Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Election

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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu May 31, 2018 5:39 pm

Trump decides to pardon a felon that makes his livin' claimin' Democrats includin' Jews, African-Americans and other minorities are Nazis.

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F.B.I. Official Wrote Secret Memo Fearing Trump Got a Cover Story for Comey Firing

May 30, 2018

Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, oversees the special counsel’s investigation.Tom Brenner/The New York Times
WASHINGTON — The former acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe, wrote a confidential memo last spring recounting a conversation that offered significant behind-the-scenes details on the firing of Mr. McCabe’s predecessor, James B. Comey, according to several people familiar with the discussion.

Mr. Comey’s firing is a central focus of the special counsel’s investigation into whether President Trump tried to obstruct the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia. Mr. McCabe has turned over his memo to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

In the document, whose contents have not been previously reported, Mr. McCabe described a conversation at the Justice Department with the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, in the chaotic days last May after Mr. Comey’s abrupt firing. Mr. Rosenstein played a key role in the dismissal, writing a memo that rebuked Mr. Comey over his handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton.

But in the meeting at the Justice Department, Mr. Rosenstein added a new detail: He said the president had originally asked him to reference Russia in his memo, the people familiar with the conversation said. Mr. Rosenstein did not elaborate on what Mr. Trump had wanted him to say.

To Mr. McCabe, that seemed like possible evidence that Mr. Comey’s firing was actually related to the F.B.I.’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, and that Mr. Rosenstein helped provide a cover story by writing about the Clinton investigation.

One person who was briefed on Mr. Rosenstein’s conversation with the president said Mr. Trump had simply wanted Mr. Rosenstein to mention that he was not personally under investigation in the Russia inquiry. Mr. Rosenstein said it was unnecessary and did not include such a reference. Mr. Trump ultimately said it himself when announcing the firing.

Mr. McCabe’s memo, one of several that he wrote, highlights the conflicting roles that Mr. Rosenstein plays in the case. He supervises the special counsel investigation and has told colleagues that protecting it is among his highest priorities. But many current and former law enforcement officials are suspicious of some of his other actions, including allowing some of Mr. Trump’s congressional allies to view crucial documents from the investigation.

In conversations with prosecutors, Mr. Trump’s lawyers have cited Mr. Rosenstein’s involvement in the firing of Mr. Comey as proof that it was not an effort to obstruct justice, according to people familiar with the president’s legal strategy.

That argument has only made Mr. Rosenstein’s position even more peculiar: He oversees an investigation into the president, who points to Mr. Rosenstein’s own actions as evidence that he is innocent. And Mr. Rosenstein could have the final say on whether that argument has merit.

The people who discussed the meeting and the memo did so on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matters. A spokeswoman for Mr. McCabe declined to comment. Mr. McCabe was fired in March after a finding that he was not candid in an internal investigation. Mr. McCabe has said the firing was a politically motivated effort to discredit him as a witness in the special counsel investigation.

A Justice Department spokeswoman also declined to comment. Mr. Rosenstein has consulted departmental ethics advisers about whether to recuse himself from the Russia investigation and has not done so.

“I’ve talked with Director Mueller about this,” Mr. Rosenstein told The Associated Press last year. “He’s going to make the appropriate decisions, and if anything that I did winds up being relevant to his investigation then, as Director Mueller and I discussed, if there’s a need from me to recuse, I will.”

Removing Mr. Rosenstein from the investigation, though, would only add uncertainty to the process. He is regarded, even among his critics, as a bulwark against an effort by Mr. Trump to fire Mr. Mueller and shut down the investigation. Mr. Trump has openly mused about doing so, and has considered firing Mr. Rosenstein, too.


Memos written by Andrew G. McCabe, the former acting F.B.I. director, highlight the conflicting roles that Mr. Rosenstein plays in the special counsel investigation.Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Mr. McCabe’s memo reflects the F.B.I.’s early efforts to discern Mr. Trump’s intentions in firing Mr. Comey, an effort that continues today. Mr. Trump and his advisers have issued conflicting and changing explanations for the termination.

At first, they pointed to Mr. Rosenstein’s reasoning, which criticized Mr. Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation. He was unusually public about the inquiry in ways that Democrats say contributed to Mrs. Clinton’s defeat.

But Mr. Trump quickly undercut that statement, telling NBC News that he had planned to fire Mr. Comey even before receiving Mr. Rosenstein’s memo. “And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,’” Mr. Trump said. “It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”

Mr. Trump also told Russian diplomats in the Oval Office that firing Mr. Comey had relieved “great pressure” that he had faced because of Russia.

Mr. Rosenstein’s comments to Mr. McCabe were made against a backdrop of those shifting explanations. After their meeting, Mr. Rosenstein gave Mr. McCabe a copy of a draft firing letter that Mr. Trump had written, according to two people familiar with the conversation. Mr. McCabe later gave that letter, and his memos, to Mr. Mueller.

Mr. McCabe’s memo reflects the anxiety of the early months of the Trump administration and presaged a relationship with law enforcement that has only grown more strained. Just as Mr. Comey kept memos on interactions with Mr. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Mr. McCabe documented his own conversations with the president and others.

Mr. Trump has injected himself into Justice Department operations in ways that have little precedent. While most presidents who have faced federal investigations have assiduously avoided discussing them for fear of being seen as trying to influence them, Mr. Trump has shown no hesitation. He has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” declared that a “deep state” was trying to undermine his presidency, and encouraged the Justice Department to provide sensitive details about the special counsel inquiry to Congress.

Most recently, Mr. Trump has publicly demanded that the Justice Department investigate the Russia investigation itself.

In response, Mr. Rosenstein has walked a perilous line. Faced with threats on his job, he told Republicans in Congress that he would not be “extorted.” But he has also relented to pressure in some instances, providing information to Congress that would not normally be shared amid an investigation.

And in response to the president’s calls for an investigation into whether the F.B.I. used informants to infiltrate his campaign — a charge for which there is no public evidence — Mr. Rosenstein referred the matter to the inspector general and issued a public statement that some current and former officials said was too tepid.

“If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action,” Mr. Rosenstein said.

Mr. Rosenstein has said little about his strategy for dealing with the political crosswinds. But he has defended his memo about Mr. Comey. “I wrote it. I believe it. I stand by it,” he said in a statement last year. He added that it was never intended to “justify a for-cause termination.”

Recently, Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, added a new explanation for Mr. Comey’s firing. He said Mr. Trump was upset that Mr. Comey would not publicly clear him in the Russia investigation.

“He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn’t a target of the investigation,” Mr. Giuliani said.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/30/us/p ... -memo.html


NEW: Michael Cohen received a secret payment of at least $400,000 to arrange talks between Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko & Trump.

Shortly after the visit last June, Ukraine's anti-corruption agency stopped its investigation into Paul Manafort.


Trump lawyer 'paid by Ukraine' to arrange White House talks

By Paul Wood BBC News, Kiev
Poroshenko shakes hands with TrumpGetty Images
Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko (left) meets US President Donald Trump at the White House in June 2017
Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, received a secret payment of at least $400,000 (£300,000) to fix talks between the Ukrainian president and President Trump, according to sources in Kiev close to those involved.

The payment was arranged by intermediaries acting for Ukraine's leader, Petro Poroshenko, the sources said, though Mr Cohen was not registered as a representative of Ukraine as required by US law.

Mr Cohen denies the allegation.

The meeting at the White House was last June. Shortly after the Ukrainian president returned home, his country's anti-corruption agency stopped its investigation into Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.

A high-ranking Ukrainian intelligence officer in Mr Poroshenko's administration described what happened before the visit to the White House.

Mr Cohen was brought in, he said, because Ukraine's registered lobbyists and embassy in Washington DC could get Mr Poroshenko little more than a brief photo-op with Mr Trump. Mr Poroshenko needed something that could be portrayed as "talks".

This senior official's account is as follows - Mr Poroshenko decided to establish a back channel to Mr Trump. The task was given to a former aide, who asked a loyal Ukrainian MP for help.

He in turn used personal contacts in a Jewish charity in New York state, Chabad of Port Washington. This eventually led to Michael Cohen, the president's lawyer and trusted fixer. Mr Cohen was paid $400,000.

There is no suggestion that Mr Trump knew about the payment.

Michael Cohen leaves US courthouse in New YorkGetty Images
Michael Cohen (centre) is under criminal investigation in the US
A second source in Kiev gave the same details, except that the total paid to Mr Cohen was $600,000.

There was also support for the account from a lawyer in the US who has uncovered details of Mr Cohen's finances, Michael Avenatti. He represents a porn actress, Stormy Daniels, in legal action against President Trump.

Avenatti said that Suspicious Activity Reports filed by Mr Cohen's bank to the US Treasury showed he had received money from "Ukrainian interests".

As well as Mr Cohen, the two Ukrainians said to have opened the backchannel for their president also denied the story.

The senior intelligence official in Kiev said Mr Cohen had been helped by Felix Sater, a convicted former mobster who was once Trump's business partner. Mr Sater's lawyer, too, denied the allegations.

The Ukrainian president's office initially refused to comment but, asked by a local journalist to respond, a statement was issued calling the story a "blatant lie, slander and fake".

As was widely reported last June, Mr Poroshenko was still guessing at how much time he would have with Mr Trump even as he flew to Washington.

The White House schedule said only that Mr Poroshenko would "drop in" to the Oval Office while Mr Trump was having staff meetings.

That had been agreed through official channels. Mr Cohen's fee was for getting Mr Poroshenko more than just an embarrassingly brief few minutes of small talk and a handshake, the senior official said. But negotiations continued until the early hours of the day of the visit.

The Ukrainian side were angry, the official went on, because Mr Cohen had taken "hundreds of thousands" of dollars from them for something it seemed he could not deliver.

Right up until the last moment, the Ukrainian leader was uncertain if he would avoid humiliation.

"Poroshenko's inner circle were shocked by how dirty this whole arrangement [with Cohen] was."

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Mr Poroshenko was desperate to meet Mr Trump because of what had happened in the US presidential election campaign.

In August 2016, the New York Times published a document that appeared to show Mr Trump's campaign manager, Paul Manafort, getting millions of dollars from pro-Russian interests in Ukraine.

It was a page of the so-called "black ledger" belonging to the Party of the Regions, the pro-Russian party that employed Mr Manafort when he ran a political consultancy in Ukraine.

The page appeared to have come from Ukraine's National Anti Corruption Bureau, which was investigating him. Mr Manafort had to resign.

Former Trump campaign manager Paul ManafortReuters
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort maintains his innocence
Several sources in Ukraine said Mr Poroshenko authorised the leak, believing that Hillary Clinton was certain to win the presidency.

If so, this was a disastrous mistake - Ukraine had backed the losing candidate in the US election. Regardless of how the leak came about, it hurt Mr Trump, the eventual winner.

Ukraine was (and remains) at war with Russia and Russian-backed separatists and could not afford to make an enemy of the new US president.

So Mr Poroshenko appeared relieved as he beamed and paid tribute to Mr Trump in the Oval Office.

He boasted that he had seen the new president before Russia's leader, Vladimir Putin. He called it a "substantial visit". He held a triumphant news conference in front of the north portico of the White House.

A week after Mr Poroshenko returned home to Kiev, Ukraine's National Anti Corruption Bureau announced that it was no longer investigating Mr Manafort.

At the time, an official there explained to me that Mr Manafort had not signed the "black ledger" acknowledging receipt of the money. And anyway, he went on, Mr Manafort was American and the law allowed the bureau only to investigate Ukrainians.

US charges facing Paul Manafort

conspiracy against the US, conspiracy to launder money and failure to disclose foreign assets - all related to his work in Ukraine and filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He pleaded not guilty
tax and bank fraud charges later filed by Mueller in US state of Virginia, also denied by Manafort
Read more about Manafort: The man who helped Trump win

Ukraine did not terminate the Manafort inquiry altogether. The file was handed from the Anti Corruption Bureau to the state prosecutor's office. It languished there.

Last week in Kiev, the prosecutor in charge of the case, Serhiy Horbatyuk, told me: "There was never a direct order to stop the Manafort inquiry but from the way our investigation has progressed, it's clear that our superiors are trying to create obstacles."

Anti-Russian protests in KievGetty Images
Anti-Russian protests in Kiev this year
None of our sources say that Mr Trump used the Oval Office meeting to ask Mr Poroshenko to kill the Manafort investigation. But if there was a back channel, did Michael Cohen use it to tell the Ukrainians what was expected of them?

Perhaps he didn't need to.

One source in Kiev said Mr Poroshenko had given Trump "a gift" - making sure that Ukraine would find no more evidence to give the US inquiry into whether the Trump campaign "colluded" with Russia.

Mr Poroshenko knew that to do otherwise, another source said, "would be like spitting in Trump's face".

More on Michael Cohen


Was Trump's Stormy Daniels payment legal?
Who is Michael Cohen?
The big question at heart of Stormy Daniels saga
Why the raid on Trump's lawyer is a big deal
A report by a member of a Western country's intelligence community says Mr Poroshenko's team believe they have established a "non-aggression pact" with Mr Trump.

Drawing on "senior, well placed" intelligence sources in Kiev, the report sets out this sequence of events…

As soon as Trump was elected, the report says, Ukraine stopped "proactively" investigating Manafort.

Liaison with the US government was moved away from the National Anti Corruption Bureau to a senior aide in the presidential administration.

The report states that Poroshenko returned from Washington and, in August or September, 2017, decided to completely end cooperation with the US agencies investigating Manafort. He did not give an order to implement this decision until November 2017.

The order became known to the US government after scheduled visits by Poroshenko's senior aide to see Mueller and the CIA director, in November and December, were cancelled.

The report says that an "element of the understanding" between Poroshenko and Trump was that Ukraine agreed to import US coal and signed a $1bn contract for American-made diesel trains.

These deals can only be understood as Poroshenko buying American support, the reports say.

In March, the Trump administration announced the symbolically important sale of 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.

Even under President Obama, the US did not sell arms to Ukraine. A well known figure in Kiev, now retired from his old job in government, told me he didn't like what had happened with the Manafort inquiry; however, Ukraine was fighting for its survival.

"I want the rule of law," he said, "but I am a patriot."

He said he had kept in touch with his former subordinates and had heard many of the details about a "Cohen backchannel".

Michael Cohen in an elevator at Trump TowerGetty Images
Michael Cohen visited Donald Trump at Trump Tower in 2016
He said that if Ukrainians came to believe that a corrupt deal had been done over Mr Manafort: "This thing might destroy support for America."

Ukraine's domestic intelligence service, the SBU, did their own - secret - report on Mr Manafort.

It found that there was not one "black ledger" but three and that Mr Manafort had been paid millions of dollars more from Ukraine than had been made public. (Mr Manafort has denied any wrongdoing.)

This information was given to me by a very senior police officer who saw the report. He said it had not been passed to the Americans.


http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44215656


The payment was arranged by intermediaries acting for Petro Poroshenko, but Michael Cohen was not registered as a representative of Ukraine as required by US law.

NEW: Michael Cohen received a secret payment of at least $400,000 to arrange talks between Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko & Trump.

Shortly after the visit last June, Ukraine's anti-corruption agency…


Senior intelligence official in Kiev also said Cohen had help (arranging the talks) from Felix Sater, a convicted former mobster who was once Trump's business partner.

NEW: Michael Cohen received a secret payment of at least $400,000 to arrange talks between Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko & Trump.

Shortly after the visit last June, Ukraine's anti-corruption agency…
https://twitter.com/RVAwonk/status/999323238873387008



One of Michael Cohen's business partners — known as 'the Taxi King' — just reportedly agreed to cooperate with the government


Michael Cohen.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
One of Michael Cohen's business partners is now cooperating with the government, The New York Times reported.
That could increase the likelihood of Cohen's cooperation, The Times wrote.
The business associate is known as "the Taxi King."
One of Michael Cohen's business partners, known as "the Taxi King," agreed to cooperate with the government as a potential witness as part of a plea deal, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The Times wrote that his cooperation could be used as leverage to get Cohen, President Donald Trump's longtime lawyer, to work with special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether the Trump campaign engaged in any collusion with Russian officials.

Evgeny Friedman, a Russian immigrant who earned the nickname "the Taxi King," will avoid jail time under the agreement and will assist federal and state prosecutors in investigations, The Times reported.

Cohen is currently under criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York. He has not been charged with a crime. Mueller initially reviewed Cohen's conduct prior to referring it to the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. Cohen's next court date in that case is set for Thursday.

The FBI raided Cohen's home, office, and hotel room last month, and those documents are currently undergoing a review, which is being overseen by a special master to determine what falls under attorney-client privilege and what can be used by the government in a potential prosecution of Cohen. Federal investigators sought Cohen's business documents in the raids.

Cohen is a significant operator in the taxi business, owning a substantial number of taxi medallions, and was partners with Friedman for years.

As The Times wrote, Trump's lawyers know there is a strong chance that the investigation into his businesses leads to Cohen cooperating with the government. Friedman's cooperation only makes the chances of that stronger, the publication noted.

Friedman faced charges of criminal tax fraud and grand larceny, all felony charges.
http://nordic.businessinsider.com/micha ... ent-2018-5
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu May 31, 2018 7:29 pm

Did Russian Trolls Have Company?: New Evidence on Israel-based PSY-Group’s Possible Social Media Efforts in 2016 US Election

Much ink has been spilled on the role of the Russia-backed Internet Research Agency’s engaging in disinformation tactics to help the Trump campaign. The intelligence firm and thirteen individuals connected to it are the targets of an indictment brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in February. The indictment finds fault with the IRA for “posing as U.S. persons and creating false U.S. personas, operated social media pages and groups designed to attract U.S. audiences” and then using those assets to spread disinformation designed to interfere in the election. But a little known private Israeli intelligence firm may well have done precisely the same thing, according to new information by an independent organization that tracks such efforts.

The New York Times was the first to report on a meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Erik Prince and George Nader in August 2016 that included Joel Zamel, the founder of PSY-Group, an Israel-based private intelligence firm that sold social-media manipulation services. The meeting was in part to pitch PSY-Group’s proposal to use “thousands of fake social media accounts to promote Mr. Trump’s candidacy on platforms like Facebook.”

Without much more than raising the question whether the plan pitched to the Trump campaign was ever adopted, the New York Times’ story does hint that PSY-Group may have undertaken these efforts. Don Jr. reportedly “responded approvingly” to the proposal, Nader paid Zamel $2 million after the election, and in Dec. 2016 Nader turned to another Zamel-linked company “to purchase a presentation demonstrating the impact of social media campaigns on Mr. Trump’s electoral victory,” the Times reported.

Following the New York Times story, Bloomberg reported that the special counsel is investigating flows of money into PSY-Group’s Cyprus bank account. The Wall Street Journal then reported that PSY-Group “formed a strategic partnership” with the data firm that worked with the Trump campaign”–Cambridge Analytica–“in a joint bid to win business from the U.S. government and other clients after the 2016 election.” The agreement was apparently also inked in Dec. 2016–suggesting the companies may have already established a line of communication before the election. Then, the Wall Street Journal published a nine-slide presentation from PSY-Group outlining how fake accounts helped Donald Trump win the 2016 election.

These various news reports lead to bigger questions: what role, if any, did PSY-Group play in the 2016 US election, and what was its relationship if any to other key players and firms participating in misinformation campaigns to elect Donald Trump? A startup in Texas may have unearthed new evidence in the matter.

The research comes from New Knowledge AI, an Austin-based company with a team of highly respected technologists that sells products and services to fight disinformation and to identify fake social media accounts and propaganda campaigns. The organization posted a Twitter thread that poses some serious questions about who is behind PSY-Group, and whether the company coordinated an election interference campaign similar to the Russian Internet Research Agency.

First, New Knowledge points to job descriptions posted by PSY-Group employees in 2016 seeking to hire American English speakers with political science backgrounds. This suggests “they intended to target Americans for political objectives,” the company asserts.

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Such job posts continued into 2017, when one PSY-Group employee, Eitan Charnoff, posted an ad similar to those placed in 2016. According to LinkedIn and other sites, Charnoff was previously the IDF Commander of the Social Media Productions Desk, and is also the National Director of iVoteIsrael, a Republican-aligned Israeli-American voter registration group criticized for its “flimsy façade of non-partisanship.”

Charnoff represents just one demonstrable link to the Israeli intelligence community. Archived versions of the PSY-Group website also vaunt ties to “elite intelligence services,” while Vanity Fair’s Maya Kosoff points to Alexander Nix’s claims in the Channel 4 expose on Cambridge Analytica. “We use some British companies, we use some Israeli companies,” Nix said in the video. “From Israel. Very effective in intelligence gathering.”

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Then, New Knowledge looked at accounts mentioned in the PSY-Group slide deck published by the Wall Street Journal, focusing in on “Joey Brooklyn,” a bot account mentioned on a slide about using Twitter for “Controlling the Conversation Strategy.” Why did PSY-Group showcase these fake accounts and describe their effectiveness in influencing voters? It was to demonstrate the very services that the firm provides. “The PSY-Group said it had the capability of leveraging fake social-media accounts, which they call avatars, on behalf of political campaigns,” the Wall Street Journal explained. While it’s possible PSY-Group stumbled across these accounts, Jonathon Morgan, Founder and CEO of New Knowledge thinks that is difficult to believe. “Maybe PSY Group was only using these accounts as an example of how social media conversation can be manipulated, but it’s hard to imagine why they would promote someone else’s work in a sales presentation for their company’s services,” he noted in a phone conversation.
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As New Knowledge points out, “@Joe_America1776 is still active, and has posted over 563,000 times since the account was created in July of 2015. That’s an average of around 514 tweets *per day*, every day, for three years.”
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New Knowledge then searched for accounts regularly amplifying @Joe_America1776’s posts on other social media platforms, which led to a likely fake Facebook account created by an impostor. “Looks like fake Mari friended the real Mari, stole Mari’s photos, and used those photos to make the fake account seem more legitimate,” New Knowledge concludes.


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New Knowledge also looks closely at “Kris Crawford,” another Facebook account PSY-Group used in the pitch material obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

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While he appears to be an American man, Crawford’s URL suggests his Facebook page used to belong to a “Martina Jakimovska.” “Looking through the ‘Kris Crawford’s’ account history it’s still possible to see when Martina updated her profile photo and used Facebook to check in at a location in Macedonia,” New Knowledge notes.

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These tactics are similar to some of the tactics the Internet Research Agency engaged in a campaign that was designed to help Trump, according to US intelligence agencies and the special counsel’s criminal indictment. But very little is known about PSY-Group, its relationship to Cambridge Analytica and other figures in the Trump orbit. Certainly, evidence such as that presented by New Knowledge is neither proof nor anything close to conclusive, but it raises the question–should there be an investigation into Joel Zamel, PSY-Group and efforts by the company on behalf of Donald Trump, before and after the 2016 election? Mark Zuckerberg and the other technology company chiefs should publicly provide evidence about any use of their platforms by PSY Group to spread disinformation. “All the content promoted by accounts we found related to the PSY Group sales presentation is aggressively pro-Trump. It’s very similar to the content published by accounts that Facebook and Twitter have publicly acknowledged were operated by the Internet Research Agency,” said Morgan.

Certainly, more information will come to light as journalists and researchers such as New Knowledge follow the digital paper trail of the company, even though Zamel immediately closed the company down after the initial New York Times report. Only one thing is clear- as another election looms, Americans still don’t even know the real extent of foreign interference in the last one.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

https://www.justsecurity.org/57245/russ ... -election/



Michael Cohen's 'legal threats' against @timkmak: "I'm warning you, tread very f***ing lightly because what I'm going to do to you is going to be f***ing disgusting...I'm more than happy to discuss it with your legal counsel because motherf***** you're going to need it."



U.S.
LISTEN TO MICHAEL COHEN INSIST SPOUSAL RAPE ISN’T REAL WHILE DEFENDING DONALD TRUMP
BY GREG PRICE ON 5/31/18 AT 4:44 PM

MICHAEL COHEN
DONALD TRUMP
An audio recording of President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen berating a reporter and claiming spousal rape is not real was released Thursday, featuring the kind of vulgar language and threats that were reportedly commonplace for Cohen in the defense of his most-prized client.

Cohen can be heard cursing and threatening reporter Tim Mak, who then worked for The Daily Beast, in 2015 with legal action should he go forward with a story about one of Trump’s ex-wives claiming she was raped by the future commander-in-chief, according to NPR.

Ivana Trump, the president’s first wife, had previously stated during a deposition for their divorce that Trump had raped her, an accusation that had previously been written in a biography about Donald Trump released in 1993, according to the report. However, upon the book’s release, Ivana Trump took the accusation back and stated she did not mean a literal case of rape.




Mak had reached out to Donald Trump’s campaign for comment about the story he was working on, citing the accusation in the book. Cohen, who served as Trump’s “fixer,” called back and said he would take Mak for “every penny you still don’t have,” among other threats.

"You're talking about Donald Trump, you're talking about the frontrunner for the GOP, presidential candidate, as well as private individual, who never raped anybody and of course understand that by the very definition you can't rape your spouse," Cohen said.

After his claim was corrected by Mak, Cohen again insisted that spousal rape was not possible. Raping your spouse was made illegal in New York City in 1984.

Cohen also said: "Mark my words for it, I will make sure that you and I meet one day over in the courthouse and I will take you for every penny you still don't have, and I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know. Do not even think about going where I know you're planning on going. And that's my warning for the day."

Cohen then added vulgarities to his threats, but eventually never filed a suit against The Daily Beast and later apologized for the tirade.

"So I'm warning you, tread very f***ing lightly because what I'm going to do to you is going to be f***ing disgusting,” Cohen said. “Do you understand me? Don't think you can hide behind your pen because it's not going to happen. I'm more than happy to discuss it with your attorney and with your legal counsel because motherf***** you're going to need it."

Cohen currently finds himself at the center of a federal investigation involving his business dealings and a potential campaign-finance violation. Cohen paid adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in October 2016, 11 days before Trump would win the presidency, through a shell company. Last year the attorney also received millions from companies looking to learn more about the incoming administration.
http://www.newsweek.com/michael-cohen-s ... ump-952269
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Fri Jun 01, 2018 9:20 am

emptywheel

Kushner's friend Rick Gerson met w/George Nader, MBZ, Flynn during the transition.
Weeks later he met w/MBZ & Nader in the Seychelles, around the time Erik Prince was there meeting a Russian banker.
...but Gerson was just on vacation




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Jared Kushner close friend Rick Gerson now under scrutiny from Mueller

WASHINGTON — A close friend of Jared Kushner has come under scrutiny by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for his proximity to some key meetings between Trump associates and foreign officials, according to five people familiar with the matter.

Richard Gerson, a hedge-fund manager in New York, was in the Seychelles in January 2017, less than two weeks before President Donald Trump's inauguration and around the time Trump associate Erik Prince secretly met with Russian and United Arab Emirates officials, including Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, four of the people said.

While in the remote Indian Ocean island nation, Gerson met with Prince Mohammed — also known by his initials as MBZ — and communicated with a Lebanese-American businessman with close ties to the UAE, George Nader, who had organized the Erik Prince meeting, according to text messages Gerson sent at the time and a person familiar with the meeting.


Gerson had met Nader just weeks earlier when Trump officials, including Kushner, gathered for a secret meeting with MBZ at a Four Seasons hotel in New York, four people familiar with the meeting said. Trump's incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn and chief political adviser Steve Bannon, as well as the UAE's ambassador to the U.S., Yousef Otaiba, also attended the meeting.

Gerson's presence in the Seychelles and at the Four Seasons meeting has not been previously reported.

Mueller's interest in Gerson is another sign that he is examining connections between the UAE and Trump associates. Counterintelligence investigators have been scrutinizing UAE influence in the Trump campaign since before Mueller was appointed as special counsel, and the probe has continued in coordination with Mueller's team, according to two people briefed on the investigation.


A spokesman for Gerson declined to say why Gerson met with MBZ in the Seychelles or communicated with Nader while there. The spokesman emphasized that Gerson did not participate in the meeting Erik Prince attended with Russian and Emirati officials.

"Mr. Gerson was on vacation in the Seychelles prior to the meeting you reference. He knew nothing about the meeting, had left before the meeting was reported to have taken place, and has never met or communicated with Erik Prince," the spokesman said.

Donald Trump,George Nader
George Nader poses backstage with President Donald Trump at a Republican fundraiser in Dallas on Oct. 25, 2017.AP file
The spokesman said Gerson's involvement in the December meeting at the Four Seasons in New York was limited to escorting former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to the meeting, so he could give the participants a presentation on Israeli-Palestinian peace.

"Mr. Gerson attended the meeting in New York along with Mr. Blair to discuss this issue," the spokesman said, adding that Gerson has known Blair since Blair's time as an envoy for the Middle East Quartet, a diplomatic coalition comprised of the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia that focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Kushner has led the Trump administration's efforts on an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. He has also come under scrutiny by Mueller and spent more than six hours speaking to investigators in April.

The Senate Intelligence Committee also has looked into Gerson's presence at the Seychelles and other meetings related to the UAE, according to two officials briefed on the matter.

Two people familiar with the meetings said they inferred that Gerson was there because of his connection to Kushner. One of them said UAE officials considered Gerson to be "Kushner's guy."

Mueller is investigating whether the Seychelles meeting with Erik Prince was an effort to set up a backchannel between the incoming Trump administration and the Russian government. He's also looked into the Four Seasons meeting, which the Obama White House only later learned about because the UAE had broken protocol by not informing the outgoing administration that MBZ was in the U.S.

Key Speakers At The 2017 Milken Conference
Yousef Al Otaiba, United Arab Emirates' ambassador to the U.S., speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in 2017.Patrick T. Fallon / Bloomberg via Getty Images
Mueller's team has asked witnesses about Gerson's proximity to key meetings, according to three people familiar with the questioning.

Gerson's spokesman declined to say whether Gerson has been personally contacted by Mueller.

A spokesman for the special counsel's office declined to comment, as did Otaiba and a lawyer for Nader.

A lawyer for Jared Kushner did not respond to a request for comment on Gerson. A spokesman for Tony Blair also did not respond for a request for comment on the December 2016 meeting in New York.

A spokesperson for Erik Prince declined to comment on Gerson and reiterated that Prince has said he was in the Seychelles solely to meet MBZ.

Gerson, who goes by Rick, founded Falcon Edge Capital, LP, of which he serves as chairman and chief investment officer. He has been friends with Kushner for more than a decade. Gerson had pursued business with the UAE prior to the 2016 election.

A foreign intelligence official told NBC News that a flight manifest shows Gerson was on a plane to the Seychelles with other Americans a few days ahead of the Prince meeting.

That meeting around Jan. 11, 2017 included MBZ; Nader; Prince, a security contractor who is a Trump confidant and the founder of the private security company once known as Blackwater; and Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, who is close to Putin.

On Jan. 10, 2017, Nader and Gerson exchanged messages on WhatsApp, according to three people familiar with the messages. In one message, Nader sent Gerson a photo of himself and MBZ that he said was taken in December 2016 while they were in Morocco, these people said. They said Gerson replied that he was unable to make it to Morocco because he was with his children in Anguilla and because of that he came to Seychelles instead.

In another message exchange a few days later, Nader sent Gerson an article about Jared Kushner and his brother, Josh. Gerson replied that he's good friends with both of them, according to the people familiar with the messages. They said Nader responded that he'd heard when he was in New York how much Jared Kushner respects Gerson, adding: "Remember at Four Seasons!"

Gerson and Nader's relationship expanded after Trump's inauguration, when they began discussing business and policy, these people said.

Mueller's team has also asked questions about a meeting Gerson attended with Kushner and Bannon in New York in early 2017, according to the New York Times.


Nader has been cooperating with Mueller's probe since January and already has given several days of testimony to investigators, a development first reported by the New York Times and confirmed by NBC News.

Erik Prince has described the meeting with Dmitriev as an impromptu encounter. He told the House Intelligence Committee one of the UAE officials he was meeting with in the Seychelles about potential business deals suggested he see Dmitriev.

"And at the end, one of the entourage says, 'Hey by the way, there's this Russian guy that we've dealt with in the past. He's here also to see someone from the Emirati delegation. And you should meet him. He'd be an interesting guy for you to know, since you're doing a lot in the oil and gas and mineral space,'" Prince told lawmakers.

The inclusion of a wealthy businessman with close ties to the president's son-in-law in meetings with foreign officials suggests a potential mixing of personal and government business by Trump associates, according to Robert Anderson, a principal at the Chertoff Group and former executive assistant director at the FBI. It also raises questions about outside influence on the Trump administration's policy decisions, he said.

