Folks: BOTH HPSCI and SSCI have been conducting inadequate Russia investigations up to this point. Yes, HPSCI will likely change that. But thus far we don't have an adequate Congressional investigation, period.
ON SSCI’S INVESTIGATION: MANAFORT “CONSPIRED” WHETHER OR NOT TRUMP ALSO “COLLUDED”
February 12, 2019/50 Comments/in 2016 Presidential Election, Mueller Probe /by emptywheel
I’d like to point out something about this NBC report headlined, “Senate has uncovered no direct evidence of conspiracy between Trump campaign and Russia,” but instead showing,investigators disagree along party lines when it comes to the implications of a pattern of contacts they have documented between Trump associates and Russians — contacts that occurred before, during and after Russian intelligence operatives were seeking to help Donald Trump by leaking hacked Democratic emails and attacking his opponent, Hillary Clinton, on social media.
I sometimes beat up on Ken Dilanian and I don’t mean to do so here. Putting the headline and lead aside, his report shows the disagreement here, and he even references Mark Warner’s recent focus on Paul Manafort’s sharing of polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik (though it’s not clear he asked Richard Burr about the report).After it recently emerged that Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort shared campaign polling data with a man the FBI says is linked to Russian intelligence, Warner called that the most persuasive evidence yet of coordination.
“This appears as the closest we’ve seen yet to real, live, actual collusion,” he said on CNN.
No evidence has emerged, however, linking the transfer of polling data to Trump.
Natasha Bertrand says the report soft-pedals the Democrats’ belief.Senate Intelligence Committee aide tells me, re: NBC story, that right now there is “a common set of facts” that the panel is working with, “and a disagreement about what those facts mean.” They add: “We are closer to the end than the beginning, but we’re not wrapping up.”
But I think something else is going on, in addition to any downplaying Democrats’ views.
It’s that the report shifts back and forth between “conspiracy” and “collusion.”After two years and 200 interviews, the Senate Intelligence Committee is approaching the end of its investigation into the 2016 election, having uncovered no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.
“If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia,” said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in an interview with CBS News last week.
“We were never going find a contract signed in blood saying, ‘Hey Vlad, we’re going to collude,'” one Democratic aide said.
House Republicans announced last year they had found no evidence of collusion, but their report came under immediate criticism as a highly partisan product that excluded Democrats.
“Senator Richard Burr, The Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, just announced that after almost two years, more than two hundred interviews, and thousands of documents, they have found NO COLLUSION BETWEEN TRUMP AND RUSSIA!” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Is anybody really surprised by this?”
“This [sharing polling data] appears as the closest we’ve seen yet to real, live, actual collusion,” he said on CNN.
The final Senate report may not reach a conclusion on whether the contacts added up to collusion or coordination with Russia, Burr said.
Democrats told NBC News that’s a distinct possibility.
“What I’m telling you is that I’m going to present, as best we can, the facts to you and to the American people,” Burr told CBS. “And you’ll have to draw your own conclusion as to whether you think that, by whatever definition, that’s collusion.”
The story promises to talk about conspiracy, but then ends up talking about “collusion,” going so far as quoting Burr saying you need to draw your own conclusion about what you think the definition of “collusion” is.
That’s an important distinction, especially in a report that talks about Paul Manafort, not least because Manafort has already pled guilty to conspiring with Konstantin Kilimnik, albeit for covering up crimes in 2018 rather than committing them in 2016.
And while Burr complains we can’t know his or any of the other flunkies’ motives, Andrew Weissmann made it clear that Manafort told the grand jury he didn’t have just one motive when he handed highly detailed, recent polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik to be handed over to his Ukrainian and Russian paymasters.And I think that in the grand jury, Mr. Manafort said that from his perspective, [sharing polling data] which he admitted at that point was with — he understood that it was going to be given by [redacted] to the [redacted] and to Mr. redacted 9 character name], both. That from his perspective, it was — there was no downside — I’m paraphrasing — it was sort of a win-win. That there was nothing — there was no negatives.
My answer, with respect to the Court’s question about what it is — what the defendant’s intent was in terms of what he thought [redacted] I was just trying to answer that question, even though that’s not one of the bases for saying there was a lie here. And so I was just trying to answer that question. And what I meant by his statement that there’s no downside, is that can you imagine multiple reasons for [redacted]. And I think the only downside —
THE COURT: You meant no downside to him?
MR. WEISSMANN: Yes.
THE COURT: You weren’t suggesting that there was nothing — there’s no scenario under which this could be a bad thing?
MR. WEISSMANN: Oh, sorry. Yes. I meant there was no downside — Mr. Manafort had said there was no downside to Mr. Manafort doing it.
MR. WEISSMANN: And meaning all of this is a benefit. The negative, as I said, was it coming out that he did this.
This August 2, 2016 data hand-off occurred in the specific context of Manafort trying to get whole on his $20 million debt to Oleg Deripaska. The data was also going to some Ukrainian oligarchs that Manafort expected to pay him $2.4 million in November 2016. And all that’s aside from whether Manafort expected the Russians to do anything with the data that might help Trump.
He was badly underwater, and — according to his grand jury testimony, at least as described by Weissmann — he clandestinely handed off recent detailed polling data to a guy connected to the agency that was still hacking Hillary Clinton, to be shared with a bunch of oligarchs who could help him reverse his financial fortunes.
It seems there’s a conspiracy there one way another. Either Manafort effectively stole Trump’s campaign data and traded it to foreigners for monetary gain. And/or Manafort handed over that data expecting that the campaign would get a thing of value from the foreigners he was sharing it with.
Richard Burr would seem to argue that’s not “collusion” unless Trump knew about it (whether he did is one of the questions Mueller posed to Trump).
But it is a conspiracy, an agreement with Konstantin Kilimnik to commit one or more crimes, right there in the middle of the election season. Whether Mueller will charge it or do something else with it remains to be seen. But it is fairly clearly a conspiracy, down to the clandestine arrivals and departures from the dark cigar lounge.
Ultimately, Burr’s retreat to that word “collusion” is a tell. Because, given the public facts in this case, Republicans should be outraged that Trump’s campaign manager was so disloyal he shared highly sensitive data with potentially malign actors. Republicans should be outraged that Trump’s campaign manager was putting his own financial imperatives ahead of sound campaign practice.
But they’re not. For some reason, Republicans are not squawking about the explanation for this data hand-off that would suggest the campaign didn’t expect to benefit.
https://www.emptywheel.net/2019/02/12/o ... -colluded/
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Mueller: Trump's campaign manager shared highly detailed polling data w/a GRU asset at a meeting where he discussed sanctions relief.
Aaron, Glenn, & their minions: Hey look at what Richard Burr says!!!
For those of you repeating NYT's errors in my TL, claiming Manafort shared public polling data: Here's Manafort's OWN lawyer saying sharing the data couldn't have benefitted Manafort bc it was so complex.
When you read that a Congressional committee hasn't yet found "direct evidence" of something, understand that *all they're saying from an evidentiary standpoint* is that no one has *confessed* yet nor has any *explicit contract* been found—neither of which things anyone expected.
1/ Any attorney—rather than a journalist pretending to know what the legal terms they're using mean—will tell you that substantial evidence of collusion has been found and the only question is what the standard of proof is to be set at and if you think that standard has been met.
2/ When GOP Senate Intel chair Richard Burr was asked that question, he said Americans would have to read the report the Senate eventually creates—
likely a long time from now—and will then have to decide for themselves whether it's collusion. That's what he actually said to CBS.
3/ What journalists like @KenDilanianNBC did—instead of explaining how evidence works, and what Burr's words meant—was take a quote in which Burr was saying there'd been no confession or explicit contracts found yet, even though that's *self-evident, predictable, and irrelevant*.
4/ If you or I were in Ken's shoes—and we were writing about the most important story of our times—and we were using legal terms we didn't understand, we'd make sure we explained to readers *exactly what we were saying and what we weren't*. Unfortunately, that's not media today.
5/ No attorney with criminal law experience came into the Trump-Russia probe believing one of the conspirators would confess to Congress or that an explicit contract would be found. That absurd standard was set by non-attorney Trump supporters and was then *adopted by the media*.
6/ There may be confessions in the Russia probe before it's over, but they will come *via Mueller's charges/deals*, not Congress—and no explicit contract for a conspiracy like this would ever be created, let alone found. We knew all this two years ago. The media pretended not to.
7/ What was expected was that by interviewing witnesses the Senate would find *evidence* of collusion that could be put to a criminal or political jury. And Burr confirmed *that is what happened*. But because the media had misinformed the public about evidence, it misreported it.
8/ The journalists who misreported what Burr said to CBS and what it meant and how evidence works and the fact that most American criminal trials are in fact dominated by circumstantial or indirect evidence should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Rest assured, they are *not*.
9/ As an attorney, I'm ashamed that this has happened to us: that apparently no combination of attorneys and journalists was willing or able to explain at a time of national emergency even the most basic functioning of our justice system, though it was vitally important to do so.
10/ I can only hope that people reading this thread will share it as widely as possible so that the spread of disinformation about evidence and our criminal justice system being perpetuated by folks like @KenDilanianNBC can be mitigated slightly on this one social media platform.
11/ The percent of U.S. criminal cases in which one finds a contract agreeing to commit a crime is *virtually zero*. Confessions are *common*—and are *exactly* what Mueller has been getting, behind closed doors, from people like Flynn, Gates, Papadopoulos, Nader, and many others.
12/ The case for a conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and Kremlin agents has been made right in front of our faces every week for 2 years. Meanwhile, the media and Trump supporters have made up a fake justice system with fake rules and are assessing Mueller by that.
13/ If you sense I'm angry at people like @KenDilanianNBC, it's because he's paid a healthy salary to misinform you on things he doesn't understand and can't explain while I'm taking time away from my career to fix the mistakes he should be ashamed of but isn't. I *resent that*.
14/ I also know that Ken being bad at his job immediately goes viral on social media when the way in which he's bad at his job fits into exactly the false narrative that Trump supporters desperately want to hear and that the media knows will get it viewers. *That* makes me angry.
15/ And when I take the time to carefully point out to folks like Ken what it is they don't understand and what it is they need to correct and instead of doing so they accuse an officer of the court—which is what a lawyer is—of ulterior motives, that makes me *goddamned furious*.
SUMMARY/ Fix your sh*t, media. You're getting paid *more* than well enough to do your job without getting constantly corrected by experts in the areas you're attempting to cover. But the only *inexcusable offense* is not listening to those experts when they point out your errors.
NOTE/ If you want to know what question a responsible media would've asked Burr, it's this: "Has the Senate found inculpatory evidence of any crime with an implicitly collusive component, as attorneys define 'inculpatory evidence'?" Burr's answer would have been a *definite yes*.
NOTE2/ The media would then have written stories explaining to Americans that "inculpatory evidence" is evidence that tends to point *toward* the guilt of a defendant—and collusive intent can be implied in many criminal acts in whose statutes the term "collusion" nowhere appears.
NOTE3/ For instance, if at an international conference Putin has a private conversation with you you don't immediately tell media about, in which he tells you to tell the media your son spoke with Kremlin agents about "adoptions," and the next day you write a statement...
NOTE4/ ...saying exactly that, you might be guilty of witness tampering or obstruction or hindering prosecution or aiding and abetting but *none of those statutes* would have the words "conspiracy" or "collusion" in them, though that's what any layperson would say you were doing.
NOTE5/ I don't mean to say there are no journalists doing extraordinary work—there are. But it's harder than it should to be find one who is consistently exacting in how they talk about criminal cases, and some—like Ken—are downright irresponsible. Try to find the good ones. /end
https://twitter.com/sethabramson/status ... 66176?s=21
Today: I'll be covering a hearing on whether Russian national Yevgeniy Nikulin is competent to stand trial on charges he hacked LinkedIn. Twist here is he's apparently "of great interest" in DOJ's probe into 2016 election meddling.
The hearing is already over. Nikulin’s attorney asked Judge Alsup to delay the competency exam bc Nikulin wasn’t in court. No explanation was given why, but apparently Nikulin has in the past refused to show up to court dates. Competency exam is now March 5. I’ll have coverage.
https://twitter.com/helenchristophi/sta ... 1805623296
Jailed Russian of Interest in U.S. Election Probe, Official Says
Kartikay MehrotraAugust 24, 2018, 5:16 PM CDT
A Russian charged with hacking LinkedIn is of great interest in a U.S. probe of election meddling, according to a Justice Department official, even as his own lawyers complain he hasn’t cooperated with them since landing in a California jail in March.
The mystery around Yevgeniy Nikulin deepened Friday when a federal judge asked why his lawyers, who want him evaluated for possible mental illness, chose a San Francisco psychiatrist with a troubled past at California’s medical board.
And Nikulin’s defense team -- led by a New York-based attorney seasoned in representing Russians and Eastern Europeans charged with serious crimes in the U.S. -- says Russian officials have shown unusually strong interest in his case, arranging at least once to visit him in jail when the attorneys weren’t present.
The lead attorney, Arkady Bukh, said he remains concerned, maybe ”paranoid,” over Nikulin’s safety after a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned earlier this year in England with a nerve agent.
“They are very active, by far more active than any other case," Bukh said of Russian embassy officials. “Now it’s less frequent, but earlier in the case they were calling almost every day. I have no duties to them. They’re not my client.”
Bukh said Nikulin probably didn’t cooperate when officials from the Russian consulate visited him at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, California, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) east of San Francisco. Representatives of the Russian Embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Nikulin is accused by the U.S. of hacking LinkedIn and Dropbox in 2012, one of the largest data breaches in the country’s history when some 117 million login codes were stolen. His extradition to the U.S. from the Czech Republic in March heightened diplomatic tensions with Russia, which has been accused by American intelligence officials of hacking the Democratic National Committee’s email server while interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
Moscow had a dueling request with Prague officials to extradite Nikulin to Russia, which said when he was first arrested in 2016 that the U.S. was “hunting for Russian citizens across the world.”
U.S. Sanctions Russians Charged by Mueller for Election Meddling
Prosecutors are as eager to find out what, if anything, Nikulin knows about election meddling as they are to get to the bottom of the LinkedIn and Dropbox hacks, said the U.S. Justice Department official, who declined to be identified without authorization to discuss the case.
Federal marshals said that when Nikulin first arrived in San Francisco he physically confronted guards and tried to escape from custody -- and he was shackled for his next court appearance.
Ever since, his attorneys have said, he’s been unwilling to work with them. Valery Nechay, a lawyer helping Bukh, said Nikulin often “just stares off blankly or starts laughing at very serious moments.”
The lawyers won court approval this month, with no objections from prosecutors, for a psychological evaluation of Nikulin to determine whether he’s mentally incompetent to assist in his own defense.
But two days after the defense lawyers submitted the name of their chosen psychiatrist, Alexander Grinberg, U.S. District Judge William Alsup ordered Bukh and prosecutors to provide him with more information on Grinberg’s “probationary status with the California Medical Board arising out of complaints of unprofessional conduct and gross negligence.” The judge set an Aug. 27 deadline for both sides to comment.
