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Scandal Watch IV

This is a continuation of the topic Scandal Watch III.

This topic was continued by Scandal Watch V.

Pro and Con

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Nov 23, 2017, 6:24am Top

"Trump’s disturbing choice to hand over highly sensitive intelligence to the Russians is now a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s relationship with Russia, both before and after the election"

Exclusive: What Trump Really Told Kislyak After Comey Was Canned
Howard Blum | November 22, 2017

During a May 10 meeting in the Oval Office, the president betrayed his intelligence community by leaking the content of a classified, and highly sensitive, Israeli intelligence operation to two high-ranking Russian envoys, Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Lavrov. This is what he told them—and the ramifications...


Edited: Nov 24, 2017, 2:45am Top

AP source: Flynn lawyers make a break with Trump team
ERIC TUCKER | 11/24/2017

...Lawyers for former national security adviser Michael Flynn have told President Donald Trump’s legal team that they are no longer communicating with them about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference.

The decision could be a sign that Flynn is moving to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation or negotiate a deal for himself....

In large criminal investigations, defense lawyers routinely share information with each other. But it can become unethical to continue such communication if one of the potential targets is looking to negotiate a deal with prosecutors...


Nov 24, 2017, 3:01am Top

The Trump Organization is set to distance itself from one of its biggest headaches in the Russia probe
Natasha Bertrand | 11/23/2017

The Trump Organization will end its contract with the real estate investment firm that owns the Trump SoHo hotel in New York, effectively ending Trump's relationship with the troubled hotel.

In walking away early from the deal, the Trump Organization will also distance itself from the controversial firm it worked with nearly a decade ago to develop the troubled hotel: Bayrock.

Bayrock and its cofounder, Felix Sater, are now under scrutiny by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is examining Trump's business dealings as part of his investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow during the 2016 election...


Nov 29, 2017, 12:33pm Top

The White House ethics ship is sinking in the swamp

Walter Shaub critiques the White House's ineptness in collecting financial disclosure statements from departing employees.

Dec 1, 2017, 4:13pm Top

ABC: Flynn to Testify Trump Ordered Him to Talk to Russians | Dec 1, 2017

Michael Flynn will reportedly testify that President Trump instructed him to make contact with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign, ABC News reported on Friday. “Flynn is prepared to testify...against President Trump, against members of the Trump family, and others in the White House,” Brian Ross reported. He added that Flynn’s testimony, as such, would “contradict all that President Trump has said up to this moment.” Flynn, Trump’s former national-security adviser, pleaded guilty Friday to charges that he misled the FBI during a January 2017 interview.


Edited: Dec 3, 2017, 5:19am Top

The lawyer authored that tweet?? True or did Dowd throw himself under bus? If true, where does Trump FIND his people?? (Bottom of the class!)

Trump says he has nothing to fear from Flynn, then stokes new controversy with tweet
John Wagner, Rosalind S. Helderman and Josh Dawsey December 2, 2017

...“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI,” Trump said in the tweet.

Trump lawyer John Dowd drafted the president’s tweet, according to two people familiar with the message. Its authorship could reduce how significantly it communicates anything about when the president knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI, but it also raises questions about the public relations strategy of the president’s chief lawyer.

Two people close to the administration described the tweet simply as sloppy and unfortunate.

Several legal observers suggested that the tweet could add to Trump’s legal exposure in a potential obstruction-of-justice investigation...



Before the lawyer confirms this is true someone should remind him that, if he likes his bar license (and maybe his freedom), his words had better be true. And if it is true, someone should suggest a new line of work.

@waltshaub | Dec 2, 2017

Dec 4, 2017, 7:24am Top

Why the Trump Team Should Fear the Logan Act

...Jared Kushner, who is Mr. Trump’s son-in-law; Mike Pence, vice president-elect at the time; and Mr. Trump himself.

...The Logan Act makes it a crime for a United States citizen...to communicate with foreign officials in order to “influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government” in a dispute with the United States or “to defeat the measures of the United States.”

...Supreme Court ...(The president is ) “the sole organ of the nation in its external relations.”

...a “very senior member” of the Trump transition team (directed)...Mr. Flynn...~Dec. 22, 2016...ask...the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, to delay a vote on the (UN Security Council resolution that condemned Israeli settlement activity) or use Russia’s veto to prevent it from passing.

...The effort to persuade Russia to respond moderately to American sanctions appears to be a less egregious Logan Act violation...but it too falls within the act’s prohibition on trying to influence a foreign government in a dispute with the United States.

...no federal court has ever refused to enforce a law because of desuetude (a lengthy period of disuse)...the Supreme Court referred to the (Logan Act) as recently as 1991...citizens do not have an absolute First Amendment right to aid a foreign entity adverse to United States interests

...Why so few cases...Often wrongdoing poses little danger...rarely do so in the open...Nixon’s effort (to undercut Johnson on Viet Nam) did not emerge until after his death.

...if the phrase “high crimes or misdemeanors” means anything, it includes...citizens...undermining the foreign policy actions of the sitting president.


Dec 4, 2017, 10:52am Top

John Dowd:

"(The) President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under (the Constitution's Article II) and has every right to express his view of any case," Dowd told Axios.


Dec 4, 2017, 11:32am Top

#8 I only skimmed the intro, but here's 59 p legal argument that "the president obstructs justice when his motive for intervening in an investigation is to further personal or narrowly partisan interests, rather than to advance the public good."

Hemel, Daniel Jacob and Posner, Eric A., Presidential Obstruction of Justice (July 18, 2017). 106 California Law Review (2018 Forthcoming). https://ssrn.com/abstract=3004876 https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3004876


Federal obstruction of justice statutes bar anyone from interfering with law enforcement based on a “corrupt” motive. But what about the president of the United States? The president is vested with “executive power,” which includes the power to control federal law enforcement. A possible view is that the statutes do not apply to the president because if they did they would violate the president’s constitutional power. However, we argue that the obstruction of justice statutes are best interpreted to apply to the president, and that the president obstructs justice when his motive for intervening in an investigation is to further personal or narrowly partisan interests, rather than to advance the public good.

Dec 4, 2017, 1:27pm Top

Despite pledge, Trump company works with a foreign entity. Again.
Anita Kumar | December 04, 2017

A construction company owned in part by the governments of Saudi Arabia and South Korea plans to build a Trump-branded luxury resort development in Indonesia despite a vow from Donald Trump that his family business would not make any deals with foreign government entities while he serves as president...


Edited: Dec 5, 2017, 6:26am Top

Hope FBI has watch/protection for Manafort, Papadopolous, Flynn, etc. This time Russian intelligence helps effort to color public opinion. Next time they could aid escape or even kill accused who may shed light on Russian activities.

Prosecutors say longtime Manafort colleague has ‘ties’ to Russian intelligence
Rosalind S. Helderman and Spencer S. Hsu | December 4, 2017

...Manafort and a Russian colleague have been secretly ghostwriting an English-language editorial that appeared to defend Manafort’s work advising a ­Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine.

... as recently as last week with “a long-time Russian colleague . . . who is currently based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service.” (Prosecutors) indicated they would file further supporting evidence under seal.

...(not named, might be) Konstantin Kilimnik who ran Manafort’s office in Kiev during the 10 years he did consulting work there.

Kilimnik attended a Russian military foreign language university in the late 1980s that experts have said was a training ground for Russian intelligence services. He served as an officer in the Russian military for several years.

Manafort and Kilimnik were in contact during the months that Manafort ran Trump’s campaign...August 2016...dinner conversation...included discussion of the presidential campaign

...Kilimnik also served as Manafort’s liaison to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate and ally to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin who employed Manafort as an investment consultant.

...Manafort directed Kilimnik to offer Deripaska “private briefings” about Trump’s campaign...


Dec 5, 2017, 1:33pm Top

Robert Mueller Just Subpoenaed Trump’s Favorite Bank. Here’s What He May Be Looking For.
Russ Choma and Andy Kroll | Dec. 5, 2017

Deutsche Bank may hold the key to the president’s mysterious finances....

...There is no public indication of precisely why Mueller subpoenaed the bank. Michael Offit, a former head of Deutsche Bank’s commercial real estate desk who initiated the bank’s relationship with Trump in the 1990s, raises one possibility: Mueller could be interested in who provided the money Deutsche Bank used for the Trump loans. “The source of the money would be invisible to Trump, at least theoretically invisible to Trump. Maybe Deutsche’s private bank is making loans using pooled money from all its depositors, or maybe it’s just from one individual or group, i.e. Russians,” Offit says. “That’s probably what Mueller is trying to find out.”

In a statement, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), said, “Special Counsel Mueller’s subpoena of Deutsche Bank would be a very significant development. If Russia laundered money through the Trump Organization, it would be far more compromising than any salacious video and could be used as leverage against Donald Trump and his associates and family.”...


Dec 6, 2017, 5:00am Top

Russia probe tests Pence in-the-dark defense
Elizabeth Landers, Kevin Liptak and Jeff Zeleny | December 5, 2017

...In the days since Flynn's guilty plea was unveiled last week, seven people close to the vice president continue to maintain that Pence did not know Flynn spoke with Kislyak about Russian sanctions, despite being the head of the Trump transition.

But among top transition officials, Pence would have been largely alone in his lack of knowledge. According to court filings released last week, Flynn spoke with "senior members of the Presidential Transition Team" about his conversations with Kislyak regarding the new US sanctions...


Dec 6, 2017, 5:20am Top

Mueller: $6.7 million
Mar-a-Lago trips: ~$30 million

Mueller investigation cost $6.7 million within first five months
Matt Zapotosky | December 5, 2017

Six months of Mar-a-Lago trips likely cost (~$30 million)
Max de Haldevang | July 26, 2017

Dec 6, 2017, 1:56pm Top

Flynn was working during the transition to enrich his business associates.


As President Donald Trump delivered his inaugural address on Capitol Hill in January, his incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn, sitting a few yards away, texted a former business partner that a nuclear power project that would require lifting sanctions on Russia was “good to go,”

Dec 7, 2017, 4:29am Top

Whistleblower: Flynn told colleague Russia sanctions would be 'ripped up'
Manu Raju and Katelyn Polantz | December 6, 2017

As President Donald Trump delivered his inaugural address, incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn texted his former business colleague about a plan to join Russia and build nuclear reactors in the Middle East: The project was "good to go," he told them, according to a summary of a whistleblower's account provided by a lawmaker.

The business colleague who texted with Flynn later recounted that he also suggested sanctions against Russia would be "ripped up" as one of the administration's first acts, according to the whistleblower.

...The account provides the strongest claim yet that the administration was focused on unraveling the sanctions that President Barack Obama had just put in place and that Flynn had a personal motivation for doing so...


Dec 7, 2017, 11:28am Top

This morning on MSNBC they showed the picture of him texting while Trump was being sworn in. I so wonder what was so important that it couldn't wait all of two minutes. Last second deals perhap?

Dec 7, 2017, 7:53pm Top

Exclusive: Previously undisclosed emails show follow-up after Trump Tower meeting
Jim Sciutto, Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb | December 7, 2017

Dec 8, 2017, 7:19am Top

Mueller’s Investigation Just Got Some Insurance
Greg Farrell, Tom Schoenberg, and Neil Weinberg | Dec 7, 2017

The Flynn plea makes it difficult for Trump to can the special counsel without inviting charges of a cover-up and sparking a constitutional crisis.

...Even if Mueller goes, his team is providing tools that other prosecutors or investigators can use to continue inquiries. Flynn’s deal requires him to cooperate with state and local officials as well as with federal investigators. That includes submitting to a polygraph test and taking part in “covert law enforcement activities.” Mueller also has provided a road map to state prosecutors interested in pursuing money laundering charges against Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

...Mueller’s case against Manafort lays out a series of irregular wire transfers made from Manafort’s bank accounts in Cyprus to a variety of companies in the U.S. The sums that Manafort transferred suggest the possibility that some of the money was diverted for other purposes. Mueller stopped short of filing charges related to where the money went. But by including the details in his indictment, he left open the possibility of bringing charges in a follow-up indictment and perhaps left breadcrumbs for state authorities to pursue.

The president can pardon people convicted of federal crimes; only governors can pardon those convicted under state law...


Dec 15, 2017, 4:37am Top

Zac Petkanas‏Verified account @Zac_Petkanas


Hearing rumors that Speaker Ryan is going to shut down the House Intelligence Committee investigation right before leaving for Christmas.

This is part of the coverup.
1:20 PM - 14 Dec 2017

Schiff concerned Republicans are working to end the Russia investigation
Sophie Tatum | December 14, 2017

..."I think they view shutting us down as a prerequisite to shutting Bob Mueller down," Schiff said on CNN's "The Situation Room." "And we see some very disturbing signs that that's what they intend to do."

In the interview, Schiff noted several Republicans who were critical of special counsel Robert Mueller during a hearing on Wednesday with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

And when CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked the Democrat from California if he feared Republicans were attempting to pave the way to shut down the investigation, Schiff replied: "I do."

"We are scheduled to have witness interviews out of state at a time next week when we'll be voting to keep the government running, when we'll be voting ... potentially, on this tax bill for the wealthy, so we can't leave to do these interviews, and nonetheless even though these witnesses are very important and have been on our witness list for months and months and they haven't been willing to bring them in until now, they're pulling these kind of tactics, which say to me they're trying to bring this to an end," Schiff later added...


Edited: Dec 15, 2017, 10:03am Top

Why did the Justice Department selectively release anti-Trump texts that fueled outrage at Mueller?
Matthew Rozsan | 12.15.2017

The FBI agents criticized for sending texts criticizing Trump also disparaged (Democrats)...



White House: FBI has ‘extreme bias’ against Trump
Julia Manchester | 12/15/17

White House spokesman J. Hogan Gidley ripped the FBI in an interview with Fox News on Friday, saying the bureau has an "extreme bias" against President Trump in the wake of the release of anti-Trump text messages between two FBI officials.

"It is troubling, deeply troubling, that the revelations have now come to light that there is extreme bias against this president with high-up members of the team there at the FBI who were investigating Hillary Clinton at the time," Gidley said on "Fox and Friends."

"We're a little concerned at what we're seeing here. Obviously, those text messages give us quite a bit of pause and should be eye-opening at an agency that should be, quite frankly unbiased," he added.

...The Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Thursday that it did not authorize the release of the text messages...


Edited: Dec 15, 2017, 11:57am Top

Trump's "going to rebuild the FBI"????

About To Talk At FBI, Trump Slams The Agency; Opens Door To Pardoning Flynn
NPR | December 15, 2017

On his way to Quantico, Va., to speak at the FBI's National Academy, President Trump stopped to tell reporters, "It's a shame what's happened with the FBI," and "you have a lot of very angry people that are seeing it."

Trump asserted that "we're going to rebuild the FBI" after what he described as "really, really disgraceful" documents, presumably the text messages that the Justice Department provided Congress this week in which a senior agent described candidate Trump as an "idiot" and made other political remarks in the course of the presidential campaign.

Trump also opened the door to pardoning Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI last month.

"I don't want to talk about pardons with Michael Flynn — yet," Trump said. "We'll see what happens. Let's see." ...


Dec 15, 2017, 12:09pm Top

I don't see what they're all angry about. That Trump is an idiot is an objective truth, probably one that most of the Republican's on the Justice committee recognize, not a political opinion and stating that truth is the opposite of bias.

Dec 15, 2017, 3:01pm Top

20 contd. Ranking Dem on House Intelligence Committee fears Rs will shut down Russia investigation, pave way for Mueller firing, etc.

Adam Schiff‏Verified account @RepAdamSchiff
15 Dec 2017

I’m increasingly worried Republicans will shut down the House Intelligence Committee investigation at the end of the month.

Here’s why:

Since March, our investigation has made important progress. We’ve interviewed numerous key witnesses behind closed doors, held public hearings, reviewed thousands of documents, identified new leads — all to understand and expose Russia's meddling and protect our democracy.

Yet, Republicans have scheduled no witnesses after next Friday and none in 2017. We have dozens of outstanding witnesses on key aspects of our investigation that they refuse to contact and many document requests they continue to sit on.

It appears Republicans want to conduct just enough interviews to give the impression of a serious investigation.

Next week, they scheduled critical witness interviews out of state, when we are voting on the tax bill and vital government funding bills and no Members will be able to ask questions, in an effort to squeeze them in before end of year.

These witnesses are willing to come to DC.

Despite our repeated urging, Majority has declined to issue subpoenas in numerous avenues of the investigation, where there's simply no other way to get the information. Some refusals we’ve made public, like witnesses hiding behind nonexistent privileges, many others we haven’t.

The responsibility to conduct a thorough investigation, or to prevent one, ultimately falls on @SpeakerRyan. I’m concerned he's heeding the calls of Bannon and @POTUS to “DO SOMETHING” by closing down the Russia investigation & opening up another investigation of Hilary Clinton.

