General Flynn Supplies Lots Of Information To Mueller Investigation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE JOURNAL TIMES)

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser provided so much information to the special counsel’s Russia investigation that prosecutors say he shouldn’t do any prison time, according to a court filing Tuesday that describes Michael Flynn’s cooperation as “substantial.”

The filing by special counsel Robert Mueller provides the first details of Flynn’s assistance in the Russia investigation, including that he participated in 19 interviews with prosecutors and cooperated extensively in a separate and undisclosed criminal probe.

It was filed two weeks ahead of Flynn’s sentencing and just over a year after he became the first of five Trump associates to accept responsibility by pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador.

Though prosecutors withheld specific details of Flynn’s cooperation because of ongoing investigations, their filing nonetheless underscores the breadth of information Mueller has obtained from people close to Trump as the president increasingly vents his anger at the probe — and those who cooperate with it.

This week, Trump lashed out at his former legal fixer, Michael Cohen, saying he is making up “stories” to get a reduced prison sentence after his latest guilty plea to lying to Congress. Trump also praised longtime confidante Roger Stone for saying he would “never testify against Trump,” adding in his tweet, “Nice to know some people still have ‘guts!'”

Mueller filing: Flynn gave substantial assistance
CNN
Special counsel Robert Mueller told a federal court that former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn has given “substantial assistance” to the Russia investigation and should not get jail time.
Published at: 9:39 PM, Tue Dec 04 2018

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It’s unclear if Trump will now turn his fury on Flynn, whom Trump grew close to during the 2016 campaign and who has drawn the president’s sympathy since he came under investigation.

Trump has repeatedly lamented how Flynn’s life has been destroyed by the special counsel’s probe. At one point, he tried to protect Flynn by asking former FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into his alleged false statements, according to a memo Comey wrote after the February 2017 encounter.

That episode, which Trump has denied, is among those under scrutiny by Mueller as he probes whether the president attempted to obstruct the Russia investigation.

Federal sentencing guidelines recommend between zero and six months in prison for Flynn, leaving open the possibility of probation.

Mueller’s office said Flynn’s cooperation merits a sentence at the bottom end of that range. But prosecutors also say the long military and government service that sets him apart from all other defendants in the investigation makes his deception even more troublesome.

“Senior government leaders should be held to the highest standards,” they wrote. “The defendant’s extensive government service should have made him particularly aware of the harm caused by providing false information to the government, as well as the rules governing work performed on behalf of a foreign government.”

Flynn’s case has stood apart from those of other Trump associates, who have aggressively criticized the investigation, sought to undermine it and, in some cases, been accused of lying even after agreeing to cooperate.

Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, stands accused of repeatedly lying to investigators since his guilty plea last September. Another Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, is serving a 14-day prison sentence and, though he pleaded guilty to the same crime as Flynn, was denied probation because prosecutors said his cooperation is lacking.

But Flynn has largely remained out of the public eye, appearing only a handful of times in media interviews or campaign events, and dutifully avoided criticizing the Mueller probe despite widespread encouragement from his supporters to go on the offensive. He has instead spent considerable time with his family and worked to position himself for a post-conviction career.

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Flynn’s false statements stemmed from a Jan. 24, 2017, interview with the FBI about his and others’ interactions with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s then-ambassador to the U.S., as the Obama administration was levying sanctions on the Kremlin in response to election interference.

In Tuesday’s filing, Mueller’s office blamed Flynn for other senior Trump transition officials making misleading public statements about his contacts with Russia, an assertion that matches the White House’s explanation of Flynn’s firing.

“Several senior members of the transition team publicly repeated false information conveyed to them by the defendant about communications between him and the Russian ambassador regarding the sanctions,” the filing said.

As part of his plea deal, Flynn said members of Trump’s inner circle, including his son-in-law and White House aide Jared Kushner, were involved in — and at times directing — his actions in the weeks before Trump took office.

According to court papers, in mid-December 2016, Kushner directed Flynn to reach out to several countries, including Russia, about a U.N. Security Council resolution regarding Israeli settlements. During those conversations with Kislyak, Flynn asked Russia to delay or vote against the resolution, a request the Kremlin ultimately rejected.

Flynn also admitted that later in December 2016 he asked Kislyak not to retaliate in response to the Obama administration sanctions, something he initially told FBI agents he didn’t do. Flynn made the request after discussing it with deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland, who was at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, and being told that Trump’s transition team did not want Russia to escalate the situation.

Flynn was forced to resign his post on Feb. 13, 2017, after news reports revealed that Obama administration officials had warned the Trump White House about Flynn’s false statements. The White House has said Flynn misled officials— including Vice President Mike Pence — about the content of his conversations.

