2019 

May

May 20

Trump Scandals

Roll Call, Where all 24 House Judiciary Democrats stand on impeachment, Lindsey McPherson, May 20, 2019. Majority says that may eventually need to launch an impeachment inquiry to get information. More than half of the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee say their panel may eventually need to open an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump if his administration’s efforts to stonewall congressional investigations continue.

democratic donkey logoCQ Roll Call talked to all but one of the 24 Democrats on the panel over the past two weeks about their views on impeachment in light of Trump, his administration and his allies deciding not to cooperate with their investigation into potential obstruction of justice, corruption and abuses of power. The Democrat not reached directly, California’s Eric Swalwell, a presidential candidate, weighed in on Twitter.

The interviews reveal that a majority of Democrats on the panel with sole jurisdiction over impeachment not only want to keep that tool available but also see an unfolding scenario in which they may need to use it.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Sorry, Donald Trump, you’re busted, Bill Palmer, May 20, 2019. Right after the New York Times reported on Sunday afternoon that Deutsche Bank flagged deutsche bank logoDonald Trump for foreign money laundering in 2016 and 2017 [, Investigation: Deutsche Bank Staff Saw Suspicious Activity in Trump and Kushner Accounts, by David Enrich], Trump suddenly decided that he needed to create a distraction by threatening Iran. The thing is, we’ve seen him do this before – to a different country – and he’s even recycling his own verbiage.

bill palmer report logo headerHere’s the juvenile idiocy that Donald Trump tweeted about Iran: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” Sound familiar? Back in September 23rd, 2017, when Trump needed a distraction, he posted this tweet: “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”

djt kim jong un djt wave singapore 6 12 18 CustomWe all know how that one ended up playing out. Trump had been bluffing all along when it came to his threats against North Korea. Not only did it work as a temporary distraction from his scandals, it set things up so Trump could later swoop in and “save the day” by cutting the world’s worst deal with North Korea [as illustrated by the photo of the leaders last June in friendly discussions]. So much for Kim Jong Un not being “around much longer.” It sort of puts a damper on Trump’s threat to bring about “the official end of Iran.”

We have no way of knowing what Donald Trump will end up doing with regard to Iran. But thus far every bit of it has come across as a convenient distraction to his worsening criminal scandals, and an attempt at setting the stage so he can eventually take credit for “fixing” the Iran mess he’s creating. We’ll see – but Trump has played this game on us before.

May 19

Trump Scandals

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump goes completely berserk after Deutsche Bank accuses him of being a Russian money launderer, Bill Palmer, May 19, 2019. The New York deutsche bank logoTimes reported this afternoon that watchdogs at Deutsche Bank flagged several of Donald Trump’s financial transactions for money laundering in 2016 and 2017, and that certain higher-ups at the bank then moved to quash it instead of reporting it to regulators. Some of these transactions were with Russia. This means there’s some kind of smoking gun, and considering how close House Democrats are to winning their court battles to get Trump’s financial records from places like Deutsche Bank, it means it’s time for Trump to panic. So naturally, he’s panicking.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump had been spending the afternoon on autopilot, tweeting his usual rhetoric about how great of a job he’s done, and how all the news about his scandals is fake. But after the Deutsche Bank bombshell landed, Trump decided to tweet this: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” That’s right, he’s suddenly threatening to “end” a country – genocide, we think – because he’s desperate to change the narrative.

We’ll see how the media responds. The story of Russia using Deutsche Bank to launder money through Donald Trump’s businesses in New York city has been surfacing in pieces for the past two years, but most (not all) of the American mainstream media has paid little attention to it. Today’s bombshell is very different in that the bank itself is making the accusation, the financial records to substantiate it will soon be public, and there’s a whistleblower who can be brought in to testify.

U.S. Impeachment Politics

justin amash

ny times logoNew York Times, Breaking with his party, a G.O.P. lawmaker said President Trump’s conduct reaches the “threshold of impeachment,” Glenn Thrush, May 19, 2019 (print ed.). Representative Justin Amash, an iconoclastic Republican of Michigan -- shown above in a file photo-- who has considered a run against President Trump in 2020, became the first member of his party serving in Congress to publicly suggest that the president’s conduct had reached the “threshold of impeachment.”

Mr. Amash, 39, used Mr. Trump’s favorite medium — Twitter — to join a groundswell of Democrats who have concluded that the president’s behavior, including instances of potential obstruction of justice laid out in the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, meets the constitutional threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors.

“President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct,” Mr. Amash wrote in a series of messages after reading the redacted version of the 448-page report.

nancy pelosi djt

Palmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi just got lucky – or did she? Bill Palmer, May 18, 2019 (late evening). Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sure caught a lucky break today when Republican Congressman Justin Amash called for impeachment proceedings to begin against Donald Trump. It makes it a lot easier for Pelosi and the House Democrats to bill palmer report logo headermove forward with impeachment now that they have a sliver of bipartisan cover.

But did Pelosi really get lucky at all? I would argue that this wasn’t luck, and Nancy Pelosi simply knows what she’s doing.

May 17

Mueller Probe

djt sergey lavrov sergey kislyak wh may 10 2017 tass

President Trump relaxes with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and then Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak at the White House on May 10, 2017. U.S. news media were barred from the confidential meeting, whose topics have remained secret. Photos are available only from the Russian outlet TASS.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge tells prosecutors to release transcript of Michael Flynn’s call to Russian envoy, Carol D. Leonnig and Rosalind S. Helderman, May 17, 2019. The michael flynn stephen miller jared kushner reince priebustranscripts of the call and a separate voice mail would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of the Mueller probe. A federal judge on Thursday ordered that prosecutors make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn (shown at center of file photo at right surrounded by Stephen Miller, Jared Kushner and Reince Priebus) tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan (below at left) in Washington ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voice mail involving Flynn. In that sensitive call, President Trump’s attorney left a message for Flynn’s attorney reminding him of the president’s fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with emmet sullivan 2012federal investigators.

The transcripts, which the judge ordered be posted on a court website by May 31, would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. So far they have been disclosed to the public only in fragments in court filings and the Mueller report.

Sullivan also ordered that still-redacted portions of the Mueller report that relate to Flynn be given to the court and made public. Sullivan’s orders came very shortly after government prosecutors agreed to release some sealed records in Flynn’s case. The release was in response to a motion filed with the court earlier this year by The Washington Post, which argued that the public deserved to know more about Flynn’s role in key events and cooperation with investigators.

The newly unsealed portions of court records showed Flynn was a deep source of useful information to the special counsel’s team in 2017 and 2018, helping it probe the Trump campaign’s effort to gain stolen emails and the question of whether Trump sought to criminally interfere in the investigation bearing down on him.

The records confirm the questions that Flynn, a retired lieutenant general and former military intelligence officer, helped federal prosecutors answer after his guilty plea. Flynn admitted in 2017 that he tried to conceal the nature of his conversations with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and then began cooperating with Mueller’s team to try to reduce and possibly avoid a prison sentence.

bill palmerPalmer Report, Opinion: No wonder Robert Mueller has been waiting to testify, Bill Palmer, right, May 17, 2019. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee publicly stated that they thought Robert Mueller was going to publicly testify on May 15th – and when they learned it wasn’t going to happen, they didn’t seem too upset about it. Now we know why they were confident Mueller’s testimony would happen soon enough, and why Mueller was waiting.

bill palmer report logo headerLast night Robert Mueller’s prosecutorial team – which apparently still exists on some level – made a court filing in the Michael Flynn case, despite the fact that it wasn’t under obligation to do so, and it wasn’t even close to being up against any deadline. The filing revealed that Flynn witnessed Trump and his underlings commit several crimes. This in turn prompted the judge in the case to order that far more evidence of these crimes be publicly released soon. This, of course, wasn’t coincidence.

democratic donkey logoWith his filing yesterday, Mueller is essentially unredacting the most important pieces of his own report by force, in a way that Attorney General William Barr can’t stop. If Mueller had publicly testified on the 15th as originally planned, would he have been legally able to discuss the Trump crimes that Flynn witnessed? But now that Mueller has found a way to force the Flynn stuff into the public purview, there’s nothing that Trump and Barr can even try to do to stop Mueller from testifying about the Flynn stuff.

We’ll see if Robert Mueller makes other similar moves in the coming days in order to force the key findings of his probe into public view. But it’s now fairly obvious why he’s been waiting to testify. Why fight with Barr’s compromised DOJ about what you can testify about, when you can instead use the courts to change the entire playing field?

ny times logoNew York Times, Frustrated House Democrats Pin Hopes on Mueller Testimony, Glenn Thrush and Nicholas Fandos, May 17, 2019 (print ed.). They had a plan: Stoke public anger about President Trump by dramatizing Robert S. Mueller III’s report on national television in their committees.

democratic donkey logoRobert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)But so far Mr. Trump and his allies have successfully stonewalled their efforts. Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel and a central player in the story, is expected to either flout a subpoena to testify before the House Judiciary Committee next Tuesday or refuse to answer questions.

The White House has claimed executive privilege over the unredacted Mueller report and all the evidence underlying its 448 pages, and administration officials refuse to satisfy virtually any other request — setting up months, possibly years, of legal wrangling.

Mr. Mueller, shown in a file photo from his years as FBI director, who was invited to testify by the chairmen of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees a month ago, has not agreed to do so.

 

djt li yang cindy

Mother Jones, In Defamation Lawsuit, a Trump Donor Acknowledges Providing Chinese Execs "Access" in US, David Corn and Dan Friedman, May 17, 2019. Last week, Li "Cindy" Yang (shown above), the Florida massage parlor entrepreneur and Trump donor who has been part of the recent controversy involving Donald Trump's private resort, Mar-a-Lago, filed a defamation lawsuit against the parent company of the Miami Herald. The suit focused on a Herald story that had placed Yang in the spotlight by reporting she had posed for a photo with Trump at his West Palm Beach golf club during a Super Bowl party in February and noting that Yang had founded the day spa where Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, had been busted for allegedly soliciting prostitution. (Yang sold that particular spa years earlier.)

The suit claims the newspaper published false statements about Yang and her business that suggested illegal conduct had occurred in her spas. But the suit also contained a surprising passage that acknowledged that Yang had also run a business that provided Chinese executives "access to American business and political culture," and this included entry to events at Mar-a-Lago.

After the Herald story appeared in March, Mother Jones reported that Yang owned a firm that had offered to sell Chinese clients access to Trump and his family via visits to Mar-a-Lago. The company, GY US Investments, noted on its website -- which has since been taken down -- that its business consulting services addressed clients looking to make high-level connections in the United States. On a page displaying a photo of Mar-a-Lago, the firm said its "activities for clients" included offering them "the opportunity to interact with the president, the [American] Minister of Commerce and other political figures." The company boasted it had "arranged taking photos with the President" and suggested it can provide clients with access to a "White House and Capitol Hill Dinner."

Weeks after that story was posted, Yang's attorney, Evan Turk, contacted Mother Jones and threatened a lawsuit, claiming the article defamed Yang. In a letter, Turk wrote that the Mother Jones article inaccurately reported that "Cindy Yang runs an investment business that has offerred [sic] to sell Chinese clients access to Trump and his family. This is nothing but false conjecture based on her company's website that offerred [sic] business assistance in America to potential Chinese clientele; a travel package." (No lawsuit has yet been filed.)

Yet in the lawsuit Turk dropped on the Herald, he stated that Yang was in the access business. A paragraph citing her entrepreneurial talents explained how GY US Investments was founded and operated:

"YANG came to the United States [from China] in search of a better life. She realized the American dream through her entrepreneurial acumen. She created GY US Investments which provided access to the American business and political culture through her understanding of opportunity. GY US Investments was a travel package for Chinese businessmen and philanthropists to travel to America. She realized the premium attached to a picture and story that her clients would cherish, while at the same time, supporting charitable causes. She had an opportunity to share her understanding of the Palm Beach charity scene and events publicly promoted at Mar-a-Lago (amongst others). YANG's business model relied upon her reputation and relationships she had painstakingly established during her time spent in the Palm Beach County area.

This complaint together with the GY US Investments website support the conclusion that Yang, who raised money for Trump, used her connections to bring Chinese executives into proximity of the president and Trump family members at his club and perhaps elsewhere.

Yang's lawsuit maintains that due to Herald article, she...

"is no longer able to maintain her current employment as a direct result of the defamatory statements, is no longer able to attend Mar-a-Lago [events], lost her role as an executive volunteer with the Republican Executive Committee, is undergoing psychiatric treatment to cope with the unconscionable fake allegations, suffers from significant headaches, cannot sleep and was forced to relocate as a direct result of the shame she has had to unnecessarily endure."

In the filing, Turk, a supporter of Roger Stone, the longtime Trump adviser who was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and charged with lying to Congress, asserts the Herald story was a hit job that "paints a picture that President Trump is corrupt, and YANG is one of his cronies... The article reads as if it is the playbook for the anti-President Trump manifesto."

In response, the newspaper's managing editor, Rick Hirsch, said, "We stand behind our stories, which accurately reflect publicly available documents and investigations of spas run by Cindy Yang and her family." And a lawyer for the Herald noted that the lawsuit could entail taking depositions from Trump's family members who appeared in photos Yang posted online.

May 16

U.S. Political Groups: Fix Our Democracy!

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Activists to Presidential Candidates: US Democracy Is Broken, Fix It! Klaus Marre, May 16, 2019. Sounding the alarm on an eroding US democracy, a coalition of more than 100 good-governance, civil rights, and other groups is urging all presidential candidates and President Donald Trump to make democracy reform a priority on the campaign trail and when in office.

“Our democratic institutions are under attack, and need renewal and repair,” the groups, which include the NAACP, Common Cause, and Public Citizen, said in the letter sent to candidates on Wednesday.

“Americans are looking for leaders who will take on our broken, entrenched campaign finance system, and who are committed to guaranteeing the absolute right of all eligible Americans access to the ballot,” the groups state. “Your leadership and commitment to action on these issues will show voters across the country that, like them, you believe our democracy works best when it represents everyone, not just those able to unduly influence policies based solely on their power and their wealth.”

Trump, Barr & Presidential Power Grab

Alliance for Justice, Opinion: Let’s Go, HJC! Time for Bold Creativity! Bill Yeomans, right, May 16, 2019. When Attorney General Barr released his wounded version of Robert Mueller’s bill yeomans afj cropped Customreport, House Democrats, under the tight control of Nancy Pelosi, announced that they would begin a process of examining the contents of the report, in addition to conducting oversight in several other areas. They then left town on a ten-day recess. Those ten days drained a disturbing amount of fuel from our democracy. The Democrats’ tepid response allowed Barr and Trump to peddle the lie that Mueller had found no collusion and no obstruction.

alliance for justice logoLess fearful House Democrats could have responded to the report with the unmitigated outrage that its contents warranted. Bold Democrats might have broadcast a narrative that the report showed Trump’s stunning contempt for America. He and his campaign knew about and welcomed the Russian attack on the election. They failed to notify law enforcement and embraced the Russian assistance.

Concerned about launching a polarizing process (because it would be a shame to disrupt the prevailing bipartisan harmony), Democratic leadership at first seemed to take impeachment off the table, only to let it creep back into the discussion as a possible step far down the investigative road. This posture drained Democratic efforts to convey the seriousness of the Mueller report of all momentum. No rush, no big deal.

Democratic hesitation has given Trump the upper hand. The House Judiciary Committee is now in the position of trying to kick-start its presentation of the Mueller report. But the Constitution awards the advantage of inertia to the executive in any investigation. That advantage is particularly acute in service of an executive who feels no obligation even to make a show of inter-branch comity. Trump’s posture of complete defiance toward all requests for testimony and documents should surprise nobody, least of all the House leadership.

djt handwave fileTrump has successfully mired House Democrats in a process battle. This is a battle the House must fight and should win on the law, but it loses unless it focuses on Mueller’s description of the substance of Trump’s conduct. Only then – if it understands the harm he inflicted — will the public care that Trump is obstructing the investigation. The Judiciary Committee is devoting its energy to a fight over Barr’s willingness to appear before the committee and its entitlement to the unredacted Mueller report and supporting evidence. Forget Barr. He does not need another platform from which to mislead.

The unredacted report is important, but the supporting evidence is more so. The fight to get both would be won if the committee moved to impeachment mode. Issues of grand jury secrecy and executive privilege wilt when confronted by the need for information for impeachment. But the committee will slog ahead demanding the material for oversight purposes, making the outcome in court less certain, particularly given Trump’s success in stocking the courts with supporters of expansive executive power, including his two Supreme Court appointees. Meanwhile, the clock will run.

The House must recapture the narrative. Its principal task now is to educate the public on Trump’s misdeeds. While a few among us get excited about battles over executive privilege, the interpretation of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), the unavailability of criminal contempt for executive branch officials, the complexities of civil contempt litigation, and the possibility of resurrecting the House’s ability to bypass courts and lock up recalcitrant witnesses pursuant to its inherent contempt authority, the vast majority of the public doesn’t give a damn. But they are more likely to listen to salacious details about the criminal and treacherous doings of their president and his inner circle.

Trump, Barr & Presidential Power Grab

washington post logoWashington Post, White House says demands for records, testimony on Mueller probe to be refused, Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Rachael Bade​, May 16, 2019 (print ed.). White House Counsel Pat A. Cipollone told the House Judiciary Committee chairman that Congress has no right to a “do-over” of the special counsel’s investigation. The White House’s top lawyer told the House Judiciary Committee chairman Wednesday that Congress has no right to a “do-over” of the special counsel’s investigation of President Trump and refused a broad demand for records and testimony from dozens of current and former White House staffers.

jerrold nadler o SmallWhite House counsel Pat Cipollone’s letter to Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), right, constitutes a sweeping rejection — not just of Nadler’s request for White House records but of Congress’s standing to investigate Trump for possible obstruction of justice.

pat cipollone file croppedIn his letter, Cipollone, left, repeated a claim the White House and Trump’s business have begun making — that Congress is not a law enforcement body and does not have a legitimate purpose to investigate the questions it is pursuing.

But Cipollone stopped short of asserting executive privilege. Instead, he told Nadler he would consider a narrowed request if the chairman spelled out the legislative purpose and legal support for the information he is seeking.

• Washington Post, Barr jokes to Pelosi outside Capitol: ‘Did you bring your handcuffs?’

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The obsession with redaction is hiding the obvious: Trump committed crimes, Walter Dellinger, May 16, 2019 (print ed.). Walter Dellinger, 78, shown at right in a 1996 file photo, was head of the Office of Legal Counsel from 1993 to 1996 and acting solicitor general from 1996 to 1997. I have become increasingly concerned about how the walter dellinger 1996country has received the Mueller report. The Republican talking point is that it exonerated the president. The message from the Democratic House, meanwhile, is that the report is inconclusive. Those responses, one mendacious, one tepid and both erroneous, have shaped public understanding. They have not only allowed the president falsely to claim vindication but also left the public without a clear understanding of just how damning the report is.

Most Americans, understandably not having read the 448-page (redacted) report, may be influenced by how the principal parties have responded. If the report were, as the Republicans insist, an exoneration, one might demand to know how this unwarranted investigation got started in the first place, which is exactly how the GOP has proceeded to turn the conversation.

And if you thought the report was merely inconclusive, your natural reaction would be that you need to know more. You would say something like what many House Democrats are repeating endlessly: “We need to see the redactions” and “hear from witnesses” — suggesting that there is as of yet no sufficient basis for judging President Trump’s conduct.

The more I review the report, the more absurd and misleading the we-need-to-know-more response seems to be. And the more it seems to have contributed to public misunderstanding. How different would it have been if a unified chorus of Democratic leaders in Congress and on the campaign trail had promptly proclaimed the actual truth: This report makes the unquestionable case that the president regularly and audaciously violated his oath and committed the most serious high crimes and misdemeanors.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats adhere to Pelosi’s no-impeachment strategy despite Trump’s defiance, Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis, May 16, 2019 (print ed.). Several rank-nancy pelosiand-file lawmakers want to begin impeachment proceedings. President Trump, who is refusing to cooperate with more than 20 congressional investigations, instructed current and former aides Wednesday to ignore a House committee’s request for documents in the latest act of defiance that has prompted Democrats to declare that the nation is facing a constitutional crisis.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), right, told Democrats in a closed-door caucus meeting Wednesday morning to stick to their policy agenda ahead of the 2020 election rather than initiate impeachment proceedings. And not a single lawmaker challenged her, according to a person in the room who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

Trump Team Embattled Over War

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump, frustrated by advisers, is not convinced the time is right to attack Iran, John Hudson, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Anne Gearan, May 16, 2019 (print ed.). The president is not inclined to respond forcefully unless Iranians make a “big move,” a senior White House official said.

President Trump is frustrated with some of his top advisers, who he thinks could rush the United States into a military confrontation with Iran and shatter his long-standing pledge to withdraw from costly foreign wars, according to several U.S. officials. Trump prefers a diplomatic approach to resolving tensions and wants to speak directly with Iran’s leaders.

Disagreements over assessing and responding to the recent intelligence — which includes a directive from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that some American officials interpret as a threat to U.S. personnel in the Middle East — are also fraying alliances with foreign allies, according to multiple officials in the United States and Europe.

Trump Pardons Billionaire Crony

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump pardons billionaire friend Conrad Black, who wrote a book about him, Colby Itkowitz, May 16, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump gave a full pardon to a longtime friend who last year wrote a glowing book about Trump’s successes. Conrad Black was convicted in 2007 on fraud charges, including alleged embezzlement, and obstruction of justice. He served more than three years in prison and was deported to his native Canada after he was released in 2012. He was barred from returning to the United States for 30 years.

conrad black principle coverThe White House said in a statement that Black was “entirely deserving” of the pardon. In listing Black’s accomplishments, it mentions biographies Black wrote about presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, but not his tome on Trump.

On the first page of that book, “Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other,” Black writes: “Like the country he represents, Donald Trump possesses the optimism to persevere and succeed, the confidence to affront tradition and convention, a genius for spectacle, and a firm belief in common sense and the common man.”

In addition to his book, Black frequently writes columns praising Trump and considers the president a friend.Black, whose media company owned the Chicago Sun Times, at one time partnered with Trump to build Trump Tower in Chicago, but Trump later bought him out.

Black denied at the end of last year that he was trying to get a pardon from Trump.

May 15

Trump, Barr & Presidential Power Grab

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Unprecedented former prosecutors' letter contains a few surprises, Wayne Madsen, May 15, 2019. The unprecedented statement by former federal prosecutors emphasizing the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller should have resulted in “multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice” being brought against Donald Trump -- if not for the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President -- has grown to over 900 signatures.

President Ronald Reagan, right, and Attorney General Edwin Meese, left, greeted in a White House 1983 meeting future Attorney General William P. Barr, a former CIA staffer who was then deputy assistant director of legal police at the Justice Department (Reagan Library photo)

President Ronald Reagan, right, and Attorney General Edwin Meese, left, greeted in a White House 1983 meeting future Attorney General William P. Barr, a former CIA staffer who was then deputy assistant director of legal police at the Justice Department (Reagan Library photo)

washington post logoWashington Post, How William Barr, now serving as a powerful ally for Trump, has championed presidential powers, Tom Hamburger, May 15, 2019 (print ed.). Embracing a theory that the Constitution grants presidents sweeping authority, Barr is part of a group of conservative intellectuals who have been leading the charge to expand the powers of the executive branch over the past four decades. The doctrine, which gained support amid a backlash against post-Watergate constraints on the presidency, is back in the fore as President Trump and Congress are locked in a bitter fight over the bounds of executive power.

william barr new oDuring his first tour at the Justice Department, Barr, right, issued a controversial secret opinion saying that the president could order the FBI to take people into custody in foreign countries, a ruling that paved the way for the arrest in Panama of then-leader Manuel Antonio Noriega.

Two years after that, Barr offered another far-reaching interpretation of presidential power, advising President George H.W. Bush that he did not need congressional approval to invade Iraq. Later, as attorney general, he backed Bush’s pardons of six Reagan administration officials charged in the Iran-contra investigation, a move the independent counsel described at the time as “a coverup.”

Now, back at the helm of the Justice Department under Trump, Barr is in a singular position to put his philosophy into action. In just a few months, he has made his imprint, defending the White House as it pushes a hard-line immigration policy, defies congressional subpoenas and boldly asserts the reach of executive privilege. Barr recently appointed a U.S. attorney to investigate the origins of the special counsel’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, a probe for which Trump has publicly called.

Barr has not been alone in advocating robust executive powers, a view articulated by Edwin Meese, attorney general under President Ronald Reagan; the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Watergate-era Solicitor General Robert Bork, among others.

But Barr popularized, codified and interpreted the concept, helping put the theory into practice, legal experts and colleagues said.

Trump's Trade War

washington post logoWashington Post, Trade war’s pain for rural areas raises tensions between Trump, Republicans, Damian Paletta, Erica Werner and Taylor Telford, May 15, 2019 (print ed.). china flag SmallSome Republican senators, increasingly frustrated with President Trump, took the unusual step of openly criticizing him. Fueling their concerns was the impression that Trump may not have a clear endgame.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Moves to Ban Foreign Telecom Gear, Escalating Battle With China, Cecilia Kang and David E. Sanger, May 15, 2019. President Trump moved on Wednesday to ban American telecommunications firms from installing foreign-made equipment that could pose a threat to national security, White House officials said, stepping up a battle against China by effectively barring sales by Huawei, the country’s leading networking company.

Mr. Trump issued an executive order instructing the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, to ban transactions “posing an unacceptable risk” but did not single out any nation or company. The action has long been expected and is the latest salvo in the administration’s economic and security battle with China. It is also the most extreme move in the Trump administration’s fight against China’s tech sector.

May 15

Barr & Presidential Power Grab

President Ronald Reagan, right, and Attorney General Edwin Meese, left, greeted in a White House 1983 meeting future Attorney General William P. Barr, a former CIA staffer who was then deputy assistant director of legal police at the Justice Department (Reagan Library photo)

President Ronald Reagan, right, and Attorney General Edwin Meese, left, greeted in a White House 1983 meeting future Attorney General William P. Barr, a former CIA staffer who was then deputy assistant director of legal police at the Justice Department (Reagan Library photo)

washington post logoWashington Post, How William Barr, now serving as a powerful ally for Trump, has championed presidential powers, Tom Hamburger, May 15, 2019 (print ed.). Embracing a theory that the Constitution grants presidents sweeping authority, Barr is part of a group of conservative intellectuals who have been leading the charge to expand the powers of the executive branch over the past four decades. The doctrine, which gained support amid a backlash against post-Watergate constraints on the presidency, is back in the fore as President Trump and Congress are locked in a bitter fight over the bounds of executive power.

During his first tour at the Justice Department, Barr issued a controversial secret opinion saying that the president could order the FBI to take people into custody in foreign countries, a ruling that paved the way for the arrest in Panama of then-leader Manuel Antonio Noriega.

Two years after that, Barr offered another far-reaching interpretation of presidential power, advising President George H.W. Bush that he did not need congressional approval to invade Iraq. Later, as attorney general, he backed Bush’s pardons of six Reagan administration officials charged in the Iran-contra investigation, a move the independent counsel described at the time as “a coverup.”

Now, back at the helm of the Justice Department under Trump, Barr is in a singular position to put his philosophy into action. In just a few months, he has made his imprint, defending the White House as it pushes a hard-line immigration policy, defies congressional subpoenas and boldly asserts the reach of executive privilege. Barr recently appointed a U.S. attorney to investigate the origins of the special counsel’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, a probe for which Trump has publicly called.

Barr has not been alone in advocating robust executive powers, a view articulated by Edwin Meese, attorney general under President Ronald Reagan; the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Watergate-era Solicitor General Robert Bork, among others.

But Barr popularized, codified and interpreted the concept, helping put the theory into practice, legal experts and colleagues said.

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, U. S. judge voices doubt on Trump bid to block House subpoena for financial records, Spencer S. Hsu, May 15, 2019 (print ed.). A federal judge in Washington expressed astonishment Tuesday at arguments raised by President Trump’s lawyers seeking to block his accounting firm from turning over years of financial records to the Democratic-controlled House Oversight and Reform Committee and seemed to signal a swift ruling in favor of lawmakers.

U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta fired pointed questions at the president’s lawyers, who argued in an April 22 lawsuit that the committee’s sweeping subpoena to Mazars USA for the financial records of Trump and various associated entities since 2011 was not “a valid exercise of legislative power.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s not claiming executive power. He’s going for divine right, Dana Milbank, May 15, 2019 (print ed.). North Carolina state Sen. Dan Bishop (R) will face veteran and business executive Dan McCready (D) in September’s do-over election in North Carolina’s scandal-plagued 9th Congressional District, after last year’s results were thrown out amid allegations of election fraud.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s prized Doral resort is in steep decline, company documents show, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell, May 15, 2019 (print ed.). The troubles at the Florida resort mark the first known case in which a Trump Organization representative has publicly acknowledged the president’s name has hurt business.

Late last year, in a Miami conference room, a consultant for President Trump’s company said business at his prized 643-room Doral resort was in sharp decline.

At Doral, which Trump has listed in federal disclosures as his biggest moneymaker hotel, room rates, banquets, golf and overall revenue were all down since 2015. In two years, the resort’s net operating income — a key figure, representing the amount left over after expenses are paid — had fallen by 69 percent.

May 13

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump suddenly has a Chris Wray problem, Bill Palmer, May 13, 2019. Each time Donald Trump nominates someone to a key position in his administration, he does so with the expectation that the person in question will corruptly do his bidding and protect him from investigation. Sometimes that’s worked out for Trump, and sometimes it hasn’t.

bill palmer report logo headerConsidering that Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey specifically to try to stop the Trump-Russia investigation, it’s a given that when Trump subsequently appointed Chris Wray to replace Comey, he thought he was picking someone who would be personally loyal to him. But from the start, Wray has said all the appropriate things in public, and there’s no evidence that Wray is trying to rig things for Trump behind the scenes. Now that’s coming to a head.

After Donald Trump’s cartoonishly corrupt Attorney General William Barr publicly and falsely claimed that the FBI had been “spying” on the Trump campaign, Chris Wray, below at right, publicly shot down this nonsense.

christopher wray officialWe’ve all been waiting for Trump to finally turn his ire toward Wray, and last night it happened. Trump tweeted this quote from Fox News stooge Lou Dobbs: “Even Director James Clapper admits that the FBI actions against the Trump Presidential Campaign do in fact meet the definition of spying, perhaps FBI Director Christopher Wray will be the next to do so.” To be clear, that’s not what Clapper actually said. Then Trump added a quote from another of his puppets: “The FBI has no leadership. The Director is protecting the same gang that tried to overthrow the President through an illegal coup.”

The important thing here is that Donald Trump is finally attacking Christopher Wray in public, over Wray’s refusal to go along with Trump’s phony “spying” narrative. Trump is clearly upset, but what’s he going to do? If he were to fire another FBI Director, particularly right now as his scandals are exploding, it would only make things worse for him. But things are clearly coming to a head between Trump and Wray – and that may not end well for either of them.

May 12

washington post logoWashington Post, To fight House probes, Trump and his allies employ a block-everything strategy, Rachael Bade and Seung Min Kim, May 12, 2019. President Trump’s Donald Trumpnoncooperation strategy has shifted from partial resistance to all-out war as he faces more than 20 separate investigations from the Democratic-controlled House — a move that many legal and congressional experts fear could undermine the institutional power of Congress for years to come. (Trump is shown on a 2016 cover of the Weekly Standard magazine.).

• Washington Post, A guide to 20 inquiries Trump and his allies are working to impede, May 12, 2019 (print ed.).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I led a platoon in Iraq. Trump is wrong to pardon war criminals, Waitman Wade Beorn, May 12, 2019. Soldiers pay attention to example. Murderous leaders command murderous units.

In early 2003, as a cavalry officer, I stood in front of my scout platoon at dusk after a long day preparing to deploy to Iraq. I spoke with them about the law of war and how they should treat civilians when we got into theater. It wasn’t a long conversation, but I felt that giving clear guidance about what was acceptable — and not acceptable — was important. They should treat the civilians as they would neighbors, I told them. Soldiers take most seriously the things their leadership makes most serious.

michael behenna djtOn Monday, President Trump pardoned the convicted war criminal Michael Behenna, who had murdered Ali Mansur, an unarmed, naked Iraqi, by shooting him in the head and chest. Making a specious claim of self-defense, Behenna (shown with Trump in separate file photos) argued that Mansur threw a piece of concrete at him and “ stood up like he’s coming at me.”

And so he neutralized this threat, a naked man, already released by the Army. Behenna was supposed to be returning Mansur home to his village. A military court convicted Behenna of unpremeditated murder. American soldiers testified against him. The military court of appeals and a review panel upheld that conviction, though he was paroled early, in 2014.

Waitman Wade Beorn, a combat veteran of Iraq, is a Holocaust and genocide studies historian, a lecturer at the University of Virginia, and the author of “Marching Into Darkness: The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belarus.” He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Congress isn’t just a co-equal branch. We’re first among equals, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (right, D-MD), May 12, 2019 (print ed.). There’s a reason the House and Senate were set out right after the words “We the People.” Oversight isn’t the only area where the president thinks he can supersede and supplant Congress. He believes he can declare a national security emergency when lawmakers reject funding for his border wall — and then jamin raskin american university Custom 2reprogram money Congress has appropriated for other purposes to build the wall behind our backs.

