64, and aired on local news programs and syndicated shows like Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune”, according to Mother Jones.

While simply paying for commercials is not illegal, a review of over 1,000 pages of Federal Communications Commission and Federal Election Commission documents reveals that the Trump campaign purchased very similar ads, targeting the exact same location, on the exact same channel, during the exact same week. This coordination disqualified the NRA’s donation from being independent, meaning they were only legally able to spend $5,000. Instead they spent 600,000% that much – and that’s not a typo.

“This is very strong evidence, if not proof, of illegal coordination,” said Larry Noble, who previously worked for the Federal Election Commission as an attorney. “This is the heat of the general election, and the same person is acting as an agent for the NRA and the Trump campaign.” While it is not surprising in the least that the NRA and Trump campaign were willing to do anything, including cheating, to steal the election, this is simply more evidence that continued scrutiny must be paid to both groups.

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

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

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

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

mike pence oPalmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s Russia connections all keep tracing back to Mike Pence, Bill Palmer, Dec. 8, 2018.  Yet another one of Donald Trump’s Russia-connected advisers has found his way into the center of controversy, and yet again, that adviser’s connection to Trump has conveniently ended up running straight through Mike Pence (right).

First there was Tuesday’s Michael Flynn sentencing memo from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Most of it was redacted. But Mueller made a point of not blacking out the part about the Trump transition team’s complicity in Flynn’s Russia crimes. In case you’ve forgotten, the head of the transition team was Mike Pence. That’s the same Mike Pence who went on to lie to the public repeatedly about Flynn being clean, when he knew Flynn was dirty. But perhaps that just’s a coincidence, right? If so, the Pence-Russia coincidences just keep happening.

bill palmer report logo headerYesterday, former Trump Secretary of State Rex Tillerson finally resurfaced, and granted an interview to CBS News. Tillerson was clearly looking to distance himself from the entire debacle, explaining that he had never even met Donald Trump until Mike Pence brought him to Trump for an interview.

When Tillerson was the CEO of Exxon Mobil he had a longtime close business relationship with Vladimir Putin, and it’s widely assumed to be the only reason the Trump regime gave him the Secretary of State gig. Now we know that it was Mike Pence who initially bridged the gap between Tillerson and Trump. So is this also just a coincidence?

Yesterday we also saw Paul Manafort formally busted for having sabotaged his cooperating plea deal. Manafort is a bought and paid for Kremlin asset who was trying to use his position as Donald Trump’s campaign manager to get out of the financial debt he owed to a Russian oligarch. As a reminder, it was Manafort who bent over backward to convince Trump to pick Mike Pence as his running mate.

Each on their own, you could write these off as being mere coincidence or happenstance. But when you put them altogether and realize that Donald Trump’s key Russia-connected advisers all end up tracing back to Mike Pence in suspicious and in some cases criminal fashion, it’s time to ask why. Does Pence just keep wandering into all these Trump-Russia connections at random, like Forrest Gump? Or is Mike Pence a Russian asset? We’re betting Flynn has told Mueller all about it.

Splinter, What the Hell Is Going On With Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos? David Boddiger, Dec. 8, 2018. Having just been released from prison for lying to investigators in the Trump-Russia probe, “coffee boy” and former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos has had some time to do some thinking.

simona mangiante papadopoulos cnn CustomSo, too, has his wife, Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos, apparently. [She is shown at right in a file photo from a CNN appearance.]

On Friday, The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer noticed something odd happening over at Simona’s Twitter account. Just before midnight, she appears to have tweeted a type of self-affirmation that could signal trouble ahead in the couple’s future. “George is lucky cause I have been more loyal to him than to myself,” she wrote.

That message was followed by a response lauding her loyalty and beauty, but it appears that Simona actually wrote the follow-up comment herself, perhaps forgetting to switch to a burner account. She even tagged her husband in the message.

“@GeorgePap19 doesn’t deserve a beauty like you, u have been loyal sweet and supportive,” Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos tweeted to Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos. “I never saw him defending you from all the attacks addressed to you! You can do better.”

On Capitol Hill

washington post logoWashington Post, Comey defends FBI and himself in interview with House committees, Karoun Demirjian and Matt Zapotosky, Dec. 8, 2018. Former FBI director James B. Comey’s closed-door interview with House lawmakers on Friday was largely a repetition of themes and facts that have emerged in previous public sessions, according to a transcript of the six-hour session that panel leaders released on Saturday.

james comey fbiRepublicans from the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees peppered Comey (shown in a file photo) with questions about the FBI’s investigation into former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, including whether Comey would have dismissed former officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page from the probe had he known they were exchanging texts disparaging then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comey was asked frequently about whether the president obstructed justice when Trump fired him last year. An FBI lawyer sought to block him from answering a question about a memo Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein wrote supporting the termination, saying it “goes to the special counsel’s investigation into obstruction.”

That seems to offer public confirmation from law enforcement that such a probe exists. When it came to questions about his own conduct, however, Comey was loath to take any blame.

washington post logogeorge conway twitterWashington Post, George Conway blasts Trump’s claim that Cohen filing ‘totally clears the President,’ Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Dec. 8, 2018. Was there ever any question about how, exactly, Trump detractor George Conway would spend Friday night? The running criticism of President Trump by Conway, the husband of Kellyanne Conway, dates back to the earliest days of the administration.

Since then, George Conway (shown in his Twitter portrait) is a frequent critic of President Trump.has become a celebrity in his own right for his Trump-bashing tweets and op-eds.

And that was before Trump gained the nickname "Individual-1."

On Friday, federal prosecutors offered new evidence that implicated the president in plans to buy the silence of two women Trump allegedly had affairs with as far back as 2014. The documents also spoke of Russian efforts to forge a political alliance with Trump before he became president.

Trump tweeted that the investigation “Totally clears the President. Thank you!” But Conway was among the most vocal in pointing out how wrong the phrase “totally clears the president” is.

For Conway, it was a particularly Twitter-winning moment. He received a marriage proposal from comedian and Trump critic Kathy Griffin and the adoration of liberals shocked they could have such tender feelings for the man married to a high-level White House adviser. Conway then proceeded to spend the rest of his Friday night focusing his Twitter on the Trump-as-potential-felon theme.

World Crisis Radio, Ship of fools, assembled by Trump. Webster G. Tarpley, Dec. 8, 2018. It's a three-cornered world. You have the U.S. system, warts and all. Then you've got the oriental despostism of the new empire of the Chinese Empiror Xi and his Xi dynasty. And you've also got the new Byzintine empire of Putin and his forces. And those are the choices. And the fact that Europe and Japan have aligned more or less with the United States is a good thing.