Flynn also admitted to making false statements about unregistered foreign agent work he performed for the benefit of the Turkish government. Flynn was under investigation by the Justice Department for the work when he became national security adviser.

A Clear Link Between Trump and Russia Is Now Out in the Open

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BLOOMBERG)

 

A Clear Link Between Trump and Russia Is Now Out in the Open

A new Mueller court filing describes how Michael Cohen negotiated with the Kremlin about a Moscow business deal during the 2016 campaign.

He lied.

Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The key revelation of Michael Cohen’s new guilty plea is this: Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller is one step closer to showing links between Donald Trump’s business interests in Russia and his conduct as a candidate for president.

The criminal information filed by Mueller’s prosecutors in the Southern District of New York states that in a period that lasted until the middle of June, 2016, Cohen was negotiating with the press secretary to Russian President Vladimir Putin for a meeting with Putin in Russia as part of a deal that would have led to a Trump Tower being built in Moscow.

And according to the document, Cohen spoke to Trump about the deal more than three times during that period, and asked both Trump and other senior campaign officials about a Trump trip to Russia in connection with the deal.

Cohen is pleading guilty to lying to Congress by saying these negotiations had ended by January 2016 and by denying that he spoke to Trump about them.

The details that emerge in the document are fascinating and rich.

But the main takeaway is that Cohen and others in the Trump organization were actively doing a Russia deal that linked Trump’s emerging presidential candidacy with his business interest in a Moscow Trump Tower. And Trump knew about it, to a degree yet to be revealed.

Until now, many have speculated that there must be some link between Trump’s business interests in Russia and his campaign conduct. The Cohen plea provides more concrete evidence of such a link.

Now for the specifics.

The story told by the criminal information runs like this:

Starting in September 2015, the Trump Organization was pursuing a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen was working on making the deal happen.

In mid-January of 2016, someone described as “a U.S. citizen third-party intermediary” and identified only as “Individual 2” suggested to Cohen that he contact Putin’s press secretary for “approvals” from the Russian government.

Cohen emailed Putin’s press secretary twice, on Jan. 14 and Jan. 16, 2016.

On Jan. 20, Cohen got a call from the press secretary’s assistant. They spoke for 20 minutes, and Cohen described the deal.

The next day, Jan. 21, Individual 2 wrote to Cohen that he should call them about Putin, because “they called today.”

That began a period of negotiations lasting six months. Apparently, the Russians’ goal was to get Trump to visit Russia and meet Putin. Cohen asked Trump and other campaign officials about Trump traveling to Russia for the meeting. Cohen would go to Russia ahead of time to negotiate the details.

In May, things heated up. Individual 2 emailed Cohen explaining the state of play. “I had a chat with Moscow,” he wrote. “ASSUMING the trip does happen the question is before or after the convention … Obviously the pre-meeting trip (you only) can happen anytime you want but the 2 big guys where [sic] the question. I said I would confirm and revert.”

This email makes clear that there was a close connection between Trump’s status as a candidate and the visit.

Cohen wrote back about “My trip before Cleveland” – where the Republican national convention would be held starting on July 18. Trump would travel to Russia “once he becomes the nominee after the convention.”

Individual 2 then told Cohen that Putin’s press secretary “would like to invite you as his guest to the St. Petersburg Forum which is Russia’s Davos it’s June 16-19. He wants to meet there with you and possibly introduce you” to Putin or the Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev.

Over the next month, Individual 2 sent Cohen the paperwork for a visa, which Cohen seems to have filled out.

The trip looked like it was a go to Cohen, but it was called off around June 14, 2016, when Cohen met Individual 2 at Trump Tower to tell him it wasn’t happening. According to Cohen, the real estate deal was also off at that point.

The document doesn’t say how or why Cohen’s trip was canceled. The most logical possibility is surely that Trump’s campaign advisers told him that he couldn’t go to Moscow after becoming the Republican nominee.

So what does it all mean?

Trump and his supporters will no doubt insist that Cohen and Individual 2 were freelancing, not really representing Trump or the campaign. But the fact that Cohen kept Trump in the loop by asking him about possible travel to Russia strongly suggests that Trump knew that the negotiations over the Moscow Trump Tower were continuing during this period.

Trump supporters might add that it isn’t surprising to discover that Trump didn’t stop his business negotiations with Russia just because he was running for president. Yet it remains significant that those negotiations were happening with Putin’s office directly, not just with real estate developers in Moscow.

Trump supporters can also point out that the deal was canceled. Nevertheless, it seems likely that the deal was killed not because Trump realized it was wrong but because outside advisers told him it would look bad.

