Trump Was In The Room When Illegal Payments Were Being Discussed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 Ohio on July 18, 2016.John Taggart / Bloomberg via Getty Images file Dec. 13, 2018 / 3:41 PM ESTBy Tom Winter

Donald Trump was the third person in the room in August 2015 when his lawyer Michael Cohen and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker discussed ways Pecker could help counter negative stories about Trump’s relationships with women, NBC News has confirmed.

As part of a nonprosecution agreement disclosed Wednesday by federal prosecutors, American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s parent company, admitted that “Pecker offered to help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate’s relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided.”

The “statement of admitted facts” says that AMI admitted making a $150,000 payment “in concert with the campaign,” and says that Pecker, Cohen and “at least one other member of the campaign” were in the meeting. According to a person familiar with the matter, the “other member” was Trump.

David Pecker attends an event in Paris in 2012.
David Pecker attends an event in Paris in 2012.Francois Durand / Getty Images

Trump was first identified as attending the meeting by The Wall Street Journal.

Daniel Goldman, an NBC News analyst and former assistant U.S. attorney said the agreement doesn’t detail what Trump said and did in the meeting. “But if Trump is now in the room, as early as August of 2015 and in combination with the recording where Trump clearly knows what Cohen is talking about with regarding to David Pecker, you now squarely place Trump in the middle of a conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which investigated Cohen’s hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, declined to comment.

Michael Cohen sentenced to 3 years in prison

DEC. 13, 201802:37

McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate, and her lawyers have said that the National Enquirer paid her $150,000 in August 2016 as part of a “catch-and-kill” strategy to keep the story from circulating publicly.

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When Cohen pleaded guilty to arranging the payments in August, he said he had done so “at the direction” of an unnamed candidate, and that a $150,000 payment prior to the 2016 election was “for the principal purpose of influencing” the election. The meeting between Cohen, Pecker and unnamed other parties to discuss suppressing stories was referenced in the criminal information document to which Cohen pleaded guilty. The document also refers to “at least one other member of the campaign” being present.

The statement of admitted facts says that AMI’s “principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.” Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for the president, has said the payments were made to spare Trump’s family from embarrassment.

I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called “advice of counsel,” and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid. Despite that many campaign finance lawyers have strongly……

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On Wednesday, Judge William Pauley sentenced Cohen to a total of 36 months behind bars, and three years of post-release supervision, for tax evasion, violating campaign finance law and other charges. The judge ordered him to pay almost $1.4 million in restitution and forfeit $500,000, while fining him $50,000 for lying to Congress. Cohen must turn himself in to start serving his sentence by March 6.

At his sentencing, Cohen said that “time and time again, I felt it was my duty to cover up [Trump’s] dirty deeds.”

President Trump tweeted after the sentencing that he “never directed Michael Cohen to break the law.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tom Winter

Tom Winter is a producer and reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit based in New York, covering crime, courts, terrorism, and financial fraud on the East Coast.

The Fraud On The American People That Is Donald Trump And Matt Whitaker

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)

 

Former Attorney General Says Whitaker Appointment ‘Confounds Me’

Matt Whitaker participates in a round table event at the Department of Justice on Aug. 29, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The former attorney general under President George W. Bush is voicing doubt about whether President Trump has the authority to appoint Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, saying there are “legitimate questions” about whether the selection can stand without Senate confirmation.

In an interview with NPR, Alberto Gonzales, who served as attorney general from 2005 to 2007, also said that critical comments made by Whitaker about Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election “calls into question his impartiality.”

Gonzales’s comments add to a chorus of criticism that has faced the Whitaker appointment since Jeff Sessions announced on Wednesday that he was resigning as attorney general at the request of the president. In selecting Whitaker, who served as chief of staff to Sessions, the president passed over the official who had been in charge of the Mueller probe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

“I’ve got some issues with this, quite frankly, because the notion that the chief of staff who is not Senate confirmed would have more experience, more wisdom and better judgement than someone like the deputy attorney general or even the solicitor general, people in the line of presidential succession within the Department of Justice, to me, it confounds me,” Gonzales said in an interview Saturday with NPR’s Michel Martin.

The Whitaker appointment has fueled uncertainty about the future of the Mueller investigation, with many Democrats now urging the former U.S. attorney and Division I football player to recuse himself from overseeing the probe.

Those concerns stem from comments made by Whitaker before he joined the Justice Department last year. In an op-ed for CNN, Whitaker argued that the Mueller investigation had gone too far. He also told the network that he could envision a scenario where Sessions is replaced with an attorney general who “reduces [Mueller’s] budget so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.”

