My Grumpy Valentines Day Comment To Us All

Would We Ever Know The Truth: If, We Ever Heard Such A Thing

 

The news out this morning is that Mr. Paul Manafort is in trouble with the Feds for lying again. Seriously, who would have ever thought such a thing, Paul Manafort lie? Didn’t President Trump’s former Lawyer have an issue with the truth? Speaking of our President and truth issues, how about His Son, Don Jr? Then of course we have our President who would no doubt rather cut down a Cherry Tree then to lie to all of us, right?

 

You may wonder why I have brought up know Serial Liars on Valentines Day, and that is a fair question. The reason is simple, today how many lies will be told? How much Chocolate and Roses does it take to cover up all the Little White Lies (and a few Whoppers) that we have told to our Spouse throughout the years?

 

Today, how many men will give Candy and Flowers to their wife, and to their girlfriend? Then there are the guys who don’t get their wife anything for Valentines Day, but he does manage to get them for his girlfriend (or boyfriend), ya never know. Then there are the real men who didn’t get his wife or their girlfriends anything because he spent all his money on Tequila at a Titty-Bar. Then of course there are you Ladies out there you know, it isn’t just an all boys club Ladies, some of you are all just as darn guilty as the empty jock straps are. Think of the dear sweet Wife who spends the day having sex with her boyfriend then goes out this evening for a ‘Special’ evening out with their Husband.

 

What I am trying to get at is this, in our Society today when people speak to you, in the back of your mind you already blew them off because you figured the best chance is their just Blowing Smoke? Does is ever bother you when you are being 100% honest about an issue with a person or people and you can tell they are not believing you? What I am saying is that in our Society today we tend to get lied to so often that we don’t recognize the truth on different issues even when that truth is standing right before us.

Paul Manafort broke plea agreement, lied to investigators in Russia probe

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE JOURNAL TIMES)

(IF MANAFORT DID DO THIS HE IS EITHER A TOTAL FOOL AS HE WOULD KNOW THAT HE WILL SPEND THE REST OF HIS LIFE IN A FEDERAL PRISON, OR PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS GOTTEN A MESSAGE TO HIM THAT HE WILL GIVE HIM A PARDON IF HE SHUTS UP ABOUT THE RUSSIA PROBE. iF THIS IS THE CASE, MANAFORT WOULD BE BETTING HIS FREEDOM ON PRESIDENT TRUMP ACTUALLY TELLING HIM THE TRUTH ABOUT GIVING HIM A PARDON. MY QUESTION IS, WOULD YOU OR HE, BET YOUR LIFE ON TRUMP BEING TRUTHFUL TO YOU, FOR ONCE?)(oldpoet56)

Prosecutors: Paul Manafort broke plea agreement, lied to investigators in Russia probe

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Paul Manafort
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort

WASHINGTON (AP) — Special counsel Robert Mueller is accusing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of lying to federal investigators in the Russia probe, in breach of his plea agreement.

Prosecutors say in a new court filing that after Manafort agreed to truthfully cooperate with the investigation, he “committed federal crimes” by lying about “a variety of subject matters.” They are now asking a federal judge to set a date to sentence him.

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Manafort is denying that he lied. His attorneys say in the same filing that he believes he “provided truthful information.”

Manafort had been meeting with the special counsel’s office since he pleaded guilty in September and agreed to cooperate. He remains jailed while awaiting his sentence. He faces multiple years in prison.

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…

Manafort Jury Seems To Have Reached Decisions On 17 Of 18 Charges

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Judge tells Manafort jury to keep deliberating after it asks about impact of not reaching verdict on one count

Alexandria, Virginia (CNN)The judge in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort urged the jury Tuesday to keep deliberating after it asked what happens if it can’t reach consensus on one of 18 counts.

