Friday, August 11, 2017

Legal Moves

Paul Manafort has new lawyers.

Normally that kind of news isn’t a big deal; in Washington and other places where there’s a lot of complicated stuff going on, high-profile people change attorneys as often as some people change socks.  But this seems to be in reaction to the F.B.I. raid two weeks ago.

Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort on Thursday switched up his legal team amid several new reports on the federal investigation into his personal finances.

“Mr. Manafort is in the process of retaining his former counsel, Miller & Chevalier, to represent him in the office of special counsel investigation,” Manafort’s spokesman Jason Maloni said in a statement to Politico. “As of today, WilmerHale no longer represents Mr. Manafort.”

According to Politico, Miller & Chevalier is known for its work specializing in complicated financial crimes.

Manafort was Trump’s campaign chair in the stretch leading up to the 2016 election, and resigned in August 2016 amid scrutiny of his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

It’s about the money.  It always has been.  Who paid it, who’s taking it, what they’re getting for it, where it’s kept… those are the motivators behind it all.  And these legal moves are telling me that Mr. Manafort is going to be the one to turn states evidence on Trump.

Bonus Track: From Bloomberg Businessweek, Trump’s legal team is no match to that being put together by Robert Mueller.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Who’s Going To Sing First?

Anyone who watches cop shows knows that one of the ways to get to an indictment of a suspect is to put the squeeze on one of his minions.

It sounds like that’s what Robert Mueller is up to here.

There are a couple reasons the special counsel’s expanding Russia investigation might be so interested in former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort that they showed up at his door before dawn, unannounced, searched his home and seized documents, as The Washington Post reports.

In many ways, Manafort is squarely in the crosshairs of the Russia-Trump collusion investigation: His brief tenure as the head of Trump’s campaign happened as concerns about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election were heating up, he’s got high-level connections to Russia in his own right, and he’s got a whole host of scrutinized financial dealings that could make him a useful tool for investigators seeking cooperation.

They may also go after Michael Flynn or even Jared Kushner.  A guy like Trump doesn’t engender a lot of loyalty (Exhibit A: the way he’s treated Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, the first senator to endorse him), and political ideology and family ties go only so far.

If one of them is offered a deal to rat out the Trump organization, especially if they’re facing criminal charges, it won’t be a question of if they’ll turn but who will be the first to jump at the offer.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Friday, August 4, 2017

You’ve Been Served

Via the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia’s attempts to disrupt last year’s presidential election, has issued subpoenas from a Washington-based grand jury in recent weeks, according to several lawyers involved in the case.

At least some of the subpoenas were for documents related to the business dealings of Michael T. Flynn, the retired general who briefly served as President Trump’s national security adviser. Mr. Flynn is under investigation for foreign lobbying work, as well as for conversations he had during the transition with Sergey I. Kislyak, who was Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

Mr. Mueller’s team is broadly investigating whether any Trump associates colluded with the Russian government in its attempts to disrupt the election. It is unclear whether the subpoenas issued in recent weeks relate to other members of Mr. Trump’s campaign who have been a focus of the Mueller investigation, including Paul J. Manafort, the former campaign chairman.

A grand jury based in Alexandria, Va., began issuing subpoenas in the Flynn case months ago. Mr. Mueller took over the investigation in May and assembled a team of prosecutors in an office in downtown Washington. Mr. Mueller has not impaneled a special grand jury, the lawyers involved in the case said, and has decided instead to use one of several grand juries that regularly sit in Washington.

Ty Cobb, special counsel to the president, said that he was not aware that Mr. Mueller had started using a new grand jury. “Grand jury matters are typically secret,” Mr. Cobb said. “The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly.”

He added, “The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller.”

The Trump minions think this is great news because they think it means that Mueller is floundering and desperate to dig up anything to nail their hero.  After all, a grand jury under the thrall of a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich, right?  Funny how those same people thought that Bill Clinton was toast when Ken Starr convened a grand jury and were dancing on his grave when he actually had to testify.

The thing about grand juries is that they don’t go away.  They can look at anything.  Charlie Pierce:

If Mueller wants to look at how the Trump Organization did its business with Russian interests before the president* even thought of being president, he can do that. If he wants to conduct exploratory surgery on Jared Kushner’s financial records, he can do that, too. If he wants to examine the working conditions in the Chinese factories where Ivanka’s line of shoes are made, it’s off to Asia we go. Meanwhile, congresscritters on both sides of the aisle are pushing legislation aimed at protecting Mueller from presidential retribution. In other words, as Blackstone once put it, shit’s getting really real.