Bukh said he’s not aware of the complaints against Grinberg, who has a 2-star rating on Yelp and a 4.5-star rating on healthgrades.com. Grinberg, whose voicemail has greetings in English and Russian, didn’t immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment.
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles ... n-meddling
Swiss Mystery Company Is at the Heart of a Mueller Puzzle
You’ve never heard of Zurich-based Salix Services AG. But Robert Mueller’s team has.
02.12.19 4:57 AM ET
A little-known company located in Switzerland has come under scrutiny by the Special Counsel’s Office for its connection to Psy Group, the firm that created a social-media manipulation plan to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election. That’s according to three sources with knowledge of the office’s questioning, and documents obtained by The Daily Beast.
Former employees of Psy Group said the FBI interviewed them in 2017 and asked detailed questions about the firm’s business and ownership structure. These same sources told The Daily Beast that while working at Psy, which is now defunct, they operated under the understanding that Joel Zamel, an Australian with links to Israeli intelligence, ultimately owned the firm. But the financial structure of Psy Group was much more complicated, they said, and included offshore entities registered in the British Virgin Islands.
At the end of that chain of opaque offshore entities sits a Zurich-based financial-services group known as Salix Services AG, according to interviews with former Psy Group employees and two other individuals with insight into the firm’s ownership. And financial documents appear to show a relationship between Salix, named after the Latin word for a willow tree, and at least one of the companies that owned Psy Group.
Robert Mueller’s team has eyed Salix as part of his wide-ranging probe into foreign meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Details about Psy Group’s financials and its ties to Salix could shed new light on a pair of mysteries that could be key to this part of the special counsel’s probe: Why did international business and influence-peddler George Nader pay Zamel $2 million after the election? And where did all that money go?
On its blander-than-bland website, Salix offers few clues about its operations. (“Like the Willow, at Salix our roots as well are deep and run wide through a network of clients, professional intermediaries, financial institutions and family offices,” the site reads.) And the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Zamel’s lawyer declined to comment. The Special Counsel’s Office declined to comment.
For more than a year, Psy Group and its owner, Zamel, have flown somewhat under the radar, despite the questions they’ve faced about their efforts to use online propaganda to help Trump with the presidency.
The New York Times was the first to detail Psy Group’s plan. And on Monday, The New Yorker published a detailed story about the firm and its operations, calling it a “Private Mossad for Hire.” But Zamel’s involvement in any plan to help Trump win through an online propaganda campaign has remained somewhat elusive. Former Psy Group employees previously told The Daily Beast that they believed Zamel could have carried out a plan separate from the one they pitched to Trumpworld in 2016.
In August 2016, Zamel met with former Blackwater founder Erik Prince, Donald Trump Jr., and Nader to discuss ideas that could potentially help Trump win the election. During that meeting, as first reported by the Times and later confirmed by The Daily Beast, Nader told the room that the crown princes of both Saudi Arabia and the UAE were eager to help Trump win the election.
Zamel, through his lawyer, has previously denied pitching an official plan for the campaign or working with campaign members. Two other sources close to the Trump team said they did not believe Zamel, or Psy Group, carried out an official cybercampaign. But according to The New Yorker, Zamel told Nader after the election, “Here’s the work that we did to help get Trump elected.”
Nader’s payment of $2 million after the election went through to Zamel. Exactly what for—that’s unknown. The ultimate beneficiary could offer clues.
Lawyers for Zamel—a self-styled Mark Zuckerberg of the national-security world—have previously refused to say how much of a stake he held in Psy Group and therefore how much controlling power he had over the company. But records obtained by The Daily Beast show Zamel is a director of the company that owns Psy.
Furthermore, documents reviewed by The Daily Beast and interviews with individuals familiar with Psy Group’s financial structure lay bare a complex web of companies with connections to Zamel that point to Salix.
“It’s how Joel holds his shares,” one former Psy Group employee told The Daily Beast. “They set up trusts and provide nominee services to… shield beneficial owners from their holdings. It’s completely legal.”
Psy Group, registered as Invop in Israel, has its ownership obscured by a series of offshore companies. In June 2018, after the company’s name surfaced in the Mueller investigation, employees asked an Israeli court to liquidate the company and financial records revealed that all of Psy Group’s shares were owned by a Cyprus-registered company known as IOCO Limited. Former Psy Group employees also told The Daily Beast that IOCO was “just another name for Psy.”
Since its creation in 2014, IOCO’s shares have been owned by a handful of companies registered to post-office boxes in the British Virgin Islands. Bank records show that ownership of IOCO changed hands on a roughly annual basis through a rotating cast of anonymous offshore companies.
There are few hints about who owns the handful of companies that hold IOCO’s shares, but at least one of the companies listed as a former IOCO owner has links back to Salix.
Leaked documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca show that a company named Cornell Enterprises SA was at one point a shareholder of Prime Nominees Limited, IOCO’s sole shareholder from late 2015 through mid-2016. Salix is listed in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ Panama Papers as an intermediary of Cornell, and Cornell shared an address with Salix in Zurich, Switzerland.
Protexer Limited, another former owner of IOCO, is listed as a subsidiary of the Trident Trust Company (Cyprus) Ltd., which currently serves as a secretary on the board of IOCO.
IOCO appears to have fallen on hard times itself. In December, the company announced a voluntary liquidation by its creditors scheduled for January 2019.
Meanwhile, former Psy Group employees believe they’ve been “cleared” by law enforcement in the U.S., they told the Daily Beast, and do not expect to face more questioning. Zamel appears to still be operating his other major global consulting firm, Wikistrat, which holds contracts with the U.S. government.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/swiss-mys ... es&via=rss
Thread by @dcpoll: "AUG 2016: After meeting with Oleg Deripaska in Moscow, GRU-trained Konstantin Kilimnik flew to NY on the oligarch’s private jet and met with […]
AUG 2016: After meeting with Oleg Deripaska in Moscow, GRU-trained Konstantin Kilimnik flew to NY on the oligarch’s private jet and met with Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort to discuss giving Deripaska private campaign briefings.
Soon after Konstantin Kilimnik flew to NY on Oleg Deripaska's private jet to meet with Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, Deripaska secretly met with Russia's deputy prime minister Prikhodko & briefed him on how to "solve the issue with America."
SEP 2016: FBI agents made a surprise visit to the NY home of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and questioned him about whether his former business partner, Paul Manafort, had served as a link to the Kremlin during his time as Trump’s campaign chair.
Though Konstantin Kilimnik fled to Russia from Ukraine [after Ukraine's PM met with Trump], Mueller is investigating the GRU-trained operative with help from 3 of Kilimnik's associates who have all flipped: Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, & Sam Patten.
ICYMI, AUG 2018: Kilimnik's US business partner Sam Patten [who played a central role in "Cambridge Analytica's ruthless bid to sway the vote in Nigeria"] was indicted by DC federal prosecutors [after a referral by Mueller] & agreed to cooperate.
JUN 2017: After White House talks [set up by Cohen] between Trump & Ukrainian Pres Poroshenko, Ukraine killed 4 investigations into Manafort & allowed his GRU-trained business partner, Konstantin Kilimnik, to flee to Russia, out of Mueller's reach.
Who is Richard Burr, Really? Why the public can’t trust his voice in the Russia probe
On the same day that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) officially joined the Trump campaign as a senior national security advisor, the U.S. intelligence community released a statement that the Kremlin was trying to interfere in the election. But the Senator already knew those facts, and much more. Burr had been fully briefed in secret by the U.S. intelligence community a few weeks earlier. Senior U.S. officials told Burr that Russia’s interference was designed to support Donald Trump’s electoral chances. Burr decided to team up with the Trump campaign anyway, and hitch his own electoral fate in North Carolina to Trump’s political fortunes.
More than two years later, Burr now leads the Senate’s flagship investigation into whether fellow members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia’s efforts. As the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burr’s work with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) on the investigation is heading toward its final stage. The committee is expected to issue its major findings in the coming months.
Burr has received remarkably favorable press coverage for his stewardship of the investigation. Many mainstream commentators have heralded his committee as a bipartisan effort to follow the facts and tell the American public what it finds. Closer observation, however, raises serious questions whether that’s how this chapter in the 2016 election saga will end.
What’s largely escaped scrutiny is the case of Burr’s own words and deeds during the 2016 campaign. It was impossible to put the pieces together back then. We now have a much clearer picture due to news reports, court filings by the special counsel, and congressional testimony by former administration officials. We have learned a lot about what Russia was doing, what the U.S. intelligence community knew, and what Burr was told. The picture that emerges is neither favorable for Burr personally, nor for what truths Americans can expect to receive from his stewardship of the committee in the months ahead.
Richard Burr and the 2016 presidential election
It’s a remarkable feat that Burr has held the position of overseeing the Senate’s Russia investigation given what was known at the time he assumed the role. It was well understood that Burr did not remain on the sidelines during the 2016 presidential election. As chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burr was a major catch for the Trump campaign when he joined as senior national security advisor on Oct. 7, 2016.
In a race for his own reelection at the time, Burr also tied himself closely to Trump. When the Access Hollywood tapes broke, by happenstance on the same day that Burr joined the campaign, many Republicans took it as an opportunity to flee Trump. Burr instead embraced the beleaguered candidate and said that Trump had sufficiently apologized. Burr brushed off any criticisms of his closeness to Trump in the ensuing weeks. At his own campaign rally in Gastonia, North Carolina in late October, Burr told the crowd, “There’s not a separation between me and Donald Trump.”
With these facts alone, Burr might have been compelled to recuse himself from overseeing any Russia investigation if he had taken a position in the administration. Fellow traveler Jeff Sessions found himself barred from overseeing the Russia investigation as Attorney General due to his own participation in the campaign’s national security group. Department of Justice regulations state that no employee can be involved in an investigation if he or she had a “political relationship” with an organization that’s “substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation,” which the regulations go on to specify includes a “close identification with … a campaign organization, arising from service as a principal adviser.”
While Sessions’ hands were tied, Burr’s hands in the Senate were free. Burr’s control over the investigation would be decided essentially by his own conscience and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s discretion.
Burr gets read into intelligence on Russia’s efforts to help Trump
When Burr assumed the lead of the Russia investigation, it was not widely known that there was something entirely unique about his role on the Trump campaign. Unlike any of the other senior advisers who joined the campaign, when Burr signed up, he was privy to the U.S. intelligence community’s findings that Russian President Vladimir Putin was engaged in an effort to interfere in the election in support of Trump.
Since January 2015, Burr had been a member of the Gang of Eight—a group that consists of the majority and minority leaders of the Senate and House and top Republicans and Democrats on the Senate and House intelligence committees. The U.S. intelligence community is able to share the nation’s most sensitive secrets with this small group without anyone else outside the administration knowing.
As far back as summer 2015, the U.S. intelligence community reportedly informed the Gang of Eight that Russia’s intelligence agencies were engaged in a hacking operation against the Democratic National Committee (DNC). That was many months before the DNC was aware of the breach, and months before the FBI reached out to the DNC to inform the organization.
In July 2016, when Trump called on “Russia, if you’re listening” to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, several Republican leaders directly and indirectly criticized him. A spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican member of the Gang of Eight, said, “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. Putin should stay out of this election.”
Senator Burr’s office, however, appeared to deflect attention away from Russia. A spokeswoman for Burr told Politico,“Burr has said for ‘some time that foreign adversaries are intent on gaining unauthorized access into our country’s government and private networks to access sensitive data.’” Politico noted that instead of talking about Trump’s statement, Burr’s spokeswoman “mostly focused on the FBI investigation of the recent hacking attack on the Democratic National Committee’s email servers,” telling the news outlet that “’public discussion about attribution … are premature, at best.’”
By that point, however, not only did Burr know that the intelligence community had attributed the DNC hack to Russia, but the U.S. intelligence agencies even knew in summer 2015 the specific unit and agents within Russia’s intelligence services who performed the hacking. Among other specific data, Dutch intelligence agencies had for months reportedly accessed security cameras in the hackers’ Moscow offices and handed that information over to their American counterparts.
As the U.S. presidential campaign headed into the general elections, the U.S. intelligence community gained a more comprehensive view of the Kremlin’s actions and intentions. Increasingly concerned by what they saw, senior U.S. intelligence officials updated the small group of congressional leaders.
From Aug. 11 to Sept. 6, 2016, the C.I.A. organized “a series of urgent, individual briefings for [the] eight top members of Congress.” The C.I.A. informed Burr and the others that the U.S. intelligence community had discovered the Kremlin was working to help elect Trump and that “unnamed advisers to Mr. Trump might be working with the Russians.”
With this information in hand, Burr decided not only to join the Trump campaign and tie his political fate to Trump. Burr also took the now difficult-to-explain step of publicly repudiating suggestions that the Russians were acting in support of Trump. In an Oct. 3, 2016 interview, Burr said, “I have yet to see anything that would lead me to believe” Russia was interfering to benefit Trump. It was also a notable exception to Burr’s reputation for avoiding speaking with the press.
Most important, we now know that what Burr said in the interview was inconsistent with what the C.I.A had told him. Former C.I.A. Director John Brennan would later testify before Congress that he had kept Burr and the others in the Gang of Eight fully informed.
“The full details of what we knew at the time was shared only with these members of Congress,” Brennan said. “The substance of those briefings was entirely consistent with the main judgments contained in the January classified and unclassified assessments—namely, that Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency, and help President Trump’s election chances.”
In summer 2016, U.S. intelligence agencies were also tracking an additional threat from Russia, this one directed against the voting systems of different states. Again, Burr made public statements that were at odds with what he had been told by the U.S. intelligence community. In his Oct. 3 interview with Foreign Policy, the news organization wrote that “Burr said ‘actual manipulation of the vote can’t happen’ because the DHS has assured lawmakers that no U.S. ballot machines are connected to the internet.” (Foreign Policy also noted the discrepancy between Burr’s statement and the New York Times reporting days later that DHS was actively trying to protect states’ online voting systems against cyber threats.)
What’s worse, we now know that DHS and the intelligence agencies secretly briefed Burr the previous month about their grave concerns of Russian threats to state voting systems. In early September 2016, President Obama had dispatched three senior U.S. officials including DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco, and FBI Director James Comey to brief the “Gang of Twelve,” a group that includes the Gang of Eight plus the chairs and ranking members of the committees on homeland security.
The White House wanted the congressional leaders to agree to “a bipartisan statement urging state and local officials to take federal help in protecting their voting-registration and balloting machines from Russian cyber-intrusions,” the Washington Post reported. McConnell nixed the idea and remained steadfast despite Paul Ryan’s effort to persuade the Senate Majority Leader to change his mind.
Yet even McConnell’s stance—declining to issue a joint public statement—was far shy of Burr’s tack of making public statements inconsistent with the intelligence information.
Over the course of September, other members of the Gang of Twelve publicly referred, in broad terms, to what they had been told in the intelligence briefings. Burr then cast doubt on their presentation of the facts.
On Sept 9, in a move perceived to break with Trump, Speaker Ryan called Putin an “aggressor,” and said, “It certainly appears that he is conducting state-sponsored cyberattacks on what appears to be our political system.”