“It is your duty to agree upon a verdict if you can do so,” Judge T.S. Ellis said. He encouraged each juror to make their own decisions on each count, but if some were in the minority on a decision, they could think about what the other jurors believe.
Give “deference” to each other and “listen to each others’ arguments.”
“You’re the exclusive judges,” he added. “Take all the time which you feel is necessary.”
The jurors asked about the impact of not agreeing on all counts.
“If we cannot come to a consensus for a single count, how can we fill in the verdict sheet?” the jury wrote in a note to Ellis.
Without jurors present, Ellis also told judge told the courtroom that he will not ask the jury for a partial verdict at this time.
Manafort is charged with 18 counts of tax evasion, bank fraud and hiding foreign bank accounts in the first case brought to trial by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The trial carries major implications for the future of Mueller’s investigation. Trump has repeatedly called the probe a “witch hunt” that hasn’t found evidence of Russian collusion with his campaign, and his allies in and out of the White House say the special counsel should wrap things up.
Prosecutors say Manafort collected $65 million in foreign bank accounts from 2010 to 2014 and spent more than $15 million on luxury purchases in the same period, including high-end clothing, real estate, landscaping and other big-ticket items.
They also allege that Manafort lied to banks in order to take out more than $20 million in loans after his Ukrainian political work dried up in 2015, and they accused him of hiding the foreign bank accounts from federal authorities. Manafort received loans from the Federal Savings Bank after one of its executives sought a position in the Trump campaign and administration, according to prosecutors.
Manafort faces up to 305 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
This story is breaking and will be updated.

Trump is powerless as his legal fate spins out of his control

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Trump is powerless as his legal fate spins out of his control

(CNN)President Donald Trump may no longer control his fate, a plight that helps explain his increasingly volcanic Twitter eruptions.

Trump’s persona — in politics, business and life — relies on his self-image as the guy who calls the shots, closes deals and forces others to react to the shock moves of a master narrative weaver.
But as a legal web closes around the President, he’s in a far weaker position than he would like, a situation especially underlined by the bombshell revelations that White House counsel Donald McGahn has spent 30 hours in interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump reacted to a media frenzy over the McGahn revelations in characteristic fashion: by launching a new Twitter assault on Mueller, taking new shots at his new nemesis John Brennan and diverting attention with newsy comments on the Federal Reserve.
But sources told CNN on Monday that the President was unsettled that he didn’t know the full extent of McGahn’s testimony and had remained agitated through the weekend, believing the latest developments made him look weak.
McGahn’s conversations with Mueller are not the only drama that is leaving Trump waiting on events, rather than dictating them.
Prosecutors and jurors over whom he has little control, the legal exposure of some of his top former associates and the surprising constraints of the most powerful job in the world and those who serve him are leaving him — for once — struggling to control his own story.
Trump is on tenterhooks, for instance, as a jury — now entering its fourth day of deliberations — weighs tax and fraud charges that could send Paul Manafort, his onetime campaign chairman, to jail for life.
New reports on Sunday that Michael Cohen is close to being charged in his own multimillion-dollar alleged fraud case ignited fresh speculation over whether the President’s former personal lawyer could do a deal with prosecutors to testify against his former top client.
Then there is his duel with Mueller himself, who may be the most inscrutable, immovable foe Trump has ever faced.
The President has often raised fears that he could try to have Mueller removed or otherwise interfere with his investigation. But the consequences of derailing a criminal probe into the conduct of his own campaign would cause a crisis of governance in Washington and could so shift the political terrain that even Republicans who have given the President a free pass could be forced to confront him.
Still, on Monday Trump was still mulling the idea of a shock move — or at least he wanted the special counsel, his own supporters and other Americans to think he might try something unthinkable.
“I’ve decided to stay out. Now, I don’t have to stay out, as you know. I can go in and I could … do whatever, I could run it if I want,” Trump told Reuters in an interview, speaking about the Mueller investigation.