Beyond our investigation, here’s what has me really concerned: The attacks on Mueller, DOJ and FBI this week make it clear they plan to go after Mueller’s investigation.

By shutting down the congressional investigations when they continue to discover new and important evidence, the White House can exert tremendous pressure to end or curtail Mueller’s investigation or cast doubt on it. We cannot let that happen.


Ranking Democrat raises alarm House committee will end Russia investigation
John Bowden | 12/15/17


Dec 16, 2017, 2:48pm Top

Democrat: Rumor is Trump could fire Mueller before Christmas
Josh Delk | 12/16/17

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.)...

“The rumor on the Hill when I left yesterday was that the president was going to make a significant speech at the end of next week. And on Dec. 22, when we are out of D.C., he was going to fire Robert Mueller," ...

Speier, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said that Trump was trying to shut down the committee's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, pointing to the lack of interviews scheduled for the new year.

The New York Times reported Friday that the committee is scheduling its final witnesses of the year to testify in New York, despite important votes coming up in Washington, D.C., and confirmed no additional witnesses are scheduled yet in 2018...



Kushner’s legal team looks to hire crisis public relations firm amid Russia probe
Josh Dawsey | December 15, 2017

...Crisis PR firms are often retained to handle a negative development or an avalanche of media inquiries...


Edited: Dec 17, 2017, 5:23am Top

Scoop: Mueller obtains "tens of thousands” of Trump transition emails

ETA _________________________

Trump transition lawyer accuses Mueller of unlawfully obtaining emails

...Several former Justice and national security officials and experts in federal criminal law cast doubt Saturday that the Trump transition team’s complaint amounted to a serious breach.

...several Democrats and former Justice officials cautioned that it may be an additional attempt at casting doubt on Mueller’s integrity.

...“Why are Trump's lawyers upset that Mueller obtained transition emails from a government agency? (Hint: They're just playing politics, but this is a bad sign for them.)," added former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti on Twitter.



Legal experts shrug shoulders: not illegal.

Politicos think this is part of Admin attempt to disparage Mueller. There must be something there.

Interesting twitter thread including

Scott Jacobs:
Emails, huh. Republicans don't do irony well.


Edited: Dec 18, 2017, 8:47am Top

Trump and supporters talk cleaning house and ending Special Investigation, not fire Mueller. Rosenstein, McCabe, as well as authors of texts, Strzok and Page have been target of verbal barrage. (Not hearing so much about Sessions recently: a conservative columnist wondered if he's playing possum rather than sleeping: DOJ's Inspector General report due early in year. Trump still calls him "weak", though.)

Trump says he won’t fire Mueller, as campaign to discredit Russia probe heats up
Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Sari Horwitz | December 17, 2017

...Trump’s lawyers, who have been assuring the president that Mueller’s investigation is poised to wrap up by January or so, are scheduled to meet with Mueller’s team this week for a routine status conference. They are expected to ask the special counsel if there are any other outstanding questions or materials that investigators need before concluding the probe.

...Liberal activist groups have readied mass protests in the event that Mueller is fired.

...Trump appeared to be contemplating changes in the Justice Department’s leadership. In recent discussions, two advisers said, Trump has called the attorney general “weak,” and complained that Rosenstein has shown insufficient accountability on the special counsel’s work. A senior official said Trump mocked Rosenstein’s recent testimony on Capitol Hill, saying he looked weak and unable to answer questions. Trump has ranted about Rosenstein as “a Democrat,” one of these advisers said, and characterized him as a threat to his presidency.

In fact, Rosenstein is a Republican...

...Fox News Channel segments attacking Mueller’s investigation...Jeanine Pirro, a former judge and prosecutor whose show is a Trump favorite...railed (Saturday) against Strzok and Page (authors of text messages), as well as Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe (I thought he would oversee Mueller in Rosenstein firing, but according to article (below) it would be recent Trump appointee Rachel Brand.)

...There are ways that Trump could fire Mueller, according to legal scholars and former Justice Department officials. Under the special counsel regulations, Mueller could be disciplined or removed from office only for “good cause” and “by the personal action of the attorney general.” In this case, Rosenstein is acting as the attorney general because Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation.

...If Trump fires Rosenstein, the next in line to oversee the special counsel is Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the third-ranking official in the Justice Department (Trump appointee)...



Trump predicts exoneration in Russia investigation as allies fear a 'meltdown'
Jeremy Diamond, Sara Murray and Manu Raju | Dec 18, 2017


Edited: Dec 18, 2017, 1:26pm Top

Greg Sargent at the Washington Post has some very definite opinions about the Fox News/Mueller probe story that is developing.

"Trump will be benefiting from a very powerful and far-reaching network of media propaganda on his behalf — one that casts all these ongoing efforts to subject Trump to basic accountability as fundamentally illegitimate "

"Fox seized on anti-Trump texts sent by a Mueller investigator — which, while newsworthy, are being appropriately handled by Mueller — to launch attacks on federal law enforcement that are truly hallucinatory."

"One Fox personality flatly stated that we now have “smoking gun evidence” of an alleged FBI coup against Trump and the “millions of American voters” who backed him. Fox’s Jeanine Pirro suggested it might be time to drag away Trump’s investigators “in cuffs.”"

"Stelter correctly notes that this is what Trump, an avid Fox viewer, “is hearing.” Indeed, he’s hearing it daily: We’re seeing a concerted effort to goad Trump into trying to remove Mueller. "

"But today’s vastly different media landscape creates incentives — or at least, the appearance of incentives — for Trump to opt for a course of full-blown autocracy and lawlessness. He is being goaded into such conduct by his media allies."

Dec 18, 2017, 3:50pm Top

A shitstorm at the EPA

Clean up in aisle 2, Mr. Pruitt!

(do go check out the photo.)

Dec 18, 2017, 5:11pm Top

The EPA, of all places! Near the Director's office...

Dec 19, 2017, 8:00am Top

Russia paid for Facebook ads promoting Jill Stein: ‘Trust me, it’s not a wasted vote’
David Ferguson | 27 Sep 2017

Russian-funded Facebook ads purchased during the 2016 presidential election promoted Green Party candidate Jill Stein as well as then-candidate Donald Trump and Democratic primary candidate Bernie Sanders.

...“Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein,” said the ad. “Trust me. It’s not a wasted vote. … The only way to take our country back is to stop voting for the corporations and banks that own us. #GrowaSpineVoteJillStein.”..

...Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election wiped out (Facebook) denials when it issued warrants to the social media platform demanding information...


Dec 21, 2017, 6:25am Top

White House Counsel Knew in January Flynn Probably Violated the Law
Murray Waas | December 20, 2017

...The White House turned over records this fall to special counsel Robert Mueller revealing that in the very first days of the Trump presidency, Don McGahn researched federal law dealing both with lying to federal investigators and with violations of the Logan Act, a centuries-old federal law that prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments...

...McGahn conducted the analysis shortly after learning that Flynn, on Dec. 29, 2016 — while Barack Obama was still president — had counseled the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey Kislyak, not to retaliate against U.S. economic sanctions imposed against Russia by the outgoing administration.

McGahn believed that Flynn, and possibly anyone who authorized or approved of such contacts, would be in potential violation of the Logan Act...

Despite McGahn’s concerns that Flynn violated one or both of these laws, Trump allowed Flynn to continue in his job and only fired him after the Washington Post reported that Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence and other senior administration officials about his contacts with Kislyak. That was 18 days after then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed McGahn of her own concerns about Flynn’s covert diplomacy with Russia prior to Trump taking office...


Dec 23, 2017, 7:17am Top

Prosecutors Said to Seek Kushner Records From Deutsche Bank
Ben Protess, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and David Enrich | Dec. 22, 2017

...In recent weeks, prosecutors from the United States attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York subpoenaed records from Deutsche Bank, the giant German financial institution that has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kushner family real estate business.

Mr. Kushner, who was the Kushner Companies’ chief executive until January, still owns part of the business after selling some of his stake. The family businesses include many legal entities. It is not clear which records were sought by prosecutors, what they are seeking to learn from them or to what degree, if any, they directly involve Mr. Kushner.

There is no indication that the subpoena is related to the investigation being conducted by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, into Russian meddling in the 2016 United States presidential election. Three prosecutors on Mr. Mueller’s team previously worked at the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn, one as recently as this year. Federal prosecutors around the country typically check with Justice Department headquarters when their investigations may overlap....


Dec 23, 2017, 7:47pm Top

And so it begins...

Andrew McCabe, F.B.I.’s Embattled Deputy, Is Expected to Retire
ADAM GOLDMAN | DEC. 23, 2017

WASHINGTON — The F.B.I.’s embattled deputy director, Andrew G. McCabe, an unlikely lightning rod who has been attacked repeatedly by President Trump and congressional Republicans, is expected to retire after he becomes eligible for his pension early next year, according to people familiar with his decision.

While Mr. McCabe’s plans to leave aren’t unexpected, his decision should take some of the pressure off Christopher A. Wray, who was confirmed as F.B.I. director in August. Mr. Trump has complained to confidantes that Mr. Wray has not moved fast enough to replace the senior leadership that he inherited from his predecessor, James B. Comey, whom Mr. Trump summarily dismissed in May.

A White House official said in a statement this week that many senior leaders of the bureau were “politically motivated” and said Mr. Wray was the “right choice to clean up the misconduct at the highest levels of the F.B.I.”

On Saturday, Mr. Trump went after Mr. McCabe and Mr. Comey again in a fusillade on Twitter.

And he seemed to mock Mr. McCabe for delaying his departure until his pension is fully vested in March.

In fact, as a career civil servant, Mr. McCabe, 49, has protections and cannot be pushed out by the president...


Edited: Dec 27, 2017, 12:56pm Top

Mueller is reportedly zeroing in on the Trump campaign's data operation — and the RNC
Natasha Bertrand|Dec 27, 2017

Special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly begun to question Republican National Committee staffers about the party's digital work with the Trump campaign last year.

The report indicates that Mueller may be homing in on yet another facet of Russia's election interference — its social media influence campaign and targeted political advertising.

Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner managed the Trump campaign's data operation and recently hired a crisis public relations firm to handle all press inquiries.

...Mueller's team is examining whether the joint RNC-Trump campaign data operation — which was directed on Trump's side by Brad Parscale and managed by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner — "was related to the activities of Russian trolls and bots aimed at influencing the American electorate."

The FBI has been scrutinizing Kushner's contacts in December 2016 with the Russian ambassador to the US and the CEO of a sanctioned Russian bank.

It is not surprising that federal investigators have begun to examine the possibility that Russia and the Trump campaign helped each other during the election. Investigators have been looking into whether Russia provided the campaign with voter information stolen by Russian hackers from election databases in several states, and whether the Trump campaign helped Russia target its political ads to specific demographics and voting precincts...

...Parscale's letter, meanwhile, mirrored those written by the RNC data firms (responding to House Oversight and Judiciary committee whether firms received "information from a foreign government or foreign actor" at any point during the election) and used virtually the same language — with one notable exception.

Whereas the firms' letters included a line denying that they had had contact with any "foreign government or foreign actor," Parscale's did not...


Dec 30, 2017, 10:37am Top

Worrying about DPRK, I used to think Pence might be less likely than Trump to cause a war, but then Jerusalem...

You Want Trump Impeached? Be Prepared for the Pious Pastor Pence
Michael A. Genovese | 12/29/17

“I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” – Mike Pence, Speech to Republican National Convention, 2017

...As vice presiden,t Pence has been hosting a Bible-study group for members of the Trump cabinet. The group is led by pastor Ralph Drollinger, who in 2004 wrote that “women with children at home, who either serve in public office, or are employed on the outside, pursue a path that contradicts God’s revealed design for them. It is a sin.”

Drollinger also characterizes Catholicism as “a false religion” and believes that a wife must “submit” to the husband.

Pence is an ardent adherent of “The Billy Graham Rule,” a rule adopted by some evangelical pastors and business executives. In an effort to avoid temptation, followers of the rule who want to both appear to be, and to be above reproach, avoid “. . . every appearance of evil.”

...The Onion...“Mike Pence asks waiter to remove Mrs. Butterworth From Table Until Wife Arrives”.

...Some liberal commentators worry that a President Pence might be a more competent version of President Trump, that he would actually be able to work with a Republican Congress and get major legislation passed.

While more politically experienced than Trump, it should be remembered that in his twelve years in Congress, Mike Pence did not author a single bill that was enacted into law. Hope springs eternal.

But the real danger of a Pence presidency is how seriously he takes the radical “religious” right’s wish list, and how he might try to impose a narrow set of religious rules on a wary population.

Pence believes he is in possession of God’s Truth, and why let a pesky Constitution, or an annoying Bill of Rights, stand in the way of God’s will?

Heaven help us.


Edited: Dec 31, 2017, 6:21am Top

Not the dossier that tipped off FBI--loose lips!

We now know the tipping point that prompted the FBI to launch its Trump-Russia investigation
Sonam Sheth | Dec 30, 2017

The FBI decided to investigate whether President Trump's campaign colluded with Russia after early foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos told a top Australian diplomat that Russia had compromising information on Hillary Clinton, The New York Times reported.

Though there were several events that prompted the bureau to investigate the campaign, Papadopoulos' conversation with the diplomat was reportedly the one that led the bureau to formally launch its probe.

Newly obtained emails also show that Papadopoulos' reach and influence within the campaign was greater than previously known...


Jan 1, 5:00am Top

Devin Nunes, targeting Mueller and the FBI, alarms Democrats and some Republicans with his tactics
Karoun Demirjian | December 31, 2017

...(Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), a member of the Intelligence panel who also chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, suggested that Nunes has taken some of these steps without the express blessing of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who has been involved in crafting the GOP’s multipronged approach to examining a string of allegations from Russian election interference to alleged mismanagement at the nation’s top law enforcement agencies.

...Although (Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)) has not officially wrested (House Intelligence Committee)’s Russia probe back from the Republicans he deputized to run it, the chairman’s reemergence as a combative Trump loyalist has raised alarm among Democrats that the future of the investigation may be clipped short or otherwise undermined. Even some of Nunes’s GOP allies have expressed concern about his tactics, prompting rare public warnings that he should temper his attacks on federal law enforcement.

...Nunes never relinquished his sole, unchecked authority to sign off on subpoenas even as he handed the day-to-day operations to Reps. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.), Gowdy and Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.)...


Edited: Jan 2, 11:09am Top

Why Trump’s War on the Deep State Is Failing—So Far
Benjamin Wittes | January 1, 2018

... He has demanded substantive outcomes from investigations.

He has demanded investigations of political opponents.

He has raged against the norms that prevent these wishes from being fulfilled.

He has attacked—publicly and by name—people who have acted honorably to defend those norms.

He fired the redoubtable FBI director whom I flagged as an inconvenient bulwark—for precisely the reason that James Comey was functioning as an inconvenient bulwark.

He has harassed Comey’s management team and demanded publicly their replacement.

He has made the environment for those assistant U.S. attorneys committed to their jobs so uncomfortable that one literally sat in my office and told me that he was going to resign because “I don’t want to stand up in court any more and say, I’m his name and I represent the United States.”

He has appointed an attorney general he specifically intended to protect him and go after his opponents.

...We have to be concerned that Trump is in the process of normalizing for an entire political movement the politicization and weaponization of law enforcement and intelligence. No, he has not yet successfully corrupted these institutions. But he has made surprising inroads in corrupting public expectations of them. That damage is hard to calculate—but it could end up being devastating.

So for right now, let’s consider the damage—both tangible and intangible—as a work in progress: non-trivial, potentially severe, but so far not catastrophic, and difficult ultimately to assess...



Must be pitching this to followers--if these people ever were in legal jeopardy his poisoning jury well makes for plausible defense.
This from man who gave sensitive intelligence (of ally!) to Russians(!):

Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aid, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents. Remember sailors pictures on submarine? Jail! Deep State Justice Dept must finally act? Also on Comey & others

@realDonaldTrump 7:48 AM - Jan 2, 2018

Edited: Jan 3, 1:56pm Top

Some Trump Supporters Think Mueller’s Grand Jury Has Too Many Black People

A Trump associate who “recently testified” complained to New York Post columnist Richard Johnson that the members of the grand jury in Washington looked like they came from a Black Lives Matter protest.

“The grand jury room looks like a Bernie Sanders rally,” the witness told Page Six. “Maybe they found these jurors in central casting, or at a Black Lives Matter rally in Berkeley.”

...the Page Six column quickly gained traction in conservative media circles Tuesday night.


Brian Kilmeade on Fox & Friends: “So it’s not even emblematic of something that might be, perhaps, demographically pursuing justice.”

Jan 3, 3:45pm Top

Boy the news is hot today.