"The intent of the meetings is key," Anderson said. "Mueller would be looking at whether he tried to utilize his position as someone attached to the incoming administration to benefit financially or whether he tried to influence U.S. policy by making introductions between Trump associates and the international community."
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/all/jared- ... er-n876361




by seemslikeadream » Wed Apr 04, 2018 8:06 pm

Mr. Mueller’s investigators have asked multiple witnesses about the Seychelles meeting, part of a broader line of inquiry surrounding contacts between Emirati advisers and Trump administration officials. They have also pressed for details about a meeting Mr. Nader attended in New York in early 2017 with Mr. Kushner and Mr. Bannon with the hedge fund manager Richard Gerson, a friend of Mr. Kushner’s and the founder of Falcon Edge Capital.
viewtopic.php?f=8&t=40179&p=654930&hilit=Rick+Gerson#p654930




Polly Sigh

Scoop: Trump pressured Sessions re Mueller's investigation on at least 4 occasions, telling Sessions he’d be a “hero” to conservatives if he did the “right thing” by reclaiming control of the Russia probe & if he investigated HRC.
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SCOOP: Sessions is key witness in obstruction investigation of Trump. Mueller is examining a previously undisclosed meeting in Mar 2017 when Trump demanded Sessions REVERSE decision to recuse himself from Russia probe.
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Trump told Rosenstein to reference Russia in his Comey firing letter, according to a memo written & passed to Mueller by Andy McCabe, who feared Rosenstein had provided Trump a cover story for firing Comey.
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Sep 2017: Mueller has an early draft of Trump's Comey firing letter which WH Counsel McGahn blocked Trump from sending because its angry, meandering tone was problematic [and obstruction-y?]. A copy of the draft was given to Rosenstein.
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Olga Lautman

While Trump imposes aluminum tariffs on our Allies EU, Mexico, and Canada he has been working very hard along with @stevenmnuchin1 to ease sanctions on Deripaska’s Company Rusal

Trump Administration Eases Sanctions on Russian Metal Giant

Eric Levitz@EricLevitzApril 23, 2018 3:35 pm

Oleg Deripaska.
Earlier this month, the United States announced a remarkably aggressive set of sanctions against the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and his aluminum company Rusal: The United States would freeze all assets that the metal giant had been keeping in American institutions, prohibit American firms from doing business with the Russian corporation, and slap sanctions on any foreign individual or firm that engaged in commerce with the company.

The impact of this announcement was immediate and profound. Rusal had provided 7 percent of the world’s alumina, the raw material for aluminum production. With the company ostensibly sidelined for an indefinite period of time, global aluminum prices surged to a six-year high, while Rusal’s share price plummeted by more than half. But the most damaging aspect of the move, from the Russian perspective, may have been the message that it sent — that the U.S. was prepared to destroy Russian firms in the blink of an eye, even at a cost to the global economy, if the Kremlin persisted in interfering in the internal politics of Western democracies.

Fortunately for Moscow, it now appears that the sanctions against Rusal may never actually take effect. On Monday, the Treasury Department extended the sanctions’ “wind down” period — a window in which U.S. and foreign entities could complete their unfinished business with Rusal without facing any penalty — by six months, while expressing openness to lifting the sanctions entirely.

“RUSAL has felt the impact of U.S. sanctions because of its entanglement with Oleg Deripaska, but the U.S. government is not targeting the hardworking people who depend on RUSAL and its subsidiaries,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. “Given the impact on our partners and allies, we are issuing a general license extending the maintenance and wind-down period while we consider RUSAL’s petition [to lift the sanctions].”

The administration’s official position is that the sanctions will still go into effect eventually, if Oleg Deripaska does not divest and relinquish control of the firm. But Treasury’s actions suggest that it is eager to avoid inconveniencing Rusal’s business partners, and thus, that some mutually agreeable arrangement will likely be reached between the U.S. and the company before the wind-down period is through. Or so markets seem to believe: Shortly after Mnuchin’s announcement Monday, global aluminum prices nose-dived.

The Treasury Department has accused Deripaska of involvement in money laundering, extortion, and, on at least one occasion, murder. Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort (reportedly) offered the oligarch private briefings on the 2016 presidential race shortly after Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination.
http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/20 ... giant.html



Following up on this story..

Russia now is floating the idea of nationalizing Deripaska’s shares in Rusal to have sanctions lifted.

Predicted this when the story broke and am confident this is Trumps way of not implementing sanctions!

This is a dangerous game Trump is playing

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These destructive actions will only embolden the Kremlin because SANCTIONS WORK
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Patrick Fitzgerald prosecuted Blago and Lewis Libby (also pardoned).

Preet Bharara prosecuted D'Souza

Jim Comey prosecuted Martha Stewart.

Trend?
Last edited by seemslikeadream on Fri Jun 01, 2018 1:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Fri Jun 01, 2018 10:12 am

Inside the Pro-Trump Effort to Keep Black Voters From the Polls

Breitbart staffer recruited Sanders activist Bruce Carter to get African Americans to support the Republican—or stay home.
By Lauren Etter and Michael Riley May 29, 2018, 3:00 AM CDT
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Bruce Carter PHOTOGRAPHER: MELISSA GOLDEN FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK
Breitbart News landed an election scoop that went viral in August 2016: “Exclusive: ‘Black Men for Bernie’ Founder to End Democrat ‘Political Slavery’ of Minority Voters… by Campaigning for Trump.”
If the splashy, counterintuitive story, which circulated on such conservative websites as Truthfeed and Infowars, wasn't exactly fake news, it was carefully orchestrated.
The story’s writer—an employee of the conservative website run by Steve Bannon before he took over Donald Trump’s campaign—spent weeks courting activist Bruce Carter to join Trump’s cause. He approached Carter under the guise of interviewing him. The writer eventually dropped the pretense altogether, signing Carter up for a 10-week blitz aimed at convincing black voters in key states to support the Republican real estate mogul, or simply sit out the election. Trump’s narrow path to victory tightened further if Hillary Clinton could attract a Barack Obama-level turnout.

Bannon’s deployment of the psychological-operations firm Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 campaign drew fresh attention this month, when a former Cambridge employee told a U.S. Senate panel that Bannon tried to use the company to suppress the black vote in key states. Carter’s story shows for the first time how an employee at Bannon’s former news site worked as an off-the-books political operative in the service of a similar goal.
Carter’s recollections and correspondence, which he shared after a falling-out with his fellow Trump supporters, provide a rare look inside the no-holds-barred nature of the Republican’s campaign and how it explored new ways to achieve an age-old political aim: getting the right voters to the polls—and keeping the wrong ones away.
“If you can’t stomach Trump, just don’t vote for the other people and don’t vote at all,” Carter, 47, recalls telling black voters. It’s the message he says the Trump campaign wanted him to deliver. “That’s what they wanted, that’s what they got.”
The work Carter says he did, and the funds he was given to do it, also raise questions as to whether campaign finance laws were broken.
The group Carter founded, Trump for Urban Communities, never disclosed its spending to the Federal Election Commission—a possible violation of election law. In hindsight, Carter says, he believed he was working for the campaign so he wouldn’t have been responsible for reporting the spending.
His descriptions of the operation suggest possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and his nominally independent efforts. If there was coordination, election law dictates that any contributions to groups such as his must fall within individual limits: no more than $2,700 for a candidate. One supporter far exceeded that cap, giving about $100,000 to Carter’s efforts.
Another potential issue is whether the unusual role played by the Breitbart reporter amounted to an in-kind contribution.
“There are some real problems here,” says Lawrence Noble, who served as general counsel at the FEC during Republican and Democratic administrations and is now senior director and general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan advocacy organization. “I would think this is more than enough evidence for the FEC to open an investigation.”
The Trump campaign and the White House didn't respond to repeated requests for comment. Bannon dismissed allegations that he sought to suppress the black vote, blaming their lower turnout on Clinton. “When you ask them why they didn’t vote for her or why they didn’t turn up, it’s because they didn’t like her policies,” he told Bloomberg in an interview last week. Bannon didn't respond to separate requests to explain his involvement with Carter.
“If you can’t stomach Trump, just don’t vote for the other people and don’t vote at all”
Carter’s work on Trump’s behalf ended badly, despite the campaign’s victory in November 2016. A little more than a week after the election, Carter’s financial supporters backed away from plans to work with him on ambitious urban-restoration efforts. In an email, one of them cited a background check on Carter but didn’t specify its findings. Carter acknowledges that he spent 18 months in federal prison nearly two decades ago after a felony gun-possession conviction.
While it’s impossible to precisely measure Carter’s effectiveness, Trump performed particularly well in the areas Carter targeted, says Dustin Stockton, the Breitbart reporter who recruited him. In Philadelphia, where Carter spent much of his time, Clinton won about 35,000 fewer votes than Obama did in 2012, and that drop was primarily in majority-black wards. Those ballots alone could have cut Trump’s victory margin in Pennsylvania by more than half. Nationwide, Trump garnered a higher-than-expected share of black voters, while Clinton won significantly fewer than Obama did four years earlier.
Trump vastly outperformed the projection models in the 12 areas Bruce was targeting” in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida, Stockton says. “I never like telling people not to vote. But from a tactical and strategic position, we looked at it: If you could get them to vote for Trump, that was a plus two.” It was a “plus one,” he says, if they simply didn’t vote at all.
Carter’s unlikely conversion to cheerleader for Trump started in mid-summer 2016 with a call from Stockton. Broad-chested and 6 feet, 2 inches tall, Carter had become something of a B-list celebrity on the campaign trail, showing up at Sanders’s events in a tour bus emblazoned with the Vermont senator’s photo and yelling through a bullhorn to rally anybody who would listen. He spent months on the road for Sanders, with three of his teenage daughters accompanying him, selling T-shirts and other merchandise to help fund their tour.
Carter says his initial conversations with Stockton seemed more like a chat than an interview. At some point, the Breitbart reporter asked if he had ever considered backing Trump. “I said, I’m not going there,” recalls Carter, a registered Democrat who twice voted for Obama. But Carter had been so angry with how the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee had been treating Sanders that he wasn’t opposed to Trump winning. His anger crystallized when a mention of Carter’s views appeared in the DNC emails released by Wikileaks. So when Stockton asked if they could meet at the Democrats’ national convention in Philadelphia, Carter agreed.
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Bruce Carter, founder of Black Men for Bernie, emerges to meet Sanders supporters in front of Los Angeles City Hall in June 2016.PHOTOGRAPHER: AL SEIB/LOS ANGELES TIMES/GETTY IMAGES
They spent hours at the convention, hanging out. In retrospect, Carter says it felt like a courtship, if at times an aggressive one. Stockton showed Carter a movie called Clinton Cash, which Breitbart was screening in Philadelphia for disaffected Sanders supporters. He discussed Clinton’s shortcomings and the fresh start Trump could offer. “We just kind of struck up a friendship,” says Stockton. “We wanted to make him aware of some of the research that Breitbart was pushing at the time.”
The two chatted regularly after the convention by phone. On Aug. 17, Bannon, then Breitbart’s executive chairman, was named chief of the campaign. The announcement coincided with a push by Stockton to formalize Carter’s role. He says Stockton dangled an intriguing promise—a chance to engage with Bannon. That pushed him over the top: He endorsed Trump.
Stockton and Carter sketched out plans for him to travel to swing states. Carter created a website and launched a GoFundMe campaign that raised about $7,000. On Aug. 26, about 10 weeks before the November 2016 elections, Breitbart published Stockton’s exclusive about Carter.
Not long after, Carter replaced his “Black Men for Bernie” T-shirt with one that sported a black-and-red logo depicting “Trump for Urban Communities,” and he hit the road. Across battleground states, he visited churches, street corners, and storefronts. About that time, Carter says, Stockton introduced him to Bannon.
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Carter sent an email to Bannon on Sept. 2 seeking money to sustain the effort. He asked that it be funded by “either Trump personally (best case), the RNC, another donor or the Trump campaign,” according to the email. Five days later, Carter received an email from Bannon, introducing Karen Giorno, a senior Trump campaign adviser. Later that day, Carter replied to Bannon and Giorno: “Per my conversation with Steve: ‘Florida, Philadelphia and North Carolina are the three initial markets we will target. Our goal and mission is simple to inform Urban Communities as to why Donald Trump is the only option if they want their communities RESTORED.’”
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A Twitter account for Trump for Urban Communities was created on Sept. 11. Carter, who by his own admission doesn’t tweet, enlisted a colleague who did social media for Black Men for Bernie to start tweeting on behalf of his new pro-Trump group. The account originally pushed messages on topics familiar to his former audience, including the Flint water crisis, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and Black Lives Matter. Soon, the account adopted a more Trumpian voice, blasting a steady stream of tweets highlighting the rolling WikiLeaks dumps of stolen Democratic campaign emails and the latest twists in Clinton’s email server scandal, and retweeting such right-wing provocateurs as Mike Cernovich or Infowars.

More people probably had access to the Twitter account than Carter and his Black Men for Bernie colleague. An analysis showed that it was accessed in at least three different geographic locations and by at least two smartphones. A geolocation function on the account was switched off, suggesting that somebody may have been trying to cover their tracks.
Meanwhile, television coverage of Carter during the Democratic convention had drawn the attention of Ceil Pillsbury, a retired accounting professor who lives in Jacksonville, Fla. Watching him, she says, she saw someone who could help her improve the condition of inner cities through the creation of “gang-forgiveness centers” and mentorship programs.
Over time, she became the biggest supporter of Carter’s efforts, providing what she described in interviews as roughly $100,000. In a subsequent emailed statement to Bloomberg News, Pillsbury called into question Carter’s credibility, though she didn’t dispute the amount of support she provided. Pillsbury says she wasn’t aware of any coordination with the campaign and didn’t realize any funds she gave to Carter might have been subject to limits.
Carter says he used the money to help cover the costs of wrapping vehicles in images of Trump and historical black figures, buying T-shirts and other merchandise, and paying for expenses.
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Carter’s vans sit parked in front of Trump Tower in New York City on October 28, 2016.SOURCE: BRUCE CARTER
At each stop, Carter argued that Trump’s business experience would enable him to revive urban neighborhoods in ways Democrats had failed to do. He targeted such places as a barber shop in DeSoto, Tex., a town whose population is 70 percent black.
“So here’s why I’m here,” he begins, according to one video. “Everybody here is voting for Hillary … but let me give you a little history on Hillary. If you understood and saw that Hillary saw young black men as super-predators, would that affect you?” One patron nods his head, acknowledging one of Clinton’s more infamous remarks during her husband’s administration.
The message wasn’t always easy to deliver. People threw rocks at Carter’s Trump van as he steered through low-income housing projects. At one stop in Philadelphia, an elderly man threatened to beat him with a cane. Often, it was impossible to persuade black voters to support a candidate who had strong backing from white nationalist groups. In those cases, he urged them to simply stay home on Election Day.
By early October, Carter says, he needed additional money. With Stockton’s help, he sent a $160,000 funding proposal to Bannon. It included a $24,000 consulting fee for Stockton, which Stockton says was never paid. He has since left Breitbart, where he says colleagues warned him that his work with Carter could be viewed as a conflict of interest. (Breitbart Chief Executive Officer Larry Solov didn’t respond to a request for comment.)
Bannon put Carter in contact with a wealthy Dallas financier, Darren Blanton, who later became an adviser to Trump’s transition team. Blanton is the founder and managing partner of a Texas-based venture capital company called Colt Ventures. Carter said Bannon promised that Blanton would help him raise money.
They met in mid-October at a Starbucks across the street from the Dallas Country Club. Carter says Blanton was sitting with two men when he arrived. One was an Army veteran who ran a Blackwater-like company that provided paramilitary services. The other was Jon Iadonisi, a former Navy SEAL and computer-security expert who has worked for the Central Intelligence Agency.
“That stuff ain’t going to help you win. You got to get them to the polls”
Blanton told Carter he would help him raise money, while Iadonisi would help spread his message on social media, according to Carter. Iadonisi runs a Texas-based digital marketing company called VizSense that specializes in “military-grade influencer marketing and intelligence services” to promote clients’ products on Instagram and Twitter. He also is a founder of White Canvas Group, a Washington-area firm that specializes in analyzing the dark web. “They were showing me these grids—it just looked like a map of dots,” Carter recalls. “I said, ‘That stuff ain’t going to help you win. You got to get them to the polls.’”
There are indications that both men had dealings with Trump’s campaign. It paid Colt Ventures $200,000 for “data management services,” according to federal disclosures—although Colt Ventures doesn’t advertise data management services. Iadonisi was introduced to the campaign by retired General Michael Flynn, and his work for the campaign involved social media, according to a person familiar with Iadonisi’s role. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee said in a March report about the panel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election that they wanted to interview Iadonisi and Blanton, who is an investor in VizSense. The Republican-controlled committee ended its probe without doing so.
For much of the campaign, Carter struggled to get enough money to run his operation. He sent Blanton a string of increasingly frustrated emails and texts complaining that he was having trouble paying his crews. Blanton assured him the funds were coming, according to correspondence Carter provided. In an email, Carter and Blanton’s assistant discussed the logistics of setting up a bank account to receive funds. In response to questions, an attorney for Blanton said in a letter to Bloomberg News that Blanton “did not proceed to set up” the bank account. According to a chain of emails and additional documents Carter provided, Blanton did raise at least some funds for him.
At times, Carter felt that Trump’s team rolled out the star treatment for him. On Oct. 19, the final presidential debate was held in Las Vegas, and Carter made his way to Trump’s luxury hotel, the campaign’s headquarters for the event. Blanton introduced Carter to Flynn and Erik Prince, the Blackwater founder whose sister, Betsy DeVos, would become Trump’s education secretary. At a sandwich shop across the street, Carter says he had lunch with hedge-fund heiress Rebekah Mercer, one of Trump’s most influential backers.

In the final weeks of October, Carter’s operation announced a “Don’t Vote Early” campaign designed to convince black voters not to take advantage of early voting, which tended to build up banks of votes for Democrats. Days before the election, Carter and his team made jabs at Clinton for appearing at rallies alongside stars such as Jay-Z and Beyoncé. “We said Hillary Clinton thinks all black people like rap and like to shake their booties,” he recalls. “It’s an insult.”
As the campaign drew to a close, Carter says, he genuinely believed Trump had big plans for urban neighborhoods. Carter outlined to Blanton in an email a daily strategy for the final days of the campaign. It included the cities he would canvass and an announcement he would make about a Trump-backed public-private partnership that was supposed to raise $1 billion over the administration’s first 24 months to invest in urban communities.
Alexandra Preate, a spokeswoman for Bannon, Breitbart News, and Mercer who runs a New York-based public relations firm called CapitalHQ, circulated a draft press release touting Carter’s efforts. It was sent to Blanton and Iadonisi, among others. The release promised that Trump would create a forgiveness program for non-violent offenders, staff a panel of single mothers to discuss the difficulties of unwanted pregnancies, and establish an Urban Community Commissioner and a Director of Community Justice to investigate police-involved shootings.
On Oct. 26, Trump gave what his campaign billed as a major policy speech in Charlotte. He laid out a “new deal for Black America” grounded in safe communities, better education, and higher-paying jobs.
Shortly after Election Day, Carter’s backers cut ties with him. In an email that Carter provided, Pillsbury cited a background check performed by Blanton that “prevented the campaign and Darren from being able to go any further with you.” Carter says he has never tried to hide his past. He thought it was odd if Blanton did a background check only after the election and Trump had won.
Carter’s work on Trump’s behalf exacted a personal price, leaving deep and lasting divisions in his family. Some of Carter’s children were horrified that their father had backed Trump. In one instance, a month after Pillsbury and Blanton severed their relationship with Carter, an alleged physical altercation over his support for the president-elect led his former girlfriend to obtain a protective order against him.
In early April, Carter got another cold call, this time from somebody who suggested he meet Mark Burns, a black Republican pastor and vocal Trump supporter from South Carolina who’s running to fill a House seat. On April 11, the two appeared together at a news conference in Greenville, where they announced an effort to register 75,000 voters.
Carter is also working on a new political movement that he calls the People’s Ticket—a coalition of single mothers, felons, hospitality workers, and those who owe child support—to “hold accountable” Republicans and Democrats at the polls in 2018 and ensure they deliver on promises for urban communities.
“I did everything that I said I would do,” Carter says, “and I did it in good faith.”
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features ... -the-polls



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Erdogan➡️Zarrab➡️Gulen➡️FlynnJr➡️Flynn➡️Gerson ➡️Nader➡️Zamel➡️➡️Prince➡️Kushner➡️Pence

Lavrov➡️Mifsud➡️Papadopoulos➡️Miller➡️Sessions
Pinedo
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18 Russians
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100+ FELONY CHARGES
Cambridge Analytica➡️BCCI 2.0
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat Jun 02, 2018 10:46 am

trump is smiling next to a man who runs a gulag jailing some 200,000 North Koreans and who oversaw the sinking of a South Korean Navy ship killing 46 & the hacking of Sony North America.

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HOW THE MUELLER TEAM THINKS OF CONFRAUDUS

June 1, 2018/0 Comments/in 2016 Presidential Election, Mueller Probe /by empty wheel

I’ve written before how I think Conspiracy to Defraud the United States (ConFraudUs) provides Mueller a way to charge a variety of conduct with conspiracy charges that additional defendants can be dropped into, all of which might form an interlocking series of ConFraudUs indictments that map out the entire election crime. In this post, I observed how the charge worked in the Manafort and Internet Research Agency indictments. In this one, I described how it might work to charge Jared (and everyone else) for pretending to be serving US foreign policy interests while actually making bank.

In response to a challenge from Concord Consulting in the IRA indictment, the Mueller team has laid out how they think of ConFraudUs. The filing hints and how and why they may be using this as a backbone for their pursuit of the 2016 election tampering culprits.

In a blustery motion claiming that Mueller only charged Concord with ConFraudUs because he needed to charge some Russians, any Russians, to justify his appointment, Concord demanded access to the grand jury instructions on the ConFraudUs charge, claiming that the charge requires willfulness. (Click through to read the footnotes here, which include a gratuitous Casablanca reference and complaints about US tampering in elections.)

Now, some twenty years later, the Deputy Attorney General acting for the recused Attorney General has rejected the history and integrity of the DOJ, and instead licensed a Special Counsel who for all practical political purposes cannot be fired, to indict a case that has absolutely nothing to do with any links or coordination between any candidate and the Russian Government.2 The reason is obvious, and is political: to justify his own existence the Special Counsel has to indict a Russian – any Russian. 3 Different from any election case previously brought by the DOJ, the Special Counsel used the catch-all provision of the federal criminal code, the defraud prong of conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 371, to allege that a foreign corporate defendant with no presence in the United States and having never entered the United States, engaged in the make-believe crime of conspiring to “interfere” in a United States election. Indictment, Dkt. 1, ¶ 2. Presumably to bolster these allegations (which have a strong odor of hypocrisy) 4 , the Special Counsel has pleaded around the knowledge requirements of all related substantive statutes and regulations by asserting that Concord conspired to obstruct the functions of the United States Departments of Justice (“DOJ”) and State (“DOS”), and the Federal Election Commission (“FEC”).5 But violations of the relevant federal campaign laws and foreign agent registration requirements administered by the DOJ and the FEC require the defendant to have acted “willfully,” a word that does not appear anywhere in Count One of the Indictment. See 52 U.S.C. § 30109(d) and 22 U.S.C. § 618(a).6


Violations of the federal campaign laws and foreign agent registration … require the defendant to have acted “willfully,” say the Russians who trolled our election.

That’s true, Mueller concedes.

Then points out they haven’t charged the underlying crimes. They’ve just charged ConFraudUs. And the standard for ConFraudUs is “intent to defraud the US;” there’s no “willfullness” standard required.

As an initial matter, the government agrees that the plain language of the statutory provisions Concord Management has identified in the Federal Election Campaign Act, 52 U.S.C. § 30109(d), and the Foreign Agent Registration Act 22 U.S.C. § 618(a), set forth a “willfulness” standard with respect to knowledge. The government, however, did not charge Concord Management with substantive violations of FECA, FARA, or for that matter, visa fraud — an offense that requires only a “knowing” standard. See 18 U.S.C. § 1546. Concord Management is alleged to have conspired to defraud the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. As described in more detail below, the mens rea for that offense is intent to defraud the United States, not to willfully commit substantive offenses that are not charged in the Indictment


Which brings them to where they lay out precisely what ConFraudUs requires:

The essential elements of a conspiracy to defraud the United States consist of the following: (1) two or more persons formed an agreement to defraud the United States; (2) the defendant knowingly participated in the conspiracy with the intent to defraud the United States; and (3) at least one overt act was committed in furtherance of the common scheme. See United States v. Treadwell, 760 F.2d 327, 333 (D.C. Cir. 1985); United States v. Coplan, 703 F.3d 46, 61 (2d Cir. 2012), cert. denied, 571 U.S. 819 (2013). The agreement to defraud must be one to obstruct a lawful function of the Government or its agencies by deceitful or dishonest means. Coplan, 703 F.3d at 60–61; see United States v. Davis, 863 F.3d 894, 901 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (explaining that a charge under the defraud clause requires proof that a defendant “knowingly agreed with [the codefendant] (or another person) to defraud the federal government of money or to deceptively interfere with the lawful functions of” a particular government agency). The mens rea is a specific intent to defraud the United States, not willfulness. See United States v. Khalife, 106 F.3d 1300, 1303 (6th Cir. 1997), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 1045 (1998); United States v. Jackson, 33 F.3d 866, 871–72 (7th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 514 U.S. 1005 (1995). The mens rea requirements of particular substantive crimes, in short, do not carry over to defraud-clause prosecutions. See, e.g., Jackson, 33 F.3d at 870–72 (government need not establish the level of willfulness required to prove a “structuring” offense when it charges the same behavior as a conspiracy to defraud); Khalife, 106 F.3d at 1303 (same).4


So,

(1) two or more persons formed an agreement to defraud the United States;

(2) [each] defendant knowingly participated in the conspiracy with the intent to defraud the United States; and

(3) at least one overt act was committed in furtherance of the common scheme.

Basically, the Mueller team argues, Concord and all its trolls only have to agree to pull a fast one on the American election regulatory apparatus, with at least one overt act like … a trollish tweet. They don’t have to individually willfully violate the underlying law.

We’ll see what Judge Dabney Friedrich has to say about this argument (though as far as I understand it, the Mueller argument is not at all controversial). As a reminder, Rick Gates has already pled guilty to this charge.

However Friedrich rules, however, you can how this would apply to a number of other known actions. Did Don Jr conspire with Aras Agalarov and his surrogates to defraud the fair management of elections when he stated, in the context of receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton, that he would revisit the Magnitsky Act sanctions when his father won the election (several witnesses gave sworn testimony that this happened)? Did Roger Stone conspire with Guccifer 2.0 when they (as reported but not yet substantiated with evidence) discussed how to find Russian hackers who had stolen Hillary’s emails? Did Brad Parscale conspire with Cambridge Analytica, not just to permit foreigners to provide assistance to the Trump campaign, but also to use stolen models to heighten discontent among Democratic voters?

Importantly, Mueller would not have to prove that all participants in all these conspiracies had the mens rea required by the underlying charge. It’s enough that they’re trying to deceitfully thwart the lawful functioning of a government process.

Obviously, Mueller hasn’t yet charged any of these ConFraudUs conspiracies, if indeed they happened. But you can see why he might use ConFraudUs to do so.

https://www.emptywheel.net/2018/06/01/t ... onfraudus/



U.S. grand jury questions social media advisor to key Trump supporter

Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A social media expert who worked with influential Donald Trump ally Roger Stone during the 2016 U.S. presidential race testified before a federal grand jury on Friday after being subpoenaed by the special counsel investigating potential collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Jason Sullivan (C), a social media expert who worked for longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, arrives at U.S. District Court to respond to a subpoena and testify before Special Counsel Robert Mueller's grand jury in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Jason Sullivan arrived at the federal courthouse in Washington at around 9 a.m. and left the courthouse at around 11:30 a.m. After his closed-door grand jury testimony ended, Sullivan declined to comment on what questions Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team had asked him.

Knut Johnson, one of two lawyers who accompanied Sullivan to the courthouse, said because the testimony was part of an “ongoing investigation,” neither Sullivan nor his lawyers wished to discuss details of it.

Johnson said Sullivan was “open” and “truthful” in his statements to the grand jury. Sullivan received two subpoenas last month from Mueller’s office, one summoning him to testify before the Washington grand jury and the second requiring him to provide documents and other data to investigators, according to copies of the subpoenas seen by Reuters.

Sullivan is a social media and Twitter specialist who worked for an independent political action committee formed by Stone, a long-time Trump adviser and backer, to support Trump’s campaign.

Mueller, was appointed by the Justice Department in May 2017, is probing Russian involvement in the 2016 election, and Sullivan’s appearance may indicate an important focus of a special counsel investigation that potentially threatens Trump’s presidency.

Stone has said Sullivan is one of eight of his associates approached by Mueller’s investigators.

Jason Sullivan, a social media expert who worked for longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, arrives at U.S. District Court to respond to a subpoena and testify before Special Counsel Robert Mueller's grand jury in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2018.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
This outreach to Stone’s associates suggests Mueller may be focusing in part on Stone and whether he may have had advance knowledge of material detrimental to Trump’s 2016 Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton that U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was hacked by Russia and sent to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to publish.

“Welcome To The Age of Weaponized Social Media,” said a strategy document Sullivan prepared for Stone and seen by Reuters. Sullivan described a “system” he devised for creating Twitter “swarms” as “an army of sophisticated, hyper-targeted direct tweet automation systems driven by outcomes-based strategies derived from REAL-TIME actionable insights.”

Stone did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sullivan’s grand jury appearance.

Stone previously has denied having an inside track to WikiLeaks or others who hacked or published Democratic Party and Clinton-related emails that surfaced during the campaign. Stone has said no one from Mueller’s team has tried to contact him.

The Republican president has denied collusion and called Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee is also stepping up an investigation into WikiLeaks and how the website obtained and distributed hacked emails during the campaign, said a congressional source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Will Dunham
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa- ... SKCN1IX5FV



BREAKING: Trump May Already Be Indicted Under Seal

Alexander Stern
Courthouse with equal justice under law

There is perhaps no investigation more closely scrutinized than special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into President Donald Trump and his inner circle. Many, probably including the President himself, anxiously await news of a possible presidential indictment.

Attorney IO assembled a panel of the nation’s leading criminal law professors to reveal the likely behind the scenes maneuvers in the investigation of the century.

Panelists noted that the president could be indicted under seal without his knowledge. Specifically, they argue the problems with delaying an indictment include having the statute of limitations expire during his term. Also, the benefit of a sealed indictment is that it would not distract the chief executive from performing his constitutional duties.

The panel consists of University of Michigan Law School’s Prof. Sonja Starr, University of Alabama School of Law’s Prof. Jenny Carroll, University of Wisconsin Law School’s Prof. Keith Findley, Ohio State University Moritz College of Law’s Prof. Joshua Dressler, University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law’s Prof. James Diamond, Loyola University Chicago’s Prof. Jona Goldschmidt, Georgia State University College of Law’s Prof. Russell Covey, and University of Missouri School of Law’s Prof. Frank Bowman.

The Department of Justice says prosecuting a sitting president can impermissibly distract him. However, indictments under seal remove this fear.

The Department of Justice has issued a memo discussing the constitutional concerns of indicting a sitting president. The memo notes, “A necessity to defend a criminal trial and to attend court in connection with it … would interfere with the President’s unique official duties, most of which cannot be performed by anyone else… To wound him by a criminal proceeding is to hamstring the operation of the whole governmental apparatus, both in foreign and domestic affairs.”

Prof. Diamond likewise noted, “Of course, the premise that no person is above the law is a sound one. Yet, a prosecution of a sitting president is a course of conduct no prosecutor or court ought to take lightly… Further, the specter of the president taking time off from his critically important duties to defend himself from possible loss of liberty is also problematic.”

In other words: indicting the president could distract him so much that he would be a less effective leader. However, we investigated the possibility of whether indicting the president under seal would remove this constitutional concern. A “seal” is an order by the court that the indictment must be kept confidential, including from the president and the public.

Prof. Carroll acknowledges that there could be a statute of limitations problem if the president is not indicted. In other words, Mr. Trump could argue that he is immune from prosecution while president and then immune after he leaves if the statute of limitations has run out. Prof. Carroll argues, “One possibility would be that the indictment issues and is sealed solving the sol [statute of limitations] problem and the matter does [not] proceed until after the President leaves office.”

Prof. Covey agrees, noting, “an indictment might be filed under seal and the matter stayed until the President were out of office.” A “stay” is an order by the court that proceedings are to be delayed until some future date.

The Constitution normally requires that court proceedings be open to the public. This helps to prevent courts from trampling on people’s rights outside of the public eye. However, courts often make exceptions to this general rule of transparency.

Mr. Trump, through his lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, has relied on this idea that indicting him would be too distracting. However, the old adage “what he doesn’t know can’t hurt him” rings true here. If Mr. Trump does not know he is under indictment due to a seal, the constitutional pitfalls associated with distracting a sitting president fall away.

We then turned to whether there is some separate reason, other than distraction, that would prevent the indictment of a sitting president. Prof. Bowman notes, “the framers were clear in their expectation that civil officers, including presidents, could be charged and punished by ordinary courts. So it would seem odd, at the very least, that DOJ’s policy of abstention should create de facto immunity. To the extent that DOJ’s opinion on the point rests on the constitutional position of the president, a grant of de facto immunity is at least as contrary to constitutional principles as immediate indictment, if not more so.”

Prof. Dressler notes, “as long as common sense is followed, and a President is not jailed after indictment, perhaps an indictment should be permitted.”

This seems to create a clear line in the sand. The Department of Justice would arguably act unconstitutionally if it publicly indicted a sitting president. The weight on such a defendant’s mind would reduce his ability to perform his function. However, there is no such concern if the defendant is unaware of his own prosecution. Additionally, there are competing constitutional problems with saying someone is above the law by virtue of his employment status as president. A secret indictment would effectively eliminate both concerns of distractedness and issues of unwarranted immunity for criminal behavior.

Mr. Mueller has every incentive to indict early.

If Mr. Mueller does have evidence that Mr. Trump committed a crime, he has every incentive to indict at the earliest reasonable opportunity. Mr. Mueller is technically a member of the executive branch, which Mr. Trump heads. Mr. Trump has repeatedly asserted both his dislike of Mr. Mueller and that he has the power to fire Mr. Mueller. Without an act of Congress protecting Mr. Mueller, Mr. Trump is likely correct that Mr. Mueller can be fired.

However, federal judges are employed by the judicial branch of government and not the executive. They also have lifetime appointments and cannot be fired other than through impeachment. That means that unlike Mr. Mueller, judges cannot be fired or otherwise interfered with by the head of the executive branch.