Trying to get back in control

After the McGahn news detonated, Trump — as he often does when apparently caught off guard — took pains to create an impression that he was in control.
He tweeted on Sunday that he had engineered McGahn’s testimony because he had nothing to hide and rejected commentary that the White House counsel may have turned on him.
Of course, the President could be completely genuine in his comments if he has done nothing wrong. But many legal analysts saw the new details over the length and extent of McGahn’s discussions with Mueller as a serious development that could have all sorts of implications down the road.
“I think the White House should be very concerned about it,” CNN Legal Analyst Ross Garber said.
“The notion that the White House counsel — the senior lawyer for the presidency — was in cooperation with federal investigators and that the President and the chief of staff and others around the President don’t know what he said — that is troubling.”
Powerless to do much else, Trump fired off wild tweeting sprees, in deflection mode, accusing Mueller of perpetrating McCarthyism and taking new swipes at Brennan.
“He won’t sue!” Trump predicted in a tweet that branded Brennan “the worst CIA Director in our country’s history,” days after stripping him of his security clearance.
And on Monday the President tweeted: “Disgraced and discredited Bob Mueller and his whole group of Angry Democrat Thugs spent over 30 hours with the White House Councel (sic), only with my approval, for purposes of transparency. Anybody needing that much time when they know there is no Russian Collusion is just someone … looking for trouble.”
But it’s becoming clear that Trump’s immediate and ultimate destiny cannot be dictated by a tweet storm or by taking vengeance against an enemy like Brennan — a tried and trusted tactic in a political arsenal that often relies on elevating and then dismembering a foil.
Other than wielding pre-emptive pardons for former aides that could ignite a constitutional showdown or launching purges of top judicial authorities handling various cases that are drawing him into a deeper legal morass, there is not much the President can do to help himself.
That’s partly down to Mueller.
For all his increasingly poisonous insults, claims by his lawyer Rudy Giuliani that the special counsel is “panicking” and the assault by his allies in conservative media, Trump has failed to draw the tight-lipped special counsel into the kind of confrontation that favors him.
And for all Giuliani’s demands for Mueller to release his “report” and the political jockeying by Trump’s legal team over a potential interview of the President by the special counsel, the taciturn investigator appears to hold all the cards.
No one, least of all the President, can be sure exactly what Mueller knows about key issues like the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, the events that led up to the departure of indicted former national security adviser Michael Flynn or obstruction of justice allegations.
And given the tight clamp the special counsel has imposed on his probe, it is anyone’s guess whether Mueller will file a report, what it will say and when he might make his conclusions public.
While Trump’s team appears to be trying to make the probe a midterm election rallying call for his political base, it’s also unclear whether the special counsel will make any new indictments, issue a subpoena for the President’s testimony or take any other significant steps before November.
All that is a serious disadvantage for Trump’s legal and political team as it games out a possible defense.

Not so powerful after all

As a zealous litigant during his business career, Trump was used to having lawyers ready to jump at his barked commands.
But he’s found that things are different for a president, a reality underscored by the McGahn episode.
Because McGahn serves as White House counsel, his primary duty is not limiting Trump’s legal liabilities but to the office of the presidency itself, a distinction that has left some experts wondering why the President did not invoke executive privilege to delay or limit McGahn’s testimony.
Even then, there might not have been much Trump could have done, given the realities of McGahn’s role and the fact that he is not the President’s personal attorney.
“He works for the people of the United States, and there is a very limited scope to the confidentiality of his discussions with the President, especially when they involve conduct that might be legitimately the subject of criminal investigation,” Paul Rosenzweig, a former senior counsel to Bill Clinton independent counsel Kenneth Starr, told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin.
“He simply has that obligation as a servant of the American people who works for us, in effect.”
Trump’s frustration over the constraints of his role and the obligations of those who serve him has long simmered in his relationship with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Trump has repeatedly slammed the former Alabama senator for recusing himself from the Russia probe; in other words, protecting not the President but his duty to justice and good governance.
It may not be much longer before Trump feels the same way about McGahn.
The President is also all but powerless in another legal drama that has huge implications.
Like the rest of Washington, he was back in a waiting game as the jury in the Manafort trial in Alexandria, Virginia, slogged through a third day of deliberations Monday. Should it return a guilty verdict, it would hand a first, significant victory to Mueller’s team and deal a symbolic blow to Trump, offering new evidence to critics who say he surrounded himself with corrupt characters from his former life.
The President, despite repeated warnings from his cheerleaders on Fox News opinion shows that the Manafort trial has nothing to do with him, has shown by a string of tweets that he is watching the trial closely.
But he cannot do much more than hope that it turns out well for Manafort, though on Friday he did call the trial “very sad” and his former campaign chairman “a very good person” in comments seen by some legal experts as an effort to influence a jury that was not sequestered.
Until the jury returns its verdict, the depth of Cohen’s legal woes becomes clear and the inscrutable Mueller makes a significant move, Trump can only wait. And tweet.
He is going to have to get used to not being in control.

