July TW 2018

July 31

djt joint session feb 28 2017 office of speaker

"According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country."

-- President Trump, Address to Joint Session of Congress, Feb. 28, 2018, with Vice President Pence at left and Speaker Ryan

Lawfare, The Justice Department Finds 'No Responsive Records' to Support a Trump Speech, Benjamin Wittes, July 31, 2018. It isn't every day that the Department of Justice acknowledges formally that the president of the United States lied in a speech to Congress. But that's how I read a letter I received a few days ago from the department's Office of Information Policy in connection with one of my Freedom of Information Act suits against the department.

No, the Justice Department letter does not come out and say what it clearly means: that President Trump, early in his tenure, was untruthful both about the role of foreigners in terrorism and terrorism-related crimes and about Justice Department data on the subject.

But that is what the letter says if you read between the lines. To understand the significance of this letter, let's go back to Trump's first address to Congress, in February 2017. The new president made the striking claim quoted above.

I did not believe those words were true when Trump spoke them, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, the Justice Department does not keep data at a systematic level on where criminal defendants were born. For another thing, there are a lot of domestic terrorism cases, and they are generally not committed by people born abroad. To the extent that those cases are excluded — white supremacist violence, anti-abortion terrorism and militia violence — the inquiry is grossly biased. To the extent that such cases are included, one would have to analyze a raft of data that I didn't know the department kept in a comprehensive fashion.

Responding to the speech, in a series of articles published on Lawfare, Nora Ellingsen and Lisa Daniels carefully evaluated the president's claims. Examining a public list of international terrorism cases released by the Justice Department's National Security Division (NSD), Ellingsen and Daniels concluded that it simply wasn't accurate to say that a "vast majority" of individuals on that list "came here from outside our country" — "unless, that is, you include individuals who were forcibly brought to the United States in order to be prosecuted and exclude all domestic terrorism cases."

john kelly o dhsPalmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just made a move that suggests he knows the end is near, Bill Palmer, July 31, 2018. Donald Trump let it be known today that he plans to keep John Kelly as his White House Chief of Staff all the way through the end of his current term, and for once, I believe him. This development might sound initially surprising, considering how it's widely known that Kelly (shown at right) no longer has any influence over Trump or the White House, and is no longer really doing the job. But there are two things to consider here.

The first is that Donald Trump is a coward who never wants to fire anyone. Donald Trump no longer has an inner circle. It's why there's no one to convince him to fire his bumbling lawyer Rudy Giuliani. There's also no one to explain to Trump that since he's stopped allowing John Kelly to function as Chief of Staff, he needs to replace him. But that's only half the explanation. The other half is that even the ever-deluded Trump has to know by now – at least on his comparatively lucid days – that his time is growing short. This morning he tweeted that "collusion is not a crime." When you're busted to the point that you're left trying to explain that your crime wasn't actually a crime, you're near the end of the rope.

So why would Donald Trump even bother trying to replace his White House Chief of Staff this late in the game? The odds of him completing his term are small, and even if he does somehow make it to the finish line, he'll be so crippled by then, he'll just be barely hanging on. Sure, he could fire John Kelly and replace him with one of his few remaining eager sycophants, such as Stephen Miller or Kellyanne Conway. But at this point, why bother?

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller has a cooperating witness to nail Donald Trump Jr., Bill Palmer, July 31, 2018. Donald Trump Jr testified to Congress long ago under oath that he did not tell his father in advance about the Russia meeting. That became a problem for him over the weekend when it was revealed that Michael Cohen was willing to testify that he witnessed Junior telling his father about it. But Cohen hasn't even cut a plea deal yet, and even once he does, how would he be able to substantiate his claim? Enter Rick Gates.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Donald Trump and the Koch Brothers just declared war on each other, Bill Palmer, July 31, 2018. Donald Trump woke up this morning and bluntly declared war on the Koch Brothers, the pair of conservative billionaires who have been bankrolling the campaigns of numerous Republicans for years. This was a surreal moment of biting the hand that feeds. But this wasn't merely Trump picking a random fight to try to distract us from today's kickoff of the Paul Manafort trial. Trump suddenly has a serious problem when it comes to the Kochs, which prompted his meltdown.

July 29

huff post logoHuffPost, Analysis: Fox News Host Confronts Rudy Giuliani Over Michael Cohen 'Liar' Flip-Flop, Nick Baumann, July 29, 2018. In May, Giuliani said Cohen was "honest and honorable." Now he's changed his tune. 

Rudy Giuliani can't get his story straight on Michael Cohen — and Fox News anchor Chris Wallace is calling him out on it. On "Fox News Sunday," Wallace confronted Giuliani, who serves as one of President Donald Trump's attorneys, on his flip-flopping about Cohen, Trump's longtime lawyer and fixer.

In May, Giuliani called Cohen an "honest, honorable lawyer," Wallace noted. "But now you say, quote, your words... 'a pathological liar' who's been lying for years. So what happened?"

rudy giuliani recentGiuliani, left, said his shift stemmed from the revelation that Cohen had been "surreptitiously recording his clients" — referring to the tape of Cohen and Trump discussing a payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who's alleged she had a long-running affair with Trump before he became president. The tape was released last week and initially aired on CNN.

"Obviously if I knew that, I never would've said he was a reputable lawyer," Giuliani said. "I would've said he was a scoundrel."

"I knew nothing bad about Michael Cohen until all of this started to happen in the past couple weeks," Giuliani insisted.

Giuliani must not have been following previous news accounts about Cohen, who served as Trump's personal lawyer for more than a decade and was targeted by an FBI raid in April. Cohen had reportedly compared himself to Tom Hagen, the fictional consigliere of the Corleone crime family in "The Godfather." His business ventures are the subject of considerable interest from federal investigators, The New York Times reported in May, while Giuliani was still defending him.

And Giuliani months ago corrected a Cohen falsehood. Cohen claimed in February that he had paid Stormy Daniels, a porn actress who also has said she had a brief affair with Trump, $130,000 out of his own pocket, and Trump in April claimed he didn't know about the payment. Giuliani later admitted that Trump had repaid Cohen.

July 28

djt tump int hotel washington post logo

Washington Post, The framers worried about corruption. Their words may now haunt the president, Editorial Board, July 28, 2018 (print ed.). It seems a stretch to suppose that the president might be imperiled by a case that turns partly on definitions of the word "emolument" gleaned from 18th century dictionaries.

Or maybe not much of a stretch for anyone who has spent time in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel (shown above in a Justice Integrity Project file photo), a few blocks from the White House. There, to the tune of $40 million in revenue last year, it's possible to glimpse just the sort of influence-peddling the framers may have intended to prohibit by those clauses.

The hotel has been the lodging of choice for an unknown (but not unknowable) number of state and foreign officials, some of whom, it is a fair bet, thereby hoped to curry favor with the president. According to the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, both Democrats, who have sued to stop it, that favor-currying falls squarely within the "emoluments" the framers meant to forbid.