On Sept. 14, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), the chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, told CNN: “I have been briefed at a very high-level classified briefing on these Russian allegations. They are very disturbing. The idea of a foreign power, particular one like Russia, a foreign adversary, attempting to mess with our elections — and Director Comey basically told us that the motivation was to undermine the integrity of the American political electoral process.”
The following week, the ranking member of Burr’s committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and her counterpart on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), issued a statement saying, “Based on briefings we have received, we have concluded that the Russian intelligence agencies are making a serious and concerted effort to influence the U.S. election.”
Burr’s reaction? Like his spokeswoman’s statement that summer, he deflected attention away from Russia. He said that his fellow congressional members’ warnings were “probably incorrect,” and that “they give the impression there’s one cyber-problem in the world: Russia and the elections, and that’s a huge understatement.” It is not clear specifically which of his congressional colleagues’ warnings Burr was referencing at the time.
The Oct. 7 U.S. Intelligence Community Statement
Burr had a new choice to make once the U.S. intelligence community released its Oct. 7 statement, which came four days after his interview with Foreign Policy. Most chilling were the first two sentences of the three-paragraph statement by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Homeland Security Secretary Johnson:
The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like … WikiLeaks … are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.
Burr would later act like those sentences did not exist. It was a head-turning moment in a nationally-televised debate for the North Carolina Senate seat.
Prior to his debate, Burr was hemmed in by Trump’s statements attempting to contradict the intelligence community. Two days after the Clapper-Johnson statement, Trump said in a Sunday night presidential debate against Hillary Clinton, “She doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia.”
Politico published a roundup of Republicans repudiating Trump on this issue, noting that Burr issued a “brief statement” deferring to the intelligence community’s release, stating: “I believe it sufficiently covers what we believe to be the case at this time.” Burr’s statement was non-specific. He would be given an opportunity to clarify in the next few days.
That Wednesday night, Burr faced off against his opponent.
The moment came when the debate moderator, ABC’s Jonathan Karl, asked Burr point blank whether he chose to believe President Trump or the U.S. intelligence community. Burr first appeared to stand behind the administration’s statement but wasn’t specific. Karl followed up, and Burr stammered. In a meandering answer, he said, “It’s not limited to [Russia]. It’s Iran, it’s North Korea, it’s China.” Burr also said he doubted Karl’s sources.
After a commercial break, Karl made more explicit that his source was the Clapper-Johnson statement and read the first line of the statement verbatim. Burr replied, “I don’t think that really had anything to do with the e-mails or the political parties,” and added “I’m not sure that the reports that you read are from official sources.” Karl was exasperated. “Ok, uh, it was a joint statement from the Director of National Intelligence and the intelligence community. Let’s move on to the next question.” (It’s worth watching the 7 minutes in full.)
The media was perplexed. Politico reported the next morning under the sub-heading, “Burr All Over the Place on Hacks.” The Washington Post summarized the exchange saying, “Burr appeared unaware of or unwilling to acknowledge Clapper’s statement and dodged when pressed on the issue.”
‘History has its eyes on you’: Chairing the Senate’s Russia Investigation
When Burr, as a member of the House of Representatives, ran for the Senate in 2004, there was a historical significance to his race that was not lost on the candidate. North Carolina’s congressman was the 12th cousin of Aaron Burr, the man who had killed Alexander Hamilton and stood trial for treason for a plot to take military control over American territory. Aaron Burr’s stain on American history was likely part of the reason it took nearly 200 years before a Burr returned to Congress. Richard Burr had accomplished that feat in 1994 as part of the so-called Newt Gingrich Revolution.
Ten years later, he was aiming to become the first Burr to win a Senate seat since Aaron Burr represented the state of New York.
Richard Burr’s family expressed pride in their connection to the nation’s third Vice President. His father had served as the president of the Aaron Burr Association in the late 1970s. In 2004, the National Review asked Congressman Burr whether he was proud of his tie to Aaron Burr. “Yes, I am,” Burr replied, “though history has proved to shine a different light on him, because of the treasonous acts.” He was reflective, and sounded conflicted.
After the 2016 election returned Burr to the Senate, he found himself with the historically significant role of chairing the investigation into whether the President of the United States and members of his campaign helped Russia interfere in the 2016 election. Warner, for his part, remarked that the investigation “may very well be the most important thing I do in my public life.” Freed of the pressures of the election season, the question would become how Burr would run the investigation.
Over the past two years, the Senate Intelligence Committee has produced reports in a bipartisan fashion that contrast sharply with all other congressional investigations into Russian election interference to date. One report found that Russian government operatives “conducted an unprecedented, coordinated cyber campaign against state election infrastructure” during the presidential election. Another report confirmed the findings of the intelligence community that Russia had interfered in the election in support of Trump.
Given what Burr had said in 2016, these fully bipartisan reports were even more significant than many realized. That said, the overwhelming evidence in support of the reports’ findings appeared to offer no alternative for a reasonable decision-maker.
What has been alarming to close observers is a series of decision points in the course of the Russia investigation, most especially on the question of collusion, that bring Burr’s impartiality into doubt.
Here are 10 data points to consider:
1. Burr tried to kill the collusion inquiry from the start.
Burr announced that the committee would exclude possible collusion from the scope of the investigation, a move he made with no advance notice to Ranking Member Warner.
2. Burr reversed under pressure.
Burr reportedly backed down only after Democrats threatened to boycott the investigation if the question of collusion was not included as a topic.
3. Caught in the act — working secretly on behalf of the White House.
The Washington Post revealed that the White House secretly enlisted House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes and Burr to reach out to news organizations to challenge the New York Times’ reporting on contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians. The Post notably wrote, “Unlike the others, Nunes spoke on the record.” That was better than what Burr had done. (Also of note, CNN and Reuters independently confirmed the New York Times’ reporting.)
Burr’s conduct was criticized by both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Burr had been put “on notice,” and that Burr’s conduct “certainly gives the appearance, if not the reality, of a lack of impartiality.” Warner said he had “grave concerns” about Burr’s conduct. Republican Senators Susan Collins (R-Me.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), both members of the intelligence committee, also issued critical statements.
4. Credit where credit is not due.
Burr has been credited with not appearing at functions with President Trump and limiting any trips to the White House, but he took this step only after being chastened by the Post report on his and Nunes’ conduct.
5. A painfully slow start. No subpoenas and lack of requests for evidence.
In April 2017, Michael Isikoff reported, “The committee has yet to issue a single subpoena for documents or interview any key witnesses who are central… It also hasn’t requested potentially crucial evidence — such as the emails, memos and phone records of the Trump campaign — in part because the panel’s chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has so far failed to respond to requests from the panel’s Democrats to sign letters doing so, the sources said.”
“The [Senate Intelligence Committee] investigation does not have a single staffer dedicated to it full-time, and those staff members working on it part-time do not have significant investigative experience,” the Daily Beast reported in April 2017. In a Feb. 2019 interview, Burr defended never hiring outside full-time professional investigators. Outside investigators, he said, “would’ve never had access to some of the documents that we were able to access from the intelligence community.” But it’s unclear why the committee could not use outside professional investigators or attorneys who have the required security clearances.
7. Statement on assessing the success of Russian interference.
In a widely watched November 2017 hearing, Burr used his opening remarks to claim that Russian influence operations could not be shown to have affected the election, and that a contrary view was biased. Burr said: “I want to use this forum to push back on some narratives that have sprung up around the subject. A lot of folks, including many in the media, have tried to reduce this entire conversation to one premise; foreign actors conducted a surgical, executed covert operation to help elect a United States president. I’m here to tell you this story does not simplify that easily.”
Burr continued, “What we cannot do … is calculate the impact that foreign meddling had on this election. It’s human nature to make the complex manageable and determine things that fit your conclusions. That’s bias.”
8. Encouraging Trump’s attempts to discredit former senior intelligence officials.
When President Trump decided to revoke the security clearances of former senior intelligence officials, Burr quickly and strongly supported the president. (Notably, Burr issued a statement saying a New York Times op-ed that John Brennan wrote justified the President’s revoking the former CIA Director’s clearances. This was unusual reasoning since Brennan wrote the op-ed following the President’s deciding to revoke Brennan’s clearances.)
9. Vetoing public hearings.
Burr categorically rejects any public hearings with Trump campaign associates, despite Warner’s requests and despite the fact that the committee has held several public hearings, including on Russia’s manipulation of social media platforms.
10. Defying his own rules on speaking to the press about the committee’s work.
Burr has now repeatedly told media outlets that he has seen no evidence of collusion. The first occasion was in an Associated Press interview in September 2018. In the same article, the Associated Press reported that Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)“says Burr started every meeting at the beginning of the probe by asking senators not to talk to the media ‘until we get additional facts and we put things out together.’” In 2014, Burr said, “I personally don’t believe that anything that goes on in the intelligence committee should ever be discussed publicly.”
* * *
With months still to go in the committee’s investigation, Burr has recently made headlines in claiming that he has seen no “hard evidence” or “factual evidence” of collusion. Yet, he also seems to acknowledge that reasonable minds on the committee may well consider the facts do amount to evidence of collusion.
Burr’s conduct during the 2016 campaign, however, haunt his words today. What stands out most of all is Burr’s statement in the Oct. 3, 2016 interview that he had “yet to see anything that would lead me to believe” Russia was interfering to benefit Trump—when that’s exactly what he was seeing in highly classified intelligence briefings at the time. That was no stray statement either. Burr’s spokeswoman’s July 2016 statement that “public discussion about attribution” of the DNC hack was “premature,” along with Burr’s troubling Senate debate performance are additional reminders of how Burr has previously characterized intelligence information for the American public.
The true character and public understanding of Senator Richard Burr will be tested in the months ahead. Then history will be left to judge.
https://www.justsecurity.org/62573/rich ... integrate/
Andrew McCabe, Paul Manafort and Mueller’s theory: A criminal conspiracy implicating the president?
FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies during a House Appropriations Committee hearing on the FBI Budget, on Capitol Hill on March 19, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (UPI/Kevin Dietsch via Creative Commons)
Valentine’s Day 2019 was a day to remember. Americans woke up to news about Andrew McCabe, the former acting director of the FBI, and his new book that outlines the wild days in May of 2017 when members of the Justice Department allegedly considered invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office. By that night we had word that Trump would go through with his threat to declare a national emergency so he can circumvent the will of Congress and order the construction of his border wall.
This article was originally published at Salon
Just to add to the general chaos, in between breaking news stories, legal and national security experts were still poring over earlier news from the Paul Manafort case that had everyone who is following the Russia scandal closely just a little breathless. A federal judge has affirmed that the president’s former campaign chairman lied to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team about damning evidence that we can infer may implicate Donald Trump.
House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif., explained it this way on MSNBC:
It appears the judge has largely agreed with what the special counsel argued and that not only did [Manafort] lie, but the motivation here is that if he told the truth about his relationship with someone with Russian Intelligence while he was the campaign chairman that would be so damaging to Trump that it would negate his chance of a pardon.
I have never subscribed to the theory that the president is a wily operator who’s always strategizing ways to distract the media and the public from bad news about him. Trump has a strong feral survival instinct, so he’s always bobbing and weaving, but I doubt he makes these choices consciously. In this case, however, he seems a bit too eager to draw attention to the McCabe story considering how damning it actually is.
Perhaps Trump really was upset. But it’s also the case that he knew upon waking up Thursday morning that he had just lost the biggest legislative fight of his presidency. He staged the longest government shutdown in American history and wound up getting less than he would have gotten had he taken the border funding deal Congress agreed to in December. He also undoubtedly realized that in order to save face even a little, he would have to declare the national emergency and create a rift among his allies in Congress, possibly changing the dynamic still more.
As Salon’s Amanda Marcotte pointed out on Thursday, Trump had already been in the unusual position of having to court his usually slavering media supporters to get them to accept the inevitable. McCabe’s book probably seemed like the best option among all the bad news cascading down on him in this very bad week.
Needless to say, Trump’s defenders on Fox News and elsewhere in the right-wing media find McCabe’s revelations to be convincing evidence of an attempted “deep state” coup. But coming on the heels of this news about the Manafort case and the accumulated evidence of the last three years, it was a reminder to the rest of us of that crazy period around the Comey firing, when Trump had the Russian foreign minister and ambassador up to the Oval Office the very next day and told them this:
“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”
Imagine how that must have looked to law enforcement and intelligence officials at the time. And consider that they also knew that Trump shared “code-word information” with his visitors, one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. One official characterized this giveaway as “more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”
McCabe made more news in an excerpt from a CBS interview to air this weekend by saying that he not only opened a counterintelligence investigation at the FBI, as reported earlier, but also opened an obstruction of justice investigation around the same time, based upon Trump’s behavior and his insistence that the Justice Department was to do his bidding. McCabe appears to have been right to do so.
One of the president’s most fervent defenders inadvertently made this point very clear in a tweet on Thursday:
All those firings had to do with the Russia investigation.
Former U.S. attorney and deputy assistant attorney general Harry Litman said on MSNBC, “Is it a slow-motion Saturday night massacre? That’s what they were worried about at the time. In some ways, it’s worse. It is as McCabe says, a fall-off in standards of presidential accountability such as they’ve never had before.”
It should be noted that there’s always some concern about powerful federal law enforcement agencies investigating a president, whether for the purpose of blackmail, as under longtime FBI head J. Edgar Hoover, or because of political bias against his policies. But if anything, the law enforcement and intelligence communities in Washington tend to be conservative Republicans. So it would be distinctly odd if they decided to go after a Republican administration right out of the gate for political purposes, even if they thought the president was a nut or a fool. They would most likely trust that the party and the bureaucracy would assert itself.
In this case, with the evidence people at the FBI and Justice Department had of Russian interference, along with the bizarre behavior of the president and his campaign officials, law enforcement took some protective action. Some of it was reckless and got them into trouble. But it’s not hard to understand why they went there.
We’ve now had a federal judge in the Manafort case affirm what appears to be a central piece of Robert Mueller’s larger theory, which may implicate the president in a criminal conspiracy. We earlier saw another federal judge look at the evidence in the Michael Flynn case and get so agitated he accidentally threw out the word “treason.” And as of Thursday evening, the United States has a new attorney general, William Barr.
We don’t know yet whether Barr’s years in private life were spent being brainwashed by right-wing media (and there is some evidence that they were) but at one time he was seen as a man who cared about the Department of Justice and saw himself as a patriot. He too will probably see all the evidence in the Mueller probe as early as Friday. Much depends upon whether this lifelong Republican lawyer has the same reaction to that evidence as all these other conservative cops, G-men, spies, federal prosecutors and federal judges have had over the past couple of years.
https://www.rawstory.com/2019/02/andrew ... ssion=true
Since Guccifer/Stone/WikiLeaks are in the indictments can we finally get an answer to why Kushner’s Observer news outlet received exclusive Guccifer leaks during campaign
Also why Kushner still has security clearance
Remember when Guccifer 2.0 leaks were fed through Kushners Observer during summer and fall 2016
https://mobile.twitter.com/olgaNYC1211/ ... 8329710593
Mueller's office says in a new court filing that investigators executed search warrants on accounts used to "facilitate the transfer of stolen documents for release" and several included communications with Roger Stone.