And despite the fact that his main job is to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” as the Constitution’s Article II provides, he routinely sabotages the effective administration of the Affordable Care Act (by starving recruitment efforts and promoting “junk” plans) and encourages government officials at the border to violate the law on asylum seekers. All this falls outside of his constitutional power.

Jamie Raskin, a Democrat, represents Maryland’s 8th District in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves on the Judiciary and Oversight Committees. He is an emeritus professor of constitutional law at American University’s Washington College of Law.

U.S. Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: ‘Executive privilege’ is a new concept built on a shaky legal foundation, Aziz Huq, May 12, 2019 (print ed.). It’s not mentioned in the Constitution, and the Supreme Court only recognized it in 1974.

President Trump says “executive privilege” prevents the House from seeing the unredacted Mueller report and investigating a number of other subjects. The White House’s letter rebuffing Congress doesn’t spell out exactly why it thinks the requested material is privileged; rather, it asserts a “protective” power of the president, as a matter of constitutional right, to decide what to share. In response, Democratic House leaders complain that Trump is sparking a “constitutional crisis” by blocking their authority to investigate wrongdoing by officials (including, thanks to the impeachment clause, the president).

But few pause to ask where a president’s supposed executive privilege comes from. What if the oversight pileup we’re witnessing flows not from Trump’s norm-busting tendencies but rather from the hazardously open-ended concept of executive privilege itself?

Conservative jurists have ferociously criticized the idea of “unenumerated” constitutional rights (such as a right to abortion), describing them as licenses for partisan entrepreneurship. Yet the right to executive privilege is not mentioned in the Constitution’s text, either, and its historical pedigree is dubious: In the early republic, presidents did not consistently claim a constitutional right to withhold information from Congress. When the privilege has been invoked, it’s been in situations laced with obvious self-interest and partisan motives. Strikingly, its formal judicial recognition came almost 200 years after the founding. Its tenuous foundations ought to shape how we evaluate Trump’s invocation of executive privilege.

aziz huqThe late Raoul Berger, a leading originalist scholar on executive privilege, called the presidential perquisite a “constitutional myth.” He noted, too, that the president’s Article II obligation “to from time to time give to the Congress information on the State of the Union” has no stated limit. For Berger, it was clear that the president had a primary obligation of disclosure to lawmakers, not a license for reticence.

Aziz Huq, right, teaches law at the University of Chicago, and is co-author of "How to Save a Constitutional Democracy."

washington post logo

May 10

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Timespaul krugman, Opinion: Trump Is Terrible for Rural America, Paul Krugman, right, May 10, 2019 (print ed.). His biggest supporters are his biggest victims. Rural America is a key part of Donald Trump’s base. In fact, rural areas are the only parts of the country in which Trump has a net positive approval rating. But they’re also the biggest losers under his policies.

What, after all, is Trumpism? In 2016 Trump pretended to be a different kind of Republican, but in practice almost all of his economic agenda has been G.O.P. standard: big tax cuts for corporations and the rich while hacking away at the social safety net. The one big break from orthodoxy has been his protectionism, his eagerness to start trade wars.

And all of these policies disproportionately hurt farm country.

Trump Watch

richard neal headshotRoll Call, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig subpoenaed over Trump tax returns, Doug Sword, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal, right, announced Friday he had issued subpoenas to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to provide President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Neal first asked for six years of Trump’s tax returns and six years of returns from eight of the president’s businesses in an April 3 letter to IRS Commission Charles Rettig. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who oversees the IRS, responded that he was considering the request while making arguments as to why Neal was not entitled to the documents.

Neal rejected those arguments in an April 13 letter and on May 6, Mnuchin formally rejected the Massachusetts Democrat’s request. Neal made his request under Sec. 6103 of the tax code, which states that upon “written request” from the chairman of either of the two tax-writing committees, “the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified” in the request.

Neal and legal experts have predicted the issue could entail a lengthy court battle.

djt epstein mar a lagoTheHill.com, George Conway slams Trump for calling Biden 'creepy': You 'palled around with Jeffrey Epstein,' Rachel Frazin, May 10, 2019. George Conway, below left, an attorney and husband to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, criticized President Trump Friday for calling former Vice President Joe george conway twitterBiden creepy, noting that Trump has been linked to financier Jeffrey Epstein, who has been accused of sexually abusing multiple underage girls.

The president on Friday referred to Biden as "SleepyCreepy Joe" in a tweet, referencing the multiple women who have said that Biden touched them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable. Biden is a top contender in the 2020 Democratic primary to challenge Trump, leading in polls and touting big fundraising numbers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Subpoena of Trump Jr. sets off a firefight among Republicans, Seung Min Kim and Karoun Demirjian, May 10, 2019 (print ed.). Lawmakers took sides on the propriety of a demand that the president’s eldest son testify again in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s decision to subpoena Donald Trump Jr. (right) has ignited an internal Republican firefight over the fate of the committee’s Russia probe, as the panel’s GOP chairman showed no signs of backing down despite fierce criticism from many of his colleagues that it was time to move on.

donald trump jr croppedThe sudden infighting threatened to undermine support for the Senate’s Russia investigation, which is the sole bipartisan probe in Congress into Russian interference in the 2016 election and has been widely praised as operating with little public drama.

richard burr oMuch of the backlash against the decision by Chairman Richard Burr (N.C.), left, to subpoena President Trump’s eldest son came from GOP senators who are up for reelection next year and from those closely aligned with the president. The outrage was partially fueled by Trump Jr. and his own allies.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a member of the intelligence panel, said the intense criticism of Burr was in part a misunderstanding of the focus of the committee’s investigation, which Rubio said is being inaccurately conflated with the special counsel probe. “Mueller is a criminal justice investigation,” Rubio said. “Ours is an intelligence investigation about the Russia threat and about the way our agencies performed.”

President Donald Trump officialWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Trump's bankrupt days were rife with drug smugglers, May 10, 2019 (subscription required). Donald Trump’s tax returns from 1985 to 1994 that show he was $1.17 billion in debt may not be a surprise to anyone who realized his risky venture into Atlantic City casinos posed a potential financial loss for the real estate businessman.

Dissenting Pro-Trump Views On Mueller Probe

washington post logoWashington Post, Roger Stone asks court to toss out evidence, saying Russian hacking of Democrats in 2016 is ‘assumption,’ Spencer S. Hsu, May 10, 2019. Stone claims court-approved search warrants illegally relied on unproven assumptions. Attorneys for Trump confidant Roger Stone urged a federal judge Friday to toss out all evidence gathered through search warrants in his case, saying court-approved warrants illegally relied on unproven assumptions that Russia was behind the hack of Democratic Party emails during the 2016 campaign or gave them to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

Stone’s lawyers made the allegation in a nine-page motion to suppress evidence in his November trial on charges of lying to Congress and witness tampering connected to his efforts to gather information about the stolen Democratic emails and their release to WikiLeaks and other groups.

Stone, 66, has pleaded not guilty, and his latest court filing in Washington sought a hearing to force U.S. authorities to prove in court the role of Russian operatives in hacks on the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton presidential campaign chairman John Podesta.

In doing so, Stone’s defense took up a theory backed by some Trump supporters that denies a central finding of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election: Moscow’s primary role in the “sweeping and systemic” cyber effort.

The Mueller probe in July 2018 publicly indicted members of the Russian military intelligence agency GRU in the hack on Democratic organizations and the Clinton campaign, accusing specific military units and 12 named officers of a sustained, sophisticated effort to steal and publish data to influence U.S. voting.

May 9

'Constitutional Crisis,' Pelosi Warns

ny times logoNew York Times, Pelosi Declares Nation Is in a ‘Constitutional Crisis,’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Nicholas Fandos, May 9, 2019. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the United States was in a “constitutional crisis” and warned that House Democrats might move to hold more Trump administration officials in contempt of Congress if they continued their refusals to comply with committee subpoenas.

nancy pelosi oSpeaking to reporters in the Capitol, Ms. Pelosi (shown in a file photo) said she agreed with Representative Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who said Wednesday that the nation was in a constitutional crisis after his committee recommended the House hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over an unredacted version of the special counsel’s report, along with the report’s underlying evidence.

“The administration has decided they are not going to honor their oath of office,” she said.

Ms. Pelosi said Democrats would bring the contempt citation to the floor for a vote of the full House “when we are ready.”

democratic donkey logoDemocrats have not settled on a precise date for the vote to hold Mr. Barr in contempt of Congress, though Mr. Nadler said after Wednesday’s vote that he wanted it scheduled “rapidly.”

Democratic leaders may wait to pair the Judiciary Committee’s contempt recommendations with another, most likely from the Intelligence Committee should its conflict with the Justice Department get to that point.

The committee’s chairman, Representative Adam B. Schiff, issued a subpoena on Thursday for Mr. Barr to hand over the full Mueller report and evidence, as well as all counterintelligence and foreign intelligence generated by the special counsel’s investigations. He gave the Justice Department until May 15 to comply. If Mr. Barr ignores that deadline, the Intelligence Committee would probably hold its own contempt proceedings and send another recommendation to the House floor.

There are other possible contempt citations in the wings as well, including for Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel who is under subpoena by the Judiciary Committee, and witnesses in unrelated Oversight and Reform Committee investigations.

Ms. Pelosi has been urging caution since the release of the report by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel; she believes that Democrats campaigned on addressing issues like health care and the high cost of prescription drugs and must keep their focus on priorities for voters.

Dissenting Pro-Trump Views On Mueller Probe

craig murray uk ambassadorCraigMurray.org, Opinion: The Real Muellergate Scandal, Craig Murray, right, May 9, 2019. I did not comment instantly on the Mueller Report as I was so shocked by it, I have been waiting to see if any other facts come to light in justification. Nothing has. I limit myself here to that area of which I have personal knowledge – the leak of DNC and Podesta emails to Wikileaks.

On the DNC leak, Mueller started with the prejudice that it was “the Russians” and he deliberately and systematically excluded from evidence anything that contradicted that view.

Mueller, as a matter of determined policy, omitted key steps which any honest investigator would undertake. He did not commission any forensic examination of the DNC servers. He did not interview Bill Binney. He did not interview Julian Assange. His failure to do any of those obvious things renders his report worthless.

May 8

Barr Cited For Contempt

 ny times logoNew York Times, House Panel Votes to Recommend Contempt for Barr, Nicholas Fandos, May 8, 2019. The vote by the House Judiciary Committee against Attorney General William P. Barr came after he failed to turn over the unredacted Mueller report. Hours earlier, President Trump asserted executive privilege to shield the full report. Both moves escalate the drama in an increasingly tense battle. 

william barr new oThe House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to recommend the House hold Attorney General William P. Barr, right, in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over Robert S. Mueller III’s unredacted report, hours after President Trump asserted executive privilege to shield the full report and underlying evidence from public view.

The committee’s 24-16 contempt vote, taken after hours of debate that featured apocalyptic language about the future of American democracy, marked the first time that the House has taken official action to punish a government official or witness amid a standoff between the legislative and executive branch. The Justice Department decried it as an unnecessary and overwrought reaction designed to stoke a fight.

The drama raised the stakes yet again in an increasingly tense battle over evidence and witnesses as Democrats investigate Mr. Trump and his administration. By the day’s end, it seemed all but inevitable that the competing claims would have to be settled in the nation’s courts rather than on Capitol Hill, as Democrats had initially hoped after the initial delivery of Mr. Mueller’s report.

“Our fight is not just about the Mueller Report — although we must have access to the Mueller report. Our fight is about defending the rights of Congress, as an independent branch, to hold the president, any president, accountable,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the Judiciary Committee chairman, during a grueling debate that ended with a vote along party lines.

The executive privilege assertion was Mr. Trump’s first use of the secrecy powers as president. The Justice Department described it as “protective” to allow Mr. Trump time to fully review the materials to make a final privilege determination. But the timing of the assertion signaled that the White House is eager for a fight, and the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, indicated that no change of heart was coming.

Senate Subpoenas Trump Jr.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason the Senate Intelligence Committee just subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr., Bill Palmer, May 8, 2019.  Even as the House Judiciary Committee donald trump jr croppedwas voting to hold Donald Trump’s Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress, the surprising news leaked that the Senate Intelligence Committee is subpoenaing Donald Trump Jr to testify about his role in the Trump-Russia scandal. So what’s really going on here?

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump Jr already testified about the Trump-Russia scandal for the Senate once, and his testimony has since proven to be – how can we say this politely – factually false. Because this committee is controlled by Donald Trump’s Republican Party, some observers are assuming on first blush that the GOP is coordinating with Trump Jr to bring him back in, so he can clean up his testimony and thus insulate himself from potential perjury charges.

But if that were the case, Junior would be coming in voluntarily, and the subpoena wouldn’t be needed. In fact NBC News is now reporting that Jr did refuse to voluntarily appear.

This raises some other possibilities. Notably, the redacted Mueller report recently revealed that in 2017, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr conspired with the Trump White House behind the scenes to try to give Trump’s people the upper hand. Now suddenly Burr is forcing Trump Jr to come back in and answer for his previous possible perjury.

Is this a matter of Burr trying to protect himself?

Trump Taxes Revealed Huge Losses

ny times logoNew York Times, Times Investigation: Decade in the Red: Trump Tax Figures, Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig, May 8, 2019 (print ed.). Show Over $1 Billion in Business Losses; Newly obtained tax information reveals that from 1985 to 1994, Donald J. Trump’s businesses were in far bleaker condition than was previously known. By the time his master-of-the-universe memoir “Trump: The Art of the Deal” hit bookstores in 1987, Donald J. Trump was already in deep financial distress, losing tens of millions of dollars on troubled business deals, according to previously unrevealed figures from his federal income tax returns.

ny times logoMr. Trump was propelled to the presidency, in part, by a self-spun narrative of business success and of setbacks triumphantly overcome. He has attributed his first run of reversals and bankruptcies to the recession that took hold in 1990. But 10 years of tax information obtained by The New York Times paints a different, and far bleaker, picture of his deal-making abilities and financial condition.

The data — printouts from Mr. Trump’s official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts, with the figures from his federal tax form, the 1040, for the years 1985 to 1994 — represents the fullest and most detailed look to date at the president’s taxes, information he has kept from public view. Though the information does not cover the tax years at the center of an escalating battle between the Trump administration and Congress, it traces the most tumultuous chapter in a long business career — an era of fevered acquisition and spectacular collapse.

donald trump cover art of the dealThe numbers show that in 1985, Mr. Trump reported losses of $46.1 million from his core businesses — largely casinos, hotels and retail space in apartment buildings. They continued to lose money every year, totaling $1.17 billion in losses for the decade.

ny times logoNew York Times, 5 Takeaways From 10 Years of Trump Tax Figures, Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner, May 8, 2019 (print ed.). Since the 2016 presidential campaign, journalists at The New York Times and elsewhere have been trying to piece together Donald J. Trump’s complex and concealed finances. Now The Times has obtained 10 years of previously unrevealed figures from the president’s federal income tax returns. The tax numbers, for the years 1985 through 1994, paint a far bleaker picture of Mr. Trump’s deal-making abilities and financial condition than the one he has long put forth.

Here are some key takeaways.

  1. Mr. Trump was deep in the red even as he peddled deal-making advice. Trump: The Art of the Deal came out in 1987. It became a best seller — and a powerful vehicle for the self-spun myth of the self-made billionaire that would ultimately help propel him to the presidency.
  2. In multiple years, he appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual taxpayer
  3. He paid no federal income taxes for eight of the 10 years
  4. He made millions posing as a corporate raider — until investors realized he never followed through
  5. His interest income spiked in 1989 at $52.9 million, but the source is a mystery

The newly revealed tax information covers an earlier period of Mr. Trump’s business career. And The Times did not obtain Mr. Trump’s actual tax returns. But it obtained printouts from his official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts, with the figures from his federal tax form, the 1040, from someone who had legal access to them. They represent the fullest and most detailed look to date at the president’s taxes. And they show that during a tumultuous decade of fevered acquisition and spectacular collapse, Mr. Trump’s core businesses — largely casinos, hotels and retail space in apartment buildings — ran up $1.17 billion in losses.

washington post logoWashington Post, N.Y. legislature advances bill that would allow Congress to access Trump’s state tax returns, Jeff Stein, May 8, 2019. Republicans in New York have ridiculed the move as an attempt to embarrass the president.

Trump Watch / Oversight

 washington post logosteven mnuchin wWashington Post, A day after blocking House demand for Trump’s tax returns, Mnuchin addressed gathering of his top fundraisers, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Josh Dawsey and Damian Paletta, May 8, 2019 (print ed.). Treasury secretaries in recent years have avoided fundraiser events with people they could be tasked with regulating, in part because of their role in overseeing a broad swath of companies in the financial system.

Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, right, spoke to top Trump administration campaign "bundlers," some from the financial sector directly regulated by him and his staff, at an event at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. to ask Trump to invoke executive privilege over redacted Mueller materials, Rachael Bade and Matt Zapotosky, May 8, 2019 (print ed.). The move would all but assure that the attorney general will be held in contempt of Congress.

U.S. Constitutional Crisis Ramps Up

ny times logoadam liptakNew York Times, News Analysis: Clash Between Trump and House Democrats Poses Threat to Constitutional Order, Adam Liptak, May 8, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump’s wholesale refusal to provide information to Congress threatens to upend the delicate balance that is the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution.

Earlier administrations fought isolated skirmishes over congressional subpoenas. Mr. Trump, by contrast, has declared an all-out war on efforts by House Democrats to look into his official conduct and business dealings. And that has legal experts across the ideological spectrum warning that the president’s categorical opposition to what he sees as partisan meddling could create a constitutional crisis — an impasse that the allocation of interlocking powers and responsibilities by the framers cannot solve.

“A president who refuses to respond to congressional oversight is taking the presidency to new levels of danger,” said William P. Marshall, a law professor at the University of North Carolina. “We’re supposed to be in a system of checks and balances, and one of the biggest checks that Congress has over the executive is the power of congressional oversight.”

“Not responding to that is to literally say that you’re above the law and you’re above the Constitution,” he said. “There’s nothing in history that comes even close to that.”

John Yoo, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former official in the George W. Bush administration, said Mr. Trump’s approach was novel and dangerous.

“The thing that’s unusual is the blanket refusal,” Professor Yoo said. “It would be extraordinary if the president actually were to try to stop all congressional testimony on subpoenaed issues. That would actually be unprecedented if it were a complete ban.”

“He’s treating Congress like they’re the Chinese or a local labor union working on a Trump building,” he said.

Alliance for Justice, Opinion: The Pros Agree: Trump Would Be in Handcuffs but for OLC, Bill Yeomans, May 8, 2019. This week, I joined some 700 former federal prosecutors (the bill yeomans afj cropped Customnumber is still growing) in signing a letter attesting to Trump’s obstruction of justice. The signatories span Democratic and Republican administrations. Many worked at the Department of Justice for decades. The letter stated: “Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.”

The letter discussed areas in which the evidence establishes violations of the obstruction of justice statutes, including, “[t]he President’s efforts to fire Mueller and to falsify evidence about that effort; [t]he President’s efforts to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation to exclude his conduct; and [t]he President’s efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators probing him and his campaign.”

alliance for justice logoThe letter said: “We emphasize that these are not matters of close professional judgment.” It concluded that “to look at these facts and say that a prosecutor could not probably sustain a conviction for obstruction of justice — the standard set out in Principles of Federal Prosecution — runs counter to logic and our experience.”

So, the opinion of the professionals is in: the President of the United States committed serious crimes while in office, crimes that cut to the core integrity of our system of justice. The letter directly rejects Attorney General Barr’s conclusion that Trump did not obstruct justice.

The letter was necessary only because Barr flagrantly misrepresented the contents of the report, giving Trump and uncritical journalists an easy talking point: no collusion, no obstruction. We know that the report explicitly rejected making findings about collusion, concluding instead that the available evidence did not support finding a criminal conspiracy. Indeed, the report contains substantial evidence of a symbiotic relationship between Russia and the Trump campaign that looks undeniably like collusion.

And now, we know that Attorney General Barr’s determination that the report did not support a finding of obstruction runs dramatically against the overwhelming weight of experienced professional opinion. Sadly, Robert Mueller appears to have underestimated the hurdles the essential findings of his investigation would have to surmount to reach Congress and the public. Mueller prepared summaries for public release that are very damaging for Trump and would have launched a very different public discussion had Barr not suppressed them in favor of his own distorted summary. As has happened too often in our recent political life, the play-by-the-rules straight shooter was run over by a ruthless, shortsighted partisan.

Another U.S. School Shooting

washington post logoWashington Post, Student dies, eight classmates hurt in shooting at suburban Denver school, Susan Svrluga, Perry Stein and Nick Anderson, May 8, 2019 (print ed.). One student died, and eight classmates were injured Tuesday in a shooting at a suburban Denver school, law enforcement authorities said, less than a month after the region marked the 20th anniversary of the Columbine massacre.

Two suspects, both students at the school, are in custody, according to Douglas County officials. The adult suspect was named late Tuesday as 18-year-old Devon Erickson. The other suspect is a juvenile female, officials said.

The Denver region has been on edge as the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre was memorialized, and deadly threats were called in to other Denver-area schools. The Columbine attack, in which two teenagers killed 13 people, marked the beginning of a new era in the United States — a time when the threat of school shootings has taught a generation of children how to flee, hide and even fight back when faced with a gunman.

It had been only days since another school shooting. At the University of North Carolina in Charlotte last week, a student tackled a gunman who opened fire on a classroom, police said, killing two and injuring four others.

donald trump jesus us navy john singleton copley

President Donald J. Trump.Photo credit: US Navy and John Singleton Copley / Wikimedia.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Analysis: Did Trump Find Religion? Don’t Hold Your Breath, WhoWhatWhy Staff, May 8, 2019. President Donald Trump last week claimed that leaning on God has helped him make it through the “witch hunts” he has been subjected to. It makes sense for the president to pander to Christian conservatives, who are among his most ardent supporters. But is his claim of being religious credible?

In 2016, before Trump had even secured the Republican nomination, WhoWhatWhy investigated his assertion that, because he is a “strong Christian,” he was being audited by the IRS — and therefore could not release his tax returns.

Back then, we went through all of his books to find evidence of this strong faith. We discover very little apart from claims he made when he was already running for president.

Since then, nothing has changed that would convince us that Trump has actually found religion. On Sundays, the president usually worships golf, and he has set records when it comes to bearing false witness.

May 7

donald trump gage skidmore portrait

Donald J. Trump (Gage Skidmore file photo). When asked if the Mueller probe was "a witch hunt" on March 25, President Trump said some people did "treasonous things" and it should never happen again.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump would’ve been charged if he weren’t president, 375 ex-prosecutors assert, Matt Zapotosky​, May 7, 2019 (print ed.). The group’s statement offers a rebuttal to the attorney general’s determination that the evidence uncovered by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III was “not sufficient” to establish that the president committed obstruction of justice.

More than 370 former federal prosecutors who worked in Republican and Democratic administrations have signed on to a statement asserting special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s findings would have produced obstruction charges against President Trump — if not for the office he held.

Mueller had declined to say one way or the other whether Trump should have been charged, citing a Justice Department legal opinion that sitting presidents cannot be indicted, as well as concerns about the fairness of accusing someone for whom there can be no court proceeding.

 ny times logoNew York Times, White House Guards Tax Returns as House Threatens to Hold Barr in Contempt, Nicholas Fandos and Alan Rappeport, May 7, 2019 (print ed.). A showdown between the executive and legislative branches ratcheted up as the Trump administration resisted Democrats’ efforts on multiple fronts. The Treasury defied a request for President Trump’s tax returns as House Democrats planned a vote to hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress.

washington post logoWashington Post, Two more years? Trump’s retweet sets off a furor over the idea of bonus time, Ashley Parker, May 7, 2019 (print ed.). His backers say the president was just joking, but detractors point to his history of casting doubt on the legitimacy of elections and constitutional norms as reason for concern. President Donald Trump officialPresident Trump for months has griped, complained and tweeted about what he says is the unfair Russia “witch hunt” investigation that has consumed nearly half of his presidency.

Now, the president has floated a possible solution: two bonus years.

Trump over the weekend shared a tweet by Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, in which Falwell complimented Trump for “no obstruction, no collusion” and a soaring economy, before adding, “Trump should have 2 yrs added to his 1st term as pay back for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup.”

White House officials and others close to the president said he was joking and is not serious about trying to increase his first four-year term by 50 percent — an extension that would violate the Constitution and has no historical precedent.

ny times logoNew York Times, A leading planner of Mr. Trump’s inaugural festivities said she was “thrown under the bus,” Maggie Haberman and Ben Protess, May 7, 2019 (print ed.). Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a leading contractor for President Trump’s inaugural committee and a former adviser to the first lady, Melania Trump, has publicly disputed accounts of her departure from the White House last year, rejecting claims from officials that she was dismissed.

stephanie winston wolkoff twitterMs. Winston Wolkoff (shown on her Twitter photo) specifically took issue with suggestions by White House officials that she had been forced out because of reports that she had profited excessively from her role in helping organize inaugural events. She gave her account of what happened in a statement to The New York Times more than a year after she parted ways with the White House, where she had served as an unpaid adviser to Mrs. Trump after the inauguration.

“Was I fired? No,” Ms. Winston Wolkoff said in the statement. “Did I personally receive $26 million or $1.6 million? No. Was I thrown under the bus? Yes.”

It was the first time Ms. Winston Wolkoff has provided extensive public comments about the events around her split from the White House, including characterizations at the time by White House officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, that she had been forced out because of reports about lavish spending on the inauguration.

dan mcgahn djtPalmer Report, Opinion: Don McGahn is a few hours from spilling the beans on Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, May 6, 2019.  Last week Donald Trump stated on Fox News that he might not allow former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify about the Mueller report before the House Judiciary Committee. This was unintentional comedy, as Trump has no ability whatsoever to stop a former employee from appearing before Congress. Even as we await McGahn’s scheduled testimony on May 21st, we’re actually just a few hours from McGahn seriously spilling the beans on Trump in an equally important way.

Don McGahn (shown at right with Trump in file photos) has until 10am eastern time tomorrow morning to turn over a dump truck’s worth of documents to the House Judiciary Committee. As laid out by Rachel Maddow during her show this evening, the requested documents appear to go well beyond what Robert Mueller focused on in his probe.

bill palmer report logo headerDon McGahn fully and eagerly cooperated with Mueller, so it stands to reason that he’ll do the same with this material subpoenaed by Congress. He’s also shown that he’s very careful about protecting himself, so if he were planning to miss the deadline, he’d surely have said as much by now, and laid out a legal reason. So unless Trump tries something first thing tomorrow morning, House Democrats are about to obtain a treasure trove of documents and notes exposing Trump’s various improprieties while inside the White House.

Donald Trump has never had attorney-client privilege with Mcgahn (White House Counsel is the White House’s lawyer, not the president’s lawyer), and Trump waived any executive privilege with McGahn a long time ago. That said, Donald Trump can still make a frivolous last minute court filing in the hope of slowing McGahn down a little bit. But he’s just about out of time for that, and no, a pre-dawn Twitter rant about McGahn tomorrow morning won’t count for anything under the law.

So we’ll see what happens. If Donald Trump can’t find a last minute way to intervene, and Don McGahn forks over all this evidence as expected, it’ll take the House Judiciary Committee some time to sort through it all and find the most incriminating parts. That’s why his testimony is set for two weeks after tomorrow’s deadline. But you can expect the Democrats on the committee to start letting out some of the secrets before McGahn’s testimony, if only to ensure that a large television audience tunes in for it.

May 6

washington post logorobert mueller full face fileWashington Post, In reversal, Trump says Mueller ‘should not testify’ before Congress, Felicia Sonmez, May 6, 2019 (print ed.). “Bob Mueller should not testify,” President Trump tweeted. “No redos for the Dems!” The comment came hours after a key member of the House Judiciary Committee said the panel has proposed a date of May 15 for Robert S. Mueller III to testify but that no deal has been reached.

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Cohen reports to prison for 3-year sentence. Suggests once again he has more secrets to spill, Devlin Barrett​​, May 6, 2019. The president’s former lawyer unsuccessfully tried recently to get his sentence delayed or reduced by dangling the prospect of new incriminating information against others.

washington post logowilliam barr new oWashington Post, House Democrats to hold contempt vote Wednesday after Barr misses deadline to provide complete Mueller report, Felicia Sonmez and Rachael Bade, May 6, 2019. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee said they will vote Wednesday on whether to hold Attorney General William P. Barr, right, in contempt of Congress after Barr missed a deadline to produce a complete version of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report.

The panel had set a deadline of 9 a.m. Monday for Barr to provide the unredacted version of Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The committee has argued lawmakers need access to the full report to protect the rule of law, ensure Trump has not abused his power and even to consider whether to move to impeach him.

May 5

Trump Watch / Legal News

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, ‘Investigate the investigators’ is new Trump rallying cry to counter Mueller report, Toluse Olorunnipa, May 5, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump and his allies are seeking to amplify claims that the FBI spied on his 2016 campaign. Dismissed by critics as an outlandish conspiracy theory, so-called “spygate” is becoming a central feature of his campaign.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just guaranteed his own impeachment, Bill Palmer, May 5, 2019. Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats have been taking all the necessary first steps in the impeachment of Donald Trump, including cracking down on non-cooperative witnesses who are trying to protect Trump, and scheduling witnesses who are willing to go in front of the cameras and help take Trump down. But because this process will take perhaps a month anyway, there has been no need to call it impeachment yet – and thus no guarantee that House Democrats will actually commit to it when the time comes. That just changed this evening.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump posted a tweet that’s getting a lot of attention because he claimed in illiterate fashion that the first two years have been “stollen” from him by the Mueller probe. Even as everyone makes fun of him, no one should overlook his separate retweet tonight which called for him to have two extra years tacked onto the end of his term. They weren’t Trump’s words, but he adopted them by retweeting them.

Make no mistake, this is the moment that will be looked back upon as the inflection point in Donald Trump’s downfall. He just called for his own presidency to be illegally extended. In so doing, he’s declared himself Emperor of the United States. Just yesterday, Nancy Pelosi predicted that Trump won’t leave peacefully when his term is up – but the average person out there wasn’t going to believe Trump would do something so cartoonishly treacherous unless Trump confessed to it. Now Trump just confessed to it. If and when he loses the 2020 election, he’s telling us that he’ll demand to stay in office two more years.

This retweet alone forces the impeachment issue. It will happen. We don’t know if Trump is strategically forcing impeachment as a way of coming out swinging against Robert Mueller’s upcoming testimony, or if Trump has just snapped and no longer cares what impact his treasonous words might have on him. But impeachment just went from being probable to inevitable. Welcome to the show.

washington post logoWashington Post, In reversal, Trump says Mueller ‘should not testify’ before Congress, Felicia Sonmez, May 5, 2019. “Bob Mueller should not testify,” President Trump tweeted. “No redos for the Dems!” The comment came hours after a key member of the House Judiciary Committee said the panel has proposed a date of May 15 for Robert S. Mueller III to testify but that no deal has been reached.

Inside DC: Border Jobs

ny times logomark morgan cropNew York Times, Trump Names Mark Morgan, Former Head of Border Patrol, to Lead ICE, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Michael Tackett, May 5, 2019. Mr. Morgan, right, led the Border Patrol during the last months of the Obama administration. But he has expressed agreement with many of President Trump’s hard-line views.

Mr. Morgan served as the Border Patrol chief at the end of the Obama administration, and was also previously an F.B.I. agent. He will lead the agency that arrests, detains and deports people who are in the United States illegally, after Mr. Trump last month withdrew his previous nominee, Ronald D. Vitiello, saying he wanted the agency to go in a “tougher direction.”

May 3

U.S. Justice & Constitutional Crisis

william barr senate hearing cnn screengrab jan 15 2019

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr’s no-show triggers contempt threats, Nixon comparison and more impeachment talk, Rachael Bade, Mike DeBonis and John Wagner, May 3, 2019 (print ed.). Attorney General William P. Barr’s snub of House Democrats on Thursday has triggered an all-out war between the White House and Congress, pushing the House closer to holding the nation’s top law enforcement official in contempt of Congress and prompting Speaker Nancy Pelosi to liken President Trump to President Richard M. Nixon.

The almost daily confrontations between the two branches of government increase the pressure on Pelosi (D-Calif.) to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump, a politically fraught move that she has resisted in the absence of strong public sentiment and bipartisan support. Many Democrats argue that the 2020 election is the best means to oust the president.

But Democrats are infuriated with Barr, who refused to testify Thursday at the House Judiciary Committee’s scheduled hearing on his handling of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report, and Trump’s defiance in the face of multiple congressional requests for documents and witnesses. Democrats cast the administration’s unwillingness to cooperate as a threat to democracy with far-reaching implications.