In a separate interview last year with the Wilkow Majority on SiriusXM radio, Whitaker opined on the Mueller investigation, saying, “The truth is there was no collusion with the Russians and the Trump campaign … There was interference by the Russians into the election, but that is not the collusion with the campaign.”

Addressing Whitaker’s past statements, Gonzales said he questioned “whether or not putting Mr. Whitaker in this position at this particular time was the wise move.” Even if the appointment is lawful, Gonzales said, Whitaker’s comments raised “a whole specter of whether or not he should recuse himself, so again, we’re right back in the situation where you’ve got the leadership at the department subject to questioning as to whether or not they can effectively lead the department with respect to one of the most politically charged investigations that’s ongoing right now.”

On Friday, President Trump responded to criticism that he appointed Whitaker in order to rein in the investigation, saying he has not spoken to him about the probe. The president also said, “I don’t know Matt Whitaker,” even though he has met with him more than a dozen times. In October, President Trump also told Fox News, “Matt Whitaker’s a great guy. I mean, I know Matt Whitaker.”

Adding to the concerns of Democrats is Whitaker’s ties to a witness in the Mueller investigation: Sam Clovis. In 2014, Whitaker chaired Clovis’s campaign for Iowa state treasurer. Clovis went on to work as an adviser to the Trump campaign, and is believed to be one of the campaign officials who spoke with another aide, George Papadopoulos, about overtures Papadopoulos was getting from Russians in London.

The Washington Post, citing “two people close to Whitaker,” reported on Thursday that the new acting attorney general has no intention to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. In a statement on Wednesday, Whitaker said he is “committed to leading a fair Department with the highest ethical standards, that upholds the rule of law, and seeks justice for all Americans.”

As NPR’s Miles Parks and Philip Ewing reported this week, there are multiple ways Whitaker would be able to complicate Mueller’s work:

One is simply by declining to continue to pay the investigators or attorneys working for the special counsel. Or by re-assigning them back to their previous jobs in the FBI and the Justice Department or the intelligence community.

Another way is by constraining the authority that Mueller and his office have to conduct the investigations they want.

… When the special counsel’s office wants to issue a subpoena or send investigators or call witnesses before a grand jury, the deputy attorney general is often involved. If the new leadership at the Justice Department didn’t want to go along, however, that could constrain Mueller’s ability to investigate as he sees fit.

And, if nothing else, having an attorney general who isn’t recused from Mueller’s work might give the White House a clearer look inside it.

Gonzales said he was unsure of what could be done if Whitaker moved to stop the Mueller investigation. Such a dramatic step is sure to trigger a fight between Congress and the executive branch about access to what Mueller has so far found, he said.

“The [Justice] Department may simply assert privilege based on law enforcement privilege to protect the integrity of the investigation and to encourage honest dialogue between investigators and prosecutors. Whether or not that privilege would be upheld in the court remains to be seen,” he said.

But Gonzales said it shouldn’t have to come to that.

“I’m extremely troubled that a change may have been made here to stop an investigation, which by all accounts is almost complete,” he said. “I think we just wait and let this thing play out, let Bob Mueller write his report and let the American people know what actually happened here.”

The audio version of this story was produced by Dana Cronin and Ammad Omar.

Politically Correct: The Acidic Evil That Is American Politics

Politically Correct: The Acidic Evil That Is American Politics

Good evening folks, tonight I wish to speak with you about a subject matter that is not near or dear to my heart, it is called political correctness. This subject matter touches each and every one of us on a regular basis in our daily lives. In its simplest form political correctness is the attempt to avoid offending anyone at anytime regardless of the subject matter. I believe that when most of us hear the term political correctness it is not a smile that crosses our face, it is more likely to be a disgusted frown. Today if a person says anything about a subject matter when it may in any way shed a light of truth on the events of today, if that truth in the slightest degree has any measure of negatives then you will be labeled as a hater. There was a time in this country when people were allowed to be honest in their speech but unfortunately that is not the case these days. Now if you say anything about anyone person or persons even if you are speaking the total truth to the best of your knowledge, you have become a hater or some kind of a bigot whom is very likely to be sued in court because you dared to be honest. In the past we could describe a dirty old man in simple terms/truths, these days political correctness (stupidity) airbrushed the truth stains away so that you don’t offend that dirty old man. These days that person is a sexually focused chronologically gifted individual. Laziness is now referred to as motivationally deficient. I am now no longer short being only five feet eleven and three-quarters inches tall, I am vertically challenged because I didn’t make it to at least six feet. It is comforting to know that I didn’t really have trouble with algebraic equations in college, I simply had a memory deficiency.