An early indictment by Mr. Mueller does not relinquish any power or ability to investigate. It merely empowers a different branch (the judiciary) with jurisdiction over the defendant. If the indictment is sealed, Mr. Mueller could proceed with the investigation as if there were no indictment at all. In the event he wishes to add new charges, he can simply seek a “superseding indictment.” This is basically a second indictment that takes the place of the first once new information is found and prosecutors wish to change the scope of the prosecution.

The important consideration for Mr. Mueller is that even if he should be fired after a sealed indictment issues, this action would ensure Mr. Trump would still be a criminal defendant held accountable by the judicial branch. Someone would simply replace Mr. Mueller. However, if Mr. Mueller is fired without indicting the president, it is much more likely that the president would never face indictment.

Declining to file for a sealed indictment increases the chances that Mr. Trump could install someone more favorable to him to helm or end the investigation instead of Mr. Mueller. Such a successor may not be inclined to indict Mr. Trump at all, regardless of the merits. A delay also increases the chances that Mr. Trump could run out the clock on any statutes of limitations.

If Mr. Mueller does not indict in a timely fashion, Mr. Trump could claim the statute of limitations has passed and he is forever immune.

There is substantial concern that if Mr. Trump has committed crimes, he could first say that he is unable to be prosecuted while president only to say he can no longer be prosecuted because the applicable statutes of limitations have expired after his term ends.

Prof. Findley argued that one “solution would be to indict the president within the limitations period, but then stay the prosecution while the president is in office. The statute of limitations requires only that the prosecution be initiated within the limitations period, by filing of the indictment of information. Once filed, the statute of limitations is satisfied, even if the prosecution is held in abeyance pending the president’s term in office.”

Likewise, Prof. Goldschmidt notes, “If an indictment were filed, that of course tolls [stops the clock on] the statute [of limitations], and the government could ask the court to stay the case until he leaves office. There would appear to be good reasons for doing so.”

One professor noted a much more difficult alternative. Prof. Starr says, “Congress can extend an SoL [statute of limitations] at any time while the limitations period is still running. (Of course this would implicate other defendants, which would be hard to justify, unless the nature of the extension was simply to create a tolling period when indictments were delayed by reason of official immunity or something like that.)”

Similarly, Prof. Dressler argues, “case law provides that it does not violate the Ex Post Facto Clause if Congress chooses to lengthen the statute of limitations for an offense, and apply it to people who are charged with that offense, as long as the original statute of limitations has not expired as to that individual. So, for example, if it is determined by Mueller that the President is guilty of obstruction of justice, but no indictment occurs, Congress could legislatively expand the statute of limitations for that offense, and apply it to Trump.”

These two options set up a presumably easy choice if Mr. Mueller indeed plans on prosecuting Mr. Trump at all. Either he can relatively easily indict Mr. Trump under seal, or he can hope that a Republican-led Congress votes to extend any relevant statutes of limitations. Of course, such a bill would then be sent to Mr. Trump for signature or veto. Congress can override such a veto only with two-thirds of both chambers of Congress in favor. There is also the option of delaying and hoping to file an indictment at the last minute. However, this could leave some criminal conduct outside the scope of prosecution.

Prof. Starr notes, “The default SoL [statute of limitations] for federal cases is five years. Most of the special SoLs are longer, although contempt (1 year) and tax (3 years) crimes have shorter SoLs, which could be relevant. But for most federal offenses, unless the offense was from before Jan 2016, the President will have to be reelected to run out this clock. So you could say that there is a democratic check against this strategy. (Nixon was reelected in a landslide as the Watergate scandal was beginning to unfold, so, not saying democratic checks always work!)”

Mr. Trump is only the second major party nominee in 40 years not to release a tax return. There has been widespread concern in the media that his refusal to release such reports could be due to a desire to conceal unsavory details contained in them. As Prof. Starr notes, Mr. Trump would have to be indicted within the term of his presidency if that indictment were to include allegations of tax malfeasance.

Additionally, a FiveThirtyEight analysis of all current polling indicates that a slim margin of 52.9% of people disapprove of Mr. Trump. With reports of his favor rising on the heels of a de-escalation in North Korea, he could win a surprising re-election. It may be no more surprising than his first win. This means he would run out the clock on most if not all crimes if he is not indicted while serving as president.

If he is not re-elected, Mr. Trump’s term will end on January 20, 2021. This leaves only one short year of malfeasance subject to indictment post-term. A comprehensive timeline of related events by Politico starts back in 2013. If Mr. Mueller wishes to indict based on conduct that transpired earlier in the campaign, he may need to do so rapidly.

Further, Mr. Mueller may have far less time in his position than Mr. Trump does in his term. All of these considerations likely motivate a swift indictment or indicate that one has already been filed even if it is kept secret from the broader public. This preserves the ability to enforce the law without unduly burdening the chief executive with thoughts of his risk of penalties.

Mr. Mueller says Mr. Trump is a “subject” of the Russia investigation rather than the “target.” However, police are often permitted to deceive criminal suspects especially in the case of public officials and Mr. Mueller chose his words carefully.

On April 3, 2018 the Washington Post reported that Mr. Mueller has informed Mr. Trump’s attorneys that Mr. Trump is a “subject” of a criminal investigation but not a “target at this point.” The article further notes that “Prosecutors view someone as a subject when that person has engaged in conduct that is under investigation but there is not sufficient evidence to bring charges.”

This means one of two things. It either means that as of this conversation reported on April 3, Mr. Mueller did not believe there was enough evidence to indict. That is, after all, what he reportedly said. However, even taken at face value this does not preclude Mr. Trump becoming a target after “this point.”

In fact, it might make sense to indicate to Mr. Trump that he is not the target at the latest point in time where that likely remains accurate. If evidence is hoped for shortly after that date which could move him from “subject” to “target,” it makes sense to truthfully comfort Mr. Trump just before such evidence is actually obtained. This would reduce the likelihood that Mr. Trump would fire Mr. Mueller, while remaining truthful.

On the other hand, prosecutors routinely lie to criminal suspects to avoid obstruction of their investigations and to elicit incriminating information. Prosecutor Marc Weber Tobias notes in a Forbes article from 2014 that courts generally permit prosecutors to lie to criminal suspects. He says, “Many investigations, by necessity, involve the use of deception in order to identify and catch suspects. They can result in producing incriminating evidence… Pretexts are common tools that are used to catch criminals involving just about any imaginable offense. They are especially useful in narcotics investigations and bribery of public officials.”

In other words, public officials may have unusual power to thwart investigations. So, it can make these suspects especially worthy targets of deception. That way, the suspect public official will not use this power to impede a lawful investigation. This deception seems especially warranted when the suspect has the power to fire the investigator.

The road forward is paved with reasonable secrecy.

Whether you admire or loathe him, Mr. Trump wields enormous power as the president. Few people would be able to rise up to the mental level required to disregard a looming prosecution in favor of the greater good inherent in being a public servant. Mr. Trump is likely no exception.

While his detractors clamor for news of a possible indictment of Mr. Trump, his awareness of it could plunge the country into disaster if it consumes his focus. Since it is unlikely he could be actually sent to jail during his term, such a distraction would be too much of a price to pay for people’s awareness that any issues are being handled. At least, that is the Department of Justice’s interpretation.

However, that does not mean the public or even Mr. Mueller need to be overly deferential if indeed Mr. Trump has committed crimes. As a chorus of criminal law professors note today, delaying an indictment could mean losing the ability to prosecute certain actions altogether.

Of course, it may be that Mr. Mueller believes Mr. Trump has committed no crimes at all. If that is the case, Mr. Trump can be grateful. If it is not, then Mr. Mueller has every incentive to indict as soon as he is able. The downsides of Mr. Trump’s potential distractedness appear to be easily cured by keeping the charges under seal. It may be that upon his exit from office, Mr. Trump is immediately greeted by a historical prosecution that is revealed to have been initiated years earlier. Whatever happens, we can likely expect one side to be shocked and the other to be satiated.

Alexander Stern earned his Doctor of Law degree from UC Berkeley School of Law. He is an attorney and the founder of the Attorney IO family of companies.
https://www.attorneyio.com/trump-may-be-indicted/



Trump’s Lawyers, in Confidential Memo, Argue to Head Off a Historic Subpoena

President Trump’s lawyers have privately laid out a broad view of his constitutional powers in their fight to keep him from being forced to testify in front of a grand jury in the special counsel investigation.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
By Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman, Charlie Savage and Matt Apuzzo
June 2, 2018

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s lawyers have for months quietly waged a campaign to keep the special counsel from trying to force him to answer questions in the investigation into whether he obstructed justice, asserting that he cannot be compelled to testify and arguing in a confidential letter that he could not possibly have committed obstruction because he has unfettered authority over all federal investigations.

In a brash assertion of presidential power, the 20-page letter — sent to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and obtained by The New York Times — contends that the president cannot illegally obstruct any aspect of the investigation into Russia’s election meddling because the Constitution empowers him to, “if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon.”

[Read the Trump lawyers’ confidential memo to Mr. Mueller here.]

Mr. Trump’s lawyers fear that if he answers questions, either voluntarily or in front of a grand jury, he risks exposing himself to accusations of lying to investigators, a potential crime or impeachable offense.

Mr. Trump’s broad interpretation of executive authority is novel and is likely to be tested if a court battle ensues over whether he could be ordered to answer questions. It is unclear how that fight, should the case reach that point, would play out. A spokesman for Mr. Mueller declined to comment.

“We don’t know what the law is on the intersection between the obstruction statutes and the president exercising his constitutional power to supervise an investigation in the Justice Department,” said Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor who oversaw the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel during the Bush administration. “It’s an open question.”

Hand-delivered to the special counsel’s office in January and written by two of the president’s lawyers at the time, John M. Dowd and Jay A. Sekulow, the letter offers a rare glimpse into one side of the high-stakes negotiations over a presidential interview.

Though it is written as a defense of the president, the letter recalls the tangled drama of early 2017 as the new administration dealt with the Russia investigation. It also serves as a reminder that in weighing an obstruction case, Mr. Mueller is reviewing actions and conversations involving senior White House officials, including the president, the vice president and the White House counsel.

The letter also lays out a series of claims that foreshadow a potential subpoena fight that could unfold in the months leading into November’s midterm elections.

“We are reminded of our duty to protect the president and his office,” the lawyers wrote, making their case that Mr. Mueller has the information he needs from tens of thousands of pages of documents they provided and testimony by other witnesses, obviating the necessity for a presidential interview.


Mr. Mueller has told the president’s lawyers that he needs to talk to their client to determine whether he had criminal intent to obstruct the investigation into his associates’ possible links to Russia’s election interference. If Mr. Trump refuses to be questioned, Mr. Mueller will have to weigh their arguments while deciding whether to press ahead with a historic grand jury subpoena.

Mr. Mueller had raised the prospect of subpoenaing Mr. Trump to Mr. Dowd in March. Emmet T. Flood, the White House lawyer for the special counsel investigation, is preparing for that possibility, according to the president’s lead lawyer in the case, Rudolph W. Giuliani.

The attempt to dissuade Mr. Mueller from seeking a grand jury subpoena is one of two fronts on which Mr. Trump’s lawyers are fighting. In recent weeks, they have also begun a public-relations campaign to discredit the investigation and in part to pre-empt a potentially damaging special counsel report that could prompt impeachment proceedings.

Mr. Trump complained on Twitter on Saturday before this article was published that the disclosure of the letter was a damaging leak to the news media and asked whether the “expensive Witch Hunt Hoax” would ever end.

Mr. Trump and his lawyers have also attacked the credibility of a key witness in the inquiry, the fired F.B.I. director James B. Comey; complained about what they see as investigative failures; and contested the interpretation of significant facts.
Image
James B. Comey, the former director of the F.B.I., is one of the main witnesses in the investigation into whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
Mr. Giuliani said in an interview that Mr. Trump is telling the truth but that investigators “have a false version of it, we believe, so you’re trapped.” And the stakes are too high to risk being interviewed under those circumstances, he added: “That becomes not just a prosecutable offense, but an impeachable offense.”

Mr. Trump’s defense is a wide-ranging interpretation of presidential power. In saying he has the authority to end a law enforcement inquiry or pardon people, his lawyers ambiguously left open the possibility that they were referring only to the investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, which he is accused of pressuring the F.B.I. to drop — or perhaps the one Mr. Mueller is pursuing into Mr. Trump himself as well.

Mr. Dowd and Mr. Sekulow outlined 16 areas they said the special counsel was scrutinizing as part of the obstruction investigation, including the firings of Mr. Comey and of Mr. Flynn, and the president’s reaction to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s recusal from the Russia investigation.

Over the past year, the president’s lawyers have mostly cooperated with the inquiry in an effort to end it more quickly. Mr. Trump’s lawyers say he deserves credit for that willingness, citing his waiver of executive privilege to allow some of his advisers to speak with Mr. Mueller.

“We cannot emphasize enough that regardless of the fact that the executive privilege clearly applies to his senior staff, in the interest of complete transparency, the president has allowed — in fact, has directed — the voluntary production of clearly protected documents,” his lawyers wrote.

Presidents frequently assert executive privilege, their right to refuse demands for information about internal executive branch dealings, but its limits are murky and mostly untested.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers are gambling that Mr. Mueller may not want to risk an attempt to forge new legal ground by bringing a grand jury subpoena against a sitting president into a criminal proceeding.

“Ensuring that the office remains sacred and above the fray of shifting political winds and gamesmanship is of critical importance,” they wrote.

They argued that the president holds a special position in the government and is busy running the country, making it difficult for him to prepare and sit for an interview. They said that because of those demands on Mr. Trump’s time, the special counsel’s office should have to clear a higher bar to get him to talk. Mr. Mueller, the president’s attorneys argued, needs to prove that the president is the only person who can give him the information he seeks and that he has exhausted all other avenues for getting it.

“The president’s prime function as the chief executive ought not be hampered by requests for interview,” they wrote. “Having him testify demeans the office of the president before the world.”

They also contended that nothing Mr. Trump did violated obstruction-of-justice statutes, making both a technical parsing of what one such law covers and a broad constitutional argument that Congress cannot infringe on how he exercises his power to supervise the executive branch. Because of the authority the Constitution gives him, it is impossible for him to obstruct justice by shutting down a case or firing a subordinate, no matter his motivation, they said.

“Every action that the president took was taken with full constitutional authority pursuant to Article II of the United States Constitution,” they wrote of the part of the Constitution that created the executive branch. “As such, these actions cannot constitute obstruction, whether viewed separately or even as a totality.”

That constitutional claim raises novel issues, according to legal experts. Under the Constitution, the president wields broad authority to control the actions of the executive branch. But the Supreme Court has ruled that Congress can impose some restrictions on his exercise of that power, including by upholding statutes that limit his ability to fire certain officials. As a result, it is not clear whether statutes criminalizing obstruction of justice apply to the president and amount to another legal limit on how he may wield his powers.

The letter does not stress legal opinions by the Justice Department in the Nixon and Clinton administrations that held that a sitting president cannot be indicted, in part because it would impede his ability to carry out his constitutional responsibilities. But in recent weeks, Mr. Giuliani has pointed to those memos as part of a broader argument that, by extension, Mr. Trump also cannot be subpoenaed.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/02/us/p ... poena.html


WHAT GOT ADDED TO SEKULOW’S LIST: FURTHER OBSTRUCTION (INCLUDING CONSIDERING OF FIRING MUELLER), AND “COLLUSION”

June 2, 2018/1 Comment/in 2016 Presidential Election, Mueller Probe /by emptywheel
As bmaz noted, the NYT just published the most batshit letter, written on January 29 by John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, trying to dodge testimony for Trump. Here’s what, according to Dowd and Sekulow, Mueller had told them on January 8 he wanted to ask about.

1. Former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — information regarding his contacts with Ambassador Kislyak about sanctions during the transition process;

2.Lt. Gen. Flynn’s communications with Vice President Michael Pence regarding those contacts;

3. Lt. Gen. Flynn’s interview with the FBI regarding the same;

4. Then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates coming to the White House to discuss same;

5. The President’s meeting on February 14, 2017, with then-Director James Comey;

6.Any other relevant information regarding former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn;

7. The President’s awareness of and reaction to investigations by the FBI, the House and the Senate into possible collusion;

8. The President’s reaction to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation;

9. The President’s reaction to Former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony on March 20, 2017, before the House Intelligence Committee;

10. Information related to conversations with intelligence officials generally regarding ongoing investigations;

11. Information regarding who the President had had conversations with concerning Mr. Comey’s performance;

12. Whether or not Mr. Comey’s May 3, 2017, testimony lead to his termination;

13. Information regarding communications with Ambassador Kislyak, Minister Lavrov, and Lester Holt;

14. The President’s reaction to the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel;

15. The President’s interaction with Attorney General Sessions as it relates to the appointment of Special Counsel; and,

16. The statement of July 8, 2017, concerning Donald Trump, Jr.’s meeting in Trump Tower.


On March 5, Trump’s lawyers had a heated meeting with Mueller’s team, where Mueller floated a subpoena. In the wake of that meeting, Mueller provided a new list of topics of interest, which resulted in the Sekulow list leaked a month ago.

In the wake of the testy March 5 meeting, Mueller’s team agreed to provide the president’s lawyers with more specific information about the subjects that prosecutors wished to discuss with the president. With those details in hand, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow compiled a list of 49 questions that the team believed the president would be asked,


Here’s that list, as presented by the NYT (there are fewer than the 49 described by the NYT because of how they combined questions). I’ve bolded the ones that appear to be entirely new in the later list.


1. What did you know about phone calls that Mr. Flynn made with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, in late December 2016?

2. What was your reaction to news reports on Jan. 12, 2017, and Feb. 8-9, 2017?

3. What did you know about Sally Yates’s meetings about Mr. Flynn?

4. How was the decision made to fire Mr. Flynn on Feb. 13, 2017?

5. After the resignations, what efforts were made to reach out to Mr. Flynn about seeking immunity or possible pardon?

6. What was your opinion of Mr. Comey during the transition?

7. What did you think about Mr. Comey’s intelligence briefing on Jan. 6, 2017, about Russian election interference?

8. What was your reaction to Mr. Comey’s briefing that day about other intelligence matters?

9. What was the purpose of your Jan. 27, 2017, dinner with Mr. Comey, and what was said?

10. What was the purpose of your Feb. 14, 2017, meeting with Mr. Comey, and what was said?

11. What did you know about the F.B.I.’s investigation into Mr. Flynn and Russia in the days leading up to Mr. Comey’s testimony on March 20, 2017?

12.What did you do in reaction to the March 20 testimony? Describe your contacts with intelligence officials.

13. What did you think and do in reaction to the news that the special counsel was speaking to Mr. Rogers, Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Coats?

14. What was the purpose of your calls to Mr. Comey on March 30 and April 11, 2017?

15. What was the purpose of your April 11, 2017, statement to Maria Bartiromo?

16. What did you think and do about Mr. Comey’s May 3, 2017, testimony?

17. Regarding the decision to fire Mr. Comey: When was it made? Why? Who played a role?

18. What did you mean when you told Russian diplomats on May 10, 2017, that firing Mr. Comey had taken the pressure off?

19. What did you mean in your interview with Lester Holt about Mr. Comey and Russia?

20. What was the purpose of your May 12, 2017, tweet?

21. What did you think about Mr. Comey’s June 8, 2017, testimony regarding Mr. Flynn, and what did you do about it?

22. What was the purpose of the September and October 2017 statements, including tweets, regarding an investigation of Mr. Comey?

23. What is the reason for your continued criticism of Mr. Comey and his former deputy, Andrew G. McCabe?

24. What did you think and do regarding the recusal of Mr. Sessions?

25. What efforts did you make to try to get him to change his mind?

26. Did you discuss whether Mr. Sessions would protect you, and reference past attorneys general?

27. What did you think and what did you do in reaction to the news of the appointment of the special counsel?

28. Why did you hold Mr. Sessions’s resignation until May 31, 2017, and with whom did you discuss it?

29. What discussions did you have with Reince Priebus in July 2017 about obtaining the Sessions resignation? With whom did you discuss it?

30. What discussions did you have regarding terminating the special counsel, and what did you do when that consideration was reported in January 2018?

31. What was the purpose of your July 2017 criticism of Mr. Sessions?

32. When did you become aware of the Trump Tower meeting?

33. What involvement did you have in the communication strategy, including the release of Donald Trump Jr.’s emails?

34. During a 2013 trip to Russia, what communication and relationships did you have with the Agalarovs and Russian government officials?

35. What communication did you have with Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater and others, including foreign nationals, about Russian real estate developments during the campaign?

36. What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding any meeting with Mr. Putin? Did you discuss it with others?

37. What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding Russian sanctions?

38. What involvement did you have concerning platform changes regarding arming Ukraine?

39. During the campaign, what did you know about Russian hacking, use of social media or other acts aimed at the campaign?

40. What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?

41. What did you know about communication between Roger Stone, his associates, Julian Assange or WikiLeaks?

42. What did you know during the transition about an attempt to establish back-channel communication to Russia, and Jared Kushner’s efforts?

43. What do you know about a 2017 meeting in Seychelles involving Erik Prince?

44. What do you know about a Ukrainian peace proposal provided to Mr. Cohen in 2017?

The additions are instructive. The one new bit on Flynn involves Trump’s offer of a pardon.

The new bits on obstruction pertain to ongoing efforts to obstruct the investigation, including consideration of firing Mueller and ongoing efforts to discredit Jim Comey and Andrew McCabe.

But the most interesting are the 14 or so questions on Trump’s involvement in and awareness of election tampering. Given the timing of Rick Gates’ plea on February 23 and the subsequent focus on Roger Stone and Michael Cohen, I’m particularly interested in the addition of questions involving both of them (as well as the question about Manafort’s efforts to get Russia’s help).

Trump would have been far better off having an interview in January. Because the questions are getting harder — and Mueller’s interest in his involvement in “collusion” is getting more apparent.

https://www.emptywheel.net/2018/06/02/w ... collusion/


Marshall Cohen

In a letter to Mueller, Trump's lawyers said he "dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times" about the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians. But here are FIVE TIMES @JaySekulow and @PressSec previously denied Trump's role in the misleading statement.
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Sun Jun 03, 2018 11:05 am

So, yeah, the big question in this entire list is the unstated one: did you dictate that statement? Or did Putin?




THE EVASION IN TRUMP’S RESPONSE ON THE JUNE 9 MEETING STATEMENT: DID PUTIN DICTATE THE STATEMENT?

June 2, 2018/32 Comments/in 2016 Presidential Election, Mueller Probe /by emptywheel
As early as January 8, Robert Mueller’s team was asking Donald Trump what his role in this statement on the June 9 Trump Tower meeting with Russians offering dirt on Hillary was; Don Jr’s lawyer released the statement on July 8, 2017.

It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow up. I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.


The answer Trump’s lawyers gave in January seems to admit Trump dictated the statement.

You have received all of the notes, communications and testimony indicating that the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr. His son then followed up by making a full public disclosure regarding the meeting, including his public testimony that there was nothing to the meeting and certainly no evidence of collusion.56

This subject is a private matter with the New York Times. The President is not required to answer to the Office of the Special Counsel, or anyone else, for his private affairs with his children. In any event, the President’s son, son-in-law, and White House advisors and staff have made a full disclosure on these events to both your office and the congressional committees.57


Note: the statement is assuredly not accurate. The SJC materials show the Russian participants in the meeting spent weeks in November 2016 trying to follow-up, but the follow-up got deferred (maybe, or maybe not) because of new difficulties in scheduling.

In any case, saying that the notes, communications, and testimony “indicate” that Trump dictated the statement stops short of saying that he did so.

As a reminder, here’s the timeline of events leading up to that statement getting released.

Early July 7: NYT approaches WH officials and lawyers; WH schedules a conference call w/NYT for next morning.

July 7: Trump chats up Putin at dinner. (Note, whenever Melania decides it’s time to get revenge on Trump for treating her like shit, she can go tell Mueller what she overheard of this conversation.)

July 8, morning: Conference call doesn’t happen. NYT submits 14 questions about the meeting to the WH and lawyers of Trump campaign aides who attended the meeting (do these aides include all of Don Jr, Kushner, and Manafort?); Trump and his aides develop a response on Air Force One, with Hicks coordinating with Don Jr and his lawyer Alan Garten, who were both in NY, via text message.

July 8, afternoon: Jamie Gorelick provides a statement describing his revisions to his security clearance forms.

He has since submitted this information, including that during the campaign and transition, he had over 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries, most of which were during transition. Mr. Kushner has submitted additional updates and included, out of an abundance of caution, this meeting with a Russian person, which he briefly attended at the request of his brother-in-law Donald Trump Jr. As Mr. Kushner has consistently stated, he is eager to cooperate and share what he knows.


July 8, evening: Garten issues a statement in Don Jr’s name stating,

It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow up. I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.


Right in the middle of this heated effort to respond to the NYT, Trump bizarrely spent an hour chatting Vladimir Putin up over dinner at the G-20 (yeah, I wrote that comment about Melania in February!). The question here is not just “why did you release such a partial statement that the documentary record proves is inaccurate?” Nor is it, “why did you emphasize adoptions — Russian code for sanctions — rather than the sanctions that were at the core of the meeting?”

It’s also the unstated question: “Did you dictate that statement? Or did Vladimir Putin?”

Here’s the nutty bit. We don’t actually have to speculate about whether that spin — adoptions rather than sanctions — came up in the chat between Putin and Trump. In an interview not long after news of the June 9 meeting broke, Trump actually told the NYT he and Putin were talking about adoptions.

TRUMP: She was sitting next to Putin and somebody else, and that’s the way it is. So the meal was going, and toward dessert I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there I said hello to Putin. Really, pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about — things. Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption.

HABERMAN: You did?

TRUMP: We talked about Russian adoption. Yeah. I always found that interesting. Because, you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Jr., Mr. Trump’s son] had in that meeting. As I’ve said — most other people, you know, when they call up and say, “By the way, we have information on your opponent,” I think most politicians — I was just with a lot of people, they said [inaudible], “Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?” They just said——

HABERMAN: The senators downstairs?

TRUMP: A lot of them. They said, “Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?”

By his own admission, Trump went from the July 7 dinner chat about adoptions with Putin and “dictated” a statement that just happened to focus, misleadingly, on adoptions.

So, yeah, the big question in this entire list is the unstated one: did you dictate that statement? Or did Putin?
https://www.emptywheel.net/2018/06/02/t ... statement/
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Sun Jun 03, 2018 8:50 pm

THE GIANT HOLES IN TRUMP’S MIKE FLYNN STORY POINT TO “COLLUSION,” NOT OBSTRUCTION

June 3, 2018/6 Comments/in 2016 Presidential Election, emptywheel, Mueller Probe /by empty wheel

I wanted to look more closely at the story the President’s lawyers told Mueller’s team about Flynn’s firing in January, both for what it reveals about the White House’s response to the Sally Yates warning, and for its claims about how it interprets DOJ actions. The letter reveals the following:

* The White House claims, Sally Yates’ public comments (which they entirely ignore) to the contrary, that they got DOJ permission to release the Mike Flynn intercept; given the timing of the story as laid out, and Trump’s question about FBI leaking, I actually think it possible if not likely that the White House was a source for the February 9 story leaking the intercept. If that’s true, it totally undermines the Trump letter.

* Don McGahn wrote a memo on the lead-up to Flynn’s firing two days after the firing, and one day after Trump’s “let it go” conversation with Jim Comey. It appears to be inconsistent with Transition materials, particularly an email showing (among other things) that Reince Priebus knew in real time what Flynn told Kislyak on December 29. Firing Comey would have been an effort to prevent FBI from discovering those transition period communications.

* The Trump letter didn’t address two of the questions asked about Flynn’s firing. In addition to remaining silent about what Trump really knew about what Flynn said to Pence, it doesn’t address Trump’s involvement in the transition period communications with Sergey Kislyak. That’s important because that’s the question that Flynn’s initial interview should have revealed. Contrary to what the letter claims, then, Flynn’s plea and Trump’s silence in the letter about the substance of the plea is proof not that Trump didn’t obstruct, but that Trump continues to refuse to explain why Flynn asked Kislyak to hold off on responding to sanctions, to say nothing of whether Flynn did so on his orders.
The section (less the Comey and McCabe testimony) and associated footnotes follow, with my comments.

MUELLER ASKED FOR SIX FLYNN RELATED THINGS; TRUMP ONLY RESPONDED TO FOUR

Here are the things Mueller asked Trump to explain pertaining to the Flynn firing.He said

1. Former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — information regarding his contacts with Ambassador Kislyak about sanctions during the transition process;

2. Lt. Gen. Flynn’s communications with Vice President Michael Pence regarding those contacts;

3. Lt. Gen. Flynn’s interview with the FBI regarding the same;

4. Then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates coming to the White House to discuss same;

5. The President’s meeting on February 14, 2017, with then-Director James Comey;

6. Any other relevant information regarding former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn;

In our most recent meeting, you mentioned the possibility of obstruction in connection with the case of former National Security Advisor and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (Ret.) “Lt. Gen. Flynn”), and that you desired to speak with the President specifically regarding his conversation with then-Director Comey one day after the President fired Lt. Gen. Flynn for lying to the Vice President.


Note, at the outset, how Trump’s lawyers have taken 6 questions about the specifics of communications about Flynn and turned that into a question that focuses on the meaning of the February 14 “Let it go” meeting? So as you’re reading the following, watch how Trump’s lawyers redefine the scope of the questions — I’ll revisit this at the end.

Also as you read this, remember that this response happens in the wake of (and may be the first meeting after) Mike Flynn flipping in part because Jared Kushner hung him out to dry in testimony.

You have already been provided the testimony of White House Counsel and his extensive internal file memo as well as the testimony and notes of the President’s Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus “Mr. Priebus”), and other members of the White House Counsel’s office.


Again, Mueller has asked specifically about Flynn’s comments to Pence. Pence is not included here.

TRUMP COMPLAINS THAT MUELLER HASN’T TURNED OVER COMEY’S MEMOS; THE MEMOS SERIOUSLY UNDERMINE SOME CLAIMS MADE IN THE LETTER

According to former Mr. Comey, the following occurred at a February 14, 2017, meeting between him and the President:

The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.” … I did not say I would “let this go.”16

The White House denied and refuted that the President said these words to Mr. Comey.17 We decline to recommend to the President that he be interviewed on this subject for many reasons.

16 We note that you have declined our request on several occasions to share the classified notes of Mr. Comey, which have been leaked to the press and given to members of Congress and publicly disclosed. As Chief Executive Officer, the President has every right to have them. You provided them to While House Counsel. In addition, we note that Mr. Comey has had to correct his testimony on multiple occasions.

17 See infra p. 11 and n. 30.


One of the questions added to Sekulow’s list in March addressed Trump’s tweet suggesting there might be recordings of this meeting, which makes this response all the more interesting. In any case, you’ll see that in January Trump’s lawyers made a number of claims that Comey’s memos solidly refuted.

I’m also confused by the apparent contradiction — both the demand that Mueller turn over Comey’s memos (I’ll return to what Mueller was likely withholding in a bit) followed by the claim that he has given them to Don McGahn.

THE SOURCES CITED FOR CLAIMS ABOUT FLYNN DON’T SUPPORT THOSE CLAIMS AND HAVE SINCE BEEN UNDERMINED FURTHER

What follows is a non-exhaustive list:

First, the President was not under investigation by the FBI;
Second, there was no obvious investigation to obstruct since the FBI had concluded on January 24, 2017, that Lt. Gen. Flynn had not lied, but was merely confused.18Director Comey confirmed this in his closed-door Congressional testimony on March 2, 2017.19
18 Evan Perez, Flynn Changed Story to FBI; No Charges Expected, CNN (Feb. 17, 2017)

19 The Editorial Board, The Flynn Information, WALL STREET JOURNAL (Dec. I, 2017) “A Congressional source also tells us that former FBI director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee on March 2 that his agents had concluded that Mr. Flynn hadn’t lied but had forgotten that had been discussed.”).


I suspect the first of these bullets — that the President was not under investigation — will come back to haunt him. That is, Trump wasn’t investigation yet in part because by firing Flynn he separated the investigation that would soon subsume him, in part because of his own role in the actions Flynn was fired for.

As for the claims about Flynn. First, notice that the first source Trump’s lawyers cite doesn’t support their claims. The story says nothing about Flynn being confused. Rather, it says that, when challenged, Flynn claimed not to remember.

Flynn initially told investigators sanctions were not discussed. But FBI agents challenged him, asking if he was certain that was his answer. He said he didn’t remember.

The FBI interviewers believed Flynn was cooperative and provided truthful answers. Although Flynn didn’t remember all of what he talked about, they don’t believe he was intentionally misleading them, the officials say.


In addition, the CNN story cited notes that the investigation was only done, “barring new information that changes what they know.” A lot would transpire in the weeks after that story, including disclosure of a meeting at which sanctions were raised, that would change how Flynn’s skilled lying looked after the fact.

The second source isn’t any better — it supports the “forgot” claim too. And the GOP HPSCI report makes it clear that even that claim is inaccurate. What Comey said was that the interviewing agents saw no signs of deception.

Director Comey testified to the Committee that “the agents … discerned no physical indications of deception. They didn’t see any change in posture, in tone, in inflection, in eye contact. They saw nothing that indicated to them that he knew he was lying to them.”


From a lifetime intelligence official like Flynn, that’s not that surprising.

TRUMP’S LAWYERS GET THE LAW ON OBSTRUCTION WRONG

Note, in the following section, I’m putting the initial bullet, the argument, and the footnotes all together. The footnotes will appear out of order as a result.

