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Swamp Diary Week 49: Cohen took a bullet and Trump fired it

Discussion in 'Headline News' started by Zable, Apr 28, 2018.

  1. Zable

    Zable Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    The President’s attempt to distance himself from his attorney did his embattled loyal aide no favors. By Jack Shafer. April 28, 2018

    Michael Cohen once bragged that he would take a bullet for his client, Donald Trump. “I’m the guy who protects the president and the family,” he insisted. More recently, Cohen offered that he would “rather jump out of a building than turn on Donald Trump,” even after the president spurned his desire for a big White House job.

    Perhaps wanting to test these claims, Trump opened fire on Cohen on Fox & Friends this week and then shoved him out of a high window in Trump Tower, where this scandal keeps returning.

    “He’s a great guy,” the president said as he proceeded to disassociate himself from the man who has slaved away as his fixer since 2007, cleaning up business and personal messes left behind, who teamed with Russian-American convicted felon and businessman Felix Sater to try to swing a Trump Tower Moscow deal, who is named as one of his power brokers in the Steele Dossier, who has made ugly threats to Trump’s adversaries, and who is now the subject of an FBI investigation into wire fraud, money laundering and campaign-finance violations. Just a few weeks ago, Trump dodged reporters’ questions about the $130,000 Cohen paid to adult film actor Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 election, by saying, “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney.” Now, as Trump explained to the Fox & Friends hosts, he viewed Cohen primarily as a businessman, and the president Trump averred, “I have nothing to do with his business.” But…but…but…wasn’t Cohen Trump’s personal attorney? “He has a percentage of my overall legal work—a tiny, tiny little fraction,” the president responded to the stunned Fox & Friends hosts.

    The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, which is investigating Cohen, instantly leaped on Trump’s comment, setting fire to Cohen’s bullet-riddled and crushed body. The U.S. Attorney filed a letter with the judge in the Cohen case noting that if the famed fixer only did a “tiny, tiny, little fraction” of legal work for Trump, then not much of the Trump-related evidence seized by the FBI from Cohen could be privileged under lawyer/client confidentiality. Trump’s TV blabbing was stupid beyond stupid because it will help open to investigators’ eyes not just Cohen’s potentially scuzzy business dealings, both here and in Ukraine, but the president’s scuzziest deals from the past decade. The more the feds learn about Cohen, the more they’ll be able to lean on him in hopes of getting him to flip on the president.

    Poor, poor, pitiful Cohen—gun-shot, shattered and smoking—also pleaded the Fifth Amendment this week in the Stormy Daniels lawsuit, which she filed to liberate herself from the non-disclosure agreement she signed over her 2006 one-night stand with Trump. It doesn’t look good, for Cohen, but it’s his right and will save him from saying anything the U.S. Attorney could use against him in a potential criminal case. The week’s final indignities arrived when Bloomberg News reported that Cohen’s taxi business is going down the swirly, his real estate properties are producing only modest income and demand for his professional services has dropped off. He’s not broke by any means, but Bloomberg speculates that mounting legal fees might cause him to flip on Trump. And why not? Everybody is a tough guy until they’re not. How certain are we Cohen will be indicted? Late Friday, U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero granted a 90-day delay in the Stormy Daniels civil case, saying it was “likely” that criminal charges would be filed against Cohen and the overlap of the two cases would “implicate” his Fifth Amendment rights. “This is no simple criminal investigation; it is an investigation into the personal attorney of a sitting President regarding documents that might be subject to the attorney-client privilege,” the judge said.

    Another veteran of Trump Tower reemerged in the news this week: Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met in the building in June 2016 with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner on the promise of delivering dirt on Hillary Clinton. But now Veselnitskaya has recanted her earlier insistence that she approached the Trump campaign as a private citizen and had no Russian government ties. “I am an informant,” she told NBC News, working with the Russian prosecutor general. An email trail indicates that Veselnitskaya was working in coordination with Kremlin interests. As Martin Longman writes in the Washington Monthly, “In accepting the [Trump Tower] meeting and its offer of stolen documents and then not disclosing any of it to our intelligence agencies, the Trump team was making themselves accessories to a crime and partners with a hostile intelligence service.”

    At the beginning of the week, Veselnitskaya told the Associated Press that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III had not yet contacted her. That’s probably no longer the case.

    As the Senate busied itself passing a bill to protect the Mueller investigation from a presidential sacking—one that the House will never approve—one of the incoming members of Trump’s legal team, Rudy Giuliani, jawed with the Wall Street Journal about his ambitions to negotiate a quick end to Mueller’s probe. “Does the special prosecutor really have an open mind?” Giuliani said. Giuliani met with Mueller’s team to discuss the terms of an interview with the president. “I’m doing it because I hope we can negotiate an end to this for the good of the country and because I have high regard for the president and for Bob Mueller,” Giuliani told the Washington Post. Trump does not share this regard. He remains furious about the Mueller referral that resulted in the FBI raids of Cohen’s homes and business that may well blow back on him.

    The House Intelligence Committee released a 253-page report from its year-long investigation of Trump and the Russia business, exonerating Trump of colluding with the Russians and disputing the intelligence community’s view that Vladimir Putin tried to elect Trump. To this, Trump tweeted his approval. The accompanying Democratic dissent argued that collusion was real and that the Republicans, who controlled the committee, had failed to follow important leads. According to the Washington Post, the report and rebuttal included little new information.

    But CNN did notice a finding in the report worth our scrutiny. Aras Agalarov—the oligarch behind the 2016 Trump Tower meeting promising Clinton dirt—sent “an expensive painting” to Trump for his birthday one day after the meeting.

    “There are few things better than receiving a sensational gift from someone you admire— and that’s what I’ve received from you,” Trump wrote back to Agalarov.

    The subject of the painting was not specified. Was it dogs playing poker? Kazimir Malevich’s 1927 abstract masterpiece “Suprematist Composition”? Or perhaps a life-size painting of Trump and Putin, arm-in-arm, surrounded by Miss Universe contestants? Send your best guess to Shafer.Politico@gmail.com.

    ******
    I took a bullet for my editor once and lived to regret it. Send regrets to Shafer.Politico@gmail.com. My email alerts would rather jump out the window than rat out my Twitter feed. My RSS feed is a stool pigeon.