“Ignoring subpoenas of Congress, not honoring subpoenas of Congress — that was Article III of the Nixon impeachment,” Pelosi said of Trump in a private meeting with colleagues, according to notes taken by an individual present for the remarks. “This person has not only ignored subpoenas, he has said he’s not going to honor any subpoenas. What more do we want?”

Pelosi escalated her rhetoric this week as more Democrats press for tough steps to counter the president.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House complained to Barr about Mueller report after its release, Rosalind S. Helderman and Josh Dawsey, May 3, 2019. The letter from White House lawyer Emmet Flood emerged publicly a day after the attorney general criticized special counsel Robert S. Mueller III at a Senate hearing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Watergate had the Nixon tapes. Mueller had Annie Donaldson’s notes, Carol D. Leonnig​, May 3, 2019. Daily notes jotted down by the chief of staff to the White House counsel provided a trove of evidence cited by the special counsel.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump finds in Barr the attorney general — and shield — he long sought, Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger and Ashley Parker, May 3, 2019. For a time, President Trump was reluctant to select William P. Barr as his attorney general. The veteran Justice Department official from the George H.W. Bush administration was not a longtime Trump loyalist, and the president wondered whether one of his own political allies might serve better as a shield, people familiar with the matter said.

But Trump was ultimately persuaded — in part because his lawyers and advisers told him Barr was a strong supporter of presidential power and unafraid of taking on critics. This week, the president has been thrilled with his choice, particularly after Barr sparred so vigorously with Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that some were left wondering whether he viewed himself as the president’s defense attorney, according to people familiar with the matter, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

In Barr’s first three months in the job, his actions have served to protect Trump, though his motive is up for debate. Barr’s defenders note that the attorney general has long advocated strengthening the power of the executive branch, and the attorney general has told other lawyers that he is more interested in protecting the presidency than the man in the job.

jerrold nadler o SmallBut critics say that Barr has emerged as the partisan champion Trump always wanted — one willing to defend the president’s most questionable conduct, put a Trumpian spin on the results of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and mislead Congress along the way.

“He has failed the men and women of the Department of Justice by placing the needs of the president over the fair administration of justice,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y., right) said at a congressional hearing Thursday that Barr skipped after a dispute over the terms of his appearance.

May 2

william barr rod rosenstein ocallaghan cspan

The Atlantic, Opinion: The Catastrophic Performance of Bill Barr, The attorney general misled the public in seven key ways, Benjamin Wittes (editor-in-chief of Lawfare), right, May 2, ben wittes brookings2019. atlantic logoI was willing to give Bill Barr a chance. Consider me burned.

When Barr was nominated, I wrote a cautious piece for this magazine declining to give him “a character reference” and acknowledging “legitimate reasons to be concerned about [his] nomination,” but nonetheless concluding that “I suspect that he is likely as good as we’re going to get. And he might well be good enough. Because most of all, what the department needs right now is honest leadership that will insulate it from the predations of the president.”

Barr has now acted, and we can now evaluate his actual, rather than his hypothesized, performance. It has been catastrophic. Not in my memory has a sitting attorney general more diminished the credibility of his department on any subject. It is a kind of trope of political opposition in every administration that the attorney general — whoever he or she is — is politicizing the Justice Department and acting as a defense lawyer for the president. In this case it is true.

Barr has consistently sought to spin his department’s work in a highly political fashion, and he has done so to cast the president’s conduct in the most favorable possible light. Trump serially complained that Jeff Sessions didn’t act to “protect” him. Matthew Whitaker never had the stature or internal clout to do so effectively. In Barr, Trump has found his man.

Ironically, the redactions on the report — the matter on which I urged giving Barr the benefit of the doubt — are the one major area where his performance has been respectable. On this matter, he laid out a time frame for the release of the report. He met it. His redactions, as best as I can tell, were not unreasonable, though they were aggressive in some specific areas. To whatever extent he went overboard, Congress has a far-less-redacted version. The public, in any event, has access to a detailed account of Mueller’s conclusions. On this point, Barr did as he said he would.

Where Barr has utterly failed, by contrast, is in providing “honest leadership that insulates [the department] from the predations of the president.” I confess I am surprised by this. I have never known Barr well, but I thought better of him than that.

The core of the problem is not that Barr moved, as many people worried he would, to suppress the report; it is what he has said about it. I have spent a great deal of time with the Mueller report, about which Barr’s public statements are simply indefensible. The mischaracterizations began in his first letter. They got worse during his press conference the morning he released the document. And they grew worse still yesterday in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr recasts McGahn’s account of Trump’s efforts to push out Mueller, Carol D. Leonnig, May 2, 2019 (print ed.).  William P. Barr’s view of the episode with the former White House counsel provided the most revealing look yet at his rationale for determining there was not sufficient evidence to charge President Trump with trying to thwart the probe.

It was one of the most dramatic cases of potential obstruction of justice laid out by federal investigators: President Trump directing the top White House lawyer to seek the removal of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — and then later pushing him to deny the episode.

But Attorney General William P. Barr on Wednesday played down evidence that Trump sought to fire the head of the investigation bearing down on him, emphasizing in testimony before a Senate committee that the president may have had valid reasons for his actions.

It was a surprise recasting of the account of then-White House counsel Donald McGahn, who told investigators that Trump called him twice in June 2017 at home, pressuring him to intervene with the Justice Department to try to get Mueller removed. McGahn told federal investigators that he planned to resign rather than comply. And he said he later refused a demand by Trump that he write a letter denying news accounts of the episode.

• Washington Post, Barr spars with Democrats over ‘snitty’ Mueller letter

 ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Trump Co-opts Leaders Like Bill Barr, James Comey (former F.B.I. director, shown in an official photo), May 2, 2019 (print ed.). Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t james comeyresist the compromises necessary to survive this president. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive this president.

How could Mr. Barr, a bright and accomplished lawyer, start channeling the president in using words like “no collusion” and F.B.I. “spying”? And downplaying acts of obstruction of justice as products of the president’s being “frustrated and angry,” something he would never say to justify the thousands of crimes prosecuted every day that are the product of frustration and anger?

How could he write and say things about the report by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, that were apparently so misleading that they prompted written protest?

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Mueller’s silence enables Trump, allies to dominate the debate over the probe’s findings, Greg Miller, May 2, 2019 (print ed.). Before the Senate, William P. Barr seemed more like a defense lawyer than the top U.S. law enforcement official.

• Washington Post, Analysis: With ‘snitty’ slip-up, Barr undercuts his argument, Aaron Blake,

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr is a no-show at House hearing, raising chance of a contempt citation, Rachael Bade, Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian, May 2, 2019 (print ed.).  House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said the attorney general’s refusal to appear affects Congress’s ability to conduct oversight of the executive branch.

May 1

U.S. Justice & Constitutional Crisis

robert mueller screenshot washington post

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Pushed Twice for Barr to Release Report’s Summaries, Michael S. Schmidt, May 1, 2019. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III (shown above in a file photo), pushed Attorney General William P. Barr twice to release more of his investigative findings in late March after Mr. Barr outlined the inquiry’s main conclusions in a letter to Congress, citing a gap between Mr. Barr’s interpretation and Mr. Mueller’s report, according to a letter released on Wednesday.

The letter, from Mr. Mueller, revealed deep concern about how Mr. Barr handled the initial release of the special counsel’s findings.

Mr. Mueller’s office first informed the Justice Department of their concerns on March 25, a day after Mr. Barr released his letter clearing Mr. Trump but declined to release the special counsel’s findings themselves.

“We communicated that concern to the department on the morning of March 25,” Mr. Mueller said in a second letter to Mr. Barr two days later. “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.”

Mr. Barr’s letter “threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the department appointed the special counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations,” Mr. Mueller wrote.

ny times logoNew York Times, William Barr Hearing: Live Updates and Analysis of Testimony on the Mueller Report, Staff reports, May 1, 2019. Attorney General William P. Barr will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to testify about his decisions around the special counsel's report.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Trump Co-opts Leaders Like Bill Barr, James Comey (former F.B.I. director, shown in an official photo), May 1, 2019. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t james comeyresist the compromises necessary to survive this president. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive this president.

How could Mr. Barr, a bright and accomplished lawyer, start channeling the president in using words like “no collusion” and F.B.I. “spying”? And downplaying acts of obstruction of justice as products of the president’s being “frustrated and angry,” something he would never say to justify the thousands of crimes prosecuted every day that are the product of frustration and anger?

How could he write and say things about the report by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, that were apparently so misleading that they prompted written protest from the special counsel himself?

Palmer Report, Opinion: Lindsey Graham has profane meltdown during William Barr testimony, Bill Palmer, May 1, 2019. If you’ve been wondering why Donald Trump’s disgraced lindsey graham judiciary chairmanAttorney General William Barr was willing to show up and testify about his crimes to the Senate Judiciary Committee today, even as he publicly considers dodging tomorrow’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, you need look no further than the fact that the Senate Judiciary Committee is run by Trump’s corrupt lunatic lackey Lindsey Graham. Sure enough, Graham (right) wasted no time turning the whole thing into a freak show this morning.

bill palmer report logo headerGraham kicked off his opening statement by appearing to complain about the air conditioning, and that turned out to be the least strange thing he said. He then went on to falsely claim that Robert Mueller found “no collusion” – such a blatant lie that MSNBC felt compelled to mute him and quickly jump in to explain that Graham was lying. That’s almost unprecedented for a committee chairman’s opening statement, yet it set the tenor for the day.

Graham made the stunning admission that he hasn’t even read the entire Mueller report, and that alone should have caused a trap door to open up underneath him. He then wasted no time bringing up Donald Trump’s favorite phony conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton’s emails and former FBI agent Peter Strzok’s text messages. At one point Graham read aloud the Strzok quote “Donald Trump is a fucking idiot” for no good reason, and his profanity was broadcast uncensored on live national television. Graham then apologized to any children who were watching.

After Lindsey Graham was finished with his profane, lying, and incoherent meltdown in front of the cameras, Democratic ranking member Dianne Feinstein then used her opening remarks to state the facts about the Mueller report, and Robert Mueller’s letter exposing William Barr’s lies about the Mueller report. We presume Lindsey Graham is now hiding under his desk.

washington post logoWashington Post, Emoluments case can proceed, judge says, providing potential access to information about Trump’s business deals, Jonathan O'Connell, Ann E. Marimow and Carol D. Leonnig​, May 1, 2019 (print ed.). The federal lawsuit, backed by nearly 200 Democratic lawmakers, says the president is violating the Constitution’s emoluments provision when his businesses accept payments from foreign governments.

emmet sullivan 2012Democrats in Congress can move ahead with their lawsuit against President Trump alleging that his private business violates the Constitution’s ban on gifts or payments from foreign governments, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

The decision in Washington from U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan (a Republican-nominated judge, shown at left) adopted a broad definition of the anti-corruption ban and could set the stage for Democratic lawmakers to begin seeking information from the Trump Organization. The Justice Department can try to delay or block the process by asking an appeals court to intervene.

In a 48-page opinion, the judge refused the request of the president’s legal team to dismiss the case and rejected Trump’s narrow definition of emoluments, finding it “unpersuasive and inconsistent.”

The lawsuit is one of two landmark cases against Trump relying on the once-obscure emoluments clauses of the Constitution. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Administration won’t provide details on individual clearances, Tom Hamburger and Josh Dawsey, May 1, 2019. The White House said that it will not authorize any executive branch officials to disclose to Congress information about individual security clearances.

The White House said Wednesday that it will not authorize any executive branch officials to disclose to Congress information about individual security clearances, a move that House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) called “the latest example of the president’s widespread and growing obstruction of Congress.”

The Oversight panel has been examining the administration’s handling of security clearances and allegations that officials, including presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, were granted access to sensitive information over the objections of career staff.

The investigation has led to an angry and escalating standoff between the House committee and the White House, which accused the panel in a letter Wednesday of “advancing a partisan political agenda.”

Among other things, White House Counsel Pat A. Cipollone wrote, “the committee appears to be putting public servants at risk” as it seeks information on the way in which the White House granted security clearances to Kushner and others in the top echelons of the Trump White House.

April 30

U.S. Justice & Constitutional Crisis

washington post logowilliam barr new oWashington Post, Mueller complained to Barr that his letter did not capture ‘context’ of probe, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky​, April 30, 2019. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (shown in a Washington Post screenshot) expressed his concerns in a letter to William P. Barr, right, after the attorney general publicized Mueller's principal conclusions. The letter was followed by a phone call during which Mueller pressed Barr to release executive summaries of his report.

washington post logoWashington Post, Emoluments case can proceed, judge says, providing potential access to information about Trump’s business deals, Jonathan O'Connell, Ann E. Marimow and Carol D. Leonnig​, April 30, 2019. The federal lawsuit, backed by nearly 200 Democratic lawmakers, says the president is violating the Constitution’s emoluments provision when his businesses accept payments from foreign governments.

emmet sullivan 2012Democrats in Congress can move ahead with their lawsuit against President Trump alleging that his private business violates the Constitution’s ban on gifts or payments from foreign governments, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

The decision in Washington from U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan (a Republican-nominated judge, shown at left) adopted a broad definition of the anti-corruption ban and could set the stage for Democratic lawmakers to begin seeking information from the Trump Organization. The Justice Department can try to delay or block the process by asking an appeals court to intervene.

In a 48-page opinion, the judge refused the request of the president’s legal team to dismiss the case and rejected Trump’s narrow definition of emoluments, finding it “unpersuasive and inconsistent.”

The lawsuit is one of two landmark cases against Trump relying on the once-obscure emoluments clauses of the Constitution. 

rod rosenstein cropped william barr screenshot april 18 2019

Attorney General William Barr, left, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at a Justice Department news conference on April 18 where Barr spun Special Counsel Robert Mueller's then-forthcoming report to make it look like it exonerated President Trump and his main line of defenses (Screenshot).

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Rod "The Weasel" Rosenstein departs Trump's criminal lair, Wayne Madsen (left, author, syndicated columnist and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst), April 30, 2019 (Subscription normally wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallrequired but released today in the public interest. Excerpted below, with full version on WMR website).

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has tendered his resignation effective May 11. For someone like Donald Trump, who rants and raves like a lunatic about the nefarious “Deep State” he says is out to get him, Rosenstein has been and will remain a committed enforcer of the deep state.

Perhaps, not the deep state in the traditional sense. Rosenstein’s and Attorney General William Barr’s deep state is one of corporate manipulators that, today, finds itself entrenched firmly in the power centers of the United States, Russia, Britain, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Israel, France, and most of the world’s other major governments sans China, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua.

Rosenstein drafted and signed the letter that fired James Comey as FBI director. Rosenstein joined Barr in pressuring Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller to prematurely wrap up his investigation of foreign meddling in the 2016 election. Rosenstein never raised one peep when Trump appointed sacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions chief of staff Matt Whitaker as acting Attorney General, a position for which Whitaker was totally unsuited.

Throughout his career, Rosenstein has been an untrustworthy, slimy worm.

lawrence walshRosenstein’s time in the Public Integrity Section was during Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh’s investigation of the Reagan and Bush administrations for the Iran-Contra scandal. There was plenty of public corruption in those days, but Rosenstein would witness Attorney General Barr prepare pardons for six pardons by George H W Bush for top officials convicted as a result of Walsh’s investigation. Mueller’s exasperation over Barr’s non-cooperation with Walsh’s investigation appeared in William Safire’s column in The New York Times. Safire called Barr “Captain Cover-up.”

From 1995 to 1997, Rosenstein worked in the Office of Independent Counsel Ken Starr as a co-counsel in what amounted to an actual witch hunt by Republicans of President Bill Clinton.

In 1996, Rosenstein, Starr (shown below), and other prosecutors gathered at a North Little Rock, Arkansas restaurant to celebrate three convictions of ken starr windividuals – James and Susan McDougal and Arkansas Democratic Governor Jim Guy Tucker, all friends of Bill Clinton -- who were found guilty in the so-called “Whitewater” investigation led by Starr. Rosenstein joined the other prosecutors in lighting up their “victory cigars.”

....When Trump appointed Barr to be his “Roy Cohn” at Justice, it was old home week for Rosenstein. Once again, the man who sat in the office of the Attorney General was the same person Rosenstein had assisted thirty years earlier in the cover-up of the Iran-Contra scandal. Rosenstein would use his remaining time at Justice to appear behind Barr at a news conference at which Barr incorrectly described Mueller’s final report on election manipulation as a total exoneration. Rosenstein also praised Barr in public remarks delivered to the Yale Club in New York. In full weasel mode, Rosenstein also lauded Trump for his “respect for the rule of law” and berated the Obama administration and the press.

Alliance for Justice, Opinion: The House Needs a Dose of Urgency, Bill Yeomans (right), April 30, 2019. Attorney General Barr unveiled a heavily smudged version of Robert Mueller’s bill yeomans afj cropped Customreport twelve days ago. He misrepresented its content both in writing and at a press conference before its release. His false narrative – that the president had engaged in neither collusion nor obstruction – continues to resonate with much of the public.

While journalists and experts who have read the 448-page report have rejected Barr’s take and marveled at his audacity, the burden rests with Congress to set the record straight. Congress responded initially with a face-plant, otherwise known as recess. It returns this week to try again.

alliance for justice logoTrump is pushing the House toward impeachment. His posture strengthens the case for bundling investigation of all of his obstructive and contemptuous conduct into hearings in a single forum that is focused on moving toward impeachment. While crystal balls are in short supply, the political argument against impeachment is not clear. Polling suggests that 37% of the general public and 60% of Democrats support the initiation of impeachment. Those numbers seem remarkably high considering that Barr’s spin as amplified by Trump has dominated the news. The polling was conducted before Trump’s full rejection of oversight.

People have not read – and will not read – the full report. Nor are they likely to pay close attention to diffuse oversight hearings in a variety of different committees. But they will pay attention to high-drama, focused hearings in a single committee that lay out the evidence in the report. Democrats need to trust that the public will react with disgust and horror to Trump’s astonishing abuse of the public trust. Recall that Republicans presented united opposition to Nixon’s impeachment and it wasn’t until two weeks before his resignation that a majority of the country first supported his removal from office.

djt robert mueller headshotsTrue, the Senate is unlikely to vote for removal, but months of hearings in the House followed by a trial in the Senate will make every American aware of Trump’s betrayal and will force every Senator to defend their vote to keep Trump in office. That’s a pretty powerful lead into the 2020 election.

This process will not be easy. While Congress may have the legal right to demand that witnesses testify and the executive branch produce documents, the forces of time and inertia favor the president. The House must rely on contempt citations followed by civil enforcement litigation. The process will take time, but moving to impeachment will strengthen the House’s legal position in overcoming executive privilege and objections to the scope of its investigation. It will also help in obtaining grand jury material collected by Mueller.

April 29

peter dale scott american deep state rowman and littlefield Custom

Dr. Peter Dale Scott is considered the father of “Deep Politics” — the study of hidden permanent institutions and interests whose influence on the political realm transcends the elected, appointed, and career officials who come and go. A professor of English at Berkeley and a former Canadian diplomat, he is the author of several critically acclaimed books on the pivotal events of our country’s recent past, including American War Machine (2010) and The American Deep State (2018), which are relevant to the story below.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Analysis: The Mueller Report, Alfa Bank, and the Deep State, Peter Dale Scott, April 29, 2019. The Deep State, and stories of a mysterious computer back channel between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, one of Russia’s largest private banks, whose leaders are close to Putin.

alpha bank logoFor two years President Donald Trump and Fox News have been attacking the “deep state” in Washington, usually referring to the intelligence agencies, like FBI and CIA, who have had Trump under investigation.

But my notion of the deep state also includes private sources of power, outside government — but able to influence it illicitly — such as the Russian private Bank Alfa.

ny times logoNew York Times, Barr’s Feud With House Escalates With Threat of Subpoena, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, April 29, 2019 (print. ed.). The House Judiciary Committee was planning to question Attorney General William P. Barr, right, on Thursday. But he objected to the panel’s proposed format. The witness is not going to tell the william barr new ocommittee how to conduct its hearing, period,” the committee chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler said. Related story below:

washington post logoWashington Post, Attorney general may withdraw from Mueller report hearing over terms of his testimony, House Democrats say, Karoun Demirjian and Ellen Nakashima, April 29, 2019. The dispute centers on whether the House Judiciary Committee’s lawyers would be allowed to question William P. Barr after lawmakers do so, congressional aides say.

Randy Rainbow Song Parody, BARR!, Randy Rainbow, April 29, 2019. (4:47 min. video). The singer-comedian takes aim at the attorney general.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: "Progressives” who genuflect at Trump’s altar, Wayne Madsen, April 29, 2019 (subscription required). When the history of the present dysfunctional presidential administration is written, one of the most peculiar aspects out of a whole host of odd phenomena will be the support rendered to Donald Trump from the most unlikely sector of all: a group of normally anti-war and self-professed progressives.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: President Trump has made more than 10,000 false or misleading claims, Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly, April 29, 2019. In just seven months, President Trump doubled the number of claims he made in the first 20 months of his presidency. It took President Trump 601 days to top 5,000 false and misleading claims in The Fact Checker’s database, an average of eight claims a day.

djt official SmallBut on April 26, just 226 days later, the president crossed the 10,000 mark — an average of nearly 23 claims a day in this seven-month period, which included the many rallies he held before the midterm elections, the partial government shutdown over his promised border wall and the release of the special counsel’s report on Russian interference in the presidential election.

This milestone appeared unlikely when The Fact Checker first started this project during his first 100 days. In the first 100 days, Trump averaged less than five claims a day, which would have added up to about 7,000 claims in a four-year presidential term. But the tsunami of untruths just keeps looming larger and larger.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Rosenstein resigns effective May 11, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, April 29, 2019. ​Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of President Trump and Russia, will step down after a tumultuous two years on the job.
• The Fix: Rosenstein officially bows out — and bows to Trump

April 28

atlantic logoThe Atlantic, The Complicated Friendship of Robert Mueller and William Barr, Russell Berman, April 28, 2019. The special counsel and the attorney general go back a long way, but their bond could be tested by dueling appearances before Congress.

When Attorney General William Barr released Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report earlier this month, he was presenting the work of a widely respected former FBI director and federal prosecutor—who happens to be his longtime friend. As Barr himself revealed to lawmakers at his Senate confirmation hearing in January, the two men have had a relationship for years. Their families socialize together, their wives attend Bible study together, and the Muellers were guests at the weddings of Barr’s daughters.

djt robert mueller headshotsBut Barr’s handling of Mueller’s report has cast their relationship in a more adversarial light, and it will be tested further in the coming weeks as Democrats seek separate testimony from both men on the central decisions they made at the culmination of Mueller’s two-year investigation of President Donald Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 election. Barr will appear separately before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees on Wednesday and Thursday, with Mueller potentially following later in May.

Former close associates of Mueller see the attorney general’s characterization of his findings—which was generally more favorable to Trump than the report itself—as undercutting the special counsel, if not an outright betrayal. They were particularly put off by Barr’s performance at the press conference he held 90 minutes before releasing the report, which they similarly saw as overly deferential to Trump.

Mueller did not attend, and the attorney general said he didn’t talk to Mueller about his decision to clear Trump of obstruction. “That’s not two friends collaborating collegially on a project,” said Frank Figliuzzi, a former counterintelligence chief at the FBI who briefed Mueller twice a day during their tenure together. “It’s almost worse than undercutting Mueller. It’s saying Mueller’s not even relevant in this.”

When Barr served as attorney general under President George H. W. Bush in 1991 and 1992, Mueller was the assistant attorney general heading up the criminal division. Both Barr and Mueller were in their 40s at the time, and colleagues from that period describe them as exceptionally smart and well-prepared lawyers who shared an easy rapport with each other, as well as a reverence for the Department of Justice. “Bob has always had this real strong desire to see the rule of law vindicated. That’s where the two of them are two peas in a pod,” said Paul McNulty, who served as the department’s chief spokesman in the early 1990s and later oversaw Mueller as deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration.

Barr and Mueller would sit in daily morning meetings in which Barr would often rib the more straitlaced Mueller about cases. “They got along very well,” recalled Timothy Flanigan, who was then an assistant attorney general overseeing the Office of Legal Counsel. “Bill had a keener sense of humor than Bob. He’d poked fun at Bob, and Bob took it in good grace.”

Mueller, a Marine who became a prosecutor, and Barr, who had worked in policy jobs during the Reagan and Bush administrations, were aligned on the tough-on-crime priorities that were in vogue in the early 1990s. Separately, former colleagues described each of them as the kind of boss who doesn’t “suffer fools.” But they had different strengths and different personalities. “One’s a soldier, one was essentially an intellectual, legal heavyweight,” McNulty told me. While Barr was known as a quick thinker who thought through arguments and made decisions rapidly, Mueller was more deliberative and process-oriented. “Mueller could be more down in the weeds,” McNulty said, “and Barr was more up above the weeds, looking at the constitutional issue, the big legal issue.

Figliuzzi and Anderson, however, described Mueller as deferential to Congress’s oversight role, and they suggested he would find a way to share his views honestly. Figliuzzi recalled that in the rare instances when Mueller was overruled by leaders at the Department of Justice, he would write a confidential memo memorializing his views and send it up the chain. “He wasn’t the one who would yell, scream, bang on the desk, and say, ‘This is all wrong,’” Figliuzzi said. “Those rare examples were very illustrative of him playing within the parameters he was given, but yet asserting his principles and ethics when necessary.

“I think we’ll see that approach in testimony on the Hill,” Figliuzzi continued. “He won’t necessarily come out and champion a cause without having been asked a question, but when he’s asked the right question, you’ll see him say, ‘Yeah, I don’t understand, nor do I agree with, the attorney general’s characterization of the president cooperating.’”

It’ll be on Democrats to see whether they can prod Mueller into opining about Barr, his longtime friend who is once again, at least temporarily, his boss.

April 26

Palmer Report, Opinion: Welcome to uncharted territory, Bill Palmer, April 26, 2019. Donald Trump, in a last ditch effort to salvage his illegitimate and dying presidency, decided this week that the constitutional powers given to Congress no longer exist. He’s instructed all of his Executive Branch officials to simply ignore any requests, demands, or subpoenas that come from the House of Representatives. If he manages to pull it off, there no longer is a Constitution.

bill palmer report logo headerWe can debate if it’s part of some kind of perverse reelection strategy, if he’s doing this simply because he’s maniacally out of control and bent on self destruction. Either way, he’s forcing the House to impeach him, which will happen rather soon. The particularly tricky part is that the House has to put together a case for impeachment, and Trump is actively trying to prevent that from happening. Of course, in so doing, he’s only making the case for impeachment even stronger – and he’s handing House Democrats additional leverage when it comes to dismantling him.

Because Donald Trump is now taking his obstruction of justice to such cartoonishly criminal fashion, House Democrats are preparing to have his regime’s officials arrested if they continue following Trump’s illegal orders to defy congressional subpoenas. We’re now entering that deep dark territory where government officials have to start arresting each other in the hope of keeping the basic tenets of our democracy intact.

The stakes are even higher than you might think. The Mueller report not only lays out the proof that Donald Trump committed a double digit number of felonies, it also explicitly spells out that Trump can be criminally prosecuted for them once he’s no longer in office. That means Trump will be arrested and indicted the minute he’s out of office. He knows it too. He’s single handedly trying to burn our democracy to the ground, in the hope of keeping himself out of prison.

April 25

Trump Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s defiance puts pressure on Congress’s ability to check the president, Seung Min Kim​, April 25, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump’s decision not to cooperate with House committees, coupled with reluctance from Senate Republicans to cross him, has left Congress struggling to assert itself as a coequal branch of government.

April 24

Trump Defies Congress, Constitution?washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says he is opposed to White House aides testifying to Congress, Robert Costa, Tom Hamburger, Josh Dawsey and Rosalind S. Helderman​, April 24, 2019 (print ed.). The president’s comments came as the White House indicated it would broadly defy requests for information from the House, moving the two branches of government closer to a constitutional collision.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mnuchin misses deadline to turn over Trump tax returns, says he will decide by May 6, Damian Paletta and Erica Werner, April 24, 2019 (print ed.). It is the first time the treasury secretary has committed to reaching a final decision on House Democrats' request.


washington post logoWashington Post, White House plans to fight House subpoena of former counsel Donald McGahn for testimony on Mueller report, Josh Dawsey, Robert Costa and Rosalind S. Helderman, April 24, 2019 (print ed.). The White House plans to fight a subpoena issued by the House Judiciary Committee for former White House counsel Donald McGahn, right, to testify, don mcgahn cato screengrabaccording to people familiar with the matter, setting up another showdown in the aftermath of the special counsel report.

The Trump administration also plans to oppose other requests from House committees for the testimony of current and former aides about actions in the White House described in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report, according to two people familiar with internal thinking who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke of the plans on the condition of anonymity.

White House lawyers plan to tell attorneys for administration witnesses called by the House that they will be asserting executive privilege over their testimony, officials said.

April 23

 

Rob Kall PhiladelphiaoenearthlogoOpEdNews, Opinion: Impeachment Is Not Just About the Conviction. There are Different Fruits, Rob Kall (founder and editor, shown at right), April 23, 2019. Impeachment is not just about the trial and conviction in the senate, far from it. There are different fruits to be harvested.

There are many politicians and pundits who are only focusing on the idea that impeachment in the house is only meaningful if the senate finishes the job and removes Trump. That's just so wrong.

Some thoughts:

First, keep the hell away from anything to do with Russia. Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice. That is huge and it is enough. He is guilty of forcing security clearances for people who were not worthy. It appears he is preventing a full-throated defense of our election system from foreign influence and interference, And he may be guilty of violating the emoluments clause. Probably. Then there are Trump's personal and corporate taxes. There's almost certainly a huge treasure trove there.

That is enough of a shopping list to go after. There may be more and it is worth exploring the other possibilities.

it will take well over a year for the battles between the House Democrats and Donald Trump to work their way through. It is already a sh*t show and it will get worse. It will show Trump and his appointees for what they are-- corrupt, dishonest, exploiting their roles in government, totally disrespecting the law and the constitution. If the Republican in the Senate and the SCOTUS do as expected, they will enable this corruption. That will come across loud and clear to the independents and Republicans who are not blinded by cultish loyalty to Trump-- and there are millions of them.

Even if Mitch McConnell and his band of traitorous colleagues block conviction in the Senate, the nation and the world will convict Trump in their hearts. That will only happen if the House proceeds with hearings and investigations.

The good news is that it appears that the idea of investigations and hearings IS on the table. Call them investigation hearings or impeachment hearings, either way, they are a good thing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Six Trump Interior appointees are being investigated for possible ethical misconduct, Juliet Eilperin and Dino Grandoni​, April 23, 2019. The Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General has opened an investigation into whether six of President Trump’s appointees have violated federal ethics rules by engaging with their former employers or clients on department-related business.

The new inquiry, which the office confirmed in an April 18 letter to the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, is looking into senior Interior officials, including Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs Doug Domenech, White House liaison Lori Mashburn, three top staffers at the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, and the department’s former energy policy adviser. The Campaign Legal Center detailed the officials’ actions in a Feb. 20 letter to the inspector general’s office, suggesting a probe is warranted.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: Is Trump pushing a new strategy of tension between the West and Islam?, April 23, 2019 (Subscription required)  Former Donald Trump campaign official and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is busy establishing his training academy for far-right wing Christian zealots at the Trisulti Charterhouse in Collepardo in central Italy.

nancy pelosi djt

Palmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi just subtly committed herself to impeaching Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, April 23, 2019. When the Democratic chairs of the three most influential House committees all began talking openly about the possibility of impeachment this past weekend, Palmer Report pointed out that they wouldn’t be doing this without the blessing of their boss, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Sure enough, now Pelosi is talking impeachment herself – and in fact she’s taking it further than the three committee chairs.

bill palmer report logo headerHere’s what Nancy Pelosi said about impeachment to House Democrats during a conference call on Monday, according to USA Today: “If that’s the place the facts take us, that’s the place we have to go.” This quote is carefully worded, to say the least. But make no mistake here. Pelosi just said that if the facts end up calling for impeachment, then House Democrats “have” to impeach Donald Trump. The crucial part here is that Pelosi already knows where the facts are going to take us.

To be clear, Pelosi doesn’t appear to have any interest in rushing into impeachment, or at least rushing into calling it impeachment. She also said this during the conference call: “Whether it’s articles of impeachment or investigations, it’s the same obtaining of facts. We don’t have to go to articles of impeachment to obtain the facts, the presentation of facts.” This is in line with Palmer Report’s premise that the next month or so of public hearings is going to look the same whether they’re calling it “impeachment” or not.

So now we’re at a place where Nancy Pelosi, who will ultimately be the one to make the decision, is committing herself to impeaching Donald Trump if the upcoming public testimony from people like Robert Mueller and Don McGahn ends up laying out the kinds of evidence that warrant impeachment. That said, it’s more clear than ever that even as Pelosi and the House Democratic leadership swiftly move forward with impeachment hearings and testimony, they’ll wait as long as possible before committing to calling it impeachment.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here’s the next guy to take the fall for Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, April 23, 2019. Say hello to Carl Kline, the guy who forced through the approvals of a whole bunch of illegitimate security clearances for Donald Trump’s underlings and family members, even after security officials and the U.S. intel community had ruled against such clearances.

bill palmer report logo headerHouse Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings has subpoenaed Kline to testify about his role in the scandal, but according to CNN, Trump is now telling Kline to defy the subpoena – and Kline has rather stupidly decided to take Trump’s advice.