Cohen’s latest revelations on their own don’t constitute evidence of a crime or impeachable offense by Trump. However, they do show that Trump was part of a negotiation that linked his status as a candidate to his business interests in Russia. They bring Mueller’s team an important step closer to explaining Trump’s Russia ties during the campaign.

Draft indictment detailed Trump’s role in hush money scheme

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

WSJ: Draft indictment detailed Trump’s role in hush money scheme

(CNN) Federal prosecutors prepared a detailed 80-page indictment against Michael Cohen that outlined President Donald Trump’s role in directing payments to women to keep quiet about alleged affairs, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

The report adds new details to Cohen’s comments in court when he pleaded guilty in August, in which he said the payments to the women were coordinated with Trump.
Trump was involved in or briefed on nearly every step of the payments that were made to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels, to keep quiet about their alleged affairs with Trump, the Journal reported, and the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan gathered information about Trump’s participation.
The transactions may have violated campaign finance laws.
The 22-page document prosecutors ultimately filed against Cohen alleged that he coordinated with one or more members of the Trump campaign. In court, Cohen admitted that “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” he kept information that would have harmed Trump from becoming public during the 2016 election cycle.
Prosecutors had prepared a draft indictment of Cohen that was more detailed and included additional charges, people familiar with the investigation have told CNN.
The indictment was sent to the Justice Department in anticipation of charging Cohen, a person familiar the matter said. But negotiations between Cohen and prosecutors then began in earnest and they negotiated a plea deal. Prosecutors never filed the indictment and Cohen pleaded guilty to an information containing fewer charges.
The Journal report adds new details about how Trump was involved.
Trump met in August 2015 at Trump Tower with David Pecker, the CEO of American Media, who offered to use the National Enquirer to buy the silence of women who might try to publicize sexual affairs with Trump, according to the Journal. The criminal filing from prosecutors described the meeting in vague terms, but didn’t go into detail.
During the campaign, Trump asked Pecker to stop McDougal from telling her story, and Pecker’s company paid $150,000 to the former Playboy model. Then in October 2016, Cohen paid $130,000 to Daniels himself to keep her from going public about an affair with Trump.
The President lawyers declined to comment. Trump has previously denied both affairs.
Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing Daniels, said the new developments vindicated his client.
“For over 8 months we have been battling Donald Trump and the lies he has told about his payment to my client. This is further vindication that we were right,” Avenatti said.
“I think the President should be indicted,” he added.
American Media declined to comment on the report.

John McCain’s Death Reminds Us Just How Petty Trump Is

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORKER)

 

Donald Trump’s Response to John McCain’s Death Reminds Us Just How Petty He Is

Donald Trump is a small, petty man. He is a liar and a crook. And his legal problems are mounting. Each one of these statements has been true since January 20, 2017, when Trump became the President of the United States. But the remarkable events of the past week have highlighted and confirmed the essence of this President, and the terms on which he continues to hold office.

On Monday morning, someone in the White House ordered that the U.S. flag atop the building—which had been flying at half-staff to honor the memory of Senator John McCain, who died on Saturday—be raised to its normal position. Who was responsible for this action? President Trump, of course.

Over the weekend, Trump declined to issue a personal statement praising McCain, instead confining himself to a tweet in which he offered condolences to McCain’s family. You might argue that, in doing so, the President was avoiding hypocrisy—the enmity between the two men was long-standing and bitter. After the Helsinki summit, earlier this year, McCain called Trump’s joint press conference with Vladimir Putin “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American President in memory.” If, after all this acrimony, Trump had said something positive about McCain, it would have rung hollow.

But messing with the flag that flies above the White House was different. The flag represents the United States and the office of the Presidency, not Trump personally. After the death of a prominent U.S. politician, such as a former President or prominent senator, it is standard practice for the sitting President to issue a proclamation ordering the flag to be lowered to half-staff until the burial, which, in this case, will be next Sunday. Whatever one thinks of McCain’s political views, his record—five and a half years in a Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp, thirty-one years in the Senate, and two Presidential bids—surely merited such an honor. As Mark Knoller, of CBS News, noted on Monday morning, Trump failed to order the proclamation. Evidently, there is no limit to his smallness.

The outcry was immediate and broad-based, and, in this instance, Trump backed down. On Monday afternoon, the White House press office released a statement in his name, which said, “Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain’s service to our country and, in his honor, have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until the day of his interment.”

Who persuaded Trump to change course? Was there a rebellion in the West Wing? The initial reports about the reversal didn’t say. But it was clear that the last thing the White House needs right now is another public-relations disaster. Although McCain’s death knocked the saga of Michael Cohen’s guilty plea off the front pages, at least temporarily, the past week was a disaster for the White House, and a reminder that Trump’s pettiness is only exceeded by his deceitfulness. Is there anybody in the entire country who now believes anything he says about the payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal that Cohen helped orchestrate?