July 27

wsj logoallen weisselberg croppedWall Street Journal, Trump Organization Finance Chief Called to Testify Before Federal Grand Jury, Rebecca Davis O'Brien, Rebecca Ballhaus, Michael Rothfeld and Alexandra Berzon, July 27, 2018 (print edition). Longtime Trump executive Allen Weisselberg, shown at right, has been subpoenaed in Michael Cohen probe,

Allen Weisselberg, a longtime financial gatekeeper for President Donald Trump, has been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in the criminal probe of Mr. Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has suffered several major blows in the last 24 hours. The biggest blow may have gotten overlooked, Bill Palmer, July 27, 2018. Donald Trump has had such a horrible twenty-four hours, for so many different reasons, it's almost difficult to keep track of them all without a checklist. 

Yesterday we learned that one of the people mentioned on the leaked Trump-Cohen tape has now been subpoenaed to testify. That person is Allen Weisselberg, who has been handling the finances for the Trump Organization for a number of years. Weisselberg knows where all the proverbial bodies are buried when it comes to Donald Trump's financial crimes. This is pandora's box, and this subpoena opens it.

We're now looking at the Feds obtaining insider testimony about every criminal real estate deal, financial scam, and illegal coverup that Donald Trump has engaged in through the Trump Organization. Trump's financial "empire" has long been a house of cards and a thinly veiled front for corruption and money laundering – and this testimony could expose it for all to see.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump's international syndicate threatens to topple other leaders, Wayne Madsen, July 27, 2018. As Donald Trump's legal problems grow, seemingly by the hour, other world leaders with whom his Trump Organization has conducted business may suffer the legal and political consequences of being identified with Trump and vice versa.

donald trump jr kimberly guilfoyle and donald trump

Donald Trump Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle and President Trump (file photo)

huff post logoHuffPost, Exclusive / Investigation: Kimberly Guilfoyle Left Fox News After Investigation Into Misconduct Allegations, Sources Say, Yashar Ali, July 27, 2018. Sources tell HuffPost that Guilfoyle, who is dating Donald Trump Jr., engaged in emotionally abusive behavior and showed colleagues personal photos of male genitalia.

When it was revealed last week that longtime Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle would be leaving the network, some Fox News and White House insiders were surprised that she was choosing to move on from the cable news channel and head to a pro-Donald Trump super PAC. For nearly two years — even once rumors eventually kicked up that she might join the Trump administration — Guilfoyle said that, as a single mother, she had to think of her son's financial future and couldn't afford to leave the high-paying gig, multiple sources told HuffPost.

fox news logo SmallGuilfoyle's departure was initially billed as her decision. However, as HuffPost first reported last week, multiple sources said she did not leave the network voluntarily. They said Guilfoyle was informed her time at Fox News was up following a human resources investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior including sexual misconduct, and that her lawyers had been involved since the spring.

Sources also said that despite being told she would have to leave by July, Guilfoyle repeatedly attempted to delay her exit and tried to have her allies appeal to Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, to let her stay at the network.

This story is based on interviews conducted over the past year with 21 sources inside and outside Fox News and 21st Century Fox. All sources spoke to HuffPost on the condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to speak to the press, did not want to raise Guilfoyle's ire or have signed nondisclosure agreements that prevent them from speaking to others about their experiences.

In response to an email with a list of 19 detailed questions, Guilfoyle's attorney John Singer wrote the following statement:  

"Any accusations of Kimberly engaging in inappropriate work-place conduct are unequivocally baseless and have been viciously made by disgruntled and self-interested employees. During her lengthy and decorated tenure with the company, Kimberly was beloved, well-respected, and supportive of anyone she ever met. It's utterly preposterous that there are those who are nefariously and greedily twisting innocent conversations amongst close friends into much more than what it actually was for financial gain. Kimberly has happily moved onto the next chapter of her life and hopes others will do the same."

gavin newsom oFox News was a hotbed of sexual harassment and retaliation under Ailes, but executives at Fox News have worked over the past two years to improve the workplace culture and institute major changes in large part due to potential legal liabilities and regulatory concerns in the U.S. and U.K. Guilfoyle, according to several sources, failed to adapt to the new culture and still operated as if she were working under Ailes.

Guilfoyle, a former San Francisco County prosecutor, started at the network in 2006 as a legal analyst and worked her way up to become co-host of "The Five." She also served as a fill-in host for top-rated Fox News stars like Hannity. While living in the city, Guilfoyle was married for several years to then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, shown at right. (Newsom is now lieutenant governor of California and the front-runner in the current gubernatorial campaign). This reporter worked for Newsom for several years but has no relationship with Guilfoyle and has never spoken to her.

July 26

nbc news logoNBC News, Cohen will tell Mueller Trump knew of 2016 Russia meeting, source says, Hallie Jackson, Kristen Welker, Peter Alexander and Alex Johnson, July 26, 2018. Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, asserts that Trump knew in advance about a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 between his son Donald Trump Jr. (shown at right) and a donald trump jr time cover croppedRussian lawyer, in contradiction to Trump Jr.'s congressional testimony in May 2017, a knowledgeable source told NBC News on Friday night.

The source told NBC News that Cohen is willing to inform Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, about his version of the timeline surrounding the meeting. Cohen's assertion was first reported by CNN.

Lanny Davis, a lawyer for Cohen, said he had no comment but told NBC News: "I have to wonder why the Trump people would put that out. It was not from us."

But Trump's attorney, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, pushed back against that and dismissed the report, saying that Cohen was "not credible."

"Michael Cohen can't be believed unless it's corroborated five times," Giuliani said in a phone interview Thursday night. "I talked to the president about this at length before, as well as other witnesses, and it's not true.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Looking at Trump Tweets in Obstruction Investigation, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, July 26, 2018.  For years, President Trump has used Twitter as his go-to public relations weapon, mounting a barrage of attacks on celebrities and then political rivals even after advisers warned he could be creating legal problems for himself.

Those concerns now turn out to be well founded. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is scrutinizing tweets and negative statements from the president about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, according to three people briefed on the matter.

President Trump has used Twitter as his go-to public relations weapon, even after advisers warned he could be creating legal problems for himself. Now his attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey are being scrutinized by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge allows emoluments case against Trump to proceed, Ann E. Marimow, Jonathan O'Connell and David A. Fahrenthold, July 25, 2018.  A federal judge on Wednesday rejected President Trump's latest effort to stop a lawsuit that alleges Trump is violating the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign governments.

peter messeti american universityThe ruling, from U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte, right, in Greenbelt, Md., will allow the plaintiffs in the case — the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia — to proceed with their case, which says Trump has violated the Constitution's little-used emoluments clause.

The plaintiffs now want to interview Trump Organization employees and search company records to determine which foreign countries have spent money at Trump's hotel in downtown Washington.

The Justice Department and Trump's attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment. They could try to appeal the decision to a higher court and ask Messitte not to allow the attorneys general access to Trump Organization employees and books until the appeal is decided.