This means Kline is about to be held in contempt of Congress, which is not a good place for anyone to be in general. It’ll also put the spotlight on Kline’s actions with regard to whether he broke any laws while approving these illegitimate security clearances. Suddenly, this relative nobody is about to fully bear the brunt of Donald Trump’s abusive overreach.

Mueller Report Fallout

washington post logoWashington Post, Constraints on presidency being redefined in Trump era, report fallout shows, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, April 23, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump repeatedly tried to undermine the Russia investigation, but the special counsel overseeing the probe declined to say whether he broke the law — and the attorney general declared that he had committed no crime.

Trump’s campaign showed a willingness to work with a foreign power — something his personal lawyer now insists is perfectly okay.

And Trump has furiously rejected congressional scrutiny of his presidency — taking the unprecedented step Monday of suing a Democratic committee chairman to block a subpoena for his financial records.

The events of the past week, following the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s dramatic 448-page report, are threatening to redefine the legal and ethical standards that have long served as constraints on the American presidency. And they suggest that few, if any, of the traditional guardrails that have kept Trump’s predecessors in check remain for this president and possibly those who will follow.

philip giraldiUnz Review, Opinion: The Conspiracy Against Trump, Philip M. Giraldi, right, April 23, 2019. The real “deplorable” in today’s United States is the continuation of a foreign policy based on endless aggression to maintain Washington’s military dominance in parts of the world where Americans have no conceivable interest. Many voters backed Donald J. Trump because he committed himself to changing all that, but, unfortunately, he has reneged on his promise, instead heightening tension with major powers Russia and China while also threatening Iran and Venezuela on an almost daily basis.

Now Cuba is in the crosshairs because it is allegedly assisting Venezuela. One might reasonably ask if America in its seemingly enduring role as the world’s most feared bully will ever cease and desist, but the more practical question might be “When will the psychopathic trio of John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and Elliott Abrams be fired so the United States can begin to behave like a normal nation?”

Trump, to be sure, is the heart of the problem as he has consistently made bad, overly belligerent decisions when better and less abrasive options were available, something that should not necessarily always be blamed on his poor choice of advisers.

But one also should not discount the likelihood that the dysfunction in Trump is in part comprehensible, stemming from his belief that he has numerous powerful enemies who have been out do destroy him since before he was nominated as the GOP’s presidential candidate. This hatred of all things Trump has been manifested in the neoconservative “Nevertrump” forces led by Bill Kristol and by the “Trump Derangement Syndrome” prominent on the political left, regularly exhibited by Rachel Maddow.

April 22

Mueller Fallout: What's Next?

robert mueller waving hands

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III (file photo)

April 22

Mueller Probe Next Steps

Alliance for Justice, Congress, Bar Barr and Get to the Truth, Bill Yeomans, April 22, 2019. While members of the House majority stroke their chins over how to respond to the bill yeomans afj cropped CustomMueller report, the false Trump/Barr no collusion/no obstruction narrative continues to dominate public perception. House leaders construe this uninformed public perception as reason to hesitate on impeachment. And the public, in turn, reads from the House’s hesitation that the report isn’t so bad. The longer the House waits before launching the inevitable impeachment probe, the more ground it will have to recover. The calendar demands speedy action. The House Judiciary Committee (HJC) should start by skipping testimony from Attorney General Barr and moving straight to Robert Mueller and his fact witnesses.

Barr is scheduled to testify before the HJC on May 2. The last thing the Committee should do is to waste precious time giving this mendacious man another platform to broadcast his false narrative about the Mueller report. While some majority members no doubt relish the prospect of catching Barr in his readily provable lies for all to see, with few exceptions Democrats on the Committee, handcuffed by the five-minute rule and the glare of TV lights, have been ineffective inquisitors.

alliance for justice logoRepublican members, on the other hand, will not hesitate to use the hearing to buttress Barr and spout extended nonsense about the intelligence community abuses that triggered the special counsel investigation. They’ll offer Barr repeated opportunities to expand on his outrageous allegation that “spying” occurred; no matter that what they label spying was actually fully predicated surveillance authorized by federal judges on the FISA court, all of whose members are selected by that well-known anti-Republican partisan, Chief Justice John Roberts. This is a show the country does not need to repeat. And it is certainly not the way the committee majority wants to start educating the country about the real findings of the Mueller report.

rod rosenstein cropped william barr screenshot april 18 2019Instead, cancel Barr and start with Mueller. Mueller’s testimony should do far more to enlighten the committee and undermine Barr’s false narrative than direct cross-examination of Barr. Barr’s lies are already on the record in his letter mis-summarizing the principal conclusions of the report and in the video of his misleading pre-release press conference.

The most basic questioning of Mueller will establish that the report did not address “collusion,” much less find its absence; that contrary to Barr’s statement, Mueller relied heavily on the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion prohibiting indictment of a sitting president in deciding not to label the president a criminal; that he did not intend for Barr to make the call on obstruction of justice; and that Mueller most assuredly – and explicitly -- did not clear Trump of obstruction of justice, instead laying out in detail ten obstructive episodes, at least eight of which any reasonable prosecutor would present to a grand jury for indictment absent the OLC memo. Mueller will also explain his rejection of Barr’s radical view that a president cannot obstruct justice so long as he is exercising a power granted to him by Article II of the Constitution.

Mueller can explain in detail the report’s findings regarding the Russian assault on the 2016 election, as well as the Trump campaign’s embrace of the Russian assistance; its unpatriotic failure to notify the FBI of the Russian intrusion; and the full extent of the campaign’s contacts with Russia. He can also walk through the episodes of obstruction and torpedo Barr’s suggestion that frustration excuses Trump’s conduct.

The Mueller hearing will be viewed extensively by the public. Most, of course, will not have read the 448-page report. Mueller’s testimony will be their introduction to the real narrative and the first debunking of the Trump/Barr cover narrative. Hear the corn popping, as people settle in for a high-drama civics lesson.

The committee should follow Mueller in rapid succession with testimony from as many of the principal fact witnesses behind the report as possible, starting with former White House counsel and self-described “real lawyer” Don McGahn, whose cooperation regarding obstruction is already winning him the Trump bully treatment. From there, the committee should run through the list of White House officials and Trump associates who contributed to the report.

Time’s a wastin.’ The Trump/Barr narrative is festering, infecting the public consciousness, and the 2020 election is only a year-and-a-half away. There will be delays and impediments. The report reveals that fourteen referrals from the Mueller investigation remain with U.S. Attorney offices and we know the identities of the defendants in only two of them. The committee will have to coordinate with those investigations to ensure that it does not step on them.

Mueller Probe / Media

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Opinion: Mueller’s report proves why Trump loves Fox News — and why he needs it now more than ever, Margaret Sullivan, April 22, 2019 (print ed.). It’s no secret that Fox News and the Trump administration are deeply entwined: They are the conjoined twins of misinformation. 

So it hardly raised an eyebrow when the president took to Twitter on Thursday to urge everyone to tune in to Fox for Attorney General William P. Barr’s (misleading) prelude to the release of the report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. The results were predictable: Fox’s early news coverage was somewhat straight — kept so largely by the presence of Fox’s designated truth-teller, Chris Wallace.

fox news logo SmallThe follow-up coverage and commentary, though, was outlandishly one-sided, led by Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, who was allowed to spin frenetically for what seemed like endless minutes, offering such gems as “there’s not a single surprise” in the report. “Nothing to see here” was the clear message — nothing but the corrupt investigation itself.

I tuned in to Fox for a while Thursday morning, trying the experiment of using it as my only news source for an hour or two. When I emerged and started reading and watching elsewhere — and looked at the report for myself — I felt like I had returned from beyond the looking glass and was back in the real world.

April 21

 washington post logoWashington Post, How a legal dispute between Mueller and Barr drove the end of the Russia probe, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, April 21, 2019 (print ed.). The special counsel’s decision to not reach a conclusion about whether the president had obstructed justice stumped lawyers and frustrated senior Justice officials.

For nearly two years, the public, Congress and the White House waited to learn if special counsel Robert S. Mueller III would find that President Trump had committed crimes. When the answer was finally revealed, it turned out Mueller didn’t think that was his job at all.

The special counsel ended his investigation last month, pointedly choosing not to reach a conclusion about whether the president had obstructed justice.

In a report of its findings, Mueller’s team said that choice was driven in large part by a long-standing legal opinion at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that a sitting president should not be indicted, even if the charges remained sealed.

william barr new oMueller's team concluded that also meant they could not accuse the president of a crime, even in secret internal documents, the report said.

That move surprised everyone, including Attorney General William P. Barr (right) and his senior advisers, according to current and former Justice Department officials. When Mueller presented his findings without reaching a decision about the president, Barr reviewed the evidence and decided that Trump had not obstructed justice.

The unusual ending to the investigation stems from a key legal disagreement between Mueller’s team and Barr — opening the door to further political fights over jonathan turleypresidential power, Justice Department policies and decision-making inside the Trump administration.

Jonathan Turley, left, a law professor at George Washington University, said Mueller’s failure to make a decision on obstruction was “one of the biggest surprises of the report,” and he was still struggling to understand the special counsel’s thought process.

“It doesn’t make any sense, because on collusion, he seemed to be perfectly empowered to reach a conclusion on whether the president committed a crime,” Turley said. “The other problem is that his mandate clearly allowed him to make a decision, and [Justice Department headquarters] had clearly indicated he could make a decision.”

Mueller Follow up

ny times logoNew York Times, How 2020 Democrats Are Gaming Out Trump Impeachment Quandary, Matt Flegenheimer and Jonathan Martin, April 21, 2019. Most of the Democratic presidential candidates have responded to the special counsel’s report with tentative remarks about impeaching President Trump. But many feel no pressure to demand it because they do not hear a clamoring for it on the campaign trail.

elizabeth warren cfpbSenator Elizabeth Warren, right, who has worked for months to find traction in a crowded Democratic presidential primary, stepped forward on Friday with a call to arms: President Trump must be impeached.

What followed, generally, was conspicuous silence — and not just from her colleagues in Congress.

After sidestepping the explosive issue of impeachment for months by citing the inquiry by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, most of the other 17 Democratic presidential candidates have responded to the special counsel’s report with tentative remarks about impeaching Mr. Trump, demands for the democratic donkey logounredacted Mueller findings, calls for further hearings or attempts to simply change the subject.

Anything, that is, to avoid clearly answering the question of whether lawmakers should remove the president from office.

Underpinning the candidates’ calculations are complex sets of short- and long-term incentives. Democratic hopefuls could receive a fund-raising boost by embracing impeachment and energizing liberal donors. But some strategists and lawmakers say that a failed effort would only strengthen Mr. Trump’s re-election chances, allowing him to claim further vindication.

michael cohen abc 2018 12 14

ny times logoNew York Times, How Cohen Turned Against Trump, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Maggie Haberman, April 21, 2019. Michael Cohen, President Trump’s fixer (shown above during an ABC News interview last year), had for months sought “a little loving and respect” and feared his longtime boss had forsaken him. Confidential emails and texts chronicle the undoing of their relationship.

Michael D. Cohen was at a breaking point. He told friends he was suicidal. He insisted to lawyers he would never go to jail. Most of all, he feared that President Trump, his longtime boss, had forsaken him.

“Basically he needs a little loving and respect booster,” one of Mr. Cohen’s legal advisers at the time, Robert J. Costello, wrote in a text message to Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s lead lawyer. “He is not thinking clearly because he feels abandoned.”

That was last June. The “booster” from Mr. Trump never arrived. And by August, Mr. Cohen’s relationship with him had gone from fraught to hostile, casting a shadow on the Trump presidency and helping drive multiple criminal investigations into the president’s inner circle, including some that continued after the special counsel’s work ended.

ny times logoNew York Times, Five reasons why the undoing of Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen’s relationship matters, William K. Rashbaum, April 21, 2019. Here are five reasons the undoing of their relationship matters.

1) Mr. Cohen implicated the president in a crime. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan effectively characterized Mr. Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator in the hush money payments, which violated campaign finance laws because they were made to influence the outcome of the election.

2) He assisted criminal investigations into Mr. Trump’s business Mr. Cohen did not enter into a formal cooperation agreement with the Southern District prosecutors, but voluntarily met with them about his knowledge of Mr. Trump’s family, business and inner circle.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Barr tried to exonerate Trump. That’s not how the special counsel rules work, Neal Katyal (right) and Joshua A. Geltzer, April 21, 2019. The attorney neal katyal ogeneral isn’t supposed to be rebutting the special counsel. The redacted version of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report made one thing quite clear: Attorney General William Barr has gone out of his way to try to exonerate the president. But Barr’s comments about obstruction of justice have been deeply flawed — and at odds with the spirit of the regulations governing this type of politically sensitive investigation by a special counsel. (One of us, Neal Katyal, drafted those regulations in the late ’90s.)

Mueller noted in the report that his office decided not to make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” on whether Trump had obstructed justice, because the Justice Department has a policy not to indict a sitting president. But Barr has misleadingly implied that the longstanding policy wasn’t any part of the reason for that decision. That is not the case. Mueller says right at the outset of the report’s second volume, where Barr wouldn’t have missed it, that he felt bound by that policy: “We determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes.”

So Trump’s claim, based on Barr’s spin, that the Mueller report exonerates him is flatly untrue. Mueller said, in effect, Because I’m investigating a sitting president, I cannot indict him, and therefore I won’t call him a criminal even if he’s guilty as sin. He also explicitly wrote that if “the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state . . . However, we are unable to reach that judgment.” Mueller couldn’t indict the president, but he could have cleared him. He didn’t.

Barr shouldn’t be offering a rebuttal. He should be offering the report to Congress — and then leaving it to lawmakers to determine what comes next.

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, Opinion: Trump's Attempt to Weaponize NSA Against His Enemies, Wayne Madsen, April 21, 2019. A few weeks after Donald Trump's inauguration he blasted the US National Security Agency (NSA), falsely claiming the signals intelligence agency leaked classified information to the media. In February 2017, Trump tweeted: "Information is being illegally given to the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?)... Just like Russia." It was Trump's second public attack on NSA. During the 2016 presidential election campaign, Trump accused NSA of withholding intercepted copies of his opponent Hillary Clinton's emails." Trump ranted, "Obviously they [NSA] don't want to get them... they're protecting her, they're coddling her."

Trump displayed for the world to see his ignorance about the role and mission of the NSA. Even after the agency's intra-Five Eyes signals intelligence alliance warts were publicly exposed by the Edward Snowden leaks, Trump was making wild accusations about NSA that have only been the fodder for Hollywood movies like "Enemy Of The State." "Mercury Rising," "Sneakers," and "Good Will Hunting."

richard nixon headshot CustomThe recently-released heavily-redacted report by Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller on foreign involvement in the 2016 presidential election contains a startling revelation: not since the Nixon administration has a US president flagrantly attempted to use the NSA to involve itself in a domestic law enforcement matter in pursuit of an Oval Office cover-up. According to Volume II of the "Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election, President Trump attempted to involve the NSA in the FBI's then-ongoing investigation into Trump's campaign and his possible illegal activities as president.

Trump's actions to misuse a US intelligence agency to protect him from criminal liability is an impeachable offense. The precedence was decided by the US House of Representatives in Article II of its impeachment resolution against Richard Nixon, right. The House found that, in the case of Nixon, he abused his office by misusing federal agencies in violation of their regulations. The article states that Nixon "repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposes of these agencies."

April 20

Mueller Fallout: What's Next?

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump seethes after Mueller report relies on notes from White House aides, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa, April 20, 2019 (print ed.). Much of President Trump’s ire was directed at former White House counsel Donald McGahn, whose ubiquity in the footnotes of the special counsel’s report laid bare his cooperation in chronicling Trump's actions.

oenearthlogorob kallOpEdNews, Opinion: Aggressive House Trump Investigation Only Morally Effective Option, Rob Kall (OpEdNews founder and publisher, shown at right), April 20,2019. The Mueller report and other investigations raise accusations and questions that the House must address.

Let's start with one conclusion. The Senate will not impeach Trump with Mitch McConnell in charge. But that was the same assumption made about Richard Nixon, that there were not enough votes in the senate to impeach him. Nonetheless, Democrats had the guts and integrity to proceed to investigate the serious allegations that came out of Watergate. Eventually, the truths that emerged were enough to force Nixon to resign. And it wasn't the Democrats who forced him. The Republicans did. And it was the Republicans who pardoned the despicable criminal.

Let me say it again, to be crystal clear. the narrative of Nixon and Watergate was very similar, early on, to where we stand today. People did not believe that the Senate would follow through to find a verdict of guilty if the house started the process of impeachment. Nonetheless, the Democrats proceeded to investigate Nixon until the findings revealed such a miasma of criminality and corruption that the Republicans could not evade the argument against Nixon. They took the right step of telling Nixon to leave but then took the wrong, immoral step of pardoning him. That set the country careening in an immoral, amoral direction for almost fifty years.

Now, the Democrats are faced with a president who is guilty of far more, with many of his appointees and those who have worked for him already guilty and sentenced for crimes, and over a dozen more secret cases under way. It comes down to two things for the Democrats, integrity and the courage to do do the right thing.

The right thing is to aggressively continue where the Mueller investigation left off. I don't believe it matters whether they call it an impeachment hearing or a corruption hearing. They have an oath-bound obligation to pursue the truth and the facts. To start with they have an obligation to get the complete, un-filtered, un-redacted Mueller report, including all supporting documents. If Barr refuses to deliver it they must do everything within their means to get it, including arresting and imprisoning Barr. They must work with state judiciary agencies. They must do everything they can to get Trump's tax records, to ascertain whether he is guilty of violating the Emoluments clause.

If they do not go into this full-throttle, they will be guilty of failing to uphold their oaths of office. They will be guilty of cowardice. The centrist, fake progressive leaders of the house majority, Pelosi and Hoyer will embrace the Obama-Clinton Democrat mantle of can't-do-ism and do-nothing-ism, the "look forward not backward" approach that allowed the impeachable crimes of the previous Bush-Cheney administration that House Judiciary Chair John Conyers enumerated in great detail.

michelle goldberg thumbMichelle Goldberg (right) writes, in her NYTImes article, Mueller Did His Job. Now It's the Democrats' Turn, which I must confess is what spurred me to write this article,

"It's a national disgrace that Trump sleeps in the White House instead of a federal prison cell, but it has been a while since I had any expectation that the special counsel Robert Mueller's findings, many of which were finally released to the public on Thursday, could set things right."

Then Goldberg talks about Mueller, a decent man of integrity, the closest thing to Walter Cronkite we have in these times fake news and distrust. She describes how the Repubicans are tolerating all this corruption and ignoring the profoundly serious allegations and findings of the Mueller report. Then she concludes,

"Democrats, conversely, have facts on their side, but not conviction. They are reluctant to begin an impeachment inquiry into Trump because majorities, in polls, don't support it, and there is no Republican buy-in. Whether or not this is politically wise, failing to impeach would be a grave abdication. If you want people to believe that the misdeeds enumerated in the Mueller report are serious, you have to act like it.

To not even try to impeach Trump is to collaborate in the Trumpian fiction that he has done nothing impeachable. And if Congress won't take the lead in condemning the president's lawlessness and demanding justice, one of the Democrats running for the presidential nomination should. Mueller has given us the truth of what Trump has done, and in that sense the hokey faith the Resistance put in him was not misplaced. But right now only a political fight can make that truth matter."

And it gets worse. Another NYTimes Op-Ed proposes that there is a "national security nightmare... that is the missing piece of the Mueller report." The article explains that Mueller inherited a counterintelligence operation:

"President Trump may claim "exoneration" on a narrowly defined criminal coordination charge. But a counterintelligence investigation can yield something even more important: an intelligence assessment of how likely it is that someone in this case, the president is acting, wittingly or unwittingly, under the influence of or in collaboration with a foreign power. Was Donald Trump a knowing or unknowing Russian asset, used in some capacity to undermine our democracy and national security?"

The Democrat party must take action, even if it means an uprising that takes over the leadership of the party, taking it away from morally compromised Nancy Pelosi and Stenny Hoyer, who have a decades-long history keeping impeachment... and justice "off the table." I cringe when I see new photos of Pelosi and see a failed leader, a bully who refuses to find the courage and integrity to get the oath-required job done.

David Swanson, who worked closely with former judiciary chair Conyers on George W. Bush impeachment efforts, provides, in his article, The 20 Surest Paths to Impeachment, a roadmap that should be followed.

The cowards and facile politicians may choose to take the easier route of poll-driven avoidance of impeachment. And I'm not saying that the House leadership should use the term impeachment at all. But they must aggressively begin investigating every one of the issues that Mueller's investigation and the counterintelligence investigation have raised, as well as the legitimate issues that Swanson presents.

April 19

More on Mueller Report

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC, Live Coverage & Analysis, Staff reporting, April 19, 2019. Redacted Mueller Report released here. Selected MSNBC print and videos on April 18 below:

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Details Multiple Contacts With Russians and Trump’s Efforts to Thwart Inquiry, Mark Mazzetti, April 19, 2019 (print ed.). Cites Legal Constraints in Declining to Charge, but Does Not Exonerate. Robert S. Mueller III revealed a frantic, monthslong effort by President Trump to thwart the investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference, cataloging in a report released on Thursday the attempts by Mr. Trump to escape an inquiry that imperiled his presidency from the start.

The much-anticipated report laid out how a team of prosecutors working for Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, wrestled with whether the president’s actions added up to an indictable offense of obstruction of justice for a sitting president. They ultimately decided not to charge Mr. Trump, citing numerous legal and factual constraints, but pointedly declined to exonerate him.

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” Mr. Mueller’s investigators wrote. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

Mr. Mueller inherited a sweeping inquiry 23 months ago into whether Mr. Trump or any of his aides had coordinated with the Russian government’s campaign to sabotage the presidential election. The report found numerous contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Russians in the months before and after the election — meetings in pursuit of business deals, policy initiatives and political dirt about Hillary Clinton — but said there was “insufficient evidence” to establish that there had been a criminal conspiracy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mueller rejects idea that Trump is shielded from obstruction laws, Staff report, April 19, 2019 (print ed.). Report suggests investigators found abundant evidence that Trump sought to undermine probe.

The special counsel rejected arguments advanced by the president’s lawyers that he is shielded from obstruction of justice laws by his unique constitutional role and powers. Follow along for the latest findings as a team of Post reporters dissects Robert S. Mueller III’s report.

President Trump, upon first learning of the appointment of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, cursed and declared, “this is the end of my presidency,” according to the redacted 400-page report by Mueller released Thursday by the Justice Department.

The detailed document depicts a Trump campaign that expected to “benefit electorally” from information stolen and released by Russia and a president who subsequently engaged in several alarming actions, including seeking the ouster of former officials and ordering a memo that would clear his name.

The release of the report followed a news conference at which Attorney General William P. Barr exonerated Trump, saying neither he nor his campaign colluded with Russia and that none of Trump’s actions rose to the level of obstruction of justice, despite Mueller leaving that question unanswered in his report.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mueller’s report paints a damning portrait of Trump’s presidency, Dan Balz, April 19, 2019 (print ed.). The report shows a pattern of behavior outside the norms of the Oval Office, even if Barr concludes there was no obstruction of justice.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Impeachable -- Trump's attempted domestic re-weaponization of NSA, Wayne Madsen, April 19, 2019 (subscription required; excerpted with permission). Not since the Nixon administration has a U.S. president flagrantly attempted to use the National Security Agency (NSA) to involve itself in a domestic law enforcement matter in pursuit of an Oval Office cover-up....Trump’s action to misuse a U.S. intelligence agency to protect him from criminal liability is an impeachable offense, as previously decided by the U.S. House of Representatives in Article II of its impeachment resolution against Nixon.

Alliance for Justice, Opinion: Congress, We're Looking at You, Bill Yeomans (right, Senior Justice Fellow at Alliance for Justice), April 19, 2019.  The release of the redacted Mueller report alliance for justice logospawned a gaggle of stories that each deserves extended treatment; the willingness of Bill Barr to lie on Trump’s behalf in acceptance of his role as Trump’s protector, rather than Attorney General of the United States; the detailed account of Russia’s assault on our elections; the Trump campaign’s embrace of the Russian assault and its failure to mention anything about it to the FBI or other authorities; the unfathomable culture of lying and deceit that permeated the Trump campaign and his White House; the continual elevation of self interest above country; and the extraordinary efforts of a desperate president to kill the investigation into all of this. But the country now faces one overriding question: Where do we go from here?

Trump and his supporters are working hard to spin the conclusion of the Mueller investigation as a victory, despite all the criminal charges, pleas, and convictions, and despite the 400-page narrative that paints a devastating portrait of Trump and the band of incompetent dissemblers and grifters with whom he surrounded himself. Trump’s gamble is that people will accept the headlines he churns out with support from Barr, congressional supporters, and Fox News. Indeed, few people are likely to wade through the details of the report.

A larger lesson arising from the details of this episode is that Trump is a president desperate to destroy all checks on his authority. Without the threat arising from the Mueller investigation hanging over his head, he will feel unleashed. The signs are already there.

Trump and his administration have demonstrated their intent to resist congressional oversight, including requests for information and subpoenas. Congressional oversight is essential to the proper functioning of our constitutional system and, in particular, to checking presidential power. It is the way Congress ensures that the laws it passes are enforced properly and the money it appropriates is being spent as intended. The Supreme Court has held that the scope of congressional oversight is broad, encompassing any matter that falls within Congress’s power to legislate. It is a principal component in the system of checks and balances that makes our government of separated powers work.

djt handwave fileTrump wants none of it. It opens his personal conduct to scrutiny. It also restrains his ability to govern by whim, spite and personal desire. Having to answer to Congress curtails his authoritarian, strongman instincts. It impairs his ability to pursue his radical agenda.

If Trump stonewalls Congress, conflicts over subpoenas are likely to go to the courts. Trump, of course, has installed judges at a record pace, many of whom are unqualified and almost all of whom are ideological extremists who are likely to enable Trump’s resistance to oversight. Trump’s remaking of the courts – nearly a fifth of judges have been appointed by Trump – will dilute the ability of courts to restrain his power across the board.

The prospect of Trump unleashed is a principal reason why Congress must move rapidly toward impeachment. Congress must reimpose the threat of accountability. Whether or not impeachment results in his removal from office, the process will enlighten the public, which is unlikely to read Mueller’s report, but will watch with rapt attention as key participants in the Trump campaign and administration testify at televised hearings. That enlightenment may change the dynamic surrounding his removal. Admittedly, the power of Fox News and extreme partisanship pose high hurdles, but failure even to try will be an abdication of Congress’s constitutional responsibility to hold an unfit president accountable.

At this stage, the very real question looms; if Congress does not impeach Trump, is there anything left of the impeachment power? The Mueller report demonstrates that Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct that is far worse than anything Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton dared attempt.

Now that the report is out, Democratic fears of impeachment appear overblown. They misread history. The failed Republican effort to remove Clinton was followed by the election of George W. Bush. The effort to remove Trump is thoroughly consistent with – and indeed may even facilitate -- a Democratic victory in the 2020 presidential contest. Indeed, failure to move toward impeachment runs the risk of alienating Democrats’ base and making the party look weak and indecisive.

Uncertain Democrats should note the chorus of fearful Republican pundits warning Democrats that they would be foolhardy to impeach Trump. Remember, they do not have your best interests in mind.

ny times logoNew York Times, House Democrats Subpoena Full Report, and All Evidence, Nicholas Fandos, April 19, 2019. The subpoena escalates a fight with the attorney general over what material Congress is entitled to see from the investigation. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee formally issued a subpoena on Friday demanding that the Justice Department hand over to Congress an unredacted version of Robert S. Mueller III’s report and all of the evidence underlying it by May 1.

jerrold nadler o SmallThe subpoena, one of the few issued thus far by House Democrats, escalates a fight with Attorney General William P. Barr over what material Congress is entitled to see from the special counsel’s nearly two-year investigation. The chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York (right), asked for all evidence, including summaries of witness interviews and classified intelligence.

“My committee needs and is entitled to the full version of the report and the underlying evidence consistent with past practice,” Mr. Nadler said in a statement. “Even the redacted version of the report outlines serious instances of wrongdoing by President Trump and some of his closest associates. It now falls to Congress to determine the full scope of that alleged misconduct and to decide what steps we must take going forward.”

ny times logoNew York Times, A Portrait of the White House and Its Culture of Dishonesty, Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, April 18, 2019. The report by Robert S. Mueller III shows a hotbed of conflict defined by a president who lies and tries to get his staff to lie for him. At one juncture after another, President Trump gave in to anger in ways that turned aides into witnesses against him.

As President Trump met with advisers in the Oval Office in May 2017 to discuss replacements for the F.B.I. director he had just fired, Attorney General Jeff Sessions slipped out of the room to take a call.

When he came back, he gave Mr. Trump bad news: Robert S. Mueller III had just been appointed as a special counsel to take over the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and any actions by the president to impede it.

Mr. Trump slumped in his chair. “Oh, my God,” he said. “This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked.”

It has not been the end of his presidency, but it has come to consume it. Although the resulting two-year investigation ended without charges against Mr. Trump, Mr. Mueller’s report painted a damning portrait of a White House dominated by a president desperate to thwart the inquiry only to be restrained by aides equally desperate to thwart his orders.

washington post logoWashington Post, Paranoia, lies and fear: Trump’s presidency laid bare by Mueller report, Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, April 19, 2019 (print ed.). The 448-page report reveals a vivid portrait of a president and his aides on the brink of obstructing justice.

washington post logoWashington Post, Report lays out obstruction evidence against the president, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, April 19, 2019 (print ed.). The report from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III details 10 “episodes” of potential obstruction of justice by President Trump, alternating between dense legal analysis and jarring scenes of presidential scheming.

washington post logowilliam barr new oWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: What Attorney General Barr said vs. what the Mueller report said, Salvador Rizzo, April 19, 2019 (print ed.). As it turns out, the attorney general (right) took liberties in describing the results of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Offers from Russia were not reported or forcefully rejected by Trump campaign, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger, Karoun Demirjian and Rachel Weiner, April 19, 2019 (print ed.). The special counsel painted a portrait of a campaign that was intrigued by overtures from Russian officials and business executives.

April 18

Mueller Report

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC, Live Coverage & Analysis, Staff reporting, April 18, 2019. Redacted Mueller Report released here. Selected MSNBC print and videos on April 18 below:

ny times logoNew York Times, The Mueller Report Is 448 Pages Long. You Need to Know These 7 Key Things, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, April 18, 2019. Mr. Trump was not exonerated. Aides defied his orders to sabotage the inquiry, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, Here are seven takeaways:

1. Trump did try to sabotage the investigation. His staff defied him.
2. So many lies. So many changed stories.
3. Fake news? Not so much.
4. No obstruction? Not so fast.
5. Evading an F.B.I. interview proved a successful strategy.
6. No conclusive evidence of conspiracy, but lots of reason to investigate.
7. Imagine reading this report cold.

djt don jr ivanka pecker eric

Above the Law, Robert Mueller Didn’t Finish The Job, And We’ll Never Know Why, Elie Mystal, April 18, 2019. The Mueller report treats Trump and his family with kid gloves.
If you ever have the opportunity to choose who will prosecute you for you potential crimes, ask to be prosecuted by Robert Mueller. Apparently, he will spend half of his time making your legal arguments for you, and will not try to secure your testimony under oath if it looks like you’ll give him too much trouble.

I have read through (well, scrolled through) the entire Mueller report, and I am deeply dissatisfied with the thoroughness of Mueller’s investigation. Yes, yes, I know, I’m supposed to parrot the line about how “thorough” this investigation was because… it took a lot of time and the report is very long.

Big whoop. For all the time spent on it, and the obvious meticulous dedication to the cause, Mueller did not finish the job. Maybe he was pressured by new Attorney General William Barr. Maybe the constant drumbeat of “wrap it up” coming from the Trump administration wore him down. Maybe we’ll never know. But the 22-month investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and President Donald Trump’s potential obstruction of justice punted investigative functions to Congress that his office should have completed before turning over his report.

And that’s because Mueller declined to seek subpoenas to compel testimony from Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, or Eric Trump. Mueller was willing to put the screws to everybody else. Paul Manafort is in jail; Michael Cohen is going to jail. Michael Flynn is going to jail; Robert Gates is going to jail; Roger Stone will most likely be going to jail. Many of these people are going to jail because they lied to Robert Mueller. But the First Family is not going to jail. And it’s not because they are innocent. It’s because Mueller refused to ask them a damned question.

As has been widely understood — and now confirmed with the release of the report — Mueller made the decision that his office did not have the authority to charge President Donald Trump with a crime. That’s… a questionable legal conclusion. I can more or less accept it on the issue of conspiracy with Russia to influence the election. But when it comes to obstruction of justice, I just can’t. Literally, what is the point of having an “independent,” “non-political” appointee conduct an investigation into the President if only political appointees and elected officials can actually do anything about it? It’s like hiring a restaurant critic who isn’t allowed to eat the food.