As Bill Clinton found out, what started out as an investigation into a shady land deal in Arkansas ended up in his lap and a blue dress.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Consciousness Of Guilt

What would a day be like without at least two breaking news stories out of the Trump dumpster fire?  First the firing of Anthony Scaramucci before he officially starts work as White House Communications Director, and now this from the Washington Post:

Flying home from Germany on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said that he and the Russian lawyer had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations. The statement, issued to the New York Times as it prepared an article, emphasized that the subject of the meeting was “not a campaign issue at the time.”

The claims were later shown to be misleading.

Over the next three days, multiple accounts of the meeting were provided to the news media as public pressure mounted, with Trump Jr. ultimately acknowledging that he had accepted the meeting after receiving an email promising damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign.

The extent of the president’s personal intervention in his son’s response, the details of which have not previously been reported, adds to a series of actions that Trump has taken that some advisers fear could place him and some members of his inner circle in legal jeopardy.

So if the meeting was truly a nothinburger, as Trump’s minions in the White House and on cable TV claim, why did Trump Sr. help draft the statement that turned out to be bullshit?

Lying or misleading the news media isn’t a crime but it sure makes the people who are doing it look guilty, and as any prosecutor will tell you, consciousness of guilt is basically a tacit confession.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Monday, July 24, 2017

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Get Out While You Still Can, Jeff

Trump attacks his own Attorney General in the New York Times:

Trump said on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision “very unfair to the president.”

[Read excerpts of The Times’s interview with President Trump.]

In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’s decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said.

If Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III had any integrity, he’d walk into the Oval Office and resign.  Then again, he took the job in the first place knowing full well who he would be dealing with, so thinking that he has any integrity is assuming facts not in evidence.

On another note during this recorded stream-of-conscious ramble, Trump warned Robert Mueller, the special counsel, not to look into his finances beyond the scope of the initial investigation.

Asked if Mr. Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line if it expanded to look at his family’s finances beyond any relationship to Russia, Mr. Trump said, “I would say yes.” He would not say what he would do about it. “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”

Two things: First, now of course the special counsel is going to look into his family finances even more; it’s like a six-year-old telling his mom “Don’t look in my room!” where he’s hiding a bobcat under the bed.  Second, investigations have a funny way of following leads no matter where they go.  Watergate started out by investigating a “third-rate burglary” and led to the downfall of Richard Nixon.  Whitewater started out as an investigation into a failed land deal and ended up teaching America way too much about blowjobs.

Mr. Sessions has already hired a lawyer.  Maybe the only reason he’s not quitting now is that he needs the income to pay for him.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Friday, July 14, 2017

“Oh, THAT Meeting”

Trump first denied knowing anything about Don Jr. meeting up with the Russian lawyer.  Then as the shit got closer to the fan, he maybe heard about it.

On Wednesday afternoon, Trump told Reuters that “No. That I didn’t know. Until a couple of days ago, when I heard about this. No I didn’t know about that,” referring to the meeting between Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort.

Trump changed his tune later in the day, when he told reporters on Air Force One: “In fact maybe it was mentioned at some point,” referring to the meeting. (Reporters on the plane initially thought the conversation was off-the-record, but the President said otherwise on Thursday.)

Asked whether he had been told the meeting was about Hillary Clinton and dirt against her, Trump said no, according to a White House pool report. On Thursday, Trump called the meeting “very standard.”

I suppose later today we’ll find out that Trump himself was at the meeting and complimented the Russian lawyer on her looks.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

But His E-mails

Call it Shakespearean, call it Sophoclean, or just plain karmic, but I find it supremely ironic that a presidency that got elected on the basis of raising a huge hue and cry over Hillary Clinton’s e-mails is on the verge of collapse because of their own e-mail trail.

As for the “homina-homina” explanations by the various Trump defenders — “Well, nothing came of the meeting, the Russian lawyer didn’t really have anything” — the fact that Trump Jr. took the meeting with the full knowledge of what was promised is problematic enough.  If you aim a gun at someone with the intention of shooting them but the gun jams or you miss, it’s still attempted murder, or at the very least assault.

The inner circle at the White House is sounding like they know their time there is being measured in billable hours and that an administration that came to town planning to “shake things up” and “make history” is on the verge of collapse.  Even Vice President Pence is putting distance between himself and the shambles in the West Wing and probably wondering to himself if Jerry Ford left behind any notes.

The last thing these people care about now is how to run the government and do what they were ostensibly elected to do.  Healthcare?  Immigration?  Education?  Infrastructure?  The war(s)?  Those are mere distractions; they’re bringing out the long knives and going after each other now, and the peoples’ business — as if they ever really cared about it in the first place except for what they could get for themselves — will languish.  At some point the whole thing will collapse.