July 26

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump's Emoluments Trap, Karl A. Racine, Brian E. Frosh and Norman L. Eisen, July 26, 2018. Mr. Racine is the attorney general for the District of Columbia. Mr. Frosh is the attorney general for Maryland. Mr. Eisen is the chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Wednesday's ruling on our suit against the president makes clear that he may be violating the Constitution.

On Wednesday, a federal district court made history. Judge Peter J. Messitte of Maryland allowed a lawsuit to move forward against President Trump, alleging that he is violating the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign and domestic governments. In doing so, he became the first federal judge ever to rule on the meaning of the word "emolument" in the Constitution.

Coverage of the lawsuit, which was brought by two of us (with the third, Mr. Eisen, among the co-counsels), has sometimes cast doubt on the usefulness of the Emoluments Clauses, which we have argued forbid presidents from using their office to "profit, gain or advantage." Critics have noted how rarely they have been deployed. That's why Judge Messitte's ruling is so important: It opens a path to enforcement of the ethics regime that the framers developed as a bulwark against corruption in the highest office in the land.

washington post logoWashington Post, Once a 'punching bag,' Cohen takes a swing at Trump, Philip Rucker, Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Ashley Parker, July 26, 2018. The actions of President Trump's longtime attorney Michael Cohen appear to be driven more by his outrage over Trump's indifference and feelings of betrayal than by a legal strategy to help his case.

For the past decade, Michael Cohen worked as Donald Trump's personal lawyer and fixer. He was an eager supplicant, executing the wishes of his celebrity boss and forever seeking his attaboy affection. He said he would take a bullet for Trump, and, even after the president passed him over for a White House job, Cohen still professed his eternal loyalty.

But in Trump's world, eternity has limits.

By releasing audio of his covertly recorded conversation with Trump about purchasing the rights to a Playboy centerfold's story of an extramarital affair, Cohen made a decisive break from his longtime client. The move punctuates the steady deterioration of a relationship between Cohen and Trump and raises concerns in the White House that the former could spill secrets about the latter to the FBI.

July 25

Trump Watch

ny times logoNew York Times, Cohen's Lawyer, a Democrat, Comes Out Swinging at Trump, Matt Flegenheimer, July 25, 2018.  Lanny Davis — best known as a high-profile lawyer for Bill and Hillary Clinton — has helped Michael Cohen, the president's former personal lawyer, mount an aggressive defense in the news media.

Lanny J. Davis's client list, like his quintessentially Washington career as an all-purpose lawyer, lobbyist, crisis consultant and television-talker, is lengthy, international — and more than occasionally contradictory.

Mr. Davis has represented Harvey Weinstein and Penn State, a Ukrainian oligarch with links to President Trump's indicted former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and an Ivory Coast strongman whom Mr. Davis today insists he was trying to help dislodge as part of a secret arrangement with the State Department.djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtube

Donald Trump and former 'Playmate of the Year' Karen McDougal, who alleges a deal via the National Enquirer

washington post logoWashington Post, Cohen tape suggests Trump knew of model's deal to sell story of alleged affair, Carol D. Leonnig and Robert Costa, July 25, 2018 (print ed.). During the September 2016 conversation with his longtime attorney Michael Cohen, the then-Republican presidential nominee appeared familiar with the outline of a deal with Playboy model Karen McDougal to purchase the rights to her story of an alleged affair with him, according to a transcript of the exchange provided by the president's legal team.

Twashington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump creates an alternative reality, and he wants you to join him there, James Hohmann, July 25, 2018. "Just remember," President Trump said on Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo., "what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening."

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoHe was complaining about the escalating fallout from his trade war. The president is angry that the press is telling the stories of farmers who are facing financial hardship because of the predictable retaliation by other countries to his tariffs. Speaking to a crowd of 4,000 at the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Trump specifically cited a package he saw earlier in the day on NBC. "It was heart-throbbing," he said. "In fact, I wanted to say, 'I got to do something about this Trump. Terrible.'"

He then claimed NBC's piece was "done by the lobbyists and by the people that they hire" and argued that the time to push for better trade deals is when the economy is growing. "This country is doing better than it's ever done before," Trump said.

washington post logoelizabeth bruenigWashington Post, Opinion: America's heart of darkness, Elizabeth Bruenig, right, July 25, 2018 (print edition). Trump's presidency is part of a decades-long erosion of trust in government.

There is the obvious side of the scandal: Russia clearly took steps to interfere with the 2016 presidential election and, to some incalculable extent, probably succeeded.

dnc square logoIt appears to have meddled by way of dirty persuasion, purchasing (somewhat bizarre) anti-Clinton Facebook ads, launching (truly bizarre) pro-Trump Twitter bots and, the pièce de résistance, hacking into several Democratic National Committee members' email accounts and publishing thousands of missives on WikiLeaks. Trump's campaign may or may not have been actively involved in the plot to scuttle Hillary Clinton's chances (maybe the plot wouldn't have gone so well if it were?), President Trump may or may not believe Russia interfered whatsoever (his mind changes day to day), and Trump may or may not have won anyway. All of that's secondary.

The primary things are these: It just wasn't that hard for a foreign power to tinker with our deliberative democratic process, which suggests that it just isn't that hard, full stop, for anyone to tinker with our deliberative democratic process.

And if Trump's campaign played along, those who benefited when he won don't really seem to mind. Republicans will issue all sorts of official-sounding tweets and news releases decrying the subversion of America's hallowed institutions, but they've got their tax cuts and Supreme Court seats, and they're not going to initiate impeachment proceedings or primary Trump come 2020. A neutral observer couldn't be blamed for concluding that the rich and powerful people who contend for control of the country don't much care how public offices wind up in their hands, so long as they do.

And this is true across the board.

Those emails the Russians loosed upon the electorate were damning precisely because they revealed a similar scheme operating in miniature during the Democratic primary campaign: The supposedly neutral DNC functioned as more or less a Clinton campaign organ, subsisting off Clinton campaign funds and musing behind the scenes about targeting then-primary contender Bernie Sanders for being a secular Jew, how best to discipline his campaign for complaining about the DNC's partiality and, ironically, how to properly dispel the appearance of a DNC conspiracy against Sanders.

July 24

cnn logoCNN, Exclusive: CNN obtains secret Trump-Cohen tape, Chris Cuomo, Kara Scannell and Eli Watkins, July 24, 2018. Presidential candidate Donald Trump is heard on tape discussing with his attorney Michael Cohen how they would buy the rights to a Playboy model's story about an alleged affair Trump had with her years earlier, according to the audio recording of the conversation aired exclusively on CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time."

djt karen mcdougal blue dressThe recording offers the public a glimpse at the confidential discussions between Trump and Cohen, and it confirms the man who now occupies the Oval Office had contemporaneous knowledge of a proposal to buy the rights to the story of Karen McDougal, a woman who has alleged she had an extramarital affair with Trump about a decade ago. They are shown in a file photo at right.

Cohen told Trump about his plans to set up a company and finance the purchase of the rights from American Media, which publishes the National Enquirer.

"I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David," Cohen said in the recording, likely a reference to American Media head David Pecker.