Third, as a matter of law, even if there had been an FBI investigation there could have been no actionable obstruction of said investigation under 18 U.S.C. § 1505, since an FBI investigation is not a “proceeding” under that statute. Since there is no cognizable offense, no testimony is required;
To briefly review the relevant law and facts, § 1505 of Title 18, United States Code, as amendedby the Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982, forbids anyone from corruptly, or by threats of force or by any threatening communication, influencing, obstructing, or impeding any pending proceeding before a department or agency of the United States, or Congress.22Under § 1505, a “pending proceeding” is limited only to agencies with rule-making or adjudicative authority. The investigation of Lt. Gen. Flynn was being conducted by the FBI, which possesses only investigative authority, not adjudicative; it cannot conduct “proceedings” within the cognizance of§ 1505.23No court has ever held than an FBI investigation constitutes a § 1505 proceeding, and the U.S. Attorney’s Manual makes clear that “investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are not §1505 proceedings.”24The DOJ has even expressly acknowledged as much to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.25As a matter of law, then, the FBI’s investigation of Lt. Gen. Flynn was not, at the time of the President’s comments as recalled by Mr. Comey, within the scope of § 1505.

22 In 1996, Congress enacted a clarifying amendment to 18 U.S.C. § 1515, which defines the term “corruptly” as used in § 1505 to mean “acting with an improper purpose, personally or by influencing another, including making a false or misleading statement, or withholding, concealing, altering, or destroying a document or other information.” False Statements Accountability Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. I 04-292, §3, I IO Stat. 3459, 3460.

23 Courts have explained it this way.

24 U.S. DEP’T OF JUSTICE, U.S. ATTORNEYS’ MANUAL: CRIMINAL RESOURCE MANUAL § 1727, PROTECTION OF GOVERNMENT PROCESS – OMNIBUS CLAUSE – 18 U.S.C. § 1505,

25 United States v. Adams, 335 Fed. Appx. 338, 342 (4th Cir. 2009) (Government conceded that criminal investigation by FBI or DEA was not pending proceeding within the scope of 18 U.S.C. § I 505, and requested defendant’s conviction on that count be vacated).


As numerous people have noted (including the NYT in an annotation of this), the President’s crack lawyers get which obstruction of justice statute might be at issue wrong.

TRUMP’S LAWYERS NEVER ADDRESS WHAT SALLY YATES HAS STATED PUBLICLY — WHICH BADLY UNDERMINES THE DON MCGAHN NARRATIVE OF THESE ISSUES

The following section is the one I’m most interested in, because it probably added to the evidence that the White House obstructed. Because this argument is so muddled, I’m repeating the “second” point because it’s necessary to make what follows sensible. Having argued that obstructing an FBI investigation is not obstructing justice, Trump’s lawyers are now going to set out to suggest there was no way they could have known that Flynn was under investigation. (Note, for reasons of length, I don’t deal with Comey and McCabe’s testimony; suffice it to say that Comey’s testimony, including him entertaining the investigation of Trump, reportedly led directly to his firing, so the hearing actually proves the opposite of what the White House claims.)

Second, there was no obvious investigation to obstruct since the FBI had concluded on January 24, 2017, that Lt. Gen. Flynn had not lied, but was merely confused.18Director Comey confirmed this in his closed-door Congressional testimony on March 2, 2017.19
Fourth, both Mr. Comey and Mr. McCabe subsequently testified under oath that there was “no effort to impede” the investigation.20Mr. McCabe’s testimony followed Mr.Comey’s testimony on May 3, 2017, just six days before his termination, that “it would be a big deal to tell the FBI to stop doing something . . . for a political reason. That would be a very big deal. It’s not happened in my experience.”21
The following facts are taken from information voluntarily provided to your office or from information that is publicly available. These facts further demonstrate that the President did not obstruct justice in any manner concerning Lt. Gen. Flynn.

According to Acting Attorney General Sally Yates (“Ms. Yates”), on January 24, 2017, Lt. Gen. Flynn was interviewed by the FBI. According to reports, “The FBI interviewers believed Flynn was cooperative and provided truthful answers. Although Flynn didn’t remember all of what he talked about, they don’t believe he was intentionally misleading them, the officials say.”26

This account of the FBl’s interview and subsequent conclusions was later confirmed by the closed-door congressional testimony of Mr. Comey.27 Mr. Comey also confirmed in his May 3, 2017, Senate Intelligence Committee testimony that he “did participate in conversations about that matter” with Ms. Yates, referring to the FBl’s interview of Lt. Gen. Flynn. before she conveyed the information to the White House in the days that followed.28

26 Perez, Flynn Changed Story to FBI; No Charges Expected, supra n. 18.

27 “A Congressional source also tells us that former FBI director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee on March 2 that his agents had concluded that Mr. Flynn hadn’t lied, but had forgotten what had been discussed.” The Editorial Board, The Flynn Information, WALL STREET JOURNAL (Dec. 1, 2017).

28 Read the Full Testimony of FBI James Comey in Which He Discusses Clinton Email Investigation, supra n.21.


This repeats what was already said, that the FBI at first came away thinking that Flynn had shown no signs of deception. Trump’s lawyers choose to source these claims to the same CNN and WSJ pieces they had already cited instead of 1) Flynn’s guilty plea 2) Comey’s testimony or 3) what Yates told McGahn. Only after having relied on the press that Trump otherwise demonizes does the letter cite what Yates actually said.

On January 26, 2017, Ms. Yates met with White House Counsel Don McGahn (“Mr. McGahn”). As outlined by Mr. McGahn in his White House Counsel’s Office memo dated February 15, 2017,29“Yates expressed two principal concerns during the meeting: (1) that Flynn may have made false representations to others in the Administration regarding the content of the calls; and (2) that Flynn’s potentially false statements could make him susceptible to foreign influence or blackmail because the Russians would know he had lied.” “Yates further indicated that on January 24, 2017, FBI agents had questioned Flynn about his contacts with Kislyak. Yates claimed that Flynn’s statements to the FBI were similar to those she understood he had made to Spicer and the Vice President.”3029 This confidential and privileged memorandum was provided to your office as part of the White House’s voluntary production, and is identified as SCR002b_SCR002b000000001.30 Recall that Lt. Gen. Flynn had previously been asked questions by other transition team personnel concerning his conversations with Ambassador Kislyak via an email chain of January 12, 2017. See DJTFP00027478. The response provided by Lt. Gen. Flynn was vague, and appears to imply that sanctions were not discussed. DOJ leadership would not advise the White House that transcripts of the calls existed, and of concerns about the content of those transcripts, until January 26, 2017, and even then, when asked by the White House, the DOJ refused to confirm that an investigation was underway.


Three things about this passage. First, whereas elsewhere the letter relies on public testimony (of Comey and McCabe), the letter doesn’t cite Yates’ public testimony. Instead, the White House relies on a narrative that Don McGahn drew up the day after the “let it go” conversation — that is, after such time as Flynn’s firing might be a problem. Here’s what they would have had to include had they actually included Yates’ testimony (which they don’t dispute).

We also told the White House Counsel that General Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI on February 24. Mr. McGahn asked me how he did and I declined to give him an answer to that. And we then walked through with Mr. McGahn essentially why we were telling them about this and the first thing we did was to explain to Mr. McGahn that the underlying conduct that General Flynn had engaged in was problematic in and of itself.

Secondly, we told him we felt like the vice president and others were entitled to know that the information that they were conveying to the American people wasn’t true. And we wanted to make it really clear right out of the gate that we were not accusing Vice President Pence of knowingly providing false information to the American people.

And, in fact, Mr. McGahn responded back to me to let me know that anything that General Flynn would’ve said would have been based — excuse me — anything that Vice President Pence would have said would have been based on what General Flynn had told him.

We told him the third reason was — is because we were concerned that the American people had been misled about the underlying conduct and what General Flynn had done, and additionally, that we weren’t the only ones that knew all of this, that the Russians also knew about what General Flynn had done.

And the Russians also knew that General Flynn had misled the vice president and others, because in the media accounts, it was clear from the vice president and others that they were repeating what General Flynn had told them, and that this was a problem because not only did we believe that the Russians knew this, but that they likely had proof of this information.

And that created a compromise situation, a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians. Finally, we told them that we were giving them all of this information so that they could take action, the action that they deemed appropriate.


Yates’ public testimony (to which Mary McCord would also be a witness) adds several elements to McGahn’s: she said the sanction discussion itself was wrong (elsewhere HPSCI has claimed she raised Logan Act violations). She talked about concerns about Pence’s credibility (remember–the White House doesn’t address getting Pence’s side of this story at all). And she claims she specifically suggested the White House should take action — that is, fire Flynn.

Finally, note that this passage cites an email chain dated January 12 — what was treated as campaign production with the Bates stamp “DJTJFP.” This is the only time the letter cites that production; they don’t, for example, cite the email chains referenced in Flynn’s plea that make it clear how hard it would have been to forget the Kislyak call because he was basically acting on orders from the President. In any case, the letter remarkably describes nothing about this chain of emails, not even who participated in it. But given the timing, it almost certainly was a response to the January 12 Ignatius story, and therefore was likely a press response chain. It may have also been prep for this all-important Pence appearance.

MCGAHN’S NARRATIVE REVEALS TRUMP KNEW OF THE FLYNN INTERVIEW BEFORE HE DEMANDED LOYALTY FROM COMEY ON JANUARY 27

Resuming … This is a detail that has gotten far too little attention. After Yates spoke to McGahn, he had a meeting with Trump and Priebus and others.

On January 26, 2017, Mr. McGahn briefed the President concerning the information conveyed by Ms. Yates. Additional advisors were brought in, including White House Chief of Staff Mr. Priebus. It was agreed that additional information would be needed before any action was taken. As recorded by Mr. McGahn, “Part of this concern was a recognition by McGahn that it was unclear from the meeting with Yates whether an action could be taken without jeopardizing an ongoing investigation.” At that time “President Trump asked McGahn to further look into the issue as well as finding out more about the calls.”


Note how important it is that the letter ignore Yates’ public statements? She claims she suggested the White House should take action, meaning they should fire Flynn. The White House claimed (in a piece written after the “let it go” conversation) that they didn’t know whether they could fire Flynn because there might be an ongoing investigation. And Trump used that as an excuse to get more information on the investigation.

MCGAHN’S NARRATIVE CLAIMS YATES SAID DOJ WOULD NOT MIND IF THE WHITE HOUSE PUBLICLY REVEALED THE INTERCEPT ON KISLYAK

Which is what leads to the January 27 meeting with Yates and McGahn.

On January 27, 2017, at Mr. McGahn’s request, Ms. Yates and Mr. McGahn had another meeting. Importantly, DOJ leadership declined to confirm to the White House that Lt. Gen. Flynn was under any type of investigation. According to Mr. McGahn’s memo:

During the meeting, McGahn sought clarification regarding Yates’s prior statements regarding Flynn’s contact with Ambassador Kislyak. Among the issues discussed was whether dismissal of Flynn by the President would compromise any ongoing investigations. Yates was unwilling to confirm or deny that there was an ongoing investigation but did indicate that the DOJ would not object to the White House taking action against Flynn. (Emphasis added.)

Further supporting the White House’s understanding that there was no FBI investigation that could conceivably have been impeded, “Yates also indicated that the DOJ would not object to the White House disclosing how the DOJ obtained the information relayed to the White House regarding Flynn’s calls with Ambassador Kislyak.” In other words, the DOJ expressed that the White House could make public that Lt. Gen. Flynn’s calls with Ambassador Kislyak had been surveilled. It seems quite unlikely that if an ongoing DOJ investigation of Lt. Gen. Flynn was underway, the DOJ would approve its key investigation methods and sources being publicized.


Key to the White House argument, then, are two details: first, that Yates didn’t confirm for McGahn that there was an ongoing investigation, but also his claim that, “DOJ would not object to the White House disclosing how the DOJ obtained the information relayed to the White House regarding Flynn’s calls with Ambassador Kislyak” Yates’ testimony portrays that very differently. First of all, she describes talking about the crimes that Flynn might be prosecuted for — surely a tip-off he was being investigated. More interestingly, what McGahn portrayed as DOJ’s assent for releasing news of the FISA wiretap publicly, Yates seems to have taken it to mean DOJ was willing to share the wiretap intercept privately, with the White House; she even implies she meant they could come to DOJ to review the intercept.

WHITEHOUSE: Did you discuss criminal prosecution of Mr. Flynn — General Flynn?

YATES: My recollection is that did not really come up much in the first meeting. It did come up in the second meeting, when Mr. McGahn called me back the next morning and asked the — the morning after — this is the morning of the 27th, now — and asked me if I could come back to his office.

And so I went back with the NSD official, and there were essentially four topics that he wanted to discuss there, and one of those topics was precisely that. He asked about the applicability of certain statutes, certain criminal statutes and, more specifically,

[snip]

And there was a request made by Mr. McGahn, in the second meeting as to whether or not they would be able to look at the underlying evidence that we had that we had described for him of General Flynn’s conduct. And we told him that we were inclined to allow them to look at that underlying evidence, that we wanted to go back to DOJ and be able to make the logistical arrangements for that. This second meeting on the 27th occurred late in the afternoon, this is Friday the 27th. So we told him that we would work with the FBI over the weekend on this issue and get back with him on Monday morning. And I called him first thing Monday morning to let him know that we would allow them to come over and to review the underlying evidence.


That McGahn is spinning this as permission to release the intercept publicly is remarkable, given that it leaked. Want to bet this means FBI determined the leaks about the Flynn wiretap were leaked by the White House?

TRUMP’S INITIAL LOYALTY DEMAND FROM COMEY CLOSELY FOLLOWED HIM LEARNING ABOUT FLYNN INTERVIEW

That’s particularly significant given the weird dinner Trump had with Comey that night, which Comey documented at the time. I describe that meeting and its significance as follow-up to the second Yates meeting here. But the key details are that Trump:

* Invited the FBI to investigate the pee tape to prove it was inaccurate (which I assume was an explicit request for public exoneration)

* Asked if the FBI leaks (given the White House claim that DOJ said the FISA intercept could be released, the question is all the more interesting)

* Asked, for the third time, if Comey wanted to keep his job

* Asked for loyalty

* Made this remarkable comment suggesting he didn’t trust Flynn that among other things pretended that Trump didn’t know of the impending Putin call

He then went on to explain that he has serious reservations about Mike Flynn’s judgment and illustrated with a story from that day in which the President apparently discovered during his toast to Teresa May that [Vladimir Putin] had called four days ago. Apparently, as the President was toasting PM May, he was explaining that she had been the first to call him after his inauguration and Flynn interrupted to say that [Putin] had called (first, apparently). It was then that the President learned of [Putin’s] call and he confronted Flynn about it (not clear whether that was in the moment or after the lunch with PM May). Flynn said the return call was scheduled for Saturday, which prompted a heated reply from the President that six days was not an appropriate period of time to return a call from the [President] of a country like [Russia]. (“This isn’t [redacted] we are talking about.”) He said that if he called [redacted] and didn’t get a return call for six days he would be very upset. In telling the story, the President pointed his fingers at his head and said “the guy has serious judgment issues.” I did not comment at any point during this topic and there was no mention or acknowledgement of any FBI interest in or contact with General Flynn.


All of which is to say that McGahn’s narrative conflicts in very key ways with the contemporaneous documentation of DOJ.

FOR SOME REASON (MCGAHN CLAIMS) REINCE PRIEBUS GRILLED MIKE FLYNN ABOUT QUESTION HE ALREADY KNEW THE ANSWER TO

Which brings us to the claims that McGahn recorded the day after the conversation but which, in the wake of Flynn’s plea, are remarkable.

Your office is also aware that, in the week leading up to Lt. Gen. Flynn’s termination and the President’s alleged comments to Mr. Comey, Lt. Gen. Flynn had told both White House Counsel and the Chief of Staff at least twice that the FBI agents had told him he would not be charged. The first instance occurred during a discussion at the White House on February 8, 2017, between Mr. McGahn, Mr. Priebus, Mr. John Eisenberg and Lt. Gen. Flynn. “Priebus led the questioning” and “asked Flynn whether Flynn spoke about sanctions on his call with Ambassador Kislyak.” Lt. Gen. Flynn’s “recollection was inconclusive” and he responded that “he either was not sure whether he discussed sanctions, or did not remember doing so.” “Priebus specifically asked Flynn whether he was interviewed by the FBI. Flynn stated that FBI agents met with him to inform him that their investigation was over.” The second occurred on a telephone call on February 10, 2017, wherein Mr. McGahn, Mr. Priebus, and the Vice President confronted Lt. Gen. Flynn concerning his discussions with Ambassador Kislyak. As recorded in Mr. McGahn’s memo, “On the phone, Flynn is asked about the FBI investigation to which he says that the FBI told him they were closing it out.”

On February 10, 2017, upon confirming the true content and nature of Lt. Gen. Flynn’s three telephone calls with Ambassador Kislyak, and in light of his statements to them and the Vice President, White House Counsel Don McGahn and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus advised the President that Lt. Gen. Flynn “had to be let go.” As a result, on February 13, 2017, the President accepted Lt. Gen. Flynn’s resignation.


So the White House counsel says that a memo he wrote on February 15 said that on February 8, he, Reince Priebus, John Eisenberg, and Flynn quizzed Flynn about whether he asked Kislyak about sanctions.

That same day, per Jim Comey, Flynn had chummed up to Comey while he was waiting for a meeting with Priebus. And Priebus had asked Comey if there was a FISA order targeting Flynn personally. So already, the White House story doesn’t make sense. They weren’t trying to find out what Flynn had done, but rather how much scrutiny the White House was under as a result.

And it makes far, far less sense however when you consider that Reince Priebus would have learned in real time that Flynn spoke about sanctions with Kislyak. Tom Bossert forwarded the KT McFarland email detailing her (almost certainly relayed from Trump) instructions to Priebus (and Sean Spicer). What this meeting appears to be is not so much an effort to find out what Flynn said to Kislyak, it’s to find out how damning his lies to the FBI were. To which Flynn twice claimed (according to McGahn) that the FBI had dropped the inquiry.

THE WHITE HOUSE LETTER (AND APPARENTLY MCGAHN’S NARRATIVE) ARE SUSPICIOUSLY SILENT ON THE FEBRUARY 9 WAPO STORY

The White House claims it got notice about what really happened with Flynn on February 10. The WaPo story revealing what those transcripts said came out after 9PM on February 9. Given the White House claim that DOJ had given permission to leak this, I think it quite possible the White House was the source for this story. Whether or not that’s true, the report in the story — in one of the most sensational stories of the Trump presidency — that “the FBI is continuing to examine Flynn’s communications with Kislyak” completely undermines the White House claim that they had no way of knowing that Flynn remained under investigation.

One way or another by Friday, February 10, the White House had gotten the information McGahn requested of Yates on September 27; given the delay and WaPo’s report, that might include the 302, as well as the intercepts. If it included the 302, it would have made it clear that, whatever the FBI agents believed about Flynn’s demeanor, the investigation hadn’t been concluded.

Which is why Trump fired Flynn. Not because of anything he told Pence (remember: this letter completely blows off the request to learn about Flynn’s communications with Pence). But because keeping Flynn around meant remaining under scrutiny by FBI. Perhaps, too, Flynn had to be fired because retaining him would sustain the focus on precisely why Flynn (almost certainly operating under orders from Trump) intervened with the Russians about sanctions.

Nevertheless, that’s the opposite of what this letter argues. It uses that February 15 memo from McGahn, a memo that appears to be undermined by the Transition period discovery the White House knew to be in Mueller’s possession (not least because it was cited in Flynn’s plea), that claims no one had any way of knowing that Flynn was under investigation.

According to Mr. Comey’s testimony, the next day, on February 14, 2017, the President made comments expressing his “hope” that Mr. Comey “could see [his] way to letting this go” in reference to the situation with Lt. Gen. Flynn. The White House disputed Mr. Comey’s recollection of that conversation. Regardless, the White House Counsel and Chief of Staff, as well as others surrounding the President, had every reason to believe at that time that the FBI was not investigating Lt. Gen. Flynn, especially in light of the fact that Lt. Gen. Flynn was allowed to keep his active security clearance.


EVEN AS TRUMP TRIES TO CLAIM HE FACILITATED JUSTICE BY FIRING FLYNN, HE CONTINUES TO HIDE THE SAME THING FLYNN HID BY LYING

The letter ends with a bunch of claims that are barely supported, if at all.

* Fifth, the investigation of Lt. Gen. Flynn proceeded unimpeded and actually resulted in a charge and a plea;

* Sixth, assuming, arguendo, that the President had made a comment to Mr. Comey that Mr. Comey claimed to be a direction, as the chief law enforcement official pursuant to Article II of the United States Constitution, the President had every right to express his view of the case;

* Seventh, your office already has an ample record upon which to base your findings of no obstruction. As such there is no demonstrated, specific need for the President’s responses; and,

* Eighth, by firing Lt. Gen. Flynn, the President actually facilitated the pursuit of justice. He removed a senior public official from office within seventeen days, in the absence of any action by the FBI and well before any action taken by your office.

For all intents, purposes, and appearances, the FBI had accepted Flynn’s account; concluded that he was confused but truthful; decided not to investigate him further; and let him retain his clearance. As far as he could tell, the President was the only one who decided to continue gathering and reviewing the facts in order to ascertain whether Lt. Gen. Flynn’s actions necessitated severe and consequential action — removal from office. The President ordered his White House Counsel to continue its review of the situation, which ultimately concluded that Lt. Gen. Flynn had misled the Vice President. The President did not obstruct justice. To the contrary, he facilitated it.

We emphasize these points because even if an FBI investigation constituted a ‘’proceeding” under the statute, which it does not, the statute also requires intent to obstruct. There could not possibly have been intent to obstruct an “investigation” that had been neither confirmed nor denied to White House Counsel, and that they had every reason (based on Lt. Gen. Flynn’s statements and his continued security clearance) to assume was not ongoing. Further, by insisting on and accepting Lt. Gen. Flynn’s public resignation as national security adviser, the President expedited the pursuit of justice while the DOJ and the FBI were apparently taking no action.

So, to reiterate, within seventeen days of first being advised by DOJ leadership concerning Lt. Gen. Flynn, and within just three days of the President’s senior team confirming the requisite facts, the President took decisive action and directed Lt. Gen. Flynn, his highest ranking national security advisor, to resign. The President did so in spite of the fact that the FBI had, apparently, decided not to pursue the case further. The President did so in spite of the great political cost to himself. Far, far, from obstructing justice, the only individual in the entire Flynn story that ensured swift justice was the President. His actions speak louder than any words.

Let’s work backwards from where Trump claims he was helping justice by waiting 17 days, through a number of classified meetings (including the Putin one), before letting someone go that Yates has suggested should have been fired from the start. I suspect the McGahn letter tries to work backwards to spin the delay in better light.

There’s a good reason why Mueller’s team didn’t give Trump Comey’s memo before they wrote this letter. Because his account of the January 27 and February 8 interactions undermine the White House narrative, quite severely in the case of the January 27 dinner. And those earlier interactions can’t be viewed as Trump just commenting on a case.

That brings us to bullet five and seven: Trump’s claim that Mueller charged Flynn in spite of Trump’s efforts to obstruct and that Trump has enough information without his testimony.

Both bullets obscure the nature of the inquiry. After all, Flynn got a plea because Mueller needed it to understand what was really going on with his communications with Kislyak (and Israel). That is, it took ten months until Mueller finally got at the jist of the issue, which is whether Flynn’s deferral of sanctions, almost certainly on orders from Trump, was part of a quid pro quo.

And in addition to the Pence questions I’ve focused on, this letter does absolutely nothing to address bullet point one: “information regarding his contacts with Ambassador Kislyak about sanctions during the transition process.” Which is to say that in January, Mueller asked Trump to finally come clean about why he was undercutting Obama’s policy on sanctions (and why Flynn lied about it).

That’s the “collusion” question behind the obstruction one. Trump refused to answer it then, and he continued to refuse to answer it when Mueller asked again (and added a slew more “collusion” questions) in March.

Which is to say, the more Trump refuses to answer Mueller’s questions, the bigger the “collusion” questions get.

Update: Subtitles added for clarity.
https://www.emptywheel.net/2018/06/03/t ... struction/


Trump discussed adoption policy with Putin one day before 'dictating' son's statement about 'adoptions'

Aug. 1, 2017, 10:51 AM 6,927
U.S. President Donald Trump calls on Republican Senators to move forward and vote on a healthcare bill to replace the Affordable Care Act in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 24, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Thomson Reuters
President Donald Trump personally "dictated" a misleading statement about his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer last year that said they primarily "discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children," The Washington Post reported Monday.
The initial statement Donald Trump Jr. provided to the press, which was reportedly dictated by his father, read:

"It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up. I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand."

The statement did not mention that Donald Trump Jr. had been offered compromising information about Hillary Clinton in exchange for taking the meeting. And it was crafted by the president one day after he discussed "adoptions" with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a dinner at the G20 summit.

Asked about that dinner later, Trump told the New York Times that he and Putin "just talked about things. Actually, it was very interesting; we talked about adoptions."

The fact that Trump and Putin spoke about the adoption issue — which is intimately connected to the US' sanctions policy— the night before Trump reportedly crafted his son's statement about the Trump Tower meeting raises questions about whether Putin played a role, directly or indirectly, in influencing the version of events Trump's team relayed to the press.

Trump told Reuters on July 12 that he had only just learned of the June 2016 meeting, which included his son, son-in-law, former campaign chairman, and two Russians who had been lobbying to repeal the Magnitsky Act. The 2012 law targeting Russians suspected of human-rights led Putin to retaliate by banning US adoption of Russian children. But Trump's legal team reportedly knew about the meeting as early as June.

According to Yahoo, Marc Kasowitz, Trump's chief lawyer in the Russia investigation at the time, and Alan Garten, executive vice president and chief legal officer of the Trump Organization, were apprised in the third week of June of the email chain between Trump Jr. and music publicist Rob Goldstone.

Goldstone told Trump Jr. in an email that a Russian "government attorney" wanted to meet to give him dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of the Kremlin's support for Trump's candidacy.

Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting, replying, "If it's what you say it is, I love it, especially later in the summer." He then forwarded the email chain to Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman at the time, and Jared Kushner.

It is unclear if Kasowitz or Garten told the president about the emails or the Trump Tower meeting before he dined with Putin on July 7. Trump has insisted he did not find out about either until the New York Times broke the story on July 8. Trump Jr. published the full email chain on Twitter three days later.

Putin had already given Trump one talking point during their first, formal meeting, however, that the president subsequently relayed to his aides, according to the New York Times: Namely, that if the Russians had hacked into the Democratic National Committee, they wouldn't have gotten caught.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
http://www.businessinsider.com/donald-t ... ing-2017-8





Why the Bombshell Trump Letter Could Be a Big Problem for Donald Trump Jr.

It undercuts the veracity of Trump Jr.’s testimony to Congress.

David Corn
Jun. 2, 2018 5:10 PM


On Saturday afternoon, the New York Times revealed a 20-page private letter that President Donald Trump’s lawyers had sent special counsel Robert Mueller in January in which they contended that it was impossible for Trump to commit obstruction of justice because he, as president, has authority over all federal investigations and the power to do whatever he wants with them. The letter is a brazen declaration of executive power, and legal experts immediately challenged its premises and assertions. The missive also raised a possible problem for Donald Trump Jr.: it suggested he had not told Congress the whole truth—and might have even misled the body—regarding the cover story he put out when it was revealed that during the campaign he, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort had met with a Russian emissary after being told she would share with them dirt on Hillary Clinton, as part of a Kremlin operation to help Trump.

At issue is the statement that Trump Jr. released, when news broke last July of that June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower between the senior Trump advisers and Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer supposedly dispatched by a Kremlin official. Trump Jr.’s first statement claimed the meeting had been about Russian adoption policy. (American adoptions of Russian children had been curtailed by Moscow in response to the implementation of the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on Russian officials suspected of human rights abuses.) That statement did not mention that the meeting had been set up by the Trump campaign in the expectation it would receive from Moscow negative information on Clinton. And Mueller’s investigation has been looking at the elder Trump’s involvement in concocting that cover story. Earlier this year, the Times reported that Trump had supervised the writing of the statement and had insisted that it claim that the meeting only was about Russian adoptions.

This is the first time Trump and his lawyers have conceded that he is responsible for this statement.
The letter from Trump’s lawyers goes further than the Times’s account—and confirms an earlier Washington Post report pegging Trump as the author of the statement. It states, “the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr.” Dictated—that means Trump devised that misleading statement. This is the first time Trump and his lawyers have conceded that he is responsible for the statement. The Times notes that previously “Trump’s advisers have tried to muddy this point, suggesting several people were involved, so the clarity of the sentence is striking.”

The sentence is also striking in that it undercuts the veracity of Trump Jr.’s testimony to Congress.

On September 7, Trump Jr. was questioned in a private session by the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Trump Tower meeting, and he was asked about the origins of the statement he put out when the meeting was revealed. First, the statement was read to Trump Jr.:

On July 8th of this year you issued a statement about the meeting: “It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow–up. I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.”

Then Trump Jr., according to the transcript, which was recently released, was asked about the Washington Post story noting that his father had actually drafted that statement. This exchange ensued:

Q. The Washington Post has since reported that your father was involved in drafting your July 8th statement. Is that correct?

A. I don’t know. I never spoke to my father about it.

Q. Do you know who did draft that statement?

A. Well, there were numerous statements drafted with counsel and other people were involved and, you know, opined.

Q. To the best of your knowledge, did the President provide any edits to the statement or other input

A. He may have commented through Hope Hicks.

Q. And do you know if his comments provided through Hope Hicks were incorporated into the final statement?

A. I believe some may have been, but this was an effort through lots of people, mostly counsel.

Q. Did you ask him to provide any assistance with the statement?

A. No. She asked if I wanted to actually speak to him, and I chose not to because I didn’t want to bring him into something that he had nothing to do with.

Trump Jr. certainly did not inform the committee that his father had dictated the statement. In fact, he made it seem as if Trump was marginally involved, if at all. Yet according to the letter written by Trump’s own lawyers, Trump was in charge of the statement.

Trump Jr.’s remarks to the committee conveyed an inaccurate impression and can be seen as an attempt to provide cover for his pop. They might even be considered false statements. By the way, it’s a crime to lie to Congress.

At least one member of Congress has tagged the letter from Trump lawyers as bad news for Trump Jr. On Saturday afternoon, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), a member of the House intelligence committee, tweeted, “Donald Trump is lying or Donald Trump, Jr. lied during the House Intel investigation.”


Castro was referring to Trump Jr.’s testimony before his committee, not the Senate Judiciary Committee. This testimony has not been made public, but the tweet suggests that Trump Jr. took a similar line when he spoke to the House committee and distanced his father from the misleading statement about the Trump Tower meeting.

Now the question is will either committee, both led by Republicans, give a damn and examine whether Trump Jr. tried to stonewall them.
https://www.motherjones.com/politics/20 ... testimony/


Michael Cohen's secret dream
Image
Illustration of Michael Cohen wearing a top hat and looking look a magnifying glass, with a butterfly floating in air behind it
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
On election night 2016, shortly after Donald Trump's team realized he would win the presidency, Michael Cohen, at the Hilton Hotel on Manhattan's 6th Avenue with his daughter and friends, told a group of people about his own dreams for the future — to be mayor of New York.

"This is the beginning of a dynasty," Cohen told the group, according to a source who heard him.

Surprised by the remark, one of the people asked Trump's longtime personal attorney that if by "dynasty" he meant Ivanka or Don Junior was going to get the political bug next.

Cohen replied: "I've already got the bug."
Cohen then added: "Nobody's going to be able to fuck with us. I think I'm going to run for mayor."
Later that night, around 3:30 a.m., the Trump team was leaving its victory party at the same hotel, where escalators took the crowd from the party down to the lobby. A member of Trump's entourage saw Cohen near the bottom of the escalator and yelled out: "Cohen for mayor!" Cohen appeared to have no idea who said it, but looked over his shoulder and pumped his fist in the air.

Why this matters: The scene highlights the hubris of one of Trump's closest confidants in the hours after the election victory — and the extraordinary nature of his fall.

Cohen has since had his office raided by federal agents, as he's being investigated by the Southern District of New York on the referral of Robert Mueller.
Former allies in Trumpworld have told me they're avoiding Cohen because they assume his every move and phone call are being recorded.
Postscript: A second source told me that in the months after the election, Cohen asked their advice about setting up a campaign to run for New York City mayor. But he never ended up challenging Bill de Blasio.

I asked Cohen today about his mayoral plans. He told me: "Despite many friends suggesting that I run for mayor... I obviously chose not to. Additionally, I believe that Mayor de Blasio is doing a fine job for our city."
It's news to me that Cohen is a de Blasio fan!
https://www.axios.com/michael-cohens-se ... gn=organic
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Jun 04, 2018 9:07 pm

:D

What’s a good mob trial without some sort of jury or witness tampering anyway?


Paul Manafort, the trump campaign manager that selected Mike Pence as VP

Special counsel in Russia probe accuses Paul Manafort of attempting to tamper with witnesses
http://www.wfla.com/national/special-co ... 1218569038


Mueller asks judge to revoke Paul Manafort's bail on accusations that he tried to tamper with potential witnesses
http://www.businessinsider.com/manafort ... sel-2018-6



Reuters: MANAFORT CALLED, TEXTED AND SENT ENCRYPTED MESSAGES TO TWO PEOPLE IN FEBRUARY TO "INFLUENCE THEIR TESTIMONY AND TO OTHERWISE CONCEAL EVIDENCE" - FBI STATEMENT FILED BY MUELLER



empty wheel

Q: What encrypted app is showing up in iCloud like this?