Dec. 7

ny times logoNew York Times, Cohen, Trump’s Ex-Fixer, Should Get ‘Substantial’ Prison Term, Prosecutors Say, Benjamin Weiser, Maggie Haberman and Mark Mazzetti, Dec. 7, 2018. Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, should receive a sentence of roughly four years, federal prosecutors in New York said. Mr. Cohen has become one of the biggest threats to Mr. Trump’s presidency, providing material to both the special counsel and Manhattan prosecutors.

michael cohen ap file croppedMichael Cohen, right, President Trump’s former lawyer, should receive a “substantial” prison term of roughly four years, despite his cooperation, federal prosecutors in New York said on Friday.

Mr. Cohen, 52, is to be sentenced in Manhattan next week for two separate guilty pleas: one for campaign finance violations and financial crimes charged by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, and the other for lying to Congress in the Russia inquiry, filed by the Office of the Special Counsel in Washington.

Prosecutors in Manhattan said the crimes Mr. Cohen had committed “marked a pattern of deception that permeated his professional life,” and though he was seeking a reduced sentence for providing assistance to the government, he did not deserve much leniency.

“He was motivated to do so by personal greed, and repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends,” the prosecutors said in a lengthy memo to the judge, William H. Pauley III.

robert mueller kit fox medill flickr croppedAt the same time, the special counsel’s office released its own sentencing recommendation to the judge for Mr. Cohen’s guilty plea for misleading Congress.

The special counsel seemed to offer a more positive view of Mr. Cohen’s cooperation with the Russia investigation, saying he “has gone to significant lengths to assist the special counsel’s investigation.”

Mr. Cohen has emerged as one of the biggest threats to Mr. Trump’s presidency, providing the special counsel’s office and prosecutors in Manhattan with material in dozens of hours of interviews. Robert S. Mueller III, left, the special counsel, has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential ties to the Trump campaign.

Trump Nominates Barr As AG

washington post logoWashington Post, William Barr emerges as leading candidate for Trump’s attorney general, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Josh Dawsey​, Dec. 7, 2018 (print edition). Former attorney general William P. Barr is President Trump’s leading candidate to be nominated to lead the Justice Department — a choice that could be made in coming days as the agency presses forward with a probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to multiple people familiar with the deliberations.

william barr o 1992Update: President Trump on Friday officially confirmed the nomination.

Barr, 68, a well-respected Republican lawyer who served as attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush, has emerged as a favorite candidate of a number of Trump administration officials, including senior lawyers in the White House Counsel’s Office, these people said. Two people familiar with the discussions said the president has told advisers in recent days that he plans to nominate Barr (shown in an official photo from his 1990s term).

Even if Barr were announced as the president’s choice this week, it could take months for a confirmation vote, given the congressional schedule.

In the meantime, acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker would still serve as head of the Justice Department — a decision that has angered Democrats who question both his résumé and the legal justification for his ascension to that job, given that he was not serving in a Senate-confirmed position when Trump selected him as the temporary successor to Jeff Sessions, whom Trump forced out in early November after the midterm elections.

• Washington Post, The Fix: Barr has urged more Clinton investigations and backed Trump’s firing of James Comey., Who is William Barr? Trump names Attorney General pick to replace Jeff Sessions, Leada Gore, Dec. 7, 2018. President Donald Trump is nominating William Barr for U.S. Attorney General. “He was my first choice from day one, respected by Republicans and respected by Democrats,” Trump said. “He will be nominated for the U.S. attorney general and hopefully that process will go very quickly, and I think it will go very quickly."

Trump described Barr as a “terrific man, a terrific person and one of the most respected jurists in the country.”

Justice Department log circularBarr served as AG from 1991 to 1993 under the late former President George H.W. Bush. If confirmed, Barr will replace Jeff Sessions, who resigned at Trump’s request last month. Sessions, a former Alabama Senator who was one of Trump’s earliest supporters, ran afoul of the president when Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Matthew Whitaker has been serving as acting attorney general after Sessions' departure.

Barr also served as deputy attorney general from 1990 to 1991 and assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel from 1988 to 1989. He later returned to the private sector. A native of New York, Barr is a graduate of Columbia University. He earned his law degree from George Washington University Law School.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump promises a ‘major Counter Report’ to rebut Mueller’s findings, John Wagner and Devlin Barrett​, Dec. 7, 2018. In a string of angry tweets, the president robert mueller screenshot washington posttook fresh aim at special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, right, and his team. It came hours before the expected filing of key court documents about former Trump associates Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort.

President Trump said Friday that his lawyers are preparing a “major Counter Report” in response to expected findings from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Trump confirmed the plan in a spate of angry morning tweets in which also took fresh aim at Mueller and his legal team, accusing them of conflicts of interest and overzealous prosecutions that have “wrongly destroyed people’s lives.”

“We will be doing a major Counter Report to the Mueller Report,” Trump said. “This should never again be allowed to happen to a future President of the United States!”

The president’s confirmation of the plan appears to have been spurred by reports that his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and others were doing little to prepare to rebut Mueller, who is also looking at whether Trump has obstructed justice.

Trump War On Media

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump called journalists ‘THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!’ A Capital Gazette photographer had a powerful rebuttal, Tim Elfrink, Dec. 7, 2018. Photographer Joshua McKerrow spent Thursday at the Maryland governor’s mansion, where he’s traveled annually for years to cover the holiday decorations with Capital Gazette reporter Wendi Winters. But this year, Winters was absent — one of the five victims killed in a mass shooting in the paper’s Annapolis newsroom in June. So McKerrow was already emotional when he saw President Trump’s latest all-caps broadside against journalists.

“FAKE NEWS - THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” Trump tweeted Thursday night amid a flurry of outbursts about special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.

McKerrow responded eloquently in a thread that is equal parts memorial to Winters and rebuttal of the president’s attacks on journalists at a time when global violence against reporters is spiking.