Trump interrupts Cohen asking, "What financing?" according to the recording. When Cohen tells Trump, "We'll have to pay." Trump is heard saying "pay with cash" but the audio is muddled and it's unclear whether he suggests paying with cash or not paying. Cohen says, "no, no" but it is not clear what is said next.

No payment was ever made from Trump, Rudy Giuliani, the President's attorney, has said.

$12b In New Trump Slush Fund For Farmers?

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. readies plan to extend billions in aid to farmers caught in Trump's trade war, Damian Paletta and Caitlin Dewey​, July 24, 2018. The Trump administration on Tuesday announced up to $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers caught in an escalating trade war, seeking to temper growing Republican dissent over President Trump's trade policies.

The aid is designed to help farmers facing tariffs in China, Mexico and other countries that imposed the levies on U.S. products in response to Trump's new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. It is the latest sign that growing trade tensions between the United States and other countries are unlikely to end soon.

White House officials say farmers will begin seeing payments by September, and they hope the payments will quiet protests by farm groups and lawmakers — many of them Republicans — who contend that Trump's confrontational trade policy is harming American farmers months before the 2018 midterm elections.

But many Republicans criticized the administration's aid package, saying the president should back off his trade war and help farmers regain more access to foreign markets, rather than offering them government payments."If tariffs punish farmers, the answer is not welfare for farmers. The answer is remove the tariffs," Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote Tuesday on Twitter, echoing many Republicans.

•'Just be a little patient': Trump pleads with farmers caught in tariffs war, July 24, 2018.

Stormy Daniels Device

washington post logoWashington Post, Stormy Daniels's husband files for divorce and seeks restraining order, Samantha Schmidt, July 24, 2018. Stormy Daniels's husband has filed for divorce, accusing the adult-film actress of adultery and asking for sole custody of their 7-year-old daughter, according to court documents.

stormy daniels mug 7 11 18Daniels and her husband, heavy-metal drummer and adult film actor Glendon Crain, have been married since November 2015, according to the divorce petition. They were living together outside Dallas until July 11, the day before she was arrested at an Ohio strip club and accused of illegally touching patrons. (Those charges were later dismissed. She is shown at right in her mug shot.)

Crain also sought and was granted a temporary restraining order against Daniels, whose legal fight over an alleged decade-old affair with President Trump has turned her into a celebrity.

July 23

Trump Floats 'Enemies List?'

New York Times, Trump May Strip Clearances of Ex-Officials Critical of Him, Julian E. Barnes and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, July 23, 2018.
President Trump is considering whether to revoke the clearances of former intelligence and national security officials who served in the Obama administration and have criticized Mr. Trump.

All of the former officials have been critical of the president's diplomacy with Russia.

sarah huckabee sanders screenshotSarah Huckabee Sanders (shown in a file photo), the White House press secretary, said Mr. Trump was considering revoking the clearances of John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director; James B. Comey, fired by Mr. Trump as F.B.I. director last year; and James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, among others.

"The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearances because they politicized and in some cases monetized their public service and security clearances," Ms. Sanders said.

The suggestion was an unusual politicization of the security clearance process and is the latest turn in an effort by Mr. Trump to deflect scrutiny from his meeting last week with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whom he sided with over his own intelligence community in casting doubt about whether Moscow attacked the 2016 presidential election.

susan rice wShe also said Mr. Trump is looking to strip the security clearance of Susan Rice, Mr. Obama's national security adviser, and Michael V. Hayden, the former head of the C.I.A. and National Security Agency during the George W. Bush administration.

andrew mcCabe oShe also singled out Andrew G. McCabe (right), the former deputy director of the F.B.I., who was fired this year over a lack of candor about his dealings with reporters. Mr. McCabe does not have an active security clearance. Mr. Comey has also had no security clearance for about a year, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Security clearances allow former officials to work with companies on classified programs and provide advice to those firms and sometimes to government agencies. Stripping their clearances could harm their ability to work as consultants and advisers in Washington.

July 22

carter page pbs screenshot

Former Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page

washington post logoWashington Post, Administration releases application to wiretap Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, Shane Harris, July 22, 2018 (print ed.). The classified document, heavily redacted, accuses Page of acting as a Russian agent. Its release is sure to fuel the political fight between Republicans and Democrats over the propriety of the surveillance and how it was legally justified.

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: The hush-money payoffs: How many more are out there? Jennifer Rubin (right), July 22, 2018. For Trump's apologists, the revelation creates a new wave of angst.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judgment Days: God, Trump and the meaning of morality, Story by Stephanie McCrummen; Photos by Michael S. Williamson, July 22, 2018 (print ed.). Southern Baptists who fill the pews every Sunday have been making their own moral calculations about President Trump in church sanctuaries in places such as Luverne, Ala., population 2,700.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis, Inside the White House's tumultuous week of walk-backs after Helsinki, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig, July 22, 2018 (print ed.). The days that followed President Trump's meeting with Vladimir Putin amounted to a scramble of corrections and clarifications from the West Wing. Each announcement was followed by another mishap that fueled only more consternation.

July 21

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has crazed meltdown after his Michael Cohen tape stunt backfires on him, Bill Palmer, July 21, 2018. As the day has gone on, the mystery surrounding the Trump-Cohen tape story has become more clear.

Several major news outlets are reporting that the tape was one of the very few pieces of evidence seized from Michael Cohen's office that was ultimately ruled to have been protected under attorney-client privilege by a federal judge – and that it was Donald Trump who decided to waive privilege.

Now the new mystery is why he thought that would be a good idea, as it's predictably blown up in his face.

michael cohen ap file croppedAs it became clear that waiving attorney-client privilege and alerting the media to the tape had only served to make things worse for him, Trump aimed his rage at the Feds and at Cohen (right), tweeting "Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer's office (early in the morning) – almost unheard of. Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client – totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!"

To be clear, Donald Trump is lying on every count. The FBI conducted the raid based on a warrant signed by a judge. Michael Cohen had a legal right to secretly record his conversations with Trump under New York State law.

July 20

djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtube

Donald Trump and former 'Playmate of the Year' Karen McDougal, who alleges a deal via the National Enquirer

ny times logoNew York Times, Cohen Taped Discussion With Trump About Paying Model, Matt Apuzzo, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, July 20, 2018. President Trump's longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, secretly recorded a conversation with Mr. Trump two months before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model (shown also below at right) who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, according to lawyers and others familiar with the recording.

karen mcdougal playboyThe F.B.I. seized the recording this year during a raid on Mr. Cohen's office. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Cohen's involvement in paying women to tamp down embarrassing news stories about Mr. Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Prosecutors want to know whether that violated federal campaign finance laws, and any conversation with Mr. Trump about those payments would be of keen interest to them.

michael cohen ap file croppedThe recording's existence further draws Mr. Trump into questions about tactics he and his associates used to keep aspects of his personal and business life a secret. And it highlights the potential legal and political danger that Mr. Cohen represents to Mr. Trump. Once the keeper of many of Mr. Trump's secrets, Mr. Cohen (shown at left) is now seen as increasingly willing to consider cooperating with prosecutors.