Image

emptywheel

And here they don't even describe via what means they got the encrypted texts (I think they were voluntary).

Image
Here's the link, btw:

https://www.courtlistener.com/recap/gov ... 15.2_1.pdf


Basically, Mueller has been sitting on this evidence since April 4 at the latest, waiting for Manafort to present the last paperwork on his liquidity, only to throw him in the pokey finally.

How did Trump know this was coming?
https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1 ... 5646183429








emptywheel

I wrote this on February 24.

Here's what Manafort was doing at the time.
Image

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I really hope Papadopoulos' wife isn't hitting soapboxes on the advice of Victoria Toensing, who represents Sam Clovis, not George Papadopoulos.

To sum up:

1) For the last 6 weeks, at least, Mueller has dedicated his Friday GJ time to collecting evidence on Roger Stone

2) Almost nothing that SDNY seized from Michael Cohen is privileged

3) Manafort's about to be thrown in the pokey for violating bail



Image

Konstantin Kilimnik

probably person A


Polly Sigh

Konstantin Kilimnik [Russian GRU business partner of Manafort & Gates] started a DC lobbying firm in 2015 with Sam Patten, a lobbyist who worked for Cambridge Analytica in 2014. Kilimnik & Patten's firm "helps its clients win elections." I'll bet.
Image
Image


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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:00 pm

Cambridge Analytica director 'met Assange to discuss US election'
Brittany Kaiser also claims to have channelled payments and donations to WikiLeaks



Or to put it even more bluntly than Mueller: Donald Trump’s campaign chairman had a pawn of Russian intelligence as his indispensable alter ego.




MANAFORT RENEWED HIS OUTREACH TO MERCURY AFTER THE MUELLER’S EARLY APRIL REVELATIONS

June 5, 2018/1 Comment/in 2016 Presidential Election, emptywheel, Mueller Probe /by empty wheel

As I noted, last night Mueller’s team moved to revoke Paul Manafort’s bail because — they allege — he has been attempting to suborn perjury from witnesses associated with the Mercury lobbying firm. In addition to a declaration laying out the evidence for that claim, Mueller’s team included a list of contacts between Manafort himself and Konstantin Kilimnik with people at Mercury. Amy Berman Jackson has scheduled a hearing for June 15 to consider the motion.

As the declaration lays out, person D1 (likely Vin Weber) hadn’t spoken to Manafort since last July, probably before his public raid by the FBI and around the time Weber started cooperating with the government. He hung up when Manafort called him in February and regarded the outreach as an effort to suborn perjury.

Person D1 told the government that in or around this period, Manafort called Person D1, and that the two had not spoken since July of the previous year. Person D1 stated that after answering the call and after the caller identified himself as Manafort, Manafort stated that he wanted to give Person D1 a heads-up about Hapsburg. Person D1 immediately ended the call because he was concerned about the outreach.

[snip]

Person D1 told the government that Person D1 understood Manafort’s messages to be an effort to “suborn perjury” by influencing Person D1’s potential statements. Person D1 well knew and believed from frequent interactions with its members that the Hapsburg group in fact lobbied in the United States, and that Manafort and Person A knew that fact.


Most of the declaration focuses on a set of communications immediately in the wake of Rick Gates’ plea deal, which made it clear Mueller had expanded Manafort’s prosecution to include actions of the Hapsburg Group — a bunch of European bigwigs Manafort hired to lie about Ukraine publicly and to Congress. I noted the day of Manafort’s first call that Weber was surely cooperating with Mueller, but apparently I’m smarter than Manafort.

What I’m interested in, however, is that on April 4, Kilimnik tried again, with WhatsApp and Telegram outreach to both D1 and the PR person on the project.

Image

Unlike the Hapsburg specific outreach, the declaration offers no explanation for Kilimnik’s April outreach.

Approximately one month later, Person A reached out to Person D1 directly as well. On April 4, 2018, Person A sent a message to Person D1: “Hi. This is [Person A’s first initial]. My friend P is looking for ways to connect to you to pass you several messages. Can we arrange that.” Person A reached out to Person D2 the same day, and reiterated his need for help in connecting Person D1 with Manafort. Person A added in his text to Person D2: “I tried him [i.e., Person D1] on all numbers.”


This outreach is non-specific. Kilimnik just appears to have an urgent need to reach out to (presumably) Weber, in Manafort’s name, on April 4.

The timing is particularly interesting to me. The outreach happens in the wake of the Alex Van Der Zwaan sentencing filings, which provided more detail on Skadden Arp’s involvement in the Yulia Tymoshenko whitewash, and as such may have concerned the Hapsburg players. In addition, the prosecution filing for the first time made (and repeated Rick Gates’ indirect) allegations that Kilimnik himself was and might still be a Russian intelligence officer.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agents assisting the Special Counsel’s Office assess that Person A has ties to a 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 the GRU.


The outreach also happened in the wake of Mueller’s filing of the Rosenstein Memo, as well as public claims that included Oleg Deripaska in the scope of the investigation.

So it’s likely that Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik regarded those early April filings as impacting in some way on Mercury, and possibly on Vin Weber personally.

Of course, Weber wasn’t playing Manafort’s games by that point, and hadn’t been already for over a month (and probably over 8 or 9 months).

Whatever else Manafort learned with yesterday’s filings, he likely also confirmed that. Whatever added risk those early April filings posed to Manafort, Mercury is probably part of the risk, not part of his efforts to dodge the risk.
https://www.emptywheel.net/2018/06/05/m ... velations/


The Astonishing Tale of the Man Mueller Calls ‘Person A’

One of the most shocking revelations from the special counsel’s investigation is the suggestion that Paul Manafort’s longtime aide is a pawn of Russian intelligence.

Franklin Foer1:10 PM ET

Andrew Harnik / AP / The Atlantic
In the early years of the century, as Paul Manafort made his way across Moscow and Kiev, he was followed by a diminutive man. With a generous slackening of the tape, the man measured just above 5 feet. This made for a striking contrast in physical frames, because Manafort and his expansive shoulders crowd a room. It also made the pair an almost slapstick spectacle. But over time, Manafort and the smaller man, his aide-de-camp, began to converge in appearance. The aide started to dress like his boss, buying expensive suits cut in a similar style. He would mimic his mentor’s habits, using the same car service to shuttle through the cobblestone streets of the Ukrainian capital in the same model BMW. He would come to earn the title “Manafort’s Manafort.”

When Manafort first began to contemplate doing business on a grand scale in Russia and Ukraine, he faced a basic logistic challenge. He intended to operate in countries where mastery of English was not a prerequisite for the acquisition of wealth and power. Manafort hardly understood a word of his prospective clients’ languages. “Paul is the smartest political guy I know, but he couldn’t order a glass of water,” one of his former staffers told me. So he grew reliant on Konstantin Kilimnik, a Soviet-born native who could render idiomatic English and translate the cultural nuances of the region that might elude outsiders. Manafort would describe him to others in his office as “my Russian brain.” For a decade, Kilimnik was a fixture in Manafort’s meetings with the region’s leading politicians and oligarchs.

After so much time spent in close quarters, the relationship between the two became trusting and deep. By 2011, Kilimnik had taken over Manafort’s office in Kiev. This made Kilimnik the primary interface for Manafort’s lone client, a corrupt clique of former gangsters that ruled Ukraine under the banner of their political organization, the Party of Regions. When they weren’t in each other’s presence, the mentor and protégé exchanged “millions of emails”—at least in Kilimnik’s estimate. “We discussed a lot of issues, from Putin to women,” he once texted a reporter.

For more than two decades, Konstantin Kilimnik, known familiarly as Kostya and K.K., has worked for Americans, the bulk of his time with Manafort. During that entire period, he has been dogged by suspicions. There were always hints that he might be serving another master, providing a set of surveilling eyes for Russian intelligence. One of his former colleagues, Michael Getto, told me, “From my standpoint, I kept my distance from Kostya, because I knew there was a better-than-even chance that he was connected to people I didn’t want to be.” These insinuations were never backed by more than a smattering of circumstantial evidence. They were never enough to deter State Department officials from grabbing the occasional gossipy drink with him—although one diplomat, casting a backwards glance over the course of his dealings with Kilimnik, told me, “He has excellent tradecraft.”

It was easy enough to dismiss those old hunches as conspiracy theories. The immediate post-Soviet period was a time rife with unfounded accusations. But Robert Mueller has begun to state them as fact. Or rather, in two separate fillings, he has referred to an unnamed colleague of Manafort’s, identified only as “Person A,” with “ties to Russian intelligence.” In a brief Mueller submitted to a U.S. District Court in the course of pressing his case against Manafort, he went one step further. Citing FBI special agents, the special prosecutor described Person A’s ties to Russian intelligence as “active” through the 2016 presidential election.

What everyone close to Paul Manafort already knew, and what The New York Times and other outlets later confirmed, is that Mueller was pseudonymously describing none other than Konstantin Kilimnik. Or to put it even more bluntly than Mueller: Donald Trump’s campaign chairman had a pawn of Russian intelligence as his indispensable alter ego.

When Konstantin Kilimnik first entered the Moscow office of the International Republican Institute (IRI), in 1995, he looked like a bleary-eyed young man who had just woken from a communist slumber. One of his colleagues in the office told me, “Like so many of these people at that time, he had one sweater, one pair of shoes, and smelled.” Kostya had made his way to Moscow from an industrial town in western Ukraine. He would joke about his childhood home, how if the wind blew from one direction, it would be black from coal; if it came from the other direction, it would be red from iron ore. The IRI office represented the possibility of a better life and a better world.

Since the early ’80s, the Democratic and Republican parties have sent operatives abroad to promote the cause of democracy, to work with like-minded political parties to help spread the practical teachings of American electioneering. A large chunk of the funding for the organizations they started—the National Democratic Institute is the IRI’s cousin from across the aisle—derives from the United States government. The groups attract both idealists and adventurers, most of them young politicos eager to ply their trade in exotic corners of the globe. Of all the adventures, the greatest was the former Soviet Union in the immediate aftermath of the Communist collapse, an opportunity to play a role in the region’s first genuine campaigns in modern history. It was a chance to feel the intoxicating rush of newfound freedom.

In the dying days of the Soviet empire, Kilimnik had attended a language school run by military intelligence—the GRU—which had given him mastery of Swedish and English. It was this linguistic foundation that provided the basis for his hiring at the IRI. Konstantin Kilimnik went to work as a translator there at the crest of the post-Soviet era’s optimism, before the prospects for democratic change dissipated and cynicism returned.

The fact of his training in military intelligence became the stuff of office teasing. When Kostya struggled to make sense of some American political terminology, the operative Philip Griffin, who hired him, would josh him about his martial past. “If I had you translate ‘There are seven tanks and three infantry with heavy mortar hiding on a bridge,’ you could translate that lickety-split, I bet.” According to Griffin, Kilimnik would wink and say, “Oh yeah, I could translate that real fast.”

If you weren’t close with Kostya, if you didn’t go out drinking with him, you might not have paid all that much attention to his presence in the office. But in the right setting, he could be loquacious, fun even. He played along with jokes about his stature. Office mates not only referred to him as “Carry On”—a reference to how he could be stowed on a flight—but they tested the proposition, successfully stuffing him into a plastic tote bag. This gag was played with his apparent consent, although it’s not hard to see how the joke could have stoked simmering resentment.

Kostya’s mind moved quickly. He absorbed information voraciously and took pleasure in relaying it. One former American official who got to know him years after he started at the IRI told me, “He knows all the gossip.” But, he warned, “you get all the stories and don’t know if it’s true.”

This hunger for information bred distrust with his colleagues, especially the native-born Russians in the office. They relayed their concerns about his reliability to Judy Van Rest, who oversaw the IRI’s operations in the region back at headquarters, in Washington, D.C. His colleagues whispered about his limited capacity for confidentiality, complaints that were vague and hardly noteworthy, given the choking atmosphere of distrust in Moscow in those years. Meanwhile, Kostya’s value to the organization grew. The Americans in the office needed him to get phone numbers, to set up meetings, to translate. Kostya, who was competent and seemingly well-connected, displayed unimpeachable acumen in these tasks. IRI officials in Washington relied on him so much that they named him the acting director of the Moscow office.

The nature of Kilimnik’s job meant that he accompanied American operatives on sensitive meetings with political dissidents, especially as Vladimir Putin presided over Russia’s authoritarian turn. When the office finally got a permanent chief, Sam Patten, he worried that dissidents wouldn’t speak openly in Kostya’s presence. Patten advised an American colleague to disinvite Kostya from an important meeting with Boris Nemtsov, the Kremlin insider turned critic. Instead of passively accepting his colleague’s judgment, Kilimnik pitched an uncharacteristic fit, insisting that he tag along. (Patten declined to comment for this story.)

These suspicions were vague, yet they lingered. In the spring of 2005, Kilimnik received a call from Stephen Nix, a high-ranking IRI official in Washington. According to one of his colleagues, Nix had received hard evidence that Kilimnik was working for the political consultant Paul Manafort. Nix summarily fired Kilimnik for moonlighting with an operation that had a reputation of working on behalf of less-than-democratic clients. (“He was asked to leave because he violated IRI’s ethics codes,” a spokesperson for the organization told me.)

Later that month, IRI received a devastating blow. Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the FSB—the Russian security service—denounced the organization in a speech to the Duma. The speech came during years of protests, when flickering prodemocracy movements threatened to crash the post-Soviet order. Patrushev portrayed these movements as having been launched by meddlers from the IRI, which he accused of formulating even grander plans for fomenting the “continuation of velvet revolutions in the post-Soviet territory.” In other words, he referenced information gleaned from a retreat the IRI had held the previous month in Bratislava, the Slovakian capital. Kostya had been one of two non-Americans to attend the meeting.

It’s entirely possible that the meetings had been infiltrated by other means. Still, the timing of the revelation created the impression that Kostya had betrayed the organization to its adversary. The episode fixed long-forming opinions about Kostya’s allegiance to the Russia state. Those opinions have endured.

Kostya was prone to fits of anxiety. After his gig with Manafort blossomed into his primary source of employment, he was suddenly sitting in meetings with figures of global import. On the eve of such meetings he could be bundle of nerves, fretting over small details. His new boss had been hired by one of the richest, most powerful men in Russia, the aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a man with a reputation that justifiably inspired fear given the pattern of deaths that had followed the unlikely rise of his empire in the 1990s. Deripaska—and his business partner, the British financier Nat Rothschild—hired Manafort to help shape the politics of the post-Soviet world to both protect his investments and engineer lucrative opportunities. One of Manafort’s first assignments was to see whether there was any hope of thwarting the democratic revolution that had swept through Ukraine in late 2004. Protesters threatened to unravel the corrupt status quo in the country, which had benefited Deripaska and his interests. The oligarch feared that the revolution would succeed in undoing the fresh electoral triumph of Viktor Yanukovych, a politician who stood accused of stuffing ballot boxes, intimidating voters, and poisoning his opponent with dioxin. (Yanukovych’s initial win would later be annulled by the Ukrainian Supreme Court.)

From afar, it seemed quite the volte-face for Kostya. He went from working in the democracy-promotion business to toiling on behalf of interests keen to stifle it. To be fair, he wasn’t the only IRI alum to make such a transition. After Paul Manafort acquired Yanukovych as a client in 2005, and sought to rehabilitate his political prospects, the consultant built a sizable Ukrainian operation. Over time, Manafort repeatedly tapped the IRI network to fill his office.

Kostya seemed to have no conscientious objections to aligning himself with Manafort and his oligarchic clients. When American visitors to Kiev pressed Kostya on his service to politicians with corrupt proclivities, he protested that there was no such thing as a clean politician in Ukraine. What mattered was managerial competence: Yanukovych would give the country the stability it sorely needed. To pose as an idealist in Ukraine was to be guilty of rank hypocrisy. These were assertions that he could make with world-weary wit and in colorful English.

What really captured Kostya’s imagination was the figure of Manafort, the impeccably manicured political guru who camped out in the marble-and-champagne confines of the Hyatt Regency, across the square from Saint Sophia’s cathedral. “He fell under the spell immediately,” one of their colleagues told me. Another colleague put it less charitably: “He wanted to be Paul’s piss boy.” Kostya had come from the provinces. Now he found himself riding shotgun with a jet-setting consultant. He mimicked what he observed. Kostya made himself a fixture in the Hyatt’s lobby bar, where he conducted his business alongside the city’s elite. He acquired a fondness for fine dining. His colleagues from his IRI days espied him walking down the streets of Kiev near the building that housed the upper echelons of power. Kostya looked like a new man, with his smart suit, sunglasses, and a portfolio tucked underarm, a perfect facsimile of a power player.

He had good reason to exude confidence. His boss had mastered Ukrainian politics, earning the trust of its most powerful men. Over a short period of time, Manafort had engineered the resurgence of the Party of Regions, a feat that hardly any knowledgeable observers imagined possible. The party’s leader, Viktor Yanukovych, ascended to the presidency in 2010. His election was quite a turnaround for Konstantin Kilimnik, too. Kostya told Christopher Miller, a reporter from Radio Free Europe, that he began spending “90 percent of his time” inside the presidential administration, which meant that Kilimnik was now helping run the country of his birth.

With his access and his ability to trade information, he built an impressive network. His rolodex came to include reporters from big international news organizations, including The New York Times, as well as denizens of Washington think tanks and diplomats. They would describe him as “user-friendly”—unusually smart, almost always available, and able to perfectly express complex thoughts in English.

But the basis for Kostya’s power evaporated in 2014, when a revolution swept Yanukovych from office. Yanukovych’s reign had been doomed after his police began massacring protesters gathered in central Kiev, a bloodbath that turned the weight of public, elite, and international opinion against the regime. The president fled for his life, seeking refuge in Russia. Kostya told friends that he had similar fears for his own safety, but he hunkered down. As the months passed, the fervor of the revolution subsided. Manafort could even see a path forward for his old clients—and therefore, for his Ukrainian business. He and Kostya would advise the rump remnant of the coalition that had supported the ancien régime. Manafort helped rebrand the surviving members of Yanukovych’s retinue as the Opposition Bloc. There was just one problem with the new arrangement: The reinvented party didn’t have the lucrative access to the machinery of state. “It’s an iron law of political consulting,” says Brian Mefford, a former IRI operative who has a firm in Kiev. “When the client doesn’t get paid, the consultant doesn’t get paid.”

With Kostya, it wasn’t always clear where reality ended and his own self-crafted image began. Like many aides, he wasn’t shy about calling attention to his hidden hand. But when he arrived in Washington, in the spring of 2016, there was no doubting his reasons for boasting of his revived prospects, his sudden recovery from the disaster of Yanukovych’s fall. He told his friends that he had come to the United States for “very significant meetings.” It wasn’t hard for his friends to intuit what he meant. They had read the news reports that Paul Manafort had engineered his own comeback, procuring a top job in the Trump campaign. Just like in the good old days, Manafort had summoned Kilimnik to trail after him.

After he returned to Kiev, Kostya would share images of his influence in America, as if they were snapshots of a Disneyland vacation. According to Politico, he bragged that he had shifted the Republican Party’s platform. He claimed to have orchestrated the gutting of a proposal to arm Ukraine in its war against Russian proxies.

Those claims might have been bluster—and Kostya has since told reporters he had nothing to do with the platform. But hard evidence, in the form of emails obtained by The Atlantic, suggests that Kostya’s patron needed help with an even more delicate matter. Manafort was haunted by a piece of unfinished business: the untidy end of his dealings with Oleg Deripaska. In 2006, Manafort had asked Deripaska to bankroll an investment fund that he intended to launch. According to court documents, the fund was meant to buy up firms across Ukraine and elsewhere in the post-Soviet region. Deripaska sunk $18.9 million into the effort and promised a much larger sum.

What ultimately became of that money is the subject of virulent dispute, except for one fact: It was gone. Although Manafort promised Deripaska an audit of the investment, it never arrived. Then, in 2011, he simply stopped responding to Deripaska’s efforts to reach him. Manafort’s evasions provoked Deripaska’s relentless enmity. He demanded compensation for what he later described in a lawsuit as Manafort’s “fraud, gross negligence, blatant disloyalty, and rapacious self-dealing.”

With his new high-profile job in the Trump campaign, Manafort seemed to believe he had an opportunity to heal this old rift. As soon as Manafort installed himself in Trump Tower, he seems to have dispatched Kostya to revive his channel of communication with Deripaska. Kostya sent Derispaska newspaper clips about Manafort’s new gig. (“How do we use to get whole?,” Manafort asked.) Later that summer, Kostya wrote that he had made progress toward reconciliation: “I am more than sure that it will be resolved and we will get back to the original relationship.” Kilimnik reported that he had spent five hours with “the guy who gave you your biggest black caviar jar several years ago”—which is almost certainly a veiled reference to Deripaska. “The guy,” according to Kilimnik, wanted to pass on an important message to Manafort. “It has to do about the future of his country, and is quite interesting.” Kilimnik made plans to deliver the message to Manafort in person, and they met on August 2 at the Grand Havana Room in Manhattan.

What came of this meeting? Kostya told The Washington Post that they had only “discussed ‘unpaid bills’ and ‘current news.’” Deripaska, for his part, has denied that he ever communicated with the Trump campaign. Thus far, there’s no evidence to suggest otherwise—although a Belarusian escort held in a Thai prison claims to know the true narrative of events.

While Manafort and Kilimnik sought to curry favor with Deripaska, The New York Times investigated their old Ukrainian business. A reporter came across a black ledger listing unreported payments to Manafort, a revelation that forced him to resign from the campaign—the beginning of a progression that has culminated in his indictment on charges of failing to register as representative of a foreign government, money laundering, and conspiring against the United States.

When old rumors about Kostya were revived and then widely circulated in the thick of the last presidential campaign, I was never fully convinced. I had heard all the anecdotes about his background in military intelligence, but I’d also heard stories about how rival political consultants were stoking the theory with the intent of damaging Kostya’s business prospects. But then, last winter, Robert Mueller described Kostya as a “long-time Russian colleague of Manafort’s” with “ties to a Russian intelligence service.” The reference came in a casual aside, buried in a brief arguing that Manafort should be subjected to stringent bail conditions. It was a strange way to inject such a crucial fact. But Mueller repeated the allegation a few months later, as if to remove ambiguity. These ties weren’t vestiges of a distant past, but were said to be active through 2016. In a footnote, Mueller asked for permission to submit evidence substantiating the charge in a sealed filing.

All the while, Manafort and Kilimnik remained attached to each other. During the past few months, Manafort’s inner circle has collapsed. Rick Gates, his primary American deputy for the past decade, pleaded guilty and began supplying evidence against him. Manafort’s ex-son-in-law also cut a deal to cooperate with Mueller. Through it all, Kilimnik has continued to trail after Manafort. When Manafort allegedly hatched a ploy to tamper with witnesses this past February, Kilimnik seems to have served as his loyal co-conspirator. When Manafort wanted a dose of positive press, Kilimnik attempted to arrange an op-ed in the Kyiv Post.

When I recently emailed Kilimnik, he responded quickly. He wanted to let me know that he disapproved of the media’s coverage of Manafort, including my own, which he ascribed to “a hatred against certain people in the US Government.” He told me, “I don’t want to play a role in this zoo.” I replied and asked Kilimnik about his present whereabouts, a question he left hanging. In December, Robert Mueller hinted, in passing, that Kostya had relocated to Russia. When I asked around Kiev, nobody had any evidence to the contrary. It was a prospect that Kostya suggested was a possibility last year in a text to Christopher Miller. “I hope I am able to get out of the country. Before ‘patriots’ start hunting me down.” Fleeing the accusation of spying for Vladimir Putin, he has apparently taken refuge with him.
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/ar ... source=twb


Mueller probe appears to link Manafort, European PR firm

By JOSH GERSTEIN and THEODORIC MEYER
06/06/2018 06:23 PM EDT

Paul Manafort is pictured. | Getty
Robert Mueller’s team did not name the individuals they said Paul Manafort sought to influence, but they said both people rejected his outreach. | Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Individuals connected to a now-defunct European public affairs firm appear to have been the targets of what prosecutors contend was a witness-tampering effort by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Special counsel Robert Mueller's office alleged in a court filing Monday night that Manafort reached out earlier this year in an improper effort to influence the testimony of two unnamed individuals he worked with between 2011 and 2014 on a public relations campaign aimed at burnishing the image of Ukraine's government and then-President Viktor Yanukovych.

The name of the company involved and some other facts were deleted from a contract Mueller’s team submitted describing the pro-Ukraine work. But some potentially identifying details were left visible in the public filing.

The contract says that, in addition to working with reporters on news stories and interacting with Ukrainian blogs, the company could ensure “guaranteed TV reports” from a program called "World Business."

"World Business," a series of half-hour features that aired on CNBC in Europe, was produced at the time by the public relations company FBC Media. It was canceled after reports that FBC was working for governments with checkered human-rights records at the same time that it produced TV segments related to those governments.

A person familiar with the media company told POLITICO the document filed by prosecutors matched other contracts drafted by FBC and its successor firms.

The Guardian newspaper reported in April that FBC worked with Manafort on a paid campaign to try to generate positive media coverage about Yanukovych and to amplify negative stories about his most prominent opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko. The person familiar with the business told POLITICO that two FBC principals led the work with Manafort: the firm's founder, longtime journalist Alan Friedman, and former CNN business news producer Eckart Sager.

Mueller’s team did not name the individuals they said Manafort sought to influence, but they said both people rejected his outreach.

Manafort said through a spokesman Tuesday that he is innocent of all the charges against him and will respond to the prosecutors' latest allegations in court. A judge has demanded an explanation by Friday. Manafort’s spokesman declined to comment on whether FBC was the company cited in Mueller’s documents.

Friedman and Sager did not respond to multiple email and phone messages seeking comment, nor did a law firm that previously represented FBC, which went into liquidation in 2012. A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment.

Friedman, a former columnist for the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal and a former editor for the International Herald Tribune, told the Guardian his work with Manafort was standard business. "It was not a secret or covert plan. We had PR people proposing interviews and features to newspapers very openly," he told the newspaper.

Friedman also said his work didn't require registering in the U.S. "I never registered as a foreign agent because I never was one," he told the newspaper. “I was a communications guy, doing PR media strategy work in Europe for a client, like dozens of London PR companies that work for a variety of governments.”

Prosecutors labeled one of the two individuals Manafort allegedly contacted as "Person D1," identifying him as the key person involved in framing the PR company's work. The other person, "D2," is described as "a longtime partner of Person D1."

Mueller’s team says the entreaties by Manafort and a longtime associate appeared aimed at urging the pair to back his contention that their work was focused on Europe, not the U.S. But prosecutors said one of the unnamed people accompanied a former Italian prime minister who held meetings in Washington as part of the pro-Yanukovych campaign; the filings said the two also met Manafort at the Willard Hotel for drinks one evening after meeting with members of Congress.

"Person D1 stated that after answering the call and after the caller identified himself as Manafort, Manafort stated that he wanted to give Person D1 a heads-up…Person D1 immediately ended the call because he was concerned about the outreach," FBI agent Brock Domin said in a written declaration filed with the court. Person D1 said he saw the outreach as an effort to "suborn perjury," the agent said.

Person D2 didn't even open the messages he got from a longtime Manafort associate, out of fear that person would know the messages were received, Domin added.

The contract released by Mueller’s team showed similarities to FBC’s work. The document shows that the unnamed company promised “guaranteed” distribution of programs related to Ukraine as in-flight entertainment on a series of airlines, which are listed in the contract. The list is similar to a group of airlines on which FBC had previously promised to place programs as part of an unrelated contract, which was published online in 2013 by Sarawak Report, an environmental blog.

An email between company officials, included in Mueller’s filings and dated July 21, 2011, describes it as “urgent” that the Ukraine contract be finalized, repeating the word multiple times. The message suggests the PR firm would receive a bank wire for several hundred thousand Euros within an hour if the contract was promptly signed.

Friedman told the Guardian that his work with Manafort began in late summer 2011.

Around that time, FBC was hit by a firestorm that would destroy the 15-year-old company.

In August 2011, the Sarawak Report blog reported that FBC Media was on the payroll of the Malaysian government while producing TV segments and documentaries about the country that aired on CNBC, CNN and the BBC. The report triggered investigations and led the news outlets to suspend their relationships with FBC.

FBC officials said through their attorneys that the company's journalistic products and its work for government and corporate clients "are and always have been quite separate and distinct," The Independent reported at the time.

The negative publicity ultimately forced FBC, which stands for Fact-Based Communications, into bankruptcy. Friedman's career also took a hit, with the Atlantic launching an inquiry into blog posts he wrote for the publication.

Some of those involved with FBC later continued similar work through new companies, according to the person familiar with the business. At various times, FBC also involved affiliates and subsidiaries in different countries, records show.

Friedman has continued to write columns for Italian newspapers and to provide TV commentary. He is fluent in Italian and has lived in Italy for years. He's also close to various Italian politicians and spent 18 months shadowing Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for a biography published in 2015.

In July 2016, Friedman scored an interview in Texas with then-candidate Donald Trump. The sit-down aboard the plane known as "Trump Force One" came during the several months that Trump's campaign was being managed by Manafort, Friedman's former colleague on the Ukraine work.

Friedman now appears to be a critic of Trump, lamenting the president's impact on U.S. society and decrying his judicial picks.

"Even more alarming to me is the way our culture is being changed—the basic decency.....There is a resistance. There are at least half of the Americans, maybe more, who don't want to see this destruction of basic American values," he said during a recent appearance at a TEDx event in Oxford, England.

At the same conference, Friedman also offered words of praise for Mueller, saluting "his valiant attempt to bring people to justice."
https://www.politico.com/story/2018/06/ ... ope-629549




Ivanka Trump Was In Contact With A Russian Who Offered A Trump-Putin Meeting

Her contact, a Russian Olympic weightlifter, said a meeting between Trump and Putin could expedite a Trump tower in Moscow.

June 6, 2018, at 11:20 a.m.

Amid intense scrutiny of contacts between Donald Trump's inner circle and representatives of Vladimir Putin, Ivanka Trump's name has barely come up. But during the campaign, she connected her father’s personal lawyer with a Russian athlete who offered to introduce Donald Trump to Putin to facilitate a 100-story Trump tower in Moscow, according to emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News and four sources with knowledge of the matter.

There is no evidence that Ivanka Trump’s contact with the athlete — the former Olympic weightlifter Dmitry Klokov — was illegal or that it had anything to do with the election. Nor is it clear that Klokov could even have introduced Trump to the Russian president. But congressional investigators have reviewed emails and questioned witnesses about the interaction, according to two of the sources, and so has special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, according to the other two.

Dmitry Klokov
Alexey Gromov / AFP / Getty Images
The contacts reveal that even as her father was campaigning to become president of the United States, Ivanka Trump connected Michael Cohen with a Russian who offered to arrange a meeting with one of the US’s adversaries — in order to help close a business deal that could have made the Trump family millions.

These interactions also shed new light on Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer and fixer, who is under criminal investigation and who played a key role in many of Donald Trump’s biggest deals — including the audacious effort to build Europe’s tallest tower in the Russian capital.

In the fall of 2015, that effort was well underway. Cohen negotiated with Felix Sater, one of the president’s longtime business associates, and agreed upon a Russian developer to build the tower. Donald Trump personally signed a nonbinding letter of intent on Oct. 28, 2015, the day of the third Republican debate, to allow a Russian developer to brand the tower with Trump’s name. The agreement stated that the Trump Organization would have the option to brand the hotel’s spa and fitness facilities as “The Spa by Ivanka Trump” and that Ivanka Trump would be granted “sole and absolute discretion” to have the final say on “all interior design elements of the spa or fitness facilities.”

Ivanka Trump was then an executive vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization. Publicly, she was a sophisticated ambassador for the company, attending ribbon cuttings, posting pictures of deals on her Instagram page, and gracing advertisements for the company’s new properties. But inside the Trump Organization, she had a reputation as a shrewd and tough executive known to get her way.

Ivanka Trump, who now works in her father’s administration, did not respond to questions sent to her personal email, chief of staff, and the White House. A spokesperson for her attorney wrote that Ivanka Trump did not know about the Trump Moscow project “until after a nonbinding letter of intent had been signed, never talked to anyone outside the Organization about the proposal, and, even internally, was only minimally involved. Her only role was limited to reminding Mr. Cohen that, should an actual deal come to fruition (which it did not) the project, like any other with the Trump name, conform with the highest design and architectural standards.”

But emails and interviews suggest that her involvement ran deeper.

In November 2015, Ivanka Trump told Cohen to speak with Klokov, according to the four sources. Cohen had at least one phone conversation with the weightlifter, they said. It is not known what the men discussed over the phone, but they exchanged a string of emails that are now being examined by congressional investigators and federal agents probing Russia’s election meddling.

In one of those emails, Klokov told Cohen that he could arrange a meeting between Donald Trump and Putin to help pave the way for the tower. Later, Cohen sent an email refusing that offer and saying that the Trump Organization already had an agreement in place. He said he was cutting off future communication with Klokov. Copying Ivanka Trump, the Russian responded in a final brusque message, in which he questioned Cohen’s authority to make decisions for the Trump Organization. Frustrated by the exchange, Ivanka Trump questioned Cohen’s refusal to continue communicating with Klokov, according to one of the sources.

BuzzFeed News was shown the emails on the condition we do not quote them.

It’s unclear how Ivanka Trump came into contact with Klokov. The chiseled giant, who is 35 and lives in Moscow, has 340,000 followers on Instagram, where he frequently posts pictures and videos of weightlifting and associated products bearing his name.