    Jack Shafer is Politico’s senior media writer.
    Source: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/04/28/trump-michael-cohen-aide-distance-218111



     
  2. Zable

    Zable Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Swamp Diary Week 50: Rudy Steps In It And Trump Makes Him Squirm

    Once again, one of the President’s lawyers seems to get him in trouble, not out of it. By Jack Shafer. May 5, 2018

    Having Rudy Giuliani in the news mix is almost as good as having two Donald Trumps.

    When the former mayor of New York joined the president’s legal team, his assignment was to deal with the Russia mess, specifically with Robert Mueller’s investigation. He was going to iron out the terms for a Trump interview by the special counsel and, barring that, he was going to persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions to kill the probe. But before the ink could dry on Giuliani’s new business cards, he entered a different theater of political war—the Stormy Daniels dispute—and napalmed whatever credibility he still had as a counselor, a tactician and a broker by shooting his mouth off to the news media about the case.

    Prior to Giuliani’s arrival, the Daniels story was a confusing mess of secret payouts, denials, lawsuits and Michael Avenatti apperances on CNN. But thanks to his efforts to set the record straight in interviews on Hannity and with BuzzFeed, the Washington Post, NBC News, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and elsewhere, the official Trump account of the Daniels saga has coiled and recoiled on itself like so many knotted strands of DNA, so that nobody can claim to understand what happened. In his new timeline of events, Giuliani explicitly stated that the Daniels payment was timed to influence the election. “Imagine if [the Daniel tryst allegation] came out on Oct. 15, 2016, in the middle of the, you know, last debate with Hillary Clinton,” Giuliani told the Fox & Friends gang on Thursday.

    The president, who had previously denied all knowledge of the Daniels payments—“You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney, and you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen,” he said on Air Force One on April 5—intervened on Friday morning to erase the Giuliani confusion by feeding the press corps Jell-O shooters of fresh perplexity.

    “Virtually everything said has been said incorrectly,” Trump told the news media. “Rudy is a great guy, but he just started a day ago,” he explained, making his lawyer, who actually started two weeks ago, sound like a summer intern. “But he really has his heart into it. He’s working hard. He’s learning the subject matter.” Further signaling that Giuliani was full of beans, Trump promised, “He’ll get his facts straight.”

    But when will Trump get his facts straight? On Friday evening, the New York Times broke news—surprising nobody—that he had lied lied lied about not knowing about the payouts to Daniels. He had known for “months” before he made the now-famous Air Force One denial.

    Giuliani attempted a bit of “fact-straightening“ with a Friday afternoon statement that couched and snipped what he had already said. “There was no campaign violation,” he stated unequivocally because the payment to Daniels would have been made whether Trump had been a candidate or not. He retreated from his earlier omniscience, now asserting that he spoke not of the “president’s knowledge” of the Daniel episode—even though he talked to Trump about it—but only his “understanding of these matters.” Rudy didn’t completely neglect the Russia business, but by week’s end, Trump wished that he had. In a bit of rowback, Giuliani told Sean Hannity that Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey “because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn’t a target of the investigation.” (Recall that Trump himself told NBC News’ Lester Holt in May 2017 that he fired Comey because “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.” Presumably chastised by Trump’s people for this “mischaracterization,” Giuliani issued a “clarifying” statement, averring that the justification for the sacking was Article II of the Constitution, the one that gives the president the power to appoint whom he wants.

    Nobody came closer to singing the “Two Trumps” theme to the top of the charts than the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake, who looked up from the tangled mess of assertions, abjurations and buffoonery to warble, “Giuliani is a uniquely Trumpian blend of confidence and lack of discipline.”

    Giuliani’s belly flop won’t be more than a footnote when they write the history of the special counsel’s investigation of Russian meddling, but it deserves our savoring, if only because it demonstrates the rigor with which Trump addresses his legal problems, his political crises and the historical record. Trump and his allies seem incapable of telling a consistent story—or even of sticking to the stories they tell. Remember how Trump tried to explain away the Trump Tower meeting of June 2016 as being a session about “Russian adoption.” Or recall how his account of the number of his days he spent in Moscow during the Miss Universe pageant, days chronicled in the Steele Dossier, keeps shifting. Or think about how his aides routinely dismiss as “jokes” the startling things he says from the podium—such as his request during the campaign that Russia hack and release Hillary Clinton’s emails.

    Even Trump’s supporters in conservative media have begun to question his gyrations. On Fox News Channel, anchor Neil Cavuto tore into him this week stating, “You’re the president. You’re busy. I’m just having a devil of a time figuring out which news is fake. Let’s just say your own words on lots of stuff give me, shall I say, lots of pause.” The editorialists at the Wall Street Journal let him have it with the other barrel, predicting that Trump’s continued lies “increase the likelihood that few will believe him during a genuine crisis,” like a clash in North Korea or the findings of Mueller.

    Trump and Giuliani’s scheming has turned a tiny turd of embarrassment into an epic dunghill. This inability to resolve the Daniels matter peaceably—an indiscretion his supporters would forgive and overlook if he asked them—predicts maximum chaos when the strong meat of Mueller’s report lands. Prepare yourself for the greatest Trumpian contradiction, rowback, obfuscation and distortion ever recorded.

    About That “Expensive Painting” … In last week’s “Swamp Diary,” I noted that the House Intelligence Committee found that oligarch Aras Agalarov had given Trump an “expensive painting,” and I asked readers to speculate on what it might depict. Scores of readers guessed that it was of prostitutes peeing on the Moscow hotel bed while Trump watched, a scene reported in the Steele Dossier. Here follows an assortment of more original speculations: Dennis Benjamin: A portrait of a smoking gun; Angie: Hillary behind bars; Robert Epstein: A watercolor of beautiful Russian showers; Rajiv Pandey: Trump kissing Putin’s feet; David Langlois: A shirtless Putin giving a naked Trump a piggyback ride; Benjamin Contreras: Trump in Putin’s pocket; Jonathan Granoff: A copy of “The Scream”; Ann Hobbs: Putin presenting Trump with Hillary Clinton’s head on a silver platter.

    ******
    Send untrue statements and other corrections of the record to Shafer.Politico@gmail.com. My email alerts tell lies that my Twitter feed repeats. My RSS feed remains a paragon of honesty and Christian living.

    Jack Shafer is Politico’s senior media writer.

    Source: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/05/05/swamp-diary-giuliani-trump-218321
     
  3. Zable

    Zable Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Side note: It’s not been Mr Giuliani’s week. His law firm has dropped him for good. Vanity Fair’s Levin Report of May 10, 2018 led off with this….