Trump ex-campaign chair Manafort sues Mueller, Rosenstein and Department of Justice

"The actions of DOJ and Mr. Rosenstein in issuing the Appointment Order, and Mr. Mueller's actions pursuant to the authority the Order granted him, were arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with the law," the suit reads.
Manafort's suit alleges the order appointing Mueller "exceeds the Deputy Attorney General's authority." All actions taken by the special counsel "must be set aside," it reads.

Jan 8, 1:15pm Top

Kushner’s Financial Ties to Israel Deepen Even With Mideast Diplomatic Role

...$30 million investment from Menora Mivtachim (in MD apt bldgs), an insurer that is one of Israel’s largest financial institutions

...Mr. Kushner resigned as chief executive of Kushner Companies when he joined the White House last January. But he remains the beneficiary of a series of trusts that own stakes in Kushner properties and other investments. Those are worth as much as $761 million, according to government ethics filings, and most likely much more

...teamed up with at least one member of Israel’s wealthy Steinmetz family to buy nearly $200 million of Manhattan apartment buildings, as well as to build a luxury rental tower in New Jersey. The family’s best-known member, Beny Steinmetz, is the subject of a United States Justice Department bribery investigation.

...taken out at least four loans from Israel’s largest bank, Bank Hapoalim, which is the subject of a Justice Department investigation over allegations that it helped wealthy Americans evade taxes.

...bought several floors of the former New York Times headquarters building in Manhattan from Lev Leviev, an Israeli businessman and philanthropist

...Kushner family’s foundation continues to donate money to a settlement group in the West Bank

...“A lot of people wonder whether the United States has ever been an honest broker in the Middle East, and given the positions of the Trump administration, it’s probably even more vulnerable to those claims,” said Richard W. Painter, who was the chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush and is a professor at the University of Minnesota law school.

Now, the United States is “sending over a special envoy who has already identified himself personally more with the hawkish views,” Mr. Painter said, and “he is getting money from wealthy citizens and businesses in one particular country.”...


Jan 10, 9:23am Top

Trump Administration Waives Punishment For Convicted Banks, Including Deutsche — Which Trump Owes Millions
David Sirota AND Josh Keefe | 01/09/18

The Trump administration has waived part of the punishment for five megabanks whose affiliates were convicted and fined for manipulating global interest rates. One of the Trump administration waivers was granted to Deutsche Bank — which is owed at least $130 million by President Donald Trump and his business empire, and has also been fined for its role in a Russian money laundering scheme.

The waivers were issued in a little-noticed announcement published in the Federal Register during the Christmas holiday week...


Jan 10, 9:56am Top

Trump’s secretive real estate sales continue unabated
Nick Penzenstadler Jan. 10, 2018

President Trump’s companies sold more than $35 million in real estate in 2017, mostly to secretive shell companies that obscure buyers’ identities, continuing a dramatic shift in his customers' behavior that began during the election, a USA TODAY review found.

...The trend toward Trump's real estate buyers buyers obscuring their identities began around the time he won the Republican nomination, midway through 2016, according to USA TODAY's analysis of every domestic real estate sale by one of his companies.

In the two years before the nomination, 4% of Trump buyers utilized the tactic. In the year after, the rate skyrocketed to about 70%. USA TODAY's tracking of sales shows the trend held firm through Trump's first year in office.

Profits from sales of those properties flow through a trust run by Trump’s sons. The president is the sole beneficiary of the trust and he can withdraw cash at any time...


Jan 11, 5:56am Top

HRC sat for a daylong FBI interview, and Bill Clinton testified for four hours under oath. In contrast, Trump can barely tweet without incriminating himself...

From article below, sounds like finances, obstruction, and relatives are biggest minefields for Trump in an FBI interview, but I'm sure Mueller hasn't shared all--yet.

Initial talks underway about Trump interview in Mueller Russia probe
Kristen Welker, Carol E. Lee, Julia Ainsley and Hallie Jackson | Jan 10, 2017

...(interview) could come in a matter of weeks.

Trump's legal team is seeking clarification on whether the president would be interviewed directly by Mueller, as well as the legal standard for when a president can be interviewed, the location of a possible interview, the topics and the duration. But the president's team is also seeking potential compromises that could avoid an interview altogether...

...those internal discussions (avoid interview) within Trump's legal team began shortly after the president's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was indicted in late October for money laundering in connection with his business dealings with Ukraine.

In addition to the possibility of suggesting the president submit written responses in place of an interview, a second person familiar with the president's legal strategy said another possibility being contemplated was an affidavit signed by the president affirming he was innocent of any wrongdoing and denying any collusion. It was not clear what such an affidavit might state regarding the president's firing of former FBI Director James Comey in May 2017 at a time when Comey was leading the Russia probe.

Justice Department veterans cast doubt on the possibility that Mueller, who served as FBI director for 12 years, would forgo the chance to interview the president directly.

...Criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz ..."I would never let the prosecution interview my client," said Dershowitz, "but I don't represent the president of the United States, and presidents don't want to plead the Fifth. So this route makes sense."

...Hillary Clinton, who lost the 2016 election to Trump, sat for a daylong interview at FBI headquarters during the campaign as part of a separate probe into whether she mishandled government email. The FBI found no evidence of a crime but Trump continued to cite the interview throughout the campaign and called for her imprisonment.

Former President Bill Clinton, who was under investigation by an independent counsel, testified under oath and on camera before a federal grand jury for some four hours in 1998 in connection with a relationship he had with a White House intern and previous relationships with other women while married...Clinton appeared uncomfortable and halting at times...


Jan 12, 3:25am Top

Pence is often seen beaming behind Trump. Interesting that in Trump's response to Fire and Fury,
Pence's lips were pressed and his brow wrinkled ever so slightly.

Here's what controversial book on Trump White House says about Vice President Pence
Maureen Groppe | Jan. 5, 2018

...Vice President Pence runs a tight-knit operation, and his — and his aides’ — lips apparently remained sealed around author Michael Wolff.

“Little leaked out of the Pence side of the White House,” Wolff wrote in "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House."

Wolff calls Pence a “cipher, a smiling presence either resisting his own obvious power or unable to seize it.”

...An Indiana Republican who knows Pence has a positive view on why Pence is largely absent from the book.

“My takeaway from Wolff excerpts is what isn’t said: When everyone else in the West Wing is busy fighting amongst themselves, where is Mike Pence? He was busy stocking administration with Hoosiers and ideological allies, trying to ensure long term success of conservative policy,” tweeted Trevor Foughty, a former spokesman for the Indiana Republican Party.

...Katie Walsh, a former deputy chief of staff to Trump...“saw the vice president’s office as a point of calm in the storm.” Pence’s aides returned calls quickly, accomplished tasks easily, liked each other and were dedicated to eliminating as much friction as possible around the vice president, according to the book.

Pence himself, Wolff wrote, used “extreme self-effacement” to solve “the riddle of how to serve as the junior partner to a president who could not tolerate any kind of comparisons.”

“Pence,” Walsh is quoted as saying, “is not dumb.” (Walsh has said she did not make statements in the book attributed to her.)

While Pence’s stay-in-the-shadows approach may work with Trump, his “extreme submissiveness struck some as suspicious,” Wolff wrote in a section on how the Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner faction in the White House viewed Pence.

Those allied with former chief of staff Reince Priebus liked that Pence was one of the few West Wing figures who treated Priebus as if he actually was chief of staff. Yet, Wolff adds this dig from that faction: “Pence often seemed like a mere staffer, the ever present note taker in so many meetings,”

And the third competing faction in the early White House — Steve Bannon, the chief strategist who the White House says gave Wolff access to the administration — had only contempt for Pence, according to the book.

“Pence is like the husband in Ozzie and Harriet, a nonevent,” the book quotes "one Bannonite" saying.

After Bannon observed a “hapless Pence,” in a lot of “wrong meetings” regarding the Russia investigation, he helped to bring Nick Ayers in as Pence’s chief of staff and get Pence — “our fallback guy” — out around the world to look like a vice president.

“Although many saw him as a vice president who might well assume the presidency someday, he was also perceived as the weakest vice president in decades,” Wolff wrote, ”and, in organizational terms, an empty suit who was useless in the daily effort to help restrain the president and stabilize the West Wing.”...


Edited: Jan 18, 10:33am Top

FBI investigating whether Russian money went to NRA to help Trump
Peter Stone And Greg Gordon | January 18, 2018

The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.

FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.

...the NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Trump – triple what the group devoted to backing Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Most of that was money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors.

Two people with close connections to the powerful gun lobby said its total election spending actually approached or exceeded $70 million. The reporting gap could be explained by the fact that independent groups are not required to reveal how much they spend on Internet ads or field operations, including get-out-the-vote efforts.

...Torshin, a leading figure in Putin’s party, has been implicated in money laundering by judicial authorities in Spain, as Bloomberg News first revealed in 2016. Spanish investigators alleged in an almost 500-page internal report that Torshin, who was then a senator, capitalized on his government role to assist mobsters laundering funds through Spanish properties and banks, Bloomberg reported

...Investigators for three congressional committees probing Russia’s 2016 operations also have shown interest in Torshin, a lifetime NRA member who has attended several of its annual conventions. At the group’s meeting in Kentucky in May 2016, Torshin spoke to Donald Trump Jr. during a gala event at the group’s national gathering in Kentucky in May 2016, when his father won an earlier-than-usual NRA presidential endorsement...


Jan 18, 2:00pm Top

Jared Kushner Still Doesn’t Have Security Clearance After a Year At the White House

“It’s not normal,” Jordan Libowitz, communications director at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told Newsweek. “Jared has had issues with accuracy, both in his security clearance forms and financial disclosures. He’s had to amend his forms to add quite a few contacts with Russians, and he’s amended his financial disclosures 39 times. One or two times, no one would bat an eye, but this is unprecedented.”

39 times!

"If Jared Kushner was working for any other department in the U.S. government and these issues arose…about falsifying a clearance or omitting information…his access would be first suspended. And then if there’s no other position he could hold, he’d be out of work without pay. He’d be off the job," Joseph Kaplan, founding principal attorney at Passman & Kaplan, P.C., told Newsweek last month. "If he was anybody else, his security clearance would have already been denied."

Jan 19, 11:29am Top

Jared Kushner Still Doesn’t Have Security Clearance After a Year At the White House!!!

White House looks for faster top-secret clearances
Posted 2/14/2007 10:07 PM ET

By Richard Willing, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The White House is considering making it easier for people to obtain top-secret security clearances by eliminating some time-consuming background checks, says the Bush administration's point man on clearances.
The goal, says Clay Johnson III, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, is to speed up a process that, according to a series of government reports, wastes millions of dollars and endangers public safety by leaving thousands of defense, homeland security and intelligence jobs unfilled for more than a year.

Johnson plans to report to Congress today that the executive branch is making "significant progress" toward clearing a backlog of uncompleted clearance applications that government contractors and others say exceeds 350,000.
Three million federal workers now require security clearances for jobs ranging from routine computer system maintenance to sensitive analysis of spy satellite photos. All require at least a background check of personal and work history, foreign travel and finances. Top-secret clearance currently requires interviews with neighbors, references and current and former spouses.
A committee is considering eliminating interviews with neighbors and character references in cases where a candidate is cleared by other parts of the investigation, such as checks of criminal and financial records, Johnson says. "Do we really need to talk to five neighbors (of a candidate)? Do we really need all the colleges (the candidate attended)?" he asks.
Change 'overdue'
Clearances are "long overdue" for an overhaul, says Rep. Tom Davis, of Virginia, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Davis' district in the Washington suburbs includes thousands of government workers and contractors.
The delays in approving security clearances cost taxpayers "millions and millions," Davis says, as work goes undone and civilian contractors who already have clearances command higher salaries and big hiring bonuses.
Johnson's report today is required by a December 2004 intelligence-reform law that said 80% of clearance applications should be investigated, granted or rejected within 120 days.

… … …

Outdated procedures
Critics of the clearance backlog say outdated security requirements are partly to blame.
World War II and Cold War-era rules still require extensive background checks for recruits who were born outside the USA or who have close family members overseas, says Tim Roemer, a Democratic former House member who was on the commission that studied pre-9/11 intelligence failures.
Those rules make it difficult for intelligence agencies to tap first-generation Americans with families in the Middle East, South Asia and other places where background checks are difficult, Roemer says.
"The intelligence community has to go from a risk-averse (clearance) system to a risk-management system," says Roemer, now president of the Center for National Policy in Washington.
The rush to clear the backlog, however, may be producing problems of its own.
Last year, the Government Accountability Office examined a random sample of 50 background investigations for top-secret clearances and found that 47 lacked one or more pieces of key documentation. In one case, investigators failed to pursue information suggesting that one applicant had had extramarital affairs and defaulted on "several thousand dollars" in loans.

Jan 19, 12:13pm Top

Interest that Trump wants "extreme vetting" for immigrants but wants the opposite for security clearances.

Jan 19, 12:33pm Top

>50 jjwilson61:

Well, no, not exactly--at least not based on the (2007) news report from USA Today.

But, yes, " 'extreme vetting' for immigrants" --good idea. Quite overdue.

Jan 20, 8:45am Top

Jared Kushner Is China’s Trump Card
How the President’s son-in-law, despite his inexperience in diplomacy, became Beijing’s primary point of interest.
Adam Entous and Evan Osnos | January 29, 2018 Issue

...Chinese officials said that Cui and Kushner, in meetings to prepare for the summit at Mar-a-Lago, discussed Kushner’s business interests along with policy.

...Kushner’s once expansive role in the White House has narrowed, and he no longer meets frequently with Ambassador Cui. Still, by his own description, he is as confident as ever that his instincts, honed in the family business, can serve him, and the country, well.


Jan 22, 4:41pm Top

Alleged payment to porn star was illegal donation to Trump campaign, watchdog says
The call from Common Cause for criminal prosecution echoes charges against John Edwards.
JOSH GERSTEIN | 01/22/2018

A watchdog group filed a pair of complaints on Monday alleging that a $130,000 payment reportedly made to a pornographic film actress who claims to have had an affair with Donald Trump violated campaign finance laws.

In submissions to the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission, Common Cause said the alleged payment to Stephanie Clifford — who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels — amounted to an in-kind donation to Trump's presidential campaign that should have been publicly disclosed in its official reports.

An attorney for Common Cause, Paul Ryan, said the payment appeared to be hush money. He compared the situation to the series of events that resulted in the prosecution of former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) over nearly $1 million in payments allegedly made to cover up an affair he had with videographer Rielle Hunter during his 2008 presidential bid...


Jan 23, 8:52am Top

Trump sold $35M in real estate in 2017, mostly to secretive buyers
Nick Penzenstadler | Jan. 10, 2018 |

President Trump’s companies sold more than $35 million in real estate in 2017, mostly to secretive shell companies that obscure buyers’ identities, continuing a dramatic shift in his customers' behavior that began during the election...

...The trend toward Trump's real estate buyers obscuring their identities began around the time he won the Republican nomination, midway through 2016...

In the two years before the nomination, 4% of Trump buyers utilized the tactic. In the year after, the rate skyrocketed to about 70%. USA TODAY's tracking of sales shows the trend held firm through Trump's first year in office.

Profits from sales of those properties flow through a trust run by Trump’s sons. The president is the sole beneficiary of the trust and he can withdraw cash at any time....


Jan 23, 11:13am Top

Attorney general interviewed by special counsel investigating Russian interference in 2016
Ellen Nakashima and Sari Horwitz | January 23, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was interviewed last week by investigators for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe into possible coordination between Russia and Trump associates...

Sessions was questioned for several hours, the officials said. In addition to the Russian coordination probe, Mueller is also investigating whether President Trump or any White House officials sought to obstruct justice in the probe.

...the first known instance of a Cabinet official being interviewed in the Mueller investigation

...In December, Sessions pushed FBI Director Christopher A. Wray to remove and replace some of his top aides, particularly Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Trump and others have argued those top aides, who served at the FBI under Comey, are biased against the president.


Edited: Jan 23, 12:33pm Top

>55 margd:

"...the first known instance of a Cabinet official being interviewed in the Mueller investigation"


I await your forthcoming announcement--when the time comes-- of Mueller's being "interviewed" himself in relation to a Dept. of Justice investigation into the Russia-Trump probe's origins and potential obstruction of justice charges against present or former agents and officials of the F.B.I. and, speaking of former cabinet members, certain former members of the Obama White House staff and cabinet or other presidential appointees-- Loretta Lynch, for example, Hillary Clinton, for example, James Comey, for example.

"Oh! What a web we weave...!"

It will be quite impressive to hear the above-mentioned respond, under oath, before a congressional committee, themselves or, more likely, through their lawyers,

"Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I (or "my client") respectfully decline(s) to answer, invoking my (his (or her, as the case may be)) rights under the Fifth Amendment."

How long before these former officials are asked, (à la the Watergate select committees) "What did you know and when did you know it?"