 

william barr image by donkehotey dmca

Attorney General William P. Barr (image by Donkehotey via DCMA)

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr says he disagreed with some of Mueller’s theories on obstruction claim, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky​, April 18, 2019. But Attorney General William P. Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein accepted the special counsel’s “legal framework” as they analyzed the case. A redacted version of the report is set to be released today.

• Transcript: The attorney general’s full remarks on the Mueller report

washington post logoWashington Post, Report examines 10 instances of potential obstruction, Barr says, Staff report, April 18, 2019. The attorney general also said that he has no objection to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III testifying before Congress, which top Democratic lawmakers called for today.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump is a cancer on the presidency. Congress should remove him, George T. Conway III (right, a lawyer in New York prominent in conservative george conway twitterlegal circles and married to President Trump's senior communications adviser Kellyanne Conway), April 18, 2019. So it turns out that, indeed, President Trump was not exonerated at all, and certainly not “totally” or “completely,” as he claimed.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III didn’t reach a conclusion about whether Trump committed crimes of obstruction of justice — in part because, while a sitting president, Trump can’t be prosecuted under long-standing Justice Department directives, and in part because of “difficult issues” raised by “the President’s actions and intent.” Those difficult issues involve, among other things, the potentially tricky interplay between the criminal obstruction laws and the president’s constitutional authority, and the difficulty in proving criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt.

Still, the special counsel’s report is damning. Mueller couldn’t say, with any “confidence,” that the president of the United States is not a criminal. He said, stunningly, that “if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.” Mueller did not so state.

That’s especially damning because the ultimate issue shouldn’t be — and isn’t — whether the president committed a criminal act. As I wrote not long ago, Americans should expect far more than merely that their president not be provably a criminal. In fact, the Constitution demands it.

 william barr prin dep asst ag edward ocallaghan rod rosenstein april 18 2 2019 Small

Attorney General William Barr, center, flanked by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, right, and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Edward O'Callaghan of the National Security Division at the Justice Department news conference on April 18, 2019 (screenshot).

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: William Barr just did Trump another huge favor, Aaron Blake, April 18, 2019. When Attorney General William P. Barr announced he was going to hold a news conference before the release of the Mueller report Thursday, there was instant pushback. How can the media ask questions about a report it hasn’t seen? Would this just be a whole bunch of pre-spin from a man already accused of being too friendly to the president who appointed him?

Barr’s performance did nothing to argue against those allegations.

In a lengthy opening statement, Barr found just about every way possible to say that there was no coordination, cooperation or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. He also said Trump was right about “no collusion,” expanding the Mueller report’s clearing of Trump to a more nebulous term with little legal significance.

But perhaps more importantly, on obstruction of justice, he seemed to go to bat for Trump personally, offering a sympathetic take on the president’s state of mind and cooperation.

ny times logoNew York Times, White House and Justice Dept. Discussed Mueller Report Before Release, Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos and Katie Benner, April 18, 2019 (print edition). Some of President Trump’s advisers are concerned about whether he will retaliate against them if the report reveals them as sources of damaging details.

Not all of Robert S. Mueller III’s findings will be news to President Trump when they are released Thursday.

Justice Department officials have had numerous conversations with White House lawyers about the conclusions made by Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, in recent days, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. The talks have aided the president’s legal team as it prepares a rebuttal to the report and strategizes for the coming public war over its findings.

william barr new oA sense of paranoia was taking hold among some of Mr. Trump’s aides, some of whom fear his backlash more than the findings themselves, the people said. The report might make clear which of Mr. Trump’s current and former advisers spoke to the special counsel, how much they said and how much damage they did to the president — providing a kind of road map for retaliation.

The discussions between Justice Department officials and White House lawyers have also added to questions about the propriety of the decisions by Attorney General William P. Barr since he received Mr. Mueller’s findings late last month.

April 17

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative commentary: New witness steps forward revealing details of Epstein's Manhattan underage orgies, Wayne Madsen, April 17, 2019 (subscription required). A new witness has appeared in the ongoing legal drama playing out between victims of billionaire Wall Street financier and Donald Trump friend Jeffrey Epstein.

Epstein recruited Roberts while she was working as a towel girl at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, located close to Epstein's Palm Beach estate. Epstein was and may continue to be a member of Mar-a-Lago. Mar-a-Lago's membership lists are kept confidential.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Mueller Report Will Be Released on Thursday. Here’s a Guide, Sharon LaFraniere, April 17, 2019. After 23 months, the results of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, are set to be released to the public. The nearly 400-page report is likely to tell us about Russia’s 2016 election interference and President Trump’s efforts to control federal inquiries.

After 23 months, 500 search warrants, 2,300 subpoenas and a string of indictments, the results of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, will be public on Thursday in a nearly 400-page report. The treatise is likely to add significantly to our understanding of Russia’s 2016 election interference and President Trump’s efforts to control federal inquiries into the matter.

Attorney General William P. Barr said last month that the special counsel did not find that anyone associated with the Trump campaign worked with the Russian government to illegally influence the election. He also said there was insufficient evidence that Mr. Trump illegally obstructed justice. But Americans have been eagerly waiting to hear from Mr. Mueller’s investigators in their own words.

Whether you have followed every step of the investigation or are tuning in after months of avoiding the headlines, here is a primer for the report’s release.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lawyers, officials plan to resist subpoenas over his policies and finances, Tom Hamburger, Karoun Demirjian, Josh Dawsey and Rachael Bade, April 17, 2019 (print ed.). Their move to defy House Democrats’ requests for information increases the likelihood of a protracted legal fight that could test the power of congressional subpoenas.

washington post logoWashington Post, On Capitol Hill, some Trump officials appear to be testifying for an audience of one, Seung Min Kim, April 17, 2019 (print ed.). Cabinet officials and other Trump appointees have upended the normally staid congressional hearings with performances that, at times, appear to be designed for the viewer in chief.

washington post logoharry litman msnbc screenshotWashington Post, Opinion: If Congress wants the unredacted Mueller report, here’s how to get it, Harry Litman (shown in a screenshot), April 17, 2019 (print ed.). The Justice Department has announced that it will deliver special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report to Congress and the public on Thursday morning, but with redactions of grand jury information (and other categories of information) that will leave innumerable gaps in our understanding of what Mueller uncovered. Many commentators have suggested that Congress’s only mechanism for securing an unredacted report is to launch a formal impeachment inquiry — a blind step forward with great political risks for congressional Democrats and the party overall.

That unpleasant choice looked to be the upshot of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s recent 2-to-1 decision in McKeever v. Barr, which held that the courts lack “inherent power” to order disclosure of grand jury material and instead must hew to the six exceptions describing when such material can be released — exceptions that are delineated in Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

One of those six is disclosure “preliminary to or in connection with a judicial proceeding.” And while it may seem anomalous, several courts have held — and the D.C. Circuit in McKeever expressly affirmed — that “judicial proceeding” within the meaning of the rule encompasses an impeachment inquiry by Congress.

Justice Department log circularIt suggested that the House would be entitled to all the materials — unredacted — only if it first launched a formal impeachment inquiry. And because the Democratic leadership seems loath, for political reasons, to take that step, the prospects for proceeding under that exception — the only known avenue for procuring the unredacted report — looked stalemated.

But that’s not correct. In fact, Congress has immediate recourse to seek the unredacted report pursuant to the ”judicial proceeding” exception, without having to initiate an impeachment inquiry.

bill clintonHow do we know? Well, for starters, we need look no further than the Starr investigation of President Bill Clinton (right) and the succeeding impeachment proceedings in Congress. In September 1998, before the House had initiated an impeachment inquiry, independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr sought and received from federal district court an order to provide to Congress his report, including voluminous grand jury materials. The court’s order granting the request provided expressly that it constituted an order for purposes of the “judicial proceeding” exception in the federal rules.

It was only after digesting Starr’s report, and based upon the report, that the House decided to initiate an impeachment proceeding.

The necessary conclusion of the Starr precedent is that “preliminary to" covers circumstances in which Congress seeks a report to determine in the first place whether to launch impeachment proceedings. It follows that the House needn’t first launch a formal impeachment inquiry to get the unredacted report.

The attorney general and Rep. Douglas A. Collins (Ga.), the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, have suggested that nearly everything about Starr’s report is irrelevant to current circumstances because Starr was an independent counsel operating under a different statutory scheme than did Mueller. As, of course, he was.

But so what? The court’s express holding in response to the Starr motion was that its order applied to Rule 6(e); otherwise put, the transmission of grand jury material was proper because Congress needed it to determine whether to initiate a formal impeachment inquiry. It is difficult to see how Collins, Barr or the Justice Department could make a tenable argument to the contrary.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has completely incoherent late night meltdown about how much he now hates Fox News, Bill Palmer, April 17, 2019. Donald Trump has suddenly become enraged about Bernie Sanders – not because he has anything bad to say about Bernie, and not necessarily because he thinks Bernie will even be the 2020 nominee, but because Bernie did a town hall on Trump’s favorite channel Fox News, and it went fairly well. That alone is enough to set off a malignant narcissist like Trump, and sure enough, he finally exploded about it on Tuesday evening.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst, Donald Trump posted this bizarre tweet, which gave away just how insecure he’s feeling about the whole thing: “Many Trump Fans & Signs were outside of the Fox News Studio last night in the now thriving (Thank you President Trump) Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for the interview with Crazy Bernie Sanders. Big complaints about not being let in-stuffed with Bernie supporters. What’s with Fox News?” Aw, Trump got his feelings hurt because Fox isn’t kissing his butt as thoroughly as it used to.

Then Trump went on to inexplicably demand that Sanders pay more taxes. This was even as Trump continues to try to delay the Treasury Department’s inevitable release of Trump’s tax returns, because all kinds of dirty secrets are obviously lurking in there. But then Trump decided for some reason that this would be a good thing to tweet: “I believe it will be Crazy Bernie Sanders vs. Sleepy Joe Biden as the two finalists to run against maybe the best Economy in the history of our Country (and MANY other great things)! I look forward to facing whoever it may be. May God Rest Their Soul!”

The real upshot here is that Trump is very jealous that Fox News isn’t as thoroughly in his corner as it used to be. Trump is as insecure as he is incoherent.

April 16

washington post logoWashington Post,Redacted Mueller report expected to be released Thursday, Justice Dept. says, Devlin Barrett, April 16, 2019 (print ed). The report has been the subject of heated debate since Attorney General William P. Barr notified lawmakers that the special counsel had completed his probe.

April 13

washington post logoirs logoWashington Post, House Democrats give IRS until April 23 to turn over Trump tax returns, Jeff Stein​, April 13, 2019.  Legal experts have suggested an outright denial of their request by Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin could be followed by subpoenas or a lawsuit in federal court. House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) on Saturday sent a two-page letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig rebuffing Mnuchin’s statement earlier this week that Treasury would miss House Democrats’ initial April 10 deadline for the returns.

Mnuchin’s concerns “lack merit,” Neal wrote.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats to subpoena accounting firm for Trump’s financial records, Rachael Bade, April 13, 2019. Lawmakers expect the Trump administration to elijah cummings otake their fight over the president’s IRS documents to the courts — so they have sought other avenues to learn about his business practices.

A top House investigative committee plans to subpoena President Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, for Trump’s financial statements on Monday, according to a memo to committee members obtained by The Washington Post.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (right) on Friday notified panel members of his intention to subpoena the company after it refused to hand over Trump’s financial documents, citing laws and rules that require compulsory measures from the panel.

washington post logoICE logoWashington Post, Trump’s plan to send detainees to ‘sanctuary cities’ may be costly, illegal, Maria Sacchetti, April 13, 2019. Moving thousands of immigration detainees to Democratic strongholds would require massive transportation infrastructure. Sanctuary city mayors waved it off as a bluff.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Assails Omar With Video of Sept. 11 Attacks, Maggie Haberman, April 13, 2019. President President Trump on Friday targeted Representative Ilhan Omar for remarks she made during a speech on civil rights and Muslims in America with a graphic video featuring the burning World Trade Center towers and other images from Sept. 11, 2001, that he tweeted to millions of his followers.

ilhan omar oThe Twitter post from the president stoked and amplified a controversy that has been a focus of conservative news outlets, which have sought to elevate Ms. Omar (right) — a Minnesota Democrat and one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress — as a political target, as Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign begins in earnest.

At issue were remarks that Ms. Omar made last month at an event hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. There, she gave a speech in which she addressed lingering fear directed at Muslims, and the rights Muslims have to speak out about being viewed with suspicion.

During the speech, she said that Muslims had “lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it.” She added that the council was created after the Sept. 11 attacks “because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.” (The Council on American-Islamic Relations was actually founded in 1994.)

April 13

Federal Judge Blasts Trump

carlton reeves university of virginia sanjay suchak

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves argued for federal courts’ need to defend marginalized groups at a University of Virginia School of Law event on April 11. (University of Virginia School of Law)

Washington Post, You can hear the Klan’s lawyers’: Federal judge likens Trump’s attacks on judiciary to KKK, Reis Thebault, April 13, 2019. Federal judge compares Trump’s attacks on judiciary to KKK, segregationist attacks on black judges. President Trump has attacked the judiciary like few U.S. leaders before him, disparaging judges and their rulings as “dangerous,” “horrible” and “a complete and total disgrace.” Some of his supporters and fellow Republicans applaud and parrot him, but U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves said he hears something sinister: echoes of a time when the Ku Klux Klan and the architects of the Jim Crow South attacked the courts for chipping away at segregation and racism.

In a speech to the University of Virginia School of Law on Thursday, Reeves criticized Trump’s aggressive responses to his administration’s losses in court and the lack of diversity in his judicial appointments — an extremely rare rebuke from a sitting federal judge. Though Reeves, whose court is in Jackson, Miss., never mentioned Trump by name, he quoted the president more than a dozen times and compared him to a stridently racist Alabama governor.

“When the executive branch calls our courts and their work ‘stupid,’ ‘horrible,’ ‘ridiculous,’ ‘incompetent,’ ‘a laughingstock,’” Reeves said, drawing from Trump’s Twitter feed, “you can hear the slurs and threats of executives like George Wallace, echoing into the present.”

Take Trump’s insults of Judge Gonzalo Curiel, Reeves said. Trump said Curiel should not hear a lawsuit against Trump University because Trump’s hard-line immigration polices presented a conflict of interest for Curiel, who is of Mexican descent.

“I know what I heard when a federal judge was called ‘very biased and unfair’ because he is ‘of Mexican heritage.’ When that judge’s ethnicity was said to prevent his issuing ‘fair rulings,' when that judge was called a 'hater’ simply because he is Latino,” Reeves said, “I heard those words and I did not know if it was 1967 or 2017.”

The White House declined to comment on the speech, which was first reported by BuzzFeed News. Reeves, through his law clerk, said he wouldn’t make any further comments.

Half a century later, Reeves said, Americans are “eyewitnesses to the third great assault on our judiciary.”

“When politicians attack courts as ‘dangerous,’ ‘political,’ and guilty of ‘egregious overreach,’ you can hear the Klan’s lawyers, assailing officers of the court across the South,” he said.

carlton reevesIt’s not that courts should be exempt from criticism, Reeves (shown in a file photo) said. He maintained that debating judicial decisions ultimately improves the courts.

“But the slander and falsehoods thrown at courts today are not those of a critic seeking to improve the judiciary’s search for truth,” he said. “They are words of an attacker, seeking to distort and twist that search toward falsehood.”

Trump’s broadsides may be loud, but it’s his appointments that may end up having the most lasting effect, Reeves said. As of April 1, more than three-quarters of confirmed appellate and district court nominees were white, according to Alliance for Justice, a left-leaning advocacy group. More than 90 percent were male.

“That’s not what America looks like,” Reeves said. “That’s not even what the legal profession looks like. . . . There is no excuse for this exclusion of minority experiences from our courts.”

Judges, especially at the federal level, typically try to eschew partisan tangles, particularly with presidents.

When Trump was a candidate, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told the New York Times that she “can’t imagine what this place would be . . . with Donald Trump as our president.”

“For the country, it could be four years,” she said. “For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.”

Days later, Ginsburg apologized, calling her comments “ill-advised.”

Reeves, however, has drawn national attention before. In 2018, he issued a strongly worded decision striking down Mississippi’s law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, chastising the state for choosing to “pass a law it knew was unconstitutional.”

In 2015, Reeves gave another stirring speech, that time a 2,500-word address from the bench, aimed at three white men who were sentenced in the killing of a black man — a hate crime, he said, that in the past would have been written off as “acceptable racially inspired pranks.” Instead he handed down sentences between seven and 50 years.

Reeves gave his speech Thursday as he accepted the university’s Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law, one of its highest awards. He began by addressing the third U.S. president’s complicated history — a mix of “genius,” “curiosity” and “industry,” along with well-documented racism.

“I must stand up and speak about that pairing,” he said. “How corrosive it has been since the days of Jefferson, who we all agree, was a man of his time. How often that pairing has been embraced throughout our history, by men of their times. And why we must defend against its poison when spewed today, by men of our time.”

Trump Watch

April 12

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the Russian effort to target Sanders supporters — and help elect Trump, Michael Kranish, April 12, 2019. The effort to target Bernie Sanders supporters has been a lesser-noted part of the Russian interference story. That strategy could receive new attention with the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s bernie sanders buttonreport.

After Bernie Sanders lost his primary campaign for president against Hillary Clinton in 2016, a Twitter account called Red Louisiana News reached out to his supporters to help sway the general election. “Conscious Bernie Sanders supporters already moving towards the best candidate Trump! #Feel the Bern #Vote Trump 2016,” the account tweeted.

The tweet was not actually from Louisiana, according to an analysis by Clemson University researchers. Instead, it was one of thousands of accounts identified as based in Russia, part of a cloaked effort to persuade supporters of the Vermont senator to elect Trump. “Bernie Sanders says his message resonates with Republicans,” said another Russian tweet.

washington post logoWashington Post, W. Samuel Patten sentenced to probation after steering Ukrainian money to Trump inaugural, Spencer S. Hsu, April 12, 2019. An American political consultant whose guilty plea marked the first confirmation that illegal foreign money was used to help fund Donald Trump’s inaugural committee was sentenced to probation Friday by a federal judge who cited his cooperation with U.S. prosecutors.

sam patten file headshot guilty plea 2018W. Samuel Patten, 47 (shown in a file photo), in August admitted steering $50,000 from a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician to Trump’s committee in an investigation spun off from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Patten acknowledged he was helped by a Russian national who is a longtime associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and the case was referred to prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington and the Justice Department’s national security division.

In sparing Patten from prison, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson (right) accepted prosecutors’ request for leniency and noted no federal sentencing guideline directly applies to his offense of failing to register as a foreign lobbyist, which is punishable by up to five years in prison. Patten’s defense sought amy berman jacksonprobation citing the substantial assistance he provided in several ongoing, undisclosed investigations.

He was sentenced to three years of probation. 500 hours of community service and fined $5,000. Patten’s offenses were “not a technicality, and not an oversight,” Jackson said in court, but serious offenses calculated to influence public policy and opinion in the United States for a foreign government “without telling the American people that it was those very Ukrainians paying you to do the talking.”

Patten “earned the trust of the government and became a reliable and valuable resource” for Mueller’s Russia investigation and prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office, Patten’s attorney Stuart A. Sears said in sentencing papers.

 washington post logoivanka trump twitter portraitWashington Post, ‘She’s very good with numbers’: Trump says he considered daughter Ivanka to lead the World Bank, John Wagner, April 12, 2019. President Trump considered nominating his eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, to be president of the World Bank in part because “she’s very good with numbers,” according to a new interview published Friday.

Speaking to the Atlantic, Trump lavished praise on his daughter, a 37-year-old White House adviser (shown in her Twitter photo), and suggested she would be suitable for other administration positions, including U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

“She’s a natural diplomat,” Trump said. “She would’ve been great at the United Nations, as an example.”

Asked why he didn’t nominate her, Trump replied: “If I did, they’d say nepotism, when it would’ve had nothing to do with nepotism. But she would’ve been incredible.”

April 11

Trump Probes

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation/commentary: Is William Barr a "peripheral third party" in the Mueller report? Wayne Madsen (WMR editor, syndicated columnist, author), william barr new oApril 11, 2019 (subscription required; excerpted with permission). Attorney General William Barr told the House Appropriations Committee that the 400-page report by Robert Mueller on the 2016 Trump campaign’s foreign connections is being redacted of all information dealing with grand jury hearings, information that would reveal intelligence sources or methods, information on other current investigations, and information that would “unduly infringe on the personal privacy and representational interests of peripheral third parties.”

Barr may have a major conflict-of-interest in the last category. While many pundits are viewing “peripheral third parties” as Donald Trump daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as Trump’s two sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, the category of third parties might include Barr himself.

nancy pelosi djt

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has made the mistake of awakening a monster, Bill Palmer, April 11, 2019. Here’s what someone once said about Nancy Pelosi: “She’ll cut your head off and you won’t even know you’re bleeding.” That quote came from Pelosi’s own daughter. The current Speaker of the House is so politically savvy, calm, and collected, she can do a lot of damage to her opponents while smiling the entire time. Here’s the thing. Pelosi is no longer smiling. Not even close.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House earlier this year, she said that impeaching Donald Trump at that time wasn’t worth it, and she’d wait until the Mueller probe and/or other investigations turned up more about Trump’s crimes. It was a wise move. If she’d pushed forward with impeachment three months ago, it would have gotten through the House but certainly not the Senate, and all it would have done was make Trump more emboldened.

So Pelosi has held her fire, preferring to let the House committee chairs push forward with their probes, all while waiting for Trump to hand her an opening. He just did. Trump’s Attorney General William Barr thumbed his nose at Congress about the Mueller report yesterday, while repeating one of Trump’s most deranged phony conspiracy theories. Then Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin thumbed his nose at Congress as well when he announced that he was illegally refusing to turn over Trump’s tax returns.

These two scoundrels just declared war against American democracy, on Trump’s behalf. If Trump wants a war, and he clearly does, Nancy Pelosi is going to give him one. When she spoke before the cameras yesterday and accused Barr of having gone “off the rails,” you could clearly see from her tone and body language that Trump and his stooges had crossed her red line.

ny times logoNew York Times, Retiring as a Judge, Trump’s Sister Ends Court Inquiry Into Her Role in Tax Dodges, Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig, April 10, 2019. Maryanne Trump Barry faced complaints of judicial misconduct after a New York Times investigation found she had engaged in fraudulent tax schemes with her siblings. President Trump’s older sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, has retired as a federal appellate judge, ending an investigation into whether she violated judicial conduct rules by participating in fraudulent tax schemes with her siblings.

The court inquiry stemmed from complaints filed last October, after an investigation by The New York Times found that the Trumps had engaged in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the inherited wealth of Mr. Trump and his siblings. Judge Barry not only benefited financially from most of those tax schemes, The Times found; she was also in a position to influence the actions taken by her family.

Judge Barry, now 82, has not heard cases in more than two years but was still listed as an inactive senior judge, one step short of full retirement. In a letter dated Feb. 1, a court official notified the four individuals who had filed the complaints that the investigation was “receiving the full attention” of a judicial conduct council. Ten days later, Judge Barry filed her retirement papers.

The status change rendered the investigation moot, since retired judges are not subject to the conduct rules. The people who filed the complaints were notified last week that the matter had been dropped without a finding on the merits of the allegations. The decision has not yet been made public, but copies were provided to The Times by two of the complainants. Both are involved in the legal profession.

Judicial council reviews can result in the censure or reprimand of federal judges, and in extremely rare cases, a referral to the House of Representatives for impeachment.

In retirement, Judge Barry is entitled to receive annually the salary she earned when she last met certain workload requirements. Though the exact figure was not immediately available, it appears to be between $184,500 and $217,600.

The Times investigation focused on how the profits and ownership of the real estate empire built by the president’s father, Fred C. Trump, were transferred to Donald J. Trump and his siblings, often in ways designed to dodge gift and estate taxes.

A lawyer for the president, Charles J. Harder, said last fall, “The New York Times’s allegations of fraud and tax evasion are 100 percent false, and highly defamatory.”

djt smiling file

DCReport.com, Investigative commentary: The Tyranny of Donald J. Trump, David Cay Johnston, right, April 11, 2019. Two Generations of Tax Cheating, and Now He Holds Himself and david cay johnston headshotHis Family Above the Law. Donald J. Trump and his team have now openly declared that he is above the law rather than, as our Constitution provides, a public servant whose duty is to faithfully execute the law. His administration is taking numerous steps that move us in the direction of a Trumpian dictatorship by defeating the rule of law, something I’ve warned about since 2016. We’ll look at one aspect of this today: Trump family taxes.

Trump and his team insist that no one is ever going to see his tax returns, which he promised voters he would make public as every president has done back to Richard Nixon.

Now his sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, has scurried away from the investigative spotlight of her fellow federal judges, who were looking into whether she was a tax cheat in black robes. By resigning from the federal bench, Trump’s older sister ends that inquiry, the kind of legal favor our system affords those in positions of power to escape scrutiny.

As for defiance of the law, Trump, his personal lawyers and the White House acting chief of staff all declared in recent days that they will defy a 1924 anti-corruption statute that gives certain members of Congress, and one Congressional employee, the unqualified authority to examine any tax return.

No previous president has defied the statute ordering the Treasury to handover tax returns, and no document request has ever been refused.

Trump claims that “the law is 100% on my side” in refusing the turn over the documents. In fact, the law is 100% against Trump. When I asked a half dozen former top Congressional tax-writing staffers about Trump’s claim some of them laughed out loud, while others said in sober turns that there is no legal argument on Trump’s side – none.

The most direct Trump declaration that he is above the law is his directing the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service to keep his federal income tax returns locked up. No previous president has defied this statute and no document request has ever been refused, a host of people who worked for the tax-writing committees on Capitol Hill told me.

Trump’s arguments are mere political rhetoric. But it gets worse than that.

Trump lawyer William S. Consovoy in an April 5 letter asked Treasury to hold back the documents. Consovoy asserted mind-reading powers in his letter: “His request is a transparent effort by one political party to harass an official from the other party because they dislike his politics and speech.”

Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, declared on Fox News Sunday that the Trump administration will “never” comply with the law.

Trump and his team are now openly declaring that Trump is above the law, a clear step toward a dictatorship. Our David Cay Johnston explains in the first of several pieces examining official lawlessness.

April 10

Barr's Spin?

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr says he thinks ‘spying did occur’ in probe of Trump campaign associates, Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian​, April 10, 2019. Attorney General William william barr new oP. Barr (right) said Wednesday he thought “spying” on a political campaign occurred in the course of intelligence agencies’ investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election — a startling assertion by the nation’s top law enforcement official.

At a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Barr was asked about his statement a day earlier that he would review how the FBI launched its counterintelligence investigation that sought to determine whether Donald Trump’s associates were interacting with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal. It’s a big deal,” said Barr, noting that there are long-held rules to prevent intelligence agencies from collecting information on domestic political figures.

“I’m not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think it’s important to look at that,” he said. “I’m not talking about the FBI necessarily but intelligence agencies more broadly.”

Current and former law enforcement officials have defended their handling of the Russia investigation, saying it was carefully handled based on available evidence, and they have firmly denied they engaged in political spying. Those current and former officials have argued they were obligated to investigate allegations that Trump associates might be conspiring with Russians to interfere in the election.

jennifer rubin new headshotwashington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: William Barr, Trump toady, Jennifer Rubin (right), April 10, 2019.The Post reports: "Attorney General William P. Barr said Wednesday he thought “spying” on a political campaign occurred in the course of intelligence agencies’ investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election — a startling assertion by the nation’s top law enforcement official. . . ."

This is the language of a PR spinner, not the attorney general of the United States. As my colleague Aaron Blake points out, “spying” is a loaded phrase and a political accusation.

Moreover, the Justice Department itself has refuted this notion, making clear that the Russia probe began before the government’s surveillance of Carter Page.

Now, if you didn’t already think Barr was failing to fulfill his oath to enforce the laws as the people’s lawyer (not Trump’s lawyer), this latest episode might do it.

Remember that Barr already substituted his own “exoneration” of Trump on obstruction of justice (something the Justice Department’s guidelines specify should be a matter for Congress and not for the department), refused to use summaries that Robert S. Mueller III’s team prepared in favor of his misleading summary (which he later claimed was not a summary), has failed to turn over the report or Mueller summaries to Congress in a timely manner and has refused to make an unredacted version of the report available to Congress. All in all, it’s a shabby record of politicizing the Justice Department in a way that his predecessors avoided.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi has had enough of Donald Trump’s crap, BD Holly, April 10, 2019. Attorney General William Barr’s self-serving and shortsighted answers to nancy pelosi twitterthe questions asked of him during his public testimony on Wednesday were predictably favorable to Donald Trump, but might have served an unintended purpose – unchaining the inner mounting wrath of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

bill palmer report logo headerPelosi (shown in her Twitter photo) said this to reporters on Wednesday: “How very, very dismaying and disappointing that the chief law enforcement officer of our country is going off the rails,” likely a response to Barr’s bizarre echoing of a Trump fantasy that the Obama administration had spied on the Trump team. As though he believed his blind monarchical loyalty insufficient in cementing his manifestly partisan stance, he admitted that he had no evidence to corroborate this claim. Now that there’s no shadow of a doubt that our Attorney General is an utter stooge, where in the system do we look for a check on his bias?

Trump's Migrant Policy

washington post logoWashington Post, Twelve days of chaos: Inside the White House’s growing panic to contain the border crisis, David Nakamura, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim, April 10, 2019.  President Trump has blamed others for spiking immigration numbers, but his housecleaning at the Department of Homeland Security shows a realization that he is facing an existential political threat.

kirstjen nielsenHe had threatened to close the southern border and ordered a halt to foreign aid for three Central American nations. But as President Trump weighed his next move to respond to a mounting immigration crisis, he had another problem: His homeland security chief was in Europe on a week-long business trip.

The location of Kirstjen Nielsen (right), the embattled leader of the Department of Homeland Security, on April 1 was like a bad joke for a president who vowed to curb unauthorized immigration but was now showing signs of panic as border crossings spiked to the highest levels in more than a decade.

Nielsen, who had barely hung on to her job during previous run-ins with Trump, cut her trip short and flew back to Washington. Upon returning, she furiously tried to save her job. Nielsen convened emergency calls with White House aides and Cabinet officials to urge them to help her on immigration, White House officials said. She ordered U.S. Customs and Border Protection to deploy “emergency surge operations,” shifting up to 750 officers from other duties to help the overwhelmed Border Patrol. But by then it was too late.

washington post logoWashington Post, Stephen Miller, Jared Kushner on a potential collision course over immigration, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa​, April 10, 2019. As Kushner seeks to appeal to his father-in-law’s desire to be seen as a dealmaker, Miller represents the president’s id — reaffirming hard-line impulses on immigration policy.

“President Obama had child separation. Take a look. The press knows it, you know it, we all know it. I didn’t have — I’m the one that stopped it. President Obama had child separation. … President Obama separated children. They had child separation. I was the one that changed it, okay?”

President Trump, in remarks at the Oval Office, April 9, 2019

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker: Trump digs in on false claim that he stopped Obama’s family separation policy, Salvador Rizzo, This is a Four Pinocchio claim, yet Trump keeps repeating it when he’s pressed on family separations.

Trump Watch

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Tower Condo Sale Linked to Republic of Congo, Report Says, Jesse Drucker, April 10, 2019. A company owned by the daughter of the Republic of Congo’s president paid $7 million for an apartment in a Trump building overlooking Central Park, a nonprofit group found.

The Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan, near the southwest corner of Central Park, is a 44-story building with a mix of luxury condominiums and hotel suites that go for more than $2,500 a night.

Unit 32G, a two-bedroom, 1,767-square-foot apartment with sweeping views of the park, is owned by an entity called Ecree, which bought the condo in 2014 for $7 million in cash.

Documents unearthed by the nonprofit group Global Witness show that the purchase was funded by the daughter of the Republic of Congo’s president, a longtime target of anti-corruption investigators. The funds for the all-cash purchase appear to have been siphoned from that country’s government, according to a report by Global Witness.

April 9

Mueller Report

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The full Mueller report could be released — if the House opens preliminary impeachment hearings, Philip Allen Lacovara and Laurence H. Tribe, laurence tribeApril 9, 2019 (print ed.). Philip Allen Lacovara was a counsel to the Watergate special prosecutor. Laurence H. Tribe (right) is a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School.

The uncertain prospect that the House Judiciary Committee will receive the raw, unredacted report generated by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III got even less certain Friday. A decision by the federal court of appeals in Washington now confronts the House leadership and Attorney General William P. Barr with some difficult political choices.

In a 2-to-1 decision in McKeever v. Barr, the court reaffirmed the principle of grand jury secrecy and concluded that a court has no “inherent power” to release grand jury information. This decision will give Barr a plausible basis to resist the Judiciary Committee’s subpoena of the entire Mueller report, even if the committee goes to court to enforce it. But both the House and the attorney general have ways to cope with this obstacle, if they have the political will and the professional judgment to do so.