Judge Ellis Knows What He’s Doing in the Manafort Trial

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE DAILY INTELLIGENCER)

 

Judge Ellis Knows What He’s Doing in the Manafort Trial

Judge Ellis (L) and star witness Rick Gates (R), as depicted by a courtroom artist last week. Photo: Dana Verkouteren via Associated Press

U.S. Senior District Judge T.S. Ellis is among a handful of judges in the country who know some of the deepest secrets of the Russia investigation. When lawyers for Paul Manafort asked him, unsuccessfully, to dismiss a slew of charges against their client accusing him of tax evasion and bank fraud, Ellis asked the office of special counsel Robert Mueller to hand over, without any redactions, an otherwise highly classified memorandumcontaining the scope of his authority to investigate Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman and other crimes.

More than anything, Ellis seemed to want to make sure Mueller wasn’t some loose cannon, going above and beyond his mandate as special counsel. Even then, he gave the government some time to produce the memorandum, mindful that other parts of the executive branch might have objections. “I think it’s perfectly appropriate for you to consult with other parts of the government, particularly intelligence agencies. If they feel some of it is classified, I’m prepared to look at it ex parte under seal,” Ellis said at the May hearing, meaning he’d let Mueller’s team submit the memo without letting Manafort’s side or the public get a look at it. Highly sensitive trials and government secrets, he added, are nothing new to him.

When came time to rule, it wasn’t even close. Mueller’s prosecutorial authority, as outlined in his appointment order of May 2017, isn’t limited “to federal crimes concerning election interference or collusion,” Ellis wrote in a 31-page decision, but “rather, the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes that arise out of his authorized investigation.” He added: “And the crimes charged in the Superseding Indictment clearly arise out of the Special Counsel’s investigation into the payments defendant allegedly received from Russian-backed leaders and pro-Russian political officials.”

Count me among the skeptics who doubt that Ellis’s scoldings and outbursts during the first two weeks of Paul Manafort’s trial in Virginia, as reported in the press, mean much of anything in the grand scheme. As I observed last week, the first public trial of the broader Russia saga is, for lack of a better term, a show trial — a minuscule part of the far more serious charges and revelations that Manafort is expected to answer for in the coming months in Washington.

And yet somehow we can’t look away. Or stop following the drip-drip-drip of trial developments. Or stop worrying that Ellis may somehow be biased against the prosecution or unduly prejudicing jurors to see things his way. Political and court journalists stationed at the judge’s Alexandria courtroom, God bless them, aren’t helping things, bringing us breathless tidbit after breathless tidbit as if the fate of the republic depended on it.

In the week that just ended, it was star witness Rick Gates’s showstopping testimony that led nearly every news report, and with good reason: As a longtime Manafort protégé and associate, he knows better than most where the bodies are buried. But even during his time in the spotlight, it was suggestions of serial lying and marital infidelity on his part, which the Manafort defense may have let linger to cast doubt on his credibility as a witness, that had court watchers and worriers wondering about what might happen to the prosecution’s case — which, in the eyes of many, had better be airtight, lest the president of the United States dance on the grave of the special counsel’s phony witch hunt.

I am here to reassure you that rumors of the demise of the Virginia prosecution against Paul Manafort have been greatly exaggerated. And that the heated confrontations between Judge Ellis and prosecutors — to the extent they happened in front of the jury — are just a foretaste of what the defense is likely to get when it starts to lay its cards on the table.

So far, all jurors have seen is one side of the case. And when it’s time for Manafort’s legal team to mount what Politico describes as “mission impossible,” it may consist of no more than attempts to paint its client as a victim, a highly sophisticated lobbyist who didn’t know better, or simply someone who was too busy working for Ukrainian interests to mind the minutiae of reporting his offshore taxable income or true liquid assets when he procured outsize bank loans the moment his political fortunes ran dry. A man too wealthy to keep good track of his own money or its whereabouts, if you will. Good luck with that.

More important still, for all the flashy testimony to come out of the trial, including from people who had direct knowledge of Manafort’s wheeling and dealing, jurors have already seen reams of documentary evidence — emails, invoices, and business records that paint a picture of the scheme Manafort is accused of orchestrating. In significant ways, the oral testimony simply corroborates or adds to the foundation prosecutors have already laid with the documents entered into evidence.