The F.B.I. seized the recording this year in a raid on Mr. Cohen's office.

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: Are Republicans Covering for Trump, or for Themselves? Michelle Goldberg, July 20, 2018. If the N.R.A. was compromised by Russia, the whole party's in trouble.

Of all the interlocking mysteries of the Trump-Russia scandal, one that I've found particularly perplexing is the utter servility of congressional Republicans before a president many of them hate and believe to be compromised by a foreign power.

Yes, I know they're thrilled about tax cuts and judges. Given how Russia has become a patron of the right globally over the last decade, some Republicans might welcome its intervention into our politics, believing that the Democrats are greater enemies of the Republic. And some are just cowards, afraid of mean tweets or base blowback.

But that doesn't explain why, for example, Speaker Paul Ryan, a Russia hawk who is retiring in January, allowed his party to torpedo the House Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian interference in the election. Ryan, after all, knows full well who and what Donald Trump is.

This week, however, a new possibility came into focus. Perhaps, rather than covering for Trump, some Republicans are covering for themselves.

#MeToo / Trump Watch

donald trump beauty contests

A new BBC documentary that aired shortly before Donald Trump's visit to the United Kingdom this month was entitled "Trump: Is the president a sex pest?" Above is a graphic by Democratic Underground compiling previous commentaries. Below is a story about it.

The Cut, New BBC Documentary Alleges Trump Pursued Models As Young As 17, Amanda Arnold, July 20, 2018. (video). Just days before the U.S. president's visit to England in early July, the BBC figured it was a good time to revisit a very worthwhile question: Donald Trump, the sex scandal–plagued world leader who has been accused of sexual misconduct by numerous woman, and who once bragged about grabbing women by the pussy — could he be a sex pest?

bbc news logo2The BBC first ran a 30-minute report dedicated to this notable query on Monday, July 9 – three days before Trump's visit to England. Titled "Trump: Is the president a sex pest?" it focused on Trump's relations with women in the 1980s and 1990s. Now, for those of us stateside who would like an answer of our own, the documentary is scheduled to premiere in the US and Canada on Saturday, July 21, at 10:30am EST, with another airing on Sunday afternoon.

The report was not initially available for streaming outside of Europe, but outlets such as VICE News and the Mirror gained access when it first aired, and the BBC put out a press release today detailing some of the allegations from the documentary.

The half-hour show features two women and a man who say they witnessed Trump's behavior at parties in the '80s and '90s. One woman, Barbara Pilling — who has never spoken publicly before about Trump — said she met the president at a New York party in the late 1980s, where he questioned her over her age. When she responded 17, the president allegedly responded, "Oh, great. So you're not too old and not too young. That's just great."

"I felt like I was in the presence of a shark getting ready to roll his eyes back in his head and bite me," Pillings told BBC. She also spoke of Trump's predatory behavior toward other women at the party. According to Pillings, when a waitress offered Trump a drink, "He didn't take the drink and slapped her on the bottom. She was a blonde. He gave her butt a slap and it was very loud. He was like, 'Don't worry, that's not your tip.'"

Pillings also describes going to the restroom and discussing Trump with other models; one said the president was "trying to grab [her] ass" as she walked by.

The man, who asked to remain anonymous, claims he attended many of the same parties as the future president, where there was "a lot of cocaine around," and wealthy men solicited sex from younger women. "It was kind of like a feeding frenzy. The girls were there as consumables." ("There's no evidence that Donald Trump had sex with underage girls," the BBC notes, "but the program has been told he did pursue models in their teens.")

Dark Politics?

New York Daily News, 'Manhattan Madam' Kristin Davis subpoenaed in Mueller probe, Denis Slattery, July 20, 2018. Robert Mueller wants to talk to the "Manhattan Madam." Kristin Davis, the madam made famous for her role in the 2008 sex scandal that brought down former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (right), has been subpoenaed by the special counsel's office, according to a report Friday.

Davis, who once ran for governor and controller before being busted selling prescription pills, worked with flamboyant Republican consultant Roger Stone for a decade. Stone, a longtime ally of President Trump, has been a rumored target in Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling.

julian assange head bookMueller is reportedly interested in Stone's contacts with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (left) and the Twitter handle "Guccifer 2.0," which was allegedly used by Kremlin-linked hackers during the 2016 election to share emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee.

Davis' lawyer is negotiating the scope of the subpoena with Mueller's team, according to TMZ.

In a statement, a rep for Davis said she and Stone "are very good friends and she has worked on and off for him for the last 10 years. Roger is the godfather to her son. She is currently in the cosmetology business and she knows nothing whatsoever about Russian collusion with the 2016 election."

Andrew Miller, who ran Davis' campaign for governor and worked with Stone during the 2016 campaign, was subpoenaed by Mueller last month.

Davis was a key part of Spitzer's political downfall.The buxom 41-year-old admitted to providing the disgraced lawmaker with prostitutes, a claim he denies. Spitzer resigned from office after his affair with escort Ashley Dupre became public.

kristin davis roger stone jan 28 2013

This 2013 photo shows Kristin Davis, a then-candidate for New York City's mayor's office and formerly the notorious "Manhattan Madam," with her friend and political consultant Roger Stone

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller goes after head of prostitution ring in order to get to Roger Stone and Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, July 20, 2018. For the past several weeks, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been pulling out all the stops with his grand jury when it comes to Donald Trump's oldest friend Roger Stone. Mueller has subpoenaed at least a dozen current and former Stone associates and employees, making clear that he's zeroing in on indicting and arresting Stone. The goal is to get Stone to flip on Trump. Now Mueller is pulling out all the stops by going after the head of a prostitution ring.

robert mueller full face fileRobert Mueller (right) has subpoenaed Kristin Davis, who was once convicted for running a prostitution ring. Davis does not have any known connections to the Trump-Russia election scandal. So what does this have to do with Roger Stone? Davis has previously run for office, and her campaign was run by former Stone sidekick Andrew Miller, according to CNBC. If that name sounds familiar, it's because it's the second time it's come up this week.

Earlier this week Palmer Report brought you the story of how Mueller sent at least five of his prosecutors to a hearing which centered around Andrew Miller's refusal to cooperate with the grand jury. Mueller has been making a strong push to get Miller to cooperate in the case against Stone.

As he's apparently been unable to make that happen, it looks like he's moving on to try to use Davis to get to Miller, in order to get to Stone, in order to get to Trump. But there may be more to this.

eliot spitzerNew York Daily News, 'Manhattan Madam' Kristin Davis subpoenaed in Mueller probe, Denis Slattery, July 20, 2018. Robert Mueller wants to talk to the "Manhattan Madam." Kristin Davis, the madam made famous for her role in the 2008 sex scandal that brought down former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (right), has been subpoenaed by the special counsel's office, according to a report Friday.

Davis, who once ran for governor and controller before being busted selling prescription pills, worked with flamboyant Republican consultant Roger Stone for a decade. Stone, a longtime ally of President Trump, has been a rumored target in Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling.

julian assange head bookMueller is reportedly interested in Stone's contacts with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (left) and the Twitter handle "Guccifer 2.0," which was allegedly used by Kremlin-linked hackers during the 2016 election to share emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee.