Instagram
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Instagram: @klokovd
He won the silver medal in the 2008 Olympic Games and took gold at the 2005 World Championships, but he has no apparent background in real estate development. Nor is he known to be a close associate of Putin or anyone in the Russian president’s inner circle, and he does not appear to publicly participate in his country’s politics. It’s not even clear he could have made good on his offer to arrange a meeting between Putin and Donald Trump.

Klokov initially told BuzzFeed News that he did not “send any emails” to Cohen. “I don’t understand why you ask me about this,” Klokov said in text messages. “I’m weightlifter, not a political.” When told that he had sent at least two emails to Cohen and had had a phone conversation with him at Ivanka Trump’s request, Klokov stopped responding.

Cohen referred BuzzFeed News to his attorney, Stephen Ryan, who declined to comment.

FBI and congressional investigators, two of the sources said, are still trying to determine the relationship between Ivanka Trump and the Olympian.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and emails between Cohen and Klokov were among the documents that the Trump Organization turned over to the committee, according to two sources. When he was interviewed by the panel in October, Cohen released a statement disputing allegations of a conspiracy to rig the election in Trump’s favor.

North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the chair of the Intelligence Committee, declined to comment on Klokov, Ivanka Trump, or any specifics. But he said he could see how Russian athletes, like the country’s oligarchs, might be drawn into Russian politics.

“I can’t speak specifically to athletes, but you see the oligarchs, and there is a model for them, and they do things on behalf of the country and on behalf of Putin at their own expense — they’re not asked, they just assume the responsibility to do it, whether that’s a mercenary army in Syria or it’s screwing with elections; whether it’s the hacking out of the St. Petersburg facility,” Burr told BuzzFeed News. “So it’s not a stretch to say if Putin allows oligarchs to make money as long as they don’t get involved in politics and they do things that are beneficial to Putin — I could see athletes falling into the same category.”

A spokesperson for Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the committee vice chair, declined to comment. The special counsel’s office declined to comment as well.

Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka
Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

Ivanka Trump wields unusually strong influence over a president known for his unpredictability and impulsiveness. Though her efforts to moderate her father’s right-wing tendencies have not always succeeded, such as when he withdrew from the Paris climate accord despite her opposition, she remains uniquely close to him. She has been by his side for years in business and was one of his most trusted and popular surrogates during the presidential campaign. She has an office in the West Wing and a small staff of advisers.

She was with her brother Donald Trump Jr. and Sater when they visited Moscow in 2006 to scout locations for a possible tower there, famously sitting in Putin’s office chair during a visit. She was also instrumental in the development of Trump SoHo, a troubled hotel and condominium tower in Manhattan. New York City prosecutors considered criminal fraud charges against Ivanka Trump and her brother Donald Jr. for allegedly misleading prospective buyers at Trump SoHo, ProPublica reported last October. ●

Anthony Cormier is an investigative reporter/editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. While working for the Tampa Bay Times, Cormier won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/anthonycormier ... .lixzvl08D



Stormy Daniels suit: My old lawyer was a 'puppet' for Trump, Cohen

Suit claims the attorneys tried to arrange for her to appear on Sean Hannity's show and deny affair.

Jun.06.2018 / 1:15 PM ET
Stormy Daniels says in a new lawsuit that her former attorney betrayed her and became a "puppet" for President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer while still representing her.

The filing in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday alleges that Beverly Hills lawyer Keith Davidson "hatched a plan" and "colluded" with Trump attorney Michael Cohen to get the adult film actress to go on Fox News a few months ago and falsely deny she had an affair with Trump more than a decade ago. Cohen even referred to Davidson as "pal" in one text cited in the complaint.

The lawsuit against Davidson and Cohen also claims that Trump was aware the two attorneys were communicating and coordinating for his benefit — unbeknownst to Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford.

The suit further accuses Davidson of breaking client confidentiality and tipping off Cohen that Clifford was about to switch to a new lawyer and announce in court papers that she'd had sex with Trump and signed a $130,000 agreement to keep quiet about it just before the 2016 election

"Mr. Davidson abdicated his role as an advocate and fiduciary of his client Ms. Clifford and instead elected to be a puppet for Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump in order to advance their interests at the expense of Ms. Clifford," the suit says.


President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen leaves the U.S. Courthouse in New York on April 26.Hector Retamal / AFP - Getty Images

Davidson and attorneys for Cohen did not immediately respond for comment. A spokesperson for Davidson previously told NBC News that he is cooperating with federal prosecutors' investigation of Cohen and had turned over electronic information.

An attorney for Trump also did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the lawsuit. The White House has previously denied that Trump had an affair with Clifford.

Clifford's current attorney, Michael Avenatti, told NBC News that she was not consulted or informed by Davidson that he was cooperating with Cohen after the agreement had been signed in November 2016.


Attached to the lawsuits are text messages exchanged between Cohen and Davidson on Jan. 17, 2018, the same day that In Touch Magazine resurrected an interview Clifford had done years before about Trump that was not published at the time.

Click here to read the text messages

"I have her tentatively scheduled for Hannity tonight," Cohen allegedly texted Davidson, referring to the Fox News program helmed by Trump ally Sean Hannity.

Davidson, according to the suit, responded that "she cannot don't [sic] today. She is flying to LA tomorrow. I'm trying to get her to commit for tomorrow."

Over the next several hours, texts went back and forth. At one point, the suit said, Cohen complained the delay was "no good."

"By doing tomorrow you just create another news cycle instead of putting an end to this one," he wrote, the suit alleges.

Later that evening, another text from Cohen to Davidson said: "The wise men all believe the story is dying and don't think it's smart for her to do any interviews."

Davidson replied "100%." Cohen's response: "Thanks pal."

The complaint alleges that "wise men" was a reference that included Trump and alleges that Trump knew of the plan to get her to appear on Hannity's show and deny a prior sexual relationship with Trump, although the lawsuit included no documentation of that.


Fox News host Sean Hannity in the White House briefing room on Jan. 24, 2017.Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images file

By late February, Clifford was planning to hire a new lawyer and go public. Davidson, the suit alleges, "secretly tipped Mr. Cohen off to Ms. Clifford's plans," prompting Cohen to launch arbitration proceedings against Clifford that included a gag order.

In early March, Davidson allegedly told Cohen that Clifford planned to file a lawsuit against him and Trump seeking to invalidate the nondisclosure agreement. The suit references a new series of text messages between the lawyers on March 2 to arrange a phone call.

"U calling?" Davidson texted.

"With flotus. Give me a minute," Cohen replied.

Press reports from that date indicate both Cohen and Melania Trump were at Mar-a-Lago. The suit speculates that Cohen was there to meet with the first lady and prepare her for news of the lawsuit but does not include substantiation.

"These text messages show that the prior denials by Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen relating to what Mr. Trump knew and about the honesty of my client were absolute lies," Avenatti said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed.

"There was a significant cover-up here as part of an attempt to deceive the American people and Mrs. Trump and we intend on getting to the bottom of it."

Mr. Davidson abdicated his role as an advocate and fiduciary of his client Ms. Clifford and instead elected to be a puppet for Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump.

The new suit — which accuses Davidson of breaching his fiduciary duty to Clifford and Cohen of aiding and abetting Davidson — isn't the first time questions have been raised about a seemingly cozy relationship between Cohen and Davidson.

In a lawsuit filed in mid-March, former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal accused Cohen and Davidson, in coordination with publisher AMI, of "colluding" to bury her story of what she says was an affair with Mr. Trump.

The two lawyers also were involved in a nondisclosure agreement and $1.6 million payment for Sheara Bechard, a Playboy Playmate represented by Davidson, who said she had an affair with Republican National Committee official Elliott Broidy.

This is also not the first time Davidson has been sued. Several high-profile figures, including professional wrestler Hulk Hogan, have accused him of extortion for trying to negotiate settlements to make misconduct allegations or sex tapes go away.

Avenatti's onslaught against Cohen and Trump also includes Clifford's defamation lawsuit against Trump; the release of details that revealed Cohen offered himself as a paid consultant to major companies after Trump's election; and his demand that Cohen release taped recordings he allegedly made of conversations with Trump and others.
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/st ... en-n880476



The Sex-Tape Lawyer Who Worked With Michael Cohen to Silence Trump’s Women

KATE BRIQUELET
04.23.18 4:57 AM ET

Keith Davidson, the ex-lawyer for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, enjoyed a seemingly cozy relationship with Michael Cohen dating back years. Now he’s cooperating with the feds.

When Stormy Daniels’ former attorney spoke to CNN earlier this month, he said President Donald Trump’s loyal fixer had encouraged him to speak out.

“He suggested that it would be appropriate for me to go out into the media and spill my guts,” Keith Davidson said of Trump’s embattled lawyer, Michael Cohen, a man who was supposed to be his legal opponent.

Davidson negotiated hush agreements for two of the president’s alleged paramours—Daniels, the porn actress, and Karen McDougal, a onetime Playboy model—in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election.

He inked Daniels’ deal with Cohen, who personally paid the adult actress $130,000 for her silence about the alleged Trump affair. And he was in touch with Cohen, too, after McDougal signed her “catch and kill” agreement with the publisher of the National Enquirer, which bought her story for the purpose of burying it.

Indeed, the lawyers on opposite coasts appear to have developed a symbiotic relationship in recent years, beginning when details of Stormy Daniels’ Trump affair first surfaced in 2011.

“Are you here at the behest of Michael Cohen?” CNN correspondent Sara Sidner asked during Davidson’s early April sitdown.

“No, no. No,” Davidson chuckled, shaking his head and smiling awkwardly. “Not in any way, shape or form.”

Davidson may not be chuckling for long, after a run-in with the feds last week.

On Friday, Davidson revealed he’s cooperating in the criminal probe of Cohen’s business dealings, led by federal prosecutors in New York. Just one week before, the FBI raided Cohen’s office, home, and hotel room for records related to, among other things, Cohen’s payoff to Daniels in the home stretch of the election.

“I am very confident that Michael Cohen and Keith Davidson and others will have to account for the things that they have done.”

— Peter Stris, counsel for Karen McDougal

Davidson provided “certain limited electronic information” to the Cohen inquiry, said his spokesman Dave Wedge. “He has done so and will continue to cooperate to the fullest extent possible under the law,” Wedge said in a statement sent to multiple media outlets, including The Daily Beast.

The news follows reports that the FBI seized recordings Cohen made of his phone conversations with Davidson.

During one call, “Cohen was being unusually simplistic, like he had bullet points that he was reading from to try and make himself look good,” a source told CNN. “He was trying to clarify the timeline of the agreements made with Davidson in his favor.”

Davidson didn’t consent to the recordings and “will pursue all his legal rights under the law” if they do exist, Wedge warned.

Cohen did not respond by press time to requests for comment about his relationship with Davidson, which has come under scrutiny in recent weeks.

Indeed, Daniels and McDougal both fired Davidson and filed lawsuits to invalidate the hush contracts that he helped to negotiate. In a now-settled lawsuit, McDougal accused Davidson of conspiring with Cohen behind her back as she worked out her $150,000 agreement with the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc. (AMI).

AMI has released McDougal from her contract in a settlement that frees her to dish about Trump—and to possibly pursue Davidson and Cohen in court. “For the avoidance of doubt, neither Keith Davidson nor Michael Cohen is an AMI Released Party,” the settlement states, adding that McDougal isn’t barred from making claims against the men.

McDougal’s counsel, Peter Stris, suggested legal action against Davidson was on the table. During an appearance on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, Stris wasted no time linking him to Cohen and accusing the pair of committing legal fraud.

“The reason people like Michael Cohen and Keith Davidson are creating all of this mischief is because they’re not faithfully representing people,” Stris told Maddow, adding, “We see this pattern of powerful men—and it often happens to be the same ones here, Michael Cohen and Keith Davidson—doing these deals.

“I am very confident that Michael Cohen and Keith Davidson and others will have to account for the things that they have done,” Stris said.

Stris is representing a third woman once represented by Davidson: Shera Bechard. The former Playboy model and actress was at the center of another hush agreement negotiated between Davidson and Cohen in late 2017 and for which she received $1.6 million.

Cohen’s client, Republican donor Elliott Broidy, a vice chairman on Trump’s inaugural committee, allegedly paid Bechard for sex and impregnated her. Broidy said Bechard did not go through with the pregnancy.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Cohen facilitated the quarterly payments to Bechard on Broidy’s behalf.



Stris, on Twitter, said Bechard was “deeply distressed” that her confidential agreement with Broidy was leaked to the press and accused Cohen and Davidson of “profoundly disturbing and repeated collusion.”

For his part, Broidy said Cohen “reached out to me after being contacted by this woman’s attorney, Keith Davidson.” Broidy hired Cohen, he said, after Cohen “informed me about his prior relationship with Mr. Davidson.”

Cohen even used the same aliases for Bechard’s contract as he did with the infamous Daniels NDA: “David Dennison” and “Peggy Peterson,” the Journal reported.

Meanwhile, Cohen referred another Trump ally to Davidson. Chuck LaBella, a former producer on The Apprentice, enlisted Davidson over a dispute with actor Tom Arnold, who on Twitter accused LaBella of having damaging intel on Trump.

Davidson told CNN he wasn’t paid for sending an email to Arnold’s attorney, asking that the actor stop implying LaBella was a witness to any misconduct.

In a statement to The Daily Beast, Wedge acknowledged Davidson and Cohen have a history of hammering out deals.

“Attorney Davidson has represented a few clients referred to him from a variety of different sources in which opposing counsel was Michael Cohen,” Wedge said in a statement. “He is one of hundreds, if not thousands, of lawyers Attorney Davidson has dealt with over his 18 years as a lawyer.

“Their relationship is purely professional and they have met in person only a couple of times in professional settings,” Wedge continued.

Responding to Stris’ allegations, Wedge said Davidson “dispute[s] many of the descriptions of these situations by media and others, and strenuously denies any insinuations of unethical or inappropriate behavior.”

“In these matters, and in all of his cases, Attorney Davidson has always advocated strongly for his clients’ best interests,” Wedge stated.

Keith Davidson has made a career of selling—or trying to sell—sex tapes and other dirt back to celebrities, who’ve ponied up to prevent Davidson’s clients from releasing their mortifying secrets to the media.

Called “the ‘Better Call Saul’ of D-list celebrities,” Davidson represented a woman soliciting cash for a sex tape of Austin Powers actor Verne Troyer. He also tried to profit off a sex tape of reality TV star Tila Tequila, who sued him.

The Smoking Gun reported Davidson beefed up his client rolodex of Hollywood hangers-on with the help of TMZ co-founder Mike Walters. Walters and TMZ employees enjoyed Davidson’s legal services in return, according to the report.

One hot tip Walters allegedly delivered to Davidson was the Hulk Hogan sex tape.

TMZ first reported about the tape’s existence in March 2012. Five months later, Davidson emailed Hogan’s lawyer, David Houston, saying he represented the “rights holder of the footage.” Over the phone, Davidson told Houston that the first sex tape received by Gawker was “a warning shot” and that Hogan should pay up or risk “increasing problems,” according to Houston’s deposition in a lawsuit filed by the wrestler.

Davidson has declined to comment on the Hogan case, and Walters doesn’t appear to have denied any involvement with the sex-tape imbroglio. According to court filings in the Gawker lawsuit, Walters had a personal relationship with Hogan, whose son worked with Walters’ father on a business venture. (Houston said he was shocked to learn Walters, a source of intel for Hogan’s camp, was the middleman between the leaker and Davidson, The Smoking Gun reported.)

In a second call, Davidson again inquired whether Hogan “would pay him” and warned there was “more than one” tape, court filings allege. Houston contacted the FBI, which set up a sting operation at a hotel in Clearwater Beach, Florida, targeting Davidson, who was suspected of extortion but never charged.

At the hotel, Davidson’s team handed over what they claimed were all copies of the Hogan recordings in exchange for a $150,000 check and the promise of $150,000 more. When Houston handed Davidson and a go-between the money, FBI agents stormed in with guns drawn, arresting the duo, states a lawsuit filed by Hogan under his real name, Terry Bollea, in May 2016.

“The 47-year-old sleaze-chaser was in touch with Cohen as early as 2011, when a gossip site published details about Daniels’ alleged romp with Trump.”

Federal prosecutors declined to file charges against Davidson, though it’s unclear why. According to The Smoking Gun, Houston argued the government “had more than ample evidence” to prosecute.

Davidson’s law license has been suspended twice since 2010, California Bar records show. The first time, Davidson was accused of misconduct in cases, including his failure to appear at a hearing and case management conference in a medical malpractice suit. He was suspended a second time for failing to pay bar membership fees.

The 47-year-old sleaze-chaser was in touch with Cohen as early as 2011, when a gossip site published details about Daniels’ alleged romp with Trump. In his recent CNN interview, Davidson said he called Cohen after Daniels asked him to demand the website, The Dirty, remove the story about the alleged affair.

Daniels was connected to Davidson through her former manager, Gina Rodriguez, according to an October 2016 Smoking Gun report. Davidson told the site that Rodriguez, a former adult actress who’s represented Michael Lohan and “Octomom” Nadya Suleman, has referred him multiple clients over the years.

Nik Richie, founder of The Dirty, claims Rodriguez came to him to break the Daniels-Trump story, and that Daniels emailed him the salacious details in October 2011. But when Rodriguez secured a paid interview with In Touch magazine (which never ran), she hired Davidson to press The Dirty to remove its exclusive story “because she was shaking down Donald Trump,” Richie wrote on his site.

Aside from Rodriguez, Davidson appears to have other connections to the gossip blog. Karen McDougal’s ex-husband, James Grdina, invested in the website. And Grdina’s brother, Jay, had previously retained Davidson for his hangover-prevention drink company, SEC filings show.

Richie claims that Davidson sent his site a cease-and-desist letter, but that Cohen was involved behind the scenes and “negotiated directly with Stormy Daniels’ attorney.”

“Cohen would call Davidson weeks later—after hearing rumors that Stormy Daniels was getting interest in her story from media outlets.”

In the CNN special, Sidner asked Davidson what his initial conversation with Cohen was like.

“Well, I think there’s a lot of chest pounding,” Davidson answered. “To the best of my recollection, it was a lot of, you know, ‘How dare you’ and, you know, ‘We’ll chase you to the ends of the earth,’ and ‘This is not a true story’ and, you know, ‘We’re going to come and get you.’”

Davidson recalls telling Cohen to calm down. “I said, ‘Whoa. Hold on. Hold your horses’ and ‘That’s not at all the reason for our calling.’ And we said that Ms. Daniels does not want the story out and we’re going to do our best to take that,” Davidson said.

The opposing lawyers lost contact until summer of 2016, Davidson claims, when McDougal retained him to sell her story.

Davidson claimed he phoned Cohen as a “professional courtesy” and informed him a matter that “may or may not have involved his client” was resolved.

Dylan Howard, a senior AMI executive, interviewed McDougal in Los Angeles about her 10-month tryst with Trump. But after the hours-long meeting, Davidson informed McDougal that the company wasn’t interested in buying her story. Yet Davidson never mentioned that “he and AMI updated Mr. Trump’s representatives about Ms. McDougal” following this interview, her complaint alleged.

AMI renewed interest in McDougal’s story after she began talks to spill the beans with ABC News. In early August, Davidson sent McDougal an AMI contract and allegedly rushed her into signing it, she says. Then Davidson allegedly emailed Cohen, who was not a party to the legal matter, requesting a phone call.

“He then told Mr. Cohen on the phone that the deal was done—Ms. McDougal had been silenced,” her lawsuit said.

When asked about the supposed call, Cohen told The New York Times, “I don’t recall those communications.” The Times reported the men regularly communicated, however, via phone, text, and email after McDougal’s contract was signed.

Cohen would call Davidson weeks later—after hearing rumors that Stormy Daniels was getting interest in her story from media outlets. “I called Mr. Davidson and asked if this was true. He told me that he would find out,” Cohen told Vanity Fair last month. (Davidson himself confirmed this during his CNN interview.)

The Trump stalwart then asked if Daniels had a price in mind, and Davidson allegedly replied with the $130,000 figure. “He said that she needed the money,” Cohen recalled. “I didn’t come up with this number.”

Daniels signed her NDA with Cohen in late October 2016, and he wired the hush money to a client-trust account for Davidson, the Journal reported.

Davidson has mostly kept quiet about his role in Daniels’ payout, which was exposed by the Journal in January, and the McDougal contract.

One month later, Davidson suggested to a New York magazine scribe working on a profile about him that they should contact his legal opponents for comment.

His first suggestion for comment was Michael Cohen, who called him “a true gentleman.”

“Keith Davidson… is a tireless advocate for his clients,” Cohen told the reporter in an email. “In each and every interaction I’ve ever had with him, he has always been professional, ethical and a true gentleman.”

Davidson, during his CNN interview, said he met with Cohen at least once this year. In their last conversation, Cohen called and told Davidson he believed Daniels and McDougal waived their attorney-client privilege by speaking to the media.

Asked why he agreed to go on TV, Davidson said, “I’d like the truth to come out. To the extent that I can assist in that endeavor, that’s really why I’m here.”

“Is the whole truth out yet?” Sidner asked. “I don’t believe so,” Davidson concluded. “I think most of it. Not the whole truth.”
https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-sex-t ... via=mobile




Donald Trump Is Getting Away With the Biggest Scandal in American History

Witch hunt.

David CornJun. 5, 2018 6:00 AM

The other evening I was on a cable news show to cover the latest Russia news of the day—and I had an epiphany.

We were talking about a recent scoop from Michael Isikoff, the co-author of my latest book, Russian Roulette. He had reported that a Spanish prosecutor had handed the FBI wiretapped transcripts of a Russian official who was suspected of money laundering and for years had been trying to gain influence within the American conservative movement and the National Rifle Association. We then discussed a New York Times article revealing that Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s longtime fixer, had met with a Russian oligarch in January 2017, around the time a US company affiliated with this tycoon began making $500,000 in payments to Cohen. Next we turned to the latest in the so-called Spygate nonscandal—the false claim, championed by Trump and his defenders, that the FBI infiltrated a spy into his presidential campaign for political purposes.

Then the show moved on. We had spent 15 or so minutes on these important developments, delving into the details—but without referring to the essence of the story. And it hit me: Though it’s clear Trump’s presidency has been hobbled by the Russia scandal, the manner in which this matter plays out in the media has helped Trump.

Almost every day, Trump pushes out a simple (and dishonest) narrative via tweets and public remarks: The Russia investigation is a…well, you know, a witch hunt. Or a hoax. Or fake news. He blasts out the same exclamations daily: Witch hunt, hoax! Hoax, witch hunt! That’s his mantra.


His synopsis is easy to follow. It encompasses (even if by ignoring) every new fact and revelation. It connects all the inaccurate and false dots Trump and his partisans toss out: Unmasking! Obama wiretapped Trump! The FBI improperly obtained warrants to conduct surveillance on his campaign advisers! And so on. He’s the victim. The bad guys are the Dems, libs, prosecutors, and deep staters pursuing this huge nothing-burger for nothing but political gain. The Russia story, in Trump’s telling, is a black-and-white tale of evildoers persecuting a great man—him. Sad. And this bully uses his pulpit (and smartphone) to transmit this simple message nonstop.


The other side—the accurate perspective—isn’t that complicated. In 2016, Vladimir Putin’s regime mounted information warfare against the United States, in part to help Trump become president. While this attack was underway, the Trump crew tried to collude covertly with Moscow, sought to set up a secret communications channel with Putin’s office, and repeatedly denied in public that this assault was happening, providing cover to the Russian operation. Trump and his lieutenants aligned themselves with and assisted a foreign adversary, as it was attacking the United States. The evidence is rock-solid: They committed a profound act of betrayal. That is the scandal.

But how often do you hear or see this fundamental point being made? The media coverage of the Trump-Russia scandal—which has merged with Cohen’s pay-to-play scandal, the Stormy Daniels scandal, and a wider foreign-intervention-in-the-2016-campaign scandal—has yielded a flood of revelations. Yet the news reporting tends to focus on specific components of an unwieldy and ever-expanding story: a Trump Tower meeting between Trump aides and a Kremlin emissary; what special counsel Robert Mueller may or may not be doing; the alleged money-laundering and tax-evasion skullduggery of Paul Manafort; a secret get-together in the Seychelles between former Blackwater owner Erik Prince and a Russian financier; the Kremlin’s clandestine exploitation of social media; Russian hackers penetrating state election systems; Michael Flynn’s shady lobbying activities; Trump’s attempted interference in the investigation; and so much more. It is hard to hold on to all these pieces and place them into one big picture.


These revelations do not emerge in chronological or thematic order. They arrive as part of the fusillade known as the daily news cycle. One day, we learn that Trump last year leaned on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to un-recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Another day, we see headlines that Mueller has indicted Russian trolls. We learn that—yikes!—a former Trump campaign adviser has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his efforts to put the campaign in secret contact with Putin’s regime. We’re told that Donald Trump Jr. during the campaign met with a shady character representing the princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who were secretly offering to help Trump. Or the big story is that Trump has acknowledged he dictated a false statement issued in his eldest son’s name about the Trump Tower meeting. What’s the connection? Is there a connection? And how is each new headline related to Putin’s war on America? Attempting to track this whole damn thing—while the nation experiences a larger hurricane of crazy—can make one feel like Carrie Mathison on Homeland. Do you even have enough string or enough space on the bulletin board?

And that’s just it. Trump has no bulletin board—and no need for one. He only requires 280 characters. Or less. Sometimes just those two words—witch hunt—accompanied by other tweets designed to fog and distract by raising peripheral and non-evidence-based matters, such as the phony Uranium One scandal and other supposed examples of Democratic malfeasance. The problem is there is no organized force with as loud a bullhorn countering his disinformation in fundamental terms.


In the face of Trump’s fact-free denials, who is reminding the public of the basics—that Russia attacked, and that Trump aided and abetted the operation? If you watch cable news or are addicted to Twitter, you can see Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, engaging in hand-to-hand combat with the Republicans and the forces of Fox News over the Russia probe on practically a daily basis. A few other Democratic members of his committee join the fray when the news cycle permits. But Sen. Mark Warner, (D-Va.), the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, prefers maintaining a lower profile. And there are no other Democratic bigwigs who have assumed the task of addressing the beyond-cable audience and fiercely reiterating and emphasizing the core narrative. When it comes to framing the overarching story, Trump practically has a monopoly.

“At the heart of the Russia scandal is the most fundamental issue for a democracy: the sanctity of elections.”
This traces back to the weeks before and after the 2016 election. A month prior to Election Day, the US government declared that Russia had mounted a cyber attack and influence operation against the United States. (To call this action “meddling” is to diminish its full significance.) But at a time when Trump was being hammered by the Access Hollywood video and conventional wisdom held that he was toast, President Barack Obama and his aides chose not to generate a major fuss regarding this unprecedented disclosure. They feared amplifying the disorder the Russians were trying to cause and worried that Trump would seize upon a big White House reaction to bolster his claim that the election was being rigged against him. The White House let this dog lie. And most of the media focused instead on Trump’s grab-them-by-the-pussy problem and the parallel (and not coincidental) release by WikiLeaks of the juicy emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta by Russian hackers.

Yet a few days following the election, Admiral Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, confirmed the hacking of Democratic targets and the public dissemination of stolen emails was “a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.” He added, “This was not something that was done casually. This was not something that was done by chance. This was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily.”

In the subsequent weeks, few leaders of the Democratic Party complained vociferously about the Russian attack or the assistance the Trump campaign provided the Kremlin. When asked, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), the top two Democrats in Congress, would say they supported creating an inquiry. But neither were beating any drums. Democrats seemed too shocked at the results to move expeditiously. Perhaps they worried they would be accused of being sore losers. It took a month or two for the calls for an investigation to become loud enough to force GOP leaders on Capitol Hill to agree to such probes.

Meanwhile, Obama said little about the Russian attack. In early December 2016, the White House announced that Obama had called for an intelligence community assessment. At the end of the month, he hit Russia with sanctions for its intervention in the election, though the punishment was arguably not sufficiently tough. (Obama and his advisers did fear going too far and sparking a crisis with Moscow, at a time when Trump and his gang of inexperienced hands were about to take over.)

For his part, Trump kept insisting there was nothing much to talk about regarding Putin’s intervention. Instead, he focused obsessively on denying the salacious allegations about him within the Steele memos and decried the fake news media, the vehicle through which information on the Russia scandal would reach the public.


Once the congressional investigations were launched in early 2017, Democrats largely stepped back and ceded much of the rhetorical terrain to Trump. In normal circumstances, this might have been the responsible thing to do. But now Trump had the big-picture turf mostly to himself. There would be much debate in reaction to new developments, such as Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. Largely, though, there was less discussion devoted to the controversy’s basics.

In previous scandals, it was not necessary to remind the public repeatedly of the essential elements of the story. Once the scandalous activity was revealed, there was no argument over whether it had actually happened. No one disputed the Watergate burglary had transpired—the issue was White House involvement and the cover-up. Ronald Reagan and his aides conceded the administration had sold arms to Iran and sent the profits to the contras fighting the leftist government of Nicaragua. The issue, again, was what the president knew—and whether this had been illegal.

But this time, Trump and his amen chorus have been claiming there is no Russia scandal—and insisting the real scandal is the existence of a secret FBI plot against him. They have promoted a perverted version of reality at a volume of 11. By merely forcing a debate over whether the Russia scandal truly exists, Trump clouds a tremendously important matter and scores at least a partial win. He has succeeded in diverting attention from his campaign actions that benefited Putin.


Along with his shouts of “witch hunt,” Trump also incessantly declares, “No collusion.” This simplistic piece of shorthand aims at a straw man. Trump seems to be setting a bar that favors him: Unless evidence emerges that he personally met with Russian hackers, told them which Democratic Party emails to steal, and then provided guidance on how to release the material, then nothing wrong occurred. But the public record is already replete with serious wrongdoing committed by Trump and his aides. For example, after being secretly briefed in mid-August 2016 by the US intelligence community that Moscow was behind the hack-and-leak attack on the Democrats, Trump publicly claimed there was no reason to suspect the Russians.

With his “no collusion” chant, Trump is like an embezzler who yells, “There was no murder”—and asserts that is the only relevant benchmark. Think of what Trump did during the campaign in this fashion: A fellow is standing on a sidewalk in front of a bank. He is told the bank is being robbed. He can see armed men wearing masks in the bank. Yet when people pass by and ask what is happening in the bank, he says, “There is no robbery. Nothing to see. Move along.” Even if this person did not collude with the robbers, he is helping the gang perpetrate a crime. And in Trump’s case, the criminal act was committed for his gain.

Much of the media framing of the Russia scandal has followed Trump’s lead and adopted his collusion-centric perspective. The debate, such as it is, has become whether Trump directly collaborated with Moscow’s covert operation—and whether Trump, as president, tried to thwart the investigation and obstruct justice. The story is not driven by the serious offenses already established: Trump and his associates encouraged and assisted an attack from a foreign foe.

In this ongoing fight, it is Trump and his bumper stickers versus a media presenting a wide variety of disparate disclosures that come and go quickly in a hyperchaotic information ecosystem, often absent full context. No wonder then that a recent poll found that 59 percent of Americans said Mueller has uncovered no crimes. In fact, he has secured 17 criminal indictments and obtained five guilty pleas. Accurate news reporting alone does not always carry the day.

The Russia scandal is the most important scandal in the history of the United States. President Andrew Johnson was impeached (but not convicted) because he violated an act of Congress to remove a secretary of war. In the Teapot Dome scandal, the secretary of the interior in Warren Harding’s administration leased federal lands at low rates to private oil companies, presumably in return for bribes. In Watergate, a president and his aides engaged in political skulduggery against political foes. President Bill Clinton lied about a sexual affair he had with a subordinate in the White House. All these scandals raised serious questions about integrity in government. But at the heart of the Russia scandal is the most fundamental issue for a democracy: the sanctity of elections.

An overseas enemy struck at the core of the republic—and it succeeded. Trump and his minions helped and encouraged this attack by engaging in secret contacts with Moscow and publicly insisting no such assault was happening. This is far bigger than a bribe, a break-in, or a blow job. And, worse, the United States remains vulnerable to such a strike.

Yet the full impact of this scandal does not resonate in the daily coverage and discourse. In many ways, the media presents the Russia scandal mostly as a political threat to Trump, not as a serious threat to the nation. And many Americans, thanks to Trump and his allies, view it as a charade. All this shows how easy it is for disinformation and demagoguery to distort reality. That is a tragedy for the United States. For Trump—and Putin—that is victory.

https://www.motherjones.com/politics/20 ... dal-media/
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Jun 07, 2018 3:23 pm


Christina Wilkie

On April 11, I called Trump’s favorite architect to ask about jobs he did in Eastern Europe that recently drew Mueller’s eye.

Within hours, John Fotiadis closed down his 10 yr old architecture firm, deleted his portfolio and left Twitter. He’s still MIA.


Meet the New York architect who was a key figure in Donald Trump's deals and connections in Eastern Europe

Christina Wilkie | @christinawilkie1:33 PM ET Thu, 24 May 2018 | 07:56
As Robert Mueller looks ever more closely at President Donald Trump's foreign business ties, one former associate has remained outside the spotlight despite playing a key role in Trump's quest for real estate deals in former Soviet lands.

Architect John Fotiadis designed some of Trump's most ambitious luxury developments there. A master of glass-encased towers and monumental entrances — hallmarks of Trump's properties — the New York architect supplied vision and technical expertise that complemented Trump's salesmanship and attorney-fixer Michael Cohen's brass-tacks negotiating.