    Rudy’s Ex-Law Boss: Please Stop Implicating Us In Your Crimes

    When Lexington Avenue lothario Rudy Giuliani declared last month that he would be joining Donald Trump’s august legal team, he said that he would only be taking a “leave of absence” from his law firm, Greenberg Traurig, because it’d take just a week, two weeks tops, to resolve the Mueller investigation. On Thursday, though, the law firm announced that the leave of absence has, sadly, become permanent, with Giuliani tendering a “resignation” letter on Wednesday. “After recognizing that this work is all consuming and is lasting longer than initially anticipated, Rudy has determined it is best for him to resign,” the firm’s chairman, Richard A. Rosenbaum, said in a statement. So that’s the party line. More likely, as others have speculated, “America’s Mayor” was told he had 24 hours to cough up a letter announcing his departure, or the firm would cough it up for him.

    Greenberg Traurig might have seen this one coming. For starters, any lawyer worth their salt could have told Giuliani that defending the president of the United States in an investigation into possible collusion with a foreign power couldn’t be a side hustle. Second, no one outside of Giuliani actually thought that the Mueller case was going to wrap up in two weeks, or even a month. Perhaps Giuliani’s former bosses would even have granted him a sabbatical, and then allowed him back, if the words coming out of his mouth since joining Team Trump hadn’t become so thoroughly mortifying by association. While Giuliani has said a number of cringe-worthy things since joining Trump’s legal team—that he fantasizes about riding to Ivanka Trump’s rescue; that it would have been really bad if the Stormy Daniels story got out a month before the election, etc.—perhaps the most embarrassing was his appearance on Sean Hannity, wherein he implied any lawyer worth his salt has pulled a Michael Cohen.

    At his law firm, the sentient denture suggested, such payments porn-star payouts were standard practice. “That was money that was paid by his lawyer, the way I would do, out of his law firm funds,” Giuliani said. Cohen, he added, “would take care of things like this like I take care of this with my clients.” You can see how Greenberg Traurig might have come to the conclusion that Giuliani was not the ideal advertisement for the firm.

    Indeed, according to The New York Times, they were not pleased at all. “Firm partners . . . chafed over Mr. Giuliani’s public comments about [the] payments,” write reporters Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman. They were particularly displeased by the implication, which Giuliani spake as gospel, that it’s perfectly normal for a lawyer to secretly take the initiative to silence the porn stars who say they banged their clients. At least not without informing their client first. “We cannot speak for Mr. Giuliani with respect to what was intended by his remarks,” Jill Perry, a spokesperson for the firm, told the paper. “Speaking for ourselves, we would not condone payments of the nature alleged to have been made or otherwise without the knowledge and direction of a client.”

    Also likely playing into Greenberg Traurig’s decision to happily part ways with ole Rudy? The fact that in his short time representing Trump, he’s made a name for himself as one of the worst lawyers of all time, so comically bad that even Donald Trump, Mr. Incompetent, can’t believe what a terrible job he’s doing. Those sorts of reviews are typically seen as a negative for companies advertising their legal services.​

    Source: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/05/rudy-giuliani-greenberg-traurig-resignation
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2018
  4. Zable

    Zable Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Side note: In fact, it’s not been Mr Giuliani’s fortnight. Greg Sargent had this Morning Plum for The Washington Post’s Plum Line opinion column of May 15th 2018….

    The Truth Is About To Catch Up With Trump. He Has Giuliani to thank for it.

    Today is the deadline for President Trump to file his financial disclosure form for 2017. That fact may seem trivially bureaucratic, but lurking at its core is a dilemma for Trump that continues to metastasize into something ever more grotesque.

    The need to submit this form shows that in the Stormy Daniels matter, Trump has been boxed in by his lawyer (sic) Rudy Giuliani — and by his own tweets — with no good way out.

    The Post reports that Stormy’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, is using Trump-like tactics, such as flooding the media zone and trash-talking about his opponents, leading some legal experts to question whether Avenatti is truly acting in his client’s best interests. Some Republicans suggest Avenatti is really out to get Trump.

    But the Daniels story is being driven to no small degree by Trump himself — by his efforts to outrun the facts, and by the ways in which those facts are catching up with him. And Trump’s financial disclosure report will be an important marker in that tale.

    But thanks to Giuliani, we now know that Trump did, in fact, incur this debt to Cohen. In January, the Wall Street Journal broke the news of Cohen’s payment to Daniels. But it was Giuliani who recently admitted to Sean Hannity that Trump had paid Cohen back, which forced Trump to issue two tweets acknowledging that he agreed to reimburse Cohen for the payment via a “monthly retainer.”

    As it is, that blew up Trump’s previous lie on Air Force One that he didn’t know about the payment. But now it gets worse. Trump is in the awkward position of deciding what to say about his liability to Cohen on his financial disclosure form. “He has to disclose any liability he had over $10,000 at any point in 2017,” Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told me this morning.

    Helpfully enough, Giuliani has also laid out to BuzzFeed a detailed timeline of Trump’s payments, acknowledging that Trump agreed to give Cohen $35,000 per month starting early in 2017, which continued throughout the year. “This was a liability of well over $10,000 through much if not all of 2017,” Bookbinder told me.

    Thanks to Giuliani, Trump’s excuse for not disclosing this liability has now evaporated. To justify his failure to disclose it on last year’s form — which detailed his finances for 2016 — Trump could claim he didn’t know about Cohen’s payment or make any agreement to reimburse it. Whether that’s plausible or not, we can’t really disprove it. But now we know that Trump did take on this debt in 2017, because Giuliani compelled him to admit it — by blurting out the truth.

    The plot gets even more tangled. That’s because we have since learned that Cohen made the payment from a company he created called Essential Consultants, and that Cohen and/or his company may have made payments for Trump to other women as well. Giuliani admitted to ABC News that there may have been other payments, saying: “I would think if it was necessary, yes.”

    And so, if Trump agreed to reimburse those payments as well, these liabilities would also have to be disclosed on his financial form — because Trump must indicate the amount of his liabilities within a general range. Bookbinder points out to me that the amount of debt Trump acknowledges to Cohen — if, say, he notes liabilities that are well in excess of $130,000 — will raise additional questions along these lines.

    “He’s going to have to check a box that will give us a ballpark” for his liabilities to Cohen, Bookbinder says. “That will tell us a lot about whether there were additional payments by Cohen to benefit the president.”