In the words of Glenn Kessler, the head of the Washington Post’s fact-checking team, “Trump and his allies have been deliberately dishonest at every turn in their statements regarding payments to Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.” No surprise there, of course. This is a man who used to pose as his own press agent to plant fake stories about himself; who has claimed—on the basis of no evidence whatsoever—to have seen Muslims in New Jersey celebrating after the 9/11 attacks; and who has routinely exaggerated his wealth by a factor of ten or more.

For habitual liars, telling untruths is “partly practice and partly habit,” William Hazlitt once wrote. “It requires an effort in them to speak truth.” Trump seldom makes the exertion. From the start of Trump’s Presidency to the beginning of this month, Kessler’s team had “documented 4,229 false or misleading claims from the president—an average of nearly 7.6 a day.”

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Most of these falsehoods Trump has got away with, but he may not get away with his denials and dodges regarding the Daniels and McDougal payments. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York—having secured the coöperation of Cohen and the reported coöperation of David Pecker, who is the head of the company that owns the National Enquirer, and Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization—already seems to have strong evidence that Trump was part of a conspiracy to evade campaign-finance laws. Last week, Cohen told a federal court that, in helping arrange the payoffs to Daniels and McDougal, he acted “at the direction of a candidate for federal office.” According to the Wall Street Journal, Pecker “told federal prosecutors that Mr. Trump had knowledge of Mr. Cohen’s payments to women.”

Some of Trump’s defenders are complaining that the Feds, having failed to nail the President on the charge of conspiring with Russia to influence the 2016 election, are now “trying to Al Capone the President”—that is, get him on a technicality. Others in the Trump camp are falling back on the legal argument that a sitting President can’t be indicted, or that Hillary Clinton’s campaign also violated campaign laws. But, apart from Trump himself, virtually nobody seems to be claiming that he didn’t direct the payoffs.

It would be an irony, of course, if it were the Stormy Daniels story, rather than the Russia probe, that brought Trump to book. It wouldn’t be entirely surprising, though. Sometime, somewhere, Trump’s crooked past was going to catch up with him.

Here’s a quick reminder of the rap sheet. Turning a blind eye to money laundering at his New Jersey casinos. Operating a bogus university that bilked middle-income seniors out of their retirement savings. Stiffing his suppliers as a matter of course. Selling condos to Russians and other rich foreigners who may well have been looking to launder hot money. Entering franchising deals with Eastern European oligarchs and other shady characters. For decades, Trump has run roughshod over laws and regulations.

To protect himself from whistle-blowers, financial cops, and plaintiffs, Trump relied on nondisclosure agreements, lax enforcement, and his reputation for uncompromising litigiousness. But since May, 2017, when he fired James Comey and opened the door to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel, things have been slowly unraveling for the President. (Indeed, Mueller’s team tipped off the Southern District about Cohen’s alleged misdeeds.) Last week, the unwinding process seemed to speed up.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean Trump is finished. Whatever happens on the investigative front, it is hard to believe that his own Justice Department will approve an indictment of him while he remains in office. And, as long as the vast majority of G.O.P. voters continue to support him, the Party’s leaders on Capitol Hill, whose continued support he needs, are very unlikely to turn on him.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which was taken after the news about Cohen’s plea and the conviction of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, shows that Trump’s approval rating has barely budged. So does the weekly Gallup poll, which was updated on Monday. In both surveys, Trump’s rating is in the low forties, where it has been for months. “We’ve had this enormous series of events, and these numbers don’t change very much,” Bill McInturff, one of the pollsters who carried out the NBC/Wall Street Journalpoll, told the Journal. And so we go on.

Why Cohen could get worse for Trump: Prosecutors say they’ve got receipts

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Why Cohen could get worse for Trump: Prosecutors say they’ve got receipts

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
by Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann / 

WASHINGTON — When it comes to Michael Cohen’s claim that he was directed by an unnamed candidate in 2016 — Donald Trump — to make payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to influence the 2016 election, there’s something important to remember.

Prosecutors say they have audio recordings, text messages and phone records about Cohen’s payments — and the intent behind them.

As NBC’s Tom Winter has highlighted, here are the prosecutors from Tuesday:

The proof on these [campaign-finance] counts at trial would establish that these payments were made in order to ensure that each recipient of the payments did not publicize their stories of alleged affairs with the candidate. This evidence would include:

Records obtained from an April 9, 2018 series of search warrants on Mr. Cohen’s premises, including hard copy documents, seized electronic devices, and audio records made by Mr. Cohen.

We would also offer text messages, messages sent over encrypted applications, phone records, and emails.