Davis' lawyer is negotiating the scope of the subpoena with Mueller's team, according to TMZ.

In a statement, a rep for Davis said she and Stone "are very good friends and she has worked on and off for him for the last 10 years. Roger is the godfather to her son. She is currently in the cosmetology business and she knows nothing whatsoever about Russian collusion with the 2016 election."

Andrew Miller, who ran Davis' campaign for governor and worked with Stone during the 2016 campaign, was subpoenaed by Mueller last month.

Davis was a key part of Spitzer's political downfall.The buxom 41-year-old admitted to providing the disgraced lawmaker with prostitutes, a claim he denies. Spitzer resigned from office after his affair with escort Ashley Dupre became public.

July 19

Money Laundering?

new yorker logoNew Yorker, Opinion: A Theory of Trump Kompromat, Adam Davidson, July 19, 2018. Why the President is so nice to Putin, even when Putin might not want him to be.

Trump has made a lot of money doing deals with businesspeople from the former Soviet Union, and at least some of these deals bear many of the warning signs of money laundering and other financial crimes. Deals in Toronto, Panama, New York, and Miami involved money from sources in the former Soviet Union who hid their identities through shell companies and exhibited other indications of money laundering.

In the years before he became a political figure, Trump acted with impunity, conducting minimal corporate due diligence and working with people whom few other American businesspeople would consider fit partners. During that period, he may have felt protected by the fact that U.S. law-enforcement officials rarely investigate or prosecute Americans who engage in financial crimes overseas. Such cases are also maddeningly difficult to prove, and the F.B.I. has no subpoena power in other countries.

If, however, someone had evidence that proved financial crimes and shared it with, say, the special counsel, Robert Mueller, other American law-enforcement officials, or the press, it could significantly damage Trump's business, his family, and his Presidency.

Alena Ledeneva, a professor of politics at University College London and an expert on Russia's political and business practices, describes kompromat as being more than a single powerful figure weaponizing damning evidence to blackmail a target. She explained that to make sense of kompromat it is essential to understand the weakness of formal legal institutions in Russia and other former Soviet states.

Ledeneva argued that wealth and power are distributed through networks of political figures and businesspeople who follow unspoken rules, in an informal hierarchy that she calls sistema, or system. Sistema has a few clear rules — do not defy Putin being the most obvious one — and a toolkit for controlling potentially errant members. It is primarily a system of ambiguity. Each person in sistema wonders where he stands and monitors the relative positions of friends and rivals.

Ledeneva is skeptical that Putin, years ago, ordered an effort to collect kompromat on Trump. Instead, it is possible that there is kompromat in the hands of several different business groups in the former Soviet Union. Each would have bits and pieces of damaging information and might have found subtle (or not so subtle) ways to communicate that fact to both Trump and Putin. Putin would likely have gathered some of that material, but he would have known that he couldn't get everything.

Ledeneva told me that each actor in sistema faces near-constant uncertainty about his status, aware that others could well destroy him.

The scenario that, to my mind, makes the most sense of the given facts and requires the fewest fantastical leaps is that, a decade or so ago, Trump, naïve, covetous, and struggling for cash, may have laundered money for a business partner from the former Soviet Union or engaged in some other financial crime. This placed him, unawares, squarely within sistema, where he remained, conducting business with other members of a handful of overlapping Central Asian networks. Had he never sought the Presidency, he may never have had to come to terms with these decisions. But now he is much like everyone else in sistema. He fears there is kompromat out there — maybe a lot of it — but he doesn't know precisely what it is, who has it, or what might set them off.

July 18

ny times logoNew York Times, From the Start, Trump Has Muddied a Clear Message: Putin Interfered, David E. Sanger and Matthew Rosenberg, July 18, 2018. President Trump was shown clear evidence on Jan. 6, 2017, that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had ordered cyberattacks to sway the 2016 election. But his statements since have suggested other explanations.

Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election.

The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.

Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.

The shifting narrative underscores the degree to which Mr. Trump regularly picks and chooses intelligence to suit his political purposes. That has never been more clear than this week.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Now Says He Accepts U.S. Intelligence Reports on Russian Election Meddling, Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman, July 18, 2018 (print edition). Under unrelenting pressure from congressional Republicans, his own advisers and his allies on Fox News, President Trump abruptly reversed course on Tuesday and claimed he had misspoken during a news conference with President Vladimir V. Putin about whether Russia tried to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Trump, reading from a script, said he believed the assessment of the nation's intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the campaign after having seeming to have accepted Mr. Putin's assertion the day before that Russia was not involved.

On Tuesday he said that he had misspoken. He also insisted that he has "on numerous occasions noted our intelligence findings that Russians attempted to interfere in our elections." He did not mention the far greater number of occasions on which he has sown doubt about whether Russia meddled.

Mr. Trump also did not retract or explain his withering attack on the F.B.I. and the Justice Department for investigating his campaign's ties to Russia. He did not withdraw his assertion, standing next to Mr. Putin, that the Russian leader had offered an "extremely strong and powerful" denial of involvement during their two-and-a-half-hour meeting.

ny times logoPresident Donald Trump officialNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Says He Got Only One Word Wrong. Please Decide for Yourself, Editorial Board, July 18, 2018 (print edition). He said he misspoke when he said he saw no reason Russia would be responsible for the election meddling. He said he meant to say "wouldn't," not "would."

But here is what he said Monday, without notes, as he stood beside the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, on that and other subjects. We invite you to read the president's own words and decide for yourself what he really thinks.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Invokes Those at 'Higher Ends of Intelligence,' Eileen Sullivan, July 18, 2018. He said they loved his press conference with Mr. Putin. But it was not immediately clear to whom Mr. Trump was referring.

Mr. Trump's own director of intelligence, Dan Coats — the most senior intelligence official in the Trump administration — pushed back against Mr. Trump's remarks during Monday's news conference and clearly stated, again, that the American intelligence agencies had concluded Russia tried to influence the 2016 election.

christopher wray cropped SmallPalmer Report, Opinion: FBI Director Christopher Wray openly defies Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, July 18, 2018. Donald Trump's own handpicked FBI Director Christopher Wray has officially had enough of Trump's crap. Wray (shown in a file photo) has already consistently made clear that he's taking the FBI's Trump-Russia investigation seriously, as opposed to showing personal loyalty to Trump, as Trump was surely hoping. But now Wray is taking things further by openly defying Trump when it comes to Russian hacking.

Trump has spent the week insisting that Russia didn't hack the election, then blaming the United States for the fact that Russia hacked the election, then changing his story so many times that we've lost track of what his current position is. But there's no question about Christopher Wray's position on the matter. He appeared at a security forum today, and was asked about Trump's assertion that Russia isn't interfering in our elections.