    Of course, Trump could try to conceal such additional liabilities while only admitting to reimbursing the Daniels payment. But then he’d be lying on his financial disclosure form, and those payments (and liabilities) could subsequently come out, revealing Trump’s effort to conceal them. Trump could also try to find additional loopholes, such as claiming that the reimbursement was a campaign expenditure, which wouldn’t have to be noted. But as Walter Shaub and Adav Noti point out in a piece on this whole dilemma, Giuliani foreclosed that option, too, when he insisted that the payment was not campaign-related.

    Trump could very well seek an extension of 30 days on his form. But he can’t outrun these facts forever. And hopefully, this will illustrate that there are limits on just how tangled Trump’s web of lies can grow before it finally traps him.​

    Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/
     
  5. Zable

    Zable Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Side note:

    @MichaelAvenatti

    Dear Dazed Rudy: Please retire. Today. You had a good run for many years. But you are distracting from that and quickly becoming an embarrassment. A never ending joke. Don’t let this serve as your legacy. The time has come.

    6:04 AM - 18 May 2018​
     
  6. Zable

    Zable Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Week 51: Avenatti strips Cohen to his bare essentials

    The porn star’s lawyer plays TV prosecutor with the bank records of Trump’s attorney and a Russian oligarch’s name emerges. By Jack Shafer. May 12, 2018

    Every political scandal ultimately turns into a money scandal. The article of impeachment brought against President Richard Nixon included charges that he’d been party to the payment of “substantial” amounts of money to silence or influence potential Watergate witnesses. The Iran-Contra affair sluiced money from illegal arms sales to Iran to finance the Nicaraguan contras. Spiro Agnew resigned from the vice presidency while being investigated for bribery, tax fraud, and extortion.

    This week, the Russia scandal vectored in that direction as Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s financial records ripped a pants seam and news of the ill-gotten cash he had deposited in his shell company, Essential Consultants LLC, gushed out. We learned that AT&T gave Cohen $600,000 for his “insights,” that Novartis dropped $1.2 million on him for political advice on “health care policy matters” and Korea Aerospace Industries chipped in $150,000 for “legal consulting.” The most audacious money drop came from Columbus Nova—a U.S. company reportedly controlled by a Russian company controlled by oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who was recently sanctioned by the U.S. government. Columbus Nova blew $500,000 on the besieged attorney, calling the payment a “consulting fee.” On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen pitched his consulting services to Ford, but they shut him down. On CNN, former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti guessed that investigators would want to determine whether he had lied about what he could deliver. “If you lie to somebody to get their money, that’s fraud,” Mariotti said.

    In an interview with HuffPost, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani asserted that the president had no idea Cohen was raking in influence bucks. “The president had no knowledge of it,” Guiliani said.

    Money always leaves a trail. Dirty money leaves a trail of slime that taints everybody it touches. One unanswered question this week is whether all the consultative moolah coursing through Cohen’s LLC and moving through his “shadowy business empire” of real estate, New York City and Chicago taxi medallion holdings and assorted investments is on the up and up. If proved dirty, will they contaminate his boss, Trump, who traditionally loves using other people’s money? And, if Cohen has committed the money crimes that some suspect him of, will special counsel Robert Mueller persuade him to flip on his one-time boss and testify against him? Mueller has already demonstrated his interest in the slosh of Cohen cash and deal-making on behalf of the Trump Organization to Georgia, Kazakhstan and Russia.

    Mueller obviously has or will scrutinize the way Cohen used Essential Consultants LLC money to mute a potential series of women carnally linked to the president. Besides adult film actress Stormy Daniels, the LLC paid off an ex-Playboy model who was allegedly impregnated by Republican campaign moneyman Elliott Broidy. She got $1.6 million to go away and be quiet. Cohen earned $250,000 for his labors in arranging her silence. The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson Sorkin speculated this week that the corporate money flowing into Cohen’s Essential Consultant piggybank might have served as a slush fund used repeatedly to buy off Trump’s paramours. Rudy Giuliani seemed to tacitly endorse this theory when he told the Washington Post “there probably were other things of a personal nature that Michael [Cohen] took care of.” Out-speculating Sorkin was New York magazine’s Paul Campos who drew an elaborate alternative universe portrait of the $1.6 million payout to the ex-Playboy model. What if it was Trump and not Broidy who had the affair with the model? And what if it was his baby, not Broidy’s that she allegedly aborted, and Broidy took the public fall for him? Make sure you’re sitting down when you ingest this theory.

    Cohen’s legal nightmare, which commenced last month when the FBI raided his homes and office after a referral from Mueller’s operation, was intensified by the agit-prop freestyling of his legal nemesis—Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti. This week, Avenatti’s release of the documents that detailed the flow of corporate money to Cohen’s Essential Consultants launched searches by a hundred investigative reporters eager to determine how much of this interesting money flowed into Trump entities and exactly what sort of influence it purchased. Avenatti, who has brutalized Cohen in scores of news channel appearances, appeared Thursday on CNN to promise more dirt on Cohen. “We haven’t even scratched the surface with this email today and the information that we released earlier in the week,” Avenatti said. “We’ve got emails, we’ve got text messages, we’ve got other financial information, and people better be very careful in the representations that they make.”

    Judd Legum of ThinkProgress says this isn’t an empty threat. He surmises that the emails that Avenatti has been sharing with the news media that document Cohen’s correspondence with attorney Keith Davidson, Daniels’ previous attorney, fell into Avenatti’s possession when Avenatti took over the actress’ case. “If the client decides to seek new representation, the information in the case file is generally deemed to belong to the client, and it’s then forwarded to the new attorney,” Legum writes. Legum assumes that additional materials seized in the Cohen raids will be claimed by Avenatti, U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood permitting.

    But back to the money. ABC News reported this week that the Mueller probe has gone after the millions of dollars donated to Trump’s inauguration committee last year. Donors with connections to Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have fallen under his scrutiny. Trump friend Thomas Barrack amassed $107 million for the event. Andrew Intrater, the CEO of Columbus Nova, who is cousin to oligarch Vekselberg, gave $250,000 to the inauguration committee. He made additional donations to the Trump Victory fund and the Republican National Committee. Because he’s a U.S. citizen, these transactions were legal. Both Intrater and Vekselberg attended the Trump inauguration (Intrater supplied the tickets). Vekselberg was one of two Russian oligarchs who were stopped and questioned at New York-area airports earlier this year as part of Mueller’s probe, CNN reported. Intrater has also been grilled. Vekselberg, who insists on being the Zelig of this story, was also a guest at the 2015 dinner celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Russian propaganda network RT, also attended by Trump’s future (and short-term) national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

    The star of the week’s proceedings was Avenatti, who, as the Daily Beast put it, “has vexed the president’s own legal team, getting them to haphazardly admit that Trump knew about hush money payments” and “has exposed a secretive network of finances that allowed Cohen to both pay off Daniels (and, potentially, other women) as well as recruit business for a shadow-lobbying operation during the Trump administration.”