In McKeever, two Republican appointees, including President Trump’s former deputy White House counsel, concluded that grand jury information must remain confidential unless a request for disclosure falls within one of the narrow exceptions listed in the federal rules of criminal procedure. The court refused to allow the disclosure of grand jury proceedings relating to the 1957 indictment of an FBI agent suspected of conspiring with the regime of Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo to kidnap and murder an outspoken critic. Even though all the witnesses and principals died long ago, the court concluded that a historian writing a book about the incident could not get access to the grand jury proceedings.

jerrold nadler o SmallIn the face of Barr’s decision not to disclose any of the Mueller report to the public or even to the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D- N.Y., shown at right) until Barr and his team have scrubbed the report of grand jury information (and other material), Nadler and committee Democrats have authorized a subpoena for the full report, setting the stage for a court fight over the committee’s right to see grand jury information. Although the public need underlying the request for disclosure in McKeever was much less pressing, the decision in that case undermines the position of Nadler’s committee, because the controlling federal rule contains no exception allowing congressional “oversight” committees to demand access to otherwise secret grand jury proceedings.

One of us (Tribe) has supported investigation but resisted the call for impeachment hearings as such, defending House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in that regard, while the other (Lacovara) recently argued that Pelosi was duty-bound under the Constitution to have the House Judiciary Committee open a formal investigation into whether grounds for impeachment exist. One reason for doing so was to enhance the likelihood that the committee could see the evidence that Mueller developed through the use of his investigating grand jury. During the Watergate investigation, the special prosecutor working with a grand jury developed a report detailing the evidence tending to show that President Richard M. Nixon had committed various federal crimes, including obstruction of justice, that might constitute grounds for impeachment.

Justice Department log circularOne of the exceptions to grand jury secrecy is disclosure “preliminary to or in connection with a judicial proceeding.” To authorize disclosure of the Watergate grand jury information, the special prosecutor’s office argued that the House had authorized its Judiciary Committee to conduct a formal impeachment inquiry and that such an inquiry could be fairly analogized to a “grand jury” investigation and thus a judicial proceeding. Both the district court and the court of appeals agreed, and the Judiciary Committee obtained both the report and the underlying evidence. Significantly, the appeals court decision several days ago reaffirmed that exception. All three judges agreed that an impeachment inquiry falls within the “exception for judicial proceedings” and “coheres” with other rulings about the proper scope of grand jury secrecy.

But Pelosi has declined to allow the Judiciary Committee to open even a preliminary impeachment inquiry, asserting rather bizarrely that Trump is “not worth it.” That decision may hamstring Nadler’s quest for the complete Mueller report. Nothing in the federal rules creates an explicit exception allowing congressional committees exercising general powers of government “oversight” to demand access to secret grand jury material. So, Pelosi and Nadler are confronting a dilemma of their own making: either revisit the politically fraught impeachment question or concede that the House is at the mercy of whatever judgment the attorney general makes in excising grand jury information, which may include the most salient material about possible collusion and obstruction of justice.

For his part, Barr also has delicate judgments to make. If he is so inclined, the attorney general could properly opt to exclude only the names and actual testimony of grand jury witnesses while nevertheless informing the Judiciary Committee — and the public — about the substance of the information developed during the proceedings. Unfortunately, Barr has given every indication that he intends to make needlessly sweeping redactions, especially having ruled that, in his judgment, the evidence of obstruction of justice did not rise to the level of a prosecutable crime. Trump’s selection of his new attorney general may prove to be his best line of defense — unless Pelosi revisits her stance and directs the House Judiciary Committee to include impeachment within its investigatory ambit.

April 8

U.S. 'Homeland' Ouster

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Kevin McAleenan is taking over DHS. Will he be ‘tough’ enough for Trump? Nick Miroff, April 8, 2019. One of the most difficult jobs in Washington kevin mcaleenan o Custom 2now belongs to Kevin McAleenan, who President Trump is placing in charge of the Department of Homeland Security after the ouster of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Sunday.

As the new acting secretary at DHS, McAleenan (right) faces the largest wave of illegal crossings at the Mexico border in more than a decade. In Washington, he’ll contend with an impatient boss who is demanding an immediate halt to the surge. And to deliver that, McAleenan will have to court Democratic lawmakers with little political incentive to help the White House ahead of the 2020 election.

McAleenan — the current commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection — presents as a natural leader of DHS, a no-nonsense law enforcement official with longtime practical immigration experience. For a president who places a premium on appearances, McAleenan, 47, also looks the part, with close-cropped hair and a stern bearing.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Kirstjen Nielsen Enforced Cruelty at the Border. Her Replacement Could Be Worse, Editorial Board, April 8, 2019. She will be remembered for the forced separation of thousands of migrant families. She was said to have become increasingly insecure in her job in recent weeks, as Mr. Trump repeatedly railed about the kirstjen nielsenchaos at the border and vowed to move in a “tougher” direction. The president grew impatient with Ms. Nielsen’s insistence that federal law and international obligations limited her actions.

It’s no secret that Mr. Trump had a problem with Ms. Nielsen (right), whom he considered “weak” on matters of border security. The president and Stephen Miller, his hard-line immigration adviser, have long grumbled privately about the secretary’s insufficiently brutal approach to the surge in migrant families across the border. Last May, stories surfaced about Mr. Trump publicly berating her in front of the entire cabinet for failing to stop the crossings. Ms. Nielsen was said to have drafted a resignation letter at the time.

washington post logoWashington Post, Secret Service chief to leave amid broader shake-up at Homeland Security, Toluse Olorunnipa and Carol D. Leonnig, April 8, 2019. U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph D. “Tex” Alles will be stepping down from his post, the latest in a string of departures from President Trump’s administration.

randolph alles o CustomAlles (right) “has done a great job at the agency over the last two years, and the President is thankful for his over 40 years of service to the country,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “Mr. Alles will be leaving shortly and President Trump has selected James M. Murray, a career member of the USSS, to take over as director beginning in May.”

The departure of the Secret Service chief comes amid a broader shake-up in the Department of Homeland Security. On Sunday, Trump announced that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen would be stepping down. Last week, Trump said he was rescinding his nomination of Ronald Vitiello to be director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying he wanted to go in a “tougher” direction. Both Alles and Vitiello reported to Nielsen.

Security protocols around Trump have come under scrutiny in recent days after an apparent security breach at the president’s Florida resort.

Secret Service agents arrested a Chinese woman after she gained access to the reception area of the Mar-a-Lago Club late last month, saying they found she was carrying two passports and a thumb drive containing malicious software, according to court documents. Prosecutors say the woman, Yujing Zhang, first approached a Mar-a-Lago security checkpoint March 30 and told security officials she was there to go to the swimming pool.

Management at Trump’s Palm Beach property, where individuals pay a fee to obtain memberships that can provide proximity to the president, allowed the woman to bypass security, prosecutors said. Zhang was ultimately stopped after a receptionist questioned her.

The Secret Service issued a statement after the woman was caught, appearing to lay blame for the security breach on management at Trump’s club. “The Secret Service does not determine who is invited or welcome at Mar-a-Lago; this is the responsibility of the host entity,” the agency said.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) released a statement Monday calling for Alles to testify before Congress concerning Mar-a-Lago and any security issues the president’s club poses, as well as other matters.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Total chaos: Donald Trump just shoved even more of his own people out the White House back door, Bill Palmer, April 8, 2019. One day after the “resignation” of Homeland Security Director Kirstjen Nielsen, it turns out Donald Trump is just getting started when it comes to parting ways with his own people. In fact he’s essentially gutting the leadership at DHS, as he once again tries to revive his failed presidency by scapegoating as many of his own people as possible.

secret service logobill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump is also firing Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles, according to CNN, and Deputy Homeland Security Director Claire Grady, according to NBC News. This comes after Trump withdrew his own ICE Director nominee Ron Vitiello. What do these three people have in common? They all answered directly to Kirstjen Nielsen at DHS. Not only is Trump ridding himself of Nielsen, he’s ridding himself of anyone who was aligned with her. So what’s he really up to?

Nielsen obviously had no problem with kidnapping immigrant kids from their parents and leaving them to die in cages. But in the hours since her departure, multiple major news outlets have reported that Trump was increasingly pushing her to do things that she considered illegal. She was frustrated by it, and he was frustrated by her unwillingness to do it. Nielsen already belongs in prison for negligently getting those kids killed. Whatever else Trump was pushing her to do, it must have been something even worse than killing kids.

Trump's Tax Stonewall

ny times logoNew York Times, To Get Trump’s Tax Returns, N.Y. Democrats Try a New Strategy, Jesse McKinley, April 8, 2019. A new bill would allow New York officials to release Mr. Trump’s state tax returns to congressional committees. In an attempt to work around the White House, Democratic lawmakers in Albany are trying to do what their federal counterparts have so far failed to accomplish: to obtain President Trump’s tax returns.

irs logoAlbany lawmakers are seeking state tax returns, not the federal ones at the heart of the current standoff in Washington. But a tax return from New York — the president’s home state, and the headquarters of his business empire — could likely contain much of the same financial information as a federal return.

Under a bill that is scheduled to be introduced this week, the commissioner of the New York Department of Taxation and Finance would be permitted to release any state tax return requested by leaders of three congressional committees for any “specific and legitimate legislative purpose.”

The bill is the most recent proposal from New York lawmakers trying to cast light on the president’s personal finances and business dealings, but it could also open the Democratic majorities in the Legislature to charges of politicizing state law to embarrass the president ahead of his expected re-election campaign.

State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat who is sponsoring the legislation, defended the bill, saying it is designed to be “a safety valve for any attempt by the White House to block the Congress from doing this at the federal level.”

mick mulvaney oThe bill’s expected introduction on Monday comes even as the I.R.S. and Treasury Department in Washington are deciding whether to comply with a request last week from the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, for access under a provision of the federal tax code to six years of his federal returns by April 10.

Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer called the effort by Mr. Neal a “gross abuse of power” — an opinion that was seconded by the White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney (left), who said on Sunday that Democrats would “never” see the president’s tax returns. It remains unclear if the federal tax collecting agencies will share that view.

More On U.S. Taxes

Roll Call, Opinion: If your taxes are a complicated mess, you’re not alone, Jason J. Fichtner, Apr 8, 2019. Americans spend too much time, money and energy each year trying to understand and follow the tax code. The total economic loss (the costs of complying, lobbying and changed behavior) from the tax code may be up to a trillion dollars per year. And that was before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 caused new confusion for many filers.

Proposals for new wealth taxes, changes to marginal tax rates, or adjusting the estate tax capture the imagination of policy wonks. But such discussions often overlook the most important aspect of these policies — how the tax code is administered.

In practice, these administrative issues could make or break any attempt at reform, as well as the tax code as a whole. In a new paper for the Bipartisan Policy Center released today, Bill Gale, Jeff Trinca and I point to three fundamental issues with our tax system.

irs logoFirst, our tax system is too costly to comply with. Americans spend too much time, money and energy each year trying to understand and follow the tax code. By my estimate, the total economic loss (the costs of complying, lobbying and changed behavior) from the tax code may be up to a trillion dollars per year. This estimate was before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which has caused new confusion for many filers and may have made the code more complex.

Second, compliance is especially hard for filers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit, an effective pro-work and anti-poverty program that I’ve advocated for improving. The EITC has a web of complex eligibility rules that can be hard for potential claimants to navigate and prove that they meet. How would you go about proving to the IRS, for example, that your child lived with you for at least six months last year?

Furthermore, lax oversight allows some fringe tax preparers to prey on low-income filers, which drives a significant share of improper EITC payments and can lead to penalties for the filer.

Third, it is too easy for some filers to evade their taxes. The most recent estimate, for 2008-2010, is that about $406 billion in taxes each year goes uncollected. Tax fraud crops up in cases like the recent college admissions scandal, contributing to Americans’ general sense that loopholes and offshore accounts make it too easy for some taxpayers to wriggle out of what they owe. Ultimately, this shortfall must be made up for by those of us who do pay our taxes.
Overworked and underfunded

One underlying cause of all three issues is that Congress has chronically underfunded the IRS, reducing their budget by more than 15 percent since 2010. While to some this may sound like good politics, a lack of staff and resources hinders the agency’s ability to catch tax cheats and to provide taxpayers with high levels of support, resulting in longer telephone wait times for taxpayers seeking assistance and only 0.5 percent of all returns audited in 2016.

Former IRS Commissioner John Koskinen estimates that up to 40 percent of the IRS workforce could retire this year, which will only further diminish the agency’s institutional knowledge and ability.

Trump Probes

washington post logowilliam barr new oWashington Post, Scrutiny and suspicion as Mueller report undergoes redaction, Devlin Barrett​, April 8, 2019. Experts say Attorney General William P. Barr (right) has wide discretion to determine what is revealed, meaning the fight over blacked-out boxes is likely to spawn months of legal fights.

djt robert mueller headshots

U.S. Secret Threat To Lebanon?

April 7

washington post logowilliam barr new oWashington Post, Scrutiny and suspicion as Mueller report undergoes redaction, Devlin Barrett​, April 7, 2019. Experts say Attorney General William P. Barr has wide discretion to determine what is revealed, meaning the fight over blacked-out boxes is likely to spawn months of legal fights.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller’s real endgame for Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, April 7, 2019. For as long as Special Counsel Robert Mueller was investigating Donald Trump, we pointed out that Mueller surely didn’t come out of retirement and go to the trouble of spending two years investigating an illegitimate criminal president, just to hand in a book report and go home. Yet, when Mueller first turned in his report, it appeared that was precisely what he had done.

bill palmer report logo headerIn the two weeks since, a few things have become clear. For instance, Robert Mueller obviously found a metric ton of criminal dirt on Donald Trump. We know this because of what Trump and his associates have directly confessed to, what the media has dug up, and what Mueller’s team told us this week.

Also, Robert Mueller clearly wasn’t done with his investigation when he abruptly turned in his report and disbanded his team. We’re now seeing U.S. Attorneys pick up various threads of the Mueller probe, from the inevitable superseding indictment against Roger Stone, to the grand jury proceedings involving the foreign government owned mystery company. The question is whether Mueller quit voluntarily.

There’s one big thing to watch. Robert Mueller is still technically employed as Special Counsel. On Friday, Mueller’s office announced that his employment will officially be off the job within a few days. Once Mueller is no longer working for the DOJ, he should immediately have more freedom to get his message out there. Mueller follows the rules, but when you look at his past history of prosecutions, he usually goes with the most aggressive possible interpretation of the rules.

UK Consumer Protection Against New Media

washington post logoWashington Post, U.K. unveils sweeping plan to penalize Facebook and Google for harmful online content, Tony Romm​, April 7, 2019. The proposal marks a major new facebook logoregulatory threat for an industry that’s long dodged responsibility for what its users say or share.

British regulators on Sunday unveiled a landmark proposal to penalize Facebook, Google and other tech giants that fail to stop the spread of harmful content google logo customonline, marking a major new regulatory threat for an industry that’s long dodged responsibility for what its users say or share.

The aggressive, new plan — drafted by the United Kingdom’s leading consumer-protection authorities and blessed by Prime Minister Theresa May — targets a wide array of web content, including child exploitation, false news, terrorist activity and extreme violence. If approved by Parliament, U.K. watchdogs would gain unprecedented powers to issue fines and other punishments if social-media sites don’t swiftly remove the most egregious posts, photos and videos from public view.

Israel's Election On Tuesday

washington post logoWashington Post, Arab Israeli candidates launch last-ditch effort against Netanyahu and voter disillusionment, Loveday Morris​, April 7, 2019. Polls predict that turnout among Arab Israelis in Tuesday’s general election in Israel will plummet.

April 3

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats seek six years of Trump’s tax returns, setting stage for fight, Erica Werner, Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey, April 3, 2019. ​"This request is about policy, not politics,” the Ways and Means Committee chairman said. The president has said he does not plan to hand over his tax returns to Congress — and that he irs logowould fight it to the Supreme Court, according to two administration officials.

The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee asked the IRS on Wednesday for six years of President Trump’s personal and business tax richard neal oreturns, a request with which the president immediately said he was not inclined to comply.

The committee chair’s letter to the Internal Revenue Service — and Trump’s immediate and public response — set up what is likely to become an intense and drawn-out court fight as Democrats push to see tax records they think can shed light on numerous aspects of Trump’s business dealings and Trump resists their demands. The Ways and Means chairman’s request was expected but nonetheless represented a significant escalation in House Democrats’ wide-ranging probes of Trump and his administration.

The IRS was given until April 10 to respond. The panel’s chairman was able to make the request because of a 1924 law that gives the chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee broad powers to request and receive the tax returns of any American.

“Congress, as a coequal branch of government, has a duty to conduct oversight of departments and officials,” Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), left, said in a statement. “The Ways and Means Committee in particular has a responsibility to conduct oversight of our voluntary federal tax system and determine how Americans — including those elected to our highest office — are complying with those laws.”

Barr Cover-Up / Spin Alleged

ny times logoNew York Times, Some on Mueller’s Team Say Report Was More Damaging Than Barr Revealed, Nicholas Fandos, Michael S. Schmidt and Mark Mazzetti, April 3, 2019.
Some of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators have told associates that Attorney General William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, according to government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.

At stake in the dispute — the first evidence of tension between Mr. Barr and the special counsel’s office — is who shapes the public’s initial understanding of one of the most consequential government investigations in American history. Some members of Mr. Mueller’s team are concerned that, because Mr. Barr created the first narrative of the special counsel’s findings, Americans’ views will have hardened before the investigation’s conclusions become public.

Mr. Barr has said he will move quickly to release the nearly 400-page report but needs time to scrub out confidential information. The special counsel’s investigators had already written multiple summaries of the report, and some team members believe that Mr. Barr should have included more of their material in the four-page letter he wrote on March 24 laying out their main conclusions, according to government officials familiar with the investigation. Mr. Barr only briefly cited the special counsel’s work in his letter.

However, the special counsel’s office never asked Mr. Barr to release the summaries soon after he received the report, a person familiar with the investigation said. And the Justice Department quickly determined that the summaries contain sensitive information, like classified material, secret grand-jury testimony and information related to current federal investigations that must remain confidential, according to two government officials.

The officials and others interviewed declined to flesh out why some of the special counsel’s investigators viewed their findings as potentially more damaging for the president than Mr. Barr explained, although the report is believed to examine Mr. Trump’s efforts to thwart the investigation. It was unclear how much discussion Mr. Mueller and his investigators had with senior Justice Department officials about how their findings would be made public. It was also unclear how widespread the vexation is among the special counsel team, which included 19 lawyers, about 40 F.B.I. agents and other personnel.

House OKs Mueller Subpoenas

washington post logoWashington Post, House panel votes to authorize subpoenas to obtain full Mueller report, Rachael Bade​, April 3, 2019. Attorney General William P. Barr has pledged to deliver a redacted version of the special counsel's report by mid-April, but Democrats said redactions are unacceptable. The fight over the report is expected to land in the courts. A House panel voted Wednesday to authorize subpoenas to obtain special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s full report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, laying down a marker in a constitutional power struggle that could end up in the courts.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 24-17 along party lines to authorize its chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), to subpoena the report and underlying documents of Mueller’s probe from Attorney General William P. Barr.

WhoWhatWhy, Decision Limits Judicial Discretion To Release Grand Jury Materials, Celia Wexler, April 6, 2019. Friday’s decision by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit whowhatwhy logoappears to sharply limit the discretion of judges to order disclosure of any grand jury materials, which might result in a highly redacted public document. In a 2-to-1 decision in McKeever v. Barr, judges ruled that a court can reveal grand jury materials only if they meet specific exemptions in the law; those exemptions include disclosure to another grand jury, to a state prosecutor, or to the intelligence community.

As recently as 2016, another appellate court had come to a different conclusion. Three years ago, the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit held that the court had the authority to disclose grand jury materials, having the power to balance the need for secrecy against compelling “policy interests,” said Barbara McQuade, a University of Michigan law professor and former US Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

McQuade and Andrew Wright, former associate counsel to President Barack Obama, participated in a webinar on the Mueller memo Friday afternoon sponsored by the American Constitution Society (ACS) and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

While Friday’s decision might make it harder for a federal court to disclose details of the Mueller investigation, McQuade noted that the DC Circuit also cited another decision that could continue to make it possible for the House Judiciary Committee to see the grand jury material in the Mueller report.

Haldeman v. Sirica was issued in 1974, at the time of the Watergate scandal. The court held that it was lawful for the House Judiciary Committee to receive grand jury material. Under legal rules governing the disclosure of grand jury information, McQuade said, grand jury materials may be shared with another grand jury, or in connection with another judicial proceeding. During Watergate, the House Judiciary Committee was “acting as a grand jury in an impeachment proceeding,” McQuade said.

She said that the same exemption should apply to the current House Judiciary Committee. Asked by WhoWhatWhy whether the committee would have to vote to impeach for that exemption to apply, McQuade said an impeachment vote would not be necessary. Since House Judiciary has the “responsibility to impeach,” it would need access to the materials before making that judgment, she said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Today is going to be crucial in Donald Trump’s downfall, Bill Palmer, April 3, 2019. Donald Trump spent yesterday exhibiting some of his most frantic, deranged, and cognitively-challenged behavior yet – and for good reason. He knows what today is all about. Before the morning is over, the House Judiciary Committee will have voted to hand unilateral subpoena power to Chairman Jerry Nadler with respect to the Mueller report, and Nadler can be expected to put it to good use almost immediately.

bill palmer report logo headerAs Palmer Report has spent the past week cautioning, subpoenas aren’t magic wands; they don’t produce immediate or automatic results, which is why the House Democrats didn’t simply start firing them off willy nilly the minute the illegitimate Barr summary was published. Like any sophisticated weapon, the use of the subpoena process has to be handled smartly and strategically in order to get the intended result. For instance, simply subpoenaing the Mueller report, while taking no other action, could set up a lengthy court battle while a judge tries to decide how much of the report should be in the public purview. Nadler has to be smarter in his approach, and he will be.

jerrold nadler o SmallNadler, right, has several possible avenues for his subpoenas. He can subpoena the report itself. He can subpoena William Barr to testify about how he took a multi-hundred page report and “summarized” it into four cartoonishly pro-Trump pages. He can subpoena Robert Mueller to testify about his report, and then try to fight off Barr’s inevitable attempt at muzzling Mueller. He can try to subpoena materials from Mueller’s grand jury. The list goes on. The question is how he’ll choose to combine these tactics, and potentially others, into a cohesive strategy which will ensure that the law – and the court of public opinion – remain strongly on his side as Barr tries to fight him every step of the way.

Within hours, we’ll see what Jerry Nadler and his fellow House Democrats have up their sleeve. For now, the most telling sign we have is that Donald Trump is falling to pieces while he waits to find out what’s about to happen to him. Trump isn’t coming off like a guy who’s expecting today to go well for him. We think today will end up being a crucial day in his inevitable downfall.

Major Security Breach By Mar-A-Lago Visitor

ny times logoNew York Times, Woman From China Carrying Malware Arrested After Entering Mar-a-Lago, Frances Robles, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). A 32-year-old woman from China carrying four cellphones and a thumb drive infected with malware gained access to Mar-a-Lago during President Trump’s visit to the Florida resort over the weekend, federal court records show.

The woman, identified as Yujing Zhang, had arrived at the Palm Beach resort and showed two Chinese passports when she sought to be admitted, saying she wanted to use the pool.

She was allowed to enter by Secret Service agents stationed outside the resort after the Mar-a-Lago security manager on duty verified that her last name matched the surname of a member of the club, according to a complaint filed in Federal District Court in South Florida.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘You pay and you get in’: At Trump’s beach retreat, hundreds of customers — and growing security concerns, David A. Fahrenthold, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Ellen Nakashima​, April 3, 2019. ​The FBI is looking at why a Chinese national illegally gained access to Mar-a-Lago last weekend.

washington post logojared kushner head shotWashington Post, Kushner is identified as senior White House official whose security clearance was denied, Tom Hamburger, Rachael Bade and Ashley Parker​​, April 3, 2019. The president’s son-in-law, described in a House committee document as “Official 1,” had “significant disqualifying factors,” according to a White House whistleblower.

U.S. Politics

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump leaves Washington reeling as he struggles with domestic agenda, Seung Min Kim and Erica Werner, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). Republicans are trying to Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)cope with the whiplash as the president rolls out new policies on health care and immigration.

• Washington Post, House set to rebuke Trump’s attempt to use courts to overturn Obamacare
• Washington Post, Aides warn Trump of economic peril in closing the border

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Takeover of the Republican Party Is Almost Complete, April 3, 2019. The Trump campaign helped install allies atop the most significant state parties, and urged them to discourage conservative criticism of the president. So far, loyalty has prevailed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump mocks Biden over allegations of inappropriate touching, Felicia Sonmez, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). In a speech at a Republican fundraising dinner, the president took aim at his potential 2020 White House rival, who has faced growing allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women.

 

alexander acosta o cropped Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Acosta confronted by lawmakers over plea deal in Jeffrey Epstein sexual misconduct case, Kimberly Kindy, Felicia Sonmez and Lisa Rein, April 3, 2019. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta was confronted by Democratic lawmakers Wednesday over his decision as a federal prosecutor to sign off on a plea deal in a sex trafficking case involving multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein.

The exchange at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing marked the first time Acosta has been questioned publicly about the case since a judge ruled in February that the 2008 arrangement he oversaw as a U.S. attorney in South Florida had broken the law because his office failed to properly notify victims.

“You chose wealthy and well-connected people, child rapists, over the victims in this case,” said Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.), who noted that “the hideous truth has come out” about Acosta’s role in the case.

Clark cited the Epstein case as she questioned Acosta on his department’s decision to propose cutting the budget for one of its divisions tasked with combating human trafficking from $68 million to $18.5 million.

“This isn’t the first time you have ignored human trafficking,” Clark said. “If you as U.S. attorney could not fight for these girls, how, as secretary of labor, can you tell this panel and the American people that you can responsibly oversee this budget [and] the Department of Labor, including human trafficking?”

Acosta responded that human trafficking is “an in­cred­ibly important issue” and said the Justice Department had long defended the plea deal.

“Epstein was incarcerated,” Acosta said. “He registered as a sex offender. The world was put on notice that he was a sex offender, and the victims received restitution.”

jeffrey epstein sex offenderThe 2008 plea deal stemmed from a federal investigation of Epstein (right) focused on alleged sex trafficking and molestation of dozens of underage girls. Before the deal, prosecutors drafted a 53-page federal indictment that included sex trafficking charges, which could have placed Epstein in prison for life.

Epstein’s plea agreement allowed him to instead plead guilty to two state felony solicitation charges, casting the victims as prostitutes. The deal led to a 13-month stay in county jail during which Epstein was allowed to leave custody six days a week, 12 hours a day, for work.

Acosta, 50, has received support from his boss, President Trump, who in February called him a “fantastic labor secretary.” On Wednesday, Acosta argued that Epstein would have faced even lighter punishment had the plea deal not been struck.

“I understand the frustration,” he said. “I think it’s important for people to know he was going to get off with no jail time or restitution. It was the work of our office that resulted in him going to jail. It was the work of our office that resulted in him having to register as a sex offender.”

kenneth marra open jurist croppedThe deal has received renewed media and legal scrutiny in recent months. In February, Judge Kenneth A. Marra (left) of the Federal District Court in West Palm Beach ruled that the failure by Acosta’s office to notify victims in advance of the deal prevented the victims from being able to exercise their legal right to object before the deal took effect. Marra has set a deadline of May 10 for attorneys for two victims, who filed the lawsuit that led to the ruling, and attorneys for Epstein to propose an alternative deal.

The ruling could ultimately nullify the plea deal.

The Justice Department in February opened an investigation into its handling of the Epstein case after a bipartisan group of senators, led by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), pressed for answers about the plea agreement.

In March, The Washington Post reported that, although Epstein’s alleged victims were as young as 14, the only minor he was convicted of soliciting was 16 when the offenses began. The decision to charge Epstein with a crime involving an older teen has eased his obligations to register as a sex offender. For example, Epstein does not have to register in New Mexico, where he owns a ranch, because his victim was not under 16.

April 2

Trump Security Scandal

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The White House whistleblower bombshell, and what it could mean, Aaron Blake, April 2, 2019 (print ed.). Trump overrode officials' concerns to demand Kushner's security clearance. The White House has repeatedly shunned national security protocols when it comes to protecting information and clearances. And a named person stepping forward is a significant development.

It wasn’t that long ago that Donald Trump ran for president making the case that Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state represented a grave national security threat and made her unfit for office.

washington post logojared kushner head shotWashington Post, Jared Kushner dismisses concerns raised by White House whistleblower on security clearances, John Wagner​, April 2, 2019. In a rare television interview, the White House adviser and presidential son-in-law (right) said the Trump administration has faced “a lot of crazy accusations.”

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Ivanka Trump & Jared Kushner: A much more potentially damaging spy couple than Julius & Ethel Rosenberg, Wayne Madsen wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small(left, author, syndicated columnist and former Navy intelligence officer), April 2, 2019 (subscription required, excerpted with permission). Tricia Newbold, the Adjudications Manager for the White House Personnel Security Office, a career civil service position, experienced something she had not seen before in past Democratic and Republican administrations.

After denying security clearances to 25 Trump political appointees on the White House staff, including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Newbold was overruled by higher-level officials in the Trump administration.

ny times logoNew York Times, Whistle-Blower Did the Unexpected: She Returned to Work, Katie Rogers, April 2, 2019 (print ed.).Tricia Newbold, the Trump administration’s latest whistle-blower, did something unexpected only hours after a House committee released her deposition that the White House had overruled career staff members who denied officials their security clearances: She went back to work.

tricia newbold“As you can imagine,” Ms. Newbold, left, a 39-year-old employee of the White House Personnel Security Office, wrote in an email during her commute on Monday, “I am extremely nervous for how people at work will treat me.”

But according to people close to her, she was not afraid to tell them about the things she had seen. Ms. Newbold’s decision to accuse her own office of rampant mismanagement of the security clearances of at least 25 employees came after months of what she characterized as personal discrimination and professional retaliation from Carl Kline, the office’s former director, after she spent roughly a year trying to raise issues internally.

In a White House where aggressive leak investigations are conducted in service of President Trump, who has aides sign nondisclosure agreements, Ms. Newbold’s account represents the rarest of developments: a damning on-the-record account from a current employee inside his ranks.
“She wasn’t looking for trouble,” Ms. Newbold’s lawyer, Edward Passman, said in an interview on Monday. “And she wasn’t looking to go public. But her back was to the wall and she did what she had to do.”

Described as both “no nonsense” and “intense” by people who have interacted with her during the clearance process, Ms. Newbold has served under four presidential administrations, beginning with the Clinton White House in 2000. Eventually she worked her way up to adjudications manager, a job that required her to help make determinations about the security clearances of administration employees. Her office is filled with holdovers from other administrations, and it is meant to be nonpartisan.

Barr, Mueller Reports

Alliance for Justice, Opinion: Barr Puts the Politics in DOJ, Bill Yeomans, right, April 2, 2019. Congress confirmed William Barr as attorney general despite his disqualifying record of bill yeomans afj cropped Customenabling presidential misconduct. Nobody should be surprised that his short tenure has already revealed his willingness to elevate the political interests of the president over the traditions of the Department of Justice and the role of Congress.

His memo spinning the conclusions of the Mueller report made him a cheerleader for Trump, while his capitulation to Trump’s demand that the Department of Justice no longer defend the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act debased the rule of law for Trump’s political gain. His behavior bodes ill for the future in which Trump, with support from Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), will clamor for revenge investigations of the Mueller investigators. It will be up to Barr to stand up to political demands for investigations that lack an evidentiary predicate.

alliance for justice logoBarr’s letter summarizing the principal conclusions of the Mueller report was an overtly political act. He should have said nothing and sent the report itself to Congress. Not only did he spin the contents of the report, but he stepped in to override Mueller’s decision not to make a prosecutorial determination regarding obstruction of justice. According to Barr, Mueller’s non-decision left it to the Attorney General to make the call. Barr – whose 19-page memo contended that the president could not commit obstruction while exercising power given to him by Article II of the Constitution – was eager to oblige.

The most likely reason for Mueller’s non-call was that he knew DOJ could not prosecute the president. He had, however, found substantial evidence of obstruction that prevented exoneration of the president. He, therefore, decided to pass the information to Congress, which is the only entity with power to hold the president accountable.

william barr new oThere was no reason for anybody at DOJ to answer the hypothetical question whether the president should be prosecuted. Barr, right, playing free safety for Team Trump, however, swooped in to intercept Mueller’s pass to Congress and ran it back for a score, which prompted Trump and his entire bench to empty into the end-zone for a round of celebratory taunting.

By answering the obstruction question, Barr gave Trump the talking point he craved -- no collusion and no obstruction – which is far better than no collusion and no decision on obstruction. Barr, by issuing his memo well before release of any part of the actual report, gave Trump and his supporters ample time to spread the message. Despite the head start, the public isn’t buying. Polling by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal shows that only 29 percent believe that Trump has been exonerated. That number will not increase once the public sees the report, which surely contains evidence harmful to Trump.