Here's how Wray responded: "[Trump's] got his view, he's expressed his view. I can tell you what my view is. The intelligence community's assessment has not changed. My view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election." Wray was then asked if reports are true that he's previously threatened to resign in order to force Trump to back down on various matters. He said "I'm a low-key understated guy, but that should not be mistaken for what my spine is made out of. I'll just leave it at that."

This comes after Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats released a statement reaffirming the U.S. intelligence community's conclusions that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 election. Considering the hole that Donald Trump is already in for his treasonous press conference, he doesn't really have the muscle to oust any of his own people for openly defying him over it.

ny times logorepublican elephant logoNew York Times, Analysis: For G.O.P., 'The Dam Has Broken.' But for How Long? Peter Baker, July 18, 2018. Never has a president engendered such a wave of discussion about whether his real loyalty was to a foreign power.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Voters Mostly Stand by Him, but Cracks Open, Matt Flegenheimer, July 18, 2018. Mr. Trump has said his admirers will support him through anything. His remarks on Russia have put them to the test.

maria butina headshot

Accused Russian influence peddler Maria Butina (file photo)

ny times logoNew York Times, What Was Maria Butina Doing at the National Prayer Breakfast? Katherine Stewart, July 18, 2018. America's Christian nationalists have been finding common cause with the Russian government for a while now.

July 17

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Now Says He Accepts U.S. Intelligence Reports on Russian Election Meddling, Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman, July 17, 2018. Under unrelenting pressure from congressional Republicans, his own advisers and his allies on Fox News, President Trump abruptly reversed course on Tuesday and claimed he had misspoken during a news conference with President Vladimir V. Putin about whether Russia tried to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Trump, reading from a script, said he believed the assessment of the nation's intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the campaign after having seeming to have accepted Mr. Putin's assertion the day before that Russia was not involved.

On Tuesday he said that he had misspoken. He also insisted that he has "on numerous occasions noted our intelligence findings that Russians attempted to interfere in our elections." He did not mention the far greater number of occasions on which he has sown doubt about whether Russia meddled.

Mr. Trump also did not retract or explain his withering attack on the F.B.I. and the Justice Department for investigating his campaign's ties to Russia. He did not withdraw his assertion, standing next to Mr. Putin, that the Russian leader had offered an "extremely strong and powerful" denial of involvement during their two-and-a-half-hour meeting.

dana rohrabacher oPalmer Report, Opinion: Dana Rohrabacher is officially screwed – and other Republicans in Congress are going down with him, Bill Palmer, July 17, 2018. Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, right, has been openly loyal to Russia for decades.

Now we have confirmation that this is not just some weird abstract fanboyism on Rohrabacher's part, as he's been caught up in the indictment and arrest of Russian political operative Maria Butina.

Rohrabacher [a former Reagan White House speech writer and special assistant representing California's Orange County in Congress] is, to put it in layman's terms, screwed.

But Rohrabacher is not the only GOP member caught up in the Butina indictment. The paperwork in the Butina case reveals that during the election, "key leaders" of the Republican Party had a backchannel with the Kremlin through the NRA.

Trump Campaign Manager's Trial

paul manafort mug

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is shown in this booking photo in Alexandria, Va., on July 12. (Alexandria Sheriff's Office/Reuters)

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge refuses to move Paul Manafort trial to Roanoke, Rachel Weiner, July 17, 2018. Paul Manafort's upcoming trial on bank and fraud charges will continue in Alexandria, Va., despite his efforts to move the proceedings to Roanoke.

thomas s ellis iii federal judgeThe former Trump campaign chairman had argued that the jury pool in Northern Virginia is too liberal and too saturated with coverage of the case to give him a fair trial.

Judge T.S. Ellis III, a Republican at left, ruled Tuesday that Manafort is not entitled to a completely ignorant jury, nor one with as many Republicans as Democrats. Moreover, the nationwide coverage of the case would make any move ineffectual.

michael cohen ap file croppedPalmer Report, Opinion: Michael Cohen takes conspicuous new shot at Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, July 17, 2018. Shortly after the Donald Trump debacle played out on live national television, Cohen – who rarely posts anything to Twitter, decided to tweet this: "As I said to ABC's@George Stephanopoulos, 'I respect our nation's intelligence agencies who determined that Russia, had in fact, interfered or meddled in our democratic process. I repudiate Russia's effort…and call on all Americans to do the same.'"

This is consistent with Michael Cohen's ongoing insistence that he's not a traitor. He hasn't attempted to publicly defend himself against the numerous white collar criminal charges he's facing, but he keeps trying to distance himself from Donald Trump's Russia scandal. So where does this leave Cohen? He'll be indicted and arrested before much longer if he doesn't hurry up and cut a deal first. All the words in the world won't prevent him from seeing handcuffs.

July 16

Trump-Putin Meeting

djt vladimir putin summit 7 16 18 white house shealah craighead

President Trump and Putin shake hands at their summit in Finland on July 16, 2018 (White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Avoids Rebuking Putin on Meddling, Staff report, July 16, 2018. Won't Say If He Believes Moscow or U.S. Intelligence. President Trump said he raised the issue of Russian interference in the 2016 American election, and President Vladimir V. Putin again denied it.

After holding their first summit meeting, Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin held out the prospect of a new era of cooperation between the two countries, as Mr. Trump continued to throw into doubt longstanding assumptions about the West's political, military and trade alliances.

But Mr. Trump refused to say that he believed American intelligence agencies' findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 United States election, as a news conference where international affairs were expected to dominate turned again and again to the president's domestic political troubles.

The timing was exceptionally awkward, just days after the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian intelligence agents on charges of hacking the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, in an attempt to aid Mr. Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump and Putin end historic summit that Trump says 'changed' bad relations, Philip Rucker, Anton Troianovski and Seung Min Kim, July 16, 2018. President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin concluded their first formal one-one-one summit here Monday, a high-stakes meeting that Trump said "went very well" and changed relations that had never been worse.

Appearing at a joint news conference with Putin after the talks in the Finnish capital ended, Trump said in opening remarks that he and Putin discussed their disagreements "at length." He added: "Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed, as of about four hours ago."

He said he also "spent a great deal of time" talking about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The summit began hours after Trump blamed his own country, rather than Russia, for the hostilities between their two nations.

Speaking first at the news conference, Putin said the talks took place "in a frank and businesslike atmosphere," adding: "I think we can call it a success." He said that although bilateral relations have been "going through a complicated stage," there was "no solid reason" for that. "The Cold War is a thing of the past," he said.

He added later that Trump "mentioned the so-called interference of Russia in the American election" in 2016. Putin again denied any involvement by the Russian state and said any evidence of interference can be analyzed through a joint working group on cybersecurity.