Mueller's office says the charges against Roger Stone "are part of the same alleged criminal event or transaction" as the ones it filed against Russian intelligence officers for hacking Democratic political organizations.
https://twitter.com/bradheath/status/10 ... 3952496640
Special counsel prosecutors say they have communications of Stone with WikiLeaks
Washington (CNN)Prosecutors said for the first time that they have evidence of Roger Stone communicating with WikiLeaks, according to a new court filing from special counsel prosecutors.
During its investigation of the Russian hack of the Democrats, "the government obtained and executed dozens of search warrants on various accounts used to facilitate the transfer of stolen documents for release, as well as to discuss the timing and promotion of their release," the prosecutors wrote Friday to a federal judge.
"Several of those search warrants were executed on accounts that contained Stone's communications with Guccifer 2.0 and with Organization 1," which is WikiLeaks.
Previously, the prosecutors had only outlined how Stone attempted to get in touch with WikiLeaks' Julian Assange through intermediaries. Stone sought to learn about what the hackers had stolen from the Democratic Party and how he hoped for its release so it could help Donald Trump's campaign, prosecutors have said.
The new filing provided no further details on what was contained in the communications.
There is one known exchange of messages between WikiLeaks and Stone. In February 2018, the Atlantic reported the Stone exchanged direct messages via Twitter with the WikiLeaks account in which Stone was asked to stop associating himself with the site. Both denied they were in contact about the release of Clinton emails.
The prosecutors have not yet explained in full the extent to which Stone actually reached WikiLeaks or Assange, or levied public charges against them for their role in the distribution of the hacked data.
Friday's filing is the strongest detail yet provided by the prosecutors that Stone and WikiLeaks were in touch.
Prosecutors stated that in obtaining the accounts, they found communications between Stone and WikiLeaks, which is only described as Organization 1, as well as Guccifer 2.0 which is the alias used by Russian intelligence to disseminate the documents.
Stone and his legal team will have access to these search warrants as they review evidence in the case to prepare for his trial. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of witness tampering, obstruction of justice and lying.
Case will not be reassigned
Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Friday denied Stone's attempt to get a new judge in his case, by alleging that his charges are unrelated to a case about the Russian hack of the Democrats. Prosecutors say they are indeed related, partly because they both hinge on some of the same search warrants.
Jackson also placed a gag order on Stone and attorneys involved in his criminal case, though Stone's ability to speak publicly isn't completely restricted.
Lawyers "for the parties and the witnesses must refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case," Jackson wrote.
They, their clients and even Stone are also not allowed to speak in and around the courthouse.
https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/15/politics ... index.html
This is the filing I've been waiting for today. The SCO says evidence in Roger Stone's case was found in accounts that were searched for the GRU case, in which 11 Russian military officers were charged with a conspiracy to interfere in the election.
In other words, following the evidence from the Russian side of the investigation led the Special Counsel's Office to Roger Stone. Consider the implications of that.
For another, it includes the first SCO confirmation of @NatashaBertrand's report that Stone communicated directly with Assange. It also firmly ties Stone to paragraph 44 of the Netyshko indictment, which quoted his DMs with Guccifer 2.0 but didn't name him.
https://twitter.com/nycsouthpaw/status/ ... 6222486528
ROGER STONE AND THE DOZENS OF SEARCH WARRANTS ON ACCOUNTS USED TO FACILITATE THE TRANSFER AND PROMOTION OF STOLEN DEMOCRATIC EMAILS
February 15, 2019/7 Comments/in 2016 Presidential Election, Mueller Probe /by empty wheel
In response to Roger Stone’s bid to get a new judge, the government has submitted a filing explaining why his case is related to the GRU indictment. It explains that Stone’s alleged false statements pertained to an investigation into links between the Russians who stole Democratic emails, entities who dumped them, and US persons like Stone:The defendant’s false statements did not arise in a vacuum: they were made in the course of an investigation into possible links between Russian individuals (including the Netyksho defendants), individuals associated with the dumping of materials (including Organization 1), and U.S. persons (including the defendant).
More interestingly, it makes clear that Stone’s communications “with Guccifer 2.0 and with Organization 1” were found in some of the accounts used to transfer and promote the stolen emails.In the course of investigating that activity, the government obtained and executed dozens of search warrants on various accounts used to facilitate the transfer of stolen documents for release, as well as to discuss the timing and promotion of their release. Several of those search warrants were executed on accounts that contained Stone’s communications with Guccifer 2.0 and with Organization 1.
To be clear: We know that Stone had (innocuous) DMs with both Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks. So this passage is not necessarily saying anything new. But given that Stone’s indictment obscures precisely who his and Jerome Corsi’s go-between with WikiLeaks is, it suggests there may be more direct Stone communications of interest.
Stone will get a sealed description of what those warrants are and — eventually — get the warrants themselves in discovery.The relevant search warrants, which are being produced to the defendant in discovery in this case, are discussed further in a sealed addendum to this filing.
Meanwhile, Amy Berman Jackson has issued a very limited gag in Stone’s case, prohibiting lawyers from material comments on the case, but gagging Stone only at the courthouse. That said, her gag includes lawyers for witnesses, which would seem to include Jerome Corsi lawyer Larry Klayman.Counsel for the parties and the witnesses must refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case
ABJ does give Stone the following warnings to shut up, however.This order should not be interpreted as modifying or superseding the condition of the defendant’s release that absolutely prohibits him from communicating with any witness in the case, either directly or indirectly. Nor does this order permit the defendant to intimidate or threaten any witness, or to engage or attempt to engage in any conduct in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1512.
Finally, while it is not up to the Court to advise the defendant as to whether a succession of public statements would be in his best interest at this time, it notes that one factor that will be considered in the evaluation of any future request for relief based on pretrial publicity will be the extent to which the publicity was engendered by the defendant himself.
So the biggest news here might be that Larry Klayman has to shut up.
https://www.emptywheel.net/2019/02/15/r ... ic-emails/
Manafort-Linked PAC Failed To Report $1 Million And The FEC Wants To Know Why
https://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker ... o-know-why
Trump's Lawyers May Have Provided False Info on Hush Payments, Says Rep. Elijah Cummings
A key House Democrat suggested that lawyers for President Donald Trump and the White House may have provided false information to a government ethics office about his involvement in hush payments during the 2016 campaign by women alleging affairs with him.
House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings wrote Friday in a letter to the White House that internal notes taken by Office of Government Ethics officials indicate that some of Trump’s lawyers gave them “evolving stories” about the payments and money that Trump owed to his lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, for making them.
Cohen, who is headed to prison in part for his role in these payments, said in his guilty plea that he acted “in coordination with” and “at the direction of” the president. Cohen also said this was for the purpose of influencing the 2016 election.
“It now appears that President Trump’s other attorneys—at the White House and in private practice—may have provided false information about these payments to federal officials,” Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said in the letter addressed to new White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.
“This raises significant questions about why some of the president’s closest advisers made these false claims and the extent to which they were acting at the direction of, or in coordination with, the president,” he said.
The letter also details that the president filed a financial disclosure statement with the ethics office covering the period from January 2016 through April 15, 2017 making no mention of any liability to Cohen.
Cummings said notes from ethics office officials say that from March 22 to April 26, 2018, Trump’s personal lawyer Sheri Dillon was telling them that Trump never owed any money to Cohen in 2016 and 2017.
http://fortune.com/2019/02/15/trump-coh ... -cummings/
Trump’s Top Targets in the Russia Probe Are Experts in Organized Crime
Some of President Trump’s favorite targets in the Russia probe have spent their careers in the Justice Department and the FBI investigating organized crime and money laundering, particularly as they pertain to Russia.
Natasha Bertrand is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers national security and the intelligence community.
Aug 30, 2018
Bruce Ohr. Lisa Page. Andrew Weissmann. Andrew McCabe. President Donald Trump has relentlessly attacked these FBI and Justice Department officials as dishonest “Democrats” engaged in a partisan “witch hunt” led by the special counsel determined to tie his campaign to Russia. But Trump’s attacks have also served to highlight another thread among these officials and others who have investigated his campaign: their extensive experience in probing money laundering and organized crime, particularly as they pertain to Russia.
As Trump praised and defended Russian President Vladimir Putin along the campaign trail, financial analysts and money-laundering experts questioned whether the real-estate mogul had any financial incentives—including business ties or outstanding debt—to seek better relations with Moscow. Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed in May 2017 to investigate a potential conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow to defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, assembled a team with revealing expertise in fraud, racketeering, money laundering, and other financial crimes.
Trump’s latest obsession is with Bruce Ohr, a career Justice Department official who spent years investigating Russian organized crime and corruption—an expertise he shared with another Trump target named Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence operative who provided valuable intelligence on Russia to the State Department and the FBI’s Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force prior to authoring the Trump-Russia dossier in 2016. Ohr and Steele met in 2007, according to The New York Times, and stayed in touch as a result of their shared interests and mutual respect. Trump has tweeted about Ohr nearly a dozen times this month alone, complaining about his relationship with Steele and Ohr’s wife’s past work for Fusion GPS—the opposition-research firm that hired Steele in 2016 to research Trump’s Russia ties.
“How the hell is Bruce Ohr still employed at the Justice Department?” Trump wrote on Thursday. “Disgraceful! Witch Hunt!”
Trump’s fixation with seeing Ohr ousted from the Justice Department could be perceived as yet another attempt to undermine the credibility of the people who have investigated him. It could also be interpreted as an attack on someone with deep knowledge of the shady characters Trump and his cohort have been linked to, including Semion Mogilevich, the Russian mob boss, and Oleg Deripaska, a Russian aluminum magnate close to Putin who did business with Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. (Incidentally, another Manafort associate, the Ukrainian billionaire Dmitry Firtash, admitted that he only managed to be in business because Mogilevich allowed him to be, according to a leaked 2008 State Department cable.) Ohr was involved in banning Deripaska from the U.S. in 2006, due to his alleged ties to organized crime and fear that he would try to launder money into American real estate. Nearly a decade later, Ohr and the FBI sought Deripaska’s help in taking down overseas criminal syndicates.
And then there’s Andy McCabe, the former deputy director of the FBI who spent more than a decade investigating Russian organized crime and served as a supervisory special agent of a task force that scrutinized Eurasian crime syndicates. McCabe is a 21-year FBI veteran who handled aspects of the Russia investigation until Mueller was appointed last May, an appointment McCabe says he pushed for. He was fired in March, just two days short of being eligible to receive his pension and other benefits from the bureau. The official reason was that he had lacked candor when describing his interactions with the press to the Office of the Inspector General. But Trump and his allies’ relentless attacks on McCabe on Twitter and cable news made it difficult for many to believe that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s decision to fire him was completely devoid of political considerations.
One member of Mueller’s team, meanwhile, has provoked more ire from the president’s allies than others: Andrew Weissmann, a seasoned prosecutor who oversaw cases against high-ranking organized criminals on Wall Street in the early 1990s and, later, against 30 people implicated in the Enron fraud scandal. Trump has also villainized the former Mueller team member Lisa Page, a trial attorney in the Justice Department’s organized-crime section whose cases centered on international organized crime and money laundering. She has been targeted by the president and his allies for mocking Trump in text messages she exchanged with Peter Strzok, a Russian counterintelligence expert in the FBI, during a period in which both briefly worked on the Mueller investigation. Strzok was fired earlier this month for writing similarly caustic messages. Trump says the texts showed outrageous bias and has cited them as evidence that Mueller is out to get him.
Mueller’s probe is first and foremost a counterintelligence investigation, and Trump famously declared last year that any examination of his personal finances would cross a “red line.” But Russia’s criminal syndicates have become increasingly intertwined with its intelligence services, blurring the line between Mafia dons and spies. (As the Russia expert Mark Galeotti wrote in his book The Vory: Russia’s Super Mafia, Putin’s Kremlin has consolidated power by “not simply taming, but absorbing, the underworld.”)
The president has denied having any business ties to Russia, and his dream of building a Trump Tower Moscow never materialized. But his links to Russian oligarchs and mobsters from the former Soviet Union have been documented: Millions of dollars from the former Soviet Union flowed into Trump’s developments and casinos throughout the 1990s, as the journalist Craig Unger has chronicled, as oligarchs looked for a place to hide their money in the West. The Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, was once known as a hot spot for Brooklyn mobsters associated with the Russian Mafia, and quickly became the “favorite East Coast destination” of the top Russian mob boss Vyacheslav Ivankov, according to the 2000 book Red Mafiya: How the Russian Mob Has Invaded America. It was also repeatedly cited by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network for having inadequate money-laundering controls.
By the early 2000s, a third of the buyers of Trump Tower’s most expensive condos were Russia-linked shell companies or individuals from the former Soviet Union—including Eduard Nektalov, a mob-connected diamond dealer from Uzbekistan, and David Bogatin, a Russian-émigré mobster who specialized in bootlegging gasoline. Bogatin’s brother was involved in an elaborate stock fraud with the top Russian mob boss Mogilevich, who himself is allied with Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov—another Russian mob leader who ran an entire gambling and money-laundering network out of Unit 63A in Trump Tower, just three floors below Trump’s own residence.(Tokhtakhounov was a VIP attendee at Trump’s Miss Universe pageant in Moscow just seven months after the gambling ring was busted by the FBI.) Trump’s own sons have boasted of the Trump Organization’s dependence on Russian money. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Donald Trump Jr. said in 2008. “We don’t rely on American banks,” Eric Trump reportedly told a golfing buddy in 2014. “We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”
Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen—who pleaded guilty last week to tax fraud and campaign-finance violations, in which he implicated the president—once bragged that he was part of the Russian mob, according to The Wall Street Journal. Cohen’s uncle, with whom he was close, owned a Brooklyn catering hall called El Caribe, in which Cohen had a stake—a hall that “for decades was the scene of mob weddings and Christmas parties,” the Times reported, and housed the offices of “two of New York’s most notorious Russian mobsters.”
It is ironic, then, that Trump’s attacks have shone a bright light on the experts inside and outside the government who have been investigating him—individuals who share a deep expertise in organized crime, money laundering, fraud, and racketeering. Even Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of Fusion GPS, spent years as an investigative reporter at The Wall Street Journal digging into Russian organized crime. In a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee last year, Simpson explained that “real-estate deals” were a common Russian method of hiding and moving money. Asked whether Fusion had found “evidence” of corruption and illicit finance related to the purchase of Trump properties, Simpson replied that his firm had seen “patterns of buying and selling that we thought were suggestive of money laundering,” including “fast-turnover deals and deals where there seemed to have been efforts to disguise the identity of the buyer.”
It’s not just Trump Tower or Trump Taj Mahal. NBC News reported in November that Trump’s Panama hotel had organized-crime ties, and a Russian state-owned bank under U.S. sanctions, whose CEO met with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in December 2016, helped finance the construction of the president’s 65-story Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto.