    Our easily offended president hasn’t tweeted at Avenatti and the usual Trump surrogates have remained uncharacteristically still in the face of his provocations. This timidity demands an explanation. Perhaps Trump knows that Avenatti knows what’s hidden at the bottom of all that suspicious money and fears riling him.

    ******

    In the late 1890s, legend has it, when a peeved railroad baron asked muckraking journalist Ambrose Bierce what his price was to stop reporting, he said $75 million. “If, when you are ready to pay, I happen to be out of town, you may hand it over to my friend, the Treasurer of the United States.” Send your millions to Shafer.Politico@gmail.com. My email alerts take in filthy money to launder. My Twitter feed accepts only clean cash. My RSS feed prefers the arts of bribery and extortion.

    Jack Shafer is Politico’s senior media writer.

    Source: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/05/12/week-51-avenatti-exposes-cohens-naked-greed-218361
     
  7. Zable

    Zable Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Swamp Diary Week 52: Mueller and Trump Celebrate One (Rocky) Year Together

    Few thought the relationship would last, but the special counsel seems determined to make it work. By Jack Shafer May 19, 2018

    Donald Trump proved himself a terrible gift-giver last month when all he got wife Melania for her 48th birthday was … a card. He’s done Robert S. Mueller III much better, spraying him indirectly with a pair of “no collusion” tweets as the first anniversary of the special counsel’s appointment passed. Mueller didn’t give his anniversary partner anything in return, although a piece of paper—a subpoena to testify, perhaps—would have been in keeping with tradition.

    What Trump wants, of course, is an end to the relationship. Instead, Mueller seems more committed than ever to preserving the relationship as he continues excavating into Russian monkeying with the 2016 election. Without leaks or fanfare, he’s gone deeper and wider, rolling up guilty pleas among intimates and hangers-on in President Trump’s orbit, getting people to flip, and sending his first perp to jail. This week, for example, he persuaded the former son-in-law of the multiply-indicted Paul Manafort to cut a plea deal and cooperate in the investigation.

    “Contrary to the president’s repeated assertions of a ‘witch hunt,’ the validity of the investigation has gotten more solid with every passing month,” writes my former boss, Garrett M. Graff, this week in Wired. As Graff points out, you can credit Mueller’s probe for wrecking K.T. McFarland’s nomination to the Singapore ambassadorship, zapping Sam Clovis’ appointment to the Department of Agriculture, and diluting Jared Kushner’s security clearance. Presidential fixer Michael Cohen owes his suppurating wound (you know, the one he carries around the streets of Manhattan as he walks from cigar bar to cigar bar) to Mueller’s team, which uncovered that he accepted more than $1 million from an American company connected to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. It will take some creative explaining—or a tidy lie—for Cohen to explain all the strange money flowing into his account. How much of this mess will the fixer be able to fix?

    Although our information about Mueller’s investigation is imperfect—he runs a ship of tight lips—he seems to have perfected the art of catching suspects who lie to investigators and then using that violation to get smaller fish like Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos and Alexander van der Zwaan (now in jail) to confess and cooperate. If we’re allowed to review the Mueller performance before it has concluded, the first act seems to be about squeezing Manafort—until he rats out other Trump campaign members in return for leniency—while lining up subsidiary crimes of money laundering, obstruction of justice, cyber trespasses and campaign finance violations that bring him potentially closer to the Trump-Russia nexus.

    Who else in the Trump orbit can we expect to knot a noose with their own words? Donald Trump Jr.’s complete testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, all 249 pages of it released this week, stands as a study in obfuscation if not creative lying. I suspect he has The Complete Book of Knots on his bookshelf. Junior told the committee he never told his father of the impending Trump Tower meeting that promised “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. But then why did his father promise “very informative and very, very interesting” information on Clinton at a campaign rally in June 2016 after Junior learned of the “dirt” offer but before the meeting took place? “I have no idea,” a slightly twisted Junior told the committee.

    How about those three blocked-number phone calls Junior made, before and after the meeting? Asked, Junior said he couldn’t remember whether he had directed any of them to his father, even after a congressional investigator nudged him in that direction. In his testimony before the committee, Rob Goldstone—publicist and go-between for Aras Agalarov, a Russian oligarch, and his singer son Emin—said that Trump son-in-law Kushner got all “agitated” at the Trump Tower meeting when the Russians palavered on but didn’t spread any of the promised dirt. Was the meeting secret? investigators asked Goldstone. “Well, I checked in for it on Facebook, so not really,” he answered.

    Running down the list of other Trumpers who had campaign or transition contacts with Russians, we find Cohen, Roger Stone, Jeff Sessions and Kushner, all of whom seem ripe subjects for interrogation and potential contradiction based on their records. (Sessions and Kushner have been interviewed; Cohen and Stone have not yet had the privilege but are expected to.) Will these men suffer from automatic amnesia when it comes to discussing their contacts with Russians?

    In a stunning piece this week sourced to interviews, emails, text messages, testimony and other documents, BuzzFeed reported that Cohen and Felix Sater, Trump intimate, ex-felon and international man of mystery, were still working to build a Trump Tower in Moscow well into the 2016 campaign—contradicting Trump’s claim that he had nothing cooking in Russia. The piece also claims Cohen and Sater were coordinating a prospective Trump-Putin meeting. The tower plans were not abandoned until July 2016, BuzzFeed continues. This directly contradicts Cohen’s January 11, 2017, appearance on Fox News Channel, where he told Sean Hannity, “The last time that there was any activity between the Trump Organization—actually, wasn’t even really the Trump Organization, it was the [2013] Miss Universe pageant, it was held in Moscow.”

    About his Russian interests, Trump held a calendar in one hand and crossed the fingers on his other when he deflected the Russia question in an interview with CBS4 Miami’s Jim Defede on July 27, 2016, saying, “I have nothing to do with Russia.”