“Wendi was no ones enemy,” McKerrow wrote in a series retweeted more than 12,000 times as of early Friday.

cnn logoPalmer Report, Analysis, CNN evacuated over bomb threat right after Donald Trump posts incendiary tweet, Bill Palmer, Dec. 7, 2018. Remember back when a guy in a Donald Trump van was sending bombs in the mail to everyone that Donald Trump was attacking during his Twitter meltdowns? That guy is now in jail where he belongs, but it turns out Trump – predictably – hasn’t learned anything from the experience.

bill palmer report logo headerAs Donald Trump was having a rabid multi-tweet meltdown on Twitter tonight about various topics, he threw in this all-caps proclamation: “FAKE NEWS – THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” Just about half an hour later, CNN announced that it was evacuating its headquarters in the Time Warner building in New York City because someone had sent in a bomb threat.

Could this have been a coincidence? Sure, anything is possible. The last time Donald Trump started going off on CNN in such vicious fashion, one of his supporters tried to murder everyone at CNN. Trump’s tweet tonight was another de facto attack on CNN, and everyone knows it, because he directs these phrases at CNN the most often. When the President of the United States declares that CNN is the “THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE” and someone threatens to blow up CNN just minutes later, we have a real problem here.

Newsweek, Trump Ally Roger Stone Says Mueller Probed His Sex Life: 'What Does Any of That Have to Do With Russian Collusion?' Shane Croucher, Dec. 7, 2018. Roger Stone said newsweek logobeing investigated by the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller was like undergoing a “legal proctological examination.” Stone, a political consultant and strategist and a staunch ally of President Donald Trump, was an adviser to the 2016 presidential campaign.

Because of Stone's links to Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, which released emails stolen from the Democratic Party by Russian hackers, he is a focus of Mueller's investigation into Russia's election meddling and possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

The emails belonging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, were released shortly before the election. Stone denies coordinating with WikiLeaks and Assange on the emails, although the two men were in contact during the election campaign.

“Few Americans, I think, could withstand the kind of legal proctological examination that I have been under for the last two and a half years,” Stone told the American Priority Conference in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

Dec. 6

wayne madesen report logo

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

washington post logoWashington Post, William Barr emerges as leading candidate for Trump’s attorney general, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Josh Dawsey​, Dec. 6, 2018. Former attorney general William P. Barr is President Trump’s leading candidate to be nominated to lead the Justice Department — a choice that could be made in coming days as the agency presses forward with a probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to multiple people familiar with the deliberations.

william barr o 1992Barr, 68, a well-respected Republican lawyer who served as attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush, has emerged as a favorite candidate of a number of Trump administration officials, including senior lawyers in the White House Counsel’s Office, these people said. Two people familiar with the discussions said the president has told advisers in recent days that he plans to nominate Barr (shown in an official photo from his 1990s term).

An alternate candidate is Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) a conservative whose support of the president has won the attention and backing of others inside the White House, these people said.

Even if Barr were announced as the president’s choice this week, it could take months for a confirmation vote, given the congressional schedule.

In the meantime, acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker would still serve as head of the Justice Department — a decision that has angered Democrats who question both his résumé and the legal justification for his ascension to that job, given that he was not serving in a Senate-confirmed position when Trump selected him as the temporary successor to Jeff Sessions, whom Trump forced out in early November after the midterm elections.

•Washington Post, The Fix: Barr has urged more Clinton investigations and backed Trump’s firing of James Comey.

michael flynn microphonePalmer Report, Analysis: Former U.S. intel official suggests Michael Flynn was wearing a wire, Bill Palmer, Dec. 6, 2018. Back when Michael Flynn’s plea deal was first announced a year ago, one of the stranger details in the cooperation document was that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was requiring Flynn (shown at right in a file photo) to agree to wear a wire if necessary. This made little sense; how could Flynn trick anyone in this manner, now that everyone knew he was cutting a plea deal? Now the language in his sentencing memo suggests that it may have in fact happened.

Robert Mueller’s sentencing memo stressed Michael Flynn’s willingness to cut a plea deal as soon Mueller approached him about it. Former FBI official Frank Figliuzzi appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and pointed out this could be interpreted as Flynn having cut the deal long before it was announced. In such case, Flynn could have indeed worn a wire, or agreed to have his phone calls tapped, as he reached out to people on Team Trump, and sought to get them to incriminate themselves.

bill palmer report logo headerThree days after the Michael Flynn deal was announced on December 1st of 2017, Palmer Report pointed to a number of circumstantial clues that suggested Flynn might have been negotiating the deal back in late July of 2017. If that were the case but Flynn broke it off, and ultimately didn’t cut the deal until December, Mueller certainly wouldn’t be praising him now for agreeing to cooperate so quickly.

So what if Michael Flynn did cut a plea deal with Robert Mueller back in July of 2017, and they kept it a secret until they finally announced it in December of 2017, so Flynn could go play double agent? By that time, Flynn was already out of the White House. But as we keep seeing, Donald Trump has always treated Flynn with such kid gloves, it wouldn’t be surprising if Flynn called him in late 2017 and Trump picked up the phone. So yeah, maybe Figliuzzi is right, and Flynn was wearing a wire.

Dec. 5

djt sword dancers wh may 20 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

washington post logoWashington Post, Don’t condemn white nationalists, VA’s diversity chief was told after Charlottesville, Lisa Rein, Dec. 5, 2018. The tense exchange at the Department of Veterans Affairs occurred when President Trump blamed “many sides” for last year’s clash in Charlottesville without singling out white nationalists and neo-Nazis. Washington Post, ‘He didn’t seem angry’: Witnesses testify about James A. Fields’s demeanor during Charlottesville rally, Dec. 5, 2018.

djt maria butina

Palmer Report, Opinion: As Maria Butina nears plea deal, Donald Trump tries to get rid of her, Bill Palmer, Dec. 5, 2018. How close is alleged Russian spy Maria Butina (shown above0 to cutting a plea deal in the Trump-Russia scandal? Two weeks ago, she and federal prosecutors jointly asked the judge for two weeks to negotiate a deal – and tonight they and the judge set up a conference call about a deal for the morning. Such a deal would be bad news for Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, the NRA, and the GOP. Now suddenly Trump appears to be trying to get rid of Butina.

bill palmer report logo headerRachel Maddow revealed on-air tonight that a “spy swap” is being discussed that would send Maria Butina back to Russia. But there is no way on earth that federal prosecutors would want to do this. She’s a star witness who wants to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors, and who can take down far bigger fish. In fact the only people in the U.S. government who would benefit from such a move are the specific people who could be taken down by Butina’s testimony.

In other words, Donald Trump and his loyalists are behind this proposed spy swap. They have to be. No one else would, or could, be. They’re trying to get rid of her before she can rat them out, by shipping her off to Russia.