Fotiadis' work offers a window into Trump's dealings in the complex, opaque world of Eurasian real estate. Today, several of these projects are reportedly under scrutiny by the special counsel, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and any means by which Moscow might have exerted influence over Trump or his campaign, including through his business deals.

There are no indications that Fotiadis has done anything wrong and no indications that Mueller is investigating that possibility.

Between 2007 and 2013, Fotiadis designed all or part of six Trump-branded developments: a Trump Tower in Kazakhstan; a Trump-branded seaside resort in the republic of Georgia; a 47-story Trump Tower in Tbilisi, Georgia; hotel rooms at the Trump Tower in Istanbul; a Trump movie studio complex in Florida; and major portions of the Trump Parc Stamford, a condominium tower in Connecticut.

Architect John Fotiadis.
Source: YouTube

Architect John Fotiadis.

"The architect is a key part of the Trump sales pitch when he goes into these countries, and he's convincing the money guys to give him a branding and development deal," said Jan deRoos, a Cornell University professor of real estate finance. "The architect is the one who translates the Trump brand into actual design and construction standards."

In Eurasia, Trump's deals often involved complex networks of investors and middlemen. For instance, Trump's 2011 deal to build a Fotiadis-designed resort in Georgia was set up by Giorgi Rtskhiladze, an international financier who, four years later, would arrange for Cohen to receive a proposal from a Russian millionaire seeking to partner with Trump on real estate in Russia.

The McClatchy news service reported in April that Mueller's probe was looking more closely at the people involved in Trump's dealings in three countries, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Russia.

Fotiadis covers his trail

Around this time, CNBC received a tip that Fotiadis had worked on several Trump projects in Eurasia. Curious about his professional relationship with Trump, CNBC reached out to Fotiadis on April 11 for comment about this work.

Fotiadis did not respond to a call or an email. But eight hours later, he announced on Twitter that he was closing his firm, John Fotiadis Architect, or JFA, after 10 years in business. A few days later, Fotiadis closed the Twitter account he had used to announce he was closing down his firm.

By the end of the week, all the content from Fotiadis' professional website, including his portfolio, had been removed, leaving only a note saying he planned to join a New Jersey-based engineering company.

Gone was Fotiadis' impressive portfolio of 30 projects (some of which are pictured below), including villas, schools and office buildings he has designed for clients around the world. Also gone was any reference to the two overseas branches of JFA that he had opened — in Tbilisi and Kiev, Ukraine.


The closure of JFA appears to mark an abrupt end to the solo career of an architect who counted some of the richest men in the world among his clients. Fotiadis has not answered repeated calls, emails and text messages from CNBC with questions about his work in Eurasia or why he shuttered his company. He also declined to comment on whether he had been contacted by anyone from Mueller's office. Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel, also declined to comment.

A half-dozen of Fotiadis' former colleagues and associates in the U.S. and Ukraine have likewise not responded to inquiries about the architect. Nor have his former clients.

Fotiadis was not always so press shy. Archived versions of his website on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, as well as news reports and real estate industry records, reveal that until this spring, Fotidias was frequently in the spotlight.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Fotiadis is in his mid-50s, with silver sideburns and fashionable, slim-cut suits. He's also highly credentialed, with a master's degree in architecture and urban design from Columbia University, licenses in New Jersey and New York, and a career spanning 30 years.

Fotiadis regularly spoke at architecture conferences in the United States and Ukraine, did media interviews and traveled abroad to architectural awards shows. In one of his most recent interviews, from July, Fotiadis said he was planning to do more work in Ukraine.

"We started [JFA] in 2009, and through a series of very interesting and lucky circumstances we wound up doing a lot of work in Eastern Europe, mostly in Ukraine, from 2009 to 2013," Fotiadis said in a video interview with the Kiyv Post. "Then things went dark for a while, and now I'm back, because things seem to be coming back." The interview was videoed on location at the Skyline, a high-rise condominium in downtown Kiev that Fotiadis helped design.

As a speaker at conferences, Fotiadis often embraces the academic side of architecture. At the 2016 International Architecture Forum in Kiev, he delivered a keynote address titled, "Modern Architecture NOW: Form, Function, Meaning Value — A Report from New York."

Fotiadis' biography posted on the IAF conference website is filled with the names of prestigious real estate developers who have hired him. It also lists cities around the world in which he has worked, including, "New York, San Francisco, Boston, Miami, Cairo, Doha, Dubai, Seoul, Moscow, Panama City, Kyiv, Donetsk, Baku, Batumi, Athens, Istanbul and Ankara."

From international jet-set clients to northern N.J.

The more one learns about Fotiadis' career, however, the more difficult it becomes to square his new job with his old one.

Twelve days after announcing the JFA closure, Fotiadis became design director at SNS Architects and Engineering, a 30-person firm based in Montvale, a northern New Jersey borough. The firm's portfolio indicates that it mainly does commercial and institutional projects in the tri-state area, including car dealerships, self-storage facilities and medical labs.

An SNS employee confirmed to CNBC that Fotiadis had joined the firm in April, but other SNS executives did not respond to interview requests and questions about how the firm came to hire him. His biography on the SNS website does not mention any of his former clients, although it does say that he worked on projects in Eastern Europe.

"The architect is the one who translates the Trump brand into actual design and construction standards." -Jan deRoos , Cornell University Business School
Fotiadis' portfolio from JFA has been removed from his website, but it is still archived on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. There, visitors can see hundreds of images and plans from 30 projects Fotiadis has designed in the past decade for more than a dozen clients. Many of the jobs were for confidential clients. But three clients stood out.

One was the Trump Organization. Another was the richest man in Ukraine, billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, who built a metals and mining empire in the chaotic decade following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Today, Akhmetov is best known to Americans as the Ukrainian oligarch who first hired former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort in 2005 to come and work for him in Ukraine. For the next 10 years, Manafort would serve as the top consultant to Akhmetov's pro-Russia political party. Manafort is currently awaiting trial on federal money laundering and tax evasion charges stemming from his work in Ukraine.

Fotiadis' third major client was the Silk Road Group, a Tbilisi-based private investment company led by CEO George Ramishvili. Silk Road Group licensed the Trump brand in 2011 for several properties in Georgia for which Fotiadis designed the plans. So far, none has been built.

Neither Akhmetov nor Ramishvili started out in real estate. For them, as for many Eurasian millionaires and billionaires, property development offered a way to put to good use all the wealth and political clout they had amassed in other industries.

Read more: Inside the murky world of two Eastern European oligarchs, Donald Trump and the architect they shared

CNBC attempted to confirm the dates and details of the work Fotiadis lists in his portfolio for each of these clients with their representatives and lawyers. None has responded to inquiries.

But there are positive testimonials on Fotiadis' website from the CEOs of Akhmetov's Esta Holdings and the Silk Road Group. Both developers emphasized Fotiadis' skill at adjusting to clients' needs and understanding their local markets.

That Fotiadis' work would be in demand in Eurasia does not surprise Cornell's deRoos.

"The Trump style sells well in this part of the world," deRoos said. "And the crazy thing is that these buildings are pretty transportable. So you can build the same sort of building in Baku [Azerbaijan] as in Central Park, and you develop a sort of signature."

Below: The Trump Parc Stamford, one of several Trump properties Fotiadis helped design before he launched his own firm in 2009.

A view of Trump Parc Stamford tower in Stamford, Conn.
Bryan Anselm | The Washington Post | Getty Images

A view of Trump Parc Stamford tower in Stamford, Conn.

Trump's "favorite" architect

Some of the first jobs Fotiadis did after starting his own firm in 2009 were projects for Akhmetov in Donetsk, an industrial city in eastern Ukraine. As a client, Akhmetov represented one extreme of what drives real estate development projects in Eastern Europe: the nearly unlimited resources and political clout of just one individual.

A billionaire and member of parliament from the pro-Russia ruling party at the time, Akhmetov sponsored construction projects not unlike the oligarch himself: efficient, low-key and not reliant on anyone — not investors, government officials or VIPs like Trump.

The Silk Road Group and Ramishvili, on the other hand, represented another extreme type of client: a developer who is overly reliant on outside forces. From the start, Fotiadis' Silk Road projects were plagued by investors who never materialized, government officials who lent support only when it served their political aims, and VIP partners like Trump, who talked a big game but ultimately contributed little.

Read more: Inside the murky world of two Eastern European oligarchs, Donald Trump and the architect they shared

Despite marketing himself as an Akhmetov-type alpha billionaire in total control of his projects, Trump was rarely as personally involved in his overseas licensing deals as the marketing and promotional materials made him out to be.

This strategy protected Trump personally from the risk of massive losses in the event that a deal went south, such as a deal with Silk Road Group for a Trump Tower in the resort town of Batumi, Georgia. It also meant that Trump could seek out deals in less time.

Below: The unfinished Trump International Hotel and Tower (left) in Baku, Azerbaijan, was another overseas project Trump launched in 2012, but was not one of Fotiadis' designs.


Artur Widak | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Fotiadis, Trump and Cohen were especially busy in 2011 and 2012. In addition to designing and pitching the Batumi project, Fotiadis designed a Trump Tower in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, as well as a massive movie production lot for Trump in Florida.

In 2011, while Fotiadis was working on the design of the Trump Batumi tower, Silk Road Group partner Rtskhiladze began talking to Cohen about trying to get funding to build another Trump-branded tower in Kazakhstan.

The Trump Diamond Astana, designed by Fotiadis in late 2011, was pitched to the Kazakh government in 2012. Had it been built, the tower would have been the tallest building in Central Asia. But Trump's bid for the project lost out to a rival developer.

In Homestead, Florida, Fotiadis designed what would have been the biggest studio lot in America, if it had been built. Dubbed Trump World Studios, the idea was initially brought to Trump by an ambitious elected official who was looking to score points for himself — much the way then-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili sought out Trump for the Batumi project in 2010.

In this case, however, it wasn't a foreign president. It was Miami-Dade planning commissioner Joe Martinez, who was preparing to mount a bid for mayor of Miami. According to The Hollywood Reporter, which delved into this story in 2016, Trump hosted Martinez for dinner at Mar-a-Lago before deciding he would hire, "his favorite design firm, John Fotiadis Architect, to draw up plans."

"He wanted a world-class facility," Fotiadis told THR. "It was really like a city, with residential, commercial, retail, restaurants. It even had a grid, boulevards and a main plaza." The architect added, "Trump doesn't waste people's time; when he calls, we get to work right away."

"Trump doesn't waste people's time; when he calls, we get to work right away." -John Fotiadis, architect
Two months later, in early June, Cohen and Fotiadis went to Florida together to present the proposal at a meeting of the Miami-Dade County planning commission. Trump's plan called for the county to lease 800 acres of land to Trump for $1 a year, in exchange for which Trump would personally invest "hundreds of millions" of dollars in a state-of-the-art movie facility, THR reported.

The plan collapsed six months later, drowned under the weight of government agencies and costly environmental concerns, not to mention the constant noise from planes at a military base next door.

Neither Fotiadis nor Trump Organization lawyer Alan Garten responded to questions about whether Fotiadis did any more work for Trump after that, or any projects other than the ones in his portfolio.

Nonetheless, it appears Fotiadis has maintained a good relationship with the company. In 2014, he organized a trip for Ukrainian real estate developers to the United States to visit notable buildings and meet with the people who developed them. Trump Tower in New York and Trump Tower in Chicago were on the itinerary, which was posted online.

To this day, it remains difficult to get a clear picture of Trump's real estate licensing deals in the former Soviet bloc. Nor is it easy to sort out precisely the totality of the role Fotiadis played in these projects.

Still, the architect's importance is clear.

"The very fact that you see him popping up so many times here suggests he's playing a key role in this network," said Columbia University's Alex Cooley, an expert in Eastern Europe and Eurasia.
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/06/how-a-n ... urope.html



EXCLUSIVE: Former Fox News reporter says Russians colluded with Trump campaign through Roger Stone
New book details Russians' decisive role in making Trump's campaign messages go viral.
JOE ROMM
JUN 5, 2018, 9:54 AM
.
In a series of exclusive interviews, former Fox News Channel chief political correspondent Carl Cameron explained to ThinkProgress how the Russians coordinated their cyber attack on the 2016 election with the Trump campaign.

Trump confidant Roger Stone’s success was having the connections and creating the opportunities for [Russian intelligence officer] Guccifer2.0 and other Russian groups to really start taking advantage of social media and pounding these negative memes that Hillary’s a crook, et cetera,” Cameron explained to ThinkProgress’ Joe Romm — as related in the new book, How to Go Viral and Reach Millions.

Russian interference was decisive in electing Trump, as former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. told PBS in late May. “To me, it just exceeds logic and credulity that they didn’t affect the election, and it’s my belief they actually turned it,” Clapper said.

How the Trump campaign and the Russians coordinated their message
In his interviews with ThinkProgress, Cameron, who covered the Trump campaign for Fox News, connected the dots between the campaign, Russian intelligence, and the various Russian trolls around the world who were creating and viralizing memes and fake news on social media to help elect Trump.


The email Roger Stone didn’t want anyone to see

Cameron explained that getting Trump elected had been a major goal of long-time Trump adviser and surrogate Roger Stone. Stone had encouraged Trump to run for years, and in 2000 he worked on Trump’s brief run for the Reform Party presidential nomination. He worked for Trump’s presidential campaign in 2015 before transitioning to a more informal advisory role.

Cameron has followed this dynamic for decades. After working in New Hampshire radio and TV starting in 1985, Cameron was one of Fox News’ original hires. He has covered every presidential campaign for them starting in 1996.


In 2016, Cameron explained, Stone helped Guccifer2.0 — who worked for Russian intelligence — and other Russian-backed groups boost an anti-Clinton narrative online targeted at key groups. Stone direct-messaged with Guccifer2.0 and WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange on Twitter in August 2016.

Stone denies this was collusion, but as Cameron explains, “it’s important to know that Roger’s entire career was based on doing dirty tricks. He boasted about it from the time he was in college until today.”

CREDIT: SCREENGRAB
Roger Stone gets caught in blatant lie on CNN, doesn’t miss a beat

Guccifer2.0, who claimed credit for giving WikiLeaks the DNC’s stolen emails, had been masquerading as a self-described “lone hacker.” Stone amplified that phony narrative in an August piece for Breitbart News, Steve Bannon’s viral pro-Trump fake news site. In a piece headlined “Dear Hillary: DNC Hack Solved, So Now Stop Blaming Russia,” Stone asserted: “I think I’ve got the real culprit. It doesn’t seem to be the Russians that hacked the DNC, but instead a hacker who goes by the name of Guccifer2.0.”


But FBI investigators were able to track Guccifer2.0 online and determined he was an officer of Russian military intelligence, as the Daily Beast reported in 2018. Significantly, on August 4, 2016, Stone sent an email to then-Trump adviser Sam Nunberg saying, “I dined with my new pal Julian Assange last nite.”

The email also suggested Assange had material that could help Trump overcome Clinton’s big lead in the polls. On the same day, Stone appeared on the conspiracy theory pro-Trump InfoWars radio show and explained Assange had “devastating” information about “Clinton Foundation scandals.”

Stone claimed that while the Clinton campaign argued there was no proof of those scandals, “I think Julian Assange has that proof and I think he is going to furnish it for the American people.” Stone also said he spoke with Trump a day earlier, on August 3.

CREDIT: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
The most damning thing in Roger Stone’s newly released email about Assange

On August 10, Stone told a local Florida GOP group, “I’ve actually communicated with Julian Assange.” CNN points out that on August 12, Stone said he knew Assange had some of Clinton’s emails, “and I believe he will expose the American people to this information in the next 90 days.” On August 14, Stone exchanged direct messages with Guccifer2.0. And on August 21, Stone tweeted, “It will soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel,” implying Stone had early inside knowledge that Podesta’s emails had been stolen — which they had been, also by the GRU.

Late last month, emails obtained by the Wall Street Journal revealed that Stone withheld documents from the House Intelligence Committee that showed he lied about his communications with radio host Randy Credico, who he viewed as a back channel to WikiLeaks during the campaign.

In mid-September, Stone emailed Credico, who had interviewed Assange weeks earlier, and asked him to “Please ask Assange for any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30 — particularly on August 20, 2011.” That contradicts Stone’s September 2017 House testimony that he “merely wanted confirmation” from Credico that Assange had information about Clinton.

Indeed, in one of his responses, Credico made clear he was a back channel to Assange’s team: “That batch probably coming out in the next drop… I can’t ask them favors every other day. I asked one of his lawyers… they have major legal headaches right now..relax.”

On October 1, Stone tweeted “Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done. #Wikileaks.”

Within days, the Podesta emails were made public by WikiLeaks with perfect timing for Trump — one hour after Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tape was made public on October 7. They became a key part of the narrative used to drown out the negative attention Trump’s remarks were getting with a deluge of social media alternative story lines.

And no one did more to help WikiLeaks go viral than Trump himself — as ThinkProgress pointed out in a piece headlined, “Trump mentioned WikiLeaks 164 times in last month of election, now claims it didn’t impact one voter.” Trump spoke about the WikiLeaks emails or their content over and over again from October 10 to election day in speeches, media appearances, and debates. He said: “Boy, that WikiLeaks has done a job on her, hasn’t it?”; and “We love WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks.”; and “The media is an extension of the Clinton campaign as WikiLeaks has proven, and they will not talk about WikiLeaks.”

Of course, Trump had publicly asked for Russian help with Clinton’s emails. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press,” Trump said on July 29. Hours later, he tweeted “If Russia or any other country or person has Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 illegally deleted emails, perhaps they should share them with the FBI!”

But Stone and Trump were hardly the only members of the campaign working to coordinate messaging with the Russians and their operatives. George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, told an Australian diplomat in May 2016 that the Russians had a lot of dirt on Clinton in the form of thousands of emails stolen to embarrass her — and that he had learned about this weeks earlier directly from Russians associated with the Kremlin.

On March 27, 2018, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team filed court documents asserting that Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, were communicating with someone (“Person A”) who the FBI said “has ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016.” The filing indicates one of Gates’ associates stated “that Gates told him Person A was a former Russian intelligence officer with the GRU.”

Manafort and Gates had both been indicted by a grand jury in 2017 and 2018 for multiple counts of bank fraud and conspiracy committed during their years working as “unregistered foreign agents” for the pro-Russian government of Ukraine. Gates pleaded guilty to two felonies — lying to investigators and conspiracy. A 2018 court filing by Mueller revealed that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had written a memo in August 2017 authorizing Mueller to investigate Manafort for alleged “crime or crimes colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.” In the filing, Mueller explains “the investigation covers ties that Manafort had to Russian-associated political operatives, Russian-backed politicians, and Russian oligarchs.”

Manafort was in the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting where Donald Trump Jr. and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, met with a Russian lawyer connected to the Kremlin (and four other Russians) after being promised in an email “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” Trump Jr. responded to that email, “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer” — yet another example of message coordination.

Later, when the news of that meeting broke, the White House issued a statement claiming it was about adoption of Russian babies. We subsequently learned that Trump insisted on putting out this false statement — and Mueller is likely investigating whether that might be part of an obstruction of justice case against the president.

Donald Trump and Don Jr. at a January 2017 press conference
Trump dictated statement his administration claimed he didn’t draft
But while the White House had repeatedly denied the president wrote his son’s statement, the New York Times reported Saturday that Trump’s legal team wrote a memo to Mueller in in late January admitting Trump did dictate it.

The president, Roger Stone, and other campaign officials have put a lot of effort into lying about their meetings and contact with Russians linked directly to the Kremlin and its cyber attack on the United States. But they put even more effort into coordinating their message with the Russians. It will be up to Mueller to determine just how extensive that coordination was.

As Cameron explained to ThinkProgress, a key goal of this coordination was to create opportunities for Russian intelligence and Russian trolls. The point was to viralize the anti-Clinton memes and narratives to suppress the vote for her.

It’s no secret the Trump campaign was running a major effort to suppress Clinton’s vote through negative messaging. In fact, nearly two weeks before the election, Bloomberg ran a lengthy article on the Trump campaign that quoted a “senior official” saying, “We have three major voter suppression operations under way.” The article explains that “Trump’s invocation at the debate of Clinton’s WikiLeaks e-mails… was designed to turn off Sanders supporters.”

The role of Cambridge Analytica
Cameron added one more key point involving Cambridge Analytica, the “big data” firm that the Trump campaign had hired to help micro-target voters with messages tailored and tested to persuade them.

The company had built a vast database of more than 10 million persuadable voters to target using its analysis of their demographic information and psychological profiles developed from Facebook and other data. But in March, a major New York Times investigation revealed that much of that data was obtained fraudulently.

Facebook headquarters sign decorated for Veteran's Day in Menlo Park, California, November 10, 2017. CREDIT: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images.
Facebook admits data firm working for Trump scammed millions of U.S. voters
Cambridge Analytica, which had been backed by billionaire conservative donor Robert Mercer and had former Trump strategist Steve Bannon on its board, was already under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller for possible connections to Russian interference in the election.

The Trump campaign paid the company millions of dollars in the closing months of the campaign. But they were worth the price, Cameron explained to ThinkProgress — according to the senior campaign officials he spoke to at the time.

The campaign knew Trump was behind in the key states of North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan with over two months to go, but they were not able to budge the numbers despite all of Trump’s efforts, including repeated campaign visits. Too many voters simply didn’t like Trump.

But with the help of Cambridge Analytica’s voter profiling, the campaign could identify a core group of voters who didn’t much like either Trump or Clinton, particularly blue-collar voters, and micro-target them with tailor-made anti-Clinton messages aimed at swinging some toward Trump and depressing the vote of the rest. Cameron said the senior people in the campaign believe this final push made the difference.

Indeed, as CNN noted after the election, the nearly 18 million voters who disliked both candidates “may have decided the election.” CNN explained that “this disillusioned group — 14 percent of all voters — broke heavily for Trump: 69 percent to 15 percent.” In addition, “About 1 in 7 in this group voted for someone other than the major party candidates.”

In short, the Russian efforts to viralize anti-Clinton memes and the campaign’s efforts to micro-target voters with Cambridge Analytica appear to have been decisive. That’s quite a sobering thought given that both efforts were fraudulent and possibly even illegal.

NOTE: Former Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron is now Chief Communications Officer at New Frontier Data, a big data company for which ThinkProgress’ Joe Romm is an adviser. The views expressed here are theirs alone.
https://thinkprogress.org/former-fox-ne ... f6ddd09d8/


Paul Manafort’s Day Of Reckoning Might Be Coming Sooner Than We Thought
By Tierney Sneed | June 7, 2018 11:49 am

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort may have only one more week to wear his famously fancy Italian suits.

Manafort will be appearing in front of a federal judge in a D.C. courthouse for a June 15 hearing on allegations that he engaged in witness tampering while awaiting trial in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. It is possible, and even likely, that U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson will order Manafort — who has been under house arrest since October — into immediate detention until his trial, which is currently scheduled for Sept. 17.


“I don’t see how he leaves the courthouse and doesn’t go directly to jail,” Nick Akerman, a defense attorney and former Watergate prosecutor, told TPM.

[ Read a reporter’s notebook from Tierney Sneed on how Manafort’s bail hearing might go » ]

Though his trial doesn’t start for several weeks — with sentencing, if convicted, even farther in the future — the Trump campaign chairman who had advised other GOP presidential campaigns may be headed to jail much sooner. It would be a remarkable fall for a political operative who was once dubbed the leader of “the torturers’ lobby,” given the millions Manafort made representing foreign dictators. It could also dramatically ratchet up the pressure on Manafort to cooperate with the Mueller probe, which could pose new legal threats to President Trump and his associates.

“Unless he comes up with some good arguments that completely undercut what I see right now, in the very strong government motion, I think she’s going to put him in,” said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor and longtime white-collar defense attorney.

Mueller alleges Manafort attempted to reach out to former two associates involved in his Ukraine lobbying effort, from which many of the charges against him stem. Manafort and his business partner Konstantin Kilimnik (only identified as “Person A” in the filings) allegedly texted and called the associates starting in February, after new charges against Manafort were unveiled, the court documents said. According to the filings, Kilimnik told one associate in a text that Manafort wanted to “give him a quick summary that he says to everybody (which is true) that our friends never lobbied in the US, and the purpose of the program was EU.” Mueller also filed emails and memos that allegedly show the associates had, in fact, partaken in lobbying activities within the U.S.

“The papers, I think, read persuasively,” said white collar defense attorney and former prosecutor Harry Sandick, who added that the “biggest single factor” in whether Manafort goes to jail next week “is the views of the judge who makes the decision.”

“It’s a very discretionary decision. There is no legal rule that compels the defendant to be detained or not detained,” he said.

Manafort has until Friday morning to file a response to Mueller’s allegations. He may try to present evidence that rebuts Mueller’s narrative and he could put forward a defense based on the law, arguing that his alleged behavior does not require that he be sent to jail.

At next week’s hearing, the government is not required to present its evidence through witness testimony the way it must at a trial. So the hearing could be focused just on what’s in the court filings — though the judge requested that the FBI agent who filed a declaration supporting Mueller’s allegations, as well as any other witnesses either side wants to call, should be ready to testify.

“The only possible witness that Manafort can bring forward is himself. And he would be absolutely wacko to take the stand and waive his Fifth Amendment privilege here,” Akerman said.

The witness tampering allegations relate to the charges Mueller brought that Manafort failed to disclose foreign lobbying. He also has been charged with an assortment of financial crimes, both in D.C. and in Virginia, arising from the Ukraine lobbying work, which predated President Trump’s campaign. He has pleaded not guilty in both cases. The Virginia trial is slated for the end of July.

Manafort’s spokesman Jason Maloni declined to comment for this story, but in a statement after Mueller’s witness tampering allegations, said Manafort was “innocent” and that the latest allegations would not change his defense.

For Manafort’s bail to be revoked, Mueller must only convince a judge that there is probable cause — a notably lower standard than beyond reasonable doubt — to believe that Manafort committed a crime, and that there is no combination of conditions of release that will prevent Manafort from fleeing, posing a danger to the community, or violating his bail.

“The government has clearly established its burden of at least probable cause,” Ackerman said.

Still, in bail hearings, like in sentencing, judges are left with broad discretion, and Jackson could choose to impose new restrictions on Manafort’s house arrest conditions, or just give him a heavy tongue lashing.

Manafort got a pass, albeit with a scolding from the judge, when he previously violated the court’s gag order on the case. On the other hand, Jackson gave a lawyer who pleaded guilty to misleading Mueller’s investigators a month in prison, even though the prosecutors weren’t requesting any jail time.

“Most judges take violation of bond conditions as a personal betrayal,” Cotter said.

Jackson’s decision to push the hearing off until next week could be a sign that she does not think Manafort poses a danger to the public, or it could mean that she wants to give Manafort plenty of time to respond and for her to consider his arguments “to create a record of fairness as she decides to put him in,” Sandick said.

“Certainly his lawyers are telling him today, ‘Look Paul, she likely is going to rule a week from Friday, so you need to get your affairs in order now. You need to prepare for going in. Now we are going to fight to prevent that, but you’ve got to prepare for that,’” Cotter said.
https://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker ... il-hearing



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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby BenDhyan » Thu Jun 07, 2018 7:45 pm

Trouble for the Dems wrt grifting in US Election, the word is that the former staffer under investigation is Dan Jones, the senior staff aide to Senator Dianne Feinstein when she was Vice-Chair of the Senate Intel committee..

DOJ investigating ex-Senate Intel staffer for leaking information

By Jordain Carney - 06/07/18

The Justice Department is investigating a former staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee who allegedly made an unauthorized disclosure of information.

The probe came to light after the Senate quietly passed a resolution this week that would allow the committee to provide records to the Justice Department, which requested documents as part of the investigation.

"The Select Committee on Intelligence has received a request from the Department of Justice for records pertinent to a pending investigation arising out of allegations of the unauthorized disclosure of information by a former employee of the Committee," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement in the Congressional Record.

"This resolution would authorize the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, acting jointly, to provide records in response to this request from the Department of Justice," McConnell added.

Neither the resolution, or the scant public comments from senators on the DOJ probe, disclose who the former committee aide is, or what information they allegedly disclosed.

http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/391280-doj-investigating-ex-senate-intel-staffer-for-leaking-information

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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Jun 07, 2018 8:20 pm

"Michael Cohen is very angry at this point, very angry ... I think he's angry with misguided loyalty & I believe there could be some nuclear things coming"

- Cohen friend DonnyDeutsch






Senate Investigators May Have Found a Missing Piece in the Russia Probe

An ex-congressman has alleged ties to the Trump campaign, as well as powerful figures in Russia and Ukraine. Finding out what he knows is crucial, a top Democrat in the Senate says.

Natasha Bertrand is a staff writer at The Atlantic where she covers national security and the intelligence community.
6:59 PM ET
GOP Congressman testifying.
Curt Weldon, who served in Congress for 29 years, emerges as a curious figure in the Senate's Russia probeAlex Wong / Getty
An ex-congressman has attracted scrutiny from the Senate Judiciary Committee, as it continues to investigate whether President Donald Trump’s campaign conspired with Moscow to sway the 2016 presidential election.

Curt Weldon, a Republican and former Pennsylvania congressman, lost his re-election campaign more than a decade ago following an FBI probe into his ties to two Russian companies. He has “connections to both Russia and the Trump campaign” that are raising suspicions among senators, a spokeswoman for Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said. Feinstein is the committee’s ranking member, and wants to interview Weldon, the spokeswoman said.

The reasons for the committee’s interest in Weldon are murky, but his ties to Russia are significant. Members of Congress believe, for example, that Weldon may lead to answers about why the Trump administration sought to lift sanctions on Russia in the aftermath of the 2016 election despite a public statement by intelligence agencies that the Kremlin tried to help Trump win. Weldon may also have information about the role a Russian oligarch may have played in trying to influence the Trump administration—though Weldon denied this when I asked him about it.

Additionally, Weldon appears to have knowledge of a key instance in which a foreign national sought to influence the president through one of his closest advisers—a central theme of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s election interference.

At issue is the question of whether the president and his associates have sought to trade favors with foreign entities for personal gain. Mueller has been investigating, for example, whether Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, tried to use his position to repay old debts to a Russian oligarch, and whether Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, have influenced Trump’s foreign-policy decisions based on their business interests. Mueller is also investigating foreign-linked donors to Trump’s inauguration fund.

Asked how Weldon was connected to the campaign, Feinstein’s office would not elaborate, citing the sensitivity of the Judiciary Committee’s ongoing investigation. Weldon declined multiple interview requests. But a letter Feinstein sent last year to Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, may provide a clue. In it, Feinstein asked for all of Cohen’s communications “to, from, or copied to” Weldon, as well as correspondence “related to” Weldon, along with nearly two dozen other people.

Weldon’s name stuck out—he had served as a member of Congress and had not been mentioned previously in relation to the Russia investigation. But his connection to Cohen may lie in a mutual acquaintance who has since testified before Mueller’s grand jury: a former member of the Ukrainian Parliament named Andrii Artemenko.

***

In January 2017, shortly after Trump’s inauguration, Artemenko met with Cohen at a New York City hotel to discuss bringing peace to Russia and Ukraine. Also present was Felix Sater, a friend of Cohen’s and a former business partner of Trump’s. All three men confirmed to me that this meeting took place. When Artemenko pitched the peace plan, which involved lifting sanctions on Russia in exchange for Russia’s retreat from eastern Ukraine, Cohen said he would deliver it to then–National-Security adviser Michael Flynn, according to The New York Times. Artemenko told the newspaper that he had received encouragement for his peace plan from top aides to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Artemenko also told me that he had gotten “confirmation” that the peace plan had been left on Flynn’s desk. But Cohen walked back his story after the meeting was exposed by the Times, insisting that he had thrown the plan in the garbage. (Flynn has not responded to multiple requests for comment.)

Weldon, who has known Artemenko, the Ukrainian politician, for more than a decade, was furious that The New York Times had learned about the meeting, according to a person who spoke with him at a separate gathering last March, two weeks after the story in the Times had been published. “We were so close,” Weldon complained, this source recalled. Then Weldon dropped a bombshell: “He said [he and Artemenko] had already secured funding for the promotion of the plan from Viktor Vekselberg’s fund in New York City.”

Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch who attended Trump’s inauguration, was questioned by Mueller’s team late last year, according to The New York Times. The peace plan would have benefited Vekselberg: He has been doing business in the United States since at least 1990, when he co-founded the conglomerate Renova Group as a joint U.S.–Russian venture. Attempts to reach Vekselberg through his business were unsuccessful.

The New York City fund Weldon was allegedly referring to was Columbus Nova, the lone U.S. investment arm of Renova, according to the source who spoke to Weldon in March. Months later, given recent developments in the Russia Probe, the detail about Columbus Nova is shocking. When this source relayed the conversation with Weldon to me earlier this year, it had not yet been reported that Columbus Nova gave more than $500,000 to Cohen’s LLC, Essential Consultants, over a seven-month period in 2017. Weldon’s alleged reference to Columbus Nova, and his comment about Vekselberg’s role in funding the plan’s promotion, renews questions about what that $500,000 was actually for.

The New York Times has reported that Cohen and Vekselberg met 11 days before Trump’s inauguration, and discussed U.S.–Russia relations. Columbus Nova acknowledged in a statement that it hired Cohen “after the inauguration” for consulting work, but insisted that Vekselberg had nothing to do with it. “Columbus Nova itself is not now, and has never been, owned by any foreign entity or person including Viktor Vekselberg or the Renova Group,” the statement read. Columbus Nova did not mention in the statement that its president, Andrew Intrater, is Vekselberg’s cousin. The company did acknowledge it had hired Cohen as a “business consultant.”