“The Russian Mafia is essentially under the dominion of the Russian government and Russian intelligence services,” Simpson said in his congressional testimony. But Trump, continuing on the curious theme of defending Moscow while throwing U.S. intelligence officials under the bus, has, conveniently for Putin, persisted in making a spectacle of some of the Kremlin’s biggest adversaries in the U.S. government.
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/ar ... me/569056/
Explosive UK Parliamentary Report Exposes the Molten Core of the Trump, Brexit, Russia Scandal
Peter Jukes 18th February 2019 Brexit Referendum, Brexit Referendum, Fact, Mueller, Russian Influence Operations, Tech, Untold
The House of Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s final report on Disinformation and “Fake News” reveals new evidence and calls for new investigations into dark data, dark money and Russian influence in British elections.
The day after Carole Cadwalladr in the Observer revealed Special Counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed Brittany Kaiser, director of the now-defunct data company Cambridge Analytica who worked on Nigel Farage’s Leave EU campaign, this landmark parliamentary report provides yet more evidence that the Trump Campaign, the EU referendum and Russian interference are all closely linked.
“It is now blindingly obvious that we need a criminal investigation – equivalent to the US’ Mueller inquiry”
David Lammy MP
The report also reveals that the National Crime Agency, currently investigating potential illegal foreign funding of major Leave EU donor Arron Banks, has also been asked to look at potential collusion with Russia over data, following evidence submitted to it by the Information Commissioner’s office.
These revelations follow an exclusive report by the Byline Times last week that multiple investigations by the Metropolitan Police, into up to 14 political figures involved in potential election crimes, are currently stalled.
The report will intensify pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May to launch a full public inquiry into both dark money and dark data in British elections.
Labour MP David Lammy told the Byline Times that “the scale and depth of malicious disinformation and foreign interference this report uncovers demands an urgent response from the Prime Minister on behalf of the British Government”.
“It is now blindingly obvious that we need a criminal investigation – equivalent to the US’ Mueller inquiry – to investigate any possible links between the 2016 Leave campaign, Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russia,” Lammy said.
Russian Influence Operations
The DCMS committee, chaired by conservative MP Damian Collins, has been sitting for two years and has provided the most comprehensive account so far of the impact of Russia’s hybrid warfare on Western democracies and its interaction with the populist movements associated with the Brexit vote in 2016 and the election of Donald Trump six months later.
The July report was more popular in Moscow than in London.
It’s obviously of some concern to the Kremlin. According to the report published today, nearly two-thirds of the views of the interim report, published online last July, were from foreign IP addresses. (The average for most parliamentary publications is only a fifth.) Over half of these foreign views were from Russia. The July report was more popular in Moscow than in London.
Source: Web and Publications Unit, House of Commons
Though the portrayal of Facebook as “digital gangsters” will dominate domestic headlines because of its owner Mark Zuckerberg’s failure to answer the DCMS committee’s many questions, buried in the hundred-page report are more details of malign Russian activity in UK politics.
Had Russia paid for a social media campaign of this scale the committee estimates it would have cost between £1.4 and 4.14 million.
In June last year, the committee quizzed Leave EU founder Arron Banks about the many contacts Leave EU had with Russian officials in the lead-up to the EU Referendum. Today, it provides more detail of the extent of Kremlin intervention.
The committee estimates that the state-controlled channels RT and Sputnik’s pro-Leave websites garnered 134 million potential impressions, nearly five times the reach of the two domestic campaigns combined. (Vote Leave with 33 million impressions and Leave EU with 11 million). Had Russia paid for a social media campaign of this scale the committee estimates it would have cost between £1.4 and 4.14 million.
Moreover, the report reveals how the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-backed Petersburg-based troll farm indicted for election interference in the US, was simultaneously intervening in British politics, with a marked emphasis on stirring up Islamophobia and racial hatred. It “tried to fuel social divisions, including religious tensions, in the aftermath of the Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge and Finsbury Park terror attacks”, according to the parliamentary report.
The Kremlin’s attempts to intervene continue. Last October, Twitter closed down 3,613 new Internet Research Agency accounts. A brief analysis of the data reveals these accounts tweeted about Brexit 1,525 times.
But it’s the connection between Russian interference and both UK and US actors which leads the committee to make a stark demand for a full inquiry into the use of dark money and dark data.
Dark Data, Dark Tech
At the heart of both Mueller’s inquiry in the US and the DCMS Committee’s two-year-long investigation in the UK has been the role of Cambridge Analytica, the data company founded by the military contractor, SCL Ltd, and Trump backers Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon.
In 2016, the company boasted about being the key factor in both Britain’s shock vote to leave the EU and Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the presidential campaign.
The report’s findings about the official Vote Leave campaign… suggest even more collusion – both with foreign actors and between the two campaigns.
Since that initial euphoria, and once the Mueller investigation into Russian interference began, the role of Cambridge Analytica in Brexit has been played down. Even though its vice president, Steve Bannon, is a close friend of Nigel Farage, and a director Brittany Kaiser was present at the launch of Farage’s Leave EU campaign in November 2015, Arron Banks – who bankrolled the campaign – has denied ever using the company’s services.
Invoices obtained by Byline and the Observer revealed at least £40,000 of preparatory work was done by the data firm for Banks in early 2016.
But it’s the DCMS report’s findings about the official Vote Leave campaign, fronted by senior conservatives Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, which suggest even more collusion – both with foreign actors and between the two campaigns.
It’s in the shared used of data, voter profiles and targeting strategies that a deeper coordination and joint purpose can be found between the Brexit- backing organisations and the Trump campaign.
At the centre of the allegations is the role of AIQ, a small data company in Canada, which ended up being the main beneficiary the official Vote Leave campaigns spending during the EU Referendum. Chris Wylie, the former Cambridge Analytica head of research, claims AIQ was an offshoot of the same UK firm SCL Elections, which would mean both Leave campaigns effectively shared the same online operation.
Though AIQ has denied any formal connection with Cambridge Analytica the committee notes strange anomalies – such as SCL Elections being listed as the contact for at least one AIQ Facebook ad account. It also records the testimony of Jeff Silvester, CEO of AIQ, that roughly 80% of his company’s revenue came from SCL from 2013 until mid-2015.
AIQ worked for a host of Brexit-supporting organisations including the official campaign Vote Leave. Veterans for Britain spent £100,000 on their online ads, BeLeave £625,000 and DUP Vote to Leave £32,000. According to Jeff Silvester, these organisations approached him independently of each other.
The majority of the adverts – 2,529 out of a total of 2,823 AIQ created – were on behalf of Vote Leave which spent just under £3m with the company, mostly in the last few days of the referendum.
However, it’s in the shared used of data, voter profiles and targeting strategies, that a deeper co-ordination and joint purpose can be found
between the Brexit-backing organisations and the Trump campaign.
The DataBase of Truth and Digital Weapons
The source of the DCMS Committee’s explosive findings about AIQ mainly come from Chris Vickery, director of Cyber Risk Research at Upguard who published four papers that explained connections between AIQ, Cambridge Analytica, and SCL, and AIQ’s work during the UK Referendum based on data he had found on an insecure AIQ website. He handed over 20,000 folders and 113,000 files to the committee which suggest a common data set – the DataBase of Truth – shared between employees of the three companies, and also used by Donald Trump’s campaign.
Source: Chris Vickery
Vickery’s evidence has since been handed to the Information Commissioner’s Office, which has confirmed AIQ has access to the personal data of UK voters “which they should not continue to hold”. The AIQ database was also shared with a Ukrainian oligarch planning to run for president this year on a more pro-Putin, anti-NATO platform.
Also exposed in the new report is more forensic traces suggesting how Cambridge Analytica worked in close concert with the news website Breitbart.
Previous evidence has shown that the data firm had unique reselling rights to Breitbart’s data, but a newly discovered executable “config” file suggests the coordination of targeting data and news stories was automated by AIQ.
Hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer funded both Cambridge Analytica and Breitbart. Steve Bannon was vice president of the former and executive chairman of the latter before becoming heading Trump’s campaign and entering the White House as his Chief Strategist.
Bannon has described Breitbart as “the platform of the alt-right” and characterised the website as his “weapons”. Since Cambridge Analytica’s special targeting software was classified by the UK Government as a “weapons grade” technology (the Ministry of Defence “had to be told if it was going to be deployed in another country”) the military imagery may not be a metaphor.
Trump’s former National Security Adviser, General Michael Flynn, awaiting sentencing for various counts of lying to the FBI, was also a consultant to Cambridge Analytica during the Trump campaign. In a speech days after Trump’s win he described the surprise victory as an “insurgency… irregular warfare at it’s finest” run by “an army of digital soldiers”.
Calls for a Full Investigation and New Laws to Protect from Foreign Interference
The report includes a startling update from the National Crime Agency. The NCA revealed late last year that it had launched an investigation into the source of £8m of funds which Arron Banks poured into Nigel Farage’s Leave EU campaign, after a referral from the Electoral Commission that had concluded the money did not come from a permissible UK donor.
But, now it appears it’s not just dark money which is the focus of the NCA investigation. The parliamentary report examines evidence that Russia had access to the Cambridge Analytica database, itself compiled through the hacking of between 50 to 170 million Facebook users, and reveals this has been referred to the NCA by the Information Commissioner Elisabeth Denham.
(Byline Times has asked the NCA whether Russian interference now forms part of its probe and is awaiting a reply.)
The report will also be of interest to the Mueller inquiry and various US congressional investigations into Russian interference in the US, and the many overlaps with UK politics.
The indictment of Trump campaigner Roger Stone revealed his connections with Nigel Farage and his friend Ted Malloch. Dianne Feinstein’s Senate investigation recently subpoenaed Frank Mermoud, an associate of jailed campaigner Paul Manafort who recently signed up as a director of Arron Banks’ security company Precision Risk. Meanwhile, Trump’s inauguration committee, run by a business partner of Leave EU co-founder Richard Tice, is also subject to a new wide-ranging probe by federal prosecutors.
Many of the Mueller indictments flow from US laws about lobbyists registering as agents of foreign principals and political interests, and the DCMS Committee report concludes that Britain needs a “UK version of the US Foreign Agents and Registration Act (FARA)”.
But, the committee goes further, and suggests that Britain needs something like its own Mueller inquiry. The report concludes by calling for an “independent investigation into past elections” – including the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum, the Brexit vote and the 2017 general election – “to explore what actually happened with regard to foreign influence, disinformation, funding, voter manipulation, and the sharing of data, so that appropriate changes to the law can be made and lessons can be learnt for future elections and referenda”.
https://bylinetimes.com/2019/02/18/expl ... a-scandal/
Roger Stone Has been arrested
Things Getting Tough For Roger Stone?
By David Kurtz
February 19, 2019 10:59 am
Curious what criminal defense lawyer readers have to say about this: When a federal judge issues a show cause order that raises the possibility of revoking your client’s conditions of pre-trial release, do you prepare them for the chance they won’t come home after the show cause hearing?
Reckless Even by Roger Stone Standards
Never gratuitously annoy the person who is deciding how long you’ll spend in federal prison.
10:05 AM ET
Attorney and former federal prosecutor
Roger Stone, the trash-talking, Richard Nixon–tattooed Donald Trump adviser recently indicted for lying to Congress and threatening a witness, had an eventful Presidents’ Day. In the space of time you or I might enjoy a leisurely brunch, Stone posted an online attack on United States District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding in his case, then altered the post, deleted the post, offered a defense for the post, and finally had his lawyers file a “notice of apology” for the post in federal court. None of this is normal, not even in 2019.
This surreal chain of events began—as many do—on Stone’s Instagram page, where he has been relentlessly decrying his prosecution and soliciting defense funds. “Through legal trickery Deep State hitman Robert Mueller has guaranteed that my upcoming show trial is before Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointed Judge who dismissed the Benghazi charges against Hillary Clinton and incarcerated Paul Manafort prior to his conviction for any crime,” Stone proclaimed. He added a picture of Jackson with a small symbol in the upper-left-hand corner—a cross in a circle, or, according to some, crosshairs.
Stone’s gripe is nonsense. Jackson caught Stone’s case because she was previously assigned a related case, an utterly routine practice in federal court. She revoked Paul Manafort’s bond and jailed him before trial because he tampered with witnesses, which will get you detained by any judge no matter who appointed her. Jackson didn’t “dismiss the Benghazi charges against Hillary Clinton,” because Clinton was never charged with a crime. Rather, she dismissed a civil lawsuit against Clinton on the rather mundane grounds that it was barred by the Federal Employees Liability Reform and Tort Compensation Act of 1988, which makes suing federal employees for things they did in the course of their job very difficult. Stone’s post was more of his customary legal fabulism.
Federal criminal defendants are not, as a rule, famed for self-control. But Stone’s attack on the judge presiding over his case is reckless even by his standards. Some have speculated that Stone, always fumbling for an angle, may have wanted to force Jackson to withdraw from the case. That won’t work. Federal courts have long held that a party can’t insult or antagonize a judge and then demand her recusal on the theory that the insults have biased her. That’s why President Trump couldn’t force United States District Judge Gonzalo Curiel off his case with his bigoted and boorish claims that Curiel’s ethnic background disqualified him from hearing the Trump University case. In fact, a party can’t even force a judge off a case by threatening her—and some have tried. The reason is obvious: If a litigant could force a judge to drop a case with deliberate misbehavior, then insults and threats would fly and dockets would descend into chaos.
Though foolhardy, Stone’s attack on Jackson is not, as some have suggested, a violation of Jackson’s recent gag order. Jackson ordered the lawyers in the case not to make statements “that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case.” With respect to Stone and the witnesses in the case, Jackson only prohibited misbehavior on the courthouse steps and in the immediate vicinity—thus taking advantage of judges’ power to control their immediate surroundings to assure orderly litigation. Stone’s Instagram post doesn’t qualify.
Other critics quickly proclaimed that Stone had committed a criminal threat or unlawful incitement by posting the picture with a symbol they interpreted as crosshairs. That’s possible, but unlikely. Rhetoric like Stone’s is protected by the First Amendment unless it is designed, and likely, to cause imminent lawless action, such as a speaker urging a crowd to attack nearby protesters. Even if you take Stone’s Instagram post as an attempt to incite, it almost certainly doesn’t urge sufficiently immediate action.
Similarly, it’s questionable whether Stone’s post is a “true threat”—the sort of threat outside First Amendment protection. A true threat is a threat that a reasonable person would interpret as a sincere expression of intent to do harm, and that the speaker knew would be taken that way. Stone, who has a history of pushing questionable content from erratic sources, apparently cut and pasted the picture from a conspiracy website. This has led to trouble before, such as the time that Stone—accidentally, he says—republished a photo with swastikas. It would be difficult, given Stone’s established history of careening from one reckless utterance to another, to show that he meant this one as a sincere threat. “I’m sorry, Your Honor, but my client only intended to insult you and didn’t even notice the crosshairs” is not the defense I’d choose, but we go to court with the clients we have, not the clients we want.