Dec. 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

washington post logogeorge conway twitterWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s latest tweets on Mueller probe cross clear lines, experts say, Deanna Paul, Dec. 4, 2018 (print edition). Attorney George Conway (shown at right), husband of White House counsel Kellyanne Conway, and others suggest that the tweets on Michael Cohen and Roger Stone might be obstruction.

President Trump took to Twitter Monday morning, haranguing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and witnesses to his ongoing Russia investigation. His tweets have become a common morning occurrence, particularly in recent weeks. But legal experts are calling Monday’s missives a newsworthy development that michael cohen ap file croppedamounts to evidence of obstructing justice.

Trump’s first statement went out after Michael Cohen, left, his former personal attorney who pleaded guilty last week for lying to Congress about the president’s real estate project in Russia. In his tweet, Trump alleged that Cohen lied to Mueller and called for a severe penalty, demanding that his former fixer “serve a full and complete sentence.”

After the overt attack on Cohen came a tweet encouraging Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to Trump, not to become a witness against him:

Dec. 3

Palmer Report, Opinion: The next four days are everything, Bill Palmer, Dec. 3, 2018. We’ve been waiting a long, long time for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to finally blow the lid off Donald Trump’s crimes in public view. Now all indications are that we’re looking at a four day stretch – starting tomorrow – that’s going to change everything.

bill palmer report logo headerIt all starts tomorrow when Robert Mueller is scheduled to finally file the plea deal sentencing memo for Michael Flynn, after a full year of cooperation. That filing will include details about the crimes that Flynn committed. NBC News is reporting tonight that Mueller will make the Flynn filing public. So after all this mystery about what Flynn was really doing with Trump and Russia during the election and the transition period, and what he’s secretly given up to Mueller, we’re about to get answers. But it’s just the start.

This Friday, Robert Mueller is scheduled to file a sentencing memo for Paul Manafort, which will include a list of the things that Manafort was lying about when he violated the terms of the plea deal. Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News is confirming tonight that Mueller will make the Manafort filing public. Also on Friday, Mueller will file the sentencing memo for arguably his most valued cooperating witness, Michael Cohen; that document should detail the ways in which Cohen has helped Mueller to nail Donald Trump.

In other words, just about everything is about to come out.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Trump’s misleading statements about a real estate project in Russia, Meg Kelly, Dec. 3, 2018. President Trump has repeatedly claimed he had “nothing to do with Russia,” whether in his business affairs or the 2016 campaign. Here are the facts.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: After the latest Mueller news, these corrupt Trump moves look much worse, Greg Sargent, Dec. 3, 2018. The latest revelations in the Russia saga should refocus our attention on a critical period during the 2016 presidential campaign. I’m talking about the seven weeks or so that began in June 2016, when Donald Trump Jr. planned the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians, and ended in late July, with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump publicly calling on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.

What we now know is this. During much of that period, the Trump Organization was secretly pursuing a business deal in Russia that required Kremlin approval — even though the most senior members of Trump’s own campaign, and possibly Trump himself, knew at the time that Russia was waging an attack designed to sabotage our democracy on Trump’s behalf and eagerly sought to help Russia carry it out.

On at least one occasion, Trump publicly absolved Russia of any blame for this attack — while apparently carrying on private financial dealings that involved the office of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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

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

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

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

Dec. 2

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Mueller Exposes the Culture of Lying That Surrounds Trump, Sharon LaFraniere, Dec. 2, 2018 (print edition). The president has demanded loyalty of advisers, including an embrace of his habitual boasts, misstatements and outright falsehoods; Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, asked a judge that he be allowed to avoid prison when he is sentenced.

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

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

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

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

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court to consider case that could affect potential Manafort prosecutions, Robert Barnes, Dec. 2, 2018. The Supreme Court next week takes up the case of a small-time Alabama felon, Terance Gamble, who complains that his convictions by state and federal prosecutors for the same gun possession crime violate constitutional protections against double jeopardy.

But likely to be watching the proceedings closely will be those concerned about a big-time felon, Republican consultant and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was prosecuted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III for tax fraud.

paul manafortWith President Trump keeping alive prospects that he might pardon Manafort, Gamble v. United States might be redubbed Manafort v. Mueller, joked Thomas C. Goldstein, an attorney who regularly argues before the Supreme Court.

The outcome in the case could affect nascent plans by states to prosecute Manafort, left, under their own tax evasion laws — New York, in particular, has expressed interest — should Trump pardon Manafort on his federal convictions.

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Constitution’s 5th Amendment prohibits more than one prosecution or punishment for the same offense. But the Supreme Court since the 1850s has made an exception, allowing successive prosecutions and punishments if one is brought by state prosecutors and the other by the federal government. (One early case from that time involved counterfeiting; another was prosecution of someone harboring a fugitive slave.)

In Gamble, the court is reconsidering these precedents. Almost none of the briefs filed in the case speculate on how a presidential pardon of a federal conviction would affect prosecutors at the state level should the so-called separate sovereigns doctrine be renounced.

devin nunes screenshotPalmer Report, Opinion: Devin Nunes is about to get his come-uppance, Bill Palmer, Dec. 2, 2018.  or the past year and a half we’ve watched House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes bend over backward to try to protect Donald Trump from his Trump-Russia scandal, in increasingly buffoonish and criminal fashion. But it turns out Nunes’ plan was based on the assumption that the GOP would keep the House, or perhaps based on no forward thinking at all, because that plan is rapidly blowing up in his face.

bill palmer report logo headerAmong numerous other stupid ideas, Devin Nunes, right, decided to bring in a whole bunch of Trump-Russia people and have them testify before the House Intel Committee that they didn’t do anything wrong, so he could push out a report “clearing” all of them, before legitimate investigators like Robert Mueller and the Senate Intel Committee could publish legitimate reports.

In so doing, Nunes had these people commit perjury. According to Eric Swalwell, a Democrat on the House Intel Committee, the transcripts of all that testimony are currently locked in the basement of Congress.

Dec. 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Nov. 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov. 29

michael cohen 7 14 2015 cnn custom

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Individual 1” is President Trump, officials said.

New Yorker, Michael Cohen’s Disclosures Raise Serious Questions About Donald Trump and His Business Interests, Adam Davidson, Nov. 29, 2018. Michael Cohen’s statements contradict much of what Donald Trump and others have said publicly and, in some cases, under oath.

Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty, once again, to a crime implicating both him and his former boss, President Trump. He confessed to an effort to mislead Congress, the Department of Justice, and the American people. Like so much of the Trump story, it is a tale that is at once pathetically small and also potentially part of a far higher crime.

Cohen now admits that he lied about many of the details of a failed Trump Tower Moscow plan. Previously, Cohen told government officials and many journalists (including me) that it was a small, brief affair. In December, 2015, a friend of Cohen’s, Felix Sater, mentioned that a friend of his controlled some property in Moscow and wanted to see if Donald Trump would put his name on a building there. Cohen and Sater discussed it a few times, Cohen claimed, and he mentioned it in passing to Trump, though not to anyone else in the Trump Organization. The whole project, Cohen insisted, fell apart within weeks and was never discussed again.

In a federal court in lower Manhattan on Thursday, Cohen admitted that the project, in fact, continued for several crucial months during the 2016 campaign, and involved more people in the Trump Organization than he previously disclosed. He informed Trump’s family members (presumably Donald, Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump) and said that there was a serious, ongoing effort to seek the help of Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, in facilitating the deal. Cohen — who previously said that he sent an e-mail to the Kremlin that was not returned — now admits that he did, in fact, speak with an assistant to Putin’s spokesperson. He also acknowledged that he even began negotiating a meeting between Trump and Putin to discuss the proposed deal.

More striking, Cohen’s contacts with the Kremlin ceased in mid-June, 2016, right after the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Russians with connections to the Kremlin, and the release, by WikiLeaks, of stolen e-mails from the Democratic National Committee. It raises a host of questions about what, precisely, ended those contacts. Did the Trumps suddenly lose interest in a Moscow project? Did they decide it was inappropriate to continue while Trump was seeking the Presidency? Or did someone else in the organization take over the project?

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

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

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

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

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

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

djt vladimir putin summit 7 16 18 white house shealah craighead

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Cancels Putin Meeting

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

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

Trump Tax Lawyer Raided

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

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

Trump-linked Bank Under Scrutiny

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

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

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

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

The German bank confirmed in a statement that the police were investigating several of its offices in Germany and said the investigation related to the Panama Papers, a trove of files that put a spotlight on global money laundering. “We are cooperating fully with the authorities,” Deutsche said in the statement.

In April 2016, news organizations in cooperation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released the Panama Papers, which revealed how some of the world’s wealthiest individuals, including more than 900 customers of Deutsche Bank, dodged taxes in their home countries by transferring money to offshore accounts.

Prosecutors said the documents indicated “that Deutsche Bank helped customers found offshore organizations in tax havens by transferring illegally acquired money without alerting authorities to suspected money laundering.”

Deutsche Bank, once known for its aggressive efforts to compete with Wall Street institutions, has shrunk after years of losses as a result of problems including a bloated investment bank and trading desk and costly legal settlements tied to the sale of toxic mortgage securities.

Even as its competitors have recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, Deutsche Bank has struggled. This year, the bank’s arm in the United States failed a Federal Reserve stress test, which found that it had “material weaknesses” in its operations.

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

Mueller Probe: Manafort

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

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

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

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

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

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

natasha bertrandMueller Probe: Russian Ties

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

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

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Donald Trump appeals to men secretly insecure about their manhood, Eric Knowles and Sarah DiMuccio, Nov. 29, 2018. From boasting about the size of his penis on national television to releasing records of his high testosterone levels, President Trump’s rhetoric and behavior exude machismo. His behavior also seems to have struck a chord with some male voters. See, for example, the “Donald Trump: Finally Someone With Balls” T-shirts common at Trump rallies.

But our research suggests that Trump is not necessarily attracting male supporters who are as confidently masculine as the president presents himself to be. Instead, Trump appears to appeal more to men who are secretly insecure about their manhood. We call this the “fragile masculinity hypothesis.” Here is some of our evidence.

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

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

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

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

Money Laundering Claim

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

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

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

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

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

wikileaks logo2Those nocturnal chats and other contacts between the man who now occupies the Oval Office and an infamous political trickster have come under intensifying scrutiny as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation bores into whether Stone served as a bridge between Trump and WikiLeaks as the group was publishing hacked Democratic emails.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More On Trump

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

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

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

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

Senate Flouts Trump On Yemeni Genocide

washington post logoWashington Post, Senators back effort to end U.S. support for Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, Karoun Demirjian, Carol Morello and John Hudson, Nov. 29, 2018 (print edition). In a historic jamal khashoggi western suitrebuke of Saudi Arabia and President Trump’s handling of the fallout over journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing last month, a decisive majority in the Senate voted to advance a measure to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Officials, Fiercely Defending Saudis, Warn Senators Not to Abandon Yemen War, Gardiner Harris, Eric Schmitt, Helene Cooper and Nicholas Fandos, Nov. 29, 2018 (print edition). Officials urged senators against withdrawing military support for the Saudi-led war, warning that doing so could embolden Iran and endanger the U.S. The U.S. is facing new questions about its longtime alliance with Saudi Arabia after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, shown in a file photo.

Questions Raised On Guardian / Manafort Story

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: This Intentional Guardian Fake News Story Proves That The Media Can't Be Trusted, b, Nov. 29, 2018. In 2015, the British Guardian appointed Katherine Viner as editor in chief. Under her lead, the paper took a new direction. While it earlier made attempts to balance its shoddier side with some interesting reporting, it is now solidly main stream in the worst sense. It promotes neo-liberalism and a delves into cranky identity grievances stories. It also became a main outlet for manipulative propaganda peddled by the British secret services.

Its recent fake news story about Paul Manafort, Wikileaks and Julian Assange aptly demonstrates this.

On November 27 the Guardian prepared to publish a story which asserted that Paula Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, had met Julian Assange, the publisher of Wikileaks, in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on at least three occasions. Some two hours before the story went public it contacted Manafort and Assange's lawyers to get their comments.

The piece did not include the public denial Wikileaks issued to its 5.4 million followers one and a half hour before it was published.

The Guardian piece came at a critical moment. Currently the U.K. and Ecuador conspire to deliver Julian Assange to U.S. authorities. On Monday special counsel Robert Mueller said Manafort lied to investigators, violating his recent plea deal.

The new sensational claim was immediately picked up by prominent reporters and major mainstream outlets. It is likely that millions of people took note of it. But many people who had followed Russiagate fairytale and the Mueller investigation were immediately suspicious of the Guardian claim.