So, lordy, there are tapes. And emails. And phone records. Of course, we already know of one tape — of Cohen apparently talking about one of the payments to Trump — which CNN reported on last month.

In his interview with Fox News, Trump was asked about Cohen’s payments to Daniels and McDougal.

FOX NEWS: Did you direct him to make these payments?

TRUMP: He made the deal. He made the deals. By the way, he pled to two counts which aren’t a crime which nobody understands. I watched a number of shows, sometimes you get some pretty good information by watching shows, those two counts aren’t even a crime. They weren’t campaign finance.

FOX NEWS: Did you know about the payments?

TRUMP: Later on I knew. Later on. But you have to understand, Ainsley, what he did – and they weren’t taken out of campaign finance. That’s a big thing. That’s a much bigger thing. Did they come out of the campaign. They didn’t come out of the campaign. They came from me.

Let’s repeat those last two sentences: “They didn’t come out of the campaign. They came from me.” That is PRECISELY the allegation of illegal activity here — funds intended for a campaign are SUPPOSED to come from the campaign, not from another source.

THE OTHER IMPORTANT ANGLE IN THE TRUMP-COHEN STORY: THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER

Meanwhile, the Washington Post writes about the other angle here. “According to the documents, [David] Pecker assured Cohen that he would help deal with rumors related to Trump’s relationships with women by essentially turning his tabloid operation into a research arm of the Trump campaign, identifying potentially damaging stories and, when necessary, buying the silence of the women who wanted to tell them.”

“The charging documents allege that Pecker and his company, American Media Inc., owner of the National Enquirer, were more deeply and deliberately involved in the effort to help the Trump campaign than was previously known. AMI also played a key role in the effort to silence adult-film star Stormy Daniels, prosecutors allege. Pecker and AMI did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. Nor did Cohen or his attorney.”

TRUMP’S STRANGE SOUTH AFRICA TWEET

Late last night, President Trump fired off this tweet: “I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. ‘South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.’ @TuckerCarlson @FoxNews.”

The government of South Africa responded, “South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past. #landexpropriation @realDonaldTrump @PresidencyZA.”

“Land reform is a highly divisive issue in South Africa, where white residents, who make up 8 percent of the population, own 72 percent of land, according to official figures,” the New York Times writes. “While there have been some land grabs by private groups — not sanctioned by the government — some right-wing groups have been pushing the false narrative that there have been numerous seizures of white-owned farms and killings of white farmers. In fact, research by one farmers’ organization, published in July, found that the number of killings of farmers was at a 20-year low.”

JUROR WHO SUPPORTS TRUMP TELLS FOX NEWS THAT MANAFORT WAS GUILTY

“Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team was one holdout juror away from winning a conviction against Paul Manafort on all 18 counts of bank and tax fraud, juror Paula Duncan told Fox News in an exclusive interview Wednesday,” Fox reports. “‘It was one person who kept the verdict from being guilty on all 18 counts,’ Duncan, 52, said.”

“‘Finding Mr. Manafort guilty was hard for me. I wanted him to be innocent, I really wanted him to be innocent, but he wasn’t,’ Duncan said. ‘That’s the part of a juror, you have to have due diligence and deliberate and look at the evidence and come up with an informed and intelligent decision, which I did.’”

And: “‘Every day when I drove, I had my Make America Great Again hat in the backseat,’ said Duncan, who said she plans to vote for Trump again in 2020. ‘Just as a reminder.’”

NBC/MARIST POLL: O’ROURKE TRAILS CRUZ IN TEXAS BY JUST 4 POINTS

“As Texas Democrats attempt to win a major statewide contest for the first time in almost three decades, a new NBC News/Marist poll finds Democrat Beto O’Rourke trailing Republican Sen. Ted Cruz by just 4 percentage points,” one of us writes. “O’Rourke, a congressman from El Paso who has ignited Democratic hopes with his impressive fundraising, has 45 percent support among registered voters compared with Cruz’s 49 percent. Six percent of voters remain undecided.”

And this is key when looking at the competitive congressional races in TX-7 (Houston area), TX-23 (Austin-San Antonio area) and TX-32 (Dallas area): “Cruz has majority support by about a 2-1 margin in both the more rural eastern and western parts of the state. But O’Rourke is holding steady with Cruz in Dallas/Fort Worth (both at 48 percent) and besting him in Houston (51 percent to 42 percent).”

Also, “O’Rourke’s relative strength against Cruz … is in contrast to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s whopping 19 point lead over Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez.”