As for Ellis, whose ornery treatment of prosecutors has gotten him undue attention for all the wrong reasons, it’s best to not read too much into it. Again, because the defense is likely to catch fire from him too, but also because benchslapping is something that trial lawyers have to live with — and it’s not a good barometer of how jurors will ultimately decide a case.

“Judicial intemperance is common and, for better or worse, dealing with it is part of a litigator’s job,” Ken White, a longtime criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, observed in an NBC News column. “Trial lawyers know that judicial grumbling is not a reliable predictor of results. It’s often just sound and fury signifying nothing.”

Ellis, more than just about anyone else in America, knows a wealth of extremely sensitive details about the Russia investigation, and his apparent drive to cut no slack for the prosecution also indicates that he wants theirside to have a solid trial record in the event of an appeal. “Riding prosecutors and limiting their evidence doesn’t necessarily signal that Ellis thinks they’re in the wrong — it may signal that he thinks they’re likely to convict Manafort, and he wants to make the result as clean and error-free as possible,” added White.

Either way, it’s not like the Mueller team is letting the judge play them for fools. Early on Thursday, the prosecutors filed a prehearing motion calling on Ellis to correct the record about something he had done a day earlier: letting them have it for allowing an IRS agent who was also a witness watch the weekly proceedings in the courtroom, which he had permitted but seemingly forgotten about. “It appears I may well have been wrong,” Ellis said in an unlikely moment of humility, according to Reuters. “But like any human, and this robe doesn’t make me anything other than human, I sometimes make mistakes.”

Expect jurors to credit that contrition — and the prosecution for holding the judge to his own rules. And don’t believe the hype: This trial thus far is going far worse for Manafort than it is for Mueller.

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.

FEDERAL JUDGE JAILS EX-TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIR PAUL MANAFORT

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC NEWS)

 

FEDERAL JUDGE JAILS EX-TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIR PAUL MANAFORT

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Courtesy: ZUMA Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman is going to jail.

Paul Manafort was ordered into custody Friday after a federal judge revoked his house arrest, citing newly filed obstruction of justice charges. The move by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson came after prosecutors accused Manafort and a longtime associate of witnesses tampering.

Manafort is the first Trump campaign official to be jailed as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. His attorneys have argued that Manafort didn’t do anything wrong and accused prosecutors of conjuring a “sinister plot” out of “innocuous” contacts with witnesses.

Manafort will remain in jail while he awaits two trials in the next few months. He faces several felony charges related to his Ukrainian political work and money he funneled through offshore accounts.

Bannon: 2016 Trump Tower meeting was ‘treasonous’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Bannon: 2016 Trump Tower meeting was ‘treasonous’

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • The book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by Michael Wolff, is based on hundreds of interviews
  • Bannon also reportedly told Wolff: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV”

(CNN)Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon called the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer purportedly offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton “treasonous,” according to a new book obtained by The Guardian.

The book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by Michael Wolff, is based on hundreds of interviews, including ones with President Donald Trump and his inner circle. According to the Guardian, Bannon addressed the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Russian operatives that was arranged when Trump Jr. agreed to meet a “Russian government attorney” after receiving an email offering him “very high level and sensitive information” that would “incriminate” Clinton.
“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor — with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers,” Bannon continued, according to the Guardian. “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s***, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”
Bannon also reportedly told Wolff: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”
The White House declined to comment Wednesday about Bannon’s reported assertions.
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Bannon also reportedly told Wolff that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia is centered on money laundering, saying that the White House is “sitting on a beach trying to stop a Category Five” hurricane.

The ups and downs of the Bannon insurgency

“You realize where this is going … This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose (senior prosecutor Andrew) Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy,” Bannon reportedly said. “Their path to f***ing Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr., and Jared Kushner … It’s as plain as a hair on your face.”
Bannon said he believes Kushner, the White House senior adviser and the President’s son-in-law, could be convinced to cooperate if Mueller probes his financial records.
“They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me,” Bannon is reported as saying, apparently referring to Trump Jr. and Kushner.
The Trump Tower meeting has been of intense interest to the congressional Russia investigators as well as Mueller.
Trump Jr. testified before House investigators last month but would not say what he and his father discussed after reports surfaced about the meeting, citing attorney-client privilege.

Conservatives (GOP) introduce measure demanding Mueller’s resignation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO)

 

Conservatives introduce measure demanding Mueller’s resignation

It’s the latest sign of GOP resistance to the special counsel’s Russia probe.