 

We could all just sit back in our Lazy Boy recliners with a glass of Jose Cuervo in one hand and a big blunt in the other and just sit back and laugh at American politicians and media talking heads as they spout this stupidity. The scary part of this is that what we the people call stupidity/political correctness, some of the fore mentioned people cultivate this ignorance as their personal gospel. This ignorance is a gospel of re-education and it does show via the ignorance and apathy we see and hear when today’s streamlined, bought and paid for politicians open their mouths. Today at almost all of our college campuses as well as the secondary and primary schools this re-education propaganda is widely referred to as diversity education. This ignorance that our politicians and the media push down our throats tries to please everyone all of the time and to never offend anyone any of the time. This is a nice story line if it were in a small child’s fantasy or Fantasy Island handbook but in the real world it is simply poison. Most all of us adults know that political correctness if allowed to play out and to become the laws of the land, we are all doomed to be the laughing-stock of the whole world. Today if people dare attempt to speak the truth about real world issues they are branded as haters or we are people with stone-age ideologies. Truth is that when people do dare to speak the truth on real issues what you say will most likely offend some people whom do not happen to agree with you. When we are cultivated away from the truth and told we can’t say such things isn’t this the same thing as saying to advance in our society today that you must either be and idiot, or an habitual liar?

 

For those who might think that this mental disease is a spin-off of the 1960’s and 70’s hippy drug culture then you need to crack open some college level history books and increase your knowledge on this subject matter. My friends, political correctness has been around and practiced through other cultures around the world far longer than any of us have been alive. Political correctness is really nothing more than cultural Marxism in some professors views and I can’t say that I disagree with them. If we compare the basic tenets of political correctness with classical Marxism the parallels of the two are very obvious. When Marxist Communists take over a country such as Russia, China, North Korea or Cuba the personal freedom of speech ceases to exist.

 

I leave you tonight with just one last observation, isn’t it amazing how much Russia and her politics have turned to look more like our politicians rhetorical babbling? Or, is it more correct to say that our government is starting to look more like the Russia of President Putin or even that of Germany of the mid 1930’s in that free honest intelligent conversation can be construed as a hate crime? Is political correctness in places like D.C., Hollywood and New York City going to be a nail in America’s coffin? Time will tell us all what the truth is but I totally have my doubts that anyone alive today will live long enough to see that day. Friends, good night, stay well, God Bless.

Trump Trying To ‘Stifle Free Speech,’ 12 Former Intelligence Officials Say

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

Trump Trying To ‘Stifle Free Speech,’ 12 Former Intelligence Officials Say

The rare rebuke comes after the president revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan.
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In a joint statement Thursday, a dozen of the nation’s leading former intelligence officials slammed President Donald Trump’s recent decision to revoke former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance.

The officials, who served under both Republican and Democratic presidents, include former CIA Directors Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta, William Webster, Porter Goss, David Petraeus and George Tenet, several of the agency’s former deputy directors and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

“We all agree that the president’s action regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances ― and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech,” they wrote. “You don’t have to agree with what John Brennan says (and, again, not all of us do) to agree with his right to say it, subject to his obligation to protect classified information.”

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Elana Schor

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New: Statement from a dozen former top intelligence officials representing R and D admins (including ex-CIA chiefs) says yanking Brennan’s clearance has “everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech.”

Trump announced Wednesday that he had revoked Brennan’s clearance, part of an ongoing effort to retaliate against those who have criticized the administration. Former top intelligence and law enforcement officials have traditionally been allowed to retain their clearances as a professional courtesy, which also allows future administrations to call upon them for their expertise.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday also read a list of several other former officials whose credentials are currently being reviewed, including two people who signed Thursday’s statement.

“We have never before seen the approval or removal of security clearances used as a political tool, as was done in this case,” the 12 intelligence leaders wrote. The officials, who served under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, stressed that Brennan was an “enormously talented, capable, and patriotic individual who devoted his adult life to the service of this nation.”

Brennan himself fired back at the White House after the announcement, saying it was “an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge” Trump.

Despite the outcry, The Washington Post reported Thursday that Trump felt bolstered by his decision and was eager to revoke the clearances of others in the near future, an effort sure to provoke the signers of Thursday’s statement.