By the way, there’s one more state poll we’ll be releasing later today…

Trump must resist temptation to pardon Manafort for real crimes

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE HILL’ NEWSPAPER AND THE WEBSITE OF JONATHAN TURLEY)

 

Trump must resist temptation to pardon Manafort for real crimes

Trump must resist temptation to pardon Manafort for real crimes
© Greg Nash

After a few weeks on the job, President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani is beginning to sound like the Vince Shlomi of constitutional law. Shlomi became a household name for his mesmerizing low-grade “ShamWow” commercials promising a towel that “holds 20 times its weight” and “doesn’t drip, doesn’t make a mess.” He would ask, “Why do you want to work twice as hard?” when you could just pull out a ShamWow.

Asked about the jailing of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort for witness tampering, Giuliani declared, “Things might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons.” The only thing missing to complete the Shlomi comparison was a picture of a pardon soaking up a bowlful of special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments.

The pardon power is not a ShamWow for presidents to clean up scandals. True, the Constitution gives a president total discretion in the granting of pardons and commutations. However, it was not designed, and should not be used, to protect figures like Manafort or Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen. Shortly after Manafort was thrown into jail pending trial, Trump lamented, “Wow, what a tough sentence for Paul Manafort, who has represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other top political people and campaigns. Didn’t know Manafort was the head of the mob.”In waving around the pardon power, Giuliani essentially offered a Shlomiesque, “Not wow, Mr. President, ShamWow!” The problem is that Manafort would be the least compelling pardon recipient since President Clinton pardoned his own half brother and Marc Rich, a fugitive Democratic donor. It is true that Manafort is not “the head of the mob,” but he is facing compelling allegations of an array of criminal acts running the gamut of the criminal code. Indeed, the list of indictments would have made mob boss John Gotti blush.

For months, I have written about Manafort’s longstanding reputation for being reckless. It was the reason some observers expressed surprise when he was chosen as Trump’s campaign chairman. He is now accused, however, of an act of sheer stupidity that is truly breathtaking: A grand jury indicted him on additional charges of witness tampering after he allegedly tried to coach witnesses over the telephone while under the continual monitoring of a house arrest.

Trump has complained that Manafort is being prosecuted for things that happened “12 years ago.” However, that is why a pardon would be so problematic. Most independent observers view the charges against Manafort as exceptionally strong. Trump would need to pardon him for crimes ranging from fraud to conspiracy and witness tampering to money laundering and tax violations to false statements.

The same is true with Michael Cohen. This pardon talk notably got louder when reports surfaced that Cohen had fired his lawyers and was considering “flipping” as a cooperating witness. However, he also faces a long list of criminal allegations, ranging from business fraud to tax violations to lobbying violations to false statements. The vast majority deal with dubious business practices unrelated to the Trump campaign.

While it is true that none of these alleged crimes might have been identified had Manafort and Cohen not assumed such visible positions, that does not mean they are not criminals or should not be punished for their crimes. In the end, pardons could certainly keep associates loyal and uncooperative with prosecutors, but a pardon may not be quite as legally absorbent as Giuliani suggests. A president cannot pardon away future crimes. Thus, Manafort and Cohen could be called to testify under oath and could be charged with any new acts of perjury or other crimes. A pardon would make it more difficult for the men to refuse to testify under their privilege against self-incrimination.

Finally, a presidential pardon does not protect against state crimes, which, for Cohen, is a particular concern. Giuliani noted that a potpourri of pardons could come “when the whole thing is over.” It is not clear what that time frame might mean. Ironically, if Mueller is slow-walking the investigation, Giuliani’s words would encourage him to reduce that to a glacial pace. Yet, if it comes too early, they could still be forced to testify and require a daisy chain of pardons for any new false statements or criminal acts. The pardons would also have to cover not only the alleged crimes being investigated by Mueller but alleged crimes uncovered by career prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.

Presidential pardons were meant to address manifest injustices. No matter how you feel about the original basis of the special counsel investigation, it is hard to say that the prosecution of Manafort or Cohen would be an injustice to any degree. Indeed, using this power to relieve them of any accountability for crimes worth tens of millions of dollars would be a manifest injustice. They agreed to take high-profile positions and, when one does so, one accepts greater scrutiny. Hence the old expression, “One day on the cover of Time, next day doing time.”

Trump is correct that he and his campaign had nothing to do with these crimes. That is the point: Just as Manafort and Cohen should not be accused of crimes simply because of their connection to Trump, they should not be excused for prior crimes on the same basis. If Trump is going to grant immunity for any crime of any kind at any time, all of the ShamWows in the world won’t absorb the stain that would be left behind.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

Trump says for first time that Cohen represented him in Stormy Daniels case

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Trump says for first time that Cohen represented him in Stormy Daniels case

(Trump proves himself to be a liar, again, the man is habitual) 
 2:33
Missed ‘Fox & Friends’? Here’s what Trump said on Cohen, Ronny Jackson and more.