Three House Republicans on Friday moved to pressure special counsel Robert Mueller to resign over what they contend are “obvious conflicts of interest,” the latest instance of rising GOP resistance to his Russia probe.

Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), introduced a measure that, while nonbinding, would put the House on record describing Mueller, a former FBI director, as unfit to lead the probe because of his relationship with James Comey, his successor at the bureau.

“[B]e it Resolved, That House of Representatives expresses its sense that Robert Mueller is compromised and should resign from his special counsel position immediately,” the resolution states.

Mueller is investigating whether any Americans aided Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election as well as whether figures in the Trump administration may have obstructed justice in part by moving to oust Comey in May, when the FBI’s Russia investigation was picking up steam. Mueller was appointed by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein after an uproar following President Donald Trump’s decision to fire Comey.

The move by the three lawmakers to seek Mueller’s resignation is a sign of intensifying frustration among Trump’s allies during the same week Mueller issued his first indictments in the probe: money laundering charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates. Mueller also secured a guilty plea from George Papadopoulos, a low-level campaign foreign policy adviser, who lied to the FBI about his attempts to arrange a meeting between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.

The anger from Republicans appears to mirror the feelings of Trump, who on Friday unloaded in a series of tweets urging his own Justice Department to investigate Democrats — not him — for transgressions he says occurred during the 2016 election.

“This is real collusion and dishonesty. Major violation of Campaign Finance Laws and Money Laundering,” he said, accusing Democrats of the same charges that Manafort was hit with. “[W]here is our Justice Department?”

Most Republicans, including those in GOP leadership, are not on board with dismissing Mueller.

But the conservative push has worried some on the left, who are urging Democratic lawmakers to step up their defense of Mueller.

“While it might be ideal to wait to speak out until Mueller finishes his investigation, Trump’s defenders in Congress are not waiting to defend the President’s actions or to pass judgment on the investigation,” CAP Action Fund wrote in a memo being prepared for lawmakers and obtained by POLITICO. “The heightened risk to Trump from Mueller’s investigation also means there is a heightened risk to the Mueller investigation from Trump.”

Other conservatives, like Reps. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), have already called for Mueller’s departure.

DeSantis, too, has ramped up his efforts to hinder Mueller’s investigation. He recently pushed an amendment, which failed to gain traction, that would have curtailed Mueller’s probe within six months and limited its scope.

And in a Thursday interview with Breitbart Radio, DeSantis blamed Rosenstein for a “clumsy” decision to appoint Mueller without putting strict limits on his scope.

“Rosenstein really muffed this,” he said.

Breitbart News Editor Alex Marlow, who interviewed DeSantis, promised to give his proposal a lot of airtime and ink.

“We’re going to be pushing it heavily or at least content on it heavily,” he said.

In his interview, DeSantis also foreshadowed the end of the House Intelligence Committee’s separate investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“The good news on the congressional side, at least in the House, is from what I understand, they’ve really increased the frequency of the interviews of the people and I think on the House side this Russia-Trump [probe] is going to come to an end soon,” he said.

DeSantis isn’t on the intelligence panel but said talking to committee members, he’s convinced it’ll be done “certainly before the end of the year.”

He also said he’s been urging Speaker Paul Ryan to curtail the House investigation.

“I said, ‘Mr. Speaker, we’ve been spinning these wheels. There’s no evidence. If there is, produce it. I think we’d all like to see it. But if not, then we’ve got to get on with our business,’” adding, “I think that message has been received.”

While the new resolution faults Mueller for leading the probe despite his professional relationship with Comey, it also includes a broader broadside against the FBI.

The three lawmakers say the agency should be investigated for “willful blindness” over a seven-year-old sale of uranium production facilities to Russian interests, which conservatives have argued was approved in part by the Hillary Clinton-led State Department at the same time a party to the deal was making donations to the Clinton Foundation.

Mueller, they note, was presiding over the FBI at the time the agency was investigating a Russian bribery and extortion scheme connected to the uranium deal, but the agency declined to notify Congress of its investigation and prevented a confidential informant from notifying lawmakers.

“Any thorough and honest investigation into the corruption of American-uranium related business must include investigating the willful blindness of the FBI and its leaders,” according to the resolution.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the name of President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager.
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