“As individuals who have cherished and helped preserve the right of Americans to free speech ― even when that right has been used to criticize us ― that signal is inappropriate and deeply regrettable,” the former intelligence officials wrote.

John Brennan: President Trump’s Claims of No Collusion Are Hogwash

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

John Brennan: President Trump’s Claims of No Collusion Are Hogwash

That’s why the president revoked my security clearance: to try to silence anyone who would dare challenge him.

By John O. Brennan

Mr. Brennan was director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2013 to 2017.

Image
CreditAl Drago/The New York Times

When Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s internal security service, told me during an early August 2016 phone call that Russia wasn’t interfering in our presidential election, I knew he was lying. Over the previous several years I had grown weary of Mr. Bortnikov’s denials of Russia’s perfidy — about its mistreatment of American diplomats and citizens in Moscow, its repeated failure to adhere to cease-fire agreements in Syria and its paramilitary intervention in eastern Ukraine, to name just a few issues.

When I warned Mr. Bortnikov that Russian interference in our election was intolerable and would roil United States-Russia relations for many years, he denied Russian involvement in any election, in America or elsewhere, with a feigned sincerity that I had heard many times before. President Vladimir Putin of Russia reiterated those denials numerous times over the past two years, often to Donald Trump’s seeming approval.

Russian denials are, in a word, hogwash.

Before, during and after its now infamous meddling in our last presidential election, Russia practiced the art of shaping political events abroad through its well-honed active measures program, which employs an array of technical capabilities, information operations and old-fashioned human intelligence spycraft. Electoral politics in Western democracies presents an especially inviting target, as a variety of politicians, political parties, media outlets, think tanks and influencers are readily manipulated, wittingly and unwittingly, or even bought outright by Russian intelligence operatives. The very freedoms and liberties that liberal Western democracies cherish and that autocracies fear have been exploited by Russian intelligence services not only to collect sensitive information but also to distribute propaganda and disinformation, increasingly via the growing number of social media platforms.

Having worked closely with the F.B.I. over many years on counterintelligence investigations, I was well aware of Russia’s ability to work surreptitiously within the United States, cultivating relationships with individuals who wield actual or potential power. Like Mr. Bortnikov, these Russian operatives and agents are well trained in the art of deception. They troll political, business and cultural waters in search of gullible or unprincipled individuals who become pliant in the hands of their Russian puppet masters. Too often, those puppets are found.

In my many conversations with James Comey, the F.B.I. director, in the summer of 2016, we talked about the potential for American citizens, involved in partisan politics or not, to be pawns in Russian hands. We knew that Russian intelligence services would do all they could to achieve their objectives, which the United States intelligence community publicly assessed a few short months later were to undermine public faith in the American democratic process, harm the electability of the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, and show preference for Mr. Trump. We also publicly assessed that Mr. Putin’s intelligence services were following his orders. Director Comey and I, along with the director of the National Security Agency, Adm. Michael Rogers, pledged that our agencies would share, as appropriate, whatever information was collected, especially considering the proven ability of Russian intelligence services to suborn United States citizens.

The already challenging work of the American intelligence and law enforcement communities was made more difficult in late July 2016, however, when Mr. Trump, then a presidential candidate, publicly called upon Russia to find the missing emails of Mrs. Clinton. By issuing such a statement, Mr. Trump was not only encouraging a foreign nation to collect intelligence against a United States citizen, but also openly authorizing his followers to work with our primary global adversary against his political opponent.

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Donald Trump with his daughter Ivanka and campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in July 2016, hours before he accepted the Republican nomination for president. A few days later he called on Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s emails.CreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times

Such a public clarion call certainly makes one wonder what Mr. Trump privately encouraged his advisers to do — and what they actually did — to win the election. While I had deep insight into Russian activities during the 2016 election, I now am aware — thanks to the reporting of an open and free press — of many more of the highly suspicious dalliances of some American citizens with people affiliated with the Russian intelligence services.

Mr. Trump’s claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash.

The only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy, whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy, and how many members of “Trump Incorporated” attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets. A jury is about to deliberate bank and tax fraud charges against one of those people, Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman. And the campaign’s former deputy chairman, Rick Gates, has pleaded guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators.

Mr. Trump clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him, which is why he made the politically motivated decision to revoke my security clearance in an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge him. Now more than ever, it is critically important that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and his team of investigators be allowed to complete their work without interference — from Mr. Trump or anyone else — so that all Americans can get the answers they so rightly deserve.

John O. Brennan was director of the Central Intelligence Agency from March 2013 to January 2017.

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