President Trump, for the first time, said that Michael Cohen represented him in efforts to silence Stormy Daniels in an interview with “Fox & Friends” April 26. 

 April 26 at 9:14 AM 
President Trump acknowledged Thursday for the first time that his longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen represented him in efforts to silence Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who has alleged a sexual encounter with Trump more than a decade ago.
Trump earlier this month denied any knowledge of the $130,000 payment to Daniels that was arranged by Cohen and is subject of a federal investigation, telling reporters: “I don’t know” about the payment or where Cohen got the money. And the White House repeatedly has insisted that Daniels’ allegations that she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006 were false.
But in an interview with Fox News on Thursday morning, Trump appeared to reveal that he had knowledge of Cohen’s payment to Daniels.
“Michael represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me,” Trump said. “And from what I’ve seen, he did absolutely nothing wrong. There were no campaign funds going into this.”
Daniels’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, weighed in a few minutes later on MSNBC and said that Trump had made a “hugely damaging admission.”
Trump’s comments came during a wide-ranging telephone interview with the hosts of “Fox & Friends,” the pro-Trump morning show that the president regularly watches and praises.

 0:56
Trump’s lawyer is invoking the Fifth Amendment. Here’s what Trump has said about it.

President Trump has been very critical of those who plead the Fifth Amendment. His lawyer just invoked the Fifth. 

Cohen is under criminal investigation by the FBI and the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Earlier this month, FBI agents raided Cohen’s home, office and a hotel room where he had been staying and seized records relating to numerous issues, including Cohen’s work on Trump’s behalf to negotiate the settlement with Daniels.
On Wednesday, Cohen told a federal judge that he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself in a lawsuit brought by Daniels. Asked on Fox for his reaction to Cohen’s plea, Trump said: “He’s a good person.”
Trump went on to attempt to distance himself from Cohen, in keeping with the president’s tendency to claim he has little to do with associates once they get into trouble. Cohen has handled Trump’s most sensitive legal and personal affairs for more than a decade, but the president told the Fox hosts that he is more of a businessman than a lawyer.
“This doesn’t have to do with me,” Trump said. “Michael is a businessman. He’s got a business. He also practices law. I would say, probably, the big thing is his business. I have nothing to do with his business.”
Trump described Cohen as one of many members of his legal network.
“I have so many attorneys you wouldn’t believe,” Trump said.
And asked how much of his legal work Cohen is responsible for, Trump said: “As a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny fraction.”

‘Teflon don, Trump’ About To Go Down In The Flames Of Impeachment?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

(Is The ‘Teflon don, Trump’ About To Go Down In The Flames Of Impeachment?)

Right Turn

Trump melts down after Cohen raid — and only hurts himself

  
 April 10 at 9:00 AM 
 2:01
Trump fumes ‘attorney-client privilege is dead’ after FBI raid

President Trump tweeted his outrage at an FBI raid of his personal attorney Michael Cohen’s home and offices, calling it a “witch hunt.”

In an extraordinary series of events, the FBI executed a no-knock raid on President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen’s office, home and hotel. The president, seated alongside his top military and civilian national security advisers to discuss a response to the Syrians’ use of chemical weapons, launched into a rant in which he did not rule out firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, accused law enforcement of bias, whined that Hillary Clinton was not being prosecuted, suggested Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein had behaved improperly in signing off on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, railed again at Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself (and thereby allowing the investigation proceed) and deemed execution of a warrant signed off on by a federal judge and approved by a U.S. attorney and deputy attorney general, both of whom he appointed, to be an “attack” on the country.
Let’s start with the raid. The Post reports:

Michael Cohen, the longtime attorney of President Trump, is under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations, according to three people with knowledge of the case.
FBI agents on Monday raided Cohen’s Manhattan office, home and hotel room as part of the investigation, seizing records about Cohen’s clients and personal finances. Among the records taken were those related to a 2016 payment Cohen made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump, according to another person familiar with the investigation.
Investigators took Cohen’s computer, phone and personal financial records, including tax returns, as part of the search of his office at Rockefeller Center, the second person said.
In a dramatic and broad seizure, federal prosecutors collected communications between Cohen and his clients — including those between the lawyer and Trump, according to both people.