Before this idiocy is finished, many once-respected newspapers, magazines and broadcasters--The New York Times, The New Yorker magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, MSNBC, CNN, ABC News (esp. "The View", LOL!) NBC News, and others are going to eat a lot of crow.


Edited: Jan 23, 4:51pm Top

If a senior cabinet secretary is being interviewed, who's next?

(Make popcorn--I suspect crow will NOT be on the menu :)

Mueller seeks to question Trump about Flynn and Comey departures
Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey | January 23, 2018

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is seeking to question President Trump in the coming weeks about his decisions to oust national security adviser Michael Flynn and FBI Director James B. Comey, according to two people familiar with his plans.

Mueller’s interest in the events that led Trump to push out Flynn and Comey indicates that his investigation is intensifying its focus on possible efforts by the president or others to obstruct or blunt the special counsel’s probe.

...Mueller has also expressed interest in Trump’s efforts to remove Jeff Sessions as attorney general or pressure him into quitting, according to a person familiar with the probe who said the special counsel was seeking to determine whether there was a “pattern” of behavior by the president...


Edited: Jan 23, 2:12pm Top

>57 margd: : "(Make popcorn--I suspect crow will NOT be on the menu :)"

You didn't suspect that Trump would be the Republican Party's nominee.

You didn't suspect that Hillary's own foolishness would cause her more trouble than her opponents.

You didn't suspect she'd be caught having used insider manipulations to cheat Sen. Bernie Sanders out of a fair race for the nomination.

You didn't suspect that Trump would actually win the election despite failing to get a majority of the overall national ballots taken as a whole.

You didn't suspect that Trump would last a year in office rather than being removed by impeachment and conviction or by the abuse of the 25th amendment--assuming you'd even heard of the 25th amendment.

You didn't suspect that, rather than actually finding credible evidence of Trump administration or campaign wrong-doing, the Mueller probe and its ancillary effects would instead actually turn up much more damning evidence of Democratic party and Clinton campaign wrong-doing.

You have no idea--that's clear from your desperately lame posting.

Nor did you "suspect" that two F.B.I. agents--in the middle of their own clandestine romance--were texting each other messages about the investigation into supposed Russian-Trump collusion,

(Page, however, said multiple times she didn’t think Strzok should join the investigation.)

“You shouldn’t take this on. I promise you, I would tell you if you should,” she wrote.

Strzok later said he feels he has “a sense of unfinished business."

“Now I need to fix and finish it," he wrote.

However, Strzok expressed skepticism about whether the case would uncover any wrongdoing.

“You and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely, I’d be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern there’s no big there there,” Strzok wrote.

(The FBI notified lawmakers late last week that it was unable to preserve text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page.)

from The Hill :


Jan 24, 4:46am Top

Trump asked the acting FBI director how he voted during Oval Office meeting
Ellen Nakashima, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett | January 23, 2018

Shortly after President Trump fired his FBI director in May, he summoned to the Oval Office the bureau’s acting director for a get-to-know-you meeting.

...before long, Trump...asked Andrew McCabe a pointed question: Whom did he vote for in the 2016 election?

McCabe said he didn’t vote...

Trump...also vented his anger at McCabe over the several hundred thousand dollars in donations that his wife, a Democrat, received for her failed 2015 Virginia state Senate bid from a political action committee controlled by a close friend of Hillary Clinton.

...the Trump-McCabe conversation is of interest to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

...McCabe plan(s) to retire from the FBI in March once he becomes fully eligible for his pension

...(AG Jeff) Sessions has pressed (FBI Director Christopher A. Wray) to replace McCabe...


Jan 24, 5:13am Top

Obstruction of justice file:

Day of bombshells takes Mueller probe to critical point
Stephen Collinson | January 24, 2018

..."It's possible that Mueller is closing in on his determination about what obstruction looks like, whether it is a criminal offense in his mind, whether it is an impeachable offense, or whether it amounts to nothing," Michael Zeldin, a former senior aide to Mueller at the Justice Department...

..."Sometimes you get to the end of an investigation and you have the final interview (Trump, obstruction of justice) to check the box," former US Attorney Preet Bharara said..."It may be that this will lead to something very significant and earth-shattering and earth-shaking for the country, it also could be something they are just putting to bed."

...Refusing Mueller's request could force the special counsel to subpoena the President to testify to a grand jury...

...Mueller is now armed with the testimony of Comey, Sessions and that of a cooperating witness Flynn, all of whom could have shed light on crucial conversations with the President.

He likely also has a large quantity of evidence from other sources, including interviews, emails and other testimony and doubtlessly already knows the answer to many of the questions he will pose to Trump, putting the President on thin ice if he is not completely truthful.

Mueller also has the benefit of contemporaneous memos written by Comey after several meetings with the President in which he detailed what he later said was an effort by the President to develop a inappropriate relationship of "patronage" with him.

Trump said last year that he would be "100 percent" willing to testify to Mueller under oath. CNN has reported that some of the President's friends and associates have warned him not to put himself in legal jeopardy by voluntarily submitting to an interviews. Earlier this month, Trump appeared to walk back on the prospect of meeting Mueller.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday that the White House is "fully cooperative" with Mueller but believes the American people are ready to move on. But a new CNN poll appeared to counter that assertion, finding that 8 in 10 people said Trump should testify to Mueller if asked, including 59% of Republicans.



Money laundering / foreign lobbying (collusion?) file:

Exclusive: New signs Gates may be negotiating with Mueller's team
Katelyn Polantz | January 23, 2018

...At this stage, with Gates' charges filed and bail set, talks could concern the charges and Gates' plea.

...Gates pleaded not guilty in October to eight charges of money laundering and failing to register foreign lobbying and other business. His longtime business partner, former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, pleaded not guilty to nine counts in the same case as Gates.

...a softer touch that Mueller's team is using with Gates (than with) Manafort...


Jan 24, 5:36am Top

It is an amazing thing that Donald Trump is perceived as championing Christian values
while the churchgoing war hero, incorruptible public servant, and devoted father of a disabled child Robert Mueller
is a demon figure to religious right

David Frum‏ @davidfrum
5:23 AM - 23 Jan 2018


Jan 24, 12:51pm Top

>53 margd: It was awfully convenient that lawyer Cohen could produce an affidavit signed by Stormy Daniels. If there was no affair, why would he even have such a document to refute the story.

Jan 25, 3:53am Top

"Alleged payment"? Why "alleged"? You mean the supposed payment isn't even verified?, substantiated? You mean this is another FUCKING BULLSHIT RUMOR from you people?

If you aren't already on Mueller's payroll, you ought to apply for regular paid work in his cult-group.

Jan 25, 4:13am Top

Since this thread is supposed to be about watching for scandals, let's notice one, reported on here: Clinton–Obama Emails: The Key to Understanding Why Hillary Wasn’t Indicted by Andrew C. McCarthy (from the National Review


"For the moment, I want to put aside the latest controversy — the FBI’s failure to retain five months of text messages between Strzok and Page, those chattiest of star-crossed lovers. Yes, this “glitch” closes our window on a critical time in the Trump-Russia investigation: mid December 2016 through mid May 2017. That is when the bureau and Justice Department were reportedly conducting and renewing (in 90-day intervals) court-approved FISA surveillance that may well have focused on the newly sworn-in president of the United States. (Remember: The bureau’s then-director, James Comey, testified at a March 20 House Intelligence Committee hearing that the investigation was probing possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Kremlin interference in the election.)

"The retention default has been chalked up to a technological mishap. Assuming that this truly was an indiscriminate, bureau-wide problem — that lost texts are not limited to phones involved in the Trump-Russia investigation — it is hard to imagine its going undetected for five months in an agency whose business is information retention. But it is not inconceivable. Attorney General Jeff Sessions maintains that an aggressive inquiry is underway, so let’s assume (for argument’s sake, at least) that either the texts will be recovered or a satisfactory explanation for their non-retention will be forthcoming.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/455696/hillary-clinton-barack-obama-emails..."

---> "The retention default has been chalked up to a technological mishap. Assuming that this truly was an indiscriminate, bureau-wide problem — that lost texts are not limited to phones involved in the Trump-Russia investigation — it is hard to imagine its going undetected for five months in an agency whose business is information retention. But it is not inconceivable.


How is it "not inconceivable"? Over five months, no one in the Bureau ever had need to check, verify, something which should have required their retrieving these kinds of data from stored files?

Jan 25, 12:39pm Top

The Memo

Trump and the great GOP abdication

1. Sen. Mark Warner (Va.) — the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee — will publicly say that classified information debunks the arguments reportedly made in the now-notorious secret memo by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), which bolsters the idea that the Russia investigation is a Deep-State Coup against Trump. Nunes has made this memo available to members of Congress, in what Democrats charge is a selective cherry-picking of intelligence designed to arm Republicans with talking points to discredit the Russia probe.

2. Rep. Adam Schiff — Nunes’s Democratic counterpart on the House Intelligence Committee — announced that he would produce his own report purportedly debunking the Nunes memo and will ask the committee to allow members of Congress to view it, too

3. the Justice Department released a letter to Nunes arguing that the memo’s release would compromise intelligence operations and would deviate from a “good faith” arrangement on the terms of access to classified info negotiated between the Justice Department, the House Intelligence Committee and House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office.

a commenter:
"One can only deduce that many GOP Congressmen have been as compromised as Trump by Russians, though some may not even know it. The many avenues for donor shielded dark money (via Citizens United) has made it easy for foreign influence peddling and meddling to occur, aside from the bot laced internet. One need only look into the 30 Million dollar NRA dark money scandal to see it.

Extremist views, such as those pushed by the far right, are not native hard working middle American viewpoints. Biasing opinion requires a whole lot of help! Americans used to be straight shooters who demanded to know who EXACTLY is behind the veil. The current GOP is terrified of even taking a peek"

I've been wondering the exact same thing.

Edited: Jan 26, 4:49am Top

>65 2wonderY:

"2. Rep. Adam Schiff — Nunes’s Democratic counterpart on the House Intelligence Committee — announced that he would produce his own report purportedly debunking the Nunes memo and will ask the committee to allow members of Congress to view it, too"

Good! let Schiff produce--and release!--his own goddamned report! Let's see what he's got! I'll tell you right now: his "report" won't contain any observable, verifiable facts of any pertinence to the issues involved here.

As for the charge that the Nunes memo constitutes "a selective cherry-picking of intelligence designed to arm Republicans with talking points to discredit the Russia probe," please note:

the "Russia probe" (LOL!) has no 'creditbility' to be 'discredited.'

"the Justice Department released a letter to Nunes arguing that the memo’s release would compromise intelligence operations "

--- Yep. This is what Nixon argued-- the investigation into his clandestine White House "Plumbers" operations would compromise national security. That's what they always say.


>61 margd:

Your desperate attempts at distraction from actual serious criminal matters.

Jan 26, 6:20am Top

To recap:

Trump asked Comey for loyalty;
asked him to drop the Flynn probe;
fired Comey;
pressured Sessions not to recuse;
pressured Sessions to fire McCabe;
pressured Coats, Rogers, Pompeo &multiple congressmen to say he wasn’t under FBI investigation; and
tried to fire Mueller.

Natasha Bertrand @NatashaBertrand (staff writer, The Atlantic )
9h9 hours ago (1/25/2018)

Jan 26, 6:29am Top

>67 margd:

Nice try. Simplifiying the complex, sad. 'Your desperate attempts at distraction from actual serious criminal matters.' yes, by piling on criminal matters, particularly duplictious, sneaky, and...treasonous! Unless you have a Canadian passport?

Jan 26, 7:04am Top

:) Maybe you'd prefer:

It’s Now Likely Mueller Thinks Trump Obstructed Justice
Thursday’s bombshell news points toward one conclusion: The special counsel has the goods on the president.
RENATO MARIOTTI | January 26, 2018

...Even if Mueller concludes that he could prove beyond a reasonable doubt in court that Trump was guilty of obstructing justice, I believe he will ultimately present the matter to Congress for potential impeachment instead. After all, according to the New York Times, former independent counsel Kenneth Starr possessed a legal memo concluding that he had the power to indict former President Bill Clinton but did not do so, ultimately choosing to present the matter to Congress. I think Mueller would likely do the same thing, because it’s the more prudential approach given that it’s an open legal question whether a sitting president can be indicted.

One issue that is rarely discussed is how Mueller would make such a report to Congress, because he has no direct authority to do so. He could do so via Rosenstein, who has repeatedly defended the special counsel’s investigation. He could also present evidence to the grand jury, which could issue its own report, a rare practice that has occasionally occurred in high-profile cases. It’s hard to believe Mueller couldn’t find a way to present a report of his findings if he wanted to do so.

Whether a Republican Congress would take action against Trump, regardless of Mueller’s conclusions, is anyone’s guess. But Thursday’s news made impeachment proceedings against Trump more likely. Ultimately the president’s performance in his upcoming interview with Mueller could prove decisive. Trump has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of discipline when questioned, and Mueller has a lot to work with. If Trump provides the special counsel with direct evidence of his intent when firing Comey, he could ensure that Mueller will conclude he obstructed justice, leaving his fate to Congress.


Jan 26, 7:48am Top

See, making the simple complex like a said

Edited: Jan 26, 8:57am Top

To correct odious bullshit--or otherwise state things by their true description:

To recap counter margd's distortions :

Trump asked Comey for loyalty to whom or what Comey was loyal--a damned good question, too;

asked him to drop the Flynn probe; FALSE

fired Comey with cause;

pressured Sessions not to recuse; FALSE

pressured Sessions to fire McCabe; FALSE

pressured Coats, Rogers, Pompeo &multiple congressmen to say he wasn’t under FBI

and tried to fire may have considered firing Mueller.

Edited: Jan 26, 8:56am Top

>69 margd:

Fucking rubbish.

This shit reminds me of the desperate rush to

get rid of Sen. Sanders' primary challenge and nominate Hillary Clinton before the shit-storm of her malfeasance broke loose

and then,

bury the developing scandal in a trumped-up distraction in the form of spurious allegations that Trump's campaign had colluded with Russians to 'steal the election' from the incompetent Clinton campaign--- which Democratic party and Obama administration scandal(s) combined:

♦ election fraud,

♦ misuse of campaign donations,

♦ installing and using for official purposes and to prevent disclosure of illegal clandestine activities an illegal unsecured home-based e-mail server,

♦ destruction of evidence of a felony,

♦ conspiracy to obstruct justice,

♦ giving false information to Congress / or law enforcement officers,

Clinton, Obama, Comey and Lynch are all--at least for the time being-- at serious risk of being indicted for serious felonies which carry long prison terms.

And you think you're going to see Trump impeached?

He's already delivered on the sacrosanct Tax give-away to the richest of the rich.

Jan 26, 1:09pm Top

>71 proximity1: I am overwhelmed by the evidence.

Jan 26, 7:05pm Top

>71 proximity1: From a story in the Guardian today after the NYT:

'In one instance, Comey testified, Trump asked him for loyalty and asked him to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser. Comey said he evaded those demands and was soon fired.'

Margd: 'Trump asked Comey for loyalty'

Proximity: 'Trump asked Comey to whom or what Comey was loyal

Margd: 'Trump asked his to drop the Flynn probe.'

proximity: that is false

Jan 27, 9:00am Top

Trump Launched Campaign to Discredit Potential FBI Witnesses
The president targeted three bureau officials who could provide key testimony in the Mueller probe.
Murray Waas | January 26, 2018

...President Donald Trump pressed senior aides last June to devise and carry out a campaign to discredit senior FBI officials after learning that those specific employees were likely to be witnesses against him as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation

In testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, recently fired FBI Director James Comey disclosed that he spoke contemporaneously with other senior bureau officials about potentially improper efforts by the president to curtail the FBI’s investigation of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Not long after Comey’s Senate testimony, Trump hired John Dowd, a veteran criminal defense attorney, to represent him in matters related to Mueller’s investigation. Dowd warned Trump that the potential corroborative testimony of the senior FBI officials in Comey’s account would likely play a central role in the special counsel’s final conclusion...

In discussions with at least two senior White House officials, Trump repeated what Dowd had told him to emphasize why he and his supporters had to “fight back harder” ...

Since Dowd gave him that information, Trump — as well as his aides, surrogates, and some Republican members of Congress — has engaged in an unprecedented campaign to discredit specific senior bureau officials and the FBI as an institution.

The FBI officials Trump has targeted are Andrew McCabe, the current deputy FBI director and who was briefly acting FBI director after Comey’s firing; Jim Rybicki, Comey’s chief of staff and senior counselor; and James Baker, formerly the FBI’s general counsel...