According to the BBC, Cohen has in the past leveraged his relationship with the president to land a lucrative deal with a foreign entity. The outlet reported last month that Ukraine paid Cohen at least $400,000 to arrange a meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in June 2017. (Poroshenko and Cohen have both denied that money was exchanged.)

Neither Cohen nor his attorney responded to multiple requests for comment regarding the payments Cohen’s company received from Columbus Nova in 2017. They also ignored repeated questions about whether the money was connected to the proposed Russia-Ukraine peace plan. Weldon told me in a LinkedIn message: “I have never met Viktor Vekselburg [sic] and am not aware of any peace plan that he would have funded.” He then made a reference to his work with Ukraine’s Rada, or parliament, during his time in office. “As one of the founders of the Rada/Congress Relationship during my 29 years in Congress, I spent much time on US/Ukraine relations and tried repeatedly to strengthen the US/Ukraine relationship.”

Artemenko, the Ukrainian, told me that he and Weldon have known each other for more than 10 years, but tried to minimize the significance of their appearance together at an event, in February 2016, about “how Americans can promote peace and stability in Ukraine.” Last year, Weldon asked his colleague Tommy Allen, the founder of Allen Tactical Security Consultants, to vet Artemenko’s plan, Allen told me. “We were at a meeting in Washington, and Artemenko walked in because he was meeting with Curt,” Allen said. “We tried to warn him off of Artemenko, because you never know who the oligarchs are behind these guys, and the players behind the players tend to stay pretty static.” Allen said he did “not recall” Weldon ever asking anyone for money. “The individuals I know of who were providing funding were all U.S. entities.”

Fast forward to another meeting in Washington, the one in March 2017, where Weldon told my source about Vekselberg’s role in the peace plan. Only four or five people were in the room, and the gathering “had nothing do with politics—it only had to do with Curt [Weldon]’s businesses,” this source said. Still, Weldon “couldn’t help himself” when the topic of Russia came up. “He started saying, ‘Putin is not that bad. The U.S. is much worse in many ways.’ He was very cynical.” That’s when he started complaining about the peace plan’s demise, this source said.

Felix Sater, who says he initiated the conversation between Artemenko and Cohen about the peace plan told me he didn’t remember Vekselberg’s name coming up when they gathered in New York. He also said that, as far as he knew, Columbus Nova hadn’t been involved. He noted, however, that Cohen had been looking for new clients around that time. “It seems clear,” Sater said, “that the company was paying for access.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/ar ... be/562343/


Trump’s Friend Elliott Broidy to Get Information in Case Against Qatar
By Bob Van Voris and Caleb Melby
June 6, 2018, 8:16 PM CDT
Former Republican party official has sued over email leak
Broidy admitted paying $1.6 million to former Playboy Playmate
Elliott Broidy, the Republican fundraiser and Donald Trump friend whose stolen emails have spilled into public, took a step forward in his pursuit of evidence that Qatar may have been involved.

A federal judge in New York ruled Wednesday that Joey Allaham, a real estate consultant and former owner of a Manhattan kosher steakhouse, must turn over any records showing ties to the government of Qatar. Broidy claims Allaham worked as an unregistered agent for the Middle Eastern nation and has ties to one if its lobbyists, Nicholas Muzin.

The leaked Broidy emails have spawned embarrassing stories on his efforts to use his influence with Trump to the benefit of clients in Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere. Broidy is suing Qatar in federal court in Los Angeles, claiming it’s behind the email hacks in retaliation for his public criticism of the country. Qatar denies Broidy’s allegations.


Elliott Broidy and his wife Robin.Photographer: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages via AP Photo
The email hack is one of two controversies to have dogged Broidy. In April, he stepped down as Republican National Committee deputy finance chair after saying he paid $1.6 million to a former Playboy Playmate he’d impregnated, as part of a hush agreement negotiated by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

Qatar, which is seeking to have Broidy’s suit tossed out, argued against the Allaham subpoena, claiming its communications with officials and agents should be protected. But at a midday hearing Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan gave Allaham 72 hours to comply.

Document Demand

“The judge’s order rightfully affirms that American citizens who are hired by foreign governments are still subject to our laws here in the United States,” Lee Wolosky, a lawyer for Broidy, said in a statement Wednesday.

Allan Anderson, who represents Allaham, didn’t return a voicemail and email seeking comment. Allaham, who isn’t a defendant in the case, is scheduled to give a deposition June 22.

The subpoena demands documents showing Allaham’s communications with Qatari officials and agents, including Muzin, about Broidy and his firm, Broidy Capital Management; records relating to payments to Allaham from Qatar; communications about Allaham’s retention by the country; and communications between Qatar and various law firms, lobbyists and public relations firms about Broidy and Broidy Capital.

Qatar, home to a U.S. air base, has had an unsettled relationship with Trump, who last year denounced the Persian Gulf nation as a “funder of terrorism” but in April welcomed its monarch to the White House. The country has engaged more than two dozen U.S. firms to help lobby the U.S. government, including two recent hires with ties to Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s attorney who has focused on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling.

Senior Adviser

On May 21, Qatar’s Attorney General hired Blueprint Advisers, headed by Chris Henick, who previously worked at the consulting and security firm Giuliani Partners LLC, and served as a senior adviser to Giuliani’s 2007 presidential campaign.

Blueprint’s co-chairman, Tony Carbonetti, served as chief of staff to Giuliani when he was mayor, and co-founded the politician’s eponymous consulting firm. Blue Print will be paid $1.2 million for a year’s service.


Qatar also hired Debevoise & Plimpton, with Michael Mukasey signing documents for the law firm. Mukasey has worked with Giuliani for decades -- a relationship so close that he pledged to recuse himself from cases involving Giuliani in 2007, when he was in hearings to be appointed U.S. attorney general. His son Marc Mukasey, a former law partner to Giuliani, was in discussions as recently as a month ago to join Trump’s legal defense team.

The elder Mukasey will receive $1,600 an hour for representing Qatar, according to a May 29 letter. Another attorney, David W. Rivkin, will receive $1,485 per hour.

In an interview, Carbonetti said he’s worked with Qatar for years, but had only recently been asked to perform duties that required registering as a foreign agent. Carbonetti is a former senior adviser at Perella Weinberg Partners, where an investment arm of Qatar has held an ownership stake.

Mukasey didn’t immediately return a call, and a spokesman for Qatar’s embassy in Washington declined to comment.
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles ... inst-qatar


Key figures in Gulf crisis sever ties with Qatar
The defections are a setback in the monarchy’s yearlong power struggle with its Middle East neighbors.
By BEN SCHRECKINGER 06/07/2018 05:08 AM EDT

A New York businessman who played a crucial role in Qatar’s efforts to win influence in the United States has terminated his relationship with the Persian Gulf nation and is now condemning it as a threat to Middle East peace.

Joey Allaham, a Syrian-born restaurateur and entrepreneur who had been helping Qatar make politically useful investments and curry favor with the American Jewish community, told POLITICO that he has recently cut ties with the country.


“Qatar enjoys portraying themselves as the purveyor of peace in the region, but this could not be further from the truth,” Allaham said in a sharp reversal from his past position.

His defection comes at the same time that another top Qatari agent, Nick Muzin, a former adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), is also stopping work for the wealthy monarchy.

Their work and other Qatari efforts had been paying off, with the Trump administration softening its stance toward the country in recent months. The loss of their services is a setback to Qatar’s efforts to resolve a yearlong diplomatic crisis in the Persian Gulf and improve its standing in the U.S.

Though his background is in the restaurant business and he has little political experience, Allaham had emerged in recent months as an important behind-the-scenes player in the stateside influence battle touched off by the Gulf crisis, which began last June when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar’s other neighbors jointly severed ties with the country over its close relationship with Iran, among other grievances.

Since then, the countries involved have invested heavily in influence operations in the United States.
ADVERTISING



As part of his charm offensive on Qatar’s behalf, Allaham said, he set up meetings for Qatari officials and “distributed several charitable donations as an introductory show of goodwill.” Allaham said he did not lobby any public officials or conduct any public relations work.

Efforts by Allaham, who is Jewish, included outreach to prominent American advocates of Israel, including Alan Dershowitz, an informal Trump adviser, and Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, who is a longtime ally of White House national security adviser John Bolton. Dershowitz and Klein both traveled to Qatar in January to discuss improved relationships with the Jewish community, a move that stoked controversy in Israel and among American Zionists because of Qatar’s support for the Palestinian fundamentalist organization Hamas and the monarchy’s close ties to Iran.

In a further blow to Qatar’s diplomatic efforts, Klein on Wednesday backed away from any rapprochement, reiterating his condemnation of the country. “I’ve lost confidence that they’re at all serious about changing,” he told POLITICO.

In shutting the door on any opening with Qatar, Klein cited the invitation of Yusuf al-Qaradawi — a Muslim Brotherhood leader who has expressed support for suicide bombings against Israeli citizens and is banned from entering the U.S. — to a banquet hosted by Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani last week in the capital, Doha.

Allaham also cited the Islamic preacher’s invitation to the official banquet among his reasons for defecting. Jassim Al-Thani, a spokesman for the Qatari Embassy in Washington, declined to comment.

Elliott Broidy is pictured. | AP Photo
GOP fundraiser: Ex-American spy helped Qatar hack emails
By JOSH MEYER
It is not clear why Muzin, who had been working closely with Allaham, ended his work for the monarchy. In announcing the end of his work for the country on Wednesday, Muzin struck a more conciliatory tone.

“I am proud of the work we did to foster peaceful dialogue in the Middle East, to increase Qatar’s defense and economic ties with the United States, and to expand humanitarian support of Gaza,” he wrote on Twitter. “I look forward to speaking out in the days ahead about the challenges we faced and what more needs to be done.” Muzin declined to comment further.

Allaham told POLITICO that he would register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for the work he performed for Qatar. Muzin has been registered as an agent of Qatar since September.

In reversing course on Qatar, Allaham also implicated Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, a former Qatari diplomat who until recently led Qatar Investments, a $100 billion Qatari sovereign wealth fund. Last month, former business partners of Rumaihi accused him in a California lawsuit of using an investment in a basketball league led by a friend of Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, to gain influence with the U.S. administration.

According to Allaham, Rumaihi asked him to “lie to the press that Steve Bannon had maliciously created the lawsuit, when in fact he was working to mediate the lawsuit out of court.” A spokesman for Rumaihi's company described the allegation as “completely false.
https://www.politico.com/story/2018/06/ ... ulf-630039
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby BenDhyan » Thu Jun 07, 2018 11:07 pm

Developing....

Former Senate Intelligence Committee director indicted, arrested for lying to FBI about leaking to reporters

by Christian Datoc| June 07, 2018

Jim Wolfe, a longtime former director of security at the Senate Intelligence Committee, was indicted and arrested Thursday night for giving false statements to FBI agents during their investigation into leaks of classified information to the media.

According to the Department of Justice, Wolfe lied to FBI agents back in 2017 "about his repeated contacts with three reporters, including through his use of encrypted messaging applications."

Wolfe is also accused of making false statements about providing "non-public information related to matters occurring before the [Senate Intelligence Committee]" to two additional reporters.

"The Attorney General has stated that investigations and prosecutions of unauthorized disclosure of controlled information are a priority of the Department of Justice. The allegations in this indictment are doubly troubling as the false statements concern the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive and confidential information,” Assistant Attorney General Demers said of Wolfe's arrest. “Those entrusted with sensitive information must discharge their duties with honesty and integrity, and that includes telling the truth to law enforcement.”

“Mr. Wolfe’s alleged conduct is a betrayal of the extraordinary public trust that had been placed in him. It is hoped that these charges will be a warning to those who might lie to law enforcement to the detriment of the United States.”

Earlier on Thursday, Wolfe was named in connection to the DOJ's secret collection of phone and email records of a New York Times reporter with whom he had engaged in a 3-year-long romantic relationship.

In recent months, the Trump administration, assisted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has made a conscious effort to crack down on leaks to the media.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/former-senate-intelligence-committee-director-indicted-for-lying-to-f-b-i-about-leaking-information-to-reporters

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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby mentalgongfu2 » Fri Jun 08, 2018 2:02 am

Additional reporting from a separate source, with some interesting details on this case and general procedure.

Ex-Senate Aide Charged in Leak Case Where Times Reporter’s Records Were Seized

Federal law enforcement officials secretly seized years’ worth of a New York Times reporter’s phone and email records this year in an investigation of classified information leaks.CreditJoshua Roberts/Reuters

By Adam Goldman, Nicholas Fandos and Katie Benner


June 7, 2018

WASHINGTON — A former Senate Intelligence Committee aide was arrested on Thursday in an investigation of classified information leaks where prosecutors also secretly seized years’ worth of a New York Times reporter’s phone and email records.

The former aide, James A. Wolfe, 57, was charged with lying repeatedly to investigators about his contacts with three reporters. According to the authorities, Mr. Wolfe made false statements to the F.B.I. about providing two of them with sensitive information related to the committee’s work. He denied to investigators that he ever gave classified material to journalists, the indictment said.

Mr. Wolfe, the Intelligence Committee’s director of security, was slated to appear before a federal judge on Friday in Washington. Reached on Thursday evening before his arrest, Mr. Wolfe declined to comment.

Mr. Wolfe’s case led to the first known instance of the Justice Department going after a reporter’s data under President Trump. The seizure was disclosed in a letter to the Times reporter, Ali Watkins, who had been in a three-year relationship with Mr. Wolfe. The seizure suggested that prosecutors under the Trump administration will continue the aggressive tactics employed under President Barack Obama.

In his role with the committee, Mr. Wolfe was responsible for safeguarding classified and other sensitive information shared with lawmakers. He stopped performing committee work in December and retired in May.

Court documents describe Mr. Wolfe’s communications with four reporters — including Ms. Watkins — using encrypted messaging applications. It appeared that the F.B.I. was investigating how Ms. Watkins learned that Russian spies in 2013 had tried to recruit Carter Page, a former Trump foreign policy adviser. She published an article for BuzzFeed News on April 3, 2017, about the attempted recruitment of Mr. Page in which he confirmed the contacts.


F.B.I. agents initially approached Ms. Watkins about the relationship she had with Mr. Wolfe, saying they were investigating unauthorized leaks. The Justice Department told her in a letter sent in February that her records had been seized. The Times learned on Thursday of the letter, which came from the national security division of the United States attorney’s office in Washington.

In another case, the indictment said, Mr. Wolfe used an encrypted messaging app to alert another reporter in October 2017 that he had served Mr. Page with a subpoena to testify before the committee. The reporter, who was not named, published an article disclosing that Mr. Page had been compelled to appear. After it was published, Mr. Wolfe wrote to the journalist to say, “Good job!” and, “I’m glad you got the scoop,” according to court papers.

The same month, Mr. Wolfe reached out to a third reporter on the same unidentified app to offer to serve as an unnamed source, the documents said.

Mr. Wolfe also communicated with a fourth reporter, using his Senate email account, from 2015 to 2017, prosecutors said. They said he denied those contacts.

News media advocates consider the idea of mining a journalist’s records for sources to be an intrusion on First Amendment freedoms, and prosecutors acknowledge it is one of the most delicate steps the Justice Department can take
. “Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy, and communications between journalists and their sources demand protection,” said Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman.

Ms. Watkins’s personal lawyer, Mark J. MacDougall, said: “It’s always disconcerting when a journalist’s telephone records are obtained by the Justice Department — through a grand jury subpoena or other legal process. Whether it was really necessary here will depend on the nature of the investigation and the scope of any charges.”

A prosecutor notified Ms. Watkins on Feb. 13 that the Justice Department had years of customer records and subscriber information from telecommunications companies, including Google and Verizon, for two email accounts and a phone number of hers. Investigators did not obtain the content of the messages themselves.

The records covered years’ worth of Ms. Watkins’s communications before she joined The Times in December 2017 to cover federal law enforcement. During a seven-month period last year for which prosecutors sought additional phone records, she worked for BuzzFeed News and then Politico reporting on national security.

Shortly before she began working at The Times, Ms. Watkins was approached by the F.B.I. agents, who asserted that Mr. Wolfe had helped her with articles while they were dating. She did not answer their questions. Mr. Wolfe was not a source of classified information for Ms. Watkins during their relationship, she said. That same month, F.B.I. agents asked Mr. Wolfe about an article written by Ms. Watkins. He denied knowing the reporter’s sources.

During the same interview with the F.B.I., Mr. Wolfe denied knowing Ms. Watkins. But confronted with pictures of the two together, he admitted being in a “personal relationship” with her since 2014.

Ms. Watkins said she told editors at BuzzFeed News and Politico about it and continued to cover national security, including the committee’s work. Ben Smith, the editor in chief of BuzzFeed News, said in a statement, “We’re deeply troubled by what looks like a case of law enforcement interfering with a reporter’s constitutional right to gather information about her own government.”

A Politico spokesman, Brad Dayspring, said that the situation was “managed accordingly” after Ms. Watkins disclosed the matter, and that her beat was national security and law enforcement, not solely the committee, which other reporters primarily covered.

Ms. Watkins also told editors at The Times about the previous relationship when she was hired to cover federal law enforcement.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last year that the Justice Department was pursuing about three times as many leak investigations as were open at the end of the Obama administration. Under Mr. Obama, the Justice Department prosecuted more leak cases than all previous administrations combined.


“The attorney general has stated that investigations and prosecutions of unauthorized disclosure of controlled information are a priority of the Department of Justice,” John Demers, a top Justice Department official, said in a statement announcing Mr. Wolfe’s arrest.

The investigation came to light after the Senate Intelligence Committee made a cryptic announcement on Wednesday that it was cooperating with the Department of Justice “in a pending investigation.” Earlier, the Senate quietly and unanimously adopted a resolution to share committee information with the Justice Department “in connection with a pending investigation arising out of the unauthorized disclosure of information.”

Mr. Wolfe, a former Army intelligence analyst, worked for the committee in a nonpartisan capacity for nearly 30 years. He worked closely with both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.

Mr. Trump has complained bitterly about leaks and demanded that law enforcement officials seek criminal charges against government officials involved in illegal and sometimes embarrassing disclosures of national security secrets.

When law enforcement officials obtained journalists’ records during the Obama administration, members of Congress in both parties sounded alarms, and the moves touched off a firestorm among advocates for press freedom that helped prompt the Justice Department to rewrite its relevant guidelines.

Under Justice Department regulations, investigators must clear additional hurdles before they can seek business records that could reveal a reporter’s confidential sources, such as phone and email records. In particular, the rules require the government to have “made all reasonable attempts to obtain the information from alternative, non-media sources” before investigators may target a reporter’s information.

In addition, the rules generally require the Justice Department to notify reporters first to allow them to negotiate over the scope of their demand for information and potentially challenge it in court. The rules permit the attorney general to make an exception to that practice if he “determines that, for compelling reasons, such negotiations would pose a clear and substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation, risk grave harm to national security, or present an imminent risk of death or serious bodily harm.”

Top Justice Department officials must sign off on any attempt to gain access to a journalist’s communications records.

It is not clear whether investigators exhausted all of their avenues of information before confiscating Ms. Watkins’s information. She was not notified before they gained access to her information from the telecommunications companies. Among the records seized were those associated with her university email address from her undergraduate years.

“We intend to get to the bottom of these leaks. I think it has reached epidemic proportions,” Mr. Sessions said in November during testimony on Capitol Hill. “It cannot be allowed to continue, and we will do our best effort to ensure it does not continue.”

The Intelligence Committee is responsible for carrying out oversight of American intelligence agencies, including the F.B.I., the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency, and their secretive operations. It is one of the most tightly secured groups in Congress, with strict rules for lawmakers and the professional staff governing the circulation and release of sensitive, and often classified, information that passes before the committee.

As security director, Mr. Wolfe would have been responsible for ensuring that those rules were upheld. When the committee became a matter of intense interest as it undertook a bipartisan investigation of Russia’s election meddling, Mr. Wolfe played a more visible role ushering witnesses in and out of the committee’s secured office space.

Matt Apuzzo and Charlie Savage contributed reporting.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/07/us/politics/times-reporter-phone-records-seized.html
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:16 am


Polly Sigh

James Wolfe indictment alleging that he leaked info to Ali Watkins for her Apr 3, 2017 @BuzzFeedNews story exposing Carter Page as MALE-1 [which I had already made public via twitter on Mar 30, 2017 https://twitter.com/dcpoll/status/847578533505282049 …].
https://www.justice.gov/usao-dc/press-r ... 6/download

https://twitter.com/dcpoll/status/1004920909776539650




emptywheel


A detail abt FBI seizing Ali Watkins' email records from when she was an undergrad at Temple.

Gmail runs Temple's email service (this was an issue in Xiaoxiang Xi's case). So this would have been a request for Watkins records as indiv customer and as institutional customer.

I'm convinced Microsoft's legal effort to provide their "customers" notice of subpoenas pertains to this. Some institutional customers (sadly, in Xi's case, Temple is not at all one of them) would challenge such orders if they knew about it, but MSFT and Google get gagged.

So on top of the ethical issues about subpoenaing a journalist, know that the govt is bypassing challenges from other institutions w/1A concerns by going to the underlying provider and gagging them.
https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1 ... 2921750528


who leaked


Sessions....I DEMAND TO KNOW ...FUCK JOURNALISTS


The Justice Department Deleted Language About Press Freedom And Racial Gerrymandering From Its Internal Manual

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein ordered a review of the US Attorneys’ Manual, which features high-level policy statements as well as practical guidance to prosecutors on how to do their jobs.

Zoe TillmanApril 29, 2018, at 2:10 p.m.

Since the fall, the US Department of Justice has been overhauling its manual for federal prosecutors.

In: Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ tough-on-crime policies. Out: A section titled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial.” References to the department’s work on racial gerrymandering are gone. Language about limits on prosecutorial power has been edited down.

The changes include new sections that underscore Sessions’ focus on religious liberty and the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on government leaks — there is new language admonishing prosecutors not to share classified information and directing them to report contacts with the media.

Not all changes are substantive: Long paragraphs have been split up, outdated contacts lists have been updated, and citations to repealed laws have been removed.

The “US Attorneys’ Manual” is something of a misnomer. Federal prosecutors in US attorney offices across the country use it, but so do other Justice Department — often referred to as “Main Justice” — lawyers. The manual features high-level statements about department policies and priorities as well as practical guidance on every facet of legal work that comes through the department.

The last major update to the manual was in 1997. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — the DOJ’s number two official and a veteran federal prosecutor — ordered the top-to-bottom review, according to department spokesperson Ian Prior. In a March speech announcing changes to the department’s policy for enforcing certain anti-corruption laws, Rosenstein lamented the difficulty prosecutors have keeping track of policy and procedure changes when they aren’t reflected in the manual.

Some of the recent changes were publicly announced. In January, for instance, the department said it was adding a section called “Respect for Religious Liberty,” directing prosecutors to alert senior officials about lawsuits filed against the US government “raising any significant question concerning religious liberty” and articulating “Principles of Religious Liberty” that Sessions laid out in an earlier memo.

Most changes haven’t been publicly announced, though, which is common practice, according to former DOJ officials who spoke with BuzzFeed News. US attorney offices have been notified of the significant changes so far, and notice will go out when the review is done, Prior said. The public version of the manual online notes when individual sections were last updated.

The Justice Department declined to comment on specific changes. In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Prior said the manual is meant to be a “quick and ready reference” for lawyers, not “an exhaustive list of constitutional rights, statutory law, regulatory law, or generalized principles of our legal system.”

“While sections of the USAM have changed over time, the last comprehensive review and update of the USAM occurred twenty years ago. During that time, policies have changed or become outdated, and leadership memos were issued without being incorporated into the USAM. As part of the effort to consolidate policies into a useful one-stop-shop of litigation-related documents for the Department, the Deputy Attorney General ordered a thorough, department wide review of the USAM,” Prior said. “The purpose of that review is to identify redundant sections and language, areas that required greater clarity, and any content that needed to be added to help Department attorneys perform core prosecutorial functions.”

The review is taking place while the Justice Department is still missing several Senate-confirmed officials, including heads of the Criminal Division, the Civil Division, the Civil Rights Division, and the Environment and Natural Resources Division. Nominees for those posts are waiting for a final vote in the Senate. Trump has yet to announce a nominee for associate attorney general, the department’s third-ranking official, following the February departure of Rachel Brand. Prior said that the review process has included career attorneys from across the department.

Sections of the manual that dealt with a variety of personnel and administrative issues, many of which are explained in other internal department documents or are included in federal statutes and regulations, were removed. Those sections included language about what happens when a US attorney spot is vacant, policies for securing and paying witnesses, and compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

BuzzFeed News compared the latest version of the manual with earlier versions saved via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, vows to crack down on government leaks at an August 2017 press briefing.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, vows to crack down on government leaks at an August 2017 press briefing.

Press freedom and contact with the media

The media contacts policy was updated in the manual in November. A subsection titled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial” was removed entirely. That section, which was included in versions of the manual at least as far back as 1988, according to DOJ archives, read as follows:

“Likewise, careful weight must be given in each case to the constitutional requirements of a free press and public trials as well as the right of the people in a constitutional democracy to have access to information about the conduct of law enforcement officers, prosecutors and courts, consistent with the individual rights of the accused. Further, recognition should be given to the needs of public safety, the apprehension of fugitives, and the rights of the public to be informed on matters that can affect enactment or enforcement of public laws or the development or change of public policy.”

The updated media contacts policy includes language about balancing “the right of the public to have access to information about the Department of Justice” with other factors in deciding whether to release information. Language in a different section about the department’s preference for open court proceedings hasn’t been changed since 2008.

New sections were added to the media contacts policy. One states that it is illegal to share classified information with someone who isn’t authorized to receive it. Another directs DOJ employees to report “any contact with a member of the media about a DOJ matter.” And another outlines protections for government whistleblowers, detailing the protections in place for prosecutors if they report concerns internally.

The additions to the media contacts policy don’t feature new information — the illegality of leaking classified information is well established, as are whistleblower protections. But taken together, they echo Sessions’ and, more broadly, the Trump administration’s efforts to tamp down government leakers.

At a press conference in August, Sessions denounced leaks and announced that the department was reviewing its policies for subpoenaing reporters. Those policies had been adopted under former attorney general Eric Holder after revelations that federal investigators had gathered emails and phone records from journalists.

The Holder-era subpoena policy hasn’t been changed in the manual to date.

Texas state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa looks at legislative district maps prior to a Senate Redistricting committee hearing in May 2013.
Eric Gay / Associated Press
Texas state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa looks at legislative district maps prior to a Senate Redistricting committee hearing in May 2013.

Redistricting and racial gerrymandering

The part of the manual addressing the Justice Department’s civil rights work was revised in March. In a section discussing enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, the new version removes previous references to redistricting and racial gerrymandering.

The previous version stated: “The Voting Section defends from unjustified attack redistricting plans designed to provide minority voters fair opportunities to elect candidates of their choice and endeavors to achieve racially fair results where courts find, following Shaw v. Reno, 113 S.Ct. 286 (1993), and Johnson v. Miller, 115 S.Ct. 2475 (1995), that redistricting plans constitute unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.”

That section is gone from the new version, and there are no direct references to redistricting or racial gerrymandering. References in earlier versions of the manual to other types of voting rights issues that fall under the purview of the Civil Rights Division — from the bans on literacy tests and poll taxes to language access protections — are included in the new version.

The Justice Department was before the US Supreme Court last week on a gerrymandering case involving redistricting efforts in Texas. The administration sided with Texas in defending the state's maps; the Justice Department under Obama had taken the opposite position, arguing that the evidence showed Texas’s redistricting plans were aimed at diluting the voting strength of minority residents.

The updated manual refers generally to the Voting Rights Act's prohibition on practices that deny a citizen the right to vote based on race. A 2013 report by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General found that the number of cases filed under Section 2 had steadily dropped since the 1990s, although the department under the Obama administration had cited Section 2, as well as the US Supreme Court case Johnson v. Miller referred to in the other deleted section, in arguing against Texas’s redistricting plans.

The manual’s list of laws enforced by the Civil Rights Division was also updated. It includes new references to laws about unfair employment practices against immigrants, religious land use protections, genetic nondiscrimination, and more. It no longer includes citations to several laws addressing nondiscrimination in federal grant programs, but the manual addresses enforcement of those laws elsewhere.

In a section listing the standards for when the department can file an amicus, or “friend of court” brief, in a civil rights case, the updated version includes a new potential factor: cases that “raise constitutional challenges of public importance under the First or Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” underscoring Sessions’ interest in religious liberty issues and other speech-related issues under the First Amendment.

The updated version of the manual incorrectly referred to the title in the US Code that covers several voting rights laws cited. The department fixed that section after BuzzFeed News asked about it.

Principles of prosecution

Sections that reflected Holder-era charging policies were removed, consistent with a memo Sessions issued in May 2017 rescinding those policies. In a section on whether prosecutors should pursue the most serious charges possible, language was deleted about how decisions should be based on “an individualized assessment” of cases and that charging decisions should “fairly reflect the defendant’s criminal conduct.”

That section now reads: “Once the decision to prosecute has been made, the attorney for the government should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offenses. By definition, the most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences.”

Under Sessions’ policy, prosecutors can still bring charges that aren’t the most serious ones possible, but that must be approved by a superior. The new version also removes Holder-era language that outlined circumstances when prosecutors should consider not pursuing charges that carry mandatory minimum sentences.

Several sentences that broadly referred to limits on prosecutors’ power were removed from entries that otherwise stayed largely intact.

In a section titled “Principles of Federal Prosecution,” the preface was edited in February to remove this sentence: “The manner in which Federal prosecutors exercise their decision-making authority has far-reaching implications, both in terms of justice and effectiveness in law enforcement and in terms of the consequences for individual citizens.”


That language was in a version of the manual saved by the Wayback Machine from 2015; earlier versions are not available. The 2015 version of the manual did not indicate that the section had been updated since the 1997 overhaul.

Farther down, this line was removed from a subsection about when prosecutors should pursue additional charges against a defendant: “The bringing of unnecessary charges not only complicates and prolongs trials, it constitutes an excessive — and potentially unfair — exercise of prosecutorial discretion.” This language was also in a version of the 2015 manual with no post-1997 update note.


In a subsection about entering into plea agreements when a defendant denies guilt, these sentences were taken out: “Such pleas are particularly undesirable when entered as part of an agreement with the government. Involvement by attorneys for the government in the inducement of guilty pleas by defendants who protest their innocence may create an appearance of prosecutorial overreaching.” A 2015 version of the manual indicated this language had been in place at least since 2006.


Steven Wasserman, vice president for policy of the National Association of Assistant US Attorneys and a federal prosecutor in Washington, DC, told BuzzFeed News that it wasn’t immediately clear to him why those portions were removed, but he didn’t think the deletions would alter how prosecutors do their jobs, since they dealt with concepts that are drilled into prosecutors.

“I can’t see a reason to remove it, but I didn’t think that removing it changed the gist of the policy,” he said.
https://www.buzzfeed.com/zoetillman/the ... .bsLez1al4



Ben Smith

The leak hunt appears to center on our story based in court documents that show Russian spies approaching a Trump adviser, confirmed on record by Carter Page. I'm baffled DOJ would spy on a reporter to keep that secret, or why that should be secret at all.



Kenneth P. Vogel

JUST POSTED: MANAFORT secretly steered $2.4M to a company run by two journalists tasked with getting European pols to vouch for YANUKOVYCH. But the journos — @alanfriedmanit & Eckart Sager — dimed out Manafort when he asked them to lie to MUELLER.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/07/us/p ... esses.html



Former Manafort colleagues told Mueller he attempted to influence their testimony: report
BY AVERY ANAPOL - 06/08/18 07:34 AM EDT 395

Former Manafort colleagues told Mueller he attempted to influence their testimony: report
© Greg Nash
Two veteran journalists who previously worked with embattled former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort reportedly offered information to special counsel Robert Mueller that resulted in recent accusations that Manafort attempted to tamper with witnesses.

The journalists previously helped lead consulting and lobbying work in an attempt to prop up the reputation of former Russia-aligned Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych in a business endeavor that Manafort funded with $2.4 million from overseas accounts, according to The New York Times.

The journalists’ decision to turn on Manafort is what prompted special counsel Robert Mueller to accuse Manafort of attempting to tamper with witnesses, as he did earlier this week, according to the report. Manafort will appear in court on Friday at a hearing on the witness tampering allegations.

The former Trump campaign chair has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges related to his pre-campaign work, including money laundering, tax fraud and conspiracy against the United States.


The business partners are just the latest Manafort associates to turn on him, the most significant being campaign associate Rick Gates. Gates, who was named in the same indictment as Manafort, pleaded guilty in February to two charges and is cooperating with Mueller.
Current Manafort allies told The Times that Manafort feels “betrayed,” and believes that Mueller is attempting to pressure him to turn on President Trump in the probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the election.

In court filings, federal prosecutors accused Manafort of trying to reach the journalists beginning in February, in an attempt to “shape” the information they told prosecutors.

Three Times sources identified the two journalists as Alan Friedman and Eckart Sager.

According to the filings, Manafort and another of his associates with ties to Russian intelligence, tried to reach Friedman and Sager via phone calls and encrypted texts. Rather than engaging with Manafort, the men informed Mueller that their former associate had tried to persuade them to “suborn perjury” and lie to investigators.

Mueller’s team asked a court on Monday to revoke Manafort’s pretrial release conditions, saying that his attempts to contact the associates were “in an effort to influence their testimony and to otherwise conceal evidence.”
http://thehill.com/homenews/administrat ... d-him-with


Schiff writes to Nunes and asks him to share witness transcripts to Mueller’s team, suggesting that “certain witnesses” may have lied to the House committee and may have to face perjury charges
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