Let us not understate how extraordinary a development this is. The standard of proof required to raid any attorney’s office is exceptionally high. To authorize a raid on the president’s lawyer’s office, a federal judge or magistrate must have seen highly credible evidence of serious crimes and/or evidence Cohen was hiding or destroying evidence, according to legal experts. “The FBI raid was the result of an ongoing criminal investigation *not* by Mueller but by the interim US Attorney personally interviewed and selected by Trump himself, pursuant to a warrant issued under strict standards by a federal judge, subject to approval by the head of the Criminal Division,” said constitutional scholar Larry Tribe. He warns that “firing Sessions or Rosenstein (or reining in Mueller) would trigger a crisis for the Constitution and our national security but wouldn’t even extricate Trump from criminal investigation of his innermost circle.” In short, Tribe concludes, “This is every bit as shattering as many have surmised.”

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What we don’t know is whether the suspected wrongdoing extends to Trump or is solely attributable to Cohen. (By referring the matter to the New York prosecutor, Mueller may have signaled this is not germane to the Russia investigation; however, any possible crimes concerning Stormy Daniels, for example, may or may not implicate Trump.) Whatever the FBI sweeps up may very well further enmesh Trump in an investigation in which what seemed like a series of separate topics — Trump’s personal finances, potential obstruction of justice, possible Russian collusion and hush money paid to a porn star — have begun to bleed into one another. Trump is as vulnerable as he has always been, in part because he plainly does not know what federal prosecutors now have in their possession and because intense pressure may be brought to bear on Cohen to “flip” on Trump.
Trump cannot take much comfort in the attorney-client privilege. For one thing, it applies to legal communications; if Cohen is acting as a businessman/”fixer,” no privilege may attach. Moreover, the attorney-client privilege cannot apply to communications that are part of a crime (e.g., a conspiracy to obstruct justice). Trump once said investigating his finances were a “red line” for Mueller; the latest move in raiding Cohen transgresses any limitation Trump could possibly have dreamed up. His reaction reflects his fury in not being able to fend off Mueller.
Trump’s response was disturbing on multiple levels.
First, Trump in essence declared war on the rule of law. “It’s, frankly, a real disgrace. It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for,” said the president, who now equates the operation of the criminal-justice system under the rule of law to be an attack on the country. He is the country in his eyes. Those who challenge him are enemies of the country. There is no better formulation of his authoritarian, anti-democratic mindset than this.

 3:03
Opinion | Trump can fire Mueller, but that won’t get rid of the Russia investigation

Opinion | If President Trump fires the bane of his legal troubles, he could spark a legal and constitutional crisis.

Second, his tirade against Sessions should rekindle concerns that he is contemplating firing him and putting in a flunky to protect himself. “The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this, and when he recused himself,” Trump said. “Or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself, and we would have used a — put a different attorney general in. So he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country.” That, too, is a picture-perfect distillation of his warped view of the presidency. He hands Mueller another admission that he thinks the DOJ should protect him from, instead of conducting investigations into criminal and counterintelligence matters.
Third, Trump’s attempts to discredit Mueller’s team and the FBI should highlight the necessity of Congress protecting the special counsel. (“This is the most biased group of people. These people have the biggest conflicts of interest I’ve ever seen.”) When he says the investigation is a “witch hunt,” he may be plowing the way to fire Mueller and/or Rosenstein or refuse to cooperate with an interview. In either event, we would face a constitutional crisis.
Fourth, Trump’s insistence that his campaign has been exonerated from “collusion” (“So they find no collusion, and then they go from there and they say, ‘Well, let’s keep going.’”) is baseless. More than 70 different contacts between Trump team and Russian-related figures have been found. Multiple indictments and plea deals have been struck. The investigation continues. His false certainty that there is no evidence of collusion can now be seen as the motive for his attempts to discredit and derail the investigation, to obstruct justice, in other words.
Finally, Trump’s rambling, unhinged reaction — after his attorneys no doubt counseled him to keep quiet — should shake his supporters. The pressure of the investigation and vulnerability to prosecution and/or impeachment are not going to vanish. His family and his fix-it lawyer won’t stop Mueller. His TV friends cannot keep the FBI at bay. He lashes out like a cornered animal. The angrier and more panicked Trump becomes, the greater chance he will behave in extreme and destructive ways.
“The president cannot help himself,” former White House ethics counsel Norman Eisen told me. “Instead of doing his job as our chief federal law enforcement official and allowing the rule of law to operate unimpeded, he lashes out when he feels personally threatened.” He adds, “The president’s words were more befitting a mob don when the feds are closing in. Given Michael Cohen’s role in Trump’s past, perhaps they are. The American people will not stand for any Trump attempt to match his hostile words with aggressive action against Mueller, Sessions, Rosenstein or other DOJ officials. If he does, it will be the beginning of the end for his presidency.”
Now would be a good time for Republicans to find their spines, remember their oaths and act to insulate Mueller and Rosenstein from Trump. A simple declaration that firing either would be an impeachable offense would, frankly, be a help to Trump. He could use some outside restraint.

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