April 1

U.S. Security / Trump Watch

jared kushner ivanka trump saudi

President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump, shown above on one of their many foreign affairs events, were reportedly awarded security clearances at the president's demand over the objections of professional security staff (White House photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, White House whistleblower says 25 security clearance denials were reversed during Trump administration, Rachael Bade, April 1, 2019. A White House whistleblower told lawmakers that more than two-dozen denials for security clearances have been overturned during the Trump administration, calling Congress her “last hope” donald trump o smilefor addressing what she considers improper conduct that has left the nation’s secrets exposed.

Tricia Newbold, a longtime White House security adviser, told the House Oversight and Reform Committee that she and her colleagues issued “dozens” of denials for security clearance applications that were later approved despite their concerns about blackmail, foreign influence, or other red flags, according to panel documents released Monday.

Newbold, an 18-year veteran of the security clearance process who has served under both Republican and Democratic presidents, said she warned her superiors that clearances “were not always adjudicated in the best interest of national security” — and was retaliated against for doing so.

elijah cummings o“I would not be doing a service to myself, my country, or my children if I sat back knowing that the issues that we have could impact national security,” Newbold told the committee, according to a panel document summarizing her allegations.

Newbold added: “I feel that right now this is my last hope to really bring the integrity back into our office.”

The allegation comes during an escalating fight over the issue between House Democrats and the White House. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the committee chairman, said in a letter to the White House Counsel’s Office that his panel would vote on Tuesday to subpoena at least one individual who overruled Newbold — the committee’s first compulsory move aimed at the White House.

Mueller Probe

 ny times logojerrold nadler o SmallNew York Times, Opinion: The House Must See the Whole Mueller Report, Jerrold L. Nadler (right, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee), April 1, 2019. Someday, Trump will not be in office. Congress needs a full accounting of his misdeeds to ensure they don’t happen again.

washington post logoWashington Post, House committee plans vote this week to subpoena full Mueller report, John Wagner​, April 1, 2019. The House Judiciary Committee plans to vote Wednesday to authorize subpoenas to obtain special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, escalating a feud with the Justice Department.

Politico, Press group asks judge to lift grand jury secrecy in Mueller report, Josh Gerstein, April 1, 2019. A group advocating for journalists and First Amendment rights is asking a judge to clear away one of the key obstacles the Justice Department is citing as grounds for withholding portions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final report: the presence of information gathered through the secret actions of a grand jury.

beryl howellThe Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a petition Monday with Chief Judge Beryl Howell, right, of the U.S. District Court in Washington, asking her to rule that officials need not withhold from the Congress — or the public — any grand jury material in Mueller's report on his probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The move comes as Attorney General William Barr has pledged to prepare a version of the report for public release by mid-April. However, that pledge came with several caveats, including that the department would have to excise grand jury-related testimony and evidence.

Barr even noted in one letter that it could be a criminal offense for officials to release information covered by grand jury secrecy.
The new petition amounts to a pre-emptive step to take the grand-jury concern off the table by having Howell rule that the interests of public and Congress in seeing the Justice Department logoinformation outweigh any other concerns.

"This Court should enable the release of the Special Counsel's Report to the public to the greatest extent possible," attorney Ted Boutrous and other lawyers wrote in the new filing. "Although the Special Counsel's investigation has only recently concluded, the resulting report — and the grand jury material the Attorney General has proposed to redact therein—is of unique public and historical significance... The grand jury material at issue cuts to the core of our democracy."

A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the petition. (Note: This reporter serves on an oversight board for the Reporters' Committee.)

The move by the journalists' group is just the latest attempt to try to force disclosure of a broader portion or the entirety of Mueller's report, notwithstanding Barr's indication of the need for redactions.

On the same day Mueller sent his report to Barr, a Washington-based watchdog group — the Electronic Privacy Information Center — filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demanding access to the document.

U.S. Border Issues

washington post logomick mulvaney oWashington Post, White House doubles down on threat to close U.S.-Mexico border, David J. Lynch, Maria Sacchetti and Joel Achenbach, April 1, 2019 (print ed). Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, right, said it would take “something dramatic” to persuade President Trump not to close the border. Such a move would have dramatic consequences for families seeking asylum and would seriously impede trade.

U.S. Economic Policy

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why Moore is less, Robert J. Samuelson, April 1, 2019 (print ed). The real reason that Stephen Moore does not belong on the Federal stephen moore twitterReserve Board is not that he is unqualified for the job, though he is. Nor is it that he has been a highly partisan and divisive figure for many years, though he has been.

The real reason is that, if confirmed by the Senate, Moore, right, could become the Fed chairman — and that is a scary possibility. It could spawn a global financial calamity.

March

March 31

U.S. Politics

atlantic logoThe Atlantic, Opinion: I Used to Write Novels. Then Trump Rendered Fiction Redundant, Richard North Patterson (Author of more than 20 novels), March 31, 2019. The president is a fiction writer run amok, the hero of his own impermeable drama.

I’m often asked why I ditched writing novels for political commentary. Usually I respond: “Because Donald Trump rendered fiction redundant.” That may sound glib, but it gets at something profound.

The aim of the novelist is to enlist others in his fantasies, immersing them in an alternative reality so emotionally compelling that they willingly suspend disbelief. Trump has dangerously conflated this sort of storytelling with real-life presidential leadership, casting himself in the role of the archetypal savior-hero, battling the forces of evil. He’s our first novelist in chief.

Like any other best-selling novelist, I had publicists who helped me. But Trump has an army: the media, particularly cable news. In the run-up to his nomination, cable gave Trump $3 billion in free media—effectively, a sustained infomercial consisting of his rallies and rambling press conferences. This open microphone made him unique among all candidates.

Trump used it like a novelist would—to re-create himself as a fictional archetype, the lonely sheriff who drives the bad guys out of town. In his acceptance speech, he proclaimed, “I alone can fix it,” then amplified this in an inaugural address in which he portrayed himself as a gunslinger rescuing a cartoon country. He evoked a national dystopia: cities awash in carnage; sclerotic schools; shuttered factories; predatory nonwhites; the crooked denizens of swampland Washington. Like Gulliver amid the Lilliputians, Trump’s America was a helpless giant tied down by tormentors at home and abroad.

Watching this, I’m reminded of my writing mentor, a very fine novelist who called fiction “a collection of lies which are ultimately true”—by which he meant true to human nature. Trump’s lies are true to his deepest needs and those of his followers.

Richard North Patterson is the author of more than 20 novels, a former chairman of Common Cause, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Formerly a trial lawyer, Patterson served as the SEC liaison to the Watergate special prosecutor.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s aides strangely begin laying the groundwork for him to be a one-term president, Bill Palmer, March 31, 2019. Now that Donald Trump has managed to buy himself a proverbial five minute head start before the Mueller report eventually surfaces and dooms him, we’ve all been looking for signs of what he might do with the brief opportunity. We’ve seen him try to make horribly destructive moves this past week, ranging from health care to the Special Olympics. But that’s just his short term vindictive rage. What’s his longer term plan?

bill palmer report logo headerThat answer may have just arrived in the oddly-placed very last paragraph of an otherwise routine New York Times article. After laying out quote after meaningless quote from unnamed Trump 2020 campaign advisers, we finally end up with the only quote that matters: “After two years in office, Mr. Trump, 72, is tired, aides said. The unstoppable campaigner, so far, will commit to participating in only one campaign event a day, and recently balked at a possible rally out West during a fund-raising swing.” Wait, what?

It’s no surprise that this is the case. All you have to do is observe Donald Trump these days to see that he has no energy left, his physical health is poor, and his cognitive abilities are fraying. But why on earth would Trump’s own people make a point of admitting this to a major newspaper? Even the dumbest of campaigns don’t publicly admit that their candidate is tired and worn out – unless they’re trying to lay the groundwork for that candidate to step aside.

So now we know that there is at least a faction of people within Donald Trump’s inner circle who are trying to lay the groundwork for him being a one-term president. The timing seems surreal, considering he just now finally got himself (falsely, temporarily) exonerated. But perhaps that’s simply Trump’s gameplan: hide behind William Barr to kick his scandals down the road, then announce he’s not seeking reelection, and hope people lose interest in pushing for the Mueller report to publicly surface.

We’ll see. But just because the New York Times overlooked the importance of this quote, and buried it at the end of a lengthy article that most people won’t even finish reading, you shouldn’t overlook it. Trump’s own people just made a point of announcing that they don’t think he’s up for running again. It’s worth watching to see if and how Trump’s people continue pushing this narrative.

Climate Change Damage?

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Breaches Everywhere’: Midwest Levees Burst, and Tough Questions Follow, Mitch Smith and John Schwartz, Photographs by Tim Gruber, March 31, 2019. The widespread, severe flooding in the Midwest over the last month has exposed the vulnerabilities in a levee system that is now so full of holes that many here ruefully describe it as “Swiss cheese.”

With dozens of costly breaks across Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and nearby states, the surging waters have left large areas without even cursory flood protection.

“Breaches everywhere: multiple, multiple breaches,” said Tom Bullock, the top elected official in Holt County, Mo., where crews were rushing last week to patch a leaking levee that, if it failed completely, would flood the small town of Fortescue.

And with the fear of more floods in the coming years — and perhaps even the coming weeks — many people said living and farming near the water might not be viable much longer without major changes.

March 30

Migrant / Foreign Aid Policies

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump plans to cut U.S. aid to 3 Central American countries, Mary Beth Sheridan and Kevin Sieff​, March 30, 2019. The move against El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras deepens White House confrontations with Latin America over a surge in irregular migrations, including asylum seekers and others. Critics say the move is counterproductive and might increase migration.

Barr, Mueller Reports

washington post logoWashington Post, Redacted Mueller report will reach Congress within weeks, Barr says, Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian​, March 30, 2019 (print ed.). Special counsel Robert S. william barr new oMueller III’s report, with parts redacted, will be sent to Congress by “mid-April, if not sooner,” Attorney General William P. Barr (right) wrote to lawmakers. It will not be shared with the White House before its release, he wrote.

• Read Barr’s letter detailing plans to deliver Mueller report.

Mother Jones via OpEdNews, Opinion: Here's the Real Trump-Russia Hoax, David Corn (co-authior of Russian Roulette), March 30, 2019. It's Trump defenders and lefty Russia-gate skeptics claiming there is no scandal.

There has been much crowing from Trumpsters on the right and Russia-gate skeptics on the left about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report. That is, the three-and-a-half-page letter Attorney General Bill Barr sent to Congress summarizing Mueller's work. (The report itself remains secret and is reportedly over 300 pages.) Pointing to Barr's citation of a single, partial sentence from the report ("[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities"), Trump and his partisans, as well as the small number of lefty Russia-gate deniers, have declared that because Mueller found no direct collaboration, the Trump-Russia scandal is kaput. Some have even declared it was a hoax -- and a gargantuan media con job -- from the start.

These critics are wrong. And here's an easy way to tell whether they are engaging in honest discourse.

djt robert mueller headshotsTwo fundamental facts were established long before Mueller completed his investigation. First, the Russians attacked an American election in order to sow chaos, hurt Hillary Clinton, and help Donald Trump. Second, Trump and his top advisers during the campaign repeatedly denied this attack was underway, echoing and amplifying Moscow disinformation (the false claim that Russia was not attacking). Whether or not the Trumpsters were directly in cahoots with the Russian government, they ran interference for Vladimir Putin's assault on the United States, and they even did so after the intelligence community had briefed Trump on Russia's culpability.

So to determine if the Barr triumphalists are acting in good faith, you need only ask them a simple question: do you accept these basic facts and acknowledge the profound seriousness of each one?

The Russian attack on the 2016 election was an attempt to subvert the foundation of American society: the democratic process. How can Americans have faith in their government, if elections are undermined by secret schemers, including a foreign government? It is certainly arguable that the Russian intervention -- particularly the stealing and drip-drip-drip dumping of the John Podesta emails across the final four weeks of the election -- was one of several decisive factors in a contest that had a narrow and tight finish. Consequently, there is a strong case that Moscow helped shift the course of US history by contributing to the election of Trump. (And recognizing this is not the same as defending Hillary Clinton or concocting an excuse for the Democrats' embarrassing loss to Trump.)

During the campaign and afterward, some Trump backers and some critics on the left, including columnist and media scold Glenn Greenwald, questioned whether the Russians indeed engaged in such skulduggery.

For many of these scandal skeptics, it hasn't seemed to matter that the charge against Moscow has been publicly confirmed by the Obama administration, the US intelligence community (which concluded that Putin's operation intended to help Trump), both Republicans and Democrats on the congressional intelligence committees, and Robert Mueller, who indicted a mess of Russians for participating in this covert operation. True, there often is cause to question officialdom and government sources.

Yet anyone citing the Mueller report, as it is narrowly capsulized by Barr, must also accept his key finding: Russia attacked the United States and intervened in the election. (They must also accept that, as the Barr letter disclosed, Mueller found evidence suggesting Trump obstructed justice but did not reach a final judgment on this question.)

Moscow's intervention was an outrageous action, and concern about this should unite right and left and anyone in between. There is nothing more important in this whole affair than the attack itself.

More On Mueller Report

craig unger djt cover

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s businesses are full of dirty Russian money. The scandal is that it’s legal, Craig Unger (shown above, author of House of Trump, House of Putin and a former contributing editor of Vanity Fair), March 30, 2019 (print edition). Shell companies put figures from Putin’s Mafia into Trump Tower. Should that be worrying?

Collusion or not, President Trump and the Russians are thick as thieves.

djt sergey lavrov sergey kislyak wh may 10 2017 tassWhat I mean is that for more than three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to the Russian Mafia held the deeds to, lived in or ran criminal operations out of Trump Tower in New York or other Trump properties. I mean that many of them used Trump-branded real estate to launder vast amounts of money by buying multimillion-dollar condos through anonymous shell companies. I mean that the Bayrock Group, a real estate development company that was based in Trump Tower and had ties to the Kremlin, came up with a new business model to franchise Trump condos after he lost billions of dollars in his Atlantic City casino developments, and helped make him rich again.

Yet Trump’s relationship with the Russian underworld, a de facto state actor, has barely surfaced in the uproar surrounding Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign. That oversight may be explained in part by journalist Michael Kinsley’s long-held maxim: The real scandal isn’t what’s illegal; it’s what is legal.

Robert S. Mueller III, of course, is a prosecutor. His job as special counsel, now complete, was to decide whether to indict. But what if some of the most egregious and corrupt offenses are not illegal? Russian President Vladimir Putin has long insisted that American democracy itself is corrupt. Under his aegis, the Russians have methodically studied various components of the American body politic — campaign finance, our legal system, social media and perhaps especially the real estate industry — and exploited every loophole they could find.

As Oleg Kalugin, a former head of counterintelligence for the KGB, told me in an interview for my book House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia, the Mafia amounts to “one of the branches of the Russian government today.” Where Americans cracked down on the Italian American Mafia, Putin dealt with the Russian mob very differently. He co-opted it. He made it an integral part of his Mafia state. Russian gangsters became, in effect, Putin’s enforcers. They had long and deep relationships. According to a tape recording made by former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko a year before he was fatally poisoned in London, Putin had close ties to Semion Mogilevich, a top mobster, that dated to the early 1990s.

That criminals with ties to Russia bought Trump condos, partnered with Trump and were based at Trump Tower — his home, his place of work, the crown jewel of his empire — should be deeply concerning. It’s not hard to conclude that, as a result, the president, wittingly or not, has long been compromised by a hostile foreign power, even if Mueller did not conclude that Trump colluded or conspired with the Russians.

Let’s go back to 1984, when David Bogatin, an alleged Russian gangster who arrived in the United States a few years earlier with $3 in his pocket, sat down with Trump and bought not one but five condos, for a total of $6 million — about $15 million in today’s dollars. What was most striking about the transaction was that at the time, according to David Cay Johnston’s The Making of Donald Trump, Trump Tower was one of only two major buildings in New York City that sold condos to buyers who used shell companies that allowed them to purchase real estate while concealing their identities. Thus, according to the New York state attorney general’s office, when Trump closed the deal with Bogatin, whether he knew it or not, he had just helped launder money for the Russian Mafia.

And so began a 35-year relationship between Trump and Russian organized crime. Mind you, this was a period during which the disintegration of the Soviet Union had opened a fire-hose-like torrent of hundreds of billions of dollars in flight capital from oligarchs, wealthy apparatchiks and mobsters in Russia and its satellites. And who better to launder so much money for the Russians than Trump — selling them multimillion-dollar condos at top dollar, with little or no apparent scrutiny of who was buying them.

washington post logosally yates oWashington Post, Opinion: Sally Yates: William Barr should release the full Mueller report as soon as possible, Sally Yates (right, a Georgetown Law Center professor who served as deputy attorney general from January 2015 to January 2017), March 30, 2019 (print edition).

America’s justice system is built upon one thing — truth. When witnesses give testimony, they are sworn to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” The word “verdict” derives from the Latin term “veredictum,” meaning “to say the truth.” Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, a public servant with impeccable integrity, was entrusted to find the truth regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election and has spoken through a comprehensive report that details the facts that he uncovered.

Yet a week after Mueller issued his report, we don’t know those facts and have only been provided with Attorney General William P. Barr’s four-page summary of Mueller’s estimated 400-page report. It is time for the American people to hear the whole truth. We need to see the report itself.

First, as the attorney general’s letter to Congress notes, the Mueller report “outlines the Russian effort to influence the election and documents crimes committed by persons associated with the Russian government in connection with those efforts.” Congress has a solemn responsibility to protect our democracy. Without access to the full factual record of what the special counsel uncovered, it cannot fulfill that mandate. As you read this, the Russian government is undoubtedly hard at work to undermine our next election. Each day that passes without Congress having access to the full Mueller report is a day that Congress is prevented from doing its job of keeping our elections free from Russian espionage efforts.

robert mueller full face fileSecond, Barr’s letter leaves important questions unanswered concerning what then-candidate Donald Trump and his associates knew about Russian interference, and how they responded to Russian overtures to assist the campaign. While Barr’s letter states that the investigation did not establish that the campaign reached an agreement with the Russian government to take actions to impact the election in Trump’s favor, it reveals that the campaign did field “multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.” Yet President Trump and others have repeatedly claimed that they had no contact with Russians, or knowledge that Russians were acting to assist his campaign. Moreover, the Trump campaign did not bring the Russian outreach to the attention of law enforcement but secretly allowed a foreign adversary’s assistance. Remarkably, after the release of the Barr letter — which makes it undeniable that the Russians were seeking to help the Trump campaign — the president still denies it. Why?

Third, until the Mueller report is released by the attorney general, Congress and the American people will not be able to evaluate the president’s conduct with respect to obstruction of justice. Existing Justice Department policy prevents the criminal prosecution of a sitting president. The department’s institutional view is that a congressional hearing room, not a federal courtroom, is the proper forum for the evaluation of presidential misconduct. According to Barr’s letter, the Mueller report details evidence of potentially obstructive conduct, but it does not reveal what that evidence comprises. Until Congress is provided the full report, it cannot evaluate the seriousness of the evidence. And we, the American people, cannot make our own evaluation.

March 29

Barr, Mueller Reports

washington post logoWashington Post, Redacted Mueller report will reach Congress within weeks, Barr says, Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian​, March 29, 2019. Special counsel Robert S. william barr new oMueller III’s report, with parts redacted, will be sent to Congress by “mid-April, if not sooner,” Attorney General William P. Barr (right) wrote to lawmakers. It will not be shared with the White House before its release, he wrote.

• Read Barr’s letter detailing plans to deliver Mueller report. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Saudi, U.S. insiders describe intelligence deals frozen and an alliance rocked by Khashoggi’s killing, David Ignatius, March 29, 2019. Until Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman provides real answers about the killing of Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, the U.S.-Saudi military and intelligence partnership is likely to remain in limbo.

washington post logoDonald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)Washington Post, How Trump dodged a special counsel interview — and a subpoena fight, Philip Rucker, Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Matt Zapotosky, March 29, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump’s legal team, fearful he would perjure himself, conducted an extensive pressure campaign to keep him from coming face-to-face with investigators.

• Washington Post, Democrats: It’s a ‘coverup’ if attorney general redacts grand jury information in Mueller report, March 28, 2019.
• Washington Post, Pelosi urges Democrats to take a ‘deep breath’ — and takes charge of her party, March 28, 2019.

March 28

allen weisselberg djt carolyn kepcher

Donald Trump, flanked by Trump Organization executives Allen Weisselberg and Carolyn Kepcher in a publicit photo, has reportedly pretended during his "reality" show "The Apprentice" and more currently to have vast wealth far beyond the reality, according to a new financial analysis by the Washington Post.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Trump inflated his net worth to lenders and investors, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell, March 28, 2019. As a businessman, Donald Trump used unusual financial statements to exaggerate his wealth and hide his debts, documents reviewed by the Post show. These documents are now central to investigations looking at his business.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says he won’t cut Special Olympics budget, Laura Meckler, March 28, 2019. President Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos, right, had proposed betsy devos oeliminating all of the $17.6 million in federal funding for the organization, which gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to compete in athletic contests.

President Trump said Thursday he wants the federal government to continue funding the Special Olympics, an abrupt reversal from his own budget proposal that eliminated federal money for the charity and sparked bipartisan condemnation.

His statement on the South Lawn of the White House came after his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, spent three days defending the proposal, most recently at a contentious Senate hearing Thursday morning.

Barr Report / Mueller Report

william barr image by donkehotey dmca

Attorney General William P. Barr (image by Donkehotey via DCMA)

Palmer Report, Opinion: People who know Robert Mueller say they’re confused about what’s happening, Cheryl Kelley, March 28, 2019. James Comey, and just about everyone else who has worked with Robert Mueller, has been speaking out this week on the four-page Barr report. They all have the same reaction, utter confusion. So many things about the four-robert mueller full face filepage report are out of character for the way Mueller normally closes investigations.

First, no one can understand how or why Mueller (right) would shirk his prosecutorial responsibility to make a decision about obstruction of justice charges against Trump. Many people have pointed out that the point of having a Special Counsel is to take difficult decisions about an investigation out of the hands of political appointees. The Barr report implies that Mueller passed off this critical decision back to the very political appointees he was hired to keep out of the process.

bill palmer report logo headerAlso, too much was left undone, and it is specifically the heaviest lifts that Mueller seems to have passed along to others. Mueller’s team brought charges like perjury against multiple people. However, evidence in the public domain indicates there is enough evidence to bring similar charges against Don Jr, and Jared Kushner. To pass these cases to unknown prosecutors inside the DOJ, or to abandon them entirely, is surprising.

Mueller’s fine reputation, strength of character, and public attention provided him some level of protection against the enormous pressure that comes with filing charges against the children of the President of the United States. An unknown prosecutor deep inside DOJ could be admonished, reprimanded or fired without much media attention. As Special counsel, Robert Mueller had far more power to withstand the pressure than any prosecutor he would hand off his cases to.

nra logo CustomFinally, there still appear to be active cases involving Russian collusion. Maria Butina has not been sentenced because she is still cooperating. Presumably, her testimony is related to alleged Russian money that was given to the NRA and then to the RNC. Rick Gates is likewise still cooperating and presumably has information about the same financial transactions. There is also a second case against Roger Stone that was referenced in a court filing. This presumably has to do with his contacts with Wikileaks. This brings us to the accidentally leaked information about Julian Assange (shown in an image by The Indicter website) and the active criminal case against him. This julian assange indicter imagecase should involve Russian collusion.

Yet, because of the Barr memo, pundits everywhere are saying that Trump-Russia collusion is done and over. This just doesn’t make sense. None of it makes sense, and this week everyone who has worked with Robert Mueller is saying so. So, where is Mueller? If he has been misrepresented, why isn’t he speaking out yet? Something doesn’t add up, and sooner or later we are going to find out about it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Report Exceeds 300 Pages, Raising Questions About Four-Page Summary, Nicholas Fandos and Adam Goldman, March 28, 2019.  Attorney General William Barr shared his “principal conclusions” with Congress on Sunday, but had declined to disclose the report’s length.

The total of 300-plus pages suggests that Mr. Mueller went well beyond the kind of bare-bones summary required by the Justice Department regulation governing his appointment and detailed his conclusions at length. And it raises questions about what Mr. Barr might have left out of the four dense pages he sent Congress.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Belligerence, shamelessness and partisanship can take you far, Jamelle Bouie, March 28, 2019. Watergate, the modern template for an impeachment-worthy scandal, has informed much of the coverage of the Russia scandal, from congressional inquiries to the special counsel’s investigation into President Trump and his campaign. Central questions — Did the president conspire to illegally influence the election? Did he obstruct justice? — have clear antecedents in Watergate. And Trump himself bears more than a slight resemblance to Richard Nixon at his most paranoid and intransigent.

But while Trump’s belligerent and at times bizarre behavior may mirror that of his predecessor, he is operating in a vastly different political context than Nixon was in the 1970s. Then, the Republican Party had an influential moderate faction willing to work with Democrats. Now it’s synonymous with the right-wing. Then, fact-finding produced public consensus and eventually pushed Republicans to do the right thing. Now it heightens the partisan divide.

For this and other reasons, the Watergate example doesn’t fit the circumstances of the moment. But Iran-contra, the major scandal of the Reagan administration, does.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason the precise page count of the Robert Mueller report is so crucial, Bill Palmer, March 28, 2019. Even as Donald Trump’s handpicked Attorney General William Barr continues to try to convince us all that we only need to see his cartoonish four page “summary” of the Robert Mueller report, a free for all has broken out with regard to the Mueller report’s precise page count. Is it seven hundred pages? Is it a thousand pages? Believe it or not, the precise number of pages is going to end up mattering greatly.

bill palmer report logo headerThe back and forth began on Tuesday when Andrew Napolitano of Fox News kept referring to the Mueller report as being seven hundred pages long. This led to debate as to whether Napolitano knew something the rest of us didn’t, or if he was simply picking a number. In turn, the media ended up asking House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler if he knew how long the Mueller report was. He said that Barr did tell him the precise page length, but he wasn’t prepared to announce it yet. When a reporter asked Nadler if it was less than a thousand pages, Nadler said yes. So why does this matter?

In the broadest terms, the length of the Mueller report is important because it tells us how much dirt Mueller found. If his entire report for his two-year investigation is very short, let’s say twenty-five pages, it would suggest he didn’t find all that much. But if Mueller’s report is hundreds and hundreds of pages long, it would suggest that he found a whole lot of ugly details. But in the more narrow sense, does it matter if the report is 700 pages long vs 1000 pages long? Actually, yes.

March 27

U.S. Politics: Health Care

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump surprises Republicans, pleases Democrats with push for health-care battle, Toluse Olorunnipa and Seung Min Kim, March 27, 2019 (print ed.). A surprise move by the Trump administration aimed at striking down the Affordable Care Act thrust the partisan battle over health care into the middle of the 2020 campaign on Tuesday, handing Democrats a potential political gift on an issue that damaged Republicans badly in last year’s midterm elections.

republican elephant logoIn a new court filing, the Justice Department (under President Trump's new Attorney General William Barr) argued that the ACA, also known as Obamacare, should be thrown out in its entirety, including provisions protecting millions of Americans with preexisting health conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health-care plans.

President Trump praised the move during a lunch with Senate Republicans, and suggested the GOP should embrace a new congressional battle over health-care policy ahead of the 2020 elections.

bill palmerPalmer Report, Opinion: William Barr is playing an even more dangerous game than we thought, Bill Palmer, March 27, 2019. Donald Trump’s handpicked new Attorney General William Barr showed us exactly who he is when he issued a “summary” of the Robert Mueller report that’s quickly being exposed as a fraud and a coverup. But it turns out Barr is even more dangerous, and more devious than we thought – and he appears to be playing for Team Barr even more so than Team Trump.

Immediately after William Barr offered Donald Trump a temporary reprieve from his dying presidency, Trump turned around and made the most nihilistic move he could think of: he instructed Barr’s Department of Justice to take the legal position that the Affordable Care bill palmer report logo headerAct should be struck down entirely.

If this effort succeeds, tens of millions of people will lose their health insurance, and the entire American health care system could collapse. Trump clearly wants to destroy President Obama’s legacy just that badly, or he wants revenge on America in general, or something. But it’s Barr who’s playing the most dangerous game here.

Last night, Politico reported that William Barr actually opposes the move to end Obamacare, and fought against it, but Donald Trump ordered him to do it anyway. Here’s the thing about this report: no way on earth would this information surface unless Barr wanted it out there. He has to have indirectly fed this to the media. So what’s he doing?

Barr just publicly threw Trump under the bus on the Obamacare move. Because Trump is so insulated from real news sources, he’ll probably never even hear that Barr sold him out on this. Barr – if anyone actually falls for this – gets to be seen as the guy who wished he could save everyone’s health care.

It’s a matter of time before Barr’s hand is forced on the Mueller report. Is Barr planning to feed Trump to the wolves on that too, while trying to paint himself as the hero is the matter? Is Barr trying to set himself up to be even more powerful if Trump is ousted? This keeps getting more grotesque, and more complicated.

Barr / Mueller Reports

george conway twitterwashington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump is guilty — of being unfit for office, George T. Conway III (right, a New York lawyer who is married to President Trump's senior counselor Kellyanne Conway), March 27, 2019 (print ed.). Very little was surprising about the conclusion of the special counsel’s investigation. For one thing, it wasn’t surprising that Robert S. Mueller III’s probe prompted great commotion — a federal investigation involving a sitting president is a momentous event, and concluding it, a historic moment.

And most, but not all, of the details in the attorney general’s letter of “principal conclusions” were unsurprising as well.

Let’s start with question of “collusion.” It was never precisely clear what that nonlegal concept meant. If it means what Mueller reasonably took it to mean — an “agreement,” “tacit or express,” with the Russians to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, or, in effect, a conspiracy with the Russians — then it was always virtually unimaginable that collusion, so defined, would ever be found. Russian agents didn’t need Americans to help them do what they were doing — hacking and posting disinformation. If anything, involving Americans, including some apparently blockish ones, could only have fouled up their plans. “Collusion” — or, rather, “no collusion” — was bound to become a straw man for President Trump and his supporters to knock down with glee.

Yet that hardly means that the investigation (which, thanks to Paul Manafort’s largesse, actually turned a neat profit) was either a “witch hunt” or a waste of time. After all, it was a counterintelligence investigation as well as a criminal probe. A core objective — the overarching one, really — was to find out exactly what the Russians were doing. Another was to find out whether there were “links” between the Trump campaign and Russia’s activities.

As matters turned out, and quite surprisingly, we now know from public sources that there were links aplenty. So who knows what we might learn on these subjects from Mueller’s still-unreleased report? As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday, “Russia’s ongoing efforts to interfere with our democracy are dangerous and disturbing.” He added that he would “welcome” the special counsel’s contributions toward understanding them.

March 26

Barr, Mueller Reports

william barr letter mueller report

washington post logoWashington Post, Dispute erupts over Mueller’s findings, Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Carol D. Leonnig and John Wagner, March 26, 2019 (print ed.). The top two Justice Department officials determined that evidence was insufficient to allege President Trump had obstructed justice, sparking concerns that they rushed to a judgment no one asked them to make.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: William Barr: Cover-up and pardon maestro, Wayne Madsen, March 26, 2019 (subscription lawrence walshrequired). Attorney General William Barr, holding the same job he held during the presidency of George H. W. Bush, was hired for his first term as America’s chief law enforcement official because he was known as a consummate cover-up artist and clean-up man.

Much can be determined about Barr’s commitment to transparency and full disclosure from an individual who bore some of the same responsibilities as Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That person was Lawrence Walsh, a lifelong Republican who had served as a judge on the federal bench for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and as Deputy Attorney under President Dwight Eisenhower.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: No Coordination. Lots of Corruption, Michelle Goldberg, March 26, 2019 (print ed.). The Mueller investigation michelle goldberg thumbis over, and the only people close to Donald Trump who have been criminally charged are his former campaign chairman, former deputy campaign chairman, former personal lawyer, former national security adviser, former campaign foreign policy adviser and Roger Stone, the president’s longtime friend and strategist.

The report written by the special counsel Robert Mueller (shown below), according to a quotation in a brief summary issued by Attorney General William Barr, says that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Naturally, the president and his allies are claiming, as one of Trump’s tweets said, “Complete and Total EXONERATION.”

robert mueller full face fileI won’t pretend that the weekend’s news was not very good for Trump and dispiriting for those of us who despise him. Whatever else is in the Mueller report, it says, according to Barr, that the investigation “did not establish” that anyone from the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its 2016 election interference. The overtures we all know about — the Trump Tower meeting, Trump’s public call for Russia to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails, which Russian hackers tried to do that very day — were not part of a crime, or at least not part of a crime that the special counsel could prove.

Until the Mueller report is publicly released, however, it’s impossible to tell how much of Trump’s victory is substantive and how much is spin. The report, evidently, leaves open the question of whether Trump obstructed justice.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is off to the races, Bill Palmer, March 26, 2019. Now that Donald Trump’s newly handpicked Attorney General William Barr has falsely spun the still-secret Robert Mueller report in pro-Trump fashion, and a number of major news outlets have played along by falsely reporting Barr’s words as if they were Mueller’s words, Donald Trump has decided that he’s been fully exonerated. More to the point, he clearly feels emboldened – and he’s moving in a dangerously ugly direction at rapid speed.

bill palmer report logo headerIn the day and a half since Donald Trump falsely announced that he’s been exonerated, his Department of Justice has suddenly announced that it’ll go into court to try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Trump’s Pentagon has suddenly announced that it’s found $1 billion for Trump to begin building his border wall. Trump’s campaign has given TV news networks a list of people who are supposed to be banned from the air. His flunky Lindsey Graham just announced that he’ll seek a new Special Counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton. And Trump tweeted last night about his desire to have President Obama investigated for some gibberish or other.