Stone’s lawyers submitted a startlingly quick and unprecedented apology to the court, e-filing a statement that Stone “recognizes the impropriety” and attaching Stone’s dubious claim that he had “no intention of disrespecting the court.” The apology’s real message is from the lawyers: We’re sorry, Your Honor, that we can’t control our client. Will it be enough to spare Stone from consequences? Probably. Jackson has shown that, like many wise federal judges, she prefers to avoid drama and unnecessary confrontations. Stone has apologized and deleted the post, and any sanction against Stone would only feed into his thirst for spectacle.
Jackson won’t forget what happened, though, and one day she could be tasked with sentencing Stone. Never gratuitously annoy the person who is deciding how long you’ll spend in federal prison. I shouldn’t have to tell people these things, but here we are.
Which is to say Roger's going to obviously use chafing to call himself a political prisoner being tortured by the Deep State
We had to cut this for length, but McCabe told me that his guess is that the White House "immediately knew the steps I took after Jim got fired, and the cases I opened" because of Nunes. "When I was surprised to see Nunes at the briefing, I knew it would happen very quickly."
And here is what McCabe says about this in the book: "Now that the Gang of Eight was a crowd of two dozen in the room, I thought, the chance of this not getting back to the president was basically zero. Then Devin Nunes walked in, and the chance was less than zero."
https://twitter.com/NatashaBertrand/sta ... 8685501441
Stop pretending that Rep Devin Nunes is anything but one of Putin’s Russian Assets
1-He was with Traitor Flynn when he met with Turkish FM to plot kidnapping cleric Gulen
2- The midnight Uber ride to WH to give them classified House Intel nfo
3- Sabotaging #MuellerInvestigation
Flynn-backed plan to transfer nuclear tech to Saudis may have broken laws, say whistleblowers
Feb. 19, 2019, 10:02 AM CST
WASHINGTON — Whistleblowers from within President Donald Trump's National Security Council have told a congressional committee that efforts by former national security adviser Michael Flynn to transfer sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia may have violated the law, and investigators fear Trump is still considering it, according to a new report obtained by NBC News.
The House Oversight Committee has formally opened an investigation into the matter, releasing an interim staff report that adds new details to previous public accounts of how Flynn sought to push through the nuclear proposal on behalf of a group he had once advised. Tom Barrack, a prominent Trump backer with business ties to the Middle East, also became involved in the project, the report says.
Just days after Trump's inauguration, backers of the project sent documents to Flynn for Trump to approve, including a draft Cabinet memo stating that the president had appointed Barrack as a special representative to implement the plan and directing agencies to support Barrack's efforts, the report says.
Career national security officials objected to the plan, citing what they deemed Flynn's conflict of interest, and also that the proposal sought to bypass a policy review that is required whenever nuclear technology is transferred to another country, the report says.
The proposal, which involved enlisting the U.S. nuclear power industry to build nuclear plants across the Middle East, was backed by a group of retired generals who formed a firm called IP3. Flynn described himself in financial disclosure filings as an "advisor" to a subsidiary of IP3, IronBridge Group Inc., from June 2016 to December 2016 — at the same time he was serving as Trump's national security adviser during the presidential campaign and the presidential transition, the report says.
The report quotes one senior Trump official as saying that the proposal was "not a business plan," but rather "a scheme for these generals to make some money," and added, "OK, you know we cannot do this."
Click here to read the House Oversight Committee report.
"The whistleblowers who came forward have expressed significant concerns about the potential procedural and legal violations connected with rushing through a plan to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia," the report says.
"They have warned of conflicts of interest among top White House advisers that could implicate federal criminal statutes. They have also warned about a working environment inside the White House marked by chaos, dysfunction, and backbiting."
The Oversight Committee, led by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said its investigation of the plan "is particularly critical because the administration's efforts to transfer sensitive U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia appear to be ongoing."
On Feb. 12, the report notes, Trump met with nuclear power developers at the White House about sharing nuclear technology with countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia. Next week Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner is set to embark on a tour of Middle Eastern capitals — including Riyadh — to discuss the economic portion of the administration's Middle East peace plan.
"Experts worry that transferring sensitive U.S. nuclear technology could allow Saudi Arabia to produce nuclear weapons that contribute to the proliferation of nuclear arms throughout an already unstable Middle East," the report says.
Marshall Plan for the Middle East
The proposal, dubbed by its backers a "Middle East Marshall Plan," involved IP3 International, which is short for "International Peace Power & Prosperity." Among those involved with IP3, according to published reports, were Gens. Keith Alexander, Jack Keane and James Cartwright; former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross; George W. Bush homeland security adviser Fran Townsend; and Robert "Bud" McFarlane, who was one of Ronald Reagan's national security advisers. Keane was considered by Trump for secretary of defense.
The House oversight report says whistleblowers told the committee that one of Flynn's top aides, Derek Harvey — who was the senior director for Middle East and North African Affairs at the National Security Council from January to July 2017 — stated during the first week of the Trump administration that Flynn had already decided to adopt IP3's nuclear plan and develop "dozens of nuclear power plants."
Seven days after the inauguration — and two days before a scheduled call with King Salman of Saudi Arabia — Harvey met in his office at the White House with a group of retired generals who work for IP3, including its co-founders, Keane and McFarlane, the report says.
Immediately after the meeting, Harvey directed the NSC staff to add information about IP3's "plan for 40 nuclear power plants" to the briefing package for Trump's call with King Salman.
The report says career staff warned that any transfer of nuclear technology must comply with the Atomic Energy Act, and that the United States and Saudi Arabia would need to reach what is known as a "123 Agreement," which would lay out how Saudi Arabia should comply with nonproliferation requirements.
"Harvey reportedly ignored these warnings and insisted that the decision to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia had already been made," the report says.
Both career and political staff inside the White House agreed that Harvey's directive could violate the law, the report says.
According to whistleblowers, the National Security Council's ethics lawyer determined that Flynn's involvement could violate the criminal conflict of interest statute, the report says. As a result, NSC legal adviser John Eisenberg instructed NSC staff to cease all work on the plan.
But Harvey continued to pursue the matter, the report says, even after Flynn had been fired in February 2017 for lying to the FBI.
Harvey stated during a meeting on March 2, 2017: "I speak with Michael Flynn every night," the report says.
In mid-March 2017, deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland reportedly stated during a meeting that Trump told Barrack that he could lead the implementation of the plan, the report says.
Harvey subsequently held a conference call with Barrack and Rick Gates, Trump's former deputy campaign manager and deputy chairman of the Inaugural Committee, who has pleaded guilty to crimes and is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller.
At the time, Gates had been hired by Barrack to manage the Washington office of Barrack's company. A career NSC staffer who joined the call later told colleagues that Harvey was trying to promote the IP3 plan "so that Jared Kushner can present it to the president for approval," the report says.
Flynn's replacement, H.R. McMaster, ultimately ordered the council to cease all work on the matter, the report says. He fired Harvey, who is now a minority staffer for the House Intelligence Committee.
Inaugural Committee chairman Tom Barrack speaks at at a pre-Inaugural "Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration" at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Jan. 19, 2017.David J. Phillip / AP file
The report raises further questions about Flynn, who is awaiting sentencing as he cooperates with Mueller. It says Flynn failed to report in his security clearance renewal application a trip he took to Saudi Arabia in June 2015 on behalf of IP3 and its predecessor company. Although he reported a separate trip to Saudi Arabia in October 2015, Flynn omitted key details, the report says, including the identity of the client that financed the trip.
Flynn claimed he spoke at a conference during the trip, but none of his three speakers' bureaus had any involvement with the trip or knew of any conference there, the report says. Flynn told investigators that he stayed at the King Khaled International Hotel, but a U.S. consulate official could not identify any such hotel in Saudi Arabia, the report says.
Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have expressed concerns about transferring nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, the report notes.
In October, Republican Senators Marco Rubio, Todd Young, Cory Gardner, Rand Paul, and Dean Heller sent a letter to Trump urging him to "suspend talks related to a potential civil nuclear cooperation agreement between the United States and Saudi Arabia" due to "serious concerns about the transparency, accountability, and judgment of current decisionmakers in Saudi Arabia."
They said they were concerned that "the Saudi Government has refused, for many years, to consider any agreement that includes so-called 'Gold Standard' requirements against pursuing technologies to enrich uranium and reprocess plutonium-laden spent nuclear fuel."
The House Oversight Committee is sending requests for additional documents to the White House and the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, State, and Treasury, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the CIA, and companies involved with this effort, including IP3, the Flynn Intel Group, ACU Strategies, and Colony NorthStar, the report says.
The committee is also seeking interviews with the key people involved with promoting this plan to the White House.
The White House, Harvey and an attorney for Flynn did not immediately respond to NBC News requests for comment.
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congre ... en-n973021
seemslikeadream » Wed Feb 13, 2019 10:22 am wrote:
Trump backer Tom Barrack defends Saudi Arabia
Real estate developer said that kingdom was misunderstood by the West
16:37 February 12, 2019
Ed Clowes, Staff Reporter
Dubai: America is in no moral position to criticise Saudi Arabia, according to financier and key Trump backer Tom Barrack.
Speaking on stage at the Milken Institute MENA Summit in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, Barrack was asked by CNN’s Becky Anderson about the reputational damage to Saudi Arabia over the Jamal Khashoggi killing.
In response, he joked: “As long as you don’t make me a guest at the Ritz.”
With regards to the murder of journalist Khashoggi, Barrack said that “whatever happened in Saudi Arabia, the atrocities in America are equal, or worse ...”
“The atrocities in any ... country are dictated by the rule of law,” he continued. “So for us to dictate what we think is the moral code there, when we have a young man and regime that is trying to push themselves into 2030, I think is a mistake.”
Barrack went on to launch a lengthy defence of Saudi Arabia, accusing Western countries of failing to understand the kingdom.
“The problem that has happened with the Khashoggi incident,” he said, “is the same problem with the West misunderstanding the east that has existed since Sykes-Picot.”
“So, the West is confused, it doesn’t understand the rule of law in the kingdom, it doesn’t understand what succession in the kingdom is, it doesn’t understand how there can be a dilemma with a population that has 60 per cent of people under the age of 20.”
He later added that the West had always been confused about the Middle East.
“The corrupt hand of the West has been the primary instigator in the kingdom, and in the resource curse across the region forever.”
Barrack then praised the strong leadership across the Arabian Gulf in the face of this perceived Western ineffectiveness, especially in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
“The leadership in the UAE is brilliant,” he said, adding: “The English manipulated the region for decades.”
The private equity investor also defended Saudi Arabia’s transformation, saying that “in a transition, bold action is required for bold places.”
Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Riyadh represented some of the “most organised leadership regimes” in the world, he added.
https://gulfnews.com/amp/business/trump ... ssion=true
Trump reportedly wanted top federal prosecutor in charge of probing Stormy Daniels hush money affair — even after the former Giuliani partner recused
President Donald Trump last year suggested to acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker that Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, take charge of an ongoing criminal investigating into hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, The New York Times reports.
Berman had recused himself from case. Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in the case.
The Times also reported that House Democrats are examing whether Whitaker committed perjury by telling a congressional committee this month that Trump never pressured him about various investigations.
Dan Mangan | @_DanMangan
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is sworn in to testify before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the Justice Department on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 8, 2019.
President Donald Trump suggested last year that Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, take charge of a criminal investigation into hush money payments made to two alleged sexual partners of Trump, despite the fact that the prosecutor was already recused from being involved in that case, a new report says.
The New York Times also reported Tuesday that House Democrats are examining whether former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker perjured himself by telling a congressional committee this month that Trump never pressured him about various investigations — including the Manhattan federal probe into hush money payments.
The White House and the Justice Department had no immediate comment on the Times article, which was headlined, "Intimidation, Pressure and Humiliation: Inside Trump's Two-Year War on the Investigations Encircling Him."
Trump, in an Oval Office press event Tuesday, denied the anecdote about asking Whitaker if Berman could take over the hush money probe.
"No, not at all, I don't know who gave you that," Trump said. "That's more fake news."
Berman is a former legal partner of Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump's outside attorneys in the special counsel's Russia probe.
The wide-ranging article from the Times says that Trump spoke with Whitaker in late 2018 about the ongoing probe in Manhattan into claims that the president directed his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen to facilitate payments to two women shortly before the 2016 presidential election.
Cohen said last year that he paid porn star Stormy Daniels and had the publisher of the National Enquirer pay Playboy model Karen McDougal at Trump's behest to keep them quiet about their alleged sexual trysts with him a decade earlier. The intent, according to Cohen, was to keep the stories from affecting the outcome of the presidential election. Trump has denied Cohen's claims, and also denied having sex with either woman.
Cohen's confession came in connection with his guilty plea to violating campaign finance laws by facilitating the payments, which were not disclosed by the Trump campaign as a benefit to the campaign.
Cohen is set to begin serving a three-year prison term next month for those and other crimes.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which is headquartered in Manhattan, has continued to investigate the payments. The case is considered to be a potential serious legal threat to Trump.
The Times, citing what it said are "several American officials," reported that in late 2018 called Whitaker and asked whether Berman could be put in charge of the probe.
According to the report, Whitaker had told some of his associates that part of his job was to "jump on a grenade" for Trump, but knew he could not put Berman in charge of the case because he was already was recused from the case.
Trump, the Times said, then "soured" on Whitaker, "and complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president's many legal problems go away."
The president told reporters on Tuesday that the idea he had soured on Whitaker also was not true.
He said he has a "very good" relationship with Whitaker, who remains in a top Justice Department counselor position after the confirmation last week of William Barr as attorney general.
Berman has not said why he was recused from the hush money case before FBI agents raided Cohen's office and residences in New York in April 2018. But recusals are routinely made by lawyers and judges to prevent a conflict of interest or even an appearance of a conflict of interest.
In the case of Cohen, Berman was recused by senior Justice Department officials.
Berman, besides being a former law partner of Giuliani's, was personally interviewed by Trump before the president put him in charge of the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the Democrat from New York who is now running for president, condemned Berman's appointment at the time. "Deeply disturbing considering the conflicts of interest inherent by his potential jurisdiction on matters that could affect the president personally," she said.
Because of Berman's recusal, the probe into Cohen, as well as the ongoing investigation of the hush money payments, has been headed by Berman's deputy, Robert Khuzami.
However, people familiar with the cases Berman has brought said that his offices investigation into the Trump Inaugural Commiteee is being pursued under his direction, according to NBC News.
The Manhattan federal probe is distinct from the ongoing federal investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and possible collusion by the Trump campaign. Trump has denied any wrongdoing in all of the cases.
On Feb. 8, during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Whitaker had said, "At no time has the White House asked for nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel's investigation or any other investigation."
He added: "Since becoming acting attorney general I have run the Department of Justice with fidelity to the law and to the constitution."
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/19/trump-w ... probe.html
The Moscow Project
Trump reportedly tried to get a loyalist put in charge of the SDNY investigation into hush-money payments during the 2016 campaign, another sign that he considers himself above the law.
The man he asked to accomplish it: Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who reportedly told associates his job was to "jump on a grenade" for the president.
Trump and his lawyers also reportedly secretly coordinated with Republican congressmen, including not just Devin Nunes but also Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan, to publicly undermine the Russia investigation.