Jan 28, 5:27am Top

Frustrated by Russia investigation, Trump turns ire toward Rosenstein
Sara Murray, Kara Scannell, Dana Bash and Pamela Brown | January 26, 2018

...The President has been venting about (Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein) -- who oversees Mueller and the special counsel investigation -- in recent weeks, according to four sources familiar with the situation. At times, Trump even gripes about wanting Rosenstein removed, two of those sources said. One source said the President makes comments like "let's fire him, let's get rid of him" before his advisers convince him it's an ill-fated idea...


Jan 28, 5:55am Top

Judge: Kushner Company Must Reveal Identities of Real Estate Partners (by Feb 9)
The ruling comes in a class-action lawsuit filed by tenants of Kushner-managed apartment complexes in the Baltimore area.
Alec MacGillis | Jan. 26, 2018

...Kushner Companies have used highly aggressive tactics in pursuing payments from tenants and former tenants of 15 large apartment complexes it owns and manages in the Baltimore area.

...Kushner Companies and its co-defendants sought to have the case transferred from state court to federal court, which would spare it from having to face an all-Baltimore City jury. To have this transfer approved, the defendants needed to show that none of their ownership partners were residents of Maryland. The defendants requested that their submission of the list of partners be sealed from public view, citing the high degree of media interest in Jared Kushner...

...challenged (by several news outlets)...U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar stated that the high level of public interest in Kushner and his business associates if anything enhanced the case for maintaining access to the identities of the defendants in the case.

...how far-reaching the network of investors...could be...investment by...Menora Mivtachim, one of Israel’s largest financial institutions, just as Jared Kushner was about to make his first official visit to Israel as President Trump’s designated broker of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations...Kushner Companies’ aggressive pursuit of Chinese investors in its real estate ventures...


Jan 28, 2:03pm Top

Spending bill limited Congress' oversight of secret intelligence activities, senators say
Erin Kelly | Jan. 23, 2018

WASHINGTON — The White House can now direct US intelligence agencies to spend money and take covert action without approval of congressional oversight committees under a provision slipped into the bill that ended the government shutdown, leaders of the Senate intelligence committee say.

"You could potentially have an administration — any administration — go off and take on covert activities...with no ability for our committee...to say 'time out' or to say we actually disagree with that policy," said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the panel's vice chairman.

A provision in the bill — requested by the White House and Pentagon — gives intelligence agencies an exemption from the law that requires them to get authorization from the intelligence committees before they spend taxpayer money, said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and chairman of the Senate panel.


Edited: Jan 30, 7:52am Top

Threats are enough? With that Pussycat Putin?
Collusion! Blackmail!

Trump Refuses to Impose New Sanctions on Russia
Tom Porter and Reuters | 1/30/18

...Seeking to press President Donald Trump to clamp down on Russia, Congress voted nearly unanimously last year to pass a law setting sweeping new sanctions on Moscow.

Trump, who wanted warmer ties with Moscow and had opposed the legislation as it worked its way through Congress, signed it reluctantly in August, just six months into his presidency.

Under the measure, the administration faced a deadline on Monday to impose sanctions on anyone determined to conduct significant business with Russian defense and intelligence sectors.

...The measure, known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, required the administration to list “oligarchs” close to President Vladimir Putin’s government and issue a report detailing possible consequences of penalizing Russia’s sovereign debt.

Shortly before midnight on Monday, the Treasury Department released an unclassified “oligarchs” list, including 114 senior Russian political figures and 96 business people.

Those named on the list will not immediately face any immediate penalties like asset freezes or visa bans. But the law mandated that the U.S. Treasury and State Departments, and intelligence agencies, compile a list of political figures and business people close to Putin’s government and network for potential future sanctions...



There is a country whose leader is being investigated by an agency that's being investigated secretly by a legislator who was on the leader's transition team, which that agency is investigating for colluding with a nation that's subject to sanctions the leader refuses to enforce.

Walter Shaub‏ @waltshaub ("Bored of bots/trolls, so I block wantonly and shamelessly.")
5:25 PM - 29 Jan 2018

Jan 30, 8:33am Top

Sanctions smanctions--Trump's got our back?

Russia LNG Delivered To Boston May Intensify Literal Cold War
Darren Barbee | Monday, January 29, 2018 - 4:40pm

...An LNG tanker carrying Russian gas docked in Boston on Jan. 28, despite U.S. sanctions aimed at punishing President Vladimir Putin’s government for interference in Ukraine.

...The French-flagged Gaselys docked after an unusual Atlantic voyage that at one point included a U-turn. The ship moored in Everett, Mass., and began offloading its cargo on Jan. 28 at Engie’s LNG Import Terminal. The ship is expected to take about a day to move the LNG off before departing on Jan. 29, said Carol Churchill, an Engie spokesperson...


Edited: Jan 30, 1:42pm Top

Big Lies, Law Enforcement, and the Defense of Rod Rosenstein
Benjamin Wittes | January 29, 2018

...The defense of Rosenstein represents an imperative for everyone who is concerned about the Trump administration’s predations against the independence of law enforcement.

There will come a time to litigate the question of Rosenstein’s handling of the many bizarre questions he confronted in his role as deputy attorney general. Today is not that day. Today is a day to understand that apolitical law enforcement is stronger with him than without him, and that it would suffer a genuine blow if the president and the House Intelligence Committee chairman can lie the deputy attorney general out of government...

...That big lie is the notion that federal law enforcement is already behaving as corruptly as the president aspires for it to...

The purpose of this big lie is twofold: the lie discredits the investigation against Trump in the minds of a large swath of the public and, perhaps more importantly, tends to tear down the institutions responsible for such investigations in general, with an eye toward their reconstitution in the image of the lie itself...

The classified memo prepared by Nunes is a critical part of this big lie...

Since word of the memo surfaced weeks ago, a group of House Republicans have been pushing aggressively for its public release, arguing that it contains evidence of surveillance abuses “worse than Watergate.” While the memo’s contents were initially shrouded in mystery, the New York Times has since reported that it concerns a request for a FISA warrant targeting Page, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign—alleging that the Justice Department and FBI misled the FISA judge about the extent to which the warrant request had been based on the Steele dossier.

...irregularities that call the document’s reliability into serious question. Nunes prepared the memo without any input from Democrats on the committee...the vast majority of Republican House members who have viewed Nunes’s summary have not seen the underlying intelligence itself. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Vice Chairman Mark Warner do have access to that intelligence—but Nunes refuses to share the memo with them. He has also withheld the document from both the FBI and the Justice Department. And while the Washington Post reports that Trump would probably give his approval to a House intelligence panel vote to make the memo public, the Justice Department has warned Nunes that release of the memo prior to departmental review would be “extraordinarily reckless.”

So here’s the question: What still stands against this big lie?

Rosenstein is, as I say, a highly imperfect answer to this question. But he is one critical component of the answer. He appointed Mueller. He has assiduously protected Mueller from Trump and from congressional pressures. Publicly there have been no signs that he has done anything other than supervise the investigation in a professional fashion. In other words, his forcible removal at this stage would be another step in the attempted dismantling of an apparatus of independent law enforcement that simply needs to hold. More fundamentally, the Nunes memo’s reported attack on him as a component of a corrupt law enforcement apparatus seeking to take down the president—the president whom Rosenstein, in fact, serves—is itself part of the big lie, and it needs to be energetically confronted and exposed.

As Donald Rumsfeld might say, you defend democratic institutions with the deputy attorney general you have, not the deputy attorney general you wish you had.



The Circumscribed Ethics Investigation Into Devin Nunes
Natasha Bertrand | Jan 29, 2018

The House Intelligence Committee chair claimed he’d been completely cleared, but the panel probing his conduct never gained access to the intelligence he was accused of divulging...


Jan 30, 11:38am Top

79, 80 contd. (sanctions)
Interesting that while media distracted by State of Union address (gnat),
elephants run by (assault on Justice Dept., failure to sanction Russia, anything else?).

The Trump administration’s weird explanation for withholding Russia sanctions
Aaron Blake | January 30, 2018

...to recap, the head of America's foreign intelligence agency says Russia will attempt to do what it did in the 2016 election again in 2018 and that he hasn't “seen a significant decrease in their activity.” But then the State Department announces that it doesn't need to impose the sanctions that were meant to punish that behavior because the legislation is already serving as a deterrent? Pompeo seems to be saying the legislation hasn't deterred Russia from trying to meddle in U.S. elections again — at least not to a “significant” degree...


Jan 31, 8:38am Top

Devin Nunes Won’t Say if He Worked With White House on Anti-FBI Memo
Betsy Woodruff & Spencer Ackerman | 01.30.18

The House intel committee GOP leader refused to answer behind closed doors if he coordinated with the president’s team on his report blasting Rosenstein, Comey, and McCabe.

...During Monday’s contentious closed-door committee meeting, Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democrat, asked Nunes point-blank if his staffers had been talking with the White House as they compiled a four-page memo alleging FBI and Justice Department abuses over surveillance of President Trump’s allies in the Russia probe.

...Nunes made a few comments that didn’t answer the question before finally responding, “I’m not answering.”

...Now that the committee Republicans voted to release the memo, it has been reportedly delivered to the White House. Under congressional rules, Trump has four more days to decide if he will assent to the memo’s public release.

Quigley’s question harkened back to Nunes’ history of surreptitiously working with the White House to deflect from the myriad inquiries into possible coordination between Trump’s associates and the Kremlin...


Jan 31, 5:33pm Top

Okay, in regard to Amtrak accident today- Why are congressmen and their families going on a retreat when the government was just shut down last week?? I don't know about anyone else but if I'm not doing my job I sure as hell don't get sent on a retreat! So wrong. Besides the news coverage could care less about the driver of the truck who was killed, all they reported on was that congressmen and their families were okay. Who cares?

Jan 31, 7:57pm Top

Why are we not outraged that government officials are on vacation when they are not doing anything?

Feb 1, 9:28am Top

It's not a vacation. It's an annual thing where they get together and plan how they're going to destroy America.

What I'm curious about is why they were riding Amtrak. I thought Republicans despise Amtrak and are always trying to kill it.

Feb 1, 11:37am Top

>84 morningwalker: If I had to guess I'd say they were headed to something akin to the 1957 Apalachin meeting and were hoping no one would notice. As for their agenda, I'd say >86 jjwilson61: has probably divined their purpose and the fact that no one seems to care about the driver is merely a confirmation of what they were about.

Feb 1, 5:48pm Top

>86 jjwilson61: Okay it's not a vacation when you go on a "retreat" with your family to a "luxury" resort. Sure. I'm curious about their mode of travel too..

>87 alco261: I agree.

Feb 2, 7:42am Top

Mueller now has cause to interview Nunes and staff re obstruction of justice by the WH?

Did Devin Nunes Work With White House on Anti-FBI Memo? ‘Far as I Know, No.’
Betsy Woodruff and Spencer Ackerman | 01.30.18

The House intel committee GOP leader refused to answer behind closed doors if he coordinated with the president’s team on his report blasting Rosenstein, Comey, and McCabe...



Trump moves toward releasing memo he hopes will undermine Russia probe
Kevin Liptak, Kaitlan Collins, Sara Murray and Dan Merica | February 2, 2018

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump, hopeful that a controversial Republican memo about the FBI might undermine the Russia investigation, appeared poised Thursday to allow the document's release.

...In recent phone calls, Trump has told friends he believes the memo would expose bias within the FBI's top ranks and make it easier for him to argue the Russia investigations are prejudiced against him, according to two sources.

As the debate rages about whether the GOP memo is inaccurate and misleading -- and whether it's appropriate to reveal such classified intelligence at all -- Trump appears to be more preoccupied with the political calculus. He views the memo as proof the intelligence community was unfairly targeting him and fodder for his ultimate goal of bringing an end to the Russia investigation that he has dubbed a "witch hunt," sources said.

...The President continues to seethe over the Justice Department's handling of nearly everything Russia-related, sources said. Recently, much of that anger has been directed toward his Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller and the Russia investigation.

Trump has told his associates and aides he wants the memo released soon, believing that it could discredit the agency investigating possible collusion between his campaign associates and Russia.

White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah denied on Thursday that the purpose of releasing the memo was to undermine the Mueller probe and insisted that the White House is simply playing their role in a process initiated by Congress.

"No, the purpose is transparency," Shah said, when asked by CNN about the effect on the Mueller investigation. "This is a legislative process, they have initiated it. We are only following through on our role throughout the House rules."

On Wednesday, Trump was also upset in the wake of the FBI's statement challenging the release of the controversial memo. The FBI's harshly worded statement was a rare public rebuke, all the more stinging now that the bureau is led by Director Chris Wray, who Trump handpicked after he fired James Comey last May.

In condemning the four-page memo that alleges surveillance abuses on behalf of the FBI and Justice Department, the FBI said, "we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy."

...if Rosenstein merely submitted an application to renew a FISA warrant (one granted under previous leadership and based, in part, on information from the infamous dossier) that probably wouldn't be a damning enough revelation for Trump to move to fire Rosenstein.

...(But) Trump is so frustrated...He could argue that Rosenstein failed to scrutinize the information initially used to request the warrant and therefore didn't do his due diligence.

These discussions are ongoing within the White House, one of the sources said.

...Trump's top aides...Officials have been unable to say whether anyone inside the White House worked with Nunes or House Republicans on the document...


Feb 2, 7:57am Top

So much happens on Fridays. This Feb 2:
Groundhog report,
Nunes memo, and--
Gates plea agreement?

Lawyers for Rick Gates withdraw from Russia case

Three lawyers representing ex-Trump campaign aide Rick Gates filed a motion Thursday to withdraw from his case.

...did not outline a reason for their withdrawal. It said the reasons will be set forth in a motion filed under seal.

...an order from the judge barring the parties and their lawyers from communicating with the press about issues material to the case.

...Press reports last week said veteran white-collar lawyer Tom Green of Sidley Austin had joined Gates’ legal team, suggesting a plea deal could be in the works.

...Gates...indicted last year on 12 counts, including money laundering and violations of foreign lobbying disclosure requirements...pleaded not guilty...



BREAKING: Rick Gates' three attorneys who've been repping him in court withdrew from his case this afternoon.
AND THEN: A team of lawyers from Sidley Austin (which we connected to Gates last week) spent the afternoon inside Mueller's office building.

Katelyn Polantz @kpolantz (Senior Writer, CNN)
Feb 1, 2018

Edited: Feb 4, 3:17am Top

Carter Page: not exactly the most sympathetic character for Nunes to summon in Trump's defense...

Carter Page Touted Kremlin Contacts in 2013 Letter
Massimo Calabresi and Alana Abramson | Feb 3, 2018

Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page bragged that he was an adviser to the Kremlin in a letter...dated Aug. 25, 2013, ...

“Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda,” ....

...The Steele dossier claims that during a trip to Moscow in July 2016, Page held secret meetings with a senior Kremlin official and a senior Putin ally that included conversations about helping Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton in the presidential campaign.

...In January 2013, Page met a Russian diplomat named Victor Podobnyy at an energy conference in New York City, according to court documents. The two exchanged contact information, sent each other documents on energy policy and met several more times to discuss the topic, the documents allege. Two years later, in January of 2015, Podobnyy was charged in absentia — along with two other Russians — with working as a Russian intelligence agent under diplomatic cover.

Court records include a transcript of a conversation where Podobnyy talks about recruiting someone named “Male-1” by making “empty promises” about “connections in the Russian Trade Representation.” Page now acknowledges that he was “Male-1.”

...In June 2013, the FBI interviewed Page regarding his contacts with the Russians, Page says. The FBI believed that Russian intelligence services had attempted to recruit Page as an agent with promises of business opportunities in Russia, according to the 2015 court documents.

...According to published reports, the FBI obtained a first FISA warrant to eavesdrop on Page’s electronic communications during 2013. And they have been paying attention to him, on and off, ever since.

Two months after his meeting with the FBI, Page sent the letter claiming to be a Kremlin adviser.

...The letter...is not the first example of Page touting his relationship with Russia. McClatchy reported last year that in 2008, the U.S. Embassy in Turkmenistan sent a cable to the U.S. State Department describing how Page had met with government officials in the country, which was formerly part of the Soviet Union, about possibly working for their oil companies. The cable described how he touted his work with the Russian-run company Gazprom...


Edited: Feb 8, 12:50pm Top

>47 margd: With investigation into NRA funding possibly coming from Russia (and elsewhere?), it might be pertinent to see who in Congress has benefited the most from NRA campaign donations and funding.

The NYT reviewed that data last fall just after the Las Vegas shooting.

Edited: Feb 10, 9:12am Top

Elie Mystal, executive editor at Above the Law...we might be rolling towards a “slow moving Saturday Night Massacre.”

Rod Rosenstein’s Next-In-Command Is Leaving DOJ. Are We Headed for a Massacre?
Jeremy Stahl | Feb 09, 2018

...Trump will now get to hand-pick a replacement for Brand, who would step in to take over the investigation should he or she be confirmed by the Senate and should Rosenstein go. It’s also been noted that Rosenstein may ultimately have to recuse himself from the investigation; in that case, he wouldn’t even have to be fired for the Trump selection to take control of the investigation into Trump.