    The week also brought the back story from the New York Times of “Crossfire Hurricane,” the Rolling Stones-derived code name the FBI assigned to his original and wide-ranging investigation about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Opened on July 31, 2016, it stemmed from a tip from an Australian diplomat that Trump adviser Papadopoulos was bragging about his knowledge of Russian meddling in the election. The story portrays the FBI as hyper-aware of the political sensitivity of the investigation, which, if made public, could tip the presidential election. “Agents considered, then rejected, interviewing key Trump associates, which might have sped up the investigation but risked revealing the existence of the case,” the Times reported. The FBI so concealed the investigation from Congress and the press that when the Times attempted to measure its scope for a story on October 31, 2016, the government downplayed the probe, leading to the now-controversial headline, “Investigating Donald Trump, FBI Sees No Clear Link to Russia.”

    Participating in the fantastical-sounding operation along with the FBI, fleeting Trump attorney Joseph diGenova said Thursday night on Fox News, were senior members of the Department of Justice, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former FBI Director James Comey. The diGenova accusation, which host Tucker Carlson swallowed, has yet to be seconded by Trump. But he's on the same page. On the morning of diGenova's appearance, the president tweeted that President Barack Obama's FBI had embedded an informant inside Trump's 2016 campaign, sourcing an article in National Review, which in turn cited a piece by Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly A. Strassel.

    DiGenova left his phaser set at “giggle” with his final words, saying "criminal referrals have already been made" and advising Brennan to get a good criminal attorney. If true, we're going to need a bigger jail. U.S. officials denied to CNN that an FBI informant was ever placed in the Trump campaign.

    The former U.S. attorney made former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani look like a paragon of reason as he blitzed his way through the media secondary in an attempt to score for his president. Appearing on CNN, Giuliani made grand claims there were two “embedded” people in the Trump campaign. But he had no proof. “That’s what we were told,” he said. But, Giuliani rowed back, saying that the embedded people cleared the president. The crazy thing about the diGenova-Giuliani reality duel is that the guy who isn’t Trump’s attorney is claiming to know more about the case than the guy who is.

    According to tradition, the second anniversary is supposed to be celebrated with cotton. Here’s predicting that you buy some to stuff your ears before that date arrives.

    *****

    Send lies to Shafer.Politico@gmail.com and receive your own criminal indictment from my email alerts. My Twitter feed flipped long ago. My RSS feed stands with Manafort. Until he flips.

    Jack Shafer is Politico’s senior media writer.

    Source: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/05/19/swamp-diary-trump-mueller-probe-one-year-218409
     
  8. Zable

    Zable Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Side note: Psychic channeller and card reader Amanda Ellis of the UK, speaking on Presidents Donald Trump & Vladimir Putin (as well as Prince William), in a video from March 19, 2018. The first 10 minutes serve as ‘intro’, then first ‘on’ is Mr Putin:

     
  9. Zable

    Zable Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Side note: “The special prosecutor’s portrayal of an active, ongoing investigation seems at odds with claims by Trump’s lawyers”, writes Josh Gerstein for Politico.
    May 23, 2018

    Mueller fights media access to secret court filings

    Special counsel Robert Mueller is fighting a drive by media organizations to unseal secret court filings relating to searches and surveillance efforts undertaken as part of the investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.

    While lawyers for President Donald Trump have suggested in recent weeks that the inquiry appears to be winding down, Mueller’s prosecutors submitted a court filing on Wednesday that painted a very different picture of an investigation that is moving forward on multiple fronts and could be jeopardized by premature disclosure of the records sought by news outlets.

    “The Special Counsel’s investigation is not a closed matter, but an ongoing criminal investigation with multiple lines of non-public inquiry,” prosecutors wrote in a brief submitted to U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson. “The investigation consists of multiple lines of inquiry within the overall scope of the Special Counsel’s authority. Many aspects of the investigation are factually and legally interconnected: they involve overlapping courses of conduct, relationships, and events, and they rely on similar sources, methods, and techniques. The investigation is not complete and its details remain non-public.”

    While Mueller’s inquiry has now been underway for more than a year and the FBI was investigating even earlier, none of a slew of search warrants, surveillance requests and similar filings have been officially unsealed by the courts. However, defense lawyers for Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, have made public some details on two search warrants they have challenged in the criminal cases against their client.

    Last month, five news organizations — POLITICO, The Associated Press, The New York Times, CNN and The Washington Post — asked Jackson to unseal an unknown number of warrants and similar orders obtained during the course of the investigation.

    “The gravity and importance of this criminal investigation is second to none in our nation’s history, and therefore the public’s interest in the transparency of that investigation could not be greater,” lawyers Jay Ward Brown and Matthew Kelley wrote on behalf of the media coalition.

    The news outlets suggested that deletion of some details could accommodate any concerns about particularly sensitive aspects of the filings, but Mueller’s team said Wednesday that such an alternative would not prevent damage to the ongoing investigation. Indeed, the prosecutors said that revealing even bare-bones information about when warrants were issued could inflict grave damage on the inquiry.

    “The dates and volume of warrants also reveal the evolution and direction of investigative interests,” Mueller attorneys Michael Dreeben, Andrew Weissmann and Adam Jed wrote. “Making this information public while an investigation is ongoing could pose a clear and ominous threat to the investigation’s integrity.”

    Mueller’s team offered one concession: It said it would agree to a fuller but still less-than-complete release of the two search warrants being battled over in the Manafort cases.

    “Because these are among the earliest warrants obtained in the investigation and only two warrants are at issue,” the prosecutors wrote, “the government believes that it could practicably redact sensitive information and nonetheless leave unredacted certain information whose disclosure would not harm the ongoing investigation.”​

    Source: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/23/mueller-media-secret-filings-607111
     
  10. Zable

    Zable Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Swamp Diary Week 53: Trump Goes Spy Hunting and Gets Skunked

    Even some of his staunchest supporters couldn’t manage to applaud his performance. By Jack Shafer. May 26, 2018

    Master table-turner Donald Trump is at it again, spinning the latest damning news from the Russia investigation and flinging it back at his critics to make him look like a victim, not a perp.

    This week’s twirl of the table had Trump spinning his interpretive energies into “SPYGATE,” his racy label for the alleged “Criminal Deep State” conspiracy against him. Why call it Spygate? Trump, who lives for catchy buzz-phrases and slogans, told an ally he wanted “to brand” the informant as a spy, and that such language would leave a more lasting impression on the media and public.