Many or even most of these moves will either fall flat of their own accord, be defeated in court, or end up backfiring. But this is where Donald Trump’s head is at now. He’s been falsely, temporarily given a reprieve. Instead of using this window of opportunity to try to make something of his failed presidency, he’s decided to use it to pander to his base and seek petty revenge on those who have dared to expose his corruption. It’s as if Trump has decided to try to prove to mainstream Americans that he’s every bit as awful as they’ve always believed.

What’s not clear is if Donald Trump truly thinks that William Barr’s cartoonish stunt has actually gotten him off the hook for his endless list of criminal scandals, or if Trump understands that Mueller’s report will surface and destroy him eventually. If it’s the latter, Trump may be trying to finish off America with the finite window of time he has left. House Democrats will have their hands on the Mueller report before much longer, because they’ve never had a larger priority. These next weeks may be among the most important – and perilous – in American history.

OpEdNews, Opinion: Has "Cover-Up General" William Barr Struck Again? Thom Hartmann, March 26, 2019. Barr's history of helping Republican presidents in legal crises may explain why Trump brought him back in to head the Justice Department

Back in 1992, the last time Bill Barr was U.S. attorney general, iconic New York Times writer William Safire referred to him as "Coverup-General Barr" because of his role in burying evidence of then-President George H.W. Bush's involvement in "Iraqgate" and "Iron-Contra."

General Barr has struck again -- this time, in similar fashion, burying Mueller's report and cherry-picking fragments of sentences from it to justify Trump's behavior. In his letter, he notes that Robert Mueller "leaves it to the attorney general to decide whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime."

As attorney general, Barr -- without showing us even a single complete sentence from the Mueller report -- decided there are no crimes here. Just keep moving along.

Barr's history of doing just this sort of thing to help Republican presidents in legal crises explains why Trump brought him back in to head the Justice Department.

Christmas day of 1992, the New York Times featured a screaming all-caps headline across the top of its front page: Attorney General Bill Barr had covered up evidence of crimes by Reagan and Bush in the Iran-Contra scandal.
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Earlier that week of Christmas, 1992, George H.W. Bush was on his way out of office. Bill Clinton had won the White House the month before, and in a few weeks would be sworn in as president.

But Bush's biggest concern wasn't that he'd have to leave the White House to retire back to Connecticut, Maine, or Texas (where he had homes) but, rather, that he may end up embroiled even deeper in Iran-Contra and that his colleagues may face time in a federal prison after he left office.

Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh was closing in fast on him, and Bush's private records, subpoenaed by the independent counsel's office, were the key to it all.

Walsh had been appointed independent counsel in 1986 to investigate the Iran-Contra activities of the Reagan administration and determine if crimes had been committed.

Was the Iran-Contra criminal conspiracy limited, as Reagan and Bush insisted (and Reagan confessed on TV), to later years in the Reagan presidency, in response to a hostage-taking in Lebanon? Or had it started in the 1980 campaign with collusion with the Iranians, as the then-president of Iran asserted? Who knew what, and when? And what was George H.W. Bush's role in it all?

Walsh had zeroed in on documents that were in the possession of Reagan's former defense secretary, Caspar Weinberger, who all the evidence showed was definitely in on the deal, and President Bush's diary that could corroborate it. Elliott Abrams had already been convicted of withholding evidence from Congress, and he may have even more information, too, if it could be pried out of him before he went to prison. But Abrams was keeping mum, apparently anticipating a pardon.

washington post logoWashington Post, With probe over, Trump and his allies switch from defense to bruising offense, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, March 26, 2019 (print ed.). Relief turned into defiant glee as the president and his allies realized they could wield the broad findings of the Mueller probe as a political cudgel.

March 25

rachel maddow lawrence odonnell

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell just provided a roadmap for defeating the Trump-Barr coverup, Bill Palmer, March 25, 2019. Just what is it in the Mueller report that Donald Trump and his newly handpicked Attorney General William Barr are conspiring to hide? Whatever it is, they’re doing a fairly amateur job of trying to cover it up, thanks to Barr’s almost comically glowing “summary” of the report. The real question is what we, as a nation, do next to help justice prevail. Fortunately, we just got it handed to us.

bill palmer report logo headerIn the thirty hours since William Barr released his faux-summary, large chunks of the media have been repeating Barr’s words as if they were reliable, with many headlines even going so far as to falsely claim that Barr’s words were Mueller’s words. This has been nothing short of journalistic malpractice on a stunning level. Fortunately, on Monday night, cooler and smarter heads began to prevail. That’s when, after a painfully inept stretch for the media in general, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell (shown above) returned to the air.

Maddow started off by using her Monday night show to lay out fifteen questions about what’s really going on here. She used these questions to spell out in detail why Barr’s “summary” and his actions are extraordinarily suspicious, and what Robert Mueller might have really been trying to do when Barr hijacked things from him. If you haven’t yet watched it, you should. For that matter, so should every political journalist and analyst out there who has been botching this so badly.

Then came Lawrence O’Donnell, who opened his show by pointedly calling out the media for pretending that the Barr summary is the Mueller report, and other journalistic sins. One can only hope that the points he raised tonight might prompt others in his profession to start doing their jobs correctly. If America handles this situation correctly, the Barr stunt won’t get Donald Trump very far – but we’ve all got to collectively pull ourselves together.

March 24

washington post logoWashington Post, Attorney general: Mueller does not find that Trump campaign conspired with Russia, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky​, March 24, 2019. Special counsel ‘did not draw a conclusion . . . as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction,’ Barr says.

A summary of Robert S. Mueller III’s findings was sent to lawmakers. On the question of whether the president might have sought to obstruct the high-profile investigation, “the Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him’,” the attorney general said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Read: Attorney general’s principal conclusions of the Mueller report, March 24, 2019. Photos: Mueller in Washington after delivering his report.

nancy pelosi djt

Speaker of the House, Pelosi, Schumer Joint Statement On Attorney General Barr’s Summary Of The Mueller Report, March 24, 2019. Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (shown above in a file photo with of President Trump) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer released the following statement regarding Attorney General Barr’s summary of the Mueller report:

“Attorney General Barr’s letter raises as many questions as it answers.  The fact that Special Counsel Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay.  Given Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the Special Counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.

“And most obviously, for the president to say he is completely exonerated directly contradicts the words of Mr. Mueller and is not to be taken with any degree of credibility.

“Congress requires the full report and the underlying documents so that the Committees can proceed with their independent work, including oversight and legislating to address any issues the Mueller report may raise.  The American people have a right to know.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats ‘absolutely’ willing to head to Supreme Court to release full report, Nadler says, Felicia Sonmez, Rachael Bade, Paul Kane and Paul Sonne, March 24, 2019. Lawmakers say it is too early to raise the specter of impeachment but suggested they are keeping their options open.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here’s proof that William Barr is taking Robert Mueller’s report out of context, Bill Palmer, March 24, 2019. When Donald Trump’s handpicked Attorney General William Barr released a four page “summary” today of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, it felt wildly at odds with everything Mueller was investigating about Trump, and everything that we’ve seen play out in plain sight. Now it turns out there’s semantic proof that Barr has indeed taken Mueller’s Report out of context.

bill palmer report logo headerPalmer Report readers know that I can be critical of MSNBC during its most histrionic moments. But host Ari Melber nailed it this evening when he noticed something remarkable about Barr’s summary. Despite being four pages long, it didn’t quote a single full sentence from Mueller. Why is this important?

Imagine you’ve been given a very lengthy secret report. Your task is to summarize it for the public, in a way that’s going to give the public confidence that you’re being honest about what’s really in the secret report, and you have no limit on how long your summary can be. You’re going to make a point of quoting the secret report as directly as possible, particularly when it comes to the key points that the report makes.

Instead, William Barr did the precise opposite. Each time he quoted the Mueller report, he cherry picked sentence fragments, and never did include a complete sentence. In other words, he clearly took those fragments out of context. His only reason to chop up Mueller’s words so finely would be to try to alter their meaning. This “summary” is bogus. House Democrats will seize the real Mueller report soon enough.

william barr image by donkehotey dmca

Attorney General William P. Barr (image by Donkehotey via DCMA)

OpEdNews, Opinion: Impeach William Barr if he doesn't release the Mueller report, Michael Collins, March 24, 2019. Barr can't be Trump's oenearthlogonew Michael Cohen. United States Attorney General William Barr is acting as though he has a choice about releasing the Mueller report. He doesn't. Unless Barr wants to live in infamy as a disgraced enabler of the mad and corrupt president, He needs to fulfill his constitutional duty and release the report in its entirety. If he fails to do so, he should be impeached.

In the Department of Justice Order that initiated the investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein stated that the purpose of special counsel investigation was to "ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 election."

The question of Russian interference in the 2016 election affects all citizens. This scope amplifies the meaning of Part 600 - General Powers of the Special Counsel, Code of Federal Regulations. The Special Counsel must deliver a confidential report to the U.S. Attorney General. At that point, "The Attorney General may determine that public release of these reports would be in the public interest, to the extent that release would comply with applicable legal restrictions" 600.9 - Notification and reports by the Attorney General.
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It couldn't be more obvious. The integrity of our democratic republic is the critical subject of inquiry and, given the overriding importance of that subject, the public interest must be served.

Why would we think Bill Barr would withhold the report? Because he told us so in his confirmation hearing.

Barr tried to come off as calm and thoughtful when answering questions. Despite his demeanor, he offered everything we need to know about his intentions. He accepted the notion that a sitting president cannot be indicted in a criminal case. There is no such restriction on presidential indictments in the Constitution. That doesn't bother Barr. He bases his opinion on a 1973 Nixon Department of Justice memo that somehow rationalized this position. Barr also informed us that if confirmed, he would not report on anything other than indictments.

Professor Alan J. Lichtman of American University summarized the ugly truth behind Barr's position in the confirmation hearings:

"Here is the Catch-22. Barr won't authorize an indictment of the president, but he is opposed to commenting on investigations absent indictments." Spectator USA 01/16/2019

Without hesitation or a scintilla of embarrassment, Barr gave the public a clear message I decide what gets released and unless there's an indictment, nothing gets published. He left out the need for full transparency based on the defined mission of the Special Counsels effort: "to ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 election" and "determine" the obvious that "the release of these reports would be in the public interest."

Impeaching a Cabinet Member

Cabinet members may be impeached on the same grounds as the president and vice president. The three broad categories of impeachable offenses are: "(1) improperly exceeding or abusing the powers of the office; (2) behavior incompatible with the function and purpose of the office; and (3) misusing the office for an improper purpose or personal gain" (Congressional Research Service, 10/29/2015).

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A timeline of what we’ve learned so far about Russia and the Trump campaign, Philip Bump, March 24, 2019. The information relevant to the moment stretches back more than a decade. Over the course of the past two years,

The Washington Post has compiled timelines documenting what is known about various aspects of the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election, interactions between President Trump’s campaign and Russian individuals, and ancillary activity that resulted in criminal charges obtained by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

As we’ve learned more, those timelines have grown and become more detailed. The sheer complexity of the intertwining stories, though, means that moments of overlap can be missed. So, with the final report from Mueller’s team still behind closed doors, we’ve gathered elements from all of our timelines into one grand timeline, providing a broader sense of what we’ve learned.

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the Justice Department, Attorney General Barr is viewed as ‘a lawyer’s lawyer,’ Aaron Gregg, March 24, 2019. Once again, William P. Barr is at the center of a protracted and politicized investigation that has dominated his time in office.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Nobody I wanted to see in trouble seems as if they’re in trouble’: Some Democratic voters are disappointed, David Weigel and Colby Itkowitz, March 24, 2019. The special counsel’s findings have not yet been made public, but the fact that the investigation ended without any further indictments has Republicans declaring victory.

Next Steps For DOJ Probe

ny times logoNew York Times, As Mueller Report Lands, Prosecutorial Focus Moves to New York, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, Benjamin robert mueller screenshot washington postWeiser and Maggie Haberman, March 24, 2019 (print ed.). The work by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III (right), may be done, but prosecutors in Manhattan and elsewhere are pursuing about a dozen other investigations. It all but ensures that a legal threat will continue to loom over the Trump presidency.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Awaiting Mueller’s findings, Trump allies claim victory and Democrats urge transparency, Philip Rucker, Robert Costa, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker, March 24, 2019 (print ed.). The political showdown over the Russia investigation began in earnest Saturday even before the special counsel’s conclusions were known to the public. Attorney General William P. Barr spent the day privately reviewing Robert S. Mueller III’s report.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats vow to pursue Trump probes no matter what Mueller finds, Rachael Bade, Karoun Demirjian and Paul Kane, March 24, 2019 (print ed.). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for full disclosure of the special counsel’s report and said she would reject a classified briefing for a select few lawmakers.

washington post logoWashington Post, After claiming ‘no collusion’ at least 231 times, Trump says nothing about the end of the Mueller investigation, JM Rieger, March 24, 2019 ((print ed. with video).

March 23

Next Steps For DOJ Probe

ny times logoNew York Times, As Mueller Report Lands, Prosecutorial Focus Moves to New York, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, Benjamin Weiser and Maggie Haberman, March 23, 2019. The work by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, may be done, but prosecutors in Manhattan and elsewhere are pursuing about a dozen other investigations. It all but ensures that a legal threat will continue to loom over the Trump presidency.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller has farmed out Trump-related investigations to SDNY and six other federal prosecutorial entities, Bill Palmer, March 23, 2019. Anyone with a basic familiarity with Robert Mueller’s investigation knows that “no more indictments from Mueller” doesn’t mean “no more indictments.” With his own investigation ending, it turns out Mueller has farmed out investigations to at least seven federal prosecutorial entities in total.

bill palmer report logo headerRobert Mueller has farmed things out to 1) the SDNY, which handles federal cases in Manhattan, 2) the EDNY, which handles federal cases in Brooklyn, 3) the EDVA in Virginia, 4) the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles, 5) the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington DC, 6) the DOJ National Security Division, and 7) the DOJ Criminal Division. This is all according to a new report today from the New York Times. So what does this tell us?

Some of these are outright referrals for criminal prosecution, while others are referrals of evidence and witnesses. But these are all instances of Robert Mueller giving these seven federal prosecutorial entities the tools they need to investigate and indict. Because

djt don jr ivanka pecker eric

Mueller’s investigation was into Donald Trump and his campaign, it’s a given that all of these investigations are Trump-related. But how many of them are directly focused on Trump and his people?

This sentence from the New York Times would seem to sum it up rather succinctly: “Most of the investigations focus on President Trump or his family business or a cadre of his advisers and associates.”

So now we know Mueller has equipped seven different federal prosecutorial bodies to carry out investigations and indictments, and “most” of those investigations focused specifically on Donald Trump, his family, and his people. In other words, the people on Team Trump who are celebrating right now are merely suffering from a lack of understanding about how prosecutions work.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Attorney general won’t release Mueller conclusions today, Justice official says, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett​, March 23, 2019. Attorney General William P. Barr intends to spend the weekend reviewing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report on his investigation into President Trump and Russia’s election interference, a senior Justice Department official said Saturday, indicating it would be at least another day until the probe’s findings would be shared with Congress.

rod rosenstein head croppedBarr and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, right, were at the Justice Department Saturday morning, where they and their key advisers were assessing Mueller’s work and developing a summary of conclusions to provide lawmakers.

“They’re working basically hand in hand,” the official said on condition of anonymity to share general insights about the attorney general’s process, adding that very few people know the report’s contents.

The attorney general announced Friday that Mueller’s work had come to an end, and Barr spent the afternoon and early evening in his fifth-floor office reading the special counsel’s final report — which one Justice Department official described as a “comprehensive” document.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s legal troubles are far from over even as Mueller probe ends, David A. Fahrenthold and Rosalind S. Helderman, March 23, 2019 (print ed.). Nearly every organization Trump has run in the last decade remains under investigation by state or federal authorities

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘If you took it all in in one day, it would kill you’: What Mueller’s investigation has already revealed, Matt Zapotosky and Rosalind S. Helderman, March 23, 2019 (print ed.). He pulled back the curtain on a sophisticated Kremlin hacking operation — identifying by name the 12 Russian military officers who he said sought to sway a U.S. election.

Justice Department log circularHe exposed a Russian online influence campaign — bringing criminal charges against the 13 members of a Russian troll farm now accused of trying to manipulate U.S. voters and sow division through fake social media personae.

And he revealed how those closest to President Trump defrauded banks, cheated on their taxes and, time and time again, lied to deflect inquiries into their ties with Russia.

After 22 months of meticulous investigation, charges against 34 people — including six former Trump aides or confidants — and countless hours of all-consuming news coverage, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on Friday submitted the long-anticipated report on his findings to Attorney General William P. Barr.

Barr said in a letter to lawmakers that he may be able to inform Congress of Mueller’s “principal conclusions” as early as this weekend.

It’s not clear whether or when Mueller’s full report will become public — or how his conclusions might impact Trump’s presidency.

Barr said he plans to consult with Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to determine “what other information from the report” could be made public.

But through legal documents and court hearings, Mueller has already revealed rich details about the Russian attack on U.S. democracy in 2016 — and his investigation has triggered unpredictable ripple effects.

washington post logodemocratic donkey logoWashington Post, ‘We will fight’: Democrats prepare to battle for Mueller’s complete findings, Ellen Nakashima, Karoun Demirjian and Rachael Bade​, ​March 23, 2019 (print ed.). Lawmakers are looking to the special counsel’s findings to inform their investigations — and insist they will be satisfied with nothing short of a complete account of the results and the evidence that informed them.

washington post logoWashington Post, After lashing out for months, a combative Trump awaits Mueller’s findings, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey, March 23, 2019 (print ed.). The president’s actions in office, including his firing of the FBI director, were scrutinized as possible obstructions of justice.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Three ways we know more indictments in Robert Mueller’s investigation are still coming from other prosecutors, Bill Palmer, March 23, 2019.  Yesterday afternoon I was rather hard on MSNBC for its initial coverage of the news that the Robert Mueller report had been submitted, particularly when Senator Richard Blumenthal tried to explain on-air that more indictments were likely coming from the bill palmer report logo headerlikes of SNDY, and he was cut off mid sentence, because it didn’t fit the host’s narrative. As the evening went on, other MSNBC hosts did a much better job of acknowledging that more Mueller-spawned indictments could be on the way. Still, little was laid out about how we know more indictments are coming. We can count at least three different ways.

1) Redactions: Nearly all of Robert Mueller’s lengthy court filing three months ago about Michael Flynn’s cooperation was blacked out, which means that it involved ongoing criminal cases.

2) Grand juries: Yesterday, Roger Stone associate Andrew Miller informed the Atlantic that Mueller’s office still wants him to testify about Stone before a grand jury. Grand juries only have one purpose, which is to deliver indictments.

3) New hires: The SDNY, which would be in jurisdictional position to bring many of the additional Trump-related federal indictments, just hired a heavy hitter yesterday to serve as its new number two.

U.S. Politics

nancy pelosi djt

Palmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi’s grandmaster chess game against Donald Trump, Robert Harrington, March 23, 2019. Robert Mueller is releasing his report without further indictments. He doesn’t have to. Mueller has referred out numerous cases to other US Attorneys’ offices for indictments. Expect many more prosecutions.

bill palmer report logo headerOnce the Mueller Report is published, complete with expected redactions for national security purposes, it is almost certainly going to be thoroughly devastating for Donald Trump. The report will prove to be, effectively, Donald Trump’s political and personal epitaph. It will establish beyond question Trump’s criminal collusion with a foreign power to steal the 2016 election.

Nancy Pelosi (shown above with Trump in file photos) knows all this already, and that is why she has taken impeachment of Donald Trump off the table for now. Democratic candidates for president in 2020 will use the Mueller report to destroy Donald Trump.

If Trump remains the only Republican candidate in 2020 then the Mueller Report will become the handbook, the Bible, that every Democratic candidate running against him can and will use — in debates, in advertisements, in interviews, and that will be a Bible that Donald Trump can’t sign. In effect, Democrats need Donald Trump to remain exactly, precisely where he is until November of 2020, so they can use the Mueller Report to destroy and defeat him utterly.

If the Republicans have any sense, and there is nothing to suggest that they have any, they would be drafting articles of impeachment against Donald Trump even as we speak. A lone Republican Trump candidacy, that is almost predestined to lose in 2020, may very well spell the end of the Republican Party as a separate autonomous entity, at least the party as we recognize it today.

Should the GOP mount a 2020 challenger against Trump, then Trump will probably remain true to his narcissistic roots, refuse to resign, and further splinter his own party, sowing seeds of destruction from within so devastating that the GOP may never recover from it. The only option open to them is to impeach Trump and mount a new candidate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chris Christie praises Gov. Larry Hogan but says a GOP primary run against Trump is impractical, Rachel Chason, March 24, 2019 (print ed.). Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie says his friend Larry Hogan, Maryland’s governor, has a “very bright” future in national politics but is not joining the effort by some centrist Republicans to draft Hogan to challenge President Trump in a 2020 GOP primary.

chris christie cover let me finishChristie offered his thoughts Thursday during an early-evening appearance with Hogan at Government House, the governor’s official residence. Christie was in Annapolis as part of a tour to promote a book [shown at right] about his unsuccessful run for the GOP nomination in 2016 and his subsequent stint with the Trump campaign. From the mansion, the men headed to the Annapolis Yacht Club, where Hogan introduced Christie at an event that included a discussion and book signing.

Christie said he sees no current path for a successful primary challenge, noting Trump’s strong support among Republican voters. Hogan has repeatedly said the same. But Christie and Hogan, Republicans who won reelection in blue states, said the political landscape could change quickly.
Christie, a longtime friend to Trump who was pushed out as chair of his transition team, said he still speaks with the president regularly and supports many of his policies.

But Christie nonetheless heaped praise on Trump’s possible rival, saying it was “love at first sight” in 2014 when he met Hogan, then a businessman running an underdog campaign for governor. Christie described Hogan as a practical leader who is capable of bringing people together.

washington post logoWashington Post, After lashing out for months, a combative Trump awaits Mueller’s findings, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey, March 23, 2019 (print ed.). The president’s actions in office, including his firing of the FBI director, were scrutinized as possible obstructions of justice.

March 22

Mueller Report

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller just pulled off a victory in plain sight and almost everyone missed it, Bill Palmer, March 22, 2019.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted his final report tonight, bringing an end to his role in the criminal investigation into Donald Trump. This is being widely spun by pundits as some kind of defeat, because Mueller isn’t (directly) indicting anyone else. But in actuality, Mueller just pulled off a victory in plain sight and no one noticed.

bill palmer report logo headerFor the past year we’ve been hearing from these same pundits about how Donald Trump was going to find a way to fire Robert Mueller before he could complete his work and file his report. Guess what? That didn’t happen. Instead, Mueller managed to make it all the way to the finish line. He got to finish the job and file his report, after so much hype about how he would never get to this point.

Now these same pundits are spinning a doomsday tale about how the Attorney General is going to run it through a shredder and then everyone is just going to give up and move on. But that’s not remotely realistic at this point. The public has an overwhelming appetite to see the report, and House Democrats have a number of ways to force it to become public if the AG does try to play any games.

peter baker twitterny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Once released, the Mueller report will transform the political landscape, our correspondent writes in an analysis, Peter Baker (shown in Twitter photo at right), March 22, 2019. After nearly three years of investigation, after hundreds of interviews and thousands upon thousands of pages of documents, after scores of indictments and court hearings and guilty pleas, after endless hours of cable-television and dinner-table speculation, the moment of reckoning has arrived.

It will be a reckoning for President Trump, to be sure, but also for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, for Congress, for Democrats, for Republicans, for the news media and, yes, for the system as a whole. The delivery of Mr. Mueller’s report to the Justice Department on Friday marked a turning point that will shape the remainder of Mr. Trump’s presidency and test the viability of American governance.

Washington has been waiting for Mr. Mueller’s findings for so long and invested in them so much that it may be hard for what he has delivered to live up to the breathless anticipation. But once released, the Mueller report will transform the political landscape, fueling calls for the president’s impeachment or providing him fodder to claim vindication — or possibly, in this live-in-your-own-reality moment, both at the same time.

Democrats on Friday played down the notion that the report would be the final word, fearing that anything less than a bombshell would undercut their own drive to investigate Mr. Trump not only on Russia’s election interference but on the myriad other subjects that have drawn their attention. Mr. Trump, for his part, had engaged in a particularly manic Twitter spree lately, assailing the “witch hunt” and the “hoax” and everyone he blames for them, like his fellow Republicans John McCain and Jeff Sessions, in what some had interpreted as a sign of his own anxiety before the special counsel’s verdict. But he was reported to appear relieved with early reports on Friday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s legal troubles are far from over even as Mueller probe ends, David A. Fahrenthold and Rosalind S. Helderman, March 22, 2019. Nearly every organization Trump has run in the last decade remains under investigation by state or federal authorities.

March 22

Mueller Delivers Report To Barr

robert mueller waving hands

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Delivers Report on Trump-Russian Investigation to Attorney General, Sharon LaFraniere and Katie Benner, March 22, 2019. Special Counsel Does Not Recommend New Charges; The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III (shown above in a file photo), focused on Russian election interference and whether anyone tied to the Trump campaign cooperated with them; Mr. Mueller did not suggest additional charges as part of his investigation, a senior Justice Dept. official said.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on Friday delivered a report on his inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election to Attorney General William P. Barr, the Justice Department said, bringing to a close an investigation that has consumed the nation and cast a shadow over President Trump for nearly two years.

Mr. Barr told congressional leaders in a letter that he may brief them on the special counsel’s “principal conclusions” as early as this weekend, a surprisingly fast turnaround for a report anticipated for months. The attorney general said he “remained committed to as much transparency as possible.”

Justice Department logoIn an apparent endorsement of an investigation that Mr. Trump has relentlessly attacked as a “witch hunt,” Mr. Barr said Justice Department officials never had to intervene to keep him from taking an inappropriate or unwarranted step. The department’s regulations would have required Mr. Barr to inform the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees about any such interventions in his letter.

A senior Justice Department official said that Mr. Mueller would not recommend new indictments, a statement aimed at ending speculation that Mr. Trump or other key figures might be charged down the line. With department officials stressing that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry was over and his office closing, the question for both Mr. Trump’s critics and defenders was whether the prosecutors condemned the president’s behavior in their report, exonerated him — or neither. The president’s lawyers were already girding for a possible fight over whether they could assert executive privilege to keep parts of the report secret.

For Trump and the System, a Turning Point and a Test

Once released, the Mueller report will transform the political landscape.
'
Since Mr. Mueller’s appointment in May 2017, his team has focused on how Russian operatives sought to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential race and whether anyone tied to the Trump campaign, wittingly or unwittingly, cooperated with them. While the inquiry, started months earlier by the F.B.I., unearthed a far-ranging Russian influence operation, no public evidence emerged that the president or his aides illegally assisted it.

New York Times, Mueller Delivers Report on Trump-Russian Investigation to Attorney General, Sharon LaFraniere and Katie Benner, March 22, 2019. Special Counsel Does Not Recommend New Charges; The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III (shown above in a file photo), focused on Russian election interference and whether anyone tied to the Trump campaign cooperated with them; Mr. Mueller did not suggest additional charges as part of his investigation, a senior Justice Dept. official said.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on Friday delivered a report on his inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election to Attorney General William P. Barr, the Justice Department said, bringing to a close an investigation that has consumed the nation and cast a shadow over President Trump for nearly two years.

william barr new oMr. Barr (shown at right in his new official photo) told congressional leaders in a letter that he may brief them on the special counsel’s “principal conclusions” as early as this weekend, a surprisingly fast turnaround for a report anticipated for months. The attorney general said he “remained committed to as much transparency as possible.”

In an apparent endorsement of an investigation that Mr. Trump has relentlessly attacked as a “witch hunt,” Mr. Barr said Justice Department officials never had to intervene to keep him from taking an inappropriate or unwarranted step. The department’s regulations would have required Mr. Barr to inform the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees about any such interventions in his letter.

A senior Justice Department official said that Mr. Mueller would not recommend new indictments, a statement aimed at ending speculation that Mr. Trump or other key figures might be charged down the line. With department officials stressing that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry was over and his office closing, the question for both Mr. Trump’s critics and defenders was whether the prosecutors condemned the president’s behavior in their report, exonerated him — or neither. The president’s lawyers were already girding for a possible fight over whether they could assert executive privilege to keep parts of the report secret.

For Trump and the System, a Turning Point and a Test

Once released, the Mueller report will transform the political landscape.
'
Since Mr. Mueller’s appointment in May 2017, his team has focused on how Russian operatives sought to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential race and whether anyone tied to the Trump campaign, wittingly or unwittingly, cooperated with them. While the inquiry, started months earlier by the F.B.I., unearthed a far-ranging Russian influence operation, no public evidence emerged that the president or his aides illegally assisted it.

washington post logodemocratic donkey logoWashington Post, ‘We will fight’: Democrats prepare to battle for Mueller’s complete findings, Ellen Nakashima, Karoun Demirjian and Rachael Bade​, ​March 22, 2019. Lawmakers are looking to the special counsel’s findings to inform their investigations — and insist they will be satisfied with nothing short of a complete account of the results and the evidence that informed them.

washington post logoWashington Post, After lashing out for months, a combative Trump awaits Mueller’s findings, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey, March 22, 2019. The president’s actions in office, including his firing of the FBI director, were scrutinized as possible obstructions of justice.

More On Mueller Report

ny times logoNew York Times, Glimpses of the Mystery That Is the Mueller Investigation, Scott Shane, Photos by Gabriella Demczuk, March 22, 2019. In 2016, the F.B.I. began its investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, and journalists attempted to track it. We have seen pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. The full picture is missing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I wrote the special counsel rules. The attorney general can — and should — release the Mueller report, Neal Kumar Katyal, March 22, 2019. Neal Kumar Katyal, right, is the Saunders Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center. He was neal katyal oacting solicitor general of the United States from 2010 to 2011.

The public has every right to see Robert S. Mueller III's conclusions. Absolutely nothing in the law or the regulations prevents the report from becoming public. Indeed, the relevant sources of law give Attorney General P. William Barr all the latitude in the world to make it public.

Those regulations, which I had the privilege of drafting in 1998 and 1999 as a young Justice Department lawyer, require three types of reports. First, the special counsel must give the attorney general “Urgent Reports” during the course of an investigation regarding things such as proposed indictments. Second, the special counsel must provide a report to the attorney general at the end of the investigation, which Mueller delivered on Friday. And third, the attorney general must furnish Congress with a report containing “an explanation for each action … upon conclusion of the Special Counsel’s investigation.”

Palmer Report, Analysis: Senator Richard Blumenthal says that, after Robert Mueller report, “high likelihood” Donald Trump will be indicted, Bill Palmer, March 22, 2019. The TV pundits really, really, really want you to buy into the narrative tonight that the submission of Robert Mueller’s report somehow means that Mueller didn’t find enough evidence to build a criminal case against Donald Trump. What’s this based on? Literally nothing, of course. Meanwhile, the people in position to know better are expecting Mueller’s report to set off additional indictments.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, adam schiff officialright, appeared on MSNBC and stated that he thinks it’s “likely” there are more indictments coming; they’ll just come from the U.S. Attorneys’ offices that Mueller handed off the cases to. But this didn’t seem to fit with the doomsday narrative, so MSNBC kept pushing the notion that it’s all over, and everyone who hasn’t yet been arrested is somehow magically off the hook. That’s when Richard Blumenthal stepped to the plate.

Richard Blumenthal, below left, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, appeared on MSNBC and stated that there is a “high likelihood that there are indictments in this president’s future.” He explained that these indictments are likely to come from SDNY and/or richard blumenthal portraitother federal prosecutors. But again, this didn’t fit the prevailing MSNBC narrative, so the host cut off Blumenthal, and began asking leading questions which were aimed at painting the picture that no more indictments are coming.

We don’t know why the TV pundits are so eager tonight to push the notion that they somehow know that no one else will be indicted, beyond the obvious fact that scaring viewers is a good way to paralyze them into staying tuned in. But back in the real world, people who have been involved with the overall Trump-Russia investigation, such as Adam Schiff and Richard Blumenthal, are very loudly saying that they’re expecting more indictments. Blumenthal even thinks Trump is going to be indicted.

March 21

david pecker cnn screenshot

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.

twitter bird Custom

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.

washington post logo

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

djt robert mueller headshots

 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.

Discussion

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 Amazon.com 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 DailyMail.com 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 corsination.com 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.

U.S-Syria

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

david pecker cnn screenshot

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.

paul erickson maria butina

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

djt wh waving

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 strategic-culture.org, 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.

 

December

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 t