...According to the vacancy statutes, Solicitor General Noel Francisco would be designated by Jeff Sessions as acting attorney general if Rosenstein were to depart, and he’d be followed by the assistant attorneys general. The next in line after that would typically be the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, a position which is being vacated by Dana Boente. Since Boente is leaving that job, it would go to the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Robert J. Higdon Jr.

It’s worth noting that the executive order says Trump “retains discretion, to the extent permitted by law” to go around this line of succession to select an acting attorney general on his own. But doing so in an effort to squelch an investigation into himself, his allies, and his family would conceivably be such a transparent effort to subvert the rule of law as to be a political liability even within the Republican Party.

... Brand is reportedly leaving to become the head of global corporate governance at Walmart. The move feels possibly odd for someone who has served in three presidential administrations, cultivated a reputation as a devoted public servant, and who has only been in her current job less than one year.

Politico’s Eliana Johnson reported that someone close to Brand and the administration said she was leaving “because she is very smart, accomplished, and talented, and wants to protect her career.” ...



Trump will not release Democrats’ memo on FBI surveillance
Karoun Demirjian, Rosalind S. Helderman and Matt Zapotosky | February 9. 2018

...Trump’s decision on the Democrats’ memo came as some Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee pushed for a prohibition on the use of politically funded information in applications for surveillance warrants. The proposal, which earned swift pushback from Democrats, was made during a closed-door meeting of the House Intelligence Committee held on Monday...

...top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.)...indicated an eagerness to work with the agencies quickly to release the memo. He also responded to Trump’s decision on Twitter, writing: “After ignoring urging of FBI & DOJ not to release misleading Nunes memo because it omits material facts, @POTUS now expresses concerns over sharing precisely those facts with public and seeks to send it back to the same Majority that produced the flawed Nunes memo to begin with.”...



Ex-Bush lawyer: Trump's memo decision a 'massive strategic miscalculation'
Avery Anapol | 02/09/18


Edited: Feb 10, 2:58pm Top

Yet another Trumpian deplorable from his seemingly inexhaustible supply:
Tim Nolan, the self-proclaimed chair of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign in Campbell County, KY

Ex-Campbell County Judge Timothy Nolan to serve 20 years, pay $100K fine after plea
Scott Wartman | Feb. 9, 2018

Former Judge Tim Nolan on Friday agreed to spend 20 years in prison for human trafficking.

He used drugs, threats of arrest and threats of eviction to force women and girls under the age of 18 into sex acts, according to the charges read in court by Judge Kathleen Lape.

Nolan pleaded guilty to 21 counts dating back to 2004. In addition to human trafficking and attempted human trafficking, the charges included giving drugs and alcohol to minors.

Under the plea agreement, Nolan will serve 20 years in prison and pay a $100,000 fine. He would be eligible for parole in four years, his attorney said. The judge will sentence him on March 29.

The case has shocked the region. Nolan served as a district judge in the late 1970s and early 1980s and had become a well-known political figure. He campaigned locally for President Donald Trump, was vocal on many conservative/tea party issues, and was elected to the Campbell County School Board in 2016...


Feb 12, 7:09am Top

Bob Mueller’s Investigation Is Larger—and Further Along—Than You Think
Garrett Graff | 02.05.18

it involves at least five separate investigative angles:

1. Preexisting Business Deals and Money Laundering.
2. Russian Information Operations. (bots and trolls 2016 election)
3. Active Cyber Intrusions. (Podesta and DNC)
4. Russian Campaign Contacts. (Page, Papadopolous, Trump Jr, etc)
5. Obstruction of Justice.


Feb 12, 10:21am Top

George Papadopoulos' fiancée is speaking out

The original connection between the two was a mysterious professor, Joseph Misfoud. The Guardian tried to track him down.

Why has Britain given such a warm welcome to this shadowy professor?

"Tellingly, as soon as the scandal broke, the London Academy of Diplomacy closed its doors. It’s almost as if it were an intelligence asset whose cover had been blown, rather than an academic institution dedicated to an impartial understanding of international affairs."

Feb 14, 8:37am Top

Politico offers a new slant to Mueller's grand jury:

Trump Can Fire Mueller, But Not a Grand Jury

Feb 14, 11:52am Top

Aaron Blake, at the Washington Post parses Michael Cohen's words on the Stormy Daniels payout.

Here's some of what Cohen said Tuesday:

"In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford Daniels's real name. Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly. The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone."

You might notice there is one main Trump-related entity that Cohen doesn't deny was “party to the transaction” or reimbursed Cohen, and that's Trump. It's also noteworthy that Cohen uses the word "facilitate" -- a word that seems to leave open to the possibility that the chain doesn't end at the use of "my own personal funds."

Edited: Feb 14, 3:34pm Top

Hold the presses! (I'm with Ryan on this one. ;-)

President Donald J Trump: "I am totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind..."

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. : "I mean, come on, clearly we should all be condemning domestic violence..."


Feb 14, 4:29pm Top

White House imposed a ban on new interim security clearances last fall

An email circulated to the Office of Management and Budget in November said existing employees could keep working on interim clearances, but new hires would have to get full clearances.

...An estimated three dozen staffers in the White House, including presidential son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, still have only an interim clearance, according to one person familiar with the issue.

Kelly has privately expressed concerns about the large number of people working in the White House on interim clearances, and he even considered firing anybody who would not be able to secure a full clearance. Kelly had been informed several weeks ago that multiple White House officials, including Porter, would not qualify for permanent clearances.

POLITICO first reported in November that Kushner had not yet secured a permanent clearance. Kushner, according to the administration official, still does not have a full clearance, and it’s unclear whether he’ll ever get one...


Feb 14, 4:42pm Top

Stormy is ready to talk.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, believes that Trump attorney Michael Cohen invalidated a non-disclosure agreement after two news stories were published Tuesday.

Feb 14, 5:53pm Top

Report: Priebus Warned Trump Of ‘Spiral Of Calamity’ If Sessions Resigned

(In May) Priebus said that he chased after Sessions into the parking lot, where he found Sessions in a car about to leave.

“I knocked on the door of the car and Jeff was sitting there and I just jumped in and shut the door and I said, ‘Jeff, what’s going on?’” Priebus said.

When Sessions told Priebus that he planned to resign, Priebus replied, “You cannot resign. It’s not possible,” according to the report.

“We are going to talk about this right now,” Priebus said he told Sessions.

According to Priebus, he “dragged” Sessions back to his office and — with help from Vice President Mike Pence and then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, since ousted — convinced Sessions to reconsider. Sessions nevertheless delivered a resignation letter to the Oval Office that night, according to the excerpt, but Priebus claimed he “persuaded the President to give it back.”

“He told the president, ‘If I get this resignation, you are in for a spiral of calamity that makes Comey look like a picnic,'” the source told Vanity Fair.

Feb 16, 8:13am Top

A top Trump campaign adviser (Rick Gates) close to plea deal with Mueller
Katelyn Polantz and Sara Murray | February 15, 2018

Rick Gates...has already spoken to Mueller's team about his case and has been in plea negotiations for about a month. He's had what criminal lawyers call a "Queen for a Day" interview, in which a defendant answers any questions from the prosecutors' team, including about his own case and other potential criminal activity he witnessed.

(Gates plea deal would) increase the pressure to cooperate on Gates' co-defendant Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, who has pleaded not guilty to Mueller's indictment and is preparing for a trial on alleged financial crimes unrelated to the campaign. In a Queen for a Day interview, a defendant can typically admit to crimes with little additional consequences, unless he or she lies...


Edited: Feb 16, 3:28pm Top

>104 2wonderY: Most of the remuneration was bonus money. Wonder if FBI has ID'd the accomplishments that were being rewarded?

Feb 16, 6:22pm Top

California man pleads guilty in special counsel Mueller’s Russia probe
Feb 16, 2018 3:17 PM EST

...Richard Pinedo of Santa Paula pleaded guilty earlier this month to using stolen identities to set up bank accounts that were then used by the Russians. A Justice Department spokeswoman says Pinedo did not know at the time he was dealing with Russians.

The plea deal is the third in special counsel Robert Mueller’s continuing Russia probe. It was revealed the same day prosecutors charged 13 Russians and three Russian companies with an extensive scheme to meddle in the U.S. elections.


Edited: Feb 19, 9:49am Top

Money-laundering, obstruction of justice...

Months before Donald Trump announced his bid for president in 2015, one of his longtime Atlantic City casinos fined a record-setting $10 million for lack of controls around money laundering. The problems went back years. The penalty was actually the second record-setting fine for the Trump Taj Mahal involving money-laundering oversight. https://www.propublica.org/article/trump-inc-podcast-money-laundering-and-the-trump-taj-mahal . https://www.fincen.gov/news/news-releases/fincen-fines-trump-taj-mahal-casino-resort-10-million-significant-and-long

Sounds like Special Counsel didn't have to start from scratch in following the money. Wonder if Gates' plea deal will encourage that other (alleged) money launderer, Manafort, to reveal how rubles are turned into greenbacks. Money-launderer-in-chief may not have changed his ways if one record-setting fine didn't get his attention? Initially relieved at indictment of 13 Russians, Trump reverting to a tweetstorm on Saturday made me wonder if lawyers had briefed him on possible trajectory of Russian investigation?

ETA...The Charging Mystery in the Russia Indictments—And Its Indication of What Comes Next in the Mueller Investigation
Bob Bauer | February 17, 2018

"Bob Mueller omitted any direct charge for violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act.

Instead, the indictment builds the campaign finance issues into a conspiracy to defraud the United States—it alleges that the Russians conspired to obstruct the capacity of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to enforce the law. The act of obstruction was a failure to report their illegal expenditures. If the FEC did not know about the expenditures, it could not enforce the law.

Now, of course, those engaged in illegal campaign finance activity, such as spending from foreign national sources, won’t ever make an exception and comply with self-incriminating reporting requirements. And the irony of the premise–that the FEC would get the job done if given the needed facts–will not be lost on those who have observed the agency’s decline. But there is a theory, of course, behind the structure of the charges, and it might hold a clue to what comes next in the campaign finance phase of the case..."



Trump insults everyone but Putin and NRA--recall FBI investigating whether Russian money went to NRA to help Trump (>47 margd:). If so, there will be students bearing pitchforks and torches outside Mar-a-Lago, I bet...

Feb 20, 11:38am Top

Biden: McConnell Refused To Sign Bipartisan Statement On Russian Interference
Scott Neuman | January 24, 20183:24 AM ET

Former Vice President Joe Biden says he and President Barack Obama decided not to speak out publicly on Russian interference during the 2016 campaign after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to sign a bipartisan statement condemning the Kremlin's role.

Speaking on Tuesday at the Council on Foreign Relations, Biden said the Obama administration sought a united front to dispel concerns that going public with such accusations would be seen as an effort to undermine the legitimacy of the election.

However, McConnell "wanted no part of having a bipartisan commitment saying, essentially, 'Russia's doing this. Stop,' " he said....


Feb 20, 12:13pm Top

Mueller charges lawyer Alex van der Zwaan, oligarch’s son-in-law
Ken Dilanian, Pete Williams, Tom Winter, Daniel Arkin and Tracy Connor

Special counsel Robert Mueller has filed a new charge against an attorney — the son-in-law of a Ukranian-Russian oligarch named in the controversial Donald Trump dossier — who is accused of lying to investigators in the Russia investigation.

Alex van der Zwaan was charged with making false statements about his communications with former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates, according to a court document obtained by NBC News. He is expected to plead guilty Tuesday afternoon..


Feb 21, 2:17pm Top

Paul Manafort got $16 million in loans after the election. Mueller finds that very interesting.
Andrew Prokopandrew | Feb 21, 2018

...Mueller alluded to the loans in a court filing Friday, during deliberations over Manafort’s bail package. He wrote that he’d learned of “additional criminal conduct” from Manafort, including “a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies.” And he wrote that Manafort had gotten those particular loans “through a series of false and fraudulent representations.”

... After Trump won the election...in January 2017, that same bank loaned Manafort $6.5 million more. (All these were, again, collateralized by Manafort’s properties.)

Those last loans seemed particularly odd because...the Federal Savings Bank of Chicago “focuses on affordable mortgages for military veterans,” and the loan to Manafort amounted to more than 5 percent of its total assets. Furthermore, the bank’s head, Stephen Calk, was part of Trump’s economic advisory council during the campaign — raising questions of impropriety....


Edited: Feb 23, 5:46am Top

Special counsel Mueller files (32) new charges against Manafort, Gates
Devlin Barrett, Rosalind S. Helderman and Spencer S. Hsu | February 22, 2018

... a multiyear scheme by Manafort and Gates to use their income from working for a Ukrainian political party to buy properties, evade taxes and support a lavish lifestyle even after their business connections in Kiev evaporated.

“Manafort and Gates generated tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of their Ukraine work. From approximately 2006 through the present, Manafort and Gates engaged in a scheme to hide income from United States authorities, while enjoying the use of the money,” the indictment (filed in VA) charges.

...Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice in Chicago...the indictment suggests serious risk for the defendants — if convicted at trial, given their ages and the millions of dollars in alleged fraud, they could be facing de facto life prison sentences.


Edited: Feb 28, 9:49am Top

Jared Kushner: clearance downgraded to 'secret'. Probably in anticipation of Mueller invetigation. FBI says final report on clearance in a month? FOUR countries looked into taking advantage of his inexperience and other vulnerabilities. ETA--violated Hatch Act by using his official title to endorse Trump run in 2020.

Rick Gates: speculation is that he has some juicy info, as Mueller seeking to drop 20 charges! Also that Mueller will need to move fast to lessen penalties as remaining charges handled by court that will move quickly.

Donald J Trump: Mueller asking questions about pre-campaign finances. Kompromat rather than collusion?

Feb 28, 12:15pm Top

U.S. intel: Russia compromised seven states prior to 2016 election
Cynthia McFadden, William M. Arkin, Kevin Monahan and Ken Dilanian | Feb 27, 2018

...Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin...


Mar 1, 8:02am Top

Kushner’s Business Got Loans After White House Meetings

The Times article gives some benefit of doubt, but points out the clear appearance of conflict of interests.

Mar 1, 10:05am Top

>114 2wonderY: I'm shocked. Impossible.

Mar 2, 9:35am Top

And in the "interesting coincidence" department after NOT getting a loan from Qatar

Kushner family business failed to get financing from Qatar — and the country got blockaded a month later


Mar 3, 9:07am Top

Amazing that Qatar brought documents to Washington that may have implicated Kushner et al., but decided against sharing with Mueller for fear of WH retaliation! At this point, Trumpians don't even have to issue direct threat??

Mar 5, 10:43am Top

Charles P. Pierce has a few phrases today that flow nicely -

At Every Corner, Mueller Finds More Corruption

"Mueller’s investigation is clearly now going into the deepest, darkest corners of Everywhere."

"Mueller is finding corruption everywhere he looks. He is now a fireman in hell."

Mar 7, 4:24pm Top

I missed the NPR Russian/NRA connection story from a few days ago.

Depth Of Russian Politician's Cultivation Of NRA Ties Revealed

Edited: Mar 8, 4:51am Top

NYT: Lebanese businessman George Nader testifies in front of Grand Jury about Seychelles and other meetings in which he represented UAE. FBI nabbed this fellow as he stepped off airplane in Dulles airport mid-January (18th) on his way to Mar-a-Lago for celebration of Trump's first year.

Mueller is indeed as occupied as a fireman in hell.


Edited: Mar 8, 4:52am Top

Erik Prince (Blackwater, DeVos sib), who no doubt discussed pre-Inauguration Seychelles meeting with SOMEONE in WH, perjures himself... Enough reason to flip?

Mueller gathers evidence that 2017 Seychelles meeting was effort to establish back channel to Kremlin
Sari Horwitz and Devlin Barrett | March 7, 2018

...a secret meeting in Seychelles just before the inauguration of Donald Trump was an effort to establish a back channel between the incoming administration and the Kremlin — apparently contradicting statements made to lawmakers...

In January 2017, Erik Prince, the founder of the private security company Blackwater, met with a Russian official close to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and later described the meeting to congressional investigators as a chance encounter that was not a planned discussion of U.S.-Russia relations.

(Meeting participant, UAE rep, and organizer George Nader)... has told investigators the meeting was set up in advance so that a representative of the Trump transition could meet with an emissary from Moscow to discuss future relations between the countries...


Mar 12, 12:50pm Top

Stormy Daniels offers to pay back $130,000 for freedom to speak about Trump

my opinion - this is the wrong tack. I think they should pursue invalidation because of a lack of signature. I'd certainly contribute to a fund to pay the $1,000,000 penalty, just to see where the money is directed.