The story was weakly sourced and included some details that seemed unlikely to be true. Glenn Greenwald noted that the Ecuadorian embassy is under heavy CCTV surveillance. There are several guards, and visitors have to provide their identity to enter it. Every visit is logged. If Manaford had really visited Assange, it would have long been known.

Nov. 28

Mueller Investigation

paul manafort abc flickr Custom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hypothesis No. 1: The Pardon Promise

Hypothesis No. 2: The Assassination Fixation

Hypothesis No. 3: The Bad Gambler

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

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

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

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

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

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

djt trump train obama clinton holder retweet nov 28 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

roger stone screenshot 2018 11 28

Roger Stone on C-SPAN

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

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

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

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

Nov. 27

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

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

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

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

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

More On Mueller Probe

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

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

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

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

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

Nov. 26

paul manafort abc flickr Custom

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inside the White House

melania red xmas trees

Yahoo News, Commentary: Melania Trump slammed for showing off 'historically ludicrous' Christmas decor while children are tear-gassed at border: 'What a great way to start the holiday season,' Jerry Justich, Nov. 26, 2018. Melania Trump is gearing up for the holidays by showing off the newly decorated White House. But after posting a video to Twitter displaying all of the extravagant decor and numerous Christmas trees around the mansion, people can’t help but point out that the administration is celebrating this festive time all while children are being tear-gassed at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Hundreds of Central American migrant men, women and children began to make their way toward the border between Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego over the weekend. But as they attempted to cross into the United States on Sunday, authorities began to fire tear gas to disperse the migrant caravan and shut down the border crossing. Photos of distressed children and families from the scene have caused an uproar online.

Nevertheless, President Trump used Twitter early Monday morning to post a threat about closing the border permanently and encouraging more funding for the wall.

Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries. Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it anyway you want, but they are NOT coming into the U.S.A. We will close the Border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the WALL!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 26, 2018

Just about two hours later, his wife posted the video and some photos showcasing the administration’s decor.

The People’s House @WhiteHouse is ready to celebrate Christmas and the holiday season!

— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) November 26, 2018

More On Mueller Probe

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

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

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

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

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

Nov. 25george papadopoulos simona mangiante mueller

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

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

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

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

bill palmer report logo headerBut the judge in the Papadopoulos case rejected this argument out of hand, ruling that Papadopoulos “failed to demonstrate that the D.C. Circuit is likely to conclude that the appointment of the Special Counsel was unlawful.”

This is a major victory for Robert Mueller, for two reasons. First, it makes clear that this judge thinks Andrew Miller’s legal challenge is a joke, which suggests that the judge in the Miller case won’t think much of it either. Second, it sets a precedent against other Trump-Russia defendants trying to use the Miller case as an excuse to fend off their own prison sentences.

Nov. 23

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

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

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

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

Nov. 22

Palmer Report, Opinion: The calm before the storm, Bill Palmer, Nov. 22, 2018. Donald Trump’s meltdown yesterday about “bedlam, chaos, injury and death” was jarring even by his standards, and suggested that he’s fully cracked under the excruciating pressure of what he fears is about to imminently happen to him, his presidency, and his family. Trump’s withering House GOP allies sent subpoenas yesterday to James Comey and Loretta Lynch, in what felt like an attempt at distracting everyone from what’s about to happen. So what is about to happen?

robert mueller kit fox medill flickr croppedThere is no getting around Robert Mueller’s recent request for a ten day delay in filing a status update in the Paul Manafort cooperation agreement.

This strongly suggested that Mueller was expecting to arrest one or more people sold out by Manafort within that timeframe, which means by the end of this weekend. Throw in the similar request for a delay in the Maria Butina case, and it all points to this being a very busy weekend for Mueller and company – and a very scary weekend for everyone involved in the Trump-Russia scandal.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Judiciary Committee subpoenas Comey, Lynch, Karoun Demirjian​, Nov. 22, 2018. The orders instruct former FBI director James B. Comey and former attorney general Loretta E. Lynch to appear for closed-door interviews early next month. Comey has already objected to the format.Comey himself tweeted his objection to the subpoena.

“I’m still happy to sit in the light and answer all questions. But I will resist a ‘closed door’ thing because I’ve seen enough of their selective leaking and distortion,” he wrote in a Thanksgiving Day tweet, acknowledging he had received the subpoena.

Nov. 20

hillary clinton gage skidmore Small

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton campaiging in 2016 (Gage Skidmore photo)

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Wanted to Order Justice Dept. to Prosecute Comey and Clinton, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, Nov. 20, 2018. President Trump sought in the spring to prosecute Hillary Clinton and James B. Comey, but the White House counsel said the move could lead to impeachment.

The episode was a blatant example of how Mr. Trump saw the typically independent Justice Department as a tool to be used against his political enemies.

james comey fbiPresident Trump told the White House counsel in the spring that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute two of his political adversaries: his 2016 challenger, Hillary Clinton, and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, shown at left, according to two people familiar with the conversation.

The lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, right, rebuffed the president, saying that he had no authority to order a prosecution. Mr. McGahn said that while he could request don mcgahn cato screengraban investigation, that too could prompt accusations of abuse of power. To underscore his point, Mr. McGahn had White House lawyers write a memo for Mr. Trump warning that if he asked law enforcement to investigate his rivals, he could face a range of consequences, including possible impeachment.

The encounter was one of the most blatant examples yet of how Mr. Trump views the typically independent Justice Department as a tool to be wielded against his political enemies. It took on additional significance in recent weeks when Mr. McGahn left the White House and Mr. Trump appointed a relatively inexperienced political loyalist, Matthew G. Whitaker, as the acting attorney general.

It is unclear whether Mr. Trump read Mr. McGahn’s memo or whether he pursued the prosecutions further. But the president has continued to privately discuss the matter, including the possible appointment of a second special counsel to investigate both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Comey, according to two people who have spoken to Mr. Trump about the issue. He has also repeatedly expressed disappointment in the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, for failing to more aggressively investigate Mrs. Clinton, calling him weak, one of the people said.

bill palmerPalmer Report, Commentary: Wait, Donald Trump tried to do WHAT to Hillary Clinton and James Comey? Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 20, 2018. Donald Trump sought the criminal prosecution of Hillary Clinton and James Comey back in April of this year, and it’s just now becoming public, thanks to the New York Times. As the story goes, Trump’s effort was stymied by then-White House Counsel Don McGahn, who warned him that these phony prosecutions could lead to Trump’s own impeachment and ouster.