BOMBSHELL: McCabe says FBI told GOP lawmakers in 2017 they were investigating Trump — and none objected
Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe pictured on September 21, 2016 (FBI PHOTO)
Former deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe on Tuesday dropped a major bombshell when he claimed that the FBI told a bipartisan group of lawmakers in 2017 that it had opened an investigation into President Donald Trump — and none of the Republicans in the group objected.
In an interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, McCabe said that the FBI told the bipartisan “Gang of 8” members of Congress who receive regular briefings on classified information that the bureau was launching an investigation into Trump’s behavior after the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
“No one objected,” McCabe said of the senators’ reactions. “Not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds, and not based on the facts.”
McCabe also told Guthrie that, in May 2017 when it began its investigation, the FBI believed that it “might be possible” that Trump was working directly for Russia.
“You have to ask yourself why any president of the United States might not want to get to the bottom of Russian interference in our election,” he said.
McCabe also told Guthrie that “we had information that led us to believe that there might be a threat to national security, in this case, that the president himself might, in fact, be a threat to United States’ national security.”
https://www.rawstory.com/2019/02/bombsh ... -objected/
Mueller report may be 'anti-climactic,' says ex-intelligence director
By Tal Axelrod - 02/20/19 09:50 AM EST
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Wednesday that he's far from sure that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation will clear up questions about President Trump and Russia.
He said he was hopeful the Mueller probe will provide some answers, but warned it might not even draw a conclusion on whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
“I think the hope is that the Mueller investigation will clear the air on this issue once and for all. I’m really not sure it will, and the investigation, when completed, could turn out to be quite anti-climactic and not draw a conclusion about that,” Clapper said Wednesday on CNN.
Clapper, a frequent critic of Trump's, said people in the intelligence community see a strange deference on the president's part toward Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The strange thing I think that has bothered a lot of people both in and out of the intelligence community is this strange personal deference to Putin by the president. I’ve speculated in the past that the way Putin behaves is to treat President Trump as an asset,” Clapper said Wednesday.
He added that if Trump were indeed advancing Putin’s interests, he would more likely be doing so unwittingly.
Justice Department preparing for Mueller report in coming days
Justice Department officials are preparing for the end of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and believe a confidential report could be issued in coming days, according to people familiar with the discussions.
The special counsel’s investigation has consumed Washington since it began in May 2017, and it increasingly appears to be nearing its end, which would send fresh shock waves through the political system. Mueller could deliver his report to Attorney General William P. Barr next week, according to a person familiar with the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations.
Regulations call for Mueller to submit to the attorney general a confidential explanation as to why he decided to charge certain individuals, as well as who else he investigated and why he decided not to charge those people. The regulations then call for the attorney general to report to Congress about the investigation.
[William P. Barr won’t promise to make Mueller report public]
An adviser to President Trump said there is palpable concern among the president’s inner circle that the report might contain information about Trump and his team that is politically damaging, but not criminal conduct.
Even before he was confirmed by the Senate, Barr h
Reupping: We are getting a report that (unless there are further indictments coming) will lay out this on Friday.
QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE REPORTING A BREAKING MUELLER REPORT
February 20, 2019/89 Comments/in 2016 Presidential Election, Mueller Probe /by emptywheel
Update: CNN is matching NBC’s reporting on this. It also backs its report with real details from their superb stakeout.On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday last week, special counsel’s office employees carried boxes and pushed a cart full of files out of their office — an unusual move that could foreshadow a hand-off of legal work.
At the same time, the Mueller prosecutors’ workload appears to be dwindling. Four of Mueller’s 17 prosecutors have ended their tenures with the office, with most returning to other roles in the Justice Department.
And the grand jury that Mueller’s prosecutors used to return indictments of longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and several Russians hasn’t apparently convened since January 24 the day it approved the criminal charges against Stone.
I take from that I’m wrong about Mueller waiting for the two appeals (he knows what he’ll get from them) before he delivers his verdict.
Pete Williams did the NBC circuit yesterday claiming that the Mueller report may be submitted to DOJ as soon as next week.Pete Williams on MSNBC says the Mueller report may go to DOJ as early as next week
Because a lot of people have asked me about this and because Williams (and some other journalists) don’t appear to know enough about the Mueller investigation to ask the proper questions to assess that claim, I’d like to lay out a little logic and a few facts. It’s certainly possible that a Mueller report is coming next week — I’d argue that one is assuredly coming on Friday. But I doubt that means what Williams thinks it does.
THE CONCLUSORY REPORT IS NOT COMING NEXT WEEK
When most people think of “the Mueller report,” they mean this report, dictated by the Special Counsel regulations.At the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel.
When Mueller is done, he has to submit a confidential report to the Attorney General (who is now Mueller’s friend William Barr) telling him what he did and didn’t do. Given everything Barr said as part of his confirmation process, we’re unlikely to see this report.
To assess whether this report is what Pete Williams thinks is coming, we should assess whether public evidence is consistent with Mueller being done.
The answer to that is clearly no. He’s still chasing testimony from Roger Stone flunkie Andrew Miller and from some foreign owned corporation (and has been chasing that, in the case of Miller, since last May).
Given that Miller already interviewed with the FBI for two hours and the foreign company is, by dint of being foreign, a no-brainer target for NSA, it’s quite likely Mueller knows what he’s getting from both of these entities. He just needs Miller on the record, so he can’t change his story to protect Stone, and needs to parallel construct the information from the foreign company. So it’s possible that as soon as Mueller gets both of these things, he’ll finish up quickly (meaning The Report could be soon). But there is no way that’ll happen by next week, in part because whatever the DC Appeals Court says in the Andrew Miller case, the loser will appeal that decision.
So it’s virtually certain that The Report is not coming by next week.
A REPORT TALKING ABOUT “COLLUSION” IS COMING THIS WEEK
But maybe NBC’s sources are speaking metaphorically, and mean something else that isn’t the conclusory report but that will more closely resemble what everyone thinks of when they talk about The Report.
That’s likely to happen, but if it does, it’ll just be a partial report.
That’s because both Mueller and the defense have to submit a sentencing memo in Paul Manafort’s DC case Friday. As I noted back in November when Mueller’s prosecutors declared Manafort to have breached his plea agreement, this sentencing memo presents an opportunity for Mueller to “report” what they’ve found — at least with respect to all the criminal actions they know Manafort committed, including those he lied about while he was supposed to be cooperating — without anyone at DOJ or the White House suppressing the most damning bits. DOJ won’t be able to weigh in because a sentencing memo is not a major action requiring an urgent memo to the Attorney General. And the White House will get no advance warning because Big Dick Toilet Salesman Matt Whitaker is no longer in the reporting chain.
So, as noted, Mueller will have an opportunity to lay out:
The details of Manafort’s sleazy influence peddling, including his modus operandi of projecting his own client’s corruption onto his opponents
The fact that Manafort already pled guilty to conspiring with a suspected Russian intelligence asset
The details about how Manafort — ostensibly working for “free” — got paid in 2016, in part via kickbacks from a Super PAC that violated campaign finance law, possibly in part by Tom Barrack who was using Manafort and Trump as a loss-leader to Middle Eastern graft, and in part by deferred payments or debt relief from Russian-backed oligarchs
Manafort’s role and understanding of the June 9 meeting, which is a prelude of sorts to the August 2 one
The dates and substance of Manafort’s ongoing communications with suspected Russian intelligence asset Konstantin Kilimnik, including the reasons why Manafort shared highly detailed polling data on August 2, 2016 that he knew would be passed on to his paymasters who just happened to be (in the case of Oleg Deripaska) a central player in the election year operation
The ongoing efforts to win Russia relief from the American Ukrainian-related sanctions by pushing a “peace” plan that would effectively give Russia everything it wants
Manafort’s ongoing discussions with Trump and the Administration, up to and including discussions laying out how if Manafort remains silent about items two through six, Trump will pardon him
Because those items are all within the substance of the crimes Manafort pled guilty to or lied about during his failed cooperation, they’re all squarely within the legitimate content of a sentencing memo. And we should expect the sentencing memo in DC to be at least as detailed as the EDVA one; I expect it, like the EDVA one and like Manafort’s plea deal, will be accompanied by exhibits such as the EDVA one showing that Manafort had bank accounts to the tune of $25,704,669.72 for which suspected Russian intelligence asset Konstantin Kilimnik was listed as a beneficial owner in 2012. Heck, we might even get to see the polling data Manafort shared, knowing it was going to Russia, which was an exhibit to Manafort’s breach determination.
The only thing limiting how much detail we’ll get about these things (as well as about how Manafort served as a secret agent of Russian backed Ukrainian oligarchs for years) is the ongoing sensitivities of the material, whether because it’s grand jury testimony, SIGINT collection, or a secret Mueller intends to spring on other defendants down the road.
It’s the latter point that will be most telling. As I noted, thus far, the silences about Manafort’s cooperation are — amazingly — even more provocative than the snippets we learned via the breach determination. We’ll likely get a read on Friday whether Mueller has ongoing equities that would lead him to want to keep these details secret. And the only thing that would lead Mueller to keep details of the conspiracy secret is if he plans to charge it in an overarching conspiracy indictment.
We may also get information, however, that will make it far more difficult for Trump to pardon Manafort.
So, yeah, there’s a report coming out this week. But it’s not The Report.
ANY OVERARCHING CONSPIRACY INDICTMENT WILL NOT BE COMING THIS WEEK
It’s possible Mueller is close to charging an overarching conspiracy indictment, laying out how Trump and his spawn entered into a quid quo pro with various representatives of the Russian government, getting dirt on Hillary and either a Trump Tower or maybe a bailout for the very same building in which Manafort met with Konstantin Kilimnik on August 2, 2016. In exchange for all that, Trump agreed to — and took steps to deliver on, with some success in the case of election plot participant Deripaska — reversing the sanctions that were such a headache to Russia’s oligarchs.
Such an indictment, if Mueller ever charges it, will look like what Trump opponents would like The Report to look like. In addition to naming Don Jr and Jared Kushner and Trump Organization and a bunch of other sleazeballs, it would also describe the actions of Individual-1 in adequate detail to launch an impeachment proceeding.
But that indictment, if Mueller ever charges it, won’t be coming on Friday or Monday, as Williams predicts, because it likely requires whatever it is Mueller is trying to parallel construct from that foreign-owned company. And even if SCOTUS denies its appeal today, it’s unlikely that evidence will be in hand in time for a Friday indictment.
MUELLER COULD ENSURE A REPORT GETS DELIVERED TO JERRY NADLER NEXT WEEK … BUT THAT’S UNLIKELY
There’s one other possibility that would make Williams’ prediction true: if Mueller deliberately triggered the one other way to deliver a report, by asking to take an action William Barr is unlikely to approve, and if Mueller was willing to close up shop as a result, then a report would go to Congress and — if Barr thought it in the public interest — to the public.
Upon conclusion of the Special Counsels investigation, including, to the extent consistent with applicable law, a description and explanation of instances (if any) in which the Attorney General concluded that a proposed action by a Special Counsel was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices that it should not be pursued.
The Attorney General may determine that public release of these reports would be in the public interest, to the extent that release would comply with applicable legal restrictions.
The only thing that Mueller might try to do that Barr would not approve (though who knows? maybe what Mueller has is so egregious Barr will surprise us?) is to indict the President.
I think this is unlikely, for all the reasons the first possibility laid out here is unlikely: that is, Mueller is still waiting on two details he has been chasing for quite some time, and I doubt he’d be willing to forgo that evidence just to trigger a report. It’s also unlikely because Mueller is a DOJ guy, and he’s unlikely to ask to do what he knows OLC says he should not do.
Still, it’s hypothetically possible that Mueller believes Trump is such an egregious criminal and national security risk he needs to try to accelerate the process of holding him accountable by stopping his investigation early (perhaps having the DC AUSAs named on the Miller and Mystery Appellant challenges take over those pursuits) and asking to indict the President.
But if that’s what Williams is reporting, he sure as hell better get more clarity about that fact, because, boy would it be news.
All of which is the lesson of this post: If you’re being told — or telling others — that Mueller’s report is imminent, then you’re either being told very very big news, or bullshit. Do yourself and us a favor of learning the base level regulations to understand which it is.
As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post.
https://www.emptywheel.net/2019/02/20/q ... er-report/
(THREAD) BREAKING: CNN says "AG Barr is preparing to announce as early as next week the completion of Mueller's Russia probe—with plans for Barr to submit to Congress soon after a summary of Mueller's confidential report." I unpack the news in this thread.
1/ The first important thing is to understand that—as NBC has done with a similar report over the last two days—CNN hedged its bets on its report in every way possible:
(a) Barr's actions are merely "preparations."
(b) CNN treats the news as merely an "indication" of the future.
(c) If true, it means Mueller's "nearly" done.
(d) "The precise timing of the announcement is subject to change."
(e) "The scope and contours of what Barr will send to Congress remain unclear."
(f) "Also unclear is how long it'll take Justice to prepare what it will submit."
3/ As someone who teaches journalism as well as legal advocacy, I'd say that's a heck of a lot of hedging. We got the same thing—admittedly on a more sparse report—from NBC's Pete Williams yesterday when he said "it's just our [NBC's] speculation" as to when Mueller will finish.
4/ A last hedge from CNN—and previously NBC—is that neither Justice nor Mueller will comment on these reports, and the sources are (of course) anonymous, so we have no idea how strong the sourcing is. The sources are at Justice—but whether they're in-the-know/biased we can't say.
5/ Some of CNN's report is rehashed—reading signs about Mueller possibly finishing up it's noted before (e.g., 4 of Mueller's 17 prosecutors being reassigned). CNN also says it saw "special counsel's office employees carry boxes and push a cart full of files out of their office."
6/ In making that second observation (about files leaving Mueller's office), CNN issued a *warning* about how we should understand what's happening—noting that the movement of files may signal a "hand-off" of certain cases (to other federal prosecutors) rather than their closure.
7/ This is why some inexact language being used by very good reporters at CNN should be checked, including one journalist who said (erroneously) that this report, if true, meant "the completion of the Russia investigation." If we know one thing, we know that that's not accurate.
8/ One reason many attorneys (me, Preet Bharara, and many others) saw Mueller delivering a report to DOJ this summer rather than this spring—keeping in mind that when *we* see it, and how much of it we see, is a different matter—is because certain things can't be wrapped up yet.
9/ Russian spy Maria Butina's boyfriend Paul Erickson was just charged, and we don't know what he'll reveal; Roger Stone was just charged, and we don't know what he'll reveal; Manafort may face new charges or may balk when he gets his sentence, so we don't know what he'll reveal.
10/ Mueller's office previously told Jerome Corsi it would indict him, and that still hasn't happened; Congress has sent transcripts to Mueller indicating felony perjury or lying to Congress by Erik Prince, Donald Trump Jr. and others, and those charges have not yet been brought.
11/ Mueller is still fighting with one individual and one corporation to compel grand jury testimony, and just extended his grand jury 6 months, so those matters must be litigated, as must outstanding subpoenas for document production—apparently internationally—that Mueller sent.