Here's a nice summary of Michael Cohen's painting himself into a corner:
Stormy Daniels takes on Donald Trump, but lawyer Michael Cohen is the clear loser.

Mar 13, 4:56am Top

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (Rs at least, chaired by Devin Nunes) release one page summary of discussion draft of report.
MUST READ seven Initial Findings in summary, e.g., no collusion, coordination or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians, etc.

...The draft report will be provided to the Committee minority on March 13 for review and comment. After adoption it will be submitted for a declassification review, and a declassified version will be made public. The report’s completion will signify the closure of one chapter in the Committee’s robust oversight of the threat posed by Moscow—which began well before the investigation and will continue thereafter.

Additional follow-on efforts arising from the investigation include oversight of the unmasking of Americans’ names in intelligence reports, FISA abuse, and
other matters.


Mar 14, 11:04am Top

Trump's alternatives:
1. agree to Mueller interview in return for limiting length of investigation (lets witnesses run out the clock). Mueller will never agree.
2. agree to interview & plead 5th because it's a "witch hunt". Pardon a few potential witnesses.
3. force a Grand Jury subpoena, then plead the 5th?

Meet the Press (NBC, transcript excerpt) | March 11, 2018

...ANDREA MITCHELL (NBC): (Trump) doesn't like the fact that a lawyer that (Maggie Haberman of The New York Times) wrote about him hiring is an impeachment expert. That just speaks of desperation....

ANDREA MITCHELL: And the fact is that (president's lawyers) are very worried about where Mueller is going. They're in negotiations as to how to try to put the president out there or not. And they are worried about the outcome of it.

MATT BAI (NYT): If you were the president’s lawyers would you want him in a room with those prosecutors under oath?

ANDREA MITCHELL: Well, guess what the alternative is? The alternative is a protracted legal argument which they will lose with a grand jury subpoena and something that Donald Trump might be the first and only president of the United States who could do, is to take the Fifth Amendment. And that's the equivalent to shooting people on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. Take the Fifth Amendment by telling people, by inoculating, "It's a witch hunt," this is what some people think is the whole diminishing of Bob Mueller. Getting his base to believe that he can take the Fifth because they're coming after him.

CHUCK TODD (host): Take the Fifth and pardon a couple people and walk away?

ANDREA MITCHELL: And walk away...Other people might go to jail...I mean, it may be the only political strategy for his lawyers--

EUGENE ROBINSON (WaPo): Yeah, because it's (not) only legal jeopardy. It's political, right? It's impeachment...

ANDREA MITCHELL:And that's not the silliness of giving Bob Mueller, of Bob Mueller ever agreeing to a time limit (to end investigation in return for Trump interview, thereby . That is not going to happen...


Mar 15, 5:37pm Top

Mueller subpoenas Trump Organization documents in Russia probe
Pamela Brown, Evan Perez and Eli Watkins | March 15, 2018

...Special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for business documents...included documents related to Russia. The reports mark the first publicly known time that Mueller has demanded documents related to President Donald Trump's businesses.

...the subpoena's intention was to "clean up" and to ensure that all related documents are handed over to the special counsel.

...the subpoena was delivered "in recent weeks."

...special counsel witnesses had been asked recently about a potential real estate deal in Moscow, and that investigators have questioned witnesses about the flow of money from the United Arab Emirates to the United States...

...subpoena is related to records prior to Trump's run for office.

...an unrealized attempt for a Trump Tower in Moscow...the 2013 Miss Universe pageant Trump hosted in Moscow...


Mar 17, 11:28am Top

Obstruction-of-justice file? Executed by those paragons of transparency and honesty, Sessions and Trump.
(Mueller) who laughs last, laughs best.

'A political assassination': Former officials come out swinging in defense of Andrew McCabe after his firing
Sonam Sheth | March 17, 2018

...McCabe was one of three top FBI officials (Andrew McCabe, James Rybicki, and James Baker) whom Comey apprised of his conversations with Trump, during which Comey said Trump asked him for his loyalty and to drop the FBI's investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

All three officials have since been fired, resigned, or reassigned within the bureau...


Mar 18, 7:19am Top

Nobody Is Above the Law—Mueller Firing Rapid Response

Donald Trump is publicly considering firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the person leading the Department of Justice investigation of possible criminal actions by Donald Trump and members of his presidential campaign, as well as the efforts to conceal those activities.

It's also possible that, rather than firing Mueller, Trump will obstruct Mueller's investigation by issuing blanket pardons of key figures being investigated, firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (the person overseeing Mueller), or taking other actions to prevent the investigation from being conducted freely.

Any one of these actions would create a constitutional crisis for our country. It would demand an immediate and unequivocal response to show that we will not tolerate abuse of power from Donald Trump.

Our response in the hours following a power grab will dictate what happens next and whether Congress—the only body with the constitutional power and obligation to rein Trump in from his rampage—will do anything to stand up to him.

That's why we're preparing to hold emergency "Nobody is Above the Law" rallies around the country, in the event they are needed.

Use the map or search below by ZIP code to find an event near you...

Mar 18, 6:04pm Top

Devin Nunes leaks again?

Meet the Press (transcript)
March 18, 2018


And joining me now is the Republican who has been in charge of the House version of the Russia investigation for the Intel Committee, Congressman Mike Conaway of Texas. Congressman, welcome to Meet the Press.

...Let me start with something Andrew McCabe said following his firing because it involves the committee that you're a part of. He said, "The release of this report," referring to the inspector general report on his conduct, "Was accelerated only after my testimony to the House Intelligence Committee revealed that I would corroborate former Director Comey's accounts of his discussions with the president." Can you tell us if that sentence, if it's true that that's what McCabe did in front of your committee?


I don't know how the inspector general got access to that testimony in front of our committee. If he did, I'm unaware of it so I'll have to, to run that to ground. But I don't know how the inspector general would have gotten that unless he got it from McCabe during his conversation with McCabe. So in terms of his testimony in front of us, I don't know how the IG would have gotten--


So there is no way transcripts of Andrew McCabe's testimony are going to end up in the hands of, say, the White House or anybody else?


No they're not supposed to.


They're not supposed to under any circumstances?


Well, I mean, yes, we could vote to have that happen. But no there’s-- that’s -- that was committee sensitive information that should have stayed within the committee. And so how-- if the inspector general got, got permission to do it then that was -- he didn't ask me to do it and had to go a different route...


Edited: Mar 22, 6:59am Top

>127 margd: contd. McCabe firing, hypocrisy.

EXCLUSIVE: Fired FBI official authorized criminal probe of Sessions, sources say
Mike Levine | Mar 21, 2018

...Nearly a year before Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired senior FBI official Andrew McCabe for what Sessions called a "lack of candor," McCabe oversaw a federal criminal investigation into whether Sessions lacked candor when testifying before Congress about contacts with Russian operatives, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly accused Sessions of misleading them in congressional testimony and (Sen Franken and Leahy) called on federal authorities to investigate, but McCabe's previously-unreported decision to actually put the attorney general in the crosshairs of an FBI probe was an exceptional move.

One source told ABC News that Sessions was not aware of the investigation when he decided to fire McCabe last Friday less than 48 hours before McCabe, a former FBI deputy director, was due to retire from government and obtain a full pension, but an attorney representing Sessions declined to confirm that.

... In October 2016, hoping to push back on a series of news reports questioning whether he might be trying to protect Hillary Clinton, McCabe authorized two FBI officials to speak with a reporter about his efforts to boost the FBI's investigation of the Clinton Foundation. When he was questioned later about that decision, McCabe "lacked candor – including under oath – on multiple occasions," Sessions said in a statement announcing McCabe's firing.

"The FBI expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and accountability," Sessions said. "As the FBI's ethics office stated, 'all FBI employees know that lacking candor under oath results in dismissal and that our integrity is our brand.'" ...


Mar 22, 12:06pm Top

Trump (personal) attorney John Dowd resigns amid shake-up in president’s legal team
Rosalind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig and Ashley Parker March 22

...a largely mutual decision made after the president lost confidence in his ability to handle special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and Dowd became frustrated with Trump’s recent efforts to bring on new attorneys, they said.

...Trump added former U.S. attorney Joe diGenova (a deep-state conspiracy theorist, called FBI Director embarassment for his handling of McCabe) to his legal team last week. And on Monday, The Post reported that Trump had urged his aides to reach out to legal superstar and former solicitor general Theodore B. Olson to join as his lawyer as he faces a likely interview with the Special Counsel’s investigative team and scrutiny for possible obstruction of justice. Olson said no.)

Last week, Dowd called on the Justice Department to immediately shut down the special counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, in the wake of the firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe...


Mar 23, 7:37am Top

Robert Mueller’s team has taken over the investigation of Guccifer 2.0, who communicated with (and was defended by) longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone.

‘Lone DNC Hacker’ Guccifer 2.0 Slipped Up and Revealed He Was a Russian Intelligence Officer
Spencer Ackerman & Kevin Poulsen | 03.22.18

Guccifer 2.0, the “lone hacker” who took credit for providing WikiLeaks with stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee, was in fact an officer of Russia’s military intelligence directorate (GRU)...an attribution that resulted from a fleeting but critical slip-up in GRU tradecraft.

...That forensic determination has substantial implications for the criminal probe into potential collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia...the special counsel in that investigation, Robert Mueller, has taken over the probe into Guccifer and brought the FBI agents who worked to track the persona onto his team...


Mar 27, 2:04pm Top

>47 margd:, >120 2wonderY:, >130 2wonderY: contd...

NRA Says It Receives Foreign Funds, But None Goes To Election Work
Tim Mak | March 27, 2018

The National Rifle Association acknowledged that it accepts foreign donations but says it does not use them for election work — even as federal investigators look into the role the NRA might have played in Russia's attack on the 2016 election...


Mar 27, 2:48pm Top

>134 margd: That sounds like a magician's mis-direction trick.

Mar 27, 2:57pm Top

Yeah, denials always precede indictments it seems!

Edited: Mar 28, 9:17am Top

Quite a litany of attacks on Mueller...

Trump attack unleashes oppo against Mueller

'It looks like the beginnings of a campaign,' said a source familiar with Trump's legal strategy.

...“I think President Trump is going to war. I think it’s very obvious he’s going to war on this,” former Trump White House strategist Steven Bannon said last week during a Financial Times panel in New York.

...The attacks on Mueller may be starting to pay off. The special counsel’s unfavorable rating among Republicans hit a peak of 43 percent...in the days surrounding the president’s anti-Mueller tweets.

...It took a couple of days for House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to weigh in on the president’s attacks. And while both came to Mueller’s defense—Ryan said he’d gotten “assurances” the special counsel wouldn’t be fired, and McConnell called Mueller “an excellent appointment” — they stopped well short of rebuking Trump’s openly hostile tone.

...“The fact neither McConnell or Ryan is not drawing a (bright red) red line,” (Charlie Sykes, the frequent Trump critic and former conservative radio host from Wisconsin) added, “is potentially signaling a green light to Trump.”



If Trump Fires Mueller, Will He Reap the Whirlwind?
POLITICO MAGAZINE | March 20, 2018

A constitutional crisis or just another Teflon Don moment? Ten political pundits weigh in...


Mar 28, 9:40am Top

Unfortunately, I think this is all another Teflon Don moment.

Edited: Mar 28, 2:57pm Top

Collusion (conspiracy)

Analysis: Mueller just drew his most direct line to date between the Trump campaign and Russia
Aaron Blake | March 28, 2018

That line is drawn in a new court filing related to the upcoming sentencing of London attorney Alex van der Zwaan.

...“Fourth, the lies and withholding of documents were material to the Special Counsel’s Office’s investigation. That Gates and Person A were directly communicating in September and October 2016 was pertinent to the investigation. Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agents assisting the Special Counsel’s Office assess that Person A has ties to Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016. During his first interview with the Special Counsel’s Office, van der Zwaan admitted that he knew of that connection, stating that Gates told him Person A was a former Russian Intelligence Officer with GRU.”

..What’s particularly significant in the Mueller filing, though, are six words: “and had such ties in 2016.”

...The other new piece here is that they say Gates described Person A (again, apparently Kilimnik) as “a former Russian Intelligence Officer with GRU.”

...suggest(s) that Mueller views Kilimnik as a possible link between the Trump campaign and Russia, and believes Kilimnik hasn’t been forthcoming about his ties to Russian intelligence. We also know that Manafort had been in contact with Kilimnik during the 2016 campaign and met him at least twice...


Edited: Mar 28, 2:56pm Top


Trump's lawyer discussed idea of him pardoning Flynn, Manafort: report
Rebecca Savransky | 03/28/18

...(John) Dowd's conversations with Flynn's lawyer, Robert K. Kelner, happened after Dowd took over as the president's personal lawyer last summer, the newspaper reported. Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts.

The discussion with Manafort's lawyer happened before the former Trump campaign chairman was indicted in October on money laundering charges and other alleged financial crimes, according to the Times.

...The discussions raise legal questions over whether Trump's alleged offer of a pardon in the midst of the special counsel investigation could constitute an obstruction of justice...


Mar 28, 2:56pm Top


Trump Loses First Skirmish in Suit Over D.C. Hotel Profits
Andrew Harris | March 28, 2018

President Donald Trump will have to contend for now with a lawsuit claiming he is improperly profiting from his posh downtown Washington hotel.

U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte in Greenbelt, Maryland, on Wednesday rejected one of the Justice Department’s arguments that he dismiss the lawsuit. The judge said he’ll schedule another hearing to consider other claims by the government.

...“By accepting emoluments, the president creates a constitutionally prohibited market," Maryland lawyer Steven Sullivan told the judge during January arguments in the case. Trump’s business draws customers from companies competing directly with his hotel, including the capital’s convention center and the National Harbor hotel and retail development due south of the capital in Maryland, he said.

...The case is District of Columbia v. Trump, 17-cv-1596, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland (Greenbelt).


Edited: Apr 1, 12:32pm Top

I thought I read a while back that it's illegal for Prez to use his office / bully pulpit to favor or attack a particular business?
(Sounds like he's attacking Amazon as sop to his small-business voters, while attacking owner of nemesis Washington Post, since no merits in USPS claim?)

Trump renews attack on Amazon, calling its shipping deal with Postal Service a 'scam' that must end
Bloomberg | Mar 31, 2018


Donald J. Trump
‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump
Mar 31

While we are on the subject, it is reported that the U.S. Post Office will lose $1.50 on average for each package it delivers for Amazon. That amounts to Billions of Dollars. The Failing N.Y. Times reports that “the size of the company’s lobbying staff has ballooned,” and that...

...does not include the Fake Washington Post, which is used as a “lobbyist” and should so REGISTER. If the P.O. “increased its parcel rates, Amazon’s shipping costs would rise by $2.6 Billion.” This Post Office scam must stop. Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now!

Apr 1, 7:32am Top

>142 margd: From what I've read/heard, it seems like a number of "high volume" shippers get a discounted rate. To only go after what Amazon pays would raise all kinds of legal problems. I'm sure Trump would try to come up with some kind of justification for only targeting it, but I can't see how they'd stand up in a court.

As for the whole sales tax thing, I've always been of the understanding that unless a business had a physical presence in a state, they weren't required to collect it. I know at least here in NJ, except on exempt items, we have to pay either the NJ sales tax, or a "Use tax" on purchases made out of state and brought/delivered for use in NJ, but no NJ tax collected at the time of the sale. The rate would depend on various things.

Apr 1, 7:43am Top

What we know so far about contacts between Trump campaign and Russia
The Canadian Press | Apr 01, 2018

Collusion isn’t illegal on its own, but some contacts with Russians may have led to illegal acts

U.S. President Donald Trump has tweeted no fewer than 17 times that his campaign did not collude with Russians

...There are at least a half-dozen examples to date of people involved in the Trump campaign who either sought dirt gathered by Russian intelligence on Hillary Clinton, or who had other ties to Russians.

It's worth noting that collusion is not, on its own, illegal.

...The word could also be used, however, to describe some actual crimes: taking an election donation from a foreign national in money or in something of value; soliciting a foreign contribution; computer-hacking; conspiracy to assist a criminal act; perjury; unregistered work as a foreign agent; or lying about foreign contacts on a security clearance form.

...That's the pertinent issue now...because we're past the point of asking whether so-called collusion happened.

"We know there was collusion," Richard Painter (Trump critic and former ethics lawyer for George W. Bush)..."The critical question for Robert Mueller at the end of the day is whether there was illegal collusion — whether it was criminal, whether it violated campaign-finance laws or ... involved computer hacking," said Painter.

"We're going to have people going to the slammer over this. The question is who, and how high up ... but the notion there's no collusion is just ridiculous."

Here are the available details so far...