When it does, maybe — just maybe — enough people will realize that despite all the warnings, all the jokes, all of the debates, and all of the assaults on the lives of the innocent, we are the ones who brought this all on ourselves.  He never should have been given the chance in the first place, and we have only ourselves to blame.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Don Jr, A Word If You Please

Via NBC News:

The Senate Intelligence Committee is interested in talking to Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of the president, about his meeting with a Russian lawyer last June, a well-placed committee source tells NBC News.

Trump Jr.’s meeting raises a host of questions, the source said, including why the president’s son would sit down with a Russian lawyer he says he didn’t know on the pretext of learning damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Committee members on both sides of the aisle also expressed a desire to meet with Trump Jr. in light of his acknowledgment Sunday that he met with a woman who turned out to be a Kremlin-connected lawyer during the 2016 presidential election — after being told she allegedly had information that could help his father’s presidential campaign.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who serves on the committee, told reporters Monday that she would like to see her panel speak to him, while Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the committee vice chairman, said he “absolutely” wanted to interview Trump Jr. and ask him “serious questions.”

Trump Jr. tweeted Monday that he would be “happy to work with the committee to pass on what I know,” though a spokeswoman for the Senate committee’s chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., would not comment on whether the committee plans to invite him before the panel.

According to a Trump Organization spokesman, Trump Jr. has hired a lawyer, Alan Futerfas, to represent him in connection with the Russia probes.

Good move; hire a lawyer who has represented mobsters.  He should be on familiar ground.

The New York Times adds to why Trump Jr. may need one.

Before arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer he believed would offer him compromising information about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy, according to three people with knowledge of the email.

The email to the younger Mr. Trump was sent by Rob Goldstone, a publicist and former British tabloid reporter who helped broker the June 2016 meeting. In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Trump acknowledged that he was interested in receiving damaging information about Mrs. Clinton, but gave no indication that he thought the lawyer might have been a Kremlin proxy.

Mr. Goldstone’s message, as described to The New York Times by the three people, indicates that the Russian government was the source of the potentially damaging information. It does not elaborate on the wider effort by Moscow to help the Trump campaign.

So he knew in advance that who he was dealing with and yet he still took the meeting.  It’s like it was planned that way.

Any lawyers out there reading this want to chime in on the definition of conspiracy and collusion?

Bonus Track: Further reading from Booman on the background of Natalia Veselnitskaya.  She is not “just some Russian lawyer.”

Monday, July 10, 2017

What Would You Call It?

From the New York Times:

President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.

The meeting was also attended by his campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kushner recently disclosed the meeting, though not its content, in confidential government documents described to The New York Times.

The Times reported the existence of the meeting on Saturday. But in subsequent interviews, the advisers and others revealed the motivation behind it.

The meeting — at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, two weeks after Donald J. Trumpclinched the Republican nomination — points to the central question in federal investigations of the Kremlin’s meddling in the presidential election: whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. The accounts of the meeting represent the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help.

While President Trump has been dogged by revelations of undisclosed meetings between his associates and the Russians, the episode at Trump Tower is the first such confirmed private meeting involving his inner circle during the campaign — as well as the first one known to have included his eldest son. It came at an inflection point in the campaign, when Donald Trump Jr., who served as an adviser and a surrogate, was ascendant and Mr. Manafort was consolidating power.

It is unclear whether the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, actually produced the promised compromising information about Mrs. Clinton. But the people interviewed by The Times about the meeting said the expectation was that she would do so.

The short version of this is that the Trump people set up this meeting with the Russian based on the promise that they would get dirt on Hillary Clinton, that the story itself was confirmed by people in the White House, and that despite all the denials up to now about collusion with the Russians on the campaign, they were at least interested in looking into it.  It’s also telling that Trump Jr. made a point of saying that his father knew nothing about the meeting.  If the meeting turned out to be a nothing-burger, as he now claims it was, then why is he making the point that Trump Sr. didn’t know about it?  Even with its most innocent interpretation — hey, this crazy Russian lawyer promised us the moon and we got bupkus — doesn’t sound like something you need to insulate him from unless you’re aware of the fact of how it might look if it got out.

It doesn’t really matter if nothing came of this meeting or if Ms. Veselnitskaya was just blowing smoke up their asses or even if they thought she was some kind of whack-job.  The fact that they took the meeting at all no matter what tells you a lot, including what the Trump people were willing to do to win the election.

So to answer the question, I’d call it treasonable.

Friday, June 30, 2017