 Trump Pushes Back

fox news logo SmallFox News, Trump fires back at Helsinki summit critics; Putin calls Russian meddling charges 'ridiculous,' Staff report, July 17, 2018. In exclusive interview with FOX News' Sean Hannity, President Trump defends his controversial comments at his post-summit news conference with Vladimir Putin, saying Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation has driven a 'phony wedge' between the U.S. and Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin denies having dirt on Trump, calls charges of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election 'utterly ridiculous' in exclusive interview with FOX News' Chris Wallace.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fox News's Chris Wallace gives Putin the grilling Trump won't, Aaron Blake, July 17, 2018 (print edition). The interview turned heated at points, with the news anchor clearly frustrated by the Russian president's trademark filibustering and Putin clearly frustrated by a journalist actually challenging him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Maria Butina, Russian gun rights advocate, charged in U.S. with acting as Russian Federation agent, Tom Jackman and Rosalind S. Helderman, July 16, 2018. A Russian national with alleged ties to a top Russian official was charged in federal court in Washington Monday with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation, and was ordered held without bond.

fbi logoMaria Butina, 29, was arrested Sunday in the District and made her first appearance in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson. Her attorney, Robert Neil Driscoll, told the judge that Butina's residence was searched by the FBI in April, that she had testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed session several months ago, and that "we have been offering to cooperate with the government the entire time."

maria butina headshotButina (shown at left) did not speak during the brief hearing other than to state her name. A detention hearing and preliminary hearing were set for Wednesday.

The charges against Butina come days after the Justice Department unveiled an indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly conspiring to hack Democrats in 2016 and just hours after President Trump cast doubt on Russia's involvement in an extraordinary joint news conference with President Putin.

Butina (shown also in a photo taken at a 2014 appearance) is accused of developing relationships with American politicians and a "gun rights organization," none of which are named in the affidavit supporting the criminal complaint. FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson wrote that Butina was attempting to "establish a 'back channel' communication for representatives of the Government of Russia."

Background On Related Story

maria butina with gun ad

Butina at the 2014 NRA convention in Indianapolis VK page

Mother Jones, The Very Strange Case of Two Russian Gun Lovers, the NRA, and Donald Trump, Denise Clifton and Mark Follman, March 1, 2018 for May/June 2018 Issue. Here's what we uncovered about an odd pair from Moscow who cultivated the Trump campaign.

For more than a year, reports have trickled out about deepening ties among prominent members of the National Rifle Association, conservative Republicans, a budding gun-rights movement in Russia—and their convergence in the Trump campaign.

nra logo CustomNow attention is focused around a middle-aged Russian central bank official and a photogenic young gun activist from Siberia who share several passions: posing with assault rifles, making connections with Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates, and publicizing their travels between Moscow and America on social media.

Alexander Torshin and his protégé Maria Butina also share an extraordinary status with America's largest gun lobbying group, according to Torshin: "Today in NRA (USA) I know only 2 people from the Russian Federation with the status of 'Life Member': Maria Butina and I," he tweeted the day after Donald Trump was elected president.

July 16

Putin Pushes Back

fox news logo SmallFox News, Putin denies having dirt on Trump, calls meddling charge 'utterly ridiculous' in Fox News interview, Alex Pappas, July 16, 2018. Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an occasionally combative interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace, called it "utterly ridiculous" that some people think the Russians could have swayed millions of American voters in the 2016 election, while insisting his country did not have dirt on President Trump or his family.

"Interference with the domestic affairs of the United States -- do you really believe that someone acting from the Russian territory could have influenced the United States and influenced the choice of millions of Americans?" Putin said. "This is utterly ridiculous."

The Russian president sat down for the interview airing on "Special Report" Monday after his summit earlier in the day with President Trump and other U.S. officials in Helsinki, Finland. Trump has faced harsh bipartisan criticism back home for his press conference with Putin, with lawmakers claiming Trump missed a key chance to "stand up" to the Russian president on election meddling.

"First of all, Russia, as a state, has never interfered with the internal affairs of the United States, let alone its elections," Putin replied.

Putin also denied having "kompromat" -- or "compromising material" -- on Trump. Earlier Monday, after Putin and Trump's joint news conference, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California claimed Trump's "weakness in front of Putin... proves that the Russians have something on the president, personally, financially or politically."

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: If you work for Trump, quit now, Ruth Marcus (Deputy editorial page editor), July 16, 2018. Everyone who works for President Trump: Quit now. Save your souls. Save your honor, such as it is. Save your reputation, such as it remains.

Russia attacked our democracy. Trump has demonstrated repeatedly, and did so again with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, that he doesn't care and won't defend his country.

If you work for this man and you call yourself a patriot, it is time for you to go.

This may sound excessive, even irresponsible. Indeed, for months I have agonized over the question of public service in the age of Trump.

Of course, as a general matter, it is better to have more grown-ups around Trump, mitigating his worst impulses, providing wisdom born of experience to counter his ignorance and petulance. But that assessment assumes facts not in evidence: that Trump is educable or containable. Actually, it contravenes the available evidence. There is none that Trump has done anything but what Trump wants to do. Monday's news conference made that clear.

Trump-Putin Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Palmer Report, Opinion: New development in Paul Manafort court proceedings suggests he may be negotiating plea deal, Bill Palmer, July 16, 2018. Believe it or not, court proceedings in the Paul Manafort case have been moving forward at a swift pace by traditional glacially slow federal court standards. That's both because Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been pushing for things to move swiftly, and because one of Manafort's two federal trials is taking place in a district with a reputation for moving quickly. Now suddenly, with no reason given, there's a one-week delay in the Manafort proceedings.

This sudden delay, coming out of nowhere, was reported by Rachel Maddow on Monday night on MSNBC. As she pointed out, there are a few different possible reasons that such a delay would be granted without any formal reason stated. But the most logical, and arguably the most likely, would be that Manafort is negotiating a plea deal. We'll see if that ends up being the case. But a few recent developments would explain why Manafort would choose now to finally cut a deal.

July 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 14

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Above, the logo of the Russian intelligence service GRU 

dnc horizontal logo

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

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

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

The 29-page indictment is here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Watch: Roger Stone Rebuttals

roger stone hands waving no credit from stone cold Custom

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Backtracks On NATO, May

djt queen melania 7 13 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picking Press Favorites

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

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

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

July 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

william binneyBinney (shown in a file photo) continued:

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

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

House Hearing On FBI's Strzok

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

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

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

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

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

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

fox news logo SmallFox News, Lisa Page 'cooperative,' 'credible,' lawmakers say after 5-hour closed-door session, Amy Lieu, July 13, 2017.  Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page was "cooperative" and "credible" in a closed-door session Friday with select House committee members that lasted nearly five hours.

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., had been among Page's harshest critics heading into the session, but he said her cooperation "speaks well of her," according to the Hill. Meadows said he thinks the American people "would be happy" with Friday's transcribed interviews, the Washington Post reported. "She's been willing to help in the spirit of transparency. … We've certainly learned additional things today," Meadows said.

Update July 16: Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page was questioned behind closed doors for a second day Monday on Capitol Hill by GOP lawmakers about anti-Trump texts she exchanged with colleague and former lover Peter Strzok.

The Trump Swamp

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

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

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

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

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

July 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 9

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

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

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

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

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

July 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 4

Trump Watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 3

us senate logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then he adds: "Donald Trump's conduct is very dangerous for the United States."

michael cohen abc george stephanopoulos 7 2 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 1

Trump Watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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