Edited: Apr 3, 1:17pm Top

EPA chief Scott Pruitt, who rented accommodations in Washington at below-market rates from the family of an energy lobbyist, proposes

GHG (greenhouse gas) Emissions Standards for Cars and Light Trucks Should Be Revised


What a yucky, mucky swamp...corruption oozes.

EPA’s Pruitt gave big raises to two close aides after being rebuffed by the White House
Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis | April 3, 2018

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt used an obscure provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act to increase the salaries of two close aides at the agency last month after the White House refused to boost their pay

...Sarah Greenwalt, 30, Pruitt’s senior counsel, and Millan Hupp, 26, his director of scheduling and advance, both worked with him in Oklahoma and are part of his inner circle at the EPA. Last month, he asked the White House Office of Presidential Personnel to give Greenwalt a 52 percent raise, bringing her salary to $164,200, and to award Hupp a nearly 33 percent increase, raising her salary to $114,590.

...The law allows the EPA chief to hire up to 30 people without presidential or congressional approval, which gave Pruitt the ability to set their salary levels himself.

...his arrangement with the wife of an energy and transportation lobbyist to rent her Capitol Hill condo unit last year for $50 a night. Under that rental agreement, Pruitt paid only for lodging on the nights when he stayed in the condo and did not pay an additional fee for his adult daughter to occupy a separate bedroom there.

...President Trump called Pruitt Monday night to convey his support. White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly followed up with a call Tuesday morning to reinforce that message, officials said.

The president told Pruitt, “Keep your head up, keep fighting. We have your back,”...

...The two staffers suddenly in the spotlight both accompanied Pruitt on his trips to Italy and Morocco last year. Hupp has played a key role in arranging Pruitt’s housing and travel accommodations since he took office...

ETA: This post has been updated...

...Millan Hupp, 26, who serves as Pruitt’s director of scheduling and advance, contacted a local real estate firm last summer as the EPA chief was moving out of a $50-per-night rental condo owned by the wife of an energy and transportation lobbyist...Hupp was the point person for Pruitt’s search.

Between July and September, Hupp corresponded with a real estate company and on some evenings and weekends went to view properties for rent or sale...She typically used her private email but at times contacted the company during work hours. At other times, Pruitt himself viewed properties, the individuals said.

...Don Fox, the former acting director and general counsel of the Office of Government Ethics, said in an interview that federal officials are barred from enlisting one of their subordinates to do personal tasks for them, even if those take place during off hours...


Apr 5, 6:13am Top

Jus' following the money...
Wonder how afraid witnesses and principles are of Russian mafia and Putin's assassins c.f. Mueller.
Or confident of Trump pardon.
Manafort is facing six decades or so in prison, but won't deal. Maybe nothing to tell? HAH!

Exclusive: Mueller's team questioning Russian oligarchs
Kara Scannell and Shimon Prokupecz | April 4, 2018

Washington (CNN)Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has taken the unusual step of questioning Russian oligarchs who traveled into the US, stopping at least one and searching his electronic devices when his private jet landed at a New York area airport, according to multiple sources familiar with the inquiry.

A second Russian oligarch was stopped during a recent trip to the US, although it is not clear if he was searched, according to a person briefed on the matter.
Mueller's team has also made an informal voluntary document and interview request to a third Russian oligarch who has not traveled to the US recently.

The situations have one thing in common: Investigators are asking whether wealthy Russians illegally funneled cash donations directly or indirectly into Donald Trump's presidential campaign and inauguration.

...The approach to Russian oligarchs in recent weeks may reflect that Mueller's team has already obtained records or documents that it has legal jurisdiction over and can get easily, one source said, and now it's a "wish list" to see what other information they can obtain from Russians entering the US or through their voluntary cooperation.

...One area under scrutiny, sources say, is investments Russians made in companies or think tanks that have political action committees that donated to the campaign.

Another theory Mueller's office is pursuing, sources said, is whether wealthy Russians used straw donors -- Americans with citizenship* -- as a vessel through which they could pump money into the campaign and inauguration fund.

...Trump raised $333 million for his presidential campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. His inauguration committee raised a record $106.8 million, more than twice as much as any of his predecessors.

...Another potential source of information for Mueller's investigators is Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign deputy chairman who pleaded guilty in February to financial fraud and lying to Mueller's team. Gates worked closely with Paul Manafort, who was Trump's campaign chairman for part of 2016, and stayed on as deputy chair of Trump's inaugural committee...



* Mother Jones reported in August that Andrew Intrater, an American cousin of Russian oligarch and energy magnate Viktor Vekselberg, gave $250,000 to the Trump inaugural fund, despite having no history as a major political donor. Until that point, he’d given a total of about $4,000 in donations across elections, and mostly to Democratic candidates.


Apr 5, 8:23am Top

>146 margd:
* Mother Jones reported in August that Andrew Intrater, an American cousin of Russian oligarch and energy magnate Viktor Vekselberg, gave $250,000 to the Trump inaugural fund, despite having no history as a major political donor. Until that point, he’d given a total of about $4,000 in donations across elections, and mostly to Democratic candidates.

That doesn't look suspicious at all. ;)

Apr 5, 12:20pm Top

From the Daily Mail just now:

EXCLUSIVE: Saudi crown prince bragged that Jared Kushner gave him CIA intelligence about other Saudis saying 'here are your enemies' days before 'corruption crackdown' which led to torture and death.

Kushner claimed through his attorney Abbe Lowell that it was a 'false story'.

Peter Mirijanian, Lowell's spokesman, said: 'The alleged exchange never happened. Mr Kushner was and is well aware of the rules governing information and follows those rules.'

Apr 7, 4:35am Top

145 contd. Amazing that Pruitt, who was AG in Oklahoma, doesn't seem to know better on ethics questions. Maybe hired by the ultimate Swamp Monster and sleeping in the home of lobbyists, he was bitten by corruption bug?

EPA secretary Scott Pruitt 'fires his security chief after he refused to use sirens for non-emergencies'
Special agent Eric Weese reportedly also tried to stop Mr Pruitt flying first class on short trips
Lydia Smith | April 6, 2018

...when special agent Eric Weese told Mr Pruitt that his security detail's lights and sirens were only for emergencies (not navigating DC traffic to avoid being late to meetings), he was replaced as the man in charge of security detail

...Mr Weese had also unsuccessfully tried to convince his boss not to fly first class for short trips...Mr Pruitt once spent $1,641.63 on a first-class ticket for a flight from Washington DC to New York City for a television interview (to avoid 'incivility'--you know, input from taxpayers and voters)


Apr 7, 9:02am Top

>149 margd: Reminds me of Animal Farm... The pigs are in charge and the horse is about to be sold for glue....

Apr 10, 7:20am Top

FBI raid's Trump's lawyer (illegal campaign contribution, pre-campaign Russian money?): Mueller investigation must be entering final stage? He must have solid evidence?

What about attorney-client privilege? How the FBI can obtain a warrant for Cohen's office
William Cummings, USA TODAY Published 11:26 p.m. ET April 9, 2018

...former U.S. attorney and deputy assistant attorney general Harry Litman (who teaches at the UCLA School of Law and continues to practice at the law firm Constantine Cannon. ) ..."It’s very unusual for the Department of Justice to permit prosecutors to raid an attorney’s office and that’s because you want to be careful not to get privileged material"

In order to get the OK to raid Cohen's office, prosecutors would have had to get approval from high up — in this case from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — and demonstrate to a federal magistrate both probable cause and the need for a warrant instead of a subpoena (such as a concern that Cohen might destroy evidence), Litman explained.

...the probable cause would have to relate to a crime centered on Cohen. "You can’t use it as end run around to get to the client"...

There will also be a "taint team" to examine everything before it is handed over to prosecutors to make sure that those conducting the case never see any material that might be "tainted" by attorney-client privilege.

The only way the prosecution would be permitted to examine any material that might otherwise fall under the attorney-client umbrella is if it is determined to be part of crime jointly undertaken by the attorney and the client. But for the privilege to be nullified, Litman said the taint team would have to get the approval of the court to present the material to the prosecution...

...likely that the prosecution never sees 80% or more of the documents.

..."If you go to the attorney’s office and you look at attorney-client privileged material by mistake, you’re in a world of hurt," Litman said. "You’re going to get disqualified from the whole matter and the whole prosecution could go down the tubes."

And if the potentially privileged material is challenged, the burden of proof is on the prosecutors to show that they made "zero use of privileged material" and their investigation was not in any way influenced by it.

"Then, if you lose that fight, it's quite possible that anybody who's seen that document is off the case," Litman said. "So, you’re playing with fire."



If SDNY is truly in charge of this Michael Cohen investigation, that will continue whether or not Mueller is fired.
- Preet Bharara @PreetBharara 6:25 PM - 9 Apr 2018


Feds Are Treating Michael Cohen Like a Mob Lawyer, Trump Allies Say
Lawyers don’t usually get their offices raided—unless they’re (allegedly) in on the crime, too.
Betsy Woodruff Asawin Suebsaeng | 04.09.18

Apr 10, 7:42am Top

I'm interested in seeing how this plays out because of the attorney-client privilege given that Trump is the client. Several issues in this for me: 1) No one is above the law, but 2) You can't do this if you're just trying to get to the President because you don't like him. I'm interested in the resulting precedents that are set because I don't want the government to do something unethical just to go after a President that many citizens don't like.

Apr 10, 11:16am Top

Mueller probing $150,000 payment to Trump from Ukrainian tycoon: report
Mike Murphy | Apr 9, 2018 8:49 p.m. ET

Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is looking into a $150,000 payment made to the Trump Organization in 2015 by a Ukrainian steel tycoon, the New York Times reported late Monday. The payment was apparently made in exchange for a 20-minute video speech by Donald Trump, who was still seeking the Republican presidential nomination at the time. The Times reported that Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, personally solicited the payment from Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk...


Apr 10, 12:04pm Top

And in Panama -

Trump’s company is now threatening the president of Panama

But the letter appears to be more than just a request — it also seems to be a thinly veiled threat. The lawyers wrote that the Panamanian court’s ruling violates a bilateral investment treaty between the US and Panama and hinted that Varela’s response could affect US-Panamanian relations more broadly.
It seems likely that the Trump Organization lawyers are trying to leverage their relationship with the president himself to get Panama’s president to do something he has no business doing: interfering in a separate branch of government. “It is a letter that urges Panama’s executive branch to interfere in an issue clearly of the judicial branch,” Panama’s foreign minister Isabel de Saint Malo said, according to the AP.

Apr 10, 12:57pm Top

>151 margd: NBC offers more detail about attorney client privilege and how the courts view how the material is acquired.

For Trump and Cohen, attorney-client privilege goes only so far

The U.S. Attorney's manual proposes a solution to that conundrum: A "taint team." Also called a "privilege team," this is a group, consisting of agents and lawyers not involved in the underlying investigation, brought in to review the privileged documents.

If this sounds like a strange fix, some courts agree, and have expressly disapproved of the government's use of taint teams to review documents, including the federal court in the same district where the search of Cohen's office occurred.

Some courts have even held that where the government uses a taint team, the government bears the burden to rebut the presumption that tainted material was improperly provided to the prosecution. Other courts have suggested that it would be preferable for the privilege review to be done by magistrate judge, and not a privilege team comprised of DOJ agents and lawyers.

Apr 10, 2:33pm Top

>153 margd: I’m not a Trump defender, but if you’re going to cite an article about a contribution to Trump’s charity, reportedly solicited by Michael Cohen--not Donald Trump--then it might be useful to mention the donor’s previous political donations involving the Democratic National Committee and the Clintons. The donor was the largest individual contributor to the Clinton Foundation. Even more suspicious, the Trump speech was apparently set up by Bill Clinton’s former political consultant, who also arranged multiple meetings with Hillary’s people.
“Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating a $150,000 donation to President Donald Trump’s charity in 2015 from a Ukrainian businessman who has given tens of millions of dollars to Bill and Hillary Clinton, according to a new report.
The donation, from Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk, came after "then-candidate Donald Trump gave a 20-minute speech at a European conference that promoted closer ties between Ukraine and the West," Business Insider reported.
The speech was set up in August 2015 when Doug Schoen, a political consultant for Pinchuk, contacted Trump directly and asked if he would give a speech. Trump reportedly accepted but did not bring up the subject of being paid to make the appearance.
The report states that Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, is alleged to "have called Schoen the next day to ask for a $150,000 fee from Pinchuk in exchange for the talk."
The New York Times reported in 2016 that Pinchuk "has directed between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton foundation," and that he also "lent his private plane to the Clintons and traveled to Los Angeles in 2011 to attend Mr. Clinton’s star-studded 65th birthday celebration."
The Times report also notes that Schoen, who was a former political consultant for Bill Clinton, arranged approximately a dozen meetings with Hillary Clinton's State Department on behalf of or with Pinchuk between September 2011 and November 2012 to discuss political problems in Ukraine.
A January 2017 report from Politico alleged that Ukrainian government officials worked to boost Hillary Clinton and hurt then-candidate Donald Trump by "helping to force Manafort’s resignation and advancing the narrative that Trump’s campaign was deeply connected to Ukraine’s foe to the east, Russia."
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last July demanding answers from the Department of Justice on the alleged collusion between the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton campaign, and the Ukrainian government.”


Apr 10, 3:50pm Top

>156 TrippB: I was wondering where the money went--a problem if to campaign but not if Trump pocket (unless undeclared). I'm reading that the NY authorities are looking into Eric , Don Jr's and Sr's charities, but not sure if/how those tie in to Cohen raid. Payoff to Daniels (et al.?) only a problem if linked to campaign? Bank fraud?

>155 2wonderY: I can't imagine that FBI would put Special Investigation at risk, so I bet procedures, timing were carefully crafted with that in mind?

I hope all will be revealed soon enough--hopefully to the public as well as to Congress

Apr 10, 3:58pm Top

Exciting times!

Apr 11, 6:51am Top

Bipartisan group of senators moving to protect Mueller's job: Report
CBS/AP April 11, 2018

WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of four senators is moving to protect special counsel Robert Mueller's job as President Trump publicly muses about firing him. Republican Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware and Cory Booker of New Jersey plan to introduce legislation Wednesday that would give any special counsel a 10-day window in which he or she could seek expedited judicial review of a firing, according to two people familiar with the legislation who spoke with The Assloicated Press. They weren't authorized to discuss the bill ahead of its release and requested anonymity.

...Under the legislation, the expedited review would determine whether the special counsel was fired for good cause. The bill would also ensure that any staff, documents and other investigation materials were preserved as the matter was pending.

It's unclear if it could ever become law...


Apr 11, 7:42am Top

Lynn Dukes @lynndukes 10 April 2018

...How can the President possibly muster any semblance of a defense or actions without any significant (counsel) or representation at this point? With FOX contributors?

Benjamin Wittes @benjaminwittes Senior Fellow at Brookings. Editor in Chief: Lawfare (@lawfareblog). I
10, 11 April 2018

...When the history of this period is written the lack of competent counsel representing the President of the United States will be a significant factor. This is in sharp contrast to Bill Clinton, who had superb counsel.

...It is also in sharp contrast to Nixon, who was ably represented by highly professional attorneys—St. Claire, in particular—who labored in the highest traditions of the bar. It serves nobody that the President’s lawyers are clowns...

Edited: Apr 11, 8:11am Top

Per prompt, I'll reports this to new thread:

Would Trump take the country to war (Syria, North Korea) to save his own sorry hide?

L'état, c'est moi. (Louis XIV)

The investigation amounts to "an attack on our country in a true sense." (Trump)


How the Cohen Raids and Trump’s Reactions Edge Us Toward Confrontation
Benjamin Wittes | Tuesday, April 10, 2018

...There is no way that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York would have sought or executed a search warrant against the president’s lawyer without overpowering evidence to support the action. The legal standard for such a search requires only probable cause that criminal activity is taking place. Under normal circumstances, which these are not, the prudential and policy factors counseling against such an action would be powerful.

...seeking any warrant against this particular lawyer...makes clear that a ring is closing around the president.

...this search warrant is apparently not about L’Affaire Russe. The FBI raided the office of the president’s personal lawyer on a matter related to L’Affaire Stormy. That means that prosecutors were able to show probable cause of criminal activity connected to Cohen’s representation of the president on matters far removed from Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, obstruction of justice or any of the other matters within Mueller’s purview.

...This bureaucratic distribution of the investigation is actually a good thing. It will have the effect of diffusing responsibility for the investigations as they develop away from Mueller....taking some of the heat of the president’s wrath off of Mueller...danger of making Rosenstein himself so central to the investigations that he becomes a target of the president’s ire.

...will (Trump) use the powers of his office to frustrate Mueller investigation).

...the confrontation is brewing against a backdrop of increasing policy instability...in the past 24 hours the White House has not merely taken a few steps closer to a major confrontation with the Justice Department and the special counsel but has also made sure that the government is badly positioned to handle security crises that may erupt in tandem with that confrontation.

...the country has moved closer to confrontation...


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