It’s worth pointing out that every time one of these stories about Donald Trump’s overreach has surfaced over the past year, Don McGahn is always conveniently portrayed as the hero. This strongly suggests that McGahn is the source for these stories, and that he’s been putting them out there in order to distance himself from Trump’s crime spree. But despite the obvious bias involved here, there is no reason to believe that McGahn is making this up.

It’s notable that McGahn – if he is indeed the source on this – is choosing to leak it to the public right now, just as Special Counsel Robert Mueller is preparing to make his big moves against Donald Trump. This paints Trump as a criminally and psychotically out of control would-be dictator who truly did try to imprison Hillary simply for being his political opponent, and imprison Comey simply for doing his job as a law enforcement official.

nbc news logoNBC News, Trump submits written answers to Robert Mueller's questions, Allan Smith, Nov. 20, 2018. President Donald Trump's legal team submitted his written answers to special counsel Robert Mueller's questions on Tuesday, Trump attorneys Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani said in a Tuesday statement.

"It has been our position from the outset that much of what has been asked raised serious constitutional issues and was beyond the scope of a legitimate inquiry," Giuliani said in a statement. "This remains our position today. The President has nonetheless provided unprecedented cooperation. The Special Counsel has been provided with more than 30 witnesses, 1.4 million pages of material, and now the President's written responses to questions. It is time to bring this inquiry to a conclusion."

Earlier Tuesday, Trump told reporters outside the White House that his attorneys have his answers and assumed they would "turn them in today or soon."

Trump Whitewashes Saudi Murderjamal khashoggi entering Saudi consulate

Jamal Kashoggi, a dissident Saudi Arabian journalist living in Turkey, is shown entering a Saudi consulate before his disappearance on Oct. 2 and suspected murder.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Extraordinary Statement, Trump Stands With Saudis Despite Khashoggi Killing, Mark Landler, Nov. 20, 2018. President Trump declared his unswerving loyalty to Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, on Tuesday, declaring that the prince’s culpability in the killing of the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, right, might never be known.

jamal kahshoggi“It could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Mr. Trump said in a remarkable, eight-paragraph, exclamation-point laden statement that appeared calculated to end debate over the American response to Mr. Khashoggi’s killing.

“We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi,” Mr. Trump said in the statement, which read like a verbatim transcript of the president’s off-the-cuff musings. “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump defends Saudi Arabia’s denial about death of Khashoggi, Josh Dawsey, Shane Harris and Karen DeYoung, Nov. 20, 2018.  President Trump issued a statement that defended Saudi Arabia, questioned the CIA’s conclusion that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and effectively declared the issue closed — as far as he was concerned.

djt smiling filePresident Trump issued an exclamation-mark packed statement Tuesday defending Saudi Arabia, undermining the CIA’s conclusion that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and effectively declaring closed the debate over whether to stand by the kingdom.

The United States “may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder,” Trump said, noting that both King Salman and his son, Mohammed, “vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi,” which Trump called a “crime.”

“Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said, contradicting the CIA’s high-confidence assessment that Mohammed ordered Khashoggi’s assassination.

Ivanka's Private Emails

washington post logoWashington Post, Ivanka Trump used a personal account to send emails about government business, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 20, 2018 (print edition). Ethics officials learned Trump sent hundreds of emails last year. Some advisers to President Trump feared that his daughter’s practices bore similarities to the personal email use of Hillary Clinton. Ivanka Trump said she was not familiar with some details of the rules, according to people with knowledge of her reaction.

ivanka trump in 2011The White House referred requests for comment to Ivanka Trump’s attorney and ethics counsel, Abbe Lowell.

In a statement, Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Lowell, acknowledged that the president’s daughter, right, occasionally used her private email before she was briefed on the rules, but he said none of her messages contained classified information.

Austin Evers, executive director of the liberal watchdog group American Oversight, whose record requests sparked the White House discovery, said it strained credulity that Trump’s daughter did not know that government officials should not use private emails for official business.

“There’s the obvious hypocrisy that her father ran on the misuse of personal email as a central tenet of his campaign,” Evers said. “There is no reasonable suggestion that she didn’t know better. Clearly everyone joining the Trump administration should have been on high alert about personal email use.”

washington post logoWashington Post, House panel to investigate Ivanka Trump’s use of personal email, Felicia Sonmez and Colby Itkowitz, Nov. 20, 2018. The House Oversight Committee plans to investigate whether Ivanka Trump violated federal law by using a personal email account for government business, the panel’s incoming chairman, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), said Tuesday.

elijah cummings oIn a statement, Cummings said the committee launched a bipartisan investigation last year into White House officials’ use of personal email accounts, but the White House did not provide the requested information.

“We need those documents to ensure that Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and other officials are complying with federal records laws and there is a complete record of the activities of this Administration,” Cummings said.

In what appeared to be an acknowledgment of the potential risk of a backlash against Democrats for aggressively probing the Trump administration, Cummings also emphasized that his focus upon becoming chairman of the committee will be to address the everyday issues impacting Americans.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason the mainstream media is suddenly setting Ivanka Trump on fire, Bill Palmer, Nov. 19, 2018. There is major breaking news this evening, reported by the Washington Post and then echoed by outlets like MSNBC, about Ivanka Trump having used personal email for government business last year.

Here’s the thing: this isn’t news. Not even close. In fact Palmer Report covered it more than a year ago. It’s not as if we had some exclusive information; Ivanka’s email scandal was well known and well documented at the time. So what’s suddenly happening here?

For reasons known only to them, these mainstream media outlets have decided that right now is a good time to set Ivanka Trump on fire, based on an old scandal of hers that happened more than a year ago, and became public knowledge more than a year ago, despite having little to no new information to report about it.

Why trot this back out now? Why today? Why not a month ago, or a month from now? When the mainstream media suddenly starts dredging up old scandals about a public figure, it’s usually a sign that they’ve been tipped off that new scandals about that person are just a few days away. In essence, they’re whetting the public’s appetite for what they know is coming.

So what’s coming? That’s really tough to say. Palmer Report pointed out just yesterday that Robert Mueller and the FBI have been quietly targeting Ivanka Trump all along. And of course we’re in the midst of this surreal waiting period, after Mueller strongly hinted in a court filing four days ago that major arrests were coming within ten days. Stay tuned.