    On Sunday, the president issued his pompous “I hereby demand” decree on Twitter that the Department of Justice investigate his suspicions that the Obama administration had “infiltrated or surveilled” his campaign. According to Trump’s theory, the FBI wasn’t investigating the possible penetration of his 2016 presidential campaign by Russian intelligence when it assigned an informant to speak to three members of his campaign staff. It was embedding a spy in his campaign for political purposes, resulting in a scandalous affair that could be “bigger than Watergate!“ “Illegal!” he tweeted, all designed to “frame“ him for crimes he didn’t commit. The president raised such a fuss that he instigated two mini-briefings on Capitol Hill about the FBI’s tactics so that select members of Congress could judge for themselves.

    The “spy” in question turns out to be Stefan A. Halper, Republican stalwart and University of Cambridge professor emeritus who worked for the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations and George H.W. Bush’s campaign. (If this be the Deep State, maybe it’s not as dark and mysterious as we thought.) He allegedly spied on President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 campaign for Reagan, and some say he used former CIA agents to gather his information.

    As much as Trump would like you to believe that Halper was a spy and not a legitimate informant working on an investigation, he can’t get independent voices with clout (outside of Kimberley A. Strassel of the Wall Street Journal editorial page) to echo his opinions. This week, a leading member of the president’s party, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina (who didn’t attend the briefings), declined an invitation to endorse the Trump view. “A confidential informant is not a spy,” Graham said succinctly. Republicans who attended the briefing were mum, ducking out without speaking to reporters. Democrats who attended—Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Chuck Schumer, and Sen. Mark Warner—were adamant in insisting that no “spying” had occurred. Even Rudy Giuliani, who had asserted his boss’ right to know if Halper had gathered exculpatory evidence in his conversations with George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, didn’t suggest afterward that anything like that had emerged.

    One of the many problems with Trump’s SPYGATE theory is the idea that the nefarious FBI and the “Criminal Deep State” would go to all that trouble penetrating his campaign with a “spy” and then not use what they had gleaned to destroy his chances of winning the election? It’s a strange bit of sabotage when the saboteur sets the charges under the bridge and then doesn’t strike the fuse. Like the similar table-turning by Trump’s supporters who advocated for the release of the Nunes memo, or Trump’s insistence that the real Russia scandal was the Uranium One deal, or his claim that the Obama administration had “tapped“ his phones, or the business about “unmasking,” his new harping about a government spy infiltrating his campaign is just another obfuscating slow-simmer idea to leap out of his mental Crock-Pot. Trump barks, Mueller’s caravan moves on.

    This week we learned of yet another previously undisclosed contact between a powerful Russian and a member of the Trump court. On Friday, the New York Times reported that oligarch Viktor Vekselberg met with Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen in his Trump Tower office just 11 days before the inauguration.

    A few days after Trump took the oath of office, Cohen won a $1 million consulting contract from Columbus Nova, which is an affiliate of Vekselberg’s Renova Group—both of which landed on the Treasury Department sanctions list last month. (Cohen ended up only collecting $580,000 of the contract.) Also attending the meeting was Columbus Nova head Andrew Intrater, Vekselberg’s cousin, who later donated $250,000 to the Trump inaugural committee. Both Intrater and Vekselberg have been interviewed by Mueller’s team. The Intrater and Vekselberg arrival was captured by the C-SPAN camera positioned in the Trump Tower lobby. Isn’t it lovely that C-SPAN has ended up being the operator of the national security security-cam?

    “Mr. Trump was in the building that day, and his office was just doors down from Mr. Cohen’s, though Mr. Intrater said they did not see the president-elect,” the Times reports.

    So many meetings between foreigners and Trumpies in the Trump Tower! Let’s count!

    Long before Vekselberg and Intrater came calling on Cohen, the president’s gilded edifice on 5th Avenue had hosted several interesting meetings. In January 2015, Trump met with Emin Agalarov, son of Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, and his publicist, Rob Goldstone in his office. More famously, the top brass of the Trump campaign—Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort—met with a bevy of Russians promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. In August 2016, as the New York Times has just reported, emissaries for two Arab princes met with Donald Trump Jr. and informed him that the wealthy princes wanted to help Trump win the November election. (“The interactions are a focus of the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel,” the Times reports.) The two emissaries, Blackwater founder Erik Prince and international fixer George Nader, later met with Putin-linked financier Kirill Dmitriev in Seychelles in January 2017. A third attendee at the meeting, Joel Zamel, a “specialist in social media manipulation,” had previously worked for Putin-allied oligarchs Oleg Deripaska and Dmitry Rybolovlev. Deripaska, as is well known, was once a business partner of Manafort’s.

    Roger Stone, longtime Trump supporter, self-proclaimed dirty-tricks artist, and author of the famous tweet that promised John Podesta that he would soon be enjoying his "time in the barrel," may soon have a ticket to the big wooden tub. This week, the Wall Street Journal published Stone emails that indicate that he might not have been on the complete level in his interview with the House Intelligence Committee in September about his solicitation of materials from Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks. It now appears that despite earlier denials, he was actively seeking additional emails by Hillary Clinton.

    “Please ask Assange for any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30—particularly on August 20, 2011,” Stone wrote to his go-between. Stone tells the Journal that his testimony was truthful, but it’s hard to square with this email.

    Appearing on Meet the Press last Sunday, Stone said he was “prepared” to be indicted in Mueller’s investigation for some “extraneous crime pertaining to my business.” Evidence that the awfulness of prison life is weighing on him came two days later in an interview with Breitbart News Daily on Sirius XM. Stone said former CIA Director John Brennan would end up going to jail for his deep state crimes against Trump, so he “should pop the glass capsule and take the cyanide now.”

    Will Stone take cyanide if he’s sent up the river? My guess is he’d find a way to wash it down with some contraband Champagne.

    *****

    Turn your own tables with mail to Shafer.Politico@gmail.com. My email alerts include a Russian at every meeting. My Twitter feed is Russian. My RSS feed is for sale to the highest foreign bidder.

    CORRECTION: This post has been updated to correct the spelling of Strassel's name.

    Jack Shafer is Politico’s senior media writer.
    Source: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/05/26/swamp-diary-trump-spy-hunter-218545
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2018
  11. Zable

    Zable Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Swamp Diary Week 54: Pardon-crazy Trump Forgives Everyone Except (For) Sessions

    The president signals mercy awaits those in Mueller’s sights – as long as they stay loyal. By Jack Shafer. June 02, 2018

    From President Donald Trump’s compassionate heart has come a bundle of pardons. He first extended his presidential grace to Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff convicted of criminal contempt. “I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly,” Trump said as he granted the pardon. Then he pardoned sailor Kristian Saucier for taking photos inside a classified area of a submarine, stating before the pardon that Saucier’s treatment had been “very unfair.”