12/ Even taking all this—and more—into account, Mueller is entitled to issue a "final" report saying who he prosecuted, who he *plans to prosecute* or *is about to prosecute*, and who he chose not to prosecute (which could include the president, non-prosecuted due to DOJ regs).
13/ So a "final" report from Robert Mueller could be issued at the same time as any number of indictments are brought or pursued, with DOJ knowing that Mueller's office will have to supplement any "final" report with anything it learns from current or future indicted individuals.
14/ At the same time, as DOJ doesn't comment on ongoing investigations, any "hand-off" cases that go to other federal prosecutors (say at SDNY, EDVA or DC) will not necessarily be addressed in any "final" report, or, if mentioned, may appear partly or wholly redacted pre-release.
15/ What those who've been reporting that Mueller is close to issuing a final report have been saying is simply that: that he's close to issuing a "final report." That doesn't mean "the Russia investigation is complete" in anything like the way most people will hear that phrase.
16/ We also know that Robert Mueller may or may not close (or be involved with, or even know about) every *counterintelligence* case that may remain open about Trump and his campaign—possibly leading to new criminal cases down the line—as opposed to Mueller's *criminal* inquiry.
17/ Mueller's report, if indeed issued in March, could include information that leads to new counterintelligence investigations, new criminal investigations, new Congressional hearings that lead to new security concerns and new criminal referrals—we just have no idea whatsoever.
18/ We don't know if Mueller was forced to end his work by Barr; if Mueller chose not to indict certain Trump compatriots because they're cooperating witnesses in an impeachable-offense (collusion-related) allegation against Trump; if Mueller handed off explosive cases, or what.
19/ The upshot: lawyers and investigators (or, like me, lawyers and former investigators) have consistently said that *on the facts* Mueller can't be done with his work or even 3 months from done; CNN and MSNBC are reporting that *administratively* Mueller may be closing up shop.
20/ So if the reports are right, as @neal_katyal says we're only at the "end of the beginning," not the end of the end. And depending upon how and why we got here now, and what Mueller says in his report—or else sees redacted—we may well be at the beginning of a year of scandals.
21/ I'm only scratching the surface of this topic here. We still may have up to 20 sealed indictments per the DC docket (or none, or more) and even CNN notes that "even with signs of a wrap-up, the DC US Attorney's office has stepped in to work on cases that may continue longer."
22/ Just one probe *alone*—of Trump's inaugural committee—has many of the same witnesses as the Russia investigation "proper" (e.g., Barrack, Flynn, Gates, and more), so how and whether charges emanate from those cases will determine how much more such cases produce on collusion.
23/ Certainly, we know that people like Flynn and Gates have provided the feds with enormous cooperation with secret intel only they (or they and few people) have—and we've seen *no indictments* from that information, which means other shoes *have* to drop. That's how this works.
24/ So if you're seeing attorneys scrambling a bit here, it's because reporters have the easy job in this instance—simply saying whether they're hearing a report is coming—and attorneys the much harder job: to explain how that could be the case when it *factually* makes no sense.
25/ (And/or to explain how the news the reporters are reporting doesn't actually mean what some of the reporters are implying—as I've tried to do here by emphasizing how many different explosive directions this situation could go in over the next month, many harrowing for Trump.)
PS/ Those of us *also* in the midst of researching books are in a particularly fraught place—as we need to get our research done and *know* a book-length treatise is required to explain what's happened, but *also* know how bad the truth is and that therefore this isn't near over.
PS2/ For instance, I did a thread a week ago summarizing that we have *all ends* of an illegal "quid pro quo" of pre-election collusion involving the Trump campaign and an Israeli business intelligence operation that successfully sold Trump Jr. on a Saudi-funded disinfo campaign.
PS3/ So (taking that as just one example of many), I could take today's news as meaning that Trump Jr. will be charged with Lying to Congress by March and then leaned on for more info on Wikistrat/Psy-Group; that this is all part of the ongoing counterintel op; or something else.
PS4/ I can't give you an answer on where these clear lines of federal inquiry are going, and neither can anyone else—but I know they exist and I know they cannot and will not be blithely closed with a simple report in March. *Many* of these threads are *far* too explosive to end.
PS5/ For all we know, Robert Mueller will dump tons of raw intel into the laps of Congress and the CIA and tell them to investigate it all because he doesn't want to exceed his mandate. We just can't know now and *won't* know for many, many more months—and maybe not even in 2019.
NOTE/ Having said that, should Mueller give DOJ a report that Barr then publishes—redacted—suggesting no illegal pre-election conspiracy with foreign powers, I'll be happy to publish PROOF OF CONSPIRACY to show America what Barr would have had to redact to reach his "conclusion."
NOTE2/ I should've added that IF Barr prematurely shut down Mueller (as the spouse of Trump's Director of Strategic Communications somehow "knew" on Twitter)—but which I DON'T think is what this is—it goes without saying that protestors shutting down D.C. is the only option left.
https://twitter.com/SethAbramson/status ... 0025517057
Senate investigators pursue Moscow-based former Trump associate
Now Playing Senate intel eyes...
London and Moscow (CNN)Senate investigators want to question a Moscow-based American businessman with longstanding ties to President Donald Trump after witnesses told them he could shed light on the President's commercial and personal activities in Russia dating back to the 1990s, multiple sources have told CNN.
The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is probing allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, has been keen to speak with David Geovanis for several months, the sources say.
Geovanis helped organize a 1996 trip to Moscow by Trump, who was in the early stages of pursuing what would become a long-held goal of building a Trump Tower in the Russian capital, according to multiple media reports at the time.
Years later, Geovanis worked for the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, whose ties to Trump's 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort have also been of interest to investigators.
Moscow-based businessman David Geovanis
Two witnesses who have given evidence to the Senate Intelligence Committee say they were asked about Geovanis' past relationship with the President during interviews last year. The interviews were conducted by staff working for both the Republican and Democratic sides of the committee, according to the sources, who wish to remain anonymous due to the confidential nature of the Senate inquiry.
This is the first time that Geovanis' name has been revealed in connection with the various investigations underway into Russian influence on US politics, which include a sweeping new House investigation into Trump's financial interests.
The Senate Intelligence Committee's interest in Geovanis indicates its investigation is delving further back into Trump's past in Russia than previously thought.
A businessman, three women and Joseph Stalin
One of the two witnesses says the committee has a photograph of a younger Geovanis apparently posing in a portrait with three partially clothed women. The portrait, once displayed in a Russian gallery under the title "The Capitalist," depicts the subjects in front of a picture of the former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. It's not clear whether the portrait is a single photograph or a composite.
The witness told CNN that they were shown the photograph during questioning.
David Geovanis in a portrait with three unnamed women and a picture of Stalin. CNN has blurred the women's faces to protect their identity.
A third witness has alleged in written testimony, seen by CNN, that Geovanis may be valuable in the mystery of whether Russia has material on Trump that could be personally embarrassing to him.
Known by the nickname "Geo" to his friends, Geovanis was born in Brockton, Massachusetts, and is a graduate of Trump's alma mater, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. After starting his career in finance, Geovanis went to Moscow to work for a Russian venture of a company called Brooke Group, which owned land earmarked for the site of a proposed Trump Tower. When Trump came to town to promote the project, sources say, it was Geovanis' job to show him around.
Also on the trip were Brooke Group's owners, the real estate moguls Bennett LeBow and Howard Lorber, who went on to become substantial donors to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. Trump personally acknowledged the pair from the podium after he won the 2016 New York Republican primary.
An archive video report of Trump's 1996 Moscow trip emerged online in late January. The news report -- misidentified on YouTube as dating from 1995 -- shows Lorber, Lebow and Trump in discussion with Moscow's then deputy mayor, Vladimir Resin, and his staff, with Geovanis looking on from the background.
Blocked numbers and 'dirt' on Clinton
Lorber has already been linked to the Senate investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. The New York Times named him earlier this month as one of the Trump family associates who spoke with Donald Trump Jr. from blocked numbers around the time of a highly scrutinized 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York.
That meeting was attended by top Trump campaign advisers --- Trump Jr., the President's son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Manafort -- and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskya, who had promised dirt on Trump's election opponent, Hillary Clinton. Lorber has not responded to multiple calls for comment.
Donald Trump (seated, center) on his 1996 visit to Moscow. To his right are real estate moguls Bennett LeBow and Howard Lorber.
When contacted by CNN via telephone, Geovanis declined to comment on his relationship with the President or talk about the photograph said to be in the possession of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He would not disclose his location, although CNN was able to confirm he was in the Moscow area as recently as this month. Asked whether he had been approached by the committee and whether he was aware of its interest, Geovanis told CNN he had "no comment."
A spokeswoman for the Senate Intelligence Committee's Republican chairman, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, declined to comment on whether Geovanis was of interest to it. A spokeswoman for the committee's Democratic Vice Chair, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, also declined to comment.
It's not known whether Geovanis is also of interest to the investigation into alleged Russian election meddling by special counsel Robert Mueller.
The President's legal team declined to comment on his relationship to Geovanis. A lawyer for the Trump Organization also declined to comment.
A tower that never got built
Geovanis was quoted by the Moscow Times in 1996 as saying officials were "very receptive" to the original Trump Tower project, but Trump's early designs on the Moscow skyline never got off the ground.
Discussions two decades later to build another Trump Tower in the Russian capital have been a focal point in the Mueller investigation.
Trump has often denied that his dealings with Russia continued into the 2016 campaign. Even in late 2018 Trump tweeted he "never met a single Russian official."
Trump (left) is accompanied in Moscow by the real estate mogul Bennett LeBow (second from left).
It is not clear what prompted the Senate Intelligence Committee's interest in Geovanis. But multiple sources familiar with its activities tell CNN their inquiries date back to spring last year when it sent him a letter requesting he give evidence. The sources say he has not yet done so but added that he had appointed US legal counsel.
Lebow and Lorber changed their company name from Brooke Group to Vector Group, a Nasdaq-listed cigarette and real estate company. Vector Group's top three shareholders include Renaissance Technologies, the hedge fund once run by Robert Mercer, the conservative donor who was once a patron of business and political ventures of Steve Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist.
A spokeswoman for Vector did not reply to CNN's emails requesting comment. A fax to BSL Capital, Lebow's family firm, went unanswered, despite an assistant confirming it had been received.
Geovanis, who married a Russian woman, obtained a Russian passport in 2014. He was last seen by family members in the US in early 2017 after the death of his mother.
He is not believed to have returned to the US since then, and his decision to remain in Moscow means US congressional investigators can't easily find out what he knows.
In 2017 Geovanis was reemployed by Lebow to set up the Russian arm of another venture, Somerset Coal International, an energy technology company which claims to "clean" coal by washing it at high pressure.
Among those approached by Geovanis for investment was Deripaska, the billionaire metals and mining magnate, for whom Geovanis worked in the mid-2000s, according to a person familiar with Somerset Coal's business plan, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Deripaska is so closely aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the US sanctioned him and his companies in order to punish the Russian government for its activities around the 2016 election. The Trump administration lifted sanctions on three of those companies last month.
A spokesperson for Deripaska did not return CNN's requests for comment.
https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/21/politics ... index.html
What’s The Story Behind The $125,000 Paul Manafort Lied To Mueller About?
It’s one of the stranger episodes in Paul Manafort’s bizarre journey from Trump campaign chairman to the inside of a jail cell.
Even the special counsel seems unsure what to make of a $125,000 payment that went towards paying down a debt of Manafort’s in the summer of 2017, while he was under investigation.
The payment went to reduce a debt that Manafort owed to an unnamed law firm, prosecutors say, and came at a crucial time in the investigation into Trump’s former campaign chair.
Made in June 2017, the cash transfer occurred one month after Mueller was appointed special counsel, and one month before FBI agents raided Manafort’s Alexandria apartment, seizing reams of evidence.
In an initial filing accusing Manafort of lying to the special counsel after agreeing to cooperate, prosecutors wrote that the $125,000 “came from another firm [Firm A], which performed work for an entity, Entity B,” adding that “Manafort has a long relationship with the heads of Firm A and Entity B.”
It appears that the payment was buried within a larger transaction between two entities tied to Manafort, though the details are fuzzy. The entities are not named in filings from prosecutors, but outside reporting helps to fill in the gaps to an extent.
The New York Times has identified Entity B as Rebuilding America Now PAC, which was closely tied to Manafort. It was founded in June 2016 and spent around $23 million in support of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election cycle.
The filing goes on to say that the unidentified “Firm A” signed a contract with the PAC in which it “was to receive a 6% commission on expenditures made to it” from the PAC. That 6 percent was then to be split between two people, according to a declaration from an FBI agent on the case. It’s not clear who those two people were.
The extent of Manafort’s involvement in the scheme is unclear. The transcript of a Feb. 4 hearing in his case shows a prosecutor stating that Manafort “was aware” of the payment scheme, while a judge later found that he had tried to build a false narrative to cover it up.
Prosecutors seem mystified by the payment and its relation to the commission arrangement, which the New York Times reported was suspected to be a kickback scheme involving the pro-Trump super PAC.
“This is definitely an educated guess,” said special counsel prosecutor Andrew Weissmann at Feb. 4 hearing, referring to prosecutor’s attempts at constructing a theory of the payment. “What was really going on was that Mr. Manafort was aware that there was a — to put it charitably, a REDACTED scheme.
Later filings have more details — those indications suggest that the second unnamed company was a firm with ties to Republican operatives, at least one of which had worked closely with Manafort in Ukraine.
A January 2019 declaration from FBI agent Jeffrey Weiland states that one of the firms gave the other “approximately $19 million for REDACTED.”
That $19 million figure provides a clue as to the identity of the redacted company that paid out the mysterious $125,000 to Manafort and received a 6 percent commission from Rebuilding America Now.
A review of Federal Election Commission filings for Rebuilding America Now shows that one company — Virginia-based ad buying firm Multi Media Services — received $18.98 million in payments from the PAC. Multi Media Services is a trade name for First Media Services Corporation.
The filings state that Manafort had a longstanding relationship with the principals of the company, and reporting shows that a top pollster for Trump’s 2016 campaign, Tony Fabrizio, has ties to the firm and to Manafort.
It’s not entirely clear whether Fabrizio had any role in the payment scheme, but he was reportedly interviewed by the special counsel about work he did with Manafort last year.
Virginia corporate records show that Fabrizio serves as an officer of First Media Services Corporation, and has done so since at least 2005. An LA Times story from 2011 states that Fabrizio “shares the second floor” of a quaint building in Alexandria’s old town with Multi Media Services. The story says that the company has “placed ads for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Republican National Committee.”
Fabrizio was reportedly interviewed by the special counsel in February 2018 regarding work he did with Paul Manafort in Ukraine.
He worked with Manafort in Ukraine in 2012 and 2013, and performed some of the first polls for Trump after Manafort joined the campaign in March 2016. CNN reported last month that Mueller asked him about “polling work for Manafort in Ukraine,” and that it was unclear what else was discussed at the interview.
Fabrizio did not reply to repeated requests for comment. Multi Media Services also did not reply to repeated requests for comment.
https://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker ... ller-about
Gaslit Nation with Andrea Chalupa and Sarah Kendzior
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