Mueller's Trump Probe

bill palmerPalmer Report, Commentary: Robert Mueller makes major new filing in the mysterious grand jury proceedings that appear to be against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 20, 2018. A few weeks ago, we all became aware that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has spent the past couple months pushing the courts to compel someone to comply with a grand jury subpoena. The person’s identity is top secret, and the legal battle itself has been given unprecedented priority by the courts. Numerous legal experts suspect that Mueller is trying to force Trump himself to testify before a grand jury.

In any case, Mueller just made a major new court filing in the matter.

Robert Mueller’s new filing is three thousand words long, and for better or worse, we can’t see what it says, because it’s under seal. But the most important clue here is the timing. Donald Trump keeps telling reporters that he’s finished answering Mueller’s questions in writing, while adding that he hasn’t turned them in yet. The question is why he’d do it this way.

One of the most plausible explanations is that Trump and Mueller were both waiting to see which way the courts rule on this matter. If Trump is ordered to testify before a grand jury, then his written answers may be irrelevant. If the courts side with Trump, then Mueller will have to accept his written answers and nothing more. But here’s the kicker: shortly after Mueller made this filing, Trump’s legal team told ABC News that they’ve preemptively submitted Trump’s written answers to Mueller. This could be a last ditch effort at appeasing the court and preventing it from siding with Mueller.

leon jaworskiEarlier this month, thanks to a legal challenge, the long-secret roadmap was revealed for ousting Richard Nixon, which never was carried out because he resigned. That roadmap showed that Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski, right, was planning to have a grand jury conclude that Nixon should be indicted, and then turn those findings over to the House for impeachment proceedings.

If Robert Mueller is following this roadmap, there is every reason to believe that he’s trying to compel Donald Trump to testify before a grand jury that is then going to turn around and declare that he should be indicted.

Slush Funding For Trump AG

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservative nonprofit with undisclosed funders paid Whitaker $1.2 million, Robert O'Harrow Jr., Shawn Boburg and Aaron C. Davis, Nov. 20, 2018. Acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker worked for the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust for three years. The group became a lucrative steppingstone in a swift rise to the nation’s top law enforcement job.

matthew whitaker headshot recentIn the three years after he arrived in Washington in 2014, Matthew G. Whitaker, right, received more than $1.2 million as the leader of a charity that reported having no other employees, some of the best pay of his career.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust described itself as a new watchdog nonprofit dedicated to exposing unethical conduct by public officials. For Whitaker, it became a lucrative steppingstone in a swift rise from a modest law practice in Iowa to the nation’s top law enforcement job. As FACT’s president, he regularly appeared on radio and television, often to skewer liberals.

But FACT’s origins and the source of funding used to pay Whitaker — now the acting attorney general — remain obscured. An examination of state and federal records, and interviews with those involved, show that the group is part of a national network of nonprofits that often work in concert to amplify conservative messages.

Contrary to its claims in news releases and a tax filing, the group was created under a different name two years before Whitaker’s arrival, according to incorporation and IRS records. At least two of the organizers were involved in another conservative charity using the same address.

washington post logoWashington Post, Before Justice Dept., Whitaker made $900,000 from charity, took ‘legal fees’ from company accused of fraud, Matt Zapotosky, Nov. 20, 2018. In the roughly two years before he rejoined the Justice Department, acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker earned more than $900,000 from a conservative charity with no other employees and collected more than $1,800 in “legal fees” from a Miami-based invention-marketing company that was shut down amid accusations of fraud, according to a financial disclosure form made public Tuesday.

The form, which Whitaker first filled out after taking over as Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s chief of staff, shows Whitaker drew a salary from the conservative Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust of $904,000 and collected $1,875 in legal fees from World Patent Marketing.

That company is notable because it shut down in May and agreed to pay a settlement of more than $25 million to resolve a Federal Trade Commission inquiry into its practices.

Nov. 18

Palmer Report, Opinion: You’d better believe Robert Mueller is investigating Anthony Kennedy’s connection to Trump-Russia, Bill Palmer, Nov. 18, 2018. Earlier, Palmer Report pulled together all the confirmed pieces of the puzzle when it comes to Donald Trump, Russia, Deutsche Bank, and retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, shown below left. We argued that while the mountain of circumstantial evidence doesn’t prove anything, it’s the kind of situation that calls for a criminal investigation.

anthony kennedy oBased on the pattern we’ve watched play out with Robert Mueller over the past year, we can virtually guarantee you that one of two scenarios is true. Either Mueller and his team began investigating the Trump-Kennedy-Russia connection the minute it showed up in newspaper headlines last week, or Mueller and his team already knew about it and their investigation into it is well underway. How can we be so sure?

Robert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)We’re looking at a situation where a Supreme Court Justice’s son used his position at a major bank to steer absurdly inappropriate loans to Donald Trump, at the same time that bank just happened to be laundering billions of dollars of Russian money into the hands of clients in the city where Trump lived, even as Russia was working to get Trump elected President, and then that same Justice stepped down at just the right time to help Trump.

You’d better believe Robert Mueller, right, is looking into something that obvious and ominous – and if it is indeed a criminal matter, he’ll pursue it and expose it.

Trump Watch

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Says He’s Unlikely to Sit for Interview in Russia Investigation, Maggie Haberman, Nov. 18, 2018. President Trump said in an interview aired Sunday that he most likely would not sit for an interview with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, asserting that “we’ve wasted enough time on this witch hunt and the answer is, probably, we’re finished.”

The president also claimed that he had no idea that his acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, viewed the Mueller investigation skeptically, despite reports that the two had multiple conversations about the inquiry over the past year.

President Donald Trump officialThe comments from Mr. Trump were made during a wide-ranging, sometimes testy interview with Chris Wallace, the host of “Fox News Sunday,” who sat with the president at the White House last week. The president continued to be defensive about his abandoned trip to an American military cemetery during a visit to Paris last week, insulted the widely respected retired Navy admiral who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and said he declined to listen to an audio recording of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi being killed by people connected to the Saudi crown prince last month.

His comments on the Mueller investigation marked an apparent reversal from a year of claiming that he was willing and eager to be interviewed by the special counsel, who is investigating possible collusion between the president’s campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 election. Mr. Trump’s legal team has blanched at the idea, fearing that the president might lie under oath, and has steadily narrowed the path for such an interview.

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.

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

brett kavanaugh swear in oct 6 2018 ashley

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

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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.

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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?

gru logo Custom 2

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.

john brennan souza pogo graphic

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.”