    Next, he extinguished Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s perjury conviction from the records. “For years I have heard he was treated unfairly,” the president said as he issued the blessing. “It’s about time,” the president said upon pardoning fighter Jack Johnson, forgetting this time to comment on the unfairness of his treatment. Trump returned fairness to his rhetorical mix this week as he pardoned conservative provocateur Dinesh D’Souza, tweeting, “He was treated very unfairly by our government!”

    Trump spoke this week about expanding his mercy to another member of the unfairly treated, Martha Stewart. “I think to a certain extent Martha Stewart was harshly and unfairly treated,” Trump told the White House pool. A commutation of sentence may be in store for former ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. “Eighteen years is, I think, really unfair,” Trump said of Blagojevich’s sentence, even though it was really 14 years, but unfair is unfair, right?

    With presidential pardons going to everybody outside of Al Capone and the Boston Strangler, Attorney General Jeff Sessions must be wondering when Trump will finally grant him the forgiveness and amnesty he seeks. Ever since Sessions recused himself from the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign in March 2017, the president has brutalized his top cop with a variety of psychological punishments so cruel they deserve inclusion in the next edition of The Big Book of Pain: Torture & Punishment Through History.

    “Idiot,” Trump said to Sessions when his recusal led to the appointment of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, demanding his resignation, and then made the unsuccessful demand that Sessions reverse his recusal. A couple of months later he disparaged Sessions as “beleaguered” and “very weak” and added that he would have never appointed him AG had recusal been a possibility. “What would happen if I fired Sessions?” he casually said inside the White House. This week, Trump flew over the Department of Justice and dropped yet another Twitter bomb on Sessions, writing that he wished he had picked a different attorney general. Oh, and he dismissed him as “Mr. Magoo” behind his back. Having all but said that Sessions betrayed him, what does the president have for his attorney general in his inexhaustible queue of abuse? The Pear of Anguish?

    A pardon represents an act of forgiveness from the government for a crime and usually carries with it an acknowledgment of guilt from the pardoned. But not in the Trump universe. As many have noted, several of the president’s early pardons look like political weapons designed to protect himself. The Arpaio and D’Souza pardons especially signal to those indicted (and unindicted) in the Mueller investigations that the president doesn’t fear criticism for dispensing unmerited dispensations, that relief will eventually visit the guilty who remain loyal to the president instead of flipping.

    Mother Jones’ David Corn interprets the Libby pardon as an act of retaliation directed at both James Comey, who appointed Libby’s prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, and at Fitzgerald, who now represents Comey. The president almost seems to be taunting Comey and Fitzgerald—and, by extension, Mueller—See, how with my presidential powers I can undo the fruits of your investigations and prosecutions? Likewise, the Johnson pardon demonstrates Trump disregard for longstanding Department of Justice pardon policies—in this case that the energies of the pardon process be “living persons who can truly benefit from a grant of clemency”—and illustrates that he’ll pardon anybody he wants any time he wants. The Johnson pardon has the added bonus of also giving Trump a way of thumbing his nose at his political enemies, Presidents Bush and Obama, who declined to absolve the fighter.

    Former federal prosecutor Ken “Popehat” White posits a master theory for the pardons. “Trump’s drumbeat narrative [is] that federal law enforcement is corrupt and illegitimate,” he writes, and that prosecutions such as the ones he is overturning with his pardon and the investigation of his campaign are politically motivated. It’s no coincidence that Stewart went down for lying to investigators and Blago got caught obstructing justice, both being raps we associate with the Mueller investigation. In Trump world, these crimes aren’t crimes, they’re examples of political persecution. By pardoning them, he makes it so. Roger Stone—Trump loyalist and potential target of the Mueller probe—delivered similar pardon analysis. “It has to be a signal to Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort and even Robert S. Mueller III: Indict people for crimes that don’t pertain to Russian collusion and this is what could happen,” he said.

    Forgiveness—true forgiveness—appears a scant resource in the Trump universe, so Sessions can stop seeking it. During the presidential campaign, Trump was asked whether he had ever asked God for forgiveness for his sins. (Close observers of Trump know he has never acknowledged doing anything wrong, much less ask for absolution, but we’ll leave that to the theologians for the moment.)

    “I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so,” Trump said. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”

    But don’t pity Sessions. As Eliana Johnson and Annie Karni wrote in Politico this week, he has a force greater than a pardon serving him: leverage. If Trump fires Sessions, he’s just inviting him to become a friendly witness for Mueller. Even without Sessions’ cooperation, Trump’s nagging of Sessions that he unrecuse himself looks like a slice of evidence of obstruction by itself. Now, if he fires Sessions, it will look like obstruction on top of obstruction, and it will be Trump in search of a pardon. Let’s hope the president is still on good terms with Vice President Mike Pence if it comes to that.

    According to the Daily Caller, Stefan Halper kept a full dance card, including cutting the rug with the media while he was working as an FBI informant. In addition to surreptitiously interviewing Trump campaign associates Carter Page, Sam Clovis and George Papadopoulos for the FBI to assess their coziness with alleged Russian intelligence assets, Halper also chatted up the press, including the Financial Times. He told the paper for its December 16, 2016, edition that he had quit the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar because of “unacceptable Russian influence on the group.” The Caller also surmises but does not prove that Halper served as an anonymous source for press about Michael Flynn. Retired FBI man and CNN analyst James Gagliano told the Caller that such media contact was unkosher for a source, an asset or a cooperating witness.

    Halper sure does get around. Politico‘s Kyle Cheney reported this week that in August 2017 the White House issued a press release on trade in which Halper “issued a glowing assessment of Trump’s decision.” Meanwhile, Axios reported that Trump’s trade guru, Peter Navarro, recommended Halper for one of the U.S. ambassadorships in Asia. Informant or opportunist? I guess it’s a matter of which reflection casts back from the hall of mirrors.

    *****

    Here’s a great
    tool from CNN to track the investigation. Send tools to Shafer.Politico@gmail.com. When my email alerts look into the mirror, they see my
    Twitter when what’s really there is my RSS feed.

    Jack Shafer is Politico’s senior media writer.

    Source: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/06/02/swamp-diary-trump-pardons-sessions-218587
     
  12. Zable

    Zable Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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